I love fall. I love sweatshirt and denim jacket weather. I love pumpkin spice lattes so much that I don’t care how cliche it is to love pumpkin spice lattes.
However, I tend to have bittersweet feelings at this time of year. I love fall, and I love the holidays. I tend the enjoy the briskness of November and the festivity of December. But I feel a wistful feeling as we approach the time of the year when the days are shorter. The biggest downer for me is the decrease in daylight hours; I dislike when the sun sets at 5 or 6 in the evening. I also struggle with the bitterly cold times of the year, when I have to put on five layers of clothing just to walk to the mailbox.
This struggle I have with fall is indicative of one of my biggest overall struggles – keeping myself in the present moment. Enjoying October for October’s sake, without worrying about what January and February will be like.
This feeling – loving the present while dreading the future – also lines up with how I’m feeling as my waywayway too short maternity leave comes to an end. My six weeks of leave will end on October 17th. I’ve been trying not to think about it too much; I worry that if I think about it, I’ll become too overwhelmed to function and to enjoy the present. How do people do this? Just enjoy the now without anticipating the later with anxiety?
One of my wise and gentle friends often reminds me to come back to where my feet are, and that helps. Not talking about the length of my maternity leave helps, too – in a way, not talking about it is a coping skill I’m using, reminding myself to stay in the now and not to dwell on what I don’t have but to enjoy what I do have.
Today is a brisk and beautiful October day. My infant son is big enough to go in my Ergo 360 carrier and I’m celebrating that with a walk around the farm and down the trail. Life is sweet.
One day earlier this week, Edgar and I drove to Hammerman Beach, a little beach on the Gunpowder River that is located in Gunpowder Falls State Park. Tamara and I have explored a lot of Gunpowder Falls, especially the section of river that runs through our area of Maryland, but not much of the eastern side of the park.
Today’s excursion was part of a little bucket list I’ve been writing in my head – things I want to do that are in my neighborhood. I’ve been thinking and writing about wanting to live more locally. (See my post on living local here!) I have a tendency to just sort of exist wherever I am – not really absorbing the world around me as thoroughly as I could. It’s one of the reasons I am a below-average tour guide. People ask me questions about the place where I’m living, and it’s rare for me to have the answers at my fingertips the way some excellent tour guides do.
Hammerman Beach isn’t exactly in my neighborhood, but it’s in Maryland, which is the state I’ve called home for ten years. TEN YEARS! That’s longer than I’ve lived anywhere other than New York. And while I’ve never been that into crabs or the Baltimore Ravens, I do enjoy getting to know the landscape and sights that are within a day’s drive. The beach was small, sweet, and beautiful; Edgar actually said the word “beautiful” for the first time, repeating after me as we looked out at the sparkling river.
Last weekend was another good chance to explore a local event. Our farm is about five minutes away from the New Freedom Farmers Market, but I’ve never attended; we don’t sell our produce there, and I didn’t realize just how close it was. Then a friend suggested that I attend an event held at the market once a year called Yogis Take The Park and IT WAS AMAZING. The vibe was very open, loving, hippie-esque – it reminded me of a lot of places I lived and visited in my twenties. I never thought I would find that kind of vibe so close to home. We have lots of great friends and neighbors who are open and liberal-minded, but I also am keenly aware that we live in the only district in Maryland that is represented by a Republican conservative. (FOR NOW. Election Day is November 6, 2018! Vote for Jesse Colvin!)
My local bucket list adventures will continue! I’m so grateful to live in a place that has the familiarity of home and the potential for surprises.
Yes! This May is the Month of Mommying on the blog.
I’ve started using an editorial calendar for the blog a few weeks ago, and I’m finding it a really helpful tool. Whenever I think of an idea for a post, I think about when it would be best to write and share on that topic, and I tentatively schedule a date for that post. What I’ve discovered is that thinking this way helps me to generate more ideas, and often a theme develops.
That’s what happened with May. I had a few ideas for posts that were related to parenting, and I figured that the month of Mothers’ Day would be a good time for that kind of content. Then, the more I thought about topics related to parenting, the more ideas came to me.
I hope you enjoy this month of thoughts on parenting (with other subjects blended in there as well). Happy May!
I have an up-and-down relationship with holidays and the celebrating of achievements, milestones, and special life moments. One of my recurring New Year’s Resolutions is to celebrate holidays and events in fun and meaningful ways.
