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Reinstating Thanksgiving Traditions

For the first time since 2016, the Mr. and I hosted Thanksgiving at our house.  It’s something we have done since we lived in Miami, but we had to take a pass when I broke my ankle two years ago.  I’d had surgery the Monday of Thanksgiving week and wasn’t in any shape for company.  In fact, I was pretty sick that day from the painkillers.  So, while the rest of the family went out to dinner in their own city, we sat at home.

Then, last year, the Mr. and I had planned on hosting again, but we’d ordered new couches, sold our old ones the same day we listed them on Facebook Marketplace, and were stuck without seating for the holiday.  So, the family went out by themselves again while we ate very non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

This year, despite the hurricane issues, we were determined to reinstate our traditions, so we invited the family over.

I’d spent Wednesday afternoon preparing four desserts.

The cake on the left was a special request from the Mr.  He follows the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and can’t have most flours and sugars.  This peanut butter cake fits the bill.  He isn’t supposed to eat chocolate, but he was dying for chocolate icing, so I indulged him.

The other three desserts were vegan.

While our crew was kicking off their holiday weekend with a pre-Thanksgiving dinner in Podunk, USA, I was prepping the house, which as anyone knows really means throwing everything that’s out in the open into unused closets and bedrooms.

I got up early Thursday morning and began prepping for my day and listened to the radio as I quietly worked.  Ever since the hurricane hit, it seems as though all of the songs I hear are speaking life into my heart.  I’ll admit that I got teary-eyed as I listened to this bit . . .

Every now and then, I allow myself a tear or two.  But, I couldn’t wallow in my feelings because I had a long to-do list.  I was eager for Chicky to arrive because I had a few dishes to make.  She’s a lot like me (sorry, dear, but you know that you are), so I knew that she’d be a good sous chef.

When she got to the house, we nailed down a game plan for the oven.  I only have one (my next home with have a double oven), so it was going to be tricky.  Then, I put her to work.

She and the Mr. set the table, and then she began making the first of two dishes I needed help with . . . Roasted Butternut Squash with Bacon and Thyme.  It’s a dish I discovered a few months ago for the Mr.

Meanwhile, I got the guacamole deviled eggs ready.  It was a new-to-me recipe and one I thought the Mr. might enjoy.  Super Sis was bringing regular deviled eggs too.

The family arrived as I was finishing these up, so Super Sis jumped in and began drying dishes so I could keep working (I like to wash them as I go).  I prepared a vegan Millet “Cornbread” recipe that was going into the instant pot.  I was worried that it wasn’t done when I pulled it out after the cooking time was over, but it turned out perfectly!

Meanwhile, I prepared the ingredients I’d need for the Hidden Cauliflower Mac ‘n’ Cheese recipe that’s in Megan Gilmore’s new instant pot cookbook.

Chicky kept busy making the Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes, a recipe that had caught my attention after seeing a video on the Blender Girl’s Facebook page.

In between all of the cooking, cleaning, and table setting, I snapped a few photos as did Chicky, who’d borrowed my camera to play with.

Super Sis!

Finally, everything was finished, and we were ready for our traditional pre-eating photo.  We managed to get it in one take; we’ve had years of practice.

Then, it was time to start passing the dishes around, counter-clockwise of course, and fill up our plates. Thank goodness the Mr.’s parents got us the turkey.  We usually order a smoked one from Sonny’s, but our location sustained damage from the storm (as did every single business), so it wasn’t open.  Coupon Queen also made the dressing, which is a family favorite.  Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the turkey and dressing (unless you’re a vegan like me).

Here’s what this vegan ate . . .

The dogs didn’t stray too far.

I’d set up my kitchen table as the dessert niche, so people ventured over there to help themselves.  By far, the most popular dishes were the peanut butter and apple cakes.

