Meeting Disappointment with Friends, Gratitude, and Apple Pie

Apple pies almost ready for baking

Apple pies almost ready for baking

Last weekend it became clear I would not be receiving my package of cranberries and sweet potatoes in time to make an American Thanksgiving in Italy. For some, that may not seem a big deal, but Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and hands down the hardest day for me as an expat.

Read: Homesick City.

I love Thanksgiving because of its important components — family, food, and giving thanks, and when I can’t have my family nearby, well, the food I’ve been eating on this day for 30+ years becomes even more significant. And without the cranberries and sweet potatoes, well, it’s just not even worth having. Believe me, I’ve been here all but one Thanksgiving of the past nine, and not celebrating at all is better for my psyche than having a half-assed dinner.

So I had a meltdown. I wasn’t screaming or crying or anything, but I did need to vent — so I turned to Facebook. Say what you will about social networks, but for me, in times of disappointment and annoyance, they are truly a blessing. My friends rallied around my feelings with virtual hugs and many offers to send replacement supplies (a lovely thought to be sure, but the Italian postal service would never have delivered in time) and had me feeling better within a couple hours — not perfect and totally accepting of the lack of a traditional Thanksgiving this year, but pretty darn good.

And oh so grateful, not only for friends and Facebook, but also for all of the other wonderful people and things in my life.

During those conversations with friends, I came to an idea for how to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Even though I express gratitude daily and don’t need a special day to do so, Thanksgiving still holds a unique place in my heart, so I’m going to acknowledge the day by enjoying all of my friends and family’s Thanksgiving photos and greetings and by making my mom’s apple pie, one of my favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal.

The dough is chilling in the fridge as I type.

Big ole slice of apple pie

Big ole slice of apple pie

And we’ll have our Turkey Day celebration one of these days, after the package arrives, but today will be Pie Day — homemade pizza (pie) by Paolo with apple pie for dessert, an appropriate blending of Italian and American. It won’t be anything like Thanksgivings past, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be special. I’ll still have a pang in my heart for sitting around the table with my family digging into my mom’s turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes, and there’s no reason to ignore that.

Acknowledging and making space for all of our feelings, including disappointments, is healthy.

What we shouldn’t do is let those temporary feelings take over and make decisions for us. That is one of the core teachings of Buddhism, but you don’t have to be a practicing Buddhist to grasp and practice this idea, one that has truly changed my life over the past few years.

Seeing those feelings of hurt, anger, disappointment, etc., float on by, understanding that they are indeed temporary but nonetheless absolutely exist is both calming and reassuring; acknowledging them helps bring me back to center where I can again think positively and logically to come to a solution that works for me and for those around me.

So I’m grateful this Thanksgiving for another opportunity to learn from disappointment, to appreciate my friends around the world, and to celebrate another day in a place I love with the man I love (who also happens to make a mean pizza).

I wish all of you who are celebrating a wonderful Thanksgiving as well — and please have some cranberries and sweet potatoes for me!

45 Beans of Wisdom to “Meeting Disappointment with Friends, Gratitude, and Apple Pie”
  1. 11.24.2011

    I’m missing those two particular ingredients (cranberries & sweet potatoes) in Tunisia as well! But as you said, let’s be thankful for what we DO have and make the best of it. Happy Thanksgiving.

    michelle Reply:

    Auguri Andrea! Hope you have a lovely day 🙂 xx

  2. Connie

    You are certainly a Jewel in the Lotus…Om Mani Padme Hume.

    michelle Reply:

    How lovely, Connie; grazie xx

  3. 11.24.2011


    michelle Reply:

    I feel the same!

  4. 11.24.2011

    On this day, I give thanks that you are in the world, Michelle, to help me stay focused on the things that count for me.

    We are most certainly allowed a bit of verklemptness, a bit of sadness for what we, at some meditative level, know would not be Norman Rockwell-ey if we were actually there, but we miss it anyway, maybe just for that reason. For me, part of is not knowing what I am actually sad for. I just got back. I came back before Thanksgiving to avoid what I felt might be an awkward holiday with family who does not quite know what do to with me any more (my dear mother excluded – but she was the reason I went in the first place). Coming back and being sad here seemed a better option than forcing people who don’t really want me around to include in their plans. My friends over there would have gladly included me but it seemed too awkward and hurtful to explain that to my poor mother so I avoided the whole thing by coming back early .

