The Turkey

What are you most thankful for this holiday season? Health, safety, love and friendship or something else?

It seems that each year, throughout the year, I’m reminded by my children what they are thankful for (which in turns reminds me what I am thankful for) in unexpected ways.

My youngest son came home last year with an art project in hand. It was a Thanksgiving turkey made out of a paper bowl used for the body, a toilet paper roll decorated as the neck and head, construction paper (cut in the shape of his traced hand) for the turkey’s feet, and pieces of colored paper for the tail. It was easy, at a glance, to think the tail was filled simply with colorful feathers. Upon closer inspection, you could see that my son had written all the things he was thankful for on each tail feather. His tail feathers read:

  • Cats
  • Food
  • School
  • Hats
  • Water
  • TV
  • Games
  • People
  • Giving
  • Math

The simplicity and honesty of this list is what caught my attention. It really simplified what my son was thankful for, and reminded me once again what I am thankful for. My son inspired me to create my own list this year. There are big and important things I am thankful for daily: the health of my children and family, the roof over my head, my friends and family, my job, my readers, the city I live in and much more. My son inspired me to create a more simplistic and honest list above and beyond this.

In addition to the above, I am thankful for:

  • Ellen DeGeneres – Ellen, I know everyone loves you and I’m right there with them. I really, really needed your show the Wednesday following the election and you came through even though I could tell you were experiencing the same feelings so many of us were. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
  • Mountains – Seeing a mountain when the sun rising or setting with its white-capped majesty is something special. Living where I do, I get to see this virtually every day. I do not take it for granted.
  • Date Nights and Babysitters – Oh, I love the nights where my husband and I get to reconnect as a couple. Thank you to the wonderful babysitters we’ve found that let us know our kids are in good hands while we’re away.
  • Other Parents and Support Communities – I’ll never be able to properly express my thanks for supportive parents, and supportive communities such as PEPS (Program for Early Parenthood Support).
  • People who fight/advocate for what’s right – there are so many good causes. I am inspired and motivated to engage by those willing to fight for others. Thank you!
  • Teachers, coaches and caregivers – You give so much to my children and family. You sacrifice your time to share your passion and genuinely care about my children’s success. I’ll never be able to properly express how grateful I am for each of you.
  • A Good Tea Room – The Royal Tea Room in Tampa, FL will always be my favorite, but give me a good tea room in any city and I’m one happy and thankful person. The food is divine, and the company I’m sharing the tea with even better.
  • And many more (these may seem frivolous, but I’m thankful for them none-the-less): College Game Day (thanks for sharing your love of college football with the fans), Melissa McCarthy (I can watch Spy an unlimited amount of times and laugh — you are a gift to all of us), Bravo TV (thank you for being there when I just need to check-out and not think about anything), Oprah and O Magazine (you are still connecting with fans even though we don’t ‘see’ you on TV everyday), Sun (sunny, warm days our something I crave. Nothing beats then!) and Cats (just like my son, I love these furry creatures. They have provided me much love and comfort as pets over the years — thank you!).

I will be taking next week off to celebrate the holiday with my family. How will you be celebrating with yours?

What are you thankful for this year (frivolous or not)? Who or what reminds you of the simple things you are thankful for?

 

 

 

 

So Very Thankful

As Thanksgiving day arrives, and you reflect on the good things in your life, what comes to mind?

We have a practice in our home where at dinner, we say grace. It mainly consists of saying what we’re thankful for. It’s a daily tradition we all enjoy. For my boys, it’s an opportunity for them to share with us what’s top of mind (sometimes they are most thankful for what is in their field of vision — a napkin on the table, a food on their plate they are grateful is being served for dinner, or a toy or book left on the table. Other times its memories from the day — things like doing well on a math test, playing well in a game or playing with a friend), or what’s in their heart (sometimes they surprise us with the most amazing comments — thankful for people in their lives, or for nature, or acts of kindness they witnessed from others). For my husband and I, it’s an opportunity for us to share what we’re grateful for, and keeps what we consider blessings–healthy kids, our own health, good friends and family who care about us, jobs and a safe, warm place to rest our heads each night–front and center.  There is much to be thankful for, and it feels really good acknowledging it every day.

