Tiny Miracles and Holy Shit

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Finally.

It is True Fall over here.
A blanket of yellow and red quivers on a bed of peridot grass. The air – slightly colder than my body would like it to be – drops frosty kisses on my plants and windows.
Here in California, rarely do we get to experience a season in true form. Usually it’s this hybrid creature – a mixture of all the seasons, in no particular order, splattered like paint on the months leading up to the close of the year.

I can no longer leave the house without coming back with an arm full of color-confused leaves. On especially lucky days, I also come home with a pinecone or two in my clutches. I scatter them throughout the house, mystifying a husband who does not see art and architecture in their unique form, but a sappy mess.

Oddly enough, as those of us in the state celebrate Thanksgiving, I am no more grateful today and I am on every other day. Relentless gratitude behooves a life of chronic illness. Being ill means I’m prone to anger, bitterness, and discontent. Gratitude keeps me soft, pliable. It keeps me aware of all the tiny miracles and holy shit whirring about my life like a beautiful tornado. Without gratitude, I would break and tear and wither like the trees outside my window.

Today, my goal is to further investigate the GIVING part of Thanksgiving.
We are called not only to be thankful, but to react to that thankfulness with generosity and kindness and Love. To be a fragrant offering.

So, today, may all who come near you be met with the decadence of gardenias.

Happy Thanksgiving, sisters and brothers.

My Black Friday Heart

Earlier this month I saved my husband money by purchasing a rug at TJMAXX for 79.99, that easily would have sold for three- or five times as much in a store like Pottery Barn or Anthropologie. Aren’t I a good wife? Well, most of the time I am; but do I really believe I saved my husband money? No. But I do believe a sensible woman knows a deal when she spots one.

I came home grinning. I parked the car and unloaded the purchases (just a few other “saves,” I had found while shopping) but I left the rug curled in the back seat. The plan was to wait until Sunday, that being Cleaning Day: a weekly event I anticipate with an equal mixture of habitual casualness and fizzy alacrity. Waiting would make the whole laying-down-of-the-rug feel like an occasion. Almost ceremonial. As though our bedroom had initiated it. Not one to miss any occasion big or small, I would light candles, play music, the whole nine yards. I am nothing if not theatric.

Sunday arrived, and following a whirlwind of ritualistic fanfare — vacuuming, straightening, dusting, wiping down of all surfaces soft and hard — it was time. I went to the car where the rug had remained coiled for the last forty-eight hours, and after carefully hoisting it onto my shoulders, I escorted Her Ladyship inside the house. Then gently, on hands and knees, I unrolled the tapestry using a flourish like the breast stroke, smoothing down the surface, plucking the loose fibers, and finally, settling the edges and corners at precisely the right angles. Three hours later . . . No — that would just be absurd! Of course it only took two hours. (And fifty-nine minutes.) . . . some while later, I made my way to a spot where I could best admire and dote on my new rug. I stood on my bed.

Can I be honest? It was gorgeous. I may have let out a squeal. Or two. And kicked my heels together. Three times. And shimmied up and down. That’s all, though.

After an adequate amount of alone time with my new rug, I went out and into the living room where my husband was sitting on the couch with a bag of pumpkin seeds in one hand and a spit cup in the other. He was watching a hockey game. I glanced at the TV. 3-2, Ducks, with a little more than a minute left on the clock. I asked him to come and take a look at our bedroom, though refused to tell him exactly what it was he would be looking at. I asked him sweetly and slyly, with an air of coquettish allure. And when that didn’t work I stamped my foot and threatened violence. Just what, pray tell, is the point of owning a DVR if not with which to oblige your wife when she’s spent the afternoon scrubbing your porcelain throne? Indeed.

