Mother’s Day 2022

As mentioned previously I had a splendid Mother’s Day. 

Rock Star came up on Saturday because we went to the Garth Brooks concert. It was so much better than the concert we went to in October of 2019. That one was good; make no mistake. But the weather was miserable.This was the beginning of his stadium tour. It was outside in October. Which could have gone either way. The weather had been quite nice actually up until the time of the actual concert. We dealt with freezing rain and temperatures in the 30s. My feet were frozen. And since this concert was being filmed for the special that aired in December of that year we had to do a lot of stopping and starting and repeating.

This time though the weather was perfect. There were no cameras for filming so the concert flowed. He didn’t come on until 8:30, I believe, but he proceeded to entertain us for 2 and a half hours. He made his entrance hanging off a piece of stage equipment. He joked. He sang. 

I have to tell you, if you’ve never seen him in concert, the man is an amazing performer. He plays all of his big hits. At one point he was talking about a band member and how this band member had taught him to play the guitar, taught him three cords. He played those three cords and the crowd went wild. It was “Friends In Low Places”. He even sang the third verse. 

He has a way of making every crowd feel like they’re the best he’s ever experienced. And seemed genuinely shocked when he would play the real old songs and the crowd would burst into song along with him. He also loves reading the signs and singing the songs the fans are begging him to sing.

I said he played for 2 1/2 hours. I’m pretty sure a solid hour of that was the encore. He came back on and sang a few songs before starting the cover of “Shallow.” Up pops Trisha Yearwood to join him. She ended up singing one of her songs, “She’s In Love With the Boy,” as well, and then sang backup on a few more songs for her husband.

Then he did a second encore! The second encore was pretty much all sing alongs. It wasn’t his stuff but they were all well known songs, like “Piano Man”. We’d all sing with him and it was usually just one verse and a chorus before he’d go on to the next one. He did that with his first encore, too, where he was signing the songs the fans had written on poster board.

Anyway, it was amazing. It was probably the best concert I’ve ever been to. I’m so glad I got to share the experience with my daughter, my mom, the mobster, and Sweet J.

Earlier that day I treated myself because it was Mother’s Day weekend. I bought myself a new pair of Hokas and a new computer. It’s still not set up, primarily because it didn’t come with Windows and I’m trying to decide if I want to spend the money to lease it. I’ll also have to remember what my password was to my blog.

We had biscuits and gravy in the morning on Mother’s Day. My brother came over later and made beef stroganoff for us, with a little help from me. My daughter gave me flowers and some really great pictures of the two of us. She made picture frames, too. My son couldn’t wait for me to open my gift so he had set it up in my bedroom when I got back from the concert. He bought me a gold plated rose.

I don’t know if any of you remember The Rose of Death story I told about my 20 year anniversary gift from Jerry Lee. The cliff notes version for those of you who have never read it or have perhaps forgotten it is this: For our 20th anniversary Jerry Lee bought me a platinum plated rose mounted on a wooden stand. He paid over $100 for this. I was not a fan. It might not have been so bad except when I was opening the package I saw something about a family tree with little picture fames for the family so I thought that was what I was getting. And also, really? 20 years together and your gift is a platinum dipped rose? I was very disappointed. It would have been a perfectly fine gift for my birthday or Christmas or even Mother’s Day.

Back to present day. My mom told me he had showed her what he bought. She said he was so proud of it. “I finally have money so I can buy her something really nice!” he told her. She said she debated telling me about it because she knew how I had felt about the platinum dipped one years ago. Even Rock Star later admitted that when I brought it out she was inwardly dying. She, too, knew the story about the Rose of Death.

I love the rose my son bought me. It hits a lot differently when it’s your kid buying you something. I love that he wanted to buy me something really special. I love that he put time and thought into it. And I love that he was so proud of his gift. I love that he thinks I’m worth it.

Along with the rose he gave me a handwritten note. Basically it thanked me for being there and supporting him through the rough time he has had the past year or so.

How was your Mother’s Day?

A Belated Mother’s Day Message (Or An Early Father’s Day Message)

Mother’s Day has come and gone. Mine was splendid but I’ll write about that later. It’s a little late to save the moms this year but if I have any male readers dealing with cheating wives maybe I can save you some heartache this coming Father’s Day.

I saw so many people this year hurt and bewildered by their ex or soon-to-be-ex not wishing them a happy Mother’s Day.

I’m the mother of his child(ren) and he didn’t even wish me a happy Mother’s Day! You’d think the least he could do is acknowledge that. We were together for X number of years. I’m the one raising his kids, the ones he left behind. Is it that difficult for him to do this one small thing and recognize me on Mother’s Day?

