Thanksgiving And Norman Rockwell Expectations

In just a few days we will be celebrating Thanksgiving here in the U.S.

Let’s just call it a day full of food, family, friends and football.

And pie.

But pie doesn’t tie in to my cute list of “F” items 😉

But yesssss… pie.

I do plot and plan a week out, make my list and check it twice ( oops wrong holiday) and preparations are in full swing the  Wednesday beforehand ( someone’s gotta make all those pies!)

Anyway, without fail, every year I find myself admiring the magazines with the full color , glossy beautiful spread of festive Thanksgiving tables.

The perfect china. The spotless glassware. The glistening silver. The without fail amazing centerpiece crowning the table.

The entire, whole, perfectly browned turkey on the platter with lovely garnishes all around it waiting to have the matching cutting knife and fork taken to it.

 

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My turkey will never look like this…..

 

 

All that’s missing is the family in a perfect matching ensemble seated expectantly around the table.

And all I can think is…. “For Real?”

Oh, it seems so ideally perfect and lovely. You know… “Norman Rockwell’ish”.

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Are those stalks of celery on the plate???

 

 

I’ve had late night fantasies about it…. fantasies…. ’cause no matter what my intentions are I know that it will just never unfold.

Our Thanksgivings tend to be on the more ordinary bend and look a bit like this…

By that I mean, I’m happy if I have enough chairs to squeeze everyone around the table and wonder if there are gonna be enough dinner forks or do I need to break out the salad forks ?

I really want to have a super cool table centerpiece, but, well on years I’ve had something  clever it gets moved to make room for …you know.. the food.

The coffee is happily brewing but it’s not served in china cups.. my coffee mug collection has become a bit more eclectic over time.. kinda like me 😉

I usually have the turkey cut, wrapped and waiting, while attempting to keep my sons from grazing off of it.

My roomy kitchen starts to feel small as people arrive and hang out there.. I attempt to hold on to my organization of how things are running…

Football is already on, and the men in my family want it at levels to simulate being in a crowded stadium with 100,000 people.

It’s guaranteed I’m tripping over a dog who’s hoping I make a fatal move with some food that will land on the floor and they will be the clean up crew for it.

I’m trying to keep an eye on everything cooking on the stove, trying to remember what’s in ‘fridge that needs to go to table ( nothing like finding a dish or two still in there afterwards 😛 )

Somewhere in the midst of cooking and wrangling people, I’ve made an attempt to look somewhat put together and cute for the day. Given it’s usually warm on Thanksgiving it could mean I’m in shorts… sigh… no cute sweaters..

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I have a million thoughts running through my head one of which is… “If I eat a piece of pie now, will anyone know?” haha

Somehow though, it all comes together.

The food all makes it to the table, it’s still mostly hot, everyone has a seat and a fork 😉

it’s often loud, crazy, and a bit chaotic. The football game has been (temporarily) quieted  and I am grateful to finally sit down and enjoy the fruit of my labor.

My Thanksgivings might not look like the glossy pages from holiday magazine. But as everyone quiets down and we join hands and bow our head to give thanks for all the blessings we’ve been given and the plentiful amount of food before us I’m reminded again, it’s not in the trappings or how perfect I want everything to be that matters.

No. That’s not it at all.

It’s each and every person gathered around the table that matters and makes it meaningful to me, they are the gifts that I am most thankful for and grateful to have gathered  with me.

That to me, is the deepest meaning of Thanksgiving.  No matter where you are on our big planet, I hope you take a moment to give thanks for the blessings you have and the people who bless you, for that is what matters most in life.

 

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Oh Baby!

“We interrupt the usual programming of health, fitness, cycling, running, and all things athletic for this important message….”

So this is just gonna be a fun post. Let’s call it a life event post. You know those cool things that happen in life that you want to celebrate and rejoice over?

It’s baby time in our family. Actually, it was baby time last Monday as my son and his wife were delivered of their beautiful baby girl, Trinity Ally, who made her entrance into this crazy world.

I really am having a hard time grasping she’s here since it honestly seemed like yesterday that we got the excited news from them.

And October seemed sooooo far away…

So when the news started coming to me that a baby would be arriving sometime Monday and as I made my way to the hospital, I had some time to think and reflect on all that was happening.

I mean as far as babies being born and all that, it happens every day, and has for a zillion years.

Circle of life and all that, right?

