Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Month: November 2022

This detail from Norman Rockwell’s iconic “Freedom from want” painting shows Grandma setting a beautifully-roasted turkey into place at the head of a bountiful Thanksgiving table. A smiling and happy white family, representing a wide variety of ages from the patriarch next to Grandma, through a range of adults and children, down to a little blonde girl of about six.

A Genuine American Thanksgiving

By Jan S. Gephardt

Here in the United States, it’s time for another celebration of our national Thanksgiving holiday. Today is supposedly a time to reflect upon the blessings in our lives and be grateful. But if you want the honest truth, that’s not what most Americans do. Forget Norman Rockwell. What does a Genuine American Thanksgiving look like today?

Americans being Americans, the holiday’s origins and purpose, as well as myths surrounding its traditions, are pretty murky. Digging deeply into its actually-rather-convoluted history Is dangerous if you have staked your identity on idealistic innocence and self-serving myths.

This detail from Norman Rockwell’s iconic “Freedom from want” painting shows Grandma setting a beautifully-roasted turkey into place at the head of a bountiful Thanksgiving table. A smiling and happy white family represents a wide variety of ages from the patriarch next to Grandma through a range of adults and children, down to a little blonde girl of about six.
Here’s a detail from Norman Rockwell’s iconic Thanksgiving painting, Freedom from want, 1943, one of four in the artist’s “Four Freedoms” Series. I can’t help noticing how predominantly white everything is, from the tablecloth and plates through the people. (Image courtesy of Artsper Magazine).

A little Thanksgiving Mythology

No, I’m not going to launch into a history lesson. Others have been there before me, including the article I cited above. As for me, I was stuffed full of all the traditional myths when I went to elementary school in Rolla, Missouri in the 1960s. The Pilgrims and the Indians. The happy story about two groups of unlike people coming together over shared bounty. All of it.

I made “handprint turkeys” and cut out Pilgrim hats from construction paper. I participated in a Thanksgiving play, for which my mother was supposed to make me an “Indian squaw” costume (on a day’s notice). I believe I probably had checked off all the cliché-boxes of “Genuine American Thanksgiving Mythology for Entitled Little White Kids” before I hit the ripe old age of nine.

But when I look at the holiday from any point of view other than one of white privilege, it’s easy to see that BS for what it really is. The holiday’s evolution is a triumph of that evergreen-and-currently-faddish American pastime, promoting “revisionist” (more properly “negationist”) history. I would like to hope that by now most of us understand whitewashing the past like that is an extremely problematical aspect of the holiday.

I would like to hope that, but I know better. Because that whole mythology is still an “inerrant truth” of a Genuine American Thanksgiving for a frightening number of white folks.

Above a black-and-white version of Jean Leon Gerome Ferris’ white supremacist painting, “The First Thanksgiving, 1621” are the words, “Thanksgiving is a special time to remember all the things we have.” Below it, the words continue: “And forget about the genocide that was committed to get it.”
The painting parodied in this meme is Jean Leon Gerome Ferris’ The First Thanksgiving, 1621. It was painted in 1912 during an era of rising white supremacy. Many thanks to Reddit for the image.

Genuine American Thanksgiving Food Hypocrisy

We Americans famously subvert the meaning of what we’re supposed to be celebrating on Thanksgiving. Even in my own family, people often seem to feel that the idea of actually talking about what we’re thankful for as a part of grace before the meal is somehow too “cutesy” or “cringy.” Perhaps these normally-liberal people think it would be “virtue signaling”? Whatever, the few times I’ve tried to entertain the thought I’ve been shot down (and not only by the kids when they were teenagers).

Instead, we (as a family and also as a nation) have often turned our Genuine American Thanksgiving into a festival of gluttony. When feelings will be hurt if everyone doesn’t try at least a little bit of everything, the pressure is on. It’s reasonable to enjoy a chance to eat well at what is essentially a harvest festival. What part of “party” doesn’t mean eating special foods, drinking festive drinks, and making merry? But in our appearance-obsessed culture being fat is a sin (or at least considered to be in very bad taste).

