Giving thanks

November 24, 2011

My list of things I’m thankful for really doesn’t change much from year to year. At least the big things don’t change – friends, family, church, health, a job, a home to live in, good schools for our sons, and the love and grace of God shown in so many ways.

When I think of what I am thankful for, though, I think also of lots of little things. For instance, this fall as I have been trying to eat more healthy foods, I am thankful for some healthy foods that also taste very good. I have come to enjoy quinoa cooked with chicken broth and mixed with peas, black beans mixed with corn and tomatoes, and blackstrap molasses as an all-purpose sweetener.

I have tried to cut out most of the sugar I had been eating, which means no more hot chocolate mix in my coffee, buying breakfast cereals with a lower sugar content, and no more brown sugar in my oatmeal. I also cut out diet pop and other artificially sweetened beverages, because Dr. Ann (whose book Eat Right for Life I have been trying to follow) points out that artificial sweeteners distort our sense of what tastes sweet. I guess she must be right, because last time I tried blackstrap molasses I didn’t like it at all. Now it tastes good, and I use it on my oatmeal, on my buckwheat pancakes, and in my coffee.

Dr. Ann also advises against eating white potatoes, along with white flour, white sugar, and white rice. But she says sweet potatoes are great, which is good, because I like them just as well as white potatoes. She also recommends that people trying to lose weight avoid dried fruit – with the exception of dried apricots, because they are so very healthy. And I have always loved dried apricots, so I’m glad of a reason to eat more of them.

I’m thankful for my bifocals, and for the low price at Walmart and the employee discount that made my new pair of bifocals affordable (about a fourth of what it would have cost at the clinic where I got my exam and prescription). I had put off getting a new pair, because I remembered how much the old pair had cost (at the clinic), even though that pair was nearly useless. I used a cheap set of reading glasses for the computer and other reading, though even with those I found myself squinting more often in recent months. And as for seeing things in the distance – things were blurrier with the glasses on than without them.

So I wasn’t surprised to find out that I am now slightly farsighted instead of nearsighted. Or that the prescription I needed for reading had changed a lot. What I was surprised was to find out that even bifocals cost less than $100 at Walmart now. I still can’t quite see the eye of a needle (but as someone explained to me how to use one of those wire needle threaders, it’s not a big problem), but I can read the clues to the crossword in the Friday Wall Street Journal without a magnifying glass. And things are nice and clear in the distance.

I’m thankful for the internet, which gives me the opportunity to have this blog, play Scrabble with a friend in Maryland, read the news from a number of sources, keep in touch with my sister by email, and look up all sorts of information. This week, for example, I found a recipe for a (relatively) healthy pumpkin pie, with no fat except in the eggs, the chopped nuts in the crumb crust, and the canola oil that I used in the crust in place of butter or margarine. I also cut down on the brown sugar (and used blackstrap molasses!), so it isn’t as sweet but still tastes quite good.

I am thankful for silence, when I can have it. One of the Plinky prompts this week asked, “Does silence make you uncomfortable?” I was going to answer, “Not at all! I love silence.” But my husband was listening to something on his computer (I don’t remember whether it was Rush Limbaugh, a TV show, or just some of his favorite music. And I find it hard to blog when I don’t have quiet to let my thoughts flow. I can faintly hear the washing machine downstairs, and the sound of the keyboard as I type, and the faint whir of the ceiling fan. But it’s pretty quiet right now.

Those are the kinds of things it’s easy to be thankful for. This column reminds us to be thankful for difficulties as well, because of what they teach us, and because they make us stronger. I do try to take that attitude toward difficulties when I am facing them. But when I sit down to list what I am thankful for, somehow those don’t seem to come to mind so quickly.

And because I am likely to miss some important things when I do try to list what I am thankful for, it is good to be able to borrow words others have written. For our prayer before dinner today, I printed out this thanksgiving litany from the Book of Common Prayer (another handy use of the internet, since I don’t own a copy of that book). And that’s one more thing I’m thankful for – books in general, whether for entertainment or education, but especially those that pass on wisdom that has stood the test of time.

