When autumn comes, it doesn’t ask

Pumpkins

When autumn comes, it doesn’t ask.
It just walks in where it left you last.
You never know when it starts
until there’s fog inside the glass
around your summer heart.

“Something’s Missing,”
John Mayer

What reminds you of fall?

For me, it’s John Mayer’s “Heavier Things.” Buying the album on CD that first fall of my freshman year with cash from my first job. Watching the fog clear on the windshield of my old Corolla — the one before the one I’m currently selling, now that the minivan life has taken its hold. Listening to “Clarity” while I felt both too young and too old at college.

It’s dinner in the slow cooker — stews, chili. Chicken and wild rice soup.

Warm quilts. Sweatpants. Candy corn.

Stowing away flip-flops, digging out boots. Warm, sunny afternoons and crisp evenings.

Mums on porches. Mornings thick with dew. Finding last season’s jackets and slipping little arms into their sleeves, wondering if anything still fits.

This year, it’s also my son pointing out each crispy leaf, asking if we’re any closer to Halloween. Excitedly announcing that “it’s fall time!” with a commitment to giving a home to any lonely pumpkin we see … just like his mama.

My heart is not a summer heart. I adore spring, when my babies were born, and winter has its cozy charms.

But fall is still my favorite. Let’s get started.

 

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Fall on the desert island

Rainy day


“This is definitely a desert-island album for me.”

Spencer and I were driving along our winding road last night, heading to my parents’ house, rain splattering against my windshield. Earlier in the day I’d dug around in the trunk for my old CD case: a fat compilation of albums, mostly collected a decade ago.

John Mayer’s “Heavier Things” was the first CD I bought with my own money. I was a freshman at a nearby community college, running out on my lunch break to pick up odds and ends at Walmart. It was September 2013, just a week or so into the school year, and I’d just started a job as a cashier at a craft store. My paycheck was paltry, but I didn’t know any different — and it didn’t much matter. I still felt impossibly adult with my brand-new debit card.

I told Spencer this story last night: how, eleven years ago, John Mayer’s “Clarity” and “Something’s Missing” and “Wheel” were the soundtrack to my 18-year-old days. I can close my eyes and be back on campus, climbing into my battered old Corolla, cranking the music up with cool September air pouring through the windows. A love note on my windshield. A scarf around my neck.

Music meant more to me then. I don’t listen to it much these days, preferring news radio or audiobooks on my drives. But when I do? It’s the “old” stuff. My vintage stuff. The songs that comprised my mornings and afternoons and weeks when I was younger and bursting and unsure, but still making progress. Steadily. Grasping.

Does your music change seasonally? Because as soon as the leaves begin to turn and I dig out my boots, I find myself reaching for Ingrid Michaelson, The Fray, Death Cab for Cutie. The softer, subdued stuff. It’s like my mind shrugs into a sweater, too, wrapping up and quieting.

I like that. It’s cyclical.

John may feel that, too.

“When autumn comes, it doesn’t ask. It just walks in where it left you last. You never know when it starts . . . until there’s fog inside the glass around your summer heart.”


“What do you mean — desert island?” my husband asked.

“Desert island. You know. An album you’d take with you if you were trapped on a desert island?”

“I’d bring a satellite phone,” replied my scientist, smiling in the dim evening light. “So I could call for help.”

“That’s not the question!”

But I laughed, anyway.


We’re never gonna stop this train

Road

Back when I was commuting to College Park for school, the only thing getting me through long, terrible, traffic-riddled drives was the soothing sound of John Mayer.

Though his antics in recent years may have colored him in the public’s eye, perhaps, John will always be my main man. I can’t remember my young adult years without thinking of “Clarity,” “Bigger Than My Body,” “Something’s Missing,” “No Such Thing.” As John grew and released more sophisticated, blues-inspired tunes, so did I. My early years at Borders were marked by the release of “Continuum,” the 2006 album that served as a definitive change in his sound, and it became the soundtrack to my college days.

Sometimes I have these moments — crystal, perfect — that fill up the soul. Soothe me. Comfort me. Remind me that, no matter how disjointed and afraid I may feel some days, I’m on the right path . . . and everything is going to be just fine.

I often have John to thank.

Some of my best thinking gets done in the car. Despite all the chaos in the D.C. area, I usually find cruising around to be pretty relaxing. I don’t mind being alone — especially with music or books along for the ride. When the weather is nice? Windows down, hand in the wind. Just going.

