Saturday, November 28, 2009

What Was Missing This Thanksgiving

It wasn't until Wednesday morning that Rick and I decided we would make Thanksgiving dinner (rather than drive to his brother's in Grand Rapids.) He was pretty tired and knew he had a long drive to Missouri on Friday; I was just tired. The boys were with their mom. A quiet dinner would be good.

That evening my friend Judy invited us, friends Mike and Kate, and Judy's wonderful daughter and her guy, Dick's parents and next-door neighbors for a small, informal potluck. Subs, dessert. I'd bring the salad bar. So, when I stopped at the market on TG Eve to get my veggies, I picked up a turkey breast to supplement my make-it-easy dinner the next day.

Judy's home is always festive, the mood was warm, loving, grateful and cheery. Through the course of the evening I learned both she and Dick and Mike and Kate (who had celebrated early with their children the weekend before) had no solid Thanksgiving plans. Hmmm.

I've been pretty hesitant to commit to anything in recent weeks. Between my broken rib and Rick's crash recovery, we aren't the most energetic couple on the planet. And the last thing I wanted in my world was stress. It was a non-starter.

But we had this food. I was going to cook it anyway. What's a few more potatoes in the mash or using all the stuffing crumbs instead of half? Why not bring up six turkey plates instead of two? And with a couple of calls, we had a plan.

You need to know this about me -- I am a control freak. No one thinks so and they're often surprised when I say so. But when it comes to holidays, I like plans. Timing. Specifics. Party favors. I don't like it to think of myself that way. But it's there.

So, this "spur of the moment" thing was different for me. And it was wonderful.

I pulled out a bunch of stuff from the closet and art room for a centerpiece. My new gourd, the tablecloth, a basket, some raffia, some craft leaves, candles. I bought flowers the night before. Twenty minutes. Centerpiece.

Dishes had been carefully packed last year and didn't need more than a cursory wiping. Same with the silver. And then came mom's crystal.

I have long believed if you have it, use it. And I'm pretty darned good at using things that would cause at best a heartbroken gasp and at worst a flood of tears of damaged. But I'd never used mom's crystal -- almost paper thin with a mulberry etching -- one she had trouble finding replacements for in the 60s. I was too afraid.

The person I love most in the world and the friends who offer so much richness in my life were coming. If I'm going to break crystal, I want to do it with them. Maybe Rick's near-brush reminded me that I could live my life without using those glasses, and oh, how sad that would be. In many ways, with lots of thoughtful layers, doing so was one of my most meaningful moments of the day.

The menu? Well, apart from the turkey, I had all the stuffing "stuff."

Leftover greens and veggies from the super-salad from the night before (just enough for six!), green beans, jazzed up cranberries and apples (next year I'll go back to the regular relish), mashed potatoes (no milk; low-fat sour cream, butter and compliments!), bread I'd picked up at a bake sale and the homemade apple pie from the high school band fundraiser.

Rick and the guys grilled the turkey down at his place, while at mine Kate's gravy bubbled, the table was ready, the food was in the oven. We sat around the table in my tiny dining area and laughed, talked, shared. And it was wonderful.

My friend Richard (of the Crystal Project for longtime readers of The Gypsy) came by for dessert as we were talking about things over the course of the year for which we were grateful, something I sure many families in our communal world also did. The conversation covered our personal gratitudes (not just the obvious, like "Rick didn't die") but the shifts in our lives for which we were grateful.

Joy after great sadness. A gift. Reconnecting on a different level with now young-adult children. A gift. Connections with friends we'd not seen in a long while -- or perhaps have never "seen" and how they changed our world. A gift. Seeing how the trials so many of us have experienced directly or indirectly this year because of our nation's challenging economic issues has changed our focus into what really matters, how we live our lives, save, make different consumption choices, reframe our values. A gift.

And Richard, who walked in on the middle of this, may have made the most quietly profound observation of all. Gratitude brings with it more gratitude and more for which to be grateful. And sometimes, in the end, the bad isn't always all bad -- even if it takes awhile to find the good. Oh yeah.

It was the nicest Thanksgiving I have ever experienced. And what was missing?

The stress. And the party favors.

Rick is off to visit his family and since my doc said riding in the car with my ribs would be a bad thing, I'm here with the Gypsy for the weekend. My body is telling me to stop. Don't overdo. Rest. It's time I listen.

Friday, November 27, 2009

How I Named My Blog Day

Ruth is promoting "How I Named My Blog Day" on December 1.

