Monday, November 30, 2015

Not All Thanksgivings Are The Same

No two Thanksgivings are alike. That is, if you are new to a family.

I'm the girl friend, and this was technically my second Thanksgiving in SG's life, however, my first official with his family.

No, it did not look anything like my Thanksgiving growing up.

You see, for most of my life, Thanksgiving involved going to my Granny's house. That was my Great-Grandmother on my mother's side. She was a true Matriarch, and in the good old southern way, we would all gather at her home to gorge ourselves on carbohydrates and sugar. Once my beloved Granny passed (I believe I was 17,) we began to have Thanksgiving in our home with my Grandma Betty and Papa. Finally, at the age of 24, that 6-some dwindled down to a 4-some, and just a few years later I would be married.

Then things would change... but not really. My first hubby and I agreed on a schedule for Thanksgiving. Lunch with my family, dinner with his, and both families would be invited to both. It worked, considering the fact we lived a short 30 - 40 minutes from each other. Later, I would divorce him and my sister would marry, but her guy's family would be sort of non existent, so our personal tradition would continue. Again - consistency.

Then I would later remarry the egyptian, and I think that sort of sums it up. He did not celebrate Thanksgiving and his family was overseas. Oftentimes, he would fly home to see his family during this time, and again, I had my family traditions.

Last year, SG and I had just started dating, and though I was invited to his house, I felt it was too soon. So I opted to spend one last Thanksgiving with my fam.

This year, I took the plunge. For the first time, I ventured into someone else's tradition.

It started out fairly well, we went out to eat as a family on that Tuesday night and relaxed at the cabin. On Wednesday, I helped his mom and daughters get the cabin and main home ready for the big day. I even cooked a homemade pumpkin pie (with real pumpkin, not the canned stuff.) Then the big day arrived and I was feeling fairly good about it. I mean, I had the unspoken items I needed to bring - Pumpkin Pie.

Now let me back up....

On Thanksgiving, or at least in my version of Thanksgiving, there are a few items we have to accomplish:

1. Music needs to be on. I need to hear holiday music in the background.

2. Candles or a centerpiece of some kind.

3. Mom's good plates are brought out.

4. Wine.

What do we typically serve?
Turkey, of course.
Turkey Giblet Gravy (which I never touch.)
Regular cheap turkey gravy
MASHED POTATOES (just the single best thing about Thanksgiving)
Layered salad (you know the kind, made with sour cream, etc)
Berry-Cranberry Sauce and the canned/congealed kind (which I prefer)
Green beans
Sweet potato casserole with the marshmallows
Rolls - butter

Did I mention mashed potatoes?

Sooooo... I carry my little pumpkin pie up to the main house. Little did I know that I was the ONLY person who ate pumpkin pie. Apparently that is a Northern thing.
My dad is a Yankee.
I do remember mom having a token sweet potato pie, but I always opted for the pumpkin.

So that was a bust.

There was turkey.
Then I looked around... and what to my wandering eyes did NOT appear?
Dear Lord in heaven.
I had given up carbs for almost 11 weeks and was SOOOOOOO looking forward to my cheat day at Thanksgiving.


Then I scoured the buffet looking for some sort of comfort. My eyes darted this way and that. I felt my pulse quicken, a little panic rising up. Then it hit me. I'm not at my family's Thanksgiving.

I got a little scoop of lima beans, a little scoop of sweet potato casserole (without the marshmallows) on my little plastic divided plate. Apparently, SG's mom makes her sweet potatoes with pecans on top. Not my favorite, but it was closer. Then I got a tiny helping of congealed cranberry sauce. There was cole slaw (def not a fave,) and a few other random items I don't eat. As for dessert? Pecan Pie. (Again, a no-go for me.)

Needless to say, I did not gain any weight over Thanksgiving break.

The family scattered to different rooms to eat. No music. No candles. No wine.
But... I had my guy. He looked at me, and smiled.... and I knew what I was most Thankful for.