    This is all making me bottom out today, so thank you for giving me the space and permission to allow my disappointment. Happy Thanksgiving, my lovely friend.

    michelle Reply:

    Mwaaaaaaah carissima; nostalgia is a funny thing indeed — I was “home” for Thanksgiving two years ago, but so much has changed from the Thanksgivings I’m nostalgic for, so there really doesn’t seem to be a perfect place to celebrate anymore. Except, perhaps, in your kitchen xx

  5. 11.24.2011

    Thank you for this one! I was feeling down in Southern France today, but this cheered me up 🙂

    michelle Reply:

    Aw hope your day is going well, Leah! It’s a toughie for many of us xx

  6. 11.24.2011

    off to stuff the turkey here in Brussels
    happy thanksgiving !

    michelle Reply:

    Enjoy Anni!

  7. 11.24.2011

    this year for the first time I did not send cranberries to my daughter…cause the last several packages were mis-handled…..I know she feels a bit like you without them…and now I feel guilty for letting my spite(for the postal service) block my love…..

    michelle Reply:

    Oh Charmain, if anyone should feel guilty it’s Poste Italiane and Dogana…hope you and your daughter both have lovely Thanksgiving days in any event 🙂

  8. Yes, I am not nostalgic for the Thanksgiving that was, but for the feeling around it and one I only qualify as Thanksgiving if it is shared with friends and loved ones. Sharing it with one is great, sharing it with 10…even better. 🙂 I think next year we should plan to do T-day together…somehow! I had 9 people over several years ago, I could swing it again! I’ll get a bigger house in the meantime.

    I definitely wallowed a bit today, but I do appreciate the words to not let it dictate my actions and picked myself up and went on 🙂

    michelle Reply:

    I had fully planned on wallowing, but between baking the pie, doing a little writing, and then assisting P in the pizza operation, I really didn’t . . . and I’m actually getting excited for Christmas here, which has never happened before. Hope you had a great day 🙂

  9. 11.24.2011

    Wholly Yum….I’ll take the pie…..and coffee…..please! <3

    michelle Reply:

    Someday, Pam! Someday……

    Pam Reply:


  10. AmyEmilia

    Hey Michelle, what a nice post. You can never really go home again, except in your heart. I too have learned to deal with homesickness for a place/time that no longer exists. Part of maturing as a well-balanced adult, I think – and much better than denying it altogether or trying to create it by force.

    Today, I made a chicken and stuffing dinner. We will be going down to the beach shortly for a couple hours of sunshine and soft breezes. OUR Thanksgiving tradition is to be together, whether or not with any other family.

    Enjoy those pies, and the special intimacy of being with people you love. And thanks for writing so poignantly. It’s always a pleasure to read your blog.

    michelle Reply:

    Sounds like a lovely day; thanks for sharing your experiences, thoughts, and kind words 🙂 xx

  11. 11.24.2011

    Michelle – You have so beautifully expressed how a special holiday brings back the flood of memories. I will enjoy cranberries and sweet potatoes today, but I long for those Thanksgivings when all our children were round the table, often with other invited guests. This year, it’s just three of us, and it doesn’t feel quite the way I would like it to, but the day will have its own specialness. Enjoy that beautiful pie!

    michelle Reply:

    Hope you’re having a lovely celebration, Diane; thanks for taking some time out today to read and comment 🙂 xx

  12. 11.24.2011

    Thank you for this post! I was feeling ‘down in the dumps’ yesterday and earlier today about the Thanksgiving holiday. I miss my family and the tastes of home, especially now with the holidays approaching. I would love to have a table filled with dressing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin and pecan pies (my mouth has been watering all day at the mere thought 🙂 Like you, I thought Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t worth having if I couldn’t have the traditional dishes of home. My husband and I scratched tradition completely and had Thanksgiving lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant in Rome (I crave ethnic food, and don’t get to eat it enough in Italy). Instead of pumpkin and pecan pies for dessert, we went for gelato topped with chocolate. It was fabulous. I put traditions aside and just chose to be thankful for the afternoon with the one I love. Plus, I was very thankful I wasn’t left washing dishes or cleaning the kitchen after our meal. 😉

    michelle Reply:

    You make an *excellent* point about cleaning up! Yet another thing to be thankful for! Glad you made the most of today — sounds fab 🙂

