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It’s (always) the little things

December 11th, 2010

On my way to a holiday party last night, I noticed I had one low tire and stopped at the gas station near my house for some air. There was a young guy in a big “bad ass” pickup truck already in the bay where you get the air. His stereo was, um, intrusive. Annoyed that I had to actually wait to get the air, I sat in my car mentally summing him up. I judged him as being a redneck, based on no facts other than what he was driving as well as his age and whatever else my brain decided was evidence at that particular moment.

As he pulled away from the compressor, I moved into the bay. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him get out of his truck and start coming toward me, hand extended. “Here, do you need to use this?” he asked. In his outstretched glove was a digital tire gauge. (I was just going to guess at how much air to put in the flaccid tire: all I knew was it was low.) Before I could answer, he looked at me and said, “Oh, you’re dressed up, let me do it for you,” and he dropped down to check the pressure.

So then the young guy (his name turned out to be Daryl) took it upon himself to check each of my tires, all the while making small talk about the neighborhood and how much he liked living in such a friendly place, and asking me about my holiday plans. In a matter of minutes he was done. “They all needed more air,” he announced. “You’ll get better gas mileage now,” he added.

So I thanked Daryl and watched him walk away and I admit I felt a bit of shame at my unfounded initial assessment of his character. Then I noticed him coming back toward me. “Here, he said. You really should have one of these, and I have two.” In his hand was a tire gauge.

So I got in the car, and I cried.

Aside from the obvious lesson I learned about making judgments, I was reminded that it’s all about the “little stuff,” isn’t it? The kindness of a stranger, an unexpected card in the mail, the lucky break you had hoped for…the makings of a story worth sharing. May your own holidays and the year ahead be filled with these, and may you be a source of joy for others.

Merry Christmas, Daryl. Peace be with you.

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‘Tis the Season

December 3rd, 2010

Photo courtesy of Flickr: vonSchnauzer

No, this isn’t one of those rambling laments about how we’ve lost the “reason for the season.” And though it may indeed turn out to ramble, my reason for writing today really is about seasons: and in this case I am talking winter.

I grew up on the east coast. I went to undergrad about an hour drive (if you pushed it, and I usually did) from Buffalo, and subsequently my graduate education took me to New England, specifically Vermont. I’ve seen my share of “nor’easters” (real nor’easters—not just bad storms) and I can say that I really (really!) don’t much like winter. I will also say, however, that lately I’ve developed an appreciation for living in a four-season climate.

I would call myself a summer kind of girl. I typically burn once; tan easily after that and I thrive in warm weather. I could live on watermelon, love to entertain outdoors and if you have a boat or a lake front property I’ll be your private chef all summer, just let me stay in your guest quarters. I have a different bathing suit for every day of the week and on Labor Day—because it heralds the end of summer—I always cry.

But for the past few years I have really found myself getting into the winter too. Don’t get me wrong: the transition is very difficult and this year I was still wearing sandals into early November (we had a long Indian Summer in Iowa this year). But the winters have made me appreciate things that you can’t really embrace in the warm weather months. Things like flannel sheets, hot tea at 5:00 a.m. (when it’s still very dark and will be for two more hours), tons of cinnamon and ginger in everything, cashmere and angora and long, hot baths. In the winter I find myself going deep, hunkering down, reflecting, planning, making complex recipes, writing and spending a lot more time with my (long haired) cat or other snuggly companions. I like different smells (pine is great in December, but not so much in June), and I use different herbs when I prepare food. I stay in bed longer, am more likely to blow off exercising if it’s icy and I usually (OK, always) say yes to dessert. I typically gain about 8 pounds. I just buy one size bigger when I am buying something wool.

The best part for me (now that I have accepted that it can’t always be a long summer holiday weekend!) is the slow-down-and-reflect-and-drink-in-life part of the time period of December through February. I get myself a cup of hot apple cider, toss in a cinnamon stick (maybe a little rum) and read about deeper stuff: self-improvement topics, herbal remedies, composting and the like. Winter is a time to hibernate, plan, project, oh and moisturize, hydrate, mulch….Winter is just…different.

It’s now the first of December. It’s too early to expect the spring seed catalog. My neighbor just brought me some home made coffee liquor. If I put on a bikini right now I would not want anyone to see.  I think it’s time to drink in the season.  Cheers!

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