Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving parts I & II

Yesterday we went to Bob's parents' house for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful meal with wonderful people (and that's not just the turkey talking). The meal was relaxed and friendly. The food was varied: aside from the necessary standards of turkey, gravy and stuffing, there were green beans, rice, pickled peaches, cranberry sauce, a fruit compote (Nancy), a salad with feta, avocado, and cranberries (Kathryn), carrot/cumin tart (Edward), succotash (Bob), potato salad (Rhonda), collards (good, but I don't know who made them), pumpkin & pecan pie, chocolate cake (Edward), and a fruit cake that I actually liked made by Nancy.

After dinner, some cleaned up, some played pool, some chatted. Bob pulled out his guitar and the family sang. It was very wise of me to marry into a musical family.

Today we will go to my brother's house for more Thanksgiving. This will also be relaxed and comfortable. We will have all of the foods that mean Thanksgiving to my family. We will talk and laugh and pick up last Sunday's New York Times and read about other people. We will remember Thanksgivings past and be grateful that they are past. We will think of Thanksgivings to come, and be grateful that we have them.

What have we come to? A Thanksgiving with very little drama and a whole lot of warmth. And that is what I am grateful for.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My horoscope for today

Making a commitment to your long-term health can assure years of increased vitality down the road. Transformative Pluto is entering your 6th House of Routine, enabling you to ruthlessly eliminate old habits that no longer serve you well. Consider changes to improve your diet and exercise program while you can. If you wait too long, the negative effects of an unhealthy lifestyle will begin to take their toll.

Begin to take a toll? Huh. That bell has tolled. That bell is pealing in the tower and the pigeons are deaf.

How is this different from any other horoscope I have and will read? It's this line: Transformative Pluto is entering your 6th House of Routine, enabling you to ruthlessly eliminate old habits that no longer serve you well.

I don't know about Pluto, but I really need some help eliminating old habits. Coincidentally (or not), I recently told some friends that I think my aversion to healthy eating and exercise is no longer based on a deep-seated emotional need, but on bad habits I developed when I was needy.

I used to suffer from the "when I get thin, I'll be able to get a boyfriend, finish school, get a job, make friends, be happy...." Back then, I think I sometimes sabotaged my healthy eating and exercise plans because I needed the fat as an excuse for anything that wasn't working.

Now, I am married and out of school, I have lots of good jobs (some which pay in cash, some in satisfaction), I have great friends, and some days, when I am feeling very brave, I will admit that I am happy. Once in a while I catch myself thinking that if I were thin, I'd be able to handle a tougher situation better ---then I call myself a liar and just do it.

But I am still fat, and the health bell is tolling for me.

I know how to eat well. I like healthy foods. I like to walk, especially now that it is fall and the weather is perfect. So what is missing?

Habit. If I have good food at my office, I'll eat it. But on the days I'm not alone and someone offers to buy me lunch my mind perks up and my mouth says, "I'll take two chili dogs and small fries." My stomach and my brain are saying, oh jeeze, Kathy, that is going to sit like a pile of grease in your stomach and you won't get anything done. Just say no, or at least see if you can get a grilled chicken sandwich. But Habit wins.

Habit has me in my warm jammies and socks within two minutes of hitting my house. Habit has me eating ice cream when I really do like fat free vanilla yogurt. Habit has me, period.

The question I ask myself (I suppose out of habit) is if I have so many bad habits, why can't I develop good habits? If my mind is so strong it can make me sick and sad, why can't I use that same mind to make me healthy and happy? What do I need to do to develop new habits?

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I really like Thanksgiving. Not just for the food, which is good, or the family, which is better, but as a sociological study. You can learn a lot about a person by asking what they do for thanksgiving.

Although I grew up in SC, my mother was born in Massachusetts, and so our Thanksgiving had a New England flavor to it. We had turkey & dressing, ham, mashed white potatoes, sweet potato casserole (no marshmallows), green beans, wild rice and cranberry sauce made with real cranberries. Until recently, we had a plain pumpkin pie and a plain pecan pie, with vanilla ice cream.

When I got married I found out that my husband thought white rice should be served at Thanksgiving. He also included pickled peaches (his father's favorite). He did not see the point of mashed white potatoes or wild rice.

I've since met people who insist that macaroni and cheese casserole is a traditional Thanksgiving dish. I won't object to mac & cheese casserole any day.

Another part about Thanksgiving is who does the cooking. My mom used to make everything, but once we got older, each child took a specialty or two and ran with it. My brother always makes stuffing --- often two kinds. My sister makes a wonderful sweet potato casserole that I depend on every year. I make mashed potatoes with cream cheese, white cheddar, butter, and sour cream that is probably a complete meal in itself. Thanksgiving has been planned, with a little tweaking necessary, since 1985.

