Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

More than a week has passed since I returned from the Heart of Christian American Writers Network (HACWN) conference.  I still haven’t “recovered” from the very spiritual experience I had while there, and hope I never do. How does one follow up a blog posting like my last one? For those who have experienced something similar, I don’t have to. For others, no explanation will suffice. It cannot rationally be explained, so it didn’t happen.

And yet it did.

To borrow the expression of someone else who’d attended the same conference, I hit the ground running when I returned home. I had two days to plan my youth writing class, and a week to plan a couponing workshop, which ended up being so enjoyable, I can’t believe I am being paid to have that much fun. I made an important decision regarding the future of my book. I began the arduous task of following some of the advice given to me at the conference; beginning another blog which centers on the “dark side of couponing,” (see writing some query letters, doing some editing of my book proposal, and working on descriptions  for some workshops I may be presenting at an April retreat. What I haven’t done much of is write. And that is very unlike me. For more than a year now, I have written every single day. Every. Single. Day.  But right now I feel like I need to process everything that occurred at the writer’s conference, and I’m waiting for some quiet, contemplative, “un-busy” time to do so. And that hasn’t happened. It reminds me uncomfortably of the years I spent snatching writing moments between crying babies, changing diapers and marathon nursing sessions. I’d sit on the lid of the toilet, scribbling away in a notebook while a toddler splashed away in the bathtub, or eagerly pull over the curb when a baby fell asleep in the car-seat, only to pull a notepad out of my purse and immediately begin writing. It wasn’t easy, but something made me write, the same something that still pulls at me, even during these occasional dry times when writing takes a back burner to the pressing tasks in front of me. I used to wonder then; when will I have time to write? And now it is; when will I have time to think?

The first opportunity for that was this past Sunday. After a week of power point preparations, planning and conducting my youth writing course, schlepping my son to the dentist to have his wisdom teeth removed, strategically doing some shopping trips to include in the coupon workshop, and writing queries, I found myself sitting in a church pew with some contemplative time. In the peaceful quiet of the church, I replayed that moment at the conference when my eyes locked with a stranger’s and I recognized the unmistakable eyes of my mother. How could that be, I marveled again, and my throat filled with tears even as I felt a surge of pure joy. I knew right then that I never want to forget what that moment felt like, and I always want to remain open to it happening again.

Today it is Thanksgiving. The turkey is in the oven and seven pies are on the back porch. I have spent the better part of two days cleaning my house in preparation for company, company that includes the people I love most in this world; sons and daughters, a son-in-law I include in the son category, three grandchildren, and a girl I have yet to meet who loves my son. Later in the day, a sister and nieces will come to play card games. With temperatures hitting nearly 60-degrees in Iowa, I am hoping to imbibe in one of my favorite activities; what I call the “walking-off-the-pie” tradition I have shared with sisters other years.

And in this brief moment before the children are up and the Macy’s Day parade blares from the television, I can take the time to be thankful for my many blessings; my husband, my children and the people who love them, my grandchildren, my siblings and David’s siblings, good friends, a warm house, good food, and the bliss of the sweet sound of silence.

Thank you, Lord, for this bounty of blessings you have bestowed upon me. And thank you, too, for helping me recognize, through a mother who was my inspiration, the talents you have bestowed upon me in the form of writing and speaking. And let me remember always, as my father told me so long ago to “use them for good, and not evil.”

This photo is of the two pictures my long-time friend and companion at the writer’s conference, Mary Humston, brought with her and displayed in our hotel room. They inspire her and speak to her creative soul. She brought them with her for creative sustenance, and shared their beauty with me. I felt a little sorry for myself when I saw them. I had no framed piece that spoke to me, no portable artwork to add to this display.

It hit me this morning; I don’t need one. I carry my muse, my mother, inside.

Organization 101

I’d gone back and forth on hosting my extended family’s Thanksgiving dinner. We did last year, and it went well, but this year there might be more family able to attend. Would more people make it too crowded? Was I really up to hosting a large gathering at my home? Would I become a total nut in the preceeding two weeks so that my children would wish I would never do it again? My daughter Beth remembers well how I would become a whirling dervish in the weeks before a gathering.

“Why can’t we just wait to clean a day or two before the event?” she’d wail. “It’s not like it is going to stay clean!”

And she was right. With small children underfoot, a room doesn’t stay clean any longer than it takes for one toddler to destroy it, and that can be ten minutes or ten hours. (with her little Jo-Jo, our third grandchild, that would be ten SECONDS)

But there is always some sort of “organization” that can be done ahead of time, organization that contributes to the cleanliness and look of a house. And that organization is what I have concentrated on since last Thursday when I decided to host Thanksgiving here.

I started with the kitchen.  I have hated the look of the green recycling bins sitting in my kitchen corner for a long time so I went to Walmart and picked up a tall kitchen garbage can and wrote RECYCLE down the side and that fits nicely in the corner now. The green bins will be on the back porch and I can transfer recycling into them as the garbage can fills up. Then I bought a new dish rack for washing dishes. I liked my red one, but it was too small. We have a lot of dishes. I found a much bigger one and replaced the red one. Abby is now using the red one with her wooden kitchen set.

In the meantime, Katie started cleaning her room in anticipation of Thanksgiving, setting up white shelves a woman had given us. She brought down the colored shelves Abby has used for her toys and books for years and I thought how cute they would be set up next to the toy kitchen set, so I removed the wooden food and dishes from the shelf they were on to the brightly colored shelves. That left an empty wooden shelf. (see how one thing leads to another around here?) It occurred to me that those shelves would look wonderful in the kitchen and add the extra space for appliances, etc. that I have yearned for. We shut the heating vent that had prevented me from placing shelves there earlier (there is another one in the kitchen) and now I have been busy setting those shelves up. I emptied the cupboard that held the crockpot and now I can use it for those extra canned goods I have hesitated buying because of lack of room.  I haven’t picked up any Libby’s vegetables at Dollar General precisely for that reason. They are on sale for 50-cents a can and I have $1 off 4 coupons.  Now I can stock up on canned peas and corn for only 25-cents a can, after coupons!

Today the little girls and I are going to work on organizing the playroom/office.  There are empty boxes, bubble mailers and books all over the floor in one corner, waiting for me to find a place for them. I’ll concentrate on that while the little girls go through the toys and see if there are any they would be willing to part with. (Abby has already conceded to allow me to donate the marbles she’d begged for early this summer. I have hated having them around when Jo-Jo visits)

And so we are “organizing” and cleaning around here the rest of this week, and into the coming week, as we prepare our house for a Thanksgiving feast shared with those we love.

I tend to do the same thing when I am grappling with a looming writing project.  I know that I need to update my book proposal and work on a query letter.  Yet last night I found myself cleaning off my desk in preparation for my writing session this morning.  And now this morning I find myself writing about organization instead of working on a query letter.

It is true that I work best under organized conditions, but in this case, I think it might just be procrastination. Honestly, the longer I can put off finishing a query letter, the more time I have before facing possible rejection.

But enough already. Time to get that query letter completed and sent. I’ll start it now, before the little girls get up.

At my messy desk.