Grateful by Christina Knowles

by jawahunter003

It’s that time of year, hopefully not the only time of year, when we take stock of all the good things in our lives and express our gratitude. Well, this year has been a difficult one, and it would probably be a lot easier to list all of the things that went wrong, but that makes engaging in this type of positive reflection even more important. Realizing how good I really have it is most critical when it seems like everything is going wrong. So here are a few things for which I’m very thankful.

  1. My husband. I am lucky to have married a kind and gentle man, who is genuinely a good and ethical person.Randy and me He’s compassionate and sincere. My husband is a true artist, a musician, who feels deeply, sees deeply, and thinks deeply. He also makes me laugh every day. When I feel lost and alone, he’s there to let me know that he’s always on my side. He’s loyal and understanding, and he never expects me to be anything other than what I am. He doesn’t need to be in charge or have everything his way. He respects my independence with no macho bullshit, and his easy-going personality makes our home a peaceful refuge from the harsh world.
  2. Family. My brothers and sisters are very close.

    We don’t agree on everything, but we always love each other. They are the kind of people you can always count on to drop everything and be there when you need them. My sisters and I get together often for movie nights and scrapbooking days. We are so different from one another, but it never matters when we are laughing and talking, sharing stories from our individual lives.

  3. Health and well-being of those I love.morganfamily I am thankful that my children are healthy and are passionately pursuing things they love. ValerieI’m thankful for the medical science that has given my grandson the opportunity for a vibrant and happy life, and I’m thankful that my other grandson is full of joy and enthusiasm for life.

4. Home. I appreciate my cozy home. ChristmasWith all of its needed repairs and upkeep, my home is a beautiful refuge for me, and I love coming home to it every day. I love spending time with my husband and dog in front of a cozy fire on a cold day and planting flowers in our jungle of a yard in the summer. I love puttering around in my art studio, writing on my computer, or curling up in our family-room-converted-to-library, reading a book. It’s pure peace and relaxation.

5. Friends. I am thankful for my close friends, old and new. FriendsSome I see all the time, and some I see a few times a year, but I love them all. I am grateful that my friends do not engage in typical “friend drama.” They are mature and above that nonsense. Old friendsThey are trustworthy. I can tell my friends anything and everything, and I do. My secrets are safe with them. I am safe with them. I can be myself without any pretense, and I am still loved and accepted. They make me laugh and think. They are silly, bold, caring, intellectual, and fun. I am lucky to have them.

6. Employment. This has been a good year at work, at all of my jobs. English DepartmentTeaching high school is wonderful if you do it right. This year I’ve set boundaries with how much work I will do at home. I work my butt off all day, stay late if necessary, and barely touch it when I go home. My students are sweet, smart, and amazing, and they make it rewarding. I have a great team this year in the English department too. We really enjoy each other, and the wide-range of personalities has made lunch and meetings a lot of fun. My administration is the best I’ve ever had. They respect us and are reasonable, and they’re just good, real people.

Moonlighting at the college, teaching writing has been really fun. I enjoy the diverse interaction, the freedom, and the academic atmosphere. The extra money is good too. Of course, writing is my passion, and I am thankful for this blog, where I am free to express myself. Writing my blog is so fulfilling and freeing. Writing makes me understand myself and the world better. This year I’ve written tons of poetry and am working on a new suspense thriller as well. I have also enjoyed creating the cover for my new book. Signs of Life jpegThis is the first time I have ever taken a design from concept to completion all by myself. It was challenging and fun. I can’t wait to do it again.

7. Dog. I am grateful that I come home each day to a sweet little guy named Chacho.IMG_1456 He fits in with us so well. He’s laid-back and gentle. His personality is quite human. Chacho is sensitive and gets his feelings hurt easily if he is slighted in some way, but he forgives easily as well. He is independent and doesn’t need a lot, but he does need love, some cuddling, yummy food, walks around the neighborhood, and trips to the dog park. Chacho deserves all this and more. He is so easy to take care of—he never chews up our things, he doesn’t have accidents in the house, he makes us laugh and smile, and he loves us.

