No Car

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​We are on Day 39* without a car. Our car’s engine died the third week of January. Our trusted mechanic told us it wouldn’t be worth putting in a new engine with the body our 2002 minivan had; just too much rust. We knew this day was coming, but it still left us in a numb kind of shock. It’s been our only car for several years now, and we just can’t afford a car payment. There were also some new payroll deductions so for now our salary has been reduced, significantly, and we’re not really sure how we’ll get through that. However, that is one too many problems for this discussion.

Day 39. Continue reading

November – Gratitude – Photo/Art

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Traveling to Vermont for Thanksgiving with family. (c)2018

Fireplace on a cold Thanksgiving night. (c)2018


Thanksgiving Dinner. (c)2018

November – Gratitude – Reflection

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The last two years have been clouded with so many political things, and the next two will also have much more to come, but I am grateful for the outcome of the election, the blue wave, and the thoughts that maybe we can work our way back to where the country not only should be, but where the majority of the country wants it to be. I’ve been inspired by so many new faces and listening to many intelligent voices on my new passion of podcasts that I feel cautiously optimistic that we can get through this time.

While I haven’t written that much for Nanowrimo, I have still done a lot of writing for my space here, reading my good morning journal as often as necessary, and have some other ideas and writings plotted out in the bare bones.

I went on a beautiful retreat for Thanksgiving reflection and am looking forward to another on Mary the day after my birthday. 

I am grateful to be hearing better than I have in a few years. The number of times that I say “what” have gone down exponentially thanks to a pair of hearing aids. I’ve also gotten a lot of medical things taken care of with more to come in the coming weeks, including at a ridiculous early time tomorrow. I am still seeing my therapist and trying to use all the tools in my basket; my mental health is definitely stable and good. My kids are healthy and happy in school, and we have a home, heat, and food and with the snow starting early that is indeed appreciated. Whatever else we may want, our needs are well taken care of.

Looking forward to Thursday with our family and thinking about the family not there, whether too far away or no longer and especially that whether together or apart, we are still a we.

Wishing you many blessings at this holiday season, and grateful that you are all in my life.

November – Gratitude – Recipe

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The original of this recipe was as a pie, directly from a colleague who was born and raised in New Orleans. Sweet Potato Pie is a traditional Southern dessert, very similar to pumpkin pie, although I think a little bit sweeter. I was on a trip to Virginia a couple of years ago, and was ecstatic to find a sweet potato pie in the local McDonald’s alongside their apple pies. It was amazing! Even years later, I miss it in my northeast home.

My mother could not grasp the idea that this pie was dessert or that it is typically eaten chilled. For her, it was a side dish and that’s what it became in our house for Thanksgiving.

Over the years I’ve changed it, and sometimes when I can’t find the extra large Keebler graham cracker crust I will make it as a casserole. That is the recipe that I’m going to share with you this November.

I know that this is a fall type food, but I will eat this all year round.

​Sweet Potato Casserole

This started out as a pie, but then I got a little lazy, and it became a casserole. It is still pretty awesome!

Ingredients:

1 lg can of yams or sweet potatoes

1 stick of unsalted butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 bag of mini marshmallows

Directions:

1. Cook the yams on the stovetop. When hot, drain and return the yams to the saucepan and mash.

2. Add the stick of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and mix thoroughly either by hand or with a mixer.

3. Transfer the smooth yams to a casserole dish. Cover with the marshmallows.

4. Bake in an oven at 350° for thirty-five minutes or until marshmallows are golden brown.

5. Serve as a side dish. Yummy.

November – Gratitude

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November begins with the Solemnity of All Saints and finishes with the beginning of the liturgical year and Advent. In the middle are parent-teacher conferences, Veteran’s Day, Morning of Service volunteering, church breakfasts, health insurance open enrollment, medical procedures, a court appearance for a traffic ticket, the premiere of Fantastic Beasts, and  Thanksgiving.

