This morning is my cry time. It just hit me hard that this time I looked forward to so much is ending already. One daughter has left already, in the dark, on the trip to the airport three hours away. The other one leaves this afternoon. We have spent a week together, wearing ourselves out with talk, food, and as much activity as we could pack into a week of weird winter weather.
I am not put off by stillness or being alone, but the contrast is so vivid right now that I can’t not think about it. I’m looking at the special things they bought to eat and drink, but didn’t finish. I’m putting away the last puzzle we agonized over before we found out that one piece was missing. I’m trying desperately to think of what adventure I can plan next to mask this feeling of missing people I love.
I want to hug my kids again and tell them how much they are loved, and how much I hope they will always love each other. I want them to see how beautiful they are, how unique, how disarming and precious in those moments when they struggle.
There are always a few struggles even in the coming together. This winter gathering seemed characterized by the words “awkward” and “ bizarre” which we heard a lot, and said a lot in our conversations. Even in our commonness we are awkward and bizarre, and memorable because of it.
We are family, with the chance to display a special kind of love to the world. God help us to do do that.
If I had remembered to take pictures at the right time, I could have shown you my beautiful table, decorated and set for our Thanksgiving meal. But I didn’t and through that I realized there is an “other side” of Thanksgiving.
That side is as much a part of the good memories I hold as seeing that perfectly cooked turkey, the smorgasbord of pies ready to be served, or that plate full of food artfully arranged. The other side is seen here…
It is experienced as I wash dishes with help from guests, wipe counters clean, search space for an extra chair at the table, empty garbage, and wipe a spot of gravy off the floor (okay, it was really cat throw up but that’s not the point).
The other side includes that kind of relaxed, awkward time after eating when no one is quite sure what to do so they do this…
The other side is dear, but also a little stressfull as the number of people in the house swells, the kitchen counters are crowded with supplies, refrigerators are full of leftovers and entryways look like this.
Those necessary inconveniencies of travel, trying to keep rested over a long weekend, trying to connect in meaningful ways with each loved family member and guest – all are parts of almost every Thanksgiving I can remember. They are the other side that is maybe not so photogenic or talked about.
I think I love the other side too – the mess, the chaos, the spills, the broken dish, the menu item that gets forgotten in the fridge, the cat that dips its paw in my guest’s water glass.
Thanksgiving is a singular, memory making holiday with two sides. It might even be my favorite. All this goodness makes it easy to say “thank you family!” And “thank you guests!” And most of all “thank you God!” for another great Thanksgiving.
Do you have a community? I mean a community where people know one another, speak regularly, wave to each other and know who is in your family? I haven’t often observed that type of neighborhood, even in a place I lived for over 20 years.
But then, along came Lake Fest. I had been hearing about it from day one of our time in North Carolina. “Are you staying for Lake Fest?” “They will be pretty busy getting ready for Lake Fest.” “Leave the slip n slide in the truck – it’s for Lake Fest.” I had originally planned to leave before this event, akin to a national holiday, occurred but my curiosity got the better of me. We stayed.
Lake Fest, as I understand it, is the natural outgrowth of a healthy community. It’s neighbors, friends and family who love where they live, love to celebrate summer, and really like being with each other. And who doesn’t love an outdoor, summer party?
Three neighbors with adjoining properties around a small, private lake took it upon themselves to start this event. It is now well on its way to becoming an annual tradition. A block party, with a lake instead of a block. A Saturday afternoon in August with games, water sports, food (food, lots of food), a pool, live music and so many beautiful spots to sit and watch it all that it was hard to decide where to go.
I didn’t kayak the lake – though I wanted to.
I didn’t do the slip ‘n slide – I really wanted to do that, really!
But I had lots of good conversations, enjoyed some good food, listened to great music and decided (unofficially) to photograph the event in order to share it.
Have you had an event in your neighborhood to encourage real community? What good things might come from knowing those physically close to you better?
It was Independence Day, a holiday, and somehow I had forgotten to plan any memorable activity. Everyone I encountered was meeting up with family, going to the beach, cooking summer food – they had a plan. I didn’t, which was very unlike me. I’ve just had other things on my mind and well, I forgot.