Well, even my husband agreed it was the most spectacular woven thing he’d ever laid eyes on. The most beautiful of all rugs that have ever been and will ever be. As we held each other, unashamed of our tight brows and flowing tears, I took the opportunity to whisper the set of new rules with which the rug had come. Although we (me) uphold a strong “No Shoes” policy in our bedroom, more often than not — usually when one of us is in a hurry to grab a forgotten wallet, wedding ring, a matching shoe — the rules are forsook and replaced with expediency. Am I really going to unlace my boots just to walk eight feet across the room and retrieve my wedding ring? No. I am crazy and compulsive, but not that crazy and compulsive. With the inauguration of the rug, however, all that would change.

And so, for the next two weeks, each time one of us entered our bedroom, we would first remove our shoes and then sidle along the bookshelf, and through the narrow passage way I had built from door to closet. Generally speaking, I am sweaty person. I sweat while reading, applying make-up, chewing gum, and I could fill a koi pond with the sweat I produce within an hour of cardiovascular exercise. Summer is my nemesis. There are days when I would like nothing better than to leave the house wearing several rolls of Bounty. That said, the purpose of not allowing my bare feet to touch the rug immediately after removing my shoes is to give the carpet time to absorb that sweat. Gross and a little strange? Yes, perhaps; but surely no more odd than using whatever’s handy as a shield to block out the beating sun while driving. (Coats work best, if you can trap them in the window; but in a pinch I’ve used napkins and mail.) As I said, for the next fourteen days both my husband and I took the necessary precautions, making concerted efforts to avoid stepping on the rug prematurely. And there it remained, The Crown Jewel of our bedroom, resplendent, majestic, worthy of all our praise. The rug was . . . magnificent.

Until my dog peed on it.

Maybe you will have heard about select stores modifying their hours this year to allow the public to take advantage of Black Friday deals as early as Thanksgiving. Call me traditional, because I am, but I was no less than horrified. I stared at the T.V. in horror. “But it’s . . . Thanksgiving.” As one friend put it, “What could you possibly need that can’t wait until next week?” Now, I understand those deals don’t last. That if you don’t get there bright and early, or, in this year’s case, dark and sleepy, you would miss the opportunity to pay $199 for a spiffy new iPad Mini with a $75 instant rebate. Tempting. For me, though, it wasn’t a tough decision. I won’t lie. If you ducked out early on Thanksgiving, leaving your friends and family oooing and ahhing over Aunt Jenny’s pumpkin bread pudding, I judged you. I thought you selfish and superficial, and myself just a little more virtuous.

Thanksgiving night, after we arrived home from a lovely evening over at my uncle’s house, Bubba and I curled up in bed and watched Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets. At some point over the course of those two hours, my darling Bella lowered her abdomen to the floor and piddled on my precious rug. At first I could only stare in disbelief. Then I pinched my arms. A nightmare, it’s only a nightmare, Cara, you’ll wake up any second now. I did not wake up. My temper flared, and I cursed her for not urinating six inches to the left. That I could have endured. But not my rug. My ruuuuuug!!!!

It was while whimpering and muttering and dabbing the crimson mosaic pattern with soapy warm water that I realized Black Friday had entered my heart. And probably not only on Thanksgiving, but several times throughout the year. Do I still think it’s a poor choice to sacrifice a moment of Thanksgiving, even if half of your relatives are passed out in the living room and the other half appears to be no more alert and engaged in passive digestion? Yes, I do. Because time with family and friends is fleeting and finite, and things can’t wrap their arms around you when you’re sick or sad. If I’m wrong, if in fact there does exist something capable of bringing you true joy and lasting contentment, then by all means, you should probably leave and go buy it. And if for more than a few days you find yourself happy and full, feeling the way one does after good food with good people, please, let me know. I’d be interested. Because my experience with buying has revealed only brief euphorias, and at best, a surface familiarity. My experience is that which boasts a price tag assumes an inevitable expiration date.

I learned something important this year. Something that, truthfully, I’m certain I already knew and had only forgotten. I learned that a rug is a thing. Possibly a very, very, very beautiful thing — but still, highly vulnerable to urine.

Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving. Happy Sunday, everyone!

. . . . you know I wouldn’t deprive you a look after all that build up! Here it is. “The Rug.”

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