poetry, prose, and image by Brittney S Holland

Project Gratitude

Gratitude 22 - My Faith:  When I think about what makes me who I am, what governs how I have become who I am today, my faith is perhaps the single, greatest influence of my life. I was raised Presbyterian, graduated from a Church of God university, directed a Baptist children's choir for a while, married a Methodist, and converted to Catholicism.  I am for all practical purposes a "mutt." My journey, however, has been specifically personal and very real!  Catholic means universal, which sums up the one constant in all of my wanderings and wonderings...God.  God is universal.  

Gratitude 21 - Subtle Reminders:  Sometimes I miss my daughter so much it hurts...still...after all this time.  I manage to find comfort, however, in the subtle reminders around my home that she was here, that we spent quality time together ... and that she was one of the few people who truly seemed to know ME... my dreams and fears.  These glasses are such reminders.  Each set marks a special occasion: a Christmas, a birthday, a trip to NYC.  Now, whenever I reach for one of these, I think of my daughter...who was for almost twenty years my constant companion, my best friend.  

Gratitude 20 - Gifts from Son and Sea:  My son gave me this shell for my birthday this year, a perfect little conch found empty on the ocean floor while we were snorkeling this summer.  Shelling is a favorite pastime of mine.  I like to think that each small treasure is an offering from the sea, a gift of divine beauty, an act of intention, a token of shared trust given to me.

Gratitude 19 -- Stewie Loves Lois:   This penny is from one of my students, a student who took one class with me her junior year and then returned for a second tour of duty her senior year.  Pennies are an inside joke from her junior year's class...but then this student one-upped that sentiment her senior year by leaving this particular penny on my desk.  We got to know eachother so well within her two years in my classroom, that she nicknamed me "Mom."  And by spring of her senior year, she started hollering out "Mom...Mom..Mamma...Mamma...." when she needed my help on an assignment (if you've seen The Family Guy commercials, you know what I mean).  She has since graduated with a four-year, full-ride scholarship to college.  

Gratitude 18 -- Beginner's Luck:  My first ever souffle, and it turned out perfectly.  I'm so proud.  Cooking is a passion of mine and has been for many, many years.  I remember watching The Frugal Gourmet and Julia Child when I was in college.  I even waited tables at a fledgeling country club, where I also gained light kitchen experience and plenty of opportunities to watch and learn from our chefs.  I don't know why I put this off for so long.  Well, yes I do.  I was intimidated by this delicate little dish.  

Gratitude 17 - Computer Bug: A lone Christmas gift for my father when I was in high school, this little guy proves that giving the perfect gift requires more creativity and thought than money.  See, my father was a computer programmer analyst for TVA.  He wrote and trouble-shot programs.  I saw this little guy at our local dollar store, snatched him up immediately, and couldn't wait until Christmas morning.  Fortunately, Dad understood my humor and liked him too.  This little guy sat proudly in my father's cubicle until Dad retired.  Later, Buggie took up permanent residence inside Dad's desk at home.  I am now the proud owner of both my father's desk and his computer bug.  Merry Christmas, dear readers!  May you too find the perfect gift for those you love.

Gratitude 16 - Christmas:  Christmas is my favorite holiday; to me it's more than Black Friday sales and gift wrap and tinsel.  It's spiritual.  It's multi-sensory.  It's carols and candle light, spiced cider and incense.  There's magic and good will, nostalgia and tradition. And...as much as I am enamored with vintage, blow mold santas this year, they will never compare to my love of nativities. This one is the latest addition to my collection.   

Gratitude 15 - A Nuclear Existence:  My two precious babies, ready for bed.  I get to tuck these guys in every night and greet each day with them every morning.  I am truly, truly blessed.

Gratitude 14 - Ten Digits x4:  A mother's love is fierce. Today my own daughter became a mother.  In time, she will better understand such a love.  

Gratitude 13 - Kindred Spirit:  I have a friend who shares my passions.  It's surreal.  I actually took this picture with her in mind...because these orchids were everywhere, because she is the first person I thought of when I turned and felt them draw the breath from my chest.  Artist, poet, photographer...she inspires and motivates me to further explore my own artistic endeavors.  

