Autumn scene
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The Thing That Hasn't Broken

You killed the 37-year-old Christmas cactus. You managed to be the first person ever to thwart the famous family "No-Fail Snowball Cookies" recipe. But Grandma's crystal gravy boat has not broken. And this year, like every year, you get to (CAREFULLY!) take it down from the top shelf, unwrap it from its womb of bubble wrap, and presto, your instant gravy is ready for its close-up.


Any of them. All of them. The E-ZPass that lets you zoom along the highway without stopping for toll booths, so you can get to the suburban cousins faster than it takes to sing "O'er the hills we go." The TSA PreCheck program, whereby you can actually remain clothed while going through airport security (an especially good idea for when you're traveling with young children who will weep when strangers look at their shoes). Those oven bags that make your turkey cook in under 300 hours. Shortcuts = good. Thx, shortcuts.


And legitimate scarf weather. And detailed tutorials on how to tie said scarves so that they look effortless and Parisian.

Your Own Personal Zottarelli

Every family has a Lawrence J. Zottarelli. He was the NASA engineer who came out of retirement because he was the only one who knew how to deal with Voyager's antique data-storage system—in other words, he was the only guy in the solar system who knew how to do this one particular thing. Who's the Zottarelli in your life? Maybe your brother is the only person on Earth who can get the stereo in your crappy old car to work. Maybe your best friend is the only woman in the world who cooks green beans you actually enjoy. Maybe your kid is the only human alive who can make the grouchy postman crack a smile. Give thanks to your Zottarelli.

Someone Else's Gingerbread Latte

This is the season of scents, of that crisp, cold air that makes everything smell even better, of those first icy days turning your breath into dreamy little cloud-puffs. And though on most days you may find flavored coffee to be an abomination, on a chilly, late-autumn afternoon there is something exceedingly comforting about a whiff of someone else's fall-themed beverage. Everything allspice, everything nutmeg, everything with the earthy tang of leaves and wool; yes please, now, when winter is still novel.

The New Addition to the Grown-Up Table

Thanks to her entirely cryptic (according to you) Instagram account, you've noticed that little cousin Lucy is no longer exactly little cousin Lucy. And so, how fun to see her in person at the family gathering, to embrace and realize she's a full head taller than you, to welcome her to sit beside you and to hear the IRL adventures of the almost-all-grown-up (according to her) Lucinda (as she now prefers).

Clementines in Crates

Even the most devoted Polar Bear ice-swimmer types might feel a pang of wistfulness—what a friend of mine calls "watermeloncholy"—for the fruity abundance of summer. Until, that is, you get that first juicy, delicious batch of winter citrus.

The Thing That Went Horribly, Terribly Wrong This Year

Hey, it's not New Year's yet. You don't have to make all those resolutions and think about all the many ways you could be better—not yet, anyway. For now, consider taking a moment to be grateful. Grateful for all the things that went awry. I know how that sounds, and like so many nourishing things (lifting weights, eating kale, everything you plan to resolve to do) it's easier said than done. But just think—whatever that failure was, it's behind you now. You've learned something. Or you haven't yet, but will.

25-Cent Bags of Candy Corn

Halloween candy is on sale.

The Multi-Media Holiday Spectacular Next Door

There is always that house. The house with the ambitious people who have already put up their holiday lights, but not in a, "So, there!" way; more in a, "Here is something fun for you all to enjoy" way. (In my neighborhood, it's this one.) What fun, to have a new amusement park in town every holiday season! And I don't even have to do a thing.

The End of Daylight Saving Time

The first Sunday in November makes the end of Daylight Saving Time. Fall back! I know, you're not exactly thrilled that it will soon be pitch-black outside by the time you leave work. But think of the morning. Channel your inner Benjamin Franklin and be early to bed, early to rise and enjoy that brighter morning. Or at the very least acknowledge that a bit more light makes chilly, busy, hustling-to-get-everyone-ready-and-out-the-door mornings that much cheerier.

The Chance to Be Unabashedly Creative

You know you've thought about writing a novel. You know that you believe everyone has a story to tell. So, what are you waiting for? November happens to be National Novel Writing Month. You join through the site (it's free), and receive prompts and encouragement all month. You don't have time to be blocked or even picky, because it all happens in 30 days. I've known so many people who have taken the challenge and through their mumbled insistence that they aren't writers manage to write a novel. Hello, holiday-table conversation topic!

Amy Shearn is the author of The Mermaid of Brooklyn: A Novel.

More Reasons for Joy


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