Food for Thought

Norman-Rockwell-Thanksgiving-thanksgiving-2927689-375-479A generation ago, when you’d visit a friend’s house, the first-generation American mom would feed you.  There was always food available in the house and it was homemade.  It was an insult to the family to refuse to eat something.  Many cultures are food-based, though here in America we are becoming food freaks.  Although I’m getting old now, it hasn’t been that long ago that I can remember a culture where nothing was wasted.  I remember pie crust made with lard and a can on the stove with the morning’s bacon grease to be spread on bread at lunch at my grandfather’s house.  My dad ate pickled pigs’ feet and really smelly cheese.

We’ve evolved to be somewhat healthier human beings but we certainly aren’t healthier in proportion to the “healthier” foods we’re eating.  Fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free…we should be extremely thin and living forever!  Paleo diet worked for paleo man who had an average lifespan of – what – 40 years?

The crazy stuff we eat is trendy but definitely not sustainable.

We were born to enjoy food and enjoy the act of eating.  We like to have dinner together because it’s a social activity for which we are pre-programmed as humans.  Food is a pleasure, and one that we like to share.

This is why, at my house on Thanksgiving this coming Thursday, I will be sharing a huge feast with people whom I love dearly.  We will be eating family recipes that have been on the table for three generations that I can verify and suspect have been on tables I’ve never seen.  We will have just as much dessert (pies) available as we have dinner.  We’ll have a large loaf of plain ol’ white bread and Miracle Whip for late night sandwiches even though we’re stuffed from dinner.  We will feel like a family.

There will be no kale, no fat-free or sugar-free, or counting calories.  We will absolutely enjoy the day and the meal and will look forward to it fondly for next year too.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Published in: on November 21, 2014 at 7:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sometimes Family Sucks

1422356_665641110122635_595403514_nMy birth family sucks.  There are five siblings in my family.  Three of them live within a 30-minute drive from me and the other one visits the area frequently, but I haven’t seen any of them in over two years.  For my birthday this year, three of the four sent me a two-word greeting via text message.  I hear nothing from them at Christmas, not even a tweet much less a phone call.

I have un-friended them all on facebook because their posts were making me sick.  Last Christmas, one sister posted about all the holiday greetings she was sending, including several care boxes to service people overseas (which, by the way, I do support and admire).  All her “friends” liked and commented on her posts, raving about what a loving, warm person she is.  Loving to everyone except her sister apparently.  She posts all the time and has this posse of friends who tell her constantly what a beautiful person she is.  Yet, when she comes to town, I don’t get a phone call much less a visit.  Not exactly warm and fuzzy to the person who probably knows her best.

I have never received a thank you note from my nephew for a wedding gift I could not afford.  That part of the family has done better than well when it comes to money and they seem to thumb their noses at those less fortunate.  Throughout their lives, I’d send birthday cards to these children and include a little ($5 or so) gift with it.  I know they didn’t need it, but thought the kids would enjoy opening a card with a little treat inside.  This thought was never reciprocated for my children, nor was I ever thanked.

I used to work hard at trying to be a family.  I’d remember their birthdays.  I’d send little gifts when I found something I thought they’d like.  Sometimes I would call and invite them to lunch on their birthdays.  Yet, my birthdays came and went without acknowledgement other than the occasional text message.  I broke my ankle a year ago January and spent three days in the hospital after surgery, and six weeks non-weight-bearing, pretty much in bed.  Not even a single phone call.

Okay…this situation used to depress the hell out of me.  I thought I wanted a close family, one that was always there when I needed them.  I was repeatedly disappointed and hurt.  I’d dream about Christmases with my adult sibling-friends by the fireside.  You know… those people who love you unconditionally even though they know you inside and out.  The people with whom you could just be yourself. Additionally, I felt that as I got older, these siblings should and would be a comforting part of the aging process.  After all, we were getting old together.  We’d raised our children.  It was time to get back to the basics.  We had a common denominator.

Then I changed my mindset and it changed my life.  I can’t control people.  I cannot make this group of people loosely chained together by a soft chain of DNA into the idea of a perfectly tight-knit family.  Once I realized this, I could feel the tension seep from my body concerning them.  I wanted them to be something they didn’t want to be, not to me or to each other. I am the oldest surviving person in my family on my dad’s side now.  When mom passed away four years ago, I suspected we’d drift apart, but I wasn’t prepared for the rays of bumpy wake that would separate us as we all moved on without each other.

I have stopped wanting them in my life.  I’ve realized that their priorities are not my priorities.  When I objectively sit back and look at them, we are too different to be friends.  We don’t really know much about each other any more.  We are simply a small group of people with the same parentage who shared the same last name for a few years.  Other than that, we are complete strangers.

There may not be a perfect Norman Rockwell-esque family.  This idealization is perpetuated by images we see on TV, in magazines, and in other people’s lives, but it is not my reality and I suspect it may be the exception rather than the rule.  These images only foster and perpetuate sadness and depression in those inclined to experience it.

What’s important is that I’ve now given them permission to not live up to my expectations and I’ve stopped being angry.  With the holidays approaching, I am concentrating on my own children and the perfectly imperfect family we have created that loves and respects each other and joyfully comes together in warmth and love.


Published in: on October 30, 2014 at 10:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Have You Started Your Holiday Shopping Yet?

In two days, Halloween 2014 will be a memory and CHRISTMAS SEASON WILL BE IN FULL SWING!  Forget Thanksgiving, that’s a holiday without gifts or decorations to speak of (yet).  Well, not to give anyone any ideas, but I haven’t seen a blow-up turkey on anyone’s lawn yet.

Time to get going on that holiday SHOPPING!  Buy, buy, buy and buy some more.  I’ve heard tales of people paying for their holiday purchases for months into the New Year?  Huh?

As I think back about all the Christmases I’ve experienced (a lot), what stands out in my mind are the experiences.  I grew up in a family of five kids and we got stuff but I don’t remember anything specifically unless it’s in a photograph somewhere.  I had four kids of my own and now have five grandkids.  I remember them having fabulous holidays with lots and lots of decorations and lots and lots of presents for everyone.  I don’t recall much of what I got for them and I know they don’t much remember what was in any of those brightly papered boxes either.

What we all remember are the experiences we had together.  Every year, we’d give them tickets to an event post-holiday.  For example, the ice shows came to Chicago in January and we’d give them tickets for Christmas.  It made the holidays last so much longer as they anticipated the event.  We’d still be celebrating long after the tree came down.  IMG_0108We started doing that for birthdays, too.  One year, we rented a fishing charter and all went salmon fishing on Lake Michigan to celebrate the summer birthdays.

Now, when we sit around reminiscing at the Thanksgiving table, the stories that always appear are, “Remember the time we had that whipped cream fight – when was that, two years ago?”  “Remember when we all went to Stomp and stomped our feet til they were numb?”  “Remember the salmon we had smoked and ate for an entire year?”

I’m already thinking about what’s coming to town after the holidays so my grandkids and I can have a memory to re-live on future Thanksgivings, even when I’m not there to reminisce with them anymore.

Published in: on October 29, 2014 at 8:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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