Giving Thanks, 2014 Edition

It’s Thanksgiving Eve. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, a day to consider how we are blessed (in a fortunate way/not simply a “Christian” way) and a day to consider – honestly – just how lucky we are.

It would be easy for me to say that 2014 has sucked so far, and ask The Universe just where the hell my “blessings” are.

In August 2014, I closed my business after almost seven years of (literally) blood, sweat and tears. Mostly tears. The closing of my business was a bit devastating emotionally and certainly was, and continues to be, somewhat crushing financially as well. With the closing of my business came my return to the employment market as a job SEEKER – I hadn’t “filled out an application” in more than probably twenty years; each of my jobs before opening my own business was the result of scouting by my then-future employer – I got ASKED to work with them. Reciting my high school GPA and “Other Interests” was something very alien and foreign to me.

The summer and fall of 2014, I stood by and watched as state after state achieved marriage equality, while my state CONTINUES to maintain an almost pre-Stonewall attitude around this issue. And earlier this month, somehow my state granted the madman that is our governor the power of four more years to destroy our state. And don’t even ask me about what happened in the Senate.

Probably saddest, in October of 2014, I lost my father, my beloved Pop-pop, to a long and valiant battle with cancer. I lost Grammy (my mom) six years ago and, during the time since, my Dad and I had become closer than ever; in fact, it was like getting to know him all over again. I called Pop-pop every day. I miss him, and I miss my Mom. A lot. A well-intentioned friend called me an “orphan” upon finding out my Pop-pop had passed away. I am NOT an orphan. I have two AMAZING parents – they are just away from me now, for the time being. They are now two amazing guardian angels.

Those are just the “highlights” of 2104 for me but – you know what? The year has been pretty great to me as well…

While I closed my business, I embarked on not one but TWO new endeavors, one at a cherished public institution in my adopted hometown and one in a new design venture with a new partner who is, in fact, my husband. Both careers look bright and, while I am “starting on the ground floor” at both, good things are already happening at each. Two days ago, I got promoted at “my day job” and assumed a new position within the organization, a position that suggests career growth and a stable, secure future. As far as my new design venture goes, working with my life partner/husband is a joy and our new firm is already developing a following. Hooray!

Even though Ohio (my state) is in The Dark Ages as far as marriage equality goes, I am legally-married to my husband and we will soon be celebrating the one year anniversary of his Green Card approval (that was a L-O-N-G journey/struggle, chronicled in many previous posts here on this blog). If it is possible, I think that guy loves me more every day – and I love him more, too. Eventually, Ohio will “see the light” and finally join the 21st Century with regard to LGBT rights and equality.

Finally, while I miss BOTH my parents every day, I am happy to know that they are reunited and happy. And contrary to what I feared, being “parent-less” has not left me feeling rudderless or adrift. Rather, I feel empowered and almost a bit reckless (but in a good way). The state of answering only to yourself for your actions (and your spouse, of course!) is actually a very liberating one. I like it. I miss Grammy and Pop-pop terribly but the freedom they have given me is a great, great gift.

So all in all, 2014? Maybe NOT so bad so far… Sure, heck – I hope 2015 will be even better but we still DO have almost a month of 2014 left. Who knows? It may still turn out to be the best year ever…

It’s funny. I was looking for a profound, “deep” quote about being thankful and ran across this sage advice from Oprah Winfrey herself. Who’da ever thought I’d be sharing inspiring Oprah quotes on my blog? Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thanksgiving Oprah

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My Belly Hurts

I know, I know – every year it is the same old story. I cannot help myself…

ate too muchI have had a LOVELY Thanksgiving – I spent the day with my husband, at my Dad’s house, with my siblings and their families… If I had ONE request, it would have been my other brother-in-law, my oldest niece, her husband and their adorable son and my rotten oldest nephew would have also been with us today. They live 506 miles away, so such a trip isn’t really a reality (but I can always hope, right?)

The meal was great, the company fun and – for probably the first time since my Mom passed away five years ago – the day felt “right.” Don’t get me wrong, we all miss Grammy (my Mom) but I think my family has finally “re-invented” Thanksgiving so hopefully, going forward, it can be the happy day it is supposed to be. For all this, I am thankful…

Hard to believe this is how the day ended. The turkey looked like it had been attacked by walkers from The Walking Dead…

turkey carcassI have never been able to understand why Thanksgiving turkey tastes so much better than “any other day” turkey – but it does! Thank you to my beloved partner, MSW, for a beautiful day, my Dad and family for being with us and The Universe for allowing it all to happen. Hope everyone had a GREAT Thanksgiving!