Unfortunately, the definition of “fat” is in the highly critical eye of the beholder . . . who will then feel free to judge harshly, no matter how much they themselves weigh. Guilt trips lie in wait like hidden landmines for many of us throughout our Genuine American Thanksgiving. And on into the rest of the holiday season, too.

This image is a composite of two memes. One speaks to the issue of fattening side dishes: a picture of a beautifully-staged lasagna with one piece cut out, and the words “If you don’t eat Lasagna on Thanksgiving, you are not Celebrating Properly.” The other shows an enormous table piled high with food. At the top it says: “My Mom:” (indicating all the food). Underneath the picture it says, “Me: But there’s only gonna be 4 people coming.”
Excess is a Thanksgiving tradition, it seems – at least, for those who can afford it. (See credits below).

Family at Thanksgiving

It’s no surprise that Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season can present serious mental health challenges. Traditionally, a Genuine American Thanksgiving comes with a heaping side-helping of stress.

In many American families, Thanksgiving is one of only a few times each year that relatives may see each other. Family members who may live hundreds or even thousands of miles away from each other don’t have many face-to-face opportunities. But on Thanksgiving they often brave modern air travel, snarled traffic, cataclysmic weather events, and more, simply to get there.

Then they crowd around one table (or perhaps the “adults’ table” and the “kids’ table”) in a cramped, overheated place to eat mass quantities of food. Long-haul travelers may be time-pressured and jet-lagged. The cook/cooks are probably exhausted and high-strung from the pressure of fixing all the fancy stuff so it’s ready and at peak tastiness on time. The smaller kids are probably off-schedule, wound up, and sugar-fueled by treats and snacks.

This image is a composite of three memes. The first on the left is split into a top and bottom picture. The top picture shows the T-Rex from “Jurassic Park” on a rampage, bellowing in the rain. The words on it say: “Mom getting ready for Thanksgiving.” In the lower picture we see the T-Rex toy from “Toy Story,” smiling in front of a wallpaper design of fluffy clouds in blue sky. The words on it say: “Mom when people arrive.” In the second meme, a child screams in fear when seven green parrots land on their red hoodie. The caption says, “Me at Thanksgiving with my family.” Around the screaming child are the questions: “What are you doing with your life?” “Did you gain weight?” “You’re drinking? It’s 11 a.m.” “When are you getting married?” “Are you even dating anyone?” and “Are you sure you’re not a lesbian?”
The third image shows a sketch of a young person looking at their smartphone. Above the drawing, it reads, “Happy Thanksgiving to someone checking their phone in the bathroom to escape their family.”
The memes are funny because the pressures are real. (See credits below).

A few Words about Exchanging Words

Emotions are already topsy-turvy, so now it’s time to talk to each other, right? I mean, what could possibly go wrong, after that setup? But what can you say? What can you ask? This part can end badly, depending on one’s mental preparation. Expectations of older relatives, based on standards from their youth, may not mesh well with the lived experiences of younger ones. Sibling rivalries and other past disagreements can surface under the stress. Boundaries can get trampled. Tastes may clash. Understandings often fail.

My own family has not been immune to this. For what seemed arbitrary reasons, the younger girl-children of two successive generations fell into disfavor with certain elder relatives. My sister G. S. Norwood endured that treatment when we were in our teens. And a different elder relative inflicted it on my daughter (and on me, the female in-law) in the following generation. Bottom line: you can’t always stop such treatment, but eventually we found ways to work around it.

This composite image consists of two memes. The first uses a Facebook background of laughing yellow emojis with “heart eyes.” It says, “Make sure to bring up politics at Thanksgiving this month to save on Christmas gifts.” The other is a Glenn McCoy cartoon. In the foreground a Native woman and two Pilgrim women clean up the remains of a meal and the dirty dishes. In the background, Native men and Pilgrim men are lined up for a football scrimmage. One of the women speaks to the others, saying “I hope this doesn’t become a 
Politics and football (and mountains of dirty dishes): for many of us, they are inescapable essentials of a Genuine American Thanksgiving. (See credits below).

