A Date with Gratitude

I’m sure I have mentioned this along the way, but when I first met my husband, all I knew how to make was quiche. Because I became interested, I started making recipes from magazines and took some cooking classes. Tackling the holidays, however, is a WHOLE  other story!

Over the years, with lots of trials and errors, not to mention many phone calls to my mother or mother in law, I can crank out the holiday bird and, as my granny would say, all the fixins. But, I know how daunting it can be, especially to not have your turkey be DRY!

So I applaud Mandy, our PLANK editor, for her first foray into this … not only for her leap of faith, but also for doing it all so beautifully! Thank goodness she photographed the process and results so we can share the ride. I do think she should have added her friends’ food coma shot!!

A Date with Gratitude

by Mandy Denaux

Last Thursday, I had a first date with Tom. Now before you go and get excited (Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m looking at you), it wasn’t the kind of date you’re thinking. No, I had a date with Tom … my very first turkey.

When I decided to host my first Thanksgiving festivity, it was with the idea that I would not be cooking the turkey – I’m not much of a turkey eater, much less cooker, and the thought of cooking an entire bird was intimidating.

Instead, I placed an order with my local grocer and began plotting all the delicious sides and trimmings. But as the day got closer, the less excited I was about my store-cooked turkey. After all, this was my first time hosting a holiday dinner, and I’d planned everything else so carefully … why would I leave the main dish up to some random cook in the Gelson’s deli? And also, and more importantly, what would my grandmother think?

Taking the Stage … and a Leap of Faith

Many times, as I am daydreaming out the passenger side window while someone else drives, I am captivated by the passersby. I often imagine the day of the other cars’ occupants … their lives, them getting ready and getting into their cars to start the day.

Like those people in cars, we all move around on this planet in our designated or chosen groups or families.  How do we create our little circles? And why are we so easily ruffled or annoyed when a stranger stands too close or otherwise infringes on our circle? Sometimes, I think we close those circles in so tight that we find ourselves stuck … maybe we want to branch out, but we no longer know how.

The Unexpected Role Model

Recently, I was talking with Mandy, my PLANK editor, about our experiences as advocates with CASA of Los Angeles. She recounted a recent experience and I was so moved by the story that I asked her to share it with you.


I remember when I was 8 years old I had a teacher named Mrs. Pickens. She was pretty and smart … and I wanted to be just like her. In the (many) years since then, my role models have come in many forms – teachers, bosses, friends … even an actress or two. Each of them serving to inspire and motivate me … or perhaps demonstrating a trait or position to which I aspired. Typical stuff from the people you’d expect. But, a few weeks ago, I found a role model in the unlikeliest of places.

Going the Distance


My friends and getting ready for a 10K run
My friends and I getting ready for a 10K run

When my children were little, my friends and I would push our strollers around the Rose Bowl stadium. I’d see people jogging and think “I could never do that.” Then my mother-in-law came to visit us – she was well into her 60s and jogged the over three mile track. This made us think maybe we could do it too. We got baby jogger type strollers and slowly worked our way to making it around the track. I eventually made a tradition of doing a 10K every 4th of July.

Over the years I have switched up my exercise, but I know I look (and more importantly feel) better when I am consistent with some type of exercise. When I am not doing it regularly, I don’t want to; and when I am, I can’t wait to go. You just need to get started…