We Are Putting Too Much Responsibility On Our Kids

I have three kids.

Most of you know this, if you are new to my blog …well now you know. Two are girls, aged 15 and 11. And my one boy is 2.

My 15 year old has been gearing up to get her drivers permit this fall, and thinking she would go for the driver’s license right away upon turning 16.

But as the months have inched closer to her written permit exam, she’s made a lot of other decisions with regards to her education that ultimately made her choose to put driving on the back burner.

That’s a long winded way of saying that she’s decided to graduate early and wait on driving until closer to 17. Maybe later.

Beyond having homeschooled since she was in 1st grade (so being pretty ahead of the game all along anyway), she really needs some time between graduation and life to figure out exactly what she wants to do and how she wants to go about doing it. We don’t live in a time where kids can just go off to college and everything works out perfectly …kids have high debts and shit jobs when they graduate if they don’t have a clear path in mind. And a lot of times, they do all of that to go into a field that didn’t even need the degree (and high debt).

Doing this will give her a couple years to figure out her real plan for college and/or beyond, and she can start that next step in life (whatever it looks like) at the same time as the rest of her peers. Because she’s a minor she can take some for-credit courses at the community college for free, she can explore volunteer and internship opportunities…and after years of homeschooling with minimal breaks and no summer vacations, she can also relax (for once). It’s a win, whatever way you look at it.

So the exam to accomplish early graduation as a homeschooler in California is administered the March after she turns 16. You guys see the timing is such that it really does make sense for her to focus 100% on that.

And after all, what’s the rush on the driver’s license anyway, right?

When I started mentioning it to people as they brought up her driving in less than a year, I got a backlash from a handful of people (3, to be exact) in one of two veins.

Either 1) they assumed it was really me saying she should wait, in other words sheltering her from the big bad scary roads and growing up; or 2) her not taking responsibility for herself.

People just can’t make decisions for anything anymore without someone waiting in the wings to criticize them.

I shouldn’t even reply to the first point. I wasn’t allowed to drive until I was 17, and in fact California has many laws that restrict what and who can be in the car with teenagers at the outset because of the high incidences of teenage deaths behind the wheel. I am not the catalyst behind her decision whatsoever; but if I were, it wouldn’t be abnormal.

And anyway, my kid my rules.

But to be clear: it was her decision. Hers. Not mine. HERS. 100%.

And it was a decision I found to be rooted in maturity beyond her years. Not all kids would decide on school and studying over the thrill of getting behind the wheel.

As to the responsibility.

Even if it were for fear or not being ready for that level of responsibility, what is this idea that kids under 18 are not still… kids? That their feelings or fears or concerns are completely invalid and they should just man up and grow up?

Repeat after me: they are still children.

And beyond that, has anyone taken stock – truly – of how much responsibility falls upon our older kids, today, as a culture? The shooter drills. The intense college admissions competition. AP exams. Competitiveness in sports. Plus looks, bullying, dating, peer suicide, all-time high incidences of mental illness…

Granted some of that is eliminated because my kids homeschool. But in many ways (because my kids are still very social, have relatively large friend groups, are out in the community daily, and have many of the same goals as their peers), they experience it all to varying degrees.

And in the case of my children, you also have to consider how much responsibility my two older daughters already have and take of their own accord around the house (which, I am sure, is common in other households as well as the business world molds and changes, and local, 9-5 jobs for parents have largely ceased to exist).

My husband works overnight shifts for a marketing firm that contracts with Disney. He’s an editor, so it means long hours, unpredictable hours, and a lot of overtime. When he gets home in the morning, he goes to bed and sleeps all day until it’s time to go back and start it over again. He works weekends and holidays often, and he almost never uses his vacation time. He basically is uninvolved in our lives unless he can actually be off for Christmas or Easter (but of course then he still sleeps half the day, either catching up or just on that different schedule).

That leaves me as the sole caretaker, housekeeper, financial planner, grocery shopper, child care provider, car maintenancer, schedule manager, meal, snack and every in between preparer, launderer, problem solver, medical care provider, educator, ride-giver…and so on…

My kids, being more responsible than some adults I know, have taken it upon themselves to pitch in for the sake of my husband’s dreams and my sanity.

It’s killing me to allow, and yet sometimes I feel I have no other choice; and even other times I realize that letting your kids have responsibility around the home has been proven in study after study to raise kids more capable of managing their lives as fully formed adults.

So my daughter doesn’t want to take on the “responsibility” of studying for taking the exam for her drivers permit, and the behind the wheel test and driving so soon, on top of everything else on her plate.

