For Day Nine, I am thankful for my extended family: aunts, uncles, cousins.
When I was growing up, I did not live close to our extended family. The relatives who lived closest to where we lived in New Jersey were my mother's parents, my Maw-Maw and Granddaddy, and one of her brothers, Uncle John.
My dad grew up in Oklahoma City, as the oldest of six kids, and several of his siblings ventured past the Oklahoma borders, as he did, so given the number of siblings, and the fact that they were spread out across the country, we didn't get to see them very often either.
Thankfully, though, my parents were committed to staying in touch with their parents and siblings, so long-distance phone calls and receiving letters in the mail (from Maw-Maw, especially) were normal occurences in our family. As I got older and as we moved into the age of the internet and e-mail and Facebook, it made keeping in touch a little easier, so I am glad to say that I am in some type of communication with most of my extended family on both sides (some of my info might come through my parents).
Both sets of grandparents have now passed away, and maybe I need to devote an entire post to why I am thankful for their influence on my life. But I will say that I have such good memories of my Maw-Maw and Granddaddy Blevins and of my Grandma and Grandpa Ryals, and I am thankful that I have their legacy of faithfulness to God as an example to live by now.
Aunts and Uncles:
Since my dad had four brothers and one sister, and my mom had two brothers, I have lots more uncles than aunts. Among my uncles, three of them are lawyers (that's something to be thankful for if I needed legal counsel), several of them have strong musical abilities, and all of them (at least on my dad's side) play a mean game of Monopoly! I was given the middle name, "Joy," as a tribute to my dad's sister, Marlene Joy, who was named for her aunt who I never met. I love sharing that family tradition with Aunt Marlene, and feel like it has given us a special bond. Another aunt who is very special to me is my aunt by marriage to Uncle Bud, my mom's brother. Bud and Vickie live in Memphis, just three hours from Nashville, and gave me a "home away from home" during my college years. I am thankful for the influence that all of my aunts and uncles have had on my life, both as a child and now that I am an adult.
I am the oldest grandchild on my dad's side of the family and have a couple of older cousins and a couple of younger cousins on my mom's side. Like I said earlier, we didn't live close to each other when we were growing up, plus I was several years older than some of my cousins, so it has only been in the past few years, since we've been "grown ups" that we've been able to get to know one another. Again, I'm thankful for modern technology, like Facebook, which has made it easier to keep in touch and to learn more about my cousins. Interestingly, we have common interests or career paths among us (two of my cousins currently work in television or radio, either as a career or on a volunteer basis, and I was a communications major in college). Musical ability runs through this generation, too, on both sides of the family. I have a little dream of getting together a cousin reunion at some point, to give us all a chance to spend some time together in one location. I have a feeling that the aunts and uncles will try to crash our party, if we can ever get it together, but then it can just be a big family reunion!
The Ryan side:
When I got married (and a couple of years before that), I was blessed with another whole set of extended family members. Even though I am not technically in the family now, I am thankful for the relationships that I have been able to maintain through Daniel and through my own connections on Facebook and in "real" life. These aunts, uncles and cousins continue to be very near and dear to my heart and I am thankful that God expanded my family and for the grace that has allowed me to stay in touch and relationship with them through the years.
I am thankful for the common bonds that I share with my extended family. We don't live in the same city or even state, in most cases, but we all know that we are just a phone call or an email away, and that we are connected as "family".