Politics and Football

In addition to intergenerational strife, Americans today have an incredibly divided political landscape to navigate. Every couple of years, a Genuine American Thanksgiving comes later in the same month as a major election (if you think the mid-terms aren’t “major” you have not been paying attention!). But in recent years a political system that for all practical purposes makes us choose “either or” between two parties has divided us deeply.

That’s not a problem if everyone in the family agrees on the basic tenets of one party. However, that’s rarely the case. What can we do if someone we love is “on the other side”? Psychologists urge us to remember that there are ways to bridge the gap, if both sides are willing to engage.

And if all else fails, perhaps there’s football. Many families have a strong collegiate or NFL football team affiliation. If all else fails, they still can unite over love of their team, or at least love of the sport. Football has become a cherished Thanksgiving tradition in many households. It can even transcend politics – especially if people are looking for “something else, please!” to talk about.

But what if there still remain a few undiscussed aggressions to work off? Why not get rid of them with an informal family scrimmage in the front or back yard during breaks? It’s exercise in the fresh air, and that can’t be bad. It won’t work for all families, but it works for some.

This photo shows a densely-packed crowd on Black Friday. Its caption says, “Black Friday: People trampling over each other for cheap goods mere hours after being thankful for what they already have.”
Best wishes and good success to us all, this Christmas season! (Many thanks for the meme, Bustle!)

Christmas Songs Before Thanksgiving?

Oh, great. Yet another Genuine American Thanksgiving “political” divide! There are those who live all year in eager anticipation of seasonal Christmas music. They seemingly just can’t wait for the chestnuts to start roasting on the open fire. They probably feel secret delight that “even stoplights” to blink a bright red and green. And they yearn to pretend that their snowman is Parson Brown. The rest of us would willingly end them if they start that sh*t as early as Halloween.

But after Thanksgiving, it’s a different story (or a lost cause, depending on how you see it). Like it or not, the Christmas shopping season begins about the minute Thanksgiving ends. Never mind that the day after Thanksgiving is by law Native American Heritage Day (as if Thanksgiving itself weren’t enough of an ethnic insult). But more importantly, everybody knows it’s Black Friday.

Make no mistake about it, from an economic standpoint, the Christmas shopping season is huge for American businesses. Time to break out the jingle bells and go “ho-ho-ho” all the way to the shopping mall (or wherever, depending on what buying opportunity best floats your boat). I’m more of a Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday kind of girl, myself, but some people live for the joy of the Black Friday hunt.

You be you, whatever your plan. That, too, is an important part of a Genuine American Thanksgiving. 😊


Once again, I want to thank Artsper Magazine for the history and detail image for Norman Rockwell’s iconic Thanksgiving painting, Freedom from want, 1943. Deepest appreciation to Reddit for the meme that lampoons Jean Leon Gerome Ferris’ 1912 painting, The First Thanksgiving, 1621. Many thanks for the memes about Thanksgiving food to “Hardcore Italians” on Facebook, and “Bored Panda.”

I appreciate Nate ‘Patchy’ Adams @NateAdams741 on Twitter for the “Mom T-Rex” meme, “Bored Panda” and “tasteslikesarcasm,” @tasteslikesarc on Twitter for the “Family Questions” meme, and Some EE Cards for the “Phone in the Bathroom” image. Thanks yet again to Bored Panda for the Facebook-themed politics meme, and to the wonderful Glenn McCoy (in this case via Reddit) for the “Tradition” cartoon. And finally, thank you to “Bustle” for the Black Friday meme.

“One kind word can change someone’s day, year, life.” – Theravive

The Power of Kindness

By Jan S. Gephardt

Our society consistently overlooks the potential of a hugely powerful force that each of us holds within our basic nature. We overlook it – but we also too frequently discount it, disparage it, or make active choices to shut it out. What is this superpower that each of us could grasp but all too often spurn? It’s the power of kindness.

