The Color Purple

November has always been a tough month for me.  For one thing, I seem to be allergic to it, because I honestly can’t remember the last time I enjoyed good health during November.  At the very least, I get a runny nose and post-nasal drip, which causes a sore throat and general crankiness.  Some years I also get an ear and/or sinus infection but I’ve managed to avoid that this year…so far.

But my issues with November aren’t just physical.   I hate how it gets dark just a little bit earlier with each passing day, and how the bare the trees look once they shed their colorful leaves.  I don’t like having to rake up said leaves, especially since none of them are from trees in our yard.  And those of us with dogs know the leaves on our lawn can cover up all sorts of things that we’d rather not step in, and yet I do, almost every time I go outside.  I typically host our family’s Thanksgiving dinner, so I also stress over planning the menu and figuring out where I stored my big turkey-roasting pan.

But this November has been particularly hard, because it included an election day.  Few things shake my faith in basic human decency more than an election.  I don’t mind people putting up yard signs for the candidate they plan to vote for, although I don’t really see the point.  If I want to vote for “candidate A,” I’m going to do so, even if I’ve seen fifty signs for “candidate B.”  Still, yard signs are a nice way to show support for your favorite candidate, because they don’t hurt anybody.

The problem I have with the election process is the unbelievably vicious and negative tone of the campaigns, and I’m not just talking about the TV ads or the circulars that get stuffed in my mail box every day.  Those are horrible, and my personal response is that after I’ve seen a few, I don’t want to vote for any of the candidates.   Not because I believe the bad things they are saying about their opponents, but because I don’t want to vote for anyone who tries to win by smearing their opponent.  And these days, that’s basically everyone.

Social media is worse.  I only do Facebook, thank goodness, but even then I see way more hateful memes that I can tolerate.  And the really bad thing is, it makes me think just a little bit less of the person who is posting.  I know politics is the ultimate “them and us” situation, and it’s easy to think winning justifies any amount of fear-mongering and mud-slinging, but it still gives me pause.  And not in a good way.

The elections are over as I write this, although there are a few races still “too close to call.”  I don’t know what the outcome will be, other than that approximately half the nation will be happy with the results and the other half will be unhappy.  But whether happy or not, those of us who live in the US are all still Americans.  And it’s way past time we learned to live and work together peacefully despite our differences.  Because we’re not a “Blue” nation or a “Red” nation.  We’re a mixture of the two, which can make for a very nice color indeed….

Ready or Not

Fall has finally arrived, but I’m not ready for it.  I’m not ready yet to say goodbye to Summer, with its long, hot days and warm nights.  I don’t want to pack away all my Summer clothes and exchange my sandals for shoes and socks.  I hate the way the flowers in the pots around my patio are beginning to wilt and wither no matter how much I water them, and the way the daylight is fading just a bit earlier with each passing week.  Yes, I know the calendar says Summer officially ended over a week ago, but in my mind, there should be at least another month of it to go.

Part of the problem is that my husband and I didn’t get to have much of a Summer this year.  He had a bad reaction to surgery in early July, and his extended hospitalization and recovery period meant we had to abandon our plans for a Summer getaway trip.  And it seemed as if by the time my husband was finally feeling well enough to enjoy Summer activities, the season was practically over.  I think it’s hard to move on to a new season when you don’t feel as if you really experienced the old one.

My guess is that a lot of people are feeling that way these days, even though their personal situation isn’t exactly the same as ours.  We’ve been living through some very strange times, mostly due to the horrible pandemic that refuses to go away, and also because of the many natural disasters that have occurred and what feels like more than our usual share of political upheaval.  So many of us have felt the loss of the things that we hold dear about our normal lives, and it’s only natural to have trouble letting go of our expectations and moving forward.

The trouble is, we don’t really have a choice.  Time marches steadily on, usually faster than we would prefer, and there’s not a darn thing we can do about it.  Clinging to our ideas of “what should have been” doesn’t get us anywhere we want to be, and it actually makes it harder to move into the future with any hope or sense of purpose.  The only thing to do is move forward, appreciating what we have and anticipating what is to come.  Because there will always be something to enjoy and treasure if we can just open our eyes and see it.

IMG_4023So I’m dragging out my Fall decorations, placing pumpkins and mums on my front porch, and pretty soon I’ll bake the traditional pumpkin pie that, to me, always signals the beginning of this season.  I know that the leaves on the trees will soon be exploding in beautiful colors and that the shorter days mean cooler nights, which are perfect for enjoying on our patio.  No, I didn’t get the Summer I had hoped for, but who knows?  This Fall might just make up for it.  It’s worth a try, anyway.