My Thanksgiving Friend

One of the things I love most about Thanksgiving is seeing old friends – friends you may not have seen or really even thought about since LAST Thanksgiving. I got together again with a long-time friend like that tonight:

Vintage Crock PotYeah, that’s right – my old friend, the legendary Rival Crock-Pot Slow Cooker. I get to “visit” with mine usually twice a year, at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sometimes we even get together for New Year’s. See, my “requested covered dish” at every family holiday gathering is grape jelly meatballs. Uh huh, grape jelly meatballs – you know the ones: three ingredients, throw ’em in the oven, serve them in a Crock-Pot. My family loves them (I do, too!) and, for whatever reason, my family seems to think they are an elegant appetizer.

Works for me…  

So the meatballs are already out of the oven. I have pulled my old friend down from that weird, useless cabinet above the fridge, the one that stores everything you use once or twice a year – candlesticks, a table runner and the Crock-Pot. I have had my Crock-Pot for probably 25 years (no lie!) and, if I had been as successful at investing in stocks as I have been in investing in a “reliable slow-cooker,” well, I’d be rich.

It’s funny how you associate food traditions with holidays. I mean, my Crock-Pot is not the one pictured here (mine has a cute circle of mod trees around the base) but, every time I see it, I am transported back to past holidays and enjoyable times with friends and family. It is a nice feeling…

So tomorrow, as my family sits down to enjoy our “classic” Thanksgiving meal together – a Butterball turkey, Stovetop Stuffing, potatoes (both mashed and sweet w/mini marshmallows), green bean casserole with those crunchy French’s Onion thingies on top, dinner rolls and, of course, some jellied cranberry sauce, sliced right out of the can – I will be thankful for good food, great friends and a family that loves and supports me. And I will certainly smile and wink at my old friend, the Crock-Pot, sitting in its usual place of honor on the folding table in my parents’ kitchen.

Hmmm – As faithful and steadfast as the Crock-Pot has been to me, and with it being such a good friend to my entire family, I might have to consider moving it out onto the counter top to a place of “higher honor” – maybe right beside the Keurig Coffeemaker!

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick tock…

That’s right – the clock is ticking my friends. I am excited (and anxiety-ridden) to remind you all that Christmas is a mere ONE MONTH from today! Hooray!!!

Christmas LightsSo to get you all in the same “festive” holiday spirit I am embracing, here are a few holiday-themed pics to (hopefully) help you get your jolly on early…

Christmas VintageI know, I know – it seems a disservice to Thanksgiving to speak of Christmas already but, hey – I didn’t make the old “fourth-Thursday-in-November” rule. Thanksgiving is LATE this year and so, while I honor the spirit and intent of THAT holiday, I am already looking forward to Christmas…

Christmas picSee, my Beloved and I have family overseas and – to ensure their holiday packages arrive in time – we must mail their presents this week. So today, there is wrapping paper and cards and bows, and carols and eggnog – you know, all the good things that make Christmas fun and family-focused. And essentially, isn’t that what makes ANY holiday meaningful – loved ones, happiness and good will?

This week is a double header for me – it’s like I get to enjoy TWO great holidays with the people I love, and use today as the kick to a month of joy, love and goodwill. I’m a lucky guy.

Elves

Countdown To Thanksgiving

As we are “one week out” from Thanksgiving – the holiday associated with reflection and giving thanks – I thought I might begin a week-long series of posts with a “Thankful Theme.”

ThankfulI begin the series with this common expression defining happiness. “It is thankful people who are happy.” THANKFUL people. Makes sense, right?

I know that I have MUCH to be thankful for in my own life – more details on that in an upcoming post – but unless I really force myself to remember all that things I am thankful for, I tend to fixate on something that makes me not happy – something that “didn’t happen,” or something I “don’t have but want” or something someone “didn’t do as promised.” This sort of thinking is toxic to the spirit and and promotes sadness rather than joy and happiness.

Going forward, I make this commitment to myself – to be thankful for the smallest of blessings and to celebrate each and every day. I know it will be a struggle to live this way – not because it is hard but because it is so not the way most of us are used to living – but I know it will be worth it.

My Mommo (Grandmother) used to always say: “Timmy? Chin out. Smile on. Eyes up. Look like like you are grateful to be here, because you should be…”

I always thought it was silly when she said that; if I had only listened sooner…  🙂

Do I get a garlic pickle with that advice?

