Is This What the Pilgrims Had in Mind?

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Thanksgiving, a day entirely focused on eating until the elastic in your sweat pants begs for mercy, a day of ingesting a week’s worth of calories in just one meal, a day filled with carb induced coma-like napping, a day dedicated to food. Is this what the Pilgrims had in mind when they landed at Plymouth Rock?

What did they eat that first Thanksgiving? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it probably wasn’t my mother’s congealed cranberry salad made with a whole can of crushed pineapple, a box of raspberry jello and the cranberry sauce that slides out of the can still shaped like the can. I’m almost positive they didn’t have my grandmother’s boiled custard, the one made with two dozen eggs and twice as many tablespoons of her homemade vanilla extract which is nothing more than a vanilla bean soaked in a bottle of vodka for a month or two. Sweet potato casserole that taste more like candy than casserole probably didn’t make it to their table, either.

So what in the world did they eat? Duck was the centerpiece of the meal for those first settlers. Guess it seems fitting that today is the first day of duck season in Tennessee making dysfunctional families across the state even more dysfunctional when the patriarch of the family chooses to spend Thanksgiving Day in a cold duck blind chewing on deer jerky rather than carving up a Butterball in the dining room with his offspring. But, I digress.

Corn was a huge part of the first Thanksgiving, not my Aunt Nancy’s fried corn full of butter and bacon grease. Certainly not corn like my Moma’s cornbread dressing, the one that no one will ever be able to replicate because my Daddy adds a pinch of this and a handful of that every time my Moma turns her back. Corn like porridge, the gloppy cousin of the breakfast favorite of every true Southerner, grits.

By all accounts, the Pilgrims and Indians didn’t have Martha White bleached flour or any other kind during that first feast. No butter, either. If we were sticking with the traditional first Thanksgiving, we just lost three-fourths of my family’s traditional meal leaving those two ingredients out. No coconut cake. None of Moma’s famous pumpkin roll. And not a single casserole. You tell me how in the world the Pilgrims thickened their giblet gravy without flour and butter? My family would just as soon cancel the whole darn holiday.

If we want to get technical, we are actually celebrating the fact that the Pilgrims’ along with some help from their friends the Indians had a successful first harvest, one that would leave them with enough to keep from starving to death that winter like they had almost done the year before.

I’m not sure we can even understand the Thanksgiving of that first feast. Here we are saturated with food, an artery clogging McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Burger King on every corner and a CVS, Riteaid or Walgreen’s on every other one to unclog our grease filled arteries. The Food Network, Top Chef and Cooking Channel help us hone our skills in the kitchen. Food is everywhere, delivered to our front doors, handed to us through our car windows, even put on dry ice and mailed, easily accessible.

So much so, I forget there are still people who skip meals, not because they want to fit into that cute cocktail dress for an upcoming Christmas party but because the cabinets are empty. I forget there are kids that miss dinner because Moma and Daddy had a knock down drag out and nobody felt like eating. I forget there are families struggling to make ends meet barely scraping by subsisting on scraps I wouldn’t feed a dog.

Today, I am thankful. Thankful that worrying about what I should eat is far better than worrying if I get to eat.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
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Smoking the Competition

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Last week, while enjoying a long weekend in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, I took a spin class at the lodge’s adjacent athletic club. Partly, because I try to get in two spin classes a week and hadn’t reached my quota and partly to mitigate damages caused by the all you can eat breakfast buffet included in our getaway package. This buffet contained every breakfast item known to man from lox and bagels to grits and sawmill gravy, Belgium waffles to Spanish omelets, doughnuts to granola. It had it all. Y’all would be proud of me, though. I didn’t go crazy, stuck to only one plate with granola and yogurt, a little fruit, a turkey link, some grits (excuse me, I was on vacation) and just one teeny tiny bite of Brian’s waffle.

So, after we returned from a day touring America’s biggest house, the Biltmore, I went to the nearby Asheville Athletic Club for a spin class advertised in the lodge’s list of amenities.

I got there right as the class was starting. The lights were already dimmed. Now, if you haven’t taken a spin class, let me explain. Basically, there are rows of stationary bikes lined up in a dimly lit room. Why dim lighting? Probably, so the others don’t see you sweating, grunting and gasping for air. You hop on your bike and pedal your legs off, all while listening to the instructor shout commands over blaring music.

As class got underway, I realized we were situated in front of a wall completing covered by mirrors. I had never seen myself spin before. None of my spin classes back home have mirrors in them. I was shocked at what I saw. I was pedaling like a machine, comparatively speaking. I glanced around the room nonchalantly surveying the silhouettes in the darkened room and you know what? I was kicking everyone’s butt. The lean lady dressed in a black racer back tank, probably some stock broker’s trophy wife. The tall earthy guy more than likely one of those granola, recycling, Birkenstocks wearing types. The curly-haired guy closest to the blonde ponytailed teacher who kept flirting shamelessly with her. The lady about my same build struggling to keep up.

