Friday, November 30, 2012

A Month of Gratitude

November has never been my best month. A rough season with bare trees and dying light. A gray screen over the world that leaves me feeling heavy and shredded.

But this time round, there has been this little writing project to keep me both grounded and uplifted. A goal to remember something to be grateful for every day. Because, as the wise Interwebs tells us, Gratitude turns what we have into enough.

This month, I am grateful for the proverb of the fighting wolves. One wolf is your anger, envy, sorrow, regret, guilt, resentment. In my mind, his eyes are dreadful red. The other is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, kindness, compassion, empathy, and truth. This wolf glows blue within you. The punchline? The winner of their battle is the one that you feed.

Actually, I'm grateful for the whole theme of wolves in general -- picturing the blue wolf curled beside me helps me sleep at night; the bumper sticker "I Was Raised by Wolves" makes me laugh out loud. Weren't we all?

I'm grateful for the darkly funny tweets of Joyce Carol Oats. "The difference between magic & politics: magic is tricking people with the intention of delighting them." "Cessation of pain is the new happiness. Abrupt cessation, the greatest high."

And for Beautiful Ruins, an immensely readable and satisfying novel by Jess Walter about Hollywood old and new, a tiny coastal village near the Cinque Terra of Italy, betrayal, hope, love, pitching bad ideas, Liz and Dick, and busking the Edinburgh Fringe Fest.

For David Guetta. I've never heard his voice, but his music stirs my blood.

For friends who are like family and for family who are also friends.

For sweets! Apple pie with cardamon, clove, fennel seed, ginger and cinnamon; Moonstruck chocolates, eggnog sandwich cookies from Whole Foods next to mushroom and apple shaped sugar cookies from Foodstuffs; candied ginger; molasses and honey pumpkin pie; flourless chocolate cake with raspberries and powdered sugar stencil.

For dear friends who walk 60 miles for breast cancer research! I wish I could walk with them, but I can't. (Won't? Couldn't? Mightn't? Wouldn't? The three miles I walked the day after Thanksgiving gave me blisters and knocked me out for the afternoon.)

Rickie Lee Jones at Space in Evanston. For her continued control and command of that unforgettably expressive voice. The night was both a reunion and a meditation on the passing years; this woman has earned the right to her emotive cover of "Sympathy for the Devil." "Young Blood" was joyous and I called out with her line "in the back row! Hold on tight!" because that's where Virginia and I were standing. "A Tree on Allenford" was a relevation. Not all was as joyous as my last time seeing her live, in Boston, 1992, however, when I scalped tickets with a brand-new friend and Rickie encored with her Grammy-nominated "Autumn Leaves." Accompanied by an unobtrusive cellist and bassist/keyboard guy, many of the songs were played with so delicate a touch as to try the patience of the drunk women sitting in front of us. And tunes like "Living It Up" brought me back to some hard times when I listened in pain. But there were funny stories of Rickie going to Cubs games with her dad and a gorgeous sing-along to "Horses" and the guy who shared his table with V. and me chimed in with me on the chorus and made a pretty harmony.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Winter Inspiration at Chalet

I knew our local garden center Chalet was a source of gorgeous gifts, flowers, plants and trees and also as a fun place to take the kids for their special weekend family events (scarecrow stuffing! live reindeer!), but did you know they also have an education center with lectures and workshops?!

Chalet hosted a group of bloggers yesterday for their Winter Container Garden workshop, led by the ever-knowledgeble, enthusiastic and so adorable Jennifer Brennan and I learned all sorts of tips about creating gorgeous outdoor winter arrangements to prettify our porch and welcome winter visitors.

Fresh spruce tips, like the cute baby tree in the center with tiny pinecones, can be unfolded and shaped like so many pipe cleaners.

Noble Fir (the spiky uprights on either side of the center tree) has a bright green color on one side of its branches and a silvery-green underneath. And it makes one of the best Christmas trees for its wonderful scent and high needle retention.

White Pine will drape beautifully over the edges of your container like a skirt.

And Incense Cedar has tiny yellow pollen clusters that pop on their gorgeous arching branches. Other color accents are the Blueberry Juniper berries and Winterberry stems.

