Attitude of Gratitude


We all have our own mental lists to remind us of the wonder of our lives. Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the US, and for those of us lucky enough to have our families to celebrate with and enjoy a ridiculously large feast, it is one of those days that we are either awash with feelings or comatose from turkey and napping by mid-afternoon.

So many words to express our thoughts for this holiday season:








In less than a week, I turn 49, and then in three hundred sixty-six more days I will be 50. I’m not particularly looking forward to it, although I suppose it’s better than not turning fifty. This might be the impetus to a year long project of not counting down the days, but appreciating the days and the weeks as they pass until that milestone. This might be the baseline to reflect on, but time will tell.

These are the ten things I am most grateful for:

1. Finances – we are still living paycheck to paycheck, as are most middle-class-used-to-be’s, but there might be a light at the end of the tunnel; or at least an even-ing out of our debt.

2. Related to Finances – I’m grateful to our mechanic who let us put our recent car repairs on account so we are able to continue to drive our only car without having the cash on hand.

3. Family – my kids are healthy and doing well in school.

4. I am relatively healthy despite my chronic issues. My knees have even been feeling almost normal most of the time. It’s a welcome change.

5. Writing – I’m managing to write more often and keeping up my  quality, I think anyway. Without my regular writing workshop, which was cancelled, I’ve been lucky to give myself one day a week to work in the library for some of my forgotten projects.

6. I am really enjoying my ongoing re4lationship with Jesus Christ. There was definitely something missing from my life despite my belief in G-d and my spirituality, and I have found it with Christ and in His Church.

7. I have so much gratitude that I live near enough to a shrine and a Dominican retreat center where I can go and meditate and pray. Both places offer different things, but both places are also contemplative and recharge me.

8. Friends – My recent reconnection with some friends through Facebook – one I hadn’t talked to in decades, but thought of often. I also connected with my cousins’ family, both in person and on Facebook.

9. Fandom – another layer of friendship that is unexplainable unless you are in a fandom of your own. Kind, friendly, supportive and constructive – fandom is a beautiful thing, filled with beautiful people.

10. You, dear readers. I hold such gratitude for all of you, all of you who read, comment, like, and visit. Thank you.

I really am so blessed.

A Feast of Gratitude


I don’t recall traveling to my grandparents for Thanksgiving. Or roasting a turkey until I was married and already moved out. We must have, I suppose. I do, however recall that holiday as more of an adult affair bringing home boyfriends, eventually a husband and children, although we must have celebrated it when I was a child. It is quintessentially an American holliday, and my parents, while raising us Jewish were also raising us American. Not everyone celebrated Christmas, but everyone celebrated Thanksgiving. Putting aside the more recent and current political awareness and justifiable Native American concerns and years of invisibility, it was and continues to be the great unifier. As immigrants continue to come with their many and varied holidays and celebrations, the melting pot adds a turkey and sweet potato casserole to each of their tables, and we are all grateful. Everyone can, and should give thanks. Whether it’s to a Creator or to your family for being there or for your grandparents and great-grandparents for making this life of ours possible in whatever way they did, or just plain old ordinary gratitude for what we have and what we will continue to receive in this life. It really is so much more than Pilgrims and Indians, Mayflowers and planting corn and yams and more than turkeys, in the field or on the platter.

I also remember other family feasts – weekends at my grandmother’s for deli or Chinese food on paper plates, of course. Passover Seders, asking the Four Questions and mushing the gefilte fish with my fork; block parties, courtyard picnics and cook-outs. I imagine it’s like this for everyone regardless of cultural background, but food is everywhere in my childhood. Pizza on Springfield Blvd, and Cantonese on Horace Harding. Filipino at my babysitter’s, steak at Ed’s Warehouse in Toronto – a visit north wasn’t complete without dinner at Old Ed’s. Scuffling through fallen brown and orange leaves, walking to Dr. Herman’s office, then driving the two or three blocks to the drug store to buy cigarettes for my parents and possibly a pack of Chiclets for me and my brother; my sister was too young for gum.

