“Take full account of what excellencies you possess, and in gratitude remember how you would hanker after them, if you had them not.” ~ Marcus Aurelius, from Meditations

From our house to yours . . .


“The funny thing about Thanksgiving ,or any big meal, is that you spend 12 hours shopping for it then go home and cook,chop,braise and blanch. Then it’s gone in 20 minutes and everybody lies around sort of in a sugar coma and then it takes 4 hours to clean it up.” ~ Ted Allen, from The Food You Want to Eat: 100 Smart, Simple Recipes

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

How about a little Thanksgiving history, including some similar feasts around the world . . .

Did you know?

  • The cornucopia, or horn of plenty, one of the symbols of Thanksgiving, comes from ancient Greeks and Romans. The term (generally describing a horn-shaped basket filled with fruit, flowers and other goodies) comes from the Latin cornu copiae, literally “horn of plenty.” In Greek mythology, the cornucopia is an enchanted severed goat’s horn, created by Zeus to produce a never-ending supply of whatever the owner desires.
  • In England, the September 23 Harvest Festival goes back thousands of years, during which plaited corn dolls were hung in the rafters. The pagans believed that the Spirit of the Corn resided in the first cut sheaf of corn. During the Harvest Festival, children take fruits and vegetables to churches and schools for distribution to the elderly and the needy.
  • Thanksgiving is a part of U.S. military history, including days of Thanksgiving during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
  • In Germany, Erntedankfest is officially celebrated in October, but can be celebrated anytime during the fall. Following the Erntedankfest celebration, the unused food is distributed to the needy.
  • Pumpkin pie has been around for hundred of years, possibly dating back to the 1500s during which a dessert was made by stewing pumpkins and wrapping it in pastry. During the 17th century, recipes for pumpkin pie could be found in English cookbooks, but it wasn’t until about the 19th century that pumpkin pie similar to what we know today became a Thanksgiving staple. John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem called the pumpkin in 1850: “What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?” Lydia Maria Child’s poem (later a song) “Over the River and Through the Woods” (1844), includes the following verses:
Over the river, and through the wood—
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “O, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for everyone.”
Over the river, and through the wood—
now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
  • One of the biggest and most important holidays in Korea is Chuseok, a three-day harvest festival that is s celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. In the morning, foods prepared with the year’s fresh harvest are set out to give thanks to ancestors through Charye (ancestor memorial service). After Charye, families visit their ancestors’ graves and engage in Beolcho, a ritual of clearing the weeds that may have grown up over the burial mound.
  • The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1924 and has been held every year since, except for 1942-44 because of WWII. The first major balloon featured in the parade was Felix the Cat, in 1927. Floats were introduced in 1971. Each parade has ended with the appearance of Santa Claus.

Seriously though,  I hope the day finds you warm (or cool, depending upon your hemisphere), safe, and with family or friends, that your table has enough to fill your hunger, your glass has enough to slate your thirst, and your body feels the comfort of close companionship. And tonight, when everyone has gone, and the table has been cleared, may you spare a thought for those out there who find clean water a luxury, warm food a bounty, and a safe pillow something found only in dreams.

I miss you, Dad.

More later. Peace.

Music by John Denver, “The Wings that Fly us Home.” (yes, it’s blatantly sentimental)

                   

Moment

Before the adults we call our children arrive with their children in tow
for Thanksgiving,

we take our morning walk down the lane of oaks and hemlocks, mist
a smell of rain by nightfall—underfoot,

the crunch of leathery leaves released by yesterday’s big wind.

You’re ahead of me, striding into the arch of oaks that opens onto the fields
and stone walls of the road—

as a V of geese honk a path overhead, and you stop—

in an instant, without thought, raising your arms toward sky, your hands
flapping from the wrists,

and I can read in the echo your body makes of these wild geese going
where they must,

such joy, such wordless unity and delight, you are once again the child
who knows by instinct, by birthright,

just to be is a blessing. In a fictional present, I write the moment down.
You embodied it.

~ Margaret Gibson

Of Course Not.

lilacs1

Fresh Cut Lilacs

Truth is a deep kindness that teaches us to be content in our everyday life and share with the people the same happiness.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Today was one of those lazy Saturdays. I was awakened early by the clamor in the park. The loud speaker came on, and announcements were made about parking regulations. Did that stop people from parking in front of our house which is a no-parking zone because of the fire hydrant?

