Thanksgiving Weekend: Being thankful for things I don’t like.

Hello! Welcome to today’s post that’s actually yesterday’s real post. (You may have seen my non-post post from nearly midnight last night.)

Maybe it was because yesterday was Thanksgiving Day that I woke up in a weird, meditative state this morning and started thinking about the concept of gratitude. Counterintuitively, I wondered, could I be thankful for things in my life that generally cause angst or distress?

I realized that:

1). I’m thankful for my depression, because it reminds me that I can’t guess a person’s struggles. Every stranger is a mystery, and it doesn’t make sense to judge a mystery. It doesn’t make sense to react to a mystery, either, no matter the rudeness or awfulness of it.

2). I’m thankful for my phobia, because it means that I can feel something. I can think of nothing positive about my paralyzing fear of roaches, but I can appreciate that it evokes a pureness of any emotion.

3). I’m thankful for stressful situations, because they force me to practice patience, self-control, and nonchalance.

4). I’m thankful for awkward situations, because they force me into a place of self-scrutiny.

5). I’m thankful for pain, because it heightens the bliss of not being in pain.

6). I’m thankful for cold, because it heightens the bliss of warmth.

7). I’m thankful for bad days, because they make me eager for the next day. Every day is a new day.

8). I’m thankful for the intensely trying or traumatic experiences in my life, because remembering them gives me perspective.

9). I’m thankful for hard times, because I come through them – I hope – as a more understanding person.

I realize that I can choose to see my struggles as positives; they can help me to become a better human out in the world.

 

“Without darkness, you can’t see the stars”

 

 

 

One hour before midnight on Thanksgiving Day…

It is indeed Thursday! It’s Thanksgiving here in the States, and after a full, exhilarating day of food and family-related activities, I’m just now – in the middle of doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen – realizing that today is a Thursday… and it’s an hour before midnight.

So I’m here to say Happy Thanksgiving to my people who celebrate gratitude with family and friends, and also to let you know that tomorrow I’ll be back with a proper Thursday post.  It’ll be my Black Friday of blog posts, buy one and get one free.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, aka Retail Insanity Day (RID) as retailers mark down some of their wares to irresistibly low costs and millions of salivating Americans lose their minds trying to get them. I believe the day is actually meant to kick off Christmas-shopping season. Black Friday is a whole shopping event. For sure it’s a great time to get your appliances and other things that you need!

I prefer the online option to going out and getting trampled in the aisles, but I’m going to do less of that this year. Do I really need to stock up on a year’s worth of stuff from The Body Shop? I’m still trying to use up my stock from last year’s Black Friday!

At any rate, I’m now blathering (about I don’t even know what) while my kitchen needs me desperately. Until tomorrow, then.

 

 

CAKES ON A PLANE.

Today, we spent four hours between an unanticipated airport and an unanticipated airplane, so here’s an unanticipated travel pic in an unanticipated post:

 

cakes on a plane

 

Apologies, friends. I had to amuse myself somehow on one of those planes.

My plan to post here at a reasonable time today fell through when our airline changed our returning flight to Phoenix. Everything is fine! We had an amazing time with family, and we’re home now, but I missed Blog Friday. [insert sad emoji]

Watch this space for a proper post on Tuesday!

Happy Thanksgiving (week)!

We’re all over the place this week… mostly out of town… so we just wanted to say:

 

!!!!!

 

I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving feels extra-special this year. I appreciate Thanksgiving as a holiday to honor family, friends, and loved ones. While I’m grateful for my family every day of the year, I’m happy to have this one day to dedicate to them, to honor our emotional connections, and to reflect on what’s truly important in life: each other.

Thanksgiving, I guess, is a personal holiday, meaningful in the ways that matter the most to us.

We wish you all a happy holiday this week. Thank you, friends.

The general kittystate chez nous. (Kitty updates!)

Several of you request more frequent kitty updates, and I’m sorry I haven’t gotten better at this. I like to oblige when you make requests, so I’ll work on posting about the fur-kids more often! For now, every five-six weeks continues to be the norm.

So what have been the main points of interest around here?

1). We went out of town for Thanksgiving. While we were gone, our kitty-sitters never saw Nenette. Not. Even. Once.

We weren’t surprised. We were satisfied to hear that her food was disappearing between visits, and that her litter box was being used.

While she’s continued to get more comfortable with Callaghan and in the house, in general, poor Nenette still has a crippling fear of men and strangers.

