Story Submitted by Amy C. Ragg

My, how things can change in the span of a year! This time last year, my family and I were at the hospital wishing, hoping, and praying that my father would survive the Sepsis and multi-system organ failure he was battling after post-surgical complications. Mom and Middle Sister took the day shifts at the hospital, Baby Sister, who flew in from Seattle, and I took the night shifts. Machines beeped. Tubes drained. IV’s pumped. We watched. We waited. We laughed. We cried. We reminisced. We drank gallons of coffee, tea, and water. We ate, usually without tasting. We thanked the nurses. We thanked the doctors. We thanked the techs. We brought food and made gifts for them. We wrote glowing commendations for human resources. We stepped away from the outside world. We circled together like elephants protecting their young from predators. We had one job: help Dad get better.

We spent Thanksgiving in the hospital. We ate Thanksgiving dinner in the cafeteria in shifts. That meal, we tasted, and it was delicious. I ate Thanksgiving dinner for all three meals that day and was overwhelmed with gratitude each time. I was even treated to one of those meals by the wonderful woman who worked at the check-in desk who we all came to consider family.

One week after Thanksgiving, when my beloved ended up in the same hospital on a different floor, the experience was surreal. I found myself popping between floors, grateful that the others were with Dad so I could be with her. I was grateful for the quiet corner of the full-to-capacity hospital where I could sleep in a chair next to her bed. I was grateful for the same doctor who treated Dad to be her doctor, as well. I was grateful when she recovered quickly. I was grateful when Dad began to recover. All in all, Dad was in the hospital for about a month. He was finally released to go home on Christmas Eve. Their neighbors met us in the driveway with dinner. The gratitude washed over all of us. This year, everything is different. Everything. Thanksgiving will be a drive-by and drop off food occasion. Middle Sister is at the house with my parents. Baby Sister is back home in Seattle with her husband and Little Monster. My beloved and I will be at our home. It will be different, but it will be safe. We will be safe. We will be together by phone or Zoom. We will be together in our hearts. And we will be grateful. Always.

Story Submitted by Barry P. Silber

My Gratitude –

When I think of gratitude as I approach my 69th year on this planet, I am struck by the words of the late, great actor and war hero, Harold Russell. Mr. Russell, who lost both arms in World War 2, went on to the win Best Supporting Actor for his role as a disabled veteran in the film, “The Best Years of Our Lives”. He said, “it’s not what you have lost, but what you have left, and what you do with it”. The message is straightforward but inspirational. When I think of my advancing age, I think of the friends and family that I have lost. However, what is not lost, or you could say what I have left, are the memories and how these loved ones impacted my life. Of course, I also have friends and family who are with me and continue to enrich my existence. So, what have I done with the memories of loved ones that have passed away? I celebrate them, just as I celebrate those who thankfully, are still in my life. Recently, I suffered a loss of a different kind: my daughter, son-in-law, and our two young grandchildren moved 1,200 miles away. At first, I was overwhelmed with feelings of grief, despite knowing rationally that this move would improve their lives. I also knew that there would be trips up north, and frequent FaceTiming. However, I realized that I had to do something else not only to deal with my sadness but to make these family members understand their importance in my life. So, I created, wrote, and published a Children’s Book, Zayde and Me, which emphasized my special relationship with my Grandson, Richard. I guess the expression of gratitude can take many forms. With the ongoing pandemic, Thanksgiving just won’t be the same for many families. Yes, it will be just my wife, Muffie, and me this year, but with a planned Zoom session to our extended family. Challenging times call for innovative solutions. With our tradition of beginning dinner with a statement of what we are thankful for, this year I will thank Mr. Russell for his quote, which guides me every day.

Story Submitted by Jim Webb

What Am I Thankful For?

I am thankful for the health, wealth, and wisdom that I have been blessed with.
The health that I maintain in spite of myself because my wife stays on top of it.
The wealth because I am motivated to earn and save by the examples set from childhood by my mother and reinforced by my wife.
The wisdom imparted on me by my grandmother is some of my earliest and most cherished memories.
On the professional side, I am thankful for Karen, “my external hard drive” and Deb “The Web Wrangler”.
I am simply thankful for all of the women in my life who encourage, motivate, and inspire me.