Uh-huh. You see what you did there? If you’re like many of us, your reaction was an underwhelmed, “Oh. Is that all?” Kindness isn’t popularly considered to be sexy (although I can’t recommend it highly enough for intimate connections!). It isn’t loud or flashy. It isn’t normally considered exciting, daring, or edgy, although I could make a case that it’s outrageously daring in today’s world.

November 13 was World Kindness Day, originated 25 years ago by the World Kindness Movement. But from where I sit, the world seemed to pay it little heed. We in the US were too taken up with “who will prevail in the elections?” Or maybe the focus centered on the battle to re-take Kherson. Some of us never lifted our head up to see beyond our own struggles, yearnings, or rivalries.

That’s all too often how we act. We elbow kindness aside with an attitude of “yeah, right, whatever. Weak!” But if we do that, we’re wrong. Kindness, at its base, is rooted in love. And although we may see our world as harsh and loveless (it all too often is), there are few things more powerful in human life than love – the source that fuels the power of kindness.

In honor of World Kindness Day, author Jan S. Gephardt writes about the power of kindness to be a source of positive change.
Many thanks for this image, AZ Quotes!

The Power of Kindness to Friends

Each of us needs to stop from time to time and ask: What kind of friend am I? Am I the kind of friend I would want to have in my life? Some of us display a regrettable tendency to seek out only people who we think can do things for us. We may be attracted to folks who are funny or popular, but we only stick around as long as they entertain us or give us something.

A person whose strategy is essentially to collect lots of acquaintances but withhold their real self is a fool to think they have lots of friends. What they have are lots of acquaintances with few meaningful attachments. Those relationships are transactional at their root and easily severed. Our overall well-being depends on the quality of our friendships (the depth, much more than the number). But many of us fail to regularly nurture those connections with regular attention, love, and empathy. We fail to remember the power of kindness.

Deep, lasting friendships require time and attention. Sometimes we need to step up and do more giving than receiving, while other times we must let down our guard and dare to show a vulnerability. A while back my sister wrote a blog post about “Stuff that Works.” That is, things in our lives that are dependable and durable. Her post mainly discussed things, but as friends our most rewarding role is to be an essential part of the “stuff that works” in the lives of our friends. The power of kindness runs bedrock-deep in the best and most meaningful friendships.

“One who knows how to show and to accept kindness will be a friend better than any possession.” — Sophocles
Much gratitude for this quote-image, Quotefancy!

The Power of Kindness to Strangers

We meet many strangers – and we tend to make snap evaluations. Our assumptions tend to “otherize” strangers. It’s the same process we use when we mentally divide ourselves against “enemies.” But how often do we see them as individuals in need of kindness? A smile, a helping hand with dropped things, a little kindness when you realize someone is struggling—that can make a person’s day. It’s a good practice to look at others and try to really see them. That requires not being totally self absorbed, which is the first step to unlocking the power of kindness.

A moment leaps to mind: British TV anchor Tom Bradby interviewed Meghan Markle in 2019. Perhaps tuned in with the fine-honed empathy that helps an interviewer bring out the unexpected, he asked how she was doing. “Thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I’m OK,” she replied. She’s rich. She’s famous. But she also was still a newlywed, a brand-new mother, and she had been the brunt of brutal, unrelenting, public criticism. In short, wealth and fame didn’t shield her. She most definitely was not okay.

Do we routinely thank people who perform services for us? The checkout clerk, the UPS guy, the people who pick up your trash, or any of a hundred others: Sure, they’re just doing their job. But they’re doing it faithfully, delivering good service for low pay and few perks. In a world where nearly everyone is rude, impatient and entitled, just doing that every day takes courage. We never know what our appreciation and kindness might mean to someone else. But we do know that everyone needs the power of kindness in their lives.

