Monthly Archives: November 2015

Six Ways to Enliven Thanksgiving

It’s that time again, my favorite holiday of the year. No gifts, no jingles–just good food, friends, and family all together at a table. Of course, the holiday can be a lot of work (especially for the host), which can rob the day of some of its joy. Here are six ideas to put the fun and “thanks” back into the celebration:

44666577_sBring a Friend. Do you know someone who is single and has no place to go (maybe they are recently divorced and the other spouse gets the kids, or maybe they have a work commitment that prevents them from traveling home for the holiday)? Invite them to join you and yours. Not only will it brighten their day, but it’ll make you feel great, too. And sometimes adding a new face to an old crowd can take the conversation in new directions from which everyone walks away wiser.

Donate Food. The abundance of food on my mother’s table might be deemed obscene by some. Although my family does an amazing job at making sure none of it go to waste, it does make one stop to think about the many families in our country who are hungry. Thanksgiving week is a great time to donate food, whether to a food bank, local homeless shelter, or neighborhood family who is down on their luck. One bonus of taking a minute to be thankful and think of others is that it helps alleviate the guilt of that second helping of turkey and gravy.

Share Recipes.  Encourage your guests to bring multiple copies of their favorite holiday recipe. Collect the cards at the beginning of the afternoon and make little “gift bundles” for each guest. When they get home, they’ll have a reminder of their nice afternoon, and a bunch of new recipes to try.

Show Gratitude. Between dinner and dessert, have everyone at the table name one thing s/he was especially grateful for during the past year. Not only is this a nice way to reflect on one’s good fortune, but it is also a way to learn more about everyone you love.

18805762_sParty Punch.  Have fun drinks available for all ages. Little kids like to feel part of the party, too, so make a colorful, alcohol free punch for them and serve it with fancy umbrellas or little fruit kebobs. The awe and laughter of kids always makes any family event more festive, and this little touch is sure to please.

Move it!  Get everyone outside for a bit. Whether you take a post-dinner walk to help with digestion, or simply light up a fire pit and gather outside for a hot drink, the cool November air will awaken the senses, as will a change of venue.

Whether you take any of these suggestions to heart, or simply enjoy the traditions you’ve established over the years, I wish you and yours a very lovely Thanksgiving holiday. Drive safely!


A Test of Freedom

[C]ourage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. ~ Nelson Mandela

In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, we’ve witnessed an outpouring of support, empathy, and concern for the French people, as well as another round of sorrow and fear gripping the hearts of those of us living in the free world. 27132317_s

When these terrorists strike and kill, they win a battle. But they cannot win the greater war unless we allow our fear to turn us against the very freedom we claim to value.

I worry when I see people take to social media and propose that our governments take radical steps and Constitutional shortcuts to protect us and to defeat the enemy.

If we collectively sanction infringing upon the rights we value—rights that are, in fact, woven into our daily way of life—what have we won? I’d argue we’ve won nothing (not even the security we’re seeking) and, in fact, have lost more than just a battle. If we give in to fear and roll over our rights, then the terrorists succeed in robbing us of the very freedom that gives us our voice and our collective power.

I think it’s unrealistic to expect freedom from terror or war. No civilization in history has ever truly enjoyed that. No decade has ever been devoid of a war somewhere in the world. Violence is, unfortunately, a part of human nature, of culture, of history, and of power. And the truth is that none of us knows how and when our time will end. Statistically I’m still much more likely to die in a car crash or of an illness than I am as the victim of a horrific terrorist attack. Those are the cold, hard truths of life, so I choose to try to live mine with honor and integrity, surrounded by people I love, and pursuing the things in life that matter to me.

I am not smart or educated enough to offer a single solution to the complex and frightening puzzle of terrorism. I do not pretend we can negotiate with fanatics to resolve the problem. I believe it will take decisive, forceful action undertaken collectively by every government that values the lives of its citizenry in order to make any progress. And I believe we, as a society, must be courageous enough to move forward without sacrificing the very rights that make our nation what it has always been: the land of the free, and the home of the brave.


Weddings–Near and Far


La Cana Golf & Beach Club

As some of you know, I just returned from a week-long vacation with six of my friends. We escaped the fall weather by traveling to the lush tropical paradise of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Of course, we could have been holed up in a tornado bunker in Kansas and still had a great time together, but the DR proved to be infinitely more beautiful and relaxing.

We expected white sands and clear, turquoise-colored water, palm trees and plenty of rum punch. But one thing we didn’t expect was to run into wedding receptions everywhere we went. Whether at the beach club, a restaurant in downtown Punta Cana, or brunch at the Tortuga Bay hotel, we kept crossing paths with wedding parties. We swooned a bit at the romance of it all despite the fact that the seven of us–married a combined total of 110 years–were all carousing around the island without our husbands!

But that’s beside the point.IMG_6720

Seeing these weddings prompted a conversation about destination versus hometown weddings. Some of my friends were firmly in favor of local weddings. They preferred to invite large groups of friends and family and spare guests the costs associated with traveling too far. Some were willing to make an exception to the hometown wedding provided the destination held special meaning to the couple (they met there or got engaged there, or something like that).

Having planned my own wedding in Italy and attended several other destination weddings (Florida, Aruba, Vermont), I argued in favor of the intimate yet exotic destination wedding. Personally, I preferred a small affair over hundreds of guests, half of whom–like parents’ colleagues and distant relatives–I probably wouldn’t have known. And as a guest, I’ve always turned a destination wedding invitation into a mini-vacation, so that made the extra cost worthwhile.

But in the end, the most important element of any wedding has nothing to do with its location. It doesn’t even have to do with the guests, the dress, the cake, or the music. All that truly matters is that the bride and groom come together and make a commitment to love and honor each other until the end of their days. That HEA is not just for romance novels, after all.

Where was the last wedding you attended?