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Attitude

Treasure in the sacred place

As a girl, I found it hard to reconcile the suffering of Good Friday with the chocolate abundance of Easter Sunday.  We worked through our Sunday school lessons, asking questions and falling quiet when we realized all He endured for us.   That everything could somehow be better by Sunday, dressed in tights and Mary Jane’s, eating Ham dinner and hot cross buns, was lost on me.  That feeling continues as an adult.

Have you ever noticed the darkness that falls between noon and 4pm on Good Friday?  It happened here yesterday.

“We focus on Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, but we forget to pause in the stillness of the days between.

Find time today to be present in that place of waiting.

There is treasure to be found in the sacred peace that comes as you breathe in that place of quiet surrender.

Don’t rush through the space called “Between.” ―Katherine J. Walden

* Happy Easter to all who celebrate *

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Categories: Attitude, Blogging, Faith, Family, Forgiveness, Grief, Holidays, Life, Mom, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Random 5 Sunday in March

It’s a sunny Sunday and time for 5 Random thoughts.

1  Looking up from my desk Friday, I noticed both wall Calendars set to February.  It’s March and then some.

The bad news is that time flies.  The good news is that you’re the Pilot. ~ Michael Altshuler

2  Signs of Spring are everywhere; snow and wind one day, sunshine & smiles the next.   Birds and squirrels cover  the yard.  Snow clings to the fence.   Easter in 2 weeks.

Springtime is the land awakening; The March winds are the morning yawn. ~ Lewis Grizzard

3  Week 2 of a personal cell so I can turn off the work one.   Habits take practice and I’m enjoying practicing.

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others. ~ Brene Brown

4  Stretch. Read. Rest. Repeat.

Take rest. A field that has rested gives a bountiful crop. ~Ovid

5   Last week I gave away something I didn’t use but another could benefit from.  Yesterday I cooked a meal for someone who needed it. The rewards outweigh the effort.

The best way to do good for ourselves is to be doing good to others; the best way to gather is to scatter.  ~Thomas Brooks

Shifting horizons, adjusting boundaries and adding in self-care = peace.

What’s new in your world?

related: On Saying Yes

Categories: Attitude, Confidence at any age, Faith, Food, Friendship, Gratitude, Growth, Life, Personal, Quotes, Self Discovery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Life sets us a challenge

I stood in the doorway, surveying the mess: about to sort and pack years of records in 24 hours.  My first reaction was shock.  Overwhelmed at the task before me, the next reaction was anger.   And finally, standing at the crux of the chaos, I felt sadness for what could have been.

Backstory:  an employee left so it was my job to sort through the ashes.  Literally.  Through the piles. The stacks. The dust. The dead flies and the mouse droppings. ** Cough Cough **.   Out-dated phone books, notes, scraps of paper, stacks in corners, corners unseen.  ** Cough Cough ** A rhythm developed ~ assemble box & lid, open drawer,  breathe, lean in and go.   ** Cough Cough ** The back of my hair, damp with sweat, black dress slacks brown with dust and debris.  Shaking my head at the “no jeans” policy ~ laughing because this was Hazmat worthy.

Sorting, stacking, cleaning, organizing:  Nearly 40 boxes to be shred, garbage cans overflowing and 7 – count ’em 7 – boxes to be moved /re-filed.   A sore back and stiff neck that linger still.

Asked how this could be done so rapidly my answer: “determination fueled by disbelief.”

I’ve recently made some self- care choices that, on the surface, appear inconsequential: I got a personal cell phone.   Next I exported all (18 -ha!) personal contacts from the work phone and moved them to mine.  Then I  deleted those same numbers and any personal apps, too.   Why?  This week reinforced something sobering ~ we are all replaceable.

It’s an adjustment to turn off the work phone Friday evening and not look at it again until Monday. I’m working through it.  Now, it’s the personal phone that accompanies me to the grocery store or out on a date night with hubbs.  And I like that, when checked, there are 2 messages instead of 60. The breathless 60 can wait.

Yes, it’s a small step that’s netting me peace of mind and the separation/boundaries I’ve been craving.

Life does not look back.  Life looks ahead ~ and leaps.

 

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”  Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

 

What self-care steps have you taken lately?

