petty potato predicament

discoball-colander
My colander (in which I rinsed my potatoes) looked rather like a disco ball in the bright morning light.

We had Thanksgiving dinner at our house this year, which has become a tradition in recent years. In addition to my family of four, plus my mother-in-law (who is in assisted living in a neighboring town), it has also become a tradition to invite a friend of mine and her two boys.  This year, we were happy to have my mother join us from California, bringing our grand total to 9.

I know that many people host big gatherings of 20 or even 40 people, which honestly sounds totally exhausting to this quiet introvert. (I’ll stick to my table for 9, thank you very much.)

While this relatively small and very comfortable gathering tends to be pretty low-key, I do go a bit crazy with the side dishes. For me, the “side” dishes are actually the main event of the meal. (My immediate family doesn’t eat turkey, and I’m not able to eat the Tofurkey that the rest of my family eats.) So we tend to have lots of different things: various roasted vegetables, stuffing (my famous “stuffed pan”), mashed potatoes, veggie gravy, cranberry sauce(s), as well as simple vegetables like corn and green beans. My mother and I spent much of yesterday chopping and prepping veggies. I went to bed feeling like we were in pretty good shape.

However, going through my mental list as I lay in bed, I got stuck on the potatoes. I intentionally hadn’t prepped the potatoes, as I didn’t want them to brown. But I also hadn’t really counted them.

Doing my mental calculations of person-to-potato ratios, I suddenly became convinced that I didn’t have nearly enough potatoes. It was almost midnight, and I knew that stores would be closed in the morning. (This didn’t stop me from searching online for various grocery stores and checking their hours). I mentally reconfigured the quantities of potatoes in the roasted root vegetables (in which they traditionally play a key role) and considered what remaining potatoes could be left to mash. I imagined rationing out the paltry portions of potatoes to family and guests.

I agonized over the potatoes. I seriously lost sleep. It was not so much a potato panic as a ponderous potato pessimism.

In the morning, I counted the potatoes. The situation was less dire than I’d imagined in my late-night ravings. But still, I apparently could not let it drop. While walking the dog, I persisted in pondering about potatoes. I texted my friend who would be joining us for dinner: “Do you have any potatoes?”

This is, of course, a totally normal question to ask a friend out of the blue.

potato-greeting

The story has a happy ending. My friend brought along her potatoes, and I added a few of them to my boiling pot of potatoes. The resulting mashed potatoes were of respectable quantities. No garments were rent over tiny potato allowances.

In the end, the meal and the day were successful and fulfilling. I am feeling full of both gratitude and potatoes.

And I have to laugh at myself for getting so worked up about such small potatoes.

 

lasting impressions and life goals

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In addition to being the 11th anniversary of my blog, yesterday also marked the 10th anniversary of a dear friend’s death.

My friend Elizabeth continues to be one of my personal heroes. She was an extraordinary person, but chose to live an ordinary life. Or at least what might appear from a distance to be an ordinary life. She didn’t seek fame or fortune, but valued the richness of her life, her friends, her family, and the many things in life that brought her joy. She was witty and insightful. She was warm and kind and incredibly supportive, but could show biting sense of humor. She cared deeply and passionately about the world, but also loved to let loose and get silly.

She died far too young, and I feel her loss still. There have been so many things over the past 10 years that I have wanted to share with her. To discuss, to celebrate, to lament.

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I know that I am not the only one who continues to miss her. She had an impact on so many who knew and loved her. Her impact was not from any single great feat or action, but from the sum of countless moments of connection with others.

Her life was indeed extraordinary.

these books were made for walkin’

We got a puppy last summer, and I have become the primary dog-walker. Brodie is a border collie mix, a rescue from the south, and as with most herding dogs, he’s very intense. He was also an anxious and high-energy puppy. He’s mellowed quite a bit, but one thing that we learned is that he is much calmer and happier if he gets a morning walk. In fact, it seemed that if he did not get a walk, he would not settle down, and not let me get things done. So, I started building into my day that I would spend a good hour every morning on our walk. Often it was more than an hour, sometimes less. While I recognized that this was something good for my health, it felt like it was eating a big chunk out of my productivity. I’d start the day with getting the kids up and out the door, starting around 7, and by the time I came home from the walk, it would be 10 or later. I was starting to resent my morning walks.

