5 Lies About Fall We All Need to Stop Believing

Have you seen the migratory shenanigans? Have your kids tricked you into carving their pumpkins? Have you gotten lost in a corn maze? Happy fall!

The crunch of fallen leaves. The crisp autumn air. The canopy of trees above, ablaze in oranges and reds. I know, I know. It’s all so romantic, so gorgeous, so snuggly.

But c’mon. Fall needs to check itself just a little bit:

1 | Crock pot meals.

More like crock of deception, am I right?

How about stop trying to convince me that I love cold weather with your list of 100 easy crock pot meals, ok? I’m not stupid, they’re ALL chili. It’s ALWAYS chili. Doesn’t matter what you put in your crock pot, it comes out as chili.

Crock pot cashew chicken? SURPRISE! It’s chili.

2 | Corn mazes.

After a long afternoon in a corn maze with our kids, I mentioned to another mom that maybe it wasn’t really my favorite activity. She helpfully suggested that I hadn’t fully embraced the experience.

[long pause, cracks knuckles, clears throat]

I’m sorry, didn’t embrace the experience?! Oh, I think I DID embrace the experience when I paid $60 to be lost in a fucking corn field for three hours.

Hello? Do you know what’s in corn fields? Two things:

The Children of the Corn. Have you seen them? They’re not well. They want me dead. Update: they want you dead too.

Aliens. And what are they doing there? Making crop circles. Why are they doing this? TO SHOW OTHER ALIENS HOW TO GET TO YOUR HOUSE.

3 | Geese flying south.

Have you seen these migratory shenanigans? As I write, 7000 of them are gathering in your grandmother’s backyard to spend four days honking like it’s the apocalypse before they shit themselves and peace out. It’s like Burning Man for geese.

Geese are definitely the frat bros of the ornithology world: Hey, dude, hey. Can you drive? I’m still tripping. But that goose at the head of the V? He may be sober, but he’s also lost. Seriously. Pay attention … 67% of the time that those birds not even flying south.

Fun fact: if one goose is hurt, another goose friend will stay behind and nurse it back to health with herbal tea and Real Housewives reruns. That’s sweet, right? Right. Lemme tell you something: if my kid breaks his leg just before we go to Miami, I’m still going to Miami.

4 | Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkin muffins are good. Pumpkin bread? Also good. Pumpkin seeds. Yum. Pumpkin smoothies? No. Pumpkin lattes? Stop it. Pumpkin pie? If you enjoy a dessert that resembles soft puppy poo in both texture and color, it’s the best!

But, pumpkin carving? LIES.

Your kids will tell you they want to carve pumpkins. They don’t. They want to mainline Halloween candy 31 days pre-game while YOU carve a moonlit silhouette of The Avengers into a freakishly large fruit. That’s right, it’s FRUIT.

Spoiler alert: pumpkin carving is you drunk and crying on your cat-hair-covered kitchen floor, elbow deep in slime, failing spectacularly.

5 | Apple Picking

Apple picking has gotta be the most popular white people activity ever. Right up there with having head lice and getting poison ivy.

White folks pick apples for an important cause: to earn cider donuts. But wait. It turns out you don’t have to pick the apples to get the cider donuts!

No sir! You can just go to your nearest cider mill-orchard situation and stuff your face with a dozen little sugar-coated-love-cakes without ever picking anything, not even your thong wedgie.

No labor, just donuts.

Do you know what apple picking, using cloth diapers, and making homemade baby food have in common? They all belong together in a category called: things I don’t have to do.

You know what isn’t a lie? Winter. Winter is coming. Break out your Uggs and your Xanax. Shit’s about to get real.

All of the Angels Are Home Now

9/11. This is the day my child will call his birthday. This day, always and rightfully enshrouded by the collective grief of a whole nation.

On September 11th, 2001, I was at the front of my middle school classroom, likely giving kids a rash of shit about not doing their homework, or explaining why Eddie Vedder is actually very cool, or trying to get them to give me the best parts of their lunches.

It was a gorgeous day. Remarkably gorgeous. Memorably gorgeous. And I planned to take the kids out to the nearby brook in search of caddisfly larvae, and crawfish, and whatever else we needed to look for just to stay outside under the deep and bright blue sky.

My door opened. The guidance counselor walked in. She didn’t chirp and giggle, “Good morning!” in the familiar way I had come to know. She didn’t knock, she didn’t smile, she didn’t wave, she just walked across the room holding my gaze with her own bleary, wet eyes.

