November 19, 2007

It's a big week this week for a lot of reasons. Thanksgiving will always be an odd time of year for me. I dreaded the coming of November as a child ... it meant the holidays were approaching and I preferred school to the winter holidays. Not so much because I was an academic geek, but because it gave me something constructive and often at least semi-fun to do. It meant I socialized with other kids.

Being home for the holidays, on the other hand, was stress. We were either preparing to go to Grandma's for Thanksgiving or we were preparing the meal at the house. And while Mom didn't do any spectacular meals at any time, she stressed out about them all the same.

But like so many things at our house, it was all stress and the appearance of tradition rather than reflection and tradition. We didn't really reflect on what we were thankful for as a family. Sometimes, because I was an odd child who genuinely enjoyed quiet contemplation (almost as much as I enjoyed babbling with friends at school) ... sometimes I would try to engage in that thankful reflection by myself. It generally turned into a plaintive wish for different parents, however, and since that simply wasn't what Thanksgiving was about, I eventually abandoned the attempts. And about the time I abandoned them, my mother would begin bringing it up at the dinner table, trying to force us to say every little thing we were grateful for: the house, our family, the house, our stuff, a father who was a good provider, our stuff, oh yeah our health ....

But it was rote answers. What we were supposed to say. Mom had already decided what we should be thankful for and we were supposed to rattle off the correct answers with the proper respect and "thought" in our voices. However, by that time I was a teenager, full of the teenager's contempt for fakery. I like to think that it would have been one thing if we'd been seriously contemplative rather than regurgitating Mom's answers ....

After I moved out of the house, Thanksgiving was simply a day that I neither went to work nor school. It was a day to make Koogali (an old family recipe which I intend to make, take pictures of and share with you one of these days). It was a day to relax and a day to work on the inevitable mess in the house. It was a day to get caught up before a long weekend of frenetic work. On rare occasions in those early years, it was a time for a family visit and dinner.

When I moved to Indiana for graduate school, Thanksgiving remained simply a day off work and school and nothing more. We didn't have the money to go back to Texas to visit. We didn't really cook unless I made Koogali ... perhaps we warmed up some store-cooked turkey ... maybe we made chicken breasts. My ex and I were not big on cooking.

At that time Thanksgiving, like all the holidays, were simply bittersweet to me. It was nice to have a day off. But it was also a reminder that I simply didn't have the kind of close-knit Leave It To Beaver kind of family that I longed for.

And then 1999 rolled around. I'd been sickly, off and on, for about 2 years. I kept going to the doctor and getting fed antibiotics. He wouldn't run even a simple blood test. I'm not a particularly sickly person and I was finally getting irritated and nervous by 1999. By the beginning of '99, I was now getting sick just about every other month. I knew something was not right, but my doctor was not doing anything except phoning in another round of antibiotics.

Monday, the week of Thanksgiving, I finally dragged myself down to a doc-in-the-box that afternoon. The older doctor there, semi-retired but still practicing for the love of his profession, instantly takes a blood test. I listen at the door as he calls my doctor and yells at him. This is not good.

Tuesday, I see my doctor again. He's going to send me to a specialist and he's ticked because I can't get in that same day. This doesn't sound good to me. All I know is my hemoglobin is a 5.8 and apparently that's not good.

Wednesday, I see the specialist. I'm given a bone marrow test (this doesn't sound good) and then asked which hospital did I prefer, St. Joe or Memorial? Umm, neither? This was not an option.

So, Thanksgiving of 1999 I spent in the hospital, no diagnosis ... the specialist turned out to be a hematology/ oncology specialist. I had no idea if I should be thankful to be alive ... or preparing for a painful death. It was Saturday before I found out that I had Hodgkin's, aka Cancer Lite.

In the past eight years, I've gone from an adjunct professor of first year writing (with no health bennies ... yes, cancer, chemo and no health insurance ... it was fun) ... to a full-time instructor with health bennies at that same school. In February of 2004 I was told that my services were no longer needed there, but that I was to finish out the school year. It was a very painful semester of teaching. I still miss teaching. Every day. But, full-time teaching gigs at the college level are not easy to come by. So, I looked elsewhere.

