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Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Giving thanks for…

In beauty, behavior, culture, domestic life, family, Health, immigration, journalism, life, love, world on November 22, 2012 at 12:48 am
English: 1 North Grove Street, Tarrytown, NY, ...

English: 1 North Grove Street, Tarrytown, NY, USA, a contributing property to the North Grove Street Historic District (Photo credit: Wikipedia). This is one of my favorite places in Tarrytown!

Today is American Thanksgiving, a day for eating too much, family squabbles and friends’ doors lovingly opened to “orphans” and “strays”, those of us whose families are too far away or dead or don’t like us very much.t

It’s my favorite American holiday, and it took me a few years living here to figure out why. It’s the one day no one argues over, the one day that everyone — Muslim, Jew, Christian, atheist, Hindu — celebrates with relief that we all made it, relatively unscathed, through another crazy year.

I love how it begins the holiday season, at least for those of us who celebrate Christmas; Canadian Thanksgiving is in early October, which always felt a little early to me.

Every year, newspaper and magazine editors offer a gazillion ways to prepare side dishes. Brine the turkey or roast it? Host, guest or skip the whole shebang? The decisions are all comfortingly familiar.

Jose and I are heading next door to a lovely hotel, in a castle, for our 4:00 meal. No shopping, cooking or cleaning!

Here are some things I’m thankful for this year:

You! Broadside is growing every day, with an array of readers that astonishes me, men and women of all ages and ethnicities, from Australia (hi Charlene and Nigel!) to Vancouver, my birthplace (hi, Rian!) to India, Indonesia, Spain (hola, JPP!) and dozens of other places. I know your time and attention is a rare resource and I’m honored.

My husband, Jose. We’re heading into our 13th. year together. We met online, when I was researching a magazine story about on-line dating and he saw my ad and profile, with the headline “Catch Me If You Can.” We’re very different people in many ways, but we laugh our bums off and work like dogs and I’m lucky to have gotten a good husband on my second try.

The view from our top-floor apartment. We overlook the Hudson River, facing northwest, with a clear blue sky full of jet contrails and military helicopters thudding home to West Point and soaring red-tailed hawks. We see snow and rainstorms sliding across the water and, if we’re up early enough, glittering pink and gold jewels on the opposite riverbank as the rising sun reflects in the windows there. Huge barges glide past every day. On July 4, we can watch six towns’ fireworks at once.

Our town. Tarrytown, NY, named one of the nation’s ten prettiest recently by a major magazine. I love the 127-year-old Tarrytown Music Hall, its oft-filmed Main Street and Goldberg Hardware, still owned and run by the grand-son of its founder. I’ve lived here since 1989, and now run into friends and neighbors everywhere, from my former physical therapist at the grocery store to my dentist at the gourmet shop to my dance teacher at the cafe.

– My work. Journalism has been my world since I was an undergrad at the University of Toronto, so eager to get started, in my first year there, that I showed up at the weekly campus newspaper before classes even began. Through my work, I’ve had the most extraordinary adventures: I spent eight days in a truck with a French-speaking driver going from Perpignan to Istanbul, met Queen Elizabeth, climbed the rigging of a Tall Ship 100 feet to work on a footrope, visited an Arctic village and a remote Quebec commune, and have interviewed everyone from a female admiral to convicted felons, Olympic athletes and the female cop who kept New York’s mayor alive on 9/11. I have been privileged with others’ trust in order to share powerful, compelling stories.

– Supportive editors and agents. I may finally have found my next agent, and this week will finish up my fourth major feature for The New York Times Sunday business section. I need talented people who believe in my skill, willing to tether their own reputation and limited attention to me, to keep moving forward in this competitive and rapidly-changing industry.

– Good health. My mother, at 76, lives in a distant nursing home in extremely poor health. My father just arrived in Hong Kong, after a 16 hour flight, at 83, ready for his latest adventure. I’m fortunate to live in a safe, clean place with easy access to lovely spots in which to walk, hike, bike, golf, kayak, sail, canoe. I have strength and flexibility and my full faculties. I take none of this for granted.

– A new left hip. On Feb. 6, 2012, I had a new artificial hip implanted, a procedure that still awes and amazes me, and which gave me back my life and mobility after 2.5 years of extreme pain. Thanks to Jose’s job we have excellent health insurance and I found a young surgeon I like and trust.

– Friends. Funny, smart, wise, their love and intelligence sustain me.

What are you thankful for this day?

