Friday, November 30, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Day 30, A Season of Gratitude

I have had a love affair with this autumn, one to which I am reluctant to bid farewell.  I spent a good half hour last night scouring the internets for happy, shiny Christmas photos to post to Witch Year, trying to get in the spirit of the fast approaching season.  It's not that I'm a curmudgeon (though I'm married to a man who may be the lovechild of Scrooge and The Grinch, which can make things difficult).  It's just that I'm not ready to turn the page on autumn.  October closes on my favorite sabbat, one which has become something of a super holiday, lasting many days, in which I incorporate a plethora of traditions from the Halloweens of my childhood, the Samhain of celtic-leaning pagans, and equatorial Dia de los Muertos: communing and dining with the ghosts of my ancestors, eating too much novelty sweets (like gummy body parts and werewolf fur cotton candy), wrestling with my shadow aspect, honoring beloved movie monsters, listening to songs about purple people eaters and weird science, relishing the knowledge that what we all, even the muggles, are reacting to and extolling the thinning of the veil, by dressing our children in costumes and stringing orange and purple lights.  

And following all this hullabaloo and emotional upheaval, comes November, a month of pause and contemplation, a time for long walks and warm scarves, pumpkin-flavored everything, winter greens, and collecting and giving thanks.  I've mentioned here already in this month of blog entries that gratitude has revealed itself as a chief tenant of the my spiritual practice.  I resolved at the New Year to pray more, which evolved to an active search for a spiritual practice in my daily life, which began my Year and a Day of Study in June--and within these five months, gratitude has been the one experimental facet which has stuck with some ferocity, giving new and deeper meaning to the word and holiday, Thanksgiving.  

In my house growing up, Thanksgiving was never given much clout, the holiday traditions being much easier to uphold among large, extended families (in which each member brings a dish potluck-style) than nuclear families in which one woman (my grandmother) is responsible for an extended-family-sized meal.  When I catalog my memories of Thanksgivings past, much of them are permeated with a sour tinge of stress.  My happy memories of Thanksgiving are of watching the Macy's parade with my grandpa and waiting for Santa Claus to appear--the Thanksgivings of my past have been nothing more than somewhat uncomfortable stepping stones (with many, many dishes to wash) for Yuletide.

All this backstory is meant only to illustrate how completely this holiday has transformed for me, in this one year alone.  Thanksgiving is now among my favorite holidays, nestled (as it is linearly) between Halloween and Yule in my favor.  An entire month of giving thanks (and squeezing myself into a corset for the Renaissance Faire!), culminating in a feast and the gathering of kith and kin.  For we Wolfpeople the past few years, those gatherings and feasts have been a multitude each year, and each year I am more taken with the sharing of food and more struck by how breaking bread with a man (or woman, or child) brings such closeness, and ties people together in a way so profound.  

So, yeah, though I'm bombarded with the images of Christmas--the angel street lights and banners have been hung on Salem Street, tree lots have replaced pumpkin patches, an army of inflatable Santas have gathered in the suburbs, and Frank Sinatra is crooning to me about white Christmases and sleigh rides as I wrap ornaments in red tissue at work--I am still grooving on autumn.

But, it is, in part, the too-quick passing of a season which makes it all the sweeter, yes?  I'm beyond thankful for this past season, in all its mettle and its particular brand of beauty--which has as much to do with the vibrancy of red and gold leaves against grey skies as the sweep of emotion and reflection which accompany the falling of those leaves.  I have so much to be thankful for this year, every year, and this past month in particular has revealed blessings and surprises for which I will be expressing gratitude for the rest of my days.  

Autumn, I'll miss you; until we meet again...

Friday, November 23, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Days 21-23, Food, Family, Fortitude, & Friday (White, not Black)

Day 21 - I am grateful for my big fat Greek salad, which is so tasty, even after Wolfman points out that kalamata olives taste a bit like permanent markers smell (they do).  I am so grateful for the big chunks of marinated feta in the dressing, that I don't even bother to fret, as I usually do, over whether it's true (goat cheese) feta or impostor (cow cheese) feta.  And I am grateful that this delicious dinner, which so hit the spot after a long day on my feet working, was free! Paid for with the gift certificate Wolfman and I won for Halloween trivia.  (We know all the movie monsters and all the actors that played them.)  

I am grateful for Blood Ceremony playing in an empty cafe.

