It’s fall again and everything in the world is being infused with the flavor of pumpkin. From candy to coffee to cooked foods. It’s disturbing really. When I was a kid, fall was a season. It wasn’t a flavor.
This is my favorite time of year despite its strange connection with pumpkin. There’s a shift in the air and the temperature that changes everything. I noticed it in all its glorious completeness last Friday on my way to work.
There was a steady drizzle of rain falling from the sky as I pedaled my way down the street. The wind was at a minimum –just enough to require a light jacket partially zipped over my hoody. More to keep the rain from soaking into my skin than anything else.
Before the light began to peek into view, the atmosphere took on a hazy look. Together with the street lamps glowing and my headlamp shining, the trees could be seen. There aren’t many of them here, which makes them all the more special when one sees them reaching heavenward. The yellow leaves on the branches jiggled in the breeze; a few of them catching the wind and spiraling down to the ground.
People are a lot like leaves.
We change colors through the wonder of make-up, chemicals, and as we age. Not only externally, but internally as well. Growth happens, dreams shift, immaturity fades with time.
Occasionally, life shakes things up a bit, tosses some wind our way. While some hold tight to the branches, others take flight and float with the breeze. They skitter across walkways and paths tangling up against nature.
Falling down happens in life. Winds blow hard and fast. Storms besiege us. It’s the getting up that counts. Pumpkin spice flavoring is simply a bonus.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a #Top10Tuesday blog post and since I’m feeling particularly thankful these days, I think it’s time for a “top 10 things I’m thankful for” kind of post.
Let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard to be thankful. Life gets you down, people disappoint you, things don’t go well. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the ugly things in life. It is for me anyway.
But I do believe there are many things to be thankful for and there are the typical “big things” people tend to give thanks for (e.g. family, job, health, etc.) we sometimes overlook the other things –the small things or even the unpleasant things that get us to where we are in life.
In no particular order:
Many virtual hugs to those who are hurting or struggling today. You are stronger than you think. You are valuable and important. #BeYou and never give up. Count your blessings…name them one by one.
There’s a couch in my living room. Correction –an extra couch in my living room. They have a way of showing up, I guess. Reproducing. Multiplying like those Gremlin creatures from that 1980s movie. In fact, this couch is exactly like one of those little animals that took over that whole city.
This couch isn’t nice and pretty like that first, cuddly Gremlin was that everyone loved. No. This couch is a bad breed, like the creepy Gremlins who ran amuck and broke into stores and things after they…were born?
If you saw the movie, you know what I mean. Someone splashed some water and a hundred evil Gremlins were born and took over the city. They gave that first, sweet little Gremlin a bad name. I don’t recall how that first Gremlin came to be. Probably the stork brought him, like the stork brings all the babies.
Back to this couch.
It’s a dingy, hunter green color and is taking up my living room. Mostly because the living room already has a couch. A nice couch. It also has a love seat, two club chairs, an ottoman, and an end table that I once stood up to my mother-in-law against in order to keep. What can I say? It’s a really nice end table. And I saw it first.
Unlike the rowdy Gremlins though, this couch isn’t so bad. It hasn’t carted off the television or broken any windows anyway. It just sits there, bulky and unassuming right in front of the pellet stove.
I kind of like this couch. It has meaning and is filled with sentimentality that one might not suspect an ordinary, grungy green couch to have. But this couch…it’s been there for us. When we had nothing else, we had this couch.
When you move really far away from everything you’ve ever known and someone else is footing the bill for the moving costs, you don’t have a lot of say in the matter. I mean, you could say you’re not going to go, but assuming that’s not an option –that you’ve already committed- you can’t really say much except ‘thank you’ when the movers come to carefully pack all of your Earthly belongings.
Correction –when the movers come to carefully pack the remaining of your Earthly belongings. Because when someone else is footing the bill to move you far away from everything you’ve ever known, they only allot you so much money. And if you’re like us, you sell off nearly everything you own and still end up in the red. Ooops.
This couch gave us a place to sit. It sat in this living room when not another piece of furniture existed in the house. Unless you count the coffee table that was here, but you can’t really, because it’s frowned upon if you sit on a coffee table. Everyone knows that’s where the coffee sits.
We’ve squished our large family onto this couch to watch movies and reruns of television shows. Our kids have fallen asleep on this couch after hours of video games. They’ve sat on this couch while our youngest passed out Christmas presents in their shiny paper, tied with bows every year for the last four years. Even last year, when we had the new couch in the living room and this couch had been relegated back to the loft for sleepovers and movie nights, we lugged our fabricated Christmas tree up the stairs and set it up. I guess our couch likes Christmas too and maybe the new couch is a Jehovah’s Witness.
And here it sits, this dingy green couch, right in the middle of the living room when I woke up and stumbled out of bed this morning. It was completely unexpected.
The couch cushions are…somewhere. And this couch, is still filled with meaning and purpose.
When your adult son comes home temporarily while he seeks out a new apartment of his own and mentions he doesn’t have any furniture to put in his new place…you give him a couch like this. A couch that’s been there for you and your kids when they were younger.
