today

This wasn’t the plan.

I expected right now I would be in a plane somewhere over the Atlantic after a month in the UK visiting daughter E and her family, meeting granddaughter JG, walking granddaughter ABC home from nursery school, celebrating US Thanksgiving in London on what is there just the fourth Thursday of November.

I thought I would get to attend mass for the first time since March as we celebrated JG’s baptism, wearing the white dress that I, E, and ABC wore before her, as well her Aunt T and great-aunts.

Of course, there would have been two weeks in quarantine before any of the visiting, but still…

It was a blessing in disguise that the news of the UK lockdown leaked early, before we flew out, so that there was time to cancel. It took most of the month, but I finally got all the charges refunded.

I had planned to get a lot of writing done while we were in quarantine and to do a long-delayed, self-guided retreat, neither of which happened this month as the usual things that needed doing were before us here and the inevitable bumps in the road appeared that needed attention. I was also impossible to ignore/escape the maelstrom of news on the election and its aftermath and of the horrifying, continuing escalation of the coronavirus pandemic.

Enter the first Sunday of Advent, with its message of watching in hope.

I’m struggling with that.

By nature, I’m neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I try to be more of a realist. I know that with over 13 million confirmed cases so far and a seven-day average of new confirmed cases of about 160,000, compounded by Thanksgiving travel, the United States is going to have further acceleration in COVID cases in December and most likely into January, as well. There are also going to be spikes in hospitalizations and deaths flowing from that. Although there will likely be some vaccine administration starting in December, there won’t be enough to make much of a dent in transmission. The exception is that, if health care workers are vaccinated first as expected, we may be able to keep our hospitals staffed well enough to meet the surge in cases this winter.

I do have hope that the incoming Biden administration will have staff and appointees who are capable of improving the lives of people here and beginning to repair our international relationships. However, I am disheartened by the efforts of the current administration to undermine the chances that Biden’s team can implement changes quickly and easily. There are a number of last-minute rule changes, treaty withdrawals, troop withdrawals, and other measures that will make the transition even more difficult than anticipated in this time of public health emergency, economic downturn, civil rights protests, and general distrust in government.

Sigh.

So, one foot in front of the other. Doing the best I can manage under the circumstances.

Stay tuned.

Thanksgiving 2020

The fourth Thursday of November is celebrated as Thanksgiving Day in the United States. It’s traditional to gather with family and friends for a big dinner, usually turkey with lots of side dishes.

This Thanksgiving will be quieter for many of us because of the pandemic. Cases are rising across the country and in many states are already so numerous that hospitals are running out of space for patients. Frighteningly, millions of people are not heeding the advice of public health experts and are travelling long distances and/or gathering in groups larger than ten or with people outside their household, thus increasing the danger of even higher case counts in December.

Our plan for the day is for spouse B, daughter T, and I to go to Paco’s apartment in his senior community where we will have a Zoom session with my sisters and daughter E. In that way, Paco will get to see his great-granddaughters ABC and JG who will be celebrating American Thanksgiving on an ordinary (lockdown) Thursday in London, UK. B,T, and I were supposed to be in London with them near the end of a month-long visit until the lockdown there cancelled our trip. Once I have Paco set up with the Zoom session on this laptop, I’ll go to another room with another device so he can take his mask off.

After our video chat, Thanksgiving dinner will be delivered to the apartment and we will eat with Paco on one side of the room and B, T, and me on the other as we will need to take our masks off to eat. We will leave expeditiously after dinner so as to limit our contact time.

It won’t be the usual Thanksgiving, but it will be special in its own way.

The point of the holiday is to give thanks but the gratitude this year is tinged with sorrow and regret. I am very grateful that our family is weathering this very disrupted year. B is able to work from home and we are able to stay safe at home for the most part. We certainly miss being able to visit Paco every day and are sad to not be able to travel to the UK to visit for all of 2020, but it would be so horrifying and dangerous to have inadvertently exposed someone to COVID that the separation is necessary.

