The cranberry sauce has landed. A thanksgiving perspective

At the time this posts, I will, hopefully, be well on my way to a tryptophan-induced turkey coma or at least surrounded by the smells of food cooking, children playing, and the near-deafening noise of my family squeezed together under a single roof attempting to engage in conversation over the sound of the football game on tv.

And sure, some of this vision is idealized thinking. In reality, the children’s play has likely descended into high pitched chaos by now. Cans of cranberry sauce may have fallen to the floor adding to the kitchen’s new color scheme and grandpa might say something, well… grandpa-y.

But even this less than perfect vision is still reason for me to be grateful.

The scent of smoke filled the air outside my home last week, caused by several forest fires burning in North Carolina’s Western mountains, nearly 200 miles away. On the other side of the state, flood waters from Hurricane Matthew only recently receded. Power was out and roads were closed for weeks. Many have lost everything due to the rain, and will more due to its counterpart just as the weather to turns cold.

And so I might roll my eyes as I pass the gravy but will raise my glass when it comes time to give thanks and drink deeply. For my more realistic vision of the day, as flawed is it may be, is still filled with food, family, and a roof over our heads.

I hope that you might consider participating in #GivingTuesday if you are in a position to do so, and wish you all, whether you observe the holiday or not, a Happy Thanksgiving.


And for those of you who prefer a little extra reading to football, here is a repost of another of my less than ideal Thanksgiving stories.


Has anyone's Thanksgiving ever gone like this?

Has anyone’s Thanksgiving ever gone this smoothly? (image from wikipedia.org)

I considered myself fortunate. We were traveling for Thanksgiving, meaning I wasn’t going to have to cook (a good thing for all involved – just ask my hubby sometime about my poultry cooking skills). I didn’t have to clean. All I was expected to do was to enjoy time with my family. Silly me. I forgot that I was traveling with a toddler.

I had barely closed my eyes on Thanksgiving eve when I heard my toddler’s cry in the adjacent room which he was sharing with his brother. I immediately sprang out of bed to see what was the matter worried that might wake up the rest of the household. I was ready to once again hear, “Where Monkey Man?” This time however it wasn’t merely a request to locate his favorite toy, he was sick, and not just with the sniffles.

I rushed him to the bath while the hubby took care of the linens. Eventually, we were forced to turn the lights on while I rummaged through his bag looking for his spare set of pajamas. It turned out I needn’t worry about waking his brother. My eldest didn’t even bother turning over. (Man, I wish I could still sleep like that!)

Cleaned up, my toddler clung to me like a life raft. The hubby passed by carrying our travel toddler cot. (You could smell it from a distance.) Even if we had a spare set of sheets, kiddo wasn’t going to be able to sleep on it again anytime soon. I had resigned myself to a night on the couch or rocking chair when the hubby came by again. This time with a pillow in hand. He volunteered to stay on the couch so that our son and I might sleep more comfortably on a bed.

In hindsight, I think in the end he may have gotten the better end of the deal.

It was still a loooooonnnnng a night. At home, my toddler’s bed is near the ground and has guard rails. My in-law’s guest bed, on the other hand, is very tall and all sides are completely exposed. Each time my kiddo shifted, I worried he might slip over the side and plummet to the ground. I was afraid that the cries we had already heard that night would be whispers in comparison. I tried to pull him back closer to me, but that only served to wake him up enough to remind him that his tummy was still upset.

Several trips back to the bathroom later (progressively less necessary),  I realized that what I was doing wasn’t working. Unless I wanted to be completely worthless the following day, I was going to have to find a way for both of us to sleep. I realized I was going to have to give him more freedom of movement. I placed a few pillows near the bed’s edge, just in case, but then I let him go. Soon I heard soft, contented snores and I allowed myself to also fall into a light sleep.

I awoke hours later to the touch of small fingers on my forehead. (Oh no! Dawn is still hours away – please, please try to go back to sleep!) My little boy whispered, “Where mommy go?”