Yes! Yes, it is asking for too much to expect him to acknowledge you on Mother’s Day. He couldn’t keep his dick in his pants while you were married/living together/in a relationship. Showing you any sign of respect is not his strong suit. What makes you think he’s going to treat you better now than when you were actually together? Before you at least served a purpose. You cooked his meals, kept his house, did his laundry, made sure the bills were paid, kept his life in order, had sex with him. You made him look like a stable, normal human being. Now you’re just a nuisance to him.

I know that sounds harsh and I’m sorry. There’s simply no way to sugar coat it. As Chump Lady says over and over, “You cannot look to the person who hurt you to help you heal.” That’s like asking your kidnapper to help you escape.

Maybe I am blessed with the ability to shut things off when I see them going south. I was all in with Jerry Lee and our wreckconciliation until I got the news from The Saint about Jerry Lee lying about where he had been. When I found out Jerry Lee was messing around with Harley again I was done. I wasn’t looking forward to what needed to happen but I knew it was over. I had warned him two years prior.

I remember my first anniversary post separation. Rock Star bought me candy and flowers. I took my kids to Olive Garden (ironically, an hour’s drive away from where we were living). I focused on making the day about them. Never in a million years was I expecting Jerry Lee to even mention the day in passing, much less send me a message acknowledging our anniversary or send me flowers.

I didn’t expect him to recognize my birthday and I wasn’t sitting on pins and needles wondering if he would do anything for me for Mother’s Day. Most of the time he half assed it while we were married. Why on earth would I expect him to pull out all the stops now that he was fucking his cousin?

Is it because we’ve been fed this constant stream of conscious uncoupling bullshit? Are we really buying into this narrative that “divorce doesn’t mean you’re no longer a family; it just means your family has been rearranged slightly,”?

I’ll say it again. You cannot expect the person who broke you to help put you back together. They are not capable of it. They have no vested interest in doing so. There’s nothing in it for them.

Protect your heart. Don’t expect anything out of them. Don’t expect humanity. This is your ex for a reason. When you no longer expect, or better yet, don’t even want acknowledgement from them on your birthday or Mother’s Day or Christmas you take away their power to hurt you.

Gentlemen, if you were wishing your cheating ex’s a Happy Mother’s Day- STOP! They don’t appreciate it and they don’t deserve it. It ends up making you feel bad because your acknowledgement falls on deaf ears and frequently is met with dead silence. It’s no longer your job to celebrate your children’s mother. Someone else can do that, and if she’s got no one else, well, she’s got no one else to blame but herself for her circumstances.

Ladies, I failed you on Mother’s Day but keep in mind, the above message goes for you as well on Father’s Day. You aren’t taking the high road by celebrating him when he ignores you. You are eating a giant shit sandwich and telling yourself it tastes wonderful. Please stop.

If your kids are old enough to buy a gift for him on their own, let them. If your kids aren’t old enough to do that, and they actually want to do something for him I’ve heard many people suggest letting them make him a card or draw him a picture. If you’re feeling rather generous maybe take them to the dollar store or some big box store and give them a budget of $5 or less. If your kids don’t ask to do anything, or maybe they’re not even old enough to do anything, don’t do anything for him. It’s not your job.

Take back your power. Take back your sanity. Don’t let them hurt you this way anymore.

The Warm, Soft Glow of Christmas Lights

One of my favorite things to do during Christmas is to sit in the still darkness while the Christmas lights softly glow around me. There is something so peaceful about this. I think the best time to do this is in the early morning when everyone is sleeping and all you can hear are the quiet sounds of the household. I sit there quietly, sometimes reading on my phone, sometimes doing nothing, and let the feeling of Christmas wash over me.

It seems like every time I’m with the mobster we are going, going, going! We go a hundred miles an hour, trying to wring every last second out of our time together. It’s usually on that very last day or evening that we finally sit and simply take it all in. It’s kind of like those moments in the dark in front of the Christmas tree.

This year when I went down to visit him for our Christmas together we made it a point to sit on his screened in porch in front of one of his two Christmas trees and just be. We had a cup of coffee and there may have been food. I don’t remember. We looked at the lights and simply enjoyed our quiet time together. In fact, that’s where we ended up opening our gifts to one another as well.

