When It’s Ok to Not Know

Concept image of a signpost with Yes, No or Maybe against a blue cloudy sky.My son is a Sophomore in high school. Which means he is caught in that odd transition between being a kid and being an adult. And I’m in that odd transition of wishing he was still my little boy, and trying to encourage his independence. This stage of mom-dom is really hard. I’m excited for him and everything his future holds, but in so many ways I wish I could go back in time to when he was curled up on my lap and we had his whole childhood still ahead of us, both of us in a happy and safe little cocoon together.

While I carry on my own inner turmoil about him growing up, I can see that he’s excited yet anxious in his own way. Teenagers today are put under a lot of pressure to grow up quickly… to take on extra-curricular activities at school, do community service, learn to drive, get a job, decide where to go to college or trade school and what to study, and even to decide what they want to become as an adult. All the while staying out of trouble, making healthy decisions about friends, partying, drugs and alcohol, and getting decent grades. That’s a lot to juggle.

The pressure to decide “what’s next” is the toughest. At a recent holiday party, friends of ours asked my son what he thought he might want to study in college, or if he had any thoughts as to what he’d like to do in the future. His response was honest. He said “Not really. I still have to raise my hand to ask to go to the bathroom, but they want us to decide what we are doing with the rest of our lives.”

At one point when he was feeling pressured and stressed about making decisions about his future, I had to speak not to the adult blooming within him, but to the kid inside. I told him that he is only 16. It is ok to not know. Sure, some kids seem to be born with a drive and direction from the get-go and strive to be a cop, a doctor, or a politican.   But that’s pretty rare. I told my boy that he has no idea how big the world is out there, and the different things he could learn and do. When he gets to college, he will be amazed by the variety of areas of study.

Truly, the world is open to him, and the opportunities are far greater than when I was his age. Tonight we were talking about the various courses in his high school that he’s hoping to take in the next couple of years. Business Law, Psychology, Graphics, The History of Rock and Roll. How awesome is that?   I think the most unusual courses I took were Music Theory and Shakespeare.

When I was graduating from high school and trying to decide on a path of study for college, I literally thought “Well, I like English. Guess I could major in that.” Two or three years in, I still had people saying “An English major? Are you going to teach?” Because that was the natural assumption. Especially for a woman. All I would say was “No, I don’t think so. Not sure what I’ll do.”

Funny thing, it all worked out in the end, even though I had no grand plan. I find it fascinating talking to other people, other Real Women, who have ended up doing something completely different than what they originally intended, or finding their passion in something other than what they prepared for in college. Many years after my graduation, now in my mid-life years, I am happily in a career that has combined my interests and passions with my skills. And I’ve given myself the gift of spending time writing. Which, when I think about it, is something I’ve always done. Even as a young girl, I wrote stories and kept journals. Huh. Go figure.

So who knows. Maybe my son will find some totally new and exciting direction in his future. Or maybe he’ll become any one of the many ideas he’s already tossed around, like being a History Teacher, or a Music Producer, or a Video Game Designer, or a Lawyer or an Actor. As far as I’m concerned, I think it is fine that he has not chosen a path. I don’t want him to feel trapped into making decisions before he’s ready. I hope that he explores a few different directions, tries new things, has fun along the way and takes “the road less traveled.”   Because so very often, it is when we are exploring new views and new trails, looking all around us, absorbing all there is to see – that’s when we stumble into something awesome that feels right and makes us say “Oh yeah. That’s totally me.”   And guess what. That probably isn’t going to happen at age 16.

Happy trails, my son.

 

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Wake Me in Spring

hibernation-bearThe excitement of the holiday season has passed, and we are all settling into our regular routines. One would think that with the dawn of a new year, we’d be energized and enthusiastic. Not so much. ‘Tis the season for lack of energy.

It’s not that the holidays wore us out – at least we can’t still use that as an excuse. It’s not that we have become lethargic due to lack of interest. It’s not that we have suddenly all developed narcolepsy.   It is because we Real Women, at least those of us in the colder regions of the country, are fighting our natural instincts to hibernate. Those mama bears have it right.