Categories: Attitude, Determination, Faith, Forgiveness, Growth, Life, Life Lessons, Opinion, Personal, Quotes, Thoughts, Women, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Take me to the River

Building on this post I thought I’d revisit a question I asked at this time last year: What’s saving your life right now?

Literally. Figuratively. Possibly. Maybe?

What’s keeping you going?

So much negativity in the news, way too many rants on Facebook (and not enough puppies, kitties & babies) and it’s the dog days of winter, so I ask you this:

What’s. Saving. Your. Life. Right. Now?

I’ll go first:

  1. Quiet (TV and phone off by 8:30 pm)
  2. Rest (aiming for 8 hours nightly, averaging 7.25 … yazz!)
  3. Faith
  4. Challenges ~ pushing myself to take on scary things like early morning public speaking engagements ~ Try that without copious amounts coffee. Yes, it can be done and it’s exhilarating!
  5. Music.  Tunes in the car, while cooking on Sunday afternoons, whenever the mood strikes.
  6. :: Love ::
  7. Repeat

 

Take me to the river,  wash me down …won’t you cleanse my soul, put my feet on the ground …

 

What’s saving your life right now?

Categories: Attitude, Blogging, Faith, Growth, Home, Life, music, Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

* Snow Day *

It’s Friday and Snow-ma-geddon is happening across the upper Midwest.  As predicted, Lake Effect snow began  last night – with the snow falling fast and beautiful.   I’m thankful to be on the inside looking out.

After an eye appointment yesterday, I took the opportunity to pick up some groceries — by 3:30 p.m. the store was packed – with Seniors!  Older ladies & gents with small carts stuffed full of bread, fruit, eggs, lunch meats, deli cheeses, big jugs of wine, candy bars, frozen foods, baked goods and toilet paper.  Everyone was chatty and the mood was upbeat, with a camaraderie that comes from sharing a weather event.   Even the cashiers were cheery; I bagged my groceries and pushed the heavy cart through the slush to my vehicle.

Hubbs and I chatted last night remembering what it felt like to be a kid on an evening like that ~ going to bed happy, deliciously anticipating two glorious words at dawn’s early light:

Because he grew up in town, and I on a farm, his “Snow Day” experience was a lot different from mine.  He remembers being woken up by his Mom, letting him know that school had been cancelled, she was leaving for work and their “to-do” list was on the table.  He & his brother were to shovel the driveway, each taking a side.  There may have been other chores to do, some of which were his sisters.  Then, once the jobs were done, he, and his best friend Bob, would head to their favorite sledding hill ~ Now picture a grown man whose eyes take on a dreamy look as he remembered their adventures on that hill.  They had traditional toboggans, saucers, and of course old-fashioned sleds with runners.  He even remembered being ran over by his buddy once, two of them ending in a tangled heap.  “He over-cooked it! Of course he did,” he said, laughing.   Often, after a full day of sledding adventures, they’d return for more that evening. “Their” hill had a pole light nearby which allowed for night-time sliding ~ and he speaks fondly of the two of them laying on their backs, staring up at the stars, catching their breath and talking.   Good stuff.

On the farm we received the glorious news via a phone call from our Bus Driver, Elliott.   One of two things had happened: 1) school was officially cancelled (yay!) OR 2) the bus wouldn’t start (-40 temps).  Dad typically was the messenger – we’d wake to hear him quietly say, “back to bed – no school” or “back to bed – the bus won’t start” — all 5 of us did a collective “tuck & roll” and snoozed a bit longer.

I don’t remember extra chores ~ my brothers helped Dad with farm animals daily and we girls did, too, plus we always helped Mom inside.  What I remember most vividly was how it never took us long to hatch a plan ~  the family farm has a winding coulee / cow pasture directly to the north, with wicked sledding hills, some more treacherous than others.  Mom fed us a big breakfast and booted us outside; we’d walk to the coulee as a group, dragging our sleds and crazy carpets behind us.  There we’d stay for hours ~ or so it seemed.  I favored the crazy carpet because it was much faster than the wooden toboggan – and it was easier to pull up the hill. However, it afforded absolutely no protection if you ran over a frozen cow pie.  Toboggans would ricochet off but that thin plastic barrier ensured at least one banged up knee or bruised tailbone.  We didn’t care – the faster the better, we  lined up, zoomed down, and back up we’d go.  So. Much. Fun!   When we finally had enough, in we’d come, red-faced with sweaty hair, frosted scarves, starving and exhausted.  Mom would make us tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches followed by a card game or two.  And, if we were really lucky, and the roads had cleared, Dad might take us into town to skate at the local rink.  He’d visit with neighbors,  play cards and eat pie.

