Guest Chick: Mary Angela

Please join us in welcoming Mary Angela back to Chicks! She is the author of the Professor Prather academic mysteries and the new Happy Camper cozies. The first book in the series, Open for Murder, is out now, and Mary will give away an eBook to one lucky commenter today! 🌟

Different Can Be Good

I’ve been thinking a lot about the holidays and what they’ll look like this year. My daughters have been thinking about them, too, and asking questions. It’s hard to know how to answer, but usually the word different is part of our conversations. Different. Not a word you want to describe the holidays, which usually conjure up age-old traditions. But our discussions got me thinking: different can be good.

My daughters are dancers, which means every two years, they perform in the Nutcracker ballet at their dance school. It’s one of our favorite events but also one of the most time consuming. The practices always fall close to Thanksgiving. This particular year, they fell the night before the big day, which posed a problem. My sister was having Thanksgiving at her house, about 90 miles away, so most of my family traveled there the night before. A massive ice storm was headed our way, and it was due to arrive Thanksgiving morning.

I don’t know if you have ice storms where you live, but in South Dakota, ice storms can be treacherous. They can break trees, powerlines, and fences. I knew there was a chance we wouldn’t be able to travel to my sister’s house for the holiday, so I bought a small turkey and a few fixings. For the first time in my life, I bought canned (gasp!) sweet potatoes. It was a scant grocery list because, let’s face it, I’d driven in harsh Midwestern winters all my life, and my husband had a 4×4. We could get through anything.

Except a closed road. When I came down the stairs Thanksgiving morning and saw the mailbox covered with ice, I knew we wouldn’t be traveling. I turned on the news and confirmed what I’d already guessed: we were homebound for the holiday. My brother, who hadn’t left early either, was in the same predicament, so I invited him to dinner. Although I was embarrassed of my meager trimmings (my potatoes certainly didn’t taste like Mom’s), in true brother fashion, he made the meal feel like a feast.

Afterwards, we went shopping at the local drugstore, another first. I’d judged many shoppers for hitting the Black Friday sales before swallowing their last bites of food, and here I was, one of those shoppers. And it was fabulous. My brother and I wandered the store for a good hour, looking at lights, stuffed Santas, and blowup snowmen. It was a treat, especially since my kids were younger then and I rarely had time to shop by myself.

Looking back, I remember it as one of my favorite Thanksgivings. The dinner was low-key, and I got to spend one-on-one time with my brother. Not long afterwards, he would marry and have a family of his own. The opportunity would not come again.

Although the holidays will be different, different isn’t bad. Different brings challenges, but it also brings opportunities. I hope we find new ways to celebrate each other from a distance, and when next year comes, we remember this season not for how hard it was, but how much we grew from the experience.


© Julie Prairie Photography 2016

Mary Angela is the author of the Professor Prather academic series, the Happy Camper cozy mystery series, and several short stories.

When Mary isn’t penning heartwarming whodunits, she’s teaching, reading, traveling, or spending time with her family. She lives in South Dakota with her husband, daughters, and spoiled pets.

You can find out more about her loves, including her writing, at



Twitter: @maryangelabooks



49 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Mary Angela

  1. My nephew and I usually spend Thanksgiving with family at my cousin’s house. With COVID numbers rapidly rising where I live and my cousin and her husband just getting over COVID, we’ve all made the decision to stay at home. My nephew and I will get dinner from a local restaurants and give thanks for the many blessings we have.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Historically, our family had Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Anna & Uncle Earl’s. He was the farm manager for some state senator on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Couldn’t tell you which one, because the the BIG draw was the prizewinning hogs and their piglets. Aunt Anna stopped being in charge of the meal when she turned 70, and my cousin Ginny took on the role. She is now 72. But I got a card from her the other day with the sad news that she would not be hosting this year due to Covid. I am sad, of course, but am in total agreement. My plan is to round up cards with pigs on them and send them out to my family as a reminder of the Thanksgivings of yore.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanksgiving will be different for us this year, but not because of Covid. My mother-in-law is spending the holiday with her son and his wife, and my oldest son will be working to take advantage of time-and-a-half holiday pay. So it will be just me, my wife and our younger son. We’ll have a special meal and eat it on the good china in the dining room Thursday afternoon. P.S. – I’d love to win a copy of your book. I’m trying to become a reformed character by reading more cozies!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Our children are all married, and the last several years each of the kids host Thanksgiving for us all. This year because of COVID we will all be celebrating separately. But we will chat with each other during the day. I am looking for some new side dish recipes to make the meal special for my husband and I.
    I hope everyone has a lovely day no matter where they are spending it.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I’m trying new recipes, too. Since we’re not having guests, I don’t have to worry if they don’t work out. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

      Liked by 4 people

  4. For years, my family of four has alternated spending Thanksgiving with my wife’s family and my family. This year, for the first time, we’re spending it at home, just the four of us and the cat. It sure will be different, but I think it will be a good reminder of how fortunate we are to be healthy and to have each other. Happy Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Thank you for having me on the blog today, Chicks, and a special thanks to Cynthia Kuhn for the invite. I hope all of you have a safe, healthy, and happy holiday.