Still Thankful

Fall photoI’ve always had mixed feelings about Fall.  On the one hand, I love the fabulous colors, the cooler temperatures, and all the pumpkins.  On the other hand, Fall means the end of Summer (which always makes me sad) and it reminds me that Winter is just around the corner.  And while Winter does bring beautiful snowfalls, having said that, I’ve basically covered all of Winter’s positive points.

Yet this Fall is different.  This year I’ve been doing everything I can think of to embrace the season.  I replaced my dying Summer flowers with mums and pansies. I’ve decorated the yard with tons of pumpkins, we’ve strung lights across our patio and we’re finally using gas fire pit I bought my husband for Christmas several years ago.  When the only safe way to entertain friends and family is outdoors, it’s amazing how much effort you can put into a patio.

Luckily, Mother Nature has blessed us with unseasonably warm temperatures, allowing us to enjoy the outdoors much longer than usual.  Those of us who live in the States are looking toward Thanksgiving next week, which will also be different this year.  Large gatherings are out, and people are trying to find alternatives that are safe and still include those who live alone.

I’m not going to lie:  there’s a part of me that is very sad about not being able to celebrate the holidays in our usual way.  But if this year has taught us anything, it’s taught us the need to adapt to our surroundings, so I’ve decided that it’s time to let go of what I had hoped for and simply accept what I actually have.  And I find that when I focus on the gifts that are still available, it’s easier to forget about the things that aren’t.

So this Thanksgiving, I’m going to be grateful that my husband figured out how to get the gas fire pit going again without anyone having to dial 911 (his track record on such things is spotty, to say the least).  I’m grateful for all the ways that friends and family have reached out to support us as we dealt with some personal challenges in our family this past year.  I’m grateful for our dog Finn’s full recovery from heart worms last summer, especially when I seen him running happily around the back yard.

I’m grateful that my mother is accepting the semi-isolation of living in a retirement center during pandemic restrictions with grace, thereby taking a whole lot of worry and stress off of my shoulders.  I’m grateful that my son and daughter live nearby with their families, so that I can still see them in a time when travel can be both difficult and dangerous.  I’m very grateful for the vaccines that are finally on the horizon, as that gives me hope for the future.  And hope is something I simply can’t live without.

So yes, Fall and Thanksgiving are different this year, and so is the way I’m reacting to them.  There is a bit of sadness and anxiety for sure, but there is also a whole lot of gratitude and many things that still bring me joy.  And when I think about it, that’s not really so bad at all….

Enough

fullsizeoutput_5d20It’s finally feeling like Autumn, with cooler temperatures, gorgeous foliage and pumpkins galore.  There’s something about Autumn that makes me want to “hunker” down” in my warm house, cooking substantial meals and making sure my cupboards are well-stocked with supplies.  But this year, I have to admit my urge to stock up has gotten just a teeny bit out of hand.

I’ve never understood what motivates hoarders. My theory has always been, “why have two of something when one will do?” But then the pandemic hit, and in the early stages that sometimes meant empty grocery shelves, making it hard to find basic necessities. And although I can almost always find what I need these days, those memories seem to have stuck with me. Because now I find myself wanting to stock up supplies like a frantic squirrel storing nuts in anticipation of a really, really, bad Winter.

My usual minimalist tendencies have disappeared. Now I wander the aisles of the grocery store, tossing things into my cart whether I need them or not. My kitchen cupboards are full, and so is the cabinet in the basement I use to store extra groceries and paper goods. I have a small bin full of cleaning supplies, disinfectants and face masks. And yet sometimes I still wonder, “do I have enough?”

The problem with always wanting more is that nothing ever seems to be enough, and that’s a horrible way to live. I know that my desire to keep adding to my stash is a reaction to the uncertainty of the times we’re living in, but I hate feeling that I’m somehow dropping the ball if I don’t have enough supplies in my house to see me through at least 2022. It’s time for me to stop the madness.

It’s true that no one knows when, or how, this pandemic will end. It’s also true that there may still be shortages, and I can’t always count on running to the grocery store to pick up something I need. But I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather risk doing without something for a little while, because that’s preferable to constantly worrying about whether I have “enough.” And I think I’d rather trust that friends and family would step forward to share what they have if necessary, just as I would gladly share my supplies with anyone who needed them. And I know this is true, because they have shared, and so have I.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of choosing how I want to live. Do I want to live in an “everyone for himself” world, or do I want to keep a little faith in the people around me? Do I want to be a person who compulsively buys things out of fear of the future, or do I want to once again be happy with a reasonable amount of supplies in my house?

This pandemic has changed many things in my life, and in many cases there’s just not much I can do about it. But I’ve decided that it is a not going to turn me into a hoarder, and that’s something I can control.

