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Thanksgiving- the embarrassing bounty of it

 

I’ll never forget. Last year heading out for my holiday food shopping, there was a man on the corner holding a cardboard sign, it read, “hungry, I would love leftovers.”

It broke my heart. I was heading off to Whole Foods for some fancy vegan somethingorother and probably some organic wine and a freaking pear tart and this man is hoping for a plate of leftovers.

I ate my dinner that Thanksgiving thinking of him and if I could just bring him a plate. But I didn’t.

It was logistically impossible that day anyway.

But I always felt like I didn’t do enough. Like I chickened out.

I do a lot mind you. Well, I’m charitable anyway. I sponsor a woman in a developing country to give her work skills and job support for her family. I give to my church, I give to my PTSA, I give to my food banks and clothing banks. I write checks all the time.

But I always feel like it’s never enough. Because I know there’s still people out there that are hungry. That are cold.

I was reading magazines at the dentist’s and doctor’s offices this week while waiting for the kids at their appointments. All the issues have Thanksgiving recipes, table settings, center piece displays, pictures of pie. It’s so enticing.

I couldn’t help but think we are such a funny country to make such a huge deal over one meal. Sure other countries have celebrations and the food is paramount to the gathering, but Thanksgiving is all ABOUT THE MEAL! It really is truly. I mean right? The pilgrims are celebrating their harvest. And no, I’m not going into the typhus blankets they gave the Native Americans. Or how about the fact that most Native Americans now living on reservations couldn’t even afford a Thanksgiving dinner? Okay…. another day we’ll talk about that.

Reading Facebook statuses talk about the days ahead of preparations. The thawing the turkey, the making stock from the turkey parts. It takes DAYS. Pinterest is loaded with stuffing recipes. Stuffed.

I love food. I love eating. I love good food. The kind Martha or Julia would cook. My mom kicks ass at these holiday meals. She browns the stock, she makes the dressing, she brines the bird, she makes the richest darkest gravy you can get from a fowl. It’s amazing. Even the freaking green bean casserole out of a can is delicious. She is magic. Well, she’ll tell you it’s not magic. It’s hours of laborous (sp?) prep.

I tell her if we ate toast with popcorn on it like Charlie Brown, I’d be happy. And it’s true. Because we have an embarrassment of riches.

What is my point? Well, my point is- if you think you’ve not done enough, then go out there and do more.

There is always someone hungry, someone lonely, or someone cold. I won’t ever be content until I’ve reached out to as many as I can.

My friend Sam is matching those who need something with those that can give something. If you can reach out to a family with a grocery card or some gas money, please let Sam know by going to her page,  here.

This year I haven’t seen that man again with the sign. But if I do, I’m bringing him something.

And I pray you always have enough. Spread the love my friends.

Namaste.

 

Dedicated to Ashley

It’s been two + years my dear friends, the Lefkows, have endured a battery of Leukemia treatments for their little girl, Ashley. I’ve blogged before about cancer since I know many who are fighting cancer, have lost the fight to cancer, or have lost a loved one to cancer. So this is for Ashley and her journey. Normally I would say, “Hey cancer- knock, knock, mother f****r”, but this is about a 6 year old girl so I will keep the swear words to potty talk only.

Hey Cancer, you’re a poopy headed, boogery fart-face that needs to go down the toilet!

This week marks the end of her treatment, the end of daily chemo pills and weekly/monthly  trips to Children’s Hospital to access her port. The end of a lot for her mom and dad and big brother. But the start of something wonderful. Life as it should be.

I remember September of 2009, the text I got from her mom, my good friend Christin- it said, “she has Leukemia”. My knees buckled and my head started to swim. I have no idea what they were going through on that day. I can’t imagine getting that call from the doctor. Immediately they began her treatments, surgeries and making Children’s Hospital in Seattle their reluctant, second home.

There were late night fevers and trips to the ER, oh, on Christmas EVE mind you. There was the ongoing and whole summer of surgery and C. difficile. If you don’t know what it is- Google it. Nasty stuff. There was the steroids. Which was like having a pot smoking teenage wrestler in your house in the middle of the night with the munchies- 2 am nachos, sliders, ramen noodles, scrambled eggs, hash browns and waffles, for a SNACK!

The good thing about something awful happening to your life is that there’s a bunch of people that will come to help you. The Lefkows used all their connections and community that was there for them and turned it into a foundation to help others. Within months after starting treatments at Children’s, they began Ashley’s Team. A non-profit that gets video games, dvd’s, iPods, and other games and toys of entertainment for patients and their families. It’s not research, it’s not ground breaking medicine, but it makes those 72 hours, 12 hours or even 4 hours, that much better for everyone involved with the treatment of a child. Can you imagine what it’s like sitting in a hospital for 8 hours while your child is waiting for test results and you have their siblings with you bored out of their minds? Me neither. And God help me that I never do.

They used their company, Bacon Salt to promote a Bacathalon fundraiser that raised thousands of dollars for Ashley’s Team! It was a crazy bacon-eating contest, tricycle riding obstacle course of madness and Makers Mark, but hey- it worked!

Ashley today with blond, luscious locks, and her new kitty, Payton.

