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Give Thanks

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Falling leaves float gently in the November breeze. Thanksgiving is tomorrow. For some reason, the house already feels warmer homier.

Part of me resists the push and pull of another busy holiday season. I want to cling to the coziness of fall before everything gets swept up in cooking, cleaning, and planning. And yet, Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorites. Its sole purpose is togetherness, gratitude, and good food. No elaborate gift-giving is required.

Walking outside into the crisp air, I notice beauty in the mundane details around me. Dewdrops clinging to the faded grass. The bare-branched tree in the backyard, its leaves gathered in a colorful quilt beneath. A squirrel chatters as it digs up a buried acorn. Simple gifts are easy to overlook in life’s hustle.

My wife is grateful most of all for our health. For our safe home and cozy bed. For steady work and food on the table. For our family and friends. Her constant nurturing presence anchors me. Without her, my life would lack color and warmth.

The news is filled with divisiveness and hardship, but I choose to turn toward hope. To focus on the helpers, the healers. Like Fred Rogers said years ago… the neighbor who checks in on the elderly widow next door. Donors giving time and money to help. Doctors healing the sick. Teachers nurturing the future. Millions of quiet heroes we can be grateful for.   The world will always have darkness, but there is light if we look for it. Goodness persists if we nurture it and pass it on.

Soon, we’ll go around the table sharing what we’re grateful for this year. Some will be humorous, some heartfelt. But all will be gifts to appreciate for this moment—this imperfect but beautiful life. The year to come brings uncertainty, but there is turkey, laughter, friendship, and hope right now.

For all of this and more, I give thanks.

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The Gift of Today

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The new year is fast approaching. I can already see the fresh calendars and planners when I go to the store, waiting to be filled with hopes and dreams for 2024. Normally, I’d rush right out to buy one, eager to plot out goals and schedules for January. But this year feels different. This year, I want to be more mindful to stay grounded in the present instead of rushing ahead.

December is almost here, and with it comes holiday bustle, cold nights, and family gatherings. My mind is consumed with buying gifts, planning get-togethers, and keeping up with work before time off. The new year still feels far away. A distant thought.

I used to spend November stressed about preparations for January. Setting ambitious resolutions, researching new workouts, and figuring out the budget for the year ahead. All while barely stopping to enjoy the end of the current year unfolding around me.

This year, I’m trying to change and embrace the gift of today without worrying about tomorrow.

Sitting in my chair in the living room under a blanket, I close my eyes and listen to the silence of the house. I’m transported to autumns past, to memories of leaf piles and grade school basketball practices. I open my eyes and realize the dog is up on my lap, snuggling in the blanket and looking up at me with his big eyes, the small light from the table framing his face and long ears. A simple moment of joy and connection.

Outside my window, trees sway in the November wind, leaves twirling down to blanket the grass. The air is cold and clear. When I’m outside, I breathe it in deeply, feeling present. Grounded. There are still weekend mornings where I can enjoy my coffee at the kitchen table, wearing a sweatshirt and shorts before the deep cold arrives.

My mind tries to skip ahead to snowy forecasts and the holiday rush. But I gently guide my thoughts back to the here and now. The gift of today. There will be time for planning later. Now is for savoring the present.

At night, I linger outside under the stars, crisp air nipping at my cheeks. Walking the dog, I can see Venus hugging the Moon and shining brightly in the winter sky. A glimpse of life’s expansive beauty is so easy to miss.

Soon, I’ll need to think about the future, set goals, and make plans. But for now, I’m learning to treasure each fleeting present moment. To embrace the gifts of today with gratitude before they float away like autumn leaves.

The new year will come in time. For now, I’m living fully in the present.

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Seasonal Gifts

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The calendar has flipped to November, but the weather seems stuck in October. The trees stubbornly cling to their leaves, though the vibrant reds have faded to rusty browns. Halloween already feels like a distant memory. The decorations that transformed our neighborhood into a playful haunted landscape have vanished.

In their place, homes are about to be adorned with strings of lights and wreaths on doors as the holiday season fast approaches. The race toward Christmas has begun. Yet part of me wants to cling to fall like the trees clinging to their leaves. I’m not ready to let go of sweatshirts, football, hot apple cider, and cool evenings. The coziness of the season feels like an old friend I’m not ready to say goodbye to.

My wife loves this time of year—the twinkling lights, the gift buying, the general feeling of joy and togetherness. For her, it can’t come soon enough. It also means her job ramps up to eleven with a pace that is indescribable to someone outside of her day-to-day work. Meanwhile, I want to slow time down to enjoy the coziness of fall for a bit longer. But time marches on indifferently.

Walking the dog this morning, I was bundled in my jacket and hat, the cold air nipping at my face. The time has changed, so it’s still as dark as night at this early hour. Lost in thought, I almost trip over an uneven sidewalk slab. A reminder to stay present, to enjoy the beauty of today instead of dwelling in memories. The air is clear. The leaves are still hanging on for a little longer—a gift to be appreciated.

As I round the corner back towards home, a few brave houses have started their evening holiday lights. And I have to smile. Their enthusiasm is contagious, even if I’m not quite ready myself.

