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Posts tagged with: thanksgiving

Thankful Beyond the Usual

Tomorrow’s the day. Many of us in the US have been rushing around gathering food, packing it away in every little inch of our over-worked refrigerators. Others of us have been filling suitcases and making travel arrangements, bravely venturing out on the road during the busiest travel-time of the year. We find ourselves frantic, exhausted, and downright ornery.

And yet this is also a time when we are supposed to be thankful. We are expected to have something to write on a paper leaf to read at the Thanksgiving meal before your little niece pins it to the Thanksgiving tree. Inwardly you may groan, outwardly you’ll scribble out the basics – family, food, a day off. And this is fine. People will smile and nod, and you’ll go on to eat your pumpkin pie.

But what if…what if you take a moment to contemplate the positive things in your life that might not be so obvious. Challenges or predicaments that aren’t ideal and don’t initially seem like something for which to be thankful. Here is my outside-the-usual list:

  1. My fourteen-year-old mini-van: There are mysterious stains, petrified cheerios jammed in the corners, and a few dents on the exterior. But I’m thankful that I have a vehicle that still gets me around (and is paid off). I am thankful that I don’t have to worry about my 17yo scratching it while practicing driving. I don’t worry about people hitting it with their car doors in parking lots or a kid dropping a ketchup-loaded French fry. My golden retriever jumps around it in excitement as we drive to a park, leaving her golden fleece in every orifice. Yes, I’m also thankful for my shop-vac.

  2. My smallish bank account: We all want more money. We have also seen what happens when someone wins the lottery and their lives fall apart. I have enough money that I’m not worried about it constantly. But not enough that relatives ask me for “loans” or whisper about me being rich and greedy behind my back. I also have no qualms about turning down telemarketers who want to sell me magazines. I love to treasure hunt at thrift stores, and when I find a $10 bill in a jacket I haven’t worn since last season, it’s a thrill. Money can be a blessing and a curse, depending on what you do with it. It’s very tricky and the fact that I don’t have much – well I don’t have to worry about it.

  3. My medium-sized house: Yes, my house, with two spirited kids (#3 is at college now), three guinea pigs, two sugar gliders, one large dog, and one 6’4’’ Highlander hubby feels over-stuffed at times. But when my 11yo worries that I won’t hear her in the night, I remind her that I’m just down a short hall. On self-enforced cleaning days, I know that if the house was twice the size, it would take twice the time to get things picked up and wiped down. When I hear a bump in the night, my dog and my husband’s baseball bat can pinpoint pretty easily where in the house it is coming from (Watch out frying pan falling out of the dish drain! They’re coming for you!). My air conditioning/heating bill is lower and I love my relatively small mortgage payment. My house is adequate and sturdy, but my home is snug and cozy, often filled with laughter, and packed with love.

  4. Always busy: Sometimes this is the hardest thing for which to be thankful. And we do need to take breaks to relax to protect our mental and physical health. But when you feel like you are sprinting to check things off your to-do list, take a minute to be thankful. Thankful that someone needs you. Thankful that you have a skill or the ability to help. Thankful that you have a job or have the money to grocery shop or that you are healthy enough to do the million things you feel you must do. Think about those people who have no family, no careers, no goals to work toward. At first it would be a vacation, but add weeks, months, years behind that, and you’d feel the emptiness. There is a middle ground, which I am constantly trying to find, but I am thankful that my life is full.

  5. Difficult Days with Kids: My three kids are very dramatic to start with. But on those days when there are boyfriend/girlfriend breakups, a failed test, a fight with a close friend, a sick or dying pet, the stomach flu, a broken-down car, a close friend who tried to kill themselves, a call from the police at 1AM, a huge mistake in trusting someone who gave them a prescription pill… Whatever it is, there are tears and yelling and praying and drama like you wouldn’t believe. Some of you know even worse days, and you just want to lay face down on the floor and cry. My challenge for you is to remember how much worse it would be if you weren’t there to hug, dry tears, give advice, untangle complex issues, listen, find them medical care, help them figure out what to say, wrap them in a warm blanket from the dryer, or just plain love them.

  6. My body: Over the last seven years, due to medical issues, I’ve gained thirty-five pounds. I was thrown into instant menopause with surgery, so the fight to remove the pounds is monumental. But I still do yoga every day. I walk the dog. I lift weights and can keep up with my kids. I can mow the lawn, ride bikes, and carry six bags of groceries at once. I ride roller coasters and can dance the night away with my husband (if it’s before my 10 PM wall of exhaustion). I have my limbs, my bowels, and my five senses. So even as I fight the envy that creeps in on me when I watch moms in size 6 jeans, I am truly thankful for the body I have and the amazing things it can do.

