The calorie high

Thanksgiving is the best of holidays, but one of its benefits is one of its shortcomings. Too many good food options, often prepared homemade. I was doing pretty well at our big family celebration which we held in a picnic shelter for the second year, until it was time for dessert.

My entree/ salad plate had tiny portions of several things to make sure I got a taste of everyone’s cooking. I decided to go especially frugal on the carbohydrates. So, I was feeling pretty good until I realized how many homemade desserts there were.

With our best pie maker home sick in another city, we had a lot of finger food desserts. So, I felt I was being less sinful by sneaking on an extra homemade cookie. Yet, one of my sons made a cupcake size cheesecake that was wonderful, but quite filling.

So, I was in a high calorie stupor the rest of the afternoon. Nonetheless, we had a great time. Our count was down to sixteen with above illness (and her family) and another late cancellation. Yet, it was a beautiful day. Inside the open shelter, it did get a tad breezy, so were glad we had the fire going for the duration. We are also glad we brought tape to secure the discount paper table cloths, so they did not blow away or turn someone’s plate over.

We started the picnic shelter gathering last year because of the pandemic and we held it on Friday, as we did this year. So, we had a small family gathering on Thanksgiving with the larger one the next day. We have latched onto this new tradition as it gets us out into nature and is a more central location. Plus, a few that could not make it called via Face Time.

This year, we had three new/ old relatives that joined us as they were down visiting other family. One of two remaining members of my deceased mother-in-law’s family of nine kids came with one of his daughters and her husband. Since dementia is slowly taking over this very smart and congenial man, his daughter had brought him down to see his remaining sister. My mother-in-law died from complications due to Alzheimer’s.

I hope everyone had delightful holiday, if you celebrate Thanksgiving. It is the best of American holidays in my view. Have a great weekend.

They’re all my chairs, but you can sit in that one (a reprise)

I wrote this post in tribute to my grandmother on her birthday seven years ago. She was Thanksgiving to me.

My grandmother, who we called Big Mama, lived life large. She was quite the character and was unlike the acquiescent namesake in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” She would tell you what she thought and was usually pretty funny in so doing. The title of this post is one of her familiar sayings. When she would get up from her chair to go in the nearby kitchen to begin cooking, we would ask if we could sit in her chair. To which she would respond, “They’re all my chairs, but you can sit in that one.”

Big Mama would have been 103 on her birthday next week, so she is in my thoughts. Although, she died fifteen years ago, her memories and funny stories echo and certain events will bring them to the forefront of my mind. In addition to being a character, she was a person of character. My grandmother had a tough time the last ten years of her life, as she worked on her feet most of her life as a clothing sales person. With osteoporosis, her body would begin falling apart and she would often fall breaking things. In fact, one doctor said he believed her hip just broke, then she fell.

She ran the Boys and Men’s Clothing sections of the stores where she worked in a large, small town. Her clients were lifelong, as men would get out of college and go see her to be fitted with a business wardrobe. My favorite story about Big Mama was when she teased her cheap boss in front of the President of the company who had come to visit. After lending the President her pen to write something down, he put it in his pocket. She said, “Sir, that is my penMy boss is too cheap to buy us pens, so I brought that one from home.”  That got a chuckle, albeit a nervous one from her boss. She made the company so much money, she would not get chastised for telling the painful truth.

Yet, when I think about Big Mama, I think of Thanksgiving. Our ritual was to pack up our family and go to her house for the holiday. The family of one of my mother’s sisters would attend as would several of Big Mama’s close by siblings and their spouses, whose kids lived far away. Even after she could not walk much, my wife and I would go and she would direct us on how to make the various dishes. With her fingers ravaged by arthritis, I would tell her as she would micromanage too much, “Big Mama, don’t point that crooked finger at me,” to which she would laugh. To do this day, I make Big Mama’s cornbread dressing, which is the name it is given. To me, it is my way of paying it forward, as our house has become the go-to house for Thanksgiving.

Big Mama was the next youngest of a family of twelve. The rhythm method was not very effective as a birth control means. She got her large personality from her mother, whom everyone in the community called Mama, even my mother and her sisters. Mama was also the local medicine woman, as the hospital was so far away. Big Mama told us the story of her younger brother who knocked his front teeth out as he attempted being a gymnast unsuccessfully. Mama sat him down and boiled some water, while she rinsed his teeth off. She placed a towel in the hot water and gave it a quick rinse and told her youngest son to shove the towel into his gums. The gums swelled up and she jammed his teeth back in and they held. Big Mama learned from the best.

