"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Sunday Salon: Fiasco (?) Edition

Oregon Coast, November 2022


Weather: Cold. There was frost on the fallen leaves in the yard this morning when we got up. Yesterday it poured rain almost the whole drive home from Eugene... and I mean, POURED. It was definitely a dark and stormy night.


Thanksgiving Fiasco?  Our holiday celebration and gathering did not unfold the way we thought it would. In fact, at one point we all started using the word "fiasco" to describe it. I'll let you be the judge. Here are the details:

  • Back in October when my sisters, mom, and I started making Thanksgiving plans for our annual gathering in Eugene (where Mom lives) we realized a lot of people were likely to attend -- possibly as many as 31. The list included a niece and her family flying in from Germany (her husband has never experienced a Thanksgiving feast before), a sister and her husband flying in from Idaho, my daughter and her family and a cousin and her son driving down from Washington State, a niece and her husband and dog coming up from California, and many others. No one has a house large enough to accommodate that many people comfortably, so we started playing around with the idea of holding the gathering at Mom's church where there would be plenty of room to spread out and a play structure and nursery to satisfy the needs of the young children. That seemed like a good solution and arrangements were made with the church. Our day would be different and less intimate than past years but we would all fit and we could take advantage of the extra space to set up board games to keep people busy while the food cooked.
  • Feeling good about our plan, we set up a Google spreadsheet for everyone to sign up for the food/beverages they would contribute. All the basics were covered but people also volunteered to bring lots of extra/exotic dishes: pistachio carrots, stuffed mushrooms, salmon dip, and at least six different pies. My mouth watered just thinking about these special dishes.
  • In early November we learned that the Idaho brother-in-law wouldn't be able to attend because the date for his foot surgery was moved up a few days and he would not be able to travel. Next, one nephew and his family opted out because his partner's family were coming to sup at their house for the first time in several years. The number of likely attenders just dropped to 24-25, still too many for a home. First crack.
  • We drove down to Eugene from our home in Washington on Nov. 17th. We had a memorial service and a football game to attend last weekend, so we opted for a short vacation on the Oregon Coast* instead of driving home and back before Thanksgiving. We returned to Eugene on Tuesday to help welcome family members arriving from points north, south, and east. The day prior, my mother learned that the church's boiler (Yes, they still have a boiler not a furnace) wasn't working properly and it would be too cold in the church for a day-long event. My siblings quickly made a new plan to split the day between Mom's and my sister's homes, nine miles apart. One house for hors d'oeuvres and games, the other for cooking and eating our Thanksgiving dinner. My brother and brother-in-law picked up tables and chairs from the church to divide up between the houses. We were disappointed about the change of plan but we were being flexible. Second crack.
  • *Not really part of the fiasco, but our dog got pretty sick while we were in Eugene and later at the Oregon Coast, with a bad upset tummy and listlessness. Looking back, it seemed par for the course.
  • Our niece and her family flew in from Germany on Monday. My brother and sister-in-law arrived from California in time to help welcome them. They'd been traveling for 20+ hours and went to bed almost immediately at my sister's home where they were bunking. The next day we returned from the Oregon Coast, a nephew from L.A. flew in, one of our daughters drove down from Washington and we all helped welcome the international family eager to meet their 6-month-old boy. Twelve of us gathered to give lots of hugs and happy greetings and enjoyed takeout Mexican food for dinner together. The German family seemed bedraggled and tired but we chalked it up to jet lag. The next morning, Wednesday, they learned it was something worse --- COVID. Crack!
  • As soon as we learned this terrible news, my siblings and I gathered with our spouses and mother to map out a new plan. We decided the meal could still proceed if our niece sequestered herself upstairs while we gathered downstairs. Maybe she could stand at the top of the stairs holding up her son so we could see him, which was better then nothing. Telephone calls needed to be made to those who were still en route. After all, twelve of us were now exposed and we wanted to make sure people knew what lay ahead. With each phone call our plan for the day changed. Our daughter and her family, including our two grandsons, decided to turn around after two hours on the road and return home. They have young kids who are vaccinated but not boosted. Our cousin and her son proceeded to her parent's home where they all decided to stay put. Even though our California niece and her husband were already in Eugene, they hadn't been exposed to the virus on Tuesday so they, too, decided to stay away. By the end of the day my brother and his wife decided they needed to just take their daughter, son-in-law, and new grandchild home to California, leaving before the Thanksgiving meal. * We were in free fall.
  • *The cousins, the eight who were in Eugene at the time, decided that they wanted to be together before the family returned to California so they devised a plan to meet outside, even though it was dark and cold, on Wednesday evening. They figured with fresh air and masks they should be safe from the virus. Walking off the porch to join the group, our daughter misjudged the step, twisted her ankle and fell. She sustained a bad sprain. She spent the rest of the time in Eugene with ice packs, elevating her foot in pain while Don and I had to put together the ingredients for the crazy corn casserole and Frog Eye Salad she volunteered to bring to the meal. The absurdity of the situation continues on a personal level.
  • While all this was happening Mom popped up and put the secondary turkey into the oven. We needed the extra bird when we expected 31 people for dinner, but now it would be available for sandwiches the following day. She also whipped up a pecan pie and -- with so much going on -- she forgot about the pie and overcooked it. Later she took the turkey out of the oven, setting it aside for a while while we ate Chinese take-out for Thanksgiving eve dinner. At that point my brother got up to slice the turkey so he and his family could eat turkey sandwiches during their drive back to California the next day. To all our horror, the turkey was only partially cooked. The whole interior was raw. Apparently Mom accidentally turned off the oven when she was dealing with the pie. Even though she put the bird back in the oven to finish cooking, we all deemed it unsafe for human consumption. Everything seemed  ludicrous now.
  • Instead of 31 24 family members gathering for a meal. We were down to 12 10 after our California niece and hubby decided that they couldn't join us since no one can wear a mask while eating. Fortunately, she dropped off her pie and my brother made a pie before he left for his home. Otherwise, between the ten of us left we had all the food necessary for a traditional Thanksgiving meal without any of the hoped-for special dishes like Brussels sprouts or salmon dip. We sat down to our Thanksgiving dinner, all comfortably fitting at the dining room table. No kids' table off to the side or people sitting at multiple tables or jockeying back and forth between two houses. The meal ended up being quite delicious and surprisingly calm. We told jokes and favorite family stories. We read "How to cook a turkey" advice from our grandson and others in his kindergarten class. We laughed. 
  • After the meal we all went into the living room. We all fit in one room and were able to each find a place to sit. First, we listened to an old classic from NPR's 'This American Life with Ira Glass' on the topic of fiascos. Most of us had heard it before but we all laughed and cried, thinking of the fiasco or near fiasco we were living through at the moment. (Click on the link here. It is long, 20 minutes, but so funny.) After pie, we played the game Wavelength which involves one person attempting to give a clue the others could decipher where on a continuum the clue would fall (e.g., on a scale of useless to useful; messy food to neat food) with the dial being randomly set at some point on the scale. Everyone participated. Our answers and discussion got pretty humorous, often with the discussion breaking along generational lines. On the last round, our niece from Seattle used the 'smiley face with teeth' emoji 😀as her clue for a point on the scale of sexy to not sexy. We all debated it and realized we weren't all talking about the same emoji so she sent us a copy of what she was thinking on our phones. Bedlam ensued with more emojis populating our phones as others gave sillier and sillier examples. I was laughing so hard tears streamed down my face. I couldn't even see my phone without propping open my eyes. After our good laugh, we all spent a moment reflecting on our weird fiasco of a holiday gathering, eventually deciding it ended up being a much better Thanksgiving Day than any of us expected considering how circumstances devolved from our original plans.
  • After the evening, as I reflected upon the day and week, I had a deep sense of thankfulness. I was thankful for--
    • My family. Even though we all didn't eat together most of us did have moments together prior/after Thursday. On the actual day ten of us gathered and it wasn't the ten one would expect -- there was my sister without her husband, a nephew without his parents, a niece without her brothers. and Mom without Dad. Yet, we had a delightful day. Family love. 💖
    • Mom. She is 93-years-old and still lives alone, attends football games with other family football fans, makes pie, and other delicious foods for our gatherings. The under-cooked turkey was a fluke, for sure.
    • Blessings. The day may not have unfolded as we planned/hoped but we had a warm, beautiful home where we could gather. We had plenty of food. We all had places to sleep, including the wonderful AirB&B owned by a friend of my sister, where five of us stayed. There was laughter and love. We are blessed.
    • In the end, I think we all agreed that Thanksgiving 2022 wasn't a fiasco at all.