Of course not. Those regulations are meant for other people . . .

Well, I do have things that I need to do, fill out some more forms regarding my disability. Did I do them?

Of course not. They’ll take care of themselves at some point (audible snort on my part).

“Discovering this idyllic place, we find ourselves filled with a yearning to linger here, where time stand still and beauty overwhelms.” ~ Author Unknown

its-a-dogs-life
It's a Dog's Life

I did sit out in the backyard for a bit. Let the sun fall onto my face and warm my skin. But only after most of the crowd had cleared from the park. The dogs were overjoyed that Brett and I were outside and vied for our constant attention, which made reading pretty much impossible. Tillie came up with a tree branch that she wanted to play fetch with—not a stick, a branch, about two inches in circumference, and two feet long.

What a funny dog. In the meantime, Alfie and Shakes spent their time being sun puppies. Corey thinks that it’s funny that I put a towel in the chair next to me for the dogs, but I want them to be comfortable.

The goal was to give the dogs a bath at some point today. Hasn’t happened yet. I’m sure that between the three of them, only Tillie would be looking forward to doing some serious splashing anyway.

Both Brett and Corey seem to be in the same kind of mood as I am: kind of laid back, not really wanting to tackle anything too tasking or serious. Can’t say that I blame them. Must be something in the air.

“Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” ~ Winnie the Pooh

I did do two semi-productive things today: I added my blog to fuelmyblog. See that neat icon to the left of the post? Well, if you like a particular post, I think that you are supposed to click on the icon, and I get points, or something like that. Not entirely sure exactly how it works. I did check the box to be a contributor to their blog. I suppose that I could do that if they wanted me to, or I could continue to hide in my bedroom, writing for myself and a few regular readers.

I also changed my site picture. I was getting a little tired of my old picture, but since I don’t really let people take pictures of me, it’s slim pickings finding something to choose. I settled on cropping out most of me, and just focusing on a small part of my face. That way, you don’t have to be exposed to my sausage body, and you won’t run screaming, “Ahhh. Eek. The sausage monster is loose,” or whatever it is you scream when you see a woman in her 40’s sucking in her stomach mightily.

I know. I know. I just wrote about how we should not judge people by their physicality. But do I apply that maxim to myself?

Of course not. I don’t think that I will ever be happy with my physicality.

“That is a good book which is opened with expectation, and closed with delight and profit.” ~ Amos Bronson Alcott 

mirror-of-galadriel-by-alan-lee
"Mirror of Galadrial," by Alan Lee

I decided to begin my annual re-read of Lord of the Rings. A few years ago Corey bought me the set that is illustrated by Alan Lee, the artist who worked with Peter Jackson on the films. It is a beautiful collection. If you’ve never seen the illustrations in this particular collection, you should check it out the next time you are in a bookstore.

Brett is finishing The Prince, by Machiavelli. Don’t ask me why he decided to read it, but now we have to put together some kind of book talk (what in the hell is a book talk?) for his English class, which is being taught this grading period by a student teacher. I know that student teachers have to go in the classroom to learn, but honestly, if this woman wants to teach English, shouldn’t she at least be aware of certain titles and authors, even if she hasn’t read them?

When Brett submitted The Prince as his book choice, she approved it, thinking that it was a contemporary novel. Could he have picked a more difficult choice to do a Power Point Presentation on?

Of course not. Why start now?

“Very little is needed to make a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

andromeda-and-lavendar-azaleaI did cut some fresh lilacs to put all over the house. The bush is in full bloom, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I put lilacs in my bedroom, in the living room, and in the bathroom. Nothing helps a room to look more welcoming than fresh cut flowers or blooms. Not that I’m welcoming anyone into my home anytime soon.

We have a new Andromeda (pieris) plant, and a new lavender Azalea. Corey is going to plant them somewhere. I have wanted both for a while, so I think that he threw caution to the wind and bought both for me to make me feel better. They will look lovely planted near each other.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” ~ Seneca

Corey went to the open house for the shipping company yesterday morning. It seemed to go very well. The man he spoke to was very impressed with all of his experience. Corey let the company representative know that he is enrolled in some courses that will help his qualifications. Now if only that could transfer into a job, everything would be super.

