Thanksgiving: It’s Not Over Until We Decide It Is

December 3, 2023

I’m still reminiscing about our outstanding Thanksgiving holiday. I hope yours was wonderful too.

Most of you know that Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday of the year. So, with a title inspired by the words of the immortal Bluto Blutarsky, I’m starting a personal campaign to keep Thanksgiving going – to take the best of Thanksgiving and infuse it into my life (and maybe a few others’ lives) throughout the entire year.

Let’s review some of the reasons I love Thanksgiving so much:

  • No Thanksgiving music is played in stores three months before the holiday. 
  • Of all of our holiday trees, the Thanksgiving Tree is my favorite.
  • More attention is paid to cooking on this day than any other day of the year.
  • All of our dishes – smoked turkey, roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, cheese grits, jalapeño cranberry sauce, cornbread stuffing, pumpkin pie, and chocolate pecan pie – turned out great! (Though I did have issues with the cheese grits.)
  • Thanksgiving brings family and friends together better than any other holiday.
  • Napping is encouraged, though shockingly, I did not get a nap on Thanksgiving Day this year!
  • Gifts are not part of the day, taking pressure off of all of us.
  • The meal would not be complete without my favorite dessert – which is pie of any kind. 
  • We are encouraged to be grateful and to share our gratitude – something we all should be doing every day of our lives.

So back to the idea of infusing all that is good about Thanksgiving into as many of our days as possible. There are some Thanksgiving traditions that I want to save for Thanksgiving only. The main tradition that fits into that category is being so full that it hurts, then still finding a way to eat pie for dessert, and then eating a second piece of pie because there are two kinds being served. I can do that once a year, but I need to stop there. 

Who am I kidding? 

But no more than twice, really! 

Three times max. 

I definitely have self-control issues.

But there are other traditions that I need more of in my life. I do a pretty good job of enjoying cooking on a regular basis. And I don’t mean to brag, but I’m already an excellent napper. I’d like more pie in my life, but if I make a whole pie, based on the pre-described self-control issues, I eat a whole pie. So . . . I need solutions for that. 

But some things I really want to change. Having both of my sons home for the weekend was off the charts spectacular. I still get to see Dawson during his breaks from college, and I get to enjoy that for a year or two more. I love that Ryan and Yesi (my son and my daughter-in-law) still manage to come down from Sacramento and spend the Thanksgiving weekend with us. But I need more of that in my life. And as they are working a lot harder than I am these days, I need to go up to Sacramento to see them more. 

We had about twenty guests this year – and I truly wanted to be with each one of them. We don’t have any of the weird uncles or talk-your-ear-off aunts that everyone seeks to avoid. Of course, I could be that person to everybody else. Nah! Who wouldn’t want to hang out with me?! We love these people, and I’m committed to doing a better job of getting the people we love over to our house throughout the year.

And a final Thanksgiving tradition I’d like to incorporate more into my daily life is simply giving thanks. On Thanksgiving, we place a sky-high priority on sharing our gratitude for who and what we have in our lives. It’s such a powerful part of the day, and, as I somewhat regularly express in my posts, feeling and expressing gratitude have an enormously positive impact on our own well-being. 

  • It’s #10 on my 61 Life Lessons post, “Strive to be kind and grateful as many times each day as you can. The positive impacts of both are underrated.”
  • It was all over my Pursuit of Well-Being post, especially the idea of setting aside time each day to reflect on what positive experiences in your day.
  • I have written about Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now being a major influence in my life, and a book I turn to in troubled times. He writes, “The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.” Focusing on gratitude is an outstanding means of creating a good present.

I am going to work to somehow share these gratitudes out loud every day, just like we do on Thanksgiving Day. Jill and I have tried this in the past, but it did not stick. I want to renew this effort. And while this does not have to happen before a meal, it certainly works very well to do just that. Saying grace before a meal is a perfect time to express gratitude not just for the food, but even more, for the challenges, pressures, wonders, beauty, love, and everything else that reminds us how lucky we are to have experienced one more day alive on our planet.

I love Lauren Winner’s words on this: “Saying grace suggests not only the grazie of thanksgiving but also the calm, gracious elegance of living fully and well. You don’t find grace said when people are rushing around, scarfing food, eating over the sink or in the car, polishing off a meal in ten minutes flat. You find grace offered at tables where people sit still, where they’re trying to pay attention. Indeed, doctors will tell you that there are physiological benefits to saying grace before meals.”

