Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thoughts of Thanks and Giving

It was Thanksgiving Eve and the driveway to our house in upstate New York was ablaze with candles, showing our friends and family the way to our house nestled in the woods. When they stepped inside, the fire was roaring and all kinds of food was at the ready...just waiting for them, no matter what time they arrived.

On Thanksgiving morning, we took a long walk in the woods before coming back to prepare food, play football outside, and then hunker down for a night of food, fun, and laughter. Insert sound of screeching brakes! Hold up! That's not at all how our Thanksgiving went but for some reason that is the fantasy I have in my head of how it should go. And for the record, we don't have a house in upstate New York..or a second house anywhere for that matter.

For some reason, Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday. I want it to be...I love the romantic notion of it. But I feel like we should be going to some magical location to enjoy the holiday. I like traditions...but we haven't settled on one for Thanksgiving so we do something different each year. Don't get me wrong...each year is always fun and I'm not sure why I can't embrace the adventure of Thanksgiving like I embrace our camping adventures.

I think it is mainly because what Tim and I want to do for Thanksgiving and what the kids want are two different things. We like to be home with just us or a small group. We like to talk walks, read, have a fire, not watch or yell at any sports throughout the day...and certainly not throughout dinner. Now that I'm writing this it sounds like we should be subscribing to AARP magazine and be hitting the hay at 4 pm.

The kids, on the other hand, want to get together with friends and family with as much loudness and chaos as possible. They want to run in and out all day, Jack wants football to be on all day...just as all kids should want the day to go. Because we can't reconcile all of our wishes, we do something different each year..trying to find that one magical thing that works for all of us.

One of my favorite years was just two years ago. We decided to just stay home with the four of us. In the morning we took a long walk in the woods. When we got back, Jack and Tim played football in the yard for a bit while Mimi and I cooked up a storm. We were lounging in our "comfy clothes"/pj's but before dinner we made a rule that it didn't matter what you wore on the bottom, but you had to look good on the top. A Thanksgiving outfit mullet, if you will.

Jack had just discovered cologne and came down wearing fleece pj bottoms, a dress shirt, his hair was styled with gel, and he was wearing about a half a bottle of cologne. Mimi came down in her pj bottoms, nice shirt and sweater, her pearls, and had her hair in a "fancy" hairstyle. Tim and I were dressed similarily with pj bottoms and nice outfits on the top. I had my pearls on, of course. It was hysterical.

I had moved the kitchen table into the living room in front of the fire, we shut off all the lights, and ate by candle and firelight. Afterwards we played games, read, and then slipped into triptophane comas early. It was one of our favorite Thanksgiving memories....although I don't think any of us wanted to try and repeat it because it never would have been as fun as that day.

This year we attempted to go camping with our friends but we didn't want to travel more than 10 hours (given that typically means a 12 hour camper ride + holiday travel). We couldn't find a place that was rated well, was warm enough to wear shorts, an that was open. We had a planning session one night and searched for hours. We were all so disappointed.

In the end we decided to get together with them and Tim's brother + family. We all did our own thing in the morning. For us that meant watching the parade, doing some cooking, then going for a long bike ride. We raced home, took showers, and headed to our friend's house. In the end we ended up having post dinner cocktails in the camper...in the driveway...so for a moment we did feel like we were camping. It was a really fun night...filled with lots of laughs and wine, great food, and great friends. Even the kids had fun running around playing with both their friends and their cousins. It was such a relaxing day, yet filled with the things we all wanted to do.

In the end, Thanksgiving is all about taking a conscious moment to be thankful for all that you have..and I don't mean the quantity of things you have, but rather the quality of life you have created for yourselves. And it's about creating those quality moments with the people you care for that become the memories you carry with you. It really doesn't matter where you do that...at your grandmother's, at your faux house in the woods, or at home. It just matters that you take the time to make memories that matter. Thanks to Christian & Lyn for having two Thanksgivings (they had to do it all over again the next day with Lyn's family!) And thank you Peter and Karen for hosting such a fun night!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Update On My Train Friends

I guess Doug was offended that I said he had no ambition in life and he moved away. I literally haven't seen him since my post.