    Liked by 6 people

  6. This year we won’t have any guests for Thanksgiving, so it should be an easy meal. We probably won’t bother cooking much, which, as the cook, is just fine with me! Happy Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I like that it centers around seeing family and food, not gifts or expectations. I’m sad it will be just my hubby and me at home, but we’ll Zoom with the stepkids and our grandbaby. I’ll see Mom virtually. We’re going to make part of a turkey and all the other traditional dishes that I love so much. Most of all, I know we’re working hard to protect ourselves and our community. I’m thankful for a life that lets me do those things in comfort. Plus . . . NEW PUPPY!! Happy Thanksgiving.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. For most of my life, Thanksgiving was a hallowed tradition. The entire family would come from wherever we were in the country and stay for the long weekend. On the day, the chefs would gather around the BBQ and make the turkey, while the shoppers would pour over the ads and plan our Black Friday outing. Dinner was always the same, we would stuff ourselves on all the food (except the salad that still always had to be there) and be too full for the four pies. Still, we didn’t want the piemakers to feel bad, so we’d eat dessert anyway.

    The next day, the shoppers would get up at 3am to be first in line at the store with the best deals. It was more about spending the day together than the actual shopping, and we always had a ton of fun.

    This year, with my mom gone and Covid, it will definitely be different, but will still be a day for family and eating too much.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Different can definitely be good. I’ve had some holidays that wound up different from expected, but they hold some good memories. It’s about how you go about it. If you dwell on the disappointments, you will be miserable. But if you try to find ways to make the most of the situation, you’ll find you enjoy them.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I’ve already bought your book, so I don’t need to be in the drawing, but I really enjoyed your post. Our kids live in Indianapolis and won’t be driving up for Thanksgiving this year, but we’re still getting together with my sister and cousin, my nearby daughter, and maybe a friend. And we’re all glad we can get together. I’m still making a turkey (because we love leftovers), but we’re going to play with new side dishes. Should be fun.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thanks for coming on the Chicks today!

    Last year, we hosted friends, neighbors, and family, so it’ll be a different Thanksgiving this time around. I love your perspective on it, though!

    It’ll be a quieter holiday, but I’m still looking forward to sharing a meal and having an appreciative attitude.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Since we became empty-nesters about 10 years ago, with kids scattered across the globe, it seems every holiday has had something different about it. Some Thanksgivings we spend with my local family, a couple years ago “siblings only” since the extended family doesn’t fit in anyone’s house anymore, sometimes a kid is home, sometimes it’s just the two of us. None are better or worse, just … different. As I read your post, Mary, I was reminded of the saying “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.” And when you step out of those traditions and patterns, sometimes you find magic. This year there’s not much choice, of course, so I’ll be thankful for our health and the technology to connect with others.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Love this post! It made me a bit teary. So glad you had that special Thanksgiving with your brother. Thanks again for visiting us and sharing such a thoughtful perspective.

    So look forward to family gatherings, and it’s hard this year but as Elena said, it’s a question of doing our part to distance. That is something we can do. And like Marla, it’s not going to be about the cooking, either, which I welcome right now, at this point in the semester. 😉

    Congratulations on your new series, Mary! (Was so happy to get a sneak peek–y’all are going to love it!) And happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

    (Oh. I just realized there won’t be a NYC parade, right? Which is a tradition to watch. Maybe we’ll break out the holiday movies instead. I could use some escape-watching of ELF right now.)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries, Cynthia, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is a go!! It is virtual pre-taped) and the balloons are tied to vehicles rather than teams of balloon wranglers. But the show goes on.


      2. And good news for you and Nala, too, Becky! The National Dog Show will also take place–600 dogs instead of the usual 2000 or whatever it is. Farley watches every year. He adores it. It’s on after the parade, per usual.


    1. Thanks for inviting me, Cynthia! I really appreciate it.
      Yes, time to break out the movies–or anything to get the mind off school for a spell! Online grading is so daunting, don’t you think? Give me a good old folder any day.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Loved the special time with your brother! The best gifts so often show up wrapped in plain paper, don’t they? After all the challenges of 2020, hubs and I are looking forward to a low-key Thanksgiving. Happy holidays, Mary — and thanks for visiting the Chicks!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I loved this, Mary! What a lovely story to warm myself by.

    Our huge, noisy and–let’s be honest–crazy gathering will look a LOT different this year. I’m looking forward to Zoom calls and a day of taking stock of my many reasons for gratitude.

    Congrats on the new release!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you, Mary–what a lovely, heartfelt post, and adore your books! For most of 50 years, we have gone to my aunt and uncle’s home in NH for a huge gathering with extended family and neighbors. It’s like Same Time Next Year (without the affair), and it’s been amazing to experience life’s joys and sorrows and changes this way. Twelve years ago, my husband and I moved here to NH, too, so it’s over the river and through the woods rather than a 7-hr. annual trip. On the Saturday, we always have a whole Turkey Day Redux at home with all of the kids and now grandkids. The menu hasn’t changed in…well, ever. This year is one of those “change” years. But one of those changes includes a new baby boy, so soon he’ll be the one to score the wishbone. Stay safe and well, everyone–and however you celebrate, slainte!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Mary, so sorry for the delayed response!! No excuse. I just spaced. Thanks so much for visiting. I LOVED your story. Such a lovely Thanksgiving tale. Looking forward to your new series!


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