Saturday, November 27, 2010


One of my favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal is the cranberry sauce and in my experience no cranberry sauce could ever quite match up to my grandmother's. It was just the right combination of sweet and tart, with the perfect whole berries to crushed berries to juice ratio. I would always leave a large section of my plate empty until I got to the cranberries and then pile them as high as I could, knowing I would still be going back for more (and then mixing them with mustard for a turkey sandwich the next day... with an extra bowl on the side). I raved to my grandmother every year about her cranberry sauce and she would smile, her eyes full of pride and years of cranberry wisdom and experience and that signature smugness that my grandmother wore as elegantly as her enormous jeweled rings, revealing nothing.

This year was our first Thanksgiving without my grandmother. My mom made the ginger muffins (another of Grandma's finest recipes), cooked a beautiful bird stuffed with cornbread goodness, roasted green beans with mushrooms, and baked apple brown betty for dessert (we skipped the family tradition of Woodfurd pudding... but that's another blog entry). As I was helping put away ingredients, I found the bags of cranberries in the pantry.

"MOM." The bags hung limply, one from each hand, as I turned to her with a look of resignation. "The cranberries."

"Oh," she said dismissively, wiping down the counters. "You just make them."

Now, I am good at many things, but I have never considered myself an accomplished chef by any means. The thought that I, a lowly and inexperienced novice in the kitchen, could recreate the cranberry magic that my grandmother brought to the table every year was not only improbable, it was LAUGHABLE.


"Greer, just read the back of the bag."

The back of the bag? I turned the package over, sure to be confronted with some kind of code or the first clue that would lead me on the mysterious journey to find the secret of The Perfect Cranberry Sauce. Instead... "Bring water and one cup sugar to a boil. Add cranberries and continue to boil gently for approximately 10 minutes."

"Then what?" I asked my mother.

"Then we'll start the turkey."

"No, I mean, what do I do after the bag instructions?"

"That's it. We put them in the fridge."

The shock must have shown on my face. It was like hearing that the pyramids were actually miniature and just looked big in pictures or figuring out that the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle was actually easily solved with a simple pattern of the same letters every week.

"I feel like part of my childhood was just stolen from me." I said, dumping the berries in the pot and watching them begin to pop and bubble. "All the time she made it seem like this great mystery... this amazing recipe. And all along she was just reading off the back of the bag."

"Well... add something to it then." My mom said. I don't think she got quite how earth-shaking this revelation was for me. I watched the berries bubbling in the pot, waiting for them to reach that perfect whole berries to crushed berries to juice ratio.

And then I did add something. I added some brown sugar and little lemon juice. And I added a little bit of experience, and a little bit of cranberry wisdom, and a little pride. And, just for Grandma, a little bit of that signature smugness and, I hope, a pinch of elegance.

The cranberries were especially delicious this year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

haul out the holly

Almost every Christmas when my sisters and I were young my parents would dress us in our holiday finest and trot us down to the Augusta Mall for a videotaped visit with The Man Himself. The videos have a place of honor in a cabinet in the living room now, snuggled up with the Disney movies and sing-a-long tapes, recognizable by their red cardboard boxes and descriptions scrawled in my dad's barely legible handwriting: "Greer and Chelsea- Santa 1989" or "The Girls See Santa- 1993". Every so often they are dusted off, rewound, and played for everyone's amusement and nostalgia. There's the Santa with the story about the squirrels, there's the year my hair was especially atrocious, there's the year that Mom and Dad's hair and glasses were almost identical in their enormity. Watching those videos reminds me of that feeling of joy and anticipation that I always identified with the approach of the holidays (and still do). So this year we are taking Laine (in her holiday finest, of course) to the mall to meet Santa. And while I am sure we will record the occasion on my Flip (I don't even know if they videotape for you anymore), I am most excited to capture her reaction and then mail it to our nearest and dearest for this year's Christmas cards.