Let’s review, shall we? We awaken while the day is still dark and cold. We stumble around, wrapped in fleece and fuzzy slippers, and check the thermometer as if it really matters whether it is 8 degrees or 22 degrees out. We listen to the weather forecast as if it really matters whether we’ll get 2 inches of snow, or 12 inches, or just 6 inches of “mixed precipitation”, ie: slush.  We see our children off to school while it is still so dark that the school buses have their headlights on. Then we gather what energy we have and start our days, be it work, or school, or volunteering, or home management… Whatever our activities are, with a hot enough shower and enough caffeine, we begin to feel human enough to tackle whatever comes our way.

We bundle up to head outside, looking like colorful penguins in our long coats, scarves and boots. We walk like penguins too. Any of you who live in a cold clime are familiar with the clenched-and-hutched-shoulder posture we adopt until May.

For a few hours we forget it is hibernation season. If the sun is out, we get a bit of pep in our step. We may even take part in winter activities like skiing, snowshoeing or building snow sculptures. For a moment or two we convince ourselves that this is lovely and fun. Look at me, it is cold out but I’m being active! A productive member of the human race!

Then, a few short hours later, darkness descends again. 4pm feels and looks like 9pm. Once again the bundling process begins, and we try to gather the strength to head home from our work or our activities.   Six months ago, 6:00 at night felt like just the beginning of the afternoon. We had hours ahead of us of daylight and warmth, and we had energy pouring out of our tanned selves. We did evening activities, mostly outside. BBQing, bike riding, gardening, long walks, or just hanging out visiting with neighbors.   Now the only time we see our neighbors is when we are both out snowblowing at the same time. We wave a heavily mittened hand which translates to “see you in the spring”.

The evenings are when our deep desire to slumber kicks in. In place of those summer time outdoor adventurous, active athletes are now sofa sloths binging on Netflix. If we manage to get one productive activity accomplished before bedtime, we are proud of ourselves.   “I got the dishes washed! Damn, I’m good. “ Then eventually we give in, and go where we’ve wanted to be all day…. Snuggled in to bed like the bear’s lair, having eaten enough comfort food to keep a Grizzly full.

The good news is that the winter solstice has passed. Which means, whether we notice it or not, our days are getting longer. Heck, today we actually had 9 hours and 19 minutes of daylight!   Hope you used them wisely!

There is literally a light at the end of the tunnel. In a few months, we will start to crawl out from under our blankets, put down the mac ‘n cheese, put on our sneakers, and emerge from our fuzziness.   Unlike the mama bears, we won’t have lost weight, and we won’t feel especially rested. But bit by bit, our energy levels will return. And that first warm sunny day will feel like heaven.

In the meantime, we can entertain ourselves with the many ways we can wear flannel.

Silly humans.

 

 

 

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It’s Time.

christmas-treesAhhh, the morning sun shining down with the promise of a new year, sparkling on the bits of snow and ice, and highlighting….. the heap of dead Christmas trees.   It’s kind of a sad sight in a way. So many trees, which gave their lives so we could decorate our homes for the holidays, unceremoniously dragged out and left by the side of the road. Well, at least in our town that happens. It’s like some sort of secret Dead Tree Society, where seemingly overnight the piles on certain corners get higher and deeper until the DPW comes along with a mulcher.

It is surprising how soon some of those trees start showing up. My husband and I saw one the day after Christmas. Some folks don’t waste any time.  If we all played by the rules, of course, the decorations would not go up weeks in advance (during what my BFF’s hubby calls Hallowthanksmas), and instead our trees and décor would be maintained for the full 12 days of Christmas. Just ask Mary:   epiphany

However in our busy lives, we tend to bend the rules. We get excited to make our homes festive and look forward to Christmas, and to ringing in the new year, so we spruce up our environments with our twinkling lights early.   We may have the best of intentions to enjoy it for as long as possible. But at some point, no matter how pretty and cheerful it all may look, we start to get antsy about taking it all back down again.

I get it. Really, I do. I’m one of those R.W.’s who goes all out with the decorating. I inherited that passion from my mother. Every year I put a lot of effort into putting up special décor, scenes, candles, you name it. Once I get it done, I’m thrilled and want to make it last. Then, somewhere along the line, as if someone flips a light switch, I’m done with it.   I want my house back to normal. This year that switch flipped a couple of days ago when I was walking through my dining room – no, wait, correction, I was squeezing my way through the room – and I could no longer stand the clutter and tight spaces. My Christmas village takes up an entire side of the room, and the nativity scene takes up another corner — so the dining table and chairs are pushed aside and cramped. The table is loaded with now-stale cookies and candy and treats, all of which I’m sick of. Various gifts are spread out on surfaces and small piles on the floor because they haven’t all been put away. The poinsettia is wilting. It is time.