I was throwing down. Lance Armstrong didn’t have nothing on me. I was giving it all I had and these poor people looked like their legs were gonna give out at any moment. As I watched me smoke what I had deemed the competition, I thought back over the last six months, about how far I had come since my first spin class where I thought I might just die. Now, here I was, out pedaling every single person in class including the instructor.

I was fierce. I watched myself in the mirror noticing how my athletic legs pumped the pedals, how my breathing was deep and steady, how my arms were beginning to show signs of muscle definition. Who would have thought it? I was untouchable, unstoppable, undeniably the best in the class. In my mind, I might as well have just won the Tour de France. I had smoked the competition.

With class over, the lights came on. That’s when I saw it, the sign that quickly ended my short-lived victory. “Silver Sneakers Spin”. My so-called competition were all over the age of 70, senior citizens, elderly, long in the tooth, whatever you want to call it. They were old as Methuselah. The svelte lady in the black racer back, the tall tan gentlemen to my left, every last one of them.

Except for the instructor. She looked to be my age. I took that chick to school.

Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
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Yesterday, while listening to the greatest hits album of Matchbox 20, one of my all time favorite bands, I posted some of their song lyrics on my Facebook page. “Reach down your hand in your pocket, pull out some hope for me, it’s been a long day, always, ain’t that right.”

I wasn’t feeling down and out. It was just some nostalgic song lyrics from my early twenties bringing back memories of dusty back roads and young love. After posting the comment, I dashed into a three-hour meeting. I checked my phone after the meeting was over and it was full of missed calls and “Everything ok?” type texts. After the fact, I guess the status update did come off a little cryptic and depressed, sparking some alarm. I didn’t need anyone to reach in their pocket and toss me a little hope. My day had been great, a long but productive day of meetings capped off with barn burner of a basketball game between two local middle school rivals. I didn’t need anyone else’s hope. I had enough of my own.

Today, all that changed. Moma called me crying this afternoon a little after three. She was crying so Daddy got on the phone and asked me if I understood what she was telling me. My voice cracked as I said, “uh huh.” A dear sweet lady from our Church died today. A charter member of our Church, in fact, and one my family was very close to. A spunky fading red head with a sweet, playful smile. Seemingly healthy and pretty agile for an eighty-six year old, she went up in her attic to sort through some items for our Church’s upcoming annual rummage sale. Apparently, she had a stroke and fell through the rafters in her ceiling passing from this life a few hours later. I have been in complete shock ever since Moma called me crying.

I know what people will say to comfort those mourning her loss. I’ve said those words myself countless times standing in front of dark stained cherry caskets speaking softly to family members dressed in black grieving their loved ones passing. “She led a long full life.” “Jesus called her home.” “She died doing the Lord’s work.” “At least she didn’t end up in a nursing home.” “She’s in heaven now.”

And while all of those words are true, none of them make me feel any better right now. I need somebody to reach in their pocket and pull out some hope for me. It’s been a long day.

Job 17:15 And where is now my hope? as for my hope, who shall see it?
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November Means Basketball

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Today, I am thankful for basketball. November marks the beginning of basketball season. I’m not talking the Kobe Bryant, Laker girls, high dollar salary, corporate sponsor, big arena basketball. I’m talking basketball played in cramped gymnasiums, scoreboards with missing lights, young ballers playing purely for the love of the game and bragging rights against the cross town rival. Basketball for basketball’s sake.

Regular season play for the Sycamore Middle School Knights began today. My nephew Jackson was making his debut on the junior varsity team tonight and I was determined not to miss it. I rushed from a meeting weaving in and out of rush hour traffic and made it to the gym a couple minutes into the game. It had been my intent to change into jeans and a royal blue sweatshirt sporting the school’s colors but I ran out of time and ended up wearing my 9 to 5 attire, wine colored patent leather high heels and tweed skirt trimmed in black leather with matching jacket. I looked more like going to a high-powered board meeting in the Big Apple than a middle school ballgame in rural Tennessee. Next time, I’ll carry a change of clothes in the car. Not only did I look completely out-of-place, it’s pretty hard to sit lady like on bleachers. I got more of an inner thigh workout trying to keep my knees together for the four quarters of that junior varsity game than I do during an hour long Pilates class.

As I watched Jackson go up for his umpteenth rebound, I realized basketball and this weight loss thing were a lot alike. Most of these kids’ first shots didn’t go in, not the Sycamore Knights or their opponents decked out in John Deere green uniforms. They had to get the rebound and try again. Life’s like that. Most days, aren’t perfect. I eat something I didn’t intend to. I miss getting in a workout. I act like a raving lunatic. I have to get the rebound and take another shot, the next meal, the next workout, the next day.

