The cold and the darkness still suck.
Halloween was the preamble to what was coming. It was chilly, grey and pouring rain, so much so that the candle inside my jack o'lantern on the porch refused to stay lit, and I was getting wet just sticking my head & hands out the door to dole out candy to the handful of poor, brave (sugar-desperate??) trick or treaters who showed up on my front porch (our lowest turnout ever in 25 years in this house).
And then suddenly, it was November.
Within days, the time change plunged us into darkness well before suppertime -- and it's been gradually getting darker, earlier since then. And colder. By mid-month, the beautiful fall foliage that made this October such a delight had mostly vanished, leaving stark, bare branches against the dull grey sky. We started seeing snowflakes in the air, and woke up the morning of Nov. 17th to a thin blanket of white snow -- and we've had more since then (which has pretty much put the kibosh on our morning walks & given me a slight touch of cabin fever -- the first since I've been off work). (Although I suppose I shouldn't complain too much about the white stuff, when Buffalo is just two hours & a bit down the road...!!)
It's November -- and October's tragic & terrifying events in Ottawa and St. Jean-sur-Richelieu cast a dark shadow over my country. Two innocent men lost their lives for the simple reason that they were both soldiers -- and easily identified as such because they were in uniform (one of them was guarding the National War Memorial -- an unarmed ceremonial position). These events brought additional gravity to this year's Remembrance Day ceremonies.
It's November, and my daughter -- who should have been celebrating her Sweet Sixteen this month, and getting her G1 (learner's driving permit), like one of her cousins in the extended family just did, to much congratulations on Facebook :( -- is long dead, having never drawn a breath. :(
It's November and, being Canadian, we've long since had our turkey and meditated on gratitude (that was back in mid-October)(and to be honest, I prefer that timing, versus having so many big things crammed into the space of less than a month -- Christmastime is already hectic enough as it is...!). But in recent years, we've begun to adopt U.S.-style Black Friday shopping promotions -- which I am not entirely sure is a good thing.
So November is still, unquestionably, my least favourite month.
But I must admit -- November HAS lost some (not all, but some) of its sting. Even before I turned the page on my calendar, I didn't find myself loathing and dreading November in quite the same way that I once did.
A big reason for that, of course, is that I am no longer working. November was always our busiest, most stressful time of year at work (i.e., year end). When my job suddenly vanished, so too did my year-end work obligations -- and all the stress and exhaustion that went along with it.
In past Novembers, dh & I would be up at 5 a.m., and slog our way through weather that was often cold, wet and miserable to the commuter train station, where we'd stand shivering on the platform until our train arrived at 6:45 a.m., to deliver us to our offices before 8... and then repeat the whole process in the evening in reverse (and hope the cold and snow didn't lead to train delays and cancellations :p ). These days, I'm generally not up before 7:30 (MUCH more civilized!). :) And looking out the window of my cozy house last week at the blowing snow, a cup of tea in my hand (or listening to the wind howling outside tonight), I thought for the umpteenth time how thankful I was that I no longer had to worry about commuting.
In past Novembers, Christmas shopping was something to be squeezed in during lunch hours (a little bit here, a little bit there...) and weekend visits to a packed mall -- or postponed altogether until December (when the pressure was really on...!). This year, dh & I have already gotten a start on gift-buying. It's great to be able to shop at the mall early on a weekday afternoon when there are far fewer people around. (Although it's a bit jarring, since most of the people there at that hour are senior citizens -- I guess it's one way to feel younger by comparison...!)
We've booked our flights west for a slightly-longer-than-usual holiday stay with my family -- no need to rush back, or to battle with co-workers over vacation approvals or work coverage. Between now & then, I fully intend to take advantage of my new freedom to enjoy some of the holiday events & activities that I never could find time for when I was working.
For example, I spent a day at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair a few weeks ago with a friend from out of town; I'm planning to attend a gargantuan annual Christmas craft show with another friend; and I'm hoping to drag -- errr, bring dh to the European-style Christmas market in the Distillery District -- something we've never had time to do before. And I already have a date pencilled in for the Christmas lunch that's become an annual tradition with a couple of my previously retired colleagues. Aside from the lunch (which I always enjoyed, albeit with one eye firmly on the clock, because I had to get back to the office...), this is all stuff that I would have been hard-pressed to do (there's only so much you can cram into already-packed weekends) in Decembers past.
So I still don't LOVE November.
But (so far, anyway -- with less than a week to go)(knocking wood?) it's the best November that I've had for quite a long time. :)