I did enjoy the woods. We ran the dogs (which, btw, they got a new puppy!) and we roasted marshmallows over a fire at night. It was a nice time with the man I love and his tribe. Each tribe has different customs, and incorporating their life with your own is part of the compromise.

Like the pilgrims did with the natives, I must bring my traditions to the table. You can bet that next year, I'll be in charge of the potatoes. And I'll rock those carbs like no one's business.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Things I learned this week: The Blended Family version

SG's* daughter got married this past Saturday. It was my first real experience at a major event with a blended family - ever! Here is what I learned from the experience:

1. My parents have been married 43 years, so I am not familiar with the ins and outs of divorced families. I've attended a few weddings in the past of friends, and I get glimpse from time to time, but this was my first time being on the inside. What I learned was that labels have to be dropped. Leave them at the door. And here is why:

2. SG is Kaitlyn's step dad. But for all intents and purposes, he raised her and she calls him Daddy. He is her Daddy. Blood does not matter. I got it this weekend, and it sort of took me a minute to truly understand. Then I remembered all of those foreign exchange students I hosted over the years, and though their stay with me was brief (typically one year,) I love them and consider them family. SG has been in her life since she was 5. Now she is 21. I get it. That's his daughter.

3. I proudly announced to SG when we first met that I am allergic to drama. That I genuinely do not do well with dramatic events. I think he saw once and for all that I was serious. I did not let anything or anyone break my cheerful demeanor. I gave no one an ounce of leverage to put me in a bad light. I did what every good girl must do: I smiled, I laughed, and I was trying very hard to just see the person in front of me, not the label, or the reputation I may have heard of before... just the person.

4. It was incredibly important to make sure the day was about his daughter. I would often bring conversations back around with, "It's the bride's day, so whatever she wants goes." I think it was appreciated.

5. I worked very hard to help out wherever I could. If I saw some people sort of getting tired or falling into the "why should we help" trap, I would step in and do my part. An objective helper is much needed.

Love is love.
Family is family.
Remaining calm and peaceful in a potentially volatile situation is key.

But the truth is... I was at a party, with some new friends and family. I ate well, I drank well, I danced, I laughed, and I celebrated love.

What could be hard about that?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Journey. The Destination. The Farce that is Life.

I think I've filled my vent quota for the month in posts, right? 
Sheesh, I can get so hot under the collar with social issues some times. Throw around some insults about other people from various cultures and I will cut-a-b*tch, but share with me some half-baked #basic concern and I will roll my eyes and sigh. 


Here we are. Me attempting to do this blog thing again. A daily blog. 

I made a promise to myself in 2015 that I would spend more time living versus pondering, but man oh man, I do miss the pondering. 

I miss putting on a pot of coffee, curling up in my sunroom with a nice soft, velvety blankie and cracking open the old laptop and sharing with you guys everything that pops into my little head. Gone is the coffee pot (I'm now French Pressing it,) and long gone is the sun room. Heck, even the laptop has died. I'm now left with little time, very little privacy, and a schedule more busy that a truck stop prostitute. 

You know, when I look back at those old posts, so much has changed and I think I may have changed with it. My circle of friends look different. My significant other is definitely different (can I get a Hallelujah?) My home, my job, my activities.. it's all oh so very different. 

Another chapter. Or heck, another volume. 

I can't count how many times I have thought of changing the name of my blog only to come right back to the common undercurrent theme - The destination remains unknown. Life is one big journey/transition. I believe it is very fitting for me. 

I like where I am headed in life. I'm proud of what I have done. I'm glad I'm not stuck and ordinary. Every dramatic issues, every health concern, every failed relationship has brought me to here and man.. do I have a story!

This weekend I am getting thrown into the deep end. My current SG's ex step daughter (who basically only recognizes him as Dad) is getting married on Saturday. I will get to meet all of his ex's people and of course, many of SG's people. It will be fascinating to see how blended families work. Totally a foreign concept for me, considering my parents have been married 43 years. I don't have kids with any of my exes, so again.. foreign territory. I'm sure it will be very interesting. 

Until next time.. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dear Americans, You are embarrassing me.

