|My cousin Jennie Byrnes made these amazingly adorable and equally delicious Thanksgiving cookies. But don't be jealous. You can order your own special occasion cookies from her through her facebook page Custom Cookies by Jennie.|
The past couple of years have been rough: my grandma died; I lost my job; my dad had a triple bypass; my Aunt Vickie died unexpectedly and definitely prematurely; and I have been dealing with pain related to a herniated disc in my spine. Despite all this, I usually feel thankful and even blessed. Since Thanksgiving is the traditional time to share one's blessings, I want to share mine with you.
Here is an incomplete list of what I am thankful for right now:
1. My Family - Where would I be without these guys? My parents, sister and brother provide stability, support and home-cooked meals whenever I need one. My sister hashes out ideas and problems with me and also helps me get organized. My mom listens to me without interruption and is usually right when she gives advice. My dad answers all my financial, political and historical questions. My brother helps me with tech-related problems and with anything regarding the dogs.
2. The Dogs - My parents' dog Maddie and my sister's dog Simon add so much fun, joy and physical exertion to my existence. They comfort and warm and annoy me like the younger siblings they are.
3. My (Much) Younger Cousins - Since my aunt died, we have definitely seen a lot more of my very busy cousins Robert, Michael and John. They tie me to my childhood school district, surprise me in so many ways, and make me feel like I'm still just one of the kids (even though I'm 20 years older than the youngest of them!).
4. My Job - Although all jobs have their downsides, I am so thankful to be working in an environment where I am supported and valued and get to interact with people on a daily basis.
5. Artists - Especially ones I know. They inspire me, and sometimes they even want to work with me or get my opinion.
6. Friends, New and Old - These special people who I choose to have in my life challenge me, enrich my life, support my dreams and goals, and, overall, keep it real.
7. My Body/Good Health - Goodness, if there is one thing all the pain I have experienced lately has taught me it is that we all take our bodies for granted when they are working well. It is only when they give us trouble that we really appreciate our health. Thank goodness for modern medicine and good doctors. Otherwise, I would probably be in incredible pain and perhaps bedridden right now. This experience has inspired me to treat my body better and really appreciate what it can do.
8. Being Creative - My apartment sometimes - well, oftentimes - looks like a volcano of stuff has erupted all over. Sometimes I wish I could just get rid of it all and lead a pristine existence. Then, I think of how boring my life would be. What would I do all evening if I didn't like to make stuff and wasn't inspired by random junk?
9. Being Able to Help Others - I am not rich, but I am thankful I was able to select an angel from the Angel Tree and purchase an Easy Bake Oven for a little girl named Ariana, who otherwise might not have a very merry Christmas. I am also grateful I just happened to find a soldier's id on the street last summer. She is stationed overseas, and I send her care packages just because I became aware of her existence. I am glad I can do that.
10. The Generosity of Strangers - For instance, today, a woman helped me pick up the pieces of the candle holder I dropped and broke all over the aisle at Target. I didn't even see her face, but she sure made my day. People make small gestures and engage in large efforts all the time, yet the goodness of strangers still surprises me.
11. Smart & Well-Informed Women* and the Irreverent Ones, too - From Michelle Obama to Chelsea Handler, from Rachel Maddow to Melissa McCarthy, I sure do admire all the brilliant, high-achieving, sass-mouthed women I know and know of.
12. Blogging - Having this space where I can share my thoughts with you and practice writing thrills me beyond words.
13. Pinterest - I know it sounds goofy, but isn't everyone allowed at least one goofy entry on her list of gratitude? Pinterest has introduced me to new blogs, artists I had never heard of, inspiring imagery, new ideas and recipes, something to bond with people over, etc. It has also given me some room to dream, design and plan. And everyone needs a space to let her imagination roam free.
After re-reading this list, I feel more thankful than I did when I started.