I think that maybe what I’ve been searching for these last few years is the feeling of Christmas. The Hallmark movies I enjoy the most are the ones that show the town coming together and people enjoying traditions and time spent with loved ones. It’s the spirit of Christmas and how they show that. I don’t care about the love story. They could have an entire movie about the town’s Christmas festival and if they didn’t showcase a single romance I would not be sad at all. Sitting quietly while I watch the lights brings that feeling back to me, if only for a few minutes.

Now, in our household, all things Christmas are done. The decorations are put away. The lights will wait until next year to make another appearance. My daughter is already headed back to school. Thankfully I have the mobster’s visit on New Year’s Eve to keep the holiday blues at bay.

Now it’s on to holiday leftovers. Get ready for the New Year, everyone. 

Christmas 2020

For being in the middle of a pandemic it wasn’t a bad Christmas. You don’t always know how the holidays are going to turn out. I think Christmas brings with it a lot of pressure.

Think about it. The stores start putting out Christmas decorations in September. I’ve actually seen Christmas displays in Hobby Lobby in July. Not large displays, mind you, but they definitely have stuff out. Then you have the Christmas ads that begin to run in September. Sometimes that’s just so they can say they’ve had the first Christmas ad of the season but they are definitely appearing by early November, if not in October. You’ve got radio stations that begin playing Christmas music on November 1st. Thanksgiving is treated like a precursor to Christmas a lot of times. There’s Black Friday for in person shopping and Black Monday for online shopping.

Speaking of which, did everyone prefer the way the retailers went about it this year? I was so glad not to be overwhelmed with deals and sales that one day on Thanksgiving this year. I liked how almost all of the stores were closed for all of Thanksgiving. I was never one of those who was planning on boycotting any store that was open on Thanksgiving (I’m also not a fan of Black Friday shopping and do most of mine online) but I thought it was a lovely return to times in the past where holidays were actually spent with family instead of rushing out to begin buying for Christmas.

Anyway, there is tons of stress surrounding the holidays and trying to make everything perfect. And with this year being a year of social distancing and sickness no one was really sure how this was going to play out.

My only disappointment this year was not being able to do the cookie exchange/white elephant gift with my friends. Covid hit a little too close to home right before the holidays so that was scrapped.

I did my Christmas baking and I think I made almost a perfect amount of food. There was probably a little too much and I have definitely been eating way too much. They call it Christmas crack for a reason.

I had a lovely time in Virginia with the amazing mobster earlier in the month. We played some Pokemon Go, did some Christmas baking, opened our gifts to one another, ate some great food, and just enjoyed each other’s company for a longish weekend.

I was a little bit upset about the short amount of time my daughter was spending at home this year. She didn’t come up until the 23rd. I thought she was staying until Tuesday or Wednesday, but it turned out she was scheduled to work so she left on Sunday the 27th. It all turned out okay though. It was good having her home and we have made plans for me to go down there to see her in January.

We weren’t sure how Christmas Eve was going to play out. Our Christmas Eve gatherings used to be so large that we would have appetizers for dinner because people came and went. Many years my mom and stepfather would invite friends over on Christmas Eve. Both of my brothers and their families were present. My stepsister and her kids started coming over. It was a big cheerful bunch. 

Over the years that has changed. The friends of my mom and stepdad have passed. My stepdad passed. My one brother has not been up for Christmas in close to ten years. My niece, Florence Nightengale, hasn’t been up for Christmas since she got married last September and when she doesn’t come up, her brother doesn’t come up either. My stepsister had to work both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Her daughter who is in grad school in Chicago opted not to come over because of Chicago’s Covid-19 restrictions. Her son and his wife had texted earlier in the week to say that they would be coming over but probably wouldn’t be staying long. My sister-in-law also worked on Christmas Eve.

It turned out to be a really good Christmas Eve though. My nephew and his wife ended up staying for several hours, and they were more talkative than they’ve been in years. Probably because they usually stick together in one little pod of four when they come together. This year they had no choice but to talk to the others.

My friend Sweet J is dealing with her crazy family so she opted to come over for Christmas Eve instead of dealing with them.

My son’s friend came by to drop off a gift for him. I asked him if he would like a plate of cookies to take home with him. He was hesitant to take it because he was dropping off gifts. I’m not sure if he thought he could only have them if he stayed and ate, but I told him I would be more than happy to fix a plate and he could take them with him. He is also friends with my nephew and said his was the last gift he had to drop off. I jokingly said, “If you’d waited until 5 he would have been over here and you could have killed two birds with one stone.” Well, that started off a chain of events that led to him being over at our house until 10:30 or 11:00 that night. He ended up staying for dinner and trying green bean casserole for the first time in his life. He sat with us while we opened gifts. I felt bad because there was nothing for him except for what my nephew had gifted him but it was pretty obvious his mom was not picking him up any time soon and we had a houseful of people waiting to open gifts.

