I love fall, its my favorite time of year. I love the crunchy leaves, the smell, wearing sweaters, drinking hot cider, and fuzzy slippers. Fall in Texas is different though, not only because many of the ones I love are hundreds of miles away, but the leaves are still on the trees and the grass is still green! (Oh, and don't even get me started on the pollen count, which is perpetually HIGH)
The other day when it dipped below 70 it was finally starting to feel like fall in this great state of Texas. With that came my fall/winter morning ritual of waking up with a bowl of hot oatmeal, while being hugged by my big fuzzy bathrobe! Well, sadly I've become weak (as a Northern friend recently called me) and started my morning oatmeal tradition well above freezing!
I usually buy the flavored oatmeal, because lets face it, plain oatmeal is a bit boring. However, the last time I went to the store I picked up the boring kind...thank God for sugar!!! As I was sprinkling brown sugar over my mundane oatmeal, a memory flashed before my eyes:
It was my first trip to Chicago, it was Feb. 2005. Almost five years prior to that my world had been twisted upside down. Five years before our trip to Chicago a good friend had passed away unexpectedly, my parents moved from the only hometown I'd known only 2 months after graduation, I'd struggled through four years of college, I was working in a job just for the sake of working, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I will admit I was not in a "happy place."
Then a conversation started via email with a middle aged man from Chicago. He was the lung recipient of my friend Kari's lungs...the one who'd passed away five years previously. I started corresponding with him in 2004, but I quickly decided I needed to meet him. (I know now that meeting him was a catalyst in my life, and I know I wouldn't be the person I am today if it weren't for him...and Kari--that's a whole different blog post)
Anyways, back to my trip. You all know the story of how we piled outta the car after our five hour trip...Steve's told it hundreds of times. I've told Steve it was at the moment we hugged in which I finally felt peace with this world, and with God. I had been a lost and bitter child, and had truly believed this world had no hope in it.
I will never forget the next morning though. It was at breakfast that I knew God had a sense of humor, and that I knew this man who had my friend's lungs was going to be a great friend! Steve and his friend's took us to their favorite place, Blackies...which by the way has AMAZING food! I was surprised when I saw an order of bland oatmeal being placed in front of Steve. I thought maybe he had some food restrictions I didn't know about. Then came a bowl of brown sugar and a pitcher of cream.
I think I probably had a curious look on my face, because Steve looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. He said, "don't you know that if you take a lot of butter and melt it on top of your oatmeal, and then pile on the brown sugar that it caramelizes?!!" So, Steve showed me his morning oatmeal ritual, and I giggled as he made something so healthy something wonderful and probably not so good for you!! After he carmalized his oatmeal he then proceeded to drown his masterpiece in cream.
I thought that this guy was nuts at first, but then something tugged at my heart, reminding me that this 45 year old man had not had many normal days in his life. To him, the normal was BEAUTIFUL...even if it was just sprinkling (okay pouring) brown sugar over his oatmeal.
So each morning this week, as I make myself my oatmeal and sprinkle a little brown sugar (no, I don't make carmel) over my breakfast I smile and think of my dear friend Steve, whose heart is hugged by my friend Kari's lungs. I remember what a gift each day is, and try not to worry about the things I can't control...even if the sweetest thing that happens all day is a little brown sugar.