As I sit here listening to Christmas music, kept
company only by my own thoughts, I can’t help but think of all the things I
have to be grateful for this holiday season. My life has truly been blessed in
more ways than I can count. No one’s life is perfect of course, but for those
of us whose lives are good or even great, let’s each pause for a moment to
reflect on our good fortune. And let us also be mindful of those not so
fortunate as ourselves. This is a difficult time of year for many, and a smile
or a kind word can go a long way for those with heavy hearts. Even for someone
such as myself, who is more than content with her life, this is a bittersweet
holiday – after all, this is only my third Christmas since the loss of my Mama.
Despite the losses and difficulties I may have gone
through, I still have so very much to be thankful for and at the top of my list
is my amazing family. They have been there for me through everything and have
never let me down. Even when I have been less than lovable, they have continued
to love me unconditionally. I know without a doubt that we will continue to be
each other’s best friends, staunchest supporters, and biggest critics. Because
at the end of the day, we are family, and that’s what family does. We fight and
we make up, we always have each other’s backs, and we would do anything for one
another. I am fortunate enough to be able to go home for Christmas this year
and I can hardly wait.
As Christmas approaches, let’s all try to remember
the people we love and are so grateful for. This is the true meaning of the
season and the world could do with more Christmas gratitude and cheer – let’s
share ours with those we meet. Merry Christmas, y’all!
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. And I want to dedicate
this one to a very special woman who is often overlooked on this holiday. A
woman who is neither my mother nor my grandmother or even a mother at all. This
Mother’s Day, I pay tribute to my grandmother’s sister who, in essence, was my
second grandmother. My incredible great-aunt, who was widowed young and never
had children, loved her sister’s kids as if they were her own, including my
dad. And when my dad had his own kids, she loved us every bit as much.
When I was
very small, I actually didn’t realize that she wasn’t our grandma. She was and
still is an outstanding surrogate. She is one of the many beautiful souls in my
life who have shown me what it means to love without restrictions. She has
proven that love doesn’t have to follow traditional guidelines to be real and
true and pure. As a kid, I didn’t really understand the depth of what was
happening. As I got older, I slowly began to realize that I have been blessed
with more love than any one person deserves. In no small part due my awesome
So on this Mother’s Day 2017, let’s all remember the
women in our lives who are not mothers in the traditional sense of the word.
Let’s salute those women who step up when they don’t have to. Let’s show them
how much they mean to us. So today, Aunt V, I salute you. I salute your big
smile and your bigger heart. I salute your warm hugs and your open home and all
the amazingness that is you. Most of all, I salute your great love. I accept it
with gratitude and I return it to you with all my heart. I love you more than I
have words to say. Happy Mother’s Day.
Food, to me, is much more than simple nourishment. It feeds a deeper need than just physical hunger. I absolutely love to cook. It is both calming and cheering at the same time. Whether alone or with someone I love, cooking is guaranteed to boost my mood. After a long, hard day at work, there is nothing better than coming home and preparing a meal. Nothing elaborate, simple and satisfying will do the trick. Not that I don’t also enjoy putting together a meal that takes a little more effort on the weekends. Cooking is an act of creation, of transforming ingredients into something beautiful and nourishing. I believe this is why it has the therapeutic power that it does – because we were all made to create.
Cooking is also an act of love. Cooking for the people we care about is a way of showing that we care. I love cooking for and with my family. Which, in my book, is lucky for them. I also love to entertain. Sharing a meal and human fellowship with our friends satisfies a void that few other things can fill. We are by nature social creatures and food quite often takes center stage at our social gatherings. Food to feed our bodies and human interaction to feed our souls – the perfect pairing. I’ve often wondered why that’s the way it is. Part of it is no doubt that preparing food for others is an act of love. I think it’s also because when we eat, we feel comfortable and at home. It’s a way of bonding with our fellow humans.
Some people eat to live, I live to eat. Sometimes I have to rein in my sweet tooth, but other than that, I believe that I have a relatively healthy relationship with food. Some would disagree with me on that. I maintain that there is nothing wrong with enjoying good food. It’s one of the truest pleasures this life affords. There is nothing better than trying a new recipe or recreating an old favorite or even just enjoying a drive-thru burger. Food is not just fuel to keep us going, eating is not something that must be got through so we can do something else. So the next time your soul needs fed, I have a solution. Go to your kitchen and look in your refrigerator and pantry. Use what you have, then gather those you love to share a meal and fellowship. Above all, be present in the moment and let yourself be refreshed.