Picasso and I pooled our money together and bought my brother a knighthood from Sealander.  Picasso asked him, “How does it feel Sir Uncle C?”

We had a feast of seven layer salad, deviled eggs, ham, Swedish meatballs, scalloped potatoes, corn casserole, broccoli, cheese and rice casserole, green bean casserole, and Texas Roadhouse rolls (yes, you can buy those suckers frozen and take them home!). There was pie but I don’t think we ever got around to eating it. We also had cheese and summer sausage and shrimp cocktail before dinner.

I got some amazing gifts, including a beautiful Mom necklace from my daughter, 2 bottles of my favorite wine from a local winery, and a giant stuffed Eevee from my son.

Christmas Day I had a full stocking. I had to have a little conversation with my kids about that because last year I was the only one without a stocking. I fill theirs and my mom’s and I had nada. But they made up for it this year. I got a huge coffee mug, another polar bear ornament (in addition to the two my mom gifted me), a wine journal, sugar free chocolate, and some gift cards.

Both of my kids loved their gifts. All of them. The gifts they opened on Christmas Eve and the ones they found on the mantle and in their stockings on Christmas morning. Picasso loved his record player and the vinyl albums he got and Rock Star loved all of the clothes, shoes, and jewelry.

I made a breakfast casserole and cinnamon rolls in the morning. Queen B and my nephew (I need to give him a name- I think I’ll call him C2) came over a little later in the day to play Phase 10. My brother showed up as well.

You’ve never played Phase 10 until you’ve played it with him. He always wants to know who’s in the lead and how many points. Then he’s always sure to tell you who you should be skipping. This year he began the tradition of the Skip Box because people would forget they were skipped. Or rather, they would attempt to play when they were skipped and insist they had already served their skip. So he handed out the Skip Box. You can give it back once you’ve been skipped.

Picasso’s friend came over again because he was interested in playing Phase 10. He took my brother’s spot because he had to go back home. He and my sister-in-law were going over to the neighbor’s house for Christmas dinner.

Queen B left to go meet up with one of her friends and we ordered Chinese food for those of us remaining.

I sent Merry Christmas messages to my friends both near and far and got many back in return. Plus, I had a few video chats with the mobster and his Christmas guests.

It was a wonderful Christmas. I’m hoping next year will be equally wonderful. Maybe a little less food because we have so much left over. My mom and I both have said we are not cooking for several days.

Christmas 2020 is in the books. Time to start planning Christmas 2021.

Christmas Always Finds Me

This is a new one. It’s new for me and it’s new for everyone. It was released in October of this year.

There is something so simple and yet so sweet about this song. I tend to really enjoy the upbeat, fast tempo songs like Kelly Clarkson’s “Underneath the Tree” or Mariah Carey’s, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” but I love this one by Ingrid Andress.

Maybe it’s the message. No matter the age, no matter the circumstances, Christmas always finds her. She may no longer view Christmas with childlike wonder, asking for rollerskates and pixie sticks, and she may no longer be eyeing all the presents stacked underneath the Christmas tree, but the spirit of Christmas remains. 

I think this song touches me so much because it captures what I’m so desperately searching for- that feeling of Christmas.

Another year older

A little harder to believe

But somehow 

Christmas always finds me

You Make It Feel Like Christmas

I *love* this Christmas song, although I’m not quite sure it’s really a Christmas song. Gwen and Blake sing, “You make it feel like Christmas.” They don’t say it actually is Christmas. Nonetheless, it gets a lot of play time during the holiday season and it’s a special song for me and the mobster.

A couple of Christmases ago we spent a weekend at an AirBnB. We always refer to it as The Orient. It was one of our weekends where we decided we weren’t going to run around trying to do as much as possible. I think we actually went out Christmas shopping and exchanged our gifts with each other and put together stockings for our kids.

Later in the evening we listened to hours of Bill Burr’s standup specials, and we did a Christmas puzzle. We also listened to Christmas songs and this was one of those songs the mobster fell in love with. We played it over and over again.

It’s a catchy little tune. It doesn’t hurt that I can completely relate to the lyrics.

Thought I was done for, thought that love had died

But you came along, I swear you saved my life

I wanna thank you, baby

‘Cause you make it feel like Christmas

Yep, that was me. I wasn’t looking for love. I didn’t think I would ever be happy again. My life was pretty much an empty, gray, depressing void. Then the mobster came along, fell out of a tree, landed on my head, and helped me begin a new life. He really does make every day feel like Christmas.

