The Best Thanksgiving

By Kate Morrow

Thanksgiving has always been my most favorite holiday. A time for cooking, wearing comfortable clothes and lounging, catching up with family, playing games, watching football. It’s just such a cozy holiday that truly kicks off the entire holiday season.

Last year, Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning. Our babies came home.IMG_6781

In the NICU, they never really tell you when your baby will discharge because things could literally change in the next moment. But on the Friday morning before Thanksgiving, our nurse practitioner excitingly told us the babies would discharge that Sunday and they would be home for Thanksgiving.

We were beyond thrilled! My husband, our families, and I came together like an Army— finishing the nursery, washing all the sheets and blankets, and getting all of the last-minute items. Cam and I went on a date night Saturday to celebrate and have one last “date” before we knew life as we knew it would get a little crazier with newborn twins at home.

I was like a kid on Christmas Eve and could not sleep at all on Saturday night. When the alarm finally went off, I sprung out of bed. The car seats were packed. Their coming home outfits were finally packed. This was truly going to be the best day ever.

It took a good while to pack up our 76 day adventure in the NICU and get everyone loaded in the car. We arrived home to all of the grandparents standing on the porch, complete with balloons, storks announcing their homecoming in the front yard, and an excited dog anxious to meet his brother and sister.

I dreamed of this day. I longed for this day. I wanted this day so badly and it was here. We were finally basking in the beauty and joy we so desperately dreamt of for those 76 days and during my favorite and the most wonderful time of year.

IMG_6834On Thursday, we celebrated Thanksgiving. Because we were technically in medical isolation, only our selected caregivers could be there. We all sat down at the table—Cam, me, Yaya, Pops, Gigi, Poppy, and Jack and Lilly in their bassinets. We held hands and we prayed. We ate. We shared stories. We tended to the babies. We snuggled.

I can distinctly remember looking around the room and thinking there was no absolute way I could ever possibly get any happier. Everything and everyone I loved most in the world was finally together.

This year, their Poppy— my dad— will be missing from the table. I find so much peace and comfort in knowing that our last Thanksgiving with him was the best Thanksgiving of my life. This is our first big holiday without him and my heart hurts. My heart hurts for the cranberry dressing he won’t fix this year. My heart hurts that he won’t scold me for picking at the trimmings as he carves the turkey. My heart hurts that we wont sneak a few midnight snacks of leftover macaroni and pecan pie.

fullsizeoutput_f6But just like the changing leaves and cold air that are upon us—I know this, too, is just a season of life. I can remember some of the very best Thanksgivings I have ever had. I can remember some of the ones that weren’t as easy. But, I am thankful for them all. And I know easier and better Thanksgivings are in my future.

Wherever you are, whatever you are going through, Happy Thanksgiving!

Poppy’s Cranberry Dressing:

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 package of fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons of orange zest

Method: 

Add sugar, a half of cup of water and orange juice to a sauce pan. Bring to boil and then add cranberries. Allow to boil. Reduce heat and boil for 9-10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add orange zest. Allow to cool. Refrigerate.

Treasured Traditions…Fire It Up & Pass The Biscuits!

By Marianna Boyce

It’s that time of the year when many of us may experience feelings of nostalgia.  I love reminiscing about holidays past.  pic 2On Thanksgiving Day, rest assured, my Daddy will be outside raking and burning leaves in his brick fire pit.  (He will probably also be sporting a tie!)  I adore watching him stand there stoically with his hands propped up on the rake while he watches the leaves burn.  It always sparks great conversation when my son and I smell a fire off in the distance in crisp autumn air.  I’m thankful God has blessed us with another year for Daddy to light his traditional Thanksgiving bonfire.