Fortunately I did find someone else with no plan. My mom was sitting in her living room trying to feel good about a day in front of the TV or reading her book. She claimed not to mind, but I knew differently. Being in the same predicament, we decided to do as all strong, independent women do – we made our own plan for our memorable 4th of July.
Since food is a prime feature of all our fun, memorable times, we started with food. Hot dogs. We both love a good hot dog and Mom, especially, has to have some texture and crunch in hers. We made some coleslaw and loaded the dog up real good. And watermelon, the perfect summer food. I always remember the gorilla who could sign words and decided to call watermelon “candy water”, which is so true.
We wanted something a little more active than eating to balance out our day and, you’re not going to believe this, we decided to go up to Lake Namekagon, a picturesque place with a favorite resort and restaurant that we like to visit – called Garmisch.
We go several times a year to the restaurant but I had never been out on the water there, so we decided that would be an appropriately adventurous thing to do, maybe a jaunt on a wave runner or kayak? You would be surprised at what my mom will do given the right amount of encouragement.
Wave runners are machines – the kind that I would normally avoid because they malfunction regularly. But they can be rented and presumed to be reliable. They can actually be rented at a marina fairly close to our location. They even can be rented with a trailer and transported to the lake of your choice. Let’s just say we did that.
Did you know that there are police on lakes, especially on holidays like the 4th of July? There are also rules about which lakes allow different kinds of boating and which do not. These rules are good things to know. We know them now.
I hitched up the trailer to my truck and we made the half hour trip to Lake Namekagon without incident. There is always a bit of a rush when I’m doing something I haven’t done before, something adventurous that I’m hoping will go off without a hitch. I was definitely feeling it.
Unloading a wave runner into the water is really simple. I’ve watched it done several times and had no trouble with it. Getting on is not too hard. Even operating it is fairly intuitive, especially for people who don’t want to go fast or do tricks. That describes me and mom perfectly. We like to stay close to shore and look at houses and people. Maybe that’s what made us look peculiar to the water police, I don’t know.
So, I will always be thankful that we did this before having dinner at Garmisch restaurant because there was not a trace of alcohol anywhere on us. There are also rules about that. We were just two white haired ladies trolling the lakeshore on a lake where power boats are prohibited, a fairly minor offense to my way of thinking. And the man questioning us kind of thought so too, as his warning was given gently and his fine was small (in comparison to other fines, I guess…).
We had enough of our adventure at that point anyway. After loading up the wave runner and taking it back to the marina, we went home and pretended we’d been doing jigsaw puzzle and watching TV all afternoon. Nobody had to know. Just sayin’…
I’m thinking about and practicing writing fiction these days. There might be some parts of this story which are fictionalized.
My people are making plans to gather for Thanksgiving. They are coming “up north” where we have short, cold days. This gets me started thinking about what there is to do up here when I have visitors.
I’ve gotten suggestions of activities some would like to do, most of which are either out of the question, or I don’t even know what they are. One of my daughters will be here for most of the week. Thank you, dear, for this list.
Her suggestions were:
Afternoon of frisbee golf (didn’t I tell you it was snowing up here?)
Visiting a slaughterhouse (um, no slaughterhouses. A new interest of yours?)
Build a Star Wars AT-AT out of bacon (you don’t like to touch meat, remember?)
Skunk hunting (for sport) (oh sure…)
Chapel Hill graffiti tour (I don’t think we have a Chapel Hill)
Lunch at Chipotle (no Chipotle… sorry)
Power walking race (maybe, in Walmart – you ok with that?)
Photo shoot near the big pickle (no, it’s a Musky and it’s a fish!)
Hip hop dance lessons (I think we’d have to import a teacher, but yeah…)
Yarn bomb an italian restaurant (no Italian restaurant, sorry)
Bit torrent party (what?)
Go caroling outside some night clubs (we have bars, not night clubs)
Camping! (didn’t I tell you it was snowing up here?)