Sweet gingerbread made with molasses

My heart skipped and I reacted

Can’t believe that this is happening

Like a present sent from God

Sleigh bells singing hallelujah

Stars are shining on us, too

I wanna thank you, baby

You make it feel like Christmas

Christmas Carols

It’s almost Christmas. I don’t feel like taking on cheaters or their minions. I would like to retain some Christmas cheer and concentrate on this most wonderful time of the year.

I’ve been listening to Christmas music a lot at work. It usually puts me in a pretty good mood. I thought I would share some of my favorites with you over the next couple of days.

The first one I’m going to suggest is one of the most recent songs I’ve downloaded. It’s “The Little Drummer Boy” by Carrie Underwood and her son Isaiah Fisher.

Ordinarily this song makes me cry a lot of times. There’s something so sweet about this little drummer boy who is meeting the baby Jesus and wants to give Him a gift. Alas, he is a poor boy, too, and he has nothing to give the baby aside from the gift of music. I don’t know why but this always touches my heart.

Carrie’s version with her son is adorable. She already has a voice like an angel. She begins the song and sings the chorus. Her son sings the parts where the little drummer boy would be talking. He has a sweet little singing voice and he can’t say his R’s correctly which makes it even more adorable.

It puts the biggest smile on my face. I don’t know how she got through that song because as a mother I would have been bawling if I did a duet like that with my cute little kid.

I hope you enjoy the song as much as I do.

The Chipmunk Song

What is it with that guy on that Christmas song? Is his name Dave? I know it’s Dave in the movies; not sure it’s ever mentioned in the song.

First thing you hear as the song begins is him asking each adorable chipmunk if he’s ready. 

Okay, Simon? 

Okay! 

Okay, Theodore? 

Okay! 

Okay, Alvin? Alvin? ALVIN!!!  

What is this guy’s fucking problem? He’s screaming at a poor little chipmunk. What has Alvin really done? It’s not like he’s goofing off. He’s simply not responding as quickly as his two suck up brothers. Dave calls him twice and then he loses his damn mind. Why is he yelling at him and what is with his short fuse? He seems like a horrible manager.

Has he ever thought that maybe if he talked to Alvin in a nicer tone of voice Alvin might be a bit more responsive? Alvin might be more inclined to pay attention and give his best efforts towards this Christmas song. I don’t blame him for not wanting to work with that jerk or for not paying attention.

Then he does it again- after insulting him! He compliments Simon and Theodore (That was very good, Simon; that was very good, Theodore!) but tells Alvin he was a little flat, and when Alvin doesn’t immediately tell him he’s so sorry about his failings as a singing chipmunk he yells at him AGAIN! Alvin. Alvin! ALVIN!!!

Whenever I listen to this at work I get irritated with him every single time. Stop yelling at him! Maybe if he treated him with a little bit of respect and kindness he wouldn’t have these issues with Alvin. I think we all respond better to constructive criticism instead of screaming and yelling.

At the end of the song, when he’s telling them they’ve sang enough and need to rest, it sounds like the chipmunks are getting ready to attack him. They are chattering up a storm. Now, maybe it’s just Alvin. Or maybe Alvin has finally galvanized his brothers to rally around him. I don’t know. What I do know is I wouldn’t want to be that guy that spent the day yelling at poor little Alvin. Because it sounds like they’re really pissed. And we all know the last thing you want is a pissed off chipmunk. I’m solidly rooting for Alvin if it comes to that.

Thanksgiving, Part 2

Writing my post late at night (early in the morning) brought back memories of Thanksgivings past, and of what could have been this year. It was a good day, especially considering everything that’s going on. At one point I thought my head would explode. That was back when the CDC, or maybe it was Fauci, was telling everyone to stay home for Thanksgiving and giving lovely alternate ideas, such as a recipe swap or a Zoom Thanksgiving.

Really? A recipe swap? What kind of bullshit is that? 

Hey guys! Instead of eating we’re going to do something different this year. We’re going to swap recipes! Won’t that be fun? I’ll tell Nana how I make my stuffing and she’ll tell me how she makes her famous pumpkin pie. Yeah, we’re not going to eat. We’re just going to swap recipes.

That was about the dumbest idea I think I’ve ever heard. Swapping recipes does not compensate for not seeing your family. It’s not even close. Just don’t even celebrate the damn holiday if that’s what you’re going to do.