She cleans up my toddler’s toys every night when I put him to bed.

She helps cook dinner when I’m giving him a bath or nursing him (because, yes, I am still nursing my 2 year old).

She and her sister clean up the poop in the bathtub when he inevitably turns it into his large, personal toilet.

My 11 year old isn’t without added responsibility at home as well. She takes out the trash, regularly, when my husband has been too busy to change all the cans. She also helps keep the laundry moving, does dishes without being asked, and plays with her brother or feeds him breakfast when I’m driving my 15 year old to an appointment or tennis lesson.

Once a week, my kids and I spend hours going through all the laundry that has been done and sort, organize, fold, and put it all away. When my husband sees us doing it, he says “just leave mine on the bed.”

And this is the thing that I want to impress on all of you: my kids are not unique from other kids, and the amount that is expected of them today is phenomenal.

I get it. There was a time when kids did all of this and more. But there are two parents in this home, two adults responsible for it all, and my kids are at the very least helping to carry the load for one that is largely absent. Because they are already more responsible than a lot of adults I know.

So to suggest that my daughter needs to “start taking responsibility for herself,” and that the driving thing is just a sign that she isn’t doing that is – in a word – laughable. And this is what I am largely seeing happen with a lot of her and my 11 year old’s peers: that in the face of already doing it all and more, adults are still pushing the vice down even harder and demanding more of them.

And we wonder why so many kids have mental health problems now.

I feel like we have forgotten that under 18, they are still kids. And yet, at the end of the day, so many of them seem to have it more together than a lot of us did at that age. More together than a lot of us do today.

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No Such Thing As Global Climate Change, MY ASS

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We’ve been in the throws of a heatwave for three weeks now. It’s more like a heat tsunami. It’s basically hell. We live in hell now.

The issue, actually, isn’t the heat or humidity – per se. It’s the fact that fucking no one in this town has air conditioning; save for the newer houses that no one wants to live in because they’re built like trash.

Trash filled hell.

Which means that the town smells like trash. More so than usual, that is. Typically, 5 days a week, if you stand outside long enough for the breeze to blow past your nose, you can smell the faint scent of fertilizer, since we are surrounded by farms. Add 90-100 degree temps and high humidity to that and it’s like living in the middle of either a trash dump or a cow’s asshole.

I’m still trying to determine which.

So. I’m in a bit of a mood because of this hell I’ve found myself in yet again. Not sure if you guys can tell…

What’s more maddening than the heat and humidity and the lack of air conditioning and also the general scent around town, actually, is the way people talk about it.

“Oh…it never used to be like this.” (No shit.)

And:  “it’s not usually this warm here!” (Lies.)

Also: “well…you know I’m still not 100% convinced about this whole climate change thing, even in spite of the heat.” (You moron.)

Those are the most common things people lie to themselves and others about, on the regular around here.

I get that twenty, thirty, forty years ago, heat waves weren’t quite as bad, frequent, long, and often as they are now. But they did happen.

And the fact that they happen so often now is just more evidence than modern science has already fucking provided of global climate change.

We’re also at a point now where this is – factually – the norm. So it seems a little irrelevant to say that it never used to be like this. Sometimes, it almost seems as though by saying that people are implying that this is temporary – that’ll it be not like this again.

I just don’t think that’s true.

It has been like this for at least a decade now. You can’t really say this is new, and you definitely cannot imply it’ll stop anytime soon.

I’ll say it one more time: it is usually this warm here now. It just is. Deal.

People like to lie to themselves and say that it’s not because it allows them to justify the cost of living with pithy witticisms like “oh well you know we pay for this wonderful weather!”

Fuck that. I very seriously believe I should get a reduction of my rent for the amount of time I have to deal with this shit. Because we don’t have air conditioning: IT. IS. NOT. WORTH. IT.

For three weeks we’ve eaten take out, deli sandwiches, and nothing. Enough.

I haven’t really cleaned my house, because the average temp downstairs is 86, upstairs is over 100. ENOUGH.

We basically can’t do anything but sit in front of fans and be miserable. But we pay for this beautiful weather!

Can it with that shit and cut me a break already.

This weather fucking sucks.

Climate change is real.

I have very little interest to continue to living in this trash pile if we cannot do something to make it more palatable. At the very least that would be a little honesty with ourselves about the state of things.

 

I’m Over Christmas

I took down our Christmas decorations on Christmas Day.