I’m sure I’ve left things out, and I can hear all of you readers going over your lists in your heads and groaning. I know, I know. I’m sorry I brought it up.

First and foremost, November is about colors. We’ve been very slow at leaves changing colors. They seem lazy and slow to change, and they seem muted with the grey, cloudy, dreary-ish days that have started today, but they’re still beautiful, and mesmerizing as well as introspective.

Second for November, is gratitude. We need to slow down, and remember how lucky we are, and in reality, while things aren’t perfect for anyone, we are still very lucky in so many ways. Now is a good time to think on our blessings and remind ourselves of what we have and simply be grateful.

Third, November is National Novel Writing Month. I have signed on to participate again, and I’m hoping to settle into a rhythm of both updating this website and writing for Nanowrimo, and other writings and creative plans. Look for my daily, 30 Days of Nano column, offering suggestions and tips for a successful writing experience for Nanowrimo or your own writing endeavors.

Be (in) the Present

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I’ve had so much trouble writing this. I must have started it three or four times. Whenever November rolls around, there are more than enough graphics, journaling prompts, and memes asking us what we’re grateful and thankful for. I won’t suggest that we should be thinking about gratitude all year long, but… 

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. For many of us, this is a time to gather with family, some of whom we don’t see all the time, put away our “issues”, gather the cousins, set up the kiddie table, and eat good food.

This last Thanksgiving and this upcoming one have probably been a little bit harder for some, after the election and all the baggage that came with it. Whatever side you are on, one thing that has proven itself is that we feel strongly about our thoughts and beliefs. 

For some of us, losing loved ones makes this holiday all the more harder. We lost my mother-in-law last summer. Last Thanksgiving was not easy. This one won’t be either.

I was just gathering some thoughts and went to Facebook for a breather from the keyboard. Trust me, this is (somewhat) relevant.

David Cassidy died yesterday. He was a favorite of mine and despite knowing that his death would happen this week, it doesn’t make it any easier. His daughter, Katie was on one of my favorite shows, Supernatural, and is currently on Arrow, both on The CW. Jim Beaver, another actor from Supernatural, posted a condolence to her, and that’s where the internet showed off its empathy. But not really. What about his son? No condolences for him? He and Katie didn’t even have a relationship? Why does she need condolences?

Wow.

It’s like we can’t turn off the self-righteous manufactured anger anymore.

I can say with certainty that Jim didn’t suggest no condolences for the rest of the family; he was simply talking to and about his dear friend, Katie.

Sometimes, we need to simply slow down, think before we speak (or send), give the benefit of the doubt, leave cynicism at the door, and have a little faith.

On Tuesday, my friend celebrated her mother’s life. She died from cancer at age 58. I didn’t know her mom, but I knew my friend, and I know how close the two of them were. I can see her mother in her, through her actions, in the way she treated people, with kindness and love, with empathy and positivity. They both had a strong faith, and believed in their salvation through Jesus. She’s sad that her mother’s not a phone call or a short drive away, but she knows where she is, and for the rest of us, who didn’t know her mother, we will continue to know her mother through her.

On Tuesday, at around the same time, I was attending the funeral of a friend from my church, who also died from cancer. She also had a strong faith. The last time I saw her was her fiftieth wedding anniversary. She was in a wheelchair, but she was happy and positive, looking forward to her evening with her entire family, to recovering. When I went to wish her a happy anniversary, I reached my hand out ot hold hers, and she wouldn’t have it – it was time for a hug. She pulled me in, and it was lovely. She was lovely, very simply just a wonderful woman. She always had a kind word for me. She asked about my family and our holiday plans or about the kids’ schools. She welcomed me without hesitation into the church family, and was always available if I needed anything. We participated in some of the same ministries, and from her, I saw how to act in committees that I was unfamiliar with. She was a role model and a mentor.

These two women, separated by different cancers and fourteen years, five kids between them, one in New York and one in Arkansas, and both pillars of their families, the rocks that hold their people in tandem, that teach the faith, the “rules” of life, and they bring people into their orbit and make them better for it.