  13. 11.24.2011

    We went to four stores to look for cranberries– they were abundant this time of year in Germany– but came back empty-handed each time. At the last moment, I called a store we hadn’t tried yet, and they said they had *just* gotten some in. We were especially thankful to be able to eat cranberry relish this year, something I do not take for granted. Thanksgiving is a really hard holiday for me to be away from family on, too. It’s the best day of the year, and just isn’t the same when you are not with your family. I was thankful this year that I just really enjoy my husband and daughter, and we went ahead and made a traditional meal, fully thankful to be together.

    michelle Reply:

    So happy you found your cranberry fix! Sounds like you had a lovely day 🙂

  14. 11.24.2011

    I had the best intentions, to do the big Thanksgiving cooking for a bunch of us Venetian expats this year, but then one cancelled out, and another was busy, another didn’t know about the kid and daycare on the mainland, so in the end I decided to just do the family and invite the (very Italian) in-laws and do it Monday the 21st (Holiday in Venice – Madonna della Salute)… wouldn’t you know that the butcher shop where I had ordered my whole turkey (over a week in advance this year, I was so proud of myself) after checking on it three days before (“all set to pick up on Saturday, right?” – “Sure, all set”) and running into the butcher the evening before (“all set for tomorrow, right?” – “Sure, all set”) I show up on Saturday morning and… no turkey – they forgot to order it far enough in advance, and the evening before the butcher was not really thinking of turkey, but just said okay to not seem dumb.
    Talk about a meltdown… right there in the middle of the butcher shop. The meat was sizzling through the glass case.
    So this year a delicious (though insufficient quantity-wise) stuffed “cappone” and the in-laws were still happy, as they didn’t know what they were missing, at least not from experience, and today cordon blue with chicken and prosciutto stuffed with sotillette for dinner.
    Maybe next year will end up a bit less disappointing…

    michelle Reply:

    Mamma mia, che casino 🙁 Sorry to hear so many things went so horribly wrong this year, Jacques. I have higher hopes for next year as well. Fingers crossed for both of us 😉

  15. As you know, Michelle, I sent you a Thanksgiving greeting with little ornaments via gmail, had I known, how much Thanksgiving meant to you I might have tried to send some “traditional foods” (-8

    But if truth be told I have never been too big a fan of T’giving food.

    See my blog post re 11-23-2011 via the following link if you are interested :

    Meanwhile, it is Thanksgiving night in NYC, and I have just returned home from having a Thanksgiving dinner with an elderly neighbor at an — you guessed it — Italian restaurant, our waitress, from Northern Italy has only been in the U.S. for a few weeks, and I told her how much I enjoyed your blog etc.

    However, earlier this morning, as I was posting my Thanksgiving thoughts on my blog, I could hear the rumble of the famous Macy’s Annual Thanksgiving Parade from my window (part of its route is less than a block from where I live), and I felt oddly at peace regarding past Thanksgivings (some were pretty volatile in my family); and I was truly grateful that I was meeting someone for dinner that would not question my lack of appreciation for traditional food. The place we ate at it did serve a traditional meal, which she had, but I opted for Italian dishes. The only thing I missed was a cocktail which I am having now. (-;

    I did not realize you had posted Thanksgiving thoughts to Facebook, as you know I am new to that venue, and I am sorry that I could not be one of those to offer you hugs and good wishes – so here they are now!

    However, you might find some solace in what I posted this Thanksgiving morning/afternoon on TLLG, which you can check out via the following link:

    The thing that I find disappointing about Thanksgiving is the fact that my fellow Americans cannot even take one full day away from routine. “Black Friday” is starting tonight in many stores, and I find this the most disappointing of all.

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts and your posts, Patricia; so lovely that you had a chance to celebrate in a way that works for you. It is quite disheartening to hear that Black Friday has now crept into Thanksgiving Thursday. Not surprising, of course, but sad nonetheless.

  16. Gil

    Your Mom’s apple pie looks sooo delicious! I’m sure that your package will arrive soon and then you can celebrate Thanksgiving again with more of an American touch.

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks Gil! I have to say, the pie did turn out wonderfully 🙂

  17. 11.25.2011

    Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day for all my American friends, I had to make the decision to have my lovely old Spinone Italiano, Ellie, euthanased. She was very sick and her quality of life was very poor. But that didn’t make it any easier. I didn’t feel there was much to be thankful about. She was a rescue dog no-one else wanted because she was 12 when she needed a home. I only had her for 18 months. I wanted more. 🙁

    Today, I open this blog and your words, Michelle, make me understand how much I have to be thankful for. That I was able to give her a good home – and in her Italian homeland, too – for the last part of her life; that she in return gave me love, comfort when I needed it, and a lot of laughter.

