Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Life I Thought I Would Have

Lincoln always closes the door behind him.  He loves to open and close doors, never misses an opportunity to complete the cycle.  He lets himself into our bedroom and closes the door behind him with that telltale click.  Even the sound he makes when closing the door is expressive, recognizable.

Lincoln moves almost soundlessly to my bedside.  If he didn't insist on closing every door he walked through, he would move in complete stealth.  He makes no sound until he sees me stir, and then I am calling out to him, pulling him into the bed, kissing whatever piece of his head I can reach easily.  He climbs in between Sam and me, wriggling under the edge of the blanket, laughing.  I kiss him again and again, his skin still baby soft, and I ask him how he slept and did he dream and does he love me.  He responds with cheerful babbling, an animated telling of nothing I can understand, though to him, clearly, it is a lively story.

Nico arrives next, standing in the doorway for a moment and peering into the dark room.  When he hears our voices, he scrambles into the room and up on the bed.  Lincoln makes room for his brother, his favorite human, saying his brother's name happily as he scoots back and holds up the edge of the blanket in welcome.  He pronounces it Neeto, Neeto, and I say, "Nico, your brother is saying hello to you."

"Hi, Linc," the older brother answers, and Lincoln wraps him in a hug.

~ ~ ~

The paint is peeling on the broad side of the house, and the shutters are in mismatched shades because one day I decided I would just repaint the trim and the shutters myself and then almost fell off the ladder and haven't been able to get back on that particular horse.

There are holes in the carpet on the stairs where the dearly departed cat scratched his last will and testament into the fibers with a final, vengeful burst of strength.  He still resides on the property, though, buried under the big tree in the yard.  The rain and the sun washed his makeshift headstone down to almost nothing, but we all know the spot anyway and to us it's like he's still there somehow when we stand near that patch of dirt.

Someday, I know, we'll put enough spare dollars together to get the house painted fresh.  We'll rip up the old carpet and put some lovely replacement down.  For now, we hope the new growth on the Live Oak trees out front will camouflage the mismatched shutters, and I have an old throw rug draped unconvincingly over the worst part of the carpet on the stairs. 

~ ~ ~

I don't greet the day singing.  I never have, and I probably never will.  I begrudge the morning, wincing my way into the day.  I roll from the sheets and lumber, shoulders hunched, into the bathroom to begin my morning routine.

Weekday mornings are a thing of cruelty.  Up at five to exercise, in the shower by 5:55 so I can be in the car to sit in traffic by half past six.  Even two minutes late getting out the door, and I'm cursing at the clock and sending angry glares at the obsessive braker on the road in front of me.

Weekends, though, we lay in bed with the boys til the decadent time of 6:15 or so, all holding each other, crowded up under the blankets.  I kiss whoever dares come near me, kiss noses, knuckles, foreheads.  We lay there all of us together, me tossing out sleepy kisses, Sam trying to sleep, the boys squirming more and more until the peaceful interlude disintegrates into a wrestling match.  And then, I release the dog from her crate, and we parade one after another down the mottled stairs.

In many ways, this is not the life I pictured back when I was doe-eyed and untethered.  The house was supposed to be bright and clean, perhaps not bigger and better but definitely less worn down.  I was supposed to be more accomplished and less puffy.  The kids were supposed to be enrolled in art and music and soccer and gymnastics.  They certainly weren't supposed to eat so much sugar or know how to work the TV remote themselves.
And at the same time, in many ways, this life I ended up with has given me so many things I never thought to want for myself.  There is love and warmth here, respect and hope.  I live in a house full of people who like being together, whose most common frustrations come from not feeling like we are getting enough attention from each other.  We are woefully inept at enrolling our children in much of anything, but there is always a game of soccer or a light saber battle to be had in the back yard.  We eat dinner at the table like a proper family, and though nothing in our house ever thought of being white glove clean, we do manage to get the counters cleared and the dishes done sometime before our heads hit the pillow. 

And in the morning, whether the hateful alarm chirps at me or the click of the door rouses me, though I still don't bound out of bed singing, I wake into another day of a life that's both less than I anticipated and more than I dreamed.  I open my eyes into a loved existence, a place where I am cherished and needed and kissed and hugged more than I ever imagined I would be.  The beauty of the life I ended up with is that it shows me every day that the life I thought I would have was so preoccupied with the appearance of a good life and so unaware of what actually makes up a fulfilling existence. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Carving Turkey and Other Sacred Acts

There is ritual here.  The smoothing of the tablecloth, the excavation of the good dishes.  The hot blast of the oven opening to reveal the poor, delicious bird.  The smell of onion and butter cooking on the stove first thing in the morning that morphs slowly throughout the day, taking on various notes as dishes vie for coveted space in the oven.