And so, because I have an extra day off to celebrate New Year’s Day, I will spend most of the weekend, like so many other R.W.’s, getting things packed up and put away, and cleaning the house.   It will of course be bitter sweet – I am emotionally attached to many of the holiday items, and cherish being able to enjoy them once a year. Yet at the same time, I can’t wait for my home to feel open and airy again, and to put a new clean rug runner in the kitchen. It’s the little things that make me feel better.

Clearly this clean-out is symbolic. As we all celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of another, we dearly want to feel like we are getting a fresh start. To have hope, to be able to take a deep breath and some how start over.   Even if we don’t stay up until midnight, even if we don’t go to a big wild party, or even watch plastic-faced Ryan Seacrest count down the big ball with thousands of people wedged into Times Square — no matter how we celebrate — we all want to have that glimmer of new, of a clean slate to start over.

So, by the end of this weekend, I expect to see even more trees by the curb. I expect to take dozens of trips up and down my basement stairs as I pack away my decorations. I expect, like every year, I will feel like the house looks a bit bare, but refreshing and somehow a bit new again. A fresh perspective.

In the spirit of a renewed perspective, rather than see those dead trees as something sad and pathetic, I’ll think about how they could be recycled into something new. They could be mulch for our flower gardens, or bedding for animals, or who knows, maybe even be made into paper for the pages of a book.

After all, when we all wake up in a new year, it will be the first page in a blank book that is 365 pages long.

And once again, we have our chance to make it a best seller.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

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Expect the Unexpected

new-fridge‘Tis the season for anticipation and hustle and bustle. The big day is drawing near, and soon we will all stop preparing and slow down long enough to experience. Not only do I count down the days until we are surrounded by loved ones, and can celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, but — I’ll be honest here – I’m counting down the days until I can just stop. When I can lounge in my jammies, watch my family enjoying time together, sip my cocoa and Bailey’s, and just be.   We Real Women take on Christmas like we are Indiana Jones outrunning boulders and finding crystal treasures, proving to the world that “we can do it all and make it perfect”. No one asks us to do it, we just put it on ourselves as if our goal is to make the bell ring, announcing to the world that we’ve gotten our angel wings.

After all of the Christmases I’ve experienced thus far on this earth, I have determined that there is one simple truth: no matter how much we prepare, how hard we hustle and bustle, there will always be something for which we did not plan. In other words, we have to expect the unexpected. The unexpected could be something minor, like an extra visitor for dinner, or a backordered gift. Or it could be huge, like an ice storm that shuts down a city, or the illness or loss of a loved one. Like it or not, there will be something outside of our control, and no quantity of planning and to do lists will change it. And we just have to learn to be ok with that, deal best we can with whatever comes our way, and move on. Easy to say. Hard to do.

Last weekend we were preparing to have some friends over for a holiday gathering, and my husband and I had gone out to dinner the night before and stopped at the grocery store for the last few things we needed. We came home, I opened the freezer door in the kitchen, and whoosh…. Water spilled out and everything was dripping and defrosting. The fridge side was getting warm too. Our fridge/freezer had decided, without warning, that after 16 years it was done. Toast. Dead. No worky. A black splotch on the floor behind it signaled a burned-out compressor. Always up for a romantic date night, my husband and I spent the next hour or two trying to rescue anything that hadn’t defrosted too much, throwing out what was wasted, and find some place to put everything. Luckily, we have a small spare fridge unit in our basement, and a chest freezer in the garage. However, they were already full due to the impending party and holiday treats. A quick panic call to the neighbors and we were able to squeeze some things in at their house, and otherwise relied on winter temperatures to store items in our garage and outside on our patio for the night. I was already tired from a busy weekend, but felt like I was coping pretty well. Until the table where I was stacking food to be stored gave out, and everything crashed to the floor. There just may have been some very foul, non-festive language that emanated from my mouth, followed by tears.

In the morning our first call to Home Depot gave us the bad news that they couldn’t deliver a new one for two weeks. At that point we decided to put a new appliance search on hold and focus on preparing for our get -together… which of course was a bit more challenging when wondering if a necessary ingredient was out in the snow bank, in the garage, or in the basement. We had a great time with our friends, tried to send lots of food home with them due to our storage issues, and offered a free dead fridge as a door prize.