Before my parents passed away, just over ten and eleven years ago, we would always visit them for Thanksgiving. We were lucky in our interfaith family that we decided early on not to make those tough choices of who’s house to visit for which holiday. Christmas was always my mother-in-law’s, so Thanksgiving was my mother’s. No muss, no fuss. Nine out of ten would recommend. It might have helped that my mother-in-law is from Northern Ireland and isn’t that big on commemorating the Pilgrims arrival to the New World. My in-laws would come to my parents’ house for the holiday also. It was almost as extended as when I was a child, at my cousins’ cousins’ house or my aunt by marriage’s father’s apartment, all of us squeezing in to seats all over the living room and kitchen, coming and going and never knowing who was related to whom or how. It was really a beautiful day, almost recreating that for my parents and then my children while we could. For them, with the  grandchildren made it all the better.

When we bought our own house, we opted to stay home for Christmas, and with my parents gone, Thanksgiving is now at my mother-in-law’s. The kids miss a day of school, but scholl will always be there; family is more important and there are many lessons to be learned sitting around the table, getting things ready in the kitchen, and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, only an hour by train if we actually wanted to be there, and got up early enough in the morning for that to happen.

One missed exit, and we were driving down the Major Deegan, listening to our GPS navigator recalculate, and with each passing overpass marked with a green street sign, I was flooded; not with specific memories, but with emotions and feelings and memories of feelings of traveling these roads between my Grandmother Celia’s and my uncle’s house. Or to my aunt’s brother, John’s apartment. The back and forth of the Cross Bronx Parkway, and remembering a similar back and forth on the Cross Island to see Grandma Sadie, by way of the Douglaston Pkwy for awhile, the Little Neck and then the Cross Island when we moved to Long Island. The streets, a litany of a life long ago, hidden deep until pulled out by a traffic light, or a tall building or streets and avenues one after the other: Jerome, Tremont, Westchester, Castle Hill.  My grandmother in the Bronx lived on Castle Hill. My Grandpa used to “walk” me in my stroller, me wearing a bunny ears hat, carrying a yellow Kodak film box, stopping at the basketball hoops and then turning around to go back. We passed the sign for the hospital I was born in (Bronx Lebanon).  As I mentioned it, my kids were less than impressed. We passed the Bronx Zoo. It was just the sign, but my son still looked for giraffes. I still shiver when I think about the cable car going over the lions’ paddock.

As night fell, the aura of twilight and taillights, streetlights and traffic lights released the emotions of a long forgotten life, a world so apart and so different from the one my kids are growing up in. I struggle to give them that wonderful life, full of wonder and friends who were also family.
I’m thankful for so many things, but while today we are rushing to claim the Starbucks wifi (Grandma doesn’t have wifi or any internet), I will save tomorrow to list my gratitude amidst the rushing of Christmas shopping and mall traffic and list-making for the rest of the year.

Tomorrow is the day I want to remember my gratitude and b e grateful because that is usually the day we forget about it until next year.



Have a Wonderful and Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving.

Roadside America


When I was a kid I was lucky enough that my parents took my siblings and I on many family vacations. I learned history on many of these trips. We visited family in Toronto, Canada, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We also went to Niagara Falls, the Ontario Science Center, and Disneyworld. We were really lucky. A few of the other places we traveled to on our East Coast adventures were what you might call kitschy or roadside attractions. We never saw a great ball of twine or see Area 51 or even the Corn Palace, but we went to Amish Country, the Fountain of Youth, South of the Border and Zinn’s Diner (now closed). I remember the last two vividly. South of the Border was like entering into a fantasyland filled with neon lights and fireworks stands. The giant man in the sombrero was even more gigantic to small children, aged 4-8.


