The Perennial Middle Child

This is reprinted (with a few changes to some previously irritating syntax) from Nov. 2015.

Version 2

Know what prudes don’t like? Short-shrifting months.

To  short shrift means To give little consideration to.
  A shrift was the penance imposed by a priest to provide absolution.
 Death row in the good old days of jolly old England didn’t last for years.
 Usually one went from the trial to the sentence to the gallows.
 So they only had time to consider a short penance, or shrift, before facing the hangman.
 Every cloud has a silver lining.

The short-shrifted month to which I refer is November. Squeezed right on the back of Halloween, most participants on 11/1 are too sugar-dazed with trick-or-treat candy to notice its arrival.
Poor November grew up believing its real name was “Only a few dozen shopping days till Christmas.”
The typical middle child. Sandwiched between the over-achiever and everybody’s favorite.
November isn’t much to look at, at least in most parts of the northern hemisphere. October is a flamboyant exhibitionist, with its “look at me, everybody!” attitude. December gets grace and affection and enough twinkle lights to give Jupiter a migraine.

But the eleventh month is drab and modest and unmemorable. It shies away from weather extremes. Every few years it works up a doozy of a blizzard, or a few balmy, halcyon days, but they are soon forgotten in the gray chilliness.

No matter what November does, its reputation is set. It is the awkward, frumpy month. Occasionally it can be found huddling with March and grousing about ingratitude and kiss-up months like May and June that everyone likes even though they have no major holidays to commend them.
November may be disgruntled at times. It might indulge in spates of self-pity and drizzle its misery all over our windows, but it still has reasons to hold its head high. Cheer up November. Look what you’ve got to offer!

Veterans Day


After a shameful period beginning about 50 years ago, when the armed services were treated with disdain, veterans are finally, in some quarters, given the homage due them. November is the perfect month to recognize these men and women. Humble enough so as not to obstruct their honor under a plethora of picnics and three day weekends. Sturdy enough to support them on matching 11/11 legs.

Deer Hunting Season


While the season has been extended so far that Pilgrims are now applying for licenses, its apex is November. The quiet sky (bereft of birds that have sought out the warmer fraternal twin of November somewhere ‘down south’ ) is filled with the ringing of shotgun blasts. The drab woods are brightened with jackets, vests, hats and pants in that glowing color affectionately known as ‘blaze orange.’

Thanksgiving


The shining jewel in November’s dowdy crown. The holiday that exempts us from buying gifts, sending cards, and untangling two hundred miles of twinkle lights. The holiday that only requires us to cook our turkey till it reaches an internal temperature of 165°, include at least one menu item that vaguely resembles a vegetable, and watch football games through a poultry and carb-induced stupor.
November is waving its unprepossessing hand and wants to say something.
 Don’t forget to be thankful. Don’t forget to articulate the thanks. If you have the breath of life in you, there is something to be thankful for.


November remains out of the limelight and lets Thanksgiving take center stage, and Thanksgiving will gladly step back and showcase what really matters.
Gratitude. Hearts filled and overflowing and bursting with so much thankfulness that voices are raised to God and hands outstretch with shared bounty.
Never give the middle child a short shrift. A meek nature can hide a heart of gold.

SONY DSC

Fly in the ointment, or, Silver Kisses Among the Gold

Autumn purists are everyone’s heroes come September. Pumpkin this and apple that and spices and yellows, oranges, reds and browns begin popping up while temperatures still hover around triple digits. At the close of Labor Day autumn appreciation explodes everywhere, including my house.

An entire day. That’s how long it takes to decorate my house for fall. And come November first I add the Thanksgiving decorations to the mix.

Here’s the problem. Autumn, so beloved at the end of summer, gets kicked to the curb before the Halloween candy is passed out. Christmas has been hovering around the edges of autumn for two months now and at the stroke of midnight on October 31st it springs full blown to coat the nation in red and green, holly and berries and silver bells.

The ramifications for autumn purists are manifold. And not the least of these is the dearth of autumn colored candy. My pumpkin jar stays out till Thanksgiving but no red or green candies will ever see the inside of it. The problem is getting hold of appropriately-colored candy after Halloween. So I stock up as soon as the Autumn Mix and gold, red, orange and brown M&M’s hit the shelves because they’ll be gone faster than the carved pumpkins on your front porch.

SONY DSC

It all looks lovely, doesn’t it? But here’s that fly in the ointment. I don’t understand the silver kisses. Do they fit in with the warm colors of fall? They do not. I try to bury them in the middle of the jar or convince family members to only eat the silver-wrapped kisses. But some always worm their ways to the visible outer portions and MESS with my autumnal color scheme.

I’m thinking of starting a campaign to convince the Hershey’s Kiss folks to Save the Silver for Christmas. Want to join my cause? That’ll earn you a kiss.

SONY DSC

The perennial middle child

DSC02455

Know what prudes don’t like? Short-shrifting months.
Know what short shrift means? To give little consideration to.
Know where it came from? A shrift was the penance imposed by a priest to provide absolution.
Death row in the good old days of jolly old England didn’t last for years.
Usually one went from the trial to the sentence to the gallows.
So they only had time to perform a short penance, or shrift, before facing the hangman.
Every cloud has a silver lining.

The short-shrifted month to which I refer is, of course, November. Squeezed right on the back of Halloween, most participants in November are too sugar-dazed with trick-or-treat candy to notice its arrival. This year it has the ignominious distinction of being the first day when the sun set before Sunday brunch was digested.