The good news is, as so often happens during this magical time of year, we were granted a Christmas miracle, and we found an appliance company who could get one to us in four days. Were we expecting to go further into debt right now to buy an expensive appliance? No. Was going without it a bit of a hassle this week? Sure. Did we ever think a refrigerator would be a meaningful gift to each other? No. But expect the unexpected. And now it is here, and gosh darn it, it is beautiful. (Well, besides the minor dent, for which a replacement door will be arriving in a few days). All holiday visitors will be expected to pause and ooh and aahhh and bask in its basic white radiance.

There’s still plenty of time for more unexpected events. Perhaps we’ll be lucky, and this was it for us this year, and we will now have smooth sailing.

Funny thing, it really doesn’t matter. Because Christmas will arrive no matter what is going on in our lives, and no matter how much we Real Women want to control the outcome. We need to take a lesson from the Grinch. “He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming… Somehow or other, it came, just the same. “

So let’s take the last rush of preparation down a notch, expect the unexpected, and most of all, enjoy it. Worst case scenario, we will gain great stories to tell while gathered around the fireplace, eating fattening cookies and admiring our fuzzy Christmas socks.

Merry Christmas, dear readers. I so very much appreciate you, one and all.

 

 

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Cover Story

cover-story-image-2The December issue of Women’s Health features a flawlessly beautiful Kaley Cuoco on the cover and in the celebrity article. They chose to do a feature on her because she works out a lot, and, well, she’s great.

I have nothing against Kaley, I think she is talented and funny and strikes that harmonious chord of being somewhere between nauseatingly unrealistically perfect, and a girlfriend you’d want to go grab a beer with.

But after reading the article, which was constructed like so many others, I couldn’t help but wonder how it would sound if the editor had interviewed an average every day real woman instead.  Most of these articles are the same – the interviews are conducted in some trendy location, the celebrity looks casually chic, and the topics touch on how they look so amazing, how they overcame some romantic crisis, and report on some new chapter in their career (like moving from tv to movies, or launching a new clothing line.). How would an R.W. answer the questions?   Let’s reconstruct, shall we?

Kaley Cuoco has arrived early for dinner at the farm-to-table eatery…in Santa Monica, CA.           R.W. rushes in 20 minutes late to lunch and throws her giant purse on the stained bench in the corner of a busy Panera sandwich shop in Anytown, USA.

Kaley digs into a plate of burrata and a glass of rose.  R.W. orders a chicken panini with a side of fries and a diet coke because it’s all about balance.

Kaley is SoCal-cute in boyfriend jeans and a white tank, with a large-brimmed hat pulled down to the top of her wide-set hazel eyes.  R.W., slightly frazzled in clearance rack yoga pants and a flowy Gen X tunic, she searches for her glasses which are on top of her head.  

Kaley works hard on her body and it shows. She’s got triceps and deltoids that are way toned.   R.W. has been working out in her basement and at the local gym in a valiant attempt to beat back her muffin top and loose arm flaps, all to no avail. “Wait. Does running late count as cardio?” she asks.

At 31, she credits her hot yoga and cycling routine.  At 51, she curses menopause for her eliminated metabolism.

“My workouts combine sculpting with a 60-minute sweat-a-thon.”    “The hardest part of my workouts is getting back up off the floor, and finding enough Aleve in my purse for my knees.”

It has been 12 months since Kaley and her tennis-pro husband of less than two years…announced their split, leaving her devastated.   R.W. and her engineer husband of 25 years see no reason to split up. “Some days we like each other, some days not so much. But I love the goofball, and I’m far too busy and tired to ever train a new one.”

On weekends she seeks solitude at her ranch in Simi Valley, CA, where she spends the day riding miles of trails on one of her seven horses.  On weekends she plays a game of beat the clock, running errands, chauffeuring the kids and catching up on home maintenance issues, squeezing in time with her two cats, one dog and feeding the hamster no one else takes care of. Solitude?  What’s that?

Kaley predicts and hopes that there will be two more seasons of her successful show. Then she says, “I can’t see myself doing television again” though she hasn’t decided with might take its place.   R.W. predicts that she will be staying in her current position until she finds her dream encore career though she has no idea what that could be, or she can retire.  