I also need to introduce you to my maternal grandmother (Maw).  She was the only one of my grandparents that I remember.  She was no bigger than a minute but she owned a large personality.  She passed away many years ago at the tender age of ninety.  One thing I always loved watching her do when I was a child was make homemade buttermilk biscuits.  She would scoop out a handful of lard and circle it around the huge mound of flour in her “magical” wooden bowl.  She would “squish” flour and lard as she slowly poured buttermilk into the bowl with her arthritic hands.  She would incorporate and knead it until it possessed the consistency of perfection. That small handful of lard “magically” transformed into a large ball of dough.  Maw would then pinch off a bit and roll it in her tiny hands.  As she placed that ball of dough on her baking pan, she would gently place her knuckle prints across the top of each biscuit.  This was a must!  She often remarked without the knuckle prints, they just wouldn’t taste as good!

pic 3My precious Mama has continued making these biscuits after Maw passed away.  I had always wanted to learn but it just looked so daunting.  Every Thanksgiving at Mama’s house, I watch her in action.  She always makes it look so easy!  Last Thanksgiving (2017), she just wasn’t herself.  She was experiencing a great deal of pain in her back and could hardly stand, but she just HAD to make those biscuits.  I told her to sit next to me in the kitchen and teach me to make them instead.  It was time to pass the torch!  Mama didn’t realize I was also experiencing an excess of pain in my body related to RA, especially in my hands; however, I was willing to suffer through the pain for my sweet Mama!

pic 1I grimaced when I started pouring cold buttermilk into the bowl incorporating it with the lard and flour.  After a minute or two, a Thanksgiving miracle happened!  It turned out, this was VERY therapeutic for my hands.  Once I finished, I felt fantastic!  The smell of freshly baked biscuits wafting through the air was enough to make anyone’s day!  I could hardly wait for both of us to taste one piping hot from the oven!  My oldest brother Tommy was certain we would be using them for weapons, but I’m happy to report that my first batch of biscuits turned out quite good.  I had a great teacher, but of course Maw AND Mama’s biscuits remain unmatched!  Maybe this year she will teach me to make her homemade giblet gravy.  I’ll be making the biscuits!

We truly need to pass on precious memories and treasured traditions to our future generations.  I’m wondering if we should even revive some that we’ve “forgotten.”  So much seems to get lost along the way.  When did we get in a big hurry to do everything?  The answer is…just one moment at a time!  Let’s just slow down this holiday season and simply enjoy the journey.  God bless you and your family!  Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

  •  I have lost one additional pound since my last post (for a total loss of 5 pounds). I hoped to be further along by now, but you know…Halloween candy and all.  I have a fondness for Reese’s cups!  (Who knew?)  Only 15 more pounds to lose!

One thing at a time: Happy Halloween!

By Jeanne Reynolds

I was in a large national discount chain store that shall not be named but whose name rhymes with Stall-Wart a couple weeks ago. This was September, mind you – and what to my wondering eyes should appear but … well, not quite a miniature sleigh with eight tiny reindeer, but most of what goes along with that. Yes, Christmas decorations. Lots of them. In September.

C’mon, people. We haven’t even had Halloween, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving or even the end of Daylight Savings Time (or is it the beginning? Whichever one is “fall back”) yet. Can’t we reign in our reindeer just a tad?

So I’m focusing on Halloween today. One of my favorite Halloween memories was when I was nine years old and my grandmother made me a genie costume. The TV show “I Dream of Jeannie” was all the rage in those days, and my name is Jeanne, so I just had to have that costume.

I Dream of JeannieAnd boy, did I think I looked good in it. Picture Barbara Eden (eek, I just saw online that she’s 86 now – my mother’s age) … except as a chubby nine-year-old … and plain brown hair instead of blonde … and a sweatshirt on top of the whole thing because it was cooold that Halloween night, even in our northern California neighborhood. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) no photo evidence remains to show you what a great costume it was.

And it would probably be a great costume even today (although a tad tight and short on my current adult frame). Halloween is an incredibly popular adult holiday these days. Travel & Leisure magazine even has an article on the best Halloween events and festivals of the year. (Spoiler alert: Greenwich Village, New York and West Hollywood, California top the list. Won’t be making either of those.)