    Today I’m devastated. I can’t help crying. I’m full of doubt, guilt and self recrimination. But these words :

    “Seeing those feelings of hurt, anger, disappointment, etc., float on by, understanding that they are indeed temporary but nonetheless absolutely exist is both calming and reassuring…”

    have given me a lot of comfort and hope. Not having your family around you at Thanksgiving is hard. Losing a much loved member of the family – even one who is “just a dog” is also hard.

    And I give thanks that I decided to open your blog, today of all days.

    Thank you. x

    michelle Reply:

    Oh Cath, there’s no such thing as “just a dog.” My heart aches for you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and words during this difficult time. How wonderful that you and Ellie found each other! Un abbraccio fortissimo xx

  18. 11.25.2011

    I hope your day was better than you anticipated Michelle.

    michelle Reply:

    Ended up being quite lovely; I find it hard to be sad when eating homemade pizza and apple pie — so my diversionary tactics worked a charm 😉

  19. Adrianne

    Your post brought me tears both happy and sad. We’ve had two Thanksgivings now here in Italy. Last year I didnt have any of the ingredients I would normally have – no sweet potatoes, no crandberries, no collard greens (the one time a year they got made in my house) The first year was hard, but we made it okay, it was my daughters first real Thanksgiving (she had just turned one) and the fun was watching her enjoy turkey for the first time.
    This year we spend the summer in the US but the holiday season is still hard. None of my family was able to be together (even the ones in the states) and that made me a little sad. I was able to get sweet potatoes this year (I found them at and the 30 euros in shipping was almost worth it ..) And I let the fact that we are here to step away from our normal traditions. I try new recipes, make a different meat or main dish instead of Turkey and let myself enjoy the day instead of being stuck in the kitchen fighting a timeline to have everything on the table. So we had a nice day.
    I told my sister that the holidays are bittersweet. We make the best and do what we can to enjoy them, but we will always have that little bit of sadness for the family we are missing.

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Adrianne; glad you had a nice day 🙂

  20. 11.26.2011

    I think Thanksgiving must be the most homesick holiday of the year for those of us who live across the world from our families. But we do what we can, even if it’s just not the same. I hope that you do receive your package soon and can have a belated Thanksgiving dinner. I will have to try out your mom’s pie recipe – I love apple pie!

    michelle Reply:

    Package arrived today, Tina, so now I can do the feast whenever…maybe I’ll still do it on a Thursday just for fun hahaha 😉

  21. 11.30.2011

    Not being American I didn’t have the Thanksgiving Blues but I well know the feeling. This year has been an irrationally homesick one. I come from Sydney and have now spent more time away from home than living in Australia, but some weeks I’ve just wished to transfer, throw down new roots, live under new light.
    I won’t, not yet, but the idea remains tantalising rather than saddening at least. I wish family could be around my table more often.

  22. I would find it difficult to be away from family on Thanksgiving — or any other major holiday, for that matter. So I can relate. As for the lessons of disappointment, you nailed it perfectly. It is a natural and normal and healthy emotion. We would be automatons if we didn’t feel disappointment at disappointing situations, after all. But to feel it is different than renting a room and living in it. And that’s the truth you spoke to.

    Thank you so much for the reminder.

    PS: I’m thrilled I found your blog. This is my first time visiting and had to say hello and share my two cents!

  23. 12.02.2011

    My niece in Connecticut took up the Thanksgiving tradition several years ago and it is her joy to host it with her family and friends. This year we were 28 around the table. Living in New England, cranberries are an essential component of the meal so I understand how you feel. Kind of feels like a tie between us in the here and now, our founding fathers and all the generations in between. Even though we all give thanks often, having that special day to officially take the time to embrace it with others around a laden table is a blessing we savor along with the turkey and stuffing.

    Your ‘thanksgiving’ is in your heart and it is where you are and with whom you love to have in your life. Don’t think for a minute that cranberries can mess with that! Happy Turkey Day (even if I am writing this on December 1st, it’s the thought that counts).

  1. [...] disappointments in my life. But disappointment can’t be banished altogether. I found this post on Blee...



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