I have written before about my quiet grandfather. He and Big Mama were a perfect match, a yin and yang. My grandfather that I knew was my step grandfather, as Big Mama’s first husband did not stay home very much. She divorced him at a time when few people did, so it shows that she was not going to live with her mistake any longer. Being a small community, everyone understood. But, her greatest heartbreak was when she had to bury her youngest child, my favorite aunt. No mother or father should have to bury a child. I cannot imagine a greater heartbreak. While hard, we are heartbroken, but less surprised when we have to bury a spouse as we know that is part of the pact. Yet, a child should outlive his or her parents. Even when the child is in her fifties, it is still hard, especially after the child had health issues all her life.

She mourned my aunt’s passing until she died. Like any mother and daughter, they butted heads, but loved each other greatly. We all did. Big Mama, you are the best. You are one of the biggest characters I have known. You also were a person of character. We are better for having known you and you are still missed. Happy Birthday.

I am thankful (a reprise)

The following post was written nine years ago. We are up to 36 years of marriage and are now retired, my mother has since passed due to Alzheimer’s complications, our children are now adults, my sister moved up here to be close by and the summer moments have subsided for the most part, we think.

In the quiet before we continue our preparations for the feast and family arrivals this Thanksgiving, I wanted to share a few thoughts to my blogging friends. Please feel free to respond with your own as we have a nice community that comes together on-line from around the planet. I have seen other comments and stories on their blogs, but always welcome the company here. I am thankful for….

– my bride of 27 years. We ying and yang pretty well together on our journey. We are both dealing with her extended “summer moments” as she calls this phase of her life. I end up wearing more sweaters as she freezes us all to stay cool, but she in turn deals with my many issues and imperfections and has for years.

– my healthy family of five; we are far from perfect, but we do the best we can. And, when we fail, we help each other up and encourage us to do better. I tell people who are expecting their first child, you never know how much your parents truly love you until you have a child of your own. My cup runneth over with three.

– my mom. My dad has been gone for six years and is remembered well. She is teacher for life, both to her former students, bible study class and her children. Mom, you are the best.

– my sister who moved back to live with my mom. For adult daughters who can envision living with a parent as an adult, you can appreciate my thanks to my sister and wish for her the patience of Job, wisdom of Solomon and the space for her time.

– my new teammates at work. I left a bigger company with many bureaucracies and listmakers who wanted to tell people who knew what they were doing, how to do their job. I am now with a small company who has people who know what they are doing and we try to do something unique – provide the opportunity to do their job.

– my former colleagues at my old job in my office and around the world. You are the company, not that bureaucratic mess. Good people over come bad structure, but it should not be so hard. I miss the ones who gave a damn about serving our clients and each other.

– my friends and relatives. It will be great to see many of them today. And, although I am not in touch with friends like I should, I remember them well. Plus, my new job allows me to see more work related friends and colleagues. That is very nice.

– and, finally, my new blog friends. I enjoy reading what you think, how you think, what you believe and your life based context for these perspectives. I very much enjoy your reflections on your history and current joys and challenges. Keep on writing and I will keep on reading and offering a comment or two.

Happy Thanksgiving. This holiday is truly what is best about America. The others pale in comparison. I hope people around the world have something similar they can call home.  Best regards to all.

I am thankful

I am thankful my immediate family is alive and well since the pandemic started. Two of our family felt the need to be tested for COVID-19, but came up negative.

I am thankful my wife’s sister and husband moved closer, to be near their children’s families, but also us. My wife is over the moon happy.

I am thankful my daughter’s boyfriend is a good man. They seem mutually smitten. She deserves no less.

I am thankful my sons have good mates in these interesting times. They are being safe and supportive to each other.

These are the most unusual times I have witnessed in my sixty two years. I feel for those who have lost loved ones to this spiteful virus. I hope we can come together in the months ahead and do what we can to help each other.

Happy Thanksgiving all. Be safe. Be well.

You have to be carefully taught

On the news today, I saw the UK Labor Party has been accused of having a few anti-Semites. Not to be outdone, the UK Conservative Party has been accused of Islamophobia. And, as I wrote last week, hate crimes are on the rise in the US largely due to a rise in white nationalists who feel more empowered these days.

People are not born hating. They have to be taught. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote a key song in the musical play and movie “South Pacific” called “You have to be carefully taught.” The lyrics are noted below, but I wanted to mention the context of the play first.

“South Pacific” is a play about the idiocy and harm of bigotry. It was written in the 1949 as a clever metaphor to address the Jim Crow period in the US. Rodgers and Hammerstein knew they had to use a different setting to get their point heeded.

These lyrics are powerful. Please let them sink in as we all need to counter bigotry and racism we see and understand some of our own prejudices.

“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

Let’s use this Thanksgiving to be thankful for and embrace our diversity. In fact, the first Thanksgiving brought two different groups together.

Travel safely and sanely

As we head into my favorite holiday week, the weather is starting out on a less than friendly basis. So, please take extra care to travel safely and reach your family destinations. I can assure you the interstates and airports will be crowded and at a standstill at times. If you look in the dictionary I-95 is code for stationary and an airport is a gathering place.

