One thing there is no shortage of in the central valley is wonderful things to eat. Even driving down the freeway, but especially on the backroads, you see farmstands everywhere you look. Now that I’m out of the valley and into the fancier foothills, the food gets fancier too. Flavored nuts in pretty packaging, jams and jellies and spreads, and those little churro nugget things – I’m still not entirely sure what they’re made from but boy howdy were they delicious. I get snacky when I write, and now I keep an assortment of these flavored almonds in a basket next to the computer.
In all my years of crafting, I’ve gotten one reaction a whole lot – “You must have a lot of time on your hands!” – but once I became a mom, that statement started being tinged with suspicion.
We’ve talked about it here, I get a lot done. And so people are always asking me how I manage that. (Hint: It’s mental illness) Sometimes people really want time management tips, other times they want to find out where the catch is. I must be a phoney, there must be something I’m neglecting or some help I’m getting that they’re not. If I sense that they’re sincere, I’m happy to talk tips or confess to how many days a week I go without changing out of pajamas, but they’re rarely sincere. Usually they only want to press me until they find something they can hold against me, or use to discount my accomplishments in their eyes (hey, if mental illness won’t do it, what exactly are they looking for?). It’s a weird position for me to be in – I believe that it is my moral responsibility to be as authentic and truthful as possible, but I don’t exactly want to hand these people my weaknesses for ammunition.
I’ve gotten this reaction so, so, so much, that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I realize it rarely has anything to do with me. Now whenever someone says it, I recognize it as coming from a place of insecurity. They recognize that my quilts or jams or whatever takes time and thought and care and they feel insecure about their own efforts. They wonder why I am able to do these things that they’re not doing, and instead of feeling secure about their own priorities or deciding to try harder in areas that matter to them, it’s easier to try and attack the efforts of someone else.
I can’t do anything about these people, only steer clear once I recognize a diminisher, but since I hate it when people do it to me, that means I have to be on the lookout for the times I do it to someone else. Because we all do it. We all have our insecurities, we all question our priorities and wonder if someone else has got this whole thing figured out.
Whenever I catch myself wanting to dismiss someone else’s accomplishment, I have to force myself to stop and run through this little quiz.
Why do I want to dismiss what this person did?
Do I think they did something stupid and inconsequential?
Did it hurt anyone? Was it unethical?
Then let the person have their accomplishment and don’t be a dick about it.
If I don’t think it’s stupid and inconsequential and I’m still wanting to dismiss it, that is a big red flag that I have some work to do to be secure in my own choices. I could find a way to participate, or I could evaluate a few things and decide that it’s not a priority after all. And once I’ve made that decision, I actually find myself able to enjoy my friends’ accomplishments without jealousy.
I have a ton of runner friends. And I hate running. Hate it with a passionate fire. But I don’t want to. I want a hard runner’s body and the endorphin rush and the fun events. But after evaluating my priorities and my body’s ability, I’ve decided running is just not something I can take up right now. But I can cheer my friends on. I can donate to their races, I can support them on facebook, and every time a friend finishes their first marathon, I feel genuinely happy for them.
Diminishing the world to bring it down to your size is such a temptation. It’s a quick fix to feel instantly better. But ultimately it’s a prison. You’ve made a world with no room to grow and nothing to aspire to. It might make your jealousy feel better, but in the long term it’s poison.
Modesto gets a bad rap. My own father-in-law hates it and calls it a “dirty little town.” Whenever I’m travelling and say where I’m from I’ll get pity in return. There’s even an extended rant about how bad it is by a comedian I really like. But I loved it.
The day I took this picture of Atticus, we had decided to have a family picnic at a nearby park. It was one of the rare days when we were all home together and had the energy to tackle an outing, so we packed up toys and our giant picnic blanket, stopped for sandwiches, and enjoyed being outside together.
Modesto is in a valley, and when the sky is blue it is electric blue and goes on forever. I’ve never been to Montana, but I feel like I understand “Big Sky Country” from living here. Bright blue skies and shocking green grass, broken up by the nut and fruit orchards or grape vineyards. If this place is a dirty little town, it’s only because dirt is necessary for things to grow.
On this day we were enjoying the perfect weather and watching as another family played nearby. It didn’t take long before the grandmother struck up a conversation, asking us about Atti and where he went to school, telling us her history as an aide in an elementary school, and offering us her hard-won wisdom in how to advocate for children with disabilites. That’s something I’ve always been able to count on here. The people.
There’s something about living in an agricultural community that makes people connected in ways I’ve never experienced anywhere else. When everyone is a farmer, their livelihood depends on one another – helping out during harvests, loaning materials, offering their expertise, pitching in. And that spirit seems to have carried over even when the farms aren’t the main employers anymore. If someone can help, they often do. And I just haven’t found that other places. Here cashiers will ask for my phone number so they can bring me plant cuttings. Neighbors will bring me vintage blue mason jars because they know I bottle. Teachers will send Atti home with lemons and blackberries from their garden.
Modesto certainly has its problems. The economy has been hard, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for education, and we have the rash of problems you’d expect from a place dealing with poverty – obesity, crime, drug addiction. But we also have roots. Having lived so many places around the country, and so many places where everybody was from somewhere else, it was a revelation to come to a place where people have lived here for generations. Where they return to run family businesses. Where the church pews are lined every week with parents, grandparents, great-grandparents. This isn’t the only place that fits that description, I have a feeling I’m going to find that same thing in Placerville, but Modesto was the first place that offered it to me, and for that it will always have my heart.
Aside from the things I’ve featured in my Best of Modesto series, here’s a few more things I’ll miss.
I’ve been so deep down the unpacking rabbit hole that I’ve had very little time to check out my new neighborhood. But I think that’s probably OK for now. Before I move on I wanted to spend the rest of this week remembering the things I’ve loved about Modesto. There are already so many things [...][Continue reading...]
Hello friends! First let me just say how much I’ve loved your supportive emails and comments calling me back to creativity. They have kept me sane when I thought my body was going to be found under a mountain of boxes. They have reminded me that normality was just around the corner. I’m not quite [...][Continue reading...]
I have three more days of solo parenting, and in that time I have to prepare an hour and a half presentation for a women’s retreat I leave for on Friday. I not only missed teacher’s appreciation day, but I also missed the last day of school deadline for the presents I had in mind. [...][Continue reading...]
Summer is technically still a month away, but you wouldn’t know it from where I live. It has been HOT. I see on Facebook that some friends are still dealing with snow, or at least they were just a couple of weeks ago, and meanwhile I’m breaking out the lemonade and sitting under fans. So [...][Continue reading...]
My sewing machine broke a while back at the very worst possible time, and the guy at the repair shop just shook his head at me. There was no hope. So he gave me a total steal on the fanciest sewing machine I’ve ever even used. It’s incredible. So quiet and smooth, and it both [...][Continue reading...]
I’ve been trying to write this post for three days and I still find myself sitting here with my mouth open and the words stuck in my throat. Sunday night was the big Listen To Your Mother show and it was magic and empowering and has changed everything for me in so many ways. But [...][Continue reading...]