Thank You Day

Full disclosure: I have not been paid by anyone to promote anything, I just really like this idea and want to give full credit to the amazing writers who created it.

I have always loved the holiday of Thanksgiving. The meaning of Thanksgiving, appreciating what you have in life, has always been an important theme for me. This appreciation has kept me going when things were hard and brought me out of more than one depressive episode. I am SO lucky. I appreciate what I have. The family and friends getting together to share their lives and what is important to them is also amazing, not to mention the food.

 

DTiger's Thank You Day Book

There is also a book on the same subject! Links at the bottom.

But it’s always been a sort of ephemeral ‘Thanks.’ Traditionally, families join hands and pray, saying ‘Thanks’ to (Insert Favorite Diety) for their family, friends lives, shelter, and food, and maybe some of the younger members have been thankful for specific things and toys that they have been given. While I appreciate this appreciation, and I think it is something that we should do EVERY day, there seemed to be something missing.

 

 

Then I watched Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with my two small daughters. At 2 and 4, both of my girls are obsessed with this new version of The Land of Make-Beleive from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and I am happy to have them watch that rather than something more violent or rude or even something that isn’t teaching them anything.

 

In season 2, the writers of this excellent show chose to do an entire episode about gratitude and created ‘Thank You Day’ in Daniel’s Neighborhood. On this day, everyone gets together for a celebration, much like our Thanksgiving celebrations here in the U.S., but there is an additional element that we haven’t incorporated traditionally. Everyone in Daniel’s neighborhood makes cards to give to each other that thank that person for something specific. The cards are given to the recipient, then the cards go onto a ‘Thank You Day’ tree where everyone can look at the beauty that they made together.

 

Thank_you_tree

And Thank You Internet for providing another amazing image!    https://goo.gl/images/J38B9u

I love this adaptation. While we often say ‘Thank You’ to the ones we love every day, this practice would highlight for everyone that what they do for each other is important and to keep it up. Creating a decorated tree together would help cement that we are a community and we need to work together to make something amazing. As a person who is terrible at thank-you cards after receiving stuff, I like the idea of thank-you cards for being who you are a lot better.

 

So I think we’re going to have a new tradition, one that allows us to make amazing memories and to really appreciate everyone around us. If you want to join in with this new tradition, let me know! I’ll try to post a picture of our ‘Thank You Tree’ before the end of the month.

Link to the show on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B00BI0OB56?ref_=aiv_dp_season_select
Link to the episode guide: http://www.neighborhoodarchive.com/dtn/episodes/114b_thank_day/index.html
Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Thank-You-Daniel-Tigers-Neighborhood/dp/1442498331

 

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“It’s the subtleties that draw the eye…”

Everything is Brown. Unless it’s Grey. Or black. The world has turned monochrome around us. The Autumn has burned itself out and left behind husks, ashes, and leaf piles that are quickly turning into compost every time it rains.

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November. Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

We’re past the flash and burn of the fall. All of the plants have dropped those leaves like a lit match to conserve their energy for fighting off the driving cold that is coming in a few weeks. The leaves and the trees say goodbye to each other in a spectacular color party, then separate to leave the tree to nurture all life on earth including a new batch of leaves next spring. But all of the raucous celebration is over now and winter’s hush is starting to settle in.

This time of year it is easy to mourn the bright days of summer, the striking colors of fall, or even to eagerly anticipate the coming snow. It’s easy to look around at the lack of color and warmth and feel the heavy blanket of short days and bitter chill suck the energy right out of you.

I used to hate this time of year. Especially after the amazing show that we get in early fall, this drab, colorless world around us right now is even more tired and promising long cold nights ahead. I used to look around and see nothing but darkness and cold. Even rainy days wouldn’t help feed my spirit and creativity, they only compared to the warm rains of July or the snow that was stubbornly refusing to make an entrance.

 

PoolFern

..But November can also be kinda like this.

I’m not sure what changed, but at a certain point, I could see the color differences between the browns and greys and black. I could appreciate the contrast between the occasional stunningly blue sky and the dark stillness below. I am still amazed when I’m looking at a completely empty meadow that suddenly bursts to life with a startled flock of brown birds.

 

This season forces the observer to look closer to find beauty everywhere, hidden in plain sight. I hope to teach my daughters that there is always more to see, that the surface isn’t going to teach you anything. Sure, Spring, Summer, and even Winter have an amazing facade that doesn’t require much delving, but this part of the autumn rewards the careful explorer more with surprise nuggets of beauty.

So just look a little closer and I’m sure you’ll find something worth looking for.

We Wish you a Happy Halloween, We Wish…

There is a distinct lack of great, singable Halloween songs. That’s not to say that there haven’t been plenty of people who have tried to remedy that. Mostly rock artists. Mostly in the 60’s.

 

Happy Halloween YouTube

YouTube background to celebrate the season.

But for some reason, no one just bursts out with “Monster Mash,” in the middle of May, remembering all of the lyrics while the whole room follows along and sings loudly and off-key on the chorus. Yet this happens all the time with Christmas songs, or even “Here comes Peter Cottontail.” Heck, even Valentines day has songs associated with it, and half the population HATES that holiday.

 

It’s not for lack of interest. The only reason that we’re not inundated with Christmas toys, decorations, and music this time of year is that stores can still get an awful lot of money from folks who wait all year for October. My husband is one of those people. He started decorations for our Halloween party a month and a half ago. The party is not for another two weeks. He keeps a close eye on our mall this time of year to see when the Halloween Store opens.

