Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Thanksgiving is the most under-appreciated holiday. No one really decorates, there isn't a big lead-up, and when it's over, people are too busy talking about Halloween and Christmas to reminisce about the day that just passed.

I'm guilty myself. The meaning of Thanksgiving has often become lost in the naps and the turkey and the long weekend. This year, I'm making a point to say what I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for my health. While it may not be perfect, I could be much worse off, and in the grand scheme of things I don't have any room to complain. I'm able to walk, to play with my kids, to watch the world around me, and to spend time at home instead of in a hospital. There are people with cancer and ALS and hundreds of other ailments who remind me how lucky I am to have my health.

I'm thankful for a husband who not only got up early Sunday morning to put the turkey in the oven, but who also peeled, cooked, and prepared all the vegetables and side dishes while I visited with my family in River Bourgeois, and even did the dishes afterward. We get to spend all our time together, enjoy the present, and talk about the future. We're best friends, and I'm thankful that he chose me to be his wife. There are women who have become widows, or who spend holidays alone, who remind me how lucky I am to have my husband.

I'm thankful for two smart, happy and healthy boys who breathe life into our house. They might also destroy said house in the process, but it's when they're gone and the house is quiet that we remember how important all that noise and chaos is to our continued happiness. There are people who have lost a child, or who can't conceive, who remind me how lucky I am to have my kids.

I'm thankful for my house. It might be modest, but it's where I am the most comfortable and it's mine. We have heat, water, and electricity, along with a million non-essential services, and considering the state of the world, that's about all a person can ask for. There are homeless people, and people living in deplorable conditions, who remind me how lucky I am to have a home.

I am thankful that my husband has a good job. We might not own a yacht or summer in Greece, but we get by without having to worry too much about how. Not only that, his job is at home, which means he doesn't have to go away for months at a time in order to provide for his family. There are people who have to sell their most valuable belongings to buy groceries, and men working away from their families all year long, who remind me how lucky I am that my husband has a good job.

I am thankful for my car. It may be a very material thing, but I haven't always had one, and I know what a challenge and a hassle it can be to live your life when you have to rely on others to drive you from place to place. Being able to jump in a reliable, comfortable vehicle and go where I need to go is a luxury I appreciate. There are single mothers who walk all over town and people who miss doctor's appointments because they have no transportation, who make me realize how lucky I am to have a car.

I am thankful for my extended family. My dad, who is always ready with sound advice when I need it; my siblings, who are some of my oldest friends; my grandparents, who after over 93 birthdays apiece and 69 years of marriage, continue to set a great example of how life is meant to be lived; my friends, many of whom I consider to be family, and for good reason; and to all of my other extended family members who contribute to my life in so many positive ways. There are World Vision commercials and episodes of Oprah to remind me how lucky I am to have my family.

Lastly, I am thankful for Cape Breton. Of all the places I have lived, nowhere compares to the way of life lived in this beautiful little island. I am so glad to be able to raise my kids in a town where everyone knows everyone else (whether they always want to or not) and everyone looks out for everyone else (whether or not they even realize they're doing it). There are news reports out of Detroit and Toronto that remind me how lucky I am to have Cape Breton.

I hope everyone takes the time to remember what they're thankful for.

Keeping the Faith

I went to church every weekend from the time I was about five years old, until I graduated from high school. I don't mean usually, I mean every weekend without exception. When I was younger, around the time I made my First Communion, I'd even go with my grandfather once or twice during the week. At the River Bourgeois School, the first hour of every Thursday was set aside for religion class.

I was an alter server from the time I was old enough to be until I was nearly the height of the priest, and I was always in Youth Group. I may not have been the most devout parishioner (that title would be hard to earn considering the competition), but to say I was a God-fearing, faithful church-goer is a fair statement. I'm not just a big-mouth with a bone to pick; I feel strongly that I have experience and knowledge to guide my words on this subject.

As a young girl, I believed that the church was above the law and would have defended just about any aspect of the Catholic religion. Even if someone made a valid point about an inconsistency or negative point within Catholicism, I was quick to point out that Catholics were only responsible for following the rules, not making or enforcing them. Don't lie, cheat, steal, swear, or kill, or else you go to Hell. It didn't have to make sense, necessarily; belief in what I had been taught trumped everything.

And this Hell business isn't an exaggeration. I had a priest in junior high school tell a girl in our grade 7-8 religion class that she would go to Hell if she lied to her parents or kissed a boy before she was married. I was in the room when he said it, and I remember her running to the bathroom in tears. And, even though I was old enough to know that was wrong, I stayed loyal to the Catholic Church, no questions asked.

I was unmarried when I had my first son in 1998. Like everyone else from River Bourgeois, I expected to have him baptized at St. John the Baptist Church. Imagine my confusion when the priest in the community at the time, told me he wouldn't baptize my son because he was conceived out of wedlock. That was very difficult for me to accept, and it deeply upset and embarrassed me. Luckily, Fr. Hughie D. MacDonald, in my estimation the greatest priest in the entire world, baptized him in Isle Madame without hesitation, and my faith was renewed.

When my second son was born, I still wasn't married yet. And, when we attempted to have him baptized in the community to which we had just moved, we were told it couldn't be done unless we had proof that we had regularly attended Mass somewhere for at least two years. Again, we found a way, and still, I didn't lose faith.

I tried to enroll my oldest son in religion classes a few years ago. The person I encountered was so rude and dismissive of me and my "lack of commitment to the Church", that I left abruptly and never took him back. While I had to wonder how the church, inclusive and accepting as it claimed to be, could again make me feel like I didn't belong, I STILL didn't lose faith.

Faith isn't something people are questioning in light of what has happened recently within the Catholic church. My beliefs are unwavering, and little that could happen in the news is capable of changing that. However, Catholics all over the country are questioning the church - maybe not you in particular, but many people are. To those calling this questioning a "lack of faith", understand that it has less to do with God than with the men who claim to represent him.

It's that same feeling you'd have, for lack of a better analogy, if you heard of a police officer injuring someone while drinking and driving. It's a terrible and dangerous thing for the average person to do, but for the very person and institution that vocally admonishes such behavior to be responsible for such a horrendous act, is blatant hypocrisy.

I have had my share of run-ins with my church, but it took an incident like the one last week for a decades-long lapse of accountability to translate into serious uncertainty on my part. How can the religious establishment break rules they're so strict about enforcing on me? And how long are we, the faithful, expected to keep our backs turned to modern-day justice in favor of contributing with well-intentioned ignorance to a corrupt structure of resistance?

For me? No longer. And God understands my point of view, just as He does yours.