Something was terribly wrong.

“The World Trade Center was bombed.” she whispered.

I remember little about what happened next or how we came to be in my colleague’s classroom, students piling in, sharing chairs, sitting on the floor, all of us watching 9/11 unfold on live TV. Watching the very buildings we visited during our class trip just months before ripped open and on fire.

Watching the second plane. Watching people jump out of windows. Watching one tower drop, and then the other. Watching. Stunned. Silent. Disbelieving.

Watching and watching.

Six years later, in the twinkling, twilight hours of September 10th, 2007, I’m unpacking my dishwasher between excruciating contractions, arranging for my three-year-old daughter to go to a friend’s house, and wondering if they deliver epidurals like they do pizza and chicken wings.

It’s been just two months since my father killed himself. Two months since everything I thought I knew burned. Two months since I stood at his ICU bedside, trying to close the distance between leaving and arriving, never to meet.

At the hospital, the midwife suggests I hold off on the epidural so as not to slow down the baby train. We’ll try other methods of pain relief, she says. How about the bath? Fine. A bath. I’ll try it.

The bath is not big enough for me, my belly, and all my limbs. I am not sure how my epidural turned into this bath. My husband declares that pregnant me in the bath is sexy.

He’s trying to encourage me. I am sexy labor woman, the tip of my buoyant belly poking out of the water. Bobbing in this water like an iceberg in the sea. I am a sexy iceberg.

Wait, what? I’m an iceberg? Suddenly, I hate the bath. I hate all baths everywhere. Get me out of the fucking bath.

The midwife offers me a therapy ball instead. “Would you like to bounce on the ball?”

Um. Bounce on the ball? Well, if by “ball” you mean “epidural,” then YES, I’d like to bounce on the ball. Otherwise, is it game time?

But. I do want the bath. I do want the ball. I do want to be strong and present and all that other good, holistic, hippie stuff. I want it.

The truth, though, is that the contractions are coming and coming, and I can not catch my breath. I sink to my knees with each wave. I come up sobbing and afraid. My dad should be here. Would be here. Would sit in the waiting room watching C-Span. Would check in now and again. Would ask if I wanted the gum drops from his shirt pocket.

Would say: Autie, I love you so much that I think my heart might burst. Would say: You got this, babe. Would return again to the waiting room where grandfathers properly await their grand-babies.

His absence rips through me. It punctuates the pain and I am panicked.

I clarify things for the midwife. Listen, lady who has no children: you are not the midwife I seek. You don’t know me. I once camped out in the Meadowlands parking lot to see The Grateful Dead and they gave me drugs for THAT.

I’ll tell you what too: they were good drugs! And I didn’t even have to take a baby home at the end! I just went home and slept it off. Do you see what I am saying here? Get me drugs for THIS.

The midwife calls for an epidural. A petite and porcelain doll of a doctor arrives pushing a cart of magic potions. She explains to me how it works, administers the medication and, PRAISE THE LORD, I am awash with sweet relief. I tell her I love her. I tell her that if I had a million dollars, I would pay off her med school loans.

The lights are dimmed in the room, the monitors are hushed, and night settles in. My husband notices the clock on the wall. Look, he says. I look, I see. We’ve climbed over midnight and into 9/11.

Mingling here in this hospital room with the loss of my father and the arrival of our child is the still-raw memory of that gorgeous and terrible day. I think of it. Of being in my classroom. Of watching. Of not knowing how not to watch, not knowing what would come next.

I think: this is the day my child will call his birthday. This day, always and rightfully enshrouded by the collective grief of a whole nation.

Near dawn, when I am ready to push, the number of people in the room steadily increases. A gaggle of medical students dressed in matching yellow surgical gowns enters the room and circles the heat lamps. They look like the entertainment, they look like they might start a little doo-wop. I wait briefly for their number to begin. I wait until I remember that I am pushing a baby out of my body, and they are not actually the back-up singers.

Finally. Mercifully. One more push. One more. And then. Then. I’m emptied and filled.

I look up and watch my husband straining to see who has come. Who is this child? I hear voices, but not words. I search for my husband’s eyes. Tell me. Tell me. He looks down at me. He’s crying. A boy, he says. Oh God. A boy. This day. This baby boy.

And my father. Who will not walk into the room now and hold his grandson in his arms. Who will not tip his head sweetly to one side, surveying each tiny finger and each tiny toe. Who will not know that we’ve named our son for him. Who will not whisper: Welcome.