 

Now, I enjoy Halloween a great deal, not the least of reasons being that it’s perfectly legitimate to eat a whole giant bag of chocolates in a week. Until I married Corey, I would usually find out about someone’s Halloween party a week or two early, then throw together some half-assed costume, usually out of things I have in my own closet supplemented by what I could find at Goodwill. I would also wear that costume to work if I happened to be working ON Halloween, but that might be the extent of my participation. Aside from aforementioned chocolate consumption, that is.

 

 

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The closest thing to Halloween Music that you can find: http://sokolovskymusic.com/best-halloween-royalty-free-music-2016/

 

But now I have husband, kids, and party to prepare for. It’s a big deal in this house. But it’s sadly quiet around here with only a handful of songs that we can claim as Halloween Carols. “5 Little Pumpkins,” and “3 Little Witches” and some half-remembered parody of a kids song about ghosts (probably with a number associated with it, too) are not enough for us to burst into song while we’re getting ready. I guess as a writer and musician that means it falls to me to remedy the situation, but I think I’ve found the reasons why:

 

 

It is not easy to write a kids Halloween song. It can’t be too gory, it can’t be too scary, and if you veer too far the other way, it ends up being too cheesy for the adults to sing, therefore no one sings it.

Oh, well, maybe once the flurry of activity is over and before the next Holiday comes up, I’ll crank out a few carols for next year.

Turning Inward

As the weather turns colder, there is a phenomenon that is pretty common in the continental climate parts of the world. I can’t speak for the areas with a steadier climate as I’ve never lived in one, but up here while the change to autumn is all around you – notifying all of your senses – we tend to become a people of philosophy right before the snow falls and locks us up tight for a few months.

EscRBasin9-08

September on the Escanaba River Basin, Michigan

It might be because of the spectacular fall show. It’s one thing to describe the riot of color that slowly burns through all of the deciduous trees around you, and it is quite another to actually walk through the blaze and notice the few green branches that are still clinging to summer as the rest of the season has burned out around them. It’s amazing to note how dark green the pines are in the face of all that excitement, disapproving old caretakers that don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

It certainly is hard not to think about death when many things are singing their mortality as loudly as they know how. It’s easy to ask what your purpose is in life and why are we really here when you notice the things that will soon be gone.

It might go back to our farming roots. When you had to make sure that there was enough food to carry everyone through the winter, there was a LOT to be done in the fall months. After the harvest, there was a flurry of preparation that needed to happen, in the fields and in the house, to keep body and stomach together through the cold season. Once that is done, your brain is primed to planning and thinking with no focus to keep it occupied, and that’s when the philosophy starts.

Cozy Conversation

Always better with a lap critter.

Whatever the origin of this turn, our focus moves inward and we’re more likely to sit in coffee shops until all hours of the night talking over politics, religion, the past, the future… almost anything that we can imagine. It is truly lovely to have a soft cabled sweater and a cup of something warm and sweet to drink while these conversations are happening. A thick pair of socks or a handy lap blanket (or lap critter) adds to the cozy atmosphere and gives a boost to our creativity. After the harvest, somewhere between the start of school and mid-terms, and before the holiday season takes most of our attention, we turn inward and a lot of our most creative ideas come out.

So while the season is cooling, let’s get out there and… turn inward. Who knows, maybe you’ll think of the solution for world peace! Or maybe you’ll just figure out what to get Uncle Jim for Christmas. Either way, worth the effort.

I can haz accomplishment

I am an English teacher. On forced sabbatical at the moment, perhaps, but I am an English teacher. Moreover, I’m the daughter, niece, and granddaughter of editors, and just about everyone in my family compulsively edits everything and everyone around them. We are so known for this that friends and even family members purposely misuse words just to bug us (FUNNER IS NOT A WORD, COREY!!!). Ahem.

Netspeak

Whole phrases condensed down to three characters.

As a result, most people would assume that I am not a fan of netspeak. The shortening of words or substitution of numbers for letters so they are easier for people to type (especially on phones) has invaded every part of our written society. I have actually had to correct netspeak out of research papers, though not much.

Many think it’s a sign of laziness. Many also believe that it will cause kids to grow up not understanding how to write or spell anything because they are too used to abbreviations or substitutions and don’t understand that netspeak is not an appropriate form of communication in many settings. It has been suggested that netspeak and text speak will ruin all of the hard work of literacy programs for this current generation.

I don’t agree with any of those nay-sayers. Not only did I grow up in the generation that wrote the first netspeak, but I also have been part of the generation that has made texting a crucial technology for survival. I was one of the first people I know who knew where “I can haz cheeseburger” came from.

Studies have shown exactly the opposite effect to what aforementioned nay-sayers think will happen. This upcoming generation is one of the most literate, though perhaps not the best read. They spend their lives looking at text, most of which has automatic spell checkers actively looking for spelling and grammatical errors. Many of my students have had better grammatical skills than I have, and I have personally noticed a drop in misspellings and grammatical errors in un-edited papers that I’ve graded.

I also have always been fascinated by language and the ways it changes or stays the same. I would often tell people that I was going to college to get an English degree so that I could make up words.

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The Munchkin compels you!

So netspeak is just another form of communication. One that has its place in the world. One that really doesn’t belong some places, but that can be a really fun tool for those who are interested in using it. One should always be prepared, though, and find out how BEST to use it before they start spouting ‘L33t Sp34k’ or typing with numbers. I am an English teacher, after all, and I always encourage learning proper communication.

Tx 4 da r34d!

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