There is much routine in our lives and precious little ritual, precious little honored formality about our habits.  Routine we see as boring, as grating even at times.  We do not elevate the morning tooth brushing routine to something sacred.  We do not honor the reverent act of browning hamburger on a nondescript Tuesday night.

But the Thanksgiving preparation is honored.  It is ritual shared and observed, beloved and remembered from one year to the next.

{Image Credit}

The ceremony of preparing this meal links us to every Thanksgiving in our living memory, reminds us of every year we've shared this ritual.  It reminds us of watching our fathers pull out the electronic carving knife and jack-knife their way through the bird, reminds us of watching our nervous husbands wield the carving knife for the first time, then of watching our children watch our husbands tackle the thigh meat, now so smooth with the carving knife after all these years of practice.

The scent in the kitchen is loaded with a thousand memories, some that come forward and others that crowd in silently, an undercurrent that gets twisted up in everything.  In the next room, someone is watching the parade, or the game.  Our hands settle into the rhythm of peeling sweet potatoes, and we watch the strips of discarded skin as they fall, still clinging to a bit of orange flesh.  There are diced onions in a pile on the cutting board.  There is a list somewhere, perhaps only in our heads, that we are checking off as we go.  Everything must be done in order.  And the rolls will be forgotten, either forgotten to be thawed or forgotten to be taken out of the oven before their bottoms blacken.  And the ice will be melted in the glasses when everyone sits down because, of course, the turkey will take longer than we expected.

{Image Credit}

And then we will come to the table, where the work of a whole day or more will be eaten in half an hour or so.  But for a moment, while the foods sits growing cold on the table, we will stop and give thanks.  Thank you for this food we are about to receive.  Thank you for this family, this life, this breath.  When we get started, the list stretches on and becomes at once infinite and also singular: thank you for everything.  Everything I have ever known and will know.

I live a life of too little ritual.  Too much routine and too little ritual.  Perhaps for that reason above many others, I cling to the traditions of the holidays.  I breathe into the petty rituals, the simple work of my hands, the evocative smells.  I set out the china with solemn care, and I fold the napkins earnestly because there is a timelessness to the ceremony.  And each tiny ritual is an act of gratitude, yet another service paid into the great debt of gratitude we all owe.

{This month, I am writing on the topic of gratitude, keeping a gratitude journal, and generally wrestling with that insidious tendency to think there is always something missing. I hope you will join me in this month of giving thanks.}

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Hard Work of Giving Thanks

There's a handmade banner that says "PARTY" hanging across our dining room window.  It's left over from a birthday party we held almost a month ago, and somehow it has just become part of the landscape.  It's not that I don't see it.  I just don't recognize it as something particularly disruptive, something that needs to be fixed or cleaned or removed right away.

It's amazing how quickly we become acclimated to things.  The newness wears off, our vision adjusts, and it becomes just part of the landscape.  A new couch, a new car, a new shirt.  All fresh and shiny at first, then someone gets crumbs all over it, and it becomes just another thing to clean or fix or put away.

I haven't written a word all week.  I didn't want to talk about gratitude anymore, didn't want to think about it or write about it or record the things I'm grateful for on any dang list.

One of the things I'm learning about gratitude is that in order to be grateful for things, we have to be keenly aware of them.  We have to see them with an honesty and intensity that requires more effort than the lazy, passive way we have of looking at things in our autopilot mode.  It's work, noticing the details of your life in a way that allows you to be deliberately grateful for them.

Most days, it's easier to keep the blinders on.

Today we had lunch early because we were hungry and because it's the weekend and we weren't beholden to any kind of schedule.  Sam was working, so the boys and I sat down to eat, and as we ate Nico related a lesson from school on Friday.  "Mom, did you know if there were only 100 people in the world, only 33 of them would be Christian?  And only 5 of them would speak English?"

Though I'd heard some of this before, I let him tell me, nodding solemnly at each proclamation.  "Only like twenty would own a computer, and a bunch of them couldn't even read.  I don't remember how many.  And I think 15 of them would be starving.  And do you know what a starving person looks like?  You can see their ribs and their stomachs look like this."