This is something that’s important to me – celebrating. However, as is often the case with recurring resolutions – I’m not great at actually doing it.
I love celebrating – but I’m not a planner. I think that’s a big factor that gets in the way of my celebrating holidays and events in meaningful ways. My preferred way of life is being spontaneous, going with the flow, letting things happen naturally, and that doesn’t really work with being intentional and celebratory. I can’t have a birthday party with family and friends if I never invite them over. And – true story – I can’t dress Teddy in an adorable shamrock shirt on his first St. Patrick’s Day if I don’t think of it until halfway through the day on March 17th.
For the first year of Teddy’s life, I felt a little pressure leading up to each holiday. Celebrating holidays felt important – like something I want to do for my children, so they’ll have great memories of childhood celebrations. But I don’t always know how I want to celebrate. And then Tee and I have to line up our visions of how we want to celebrate, and have extensive discussions of what traditions we want to keep, to discard, to cultivate. In some ways, that part was easier before becoming parents; before Teddy, it was easier to just kind of blend our inherited family traditions together, without really having to make choices. Once kids are involved, everything gets more meaningful, more special, and also more complicated.
Funnily, the holiday that has stressed me out the most since adding Teddy to our family is Easter.
This is funny because, really? Neither Tee nor I care very much about Easter as a holiday. We both grew up religious, but don’t practice those family religions as adults. So our inherited family traditions don’t make sense. I remember dressing up in pretty dresses to go to church; but you don’t need fancy Easter clothes if your plans are just to eat chocolate and dye Easter eggs. Originally, I decided that we would just do nothing for Easter. It wouldn’t be one of our holidays. But then, one of my best friends, who is also not religious, mentioned something about getting ready for Easter with her kids.
I zoomed in on her; I’m pretty sure I was being weirdly intense. “What do you do for Easter if you’re not religious?” I asked her.
“It’s pretty much just Secular Chocolate Basket Of Candy Day at our house,” she explained.
This was game-changing for me, but then it started to make me even more stressed out. If the holiday means nothing to me, then why are we even celebrating? I don’t love the idea of bringing a bunch of chocolate into our household; Tee and I will just end up eating it all and feeling gross. And I don’t want to buy a bunch of junky toys that Teddy doesn’t need, either. Also – this is a suppressed childhood memory that just re-emerged recently – dying Easter eggs is really, really boring.
A few things happened that helped me to feel better about our family plan for celebrating Easter:
-I remembered that Easter egg hunts are so, so fun, and are one of my favorite memories of my dad. I bought a few plastic Easter eggs for Teddy in early March, and we started ‘playing’ Easter egg hunt in the weeks leading up to Easter. He loved it and so did I.
-Tee had a great idea for a tradition, one we started last year – a bunny cake! Using edible spring flowers for decoration. SO CUTE.
-I realized that Easter can kind of be our flexible holiday – our plans can be more spontaneous and changeable. I have strong feelings about ways that I like to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, but for Easter, things can be a little more go-with-the-flow. (Especially given the weather variable! It snowed on the night of Easter this year. SNOWED.)
-This is the big one. Tee suggested I start thinking of Easter less as its own holiday and more as the beginning of spring, which it usually is. I love this. When I think of Easter, I think of rebirth, rejuvenation – life – family – and the joy that comes at the end of a long, cold country winter. And the hope and excitement about a beautiful spring and summer to come.
So, I’ve made my peace with Easter, for now. On a related note, we had a Wild Peace Farm party for Earth Day this weekend, and I think I’ve decided that Earth Day will be my new favorite holiday. There are pretty much no expectations for Earth Day, since it’s not a very religious holiday or a holiday I celebrated growing up. It’s sweet, simple, and low stress – which is EXACTLY my kind of holiday.
The whole ritual of gifts is, from beginning to end, stressful to me. I get extremely stressed when someone watches me open a gift. I worry about what my expression and body language will tell the gift giver about what I think of the gift. I also worry that my worrying will prevent me from having a genuine reaction to the gift, so that even if I looooove the gift, I’ll end up flashing the gift giver an awkward smile instead of a genuine grin.
Ugh. I can’t imagine any overthinker really enjoying the process of gift giving. There’s too much to overthink.