Franz & HansMaybe you yourself are one of those people who can’t wait to dress up as a sexy French maid or sexy vampire or sexy anything (do you sense a theme here?). Apparently you have plenty of company. Personally, I’ve always favored creative homemade costumes, like the time my husband I donned gray sweatsuits and stuffed the thighs and arms with newspaper ala Hans and Franz of Saturday Night Live fame. Didn’t cost a dime, plus it was a lot more comfortable than a sexy costume. The only thing I had to worry about falling out was some crumpled newspaper.

And then there’s the candy. There are two camps here: Those who buy just enough for the expected number of trick-or-treaters, and those who buy extra … you know, so there’ll be leftovers. Since I tend to buy cheap candy or varieties I wouldn’t eat (because I will), I fall in the first camp. So consider this fair warning: If you want those miniature Hershey’s bars or SweetTarts, head next door.

At least it’s better than my former neighbors, the retired Army dentists. Yep, toothbrushes and dental floss.

Happy Halloween, y’all!

 

 

Our Fleeting and Pivotal Moments…

By Marianna Boyce

We all experience them.  More fleeting moments may be the first day of school or becoming a teenager.  Ahh…we knew it all then, didn’t we?

What was your first job?  Mine was working at Hardee’s in Lexington.  It was there that I learned the value of an honest day’s work, and I actually had some fun along the way.

I also recall the purchase of my first car. My daddy wasn’t sold on it but I HAD to have it. It was a yellow Pontiac Sunbird and it was also a lemon!  My daddy was right…again.  Yellow was indeed, the perfect color.

The next car I bought was a brand new Mustang.  Working at Hardee’s actually did pay my bills.  It was my car payment, insurance, and gas money.  I lived at home until I was married.

As for my first date with Gerry, he invited me to his ten year high school reunion. It was 1986 and I actually had just graduated high school myself.  I probably should’ve been intimidated, but I wasn’t.  I had a blast!

More pivotal moments…IMG-0623

Gerry and I married the following year.

I also became instant mom to a pretty, blonde haired, blue-eyed, independent, headstrong little girl.  I was nineteen and she was eight!  We both grew up together…God bless my sweet husband’s heart!

Pictured is Tiffany and me on my wedding day.  I don’t recall if this was before or after we told her she couldn’t come with us on our honeymoon.  Based on her stuck out tongue…probably after!

IMG-0622

I gave birth to my son Cody nine months after Gerry and I were married.  Yes…that was a close one!  He was indeed a honeymoon baby!  This is a story all in itself.

My promotion from mom to “GiGi” is a phenomenal moment in my life. Avery is now five and she is the mirror image of that pretty, blonde haired, blue-eyed, independent, headstrong little girl that Tiffany was when Gerry and I were first married.  This is Avery sticking out her tongue too…just like her mama!

IMG-0625

I’ve taken several amazing road trips across the United States of America. The most pivotal one was our Arizona adventure in June, 2016.  This was the full-out, purely unadulterated, top down, wind in your hair, road trip!

 I experienced an unforgettable pivotal moment the instant I arrived home from this whirlwind trip.  I stepped out of the car and onto my driveway.  My body immediately told me something was wrong.

My pain began in my feet and ankles.  Gerry and Cody initially thought it was from being in the car for extended periods of time.  Although that idea was worth entertaining, this pain was much different.  Within two short weeks, this pain would quickly spread and intensify.  I was completely blindsided.  My life would never be the same.

It’s not so much the fleeting moments, but the pivotal moments in life that define who we are…good and bad!  I do not want to forget my very humbling and intimidating journey, but I will not allow it to define me either.

No one has a perfect life, but life itself…It is a gift.  God gives me breath, therefore I breathe, therefore I live.  I will live life to the fullest!

Music, The Virtual Time Machine

By Shannon Boatwright

“The music that touches you in your youth is magnified as you get older. Each record can be a virtual time machine – all you need is to hear a second or two and you go back to that place and time when you first heard it.  It’s a brilliant feeling when music touches you so profoundly and stays with you through time.”