Grateful For…

In behavior, blogging, books, life on November 24, 2011 at 2:03 am
Hudson River

The Hudson River...right outside our windows. Image by Randy OHC via Flickr

A home I’ve enjoyed — in safety and silence — for 22 years, shared for the past 11 years with my sweetie-turned-husband

Our unimpeded and unchanging view, looking northwest, of the Hudson River

Clean, fresh running water available 24/7

The same access to electricity and heat

A life free of violence or threat

Being able to earn a living in my own home in peace and quiet

My lovely husband, Jose

A perfect fall wedding this year in Toronto, surrounded by dear friends and close family

Savings

Our good health

His staff job, (and its benefits), which he still enjoys

My Dad’s good health and vigor, still racing around in his black sports car at 82

His partner, who is gentle, loving and smart

Her kids, who we’ve gotten to know a bit, even though they live far away in Seattle and Hong Kong

Good neighbors

Strong and lasting friendships, some going back to childhood

Work that I enjoy and clients who appreciate my skills

Quick and easy access to an excellent hospital, 10 minutes up the road

Good physicians (and health insurance)

Terrific physical therapists who have helped me rehab from three surgeries, so far, with the biggest soon to come

The health, strength and means to travel

The wisdom, advice and comfort of colleagues who also write or freelance for a living

Living in a town so pretty and charming it’s been used as the backdrop to a number of films, including The Good Shepherd, Mona Lisa Smile, The Preacher’s Wife and Purple Rose of Cairo

A hard-working agent

The fact my new book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail”, is in development as a possible sitcom for CBS

Invitations to address retail executives at three conferences, so far, offering my thoughts on how best to hire and manage  low-wage workers — a chance for a bully pulpit

Editors who value what I offer them, both my ideas and how I shape them

Smart, fun readers like you who (yay!) come by to visit and chat from all over the world, whether Scotland, France, Canada or Australia.

Thank you for making Broadside a part of your life!

What are you giving thanks for this Thanksgiving?

When Family = Stress

In behavior, children, domestic life, family, life, love, parenting on November 23, 2011 at 1:11 am
A mother plays the guitar while her two daught...

If only it was really this calm! Image via Wikipedia

No matter how much we look forward to visiting our distant family members, (and many of us do), there’s often a whole pile ‘o unexploded ordnance lying beneath that linen-covered holiday table: resentment, envy, insecurity, fear, doubt.

No matter how much we’d love to ignore them, they often blow up when you least expect them, or want them to. Here are some of the old standbys:

When are you getting married?

You still don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend?

How’s that “freelancing” thing working out for you?

We had such a great time in Paris — how was your summer?

You’re still ABD?

Billy just got a promotion, and a bonus. Did you find a job yet?

It’s so great they’re making plus-size clothes in such pretty colors these days. Love your dress!

Having just survived the latest “helpful” advice from one family member — which left us both shouting in rage (nice) — I know all too well the joys of spending time with relatives who have firm and fixed ideas about how much more effectively or wisely one might behave.

It takes a soul of steel, (not to mention duct tape), to not let old patterns re-emerge, snitty comments get under your skin or ancient feuds simmer to a boil with the addition of alcohol, overeating and too much time in a small space with people you never got along with in the first place, shared genes be damned.

Right now, my mother isn’t speaking to me (I’m her only child); my half-brother insists it’s him or me at Christmas and none of my husband’s relatives (all two of them) could bother attending our recent wedding.

Family, schmamily.

What are you most looking forward to when you gather for Thanksgiving?

What are you dreading?

Just Say No

In aging, behavior, books, business, children, domestic life, family, life, love, women, work on July 20, 2011 at 12:08 pm
Conflicting Emotions

Image via Wikipedia

It’s two letters, one syllable.

Why is it so hard to say?

Because we have conflicting needs and desires.

I recently turned down three offers to speak to audiences about my new book.

One would have had 3,000 people on-line; another 30 people in a room a 45-minute drive from my home and the third maybe 60 people in another country. None of these people thought it odd, or rude, to ask that I speak without any compensation or any guarantee of book sales. Just “exposure.”

Of course I want to sell lots and lots of my books. I want and need to meet new readers. But with gas at $4 a gallon and my time billable at $150-200 hour, being asked to just give it away really annoys me.

Why exactly am I expected to donate my time, energy and skills?

So now I don’t.

It feels really good to finally start saying no. (It doesn’t have to be rude or have any affect at all. It is, as they say, a complete sentence.)

We’re all trained in the art of nay — or yay — saying. I grew up in a family of people who were/are extremely determined to get their way. People who consider me stubborn and hard-headed, who’ve also met my family of origin, get it.

There was little negotiation, often their way or the highway. So “no” became a fairly useless response, if I wanted to have a family at all.

The first man I married won my heart through his unblinking ability, on Christmas Eve after a toxic little maternal encounter, to say “No” to the whole thing. We left. I would never had mustered up the nerve to tell her enough! Thank heaven he did.

