The Other Side of Thanksgiving

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…

and here…

and 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…

or this…

or 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.

Snow for Thanksgiving

November 27, 2019 The Day Before Thanksgiving

Anyone who listens to the weather reports for the U.S. now knows who “Dorothy” is. It snowed last night. I have to say I much prefer snow storms that come at night while I’m asleep. The result is a stunning morning.

Half of our Thanksgiving travelers arrived last night right before the storm. The other half will travel today after the storm leaves their area. We are set for a nice family day tomorrow, before “Ezekiel”, the next approaching storm, hits us.

I love our barn in all seasons, but isn’t it pretty in winter?

I was out for a stroll this morning, taking pictures of course. I may have taken the same ones last year, but I can’t help it. It was also a good opportunity to test my new coat and breathe some very invigorating air.

I have been planning, buying, and cooking for Thanksgiving for nearly a week now. It seems that I’m only thinking of one or two things at a time when I shop, so there is always something that’s forgotten. (I do make lists. They don’t help with my problem.) I get home, unload and immediately start some new thing, for which I require something I don’t have. I went to Walmart four times yesterday. Thanksgiving is definitely the time to be thankful Walmart is in my back yard, literally.

Having company come also instigates some ridiculous things that I wouldn’t normally take time for, like cooking. And cleaning. I ended up cleaning shelves in the extra refrigerator in the garage this morning. That’s where my huge 16 lb. turkey is waiting in his roasting pan, next to the two gallons of chili I put together yesterday. If I send someone out to fetch those things, I can’t have them seeing the shriveled up garden produce left from summer, dirt included.

It is also birthday time. Mom turned 87 last Sunday and I couldn’t let that pass without having a few people over. Or twenty people over, which is what happened. Saturday night I was getting brunch ready for the party when I remembered the beets I had been planning to can or pickle, or at least cook. They are the last of the precious beet extravaganza that Mom and I harvested from the garden and, like I said, they were in that fridg, getting a little shriveled.

I decided to cook them up, which ended up looking like a late night massacre in the kitchen. I thought I’d never get done. Peeling beets the size of marbles takes forever, especially since I have one hand in a splint yet. There were quite a few of them and I couldn’t face canning them so, in the freezer they went. But Mom loves beets, which made it kind of appropriate to be doing this the night before her party. It was a good party.

Can I say that I am so thankful to God for everything? Yes, every single detail of this life is something he is aware of and responsible for. I did not plan to be born of my parents, in this country, in this time any more than others who suffer in horrible conditions for no fault of their own. In being thankful I’m equally aware of the responsibility I bear to do something with what has been given to me. There is also the awareness that everything could be gone in an instant, as many have experienced.

I am thankful for all this physical wealth, and the safety to enjoy it. But the physical perks are not why I love my God. I love him as a child who loves a good parent. I love him for the same reasons Chinese Christians huddle in secret home churches to worship, for the same reasons that brave souls get down on their knees and submit to being beheaded. There are reasons, logical and thought out reasons, to love God and buy in to what he tells us. It is not a mindless path.

This is a great time of year to be curious about these things, and to be thankful. I want to learn and grow in this season – this time that holds incredible beauty but is also remarkably dark and cold. Winter…, just sayin’.

The cat Shadow… one leap was all it took. She turned around and came back. Don’t blame her.

November Moods

One of the few colors to penetrate November’s grey cast – the greenery I gathered today.

November Moods

November is colored a hundred shades of grey

As if summer had used up all the colors in the world

Grey is an easy, undemanding color, more like a feeling

November tells me I have reasons to be thankful

Now there is time – I don’t mind looking for thankful thoughts

With every leaf I pick up, and every walk I take.

Thankful that I made it through the summer challenges

The unfamiliar roles I had to play, the confusion, helplessness

Thankful for wise ones who shared the load, who came alongside

I can hear the travelers in the sky, honking

I can see their dark V against the grey background of clouds

The comfort of knowing that nature knows it’s November

Geese take turns leading, how wise of them.

Today’s Grateful Thought

There are thousands more to come down.

There are so many beautiful places in this country. I can’t help but think that I am in one of the greatest for this time of year. I’m a “Yankee” according to some who were born here in Florida, but after 30 years in this state I think I’ve earned the right to brag on it. I’ve spent the last two days working outside in perfect weather. Perfect. I’ve driven past the sparkling blue Gulf. I’ve sat out in the yard, visiting with neighbors and listening to the birds. I’ve been watching the buds on my orchids swell and open to the sun. And tonight I’m out in the back yard listening to the crickets while I watch the brush pile of downed limbs burn, glow and spark upward. I love living in Florida.

