The Worst Thanksgiving Ever

Every Thanksgiving as we sit around the table enjoying the turkey and all the trimmings, the Hubs and I reflect on the day. One of us will inevitably say, “Well, at least it wasn’t the worst Thanksgiving ever.” Then we’ll chuckle and smile and share the story all over again.

Thanksgiving

This is NOT the perfect turkey I expected to find on my first Thanksgiving without family. (Photo source: Flickr, Sharon Mollerus, cc-by-2.0)

The Hubs was stationed with the Second Armor Division at Fort Hood, TX, that year. We had celebrated our first wedding anniversary in September, and the Older One was just three months old. This was our first Thanksgiving without family…at least without immediate blood relations.  The Army was our family now, so when the Hubs’ captain extended the invitation to join his wife and their two small children for a Thanksgiving lunch, we accepted.

We were just getting ready to leave our little apartment for the meal, when the phone rang.  I listened as the Hubs said a few “Yes, Sirs” into the phone. After hanging up, he told me our plans had changed. We would not be having a Thanksgiving lunch after all.

The captain’s wife had taken the turkey out of the freezer the night before, he said, and was baffled that the bird was still frozen when she got up that morning to start preparing it for our feast. The new plan called for football at the captain’s house while the turkey roasted, and instead of an early lunch, we’d eat mid-afternoon.

Mid-afternoon came and went. By 2:00, the bird was still frosty and hadn’t yet seen the inside of the oven.

The captain and the Hubs’ made a quick trip into post to visit with the enlisted soldiers during their holiday meal while the wife and I made small talk and snacked on half a box of stall crackers and overly sweet wine coolers. My baby napped, and I mentally calculated if I’d brought enough formula and diapers to get us through dinner…that is if we ever had dinner.

Around 4:00, the turkey finally made it into the oven. The Hubs and the captain returned, and we all waited.

Finally, at 7:00, the captain made the first slice into our Thanksgiving turkey only to find that the meat inside was raw. By then, the side dishes were growing cold, and we were all too frustrated to wait on the bird. The captain carved up a few of the cooked pieces and served the cranky kids while his wife finished off the raw pieces in the microwave.

The Hubs and I juggled our sleepy baby between us while we gnawed the rubbery poultry, and as soon as was socially acceptable, we made our escape.

We had survived the worst Thanksgiving ever and lived to tell the tale…over and over and over again for more than 20 years.  And over and over again we laugh at the mistake that set off that worst of the worst—a frozen turkey that someone didn’t know enough to take out of the freezer well in advance of the big day.

That someone was a young wife and mother, not much older than I was at the time. I imagine she was excited about the prospect of hosting her first Thanksgiving and about offering her hospitality to a young couple alone for the holiday.

She probably went to the commissary the day before full of anticipation about the recipes she would share with me. She probably spent more time than necessary selecting the perfect produce and agonized over how big that infamous bird should be. I imagine she was horrified the next morning to find it still as solid as it was the night before.

I’m pretty sure the reason we were not notified of the schedule change until it was too late for us to change our plans is because our hostess was busy praying to the culinary gods for some kind of Thanksgiving miracle to save the perfect day she had planned.

In her shoes, I would have been mortified to confess my cooking inadequacies to my guests. I would have repeatedly excused myself from the tense conversation with the lieutenant’s wife to check on the turkey, knowing I really just wanted to hide in the kitchen and cry.

I sincerely hope that captain’s wife looks back on that Thanksgiving and laughs like the Hubs and I do.  We may call it “Our Worst Thanksgiving Ever”, but if the worst thing that happens on Thanksgiving is a frozen turkey, I’d say we had it pretty good.

We had nowhere else to go, and no one to spend the holiday with until virtual strangers opened their home to us. That may actually be the best thing that has ever happened to us on Thanksgiving. We may not have had a perfectly prepared meal all those years ago, but we had a place to go for the holiday, and for that I am thankful.

Hopefully, that Thanksgiving didn’t prevent the captain’s wife from trying again the next year. I hope right now, she is preparing for this year’s feast with her grown children and maybe even some colleagues her husband met at the office.

I also hope she has remembered to take the turkey out of the freezer!

Picture It: Handmade Holiday

With the Older One on his way home for Thanksgiving, my mind has officially shifted to thoughts of all things festive. I have given into the urge to unbox my Christmas decorations and start the massive undertaking that is dressing up my home for the holidays.

