Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Thankfulness Song

The Veggie Tales sing this happy little song about being thankful. The chorus of the song goes like this, "A thankful heart is a happy heart. I'm glad for what I have, it's an easy way to start." I think that's a good thing to focus on this time of year.

The holidays are, for me, a time of the highest peaks and the lowest valleys. Holidays are BUSY times, expensive times, stressful times. They are also wonderous and magical and timeless. How odd that they can be both joyful and hard all at the same time. So that is where I'll start with my Thanksgiving tale this year.

Thanksgiving is a beating for me. No two ways about it. We see my inlaws only three or four times a year, and Thanksgiving is always one of those times. I miss my time with my mom, and I hate for her that she misses her time with us. But, in all fairness, we're in the same city with her nine nights out of ten, so I don't begrudge my husband his special time at home with his family, and I certainly don't begrudge their time with us. Our commute alone takes nearly a full day of daylight, so our time with them is limited to nice long holiday weekends. That nothwithstanding, it is still a TOTAL. BEAT. DOWN.

My in-laws are 420 miles from us, straight west. With a five year old in tow, and Thanksgiving traffic, you damn near cannot make the drive in less than six and a half hours. And that's if the planets align and God smiles down upon you. And everyone goes to the bathroom, and gets enough to eat before we take off. One little hiccup, one person off the family "potty time" schedule, and suddenly, we're stopping four times in one trip. You do the math, at 15 minutes per stop, we're stopping for more than an hour each way.

That's if we can get off the highway, away from the bumper to bumper traffic. You know the kind - one moron going under the speed limit driving in the left hand lane can back traffic up for miles. Everyone around him jockeys for position, trying to pass on the right without getting caught behind even slower drivers. And when you finally break free of him, suddenly you find yourself in an 85 mph race, back and forth with your fellow drivers, everyone jockeying for the pole position.

But I digress. The point is, the commute is a bitch. We drive for hours and are road weary when we get there. We don't have our bed, our pillows, our dogs. We eat food we're not used to, although it's delicious, and we're totally off our schedule so we either sleep too much or not enough. We're tired and out of our comfort zone.

Oddly enough, it's not just getting there that's stressful, but also staying there. There's really nothing to do in the city. There's NO place to shop, and I mean NO place. Well, there is a Walmart, and a Bealls. But really, NOTHING else. New this year, their little town had a place called the Amazing Store. Not so much, it turns out, because what it had was a bunch of cheap import crap that's overpriced and ugly.

And still, it is a great weekend. I'm thankful for our time with his family. He has two sisters, one is single and one is married with a small daughter of her own. Both of his parents are still living. And we all come together for a few precious hours in November and just spend time together as a family.

And for that, I am thankful. Because his folks aren't always going to be here for us, and because someday, his sisters may be spread to the farthest reaches of the world, and time together might not be feasible.

I'm thankful my mother-in-law makes a lovely Thanksgiving meal. My brother-in-law fried a turkey this year, and believe me when I say I'm thankful we can't have it every day. Hot and fresh, it was remarkable. I could have eaten my weight in turkey, so thank the good Lord above it's not available to me year round! And I'm thankful for the delicious turkey enchiladas with red sauce that my mother-in-law makes special, just for me, every year.

So what else has my heart feeling grateful right now? Well, several things, in random order.

I am thankful for my wonderful friend at work who holds the most amazing Thanksgiving potluck at her house every year. She and a roommate started the tradition eleven years ago, and it's grown from a group of college friends to include work friends and their families. There were 71 people there this year. I'm so glad to have been invited, to meet again some really terrific friends of my friend, and to enjoy seeing again friends I met last year.

I'm thankful that my mom held her own Thanksgiving a few days early this year so that her kids could all be together. Well, all except MrG, who was frankly being a big jerk that day and stayed home to watch football. It was nice to eat on the fancy china and have our family Thanksgiving favorites after many years away from my mother's table. Thanksgiving with friends is one thing, but Thanksgiving with your mom and your kid brother can't be beat.

I'm thankful for the potluck we had at work. Mostly, I'm thankful to have a job. And I'm thankful to have a job in a company where they allow us to do things like throw a big lunch where everyone brings a dish and eats too much. The company buys the turkey, and we bring everything else. And it's all delicious, and we get to enjoy the people we work with for a few minutes in suspended reality.

And today, after four Thanksgiving meals in one week, I'm thankful to high heavens that I'm not eating turkey.

I'm thankful for the regular stuff - we have a house, when others around us are losing theirs. We have our marriage, a nearly ten year union that's not perfect, but is happier much more often than not. We have our health, and when that fails us, we have insurance to help us find it again. We have families we love, who love us in return. We have friends we cherish, hobbies we enjoy, and the financial wherewithal to pretty much do what we want when we want.

We are so very blessed to have what we have when so many go without. In these times of economic uncertainty, it's comforting to have "the stuff" we have. But more important to me than "stuff" is what you cannot put a price tag on.

Several years ago, I tore a page out of a page-a-day calendar. I've held on to it for all this time because it spoke to me. The message on it said, "He who is not happy with what he has is not likely to be happy with what he would like to have."

And so, I am content with our 840-mile round trip for a visit to his parents a few times a year. And I'm content with my family and my friends and my stuff. I'm happy with what I have, and for that I am exceedingly grateful.

Happy Holidays to you and yours, and stay tuned for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Lady Steele style.


Chad and Mary Kate Martin said...

As always you continue to honor me and my family with shout outs -- I am thankful for that.

I am also thankful that God sends people into my life for important reasons at the right time. He definitely knew I needed you!!

M--- said...

I'm thankful that I got to meet you through my wonderful friend's potluck. (I was one of the original college friends at that first potluck and I miss being able to enjoy the tradition EVERY year! Glad you're a part of it now!)

And lemme tell ya...after this holiday season, I'm really thankful for ninja punch!