I wasn’t going to write at all today. Nobody is reading blog posts the day before Thanksgiving; I myself should be making cranberry sauce, shredding Brussels Sprouts and dicing celery and onions for stuffing. Gratitude is in the air, however, and it seemed like The Thing to Do to write about the things for which I am grateful. Everybody’s doing it. (Although if you buy that as a reason for me to do anything, you haven’t exactly been paying attention. My mother never had to say “if everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?” She had to say “Ann, half the kids in the neighborhood have jumped off the bridge, and they’re fine – would you at least just climb up there and look over the edge?!”).
At the same time, however, wishing to present you with a certain economy and symmetry of thought, I am thinking about the things for which I am most definitely not grateful. It isn’t as sweet or cozy to talk about those things, particularly at this nut-cracking, turkey-brining, family-hugging juncture of the year, but it does serve as a nice foil for the good stuff. Like a little salt makes a bland melon sweeter, or solitude makes us happy to be among people again, maybe my selections of things undeserving of gratitude will cause your heart to swell and your eyes to brim when you get to their opposites. Or, if you prefer, think of it as poison and antidote. I’m out of similes, here; you’re on your own.
1. The Food Network. To quote Madonna (as I so often do): “This used to be my playground/This used to be my childhood dream/This used to be the place I ran to/Whenever I was in need of a friend/Why did it have to end?” Unless it’s on at 6:00AM on Sunday morning, and I missed it, there is nothing left on Food Network that I would watch on a bet.
2. Thick Plastic Packaging. Everything from Habanero peppers to batteries seems to come in plastic packaging that often requires the use of an axe during the opening thereof. It is un-green, un-easy to open, and there has to be a better way to package things.
3. The Kardashians. Did any of them ever actually do anything?! Am I missing Khloe’s career as a singer, Kim’s turn as a UNICEF Ambassador, or Kourtney’s recurring role on “NCIS Miami?” As far as I can tell, they are famous mainly for being rich and behaving badly. (As a bonus, they also fall under #2, above).
4. Airline Travel. In its current incarnation, commercial airline travel is uncomfortable, harrowing, and generally miserable. There has to be a better way for the airlines to balance their budgets and for airports and the FAA to regulate air traffic; I would gladly pay more for my ticket if I knew that I would not be stranded anywhere overnight with a $40.00 voucher for a $90.00 hotel room, be made to sit in a grounded plane for 2 hours, or have to run through three airports trailing an exhausted kid to make a connecting flight.
5. Chewing Gum. I’ll admit that I have some in my purse for breath emergencies, but in general, I don’t get it. I do not want to see you chew your gum, nor do I want to find strategically placed wads stuck to the door frames, chairs or notepads in my house. I really don’t want to hear you snap it, pop it or use it in any way to create an audible presence. Ever.
6. Chick Lit. (Not the gum; I already covered that). I guess it’s better to read something than to read nothing, but these thinly-veiled and predictable pieces of fluff seem to be celebrated precisely because they are the literary equivalent of Xanax. I’ve read many, and I’ll read them again, but I sometimes worry that they are edging out the reading of more substantive (and more challenging) works of fiction. Some of them are really well-written, and funny, and I guess I think the authors could aim higher. That’s not up to me, and they are clearly making bank (!), but unless I am totally exhausted or ill, I choose Lit-Lit every time.
1. Family. [Originally this appeared below “Morning coffee,” but due to a combination of embarrassment and fear of reprisal, I moved it]. I am beyond thankful that both of my parents are alive and well, and that I am actually friends with my brother, and have a relationship with his children. I am lucky to have a mother in law who I actually like, and even love. I am also surprised daily by a husband who puts up with my eccentricities and takes the dead squirrels off the porch, and a son who can stick out his lower lip and melt me just as he did when he was three. They are all as dysfunctional as the average family, but also loving, generous and essential as air.
3. Facebook. It can be addictive, and a huge time-suck, but it has also provided me with connections to people I don’t see often enough, and to those I thought I had lost forever. It does not, and cannot replace human contact or face-to-face relationships, but it is a community of its own kind, and there isn’t a day that I don’t laugh about, cry about, or learn something there.
4. My Magic Computer Box. Every day I am amazed that somebody invented this thing. Every single day. I can write and re-write to my heart’s content without Wite-Out, I can communicate with people in Australia, I can find out anything I want to know (for example, the regrettable names of the Kardashian sisters), and I can do both of my jobs in my jammies at the dining room table. I also have many “virtual friends” who I have never met in the corporeal sense, but who feel to me like the real deal in every way that matters.
5. Good Books and Good Music. Nuff said.
6. Dreamfields Pasta. After the word came down that we had to Count Carbs or Die (seriously), it looked like we would see pasta only in the rear-view mirror of our gastronomic lives. Enter Dreamfields pasta, which, through some kind of magic, locks up the excess carbs in some kind of organic lock box so that they don’t cause a spike in blood sugar. Pasta is back in the rotation, and I couldn’t be happier.
7. My readers. I write for 30 days in a row. I disappear for a month. I write about food. I stop writing about food. Like a dog shaking off water, I’ve done enough vigorous and inconsistent changing to displace and discourage the most ardent follower. I am so grateful for those of you who waited, and read, and supported me when I pathetically begged for validation. You know who you are.