Last night I’d just finished an audiobook and was digging around for something to listen to when I rediscovered “Where The Light Is,” John’s two-disc live album from 2008. “Stop This Train” began to play. The simple guitar intro took me immediately back to the spring of my senior year of college — the time when I realized, in a few short months, I’d be done with school forever and officially “an adult.”

I didn’t have a job lined up. Didn’t have a post-graduation plan. Was still living at home and already pondering ways to end another relationship, which pained and scared me — because at the time, he was my absolute best friend. Though far from being my great love, it’s always hard saying goodbye.

I remember driving on the Beltway on a warm spring day, the sun filtering through my cracked windows with “Continuum” on repeat. Graduation was probably weeks away, based on the knot in my stomach, and I was taking the exit that would lead me back home. Happiness and freedom should have been sitting right in my passenger seat, soothing me, but I’m nothing if not a worrier. I just remember feeling scared.



Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
But honestly, won’t someone stop this train?

The words — the words. They hit me like a brick wall.

Oh once in a while, when it’s good
It’ll feel like it should
And they’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound
And you won’t miss a thing
Until you cry . . . when you’re driving away
In the dark

How did John slip inside the darkest corner of my heart and pluck out every scared thing I was feeling? I can’t listen to that song without thinking of that day . . . which is exactly what happened last night.

And then I realized: I got through it.

My fears about getting a job, leaving home, making new friends, finding someone to love who would love me just as much . . . entering “adulthood.” All of that. It hasn’t been easy and it’s certainly not over, but I did many of the things I was once so afraid to do. They came to pass, and I’m still standing.

Moved.
Married.
Working.
Indebted. But that’s okay, too.

I drove slowly to the new house, the one stacked sky-high with boxes. Breathed in the muggy air. Watched the fireflies twinkling in the trees.

It’s the most unshackled I’ve felt in months.


John Mayer’s D.C. stop on the Battle Studies tour

So my love for a certain guitar-playing, loud-mouthed, tattooed and sensitive rocker has been welldocumented by yours truly in the past. I know he often blurts out inappropriate and offensive things and that’s definitely not okay, but I’ve spent so much time with John Mayer — almost ten years now — that, you know, I kind of feel like I know the guy.

Know him through his music, anyway. And during last night’s stop in Washington, D.C. on the Battle Studies tour? The man did not disappoint. Crooning some of my favorite tunes like “Why Georgia,” “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room,” “Assassin,” “Perfectly Lonely” and even old favorites like “Comfortable,” John bounced around the stage, interacted with the audience and generally seemed like an appreciative musician. Which I appreciated.

Having seen John five times before last night, some of my over-the-top spastic behavior has ebbed away — leaving me better able to enjoy the show without screaming my head off, bouncing up and down like a lunatic or screaming in my sister’s face. All of which I have been known to do! No, the Battle Studies tour featured a much more subdued Meg as an audience member — and that’s okay.

Because not dancing my rump off and moving the entire time? Let me snap a few, um, hundred photos. Here are some of my favorites! If you’re interested in the full set (and one shabby video I took during “Belief”), visit my Flickr page.


Random things that make me happy

green_light1. Approaching a red light — only to have it turn green.

I mean those times that you’re cruising along, see all of the glowing brake lights ahead of you in the other lane . . . and then, miraculously, the light turns green! And you get to zip right past all those suckers stopped at the intersection, accelerating on your way to total freedom.

And if you’re me? You cackle maniacally and, quite possibly, shake a fist in triumph. But you’re definitely cackling — cackling is a must.


2. Finding things in pockets.

This is especially fantastic at this time of year. Coats get dragged out from the closet and, courtesy of my mother, I have a ton of coats. Everyone in my family is obsessed with jackets — specifically, do you have enough of them and are you going to where yours — it’s cold outside. I’m not a jacket person, I’ll be the first one to admit; in fact, I’m usually the oddball standing outside in 40 degree weather with nary a stitch over my arms. I get this from my grandmother, the original hot house flower (hi, Maw Maw!).

So when I finally break down and get out my red pea coat — the cute one with the toggles? Sometimes I find things in the pockets. Like money. And random ticket stubs to events long past but still remembered. And unwrapped candy. Sometimes? I eat the candy. But let’s keep that tidbit between us . . .


3. Christmas decorations.

I’m most definitely not the angry shopper going on a tirade about how the local mall is already adorned in sparkly red and green though it’s only October — I’m the one whipping out my camera and photographing it. Seriously, Christmas decorations are awesome! Who doesn’t love a life-sized Rudolph, gingerbread house or piles and piles of fluffy, fake Buffalo snow? Philistines, that’s who.