8. Colorado. GogI am so thankful that I get to live in one of the most beautiful and pristine places in the world. Colorado has so much of what I love—great weather, snow, snow, snow, but it’s hardly ever bitterly cold. We get wonderful fluffy snowstorms, and then the snow melts, and we have mild temperatures again. It never gets too hot in the summer. Colorado has gorgeous mountains and clear, clean air. Colorado Springs is in the foothills of Pikes Peak, and we are surrounded by forests, jutting red rocks, crystal clear lakes, and snow-covered mountains. Garden of the godsThere’s a reason why so many Christmas movies are set in Colorado. We have bike trails, dog parks, river-rafting, skiing, and the cozy little tourist towns everyone loves—the kind that seem like they came right out of a Hallmark movie. We have hippies, hipsters, and cowboys, and we usually get along together. I love my Colorado.

9. Community groups. I am grateful for community groups like the Pikes Peak Atheists and Freethinkers of Colorado Springs. These groups organize charity work, fundraisers, toy and clothing drives, and generally are there to help people who need it in our community without any ulterior motives. They are humanists who desire to create a better world, to increase the well-being of humans (and often animals). They are also a fun and intellectual group. We have lots of get-togethers and social activities as well. They are a wonderful support group for non-believers who live in a very religious city.PPA I am really thankful I found them and that they’ve been so kind to me.

10. Progress. I am thankful that even though the world seems like a crazy and dangerous place oftentimes, we are making progress in so many ways. As a people, we are becoming more open-minded, critically thinking, and accepting of diversity and human rights than ever before. We have made wonderful advances scientifically, morally, and intellectually. Perhaps, this contrast between progressive ideals and religious dogma is one reason why some of these tensions are escalating. Some people don’t want to see progress, but progress will win, and for that, I am thankful.


So, as I suspected, reflecting on the things for which I am grateful has made me realize that things are not so bad. Sure, life is difficult, and bad things happen. Sometimes just getting through the day is hard. The world is filled with tragedy and unexpected hardships. Surviving it takes a lot of energy, but there is a reason we keep at it. There are always things that make it all worthwhile. Things that make it more than bearable. Things that are downright beautiful.—Christina Knowles

“On a Cold November Day” by Christina Knowles

cozy autumn fireplace


On a cold November day, the family’s all at home

The young, the old, the in-between

Gathered ‘round the table where the love we feel is known


Elbow to elbow, at the table we’ve outgrown

We pass the traditional cuisine

On a cold November day with the family all at home


The clattering of the dishes, the warm chaotic tone

It’s always the same beautiful routine

Gathered ‘round the table where the love we feel is shown


The smell of sage and cinnamon, satiety we bemoan

Still we pass the dishes, endless fare it seems

On a cold November day when the family’s all at home


Napping on the sofa, Grandpa snores and groans

While a Christmas movie plays on the TV screen

We’ve gathered ‘round the fire where the love we feel is known


The bantering and the laughing, the joyful overtone

Grouping for a photo, capturing the scene

On a cold November day with the family all at home

Gathered ‘round the fire where the love is always known—Christina Knowles (2014)

Photo snagged from hdwallpapers







Daddy by Christina Knowles

Stone Today it has been two years since my father passed away. It feels funny even using the word father because he was a “daddy” in the truest sense of the word. Even my mom referred to him as Daddy. I’ve been wanting to write about him for some time, but where do I begin?

976359_10200842145130060_1501404558_o I could tell you he was a war hero. He served in World War II as a Marine in the South Pacific. He was a disabled veteran. He was proud of this fact. He was proud of America’s role in freeing the Jews from Nazi oppression and torture. He was proud of avenging the attack on Pearl Harbor and protecting America from invaders and defending freedom, in general. He was idealistic in his views of freedom for all, and I’ll always remember this about him, but this was not the main thing about him to me.Medals

To me, he was so much more than that. Again, where do I begin? He loved guns, boxing, and reading about war, which is so ironic because he was the most peaceful, gentle man I’ve ever known. He was loving, kind, peaceable, forgiving, accepting, friendly, engaging, and intelligent. He was a friend, a confidante, a sage giver of advice, a comedian, a protector, and a role model.

