Thanksgiving Shenanigans: 31 And Counting!

I sustain myself with the love of family.
– Maya Angelou

Some relationships in families are complicated. We’d like to handpick our family members, but we cannot. But even if we could choose our peeps, we probably wouldn’t get it right anyway.  Think about it.  Over your lifetime, how many of your friendships have come and gone?   Some were short-lived and a few continued for decades.

Thanksgiving is less than one week away.  And let us remember that the holiday is a celebration of unity and gratitude.  If you have a warm place to sleep, food on the table, and are alive, stop and give thanks.  You are blessed. Churches, community centers, food banks, and other generous souls cook, deliver, and serve thousands of meals for less fortunate and homeless individuals. Those of us who have options and do not have to rely on others for the holiday feast need to recognize and not take it for granted.

That said, I ask you to consider your Thanksgiving plans. How so?  If you are prosperous enough to enjoy a meal, then think about a family member who you have not spoken to for some time. Maybe it’s time for you to reconnect. Perhaps it is time to bury the hatchet. You don’t have to become best friends with them.  Enjoy a meal together while giving thanks for being alive and for the opportunity to make amends. Or, at the least, pick up your phone and start a conversation with them.

Each year, I look forward to hosting our family holiday dinner, but 2017 is, generating, even more, excitement for me.

For the first time in my life, I am celebrating
AND hosting Thanksgiving dinner in a new home, outside of NJ….
In Georgia!

As soon as we settled on our home and prepared for our move, we told the  family, “We are still hosting Thanksgiving dinner, so start making travel plans!”

For the last 20+ years, we’ve hosted holiday dinners at our home and although 700+ miles away, I didn’t want that to change.

I wasn’t sure how many would make the trip, but hubby and I put it out there.

Whelp!  As of this writing, there will be 31 of us!!!

Six generations coming together! Oooomygooooodness!  How cool is that?

Our peeps are coming from New Jersey, Washington, DC, Tennessee, Michigan, and from other parts of Georgia.  How friggin awesome!!

Now, with that said. Chile… like most families, we have an assortment of temperaments and personalities!  We are a loving family and, like most, folks butt heads, have conflicts, kiss, and makeup.

However…sadly some folks hold on to grudges have issues and carry their baggage around like it has value and be cashed in for dollars!  So, on Thanksgiving, a few folks with strained relationships are dining under one roof.  The forgiveness conversation with my mom is an ongoing project; however, I remind her, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.”  She is a tough cookie, but that’s the rule in our home.

Sibling conflicts, parental conflicts and more. But you know what, I’m determined to make the occasion positive and memorable and encourage you to do the same.  All relatives deal with conflicts and fallouts, and typically the issue is over dumb sh**.

The pitfall is that some folks cannot get past their pride, their anger, their hurt, and the resentment they feel toward the other person.  Like an Olympic torch, they pass the burden on from one generation to the next. In my family, I continue to do what I can to stop this foolishness.  I’m not having generations of cousins, nieces, nephews disliking each other for nonsense.

Memories lapse, stories change,
but the animosity continues.

If we are to achieve optimum wellness,
we must open our hearts to forgiveness.

By not forgiving others, we are weighed down with trappings that grow heavier by the year.  The baggage inhibits our ability to experience complete joy and happiness.

Consider trying an exercise in writing a forgiveness letter.  Write the letter to the person who hurt and whom you have not forgiven.  Do not give it to them.  Address precisely what they did to you but also why you forgive them.  Set grammar and sentence structure aside, the point is to put your raw feelings on paper.  Pour our your emotions.  Cry if necessary.  Read what you wrote every day for a week.

Forgiving does not right a wrong.  To forgive someone allows you to move on to a place where the anger eventually vanishes. It grants the opportunity for growth and for more positive energy to flow through you.  If you cannot surpass the tension, seek counseling to help you work through it.

Mentally I am prepping harder than usual for Thanksgiving because this is my first Vegan Thanksgiving!  We have always had vegan family members for holiday dinners, but I was eating meat then.

This is the fifth week that I’ve sustained life without chicken, turkey, dairy, or seafood.  I’m singing and dancing around the house to Cool & The Gang’s, Celebration!