While we were sitting around the table, I texted Rooster to see if they’d found their way to a friend’s house for dinner.  He and N had, but they were able to talk, so I set up my laptop and got Facetime going.  It was wonderful to see their faces – to have them be a part of our day. ❤

Afterward, we cleaned up and jumped into two cars.  We wanted to show our family the devastation we’ve been living with since October 10th.  Although I’d seen a lot of it, looking at it through fresh eyes brought tears.  I followed the Mr.  He was driving the other car, and he took us down streets I had not traveled yet.  We saw this, which the homeowner carved out himself and painted.

We drove to the Cove, a neighborhood closer to the water in Panama City.  Pre-storm, it had tree-lined, canopied streets.  Now, almost all of the trees are gone.  The ones still standing are broken at odd angles.  I didn’t take any photos because I was driving, but my breath caught in my throat, and I shed a few tears.

We trekked to our church, and I drove around to the back, which I had not seen with my own eyes.

That’s the back of the sanctuary.  You can see all the way through it.

Look closely and you’ll see the piano.

They say it’s going to be at least a year and a half before we will be able to get back into it.  I was emotional as I drove away.

I know that this seems like a downer of a way to end our day, but it was good for our family to see, with their own eyes, the things we had described and the photos they’d seen online.  It was a reminder of just how much we have to be thankful for in the midst of everything . . .

Quiet moments . . .

Silly moments . . .

Unplanned boot days . . .

Fur babies . . .

Impromptu Thanksgiving decorations

I spy a generator

Most importantly, family . . .

As the crew packed up to go, I was sad (Pele was either curious or hungry or both).

This group I’m blessed to call mine has always had my back . . . has always been there for me in the toughest of times.

They’re always willing to go the extra mile, even when that means carrying home a trunk full of stuff to recycle to help keep me sane (and guilt-free about putting these items in the trash).

I’m so glad that we mustered up the faith to have our crew over.  Despite feeling incredibly overwhelmed these past six weeks, taking a day to share love and laughter with those we are closest to provided a much-needed reprieve from the heavy stuff we call life.

I guess that’s why we depend on traditions so much.  They keep us grounded to what’s most important – the stalwarts that remain when everything else crumbles.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, y’all.

A Renewed Sense of Thankfulness

All is quiet, for the moment, in Chez Auburnchick as I await the arrival of my clan, and despite the dishes I need to begin preparing, I feel as though I must take a few minutes to gather my thoughts.

When I woke up this morning, I found myself very emotional.

This has happened at the most random of times since October 10th when Hurricane Michael decided to disrupt my life and that of those around me.

Although I wish it had never come, it did, and so I choose the look for the blessings that have come from it.  One of those is a renewed sense of thankfulness.

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’re well aware that I try my best to find joy along this journey that’s called life.

As I get ready for the day ahead and listen to Christian radio, I am reflecting on the fact that forty-three days (six weeks and a day) ago, I didn’t think I’d be able to cook Thanksgiving lunch for my family . . . a long-standing tradition.  I didn’t know if my house was still standing or if it was, what kind of shape it was in.

I didn’t know if my husband was okay because the last words I heard from him at one point were, “It’s bad.  Catastrophic.”

I didn’t know when I would see my precious friends again . . . coworkers, yes, but more than that.  Family.

I didn’t know when I would lay eyes on the students I currently teach and those who have moved on to other classrooms but still have pieces of my heart.

I didn’t know that people who had lost so much would come together to serve each other with joy and not sadness.

I didn’t know that I would transfer online friendships to real-life connections.

I didn’t know that slanted trees don’t dim the beauty of a sunrise.

Maybe in a few years this storm I have weathered will be a blip on my life’s radar, but honestly, I hope not.

I pray that I will never take for granted the little things in life because I know, firsthand, what it feels like to think you’ve lost them.

The collective experience of the past month and a half is but a snapshot of the attitude that should live in my heart day after day, storm or no storm.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.  May you use today, especially, to look for the little blessings in your life as well.