  7. Growing older: I turned 40 seven years ago and hated it. Every time I’d see an elderly lady, I’d cringe, thinking “ugh! One day that will be me.” Then four months later I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and started 15-months of chemo to kill the sneaky disease spreading through me. It was the hardest, most painful and scariest time of my life. But what I learned…I would never trade. When I turned 41, I celebrated big time. Now when I see an elderly woman I smile, thinking “wow, she’s winning the race. I hope that will be me someday.” Paradigm shift to say the least. Folks – growing older is the goal. Don’t hate every wrinkle, gray hair and extra candle. Celebrate that you are alive and moving forward. Celebrate every year, every day that you get to breathe fresh air, see the gorgeous world, and hug the ones you love.

It really is a glass-half-full world if you are willing to consider a different perspective. No, our lives are definitely not perfect. Some days you may feel like you’re maneuvering through the flames of Hades (been there, got the t-shirt), but even then, there are tiny flowers that peek up from the cracks in our world if we are willing to notice. They don’t fix the cracks, they don’t fill up the holes in our lives, but taking a moment to acknowledge them and maybe even be thankful for them – well, it helps us to take those crucial steps forward.

So this year, when you get your little paper leaf for the Thanksgiving tree or when someone asks you what you are thankful for, perhaps go a little outside the norm and see those little flowers growing out of the cracked sidewalk.

What are you thankful for this year?

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Heather

I’m Thankful I’m NOT the Turkey

Tomorrow’s the day.

Many of us have been rushing around gathering food, packing it away in every little inch of our over-worked refrigerators. Others of us have been filling suitcases and making travel arrangements, bravely venturing out on the road during the busiest travel-time of the year. We find ourselves frantic, exhausted, and downright ornery. And yet we are supposed to cough up something for which to be thankful to put on the paper Thanksgiving tree at the big meal. Your 7yo son or your sweet grandchild or your Pocahontas-dressed niece will pass around leaves and instruct you to come up with things for which you are thankful. Inwardly you will groan, outwardly you’ll scribble out the basics – family, food, a day off. And this is fine. People will smile and nod and you’ll go on to eat your pumpkin pie.

thankful tree

But what if…what if you take a moment to contemplate the things in your life that might not be so obvious (even to you). What about some of those challenges or ugly sides of your life. Huh? I’ll give you some examples and let you decide if I’m nuts.

Heather’s (Short) Thankful List

1. My ten-year-old mini-van: There are mysterious stains, petrified cheerios jammed in the corners, and a few dents on the exterior. But I’m thankful that I have a vehicle that still gets me around (and is paid off). I am thankful that I don’t have to worry about my 15yo scratching it while practicing driving. I don’t worry about people hitting it with their car doors in vanparking lots or a kid dropping a ketchup-loaded French fry. My golden retriever jumps around it in excitement as we drive to a park, leaving her golden fleece in every orifice. Yes, I’m also thankful for my shop-vac.

 

 

 

2. My smallish bank account: We all want more money. We have also seen what happens when someone wins the lottery and their lives fall apart. I have enough money that I’m not worried about it constantly. But not enough that relatives ask me for “loans” or whisper about me being rich and greedy behind my back. I also have no qualms about turning down telemarketers who want to sell me magazines. I love to treasure hunt at thrift stores, and when I find a $10 bill in a jacket I haven’t worn since last season, it’s a thrill. Money can be a blessing and a curse, depending on what you do with it. It’s very tricky and the fact that I don’t have much – well I don’t have to worry about it.

Prom dress for my daughter bought for $7.50! Woot!

Prom dress for my daughter bought for $7.50! Woot!

 

 

 

3. My medium-sized house: Yes, my house, with three spirited kids, three guinea pigs, one large dog, and one 6’4’’ Highlander hubby feels over-stuffed at times. But when my 7yo worries that I won’t hear her in the night, I remind her that I’m one door down the hall. On self-enforced cleaning days, I know that if Homethe house was twice the size, it would take twice the time to get things picked up and wiped down. When I hear a bump in the night, my dog and my husband’s baseball bat can pinpoint pretty easily where in the house it is coming from (Watch out frying pan falling out of the dish drain! They’re coming for you!). My air conditioning/heating bill is lower and I love my relatively small mortgage payment. My house is adequate and sturdy, but my home is snug and cozy, often filled with laughter, and packed with love.