Edited Note: Ruth's sign-up post has dropped "below the fold." Here is the direct link to that post and the comments page to sign up! Thanks, Annie, for letting me know!

Much of the copy in this text is based on Ruth's entry but hers is much more fun! Still, read on...

The idea is "How did you name your blog?" Sometimes easy, or a really complex decision that means something powerful to you and intrigues others.

(Why The Marmelade Gypsy -- and why is it spelled that way?) Are the photos in this post clues?

Did you have lots of ideas, or just one. Regrets? Did it launch a new business or path?

Ruth's "inquiring mind" wants to know! So, she's asking bloggers everywhere to take a break from your regular content stream (be it life in general, a thematic blog, a deeply thoughtful series of posts) and tell us ALL how you came to choose your blog name.

Ruth says (and I quote, but really -- you must visit her fabulous blog with gorgeous photos and such delightful content): "On December 1, publish your own "How I Named My Blog"post!!!!

Participate with THOUSANDS - perhaps TENS of THOUSANDS - of Bloggers around the world in this first time ever highly anticipated truly GLOBAL event!

And yes -- she is going to bestow a Major Blog Award to ONE blogger for "How I Named My Blog"

A straightforward name of small proportions may impress her with simplicity, subtlety, nuance and grace?

Or your ordinary name could "unfold a titillating and seductive tale - fiction or non-fiction."

Will your post on this be poetry, humor, essay?

And best of all, she will explain how she named synch-ro-ni-zing on December 1st, too.

(But will she also speak of Paris Deconstructed?)

Ruth says there are no rules or criteria (except no epics), and all are welcome.

Go to THIS LINK (Ruth's) and comment at that post that you are going to participate in posting your very own story of "How I Named My Blog" on December 1, leave the URL for the blog where you will post it, and she will list and link to your blog that day!

Ruth will "read every last one of the posts posted by posting participants and choose a WINNER!!!!

December 1. Be there or be square! Prepost if necessary!

(Really, you must go to the link and read her whole post -- even though I cribbed the top part of it unashamedly. This is a wild and crazy woman on the loose!)

If you want to know more about The Marmelade Gypsy's back story, don't forget to stop back here! And let me know you're playing, too!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

May Your Thanksgiving Day Be Wonderful!

Please feel free to copy any of these antique postcards from my collection for your art. (I should have posted them earlier, but hey, there's always next year!)

We'll celebrate with much to be thankful for this year -- particularly Rick's being OK and those who have been so supportive and loving of us both. That includes you.

And, since my pumpkin roll baking is done, a big monkey is off my back! (Check out last year's pumpkin roll tutorial right here.)

How nice to have days simply to say "thank you."

I'll be back in a couple of days!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Countdown! Almost Here!

Run for your life, Tom Turkey! Your days are numbered!

On this Thanksgiving Eve, I'm grateful for the people who really make my life worth living.

That would include Rick and the boys, of course...

My family and wonderful friends, who hang with me when times are tough, laugh when they are funny and care in so many ways.

Those friends include all of you who read The Marmelade Gypsy and who leave wonderful comments. I love visiting your spots, too. Thank you for inspiring me, motivating me, and enriching my life with your ideas, creativity and thought. You make me smile more often than you know.

I am grateful that we have food on our table, a roof over head, and enough love to keep us going when we get sticker shock at the store.

Enjoy that turkey or whatever you have to celebrate Thanksgiving.

(And if you happen to be in a spot of this world that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you find something wonderful to celebrate this Thursday!

Harvest. Don't you just love it?

Monday, November 23, 2009

'Tis (Almost) the Season...

'Tis almost the season to deck the halls with boughs of holly!

And, while I'm not quite ready to bid farewell to pumpkins and mums, I am stocking up on the greens!

It was greens market day in the charming small Michigan town of Northville, not too far from Ann Arbor for you Michigan folk. And quite the wonderful place it is!

So, my buddy Jan and her mom, aunt and I headed that way for their annual greens market.

Now, we weren't seeing snow flakes -- in fact, after our chill October, November has been remarkably warm if not always sunny. But it was lots better than last year's pouring rain! In fact, it was downright perfect -- sunny, 50s, festive.

Here's Jan -- picking a great wreath. I ended up with a centerpiece, wreath, some holly and a beautiful kissing ball for the hall.

And this gourd woman's work was just amazing.

You can bet I left with something from this stall. A little too much from that stall!

And after, a visit to a wonderful garden/home decorating spot. But the photos for that? That's another post!