But it’s not every day that babies come into my family so that well, makes it a big deal.

I guess one of my thoughts was… how can my child already be a grown man having a baby?

Oh, I did my baby time. I was fortunate to have three beautiful sons with easy pregnancies and deliveries.  I loved the process. I loved nursing them and those sweet, precious baby days in the weeks following the deliveries.

The days seemed long in front of me before I would have to worry about them being a grown up and having their own children. I had well meaning people tell me to appreciate and enjoy them because it would go so fast. Yet, when you’re caught up in the day in and day out moments of raising them somehow that all seems so very, very far away.

Yet here I was in this moment as I waited for the arrival of his daughter. Years rushing by in my thoughts and ponderings.

I was getting ready to put the “grandmother” hat on again ( this would be my 4th one) time to get into the present…

My daughter in law had pretty much sailed through her pregnancy glowing and beautiful, staying slim with her little baby belly, and embracing the journey of carrying her daughter.

My son, well, was a total goof with her most of the time watching him pet her tummy and wait for the baby to move under his hand. He was so fascinated with the entire process it amused me watching him.

By the time I arrived at the hospital her labor was progressing well and we were all excited at the prospect of baby girl arriving later that evening.

I said 10 pm. I also said 7lbs….

as deliveries go, we stayed and hung out with expectant momma till she was ready to be alone and then we retreated to the waiting room to… well.. you know… wait.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long when we started receiving news that little baby Trinity had made her arrival.

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In the nursery after, I couldn’t help but pet her tiny foot.

 

 

At 9:55 p.m. weighing 6.14.

WHY didn’t we have a betting pool?? I woulda won! Hahaha

Of course, knowing she was there and having to wait while they did everything that needed to be done with mom and baby… was hard!

But finally, I got my moment to go back to the room.

What is there about entering that room when a baby has been born that’s almost hallowed and sacred?

A new life. A process as old as time yet, as miraculous and beautiful each time it occurs.

More beautiful when you’re gazing upon your child’s, child.

Tiny baby girl laying on her glowing mothers chest, I’m not sure there is anything more lovely, or overwhelming.

After months of watching her move actively in her mother, she was here.

Tiny, beautiful,  perfect and healthy. She also has a good set of lungs 😉

I know I swallowed twice to keep my wits about me.

I teased my son about surviving the birth process. His accounts of things later would have us all laughing. There had been a common joke about worrying he’d pass out on the floor…. 😉

Yet, like all new parents, they had made it through the process, basking in the glow of a miraculous experience.

I think, the thing that almost overwhelmed me was when my daughter in law asked me to take her off her chest and swaddle her. It was then made known my son hadn’t held her yet as she had been on mom since the birth.

Swaddling that baby, and then placing my child’s ( child ) in his arms was one of the most precious things I’ve ever done.

Yes birth is a process as old as time yet, still so mysterious, magical and always amazing to see a new life ready to unfold full of promise and dreams.

And most of all in it, this gentle reminder,

 

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The Step Parent

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Christmas 1998 with my dad

 

 

Heads up. This is a “life” post. Don’t worry… we’ll return to healthy eating, fitness, my current cycling adventures, food, and other interesting topics soon….

This past Sunday we  celebrated Fathers Day in the U.S. It’s a day celebrated each year on the third Sunday in June to honor the men in our lives.

I’m blessed to be surrounded by some pretty awesome men in my life, from my inner circle, to those I interact with out in the world.

The man in the picture is my dad. It’s obviously, not, a current photo of me. My mom dated it ’98 on the back. I found it digging through some old photos that she had. Honestly, I have no memory of that picture being taken.

I was a young mom and according to the year my boys would’ve been between 4-10 years old.

No laughing at my mom jeans and bangs.

Christmas has always been a fun, celebratory event in our family. My parents delighted in it and loved giving way more than anything they’d receive. Not only did they always bless us with a fun Christmas, they’d also find a needy family or two to help out. My mom always wanted those families to experience Christmas like she gave to her family.

My dad was the handwriting for “Santa” for way longer than my kids probably bought into it. He loved doing that, it was his job he knew he was expected to do each year. He’d get the name tags ( ask again how to spell everyone’s name haha) and get to work on his project.

Maybe I should pause here to mention… he’s technically… my “step” dad.

I never use that term unless, for some reason I have to clarify something in my life and using the “step” part helps to do that.

