Thanksgiving is going to look different for most of us this year. Rather than a large gathering with family and friends and the table groaning under the weight of an excess of delicious dishes, there will just be the two of us (plus an ever-hopeful pup!) and a simplified meal. In fact if the weather cooperates, Andy and I plan to take a picnic lunch and go hiking for the day.
One thing that will be the same, however, is taking time to reflect on all that I am thankful for. After a year that has been rife with fear, loss, disappointment, and frustration it is easy to focus on the negative – yet perhaps all the more reason to "count my blessings" as my Nana used to say. And my role as Nana is a good place to start.
Thankful for Time
Having the time to really bond with our fun-loving granddaughter Anna has to be the greatest blessing of all. When her childcare closed for five months I was delighted to be able to step in and offer to help, little realizing that I would have at least as much fun as Anna. From making slime to counting slugs, learning the alphabet and blowing bubbles, every day was an adventure. Is there anything more precious and heart warming than the unconditional love of a child? Having Anna throw her little arms around my neck and squeeze me tight is the best gift ever.
Thankful for Family
While we were fortunate to be able to include our daughter, husband, and granddaughter in our 'bubble' during the year, our son and his wife live farther away. Travel restrictions and lockdowns meant we hadn't seen them since the New Year. However, in mid September, they were able to take a COVID test, quarantining until they received the results, then meet the rest of our family for a really special camping trip in eastern Washington. We timed it for the week after Labor Day so the campsite was largely empty, the weather was perfect and the memories made were nothing short of magical. We are already planning this as an annual event!
Thankful for New Adventures
Little did I realize when I nervously took my first private lesson in January that swimming would become central to my physical and mental well-being for the rest of this year and undoubtedly for many more years to come.
It wasn't that I couldn't swim at all, but I had never been taught how to do freestyle and with osteoarthritis in my neck now making breast stroke too painful it was either learn or give up swimming entirely. Our pools closed for three months during the summer but otherwise I have been able to swim several times a week and while I'm still refining my stroke I can now manage a mile or more with relative ease. I even bought a wetsuit to enable me to swim in our lakes and the Puget Sound through winter meeting some lovely new people in the process. (And yes, it's COLD!)
Learning to swim freestyle has been far more than just exercise, however. There is a sense of freedom as I glide through the water that is akin to a languorous body massage. The world slips away and my focus narrows down to the rhythmic sound of bubbles as I exhale underwater. I feel a sense of power as I catch the water and move past it, time after time, stroke after stroke. The world slows down, perspective is restored, and I'm at peace. In a year of chaos, this has been an incredible gift .
Thankful for Friends Near & Far
This year perhaps more than any other I have learned to truly appreciate my friends. When I started Nana Camp I was initially at a loss for ideas on activities that would be both educational and fun for little Anna, so mentioned this on Facebook. So many of you stepped up with links, ideas, recipes, photographs, and words of encouragement. Friends from Australia, England, Hong Kong, and all across the United States suddenly became my village. Many of these are friends I have met in person at some point in my life but a few are known to me only through social media, yet each of them took time out of their day to help me in some way. Local neighbors and friends offered colored paper, markers, boxes of books, stickers, children's scissors, and more. My heart overflowed with gratitude.
On a more personal level, friends simply kept in touch. I'm a hug person. Not being able to see my friends during lockdown, and then not being able to hug them when we could eventually meet (at a distance) was hard for me. Yet a few of my gym buddies managed to meet outdoors as weather permitted and included me in their small group. The exercise was great – but seeing their smiles and sharing a laugh was priceless. Regular texts from overseas friends reduced the sense of isolation as did video chats. And in warmer months we sat at the end of our rural driveway on a Friday night where our neighbors would join us for a glass of wine, with ample space for us all to spread ourselves out and for kids and dogs to play. Priceless.
Perhaps Most of All…
…I am thankful that I have enough. Actually I have far more than 'enough'. I am blessed. Every single day is a gift.
Wishing you all a sense of peace and a spirit of thankfulness wherever you live.