Feats of daring and destruction!

Chatting with our oldest son, he shared that the grands have a snow day too – and he has the day off  and they’re scouting for the perfect sledding hill.  They’ve got snowboards and saucers but he’ll be the biggest kid on the hill 🙂

 * * *

* Below is the family coulee ~ in the distance you can see our magnificent sledding hills … oh the memories.

a coulee that runs for miles

 

What do you remember about snow days when you were a kid?  How did you get the glorious news?  And do you get snow days now?

Categories: Attitude, Blogging, Family, Fun, Home, Joy, Life, News, Seasons, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Random 5 February ~ Groundhogs & Chicken Wings

It’s Super Bowl Sunday & time for 5 Randoms from my world:

1)”Lake effect” snow is swirling down and has been since early yesterday ~ It’s beautiful, heavy, and coming down fast.  I’ve shoveled the walkway & sidewalks 3 times in the past 24 hours,  probably gonna shovel 2x more.  (Hubbs’ back does not allow for shoveling and … I kinda get into it. )

we’re in there somewhere!

2.) The house is cozy, my wings are marinating and Hubbs is cooking brunch.  (He’s smart enough to feed a gal willing to shovel)   🙂     The groundhog poked his nose out Friday, looked around then did what most of us would: went back in for a long winters’ nap.   I don’t hate winter.  Everyone around me complains about it.  I don’t.  Yeah, we get a few more grey days than I’d like, but like my brother says, “look on the positive side – no mosquitoes!” Maybe I’m a groundhog, too.

3) Tonight is the Super Bowl LII (52) ~ There’s no shame in my game ~ I’m in for the a) snacks, b) commercials and c) half-time show!  On the menu are: (my) Wings, Swedish meatballs, Taco dip &  7 layer salad; friends are bringing cheesy potatoes & dessert.  We’ll nosh, chat, cheer and have fun.  And hopefully somewhere in there is a football game 🙂

  • You can make the easiest, most finger-lickingingest wings by simply marinating frozen wings in 1 bottle of Italian dressing mixed with 1 bottle of Frank’s hot sauce ~ toss & marinate for 24 hours then grill or bake in a hot oven (375) till crispy & done – serve with Ranch dressing or more hot sauce.  Delish!

4)  I just remembered I have tomorrow off!  Yippee Skippy!

5) A while back I bought a rebounder.   It’s a small, quiet (because of bungee cords not springs) indoor trampoline.  The health benefits are purported to be many — increased bone strength, better balance, stamina, flushes the lymphatic system, increased circulation, etc.  I love how much fun it is!   And it is a workout, too.  I own a stack of exercise videos that are anything but fun, and consequently, dusty.  Now I try for 30 minutes of bouncing daily – sometimes in 15 minute increments.   Jump on, turn up the tunes (Tina Turner, Elvis, the Bee Gees, TobyMac) and go.   After reading the reviews, I decided on the Jumpsport 250 from Amazon – free shipping, <$250, and easy to assemble, just attach the legs and go!  Awesomesauce!  In time, I may upgrade to the Cadillac of rebounders, the Bellicon, but I couldn’t justify their price at first when I didn’t know how much I’d bounce.   Conclusion: Using it, loving it, grand kids enjoy it, bouncing is fun, needs no extra accessories (I jump barefoot), and I’ll continue ~ win!

My JumpSport in the corner of my home office – love!

 

So what’s cooking at your house today?  Are you watching the Super Bowl tonight?  Any wings in your future?