I’m not even kidding, you guys. I did. Even before the grandparents were out the door, after watching the kids open an ungodly amount of gifts, I was taking shit down.

I’ve just had it with the clutter and the dust and, well, the holiday.

I know. I’m a scrooge.

We had gorgeous Christmas decorations. Gorgeous. Multiple trees. Beautiful lights. The works.

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But as the weeks wore on, things started to irritate me. The baby was constantly spreading the ornaments around the house, so every night I had to traipse around and find them all, put them back, then start all over the next day. Also, as we drove around looking at other people’s outdoor lights, I realized how uncoordinated and – I don’t know – sloppy ours were.

And then there was that whole fire thing that happened in the weeks that led up to Christmas.

One night, about three weeks ago, my daughter and I were on our way home from the gym and we noticed there was a glare from an apparent fire, still quite a way’s away. Two hours later our power was cut. Our entire county had been cut because the fire was rapidly spreading towards the ocean, and had hit some transformers along the way.

By 11 that night, my mother was on her way to our house, having been evacuated from her apartment. By midnight, several of our friends had been evacuated, many of whom tragically lost their homes in the subsequent days that followed.

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For two weeks, the fires consumed our lives. You may have heard of them – the Thomas Fire, the Skirball Fire… just two of the several that popped up around southern California and ravaged our communities like no fire has ever ravaged them before.

So while all of this was happening, there was no Christmas preparation going on, or holiday activities, because everything was closed. You could see the fires coming over the hills from our window, we were constantly wondering if we should pack things to be ready to evacuate ourselves. (Our town in particular was, fortunately, spared.)

Then there was the air quality that followed; which continues to be on and off now – even though the fires have pushed up to the north. People were stuck in their homes, the city hall and libraries were handing out free respirator masks for people to wear at all times. At times the smoke was so thick you couldn’t see very far at all; the majority of the schools essentially closed for Christmas break two weeks early.

Except no one could do anything but stay inside.

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What this all did to my house was leave a thick layer of dust and ash all over my beautiful Christmas decorations. By Christmas morning, I was just ready for it to be cleaned up.

So I took that shit down on Christmas Day.

While other people were sipping hot cocoa by the fire and helping their kids set up new toys, I was furiously packing up my Christmas music box collection, putting away the ornaments and trees, and dusting and vacuuming.

It felt freeing.

 

It didn’t just feel freeing from the ash and soot of those fires that seemed to cover everything in my house, including my beautiful decorations.

It felt freeing from the gimme gimme gimme of Christmas that it always ends up being about.

It felt freeing from the extensive list of social functions I had to put on a face and wear regular clothes to. The potlucks where everyone wore red, because everyone looks like shit in green; and the work parties where the entire Human Resource department lets loose after one too many cocktails, busting into a grind session on the dance floor in front of the CEO of the company (that. actually. happened. at. my. husband’s. work. party. you. guys. no shits.)

And it felt freeing from the worry that there was someone I forgot to gift to, or a vendor I forgot to tip.

Did you guys know you are supposed to tip your cleaning lady an entire week’s wages for Christmas? You’re also supposed to tip the newspaper guy, the gardener, the mailman, give gifts to all the people that do your hair and your nails; you’re supposed to leave out a bin of snacks and drinks for the UPS and the Fedex guys for the entire month of December too.

I gave my cleaning ladies each an extra $20 and a tin of cookies, and the gardeners got cookies as well (they smoke pot before they get here, so I’m pretty sure they enjoyed those more anyway). But the guy who ruins my newspaper every day, or the lady who delivers my mail opened up and damaged …they weren’t getting anything.

And a bin of snacks and drinks for the UPS and Fedex guys? Fuck that noise.

I think this is all really why I am over Christmas. And, in part, why I took down my decorations so quickly.

Taking them down was not only moving on from the tragedy and difficulty of the fires that had befallen my community in the weeks before the holiday; it was a big middle finger to the obligations and expectations I find myself presented with every year, and yet am finding harder and harder to continue engaging in.

After all, it’s about the meaning of Christmas. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t say anything about exact tip amounts or fucking bins of snacks for service employees that are already getting paid. Neither is it about getting shit faced at the work party or dirty dancing in ugly Christmas sweaters.

I’m over Christmas. Are you?

I’m Having An Art Exhibit, and You Should Come

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Four years ago, I wrote a blog post about starting to paint again. It was really crazy, actually. I hadn’t painted or drawn or done anything artsy or craftsy in years.

I mean I wasn’t even a Pinterest mom at that point. Blasphemy, I know.