I am grateful for the 6-month-old baby boy, all twenty jolly pounds of him, I got to hold on my hip, who in turn held my harmony ball so tightly in his chubby little fist.  He still smelled powdery, but was strong enough to hold his head up and giggle and grab hold of things.  What a good age!  What a sweet baby!

Day 22 - I am grateful for a husband who bakes a mean ham, with that sweet orange-infused glaze bursting through its every pore, and the candied orange peel swimming about in its juices. 

I am grateful to once again watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade with my grandpa, like I did when I was a kid, willfully ignoring the bad pop music and advertisements, and being genuinely excited when Santa appeared, closing the parade, and ushering in, as is tradition in our family, the start of the yule season.

I am grateful for the spread at my mother-in-law's--a good, hearty Southern meal with the turkey and stuffing and green beans as well as corn pudding and collards, sweet potatoes, pecan brittle, and two kinds of pies.  So thankful for family, for new family, and so grateful for the opportunity to learn more every day about them, about my husband's childhood, about the blood and ties and personalities which contributed to make him the man he is today.

I am grateful for the food coma that followed, and waking up to find Xena's baby, which I'm calling, simply, Mogwai, until we figure out the sex and give it a proper name, curled up next to me--my itty, bitty nap buddy.

Day 23 - I am grateful that at the mention of "Black Friday" my loved ones all give swift, disdainful eye rolls.  I am grateful that though I work in retail once again, as I have on and off since I started working, it's not for a corporate-owned store with ridiculous, unfriendly hours.  

I am grateful for the number of people I saw today on Salem Street.  I may turn my nose up at shopping today, but at least these people were supporting local business! 

I am grateful that though I'd never seen our little shop so brimming with people, I managed to not only keep a cool head today but keep a smile plastered on my face that was genuine 89% of the time.

I am grateful for learning the "inner smile" meditation technique, which sounds like a bunch of hooey typed or said aloud, but works some goddamn (I said goddamn!) magick.  

And after we'd closed the shop, and I'd eaten dinner and breathed a little, I had a brilliant epiphany for a wholesome, healing way to say Fuck You to the wicked triumvirate of consumerism, corporate greed, and media mind control that is Black Friday.  Next year, on this day, I will give things away.  I will scour my pantry and closet and give away anything I don't need, anything that I think could find a better home with someone else.  And then, as Leija Turnunen suggests, I will go out into the wild wood and celebrate my freedom.  White Friday, is what she called it.  I look forward to next year.  And I am grateful.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Day 20, Cold Cold Breakfast

There are some foods I do not plate.  Most foods, even the fast ones, like burgers and hushpuppies from Cook Out, or fried chicken baskets with biscuits and slaw from Bojangles, I do plate.  Plating is part of enjoying food--looking at it, smelling it, anticipating the flavors and the fullness of my belly afterwards.  But some foods are better out of paper cartons, better cold, better eaten over sinks or with one's body leaning into the refrigerator.  To my knowledge, scientists and researches have yet to understand exactly why this is so, why is cold roasted chicken pulled off the bone with greasy fingers so perfect--so tasty, so comforting, such a pleasure.  Breakfast of a cold slice of pizza and a steaming cup of black coffee is of such perfection that I sometimes don't bother eating pizza the night before, while it's still hot enough the cheese is melted.  Chinese food though, particularly steamed dumplings and lo mein is my very favorite cold dish.  To stand over the sink, tilting my head back, and drop one long noodle into my waiting mouth I consider one of the great treasures in life.  It is a gluttony, an indulgence, which, every time, makes me distinctly happy to not only be alive, but to be alive in this time, in this space, in this dimension.  I am thankful.

Monday, November 19, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Day 19, Postcards from New York

The memories of shopping for, applying to, deciding on colleges is all a bit of a blur to me now.  At the time, I remember only feeling out of control and apathetic.  I didn't want to stay in high school, certainly, and I knew college was expected of me, but I didn't care a lot about the ultimate decision, and I cared less for the process by which that decision was made.  When fellow students expressed excitement over getting into State or getting into UNC, it was as if they were taking part in some foreign, ancient ritual for which I had no reference or savvy.  The little Irish lady who worked in the office, Mrs. Doyle (really), must've seen this clearly on my face one day as I sat in her office, hastily filling out applications for the area girls' schools I had not previously thought to consider.  She asked me if I could go anywhere for school, or to any school, where would that be?  I barely had to ponder the question much at all before I answered, "I'd go to New York."  I remember shrugging off her shock.  I was a timid, quiet girl then (and still am to a degree).  The strange part, to me, was that I don't know if I had ever actually considered New York or any other city before that very moment.  But when I said it aloud, I planted some sort of seed within me.  

