I’m officially on Thanksgiving Break – minus the twenty research papers I need to grade and the hundred or so house tasks I need to accomplish. I stayed home with the kids on Monday, and now they are at their dad’s for a few days but get to return to me for Thanksgiving itself and the Sunday after.

We have a rhythm now with our weekend visitation schedule. I can handle two little nights alone, but the holiday breaks still feel weird to split it all 50/50. My empty house and me.

I had a student once who was falling behind, unable to focus and complete assignments. She cried big tears to me after class one day (after weeks of struggling) and told me that she was stressed and anxious and that she was raped the year prior and currently involved in the court proceedings about that incident. I remember stopping her just after she said that and holding her hand for a minute and telling her to take a deep breath and give herself some credit. She was getting out of bed everyday. She was coming to class. She was holding a part-time job outside of school. She was bearing so much more than anyone should ever have to. Stop being so hard on yourself and understand that this is a lot.

I cannot begin to know that pain, and I am not comparing my grief and trauma to hers. But I am comparing my resistance to admit that something is hard. Sometimes things are painful, and you just have to say this sucks. This is a lot. I’m doing the best I can.

The holidays are heavy sometimes. Even in their very best moments — wide-eyes walking down the stairs on Christmas morning or aging relatives around the table at Thanksgiving dinner — it is all tinted with that bittersweet, happy-sad feeling of nostalgia and transience. It’s like you already long for these seconds even though they haven’t left you yet. Or that’s how it is for me anyway. An awareness that this year, this moment, is not going to happen again.

Last year’s holidays were hard. I was in the middle of the hurricane, honestly unable to really see my way out at that point. I can remember arriving home from a grocery run all red and swollen in the eyes, unable to stop sobbing. The car time in the short ten minutes from the store was a little slice of solitude I had to feel what I felt without judgment and questions and demands from someone.

This year’s will be easier, I think. In ways at least. But it is painful, if I am being honest as I always am in this space. It’s still a lot. I am taking my own advice given to my student before and telling myself congratulations for getting out of bed on some days. For baking the pies and mixing the hot chocolate and pulling out the advent calendar and doing all the things I have always done even though I’m doing them alone now.

Sometimes I can’t look at a day or an occasion with too much significance. It feels much better to find the miracle moments in the everyday than to put an occasion on a pedestal and expect it to be perfect. I’m already finding myself focusing more on the mundane this season. Weeknight dinners around the table. Popcorn and a bedtime movie with the kids. Pajama cuddles on the couch. The little seconds are bringing healing more than the big milestones, I think.


I saw someone at a little gathering recently, and I hadn’t seen her in over a year. She asked how I was, and I had a hard time answering that question in small talk. What about my life hasn’t changed in the past 12 months? Not much. Everything is different. Inside out and upside down and I’m still standing.

I have shed the comparison trap this year in that I no longer compare myself to other women or other mothers. I no longer compete for worthiness and perfection. I stand in my own truth in a way I never have – like I am with this post when I say this time of year is hard. But what I need to shed next, I think, is my constant bewilderment and comparison over how the other side has moved forward with such speed and excitement and intensity. There are no feelings, no remorse, no compassion. Instead of praying so hard for that situation to change, I am going to focus more on removing myself from it. I’m writing that here so that I can hold myself accountable.

I am a thinking and feeling person in the world. I refuse to apologize for that or be made to feel less than others who don’t appear to feel much at all. I don’t shut it off – not my own pain or my students’ stories or my kids’ perceptions. I let it all in and I let it pierce. I roll it over in my own mind and heart, and I let it change me and then use that change of perspective as fuel for my own actions and decisions. As I see this last piece that I need to shed, this confusion and comparison of how the other side has dealt with 2015, I see so clearly that I’m shamed for feeling pain and talking about that pain. It’s a game I need to remove myself from a bit to remember that I am not embarrassed to be a human. To act like a real living and breathing person with real imperfections and insecurities and hard moments.

There’s a Kate Light poem I know that says, “There comes the strangest moment in your life / when everything you thought before breaks free / what you relied upon as ground rule and rite / looks upside down from how it used to be. […] How many people thought you’d never change? / But here you have. It’s beautiful. It’s strange.”

It is beautiful and strange, right? All of it. Life is not hard all of the time, but it is all mixed up together. The good and the bad and the heavy and the light. This week is all about celebrating gratitude, and I’m thankful for so much in my life.  There have been some moments in 2015 that are nothing short of miraculous. Coincidences that are divinely orchestrated and moments that pierced me straight through. And in hindsight, even the other moments that felt like nothing but pain when I was in them have molded my heart and my character to emerge completely different than when I walked into the fire.

But I don’t feel like I am done, and I am grateful for that most of all. Thankful that my story doesn’t end here and that I am continuing to change and grow and move forward to a plan that I can feel unfolding in ways I never expected.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Prayers for peace and joy in these last few weeks of 2015.





