A Different November

Normally I’m fond of November, because it contains my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. I’m not a huge Christmas fan. I’m not Christian and don’t think much of the mandatory giving of increasingly commercial gifts. Sorry to be that way. I don’t step on anybody else’s Christmas, but I don’t tend to get involved. But gratitude, now that’s something I can get behind. Ask anybody who follows me on Twitter or Facebook. Every day I post a #DailyGratitude as a way of identifying something I can be grateful for.

Well…almost every day. Some of you know my mom passed away this year. And she lived here with me in her retirement. That’s brought some big changes. And I’ve kept up with my #DailyGratitude pretty well. I still do them. But I’ve missed some days. I didn’t forget. I just couldn’t quite push myself there. You don’t have to remind me that gratitude is more necessary than ever at a time like that. I know. It’s just harder than it looks in the directions.

I used to travel a lot for business. I did city-wide reads and professional public speaking. I gave it all up three or four years ago, because I hate plane travel and I wanted to be home. Good thing I did, too, because my mom was my dogsitter. When I had to go out of town, I just walked out the door, and Ella and my mom took care of each other in my absence. But this November I had to go out of town. I agreed to travel to this year’s youth literature conference NCTE/ALAN nearly a year in advance, when my mom was still around. And when the time came to go, I had a dog-sitting arrangement that involved three different people, and seemed to be patched together with tape and chewing gum. And then, five days before I had to catch a plane, it got even shakier. And I began to come apart around the seams.

Amazingly, I was able to find a perfect new arrangement on only five days’ notice. A good friend took the train up from Southern California and stayed in the house with Ella while I was gone. Which took away a lot of worry. I was gone nearly a week (long story), and got home the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. With no plan.

You see, much as I love the spirit behind the holiday, Thanksgiving comes with a built-in problem for me. Food. I’m vegan, and I’m allergic to…well, everything. As far as the classic American diet goes, I really can’t eat much of anything other people eat. I can’t even go to someone’s house and have just the salad, because there will invariably be soybean oil in the dressing. So my mom (who was also vegan) and I used to do Thanksgiving just the two of us. Sometimes we’d do juice fasts instead of feasts. Sometimes I’d make nontraditional feasts.

I got home late Tuesday night, used most of Wednesday getting my wonderful dogsitter back to her train, and still didn’t have a plan.

This is where my friend Thom comes in. He’s lost both of his parents, and he gave me an interesting bit of advice. He suggested I make one of the nontraditional dishes I’d made in years past, sit in a comfy chair with a warm dog (I just happened to have one of each!) and “watch 5,000 I Love Lucy reruns.” That way, he said, if the tears came, as they still usually did for him, they would be good tears.

So I followed his advice to the letter.

I don’t know that it’s my new tradition, but it worked for the difficult transition year. I can see potential better new ideas in the future, like Skype Thanksgiving among a number of people who are solo in their homes. That way I’d have my own food.

That part really doesn’t matter. What matters is that things change. It’s okay to mind, but I might as well roll with the changes. One way or another, they’ll take me where they want me to go. Resistance only causes more pain.

It was an okay November. Different. But different can be okay. 


  1. I'm sorry about your mom, Catherine. So hard to deal with holidays after a loss, but your attitude about it seems to have made the difference, and is a good reminder to all of us. Making the best of things, trying to find gratitude, accepting what we can't change. Cuddling up with a dog, too. Can't go wrong there. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks, Jody, Yeah, the dog cuddle was my favorite part, too.

  3. I'm glad you and Ella found a way to have a good Thanksgiving, Catherine. And I really love the Skype Thanksgiving idea. Community and being together means so many different things these days...

  4. Just caught up with this post and it touched me deeply. I love that you gave yourself permission to do as Thom suggested. I often feel I should be doing this or that tradition simply because it is expected. Cheers to non-traditional tradition.


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