  • Rob Halford

Music, for me, is an incredible source of inspiration on so many levels. Rob Halford is considered a Metal God. His voice is out of this world – his vocal abilities and range have put him on the top of the lists as one of the best voices of rock.  After reading up on him, what I really like most about him is his passion for music and his recognition of its ability to truly transport people.  One of my favorite drummers, Brad Wilk, posted this quote by Rob on his Instagram. It really caught my eye because I truly cannot imagine life without music. Music is what helps to fuel my world, keep me motivated, keep me inspired.  All types of music have this lovely ability to take you away, envelop you in its graces and flood you with memories, visions and dreams.Music, The Virtual Time Machine

When I hear certain music, I am most definitely transported to another time. Sometimes instantly. For example, if I hear “Coming to America” by Neil Diamond, I am instantly transported to my living room back in my elementary and middle school days when my mother would blast his music while we cleaned house. She would have it playing loud and proud and I secretively loved it, especially this song. I can see the room, I can smell the fragrances of our home, I can see my Mom singing along and getting taken away by the passion of the song. Growing up with a professional pianist mother who loves music immensely and music is literally her life, well, you get influenced! It’s inevitable. Whether it was classical music, Neil Diamond, Abba, Julio Iglesias, gospel music, classic rock or Yanni – music has always filled the homes that I grew up in.

Music was and is a source of therapy, a source of freedom, a source of great escape. And goodness knows, when I hear certain songs, I am totally transported back in time!  I can hear a song from the movie Annie and instantly be transported to the early 1980s when I would act out the entire movie in my living room for my family. I can hear the song “Dumb Dog” from when Annie is singing to the dog Sandy and instantly feel myself back in my childhood backyard where I used to sing the song to my own dog as I wandered around my yard pretending I was on the streets of New York. I can even smell the pine trees!  When I hear the Guns-n-Roses’ song, “November Rain” I am totally taken back to 1992 when my best friend Tammy and I went to the Metallica/Guns-n-Roses concert at Williams Brice Stadium and thought we were the coolest chicks ever.  Or, “Crockadile Rock” by Elton John, which takes me right to my varsity cheerleading auditions in which I overcame insecurities and went for it, having a blast with the choreography, making the varsity team.  I think of my team and Coach Elliott every time I hear that song and I can literally feel the school carpet under my sneakers as I rehearsed and auditioned.

I could fill page after page of the songs that create a time machine for me that transports me back to glorious moments and memories in which I can still remember the setting perfectly, recreating the moment in such a way that I feel I could close my eyes and still feel, see, and touch everything around me from that special moment in time.  It’s a brilliant thing indeed to be touched so profoundly!  My wish is that my mind and heart are able to always hold onto to this sensory ability that music brings out in me. Here’s to hoping my virtual time machine never breaks down! I hope and pray that music will always have this magical ability to transport me, allowing memories to flood my senses.

Where does your virtual time machine take you? What songs transport you to fabulous moments and special memories?  Pay attention and take note of these priceless songs and allow them to take you back, so that they can stay with you throughout your lifetime!

Front Porch and Kitchen Memories

By Chaunte McClure

By now, you know I love to reminisce about growing up with Grandma. I was scrolling Facebook on Sunday night and came across a meme with an image of peas in chipwood baskets, and of course, my mind traveled back to summer months sitting on the porch at Grandma’s.

On occasion, she’d shell peas or butter beans while we, the grandkids, frolicked in the yard. Some days I didn’t have that privilege or thought I was “too grown” to play with the others, but my time wouldn’t be idle because I’d have to get a bowl and help shell peas. Geez, if Grandma could’ve seen the eye roll I imagined upon her demand. Of course, she always knew whether or not I wanted to do what she asked. I’ve heard her say, “If you can eat ‘em, you can shell ‘em.” That meant get your fingernails ready to open the seams of 2,000 pods. (Clearly, I’m exaggerating.)

fresh-peas

It just seemed like it took forever to see the results of my labor, for I thought my bowl would never get full and the pile of unshelled beans always looked so large.

