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My best friend, Jody Smith, came to visit for a few days before Thanksgiving. Jody comes up several times a year to visit her oldest soon, Lee, who moved up here around the same time we did. Lee has a one year old baby, which guarantees Jody will keep coming up. Can’t miss stages of your grandchild’s development, ya know.

Her son, Kyle, has been Kent’s best buddy since birth and he was on her for this trip. It is always a hoot to see the boys together, because they regress to little trouble makers again. They are both driving now, talking about college, their voices have dropped and they have the appearance of men in the making – yet, a few hours after they were together they were outside building a boat out of junk to see if they could float it on the lake. I suggested they take my two man kayak out (I know that floats) but I guess that isn’t nearly as much fun as yelling as they sink into the freezing water on a pile of old wood and air filled gallon jugs they made with humor and innovation. Unfortunately, the boys didn’t get to spend too much time together this visit because Kent has a job as a cashier at the supermarket and they gave him a heavy schedule, it being thanksgiving week. Being responsible certainly can put a crimp on your social life.

Anyway, when Jody and Kyle visit, they stay with Lee a few days and always stay with us a few.

It is always nice when people come to visit, but it does throw a crimp in the routine of your life. This is just never the case with Jody, because our relationship is casual and comfortable and we have such a long history together. She doesn’t need to be entertained and her interests are so comparable to mine that she actually enjoys hanging out as I continue with my daily routine. I spent the two days she was here in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter that we were not having guests for Thanksgiving. I still cook up a storm. And in this case I made double of lots of dishes; sausage and sage stuffing, sweet potato soufflé, pumpkin pie, cheesecake with cherries soaked in cordial, cranberry sauce with oranges, so Jody could take it all to her sons where they were celebrating Thanksgiving with Lee’s girlfriend’s family.  Jody has never made a turkey, so I even packaged up seasoning to rub on the skin as I gave her a quick lesson in turkey preparation and tested her on how long to cook each item.

She was like, “Don’t bother, I can just buy stovetop stuffing. No one expects me to cook much.” 

I looked aghast and said, “The Thanksgiving gods will strike you down if you dare!”  Meanwhile, I thrust homemade wine into her hands for the feast.
I did trust her to handle her own green bean casserole herself.  Everyone lived to tell the tale.

It is funny how you can know someone for years, yet discover things about them you never knew.  When I moved up here and bought horses, Jody was surprised. She didn’t know I grew up riding and loving horses. I guess it was a subject that never came up.  It happens that she grew up riding – even more intently than I. Her sister was a competitive rider and one of thirteen women qualifying to go to the Olympics! Jody is the one friend I have (from Florida) that actually knows more about horses than I. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t been on a horse for 20 years. The first time she came here, she hopped up, handled my horse a pro, and said, “Let’s go exploring.” When visiting, she is quick to follow me to the barn to help feed or groom the horses. It is nice.

Jody is also a very effective social worker, and as such she is wonderful to talk to about my work with Kathy and literacy. We always spend a chunk of time discussing local social issues and her work. I appreciate her empathy for humanity and how she actively makes a difference. She is friendly to all, never jealous or petty, doesn’t put her own interests before others, and does not obsess about money or material things. She is remarkable, really.

She told me that when Kyle graduates in a year, she is seriously contemplating moving up here. The cost of living is so much better here than in Sarasota and my old home town has gotten so congested and commercial that it no longer has the pleasant overtones it once had. So we talked about how desperately this area could use someone like Jody. I told her all about my visit to Drug court and how they had 95 people and only one trained counselor and their solution to every problem is to pray.

Jody listened and then said, “I’d have to learn a lot more about the bible to be effective here. In order to combat some abuse issues, I’d need to learn the lingo of the land, and while I go to church, I can not quote scripture. Bet you’d have to know the bible forward and backwards to gain the confidence and get through to people who view the world the way they do here.”

I admire that she not only recognizes the unique specifics of a culture, but would be willing to adapt and do research to do her job well considering them. She is probably the most open minded and accepting person I know.