For the next year, at an ill-fitting private school in downtown Raleigh, I was obsessed with New York.  I wrote stories which took place in New York, stories in which New York was more a character than a setting.  I dreamed about leaving and being there and making do however I could just to be there.    I watched movies which featured the Manhattan skyline.  I listened to songs about New York and bands from New York.

That window has passed now.  Now my fantasies and google searches involve cabins in woods and farms on rolling hills.  I've read a book about the New York underground (by which I do not mean the nightclubs Stefan reviews on Weekend Update, but the actual tunnels under the city filled with train tracks and the disenchanted).  When I'm in certain moods I think it might be fun to visit, maybe take a train up there and spend a few days--not nearly enough days to see everything, but not enough days to start missing trees and my wild husband too painfully.  (My husband, I should stop to note, feels choked and out of his element in dinky downtown Raleigh; were I to take him to New York, he would go feral, climb the tallest tree in Central Park, and I'd have to get animal control to tranq and crate him in order to get him home.)  In particular, I still find the idea of New York romantic in December.  My favorite moments in New York movies always happen on Christmas or New Years Eve.

My friend Kath just visited New York, she'd likely say too briefly.  She's a city girl, so she's freely and proudly proclaimed in letters; an Edmontonian. She makes no qualms about enjoying fine things--eating good sushi, seeing Shakespeare in the park, experiencing art, culture, and smelly cheese.  The postcard that arrived over the weekend from New York was of Van Gogh's irises, purchased in the MoMA gift shop.  It was all so Kathryn, so lovely, so metropolitan, and I enjoyed spending a moment standing at the kitchen counter, reading her words, seeing a brief snippet of New York through her eyes and feeling excited with her, in a few days retrospect, as Lunchbox snuffled at my feet looking for scraps.  I felt much of the same elation over the summer when Kath's post cards from France arrived.  But I must admit there was a little extra something as I held a bit of New York, of Kathryn in New York, in my hand.  I had wanted to be there, once, and though that's a dream I've grown out of, I can still appreciate the draw of that city, and I can easily let that thrill wash over me again. 

Today, I am thankful for postcards from New York, and for the friendship of my sharp, worldly, beautiful (really, just breath-taking) friend Kath, and her handwriting which has not changed and still slants up on unlined paper, and the trips she's shared with me in notes for nearly a decade.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Happy Birthday to My Grandma

Today is my grandma's birthday.  I really love this woman.  It's safe to say I am who I am because of Grandma, and if I resemble her in any way--a certain turn of my face or a tone in my voice or the way I laugh, the words I choose (like "wonderful", which is one of her favorites), the beliefs I hold--I am so glad.  This is the woman who made me mixtapes when I was a little girl which always included Frank Sinatra singing "Young at Heart."  She is.  I know no person so full of life, of vim and vigor, of passion as my grandma.  How lucky am I to have such a wild, misbehaved woman as a role model?

I love you, Grandma.  Happy Birthday!

''Her grandmother, as she gets older, is not fading but rather becoming more concentrated.'' 
- Paulette Bates Alden

Saturday, November 17, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Day 17

I am really, really thankful for goat cheese.  Goat cheese is mighty tasty, compliments both sweet things and savory things, and it doesn't hurt my stomach like cow cheese.  Also, how cute are goats? Give me them. I want to be a crazy goat lady.

Friday, November 16, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Day 16

There's this great line in Jennifer's Body (say what you will, but Diablo Cody writes a solid horror flick).  When accused of PMSing, Jennifer tells Needy, "PMS isn't real.  It was invented by the boy-run media to make us seem like we're crazy."

