“Home to Me” Week One Round-up: 7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 37)

A week ago yesterday, I introduced a blog-hop called “Home to Me.” Over the two weeks from Friday, November 13 through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers are writing on what/where/who meant home to them. So far seven women (including myself) have published posts on the subject, and let me tell you – they are just beautiful! I am so proud of how this little series is shaping up and I look forward to seeing what its second half holds in store.

I hope you’ll join me in revisiting the posts from week one and eagerly anticipating those in week two. (Please also stop over to Kelly’s to check out the rest of this week’s 7 Quick Takes.)

Seven Quick Takes Friday


Day One: That Time I Rang a Stranger’s Doorbell and Found Family (Part One) by yours truly

These Walls - That Time I Rang A Strangers Doorbell and Found Family Pt 1 - 1

The (first part of the) story about how I visited the rural German village from which one of my ancestors had come and ended up befriending a family distantly related to my own:

[O]ff the train, and off the platform I stepped into a pretty little village. I don’t remember seeing any people at all. I looked at my map and the street signs, got my bearings, and took off. I walked those three miles with a sense of wonder and a spring in my step: this was my homeland. (Well, one of them.) My ancestor might have walked these very roads more than two-hundred years before.

The landscape was beautiful – rolling green hills, fields, streams and woods – not unlike the central part of Maryland where my Hessian soldier ancestor ended up. I wondered whether the similarity helped him feel at home in America.

As my walk neared its end, I found myself up on a rise overlooking Oedelsheim. It took my breath away. Hundreds of red roofs sprawled outward (the village wasn’t as small as I’d assumed), a ribbon of blue river wound just beyond it, and gentle farmland and hills surrounded the lot.

I was home. For the first time since Johann Philip had been loaded onto a ship and sent across the Atlantic, one of our family was back in the place from which it had come.


Day Two: My Forever Home by Leslie of Life in Every Limb

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Leslie shares her experience of finding her truest home in Knoxville, Tennessee. Circumstances change and with them, addresses and family make-up – so for Leslie, her city is her forever home:

[T]o me, home has come to mean something other than a house.  When I think of home, I think of Knoxville, my hometown, where I have spent all but five years of my life, the place where I was married and where all my babies were born.  Whenever I return from a vacation, my heart feels a little lighter as soon as I cross the Tennessee line.  The road sign that reads Knoxville – 12 miles always lifts my spirits.  And probably the most welcoming sight in the world to me is the Knoxville skyline, with my own parish church at the very front, visible on the interstate as we drive through town.

My roots in this town are deep–my father’s people have lived in this area since the 1700s.  Even though my husband has only lived here 25 years, he has put down roots as well.  I may not know in what house we will be celebrating the holidays five or ten or twenty years from now, but I know the party will be in Knoxville, my forever home.


Day Three: Home to Me by Ashley of Narrative Heiress

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Ashley invites readers in with a cozy, warm post that paints a picture of home via a series of small scenes:

Home is comfort. Warm mugs of tea. Soft blankets for cuddling on the couch with the kids. Bowls of soup familiar. Cold winter nights, dark enveloping us early. Dim lights and soft music. Candle flickering, encouraging me to keep bright my own flame.

Home is loud.  Saturday family dance parties to Metallica (+orchestra) songs. Three small boys shooting invisible guns and roaring their lion jaws.  Paul stomping in to tackle & tickle & destroy. Music streaming through all the speakers: Taylor Swift singing us through pick up time.

Home is humble. Popcorn ceilings and blinds to be replaced—someday. Tiny fingerprints on the windows & a dining table with happy scars from lingering meals with loved ones. Our things made beautiful by our use of them. This is no museum home. This is the real thing. Wooden floors that know our dancing feet. Walls that listen in on our reading voices.  A counter that has held a thousand meals.

Home is intimate.  Vulnerability lays her head here with us. We are challenged & split open. Spilled milk. Long days. Whiny kids. Disappointing each other & saying sorry & trying again and again to love with our hands pouring coffee and setting the table. This family here–we know, we see each other & ourselves–this is our chance to come to harbor & drop anchor only to be shaken on shore just as we were rocked at sea, to get so close that we can’t help but understand more, know more, to see truth and set pain free.


