Tag: thanksgiving

Thankful for Books

one of my bookcases

This time of year we often reflect on those things that we are thankful for. Toward the top of the list are things like family and friends, good health, good fortune. Below that level is where things often start to vary for people. I was trying to think of about the things that I was thankful for after family and friends, good health and good fortune. What I came up with was books. I am thankful for books.

From a young age, my parents emphasized the importance of books and of reading. My mom told me that books could take me anywhere and teach me anything. I was four or five when she told me that and I took it to heart. My dad read to me often. Because of this, I learned to read quickly and from an early time, books have been an important part of my life. Indeed, for the last 25 years, books mark important events in my life like a kind of bibliographical calendar.

More recently, I’ve come to realize something else about book that I am thankful for: that I am in the fortunate position to buy one whenever I feel like it. This wasn’t always the case. I can remember many times when I was younger where I would look longingly at books, but not have the money to buy them. When I did buy a book, it was a weighty decision to buy a new hardcover for $19.95 when money was tight and that $19.95 was really needed for the gas or electric bill.

Today, however, if there is a book that I want, I buy it without worry. We don’t spend a lot of money on fancy cars, or expensive clothes or furniture. But when it comes to books, I allow myself some extravagance. I might buy an audio book and then decide I want the Kindle edition as well. Sometimes, for books that I really like, I’ll pickup a paper version in addition to have on my shelf. Sometimes, I’ll discover a rare edition online and spend a little more than I might otherwise spend to get it. By doing this, I am taking small advantage of the good fortunate we’ve had to act on what my parents taught me when I was a youngster. Because of that, I sit in my office today, surrounded by books that have taken me everywhere, and taught me countless things.

No investment I have made has given more of a return than books. Twenty dollars spent on a hardcover returns not only hours of enjoyment in reading, but countless times its value in the lessons I take from it, whether the book is fiction or nonfiction. Books taught me the difference between a specialist and a generalist, and have turned me into the latter, something else for which I am grateful this time of year. Reading books taught me how to write and writing has become my avocation, more for me to be thankful for.

I am surrounded here in my office my somewhere around 1,200 books, collected slowly over a lifetime. On my digital bookshelves, there are another 1,200 audio books and 500 or so ebooks. I could go on and list why I am thankful for each and every one of them, but I will spare you that. Instead, I’ll just say that I spent a lot of time thinking about how lucky I am to be able to read, to have passion for reading, to enjoy books, and to be in the incredibly fortunate position to acquire and accumulate them. For much of my life, I knew what it was like to look upon bookshelves with envy and longing. To be able to own my own books and read them is something for which I will be forever thankful.

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Thanksgiving Morning

cooked turkey on table
Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA on Pexels.com

Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke from an usually pleasant dream. I dreamt that I had submitted a novel manuscript to TOR, and at meeting for something, I was handed a sheaf of paper. The top page I cast aside, and beneath it was the first page of a contract for the novel. It had the title on it (which I don’t remember) as well as two columns of notes from various editors about what to keep and what to take out. This, of course, is odd for a book contract, but then, I haven’t had any real experience with book contracts. I remember being so happy, I felt I might burst into tears. Also, on the contract, it indicated how much I’d be paid: a $5,000 advance, $1,000 upfront, an additional $2,000 upon turning in the manuscript, and a final $2,000 on publication. I was thrilled. Then I woke up and it took me a few seconds to realize that no, I hadn’t actually sold a a novel to TOR. It had been a dream.

I got up at 6 am, dressed, and headed out for my morning walk. I walked in silence, watching the sky brighten in the east. At the 7-Eleven I walk to, I bought an orange juice, like I always do. Then I headed back out into the cold for the walk home. As I rounded the corner from the store, I saw there on the sidewalk a $10 bill. I looked around to see if there was anyone walking by who might have dropped it, but the street was empty, so I picked it up. Fortune, it seemed, decided to buy my an orange juice in lieu of selling a novel to TOR.

On my way home, I saw one of the foxes that I often see on my morning walk. I tried to get a picture of it on the trail, but it dashed into the woods and sat on the remains of a fallen tree. I tried to get a picture of it there from a distance, but it something of a fuzzy blur. If you look closely at the center of the photo, you’ll it staring back at me.

fox in the woods

A little further down the bike path, I ran into a bunch of deer. They were crossing the path some distance in front of me, but didn’t really move away when I passed, and were kind enough to allow me to photograph them. In return, I warned them of the fox just up the way.

