Blessed with the Best–A Family Portrait

**Hannah’s latest blog comes in time for holiday gatherings, as she considers the advantages of growing up in the beautiful, tangled web of a large extended family.**
It’s that time of the year again when we eat turkey and stuffing, fall asleep from the comatose effects of food, and then wake up, repeat, and maybe sneak in a slice of that pumpkin pie you had your eye on all day. It’s times like this when we come together as a family and give thanks for the many blessings of life.
One of my blessings has been growing up with a big, beautiful, crazy, loving family. I have learned a lot in my 20 years, but the majority of the lessons have come from the people I call my family. These lessons reflect the true meaning of life and how coming together helps us accomplish great tasks.
This past year I have been able to experience so much with my family by my side: get-a-ways at our heritage farm; my grandma’s hip surgery; a cousin’s graduation party; two cousins’ weddings and another on the horizon. I’d say it’s been and will be another eventful year for this clan.
As I considered these family “gifts,” I came up with a list of the lessons I’ve learned and the blessings I’ve encountered along the way.
Lessons from Growing Up in Big, Beautiful, Crazy, Loving Family
Knowing you always have a support system.
It’s no secret, the support systems big families have are unlike any other. Whether celebrating successes or sharing failures, there will always be someone to support you in the decision you make regardless if it’s the right or wrong choice.
Some of the best memories are made when you’re all together.
We’ve had our share of fun memories and stories. From laughs around the card table to Grandma’s “elaborated” Mabel stories around the campfire—Mabel was an interesting neighbor lady my grandma grew up with down the road, but that’s for another blog—there really isn’t a favorite memory that doesn’t have my family tangled in it.
No one understands your passions, talents, little quirks, and characteristics better than your family.
My family knows me all too well—from my favorite hobbies to my top pet peeves. They know how to push the buttons just right to get me laughing or sassing, depending on my mood. Even nicknames come to be from these characteristics. In our family we have a Sweat Pant Sally, a High Maintenance Hannah, a Betty Miller, Cowbell, Tree Stand, Sacket, and we can’t forget about the Tribal Elders. These names are all tied to a story; just ask one of us—you’ll understand and maybe even share a laugh at the end.
Nothing says I love you more than family recipes and family traditions.
With the holiday season rolling around, I can’t wait for my favorite family dishes and the epic card games that follow the feast. I guess you really do find a way to someone’s heart through the stomach—at least for my family—then you go and break their heart when you win a game of Nerks or Euchre. What can I say—it’s a love/hate relationship.
Learning how to live, love, and laugh unconditionally.
I have always been taught to live life to the fullest and enjoy every minute of this thing we call life. With love comes joy, and laughing follows along the way as an additional perk to spice things up—unless you’re my Aunt Tassie, then it comes very naturally and unmistakably. Tassie’s laugh is known to echo throughout the valley at the Cook Farm.
Hannah is a student at Iowa State Univ. and a CAST intern.
Experiencing the beauty within compassion and rejoicing in blessings and gifts of others.
I’ve learned being gracious can take you a long way in life—it’s the little things that can make a difference. In a family, one learns to appreciate the gifts and talents others bring to the table. It’s when we share our gifts that we can enjoy life to the fullest. I’ve learned that I can find beauty within anything if I take a deeper look—a tree branch maybe a stick to some, but it could be walking stick used to hunt mushrooms for me. Or if you’re my Grandpa Ralph you might find beauty in an idea that includes a hip joint, cremation, and a bowling ball—let me tell you he takes inventions and art to another level.
Patience and Tolerance.
This is a lesson from Grandma Jeanine—patience is a virtue. Sometimes we speak when we should just sit and listen. It’s hard to listen without interjecting your thoughts, ideas, or opinions, but when in a big family sometimes listening is all you get. Listening is patience—can you tolerate that?
As the Thanksgiving season rolls around take the time to reflect on your own blessings. When you count them one-by-one then you can begin to see how you are blessed with the best. There are many lessons I can share with you, but some are best told by the ones who’ve experienced them first hand.
Family Quotes
What have you learned from growing up in a big, beautiful blessed family?
“I have learned to be willing to share and celebrate successes and failures and having somebody always there to support you in the decisions that you make regardless if they were the right or the wrong choice. Accepting the diverse point of view from each person and respecting and honoring their beliefs. Growing up with multiple siblings also helped me learn that hand-me-downs were really not that bad either.”
Theresa Pagel
“To have learned the beauty of compassion and rejoicing in the blessings and gifts of others. It’s not about the have/have-nots—but rather it is about the unconditional sharing of those gifts that makes for a beautiful and compassionate family.”
Tassie Hendsrud
“Patience and tolerance. I have learned to sit and listen to others without interjecting my thoughts, my opinions, or my ideas. That itself takes a lot of patience.”
Jeanine Matt
“To live, love, and laugh. Live as long as you possibly can. To love one another and to be loved. And to laugh like your Aunt Tassie.”
Rick Pagel
“That it is like a small community. You will pull together when times are tough. There will always be someone there through the good and bad times. Bigger is better in my opinion when you have a family like ours that ROCKS—we are so blessed.”
Katie Arthur
“I’ve learned that your family always has your back. No matter what, I will have some of my best friends through my family. And I’ve learned a thing or two about cows and hay bales.”
Gabreielle Hendsrud aka. Cowbell
“Retweet ^^^.”
Alexandra Hendsrud aka. Betty Miller
by Hannah Pagel

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