I think I’m still stuffed from Thanksgiving meals.  Both Scott and I have family close to us, so we have two rounds of food on Thanksgiving every year.  Turkey, stuffing (or “dressing” here in the south), mashed potatoes, corn, squash, green bean casserole, brussel sprouts, cabbage, homemade mac and cheese, collard greens, sweet potato soufflé, deviled eggs, rolls, and too many desserts to count.  I’m not kidding, people.  All of that food in my body this week.

I didn’t take one single posed and planned photo with a real camera.  But life is full these days – in every sense of that word.  Spare hands are rare and spare moments even more so.

I did manage to catch Jude cooking in his underwear on Thanksgiving morning, mimicing me as I baked an apple cake.


And I snapped a quick photo of Norah and I together before we headed out for family meal number one. I was trying to make her smile on cue, and you can see a glimmer of a grin.  Our hair is the exact same shade right now, and I love it.


And Black Friday? You shoppers are nuts. I spent half the day in pajamas and had an extra cup of coffee and snuggled with family.


I have so much to be thankful for this year. My health and that of my family members first and foremost. I feel like 2012 has been a rough year for so many people I know with health-related difficulties for themselves or loved ones.  To be here and healthy and able to live each day unencumbered with worry for my own body or those of my husband and children is a gift I don’t recognize enough.

So I am saying it now. For my health, the food on my table, my home, my friends old and new, and my tight family.  I am thankful this week and always.

I’m also thankful for this apple cake recipe which tastes even better for breakfast the next day.  (Cake for breakfast.  That’s okay at Thanksgiving, right!?)


Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze  (from The Gift of Southern Cooking, by Scott Peacock)

For the cake:
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 apples, preferably organic peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped pecans
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

For the glaze:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour an 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

In a mixing bowl, beat sugars, oil and vanilla until well-blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and gradually add to the sugar and eggs, mixing just until well-blended.

Fold in the apples and pecans. Pour into the pan.

Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours (begin to check after 50 minutes), until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan while preparing the glaze.  (I poke holes in the cake with a toothpick or butter knife so the glaze and run throughout.)

To make the glaze,in a medium pan, melt the butter. Add sugar, salt. and cream. Stir until blended and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Increase heat and boil for about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool slightly until glaze begins to thicken. Spoon over cake.

food and gratitude

We had such a great Thanksgiving here, and I’m sad to see the weekend end.  Scott tends to go on a cleaning and organizing rampage if he’s off for more than three days in a row, and it happened again this weekend.  It’s his way of fighting cabin-fever, I think.  Or maybe it’s just that the mess drives him crazy while I grow used to it.  Whatever the reason, it was much needed, and I feel like I am out of pregnancy icky feelings and moving on from fatigue to productiveness just as the holidays begin.  It’s great timing, and I am grateful to be past a slump and looking on to bright things.

We baked cookies with cousins.

more baking


We played with a parachute on a warm Thanksgiving Day.

under the parachute

And we did a million other things I didn’t take photos of.  I ate so much good food that I’m pretty certain it’s not all baby in that belly.  We drove a couple hours south to visit family and also got in a quick visit with good friends and their snuggly newborn girl.  We played a lot, wrapped gifts, decked the halls, and generally enjoyed each other without much worry or rush which doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

The whole purpose of Thanksgiving is to be grateful for what you have and take time to really think of all those things, and as kids we roll our eyes when we have to list them: my parents, a roof over my head, my friends, food to eat.  All the things we are supposed to say.  But I think as I’ve grown older, and especially as I’ve been writing here, I’ve really started to see the ways that gratitude affects my everyday life.  Saying thanks makes me see more things to say thanks for, and it’s a good feeling.

This year, I am most thankful for this season of my life and all that comes with it.  Sure I’m persistently tired, all the nice ornaments are crowded on the top of my tree where little hands can’t reach them, my house is cluttered more than it’s tidy, and the time I get for myself is such a rationed commodity.

But I get to see a little person learn and grow and change everyday, and I love that.  I get to grow a whole new person in my own body, and I love that.  I get to see my husband become a father, and I love that.  Best of all, I get to see my own little family beginning and growing, and I get to dream and think about what all is next for us. It’s such a good time: to be at the beginning of so many things and looking ahead to all the possibilities.  Funny that as a twenty-something, we tend to think thirties are gross and old and what’s left then?  As it turns out, the best is left, and I am so excited to see what it feels like.

Christmas cards are ordered, stockings are hung, tress are up, and my house feels clean and cozy and festive.  The holidays are here, friends!
Jude and tree

It’s rainy out and cold this week, so we’re looking forward to soup nights and more lounging by the tree.  I’ll check in soon with a couple of recipes that graced our table this weekend.