It’s almost Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving…can’t believe it will be here next week. This is an off year for us. Rob will be working out of town, covering call, so we’ll be a bit casual about our holiday celebration. Some years we’ve been able to connect with family, but this won’t be one of those times.

This year we’ll be on a small island in Alaska, where Rob works episodically. I’m working in Ketchikan through Wednesday afternoon, so I’ll take some of the fixings for our Thanksgiving over with me when I join him, but most likely, we’ll share the big meal of the day with a few others from the clinic who’ve stayed in town. And that’s the main thing. Thanksgiving is not a meal to eat with one or two people, if you can help it. It needs a large group, a full table, a mix of favorite foods, old and new, traditional and experimental, all blended together.

The image of the feast, the expectation of a crowd, whether it be family, or friends, or a mix of both, is so ingrained that I literally can’t imagine a different scenario that would occur by choice. To celebrate Thanksgiving at all is to acknowledge it as perhaps the most American holiday. The 4th of July is a celebration of a new government, a new nation being born. But Thanksgiving recognizes the survival of the people who came here to create what would become America.

Many people have a tradition of sharing around the table what each person is thankful for. This year I am thankful for a season of surprises. My year has had twists and turns. I began it thinking I would sell a house and move, change jobs, encounter other life altering decisions along the way. I am not (yet) selling my house, or moving…you can never tell what housing markets are going to do. My work is mutating, in ways I did not foresee; in ways that are challenging me to think about how I work, where I work, and why I work. Life is full, if a bit unpredictable. I find myself feeling grateful for what has worked, philosophical about what hasn’t, and curious to know what will happen next.

This year I’m thankful for family that is well, for the ties that bind, for friendships that have deepened, for a little one in my life that is growing and changing from a toddler into a little girl, complete with words and opinions. She’ll soon be two, our Riley girl, and quite a girl she is. She brings a smile to my heart. I’m grateful for all the family who send love to me, and who receive it in return. I’m grateful for the recognition that there is a passing of connection from one generation to the next. I feel it with my grandmother (90+!), my mother, my daughter, my son, my granddaughter.

I’m thankful for my husband who is by my side through the ups and downs, who still makes me laugh, still makes me tear up in a sentimental moment, knows what I am thinking most of the time. I’m grateful for a partner in life.

It is easy to take these people in my life for granted. Some of them have been present as long as I have been alive. Others have been part of my life so long I can hardly recall a time without them. Regardless, I want to acknowledge that the few people out of all the billions on the planet that touch my life, and in return, allow me to touch their lives, are the small group of family and friends that care, support, nurture, cry, rejoice, celebrate, encourage, and participate with me as I make my way. They are the ones who provide the color, the music, the faces of my memories.

It’s almost Thanksgiving. I wish you a joyful day, and a heart that is thankful.

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Fall is in the air

What’s magic about this season? Many people say this is their favorite time of year, and that’s true for me too. I always think the calendar should begin with September. It seems like the true start to the year, forever tied in my mind to the beginning of a new school cycle. From my own years as a student, through the years of my children’s education, that rhythm was permanently ingrained. Even without a tie to the school calendar now, so many rituals focus on back-to-school events that I can’t escape the reality that summer has ended, a new season has begun. And although summer traditionally brings luxurious down time and a more relaxed pace of life, it feels good to get back to a schedule, a routine, a defined expectation of the week after summer vacations end.

Aside from the back-to-school sales, the beginning of football season, and early advertisements for Halloween (already there are masses of bags filled with bite-sized candy bars beckoning in the grocery aisles), temperatures announce that change is in the air. The sun in September has a different quality in its warmth, a different brightness in its light. By October, mornings and evenings are crisp, and by November, some days there is frost on the steps outside my front door. The familiar ritual, pulling out sweaters and boots, gloves and coats, moving the summer wear out and the winter wear in, signals that turtleneck season, stretching from September to May in Alaska, has arrived.

When my kids were little, we made annual visits to apple orchards to buy apples and cider, and to pumpkin patch farms to pick pumpkins. It was fun to have exposure to the harvest season as we weren’t connected with these experiences in other ways. It was good to see my kids learn a little about harvest time and enjoy a taste of fruit bought from the source rather than a grocery store. There is just something completely heartwarming about drinking fresh pressed cider and riding on a tractor trailer pulling excited pre-schoolers around a farm.

I like pumpkins; they’re my favorite choice for fall decorating. I add a few brightly colored leaves and nuts, some seasonal berries and cinnamon scented candles, and decorating is done from September to November. I think you get more bang for the buck from fall decorating than in any other season. And the best part: so much of what you use is available in a natural form, right from the grocery store or farmer’s market. The produce section alone offers enough variety to dress up your look for any party you host from Labor Day to Thanksgiving.

The best part of fall has to be the food: iconic comfort food like soups, chili, stews; and sweets made with apples, nuts, raisins, pumpkin and all the familiar spices. Even the beverages are unique to the time of year…apple cider and spiced teas and coffees seem just right in October and November. I never think of drinking a cinnamon flavored coffee in July…why is that? But this time of year I’m focused on warm luxury in my beverages, and topping off a spiced coffee with a little sweetened whipped cream is a perfect start to the day or end to the evening. Sampling a pumkin cobbler or apple cranberry pie is a frequent pleasure. I bake more this time of year, and I appreciate the comfort of homey aromas coming from the kitchen when I open the door after work and remember that I put a stew in the crockpot before I left for the day.

Anticipation is key; I know what happens next, and I love it. We’re all getting ready to spend more time indoors, gear up for the Christmas season, celebrate once again the Thanksgiving holiday that reminds us of the importance of family, friends, good times, good food, and the traditions that bind it all together. So here’s to Fall, the magical (and real) start to a new year, a new cycle, and the best of comfort, home, and harvest.