If you remember, it was for this precise reason that our Feline Behaviorist recommended keeping Nenette here and giving someone else a chance to take Nounours home to an only-cat situation. Because of their comfort levels with humans, Nenette was deemed “not as adoptable,” while Nounours was evaluated as “very adoptable.”

(How right she was. Because of his personality, Nounours was indeed Mr. Popular at the shelter, and he was adopted by his ideal cat mom within two months.)

When we adopted Nenette, she was confined to a small see-through container in a window at PetSmart with nowhere to hide, so we couldn’t fathom how afraid she was. At the shelter, where visitors get to wander amongst the many available cats, she wouldn’t have been seen. Or she would’ve been seen cowering in a corner. Either way, people would overlook her. People are naturally drawn to cats who come up to say hello and ask for pets, like Nounours the Snuggle-Monster, who loves all humans indiscriminately.

Nounours is in Nounours Paradise with his doting Mom and no competition, but Nenette is still working on overcoming her severe social anxiety. At least our Thanksgiving kitty-sitters have seen pics of her!

That aside, she’s very happy when it’s just us.

2). On her part, Cita is very happy in the winter cabin we’ve created for her in her laundry room. I lined and padded the spacious, highest shelf and covered it with a soft blanket, and she loves it. She has little pillows up there, and at night, we make a cozy bed with a kitty bed (she likes to sleep against it rather than in it, which works well because of its high sides), her pillows, and her bouillotte (soft hot water bottle covered in cozy fabric). She has a space heater and a cat door and a lamp for lower, warm lighting. I spend the working hours of my days in there with her, as I use the washing machine as a standing work station. As far as she’s concerned, Cita is indoors.

She still goes out and gets beat up now and again, talking trash to other cats in the hood. She cannot tolerate other cats (unlike Nounours, who simply resented competition). Twice, we had prospective families for her, and both times, they fell through. But looking at the situation with clear eyes, we can see that she’s simply happy here, on her property, with us. We do what we can to minimize her chances of getting hurt.

Without further ado, enjoy some pics!

Inside fur-child (evidence that Nenette exists):

 

Nenette's favorite place to sleep: In her kitty bed. On her chair. Next to my side of the bed.

Nenette’s favorite place to sleep: In her kitty bed. On her chair. Next to my side of the bed.

 

It’s chilly now, and kitties are in full-on snuggle mode.

 

Nenette reached out to touch my face just as I was about to take this picture.

Nenette reached out to touch my face just as I was about to take this picture.

 

We put up a Christmas tree in anticipation of family from Europe coming to visit for the holidays. As far as we know, Nenette had never seen a Christmas tree. We haven’t decorated it yet… so far, it just has the lights that came with it.

 

Nenette doesn't know what to do with this fake tree in the house.

Nenette doesn’t know what to do with this fake tree in the house.

 

As for Cita, our outdoor fur-child:

 

Cita reminds me of a cartoon character in this pic. I just can't think of which one.

Cita reminds me of a cartoon character in this pic. I just can’t think of which one.

 

She loves plants more than anything.

 

Plants are Cita's favorite things on earth.

Plants are Cita’s favorite things on earth.

 

And she loves her bed in the laundry room!

 

A sudden sound outside caused Cita to make this face just as I was about to take her picture.

A sudden sound outside caused Cita to make this face just as I was about to take her picture.

 

That’s it for now! I’ll try to post kitty updates more often in 2017. I can’t believe we’re within weeks of the new year. Yikes.

Yummyliciousness happened.

All in one breath: We trekked to California for a Thanksgiving extravaganza of riotous family togetherness with long-lost cousins and uncle and I finally came to understand “once removed” as I met some First Cousins Once Removed and yes, I do feel enlightened and very lucky to have learned this, as the lesson came about when I met some awesome relatives for the first time! OH and the extravaganza included cooking shenanigans involving an array of never-before-tried recipes, all vegan, I believe, and all tasty! I wrangled with some heads of cauliflower that predictably fought back by launching bits of themselves at me and the floor, but my helpful cousins noticed and picked the cauliflower out of my hair and eyebrows. I couldn’t help but envision the kitchen as a wintry Japanese hot springs full of snow monkeys engaged in social grooming. If Japanese snow monkeys could laugh, they would sound like us. We’re not as adorable as they are, though.

 

Japanese macaques (snow monkeys)

Japanese macaques (snow monkeys)

 

It was just so good to reconnect and laugh with my California first-cousin crew!!!

Back at Mom and Dad’s house, I started to write an actual post for this morning, but it spiraled into oblivion in the direction of something I wasn’t prepared to write at the moment. I’ll save that post for another day, if I pursue it all, which I may not.