This summer, though, John got me some fancy wireless headphones, and shortly after, it dawned on me that I could use them on the walks. I hadn’t been listening to anything on my walks, because I wanted to be alert to sounds from traffic or other dogs. With my new AirPods, though, I could easily use only one at a time, leaving my other ear open to the rest of the world. And I started listening to audiobooks regularly, on almost every morning walk.
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I’ve listened to a few novels, but the real win for me has been to listen to non-fiction audiobooks for books that I have been wanting to read, or have felt like I should read. I love reading, but non-fiction books don’t tend to hold my attention for long periods of time. (Or they put me to sleep.) As a result, it can take me a really long time to finish a book. On my walks, though, it’s been easy enough for me to listen to even a long book. And I’m definitely not going to doze off on the walk. Rather, I feel like I’ve been feeding my brain while walking.
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I’m especially pleased to have finished listening to Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, which is a fascinating look at the often surprising ways in which our minds work. I’m currently listening to a related book, Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, which talks about decision-making. I’ve also listened to both Don’t Think of an Elephant and The Political Mind, by George Lakoff, and Saving Capitalism, by Robert Reich. (In case you wonder about a theme, all of these books are making me think about ways I can participate in affecting positive social and political change.)

How about you? Do you ever choose to listen to audiobooks? Any favorites to recommend?

 

partial derailment

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This was a tough month. I started off with high hopes and lofty goals, but my motivation and my optimism have suffered a major hit. I did manage to post to my blog every day this month, as planned, but my idea to share a daily bit of gratitude was less successful.

Even though I posted *something* every day this month, I mostly haven’t written the posts I’ve wanted to. The unexpected election results and their aftermath have continued to have a big impact on my thoughts and to some extent on my actions. I would still like to write more about this. I hope to keep posting here regularly. I think in order to keep the momentum, I will continue to post assorted photos and lightweight things as I work to unpack my weightier thoughts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese two photos were among some I took back in 2010, when I was doing the daily photography project. I remembered the one of the “hope” train derailed, and went hunting for it. Funny as it was, it wasn’t actually a great photo, so I mucked with it a bit in a clumsy way.

For the record, I considered calling this post “hope derailed,” but my decision not to perhaps reflects that my hope has not entirely derailed. I am planning to get it back on track (as it were) in the coming months.

I’m putting up a post, but this post is down.

I have been sitting here struggling with what to put up for a post, and have had trouble coming up with one. Happily, my inspiration came in the form a photo. And while I am happy that I have a photo that I can post, I am not happy about the post in the photo. Because the post in the photo is definitely down. (The lamp post down here is in my front yard, and it is supposed to be upright. It was a bit on the wobbly side until some time on Monday, at which point a windy day fixed the wobbliness. Yay! It no longer wobbles.)

turkey feast

Our neighborhood flock of wild turkeys has been coming around frequently again lately. Their numbers seem to have increased, as well. About a week ago, I counted 35 turkeys in our back yard.

This morning, a few of them stopped by the bird feeders for their Thanksgiving Day feast. It’s fun to see them jumping to reach the bird feeders.

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My family’s Thanksgiving feast is also finished, and included fewer seeds, and much less jumping. We had family visiting from California, and a few local friends joined us as well for a total of 12 for dinner. It was another long day of cooking and such. Tomorrow morning, I have to drive my sister and nephews to the airport at around 4, so I am once more short on time to write.

shadow of a blog post

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At the end of another long day of household tasks and a house full of guests, I find myself without time or energy to write. I open my laptop, and get caught in a sequence of news articles about the election and its fallout. I follow trails of hope, trip over infuriating updates, and then stumble back into pits of gloom and doom.

I want to write more, but I think I really need to sleep in order to keep functioning. I can’t tell whether I am getting sick, or am merely sick with tiredness and worry. The gratitude will have to wait once again.