5 Essential Things to Bring to Thanksgiving Dinner

turkey-hidingIt’s that time again. Time to be thankful. Time to reflect. Time to fight over the drumstick. It’s also the time when we ask our Thanksgiving host or hostess:

“What can I bring?”

You know what’s on the list: salad, rolls, maybe a pie or two. But here are 5 essential things you should take with you that your hostess may not ask for.

1)Yourself. Seriously leave the entourage at home. Your boss, your kid’s teacher, your ex, and the guy who sideswiped your car last week have their own turkey dinners to gobble up. If they want to drag you along to their party let ’em, but take a tip from the turkey and stuff your baggage.

2) A camera. Do not bring a phone, a tablet, a computer or any multi-tasking electronic thing. Bring an old fashioned camera, point it at people and remember why you are taking their picture. Hint: it is because you love them and want to remember them. Make them smile, catch them in a kiss, or capture the cook in the kitchen. Upload. Share. Feel good. You might even want to frame a real, honest-to-goodness print.

3) A covered dish. Who can resist a covered dish? The first thing people do is lift the top to see what’s inside. Your dish doesn’t have to be filled with food. Put something fun inside: wax lips from the party store, crayons and paper, candy, or cards.

4) Curiosity. Don’t just nod to those friends and relatives you see once a year before making a beeline for the couch. Ask everyone at least one question. You’ll be amazed how interested they will be in you when they know that you are interested in them. Caution: trying this on teenagers can be tough but hang in there. They speak eventually.

5) Gratitude. Don’t  serve it up like lumpy gravy, just take a second and acknowledge your good fortune. Come on, there will be at least one thing to be grateful for and you’ll probably think of a baker’s dozen once you get started. I venture to say that someone around the table might just be putting you on their gratitude list too – especially if you take a nice picture of them.

Have an awesome Thanksgiving and let me know what you decide to put in that covered dish.



Albanian Diaries #6: My Shqip* (ship) has sailed

imagesI woke up this morning at 4:30 am. and slipped quietly out of bed so I wouldn’t wake my husband. I’ve been doing this for this last thirty-seven days so that I could go to the window of our small apartment to watch the day come to Tirana, Albania.

But this morning I didn’t see the dark apartments in the highrises a stone’s throw from mine. I didn’t see yesterday’s wash hanging from balconies or laid out on drying racks on terraces waiting for the lady of the house to collect her families clothes. I didn’t see the headlights of the dawn-drivers in cars careening around the traffic circle on King Zog II Avenue or the silhouette of the massive statue of Skanderbeg that takes my breath away. I did not see the mists and clouds over the stone mountains. I did not see the sky turning 50 shades of Albanian grey as the minutes past. I did not open the window to feel the cool breeze that would give way to a hot day. I did not smell the scent of baking bread from the little shop downstairs where the baker had been working since 2 in the morning.

I saw and felt and smelled none of this because, this morning, I am home.

Twenty-two hours in transit brought me back to Palos Verdes and a house that now seems palatial given where I have been living. I hear an owl. And silence. My family is sleeping. My town is sleeping. I look out my glass doors and see a fenced in yard, not a wonderful, imperfect, lively, marvelous city lying at my feet, and I am sad. I will miss so much about Albania.

I will miss:

-Emi and her pastries and her laugh. Evisa and Nada, law professors who are both brilliant and beautiful. The Byrek man and the baker and the women at the market who sell yellow butter fresh from the churn and tomatoes the size of baseballs.

-The hard sidewalks full of potholes and loose stones and broken concrete. It was as if each day I was being challenged to remember how to safely walk the road of my life while enjoying the adventure. I managed rather well. I may have tripped but I never fell.

-The crazy traffic, the people who drive as if the city is one big bumper car track.

-The bronze statues. Massive discarded statues of Lenin and Stalin kept to remember a time when Albania was not free. Even bigger statues that speak to the amazing strength and honor of the Albanian people – Skanderbeg, Rosafa, Prishtina. Smaller but no less important the statues reflecting their friendship with America – Wilson and Clinton and Bush.

-The food. The food. The food. I have never had such food in all my travels.

-The hospitality.

-The conversations with everyone that inevitably turned to discussions of how Albania can come into the modern world after 5 decades of brutal communist rule. Each citizen no matter what their station was concerned for their country and engaged in its political life.

-Friends Book Store. There has never been a business so aptly named. When I left, I thanked Lati , the owner who loves books and authors, his wife Eda, the young men who served me my tea in the Library Room or my sandwich on the coffee patio. I wish I had been able to thank them each a thousand more times. I’ll send them some of my books and a little part of me will always be in the library of Friends Book Store. But I should have found a way to go back. Just once more. To say thank you.

-The stray dogs. Especially ‘Benji’.

I will miss all that and more. To be fair, though, there are some things I won’t miss. But I’ll get back to you on that.

Faleminderit, Albania. Faleminderit, my friends.

*Shqip is the language of Albania. I learned ten words well while I was there. I managled many more. Albanians call their country Shqiperia and themselves Shqiptare.