Day Four: Home to Me… and to Our Children by Rita of Open Window

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Rita shares about how her oldest son, who is adopted, found his home in hers:

“Home is where the heart is,” goes the phrase. And it’s true. But for children who are adopted as toddlers, it isn’t as if you can easily explain that a strange, unfamiliar place is home.

When we met our sons as toddlers in China, everything was new and different. We were strangers to them. We spoke a language they had never heard, fed them unusual foods, and expected them to eat and play and sleep in a different place.

For the first two weeks—for each of our adoptions—we lived out of suitcases in hotel rooms…

Our older son stayed in two different hotel rooms in China and a hotel room in Chicago before we finally arrived home together at our house in Baltimore.

He had just turned 2 and, even after only two weeks of hearing English, he understood almost everything we said to him. But there was no way for us to explain to him that this had been our goal the whole time. This place, yet another unfamiliar building full of toys and food and beds, was our final destination.

This house, I wanted to tell him, was not just another set of rooms along the way.

This was special.

This was home

As the days and weeks went by, our little boy started to trust that this was our special place. And one night after our long daily commute together, I turned our car into the neighborhood and he called out with joy, “Home!”

My eyes filled with tears. Yes, we were home. Home to stay.


Day Five: Home to Me: A German Student Finds Home in a Foreign Land by Svenja, guest blogging at These Walls

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Svenja tells about the home she found in the United States during a high school exchange program – a home based not on conventional definitions, but on love:

My American parents treated me as if I was their own daughter. They made no difference. They went to parents’ day at school to see how I was doing, they hugged me, they gave me way too many gifts for Christmas, they planned a surprise vacation to Niagara Falls, they cared for me when I had the flu. But most of all they made me feel loved. And I loved them. I love my American parents, I love my American sisters more than any other people that aren’t part of my ‘real’ family.

According to Merriam-Webster this place in the United Stated can’t really be my home. I am and was not a resident. It isn’t my place of origin. It is a house, yes. But does this fact make it my home? Surely not.

What is it then that makes it home to me? If I look at those three places I mentioned that are home to me, it is obvious that there is one common factor. And that is love. I love my parents unconditionally and they love me in return. I am their child. I love my husband more than anything in the world. It feels like we were made for each other. We can trust each other and rely on each other, we chose each other. Our children are my life. There is no love like a mother’s love for their children.

And then I love my American family. So much. This semester with them changed me, made me another person in a good way. And they made that possible, because they made me feel loved.

Of course Merriam-Webster’s definition isn’t wrong. But one vital aspect is missing and that is love. Just as Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: “Where we love is home. Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”


Day Six: Home to Me by Anna of The Heart’s Overflow

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Anna explores the many intangible things that go into making her house her home. “It’s more than that,” she reminds us:

What is home? It’s four walls and a ceiling. It’s the address your mail gets delivered to. It’s a place to hang your hat and lay your head at night.

But it’s more than that.

It’s the personal touches, the iconography, that make it not only a house, but a home. The paint colors, the wall art, the books in your book cases. These things don’t happen overnight; it takes time to make a house a home…

But it’s more than that.

Home is all the memories of things that happened here. This is the place we came home to after our honeymoon.  It’s where we brought our children home from the hospital. We’ve seen positive (and negative) pregnancy tests here, we’ve gotten grad school acceptance letters here, we’ve had string quartets rehearsals, baby showers, and New Year’s Eve parties here. This is where we plant our garden every spring and shovel mountains of snow every winter. Home is where life happens.

But it’s more than that…

More than anyone else, home is being with my husband. A relaxing morning drinking coffee together, or staying up way too late watching Netflix would be some of my favorite scenes of home. But even cleaning up the kitchen, or bouncing a fussy baby are more enjoyable when he’s around. Where ever I am, and whatever I’m doing, if I’m with him and our two babies, then I am home.

But even more than that.

Home is the little space allotted to me by God to, for a short time, bring heaven to earth. This is where we live our vocations, sowing peace, ministering love, cultivating life. Home is where we do that, until we are called to our eternal home.


