Giving Thanks

Dear Recipe Testers,

Yesterday I went to the gas station and who pulls up behind me but Coach Chris Kaping.  Only I couldn't believe it was him because he wasn't in his wheelchair.  This was a man who was standing.  I had to walk up to him to be sure it was him.  I was in joyous shock.  WOW.  It made my entire day.  You may remember that he was the Coach and giving member of our community who was struck with cancer and had part of his pelvis removed and I believe the upper part of one of his legs.  He and his wife have four little girls and he was the person so many of you supported during their darkest hour;  when his wife had no idea how they would make the house payment or pay for food or anything else.  Chris, being the positive can-do person that he is, was determined to get back to work and coaching as soon as possible and had figured out how to do both in his wheelchair.  His father-in-law, Bob Furman, told me that Chris had been working diligently in physical therapy because they believed Chris would be able to walk again.  To see him yesterday, standing on his crutches, was miraculous.  I remember when he and his family first had the cancer diagnosis and everything seemed so bleak and impossible to overcome.  All of our hearts sunk from the news of the tragedy.  But as another dear friend told me "this isn't the last chapter of the book" and and this story is true story triumph over tragedy.  The story of Chris's kind and determined spirit and also the story of the support of a community and the support of strangers he will never meet.  His wife Monique could barely speak to me after so many of you donated because she couldn't get the words out without crying.  She couldn't believe that people she had never met would be helping her husband and her family.  I told her that both she and her husband and her parents had been such giving giving members of the community for so long and it gave others JOY to help in return.
Seeing Chris made me realize what a gift it is to be able to walk.  Walking is so basic and fundamental that we all generally take it for granted.  But our health is THE most precious and priceless gift of all.  And being able to walk or run or jump is indeed something to be grateful for.  

Last week Father Randall told the story about Helen Keller and her article from January 1933 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.  It was titled Three Days to See.  "In the article she outlined what things she would like to see if she were granted just three days of sight:  friends, nature, art, and the movement and bustle of New York City were among her choices.  She concluded:  'I who am blind can give one hint to those who see:  use your eyes as if tomorrow you were stricken blind.'  Keller is also widely quoted as saying: 'Is there anything worse than being blind?  Yes, someone with sight and no vision.'"

I realize that the month of November has the holiday of Thanksgiving.  A holiday based on giving thanks.  I never imagined that I would be one of those splintered families that dealt with the confusion of holidays and divorce.  We were always the family that welcomed anyone and everyone in.  Those who had a place to be and those that didn't.  I remember a Thanksgiving when I was in college when a friend of mine had just been divorced and it was her first Thanksgiving without her children.  I spent that Thanksgiving in Washington DC with her and two other dear friends.  That was a beautiful delicious and intimate Thanksgiving I will always cherish.  I also remember a huge huge Thanksgiving when my former husband took command and we spent Thanksgiving with the entire Company in Hawaii.  I stood in line with my one-month-old baby girl for over an hour in the giant helicopter hanger where the Thanksgiving feast was held.  I met Rachel Coleman standing in line.  Rachel ended up becoming one of my best friends.  I never imagined on that day that in the future my baby girl would have to decide between spending Thanksgiving with her father or her mother.  I never imagined that there would ever be a Thanksgiving that I wouldn't be with both of my children on Thanksgiving.  But another wise friend pointed out to me, on the first Thanksgiving her oldest daughter was away at college and wouldn't be flying back home, that children grow up and the family Thanksgiving as you once knew it is always changing and evolving.  I know that Thanksgiving can bring up both warm memories and painful ones as well.  I try to think of St. Paul's saying: "In everything give thanks."  Giving thanks is the bridge to carry you out of your pain. Giving thanks transcends pain.   And that is what is Thanksgiving is ultimately:  It is a day of pausing to give thanks.  It is a day to give thanks for the Blessings and abundance of this life.  It is a day to give thanks for those we love.  And that love exists whether someone is present in the room with us or thousands of miles away.

