While I’m not a regular gratitude journal keeper, not a day passes that I don’t feel grateful for the life that I have. As my son has grown from an infant into a beautiful, charming, intelligent, and hilarious three-year-old boy, I’ve been thinking a lot about how grateful I am for the opportunity I’ve had to experience motherhood.

For most of my life, kids weren’t part of the plan. I hadn't been interested enough in being a mother to actually pursue it, and my mid-20s through mid-30s was spent married to a man who was even less enthusiastic about being a parent than I was. Every now and then I’d toss around the idea of what it would be like to have a baby. Once, while I was browsing the magazine stand in the downtown Seattle Barnes & Noble, a lovely little girl mistook me for her mother. “Mommy!” she pointed and cried. Her father smiled at me. “That’s not your Mommy, but she kind of looks like her, doesn’t she?” As I was walking home that day I felt an odd twinge when I realized that that probably would be the only time anyone would ever call me Mommy.


Me & Lili Marlene

Margaret Elysia Garcia

“I want another evening of her charms…”

I’m in a crowded room and all I can think of is how gentle his lips feel against mine. I am thankful that at middle age, I know what the perfect structure of a kiss is. I drink them in now like never before. It is a cocktail with one-part recognition, one-part sweetness, one-part desperation, one-part sorrow, and four parts lust in equal measure. I’m not sure I even know who he is.

Tonight my kids and I are at their monthly 4-H meeting. We pack into a hall with plans involving livestock and cake decorating and canning and horse back riding. My son will be raising a rabbit. My daughter will be making a quilt. The Taylorsville town sign says population 150; it’s lying. There’s probably less. When the din of excited children quiets with the gavel of the oldest child chairing the meeting you can hear the cows in the fields. It’s all very picturesque and if Republicans knew we were here, I’m sure they’d swoop down for a photo-op and then photoshop in a few churches to give it just the right touch.

There are many projects children can do in 4-H, a list of virtually endless propositions. I would volunteer, but what could I teach? That I learned my way through Lili Marlene?


For the Rest of Us

Sarah Brysk-Cohen

So, here we are again.  The Holiday Season is upon us.  Depending upon who are you are, this either means a great deal or almost nothing at all.  Whatever your traditions or affiliations (cultural, religious or otherwise), there is no escaping the Holiday Industrial Complex in this country.  Every year I struggle with the very mixed emotions that accompany my identity as a secular, Jewish but nostalgic and kind of sappy person.  I yearn for rituals and moments in which to touch base with family, consider particular stories/lessons about humanity, make special foods.  This year, as the matriarch in a new family, I am confronted with decisions about how to integrate “Holiday” traditions into our lives, for our daughter’s sake. Although in 2012, we say “Holiday” in reference to things that might take place in December (to include Chanukah, Kwanzaa), what we really mean is Christmas.  All jokes referring to paranoid conservatives spouting off about the "War on Christmas" or the "War on Jesus" aside . . . the popularization of Chanukah and Kwanzaa have always been simply a response to Christmas (and a pretty woeful one, at that).  Let’s face facts: Christmas will never not be a really huge deal and one that takes the cake.  Christmas is so embedded in our culture, our calendar, our winter and so beloved, there is no extricating it.  Beyond the gifts, music, food and décor, Christmas is also a Holiday onto which everyone’s personal psychodrama is superimposed.  The way in which families gather or don’t, the traditions people had as children or didn’t . . . the powerful dynamics at play during this time of year call up some of the deepest feelings of joy or longing for many Americans.  Oh and also, reverent people consider it holy and significant.


Live to Eat

Alison Schramm

My mom used to say that there are two types of people, with a very important distinction to be made between them. There are those who eat to live and those who live to eat. We, as a family, have always fallen into the latter category. Growing up, dinnertime was serious business. We gathered night after night, with a properly set table, a square meal, and post-dinner coffee (for the adults, of course). Friends who joined us were always amazed that we didn’t just eat and run, but seemingly enjoyed the process. At the top of her game, my mom was a great cook. We have the photographic evidence from birthdays past to suggest she was capable of extraordinary baking feats (homemade Big Bird cakes, for instance) and family members talk about the elegant dinner parties my mom threw when my parents were first married, but really, her specialty ran closer to the classics---the dishes that don’t require a recipe. Our cousin summed this up perfectly, joking that, “A recipe calls for an egg and Janice uses a marshmallow.” Pot roast, linguini and clam sauce, a perfect spiral ham, roasted chicken, escarole and beans, Sunday sauce: this was my mom’s food. Unfussy, with no pretenses---the kind of food that invited you to stay awhile.  She went to the public market in Rochester, not because it was trendy to eat seasonal and local, but because it was cheaper. “Everything’s a dollar!” she would exclaim, arms full of tomatoes, cucumbers, and romaine lettuce in the summer. As we grew up, and inevitably thought we knew everything, my sisters and I rolled our eyes at the predictability of her cooking. If she hosted a brunch, you were guaranteed an egg strata, ham, and a make-ahead French toast casserole. For summer barbeques by the pool, you could count on potato salad, macaroni salad with tuna, and a huge bowl of melon.


(photo credits: 1, 2, 3, 4)

Gratitude Elsewhere Online

JOY SESSIONS   Photographer Sarah Ernhart captures people and their pets who don't have much time left together.


Photographer Sarah Ernhart captures people and their pets who don't have much time left together.

A SERVING OF GRATITUDE MAY SAVE THE DAY   The NYT has some suggestions for making the holidays more enjoyable. 


The NYT has some suggestions for making the holidays more enjoyable. 

GIVING TUESDAY   After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, try Giving Tuesday


After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, try Giving Tuesday

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