In addition to all that, I am one lucky goose. I attended not one, but two, Thanksgiving dinners this year. Feast your eyes:
|Simply prepared natural/local foods with a lot of flavor: cranberry sauce, stuffing, boiled beets, candied sweet potatoes, roasted red potatoes, turkey, and a great big dinner roll. So I really like my starches!|
|The broccoli I noshed on while awaiting the "real" meal.|
On Tuesday, my friend Rebecca prepared and cooked an entire meal herself, excepting the pumpkin bread I contributed (made by my own two hands) and the rolls Chalanna and her friend Ingel brought.
Chalanna and Ingel came for the meal and conversation, while I arrived early to play deejay and entertain the cook. Rebecca stuffed and cooked a turkey, candied sweet potatoes, boiled beets and mustard greens, roasted red potatoes with rosemary and thyme, fixed stuffing, and prepared custard with rice and raisins. All I had to do was sit there and watch. The meal was magnificent and inspiring in its simplicity. It made me think that someday I might be able to roast my own potatoes with good results. I was also impressed with Rebecca's sense of timing. All the dishes were ready at the same time.
|This turkey was prepared to perfection! It was juicy and flavorful. Also, props to people who can take great photographs of Thanksgiving turkeys. It takes skill I obviously do not possess.|
|Boiled beets made better with nothing but butter.|
And that is exactly when Chalanna and Ingel arrived. Those two were such a good addition to the party. Chalanna can make any topic of conversation seem exciting. She puts people at ease and is skilled at connecting people who may or may not have anything in common. I had a lovely time breaking bread and celebrating with my friends.
|My beautiful family. I am standing on the fireplace at the right. The end of the mantel was poking me in the back, and I was afraid I was going to topple off. That might explain the pained expression on my face.|
|My cousin Emily and my sister Lisa are excited to see each other. I was excited, too!|
|My dad John, my cousin Raymond, and my Uncle Curt enjoy catching up.|
Each year on Thanksgiving Day, my family rotates the hosting duties among the cousins on my Grandma's (mom's mom) side. I always enjoy hanging out with my extended family members. They are amazing people, not counting the fact we are all related by either blood or marriage. My cousins also give me perspective on the history of my family. Each time we get together, we discover more traits we have in common with one another. Sometimes the resemblances are downright eerie. This year we drove out to the gorgeous home of my cousins Vicki and Raymond. We had a good turn out and tons of good food, as usual.
|While Shelley roasted the turkey on her own, she needed a little coaching from my Uncle Bob to carve it.|
|A smorgasbord of deliciousness: mashed potatoes and gravy, deviled eggs, ham balls, ham roll, turkey and noodles, cabbage casserole, green beans, corn, a little ham and turkey, cranberry-apple salad, cranberry salad, and candied sweet potatoes. Yum!|
|Thanksgiving ham with a sweet glaze.|
My cousin Shelley cooked the turkey. It was her first turkey ever, but you would not have guessed it from the results. The turkey was beautiful and tasty, too. With the turkey, we had ham, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry and cranbery-apple salads, cheesy potatoes, cabbage casserole, dinner rolls, deviled eggs, ham roll-ups, ham balls, turkey and noodles, a seven-layer salad, and I am sure I have forgotten something.
|We never lack for desserts: pecan pies, pineapple, pumpkin pies, chocolate pie, iced cookies, fudgy-marshmallowy cake, pumpkin bread, and...|
|...Pumpkin pie croissants, which I thought were incredible - although two non-pumpkin fans mistook the pumpkin for peanut butter. Oops, that was unfortunate! But wait...|
|...There's more! Gobble, gobble! And that's exactly what we did to these Reese's Peanut Butter Cup turkeys!|
And you thought I was the one with a sweet tooth. In reality, we all enjoy a good dessert spread!
After eating, we spent a long afternoon catching up and playing games. I hung out and listened as my elders talked. Then, the younger women powwowed together for awhile. That was definitely my favorite part of the day. Yep, I liked it even better than my mom's pumpkin pie!
How did you celebrate Thanksgiving? And what are you thankful for at the moment?
* Remember when John Kerry ran for president and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry said women were smart and well-informed? I have loved that quote since she said it, and I reference the line often.