Thankful Thursday – Thanksgiving 2017

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!  Today, I’m joining up with Rebecca for her weekly Thankful Thursday post!

This Thanksgiving has some special significance to me because I remember the way I spent last year’s holiday – three days post-op, dog sick from the side effects of my pain medicine, unable to eat, and plain old miserable.

You shouldn’t find it any surprise when I list, as the first thing I’m thankful for this week, the ability to walk and, so important to me, work out.

I am so thankful for the essential oils that keep my ankle pain and emotions at bay . . .

There’s a roll on bottle inside. The combination of oils in this blend is so soothing!

For the baths I’m planning on taking after I get my stitches out after my surgery

For my migraines. I hope the hefty price tag proves worthwhile.

I love the rewards program through Young Living.  I’m earning points for my purchases, and when I spend a certain amount, I get free items with my order!

Free!

That Christmas Spirit you see?  Oh my goodness!  It’s amazing!  I have it in a USB diffuser that I run in my car.  ❤

Also free – The Pine oil will be perfect in this ornament diffuser!

I am thankful for my fur babies.  Molly took a piece of my heart with her when she passed away this summer.  My boys keep me grounded and help me remember to keep loving even when it’s hard.

I am thankful for a husband who didn’t mind that our Thanksgiving meal wasn’t all that fancy given our lack of company this year.  He went with the flow, ate the spaghetti squash and spaghetti sauce that I prepared, and never complained.

I set a fine table, don’t you think?

I am thankful for those who create vegan recipes so people like me can still eat good food, like this dish – Cheesy Lentil Bolognese Casserole – from Oh She Glows.

It took a couple of hours from start to finish to put this together – mainly because I accidentally dropped the carrots and potatoes I’d cooked for the “cheese” sauce in the dirty side of my sink and had to boil more.  :::Slaps forehead:::

I used this marinara sauce, which I found at Publix.  It’s one of the few I’ve seen that doesn’t have added sugar or other unnecessary additives . . .

The smell coming from the oven reminded me of an Italian restaurant.  Seriously.

The “cheese” sauce is absolutely divine and MAKES this dish!  I’ll be eating on it for days and days.

Another recipe I made for Thanksgiving is this Vegan French Silk Pie, by Detoxinista.

I’m fairly certain that it’s the most decadent dessert I’ve ever made.  It’s that good (and deceptively quick to assemble).

I am very, very, VERY thankful for technology that allows me to see my babies’ faces when we talk on the phone, should they choose.  The Mr. and I chatted with Rooster and his sweet wife for forty five today.  Seeing the smiles on their faces, the little nuances when they cracked jokes, their raised eyebrows at the sarcasm thrown digitally across the miles – well, it made our hearts swell with love.

I hope you have a wonderful day and that, if possible, you’re able to spend it with loved ones.

Thanksgiving 2016

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

I selected the graphic above because it resembled the Mr. and me.

This is the first time we are spending Thanksgiving alone.

In all of our married lives.

We were going to host our family for Thanksgiving lunch, but when I broke my ankle on the 13th, our plans had to change.  I’m not exactly ready to cook yet.

We wouldn’t have had our kids at home.  Chicky drove back to her apartment after spending a couple of days with me during my surgery.  Rooster and his gal are all the way across the country celebrating their first Thanksgiving together as newlyweds.  The Mr.’s parents and our own siblings and their family (remember that they are married to each other) are in Bigger City, Florida, where I had my surgery, and driving back over was definitely out given my recovery process.

And so it is that we find ourselves alone at home.

Rather than focusing on the negatives, I am going to, once again, find things to be happy about.

  1. My Faith – God is my rock; He’s my stronghold.  He is strong…especially now that I am exceptionally weak.  I do not know what I would do if I couldn’t call on His name, both in praise and in desperation.

