Category Archives: fall
This was not my family’s Thanksgiving. I don’t know that this has ever been my family at Thanksgiving. But it’s the picture many of us hold in our minds of what family gatherings “should” look like.
As my parents age, and particularly my Mom, she becomes more vocal about how much she would like to see us be her vision of family when we get together. I suspect it’s one of her personal “measures of success”, perhaps as a parent or maybe just as a person. I know I catch myself occasionally looking for that ideal to affirm my own sense of accomplishment.
I’m pretty sure my Mom never had a Thanksgiving that picture perfect growing up. But I think she remembers it that way. Rose colored glasses and simpler times often shade our memories, especially where our loved ones are concerned. We would love to be able to paint that picture for my Mom, to enact the “perfect” family united.
There are no scripts for that kind of drama. And even if there are, they are often impossible to recreate. For instance I believe my Mother’s scene truly requires a bird she cooked, her stuffing, her wild rice. Except no one else can make it “just right” and it’s really too much for her to do it herself without creating an enormous amount of stress that isn’t part of the picture. I think all that pretty china, silver, and tablecloth get swept up and disappear without anyone washing (or breaking) dishes, or doing laundry or getting crumbs on the floor.
The reality of this Thanksgiving was no more “perfect” than any other. The smoke alarms went off when the dressing spilled in the oven. The turkey took an extra hour to cook. Dad made the “wrong” bread (delicious, just not the kind we expected). In the end, though, everything was tasty, everyone had plenty to eat, and there wasn’t a major fight.
We’ll all remember this Thanksgiving as Norman Rockwell perfect. I suppose that’s something to be thankful for.
November has been a very stressful month, and it’s not over yet. Some of the stress has been in a good way, so I’m grateful. I’m grateful for having the opportunity to speak at the Minneapolis Women’s Club at the Women of Words event. I’m also grateful to have the opportunity to speak to our local Ostomy Society. What a great bunch! I’m grateful to the people at both presentations who took the time to tell me exactly why what I have to say had such a strong impact on them.
I’m grateful, as always, for my time at Gilda’s Club. I’m putting in an extra shift this week, stepping in for another greeter. Since Thursday is my usually day I’ve got a “day off” so I suppose it’s not really extra. Besides, there’s a social event this morning so I would be there anyway!
I’m grateful that I’m not hosting Thanksgiving. The family I grew up in has two generations under it. I’m a Great Aunt. The crowd is getting too big for us all to be together in one space. It’s bittersweet to break it up. At the same time I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend a little more intimate Thanksgiving rather than all the noise and chaos. I’m grateful, especially after this summer, to still have both of my parents. I’m grateful both of my children will be there.
I’m grateful for all the things I say I’m grateful for in my speeches. Telling my story means I am revisiting points in my life where I had reason to be very grateful, for people, for circumstances, for support. It’s challenging for me to open up that way, but it’s also a great reminder of how blessed I’ve been.
I’m looking at the Syrian refugees. I’m looking at the shooting (by the police) of a black man just a few miles from my home that’s threatening to turn Minneapolis into Ferguson. I’m looking at the bombing in Paris. I have so much to be grateful for, so much bounty, so much privilege, even my stress seems minor in comparison.
So I give thanks and stand in gratitude and pray for healing around the world.
The last couple of weekends have been busy ones. Orion turned 27 last weekend! We went to a Comics for a Cause event. My friend Brenda Elsagher put it on and had her new book release there as well. Her book is about the humor in aging, the event supported the Ostomy Society. It was her sister’s birthday so she arranged a cake for both of them. What a sweetheart!
Orion wasn’t sure about it. He’s used to going out for German food on his birthday, but there were brats so even that was covered. He let Brenda know that although he doesn’t have a colostomy he’s had j-tubes for feeding on and off over the years. He had a great time and the comedy show was fun. Karina joined us (best sister ever!).
Karina and I spent some time together on Saturday. We brought Orion home brats from a beer fest we worked at. It was another fundraiser, this time for a center for homeless teens. Because Karina is in the industry she got a call from a friend, a distributor, looking for help. I poured beer from a craft brewery in the UP.
I know I’ve been “running”, pushing the edges of what I can do. It’s been good and I’ve been pleased with how “able” I am. I even got some yard work done this weekend! I know I’ve got more coming up and I need to find a way to pace myself a little better.
I have to be alright taking some time out, doing something just for me. Curling up in a chair and reading a book, being okay saying no, I do those things. It’s just that they get “fit in”. I suspect a little time out needs to be part of the plan.
I spent most of the weekend outside. Winter is coming. There aren’t that many lovely weekends left in the year. Last weekend was definitely one of them. It was warm, dry, there was a good breeze. The evenings cooled off, but didn’t get cold. Perfect weather for being outdoors.