He will not. He will not. He will not now. He will not ever.

We are brimming. We are raw and exhausted from nursing jagged, lacerated loss. We have traveled lifetimes, all of us, to this antidote. That tragic ending. Oh but, this glorious beginning.

He cries out, my baby boy. Finding, filling, drying his lungs. Cries so loud. Cries so long. Crying to signal life. Crying to remember death. Crying and crying and reminding us: all of the angels are home now.

All of the angels are home.

How to Grill and Swill Like a Dude: A Woman’s Guide to the Weekend

Ok, ladies. We’ve let this grill thing go on a little too long. It’s time to take what is rightfully ours! Grilling, swilling, and delegating the rest.

Today is a new day! Today is a day of uprising, of unity, of revolution!

Today, women across this great land will claim what we’ve long toiled in the shadows to earn, what has always been just out of reach, what is our sacred birthright.

Today, we step to freedom and take our rightful place at that mightiest of backyard thrones — the grill.

The jig is up, grill oppressors! No longer will women run around organizing salads, doing dishes, changing diapers, greeting guests, and setting tables while you men stand – tongs in one hand, refreshing adult beverage in the other, calmly surveying your backyard empire – with only one chore before you.

No! No more! We see you there, relaxing and chatting with your buddies, regaling tales of the fish that got away, dreaming of old cars restored, and chuckling about yet another day of Bob’s hilarious office antics.

We see you there. Yes, we see you there, and we are on to you. We know what you love and why you love it. The fire! The danger! The sausages! And, of course, the glorious joy of having only one dinnertime task.

Oh, yes. We’re coming for you.

Gird your loins, men! And by that I mean, bring me the pork loin! For, as you’re well aware, I am unable to leave the grill unattended to fetch it myself.

Therein lies the rub, no? And by “rub” I mean: while you’re in the kitchen collecting condiments, cutting watermelon, and making potato salad, please apply that dry-rub to the steak. Because, as you’re well aware, I am unable to leave the grill unattended to prepare the steak myself.

Is that not what you’ve taught us all these years? That a grill chef never leaves his grill? That, in fact, a man at his grill is not physically able to move outside of a tight 10 to 12 foot radius for the duration of the barbecue? That all other associated responsibilities – from child-rearing to side-dish preparing to clean-up – must be delegated lest the chicken be set ablaze.

Just how will this revolution happen? How will we, at long last, become queens of the barbecue, sipping our Prosecco, and gleefully socializing, while occasionally turning the kebobs or sprinkling salt?

Easy! Follow these 7 simple steps:

1 | Make the announcement.

Announce to all involved parties — this will generally include husbands, or any partner who has kept you down with their pervasive and hurtful grillism — that a new day has dawned!

Henceforth, YOU, yes YOU, will be manning — or shall i say woman-ing — the grill.

Expect to anger the masses. Never back down!

2 | Mark your territory.

After your announcement, go immediately to your grill and mark your territory!

This could mean anything from distributing your urine nearby, to decorating the grill with dream-catchers, to spray painting that beast with gold-flecked neon orange.

It matters not what you do, it matters only that you do you. This is YOUR grill now, queen. Be the grill queen.

3 | Have a barbecue.

Invite your friends and family over for a cookout and take your rightful place at the grill!

Stand in full power pose at all times — feet apart, arms akimbo — appearing sturdy, fierce, and unassailable in your new and honorable role.

4 | Fire!

Build and stoke a triumphant fire! (Or, you know, just turn it on if it’s propane.)

Either way, let loose a victorious cackle at the sight of flames, big or small, orange or blue.

Pound your chest and exclaim: ME MAKE FIRE!

5 | Make demands!

Since you can NEVER leave your grill unattended, you must immediately begin making demands.

Bring me the pork chops! I need more sauce! I’m out of booze! QUICK! TELL YOUR FATHER I NEED A KNIFE!

Ah, yes, bask in the glory of your power and freedom.

6 | Be vigilant.

Never succumb to trickery, for there are those who wish to sabotage your reign.

Stay alert and look out for phrases like, “Hey, why don’t you take a break,” and “Honey, can you come and show me how to shuck corn?” or even, “You do realize you’ll probably singe your eyebrows, right?”

Stay completely calm, even in the face of the weighty and unnerving eyebrow threat.

7 | Enjoy!