Thanksgiving isn’t the only time of year we remember what we are thankful for. It’s a day with friends and family, where you appreciate all the good things in your life. It’s special and I’m thankful for it.

What practices of gratitude do you and your family practice? What makes your Thanksgiving special?

I’ll be spending time with family and will return in December. Happy Thanksgiving.

Best Mother’s Day Gift Ever

What is the best Mother’s Day present you received? What is the best Mother’s Day gift you ever gave?

Growing up, I recall giving my mother various gifts throughout the years: artwork, small inexpensive trinkets, and as I got older flowers. There never really seemed an appropriate gift, and it never really occurred to me ask my mom what she might like (nor did she offer up what she might like from us). The best gift I ever gave was done collectively with my sisters help. We worked together to decorate my mom’s chair at the table with beads, a crown and banner that read “Best Mom Ever” — we were very proud of our work, and our mom was very surprised that we choose to honor her in this way. I’ve reflected on that over the years and don’t think we ever topped that Mother’s Day no matter what gifts we bought her. The sentiment was from the heart, it was simple, pure and full of love.

As a mother, there’s nothing I want or need anyone to buy for me. A hug, kiss, letter or drawing are great; extra time to sleep and breakfast in bed–a treat; offering to clean the house–a thrill. Any sentiment from the heart–be it simple, pure and full of love–not sure I could ask for anything more.

How do you celebrate Mother’s Day? When have you felt most loved? When have you made your Mom feel most loved?

Happy Mother’s Day.

Thankful with a side of Gratitude

Each Thanksgiving before the meal we say a prayer of thanks, sometimes going around the circle and having each person share something they are grateful for. While we make a point to do this on Thanksgiving, we also work to carry on the tradition throughout the year. Being grateful for what we have, the people in our lives, the joys and beauties we are allowed to experience, and addressing it in the moment, just feels good.

I was asked to write a letter for a girlfriend’s daughter for a retreat she is attending. I have known this young woman since she was born and have watched her grow into an amazing teen. In the letter I was asked to include memories, thoughts and feelings. It was an easy letter to write. When my friend’s daughter was young I joined her family for dinner. Her mom and dad were there, along with me. We started by saying grace. At the end of the prayer, she added what she was thankful for. She said, “Ms. Tricia, I love you.” It melted my heart. It was so precious. She looked earnestly at her mom and said, “Mom, I love you.” Then looked at her dad and said, “Dad, I love you.” She had us all in the palm of her hand. She took a deep breath, turned back to some candles that were on the table, and said, “Candles, I love you.” She then looked at her plate and continued, “Chicken nuggets, I love you.” My friend, her husband and I burst into tears laughing. Being put into the same category as candles and chicken nuggets was humbling, and hilarious.  What I remember most from that experience was the innocence of my friend’s daughter. She believed in what she was saying. She was truly grateful for the things before her…people, candles and all. It reminded me that we can find gratitude in anything and everything around us, and there is no point in putting gratitude off when it’s starring you in the face.

How do you give thanks? How do you show gratitude? Happy Thanksgiving.

I’ll be enjoying some time off with family and will be back in early December.

On Father’s Day

I never knew my grandfathers. Both passed away before I was born. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a grandfather. Someone to be a male role model and teach me things with unconditional love.

When I moved to the northwest, I met a very nice older couple who I became close with. Ken, the husband, became the closest thing I had to a grandfather. I would often see him and his wife, Ellie, on Sunday mornings. He would always greet you with a big smile on his face, genuinely glad to see you. After greeting me on one Sunday Ken said, “Boy, we just think you’re just great.” What an amazing gift. It didn’t matter to me that I was grown up I soaked up his affection like a sponge. It was the unconditional love I imagined I would have experienced if my own grandfathers had had the opportunity to meet and spend time with me. I was in awe that Ken felt this way, and had the courage to voice it to someone who wasn’t even a family member.  Ken was a model for me about how we should treat each other, and how anyone has the ability to touch another’s life.

I am grateful that I have my father still and my boys have both their grandfathers. I am captivated when watching them interact. Games of catch, fishing from the dock or seeing them watch a game together have a greater significance to me.

I’m grateful for the time I had with Ken. He passed away in recent years, but he made a lasting impression.  Most fathers (and grandfathers) do.

