Thanksgiving 2021 – My Non-Fiction Thanksgiving Holiday

I had a small Thanksgiving dinner this year. No guys were included. I planned for just my cousin and I this year.  I purchased a small turkey  for dinner for the two of us, with just enough leftovers. There is no way on G-d’s green earth that I will ever serve tofurkey. It is an abomination to my entire digestive system. From my taste buds to my intestines, it is a no go.

My goal this year was to celebrate  all the things I am thankful  for, without  making myself a wreck beforehand. It is customary, in my household, for some major or minor glitch to impact my Thanksgiving. I was strongly hoping that everything would be OK this Thanksgiving and that no mayhem would ensue. 

I was seriously tempted to just serve desserts. I bought a small pumpkin pie, not knowing if my cousin ate pumpkin or not. I had dark chocolate covered almonds from Trader Joe’s. I made tons of oatmeal cookies. I even found a gluten free brownie mix for my dear cousin. OMG, I tasted one last night and it was to die for. 

My meal was almost finished. The oven, toaster oven, and three crockpots were cooking away. I took some time to peruse  my menu plans before going outside to enjoy the beautiful skyline  the strong Santa Ana winds had cleared for me. I sat on my swing with Annie pondering all the things that had been successful today. I was almost afraid to think of what might still go wrong before my cousin arrived.

I should never have been so lost in my thoughts. It seems I left the back patio slider open when I went out to swing with Annie. I reentered the dining room and saw something out of my peripheral vision. A sparrow had entered my house and was sitting on top of my living room lamp. I was grateful that everything was covered in my kitchen and that I had not set my table yet.

The poor bird was frightened and unsure of Annie. Luckily, Annie could care less about birds. (Now squirrels are another matter altogether.) I took pity on the frightened bird. I had to figure how to remove it without harming it.  I had just cleaned my windows and sliding doors making it difficult for the bird to find an escape. It flew into the front picture window a few times. I opened the front door and the sliding patio door. Then Annie and I went out back in the hope that the creature would find its way out. After a few minutes it came flying out back whizzing past my head. It was a joyful moment. 

Minor crisis averted. I gratefully set the table and began plating my cold side dishes. When my cousin came, we laughed about the unwelcome bird guest. I mentioned that perhaps the small bird was protesting the turkey cooking in my oven.

My cousin made a tasty vegetable dish she brought and I served up the mashed potatoes, rice stuffing, matzo ball soup, biscuits, gravy, and of course, turkey. Between the cold and hot dishes the table was full. I didn’t get a picture of the table with all the food because we were both starving by then.  

We had a lovely meal together followed by outside time swinging with Annie and playing Mad Libs. It was a joyful time, and I am thankful we were together. We talked about family no longer with us and the memories we share. I am grateful this Thanksgiving for old memories, newly made memories, and the opportunities for future memories.


The Tragedy At Yosemite

The smoke has finally cleared from the fires in Yosemite. The embers traveled for miles adding terrible pollution to our air. They are hopefully opening soon. I’ve missed  being able to see the beautiful sights there. Yosemite is a place of peace and solitude for me, and everyone that visits. The tragic destruction of the forest, makes me glad I have my old photos. Over the years, I have tried many cameras to catch the beautiful scenery. A cell phone is not able to do it justice. I hope within my lifetime, the forest will regain much of its splendor.

I have been impressed with the way the Forest Service has made every attempt to make sure the public will be safe upon the reopening. They completed a thorough investigation to try and find out what started the horrific fires. The turmoil that ensued fighting the fires meant the majority of the evidence was lost. Most of the theories they have are merely speculation.

One thought, was based on facts they knew about a large family that reserved a number of campsites. The group was gathering together to conduct a remembrance  service for a family member who passed away. It was right before Covid locked everything down. This was their first opportunity to assemble without the worrisome  fears of Covid. Everyone was vaccinated, and had been tested.  They spent all day Saturday preparing for their Sunday  service.  They just wanted to pay their respects to their lost family member. Each person laid a poppy on the make-shift shrine and shared a heartfelt memory. It is thought that they were forgetful  and didn’t completely put out their campfire. I feel so bad for those people. If they were at fault, it is compounding their tragedy.

Yosemite is back open. There are limited opportunities to visit. Numbers of visitors are reduced. Certain places are off limits. Nature will heal its scars. It will once again be majestic.

Image from The NY Times

The Dining Room Table

The prompt words I saw today moved me to write about wonderful memories around the dinner  table  at my grandparent’s house. The emotions well up in my heart and mind when I think about all the contributions they made to who I am today.  I am so grateful for their not abandoning us when their son, my bio-dad, wanted nothing to do with us. My grandmother was known to have said to my mom, “Just because you divorced my schmuck of a son, it doesn’t mean you divorced us.” I thank G-d for my grandparents influence on my life.

I would spend the long drive to their house thinking about how wonderful, yet different their life was from mine. They were a traditional Orthodox Jewish family who lived their beliefs. I never knew exactly what we were at my house. After my parents divorced, we no longer went to synagogue. When stepdad number one came along we celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas. Somewhere between stepdad number three and four, we ceased celebrating Hanukkah any longer. I was too young to understand the why and how come things changed. There really wasn’t any religion in our house. At twelve, I asked my mom if I could go to some Jewish youth group meetings. She obliged, but it was too late to be one of the group.

I always had a terrific time being with my grandparents. I knew I was loved and I knew they wouldn’t allow my cruel older brother to harass me while I was there. I preferred spending time with my grandparents on regular days more than holidays because there was less stress and less formality. I remember once when my grandmother had made borscht which was supposed to be served hot. Everyone was not at the table on time, and she made a joke about it turning into a cold vichyssoise. The adults at the table cracked up. We kids had no idea if they were laughing about the soup being cold  or the fact that my grandmother who never cracked jokes had said something very funny.

I was able to respectfully ask my grandma questions about how her house ran. We had many conversations about Judaism. Grandma was always understanding  and never made me feel like I was asking a stupid question. I was curious about how everything matching had a specific time to be used. I was in awe of their having two sets of everyday dishes, two sets of formal dishes, and two sets of Passover dishes. We did not keep Kosher at home. The milchig and fleishig dishes, pots, pans, utensils, and silverware sets were different to make sure of maintaining a Kosher kitchen. You can read more here  if you’d like to.

At my grandparent’s house, we would sit around the beautifully set table in the formal dining for dinners. Breakfast and lunch were eaten in the informal dining room. At dinner always had flowers on the table. I actually thought that was a Jewish thing, because I had never seen anyone put fresh flowers on the table for dinner. Imagine my surprise when in home economics we learned all about table setting and flower arrangements. I remember being surprised that people other than my grandparents put flowers on their table regularly and not just for birthdays.

When my grandkids came here (pre Covid) we always ate at the dining room table. I didn’t and won’t allow them to eat in front of the TV. The dining room table is a symbol of family time to me. I have wonderful memories of sharing meals with my grandparents and then my aunt, uncle, and cousin. Of course, we never took pictures of eating at the table. I am grateful for having pictures of amazing Passover meals as an adult. I am grateful for sharing everyday meals and holiday meals at my table with family and friends.

Three Things Challenge – 10/4/21

Thank you Di for the fun prompt. Our three words for today are:

Even though I knew my salary would shrink
I had few doubts that I should stay working longer
There are many ways to prosper
I wanted more than simply monetary achievement
I wanted to succeed with enjoying
My life, my family, and my personal growth
It’s only been a few years
I am enjoying the fruits of my labor
I made the right decision