He pulled up his shirt and sucked in his stomach, creating a cavernous hollow in the skin of his abdomen.  Then he released his breath, and the smooth, rounded belly of a healthy seven year old popped back into place.  He sat down and picked up his sandwich, pieces of meat falling unnoticed out of the side, uneaten food I knew would sit there on his plate until I tackled the dishes later and fed it to the disposal.

When food is not scarce, when you always know where your next meal will come from, it's hard to feel grateful for every morsel.  To do so, we would have to remember at every meal, with every bite, those who are starving.  We would have to live in the terrible dichotomy of having in a world full of people who, buy and large, have not.

But what a ridiculous predicament, to have so much I can't feel grateful for it all because I don't know what it's like to do without.  I have never know starvation.  I have never slept out in the cold, on the street.  I've never been unable to give my children shoes or jackets or even books and toys.

Tonight the news headline said, "Israel Bombards Gaza Strip, Shoots Down Rocket," and when I clicked on the link to read the story, the sidebar advertised another story, 'Twilight Movie Theater Shooting Plot Averted."  I didn't have time to finish reading the article because Lincoln called, "Maw, I need a snack," and I had to run off to keep him from rifling through the pantry.

Violence rages far and near.  On the Gaza strip, mothers hold their babies in quaking fear, feeling uncertainty rattle the foundation of their homes and their sanity.  Somewhere in Missouri, people file into a theater never knowing a man had been planning to pepper those very aisles with bullets.  Hunger stretches out far and wide, and all around us here, too.  And yet, I can find the selfishness to say I'm tired of working so hard to feel grateful for the much I have been given. 

The other truth I am learning about gratitude is that being truly thankful for something is admitting to yourself that it won't always be there.  It is facing uncertainty head on, saying thank you for these fleeting moments in which I get to enjoy this sunset or this newborn or this feast.  It is saying I know this can be taken from me at any momentI know this won't last.  So, thank you for however much of it I will get to enjoy before it disappears. 

And in that sense, yes, I will have to remember those who are hungry with every bite I take.  I will have to remember, as I tuck my boys into bed, how easily tragedy can strike.  I will have to live in the dichotomy of having and losing, in the uncertainty of never knowing when something or someone will be taken from me.  And, ultimately, I will have to remember that a life of gratitude means not getting mired in the fear of what will come but getting lost in the joy of what is, right here and now.  A life of gratitude means knowing it will all be gone, and me with it sooner or later, but for now, for this moment, I will see what I have been given and I will lift a mighty cheer of praise.

{This month, I am writing on the topic of gratitude, keeping a gratitude journal, and generally wrestling with that insidious tendency to think there is always something missing. I hope you will join me in this month of giving thanks.}

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On Motherhood and Gratitude

I am in the days of feet pounding on the stairs, of sticky hands on freshly cleaned surfaces, of dogs scratching at the door to go out and then in and then out again.  I am in the days of leaving a store in disgrace, trying to wrestle an uncooperative toddler to the car without dumping the contents of my purse all over the parking lot.  I am in the days of need voiced loudly at all hours, the days of stubbornness and tantrums, of belonging to everyone else first.  This is the season of young motherhood, and the soundtrack is the relentless noise of obligation, ringing off the walls in every room.

In these days, when the silence doesn't arrive if you don't find it, make it, dig it out yourself, all the noise becomes a way of life.  And in these days, even quiet isn't as quiet as it used to be.  Even when the toys have stopped squawking and the dogs are napping on the couch, the should be's are rattling around like tins cans in your head.  I should be starting another load of laundry.  I should be cleaning up the kitchen.

Some days, I think I'm ruined for everything.  I feel stir crazy when I stay home, guilty when I go off to work.  I wish for a night out with my husband but spend the whole evening uneasy when we get a babysitter, my mind still at home with the kids.  The noise makes me jittery, distracted, but somehow it feels that life is supposed to be noisy these days.  The quiet feels false, unwarranted and manufactured.  I am in the season of noise, after all.  What kind of bravado must a young mother show to carve out a quiet space all her own, when she does not really belong to herself in these days?  The noise is too loud and the quiet is not quiet enough.

And truth be told, though it wears me thin, I love it.  I don't want to be able to turn off motherhood like the volume on a speaker.  It is not an inconvenience that keeps me from myself.  It is a miracle, and an honor, and if anything it makes me a more fully realized version of myself every day.