To all the dads making a positive lasting impression, thank you, and happy Father’s Day.

The Waiting Game

Most of us have been on family vacations that include a long period of time in the car. It never fails at some point during the trip, the kids get restless, the distractions no longer distract, and the noise volume increases. It was this way when I was a kid, and it’s the way it is now with my own kids. When we reach this point, whoever notices it first will call for “The Quiet Game.” I think many of us have invoked the Quiet Game in this situation–where everyone gets quiet, and the last person to speak (or in some cases make any kind of sound) wins the game.

We were recently on a road trip that required us to get on a ferry with our car. We left the house early in hopes that we’d make it in time to get on the earlier ferry. After waiting in line for almost two hours, we learned that we were seven cars too late and we’d have to wait another five hours for the next ferry. It was a bit deflating, but we were prepared to wait it out. We were also preparing ourselves for playing the Quiet Game…we feared we might have to play it multiple times throughout our wait.

We went to a nearby cafe to get some food and drinks to help us get through the long hours, and noticed there was a beach just down the hill from where we were parked. We ventured down to take a closer look, thinking we could kill 30 minutes to an hour down there. Instead, we found there was a beach trail, that included a broad walk and separate paved path for several miles. Since we had such a long wait, we had plenty of time to explore.

My youngest son and I went first, we took our time on the path, noticing the sea life, the way the boardwalk turned and curved, and other wonders of nature along the way (a caterpillar eating a leaf, a large stump washed up on the shore, little pinecones on the ground). I was very present in the moment with my son. It was relaxing and we enjoyed each others company. When we got back to the car, we still had a few more hours to get through. My husband and our older son decided they would check out the path based on our experience. My younger son wanted to work on an activity book, and then when my older son returned they decided to watch a movie on the DVD player we had brought “just in case.”

When we got onto the ferry, my husband and I discussed how pleasant the long wait had been. No Quiet Game, no fussing, nothing negative. It had been time well spent. We had found ways to occupy ourselves and created some new memories at a ferry terminal. Not something I expected to do.

I will look a waiting differently in the future. It may include the Quiet Game, but it also provides me with the opportunity to be present with my kids and to find the joy in our surroundings whatever they might be.

What is your favorite game to play on road trips? What helps make the time pass more quickly or pleasantly?

What a Turkey

Thanksgiving reminds me of holidays past. Memories come flooding back: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade airing on TV, the smell of turkey and Thanksgiving goodies coming from the kitchen and the warmth of being surrounded by friends and family. These memories give me comfort and great joy remembering each day.

When I was on my own for the first time as an adult I wondered how I would handle Thanksgiving. I’d never cooked a turkey all by myself and stressed about the idea of doing one. I couldn’t recall ever hearing anyone share how they’d aced the turkey the first time they done it. I did my research: how big a turkey to get and how to best prepare it and then I made a decision…I’d get one precooked. Yes, I admit it. Precooked. Now, you may be thinking where’s the fun in that? But I was not looking to have fun, I wanted a turkey I wouldn’t have to stress out about. The precooked turkey delivered.

On that first Thanksgiving I got rave reviews. “Your turkey is so moist, how did you make it?” and “Wow, this is delicious” were comments I didn’t see coming, but happily received though with a tinge of guilt. I felt though I had given them a delicious bird I had somehow cheated my guests out of a “honest-to-goodness start-to-finish cooked” turkey (the kind where you wake up at 4 a.m. to get the bird going in the oven after you’ve thawed it for 48 hours. The kind where you pull out the innards and stuff it with dressing. The kind that you stress out about and spend all day trying to get right for the meal), and I felt I had to confess. “I’m glad you like the turkey, but I have to admit, there was really nothing to it. I got it precooked from the store. I just had to heat it up in the oven for two hours.” The truth was out and boy, did I feel better. The funny thing is sharing this information seemed to make my guests love the turkey even more, “What a great idea!” one guest shared. “I didn’t even think about stores offering precooked turkey, I’ll have to try that next year. This is really good,” said another.

As I reflected on that first Thanksgiving, I realized while I hoped to avoid the stress of cooking a turkey, I’d still stressed about not cooking the turkey all-by-myself. It was silly really. I’ve never really thought twice about how any other Thanksgiving was impacted by the taste of the turkey. It was usually a non-event, and I made the commitment after coming to this realization that I wouldn’t waste my time stressing over a Thanksgiving turkey again.