"Boy-run media" has become a consistent part of my vocabulary, particularly as a way of breaking the ice when I'm broaching the difficult subjects of, say, rape culture and vagina fear (there's really no other way to explain some things that happen, in particular, in Congress).  But, unfortunately, PMS is very real in my experience.  I'm not speaking for every woman, of course.  I'm not even speaking of myself at every stage of my womanhood.  Back in my teenage days, I never suffered from any kind of moodiness, crampiness, bloatiness, or any other unfortunate-ness associated with the shedding of the uterine wall.  But, as I get older, my periods tend to get more and more stereotypical(ly awful).  My husband, charmer that he is, likes to joke that my body is punishing me for not filling my womb with a fetus already.  Possibly there's some truth in that, you know, scientifically (or, at least, according to the boy-run medical field).  Whatever the reason, I woke up three days ago completely irate,  and poor Woodrow, that persnickety one-eyed bastard ass of a cat, got the brunt of my wrath.  I fought with him trying to get him to eat his breakfast inside the dog igloo (thinking he'd be happier, warmer, buffeted from the cold, wet autumn wind; but of course, cats don't like being forced into enclosed spaces, which, in retrospect, is totally understandable), and then shouted at him when he ran past me, up the stairs of the deck, and began screeching at me from his high perch for the food I'd already poured and put elsewhere.  I came inside after that and sat down in my closet and cried, sobbed really, because I felt angry and guilty and, in general, out of control.  (Why the closet? I like the warm feeling of being enveloped by my beautiful clothes.)  It wasn't until I checked my planner and counted days that I realized shark week was fast approaching, and rather than feeling relieved, I felt utterly defeated.

Mornings, in particular, are tough.  I manage to snap out of it after a cup of coffee (and possibly a pumpkin scone if we're talking about yesterday specifically), but I always have to weasel in apologies to my husband, my cat, myself, which feels a little like Dr. Jeckyll must feel apologizing for the outbursts of Mr. Hyde.  "I'm sorry you were exposed to that insane, sobbing banshee from hell; it will totally happen again, if not tomorrow, then next month, but that doesn't make me any less sorry."

But that, actually, is what I am thankful for in this whole ordeal.  I am thankful that my husband (and cat) are forgiving creatures who see the best in me, even when I'm at my worst.  And I am even more thankful that I have the ability to snap myself out of it.  This is what I am: one tough cookie.  Yes, I do occasionally fall prey to whining and cry-babying and woe-is-me-ing.  Everyone does.  As my boss Gia said the other day in answer to a mother explaining that her usually chatty toddler just wasn't feeling conversation, "Well, everybody needs a day every once in a while."  Sometimes, we need a series of mornings to be terrible.  In a way, I'm lucky for boy-run media; I'm lucky for the excuse to be a wretch once a month (a legitimate excuse, yes, but an excuse).  After my crying fits, I always feel better, calmer, clearer.  It's a bit like being in the eye of the storm, in that I know another crying fit is bound to happen at some point.  But more so, it is like releasing a pressure valve, and for that I am, actually, no shit, thankful. 

Hurrah for periods! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Day 15

I don't drive.  I can drive, and fairly well, but on a daily basis, I do not.  I walk.  I use public transportation. As last resorts, I bum rides.  It's been this way for years.  My entire life actually is full of memories of me walking places, by myself usually, but sometimes not.  I remember taking epic treks across the city of Albuquerque with my step-dad, and slipping on ice along the way (yes, it snows and ices in Albuquerque).  Always he would ask as I sat on my butt in the wet cold, "Did it hurt?," and when I answered yes, he would respond, "Don't do it again."

Because I don't drive, my timing is quite often off, and as I believe in punctuality (if at all possible), this means I'm usually early for something and waiting.  I do a lot of waiting in my life, which I don't feel at all angsty about.  My life is full of intermissions and interludes, best accompanied by cigarettes in the days I smoked cigarettes, I must admit.  I wished I was still carrying that emergency pack this morning, but I threw that out years ago.  I got dropped off early this morning, before my cafe was even open, and chose to go on a walk in my cowboy boots which are still stunningly loud, but need badly to be re-soled.  I'd considered walking to the graveyard but decided against it, not because it'd be too much of a sad cliche, but because I was just there on a Saturday walk.  Instead, I walked to a little park, one with plastic play structures for small children (the wood and metal play structures for larger, but still small, children have all but disappeared from the face of America; we expect kids to grow up so fast these days).  I'm keen on this particular park because it has a grill, and though I haven't used one yet, I always wax poetic about bringing a pan and a couple eggs and frying myself up some breakfast in the winter in a park.  Perhaps I like the image of this because it reminds me of the story of my Grandma grilling a turkey on the grill in the snow one winter, and Grandpa discovering her when he pulled into the drive way after work, utterly incredulous.  

