~thankful thursday~ oh, brother

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11-11-16 day 11

today i’m feeling gratitude for the community in which i live. rich and i went to café mundo, the site of our very first date almost five years ago, and this time around we knew even more of the people there. (there is something to be said for a small town when trying to date again after a long time, saddled with doubts about one’s ability to judge a man’s character. i had lots and lots of background checkers, and they all gave him two thumbs up. also, people who weren’t even there knew what i ordered for dinner while i was eating it on said date, because, what else is there to text each other about?)

the only graffiti on the walls in the bathroom at mundo were the words, “LOVE” and “don’t compromise yourself to make someone whole.” also, the graffiti was in chalk because that is an invited form of expression there.

the music – still grateful for music – was live and beautiful and so many good songs were played. there were lots of friends from the cast of the play rich just finished performing in attendance, and it was a foregone conclusion that everyone present was on the same page concerning current events. to be clear, everyone doesn’t need to agree all the time for me to be in my happy place, but i know a lot of us are finding it pretty hard to stomach the amount of hatred and name calling and intolerance we are witnessing and experiencing.

i was wearing a safety pin out on the town, starting in a safe space where it wouldn’t be needed anyway, but also knowing it would be appreciated. those who hadn’t heard about safety pin symbolism were happy to know of one more way to show in a concrete way that we don’t plan on letting our community be a haven for bullying or exclusion or bigotry.

it is also on my mind that i feel tremendously grateful for the veterans who have served in our country’s military, and this is something i’ve always had a hard time reconciling because, by saying i value soldiers’ sacrifices, i don’t want to be misunderstood that i am in favor of war or that i think putting young men and women in the line of fire is the only or best way to serve our country or resolve conflicts with other countries. i think on days like this of my poppy, who served in both world war 2 and korea, and my dad who spent time in the air force during the vietnam war. my dad, thankfully, was not in combat, but poppy saw awful things, and i remember hearing him having terrible nightmares, when he lived with us when i was a kid and he was in his eighties. i have a hard time thinking that these men would have supported a presidential candidate who has openly insulted other veterans, and who behaves in abhorrent ways towards women, and who has contempt for immigrants, and those who practice “certain” religions. politics are a conversation i stopped having with my dad ten years ago, and i don’t want to start it back up, because i’m afraid it would break my heart that he might not get the connection between his vote and the message it sends to his daughter, to his grandson, about how men and women should behave, how they should expect to be treated, based on their race, gender, sexual orientation. i’m afraid of knowing my mom might have voted for someone who entertained the notion of repealing the 19th amendment.

my kid, who is growing up here in this vibrant community, gives me hope. the message i am making sure he receives is that if he sees bullying or hate based on another kid’s differences, that he must choose to stand up for the different kid and speak up about it. he said he’d do that anyway, even without a safety pin to remind him.

i couldn’t pass up this reading of flander’s fields by the late l. cohen. another one of life’s little synchronicities. enjoy with tissues on hand.

11-12-16 day 12

today i am thankful for the kitty kneading my lap, the fire in the wood stove, my faulty rew memory that makes it so i don’t necessarily remember using that woodstove gratitude already, or that i’ve already gotten a kiss or a hug (so then i get another one), and little things in life like safety pins.

peace-pin

11-13-16 day 13

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i came across this letter from my dad the other night and like all the other recent synchronicities, it made me cry. so i sent it to my bff so at least i wasn’t the only one crying. safety in numbers.

today i am thankful for my dad.

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the letter came after an extremely trying time in my coparenting career. dad said, “i know that the trial you just went through was very hard to endure. i want you to know that before, during that time, and always, i will love you with all of my heart. we may not always have been in agreement on everything, but, no matter what, i would do anything for you that i possibly could do. i pray that your life will continue to get better and better from here on out.”

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one time, my dad grew a mustache for me with the motivation of alleviating my fear of men with facial hair. see? he would do anything. aside from being an amusing story told all my life, i have come to see, over time, that his message was not that men with facial hair are all safe, but instead, don’t let fear be what drives you. indeed, we know retrospectively that one of the men with facial hair at our church was definitely not safe, and i didn’t learn until i was an adult that he had molested one of the teen girls in church. but i think my dad really took on the challenge of helping me overcome fears and live a more confident life. maybe it was so he and mom could get to sleep at night (i also had a fear of the moths that flew around my night light, which i believed were wasps. i think he must have been really glad when i got over that.)

