Creating an honest path to gratitude

I haven’t always known how to feel grateful or identify the feeling of joy. There are certain lessons in life only learned through experience. No matter how many books are read or classes taken, hard-fought living is our one true teacher. In this season of gratitude, I’m reminded that my ability to feel thankful and happy is a recent revelation. I’ve also realized that through loss, a person can gain everything.

Finding anchors in seasons of change

When the winds rage the sea, we look for an anchor. 

As my life continues to unfold, I’m learning there are things over which I have little control. Like any human, I at first try to manhandle situations. Every single time, I try to come up with a solution or fix the issue before I realize God and the universe have other plans. I’m working hard to stop this and rather, approach each day with curious expectation. 

Thoughts on Thanksgiving and traditions

Funny how when you’re living in a moment, you don’t realize how truly special the moment is. Only later in life does the full onslaught of gratitude cover you like a warm nostalgic blanket. That’s how I feel when I reflect upon Thanksgiving days of the past. 

Every Thanksgiving morning, my sister and I would wake up and wander into the kitchen bleary-eyed and still wearing pajamas. As the Asheville Christmas Parade played on WLOS, my mom would be sipping coffee and have already cooked cornbread and biscuits, the beginning ingredients for my great-grandmother’s dressing recipe. 

Learning to connect with the other world

The night after my mom died, my dad stepped out on the front porch with my brother-in-law, whose father had passed away only a month earlier. As they looked up, two shooting stars, one after the other, flew through the night sky. We were convinced it was our two family members comforting us from afar.

Finding inspiration in banned books

My mom was a librarian and my dad an English teacher so books were always stacked on the dining room table or tossed on the floor beside recliners. As a young girl, I carried a novel with me all the time. 

My very favorite book was The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I remember hiding it on the shelf at my elementary school library so no one else could check it out. I think I read it at least 10 times in a three-year span. It’s funny I didn’t ask my parents to just buy it for me, but these were the days before Amazon and there was something magical about holding it in my possession for only a short period of time. 

Raising boys and respecting women

As a child, I wanted to grow up and plan a big fancy wedding with a ruffly white dress, then have two little girls and name them Veronica and Samantha. As one of two girls in a family of four, this is all I knew. My middle-class childhood wasn’t indulgent in any way, but it was happy and secure. My sister and I knew our parents loved us more than anything. Both my mom and dad worked multiple jobs to give us opportunities and experiences we couldn’t have otherwise had. I’m forever appreciative of that, and I 100 percent credit them for nurturing and encouraging my adventurous spirit. 

My mission: outer order, inner calm

My name is Susanna and I am terribly unorganized. 

I’m not a messy person or a hoarder, just disorganized. My desk is a mess of papers and sticky notes. I always have a million tabs open on my laptop. My closets and cabinets and pantry are full of stuff with no thought to rhyme or reason. I have to dig in my purse for three minutes to find lip balm. My shoes are thrown into the bottom of my closet so it takes inordinate amounts of time to find a matching pair. 

Friday night lights, then and now

I took my first baton lesson when I was 3 years old. My sister had been twirling for a while, so baton practice and competitions were the norm for our family. Four of our baton teachers were Clemson Tiger majorettes and my parents grew up in Greenville, S.C. We frequented many a football game in Death Valley wearing purple and orange and hearing “Tiger Rag.” 

Grief is love’s souvenir

Three of life’s top five stressors are death of a loved one, divorce and moving. Within the past two years, my mom passed away, I got a divorce and bought a house. I say this not for pity but as a fact that’s required for the rest of this column to unfold, and the anniversary of my mom’s death is this week so it’s hard to think of anything else.

Coming full circle as a cat owner

Growing up, my family had an abundance of cats running amok. These were the days before spaying and neutering were common occurrences. We all know what happens when there’s no protection against the passions of nature, so inevitably we had a feline family much bigger than our own. 

Each time a litter was born, we would keep a few kittens and give others away to neighbors or friends. I remember my sister and I feeding many a kitten with a medicine dropper, making cozy beds for them out of Avon boxes and towels, and nursing those with parasites back to health. She and I also created a pet cemetery in the woods behind our house where we would hold a memorial service and bury the cats or kittens that passed on. 

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