Expressing thanks at this time of year can be a dual-edged sword. It's nearly impossible to enumerate every single blessing for which we should be grateful. Many of our blessings are, sadly, overlooked — taken for granted, even. We quickly forget, for example, just how blessed we are to have a brand-spankin' new bed to sleep on. I do, anyway. It's just so nice to lay down at night and not fear the impending Attack of the Way-Past-Retirement Bedsprings. I bought this bed when it became clear that any further injuries to Mrs. Woody's abdominal region could be potentially fatal. When one shifted a bit in the old bed, one advertised the fact through a cacaphonous squeaking symphony that could be heard by dogs as far away as Temecula. The old bed had to go, and good riddance.
I also have quickly fallen into the minivan habit. I'd say I can't remember not having a minivan, but that wouldn't be strictly true. Every time I drive the old Saturn to work, I remember very clearly not having a minivan. The Saturn has been with us since before the first Woodyette joined the family. It's still a pretty car on the outside. Sleek, forest green color, no major scratches or marks. The only outward sign of age and abuse is the snake-like crack in our windshield that it received from following a hopper-truck too closely on the freeway one morning. On the inside, though, the Saturn looks more like its 23-year old distant cousin, our old Honda Accord. The roof lining is starting to hang down in tatters from too much time sitting in burning-hot parking lots. The upholstery looks like it's been subjected to, oh, we don't know, a couple of rambunctious kids or something. Also, since Mrs. Woody never rides in the Saturn anymore, it has become a bachelor-mobile. Occasionally I pause at dumpsters to open the door and shake out the detritus.
Woody occasionally takes it for granted that his kids are sweethearts. At 10 and painfully-close-to 8, the Woodyettes are incredibly well-behaved. Particularly when compared with other kids of our acquaintance. Our girls do not talk back to their parents, generally speaking. They may get frustrated once in awhile, as when Mommy insists that they empty the dishwasher before playing with their dolls, but this is part of the growing up experience. Whenever we take the girls out in public (contrary to the views of the unenlightened, homeschoolers do take their kids out in public!) we receive many comments to the effect that our girls are not only pretty, but patient. This is particularly significant when you consider that this is often said in conjunction with one of Daddy's concerts. Not only do the girls have to sit through the concert, but they generally have to go early with Daddy to sit through our pre-concert warmups as well. This frequently means sitting for roughly 3 hours for a 1-1/2 hour concert. They practice this every Sunday because Daddy is in the ward choir, which means getting to church an hour before everyone else, then doing the entire 3 hour bloc of meetings. Our kids are troopers.
I really, really want to say that I never take Mrs. Woody for granted. Certainly she is my very best friend, and we both acknowledge frequently the blessing that is our marriage. Since Mrs. Woody's return to health, though, she has been spending much more time in the kitchen. It's been wonderful. With her arthritis it's been difficult for her to get around. Awhile back we bought a small office chair for the kitchen that allows Mrs. Woody to scoot around and do what needs to be done. For this entire past summer, though, Woody did all the cooking. I'm not a bad cook, I must say. I can follow a recipe pretty well, and Mrs. Woody coaches me through the stuff I'm not familiar with. But it's sure been nice of late to have Mrs. Woody-cooked meals again. We follow the same recipes, but they just taste better when she cooks 'em. Could be a mental thing, but I don't care. I love Mrs. Woody's cooking. Yesterday we once again shared the responsibility for the Feast. Since it takes one to know one, I get to cook the turkey (thank you, Alton Brown!). Mrs. Woody did, literally, everything else. We had that poor oven working overtime all day long, and we were both sore at the end of the day. But the results were worth it. And she didn't run over my toes even once.
I suppose it happens to all of us that we sometimes take our testimonies for granted. Or maybe it's just me. I remember lessons from days past that taught me the order of things: One must love the Savior above all else, or one can never fully love and appreciate anyone else, spouse included. At the time I heard that, I remember wondering how on earth that could be possible. (Woody was much younger then.) Now, however, with Mrs. Woody at my side, I begin to understand how this works. Mrs. Woody and I both love the Savior and His gospel. It is, in fact, that common testimony that helped bring us together and begin to share our other interests and goals. The harder we work on our testimonies, the stronger our relationship becomes. This is an eternal truth, and we love it. Of course, it also happens that we get busy living in the physical world. Mrs. Woody has the schooling of her precious girls, for example, to occupy her time. Woody has work, the Chorale, and more work to keep him busy. We have kids that require attention. We have other family that also need our time. Sometimes we get so busy that our testimonies just sort of chug along on automatic. Then we prepare our lessons for Relief Society and Priesthood (we teach in the same week), and remind ourselves how precious our testimonies are. We have a little one to baptize in a month or two. We have a daughter reaching toward Young Woman-hood. We can't really afford to take our eyes off the ball.
So yesterday was a time for Woody to enumerate not only the things for which I am grateful, but to remember those things that I occasionally overlook. I'm grateful, of course, that our forefathers came to this land to seek religious freedom. Ancestors of mine may have been among those who made the conditions leading to the Restoration possible. Other ancestors who came to this land seeking freedom and opportunities of all kinds gave me the tools with which I work today. I'm thankful for a Constitution that reminds us to respect the rights — and beliefs — of others. I'm grateful for those who fight today to preserve and protect those rights.
And I'm grateful to those of you who read these words, and occasionally impart some of your own to me. Your thoughts and very existence are deeply appreciated. Happy Thanksgiving!
(As I wrote that final paragraph, Doodle came out of her room, said a sleepy "Good morning, Daddy!" and gave me a big smooch on the cheek. What'd I tell ya?)