Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Poor Fall

Oh Autumn. You of the fiery orange vistas and shivery breezes that hint of frost. You of the early sunsets and cornucopias bursting with harvest. You of the ghouls and goblins, the pilgrims and Mayflowers.

People love them some fall. Love. It. My social media feed is filled with pictures of pumpkin-everything recipes, bright yellow and red leaves, scarves, hats...and essentially all things fall.

Can I tell you a secret? I do not love fall. In fact, I kind of hate it.

But it's not really fall's fault. Fall just has the un-enviable position in the lineup of seasons of coming right before winter. And if you think I have strong negative feelings for fall? Well, you should just see how I feel about winter. Hate is not strong enough a word. 
"But what about Christmas??" you ask. Yeah, I don't much like that either. But that's a Grinchy blogpost for another day.

It's like some kind of Pavlovian response, I think. Only instead of being conditioned to the ringing of the bell that signals food, I am conditioned to the season that signals the coming of winter. I cringe, I shudder, I...unsalivate, if you will.

I blame the sunny Southern-Californianess of my upbringing. There the seasons went something like: Winter-ish, Pre-summer, Summer and Post-Summer. Here, it’s something a little more like Deathly-Cold, Slightly Less Deathly But No Less Cold, Smr and Just About To Be Deathly Cold. Nope, not a typo. That’s how short summer feels to me. And, oh, I know. I know that there are many much places that are WAY colder than here. But I am also convinced that if I had to live there, I would die. Simply die. 

But, lest you think me a spoiled Cali brat who is both cruel and unusual to poor, innocent autumn, I have decided to grant fall a reprieve. That’s right. I have seen the error of my ways and have determined this year to stop hating fall. Or at least stop hating it as much. Ya know, so I can save all my energy for hating winter. Who TOTALLY deserves it. 

And how do you stop hating something? Well, you have to remember the good times. Reflect on the positives. I don't know if it works, but I'm totally willing to give it a try. 

So what is it that I enjoy about fall? Not a ton, but a few things. And they may just be the same things that other people enjoy about winter. But to recap, I enjoy nothing about winter. Nothing. So while fall gets the brunt of my winter-hate, I will also give it the benefit of my cold-weather love. Ok, cold-weather like. Love might be taking it a little too far.

#1. Boots
Alright, I do love boots. As more than just a friend. Brown. Black. Gray. Red. Flat. Heeled. Wedged. Leather. Suede. Vinyl. Pull-on. Zippered. Lace Up. All of the above. AND having actual cold temperatures makes the wearing of such footwear practical as well as fashionable. (And pretty. So very pretty.) I saw a stage production of Bram Stoker's Dracula last week, and the only thing that distracted me from the wickedly delicious giddiness I feel about vampires was the heady lust I felt over those fabulous Victorian boots.
Mmmmmm. Boots.

#2. Soup
I am one of those people that has to eat things seasonally. I don't really like pumpkin. I don't care for squash. Apple pie I can do without. But I do love some delicious homemade soup. Potato. Broccoli. Chicken noodle. Clam chowder. Tomato. Salad is for summer. Soup is for fall. Preferably in a bread bowl. With a side of bread. Which explains why my pants rarely fit from October-February.

#3. Sweaters
Admittedly, I liked sweaters more in California. They were more of a this-would-look-great-with-my-boots kind of thing. Here they are more of a if-I-don't-wear-something-warm-and-bulky-I'll-simply-freeze-to-death kind of thing. But that's ok. Because I do like sweaters. They are snuggly. And soft. And warm.
And did I mention, they look great with my boots?

#4. Fires
The crackling comfort of something aflame? Love it. Sure, I only have a gas fireplace and it doesn't really crackle. But it's pretty. And it's warm. And I do like warm.
Do I prefer a campfire at the beach in the summer? Um, duh! But if it is going to be cold outside, a fire will suit me just fine, thanks.

#5. Cold Nights
No, not the kind I have to be outside in. The kind where I am snuggled up in bed with 73 blankets piled on top of me in. As much as I love the heat, I can't sleep when it's hot. I actually turn the AC down lower at night than I do during the day in the summer. And have a fan. And sometimes a window open, too. 
So there is something lovely about finishing a bowl of soup, taking off my sweater & boots, and curling up shivering in bed with 73 blankets to ward off the cold.

