Giving Thanks for a Life Well Lived!

Thanksgiving Musings.

Seasonal transitions, blending one into another, with mirroring inside and outside. Thanksgiving tiptoes in, closer now. Seems like everywhere we go people are rushing to get somewhere else. A time of laughter, tears, frustration, maybe a cold or two. Kids already writing to santa while pumpkins are still sitting on porches. Christmas lights out, canned music playing, coughs and colds lurking down store aisles.

This year, in particular, a season of parallel lives, political, the personal. Watching loved ones and people we feel we know, in real time, their lives shattered by fire and events not of our making. The homelessness, heartbreaking, food insecurity gripping our nation’s children. If I dwell on all I see that I think is wrong, or hopeless, I lose myself in it. And I simply can’t allow my optimism to waver any further than it did again for awhile.

I can’t speak for all cancer survivors, but people ask about my journey and I never found it to be so, not at all. Maybe at my very last I will talk about regrets and the journey I had, but now I am in the midst of day to day meeting my health challenges, savoring every day, every moment I’m still here and I think now, a very long time to come. Surely white light surrounding me from my angels above, the village of love brought me to today.

When I thought my health was finally improving last year, two years since diagnosis, one complication from treatment followed another; I never succumbed to the notion my life was limited, just different. But I admit to you I have missed opportunities to go to a glorious family wedding and many other events. I have not been to get on a plane for two years, when I used to fly for many work years as a “road warrior”.

I learned patience and humility this past summer. By staying optimistic and focusing on helping others, however I could, it took the burden off and shifted my sense of purpose into overdrive. I see a Life Coach to help smooth out the rough edges, PTSD from cancer treatment gone madly wrong. We talk about how it affected my family, friends, relationships and changed my life. I’m still doing the work on myself, pretty much every aspect.

I mourned not only my late husband, nearly eight years, and my mountain home, my teaching, a couple fried relationships. Four moves in five years for a nester, impossible but true. A lot of loss and grief. I never moved on, but yes, I finally moved forward. And that is the best life lesson I could possibly share with you tonight. By unburdening ourselves of the past, we see possibilities and opportunities afforded us. We have to look, listen,  hope and embrace.

It took another six months to begin to turn my health around and I am looking forward to a milestone birthday soon, then many more. I am not done, in the middle, so the only way out now is through and I am not giving up.

Today as Thanksgiving draws near, I have been reflective all day, mulling what to write to you. How to gladden your heart, lift up your soul, knowing that we all face challenges every day that maybe don’t show and we won’t talk about.

I finally admitted my lingering illness made me hesitant to call others and I lost contact because I didn’t want to cry or sound like I was complaining, and why in the world if cancer free, was it taking so long to be just well, or same as before?

Like waiting for the other shoe to drop. What’s next. Fear grips when we least expect it, like a snake creeping along, all stealth, or watching the wolf hiding behind the trees.

That isolates us, when we need each other, the pull of together. Thanksgiving is not about pilgrims or old stories, it’s about transition and coming together. Giving thanks for all we have and all we should, giving thanks for all that’s good.

Thanksgiving is time for the transitions of love, hope, and forgiveness. Thanksgiving means joy. Pumpkins and falling leaves, joining quietly together with cloudy and rainy days, falling snow, snowflake angels, hot cocoa. The overlap is fast every year, seems even more so this year. Maybe because I am so grounded now, feel so together, so proud and filled with gratitude. I am not just surviving, I am thriving, or at least future pacing myself there.

I’m thinking this year we focus on the classics, kids being outside playing old fashioned games, turning off screens, lots more hugs, and time to breathe and do everything “wellness”. We likely all need to pause, reflect as I have been doing, and slow things down, focusing on happy stories of peoples’ good deeds, serving others, hopes, dreams and aspirations leading into the season of miracles and rebirth. A wonderful transition, seasonally and life.

Part of my large family arrives from California tomorrow. My part is easier now, my days of hosting twenty plus people are done, along with the dishes. But what I have now is so precious. I learned I can’t live just in my memories of that time in the mountains with William, nearly twenty years of our thirty plus, living in a historic house Mark Twain stayed when it was a Way Station, watching bear, geese, hearing howling coyotes. The extraordinary sunsets, watching the pond fill then empty as the seasons changed. Leaving was unbearable, the transition a weight on my heart.

It took five years to finally feel settled here in Eugene, including a couple at the Willamette River. I loved living there, hearing geese overhead, leading me to write a blog called “Lessons From Geese”. Things take time, and patience has never been my virtue.

As I think back now of the many transitions during that time, slowly learning more technology, blogging, writing a book, I can say tonight I am proud of myself. I can’t believe all I accomplished during a time of enormous transition, and the miracle of miracles, another chance at love.

During my last and hopefully really last transition, as I am unpacking, memories flood me. My teaching aprons, remnants of lessons from long ago that still work like a charm, old bells, slates and my Big Book. Tubs of letters from teachers and kids. Photos, Keynote flyers, programs and Seminar Books from my performances. And a stack of books I wrote, nearly all out of print, down to one copy each pretty much.

My newest, recently released book, a Memoir called “Stories From a Teacher’s Heart” celebrates life’s seasons, transitions, weathering storms, and greeting each day with purpose and gratitude.

When my husband became ill, I dropped out of sight for six years to care for him, until he had to leave me. I had been working on my book “Reading Champs, Teaching Reading Made Easy”, started years earlier, in ’08. My sense of purpose and a colleague helped finish it, in 2014. I never promoted it due to my move to Oregon, teaching preschool, then cancer. Life intervened.

Starting tomorrow, living in the moment means special time with my Eugene family, California kids in the mix and time to pause and give thanks for all I have. I know God spared me for a reason and tonight I pray my efforts have touched your hearts this year, given you hope, validated your thinking and inspired you to meet your dreams.

I know for sure my legacy is fulfilled. I have nothing to prove, as I am passing the torch so to speak, hoping one big idea makes a difference for you. Each one, teach one, and that makes all the difference in this world.

I’ll be thinking of you this holiday week as we make toilet paper turkey crafts, unicorn tiaras, paint our nails, play with Charlie Bear tiny Griffonshire doggie and Stella, the bunny. I can guarantee our little girls will be over at our house playing school, dollies, Barbies and of course, set for a lot of reading!

After all, isn’t that what Thanksgiving is really about? Friends and family. It doesn’t matter what is served at the table, as long as plenty of heaping helpings of joy and love. This transition, gateway to the winter holiday season is gateway to our souls.

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita

 

 

 

 

 

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