Giving Thanks For What We Have. . . Even in Hard Times

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Yesterday I did something many people are unable to do: I hung my freshly washed sheets out on the line in the backyard to dry. I know this is a simple thing, and maybe something that many people have experience with, but sleeping on sheets that are dried by the sun and softened by the wind is a distinct luxury that cannot be matched. And, even better, it is free.
Earlier this week I was having a big pity party, thinking about the holidays and wondering why we had to even have them this year. I’ve been out of work since May, trying to eke out an existence on Missouri’s meager unemployment insurance payments, and Larry’s small social security check; when he decided to retire at 62 and take the smaller payouts, I was employed. Now we live week to week, and it is not fun.
But of course, we are not alone. Right now a large number of Americans are having similar problems, and many of them are in worse shape than we are. Our children are grown and we have downsized our expenses a great deal. But we still have a mortgage, we still have phone bills, etc. And, I’m working on a Ph.D. at the University, so I’m busy. But I digress — so, here I was, having this wave of worry and tears, driving home from Arkansas the other night, listening to Delilah on the radio. You know Delilah – she has this syndicated radio show on easy rock stations in the evening, where she takes calls from people. This woman had called, and she was gushing about how wonderful her husband was, and how he was her best friend, ever, and how she thanked God for bringing them together, and yada, yada, yada. Finally, I had heard enough, and switched it to the local country station. At least, I thought, now I can really get down to feeling sorry for myself – they always play these sad songs that I can relate to.
But no! Jo Dee Messina was singing “Bring on the Rain,” a song about perseverance through pain and finding inner strength to deal with life’s troubles. Great, I thought – just what I needed, a verbal spanking.
But later I rethought it all. Maybe I do need to welcome the difficulties. There’s an old Jewish proverb about perseverance and resilience – “He that can’t endure the bad, will not live to see the good.” So maybe it is time I counted the blessings I have, even now that I’m having a hard time, because most of those things I am truly thankful for are things that money can’t really buy, anyway.
I have a wonderful husband, a man who for 32 years has allowed me to be myself and suffered through my flights of fancy and my constant seeking for the brass ring. I have a tendency to never be satisfied, and he puts up with that, even though he is really the opposite. Larry has taught me many things, and probably more than anything, he has taught me that love is truly about putting up with each other. If it weren’t for Larry, I wouldn’t have the sheets on the line and the rest of it. The farm.
Last night I went outside about 1 a.m. to get a Diet Mountain Dew out of the fridge in the workshop. As I walked across the yard, I saw a cottontail rabbit dart, then stop and eat grass, eyeing me warily. In the moonlight, he ate grass and I watched. Where else could I have done that? Then I looked up at the stars, and saw the Big Dipper, and then, the constellation Saggitarius, and all the other stars of that time of night. What a treat! And free!
I have a fantastic daughter and son-in-law, who have given me a beautiful grandson, and named him after me. My daughter, who I never see because of our schedules, is a wonderful comfort. I’m looking forward to seeing her tomorrow when we have Thanksgiving dinner at Mom’s. We are eating on Friday so she can go to her inlaw’s house today. And then there is my 90-year-old mother, who is a rock to me even now, as I face 60 with all my present troubles. So many others don’t have a parent like her, or don’t have children. I also have three great step-sons, four step-grandchildren, and two daughters-in-law, all of whom are important to me and whom I love. In my extended family, I have nieces and nephews who live close, and my Aunt Eedie and Uncle Roy, in Florida. I love Eedie and Roy like siblings. When I lived in Virginia they lived in the next town over, and we spent holidays together. I remember enjoying Thanksgiving at their house — Roy’s Italian Mom would fix manicotti and lasagna, and we had a turkey, too. Now retired and in Florida, Roy sends me stories he writes, so I always have something interesting to read – and Eedie is like a sister/mom/friend. And then there are my friends, and I have a lot of good friends.
My best friend from grade school, Noreen, is still a close ally. She and I talk on the phone regularly, and even though we live two states away from each other, we buoy each other up. I also have other very close girlfriends; Marilyn, whom I’ve known for 30 years, and who lives nearby; Karen, my best buddy from grad school, who lives in Fayetteville; and my sisters, Charlcie, Beth, and Martha, brothers John, Jerry, and Allen, all living. I count my siblings among my friends, because they are. We sort of grew up together, but I am in a 15 year gulf between them in age. I was the middle child. So I’ve gotten to know them better as adults.
I also have friends at school, like Cora J., a beautiful, smart and quiet person who, when she does talk, always has something profound to say in the most beautiful way. I love her – and I know that she and I will always be close, even after school is over with for both of us. I have friends from where I used to work, I have friends at the real estate office, and I have friends who are clients. Michael and Carla, who just moved back from Mississippi, and are living in Bentonville, Joan Y., who is a writer and an old friend from the library board, and Dee S., who not only let me sell her home but also bought another one through me, and then took my online course in oral communication! Dee and I share an interest in many things, and she will always be a good friend. Then there is Jacque, who I met through Marilyn, and is one of the nicest people I know. And, the list goes on. I am, truly, blessed.
In the end, it appears I have more to be thankful for than I thought. In the end, it will all be OK. And that makes me think of a fairly new American proverb: no pain, no gain. This part of my life will also pass, and when it does, I will have a new appreciation for everything good in my life. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I intend to spend this day of Thanksgiving thanking Providence for all the good in my life, and invoking the good in the universe to reach out and touch other people who need some of the good fortune I have enjoyed. Blessed be!

