Friday, November 27, 2009


My mother has a tradition at Thanksgiving. We all hold hands, the meal spread before us on the table, and tell everyone assembled what we’re thankful for this year. When I was a kid, this made me cringe. First, the tradition made sure everyone was staring at me—horrifying when I was a self-conscious teenager. Second, what the heck was I going to say? I would obsess for days ahead of time to come up with the perfect short, thoughtful phrase. Inevitably, I would flub it and a slight titter (or out-right guffaw from my brother) would circle the table. Eventually, as I matured, I learned to play to the crowd, keep it simple and the moments eased on by.

These days, it’s so easy to focus on the worst. Crisis after crisis hits the headlines and pops out of every mouth, TV, blog or tweet. The stories are frightening and devastating. Every-day life is full of small calamities, too: the car breaks down, the toilet backs up, the cat throws up on the new sofa, bad hair, really bad dust-bunnies. Sometimes it seems like there’s nothing to be grateful for. Then Thanksgiving arrives and I remember my mother’s tradition. I spend a few days thinking about all the great things in my life and I re-focus on what’s important: family, love, laughter.

This Thanksgiving, I won’t be sharing a meal with my family, but maybe that’s a good thing. The turkey would need a sweater to keep from catching a chill while I list all the things I’m thankful for this year. I have a wonderful husband. I have terrific friends, some of whom just helped us move. You have to be grateful for people who help you haul an eight-foot sofa up five flights of stairs. I get to write every day. I have romance readers who enjoy my stories. The list goes on and on.

Now I’m going to pass this wonderful tradition on to you. Join hands, everyone. What are you thankful for this year?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hopes, Dreams and Wedding Things

From the moment my son was born—even before if I were honest—I’ve dreamed of a better life for him. Although my own life is admittedly good, I wanted him to be healthier, more at peace with himself and others, get a higher education, achieve success earlier or, in short, have a better future than the one I’ve carved out for myself.

By and large, he’s fulfilled those dreams, along with a few of his own. He combined both our goals by playing baseball all the way through college, managing to graduate with honors. He landed a terrific job, sprang up the ladder into management, bought a wonderful house. Last week, to the applause of our closest friends and family, he realized one of my biggest dreams when he slipped a simple white band on the elegantly manicured finger of his best friend, the love of his life, and my new daughter-in-law.

This girl—young woman, actually—is everything I could have ever wanted for my son. Of course she’s beautiful, with glossy raven hair, dancing brown eyes and a figure most women my age would give their eye teeth to have again. She’s also kind, generous, soft-hearted and close enough to her own family to assure me that she has her priorities straight. Most importantly, when my son looks at her, he is filled with so much happiness, he glows. And she glows back.

But sometimes, to achieve your own goal, you have to muck with someone else’s.

They married in an enormous old church, one with aisles on either side of long, centered pews. The wedding planner, a woman with her own vision for the ceremony, insisted my son stand on the far right while the bridal party entered from the far left. Which meant he couldn’t see his bride come through the doors into the sanctuary. Alternatives and compromises were suggested and soundly rejected until the groom, in the interest of having “the perfect wedding,” agreed to stand where he was told and wait to see his bride once she cleared the final aisle. But some dreams cannot be denied, and, as soon as the Wedding March sounded, my son left his assigned spot by the minister and crossed the dais so he could watch the woman of his dreams walk down the aisle to him…a move that brought tears to every eye in the church. (Okay, so maybe the move clashed with the wedding planner's dream, but she went with the flow.)

Now that the happy couple is off on their honeymoon, I realize that my hopes and dreams require updating. List-maker that I am, I'm tempted to start another list. Or maybe, in the interest of being green, I’ll simply recycle the one I have for the next generation.

What dreams do you have for your children? For yourself? And how will you go about achieving their fulfillment?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Quick, Easy and Delicious Holiday Appetizer

For me the holiday season is all about family, friends and food, so I thought I’d share my favorite party appetizer of all time.

Baked Brie

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
8-ounces Brie cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the Brie (the white rind is edible!) in a shallow baking dish and set aside.

Chop the sun-dried tomatoes and cover them with boiling water. Let sit for 15 minutes, until soft. Drain well. If you buy sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, then they’re good to go as is.
Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan. Saute tomatoes for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds, still stirring constantly. Stir in the basil, parsley and balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.

Cover the Brie with the tomato mixture and bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is soft and warm, about 10 minutes.

Serve with plain crackers and a thinly sliced bagette. The warm cheese spreads easily and the topping is mouth-wateringly delicious. Seriously. You must try this. Your guests will love you for it!

Happy holidays!

Until next time,
The Writer Side of Life

Monday, November 23, 2009

Five Glorious Days

I'm scrambling this week in an effort to get ready to leave for the long holiday weekend (taking my mom up to my cabin in Young). As I juggle seven things at once, I dream about having an entire week - five glorious days - off all to myself. Now, don't get me wrong, I take a couple weeks vacation every year, but it's always a trip. You know the kind I'm talking about. The trips where you work extra hard in order to go and then extra hard when you get back catching up on everything.

As I was walking my dogs this morning before work, I got to thinking about what I would do with an entire five days off to myself. It wasn't hard.

On day one, I do nothing. Okay, doing nothing isn't realistic. What I mean is I'd have no obligations whatsoever. I wouldn't have to drive my son to class or run to the bank or dash home from the office to meet the plumber who's fixing my broken water heater. I'd sleep in until I woke up. Then I'd lay around and watch TV or read a book (wouldn't that be bliss?). Next, I'd take a nap (are you seeing a sleeping trend here?). When I was hungry, I'd lumber over to the phone and order pizza.

On days two and three, I'd write. UNINTERRUPTED writing! Writing where I could finish more than a page and a half before the phone rang or my son needed to locate something that would bite him in the nose if it was any closer. Writing where the pages practically wrote themselves because the ideas flowed nonstop.

On day four I would take care of all that writing related stuff that has been piling up for months. I'd update my webpage. I'd judge those contest entries. I'd work on a new book trailer. I'd put together a fall newsletter. I'd set up a Facebook account!

On day five, I'd spend a full twelve hours refilling my inner well doing things just for me. I'd go shopping and buy a ridiculously expensive pair of shoes or a new purse that I just 'had to have'. Maybe I'd drive down to Tempe Town Lake and walk the perimeter, something I've been wanting to do for five years, ever since they built the lake! I'd definitely meet a friend for lunch or coffee and spend a good two hours catching up. Sounds really nice, doesn’t it?

Maybe one of these days soon….

Oh, did you notice not once during these five days did I mention doing a load of laundry?

So, how would you spend five days all to yourself?

Warmest wishes,

Cathy McDavid