Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Losing Thanksgiving

Where on earth has Thanksgiving gone?

Every year, it seems to fade a little more, swallowed up completely by Christmas. Retailers get the jump on the season of red and green earlier and earlier each year. We fume about it, but it seems that everyone's buying into it, nonetheless.

Thanksgiving, my friends, is the most wonderful celebration we allow ourselves. It's simply gathering with loved ones to share a meal and talk about what we're thankful for. That's it. No presents to buy. No over the top parties to attend. No fancy clothes (in fact, I recommend the baggier, the better). No cards to send. Simple. Slow. Savoring the process of cooking, gathering, welcoming, eating, thanking, hugging, loving. What's not to love?

Yet, every year we chop a little bit more off this most perfect of holidays. Why? Why are we in such a hurry to shove Thanksgiving out of the way for Christmas? What message are we sending our children? We could all use a bigger dose of gratefulness, and a lot less focus on stuff. At the very least, we need more thankfulness for all the stuff. So why the rush?

Folks have already decorated trees, mantles, and yards. I'm simply stunned. We haven't poked the turkey in the oven, cooled the pumpkin pies, or watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and they've hung their stockings on the mantle. I don't know, maybe they'll be in Europe for Christmas and want to celebrate a little early at home. Or maybe the dog's on her last leg and they want to make sure she doesn't miss the season. I'm grasping for a reason to rush through marvelous Thanksgiving to begin the yuletide celebration.

Now, no one loves Christmas more than yours truly - I watch White Christmas in July and consider Easter the start of Advent. Still, I'm puzzled by the notion of having Christmas lights blinking while you sing "Over the River and Through the Woods."

I, for one, know that Christmas is just around the corner. I can wait. The day after Thanksgiving? All bets are off. It's Christmas all the way. But for tonight and all day tomorrow? My heart and all my senses will be filled with thanksgiving/Thanksgiving. The house is decorated in oranges and yellows, not reds and greens. Turkeys and Pilgrims and Squanto headdresses are showcased, instead of creches and Santas.

It's Thanksgiving. I'll hang on to it as long as I can.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thankful to Catch Up

I'm behind in my thankful postings because I've been in Haiti for a week. But I'm back now and can play catch-up. I was most definitely thankful every single day I was there, however, internet connection is wonky in Haiti, as you can well imagine. Plus, we were busy from sun-up to way past sun-down, so, yeah, there's that.

I'm so thankful.
  • For a job that pushes me to travel to interesting and, sometimes, hard places. I meet lots of people I'd have never met otherwise and get to witness good work going on all over the place. I love my job and am so thankful for gainful employment.
  • For good health and stamina (so far) to keep up with life in New York and grandbabies in Atlanta. Good health is another one of those things I often take for granted, until something flares up or starts to ache. For being able to get up everyday and keep up with life's pace, I give great thanks.
  • For my own bed, clean sheets, and a featherbed. Whatever the day has brought - good or bad - my good old bed welcomes me every night. No other bed in the whole world is as good as my very own. 
  • For the folks young and old who venture to hard places in the name of Christ to serve God's people, especially the Young Adult Service Corps volunteers and the Volunteers in Mission of the Episcopal Church. I'm privileged to get to see what they do first-hand. I'm so, so thankful for these wonderful people.
  • For the children and staff of St. Vincent's School for the Handicapped in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Life in that country is hard enough, but the courage and perseverance of these children - blind, deaf, and with other physical disabilities - and the teachers who love and educate them is truly remarkable. I give thanks for their lives and pray they grow into happy, successful adults.
  • For (fairly) reliable public transportation. I really depend on it in New York, and to some extent, in Atlanta. Yes, subways and trains are often crowded and once in a while everyone's surly or impolite, but most of the time folks behave themselves and just mind their own business. But it's great value for the money, and it gets me from point A to point B, C, and D. I'm so grateful that I have access to good public transportation.
So. Now I'm caught up on my November daily thanksgivings. I travel to Atlanta in a couple of hours for a week's vacation and to celebrate the holiday with my family. And I'm very thankful for that.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Darkest Day

The announcement came over the intercom during my 7th period study hall. I was 12 years old. I do not remember the exact words Mr. Bible, our principal, used to tell us that President Kennedy was dead. Did he say that? Or did he say he'd been shot? I just don't remember. But we were sent home immediately. Then everything got weird. And all my sense-memory tells me to this day is that it was dark. Dark.