I am in the days of kissing little boys' feet fresh from the bath, as they come to me wrapped in hooded towels, smelling head to toe of some candy-scented soap.  I am in the days of children fighting for a spot on my lap, the days of hearing the chorus of mom mom mom in two part harmony from the back seat.  I am in the days of watching a child learn to speak, hearing the words come together clearer and clearer every day.

This is the season of wiping noses, brushing little teeth with Spiderman toothbrushes, crouching down to dress them and being the shoulder held on to while they pick up one leg at a time and slide it into their pants.  This is the season of breathless stories about sauropods, counters littered with coloring pages, floors sprinkled with a Lego minefield.  This is the season of being someone so enormous to two people, so larger than life, that in some ways they will never get past it.  This is the season of being irreplaceable.

I come to this idea of daily gratitude, constant gratitude, like an eager student.  Tell me how this works.  Show me how to be grateful through and through, how to look at the world through a lens of thankfulness. Show me how to stop taking so much for granted.

But in motherhood, I am an old hand at gratitude.  I cannot look at these boys I carried inside me and see anything but miracle.  Every finger, every toe, every freckle, every hair.  They are wonders to me, wonders that I cannot believe I had any part in creating.  I do not ever grow accustomed to the mystery of life, the miracle of birth.

And I am in the days of new wonder still, the days of kissing tear stained cheeks and rocking tired bodies. I am in the days of clanging noise that sounds instead like a song, a rich and complicated melody that echoes even out into the stillness.  I am in the days of belonging to everyone else first. This is the season of giving life, and then giving and giving and giving life, day in and day out.  This is the season of giving thanks with my hands, of bearing their weight in my arms or falling to my knees before them, anointing them with tears and washing their feet.

{This month, I am writing on the topic of gratitude, keeping a gratitude journal, and generally wrestling with that insidious tendency to think there is always something missing. I hope you will join me in this month of giving thanks.}

Thursday, November 8, 2012

In All Things

This morning the fog was so thick, the freeway seemed to disappear into a wall of white mist.  Cars obediently followed the road into oblivion, disappearing one after another.  And though a panic rose in me when I realized I didn't know what lay beyond that veil, I drove headlong after it, following the cars in front of me and leading the cars behind.

The edges of the world were blurred, at least that little piece of world I travel in the mornings.  I could only see the road right in front of me, the cars charging along beside me.  Everything else was swallowed up.  It's a bit of a lonely, quiet feeling, as if you are really and truly cut off from the world.

But I cut through the fog with a happy heart today, uncharacteristically buoyed despite the sky's gloomy countenance.  I gave thanks for the grey morning, for the eerie spectacle of mist devouring everything on the periphery, and remembered that I should add the fog to my gratitude list later.  I drove with the radio turned down low, my mind circling around the idea of gratitude, scratching at the surface, poking at the meat of it, trying to uncover its secret.

It seems I came into this month of gratitude thinking it would be a tame and uncomplicated exercise.  I would practice being more grateful, and in turn I would feel happier.  Simple as that.

But everywhere I've turned the past few weeks, I have run face first into a reminder that a spirit of gratitude requires more than simple list making.  It started with this piece by Ann Voskamp, in which she speaks of giving thanks as a means of healing a broken spirit and says:
"Praying continually, this thanks in all things, this is what fulfills the commanding ache for joy always...  Thanks to God is what that calms the wild heart. Anger makes us sick and weak and bound and the therapy is in the thanks."
And, reading it, I realized the requirement is not finding something to be grateful for even in times of grief or fear.  The requirement is giving thanks in all things, for all things.  Accepting everything as a gift: the loss, the sickness, the death, all of it.

Photo of the Angel of Grief by William Wetmore Story

This is not the picture of gratitude I was expecting to emerge from this month of giving thanks.  See, I was looking for an easy prescription.  Take two of these and call me in the morning

The last thing I expected was to learn that instead of turning away from the disappointment and the frustration and the heartache, I was supposed to look them square in the eye and give thanks for them.  Not what I had in mind, thank you very much.  I was hoping that by looking at the rosy side of things, by diligently writing down the pretty images I came across throughout the week, I would hardly notice the pile of disaster lurking over in the corner.

This weekend I was on a retreat, and wouldn't you know it the speaker told us all about finding joy by cultivating a spirit of gratitude.  And she went right on to talk about maintaining that joy, and the gratitude, through trials.  It seems I am to have this message pounded into my head, like it or not.

