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Relational Reflections: Yes, another blog, and this one’s from Dr. Nadine and Dr. Zan at True Heights

Wishing You Some Lighthearted as well as Some Serious Gratitude this Holiday

Dr. Zan’s Thoughts:

For many years now my house has been the Thanksgiving gathering place for a large group of extended family. Because many must travel from a distance, the holiday is a giant family sleepover for several days, and part of the chaotic fun includes stepping over bodies camouflaged in sleeping bags, sometimes positioned in the most unexpected places. This is a practice that all hold dear, especially given our family’s attachment to the careful observance of time honored traditions. In truth, I am probably one of the less traditional of the bunch and can’t help but throw a curveball into the expected, much anticipated meal. With time, I have learned that a new veggie side dish is just the right amount of playful experimentation, without messing with the standards.

One of the traditions that has emerged that I absolutely love and hope to pass on to subsequent generations is the creation of a Thankful List. Once the meal is consumed, and the first round of dishes are loaded into the dishwasher, the Cousins (several of them now along with their significant others, spouses and new babies) excuse themselves to brainstorm and construct a written list of all that inspires gratitude for them. Somehow, for years we adults got away with sending the Cousins off to create their list, but we never created one of our own. We even tried to suggest that we would just talk about our gratitude. However, the Cousins weren’t having it! They convinced us, wisely, that we as the adult generation needed to have the experience of discussing and writing our Thankful List as well.

Not surprisingly, this is one of my highlights of every Thanksgiving. Not only do the Cousins as well as the Aunts and Uncles gather as individual groups to discuss and write down a very long list of gratitudes, there is also the opportunity to present these lists when the full group reconvenes. The Cousins make certain that every person has their part to share, without flourish or fanfare, but with much crowd participation. We respond with “Awe…” when they are sweet, with puzzlement when they are too hip and trendy to make sense to us, and often with bobbing heads of agreement. But mostly, we respond with laughter because the Cousins are and forever will be to us, adorable and hilarious. The Cousins have taught us to be grateful for the special moments, the silliest little things, to cherish group jokes that are told with much gusto and with great value on repetition. Their list, by the way, is always longer than that of the Aunts and Uncles, spanning multiple typed pages every year. Perhaps there is a little healthy competition there, but perhaps they really are brimming with gratitude and joy. I hope so. That is my wish for Dr. Na and for all of you as you approach and embrace the holiday.

And now, may the pie eating commence!

Dr. Nadine’s Reflections:

I love Thanksgiving.  I think about it for weeks in advance, first anticipating that it means time off from work for a long weekend.  Then I fantasize about all the traditional foods that show up on the Thanksgiving table that don’t make an appearance at any other time of year--calorie-laden “Party Potatoes”, stuffing, cranberry sauce, turkey, and gravy, which I’ve discovered is delicious with everything.  And lastly, I anticipate my loved ones converging together all in one place, fully enjoying and annoying each other, as families do.

Over the years, my family, in contrast to Dr. Zan’s, has dwindled in numbers.  Many of the Cousins have moved away, and are too far to reconvene at the homestead.  Other Dear Ones have left this earth, leaving us with wonderful memories of their presences which graced the bountiful table.  The chaos of the early years loaded with little kids running around has given way to quiet celebration and mindful appreciation of the present members of the family who remain.

I do find at this holiday that I’m prompted to be reflective in a different way than at the December and January holidays.  This holiday in particular focuses on family, friends and food. I’m keenly aware at how many people I’ve recently encountered whose social connections are less than ideal, whose living situations are difficult, who are financially struggling, and who are generally having a hard time finding things for which to be grateful.

But rather than being restrained because of the adversity faced by those around us, I’m actually issuing a respectful directive to celebrate BOLDLY.  Wayne Dyer once said that eschewing abundance that is ours does nothing to help anyone else (my paraphrase and apologies to Dr. Dyer for any mistaken paraphrases).  Instead, embrace all the abundance that is yours, however big or small, in whatever form. There is always something to be thankful for, even if it’s only the ability to find that one tiny thing.

Let me then paint for you the picture of my Thanksgiving.  The Thanksgiving guest list has grown again since the changes in our family circle.  Now we include the “inner circle” of family, plus in-laws and out-laws (giggle) and a smattering of friends.  We gather at my cousin’s, whose house is big enough to accommodate us all. There is chaos in the kitchen because, as you know, EVERYONE hangs around the middle island, getting in the way of the cooks who are trying to carve the turkey, make gravy at the hot stove, and pull the green bean casserole out of the oven without burning any of the guests.  Then we gather in the large family room, before adjourning to the table. Here we take the time as a group to listen to a short reading or resource or commentary on the meaning of the holiday. We together offer thanks and express gratitude for the blessings that we have. We pray for those who have less, who are weary, and who need spiritual support to continue on.  There is a recognition that to whom much is given, much is expected. And we commit to continuing to be of service to others. And then, without further ado, we fly to the table, laughing and jockeying for seats closest to the turkey!

Dr. Zan and I love that you are sharing this blog with us.  We wish you joy, gratitude, contentment, and peace. We desire for you the abundance of all that is good, all that is noble, and all that is healthy, to use in service to yourself, to your Dear Ones and to our whole Community.  Thanksgiving Blessings to you!!

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