giving thanks

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. – William Arthur Ward

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. – Albert Schweitzer

It has been almost a week since Thanksgiving and I feel like I already need reminders about grace and gratitude. In reviewing our work from last week, I have the same feeling looking at our work as I did around the table at Thanksgiving. We focused our attention on art last week, creating our own political posters to advocate for those things that are most important to us.

The writers, now artists, focused on things like LGBT equality and anti-war sentiments. Mostly though, they created expressions of love and peace. In one, a writer wrote “give peace a chance.” In another, “be adventurous, be kind.” And lastly, one simply wrote, “peace and love” in a bubble floating over the word “family.” As the holiday season continues, these are the messages they want to transmit out into the prison and our community.

We stood in a circle a discussed each poster and what it offered. Essentially, we stood around thanking each other, honoring, working through what each of us trying to say with gentle curiosity and affirmation. With our eyes, words, actions, we showed we were listening. We enacted what saw and advocated for on those posters.

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from my desolate soul

Credit: K Punkrock

In keeping with this week’s holiday, we wanted to post another Thanksgiving writing from one of the incarcerated women with whom we write weekly. Especially since this Thursday is one of very few in the year when we will not be writing together. TH’s writing invites you into her family with simple direct intimacy; and leaves you haunted with the harsh reality of the change a single year can bring to a family.

I remember last Thanksgiving . . .
            it was just our little family
            you, me, our five-year-old son.

Without much money, a feast was impossible
            So we had stuffing; you made pork chops,
            and all three of us filled our stomachs.

Trudging upstairs, little man exclaimed
            “Mom and Dad, that was great!
            My belly feels full!”

As we climbed to the top step
            we ushered him into the bathroom,
            bubbles piled in the tub.
            He jumped in, bubbles crashed and popped
            you and I snuck a look at each other, chuckling.

I knew we both thought that although we didn’t have much,
            we had each other. That was the miracle
            of Thanksgiving. To me, anyhow.

            The fact that our daily struggle culminated
            once a year into a day of reflection
            and gratefulness that we still
            held each other every night and
            we made it through another year.

This year, nothing remains . . . Continue reading

thanksgiving feather

Credit: photodictionary

During this season, it is natural for us to think about our blessings and gratitudes; and in the case of women incarcerated during holiday seasons, what we most miss at this time of year. For the  next several posts, we’ll share some of the more poignant writings from the women at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in Burlington, VT as they remember, yearn, mourn or feel relief at their distance from family this week.

Opened door, coats taken and hung
so many it becomes a balancing act,
an architectural puzzle of how to fit
them all on the rack

Hugs all around, eight aunts, eight uncles
30-something cousins
hellos, how are you’s, what have you been up to’s

Hors d’oeuvres set out, wine bottles opened, beers cracked
children scattering around the yard

Tables set, dishes heated, the laughter and
chatter and cheer from the game on the wide screen

And then comes the time to sit for dinner –
but first our tradition, the most important of family traditions:
the construction paper turkey where we each receive a feather
to write what it is we are grateful for

Then before we begin our feast, we each receive
another’s feather, read it aloud and try to guess
who wrote what

 I always used to dread the cheesy feather game
thinking ‘only my family,’ ‘we’re lunatics,’
‘how embarrassing!’

But now that is what I am most grateful for . . .
the symphonic chaos of our clan
the unorchestrated dance in the kitchen
the unconditional love, the feast; and yes

even the feather.