Categories: Attitude, Blogging, Confidence at any age, Family, Food, Growth, Home, Life, News, Opinion, Products I love, Recipes, Sports, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Travel, change and solace

Readying for another road trip later today, I thought about how much things have changed over the years:

  • Remember paper maps?  Maps that unfolded with landmarks and highway intersections?  You’d need a companion to help navigate. Now – I rely on an iPhone or car navigation system.  I prefer the phone because one can listen for upcoming turns and still enjoy the radio.  My car system talks over the radio and I end up missing sing-along opportunities, political updates, and advice from Dr. Laura. 🙂

  • Packing for an overnight requires just as much effort as packing for four.  Vitamins, hair stuff, makeup, jewelry, pajamas/robe, in-room clothes, work clothes, travel clothes, computer, portfolio, shoes, phone charger and more.    And coffee, don’t forget the coffee.

  • I don’t sleep well in hotels.  Part of my packing routine involves a good book and essential oils; most times, I average 4 hours of flipping & flopping vs. the 7 solid Zs at home.

  • As much work as it is, I still enjoy going.  Meeting new people and getting out of my comfort zone.   Example, tomorrow I’m one of several giving a presentation to company peers and executives.  Now I make presentations on a regular basis but usually before total strangers.  Peers are far more daunting.  So I do what I always have:  prepare, know my stuff, and nail it!  (And a little self pep-talk never hurts.)

  • And as much as I love the going, the coming home is even better.  🙂

“Home is where you go to find solace from the ever changing chaos, to find love within the confines of a heartless world, and to be reminded that no matter how far you wander, there will always be something waiting when you return.”  – Kendal Rob

 

What do you enjoy about the going?   What do you never travel without?

Categories: Attitude, Beauty, Confidence at any age, fear, Fun, Growth, Home, Joy, Life, Life Lessons, Love, Men, Personal, Thoughts, Travel, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Sunday thoughts – Resolutions, Squirrels & boxes of joy

It’s Sunday; snow’s falling, brunch is calling and I just remembered I have tomorrow off.  Yippee Skippy!

Chatting with a colleague recently, I used the squirrel analogy ~ never heard of it?   It goes like this:

Make a decision and take what comes with it.   And not deciding is taking action, too.

It’s January and we’re bombarded by “diet” ads on TV, including NukeyourSystem, Weight Counters, you name it.  Radio ads tout  gym memberships and today’s newspaper featured “deals” on “heart healthy” prepacked frozen foods with green (think healthy) packaging.  This picture below made me laugh because it is so much closer to reality:

Lately I’ve tuned out the noise, enjoyed the “off” button on the TV/Radio/iPhone and found myself devouring a box of joy, see below:

“The greatest gift is the passion for reading.
It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites,
it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.”

Elizabeth Hardwick

 * * *

What are you reading?  And did you make any New Years resolutions?

 

Categories: Attitude, Family, Food, Fun, Growth, Humor, Joy, Life, Life Lessons, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

R5S~ Peace, Joy and Progress

Random 5 Friday Sunday ~ here comes 2018, time to bid adieu to 2017.

1 ) Yesterday was that day of winter vacation – the day far enough past Christmas but closer to New Year’s  – the day when you can’t remember exactly what day it is or what you’re supposed to be doing … it’s a day I look forward to all year.  My day of “nothing” — nothing to do and all day to do it.  I slept in, drank a pot of coffee, read blogs, stayed in my fuzzy pants all day and cooked a wonderful stew in the pressure cooker.  A lovely shower, a bowl of stew, new fuzzy pants and blankets found me asleep in the chair by 9:30.    Today, I woke at 6:00 a.m., feeling like a million bucks.  Rest, a break from stress, schedule and chaos,  you can’t beat it.

2 )  Christmas with our boys and grands was just that – grand — we laughed, ate, played games, laughed some more, sang Christmas songs and told stories.   Gifts were exchanged and memories were made.    Love was in the air and it was the happiest of days!

3 )  Time off — I’ve not responded to most work emails, but have taken great delight in deleting any that aren’t applicable to  me; doing so has culled the volume. My job is demanding with many people pulling on me on a regular basis; making this small effort now lets me ease back in without resentment.   Value up!