Thanksgiving of 2004, I had interviewed for a job as a copy writer at a dot com based locally. It was one of perhaps two interviews I'd had since I started really looking for a new position in April. I got that job and was to start the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving of 2007 now ... and I was laid off in July. I'm thankful for the severance package I've got. But today I looked at our old website ... and I see that the new owners have finally taken it over. There's so little left of what we had done. The logo that Alan designed is still intact. The nifty triangles that I think Rob adapted from Alan are there. And that's about it. The first project I worked on there, a huge educational piece ... that's gone. All of the work that Warren, Cory, Alan, Rob, Bob and I did on the site design ... it's gone.

I've had just one good interview since July. And that was about 3 or 4 weeks ago, so I guess it's too much to hope that I managed to land that job. The interviewer did tell me that they had over 60 applicants for the one position. They interviewed 8 of us. I'm thankful to have been one of the 8. My ego needed that little warm fuzzy even if I didn't get the job.

So even while I'm thankful this year that I have a steady paycheck even if I don't have a job, that I'm not in the hospital facing a cancer diagnosis, that I have a partner who loves me, that my little sister is expecting her first baby in just 3 months, that I celebrated my 20 year high school reunion by re-connecting with several beloved friends, that some old relationships seem to be getting more healthy ...

... a part of reflection for me will always hold a certain wistfulness as well. I am thankful for those things and more. And yet, I regret that I haven't secured a new job yet, that I haven't used this time off to completely whip the house into shape, that I am still in Indiana and not Texas, that I still haven't gotten my life to the point where I can begin the rigmarole required for adopting a child, that I still have not managed to single-handedly bring about world peace and ended poverty, that I am unable to help a friend whom the system has neglected from the day she was born and who is now in a wheelchair and a nursing home because no one in the system will listen to her, that ....

The list always goes on and on until I do nothing but dwell on the fact that I am not a perfect super-being; I am merely a fallible human.

I am thankful. But rather than simply being thankful for what I have, I choose to focus on what I can accomplish still.

That one day I may learn to walk in balance, to walk in beauty, to walk in harmony.

Posted by Red Monkey at November 19, 2007 6:20 AM | Blog | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

Great post and blog.

You don't seem to be "religious" (which is a good thing. But you are definitely 'spiritual.' I just read an article ( I think it was in "Christianity Today") that said 'even though church attendance is steadily declining, the search for spiritual significance is on the rise."

I love Texas too -- I went to Dallas Theological Seminary for four years and miss a lot about Texas.

I'm a pastor and love reaching spiritual seekers with the hope and love of God, but I'm not too thrilled with 'religious people.'

Here's an interesting twist on this holiday

"Thankful to instead of thankful for"

Have you ever considered this? I just taught a message on it. A lot of people say they are thankful for...and then they list a lot of the good things or people or circumstances in their life. But who blessed them with all of that? Once they discover the answer to that, they can be thankful to that person (God) for all the aforementioned stuff.

Just a thought

Hey, one more thing, if it's not too much trouble can I ask you something?

I'm frustrated with my blog. It's about half as old as yours but nowhere near the authority. As a pastor of a large church, I have close to 800 readers a day on my blog, but still have a very low authority on Technorati. I want people to see this beyond North Carolina, but I guess I don't know how to get people to link and that seems to be the issue. I mean, I’ve learned that this is because I don’t have enough links to my blog site.

Why does this matter? Because I want to start reaching out to people beyond just the church, and to do that I need to get this blog up higher on the search engines.
I was wondering if you would be willing to put in a link exchange with me at If so, please send me an email to showing me where you’ve linked it and I will do the same. I know you will want to make sure we are on the up and up, so please check out our church, and my blog to see if you would be comfortable with doing this. I've seen enough and know that I am. I usually do mine on a blogroll or a biweekly article called, "Cool Links."

Look forward to hearing from you!

Pastor Rob

PS I hope and pray you beat your cancer!! Keep fighting!

November 19, 2007 7:27 PM


newnorth said:

Wow, I can't believe the doctor didn't do a blood test sooner.

Good luck with the job search. I have to start hunting for one to soon :(

November 20, 2007 7:05 PM
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