Love at the board

Our last Thanksgiving BC (before cancer), Alexandria, November 2011.

With Carla on our last Thanksgiving BC (before cancer), Alexandria, November 2011.

For hearts that are kindly, with virtue and peace,
and not seeking blindly a hoard to increase;
for those who are grieving o’er life’s sordid plan;
for souls still believing in heaven and man;
for homes that are lowly with love at the board;
for things that are holy, I thank thee, O Lord!

— Walt Mason

For many of us, this Thanksgiving will be a bittersweet time as we observe the holiday without loved ones.  This year, our family feels the absence of our Daddy who worked so hard for 87 years to ensure that we would celebrate this and all days with bounty, gratitude and reverence. We honor him today with the thankfulness he instilled in each one of us, bolstered by faith and renewed by deep joy in all that is beautiful and right in our world.

One year ago (2014), our family had experienced another sudden loss shortly before Thanksgiving.  Even so, we were able to come together as a family and reflect upon those blessings that remained, and encourage one another with hope for the future.

The year before that (2013), we had a most unconventional Thanksgiving day, exhausted yet filled with thankfulness and hope.

The year before that (2012), we were reeling in the shock of Jeff’s stage IV cancer diagnosis, having received bad news followed by worse news followed by even worse news. Yet even that year, there were reasons to be thankful.  Among them were the readers of the newly-begun Defeat Despair.

I didn’t know then that a blog I started as a personal effort to stay focused on blessings amid the trials was to introduce me to wonderful people all over the world.  Though I could not know it in those early days, I would find myself three years hence with dear friends whose existence was then unknown to me, and my dear husband, my rock and surest support, would still be with us, still working full time, still defying the odds.

Thus we face another Thanksgiving Day with full hearts and a deep sense of gratitude for mercies that truly are new every morning.  May each and every one who reads these words experience love, joy, peace and many reasons to be glad.  Happy Thanksgiving!



  1. Praise God for your faithfulness. May God continue to bless your family. Monte

    • Thank you Monte. It’s wonderful to hear from you! Hope you and Carolyn are doing well. Have a wonderful Christmas season!

  2. HAPPY THANKSGIVING !!!! Julia I am thankful today and every day that I found your blog when Ron was so close to leaving me. Your words have calmed and soothed me as much as anything during this time. I pray your dear family is doing well this year. Love and Light. Cherie

    • Cherie, thank you so much. I am so glad Jeff and Ron are still with us despite many medical trials and close calls. And I’m glad you found me too. It helps me feel less alone and isolated to know others are walking this road with us. Your prayers are needed and appreciated, and I pray often for you too. “May your days be merry and bright” during this holiday season! Thanks so much for being here with us.

  3. Sheila

    Julia and dear family, when I count my blessings, I count you twice. You have made my life fuller and richer, since meeting you here on Defeat Despair. Happy Thanksgiving with much love crossing the miles! 🙏💛 Sheila

    • Thank you Sheila. You have a special place in my heart! You have been a great blessing to us. I loved the Thanksgiving photo, and especially loved that Jack managed to sneak in — what a wonderful touch. Sending you lots of love and gratitude for being such a steadfast and encouraging part of my life. ❤ ❤ ❤

  4. Today I too am grieving… it seems a common theme at this time of year.

    • I am so sorry to read that you lost your dear friend and colleague. Dr. Wathern sounds like a wonderful man, and I know his influence will live on in you and many others. Thank you for expressing your gratitude along with your sadness. Yes, this season seems inseparable from sorrow and grief along with joy and festivity. For some of us the losses are more obvious and fresh. But I think most people feel a touch of bittersweet sadness at this time of year, even if only for our recollection of childhood innocence and vulnerability. I appreciate your taking the time to be with us. I am sending you warm wishes for the sustaining comfort of loving friends and family, and happy memories to cherish.

  5. raynard

    Julia, This is my ” normal” time to be up”.. I want to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.. We were invited to my baby sister’s house around the corner. But that’s later in the day. I would of taken everyone out to eat . The last few years thats what we do now. Looking back this years was greater and new friendships and connections with other.. Just found out a few days ago, one of my late friends and former co worker daughter passed away this month..I made a connect to her fiancee thru facebook. We chatted for awhile and he said” she spoke of you often. I knew her since she was 16 and I always told her ” she was my ” other daughter”..Please keep her former finacee and his young son along with her 2 teenage daughters in prayer. This month just happens to be the 5th anniversary of their Grammy’s passing.. What I’m learning is time spent with people is more important than” things& stuff”‘ .. Cannnonball runs have slowed down. I still make “connections” thru FB and Text messages”.. (better to have something than nothing right?) Be blessed and encouraged and have a great day..