No longer will you languish in the confines of the kitchen while your grill oppressor breathes in that smokey air elixir, enjoying the camaraderie of friends, and watching a beautiful sunset you cannot even see.

No more. No longer.

Welcome, sisters. Welcome to your vast queendom. Welcome to your grill.

I Wanted To Say Something To You, Middle School

Dear Middle School,

I know you. I’ve been you. I’ve walked your halls. I’ve taught in your classrooms. I’ve graded your dog-chewed homework. I know your smells of too-fruity perfume and not-yet-discovered deodorant. I’ve seen your slow dance: awkward, gawky, spinning. Just like you. Arms out, braced against the weight of everything you don’t know, everything you want to know.

I’ve watched you watch that one girl. The one with the perfect everything. The perfect nose, the perfect laugh. And that other girl. The loud one. The sad one. The annoying one always answering, answering, answering because knowing things is all she has.

I know the boys. The sport. The bully. The pudgy one, all pimples and jiggle belly and glasses sliding down, chubby middle finger pushing them up again and up again. Why the middle finger? Doesn’t he know? And the funny boy. So funny, so indifferent, so secretly and deeply unsure.

I’ve seen the new kids. New to this town from places that are bigger, warmer, shinier. New from places that are worse. Forsaken places, half a world from here with refugee camps and wars fought by stolen children. Girls in sequined hijab and long skirts with bold patterns. Boys with velvety smiling eyes.

I’ve been to your cafeteria with its noisy chatter rising and rising. With its caste system. No, you can’t sit here. Don’t try. Yes, sit with us. Yes, you belong here. Thoughtful lunches in neat containers pulled from cooler bags hiding secret sticky-note I Love You’s. Free lunches on clattering trays, free breakfast, every meal here at school and summers hungrier.

I know you’re vulnerable. I know you’re strong. I’ve watched your athleticism untangle itself, your wit find laughter, your voice fill space. I know this in-between place. These years that build you, break you, define you, defy you.

I wanted to say something to you, Middle School. I wanted to say something to my daughter as she enters 6th grade. I wanted to say something so true and complete that it would usher her through these years unscathed, unfazed. Only, I don’t know what that would be. I can’t find those words. I don’t have that magic. But I do know this much:

  1. Whining will get you nothing good. Work hard. Try again. No whining.
  2. Find something you love and practice it every day. Writing, math, music, skating, drawing, building, telling jokes. Return to it when you feel unsure about who you are. Which you will.
  3. When someone is mean to you, it’s because they feel badly about themselves. From now until forever, this will always be true.
  4. Your starry soul, your powerful mind – these things are housed in your body. You will be repeatedly sold the lucrative idea that your body is not good enough. Yes it is. Listen to me: YES IT IS. It’s a revolutionary act of rebellion to love your body and to love yourself. Be a rebel.
  5. Physical activity is really, really important for your mental health. Be active.
  6. Believe in something good. Stand up for it. Stand up for yourself.
  7. Participate in the educating of you. Understand how you learn. Ask for help. Be eternally curious.
  8. The only way out is through.
  9. Music will help get you through. Laughing will help. Friends will help. Gossip won’t help.
  10. Everyone is special and no one is special. Have empathy, feel love.

And finally, this: Remember me. Remember my face. If you hurt my girl, forget everything I just said, I’ll be waiting for you on the playground after school.

Love, Autumn

7 Reasons I Hate Summer

Another summer, another year, another collection of days caught like fireflies in a jar and let go again. It’s nothing we planned. It’s everything we hope for. Light slanting, days shifting, circadian rhythms tick-tocking. And it rolls.

1) Shut up, I don’t actually hate summer, I’m not a MONSTER. Just stay with me.

2) Mosquitoes. Obviously. Hey mosquitoes WE ALL STILL HATE YOU. I have done zero research on this and I am completely confident that mosquitoes could be wiped off the face of the earth and nothing – not one single thing – would be negatively impacted. Humanity would just march onward toward climate-change oblivion. Climate Change: Now Without the Itch!

Imagine how sweet. Sit under the stars and just think of it. Oh wait, NO! DON’T sit outside! You are covered in mosquitoes. You are BLEEDING OUT. Congrats! You have malaria.