As we sit at the table this year, I look forward to delicious food, the smells, the parade, making memories with my kids and having great conversations with friends and family. I couldn’t be more thankful for having this kind of Thanksgiving, precooked turkey and all.

How are you preparing for Thanksgiving? How do you avoid the stress of the holidays?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Fall into Comfort

Fall is one of my favorite times of year. The change in the weather. The change in the color of leafs. The familiar smells that I’ve missed since last year. There is a familiarity to it. It feels like an old friend returning. It’s a warm, comforting feeling. Almost like someone is taking care of you, and wants you to take in all the beauty of the season. It’s also a reminder that this comforting lull will eventually get replaced with the holiday madness that ensues following Halloween.

I’m reminded that I need to take a moment and allow myself the chance to soak it all in, and let the blanket of Fall wrap around me. I need to allow myself time to relax, sit back and enjoy the change that is going on. I need to be present with my children and enjoy this very special time of year. One that isn’t packed with to-dos or driven by presents and wants.

I need to rest and prepare for the busy season that is ahead.

I passed a store selling shepherd’s pie recently and the smell drew me in. It was comfort food. Just what I wanted and needed. I look forward to enjoying these coming weeks and the Fall treasures I will experience: pumpkin patches, leafs changing color, and smells of apple cider and pumpkin. It’s a comfort I only seem to notice and embrace easily during this time of year. I’m grateful for it, look forward to it and need it. I know I’ll miss it when it’s gone, but take reassurance in knowing Fall will return like the faithful friend that it is next year.

With the stress and anxiety with have in our busy lives where do you find comfort? What are your favorite things about Fall?

What Makes You Laugh?

My youngest son has his own special language. This language appears only when he is being silly, or trying to be silly. When he is deep into speaking his special gibberish, we’ll ask, “are you speaking English or are you speaking something else?” To which, we’ll smile and say in a mumbled voice with a big sly smile on his face, “something else.”

During a recent episode of him using this special language, he decided to change Lightning McQueen’s catchphrase from “Ka-Chow” to “Ka-Pow” followed by other words that rhyme with the “ow” sound. I decided to get into the mix and offered up “Ka-Meow.” I added in the sound effects of a cat meowing when I said it to my son. He burst into laughter as if he’d heard the funniest thing ever. We both did different variations of “Ka-Meow” for several minutes and laughed really hard. Saying “Ka-meow” has become an instant way for us to make each other laugh.

Being a parent is serious work. There is so much to get done, so much we are working to juggle, and so much we are trying to get right. It can be easy to get caught up in the seriousness of it all and forget to enjoy it. I like a good laugh, but love connecting with my children in a way that shows Mom can be silly too.  That Mom enjoys life and Mom enjoys being a parent.

What makes you and your child laugh? How are you showing your child you enjoy life and enjoy raising them?

Let’s Have an Adventure

What family vacations come to mind from your childhood?  Road trips? Camping? Visiting friends or family?

As a child, my family was a ‘road trip’ kind of family. We drove everywhere, regardless of the distance. Our trips were educational. We saw a lot, learned a lot, and after a while, got on each other’s nerves a lot. But we enjoyed the experience together and have many great memories as a result. As a young adult, I often felt like many of our family vacations were FFF – Forced Family Fun, but in reality, they were an adventure.

An adventure is defined as an exciting or remarkable experience. I can remember getting ready for our trips, packing our suitcases, and thinking about the games we’d play in the car. It was exciting, we were going to see and do something new. Even if we were going to see our relatives or go to a new place, our road trips were never quite the same.

This summer, we have planned many adventures for our family. There will be camping, long drives, and lots of time together. My husband and I can’t wait. The kids seem excited too. I wonder if they’ll think back and have fond memories of our time together, or if they’ll think of these trips as Forced Family Fun.

We are building memories, and I’m treasuring each one. To see my sons faces once we get to our destination, to see them enjoying finding bugs in the outdoors, roasting marshmallows over the campfire, watching waterfalls in awe, or seeing their joy as they jump into a pool, I’m not sure being a parent gets much better than these moments.

What adventures do you have planned for this year?