Lately, I’ve had a bit of a sweet tooth.  I’m not sure why that is, but I fixed the craving with some bruised apples in a bag.

I washed and peeled six apples.  Add them to a pot with a little water (about a half-cup) and added cinnamon and nutmeg.  NO SUGAR!  I cooked them on low until they softened.  The result is intoxicating!!  If I hadn’t prepared them myself, I would swear that the cook added sugar.  Restraint was in full effect.  I wanted to eat the whole pot in one sitting.

One morning, I had to eat on-the-road, so I went to Starbucks for Oats. They came with nuts and dried fruit. For protein, I added nuts but passed on the dry fruit with 22 grams of sugar.

After eating the darn oats, I realized they probably had dairy in them.  Ugh!! The thought didn’t occur to me to ask for coconut or almond milk and until the cup was empty.  Lol!
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One of my favorite meals of the week is this bowl of red quinoa, black-eyed peas, sautéed mushrooms, and onions.

IMG_5726

Each week my strategy is to cook one to two cups of quinoa, a crock pot of legumes or beans, bunches of kale, and to try something new. This week, I was just too busy preparing for Thanksgiving to do that, but still did just fine.   Later in the week, I can always add additional roasted veggies, which will add a variation to my meals.

I’m working on ideas for next week… hoping to make a few savory vegan dishes so I won’t be tempted by the baked mac & cheese and deep fried turkey.

Since taking on the Vegan challenged, I’ve noticed a few changes.

  1. I feel lighter.  Not like I have lost a bunch of weight but somehow brighter.  Putting into words is hard.
  2. Late afternoon, I no longer feel sluggish and crave power naps. It’s odd because I am not getting any more or less sleep but I have more energy.
  3. I haven’t felt the need for my afternoon cup of java.
  4. Although I’ve been working out intensely pretty much five days a week, in the past week I lost 5 pounds!
  5. I’m feeling a bit more energized.  This is funny because I’m already high energy….when I’m supposed to be resting between sets at the gym, I’m pacing around looking for some cardio sh** to do!  Hubby thinks I’m nuts and can’t figure it out.

This post is longer than planned but, the bottom line is that any change takes times. 

Diet, mindset, attitude— any change in behavior involve a process.  Neither occurs overnight, but YOU must want to make the transition.  You can’t do it for anyone but yourself.  I suggest merely starting today.  Then try again tomorrow and the next day, and the day after that…   Eventually, you will achieve what you seek.

“Everything is hard before it is easy.”

-Goethe J.W

In preparing for the holiday, the upcoming week is going to be hectic… traveling, cooking, making plans for house guests, squeezing in gym time, writing, and more.  But with that said, my goal is not to stress about any of my plans and worry about everything being perfect but to remain mindful, present, and to enjoy the process and the time with my family.  I hope you do the same! I can’t wait to share pics!!

We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable.
It would be wise to use that time adoring our families,
cherishing our friendships, and living our lives.

– Maya Angelou

 

Forgiveness Support

How To Forgive Someone Who Hurt You

Forgive Someone

The Untethered Soul

The Language of Letting Go

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Are You Still Thankful?

Happy Post-Thanksgiving!

I am up early this Black Friday morning. Hubby left for work and B’Dazzle has 10 o’clock football practice.

One place you won’t find me today is engaging in the BF frenzy. I’m sipping on my java watching GMA (Good Morning America). Grown behind men are throwing themselves on to boxes of TV’s. Why? Some folks have lost their minds!

Another image shows a poppy-eyed suspect in the back of a police car… then there’s a blurb of a witness talking about the girl who punched a guy in the face over a Barbie. Why?

Seriously, I just don’t get it.

In 24 hours, folks go from being oh so “thankful” on Thanksgiving Day to out-and-out Greed the very next day. What the heck?

TV’s are a dime a dozen– always on sale somewhere. The retail industry is more competitive than ever, so with Wi-Fi and a little patience, you can find a great price on whatever you want or need.

When our 25 year-old daughter was little, on Black Friday, hubby and I would hit the stores before sunrise to get whatever the hot item was. But still, we didn’t fight over stuff; that’s just silly.

These days, I’m all about the simple life, with absolutely no interest in crowds, lines, traffic, and chaos.