I literally wanted nothing to do with art, and the reason being was that I couldn’t handle the fact that I had given up art and drawing and painting and creating years prior to then when I changed my major in college to something more “realistic.” Only to do nothing with any of it.

A lot of psychological shit going on here.

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So I wrote a blog about it, and I started painting again. And drawing. Then I got involved in my local center for the arts. And joined the board of said center. Somewhere in there I decided to start teaching some classes in drawing and painting. And so when they said at the beginning of this year that they had a vacancy on their calendar, I figured – why not… why not do my own show?

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But I dragged along with my show so much more about who I am. As a reader and a writer. As a philosophy graduate student. As a lover of words. As obsessed with crafts.

The whole thing has turned into this unbelievable event. The show exhibits for the entire month of March, but the opening is this Saturday, March 5th. And because I love crafts but have little patience for them anymore, I invited other vendors to come and sell at my opening.

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Now it’s been in the paper and the local magazine and the city council has picked it up and some professor who loves my idea about sharing the books I love through my artwork is offering extra credit to his students to come and the vendors are selling shit I know I’m going to buy out myself (quilts, scarves, bags, homemade jams, jewelry……) and I’m freaking out because what if no one comes but what if there are so many people that we have to form a line or some shit, I don’t know I’ve never done this before…..

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You guys see I’m freaking out. As a writer and an artist, for all of this to be coming together, is huge.

This is my one and only plea…if you are in or around Southern California, you should consider coming. I would feel humbled if you came. I would highlight you coming on this blog if you came.

Please come.

Please.

Please……?

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Now That I Don’t Live In the Ghetto Anymore, What Will I Talk About?

Those of you that have been around here for a while know that I have a history of living in ghettos.

It’s – of course – of no fault of my own. We’re renters, so there is always the gamble that comes with renting. The area could change over time. The company that manages your building could switch, change it’s policies…who knows? There is never any guarantee that you get what you are billed when renting, because – quite frankly – that is what renting business is all about. Conceal and disguise. Change and turnover to get more rents. Really there are these same risks when owning; and in fact, this is the reason why we choose to rent instead of buy – so we always have the easy out of the end of a lease.

But it’s been a challenge to find a place that is not in the heart of the ghetto. A challenge that has taken almost five years, and a familiarity with our local moving company.

The first place that my husband and I rented was in Los Angeles, city proper (outside of downtown but still a Los Angeles address). The place seemed nice enough – it was bigger than we thought we’d be able to afford, and had a gated entry to the building. I should have known something was up, though when we moved in. To get our bed into the apartment, we had to ask the neighbor to open his front door so ours could be maneuvered through the narrow hallway between the two units. Standing there in his underpants, scratching himself occasionally, we learned all about his “lady friend” who we should not be alarmed to see coming and going occasionally at odd hours.

Then two weeks later my tires got slashed in the garage. Three months later the garage flooded during a mild rain. There were also no windows on one side of the apartment, so the average temperature was somewhere between 90 and 245 degrees.

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The second place we lived was in Culver City. Our dog got run over outside the complex (true story, it was absolutely devastating). But beyond just bad memories, this place was so ghetto that there was a constant smell of weed smoke wafting around the courtyard; and whenever it rained the awning fell off the side of the building.

After Culver City, we had had enough of city life. We tried it. We failed it. There was no way we could afford the rents or mortgages or nice cardboard boxes in better areas of town so close to the city. So we ventured back towards where we came from – along the coast about halfway between LA and Santa Barbara.

Right back into the ghetto. We lived in our first ghetto outside of Los Angeles for almost two years. Fist fights at two in the morning outside were common place. Evictions all around us happened regularly. Someone reported a meth lab in one of the complex buildings and the entire building was evacuated for two weeks to be cleaned out. Our bedroom window faced the parking lot, so routinely we heard people’s outdoors arguments, and one time listened to a teenage girl sob uncontrollably for three, straight hours because her boyfriend dry-humped some other girl under the bleachers at school.

After that place, I thought it could not get any more ghetto on a day-to-day basis than that. I mean we had lived in the city, which was pretty bad; but it wasn’t daily. There were at least some days in the city – once in a while – that you could leave your house and not see a gang fight going on in the parking lot; days when you didn’t get held up because you were  being questioned by the police after someone had been arrested for drugs; or at the very least you could through your pathway to the parking lot without tripping over beer cans. I thought if anything, moving again would just be that same moderate level of daily ghetto we had come to accept as commonplace.