Little girls should be able to play, to wear their hair long and pretty in braids and pigtails if they want to, instead of wearing non-itchy fleece hats on their bald little peach-fuzzed heads.  They should get to go to a playarea or a birthday party without worry of infection.  They shouldn’t  have to worry about the sore on their leg that’s gotten infected. (oh that’s a whole other story!) But there’s millions of families dealing with this very crap. And for that I am truly sorry.

The blessing of Ashley’s story is that all her treatments at Children’s worked with textbook effectiveness. They can gratefully say she is cancer free. Which is like telling Leukemia it’s a poopy-headed fart-face. See ya Mother Fucker. Oh crap- and I was SO NOT going to swear!

But for today, it’s hooray for Ashley and her family of Christin, Dave, and her super awesome brother, Dean (7) to say- We did it.

I love you guys.

********

If you want to contribute to Ashley’s Team check out their website www.ashleysteam.org

Families need financial help for uncompensated care, if you’d like to help with this you can donate to www.miraclehouseguild.org

If you’d like to check out Bacon Salt, they’re pretty cool too. www.baconsalt.com

I know why the holidays might suck for some of you.

We are supposed to be happy. Yeah like in Disneyland, it’s supposed to be so frickin’ fantastic. I’m tired, my kids are driving me crazy, and I can’t buy anymore of this crap. No. We’re not in Disneyland. It’s Christmas.

But there’s more to this holiday being depressing than just the nonstop Macys commercials, drippy “Christmas in the Northwest” song on the radio, getting all the crap done that everyone expects of you and if you don’t do it all, you feel less of a woman- depression.

No, I’m talking about the pain in your heart and the hole in your gut from knowing this holiday is the first since losing a loved one. Or maybe it’s the second or third since they’ve passed. How do you fake happy? How are you supposed to be cheerful and live through the four weeks (make that eight weeks thanks to the annoying mass marketing our commercial society has created…) of holiday hoo-ha?

But maybe, just maybe going through the ornaments, pulling out the photos, getting out the stocking that was theirs is like pulling off a band-aid. Painful at first, but better afterwards. Why is it the ones we love hang on through the holidays and then seem to pass in January? It seems those I know that have died and usually from cancer, have hung on to Christmas and then had to let go come January or soon after. Hanging on to spend their last holiday with family.  But no matter what time of year you’ve lost a loved one, the holidays seem to lurk and you might resent them instead of embrace them.

My friend Julie who passed away almost 10 years ago, would bake the most amazing Christmas cookies. Every Christmas I would wait for her goody bag of delicousness. That was her gift to her friends. Even when she was having chemo or recovering from a surgery, she made those cookies. Her last Christmas before she died in January, she made those cookies. I didn’t get to see her on Christmas day at my parents like we had done in years past. She was too weak.  I swung by her apartment the day after Christmas and her boyfriend gave them to me. She was sleeping he said and needed her rest. I wasn’t aware how close she was to death. I took that bag of cookies home. Inside was also a tea tin of Murchies tea from Canada. Our favorite. I had one of her biscotti and made a cup of tea. I had a cookie a day or so. Savoring each one. The powdered sugar on the wedding balls, the jam inside the cutouts, the chocolate ganache between the butter cookies…I couldn’t believe that she made them despite being so sick.

When I got the call she died on January 13, I still had cookies in the bag in my pantry. I stopped eating them. I just left them there on the shelf. I would see the bag and her handwritten note that was attached with a raffia ribbon every time I opened the pantry door. I didn’t dare move it or eat any more of those cookies. As if it was a sacred shrine to her. That the cookies were my last bit of her I had.  A whole year went by and I had those cookies in my pantry. And then one day, I thought, Julie would be so pissed if she knew I wasted those cookies!! Not only was she a stickler for neatness, she wouldn’t let anything go to waste. She had a very sophisticated palette and she kind of scared me, because everything she did was perfect. Every time she cooked it was like a Bon Appetit magazine spread. She insisted on quality and taste, never cutting corners or falling into the traps of ‘boxed’ or ‘name brands’. Heaven forbid I open a box of Kraft!!

So I took the bag and emptied the hard and crumbly cookie remains in the garbage. I apologized to the spirit of Julie, wherever she was. I kept the gift bag and the note with her handwriting among my keepsakes of cards and notes from loved ones and I drank the tea from the tin and saved it to keep more loose tea in it still today. I knew that she would’ve thought it silly not to actually EAT the cookies she baked, but she would be glad that I’m at least using the tea tin.

The pain of a friend passing is not that of a son, daughter, parent or spouse even. I won’t even pretend I know your pain.  Sometimes your sadness puts you in that dark hole of wishing everyone else wasn’t so damn happy. But then I think there’s a purpose to the world that keeps turning. With each year, the happiness can start to outshadow the sadness. Like a moon waxing from new to full. There’s a little sliver of brightness coming around with each season. It starts with darkness and ends with a ball of light.

I hope that any of you facing a painful Christmas, that first or several after, can see the light that comes around. That knows even though you are aching inside, it’s okay to be happy sometimes. It’s okay to laugh at Elf, to sing along to Perry Como or enjoy the lights on the neighbors house, to get a little tipsy at the cocktail party with friends. Because those that we miss, would want us to enjoy what probably gave them the most happiness. And for the rest of us, hopefully we can stop and appreciate the joys of the season and not just dwell on the craziness and stress.