It’s the way I’ve always experienced it. When I start anticipating a possible move, I also start a new awareness and appreciation of my present home. It’s the season when one of our rare trees in the oneacrewoods, the kapok, blooms and drops literally thousands of blossoms on the ground. The flowers are the size of badminton “birdies” and have to be raked up or they become a wet, sticky mess that sticks to tires and shoes. What could seem like a never-ending chore, since they are falling even as I rake, is instead a marvel to me. Someday I will not have this gorgeous tree to tend, and that thought makes me sad. I think of all the energy and work that has gone into the production of these showy, red missiles and wonder what the abundance means. Was it our wet fall, or does the tree know that there are hard seasons ahead?

I raked this clean just yesterday.

The truth is, I’ve loved everywhere God has allowed me to live, even the places I didn’t want to go to at first. There are reasons for being where we end up being, and we are there to look for those reasons. Looking with expectation, curiosity, and the desire to learn is the challenge.  Tonight I’m really thankful for our time in Florida. I’m just sayin’, it’s a great place to be.

Beginning with Gratitude

Back in Florida after two weeks in the Pacific North West. This morning it was 71 degrees. Tonight the low is 38 degrees F. For this, I could have stayed in Seattle.

I have decided that I want to remember each visit, each trip for the good things that happen. For this recent visit to Esther in Seattle I am grateful for:

an evening of music, where Esther played flute and I played piano, like we used to in times past. This hasn’t happened for a long time.

a visit to the compline service at St. Marks. I had heard about that kind of music and seen it in movies but the experience far surpassed it all. A first for high church liturgy.

a chance to step inside Esther’s dream Airstream and add the smallest amount of emotional weight to her future plans.

the near miraculous sequence of events the last two days in town that made it possible to get Esther’s car serviced and cracked windshield replaced.

the fun of meeting John at True View who was a delightful person as well as a careful, skilled windowglass technician.

the new information about eating and how much fun I had trying out the AIP (and how much fun it was when we cheated on cupcakes)

the crazy, different electric jacket, and Esther’s “passed down” sweaters.

sweet potato fries at Blue Moon with Esther and Ryan.

I have read recently of research showing that being grateful trains the brain, making it easier to be grateful in the future. It is a mental health practice that extends to the physical body as well. Keeping a gratitude journal, and having daily time to reflect and write in it is one of my goals for this new year. I hope to share some of it here, which leads me to expressing thankfulness for this writing outlet, and for those who read and contribute on WordPress. I am truly encouraged by each and every one of  you. Thank you.




It Happened So Fast

wp-1475003441376.jpgThoughts at the beginning of what would have been a bike ride…

(Early morning, September 26, 2016)

No! What’s happening?! The pedal is flipping and I’m off balance. I’m going down hard. The handlebar is going right into my neck. Bad place to hit.

It’s over, that was quick. How suddenly things can change. Hurts, hurts.  Is there any way this could be fatal?

Don’t panic, you are still thinking, for the moment… That’s a good sign. Hold still, wait.

That was quite a poke in the neck, really hurts. Hope no major vessels were torn.

My hand on my neck might be stabilizing something, I’d better not move it yet. Wait.

It’s really peaceful and still, just sitting here. Look how nothing else has changed. Sunshine, trees, a butterfly. I’m not losing consciousness, must not be bleeding internally. I am so aware of still being alive and so aware of how quickly I could have been dying. God, thank you and please help me not be injured badly.

(3 minutes)

It must be okay to move. I can’t feel anything changing in my neck. I can feel the abrasion now, stinging. Swallowing hurts a little. I suppose I could worry about my airway, but I don’t feel swelling. Not yet. I’m going to stand up.

I wonder what this looks like, need to go in the house and look. Hmmm… right over the jugular. How did that not tear something? Thank God for skin and a tough body.

I feel funny, rattled, sort of fearful. Is this a fear I should conquer by getting back on the bike right away? I should at least pick it up off the driveway.

The wheel won’t turn and something is bent. (Thank God, I can’t ride it!)

Why did this happen? What will I do differently if there’s a “next time”? There’s no one else at fault, just me. I think I was moving too fast – just didn’t see that the pedal wasn’t flat before putting my foot on it. Need to check everything deliberately.

Is there any way this could mean I’m getting incapable? I’m not used to accidents. Have they been happening more often because of changes in me? I’ll bet that thought will occur to others. I’m going to put it on hold for now.

I should put an ice pack on my neck and forget exercise for today. Going to take it easy, just sayin’…


#atozchallenge: Water

20160428_071233.jpgI am so grateful for water. I was thinking about that while washing dishes the other night.  We use water to carry the dirt away from everything we wash – our dishes, our clothes, our cars, our pets, our bodies, everything.  If that were the only benefit of water, that alone would be enough.