Presidents just didn't get assassinated in 1963. Yes, we were busy fending off the USSR and ducking-and-covering, but assassinating the President? How John Wilkes Booth-y. I know it's hard for younger folks to understand, but it really was the end of innocence for those of us at the older end of the generation of "Look, Ma, no cavaties!", "Let's Twist Again Like We Did Last Summer," and "Yabba-dabba-do!" After this, anything could happen. Anything.

My enduring image of Friday, November 22, 1963, is that of quiet darkness. As usual, Daddy took us to the Red Food Store on Ringgold Road for our weekly grocery run on a late autumn night. The store was open. Just. There seemed to be fewer street lights, neon signs, and car headlights as we pulled into the parking lot. We were part of only a handful of people out and about that night. I guess we got what we needed and went home.

But fifty years ago tonight, it was dark. So dark.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

For Safe Travel

Tonight I'm thankful for travelling safely from New York to Port au Prince to Cap Haitien. Big jets, tiny prop planes, vans - all made it possible for our safe arrival. I'm also thankful for a good meal with new friends and a cool place to sleep. I feel very welcome in Haiti!

Friday, November 15, 2013

For Hot Tea

For my morning cup of tea and all the cups of tea throughout the day, I am very thankful. Tea is strong enough to keep me awake, yet clear and refreshing. And there's just something so civilized about sipping tea all day. Fabulous bonus: teapots!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

For the Big Apple

I give thanks today for this crazy, crowded, energetic city that has been my home for almost eight years. New York City kicks my butt every day. Negotiating sidewalks, climbing up and down subway stairs, and dodging bicycles and taxis are give a better work-out than any personal trainer. Thank you, fellow subway rider and sidewalk striders for living and let living (for the most part), even when it gets uncomfortably crowded. The best in music and art and theatre are cookin' every hour of every day. Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the New York Public Library offer up their amazing gifts for free. It's a big place with an infinite number of things for which I'm grateful. Thank you, big old city with a big old heart, for amazing me every single day. I Heart NY.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

For the Funnies

Today I'm thankful for all the people who make me laugh. Mark Twain and Jerome K. Jerome, thank you for capturing the humor of the human condition in your books and stories. Carol Burnett and Bob Newhart, thank you for all the hilarity you've brought to me through television and recordings. Thank you friends and co-workers for knowing when to lighten the moment and bring a tear (the good kind) to the eye. Thank you grandson Liam for your silly hijinx that keep me laughing along with you. For everyone past and present, known and unknown, famous and not-so who with a turn of phrase, roll of the eye, or misspoken malapropism causes a laugh to bubble up, I give great thanks.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

For a Warm Place on a Cold Night

I am so thankful that I have a warm place to sleep on this cold autumn night. So many people don't have a safe, dry room to protect them from the elements that I try to remember every single day how fortunate I am to have a place to call my own (well, technically, the landlord's). In my travels, I've seen some pretty iffy abodes - made out of garbage bins, cardboard, plastic bags - but at least those folks had some kind of shelter. Many people don't have even that. May the Lord protect them, whatever the weather.

Monday, November 11, 2013

For Girlfriends

Especially those who've stuck with me for years and years and years (infinity). There is no better therapy than time spent with old friends. So much laughter, so many great memories. And though we all lead very different lives and have traveled separate paths from back then to now, it's no trouble at all to fall right back into that comfortable, familiar place of friendship. So today I give thanks for the women who make it easy to feel like little girls again. (Thanks, Susie, Maureen, and Debbie for such a fun lunch today.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

For Family Meals

Whether it's around the family's kitchen table or in a restaurant booth, the chance to share a meal with my family is what I'm thankful for today. The opportunity to talk, laugh, and wolf down some good chow with folks I love is always grabbed with gusto. Yes, it's chaos mixing little children (who use every attention-getting trick in the book) with mostly deaf elders and crazy-stressed middle aged folks, but there's something solid and timeless in sitting around a table together. It's what's remembered for a lifetime. It's what is duplicated generation to generation. It's the very essence of thanksgiving, small "t" and big "T."

Saturday, November 09, 2013

For Rascally Superheroes

Light sabers and Spiderman suits. Batman super-belts and Optimus Prime. Transformers and RescueBots. Little boys who save the world and protect GrandMarys everywhere. For the creativity and imagination of rascally little boys who take on the world in the guise of famous superheroes, I give thanks. And I'm grateful for their moms who have to warn repeatedly about furniture-jumping, pillow-throwing, and sliding down long hallways. Sometimes even superheroes need a little protection.

