It's that time of year again. The nights are cold, the leaves have turned a beautiful gold, the sky is a crisp blue, and the sun sets early. Stores have already rolled out their Christmas campaigns. One Albuquerque radio station started playing nothing but Christmas music on Nov. 1. I love Christmas music and I own probably 40 Christmas CDs, with everything from saxophone music to acoustic guitar, New Mexican, brass, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and many other styles. But I refuse to listen to Christmas music for the next seven or eight weeks.
First, I want to enjoy the beauty of Fall and the blessings of Thanksgiving, a holiday that increasingly gets lost in the pre-Christmas hysteria. I confess to having bought some ingredients for my traditional fudge and Christmas cookies, but only because the items were on sale. And I won't be baking until the Thanksgiving holiday is finished.
This year, which has brought many significant changes in my life, I have so much for which to be thankful. My daughter is home and doing well after living in a residential center in Utah for nearly a year. In June, we moved to our fabulous house in New Mexico, with awesome views of the Sandia Mountains.
I have joined several Meetup groups and I have gone hiking several times, as well as visiting the site of an old Puebloan compound, with other interesting activities scheduled for the rest of this year. I have ramped up my interest in photography, in a place that offers limitless opportunities to take pictures. One morning I got up and drove a scant 5 miles to an area that is home to hundreds of cottonwood trees shimmering gold in the brilliant sunshine against a crystal blue sky. I was greeted by the friendly waves of a group of Native Americans as I drove through their pueblo. I am surrounded by the harsh natural beauty of the high desert. I live less than an hour's drive from the unique and beautiful city of Santa Fe. I attended the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which featured more than 500 hot air balloons. I have volunteered at a couple of events with the Wanagi Wolf Fund and Rescue, getting to meet and interact with its amazing resident wolves and wolf dogs.
The current economic downturn has had little effect on me. My investments have increased by more than 4% this year, I received a buyout from my job with the federal government, and I have health insurance, which millions of Americans don't have. And unlike so many others, I have no debt. Not having a monthly mortgage payment is a wonderful feeling.
I am healthy, and although I no longer run, I have walked nearly 1,200 miles this year. I discovered a great rural road on which to ride my bike. My hips still hurt much of the time, but not so much that I have had to give up walking, hiking and bicycling. Since summer 2009, I have lost 15 pounds and my blood glucose levels have returned to normal. My blood pressure and resting pulse are excellent, and I am not afflicted with any of the problems that beset so many people of my age.
I continue to enjoy writing this blog (although it would be nice to have more people read it!) and working on my book, which allows me to pursue one of my favorite activities, non-fiction writing.
Last year, I didn't bother with a special Thanksgiving meal, as I was alone on the holiday. This year, my daughter and I will share a traditional turkey dinner, although she far prefers the stuffing and potatoes to the turkey. But the important thing will be spending the holiday together in our new home.
Although living with a teenager can be a challenge, with all the drama and mood swings that age brings, we have a good relationship and she recently commented to a friend that she can talk to me about anything. I am grateful that we have such a good relationship. And I am blessed to have such a wonderful daughter. She has come so far since her traumatic childhood in Russia.
A cyberfriend has suggested thinking of one thing every day for which we are grateful from now until Thanksgiving. That's a great idea, and one I hope to implement. I have so very many things for which to be grateful this year, and I am more aware than usual of my blessings.
I want to share my good fortune with those not as fortunate. I have started buying canned goods to donate to the annual food drive, and my daughter and I both have coats we plan to give to the winter coat drive. Albuquerque winters are bitterly cold, and I much prefer giving our unwanted coats to people who can really use them, to leaving them hanging in a closet. One of my coats belonged to my mother. I have it for sentimental reasons, but I believe that she would prefer that it go to someone who really needs it. She was that kind of woman. Sharing our good fortune is the least we can do when we have been so richly blessed.
I have feelings of peace and happiness I don't ever remember having. I love New Mexico and my new life here. Life is good. When I sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this year, I will be more mindful than ever of the many blessings in my life.