- Exercise at least three days a week.
- Smile more.
- Read three of the “great” novels.
- Go out of my way to make people happy.
- Write more, browse the internet less.
- Finish my book and start a second one.
- Get something published, even if I publish it myself.
- Read through the Bible.
- Start knitting again.
- Worry less.
Normal people probably spent tonight in costume, party hopping. They will probably get home sometime early tomorrow and sleep for the rest of the day, quite possibly still in costume.
I am not normal people. I spent most of the evening on the interstate, on my way to visit a friend. Once I got there, I stayed a while, then drove back.
I was not keen on the idea of driving late at night on the interstate on Halloween. There be crazy people. Everywhere. And it was dark. And the best music to keep one awake on the highway is The Phantom of the Opera, which has a lot of loud and potentially frightening organ solos.
I lived to tell the tale, of course (or else, this is a ghost writer), But I’ve read enough scary stories about creepy things happening to people on haunted highways that my imagination might have gotten a little caught up in the drive and the music and the long, long stretch of dark, dark road.
I’m not the superstitious sort. I’ve owned two black cats at once, and I don’t flinch when i spill salt or open an umbrella indoors. But a long drive at night, on a night like tonight, gives me a little boost of….vigilance.
It’s October. How did this happen?
September was here, like, five seconds ago. And now it’s not. The leaves are falling and there are pumpkins everywhere and Halloween candy is already going on sale.
I wasn’t done with September yet. I’m not ready for October. Not at all. There’s a lot to do this month I’m not mentally prepared for.
I wasn’t even ready for this blog post.
October 4th hasn’t historically been a good day for me. I’m the kind of person who keeps track of days (I have a book full of them), and every time October 4th rolls around, I climb out of bed with a sense of foreboding. What will happen this year? I wonder.
My movements are slower on October 4th. I don’t guzzle my tea, I sip it, slowly, watching the leaves fall outside my window. I take my time with my hair. I choose to wear purple. Lots of purple. A whole dress of purple.
It hasn’t always been a day of rejoicing. For me, it’s a long day of remembering. October 4th was the first day of a long, long journey–a journey I thought I wouldn’t survive.
But today I thought, well, I have. I survived.
I went on a drive today and rolled the windows down–the windows, the sunroof, opening the space around me to feel the wind and sunshine on my face. The air had that smell–my favorite smell: clean, clear, chilled, a little smoky. I have good memories of that smell…and bad memories.
There were nights like tonight where that smell intensifies with the lower temperatures. Nights where I sat shivering from more than the cold, in company but so very alone. Nights where I’d look anywhere but forward, only to look up at the stars and think that surely they were accusing me of some crime, and the black spaces between them stretched wider like a mouth that was going to swallow me whole. October nights like that nearly spoiled for me the hopeful smell of autumn at its onset.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if October 4th never happened. What if nothing had occurred, and my brain would have no reason for remembering it, marking it invisibly on every calendar I will ever own.
As I drove around the town today, my hair lashing around my face, I realized that I hadn’t thought about it being October 4th until that moment. I hadn’t gone about my morning very slowly. I hadn’t thought to wear purple. Even when I thought about October 4th, my brain wasn’t assaulted by a flood of unwelcome flashbacks. I felt no fear, no sadness, but rather a strange peace, a sense of completion. As I walked under the stars tonight, feeling the first chills of autumn nights to come, I looked up, astonished to see the stars smiling down at me. It’s alright, they said, it’s over.
Because of October 4th, I am stronger. I am wiser. I am deeper. In spite of October 4th, I am loved. I am blessed. I am happy. I am free.
I’m not a fan of summer. It’s too hot for my taste, as well as far too sticky and sunny. I’m an autumn girl, but the South doesn’t know what a real autumn is. We get four seasons of summer around here: Summer, Post-Summer, Damp Summer, and Pre-Summer. Yes, winter is just damp summer around here.
