Thanksgiving for One

Today’s post is for people who are going to be alone on Thanksgiving. Dealing with a huge family fest will be posted tomorrow.

Going to be alone this Thanksgiving? No problem, unless you are dreading it. There is a cultural press to partake in some sort of perfect Norman-Rockwell-fantasy dinner, with food magically prepared and shared by a big, friendly, supportive, charming, happy family. The fact that this fantasy is exactly that–a figment of someone’s imagination–does not ease your pain. In your head, it is what you deserve, and you are feeling bad because you don’t have it.

first_thanksgivingSome years ago, I was alone at Thanksgiving. I’d moved to the Southwest ahead of my husband and was house-sitting for a friend. I didn’t want to mess up someone else’s stove, and part of me didn’t want to admit I hated being alone. But I also didn’t want to be at someone else’s table, feeling like the fifth wheel. I created a fun day for myself, and still remember it fondly. It makes me smile to think that there are many people around me who do not remember last Thanksgiving fondly, or can’t remember exactly what happened at all. And I can remember Thanksgiving 2007 with great joy.

Here are some suggestions to help make Thanksgiving a good day for you:

1. Plan ahead. Decide the kind of day you want to have and work on creating it. No Thanksgiving comes together without planning, and you don’t want to wind up standing in the grocery store aisle half an hour before the store closes.

2. You don’t have to cook an elaborate meal for 10 and eat it all by yourself. Kent McDonald, a personal chef in the Phoenix area, has some suggestions for an easy, special Thanksgiving meal you can make without a lot of fuss. Yes, Kent is my husband and he’s cooking this year.

3. Ignore it in style. Stay out of the kitchen–or the entire house–during the dinner hour. Go to the movies, take a bubble bath and give yourself a pedicure, plan that big art or craft project, take a walk with your camera, go to the library now and check out a book or DVD, and spend the time doing something appealing to you. Time to spend on yourself or your favorite pastime is precious and rare, use it with delight.

4. Plan a project. Paint the kitchen, or your bedroom. Organize your closet, your desk, your attic, your garage. Tackling a big project will make you feel organized and satisfied. Not a bad plan.

5. Make the turkey dinner happen. Let friends know you’ll be alone. Make it sound like you are available rather than desperate. Offer to help cook, clean up, bring a dish, or take the dog for a walk. Make yourself useful and you’ll be eating with a big, noisy, arguing dysfunctional family before you can say ‘turkey.’

The secret to having the Thanksgiving is to decide what you want and create it. Don’t let others define your joy.  Decide what you want, and make it happen, traditional or not. Celebrate yourself and allow yourself to enjoy.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who has celebrated a lot of different Thanksgivings.

–Image: The First Thanksgiving, reproduction of an oil painting by J.L.G. Ferris, early 20th century. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (neg. no. LC-USZC4-4961)

 

Thanksgiving: Tough, Wonderful, or On Your Own.

Thanksgiving is wonderful if you have a bunch of family around. Or it can be miserable. Thanksgiving on your own can be special or a special hell of loneliness. Each Thanksgiving, I post something for those who are along. Here’s a re-cap:

Celebrate yourself on Thanksgiving. Do what makes you feel happy and grateful.

Being Happy on Thanksgiving takes some work, but there are enough links in this article to keep most people busy. (The link to Pete’s Pond works, but they had a rainstorm last night that knocked out the lights).

With your big, dysfunctional family and dreading it? Some tips to help you get through the flying verbal debris at the family Thanksgiving meal.

Some other ways to keep busy on Thanksgiving, if you are not participating.

Several years ago, I found this poem in Annie Lamott’s Traveling Mercies. I’ve read it out loud on Thanksgiving since then. It seems strong and real and grateful to have made it through another year.

Thanks
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridge to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
in a culture up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is”

–William Stanley Merwin, (1927- ), American poet, winner of both Pulitzer and Tanner prizes.
The author of anti-war poetry in the 1960s, he now focuses on Buddhist and
ecological themes from his home in Hawaii.

—Quinn McDonald is grateful to have survived another cycle of the sun to bring her and her widely-scattered family to Thanksgiving again.