Falling Down ?

img_0919It’s taken a while, but the cool weather of Fall has finally arrived where I live.  And I’m not especially happy about it.  I’ve been feeling a bit down all day, ever since waking up this morning and seeing that the temperature outside was only 56 degrees with no sunshine in sight.  I know there are lots and lots of great things about Fall, and I appreciate most of them.   It’s just that I’m not ready to let go of summer, and the weather today is forcing me to recognize that the summer of 2016 is well and truly over.

The days are already getting shorter, which means that it won’t be long before I’m waking up in darkness.  I spent part of last evening digging out my sweaters and light-weight jackets since it’s already too cold to go outside without wearing one or the other.  Despite my careful attention, many of my annual flowers are looking tired and withered, and it’s only a matter of time before there will be a frost which kills them altogether.   Within weeks, I’ll actually have to turn on the heat and deal with the dry skin and static electricity it always generates despite our humidifier’s best efforts. I may be a Debby Downer, but honestly, I find all of this rather depressing.

But there’s no sense in fighting the inevitable and I certainly don’t want to spend the next few weeks wallowing in self-pity, so I have decided that I need to stop thinking quite so much about all the things I will miss about summer and focus instead on the things I really won’t miss at all.  Sure, it’s hard to forget about the backyard cookouts, the pleasure of jumping into the refreshingly cool water of a swimming pool on a hot summer day, and the convenience of walking outside anytime without having to put on any extra clothing whatsoever.  Not to mention the fresh fruit and tasty tomatoes.  But I’m going to try.

From now on, I’ll bear in mind that the arrival of Fall means I won’t have to circle the parking lot of the grocery store in the futile search for a parking space in the shade so the inside of my car won’t feel like an oven when I’m done shopping.  I can even buy ice cream without worrying about it melting before I reach home.  I’m going to remember that the time is rapidly approaching when I  won’t have to do any more yard work:  no watering the potted plants, deadheading the flowers, trimming the bushes, cutting back the ivy, and fighting a no-win battle against the weeds.

And best of all, no outdoor bugs.  I’m not sure if the cold weather kills them or, like bears, they simply hibernate all winter, but for whatever reason, they go away and I am grateful.  No more bees buzzing around my ears when I walk out the back door (they love the crepe myrtles we were silly enough to plant right next to the back porch), no more carpenter bees drilling holes in the eaves and (finally) no more mosquitoes!  If I were ever trying to argue that God does make mistakes, exhibit “A” would be mosquitoes.  The world would have been just fine without the pesky little buggers.

This new attitude must be working, because I’m already feeling better.  It’s time to break out the Fall decorations, stick a few pots of hardy mums and some pumpkins on the porch and hit the mall in search of a couple of new sweaters.  And then I’m going to come home and bake a pumpkin pie.

The Season of Change

It may sound odd, but I’ve always found autumn to be just a little bit depressing.  I do love the crisp, cool air; the beautiful colors of the turning leaves, and the pumpkins and gourds that are used to decorate our houses and yards.  But even while I’m enjoying all the good things that autumn brings, I also feel an underlying sense of sadness and loss.  The days are getting shorter, those beautiful leaves are going to fall to the ground and leave the trees stark and bare, and I know that cool, crisp air is soon going to be replaced by cold, snow and ice.  I’m not a huge fan of winter (it should end the day after Christmas, as far as I am concerned), and so maybe the problem is that I’m just too aware that when autumn comes, winter is not far behind.

If I wanted to get really deep, I would point out that middle age is basically the early autumn of our life, but I try to keep this blog light and positive, so I won’t go there.  I will just say that I am at a period of my life when the losses are beginning to pile up, and as a blogger friend of mine so aptly put it, “there are more endings than there are beginnings.”

IMG_0878But this autumn has been an exceptionally good one for me and my family, and I can honestly say that for once, I’m not melancholy or sad.  Just last month, we celebrated the wedding of our daughter and our terrific new son-in-law, and that was a joyful, happy occasion for all of us.  Yesterday, my son proposed to his long-time girlfriend, which means that not only do we have another wedding to look forward to, but that our family is changing and growing in a very wonderful way.

Yes, being middle aged means that I am sometimes dealing with too many changes that are challenging and sad.  But other times, the changes that come to me and my family are very positive, exciting and hopeful, and knowing that both of my children have found a special person to love and share their life with is a change of the very best kind.  I know our family will never be the same, but in this case, that’s a good thing.

Last night we gathered at a local restaurant with a small group of friends and family to celebrate the engagement of my son and his new fiancé.  We were celebrating the beginning of their new life together, the joining of two families who will support them throughout their journey, and of all the possibilities that the future may bring them.  It’s a good, happy and hopeful change for us all. And for me, it’s a powerful reminder that there are still lots of good things in life to come, no matter what the season.