So, to manage expectations consider the following. First for flyers:

– you will wait in airports and have a hard time finding a parking space,
– your plane will be delayed and may be canceled, and
– your plane will be crowded.

How you let this affect you is your ball to play. You can let it bother the heck out of you or you can take it in stride. As I waited for my checked bags once, a woman commented on how calm and relaxed I was. I was sitting with a book and was waiting for the bags to come in. My standing up at the carrousel was not going to make them come faster.

Now for the drivers:

– you will be accompanied by many drivers on the road,
– you will come to a halt due to accidents and rubberneckers, and
– you will get irritated on occasion with fellow passengers.

How you let this affect you is your ball to play. Following distance is our friend. Rest areas break the monotony. Listen to your kids play lists – I had a ball with my kids doing this as they take pride in sharing. Find those side roads to avoid only interstate driving.

Please travel safely (and sanely). Giver everyone a hug for me when you get there. Happy Thanksgiving.

Cups of coffee and thanks

An old friend and colleague used to say about marketing, “You can never have enough cups of coffee with people.” I have expanded his advice over time to mean  fellowship and building relationships regardless of whether a future transaction is involved. To me, it is also a metaphor for saying thanks.

Cups of coffee (or tea, smoothie, etc) represent getting together for whatever reason. It could be to help a friend or the friend’s adult child network for a new or first job. It could be to meet to discuss how someone can follow their service bent and volunteer.

It could be catching up with an old friend you bumped into at the store. It could be to coach someone on an interview or offer snippets of advice to an adult child. Or, it could be to say thanks to someone for doing you a favor.

Whatever the reason, those cups of coffees represent more than the caffeine. They represent community. They represent gratitude.

Just like cups of coffee, you can never thank people enough. And, of course, you can order decaf. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Happy Thanksgiving All

Even for our friends who do not celebrate Thanksgiving, peace be with you. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, bar none. Nineteen of us will sit down to dinner and fellowship.

This will need to be short as more preparation is required. We have been at this for ten days, but thank goodness people will be bringing food, drinks or ice.

Please remember this season all of the things to be thankful for. Also, note good news is vastly underreported and bad news is vastly overreported, so things are never as bad as they seem. With that said, there are too many who do without or less than we do in this country and world. There are too many that live in a more dangerous area than we do and are ostracized and disenfranchised daily.

Let’s be thankful for what we have and remember those who are not as comfortable as we are or are in severe need. All the best.

Let’s give thanks

My favorite holiday is upon us, one that brings families and friends together. We have a crowd of twenty-two joining our feast and fellowship this year, which is more than ever.

Especially nice will be seeing some new faces with our niece and two of our children each inviting a friend. It brings my wife and me joy to see them feel comfortable enough to invite a friend.

We will also be meeting the son of one of our nephews for the first time. They live in California and he has not had the opportunity to bring him east until now.

Of course, we are excited to have everyone here. My daughter asked how long ago did we start this tradition. When my grandmother passed away, going to her home for Thansgiving passed away with her. So, we remember her by making her cornbread dressing and continuing her  tradition.

Please enjoy your Thanksgiving and travel safely if you must. Hug everyone a little longer this year and share plenty of stories.

Safe travels and take along an extra dose of patience

In spite of retailers trying to steal the thunder, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It means time with family and friends. My favorite memories as a child were going to my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving. Now, we have that house, where we will host 15 or more folks for dinner. And, we honor my grandmother, who we called Big Mama, by making her cornbread dressing.

I have written before about Big Mama and Granddaddy. They were each very special people and very different personalities. My grandfather was very quiet and worked with his hands building houses. He also loved to fish and we would leave early morning to drive to the lake returning with endless lines of fish.

Big Mama was a character and had character. She was very funny and was as talkative as my grandfather was quiet. She worked in retail sales for years and had relationships with families as she helped dress their kids all the way through college. Yet, unlike today, she did not work in the store on Thanksgiving.

I bring this up today, as I want people to travel safely to their many destinations. This goes for folks in other countries as they begin travel for their various holidays and year-end events. With things that have occurred in Paris, Beirut, Egypt and Mali recently, we need to remind ourselves to live our lives to their fullest and hug our friends and loved ones closely when we see them.

And, as we travel, please take along an extra dose of patience. Many travel officials are doing their darnedest to make us safe from those who want to do people harm. Help them, help you by being patient, considerate and kind. Expect and plan for travel delays. And, always remember, we choose how we react to things. Don’t cede that power and get flustered by things that are outside of your control. People in line behind you do not want to be in the line with the exasperated or angry traveler, just as you don’t want to be behind one yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving all. Safe travels and may the force (of patience) be with you.