Saturday, November 26, 2011

day of thanks #26

Today I am thankful for the spirit that my children bring to others! We have very sweet neighbors who the kids adore. Their children are older (and have children of their own) so it is just the 2 of them. They basically adopted Patrick while I was evacuated with the kids, and he golfs golfing with them basically every weekend. Well, last night we came home from our fun family day at Mt Takao and found that they had one of those huge blow-up snow globes (the inflatable kind) in their front yard and were starting to decorate the trees also. The kids were so excited (we hadn't started decorating our house yet) so they rang their doorbell and told them how much they loved the decorations!!! Well, it turns out that Hermie and Rose decided to start decorating for Christmas again as they hadn't for a while. But they loved knowing our kids would love it - so they did it again! Well, it jumped us into the Christmas spirit and we are spending today decking our halls, and our neighbors too! Kids are pretty amazing, especially with the spirit they can bring!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

day of thanks #25

Today I am so thankful for 'family days' we get to spend together. The military gives a certain number of extra days off for families to spend time together. They usually occur around another holiday to let you have extra long weekend. The day after Thanksgiving is always one, and we spent it wisely! We knew it was going to be a beautiful day and we had to take advantage of going somewhere that is usually crowded on the weekends - but not during the week. So we headed out to Mt Takao (again) and this time added the trick art museum to the list also! It was so fun, and going with our friends, the Webbs made it even more fun! Patrick was able to relax and enjoy his time off (because he went in until midnight 3 nights in a row to get his work done) and we really had a great family adventure. After the museum we headed to the mountain and took the chair lift up the mountain. The kids love this - and of course we had to buy the cheesy photos they take of you! We had a gorgeous hike and loved spending time together! Thank you Military for Family Days!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

day of thanks #24

Today I am thankful for an amazing Thanksgiving Day. Although the holidays get tough being so far away from family, it is nice to know that your military family will step in and help you get through. Even thrive through. Today was an absolutely perfect fall weather day....sunny, cool, smells of baking and cooking from every kitchen. The kids woke me up at 7:45 (which is sleeping in for me - so I was thankful) and I got to work in the kitchen. We were invited to a friend's house (along with a lot of the other med group docs) so I didn't have to do the hard make the turkey and clean the house! But I did make a lot of other things. Pumpkin gooey butter cake, apple pie (with real crust), homemade applesauce, candied yams, sweet potatoes and apple bake, coleslaw, cranberry sauce, corn bread muffins, stuffing, gravy and dinner rolls. I was baking pretty much all morning/day and was actually a little late to get there (oops). But luckily we made it in time for the feast and prayers and had an amazing dinner. There were 2 or 3 kinds of turkey (smoked, fried, roasted), ham, brisket and chicken. There were a bazillion sides and desserts. PLUS, I knew 2 other friends in the same housing unit that were having parties so I popped in each one to sample their foods as well! It is an amazing experience to be amongst other military families during Thanksgiving - as they TRULY are grateful for the things they have. They know sacrifice. They know grace. They know giving. I am proud to be a part of this family (even though I really, really, really miss my family back in the states too).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day of thanks #23

Today I am grateful that I had 2 loving parents growing up (and that both are still loving to me now) and a nice house to grow up in as a child.

Today, Gavin's school welcomed the local Aijino Ie orphanage. I have recently found out that Japanese orphanages are actually very well hidden. Since it is a country that does not welcome 'shame', they do not advertise children that are 'different'. But this orphanage comes to Yokota every year and enjoys a feast/celebration, canned food drive and Christmas adopt-a-child type gift giving. Gavin's eyes filled with tears when he thought of the possibility of not having a mother or father or house of your own. We discussed how we should be very thankful that he and Evelyn DO have parents and a nice house (relatively speaking :-), and that I was fortunate as well as a child. He awoke eagerly this morning to take presents to the orphan that would be visiting his class. He wanted to get him a summer outfit, winter outfit, coloring book, reading book, game and lego set. So we did! I was so proud of Gavin to learn compassion and also appreciation of the nice things we have. When we got home from school, he asked if he could clean his room...Of course I agreed - but totally thought he was up to something. But he just said, "I know I am lucky to have a nice room and nice toys and I want to take care of them since I am so lucky."