Summer has grown on me over the years. It used to be that I wouldn’t step foot outside in the summer unless compelled to do so by activities I didn’t necessarily sign up for. Recently, though, after traveling in hotter countries than mine and living for weeks without air conditioning, I’ve learned to tolerate the heat. In fact, now I’m more likely to get too cold than too warm. I like the feel of the sun on my shoulders, and I’ve lost my aversion to sweating and humidity.
But I’ve always loved the sounds of a southern summer.
It’s the cicadas, mostly. I’ve always loved the sound of humming cicadas. Daytime finds them joining in a great swelling chorus line, humming together under the direction of some unseen conductor. At night, the crickets join them, their silvery notes making the air hum and shimmer with the sounds of childhood dreams.
Then there’s the sound of summer thunder, rolling and deep. The thunder sounds of summer are warmer and thicker than the rattling thunder of winter and spring. Winter and spring storms are aggressive, overassertive. Summer storms are here to stay. They don’t feel the need to make a name for themselves. They come and they sit, rumbling away like a disgruntled neighbor rambling about politics. Angry, but resigned.
It’s the crickets that charm me most. Cricket song always meant something magical was about to happen. Fireflies came out with the crickets. Firecrackers, too, and fireworks. Bonfires and marshmallows came out with the crickets. And watermelons and grill smoke. Crickets brought all these things to summertime. They sang me to sleep, and when they stopped it was time to get up and play.
Night in, night out, until autumn came and chased them all away.
So now I’m 22.
No sentimental mish-mosh today. I have no deep, brooding feelings to share tonight. There’s too much yellow in my soul for that.
What a perfect day.
After a semester…a year, really, of meeting obstacle after obstacle every day–obstacles interspersed with either wild joy or frantic exasperation–it was a relief to have a Perfect Day.
Perfect weather. Perfect circumstances. Perfect everything. For the first time in a very, very long time, I had a day where nothing–absolutely nothing–went wrong.
Tomorrow I know that many things may come crashing down around my ears. I know that things will happen that make me frustrated, that mess up my plans for the day, that throw off my groove (to borrow a phrase).
But let tomorrow worry about itself. Today was glorious. And I thank God for it.
Some stories never get old. Even after you’ve heard them every year for 21 years.
Even 2,000 year old stories. Even improbable ones.
Especially the improbable ones.
Like the Creator of the Universe deciding to be one of His own creations. Being tempted, but still flawless. Being omnipotent, but still getting tired and needing sleep and food.
Letting His enemies humiliate Him. Call Him names. Letting them kill Him when He knew a snap of His fingers would bring His Father’s heavenly army down to destroy them all.
But not doing so. But giving Himself up to the most humiliating death possible.
And forgiving those who killed him. Myself included.
Then, three days later, turning death on its head and coming out of the grave, unconquered, greater than death and sin. The true King. The only Savior.
You know, that story.
No. It never gets old.
A long time from now…isn’t so long from now.
It’s a mercy that time crawls while we’re children. Every year feels like five. We’re allowed to be small and let the world feel big. We’re allowed to feel as though time will unwind before us slowly, like a sweater pulled apart stich by stich.
We wish our way to ten. Then to eleven—because goodness knows the gap between ages was wider, then. We want to be thirteen, then sixteen. At sixteen we’re content to stay.
But we don’t.
I’ll admit, I’m still sixteen going on seventeen. Adults still don’t make sense, but neither do children—even though I’m one of their number. I still do spur-of-the-moment, random things like running through thunder storms or high-fiving strangers on the sidewalk. I read literature aimed at teenagers. I daydream. Constantly.
My outer self, however, is twenty-one, soon to be twenty-two, going on thirty.
Do I like it? Not one bit.
Circumstances surrounding my first two years of college forbad me from being the teenager I still was. I’m not done with being a teen. I had the young-and-fun beaten out of me too early. Years I should have been able to relish…I couldn’t.
So nothing in me wants to be twenty-two. But soon I’ll graduate, come into an apartment, pay bills, pay taxes, buy groceries. I’ll be a sixteen-year-old doing grownup things.