Dear Americans,

Fact -

Fact -

Fact -

I'm embarrassed at our lack of compassion. I'm appalled at how we are so afraid to extend a helping hand and yet we claim we are the home of the free and brave. What is so brave about locking down our borders and not helping those who are desperately seeking asylum? Can you imagine what it must be like to be forced to flee your home? What would we do? Where would we go?

Who would be willing to take people from a greedy, war-mongering, bigoted country?

We throw generalizations around and feed the ignorant like it's candy. ISIS is the problem. Syrians are not. Islam does not preach violence, or peace for that matter. It is what the individual makes it.

Have you even spent time in the Middle East? (Outside of a war zone?) I have.
Have you ever welcomed Muslims into your home? I have.
Have you ever actually read the Qur'an? I have.
Am I a Christian? You bet.
Exodus 22:21 - "“You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 – When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Numbers 35 and Joshua 20 – The Lord instructs Moses to give cities of refuge to the Levites so that when the Israelites must flee into Canaan they may have cities of refuge given to them.

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 – “For the Lord your God...loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Deuteronomy 24:17-18 – “You shall not deprive a resident alien...of justice.”

Psalm 146:9 – “The Lord watches over the strangers…”

Jeremiah 7:5-7 – “If you do not oppress the alien…then I will dwell with you in this place…”

Jeremiah 22:3-5 – Do no wrong or violence to the alien.

Ezekiel 47:21-22 – The aliens shall be to you as citizens, and shall also be allotted an inheritance.

Zechariah 7:8-10 – Do no oppress the alien.

Matthew 2:13-15 – Jesus and parents flee Herod’s search for the child.

Matthew 5:10-11 –“Blessed are those who are persecuted.”

Matthew 25:31-46 – “…I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Luke 3:11 – “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none…”

Luke 4:16-21 – “…Bring good news to the poor…release to the captives…sight to the blind...let the oppressed go free.”

Romans 12:13 – “Mark of the true Christian: “…Extend hospitality to strangers…”

II Corinthians 8:13-15 – “It is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need…”

Hebrews 13:1-2 – “…show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels…”

James 2:5 – “Has not God chosen the poor in the world…”

James 2:14-17 – “What good is it…if you say you have faith but do not have works?”

I John 3:18 – “…Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

Am I an American? You better believe it.

"When the national government by treaty or statute has established rules and regulations touching the rights, privileges, obligations or burdens of aliens as such, the treaty or statute is the supreme law of the land," wrote Justice Hugo Black in the 1941 case Hines v. Davidowitz. "No state can add to or take from the force and effect of such treaty or statute."

 Refugee Act of 1980: The law declared it to be "the historic policy of the United States to respond to the urgent needs of persons subject to persecution in their homelands." It gave the president broad power to handle an "unforeseen emergency refugee situation," such as one involving "grave humanitarian concerns."

Accepting these refugees sounds to me like the most Christian and most American thing to do.

Let's stop embarrassing ourselves. Let's show the world who we are. Unless we are Native Americans, our ancestors fled their countries for various reasons. Let's return the favor.

**photos came from American photographers Robert Fogarty and Benjamin Reece and found on Pinterest

Monday, November 16, 2015

That Friendship Vent

I got up earlier than normal this morning and began my daily morning routine. Since I had a few extra minutes to kill, I decided to scroll my news feed on FB. Aside from the atrocities in Paris, Beirut, and beyond, there was the typical "share if you love Jesus" and random photos of dogs, cats, babies, and selfies. Then there was a story that caught my eye.

It was titled: How to be a better friend over 30.

I decided to check it out, and I'll wait a sec for you to read it.

No, really... just click and come back here..


OMG. It hit the nail on the head and said all of the things I want to scream to some of my "friends."

Let's break the article down and let me, if I may, vent a little.
But first, why do I even feel the need to vent? Because this is one of those life things I think many of us experience and because we don't want to harm our friendships, we just internalize and hope one day they will see the light.