Thanks giving

November 26, 2009

I ran out of tiles and room on the board, or I would have added GAMES such as Scrabble – particularly since it gave me a way to creatively express some of what I am thankful for.

I was going to make it a crossword puzzle, and give descriptions for each word, telling why I am thankful for each. But I know some of you are not aficionados of word puzzles the way I am. Plus that would have taken a lot more time, and I still have to cook corn casserole and green bean casserole and sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes.

Most of these are self-explanatory, but I will add notes on a few of the words. Speaking of words, I was going to write WORDS, since I have so much fun with words, but I had no more S tiles. Then I realized it could mean the Word of God, so I was happy to leave it in the singular.

WIT can refer both to intelligence and to humor; I am more gifted in the former than the latter, but I greatly appreciate others whose humor enriches my life. (Note that WIT is linked to LAUGHTER.)

I am thankful both for the FREEDOM I have as an American, and the FREEDOM I have in Christ.

I am thankful for the opportunity to communicate with GOD through PRAYER. And for the PRAYERs said by other people in my behalf.

PIZZA seems a bit out of place with the other, more profound things I am thankful for. But I wanted to use every tile, and I do appreciate pizza – both for it being a delicious one-dish meal (if it has lots of toppings including vegetables), and because when I am tired it is so easy to prepare dinner when I have a pizza or two in the freezer. (In case you have noticed that there appear to be two Z tiles, while Scrabble only has one – I used a blank tile, and digitally copied the Z to the blank tile.)

The final “word” in the puzzle, OXO, represents hugs and kisses. The kisses are for family members, but to all friends and family, I extend a warm hug and wishes for a blessed Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving ABC’s (concluded)

November 26, 2008

So here I am, at the end of the alphabet. It’s not quite Thanksgiving Day, but I expect to spend a good deal of tomorrow driving to Michigan, then visiting with relatives. I may have a chance to get on the internet, but I’m not going to plan on it. So here is my Z post.

I know that men’s trousers  must have once used buttons to close the fly (an early advertisement claimed that zippers would prevent “The Possibility of Unintentional and Embarrassing Disarray”), but I have trouble visualizing what it would look like. When I weighed more I tended to look for elastic-waist pants, but I am glad now to be able to find properly-fitting pants with zipper closures. And it’s hard to think of a winter jacket without a zipper (though my favorite winter jacket’s zipper stopped working yesterday, and I switched to another one, that doesn’t have a hood). And as I’m packing for our Thanksgiving trip to Michigan, I wonder, how would you close a suitcase without a zipper?

I’ve never been that big a fan of zoos myself (at least I don’t think so – Margaret might know better as to my younger years), or of learning about animals in general. My interests tend more to non-biological sciences. But as my younger son currently has great interest in animals, I’m glad that there are zoos to take him to, to encourage him to pursue his interests. Zoos these days don’t just display animals, they provide kid-friendly displays to teach about animal habitats, the food chain, how the particular characteristics of each type of animal enable them to survive in the wild, and other interesting facts.

Zachary (my older son)
Hard-working (mostly), considerate, honest, very smart, talented musician, good big brother, follower of Christ. I spend less time with him now than with his little brother, partly because his little brother needs extra attention – but mostly because Zach is growing into a responsible young man, able to deal with schoolwork and rehearsals and chores around the house with little input from me. (He did call today to ask me when to put the bleach in the white load in the washer.) And now that he has his license, he’ll be able to drive himself where he needs to go without me. A part of me may miss it (not the part that likes to sleep instead of getting up to go get him when his bus returns from a competition well after midnight), but I also look forward to seeing him go out in the world with the confidence that he can face the challenges of adult life.

So I’ve gone from A to Z, and thought of lots of things I might not have remembered to give thanks for as I enjoy the turkey and the visit to relatives we don’t see often. And I’ve learned some interesting things, which I also enjoy and am thankful for the opportunity to learn.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Y be thankful?

