Seasonal Thoughts and Thanksgivings




The seasons collide in the fall.
Halloween gives way to Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving bumps up against Christmas.
November,
I’m not done with you yet.
I need to hang on the last vestiges of 
fall and the Thanksgiving season
 before I am hurled into the rush and bustle 
of December and Christmas.
*************
My son called early in October and asked us to come out and spend Thanksgiving with them in Utah. I took him up on the offer.  They have a new home we had not yet seen, so we were excited to spend the inaugural Thanksgiving with them making new memories in their new home.  
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Jim and I flew out to Salt Lake City, Utah, and my son Ryan picked us up at the airport.  We ran around town with him while he did Thanksgiving preparation errands, and he gave us a grand tour of his new neighborhood.  I so seldom get to spend alone time with my son, that I couldn’t help but comment how wonderful it was just to be driving around town with him while we chatted.  He always makes the best of times even better.

Fall is the perfect season to capture the beauty of my son and daughter-in-law’s new home.  A branch adorned with golden leaves formed a perfect frame for this classic craftsman style home. 



I love the neighborhood where my son and his wife now live.  On a small porch at the corner house down the street from them, two college age guys dressed in wool coats and wool caps were sitting in lawn chairs listening to classical music and smoking cigars as they played chess.  I said to my son, “I love where you live.  It seems so civilized.”


Jim and Ryan led the way as we walked past houses still adorned with fall decor and headed to our home away from home to spend a quiet evening together.  

Our airbnb, which was just a block and a half from my son’s home, was so nice.  We really enjoyed the experience of staying in this home and in this neighborhood.  I kept telling my husband I was ready to move.  I loved the area around Sugarhouse in Salt Lake City.  




This was just one of the cool houses between our house (home away from home) and son Ryan’s.  

The next morning Jim and I walked back to Ryan and Sheridan's house and the four of us and Sheridan’s two boys headed out for the mile and a half walk to get breakfast at the best bakery ever.  I had their steel cut oats with fruit.  Seldom does one rave about steel cut oats, but I raved about theirs.  Oh, and I had part of an orange cinnamon roll too.  I wasn’t going to pass that up.  I fear we would visit this place on  daily walks if we lived nearby.



There are shops all around the bakery.  Across the street is a wonderful bookstore called The King’s English.  We visited it on the day after Thanksgiving.  All of this makes the neighborhood a desired location for living a life where shopping, and restaurants, and grocery stores are just a short walk or bike ride away.
The door to our apartment...


leaves on the ground, they all became subjects for me to photograph.  On this beautiful fall day, I so loved the experience of walking around taking in the sights found in a neighborhood filled with architectural delights.  It was just what my soul needed.  
At home, fall had left us during a blistery and wet storm weeks before Thanksgiving.  I had not been able to revel in the glory of fall and give her a proper farewell at home, so these last days of November in Utah were a special blessing to me.

Thanksgiving Eve, Jim and I walked over to my son’s house to participate in food preparation (ok, I watched while they worked) and to await the arrival of Amy and Jewett whom were driving from Colorado, and the arrival of grandson Bridger whom was coming down from Logan, Utah, where he attends Utah State.  


The beauty of the day continued.  I wish I could have captured the full effect of the moon at dusk, but this photo does give you an idea of how beautiful the evening was as we headed into my favorite holiday of the year: Thanksgiving.
We were worried about the travelers as a huge wreck had closed down the highway, but daughter and her love arrived safe and sound at a much later time than anticipated.  Thank heavens for cell phones and Google maps.  Bridger also arrived safe and sound from his drive down from Logan.  I was struck by how thrilled we were when Bridger arrived.  Does everyone always shout with joy when he enters a room?  I think so.  He is such a special kid.
The bounty for the planned feast was plentiful. I was struck by the beauty of the preparation of the meal itself.  Part of Thanksgiving is the anticipation of what is about to transpire as family comes together.  There is so much work in preparing the feast for a family the size of ours.  I so appreciate all that Ryan and Sheridan did to make the occasion perfect.  Thank you, Ryan and Sheridan!