Day Seven: Home to Me by Debbie of Saints 365

Saints 365

Debbie remembers her grandmother’s home, which was a life-long anchor for her. She mourns its loss along with that of her grandmother:

Life at Grandma’s house was like her love – stable, steady, rock-solid and unchanging.

I was well into my forties when she died, but her death rocked me as if I were a child. Reminders from well-meaning friends of the length and beauty of her life offered me little consolation. I missed her presence in my life: I missed her hugs, I missed her voice, I missed her meatballs and I missed the home that I considered one of the happiest places on earth.

A few months after her death I sat in my Spiritual Director’s office and cried my heart out to him. He patiently listened as I sobbed though my grief. When he finally spoke, he gently suggested that I was looking for my grandmother in all the wrong places. Instead of longing for her presence in the past, in the flesh, in her home – he proposed that I seek her instead where she was to be found: in the Lord, in the Spirit, in heaven. He asked me to pray for the grace to release her in this life, so that I might discover her in a new way.  Finally, he gave me this quote, which has sustained and consoled me ever since: “Those who die in grace go no further from us than God, and God is very near.”

I turned over that quote in my mind for many months. I have come to appreciate the truth in its words. I thought that what I missed the most about my Grandmother was the permanence of her home and all that represented to me. What I have discovered is that her home was just a dwelling for her love, and that remains alive, well and exactly as it always was: stable, steady, rock-solid and unchanging.


These posts are part of the “Home to Me” blog hop, hosted by yours truly. During the two weeks from Friday, November 13 through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers are sharing about what the concept of “home” means to them. “Home” can been elusive or steady. It can be found in unexpected places. It is sought and cherished and mourned. It is wrapped up in the people we love. As we turn our minds and hearts toward home at the beginning of this holiday season, please visit the following blogs to explore where/what/who is “Home to Me.”

November 13 – Julie @ These Walls
November 14 – Leslie @ Life in Every Limb
November 15 – Ashley @ Narrative Heiress
November 16 – Rita @ Open Window
November 17 – Svenja, guest posting @ These Walls
November 18 – Anna @ The Heart’s Overflow
November 19 – Debbie @ Saints 365
November 20 – Melissa @ Stories My Children Are Tired of Hearing
November 21 – Amanda @ In Earthen Vessels
November 22 – Daja and Kristina @ The Provision Room
November 23 – Emily @ Raising Barnes
November 24 – Annie @ Catholic Wife, Catholic Life
November 25 – Nell @ Whole Parenting Family
November 26 – Geena @ Love the Harringtons

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Worth Revisiting Wednesday: A Tale of Two Soldiers

Given that this Veteran’s Day oh-so-conveniently falls on a Wednesday, I thought I’d try my first link-up with Worth Revisiting Wednesday, hosted by Allison at Reconciled to You. The following is a post I wrote a couple of years ago after visiting my husband’s stepfather, Ed, during one of our visits to Minnesota.

Ed has since passed away, but I continue to think of him on Veteran’s Day, along with other members of our family who have served in the armed forces. All three of my older boys’ namesakes served; one died in action in France just days before the end of World War I. My husband, my father, my grandfather, many of my uncles, cousins, and friends served. I grew up in an Army town and spent much of my young adulthood in a Navy town. I consider myself fortunate to have known and loved so many who have given of themselves in that way.

Today, I remember all of them. I thank, honor, and pray for them. And if you’ve served and sacrificed for our country in the armed forces, I do the same for you. Thank you.


When we were in Minnesota last week visiting my husband’s family, we paid a couple of visits to Brennan’s stepfather, Ed, at his nursing home. Ed is the man who taught my husband about responsibility, who provided him with structure and support through his teenage years, who was there for Brennan in the difficult time after his own father passed away. Ed is also a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was wounded just days before the war ended.

With my own parents still in their ‘50’s, it was more than a little difficult for me to get used to having a (step)father-in-law who is a member of the “greatest generation.” And I have to admit that, having seen him only once or twice a year for the past six years, I don’t know Ed very well. But I know that my husband loves and respects him. And I know that he has lived a long and interesting life, with his fair share of pain.

