Thanksgiving: big and little things ~

Thanksgiving: big and little things ~

This year was a very different Thanksgiving for us. We’re in a new home, in a new (to us!) state, and we tried new things. Like a heritage turkey (mixed reviews), and no sweet potatoes (I missed them!). And bubbly for the drinkers instead of eggnog. And a follow-up brunch at my son & daughter-in-law’s the next morning. Big things, right?

It was a wonderful day. Both of them!

The weather has been gorgeous: crisply autumn, w/ blue skies & honeyed light slanting through the wall of windows. We didn’t need the fire until the evening. The kids were beautifully behaved, and the food was almost as great as the conversation!

So, big things that change, yet don’t: family. My niece, her partner (another niece, to me!), and their roommate joined us. So it was smaller than our usual familial cattle call. Which was kind of nice — I got to actually talk to everyone! But kind of sad, as well: I missed my sisters, and my other nieces & nephews. And their beautiful kiddos.

Other big things that we did differently: since it was a smaller group, we all were able to sit down together. Even though it meant a card table added to the length of our small dining table — who cares, right? With 8 instead of 18, that’s not even an option. So I got to use nice china, sterling, crystal. Show off some linens I rarely use, and the napkins rings we bought in Kenya, before my 2nd son was even born.

And there was a mostly familiar menu: turkey, stuffing (but also dressing), potatoes & gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, broccoli casserole, & homemade macaroni cheese. The usual (for us!) hummus as an appetizer, w/ tortillas griddled on the stove, and veggies too. Tabbouleh. And pumpkin pie w/ too much whipped cream. And my niece’s totally gorgeous cranberry/orange/walnut cupcakes, topped w/ cream cheese icing & candied cranberries.

Did I mention it was totally sumptuous?!

But it was the little things that made it, as well — those things we tend to take for granted, until we move & see them fresh: the way everyone pitched in to help. The weaving of conversations. The laughter of my older grandson with his baby brother. The three dogs racing around the room playing tag. How the house brimmed w/music & happy voices. Watching my younger grandson take baby bites of his first Thanksgiving dinner.

This is what I’m so very grateful for, this year: my amazing family. Both the ones I was able to spend the holiday with and the ones I miss. I hope your day was equally happy!

A time for gratitude ~

A time for gratitude ~

Gratitude: at a time when my heart is often cracked yet again by the news, and when much of our country seems to be mad with hatred, it’s hard sometimes to remember how much there is to be grateful for.

Even though I keep a gratitude journal, noting down my many thanks has been less frequent than other times. And my ‘daily’ pages are … well, let’s say that weekly would be an improvement!

In other words? I’ve been grieving, not grateful-ing. But a long-time tradition I believe in is using each day of November to record something I’m grateful for. Making the month of Thanksgiving truly a month of gratitude. I’m a bit late off the mark this year, but here goes with a catch-up list:

Today, this very moment, what I’m grateful for is autumn — my favourite season. Just this week the trees in our town ignited. Seriously — there is incandescent scarlet, saffron, & chartreuse. A deep winey burgundy, and the sombre backdrop of greeny-black evergreens. It’s a lush tapestry of gorgeous.

Weaving in & out of this are birds, like red, blue, grey, black, even orange threads of bright movement. The four blue jay brothers are squawking at me to fill the sunflower feeder, and a nuthatch vies with a red-bellied woodpecker at the suet block. It’s a never-fail antidote to the tragedy of so many human interactions.Gratitude, autumn

And after a night with my astonishingly wonderful elder grandson, I’m once again thanking the universe that my beloved & I took a leap of faith and moved half-way across the country to spend more time w/ our two grandsons. The elder a perpetual movement machine, running on peanut butter, jelly, apples, & tickle marathons. The younger one endless wide-eyed wonder, enthralled by even the fan above him (his own personal mobile!). You flat can’t have ‘quality’ time w/out plenty of quantity.

I’m still surprised at how many faces in this small town are becoming familiar to me. Just today, when I went to vote, I recognised 2 women exiting the polling station. Where I know them from eludes me, but they were faces I knew I SHOULD know! I’ve never lived in a small American town, so much of this new chapter is totally new to me.

The power of landscape to awe me is another gratitude. Maybe I just took the sprawling skies of Oklahoma for granted, no longer seeing them as beautiful, but the mountains here — the vistas that open up like a kaleidescope of 15 greens, 5 browns, and uncountable shards of orange, wine, russet & pumpking — send me into stunned, breathless silence. They’re that incredible.

How can I NOT be grateful?

If, like me, the evil we do to each other, the refusal to own our own responsibility to change things, and the powerlessness we feel as individuals is overwhelming you, I’m prescribing autumn. Get outside — even if it’s chilly. Maybe especially if it’s chilly! Blow the doldrums over the hazy horizon. Take a cup of tea (I’m drinking Harney’s new London Fog — how appropriate an autumn tea is THAT?!), and just watch the season unfurl in front of you. If you’re very lucky, maybe the birds will even talk to you. And for that, we’re always grateful.

a month of giving thanks, day 5: in praise of tea ~

a month of giving thanks, day 5: in praise of tea ~

Today I sat down to afternoon tea, as I do many days. I often start the day w/a cappuccino, which I make myself. But in the afternoon — especially one where I’ve been doing a lot of this & that — I want tea. In a pretty teapot, swathed in the perfect tea cosy. Set on a tray with a plate of some small treat. In other words? An oasis of calm & peace in an otherwise hectic day.