I’m thankful that I was able to know and to continue to know people who make a difference, not just in my life, but in others, to be an example of who I can be, who push me with their spirit and their being.

Look around at the family this weekend, tell them how their lives impact yours in the good ways, ignore the politics for a couple of days, and be there, be present, and give and share the love.

Gratitude Through the Rosary

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​One of the things my priest spoke about this morning about gratitude and saying thank you really resonated with me. It wasn’t just about gratitude or the gospel where the only one to return thankful for healing was the Samaritan, although that was a part of it. There was also a reference to all of G-d’s miracles here on Earth, and that reminded me of something I wrote yesterday for Nanowrimo and my book on Wales. 

Writing yesterday about the church of Wales, in so much as the land is a huge outdoor sacred place to pray came back today with the homily, more reminders of the sacredness in nature – this mornng’s bright sun, the cool air, but not too cold, the leaves carpeting the ground in a multitude of bright and colorful hues.

Even after so much time, I still don’t understand how a homily can have such meaning in a personal way. How does the Holy Spirit guide my priest to say something that not only resonates, but almost gives me an electroshock at its accuracy.

Those of us who were there this morning, as he said were not there out of obligation. No one was required to be there, but there we all were, listening to the Scriptures, bringing canned goods and non-perishables, receiving a loaf of bread to continue our celebration of the Eucharist and to share in the breaking of bread with our extended families, feeling thankful and receiving words of encouragement to bring that thankfulness with us throughout our day.

One of the things I touched upon yesterday was how Wales itself formed a holy, living rosary. I love the rosary, and I feel very close to Mary in so many ways and for so many reasons. I also feel a similar attachment to my saint, Elen of Caernarfon. I enjoy praying the rosary, either alone or in a group, but when I’m alone, I’m often at a loss of how to start it. I know the Our Father and the Hail Mary, and I’ve gotten the Doxology down, but the in-betweens, the mysteries if I don’t have my “cheat sheet”, the Hail, Holy Queen, and even the Apostles’ Creed (the one I like the best.)

If I’m alone, I often have to make it up as I go along, and so I’ll choose five things or people to acknowledge and pray for (as I did in Ireland) to cover the five decades. I know that the group I’m with during the week will pray for the unborn. I’m not against this, but it seems…too political. I try to add women who have difficult choices. I do this silently for fear to offend but when I’m alone I don’t include it. It just doesn’t come up on my mind’s radar for the rosary. I think of the rosary as more than intercessory, but as gratitude. Thank you, Mary for your Son. Thank you, Mary for your guidance. Thank you, Mary for your support and holding me up when I need holding up.

As I wrote yesterday, I listed ten things, one simple decade that encompassed my “Welsh rosary” and now I’m starting art for it.

As my priest talked about the blessings we all have, and the hardships, family present and gone, far away, but with us in spirit, it made me think of that Welsh decade that just came to me so easily while I was writing. I didn’t think I’d do this, but it seems to be doing it itself.

A Thanksgiving Decade

1. The bright sun, warm on my face

2. The cool air, the reminder that winter is coming, and once we’ve gotten through, the joy and rebirth of spring will be upon us.

3. The brightly colored leaves.

4. The perfectly hued blue sky.

5. The music of the choir. The sounds of voices raised in song, the songs themselves a prayer.

6. The flickering candles.

7. The loaves of bread waiting to be blessed and shared.

8. The generosity of the parish with cans and boxes for the poor.

9. The cold wetness of the holy water forming a cross on my forehead.

10. The Spirit descending upon us all as we go forth into the world this Thanksgiving day.

47/52 – Yvette Nicole Brown

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Picture used from Yvette Nicole Brown’s website. Picture Credit: Tina B. Henderson (c)2017


The first time I saw Yvette Nicole Brown was on AMC’s Talking Dead. She was a guest, invited on to talk about AMC’s hit TV show, The Walking Dead. When she pulled out her Walking Dead notebook that she kept notes in, I grinned. I also had a Walking Dead notebook. After I agreed with her show theories about three times, she became a favorite of mine. I looked forward to her appearances on the show.
During one episode about Fear the Walking Dead, she referred to her Instagram, and I followed. I had only intended to follow for a few weeks. I mean I didn’t watch any of her shows despite liking her as a person on the talk show.