My mother-in-law used to make the whole dinner too. She doesn't like to cook, so she started buying the prepared meal from the Piggly Wiggly. She added the pickled peaches, of course, and a couple of other things. When my sister-in-law joined the family, she started bringing a couple of side dishes. She does like to cook, and it is always a pleasure to taste the Swedish tradition she brings to food.

My friend Perry said he wasn't sure what his family would do this year. His aunt died, and she was the last of her generation. And she used to cook the dinner by herself. The cousins were talking about experimenting with family traditions, but Perry wasn't really happy with that.

Another friend tried to scale back the food, and polled the family to see what were the MUST haves. They couldn't get rid of anything, but sweet potatoes, and they added that back because what's Thanksgiving without sweet potatoes?

I guess we do have to move on. Give up the things we don't care that much for, even if they represent something. Let other people cook in their own way. Try new things. Welcome new people.

I am tankful for diversity of taste, tradition, and outlook. I am thankful to know so many wonderful people. I am thankful to be here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Requiem for a Grandmother

The weather on Friday varied from morose to violent --- a dark gray drizzle that may have been a very thick fog followed by thunderstorms, followed by the drizzle. The clouds were low like a wet wool army blanket. Even I could have used a ray of sunshine, and I adore rain.

I drove to Varnville for my daughter-in-law Katy's grandmother's funeral. Through a combination of circumstances: packing and bringing the babies after taking scones, tea, and Devon cream to Mark's school for teacher appreciation day, the weather, the fact that Varnville has few street signs & have no sense of direction,... I was 15 minutes late. I missed most of the service, but what I heard was nice, comforting, and kind. The Baptist minister was a joyous minister who talked about Katy's grandmother teaching everyone to dance. He approves and said he couldn't understand why the Baptists ever frowned on dancing.

Katy, her sisters, her cousins, her niece who is old enough to know, her aunts and uncles were all very very sad. If there was a small sense of relief that her grandmother died before her Alzheimer's disease took away her personality, it was held close. She was an important, dancing part of their lives, and they will miss her.

Some people say they can't go on when a mother or grandmother passes on. I understand that feeling. There are times even now that I know I can't roast a turkey without calling my mother and asking her how long to cook it. There isn't a meeting that goes by without me wanting to call Mom and ask how to handle a point of parliamentary procedure or how to approach a sensitive issue and get the support I need. And no one can count votes like she can. But if I didn't go on, I would be denying my mother's life.

People come and go in our lives. Some leave us to move to Georgia, others leave us by dying. Some just drift away. And if we feel our life is diminished by their loss, we need to hold them in our heart, remember their lessons, and live a bigger, better life because they have given us love, experience, strength, skills, knowledge, and most of all our own Power.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I took the Meyers-Briggs thing-a-ma-bobby the other day, and I am INTP. Introverted, Intuitive (100%), Thinking, Perceiving. My counselor told me that only about 1% of people (maybe just Americans, I can't remember) are this type, and most of them are men. That makes sense to me, since I've always known I think/look at the world differently than most people and that I often think "like a man."

The original group facilitator and my counselor gave me some insight on what this means to me and how I deal with the world. I think that, for me, the most important lesson is that other people (99% of the people I deal with) don't face the world the way I do. This explains a lot.

Jennifer told me that the IT part is what makes me very naive in dealing with people. If people tell me they are nice & do two or three nice things, I believe they are nice. If that person does something terrible, I get confused, wonder what I did to make them act so out of character, and try to fix myself. I need a feeling person to tell me that the person is NOT nice, even if she said she was and gave me a cookie. I need my feeling & extroverted friends to clue me: She was not nice, and don't take cookies from people you don't know.

The intuitive part is the reason I have brilliant ideas but can't figure out how to share them. Ideas appear fully (of almost fully) formed in a panorama in living color with a lovely soundtrack. All of my stories ultimately begin "well, first, you need to know that God created the heaven and the earth..." I will eventually tell you why I bought a particular pair of red boots, for instance, but not before side trips to China, Italy and a Mayan temple or two. See? No, huh.

I can envision a great concept. I can see it, but I can't figure out how to get there from here. It is too big, and I don't know how break it down. When I break things down, I break them into their atomic parts. I just need a list. I need the sensing, judging people to get me going, to take the ball, as it were, and run. If I could just get over the introverted fear of asking for help...

So I am told there are lots of strong points in preferences... I think big, I have good ideas, I support the homeless... I just need the balance of other-preference friends. I am fortunate to have that, if I don't drive them crazy...