My feelings…on referring to anyone as “step” something? I don’t like it.

To me it says… keep your distance, I don’t want you to close, you aren’t worthy enough to not have the “step” attached to it, you aren’t as good as the original etc etc

Now don’t crucify me if you don’t agree. I know all situations are different for people but for the sake of (me) in my family, I have always tried to just include everyone as a part without making them feel separated out.

So, he’s technically my “step” dad. He came into my life when I was 19, almost 20, and about to be married.

I had passed the point of needing a dad. I had two men in my life who had that job and both had walked out on me and my family.

My birth dad left my family when I was 8 for another woman.

My mom later remarried and this man “adopted” us. When I was 17 he walked out.

When this new guy ( step dad #2 ) came around, I was a bit jaded to male figures in my life at that point as “dad”.

Hear me out on this… I’ve made my peace a long time ago with it all. I’ve not allowed it to define me or make me bitter or angry. I’ve not carried it along with me as baggage. I’ve not held onto hurts that I can take out and pet when I’m feeling sorry for myself. Like all things in life, I believe it has strengthened and defined me as a woman. It is what it is, I can be bitter or I can deal with it and move on and that’s what I’ve done.

Oh of course, years ago, I did ask all the questions. I did ponder the “whys” of it. I did wonder why two men didn’t wanna stick around in my life.

I asked all the hard questions. I got answers for some things, some I didn’t.

And I let it go. Nothing would change what was.

My “step” dad.

He married my mom the year after I was married.

He never tried to set himself up as my dad. As an adult, I called him by his first name from day one.

His personality was a bit gruff, rough and stoic. He didn’t often reveal a lot about himself. He had his own quirky things that we all came to jokingly love and tease about.

Rough and not sometimes “polished”, he would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He would help you if you had any need.

As the years went by and he was still around, he just did those things dads would do.

If I had car problems, I called and he’d come rescue me. If I needed help with anything, he was willing to do what he could.

When my husband was in school and things were tight I can remember him and my mom dragging bags of groceries in telling us “they had been at the store and just thought we might need a couple things”

When we started having babies, he always wanted us to have what we needed. He loved picking things out for them.

He bragged on me to anyone who would listen. Even now, with his memory slipping away, one of his caretakers told me one day when I stopped…. “Oh, you’re the runner. I’ve heard all about you”

Life just settled into routine and the years went by…

He was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimers a few years before my mom passed away.

They celebrated 30 years of marriage shortly before  her death ( 2 years ago) then the  mantle of “Caretaker” fell on my shoulders.

It has not been easy watching this disease take a horrible toll on him. It is heartbreaking when he asks if it’s ok to use things in his house… or if it’s REALLY his house.

I have to remind him to eat, tell him he needs to take off his shirt before he puts on another one otherwise he will have “layers”, and try and convince him it’s not winter, but summer and he doesn’t need to wear heavy coats.

Looking at photos this passed weekend, he saw some of my mom, and when asked who she was he said… “your mother”…. yet… was unable to come up with her name.

He has days when he’s almost like himself and those are nice. I’ve just gone through “hell week” as this past week was awful with him being angry, temperamental and very uncooperative.

Those days are draining. They make me feel helpless. Tired. Overwhelmed.

I sometimes don’t know which way to go and what to do. I feel a heavy level of responsibility to make sure his needs are met in the best way possible.

He doesn’t always know it, but I’m what he’s got. I’m his advocate.. standing in the gap and fighting for him….Some days I feel so inadequate.

That’s often what you feel like as a parent isn’t it?

Somehow, our roles have been reversed. I try and give him the freedom and dignity as the grown man he is, while remembering mentally, I’m dealing with someone more childlike and have to guide and protect for his best interests.

So, we celebrated Fathers Day yesterday.

He may or may not have totally gotten what the entire day was about.

He may or may not have read and understood the cards or the writing on them.  He may not be able to retrieve the memories in the photos that were shared with him or the names of people. They could be lurking in his mind like ghosts of yesterday or play out like stories from another life in his mind.

32 years have gone by since he entered my life. Those years have contained all the things that make up our lives…. from the normal mundane, to the fun and exciting, the sorrows, and joys, laughter and tears… he’s been there.

So yeah, I dropped the “step” thing a very long time ago. At the end of the day, at the end of our lives, it’s simply about being family, isn’t it?

And family is anyone, I believe, who we bring into our lives to embrace and accept as such.