November 26, 2008

Y is another letter that proved surprisingly hard to come up with good words to be thankful for. I like the color yellow (as a girl I chose the color yellow when we painted the walls of my bedroom), but I wouldn’t exactly say I’m thankful for it. Something I yearn for is something I don’t have – though I’d be thankful if I did have it! Some years, and some yesterdays, I am particularly thankful for, while others I have to work at finding something in them to be grateful for. I like egg yolks, but I prefer them mixed with the whites. And I don’t like to yell, to hear the dog yelp, or to eat things that taste yucky.

But much thought finally yielded a few ideas.

And sweet potatoes. I know there’s a difference, but I have trouble remembering which is which. They both taste good. Thanksgiving is usually the one time of the year I have any, because no one else in the family cares for them. When there’s company (which is usually just for holidays, considering our crazy schedule the rest of the time), I can make a yam/sweet potato casserole and not have to eat it all myself.

As in YMCA, except that our local Y is just called the Muscatine Community Y. Not being very athletic, I don’t get there except when I push myself to go exercise because I want to get in better shape. I spend 15-20 minutes on the elliptical machine, do 3 reps of 12 on about eight Strive machines, and a few minutes stretching. My younger son makes a point of going with me so he can run/jog/walk around the indoor track while I exercise. My husband spends some time on the same equipment, but his love is racquetball, and he plays whenever he can find someone to play against whose schedule allows playing around 9 in the morning.

Young people
At first I thought I couldn’t use the word “young” or “youth” here, because I’m not anymore. Turning 45 didn’t phase me much (not sure how 50 will be), but having our older son get his driver’s license today (Congrats, Zach!) certainly reinforces the sense of being middle-aged. But then I remembered that this evening he has rehearsal with the other young people at church for leading worship the weekend of December 6/7.

All the kids, from kindergarten on up through high school, participate in singing and choreographed movement, with some of the more agile ones doing some dancing. (Yes, dancing in church!) They’re full of enthusiasm and energy, and they love singing praise to God with their whole bodies. I enjoy watching not only my own boys, but all the children I have gotten to know through teaching K/1 class for a few years now.

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X as in Xmas

November 25, 2008

If you’ve been following my Thanksgiving ABC’s posts this month, you may have been wondering what I would find starting with the letter X to be thankful for. I could have mentioned xerography, which is certainly easier than using those old ditto machines (which I did use for one year as a high school teacher). But these days I rarely need to make photocopies, as most information I need is stored online and I can print directly from the digital source.

Besides, I thought of a much more important X that I am thankful for.

X = Christ
The word Christ comes from the Greek word Christos (or Xristos), and is their translation of Messiah (from the Hebrew word mashiyach), the anointed one. In Greek, the first letter of Christ is chi, represented in their alphabet by the symbol X. Thus X has for two millennia been a symbol for Christ. That is why we sometimes call Christmas “Xmas,” not because someone was trying to “X out” Christ (though people today may use it that way, not knowing the origin of the term).

chi-rhoBefore the cross became the dominant symbol of Christianity, one of the common symbols used was the “Chi-Rho,” made by superimposing the chi over the rho, which is the second letter in Xristos

I rather like the idea of this symbol. The cross is a wonderful reminder of Jesus’ sacrificial death for us, but the Chi-Rho, in reminding us that Jesus is the Anointed One, can remind us of his sacrifice and more. Anointing was used in a variety of ways, including medicinal uses, but ceremonially it became associated with the priesthood and kingship. So to think of Jesus as the Anointed One is to remember that He is our High Priest, who offered the sacrifice of Himself, and who now intercedes for us, and that He is King of Kings, sovereign over all the universe.

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Wonderful water

November 24, 2008

I can think of some great W words that I’m thankful for – walking, weekend, wisdom. But I could make an entire post from each one – and I think I’ll save those three for future posts. (After all, “weekend” should really be a weekend post, shouldn’t it?) So today’s post is devoted to one thing we can’t live without, and which my younger son just happens to be studying in school right now.

