Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Whoa. Slow down a minute. My calendar still says November and we haven’t had turkey yet. But retail America has long since rolled out the holly-jolly-making-a-list-checking-it-twice-most-wonderful-time-of-the-year hoopla. My nearby COSTCO kicked off the Christmas season in September. Forgive my old-fashioned prudishness, but I happen to love Thanksgiving. Really, really love it. Does anyone else have to fight the urge to spank the Little Drummer Boy with his own drumsticks, pa-rum-pa-pum-pum, and put him in time out until after December 1st? Couldn’t we give Thanksgiving a little space and still do Christmas right?

I suppose I should feel grateful that Thanksgiving flies in under the radar and avoids the commercial exploitation that surrounds Christmas. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love it so much. Thanksgiving is still about what it’s all about. We awaken somehow from the hurried and heedless race to make ends meet and cover the bases and keep the wolf from the door. Our eyes open and come into focus. Pausing, awed and breathless, we notice it. Abundance. Everywhere. Then our hearts open and come into focus and we wonder why we ever doubted or complained or despaired. The act of giving thanks transforms us and refreshes the life in our lives. Economic downturn and global warming and H1N1 and Brad and Angelina fade next to the glowing gifts of any single day.

So at the risk of sounding trite, and in the absence of animated twinkle-lighted lawn pilgrims, I’d like to begin Thanksgiving early. I am thankful. Life sweeps me off my feet and brings me to my knees. I give thanks–for Meyer lemons and sourdough chocolate cake, for faded jeans and well-worn Keens, for Bob’s deep dimples and deeper goodness and warm, strong hands, for automatic sprinklers, down comforters, and Skype. For Bach, Basie, and the Beatles. For the happy wrinkles around my eyes and being called “Nana.” For sharp knives and sharp cheese and Sharpies. Indoor plumbing and outdoor dogs. For winding trails and wild lupine and North Face. For red rock and rainforests and Half Dome. For five senses, five day work weeks, five o’clock. For solitude and sociality. Snuggling. Laughter. For words and ideas and good books and the smell of the library. For warmth and light and dark, still night. For goodly parents, and magnificent daughters, sons, siblings, friends.

Not just this week, or next, I give thanks. I thank an all-wise Father who knows me perfectly and loves me anyway and never gives up on this deeply flawed but profoundly grateful child. Thanks . . . for every single day of precious, precious life. Thank You.

Shades of elementary school–what are you thankful for today? What unexpected abundance have you noticed this year?

Posted 11/17/10 on The Peanut Gallery Speaks.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dappled Things

I love November more than almost any other month. Something about this time of year sets my soul singing. The words to my late Fall spirit-song pop up from myriad sources--the scriptures (especially Isaiah and Psalms), memories of music or books from my childhood, favorite poems whose passages jumble together, and the unwritten verses that lie banked and flickering in my mind until autumn blows on them and they kindle briefly to life. This week one of my favorite poems has throbbed  in me every day, like a low Thanksgiving chant. Maybe your soul would like to sing too, but doesn't know the lyrics. Try out Gerard Manley Hopkins' gorgeous November-worthy lines. They fit, I think:

Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

                                                                                               Gerard Manley Hopkins

So now that your mind is working in word music, what poem or scripture or passage of any kind best captures the grateful song in your soul? What are you thankful for? Please share it in a comment on this blog post, so that we can all  read. (It's not that hard, friends. Click on the "Comments" line below. Scroll down until you see the "Post a comment" form. Type your comment in the space provided and click on "Post Comment. Voila!) Leave a thread of gratitude for me to catch hold of and weave into the fabric of my Thanksgiving this year.

Friday, November 5, 2010


My beautiful cousin Megan lies in an induced coma. Her exhausted lungs have given out and every major system in her unconscious body literally fights to live. My friend's sweet baby Andrew had surgery today and will spend the next six months of his little life in and out of hospitals as he undergoes chemotherapy. No wonder I wake up early these recent days and lie in the dark breathing deeply. In and out. In and out. I breathe in life. I breathe for Megan and Ryan and their tiny Rylee. I breathe for brave little Andrew and Lizzie and Stew. I breathe because I am able. And I inhale all the hope and faith and love that are God's daily mercies, then exhale them to warm the air around me. "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice." (Psalm 55:17) It doesn't feel right to ask why Megan and Andrew  battle to live. I trust a loving Father and His perfect plan. The best I can do each precious day is to get up, draw breath, and live my praise to Him "that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein." (Isaiah 42:5) For Megan, and for Andrew, I breathe.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sugar Blitz

I tried to unload all the candy last night. I really did. But times are changing, Trick-or-Treat appears to be terminally ill, and about eight pounds of leftover candy sits in a basket by my front door.

Poor little five-year-old Katy from down the street ("Super Woman," she corrected me when I commented on the utter coolness of her Super Girl costume. Right-O) rang the bell once, but I got to there slowly. She had already given up and headed for more fertile hunting grounds when I opened the door. I chased her down the driveway in my slippers, breathing like Darth Vader, the basket of individually wrapped high fructose corn syrup in hand. It was probably the spookiest moment of her night--pursued by a wild-eyed, desperate candy pusher in pajama pants. To her credit, she did not scream in terror or burst into tears as I shoved Skittles and KitKats into her small plush loot bag with both hands. My plan was to keep her parents engaged in small talk so that I could cram another pound or two of Heath Bars into the top of the bag while we exchanged pleasantries. Finally, my conscience got the better of me. I let the conversation idle and SuperWomanKaty staggered away with enough candy to keep her hopped up until Valentines Day.

The doorbell rang a total of six times last night. Small clumps of unenthusiastic youngsters stood on the stoop. Not one of them carried a pillow case for raking in the big haul. They walked at a leisurely pace between houses instead of running full-steam to cover more territory--so different from the glory days of trick-or-treating. Oh, we knew how to rake in the sugar, back in the day. We kept a mental map of who gave out full-sized candy bars (make a beeline), who gave out toothbrushes (bypass) and ran with our pillow cases slung over our shoulders like Santa's pack. We knocked on doors until we couldn't go another step, not even for Lemonheads.

The real fun began after we got home. My sister and I would dump our haul out on the pink shag carpet in our room. Aaah . . . bliss and greed did battle in our young souls. Sorting the candy was a solemn and important job. We classified the loot into a rigid hierarchy. Lowest in the pecking order? Pencils and plastic spiders--immediately tossed. Then we began making separate piles of sweets according to their desirability. Peanut butter taffy in orange and black wrappers made up the lowest rung, along with the flat suckers. Next came the Bazooka and Double Bubble . . . and so on until we reached the top. Our bargaining power for the next week (or until New Years if you were my sister. She probably still has Halloween candy from 1971 stashed away somewhere in her room) rested in the "power" pile. Snickers, 100,000 Grand, and Baby Ruth and Reeses and such. (Wax lips had a coveted, protected status, and were never included in the negotiations.) We wheeled and dealed, trading candy and suppressing our generous impulses quickly. Round One ended at bedtime, but subsequent rounds would continue as long as the candy held out, in my case an additional \fifteen hours.

That's how we did it, back in the Wonder Years. This year, I couldn't get rid of the candy in spite of my "sugar-blitz" tactics. What's a girl to do with the leftovers? Come over and we'll play Candyland, loser takes home the candy. All of it.