Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2017

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Well I did it:  served another Thanksgiving dinner to my family.  I’m not sure what happened.  I did everything I usually do, yet the green beans in the cheesy bacon casserole were too crunchy, the mashed potatoes were too soupy, the dressing not bready enough, and by the time Hubby carved the turkey, it arrived at the table cold.  Our daughter asked, “Is there any WARM turkey??”  In the middle of dinner, I had to transfer the turkey out of the fancy china dish with the golden trim into a casserole dish and microwave it so it would edible!  I forgot the rolls were rising in the oven and preheated the oven with them inside, causing them to seize rising and not cook thoroughly.  Thank goodness for my “almost daughter-in-law” who brought a delicious pumpkin pie and apple tarts!  Thanks, Samantha!  I guess after cooking this same meal for so many years, I just phoned it in this time.  I love the cooking marathon, but next year will find the recipes in the cupboard and double check my work.

Of course it was great to have our whole family together, but lately the kids want to play games I’m not interested in such as Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne and then when they got to Scrabble, there wasn’t really room for me at the table.  So I sat on the couch nearby playing Words with Friends enjoying the music of their voices and soaking up the nearness of my children.  But lately I feel like when they are all together (and now they are four, instead of three, because of Patrick’s fiance) there is a bit more teasing (not always kindly) and treating me like “Mom,” as opposed to when I see them one-on-one and they mostly treat me like “Mary.”  My kids are all in their twenties now, and I like that we can have a relationship as adults together, without me being in charge of their lives.  I like that we all ENJOY being together (most of the time, haha).  We giggled together over the movie, Seems Like Old Times, which was certainly a highlight of the day for me.  Overall it was very nice, and Christmas time will be here before you know it and we will all be together again.

So the day after Thanksgiving, I was feeling a little blue because Thanksgiving had not gone exactly as I had planned, but I shook the feeling off because it was A GOOD DAY.  I asked myself, why should I get to plan the games and the movie just because I am the host?  I’m so happy to host, so the lesson for me is “let it go” and “be flexible” and  remember to be so incredibly grateful that we live close to each other and can be together often.

I distracted myself from over-thinking the situation by watching several new episodes of Chef and the Farmer on the PBS website.  Vivian exhausts me!  I want to say to her, slow down, Girlfriend . . . and I want to give her a hug.  After watching Vivian cook persimmon pudding, I went into the living room and there I spied it:  The dreaded Book Group novel.  It sat on my coffee table, taunting me with its thick spine which encased all tedious 462 pages.  The title sounded so appealing:  A Gentleman in Moscow.  Doesn’t it sound so romantic, like one of those books you finish and sigh sadly because you’re so sad it’s over?  Well folks, let me tell you, it is NOT that kind of book, and I decided to not let it mock me anymore and placed it firmly in the library pile where it will be donated,and I will never have to look at it again.

Then I picked up Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist, a book my friend Hanna loaned me . . . and it was just what I needed! I don’t know much about this author, but I would summarize this book by saying it’s about her struggle to be the best person she can be and to be a good person in the World.  She has so many great quotes, but this one is what I needed to read this week:  “We sometimes choose the most locked-up, dark versions of the story, but what a good friend does is turn on the lights, open the window, and remind us that there are a whole lot of  ways to tell the same story.”  I hope my kids tell the story of this year’s Thanksgiving that we had a great day together (and not that mom seemed grumpy).

Cheers,

Mary

A Long Weekend

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Is there anything better than a three-day weekend?  Last weekend was a fun one, filled with time with friends.  The weather has cooled down enough that I’m able to walk with friends in the afternoon after work and in the morning on weekends.  I walked Thursday afternoon with my friend Debbie, and on Friday morning with my friend Mary L., both of whom I met when our kids were six years old and in first grade.  Well . . . now our kids are 22 so all I can say is I love being with my old, dear friends who’ve watched me raise my family and have seen all my ups and downs and have never judged.