And I agree. We are very lucky. Lucky for being able to provide our children with a loving home, safe environment and nice clothes and toys. I am lucky that Patrick works so hard for us to be able to do that! And Gavin and Evelyn are lucky that they will not have to grow up without these basic comforts in life. I am very, very grateful for that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day of thanks #22

Today I am grateful for the things we've handed down (PS - One of my favorite Marc Cohn songs). Things like clothes (like Evelyn wearing the old Penn State sweatshirt that used to be Gavin's), or genetics (like the fact that my kids both got blonde hair from Patrick as a kid). But I am specifically thankful for recipes that get handed down between friends and generations.

Tonight, I made the most delicious beef stew....a recipe from Patrick's mom. There are a few recipes that Patrick made it very clear that I need to learn...and this was one of them. So tonight, I used some file mignon steaks (screw that crappy beef stew meat), fresh local veggies and a yummy bottle of wine to make this stew. And it was fab-u-lous!!! And the rest of the wine went perfectly with it. Too bad Patrick had to go back into work - but at least he left with a huge tupperware container of it (but I took one for the team and drank his wine too).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day of thanks #21

Today I am grateful for a little girl named Leah. Leah is one of my good friend's daughter and Leah has Down Syndrome.

I am grateful to her in so many ways, it is impossible to even start. You know when someone or something just touches your heart and your life and you are forever changed for the better because of it?!?! That is Leah. I had never had much interaction with any person with DS before she was born. I remember walking into visit my friend Mary (who delivered prematurely) and meeting Leah for the first time. She was less than 4 pounds of amazing. I heard Mary say the words that she had Down Syndrome - but it never mattered...I knew Leah was going to be great and do great things.

I watched Mary struggle with many of the obstacles that come along with having a child with DS. Milestones that come easily and early for others were a struggle for Leah...drinking from a bottle, walking, going potty on the toilet...all came at different times - but were celebrated with so much more joy than most. Mary and Eric (and big brother Greg) were absolutely put on this Earth to be part of Leah's family! They ALL love her unconditionally and support her 100%. Every year Mary puts together a "Buddy Walk" team to raise money for the DS Association of the Columbus, OH area. And in all the years I have known her - they get in the top ranking teams for number of participants and amount of money raised! She teaches love and giving with every minute of the day to her children!!! I remember her son Greg was saving pennies (for the Buddy Walk that year) and he donated them to Gavin to give to the Red Cross for the people of Japan. It was so touching to see that love and caring in a little boy, especially since I knew how much that money he raised meant to him. We kept the pennies in the bag and gave it to the Red Cross just like that.

Now, anyone that knows Mary knows she does not want to ever hurt someone's feelings. Anyone that knows me, knows I will set you straight on an issue if it hurts your feelings or not. I lay it out there if it is something I am passionate about. One day, Mary casually put a link up on her blog. Help eliminate the use of the R-word in everyday speech. SPREAD THE WORD TO END THE WORD! I was very interested in what this meant. Once I clicked on asked me to make a pledge..."I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities." What a wonderful concept!!! I talked a bit with Mary about this and found out how hurt and upset she gets when people use the word 'retarded' or 'retard'. It is as derogatory as saying the 'n' word. But, most of us grew up saying things like "That is so retarded" or "Stop being a retard". I never really thought about these phrases until this moment in speaking with her. So from that day forward I made a pledge to ban that word from my vocabulary and to educate others on how it sounds and makes people feel.

In some situations, I just walk away from the conversation. I know not everyone will agree or feel the same about this. But in most cases, if you are my friend, I will tell you straight up that you sound ignorant. Ignorant to the fact that the word is hurtful. Ignorant to the fact that the word is meaningless. And ignorant to the fact that you just sound like a plain old bad person when you say it, Sometimes I am a little rough when I tell people about it - and I apologize. I may have even made people cry about it (sorry :-). But please know, it is only because you are my friend that I say something to you about. Please know it is because I care deeply about this mission to try to end saying that word. And please know I am doing this for Little Leah and her family. Most of my Columbus friends have heard me say this many times..."We DO NOT say that word!"...but I haven't said it as much as I should here in Japan. I did mention it to a college friend on facebook the other day (and he responded with great care and consideration and thanked me for showing him the link). But last night I heard it said a few times, in a room of people I consider friends and I should have said something...done more. So Yokota friends...please know I will probably be saying something to you next time I hear you say the words. So that is why I am thanking Leah now....for making me think about it again and stand up and say something. Teach people it is hurtful.

I am grateful for Leah in giving me passion about this topic (among many other things she has done for me). Here is a little blurb from Mary's blog that I love reading....

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.