So while I am already looking forward to our next Thanksgiving on November 28, 2024, I am going to work on carrying most of what I love about Thanksgiving (maybe not the pies) into my daily life, with particular focus on the expression of gratitude.

I would love to hear the ways that you and your family do this, and as always, I appreciate your comments.

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Notes and Cuts:

The picture at the bottom features Jill and me, flanked by Ryan and Yesi on the left, and Dawson and Kylie on the right. (Kylie and Dawson have been dating since high school!) That picture, along with the picture at the top of with my two tall sons, were both taken on Broad Beach in Malibu near sunset. Late November, and we walk on the beach in short sleeves. It’s not hard to be thankful for weather and beauty like that.

And of course the Thanksgiving Tree. I get spousal permission for three months of holiday trees – Halloween in October, Thanksgiving in November, and Christmas in December. The Thanksgiving Tree is the simplest and imitates nature the most, and perhaps that’s why I love it the most.

I cut the paragraph below out – as I thought it took away from the main point. Those of you who love to cook will understand – messing up on a dish you’ve made too many times to count is almost unthinkable – and yet it almost happened.

I read a Facebook thread where people were asked how to ruin Thanksgiving in four words. Pretty funny. Some of my favorites were “Who’d you vote for?”, “My test is positive!”, and one that hit a little too close to home this year, “I’m trying something new!” I didn’t mean to try something new this year. I’ve been cooking the same recipes for many years – it’s all on my cooking website – and I love them all. If I add something new, it’s tested beforehand. But this year, in making the cheese grits, which are way better than most of you think they are, I used a brand of grits I had never used before. That was a mistake! Only after I cooked the grits about four times longer than usual did my cheese grits soup (as bad as it sounds!) turn into a passable cheese grits casserole. Phew! In the end, they were fine, but I’ll never use that brand again. It’s Bob’s Red Mill brand or nothing for me in the future!

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  1. Bill McGarvey III says:

    Thanks Mike for your renderings of Thanks! The McGarvey’s are quite similar in many aspects!
    My personal “renderings” of the Thanksgiving Day are actually in my daily meditations and thoughts 365! Mine and my families blessings (as we account from our faith ) are recognized from my being thankful for my wife Janet of 32 years who was a ICU nurse for 18 years before contracting cardiomyopathy and receiving a new heart 20 years ago on Valentines Day! Many in her class of transplants are no longer on this earth due to not following the regime that was needed to sustain life. We are Thankful for Janet and her steadfast commitment to live a full life to see her first grandchild!
    Molly 33 years old is COO of her and husband’s tactical Marketing Company in Savannah Ga. that serve the Government and many nationwide municipalities with various products. Her Christian Podcast (Faith Revisited) out of Savannah even teaches her Dad how to be kind and giving! (We’re still learning from our children.)!
    Meghan 45 is VP of a National Health Care group and is blessed with a a devoted partner who enjoys travel, supporting her endeavors and make their lives super enjoyable.
    Billy 30 still finding his way working for Molly remotely has the biggest heart…..a personable fellow who enjoys craft beer , camping remotely with Dad and fine woodworking.
    Me…….I’m blessed with family, many great friends,love of life and understanding during my Masters Swim workouts that the time of meditation in that reserved hour MY blessings and good life to come in the future are items I cherish daily 365!
    Happy Daily Thanksgiving ALL!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Bill – You are the perfect audience member for these posts. Thanks for sharing so much about your family. There’s a lot to digest there. So happy to hear about Molly’s steadfast health routines and continued good health that beat the odds, and about the varied paths of your happy children. I love that you see masters swim workouts as a reserved hour of meditation. Good stuff, there. Happy Holidays, my friend.

  2. Bill Sampson says:

    Great photo of you and your family on “my” beach. I love the winter low tides. With just a little more sand we can walk around the point again. Thanksgiving is our favorite, by far, too. We were not up to packing the house this year as we usually do so we took our specialty dishes down to Margaret (on Saturday since the actual day wouldn’t work). The bad news is that we left the pies so I only got my two pieces one day. She’ll come here for Christmas I think so maybe I can take one of “her” pieces of my pecan pie to help me bulk up.

    On a completely unrelated note I hiked with Chris and his group yesterday while you were swimming, although I did get a swim in. And on another unrelated note I’m sure every cardiologist in SoCal mourns the passing of Robert Lang, inventor of the Double-Double, an annuity for physicians and close to a sacrament in its own right. We’re both fortunate to be a long way from where they are sold. Merry Christmas too.