While my family is large, the gathering itself was a bit smaller this year.  Ryan’s two older children, Regan and Parker, are living and working in Montana where they will be attending college, so they did not come home for Thanksgiving.  Amy and Jewett came from Colorado, but Amy’s two children stayed home with their father and had Thanksgiving with their other grandmother, and Samantha and Jonathan and their two children had been in Paris, France, the week before Thanksgiving and they were flying home to Colorado on Thanksgiving Day.  As with most large families, we are scattered all over.  That is why being together whenever possible is so special.
Thanksgiving morning, the house had been transformed in order to accommodate the expected guests.  (Don’t you love Ryan and Sheridan’s home???)


The guests arrived, photos were taken,and soon we were ready to eat the scrumptious meal provided by our hosts.  Really, they out did themselves.  Everything was perfect!
Photos were taken,

Daughter Keicha with her daughter Gillian


Amy & Jewett

My girls on either side of me
Keicha, Sally, Amy

the turkey was taken from the oven and carved,



the lentil loaf prepared for and by Sheridan for the vegetarians in the group was also taken from the oven,

the food was placed on the beautiful tables, 



Holidays bring with them memories both happy and sad.  Often, we are reminded of those no longer with us.  Sheridan was my daughter Julie's dear friend, and it was at Julie's memorial service where my son Ryan met our lovely Sheridan.  Blessings come from loss.  I'm so grateful for the family that was created because of a lasting and long friendship between Julie and Sheridan.  Julie's ashes are on the mantle and the empty chair reminds us of the one we miss and wish were with us to share in this joyous day.  

The empty chair reminds me that Julie would not be in it even if she were with us.  She had way too much energy for that.  She would be cooking and cleaning and arranging, and laughing, and joking, and loving on her nieces and nephews.  I miss her arm on my shoulder as she would have stood beside me in a photo of me and my daughters, but her spirit is with us.  I rejoice that we as a family remain strong and together and so appreciative of fall days at the end of November when we gather together to give thanks for all of our many blessings.  
There was more!  
In the evening we followed the tradition started long ago by Sheridan's wonderful dad by playing a spirited and competitive game of bingo.  The prizes were both great and not so great.  That is part of the fun.  Bingo and Thanksgiving pie now go together in my mind. 

 I love this tradition of more guests arriving in the evening with pies and gifts.  Sheridan's sister and her family and her mom and dad and another couple whom are good friends came to the house to play bingo after their own Thanksgiving dinners.  There was barely room to move around.  Jim was schooled on how to be the Bingo game caller, and we ended the day by playing Bingo which led to much fun and a lot of laughter.  


The memories of Thanksgiving 2018 are stored away in that place were all that is wonderful about this holiday live.  I am so very blessed with such a dear and wonderful family.  My children are so supportive of me and of each other.  I do not take that gift of family unity lightly.  Our bonds are strong and our devotion to each other is firm.  That is one hope I have always had for myself and and my children:  that we would celebrate and embrace the uniqueness that each of us bring to our family bond and they would seek to always build and affirm that bond and devotion to each other.  I'm so very grateful that again I witnessed and partook in the fellowship of a family devoted to each other.    My heart is full.
Perhaps, Thanksgiving comes at the perfect time of year because just as fall leaves us, we are given the chance to embrace her beauty one last time as we gather to spend a day giving thanks while eating delicious food with those we love best.  

Thanksgiving 2018, I needed you to be just as you were.  Now, I can let November days give way to the hustle and bustle that comes in December.  

Holiday Gatherings ~ A Time for Creating and Passing on Family Traditions

Earlier today when I had a task that seemed a mile long, I spent ten minutes that I felt I did not have to spare untangling a necklace chain from which the first letter of each of my children’s name dangle.  I could have tossed the necklace back in jewelry box and decided not to wear it as I ran errands, but I just had to untangle that mess.