Disclaimer: This is not about any one person - but all of us! We should all heed this warning

Let's begin, shall we?
1.  Stop acting so busy all the damn time.

This one almost made me jump out of the bed and pace the cabin saying, "Yes.. right?" I typically extend olive branches to friends asking to do something with them, or make suggestions to meet up, or whatever the case may be. I am often told - I'm busy. Or I have plans. Or... whatever. Typically, the ones with children always assume they are more busy than others. While, some always have something to do with their significant other, etc. etc. Here is what I think:

We are ALL busy. Yes, you may have children and a ton of activities, but that doesn't mean you can't invite said friend over to have a cup of coffee while you are preparing dinner? The kids eventually go to sleep, right? Pick up the phone and call your friends. Then those who put the significant other ahead of everyone... you do have a life outside of this person, right? It is okay to invite them over, or meet up for lunch during the day even.. whatever it is you need to do.

What I HATE HATE HATE.. and I see it all of the time with people I know, when they are having a hard time or fighting with their person, they suddenly want to hang out or will call. Not because they want to, but because they are looking for someone to hide out with or get their mind off of things. Then as soon as they get the desired result from whatever the situation was at home, they disappear again. Had this happen to me recently, and after years of friendship I made a hard decision - don't fall for it anymore. I have enough experience now to figure out when it is genuine and when I am being treated like an escape goat.

We are ALL busy. I work.. no wait.. I RUN a business. Not just a business, a museum. That's no cake walk, though when you talk to me it sounds like it is easy as pie. It is not. It is just that I make time for you, and want to talk to you, not about the obstacles that I may encounter on a daily basis. I also freelance write, which takes a LOT of time. It's like having a super hard research paper due each week. I am also trying to maintain a long distance relationship, as well as serve on three major boards and a state wide board. I show up at your birthday parties, wedding, showers, art openings, kids' recitals, and everything else. (If I am invited.) I send thank you notes, and call you, and invite you to EVERYTHING... just hoping one day you will bite. Alas, I am often told that you are busy with this or that. Which I am sure you are saying the same thing to your other friends, because.. well.. as your friend, I know you. Though my day may not always include children in the morning, you might like to know that I am rehearsing what I plan to say as the guest speaker at a community civic groups meeting while I roll my hair. As I am driving down the road I am making mental check lists of all of the extra stuff I have to do that week, which includes checking in on you, and when I am at work, I take just a few minutes to scroll FB and comment on your kids' soccer picture or  the trip you took with your sweetie pie.

Folks.. it is not that hard to carve 5 minutes and it can mean the world.

2.  Start acknowledging your friend's accomplishments.

Sweet baby Jesus! THANK YOU. I'm glad someone said it. If I get wind that something awesome happened in your life, I am going to let you know how proud I am of you.

I've had some pretty significant things (that are fairly cool) happen in my own life recently, and outside of my SG and maybe my parents, rarely does my circle even notice. Or if they do, I don't hear about it.

3. You gotta do the stuff THEY like to do too...thats how friendships work...

Sooo.. remember when I said I always try to show up for you guys. Yeah... and when I invite people to things they sometimes say "That's not really my thing."

4.  Shit gets real after 30 so being this uber private friend is probably not going to work in your favor.  You're going to need a certain level of transparency ...

Okay... this means, yeah... I know when I am just your refuge when things are not going great. When you pick up the phone out of no where and after 30 minutes of catching up, it sort of comes out. Or when you suddenly are on my side of town and want to stop by....
And then I figure out it is that things aren't so great at home...
Look... just be open. Be a friend. Obviously you need me... but be a little more transparent.

At the end of the day - we can all relate to my vent. We all have people we love and need in our life and we want to keep our friendships strong. Our friends are flawed just like everyone else. But we love them. We are still friends because I care. Or I wouldn't even vent. ;-)

Let that article be a reminder to all of us that it takes two to make a relationship work. Men come and go (unfortunately it is true.) Parents die, jobs are lost, and the kids eventually move out. What are you going to have left when all is said and done?