    From a recent First5 devotion

    From a recent First5 devotion

  2. My Husband – This man continues to impress me.  I’ve cried a super lot since I broke my ankle and for a number of different reasons…pain, frustration, and gratefulness.  I figured that he’d be super tired of all of this by now, but it seems as though he’s actually gotten energized with each day.  Maybe part of this is because the shock of it has worn off.  Maybe it’s that we’ve developed a new routine.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that he’s become even more thoughtful.  Learning that my bones are brittle has given him a mission…something he can do, as opposed to being able to essentially do nothing about my ankle being broken.  He has been researching how I can get more calcium into my diet, and he’s already gone out and bought specific food to help me fine tune my regimen.  The man even bought turnip greens, and he’s going to cook them today!  It’s incredible to watch him in action, and I can honestly say that I love him more today than even a week and a half ago.

    Rice cake with almond butter

    Rice cake with almond butter

  3. My Children – Chicky came home in time to sit with me before my surgery, and she took care of me the first night after my surgery.  She also drove me home the next day.  She has texted me every day that she hasn’t been with me just to see how I’m doing.  Rooster has called me every day since I got hurt.  He calls when he’s on his way home for lunch or when he’s finished work for the day.  His girl has texted me too, so I’m getting even more love.  These children of mine may not know how much their calls mean, but I try to tell them each time we talk how much I appreciate their thoughtfulness.  I’m often in tears after speaking with them because my heart feels as though it’s going to burst from all of the love I feel.
  4. The Rest of the Family – The Mr.’s parents opened up their home to me.  They allowed me to disrupt their quiet lives so that I would be close to my surgeon and the surgery center and so I would have a comfortable place to both prepare for and later begin my recovery from my surgery.  They’ve texted me every day that I’ve been home to check on how I’ve been doing.  They’ve prayed for me and asked for prayer for me at their church.  Super Sis made a pasta salad that was vegan-friendly, and I ate on that for dinner both nights I was at our in-laws’ house.  She also came over for a sister sleepover the night before my surgery.  She made sure that I made it to the bathroom without falling and even straightened my hair.  There is always a lot of laughter involved when we are together.
    Me...waiting in the bathroom...while Super Sis ran back home to get her straightener.

    Me…waiting in the bathroom…while Super Sis ran back home to get her straightener.

    Goofy faces with my seester

    Surgery hair is ready!

    Surgery hair is ready!

    Chicky and I stopped by to say goodbye before we headed home on Tuesday.  She’s a runner like me. ❤

  5. Friends – So many people have been praying for me since I broke my ankle.  Several have texted me every day; some have come by to bring meals, gift cards for meals, and even a book!  One prayed for me before she left.  You know what?  They haven’t forgotten about me either!  It would be easy to stop calling and texting now that I’ve had the surgery, but the contact has increased…just when I need it most.  Until 1am yesterday morning, the pain was out of control.  Knowing that I’m not alone…that I have people to lean on…has made this easier to bear.
  6. Fur Babies – They don’t understand what’s happened.  They only know that I’m not as accessible as I’ve been.  They want their mama back to normal so I can curl up with them in bed and snuggle with them again.
  7. Yarn – It takes my mind off of the world around me.  It allows me to create fun things to gift to friends.  It’s one of my escapes.

    Notice the name of the colorway? I bought this in San Antonio when I went to Rooster's Air Force graduation.

    Notice the name of the colorway? I bought this in San Antonio when I went to Rooster’s Air Force graduation. My ball winder is broken. My swift is not, thank heavens. I hand-wound that skein of yarn. It took me awhile, but I did it the old fashioned way!

  8. Humor – Imagine how much of a dull place this world would be without humor.  My doctor displayed some humor when he put a smiley face on my big toe when he visited me in pre-op.  Ha!
    See the smiley face on my big toe?

    See the smiley face on my big toe?

    I received the following card from my daughter-in-law’s parents.  The cover is the inset picture.  Her dad’s clever blurb is the bigger picture.  It made me laugh out loud for real.