Make a turkducken (you’re kidding… why?)
Night at the ballet (no ballet, sorry)
Computer day (no one talks to anyone, except chat & email) (already do this, no)
Clean up a mile of I-40 (I think that’s in North Carolina, no)
Dress up Lily fashion show (what?) See if an iPad will blend (what? what?)
Frozen margarita chugging contest (my head hurts thinking about this…)
Uno (Now you’re talkin’, yes)
Amish day (how does one do that?)
Zelda marathon (?what?)
Arts & crafts table at the flea market (flea market closed when it started to snow – doubles as a hockey rink, sorry)
Make organic free-range black bean burritos (maybe, what’s a free range black bean?)
Christmas shopping roulette (incompatible ideas, no)
Street racing with test drive cars (snow, ice, remember? way too exciting)
Plant an acai garden (the ground is frozen, no)
Afternoon of epic naps (this will happen without planning, yes)
Record a music video (we could do this in house, yes)
Visit a winery (no winery, sorry)
Start a Google group (you would want to do this? really?)
A couple of weeks ago the talk of the town was the high school play. I wasn’t too excited about a plot that centered around the trial of the wicked witch of the east and featured every fairy tale personage you’ve ever heard of, but mom decided she would go with my nephew. She said it was fun, so, based on her glowing review I decided to go the next night. I was desperate for a theatrical cultural experience and figured this was as close as I was bound to get for a while. I even ended up going ALONE, which takes some courage. I sat in the front row. It’s just what I do.
High school plays have not changed much in the last 50 years. I was so reminded of my first chances to be on stage. There is a lot to appreciate in these simple beginnings that teach poise, presence and test one’s memory of lines, and ability to be someone else. I still have an occasional nightmare where everyone is waiting for my line while I look frantically through the script to find it. There was some of that this night, but overall the whole play was well rehearsed, and it was fun. I think the actors had fun too.
“Up north” activities may lack the variety and sophistication of big city life, but I see a simplicity and wholesomeness in what does take place. People work hard up here and their free time is often spent in community service, activities with their kids, or just being home. There are many choices in those categories. I’m just sayin’ that so far, I have no trouble keeping busy.
I’d be interested to know what Labor Day means to you, besides a long holiday weekend, if you care to comment. I had to look it up, and as the article mentioned, it is a strange holiday with no specific rituals attached. I tend to think that all important holidays have deteriorated into excuses for eating and parades, but this one actually did start that way. Who knew?
I will tell you one feature of my new life “up north” that has to do with labor. I often think that I have inherited a few work genes (not work jeans) from my dad and his love of machinery. One of his jobs in his later years was mowing the fields and yards around the Par Place condominium development. I live here now and the grass is still growing and needing to be mowed.
A couple weeks ago my brother gave me a lesson on the lawnmower, knowing how much I miss mowing grass at the oneacrewoods (in Florida). What could be better than a oneacrewoods? How about a 20acrewoods? I don’t really know how big this property is but it took almost five hours of mowing today and I didn’t do it all. It is a neatly planned development of condos, most of them are duplex but a couple are single houses. In addition there is my brother’s yard and the area around the barn. Last but not least there is the nature path around the wetlands which is kept mowed short for easy walking. Much of this property used to be a golf course, so there are some fields and open areas to mow as well. When it’s all done it looks absolutely beautiful.
I’m also given pretty free reign to weed the flower beds and berms, use the trimmer, and other yard tools as needed for various projects. There is a diesel Gator for hauling tools and brush and a zero turn mower that is probably twice as big as my Toro down south. All of this pleases me very much and helps me feel at home. Yard work has always been like therapy for me so I guess I’m going to be getting emotionally healthy, at least until winter sets in. And on the subject of cold, guess what? I was outside working all afternoon and never broke a sweat. That’s right, it’s not 90 degrees and humid.