    By the way, at this point I view Animal House as the greatest movie ever made. As for thanks, I’m above ground, standing erect and taking solid food. A lot of people my age are not batting 1.000 on that measure and too many are batting 0.000, including all of my immediate family except Rosemary. I guess one of our traditions, performed as always, is I put up the lights on the front of the house and then play Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song – it really is the best. Ironic that the great singer who wrote it, Mel Torme, did not do it quite as well and, a Jewish kid, wrote it on a sweltering summer day in SoCal in about 45 minutes.

    Thanks for the opportunity to impart TMI. Merry Christmas too.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Your “my beach” comment reminds me of the crazed Irishman in Braveheart who refers to Ireland as “my island.” I won’t fight either of you about that comment.

      Leaving pies is a major error. It would take me a while to forgive myself.

      The In-N-Out Double Double. So simple. So good. I rank it just below the Apple Pan’s Hickory Burger in LA Burger lore, but I absolutely love it. Thanks, Mr. Lang, and I hope he died knowing that just with that addition, he made the world a better place.

      Keep on batting 1.000, or anything above the Mendoza Line really.

      Thanks as always, Bill.

  3. A mental gratitude list is something I try to do daily. It is good for the soul. As always, I loved reading your blog. However, I do know what I am going to ask you around the table when I see you next time. ha ha… Who did you vote for? jk. Love you, but don’t tell anyone. T

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Tracee – Once again, you clearly grasp the overall meaning of what I’m trying to say. I’ll be ready with my answer to your question, but it’s probably better for everyone if you don’t ask. ❤️

  4. Michelle McDonald says:

    Loved this post, and so glad to hear you and your family are doing well. There is so much to be grateful for! Thank you for the reminder. I’m going to be more mindful about speaking and sharing my gratitude aloud in the future, so that family and friends know how much I care about and appreciate them.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Let’s both commit to it, Michelle. Thanks for reading!

  5. Dermot Stoker says:

    Gratitude, is most definitely at the top of my list, everyday. I am of course more grateful than I can possibly describe, for Tracy. My thanks and praise is beyond measure, she absolutely rescued me. It would take me ten lifetimes to repay her, and I’m thankful she allows me to pursue her still.

    This wonderful Holiday where we proudly share our gratitude is without equal, and 100 percent my favorite gathering. We had 34 at our table ( Shout out to Pico Party Rents for the Tent and the Table and chairs) An abundance of outstanding Turkey, Mashed Taters, Gravy and more side dishes than we hoped for, and so many wonderful Pies . Trey, my awesome brother in law, produced four ducks, smoked to perfection, with a Cherry Brandy Sauce that Julia Child would envy. The Food Coma that ensued was managed well, by means of several Naps, and two brief but meaningful hikes. To have the entire squad here, to share the triumphs and see the growth of our children and grandchildren is a tonic for the soul.

    Thank you Mike for lighting this pathway, our joy is that much better due to your generosity. Cheers, Derm

  6. Mark Massey says:

    Loved this post. Thanks for taking the time to do it.
    One quick question: is Dermot related to Bram?

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, Mark. And thanks for taking the time to read the comments, and for your insightful question. I’ll let Dermot answer whether or not he is a descendent of the same-surnamed author of Dracula.

      1. Dermot Stoker says:

        I often get asked that question, the answer is YES. My great grandfather George Stoker, was Bram’s Brother, so I am a great grand nephew to the Author. My Cousin, Dacre Stoker, runs the Bram Stoker Estate, and is a published Author, having written two books with Dracula themes. He lives in Aiken, South Carolina, and organizes trips that visit sites where Great Uncle Bram wrote his prominent works, etc. There are websites that Dacre manages, and schedules his Book Tours,
        I hope this is helpful, Mark. Check out the Estate Website. Cheers, Dermot

        1. Mike Matthews says:

          Wow. It took my friend Mark to help me learn something new about you, Dermot. Great stuff!

        2. Mark Massey says:

          Wow. I told Mike I have never seen the Stoker name other than attached to Bram before I saw your name. Figured that there had to be a connection. How interesting and cool. Thanks for the details. I will take a look at the Estate website. Mike needs to read more gothic horror to broaden himself! At least watch the movie!

          many thanks-


  7. Betty Glass says:

    WOW, Dermot. I am impressed!! Impressed with you also, Mike. Loved the pictures! And your ideas on thanksgiving for every day. bg

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