“Being good at untangling chains” is not on my resume, but despite the time it takes, I’m usually up for the challenge of untangling such messes.  One pesky knot around the letter “R”  refused to untangle each time I would think I had it freed to join the rest of the letters. This is a metaphor for life,  I thought as I determinedly sought to free the chain from knots.  

So many times in the past, there have been assorted types of knots in the chain that links my family to each other.  These knots prevent us in one way or another from  joining each other in the creating events that strengthen in a positive way the ties that bind us as a family. Relationship problems, time, work obligations, schooling, money, and distance create the knots that keep us apart, yet despite these pesky problems, perhaps no other time of year stirs up longing for family like the holidays do. 

Family ~ Creators and Custodians of Memory of Rituals


I recently read an article which stated that family creates and becomes the custodian of rituals that define the family narrative.*  These narratives are especially developed and passed on during the holidays.  

The rituals of holiday were created for me as a child.  Now, those from the generation before me are gone, but those times when we gathered around the holiday table created connections that remain.  The traditions, the rituals, the connections become an important part of the legacy of family which I hope my children and grandchildren will embrace and continue long after I am gone. 

Cousins gathered in giddy anticipation of family celebrations create powerful memories that last a lifetime.  Cousins share a family history that spans the generations from childhood to old age.  Cousins remain connected long after the aunts and uncles are gone.  



It is worth every minute of untangling knots in the family chain that links us all together to create moments worth remembering when one thinks of the those nearest and dearest to the heart.  

This year, I know it was not without great sacrifice of time, money, and distance that my family and I came together to celebrate Thanksgiving.  That makes the celebration all the more precious.

Family ~  Memory of Rituals 

Filed away in memory bank are many wonderful memories of Thanksgivings from long ago.  Thanksgivings when I was a child were always spent at the home of my grandparents.

Sorting through those memories, certain images stand out in my mind:
The dining room table, large, solid, and the dominating feature 
of the room where my grandparents spent most of their time,
 was set for dinner long before the guests arrived.

The silver had been polished days before.
The china had been removed from the china buffet to be placed
 on white linen table cloths.
Each place setting was perfectly placed according to rule of etiquette.
We learned the rules of etiquette at home and at my grandmother’s table.
“Where is the salad plate?” my father would ask if his place setting was not properly set for even the simplest of meals.
Good manners were very much a part of my family narrative.

I have vivid memories of Grandma and the aunts bustling around the kitchen, 
best dresses covered with aprons, 
shooing all the kids out of the kitchen 
as they fill china dishes with Thanksgiving fare.
“Get out of the kitchen,” 
we were told as the cousins and I ran excitedly around the circle that connected
 the dining room, the kitchen, the bedroom where my grandparents slept, and the hallway to the bathroom and stair that led upstairs.

“Stop chasing each other.   Someone will get hurt.”
Indeed,
I did get hurt.
I was barely three, or maybe younger, 
when playing a game of chase around that circle I fell, 
 hit the foot of that gigantic and very solid oak dining room table.
 I knocked out one of my front teeth.
Was that on Thanksgiving, or Christmas?
Either way, the story became a part of my personal narrative of why I had a missing front tooth from the earliest days of childhood.

I love that my homes where grandchildren have come also have that circle that connects the kitchen with the rest of the house.
It reminds me of the circle that we cousins loved to run around at my grandmother’s home even as she reprimanded us for doing so.

Grandma was a wonderful cook.
Her Thanksgiving dinners were the best.
So, was Christmas dinner.
She made amazing pies, 
but her homemade candy was what we really looked forward to eating.

The trappings of Thanksgiving long ago created a rich tapestry of visual images that formed a template in my mind of how Thanksgiving should always look.

The table laden with food, the china, the silver, did not fully represent the perfect template for Thanksgiving.

All of those trappings would be absolutely meaningless if family were not there.

Family coming together to celebrate created the perfect blueprint for a what I remember best about Thanksgiving.

