Tag Archives: gratitude

Turkey Day, Comfort Food, and Why I’m Grateful

   Hey, friends, welcome to a very festive, happy and grateful lagoon!

Why? Maybe I’m just blown away by the mega-words flowing from our mermaids’ talented fingers during the Month of Nano. Or, maybe it’s the new titles falling from the sky keyboards in the lagoon this year (too many to list here!) Maybe it’s Pintip, who will emcee the 2018 Golden Heart Awards at RWA in Denver!

Congratulations, Pintip!

And those Nano totals? YOW. Denny, Kim, Carlene, Alethea, Pintip. You finny sisters are my inspiration.

If I could just stop doing this in my own writing:


Eventually I’ll get to do something like this:

This is not getting us to the topic today, however!

We’re talking Comfort Food in this post, and a big shout-out to those of us who will be in the kitchen. Not me, friends. My only job on Thursday is to bring brownies to the home of my friend Colleen – who is also going twenty-first century with her Turkey Day feast. She ordered it from DeCicco’s in Yorktown, NY, and my plate will be heaped with those trouble-free dishes. No sweat here, we’re kicking the roasting pan to the curb!

I think this is the third year I haven’t made a Thanksgiving dinner, and I admit – there are a few things I miss.  Things I learned from Mom, recipes I love to make, share and eat. Smell and taste are tremendous memory triggers. When I make these dishes, she’s a little closer – in spite of the years since she sat at the kitchen table with the newspaper while the timer ticked away. Here are two of my favorite recipes for the Thanksgiving table:

Sweet Potato Casserole

You haven’t lived until you’ve had mine: fresh sweet potatoes (or, in my house, yams) are peeled, sectioned and microwaved until tender (but not mushy). Wield your vintage potato masher until the (yams) are broken down, but retain character (lumps)(chunks). Blend in a carton of evaporated milk. Add some melted butter. A teaspoon of vanilla. Break up some walnuts or pecans into the mix, if you like the texture and flavor. A teaspoon of cinnamon! And lots of brown sugar. Don’t be shy, toss in a handful or so. Turn it out into a buttered casserole dish and give it 30 minutes or so in the oven at 350°. Yum. 

Cranberry Sauce

I miss my homemade cranberry sauce more than anything. You’ll want just three ingredients: a bag of cranberries from the store, a cup of white sugar, and 3/4 cup orange juice. Dump the berries into a colander and rinse, then pick them over to find the icky ones. Toss those out. Now, in a medium saucepan (2 quart or so), blend the orange juice and sugar. Set over medium high heat, and wait for some drama. When the sugar/juice starts to boil, toss in the cranberries. Stir, then settle back and wait for the mixture to boil again. Boil for FIVE MINUTES. Set a timer, woman, and watch that your heat is high enough to boil and low enough to keep from boiling over! The fun is hearing the cranberries pop and crack as they cook. Move the pan to a cold burner when the timer dings and stir it for a few minutes. Set it aside to cool completely. A pretty crystal dish will show off the jewel color of your creation.

Other family favorites include dressing (not stuffing), made with herb bread baked in our bread machine, and a rice pudding recipe from the Southern Living Cookbook (Mom never made that one, but the cookbook was a Christmas gift soon after I married, and I treasure it – p. 77, Best Banana Bread Ever).

Some dishes became standards over the years as times changed and my own children grew up. Cup Salad (five ingredients: open, dump, stir, chill) replaced the Ambrosia (tediously hand-sectioned oranges and coconut) Mom made for my father.  A church cookbook I bought on a North Carolina beach vacation yielded a recipe that became a favorite each year at our transplanted New York table: a strange mix of lemon and lime Jello, mayonnaise, cottage cheese, chopped walnuts, and canned pineapple tidbits. When I set it on the table the first year, the assembled company recoiled at first. After their first tastes, however, they decided it was too delicious to have the plain-Jane name, “jello salad.” A raucous Turkey-day debate finally re-named it: Martian Salad.

And so it goes. Every generation finds its way to a new variation on the meet/greet/eat/drop theme of the day. In our own home, Andrews standards (creamed onions, creamed potatoes, turnips) never made it to the table. Hosford (maiden name) traditions like mince pie and green bean casserole were also set aside in favor of the new tastes and habits of our generation and our children’s.

One theme that remains, solid and unchanged, is the yearning for connection. Travelers make their way cross-country, clog highways or simply cross town to seek family and friends. New families form for the day, when distance and budget prevents travel. In another town, a church sets a table for “anyone who lacks a family today.”

This is why I’m grateful. In spite of the past year’s trials, I have friends who are eager to see me, and my brownies. My children will call home. One will probably celebrate with friends and his father; another is moving into a new home, and sitting down with her sweetheart’s family.

That connection, that love, those memories. They keep us grounded.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours this week, and blessings to you who set a place for “one more.”



So Grateful To Be Joyful

Following up on Alethea’s post about Famous Jammies yesterday, I’d like to talk about another short video (also 3 minutes, 45 seconds!) I found on YouTube rpintipecently. This one features Dr. Brené Brown, professor and renowned vulnerability researcher. She is perhaps best known for her TED talks on vulnerability and shame, but in this clip she talks about the connection between gratitude and joy.


Namely, in her 11,000 interviews, Dr. Brown found that every single person who described his or her life as “joyful” or “joyous” also “practiced” gratitude.

By practicing gratitude, Dr. Brown doesn’t mean feeling or being grateful; rather she’s talking about a very specific and tangible gratitude exercise — keeping a gratitude journal, for example, or articulating something for which you are grateful at a certain time each day.

