Does the Village Still Exist? {The Answer Is Yes!}

I wrote this article for Queen Latifah’s website a year ago, and wanted to share it with you. It’s rather long, so I’m dividing it into two parts. Read Part 1 here.

Karen H. lives in Chicago, Illinois. She describes her Edgewater neighborhood as the “Mayberry” of Chicago. Right before the birth of her oldest child, Karen’s husband had an aneurysm and was in the hospital for five weeks. “I did not have to cook for about 2 months, since all the neighbors brought food, including stuff to go into the freezer,” she told me. Now she is part of a neighborhood  group which provides a “meal train” for anyone who has just had a baby. “That list has grown to over 700 families in the surrounding area. We have done several fundraisers to benefit local charities. The most popular was a cook book which grew out of all the great meal train meals.”

Sharing food with each other in times of stress is international. Sarah, an Executive Coach in Oxford, UK, says, “My friends supported me by inviting into their homes when the children were with their dad. [There was] nothing worse than having to face an empty house when my marriage fell apart. Sometimes it would be dinner parties–elaborate affairs that made me take a shower & smile & see the world. One of my favorite memories is laughing at Ruth and Ian’s house. [We had] a meal of gazpacho & Middle Eastern salads & lamb (her family is from Israel). We sat on stools around the island in her kitchen, inhaling ice cream from pints and talking about the challenges of in-laws. I knew then, that life would be better.”

Even people you don’t even know will step in to lend a helping hand. Karen O. had just moved to a new town in Tennessee. “I had a herniated disk within 2 months of living here and was confined to my living room floor! Before my injury I joined the local MOMS club. They set up a week of dinners for us the week of my surgery. More important than the food was the complete strangers that I could meet every day!”

Giving meals also teaches our children how to be kind and to help others in need. Karen C. lives in suburban Kansas City and is a blogger at Adventures of Cancer Girl. She writes, “From the time my daughter was a few months old until she started kindergarten, I belonged to a local moms group. There were about 50 moms in the group. One member was in charge of organizing meal delivery every time one of our members had a baby. …We could sign up for a specific day on our Meetup site and deliver our meal on the day we picked. Most were home-cooked meals (lasagna, casseroles, etc.), but I became known for always delivering a rotisserie chicken meal (with sides and dessert) from the grocery store deli. When I’d deliver the meal, I’d get to meet the new baby and chat with the mom for a while. I would usually take my daughter with me so she could feel like she was also helping out, and she always loved meeting the babies.”

Holly Spangler, an agriculture journalist at, says it wells when she writes, “Food is powerful, is it not? Not just for sustenance, though it handles that well, too. But for comfort for a grieving family, for a sick family, for a family that’s just had a baby. Our church, like a lot of others, specializes in delivering meals – a ministry, all in its own. Food as help and comfort is universal, so say my new Chicago mom friends, who report that their temples and suburbs do the same. Whether in the shadow of a high rise or down the dusty gravel roads of southern Illinois, food helps make it better.”

While providing a meal doesn’t take away the grief, doesn’t help the baby sleep through the night or provide an instant cure, a meal is a great comfort when a family is going through a stressful time. It’s not only the food that is comforting, it’s the knowledge that someone else cares and understands what you’re going through. That is comfort indeed.




The Worst Thanksgiving Ever

I wrote this article for Queen Latifah’s website a year ago, and wanted to share it with you today and tomorrow. It’s rather long, so I’m dividing it into two parts.

My mother died early on a Monday morning. It was November 23, the week of Thanksgiving. While everyone else was preparing to be thankful for all their blessings, we were a house of mourning. We decided to have Mom’s funeral the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so that relatives and friends would have time to be with their families for Thanksgiving, then travel to be with us as we remembered Mom.

We spent Monday and Tuesday of that week planning the funeral and ordering flowers. The rest of the week seemed as though it would last forever. We were a grieving family in limbo, and a major holiday was looming in the meantime. As the oldest child and a mom myself, I had no idea what to do for Thanksgiving dinner. We had to eat something, but we were all too exhausted to make a turkey dinner. Plus, we were still at that point in our grief where we just didn’t care what we ate.

Thanksgiving came. And with it came a whole Thanksgiving dinner, made for us by a woman from my parents’ church. She made two turkeys that day, one for us and one for her own family. Her thoughtfulness and her delicious meal helped us get through that difficult week.

In this world we live in today, some have lamented that we aren’t connected the way we used to be. Even in the age of the internet and social media, there seems to be a social disconnect from what is important. Families have become more spread out; does our “village” still exist, especially in the cities and suburbs that seem to sprawl across our country? Since I’ve been the recipient of many meals over the years, I decided to ask others if they have ever received meals.