I’m equally glad we didn’t have to have a Zoom Thanksgiving.

Hey, that stuffing looks fantastic. Can you put some on my plate? Oh wait! I forgot we’re at two separate houses. Of course you can’t. I’ll just look at it and think about how great it would be if I could actually eat it. At least it’s better than the recipe swap. This time there’s actually food there.

What is the purpose of that? To torture yourself with all the delicious food that you’re not going to be able to eat because it’s at someone else’s house? Why don’t I sit here and watch you eat an entire chocolate cake, too? That should be fun.

I know a lot of people were not going anywhere, instead choosing to celebrate with only their immediate family. I detest holidays like that. My other brother’s wife always talked about wanting to have Christmas with just the immediate family. She described it as her dream Christmas. It was my idea of a nightmare Christmas. I never understood that. To me, if you’re with immediate family only it’s just another day but with more cooking. Being with extended family is part of the magic of the holidays. It was the one time of the year that everyone was together. Maybe I spent too many years trying to celebrate holidays with only me, Jerry Lee, and the kids. There’s a big difference between choosing that and having it forced upon you. Once we moved to Utah we didn’t spend very many Thanksgivings with family. 

We spent eight Thanksgivings out in Utah and of those eight we went home only one of those. One other year my mom and nephew came out to Utah. There might have been a year that his parents came out but I’m not sure; probably not. The rest of the time it was the four of us, and it was not pleasant.

The first year I cooked and cooked and cooked. For four people. Hours spent in the kitchen. Maybe twenty minutes spent eating. And then I got to clean up and we had leftovers for days. Side note: My kids are not big fans of leftovers. 

That was it. That was our big Thanksgiving celebration. Me cooking all day, Jerry Lee holed up in the bedroom watching TV, and my two kids doing God only knows what. They were probably watching television as well.

The next year I tried doing turkey Manhattans to keep the leftovers to a minimum. That didn’t go over well, and I’m sure I still made a ton of side dishes. Jerry Lee always had to have dumplings and macaroni and cheese. Probably stuffing, too.

Finally, Jerry Lee suggested I order dinner from someplace so that I didn’t have to cook. Which I did. But, re-read the previous paragraph. There was still plenty of cooking to be done. Those places don’t let you customize the meal much. You may get a choice between this side or that, but you can’t list everything you want and they whip it up for you. He insisted on having macaroni and cheese. The kids wanted dumplings. They all wanted corn casserole. I wanted the green bean casserole. One year he started getting snippy with me and told me the whole point of ordering out was so that I didn’t have to cook. I told him if I was the one doing all the cooking and they were all getting their favorites then dammit I was going to have the one damn thing I really wanted!

One year I ordered from Marie Callender’s and I swear I spent an hour microwaving food. It was pre-cooked and had to be reheated. It was good, but it still took a lot of time. And there was no green bean casserole. It was a medley of vegetables.

Another year we ordered from Cracker Barrel. Their stuffing was horrible! The rest of it was fine but I usually only eat stuffing once a year so that was a big disappointment.

Yet another year we ordered from one of the grocery stores. The thing I remember the most about that meal was the amazing cranberry and orange salad they had. So good!

There was always more cooking to be done though and it always took about 2 hours. For four people. The same four people I saw every day.

I don’t want it to sound like every year was horrible. The first two were a bit wobbly. Then when I realized this was how our Thanksgivings were going to go from here on out I decided to take matters into my own hands and figure out a way to make the holiday more bearable when everyone else in our extended family was spending it together.

That’s when I came across Feast With the Beast at our zoo. Fortunately, Utah weather is fairly mild, even in the winter months, so we bundled up and headed out to the zoo every Thanksgiving morning. We got to watch the animals have their “feast”.

The elephants were always a huge draw. They would give them these huge, thousand pound pumpkins and let them smash them and eat them. One year the little baby elephant, Zuri, climbed into the pumpkin and just sat there in all her glory. It was adorable.

The first year we heard the mountain lions as they got their treats. They were big hunks of meat and bones. Our backs were turned as we were focused on something else but the snarls and sounds coming from their cage was something I’ll never forget. It was truly impressive. The next year we were all set to watch it from the beginning but for some reason we never got to see them get their feast again. I think maybe the feeding time was after the time we needed to leave to pick up our food. 

The monkeys and lemurs were always a treat, watching them pick through the food.