I also get really stressed while considering what to buy for others. I don’t like this about myself, but I get extremely overwhelmed, especially during the holidays. There’s no way I can come up with a perfect gift, that is thoughtful, generous, and is something the person would never buy for themselves (my three key factors for an awesome gift) for EVERY SINGLE PERSON I buy gifts for! I also hate the obligation of gift giving. I love when no gift is expected and I can surprise someone with a gift I know they’ll love. But that’s not the case during the holidays. And the pressure that I have to buy SOMETHING gets in the way of my capacity for being inspired to buy something meaningful.
I don’t share this particular anxiety with a lot of people. If I really let loose and share my internal monologue related to gift giving, I get a lot of weird looks and sympathetic smiles. Because, this is madness, right? The giving of gifts is supposed to be joyful.
Yeah. For me, not so much.
However, when I DO buy a present that someone loves, I feel absolutely delighted. (This happened during Christmas 2017 and it made me SO happy!) And when someone manages to get me with a gift that’s thoughtful and surprising, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
Tee knocked it out of the park this Christmas:
I. CAN’T. EVEN. BELIEVE. IT.
There’s a long running and biking trail that cuts right through our property. And, coming in spring 2018, there will be a Little Free Library right here at Wild Peace Farm!
Our life – mine and Tee’s and Teddy’s – is very hygge in the wintertime.
We wake up, make coffee, and make sure the fire in our living room wood stove is roaring. Teddy plays with toys near the Christmas tree and Tee cooks us pancakes for breakfast. We read books – Tee is (finally) starting Book 10 in the Inspector Gamache series, and I’m in the middle of Shrill by Lindy West. We take turns reading Teddy his favorites – The Little Blue Truck, All The World, and Knuffle Bunny, currently. There’s a blanket on every chair and a cat ready to curl up on your lap for warmth and company.
Though I prefer spring, summer, and fall, I looked forward to wintertime a lot this year. Tee gets extremely busy with the farm during the warmer weather, and it’s so nice to have her around more. We’ve gotten a lot done around the house, especially during December in preparation for family visitors for the holidays. Our weekends are more free and fun; every Friday, we figure out what fun (or, ugh, productive) things we can do with our free days. During the summer our conversations are usually more along the lines of “how the hell are we going to do everything we need to do this weekend,” with limited time for simple fun or coziness or just BEING together, with no agenda or deadline.
The slower pace of wintertime is lining up well with my intentions for 2018. Having more time and space allows me to be more intentional with my actions. Our hygge lifestyle is conducive to curling up on the couch with my journal or my laptop to write. I have successfully avoiding angst for the first five days of 2018, which is pretty much a miracle all by itself. The one intention I haven’t honored yet is to meditate, unless you count swimming laps at the Y, which I DO so really I’ve nailed all of it.
It’s a slower, gentler time of year, with more time and space to just be me. And I just love it.
My intention (and my hope) is to write every evening after Teddy goes to sleep. Which is what I’m doing tonight.
It’s been a while. Hence, a snapshot:
-I’ve been busily prepping for NaNoWriMo by working on a memoir every chance I get. The novel I’m going to write during November is fiction, but I worry that I won’t be able to write really authentic fiction until I’ve written my life story. When I’m writing fiction that has similarities to my real life, I start to get tangled up and confused – which is the truth, and which is the story? So I’m writing out the facts – just the facts. #mind #soul
-Lots of #heart food lately – visits with my mom, time with extended family, time with friends, and time with Teddy and Tee.
-Oh, #soul. I’ve recently realized how powerful anxiety is in my life. It twists and turns and churns, and it generally takes the form of an obsessive and draining need to seek something that I don’t have and can’t control. (The adoption. The perfect job.) I am praying for the time and space to be able to address my anxiety through meditation, yoga, and radical self-care.
-Tee and I took a rare overnight trip to do some hiking and adventuring with Teddy recently. It was lovely. It’s hard to really relax and connect at home – there’s always so much on the farm and around the house that needs to get done. A getaway was the perfect prescription to fall stress. #heartsoulmindbodyspirit
-Hillary Rodham Clinton recommended a mystery novel to me, so I read it and so did my fellow Wild Peace Book Club members! We haven’t read a book together for a long time, but who can say no to HRC? The book is Still Life by Louise Penny, and it’s the first in a series of books featuring Inspector Gamache. I’m halfway through the second book in the series, and loving it; I’ve been reading a lot of books about writing recently, and it’s a nice break to indulge in fiction.