Insta-Thanksgiving

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My church has a beautiful Thanksgiving tradition. Instead of the typical collection basket, there is a basket at the entranceways for donations to St. Vincent de Paul Society. They provide food for Thanksgiving and Christmas and gifts for Christmas for those less fortunate as well as throughout the year. During the offertory, parishioners bring up canned goods and nonperishable foods and leave them on the altar for the Society. At the end of Mass, we are given a loaf of bread to continue the communion of the Eucharist at home as well as to break and share bread with our families. (c)2017

Thanksgiving Dinner with my sister-in-law and her family. Good food, good people. (c)2017


Dessert: apple pie and pecan pie. (c)2017

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.

A Thanksgiving Reflection

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Cornucopia. Colored Pencils. (c)2016

Today is the first Thanksgiving Mass that I will be able to attend. I’ve looked forward to it. There is a tradition at my parish to bring a non-perishable food item to donate. 

At the time of the offering, instead of passing a basket around the pews for a monetary collection, parishioners process to the altar and leave food items. It was a really profound experience, everyone giving what they could, wishing the others a Happy Thanksgiving when they passed one another.

At the end of the Mass, each family was given a small loaf of bread to bring to mind the Eucharist we had just received to share with our families. Breaking bread is a tradition followed by nearly every culture across the globe.


Our parish has a very active St. Vincent de Paul Society who collect food for Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for those that request them. They also provide Christmas gifts to those less fortunate so that the kids will still have a memorable holiday. They also work throughout the year. They ask for nothing in return. My son and I volunteered one year to help load the Thanksgiving boxes/baskets and it was an exuberant, lively, joyous crowd, bending and lifting, filling boxes and organizing food and household items like paper towels and toilet paper. One of the things that amazes me when I see the men and women volunteering for the Society is the compassion and positivity they come to their ministry with.
I am still surprised when I do something for someone else with no expectation of reward, although every time I’ve volunteered or done something extra or special, I have received a reward: a smile, a thank you, but most importantly, a swelling of my soul that feels so much better than receiving a gift myself.

We all want acknowledgment for our good deeds. It doesn’t have to be much; a simple thank you or smile will suffice. But seeing a child with a huge smile as they receive a winter coat or a pair of boots or sneakers. An extra pudding or lollipop. Bright eyes shining with joy.

During the homily, which was of course very G-d centered, it made me recall the first thanksgiving. Not the holiday proclaimed by President Lincoln, but the very first one. While both the Pilgrims and the Native Americans had their beliefs and would have expresed their gratitude to, there was also much more to that day and fall season for them. Today should be a reminder of that cooperation, the beginning of that friendship. The Native people welcomed the new immigrants, refugees even, from religious persecution. There was the language barrier and the difference in customs, but they muddled through.

And we can all muddle through with the challenges we’ve been given and thankful for the blessings we receive.

Thanksgiving is a good reminder to look around and smell the flowers. Take a little extra moment to look at your family as they’re playing with cousins, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, taking a hike or playing in the snow, and sitting around the table, passing dishes that we’ve eaten every year since forever in our families.

I make my friend’s sweet potato pie or a sweet potato casserole.

I make my grandmother’s green bean casserole, which is really French’s recipe. My grandmother always made it without milk to keep it kosher in her house.

We rely on 1950s convenience: Heinz gravy, DelMonte French style green beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. We make mashed potatoes from scratch, but my mother used to use a box mix of potato flakes. My sister’s husband would only eat mashed from scratch. He never noticed the difference. (I’d leave a few lumps in it for him.)

Think about what you’re grateful for and try to remember it the rest of the year. One way is with a gratitude journal. Or a jar to add slips of paper to for the year. I did this one year, and it was a joy to sit on New Year’s Eve and read through that last year of good moments. Whatever you come up with, find something that works for you and your life.

This year had some really difficult times for our family, and we’re still struggling with them: my mother-in-law’s death this summer and the election of Donald Trump as our new president, at best a wariness as we wait to see how his administration forms. I already have some issues, but this is not the forum. Suffice it to say, we are all waiting to see where we go from here, and we should all be praying for our next president and our country. I would encourage that to be the first thing we do.

If I learned anything from this past Year of Mercy, it is that mercy is everywhere; we just need to simply accept it when it’s given or found.

For my part in being aware of my blessings and my gratitude, I will be planning on incorporating a gratefullness to a weekly writing blurb.

In the meantime, I look to my family, my extended family, my friends, my church, and my support network to continue moving forward in my writing and my life.

I will spend tomorrow being grateful for what I have and how far I’ve come.

Bless you all on this day of thanks.

50-46 – Sweet Potato Pie

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I met a woman at my first job after college who was from New Orleans. She brought a level of multiculturalism to the curriculum that reflected our clients – the children of the US military. We were in their child development program and I learned more there than I had ever expected.

She held a multicultural night for the staff and we each brought in something from our cultures to share. Food is the best way to come together.

I brought latkes. I have a vague memory of a table filled with fabric covers representing cultures and foods placed carefully on top. What I remember most of all, though was Sylvia’s sweet potato pie. It was the perfect consistency with beautifully browned marshmallows on top and it was amazing. I can practically taste it now.

From that moment on, I made that sweet potato pie for my family’s Thanksgiving feast. The only problem was my mother refused to believe that it was a dessert, and she served it warm and as a side dish. I could never convince her otherwise.

That was twernty-four years ago and it has remained a family tradition. I make it, not only for Thanksgiving but also for Christmas and Rosh Hashanah, sometimes even Passover. It is a family favorite. The last couple of times, I haven’t wanted all the bother of making a pie, so I’ve used the recipe, or my version of it without the graham cracker crust and called it a sweet potato casserole. It tastes just as good.

Warm or cold, side dish or dessert, I could eat this every day.

Here’s my variation of the recipe that I’ve used the last decade or so, and will be making it to bring to my sister-in-law’s on Thursday. This is our first year without my mother-in-law and as tough as that is going to be, I want my kids to have something that they’re used to having at her house.

Cook one large can of sweet potatoes or cut yams. Bring it to a boil and then drain. Mash it smooth and add one stick of unsalted butter. Mix thoroughly.

Mix in about 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Add more if you like it sweeter.

Add cinnamon and nutmeg, about a teaspoon each, although I don’t really measure. I add it directly by grating over a microplane.

Pour into a pie crust or a casserole dish and cover completely with mini-marshmallows. If I use a crust, I use the Keebler graham cracker crust that serves two extra people.

Put in a 350 degree oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes. Take out when the marshmallows are melty and golden-browned.

If it’s a pie, let cool a little and cut with a cake/pie slicer. If casserole, scoop out with a large spoon.

Personally , I like it right side up, with the marshmallows on top. My family doesn’t usually care, and it drives me crazy.