Remember the people that stuck by your side before you had it all. They are still there, and returning the favor on their journey is worth its weight in gold.

Let's all be better friends to each other.

As Bill and Ted said, "Be Excellent to Each Other."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Anniversaries and Other Things No One Cares About

I started to write this long diatribe on why I am just sick and tired of trying to do the right thing.

Then I realized it was probably the lack of carbs causing this slight mental breakdown.

The truth is everything is awesome. I've come sooooo ridiculously far, I feel the need to celebrate, even if I celebrate alone.

First of all, I've been at my job for one year! Yes, I have successfully ran a museum for one complete year! I am very lucky to have the board that I do and the staff that I have.. without them I simply could not pull off this gig. I'm happy and life is good.

So I'm going to give myself a pat on the back.
That's all I'm getting.

Then there is the one year anniversary with SG! It is so hard to believe that I have been blessed to spend 365 days in this man's life. He makes me very happy and it is hands down the healthiest relationship I have ever experienced.

I spent a good amount of time creating this digital (to be printed by Snapfish) Year-In-Review picture album for him. He seemed to really enjoy it. He bought me the number one item on my Christmas wish list: A French Press and Br Grinder.

Though our weekend was not even close to being romantic, it was nice to just settle into a routine. You see it was Halloween weekend, and it was his weekend with the kids. Friday night he worked late, which afforded me the opportunity to work on two stories in the 11th Hour newspaper. One is a profile on GPB's Mike Caputo and the other was a feature on Loco's Gril & Pub. I finished those and shot them to the editor, Brad, and relaxed with the movie - If I Stay. Holy moly. What a tear jerker!

That night I went into a little town called Richland and had dinner with his mom, sister, and family friend. Once he finally made it home, it was so wonderful to see his smile. We were all so beat, we just crashed for the night. On Saturday, I wanted to cook lunch for everyone, but his youngest ended up going over to her cousin's house, and of course, Alex, chose to hang near her dad. (She had a lot of homework to do.) I made low carb tacos and we laughed and chatted it up. Later, we had to pull together something for the kids to do for Halloween, so I ended up taking Alex to Dollar General and we bought a few essentials. She worked on the appetizers, SG worked on the campfire, and I worked on the music and our make-shift costumes. Basically, it turned into a dance party.

His sister, her partner, and her daughter all came over to enjoy the festivities. After the "dance party" we gathered in the living room of the cabin and watched Nightmare on Elm Street. Though I was sitting by my SG (the closest thing I could get to cuddling on our anniversary,) his daughter became scared during the movie and crawled into his lap. No sooner did I get up to do something, she curled up into the seat to cuddle next to him.... and that ended my canoodling evening.

Joys of dating someone with kids! lol We all settled in and went to bed and had a good night's sleep. The rain was coming down pretty hard on the tin roof, it made for an eery scene on the pond the next morning. On Sunday, we relaxed with a movie and basically took it easy.

Uneventful, but nice.

And thus my two big happy days ended, with a fizzle.

I'm thrilled to be in a great relationship for a year. I never thought I would find happiness again. And I did.
I'm thrilled to work a job that brings me fulfillment and happiness.
I'm excited to be working on more freelance writing stuff..

You see... so much good is happening, I just wish I could get someone other than myself to get what a big deal this is! SG gets it, but honestly, he is pulled in so many different ways right now. Lots of work, his mother is about to have surgery, his kids keep him busy, and his oldest (his ex-step daughter,) is getting married in two weeks. It's just a lot.

So I wanted to acknowledge how much good was in my life right now. I thought by writing about it, it would be a way to just gives myself a little pat on the back and.. well.. say I am very proud of myself.

Even if no one else notices. ;-)

I guess I get a little bitter about gratitude sometimes. I try to cheer my friends, co workers, family, and really anyone else that needs it on. I rarely get that in return. Oh well.. sometimes we have to be our own validation and encourage ourselves. Today's mediation/devotion was titled: Move On To Joy. The final affirmation said, "It's a conscious choice."

Amen, sister.

That concludes my whiny baby vent. ;-)


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