Poor November grew up believing its real name was ‘Only a few dozen shopping days till Christmas.’
The typical middle child. Sandwiched between the over-achiever and everybody’s favorite.

November isn’t much to look at, at least in most parts of the northern hemisphere. October is a flamboyant exhibitionist, with its “look at me, everybody!” attitude.December gets grace and affection and enough twinkle lights to give Jupiter a migraine. But the eleventh month is drab and modest and unmemorable. It shies away from weather extremes. Every few years it works up a doozy of a blizzard, or a few balmy, halcyon days, but they are soon forgotten in the gray chilliness.

No matter what November does, its reputation is set. It is the awkward, frumpy month. Occasionally it can be found huddling with March and grousing about ingratitude and kiss-up months like May and June that everyone likes even though they have no major holidays to commend them.

November may be disgruntled at times. It might indulge in spates of self-pity and drizzle its misery all over our windows, but it still has reasons to hold its head high. Cheer up November. Look what you’ve got to offer!

Veterans Day
After a shameful period beginning about 50 years ago, when the armed services were treated with disdain, veterans are finally, in some quarters, given the homage due them. November is the perfect month to recognize these men and women. Humble enough so as not to obstruct their honor under a plethora of picnics and three day weekends. Sturdy enough to support them on matching 11/11 legs.

Deer Hunting Season
While the season has been extended so far that Pilgrims are now applying for licenses, its apex is November. The quiet sky (bereft of birds that have sought out the warmer fraternal twin of November somewhere ‘down south’ ) is filled with the ringing of shotgun blasts. The drab woods are brightened with jackets, vests, hats and pants in that glowing color affectionately known as ‘blaze orange.’

Thanksgiving
The shining jewel in November’s dowdy crown. The holiday that exempts us from buying gifts, sending cards, and untangling two hundred miles of twinkle lights. The holiday that only requires us to cook our turkey till it reaches an internal temperature of 165°, include at least one menu item that vaguely resembles a vegetable, and watch football games through a poultry and carb-induced stupor.

November is waving its unprepossessing hand and wants to say something.
Don’t forget to be thankful. Don’t forget to articulate the thanks. If you have the breath of life in you, there is something to be thankful for.
November remains out of the limelight and lets Thanksgiving take center stage, and Thanksgiving will gladly step back and showcase what really matters.
Gratitude. Hearts filled and overflowing and bursting with so much thankfulness that voices are raised to God and hands outstretch with shared bounty.

Never give the middle child a short shrift. A meek nature can hide a heart of gold.

Somalia is the new Bangladesh

As children grow and develop their humor sense, they learn the delights of shared ridicule. If we’ve raised our children right they won’t ridicule peers or authority figures or those different from them. They’ll mock us.

A gaggle of post-littles/pre-teens guffaw as they cross eyes and loll out tongues.
“Your mom says your face will stay that way? Mine does too!”
Or, “Does your mom ever say, “If your friends were all jumping off a cliff would you?”
And then one will chime in,
“My folks always say, ‘wait till you have kids of your own.’”
At this point they all laugh uproariously. Kids of their own?
That day is, like, a million years in the future.

And then comes the inevitable: “My mom always says, ‘Eat your vegetables! There are starving children in Somalia!’ So I say, ‘If they want my Lima beans so bad they can have them!’”

Some moms might sub in India or the Sudan or North Korea.
But the Momism is the same. When I was growing up the children in Bangladesh were starving.
I wondered how eating my liver and Brussels Sprouts would fill their stomachs.

It wouldn’t. So why don’t moms can this ridiculous phrase? Its been around longer than I have.
As long as America has had so much food that almost half of it goes to waste.
As long as children see buffet lines with more options than their phones have apps.
As long as first world children have never known the gnawing ache of hunger.
Not temporary hunger pangs, but the
agonizing starvation that distends little tummies while shrinking little bodies to loosely fleshed skeletons.

As long as our children can pile food on their plates and after a few bites toss the rest, words about starving children have little impact.

Moms have a lot to deal with. Children have food preferences and sensitivities. Many moms need to keep kids safe from allergens and pesticides. We don’t want our kids falling into eating disorders so we don’t tell them to clean their plates.

We have so much food that sometimes we view it as an enemy instead of realizing how precious it is.
We need to learn ourselves and teach our children that full tables and refrigerators and pantries aren’t our right, but a blessing and privilege.

Let’s exercise our imaginations. Picture one of those little ones from India or Somalia or somewhere in our own city who doesn’t have enough to eat. Imagine them watching us scrape good food into the trash. Imagine a child—who washed dung from seeds for something to eat—sees us turn up fussy noses at meat, potatoes and 2 kinds of vegetables.
Or liver and Brussels Sprouts.

I, too, need pictures of those empty babies with the puzzled eyes
next time I am too lazy to heat up leftovers and order out for pizza. Or when I wait till the food in the fridge turns green and I can just dump it.

“You have so much,” the hollow voices say. “Please, respect it. We do.”

Another Momism: We don’t know what we have till its gone.

An attitude of humble gratefulness and stewardship can grow and spill out. It creates empathy which creates people who not only enjoy the blessing of food, but share it.

Lord, this Thanksgiving, let me be thankfully aware. Let me be alert for those who don’t have tables groaning with provision. Let me be a steward of this bounty. And please, let me partake with gratitude and amazement.