Christmas Can Wait

November 20, 2018

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. For good reason, I think. It’s a time when we get together with family and friends, enjoy each other’s company, share a warm meal, and appreciate the good things in our lives. And, despite all the negatives that may consume us on many days, we actually don’t have to look very hard to find some –or a great deal of — good.

Thanksgiving includes all religions, or lack there of. It requires no gifts. It involves no loud, bright explosions (going on way later than anyone in the neighborhood actually wants). There are no costumes. There are no fancy decorations. It doesn’t celebrate a person, a group, or a belief. It even always falls on a Thursday, making short weeks and long weekends a reality for many. It’s pretty damn perfect, in my book — even when my family has to host.

Yet, despite its simplistic perfection, Thanksgiving may be the most overlooked holiday. As soon as Halloween ends, Christmas decorations start going up everywhere. People become consumed by the idea of Christmas. So much so that many folks even skip out on Thanksgiving in order to go buy gifts that few of us really need. Hey, I get it! I love Christmas, too. But it has its time and place. It shouldn’t upstage a day that focuses on gratitude — something we seem to be sorely lacking.

This Thanksgiving I will look around the table at my growing kids and aging family. I’ll recall fond memories, while pondering what the future may hold. I’ll eat well, enjoy some good beer, and might even throw a pigskin around. I’ll appreciate quality time with people I love, something we get less and less of as the years go by. I’ll be truly grateful — even for the people who have already moved on to Christmas.

Slow down and be thankful. Christmas can wait. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Dormant Fields

March 5, 2018

my young daughter laughs

as we race through dormant fields

spring is drawing near

Rawboned Branches

January 4, 2018

long rawboned branches

stretch far through a freezing fog

to scratch the sky’s back

Late Autumn Hike

December 8, 2017

crunching leaves echo

through the bleak abandoned woods

i watch my breath rise

Home

November 20, 2017

this expanse of crumbling asphalt

adorned by prevailing weeds

isn’t much to call home, indeed

but it’s where my children happily play

never suspecting there’s something more

…assuming that there actually is, of course

The Table

November 15, 2017

“This old table has got to go,” my wife declared today

Old, indeed

And, admittedly, not very attractive

Well, really not at all

A hand me down from my wife’s father when we were married long ago

It bows a little in the middle

And wobbles a little more

The leaves slowly push themselves apart

Aging lovers tiring of each other’s charm

I sit silently in my weary, matching chair

Looking hard

Looking deep

The maple has darkened over time

The protective shine has worn away in many places

Allowing exposed grain to suck life in

Dust

Dirt

Greasy fingerprints of childhood ghosts

Flecks of cheap paint used for rainy-day art projects

And tiny, crushed-in cake crumbs from birthdays long forgotten

This is where we were

When life seemed like it would last forever

Of course we’ve since learned it doesn’t

This wooden slab served best friends

Close family

Neighborhood children

But, most days, just us

That was probably our preference

We ate big country breakfasts

Strange casseroles that were barely touched

Great-grandma’s homemade spaghetti recipe

Hotdogs and beans when times were tough

Grilled steak on summer Sundays

And carry out pizza for Friday fun

God, Fridays were fun

Game night

We just played Risk, I swear

Eating meals around the board for three days straight

So cautious not to disturb our patient armies

My wife was pissed, until she ended up winning

This is where we did homework together

Wrote letters to far-away people

Assembled toys on Christmas morning

Paid bills, and bills, and bills

Pieced together jigsaw puzzles in the dead of winter

And made important family decisions

I drank coffee here every Saturday morning

While loved ones faintly snored upstairs

The feeling of true contentment

This is where my babies sat

Being fed with little spoons

As they grew we only cut their food

Made them eat their vegetables

And finish their milk

When it wasn’t spilt

No use crying, but we sometimes shed a tear

Still, laughter was heard daily

And even an occasional prayer

Looking back now I realize many prayers were answered

Right here in our favorite spot.

The kids still come by every now and then

Though not too often, these days

Missed sorely, but never forgotten

“Suppose you’re right,” I finally reply

Running my wrinkled hand across our kitchen table.

  
Today I turn 43. Despite the aches in my back, knees, and hands, I feel very young. Younger than I have in a long time, actually. I’m fitter, happier, and in an overall better mental state than I’ve ever been as an adult. Not that 43 is old, necessarily — age is really just a relative number. To a child, 43 seems like a lifetime away; almost certainly incomprehensible (and why should a child need to understand or think about it). To the very old it may seem like a lifetime ago. Although I doubt it. The one thing I notice most with aging — my biggest complaint — is that time seems to move faster and faster the older we get. I’m trying my damnedest to change this, however. And it’s working.

Obviously time is constant, but our perspective and perception of time seems to become completely screwed up as we age. Most of us rush around all day, meeting schedules and deadlines. We worry about what happened yesterday and lose sleep over what may (or may not) happen tomorrow. The free time that we do actually have is often wasted by us believing it isn’t enough time, so we discard it completely. This wasn’t the case when we were kids. The ancient philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “Time is a game played beautifully by children.” I think he’s right. Kids are better at making good use of time than almost all adults. Especially younger children. If there’s a spare minute in the day, they will find a toy to enjoy. Five extra minutes of playtime before bed is like a gift that is gratefully received. Kids don’t worry about it getting dark, but instead play hard until they can’t see. Unfortunately we regress as we age to the point that most adults are dreadful at this “game.” I know I used to be.

I’m far from an expert now, but I’ve found that I’m getting much better by reminding myself to be mindful, grateful, and frugal. These are really all related, and once you start to understand and practice them, worry and stress naturally fall by the wayside. I find myself appreciating life more, desiring less, and not caring much about keeping up with the demands put on us by American society and consumerism. By this I basically mean not worrying as much about money and material possessions. When you are truly aware, thankful, and consciously spending less on unnecessary items, life becomes simpler, more fulfilling, and time is much less of a constraint. It is a very liberating experience.

Many people think I’m crazy. I traded a very lucrative career to be a stay-at-home dad, and am now pursuing a career in teaching. My life is much fuller and my time is much better spent — and appreciated. I’m not suggesting anyone give up a career, but I would also caution against knocking it if you haven’t tried it. The older you get the more you understand the old “life is too short” saying. It is certainly possible to juggle a busy, stressful job and have a productive, happy personal life. But the key is to be sure you are happy — a question we can only answer if we are truly honest with ourselves. Time — or the lack thereof — has a unique knack for showing us what really matters in life. Sometimes it’s too late. My sincere birthday wish is that everyone eventually finds happiness…and has the time to enjoy it.

Cheers.