“One kind word can change someone’s day, year, life.” – Theravive
Many thanks to Theravive @theravive on Twitter.

The Power of Kindness to Ourselves

Who’s the one person we most often find ourselves criticizing, sniping at with snide remarks, or berating mercilessly? For all too many of us, that’s the bulk of our self-talk. What kind of inner life is buoyed up by such reflections? We may think we’re exhorting ourselves to greater accomplishments . . . but all too often we’re tearing ourselves down by mindlessly repeating cruel things others have said to us in vulnerable moments.

Occasionally a friend will say something self-destructive of that type. My response is always, “Don’t you talk to my good friend like that!”

And no. That is NOT “going too easy” on ourselves. No matter who told us that, they were dead wrong. Destructive, unkind and ugly self-talk can be the most destructive of all. We – ALL of us –need kindness. That goes double for our tender inner selves. Rule of thumb: if it’s not something you would say to a good friend whom you respect and cherish, then don’t say it to yourself!

We must learn to re-script those inner messages until they are affirmations of strength. That’s the only real way to free ourselves from crippling doubt. Only then can we give ourselves license to achieve greater things. The power of kindness is never a weakness.

“So why is self-compassion a more effective motivator than self-criticism? Because its driving force is love, not fear.” – Kristin Neff

Many thanks for this quote-image to Patricia Morgan’s Solutions for Resilience (pro tip: the article it came from is well worth reading, too!).

What if We Made Every Day Our “World Kindness Day”?

I hope by now I’ve made my point that the power of kindness can be transformative. It can make the world a better place. Not everywhere at once, maybe. Whether or not we treat those around us with kindness, we’re not going to convince Vladimir Putin to do the right thing. But we will at least be helping to make our own corner of the world a better place.

Showing kindness is a habit of mind. Imagine what could happen if more of us cultivated it! What kind of a world would it be if all of us made patience and compassion a practice? What if we always thanked people when they gave good service? And what if we asked them please, rather than demanding things?

When we’re online, what if we all chose the power of kindness? We would check the facts behind outrageous assertions. We would think twice before we typed in a hateful or disparaging comment. I’ve found that when I consistently delete, hide, or report nasty comments on my feed, my online world is gentler and kinder. Isn’t that a better environment to be surrounded by?

I’ firmly convinced. If enough of us demonstrate empathy and kindness foremost in our lives, then the power of kindness really will change the world.


Kindness and fair play demand that we give credit where it’s due! Therefore, I wish to thank AZ Quotes, Quotefancy, Theravive, and Patricia Morgan’s Solutions for Resilience for the quote-images that added such beauty and wisdom to this week’s post!

“One of the great ironies of how democracies die is that the very defense of democracy is often used as a pretext for its subversion. Would-be autocrats often use economic crises, natural disasters, and especially security threats – wars, armed insurgencies, or terrorist attacks – to justify antidemocratic measures.” — Steven Levitsky

What Did We Decide?

By Jan S. Gephardt

Well? It’s Wednesday, so – what did we decide?

The disadvantage of writing a politically aware blog that posts on Wednesdays is that every so often one or the other of us (usually me) must write the post on an Election Day. Some results are likely to be clear by Wednesday morning (or even Tuesday night), but that’s too late for me as I write this. It has to already be written by then, if it’s to post on time.

This means I’m writing this in the Before-Times, back when all the polling was dead-even and everyone was kind of holding their breath and crossing their fingers. Kinda like back in August in Kansas, but I’m not allowing myself to hope for a countrywide result that big and favorable.

Fact is, as I write this I honestly do not yet know the answer to the title question. But there are some things I can legitimately say about it.

Under a photo of the character Yoda from the scene in the movie “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” are the words “Difficult to see. Always in motion the future is.”
Many thanks to Amino Apps Star Wars page.