After the interview, Kaley will be hopping on a flight to San Diego to spend a romantic weekend with her boyfriend.  After the interview, R.W. will be transporting her son or daughter to a social event, doing the grocery shopping and, this time of year, adding another dozen holiday must-do’s to her list.

Eventually, at the end of the night, R.W. will sit and relax for the first time in about 16 hours. She will pick up a magazine or tablet and read about people she can in no way relate to. Why?  We don’t know. Perhaps in the recesses of our minds, we believe that if we start taking Hot Yoga we’ll turn into Kaley Cuoco. Or perhaps we just have an odd fascination with how the other half lives (which makes no sense, there are far more of us than them). Either way, after flipping through the world of celebrities, models and professional athletes, R.W. will set the magazine down and survey her own kingdom. She will look past the piles of laundry and dirty floors and smile. Because what we have in our real lives is pretty darn amazing.

Eat your heart out, Kaley.

 

 

 

 

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Decor or Decorum?

deck-halls-houseThe turkey has been digested, the pumpkins put away, and virtually overnight neighborhood yards are coming to life with a veritable cornucopia of Christmas magic. That is, if your idea of magic is multi-colored light shows, mechanical deer and inflatable snowmen.

I go big with holiday decorations inside my home.  But outside, we are relative light-weights.  A few lights on trees, bushes, the fence in the backyard, and we call it jolly. Add in the traditional colonial candles in the windows and we are pretty darn proud of ourselves.

In stark contrast to our home, is a group of three homes down the road from us.  Reminiscent of the Griswold’s, or Danny DeVito’s spectacular display in Deck the Halls, each year these folks go all out in a joint venture.  Lights, displays, things up on the roof, even a holographic Santa that appears in the window – all set to music.  In a frenzied sort of way, it is impressive.  And yet I can’t help but think like a typical real woman and wonder a.) How they find the time to do it, b.) Where the heck they store it all during the rest of the year, c.) What family member started it all with “I’ve got an idea….” and d.) How gigantic is their electric bill?

Over the weekend I had a conversation with a BFF about the amount of Christmas “stuff” we have, and how I really need to clean it out.  The storage of our decorations takes up almost half of my basement space.  I know darn well there are items in those crates that I never use or put out on display, but I’ve kept them simply for nostalgic reasons.  The popsical-art ornaments made by my son in kindergarten, the handmade wreath that is disintegrating, the Rudolph plush toys, and the now cloudy snow globes –yes, they are all still sitting in boxes taking up space.  And this year, like every other, I vow to get rid of them after the holiday season is complete.  Unclutter and simplify.  One of these years, I’ll actually listen to myself.  Yet when I see some of these complex lighting displays and yard art, I realize my storage issues could be far worse. And certainly so could my taste in décor.

I do love meandering neighborhoods to see what people have erected to signify holiday cheer, and to find out the hot new things of the season.  This year apparently projecting sparkly dots all over the front of one’s house is a thing.  Looks a bit like festive measles. More popular than ever are the blow-up characters. I’m not an inflatable lawn ornament kinda gal.  Not that I have anything against the big puffy snowmen, reindeer, Peanuts characters and penguins that glow and weave in the wind at night.  Some folks love them. I find them humorous during daylight hours as they lay deflated and crumpled in holiday heaps, like giant melted Frosty’s.

For the most part, the décor is fun and cute, sometimes even with a nod to the traditional spiritual meaning of the season.  And yet, each year, there seems to be one or two sightings that just make me wonder what they were thinking.  Today on my lunch time walk, I was scoping out the plethora of items in the yard of a house on a street corner.  Lots of deflated lumps of nylon, groups of snowman-faced orbs on sticks, prancing reindeer, a sleigh, a couple of toy soldiers, strings of big retro-style lights in the trees.  Then I saw it.  In the back, behind the reindeer.  I had to back up to look again.  Was that really santa with his pants down?