I am grateful for Governor Cuomo and all the medical personnel and other essential workers who have worked so hard to keep as many of us safe and well as possible. At the same time, I mourn the millions of people in the US and around the world who have been impacted by the coronavirus, either by illness or death of themselves or a loved one or loss of work, shelter, food security, medical care, etc. I am also dreading the coming weeks, which are projected to see a steep rise in cases on top of already soaring rates in the US. There have already been over 12.8 million confirmed cases and 261,000 deaths and the thought of millions more is overwhelming.

I am grateful that the Biden /Harris administration is starting to take shape with the announcement of well-qualified people to key posts. At the same time, I’m sad to see so many not accepting the facts of the situation and not being willing to join in the efforts to come together to fight the pandemic, revive our communities, and unite as one nation.

I’m grateful for the ideals of our country but sad that we are so far from embodying them.

I feel similarly about the Catholic church. I’m grateful for the moral grounding, social doctrine, integral ecology principles, and primacy of love that it has taught me, but sorrowful and penitent about the many abuses of power done in its name, including war, torture, colonialism, racism, sexism, clericalism, sexual abuse and cover-up, and oppression of other religions and peoples over centuries.

So, yes, a very different Thanksgiving. With widespread vaccine use possible by November 2021, maybe next year will be more “normal.”

Or, maybe, there will be no going back to what used to be considered normal.

I pray that we can finally build institutions that live up to their high ideals for the good of all creation.

Thanksgiving

The fourth Thursday of November is celebrated as Thanksgiving Day in the United States.

With so many changes in our family in the past few months, our Thanksgiving was quiet, with just spouse B, daughter T, and my dad Paco here for dinner. B did all the cooking – turkey, two kinds of dressing, mashed potatoes, rutabaga, acorn squash wedges, baked onions, and cranberry orange relish, with apple and pumpkin pies for dessert. It was a lot of food for four people, but we all enjoy having the leftovers. We are in the process of making turkey stock with the carcass and vegetables, something I learned from Nana growing up which has recently come back into food-fashion.

We ate midday here and, at almost the same time, daughter E was eating a Thanksgiving dinner, five time zones away, in London. She had made turkey and trimmings and pies for her daughter ABC, spouse L, and his parents with whom they are making their home. It’s nice that E and L want to keep some United States traditions to pass on to ABC, along with British ones. She is a dual citizen, at least until adulthood. It will depend on the rules in place when she turns 18, whether she will have to renounce her US citizenship to remain in the UK.

Still, she will always be able to celebrate Thanksgiving and remember the Thanksgiving celebrations of her childhood.

Four generation Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving four generations
a post-dinner four generation photo of me, Nana, daughter E, and granddaughter ABC

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. We were able to bring Nana from the skilled nursing unit over to the dining room in the Village Center for Thanksgiving dinner, which was delicious.

For years, Nana had been the unofficial goodwill ambassador of the retirement community. She used to make the rounds of the tables after dinner, visiting with everyone and catching up on them and their families. After she went into hospice care in early summer 2017, she wasn’t able to be out and about. Now that she has been decertified by hospice and has done some rehab, she was strong enough to come over for an hour using a wheelchair outfitted with portable oxygen.

A number of people stopped by the table to say hello. There was lots of good food, conversation, and warmth, all of which counteracted the blustery day outside.

Last year at this time, I hadn’t thought it possible that we would have the privilege of another Thanksgiving with Nana and Paco. I am so grateful that we had this day together.

Thanksgiving

Today, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. We are celebrating with a traditional turkey dinner with two kinds of stuffing, mashed potatoes, rutabaga, baked squash and apples, spiced cranberry-orange relish, and apple and pumpkin pies.

We are doing most of the cooking at our house and bringing everything up to Nana and Paco’s apartment for dinner. In past years, we either hosted them here at our house or joined them for dinner in the dining room at their senior living community, but Nana doesn’t have the energy to be out of the apartment, so we are bringing Thanksgiving to her.

