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Archive for November, 2010

By Shannon Penrod

There’s something about the holidays, any holidays, that makes us all vulnerable to insanity and revisionist history.  We tend to have this image in our heads of the perfect celebration that is part Hallmark commercial and part past holiday collage with all of the negative memories neatly removed.  I wish I could delete all of the negative aspects of the present the way I can from the past.  Talk about slapping on the rosy glasses!

Someone asked me the other day what my favorite Thanksgiving of all time was.  I quickly conjured up a picture of the Thanksgiving holiday when I was a freshman in college. I had come back to my parent’s house for the weekend, which was full of relatives and friends.  Every age was represented from elderly to newborn.  My sister was pregnant with her first child.  The house was over flowing with laughing people, fabulous food and worry free celebratory moments.  At least that’s what my memory says.

The reality was actually somewhat different.  The house was overflowing with relatives.  More relatives than we had ever had before or since; but it wasn’t because everyone was so overjoyed.  Everyone gathered at my parent’s house because 3 months before my father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  In fact, he had only been given a few months to live.  So the actual Holiday was filled with over bright laughter, people walking down hallways to pull themselves together when tears got too close, and of course a lot of food.

Even on closer inspection though it is still one my favorite Holidays, because we were all together,  and there was a heightened sense of appreciation for that.  Every breath I took that Holiday was with the knowledge that it could be our last together, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.  Petty arguments that any other time could have erupted into a Jerry Springer free for all were set aside for that one holiday.  When Aunt Mick told Aunt Shirley that she didn’t know how to cook salmon, no one started yelling.  When my sister got up from the table 3 times to call Ralph on the big white phone because of extended morning sickness, no one acted like it was out of the ordinary.  We attempted to enjoy each other.

My father lived through that Thanksgiving and many, many more.  What do Doctors know anyway?  Still time marches on and it is shocking to think that there have been 17 Thankgivings without him.  Aunt Mick isn’t alive to harass Aunt Shirley about her salmon, not that it would matter, Aunt Shirley is no longer with us either.  The baby that was in my sister’s womb that Thanksgiving has two babies of his own and will turn 30 this spring. 

That holiday presents a conundrum for me.  It was such a wonderful holiday because we were all so painfully aware of the impermanence of life.  We all chose to set aside our differences because of our belief that it was our last hurrah together.  The fact is it was the last time we were all together, but not because anyone died.  By the next holiday we were back to being consumed with our lives.  There were things to do, other people to see.  My father was better so the urgency was lost.  Time marched on. 

My family thinks that I am morbid because on the rare occasions that we are all together I am the one who runs around and says to everyone, “Let’s remember to have a good time, this may be the last time that  all of us are together.”  Hey it cuts down on Jerry Springer free for alls.  Why not milk it?  The last time I said that was at my niece’s wedding on July 1st in 2005.  Time marches on. 

Holidays tend to be powder kegs waiting to be set off.  Everyone has expectations and they very seldomly tend to gel with everyone else’s expectations.  I think the morale of the story is to set aside the expectations and to have a true appreciation for what is – what ever it is.  Even in the darkest moments there is so much to be grateful for.  I hope that where ever you find yourself for the Holidays you can find a way to appreciate those around you and be thankful for all of your blessings.  And if that fails, try to at least enjoy the Jerry Springer free for all!

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By Shannon Penrod

I’m struck today by the idea of giving thanks.  I consider myself a very grateful person, I think thanks a great deal; I even say thanks and thank you with regularity – but do I really “give” thanks? What does “giving” thanks really mean?  I have a feeling it requires a great deal more than just muttering a thank you while passing a platter of roasted poultry.

I don’t know, but I feel compelled to make a list of what I’m truly thankful for.  So here goes:

I’m thankful for my husband who makes me laugh harder and longer than any person on earth.

I’m thankful for my amazing child who works harder than anyone I have ever known.

I’m grateful to CARD to Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, Sienna Greener-Wooten, Sabrina Tooma, Peter Farag, Amy Fuentes and all of the therapists who have come to our home for the last four years to help our son recover from Autism.

I’m grateful for my mother, for her still being alive and having a great, albeit long distance, relationship with my son.

I’m grateful for my nieces and nephews and the people they have become.  I’m grateful to my siblings for having them.

I’m every so grateful to all of our friends and family who have supported us and laughed with us as we have all faced so many hurdles in the last few years.

I’m thankful that my friend Natasha is cancer free.

I’m thankful that my friend Ron is getting ready to battle his cancer.

I’m thankful to have seen so many old friends this summer, and so sorry that Terri could not have been among them.

I’m thankful for my sister friend Therese for constantly teaching me about humility, grace and healing.

I’m thankful for the wonderful circle of woman who constantly surround me offering support, guidance, acknowledgement, understanding, acceptance and laughter.