The holiday season is upon us again. I love this time of year. Thanksgiving and Christmas and the spirit of joy and love that comes with them. It’s beautiful how we all smile a little more, give a little more, and are a little more grateful for the people in our lives. The greatest gift of all is family. We may take them for granted the rest of the year, but right now, if we don’t get caught up in the commercialism of it all, family feels closer than ever.
Like most every other family in America, we ate too much food and watched TV and napped off the turkey. I spent the entire morning in the kitchen. Daddy and I did the cooking. He did the turkey and mashed potatoes, I did the casseroles and gravy and biscuits and pies. I recruited a couple different helpers over the course of the cooking process of course. It was a lot of fun. I guess it’s a good thing I love to cook. As a bonus, I got out of the clean-up. So, win-win.
This Thanksgiving was a tough one for me and my family; I know Christmas will be too. Holidays are always rough after a death. I’d give my right arm to have Mama here with us to celebrate the season. But at the same time, this Thanksgiving was also very special. Her loss made us all that much more grateful that we still have each other and that we’re still together. The thing I am most grateful for this Thanksgiving is that this past year did not tear our family apart. As it very well could have. We have needed each other more than we ever did before. And we are closer than we have ever been. I know Mama is watching and I know she is happy.
As we move from Thanksgiving towards Christmas, let’s all try to hold on to that feeling of gratitude that Thanksgiving brings. Because if we let it, Christmas will sweep us up in its frenzy of shopping and decorating and hosting parties. And while this is fantastic, it’s not really the point of it all. Let’s not forget about Baby Jesus and how grateful we are that he was born in that stable so many years ago. And let’s remember to show our loved ones how much we care – they may not be here next Christmas.
What is home? Is it the house I grew up in? Is it the house I helped my parents build when I was nearly grown? Is it the house I’ve dreamed of building a life and a family in for better than 10 years? Where is home? Is it in the state where I was born? Where most of my family lives? The state we moved to when I was 10 years old? Maybe one I’ve never even been to? Is home the South that I’ve come to love? Or the West that I’ve always daydreamed about? Who is home? Is home the people I love? The family I’ve lived with for more than 20 years? Or is it the people I will love? The man I will someday find and marry? The kids we will raise together? What is home?
What is home? Home is safety. Comfort. Stability. Home is love and laughter, heartbreak and tears. It is fighting and making up, playing and working. Home is where you can truly be yourself without fear of judgment or ridicule. A place of warmth and love. Where your dreams are supported and encouraged. Where you know that you truly belong. Home is peace from the commotion of the world outside. Home is barely-controlled chaos.
What is home? Home is family. Blood kin or chosen family. Or both. Home is the people you love. The people who love you. It is those who drive you crazy but who you couldn’t imagine living without. Home is the ones that you fight with like cats and dogs, but that you would defend to the death against an outsider. The people who understand you better than anyone. The ones who you swear will never really get you.
Home is all this and so much more. Sometimes I get a restlessness inside that haunts me for days at a time. Nothing I do can shake the feeling that I’m not really home yet. I don’t fully understand it; I just know that something is missing. What it is, I haven’t a clue. I don’t regret my decision to stay with my family instead of moving out at 18 like everyone else – at least not yet. And the thought of living on my own is not appealing at all. But then some days I really like the idea of a little peace and quiet for a change. On the other hand, I love this barely-controlled chaos thing we’ve got going on here. So, for now, I think I’m just gonna let this restlessness simmer on the back burner. I’m not one for snap decisions – when the time comes for me to find my home, I’ll know.
Fall is in the air. A relief after the scorcher summer we’ve had. Even I have to admit that it feels pretty good. I am a summer girl through and through. But there is still something very special about crisp autumn days. Invigorating. A cool fall morning has a special clarity that summer mornings lack. I will certainly miss lazy summer days, and I wish winter would never come, but I do still enjoy this time of year. And fall brings so many awesome things with it. Chunky sweaters and flannel shirts, boots and bonfires, s’mores and hot cider, stargazing and raking leaves. There is always good to find if you know where to look.