Some of it, of course, can be traced to his service in that awful war. Shortly before it ended, Ed found himself in Passau, Germany. In trying to rescue his sergeant, who had been shot, Ed was himself shot in the lung and the arm. He earned the bronze star for his actions. And he has lived with the repercussions of his injuries ever since.

Standing in Ed’s nursing home room during this year’s visit, I was reminded powerfully of an exchange I had with another World War II veteran, 13 years ago. Then, I was sitting on a train platform outside Munich – exhausted, overwhelmed, and anxious – having just arrived hours before – by myself – for a summer studying German at a language institute in Bavaria.

The elderly, frail gentleman was sitting on a bench by himself. I’m sure he could tell I felt lost, looking around for a perch for myself and my unwieldy luggage. He indicated that I should sit next to him. Once it became obvious that I was an American (and quite possibly this was obvious before I even opened my mouth), he started speaking to me in English. We made small talk; I told him about my plans to study German that summer.

After a few minutes chatting cordially, he paused and looked at me intently. He said “An American did this to me.” Turning slightly, he revealed to me the shoulder that I could not, until then, see. It looked like a large chunk of flesh had been carved away from it. His scrawny arm hung lamely at his side. “I saw the man who did it,” he said. “I saw his eyes.”

Lightening his tone somewhat, he continued: “I don’t blame him. We were at war. We were doing what we were told. If he hadn’t shot me, I would have shot him.” (Pause – deathly still pause.) “War is an awful, horrible thing. It is always horrible. Don’t you ever forget that.”

Then, stripping away the tension entirely, the old soldier smiled and told me, “I love America. My wife and I visit New York with friends every year.” Before we parted, he raised his eyebrows at me and said, “Now, as soon as you arrive at your institute, you call your mother. You call your mother. She’ll be worried about you.”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the experience.

Whenever I see an elderly person, particularly one who looks weak or ill, I wonder what kind of a life they’ve lived. I wonder at the events and the change they must have seen in their lifetime. Whenever I see an old man wearing one of those hats that veterans wear – the kind that denotes the ship they served on – I envision the young, strong man he must have been. I don’t know what to say or do, except to show a little kindness and maybe a little love. I want to ask, but I don’t want to intrude. I want to thank, but I don’t want to sound trite. So mostly I just wonder. And I say a little prayer.

With Ed, I know something of his story. But I still don’t know what to say. So I show some kindness and some love. I give him a hug and a kiss. I encourage the boys to do the same for their “Baba Ed.” Every once in a while, I have the boys color him a picture and we stick it in the mail. And I pray.

I still think of that old German soldier – a veteran of the same war as Ed. The war that forever damaged his shoulder and Ed’s lung. They fought on different sides. Maybe they had different aims, but I think they were probably both just doing what was expected of them. Years later, I get a glimpse of their service in that faraway time, and I wonder. Quite a thing to think about, isn’t it?

These Walls - A Tale of Two Soldiers

Seeking Home

Laura Kelly Fanucci recently wrote a beautiful post on the concept of going home and the question of where home is: Is it where you were raised? Where you hang your hat? Is it, ultimately, where you hope to rest when your days are done?

Right now I am home.

Sitting in the house that we own. Where we are raising our children. Where mail arrives daily bearing my name. Where we welcome family and entertain friends. Where I pull weeds and paint walls. Where my car pulls into the driveway and my shoes slip off in the doorway.

And I am writing about going home. Which is not here.

(Go to Laura’s blog, Mothering Spirit, for reliably beautiful writing. Every time I stop there, I feel as if I’m opening a book of poetry.)

I’ve given a lot of thought to the concept of home.

There is, of course, the home in which I was raised. My parents moved away from it a couple of years after I graduated from college. The change was hard for me to take and I was kind of bratty about it: Once when my mother asked whether I’d be coming home (to their new house) for the weekend, I sniffed that I’d be going to visit my parents – not home.

Home is where the parents are, Mom retorted.