In between the sessions, I went out for a run.  We were out in the Texas Hill Country, and the November afternoon was pushing 80 degrees.  And though I told myself I wouldn't dwell on it, I couldn't help but remember it was the day before the due date I was given for the child that we lost this spring.  I decided that I would outrun the pain of that loss, right then and there, and then I would bury it out there, pounded into the gravel of the trail.

I'm out of shape these days, so I would sprint as hard as I could until I thought my lungs were going to explode, and then I would drop back into a walk.  After the first two or three sprints, I was crying hard, gasping for air and sobbing so loud I prayed I wouldn't run into anyone else out on the trail.  It felt good, cathartic, final.

And on my way back to the cabin, all the fight gone out of me, I asked myself quietly whether I could be thankful for that loss.  Not thankful despite it, but thankful for it.

Out there the answer was so clear.  Yes.  I can be thankful even for that.  For the joy the pregnancy brought me, for the look in Sam's eyes when we saw the heartbeat, grainy and faint on the monitor.  For the way I have grown through this experience, this trying and getting and losing and trying and not getting and waiting and wondering and despairing and then hoping again.  I can be grateful even for something that stings as mightily as this does.

I was thinking of that moment this morning, driving into the fog.  The landscape was muddled, hidden, mysterious.  But in my mind, I was back there under the clear afternoon sky, gravel crunching beneath my shoes, the muscles in my thighs burning, asking myself if I could be grateful and finding that I could, somehow, be grateful even for the heartache.

Could it be that simple?  Can I just choose to be grateful in all things?  Is it possible that this rich, visceral kind of gratitude can simply be opted into? 

Outside my window, the fog was devouring cars one by one, coming for me and yet never reaching me.  I began to see the fog like a hollow monster, something that looms so large but can be sliced right through.  And I wondered, is that what a grateful heart can do, cut right through fear and sadness?  Beneath my hands, the steering wheel hummed, and outside my headlights scratched at the wall of mist.  I said thanks for everything I saw and felt and thought, and it all became an unbroken prayer, a whispered javelin hurled at the veil of mist around me.

{This month, I am writing on the topic of gratitude, keeping a gratitude journal, and generally wrestling with that insidious tendency to think there is always something missing. I hope you will join me in this month of giving thanks.}

Friday, November 2, 2012

How the Walls Come Down

It will be like chipping away at an old wall, a battlement built up slowly and added to, piecemeal, over the years.  Fortified by fear and worry and that never ending thirst for control.  There will be no catastrophic collapse of this old thing, no ram's horn blast and battle cry to reduce it to rubble at my feet.

It must be undone bit by bit, I tell myself.  This wall of discontent must be disassembled stone by stone, each piece knocked loose by one blast of gratitude, of peace, of contented release.  It will be work, this dismantling, the endless, exhausting work of letting go.  It will be day in and day out of raising my eyes to the heavens, opening my arms to my own helplessness, accepting the blows of failure and sadness and loss unprotected.  It will be coming out into the open, exposing my back to the elements, and picking apart this wall with dirty, calloused fingers.

{Image Credit}
This morning, I stopped on my way into the office to watch the moon.  A thin veil of clouds was moving across the sky, flying past the moon and being cast in a blue-tinged halo that wrinkled and shimmied with movement.  I stood still on the sidewalk and watched those clouds, in such a hurry to get where they were going, and the faithful moon inching slowly, confidently across the night sky.  The moon would soon be blotted out by the sun, and likely those delicate clouds would be burned away, too.

It was beautiful and fleeting, and it had nothing to do with me.  The sleepy moon could not feed my hungry body, could not warm my cold skin, could not give my head a soft place to fall.  And yet, it warmed me though and fed me and held me, that sight.  It made this fledgling gratitude muscle flex hard like a spasm deep in my stomach.

And just like that, I was marching around that old wall, blowing my ram's horn, readying my battle cry.  Perhaps it's not piece by piece, I thought.  Perhaps it's a brittle thing, this tendency to be dissatisfied, and it will be blown open, blown apart by one echoing, guttural yawp of gratitude.

{Image Credit}
When I thought about it later, I almost laughed to myself at the simplicity.  I was going about this whole gratitude thing like a ledger.  I would write down all the ways God has poured richness on my life.  I would see the richness that was already there, and I would finally be satisfied.

But, perhaps that's why it has always felt like being grateful was an assignment, because I was making the whole thing about me.  What I have, what I am, what I think.