Story Submitted by Young Starr

In Kindness- Over the past few years I have known Debbie who has helped me beyond expectation within her own time. During very difficult times (both challenging and unknown at the same time)-Debbie has ALWAYS been there to help and assist me even when I could not afford to pay for her services. The constant reminder she would bring to me on how special I truly am, has allowed me to overcome my grief and struggles in an instant. I am so THANKFUL to Debbie because she is a rare GEM. Kindness is revealed in our acts as humans no matter what our color, race, and or gender. Debbie has allowed me to KNOW that I too am important. I Salute Debbie and am so THANKFUL to her!

Story Submitted by Vicki Bills

The saying tells us to count our blessings. It’s 2020, the year of COVID, thousands dying alone, to mask or not to mask, parents homeschooling, unemployment, sports played in a bubble, colleges e-learning, meetings on Zoom. Blessings?

I guess some blessings would include having time to organize, read, binge watch tv, chat on Facebook, learn a new hobby, etc. My adult son lives with me, and we thought it was great to have someone else to have with us to ride out the pandemic. Gratitude for a companion wore thin at times. You’re going to wear that shirt in public? What are we having for dinner? When am I doing laundry next? Do we have to watch that show again? It became almost a curse.

But then a true blessing appeared. (A true blessing is a good fortune that seems to involve–however small–divine intervention.) In early April during the rainy season, a mama cat chose to deliver her litter of kittens outside our screened porch in the plants. To be hospitable, we opened the door, provided water and food, and made a comfy box for her and her kittens to shelter.

On the third day, Mama cat moved all of the kittens but one. The Humane Society gave us advice and supplies because we had to bottle feed this little furball with closed eyes every few hours, even during the night.

Little by little, she grew, opened her eyes, answered to her name Penny, wobbled on tiny legs, “meeped” at us, and snuggled on our laps. She made us laugh as she tripped over her own feet or fell into her water dish. It felt like we were seeing some ordinary event that seemed extraordinary to us. She apparently thought I was her mother and still follows me everywhere.

But the story only gets better when, two weeks later, a half-sister from an earlier liter cried outside during a storm. We were on our way to give her to the shelter when my son named her Socks. You can’t give away a pet after you name her, so we adopted her too.

They keep us laughing all the time chasing each other, running over and under the furniture, learning new tricks, and demanding ice cubes when we open the freezer. Then they chase the ice cubes around looking like the Bolts on ice. If they are tussling with each other and one meows in pain, we call their names and ask what they are doing. They just look at us with their paws around each other’s necks like they are being innocent.

They have changed the way the isolation has been for us. They peek out at us from a hidden space between books. They try to hide everywhere, like the dryer or dishwasher. They watch tv and put their paws on the screen to follow the action, especially when the Bolts played. Although we rescued them from their situations, they rescued us from feeling isolated and missing socialization. We definitely have made two friends for life. We’ve ordered toys and treats to amuse them even if they love to play in a plain bag or toss our socks in the air. The love they give us and elicit from us is a wonderful, unexpected experience. Yeah, I’d say they are a blessing.

Story Submitted by Caryn Willens

At age 67 I began training in a 200 hour Yoga Teacher training curriculum 🧎‍♀️. Not so unusual you say? How about this…I didn’t know how to do yoga! I just woke up one morning & decided to become a CYT ( Certified Yoga Teacher). So, there I am in a class of 18, 19 & 20 somethings who were proficient in movement & yoga! WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO??? Well, I did it. And here I am CELEBRATING 🤸‍♀️ my accomplishment at age 70, on the beach in Del Mar, CA leading my friends in a yoga class at sunset in front of the Pacific Ocean. You’re only as young as you think you are!

Story Submitted by Deborah Bostock-Kelley

Zen has been difficult to come by this year. But I’ve discovered that going back to my roots with song lyrics and poetry, online choose-your- own-adventure books for adults, coloring in my adult f-it coloring book, and reading my dad’s three-part novel has been able to help with stress and make me feel more relaxed. I’ve also discovered YouTube. Before the pandemic, I used YouTube to look up a song or get help with a website issue. Now, I’ve found so many interesting/odd people my husband and I follow. Who would have thought we’d enjoy watching kids eat foreign food or Irish people try spicy candy or watch people who watch people and react, but it happened. I’m hoping Zen will come by means of theatre in 2021.