Then late lunch/early dinner at a nearby restaurant, and eventually home. I've got to say, with my bruised (broken?) rib(s) and only five hours of sleep, home was good.

Holidays are nearly here -- which leads me to the holiday crazies. Buying the greens is easy; figuring out all the rest of it -- that gets tough!

I've lots of UFOs to finish for an upcoming show, and I'll share some of those soon. Here's one I don't remember posting. Meanwhile, we're just taking it one day at a time!

Rick continues to improve and is appreciating all the good wishes you passed along his way! I'm grateful to finally get back to creativity and for all the inspiration I draw from you! Now if I can get that badly needed dose of energy and rest and a little less discomfort, I'll be a mighty happy camper. That might take a few...

(Now at Chopsticks and String -- a fun new book meme!)

Nearly Gobble Time

I'm grateful for long weekends.

And one is coming soon! At this point, we don't know what we're going to be doing -- travel to see family? Hang home? Both? No matter what, we expect more than a little fun, great food, and some surprises! There are always surprises!

Hard to believe, isn't it, that Thanksgiving is nearly here. I'll be holding my breath that I don't totally blow my Weight Watchers program! Six and counting!

So, here's to long weekends -- just a few days away.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Starting the Day with a Happy Cry

Yesterday before leaving for work, not wanting to wake Rick, I quietly turned on the Today Show hoping to find out more on today's weather. Matt Lauer was introducing Scott Hamilton at the Rockefeller skating rink. He stood there, walker in hand, and was going to make his first public skating appearance in five years, since his multiple cancer surgeries and healing.

I've always liked Scott Hamilton -- he's a great entertainer, wonderful skater, seems like a nice guy. And heaven knows he has guts.He's the ultimate "ice child" who knows how to play -- and knows how to work. Open. A little bit in awe -- but in control.

Carefully he moved the walker to the middle of the rink, holding close. A few knee movements, all "attached" to his metal friend.

And then he let go. Scotty Hamilton was back (no doubt, playing the moment for all it was worth as any good showman should! A ruse, perhaps -- but that it took those five years in-between to get him back there.) Take a look.

I couldn't stop crying.

I want to thank you all for such kind support during the past few days. I'm still running behind but the good news is that Rick is improving and getting stronger daily. He's still very tired, sleeping a lot, says he's not in pain, but wears down. I think that'll be the norm for a bit. But -- like Scott Hamilton -- he's a fighter. And that's a source of great comfort.

We even went out for a bit last night to Jef Mallett's book signing. He saw lots of people he know and felt their energy. Felt like he was "coming back."

So, today I offer up a big heap of gratitude for the human spirit, the survival mechanism we somehow find in ourselves. The ability to fight through the pain, to persevere, to make choices not just to stay alive, but to be alive.

Every now and then we get the reality check that life is one day at a time. That our world can change in a heartbeat. I suppose if one dwells on this negatively, it could be a bad thing -- we would be continually afraid.

But it's worth keeping in mind, to celebrate our lives, our achievements, our friends, and those we love every single day.

To the Ricks and the Scott Hamiltons and Lance Armstrongs of the world who get back on the bike (at the right time) -- or the ice; to every single one of us who have challenges that are truly difficult to slog through, be they physical, emotional, concern, financial or just the plain old crummy side of life, I'm grateful you keep at it. Your being in it makes this world a better place.

Speaking of which, I love you guys. You're the best. Thank you.

As I mentioned, last night Rick and I went to the book store to hear his pal and rescuer, Jef Mallett, read from his new book, "Trizophrenia."

I've got to say it was the best thing we could have done. Lots of people glad to see Rick, good to get back out in the real world, even if it was pretty darned tiring in the endgame!

Jef's a good presenter and the book is funny -- even if you're not as into any of the triathalon sports. And he had his Frazz books there, too. Who could argue with those?

Getting back to the real world. Can't be soon enough.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Angels in Disguise

Following the shooting at Fort Hood, I heard a retired military officer -- it might have been Jack Jacobs -- tell a TV commentator, "In the end, it's the community that can tell quicker than anything that you need care."

He was referring to others noticing but not mentioning or urging more attention to the mental health of the shooter.

When I initially prepped this post a week ago, I said he could have just as easily been referring to me and to my recent pulmonary issues that have been worsening, acknowledging the community of my colleagues and Rick to urge more proactive care. The idea of the post was to tell you that I am slow checking blogs these days, but please keep coming back as I'll have some posts here and to be patient with me if I don't comment on every item of yours. (And fyi, the new meds are helping; not to worry for now.)