    • Raynard, this is not my normal time to be up, at least not on a day off, but I have learned to view occasional insomnia as a gift of time. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family. I think there’s a lot to be said for letting the pros do the cooking on Thanksgiving! Even when I am fixing a big dinner I still order the Turkey from the deli or elsewhere! I have NEVER cooked a Turkey in all my 59 years! I’m sorry for your friend’s loss. I will remember them in my prayers. I hope you are resting up now that your Cannonball Runs have slowed down a bit. It’s good that we can connect in so many other ways. Holiday greetings to you, Mary, Ms. Ella and your furry friends! Hope this season is full of blessings for all of you.

  6. blseibel

    Happy Thanksgivng to all. Thanksgiving does bring a myriad of rememberences. This is my first since my husband left and since the family is going to a restaurant I miss the busy prep of food but there will be memories from today. Peace be with you today Julia. Thanks to you for this blog that helps me defeat despair along with you.

    • I hope that this Thanksgiving will bring new joys to replace the former holiday activities that you are missing. During that first holiday right after Jeff was diagnosed, we didn’t do any of our usual seasonal activities, but we did enjoy the peace and quiet of having some time at home together with no pressures. It wasn’t what we were used to, but it felt right for us and the time of life we were facing. May this season be filled with joy, hope and bright promise for you. I am happy to know you are defeating despair with us here! Thanks for being part of our blog family.

  7. bobmielke

    You have played an important part in keeping me sane. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Bob, that is one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received, here or anywhere else. Thank you. I hope your holiday season is blessed with many joys and a touch of the magical excitement that we never outgrow. Thanks for being here!

      • bobmielke

        I had a good Thanksgiving with my hosts and their immediate family. They were so easy going I had no problem fitting right in.

        • They sound like my kind of people. Don’t you just love it when you can visit someone and feel that sense of welcome and belonging? I hope you will meet lots and lots of such people in your new home state!

  8. Thinking of all of you, Julia. Happy Thanksgiving. xox

    • Thank you Alys. You are often in my thoughts as well. I’m sure your surgery has meant a much slower-paced season for you, at least in some ways. I’m guessing there will be some added delights in those restrictions, however little choice you may have had in the matter. I am thankful for your friendship! Sending love and cyber hugs.

      • Thank you for your hugs, Julia. Slower paced…or maybe even snail-paced. I’m moving slowly and still fatigued which I find hard. The plus side is all the time I’ve had for reading, catching up on a backlog of emails, extra time with family and the cats, time to color, write notes and lots of extra sleep. I am really missing my mobility. I’m doing everything by the book so that I don’t set back my healing, so I’m keeping that at the forefront.

        How was your Thanksgiving, Julia?

        • Alys, our Thanksgiving Day was a good one. We had Thanksgiving dinner with a good many of our church family, and the food and fellowship were a real treat. Your “snail-paced” holiday sounds nice, too, (especially the “lots of extra sleep” 😀 ) although I’m sure I would get impatient dealing with the impaired mobility. Cheers to you for going by the book — I’m sure the doctors love it when a patient cooperates and contributes to her own healing. Here’s hoping the payoff will be tremendous.

          • I’m happy to hear you had a nice celebration, Julia. Thanks for your continued good wishes.

            • ❤ 🙂 ❤

              • Strange. WP says you commented but the area is blank.

                • Alys, I don’t know why my comment didn’t come through, unless it was because it was just a smiley face. I can’t “like” or comment anyone’s blog at all in my usual browser and I’ve never known why — I have to close Chrome out and open Internet Explorer if I want to comment and “like” other people’s blogs, which is very frustrating. I’ve tried to find a solution online but despite hours of searching, clearing cache and cookies and all the usual steps, it still won’t work. I know I’m not the only one, because many people have emailed me to say that they tried to comment on my blog and couldn’t find a way to get it through. Frustrating!

                  • That really is frustrating, Julia. I’ve heard similar complaints about Chrome, though have to say I used to have problems with Explorer. I mostly use Firefox or Safari. It’s all so individual. Thanks for the tips.