This relationship between joy and gratitude surprised her. She had gone into the research thinking, “If you are joyful, then you should be grateful.”
She found, instead, that “practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives.”

It surprised me, too. For the last several months, I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal, where I write down five things for which I am grateful about that day. I have to admit, some days are harder than others, and sometimes, if I’m having a bad day or am feeling physically unwell, I skip the journal altogether.

I would think: “Well, that was a crap day. It’s not that I don’t have anything to be grateful for; I just don’t have the energy or the inclination to come up with five specific things right now. Tomorrow, when I’m feeling better, I’ll try again.”

Now, Dr. Brown’s insights make me wonder if I’ve been thinking about this all wrong. Maybe the very fact that I choose NOT to practice gratitude contributes to my bad day. Maybe the times when I  need my gratitude journal the MOST are the tough days, not the joyous ones.

So, instead of avoiding my gratitude journal, I’m going to make a point of writing in it when I’m feeling my worst. In addition, per Dr. Brown’s suggestion, my family and I now practice a gratitude exercise every evening, where we light a candle and go around the circle saying what we are each grateful for. It is another source of joy in my life to see what my kids come up with every day.

We’ll see if Dr. Brown is right. I suspect she is. 🙂

What about you? Do you practice any gratitude exercises? Do you agree with Dr. Brown? What do you believe is the connection between gratitude and joy? What are you grateful for today?


Thanks for the Lift!

After having five kids, many of you might think I’m talking about a lift of a different nature, but, no. I’m talking today about the wonderful chapter of WRW and the fantastic retreat this past weekend.

I thought after my first retreat last year when I met all the fabulous mermaids that any retreat would pale in comparison. I’m so happy to have been proved wrong. It doesn’t happen all that often (when I’m wrong), but once in a sparkly purple moon, I am.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank some select people from this weekend who gave me a lift when I truly, truly needed one. Although the speakers and guests encouraged me to keep writing and fighting the good fight, I’m talking about those who through small measures made a personal difference to me.

1. Deborah Barnhardt: I bought one raffle ticket for a Tarot card reading. One. After I rubbed the ticket on Carlene for good luck, I put my ONE ticket in the purple bag. And I’m sooo glad I did. I don’t know whether it’s truly my energy that she read because I haven’t felt like I’ve had much of that lately, but she told me what I needed to hear. I thank her for that reading because clearly I needed someone unbiased to talk to about myself, and when I receive my first of several RITAs someday, I will thank her on a much larger platform.

2. Kerri Carpenter: She wanted a single room. God love her, she didn’t get it. I waited until the last days of registering, and by that time the single rooms were gone. I begged her to let me share her room, and she did. Thanks, Kerri for not making me room with some neat freak with a Type-A personality. I happen to like sleeping with books all over my bed. So what.

3. Mary Lenaburg: I don’t even know how to explain my thanks. Organizing such a wonderful retreat doesn’t even enter why I’m thanking her. Her happiness is so contagious. It was such a joy talking to her, watching her dance Flashdance to Fame and listening to her funny stories. What happens at Retreat stays at Retreat. Even stories about mirrors on ceilings…No, no, no. Don’t ask. I can’t tell.

4. Carlene Love Flores: She was gracious as gracious could be as we all rubbed our raffle tickets on her for good luck. She won so many of the baskets last year that we kinda figured she’d be good luck. Most of the mermaids won several baskets because of her. I happen to think that the raffle tickets really enjoyed being rubbed against someone so sweet and kind and absolutely wonderful. She completely deserved her free retreat next year!

5. Kimberly Kincaid: Holy cow, girl! Your yoga class was the bomb! As are you! I enjoyed that class so much, even after only three hours of sleep. Thanks for christening my virgin yoga mat. Happy 40th Birthday again, and Congratulations on your Marlene win. You rocked that retreat!

6. Angelina Lopez and Suzanne Kalb: I’m lumping them together since they appeared to be attached at the hip. Thanks to Angelina for introducing me to Suzanne, who was such a joy to meet. Thanks to Suzanne for being patient as she had to answer my questions three times before I remembered her answers. Thank you both for keeping me company at the bar and sharing your stories with me.

7. Linda Williams and Pollyanne Power: Our honorary mermaids. Linda w/a Willa Blair won our Mermaid for a Day, and we love her! Pollyanne Power let us scoop her up as our Newbie for Romance Jeopardy, where we won with the most points. Granted we had approximately seventeen people on our team, but, who cares??? That game is not fair anyway!

8. Waterworld Mermaids: This one’s a given! I’m so glad we all met last year, and it goes without saying (although apparently I’m saying it anyway) that you all mean the world to me. Who knew when we were all sitting around that table at the newcomer’s meeting feeling like fish out of water that we would feel such a sense of belonging one year later? Get it? Fish out of water??? God, I’m witty.

So, thank you, thank you WRW for giving my spirits a lift. For allowing me into your midst of awesomeness.

In the middle of all this sappy gratitude, it reminds me of a special post today on the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog. Our very own Amanda Brice is hosting Shelley Coriell for her official launch of her debut YA—WELCOME, CALLER, THIS IS CHLOE. So, join them and tell the writing world who has supported you in your writing career. At the end of the day, they will draw two names to win a $50 gift certificate to a bookstore of their choice. Not for the person posting but for the person that has been in their corner. How awesome is that? So, hop on over to http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/ and give a public shout out for your critique partner, family member or just a friend who has supported you.

Good luck! A little gratitude goes a long way! Maybe even to a bookstore near you.

Who has made a difference in your life lately? It doesn’t have to be a retreat guest—although it really should be! ☺