​Thankful for Thanksgiving

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on November 22, 2022 # Lifestyle

ThanksgivingIn my family, I’m the hostess. Holidays, celebrations and family gatherings are done at my house. I don’t mind this, except for the occasional stress when I’d prefer to be a guest. This has been the case for 3 decades now. However, in 2010 after Zack was paralyzed, we had to make our home wheelchair accessible for him to come home from the hospital. The two main needs were pouring cement walkways and a ramp so Zack could get into the house and a roll-in shower. After these changes were made to the house, it was made clear that I would continue to host family gatherings, since now my home was the only accessible one.

My immediate family consists of 6 people, and the extended family grows to about 30+ people, so it can become what I call “controlled chaos.” With this same chaos, though, comes an opportunity to reflex on the year. Life’s ups and downs, hardships and joys intertwined. I have a hard time slowing down. I make myself too busy and forget to stay in the moment. I tend to move on to the next thing without stopping to take a moment and celebrate the small or large victories. Doing this makes my life overwhelming and zero fun.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Since I’m a serious pumpkin fan and look forward to fall all year, it makes sense. After 30 years of hosting events, I’ve got it down to a science. Prep, planning, delegating, shopping, decorations, setting up and making the food is the easy part. The hardest part is getting people engaged. Not just eat and run. When you have a large group, it can be tough to connect with people. For years I felt like I’d say hello and goodbye to guests but not have any meaningful conversations. Part of this happens naturally when there are so many people. Smaller groups are easier to have deeper discussions.

In past years I have tried different ideas for connecting with my guests. The classic Thanksgiving sharing has everyone verbally share what they are thankful for or talk about something positive that happened during the last year. It's nice to hear what’s going on in people's lives; I usually learn something. It’s good for kids to participate and focus on something they are grateful for. During the COVID years, I sent out a group text asking the same question and then sent a group e-mail with everyone’s answers.

Pie Before we dig into the food, it’s nice to pause and say a few words, whether a prayer or a toast. If the weather is agreeable, I place chairs around the firepit. Music is fun, not too loud, so people can talk, but it helps set the tone. I make sure there is plenty of seating and set up a dessert, drink, and game table with optional things to do. Traditionally we start our get-together off with a giant nerf gun war, with kids and adult participation. It has become one of our favorite parts of the day.

I’ve learned it doesn’t have to be fancy, unless you want it to be. I light some holiday candles and place a few orange pumpkins around the property, which looks festive. I try to greet each guest as they arrive and am intentional about making my rounds to different groups or persons throughout the event. This connects me to family. I also have finally learned to sit down, join in, and after all the work, enjoy it! I’m thankful for a day that is set aside to focus on being thankful for the positive things that have happened in the past year. Happy Thanksgiving!

My life has had many parts, I could write a book just on that section but let's fast forward to when I married Adron Collie. Two weeks after turning 20 (yes, very young!) I had Zackery at age 22, Levi at 24, six years later Kaden, and 18 months after that daughter Laila, making me a busy mother of four. At that time, I also ran a photography business. The year Zack was injured I had a child in Preschool, Elementary, Jr. High and High School. Four kids in four schools! I thought I was so busy, just getting their drop off and pick up times correct was a challenge. I have to laugh now thinking back on that because little did I know my life was just about to turn upside down.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.