Ball handling is important, part of the reason I never played basketball. I can’t dribble to save my life. The other reason was God had given me a set of lungs that could yell DEFENSE and REBOUND so loud the other teams ears would bleed so a cheerleader I became. Back to ball handling. When the kid dribbling gets too loosey goosey with the ball, dribbling too far out from his body, too high or doesn’t have good control, the other team has a better chance of stealing the ball. Same thing with food. If I plan it, I prepare and I control, I stand a much better chance of staying on track for a slam dunk. It’s when others have control over food that I tend to have more of an issue, a baby shower, a wedding, a business luncheon, a quick meal on the go at a restaurant. The less control I have over where and what I eat the better chance I stand to eat more fat, more calories and more carbs.

I’ve watched many of these boys play since they were in third grade. Now, they are half-grown seventh graders. It takes every last one of them to play the game. From the tall dark-haired center towering above the others to the quick as lightning kid with a buzz cut. Whether it’s zone or man to man defense, it takes all five boys on the court to make it happen. Heck, it even takes the five or six sitting on the bench. The starting five get winded, get tired or get fouled and substitutes have to be made. My life is no different. Some days, I get winded and need someone to come from the bench and give me a break. Some days, I need my someone to fist bump me and say “Good job” or pat me on the shoulder and tell me to “Shake it off” and try again. I need a team. I can’t do this alone.

Every now and then, when the team is facing a two point deficit and the clock’s down to just seconds, the point guard dribbles down and pops a three from the top of the key sinking the sweetest shot right as the buzz sounds winning the game. Those are the moments that make all the practice, sweat, and sore muscles worth it. A magnificent, glorious three pointer at just the right time. I think feel one coming on.

1 Corinthians 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
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Thirty Days of Thankful

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It’s day two of thirty days of what I’m thankful for and I’m already a day behind. Seems to be my life these days, a day late and a dollar short.

So, what am I thankful for on Day 2? Parents, not just mine which are pretty awesome, but all parents. Parents who coach soccer, lost as last year’s Easter egg because it didn’t exist as far as our small town was concerned when we were kids. Parents who stand up, clap their hands and stomp their feet just to show support for their pom-pom waving cheerleader daughter even though they secretly wish she’d have chosen to be a ball handling point guard. Parents who endure hours of squeaking and squawking while their young maestro tries to master the clarinet.

Today, I ran in the Panther Prowl, a 5k benefiting a local elementary school, one where my sister is a teacher. I crossed the finish line in about thirty-eight minutes, in no way qualifying me for one of the top three finisher’s medals. Of course, if they had a 35 – 40-year-old overweight women’s category, I’d have easily smoked the competition.

After finishing the 5k, I stuck around to watch the kids’ fun run. My sweet little nieces were running and I couldn’t miss cheering them on. Ready, set, go and off went a pack of kids with parents mixed in to chaperone and offer encouragement. Mary Ella took off with a group of her kindergarten classmates while Naomi zig zagged running along side her Daddy.

Mary Ella sped towards the end like a rocket crossing the finish line in less than 10 minutes. To be quite honest, I was pretty shocked. Mary Ella is a girlie girl who at just six years old accessorizes her outfits and dreams of living in New York City, shopping and eating Chinese food, financed by her career as a rock star. I just didn’t think she had it in her to run like the wind for a whole mile. Naomi grinned like a Cheshire Cat as she crossed the finish line holding her Daddy’s hand. I knew she’d finish. She’d been asking all morning when it was time to run.

When the last little runner crossed the finish line decked out in their yellow and black Panther Prowl t-shirt, the crowd began to thin. That was until we noticed a teeny tiny little bright yellow dot in the distance. The youngest of the runners had not quite finished. A police car was following this miniature marathoner, her Daddy right by her side. The crowd learned her name was Sadie and we began to chant encouragement to this little darling. She looked for a moment like she might burst into tears, her little legs giving out, but when she realized we were chanting her name, a smiled spread across her face. The guys in charge quickly put up the finish line again and little Sadie broke through completing the Fun Run.

Sadie’s parents let her learn a valuable lesson today. Her dad could have picked her up running the short mile with her in his arms. Shoot, I might could’ve myself. She couldn’t weigh twenty pounds soaking wet. Instead of grabbing Sadie’s hand and running with her the last few feet, her mom could have let her stop short of the finish line.

Sadie may not realize it but today her Mom and Dad taught her to finish the race, even if you feel like giving up, even if you don’t think you can, even if you are dead last. Finish the race. Mom and Dad will be there cheering you on holding your hand.

Today, I’m thankful that on days when this healthy living thing gets tiresome, when I want to give up and eat my weight in cupcakes and cookies and cream ice cream, and when I want to lay my big old butt on the coach instead of hitting the pavement for an evening run, I’ve got parents running alongside me encouraging me to finish the race.

Maybe they’re not technically running but you get my drift.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.image