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dad expected me to work on the farm, and i am grateful to him for instilling a strong work ethic in me. i started shoveling manure with a kid-size plastic orange snow shovel as soon as i was toddling enough to not fall on my face in said manure (at least not very often). once we graduated from eating random items in our environment, we were deemed old enough to run a grease gun around all the fittings on a tractor. dad appreciated and nurtured my interest in the midwifery aspect of raising cows. i was much less squeamish than my brothers, and he’d call me when there were twins or breach calves needing attending. i know my way around a cow uterus, and know just what to do with ivory dish soap and a hay hook to help get a stuck calf out.

i also know how to change a tire and change the oil in my car, thanks to my dad. he didn’t think this type of skill was reserved for males. he showed me how to split wood. he bought me my first chainsaw. sometimes i let rich use it.

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i stole several of his flannel shirts when i was 19 and hopped on a schooner. when he and my mom met the ship in greenport, after my first voyage, he and i compared our muscles and farmer tans. his farmer tan will always dominate. people on the crew figured that my farm childhood explained why i took so readily to the rigors of shipboard life.

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dad is going to retire from bus driving in a year or so, and when he does, i imagine he’ll have some beef cattle, because his “part time” job (40+ hours per week) already doesn’t prevent him from driving around on his tractor for all the rest of the daylight hours. he will need to farm something in order to keep busy, and i’m not sure apples will be enough. i will schedule my visits during calving season. i hope i have his energy level when i am his age.

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dad was such a busy guy throughout my childhood, but he made room for us in his life in such a big way. i can still smell the diesel and dry grass from all the naps i took slung over the tractor toolbox with one of his button down shirts to snuggle up to, and taste the warm well water from the soda bottle with which i would wash down the dust. whenever we ended up curled up on his lap in the evening, he’d stick his finger in our ears to clean them out and clip our fingernails. he always read us the bedtime story. i would fall asleep listening to his voice reading how to eat fried worms, sideways stories from wayside school, or treasure island, and even now when we talk on the phone, i find it a comforting sound. i’m not the only one. my friends, cousins, and many of my brothers’ friends all love to hear my dad sing and play guitar, and have learned his repertoire enough to have favorites they request for him to sing. he always came to a track meet each season of my high school hurdling career, despite the timing of track meets always coinciding with milking hours. some of my favorite memories were silly conversations at the dinner table, or being woken up at 4:30 to be stuffed in the family car and driven up to saranac lake each summer.

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i also have memories of storming away from the dinner table when dad and i couldn’t agree. he stated the truth in that letter, and it wasn’t always an easy father-daughter relationship. my mom maintains that i am very much like my dad, and that is why she thinks we clashed so much. we’re much more peaceful now; because you don’t have to agree on much of anything to have unconditional positive regard for each other.

one other thing. i am grateful to my dad for showing me how a man should respect, love and cherish his wife. my parents are a great example of how to truly live your wedding vows of “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” and i realize how fortunate i am to have had an example like this to help me see the same qualities in rich when i met him. the above letter came just a couple of months after rich and i had begun our relationship. we had a lot of worse/poorer/sickness thrown our way in our first year, and rich was a rock and stood by me just as my dad stands by my mom. dad seemed to sense that about rich’s character already. in the same letter he wrote, “i am so pleased to hear you so happy with your relationship with rich. he sounds like someone who you will be able to trust.” we may not always have been in agreement on everything, but we definitely agree on that!

i love you, dad!

 

11-14-16 day 14

let’s do thankful for the farm part 2. last night was about dad, who is inextricable from the farm, having been there since he was 4 years old, so it couldn’t help but be a farm post. but i also want to express thankfulness for the farm itself. i’m going to borrow someone else’s words tonight, and take a break from thinking of what to say. this time, i’m quoting my favorite enviro-farming curmudgeon, wendell berry. he’s the best i’ve found at articulating the importance of a sense of place, and how farm life provides such a thing for a soul.

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“if you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”

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Picture 1323 barn

“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. I have an idea that a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed to live at least a part of their lives without a boss.”

Picture 1439 old tools sunset

speaking of love…

“I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love.”

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“What I stand for
is what I stand on.”

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“Never forget: We are alive within mysteries.”

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and finally…

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“be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.” google the poem this quote is from, “manifesto: the mad farmer liberation front,” and read the whole wonderful thing. it’s from 1973, yet fitting for the present moment. and then grab your nearest farmer and hug them.

11-15-16 day 15

already halfway through the 30 days of gratitude! i guess i could look at it as the month is half over, or… i could say there is still half of it yet to come!

