Fall Back: Are you ready?

The air changes in the fall. Becoming crisper and thinner, it has a way of invigorating you while tempting you to sit quietly with a cup of hot chocolate or the harbinger Pumpkin Spice Latte. For many it marks the end of summer, freedom and flexibility. Packing away shorts and bathing suits, sweaters and scarves take their place in the drawers. Trips to the beach give way to bonfires. For others, it marks the beginning of winter with its structure and compressed expectations.

Farmers watching the sky for rain, check the temperature and the forecasts, anticipating the timing of harvesting crops. Too soon and they aren’t ready. Too late and the frost or storms may wipe out a year of work. Anticipation shadowed by fear. The trees dropping their leaves and fruit remind us that time passes quickly. The shorter days prompt us to be more deliberate in our use of the light hours.

For teachers, students and parent, fall means back to school in one form or another. Back to carpools and lunch boxes, back to missing homework and permission slips, back to routine and rhythm that will just be established by the time Christmas break rolls around and everyone lets out a sigh of relief. The books and classes, a challenge to grow personally and mentally while the fields lie dormant and still.

Fall Back has been the easy way to remember the artificial change of the clocks. The illusion of an extra hour of sleep, an extra hour of daylight in the morning, an extra hour of life, gives a sense of cheating nature and getting just a little ahead of the game. Make no mistake. It is a game.

Trust Falls have been around since team building became a thing. The idea of falling backward and trusting your team or partner to catch you revealed a lot about who was trustworthy and who wasn’t. For those with serious trust issues, knowing who literally had your back made all the difference when it came to the moment of falling.

Fall itself is untrustworthy. One morning you bundle up to face the chill of the day only to find yourself shedding the sweater because the warmth of the afternoon lures you back for one more trip to the beach. Unexpected days off from school tease with the freedom of summer. Leaves change colors and fall to the ground without questioning if the ground will catch them, if they are supposed to fall, or if the wind that shakes them is for their good or an attack. Just as you start to get settled, the wind blow through stirring up those leaves and hinting of snow to follow. Fall by nature, no pun intended, is unsettling and settling at the same time.

Fall invites questions. It’s uncertainty makes us prepare and second guess our preparations. Plans are at the whim of the weather, and like the weather, subject to sudden change. Without fall, the fields and the trees do not rest, trust is not tested, and the stark contrast between summer and winter would be vicious, leaving many caught unprepared. Are you ready to catch those who trust you to be there for them? Do they keep looking over their shoulder to make sure you are there or do they just know you are?

As sure as the leaves fall, you will fall. Those you love will fall. Those you look up to or count on will fall. The days will get colder and shorter. Bring your harvest into the barn. Open the books and your mind. Glance over your shoulder and see who is there to catch you. Put on your sweater and go for a walk. Breath in the crisp air and if you find a big pile of leaves…fall back.

I’ll put the kettle on…

If you watch much BBC you will hear a line repeated often…”I’ll put the kettle on.” Many times it’s preceded by “fancy a cup of tea?” For those not familiar with this social cue, it translates to “this conversation is going to need some time…time for the water to boil…time for the tea to steep…time for the tea to cool enough to drink and time to actually drink the tea.” It’s an invitation to sit and share what’s on your mind.

For the past 2 years, I have been struggling. Having moved to a new town in a new state and knowing only a couple of very busy people, making new friends has been on my list of things to do. My new town is a fairly old, established town. The house we bought is 120 years old. Most on our street are newer. They are right around 100 or so. The few neighbors we have spoken with have lived here most of their lives and are now much closer to the end than the middle of those lives.

I have been on the lookout for opportunities to connect with like minded people. I love reading and thought the library was a natural place to start. The day I walked in to get a library card, the woman at the desk asked me if I had my state issued driver’s license. I said I didn’t. As she turned her chair away from me to go back to reading her magazine she said “come back when you do.” I guess having the actual deed and title to the home we own 4 blocks from the library and a wallet full of ids wasn’t going to get me a library card.