Somehow most of us are wired to focus on what we are missing or lacking.  To notice the 2 percent of things going wrong instead of the 98 percent that is going right.  My friend send me this quote:  "What if you woke up today with only the things that you thanked God for yesterday."  That quote was so powerful.  I realized how ridiculously LONG my gratitude list is if all I would have left tomorrow are the things I have been thankful for.

I'd love you to join me in making this a month of giving thanks.  Whether by a gratitude journal, gratitude prayer or even a gratitude email list, find a way to acknowledge the things you are grateful for daily.  One year my assistant, Karen, and my sister all wrote gratitude emails to each other.  Each day we emailed a list of the ten things we were grateful for.  I remember during that time my washing machine broke. I remember because of those gratitude emails it made me realize that I was one of the lucky few in the world to own a washer and dryer in my own home for the convenience of easily doing laundry.  Imagine those without indoor plumbing and hot water readily available.  Or even think of the many of us with an apartment in college or in cities who have to carry their laundry to another location to do it.  I know to some I may sound too cheerful or too trite, but even this morning our power went out for less than ten minutes and it interrupted my girls getting ready for school, me making their breakfast and them drying their hair.  And I thought of my friends in New York affected by the storm who would be without power for ten days.  And I know even though it may sound simplistic that gratitude prayers are the most transforming.  They are the prayers that transform both your inner soul and emotions as well as the world around you.  

‎"But then, a grateful heart beats in a world of miracles. If I could only speak one prayer for you, my children, it would be that your hearts would not only beat but grow even greater in gratitude, that your lives, however long they prove to be and no matter how they end, continue to bring you miracles in abundance."
-Kate Braestrup

And I guess this wouldn't be a recipe testing email if I didn't include a recipe so I will include my three favorite recipes for Cranberry Sauce. I love sauces made with cranberries and I buy fresh cranberries now to make sauces with the rest of the year.  Cranberries as well as  Cranberry Sauce both freeze very well.

I will soon be sending out lots of Thanksgiving recipes including directions on how to Roast a Turkey and much more.  I also wanted to share the Oven Roasted Grapes recipe from Chef Clark Staub at Flatbread and tell you my story of having lunch with Carolyne Roehm.  So much more happiness, recipes and Gratitude to come in my month of giving thanks!

Blessings to All,


PS  I wanted to include the original email from April 2012 that I wrote about Coach Chris because it has Eric Pederson's brilliant quote Compassion Fatigue  and how sometimes you need fill yourself up and sometimes take a break from giving.

"Before I write this story I wanted to share with you something my friend Eric Pederson sent to me.  Eric is a person like me with a huge heart who wants to help the world.  When I went through the divorce I realized suddenly I just didn't have the personal energy or capacity to help on the level I had previously.  All of my efforts and energy had to go into keeping myself strong so I could support my girls.  I leaned on some dear friends who helped me through day by day and was also comforted by the kindness of strangers.  In fact, I was crying in Trader Joe's a few days after we were separated and a man in the store bought me flowers.  It was so kind and it gave me comfort.  Recently I feel like I've been given the opportunity to "pay it forward" and help others who are going through the excruciatingly painful process of divorce.  I feel like I've been able to give them hope that they will get through it and that happiness exists on the other side.  And that the children will be okay.  And that they will be okay.  That life is somehow a series of ups and downs and that happiness is there is you look for it.

So I want to write about BALANCE.  About when to give and when to say no.  Because I think those are hard boundaries to make for those of us who feel they are called to help everyone.  This short passage below that Eric wrote on "Compassion Fatigue" spoke volumes to me:

"You are a good person. It's a long race. You are suffering from compassion fatigue.

Of course you care about people, but has there been a time in history when people have been put under more pressure to be charitable? You go to the store to pick up a quart of milk and pass a homeless man with a sign asking for your help, then you have to pass
 by someone selling brownies for some charity outside the grocery store, and when you pay for your milk you are asked if you want to make a donation to MS. It's a veritable attack of the charities.