   

 

 

4. Always busy: Busy-MomSometimes this is the hardest thing for which to be thankful. And we do need to take breaks to relax to protect our mental and physical health. But when you feel like you are sprinting to check things off your to-do list, take a minute to be thankful. Thankful that someone needs you. Thankful that you have a skill or the ability to help. Thankful that you have a job or have the money to grocery shop or that you are healthy enough to do the million things you feel you must do. Think about those people who have no family, no careers, no goals to work toward. At first it would be a vacation, but add weeks, months, years behind that, and you’d feel the emptiness. There is a middle ground which I am constantly trying to find, but I am thankful that my life is full.

 

 

 5. Growing older: I turned 40 a few years ago and hated it. Every time I’d see an elderly lady, I’d cringe, thinking “ugh! One day that will be me.” Then four months later I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and started 15-months of chemo to kill the sneaky disease spreading through me. It was the hardest, most painful and scariest time of my life. But what I learned…I would never trade. When I turned 41, I celebrated big time. Now when I see an elderly woman I smile, thinking “wow, she’s winning the race. I hope that will be me someday.” Paradigm shift to say the least. Folks – growing older is the goal. Don’t hate every wrinkle, gray hair and extra candle. Celebrate that you are alive and moving forward. Celebrate every year, every day that you get to breathe fresh air, see the gorgeous world, and hug the ones you love. 

kickcancerass juice Heather_NurseDonna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It really is a glass-half-full world if you are willing to consider a different perspective. No, our lives are definitely not perfect. Some days you may feel like you’re maneuvering through the flames of Hades (been there, got the t-shirt), but even then there are tiny flowers that peak up from the cracks in our world if we are willing to notice. They don’t fix the cracks, they don’t fill up the holes in our lives, but taking a moment to acknowledge them and maybe even be thankful for them – well, it helps us to take those crucial steps forward.

So this year, when you get your little paper leaf for the Thanksgiving tree or when someone asks you what you are thankful for, perhaps go a little outside the norm and see those little flowers growing out of the cracked sidewalk.red_flower_growing_out_of_crack_in_rocks

I would love to hear yours. What little flower in your life looks like a weed on the surface?

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Heather

Gravy! (And a Book Release)

Turkey Gravey

Photo by Amy Chan

Thanksgiving is almost upon us and I have a book release today with the appropriate title of Last Chance Family.  It’s got an orphaned girl, a confused gambler, a golden-hearted veterinarian, and lots and lots of cats.  You can’t go wrong with cats and orphans and vets when it comes to holiday books — let me tell you.  I’ll get around to telling you more about the book, but this is Thanksgiving week after all and there are more important matters at hand — like cooking. 

So, I thought I’d bypass the usual book hype and get down to something important, like giving y’all a lesson in gravy-making. You’d be surprised how much a writer can learn from the process of making gravy. Let me elucidate:

Step 1: Plan ahead. Making gravy takes all day. It’s not a flash in the pan sort of thing. You start your gravy by throwing a lot of random (and mostly uneatable) stuff it in a pot and simmer it for a long time. You take the giblets and neck from the bird and put them in a saucepan and cover them with water. Put them on a low simmer and cover. The stock you make by doing this becomes the body of the gravy. Be sure you make enough of this stock, otherwise you’ll end up with not enough gravy for your Thanksgiving crowd.

 Step 2: Take the bad stuff out of your gravy. About the time the turkey is ready to come of the oven, you’ll need to strain the stock and remove the neck and giblets. Throw the neck away. No one wants that stuff in their gravy. If you like giblets, dice up the liver and heart and return them to the stock, otherwise, throw that stuff away too. You only want the good stuff in your gravy. This is important! Pour your stock in a liquid measuring cup so you know how many cups you’ve got. Put the stock aside for a moment.

Step 3: Add the secret ingredient: You’ve come to the secret part of making good gravy. You need grease. Grease is to gravy is what conflict is to story. If you don’t have enough grease, you get crappy gravy. So, for each cup of stock you’ll need two tablespoons of the turkey drippings from the bottom of the roasting pan. Make sure those drippings are really heavy on the grease. The grease is what keeps the gravy from getting lumpy. Put the right proportion of grease into a skillet.

