Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

I'll admit it. The movie ads introduced me to this novel.  In case you haven't seen them, "The Help" tells the story of Black women who worked for white families in early 1960's Mississippi.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanks for the Sales?

Thanksgiving. I am thankful for so many things. My son, my husband, my home, my family, my health.  We had a great visit with my sister and her family and a fantastic dinner with them.  Of course there's never enough time, and too soon we rushed homeward to have lunch with our special girl from Guatemala.  She's growing soooo fast!  There again, our visit was far too short.

This year, I felt Thanksgiving was marred by the nonstop barrage of television ads for "Black Friday" sales beginning earlier and earlier. Stores used to open at 6 a.m., then it was 5. This week I heard commercials for retailers opening at 3 a.m., then midnight, then 10 p.m. THURSDAY and remaining open all night (that was the outlets). One opened at 8 p.m. Thursday with its "Black Friday" sales, and then KMart repeated ad nauseam that its stores opened at 6 a.m. THURSDAY (open all day) to begin its sales. It really irked me that this year, of all years, when we are in the midst of a recession and so many people have so much less to spend, that the retailers are pushing so hard.

It's also irked me that suddenly one of the big unwritten rules was broken. Thanksgiving used to be about family and taking time out from the everyday grind (including shopping, I always thought) to be thankful for our blessings, and the stores used to respect that. This year, I felt that they intruded on what used to be quasi-sacred time.

Or, perhaps I'm misplacing the blame here, and should look to the people who actually go out to sales on Thanksgiving morning or evening. If no one came to the stores that violated the unwritten rule, they would never do it again; it wouldn't be economically worth it. Conversely, it's safe to assume that opening on Thanksgiving was calculated to be "worth it" to the retailers, and from the TV news I saw showing masses of people, it seemed to be so. Time will tell, and if there is a dearth of complaints or criticism about opening on this holiday, that will be calculated into the equation I'm sure. (So if it bothers you like it does me, be sure to let those retailers know.)

So I'm not leaving the Thanksgiving holiday with a really great feeling this year. I feel pestered by advertisements, rushed from place to place and tired. Not enough of the good stuff, too much of the other. I'm pretty sure that on Sunday we are going to try to make up for that by roasting a small turkey, making a few sides and having a little, quiet Thanksgiving here with my tiny family. I need the peace and space to reflect and truly give thanks.

Have a comment? Advice? Random observation? I'd love to hear it. Click "COMMENTS" just below.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ultra Concentrated Joy

Just cleaned my kitchen.  It's something I often do first thing on a Saturday morning, right after an invigorating Jazzercise workout, which always gets me up and moving and feeling great.  Here, Jazzercise is at 8 a.m. on Saturdays, so (barring a necessary trip to the store, which frequently happens) I'm home by 9:10 and raring to go.  This morning after scrubbing the counters, I placed the soap containers artistically angled at the corner of the sink and for the first time actually noticed what one said: "Ultra Concentrated Joy."

What wouldn't we give to feel ultra concentrated joy at any given moment? When it hit me, I laughed a bit. What if it were as easy as pouring a yellow liquid out of a bottle to feel ultra concentrated joy? I like that idea.

We can't just pour it out of a bottle, but it seems to me that there are two ways of finding joy. Either we go through life, doing our "thing"...working, driving, cooking, sleeping, exercise, and everything else...and sometimes have a few moments of joy come over us, or we take action. I prefer the latter. It's simple. While I was scrubbing the countertops, I thought about the strength in my hands and how my experience made me efficient and the job satisfying.  Joy. Looking to the sky, I saw five ducks (they looked like canvasbacks but I'm not positive) fly by, toward the marshes to the east...very nice. Since I love coffee, I made a delicious cup and sat down to enjoy it...the warmth and smooth aroma filled me with joy.

There are things some people hate which I look forward to for that bit of joy. When I do laundry, I always pull it out of the dryer while it's warm and fold each piece one by one, breathing in the fresh scent and enjoying the soft fabrics. Joy.  Last week, raking leaves, the sun was warm on my face and as I breathed the fresh fall air in deeply, it filled me with joy.  I didn't want to come inside.

You get the picture. Of course like everyone else, I get caught up in the day, annoyed by problems (or "challenges" as some might say) so I still have a long way to go before I could say my life is filled with "ultra concentrated joy," but I'm taking an active part in recognizing the joy that's all around me--and I'm happier!

Have a comment? Advice? Random observation? I'd love to hear it. Click "COMMENTS" just below.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Exhilarating Fall

Well, here I am again.  I decided I wanted to write but needed a new space (prior readers will know why).  The new title has so many meanings--which will probably become clearer as time goes on.  For now, though, I'm just glad about my decision to start fresh and free.

Have you ever had that feeling where you're just bursting full of thoughts and images you want to write about--so full you can barely contain yourself?  If so, you know how I feel right now.

For several weeks, I've been going around, enjoying brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red leaves (despite our insanely early snow and sleet storm on October 29, which poured over an inch of the white stuff on our pretty leaves.  Luckily it melted by the following day).  

On my way to work every morning, I was warmed and buoyed by the beauty everywhere around me. One tree--an unusually tall maple or perhaps a gum--was for weeks the most brilliant yellow, like flames dancing high aloft in the morning sun. But two mornings ago, the new season dug her heels in and jarred us into realizing that Winter isn't far off.  Overnight, the leaves went from treetops to roadway and the air turned harsh and cold.  Suddenly, the morning sun glared in through bare treetops to the beech and shrub understory along our road and the formerly pale gold beech leaves transformed into a dull tan.  My tree of flames had dripped all of its gold to the ground.

Although I know it happens every year, it's always a surprise to me. Maybe it's denial, or we're just too busy enjoying the cooler weather and new colors to notice that their time is fleeting. I did make the most of it though, while it lasted. Hubby and I took a couple of good long hikes in the wooded hills, I gathered pine needles and mulched the new herb garden (tell you about that another time), fixed up the back of the property after the lawn guys messed up the leaves, pulled out the compost (which is doing beautifully), added massive amounts of leaves and turned them in, and planted nearly 100 bulbs.

As time flies on toward Winter, perhaps we'll have one more temperate day to enjoy the passing of yet another Fall.  I hope so--and if we do, I'll be out there enjoying it!       

Have a comment? Advice? Random observation? I'd love to hear it. Click "COMMENTS" just below.