We are very grateful to have Nana and Paco with us for another year of celebration and, for the first time, to have baby ABC with us! She is too young to eat any of the Thanksgiving dishes, but she will certainly bring many smiles to our day.

B and I are also very thankful to have both of our daughters with us. Given that E and ABC will be moving to the UK, possibly in the spring, we are unlikely to have them here at Thanksgiving time again for a long time, if ever. We are hoping that T will find a job in her field that is within driving distance, so we may be able to have her join us for the holiday on a regular basis, but, like everything in the future, it is a bit of a mystery.

But this Thanksgiving, six for dinner – with a baby being bounced on knees and cradled in our arms and playing on her floor quilt – is the perfect number, for which we are all filled with gratitude.

thanks

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Despite the difficult year, I have much for which to be thankful.

One of them is you! I am thankful for my readers, whether you visit once or on a regular basis.

As regular visitors know, 2016 has been a difficult, complicated year for me and I have not been able to read and comment on other blogs on a regular basis, as good bloggers do.

Despite that, I have now surpassed 800 followers. Thanks! I so appreciate your support.

The follower number is not the whole story. I am also surprised at the number of in-person or Facebook friends who tell me that they read my blog, even though they never comment, follow, or like, which tend to be things that other bloggers are inclined to do. I so appreciate your support, especially during this busy time when personal correspondence is among the many things being set aside in deference to tasks that must be done in person. (A reminder to Facebook users, you can find my FB page here.)

I wish everyone a wonderful day, whether it is a holiday for you or not.

All days are better with gratitude and thanksgiving.

National Indian Pudding Day 2015

November 13th is National Indian Pudding Day! In keeping with a Top of JC’s Mind tradition, here is an Indian pudding themed poem for you. Enjoy!

Indian Pudding
          by Joanne Corey

It’s simple –
          an old family recipe
          milk
          cornmeal
          tapioca
          molasses
          sugar
          a bit of salt
          butter the size of an egg
          Two hours in a 300 degree oven.

But the sweetness brings memories
of Great-Aunt Gert
and Thanksgiving
and generations of frugal New Englanders
making do with what they had
to fill children’s bellies with warmth.

Indian Pudding

Aunt Gert’s recipe can be found here: https://topofjcsmind.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/indian-pudding-recipe/

Fall-ing

As some of you know, this fall has been rough, as we deal with myriad health issues with one of the family elders.  (In truth, the fall had a bit of a rough run-up as we dealt with both of my parents having their own medical issues, but things are going much better with them now.)

I have been doing much to-ing and fro-ing and have needed to grab little snatches of consolation, comfort, and beauty as I can find them. I was grateful for the unusually vibrant fall foliage this year, beginning early with the first peaks of gold among the green of the hillsides and ending with our neighbors vivid red Japanese maple.

 Even after all the leaves had fallen, I continued to marvel at the white chrysanthemum on our front porch. I had originally bought the plant from the grocery store to clip some blossoms to fill in for some wilted flowers in a Christmas centerpiece almost three years ago. I had managed to keep it alive indoors and it offered a blossom here and there, but this spring, I asked my husband to re-pot it and put it outdoors.  To my surprise, it flourished and offered hardy white blossoms that withstood several hard frosts until the snows came.

With the cold weather, we started to put out birdseed and suet in our feeders and I delight in catching glimpses of chickadees, jays, finches, woodpeckers, juncos,  tufted titmouse, cardinals, and nuthatches enjoying the food.

The best gift of the fall was the visit of both of our daughters and our son-in-law for Thanksgiving.  I am still holding in my mind the picture of us around the Thanksgiving table with the three grandparents.  We were too busy eating and enjoying each others’ company for photo ops, but here is a photo our older daughter took of her spouse and sister tending to the birdfeeders in the snow. Larry, who grew up in London, was relishing in the eight inches of snow we received. Now living in Hawai’i, he was not used to that much snow at once!