When I got home, all the kids were awake, and my brother-in-law had started making coffee. Since Kelly and I don’t drink coffee, it made for a usually pleasant smell in the house. I shed my vest and hat and built a fire in the fireplace. The kids (ours and my sisters) huddle around the fire and started watching Home Alone 2. Thanksgiving Day has started.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Prepping for the Holidays

roasted turkey on white ceramic plate
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

For as organized as I like to think I am, I am terrible at prepping for the holidays. I’ve lost count of how many trips to the grocery store we’ve made at this point. We are having my sister and her family over for Thanksgiving. Preparations began a few weeks ago when we ordered a pre-cooked turkey and some mashed potatoes from Whole Foods. I like a relaxing Thanksgiving, where the family can spend quality time with one another without being overly concerned about cooking. A pre-cooked turkey means (a) all I have to do is heat it up, and (b) a delicious bird, no matter what, but mainly because I am not destroying it by trying to cook it myself.

In the past we’ve ordered a full Thanksgiving meal, but this year, we ordered the turkey and mashed potatoes, and figured we could handle the stuffing, gravy, and other simple sides ourselves. The “other simple sides” meant a trip to the grocery store to buy stuffing. We bought extra stuffing because I make turkey hash the day after Thanksgiving and stuffing is one of those things that there never seems to be enough of. We bought vegetables, and gravy, and cranberry sauce. We have rolls to make in the oven.

We got to thinking it would be good to have some snacks during the day so a few days later we were back at the store for cheese, crackers, chips, salsa. Of course, Thanksgiving isn’t the only meal we’ll be having together, since my sister’s family will be here for several days. We added a run to Costco for blueberry muffins.

I thought we were low on beverages so this morning I went to the store to pick up some more soft drinks. This evening, it occurred to me that we didn’t have an onion, and I need an onion for the turkey hash. Then, too, we were running low on some gingerbread cookies we like. As I type these words, Kelly has run off to Trader Joe’s to get a few extra boxes of those cookies for good measure.

There is going to be some cold mornings so we made a trip for some extra firewood. And I’ve promised my brother-in-law a 6-pack of beer and some tequila. On Wednesday, therefore, there will be a trip to a local market that has a massive variety of beer from around the world.

While I can’t be certain, I suspect there will be a trip or two to the store tomorrow for something.

The whole point of this obviously rigorous planning on my part is to avoid stores of any kind on Thursday and Friday. To make sure we avoid any stores on Friday, when everyone is rushing to the stores for Black Friday sales, we’ve obtained tickets for our two families for Mount Vernon. We’ve been to Mount Vernon several times, but my sister and her family haven’t. It is a good time of year to visit. When it is cold out, the often have hot cider available. Still, I am not convinced we will manage to avoid a grocery store on Thursday or Friday. Every year, no matter how well we plan, it always seems as if we have to run to the store for something.

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Post Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

We stayed home for Thanksgiving this year, and hosted dinner for the first time ever. Our newlywed friends, Sarah and Jay, prepared a turkey and pie and brought other goodies with them and came over in the afternoon. Earlier in the day, we cooked. I made a green bean casserole and some organe-glazed carrots. Kelly made mashed potatoes and stuffing. We had some light appetizers and plenty of wine to go around.

I think the dinner turned out really, really well:

photo.JPG

I heaped food on my plate and was so stuffed by the time the meal was over that I could not even think about eating dessert: pumpkin pie and chocolate pudding pie. I went dessertless and was thankful for that, believe me!

It was our first Thanksgiving with the Little Man and Little Miss and so we had plenty to be thankful for. But I’ve got to say that I was awfully thankful for not having to travel anywhere this year, even if it was just across town.

Black Friday

In the post-Thanksgiving dinner coma that we fell into, we all went to bed pretty early. I woke up at midnight and couldn’t sleep so I ended up reading for a couple of hours to kill time. But I have to say that I was tempted to walk next door to the Target and take a peek and see if there were really crowds of people ready to dash in for the Black Friday sales when they opened at midnight! I told this to Kelly later in the day and she said she would have totally done that. Ah well.