My family never really did cards... we received a few and put them dutifully on the fridge or in a basket, but I don't recall ever having a family photoshoot or helping my mom compile stats for a newsletter to wow the relatives we never talk to otherwise. It wasn't until the first year that Joe and I were married and got Libby (who was super festive in her holly collar) that I had any desire to send out a Christmas card myself and spent weeks on Shutterfly agonizing over which card to use with which pictures and how many to order and yadda yadda yadda. I get that some people may consider cards wasteful in this modern age when it would be so much easier and cheaper to just send everyone a facebook message with a link to the album full of pictures of Laine and The Man Himself, I feel that there is nothing that quite matches the joy of a tangible paper card with a handwritten address... I know I love this time of the year in part because it's the only time when there is something other than bills and magazines in our mailbox and something other than the gym schedule and coupons on our fridge.

So this year will begin a new tradition in our home of taking our kid (one days kidS) to the mall to see Santa. And while we will not have a cabinet full of VHS tapes to commemorate each year and to watch the steady march of time from one Christmas to the next, we will have a little box of Christmas cards in a closet or an attic, tangible and precious, for her to look back on. Who knows what she will have to say about my hair...

** Yep, I'm willing to sell out a little to make this Christmas card thing happen. My husband is kind of a Scrooge, y'all, so I gotta do my part to make my Christmas dreams come true. Bloggers, interested in scoring some free Christmas cards from Shutterfly? Check it out- they're the jam.

Monday, November 22, 2010

yeah, about that

So I really did have every intention of blogging every day this month. I threw that intention out into the universe and do you know what happened? The universe LAUGHED at me. And then smacked me in the face with a week that was more of an emotional roller coaster than I have ever experienced before. And people joked that I should have plenty of blog fodder, but I felt weird about that. I know that it is kind of a selfish and egotistical thing to have a blog in the first place, but I felt like I needed to draw a line before I was just exploiting tragedy for the sake of sticking to my NaBloPoMo goal. So, yeah. I did not write a blog entry every day this month (did you notice?). But I'm back! Within the past few weeks I have lost a grandmother, gone to a funeral and thrown a first birthday party within 24 hours of each other, put up Christmas decorations, gone to the beach, gotten bangs, taken Laine to her 12 month doctor's appointment (4 shots, finger prick, AND blood drawn = awful)... it's been an eventful month. And now it's the week of Thanksgiving... the holidays are fast approaching and I couldn't be more excited. Every year it seems I have more to celebrate, more to be thankful for. And even with the negative, sad, and difficult things that have happened lately, I can not deny or ignore the tremendous number of blessings in my life and the importance taking the time to be grateful for and appreciate them.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Every year at the end of the school year my high school (which I actually attended from 5th grade all the way through 12th) had an assembly. And every year at this assembly there was a slide show. And every year at this assembly during this slide show they would play the same song. To an outsider it might sound monotonous and boring, but to a Davidsonite it was a moment to aspire to- the moment when your face was on that slideshow. When YOU were among the elite, the prestigious, the powerful and all-mighty SENIOR CLASS. You'd watch the faces of your friends fade in and out on the projector screen, laugh out loud at the popular kid's nerdy softball photo from 2nd grade, smile at the sweet smiling faces of your classmates when they were cute and pudgy babies. But it was when your face appeared on the screen that you knew you had made it. You had made it through (in my case and that of a few of my classmates and friends) 8 years at Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School. You were, quite literally, too cool for school. You were moving up and out and on. You were sitting there in the front of the auditorium (in the senior section, of course) and your face was flashing bright and toothy and innocent, larger than life... and then it was gone. And suddenly, with the fading of your own face, you knew what it really meant to be on that slideshow. It meant a passage of time, the end of an era, handing over a torch. It meant watching your friends slip past you, up and out and on into the world. It meant leaving the comfort of the top, front, and center and starting over again somewhere else... on the bottom, in the periphery. It meant leaving the comfort of familiarity for the startling newness of the rest of your life. By the end of the slideshow, almost the entire senior class was usually in tears. As an underclassman I always assumed it was because they were so happy, feeling so close to one another and overwhelmed by emotion. And to an extent that was true. But I didn't really understand until I was there in that moment is the fear that is inherent in the unknown. And while what waits for you may be even better than what you're leaving behind, it doesn't lessen the sadness of having to leave in the first place.

"Long ago, far away, life was sweet... close your eyes."

Monday, November 8, 2010

and i'd been doing so well...

