Tag Archives: Gratitude

Dog trap

Through all the turmoil of the past few months, the dog’s been a trooper. Paranoid that we’ll leave her behind at every step, maybe, but a trooper nonetheless.

The day we whisked the last of our belongings out of the house, the nine-pound miniature schnauzer followed at our heels and howled like a much bigger dog every time we stepped outside with another load. “Don’t forget meeeeeeeee!” she telegraphed in her unmistakable dog tongue.

Of course we didn’t forget her. She, in fact, was probably our most important bundle.

She also endured many long days as we drove south, chasing weather warm enough in which to camp. In the cab of the truck, her space was cramped and so was her style. “No! You can’t be on Daddy’s lap when he’s driving in eight lanes of traffic, hauling two and half tons of our belongings!” Some days, she didn’t get to eat until the sun went down.

Now that we’ve arrived in mid-central Texas where it’s warm (if not green), she romps through the streets of the RV park trailing all sorts of scents, blissfully content to live in the moment (like always). Persevering. Like the trooper she is.

dog-trap

Today, we came home after performing a long list of errands to find her new dog dish in the middle of the floor, a good yard from its normal home by the cupboard.

How strange, we thought.

An hour or two later, when she was eating (for the third time today, making up for lost meals last week), we heard her dish go ka-THUNK!

Huh.

Upon investigation, I discovered her collar, which taps the bowl in an urgent patter during a feeding, could slip into the pretty spaces of the wrought iron dish holder.

Light bulb!

During an earlier meal when we were gone, her collar probably got caught in her bowl and she dragged it halfway across the room.

My heart broke, thinking of her, panicked to be trapped by her own food bowl, pulling her little bearded face away from the place she normally found comfort food.

At some point, she probably relented, and that’s when he collar came free.

Free! Free at last! And off she went to nap, leaving her bowl askew in the front entryway.

Among all the things I’ve shed in the past few months (we even dropped another load at Goodwill last week during our journey south!), I still have the dog’s former food bowls. So I can give away the new bowls that represent an entrapment danger and reintroduce the old, less scary ones.

Serendipity. Feels like Someone’s looking out for even the canine.

 

The recipe for a Thankgiving prayer that rocks

Stood in line with your 17-pound turkey at the grocery store? Looked up the recipe for green bean casserole? Hauled up your extra chairs from the basement?

I hope, at this point on Thanksgiving week, you’ve done all this and started thawing your turkey in the fridge at least three days ago.

 

I’ve done all these things in anticipation of the nine people I expect to gather around my Thanksgiving table tomorrow. And now I’m thinking about the purpose of the day.

If you have any interest in praying or God at all, you surely must say a prayer at Thanksgiving. It is, after all, a holiday about giving thanks. Even if you’re not the sort to thank a god, a verbal message of thanks for all to hear is good for, well if not your soul, then your well-being. Gratitude is good.

Have you given any thought to the blessing you want to share around the table? A lot of books and Bibles have perfectly acceptable prayers to say together, if you like, but I like personalizing the prayer. Here’s an outline:

  • Thank the people who gather around your table. Missing someone? Remember them.
  • Acknowledge the sources of your meal (and be thankful you didn’t have to make the ultimate sacrifice).
  • Thank the cooks who prepared the food and, be proactive, thank the people who will help clean up.
  • If you’re spiritual, here’s where you can thank God (in whatever form He or She takes for you).
  • Wrap it up. Amen is a good word. I once heard it meant “I can put my tent stake in that,” which is a powerful statement from a culture of nomads who preferred driving camels to driving tent stakes. Choosing to stay in one place was against their nature, so “I can put my tent stake in that” was a real statement of certainty and approval.

Here’s how it might look:

Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to give thanks. [Hold hands or bow your heads or whatever works in your tribe.] We are thankful to be together around this table on this Thanksgiving Day. We are missing Uncle Wally but we’re thinking of him fondly. We are thankful for the rain and sunshine required to grow this abundance of food and we’re thankful to the turkey who made the ultimate sacrifice to create our table centerpiece. We are thankful to the cooks who toiled to prepare this amazing meal (especially Nina for the pies) and we are thankful to the servant-hearted guests who will help clean it all up later. And finally, we are thankful to God in heaven who makes all these blessings possible. Thanks be to God. Amen.

It doesn’t have to rhyme, it doesn’t have to be recited perfectly and it doesn’t have to be long. Good luck. Have a grateful day.