You too, can make a beautiful pot like the one above, all for the costs of materials and a registration fee. Workshops this week are Thursday evening from 6:30- 8:00, Friday from 1:00 to 2:30 and Saturday from 10 - 11:30. Pre-registration is required. Follow this link for more info.

Thanks, Chalet! It's inspiring to make something so beautiful and for that, I am so grateful!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More Gratitude

For small town parades, more people walking than cheering on the sidelines, it seemed. A mile or so of brick street that we covered in what felt like moments, although our Brownie troop had time for at least half a dozen "This Land is Your Lands," several "Brownie Smiles" and a couple "The Other Day I Saw A Bears."

For the restorative powers of the Chicago Botanical Garden on a mild and sunny November afternoon with haze softening the horizon. Mia and Nora searched for prairie grasses and late season berries to fill our Nature Bingo cards, but urns and strangely, squirrels escaped our eyes until the way home when I took a quick detour off Green Bay Road to show Randy the Ravine Bluffs development. A cluster of Frank Lloyd Wright homes, a bridge designed by the master and decorated with one of his signature URNS! With a squirrel on top!

I am so grateful for my big brother Ron whose fifty-third birthday is tomorrow. Dear Brother, I'm sorry I couldn't get you that oil-rich cattle ranch you wanted, but perhaps we can come see you this Christmas season and bring you a little something-something to make up for it.

For director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner (working from the source material of Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln) who have made the most inspiring and moving film I saw this year. A familiar figure seen anew and his world so fully realized that you understand his adoration by his contemporaries and you loathe to leave him at the end. Steven, why not reemploy your talented band of actors and your costume "agers," as the credits called them, and make us a few more hours of company with the gentle-smiling and parable-telling man?

I am grateful for the sight and sound of two little girls jiving to Harry Belafonte's "Day-O" first thing in the morning.

For recipes for Squash with Chili Lime Vinaigrette and Pineapple Cranberry Salsa to liven our Thursday table.

For playdates that entertain my children while I plan the menu and maybe, maybe, hopefully, stretch their good socializing skills.

For the sweet anticipation of Volo Bog and the little patches of prairie and oak savanna at the Grant Wood Forest Preserve in Ingleside where we'll hike after the gluttony.

I am grateful for The Mindy Project because it's really funny. 

And I am grateful for each invisible circle of inhale and exhale that fuels my days and soothes my nights. When I stop to notice them, I remember each is a perfect moment that I am happy to have.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In Gratitude on Veterans Day

My father, Ronald James Fey, Sr., enlisted in the United States Air Force in October of 1951, when he was twenty years old. He trained at bases in San Antonio, Denver and Tucson and served out of Okinawa, Japan as a navigator on reconnaissance flights over the Russian coastline. He achieved the rank of second lieutenant and was honorably discharged on August 2, 1956. For the next three years he served as a captain of the Air Force Active Reserve.

For his service and that of all our veterans, I am ever grateful.

Friday, November 9, 2012

So Much For Which To Be Grateful

For my dear girls who break and heal the heart simultaneously.

For dear, dear Randy, who lets me drive him as crazy as he does me, then reaches for my hand and squeezes it before we even open our eyes in the morning to let me know we are going to be okay.

For dear Aunt Ruth, who, at eighty-eight, with macular degeneration and shifty hearing, still rallies in her red state to place her vote for good. And for her dear daughter Jeanne, who takes her to the polls, makes her laugh, keeps Ruth company and keeps Ruth independent.

For this lovely community where friends and friendly neighbors are steps away.

For our crossing guard, Tom, who takes his job of getting us across busy Lake Street as seriously as it deserves.

For dear friends gathering for the upcoming feast.

For my Kindle, a gift from Randy, which is saving me shipping and shelf space.

For our little Brownie troop, full of sass and cuteness, eager to pick up trash and do good deeds, sing silly songs and act out the Girl Scout laws of fairness and honesty, kindness and strength. And for a wise and funny partner to help me wrangle them.

For the good sense, faith and courage of this country that reelected our hardworking and sensible President. I say with great love, we deserve him.

For the patience of my friends and family as I fall apart in this dark season and try again every morning to pick up the jagged pieces and put them back together again.