Last year I remember it being bitterly cold here Thanksgiving weekend. On Black Friday it was sunny and the temperatures reached up into the mid-60s. We’re expecting much of the same today. We took the kids out for a long walk, basking in the sun, during which time they both fell asleep. But for the most part, yesterday was a lazy, stay-at-home day. I went to the local grocery store early in the morning to get some donuts, but it was early enough to where the store was empty. Other than that, we did no shopping, sat in no traffic, and had a quiet day at home. We weren’t contributing to the economy, I suppose, but I’m not worried. It appears there were plenty other people doing that to more than make up for our exclusion.

Today

This morning, we are heading out into the wilds of Virginia in search of the perfect Christmas tree. Later today I have some Golden Age reading to do (Episode 28 of my Vacation in the Golden Age will be out tomorrow afternoon). And I have more writing to do. This evening, we are having friends over, including one of the Little Man’s good friends. We haven’t told him yet, otherwise he’d be asking us about it all day long.

Annual Arlington Thanksgiving Turkey Trot

We were up early this morning, despite having the day off work, so that we could be at the starting line at the annual Arlington Turkey Trot: a charity 5K walk/run the proceeds of which go to provide food for people who might otherwise go hungry. Dozing off to sleep last night, I’d forgotten about the event, the way you sometimes forget that it’s a weekend and wake up thinking you have to go into work. Kelly woke up at around 6:30 and got us all up and we were out of the house at 7 am. We decided to drive over to the East Falls Church metro and take the train from there in order to avoid parking problems–and to allow the Little Man to ride the train.

It was a cold morning. You could see your breath in the air, but the rain had passed and the sky was a rich blue, a shade of blue I never saw in all my years in Southern California, even after the rains cleared away the smog. We made it to the starting line with about ten minutes to spare. There were some 3,000 people participating in the turkey trot. We pushed our way toward the back where the pets and strollers were (so that we didn’t get in the way of those trying to, you know, set a world record). And before we knew it, the race began and we were off. We walked at a good clip the entire way, weaving through the streets of Arlington, waving to the police officers who blocked traffic. It was actually a lot of fun. People everywhere were cheerful and friendly. There were volunteers along the route encouraging people along. It was all very neighborly and quite apropos for Thanksgiving. If people could only act this way year round.

We finished the 5K with a time of about 55 minutes. Kelly and I made a pact to attempt to run the turkey trot next year, so I guess we both have some training to do between now and then. Along the route, we chatted, and people-watched, and tried to find the lowest possible number on runnings shirts (we were all given numbers–ours were in  the 2600-range. The lowest number we saw was 35. Not bad for 3,000 people, most of whom were ahead of us.

We walked back to the metro, reversed our route home, and on the way, I stopped at the grocery store and picked up goodies for everyone: donuts and muffins.

Later today we’re having our friends Sarah and Jay over for Thanksgiving dinner and I am about to start on some cooking.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Be safe this weekend.

My long holiday weekend plan

Since everyone has been posting what they will be doing this Thanksgiving weekend here is my plan:

Wednesday

  • Head home early
  • Clean up the house a bit
  • Work on more fixes for the novel outline
  • Write Chapter 24
  • Arlington Writers Group meetup at 7pm

Thursday

  • Early morning writing (Chapter 25)
  • Last-minute house-stuff
  • Thanksgiving with friends: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

(Black) Friday

  • Get up very early to… write Chapter 26 while everyone else is shopping
  • Hang out with friends coming into town for the weekend

Saturday

  • Get up early to write Chapter 27
  • More hanging out with friends

Sunday

  • Get up early to write Chapter 28
  • A little hanging out with friends before they head home
  • Cleaning up the house
  • Dexter and Boardwalk Empire

What will you be doing for your holiday weekend?

Thanksgiving dinner

We had a great Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, courtesy of Doug and Rachel. Rachel’s sister Theresa and her son Alex were over to have dinner with us as well. We had a turkey, some delicious mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, new potatoes and onions. It was all delicious. After dinner, we had a birthday celebration for Ruby, who will turn 3 years old on December 1. We had pumpkin pie and birthday cake, and Ruby got to open some presents.

We also had an iChat video chat with jen_ashlock and jkashlock since they were in New York and couldn’t be here for Thanksgiving.

I am both stuffed and exhausted. I was ready to go to bed at 7 PM (after having gotten up at 1 AM PST this morning)! But it looks like I’ll be off to bed in the next hour or so.