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Milk this Thanksgiving for all it’s worth.

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Almond milk in disguise.

When I did my Thanksgiving shopping earlier this week, I brought my grocery list as usual, but this time I also had paper coupons, and electronic coupons saved on my Hannaford app. I bought almost twice as many groceries as usual, and it took me twice as long, but hey, I saved $20.

The next morning, I poured a little almond milk in my morning coffee, as usual. The almond milk was “Silk,” a new brand that I hadn’t tried before, but I had a coupon for a free carton, and who can turn down free? I saved myself a whole $3.29.

I took a few sips from my mug. It was delicious. Silk was much sweeter and thicker than my usual Hannaford brand. I took another sip. Mmmm. I’d definitely buy it again, coupon or not. 

Just before lunch, I started getting pain and discomfort in my gut. Over the past few years, I’ve developed a very delicate digestive system. In fact, about 90% of the foods on this earth bother it, and that’s on a good day. My gut is always a mess,  even when I eat the things I think are “safe,” so I didn’t suspect anything unusual. And since almond milk is a “safe” food, I continued to drink it throughout the day, around two cups worth.

Suffice it to say that it was a L-O-O-O-N-G day.

It wasn’t the kind of day you want a few days before Thanksgiving.

The next morning, again I poured my almond milk into my coffee. It was just as good as the previous day.

I picked up the carton to confirm that it had no added sugar. Nope, it was unsweetened. It said so right on the label. See it there in the picture? Don’t think I don’t like sugar, as I LOVE it, but sugar doesn’t like me back.

I’m a big label reader as a result of my food sensitivities, so I turned the carton around to take another look at the ingredient list. I was curious what type of thickener was used. No guar gum listed; that was good. 

As I continued to read, this caught my eye: “Allergen statement: Contains soy.”  Huh? Soy? In almond milk? That’s a problem, as soy is a known trigger for my symptoms.

I turned the carton around to look at the front. Out loud, to no one in particular, I announced, “This isn’t almond milk. It’s soy milk!”

It wasn’t laughable then, but it is now.

My husband and I came to the easy-to-draw conclusion that the soy milk was the culprit for my ten-times-worse-than-usual symptoms. Then I came to the hard-to-defend conclusion that I may as well finish my coffee, as there was such a tiny amount of soy in it. 

Are you as incredulous as me that I would even consider taking another microscopic sip? That I would risk my enjoyment of Thanksgiving? My priorities were clearly messed up more than a gravy stain on a lace tablecloth.

Dumping out my coffee felt like a waste—of coffee, time, money, food, resources. I hate waste. I was brought up never to waste food. Poor people are starving, after all.

But my wise husband stopped me before I made a regrettable mistake.

 “Karen—throw it out,” Michael insisted. “We have more coffee.”

He was so right. I dumped the coffee and emptied the almost full carton into the sink.

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Actual almond milk, undisguised.

The soy didn’t kill me. I’m alive and well enough to type and laugh about it. I had an unopened carton of almond milk in the fridge (don’t worry—I triple checked the label) to salvage my fresh cup of morning joe

It was more delicious than I remembered.

And here are the lessons of Thanksgiving  I learned:  

1. Listen to the wise people in your life. If it’s a spouse or partner, thank them effusively.

2.  However you celebrate this day of thanks, and even if you don’t celebrate, focus on what really matters and don’t sweat the small stuff. I was willing to let $3.29 ruin another 24 or 36 or 48 hours for me. It wasn’t worth it.

3.  Dump any toxicity from your life, (especially romaine lettuce!) and replace it with things or people that make you feel good.

4. When you don’t follow steps 2) or 3), laugh about the mistake and be thankful that you’re human.  

5.  What doesn’t kill you teaches you a lesson. If it’s not obvious, dig deep—it’s there. 

6.  If you’re reading this, you’re alive. Be thankful. If you laugh today, be doubly thankful.

7.  If your hands have ever picked up something other than what your eyes saw, read labels very carefully today. Be mindful. You’ll thank me later. 