 Thanksgiving memories are priceless because the memories focus on family.

Time stands still in those black and white achieved photos from long ago.
Time with
grandparents,
parents,
aunts and uncles,
and cousins
made Thanksgiving my favorite holiday of all.

My father, mother, and Aunt Katherine on Thanksgiving sometime in the 50's.
Look at all those homemade pies!


Cousins in the 1960's
I am second from the left in the back row.
Next to me is my cousin Steven. He was killed in Viet Nam when he was only nineteen.


Continuing family rituals create a sense of
“Life Is How It Should Be.”

This year’s Thanksgiving plans were not made early.  In fact, as usual, we were still up in the air about plans for Thanksgiving early in November.  Daughter Amy announced she was going to Utah with her children to spend time with her brother Ryan and his family.  I know that Thanksgiving is the very busiest time of the year for Ryan and Sheridan.  Owners of a small business, Hip and Humble (click on the link) in Salt Lake City, Bountiful, and Murray, Utah, Sheridan is especially busy and involved in Small Business Saturday activities both with her own boutiques and with other small businesses in Salt Lake City, Utah. I called and invited myself to Thanksgiving anyway. 

I had not spent Thanksgiving in Utah with my family since 1981.  We've been together at my mom's or my house, but we have not been together in Utah for Thanksgiving for a very long time.

Jim did not want to make the trip with me.  His family narrative of holiday gatherings is different from mine.  He did not grow up with extended family gatherings.  He would just as soon go out to eat on Thanksgiving.  He doesn’t like to travel to Utah in the winter.  He had to work.  He bought me plane ticket, rented me a car to use for a week in Utah, and sent me on my way for a week with my children and grandchildren. 

This year, it seemed more important than ever that we all gather together.  The grandchildren are getting older.  One is already twenty.  Three are eighteen.  One is seventeen.  Two are fourteen.  Soon, they will be going off to make their own way in life, and they will no doubt be scattered to parts unknown.  Before that happened, I wanted as many as possible of us to sit around a Thanksgiving table and make happy memories of family being together.  That is exactly what happened.

There is a sort of passing of the baton that takes place in families as one generation ages and the next takes over the hosting of Thanksgiving.  I'm sure I could no longer pull off fixing a Thanksgiving meal for a crowd.  Yes, despite my children thinking otherwise, there was a day when I could do this.  Despite my lack of cooking these days, I can still shop at the grocery store, so armed with the grocery list made by my son and daughter-in-law, I shopped for Thanksgiving while they were at work.  I loved shopping at the wonderful new grocery store near their home.  We had charted out which store would carry the items on my list.  Did you know that Costco sells a four count package of Martinelli's Sparkling Cider?  Score.  I bought two packages.  They were a big hit.

Keicha had specifically requested that I make a lemon meringue pie.  "It's been so long since I had your homemade lemon meringue," she wrote in a text.  "It's been so long since I made one," I replied.  The pressure was on.  I made the pie with help from Keicha.  It not only looked decent, it was also delicious.  


Passing the baton for Thanksgiving preparation and hosting to my children has proven to be a joy to watch and experience.  Son Ryan and his wife Sheridan were the perfect host and hostess.  They both love to cook and to entertain.  I've had some very good Thanksgiving meals, but I must say that this year's feast was one of the best I have ever eaten.  

Sheridan purchased two fresh turkeys which Ryan brined before they were roasted.  The sweet potatoes and dressing were made from Sheridan's father's recipe.  They were delicious.  The gravy was perfect.  The rolls wonderful.  I loved the winter slaw that came from a recipe from Bon Appetit.   Ryan said there would be no green bean casserole made with canned cream of mushroom soup, but daughter Amy insisted on that favorite dish being prepared, so mom bought the ingredients and made the casserole at Keicha's house.  Sometimes, you have to have that old comfort food from the days when mom put together casseroles that came from ingredients that come from a can.