Speaking of the Oregon Coast: We experienced two extremes. One day which was unbelievably lovely, sunny, warm, and grand. We took a long, scenic walk along the coast. The next day a storm moved in, the sky and the ocean were similar colors of gray and the wind blew the rain sideways. We did all our ocean viewing from the confines of the car that day. (See photos above and below.)

What I've read since Nov. 13th:

  • Ten Cybils Poetry/Novels-in-Verse. You can see a list of the books I read on Goodreads. I have five physical books left to go and hope to get access to five more from the publishers to complete the task of reading the 61 nominated books by mid-December. Feeling good about my progress. One of the books, The Hope of Elephants, I checked out from the Springfield Public Library on my sister's card. I had two days to read it and spent the last hour in Eugene speed-reading it. I found it very heartbreaking but also life-affirming. Watch for my reviews this week for all these books.
  • The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. This was a book club selection. Don and I listened to the audiobook. It is a very disturbing true story about the girls who painted radium onto watch faces back in the 1920s and what happened to their health. 4 stars.
  • Poetry RX: How 50 Inspiring Poems Can Heal and Bring Joy to Your Life by Norman Rosenthal, M.D.  Audiobook. 4 stars.

What I'm currently reading:

  • A Million Quiet Revolutions by Robin Gow. A Cybils novel- in-verse about two trans boys in a love relationship. Audiobook and print. 60%.
  • Walking Gentry Home by Alora Young. A Cybils memoir-in-verse. The author writes poems to honor her foremothers. Print. 90%.
  • The Soul of the Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery. A book club selection. Audiobook. 12%.
  • The Places We Sleep by Caroline Brooks DuBois. A Cybils novel-in-verse. E-book. 10%.

The Oregon Coast near Yachats, November 21, 2022.

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