Chris Stuckenschneider

Over the weekend, I read a column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about what a disservice we do buying our children everything they want for Christmas. Entitlement ensues, and the idea “that more is better,” leads to “feelings of disappointment and frustration.”

The columnist, Catherine Huber of Childrens Hospital, instead suggests that we encourage kids to be thankful by keeping a gratitude journal. Studies have shown a journal like this can make people happier.

“Uh huh,” I thought, stirring creamer into my coffee, along with traces of guilt. You see, I’m a gratitude-journal failure. I tried recording my blessings daily, but as with other good intentions, like being kinder to Spark when we’re both vying for space in the kitchen at breakfast time, it fell by the wayside.

The article got me to thinking. Perhaps I should try again, write down one thing I’m grateful for — start small. That ought to create a wee bit of happiness, don’t you think? So here goes:

Anyone who knows me well, like my mom and sister, knows that fixing a turkey dinner strikes terror in my heart. Every other year I have to face the gangplank because my sister and I alternate hosting Thanksgiving.

There will be 21 at our house on Thursday, and I’m really looking forward to it. Instead of turkey, I’m having ham. I feel massively relieved. What bliss it will be on feast day to sleep until 7 a.m., not get up at 4 to trudge out to the cold garage and retrieve Tom and his little brother, carry them to the kitchen, extract who knows what from their deep, dark interiors, and jab them with a meat thermometer.

This Thanksgiving there won’t be any basting or tenting, or carving slick, sloppy bodies into pieces, ruining nails scrapping roasters baked black with gunk, or bagging away turkey carcasses for a gumbo I never get around to fixing at Christmastime anyway.

I’m giddy just thinking about spiral-cut ham, over the moon that I’ll only have to deal with one bone. To heck with a wishbone; my heart’s desire has come true.

If anyone in our family beefs one bit about having ham, I’ll tell them to pretend it’s Easter. Spring is a much nicer time of year anyway, and we’re having deviled eggs, so that shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Speaking of deviled eggs, I’m grateful I don’t have to prepare those either. I let my eggs get old, I buy them fresh, I time their immersion, put the lid on, take the lid off, plunge them in icy water — no matter what I do, my hard-boiled eggs end up with more dimples than a golf ball.

I’m leaving that side dish to my sister. She’s a good egg and her last name is Schell. Go figure.

Now before you think I’m a wimp in the kitchen, let me tell you I shine when it comes to making hot, homemade rolls like my Grandma Ruth used to turn out in her farm kitchen in Gerald. And I can roll out a pie crust like no one’s business — thanks to a tried-and-true recipe from a late aunt of mine, who I remember fondly every time I cut Crisco into flour. She was something when it came to pies and a banana cake that was her specialty.

Maybe I’ll be remembered in years to come for my Thanksgiving ham. One can only hope. By the way, I am feeling a lot happier than I was when I started on this column. Perhaps it’s because I wrote about gratitude, or maybe I’m just relieved to have another column under my belt — one that’s bound to get tighter come Thursday afternoon.