Since I had a pumpkin scone left over from a foray into town to look at lamps for our new house, I made plain tea — a nice English breakfast. With milk & Demerara sugar cubes. And a small pot of strawberry jam to go on the slathering of butter I swiped over the scone pieces. Then I sat down at the breakfast table, in the slant afternoon light, & inhaled tea steam. And peace.

Tea is such a peace-maker. Probably a peace-keeper, as well. For me, however, it brings in its fragrant leaves the reminder that life is best when we breathe. ???? Slooooowly. Deeply. And inhaling tea is as good a way to practice that as any!

This next afternoon, you should find a mug (or a cup & saucer), and pour some boiling water over a tea bag, or a scoop of loose tea in a strainer. Add a dollop of honey or raw sugar. Milk is good, if the tea is suitable for milk. If not? Just stick w/ honey. Hold that mug of peace & comfort up to your face & breathe. Let the warmth remind you of sunlight, and the smell of leaves startled by the hot water take you back to childhood tea parties, when life was far less complicated.

It’s a good practice, and one I give thanks for daily.

 

giving thanks: day of gratitude #4 ~

giving thanks: day of gratitude #4 ~

As I noted yesterday, I’ve already voted. And, I’ve also taken myself off FB until after the election. The result? A bright expanse much more contented time. Today, I sat on the deck, as I do most clement mornings, and wrote in my morning pages. I do this most days, and while I don’t always make my 4 small pages goal, I do write. Almost daily. And I have for a few months now, as well as sporadically in the past.

What I noticed today was a lightening of heart. Really: something about being done w/ this whole election year (& yes: I know there will be fallout after the election, but it’s DIFFERENT) is so freeing. Just because… I already got it over with!

So what I’m grateful for today is just that: I’m done! Whoohoo & praise the universe! I don’t have to read the editorials in case I missed something. I don’t have to listen to weak arguments (or what passes for one) from folks who think they may change my mind. I don’t have to even THINK about this crap! How cool is THAT??

And I wonder: how many of the things I dread, in my otherwise damn near perfect life, could be dismissed if I just did something? You know — instead of dreading & whining about it? Just a thought.

That’s my gratitude today: I’m grateful for freedom from the vitriol this election has filled the media with — both social and un-. I’m grateful for a space to breathe, and get on w/ my ordinary (but very precious) human life. It’s such a Buddhist realisation, isn’t it? That action bring peace. Now, if I can just remember this epiphany…????!

 

giving thanks: day of gratitude #3 ~

giving thanks: day of gratitude #3 ~

Today I’m giving thanks for a two-hour line I stood in. Seriously: I stood in line for TWO HOURS to vote early. I can’t even imagine what lines will be like on Nov. 8th! Sheesh!

And you know what? I’m sooo grateful! For early voting, so I can put this entire contentious, heart-breaking, head-numbing election year behind me. I’m soooo ready!

In truth, I really am grateful for the voting rights I have. Hardwon by women decades gone. Suffrage has always been a controversial right, for women, for people of colour, for non-landed gentry. It’s what has marked this country as a democracy, since before the Boston tea party.

So today, my gratitude is for a state (even though it’s verrry red) that honours voting rights. We haven’t (at least not yet) enacted laws like some states, that impinge on the rights of the poor, the non-white, the non-privileged among us, to vote. And I’m beyond grateful for that.

Give thanks for your right to vote, folks. Men & women over the past centuries have died so you can help choose our leaders. And then? Get out there & exercise it!!

 

giving thanks: day of gratitude #2 ~

giving thanks: day of gratitude #2 ~

Today is day 2 of giving thanks month (more commonly known as Thanksgiving month… ????). It takes an entire month just to scratch the surface of all this life offers!

One of my ‘superficial’ — but not really! — gratitudes is a washing machine. Seriously: I told my husband, before we married to move to his new job in Algeria, that I would NOT wash our laundry by hand. And I didn’t: I found the only laundromat in the city of Alger, and spent one day a week doing laundry. IN A MACHINE, the way the universe intended!

Each week I schlepped our laundry in the carpool we shared w/ ‘the bachelors,’ 4 single guys. Since the care was a tiiiiny Renault, putting the 6 of us in it, as well as a week’s laundry, was no small accomplishment. I would parse out our linens, our darks & lights, into the small washing machines, & visit w/ the woman who owned the laundromat. At lunch, I would leave my laundry (with her permission) & walk a mile or more downhill the Didouche Mourad (the main drag) to my husband’s office. We’d  have lunch, and then I’d climb the many many steps back uphill to the laundromat. I’d bring a book from the Consulate library, and read until it was time to go home. The guys would pick me up, we’d cram the neatly folded clean laundry into the boot of the R4, and home we’d go.

I have no idea how many THOUSANDS of loads of laundry I’ve done in my life. Suffice to say, I will remember laundry as a defining element of parenthood. Beginning w/ infancy, into sports clothes, then the clothes that come home w/ college kids… I’m not kidding: I sooo hate laundry that when my husband was working overseas, we figured out the time by how many laundry days it would be before we saw each other again.

Don’t take your 1st world blessings for granted, folks. I think of Saliha, who lived across from in that long ago city of Algers. With 10 living children (not including 4 still birth/miscarriages), she did the laundry for ALL OF THEM by hand. In her kitchen sink, across the ventilator shaft from my own. We would stand beside our windows as she plunged garment after garment into hot water. Visiting to while away women’s work.

So no, I almost never take my appliances for granted! And certainly not my washing machine! Giving thanks for it is, in a small way, honouring the millions of women throughout the world who have so little when I have so much. Which is another thing to be grateful: my life of plenty. Including a washer, dryer, and so many other ‘ordinary’ conveniences…