So today, in closing, I would like to sign off with this selfie I took while snuggling with my new niece, aka my sister-in-law’s dog. I got to meet her this morning! It was love at first sight.

 

My niece is cuter than yours. She has soft ears. Your argument is invalid.

My niece is cuter than yours. She has soft ears. Your argument is invalid.

 

Until next time!

That cauliflower recipe, by the way, is outrageously good. I have it, courtesy of my cousin who brought it to us. I will make that cauliflower dish again… and I will win when the cauliflower attacks.

Thanksgiving, TALC-versary, NEW KITTY PICS!

Today falls between two days of significance: Thanksgiving and my TALC-versary, the latter being more of personal significance, of course.

So, happy belated Thanksgiving, American readers!

And happy 3-year TALC-versay to me, which actually feels like an extension of Thanksgiving, because I’m grateful for this blog. I’m especially grateful for all of you who read it. I wrote my first post on November 28, 2012 after creating my WordPress account sans clear idea of what it would involve. Sometimes it’s more fun not knowing, though, and fun, it has been. I can’t say it enough: Thank you all for reading! Here’s to the next three years!

Yesterday marked our first Thanksgiving here in the Land of AZ since we moved back. It was just the two of us and kitties this year. We talked to Mom and Dad on Skype and then did the traditional thing of eating a lot and catching up on Scream Queens.

For the food, I kept things simple and made savory dishes to satisfy the palate the same way as the traditional Thanksgiving spread. I made quinoa and brown rice pilaf with sautéed mushrooms and garlic, roasted baby red-skinned potatoes and onions, roasted Brussels sprouts, and thick eggplant slices lightly fried in olive oil. We had fresh, cooked broccoli with Veganaise for an appetizer, and fresh raspberries for dessert.

 

Thanksgiving dinner 2015.

Thanksgiving dinner 2015.

 

Now for some pics for a mini visual kitty update!

 

No one lounges like the Nounours.

No one lounges like the Nounours.

 

No one poses better than la petite Nenette.

No one poses better than la petite Nenette.

 

I managed to catch Nounours in a rare moment of being properly illuminated for the camera. You can even see the blue of his eyes!

I managed to catch Nounours in a rare moment of being properly illuminated for the camera. You can even see the blue of his eyes!

 

Nenette has taken to resting on the back of the couch to be near us.

Nenette has taken to resting on the back of the couch to be near us.

 

It's funny how these two often sit near each other on this end of the couch.

It’s funny how these two often sit near each other on this end of the couch.

 

Also! Kitties’ Aunty Carol captioned one of Nenette’s pics from the last update:

 

"What is HE doing here????"

“What is HE doing here????”

 

Yes, Nenette really says that sometimes when she’s in the same space as Nounours, and he says the same thing of her. Their dynamic is mysterious and Callaghan and I mostly try to avoid intervening too much, but I admit that I’m a helicopter cat mom who sometimes hovers over the furbabies to make sure Nounours keeps his intimidation tactics to a minimum.

Today, we’re hiding from Black Friday madness. It feels like the day after Christmas, and that’s awesome.

Thanksgiving.

T minus 24 hours to road trip to California!

I was thinking the other day that not having human kids means that I’ll never have to feel like the Grinch who stole Thanksgiving when my kid comes home from school brimming over with warm and fuzzy stories about the “history” of “the first Thanksgiving” and I find myself unable to keep from explaining the truth behind the myth. If schools could just limit Thanksgiving holiday festivities to cute finger turkey drawings, then fine, but somehow, I don’t see them omitting the fables of the “Pilgrims and the Indians” being BFFs on “the first Thanksgiving” anytime soon.

That bit of cynicism aside, one thing that’s remained true about Thanksgiving over time is its focus on expressing gratitude for a bountiful harvest, which has broadened to include giving thanks for everything that we have, including our good health and each other. This is the aspect of the holiday that appeals to me the most – its focus on family.

Thanksgiving is this week Thursday, and we’re going to be spending it with my family. When I lived in France, I missed the comfortable proximity to my family more on Thanksgiving than at any other time. You always hear people saying, we should give thanks and express gratitude for our families every day, not just on Thanksgiving, and I agree with this, but still… Thanksgiving.

And I’m feeling so grateful for my family… the family that chose me, the one that I’ve chosen and the one that I inherited just by being alive.

We all have family, even if we think we don’t. If your circumstances are such that your actual family members are absent in the world, if you feel isolated and friendless, as long as there are people in the world, you have family.

