{ DIY & Dubious Thanksgiving }

Our Thanksgiving was a little different this year.

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My sister and family were spending the holiday with her in-laws. My brother and family live in San Diego now.  My single cousin Clee, who usually spends holidays with us, was with her brother’s family.

So, our guest list would simply be: my mother and her friend, Marlene. Marlene is a dear widow who is legally blind.  She is a classy dresser who wears red-rimmed cat-eye glasses.

In addition to the sparse guest list, we threw another curve ball when we told the children,

“This is a Do-It-Yourself Thanksgiving.  You can all plan one dish, buy the ingredients and prepare it yourself.”

Then, our oldest daughter mentioned that a Facebook acquaintance was in the area for Thanksgiving weekend: Nathan, a seminary grad student from Sri Lanka.

When my daughter asked if he could join us for Thanksgiving dinner, some of the other children seemed dubious…even shocked.

I regret to admit they said things like:

  • We don’t even know him.
  • He could be a weirdo.
  • Why would we invite someone we’ve never met?

So much for the Christian spirit of hospitality.

In the end, we all had a marvelous time:

  • Marlene and mom were excellent company and formidable game-players. We learned new things about both of them.
  • Everyone stepped up with the DIY dishes; we had abundant leftovers, as usual.
  • Nathan was friendly, intelligent and a definite non-weirdo. (If he’s writing a blog, I wonder what his prediction and assessment of us would be?)

So, I am thankful for uncertain opportunities, new friends, and rich experiences that help us grow!

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.  I wonder how you spent it?

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. ~ 1 Peter 4:8-9

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Photo Credit:  Zbysiu Rodak

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{ Oreos in the Library }

Lisa E. is our spunky, non-stereotypical local librarian.

She slipped us some photos the other day.

“Here are some photo story starters.  Get writing!”

Lisa was intrigued by this mysterious photo that’s been circulating on the internet, and she wanted us to make up a story about it:

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With access to every library in the world, Lisa has a lot of power. I’m not going to cross her. So I wrote my story and handed it to her.  The next time I walked through the library door, she demanded that I empty my pockets.  She was looking for contraband. This is why:

The O.R.E.O. Society

There’s not much to do over a cold Minnesota winter. The windchill forces normally independent Midwestern folks into their homes. After three days of winter’s house arrest, even the most adventurous souls begin to forget that there is an outside world. We hunker down, glad we are well-stocked with coffee, bread, milk, eggs, cream and more coffee. We have a stash of dried beans for emergencies and chocolate for daily sustenance. Stacks of books line the walls, serving the dual purpose of reading material and extra insulation.

So, we stay inside.

We wrap ourselves in cozy, minky blankets. We position the coffee pot next to our armchairs and sofas (or beds). We are entertained by books, energized by coffee and sedated by the radiant logs in the fireplace.

And we keep reading.

We read fiction to cheer our souls and warm our blood. It’s dark half the day, but when we finish a book that we know it is time to sleep.

When we feel isolated, we chat online about the books we are reading.

And this was how the O.R.E.O.** Society was born.

During a particularly bleak and snow-dumped winter, several disgruntled Minnesota readers happened to share their common discontent with the story endings of books like these: 

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • My Sister’s Keeper
  • Mockingjay
  • Gone Girl
  • Goldfinch

Amongst the group, there was a visceral hunch that something was very wrong.

When you are in a cold state of semi-hibernation with books as your dearest friends, you feel more deeply the injustice of an incomplete or unhappy ending.

And they had a whole seven months (typical MN hibernating phase) to stew over it.

One member of the group would share his dissatisfaction and then another member would read the book and agree. Bitterness and rage spread. Nightmares replaced normally peaceful sleep patterns. Disturbing dreams were tangled up with dangling denouement from closed books. 

January and February were spent in a trancelike state, with life hanging in the balance between “fiction grief” and the voracious hope for a perfect ending.

But this hope seemed to be a bunch of malarkey.

Then the April sun peeked out.

Like a tulip bulb that blooms after a hard freeze, the reading group came to life before the first of May. They were ready to take action. They had one large online chat and appointed a leader. They named the group O.R.E.O.** and planned “lethal action against all dissatisfying books.”

Then, they passed out the Sharpies.

The plan was simple:

  • Enter local libraries.
  • Locate a bad book ending and attack with a Sharpie.
  • Connect with fellow conspirators and debrief.
  • Enter another library.

And, how would the members find one another? Besides their pale skin and disappointed looks, they would know each other by the sign of a common Oreo cookie (regular, not Double Stuff) positioned as a signal near at each member’s reading station.

So, if you happen to see an Oreo cookie in a library, you have two choices.

  1. Report any suspicious activity to a librarian.
  2. Grab a Sharpie and join them.

**Opaque Revisionists Entering Our Libraries

© Lisa M. Luciano

{ Substitute Babysitter }

The Hillstroms from church needed a babysitter and my daughter couldn’t do it after all. She wouldn’t export her runny nose and annoying cough into the already stressed Hillstrom home.

Linzy was going to meet her husband Matt for marriage counseling, and their six active kiddos needed energetic supervision.

So I approached their country home, not knowing what to expect. I had never been there; never helped out. I was a little sketchy on all their names and I was out of my comfort zone.

First, we plunged into backyard hide-and-seek. Between games, we paused for show-and-tell breaks, like when Riley showed me his recent bow-and-arrow injury and Jojo pointed out the onions poking up in the garden. Then we returned to our crouched positions under the pine tree or behind the bikes in the shed. I huddled with the little ones, who squirmed and rustled and ruined the hiding places. Then we started all over again.

Suddenly, everyone grabbed their bikes, trikes and scooters and soared freely along the dusty, rural road. I strolled the baby, ready to redirect the parade if a car came along.

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I employed my former public school teacher’s voice and relied on 20+ years of motherhood to cope with minor scuffles and occasional sibling rivalry.

“Linzy is a good mom,” I thought as I served the meal on the stove to her happy, helpful kids. The able dish-doers scaled a wooden bench to reach the sink and finish the cleanup.

Next, Annie informed me of the house bedtime rules with a serious, spaghetti-stained face:

“You read us stories. And we can snuggle with our blankets. And then we brush our teeth.”

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As we wrapped up the bedtime routine, I thought:

“When was the last time I just played and read stories with my own children for 3 hours?”

It had been a busy, but pleasant evening.

When Linzy arrived home, I thought it was over.

But the next Sunday, I was assaulted with warm embraces and surrounded with sparkly smiles.

I was suddenly the famous, beloved babysitter of just one evening.

I had run around barefoot in the backyard.

I had read books and given hugs.

I had learned their names and the house rules.

And for these small things, I would be paid with loving looks for the rest of my life.

That’s a pretty good deal for a substitute babysitter.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Photo Credits:

Country Scene — Julian Schöll

Books — Robyn Budlender