So it's 10pm and I have yet to write my daily blog entry. I'm kind of at a loss here. I just taught ballet to little people for about five hours and my brain is aching almost as much as my feet (but not quite). The biggest things going on in my life are Laine's upcoming birthday and my grandmother's impending passing. Isn't life a funny thing? Anyway, I'm not really ready to write about either one yet any more than I already have. So I'm going to cheat and send you over to my dad's blog. He has written some insightful, articulate, and inspiring things about what has been happening with my family for the past few days. (I especially like this one.) It's not the first time my dad has been insightful, articulate, and inspiring. I'm sure it won't be the last.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

stop this train

I think this is one of the most relatable songs for a 20-or-30-something that I have ever heard. It's not about falling in love or falling out of love or being cool or wishing you were cool. It's about being able to really take s step back from yourself and see that you are growing up, feeling the panic set in that maybe you don't know HOW to grow up and maybe (definitely) you would really rather NOT grow up, realizing you don't have a choice, and trying your best to deal with it. It's about facing mortality- your own and that of the people closest to you- and still trying to make the most of life while you can. My mom has always impressed upon us that there is balance in everything in life and this weekend has shown me a new dichotomy that I had not really understood before: the balance between fear and acceptance, holding on and letting go, the anxiety of not having enough time and the bravery to do as much as you can with the time you have.

No I'm not color blind
I know the world is black and white
Try to keep an open mind but...
I just can't sleep on this tonight

Stop this train I want to get off and go home again
I can't take the speed it's moving in
I know I can't
But honestly won't someone stop this train

Don't know how else to say it, don't want to see my parents go
One generation's length away
From fighting life out on my own

Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can't take the speed it's moving in
I know I can't but honestly won't someone stop this train

So scared of getting older, I'm only good at being young
So I play the numbers game to find away to say that life has just begun
Had a talk with my old man, said help me understand
He said turn 68, you'll renegotiate
Don't stop this train
Don't for a minute change the place you're in
Don't think I couldn't ever understand
I tried my hand
John, honestly we'll never stop this train

See once in a while when it's good, it'll feel like it should
And they're all still around and you're still safe and sound
And you don't miss a thing 'til you cry when you're driving away in the dark

Singing stop this train I want to get off and go home again
I can't take this speed it's moving in
I know I can't
Cause now I see I'll never stop this train

Saturday, November 6, 2010

dream a little dream

I don't usually remember my dreams. I fall asleep fast, sleep soundly, and wake easily (try not to hate me). So when I have nights full of vivid dreams or restless sleep, it's usually a sign of some kind of anxiety or emotional stress. Last week, I dreamed that my best friend's wife was eaten by an alligator that lived in my backyard and was trying to eat my family's dog. A few days later, the same friend betrayed me to some kind of Asian mafia spies who were coming over for a dinner party. The next night, an ex-boyfriend came over to our house to help me bake a bunch of pies. This morning I woke up thinking that there was some hysterical website that I needed to link to on my blog. I sat staring at the cursor for a few minutes before realizing that I must have dreamt about it. Which means that I am now dreaming about blog entries. Apparently NaBloPoMo stresses me out.

PS- Thanks to everyone for their support, concern, prayers, and well wishes. Grandma's condition is still more or less the same, so we're all just staying close and supporting her and one another.

Friday, November 5, 2010


In less than an hour, I am taking Laine to a first birthday party for her friend (and birthday buddy- they were born one day apart!) Emilia. Less than two hours later I will be driving home to be with my family as we support my grandmother through what will most likely be one of her last days. She celebrated her 80th birthday this past January. I wanted to say something poetic about the circle of life or the exchange of a last breath for a first, but everything falls flat or makes me start singing the Lion King in my head. Suffice it to say, this should be a day of very mixed emotions for me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


So apparently November is "NaBloPoMo"- National Blog Posting Month. Why they had to make the shortened version so awkward, difficult to remember, and impossible to say without sounding mildly retarded I have no idea, but there you have it. And while I realize that it is already four days into the month (and exactly one week from my daughter's birthday, but hey, who's counting?) I've decided to give this thing a shot. The deal is that you write one blog post a day for the entire month of November. I'm pretty sure there is no requirement that they all be good posts, so I should be ok on that front. I guess it's like when songwriters try to write a song a day and then they hope that they get a couple good songs out of it. Or when photographers take thousands of pictures with the end goal of 10 or so solid shots. Or when the Duggars have 18 kids and... actually, I'm not sure what their endgame is.


So this is Day One.

Or Day Four.