Last week I saw Bjorn for the first time in a few weeks. I caught someone coming up behind me at a high rate of speed....it was him, but he wasn't wearing his usual black. He was in stonewashed jeans. Hey, Sprockets, put the stonewash down and back away slowly. No one is going to get hurt if you just do as I say.

Disheveled Guy is still running late for the train every day. I think the conductor just waits for him now and he has caught on because now he just walks down the stairs as if he hasn't a care in the world.

I also have some new friends now. There's Richie Cunningham...a fresh faced man boy with brown hair instead of red. He started showing up in the middle of the summer....fresh from his college gradudation. He had all new suits, shirts, and shoes. He has a brand new messenger bag/briefcase that doesn't appear to have anything in it because when the train rumbles by it blows in the breeze. His mother drops him off every morning. I think it is sweet...I suspect he does not.

Then there is Itsy Bitsy Spider Couple. Oh. My. God. They are so goofy. They are clearly in that honeymoon stage of love where everything the other one says is adorable and charming. He had brown hair but has an enormous, red bushy beard. She is a round-ish lady with a short cropped bob that is usually soaking wet like she just got out of the shower. She always looks like she got dressed in the dark and never thought to look in the mirror before she left. They walk very close to each other all the way to the station...so much so that they constantly bump into each other. That's all fine and good. I had no issue with them until the Itsy Bitsy Spider came out. Once they are on the platform he whispers sweet nothings in her ear and then the spider crawls up her back, onto her shoulders, and right into her ear. Sometimes the spider grabs her nose. They both giggle. And I cringe. People! Keep the goofy spider bit at home, would you? And it's not once in awhile. It's almost daily. The other day the train was approaching and he took out the spider and pretended to chug along like the train. (Insert me vomiting). Stop it. Stop it. Stop it! Take the spider hands out one more time and I'm going to kill the spider...okay, buddy?!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Strangers Aren't Always Scary

Today I was on an older train that has seats that face each other. They have two-seaters without enough room for people to actually sit across from each other without mashing knees. You are also forced to keep all your stuff on your lap because there is no room on the floor for your stuff...because you are busy playing footsies and kneesies with a stranger. Whoever came up with this design brainchild should be forced to sit with 4 people in these seats for over an hour.

What typically happens is that two people sit opposite each other, one on the left side of their seat with the other on the right side of their seat. Inevitably, a third person comes along and sits next to one of you, causing the single person to sit with their legs wedged in between. It's completely awkward and a much too personal way to spend your morning with strangers when you are barely awake.

Today I was the middle "guy" and it worked out fine. I was opposite two women who were about my relative height...it can get challenging when a larger man tries to be your menage-a-train-seat-pal. We were all absorbed in our books and it worked out fine. When we got to South Station I noticed the girl across from me was reading "The Book Thief", which I loved. I'm not one to start conversations with strangers but I couldn't resist because her nose was literally almost touching the book. She was clearly absorbed in it so I asked "Don't you just love that book?" She said she did and then she rattled off a bunch of books that she loved and asked if I had read them. "Sarah's Key?" Very sad book but loved it. "Hunger Games series?" Read all three. Didn't think I would like sci-fi but I read all three in 2 weeks. "Unbroken?" I told her it was our next book club pick and I would be reading it next. We were totally into sharing books that we loved and she said "My husband says I'm a book nerd." I told her there was nothing better than a good book..other than sharing the good books with other people. She agreed, we told each other to have a great day, and off we went.

Before I chatted with her I was in the Monday Morning Funk and although I love my job, I was not looking forward to working, after having a fun weekend. I found myself smiling when I got off the train and thought to myself "That was a nice way to start the day". Just a silly 3 minute encounter with a stranger that has similar interests was enough to lift my day.

Sometimes I can't help myself when I see a stranger wearing a pair of shoes or article of clothing that I love and I will go up to the person and just say "Love your shoes!" or "Great coat!" My kids are horrified when I do this when we are together but I always tell them "Believe me, it lifts your day when someone says something nice to you." They don't get it yet, but someday they will. I know when someone stops me and says they like something I am wearing, it makes me feel good.

Morale of the story: Take a risk once in awhile and start a conversation with someone. It may make your day, make theirs, or both.