The tables were beautifully set when we arrived at the lovely family home that belongs to Sheridan's parents.  Ryan and Sheridan are living in this home while Sheridan's parents are in Denmark for a year.  This home is the perfect home for holiday entertaining.  (Thank you B & B for letting us use your lovely home for our Thanksgiving.)

Family photos recorded the day for posterity.

Our hosts for the day were all smiles.  

The Mordiansen's (A name for this blended family that combines Ryan's and Sheridan's last names)
Parker, Regan, Max, Bridger in back, Henry in front, Sheridan, and Ryan
Parker and Regan, a great brother and sister combo, are roommates while Parker attends college and Regan is working.


My daughter Keicha and granddaughter Gillian were joined by Gillian's boyfriend, Fran for a group photo.

Daughter Amy and her children Mason and Hannah flew in from Colorado for the holiday.

Cousins
It is always a great time when cousins are together.


Sheridan's family brought a new tradition to our family: bingo!  After Thanksgiving dinner, Sheridan's family always plays bingo.  Each person brings a gift to add to the prizes that will be awarded.  When the hostess owns boutiques, the prizes are awesome and much sought by those playing the game.  At times the competition to win was quite intense because winners can take gifts from other players.  Once the gift is stolen, the original winner can't get the prize back.  Ryan was the bingo caller.  Grandma Sally kept winning.  I think the grandchildren thought I was cheating since my card was nearly covered with beans before long.  I soon had many cool prizes, but alas, I ended up with only a box of chocolate covered orange sticks.  The grandkids showed no mercy in taking away my gifts. Regan totally scored by winning a fleece lined flannel and a cool hat.  The amazing part is that she got to keep them.  What a blast we had playing bingo.

   
At the end of the day, I declared the Thanksgiving of 2016 the very best ever! 
While I wish that son Jonathan and daughter-in-law Samantha and grandson Atticus could have joined us, the day was nearly perfect.

 Thanksgiving, a day for giving and for thanksgiving happened because each family member that could gave up time, energy, and money to come together for a time of family celebration.

Thanksgiving, a day for expressing gratitude for the love we all share for each other, reminded us all what we really like about each other.   

Thanksgiving is a time for rejoicing in gratitude for those invisible bonds that tie us together across the years.  
Those bonds have brought us all both great joy and unbearable heartbreak.

Thanksgiving, is the perfect time to make new memories that will be added to our family narrative of both love and loss. 

Mama Sal surrounded by three of her kids is a very happy lady.
Amy, Mom, Keicha, Ryan
Whenever I am with my children, life truly is how it should be.

Thanksgiving 2016, is now in the books.  
It will live on fondly in my heart for a very long time.

*Tie That Binds...Bonds That Empower by Robert D. Caldwell

Home for the Holidays

Reflections on the Holiday Season

Decorating the Christmas tree brings back so many memories of years gone by.
My festive Spanish bell purchased in Mexico so many years ago triggers memories of times with dear people whom were so much a part of my life in the 80's.
Humming,
Feliz Navidad,
I remember Christmas season trips to New Mexico.
I think of all the wonderful Spanish speaking students whom I taught over the years.
I think of the rich cultural traditions that others have during this time of year.


Some years a few new decorations are added to tree.
This year, dried wheat bunches from the Thanksgiving flower arrangement were gathered together and tied with Christmas ribbon to create a new decoration.
It will be a reminder of the wonderful Thanksgiving we shared with my son and his wife and son
and with 
my daughter and her son and daughter earlier this year.

My tree always is dotted with bells, lots of bells.
Somehow, many years ago, I started collecting so many bells that I decided that my Christmas tree would have a bell theme.
And so, to this day, bells hang on my tree.
The bells of Christmas.
Each bell has a story behind it.  
Each bell carries a special memory.


I love the bells of Christmas.
The angels.
The lambs.
The red berries.
The pine cones.
The red and silver balls.
The lights.
I love the beauty of Christmas.