Photo by Amy Chan

Photo by Amy Chan

Step 4: Thicken the plot. . .er stock: You need to turn up the heat on this gravy and add flour, which is the stuff that thickens your gravy sort of like a couple of good plot twists. For each tablespoon of grease, you’ll need two tablespoons of flour.

Step 5: Screw up your courage: Now comes the hardest step in making gravy. You must cook the roux made of grease and flour until it is almost burned. It will undoubtedly stick to the bottom of the pan, and start to smoke, and you’ll be absolutely certain that no one in their right mind will ever want to eat this gravy. And you’ll be sure that this whole roux-cooking exercise is taking way too long. But have no fear. The trick to making gravy is to be utterly fearless when it comes to browning the roux. If you chicken out, your gravy will be pale and uninspiring.

Photo by Amy Chan

Photo by Amy Chan

Step 6: A Big finish. We’ve come to the flash in the pan moment. This is where you take all that grease and flour and combine it with your stock. When the roux is really dark brown, pour the stock into the frying pan. You should have a very long spoon when you do this, and stand back, because the stock hitting the hot skillet will make a big whoosh of steam. It’s mildly terrifying when this happens but incredibly satisfying.

Step 7 Let it simmer for a while: You’ve done all the hard stuff, now you just need to reduce the heat and simmer for a while, stirring occasionally, until the gravy is thick.

  I hope this helps y’all with your holiday gravy-making. And while you’re enjoying the holiday, I highly recommend my latest book, Last Chance Family. Here’s the blurb and cover.

 * * * *

Last Chance Family cover_lo resMike Taggart has always been willing to take a gamble. But these stakes are just way too high – there’s no way he’s prepared to become a legal guardian to his five-year-old niece. His only option is to head from Las Vegas to Last Chance to sort things out as quickly as possible. Problem is, he arrives to find an inconsolable little girl, her sick cat, and a gorgeous veterinarian he can’t get out of his mind.

Charlene Polk has two talents: healing sick critters and falling in love with the wrong men. Mike has trouble written all over him, but she can’t leave him in the lurch. And the more time she spends with the sexy high roller, the more she sees that this ready-made family is the best stroke of luck they’ve ever had . . .

 

 

What Are You Thankful For?

Thanksgiving is the time of year where the concept of thankfulness is visibly front and center.

By personality and profession, I’m a problem-solver, instinctively attuned to recognizing, and then correcting, problems, exceptions, deviations and anomalies. Sometimes I need a reminder to break out of problem-solving mode, and consciously acknowledge the things I’m thankful for. Thanksgiving gives me that reminder.

Things I’m Thankful For, in no particular order:

Good health: For those of us living with chronic illness, the concept of good health is sometimes a day-to-day thing, but all things considered? 2013 was a pretty great year. I barely met my insurance deductible! Speaking of which: I am thankful to have health insurance.

Modern medicine: Every time I grumble about how many sticks it takes for me to have blood taken, I try to remember that had I been born even a decade earlier, I likely would have died during my teen years. I’m thankful for butterfly syringes, with their small-gauge needles!

Employment: I survived yet another round of corporate layoffs – oh, excuse me – “limited restructuring.” In this economic climate, I feel so fortunate to have a job that challenges me, and a regular paycheck, when so many equally capable people don’t. And did I mention, yay health insurance! 😉

Family and Friends: They may not always understand me, but they always have my back.

Democracy: I feel fortunate to have been born to parents who live in a democratic society, where, within the scope of the laws of the land, I can say anything, do anything, be anything. As someone who lives some aspects of her life outside prevailing cultural norms, believe me I don’t take this for granted.

Last but not least…

TamaraHogan_TouchMe_200pxREADERS!! This year, I reconnected with the joy and exhilaration I felt when I TamaraHogan_TemptMe_200pxwrote my very first book – before I sold and writing became /gulp/ a job.

Thank you to READERS everywhere, who give writers yet one more reason to listen to these voices in our heads, and to push our words out into the world.

What are you thankful for this year?

TOUCH ME (6/13)   Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iBooks  | ARe | Smashwords
TEMPT ME (10/13)  Print | Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iBooks  | ARe | Smashwords | Createspace

The Latest Comments

  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: Great ideas to embrace seasonal ways to connect, Heather. 🙂
  • Darynda Jones: What great ideas, Heather! Thanks for these tips!
  • Heather McCollum: Thanks, Barbra, I’m a tea lover, not just the drink but the all the cups, hats,...
  • Barbra: I love the Mother’s Day Tea idea
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