Within the storage tubs that have been hidden away for the past 10 months…Handmade10

I have found plenty of handmade ornaments…Handmade1…and I have reason to believe many more are on the way.Handmade3But buried underneath mountains of bubble wrap…

Handmade7…are handmade treasures I look forward to unwrapping every year….Handmade8From the whimsical…

Handmade6…to the peaceful…Handmade2…to the beautiful…Handmade9Each are handmade by my own momma, and are treasures I’ll cherish forever.

100 Day Dash

On August 18, I decided to take a walk. I laced on my shoes, stretched a little, and set out to see how far I could go.  First I walked one block, then another and another. Pretty soon, I had trekked an entire mile, then another and another.

100DayDash3On and on I went. I had a goal, but I wasn’t quite sure I could make it. I would have to be dedicated if I wanted to succeed. I would have to make this my number one priority if I wanted to count myself among the best.

For the next 100 days, I would have to take an average of 10,000 steps every day because I intended to walk 1,000,000 steps as part of my employer’s annual 100 Day Dash fitness challenge.

I work for a healthcare company that is committed to having not only healthy customers, but healthy employees as well. As part of that commitment, it encourages employees to get moving and stay moving through healthy lifestyle programs like the 100 Day Dash.

Soon after the event kicked off in August, pedometers became a fashion statement. Throughout the office, I could see everything from bulky step trackers on belts to sleek wearable fitness devices wrapped around wrists.

Fitbit

My Fitbit Flex is the height of fashion these days!

Watching someone make laps through the office suite while on a conference call (thanks to wireless technology) turned into a common occurrence. Fitness bikes with a laptop attachment were also installed, so multi-taskers can pedal and type at the same time. The stairwell is now almost more well-traveled than the elevator.

I set my goal of one million steps and started walking. I parked at the back of the parking lot. I took the long way to the fitness center at lunch time, and I devoted my workout to cardio exercise. I walked the pups more often than usual and on those nights when the Young One had soccer and field hockey practice, I chose to walk the perimeter of the field instead of sitting idle in my folding chair.

Last weekend, I am happy to say I hit my goal, and I kept right on going. As of today, I have taken 1,050,892 steps. That’s approximately 525 miles.

Tomorrow is Day 100, but I don’t think I’ll rest now that the challenge is nearing its end. I like knowing I am more active than not. I like making the choice to take the stairs. I like being active and knowing that my legs are strong enough to take me any place I want to go.

How do you stay motivated to keep moving?

Keeping With {a New} Tradition

Thanksgiving festivities are just around the corner. I started receiving the first of the out-of-office replies from colleagues last Friday. The annual Grandparent Thanksgiving lunch at the Young One’s school is on the calendar for Tuesday. Cornucopia embroidered flags are waving in the breeze, and the first text for emergency baking supplies just made its way through the neighborhood. Kroger is a war zone these days, and all of us want avoid breaching that line at all costs.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Hubs and I haven’t hosted a Thanksgiving meal at our house since the Older One started as a Plebe at West Point four years ago. As a member of the football team, he either spent the majority of the holiday practicing or playing a game.

Last year, he was in Hawaii for the holiday preparing for a post-Thanksgiving game. The year before, he took a bus to Boston with a teammate, and the year before that, my parents braved holiday travelers to take him in for the few free days he had available.

After that first Thanksgiving without him, I decided making his favorites when he isn’t here to enjoy them is too depressing. So now instead of chopping vegetables and baking pies, the most I do to prepare for the Thanksgiving meal  is pick up the phone to make reservations at a local restaurant.

The first year we did this, I admit, things felt very different. Usually, I’m up long before everyone else, stuffing the bird and rolling out dough. If I was lucky, I might have enough time to sit down to review the Black Friday ads before it was time to baste again.

That year though, with no bird to roast, I slept in and had a leisurely cup of coffee by the fire.  I watched the Thanksgiving Day parade for the first time in years.  I took time with my hair and makeup because, well…I had time.

Previously, I had spent weeks planning the menu, carefully managing a balance of tried and true recipes with new ones. Then I’d be too worried about which ones turned out right to really enjoy the food.

At the restaurant, however, I was treated to a true stress-free feast–roast turkey, deep fried turkey, ham, salmon, oyster stuffing, cranberry dressing, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate cake, cheese cake.  The buffet went on and on. Everything tasted wonderful, and I didn’t have to do anything but lift my plate to ask for more.