A lot of people are afraid of their dads—if not fear of punishment, then fear of disappointing them. I never was. My dad was not much of a disciplinarian, but we knew how he felt about things, particularly about being kind and honest. And it’s not that I didn’t care if he was disappointed in me, but he was so understanding that it was really hard to feel his disappointment. He expected us to make mistakes. I mean this in a good way. He just knew we were human. I did feel his pride, however, throughout my entire life.Young dad

I think what I respected most about him were his morals. My dad had high standards of morality for things that mattered. He believed in fairness, justice, but also kindness and mercy. He hated bullying, and he told us stories of standing up to adults, especially teachers, in defense of someone who was the target of unfairness or cruelty, particularly those who were weak or poor. He did not tolerate unkindness or cruelty in anyone, and I grew up with a strong sense of standing up for right even when the odds were against me. Rooting for the underdog is also something that I got from my dad.

531933_10200628139500053_493904080_n My dad was a family man. He devoted his life to being there for his wife and children. He enjoyed family life, and he liked to teach us things, do things with us, and just talk to us. He loved antiquing, and he would take anyone who would go with him, but he especially liked to go with my sister-in-law, Lisa, because she shared his love of wandering through antique shops. He was the best father-in-law anyone could ask for because he accepted every one into the family and loved them like they were his own.

Larry, Dave, and Dad            He really loved his children. He was so proud of my brother, Larry, for his natural intelligence and the way he could take anything apart and fix it. My dad encouraged each of us to pursue our passions, and he introduced Larry to one of his—ham radios. Larry was his firstborn, and he was so proud of him, his career, and his family.

904726_10200628143820161_1223600697_oWhen I was a teenager, my brother, Dave, moved to Colorado and stayed with us for a while. My dad loved this. He loved target shooting with my brothers, and when Dave was around, they did a lot of this. He and Dave were like best friends, doing everything together, including having a small moving business for a short time. They were so close that my dad was the best man at Dave’s wedding.

He loved teasing and joking with everyone, but especially my sister, Patricia. He’d get the biggest rise out of her, and thus, the most pleasure. Toward the end of his life, he came to depend on her the most as she and her husband, Bruce, were always there to pick up what he and my mom needed at the store or to do anything else they needed done, including taking them to appointments or visiting every day. He told me how much he loved and appreciated his sweet girl.625588_10200628139540054_1059301535_n-2

Dad and ConnieMy dad was super-proud of my sister, Connie too. He always talked about her with such admiration because she’s a scientist, and basically good at whatever she does. Connie was also always there for my mom and dad, seeing to their daily needs and just being company for them in their old age. My dad was not an educated man, but he was smart, and he respected that in my sister and admired all her accomplishments. He bragged about her to everyone he knew. She was his first little girl, and he loved to tell everyone how she grew up to be a brilliant scientist and worked at a university.

As for me, I probably put my parents through the most of any of their children, but my dad always acted like I was everything he wanted in a daughter. No matter what, he would always talk to me, tell me stories, discuss politics and social issues. Most teenagers don’t really like to talk to their parents that much, but I loved to talk to my dad, and his advice was always wise and realistic. I will always think of him as one of the wisest people I ever knew. I was the baby of the family, and I think to him, I was the baby, no matter how old I and daddy

Daniel, Inky, and Dad My dad absolutely loved dogs, especially our family dog, Inky. He was so crazy about this dog that I don’t think he ever got over losing him. Even in his old age, he would reminisce and tell funny stories about his beloved friend and get a tear in his eye. He also told us stories about his childhood dog, Ol’ Blue. Blue was loyal till the end, and my dad was loyal to him, recounting his adventures for the next 70 years. I can see why my dad loved dogs so much. They share a lot in common. Dogs are noble creatures, loving, loyal, dependable, and congenial, just like him. I inherited the same love for dogs.

554891_10200628148580280_2100448453_n My dad loved kids, which explains why he was such a good father. Every time I saw him as an adult, he would ask me about my life and about my kids. He loved all his grandkids, and his grandkids always loved to play with him. He could always make them laugh so hard, especially when he would chase them through the house with his dentures half out of his mouth. He was always hilarious and joking around. At least when he wasn’t telling us stories.

He loved to talk about the war, but never the bad part. He never talked about death or killing. He talked about the way he and his platoon joked around and the fun they had. He’d tell us about the places he’d been, but not the horror he’d seen. But that’s what he always did. He focused on the good; he had fun, and so did everyone else who spent time with him.