During my single twenties I referred to a series of apartments as “home,” though none of them felt like it. Even my first house with my husband didn’t feel much like home: He’d bought it long before we met and it was nothing like what I would have chosen.

When we moved into this house a few years ago, I knew that it was our real, solid opportunity to build something that would be a home to our family for years to come – possibly for the rest of our lives. So surely there should have been a light switch or something – a switch that would flip on the feeling of home? Right?

This house contains our things and ourselves and our goals and even our dust, but I think it will take some years before it truly feels like home to me. More than ten years after my parents moved, it’s still our old house on Paradise Road that creeps its way into my dreams.

But through all my years – even those before Paradise Road – there’s been another place that feels most like home. It’s at once vague and particular. In the broadest sense, it’s Maryland. The Maryland of rolling hills and gauzy landscapes, of roadsides bordered with trees so draped with vines they seem like jungle, of farms that look a little rough around the edges, messy from long grass and wildflowers.

I crest a hill and catch my breath at glimpses of that Maryland – my version of it, which leaves off the urban and the flat and even the mountainous. For that’s the one that means home to me.

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More particularly, that version of home is embodied in my grandparents’ place. It used to fit the bill perfectly: a farm with a stream and clumps of forest and an overgrown back field, a barn that smelled dusty and sweet – hay sweet, old manure sweet. But since the end of my college days, this place, too, has become removed from that golden image of home. My grandparents are still there, but the farm has been developed. We enjoy the most important elements of that home – family and love and time spent together – but the fields are gone, the barn is gone, the cattle are gone, and so the feeling is different.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove up to what we still call “The Farm” via a road I don’t usually take. At first it felt so familiar, so like what I knew growing up. But as I neared that home, the one most dear to me, I saw trees growing where cattle once grazed. I saw my grandparents’ fields dotted with huge houses plopped here and there, spiting the natural curve of the land. I saw nearby hills marked not by tree lines, but by rooftops.

I sighed. It’s so hard to seek a home that can no longer be found.

There was a time when my sigh would have turned into a grumble, a growl of resentment. But just as this place has grown up, so have I. The new roads and traffic lights and neighborhoods and shopping centers may signal a loss to me, but to many others, they signal promise.

So it goes. Things change. Places change. People change.

It’s better to focus on the family and the love and the time spent together. And to accept that maybe promise is spread around to more than the newcomers – that maybe my future depends more on the new people than on the old fields.

I return home – to this home, the home of my husband and our boys and our dust. It’s a beautiful place. It’s full of the tradition and detail and imperfection and aged wood I long for. It’s sheltered by one of the loveliest old trees I’ve seen and it’s bordered by fields that remind me of those I used to gaze at through my bedroom window, chin propped on my arms in the dark, putting off sleep a little longer.

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I suppose I’ll know my feeling of home has caught up with reality when I dream of an 1860’s Victorian rather than a 1970’s rancher. Or maybe when I return from a trip and catch my breath as I mount our long driveway. Or perhaps it will be when I approach my grandparents’ neighborhood and forget to think of it as a farm.

Until then, I’m just so grateful to be here in this beautiful place, where I’ll surely someday find my home.

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The Unremarkable Worth Remembering

This afternoon I was one of those mothers at the grocery store. My boys were too loud. They were running all over the place, getting in other people’s way. Nothing I said – “Stop yelling! Don’t do that to your brother! Stay by the cart!” – produced any discernable results in them.

But honestly, I didn’t much care. Those boys – they were a joy to watch in the aisles of Safeway, 5pm-hyper and all.

One was a bandit. (A “fwendwy bandit,” said his brother.) He ran ahead of the cart on his galloping horse. He stopped to tell passersby “I’m a bandit!” and to ask, “Wanna see my bandit moves?”

(You do, by the way, want to see his bandit moves. They’re amazing.)

The other was a ninja. He spent most of the grocery trip holding onto the cart, which, according to him, was actually a bus. He’d step down, though, to display his ninja moves to our fellow shoppers whenever his brother was doing the same. And he’d come down to engage in the occasional (less occasional as the shopping trip wore on) tussle with his brother, the bandit.