Saturday was the community equinox ritual we often attend. I’ve blogged about it in the past. (Autumn, Darkness, Harvest, Balance – Wow I’ve been doing this for a long time!) I had Orion along so there is the additional piece about pushing him on uneven ground. I used to have to be sure I had someone else there who I could count on to help. Not so much this year. I made all the trips from the car (Orion, Pot luck cooler, Pot luck crock pot, Lawn chair and blankets) all by myself.
It was good to catch up with some old friends. It was also nice to have a community willing to share a dessert – so I could have a bite rather than throwing out most of a piece. The buffet table is still a challenge for me, but I have found that if I fill one plate (with an eye for both Orion and I) and then split it into two at the table I do better.
We were there most of the afternoon and late into the evening. Sat around the fire talking, watched the dancers and listened to the drummers in the background. The moon was high, the night was clear and the wooded grove a pleasant cathedral.
Sunday Karina took me off to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. We didn’t get there for the first cannon, that’s about the time she picked me up. We didn’t stay to the last cannon (hoping that leaving 5 min. early would help get out of the parking lot.) But we spent much of the day wandering around the festival.
The last time I was at the Ren Faire I was with a friend who was looking at knee replacement surgery. Neither one of us was moving very far or very fast. We took all day to circle the grounds one time through. We traveled from one bench to the next. This time was a very different story. We did sit down a few times to eat, grab a drink, or see a show. Mostly we were on our feet, back and forth across the entire park.
We had another beautiful day, warm with a breeze. We saw friends working at the festival as well as running into a few just visiting. Karina ate, and I nibbled off of what she got, so I didn’t struggle much with the food. The highlight of the day was visiting with the Morris Dancers. These guys are all friends of my daughters from when she was a waitress. They are a warm and welcoming bunch. They brought us up on the stage for one dance, and Karina even joined them in another.
We watched the full moon rising on our way home. It was huge on the horizon (as the harvest moon often is). When my Ex dropped off Orion he made me go outside again. The eclipse was happening so even though I was exhausted I got to see that as well.
I was tired enough to go to bed when Orion did. I ached. My ankles were a little swollen. BUT I got to do BOTH things this weekend. My ankles still look like ankles. I didn’t feel like if I sat down I was never going to get up again. I didn’t worry about walking or getting anything done all week. Life is so different this side of the bariatric journey. I am exceptionally grateful for good tired.
Labor Day is a celebration given to us by the labor unions. Regardless of your feelings about unions (it’s complicated), they did give us a 40 hour work week, child labor laws, minimum wage, workplace safety regulations, and a national holiday. We celebrated with my parents and that means parades and picnics. You can’t have a parade without political representation. The local union puts on the picnic.
Talking to people it strikes me to question how spirituality impacts our political outlook. Given the hoopla about Kim Davis this seems a particularly topical point to ponder.
It’s clear to me that our beliefs are foundational to how we view political questions. They impact how we prioritize issues. They impact our personal behaviors. It’s also clear to me that our beliefs shouldn’t ever simply be our politics.
The difference for me is that belief is about acceptance and politics about understanding. Beliefs are personal, politics impact the larger community and therefore must take the necessities of others into account. Thing is, in America, where the political dialog is rated primarily on entertainment rather than information, it’s easy to get lazy.
Our founding fathers originally only gave the right to vote to male landowners. The thought was these people had proven a stability and educational level necessary to understand the political issues. The sexism and racism offend me. Even the idea that people with money and education inherently understand the needs of the masses without those benefits is appalling. Still, the notion that people at least make an effort at understanding the issues has some appeal.
We expect our legislators to at least understand. The fact is that the issues are so complicated, and bills are so full of “extras”, that many of them are voting on the recommendations of their staffs. We’ve heard several times in the past few years “I haven’t read the bill”. (Go ahead and google it if you’re interested.) How is the American public supposed to make good choices when the issues seem daunting even to our elected officials?
Back to the parade. We rode on a political float for the local state representative to congress. (Yes I’ve met him and can support his work, even if he’s not MY congressman.) I’ve blogged before about small town parades and how the people throw candy from the floats. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “No candy, no vote!”
This is not high school. It is illegal to buy and sell votes in this country. It may seem that candy is a small thing compared to some of the wheeling and dealing that appears to go on behind the scenes, but in public it still counts. This is clearly a lack of understanding of the process on the part of the voters. It also points to a failure of the system. Integrity is only questioned when it stands tall.
