Anticipation and thanks

Source: USA Federal HolidaysToday is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. 

I miss it.

The last time I truly celebrated Thanksgiving with my family was 12 years ago. It was the same week I left Florida to move to Canada. 

Thanksgiving was always a special time. My mom and I stayed up ridiculously late nearly every year mixing fillings and rolling out pie crusts. We always made about seven pies. Two to three pumpkin, one cherry (for me), one mincemeat, one-two pecan, sometimes apple. We packed them up in our two big Tupperware pie carriers and loaded them in the car for the trek to my great uncle and aunt’s house. They lived on a river and we drove three hours every Thanksgiving morning with the whole family in tow to bring our contribution to the annual family gathering.

We always stopped in the same diner in Perry, Florida. I always tried to avoid breathing in the putrid smell of the paper mill. Eventually I gave up and tried to get used to it. Both attempts were futile - it’s too pungent to block or get used to in a short one-hour visit.

By the time we got to my great uncle and aunt’s house, some family had already arrived and lunch preparations were well underway. Thankfully, there was time for a lengthy trip in the canoe or a lively croquet match amongst the trees in the front yard. Sometimes some of the family would even go fishing. The adults enjoyed time together visiting and catching up on the news of the year. My brothers and I, along with our cousins, scattered to the places we were most interested in on that particular day. 

I don’t think I went a single year without heading out in the canoe. Or the motorboat if my cousin was up to it. I even enjoyed playing croquet. We found ways to make a seemingly boring game fun. (Hint: It is incredibly satisfying to send your brother’s or father’s formerly-in-the-lead ball flying well off the course.)

This year I’m thankful that in a few short weeks I’m going to have the absolute pleasure of introducing my family to my most amazing little boy for the very first time. I’m going to meet my two youngest nieces that I have only known in pictures since their births. 

Every time I think about it, I want to whoop for joy and do cartwheels (except I never learned how). It’s way past time for a visit and I sincerely hope I never go this long without seeing my family ever again.

Whether you’re in the U.S. today or not - be thankful for the people who make up your family. Whether you’ve chosen them, they’ve chosen you or you were thrown together by forces of nature. And if you’re close enough, give them a hug.

Swamped, but in a happy way

I just spent three hours writing a blog post that I’m not sure I’ll ever publish - at least not in its current state of rambliness. I really wanted to write something to update my friends and family on life at Chez Wilson - or rather what’s going on in the brain of Karen.

I have a lot I want to write about, but not much time these days as I’m working full-time at my full-time job and trying to be a present parent and building a business as well. It’s challenging to keep up but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that it’s all worth the effort. 

Just don’t expect my house to be clean if I invite you over. Something had to give.

Southern Comfort: 10 things I miss about "home"

Home for me is no longer Tallahassee, Florida and it hasn't been for quite a long time, though it took a while for me to really feel at home in Ottawa after I moved here. Even so, I still refer to Tally as "home" - after all, that is where I spent the majority of my first 23 years of life. In November, I celebrate my tenth anniversary of living in the Great White North and after all this time there are still a lot of things I miss from my hometown apart from the family and friends still there. In no particular order:

Sonny's BBQ - Many BBQ connoisseurs would say that Sonny's isn't "real" BBQ. That's fine with me; I'm not as picky as the BBQ connoisseurs (Paul!). The thing is, it's really good! It's not all that healthy - most "southern" food isn't. Everyone who goes to Sonny's knows which sauce they prefer. For me, it's original (now called mild). I love the sauce so much that I've thought about ordering it to be shipped up here. They charge way too much, so I have to settle for buying a few jars when I'm in town.

Simply beautiful. White azaleas have always reminded me of how a dusting of snow looks sitting on bushes.Azalea bushes - In Ottawa, many people line their yards with cedar hedges, which is nice. But, in my humble opinion, they simply don't hold a candle to the yards in Tallahassee that are lined with Azaleas. Every March/April as springtime brings everything back to life, these bushes bloom in brilliant shades of pink, white and magenta - all over town (white is my personal favorite). When I'm in Tallahassee, springtime is my favorite season. 

Springtime Tallahassee - Since spring is my favorite season in Florida, I love the Springtime Tallahassee festival. My family went to the parade together every year. During marching band season, I was on the Flag Corps - good times!My older brother was in marching band, so we would watch for him and enjoy the floats and other parade features. When I was in high school, I got to march in the parade too and I loved it. Once we finished the parade route, we'd rush to see the rest of the parade and then check out what was going on in the downtown market that was set up.

Andrew's - My first restaurant job was in 1996/1997 working at Andrew's North - a restaurant that the owner opened during extensive renovations to the downtown location. Working at Andrew's North, I developed a taste for good food. Seriously, I ate at that place all the time. I try to go back at least once every time I'm in Tallahassee to get a Haight Ashbury - my favorite sandwich ever, which (last time I was there a few years ago) was still being served at Andrew's Bar & Grille. 