Gratitude 12 - My Grandmother's Chocolate Pie:  This is the only recipe I have of hers.  She cooked mostly by instinct, "a little of this...a bit of that...season to taste."  This, however,  she seemed to have memorized by measurements.  Thank goodness!  Served warm or chilled, I get praises everywhere I take it.  It's too yummy to not share....refrigerated crust, 1.5 c. sugar, 2 eggs, 1 5oz can evaporated milk, 4 tbs cocoa, 1 tbs vanilla, 1/2 stick butter / mix well; pour into unbaked crust; bake at 325-350 for 40-45 min or until consistency of a well-set pumpkin pie. / Enjoy! 

Gratitude 11 - Dengue Fever: Dengue Fever is one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to me. Most of my life has been lived for others, elipsing my own wishes and dreams. But there is nothing more motivating than 3:00 a.m. in a hospital room, the fear that at any moment my capillaries might fail, that I might bleed out and die before the CDC processes my blood and rules out the hemorrhagic strain. There, with my fear and my God, I decided it was time to live.  Not just breathe in and breathe out. LIVE.  I haven’t rocked the world or turned my household upside down or quit my job.  I am, by nature, much more temperate than that. But I am living more for me than I ever have before. I'm finally living the life I should have lived all along.

Gratitude 10 - Exactly What I Need x1000:  This little guy is all boy...ball playing, four-wheeler riding, deer hunting, video-gaming, lego-building boy!  But underneath all that dirt and sweat and occasional funk beats the biggest heart I know.  I am constantly awed and amazed by my son.  He appreciates.  He thinks of others.  He sees through the mask I sometimes wear and meets me where I am, ready with a hug, an "I love you, Mom," an encouraging note, or even a small poem (because he knows I love and speak that language):
I love you.  You are like a star to me.
You fill the moon, and I love you more
than anything in the whole world,
and you shine like a diamond.

Gratitude 9 -- My Grandfather:  Those of us who know and love him best know him as Poder, because I struggled to say grandfather as a child.  It came out grandpoder. Which my mother loved because of her knowledge of Latin, and the irony of my innocent tongue. My poder sounds like the Latin word pater for father.  There is much I could say about my Poder, but today's gratitude shall focus on his influence of me.  I doubt he realizes how much HE shaped who I have become.  Here are some of the basics...

My grandfather is the reason I...prefer pepper to salt (black pepper, red pepper, ground pepper, pepper flakes); learned to drink my coffee black (because one can almost always find a cup of black coffee);  type faster than I can write (because taking office skills classes in junior high and high school would give me a marketable skill for future gainful employment); treasure my undergraduate and graduate school diplomas (because WWII interrupted his education at UGA--perhaps his greatest, personal disappointment); try, try, try to stick it out and honor my commitments, no matter how unpleasant they might become (because a man's word is all he really has to give), and last for today...my grandfather is the reason I REFUSE to believe that chivalry is dead (because at 87 years old, he still refuses to allow me to walk behind him...because without a single word, he can still intuit that I need butter for my cornbread).

Gratitude 8 -- Fortunate Find:  I went to visit my grandfather yesterday.  When I arrived, he and my mother were cleaning the garage.  There...amid the plunder...was my first bicycle!  I spent many fine summer days riding that bicycle and even finer evenings riding alongside my grandfather as he took brisk, after-work strolls.  I honestly don't know how many of those outings were to get me out of my grandmother's hair and how many were his ploy to avoid her "honey do" lists.  Either way, I'm thankful for those memories.  My bicycle outings with my grandfather...as well as walking up his legs and flipping backwards while holding his hands...and learning to ballroom dance by standing on his feet...and having him push me on my swingset...these memories are among my favorite.

Gratitude 7 -- Quality Time with My Son:  "Come play with me!" I said.  And what a good sport he was...shot after shot..until I finally got the one I wanted.  (But sometimes the test shots are just as sweet...)


Gratitude 6 -- My Not-So-Kid Sister:  When I consider people and things that make me happiest in this world, spending time with my little sister comes to mind.  She's intelligent, she's interesting, she's quirky, and she absolutely gets me...which is quite an accomplishment because few do.  Right now, she's in medical school...MY kid sister...future doctor!  But that means she's busy studying and eating and studying and going to class and studying and coming home from class and studying and sleeping when time permits and studying and scooping the cat box and (you get the idea).  Plus, she no longer lives nearby, so I miss her...especially today.  No real reason.  I just do.  So here's a shout out to my not-so-kid sister!  I love you, Sis!  Keep up the good work! I am i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-y proud of you!