Thanksgiving, Home and Alone

This year, the cooking man and I are sitting down at a Thanksgiving table for just us and another couple. Laughter, good food, it makes for a Thanksgiving some people aren’t having.  And a few years ago, I was alone–no family, no friends around on turkey day.

Now, I’m one of those people who can have fun by myself in a phone booth in North Dakota, provided they still have phone booths there. You may not be. In that case, please take a peek at my Alone-at-Thanksgiving post from a few years ago. There are pointers for being alone, ignoring the holiday entirely, or celebrating your own way.

You can also read this article by eHow–it’s not anything new, but they use the word treacly, one of my favorites for this time of year. I think PyschCentral’s list is a little more interesting. And don’t forget bowling–duckpin or regular. Lanes will be open and you can learn a new skill, particularly if you think it’s geeky. It’s fun.

There is the other side to Thanksgiving, the big, messy family side. I have a post for you in that situation, too. Just in case.

One more thing–there is a certain time of day you feel moody. For some people it’s early morning. Others hate when the sun dims at twilight. Know which day part is your saddest time and plan–be at a movie, at the mall, taking a bubble bath, getting a massage. Don’t allow yourself to have a pity party. OK, if you do have a pity party, stand in front of the mirror and talk out loud about the sadness of your life to yourself. I’ll bet you can’t keep it up long.

Finally, if all else fails, the day you are alone on Thanksgiving may be the best time of all to start a gratitude journal. Yeah, I heard that. So ready my snarky post, and think it over.

If you do decide to go shopping, now that stores open on Thanksgiving Day, please shop at local stores and contribute to your community. That helps everyone.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who has spent happy Thanksgivings alone. She is also a certified creativity coach.

Alone at Thanksgiving–Not All Bad

If sundown makes you sad, don't go out around sundown to think how sad you are.

This year, the cooking man and I are sitting down at a Thanksgiving table for two. There is still a big turkey, because I so love turkey leftovers. But a few years ago, I was alone–no family, no friends around on turkey day.

Now, I’m one of those people who can have fun by myself in a phone booth in North Dakota, provided they still have phone booths there. You may not be. In that case, please take a peek at my Alone-at-Thanksgiving post from a few years ago. There are pointers for being alone, ignoring the holiday entirely, or celebrating your own way.

You can also read this article by eHow–it’s not anything new, but they use the word treacly, one of my favorites for this time of year. I think PyschCentral’s list is a little more interesting. And don’t forget bowling–duckpin or regular. Lanes will be open and you can learn a new skill, particularly if you think it’s geeky. It’s fun.

There is the other side to Thanksgiving, the big, messy family side. I have a post for you in that situation, too. Just in case.

One more thing–there is a certain time of day you feel moody. For some people it’s early morning. Others hate when the sun dims at twilight. Know which day part is your saddest time and plan–be at a movie, at the mall, taking a bubble bath, getting a massage. Don’t allow yourself to have a pity party. OK, if you do have a pity party, stand in front of the mirror and talk out loud about the sadness of your life to yourself. I’ll bet you can’t keep it up long.

Finally, if all else fails, the day you are alone on Thanksgiving may be the best time of all to start a gratitude journal. Yeah, I heard that. So ready my snarky post, and think it over.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who has spent happy Thanksgivings alone. She is also a certified creativity coach.

Happy Thanksgiving–Alone or in a Crowd

Whether you are alone, in a crowd (but not part of it) or loving a lot of company and noise, Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s also Theme Thursday, a day of links to fun and interesting place. So I’m combining the day of listing things I’m grateful for, and links to find them.

Daniel Patterson's image of wild Mexican turkeys in the Tucson, AZ area.

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, one without presents but not without stress. But we all have much to be thankful for, from big blessings to tiny flashes of insight.

Two years ago, I was alone on Thanksgiving. It felt strange, but not unpleasant. I spent the entire day in silence, working on art projects, feeling what it is like to be alone with just your thoughts. It wasn’t an exciting day, but it was memorable. I didn’t eat turkey, I wasn’t part of the imagined vision of national celebration. I felt removed from the mainstream, but intensely happy to have a day to sink into my art.

In that time, I thought of things I was grateful for. Non-traditional things–the ability to make it through a day alone, without a TV, with just my own meager art supplies.

Today, I’m presenting a list of links that are also reasons to be grateful. I had a rocky start with gratitude journals, but I’m a fan now.

