Friday, November 24, 2006

Our New, Simple Thanksgiving

As we begin this first holiday season after Patrick's death, we have decided to allow it unfold as it will. I decided not to make any elaborate plans that might be stressful or commitments that might weigh me down with guilt if not fulfilled. I will be present with my grief and open to any joy that might come. And memories that arise of sweet times past....I hope to receive them as gifts to fill my heart and to be grateful for them. As for the painful memories, I will embrace them as well and give them their place, too.

The celebrations at this time of year have always been very meaningful to me, especially as our family traditions evolved in ways that became rich in spiritual nourishment and de-emphasized the acquisitive material aspects.

I have always known that at some point, we would find ourselves alone and would have to re-create ways to celebrate and honor the season. What I did not know, of course, was that we would have such losses and sorrow to live with.

We have not had a "normal" Thanksgiving since 2003 - the year we thought we were starting the new tradition of having people over for a dessert party in the evening. We did have a lovely time that year and in 2004 planned for the same. But plans were changed when Patrick was critically injured in a car wreck and lifelined to an Indianapolis hospital. That's where we had Thanksgiving dinner that year.

Last year, Thanksgiving came just days after my mother had to move into the nursing home, just one event in a terrible roller coaster of dementia events that had begun in September. I had spent 15 nights at her apartment during that time and was sad and frustrated and exhausted. And Patrick's ongoing addiction struggles were another roller coaster. It's no wonder that we just decided to do nothing for Thanksgiving.

With no pressure or plans, I wound up making a very simple dinner. I remember that I did it mindfully, as a Thanksgiving dinner, and that I felt pretty good about the day. This year, I decided to re-create that meal and think of it as our new tradition.

We had no guests and we didn't even eat together! Paul worked at the university for the afternoon and I cooked and spun wool. For me, it was a peaceful day.

The meal? Well, it would not win any awards, but it was nourishing and comforting. And it took only about an hour of work. I am not ashamed to say that it all came from boxes and bags and cans -- I just added love and thanks and some tasty embellishments.

A simple meal that started with 3 things - a bag of fresh cranberries, 2 cans of Progresso Lentil soup, a Betty Crocker Brownie Mix.

Back of the bag cranberry sauce recipe - with the addition of dried apricots and cherries.

To the soup I added a package of frozen extra-sweet corn, a package of frozen carrots and some sauteed onion and a little water. I cooked a pound of lean ground beef with more onions and some Mrs. Dash garlic/herb seasoning and added that to the soup.

To the brownie mix, I added chopped walnuts, raisins and dried cherries. I also added an extra egg.

After about an hour the cranberry sauce was cooling on the back porch, the soup was simmering and the brownies were baking. AND I had washed pots and bowls and utensils as I went along, so ta daaaaaa:
I was finished fixing Thanksgiving dinner!

I hope all of you had a nice Thanksgiving and have much for which to be thankful!