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Remembering to Give Thanks

Plus: Delicious homemade cranberry sauce recipe — a perfect gift for hosts.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes it can be difficult to remember to feel grateful. My family just lost someone we all loved very much — truly a break-the-mold, prince of a man — and grief has been the predominant emotion around here for a few weeks. Then Paris (and Nigeria and Mali) happened, with its horror and subsequent ugly political debate, and anger got in the mix, too. This time last year, my sister was just finishing up her chemo treatments and was still struggling with the side effects and feeling pretty miserable. Oh, and she had cancer.

But a funny thing tends to happen around Thanksgiving: We DO remember. Even though we are sad, mad, or sick (or all three), we gather with the people we love and appreciate the good in the world, and our lives.

For me, that is easy.

I’m thankful for my father-in-law’s life and the example he set for my husband and especially for my kids. I’m thankful I knew him, and for all the books he gave me over the years. (I haven’t read them all, but you can bet they are front and center on my nightstand now.) I’m grateful to the priest who eulogized him and that I can give a copy of his words to my kids to inspire them in the future.

I’m thankful that the most beautiful city in the world is still standing, and that its people aren’t letting hate win. I’m thankful for my sister’s (cancer-free) health, and for my own.

I could go on. Okay, I will just a bit (it feels really good to write down what you’re thankful for): I’m thankful for my husband, who spoke so eloquently about his father the other night, and who has been a model of love, compassion, and selflessness during a really hard time. I’m thankful for my kids, who always manage to cheer me up (or at least take my mind off the larger troubles of the world while I’m grappling with things like lost spelling lists and birthday cake flavors). I’m grateful to my son’s class mom who emailed asking for photos for the 8th grade slideshow, which gave me an excuse to spend half a day getting really sentimental looking at old photos.

I’m grateful that we are never hungry in my family. This morning I drove my son and some of his classmates to deliver holiday meals to less fortunate families. The folks who opened their doors for us were so thankful for a turkey and a box of Stove Top stuffing. It made me kind of laugh at myself for poring over recipes looking for the perfect green-vegetable side dish (this was delicious by the way) and comparing attributes of different heritage breed turkeys.

So, while there’s lots of bad, I think focusing on what’s good is more than a trite exercise. It can really help us to see the grace and the gifts in, well, everything. And if we can see the good in everything, we will be better people — more giving, more loving, more tolerant, more inclusive, more generous, and much less angry and sad.

Which is the main reason Thanksgiving so freakin’ awesome, right? And stuffing.

“This food comes from the earth and the sky. It is a gift of the entire universe
and the fruit of much hard work; I vow to live a life which is worthy to receive it.” — Grace of the Bodhisattva Buddhists

If you’re someone’s guest for dinner on Thursday, bringing a jar of this delicious homemade cranberry sauce would be a very nice way of expressing your gratitude. It’s great on turkey sandwiches.

cranberry sauceEasy Homemade Cranberry Sauce
You can make this ahead of time (i.e. now). Ingredients
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 pints cranberries (about 16 oz.)
1 apple, diced
1 1/2-2 cups chopped walnuts
1/4 cup Cointreau
1/4 cup Brandy or Cognac
Juice of 1/2 orange
2 tbs. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

In a large saucepan, combine water and sugar and bring to a boil. Add cranberries and simmer while you’re chopping the apple. Add chopped apple, nuts, Cointreau, Brandy (Grand Marnier also works), juices, and spices. Cook at a low boil for about 25 minutes. If enough of the cranberries don’t pop during this time, you can take a wide wooden spoon and gently squeeze them against the side of the pan. This is a bit of a mess but pretty fun. Or you can leave the berries whole of course. The sauce will thicken as it cools.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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