I answered, “Mommy’s here. Are you okay?” (yep, the couch was definitely the better option)

“I better.” Then no more words. Instead, he snuggled next to me, and the soft snores resumed in short order. Even though I knew right then that it was only a matter of time before I came down with whatever illness my toddler turned outbreak monkey possessed (4 days to be exact), I couldn’t help but smile. I’ll take what I can get.

My toddler used to only want to be with me. Then one day he stopped, and now prefers the company of his dad. All too soon, I know this stage will also be over and he’ll only want to be around his friends. I’ll eventually have to let him find his own way in life, but it is good to know that he’ll still look for mommy now and then.

Another walk on the beach

I originally posted the following around a year ago, however, while my eldest is now a second grader and will be attending the same school as he did the year before, much of the rest of this post is just as true today.

storm brewing off topsail island

I could get used to views like this

“Do you want to go for a walk?” I asked Kiddo. It was only the second day of our beach trip. Earlier that morning, Lamont spotted a four to five foot shark chasing after a school of fish in the waves and none of us were exactly jumping up and down to get back into the water.

“Sure mom,” he replied, trotting to my side.

As we walked, every so often Kiddo would leap ahead, driven to scoop up a shell and hurl it back into the sea while he waited for me to catch up. It was a far cry from the early years I spent begging him to stay focused and keep up. I glanced back toward our tent and noticed that his footprints in the sand weren’t much smaller than my own.

“Do you still want to be a firefighter when you grow up?” I asked. It was a question that had been on my mind for the last several months. Kiddo had decided at the age of two that he was going to be a firefighter and stuck with his original announcement as the years progressed. He has a lunch box-shaped like a fire truck, a dozen firefighting themed books, and even a note from his Kindergarten teacher stating that perhaps we might like to expose him to other topics after journal page after journal page featured the same red and white truck. But over the last several weeks he had been picking dinosaurs over trucks when given the option. It made me wonder.

“Well I still would like to… some of the time.”

There it was. He was considering other career options. My baby was growing up.

“Well what do you want to be?” I asked. It was a simple question, one I had asked dozens of times, but for the first time in years, I didn’t know how he would answer.

His new school year starts next week. He’ll be attending a brand new school, with brand new teachers, at a brand new time, with brand new friends. Many of our neighbors are excited about the opportunity. They see the school’s raw potential, but as much as I would love to share their enthusiasm, I am too obsessed with the what ifs to look forward to the school year. Kiddo was identified as potentially gifted and a future leader at last year’s school. What if the teacher’s notes didn’t follow him? Would he be asked to slow down so the rest of the kids could catch up? What if there is no chemistry with the faculty? Would parents and students have to suffer while they figured out how to work together? What if? What if? What if?

I fear the unknown almost as much as I fear sharks. I hate not being able to see what is in the water next to me. I hate not being in control of my destiny. I hate what ifs. We kept walking.

The following day, the morning sun reflected off the water to our left as gray skies grew to our right. Storms were in the afternoon forecast. If we were going to swim, we thought we’d better do it soon, or not at all. As we approached the surf, a dark fin appeared several feet in front of Lamont and Kiddo. Great. There goes another vacation day. Then another fin popped up. Each was attached to a curved back. The fins disappeared beneath the water only to reappear several more feet away. Not sharks. Dolphins.

I let myself relax. Where there are dolphins, there is unlikely to be sharks. The fins didn’t appear again, but we took it as a sign and dared to go back into the water. I am still far from thrilled about the start of the school year, but maybe, just maybe, things might yet work out. Tomorrow is still a big unknown, but at least it is another day.

rainbow over topsail

Lou lou skip to my Loo

There are some people who collect shot glasses wherever they travel and some people who collect souvenirs such as spoons, or postcards, or magnets. I am no different from any of those people, only instead of bringing back your standard knick knack, I collect toilets. Or more specifically, I make sure to take a photograph of a toilet whenever I travel to someplace new.

It started out as a joke. Not to age myself too much, but I didn’t always have a digital camera (I certainly didn’t always have one embedded in my phone). Back in those dark ages, you had to take film to a drug store or photo shop and pay for it to be developed only to find out you had wasted at least three shots. So when we purchased our first digital camera it was as if we were suddenly able to print our own money (something I strongly recommend you not do). The luxury of such wastefulness went to our heads.