And when the meal was finished, I walked away. No dishes to wash, no turkey carcass to dispose of, no post-meal work at all but to collect my family and go back home where I made a cup of tea, web chatted with the Older One and spent the rest of the day just being with my family.

After that first year of paying for someone else to prepare my meal, I knew I had found a new tradition. The Older One will actually be home with us for Thanksgiving this year, but I don’t intend to cook a turkey for him. I intend to spend the day with him and the rest of my family, enjoying their company instead of watching them from the kitchen.

I know in time, I will get the urge to take on the meal prep again, but for now, I am happy with dining out on Thanksgiving. As long as I have my family around me, that’s all I really need.

Say It Like You Mean It: Learn

LearnMalala Yousafzai  was only 11 years old when she began using a pseudonym to blog about her right to learn–a right the Taliban threatened repeatedly to take away.  In October 2012,  a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus, asked for her by name and fired three shots at her head–one struck its target. Malala survived the assassination attempt, and last month, at the age of 17, she was named co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. She is the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.

Do They Notice?

I wonder if they notice when I’m not there.

NoticeAfter I leave the house for the day, do they miss me? Do they walk the rooms looking for me? Do they stare in confusion at my empty chair? Do they wonder why the television is silent and why the dings coming from the iPad on the counter go unanswered? Do they ponder the lack of clicking keystrokes from the computer?

Sometimes as I make the return commute, I wonder if they will notice I am home.

Will they lift their heads at the sound of the garage door opening? Will they come to see who has walked through the door? Will they greet me with enthusiasm or apathy?

I turn the door knob and face the unknown.

Greeting

Now, that’s a happy pup who notices his momma is home!

Suddenly I am attacked from the front! Paws pound against my thighs and a frantic swishing of tails stirs the air around me. I go down on my knees, and my face takes the next onslaught as pink tongues dash out in welcome. The silence breaks with the joyous yips of reunion.

Yes! They missed me! My puppies missed me while I was gone for the day. They noticed my absence, and they are happy to have me home!

**Today’s post is brought to you by Five Minute Friday and the word “Notice”. Check out other musings on the prompt or post one of your own at Kate Motaung’s site.

100 Thankfuls: Part Two

Tonight when the Young One sat down to do her homework, I decided it was the perfect time to do mine too.  Her assignment: write a list of five things for which you are thankful. My assignment: finish that list of 100 things for which I am thankful.

So, in no particular order (except for the order in which they popped into my head), I give you numbers 51 – 100.

I am thankful for:

51. Sunny days because they just make you happier.
52. Warm days because they go with the sunny ones.
53. Snow days because it’s best to watch the snow fall from inside the house.
54. Warm boots because warm is better than cold especially when in reference to feet.
55. Hand warmers because they are the best invention for people who prefer warm to cold.
56. Foot warmers because…well…see #54 and #55.
57. Heated seats because you should not leave any body part neglected in the cold.
Fireplace58. Gas fireplaces to keep it all warm.
59. Neighbors who shovel my driveway when the Hubs is away.
60. Neighbors who are also friends because they aren’t always both.
61. Friends who love my kids like their own because it’s good to know they have someone else to go to.
62. Cookbooks so I can keep everyone well-fed with a variety of cuisine.
63. Food Network for showing me how to keep everyone well-fed.
64. Food Network Magazine for making the task of keeping everyone well-fed fun!
65. My education because even though I’ve never gotten paid for using my degree, I still have one.
66. The example I’ve set for my kids with my education because going to school is what gets you places.
67. My health because these days I’m having more good days than bad.
68. My doctors for not just seeing dollar signs when I walk through the door.
69. My dentist because I had a dental emergency this week, and he worked me into his schedule the same day.
70. Flexibility to take time off from work to go to the doctor/dentist without question.
71. My boss who understands that I am capable of working even though I have Crohn’s Disease.
72. Being able to apply my personal healthcare experience to my job in healthcare.
73. Fitness challenges that keep me motivated to work out.
74. Hot water in the fitness center shower because half the time there isn’t any.
75. Scandal because we need gladiators in suits.
76. Grey’s Anatomy because there’s nothing wrong with scrubs either.
77. Having interesting life events to blog about.
78. Friends and family who are okay with me blogging about them.
79. Friends and family who read my blog.
80. Virtual friends who read my blog.
81. Complete strangers who read my blog.
82. Having a job to go to everyday.
83. A warm house to come home to every night.
84. Scented lotion because perfume gives me a headache.
85. Fabreeze because a lot of other intense scents give me a headache too.
86. Downey Wrinkle Reducer because ironing clothes should be banned and this is the first step in its downfall.
87. Lint rollers because wearing other people’s/animal’s hair/fur is just weird.
88. My Spot Bot because sometimes puppies have accidents.
89. Twenty-five years with the Hubs because togetherness is a good thing.
90.Having traveled the world and visited places like Novokuznetsk, Russia and Paris, France.
91. Finding my daughter in Novokuznetsk, Russia.
92. Having traveled small town USA and visited places like Lagrange, IN and Big Prairie, OH.
93. Growing up in small town USA (DuBois, PA).
94. The amazing young man my son has become.
95. Being a football mom.
96. Being a soccer mom.
97. Surviving life as a coach’s wife
98. Champagne because you always need a backup for red wine.
99. My camera because without it, I’d just be words on a page.
100. MY SHOES because without them, I’d just be “Momma”…but then again, what’s wrong with that!