These are the first days of the rest of my life. Whatever that entails.
Lest you think I’m depressed…I’m not. But things are what they are, and this is the state of things. I must be an adult. I am not ready. I probably never will be.
I’m perfectly fine with living the rest of my life—all eternity, for that matter—as a sixteen-year-old. I’ll pay the bills, I’ll be responsible, I’ll do adult things.
But growing up is optional.
Winter’s back. It was cold and wet today, and walking around outside wasn’t very fun. I had to dig through my closet and find winter clothes that looked spring-ish. I had to get up early to finish a reading assignment that couldn’t happen the night before, and two cups of coffee didn’t help the weariness much.
But today was a Good Friday.
I was always puzzled about why we call Good Friday Good Friday. I couldn’t stand the crucifixion story as a child. I couldn’t bear that Jesus should be beaten and belittled, have thorns driven into His scalp, or be spat upon. I hated how they strung Him up like a criminal. Jesus, the Son of God, Who had done no harm. Jesus, Who had healed hundreds, calmed storms at sea, gave blind men sight, fed the five thousand. It was not a good Friday for Jesus. It was the worst possible Friday. The spotless Lamb of God was soiled with all the smut of the world.
But it was such a Good Friday for us. And He knew it.
He died to tear down the divide between man and God. He died so we wouldn’t have to. He died so we could live.
Without Him, my life would be empty and hopeless. If He had never died, I would never have learned to live.
So yes, even on this rainy day, I could be grateful for a Good Friday. What is one dark day compared to eternity?
I’ve never been sure what to think about St. Patrick’s Day.
As a child, it meant a lot of green-wrapped candy and shamrock-shaped cookies got passed around the classroom. There might have been mentions of leprechauns or the Potato Famine. The memory is hazy.
In high school, it became clear that if you didn’t wear green, you’d get pinched (or punched, depending on who you didn’t manage to avoid). I went to a very protestant prep school, so there’d be a little competition to see who wore green (catholic color) or orange (protestant color). I usually wore both. Because I could. And I don’t like being pinched.
I grew up, and suddenly it seems like there’s supposed to be an inordinate amount of liquor involved in the festivities. Seems foolhardy to me, but no one asked my opinion.
Still, I have no idea what St. Paddy’s Day is all about. Do leprechauns deliver presents? Do we go out and hunt for brightly-painted blarney stones? Does a fairy come by and slip a four-leafed clover under the pillows of sleeping children who lost their teeth?
According to Americans, you’re supposed to wear green and drink a lot. Not sure, but I think that’s a far cry from where the holiday started.
I still try to wear green and orange on March 17th. I’ll take any excuse to follow a color scheme. I saw a girl wearing green striped knee-socks, other green paraphernalia, and a massive green top hat. I went up to her and requested the highest of fives for her aesthetic bravery.
To the Irish: I apologize for the bizarre mess we’ve made of one of your national holidays. It is actually one of your holidays, isn’t it?
Anyway, go n-eírí an bóthar leat, celebrants everywhere.
And stay off the roads.
Something about panicking nonstop since Thanksgiving really detracts from the Christmas spirit. Despite people around me singing Christmas carols, seeing all the displays in shops and decorations in the dorm hallways, and being in a Christmassy musical, I haven’t really woken up to the fact that Christmas is less than a week away.
School didn’t let out until yesterday. I’ve been frantically working on projects for a month, barely coming up for air between due dates and performances. Now I’m home, and I’m very aware that it is suddenly Christmas.
The sky outside is grey and hazy. The tree is covered in whimsical decorations. The house smells of pine needles and brown sugar. Karen Carpenter is wishing everyone from one to ninety-two a merry Christmas. I read Stave One of A Christmas Carol this morning. Mother and I braved the hoard of last-minute mall shoppers yesterday. We’ll be cooking for the rest of the day, preparing for tomorrow’s festivities.