He also received approval from the City of Norfolk to fund the classes that he wants to take. That is doubly good news. He starts the Tankerman class on Monday, and then the following week, he will be taking the Lifeboat man class. I believe that he got approval for four classes, which is stupendously good news. Maybe our luck is beginning to turn. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

I am trying not to show too much excitement because I don’t want to jinx everything by believing that everything is getting better. That old superstition creeping back into my thoughts.

crossed-fingersTrust me, if I thought that it would do any good, I’d build a fire with all kind of herbs and chant something nonsensical until the cows come home. No sacrifices, though. What do you think I am? Some kind of weirdo?

Of course not. Just like to keep my fingers crossed.

Speaking of which, do you know where the whole fingers crossed thing comes from? Well, there were a number of possible origins: one says that finger crossing comes from pre-Christian times and was used to ward off witches and evil spirits, like the crossing of fingers to form the sign of the cross. Another says that when crossing fingers, benign spirits reside at the intersection of the two fingers. Several sources cite that finger crossing used to be performed by two people in old Europe, the first person who crossed his fingers made a wish, and the second supported it. By linking fingers, it was believed that the two people could energize the spirits to help make the wish come true.

Things that make you say hmm . . .

“The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.” ~ Blaise Pascal

Well, it seems that I have rambled on about nothing much at all. Like I said: just one of those days. Stick with me; I promise something with a little more depth next time. Until then, Let me leave you with an incredible picture by Janson Jones from Floridana Alaskiana. If you haven’t visited this site you, you are missing out on some really incredible photography. Just look to the left. See his blog in my Recommended Reading? Just click on it. Wasn’t that easy?

Of course it was.

More later. Peace.

the-shallows-at-lake-mcdonald-glacier-nat-park-montana-jj2

The Shallows at Mt. Glacier National Park by Janson Jones

                                                                                                                                         

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Grace in Small Things #39

dragonsamuraiswordset1

Dragon Samurai Sword Set

Beauty in Words, Glass, and Blades

1. Reading sentences as beautiful as this: “The man can makes tears sparkle, hearts expand and the wisdom pour like wine” and wishing that I had written them, but feeling privileged to read them. (From the blog “My Sweetest Downfall” http://janeylynn.wordpress.com, which I highly recommend).

2. Finding a new author: Paulo Coelho and his book The Valkyries are next on my wish list. But take a look at this quote from Coelho’s blog:

If pain must come, may it come quickly. I have a life to live, and I need to live it in the best possible. If he has to make a choice, may he make it now. Then I will either wait for him or forget him. Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.
(By the River Piedra I sat down and wept)

Would that I could write like that.

sword-guard
Decorative Tsuba

3. Tonight my son Brett and I wrapped his practice katana. The part that you hold is called the tsuka. The tsukamaki is what is tied around the tsuka for a good grip. Wisteria vine or leather can be used. We used black grograin ribbon. The tsuba is the disk between the tsuka and the blade, which protects the hand from the blade. The tsuba also adjusts the weight balance of the sword and has come to be a work of art on the Japanese katana or Samurai sword. I  enjoyed doing this with Brett. He has wanted a practice katana for a while. Now we just need a boxing bag for him to work out his frustration.

4. If you’ve read a lot of my blog posts, you’ve probably noticed that I use many different quotes, from Marcus Aurelius to Confucius to Sophia Loren. I like to collect quotes from all kinds of sources: from the Ancient Greeks through current political pundits. For our wedding I chose about 15 different quotes about love, typed them, and printed several copies of them on separate pieces of four by six cream-colored paper. Then we rolled them, and tied them with ribbons and put them at each place setting on the tables. My favorite quote was from Goethe:

“This is the true measure of love: When we believe that we alone can love, that no one could ever have loved so before us, and that no one will ever love in the same way after us.”

pilgrim-cranberry-glass

5. I have four Cranberry Glass wine glasses that I bought in Cape Cod a long time ago. I take very good care of them because they are irreplaceable. Cranberry glass (not the same as Ruby Glass) is a semi-transparent red glass, the color of cranberry juice, that is usually hand blown. It gets its color from the addition of a gold chloride. The height of cranberry glass was during the Victorian era in England, but real Cranberry Glass is still made today. I had about five pieces total, but they have all been broken over the years. All that I have left is this set of wine glasses that I bought at the Ocean Spray cranberry factory of all places. They are absolutely beautiful when natural sunlight is reflecting on them.