Courage in the face of winter’s inevitability

sunshine

After standing in the doorway to the deck tonight calling for the dog in the dark (at 5 p.m. — thanks Daylight Savings Time) and feeling autumn’s chilly air for the first time this season, I thought my readers might appreciate this photo of the sunshine I snapped last April.

I have nothing to complain about because as my Facebook memories reminded me this morning, we had snow in Hampshire three years ago today. It could be snowing! I didn’t even really need a jacket when I was running errands this afternoon, so a little chilly breeze on Veterans Day just means the flags flap prettily in the wind instead of hanging listlessly. Oh! And that blessing, too. The whole street is decorated with American flags to honor our veterans, some of whom gave their lives so that I can have the luxury of a fenced in yard where my dog barks unnecessarily, ignoring my calls (I love her, even if my neighbors cringe every time they realize my dog is taking another potty break).

Imagine that, OId Glory fluttering over this home of the free and the brave.

The Day After

Like a visitor on an alien planet, I observed Chicagoland residents with keen interest today.

Who are these “Cubs fans”? What is the meaning of this white flag with a blue W? What does it mean, to reverse a curse?

The Chicago Cubs, of course, won the World Series last in a wild Game 7 that went 10 innings and included a rain delay. It was awesome! (I told you it would be.) I was awake at 11:45 when the last out was secured.

I thought I was weird. I’m a Twins fan, after all. And a woman. And who watches baseball nowadays with its relative lack of violence and obscure concepts like double switches and designated hitters?

But as I sat around a table this morning with eight other middle-aged women and a (lucky) man at a cafe known for its brunches, I asked who else stayed up till midnight last night. Every hand went up. Every. Single. One. And then we all toasted the Cubs with glasses of champagne. No kidding. It wasn’t sparkling apple juice, some pretender stuff. One of those middle-aged women brought a bottle of real champagne to our meeting. Because the Cubs winning a baseball game — The Baseball Game — was That Important. That noteworthy.

On the way there, a car ahead of me on the interstate had a license plate that read “CUBEES.” The plate hung on the bumper of a sporty model that probably isn’t normally driven this time of year. But it was driven today.

I stopped at a superstore on the way. Every other person there, bright and early, was wearing Cubbies blue T-shirt. Or sweatshirt. Or a Cubs hat.

In the afternoon, on my way home, I stopped for coffee with a friend who lives a normal, quiet suburban life. Playing on the TV in the restaurant? A recording of last night’s game. The friend? She (yes, SHE) stayed up until 3 a.m. after the game, standing in line and buying World Series merchandise at Dick’s.

What I thought would happen didn’t. There were no riots. No cars overturned and burned. No crazies causing headline-making mayhem. I didn’t even hear anyone trash-talking the poor, poor unfortunate Indians. No zombies. Instead, there was cheering and champagne. There were fireworks, yes (I heard them at midnight, even in my little suburban village, far from Wrigleyville). And there were tears. Oh, the dewy eyes of dreams come true.

What I didn’t expect was the disbelieving gratitude of baseball fans who had never seen their team become champions and who finally let go of the superstitions they held close to ward off disappointment. They finally witnessed the team win it all. For themselves, of course. But also for generations of others who weren’t so lucky.

The day wasn’t filled with belligerence or arrogance or vitriol. It was filled with joy. Pure, blissful joy.

And it was a delight to behold.

Farewell to thee, ye house of little interest and yard with big dividends

As one ages, one learns the importance of paying attention to the passage of time. Saluting it. Savoring it. Actually touching the grains of sand as they slip through one’s fingers.

So as we prepare to move out of the house we’ve lived in for nine years, I’m trying to be conscious about the things I’m going to miss around here.

Honestly, I’m a little bit “good riddance” to the whole cardboard box scene. It was fine when we had a teenage boy in the house who required easy access to a decent education system and a basement in which to entertain his giggly friends, but otherwise, our house pretty much lives up to the description you’d find on its insurance application: A single-family structure with very little character built in a nondescript small town with low crime.

But still. It’s our home. It’s the first major purchase my Beloved and I made together (the first decision was his: “I’m moving to Illinois.” And mine: “I’m going with you.” But that barely qualifies as a decision we made together. The home, now that we decided on together). We did our best to make it charming, and I will sorrowfully miss the built-in bookcases and crown moulding my father installed in my office, but in the end, it’s still just a big house in the suburbs.

Interestingly, the things I will miss most around here are outside. In the yard. The yard I spent exceedingly little time in. Yes, that one. But the truth is, I did appreciate it. When I drove into the driveway. And from inside the house through the big windows. The yard has the aesthetics that are missing from the house itself.