Photo Credit: Leonard J. DeFrancisci, July 2008


Photo Credit: Matthew Logan


Zinn's Diner Postcard


Public Domain

The Disney/Pixar movie Cars reminded us of those things found on the road trip of following Route 66, seeing things that couldn’t be seen anywhere else, and I thought about my childhood of road trips both north and south. Everyone should see at least one ridiculous roadside attraction in their lives, and if they’re lucky, they should see many more.

Here are a few suggestions and resources:

Budget Travel’s 25 Wackiest Roadside Attractions (Slideshow)

Budget Travel’s Ultimate Road Trip App

Things You Will See on a Road Trip Across America

South of the Border

Amos the Amish Man Giant Statue

Amos’ Current Location

Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park

Corn Palace

Great Ball of Twine

Route 66

Niagara Falls – not so much roadside attraction, but a can’t be missed world wonder

Visit Area 51

Area 51 Sightseeing

Don’t Panic: Visiting Area 51

America’s Car Museum

Saratoga Automobile Museum

Tech for Travel


From Left to Right: Flashlight, Car Adaptor, Wall Adaptor, USB charger cord, earbuds, flash drive, and MP3 player

It used to be that my list of travel tech was one line long – cell phone. Then it became two lines – cell phone and GPS. Now it’s a bit more. We usually travel to my mother-in-law’s, and her house is less than tech savvy. Not to mention that my husband always asks for the car charger or the house charger because he forgot his.

Tech needs vary individually. This is my indispensable list plus a few odds and ends that come in handy by one or more members of my family.

Mini Surge Protector – this has three outlets and two USB ports


Mini Surge Protector by Belkin

USB Car Charger Adaptor

USB extra long charger cord for reading in bed

Cell phone and charger. (Check your data plan before you travel. My mother-in-law doesn’t have wifi, and her brick house just eats our data like crazy.)

Kindle Fire and charger. (If you ‘re in a place without wifi, turn it off. If it’s on, it will continue to search for a wifi signal, and drain your battery.)

Kindle Keyboard and charger (the chargers are interchangeable so I may or may not bring all of them – two is the minimum in case my husband or kids need them)

Camera and charger

MP3 Player and charger

Earbuds or Headphones

Headphone splitter (this allows two headsets to be plugged into one device)

Flashlight (in my case it’s a Sonic Screwdriver flashlight)

Portable DVD player, electric cord, a variety of DVDs (our family rule of thumb is two per person)

Flash drive

Two Prong/Three Prong Adaptor


Plug Adaptor

In the comments, add your own must-haves for tech to travel with.

Food for Travel



Our family travels by car 99% of the time. With three kids, they either want to stop to eat or stop to use the bathroom. Anyone who has ever stopped on a highway area rest area will know that their prices are at least one third higher than the nearest exit. Unfortunately, the nearest exit is usually about five miles from the place with the food and/or the bathroom. When our kids were very young, we brought everything with us. It was certainly cheaper to bring a full box of Cheerios and a box of Pop-Tarts, buying a gallon of milk and a pound of cheese from the local supermarket. I also packed goodies for Mommy & Daddy like a 12 pack of soda so we don’t have to spend our money in the overpriced hotel vending machines.
In a hotel, we always ask for a room with a refrigerator. Many come with microwaves. Almost all have coffee makers, which is also perfect for boiling water for tea.

Most of our choices worked for both a weekend or week long vacation out of town as well as a visit out of town to Grandma’s.

Some of our favorites:

Raisins/Dried Cranberries
Granola bars
Juice boxes

Perishable items to Buy Locally:

Cottage Cheese

Other Items to Think About:

Tea bags (the only place I didn’t bring my own tea was my trip to the UK)
Single serve instant Coffee

I try to avoid chocolate unless you’re going to eat it within the first couple of hours. No matter the season, the car gets very hot, and chocolate will melt, ruining whatever you’ve put it into.

Ziploc or other zipper plastic bags – they have dozens of uses.
Despite all of these snack choices, remember to have some money for a midnight snack and to avoid extra ATM fees.

Add you own must have snacks and/or travel food in the comments.