We snapped beans too. I’d much rather the snapping because it was much easier to break off the tips and snap the stems and that was easier on the fingernails, thumbs and index fingers.

Those are classic moments because today I don’t eat fresh vegetables often enough nor do I have a garden like many families did during my childhood. Food was better for you and oh, the memories we made just with food. Picking, peeling, cutting and bagging tomatoes. Canning peaches, apples, and beans. And making biscuits from scratch. I only watched Grandma knead biscuit dough and even at 42 years old, sadly, I’ve never made homemade biscuits nor have I canned fruits and vegetables. But some of my fondest memories were made on the porch and in the kitchen at Grandma’s House.

What are some of your fondest memories growing up in the South?

Rearview Mirror

By Katie Austin

As I log into my laptop to write my next Every Woman Blog article, I close my eyes to allow my mind to wander as I try to come up with a topic to write about.  It feels good to sit still, thinking about life in general. It’s not often that we find those quiet times in our busy days to just think without having a deadline or having to be somewhere.   I try to come up with something and look at my calendar to see if there are any life events coming up I should write about.

Then it hits me.   The day on the calendar is the only one I see.   It’s like there is a glow around it and my mind begins to race, my emotions flooded with memories of that moment.  When my life stood still and everything changed.

I will never forget that day.  It was Friday, March 5th 2010 and the time was 11:15.  My parents and I were at the house waiting for a phone call.  You see, I had a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound, and a biopsy the day before and the hospital’s breast health nurse navigator, Kelly Jeffcoat, was planning to call me by 11:30 with the results.  I already had a feeling there was something wrong just by the reaction of those around me the day before.  I tried to take my mind off things all morning but all I could think about was wanting to know.

Then the phone call came.  Nothing can prepare you for that moment.  I actually let it ring two times before picking up because I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.  I needed to know but I knew picking up that phone could change everything.   I was right, my life was going to change forever with that phone call.   I was told that I had Stage 2 breast cancer.

From that phone call, I underwent eight rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, surgery (lumpectomy), 26 days of radiation, and then another six months of chemotherapy (Herceptin).  Shortly thereafter I had my port removed and then was on medicine to lower my estrogen levels for almost five years.   I met the most amazing people along the way and their friendships continue to this day.

Katie-Sharon

Katie with Sharon Nipper (her infusion nurse)

KatieBrandy

Katie with her breast friend Brandy

It’s hard to believe that on March 5th of this year it will be eight years since I was diagnosed!   As I let my fingers move across the keyboard, I think back to the day I rang the bell and how much I couldn’t wait to get back to normal.  Over the years, I would try to motivate myself to get healthier and it would work, but then I would fall back into the same habits.  I would allow myself the excuse that I am lucky to be alive so I shouldn’t worry about that.  But that’s not true.   It’s been almost eight (8) years since that fateful day and I am no closer to finding that new normal than I was then.

rear-view-mirror-quote

I spend more of my time thinking back to when I was in shape, when I felt better, when I had more energy, when I didn’t have cancer.  As I type this, I realize that during my cancer batter I had to be strong.   After my treatments were done, I had to be strong and to get back to life I had to put those feelings aside so that I could enjoy myself again.  I realize now I never dealt with the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the diagnosis.   I need to take the time to deal with those emotions.  It’s ok to think about and miss my survivor sisters who are no longer here.  I need to be ok with being afraid of my cancer coming back but not allow it to hold me back.  I need to put God first and my health needs to be a priority.  I want to be ready if/when my cancer rears its ugly head

As I sit here writing down my thoughts, I realize I wrote quite a bit and my next blog post 🙂

I can’t change my past but my future is what I make of it.  I can’t expect things to work out on their own.  Sometimes they do, but for the most part I know that I need to heal before I can move on.  Then I will be ready to take on the changes I need to make in my life.

Life isn’t how quick you get there, but the steps taken to get to where you want to be.” – Katie Austin

Wishing each of you a great day and I look forward to seeing you back on the Every Woman Blog,

Katie Austin