This morning, I saw something else about gratitude.  Maybe it's about anything but me, maybe it requires turning away from myself and looking out.  Maybe it's not about believing I have enough things, not about letting go of competition, not about getting a higher view of my circumstances.  Maybe it's about remembering how small I am, about the privilege of drawing breath under a sky of dancing clouds, bathed in moonlight, and suddenly seeing more clearly than in the brightness of midday.  Maybe it's just grace in a different cloak, a glimpse of the gap between what I deserve and what I have received.

So, for now, I will be here walking around this wall, blowing my ram's horn and believing the wall will fall.  Soon, it will be time for the battle cry.  The air is thick with momentum, and the stones are already rattling in vibration.  And I take in a breath, deep into these miraculous lungs, and prepare to pitch my voice into the sky. 

{This month, I am writing on the topic of gratitude, keeping a gratitude journal, and generally wrestling with that insidious tendency to think there is always something missing. I hope you will join me in this month of giving thanks.}

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Coming to the Table

Tonight the ghouls and goblins will be out, and I will lead my children door to door, encouraging them to thrust open bags into our neighbors' faces, saying "Trick or Treat" but also really saying gimme gimme gimme what's mine. And then, we will come home and watch the neighbors' children come to the door saying gimme gimme, too. They will be superheroes and princesses, pirates and kittens, store bought and homemade.

I will sit, stand, sit again, barely time to settle on the couch in between the dinging of the doorbell. I will feel jangled and nervous and over it well before it's over. And I will think they are all cute, all of these children, and I will see my boys as new creatures in their costumes, though I know it's only a bit of cheap fabric painted to look like the real thing.

The boys will dump out their loot on the floor and become giddy with the sparkly, sugary wonder of it, drunk on the power of owning something normally so sparingly doled out to them. Left to their own devices, they would eat so much candy their bellies would be round and hard like turtle shells. So, I will police their sugar consumption while sneaking off to rip open a fun size wrapper so often that I become the one with a twisted gut and a film on my tongue that nothing seems to take away. It will be my own chant of gimme gimme gimme as I teach moderation yet practice excess in secret, hoping that what my children don't see can't corrupt them.

I don't hate Halloween, jaded as I sound about it. It's not the holiday that's the problem. It's that I have begun to lose perspective. I have slipped into a kind of hazy autopilot mode, where I look without seeing and hear without listening. I feel like I am missing my own life, like I am slogging through too busy and worried and distracted to see the abundance right in front of me.

Tomorrow, the thankful month begins. November heralds the approach of Thanksgiving, with its prayers of gratitude mumbled out over tables laden with bounty. With it cornucopias and its plenty. Thanksgiving has always been one day of the year for me, but this year I am beginning to understand that it must become a way of being if I am to shake myself free of the gimme gimme attitude that always just seems to leave me wanting more.

I have to relearn, when I feel nothing is ever enough, that enough is a mindset.  I am blessed beyond measure, and yet I look across my life with greedy eyes, not seeing what I have been given and somehow always feeling that something is missing. I think of that scene in the movie Hook where Robin Williams as Peter Pan sits down at the table with the Lost Boys.  To Peter Pan's eyes, the table is bare, and yet the Lost Boys are happily filling their forks and stuffing their mouths.  And only once Peter wills himself to see what is there can he finally see the banquet spread out before him.

I am ready to see what's already on the table before me.

{Image Credit}

So this month, inspired by Ann Voskamp, I am going to begin writing down what I am grateful for every day.  I am going to set some basic rules about technology that will allow me to be more present with my family.  I am going to get outside every day, for a walk or a game of soccer in the backyard or a lunch hour under a tree with a good book. I'm going to look for a thousand small ways to practice gratitude, ways to slow myself enough to inhabit the moment, and ways to be happy with what I have instead of believing I need more.  More food, more time, more stuff.  I will look for the enough that only gets buried beneath all of that more.

For this month, I dedicate myself to giving thanks, to seeing the enough that is already here, all around me.  This month I am ready to come to the table with new eyes, ready to see the bounty that has been here all along, the plates set, the candles glowing, the glasses full.  It's a new tradition for me, a month of giving thanks, that I hope will be repeated, at least in some small way, every day that follows.  I hope, if you are ready to begin a tradition of gratitude, you will join me this month in starting your own list and in coming to your own table with fresh eyes.

Happy November!