4 ) Progress ~ in that picture on the left I was recovering from bronchitis (for the 5th time that year) and battling a lingering fever, body aches and chills throughout my Christmas holiday (ugh!) I read the 10 day Grain detox book  (accompanied by a cough, highlighter pen and sticky notes) and started a grain detox Jan 4 2016 — I have not been sick once – nothing – not even a cold – since — despite copious work stress, moving, the passing of my Mom, a heavy travel schedule and more.  Amazing!

*** 747 days without 1 sick day!*** I used to battle recurrent sinusitis and bronchitis, cold sores, frequent colds & the flu👍 Kick grains to the curb and feel your best within  days 👍😀. Amazing health can be yours!    An Emjayandthem (C) photo

5)  New Year’s Eve tonight ~  Friends are stopping by for a drink/appetizers before heading to an evening party. We’re staying in where it’s cozy; roads here are awful, temps hovering in the single digits.   I’m delighted to stay in, smooch my handsome hubby and ring in the New Year in the peace and comfort that is home!

Happy New Year!  Let’s surprise ourselves next year, shall we? 

Categories: Attitude, Beauty, Blogging, Confidence at any age, Determination, Faith, Family, Food, Fun, Growth, Holidays, Home, Life Lessons, Love, News, Opinion, Personal, Romance, Seasons, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The wake of a quiet mess

Today marks the first of 11 glorious days off.   My “Out of Office” messages are on; the laptop and iPhone are not.

This morning started just as I’d planned — waking  naturally to a twilight house, with no alarm, to the aroma of coffee gurgling in the kitchen.

Hubbs was up already, I could hear the ting-ting-ting of his spoon stirring as I dressed quietly.

Plugging in the tree lights, and with Christmas Carols playing softly, I poured a second cup of coffee not long after the first.

Wandering through the house, tidying this, straightening that, I turned on the dryer to re-tumble the towels washed last night and stood to watch the snow fall.

This.

This is what I want for Christmas.

Quiet.

Peace.

No schedule.

No obligations.

No particular place to be.

No conference calls, no projects, no spreadsheets, no Power Points.  No deadlines, fire drills, last-minute demands.

Time to rest, to read, to stretch, to relax.

Time to sleep, to laugh, to cook, to have fun.

Time to …whatever.

“Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to. Stay home on New Year’s Eve if that’s what makes you happy. Skip the committee meeting. Cross the street to avoid making aimless chitchat with random acquaintances. Read. Cook. Run. Write a story.”
Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Tomorrow we’ll have our boys and daughter-in-law and girlfriend plus the grand kids over for yummy foods and games, opening of presents and more – oh they are so excited.  And we are, too.   A thousand conversations will be had, we’ll not finish one.  And as much as they’ll blow in with commotion and busy-ness and a 100 questions – they’ll blow out just as hard, leaving behind the wake of a quiet mess.  And that’s just fine with me~ because in the rush and build up that is Christmas,  it’s nice to stand still and savor the moments.   The most glorious messes I know  ~ are the ones created by the gathering of loved ones.

 * * *

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11).

Merry Christmas; I wish you peace today and always!

 

Categories: Attitude, Faith, Family, Holidays, Home, Life, Love, Personal, Thoughts, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Random 5 December ~ Traditions, time off and dogs

Hello again, friends.  It’s time for another Random 5  from my part of the blog-osphere. Ready? Here we go:

1)  Thursday morning, I woke with a start …. it was 4:04 a.m. and there I was, wide awake thinking about Christmas cards!  Ack, rolling over, I tried to resume my slumber.  No-can-do.  Muttering to myself that Hubbs never experiences such thoughts, I found my way to the kitchen and pressed the “brew” button on the coffee machine.

I used to enjoy writing Christmas cards, especially when the boys were little and I could include a picture or funny story about them. I don’t enjoy it anymore.

I can remember my parents’ delight when a Christmas card came in the mail. They were such a lovely alternative to newspapers, bills and other correspondence.  I recall the sparkles on my hands after reading updates from people I didn’t recall: Aunt so and so.  Cousin somebody.   Mom carefully taped the cards and put them up all around the kitchen window.  Red and green, silver and gold, shimmered in the light and brought festive to the room.  That she took the time to do so for each card suggested reverence to me.