Still, despite my best efforts, I have recently had a bit of a crash. Last Friday, I spent hours working on a letter that I plan to send in lieu of holiday cards this year. I needed to recap the year and finally cried over a lot of the difficulties that I had been powering through because I had to keep going for those who were depending on me.

I thought I had gotten the melancholy out of my system until I was sitting next to my parents in church Sunday morning. The handbell choir and adult choir were both participating, which was emotional for reasons I wrote about here.  The First Sunday of Advent, I had been in church with my daughters and son-in-law all singing beside me. On this Second Sunday, the handbell choir was processing and the choir and assembly were singing “Christ, Circle Round Us”, a setting of the “O” antiphons by Dan Schutte, and my daughters weren’t there to join in. I started crying and barely sang the hymn, even though I love it. I had my face turned away from my mom, hoping she wouldn’t see my tears. I found out later, she was also emotional, thinking back to all the years she had heard her granddaughters singing and ringing in church.

Like the autumn leaves, sometimes tears need to fall, too.

Thanksgiving journal

In the United States, today is Thanksgiving Day. There were eight of us today at our home for the traditional turkey dinner – and what I am most thankful for was that there were the eight of us together around our table today.

B and I had our younger daughter T on break from her master’s program at ESF in Syracuse and our elder daughter and son-in-law all the way from Honolulu, Hawai’i, where they are both graduate students. The last time the five of us were together in our home was at Christmastime almost three years ago, when a Christmas morning marriage proposal set the stage for the happy addition of L to the family.

Rounding out the party were three members of our elder generation, my parents – Nana and Paco – and B’s mom – Grandma. They have each had their share of health issues over the last few months, so it was a true blessing that they were all able to be there, especially Grandma. This was her first extended sojourn anywhere other than for medical appointments this fall. We were grateful that the lovely eight inches of snow we got yesterday didn’t derail the transport plans.

A special feature of the celebration this year was that T was doing an extended entry in her journal for an ethnobotany course she is taking. They have been writing about their personal and cultural relationship with plants and they had a bonus assignment to write about their family traditions in celebrating Thanksgiving. T filled several pages with stories about how our apple pie techniques have evolved over time, how the bread stuffing with sausage came from my side of the family while the baked onions came from B’s side, and how B learned to flatten a turkey to help it cook more quickly. T got to ask Grandma about where her Aunt Gert had acquired the Indian pudding recipe that we make and L got to experience eating it for the first time. As a British-Filipino, American Thanksgiving is a relatively new phenomenon, much less a New England dessert like Indian pudding. For the record, he enjoyed it!

This was definitely a Thanksgiving to savor. As our children proceed with their adult lives and establish their own households, they may be able to travel to our home less and less frequently. While we hope to have all of our elder generation with us for more years, the recent health scares remind us that they may not be able to be out and about as they were today.

All the more reason to be especially thankful this year.

Giving thanks for no fracking

Dear Governor Cuomo,

Happy Thanksgiving! This year, I am thankful that there has been no shale gas drilling using high-volume hydrofracking in New York State, especially in Vestal, my hometown.

I’m also thankful that this has been the year that many independent scientists have published peer-reviewed work elucidating the damage that shale gas and oil extraction, processing, transport, use, and waste disposal are doing to human, environmental, and planetary health.

The work of climate scientists makes the high stakes abundantly clear. Humans must stop burning fossil fuels as soon as possible, especially unconventional fossil fuels which have a higher greenhouse gas emission burden than conventional fossil fuels.

Therefore, I call on you as governor to enact a permanent ban on unconventional fossil fuel extraction in New York State and to end the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and importation of waste products from shale drilling.

Instead, New York State must go all in for renewable energy and efficiency. Wind, especially off-shore wind, solar, electric grid upgrades, biomass, non-food-crop biofuels, heat pumps, geothermal, advanced battery storage, and other emerging energy technologies are what New York, the United States and the world need for our future, not an ever more desperate and expensive scramble for dangerous fossil fuels.

Sincerely,
Joanne Corey