Friday, September 29, 2017

As Thanksgiving Nears These Photos Celebrate the Blessing of Family

Photo of a multi-generational family saying grace on Thanksgiving
"Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." — Melody Beattie

The world might seem a little crazy these days — Mother Nature appears to be really upset and as turbulent as the political climate.  However,  moments of gratitude, amidst it all, have never been too difficult for me to acknowledge.  No matter how frustrating, exhausting or stressful life can be, there's never any doubt in my mind that the life I lead is a blessed one.

To start with I'm fortunate to live in what (no one will ever convince me otherwise) is the greatest country in the world. My little spot in this vast nation is calm and quiet, lush and open space.  I have lived in the same old century house I fell in love with when we bought it 40 years ago.  My husband and I have raised four great kids in that home and we are now enjoying the delights of grandparenthood.  Work is gratifying and I am fortunate enough to have several 'toys' that offer me respite on weekends and in the summer.

In summation, I want for nothing nor need a thing.

In just a couple of weeks I am presented too with the opportunity to celebrate these gifts and my gratitude for them. The Canadian Thanksgiving will be here Oct. 9, and our family along with many others will be honouring this time of blessing and bounty.
Photo of a woman checking on a turkey in the oven
Of course, for me, the days to come will be hectic. The upcoming occasion means now is going to be a busy time of preparation, with a house to clean, errands to run, groceries to buy,  and food to prepare.

Beneath all of the busyness, however, is a barely-contained excitement. For one whole day, all of my children will be under my roof again, bringing with them their partners and those adorable grandbabies. It will be a full house and I am beyond thrilled.

I don't remember childhood Thanksgivings the way I remember Christmases of my youth. My maternal grandmother really enjoyed the latter and her attitude left an indelible memory. The former consequently always seemed to be little more than a practice run for the Dec. 25 menu. That sense carries through for me into my adult years.  It just wouldn't be either of these celebrations now without turkey and all the trimmings, cranberries and pumpkin and apple pies.

Photo of a multi-generational family laughing togetherThere has, however, been a recent shift. With Christmas so busy there's little time to really enjoy the day with my loved ones as it all seems to pass in a blur of gifts, eating, drinking and cleaning up. Thanksgiving then, has become a more relaxed version, when the pleasure in counting one's blessings is coupled with the ability to actually enjoy each other's company for a bit.

So as the anticipation builds for a day spent in the company of the people who are my greatest blessings among many,  I thought it would be nice to highlight some family holiday pictures from the wonderful Thanksgiving photos found in the iPHOTOS.com collection.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Remembering German Grandparents and Celebrating Their Culture With Oktoberfest Clipart

Clipart image of a German girl in front of the German flag
He was an uncomplicated man. He knew little of life but struggle and hard work. His days began before dawn and ended as dusk crept through the sky.

Each morning he set out to the fields and animals he loved, speaking little, expressing less.  He spoke little bowing to the formidable personality of his stalwart wife. He was a man of the land, leaving the day-to-day aspects of life in her cracked, dry, capable hands.

She was unquestionably the strength, a woman toughened by the realities of raising a family through the Great Depression. She loved her kids like a tigress, yet sentimentality was a foreign condition.

These were my paternal grandparents. Solid, honest people who kept emotions at a premium, they thought less about happiness than they did about labour and its rewards. She was the dominant force in this partnership, the one who faced adversity without emotion, who rose each day putting one step ahead of the other. My first memories are of her sitting playing hymns at the big pump organ in the parlour, of hands working through rich garden earth,  or of her standing for hours in the kitchen. For her there were no other places.  There was no television. The only book she read was the Bible. And relaxing was an incomprehensible concept.

When I think of her husband, my dad’s father, I think of a man who showed little by way of affection, yet who was never impatient or unkind. He would sit in the chair at the kitchen door, gnarled hands planted firmly in his lap as he waited for the evening meal to be served. He rarely smiled, but never growled. Though he seldom acknowledged us in a tender way, his tolerance, whether my cousins and I ran screaming around him, or chatted incessantly behind him as he walked to the barn, was admirable. He allowed us to follow noisily behind and we were thrilled to tread in his footsteps.

This pair were both grandchildren of German immigrants. And it was that which indirectly provided the most cherished memory I have of my grandpa. Both of my grandparents were fluent in the mother tongue of their forefathers.  Conversations between the two often were a combination of their two languages.

I have no recollection of how it happened, but at some point I expressed an interest in learning the foreign words they exchanged between themselves and their children. I was quite small but remember sitting on his lap as he counted, recited poems he had learned as a schoolboy, and taught me the most important words in any language. Ich liebe dich might not sound as elegant as Je t’aime or even I love you, but it was lovely to me.

Those times with him raised an interest and pride in my heritage. Some casual research in recent years has disclosed that my maiden name is Bavarian — the land of lederhosen and dirndls, food and drink, folk music and gemutlichkeit. That I have married a man of German descent as well,  has tightened the connection to our past. We plan a trip following retirement to the our ancestors' place of of birth to see what we can learn.

Were we there now we would be in the midst of the annual Oktoberfest — a celebration of heritage and culture, an expression of the Bavarian informal love of life. However, staying close to home soon brings the same, as a neighbouring city  to us hosts the largest North American Oktoberfest in the days following our Canadian Thanksgiving.

As a girl with pride in her German ancestory, it's only fitting then that I honour these occasions with some wonderful clipart collections:

Clipart image of an Oktoberfest background with a beer on it

Clipart image of a German man holding a beer beneath a speech bubble