September is here. For me, it’s always been the beginning of a new year, despite there being no symbolic cultural or physical turning of the calendar or changing of the year. I have spent so much of my life in school that it’s always seemed natural to me that the year begins in September and ends in August. I sometimes joke perhaps that is what drew me to Judaism as an adult; it was merely an extension of my pre-existing calendar bias.
Perhaps it’s simpler. I was born in September. I adore the crisp mornings warming into bright sunny afternoons. I adore autumn fruit: shiny red and green and yellow apples, firm and unyielding until baked, cut up and put into a pie or a cobbler, or simply eaten straight from the tree. Cranberries, pears, kumquats, pomegranate fruits. Autumnal vegetables thrill me. I love nothing more than scooping out a pumpkin and roasting the seeds with cinnamon, salt and sugar, or roasting a spaghetti squash and mixing the flesh with butter and salt and pepper for a yummy lunch. Acorn squash cry out to be hollowed out and filled with a turkey-cranberry-bread stuffing and roasted. During the autumn months, I try always to have my home smell of apple cider or wine simmering on the stove with mulling spices, even if the only way I can accomplish that is by lighting one of the Yankee Candle candles that are ubiquitous throughout my space.
Gretchen Rubin‘s “to-do” list for September tells me I should focus on the following items this month.
a) Write a novel.
I’m already working on this. Well, not a novel, but a book. At this stage, I’ve got only notes and the beginnings of a proposal, but it is in progress. See the “Writing the Memoir” tab for more details.
b) Make time.
Much to my eternal chagrin, I have only recently begun to realize – feel it in my bones and understand, realize – that my time with my little boy is glaringly short. With that dawning has come a covenant to spend as much time “in the moment” with him as possible. By “in the moment” I simply mean I try to let everything else go during that time. I try to forget about the dishes piling up in the kitchen sink, or piles of newspapers and old mail growing on the kitchen table and counter, the thousands of Lego blocks strewn about my house like invisible little IEDs waiting for my unsuspecting and not-yet-caffeinated foot to step down and then explode into a thousand points of shearing pain.
Instead, I focus on his obsession with cars – specifically, minivans and SUVs and me getting rid of my current car and substituting either model. My great concession to stop the never-ending and often loud debate was to agree that if I had triplet girls (never, ever, EVER going to happen), I would buy a minivan. Specifically, the Honda Odyssey minivan with a built-in vacuum depicted in a rather amusing commercial.
I focus on his questions about life and death, which are becoming more and more frequent, and less easily answered. I focus on his questions about the new school year and what it will hold, which belie his anxiety about the beginning of kindergarten and the addition of nine children to his tiny little group of eight classmates. I focus on his questions about me having another baby and his envy over the twins one of his friends is soon to have as siblings.
I focus on all these things because I know that someday soon he won’t ask questions of me and he won’t want to talk to me; he’ll ask questions of his friends and he’ll want to talk to his teachers. I know this is normal, and I know it’s healthy, and I know it’s the way the world works. Children are born and cling to their parents for a little while, but then they move on to their autonomous lives faster than anyone expects and can prepare for. But as I sit here writing this, tears snaking down my cheeks, I know I’m ill-prepared to face that. I cannot conceive of it, yet.
So I make time for all of the things that he wants to share with me, no matter how small, and I hope that by making that time and sharing those experiences, I can keep him close and ensure that he will always want to talk to me, to ask me the tough questions and that even though his friends and his non-mama world will get bigger as he does, he will always save a space and time for the woman who will always love him best.
c) Forget about results.
This one I’m going to have some trouble with as I’m an anal-retentive control freak. A lawyer by training and profession, albeit a happily retired one, I’m results oriented. I’ve had a difficult enough time adjusting my life philosophy to embrace the adage that life is about the journey, not the destination. My adult life has been about winning the case, beating the opponent, getting the settlement the client wants. Anything else just didn’t make sense.
I’ve always set goals for myself. I guess it’s been my way of marking off how close I am to achieving my dreams, but now that I’m actually living my dream of a life dedicated to writing, I wonder if I still should be keeping such a strict “to do” list, intent on ticking off items. My tendency to mark off life accomplishments like so many chores hadn’t made me happy, and since I haven’t really had so much time to put into my goals-oriented life plan, I have been happier, more in the moment. Hmmm…..something to ponder.
d) Master a new technology.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, technology is defined as: (1) the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area; (2) a capability given by the practical application of knowledge; (3) a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge; (4) the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor.
When I first read the fourth item on September’s “to-do” list, I scoffed a bit. My first thought was that I could skip it as I’m pretty computer savvy, and our home is filled with just about every new or newish technology available. Then I looked up the definition, and decided to approach this instruction from the angle of learning something new about a subject matter I enjoyed and about which I was already somewhat knowledgeable, namely cooking.
I enjoy cooking, and I know that I need to up my game as it relates to my family’s nutrition as both Ernie Hemingway and The Boy have the palate of a four-year old boy. I can cut The Boy some slack as he’s not too far removed from a four-year-old boy, but Ernie, not so much, as he turned sixty this year and should know better.
So my technology challenge for September shall not involve computer or other information machines or processes, but shall involve the bookcase filled with abandoned and lonely cookbooks, as well as my forlorn All-Clad slow-cooker, my much-loved Zojirushi rice cooker which gets not nearly enough attention from me, my Cuisinart food-processor and Breadman bread machine which haven’t seen me since the last century (and both of which were wedding gifts when I married my first husband in 1999), my much-loved and well-used Kitchen-Aid mixer (I do actually cook sometimes!), and any other kitchen implements and appliances I might come across in my kitchen.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress.