Thanksgiving 2016

What a beautiful day! With my son and daughter-in-law hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, I didn’t have as much cooking to do, which was wonderful! Nevertheless, I was up early on this day of expressing gratitude, cooking the rest of the plant based sides that were my contribution to the meal. 

My first utterance of thankfulness this morning was for the food processor that thinly sliced potatoes with such ease and speed that I was tempted to go buy another bag of spuds, just for the fun of it! 

The second occurrence that filled my heart with grateful joy was walking out into my garden, in late November, and snipping fresh thyme and rosemary for the potato and mushroom gratin. I also hoped my neighbors weren’t watching out their windows. I walked outside in a pajama top, yoga pants and a pair of loafers, because isn’t that how everyone dresses while cooking for Thanksgiving? 

The potato and mushroom gratin and the sweet potato casserole both turned out great, as did the pumpkin baked beans that simmered all night in the slow cooker. The cranberry relish was a hit too. 

Megan and Nate had a houseful today and they were such gracious hosts. Megan prepared a big traditional Thanksgiving meal, and the guests all brought sides, drinks or desserts. While everything looked and smelled  amazing, I wasn’t tempted at all to divert from my diet. Megan included a flavorful broccoli salad and perfectly roasted squash and tomatoes as side dishes. My plate was full. I ate well and healthily and I was satisfied in all ways with my first ever plant based Thanksgiving. 

Starting at the top and going clockwise: roasted squash & tomatoes, potato & mushroom gratin, broccoli salad, raw cranberry relish, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin baked beans. 

The greatest blessing of today was gathering with family. We were a big blended group with Megan’s family and Nate’s present. We missed Megan’s sister Tara, who had to work, and her family, and Dayan and Jonathan, who were with other family today.  

After the delicious meal, the kids headed out into the gorgeous sunshiny day to play and jump on the trampoline, while Frankie the youngest child present today, wandered about the yard under the watchful eyes of his parents and grandmother. Inside we visited and laughed and cleared away leftovers. 

Eventually we all ended up outdoors. The kids and adult kids divided into two teams for a fun and friendly game of kickball. The rest of us cheered from the driveway and laughed at the number of times one of the grown up kids ended up on the ground. It was a great way to spend the afternoon, soaking up golden rays of sun and for the more adventurous, getting in exercise after a big meal. 

Family was the focus of the day. Family members of all ages, having fun together, feasting, playing, talking, laughing, expressing their quirks and offering their love, that’s what was most important today. 

I finally had a piece of fully plant based pumpkin pie with coconut cream whipped topping late in the afternoon, after I got home. It tasted as great as it looked. What a perfect end, to a perfectly lovely day. Thanksgiving 2016 is a cherished memory. And I am full of gratitude.

Surrender 139: Joplin’s Butterfly SculpturesĀ 

I’ve been aware, this past month, of the large sculptures that have been quietly appearing around Joplin. There are 22 of them. Area businesses, including Missouri Southern State University, Mercy Hospital, The Joplin Globe, The Joplin Chamber of Commerce and Mason Woodard Mortuary have these uniquely beautiful butterflies mounted on their lawns. 

This week marks a big anniversary in the Joplin and Duquesne areas. Five years ago, on Sunday May 22, one of history’s biggest and most destructive tornadoes tore through both communities, leaving devastation in its wake. Thousands of homes and businesses and vehicles were destroyed. Trees were uprooted or, left standing, stripped of leaves, twigs and bark. In places even the grass was ripped from the ground and the earth gouged. One hundred and sixty one people lost their lives…men, women and children. 

It’s not an anniversary to celebrate, per se, but a time of remembrance…a time of appreciating a community that has rebuilt and grown strong…a time of recognizing the tremendous efforts of more than a hundred thousand volunteers. There are many activities connected to the 5th anniversary this week, grouped under the banner of Joplin Proud. I’ll be mindfully attending several of those events. 

In the aftermath of the EF5 tornado, the butterfly became an important symbol in Joplin, for two reasons:

As stories were told by survivors, one story in particular was repeated over and over, especially by children. As the deadly storm approached, many kids, and some adults, reported seeing large “butterfly people” appear above them, their wings spread as a protective covering over them and their families. These protectors disappeared as the tornado passed by, leaving people shaken but safe. 

There has been a great deal of speculation about who the butterfly people were, however the most accepted theory is that these were angels. Many other people reported being helped by tall men in bright, white clothing…men who later vanished. But the children saw huge butterflies. Perhaps because butterflies are not scary, perhaps to reassure the kids, these youngest storm victims saw something marvelous and beautiful. Whatever extraordinary beings people saw, the ultimate result was the same…protection and assistance. 

And the butterfly is a symbol of change, of transformation through the process of metamorphosis. The caterpillar uses massive amounts of energy to literally change form, to emerge as a beautiful and wondrous new creature. Imagine life changing to such an extreme that you are unrecognizable at the end of the transformation. 

Southern Joplin was unrecognizable after the initial, negative transformation, brought about by a massive force of nature. My first thought as I emerged from my battered house was that a bomb had been dropped on us. My neighborhood was gone. Houses, or pieces of them, blocked the streets. Explosions erupted from busted gas pipes. Trees lay broken in yards, cars were twisted or flattened hunks of metal. Debris was everywhere. I stood in the silence, eerie after the roar of the tornado and the unforgettable sounds of the world shuddering apart, more shocked than I have ever been in my life. 

My community immediately sprang into action, even as rain continued to fall, clearing roads for emergency vehicles, boarding up broken windows, searching through piles of lumber where houses once stood, hoping to find survivors. Volunteers poured into Joplin and Duquense from around the world. For days sirens never ceased to wail as rescue operations continued. And for months and months, the hopeful sound of saws and hammers filled the air as rebuilding began. 

Five years later, we are a community transformed by the power of love. We have emerged, a new creation. There is still building going on. We have more work to do. And we have things yet to repair, in a physical sense and in deeply emotional ways. But our spirit is strong. 

The butterfly is our symbol. Like that amazing creature’s transformation, it has taken massive amounts of energy to bring Joplin through her metamorphosis. And like the butterfly who has just emerged from her cocoon, we are flexing our wings, preparing to soar, rising with those very winds of change. 

We are Joplin Proud, indeed.