They were loud, but they were loud with laughter and shouts of “Yaw, hawsie!” and “I’ll get you, you bandit!” They got in people’s way, but they also smiled and said hello. They spoke to people with openness and excitement. They danced and showed off their moves.

They made a friend in another ninja-minded little boy and told the boy’s mother, “Our baby ate a ladybug.”

It's true.

It’s true.

When we got home and I’d unloaded the groceries, they called me outside with great excitement. They were having a moon party for me! (!!!)  They squealed and jumped up and down and told me how they’d made a volcano that erupts in all different colors (“Watch it erupt, Mommy!”) because this was a moon party! They showed me the dance they’d been working so hard on, because this was a moon party! They clasped hands and bounced around the patio together and invited me to join in. As I left, they gave me pretend chocolate.

They came in a few minutes later, shrieking on and on and on that the moon had fallen from the sky. What a thrilling development! It was the perfect way to end what one boy described as “The best day ever!” though it most certainly was not.

Later, they told Daddy that next time they’d have a moon party for him.


Ours was such an unremarkable afternoon and evening – grocery shopping, playing outside for a few minutes, putting away food and putting it together.

Yet, they included so much I want to hold onto. The bright eyes, the squeals, the gallops, the excited faces – these are the moments worth remembering.

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 22): Thanksgiving Edition

Today I figured I’d offer 7 Thanksgiving-related things that I’m thankful for. (Is that “Thanksgiving” enough for you?)

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!


I am so incredibly thankful – and I feel it most acutely at this time of the year – to have a little family of my own. I’ve talked about it before (here and here), but Brennan and I both spent about a decade of our adult lives single (single single, as I put it in one of those pieces) before we started dating. For much of that time – with no boyfriend, no dates, not even any real prospects – I seriously wondered whether I would ever have a family of my own. I never took that “husband and kids” future for granted. I hoped and prayed for it, but eventually I had to try to come to terms with the idea that it might not happen.

For this reason, I feel a particular sympathy for singles, of course, but also for couples experiencing fertility problems. I’m sure I don’t understand half of what they go through, but I very much understand the heartache of wondering on that one, very important point: Will I ever have a family of my own?

When I think on gratitude (and I’m grateful to have had so many reasons to think on it), the image of walking tends to come to mind. “I walk with gratitude,” is how I think of it. With this step, I think with gratitude on the big, loving, supportive family I was born into. With this one, I think of all the friends who have added so much to my life. With these few, I think on how I’ve been blessed to be able to live out my interests in community, church, politics, history, music, and service. With this one, I think on my kind, handsome, interesting husband. With these two, I think on my lively, loving, gorgeous boys. With this one, I think on my tiny son moving within me.

And I am wowed. I have been so blessed.



I am thankful that my childhood Thanksgiving memories include something so wonderfully unusual for an American to have experienced: a blessing of the hounds before a fox hunt. When I was a child, my grandparents had a farm next to a historic manor that sat on something like 1,000 acres. On Thanksgiving morning, we and other members of the local community would pull into the Manor’s long drive and walk out onto a grassy area where the hunters and horses and hounds were all gathered. We kids would be giddy with excitement, staring at all the horse trailers and the beautiful animals with red-clad hunters on their backs. We’d walk out on the field, shivering yet showing off our holiday finest, trying to get glimpses of the hounds between all the people milling about. After a while, a priest would say a blessing over the hounds, and they would be off. Then we’d all pile back into our cars and drive next-door to my grandparents’ for our big (midday) dinner.


I’m thankful that with our big, pitch-in-together family, we get the benefits of a massive spread of food at Thanksgiving without anybody killing ourselves over it. My grandparents roast the turkey and do sweet potatoes and a cranberry salad while everyone else brings the appetizers, the other sides, and the desserts. Each of the dozen or so families that usually come bring 2-3 dishes, and we have more food (and a better selection!) than anybody could possibly want. Yet (I don’t think) any of us feel like we’re under the terrible stress that so many Thanksgiving cooks describe this time of the year.