Have you ever received a meal when you needed it? Does your village still exist? I’ll be publishing the rest of this article tomorrow.


Everybody Loves These Pumpkin Bars

Last Sunday we had a potluck Thanksgiving dinner for our Sunday school kids. My contribution was two sheets of pumpkin bars; one frosted and one plain. I wanted to be sure that there was enough for everyone, and the first sheet disappeared quickly! I took most of the bars on the second sheet home, and Ed said that we could bring them to Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. Silly man! As if they will last until Thursday! You can make your own cream cheese frosting or do what I did: buy a can of frosting at the store. And they taste just as good without frosting.

pumpkin bars

Pumpkin Bars

4 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 can (15 ounce) pumpkin puree
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large jelly roll pan. Beat eggs with electric mixer until foamy; add sugar, oil and pumpkin. Beat on medium speed until incorporated for 2 minutes. Mix dry ingredients in separate bowl and beat into egg mixture on low speed until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Beat 1 package cream cheese, softened, with 1 cup butter, softened, and 2 tsp. vanilla together until creamy. Gradually add 4 cups confectioner’s sugar and beat until smooth. Spread frosting over cooled pumpkin bars.

Enjoy with a cup of coffee!

To print this recipe, click here!


Providing Sisters to Help You Get Through the Holidays

My two-year-old got it first, right before Christmas; a full-blown case of the stomach flu. As a teacher of little kids, I had been exposed to the stomach flu many times before, so I was sure I would be okay and ready to host Christmas dinner at my house. On December 24, I was so sick I couldn’t even get out of bed except to go lie on the bathroom floor next to the toilet. I had never had such horrible, crippling stomach cramps before. To make matters worse, I was newly pregnant with my second child. I called my mom who lived out-of-state. “Will it hurt the baby?” I asked after I had puked my guts out for what seemed the umpteenth time.

“No, of course it won’t hurt the baby,” Mom reassured me.

I was so lucky that my sister had flown in from California to was staying with us that week. She took care of me as I lay moaning in bed. The next day, she also took care of getting the turkey in the oven. It was her first turkey, stuffed with oranges and cloves, and it was delicious!


I tried to help the best I could on Christmas Day, but it was really my sister who pulled dinner together for us. My nephew secretly told his mother, my sister-in-law, that I couldn’t have really been that sick. I looked fine! But then just a couple of days later, he got sick. And so did just about everyone else in the family, including my poor brother who was still recuperating from a motorcycle accident in a nursing facility.

Let me tell you, without my sister, I don’t think I could have survived Christmas that year!

Scary Mommy's Guide to Surviving the Holidays

Jill Smoker’s new anthology, Scary Mommy’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays, provides a whole set of sisters to help with the holidays! From recipes to anecdotes to lists, this book will get you through Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas. I laughed out loud when Jill wrote about her son being thankful for poop. Let’s face it, any time a kid can get poop into the conversation, he will! I’m sure Crystal Ponti’s “Put-Your-Feet-Up-While-the-Crock-Pot-Cooks Cranberry Sauce” will be much more delicious than the time I tried to make stuffing in my crock pot. It didn’t turn out so well. I could totally relate to Sarah Cottrell’s description of “Ten People in the Grocery Store the Morning of Thanksgiving.” I, myself, have been the desperate spouse, known to run out to buy more wine before my in-laws can get another bottle from their already abundant supply in the basement.

Since my first daughter was born in November, I laughed my way through Alice Gomstyn’s “The Pros and Cons of Having a Baby Right Before Thanksgiving,” because lactating boobs are quite entertaining. Becoming a mother also means that everything changes, and Jennifer Simon’s story “Redefining Thanksgiving” is a beautiful reflection on how a baby can make the holidays even better.

The best part of this book, however, is that part of the profits go to Scary Mommy’s Thanksgiving Project, which raises money for families to be able to buy Thanksgiving dinner. To find out more about this charity, visit Scary Mommy Nation.

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!


There Was This One Thanksgiving… {Spin Cycle Prompt}

On Thursday we’re celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S. and I thought it would be fun to remember past Thanksgivings. This week on the Spin Cycle, share memories from past Thanksgivings; traditions, family gatherings or recipes, or write about one Thanksgiving that was really memorable. There was this one Thanksgiving….

Link up your Thanksgiving Spin any day this week!


Spin Cycle at Second Blooming

Copy and paste the code in the box to add some Spin Cycle bling to your post! (On some blogs, you will need to delete the quote marks and replace them with regular quote marks. Or just grab the Spin Cycle code from my right sidebar.)

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