“This Year Let’s Put The “Thanks” Back Into Thanksgiving”

Thanksgiving Day. A day reserved to express our gratitude for all that we have and the lives that we lead. A day to count our blessings and thank God for providing for us. Sadly Thanksgiving today has taken on a different meaning. For many Americans, it’s all about having a good time, a chance to party. Each year people travel thousands of miles to be with family and friends for the holiday, not to humbly give thanks to God, but for the food, football games, excessive alcohol, and fun.

The entire day is a self-gratifying food fest. Yes someone may actually take the time to say grace before the main meal, but how heartfelt is it really? How meaningful are the rushed words of thanks before someone finally shouts, “Let’s Eat!” and everyone greedily begins reaching for food. Many Americans are simply too concerned with selfish interest to grasp the true meaning of the day, they’ve forgotten the importance of teaching our children values and the beauty of this time-honored tradition.

Eight years ago Thanksgiving Day was forever changed for me. Brian, my ‘brother from another mother’, the inspiration for this website, passed away. We had just finished our Thanksgiving dinner when I got the news. I couldn’t believe it. I was sure that there had been some sort of a mistake, but there was no mistake, my very good friend was gone at 56. Brian and I were buds for nearly forty years. We had a lot of things in common, perhaps the fact that we were both Virgos had something to do with our similarities, I don’t know. What I do know is he was a true friend who was there if you needed a hand, no excuses.

I remember once when we were teens, my VW broke down on my way back from the beach. I was out on Hwy 39 somewhere in La Habra Heights. I remember a woman from a nearby home let me use her phone to call for help. Yes, people were quite charitable back then. I remember calling Brian’s house and speaking to his mom, after explaining the situation to her she told me that they’d called him to work at Arby’s. She said she’d let him know. After a few other calls I finally got hold of my cousin Dave who said he wouldn’t have a car for at least a couple of hours but would come down then, so Dave R. and I settled in to wait.

About an hour later we heard a car that sounded an awful lot like Brian’s VW coming down old 39. The car rounded the bend and sure enough, it was Brian and my cousin Dave. I had assumed that  Brian’s mom had meant she would tell him when he got home from work but she’d called him at work right away and told him about my situation. Brian had clocked out early so he could come to my rescue. He’d brought a length of rope and we were able to tow my VW back to Azusa. It probably wasn’t legal, but we made it back without getting busted. I later learned from his brother that he had nearly gotten fired for leaving work. Good old Bri… anything for a friend.

Yeah, Brian was a great guy, my one friend who like me possessed an equally warped and demented sense of humor. Oh, a few of the guys came close, but Bri and I were connected, we were twisted! Yeah, we had some incredible laughs together!

Now each Thanksgiving Day I’m reminded of his untimely death. It truly saddens me and always will. But the show must go on, so in true Thanksgiving spirit, I’m thankful for the time we had together, the good times as well as the tough times we worked through. I’m grateful to God that he saw fit to allow our paths to cross, and our friendship to endure for as long as it did.

So as you sit down to say grace before your Thanksgiving feast, Thank God for the gift of life, good health, and the family you love. Be grateful for all the blessings He has bestowed upon you and yours, and thank Him too for your friendships, those friends, who, like Brian, are always there should you ever need a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving Day, but remember to give heartfelt thanks to God for all He is done for us and mean the words, don’t just give lip service. Take the time to reflect on all you have and be grateful for it. Yes, they are indeed the fruits of your labor but granted by a higher power. This year set an example for your children as to the true meaning of the Thanksgiving tradition. This year and in the year to come, let’s put the “Thanks” back into Thanksgiving…

Just saying…

 Sincerest wishes for a warm and meaningful Thanksgiving Day…   

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“It Was 26 Years Ago: My Mom Went Home”

Yesterday November 21st was the twenty-sixth anniversary of my mother’s death. I can scarcely believe she’s been gone that long. It certainly doesn’t feel like it. A year or two maybe but not twenty-six. Then I think of all that’s occurred since she’s been gone, all the things she was unable to be a part of, all the things I wish she could have seen, all the family birthdays, her grandchildren’s graduations, weddings, and the birth of her great-grandchildren. I wish she could have been around to see me earn my  master’s degree and become a counselor.

“What could have been”. My mom on her last birthday 9/91 me on my 55th birthday 9/2006. The magic of Photoshop

“What could have been” Nana and Janene on her wedding day! courtesy of Photoshop magic!

              

I wish she could have been there for Janene’s wedding day. She missed so many incredible events. But then again Heaven has got to be the most incredible event of a lifetime! Still,  when I think of these things and so many others, I miss my mom and realize she has been gone a very long time.

Her passing was unexpected, we had no time to prepare. I’m not sure what’s worse, sudden death or a long illness resulting in death. Both are difficult. But the latter, although painful in that you have to watch a loved one slowly drained of life, you at least have the opportunity to say your goodbyes and you have closure, no regrets.

A sudden death is a shock to the system and catches you completely off guard, there are no goodbyes, or closure, just a lot of regrets. Believe me, I had plenty of regrets and a ton of guilt! No, make that a ton and a half. It took me nearly two years to find peace and come to terms with my mother’s death. In the meantime,  I succeeded in making the lives of my wife and kids a nightmare. I’m so sorry, I hope they have forgiven me, I’m pretty sure they have. I was a real mess. I don’t wish that type of grief on anyone. It’s the worst. In life, my mom taught me so much and even after her death she continued to influence my thinking. In dealing with her death  I learned about life, and how significant every moment is. In working through my guilt and pain she helped me to become a better person, something I continue to strive for today and will continue to strive for until my dying day. 