I’m grateful that there are still wild animals on the face of the earth, and that the internet makes it possible for someone on one end of the earth to watch a pond at the other end.

I’m grateful that I found the intersection of art and words as my heart’s delight. If you are a book artist, enjoy pages of inspiration. Don’t miss the Pittsburgh Art Collective books. Beautiful!

I’m grateful that I can see the works of a lot of other artists–of all skill levels. And participate in showing mine, if I like. You can display your art on Illustration Friday, too. It’s great to see what others are doing.

Chris Dunmire runs the Creativity Portal. No matter what your outlet, the portal will help you find more and more interesting articles, projects, and interviews with creative folks.

Five Most Recent  Theme Thursdays: * * *  Creative Play 11. 19.09 * * * Creative Play 11.5.09 * * * Creative Play 10.29.09 * * * Creative Play 10.22.09 * * *  Creative Play 10.15.09 * * * Creative Play 10.8.09 * * * Creative Play 10.1.09* * *  Creative Play 9.24.09 * * * Creative Play 9.17.09* * * Creative Play 9.10.09 * * *

—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also wonders what you would like to say that you didn’t?

Categories:

Gratitude Journal, Step by Step

When I first wrote about gratitude journals, it was about my own experience, from grumpy doubter to believer. When Kim Painter from USA Today called me to interview me about gratitude journals, I figured they have gone mainstream. And they have. Painter’s article on gratitude and gratitude journals (I got a nice mention) has some interesting proof that saying “thank you,” and finding things to be grateful for, reduces blood pressure, makes you feel better and actually can improve your mood.

Use a journal that's comfortable for you.

Use a journal that

Now that we are close to Thanksgiving, a time when people who are alone or overwhelmed may not feel so thankful, I thought it might be useful to spell out how to keep a gratitude journal. Of course, you can keep it any way that works, but working with a lot of coaching clients, I’ve found a few tips that really work well.

1. Keep it smalll and keep it with you. A small spiral-bound notebook is inexpensive and easy to carry with you. That makes it more likely you will have it with you when you need it. I like a 4-inch by 6-inch size.

2. Leave the first page blank. That way, you won’t feel so pressured to make it perfect. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be there for you.

3. Write it down when it happens. In the beginning, when you feel more exhausted, angry or hurt than grateful, write down the slightest thing you feel grateful for. Write it down as soon as it happens. Noting your gratitude will help sharpen your senses to things that make you grateful, and make more events available to you.

4. Write every day. Look for anything that makes you feel better or grateful. Some days you may have to search really hard, and that’s OK. Comfortable shoes, someone holding a door open for you, a smile from a stranger can be a big event in a life gone awry. Look for them so you will experience them.

5. Look back over what you are grateful for. Many people find that they start out small, then realize there is more and more. If that happens, it’s, well, something to be grateful for.

6. Be the stranger to smile at someone. Wouldn’t it be nice to wind up in someone gratitude journal?

If you have good results, let me know. It can be a boost to others. We’re in some tough times right now, not through any fault of our own. It takes a little more effort to be cheerful and grateful, but it’s worth it.

–Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach, who helps people deal with change and opportunity in life. She can be reached at QuinnCreative.com under “Contact”

(c) image and text. All rights reserved. 2008

Thanksgiving: Celebrate (By) Yourself

Going to be alone this Thanksgiving? No problem, unless you are dreading it. There is a cultural press to partake in some sort of perfect Norman-Rockwell-fantasy dinner, with food magically prepared and shared by a big, friendly, supportive, charming, happy family. The fact that this fantasy is exactly that–not real–does not ease your pain. In your head, it is what you deserve, and you are feeling bad because you don’t have it.

Reproduction of an original oil painting by J.L.G. Ferris

Reproduction of an original oil painting by J.L.G. Ferris

Last year, I was alone at Thanksgiving. I’d moved to the Southwest ahead of my husband and was housesitting. I didn’t want to mess up someone else’s stove, and part of me didn’t want to admit I hated being alone. But I also didn’t want to be at someone else’s table, feeling like the fifth wheel. I created a fun day for myself, and still remember it fondly. It makes me smile to think that there are many people around me who do not remember last Thanksgiving fondly, or can’t remember exactly what happened at all.

