Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

From the first year of our marriage, Thanksgiving took on a different feel each year. The first year, we "borrowed" my little brother, and had a picnic on the beach in Naples, Florida. Then we went to play on a water slide. When our own kids were small, I cooked for a week, with them playing on the floor at my feet in our tiny kitchen. I made my own stuffing, special rolls that took two days to make, pies, everything I could think of. We invited all of the family plus a recent widow from church. The day turned bitter cold, highly unusual for Southwest Florida, so we had to bring in space heaters. I remember my little boy being so puzzled when he overheard me saying we needed an extra leaf in the table to fit everyone around it. He finally caught ahold of my skirt to ask, "Mommy, how will putting leaves on the table make it bigger?"

That was a lovely meal. I put kernels of corn on each plate, and then passed a basket around. Each person said what they were thankful for as they put a kernel of corn in the basket. All of us had a hard year that year, but we all found something to be thankful to God for also. It reminded me of what the first Thanksgiving must have been like, when the settlers had barely survived the year and had winter coming in fast.

One year my husband's Grandmother made the trip down from Indiana and we all went and had a picnic in the park, then played games. She seemed so delighted, and couldn't wait to go back up north and tell her friends how she'd spent Thanksgiving on a beautiful Florida day. My husband's Aunt Ruth spent her very last Thanksgiving meal with us; I used the special dishes she had given us. She was so happy, her eyes were sparkling.

When the kids were old enough, we began volunteering at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving day. I'd put chili in the crock pot for our meal, or we'd have taco salad when we came home, exhausted from serving hundreds of turkey dinners to grateful, hungry people. The boys were assigned something like cutting the pies; they worked hard, and so cheerfully.

At some point the boys decided they wanted a big, traditional family dinner. I still have some of the name cards they made for each family member's plate, complete with drawings of Indians, pilgrims or turkeys. They each had their favorite foods, which I would try to incorporate; this led to a really big menu! It didn't help any that one didn't like turkey, only chicken; hubby only liked ham. Some like pumpkin pie, others only apple. I just make it all.

I learned to make amazing rolls, but could never get the hang of gravy. One year when the boys were old enough, they went to KFC to buy gravy for our Thanksgiving meal. It became part of family lore when they related that the young clerk had asked them whether the gravy was "for here, or to go?" One admitted he'd almost said "We'll have it here. Do you have straws?"The one son who doesn't like any gravy but white has learned to make his own.

Even my son's cat, Patience, tried to help. I was cooking away one Thanksgiving morn, when I heard a sort of strangled sound behind me. I turned to look, and the cat, looking like a little Pilgrim maid in her black and white coat, proudly laid a squirrel down at my feet. She seemed quite startled and upset when I screamed! She snatched up her gift and began running all over the house with it. Later, she tried again, with a lizard!

Now we usually have a big, family meal with the grandparents invited, and they pitch in with some dishes. One year our oven quit working the week of Thanksgiving. I did all my cooking in a toaster oven, while my mother-in-law roasted the turkey. That actually worked out pretty well! Another year when our son was remodeling our kitchen and miscalculated the timing of some repairs, I had no kitchen sink, no running water, and a huge mess. We all got to work and pulled off the meal that time, too. I think that was the year my son and husband spontaneously decided to cut a large "window" in the wall between the kitchen and living room hours before Thanksgiving dinner. I had mixed feelings. I had wanted that window through there for years; but not necessarily on Thanksgiving day! But it let so much light and air in to the kitchen, and I wasn't isolated. I ended up truly thankful for that window.