Friday at lunchtime found me at Pita Jungle with my “Europe Gals.”  I met these ladies  for the first time five years ago, while on a European tour organized by our middle school.  After ten long days of sight seeing with our families, we were fast friends.  We love to laugh together!

Hubby and I met our Scout parents for dinner Friday night at Mac’s (home of my favorite sandwich, the BLTTA which is  a bacon lettuce turkey tomato avocado stack on toasted white bread, with a side of Cajun fries with Ranch dressing).  These friends are the parents of our youngest son’s friends, and even though we finished with Boy Scouts many years ago, I think we made our best memories camping and hiking and cooking together while our boys were in their teen years.  These parents helped raise our William on camp outs, sleepovers, swim parties, etc.  We always laugh when we’re together, even though we continue to worry about our boys, even though they are almost adults. Good grief, I’m ready for all of our boys to GROW UP ALREADY! (For those of you with small children, let me tell you:  the college years are tough!)

Saturday I got up bright and early at the crack of 8:30 to walk with “band mom” friends.  Fran, Erika, Emily, and I walked around the “fake lakes” just south of my house and clocked in at 3 miles when all was said and done!  We saw snowy egrets hanging out in the canals and lakes, plus lots of ducks . . . and lots of old people walking dogs.  We talked about every little thing, and mostly it just felt good to be together.

Saturday evening found us at my brother and sister-in-law’s new house in Chandler.  I LOVE IT.  It’s so pretty and fresh, and I hope that someday soon Hubby and I can purge ourselves of SO MUCH STUFF and move into a smaller home.  We have enough board games, Legos, and wooden train paraphernalia that we could open our own toy shop. Grandchildren will likely be in the cards in the next few years, so . . . I’m hanging on to them, even though our house feels a bit cluttered.  (I am NOT a hoarder.)

One final friend story:  Last night I met three teacher friends from my school, two of whom have moved on to different jobs.  I’ve only known these women for two years, but as I always say, “You do playground duty together, and you are friends for life!” We caught up on each other’s lives, and again, mostly it was just nice to be together.

After each of these encounters, I felt so happy. I commented to Hubby, “How did I get so lucky to find such intelligent, interesting, funny, and beautiful friends?” To which he said, “You’re intelligent, interesting, funny, and beautiful, too.” (He’s so nice to me.)  My mantra is “Just give your love, and don’t look back to see if anyone takes it.”  (Arlo Guthrie said that.)

And I’m sending out a THANK YOU with an I’M SORRY for bothering everyone with photos of potential dresses for me to wear to our son’s upcoming wedding.  I tried some on at the mall Sunday and shook my head and muttered, “Putting on these fancy dresses is like putting lipstick on a pig.”  I ordered something and promise NOT to bother anyone again.

At this time in November when we are giving thanks for friends and family, I can truly say that my cup runneth over.  I started out life as an awkward, shy girl and somehow grew into a woman who is so lucky to find new friends wherever she goes.  Recently I was asked what my favorite hobby is, and I responded, “Being with friends!”

Cheers,

Mary

 

Peacefully and Quietly

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Winter came late to the desert this year, but FINALLY we are enjoying sweater weather.  I couldn’t have asked for a better Thanksgiving weekend and feel so blessed for the family and friends in my life.

The only thing I would change is what happened on Sunday afternoon–our youngest son, William, had to return to college to finish the last few weeks of the semester.  I felt so sad at his departure that I stayed in the house when his ride arrived.  Hubby helped him with his luggage, and I watched through the window (and shed a few tears).  Oh man, is it hard for me when my kids leave!  I was blue all afternoon, but “blue” soon turned to worried as snow and snow and more snow fell on the mountain road to NAU. Usually a 2.5 hour drive at the most, numerous accidents and slippery roads made it slow going.  After 4.5 hours, the boys arrived safe and sound.  Watching the comments on the NAU Parents Facebook page didn’t exactly help.  Those kids coming from California had a really hard time getting back to school.  Crossed fingers that there is not another snow storm when it’s time to leave school for the winter break.