Christmas is here. It’s been here for a month, but I haven’t been able to notice it. At last, I can put up my feet and reflect on why this time of year happens anyway.
Better late than never.
Today was Thankfulness Day, otherwise known as Thanksgiving. Why we have a traditional day set aside for giving thanks and without making it a daily thing, I’m not sure. Perhaps because eating this outrageously every day would give us all permanent indigestion, which would probably put a damper on the spirit of thankfulness.
I will now give you exactly what you were all expecting from me on a day like today. I will give you a list of things I am thankful for.
I am thankful for when things go wrong. I am thankful for all the rotten days—and trust me, I’ve known many—because without the rotten days, I would not grow. I would stay the same. I would never have a chance to flourish in adversity. I would never flourish at all. I would not learn to trust the Lord for everything.
I am thankful for the things I do not understand. I am thankful that I’m not really sure where my future is headed. I know it will be a great adventure, but I don’t know the perils that are before me, and I’m not sure if I’ll remember my pocket-handkerchief. But not knowing keeps me humble, and makes life an exciting surprise, like a Christmas present that’s a big box filled with little boxes that I open every day. God has a perfect plan for me, full of surprises.
I am thankful for people I don’t like. There aren’t many of these people, it is true. My father once told me that the reason we don’t like people is often because we see a bit of ourselves in them—a part we don’t like. Learning to get along with people who annoy me teaches me about myself and how I need to grow and change. It also helps me to recognize that everyone is different, everyone has struggles to face and dragons to slay, and I’m no better than my neighbor. God has been gracious to me, so I should be gracious to other people.
I am thankful for the dark days of my past. Dragons from those days still come back to bite me. But without the horrors I’ve been through, I wouldn’t appreciate what I have now. I have so much now. I have more than I ever could have asked for. God is far too good to me.
I am thankful for everything. Every little thing. Every big thing. All the things past, and all the things to come—and all that I have right here, right now.
Thanksgiving is a big holiday in the Rambler family. For my father, it holds even more weight than Christmas.
And of course the biggest part of Thanksgiving is the food.
Alright, it’s the second biggest part. The biggest part is gratitude. What would Thanksgiving be without thankfulness?
But the second biggest part is the food.
Mother and I spend the whole day before Thanksgiving cooking. My responsibilities revolve around baking pies (three minimum: two pumpkin and one apple) and taste-testing the dressing. Mother is the kitchen fairy who makes everything taste wonderful, and I watch from the sidelines in awe, stepping in when I feel that I won’t mess everything up. I also wash a lot of dishes.
This is probably my favorite day of the year. I am no cook, but my mother is, and I love to watch her. I hope that twenty-one years of following her around the kitchen will have soaked in by the time I find myself out on my own.
We depend on each other on Cooking Day. She repeats aloud the list of things that need to be made at least ten times during the day, asking me if there’s anything she’s forgetting. She never does. Every year there’s green bean casserole, turkey, sweet potato soufflé, dressing, yeast rolls, cranberry orange relish, the three aforementioned pies, and some kind of salad. See, now I feel as though I’m forgetting something—and she’ll comment and correct me. I wonder why she worries about it. She’s the one who reminds me to put salt in the pie crust and all the other things I tend to forget when it comes to cooking. She’s the wizard. I’m just a little flying monkey wielding a whisk.
Somehow at the end of the day, it all gets done. It always tastes delicious. The leftovers always last for weeks. We make ten different kinds of turkey dishes over the next few days following Thanksgiving. It is the inaugural day of the Rambler holiday season. It’s beautiful. It’s marvelous. It’s one of my favorite things to do with my mother—cooking, laughing, making messes, and sharing memories. Cooking Day is on my list of things I am very, very thankful for.
You know what today is?
You probably just looked at your desktop calender. Or your planner. Or whatever it is you look at to figure out the time and date.
Today is the 25th of November, which can only mean one thing. I am about to say nine magic words:
One month until Christmas. Have you finished your shopping?