Christmas decorations remain on display at my house until New Year's Day.
It seems we are so busy before Christmas that I rarely have time to sit and reflect about the true meaning of Christmas until it is all over.


Julie's tree,
the tree that holds only her special ornaments,
gives me great comfort,
but it also sometimes sends fresh shock waves through my mind
when I see her things in my house as a reminder that she is not here to put them up in her own place.


I'm never quite prepared for
 the scent of Julie
 that overpowers my emotions when I open the hat box that contains her Christmas ornaments. 
Yes, the tissue paper that she placed around each ornament still smells like her. 
It got to me again this year. 
I miss you, Jules.
 I love you. 
XO

***********

The holidays really began for me when my high school girlfriends all gathered for our holiday party on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
(That's me, surrounded by my girlfriends, 
smiling broadly,  dressed in orange, and sitting midway on the stairs.)


Oh how I love these girls!
As a group, and individually, my life is much richer 
because I met these awesome ladies over fifty years ago.
We giggle like school girls while we open our gag gift exchange.
You don't even want to know what we give each other!
We laugh so hard we can barely breathe throughout the day when we have our get togethers.
This year, Dove could not be with us, so she sent a bottle of real maple syrup from Vermont, where she lives, for each one of us.


We cry and give thanks as
we share our list of gratitudes for the year with each other.
Each of us feels loved and blessed because
we belong to something that is rare and precious:
a sisterhood of
of girlfriends
 with deep roots that began in the golden days of youth
 and has lasted until our hair has turned to silver.
We are there for each other no matter what.
As we get older, the "no matter whats" become harder to bear,
but we don't bear our trials alone.
Our friend with Alzheimer's called during our lunch.
Her husband placed the call so we could talk to her.
Three of the girls drove to Kansas this summer to bring her love and gifts from the group and to take her out for the day.
That's what I'm talking about.
These girls are true, forever friends.

**********

Soon, the next holiday was upon us.
Thanksgiving was so special this year.
Ryan and Sheridan brought oldest grandson with them as they flew in for a short visit for 
Thanksgiving.


We have plenty of chairs, but these kids like togetherness.

Firstborn grandson Parker is in his first year of college.
What a treat it was to have him with us during his short break!


Daughter Amy and her children were here with us too.
The siblings took over the kitchen for mom.
That is a good thing since I can't seem to put it all together like I used to do.
After a run through the neighborhood, they whipped up dinner.
(We also had a bit a lot of help from Whole Foods.)


I was one blessed and happy mom on Thanksgiving Day.
Nothing makes me happier than being surrounded by my children and grandchildren.
Nothing.


The trip to my house was a quick one for the newlyweds.
I'm grateful they were able to come at all.
The day after Thanksgiving was Black Friday.
The next day was Small Business Saturday.
Sheridan, as a small business owner, took time to be with us, her family,
 before she was off for the Christmas rush at Hip and Humble in Salt Lake City.


*************
The day after Thanksgiving, Jim was also off to work at the Apple Store.
With me also working, this was a crazy, busy Christmas season for us.

Somehow, we managed to decorate the house,
shop for presents,
write and mail a Christmas letter,
and attend other holiday get togethers with friends and family.

My new best friends became the folks that own the nearby
PostalAnnex in the University Center in Colorado Springs.
I literally dropped gifts on the counter and asked, "Can you wrap and mail these for me?"
They did just that!
I didn't have to go to the post office or FedEx or UPS one time during the Christmas season.
Check them out for all your mailing needs.

A special event each year is hosted by my cousin and her husband:  The Cousin Christmas Party.
Thanks, Diana and Steve for again being such gracious hosts.
We shared great food and deep belly laughs throughout the evening.


*********
On Christmas Eve, we celebrated with Jim's daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren at daughter Thia's new home.
What a fun time we all had.


