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Pets have been a part of my life most of my life. Whether cat or dog or hamster or lizard, each has a personality that becomes part of the family dynamics. Each animal we adopted exhibited traits we found to be annoying, adorable, aloof, contented, playful, grumpy, mischievous, and the list goes on. But as with any family member, we loved them and they were simply family.

Seven or s0 years ago I lost my beloved “Possum,” an 18-year-old Russian Blue. About four years later, Pele, a Norwegian Forrest mix, also left this world. For a while it seemed too difficult to welcome another pet into our home. I could not bear the thought of experiencing yet again the grief that the loss of a pet brings. But we were lonesome. One day my daughter who was trying to help a friend find a home for the pet she had to give up, posted a picture of this cat–the spitting image of our Possum. I commented that if we lived closer (we are in Cleveland, daughter and cat in Chicago), I would love to take the cat. It was just a passing comment on a Facebook photograph. That is all. Nothing more.

Soon afterwards, however, I received private messages from both my daughters in Chicago. They took me seriously and 1901220_10202469274505985_3860315167920632641_nwere hell-bent on getting the cat to Cleveland. And sure enough, a week or two later, my youngest daughter and her family show up at our door with cat in tow! Since then Willy has brought us nothing but joy. His name started out as Willard but was soon shortened to Willy and then quickly morphed into Willy-Nilly-Wonka. He has stolen our hearts. I did not think I could own another cat after losing Possum and Pele. But after two and a half years, we were ready to expand our family and welcome a cat once again into our lives. I am grateful for the love and joy that pets bring to our lives and especially grateful for our Willy-Nilly-Wonka!

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I know I’ve said this before, and I’ve posted this photo a time or two–whether here or on another blog I cannot remember–but in light of the tragedy of a few short days ago, I am reminded yet again of the sanctity of family. I love my children and grandchildren. I love each of the partners my children chose to live their lives with. I love the memories, joyful and painful, of all the events that soldered us together as a family. I love that today, at this moment, my family is intact. Too many families have had their lives ripped apart by the senseless tragedy in Connecticut. Children, parents, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, beloved teachers, heroes and villain were tragically taken from us in an instant. My heart is weighted with sadness as I think of those many who are left with empty arms who must find a way to go on. Prayers and sympathy do not seem to be enough. The desire to ease the pain of those who lost so much renders feelings of helplessness that I cannot do more. But, as inadequate as it seems to me in this moment, I do pray. I pray for their comfort, their eventual return to sanity albeit a sanity forever changed. May God sustain them and comfort them now. They loved and adored their families as I do mine. The tragedy reminds me that none of us knows when one or more of our loved ones can be snatched from us, even in the safest of places. I am grateful for my children and their children and for children yet to be born.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day so I made a point of talking to my mother and my daughters/daughter-in-law. We are all mothers now. 🙂 I’m not big on fancy gifts or gushy cards, rather time in conversation is what I value. So it was good to spend time via FaceTime and phone with the other mothers in my family. Today however, I received a bouquet of roses and a small box of chocolates from my kids. It was totally unexpected (we don’t usually do those sorts of things). I love roses and chocolate and have smiled ever since receiving them. Thank you to my children. You made me feel special today. I am grateful for flowers and candy from my children.

 

I know this is a broad subject, but today “life” is all I can think of. I am grateful for life and all of its intricacies. Dad is going through a major (and risky) surgery today to repair an aneurism that has refused to heal. We, the family, although spread out across the world, sit anxiously by our phones in hopes of receiving frequent updates on Dad’s condition. We utter prayers beseeching the Almighty for a good and positive outcome. How do I express gratitude when at the moment I’m on pins and needles waiting for word? What am I grateful for? Why blog at a time like this? The answer is simple; as I think of Dad I think of life. My parents not only gave me life, they taught me throughout our years to recognize the awesomeness of all things living. They taught us to respect the natural world, the sustainer of our physical bodies as well as our aesthetic senses. I think of Dad’s life, a humble and simple life, yet my brothers and I agree that Dad is the wisest man we know. I think of Mom beside him for 60+ years, and of the students who were fortunate enough to walk through her classroom, some of them forever changed as their eyes opened to the magnificence of life in its many forms (Mom taught middle school life science.) Day and night, each season, vegetation of all kinds, animals from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale and everything in between, all are worthy of gratitude. I think of the spiritual aspects of life that feeds our souls, yet that part of life cannot be seen or touched with our physical senses. But our spirits know. Right now I pray for the life of one man, but in praying for him I think of the preciousness and beauty of life. I am thankful for my Dad. I look forward to more years of life and joy with him and Mom. And even though I sit here nervously, anxiously waiting for word on his surgery, I am humbly and eternally grateful for LIFE!