(For anybody who cares about such things, here’s what our spread usually looks like: turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, sauerkraut, green bean casserole, corn pudding, spinach or broccoli casserole, green salad, cranberry salad, ambrosia or a Jello salad, rolls, a variety of dips or finger foods, pumpkin pie, apple pie, some other pie(s), pumpkin roll, cookies and/or brownies. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.)

I promise you it’s not as bad as it sounds: we generally have around 50 people to feed.


I’m SO thankful that this year… drum roll… my parents took my boys home with them on Thanksgiving night! And they’re keeping them until Saturday evening!

That’s like 48 child-free hours! I have about two weeks’ worth of tasks to fit into the 30 hours I’ve got left, so I’d better get cracking!


Following on number four, I’m thankful that this year I actually got to play cards with my family on Thanksgiving evening. My family is really into cards and board games and though I love them too, normally I’m chasing after small boys or my (deservedly) tired husband is itching to go home. But this year the boys went home with Mom and Dad and the hubby and I had driven separately, so mama was free! It felt marvelous.


I’m thankful that my husband fits into my side of the family so well. He’s from Minnesota and we’re in the greater DC area, so we don’t get to see his family as much as we’d like to. But Brennan really enjoys being around my family and especially loves talking politics and hunting with my brother, uncles, and cousins, so he looks forward to these gatherings as much as I do. My uncle has started a tradition of having a “turkey shoot” (really, a trap shoot) at his small farm on Thanksgiving morning, which Brennan looks forward to all year. So he starts Thanksgiving day there with the trap shoot and my aunt’s delicious homemade cinnamon buns, while the boys and I enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with some homemade goodies of our own. Then we all meet up at my grandparents’ for dinner.



I’m thankful that, a couple of years ago, I had the good sense to decide to view the holidays through an ultra-realistic lens.

Before I was married with my own children, I had these perfect little images in my head of what it would be like to create perfect little holiday experiences for my perfect little hypothetical children. (Okay, I wasn’t that unrealistic: I had enough exposure to small children to know that none of them – my own someday-children included – would be perfect.) But I had enough invested in this idea of perfect, sparkly, greeting-card-worthy holiday scenes to become pretty darned disappointed with my own less-than-perfect first holidays as a wife and mother.

So after a couple of years, I knew I had to do something about it. I couldn’t walk away from every holiday, ever, for the rest of my life, feeling disappointed. I needed to lower my expectations. (That sounds horrible, doesn’t it? But it was true.) I needed to realize that any stresses, difficulties, or hang-ups I have with myself or with others on a normal day would be there on a holiday too.

I needed to give up my ideas of fancy special-occasion clothes and pretty place-settings for an elaborate holiday dinner. Because that’s just not what we do. In my family we do a rowdy, casual potluck for something like 50 people. We haven’t had an “adult table” and a “kid table” in years: we have people sitting on every chair, sofa, and patch of floor they can find. We no longer bring out the silver and the real plates: we’re smart enough to use disposables. We no longer have a roaring fire: it’s just too darned hot with all those bodies packed into a moderate-sized home.

In my family, the joy of the holiday is in being together. We do not prioritize taste or décor or even peace. All that counts is that we’re together.


(Let me express my pride for a moment that my one cousin who works in retail, a teenager, has her priorities enough in order that she gave up time-and-a-half at her workplace yesterday to come to our family Thanksgiving dinner. We’re thankful that she had a choice, and even more thankful that she chose us.)

I’m thankful to have finally embraced that “All that counts is that we’re together” thing. The first few holidays of my married life were the most miserable I ever experienced. The last few have been the absolute best. I attribute that entirely to two words: realistic expectations.


A belated Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Be sure to stop over to Jen’s to check out the rest of the Quick Takes!

The Glamorous Looking-Back

Last weekend I got a glimpse – just a small one – into my old life.

Now to be fair, it wasn’t so much a glimpse into my old life as a glimpse into the glimmering image of my old life that’s all-to-easy to become sentimental about. Especially when today’s version of life gets hard.

I tend to think of my adult life in two distinct phases: (1) the single, childless, responsible-for-no-one- but-myself twenties and (2) the married, mothering, responsible for very-important-little-lives thirties. If you don’t count college, I spent roughly eight years in the first phase. I’m about four years into the second.

