posted in: Family 7
Women getting ready to serve the barbeque dinner at the Pie Town, New Mexico Fair, c. 1940. Image: Wikipedia.


We had a good Thanksgiving Day here in Iowa.

It started this morning. Each Thanksgiving, my family helps prepare the free holiday meal at the Methodist Church. We’ve done this for a few years, now, and I love it. It feels good to be around other people, it feels good to help those less fortunate, it feels good to work in a kitchen. (I know my way around one, remember?)

This big holiday meal, which includes all the staples (i.e., turkey, pie, cran sauce, etc.), is served at noon in the basement of the church. But the food is also available for delivery for those who are homebound for medical reasons or who can’t drive for one reason or another. With the exception of Jack, who often helps with the gravy in the kitchen — and my step-dad, Mark, who makes the deviled eggs, grody — my family is usually put on delivery meals. We post up in the back room and get our little assembly line going: pie, roll, broccoli salad, cran sauce, egg, close the box. Stack. Repeat dozens and dozens of times.

Last year, I was on baked apple duty and even though it was a very sticky job, scooping all those hundreds of baked apples into cupcake foils, I secretly loved it. I really perfected my wrist maneuver by the end of the shift, made sure the cups didn’t squish and each apple had a good amount of sauce. The church organizers didn’t put baked apples on the menu this year, but I’d like to think I did a pretty good job with the rolls. I go with the flow.

My sister Rebecca and my cousin Greg and I went out to deliver some meals as it got closer to noon. The doors we knocked on were shabby, worn. One lady opened the door and frightened us: She had some serious sores all over her face and arms, and the apartment absolutely reeked of cigarette smoke. But she was so nice.

“Happy Thanksgiving!” we said to her, and she said, “Happy Thanksgiving!”

We went to another house where a lady sat watching TV all alone. A large doll had been placed on a chair in her living room, facing the TV, with a tea set spread out next to her. Yeah, it was spooky. It was also sad. Everyone needs friends.

Last year, there were more meals to box and more deliveries to make. I’m not sure why this year was lighter. But even if one hungry person was fed today by that church, I reckon that’s a victory for humanity, and I was glad to be there for it.

After our time with the meal, we came back home to get our own underway. My brother-in-law Jack outdid himself with the turkey this year; that is high praise, indeed.

We did the whole “go around the dinner table and say what you’re grateful for” thing.

When it got to me, I didn’t know where to start.

Home (To Iowa) For The Holidays!

posted in: Day In The Life 13
Roasted turkey with French bread dressing, bourbon whipped sweet potatoes, grilled autumn vegetables and giblet gravy. Photo: Wikipedia.
Roasted turkey with French bread dressing, bourbon whipped sweet potatoes, grilled autumn vegetables and giblet gravy. Photo: Wikipedia.


Thanksgiving 2016 is really shaping up to be a hot ticket.

I’m flying to Iowa tomorrow morning. My sister Hannah and her fella are coming in from New York City at almost the same time. Rebecca’s already there and Jack arrives tomorrow night. Mom and Mark are ready with cars and grocery lists and sweet little Scrabble, Mom’s Mini-Golden Doodle, will be there to jump up on everyone and get treats. (The latter two things are not related but Scrabble will think they are; ergo, more jumping.)

On Thanksgiving Day, we’ll all be volunteering at the Methodist Church to take Thanksgiving dinners to folks who can’t get out of the house and to serve up a delicious meal at the church for anyone else who needs one. This has become something of a Fons family tradition and I’m thrilled to be able to be there for it this year.

Coming up on PaperGirl during the break:

  1. Pictures and stories from the Iowa Theater Renovation!
  2. An interview with A Mysterious Guest.
  3. Receiving Room Guy Update #6 (is that the number we’re up to?)
  4. A recipe to die for.

Whatever you’re doing, wherever you’re going — and even if you’re not doing much and going no place — I wish you all an early Happy Thanksgiving.

Anyone who donates to PaperGirl gets a handwritten thank-you note (I’m doing a batch this weekend), so if you’ve donated recently, you have evidence in hand of how grateful I am for you. For those who haven’t gotten any mail from me, well, I’d love to send you some. But donation or not, the sentiment remains the same: I write this blog because it brings me the pleasure of connecting with you. Sure, I practice writing, sure, I can talk about what I’m up to. But if that’s all it was, it would’ve gone away a long time ago, don’t you think?

I’m thankful for you! Gobble, gobble.

On Writing, And A Thanksgiving Speech

posted in: Tips, Work 0
Writing is the difference between "succulent" and "suck." Photo: Wiki Commons.
Writing is the difference between “succulent” and “suck.” Photo: Wiki Commons.

I would never call myself a “serious writer,” because you just can’t call yourself that. Besides, what does it mean? That you’re grimly committed to turning out words? That you have no sense of humor about being grimly committed to turning out words?

Though I distance myself from that “serious writer” business, it’s true that I take writing seriously. I read constantly and I keep this blog; both acts propel me forward in my writing, I hope. Reading and writing are to a writer as practicing scales is to a musician. If I’m not getting better, I’m staying at the same level (bad) or disintegrating (worse.) No one likes a disintegrating flutist.

I’ve been reading and re-reading William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and it’s just what the New York Times blurb on the back says it is: “[A] bible for a generation of writers looking for clues to clean, compelling prose.” The book has been in print for decades and every chapter is packed with useful information and provocative questions that any serious writer should consider.

This morning, I looked at a wonderful excerpt he provides in the chapter called “The Sound of Your Voice.” It’s a Thanksgiving proclamation given by Connecticut governor Wilbur Cross in 1936. Zinsser praises it for its lasting eloquence, especially since most proclamations are sorta lame and definitely dated. It’s so beautiful, I’m going to ask the family if I could read it before the Thanksgiving meal this year. Maybe after you read it, you’ll want to do the same.

“Time out of mind at this turn of the seasons when the hardy oak leaves rustle in the wind and the frost gives a tang to the air and the dusk falls early and the friendly evenings lengthen under the heel of Orion, it has seemed good to our people to join together in praising the Creator and Preserver, who has brought us by a way that we did not know to the end of another year. In observance of this custom, I appoint Thursday, the 26th of November, as a day of Public Thanksgiving for the blessings that have been our common lot and have placed our beloved state with the favored regions of earth — for all the creature comforts: the yield of the soil that has fed us and the richer yield from labor of every kind that has sustained our lives — and for all those things, as dear as breath to the body, that quicken man’s faith in his manhood, that nourish and strengthen his word and act; for honor held above price; for steadfast courage and zeal in the long, long search after truth; for liberty and for justice freely granted by each of his fellow and so as freely enjoyed; and for the crowning glory and mercy of peace upon our land — that we may humbly take heart of these blessings as we gather once again with solemn and festive rites to keep our Harvest Home.”

I know Halloween is first in the holiday lineup, but you don’t get this kind of stuff for Halloween. Thanksgiving — and good writing — for the win.