Not giving today does not mean you want the homeless man to starve, the Girl Scouts to miss their jamboree, or people to suffer from MS. It just means it is someone else's turn to give today.

You have compassion fatigue because you have been compassionate. Compassion is not measured by how much you gave, or whether you were able to, or whether you fixed their problem, but that you wanted to. That compassion, even devoid of action, is precious and must be preserved. It makes us great.

So recover. Treat yourself to a margarita, a spa day, a drive by the ocean, a ride in the mountains, a day with family, or maybe some time in your church. Recharge because you are an important part of this world, and because you deserve it.

What we must not do, however, is defend ourselves with fiction that the problems are not real, that people are not suffering, or that they somehow deserve it. Suffering happens, it is not good, and we should not feel OK seeing it.

Being human means we have compassion; but being human also means we have limits. So when you feel the fatigue, let yourself off the hook. I am here to tell you it is OK, and there is no need to rationalize not giving. Tell yourself not today, I am taking the day (or week) off. It's margarita Saturday, etc.

And when you are recharged, watch out world, your love for your fellow man can make a difference that would shame the rest of us. You are, after all, kind of amazing." --
Eric Pederson

Recently, I've had to be very careful about what I can do and what I can't do.  I'm honestly asked weekly to donate to something or participate in a fundraiser.  If the girls teachers need something for school that is always a yes.  I've mentioned before that the two charities I donate to regularly are Food for the Poor and the local Food Banks, since I always think feeding people is of primary importance.  But there are many things I've had to say no to just because I literally don't have the time or ability to say yes.  

Recently a tragedy happened in our valley that had the same need an urgency as Jeanette.  It is something I had to say yes to.  (For those of you who are new to this list, Jeanette was a little girl who died of bone cancer and had her leg amputated and multiple surgeries, yet was this amazing ray of positive light.  No matter what horrors she endured she always made everyone around her feel wonderful.  There was a time when Jeanette was in City of Hope and her aunt Rosemary was with her and Rosemary couldn't work and needed money for tires and gas and food.  The necessities in life to get through the time of crisis.  Strangers rose to help her and all of you helped them through that terrible time until she could go back to work and get back on her feet.  It was the kind of "boost" that we all sometimes need in life.)

The new urgency is for the Basketball Coach in the valley that donated so much of his time to so many kids in the valley.  His whole family and wives' family has been a part of countless fundraisers and so many events in the valley, especially soccer and basketball, that if anyone has "paid it forward" Chris has.  Chris Kaping is a plumber and his wife Monique has run a daycare in their home.  Chris has bone cancer and on Monday had part of his pelvis and his femur removed.  He is still at City of Hope.  Because he is self-employed the family's biggest need right now is paying the rent and for the essentials in life like groceries, electricity, etc.  They have four children.  Friends and grandparents are jumping in to help drive the kids to school and activities (his daughter Dakota is still playing on the basketball team.)  The WONDERFUL news is that the doctors believe Chris will walk again.  The road to recovery will be long (at least a year) but there is tremendous hope and, as Hollye would say, that is a HUGE Silver Lining!

So after finally learning to say no I realized that this is exactly what Eric meant about recharging your batteries so you would be available when it is most needed.  This is exactly where I want to give my money and help.   Chris and Monique and their four kids children need the money now to get through this temporary low.  Their rent is $2,200 a month and that is on of the things Monique is the most concerned about.  Then of course, groceries and utilities. I know the community will step up to help but I also believe there is something extraordinary about the kindness of strangers that gives you a lift beyond measure.  That someone who you never gave to and whom you may never be able to repay, is giving to you.  This is the kind of giving that fills me with JOY. 

If you have compassion fatigue than take time to recharge your batteries, but if you are recharged and ready to give this is where any amount will make a huge difference and be appreciated beyond measure. 

I love the ripple effect from the chain of love.  It goes on and on.  

Blessings and JOY,

April 2012


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