Autumn is Here

The Next-door Treat Map is back.

Trunk-or-Treat will park on Hughson Ave on October 29.

The Hughson Arboretum is holding its first Fall Festival on November 6.

We’ll go there after stopping at Vintage at the Yard.

The Community Thanksgiving Dinner is handing out Thanksgiving meals on November 13.

We learned some ways to cope with life as it changed in March of 2020. We learned ways to gather apart from the usual means and traditions. We experienced stress and had to find ways to cope with new stress. We found ways to support our neighbors and their businesses when they were forced to close.

I mean, I hope we learned a lot.

The strange thing for me, to be perfectly honest, is that the last two years were less of a crisis than the two years that began six years ago this month. That was the month when the path my family and I traveled altered forever. It was the day of a diagnosis. It was a day of grief and coping and processing all the changes that would take place.

I processed for 19 more weeks before I met my son. At the moment, he is riding in a borrowed pick-up with his father/my husband to pick up lumber for our kitchen shelves.

As at the beginning of 2020, the crisis in our lives began in degrees. In 2020, it was a news story here and there, inexplicable flu, or strange rumors. In 2015, We received the diagnosis, an appointment in San Francisco and found a good Facebook group for support.

But then it came and it walloped us. Our son was admitted to the hospital and things got scary. In 2020, the world shut down. It was no longer just the naturally driven crisis of a novel coronavirus running rampant across the globe, but schools were closed, businesses were closed, churches were closed. The fabric of our society was shut down. Life went digital and thanks to the social network’s algorithm, the divisions between us were heightened. All the old ways of coping were taken away.

And in 2016, I lived in the hospital beside my son, away from my other children, my husband and my home.

The hospital chaplain at the time, now a family friend came to visit us last week. He shared that he could see now why I was so homesick back then, what I was homesick for. Not just the home, but the responsibilities. I was homesick for the pattern of life built into my heart, stretched across relationships and duties to my children. I am a wife and a mother and I was homesick for the loss of all that as I sat beside my son in a place that was not my home, learning to be a mother in new and terrifying ways.

But I learned.

In 2020, we learned to gather outside more often, to embrace the good weather. We learned to use curbside pick-up. We learned to forgive when anxiety got the best of the people we love.

After two years, our storm calmed, and in 2017, I took the lessons I learned from the hospital and brought them home. Our lives changed forever. My mothering changed forever. And I am better for it.

Right now, the world wavers a little as it opens back up. We navigate the ways between those who wish to keep caution and closures and those who are ready for a new phase, any phase, to begin.

What lessons are you going to bring with you? What memories can you keep that reveal that in all the crises, some good can be found? What relationships have grown, been healed or are now restored that you can see differently?

It would be so easy to just “go back to normal” but we’re called to more than that.

Autumn is a time of tradition and reflection. In this particular neck of the woods, we see our farms haul in their harvest while our gardens revive after the scorching summer. Fire seasons wanes and we wake to blue skies again.

Hold on to what you have learned. Savor the return of things you lost. And take it into this next season of life.

Photo by Oliver Hihn on Unsplash

Lessons from The Hospital

What a long week it was.

It was alarming but not life-altering for my family when the shutdown began in March. When the smoke billowed into the San Joaquin/Central Valley, that changed our lives for the time being. We had just bunked the four older children in one room to create a nursery for the littlest. The school desks moved to the living room as a temporary solution.

Life is a constant juggling act when there is a houseful of bodies.

The children could not go outside. When one napped, they must be quiet in the living room or dining room as others strove to complete their work. There was little place to play.

I got caught up in the crankiness and frustration of everyone in the house. What could we do? It was hazardous outside, told me. 

But this was getting out of hand. 

The days shortened. The nights lengthened. 

We moved the van out of the garage, took the outside patio furniture and play furniture from storage, put them them in the garage and made a play place. A playhouse with a custom border of Costco size diaper boxes and clothes waiting to be grown into.

This was my best moment coping.

There were plenty worse.

As this strange year of 2020 begins its fall season, I continually asked myself how my past experiences of suffering are helping me to face the reality of the present moment. No answer.

Surely, I must be more patient, more trusting, more adaptable, more loving.

Surely, I must have the secret answer to suffering.

Surely, the wisdom of embracing the present moment, which I learned so well beside my son in the hospital or visiting my daughter’s grave, would have some impact on me.

I cannot say that it did, other than that I remember a time when I did it, and I know when things get difficult there is a way to do it again.

Beyond that, I go in green and must learn a new way in new circumstances. The bustle of a house full of children itching to go outside and bickering until they have space to get away from each other is miles away from the quiet of a hospital room and solitary walks around a strange city.

In this case, it was a house, a room with a view of a garden I ached to tend, where my coping skills lie, and little lives to manage and persons to educate. Though the days were taxing I appreciated the way school filled our days with routine and occupation.

I remember that lesson from the hospital room.

On the weekend, with little to do, I put on a movie. Then my husband came home from work. I put on another movie. Sometimes you just do what you have to do to get through as pleasantly as possible. I remember that lesson from the hospital room.

For a few nights, I stress ate, I admit it. Nachos and ice cream worked well. But I also know the toll this diet will take on my body. I remember both those lessons from the hospital room.

I made space to stretch though I never quite got to exercising. 

We bounded outside as soon as the air was moderate or good, which happened but little the week of this writing. We took full advantage of the opportunity and relished in it. I remember that lesson from the hospital room.

It seems the past experiences shape us more than we realize.

When we take the time to pause, reflect, see what we have done well or not well, and make the connections, only then do we see. Otherwise it may feel like we are floundering now like we floundered then. I’m not entirely sure what good the reflection does, except to say that we got through it then, we can get through it now, and maybe pick up some new tools along the way.