The next attempt was reaching out to the historic society. After all I have a 120 year old Queen Anne Victorian house. I thought Renaissance Wife would be a natural corporate sponsor for the historic museum in town so I filled out the application and sent in a check. Crickets…. but the check was cashed. On their Facebook Page and website, they listed a book club. “This has to be my on ramp,” I thought. I bought the book. I read the book. I went to the museum the night of the book club. No one was there. Not even a sign on the door saying it had been canceled or moved. Nothing. I posted my experience on the Facebook event…more crickets. And, the book was about manners holding polite society together!!!

A couple of weeks ago, I tried a women’s Bible study group. I went on line, created an account, registered for the group, paid the $13 for the book and was excited. These had to be my people, right?

Not so much. When I arrived there were 5 women all focused on their cell phones. One looked up and asked me if I was new. When I replied I was, she told me to sign the sheet on the clipboard because she sends out an email with information each week. Ok. Signed in and sat down. Over the next 10 minutes or so 12 more women came in and sat down in the circle of chairs. Not one said hello to me. When the women who sends out the emails started the study, no one offered to share their book. After an hour and a half, she closed in prayer. I stood up, put on my coat, picked up my purse and made my way to the door passing 4 women on the way. Not one said a word to me. Nothing….

A week later, having heard nothing from the email lady, I emailed the church and asked for a refund for my registration. They processed it very quickly with no questions asked.

All this to say, I am confused about how to connect with people in this day and age. I admit freely that I have some old fashioned ideas when it comes to hospitality. I believe in making people feel welcome when they enter my environment, in being where I say I’m going to be and that a women’s Bible study should be the most gracious place for a new person to find themselves. I believe in putting the kettle on. I can’t believe hospitality is dead. It can’t be.

While I have been writing, I have had a cup of Daily Beauty Blueberry Lavender tea. You see, even if we are not in the same room, when I write I feel like we are having a chat and you are so kindly listening to my heart. Having a cup of tea with you is a very deliberate action. My tea kettle in on the first floor of our home with my office on the third floor. I waited for the kettle to boil, brought the mug up two flights of stairs, and logged in to talk to you about my heart. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to “listen”.

Now, it’s your turn to talk. I’ll put the kettle on…how do you take your tea?

The Kitchen: The Heart of the Home

Make it special

Holidays seem to come with the expectation of home cooked dinners, desserts and specialties reserved for once a year. Perfecting creations without someone to teach you and opportunities to practice can put added pressure on inexperienced or under trained cooks. Many times the tradition was passed on but the knowledge wasn’t.

Years ago, I tried to make divinity fudge. My grandmother had made it every year for Christmas. She passed away without teaching me her secrets. Last month, I spent an evening teaching my grandson my recipe for Cowboy Chili. I sat on an old red kitchen stool and talked him through each of the steps. When every step had been completed and the chili was simmering, we sat at the kitchen table and talked through it again as he wrote the recipe in a Moleskine Recipe Journal. From memory, he was able to list the ingredients, amounts and process for each step. At the end of the evening, he told me how much he loved cooking and spending time in the kitchen with me.

Make it fresh

When I think of Renaissance in the kitchen, my friend Misty is one of the women who come to mind first. A single mother raising sons in the beauty of North Carolina, she has built a company literally from the ground up. Growing her own produce to supply her products and provide for her family, she relies on her knowledge of gardening, weather, and preserving with skills most have lost or never had.

Make it your own

Maybe you know how to make divinity. Turns out my grandson does and is going to teach me! Maybe you know how to make Cowboy Chili. If not, I will be doing an instructional video soon. Maybe you know how to make jam from the produce of your own garden, if not you can order it from Misty at Ma’am’s Hot Jam. My favorite is the Blueberry Seven Pepper Jam. It’s so good on fresh hot biscuits or pork chops or goat cheese with crackers.

Don’t be afraid of your kitchen. If you don’t have a grandmother or mother to teach you, it’s ok. You can still learn to make special dishes and memories. Look around our kitchen for ideas and inspirations and links to learning. Then get creative and make something new!