Christmas Day was a very quiet day for the two of us.
Jim said, "Don't get me anything for Christmas.  I don't need a thing."
I thought of a few things he needed.
First,
he needed new gloves that would keep his hands warm while he walks the dog
and navigates around his iPhone.
He needed technology friendly gloves.
"You can text while wearing these gloves," I said.
"No kidding?" he replied.
Then he happily tried them out and was quite excited about the new gloves.

He also needed another winter hat, one that he could wear to work.
He loved his new brown wool cap.


I also surprised him with new "tennis shoes" that he likes to wear to work.

Jim finds great comfort in honoring and remembering his heritage when we light the menorah.
On Christmas morning, my dear, dear Jewish friend in California sent me greetings via a text.
She then sent me a photo of her daughter and her husband, home for the holidays, seated in front of a lighted menorah.
I sent her this photo of Jim.



Jim spoiled me to death with many wonderful gifts.
He didn't listen to me either when I told him that I needed nothing for Christmas.

Cooking a large Christmas dinner has never been high on my list of things to do on Christmas.
Instead, I've traditionally made Christmas brunch.
This year, just the two of us enjoyed a brunch of chili relleno casserole, hash browns, a spinach salad, a fruit salad, and stollen. (We forgot we had also planned to have bacon.)
As we leisurely enjoyed our morning and early afternoon, I realized that we had not spent an entire day together without any obligations or work since mid-September.

Christmas Day the air was cool and crisp, but the sky was a brilliant blue.
We decided to walk in the Garden of the Gods.
We'd not been there in months.
Boston could hardly contain himself with joyful anticipation as we approached one of his favorite walking places.
We thought it would be the perfect day to enjoy the great outdoors now that all the summer tourists have gone home.
We were wrong.
Throngs of people had the same idea we did.
I don't know when I've seen this beautiful place so crowded.

Despite the crowds,
and Boston's over-enthusiastic reaction of being in a favorite place filled with lots of great smells,
 and lots of other people,
we enjoyed a crisp Christmas afternoon walk.


**********
Home for the holidays is an ideal I have carried in my head for a long time.
I envisioned that this meant all of our offspring would gather around the table with us to eat a Christmas meal, or open presents around the tree.

Divorce,
death,
and
distance,
the three D's of Christmas,
 have robbed me of much happiness at Christmas over the years.

This year,
acceptance of those things over which I have no control
allowed me to
celebrate,
with peace and joy,
a quiet
Christmas at home.









New Beginnings are Full of Both Hope and Sadness

Thanksgiving Day was a lovely celebration made very special by my daughter Amy.  In years past, Amy has either spent Thanksgiving with her former husband's family, in Utah with her father and siblings who live there, or in Pueblo at our house.  She has never cooked a Thanksgiving dinner before by herself.

This year, Amy and I had actually planned on driving to Utah together to spend Thanksgiving with the family, but circumstances and timing caused us to change our plans just days before Thanksgiving.  As she and I discussed what we would do to celebrate the holiday, she insisted that she wanted to cook.  I wasn't going to argue with that.

Thanksgiving has not been a happy holiday for several years.  It has been a trying time for Amy in particular as she has gone through a difficult divorce while she was also coping with the loss of her very best friend and sister, Julie.  Amy and Julie were practically inseparable since their earliest days.  Julie was born just two years after Amy.  They lived within just a few miles of each other for the past ten years.  They even worked at the same place until just before Julie died.  There was not a day that went by where they did not text, talk, or see each other.  I don't know how Amy has carried on, but carry on she has.

I'm so grateful Amy and I had Thanksgiving at her  house.  That house is filled with so many memories.  I barely can write as I think of all the birthdays, Mother's Days, Easters, and Christmas celebrations that we have had at Amy's.  Julie is also front in center in every one of those memories.  She figured very large in every event that Amy every hosted.  So, even though it was hard, so hard, it was a blessing to have Thanksgiving at Amy's.  It also made it a bit easier because Thanksgiving had never been at Amy's before, so there were no memories of Julie being there on Thanksgiving.