That’s all for now. More later. Peace.

 

A Time for Reconciliation

Two Men, Two Speeches

John McCain’s Passion

I just happened to catch John McCain’s last campaign speech on Election Day, and I have to tell you, it was pretty impassioned. His delivery was great. He had his audience. There was no mention of socialism. His message was about the issues. It was as if McCain had stepped through my Twilight Zone re-do door and had slipped back to that time before Palin and all of the silliness and nonsense and was still on point. And he was good. And I turned to Corey and commented that if he had remained that John McCain, things would probably have been much different.

Less than ten hours later, I was watching a very gracious but defeated John McCain deliver his concession speech before his supporters at The Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife Cindy by his side. He silenced boos in the crowd, and he won them over with statements such as this: “Let there be no reason now … Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.” And then he took the onus on himself: “We fought — we fought as hard as we could. And though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours.”

The crowd responded loudly with a resounding “NO.” And I agree, somewhat. There is plenty of blame to go around, but he is the captain of his ship, and as he did in the beginning of his speech, he could have said “no,” and he could have said “stop” to his campaign at any time, but I think that it all just got away from him.

But in the end, he met his defeat with his head held high. No word on the governor, though.

 

 

Barack Obama’s Grace

If this was the President-elect’s acceptance speech, I am beyond edge-of-my seat in anticipation of his inaugural address.  This man has been graced with an ability to turn phrases in a way that so captivates and enthralls that has not been seen since the days of the truly great speakers in this world, the Churchills, the Roosevelts, the Lincolns, the Jeffersons, and back to the days of the inception of oratory: Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Socrates.

Do I exaggerate? No, I really don’t believe that I do. His voice is steeped in the classical oratorical skills of the masters. It is rich in rhythms that politicians have tried to achieve but have not quite attained. JFK was one of the few. But Obama also has that quiet dignity and a way that touches the heart of even the poorest, least-educated person in the crowd, and lets him or her know that he has not forgotten of his existence, nor will he in the days and months to come.

This kind of skill can be learned, but more often than not, for it to be perfected, it must come from a place deep within and be fostered by something that most people do not ever quite come close to achieving: true grace. That Barack Obama is the person he is today is most assuredly a testament to the people who nurtured him, who instilled the values in him, who taught him about love, respect, honor, equality, humility, bravery, the necessity of a good education, and most of all, the importance of daring to dream.

Because this man has shown us, average Americans, that it is all right to dream, and to fight for our dreams, and to do it with respect, and honor, and humility. He dared us to come along. He challenged us to be the best people that we could be, and when we wanted to take the fight down to a level that was unworthy, he reminded us that that was not what we were fighting for. He kept us focused. He kept us honorable. And in so doing, he allowed us to win with dignity, right beside him. And for that, we should all be eternally grateful to this man who started out with nothing more than intelligence and a dream and the family to help him find his way.

What an extreme honor it has been to help you in your campaign for the presidency of the United States of America, President-elect Barack Obama.

 

Grant Park Embraces Their Favorite Son

I must say that I would have sucked up my long-ingrained fear of crowds to have been in Chicago in Grant Park, or among the thousands more who spread into the loop for a crowd of approximately 240,000 people, by the fire department’s estimation, to hear President-elect Barack Obama deliver his acceptance speech.

But I have to tell you, the one thing that just slayed me, and I never would have expected this, was the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a man who is not known for his silence, just standing there with tears streaming down his face, no words needed. That was it for me.

 

 

In Closing . . .

And so, to borrow a phrase from John McCain, my friends, that’s it from me today. I’m spending the rest of this cold windy day in bed with the dogs. Won’t Malia and Sasha have fun in the White House with their new puppy? It’s has been an incredible, wonderful experience. I only wish that I had been able to begin it sooner.

I hope to have the other blog site, politicofemme, operative soon. I’ll explain more on that later, but I have high hopes for it. But for now, it’s a cup of tea and some chocolates (I’m out of twizzlers).

More later. Peace.