                    • I’ve used Chrome, IE and Firefox, and none was without problems. I may go back to Firefox because I think my problems with it were related to malware. But on the whole, though computers can be infinitely frustrating, I’m still grateful we have them. Their advantages continue to amaze me.

                    • It’s a love/hate relationship to be sure. Computers are amazing tools, but they can drive you up the wall when a) they don’t work and for me b) you don’t know why. I wish I was a lot more savvy, but at the same time, I have little interest in learning. I just want it to work.

                    • Alys, isn’t it funny how almost every joy in our lives has another side that can also cause frustration? But something about computers is especially infuriating. Remember the old days of “ABORT, RETRY, FAIL?” We should have seen it all coming, but most of us are so dependent on computers now– and thankful for what they make possible– that we just have to deal with it. But if you want some comic relief, next time you’re angry at your computer, go to You Tube and do a “computer rage” search. Watching all these meltdowns is psychological catharsis!

                    • So true. It’s part of the human condition. Our kids (and spouses) can get on our last nerve, yet we would throw ourselves in front of a bus to save them.

                      Sometimes I feel like my computer is another “person”. That’s how intimately it has become part of our lives. As I recover from surgery, I’ve done shopping, banking, donating, reading and writing, all while tucked under a blanket with my foot elevated. You can order a pizza, or even a fancy meal, and have it delivered to your door, also online. I’ve organized all my digital photos, bought postage stamps for our holiday cards and literally warmed my lap with the heat of the computer. It’s all quite remarkable for a woman that never touched a keyboard till she was 26.

                      Thanks for the YouTube tips.

                    • WOW Alys, I think it’s remarkable for anyone to be able to say “I’ve organized all my digital photos” no matter what the circumstances! As one who has tens of thousands of them, it’s not for lack of effort that mine remain only partially organized. The technology keeps changing; my exhaustive efforts to organize them many years ago on a computer running Vista and Photoshop Elements three or four are now obsolete. Some of my DVD backup copies won’t open, including the one where I had backed up over 500 painstakingly digitized slides that I scanned using a borrowed scanner that is no longer available to me, and the other copies were lost to a computer crash (mine) and a now-bankrupt online storage company that “lost” mine and hundreds of others before they (not surprisingly) went out of business. So even the seemingly obsessive three backup copies failed me. See: SOMETIMES I HATE COMPUTERS, above.

                      I do think that part of the computer’s ability to infuriate us is the artificial intelligence angle, and the fact that we interact with them in increasingly human ways. They begin to seem alive. I first worked with computers in 1978 when the bank where I was a teller transitioned over to (DOS-based) computerized records — no more stamping checks and manually toting up credits and debits at the end of the day. As with the airline switch from paper tickets to computer ones, my co-workers and I HATED it at first, but soon got so accustomed to it that we felt helpless and frustrated when they went down and we had to go back to the manual operations, which by then seemed primitive and agonizingly slow. Even in those days, it felt at times as if I was talking to the machine, even with a black screen or green screen with text-only interface. Even more bizarre is the fact that my Roomba sometimes seemed like it was a living creature (before it bit the dust, pun intended). Drew once remarked “isn’t it amazing how a little round disk can come to seem as if it has a personality?” It’s funny and sometimes even a little bit scary. Isaac Asimov was right!

                    • Julia, what a nightmare! I can relate to some of that, too. I had our home movies transferred to “state of the art video tapes” in the day. They set them to horrible music and they are un-editable. I did not save the original super 8 film reals. Head slap!

                      I did transfer all my negatives to DVD’s at Target, then uploaded them to my computer, then saved them to Google storage. So…I have three versions of the first 20 years. I recently sent my mom and dad’s photo ablums to be scanned in entirety to a friends small business. Those are also saved to a cloud account as well as they digital version. And I will always save the originals of those, too.

                      We named our Roomba “Chibi Robot” after a kids game. Then it broke. Mike repaired it. It broke again. Now I can’t be bothered. I’m in love with my Dyson stick vacuum. It covers two rooms before the battery runs out. Then I pop it in for a recharge and move on to something else. Lately I scoot around in a mobility chair and only vacuum what shows: cat crumbs, dirt clumps, food particles. When I’m exhausted, I’m done.

                      I love your story about the airlines.

                    • Regarding the photo archives, I hope your three backup copies serve you more reliably than mine did. Sometimes I think my own resistance to getting the organization and archiving done (AGAIN) is partly related to some subconscious drive to remind myself I MUST learn to LET GO more than I currently do. Memories are such a bittersweet indulgence sometimes. But I would never want to be without them, and they are also useful and instructive if we allow them to be so.