See, I'm feeling better about fall already. Five whole things! That's not too shabby. 

And maybe somewhere in there is a life lesson. Or a metaphor for embracing the things I cannot change. Something about serenity or courage or wisdom.


Monday, September 28, 2015

On Gardening and Parenting.

(Is this produce from my actual garden? Yeah right.)

Confession: I am not the mom I thought I would be. 

I remember watching my mother in absolute awe as she sliced an apple. Perfectly cutting away JUST the stem and seeds and leaving all of the crunchy deliciousness of the fruit still intact. I was maybe 10 at that time. And I thought, discouragingly: I will never be able to do that. I'm not going to be a very good mom. 

Let's just say, I still cannot cut an apple the way my mom did. My children are luckily spared from being exposed to this mortifying ineptitude by the Pampered Chef Apple Wedger. Unfortunately, they are very much aware of all my other motherly failings. And, oh they are abundant. 

I have not the patience, the sympathy, the dedication to breakfast-making, the nurturing, the bread baking, the Lego building, or the early-morning-rising capabilities that I hoped I would magically be endowed with when I became a mother. (And that's just off the top of my head.)

This has been the story of my entire career in mothering. I have always wished I could do more. Be more. Be closer to the mom my kids should have. When my oldest went to college a year ago, I was overcome with horrible guilt and disappointment that I never got to be the stay-at-home mom that I had wanted so desperately to be. The mom that was there when my kids got home from school every day. To greet them with a smile. And maybe some cookies. I felt like she hadn't gotten the best of me. And she deserved it. They all do.

I am no longer in the battle-worn trenches of young motherhood. Knee deep in potty training and child-proofing and diapering. But my kids need me no less now than they did then. They may even need me a little more. They need my help with homework, my attention, my comfort, my guidance. At no time is this more obvious than when we sit down for dinner (if we sit down for dinner) and they are talking over themselves, interrupting each other, fighting with each other just trying to tell me about something-that-happened-at-school-today. It is at this point in the day that I realize how woefully inadequate the few hours I have left to give them are. 

This has been the source of much misery for me lately. Knowing that they need more from me than I am physically able to give. Knowing that they should be eating homemade meals with rolls and salad and I am instead feeding them mac 'n cheese or ramen noodles. Figuratively. And literally.

With these thoughts circling my mind and weighing on my heart, I went out to water the garden again this morning. Typically by this time of the year it has gotten cold enough that the garden has stopped producing. This year, not so much. (Note: This is not a complaint about the fabulous September temperatures we've had this year. Cyndie loves the warm.) Looking over my sad little plot, I realized that I have not given my garden much love this year. Sure, I weeded a little. I generally remembered to water it. But all in all, it looks pretty bedraggled. The rows are uneven and slightly (totally) diagonal. The tomato cages are skewed haphazardly all over the place. The plants are covered in dead leaves and branches that should've been pruned off. There are peppers and tomatoes that have rotted on the vines because I didn't pick them soon enough. It's really a pretty pathetic sight. I am embarassed when anyone asks to see it. 

But. BUT, despite my neglect. Despite my inadequacy. Despite my lack of quality just..keeps...producing. AND, the tomatoes and peppers that it produces (when I get to them in time) are good. Really good, in fact. 

And it dawned on me, looking at my semi-neglected garden, that somehow the little care I have managed to find time to give it has been enough. Not wonderful, not exceptional, not entirely sufficient. But enough. Enough that it has somehow managed to thrive anyway. 

Maybe that's the blessing of hardy plants. And maybe, just maybe, it's the blessing of resilient children. 

The care and attention I give them is not what I wish it was. It's not even close to what they deserve. Instead of storytime, they get Netflix. In place of homemade cookies, they get granola bars, frozen burritos, and string cheese (if they're lucky.) Rather than quality time, they get the-couple-hours-left-in-the-day-when-I'm-not-working-or-doing-homework. It's not pretty. But in spite of it, they somehow manage to thrive anyway. They are witty. They are smart. They are beautiful. 

They are good. Really good, in fact.

And I may just have to find comfort in this fact. The fact that what I am doing for them is by no means phenomenal. It's not even substantial. 

But somehow. And in some way. It's enough. 

And the harvest they produce is simply amazing.