It’s Likely We Won’t Know Everything for a While

Odds are pretty good that we’ll know a lot of local – and some national – results by the time you read this post. How did we decide in those races? Individual results will vary, but trends will have emerged. Will we end up thanking our lucky stars, or will we rue the day? “Difficult to see. Always in motion the future is,” as Yoda put it (and who am I to argue with a fictional 900-year-old Jedi?).

But it’s also near-certain that we won’t know everything by Wednesday. Especially not in places like Georgia, where there’s been record advance voting, especially mail-in voting. They can’t even start counting those millions and millions of mailed-in votes until 7:00 p.m. on Election Day. There’s an almost-certain recount in the future if the vote shows a small enough margin. And if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, they must have a run-off election. They could plausibly keep us in suspense till almost Christmas. Happy Holidays, y’all!

Any delay is predestined to bring out the election-deniers in droves (predestined, as in: they planned for it). They’re pretty much counting on the tactic of declaring victory irrespective of the voters’ choices, and attempting to stop vote-counting if the results start to favor them at any point. Watch for them to also become angrily suspicious of any inconvenient results that come out of communities of color. These are the same folks who’ll swear they’re “not racist,” of course.

Printed over a photo of the Capitol Dome backed by storm clouds, the graphic reads, “291 GOP candidates for Congress and key state races have engaged in election denial. 63% of election deniers nominated for the U.S. House of Representatives are in safe districts.”
Thank you, Washington Post, for this infographic.

What Did We Decide About Our Widespread Discontent?

Pollsters have been asking “Is the country going in the right direction?” for months now. Large majorities keep replying, “NO!” This is invariably interpreted as a “bad sign” for the Democrats.

Well, maybe. But here’s what I see.

I see the country splitting ever more irrevocably along partisan lines. I see us hip-deep in guns but struggling to get or keep adequate health care (much less mental health care). I see women’s equality and autonomy dismissed by draconian anti-abortion laws. I see climate disasters multiplying throughout the world. I see hate speech on the rise and Asian grandfathers attacked in the street. Fentanyl overdoses unmet by available Naloxone. Severe worker shortages because our immigration system is impossibly broken. I see teachers leaving the profession in droves because of ever-greater danger from violence or virulent disease, low pay, and even less respect.

In light of all that and so much more, how can I honestly say I think the country is headed in the right direction? Quite simply, I can’t. But that doesn’t mean I voted for the people I see as causing most of that trouble!

That’s me. But what did we decide as a nation?

“One of the great ironies of how democracies die is that the very defense of democracy is often used as a pretext for its subversion. Would-be autocrats often use economic crises, natural disasters, and especially security threats – wars, armed insurgencies, or terrorist attacks – to justify antidemocratic measures.” — Steven Levitsky
Many thanks for this quote-image, Quotefancy!

What Did We Decide? And Where do We Go from Here?

Elections have consequences. Big, pivotal things change with each election – sometimes for better days. But all too often recently, it seems that many of the pivots have been away from things that make our lives better and our future brighter. What did we decide in this election?

Whatever awaits on tomorrow’s horizon, there will always be new decisions to make. New plans to make, new initiatives to take. If the country took a pivot toward a dystopian Hellscape of authoritarian dictatorship, it definitely will be harder to keep my hopes up.

But as I write this, I still hope for better than that. In my ideal world, the election-deniers, anti-democratic misogynist racists, and a certain would-be tin-pot dictator all would be banished from the field and never again heard from. Probability most likely zero, but a girl can dream (even if by now she’s an old lady).

What I think will happen is pretty much what the polls have already shown us: another dead-even partisan split, with roughly half ascendant on one side and half on the other. The balance in Congress might shift from one party to the other, but I don’t think it’ll shift by much. I guess we’ll see pretty soon how badly I got that wrong.

As a nation, what did we decide? Even more importantly, once our collective decisions all come home to roost, how will we move forward from there?


This week’s image credits are pretty straightforward, and already spelled out in each cutline. We’d like to thank Amino Apps Star Wars page, the Washington Post, and the ever-providing Quotefancy folk, for this week’s illustrations.

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