The complexity of what water does inside our bodies is another mind boggling subject.  We are composed of 50 – 75% water and all our basic functions depend on having enough of it inside the cells, outside the cells, in the bloodstream. Every biochemical reaction in our bodies takes place in water and we can’t produce it ourselves, nor store adequate amounts of it.  We have to take it in, or we die rather quickly.

And so we have a planet to live on that is watered with a beautiful closed system of purification and re-use of water, that has vast amounts of water stored underground, and seas and oceans, lakes and streams almost everywhere.  It is a perfect match for our needs. That being said, some of us have to work a lot harder for water than others.  Some of us never have to consider how precious our water is and are wasteful of it, taking it for granted.

I’m not going to get real technical about water. I just want everyone to have a chance to think about water and how marvelous it is, in all its forms from rain to snow to steam.  The beautiful clouds in the sky, the inspiring waterfalls that we flock to view, the cool lake that we jump into to cool off, the sprinkler that brings relief to our grass and plants and trees.  Water is, well, kind of miraculous really.  Just sayin’…

A Season of Crying


I felt it coming as I was reading that morning, and it did several times. The words on the page set the tone for the whole day. The tears came again as I gave Mom a good morning hug, and again in church, and again as I talked with my friend, and oddly, again when I stopped to “air up” my tires at the WaWa station.

I’m brought into these seasons of crying not by hormone imbalance – that I recognize and this isn’t it. It happens when I realize that I’m on to something important, maybe life changing, certainly life enriching.  It happens when I become aware that I’m learning something, not by my own doing, by through God’s hand, his methods, his inspiration.  It’s so cool, it makes me cry.

Suddenly, I feel kind of raw, hyper-aware of people and circumstances around me.  There is possible meaning, potential meaning in EVERYTHING because I feel God in action and I have no idea what he’s going to do next.

I guess, to start with, I’m just so impressed that he’s dealing with me, on a personal level, giving me something I didn’t have before.  That happened, with the aforementioned book.  Later, the same subject came up with a little more to think about as I listened to the sermon. And the friend thing…  I think it’s pretty common to lose it when a friend who knows you well notices that something is going on. All it took was a sympathetic word and I was crying again.  Sorry Christine (haha, and thanks).

The hyper-awareness part comes when I realize that I’m being taken care of by someone in high places who is listening in on every conversation, every thought and is literally everywhere around me, even as close as the air I breathe. Small favors are no longer coincidences, they are blessings and assurances.

How does the gas station work it’s way in there, you might wonder.  Lately I seem to be searching for air pumps at gas stations all the time.  I felt pretty lucky when I started finding that they accepted credit cards and I didn’t have to hunt for change.  But last Sunday when I pulled into the WaWa, I found an air pump labeled FREE AIR! What unexpected generosity…  It was a sweet machine with good instructions.  It gave me a digital reading for each tire before it pumped it up to the amount I punched in.  And I was crying again because it was cold and raining and I was grateful for something that worked, worked well.

Today, to match this season I’m in, the sky is also crying and I feel somehow aligned with it. We were made to have seasons, the sky and I, and I’m glad for that.  Just sayin’…

lots of tears out there…

Know how I feel about my mom?

Dear Mom,

Good morning and I’m thinking about you as I sit in a quiet house having the morning’s first cup of coffee in “your mug”, the one you didn’t want to send off to Good Will when you moved.   I’m saving it for you.  I like it too.

I just want to tell you that I feel so blessed, at my age, to be able to write a letter to my mom and have her be able to read it.  A lot of people don’t get the chance.  That you are still here is partly because you are not that much older than I am, only 18 years, and partly because you navigated the storms of life pretty well.  You probably don’t feel like you did it all intentionally but you did make many simple decisions to be patient, to be faithful, to not worry, to work, to ask for help, to trust others, to love and to be flexible.  They all add up.

And now we are in a different season.  For the first time since you were a teenager, you are exploring who you are by yourself.  Once again, I am so amazed at your ability to try things and come to conclusions about them.  While many who lose a spouse would retreat and let themselves be forgotten, instead you are reaching out to your family and friends and being a part of their lives.  You’ve concluded that you don’t like to be living alone – a good thing to know.  I am so looking forward to spending time with you again, not just to visit, but to have those longer shared experiences.

Now that my own children are out of the house and working on their lives and careers, it is a comfort to me to know that you have been through that part of motherhood.  You’ve seen us kids make bad decisions, go through tough times, lose people we love, wrestle with faith, take risks.  You lived through it, and because of that I know I can too.

I’ve always wanted to spend more time with you – you were a fun mom – but even more so as I became aware of you as an interesting person, not just a mom.  I loved interviewing you a couple years ago and finding out details of your early years with your own parents and siblings.  As someone who reads and recognizes a good story, I realized I was hearing one.  There is a tendency as a child to think you know your parents, after all you grew up with them.  What it really means is that they know you much better than you know them.  I look forward to learning more about you.