The only time my dad would ever get really mad was when someone was picking on someone else. Like I said, he hated bullies. One of my fondest memories of him was when I was in the first grade. I had a really sadistic teacher, and she used to call me to the front to work out math problems on the board because she knew I didn’t understand them. We did not have a lot of money, and I was the only one in the class who brought my lunch in a brown paper bag. In fact, I reused the bag until it was soft and wrinkled and practically falling apart while my classmates had metal lunch boxes depicting the latest popular TV shows. Well, one day my teacher made fun of me in front of the whole class about my worn out lunch bag and its contents, which unlike my classmates, contained no pre-packaged Doritos or Twinkies, but modest homemade food. I denied it was mine, and when we were released for recess, I ran home and told my dad that we got out early. A short time later, the teacher called home and told my dad I’d left without permission. I told my dad how she made fun of me, and he was very angry at her. He told her that I would not be returning to school that afternoon because he was not going to subject me to her anymore that day. He made me my favorite lunch, and we sat side-by-side on the couch watching cartoons the rest of the afternoon.

That’s the kind of person he was in a nutshell. The kind of person who cared about people’s feelings, who stood up for those who’d fallen, who made everyone feel better, who made everyone know that they were special and valued, just for being themselves. I never knew a more kind and loving man.

547698_10200633338790032_1617648242_n-2 He loved my mother. And my mom was wild about him. My dad was a pretty laid-back kind of guy, but when anything was wrong with my mom, he worried. If my mom was sick, my dad could think of nothing else until she was well again. When my parents were old and living in a nursing home, my dad’s health would plummet every time my mom would have a health issue, just from concern.

He was a man of faith, a Christian, and he looked forward to being done with the pains of old age. He was ready to go long before my mom would let him. My brothers and sisters and I are convinced that he lived only because she needed him. He hung on for her—because she told him to. And when she finally gave him permission to go, he did, entrusting her to us for just a little while. My mom passed away in November of 2014.

So that’s who he was, and if you didn’t know him, thank you for reading all about him. You would’ve liked him, and most likely, he would have liked you, unless you are a bully, of course.

Funeral I got the best of who I am from him, and I am so grateful to have had the pleasure of being raised by him—my dad, Harold R. Pitman (August 7, 1925-April 17, 2013). I love you, Daddy.—Christina Knowles

“Bareback in the Meadow” by Christina Knowles

My beautiful mother died last night, so here is a poem I wrote about her precious life. She always told me about a horse that she loved when she was a girl. She didn’t have a saddle, so she would ride bareback.

Scan 51“Bareback in the Meadow”

Softly in a meadow, brushing back his mane

Bareback rider, farm girl among the golden grain

Growing in her faith, overcome with dreams

A vision of a life, within her eye it gleams

She swears her vows one cold December day

Knowing there’ll be struggles that will come their way

With only hope and true love to keep her warm

With strength and poise, she faces every storm621463_4574897504609_1222784935_o

Raising up a family, five to call her own

Colorful blocks of fabric, lovingly she’s sewn

A close-knit mosaic, a family replete

Heirloom of a mother, a priceless quilt complete

Ever she is working, sacrificing to provide

Surrounded by her progeny, life is simplified

Always she is faithful and takes the time to pray

For cares to be forgotten and blessings for the day

920495_10200633337269994_1850806278_oWhen days are long, but time grows short

Together they support; they quietly exhort

A heritage of devotion she continues to convey

Her lasting legacy, a magnificent array

She says farewell to her love until they meet again

Until that day that she will go and meet her love and when

She’ll live forever with her Lord and pain will go its way

No worries to escape and all burdens fly away

She struggles through the seasons without him at her side

And when it’s time to join him, all before is justified

She leaves her clan with memories of her tender heart

Tears she shed in worry, prayers said when they’re apart

And many more of joyful days, her love they testify

Of birthday get-togethers and stories of days gone by,

Christmas mornings filled with love, baking just for fun

And homemade ice cream on the porch in the summer sun

So, she says farewell to her loves until they meet again

Waiting for the reunion, when she will be with them

She spends her days with her groom and her Lord by her side

And softly in the meadow, her dreams are realized

Among the golden grain, they ride side by side

Bareback in the meadow and across the countryside.—Christina Knowles (2014)

The Definition of Dignity by Christina Knowles

Snagged from deviant
Snagged from deviant

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of dignity is “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.”