My mom was an incredible woman. She certainly surprised me when her and my dad up and sold their home and moved to Las Vegas. We always encouraged them to do it, we just never really thought they would. I’m glad they did.  She really enjoyed that final year of her life. She was so happy. It would have been a real tragedy if they had never moved and she would have died at home alone, a real tragedy. Things happen for a reason.

My mom lives on in our memories and we are reminded of her every day. Our 14-year-old granddaughter is named after my mom and her other deceased great grandma. My mom’s name was Angela, (Angie for short) and her other great-grandma Arlene. Her name is Anjalene, a fitting tribute to two wonderful women. Funny, but at school, Anjalene’s school friends call her Angie. Grandpa’s little Angie.

Love you mom. Miss you.  Until we meet again…

JS

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My daughter had a very special relationship with her nana.  She was her first great grandchild, just as Anjalene is mine. My mom loved her like no other. Yesterday she wrote about her nana on her blog. I’d like to share her words with you.

 I actually don’t remember where I was when I first heard the news.
I remember driving to pick up my little brother from preschool.
I remember talk of angels and clouds and heaven.
I remember my grandparents coming over and taking us to dinner.
I remember sitting in the back seat of their yellow Volvo feeling numb.
I remember sitting on my parent’s bed with my two brothers watching Beverly Hills 90210 that evening.
I remember now that I had no idea of how my whole life was forever changed.

  My Nana had died.                                                                                                                            My life would never be the same again.

Nana and Janene

My dad was different.
My aunt was different.
My Papa was different.
My uncle was different.
Nothing was the same.

Grief does strange things to people.
Guilt does strange things to people.
Grief and guilt combined?
This can break one.

Twenty-six years ago today my Nana died.
No more songs sung to me…
“Who’s that girl in the pink jacket?”
No more, “I love my Janene Marie.”
No more damp washcloths and blessings on car drives.
No more little square gum pieces from the bank.                                                                      Pan dulce and grandma’s coffee will never taste the same.

But because she died…
I learned early on that sometimes the people we love most can hurt us the most.
I learned that we can honor the dead by honoring their wishes.
I learned that life is short.
I learned that death is not an end.

Twenty-six years later…
I have a daughter named after her,
a chair reupholstered from her living room,
two bird statues from her collection…
but more importantly, I have memories.
Memories and lessons learned from the life she lived and the kids she raised.
Twenty-six years ago today my Nana died.
My life has never been the same since.

 

 

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Throwback Thursday: “A Labor of Love”

Is your life a labor of love? It should be. Everyone should strive to make their time here on Earth a meaningful and worthwhile experience, a true labor of love. First off, do you really know what a labor of love is? To most people, a labor of love is simply some kind of altruistic work that a person performs where there is no reward or compensation other than personal satisfaction.

worldpeacecopy-300x300Altruistic people unselfishly give of themselves so that others may benefit. They have an unconditional concern for the welfare and well-being of others. They are the Ghandi’s and Mother Theresa’s of the world. Their selflessness is exemplary. Their lives, true labors of love. The well-being of others was their passion, their purpose. Can you imagine what a beautiful world it would be if each and every one of us could demonstrate even just a fraction of their selflessness in our daily lives? The results would be astounding!

Sadly, the chances of that happening are slim to none. It seems very few people want to do something for nothing these days.

Today it’s all about the reward and compensation. Before anyone can lend a helping hand they first ask themselves “what’s in it for me?” or “what do I get out of it?” when they should be asking “what can I do for you?” or “can I help you?” Unfortunately, the “me, I, my” mentality so prevalent in our society is destroying kindness and selflessness in America and replacing it with materialism, selfishness, greed, and envy.

What’s happened to doing things out of love? Didn’t Christ tell us that the greatest commandment is to Love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength.’ Didn’t He tell us to love our neighbors as ourselves? Of course, He did! And added the declaration that there is “no commandment greater than these.”So again I ask, what happened? Why does this command from God fall on so many deaf ears?

Let’s take it a step further, what about the Ten Commandments, do they mean anything at all anymore? To some, they are guidelines on how to live one’s life, to others they are only words. Some people are guilty of worshiping false gods in the form of the almighty dollar, luxurious automobiles, giant TV’s, jewelry and clothing. It’s all about image. It’s all a show! It really upsets me when I see a family of six living in a shoddy, one bdrm,   apartment in Azusa or any town USA. The kids dressed in hand me downs, and feasting on Cup a’ Soup and junk food, yet out at the curb sits a brand new, 85 thousand dollar, fully loaded, Siver Cadillac Escalade SUV! Wow! Pretty sad.

So what’s wrong with this picture? What kind of prioritizing is going on here? What sort of life lessons are these kids learning? You probably think the above example is extreme.  Believe me, it isn’t, one of the kids was my counselee!  The only error is the part of being “brand new.” The Escalade is actually a 2012, they’ve had it since last May. I could give plenty of true-life examples, but why bother I’m sure you have some of your own. And let’s not get started on covetousness that’s a story in itself.

Yeah, here we are a self-serving, status seeking,  possession seeking, ultra-materialistic, society. A society headed for a fall. It would take a labor of love to make things right. A labor of love that begins within each of us. If we all sought to help one another see what is truly important in our everyday lives, things would begin to change. Oh, they’d be baby steps, to begin with, no doubt, but in time we would begin to see and feel a difference.

What we need to do is begin changing things by example, strive to be more compassionate, more empathetic and more loving. Wouldn’t that be a true labor of love? Productive work performed voluntarily for the benefit of others, inspired by your passion and purpose, with no monetary compensation. The payoff would be for the greater good of all! A labor of love?  You bet!  Let’s get started!

Just saying…

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