Lamont would jump out at random passerbys and shout, “you’re a star!” as he took five to ten rapid fire shots like some sort of inexperienced paparazzi with really, really bad intel (not everyone was quite as amused as we were.) Our hotel rooms were another victim. Each was treated like a potential cover story for Better Homes and Gardens or a featured episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (or Cribs for the younger crowd), except we were budget travels back then (and now) and quickly would run out of square footage to photograph. The toilet shot gradually transitioned from a series regular to a starring character.

North American Toilets

Mexico and Canada

Asian Toilet

Hong Kong and China

European Isles Toilets

United Kingdom and Northern Ireland

European Continental Toilets

Croatia and Italy

Australia

As we started collecting the shots, we noticed that each had its own subtle difference. The water spiraled down the drain in the opposite direction than I was used to in Australia. It was also the first toilet I had ever seen with a separate #1 and #2 flush button for water conservation. The porcelain hole in the ground stopped me in my tracks in China. Some were oval, others square and the operating mechanism differed in dozens of ways as well (I may have accidentally set off an alarm in Ireland thinking the cord hanging beside the tank meant that it was a pull to flush when in reality it was for a handicap assist – whoopsy!). The sheer amount of variation in the sanitation world is rather amazing when you actually start to pay attention to it.

At yet, no matter where we go or what shape or form the toilet takes, it usually still works just about the same (excepting of course the times we have stayed in a truly ‘budget’ location).

There are a number of places I still need to visit before I deem my collection complete. For example, visiting Africa and South America remain on my bucket list. I’d like to visit Antarctica too, although I suspect I will have to settle for a photograph of a cruise ship toilet as we pass through those icy waters. When I do, I will photoshop the name of the place onto the photo somewhere, then frame the image, and hang it among my favorites on my bathroom wall.

While it may not be the most polite conversation, the wall is definitely a conversation starter and one that I am glad to have whenever a new guest comes over. After all, the frames on the wall are a constant reminder that no matter how much we might differ, there is always at least one thing we all have in common.

The sky is a hazy shade of winter

I didn’t win the lottery. The Christmas decorations are not only packed away but have been packed away long enough that dust and clutter have once again begun to accumulate in the spaces they left behind. Then it snowed and the kids got sick. In short, it is January once again. Yay. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, winter bites.

I was rather unexpectedly sent to Chicago last week on behalf of the day job. Now, most of the time I like Chicago just fine. The day I left the skies were blue and somehow my direct flight was actually on time. I thought to myself, wow, if I could travel like this all time I might not mind it quite as much.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

“But who isn’t guilty of occasionally wanting to skim a page or two every now and then?” – Me

But it is January. As we began our descent, the pilot announced that the weather had warmed to a balmy 20 degrees (-6C). Darn, and here I’d forgotten to pack my bathing suit. Upon arrival, I huddled with other passengers in a what was essentially an airlock while we waited for the airport shuttle to arrive. When the shuttle finally did arrive, I almost missed it entirely as the hotel branding was nearly hidden behind a sheet of salt and grey sludge.

After cursing the heat and wishing for cold weather all summer

After cursing the heat and wishing for cold weather in December. Image courtesy of Flickr

I checked into my hotel and made my way into my room. The air inside was only a few degrees warmer than the outside. At least there wasn’t a wind chill. I glanced at the window mounted heater box curious as to the thermostat setting. I expected that someone turned it down, what I didn’t expect was that someone turned it off all together. Chicagoans really don’t notice the cold. I immediately corrected this problem, cranking the heat up, but even so I knew would take a while for the little heater to make a difference.

I burrowed under my covers, but I couldn’t quite escape the chill. I wound up passing that night with my gloves on and my winter coat draped over my shoulders. If images of the Poor Little Matchgirl running through my head weren’t incentive enough to stay awake, the various loud noises coming from the adjacent room certainly helped.

