Family, holidays, Opinion, Uncategorized, writing

Thanksgiving in All Seasons

The quiet of the Vltava River in the fall

For us, like for many, 2021 has been an extraordinarily difficult year. There were times when it seemed that for as life-altering as 2020 was, 2021 somehow managed to top it in terms of the challenges that we faced. It didn’t help that as we ushered 2020 off into the history books, never to be lived out again, we had the expectation that nothing could be as bad as what we had faced going into the new decade.

Thing is, the world’s problems don’t magically go away just because the calendar changes. As 2021 wore on, and the Covid19 pandemic ate up even more of our lives, stealing away from school years and childhood milestones, stacking up losses due to the virus itself as well as the related social and political implications, it was easy to see that coming out of a pandemic- if that’s even what the stage we are/were in could be called- would prove even more complicated. It turns out it is easier to shut a society down than to restart it, or so it seems.

And we had losses. Personally, professionally, societally- there were losses. Some of those I have shared throughout my Covid-related postings, and some will be a story we tell when the time is right. To start off 2021, my father passed away after a long, terminal condition. We knew it would have to happen eventually, but knowing that did not take away from the sting of the loss. My first major purchase of the new year was a casket. And it would seem at the moment that life couldn’t get any more painful. Well, just wait a literal day. There was more coming.

Riverside National Cemetery

And yet, even in the darkest of days, while the storm raged both inside and out, there were blessings. In my journal, I created a chart for myself to look back on over the last 12 months. I had been feeling angry and frustrated with life, and I wanted to remind myself of the blessings, all while acknowledging the struggles.

MonthCons and crapGood stuff
June 2021Health strugglesSami promotes from eighth grade
Emily graduated high school
Part of my sample chart.


There were some months where the list of cons was longer than the good stuff from my limited perspective. But in the good stuff was some really big things. And even the cons were tempered with things that we could be thankful for. My father passed away, and we couldn’t even see him before he died, thanks to Covid and its associated restrictions. But we were blessed to be able to truly celebrate his life, he is in heaven, and he left us a legacy of love and good memories. There was nothing easy about being an educator- whether a teacher or an administrator- these past two school years, and yet we were able to get our students back to school. And while there are still many issues that are being addressed, the breadth of which probably will not be fully known for the next five to ten years, the joyful angst of the kids returning to campuses for the first time in a year-and-a-half was extraordinary. I am grateful to see my kids back in class.

First day of school 2021-2022

I am thankful for the adventures of this year. I not only got to watch my kid graduate high school, I got to give a speech at her graduation and embarrass her a bit- probably the highest honor the parent of a teenager can have. She made it to university in Prague, and it is from Prague that I write this post. We were able to visit her, and spend her birthday here as a family, and while the Czech Republic doesn’t celebrate American Thanksgiving, we will be later today as a family. Sami started high school, and even behind a mask, she was smiling that first day, as were many of her friends. The kids are growing up and even with all of the challenges of being a teenager during a global pandemic- and boy howdy, there are challenges- we are still blessed to be a part of it. Life indeed goes on, even as the storm rages, and even in the dark times, there is still much to be thankful for.

First day of school 2021

That’s life. The difficulties are often mixed in with moments of joy, bright spots of laughter, laced with love, and tempered by grace. And I have also learned that there is always hope. Be well. I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving 2021.

If you are struggling, please reach out to your clergy, counselor, or even a trusted friend. Honest talk over coffee can be a huge help when with the right person. There are many resources available in the Los Angeles Area.


Photos by the Haas family, except photo 2.
Photo 2 by K. Hua.

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