Our extended family usually does huge gift exchanges. This year, I am putting them on notice, to give to a charity as an alternative to giving me a gift that I don’t want or need.

I am still in the mode of gratitude. I am thankful for the love, warmth, and support from my family, extended family, and friends. My life is wonderful and I don’t take it for granted. I am wealthy in health, spirit, and attitude.

Yesterday was relaxing. Our family shared good ole fashion soul food—I still cooked some clean eating food for me too. Lol!

Alex

My pooch Alex.  I can’t believe he sat still for a pic!

family pic

My peeps!

football

Thanksgiving isn’t the same without football

me and curt

According to my daughter, we’re the “coolest 40 something’s” around. 🙂

Today’s agenda? Football practice, the gym, and begin the holiday house decorations.

I hope you enjoyed your holiday and if you’re going shopping, be safe!

Happy Friday! 🙂


Thanksgiving Food Prep

Three days from now and around this time (8:27 p.m.), most people will be rubbing their bellies trying to digest dinner. Maybe even contemplating second or third helpings, or another trip to the desert table.

I was not feelin the kitchen after work this evening, but I’ve been on a roll cooking my share of Thanksgiving dinner, so just like I push myself to go to the gym some days, I pushed myself to cook another dish.

This year’s Thanksgiving eve, I just want to chill and don’t want to be slaving in the kitchen. Everything, except the salmon will be cooked in advance.

Here is six pounds of a blend of collard greens and kale. I wanted to cook the greens vegan style, but my peeps wouldn’t have that. But I think for Christmas dinner, I am just going to cook them without the smoked meat.  That stuff is bad for you! :0(

greens

I cooked them using smoked turkey legs. However, I just couldn’t contribute too much to the clogged arteries, high blood pressure, and added fat. I’m serious! I parboiled the four (4) smoked turkey legs in a handful of fresh garlic cloves and crushed red pepper.

The legs boiled until the skin begin to fall off. I then remove them from the pot and take off the skin, fat, and bones. It’s still unhealthy, but slightly better than with the excess fat.

I layered the greens in the pot with a little of the broth from turkey legs, sweet onions, and this seasoning.

seasoning

The outcome is amazing! I compromise this way because I understand that 20+ folks coming for dinner have not interested in eating clean. A small section of the kitchen counter will be dedicated to clean eating.

I am just about done my cooking.

freezer

The garage freezer!

On Saturday, I cooked six pounds of mac and cheese and  B’Dazzle helped me with 15 pounds of yams by peeling them for me. I’m so lucky! He’s an awesome kid and did a super-duper job. :0)

tailor peeling

On my way home today, I was deeply saddened when I saw a long line at the local food bank. The parking lot was full, an attendant directed traffic, and a long line of cars sat along side a busy roadway waiting for their turn to pick up donated food. I haven’t seen it like this before. A recent and sudden surge of casino closings in Atlantic City has many families struggling… struggling to find work… struggling to provide food for the family… struggling to pay rent/mortgage… heat… electricity… etc…

Regardless of where you live, if you are blessed to enjoy the festivities of a holiday dinner or a daily meal, heat, or a warm and safe place to sleep, I urge you to help someone in need. Invite them to dinner or give food, clothing, or whatever it is you can offer. Every bit of help can make a difference to someone in need.

Don’t judge, be kind, and be generous.

giving

Sweet dreams!


Breaking Thanksgiving Tradition

Thanksgiving 2013 was probably the first in umpteen years that I didn’t start my day with a 10 mile run or an intense workout.

Finally the moment arrived when I had to decide which was most important– finishing dinner for our small gathering of 10 or heading to the gym for about an hour a half to work out. LOL!

Honestly, the gym is what I wanted to do more than anything else. But I realized that I’d be more stressed after the gym trying to complete dinner.

Our holiday dinner yesterday was different from any other. Why? The sudden death of my aunt took a lot of my family to Tennessee. My mother is one of nine sisters. Aunt Gatha was the baby. Auntie was hilarious and made my childhood years so colorful.

Traditionally our Thanksgiving and holiday dinners serve 30+ family, friends, and anyone in need of a meal or just a warm loving environment.