On the Eve of Branch Night

Many of my sleepless nights can be blamed on a child.

I have spent countless pre-dawn hours rocking a hungry baby back to sleep, holding warm, pink hands through fevers and hugging away bad dreams. I have tip-toed noiselessly into darkened bedrooms just to plant one more kiss, straighten rumpled blankets and rescue favorite stuffed toys from the black depths of “under bed”.

I have lain awake at night listening for a breath or a cry or a cough through the sound waves of a baby monitor. I have blinked into the darkness and wondered if he is warm enough…if he is happy enough. I have made wishes on stars to grant dreams of fame and to ease the hardships of growing pains. I have lifted up silent prayers for safety and for acceptance and for guidance when he must follow his path alone.

In the silence of the smallest hours of the night, I think back on the Older One’s 21 years, and I have come to understand that parenting does not get easier. It only gets different.

I have moved from the challenge of deciphering a hold-me cry from a feed-me cry onto the agony of daycare drop-off and the hopeful coaching of friend-making. No sooner did I accept kindergarten independence than I was plunged into middle school anxiety and pre-teen awkwardness. Before I knew it, he became an adult faced with hard decisions, and suddenly, I am forced to step back, offer advice and hope he comes back for more.

I have gone from caregiver to counselor in the blink of an eye.

The coin the Older One received when he affirmed his oath to serve in the United States Army.

The coin the Older One received when he affirmed his oath to serve in the United States Army.

Tonight, we are on the eve of witnessing the result of one of the biggest decisions of his life.  Long before the day he was accepted into the Corps of Cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point, he has been evaluating the branches of the U.S. Army, trying to determine which one of them he would most like to make a part of his future. Infantry? Aviation? Armour?

In September, at the start of his senior year, he submitted a ranking of his preferences to the Army. Tomorrow night, the Army will tell him if it agrees. He’ll join the rest of the USMA Class of 2015 in an auditorium they have sat in countless times since Plebe year, but this event will be different. This is Branch Night, and it marks the beginning of their futures.

The cadets will sit among their friends, each holding the mystery of their fate in their hands–a sealed envelop containing an invitation to their assigned branch. A speaker will tell them how bright their futures are and draw out the anticipation of the evening’s climactic reveal. Finally, they will be given the order, and as a single unit, will break the seals of the envelops, eagerly looking for what they hope to be a ticket to the branch of their choice.

My wish to the stars tonight is that my son finds what he hopes to see inside that envelop. He has done everything possible to ensure a selection near the top of his list. I have listened to his plans and offered my advice. In this new role of parenting an adult, that’s the greatest thing I can offer. All we can do now is wait with equal parts anticipation and apprehension.

I predict that tonight will be another night of interrupted sleep. My child’s future will be determined tomorrow. I won’t sleep well until I know…until I know he’s happy…until I know he is content…until I know he well on his way to living the life he has dreamed.

Picture It Tuesday: Army Men

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…I love a man in uniform.

There is just something that moves me about how they stand brave and strong…Army Men 5

…how they persevere in the face of insurmountable odds…

Army Men 2

…and how they learn from the generations that came before them…Army Men 4

…how they rise up time and again to face the enemy…Army Men 3

…and charge forward into battle…Army Men 1

…and how their simplicity and timelessness appeals to young…

Army-Men-6

…and to old…

Army-Men-7

Congratulations little green Army men on your induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Well done, soldiers! Well done!