Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day Has New Meaning This Year

Today is a major holiday for those of us living in the United States (and possibly other places as well; I don't mean to exclude anyone!). It's the holiday of Thanksgiving, where, among other things, we think back upon the past year and give thanks for what we have. We usually cook massive feasts of turkey, ham, dressing or stuffing (and YES, as my mother will continually remind you, there is a difference! Dressing is not cooked inside the turkey like STUFFING is.), mounds of mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and more pies than we can stand to look at. Most people don't have to go to work, kids don't have to go to school, and it's a major family occasion, sometimes one of the few times a year that whole extended families might see each other. This ritual may seem odd to those in other countries, but at its core, it's intended to show that we're prosperous enough to make such a meal for a single day.

But beyond the Hallmark version is the real truth behind Thanksgiving: that of giving THANKS for what we have (or in some cases, what we don't have!). There has never been a single year in which I was more grateful and thankful than I am this year. At this point last year, we weren't sure if I was going to be home for the holiday, or stuck in a hospital 3 hours away from those I love. Even, some months before this time last year, whether I was going to live or not.

Going back over your past year can sometimes be painful, and I think about the long journey I've walked over the past 365 days. I went from a person paralyzed from an autoimmune condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome over Christmas 2012, to a healthy and active young woman who went to work every day, played with dogs, and rode and trained my horse. Just 5 months later, that recovery had done a complete 180 and I was again ill, and finally, on July 27, 2013, I was diagnosed with leukemia. At the time, we were sure it was a death sentence.

Before being sick, I'd worked at Auto Zone, a local auto parts store, in Poplar Bluff, Missouri (yes, and I can change my own oil and brakes too!), and I'm grateful for the kindness and support of all my coworkers there. Thank you, my friends, for just being you! I wish I could return, but at this point...well, who knows what the next 365 days will bring? The Auto Zone corporation even gave me a donation, something they do for employees in situations like mine. Thank you, too, Auto Zone.

While I was sick, my family was making the long drive to visit me one weekend, and they were in a car accident. They're all okay, but the vehicle was a total loss. My husband arranged to purchase a vehicle from a coworker of his, and she was nice enough to let him make payments on it. But unknown to us, they were secretly collecting donations and raised enough money for him to pay off the car, get it inspected, and registered, and even had a little left over for gas. Thank you, everyone at Gates Refurb Plant in Poplar Bluff, for your generosity.

Also, my sister, Dana Jordan, who lives in Michigan, organized a fundraiser. My brother, Matt, and his girlfriend Maria, my other sister Becky Rottenbucher, my parents, Dan and Coy Jordan, and Maria's parents, all pitched in to help. Maria's parents allowed the use of Colonial Lanes in Flushing, Michigan, and they had a bowling fundraiser. They collected donations of services from local businesses, or items to raffle off, designed T-shirts, and much more. To each of them, as well as the sea of faceless (to me anyway) strangers who participated or donated, I say thank you very much. They raised a bit over $4,000 that night, and my family needed it desperately.

My sister-in-law, Jacinda Dees, who lives in Florida, also did some fundraising with silicon bracelets from the Max Foundation, and a go-fund-me (or something similar online) where people could go to donate. She also started a Facebook page so that I could post updates (or she or my husband could, when I wasn't able to) in a single place and reach all of the people that I really cared about, all from one place! She also (on occasion) had to edit my posts because I was on so many medications, some of them for pain, that I would often fall asleep posting, or I couldn't focus on what I was posting. Now that I look back, we should have saved some of those posts...we could probably devote an entire blog post to them alone! They would go perfect with all the "text message spell check fails" that are going around everywhere! So to her, and my in-laws Cathy and Darrell Dees, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I need to mention my friend Denise Mercer at this point. She's the one who sent me a simple friend request on Facebook, sort of a "I heard from so-and-so that you're sick, I wanted to check in" sort of thing. Denise is a published author as well, her book is called  My Father's Table, and you can click the link to see it on Amazon. You can also get it at CreateSpace and Barnes and Noble, and for Kindle. Many of you who regularly follow my blog may be aware that I had already published Once Upon a Western Way (in April, 2012), but it was only available digitally at Smashwords. Denise was the one that started "the butterfly effect" in my life, and gave me the tools and knowledge I needed to publish in print. Butterflies hold a special significance to Denise and her family, and that's why I chose the Monarch butterfly for the cover image for My Butterfly Cancer, and part of the reason I chose the butterfly logo to represent my publishing company. Denise, my dear and wonderful friend, thank you with big hugs!

I'm thankful for all the staff at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, who gave me the very best of care and made sure that I was alive to celebrate another Thanksgiving day. This includes doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, janitors, and even the people who brought my food. I couldn't have gotten care closer to home, as we're extremely rural here, and they gave me 5 star service! I still keep in touch with some of them, and from time to time I stop there when I'm in town for checkups. And of course, I'm working to donate my books (and hopefully soon, my audiobooks) to the patients there. Thank you, all of you.

And finally, I'm ever grateful for the presence of my family. Being sick brought me and my mother closer together, and that makes me happy. My husband Jay, my kids Ally and Tasha, my best friends Val and Darlene, my (sister-from-another-mother) Michelle, Pam White (her husband had leukemia at the same time I did), all my aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, close friends, acquaintances, my pets at home, and anyone else I've forgotten to mention (and I'm sure there are some!): I am more thankful for you guys than ever before!

For my blog visitors (whom I am also thankful for), if you've made it this far in this long post, I'm going to ask you to do something. I'd like you to share something you're thankful for in the comments section. It doesn't have to be today, because I know some people will be very busy (as I likely will be), but take a moment to think about what you're really grateful for this year. And those of you in countries that don't exactly celebrate Thanksgiving (and I know Canada does, but it's not today) can do the same today. Leave a short comment about what you're thankful for this year, then share this post to your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or any other social media you might wish to. If I can get enough comments, maybe I can write a follow up post as to what my fans are thankful for.

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