Al came home with an assignment this weekend to think of ten ways our family uses clean water at home. The first several were easy, but after that we seemed to be just giving variations on already mentioned uses.

Brushing teeth
Flushing the toilet
Cleaning the house
Washing clothes
Washing the car
Washing the dog
Mixing instant lemonade

Flushing the toilet does not actually require clean water, of course. When we lived in rural Michigan and had well water, when the electricity went out (so the well pump stopped working) we melted snow in order to flush the toilet. I vaguely remember as a young girl staying at a cottage near the beach for vacation, and using sea water to flush the toilet (though as I was quite young I might remember wrong). But as all the water coming in through our pipes is clean enough to drink, that’s what gets used in the toilet also.

Washing the car doesn’t require water clean enough to drink either – though I certainly wouldn’t want to use sea water for that job. Even washing clothes and cleaning the house could be done with water I wouldn’t want to put in my mouth. In countries where the water isn’t safe to drink, I imagine it’s still OK to wash clothes in it, or to mop floors (for people who have floors, that is – I think dirt floors are more common in many poorer countries).

I have mentioned that I lived in Spain for several months, and while the water there isn’t unsafe to drink as in some countries, the microorganisms in it are apparently different enough from those our bodies are accustomed to in this country that I had a choice of either drinking bottled water the entire time I was there, or getting my body used to the water. I chose the latter. It meant being sick for a few days, but after that I was fine.

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More (very) useful things

November 23, 2008

I vaguely remember seeing Velcro for the first time on a sling that my sister had to wear when she fractured her arm in about 5th or 6th grade. (Though maybe I’m imagining that, and rather remembering the Velcro fastenings on the knee immobilizer I had to wear following a bicycle accident in 1984.) Today it is so common that it’s hard to believe that it was considered impractical when it first came out.

When my first son was born (in 1992), only the “deluxe” disposable diapers offered velcro fastenings, but by the time my second son was born (in 1999), I was happy to find that it had become standard on even store-brand diapers. It’s used in my sneakers, my winter jacket, and my gym bag. (As handy as it is, though, I discovered that with boys’ shoes, the velcro gets so clogged with bits of hair and lint (from dog, carpet, and other clothing), that it stops working well before the shoes are outgrown.)

I think of vaccination as a fairly modern invention, and I was surprised to read that “Early forms of vaccination were developed in ancient China as early as 200 B.C” and that “The tradition of vaccination may have originated in India in AD 1000.” Certainly it did not become so widespread as to be required by law until the 19th century – which in turn led to the development of anti-vaccinationist groups. When my younger son was an infant, I read some of their materials, and then read quite a bit on the subject until I felt comfortable in getting him his scheduled vaccines. A few years later, he was diagnosed with autism, but I don’t find the claims of a causal connection convincing.

My grandfather had polio as a boy, as did my father-in-law (who in later years suffered from post-polio syndrome). I am thankful that my sons will not suffer from this disease, or from others that used to cause severe illness and often death in the years before reliable vaccines were developed.

Our vet is not a thing, of course, he’s a person – so I guess the thing I am thankful for is veterinary medicine. But I’m also thankful for our vet, who is a caring doctor (he was the vet we took Duke to when he died, since he was the closest, and we decided to make him our regular vet). This week Kyra will go back for her next set of booster shots (vaccinations!). And while we are enjoying a visit to cousins in Michigan for Thanksgiving, Kyra will be getting an ovariohysterectomy (i.e. she’ll be spayed). I doubt she’ll be particularly thankful, but it means no unwanted puppies, not to mention avoiding the mess of a dog in heat.

Vacuum cleaner
Vacuuming is noisy and not much fun, so “thankful” isn’t the first word that pops into my mind in relation to vacuum cleaners. But alternative methods of getting floors clean would be even more work, so I’m glad to have them. I say “them” because we now have four – a Kirby to do the basic vacuuming, a Shop-Vac that we purchased to deal with a wet basement, a rechargeable DustBuster good for the car as wellas any small area that I don’t want to lug the Kirby to, and now a Little Green to steam clean when Kyra has had an accident in the house.