So, happy Labor Day to all! May your labor be satisfying and balanced with a sufficient amount of rest. That’s what is happening here in Hayward, “up north”, because I’m going to start a fire in the back patio fire pit and sit around having supper with my family. A good day…
I would be so wrong of me if I didn’t choose Jigsaw puzzles as my favorite J things. My family would never let it pass. The obsession is obvious every time we gather in a group, like for Thanksgiving. But even when there are just two or three of us, it seems we have to have a puzzle to draw us together at the table. We work at it while we talk. It’s really quite addictive. Plus, I really think there’s a genetic component to this proclivity toward jigsaw puzzles since it spans three generations of our family. That’s proof, right?
I’m not naming names here, but:
Some of us bring a puzzle even if we have to fly thousands of miles with it in our suitcase.
Some of us shop all year round for the perfect puzzle for the “next one”.
Some of us panic when we run out of puzzles before we run out of holiday time.
Some of us check puzzles out of the library like other people check out books.
Some of us hide the last piece for fear we won’t get to put it in.
Some of us are afraid to go to bed for fear someone else will finish the puzzle before morning.
Some of us stay up all night to finish the puzzle before morning.
Some of us never want to take the puzzles apart and hide them under the bed for years.
Puzzles are good for the brain. They teach your brain to think of any way it can to find the next piece, to be flexible. Sometimes the clue is the color, sometimes it’s the shape – the differences can be so subtle. We can actually feel ourselves getting smarter doing a puzzle. And doing puzzles teaches cooperation. You can only bend over another person’s space for so long before they cooperate and move to another side, as they should.
This winter we did “Puzzle Marathon” which I pictured on Facebook and am all too happy to post again here in tribute to the puzzle gene…
Seriously, this is only about half of the puzzles that we did, but you get the idea. Doing puzzles is truly one of my favorite things.
The last couple of days have been quiet, marked by only a few happenings, and one big non-happening.
Sylvia, the Airstream, did not come on Saturday as scheduled. The dealer decided he had something more important to do on Christmas Eve day. Imagine that. We are still hoping for some day next week, before I have to leave. I want to be here to welcome the new addition. Esther has named it Sylvia Plath after one of her favorite poets (Aaack! I’ve been edited. It’s Sylvia Path, because it’s wittier.). She is having fun thinking about upholstery fabric for the cushions and other upgrades she wants to make inside. Did you know that refurbishing older Airstreams is a trend these days? It goes along with the tiny house movement, and glamping. Like other trendy movements, you can find books and blogs and videos about how to do it.
What did arrive on Saturday was our Amazon Fresh order. A little before 8 the large green truck came down our street and stopped several houses away. I was up, dressed, waiting for it so I came out to flag down the driver. Esther does not have her house numbers up since her paint job this summer and I figured he might have trouble. He brought the two coolers and two paper grocery bags to the door. I asked him if he liked his job with Amazon and he didn’t actually say yes or no, but he didn’t complain, and he did smile. He said he would have to wait a few minutes to leave because our delivery wasn’t scheduled until 8 and they track him with GPS.
Unloading the groceries in the house, I marveled at how carefully they were packaged. Delicate fruits were wrapped and bagged separately. The coolers with the vegetables were packed with ice, and the one with the ground meat had dry ice. Everything was in good condition, and there were instructions on recycling all the packaging. Someone did all this work for us (more carefully than I ever would have) and it was delivered to our door in less than a day at a price that was not noticeably more than if we had gone to the store ourselves. How can they do this? I don’t know.
I did a lot of cooking that day, trying out a couple Paleo recipes. I liked them both and Esther like one of them – the one without meat, of course. It’s called “Nomato Sauce” because it has no tomatoes, but is used like tomato sauce. Tomatoes are one of the eliminated foods, that commonly cause inflammation (nightshade family – even sounds deadly, right?) It’s a beautiful colored sauce because it is made with beets and carrots. This combination even tastes a bit like tomatoes and that really surprised me.