I talked to William the next day.  He said he went to class in his cotton hoody, thinking nobody would be wearing their big coats yet.  The dumb kid nearly froze his arse off (and everyone else WAS wearing their “big” coats) but promised me he’d bundle up for his afternoon classes.  He sent me a few photos and ahhhhhhh, the campus looks so magical with its heavy frosting of snow.  Today most classes are cancelled due to icy roads and sidewalks.

I mentioned yesterday that I’ve been sorting through my mementos drawer.  My most treasured prizes are the cards and notes from my Grandma Summers who lived in northern Illinois (that’s where I was born).  She loved nature and was a bird lover, always keeping an eye out for the flashy red cardinals.  One card from my drawer has a simple drawing of a cardinal resting on a pine branch,  with snow falling in the background.  The saying on the front reads, “Peacefully and quietly, the season gives us the most wonderful gifts . . . the joy in beauty and the wonder of love.”   The card is dated December 2000. That was Grandma’s last winter.  She writes,”Dear Mary, When I got up this morning the outside looked like the front of this card.  I went out back and it was so peaceful and quiet with the new snow falling.  We will not go far today, but I am working on Christmas gifts.” It is a nice newsy letter and ends with “I’ll talk to you soon.  Love, Grandma.” I like to think of Grandma putting on her big coat and walking out back, soaking up the peace and quiet as the snow fell gently over the pine trees and meadow behind her house.

It’s still hard for me to accept that she is gone, even though it’s been 15 years. Sometimes I need to talk to her so badly that I close my eyes and think to myself, if I wish it and pray for it as hard as I can, maybe I will call her number and magically she will answer. Or that if I mail a pretty card to her with birds on the front and a newsy letter tucked inside, a letter from Grandma will end up in my mailbox.  I know this is magical thinking. I know I’m lucky to have had such a special person to love. I take comfort from the words from another card in my drawer which reads, “Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones shines down to let us know they are with us.”

Stay warm, everyone.

Cheers,

Mary

Nobody Explodes

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This year’s Thanksgiving Day was a total blast. Everything was perfect: Interesting conversations with family, lots of laughs, delicious food, and yummy red wine. The kids spent a lot of time playing Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. They encouraged me to play a round, and it was intense, requiring immense concentration but ultimately a lot of fun . . . IF you can get past the fact that the entire game is about defusing a bomb. Then we played a rousing game of Apples to Apples, which is much more my speed. We had company at our house for 12 hours, so when the kids finally left at 10:30 that night, my eyelids were very heavy. One of our best Thanksgivings in recent years!

Today I woke up and was shocked to realize I had nothing I absolutely had to do. So I made my annual batch of caramels. It’s a nerve-wracking experience since the recipe is so touchy. One minute too short and you have caramel syrup; one minute too long and it’s so hard it could be used as a lethal weapon. Today I made myself calm, tried not to be anxious, and voila: a perfect batch of caramels.

And then I helped Hubby get the Christmas boxes out of the attic. This is not an easy task. The opening to the attic is dead center in the garage ceiling—and over the center of the attic opening runs the steel bar that the garage door works on. Some genius cut the hole in the wrong place, and Hubby has never fixed it. (If I lived alone, I would have had the saw out years ago, making that opening larger.) Hubby the Contortionist wrangled those boxes out of the attic atop his ladder, past the steel rod, through the odd-shaped opening, and handed them down to me.

I stood over them wondering which one to open first. I carefully pried the plastic lid off . . . and then something unexpected happened.

“ARRGGGGGHHHHH, my eyes!!!” I screamed. The gold and silver and tinsel and glitter and angels and twinkling glass ornaments were blinding! It was just like that scene from Raiders when they open the ark of the covenant killing everyone with blazing evil lights. Well, Christmas was blazing out of that box with all the might of a rolling boulder, threatening to ruin my good day and filling me with great angst. Too Much Christmas! Too soon! Shopping malls, decorating, lights, Christmas trees, cookies, cakes, Christmas cards, in-laws, gifts, gifts and more gifts! I felt dizzy. I felt faint! I gasped for air.