                      Hmmmm, a cordless vacuum sounds like a great fantasy to me. But I’m still waiting for the robotic housekeeper such as the one the Jetsons had. I love the idea of scooting around and vacuuming only what shows — but even more, I like the sentence: “When I’m exhausted, I’m done.” Sounds like a great quote for Defeat Despair!! 😀 Love and hugs to you.

  9. Rene

    This was a different Thanksgiving for us. Both boys were gone, so we worked at a community outreach event taking food boxes to people’s cars. The line didn’t end until the food ran out. I was humbled by the numbers taking advantage of the services available (dentist, cosmetology, bicycle repair), as well as the many who brought elderly neighbors along for the food. I think this will be a regular part of our celebration from now on (though I will remember to get more sleep the night before).

    • Rene, isn’t it great to break away from routine a bit and do something different? We worked at the homeless shelter one Thanksgiving a few years ago, and it is one of my favorite memories. From the guests and staff at the shelter, I learned a lot about having a thankful heart. I hope you are able to make it a tradition. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  10. Julia,
    As we go through life there are many who cross our paths. The best we can say of anyone is that I am better for having known you.
    That, I can say of you.

    • Alan, thank you so much! That means a lot to me. Years ago I decided it was a pretty good goal in life to try to leave each person I met better off in some small way. I feel that I have failed at that far more than I have succeeded, but the kindness of people such as you gives me the encouragement to keep trying! 🙂

      • Julia, you are quite welcome. And I would wager that you successes far out number your failures.
        Failure can only be assured when one stops trying.

        • Thank you Alan — it’s a good thing to keep in mind when I get discouraged.

  11. I’m sorry I’m late to the table but hope it was all wonderful and happy this year. Trails are part of life that make it even more important to look at the wonders still in it. Wishing you the best holiday season ever. Giant hugs. M

    • Thanks Marlene, I’m usually a latecomer myself so no apology needed! Sending you some giant hugs right back! Have a great week.

  12. HarryS

    This is such a wonderful blog site.
    I just noticed there are no pictures of Grady posted since March 2014.
    PS I love the concept of defeating despair.
    By the way, Rabbi Eckstein posted a wonderful reflection this morning:

    • Harry, I’m so happy you like the blog! I have tons of Grady photos, but don’t ever get around to posting them. I’ll try to post some soon. He will have a brother soon! Thanks for sharing the link to that beautiful devotion from Rabbi Eckstein. It’s so true that happiness seems to come more easily when we focus on what we CAN do and quit worrying about what anyone else is or isn’t doing. I am glad you share our goal of defeating despair.

  13. Megan

    What a great photo and walk down memory lane for the last several Thanksgivings! Drew observed that this Thanksgiving wasn’t very relaxing, but hopefully we’ll celebrate more Thanksgivings in this home, and we won’t be moving in at the same time!

    Also: happy birthday to you and Jeff!

    • Thanks Megan, we loved the Skype tonight. Being a long-distance Grandmother is much easier when you can connect face to face. Our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers would be amazed and so happy for us. Congratulations on your beautiful new home…things will get easier as you get settled. Thanks for the birthday gifts too!

  14. LB

    Julia, I’ve been absent from your blog (and my own!) but please know that you’ve not been absent from my heart. My thoughts frequently turn to you, sending strength and hugs.
    This post recaps the challenges you have faced, and that you continue to face. Thankfully,
    the woman you are assures that you are surrounded by love.
    Take care, my friend

    • Thank you, Laurie — I totally understand and have been mostly absent from WP myself, far more than I wish. You have been much on my mind, especially the past month, and your presence in my thoughts is a source of strength and support. I hope this season is a time of great joy and relaxation for you!

  15. Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for you and for your friendship, too! I’m trying something new, below. Google keeps sending me suggestions for photo “enhancements” (they aren’t always improvements) and this one cracked me up, because it really seemed like we were gabbing a mile a minute, and this “animation” of our selfies in the woods (while not flattering) sure is funny!
    Love and Thanks to you, my friend!

    • Wow, I wonder why Google doesn’t send me these tips? That animation is a brilliant excuse for me to come out of the “here’s how I look without makeup” closet! What fun! But the real scene-stealer is the lovely background. I love that little trail. No wonder we are smiling! Thanks for sending me this funny clip which brought back happy memories.

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