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Then we moved to the Barranca Vista, and that daily level of moderate ghetto was paltry compared to what the Barranca Vista had in store for us.

Our lease at the last ghetto came up for renewal and they gave us a 14 month or a 16 month option. At the same time we were in the process of helping my dad sell his house so he could move in with us, so we were going to be needing a bigger place and more flexibility on our lease anyway. We looked for any place we could find that had a shorter term of lease, and we found the Barranca Vista as pretty much the only option.

I really, really wanted to love the Barranca Vista as our temporary home. It was closer to my dad’s house, which would make helping with the sale easier. We had two stories there too, so there would be more space. And there was a park – a beautiful, nice, park – in the back of the complex.

But gotdamn was that place ghetto. Most of the neighbors were unemployed, so there was a constant stream of people swearing, screaming, fighting, and letting their kids run around and terrorize everyone. There was always someone’s furniture being thrown out on the front lawn. A girl right across from us, about 12 years old, lived as a foster child with a hispanic family. They had no less than 25 people living in their unit. She would sit outside on the porch and make out with the younger boys in the house. There were gun shots occasionally down the street at night. One time we came home from the grocery store and police were outside our building. They said they were there to pick up someone on a warrant, and that we should get into our apartment and stay away from the windows.

Within about a month I felt like I was developing PTSD from being in a constant state of ghetto warfare. It was horrible, and thankfully my dad’s house sold with lightning speed and we were out of there.

Now I’m not meaning to say that all rentals in the community in which we live are ghetto. Not by a long shot – California, particularly the Central Coast (where we live) is gorgeous, even when it’s foggy and rainy and rattling from earthquakes. As with all places, there are just pockets – a lot of pockets – where shit gets real.

Now, after two months of living in our new home – which is bigger, cleaner, quieter, safer, and in a really good area of town – I can say, without a doubt, that at least for now we are not in the ghetto anymore. I have yet to see any arrests, or gang fights. No one has screamed at all hours of the night. There have been no meth labs, no drug busts, and no evictions. No furniture left on the lawn, no clothes thrown out a bedroom window by a woman named Titiana, screaming “you take yo shit to that whore’s house!” You never know, it could go downhill. But until then: now that we no longer live in the ghetto, what will I complain about? This place is so uneventful and quiet and normal that it’s bordering on boring. There’s nothing to talk about, nothing to gossip over. I almost feel a little reminiscent of the days when police reports and middle of the night arguments were common place…

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Welcome To Texas, You’re Pregnant

I never thought I’d say this, but I miss California.

I miss the way you can go outside and not break into a sweat from the sheer heat and humidity, that is both oppressive and shocking – given that it’s only the beginning of April.

I miss our salads. Oh do I miss our salads with our hints of gorgonzola and our notes of fennel. I miss the ability to add beets or carrots to your salad, and I miss the endless options that are both fat free and gluten/soy/sugar tolerant. I miss our sprouts.

I actually miss our pizza. Yes, I said it. I miss our pizza. It may not be Chicago-style pizza, but it’s certainly pizza. I don’t even know what it is they’re serving out here in the heart of the Lone Star State.

I crave the way we all know that Los Angeles drivers suck. I crave our acceptance of this suck-age, as if we all understand and therefore abide by the hidden rules that come with such an acceptance. Like this one: drive like an asshole in your own lane.

Because let’s face it: Texas drivers don’t realize how horrible they are at it, and because of this it takes 3 hours to go 6 miles, and you almost get killed at least 15 times.

I am dying to walk outside and not be attacked by a bug I cannot identify. I want to go a day without a mosquito bite. I need to not find hundreds of bugs squashed in the parking lot. I’m over seeing cockroaches squished with their legs in the air.

I miss skinny jeans, even on men. I miss our attitude glasses, because as ridiculous and stupid as they look it is at least a sign that people are reading. I would kill to go outside and not break out in a sweat because any amount of clothing is too much in this humidity.

I need things to do. I crave them. I need museums that aren’t rip offs. Open spaces that I can walk in and enjoy nature through, and not be accompanied by 500 other douchebags talking on their cellphones and running into people. I need things besides watching television and sitting in traffic to get to the local mall-slash-eatery-slash gun store.

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I’ve been in Texas for a full week now. And I hate it. This isn’t to say to other Texans that you are awful for choosing this place, I’m sure you find some redeeming qualities to this cesspool. But to me – well, it’s a dump. At least in the suburbs of Houston, where I’m holed up while my daughter visits her biological father down the highway. I have been in a lot of truly contemptible places in my life, and this is by far the worst.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that this is the most miserable place I’ve ever been. I would go as far as to say that. It’s like a total trash dump covered in some nice buildings and a lot of people.