Our Farm as seen from the yard

I'm back and have a new family member

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Meet RegisFor many, many weeks I’ve been absent from my own blog, mostly due to family issues and school. But now I’m ready to blog again. I will begin with a story. A few weeks ago, in October, our cat, Ralph, passed away. His demise was planned, as he had a serious case of heartworm and was beginning to lose his life by degrees. He had a persistent cough and was unable to eat; his body was covered with sores, and he was beginning to look the way he did when he first came to live with us two years ago. It was obvious that he would not survive, so my husband Larry put him down, gently. Then we took Ralph to the family pet graveyard and gently laid him there on the hillside.
Two weeks later I was really feeling sorry for myself. I love cats. Ralph was not my favorite, as he was an outdoor cat and I’m terribly allergic to cats who are outside. To keep from suffering from a bad asthma attack I had to wash carefully after handling him, and make sure to use my inhaler. But I digress. That morning I raised my arms out by the barn, and said to the earth: bring me another cat.
That afternoon I had to be on duty at the real estate office, and while there, one of our agents came in all upset. A cat had crawled up inside her car and wouldn’t come out; she had driven all the way to Neosho from Fairview with the cat inside her engine compartment and now couldn’t extricate the critter. The broker tried running water inside the engine area, but the little thing wouldn’t budge. I came out into the hall, and said, “let me try.”
I went outside, and found that the cat had crawled up inside her fender well behind her tire and was actually inside the hubcap area and wouldn’t come out. I spoke to the cat in cat language, and he answered. “Call animal control and see if they can help,” I said. In about 10 minutes, here came animal control, and in about five seconds he had the cat in his hand. It was a baby kitten with his eyes barely open, probably about 4 weeks old. The officer said because of the kitten’s age, he would need special care that the animal shelter couldn’t provide and they would have to have the animal destroyed.
“No, let me take him,” I said.
The cat took to me immediately, and clung to my chest. I took it inside and washed it off with detergent – it was covered, unbelievably, in blood. Apparently another cat had also been with it and had been crushed. He was dehydrated and very hungry, so after I warmed him up, I put him in a box and took him to the animal hospital. They took a look, said he had fleas, and showed me what food to get to feed this little critter, who had not been weaned. I also bought a cat carrier so I could transport him more safely. Then I went to Wal-Mart and bought litter, a tiny litter box, and a cat dish.
When the cat and I arrived home that night, I knew I was in for a fight. Larry had never allowed an animal indoors. I had always had my cats inside before we married 32 years ago. In fact, I brought my cat here when we married and Larry’s boys let him outside and he was scared by the dog. The last time I saw Aristide, he was running hell bent for leather across our field, toward the hill.
To Larry’s credit, he was kind. He could see it was a baby kitten and allowed me to nurse it back to health. Now he is so taken with the cat he wouldn’t put it outside for anything. I even let him name him. The cat’s name is Regis. He is very health, and has gained weight dramatically. In the first week he put on six ounces, and ever since it has been 3.5 ounces a week. When we got him, he weighed 13 ounces. Today Regis tipped the scales at 2 pounds, 5.5 ounces. He has also grown in length and is very strong.
Cats are great. We are learning about playtime and how to keep him from scratching us to death. This morning Larry trimmed his needle-like claws, because I’m starting to look like a victim of abuse. Regis is very attached to me, and likes to sleep on my chest, up by my neck. Next we have to get him his shots and his worming done, even though there are no signs now. I have removed the fleas using water, and he has no fleas. He gets a bath every five days, because of my allergies. I can tell when it is time – I begin to sneeze and my throat closes up when he needs bathing. Regis hates water, but I’m trying to slowly get him used to it.

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Regis plays with my camera strap when I take his picture