4. Holding hands.

I especially enjoy it if the hand I’m holding is warm and dry. And if it belongs to someone funny, kind, intelligent and good-natured? All the better! College-educated and good looking works for me, too. Just, you know — putting it out there.


perfume_bottles5. Perfume.

Unlike lots of ladies I know, I don’t have a “signature scent”; I prefer to switch it up daily, according to my whims. Oh, and I have lots of whims.

It’s impossible to have too many bottles, though I’m putting that theory to the test with each new Avon order I place.


6. Funny baby videos.

So we’ve all seen the baby dancing to Beyonce’s “All The Single Ladies.” It’s totally hilarious . . . especially when the youngster really gets the arms going! He’s really a better dancer than I am, to be honest.

Who knew there was such an industry of cute kids doing adorable, ridiculous things on the Internet? I mean, sure — my parents have been recording my sister and me acting like fools since we could first toddle around. And “America’s Funniest Home Videos” — or its modern equivalent — has been broadcasting said moments since “Full House”‘s Bob Saget was around to introduce them (remember that insanity?). But it seems to me that the whole Funny Baby phenomenon has taken on a life of its own . . . and I’m totally okay with that.

It’s not rare for me to decompress by watching some kid throwing a tantrum on my iPod touch. It’s . . . oddly relaxing. And I say this knowing full well I will now be punished with the children from Hades — and all those tantrums? Yeah — not so funny when they’re mine.


7. John Mayer’s “Good Love Is On The Way.”

It doesn’t get much more personal than this, my personal anthem! “Done with broken people, this is me I’m working on. ‘Cause I know . . . good love is on the way. I’ll be lonely but I know I’ll be okay . . . good love is on the way.” The Gospel of JM — worship.


acorn_pumpkin_earrings8. Acorn earrings.

Bizarre, right? But I just really like looking at them. They fill my little pink heart with autumnal joy. I have a ton of them in my Etsy favorites, and I may or may not have created my whole recent “Etsy finds Friday” based on the fact that they’re, um, adorable and I’m obsessed with them. Obsessed.

And there are plenty to obsess over, should you want to join Acorn Earring Lovers Anonymous. We meet on Etsy daily, usually between the hours of 2-9 p.m., and light refreshments are served. Just, you know . . . you have to supply them yourself. Because all my spare dough is going to acorn earrings, you know what I’m saying?


9. Live albums.

Why are they always so much better than studi0-recorded albums? Seriously, if you offered me the synthesized, produced and slick studio version of a song or the raw, flawed and sincere live version of a tune, I’d take the live version every time. Examples? Coldplay’s “Glass Of Water”; John Mayer’s “In Your Atmosphere”; Ben Fold’s “Army”; The Script’s “Break Even”; Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Chain” . . . and that’s just a primer.


10. Sprinkles.

But you already knew that about me.

~*~*~

“Green means go” photo by Eleda
“Perfume bottles” photo by me
Pumpkin acorn earrings by decoratethediva

On keeping optimistic as fall approaches

Something about the fall reminds me of the cyclical nature of everything, I guess, and forces me to stop and think a whole year has already gone by. Now I love autumn — the gorgeous weather and bright, clear blue skies in Maryland; the leaves falling and blanketing everything in color; the awesome food; time with family. But something about it depresses me, too . . . thinking about the cold coming in again, having to be cooped up, putting away my heels in favor of bulky, closed-toe boots.

I’m not happy unless I’m barefoot. Fact.

laptopsSo I’m trying to stay upbeat and remind myself of all the awesome things approaching — and there are many! First up, I just ordered a new laptop from Dell. The dinosaur I’ve been using, est. circa 2003, still has a floppy drive and an exterior wireless card. I know — it’s craziness in motion. Plus it takes about 30 minutes to boot up, prompting me to throw things in an unmitigated rage. And my new one? PINK. PINK PINK PINK. And 4G of memory with a fast processor. YES. Power blogging and noveling, here I come!

And then we’re getting into another great birthday season — two uncles have birthdays in late September/early October before my grandmother and cousin celebrate at the end of October. This means lots of parties, fun and awesome food (yeah, that’s what I’m majorly looking forward to!). Then we have Halloween, one of the greatest holidays ever! It’s on a Saturday this year, so no dressing up in outrageously silly costumes for work . . . but that’s all right. It’ll probably be less damaging to my reputation if I don’t show up in a sexy witch costume — one of the few pieces of attire easily available to ladies (so true, “Sex And the City”!).