 

 

Jacob and Genevieve absolutely love each other! I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with either of them, but when I see them together it thrills me. Jacob lives in Chicago and Genevieve lives in Pittsburgh, but their parents (my children) are intentional about visiting each other from time to time. I watch these two and am reminded of how much I enjoyed my cousins growing up, even though we are scattered across the country. I had no idea how much joy I would get from watching my children’s children bond with each other. Before the end of the year, there will be more children to add to this mix! More joy! More bonding! More grandchildren! More cousins! I do not know what any of us did to be so incredibly blessed, but I know without a doubt that I am incredibly grateful for my grandchildren, and the gift of watching them bond with each other!

 

It has been years since the family, all of us, joined together in one place at the same time. My children, pictured above, along with their families, are scattered near and far, as are my siblings. This year we all made an effort to come home for Thanksgiving. 2011 has been an eventful year with painful losses that remind us of how fleeting life is. We all felt the need to get together to celebrate this life we are given, the family within which we have our being, the joys that we celebrate, and the compassion and support we offer each other over pains suffered. It was a joyous time that ended too soon, as usual. And as usual, I missed getting a lot of “essential” photos, but the ones I did get are priceless. Between us all, I am hoping that we can put together a family album that includes everyone. But whether we do or not, I am grateful for the kids and all my family coming home for the Thanksgiving holidays. 🙂

This is my family. At the time of this photo Richard and I had been married for only two weeks (he’s not in this picture), and we were all in KY to celebrate Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. It is the last photo we have of the six of us together. Gary, my brother standing beside me, died a few years later. My twin brother, Steve, the one on the end standing next to Gary, lives in Colorado with his wife. David, standing next to Dad, still lives with his family in Louisville. If you have been reading my posts on my other blog, Inspired Vision, you have probably read about Mom and Dad. As a family we have had our ups and downs, as any family does. But I am blessed to be a part of this family, filled with love, care, spiritual depth and social conscience, adventure and laughter. This Thanksgiving we will all converge on Louisville, along with our respective families, to celebrate the day of thanks for our blessings, and yes, even curses which so often (in hindsight) turn out to be blessings. May your thanksgiving be a time of recognizing your blessings, celebrating your successes, and being thankful for life in all of its ins and outs. 🙂 I am truly grateful for my family. Happy Thanksgiving!

Last night the phone rang late ~ too late. I sensed something was wrong. I didn’t answer it right away, rather let the caller leave a message. After all, I was probably being melodramatic. About ten minutes later however, I couldn’t let it rest and anxiously checked the phone messages. David, my brother, with urgency in his voice told me to call back immediately, the it was imperative that I return the call. I found out that Dad had an abdominal aneurism rupture. He was rushed to the hospital and was in surgery as David and I spoke. David’s parting words were “this does not look good.” I called the kids then I began praying. Prayer is a huge part of my life, not just in emergencies, but every day. When things like this happen however, there is an added fervency, one prays with intense kavannah. Around 1:30am I got the call that Dad had done well in surgery and had responded excellently to the skilled surgeons and other medical personnel as they repaired five ruptures. He is now in ICU at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, KY, and the prognosis looks good. But last night we didn’t know what the outcome would be. Today I find myself paying attention more, to life, to people, to voices, to family. Everyday we walk this earth is a gift. My dad has been given the gift of more days and we’ve been given the gift of more time with Dad. I love you Dad. I am beyond extremely grateful that Dad pulled through emergency surgery to repair a ruptured abdominal aneurism.

 

One of the things I look most forward to when visiting my parents is sitting out on the back porch, drinking coffee, chatting about anything and everything that comes to mind.  Mom and Dad bought this house when I was still in high-school and have lived here ever since, over 40 years now.  Through the years they have added to the house and cultivated the yard to create a wonderful, peaceful retreat.  I don’t get home often enough, but on this mini-vacation, as I sit here with my parents, I feel overwhelming gratitude for our time spent together.  We watch the sun rise, listen to the sound of the waterfall in the coi pond, watch the multitude of birds fly to and from the feeders, talk about the mundane as well as the profound, and in general just enjoy each other’s company.  These times are too few anymore, and precious when we get them.  This morning as the sun is rising in the sky, and I’m nursing my second cup of coffee, I am eternally grateful for this early morning ritual with Mom and Dad on their back porch.

 

This weekend is my parents’ annual camping trip with my kids!  I wanted so much to join them but was unable to make it.  Thinking about the whole kit-n-kaboodle of them camping together in some idyllic spot brought back so many memories of my family camping trips, and other family outings, too.  More than the clothes, toys, houses, cars, etc., it is those things we do together–sitting together around the campfire or at the dinner table, hiking through the woods or strolling through the neighborhood to admire folks’ gardens and landscaping, telling ghost stories in the tent late at night or reading bedtime stories together when tucked safely in bed for the night.  These are the things that create memories.  This is the glue that seals our devotion to each other. The “remember whens” of life add the color, the warmth, the texture to our life’s pallette.  Family outings; i remember them with affectionate warmth.  And, not to forget, Happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s out there, especially my dad and my son–both Dads extraordinaire!  I am grateful for family outings. . . and for dads everywhere!

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