All things FSU - I attended Florida State University, as did both my parents and my Grandma C went there in the days when it was Florida State College for Women (FSCW). Our family are all fans of the football and baseball teams, so I suppose it's a family tradition. Go Seminoles!

Grits - Many people in the north have never had grits, a few have and like them, a few have and don't like them. If you've never seen them, think about Cream of Wheat, but larger grains because it's made from ground up corn, instead of wheat. You also don't sweeten them - they're usually a salted side dish. Mostly, grits are a breakfast staple, served with bacon, eggs and toast. But cheese grits are a favorite when we have fish fries. Fried catfish with cole slaw, cheese grits and hush puppies is a winning combination! One of these days I'll actually remember to bring a box back across the border with me.

Good ol' Southern hospitality - What I think of first when people talk about Southern hospitality is food. Southerners have food at just about every event - minor, major and everything in between. When you're invited to someone's house, the automatic response is typically, "what can I bring?" This is Old Bainbridge Road, one of 9 canopy roads designated as such by the County Commission. Source: Tallahassee Daily PhotoThe big joke at church was that it wasn't a real church function unless food was served. We had donuts Sunday mornings, dinner Sunday evenings, Wednesday night church supper and many potlucks at varying times. Food is central to the culture of Southerners and their hospitality, so it's been an adjustment for me to invite people over to my house and NOT put out food because it isn't generally expected here during non-mealtimes. (Actually, I still do it most of the time anyway. I can't help it.)

Canopy Roads - They're beautiful and a great source of pride in Florida's capital city. I haven't noticed any in and around the areas of Ottawa that I frequent - yet. I used to drive to work every day on canopy roads. It was a great way to start the day and a great way to end it. I even liked driving them at night, even though some sections can be spooky, as pointed out by this Tallahassee blogger/photographer.

St. George Island in the Gulf of Mexico.The Beach - I'm about as pale a person as you can find, so I don't attempt to tan and I don't swim in the ocean after an unfortunate incident with a jellyfish 18 years ago (I got stung pretty bad). But I LOVE sitting on the beach. If you're an early riser, you can walk to the beach and sit in perfect peace with turquoise water and white sand all around - and practically no people. One of our favorite beaches to visit was St. George Island, just two hours away.

Independence Day/Fourth of July - The happenin' place to be in Tallahassee (at least if you wanted to see the legal fireworks) was Tom Brown Park. There were musical acts, entertainment for kids and sometimes we'd sneak to the old drive-in theatre stage area to play. (We weren't supposed to be near there most years because of its proximity to the fireworks setup.) We ate hot dogs, cotton candy, listened to renditions of "God Bless the USA". When the Star Spangled Banner was sung, the entire crowd would stand with their hands on their hearts, united in support for a country we loved.

Hopefully, as the years go by, I'll get the chance to share each of these things with my son so that he'll come to know this piece of his roots and maybe even feel at "home" there. 

I'm just not ready for certain sacrifices

I have a huge amount of respect for people who a frugal and people who aren't caught up in acquiring material possessions. I attempt to be, but I would be lying if I tried to say that I am. When I'm in a real crunch, I can and do absolutely curb or cease spending money on anything that isn't absolutely necessary. But since I got laid off in May, I've realized that I enjoy certain luxuries in my life and I don't want to have to sacrifice much because I'm unemployed.

Believe me, I know this sounds ludicrous. Ideally, this is supposed to be a very temporary setback and we've taken steps to minimize the long-term impact. We've been looking at our expenses and cutting back - we just recently dumped our cable subscription (not a sacrifice, in my opinion). Unfortunately, for me, the financial insecurity of going from a double income household down to single income is starting to get to me.

Recently, I've developed this irrational fear of having to sell my house. In my head, I know that the house is meant to be our shelter and that we would simply move to a new place of shelter - another house or apartment - that would do the job. The problem is that I'm emotionally attached to this house. We looked for five years at models and picked this one to buy. We spent a year preparing to move in and watching the progress as the house was built, walking through the house as it went from a hole in the dirt, to the day they installed our carpet, just days before we closed.

We picked out every single thing that went into this house: the flooring, cabinets, counter tops, etc., after spending hours poring over magazines to get ideas of what we liked and wanted to do. Just over a month after we moved in, we discovered that I was pregnant and we were so thrilled. Over the winter prior to Brandon's birth, Matt and I prepared his nursery, painting it (the only room in the house we've painted so far), putting in furniture, getting his clothes and supplies organized. Then we brought our little newborn boy home to this house - the only home he's known - a place which is comfortable and familiar to him. Every milestone of his life has occurred in this house and they are such happy memories for us.

I love my house and I'm proud of what we did in order to get to a point where we were able to buy a house, because it was very hard work. While I'm not too proud to move to a new house/shelter if that's what is required for us to be able to provide for all of our needs, I hope I don't sound too selfish to say that I hope it doesn't come to that. Unfortunately, I know my heart will be more than a little bit broken if we have to give up this house that has truly become our family's home.