Janet Sheridan: Lesser blessings

— Once again, I will devote a November column to small personal pleasures most folks ignore when counting their blessings. For example, on Thanksgiving, how many of you will be giving thanks for size 11 shoes?

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Janet Sheridan

Ha! I thought so. Obviously, your siblings never have embarrassed you by chanting, “You’re a poet and don’t know it: Your feet are L-o-o-o-o-o-ngfellows.”

All of my life, I hated the size of my feet as much as I adored shoes because, due to the proportions of the first, I had trouble buying the second. Stores rarely stocked women’s shoes larger than size 9. More than once, a clerk’s dismissive comment, “Sorry, we don’t carry your size,” sent me scurrying from a store, my face flaming like Topsy the Beet.

At night, when not dreaming of romping on beaches with Frankie Avalon, I fantasized about dainty feet shod in black, patent-leather ballet flats with huge polka-dot bows or delectable ankle-strap heels designed to draw the eyes of gentlemen: bold shoes, elegant shoes, sexy shoes, impossible-to-purchase shoes.

Now that I’m too old to prance around in such flights of fancy, longer shoe sizes for women are as omnipresent as Big Gulps. I marvel when I visit a store’s bargain racks and find size 10, 11, even 12. I now buy shoes as casually as smaller women who’ve never had to suffer through Bigfoot jokes.

My new toaster is another example of a less significant blessing I adore. Sleek, black, efficient and costing a mere $22, it sits on my countertop waiting to brighten my mornings. I like dropping large, clunky pieces of homemade bread into it and watching as they slide smoothly down and briskly pop back up.

Not once have I had to prod and poke with a fork to retrieve charred portions, then turn the dratted appliance over and pound it on the counter to get the rest. Gone are the days of re-toasting the same piece of bread again and again because the temperature control is stuck permanently on lukewarm. If you pass my house in the morning and hear raucous cheering, you’ll know I’m having toast for breakfast.

I’m also appreciative of my recently acquired calmness in the presence of health care professionals wielding needles. My phobia began in elementary school when I lined up with my classmates to be force-marched by our teacher to the lunchroom where the school nurse, looking grim beneath her white, starched hat, waited in a haze of alcohol fumes next to a tray of needles covered by a white towel.

She couldn’t fool us: We knew what lurked beneath the towel and behaved accordingly. The petite, kindly nurse probably looked grim because she was preparing to deal with bawlers, resisters and fainters.

My fear of needles accelerated when dentists shot Novocain into my gums and doctors poked penicillin into my posterior — two totally inappropriate actions.

But after years of blood tests, flu shots, finger pricks and an occasional IV, the knowledge that my skin and flesh are going to have a hole punched in them no longer triggers my fight or flight instinct: a mature response for which nurses should give thanks.

Finally, I’m happy that Cooking Light magazine, my guide for all things culinary, yielded to reality this year and used convenience products in its holiday-edition recipes: canned sweet potatoes and cranberries, store-bought pie dough and pumpkin filling, box mixes for stuffing and cakes, even — heaven forbid! — instant mashed potatoes as part of a potato souffle.

Never again will I furtively snatch pre-cooked rice from supermarket shelves, lower the shades when using bags of shredded carrots, hide suspicious cartons and wrappings under the banana peels in my garbage and lie to relatives who ask if my chicken stock came from a can.

Lesser blessings brighten my life, and I hope several smaller joys will sprinkle happiness on yours as well during the upcoming holiday season.

Janet Sheridan also blogs at www.auntbeulah.com Tuesdays.

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