It actually wasn’t a horrible time. Sure, there were times Rock Star was playing chicken with Mother Nature, declaring she didn’t want to wear a coat and then complaining that she was cold. But she wouldn’t wear her coat. But she’s cold. So on and so forth until the end of time… 

And for some reason going to the zoo on Thanksgiving was a very popular idea out in Utah. The crowds started becoming an issue for Jerry Lee. Every year he got more and more disgruntled with the people there, complaining that nobody could see the primates eating or that you needed to get to the elephant exhibit about an hour before they were going to smash the pumpkins because the crowds were so huge.

Another thing we started doing was going to the movies. I can’t say for certain that we went every Thanksgiving but I’m pretty sure we saw both Frozen and Enchanted on Thanksgiving. Different years, of course. Same holiday. 

Let me tell you, movies are even bigger than the zoo out there. Like, theaters sold out big. Because I always celebrated with extended family up until that point and we didn’t leave the house I had no idea so many people went to the movies on Thanksgiving. It was mind blowing.

I never understood why there were so many crowds. I knew why we were there. We were over 1500 miles away from our families. It was just us. We were trying to get out of the house and create a tradition instead of sitting at home, feeling sorry for ourselves. But these people had families in town! Never in my life had I gone off and done “things” on holidays. Well, okay, one time when I was in my early twenties two of my friends and I went to a bar Thanksgiving evening. But that was well after dinner. Holidays were spent at the house with the family. We didn’t go to the movies or to the zoo. We socialized with one another.

When I was younger, or rather, before my parents divorced, my parents would host Christmas Eve at our house. My grandparents, great-grandparents and aunt would come over for our Christmas dinner. We always got to open one gift before dinner. Then we had to wait until the dishes were done before we could head over to the tree. Gifts would be opened. Toys put together. Clothes tried on. Eventually we went to bed and waited for Santa to arrive in the morning.

On Christmas morning we woke to see what Santa had brought us and then we headed over to my grandmother’s house for Christmas lunch. It was the same guest list, just a different location. We typically spent the entire day over there and as the day turned to evening my grandmother would unpack the refrigerator and lay out the leftovers.

Even once my parents divorced and we no longer spent the holidays with my grandparents Christmas Eve was all about celebrating with the family. No one else.

I still remember the time I went to the movies with my neighbor and her daughter on Christmas Eve. It was the first time ever that I had been outside the house doing something on Christmas Eve. I was astounded that people actually went places on Christmas Eve because that was always our big celebration. 

I remember, too, my ex-boyfriend’s younger sister wanting to go to a party on Christmas Eve and actually being allowed to go after opening Christmas gifts. Another one that left me shocked.

Things did change over the years. Once I started driving I began taking my brother down to my grandparent’s house so we could spend Christmas Day with them while my mom spent the day at her future husband’s house with their friends.

Through the years my mom and stepdad often invited friends who had no where else to go to celebrate with us. Even today my sister-in-law’s brothers will often join us for one or both of the holidays. It’s not as though we’re anti anyone-who-is-not-family. But for me, the holidays will always be about bringing people together, celebrating, eating, and making memories.

I’ve tried it though. This whole spending the day with immediate family only. It was probably Jerry Lee’s idea, come to think of it. It was a disaster. It was Picasso’s very first Christmas. As usual we drove the two hours to my mom’s for Christmas Eve; however; instead of spending the night down at my mom’s house and spending Christmas Day with her and my brother, we went back up to Michigan. I think Jerry Lee wanted to celebrate the day in our house with only us and the two kids. All was well in the beginning. The kids woke up. Rock Star, age two, was excited to see what Santa brought her. I think we may have even saved her gifts from us to open that morning instead of taking them all down to my mom’s.

Then we went to Cracker Barrel for lunch. Only it wasn’t open. Why? Because Cracker Barrel is closed on Christmas Day. I didn’t know that back in 2002. Long story short, we ended up having Christmas dinner at Denny’s. Instead of a home cooked meal with extended family I had a steak at Denny’s. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of the day was spent with Jerry Lee watching TV and me wrangling babies. What a grand holiday!

Then we moved to Utah. The first two years we made it back home for Christmas. The next three years I would take the kids and we would leave the day after Christmas to celebrate the holiday with my family. Then after about a week I would drive on down to Jerry Lee’s family and celebrate with them as well. Finally two things happened simultaneously.

First, Rock Star finally became an optional in gymnastics. Their season began in January so taking 2-3 weeks off in December was not going to work. Her coaches would have killed her. Probably thrown her off the team. Secondly, and even more of an issue, was the fact that my kids’ school changed from a year round calendar to a traditional school calendar. When my kids were on the year round schedule they had about 4 weeks off at Christmas time. We had plenty of time to go back home and spend the holidays with family. Once we switched to a traditional calendar they had one week off.