There’s only a few family members left that I would normally mail a card to – this year, I’m calling instead.  And I think they’ll be just fine with a laugh and a chat and a “I miss you, too.”

2 )   Balance. As an adult I’ve struggled to balance between what I want (to do) for Christmas vs. what (I think) is expected of me.    Shopping is done, wrapping is not.  Some baking was accomplished …but also eaten (Hubbs!).

So what I’m working towards is making room for MY Christmas —  I relax and smile when the tree lights are on; reading or cooking near them makes me happy. There’s a peace I feel being able to pay the bills, have $ for gifts and a bit to put away, too.  There was a time I couldn’t do that, and I appreciate now that we can.  I look forward to time with the boys – card games, good foods, “knock knock” jokes with the grands, and days off with Hubbs.  No particular place to be.  No schedule. Reading more than a page or two at a time.  Knowing I can sleep in even though I won’t.  I’ll be up early, watching the snow fall, sipping coffee and reading your blogs.

My stack of reading is close to this size

 

3 ) 9 and 119 days left of work for THIS YEAR then 11 – count ’em – 11 glorious days off!  Time for a reset button.  I’m fortunate that I enjoy the work I do, but this year the challenge has been in being able to do it.  This has been a year of organizational change, steady movements, restructuring, people coming, people going, and that constant shift of the horizon has left me dizzy and needing a break.  And I plan to take it, no exceptions!

4 ) Shades of Frankie. Youngest boy got a dog, and memories of our beloved Frankie definitely influenced his choice.   Our Frankie as a Pup:

Frankie as a wee one

Ladies and gents, meet Sullivan, or “Sully” for short:

Sullivan (an Emjayandthem (C) Photo)

I haven’t met this furry little friend yet but I’m sure I’ll cry when I do.

5 ) We’re heading into the new year soon.  Can you believe it?   I haven’t thought about my goals and dreams for next year, but I’ll work on them over my time off.    A good friend is leaving our company next week; she hasn’t had time to think about what her “next” looks like.  I encouraged her to create a Vision Board.   I know she won’t, but it reminded me that I’m ready to.  

 

What traditions are worth continuing and which ones have you stopped? 

What gift are you giving yourself this Holiday Season? 

Wishing you peace at Christmas and always

Categories: Animals, Attitude, Family, Fun, Growth, Holidays, Home, Life, Personal, Seasons, Thoughts, Traditions | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The gift of an unconventional Holiday

I knew the day was coming, and tried to keep my voice cheery as I zipped his parka, handed off his Ninja Turtle backpack, and sent my 4-year-old off with his father.  Freshly divorced, and newly navigating the every-other-holiday thing, I kissed my boy good-bye and squeezed his mittened hand one more time.  He took his cues from me, and although bio-Dad was consistently inconsistent with visitation, and I had not yet met  (or even imagined) the man-who-would-be-Hubbs, I needed to keep my act together so my little guy would be OK.

Shutting the door, I stood in the darkened entry and watched them drive away, a wave of sadness fell over me. It felt like the wettest blanket on the coldest night.  It was a rainy, dreary Wednesday afternoon in western Connecticut.  My family was a million miles away in Canada and I’d been too busy surviving working to have made plans.  At least he would only be gone for the weekend, and knowing the other one, probably coming home early.   I looked around our sparse apartment, at my pull-out sofa in the living room, his bunk beds and toys in the bedroom.  My eyes landed on our small table with two chairs, at books and Play-Doh from earlier play.

Calling Mom, we chatted for a while and caught up on the goings on there.  I heard her attempts at a cheerful voice, knowing we were so far away, and that I was by myself tonight.  When she asked what I’d be doing for the Holiday, I sputtered out something about being invited to a friend’s apartment.  “Oh, that’s good, dear.  You should go, there’s no need to be by yourself, and, well, we’d feel better if you did.”  She was right, of course, but there was about a .001% of me that wanted to go out and meet new people.   I promised her I’d think about it.

Later that night my friend Dee called.  Practically begging,  she admitted her parents were coming, too, and “you know how my Dad can be.”  Yes, I’d met them both, they were European, on-again-off-again as a couple, the Mom, quiet and nervous, the Dad, critical and imposing.  I knew she needed a buffer and, quite frankly, I suddenly had a need to get out of that apartment.   We agreed I’d be there mid morning the next day.