I’m thankful for Crystal and Peter Sheppard for being phenomenal realtors and even better people, and for being a light on a very dark path.

I’m thankful for my interns who are teaching me more than I could have imagined, and thankfully they are patient with me.

I’m thankful for Tova and Gwen who stand on either side of me holding my hands, keeping me sane and present.

I’m thankful to Ally LoPrete and my new family at Toginet Radio, for helping me to have a voice that I didn’t know I had.

I’m thankful for all of my students and my life coaching clients for constantly revealing to me how beautiful life really is.

I’m thankful for the roof over my head, the food on my plate and every dirty dish that is in my sick because they are all signs of how truly blessed I am.

And of course I am thankful and grateful for the presence of God in my life.

The list goes on and on and includes Oprah, full fat yogurt, bubble baths, wireless internet, frozen blueberries and brown rice tortillas among others, but you get the idea.

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By Shannon Penrod

I claim to be a smart woman, and yet sometimes I can be incredibly stupid.  I was struck by this earlier in the week.  We were getting ready to go to Disneyland.  We are annual pass holders.  It is our one extravagance.  We don’t go to the Bahamas, or vacation in Cozumel.  Once a month we do to Disneyland.  It’s the vacation that works for us while we’re recovering our son from Autism.  We always have a great time and I always say that I never love my husband more than I do while we are at Disneyland.  Unfortunately, the hearts, flowers and warm fuzzy feelings do not extend to the getting ready phase of the Disneyland experience.

Everytime we get ready to go to Disneyland it is a minefield or frustration, resentment and miscommunication.  You know the definition of insanity?  Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  Color me crazy, because for years I have been running the same minefield and wondering why I’m so miserable. 

Here is our typical scenario, try and figure out where I go wrong every time.  First, when I get up I go out to the kitchen in my fuzzy slippers and I start simultaneously packing lunches and fixing breakfast.  While I am doing this I am either loading or unloading the dishwasher in hopes of coming home to a house that is not a total disaster.  Then I start to pack the bags.  There is a bag for the car ride there, and a bag for the car ride home, there is a bag for the actual amusement park and a bag of warm clothes in case it gets cold.  While I am getting the bags ready I am also getting my son up and laying out his clothes.  My husband is taking a shower and getting himself dressed.  It looks like everything is going so smoothly and I begin to pat myself on the back and tell myself that this time will be different.  That is the moment that it all slides in the toilet.

My freshly showered and perfectly dressed husband sits down to eat breakfast and innocently asks me when I think we can hit the road.  I look down and realize that everything and everyone is ready, except for me.  I am still in the fuzzy slippers and my nightgown with my hair looking like I’ve stuck my finger in a light socket.  Now I get defensive.  I start talking about how much work I’ve done getting us ready.  My husband is patient.  He asks if there is anything he can do.  There isn’t.  I’ve already done it all!  I look at his perfectly coiffed hair and fantasize about hitting him in the head with a frying pan.  We’re off to a great start.

This is made exponentially worse by the fact that it takes me a half hour to get ready, during which time my husband sits on the couch, taps his foot on the floor and checks the time every 30 seconds and sighs disapprovingly.  He denies this, like any intelligent male would.  But it’s true.  Eventually I abandon my preparations and run harried out the door, feeling discombobulated and unprepared despite the fact the car is packed as if we are going to war in a foreign country and could be gone for weeks.  The entire experience is not complete until 10 miles down the road my husband asks me if I’ve remembered to bring the passes.  I give him the look of death and the dance is done.  We can enjoy the rest of the day.

This was exactly what happened the other day. Only I finally found myself asking, “What’s wrong with this picture?”  I want to be mad at my husband for getting himself ready.  But it really isn’t a crime.  It’s just something I don’t do for myself, which breeds resentment.  Then came a huge epiphany that if I got myself ready first,  there might be something left for my husband to do when he was ready.  I could actually give myself permission to get myself ready and then he could help me to pack the lunches and the bags! I know, it’s so simple it’s stupid.  But it honestly never occurred to me that I was doing things in the wrong order. 

When I was single and childless I always got myself ready first, because there was no one else to get ready.  I remember when things changed.  Jem was probably 10 weeks old and I had to go to a baby shower.  I got myself ready and then started dressing him and then he earped all over me.  My hair, my dress…all decorated in lovely baby puke.  I looked like something out of a horror movie and I smelled like a cheese factory gone awry.  I had to get in the shower and start over.  After that I always got him ready first.  And I have kept doing that even though it has ceased working, he dresses himself and only rarely throws up anymore.  Time to change the habit.

Tonight we are going to a Clippers game, and I am not going to pack a single thing until I am completely ready.  I am talking full hair and make-up.  And if the snack bag for the car ride home doesn’t get packed, at least I’ll look good, and maybe the resentment police can have a night off from my marriage!

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