After the first Christmas we spent out in Utah by ourselves, the one where the kids opened their gifts Christmas Eve morning and there was nothing to do the rest of the day, I made it a point to fill that day with activities. We went bowling. Sometimes we went to the movies. We went out to dinner. And then we came home and opened Christmas presents. 

The bowling alley was always packed on Christmas Eve and there was a decent crowd at the movies as well. Not as big as Thanksgiving but not empty theaters either.

I can’t complain about our Christmases out there. Aside from the year I nearly had a meltdown because I had been looking forward to our “Crabby Christmas” at Joe’s Crab Shack for months only to not be able to eat at Joe’s Crab Shack, they were pretty good days. Then again, I jam packed those suckers, too, and it’s not like we sat at home doing nothing.

All of this wandering down memory lane only to say I’m very thankful I was able to spend it with family after all.

Another Thanksgiving In the Books

It’s past midnight so technically it’s no longer Thanksgiving but I thought I’d write a Thanksgiving post anyway.

I got up and ran 3.25 miles so I could justify having some pumpkin pie and all the carbs I was going to consume. When I got back, even before jumping in the shower, I started cooking. My mom and I split the cooking. She did a new recipe for cranberries which was really good. She also made the green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, the turkey, and deviled eggs.

For as long as I can remember every holiday meal has included my mom’s deviled eggs. With the exception of Picasso, and maybe my nephew, we all love them. Some years we even fight over them. She’s learned from her mistakes though and makes quite a few of them so we don’t have to fight to the death for the last one.

The turkey was actually pretty good this year. I’ve often said it’s my least favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal. I could easily have a Thanksgiving feast with only sides. Stuffing? Love it! Green bean casserole? Oh, give me a heaping pile of that. Pumpkin pie? Yes, please! I’ll even take the mashed potatoes and dumplings over the turkey usually. But this year it was good.

For my part I made the obligatory corn casserole, dumplings, stuffing, and a meatloaf. I think it’s now a tradition for me to make a meatloaf along with the turkey. This is the second year now that I’ve made a meatloaf. Last year I made one because my niece asked me to and buttered me up by telling me how much she loved my meatloaf. Of course, she also does not like turkey. This year my mom asked me to make one because she wasn’t sure that the FOURTEEN POUND turkey would feed the seven of us. The bonus was my niece was not expecting it so she was very excited when she found out there was meatloaf.

I am contractually bound to make corn casserole and dumplings every Thanksgiving. One year I didn’t make it and I thought my brother was going to grieve himself to death. “It’s just not Thanksgiving dinner without your corn casserole!” The funny part is I don’t even eat it. It’s something everyone else seems to like though.

My brother is a funny one. He is never the one to cook but he frequently likes to plan the menu. I keep trying to sell soup and salad for a holiday meal and he’s having none of it. This year he checked to make sure the corn casserole and green bean casserole were going to be on the table. I told him I was making the corn casserole and I thought Mom was going to make the green bean casserole. He told me if she wasn’t planning on doing so to let him know what all was in it and he’d do it himself.

What all is in it? How is the man in his 40s and ignorant of what all goes into green bean casserole? It’s not a complicated recipe. Green beans, cream of mushroom soup, dried french onions. Boom! There’s your recipe. Does it really need to be spelled out as to how to assemble it? I don’t think so.

I’m sure you’ll all be relieved to know he approved the menu and said that this would do nicely for Christmas Eve, just switch out the turkey with ham, and maybe I could also make my cheesy broccoli and rice casserole.

It was a fairly small gathering but that’s nothing new. Typically on Thanksgiving it’s only me, my mom, my two kids and then my brother and his family. My sister-in-law was working today so it was just the seven of us. Sweet J was invited but she’s been under the weather this past week so she didn’t attend. No, she doesn’t have Covid-19; she’s been tested twice now and both tests were negative. She’s just sick.

Picasso went home with my brother because they’re going out hunting again tomorrow. He’ll be gone all weekend unless they both get a deer the first day. 

I’m not clear on Rock Star’s timeline but I think she’s going back to school before Sunday. Tomorrow we are supposed to go shopping. She thinks she’s going to con me into buying her lots of clothes and shoes. She’s not. It’s way too close to Christmas for me to be taking her clothes shopping. So this ought to be an interesting shopping trip tomorrow (or rather, later today).

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Santa is coming!