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did i say that i’m thankful for the fires rich builds in the woodstove yet? i can’t remember. so toasty. or how about the kitty snugglers? i don’t know if i threw in the fruit salsa and chicken we ate last night for dinner or the yummy pasta we had tonight for dinner. or the nice hot bath i took last night. or the whiskey i am enjoying with my love right now. coffee. soft blankets. we sat down to biscuits and gravy this morning, and rich turned up the volume knob on the radio to paul mccartney and wings singing “maybe i’m amazed at the way you love me all the time.” and we smiled at each other. (music! did i use music yet?) i got to see a beautiful sky layered with fluffy clouds and muted pastel colors as i drove homeward across the bridge after work. then there is the beautiful moon situation. the sound of rain on our metal roof, and being snug inside our cozy home. at the root of some of my fall funk (i referred to it on day 1, it’s part of why i impulsively jumped in and committed to doing this for a whole month… free therapy!) is that i feel unsettled, not moved in yet, still in the midst of a long two year transition of not being home yet. if i look at the glass as half full though, i’m lucky to have the home, all the homes, i’ve been fortunate enough to inhabit. this one may still be filled with piles of boxes, and we may not have the living room layout solved just yet, but…

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“our house is a very very very fine house… with two cats in the yard… life used to be so hard… now everything is easy ‘cause of you.”

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11/16/16 day 16

i declare it sibling thankfulness day.

brothers

brother b. he was my first friend, my first enemy, and now i’m glad to say we’ve been back to friend status for quite some time. he’s a punk rocker, a true friend who will drop everything to help a friend in need, has the most colossal sneeze and the most infectious laugh, and has been reading howard zinn since before he was cool.

sister c. i’m so happy she became my sister in law last year, after decades of belonging to our family already. i’ve got bowls made by her hands in my cupboard, and i will strive to emulate her interior decorating style, she is a true artist. she is also a super mom and i’m glad my bro has a great partner in the parenting adventure!

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brother t. whenever i needed someone to geek out with, and, say, write all the roman numerals, in order, from 1 to 1000, on yellow legal pads, he was always my go-to guy. i say this as though it’s in the past tense, like we didn’t just create a role-play game version of the oregon trail together, oh, a couple of months ago. all-time best writer of funny emails ever, but you have to wait for it. this is also true of the words that come out of his mouth… sporadically.

sister n. i just shared a heartfelt email exchange with my sister in law, whom i’ve known since childhood. we went to kids’ church camp together, isn’t that wild(wood)? we also both lived on the west coast for a period of time. she’s been a kindred since long before she married t. and i sure love the nephews she brought into this world for me.

tim-and-nat

i’ve seen lots of families of siblings lose touch with each other, or worse, and this almost seems more common, to splinter apart as time and life present obstacles. it’s one of my deepest wishes to never let that happen between my brothers and me.

because, there are a lot of wonderful people who come and go in life, but there are only two people who i lined up stuffed animals with to do the “milking.” there are only two people with whom i plucked kernels of cow corn to fill up our toy gravity wagon to plant corn in the sandbox. there are only two people who had to eat bread and milk with me because dad said we had to try it. there are only two people who know the martyr song as well as i do. and if each one of them needed a kidney simultaneously, i’d give them each one of my own in a heartbeat.

11-17-16 day 17

today i am thankful for books. i just checked “fantastic beasts and where to find them” out of the library (so thankful for librarians!!!) so quinn and i can read it before we go watch the movie. i’m slowly chipping away at “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.” but today, “bat 6” by virginia euwer wolff and “snow falling on cedars” by david guterson, are coming to mind, though i haven’t read either one recently. i need to get to bed, so i’m borrowing quotes again, this time from “snow falling on cedars”:

“The snowfall obliterated the borders between the fields and made Kabuo Miyamoto’s long-cherished seven acres indistinguishable from the land that surrounded them. All human claims to the landscape were superseded, made null and void by the snow. The world was one world, and the notion that a man might kill another over some small patch of it did not make sense.”

~~~

“None of those other things makes a difference. Love is the strongest thing in the world, you know. Nothing can touch it. Nothing comes close. If we love each other we’re safe from it all. Love is the biggest thing there is.”

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“snow falling on cherry blossoms” march 2012

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2 comments to ~thankful thursday~ oh, brother

  • camp boss

    a wonderful, loving, generous, considerate, and understanding family is definitely something to be thankful for. And your family is pretty awesome!!
    Hatred and name calling is never cool NO matter who you voted for!!!!!!
    And really it’s ugly coming from BOTH sides of the “polls”!
    We haven’t talked in a while hope we can catch up when you come for eggs.

  • Lau

    Email notification of babeness is successful with no noticeable quirks.

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