Oh my God, so many people.

And while I know that in Texas a lot of locals pride themselves on their sense of hospitality and decency, the community I am in holds some of the rudest, most horrible people I have ever encountered. Yesterday I went to the nail salon for a manicure and pedicure, and while there saw women literally yell at the innocent nail technicians, for no reason at all. None. Today I went to get dinner only to find that the first two places I hit up had no one stationed to seat people. After a considerable wait at each of the two places (continuing to stand there to be seated), I went to a third – where I got out of the car to find a used pregnancy test on the ground in the parking lot.

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Now I am not always the biggest fan of California. And I am homesick and ready to pack my shit and move back to Chicago pretty much every day of the year. But my God can I not wait to get back home. To my sunshine and my cooler temps. To my salads not covered in 20 pounds of beef. To my people that are either polite, or at the very least so wrapped up in their own lives that their rudeness doesn’t spill over into my space.

Welcome to Texas, you’re pregnant. Pregnant with a sense of horror, misery, and disbelief that no other state could produce quite the same. I miss California. Either this place really is that bad, or I don’t even know myself anymore.

I Like The Cold

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People always look at me like I’m a complete moron when I tell them that I like the cold. As in cold outside, you know: snow, sleet, wind chill.

I get jealous when I see that there are blizzards going on somewhere in the world.

I live in California. Particularly, Southern California. We have one dial on the weather-o-meter and that’s about it: 70s and sunny. Sometimes we get fog. Occasionally it rains for a few days. Once in a while the winds blow and it hits 90; or the ocean blows in some high 60s.

High 60s. Anything below that and the city in which we live shuts down.

By contrast, I grew up in Chicago. Those of you that have been hanging around the blog for a while know how much I love the city and its suburbs. In the winter, and sometimes in the fall and spring, it is exceedingly cold in Chicago. Like cold-cold.

And I love it.

I guess maybe you don’t realize what it’s like to live in a place that has virtually no weather variation at all until you have. I’ve lived in Southern California now for almost 14 years and I can say without a doubt that it is beyond boring, mainly because of the weather. Yeah, it’s nice to not have to worry about things like closed-toed shoes or scarves and hats. Sure you have the ocean with the EPA’s estimation that thousands of people take a dump in that water every day while out surfing or swimming (related note: I do not ever go in the Pacific Ocean). Okay, you have the beaches you can go to any time of the year ….unless, of course, they’re closed because of all the hypodermic needles sticking out of the sand.

But there is no changing of the leaves really, especially not as dramatically as in the Midwest. You never have the excitement of jumping in a pile of freshly raked leaves; or by contrast the thrill of knowing that spring is just around the corner.

There will never be a first snow of the year for Southern Californians.

No, there will be first snow in the mountains that people will get in their cars and drive to, only after the snowing has already happened. And only for a little while before getting back in their cars and driving home to the 70s and sunny before nightfall.

You cannot get much more monotonous than that.

What I’m saying is that there are no changes of the seasons, which means there is none of the living that comes along with it. I equate living with having these experiences that are unique and exciting and different. Not monotony. Shoveling. Snow balls. Raking leaves. Seeing fresh flowers bloom. Feeling snow in your hair. Ice skating. Sledding in your back yard. Bundling up in a hat, scarf, and gloves for a football game. Hot chocolate when it isn’t actually hot out.

In 70s and sunny every day, there is not much room for exciting and different experiences when it comes to the weather. I find this ironic because in California we pride ourselves on organic-living, which should extend well beyond just the foods we eat into the way we live. And yet there is nothing organic at all about making fake snow at Disneyland or having to drive four hours in traffic to see orange, brown, and red leaves.

I don’t know, maybe it’s all in my head. I must be biased because I love Chicago and dislike California. I’m sure there is an entire conglomerate of blog followers, family, friends, and people that just like to hate me waiting to tell me how I am making no sense. I have rocks in my brains for liking cold weather, or I’ve just forgotten what a foot of snow feels like.

The bottom line, though, is that I’m home again, in suburban Chicago for the holiday. And I felt more alive as I stood in the snow yesterday afternoon than at any point in the last 14 years that I’ve lived in Southern California. I was cold. My fingers felt numb. But I could feel it, and I knew I was there because of it. There was nothing monotonous about it at all, and that is living.