The yard is the thing that sold us the house. I loved that the beautifully landscaped front yard had curb appeal. And my Beloved loved that our back yard faced a protected wetland (some people might call it a swamp, but we liked to refer to it as a water feature).

The landscaping in the front includes a number of ornamental grasses. I just love them, they are so lovely. And this time of year, the plumes on top look ethereal. Here’s the vista that greeted me on a recent morning when I ventured out of the house for a run.

grasses

 

The fenced-in back yard which my miniature schnauzer enjoyed patrolling includes two mature trees — a big beautiful oak tree and a stunning hickory tree — both well over 50 feet tall.

That hickory tree is most beautiful in the fall. Two years ago, I took a picture of the tree every day from Sept. 5 through Oct. 17 for an awesome blog post, but a couple of days ago (before the rain), I stood in the back yard and gazed at the tree’s majesty.

hickory-tree

I will also miss the chive plant in our garden, the phoenix-esque rhubarb plant we were thrilled to find rose from the dead and the prodigious mulberry tree growing just outside our back fence (note that all these plants are ones that I neither planted nor was required to tend to — this is how it goes for someone who eschews gardening but appreciates the harvest).

As autumn turns into winter, when all things die, I’m absorbing this last gasp of beauty on the property we call ours. For now.

 

An ode to a threshold

The holiday weekend couldn’t come soon enough at Minnesota Transplant’s house this week. We spent most of Monday and Tuesday installing new flooring in the pantry aka back entryway aka laundry room, and then I spent most of the rest of the week adding coats of paint and polyurethane to the foot locker where we squirrel away our shoes in said pantry. Lots of sweaty, tedious effort.

I’m not quite ready to show off our handiwork, but I’m particularly grateful for the new threshold from the pantry to the kitchen about which I want to pine away for a minute or two.

threshold

The threshold (and my Beloved’s hand as he touches up the quarter round off camera).

Yeah, it’s essentially a two-inch wide piece of plastic hiding the ugly place where the kitchen tile meets the pantry tile. Gratitude. For a threshold. Made of plastic.

Skeptical? Let me explain.

That ugly strip was a bit of stapled linoleum for the past nine years. Since we moved in. I must have walked over it 10,000 times. It was an eyesore that familiarity made me blind to.

And now it’s a perfect detail whose beauty I appreciate that I will soon become blind to, too. But before that happens, I want to appreciate it:

  • It covers those ugly staples.
  • It’s the smooth and flat surface in the doorway, preventing me from tripping when I’m carrying groceries, or another load of laundry, or the recycling.
  • It required extra attention from my handy Beloved who figured out how to even the flooring so it could lie so functionally flat. I have no clue how to perform such carpentry magic.
  • It matches both the old kitchen tile and the new pantry flooring. It’s perfect.

It’s a small, small thing in that little room and an infinitely smaller thing in this big world, but it makes me smile.

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
whispering, “It will be happier.”

~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

Morticia Addams in a prom dress

Can you be too comfortable?

“We as a species demand comfort,” writes memoirist Krista Schlyer in Almost Anywhere: Road Trip Ruminations on Love, Nature, National Parks & Nonsense (reviewed here recently on my author blog). “Alone among the earth’s creatures, we do not adapt to the Earth’s seasons of spare and plenty, heat and cold.”

Brrr. Cold.

Schlyer made these remarks in chapter of her book on the desert, as she discussed the marvels of the creosote bush, which she describes as one of the drought-tolerant plants in North America, known to be able to live a year or two without rain.

A year without rain. Or two!

This year, however, in the luxury of El Nino, the desert of the southwest is getting rain (not like New York is getting snow, but you get my point), and pictures of the creosote bush show blossoms!

morticia at prom

The branches of a creosote bush are spindly gray things, sort of prehistoric looking. But its blossoms are beautiful. The juxtaposition is sort of like Morticia Addams in a prom dress.

Does growth require pain? Do we need to get fired, get divorced or get sick before we turn things around? Are droughts necessary to inspire blossoms?

I hope not. Who hopes for discomfort? The creosote doesn’t grow because of drought. It survives through drought, it carries on because it has to. The blossoms come when the rain does. When things aren’t so hard.

So when you’re feeling a little uncomfortable — hungry, thirsty, maybe too cold? — when you’re struggling, think of the creosote. Persevere. But when you’re comfortable? That’s when you bloom.