So this year we celebrated Thanksgiving dinner with absence of the family matriarchs with a small intimate group of cousins. This was the FIRST time in my 40+ years that we’ve done this.

For different reasons, we’re all consciously watching our waistline. We decided to break Thanksgiving tradition and skip the turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and a few other staple items.

Instead we created out own little seafood fest! Why? Just because and to create new memories. Also, we love seafood. Life is short… Live it well!

The eve of Thanksgiving was so relaxing.  Unaware of my actions, I captured B’Dazzle enjoying some quiet time.

Both ovens are full and the stove top is in full gear.  Just waiting...

Both ovens are full and the stove top is in full gear. Just waiting…

Usually this table is set for the family elders.  My cousins and I got to  eat at the big table this year.

Usually this table is set for the family elders. My cousins and I got to eat at the big table this year.

While dinner was smaller than usual, I still enjoyed the time with my family.  We chatted and laughed about old times and gave thanks for our blessings.

Me and my favorite little cousin Dom. Love her!

Me and my favorite little cousin Dom. Love her!

I am especially grateful for my wonderful, lifelong, and endless blessings.  Being able to open my home to my family, loved ones, and with others who are in need make the holidays all the more special to me.  No Thanksgiving shopping for me!

Be blessed and enjoy the weekend!


My family’s new Thanksgiving tradition

Yesterday’s Thanksgiving dinner was amazing! It wasn’t the dinner and the deserts that made it special. It was the genuine warmth and love shared among 30+ family and friends in our home which made it exceptional.

Dinner included: Oven baked turkey, deep-fried turkey, stuffing, ham, chicken, salmon, seafood pasta salad, spinach salad, plain baked mac & cheese, baked lobster mac & cheese, yams, baked beans, collard greens, kale, cabbage, carrots, green beans, cabbage, corn muffins, and biscuits.

Desserts included: red velvet cake, coconut cake, chocolate cake, pumpkin bread, sweet potato pies, several apple pies, pumpkin pies, lemon meringue pie, coconut macaroons, and a few other items that I can’t remember.

Outrageous right? This is typical for my family and my memories go as far back as early childhood.

Last week, while preparing for festivities of Thanksgiving, I began thinking about how blessed we are (my family). We’ve never experienced wondering if Thanksgiving dinner would take place. With 12 aunts & uncles, and a surplus of cousins, who I’m still getting to know, our blessings are endless.

As I marveled at my blessings, an intense sensation and desire compelled me to seek out an activity that we could do to pause and to give thanks.

So as family and friends arrived, each was given a paper that included a brief statement about Thanksgiving and instructions to respond to the questions below.  All were asked not to sign their name.

What are you thankful for?

Who are you thankful for?

Everyone was instructed to fold the paper and place it in a designated container and were told that the responses would be read later. Since there are usually many of us, for dinner we are scattered throughout the house. The elders sit at the dining room table, the kids at another designated spot, and the rest of us group together and sit wherever. So before dinner we form a huge circle around the kitchen island, hold hands, and say grace.

I decided that right before we blessed the food was an ideal time to read the comments. I started first by making a brief declaration about why I wanted to perform the ritual and asked all to take part. We each took a paper and read the responses to the two questions.

For me, the moment was heartfelt, surprising, and encouraging. I felt gratified to look around the room and see almost everyone reflecting on the comments and the moment.

My day was highlighted by my friend of 37 years who joined us with her two children for dinner. We’ve been friends since we were 9 years old. Those kind of friends are very hard to come by anymore. Soon she’ll be moving out-of-state and I don’t know when we’ll get together again, so it was important to me that we got to spend some time together.

The second highlight was meeting a new family member for the first time. For privacy reasons, I’ll call her Delia. She joined us along with her husband for dinner. Later in the evening, Deli shared her intimate story with me of how she connected with her paternal father, whom she did not know existed.

Delia was a breath of fresh air! She radiated an abundance of CHI that I wanted to feed off. Although Delia could easily have allowed anger and resentment to invade her spirit, she made a conscious decision to embrace the positive and to become acquainted with her new family.

The last person left the house at around 12:30 a.m. Me, hubby, and our daughter finished cleaning up and headed to bed. Although I was exhausted from the long day, I went to sleep smiling as I thought about my awesome Thanksgiving Day.