3) The ice cream truck. When at first you come singing It’s A Small World After All, when you come to us just as we have closed on the longest, darkest months of the year with your hopeful playfulness and sweet delights…oh, how I love you. And you when you come back a second time, I am amused: Ok kids, have another ice cream, life is short. But when you come back EVERY SINGLE NIGHT EXACTLY AT DINNERTIME? When you come back just as I’m about to triumphantly deliver some (albeit questionable) hot dog-type protein to my mildly nutrient- deficient offspring? When you do that? Well. You can go FUCK YOURSELF, Ice Cream Pusher-man. You can take your type-2 juvenile diabetes on wheels and… and… and… DRIVE AWAY. You are a heartless drug-dealer not even dealing the good kind of drugs. You’re not like: HEYHEYHEY lil mommy, here’s a margaritttaaaaa. No. You are dealing Sponge-Bob popsicles with gum-ball eyes, BLACK gum-ball eyes, LICORICE gum-ball eyes. Because black licorice is terrible and we are all dead inside.

4) The Farmer’s Market. Why? Because you and your man-bun are there doing partner- circus-flying-trapeze yoga. Is that your girlfriend holding you up? Stop it. I am trying to eat this organic, vegan samosa and your effort to be the farmers-marketest-whitest-white guy EVER is highly distracting. No one cares, bro.

Also, your toddlers are dirty. Wash them.

5) Guess what? Everyone on Facebook is having a better summer than you are. Than I am. Than ANYONE has ever had, or will ever have. Seriously, LOOK. It’s right there for the world to witness and it’s PERFECT. There are pics of boats, beaches, cabins, sunsets, picnics, festivals, outdoor movie nights, bouquets of flowers, glasses of wine, date-nights, perfectly camp-fired s’mores, and beach books hovering above bronzed thigh gaps through which you can see the sparkling and beckoning surf.

People are only and eternally #blessed and #grateful and #sandinmytoes. No one is fighting, no one is crying, no one is poor, no one is working weekends, no one is not getting laid, no one is languishing for hours playing Minecraft, no one is stressed out, no one is throwing a tantrum, and no one is ever trying to accomplish actual work while children lurk and watch with vacant eyes.

On Facebook, the entire world is a dream-board of expertly executed summertime memories. Yeah. Go there. See it. Feel bad. Your summer sucks.

6) Which brings me to this: the perennial and relentless pressure to have the best summer everrrrrr. I mean, have you done ALL the things? Well, HAVE YOU? Have you been to the farm? Have you been to the other farm? Do you have a garden? Is it picturesque? Will you can it – jam it – pickle it? You DO have a farm-share though, right? RIGHT? Have you hiked? Canoed? Kayaked? Biked? Camped? Have you been stand up paddle-boarding? My GOD, have you even done yoga on the paddle board? Have you been to the river? The pond? The lake? The ocean? Do you have a hammock? Are you IN IT? HURRY UP, PEOPLE. It’s gonna be mind-scrambling COLD in less than two months and/or tomorrow. There are memories to be made. ALL the memories MUST be MADE.

7) And finally: summertime rolls. So fast, too fast. I hate this part the most. It comes rushing like vernal rivers swelling and urgent, and it’s gone again too soon. Somewhere inside the fleeting warmth of these long, light days are moments of unadulterated perfection. Perfectly imperfect. They’re not the moments you planned for, or fretted over, or dreamed of. But here they are – moments translated into memories forever imprinted on your family, your squad, your tribe.

Memories branding you, writing your story. Like that time you quit work early and ate gas- station salami sandwiches driving on a back road with all the windows down and nowhere to be. Or that time a dip in the lake turned into an epic water fight, a battle to dominate the last raft floating – the one still not popped – kids clawing, clamoring, exhilarated by the shocking sound of a mom yelling HOLD YOUR FIRE, YOU LITTLE SHITS.

Or the time you bought the drugstore kite and tried to fly it in the cemetery and fell backwards over a gravestone while your kids clutched their hearts laughing at you, directly AT you, and you thought this must be what success feels like: the sound of their laughter alive in your blood. It’s that heavy eyelids, sticky forehead, still-a-baby, sunburned nose of a growing seven year old boy fighting sleep to tell you that he had fun today, that it was a good day today. And his love is all you’ll ever need, his love is all the summers coming and gone pressed together, shot through with wonder, and set ablaze in your heart. So full it might explode. So full you can’t breathe.

Because here it is, and there it goes. Another summer, another year, another collection of days caught like fireflies in a jar and let go again. It’s nothing we planned. It’s everything we hope for. Light slanting, days shifting, circadian rhythms tick-tocking. And it rolls.