Tomorrow: Travel Tech

Saints of Travel



Even to those who are not religious it is common to pray for safe travel. Whether praying to a deity or the one true G-d or goddesses or anything in between, we all wish and hope for safe travels. We ask for good weather and no mechanical mishaps and no crying children or snoring neighbors leaning in our shoulders in each of our own ways. We beg the Almighty for an empty middle seat and no turbulence.

Here are a few of the Catholic patrons of traveling or travelers including my own patron, St. Elen.

I’ve read that St. Christopher is no longer a patron of travel. I know many thousands of people who would disagree so I’ve included him in this list.

St. Anthony of Padua
St. Christopher
St. Elen
St. Joseph, Husband of Mary
St. Nicholas

Please add your own travel companions in the comments.

Je Suis Paris


Artist: Jean Jullien

I haven’t had any problem expressing my outrage and my pain with the terrorist attacks in Paris, France earlier this week. I put the news on for the first time in two months. I needed to see what was happening thousands of miles away but in a place I’ve thought often about. My thoughts went to my friends who live there, to my son’s school visits to Paris in recent years. I have been struggling with the outward expression of solidarity however. As the French flags went up on Facebook profiles, I knew I didn’t want one, but I didn’t really know why. My friend put it into words when he removed his transparency from his profile pic. Here we are supporting France (as we should be) when we ignored the same type of attack in Beirut this week, ignoring Kenya’s terrorist attack at the beginning of the month, and the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

Many people cite racism. The French are white Europeans and not Middle Eastern Arabs, but that’s not my thinking or the thinking of my friends, so why do the majority of us focus on their pain?

For many Americans, myself included, France is our friend. Of course, we’re upset at the tragedy befalling others, but we know France. France has been our friend since the literal beginning. They helped us become who we are, not like a parent, but more like a favorite and favored uncle. That doesn’t mean that Great Uncle Al, twice removed and divorced from the family isn’t thought about and cared about and mourned when he dies, but he’s not Dad’s brother. Dad’s brother has picked me up and patched up my skinned knees. He’s taken care of me, and he’s always there when I call. It’s not the homoethnicity as much as the familial relationship that we have with the French people.

In addition to that, I mentioned that my son has been to Paris. Twice. I imagine how I would have felt if he were there at this time and it tears me up. I have put myself in the places of the Syrian refugees and Arab victims and I’ve cried and felt pain and received courage from them but my family

Since I wasn’t able to attend Sunday Mass this week (I hurt my leg and couldn’t manage the walking), I still read the readings, and one of them spoke to me about this tragedy and unrest in the world.

In my life, the readings and the Scripture and my spiritual headspace includes everyone; it is a part of my everyday life. I live it. It is a Living Word.

From today’s Readings in the Entrance Antiphon:

The Lord said: I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction. You will call upon me, and I will answer you, and I will lead back your captives from every place.

– Jer 29:11, 12, 14

This stuck with me throughout the morning, and regardless of your religious affiliation or no affiliation we can still think on and want and hope for peace and for affliction to be gone, in my life, in my family, in my world.

G-d promises to listen and answer and lead back those of us who are ‘captive’, missing, stuck in situations not of their making; to help them escape, like Moses leading the Jewish people out of Egypt and out of slavery.

Non-religious people have their own beliefs and hopes for peace and ending conflict and affliction and bringing those ‘captives’ back home.

The current book that I’m reading is Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich. In the 16th Revelation she relays from her vision:

‘But take it, believe it and keep yourself within it, comfort yourself with it and trust yourself to it; and you shall not be overcome.’

You shall not be overcome.

We have the strength to get through these tough times and any other tough times that are yet to come. G-d is speaking through her, and her visions – she is not alone in her world, and similarly we are not alone. We are surrounded by people who are on our side and want to and will help us through the hard times and celebrate the good ones.

As I said about prayer earlier today, prayer builds up, and doesn’t tear down. That doesn’t mean that prayer is the only way. Embrace all the ways people want to help, through spirituality or through humanity, and we will be better for it.