Truth be told, we were all younger back then. Younger, eager to see what the future would hold. And having no idea we’d be here four years later, older, wiser, and settled. With that same, dingy, green couch in the living room.
Our son had taken it with him last night, strapped into the back of an old Subaru to his apartment a few miles away. His youngest brother had gone with him, helped strap bungee cords around the back end of the couch as it stuck out the hatchback.
Before my husband and I headed off to bed, we were taken aback to see the Subaru in the driveway with the couch still sticking out of the back of it.
“You brought it back,” my husband asked.
“Wouldn’t fit,” our youngest boy called back.
And that was that. I guess sometimes an old couch like that isn’t ready to leave home even if the kids are.
It’s a mixed bag, kids growing up and moving out on their own. I think it is, anyway. On one hand, I’m excited for them and even for myself –to see what life will be like in this new era. On the other hand, it’s possible I’m a closet helicopter mom.
I want to call and say good-night all the time or text them forty-two times a day. I want to offer them help when they don’t ask for it and have to bite my tongue to keep from doing so. At night, I lie in bed, and wonder if they made it home from work at a reasonable hour.
Sure, I want them to have their own lives and do their own great things. I just miss the old days when they were young and cuddly and smiling for the camera. Now, they’re older and tower over me. They cringe when I want to take their picture.
Probably, having kids this age in this stage of their lives is a lot like this dingy, green couch. Only the kids are much better looking and smarter and have limbs and stuff.
Some days they’ll be off on their own and I’ll be caught up in whatever I’m doing. Which means I won’t be helicoptering or worrying or offering unwanted (though certainly appreciated) advice. Other days, I’ll wake up and find them sitting in my living room where I least expected them to be.
This morning I started my day with some positive affirmations and general reminders about how great my life really is. While this isn’t something I regularly do, it’s been beneficial lately in getting me out of this blasé mood I’ve found myself. And honestly, when you feel your blood pressure rising because Omar the Giant Puppy is climbing all over you and the file you’re trying to download fails (twice), counting my blessings sounded like a pretty good idea.
I’ve found there’s nothing magical or unique about this process. I simply take a blank piece of paper or Word document and start making a list of things I’m thankful for or things that are true.
Example: I’m thankful for my health. I have great friends.
It helps. As I was listing things, my mood steadily improved. Not that I’m surprised, I have a lot of things going for me. I serve a great God. The whole process is sort of the thankful calendar I started at the beginning of this year but on a bigger scale. I don’t just list one or two things –I list a page or two of things.
Occasionally, I’ll repeat an item or two. Sometimes because I can’t think of anything else in that moment and need to keep the momentum going. Other times because I struggle with reframing my attitude.
As I was making my list this morning, I wrote something that caught me off guard.
I am safe.
This small, three word sentence gave me pause. How often do we think about how safe we are? How often do we give thanks for the fact that we are safe? I know it’s been a while since I’ve reflected on it.
Growing up, I wasn’t always in a safe environment. Sometimes through fault of my own.
There was this one night when I was a teenager, I was spending the night at a friend’s house. She lived across a busy highway from a bowling alley. We told her mom that my aunt (who was really our neighbor) worked at the bowling alley and begged to be able to walk over and hang out. She said we could.
It was dark out and there we were, two teen girls feeling invincible as we stood halfway between her house and the highway, talking about our adventures. Then, my friend realized she’d forgotten something and wanted to turn back to her house. By this time, her parents had gone out –to the grocery store or somewhere –I can’t remember. So, when she turned around and walked closer to her house, she was taken aback when she realized someone was in the driveway.
I never did find out who it was. Neither did she. It could have been her parents, having forgotten their wallet or coupons or a sippy cup for her little brother. I don’t know. All I know is how close I came to serious danger in the moment after she saw that someone in the driveway.
“There’s someone at the house. Run,” she yelled at me.
I stood there for a split second between her and the highway. My anxiety was peaked. All I heard was “danger” beneath her words. So, I didn’t think twice about her command. I turned and ran.
Right toward the busy highway.
Up until my feet stopped on the edge of the road, I hadn’t really noticed the sound of many cars traveling at a high rate of speed. I hadn’t really noticed their headlights carving out a beam in the night.
And then I heard the unmistakable sound of a semi-truck. It was coming hard and fast down the highway. Somehow, I stopped running. Stopped dead in my tracks, just in time.
Today, I am safe. The memories of the sound of that semi, the feel of the wind rushing past me, and the smell of diesel fuel are just that –memories. Vivid ones. But, today, I am safe.
Other times while growing up, I wasn’t safe through no fault of my own. No, I’m not blaming my parents for slacking on the job. I just wasn’t always safe. My parents were young when they had my sisters and I. They had issues of their own. Don’t we all? They did the best they could and they loved us and still, there were times when I wasn’t safe.
Today, I am safe. The times when I wasn’t have become part of who I am. It’s not always easy, but today I am safe. And for that, I am thankful.