    I found a bit of humor in the Charity Miles announcement that appeared on my phone Tuesday morning…the day after my surgery…

    And then there was this…one of my bracelets that I got ready to cut off when I got home on Tuesday…

    The Mr. said that I should have been wearing this BEFORE I actually fell!

    The Mr. said that I should have been wearing this BEFORE I actually fell!

  9. Books – They take me away to other worlds.  I received this book from one of my favorite young adult writers, Allison van Diepen, on Tuesday.  She and I are friends on Twitter and Facebook.  She’s great about sending me pre-released copies of her new books.  I cannot wait to dig into this one!
  10. TV – I know, I know.  TV is bad.  I don’t have it on during the day, unless it’s a Saturday and there’s football on, but at night…that’s a different story.
    I vegged out to the Dancing With the Stars Finale (Monday night's show) when I got home on Tuesday.

    I vegged out to the Dancing With the Stars Finale (Monday night’s show) when I got home on Tuesday.

    Did you watch Survivor‘s show last night?  Oh my gosh!!  It was a double episode, and the second tribal council packed a punch, let me tell you!!

And so that’s my list.  It’s by no means all-inclusive.  I’ve left so many things out.  The point, though, was to think happy thoughts…to move beyond my temporal sadness to see the big big picture.

God has blessed me abundantly…far more than I could ever hope for and that which I would never ever deserve.

I pray that all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!

Vacation Shenanigans

Dear Blog,

I realize I’ve been absent of late.

Blame it on work.

Blame it on fatigue.

Actually, blame it mainly on the trip the AuburnChick family took the week of Thanksgiving.

You see, the Grand Poobas of the family are a generous couple who enjoy getting their loved ones together, in one place, whenever possible.

As you know from past posts, our adventures often find us cruising on the high seas.

This Thanksgiving, we were blessed to return to Grand Turk, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and Holland America’s private island, Half Moon Cay.

I’ll spend the next few posts sharing photos and memories from the trip.

Let’s begin with the day we left.

We had to travel nearly the entire length of the state to get to the port in Ft. Lauderdale.  Of course, getting to the point of driving down was first met with packing…lots of it.

A girl can never pack enough, don’t you know.  What a tragedy it would be to not have the perfect outfit for a particular outing or activity.

Haters be hatin’ my organized, think-ahead brain.

😀

Getting up that Saturday to make the long drive to Ft. Lauderdale was easy…seeing this on my phone app made me smile…

For nine blessed days, my little family of four would once again be together.  We had not seen Chicky since early June and could not wait to reunite with her.  We stopped a few hours into our trip to pick her up.  A friend had driven her to a place not too far from the interstate.

Girl in-tow, we continued to make our way to the hotel, a few hours away.  We met up with the other part of the family, ate dinner and watched football on the big screens, and called it a night.  We probably had at least fifteen alarms set among all of us…all in the effort to not oversleep so we could board early.

Come back for my next post where I’ll share photos and thoughts from Sunday, our first afternoon/evening on the ship.

Thankful

It’s very, very late, or early, depending on your perspective.

I spent all of yesterday evening baking for the family that is coming over later this morning (it’s after midnight as I’m writing this).

I began thinking about what to write for this holiday post, and of course, with it being Thanksgiving, my mind turned to the things I am grateful for.

This has been an interesting year in many respects.

There have been some highs and some lows.

The lows have been especially rough.

In May, we lost Aubie, our beloved fur baby, after having her in our lives for nearly fourteen years.  I still have not recovered, and tears quickly come when I think of her or pass by her collar, which hangs near my kitchen table.

In early June, I went through a difficult time at work and left for the summer trying to extract the knife that had been thrust into my back.  It was not fun, and I spent the entire summer healing from the wounds inflicted on me.

In August, I moved my Chicky out of my home into a house she had rented with two roommates.  It was a bittersweet time.

A few short weeks later, she experienced a season-ending injury that devastated all of us.

