Monday, November 25, 2013



It is 1:40 in the afternoon and I need to go to the store. I don't have to go to the store, but if I don't go this afternoon, I'll have to go tomorrow, and tomorrow it's supposed to pour down rain all day, and I don't want to go out in the pouring rain.

So why aren't I on my way to the store? Because Travis is curled up by my side and everything feels awfully cozy and warm. How can I leave?

Anyway, I thought if I'm going to sit here on the couch with my cozy dog, the least I can do is write a blog post and say hello. Hello! I had a good visit with my mom the week before last. She's now done with her final round of chemotherapy and is taking lots of naps. Essentially her course of treatment was to give her almost--but not quite--enough chemo to kill her in order to kill the cancer. For the time being, the cancer seems to have left the building and my mom has not, but she needs a lot of naps and probably will for the next six months. 

So this Thanksgiving giving I am giving thanks for my mother's slow return to health, and her incredible doctors and wonderful nurses. I'm also thankful for all of your prayers. They have done her a world of good.


Thanksgiving! I know a lot of you who read this blog are from faraway lands where you don't spend the fourth Thursday in November feasting on turkey and watching football. Or, nowadays, going shopping. That's the new trend: stores are now open on Thanksgiving. I have a friend whose son works at Best Buy, so on Thanksgiving day, while his entire extended family is gathered around the table eating and drinking and telling stories, he'll be at work.

What's next? Stores open on Christmas? Why, yes, that's already happening now. Walgreens and CVS will be open on Christmas, and so will Starbucks. Ho ho ho!

I think there's something very wrong with our culture. I think it's cynical to keep stores open on days that are supposed to be special. It's like the businesses are whispering, You don't like your family anyway. Isn't it more fun to shop than to spend time with your boring old uncles and birdbrained cousins? That whole gathering the family around the table thing? Everyone knows it's a crock. Besides what's more fun than spending money?

Well, I've had some contentious times with family, it's true. Even families that function pretty well have their moments. But it's good to gather the tribe, catch up, remember, reconnect and reconcile. Even when we stay home just the four of us, Thanksgiving is a special day. The good dishes and silver are pressed into service, the nice tablecloth is laid on the table. We listen to Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring and Charlie Haden's Steal Away while we eat and tell funny stories. I try to get Jack and Will to say what they're thankful for, but they're a couple of corn dogs and just roll their eyes at me. That's a Thanksgiving tradition, too.

So on the one side you have good food and good music and corn dog kids, and on the other side you have the corporate greed heads at Target and Wal-Mart and their employees, most of whom would much rather be at home with their own corn dog kids. As the old song goes, which side are you on, boys?


If you observe Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you don't observe Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful fourth Thursday of November. Either way, I hope you spend the day with loved ones, those imperfect, boring, grumpy, cantankerous, lovely people you're thankful to call your own.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The bamboo bee house that Will and the Man constructed this afternoon. Next summer we'll put this up in the backyard, where it will give bees a place to rest. 

Tomorrow I'm going to Kentucky to hang out with my mom for a few days while she goes through her final round of chemo. She's so ready to be done! There's high hope that the cancer is in remission, but even if she needs more chemotherapy, she'll get any further doses in pill form and won't have to be in the hospital.

I'm driving to Kentucky, mostly because I dislike flying, and when you add all the hours it takes to get to the airport, get through airport security, wait for the flight, wait for the connecting flight in Charlotte or Atlanta, then pick up my luggage when I finally reach the Louisville airport, it turns out that it only takes two hours longer to drive. Driving, I can listen to audiobooks, eat yummy snacks that don't include tiny packs of stale pretzles, talk to myself, sing, and look at the beautiful mountains of North Carolina and West Virginia.

In other words, hand me my keys, Myrtle, I'm a-driving to Kentuck'!

Last week was Halloween, and guess which Halloween birthday boy got sick on his big day? Yep, poor old Will woke up Halloween morning with a fever and a sore throat. Back to bed he went, where he stayed for the next two days (okay, he didn't really stay in bed--my children never stay in bed when they're sick--it's more like he spent forty-eight hours wandering around the house looking pale and feverish and asking for popsicles).

Will's Halloween pumpkin on October 30th ...

So no trick-or-treating for poor Will. Fortunately, we have kind neighbors who brought him candy, and I bought an extra bag on Friday at Target, so that not only would Will have a sufficient candy supply, but Jack would get his big brother percentage (Jack now being too old to trick-or-treat). I felt sort of goofy standing in line to buy candy the day after the biggest candy bonanza of the year and had to stop myself from explaining the situation to the cashier, who I'm sure a) didn't give it a second thought; or b) could not have cared less.

Will's pumpkin on November 3rd, on its way out to the compost bin.

 Of course, we all got Will's bug and so I'm a little behind on my Grand Christmas Scheme. However, I'm proud to report that I have purchased gifts for my niece and nephew in Chicago and have come up with several new ideas for things Will and Jack might like. Will continues to mock me for my efforts, but when I'm serene and carefree all through December, he'll see the method to my madness.

Today I ordered a turkey breast for Thanksgiving. Whole Foods sells fresh turkey breasts that they swear come from turkeys who lived happy, uncaged lives on a kosher farm in Pennsylvania. These aren't organic or heirloom turkey breasts, but since I can't afford organic or heirloom turkey breasts, cheerful birds who spent most of their lives strolling around a field making gobble gobble noises will have to do. I'll pick it up the day before Thanksgiving, along with the fabulous Whole Foods gravy, and be a very happy camper myself.

Amanda asked in a recent comment about what Advent books I read (Advent begins on December 1st this year, by the way). My two favorites are Watch for the Light, which contains daily readings from writers such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, Kathleen Norris and Philip Yancey, and God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, with writings by Scott Cairns, Emilie Griffin, Eugene Peterson, Richard John Neuhaus, Kathleen Norris and Luci Shaw. It's probably my favorite of the two, but both have a lot of wonderful things to offer.

And Gretchen asked what kind of cookie dough I made for my Christmas cookies. It's a simple butter cookie recipe-- a half pound of butter, 4 1/2 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Easy-peasy. When the time comes, we'll roll it out, cut out lots of stars and Christmas trees, sprinkle them with colored sugar, and be very merry indeed.

As always, keep my mom in your prayers, if you'd be so kind, and I'd appreciate prayers for traveling mercies. I'll be back Wednesday. See you soon!