Michaeline: Thanks Given

Kana and Yuta, my housecats, form a ball of snuggle on the sofa. (E.M. Duskova)

It’s been a good week for me. We’ve had unseasonably sunny days, lots of visits from kitties and plenty of snuggles from the domesticated pets. And there was NaNo, which brought me a good story and some nice story seeds this week.

Before I talk about National Novel Writing Month, I do want to say a word or two about Thanksgiving dinner. It’s almost always on a workday in Japan, so I often do my best with some roast chicken and wait for the community Thanksgiving that we do in a huge kitchen with loads of people. (Loads being about 60 or 70 people eating, in our case.)

I miss seeing those people, but it was relaxing not to have to get up early and drive 45 minutes each way for a day of cooking and cleaning (and the very, very nice meal). And since I’m not working for anyone but myself these days, I decided to make a modified Thanksgiving feast. Roasted chicken thighs with sage. My mom’s dressing, cut in half, and mutated with my mom’s scalloped chicken recipe. It’s onions and celery in way too much

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Kay: It’s Time for the Bird!

This week we’ve been talking about what we’re grateful for, and one of the things I’m grateful for is that I can still laugh. As Elizabeth mentioned yesterday, humor can help us get through some dark times.

As a writer, the week’s theme had me think about POV. How would a turkey approach this fall festival feast? Of course, s/he’d be grateful if s/he had made it this far. But perhaps our bird would also be also proactive.

I had never thought of turkeys as being particularly bloodthirsty—that is, until news reports starting popping up about Gerald, the ferocious turkey that had taken over a park in the city where I live. I had a personal connection to this story because a good friend is a volunteer there, tending the roses, and one day she had to beat the bird off with a big stick when it attacked her. Other people did, too, because if you didn’t protect yourself, Gerald would draw blood. 

Sometimes though, maybe, if you’re a turkey, you have to.

In any event, this year I’m celebrating the holiday outdoors on a patio with three friends socially distanced. It won’t be terribly warm outside, but the day promises sunshine, and we’ve got a patio heater to keep us warm. The hostess is supplying her family tradition for the entree, which is crab cakes, and I ordered a more traditional meal (yes, sorry, turkeys) for myself on Friday. We’ll have a good time and, I hope, be reasonably safe.

I had so much fun looking up these cartoons that I’m adding two more that made me laugh out loud, even though they’re not related to the turkey theme. I love Maxine (so topical! Although I added an edit), and right now, I think we can all benefit from the wisdom of The Most Interesting Man in the World.

Wherever you live and however you’re marking the day—or not marking it at all—best wishes from the Eight Ladies!

Elizabeth:  Something to Laugh About

Elizabeth: Something to Laugh About

I’m convinced that the speed at which each year passes by increases the older I get.  It seems like I’ve barely finished taking a chainsaw to the Christmas tree and vacuuming up all of the scattered pine needles when it’s time to pull out the sandals and sunscreen.  Then, just when I think I’ve finally found shorts that fit, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back on the menu and it’s time to pull out the fuzzy sweaters and make a big pot of stew.

This year has been the exception to the rule.

By my estimation it has lasted just a few days short of forever.  The conference I attended in Phoenix in February–where the weather was unseasonably cold and we all shivered our way through the outdoor meals–seems like it happened years ago.  Had I known what was looming on the horizon just a few short weeks later, I’d have added a few extra days to the trip and enjoyed the amenities of the resort hotel just a little more thoroughly.

Like many other folks, I’ve spent these last 8+ months mainly within the confines of my own four walls, sheltering in place and trying not to turn into some kind of personal super-spreader.  Replacing my previous hour-long commute with a twenty step walk from the bedroom to the computer has been a joy (and a money saver).  Attending meetings (audio only) in pajamas has been a delight.  And, if I’m honest, not having to listen to my co-worker who has a tendency to talk to herself while she works has been a bit of a relief.

It has been a bit lonely though.

