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Day 21 – 30 Days of Gratitude

November 21, 2020

Overwhelmingly, I am exceedingly grateful that I live in a country and time where food is abundantly available and safe to consume. I know that there are plenty of people on this planet who do not have the same conveniences or resources available to them as we do in this country. I am also painfully aware that even in this country, we face a feeding crisis.

Those are posts for another day. There are two foods that I am most grateful for: congee & popcorn, and both for different reasons with a connected cause.

If you’re not familiar, congee is a porridge made of rice. And it is often considered medicinal in Chinese therapies. About seven years ago, I had a stomach removal surgery that went awry. After months in the post-operative stage, and still unable to eat even minimal amounts of solid food, I was literally dehydrating and starving. In the wealthiest country in the world….

One fateful day, one of my coworkers, a Chinese-American immigrant & one of the best chefs I have ever had the pleasure of working with, forced me to try congee. I was “faking it till I made it” at work and the mental and physical exhaustion of trying to hide my condition from my team was winning.

I could barely lift the utensil to my mouth.

One sip from the spoon, and the warmth from the liquid seemed to soak into my parched lips and mouth like water to a barren field. On the second sip, I could feel the heated congee pour down my throat. The bottoming out as it hit my stomach was practically audible. The third sip filled my torso with warmth that transformed my soul.

From that day forward, I had congee every day for six months. I slowly regained my health. Then my mind. And finally, my wit and humor. I still have food issues but I firmly believe the congee was the medicine my body desperately needed at that time. It allowed the healing to finally begin.

As for the popcorn, that’s much more simple.

It’s a mental connection.

When I was little, one of the shared rituals I had with both my mom and my aunt – though never together – was to watch a movie and eat popcorn. After I lost my stomach, I was told that I never again could eat foods like that. They call them slider foods: popcorn, pretzels, crackers, chocolate, etc.

Ok, you’re not supposed to eat them. Most people in my situation don’t eat them because either they follow the rules, or they are physically uncomfortable doing so.

For me, I couldn’t eat popcorn for a very long time after my surgery. I couldn’t eat much of anything for the first two years. Eventually, I was able to stomach a little bit of it. And while I now realize it’s a bad habit, at the time it was a much longed for comfort of times when life was simpler and safer

Day 20 – 30 Days of Gratitude

November 20, 2020

There are so many conveniences that I’ve gotten used to (pampered by?) in my daily life. Six months ago I might have named the internet or computers. Modern medicine & peer-backed science is a high line item as well.

However, I’m humbly required to notice that nothing has affected my day-to-day activities as much as indoor plumbing – especially since we bought this house.

I feel like I am fighting against the water every day.

Either the well is dry or drying up and I have half a sink of dishes left. Or, the kitchen sink is leaking — oh wait, now it’s spraying across the room.

Sometimes the hard water makes my skin itch like mad. Or not feel quite clean in the shower because it’s so …silky? (So very odd) And particularly, when the filter needs to be replaced in the pitcher because the particulates are too high to safely drink the unfiltered water for very long.

Please don’t take this the wrong way. I am very grateful for the indoor plumbing. No matter how long it takes me to adjust to this particular house’s quirks.

But WOW did I take it all for granted up until now.

Day 19 – 30 Days of Gratitude

November 19, 2020

I am exceedingly grateful for my family, and I feel more love around me now than I ever have in my life before. Recently, we have been focusing on paying more attention to each other. And that’s been pretty nice.

My husband’s “pass days” (weekend) are in the middle of the week. It can be weird but it also can be really nice. Life is usually quieter when we go out in it, as opposed to the clustering of people on actual weekends.

Recently, one of his “weekends” was filled with doctor appointments and running errands — both days! And it was nuts. Not to mention, we are getting ready for Thanksgiving and all the natural chaos that comes with planning a full menu, execution and logistics of pandemic rules.

One of the things we have missed most during the pandemic has been going out for the weekly shopping as a family. It was always so much fun to watch our baby interact with other shoppers. Watching her little face light up as strangers went out of their way to say hello to her, was absolutely priceless. Now, she barely makes it into a store at all. And if she gets to go, people avoid us — like they were avoiding getting, or giving, the plague. Terrible euphemism, but so unfortunately appropriate.

This week, we all — cautiously — went to do the shopping. The stores were busier than usual, and for a handful of minutes I allowed myself to forget.

That my mask existed…

That everyone else was just as worried about encroaching personal space, as being encroached…

That this may just be “normal” now, forever….

There is plenty to worry about, but so much more to be thankful for.

Day 18 – 30 Days of Gratitude

November 18, 2020

What spiritual gifts are you grateful for?

I had to do some digging into my feels for this one. I’ll say this, I was expecting to be talking about clairvoyance or empaths, and instead was told by an internet quiz that I have apostleship. Naturally, I have no idea how that works. And frankly in all my many decades in and out of the Church, I had never before heard that phrase.

I had heard of The Apostles, obviously. We have a whole creed dedicated to that. But it had always been my understanding that those people were a distinct group of humans. They were a separate unit and we were just affirming their work by reciting the creed. Apparently, I have been living in a misunderstanding.

Many days, I have no idea where this path is leading me. Somedays I truly hope to be heading in a particular direction, even while now understanding that I am not actually in control. I’m still pondering this “gift” and what to do about it. For further information, you can check TM UMC’s website. Their definition is seen below.