Women are heavily socialized from childhood to make nice, keep everyone happy, givegivegivegivegive (in), no matter our true, private feelings on the matter. The woman who dares to be the first to buck that trend, to ask for a raise, refuse to make team snacks or host Thanksgiving is often vilified for being so….demanding!

One of my favorite books is “Women Don’t Ask”, which explores this issue in detail.

It can take years, decades, even a lifetime to locate your spine and keep it as stiff as rebar when needed. Saying no, despite the conflict, anger, frustration and recrimination it can create, (and, oh, it does!) is a powerful choice if all you’ve been saying — reluctantly, resentfully — is yes. (Sigh.)

So much easier to avoid conflict by caving, keeping everyone else happy, wondering when you might finally muster up the nerve to say NO and mean it.

What have you begun saying no to?

How does that feel?

As Thanksgiving Nears, Ten Ways To Be A Gracious Host

In business, food, parenting, travel on November 22, 2010 at 1:32 am
New welcome mat from my parents

Image via Wikipedia

Being invited to someone’s home — as many of us will soon be for the holidays, whether for a party, a meal or a few days — is supposed to be a wonderful thing, a gesture of affection and hospitality. As we all know, it can also lead to sulks, sighs, flounces, shouts or worse.

Herewith a few rules for the host:

Make it fun. Really. Too many people stress themselves out to create Martha Stewart-esque perfection, determined to get it right, or else. I love to entertain in style, with candles and linen napkins, but if my guests aren’t having a good time, there’s not much point. Great music and soft lighting help. Delegate as many tasks as possible and allow plenty of time between the house-cleaning, food shopping, prep and cooking — and your meal or party. A pooped-out host(ess) is no fun!

Offer a wide array of beverage choices. Pellegrino, lots of lime and lemon slices, fresh ice, freshly-squeezed orange juice, V-8 juice and brewed tea make a nice break from sugary sodas or liquor. (Most fruit juices contain way too much sugar for those trying to lose weight.) If you’re serving tea or coffee, it’s great to have half-and-half and skim milk available as well.

Determine food allergies — but set your limits. This is really tricky in an age of vegans, gluten-free adherents and people choosing to follow any number of exotic diets. I once prepared a great salmon dish to have my 25-year-old guests sniff “I don’t eat fish.” Yes, we made them something else, but they haven’t been invited back since.

Be clear about your expectations. If the cat will rush into busy traffic if a door is opened, make that known. If you won’t tolerate anyone else disciplining your children, say so. If the apartment door must be double-bolted upon exiting to be secure, tell your houseguests, preferably a few times.

Write stuff down. If you have guests with you for a while, a written list of tips can’t hurt — where to find the coffee, whether you compost or recycle, the location of the nearest pharmacy or grocery store. Most people hate to snoop or nag, and everyone runs their household a little differently.

Anticipate disaster. If you really don’t want a red wine stain anywhere, don’t serve it. If your best crystal is irreplaceable, don’t put it within anyone’s reach.

Stock your medicine cabinet. No one wants to come unprepared, but emergencies happen — aspirin, Pepto-Bismol, bandages, sanitary supplies, extra razors or toothbrushes are all very much appreciated by needy guests.

Don’t assume your guests know how to (safely) operate any of your technology. Explain clearly anything they might find confusing. This might be anything from your remote to your coffee-maker to your music system.

Let your guests know it’s OK to do their laundry (if it is) and have extra soap on hand. If they’ve been on the road for a while, or have little kids or work out often, it’s a relief to be able to keep up.

Make houseguests truly feel at home. Nice towels, a few new magazines, a box of chocolates, a pitcher of ice water and some pretty fresh flowers in their room will make them feel pampered. If you really don’t want people around, don’t invite them, or limit their stay. They can feel it. Fake or forced hospitality is a misery for everyone.

Don’t Kill The Cat! Ten Ways To Be A Great Houseguest

In animals, behavior, parenting, travel on November 5, 2010 at 1:01 pm
House Sparrow

Respect their nest! Image via Wikipedia

As the holidays approach, and hosts everywhere hope for the best, a few handy tips:

Don’t kill the cat, (or dog, or fish or parakeet.) I once rented a Parisian apartment, a tiny studio at the top of six (!) flights of stairs. It came with a cat. Within minutes of setting down my suitcase, the cat was gone. Where? I peered six stories down into the courtyard. Nope. Looked every-bloody-where. Asked a neighbor. Kitty had hidden under the duvet covering the sofa. Great. I might have sat on le maudit chat.

Whatever animal(s) come with your host’s home, treat them with kindness and care. Keep doors locked and windows closed when necessary.

