something to smile about.

Last week one day I watched the rain pound the front yard into puddles and I talked myself through the circles of things I need to do and have to do and want to do.

And I wondered how all these things, meld themselves into something like a meaningful, purposeful life.

They do, of course, but in the thick of it I find myself on the porch, after dark, watching the water in the yard rise like a wonky pond and I ask myself the hard questions. I don’t like the hard questions any more than I like the pond in my front yard, but the hard questions keep me looking ahead and that’s a good thing.

And on the following Monday when I awoke to clear skies and a muddy yard, after the previous week of two birthday party's, an end of summer celebration and little to no sleep, I  committed myself to getting back on track.

Farewell dreamy August, you were very good to me this year even though I don't have the tan lines to prove it. Your flowers were more beautiful than ever, and you taught me a few new things about growing tomatoes.  You also taught me that hydrangeas are the belles of the ball and that it's fun to grow peppers even if the deer eat most of them. You united me with my inner farmer yet once again, and I may never be the same. You provided the perfect end-of-Summer air for a proper send off.

I don't know what else to tell you, other than that on this rainy September morning, I can feel Summer putting on her breaks and it's hitting me hard. It started happening a few weeks ago, but I was in denial for the first few days, then I was frantic for one, excited for about an hour and a half, and now, this morning, I cried a little.

It was bound to happen sooner or later. I can't believe I made it this long. There's a good possibility that I'll be in full on sobbing soon, so if you have any why I love Fall stories, now would be the time to share them. every year I rally my best efforts in an attempt to enjoy Fall. I'm a firm believer in growth and color and beginning again, but ninety five percent of this season ends up drippy and cold, and it plays hard to get in the worst way. ah, Fall. I five percent love you.

 It almost doesn't feel like Summer fully happened, but I'm hoping to make these last days go a long way toward recalibrating my soul for whatever happens next.

Because there's just never enough summer.

I know I talk excessively about it, but it can't be helped. Something happens to me when the sun shines and the air is warm. It's an almost  tangible thing. It's a feeling I can't conjure up when it's frosty, so I like to carry it around for a while.

We're in the home-stretch of September. Can you believe it?

So, in a perfect world, I would rummage around the road-side 10/$1 mini pumpkin stand in flip flops and my old t-shirt, instead I'm wearing skinny cords and a chunky knit. I honored last Friday with knee socks, a day trip to the country, road side produce stands, and a bratwurst at the Oktoberfest after dark. I'm loving right now that dreamy kind of air that makes for a brisk walk in the morning, then turns deliciously warm and blissful before noon.

I love it when my arms are bare and I'm cutting perennials back and it just smells like a new start. It smells like a familiar beginning, like something is blooming even as it fades.

Yes, I know, my feelings for fall are situational. I've accepted it.

Yesterday afternoon I practically ran up to my "office", punching my time card hours before my shift was officially over, my patience allotment at the breaking point. Someone needed me every moment, my time, my energy, my constant attention all day long. By late afternoon, I was tired and frustrated that all those inspired thoughts I had would remain Quiescent, no time or energy to release them, or even more frustrating, just too weary to act on them. I had to snap myself out of it, and so the changing of the guards commenced. I did not apologize for the state of the kitchen or the unfolded laundry. There was mail to sort and floors to sweep. Both of the puppies were whining to go out.

But, for a few hours, I breathed and thought and did yoga and wrote, nurturing my own needs instead of juggling demands, and it felt good. I ate by myself that night, quietly writing between bites and watching the sun set from my bedroom window. I took the puppies for a walk and used it as an excuse to wander, caught up in the magic of the blue hour.   The silence was mesmerizing and the evening itself, entirely captivating and beautiful, so I did what I always do, I count my blessings...

By the time I strolled back in the driveway, it was well past dark. And though I opened the door and walked right back into the same place I had left earlier, it felt different, my weariness softened by the perspective a clear mind gives. This is my home. This is my life and I soaked it all in like super hero fuel. Sometimes I think I rely too much on the "beautiful" moments of life to make the hard ones "worth it." And even though the beautiful far outweighs the hard (listen, I put on my rose colored glasses every day), what if it didn't? If puppies didn't run to the door every single time and the people you love didn't love you back or reach up to hold your hand, if a mother never smiled and told stories about your childhood just like how you imagine it was when you dream of it, if sons never asked you to let them help or take you to dinner when you're tired, if research and routines and therapists never delivered the breakthroughs you believed in, if teenagers never said "I'm sorry," if tough love never brought them back home, if you didn't believe they really were in "a better place", if you never stopped feeling this tired or unequipped or unloved, unworthy or so completely removed from how you thought it would look, if it never got any better than's still so worth it. Right now.

Loving, even when it's hard, is the payoff in life. It is the shelling out of beautiful moments or loving someone back or being happy at this very moment. The flip side to the hard parts of life aren't shinier or easier,  they are just clearer. Like coming home to the same needs and messes and stressses that you left a bit earlier but seeing them for what they are, something you get to be a part of, something precious and beautiful. So while I at times pick moments that might look shiny to share, know that they aren't what makes life good or beautiful or worth it. They just gave me something to smile about.

just sayin'.

Corn, Cheddar and Scallion Strata (this stuff is amazing)

1 tablespoon butter
3 cups fresh corn (cut from 3 small-to-average cobs)
1 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (both white and green parts)
8 cups whole wheat, country or French bread in 1-inch cubes
2 cups (6 ounces) coarsely grated sharp cheddar
1 cup (2 ounces) finely grated parmesan
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I also like 2 TBL dijon mustard here)
2 3/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon table salt or 2 teaspoons of a coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Generously butter a 3-quart baking dish (a 9×13-inch pan works well here). Toss corn and scallions together in a medium bowl. Combine cheeses in another bowl. In a large bowl, gently beat eggs and mayo (dijon) together, then whisk in milk, salt and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Spread one-third of bread cubes in prepared baking dish, it will not fully cover bottom of dish; this is fine. Add one-third of corn, then cheese mixture. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, corn and cheese. Pour egg mixture evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 1 day.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake strata, uncovered, until puffed, golden brown and cooked through, about 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Do ahead: Strata keeps baked in the fridge for 4 days or longer in the freezer, wrapped well. It reheats wonderfully, either from the fridge or freezer and holds up well in picnic baskets.


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