Last night we made a fire in the fireplace and watched National Lampoon: Family Christmas (I know, I know…). It was a different kind of Christmas Eve than I normally have, but it was good. Good to be with a daughter, in safety, in pleasant surroundings. I always have mixed feelings about Christmas celebration, not because the birth of Jesus wasn’t a thing worthy of celebration, but because we’ve made it to be so not about that. We’ve combined so many other traditions and stories that it’s a holiday for everyone, even if they don’t know anything about Christ. Why don’t we just have a winter holiday with pretty lights and presents and celebrate Jesus’ birthday some other time, like in the fall when it probably really happened?
Christmas Day was also quiet, except for the early morning call from the husband that the septic system was backed up again. Really?! On Christmas Day?! He got to work and the crisis was short lived, but I have to thank him for sharing it with me.
We took an evening walk, bundled up in every way possible. I had to gawk at the male runner who passed us with shorts and no shirt on in 35 degree weather. Seattle has its own brand of craziness. Later tonight, we plan to visit a church where a men’s chorus regularly gives performances. This is also reported to be a bit different from the norm, in that people bring blankets to wrap themselves in and hot drinks to sip while taking in the concert, inside the church. I am glad that life is interesting. I am happy to be in Seattle. I am happy. Hope you are too, Merry Christmas.
I can’t say that I really love airports. They often have associations with travel difficulties and anxieties that I don’t care to rehearse, but yesterday I had a “moment” of niceness. It will probably moderate the moments that have not been so nice.
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is so huge that going from one concourse to another, even on the tram, can cause a time crunch. Last night was different and I had time to spare and not a long way to go, so I walked instead of taking the tram. I came to a section of the walkway that was, well… a delight. I was strolling along looking at my phone for messages when I became aware of faint noises, like you might hear walking under a forest canopy alive with birds. The hall was dimly lit from the ceiling with gold and green leaf-like layers. Simple, calming and somewhat magical and exactly what one would like to experience in a busy, oppressive environment. For a moment, I was taken away from it all and totally immersed in the sounds and sights.
So far on this trip, my major airline has cancelled my desired flight, and rebooked me on a late afternoon flight across the country which ended up being delayed two hours. All in all it was 12 plus hours from my departure from Sarasota until the time my head hit the pillow in Seattle. It was a long day/night trip.
I did see more security personnel on duty in my first airport. Other than that there was very little to remind me of the dangers we hear about in our world today. The flights were full. People were in a good mood with full expectations of reaching their destinations. I read a book, the whole thing and did a lot of thinking. Travel these days is really an impressive thing. In spite of some inconvenience, here I am thousands of miles from where I was, in just one day. Our ancestors who crossed the nation in wagons pulled by horses would certainly think this was a different planet.
Seattle daughter pulled herself out of bed to come get me at 1 am, for which I am soooo grateful. We traveled up to West Seattle, Alki Beach area where she set me up for the night in her lovely Airbnb bedroom. Feeling tired, feeling blessed. Day 1, completed.
Long ago, a large tribe of people who had become enslaved in a land they had originally gone to for protection, were forced to leave in a hurry. It takes time for natural yeasts to develop in bread and they didn’t have that time. Their traveling bread was unleavened and it became one of the symbols by which this hasty departure was remembered. You can read a brief recount of this story in the Bible, book of Exodus, chapter 12, verses 31 -42.
This is one incidence of unleavened bread that is historically significant, but since unleavened bread is simply any bread product made without a leavening agent (yeast, baking soda, baking powder for instance) you can find many examples of it worldwide that are in common use. Tortillas are unleavened bread common in Central America. Roti and chapati are unleavened breads common in India and Southeast Asia. Most of these breads are flat in form but not all flatbreads are unleavened.
Interestingly this week is the Jewish Feast of Unleavened Bread which many Christians also acknowledge. I know what it is like to celebrate this holiday and am sharing with you one of my favorite recipes. It is a delicious sweet bread with a delightful almond flavor.
Almond Unleavened Bread
Mix: 4 eggs (beaten) with 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of flour
Add: 3/4 cup melted butter or oil
Add in increments: 2 more cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon almond extract, and finally 1/2 cup of unsalted, slivered almonds. Place this thick batter in a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until bread is slightly browned on top. Cool and slice in 1/2 inch slices. Toast if desired.