Here are some suggestions to help make Thanksgiving a good day for you:

1. Plan ahead. Decide the kind of day you want to have and work on creating it. No Thanksgiving comes together without planning, and you don’t want to wind up standing in the grocery store aisle half an hour before the store closes.

2. You don’t have to cook an elaborate meal for 10 and eat it all by yourself. Kent McDonald, a personal chef in the Phoenix area, has some suggestions for an easy, special Thanksgiving meal you can make without a lot of fuss. Yes, Kent is my husband and he’s cooking this year.

3. Ignore it in style. Stay out of the kitchen–or the entire house–during the dinner hour. Go to the movies, take a bubble bath and give yourself a pedicure, plan that big art or craft project, take a walk with your camera, go to the library now and check out a book or DVD, and spend the time doing something appealing to you. Time to spend on yourself or your favorite pastime is precious and rare, use it with delight.

4. Plan a project. Paint the kitchen, or your bedroom. Organize your closet, your desk, your attic, your garage. Tackling a big project will make you feel organized and satisfied. Not a bad plan.

5. Make the turkey dinner happen. Let friends know you’ll be alone. Make it sound like you are available rather than desperate. Offer to help cook, clean up, bring a dish, or take the dog for a walk. Make yourself useful and you’ll be eating with a big, noisy, arguing dysfunctional family before you can say ‘turkey.’

The secret to having the Thanksgiving you want is to know that you have about two weeks to make it happen. Don’t let it sneak up on you. Decide what you want, and make it happen, traditional or not. Celebrate yourself and allow yourself to enjoy.

–Image: The First Thanksgiving, reproduction of an oil painting by J.L.G. Ferris, early 20th century. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (neg. no. LC-USZC4-4961)

–Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach who has spend a number of Thanksgivings alone and enjoying the day. She teaches business writing and presentation courses as well as journal writing through her studio, QuinnCreative.

Art Challenge at Thanksgiving

It sounds like a recipe for a Thanksgiving tear-jerker: My spouse is in Virginia, waiting for our house to sell; the people I’m staying with are in the Caribbean, watching the UConn Lady Huskies play; I’m alone in Arizona without a Thanksgiving invitation.

The instant I knew this would happen, I began to plan for it. No turkey, nothing that makes me feel alone and sad. No need. I chose this way of moving to another state, and knew it could happen. Dinner will be a favorite chicken recipe, and I will go over all the things I have to be grateful for. It’s a long list.

art suppliesOne of the things I miss the most is not having my art supplies here with me. Today I came up with an idea–if I spent $50 on art supplies, what would I chose? How much art could I make? Off I went to Utrecht Art Supply in Tempe to find out. I had a few things with me–my journal would serve as paper, I have a few pencils and pens, I can borrow masking tape and some cheap, hardware store 1-inch brushes for gel medium. Here’s what I purchased:

— An 8-0z. jar of gel medium in semi-gloss Golden gel medium. Can’t live without it. It’s glue, it’s paper prep, it makes colors more transparent.

— Five small bottles of Golden acrylics in Titan Buff, Naples Yellow, Raw Umber, Interference Gold, and Cobalt Turquoise. Can’t resist that gold shimmer. I stuck to one color palette and added a contrast.

–A set of inexpensive brushes for paint, blending and gel medium application.

–A box of 15 Caran D’Ache water soluble neocolor crayons. I’ve never used them before, but I love crayons and the idea that these can be used with water is exciting. And it extends my color range.

–A kneaded eraser, a 6-inch ruler, a hardware store version of an X-acto Knife.

That’s it. Tomorrow I’ll start to see what I can create with that supply list and whatever I can use for art in the house. This morning I noticed that the dining room chairs have some interesting carved designs. A rubbing might be nice.

I’ll publish the pieces as I go along. And if you, too, are alone at Thanksgiving, join in and make some art. Send along a photo to Quinncreative [at] yahoo [dot] com, and I’ll post the best ones.

I also stopped at the library and picked up three great books, two world music CDs, and a DVD of a classic movie–Now, Voyager with Bette Davis and Paul Henreid. What a great weekend–chick flick, art and no bickering relatives!

–Quinn McDonald is an artist, writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) 2007 All rights reserved.