The Details

Amy is always so thoughtful.  Whenever I have a dinner at my house, she always brings a bouquet for the table.  I nearly forgot to do the same for her.  
Then, I saw this turkey vase with a fall flower arrangement.
I thought how perfect it would be for her to have this little gift as a reminder of the first 
Thanksgiving feast that ever she cooked.

Hannah is making sure the table is set just right.


The turkey was cooked to perfection.
It was so moist.
Truly, Amy did an excellent job.


She even had to learn how to carve the turkey.


We laughed when Amy heard herself say, "You kids stop eating the vegetables" while they patiently waited for dinner to be done.


Mason was ready to eat, but he agreed to a few photos.


Mom and daughter
My beautiful daughter of whom I am so proud.


 Mason and Hannah, two of beautiful grandchildren, are two of the great blessings of my life.


Jason, Julie's boyfriend, and our dear family friend, joined us for his second 
Thanksgiving meal of the day. 



Mason gave a thumbs up to his mother's cooking.  He said she did an excellent job.
She did.


After dinner, we started a marathon game of poker.  Jason helped Hannah because it was her first time at playing the game.  After just a few hands, she was on her own and winning.  This girl was good!  Grandma was defeated early in the game.  
The game went on for what seemed a lifetime.
I finally went to bed.
I heard Mason won and the game was finally over at sometime after midnight.


Amy will close on her house in the next few weeks.  She will be leaving the only house Hannah has ever lived in.  It will be hard to leave this place.  It has been the family gathering place for all of us many times.  It was where Amy spent many hours with Julie.  Every room is filled with so many memories.  I know how hard it will be for Amy to say good-bye to this place.  Hold her in your heart as she moves forward.

We truly are grateful that Thanksgiving was celebrated well this year.  We had good food, good company, played some fun games, and made great memories.    It also marked an ending and a new beginning.  Life is full of both, and it seems that every ending brings it share of sadness, but this sadness is tempered with great hope for the new beginnings that follow.

Over The River and Through The Woods - New Version

Brother and Sister
Together in Dhaka
Tonight I am praying for my oldest daughter who is flying somewhere between Dhaka and Abu Dhabi.  When she arrives in Abu Dhabi, she will board a plane to fly to Chicago.  Hopefully, she will be back on U.S. soil sometime tomorrow around 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon.  She will then fly to Denver.  Since she lives in Utah, she will not really be home until Thursday morning. She plans on spending Wednesday night in the Denver area.

Her journey gives a whole new meaning to the song we used to sing in school, "Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother's house we go."  When I first learned that song so many years ago, I never imagined that my children would be so spread out across the nation, and this year across the globe, when the holidays hit.  The new reality is that many of us have our families very far away.

Keicha has been in Dhaka visiting my youngest son and his family.  I am so grateful they have had a wonderful time together making new memories.  We have kept up on a bit of what has been going on through Facebook.  It seems it was a very sad farewell when Keicha, Jason, and Keicha's friend, Amy left Jon, Sam and Atticus today. Before the visitors left for home, they all got  dressed up and went out on the town.


Jason, Keicha, Amy, Samantha, Jonathan
Going out on the town




Thankfully, Jon and his family will be coming back to the USA for good around the middle of December.  Another long journey will be made to connect family for the Christmas holiday.

My husband and I had originally planned on going to Utah this week to spend Thanksgiving with my oldest son and his family.  When I decided to go back to work, we changed our minds and stayed home. That might have been a good decision.  A terrible storm is set to his Utah tonight.  My oldest son's wife who works for the Red Cross in Utah said they are already identifying possible shelters along I15 because a terrible blizzard is being forecast.

If this blizzard hits, my former husband, who has been in Colorado for the past few days with my daughter in the Boulder area, could be driving right into it.  Keicha will arrive in Denver from Bangladesh and could fly into the storm in Salt Lake.

I am praying that this storm does not hit as it has been predicted.  In the meantime, I think of those simple days when going home for the holidays meant that folks only went "over the river and through the woods."