Thursday, December 7, 2017


As I sat in church this Sunday listening to the message of “Finding Joy in the Darkness,” tears filled my eyes. Our family’s Christmas card read, “Joy to the World!” but this joy we proclaimed felt elusive. We had just learned days before that our five-month-old kitten, Mystic, had a rare virus and only days to live. We consulted research journals and animal experts, but all hope was lost.
When Monday came, the air hung heavy, and Mystic suffered. We pulled the kids from school and went together to the vet’s office, giving Mystic endless snuggles and love. We anointed her body with fragrant oil, recited a blessing, read scriptures and sang a song from Les Miserables as she faded out of this life:
Mystic we bless your name;
Mystic lay down your burdens;
You filled our lives with love;
Now you will be with God.
Tears streamed down our faces as we placed our sweet kitten into the cold earth, huddled together and holding each other’s grief. Our hearts felt hollow, the faith we proclaimed through gritted teeth was riddled in doubt, but there was a tragic beauty in these moments that washed over us in waves of gentle comfort. And in this comfort, we clung to hope. We chose “joy-notwithstanding.”
Over the previous weeks, the kids and I had fittingly memorized a quote by William Shakespeare:
“Sweet are the uses of adversity which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head.”
Could something good emerge from this tragedy? A deeper love among us? A hard-won compassion for others? Whatever ugly and venomous toad you carry in your pocket, could God also make of it a jewel of virtue, a resurrection crown?
Our mourning is still thick and heavy, our sadness overwhelming. But we cling to hope that, for our Mystic, all is well… and that in our lives, too, all manner of things shall be made well, our sadness will turn to joy-notwithstanding, and we will laugh again.

Mystic, you are a part of our forever family. 

We'll always remember: 
the way you squeaked (squeaky-squeaky!)
how you jumped into the bathtub and toilet
the way you purred around our necks on the lawnchairs
how you slept with the kids and licked their faces with your sandpaper tongue to wake them
the way you pounced and trotted around like a little queen
your snuggles with bunny and Climber, who always hugged you with their paws

No one will ever replace you. We love you!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

I love the month of November for its focus on giving thanks. Lately I've struggled with anxiety (obsessive, ruminating, senseless anxiety), which is why I especially need a whole month of little reminders of just how beautiful life is. 
Like when I see my loves with Mr. Gobbles.
Now that's a heart-melter.
We kicked off the celebrations with the family Thanksgiving meal at Gryffy's school, which meant getting Lorelei out of middle school to join the party... dressed as our ancestors. :)
 Gryffy is really proud of our Mayflower heritage, and didn't hesitate to don that pilgrim hat like his 16th generation grandpa, William Brewster.
 I'm glad we're not too cheesy for him yet. :)
Instead of our Thankful Tree, this year we made a Thankful Tablecloth... only it got burned by some hot pots and ruined after we'd made quite a list. Still, I captured a few photos. I love that Lorelei's grateful for her emotions and that she knows to welcome them all (so wise!)...
 ... and I was pretty tickled when Gryffy wrote "Father Son Holy Spirit" and -- because he adores his curly hair -- "not barbers." Ha!
We spent the day before Thanksgiving at Grammy and Bpops with Cousin Meg. I was fasting because I had an endoscopy that day... no fun (and hence the anxiety)... but the results looked good!
Lorelei and Bpop made Christmas cookies.

And Missy got a ton of attention.
 And because we were hosting Thanksgiving this year, we put the kids to work. Gryffy and his friend Jack were raking leaves in the backyard.
Hard work is so rewarding!
We watched Christmas Vacation and put up the tree, which we always have up for Thanksgiving.

 These furry friends have been snuggling up under the tree. Just look at the love.
There's some serious bonding happening with the bunny and kittens.
Lorelei helped me out by peeling potatoes.
And on Thanksgiving, Mark and I prepped the turkey. Our guests had to have a special kind of Halal turkey, so they brought it by a few days before Thanksgiving (and we gave our other turkey to the neighbors). :)
 Oh yeah.
 Mark watched YouTube videos and became a professional turkey carver.
 On Thanksgiving morning I went on a peaceful walk in the woods to gather greens for the table, and Lorelei lit the candles just before our guests arrived.

We had Rhodes rolls (dip in warm canola oil, add 2 to each section of a muffin pan, cover and let rise in the warm laundry room for 4 hours, then cook--thanks Sherry!)...
 ... the best ever, kosher, made-from-scratch green bean casserole (recipe HERE) and sweet potatoes...
 ... our traditional strawberry/spinach salad with candied pecans, fresh cranberries (thanks for your help Lorelei!) ...
 ... mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie, stuffing ...
 ... fancy water ...
 It was a feast!
 The best part of the day was getting to host these wonderful families, who are immigrants from Turkey.
 Umma & Rasul and their kids, Nihal & Cemal.
(Cemal is quite the piano player!)
Derya & Mahmut and their daughter, Rana.
Lorelei read from our Ancestor Book the story of William and Mary Brewster's voyage on the Mayflower. Just as we had the honor of hosting modern immigrants this Thanksgiving, we remembered that our family has its own immigrant story dating back to 1620.
(Lorelei wore our traditional chain link of all our ancestors names leading from the Mayflower to the kids while she read our history.)
At last, it was time to feast!

My friend Eyyup is on the left, who connected us with these wonderful families.
 After playing outside on the trampoline and in the backyard, we had a fun game of Thanksgiving Pictionary.

This was Gryffy's drawing of a "throat." Future surgeon.

Later that night, we went to the neighbors' (Guzzo's) house for card games late into the night, our bellies plump and hearts full. Happy Thanksgiving!