But, like the cigarettes I didn't have, I also wasn't carrying any camp gear, or perishables.  But, I do have enough bad sense to sit on the swing set on a 36 degree morning and swing, my finger-less gloves protecting my palms from the cold of the chain, but not my fingers from the biting of the wind.  Red, chapped fingers are of little concern, though, when one has a swing which one can lean back on and stare at the sky and yellow and red leaved trees, one's stomach doing twists and turns that can only be combatted with giggling.  

I am a little crazy (it's hereditary), but this morning, and all mornings like it, I am thankful for the cold, I am thankful for the loneliness, I am thankful for a sturdy swing set to hold my grown lady weight, I am grateful for a grey sky threatening rain (or snow!), and I am grateful even that I don't have a pack of emergency cigarettes, because that's really a nasty habit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Days 1-14, all at once

Gratitude is something I've been working on diligently for the past few months (thanks in large part to this lady).  Since my 28th birthday this August, my goal has been to jot down, every night, three things that happened during the day which made me grateful.  Some days it's been easy, some days difficult, some days are just too awful to even face my journal (and this is the admission of a life-long journaler; I've been keeping diaries since I could write).  Some days, the list of gratitude mostly encompasses the things I ate during the day (I love food), and some days I might write one long paragraph about some precise, intangible moment, a moment impossible to write about, I know, though I try.

Contemplating this season and all its feel-good celebrations, I've kicked my gratitude up a notch.  I've begun challenging myself to recognize, internally (sometimes, if nobody's around, aloud) one thing I'm grateful for at each hour of the day.  Or, when I find myself annoyed by something or someone, I'll think to myself, "What am I grateful for right now?" to get control of my emotions and realize that petty irritants are bound to happen, and its no reason to fall into a funk, or worse, a Mood.  When gratitude is difficult, I like to pronounce this litany to myself: I have two legs, two arms, working toes and fingers; I'm healthy, I'm well-fed, and I'm well-loved.  Not everyone on this planet can say the same.

Over breakfast just the other day, Wolfman and I were talking about his melancholy, which he's been carrying around with him for much of his life.  Pop has even told me a number of times what a sad little twerp Wolfman was as a boy (my words, never his), and though I say nothing, I think that sadness is an inheritance, but I appreciate a little commiseration now and then.  I told my husband, "Grateful people are happy people," which is such a cliche, but he forgave me (and so must you) because it's true.  Happiness doesn't make people grateful; gratitude makes people happy.  I want to be a happy person.  It's my only real, solid goal in life: to be happy.  And so, I practice gratitude in a sometimes meticulous and painstaking way.

Which is why I've interrupted my radio silence and NaNoWriMo-ing immediately upon discovering Me, My Dogs, My Life's 30 Days of Thanks Challenge, for which, as always to these things, I am late (but worth the wait!).

  • Day 1 - Beards! Glorious beards! Every man looking like a lumberjack/fisherman/wizard! I swoon! Thanks be to No Shave November!
  • Day 2 - I am grateful for whoever was the first person to declare, "live life like a prayer." How fucking inspirational is that shit?
  • Day 3 - I am grateful for the dinner crowd at Sweet Tomatoes and the feeling of sharing a communal meal.
  • Day 4 - I am grateful for cabbage and baked beans for breakfast.
  • Day 5 - I am grateful for the idea of home which sustains us these months.
  • Day 6 - I am grateful for leaves falling from trees and getting caught in my scarf.
  • Day 7 - I am grateful for the cheery bus driver who greets me with, "There's my girl!," when I step onto the 311.
  • Day 8 - I am grateful for the rogue pistachio I find in my purse.
  • Day 9 - I am grateful for Wolfman unexpectedly bringing pre-packaged snack cakes home.
  • Day 10 - I am grateful for indoor plumbing.
  • Day 11 - I am grateful that I still fit into my corset.
  • Day 12 - I am grateful for dreams which speak clearly to specific actions I need to take and avoid in my waking life.
  • Day 13 - I am grateful for Wolfman worrying about me--bringing me a sweater at the shop when he notices the temperature has dropped and asking Gia around lunch time if I've eaten.  Gia responded to that, "In my next life I want someone to worry whether or not I eat," driving my gratitude home.
  • Day 14 - I am grateful for blog challenges which distract me from novel-writing.  Lets be real.

  • 30 Days of Thanks
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