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Leftover turkey and gratitude (12/07/2003)
By Janet Lewis Burns
A saying that originated in a hit song in 1931, even though the Great Depression was worsening, "Life is just a bowl of cherries" was later contorted to bitter irony in Erma Bombeck's 1978 best-selling book, "If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits?"

Now, as the formal, the homespun, and community-sponsored, festive Thanksgiving gatherings wind down, it can be a letdown, most notably for the host and hostess. One puts so much effort, expense, and time into preparations, that trivial details can override simple fellowship and spontaneity.

Taking time each day to recognize our true blessings can keep the spirit of this often-ignored celebration alive and meaningful. Apart from family and dear friends, each one of us holds something dear to our heart. I found a tribute to Mother Earth in a tablet, which I had written while up at Chetek in August.

At the Wisconsin resort where we spend weekends at our camper on Lake Ojaski, there is a wooden deck in the forest, where sparkles from the lake and waning skies beyond peek through tree silhouettes. I wrote, "7:10, near twilight, a perfect breeze lifts the green leaves and clumps of pine needles, just as it lifts my spirits. Lake water laps at the pier below, the sun's full face sinking into liquid ripples of its departing breath."

"Who among us had witnessed this orb's creation, the primordial glow of a new sun, the beginning ruffling of forest life, or gray days' rainbow, the pastel, bouncing heavens bursting with promises of eternal tomorrows. What does it matter what was first or last? When the end of this earth comes, a momentous beginning will occur."

Does one have to be optimistic to extend proper gratitude? Cynics, I believe, count as one of their major blessings their opportunity to spout off and to whine. Pessimism arises, not from misfortune or poverty, but from one's refusal to acknowledge, or even to recognize, the genuine blessings.

Now that the last piece of pumpkin pie has disappeared, the autumn decorations are swiftly being replaced by ho-ho-ho, and traveling family members are home safely, I started to make a list of "What to be thankful for when you think you'd thought of everything."

I am grateful for: my Isotoner slippers, heavenly like a silk foot rub after a long, hectic day..."assistance living" facilities (where I am on waiting lists just in case)...Wednesdays with Geri at Body Sense (which translates into "oh, my smiling back!")...SNOW - for all those businesses who depend on it for sales...a good sense of humor and something to laugh about.

I am thankful that: My sister Mary and I are friends...I still believe in Santa Claus...angels are ecumenical...courageous American men and women have journeyed to foreign soil in the name of justice...it has been discovered that chocolate is free of fat and calories (or did I dream that!)...there are no "instant replays" of my parallel parking attempts...that someone reads this column (although that may be debatable).

I am thankful for: clip-on earrings, peacock feathers, night lights, heating pads, dictionaries, road maps, dental floss, express lanes, full moons, bird nests, wild game refuges, hair spray, the Pillsbury Dough Boy, three adorable grandchildren, Rolaids, locally-grown organic produce, walls to bounce off of, as more than a few readers have called some of my commentary "off the wall."

"Every day is a good day...some are just better than others." Those were merely pretty words other people said, those who didn't know pain or suffering. With time, I am able to speak that with deepened meaning in my own life.

The more obstacles along your path, the more you can do for others, because their needs become apparent. Blessings in disguise are born of suffering...good pain...shining hope...

enough gratitude to go around all year long. Savor it. 


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