Tag Archives: Holidays

Valentine’s Day? Hey Honey, Thanks For Sticking Around.

This essay originally appeared on Blogher. I repost it every year on Valentines Day to honor the slowest of growths, love.

They’ve finally taken down the Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa decorations. They’ve worked their way through the January sales. What’s left to drive us to the cash registers between now and the President’s weekend rush? Valentines Day, of course! The shop windows are already filled with faux red roses, oversized pink hearts, and floating white cupids that look remarkably like my little nephew. This all wouldn’t be a problem but for the guilt and anxiety it creates in most of the marriages I know – the pressure to be romantic and swoon with unadulterated passion can be just too much to bear, particularly for those of us into our third decade of wedded bliss. Continue reading

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Racism is Alive and Well in My Hometown…Or is It?

This essay first appeared on Patch.com

A blond woman left her white SUV idling as she got out to approach a man bent over a bike. It was one of many lined up along the train platform, ducks sitting in a row. The man’s bright-white basketball shoes stood out against his black jeans, black jacket, black baseball cap and dark skin. He carried a large backpack over his shoulder that kept slipping off, as he worried a screwdriver into a bolt on the reflector light below the bike’s seat. Continue reading

Managing the Gimmes During the Holidays

This article first appeared in BlogHer.

It’s that time of year again when the wants far exceed the needs. The Greek chorus of  “gimme, gimme, gimme,” swirls around the house drowning out the muzak of Christmas carols that began long before Thanksgiving. “I want a car,” sings my soon-to-be sixteen year old. “Well, I want a new laptop,” trills his thirteen year old sister. “I want an iPod,” chants their ten year old brother. In unison, all together now: “But all my friends have one!” Uh, huh.

Mmmm…well, let’s see. I want world peace, a cure for AIDS, the troops to come home, and if I am really greedy maybe I’ll even ask to lose the last five pounds of baby fat (even if the last baby is over a decade old). Guess I won’t be getting my wishes either.

How is it the Gimmes keep getting bigger every year? At three, the Gimme was a stuffed bear. At five, it was Thomas the Tank engine. At eight, a new bike. At ten? Well, see above. Clearly I have failed as a parent. I wanted children that spent hours hand-crafting special gifts for the ones they love. Children who get more pleasure in giving than in receiving. Children who actually stop to ask, “Hey Mom, what do you want for Christmas?” Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be.

My father warned me about this.  I think I was sixteen or so, asking for a car no doubt, when he said, “Just wait until you have children of your own. I hope for your sake they aren’t Gimme Kids like you and your brother.” It must be inherited like blue eyes or a crooked nose.

And then it dawns on me. The Gimmes are a disease, a pandemic far worse than any flu, swine or avian. They are the product of a society drunk on the idea that we are defined not by who we are but what we have. My kids aren’t any more greedy then the next lot, they simply the reflection of a society built around crass Commercialism and it’s twin sister, Materialism (let’s just ignore their mother Capitalism for the moment). My children live in a society where commercials make up half of any television program, where product placement has wormed its way into movies, where the most important question the day after Christmas isn’t whatdcha do but whatdcha get. A society where the cost of privilege is the ability to ignore those in need and worry most about what you want.

I had fantasized the downturn in the economy would stop fueling the Gimmes but the pandemic is hard to control. Despite a continued spike in job losses, a concurrent rise in  welfare recipients, and a trend in foreclosures that has yet to peak, we are still bombarded with messages that engender material lust. Buy this. Lease that. Even presidents tell us to shop more; its our civic duty!

I can wash my hands and try to wear a mask but the Gimmes still seep under the door jam and into our home. Perhaps it’s time to stop the madness and fall back on that old cliche, the buck stops here. A recent article in The New York Times science section revealed that we have an innate desire to help. Another article highlighted the healing aspects of giving. Finally, I read research the links materialism to self-esteem. It was time for a talk.

So, we had a family conference the other night. I asked the kids what they could do for others. “Let’s volunteer in a soup kitchen,” one suggested. “Let’s adopt a soldier for the holidays,” said another. “I’ll use my allowance to fund a need at my school,” the third chimed in. “By the way Mom, what do you want for Christmas?” they asked. No worries angels, I just got my gift.

My Mother’s Thanksgiving

This blog was originally posted on BlogHer.

Of course there is always turkey; its skin golden and and slightly crisp, its meat moist, juicy,

Mom and Little Bro - now you know who wears the pants in the family

and cooked to perfection. The chestnut colored gravy is never lumpy and has a hint of red wine. She doesn’t like what is the best part of the meal for the rest of us, the unparalleled apple, cranberry stuffing. It took years but we finally convinced her to make double the recipe so we wouldn’t fight over the minuscule portions. Side dishes are always the same: rice and sausage casserole, brussel sprouts with bacon and brown sugar  whipped sweet potatoes. She always makes her own pumpkin pie and ends the meal with lefse, a potato crepe delicacy from her norwegian homeland. For over four decades this has been my mother’s Thanksgiving dinner and we, her family and friends, have eager awaited its annual debut.

I have been married nearly twenty-three years and only cooked Thanksgiving twice. The first time, in addition to my parents and siblings, I hosted a large contingent of my husband’s family who had flown across the country in celebration of the baptismal of our youngest son. My mother graciously wrote down her memorized recipes but failed to explain the exact measurements of “pinch” of this and a “dash” of that. The cafe-au-lait colored gravy was lumpy because she forgot to share her secret ingredient-a norwegian browning and smoothing sauce. It wasn’t until I was about to pull the turkey out of the oven when she pointed out that I had cooked it up side down. My sister, bless her heart, explained that upside down cooking was all the rage–makes the breast meat more juicy. She was right, it did. But the bird looked pale and anemic on the outside. Its skin had not gotten the golden glow my mother’s always boasted. The dessert was perfect though because she had brought her famous pumpkin pie and delicious lefse.

The second time I was in charge of Thanksgiving dinner was a few years ago. My mother had spent the fall with an undiagnosed stomach ailment. She couldn’t eat without horrible bouts of nauseous and diarrhea. Test after test, they couldn’t figure it out. Her stomach ballooned like some poor starving child in Africa. We were worried and then even more so when she asked me to cook the meal. This time I made sure to cook the turkey right side up, and included drops of her norwegian magic potion to the gravy which turned out just the way she cooked. Even the pumpkin pie looked inviting.

But it was the lefse that offered the biggest challenge. When I asked Mom for her recipe she hemmed and hawed.

“Come on, you’re going to have to pass the tradition down sometime,” I argued.

“Lefse is very difficult to make. It requires special equipment and my recipe is written in Norwegian,” she explained. She offered to make it but it was clear she was too ill to do much of anything. Finally, in a moment of weakness she handed me a phone number.

‘What’s this?”

“It’s the number for the Norwegian bakery where I order the lefse every year.”

“What? You don’t make it from scratch?”

“Are you kidding? Do you know how hard it is to get it right? Ask for IngerBritt, she knows me. She’ll

take care of you.”

Now, Thanksgiving is a family affair. I make the rice casserole, my brother makes the sweet potatoes, and my son makes the pumpkin pie. Turkey is cooked by whom ever is hosting with detailed instructions of which side is the right side up. My mother is still in charge of the lefse though. Some traditions just can’t be passed down.