I did a fair bit of meditation and internet research on this topic, and after some time in it, I agree. I am probably a good example of Apostleship. This missionary mindset has always been with me. However since my readmittance to Christianity and the new home I found in The Episcopal Church, my understanding has allowed me to speak more freely and energetically about the power of transformation.

Day 17 – 30 Days of Gratitude

November 17, 2020

What do you love about a friend?

Let’s start this off by assuming that it means “…a specific friend” and not, for the sake of argument, “…about having a friend” or similar.

Friendship is a funny relationship when you really think about it. We meet these people randomly, and just…choose…each other. Like kittens in a window. Sometimes they stay in our lives for decades. Sometimes they leave after a much shorter period of time. I’ve always tried to experience my relationships as blessed encounters that are not the work of chance. In that respect, I think we exist to enlighten each other.

My current bullet list of offline friends is exceptionally small, as is the reality of midlife living. And I’ve found over the last handful of years that the idea of a “Best Friend” doesn’t really exist for me anymore. I do however have a varied collection of people who check different boxes for me.

To answer the question: I love the friends who can love me as I am, and who let me love them as they are.

Day 16 – 30 Days of Gratitude

November 16, 2020

What family member are you grateful for today?

Mondays are a special day for us. Most people are starting their work week. We are ending ours. There is always a bit of a rushed feeling – tying up loose ends so that we can have the “weekend” fully “off” the clock. I don’t usually run errands on Mondays, but today we did out of necessity.

Today we broke with routine and bundled up to grab groceries and supplies. In our now-life, this is something of a legitimate trek. While we have a grocery store very conveniently in town, it is not the most budget friendly nor the widest selection. The closest shopping that can be done in as few stops as necessary, is a thirty minute drive away. And with a baby, it is definitely ideal to minimize the number of interactions with the buckling process. The less we have to fuss with the carseat, the happier we all are in the end.

Ultimately, I ended up having to make three stops. If you’re counting, that’s eight times of touching the carseat. And everytime she is removed from the carseat, she wants it to be the last time for that day. She never cares that we are 20 miles from home, nor does she understand that the quicker we leave, the quicker she gains freedom. If you have children, you probably know what I mean. If you don’t, imagine stuffing a cat into a carrier every 35 minutes for 3 hours.

Gracefully, she seemed to be feeling our shopping vibe and didn’t give me that much trouble. And all I had to do was bribe her with a fresh banana and some strawberries from the grocery. For that, I am exceedingly grateful for her, and for her company. My life would be pretty boring without her.

Day 14 – 30 Days of Gratitude

November 14, 2020

What do you like about where you live?

I’ve always been a “home is where your feet are” sort of person. Not non-sentimental, but just happy to be where it’s dry, warm & welcoming. However, we bought our first home this year and the idea of becoming settled is starting to sink in a bit more every day.

We had a lot of potential options when we were looking at houses. Initially, we were going to buy the house we were renting. It was in a very small but vibrant neighborhood, close to work, church and activities, and we loved the amenities of the area. But the purchase fell through, and rather than continue to rent, we decided to expand our search.

Both of our families are about an hour away, in opposite directions. Moving to either one of them would’ve been nice but would’ve required sacrificing the life we spent three years building in this town. We looked at a dozen areas around the town we were in, but most were too rural to be worth uprooting, and still far from family.

Ultimately, we decided to move about three miles away from our rental neighborhood. We couldn’t deny that we loved this town. My husband and I had both spent large chunks of our adult lives living in cities, so even though we both were raised in rural areas – country farm life for him, small town America for me – it had been a leap of faith to relocated to this town when we did.

This is the best mix for us. It is definitely rural, but we have a “small town” downtown with a sprinkle of restaurants, a beautiful library, a coffee shop, diner, parks for the baby to play at, and even a grocery store. Everyone is friendly when you run into them, but they leave you to live your life.

Additionally, this area is beyond compare. We are surrounded by beautiful hills and landscape, large bodies of water, hiking, trails, state parks, and wonderful people to share it with. Or, not.

Day 13 – 30 Days of Gratitude

November 13, 2020

What about your body are you grateful for?

For all of its faults, I must say that I’m impressed that my body still carries me at all. I have beaten this thing to oblivion and rode back in the same night. I was not particularly careful with my physical actions when I was young.

I attribute this repetitive abuse to a sort of betrayal punishment. You see, I never much cared for my body – or rather, that my body was such a hot topic of conversation. And I abused myself in efforts to somehow prove that my body was just fine the way it was given to me by God – that my thick legs were powerful enough to lift other large humans, or move pianos by myself, or carry things that I had no business carrying without help.

A therapist once called it ‘body dysmorphia’ but I can pinpoint exactly the moment when I realized that people were judging my body, and holding their opinions against my value as a human. That moment never leaves me completely. And it used to paralyze me.

I was a “chunky” kid. All the other kids in my family & peer groups were “normal” size, with perfectly behaving hair. Or at least, that’s what my mother would have me believe. I don’t think she intended to, or realized she was planting seeds of her own self-hatred into me, but they grew like wildflowers. From that moment of awakening, I never again went a single day without stressing out over something my body wasn’t – in comparison to someone else.

These days, I am mostly at peace with my physical body. Maybe it came with age. Perhaps it was a collateral gift from therapy. It might have been the wakeup call of rehab after a fall down a flight of stairs. Maybe it was nothing more than the ability to show myself some grace. These days, my favorite part of my body is that it still works, even when it groans…and pops, cracks and snaps.