Here we come back around to spirituality. Spiritual integrity is what Kim Davis is trying to cling to. Unfortunately, integrity doesn’t have a leg to stand on when you’ve already compromised yourself. If you don’t believe in something you don’t take a job where it’s demanded. Or if the job rules change, as they did in this case, you quit and find a job you CAN perform. She’s not being persecuted for her beliefs, as is often claimed, but for failure to perform the job.
Wearing a hajib to work probably won’t interfere with getting the work done. It seems reasonable to allow that kind of accommodation. Transferring someone in an organization to a place they don’t have to do work that compromises their values, like being drafted as a contentious objector, makes sense when it’s possible. Looking for a job you can do as a vegetarian and animal rights activist at the slaughterhouse is probably not appropriate.
But these are big issues. There are small places where we all compromise our spirituality to get along. I drive places I could walk to. I don’t recycle everything I could. I’m not currently managing a compost pile. I spend too much time indoors with the air conditioner and heater rather than outside in nature. I’ll purchase things made in ways I object to because they are less costly. I don’t always honor my body or take time to be grateful for my life.
We could all stand to do better both at honoring our spirit and understanding the complicated issues in the world around us.
Last week I made appointments and this week I followed through.
On Wednesday I gave a talk at Gilda’s Club. They’re starting a series called “Members Speak”, and the series is front loaded with members who have public speaking experience. My talk was the second in the once a month series. Timing at the end of August is tricky. Things are generally slow in the clubhouse as everyone is either taking their last vacation or getting the kids back to school. Even so, I had more than double the attendance from the July talk!
My speech was titled: “Ooops I Did It Again!”. I spoke about the differences both medically and personally that I’ve seen with two cancer diagnoses 24 years apart. I talked about the niggly voice in your head, and anyone who has had cancer knows it, that wonders what will happen if you have to face cancer again. I talked about how important reading Gilda Radner’s book was to me 24 years ago, and how disappointed I was that a clubhouse like that didn’t exist. I talked about how valuable my experience with Gilda’s Club has been this past year, as a member and a volunteer. I got good feedback. When I was done and we chatted after everyone stayed and was engaged in the conversation.
I met with a professional seamstress/tailor about what to do with my wardrobe. She’s a friend I haven’t seen in some time so it was nice to catch up. I got a tour of her gardens along with a lovely cup of tea. What was fun was going through my basket of fabrics I’ve collected over the years. We have similar tastes in fabric and styles. I’m excited to be turning clutter into function. This week we’ll go shopping for patterns and notions.
The photo gallery is from this weekend and my meeting with a web designer. This is definitely the way to do a meeting. We had perfect weather and wind for a sail, a lovely conversation, and we also determined that we are a good “fit” in terms of taste and style. She will be sending me a “to-do” list, essentially holding my hand through the process of producing an up to date website that actually serves as a promotion tool.
School starts, and I maintain that I am enculturated to also start new things in the fall. It’s when my energy is geared up and willing to take on new tasks. Some of that is the drop in average daily temperature. It’s easier to be active when it’s just a little cooler and the air isn’t as thick.
What are you starting this fall?
I’ve started to write today’s blog several times over the course of the holiday weekend. I had a follow-up post about gratitude. I had a post about family and relationship dynamics. I always have the option of a post about food, and this year in particular with the huge Thanksgiving meal a challenge after my bariatric surgery. I had a post about the weekend and going to see comedian Josh Blue.
I don’t want to finish any of them. In fact the only thing I really want to do is crawl back into bed under the covers. It’s Monday. It’s COLD outside (the windchill is hovering near -15 and the temps are just above Zero). I didn’t get to sleep in all weekend. It’s the post-holiday let down.
There is some comfort in returning to routine. The problem is that between Thanksgiving and Christmas/Chanukah/Winter Solstice/Kwanza all routine gets thrown in the trash (along with the excessive packaging). There is a LOT of cleaning to do. There is a LOT of cooking to do. There is a LOT of decorating to do. And then there’s shopping, and wrapping, and writing out cards.
Since Thanksgiving was so late this year I’ve been able to keep my head in the ostrich hole for almost the entire month of November. Now I’m somehow surprised that it’s December and I’m not ready! Somehow I don’t think going back to bed will help.
As we come up on Thanksgiving my Facebook feed is starting to fill up with commentary about “The real history of Thanksgiving.” Most of it is true, and most of it I am familiar with. America was built on the backs of people who shared their labor and their knowledge. Rather than responding with gratitude, our white European fore bearers appropriated their gifts and made sure their stories written out of history.
So I want to take some time to be grateful. I am grateful to be able to live on this bounteous beautiful land.