Story Submitted by Darouny Bounsengsay

Zen has been especially hard to find this year – I’m sure for all involved in the chaos that was 2020. It’s taken root now in a couple of different places in and situations in my life and I’m thankful I’ve been able to find it. Quarantine, in a sense, was a personal blessing in disguise. (These words are not being written to lessen the severity of the global and local lasting effects of Covid-19. I assure you I have taken it seriously.) When the news first broke about the pandemic, I was working full-time at a restaurant. Just a few short weeks after, I worked my last day before the world shut down. Zen? Relaxation? Calm? Peace? I had no understanding of what those words meant at that time. No idea they could apply in such a time of chaos. Didn’t think I could find any of those things while I was stressing about unemployment payments, bills, food, feeding Ellie – any and all things I could stress, I was. Bridd and I were laid off together and for the first couple of days we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We had become so accustomed to constantly moving, working, or socializing every day that when we had to stop it felt like the human equivalent of Newton’s first law of motion – A body in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. We didn’t have zen. Shoot sometimes it felt like we barely had time to breathe between our restaurant jobs, brewery jobs, family, friends, and general life activities. It was a great blessing to be able to settle in and make our house a home. Bridd and I were hardly home and it was unfortunate the only way to get us to stop and even attempt to relax was because it was forced upon us. I also didn’t have zen with restaurant. I was unhappy and no longer loved the job. Taking a break, albeit a forced one, actually brought that joy and peace back. I focused more on what I missed about the job there than what I loathed and hated. Funny enough, I found my zen at work during quarantine. I am ironically writing this from my second job as I pull 6 day work weeks balancing a 9-5 position and serving on the weekends. Quarantine and any zen we had found seems like it was eons ago rather than just a couple of months ago, but here I am back into the thick of it with a new focus on finding those moments in the day that are quiet and reflective, so I can pause and try to find the zen of the day. To those of you who feel like you never stop moving, your zen is out there, but please try not to let it be a global shut down that helps you find it.

Story Submitted by Suzanne S. Austin-Hill

Between retirement and the pandemic, I find myself with a lot of free time these days. Plenty of time to clean, but only if prompted by a still, small voice (who historically doesn’t speak up very often). One day in April, I was led to organize one particular shelf of a unit in my home library. I found a framed photo of Cathee, a dancer-teacher sister-friend of mine. Only after I finished said organization would I allow myself to email her. In her reply she included a link, , and told me to type in VIRTUAL to access a variety of exercise classes, some of which she was teaching. As I went to my computer, I thought of the times I completed the information survey at a doctor’s office and had to “fess up” that I exercised maybe 0-1 times a week – Non-Impact Aerobics (NIA) with Gail – and she moved in March, then the facility closed due to COVID. Well that facility, Optum (formerly DaVita) is now offering virtual exercise classes, too. Go to The pandemic provides no room for excuses as to why I can’t exercise. I do NIA with Gail every Wednesday morning and a mid-day Wednesday DESKERCISE mini-class with Cathee. And I’ve always wanted to study Tai Chi and Martial Arts, so Steve, another one of the Instructors at Baptist, is helping me to do just that on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. This is yet another reason why I’m so glad I listen to that voice!

Story Submitted by Loretta Beckman

I am a fulltime caregiver. Paul, my strong handsome husband is no longer able to care for himself due to a degenerative neurological disease, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. My life was once filled with great conversations, teaching full time, managing projects, going on vacations, lots of socializing with friends, long walks and Yoga classes. In the midst of my very different life now, I have something that is a life saver to me.

Hatha Yoga is my salvation. Every day as I take my first deep restorative breath and feel my muscles relax and I quiet my busy mind, I feel decadent. Yoga time is exclusively focused on me.

Yoga adds so much to my life. It is my chance to be in control. It helps to restore my health. If I have a headache it reduces my pain. As I progress through my practice every move is beneficial, taking the kinks from my neck and shoulders, limbering my joints and alleviating arthritis pain. I maintain balance to stay centered, calm and strong. As I move through my vinyasa I have the energy and fluidity in my limbs to feel confident in both body and mind.

In many ways Yoga is a motivator. I’m such a guru. I spend hours looking through books and at videos for new moves that I can master which brings me a feeling of accomplishment that is often missing during my day. Additionally, part of my practice is about routine and purpose, helping to bring some normalcy to an otherwise unpredictable day/life.

Yoga is my salvation and my strength both mentally and physically. I am blessed with the ability to continue practicing my poses everyday. You are a reliable friend my prana.

Namaste