In Hawaii, you’ll find this concept expressed openly and naturally by the locals, as the family mentality is a part of the local culture. If you’re walking along the beach and a child is playing in your path, it’s likely that the adult sitting nearby will call to the child, with firm affection, “Come over here, Bobby… let Auntie pass.” And you’ll look over at the parent to find him smiling and nodding at you with respect. Auntie. Think of it! A total stranger will see you coming and say to his child, let Auntie pass. (Yes, this happened to me.)

You are family. We’re all family. Humankind is a human family, and I believe this to be true: When there’s injustice in the world, we have to remember that we’re all brothers and sisters, and we have to allow this to give us strength. Being united gives us strength. Our interconnectedness is an absolute, even in our moments of craving our solitude, even while counting our enemies. To me, Thanksgiving is a time to remember this and to feel our bond and connection with others. Being human also means that we can lose patience and hold grudges, but on Thanksgiving, I want to be mindful of our oneness and feel grateful for what that means. We walk the same earth and breathe the same air. We can help each other and commiserate and make each other laugh and offer comfort and support as easily as we can do harm.

 

Reflecting lights... candle flames on a dark morning.

Reflecting lights… candle flames on a dark morning.

 

Happy Thanksgiving week, All.

What I’m Digging Right Now – November Favorites

Why hello, December! I can’t believe it’s already time to recount the blessings of November.

November was all about road trips and nesting and family. Between driving from Austin to Phoenix, and Phoenix to San Jose, and San Jose back to Phoenix, we clocked in more than 40 hours on the road… and it was worth every second. November’s main highlights were moving back to Arizona and going to spend Thanksgiving with my family in California.

November’s “BEST OF” to note:

1). Being back in the desert.

 

This was actually taken yesterday (in December), but it continues November's brilliant sun and gentle warmth, so here you go. Sitting outside in a t-shirt, blessedly dry in the absence of humidity!

This was actually taken yesterday (in December), but it continues November’s brilliant sun and gentle warmth, so here you go. Sitting outside in a t-shirt, blessedly dry in the absence of humidity!

 

Phoenix date palms lit up for the holidays

Phoenix date palms lit up for the holidays

 

2). Music: Steve Earle, my favorite country artist and one of my all-time favorite musicians, period. He’s a wonderful poet, and I love his unique sound… it flows between country, country-rock and alternative country, rich with folksy, rock n roll and bluegrass flavors here and there. He’s just amazing. I made a playlist of my favorite Steve Earle songs and burned the CD for our trip out of Texas. It was perfect!

 

My Steve Earle CDs: El Corazon, Townes, I Feel Alright, Copperhead Road and Jerusalem.

My Steve Earle CDs: El Corazon, Townes, I Feel Alright, Copperhead Road and Jerusalem.

 

3). Target’s generic brand energy drink (Archer Farms). We think it out-red bulls Red Bull, and it’s very tasty.

 

The energy drink that fueled our many hours on the road in November. It's Target's brand. I love the raspberry flavor, too.

The energy drink that fueled our many hours on the road in November. It’s Target’s brand. I love the raspberry flavor, too.

 

4). Living in downtown Tempe.

 

On the patio at the Handlebar in the middle of the night, just because we could. I guess it's debatable whether living near Mill Ave is a plus or a hazard. Nah... it's definitely a plus.

On the patio at the Handlebar in the middle of the night, just because we could. I guess it’s debatable whether living near Mill Ave is a plus or a hazard. Nah… it’s definitely a plus.

 

Arizona State University's Sun Devil Stadium, down the street from our apartment. We get to hear the fireworks when the Devils score, and that's a lot these days!

Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium, down the street from our apartment. We get to hear the fireworks when the Devils score, and that’s a lot these days!

 

5). Re-visiting favorite old hang-outs.

 

Alice Cooperstown, Alice's sports bar/restaurant in downtown Phoenix. Major points for nostalgia here.

Alice Cooperstown, Alice’s sports bar/restaurant in downtown Phoenix. Major points for nostalgia here.

 

6). Feeling truly at home again! After books, houseplants define “home” to me.

 

Our first houseplants in three years! They're temporarily named "His Plant" and "My Plant," respectively (L - R). I have a special fondness for spider plants.

Our first houseplants in three years! They’re temporarily named “His Plant” and “My Plant,” respectively (L – R). I have a special fondness for spider plants.

 

7). My house-warming gift to myself, which didn’t cost me a cent.

 

I took some old books to Bookman's and traded them for the hand-made Greek (Rhodes) Bonis plate on the right.