Mama Dot’s passing a few weeks ago was so sad as a chapter in all of our lives came to a close.

Just two weeks ago, I learned that one of Chicky’s childhood friends had been killed by a drunk driver.  My heart continues to grieve for her family.

I haven’t listed the above events to obtain sympathy, for we must all bear burdens.

I write of them to remind me and explain to you how God’s grace has led the way through the dark times.

If you read my blog regularly, you know that God opened up the way to Chicky’s first teaching job shortly after she got hurt.  She’s now been teaching one month, and though it has been difficult, she’s coming into her own, making “big girl” money and becoming financially independent.

Her rehab from her injury and subsequent final game during Senior Night (playing over twenty minutes) inspired so many people, and her surgery next month and the recovery that will follow will ultimately strengthen her.

My time in the wilderness after being so hurt at the end of the school year led to a summer of much-needed rest and introspection.  I drew closer to God and found a small group at church that forged close bonds.

Aubie’s passing made me realize how I’d taken her presence and her joy for life for granted.  I spend as much time with Pele, Molly, and Gambit now, and they are showered with even more love than before, if that’s possible.  I realized, after Aubie died, just how much of a family member she was, and I don’t want to have any regrets with my other fur babies.  I know they are animals, but they have unique personalities and contribute so much to my family in the love that they give unconditionally.

Rooster’s return home to attend college locally has been a blessing.  I missed him terribly last year, and having him come out and greet me when I get home from work soothes the sadness I feel by Chicky’s absence.  Conversations with Rooster are full of lots of love and sarcasm.  He’s an amazing young man.

I am thankful for the classes I have this year.  The students are well-behaved, don’t curse in front of me (at least not very often), and ultimately seem to appreciate my attempts to help them.

I could go on for days, but I won’t.

I will say, though, that as I think about the good and bad times, I clearly see God’s hand in all of them.

From the special song He put on the radio the morning after Aubie passed away to the email that was delivered to Chicky’s inbox days after being hurt…He was there, making Himself known, letting me know that no matter what happens, He is holding me up with His strong hands.

Today, I am thankful for God’s mercy, extended to me.

The Day After

Black Friday…the day after Thanksgiving…

I usually do not venture outside of the house.

I loathe shopping…for the most part…especially when there are large crowds of people involved.

However, I had a couple of Kohl’s coupons that I’d received in the mail.

Besides that, with Chicky home, I didn’t want to miss spending a moment with her.

So off we went with me adorned in a Christmas sweater and new bling I’d purchased two weekends ago…

Kohl’s was a huge success, and I found a few things to add to my closet.

I even ran into a friend while I was there.

A little later, Chicky, the Mr., and I headed out to Old Navy.

Oh my, but we hit the jackpot there!  I selected quite a few things to try on…

I bought two pairs of jeans (my first skinny jeans), a few shirts, and a cute pair of shoes.

Chicky also got some much-needed items.  She’s got to spend part of her Spring semester observing a classroom, and next Fall, she’ll be doing her student teaching.  New clothes are high on her list this Christmas.

The mail arrived shortly after we arrived home, and I found a package from my friend, Christina…

My little knitting group at school has been having a lot of fun digging through my yarn.  The girls are especially drawn to bright colors.

Because Christina could open a yarn store with her humongous stash (*cough, cough*), I asked if she would be willing to donate any.  I paid her for the shipping…a small pittance compared to what she stuffed in that flat rate box!!!

She included a special treat, my Christmas present, in the box…

Very Auburn-ish, don’t you think?  I grinned from ear-to-ear when I saw it!

Now, though, as the day is drawing to a close, I’m starting to feel sad.

Chicky leaves in the morning, and Rooster leaves on Sunday.

Fortunately, they will be home in a couple of weeks, but still…the week-long visit has been so much fun, and I don’t want it to end!!  I’ll be counting down the hours until their cars turn into my driveway for the long Christmas break!!

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