Thanksgiving in the U.S. – what I am thankful for

Last Thursday, November 23, was Thanksgiving in the U.S. It is a traditional four day weekend but our local school district added the day before a few years ago, so now it’s a five day weekend. 

We drove to my sister Beth’s in California on Wednesday. She lives south of San Jose, in San Martin. My dad and stepmother, Anita, also drove from Reno. Beth and her husband Jamie have a beautiful home overlooking the CordeValle golf course and a vineyard. Jamie’s sons Phillip and Jack were there too. Because of not quite enough beds, Stan and I stayed at the golf club.

The view from our room.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner at the club.

The beautiful menu – the food was equally beautiful. Jamie’s last name should have a capital B. That is the opposite problem from ours – the small d Macdonalds.

My dad, Phillip, Jamie, Jack, Beth, me, Stan, Andy, and Anita

Although I could not eat the turkey or any of the other wonderful food, I got into the turkey day spirit by drawing a turkey on my feeding tube. Thank you Laura Furumoto for the idea!

We went around the table and each said one thing we are thankful for. Among the comments: indoor plumbing, antibiotics, the first amendment, and the family we were sharing dinner with. Although it is hard to prioritize what I am thankful for, I said I am thankful to still be able self care after nearly two years with ALS. That is not just selfish because it impacts my son and husband greatly. I also seconded the comments about being thankful for everyone at that table. In addition, I am thankful for all of our relatives who we were not with on Thanksgiving.

I am thankful for my friends. Erika and her daughter Maddie came up from Eldorado Hills and spent Friday night and part of Saturday with us. Andy had to sell Christmas trees at his Boy Scout lot at Shoppers Square. Erika bought a tree and I bought a wreath. We will be with Stan’s dad and stepmother for Christmas so we don’t need a tree.

Marvelous Maddie with our wreath
Erika and Maddie with the tree on top of their car to drive over Donner Summit, with Andy and Cooper, who sold her the tree.

Erika even hung the wreath for me.

There are so many friends I am thankful for: the ones from my elementary school, the ones from high school, the ones from college and grad school, and all the friends I have met since I moved to Reno, and also the ones I met online that have become flesh and blood friends.

I am thankful for Radicava and the hope it brings for slower progression of my disease. I am thankful for all the researchers around the world who are working for an end to ALS. I am thankful for all the people who work in ALS clinics to help ALS patients have better quality of life. I am thankful for all the wonderful people with ALS and the wonderful caregivers I have met through ALS fundraisers, Facebook, and our local support group. I am thankful for the people who facilitate our support group.

I am thankful to be a patient fellow for the ALS/MND International Symposium in Boston December 8th through December 10th. I again encourage anyone with questions or comments about anything related to ALS/MND that you want the researchers to hear, please send me your questions and comments. I will be your voice at the conference. Again, you can comment on this blog or on Facebook or on Twitter.

I am also thankful for a fun Twitter interaction. The father of neurology is Jean-Martin Charcot, a brilliant doctor in the late 1800’s in France who first identified and classified ALS, MS and other neurological diseases. Well, Jean-Martin Charcot is on Twitter and he shared my blog! I could not agree more!

Thankgiving love and connection 

Thanksgiving day, the 4th Thursday in November in the US, brought almost all my siblings to town. It started on Tuesday when my brother Pete came from Chicago and my sister Cath came from Portland with her husband Rick and son Sam. We all met at my stepbrother Brian’s house for an early Thanksgiving dinner since Brian has to work on Thanksgiving.


It was a great way to kick off our week of family celebrations,.and Brian’s first Thanksgiving in his new house. Well done, Brian!

The next day, Wednesday, we spent time precooking and getting the house ready for almost 30 guests on Thursday. Pete and I made a grocery store run and stopped at my namesake garden at school.

After all the hard prep work, we had a family dinner at Bella Italia.

It was nice that Brian could join us that night too.

Thursday brought more cooking and prep for the 4 pm party. And Sam enjoyed our trampoline.

Centerpieces were made by Rick and Sam. Rick went outside and found what he could in our yard.

We later added mandalas made by Sam. It was a beautiful addition and the tables looked so nice.

My sister Sue and her kids Ellie and David arrived around noon from Texas. My brother in law Dave had to fly to Wisconsin to be with his mother who is not well. My sister Beth had told us the day before that she wouldn’t be able to drive up from the SF Bay Area  due to illness. We also heard from Stan’s cousin Lisa that she was too sick to join us.

Guests began arriving at 4 pm. Friends and neighbors joined us for a grand total of 25. Before we ate, Andy read a thank you message I had prepared, thanking each guest for the unique ways they are helping me have a high quality of life with this illness. It was nice to be able to share thanks and love in person.

This was my first Thanksgiving not eating and I was envious of everyone eating the delicious food as I poured my dinner into my feeding tube. I am extremely happy to not be aspirating anymore though.

Rick, an Emergency Room doctor, talking with niece Ellie who is in med school
Pete and Sue helping with cleanup
All the kids, teens, and 20 somethings had fun with their electronic devices

Andy gave us a viola concert
Stan’s sister Terry and her fiance Joe

The Saunders clan, minus a few

Sam and Andy left with my dad and step mom to stay overnight, so we could fit everyone else. Only David got a couch, but it’s a comfortable one.

Pete left the next morning. The rest of us, after a lazy morning, went to my dad and step mom’s new house. Then we took a hike.

Boys following their Dads off trail

Sisters and cousins

After the hike I showed this part of the family the school garden, then home for some raucous games of spoons  (or knives as the case may be)

Catherine, Sam, and Rick flew back to Portland that evening. Sue, David, Ellie, Stan, Andy and I continued the games with a couple Parcheesi games and a dog themed board game that Andy made in grade school. Chinese takeout was the dinner of choice and we made David phone in the order and go pick it up because he speaks Mandarin, but alas, no one he dealt with at the restaurant was Chinese. 

Sue, David, and Ellie during Saturday lunch at the Nevada Museum of Art

South Creek Pizza dinner Saturday with me at the corner of the bar, and yes I was craving pizza.

Beautiful sister Sue

We packed the car on the way back home, watched a movie, and then Sue and Ellie and David left early (5 am) on a snowy Sunday morning to fly back to Texas. 

It was a wonderful 5 days of connecting with family and friends and sharing love and laughter.

Thanks Pete and Dad for some of the photos!