I may be an introvert, but it turns out even introverts need actual human contact on occasion, and I’m not sure trips to the grocery store actually count for that.  Fortunately, Zoom and FaceTime have stepped up to be major pandemic players here in the shelter-zone.  I have been able to attend virtual conferences, seminars, webinars, and even a virtual wine-tasting event (they sent actual wine and snacks for that).  During those hours when I previously would have been commuting, I’ve learned all kinds of new things relevant to my day job and explored outside interests that I never seem to have had time for before.  I’ve seen the flowers bloom in the back yard and have been fascinated by the hummingbird who seems to have a real fondness for the potted plants outside my window.  On the family front, there are weekly FaceTime calls so we can pretend we’re talking together in the same room, and rare socially-distant visits with takeout meals.  It’s not ideal, but I’m lucky and I know it.

One thing that has really made these past months just a little less challenging has been humor.  Author Julia London posts #BadJokeTuesdays on her Facebook page.  Things like:

I always wanted to be a Gregorian Monk, but I never had the chants.


I hired a handyman and gave him a list. When I got home, only #1, 3, & 5 were done. Turns out, he only does odd jobs!

Groan worthy, perhaps.  But they to make me smile and gives me a reason to look forward to Tuesdays.

I have occasionally found humor unusual places, like yesterday’s National Park Service Facebook page, which had these two images:

Gladys warned Beatrice to be careful near the edge, but she also had been eyeing Beatrice’s new shawl ever since they arrived at the park.

Shouldn’t have been waving

I’m not sure why, but that “Gladys” image cracks me up still.  Obviously whoever is doing the posting on that page these days has a good sense of humor.  And after months of pandemic and politics and turmoil, I think humor may be just the medicine I need.

Michaeline: Let Us Give Thanks

TEXT: ILLUSTRATED CURRENT NEWS To Prevent Influenza! Do not take any person's breath. Keep the mouth and teeth clean. Avoid those that cough and sneeze. Don't visit poorly ventilated places. Keep warm, get fresh air and sunshine. Don't use common drinking cups, towels, etc. Cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze. Avoid Worry, Fear and Fatigue. Stay at home if you have a cold. Walk to your work or office. In sick rooms wear a gauze mask like in illustration.
From ILLUSTRATED CURRENT NEWS, October 18, 1918. At this time, the influenza pandemic wasn’t very old at all; it only reached Nebraska on October 3, for example. But the advice is much the same as the advice we get today. As the old folks say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. (Via HuskerMax.com, 1918 War, Influenza and football.)

It’s been a horrible year full of surprises and plot twists on the world stage. Late last year, COVID-19 made its first appearance, and by February, it had swept around the globe, and health officials were panicking. We learned about masks and social distancing, and those of us who could worked from home, and those of us who couldn’t washed our hands really well and hoped for the best.

The disease brought a lot of people to a standstill, and in that quiet time of reflection, a lot of things happened. I think a lot of the unrest in the US can be traced to people having time to do something about the injustices that have plagued our country for centuries (see my review of The Garies and Their Friends to see how much hasn’t changed since the 1850s for free Blacks). 

Unrest brought about reaction from people who had a lot of time on their hands to think and plan, and then came the election, which still isn’t settled as a done deal in every American’s mind.

Does it help to think that the world has been through similar circumstances before, and managed to get through the times of trouble and even thrive again? I think it does. During the pandemic of 1918, we saw a lot of the same scenarios play out – masks, mask-deniers; the

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Michille: Recipe for Writing

Maple Glazed Turkey DinnerSpecifically, writing for NaNoWriMo. And I have discovered a couple of things while using NaNo to get back into the habit of daily writing. The biggest discovery is that I can’t do it without changing my routine. I have had some very successful writing days, which for me is about 3,500 words, but every one of those days this month have either started at 4 a.m. or the family is scattered so I don’t have to bother with dinner. I’m not a fan of getting up at 4 a.m., but I work full-time and exercise (and make dinner most nights) so there’s not a lot of free time in my day.

I was on a writing roll on Sunday morning. I got up early. Not at 4 a.m., but around 6 a.m. and everyone was still sleeping so I wrote about 1,700 words and planned to get back to it in the afternoon. But there was the planned 6-mile hike with my cousin, a trip to the grocery store, football which I combined with prepping some Thanksgiving side dishes, then dinner prep, dinner, and clean up. And THEN I could sit down again to write. The roll had turned into a lump and I struggled to put a couple hundred more words on the page, but was too tired to do much more than that.

Let me get back to my successful days. Continue reading