Mine isn’t another tale of youthful, wild abandon given up for staid, respectable family life. Mine is a much tamer, perhaps more boring story of trying (and often not succeeding) to live a full and rich life, regardless of my circumstances.

Part of my single twenties was spent in Washington, DC. The corresponding glimmering images of that time involve exotic foods at cool restaurants; bars full of interesting, intelligent conversation; stimulating lectures by national and foreign leaders; formal dinners in fancy hotels; runs (I’ll just call them “runs,” even though I’ve never really managed more than a frantic-paced, arms-flailing kind of walk) on the Capitol grounds; lazy days at museums when I was – get this – free to sit and ponder and dawdle as long as I liked; and the exciting anticipation that comes from never knowing who you might meet next.

To some of you, that might sound like an enviable way to spend part of your twenties. To others (ahem, my brother), it might sound pretty dorky. To me, it’s downright dreamy. I look back on that time through a generous sort of haze – the kind that makes everything more beautiful/interesting/exciting than it could ever have been in real time. It glimmers.

And it is, of course, only part of the story. I spent the bulk of my time in Washington at work or at home or (so it felt) on the metro. I was bored and nervous and depressed. I was mugged. I was terrorized first by September 11th, then by the Beltway sniper attacks. I experienced heartache. I was the victim of a hit-and-run car accident. Most of all, I was lonely.

But last weekend, during two short trips into DC, I was ready to forget all of that. I went to a ball (thank you to my lovely friend Betsy and her husband Will for inviting us along as their guests) benefitting a very worthy charity, which was held at a gorgeous location just steps away from the White House. Black ties + beautiful dresses + live band + amazing setting = GLIMMER.


I also spent an afternoon on the historic campus of Georgetown University to witness and celebrate the baptism of my best bud’s beautiful baby boy. (Thank you to my dearest Catey and her husband Eric for inviting us to be part of the big day.) Historic buildings + good company + lovely waterfront drive + witnessing a child I love enter the Church also = GLIMMER, as far as I’m concerned.


As you might imagine, my weekend was punctuated with wistful sighs as I looked around at reminders of (the airbrushed version of) my past. While physically in the District, I permitted (indeed, I encouraged) myself to wax sentimental about the whole thing. But on the way home, I wizened up enough to take the longer view.

On the surface, my life these days seems exponentially less interesting than it was in my twenties. I get boys out of bed, I change diapers, I dress squirming bodies that act like they’re made of Jello, I prepare meal after meal after meal, I do dishes, I break up fights, I kiss boo-boo’s, I buy groceries, I wash clothes, I clean up vomit. Again and again and again.

I get to be alone once every two to three weeks for a solo trip to Target or church. Every three to four months, I have the luxury of two hours by myself at the hair salon. Gone are my heels and business suits, gone are my cute-ish going-out clothes. I now dress for basic public acceptability and the comfort that enables quick response times to boyish antics.

My life is common. It is tedious. It is not entirely my own. In looking back, I don’t think my future self will ever see this life glimmer.

But it just might see this life glow. This right-here life of mine has a few wonderful things that my glimmering, fancy-dress DC life never had: It has love, commitment, and contentment. It has three sets of arms to hug me. It has people who need me. It has the firm understanding that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

To my own heart, nothing can compare to that.

The single, in-pursuit-of-the-interesting-and-exciting, unattached life can be wonderful. I wish I’d taken better advantage of it. I wish I’d done more of the lectures and the travels and the museum lounging. I wish that, while I was in the middle of it, I’d seen that period of my life as precious, rather than an annoying wait for my “real” life to start. Viewing your current life as less real or less important than some supposed future is no way to live.

Noticing and appreciating the beauty and opportunity in your own life – whatever phase you’re in – is, I think, the way to do it. I’m glad I got a pretty little glimpse into my “old” life last weekend. I’m glad my response to it was a loving sort of wistfulness. And I’m glad that the glimpse prompted gratitude for both that season of my life and for the one I’m in now. I was blessed back then; I am blessed now. And that’s worth remembering.