Death has been on my mind lately. We see it every day in the news, pandemics, violence, cancer, but mainly it’s been at the forefront of my mind recently because my mother is dying. She is less than a month away from being 83 years old, so it is not surprising that she suffers from a variety of maladies due to age. I lost my father about a year and a half ago, and honestly, most of us (my brothers and sisters) did not expect her to live much longer after she lost him. They were together 61 years, and she took it pretty hard. He was the love of her life.

My mother is a strong believer in God and follower of the Christian faith, so she fully expects to be reunited with my father in heaven when she dies. I’m not so sure I share this belief, but I’m glad she has it. I do believe, however, that each person’s death is extremely important, and can be one of the most beautiful things we ever experience in our lives.

First let me preface this with a clarification of the kind of death to which I refer. I’m talking about the kind of death that is expected, somewhat drawn out, and is actually positively anticipated. Tragedies that steal lives long before their time suddenly with no preparation, no chance for goodbyes; those are terribly catastrophic, or deaths which come far too soon in a life yet unlived, those who should have had many more years to come. I would also like to clarify that I am not suggesting that people should needlessly suffer. But for those people who know their deaths are imminent, are able to put their affairs in order, say goodbye to loved ones, and whose pain is managed, the knowing, and even the experience, can be a gift.

Of course, I can only imagine since I have never been diagnosed with a terminal illness, but I have witnessed death first-hand and found it beautiful and profound for both the dying and those who were present in the end. I had the privilege of helping my husband care for his dying mother in her last days, and it was indeed a privilege. We often hear stories of people who want to avoid prolonged death, who say they do not want to be a burden, endure the humiliation of being incapable of doing even the simplest things for themselves, or do not want to put their relatives through that kind of pain. I can understand fear, fear of pain, fear of the unknown, fear of what the afterlife, if there is one, holds, but facing these fears could be the most important thing we’ve ever done. However, I do not understand the common fears regarding the humiliation and the burdening of loved ones. It’s simply not true from my perspective.

From what I have witnessed, knowing those who’ve died with loved ones nearby and from those who’ve cared for them, these fears are unwarranted. A dying loved one is not a burden, not in the slightest. It is hard, it is exhausting, it is painful, but it is also wonderful. Being present to hear those last words of wisdom or just words of love and to impart them yourself is precious beyond words. Caring for someone you love in the most intimate of ways, doing everything for them that they cannot do themselves is beautiful beyond comparison. There is nothing humiliating about it for the person receiving or for the person giving. Never in my life have I been so close to my mother as when I bathed her, never have I been so close to my father as when I spoon-fed him his dinner, never have I felt so much love flowing from me to another person through a simple act. The smile on the face of my mother as I bathed her, the smile on the face of my father as I fed him, tell me they felt the same. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world.


And then there are the words. For days before my father died, my whole family sat by his side, hanging on his every word, knowing whatever he said in those moments, knowing he could go at any moment, would likely be the most important things he would ever say. He spoke to each of us individually, saying what he loved about us, calling us by our special names. We asked him questions, things we knew we’d never have another chance to ask. Moments of incoherence happened, yes, but those about to die have surprising moments of clarity as well. I am honored to have been there for his last days.

My mother has had many close calls, so we are always hesitant to start the process of acceptance. Right now she has congestive heart failure; her heart rate drops to 20 and goes back up. She is refusing any care except comfort measures. She is ready to go be with her love. Knowing it can be any time is a gift. We don’t waste a moment. Sitting by her side, I ask her to tell me the stories of her childhood, to clarify things for me so I can have an accurate memory of her life. She enjoys this as well, recounting a life well-lived. Mostly I get to hold her hand and talk about how much I love her and how she has always been the best mother anyone could have.