I will see you in less than a week.  We will talk, share our morning coffee times, read together, do a jigsaw puzzle or two, take some pictures of us together, sort through life, laugh, remember…. I look forward to it.  So grateful for the time.  Love you Mom.

Thanksgiving in Detail (lots of strokes to this picture…)

The Day Before

There are fourteen of us tonight.  Tomorrow there will be more for the big meal. Our family does this frequently, big gatherings, reunions, and we have expectations.  People will take turns making the meals since we are usually together for several days.  We will take turns  shopping for groceries and washing the dishes.  Beds have been scouted out and stashes of blankets and pillows have been scattered around the houses where we are gathering.  We want to be together, as many of us as can make it, because of one thing we agree on – we are thankful for family.

the reigning seniors and responsible parties
the reigning seniors and responsible parties

I am always a little surprised to hear that many people find us odd, a family that enjoys getting together.  Many people do not have this kind of tradition or this kind of family.  My mom and dad are the reigning seniors.  There is my generation consisting of myself and three of my brothers and their families.  And then there is the youngest generation, our children, ranging from fourteen to mid thirties in age.  They are students, prospective parents, house flippers,  a veterinarian, a geologist, an aeronautical engineer, a vegan, a hunter,  There is a lot of news to exchange and the place buzzes with conversation.

Food is always being prepared or consumed or both.  It seems one meal is barely finished before the next one needs to be started.  There is no room in the fridg.  This year Jon is sharing some vegan recipes with us.  Brother Bob has brought ingredients for his famous muffin breakfast.  Mom has been baking cookies, pies and cranberry bread for weeks.  There is a “happy” turkey (happy while alive, not so much now).  The kitchen is not very large and it is always full of people. We make at least five full pots of coffee a day.  We don’t fit around one table very well, although it is a huge table.

Thanksgiving Day

My family is staying in a snug 2 bedroom condo a few yards away from the one my parents live in.  My mom is an early riser and when she’s up and making the first pot of coffee for the day she turns on the outside lights.  I wait for that signal before going over for a moment of quiet reflection and planning.  Since FOOD is going to be the  name of the game most of the day, she had a breakfast casserole ready for the oven.  Loaves of bread and bagels were ready by the toaster.  It wasn’t long before the crowd assembled – and then the food was gone.  Fortunately we have a nearly seamless way of moving on to the next eating experience.

There was a brief break in the eating while we made a call to my aunt in Florida to sing happy birthday to her.  Actually we sang it twice – once on her voice mail and one live performance when she called back.  She is 90 and knows how to use a cell phone. Kudos.

.I am so glad the younger crowd embraces cooking with gusto.  I am so glad that Walmart is open on the holiday.  No matter how much planning takes place, with this many people, something is always missing or running out.  After a trip to the store the kitchen was again crowded with  Jon, Jamie and Julie turning out Buffalo Cauliflower, Killer Veggie Tray and Guacamole Supreme.  The turkey got bathed, dried, seasoned and placed in the oven to cook, leaving room for the Tofurkey to slide in beside it later.  The dressing was mixed up and put in the crock pot.  The potatoes were pealed.  The pies were set out to thaw.

a moment in the constant flow of food prep
a moment in the constant flow of food prep
wash, peel, chop, arrange, cook, stir, EAT
wash, peel, chop, arrange, cook, stir, EAT
potatoes enough for an army
potatoes enough for an army

1:30 pm

The football game is underway, accompanied by football food.  Today we do not have hunger to tell us what time of day it is.  Everyone has their favorite snack and drink and we are hoping that the continual trickle of food does not hamper our enjoyment of the grand finale.  My latest “chore” was getting the next jigsaw puzzle prepared for the afternoon.  It is a tradition at our gatherings to do puzzles and we have done two already.  There is a bonding that takes place between those willing to devote hours to staring at little pieces of cardboard.  We know who we are.  The last one was 2,000 pieces and we could hardly fit it on the table.  This next one is only 1500 and I’m hoping it will last through the evening.

this was an awesome puzzle!!
this was an awesome puzzle!!

My brother who lives in this area has left to be with his wife’s family as they celebrate the holiday a few miles away.  Somehow a miracle will happen and they will eat two Thanksgiving dinners back to back.  I am in the quiet of my condo, me and the turkey.

There is no end to the things I am thankful for.  How is all this possible? It is not a matter of deserving this plenty, this comfort, safety and fellowship.  There are many others who should have more, but don’t. I also have to consider that we may not always have what we have now. But while we have it, let us not forget to be grateful and generous.  The memory of these times, precious times, might be what sustains us in the future. I’m just sayin’ it’s best we pay attention.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!