Bring loot. It might be lovely soap, fine chocolate, wine, some CDs, a coffee table book. If you arrive empty-handed, be sure to send a gift or flowers within a few days after you leave. With your hand-written thank-you note, mailed. Even if your hosts are loaded and seem to have everything, you can come up with something they would enjoy.

Help out. This means you, missy. Even if you snooze ’til noon, you’re still fully capable of washing dishes, loading and unloading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor or wiping down the kitchen countertops. Not everyone is as haus-frau-y as me, and I do love a little housework, so I do windows, polish silver and even clean out fridges on occasion.

Buy meals. When you and your host(s) go out to eat or drink, pay for them. If you’re on a super-tight budget, do it anyway, at least once. Be thoughtful about their generosity in inviting you into their home. (i.e. you’re not paying to sleep there.)

Bring food and drink. Again, especially if your host(s) are on a budget, this means less of a drain on their scant resources. If you must consume something very specific (and/or expensive) — soy milk, quinoa, spelt, gluten-free bread? — bring it with you.

Sex. Don’t. Really, it’s just not that urgent. If you must, be quiet and tidy and don’t spend all day locked in your room. Whatever little treasures you enjoy at home, stash ‘em when not in use. No matter how wildly in love/lust you are, limit the PDA. It can get a little scary.

No public grooming. Ever. Ever. That includes: shaving, flossing, plucking, picking, moisturizing, depilating, coloring, the noisy and disgusting trimming of your nails, filing/painting/unvarnishing your nails. No one needs to see, hear or smell these behaviors, however necessary.

Find a room and shut the door and do it there. Then tidy up.

Respect the space. Even if you think your host(s’) standards of housekeeping, design or cleanliness oddly high or low, it’s their place. If it’s really that dirty or gross, leave. If it’s so anally all-white-don’t-touch-the-sofa you’re scared to relax, ditto.

Ask about preferences and allergies. I almost ruined my friend’s job interview this week by starting to spray (a little) perfume on my wrists. Turns out she is wildly allergic and would have sneezed for hours.

Adjust your schedule. You don’t have to get up at 5:00 a.m. to meditate or jog with your host(s), but it’s their home and their life you’ve come to fit into for a few days or more. If you normally wake up especially late, make sure this isn’t going to pose a problem for them. Find out who needs the bathroom when and for how long. If you get up much earlier or stay up much later than they do, be quiet and considerate of others’ needs for silence and rest.

Staying with a friend or relative can be a lot of fun and a great way to get to know them better, and vice versa.

It can also, quickly and efficiently, forever kill even the best of relationships as people seethe, sulk and wonder whose idea this was exactly.

Give good guest!

Turkey, Stuffing, Drrrrrrrama! Home For The Holidays And All Those Smoldering Resentments

In parenting on November 20, 2009 at 2:02 pm
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 20:  A turkey named 'May...

He's not the only one getting carved up...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Admit it, the very thought of heading home for Thanksgiving — let alone Christmas or Hanukah — fills some of us, perhaps many of us, with utter freaking dread. Dread!

I’ve spent the past two days talking two dear friends, both women, one with a father-in-law from hell, one with a Dad-from-hell, off the window ledge. As someone who’s also fled her own family, even on Christmas Day itself, once driving like a bat out of hell to rural Pennsylvania where a dear friend’s family took me in, I get it. I’ve already arranged for one of these women to come to our own dysfunctional little menage for Christmas dinner so she can flee her Dad’s drumbeat of criticism. This is a woman who’s gorgeous, brilliant, kind and lectures to academic conferences all over the world. Her fatal flaw? No husband.

Even poor old Bailey on “Grey’s Anatomy” last night got lambasted — at the Thanksgiving dinner table yet — by her own Dad.

Gotta love the holidays. All regression, all the time! Because I’m Canadian and my sweetie’s family lives far away and we’re not that close, we head to friends’ homes each year for Thanksgiving.

We’re thinking of starting a new business, being mid-career journos in a dying field as it is. Rent-A-Guest. Seriously! We’ve got terrific stories: flying on Air Force One, meeting the Queen, dancing with Nureyev — and, most important, we’re really distracting! Want to cut off those pesky, predictable and inevitable questions: “when are you guys finally having kids/getting a new house/job/boyfriend/girlfriend/losing weight”? Make sure you’ve got a few funny, anecdote-laden pals with no emotional ties to anyone at the table. Think of us as your psychic sponges.

Here’s a funny, too-true piece from The New York Times about how hellish the holidays can be. Think it hit a nerve? Oh, yeah — the Times cut off comments after 162 people weighed in. In less than two days.

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