8.  Enjoy this day. Milk it for all its worth.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Have your hands ever picked up something other than what your eyes saw? Will you share your story here?

Birthday: What it births within us.

Birthday party pose.
Me at my 60th birthday party, before the festivities.

Today, I am 59 and 364/365ths. Tomorrow, I turn 60. Happy Birthday to me.

Other than semantics—“I am 59” vs. “I am 60”—the difference between today and tomorrow for me isn’t insignificant.

Sometimes one day does make a huge difference. Yesterday’s mid-term elections, for example. And, of course, the presidential election of 2016. That year, my birthday—November 8—fell on election day. All I asked for was that our country heal from its deep divisions.

That wish didn’t come true, but I haven’t given up.

I threw myself a birthday party a few days ago on Sunday, November 4. My husband Michael would have planned something special to mark my turn of a decade, but I had a vision of how I wanted to celebrate, so I planned it myself. 

Half the excitement was planning my own birthday party.

I rented a room, selected hors d’oeuvres, and ordered a white cake with vanilla frosting and lots of chocolate roses. I downloaded music, and invited some of my closest friends.

Friends—a room full of them. Something that eluded me for good chunks of my life. And this year, I have more friends than I could invite. 

The party was symbolic of the personal growth I’ve experienced in my 50s, especially in the last two years as I’ve launched my writing career. The celebration filled me with such gratitude, I was moved to tears. Repeatedly. 

The day gave birth to a whirlwind of emotions.

I’ll need time unravel the tangle, and after I’ve done that, I’ll fill you in. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my down time tomorrow. When Michael gets home from work, we’ll order some takeout, have a drink, and savor the last two pieces of birthday cake left over from the party. (I claim the one with more frosting.) It will be the perfect counterweight to Sunday’s frenzy. 

Finally, as my 59th year ends and my 60th begins, I am starting to truly understand who I am. I like the woman I’ve discovered more than I thought I would. 

Maybe it’s time to rethink birthdays. Maybe when we’re well into adulthood, it’s not as important that a birthday commemorates the day of our birth. Instead of looking back, maybe we should look forward. 

Maybe the real importance of a birthday is to see what it births–within us.

I’m listening, universe.

 

Listening to the universe.
Photo by Jacub Gomez on Pexels.com

I have this thing about the universe. I try to listen to what the universe is telling me to do – to hear its sometimes hidden message. Lots of people would say my “universe” is their “God.” Others might say it’s their inner self talking, or their soul. 

I don’t think it matters where the important messages come from. What matters is listening.

Right now, I don’t know what the universe is telling me. I have all these great ideas for essays to write and pitch to publications. One of these ideas may be “the one” to catch the eye of an agent, who will contact me about my memoir, and usher me to a book deal.

Of course, my memoir is not yet finished. Is the universe telling me to forget essays, just get the damn book done already? Or is it saying,

I can only open a door of opportunity for you, I can’t make you walk through it.

Then there’s my upcoming birthday party, in three days. Yup- it’s the big 6-0 for me. I rented a room and invited friends and family, and have special fun things planned to pay forward all the blessings I’ve had in my 59 and 258/365 years. Does the universe want me to focus on getting ready, so I can enjoy this time without turning into a weepy ball of stress?

And my health. (Cue rolling eyes emoji.) It’s hard to do much of anything lately, even writing, with the time-suck of my chronic health conditions. Should I just drop everything and focus on healing? What if healing is not possible? I wish the universe would give up that card it’s holding close to its vast chest. 

Then there’s the shooting in Pittsburgh, my hometown. Another mass tragedy. Another tsunami of grief and outrage for our country. As a writer, is there anything I can possibly say that hasn’t already been said by those more intimately affected? I will console, I will support, I will advocate. I will vote. But is there something else I’m missing?

I’m listening, universe. I’m ready when you are.

Maybe this—these words, unpolished, without resolution—are its answer.