Gratitude 5 -- An Afternoon Toast:  Here's to a blessed life...a husband who has stood by me for fifteen years, two beautiful children, the world's best little sister, a mother who gets me, a father who chose me, a job where I get paid for trying to make a difference, my four-legged friends, beautiful, beautiful girlfriends, an afternoon sunset and a good glass of wine.  Please excuse my dirty windows!

Gratitude 5 -- Freedom:  A couple weekends ago, I flew to DC to photograph the World War II Memorial for my grandfather, a WWII veteran.  It is a beautiful memorial.  Perhaps my favorite part, however, is the massive, arched wall of stars.  Each star on that wall represents 100 American deaths in WWII...American sons, brothers, fathers.  Unlike native Israelis or Afghanis, I think we Americans  are desensitized to the realities of war, because most of us have no need to think about war on a daily basis.    Perhaps it is because I am a public education teacher, and I consciously stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance every school day.  Perhaps it is because my grandfather is a POW, who was tortured by the Germans and came home a very different man.  But I am always mindful of those sons, brothers, fathers, and now daughters, sisters, and mothers who make sacrifices in the name of freedom.  Don't get me wrong.  I hate war.  Truly.  I sometimes naively wish world leaders would let mothers decide if we should choose war to solve conflict.  But they don't.  It is what it is.  Anyway...thank you, gentlemen... and ladies, for your integrity and for your sacrifice.

Gratitude 4 -- A Good Six Inches: Yesterday was my son's first-ever football game.   That's him in the black jersey, the one towering over his teammates.  Today I want to express gratitude for my not-so-little-man's stature.  Don't laugh!  This has been terribly stressful for me; I've put this off as long as I possibly could.  And I've intentionally avoided his pre-season practices (thanks to my understanding hubby).  We've tried soccer, and that was good.  Basketball has been great.  But football? A full-contact sport????  Yikes!  Trust me, if he would let me wrap him in bubble wrap, I would!  But once we got there, and I saw him out there on that field standing next to his teammates, I felt myself swell with pride.  My little boy doesn't seem so little any more.  I think I've grown a good six inches too!

Gratitude 3 -- "What'll Ya Have?  What'll Ya Have?"  I love, love, truly love, many things.  I love road trips...I love rainy days when I'm not driving...and I love food.  Gourmet food, comfort food, healthy food, junk food.  It doesn't really matter.  I love it all.  A few weekends ago, my mom and I took a day trip to visit my little sister.  A few hours in the car offered us quality time for which I am truly grateful.  We talked.  We laughed.  She drove.  I took pictures.  Since then, this one keeps calling me.  It's that red sign on the left, there beneath the fog, that beckons my eye.  The Varsity's chili slaw dogs  and frosted oranges are an ATL tradition.  If you have never tried them, let me tell you... they are every junk-food junkie's dream.  They are the epitome of artery-clogging, heart-stopping, slap-yo-mamma goodness!!!  M.  Mmm.  Mmmm!  We didn't get to stop that day; we were in a hurry.  I think I feel another road trip comin' on...

Gratitude 2 -- Seven Wooden Tiles:  Scrabble.  I love, love, love this game...and I love the fact that I have been blessed with two incredible children who give so selflessly of themselves and their time.  May they never forget the giggles we've shared, the times we've spent lounging outside in warm weather, huddled around our table in cold, and perched upon bar stools in countless beach condos...always with seven tiles on our trays and four-letter words at our fingertips.

Gratitude 1 -- The Cog in the Machine:  Thank goodness for those things in life that gum up the works, slow us down, and force us to stop!...just stop...ssshhhh!....and listen...to the pulse of the rat race, the pounding of a heart, and ever so faintly, ever so softly, that tinny, tiny voice inside that's saying, "Hello?  Anybody home?  Remember me?"  Because you see, I've forgotten to remember me, the cog in the machine.  I've been so busy running around town, running after my kids, running late, running out of this and that and everything in between, that I've forgotten to listen to my own inner voice.  There in the midst of all that chaos,  I've forgotten to take care of myself.  So this is me, introducing myself all over again.  Finally, after all this time!

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