Friday, November 08, 2013

For Chicken Soup for the Stomach

I give thanks for homemade chicken soup and corn muffins on this cold autumn night. It steams up my glasses and clears out my head. In short, chicken soup for the stomach equals chicken soup for the soul. I am thankful for daughter Kate who made the soup from scratch, despite a rowdy 3-year-old and a 5-month-old demanding her attention. Yes, for hot soup on a chilly evening, I am most grateful.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

For Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

It took all three to get me from my door in NYC to Kate's in ATL today. As much as we all bitch and moan about mass transit - and I do put today's airline travel in the mass transit category - 9999.999% of the time it gets you where you're going within a fairly reasonable time frame and in one piece. For all the engineering, mechanical, custodial, and professional service effort that goes into getting me from point A to point B and back again, I give great thanks. (And the Steve Martin/John Candy movie's worthy of thanks, too. For all the laughs.)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

For Broadway Babies

Walkin' off their tired feet, poundin' 42nd Street, to be in a shoooowww. Today, and every day, I am thankful for the great American Musical. For all the talented folks who have taught me to look for the silver lining, open a new window/open a new door, or climb every mountain, I honor you. Thank you for reminding me that anyone can whistle, I can defy gravity, and I'll never walk alone. And whether I'm trying to remember the kind of September or the lusty month of May, 's wonderful. All of it. Now, "Sing out, Louise!"

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

For the Right to Vote

Whether punching out chads, using a touch screen, bubbling in a scan sheet, or pulling a great big lever in an old-school voting booth, I'm thankful that I have the right to vote. It's easy to be cynical about candidates and party positions - and Lord knows, they've gone out of their way to earn our cynicism - but there's still something powerful in signing my name at the polls, going into the voting booth, making choices, and turning in my ballot. Whatever the outcome - short-term or long-term - I've had my little, small say in the matter. If nothing else gets me to the polls, it's remembering the folks who have marched and fought and died for the right to vote. On this November election day 2013, I'm grateful for the right to make my mark.

Monday, November 04, 2013

For Co-laborers in the Vineyard

I am so thankful for the folks I work amongst every day. These good people work to carry out God's mission in the world (as directed by the governance of The Episcopal Church) with grace, good humor, and professionalism. I learn so much from them every single day and truly cherish the experience of working side by side with my co-workers. For the staff of The Missionary Society of The Episcopal Church, I give thanks.

This picture, by the way, is of a bowling outing the Office of Communication took a couple of years ago. We rarely get out of the office together, so this was pretty special. Don't know where the rest of the team was (at the snack bar?).

Sunday, November 03, 2013

For All the Saints

On this All Saints Sunday, I give great thanks for my All Saints' Atlanta family. For 33 years these good saints have nurtured, encouraged, and mentored me in my faith. They have lovingly shoved me into roles of responsibility, stayed close during dark days, and understood my questions and doubts. This community supported me every step of the way when I was raising Kate, and for that I am truly thankful. For All Saints/All Sorts/All Sports, for your faith and mission and love, I give thanks.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

A Month of Thanksgivings

First, let me salute everyone writing their hearts out for National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. I tried it a couple of years ago and failed miserably, though I did last about 6 days and made a little headway with a story I've been toying with for years. Go forth and write. May you last 30 days and 50,000 words.

In lieu of my writing the Great American Novel this month, I will concentrate on thankfulness. I won't hold myself to 50,000 words about what I'm thankful for and my thanksgivings won't be in any sort of order. No, just random things - the great and the small - that make me grateful for living every day.

I see I'm a day behind and should've started this list yesterday. Let's blame it on Halloween-hangover. So I'll catch up with two big thanks today.

First:  I am so very thankful that I can read. I take it for granted, never giving it a second thought. But, oh, how much joy reading gives me! Beyond the necessary task of reading just to function in the world, reading lets me think, dream, imagine, wonder about worlds I know and worlds I don't know. That learning ABCs can lead to complex, creative thought and feeling is miraculous. For books and stories and treatises and articles, whether bound or electronic, for authors and dream-weavers and storytellers and truth-tellers, for the basic, magical ability to read - I give thanks.

Second: I give thanks for the colors of autumn. Nature transforms herself in every season, but the last hurrah of the year is just glorious. The leaves are beautiful in the bright sunlight, as well as in the dark rain. As a warning to my family and friends, I hope that the colors of autumn are a metaphor for life, and that I become more brilliantly colorful as I approach the end. And now, I shall go out on this beautiful day and celebrate the colors of autumn, giving thanks all along the way.

Life is good. I'm thankful.