Fall always takes me back to when I was a kid. We used to go camping every year right around this time. Everything was an adventure. From cooking over a campfire to flashlight tag after dark to cold midnight bathroom trips. There was a special kind of magic to those few autumn days. I think part of that magic was the time spent together as a family. Just us, no distractions. No work, no school, no TV. Not even any books. Just the good, old-fashioned kind of fun we could make with each other and our imaginations. We have always been a close-knit family, but still there was something special about those camping trips.
These days, fall makes me want to curl up under a crocheted afghan from my great-aunt with a mug of hot tea in one hand and the TV remote in the other. Warm and cozy and relaxed. A perfect fall evening. Well, almost. Add a special someone to snuggle with, and the picture would be perfectly complete. I don’t know why, but autumn days make my single status an even lonelier place to be than usual. No use wishing for what isn’t I guess. I just have to enjoy the upsides of the season and trust that everything will work out for the best. But hey, that’s life.
I have been blessed with the two most awesome parents in the whole world. I could not even begin to put into words how grateful I am for all they have given me. I hope that someday I can be half as wonderful a parent as they were to the six of us. We were fortunate to have an idyllic childhood and we actually kinda turned out okay considering the kids we used to be – and all credit goes to Mama and Daddy for that. As I’ve said before, we didn’t have much as far as worldly possessions go. And there were times that they didn’t know how they were gonna pay the bills or buy groceries. Money was always tight.
We didn’t care. We had everything. Grass stains and skinned knees. Home cooking and piles of laundry. Pretend fights and real ones too. Hide and seek and treasure hunts. Hand-me-downs and thrift-store shoes. Popsicles and backyard picnics. A cooler-than-cool homemade swing set and sandbox. Climbing trees and a swimming pool. Rainy-day coloring contests and time-outs in the corner. We had it all. Our house overflowed with love and laughter. I didn’t realize at the time how awesome we really had it. As a kid, you don’t always see what’s important. It’s not like I was discontented; I was perfectly happy with my life. But I had no idea that I was much better off than most.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to those happy, carefree days. I know I can’t. And even if I could, I don’t know that I would. Because if I were to get stuck as a kid forever, then how could I ever raise my own? I have always dreamed of having my own houseful of kids. As many as possible. Some people think I’m crazy. Maybe so. I attribute it to my own blissful childhood. Because I had it so great, I want to give the same happy years to as many kids as I can. Which is probably also why I want to adopt as well. I want them to have an awesome childhood too. I’m not saying that I think I will be a perfect parent. But I feel like I have to give back. I have had so much love given to me, I cannot keep it all to myself. I have to share this love with a family of my own.
Breakfast is my absolute favorite meal of the day. Partly because it’s in the morning and I’m like the world’s biggest morning person. Partly because I just really like breakfast food. Give me a choice between a brunch spread and a supper feast, the breakfast will win 9 times out of 10. Can you keep a secret? Sometimes I even eat breakfast for supper. Phenomenally awesome. Which is why places like IHOP and Waffle House are my favorite kind of restaurant. And don’t even get me started on Taco Bell’s breakfast. I’ve been saying for years that they should do that because it would be epic. And guess what? I was so right. I love Mexican, I love breakfast, and I really love Mexican breakfast.
I have a Mexican cookbook that, in addition to a slew of amazing recipes, has a lot of history and interesting trivia about the food and culture of northern Mexico and the American Southwest. One of the coolest things I learned was the practice of having 2 breakfasts: coffee and tortillas (desayuno) first thing, then a full spread (almuerzo) mid-morning. I love that! Mostly because I’m not really hungry when I first get up; but I am always starving by 8 or 9:00. Unfortunately, our modern culture doesn’t really leave room for that, but it is a practice I would like to see gain widespread acceptance. Or maybe I’ll just up and move to the Shire to live with the hobbits and their 6 meals a day.
Sunday is really the only day I have time to do proper justice to the best meal of the day. We usually eat something simple and light before church; then fix a real meal when we get home. Sometimes it’s a traditional Sunday dinner; sometimes it’s a breakfast feast. That’s my favorite. Eggs, bacon and/or sausage, biscuits and gravy, fried potatoes or tater tots, refried beans, tortillas, some fresh fruit, milk and juice – oh yeah, it’s awesome. My daddy and I are the cooking duo. I love it. I love cooking, especially with him, and I love eating, especially with my family. Someday we will all go our separate ways, but I hope we can continue the tradition of gathering around the table on Sundays. It’s a beautiful tradition that should never die.