With November right around the corner, it’s time to gear up for National Novel Writing Month — always one of my favorite times of the year! The goal is to write a 50,000 word book in 30 days or less, and this will be my third year participating (and winning, let’s hope!). Last year was a big personal success for me, and I’m really excited for this year’s project. A vague outline is all set up and ready to be fleshed out; I’m just holding myself back until it’s time to rock. And come midnight on Nov. 1, you’ll find me at Sophia — the pink laptop’s new name, natch — already getting writer’s cramp.

john_mayerAlso in November? John Mayer’s new album “Battle Studies” hits iTunes and retailers near you on Nov. 17, according to his official Twitter account. To say I’m happy about that would be seriously downplaying the issue — I’m ecstatic! New JM music! “Continuum” came out in September 2006 — three whole years ago. Three years with no new John Mayer music, if you don’t count “Where The Light Is,” his live album and DVD from a year or so ago. That’s insanity! So I’ll be waiting eagerly to get my hands on the latest stuff, with a single released “soon.”

fall_scarfAnd soon it’ll be really chilly — like, perhaps very chilly. Maybe people will need something to keep their necks warm and I’ll be able to point them to my shop over at Etsy! I love crocheting and create all sorts of scarves, but unfortunately they seem to be taking up residence in my living room. I would be psyched to start sending some out, and would feel validated for everything I’ve created.

Ready to join my pity party, already in progress? Great! Because all my ventures seem to be a bust. [Throws confetti and looks sadly as it falls to the ground.]

But no, I’m moving forward — not getting upset about what has already come to pass. And the holidays are coming, of course — Thanksgiving, Christmas. I’m sure we’ll all have to bear the weight of doom-and-gloom media forecasts telling us that the recession is threatening to destroy retailers everywhere, and this will, undoubtedly, be touted as the worst year shopping year ever OMG! But if we can get past that, it’ll be fun to see everything all glitzed out. And hey, this is the first year I won’t have to set foot in a store to work at all — I even worked occasionally at Borders a bit last holiday season! So that’s something to be thankful for, surely.

And everything else will be okay. I absolutely won’t validate silly boys and their silly actions by blogging about them publicly . . . much as I might like to. No. As always, I’m the classy one — and regardless of what happens, I definitely plan on keeping my dignity. So have fun on that boat, swabbie!

Whew. All right. I’m good — no, no, I’m great. And I feel much better after getting this all off my chest — by, er, typing it all off my chest. I need to stop thinking so much and remember how much there is to look forward to in the coming months! I’m going to keep that hopeful grin on my face and move forward.

What are you looking forward to this fall? Come on, don’t be shy — it’s therapeutic, I promise!

John Mayer scares puppies

There I was on Saturday afternoon, innocently standing in line at Target with my mom. We’re carrying heavy baskets full of stuff, chattering away light-heartedly, talking about dinner and possibly seeing a movie. Everything is fine. Not a care in the world. I could smell vanilla — and maybe a hint of lavender. I was buying delicious snacks. Birds were chirping; a rainbow may have possibly appeared along the wall, draped over a pack of fluffy golden retriever puppies tumbling along in the aisles.

And then — then I saw THIS . . .

aniston_mayer_kiss

. . . on the cover of a random magazine, dropped unceremoniously near the counter by another customer. Discarded. Just happened to be sitting there, ready to rip my world to shreds.

And the birds flew off, flapping their wings angrily; the rainbow evaporated, leaving a gray streak in its wake. The puppies all started barking, then scampered away, too. And it was just Me and The Magazine.

Did I buy it? No. I mean, why torture myself? Sure, John Mayer is on the cover of it making out with his girlfriend (and alleged fiancee, if you listen to some sources), Jennifer Freaking Aniston, but why should I pry even more into their every day lives? So what if they were returning from a romantical island getaway over Valentine’s Day, where they no doubt recreated the above scene for four days straight? And they were boarding separate planes, and couldn’t bear to be separated from one another for a few hours? And had to keep their arms wrapped around each other, afraid of ever letting go? I mean, WHO CARES. Geez, STOP BRINGING IT UP ALREADY.

And now I’ll get back to work. After I decompress, take a long walk, finish up my Diet Coke and see if anyone has a spot where I can do a bit of yoga. For a half hour or so.