I took some old books to Bookman’s and traded them for the hand-made Greek (Rhodes) Bonis plate on the right.

 

8). Dexter.  We binge-watched the entire eight seasons, starting in Texas and ending in Arizona.

 

Our favorite serial killer. And everyone else's, I suppose.

Our favorite serial killer. And everyone else’s, I suppose.

 

9). November’s rave-worthy beauty product was (and continues to be) Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil for Hair, Body & Face. I spray a little in my palm, rub my hands together and run them through my dry air, and it leaves a nice sheen. Callaghan also loves it for his skin.

 

This oil defies the dryness of the desert without leaving you greasy. LOVE IT.

This oil defies the dryness of the desert without leaving you greasy. LOVE IT.

 

10). Two Very Happy, Satisfied At-Home Kitties.

 

Nounours at home on his blanky!

Nounours at home on his blanky!

 

Ronnie James at home on the love seat!

Ronnie James at home on the love seat!

 

And last, but far from least: Thanksgiving in California, a last-minute decision that was the best decision ever!

 

Thanksgiving in California – The Real Thanksgiving!

So, that little stealth mission I’d mentioned in my last post?

On Thursday afternoon, we spontaneously decided to join Mom and Dad in northern California for Thanksgiving. We hit the road at 11:00PM, arrived the next morning (the drive is 10-11 hours) and spent a fantastic weekend with them. It was especially great when my brother and nephew showed up! Thanksgiving on Friday felt so much like the real Thanksgiving that all day Saturday, I thought it was Friday. There’s nothing like family. It had been three years since I’d visited mine in California, so that trip was a long time coming.

We left for Arizona yesterday morning and got home after dark. I thought I’d share a few road trip pictures:

 

Passing a southern California wind farm.

Passing a southern California wind farm.

 

We crossed the Arizona border late in the day, just before dusk. The state of Arizona turned 100 last year, and the centennial signs are still up.

We crossed the Arizona border late in the day, just before dusk. The state of Arizona turned 100 last year, and the centennial signs are still up.

 

You know you're in AZ when you start seeing these helpful DUI prevention signs on the highway... "Drive Hammered. Get Nailed." Oh, Arizona! haha

You know you’re in AZ when you start seeing these helpful DUI prevention signs on the highway… “Drive Hammered. Get Nailed.” Oh, Arizona! haha

 

Another telltale sign: saguaros, particularly when silhouetted against a blazing sunset.

Another telltale sign: saguaros, particularly when silhouetted against a blazing sunset.

 

 

 

 

 

THANKSgiving, “A” Mountain and the Hayden Flour Mill

Today was my first Thanksgiving in the States since 2011, which means that it was my first Thanksgiving in two years! It’s so good to be back. If I’m going to tick off a list of reasons to be thankful, I’d have to put that up in the Top 5.

We started out the day with coffee on our balcony.

 

Thanksgiving morning in our neighborhood was peaceful.

Thanksgiving morning in our neighborhood was peaceful.

 

 

Then we headed out the door, walked down the street, and hiked up “A” Mountain.

 

The "A" on "A" Mountain, as seen from the path just below... awkward angle, I know, but there it is!

The “A” on “A” Mountain, as seen from the path just below… awkward angle, I know, but there it is!

 

How I have missed it!

I always enjoy that little hike and the view of Tempe and The Valley beyond, but my focus this morning was on the old Hayden flour mill on the subsequently named Mill Ave, our main street here in Tempe (which, by the way, was originally called “Hayden’s Ferry”). The mill is one of my favorite local landmarks, and I’ve been trying to get good pictures of it since we’ve been back. Needless to say, lots of pictures were taken this morning. Here are just a few:

 

A shot of us with the mill in the background.

A shot of us with the mill in the background.

 

We approached the mill on our descent from "A" Mountain, and I was able to admire it from many angles...

We approached the mill on our descent from “A” Mountain, and I was able to admire it from many angles…

 

The mill with Tempe Town Lake in the background.

The mill with Tempe Town Lake in the background.

 

The mill up close. LOOK AT THAT SKY.

The mill up close. LOOK AT THAT SKY.

 

Now, we’re off on an exciting last-minute Mission Which Shall Not Be Named At This Time. (Sorry to get all Harry Potter meets the C.I.A. on you guys. There’s a reason for it.)

If you celebrated Thanksgiving today, I hope it was fabulous! Happy weekend, and GO DEVILS!! Our annual Territorial Cup game will take place here on Saturday, and it’s going to be epic, as always.