Autumn

Embracing October 

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  October has returned, and in its usual fashion it is equal parts glorious and hard.  No, that is far from accurate.  It is mostly beautiful weather and trips to the pumpkin patch and football and concerts and plays.  It is mostly vanilla-flavored candles and fun decorations on the mantle.  I love October!

But it can also be hard.  My children have been busy with school and clinical and jobs.  My work family has been busy as well.  It’s been amazing and important work, but it’s been a lot.  A few of us got pretty sick, and I have to admit that I have not been as patient or gracious or kind as I would like to be.  This can be a challenging time.

Something I have learned through the years though is that spending too much time focused on the negative serves no value.

October has returned, and I am thrilled.

This has always been my favorite time of the year.

Halloween is big in my family.  What’s not to love?  Costumes and candy and pumpkin-spiced everything.  This year my daughter is going all-out in a “cubicle decorating contest” at work.  It is becoming epic.  I’ve got pumpkins in the entryway and gourds at work.  It’s beginning to look a lot like Halloween.

The weather changed this week.  A more sudden shift from warm to cold than last year.  The leaves are turning, and the fall rain has settled in.  It is finally jacket and sweatshirt weather.  There is comfort in thick socks and a soft sweater.  There is comfort in wrapping up on the couch in a blanket reading a book.  I spent hours doing that this weekend.

In the sweltering heat of July and in the frigid cold of January, I sometimes wonder why we live here.  October reminds me!   Autumn in the Midwest is spectacular.  Nebraska is at her best when the rustic colors fill the trees and the gentle rain coats the streets.  This is my favorite time of the year, and I know I am not alone.

This will be a busy week in our district.  Conferences are in full swing, grades are finalized and being shared with families, and there are professional development and teacher work days next week.  There will be some long days.

I encourage you to pause in the midst of the crazy this week and savor the season.  It goes much too fast.

Focus less on the negative and more on the positive.

When someone says, “How are you?”  Answer, “Fantastic!”

Positivity is contagious.  Spread it around.

October has returned, and I am thrilled.

Rusty

img_2558I spent a few days in Huntington, West Virginia this month.  It sits on the southern bank of the Ohio River, minutes from both Kentucky and Ohio.  Although we flew in on the edge of a hurricane, it was the perfect time of year to visit this beautiful part of our country.  The city is nestled inside lush hills, and the leaves had all turned gold and burgundy and burnt orange.  Picturesque is the only accurate description.

The highlight of the trip was a complete surprise.  It was one of those magical moments that seem almost too good to be true.  We met a man who left an impression.  His name is Rusty.

We had a little time to walk over to Marshall University.  You can’t visit Huntington and not visit the Marshall University stadium.  The Thundering Herd suffered a tragedy in 1970 memorialized in the movie We Are Marshall.  The school has done a remarkable job of honoring the past and celebrating the future.  The stadium was closed, but Rusty was cleaning the parking lot.  We asked him if he would take our picture.  Almost immediately he started sharing stories about Marshall.  Rusty has worked there for 50 years.  He grew up in a house that sat where the Marshall practice field sits now.  Rusty has some stories.

img_2569He took us up to the private boxes for a tour.  He showed us the press box.  He shared stories of Huntington community members and the history of the school.  It was riveting.

img_2589But Rusty shared more than the story of Marshall.  He shared his thoughts on life.  He shared his wisdom.  He told us that if he were rich (and after spending time with him- trust me that he is rich in all the ways that matter), he would give $25,000 to a young couple.  “Can you imagine how much it would have helped to have someone get you started when you were young?”   He also shared that he would sit down with the couple and their parents to make sure they had a good life plan.  When Rusty imagines being rich, his thoughts do not go to what he could do for himself, but what he could do for others.  And he recognizes that what we all really need is just a little help.  “Imagine if everyone could just help one other person.”

Imagine.

Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed one.”

I watched one of my favorite episodes of The West Wing this weekend.  Two West Wing staffers met a man in a bar who was taking his daughter on a college visit.  He was talking about how hard it can be to provide for your family.  “It should be hard.  I like that it’s hard.  Putting your daughter through college, that’s a man’s job, a man’s accomplishment.  But it should be a little easier, just a little easier.  And that difference…is everything.”

As I watched it, I thought about Rusty. And I realized that we already have the capacity to make it a little easier. Imagine if everyone would help make one person’s life better, one situation a little easier.  One person at a time we would make the difference for everyone.

Pumpkin Patches and Bobbing for Apples

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October has returned, and I am thrilled.

I grew up on one of those streets you see in the movies, blacktop not pavement, lined with tall oaks older than the people who lived in the houses.  Autumn was magical.  As a child, I would rake leaves into complex mazes in the backyard with my friends.  At the end of the maze would always be a pile of leaves large enough to jump into and be totally hidden from view.  Hot chocolate with marshmallows was the reward when we’d finally get the leaves into the bags and hauled up to the street.  Half a dozen of us would trick-or-treat together for hours in the dark venturing further and further from our block each year.  A particularly good memory is when my parents would take me over to my grandma and grandpa’s neighborhood to trick-or-treat.  The house up the hill had this huge bell in the front yard, and all of the kids got to ring it for Halloween…better than any piece of candy would ever have been.

This has always been my favorite time of the year.

I hope I was able to make some of those same kind of memories for my children.  Halloween is big in my family.  What’s not to love?  Dressing up in costumes, seeing your neighbors, getting candy just for asking.  Many, many years as my own children were growing up, we’d host Halloween parties.  We would bob for apples and mummy-wrap the kids in toilet paper.  I’d make ghosts in the graveyard cakes and ooey-gooey things out of jello.  One year (and only one year) I even sewed their costumes from scratch.

Some years, when the weather is just right, October is absolute perfection in the Midwest.  The temperatures cool slowly which in turn allows the leaves to turn slowly, and we get the chance to truly appreciate the beauty of a Nebraska fall.

This has been one of those years.  And I have been particularly nostalgic.

The seasons have always been such a powerful literary device.  The analogy of new life each spring has always rung true for me.  But this year I am taken by the fleeting nature of fall.  Many times the leaves go from lush and green, to rustic colors of gold, to falling to the ground much too quickly.  Some years, when I am busy and distracted, I almost miss it.  This will not be one of those years.  I will work on appreciating the moment.

My children have grown up too quickly.

My career in education is passing too quickly.

Time itself goes too quickly.

This is not melancholy.  I am overjoyed at the season.  I am blessed beyond measure, and I am working hard to take it all in.  I’ve written before about the crazy nature of October for those of us in education.  This year is no exception.  I know it will slow down, but I am in the middle of busy.

I guess I am just reminding myself that fall is short.  My favorite month will pass too quickly.

Slow down.

Watch the sunset.

Take a picture in a pumpkin patch.

Winter is coming.