I am busily cooking and baking this year's meal. It isn't that hard to plan, because even though I'd love to make something different every year, no one will go for that. Well, actually, they don't care if I make new stuff - as long as I make all the old stuff too! So I'll probably just stick to the same old things, tried and true, beloved and anticipated. That's okay, though. Some things never change. Like the love of family. Like the gratitude we have to Almighty God for His provision throughout another year. As this Thanksgiving of 2009 approaches, I am most thankful to be His child. He has provided all of my blessings, and He is the best blessing of all. Happy Thanksgiving, and may the Lord make us truly thankful.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The October Thing is Always in November

Last night we enjoyed the 20-something anniversary of the October thing. Only it is always in November now. It began in October and kept sliding forward year by year until  it settled in to the second weekend of November, or thereabouts. But everyone kept right on calling it The October Thing. It is always on a Saturday night. That hasn't changed. The whole family goes over to the lot my parents own on the banks of a small lake, where they've strung lights, set up a few tables and chairs, and my step dad has a lovely campfire burning. All the children can't resist playing in it. They start with sticks, then surreptitiously sneak other things in to it, like paper plates, until they get caught and get in trouble. Of course now it is the younger kids. The older kids play other pranks.

Everyone brings some food to share. We never coordinate, so we never know what it will be. Last night it was mostly cookies and chips. But there was also my sister's incomparable devilled eggs. And my brother brought "long tailed frog," also called "swamp lizard." Some people call it alligator meat. Because, of course, that is what it is. I had the tiniest piece I could find, just so I could honestly tell you I have eaten alligator meat. Nope, it doesn't taste like chicken. Maybe like pork... I guess it is "what eats the other white meat." A very mild, rather chewy meat.

The main course, though, is hot dogs that we all cook on forked metal cooking poles. I cook mine until it is bubbling, but it is usually still ice cold when I bite in to it. Last night I got it done really well. That was a first. It doesn't matter, really, because the main event is roasting marshmallows. Everyone has their own special way of doing it. One young niece likes to cook them, but not eat them, so she is always going around begging everyone else to let her cook theirs. Her special technique is to catch them on fire, blow them out when they are bubbly and blackened on the outside, then present them to the recipient. I like to get them toasted medium brown all the way around so they are a little crispy on the outside, and melty on the inside. Perfect! My once a year treat. My step dad always makes his hot spiced cider, too, and has leaves it on its own special table in a tiny crockpot.

We talk about all kinds of things. We talk politics and religion and sports, hunting and fishing, video games, tell funny stories and plan future get togethers. My brother brought his pet raccoon last night. It loves to drink soda out of his cup. A teenage niece recited "The Man From Snowy River," Australian accents and all. Sometimes we sing, and one year a son who'd had a dancing lesson taught the box step to a younger cousin.

Gradually, later then they'd intended to stay, different families begin gathering up chairs and children and heading for home, usually taking chips or cookies with them. Everyone is full of marshmallows and root beer, and smells like smoke after our once a year, micro-camping family adventure. 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Health Care Reform or Health Insurance Reform?

I know feelings run strong about the Health Care Reform bill that passed the House and is being debated in the Senate. Everybody has their own take on it, at least partly based on their own experiences, and that's alright. In fact, I am very interested in what you have to say about the matter. I think the best solutions come from listening to a wide variety of opinions. Not that any one is asking me to decide the solution, but I know we can all learn from each other, and I want to learn from you.

I wrote an article about what I see as a need for Health Insurance Reform for Associated Content that you can find here and after you read it, please leave a comment, either there under the article, and/or come back here and tell me what you think. Whether you agree or disagree, I would like to hear how you see the issue and why. Or, if you post about it on your own blog, please tell me here so I can come and read it. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Holidays and Baseball

Now that Halloween is behind us, is everyone ready for Thanksgiving? I love Thanksgiving. The family, the feasting, and the special time to all give thanks to God for His incredible blessings.

We had a wonderful visit with our son and daughter in law. They are very happy newlyweds. We really enjoyed watching the World Series together too. Our new daughter in law really knows her stuff as she played the position of catcher on her college softball team, and she added interesting color commentary. She is rooting for NY and I am rooting for the Phillies, so that made it fun, too. I like a lot of the Yankee players, though. It is a friendly rivalry. I try not to miss the World Series; it is the one sporting event I always try to make sure to see. It is funny how many connections I have to different family members, old and new, through baseball. My first real memory of watching baseball was with my Grandmother, who loved the Cincinnati Reds.

It is that wonderful season of holiday celebrations, family time, worship and incredible food! Enjoy!
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