She also is my one friend who appreciates a glass of wine with every meal. We broke open several bottles of my original recipes each night, to do comparison tests.  Mark and Jody agreed my strawberry wine is a bit strong, the scent of strawberry is powerful, yet the taste is rather alcoholic (I should have sweetened it more and turned it into a dessert wine, I guess). The Pinot Grigio is their favorite. Mark likes the tomato wine, but I think it is the principal of the matter and he likes that I can make wine out of something so cheap. Dianne was with us for dinner too, and she remained impartial. Guess she wants to be supportive and not dampen my enthuasiasm for trying anything new. I was sorry my blackberry still has 6 months before it can be bottled, and my merlot, reisling, and tomato apple wine are still fermenting. For an impatient person like me, winemaking is torture.

After dinner, I pulled out all my cordials for a grand taste test. I gave everyone cordial glasses, even Kyle. (Kent was at work, sadly.)

He said, “You are going to invite me to drink?”

I pointed out that if I made something, it had to be good for him. Besides which, his mother and I know at 17, kids drink. Rather they do so in a controlled environment with moms at the helm than in the back seat of a car at some party. And cordials are so sweet, I seriously doubt he’s going to develop a taste for them and start slugging them back with friends later because of me.  Besides, I wanted enough people involved in my control group to give me a good idea of how I was doing at my new endeavor.
So we began pouring my 8 flavors ready for consumption . Blackberry, Hypocris, and Prunelle were everyone’s favorite. The very top of the list by all was my homemade Amaretto. (I’m going to need to start a second batch of that one today) Pineapple was considered too sweet, and I was told to save it to pour over ice-cream for desserts. The Cherry cordial reminded everyone of cough syrup – so I started cooking with it the next day and it was very good as a topping over cheesecake. Strawberry and Peach were both given the stamp of approval.  We had such fun, screaming with laughter, making faces, refilling our glasses with those we loved and those we didn’t (to give them a second chance.) I pulled out the black walnut and almond liquors currently fermenting in a big jar in my cupboard so everyone could see how these liquor start. I then showed off my cookbook and we discussed those flavors I’m headed towards – coffee flavors, cranberry (got to work in season don’t ya know) and spice liquors. Denver whined that I should make double batches so I can give bottles to her. I pointed out that she could make cordials herself. Don’t need to wait until you are in your forties to unleash the chemist within. 

Later, Mark said, “I’ve been wondering what we were ever going to do with all these colorful bottles of liquor you keep making, and now I know. That was fun. We have to do that again when other friends come to dinner.”
Considering there is not much to do in Blue Ridge, he’s on to something. Besides, taste testing will only get better as my stock expands. By next month I’ll have 15 flavors ready to go.

“Then, you have to make some friends that are not preachers.” I pointed out. Up here, everyone is a preacher.
“I’ll endeavor to do that,” he said.
Good luck, pal.

Anyway, we had a good time.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the meaning behind it, the fact that it is all about family and food and pausing to appreciate all you are grateful for.

I have a lot to be thankful for. It is nice to have a holiday that pushes you to dwell on that. 

Now, I must go. We are taking the family to Atlanta to see a Kelly Clarkson concert tonight. I bought tickets for everyone, Denver and Dianne included, but everyone is telling me this event won’t be appropriate for Neva. We’ll see. I tend to think it will be more vocalist-y, not so rock concert. Everyone else begs to differ. Ah well, my intentions were good, and time will tell. If the smell of pot lingers in the air, I’ll insist it is my perfume. Heck, I just wanted something special for all of us to do together, and Neva counts too.

Mark and I are stealing off early to go to the High Museum to see the second chapter of the Louve exhibit – meeting everyone else after they are done with school and work etc.. I am in need of my culture fix. And a little time alone with my other half is something to be grateful for too.

About Ginny East Shaddock

Ginny is the owner of Heartwood Yoga Institute. She is an ERYT-500 Yoga teacher, C-IAYT Yoga therapist, RCYT & Ayurveda Counselor who loves nature, gardening, and creative arts. She has an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, and a BA in Business Administration from Eckerd College. She teaches writing and is the creator of the memoir writing program, "Yoga on the Page" combining the teaching of yoga to writing personal stories with integrity, intention, and heart.

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