I think death can even be this way for younger people with terminal illness although it is infinitely more unfair and tragic. I also know what it’s like to lose someone long before they should go, and what it’s like to be left behind. I know what it feels like to grieve so long it seems you’ll never stop. But knowing when, or approximately when we will die, makes us zero in on what’s important; it magnifies every moment, it makes every word precious and every touch significant.

Brittany Maynard, recently in the news for choosing a date to end her life to avoid a long drawn out and painful death in hospice care, says she would rather “die with dignity.” Although I support her right to make the choice and understand wanting to avoid the worst, I think it is a mistake. There is nothing undignified about dying surrounded by loved ones in hospice care. Her loved ones don’t care about her “singed off hair” and they would be able to keep her comfortable. However, I do believe it is her choice.

This may sound strange coming from someone who isn’t even sure if there is an afterlife, but I know if there is a heaven, my mother is surely going there, and if there isn’t, she’ll never know, so she won’t be disappointed. As for me, I don’t hold out hope to see my loved ones again after this life, which is all the more reason why I cherish every moment with them and treasure the privilege of helping to care for them; witnessing the so-called undignified—it couldn’t be further from the truth. And hopefully when I am very old and my death is just around the bend, I will remember that the very fact that there is someone willing to care for me through till the end is the very definition of dignity, and I will participate in every profound moment of my dying experience without guilt or reservation.—Christina Knowles

Home, Sweet Home, or The Most Pathetic Bucket List Ever by Christina Knowles


 I am a homebody, not a recluse by any means. I would just rather be home than anywhere else. Home is my sanctuary. All day at work, I can’t wait to get back home, and when I do, I am not disappointed.

Home is where my dog lives, and although he goes places sometimes, he never goes without me. His name is Chacho, and he greets me with tail wagging, and then makes me play chase with him and give him a treat before he will go outside to take of care of business.


Home is where all the things I love to do are located in one convenient place. I have piles of books to read, a computer to write down my thoughts, delicious food to cook, canvases to paint, photos to scrapbook, movies to watch, gardens of flowers to enjoy, and music to hear. I could do some of these things other places, but it just wouldn’t be the same. My husband gets slightly annoyed with me on vacations because I usually start talking about going home on the second day. It’s not that I don’t like hotels and new locations. But I’d rather be home, surrounded by things I love to do. Inevitably, on vacation, I want to read something I don’t have, use something I didn’t bring, or listen to music I left at home. And don’t even get me started on the bed. I need my own pillow and bed to sleep well. But mainly it’s that feeling I get at home, like it’s where I belong, the only place where I am perfectly comfortable and content.

 Most importantly, home is where I get to spend time with my husband, Randy, without anyone else around. We work opposite hours, so we both spend a lot of time at home alone (well, Chacho is there), which makes the time we get together that much more precious. Being with Randy is like being home. I can be myself completely, and I have everything I need. As long we’re at home, that is.


Maybe it’s because there is so much noise and conflict out there. My home is quiet, peaceful. Oh, sometimes we play the music pretty loud, but what I mean is at my house no one ever yells, no one says mean things, no one (hardly) ever criticizes or complains. I’ve gotten so used to this that I don’t even like to hear a couple on a TV sitcom arguing. Why is that considered normal? I hope most couples don’t really talk to each other that way.

Besides going to work, I go out a few times a week. I meet friends at a restaurant, go to a book club meeting, or attend a lecture. My husband and I go out to dinner and a movie sometimes. We go to an occasional play or a concert. I really am not agoraphobic or anything. It’s just that no matter how much fun we have, the best part is always coming home.IMG_0184

I have friends and family that travel all the time and love it, always on some adventure. It sounds exciting, like they’re really living, experiencing life. But I have come to accept that that just isn’t me. Once I made a bucket list and put the usual things on it–see the Greek Ruins, the Parthenon, the Louvre, Venice, Stonehenge, Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and I do want to see all these things, but when I ask myself, What would I do if I found out I had six months to live and money was no object? I wouldn’t want to travel, at least not farther than my friends and family’s homes. I would invite all my friends and family over to my house and spend time with them.  I would have long conversations with them all. I would quit my job and spend hours talking, reading, studying, writing, and thinking. I’m sure it sounds pretty pathetic for a bucket list, but on the other hand, I am pretty lucky that I already have everything I really want waiting for me at home.–Christina Knowles

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