Wreath and tree shadow

On my way home from campus tonight, I’m planning to stop at Trader Joe’s to brave the throngs of pre-Thanksgiving shoppers.

Grocery shopping right before Thanksgiving is a nightmare–almost as bad as traveling right before Thanksgiving–because folks who don’t cook the rest of the year suddenly realize they need nutmeg or cranberry sauce or pureed pumpkin. Whereas year-round shoppers typically know exactly what items they need as well as where to find them, Thanksgiving-only shoppers spend a lot of time stopping and starting as they try to navigate unfamiliar aisles.

There’s nothing worse than getting stuck behind an infrequent grocery shopper who needs to read every label before calling or texting a relative to ask what exact brand of X they need for Grandma’s Secret Recipe. For this reason, tonight is the last time I want to set food into a grocery store until Friday, when all the once-a-year grocery shoppers will move onto the malls and outlet stores for Black Friday sales.

One of these things is not like the others

Whenever I sit down to write and can’t find anything to say, I think of the nursery rhyme about Old Mother Hubbard, who went to give her dog a bone but the cupboard was bare. (Apparently that nursery rhyme has verses beyond the one I know: it sounds like Mother Hubbard’s dog was quite talented.)

Isn't all water "skinny"?

Sometimes when I sit down to write, my mind feels like an empty cabinet…or, more accurately, a messy drawer so crammed with junk, I can’t find much less extricate whatever I’m looking for. Sometimes “nothing to say” means “I have nothing interesting to say,” and sometimes it means “the only interesting things I have are little bits of this and that, and I don’t know how to stitch them together into something worth sharing.”

New Age Drinks?

My inner-artist resonates so deeply with Old Mother Hubbard, a quick search shows I’ve mentioned bare cupboards in seven different blog posts, all of them describing this same experience of sitting down to write and finding nothing. Whatever else might be going on at any given moment, you still have to feed the blog, even if all you have to offer is a handful of crumbs and scraps.

Maybe this all explains why I enjoy grocery shopping, a chore I find doubly satisfying. First, there is the comfort of seeing shelves and cases neatly stocked with wares: abundance in aisles. And then there is the satisfaction of coming home and unpacking one’s purchases: a pantry of plenty.

Fresh leaves

My online ENG 350 “English Language” students and I were recently discussing the difference between Mass Nouns and Count Nouns: that is, why you say “I eat less pudding than my sister, so I have fewer empty pudding cups.” Because pudding is measured by mass, not by discrete units, you’d say “less pudding,” but because pudding cups can be counted, you’d say “fewer pudding cups.”

Positively periwinkle

The one time most of us might question the use of “less” vs. “fewer” is at the grocery store, when signs at the express check-out lane say either “10 items or less” or “10 items or fewer.” Most of us probably grew up seeing signs that say “10 items or less,” so the technically correct “10 items or fewer” might sound strange to our ears. When several students remarked that they’d never seen a grocery-store sign that used the correct phrasing of “10 items or fewer,” I promised to look the next time I went shopping, as I was sure my old grocery store in New Hampshire had grammatically correct signs.

It turns out I don’t have (or, more accurately, can’t find) any photos of the express check-out lanes in Keene, NH…but at the Shaw’s/Star Market in Chestnut Hill, MA, the Powers That Be are updating the express check-out signs so that they say “fewer” rather than “less.”

Shaw's/Star Market gets grammatical

I guess it’s never too late to Get Grammatical.


Every now and then, I like to take pictures at the grocery store as a way of reminding myself of the abundance so many of us enjoy.


Today is Thanksgiving, a day officially devoted an attitude we should cultivate every day. As I explained last year, I always feel a bit tongue-tied at Thanksgiving, when one is officially expected to count one’s blessings. In my mind, I’ve been blessed with gifts too numerous to count: a loving husband, meaningful work, healthy pets, a roof over my head. Those are the obvious blessings, but less obvious are the simple pleasures that grace one’s life in unexpected ways.

Sometimes while I’m grocery shopping, for instance, I’m stunned by the simple wonder of so many choices–so many pumpkins, so many gourds, so many apples–that surround us daily. Isn’t every pumpkin, every gourd, every apple itself an infinite blessing? And yet we live in a world where we are surrounded by fruit and fruitfulness like leaves pouring down in the fall, the very picture of plenty. How is it, then, that we need an annual holiday to remind us of such riches?

Here’s wishing you and yours a happy Thanksgiving, filled to overflowing with a cornucopia of contentment.