I am grateful for wild rice, and corn, and pumpkins and all the food that is indigenous. I’m grateful to see tribal people standing up for their land rights against fracking and pipeline building, knowing how destructive those technologies are to the environment. I’m grateful for the people who share the history not taught in our schools and who tell the stories of the downtrodden.
I’m grateful for the immigrant cultures that have brought so much variety to my life. I’m grateful for fried rice and tortillas and collard greens.
I’m grateful for print and color patterns and architectural wonders that were never a part of my European heritage. I’m grateful for literature with points of view that are different from my own, but which make it easier for me to shift my own perspective. I’m grateful for the music, the meditation, and the technologies that make my life easier and more pleasant.
I have been blessed in my life with the opportunity to travel. I have been in positions to decorate my home with artwork from other cultures. I have had the opportunity to work and play and truly get to know people whose upbringing was very different from my own.
I’ve recently started an online meditation series Headspace. As I move through the meditation lessons they ask me to reflect on who else benefits from my practicing these techniques. Trying to build a business speaking on spirituality I ask myself, “who do I serve? Who needs to hear what I have to say?”
I think the cultures and people who supported the development of this country had that attitude.
“How can I help? Who can I serve?”
I think our culture has an attitude of “What do I get out of it?” I’d rather live with the former.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to try.
This time between Halloween and Thanksgiving is often a breathing space for me. I’m lucky enough not to have to host the Thanksgiving event. Even my expected contributions towards the food are pretty simple.
This year, with a blanket of snow on the ground that appears to be here to stay, I’m even more inclined to take some “time off”. All I want to do is curl up and hibernate.
Maybe it’s the longer, darker days. Even night owls are “brighter” during the full moon. Last weekend the moon was new, which means those nights are darker and seem longer. Maybe it’s the cold. Even with the furnace on, crawling out of a warm cozy bed in the morning isn’t appealing.
There is a food piece attached to this as well, although I’ve not quite figured out what it is. I know it is typical to eat a little more as the days get colder. I know it is typical to eat to stay awake, rather than wandering off to bed as soon as it gets dark. I know that I think I want “heavier” foods these days.
I’m just 4 months post bariatric surgery. Heavy foods don’t really sit well and even if they do we’re talking one bite. I really wanted a hamburger the other day. I ran out the door so breakfast was haphazard and lunch was late. My mind had me stopping at a restaurant (like Fuddruckers) and getting a 1/3lb burger with cheese and bacon on an artisan bun with a side of fries and a salad.
I did stop at the store on the way home to get some hamburger I didn’t have to thaw. Picked up some cheese as well. I made a 2oz burger with cheese and ½ a piece of bacon and some barbecue sauce rather than ketchup. I made a little (¼ cup) salad with lettuce and tomato (one small slice diced) and some balsamic dressing. It was really too much. And it was also really plenty to satisfy that craving.
Orion got a serious burger and fries for dinner. I still wasn’t hungry. In fact he got dinners from that pound of hamburger for several days. My second 2oz burger is still in the refrigerator.
Thanksgiving marks the end of autumn for me and the beginning of the winter holiday season. I’ll let Orion listen to Christmas carols in the car. (He’d be happy having them playing year round.) I’ll come out of hibernation and start baking and planning for the holidays.
In the meantime, maybe I’ll just relax and enjoy a little bit of quiet time.
It has been two weeks of paying big bills – all at once – with money I may or may not actually have. That’s always fun, isn’t it? The car insurance was due, there was a registration for a conference, I have my car in at the shop today for winterization and its 60,000 mile check-up and of course the contract for plowing. It doesn’t rain but it pours, except at this time of year when it snows.
I’m not sure if I got the contract in early enough to get this “snow event” covered. (I kept holding back on sending it because of that iffy money thing.) They certainly hadn’t come before I left the house this morning. Thing is that Orion needs to leave before me. Have you ever pushed a wheelchair through the snow? They’re not exactly designed for that kind of travel. Maybe if we had sled dogs!
The plows haven’t come through yet, so at least there wasn’t a huge mound at the end of the driveway. Getting an electric ramp to lower – flat – over one of those mounds is next to impossible. My plowing needs are complicated. It’s been years (10+) since I’ve even considered picking up a shovel. Those bus drivers (bless them) have occasionally gone above and beyond and made a path. Mostly I’ve been dependent on husbands (not an option anymore) or the plowing contract.
But today I bundled up and gave it a go! Got Orion ready. Shoveled a path for him down the driveway. Got dressed and drove, on glare ice, to the dealership and am taking care of business. It feels really good to be ABLE to do all of that in one morning, and still have a brain. I’ve been writing this post in my head since last night. While I wait I’ve finally got time to write it down. That kind of busy is still new to me. I really am enjoying it. There are definitely things more important than money.
Be safe this winter driving season!