At some point during those few weeks, I got to see her as a person. She posted honestly, about everything. She posted links to organizations that do good. She posted graphics with encouragement. She posted politics.

If I had to pick two words to describe Yvette Nicole Brown, I would choose Honest and Encouraging. And Kind. And lovely. And supportive. Her Instagram was a breath of fresh air, and not only that, it gave me some moments of clarity and showed me how to stop and take a deep breath.

Her website has the title: Actress, Host, Champion of Kindness, and that pretty much sums up this lady born in Cleveland in 1971. She holds a Bachelor’s in Communication, and was cast in her first role from sending a postcard to the casting director. She has done numerous commercials and small roles, moving to series regular on The Odd Couple and most recently co-starring on The Mayor on ABC. She voices Amanda Waller on DC’s Super Hero Girls and Luna on Elena of Avalor. She is currently also the host of Syfy’s Cosplay Melee. Her CV is too long to list here, but visit her website; you won’t regret it.

Yvette Nicole Brown is uplifting and inspirational. She shares her faith readily, and through that helps me explore my own continuing to grow faith, and helps make me a better person. Just simply by her being a better person. She also doesn’t roll over, she doesn’t pull her punches, and she does it all in a way that she doesn’t regret. I really do admire and try ot emulate her. It is a privilege to read her on a daily basis. I thougth it appropriate to showcase her today, on Thanksgiving, when she gives so much to be thankful for, but not only that, reminds me, and her fans, of what’s important and not to forget what we should be thankful for.

44/52 – November

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​November is that month.

We’re hopped up on Halloween candy, if we haven’t already, we’re about to turn on the heat, raising our utility bill that’s given us a break since we turned off the air conditioner, and we look at the calendar and see how many days off the kids have from school because of holidays, staff development days, and parent-teacher conferences and then realize that it’s fifty-five days until Christmas and there’s only a couple of paychecks left in the year to get it all done.

And Facebook post after Instagram post after writing prompt, we’re expected to be grateful and show gratitude.

Keep a gratitude journal for thirty days.

What are you grateful for? Thankful for?

Go around the Thanksgiving table and express what you’re thankful for. And then everyone looks at you.

Sunday’s prompt for The Daily Post was gratitude.

Most of us feel grateful, even when it’s not the holiday season. For some of us, expressing that in a meaningful, non-eye-rolly way is not easy. It puts us on the spot; the focus is entirely on us, and if we forget something that someone did, we offend people.

Our gratitude is not only for us, but for our kids, and knowing that we’re raising good-most-of-the-time, decent, compassionate people who won’t think twice about helping others and getting nothing in return.

Our gratitude is to let others know that we appreciate them, and through that, they feel gratitude and appreciated.

So, this year, I have a different gratitude journal in mind.

Two blurbs a week from now until December 1st. Why December 1st? Because gratefulness doesn’t end with Thanksgiving dinner.

One blurb, choose something simple. Getting to work on time all week. Sticking to your diet (if that’s your thing.) Getting to worship.

And one blurb, choose a bigger one. My husband does all of the laundry. This is a huge thing that doesn’t get acknowledged, and it should, right? Using my coping skills for my depression recovery. We all have our own things that we find important, so this second blurb will give us something to think about.

I’ll start.

November 2nd:

1. I actually started Nanowrimo yesterday.

2. I’m grateful for the amount of time my husband “lets” me write without the guilt of needing to do something else. I say let, but it’s not permission; it’s opportunity, and if often goes unthanked.