The woman at the register behind the counter at Charleston Bread was trying not to laugh at the big jar of change under my arm.
My guess is that she’d seen that kind of thing before. Someone is a little short on cash before payday or maybe has built up just enough change to be a nuisance and they come into the store to buy bread or cookies with whatever they have.
I picked out a couple of scones. No blueberry, craisin or golden raisin today. They had parmesan and pumpkin scones with white chocolate.
I got the pumpkin. It was seasonal and I have yet to find love in my heart for a savory scone.
“Five dollars,” she said.
But then I pulled out my debit card to pay and she seemed puzzled.
“What’s that?” She said as I put the jar on the counter and placed it behind the paper coffee cup that was already filling up with quarters, nickels and stray dollar bills.
The jar, a glass vase I’d found under the sink in the newsroom, which had been used to deliver flowers once upon a time, loomed over the ragged, little cup.
She looked down at the money.
I thought about explaining that this was my swear jar, that every quarter, every dollar, represented a somewhat regretted word that flew out of my mouth, but that seemed unnecessary. Besides, it was the day before Thanksgiving. There were people lining up behind me to buy rolls and bread for their holiday table.
Instead, I said, “It’s yours. This is a tip. Keep the jar.”
The woman thanked me, as did a couple of the others working behind the counter, filling orders and slicing fresh loaves of Charleston Sourdough.
“The glass won’t last,” one of them said and then joked, “We can’t keep anything nice.”
I shrugged. It didn’t matter.
“Have a nice Thanksgiving,” I said to them, took my scones and went on my way.
I left them with just under 30 bucks, which doesn’t sound all that bad for a 30-day exercise to curb cursing — just a dollar a day and I set the price at a quarter a swear.
Of course, what was in the jar was merely an estimate. I didn’t carry it around with me all day, every day. Mostly, the jar represented just what I said at my desk and what I half remembered when I was away.
I’d probably have to match those funds if I’d kept better track of every foul thing I said at the gym or while driving around for Meals on Wheels (Seriously, folks. Stop running red lights).
If I’d done that, I’d have had to have set the penalty fee lower or considered a second mortgage.
But the exercise did make me become more aware of how often I drop “bad” words. It also made me look at why. I don’t swear out of anger, generally. Mostly, my cursing is just about garden variety frustration over my own bumbling.
I should probably take it easier on myself.
I finished my month of gratitude with some insights about what it means to be grateful and how to actually count your blessings and be thankful.
I had a lot of help. Readers wrote in. People called. A Facebook friend named Patricia posted a note on my page about my struggle to feel grateful.
She said, “It isn’t necessary to always have variety in what we are grateful for. It’s perfectly OK to repeat, because gratitude is not something we can manipulate. It just is or isn’t.”
She added, “I don’t God cares, but must be glad when we are grateful.”
It was food for thought and made it easier to look at this month’s practice of writing down three things I was grateful for every morning with some clarity.
With the journaling, I’d tried to hit the high points. I was thankful for the roof over my head and the means to keep it. I was thankful for my family, friends and the little white dog that sleeps at the foot of my bed and snores.
I was thankful for my health and for the freedoms, rights, and privileges I have just from the good fortune of being born in this country and living in this sometimes very curious corner of it.
But what then?
I’d struggled to come up with more and more reasons to give thanks. The daily mental gymnastics were tiring, self-sabotaging and unnecessary. You don’t have to unearth brand new reasons to feel grateful for anything. It’s really kind of self-evident –or it’s not.
Also, I’ve found the best way to feel ingrateful is to let other people tell you what you ought to be grateful for. You don’t have to be thankful for people (including family), jobs or situations you don’t like or did you harm, even if you’ve somehow benefited from any of these in some way.
You can be grateful for the effect and not the cause. You can be grateful for the money you earn, but still hate your job, for example.
I don’t think there’s no faking it until you make it with being thankful — either you are or you aren’t.
That’s just what I got out of this past month. As always, not everything I learn makes sense to anyone else but me, but I’m always grateful when I come away feeling like I learned something I can use down the road.
While this month wasn’t as obviously difficult as some other things I’ve done, I feel like I got something out of it.
The end of these monthly projects can sometimes be a little awkward. Often, I’m beginning the next month’s plan a week or two before I finish the project I’m currently writing about.
This time, the writing needed to start early in order to keep up with what I’m doing.
After the pandemic began and most events were shut down for public safety, I expected they would return in full force once it appeared that the world got a handle on COVID-19.
West Virginia hasn’t let me down.
From what I can tell, there are more things to see and do this Christmas season than any other year in recent memory — or this could just be because there was so little happening last year.
But it feels like we’re trying to make up for last year’s muted holiday season, where many of us remained nestled all snug on our couches, while visions of Netflix danced in our heads.
Through December 25, it’s going to be Christmas every day for me and I’ll be sharing the spree in daily reports, bad pictures and here with One Month at a Time. Once again, I’ll be turning in short, daily reports about all the holiday stuff I’m getting into –parades, parties, tree lightings, concerts and more.
There is so much. Look for the first of these starting December 1 with updates along the way until Christmas.
This will be a little like my summer project “55 in 55” — but with fewer selfies and pictures of county road signs, but hopefully even more baked goods.
I hope you’ll follow along and let me know what kind of holiday fun you’re getting into. Maybe I can pencil that in, too.