But that's small potatoes compared to what happened this weekend when Rick was in a bicycling accident. He'll be fine. And he's very lucky. More on that in a minute.

I have long felt that the visual image of angels is beautiful and we like to think of our guardian angels watching over us. But no one really sees diaphanous beauties in long white gowns with feather wings flying about us when we're having a bad time. If we believe in such things, and I do, angels are a matter of the heart. Faith.

But I also believe that angels walk the earth. We all can be angels, while at the same time we never know when the angels we need will come our way. To get a real-life human glimpse is a breathtaking, almost heart-stopping moment.

This weekend I met two of them. In bike clothes.

Some of you know Rick is a passionate cyclist. He used to be a racer and rides long rides and often. He's a good rider, a good handler. Sure, he's crashed and been hit like a lot of folks who have been riding for 40 years, and some of those have been hairy (both before and after I came in on the scene). He topped 6,100 miles this month and would be closer to 7,000 if we hadn't had rain most of October.

So, when we had one of those glorious, Indian Summer days -- a true rarity for a Michigan November -- you can bet he'd be out on his bike, savoring every second as we anticipate the long northern winter.

He had companions this day. One, Jef Mallett, you may know as the cartoonist who draws the comic strip "Frazz." The other, Jimi, is a detective with Michigan's State Police. Both are triathletes and both have had EMT training. You can read Jef's account of this at this blog.

The guys were cruising down a country road about 20 miles from Lansing. There was no traffic and apart from gravel edge, the road was pretty nice. Bopping along at a brisk 24.6 mph, they were having a great ride.

That is, until Rick hit a piece of petrified horse dung a little larger than a croquet ball. There was no "give" and after struggling, went down.

"In the end, it is the community that can tell quicker than anything that you need care."

About that community -- or, as I see them, angels -- Jef and Jimi kept him going when his breathing was failing -- he was "out" for a good five minutes and struggling. Jimi wrote later: "I have seen quite a bit of death as first responder to head on accidents and such in the UP. He fought hard to stay alive for those first 5 minutes. You are doing something right as he just didn't want to let go."

The paramedics, generally not close to this area, had been on training runs and responded immediately. He was taken to the hospital where a scan showed a small brain bleed in the head, a badly cut eye area (14 stitches) and lots of bruises. The bleed subsided by the next day and he's home with me now after a night in Neuro ICU and lots of outstanding nursing care. More angels.

Jef and Jimi both came to the hospital (they also rescued Rick's bike, which wasn't badly damaged and next to being alive and kicking, probably his greatest relief.) They filled me in on the details, which were scary to say the least. But they also said Rick did as fine a job of handling the bike under the situation as anyone could. And, that the passers by (including a doctor and someone who blocked the road with his car so no one would interfere) were a real testament to positive, non-gawking help. More angels.

Jef also brought his wife, Patty to the hospital, too. I have a photo of them so you can see a real-life angel in the flesh. I don't have one of Jimi, but believe me, he's a vision, too. And it was good to have hugs because I really needed them at that moment.

You see, we never know, do we, when someone will happen into our life to save it, to make a moment easier, to change our perspective -- something that makes a major difference to the rest of our life as we live it. (Below -- the good side; some photos are best not posted.)

We never know when or if we'll be that person who is the angel, either. Sometimes we don't even know after the fact. We just go on, do our best, try to say the right thing or be with someone at the right time.

Those angels help us find our inner angel. I believe we all have one.

I just want to thank all of you in the family or Facebook loop who have already responded, sent get well wishes, and shared your concern on behalf of both of us. Your thoughts, prayers and positive energy are great comfort to both of us. Keep 'em coming. The initial problems may be under control but the recovery isn't going to be fun.

Rick's exhausted (me, too) and sorer than anything. But he's the toughest guy I know and I suspect he will move heaven and earth to get in another ride (or more) before the snow settles in. (Just as long as I can keep the pet therapist from jumping on his sore spots!)

As regular readers know, this is my month to focus on gratitude in all my Marmelade Gypsy posts. I guess it would be redundant to say what all I'm grateful for in this one -- I think you already know. I'll visit you as I can.

On a related note, if you want to see a real-life angel in the flesh, those living in the Lansing area are invited to stop by Schuler Books and Music in Lansing (Eastwood) at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 19. It's a book release party for Jef's most recent book, Trizophrenia! He says there will be great food, too! I know we'll move heaven and earth to be there, too!

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