“Nooooooooooo!” I screamed. And I closed that box. I’m just not ready. I’m still basking in the whole Thanksgiving-gratitude-love thing which honestly, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to prefer over Christmas. Fewer expectations, less religion, more just honest, good feelings. Thanksgiving is so simple. But Christmas? I just can’t think about it yet. So you know what I did? I put on my hiking shoes and took Hubby for a nice little mountain hike. The cold morning air was refreshing, turning our noses red. Ahhhh, it felt so good to stretch our legs! The rich desert smells were heavenly, and we smiled watching the desert chipmunks run around their stone houses. We excitedly found a large boulder with ancient petroglyphs engraved on the side. A family of quail scurried past us over the sandy hills covered with jumping cholla and tall saguaros. A soft breeze blew across the back of my neck. I closed my eyes and smiled into the sun, sending out a prayer of thanks for this beautiful Thanksgiving weekend. Maybe I’ll be ready to think about Christmas next week.

Cheers,
Mary

Gratitude

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This week has been crazy-busy at school preparing for our annual Thanksgiving Feast, which will be held at lunchtime Wednesday with parents and students. In our classroom we cleaned, boiled, chopped, then baked sweet potatoes. A dressing of parsley, green onion, and roasted poblano peppers in olive oil was drizzled on top. YUM. My arms are tired from carrying 150 sweet potatoes to and from the kitchen, but it was happy work. I wish I’d had a hidden camera on our Kindergarteners while they prepared the slimy, fragrant vegetables. The smells and textures were almost too much for them. My teacher-in-crime and myself shared many giggles over our huge mess, both of us exclaiming, “Will we ever be done?” It was a team-building experience for all, that’s for sure! As a class, we made a gratitude list, which also brought lots of smiles.

Days like this one make me feel incredibly grateful that I’ve found a place to be, a place where I’m happy and useful! For years I’ve had this quote posted front and center on my refrigerator, “Just give your love, and don’t look back to see if anyone takes it.” My old friend, Arlo Guthrie, said that. (We’ve never met, but I’ve known him so long I don’t let that stand in the way of our relationship.) I’m so fortunate to have found a place to practice what I preach.

I did a few errands on the way home, then I finally rolled into the driveway, turned off the car, and honestly, I felt so physically tired that I just sat for a moment. Did I even have the energy to get out of the car? Good grief! I’m still sick, and I sure am tired of it. Ruby barked a welcoming hello, so in I went, and after a cup of strong coffee, I felt like I could tackle the jobs at hand. Hubby went with me over the high school to pick up some marching band stuff I’ve been working on, and we chatted about our day.

And then . . . I took a nap. It was one of those kind of naps where you wake up on the couch and think, where am I? What didn’t my alarm go off? Where IS everyone? Olive was licking my arm, and Tilly was purring at my feet. Then I heard Hubby’s voice from the office on a work call. Oh my. Sometimes I get a glimpse into what it will be like to be elderly . . . and I don’t like it. Feeling this tired is a total drag, but I am 100% happy that I have a fulfilling life that fills my heart and challenges my mind! Working with children has brought so much meaning back into my life. They are hilarious, adorable, charming, ridiculous, and lively!

This evening has been spent preparing food for Thanksgiving—cranberry jelly, green bean casserole, and the same dressing I made last year which has sausage, apples, and dried cranberries. I don’t care for dressing or stuffing, but my peeps require it and say this is a good recipe. The cooking revived me. I did a little kitchen dancing to the Born Ruffians, Brandon Flowers, and Florence Welch while stirring cranberries and slicing veggies. Tomorrow evening will be cleaning and pies! My wrist step counter reads at 14,400 (about 7 miles) so I do believe I will sleep well tonight. I’ll fall asleep smiling at the wonderful pre-Thanksgiving adventures I’ve had this week, feeling so grateful for each one.

Cheers,
Mary