For the rest of the day I pondered where one would purchase such a thing, but even more to the point, why would someone put that in their yard?  What was it supposed to symbolize?  Did Santa’s pants fall off when he came out of the chimney?  Was Santa relieving himself after drinking too much nog?  Even worse, was Santa becoming a flasher?  What is the story there?  Did the household’s Dad reach the breaking point of too much cuteness?  Did he sneak out at night to install it after his wife was asleep to see if she’d notice?  Did someone lose a bet?   Oh, so many questions, all to go unanswered.  Perhaps it’s not what I thought I saw…. although conveniently I had my smartphone camera with me, so you be the judge.  santa-pants

The key take away here is that we each have our own taste in holiday décor.  We each show our spirit in different ways. What may be slightly distasteful to others could be the coolest thing ever to someone else. But no matter what, now more than ever, we all need avenues for healthy self-expression, ways to bring joy into our lives, and make each other smile and feel good, even if it is just for a moment as we pass by a giant waving Mickey Mouse, a handcrafted Holy Family, a set of blinding LED Spotlights, or even a scantily-clad Santa.  Ho ho ho.

 

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Prepare to Do Nothing.

thanksgivingpants2

I had a conversation with a couple of coworkers today who pointed out some of the reasons so many of us truly enjoy Thanksgiving:  food, football, and stretchy pants.  It is a day when, after the flurry of food preparation is done, the entire expectation is to not do much of anything.  How lovely.

As the big day approaches, I’ve determined there are really three key ways we prepare…things we must focus on before we become one with the couch in our ratty old yoga pants to snooze in front of family and tv:

  1. Great Aunt Helen’s Pearl Onion Recipe. Or Mom’s Famous Potatoes.  Or Trendy New Roasted Brussel Sprouts.   We all have very specific, even territorial, preferences about what must be prepared and served on the big day.  Really, I’ve heard arguments arise where food feelings run rampant:  “You’ve GOT to have Rhodes dinner rolls!”   “What do you mean you don’t cook your turkey in a bag?”  “No, no, no, it has to be the cranberry jelly that looks like the CAN.”  And the best one:  “But that’s not how mom did it.”   Only we Americans could find a way to add stress to holiday food preparation.  Take a deep breath.  As sacrilegious as this sounds, it doesn’t really matter what you eat.  I know, shocking. But true.  Want pb&j?  Go for it.
  2. Put the Fun in Dysfunctional. This is one of those holidays where family members who don’t normally spend a lot of time together get together to spend a lot of time together.  We all have glorious images in our mind that our gatherings will look like a Norman Rockwell painting.  normanrockwell_thanksgivingYet reality proves again and again that our Thanksgivings will bear a stronger resemblance to scenes out of Married with Children or Arrested Development. Rather than being disappointed that we aren’t all perfect, or worry about who is going to say what, I think we should just embrace our family and friend craziness. Get an assortment of relations together, strap on the feedbag, pour some alcohol, and let those sparks fly.  I saw a great tweet today where someone said their plan was to settle in to a crowded table, ask “So what did you all think of the election?” then happily spend the rest of the meal alone in another room.  No matter the wackiness, we all need to remember it is one day.  For a matter of hours, let’s all just get along.  Then call our BFF’s over the weekend to share stories.
  3. Do what you can. Any of you who have been following my blog for a while have read some of my rants about how much I dislike grocery shopping.  Yet no matter how much I whine and complain, hate the process all the way from list-making to schlepping and putting away, I am thankful that I can do it.  Because a frightening number of people out there don’t have that option.  They don’t know when they will eat next, let alone have the option of going to a store to buy food. Luckily this time of year especially, most of us get the reminder that we need to donate food or funds to those in need.  For the past several years, I’ve gotten my son involved in volunteer work at local Food Pantries.  This year he is helping out at the grand-daddy of food collection events.  The local Classic Rock radio station here hosts the Mayflower Marathon, where the goal is to fill three Tractor Trailer trucks with non-perishable food in 52 hours to benefit the local Open Pantry. It is quite the sight and a great community event.  Yet we need to keep in mind that those in need aren’t just hungry during the holidays.  There are just as many folks struggling in July as there are in November.  So if you are like me, and some time soon you will be grumbling about the First World problem of having to go back to the store because you forgot to pick up peanut butter, try to stop being grocery-cranky long enough to grab a little something extra for someone else.  It is an amazing mood-booster.

The count down has begun.  Those traveling have packed their bags and gotten on the road.  Those who are hosting have stuffed their fridges and dug out their recipes and planned what gets cooked when. Everyone has their stretchy pants at the ready.  And hopefully everyone will find a place to get a warm meal.

Eat. Talk. Laze around. Enjoy.

But most of all, be thankful and be kind. Which is easy to do with a full belly.

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