Thursday, December 8, 2011

Giving Thanks

I know I have been the world's worst blogger these days, and I know it has been 2 weeks since Thanksgiving, but I just HAVE to write a post about the Thanksgiving holiday as it is my most favorite. 

As you probably know, I have a very big family.  We are close knit and get together on every holiday at my grandmother's house in Palestine.  Growing up, while my grandpa, Jiddo (grandpa in Arabic), was still around, he would ask that all five of his kids and their families be present at Thanksgiving so that they entire family could be together and the families could go to their separate ways on Christmas if needed (to the in-law's).  Thanksgiving was very important to him as I think his family is what he was most thankful for.  I think I have carried his tradition and meaning behind Thanksgiving.

Our holiday starts off with a Thanksgiving Eve party the night before Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle's house in Palestine.  We normally have lots of food and drinks and visit with those we have not seen in a while (close friends and extended family).  Here are a few pictures I took at this year's party of family and friends from all over:

Normally, the party goes on for a while and ends up with the uncles and boy cousins playing poker.  However, I guess age is catching up to them these days as they now end up turning in pretty early.  This year, a few of my cousins and I went out to the local bar, The Shelton Gin, after the party.  Look who I ran into from high school in Texarkana:

That's right - Ben and Bailey Idom!  It was funny seeing them there since I haven't seen them since high school in 2002.  They are working at Lakeview Church Camp located right outside of Palestine (I went to camp there when I was young).

On Thanksgiving Day, we went over to my grandma's for our big lunch.  I guess you could say that our family is pretty much centered around food.  Maybe because we are Lebanese and our family grew up in the produce business?  We eat the traditional turkey and dressing, but we also eat lots of Lebanese/Arabic food.  The menu this year included kibbeh (a dish made of bulgur and chopped meat), cabbage rolls (meat and rice rolled inside boiled cabbage leaves cooked in garlic and lemon juice), grape leaves (meat and rice rolled inside grape leaves from the vine and cooked in garlic and lemon juice), meat pies (flat bread pies with spicy meat toppings), and okra and rice (okra and lamb meat cooked in tomato sauce and served on top of rice).  Our family craves this type of food 24/7 so we always get excited in anticipation with this meal.  The aunt's prepare this food weeks in advance as it takes lots of time.  In fact, this year, I helped with a few of the items.  Here is a look at the spread:

Then, of course, after the meal, we all sit around and watch the Dallas Cowboys game.  We also draw names for Christmas (to see who you have to buy a present for).  Since there are 15 of us first cousins, we have to draw names or else it would cost a fortune to buy gifts for everyone.  Normally, the aunt's would draw names according to the number of kids they have, but since me and another cousin are now married, and we are all getting a little older, us, cousins, draw the names for each other.

Mark's mom is still up north in Wisconsin taking care of the family estate so we did not do Thanksgiving with them that big this year.  We did have lunch with his dad and sister the day after Thanksgiving at Ojeda's, one of their favorite Mexican restaurants in Dallas.  After lunch, Mark and I went to Home Depot to pick out a Christmas tree.  A real Christmas tree is another tradition of mine.  I love the process of picking one out.  Home Depot also makes it easy as they cut and smooth the trunk for you, wrap it up, and tie it up to the top of the car. 

Now that I have told you a little bit about my Thanksgiving, I want to take a few minutes to talk about what I am thankful for this year.  This is a subject I do not talk about much, but now that the holidays are here, and things seem to be looking positive, I figured it's time for me to say a few words about the situation.  My brother, Jeffrey, has battled a drug addition for several years now.  Being we are such a close knight family, you can imagine the toll this takes on our family.  My brother has the biggest heart; anyone will tell you that he is such joy to be around.  However, this addiction got to the best of him and he has been in lots of trouble (drug charges).  The result is prison, a rehab program in prison to be exact, for those that have addictions.  We were fortunate that he was placed in this rehab sector of prison called Safe P (Johnston Unit) in Winnsboro, TX.  He has to stay there for six months.  This is blessing number one as he could have gone to "regular" prison with a mixture of all kinds of criminals.  This rehab program encourages the inmates to be accountable for their actions.  They are there to help themselves and their colleagues be better people and to get to the bottom of their problems.  They are given privelidges as times goes on...things that you and I take for granted like working out, eating certain foods, purchasing stamps, eating certain foods, etc.  After a month or two into the program, they allowed my brother to get a job (he does not get paid of course, but it is something to do with his time and to gain work ethic and appreciation).  He is responsible for the warden's yard.  He mows it, gardens, and does other landscaping jobs around the facility.  He was also given the privelige of playing the guitar at chapel service on the weekends.  He is a very gifted guitar player, so it is great he is able to showcase and envelop his talent.  The second blessing is that I think his mind is finally clear and he has strengthened his relationship with God.  Going to visit him, you can tell that he is learning and realizing his strengths and weaknesses.  He has hope for what lies ahead of him, and he is putting his best foot forward in trying to live life the sober way.  He has been in Safe P since August, and he told me last weekend that this is the longest time he has been sober in years.  I really hope he has the strength and courage to fight the demons and temptations when he gets out and to live a normal life.  I am so proud of him and his progression in this program.  He also turns to the bible and even gives me enlightenment in his letters he writes me.  Even though Jeffrey wasn't present this Thanksgiving, I felt like he was with us more than ever.  I love him and look forward to the future having him back as my brother.  I am so thankful that he is still with us and turning a new leaf in his mind, body, and soul.  Please continue your thoughts and prayers as I know that is part of his recovery and it is much appreciated.  If you are interested in writing him, let me know and I will get the information to you. 

I would love to hear what you were the most thankful for this season.  Happy belated Thanksgiving!

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