Walking back inside, I kissed my wife, and we chatted about our upcoming day and weekend. Maybe this Sunday, we’ll pull out our decorations together. I still want to hold onto autumn for a few more weeks, but before long, twinkling lights and Hallmark movies will fill our home, too. The seasons change; time moves forward. But the holidays have their own magic, especially when shared with those you love.

For now. I’ll enjoy the coziness of today, this season’s gift to be appreciated in its own ephemeral way.

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Consumed in Key

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The leaves on our trees are turning a bright red. There was a rush of cold air for a few weeks, and it felt like Fall, but today, it’s going to hit 71 degrees outside, which makes no sense. The grass is a full shade of green and probably needs to be mowed a few more times. We are ten days from November.

In the morning, always without fail, my wife drinks her coffee at the island in the kitchen. She gets up first to enjoy the quiet before her day. It’s a moment of peace before the chaos that will be the rest of the day. I kiss her several times. She smiles. Our connection has never been better than it is right now. My brain is still sleepy. I need coffee as well, but the dog needs walking first. It’s dark and only 40 degrees out at this hour. The combination wakes me up faster than caffeine.

I make my first cup of coffee despite wanting to wean myself off the stuff. I wish I liked it black. I add a dash of special creamer to bring in a touch of vanilla, but no sugar. I might never stop drinking coffee, but I should push myself to drink it black. A well-brewed cup of coffee doesn’t need anything added, but the effort and expense to make something splendid is not in the offering. Maybe someday.

Several Halloween decorations—pumpkins, webs, and more—are out in our neighborhood. Houses now have elaborate lights reminiscent of Christmas. When I was a kid, decorating for Halloween might have meant some cardboard window decorations and a carved pumpkin.

It’s too cold to sit on the deck and enjoy my coffee. Maybe this upcoming weekend, I can take the time. My wife and I have made a small effort to walk around our neighborhood on Sundays. We should make a note of trying to do so again.

I make eggs for breakfast before work. I hardly ever do this, but I’m a little hungry, and four eggs should do the trick. I should fast, but I don’t feel like it. That requires a concerted effort that I’m not ready for yet. Maybe at the start of the new year.

On my computer, I’m playing an album by Chilly Gonzales. I have never heard it before, but it came out just last year. From the start, it’s a mix of minimum techno with a grand piano. It’s atmospheric. Doing a tiny bit of research, I see that it is A reimagining of Plastikman’s 1998 magnum opus Consumed’, as a new collaboration between original artist Richie Hawtin and Chilly Gonzales, executively produced by Tiga.” That means nothing to me, but I like what I’m hearing so far.

Everything can be music. The tires on the road. The wind through the trees. The mechanical sound of the space heater. While I might enjoy something soft and minimal, I keep returning to the classics.

I saw Foreigner last night and I enjoyed the show more than I thought I would. The band is basically a cover band trotting out nearly 80-year-old Mick Jones on select dates (but not mine), but the songs are so good, and Kelly Hansen can still sing. I wish they would have played longer, but I was home before ten o’clock. My old bones needed sleep.

Thoughts of money come to mind, and I am reminded of everything we still need to do for this house. A new dishwasher. Fixing the siding. Painting. One thing at a time.

Soon, I will have to write other things. I love writing. It doesn’t always come easily, but that’s the trick. It should always feel like it came easy.

I need more coffee.

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October Sky

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Here in the great state of Illinois, we are ready for Fall.

The air is getting crisper. The tips of the trees now have a touch of red, yellow, or brown instead of a vibrant green. Even a few leaves have flittered down to the ground.

Football is in full bloom. Tailgates and touchdowns. Baseball is winding down with the October classic on the horizon.

At dusk, we get treated to striking visuals as the sun goes down and the corn grows up.

The chill reminds me there isn’t a lot of time between now and the end of the year. Wishes and dreams are made now in the hopes of winter joys. The freshness of a new year is right around the corner, but before then the end of a previous year winds down.

Summer is gone. Winter is coming. Autumn is here.

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Let It Be

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There was a chill in the air for the first time a few days ago that was significant enough that I felt autumn might have captured a foothold. There was a gentle quietness to it, and I tried to close my eyes and enjoy it.

Now is the time to pay attention because soon enough, there won’t be any time to think about the weather. The rush of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the new year come barreling down the runway, and there won’t be a moment’s peace.

I tried to hold on to the first moments of the season before the season. It isn’t easy.

I’ve been incredibly busy with work and family, and it’s hard to stop and smell the Fall in the air.

Rest and rejuvenation are hard to come by these days. Still, autumn has restorative powers if I can just find a little slice of time.

It is an oasis outside of the hustle and bustle of life. There are so many things requiring my attention and my energy that I feel I’m not providing enough or letting myself enjoy the moments of downtime.

Maybe it’s all in my perspective? Do I need to change my attitude? Is it because my attention is scattershot? Maybe I should focus on me.

I close my eyes. I am attuned to my other senses. Crisp air. Quiet stillness. The sound of a leaf gently floating to the grass.

Let it be.

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