Sometimes The Universe sends me moments to remind me that life is not that serious all the time. I had one of those moments today…

My Beloved has a VERY busy Thursday planned this week – his day will probably begin before 9AM and end after 9PM. During those twelve hours, he will volunteer for two different student organizations, take part in an important on-campus faculty event, take a 3.5 hour class and lead a 2.5-3 hour meeting at the end of it all. He is my little over-achiever for sure…

Anyway, one of the events this Thursday is the annual Thanksgiving Luncheon for one of the student organizations which he serves as President (he is actually President of TWO student groups on campus – told you he is an over-achiever). Given the events/length of his day, we have been trying to come up with an idea for something he could take to school and share at the luncheon that would be good, seasonally-appropriate and, best of all? Disposable after the event. No dirty dishes to lug around after. No silverware to “keep track of” all day. So, we put our heads together and decided it would be easiest to order a tray of mini croissant sandwiches – something turkey with maybe a slathering of cranberry relish or something to make them more “Thanksgiving-y-ish.”

turkey croissant sandwichSo, menu decided, I call our local deli, asking about prices for a “Mini Croissant Sandwich Tray.” I was lucky enough to get an employee named Shaunna. She listened to my initial request, perused their menu of deli tray offerings then gave me the price: 20 mini turkey croissants, with American and Swiss cheese, leaf lettuce and condiment packets (mayo/mustard) on the side for $29.99. Not SO bad, but my Angel really only needs about a dozen sandwiches. Plus, I wanted turkey off the bone, one or no cheese, cranberry relish not mustard packets and, like I said, a dozen sandwiches, not 20. Shaunna listened to all my requests patiently – she was really polite, friendly and funny – and seemed to be deep in thought when I finished my request (demands?) list. Then I asked her this question:

“So, Shaunna, having heard all that, what do you recommend I do?”

Without so much as a breath – and with no smart-ass tone or attitude – she simply said:

“If I was you, I’d come here, buy a dozen croissants, some lunch meat and that cranberry stuff you want and make my OWN sandwiches. You’ll get what you want plus, you’ll save money.”

Sandwich fixinsI laughed at loud – not out of disrespect, but because she had said exactly what I would have said to me. I explained my reaction to her, apologized for laughing and said I thought she would suggest another tray package. She was resolute:

“No, baby, just come buy what you want and make your own sandwiches. You can do it.” 

I thanked her, chuckled again and told her I was going to think about it. She politely thanked me for calling and let me know that she was there if I needed help…

Shaunna made me smile – no, actually LAUGH – today, after a few not-great-days in a row. My Beloved and I have since decided to take another food direction, but Shauna? THANK YOU for your honest, sincere advice and generous offer for assistance. While you may not be great at up-selling, you were exactly what I needed today. Thank you for that (and wish me luck on my cream cheese and pickle pinwheels!)

Too Soon, Too Soon!

Today is November 9th – NOVEMBER – and Christmas is 46 days away, a little over six weeks. And yet, “Santa” has already arrived at one of our local shopping malls – at least one, maybe more. I mean, what the Hell?

Mall SantaNow, please understand, I LOVE Christmas. Love.It. And – I am ashamed to admit – as an owner of a small retail boutique – I will be setting up our Christmas tree and Christmas windows this week. But Santa Claus? In the flesh?

Santa ClausAgain – trust me – I LOVE Christmas and everything about the season, especially the “Jolly Old Elf” himself but really? To have Santa appearing here, now – well, it’s just too soon. Too soon. Beyond all the commercialization and exploitation of the holiday, I guess I really just believe that by Santa “appearing” so early, well, as dorky as it sounds, I fear the “magic” will be lost. Children will stop believing and, in a way, that lack of belief makes me stop believing, too. And that makes me sad…

As a child, I waited all year for Christmas. I was always excited to celebrate Thanksgiving because I knew what was coming just around the corner – gifts and cookies and candy and visits from/with loved ones. It was amazing and magical. Now, I fear, Thanksgiving is only the “…day before Black Friday” and Christmas is just an excuse to spend time – and money! – at the mall. By the time actual Christmas DOES roll around, kids will have been so overexposed to it that it will simply become another day they get gifts, like birthdays, or First Holy Communion, or graduation. And that sucks…

GiftsSo before Christmas loses ALL its meaning, maybe we could all SLOW IT DOWN a bit, you know? Maybe we could at least acknowledge Thanksgiving (sorry, Turkey Day!) and wait to start celebrating Christmas in conjunction with the arrival of December? I mean, maybe I am a purist (and a former Catholic – Advent calendar?) but, if we continue to exploit and commercialize Christmas, I worry that soon it will have an inherent value and significance akin to a Memorial Day Mattress Sale, or a Free-Financing Good Friday. It makes me sad to see Christmas being systematically stripped of any sort of meaning, other than a gift deadline…

So, friends, please – be kind to Santa but PLEASE “keep him under wraps” at LEAST till December first, less the entire Christmas holiday season becomes the same as a weekend clearance sale. I guess I am just not ready to see this yet:

Used Christmas tree