Upon arrival, I learned she’d also invited the “strays” ~ anyone in her building who didn’t have a place to be or family to spend the Holiday with.  Wow!

We quickly set to work peeling potatoes, setting a card table & chairs at the end of the kitchen table, scrounging around for Fast Food napkins, extra plates, plastic cutlery, tablecloths and a couple of old candles.  She turned on the radio – with a countdown of sorts, a mixture of Motown and Classic Rock, fun.  The turkey simmered in the oven, and the aroma, unmistakable.

Next she announced we had turnips to prepare ~ her crusty Dad had a thing for buttered  turnips, except she had no clue how to peel the waxy layer off of  it and neither did I.  We managed to get a steak knife stuck embedded in that thing more than once.  Laughing, we developed a rhythm, but we were more like Lucy and Ethel than Fred and Ginger. I peeled carrots and steamed them with peas, poured off the turkey drippings to make gravy, and mashed the potatoes.  She stirred corn and cream and butter together, microwaved Stove-Top Stuffing.  We ran into each other more than once.  Yep, Lucy and Ethel.

Soon guests began arriving ~ old and young, a shy woman with a bright-eyed toddler and no mention of the father, a married couple from Venezuela, she with lovely accent, his hand on the small of her back.  My friend’s son and his girlfriend, her parents and me, and Ivan, the lanky maintenance man with a heavy Russian accent, a shy smile and two bottles of vodka.  Everyone streamed in, offering what they had, ~ buttery Seafood Paela, a cheesecake, Wine, chocolates, sausage, pickles and cheese. We sent her son to 7-11 for more plates and paper products while her Dad took a seat to carve the turkey.  Her Mom, a bit tipsy from the vodka, chatted animatedly with Ivan.  We all found a seat on uneven and mismatched chairs, making small talk, clanking glasses,and savoring the moment.  I was in and out, serving, and bringing more to share.

It was there, grabbing another bowl of something in my friend’s kitchen, when I remembered that I’d forgotten about being sad. About being far from home.  I felt a tug ~ a love of cooking I’d not experienced in years.  See, since the divorce, I’d been getting by on “functional cooking” —  cooking to live, cooking to check the box.  Day-to-day. No joy, no creativity.  This was different.  This effort, stirring the gravy and mashing turnips in a new-to-me kitchen – transported me to my mother’s kitchen.  To Holiday meals and Mom’s and my Grandmother’s tables so lovingly prepared one couldn’t feel anything but gratitude at being included.  To feelings of warmth and happiness and appreciation for everything – the love and the labor, the sweat and the tears, that went into it creating so much magic for all of us.  It was in that moment, on that unorthodox Holiday, when I felt my love of cooking re-ignite. It was there, tasting the turnips, that I gave thanks.

one end of my Grandmother’s Holiday Table, an Emjayandthem (C) picture

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Flash forward to now:  After a visit with our grand-daughter at school yesterday morning, my son and I enjoyed a brief lunch together.   He’s no longer that little tow-headed boy, he towers over me by a foot, and has a family of his own.  He helps them with their mittens and coats.  Full circle.

I told him the story of my unorthodox Thanksgiving holiday so long ago, and how I thought we would all be well served to experience a holiday like that.  I told him that getting through that helped me appreciate where I’m from, and the traditions we enjoy today.

He gently teased me about my “holiday marathons” ~ I pointed out that when I start cooking 2-3 days ahead of the holiday, it’s because I want to.

When I prep multiple appetizers and side dishes, meats and desserts, it’s because I have people to cook for.

And when I decorate the table well before anybody steps foot through the door, I channel all of them: my Mom, My Grandmother, and the other wonderful women of my childhood who did such things for me.

  • Did you ever spend a holiday in an unconventional way? What do you remember from the experience?
  • What traditions are you carrying forward?
Categories: Attitude, Beauty, Determination, Faith, Family, Food, Growth, Holidays, Home, Joy, Life, Life Lessons, Mom, music, News, Opinion, Personal, Recipes, Seasons, Thoughts, Traditions, Wisdom, Women, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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