“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.” – Anthony Burgess

The following day, I told a colleague all about the accommodations from the night before. He cocked his head and asked why I didn’t complain about the room to the hotel management. I should have, in his opinion, been given an alternate room, or at least be charged less for the experience. I suppose he was right. He should know, after all, his job takes him on the road at least five to ten times more than mine.

“Be thankful for what you have. Your life, no matter how bad you think it is, is someone else’s fairy tale.” – Wade Ayeni

Why hadn’t I complained?

Like most people, I do tend to indulge in a bit of self-reflection at the beginning of the year, and this year has been no exception. And yet, I still haven’t completely figured out the answer. Was I silent because I feared confrontation after a long travel day? Was it because I am female, and if studies are to be believed, biologically conditioned to accept pain and discomfort, provided it is only temporary? Was it my sense of self-reliance? I had gloves and a coat in the room, why make the fix someone else’s responsibility when I can do it myself?

Or… and this thought gave me great pause… after working on improving my outlook for so long, have I managed to finally recondition my brain into truly accepting what life throws at me – the bad as well as the good?

“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.” – Michael J. Fox

Could it be that this blog, my personal happiness project, is no longer necessary? Have I then finally achieved a zen-like state of being?

 

 

Nah. That’s most assuredly not it. After all, it’s January…

…but it won’t be for much longer.

A walk on the beach

storm brewing off topsail island

I could get used to views like this

“Do you want to go for a walk?” I asked Kiddo. It was only the second day of our beach trip. Earlier that morning, Lamont spotted a four to five foot shark chasing after a school of fish in the waves and none of us were exactly jumping up and down to get back into the water.

“Sure mom,” he replied, trotting to my side.

As we walked, every so often Kiddo would leap ahead, driven to scoop up a shell and hurl it back into the sea while he waited for me to catch up. It was a far cry from the early years I spent begging him to stay focused and keep up. I glanced back toward our tent and noticed that his footprints in the sand weren’t much smaller than my own.

“Do you still want to be a firefighter when you grow up?” I asked. It was a question that had been on my mind for the last several months. Kiddo had decided at the age of two that he was going to be a firefighter and stuck with his original announcement as the years progressed. He has a lunch box-shaped like a fire truck, a dozen firefighting themed books, and even a note from his Kindergarten teacher stating that perhaps we might like to expose him to other topics after journal page after journal page featured the same red and white truck. But over the last several weeks he had been picking dinosaurs over trucks when given the option. It made me wonder.

“Well I still would like to… some of the time.”

There it was. He was considering other career options. My baby was growing up.

“Well what do you want to be?” I asked. It was a simple question, one I had asked dozens of times, but for the first time in years, I didn’t know how he would answer.

His new school year starts next week. He’ll be attending a brand new school, with brand new teachers, at a brand new time, with brand new friends. Many of our neighbors are excited about the opportunity. They see the school’s raw potential, but as much as I would love to share their enthusiasm, I am too obsessed with the what ifs to look forward to the school year. Kiddo was identified as potentially gifted and a future leader at last year’s school. What if the teacher’s notes didn’t follow him? Would he be asked to slow down so the rest of the kids could catch up? What if there is no chemistry with the faculty? Would parents and students have to suffer while they figured out how to work together? What if? What if? What if?

I fear the unknown almost as much as I fear sharks. I hate not being able to see what is in the water next to me. I hate not being in control of my destiny. I hate what ifs. We kept walking.

The following day, the morning sun reflected off the water to our left as gray skies grew to our right. Storms were in the afternoon forecast. If we were going to swim, we thought we’d better do it soon, or not at all. As we approached the surf, a dark fin appeared several feet in front of Lamont and Kiddo. Great. There goes another vacation day. Then another fin popped up. Each was attached to a curved back. The fins disappeared beneath the water only to reappear several more feet away. Not sharks. Dolphins.

I let myself relax. Where there are dolphins, there is unlikely to be sharks. The fins didn’t appear again, but we took it as a sign and dared to go back into the water. I am still far from thrilled about the start of the school year, but maybe, just maybe, things might yet work out. Tomorrow is still a big unknown, but at least it is another day.

rainbow over topsail