Monday, November 1, 2010

The pleasures of fall

Wow - it has been awhile since I posted. Too long.

In the spirit of celebrating life's little things, I just want to stop and remember some of the simple pleasures of fall:

* Homemade caramel apples
* Mashed squash that is almost as sweet as candy even without adding brown sugar (carnival squash - yum!)
* Toasted pumpkin seeds
* Crunching through fallen leaves (at 35, I still veer toward leaves rather than away from them, because I love the sound)
* The first fireplace fire of the season
* Red wine
* Good books and curling up inside while the wind rages outside
* Sweaters
* Jeans
* Indian Summer days when the sunshine feels so good
* More sleep because it's darker (morning and night) and you just can't keep your eyes open

* Decorating the house with crafty, pretty things
* More time to spend inside, cuddled on the couch with your partner

Here's hoping that fall brings many wonderful things to your family.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Music appreciation - start young

C. and I attended a three-day folk music festival this past weekend. It's the same festival where we officially fell in love two years ago (it rained on us for eight hours that year -- it was sunny and perfect this year), so it will always be something special for us -- and something that is just ours.

Many people in attendance brought their children. C. and I discussed it, and we decided there are a few windows of childhood when that works -- infancy up to about a year (maybe age 2) and then again after about age 12. This conclusion was based mostly on observation of the children in the 3-11 range. The younger set were hot and tired -- and whiny as a result (who can blame them? Twelve hours in the sun is a long, long time!). The older ones just couldn't keep still or quiet -- and many of them made endless demands for food, face painting and treats.

There were a few notable exceptions. A family near us had two boys -- I'd guess they were about 8 and 10 -- and they were delightful. They listened quietly. They played board games with the adults. They read their books. I noticed one of them wearing a science fair t-shirt, and it made me wonder if children who are drawn to science are better able to cope with adult events like a music festival. Is it because their minds are more easily occupied with ideas and observation?

I think it's wonderful to expose children to music. I wish parents did more of that, but a lot of these children didn't even listen to the music. Most of them were off chasing friends or playing in the nearby creek. (At $35+ per ticket, that's some expensive play time.) It made me wish the parents would make them just sit - and just listen - even for a little while. I really think children are more capable of appreciating culture than their parents expect. They are also more capable of being respectful and polite than anyone seems to demand anymore.

In any case, C. and I won't be bringing his kids or our future children to this particular festival. This one is ours.

However, it did inspire me to expose the kids to  more art, music and culture and help them appreciate the beauty of observation and quiet enjoyment -- as a nice contrast and balance to their much-needed noisy playtime.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Nothing really compares to experiencing something for the first time. There's a feeling of stepping outside yourself, of growing, of starting new adventures.

We often think of firsts in terms of childhood: First smile, first solid food, first steps, first day of school...

Or even adolescence and early adulthood: First kiss, first love, first day of college, first roommate...

Whenever I experience a first as an adult, I am always pleasantly reminded that "new" is not reserved for the young. Life can be new every day when we step outside our comfort zones to learn something new, try something new, see something new.

For me, this week, I went fishing for the first time. I grew up in a state known for its outdoor beauty and where fishing is old hat for many people, but I had never dropped a line in the water. Not once. Not even in a stocked pond as a little kid.

So, at 35, I donned a pair of waders (what fun to wade through the water and not get a bit wet or cold!) in full Gorton Fisherman glory. C. and I hired a (very patient) guide to take us fly fishing, and we had a wonderful time enjoying the scenery, the breezes and the challenge of casting and presenting the fly in just the right way to attract the picky trout. I actually reeled in two fish and snagged another that got away.

I held one of the slimy, writhing fish in my hands for the first time before releasing it back into the water. I felt about 12 years old - and what a good feeling that was.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Post-Father's Day Thoughts

Father's Day is one of those bittersweet days around our house. C. lost his dad two years ago, so of course Father's Day is a reminder of that loss. C. also doesn't get to see his kids as often as he would like, so that's a bit bittersweet as well. I am guessing here, but I think it's also hard for him to feel good about being a good parent -- one who sets boundaries and disciplines his kids -- because he doesn't want that to be the only thing his kids know and remember about him.

Because his kids are not my kids, I have a unique perspective on his parenting, though. I think I see things that he doesn't even realize. I think C. is a wonderful father -- especially because he does offer them boundaries and consequences. I think they are learning some excellent life skills from him because of that. I think there are far too many parents out there these days who are not willing to say "no" to their children for fear of being the bad guy. Really, it's just good parenting that helps shape children into self-sufficient, functioning adults.

I told C. this weekend that I don't remember all of my childhood, but there are some very specific and strong memories that I have about each parent. Since we're talking about dads, I'll focus on my memories about my dad from my childhood:

He was/is the king of road trips -- he could drive straight through for 21 hours. Some of my best memories from childhood are of those road trips. He organized all the family bike rides. He made really thick hamburgers and pots of spaghetti sauce with nine cloves of garlic. He loved to cook for us. He loved/loves to read and I think my love of reading came from his example. When I got a little older - 10 or 11 - he would talk to me about philosophy and religion, and he listened to my opinion and my persepctive.

As for C., I think his kids will remember his blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes. Annie* will remember him teaching her to ride her bike. They will remember long hours swimming and diving and playing with Daddy at the pool. His funny faces and voices. His bedtime reminders to them that they are "smart, strong, handsome/beautiful and funny."

Dads have amazing gifts to give their children that are different from moms' gifts. I hope all you dads out there realize that you have a unique role in the lives of your children. You matter -- a lot.

I also just want to stop to remember the people who have lost their fathers, as well as those men who would like to be fathers but can't be for whatever reason (infertility doesn't just affect women physically and emotionally - the men feel it, too). Father's Day is hard for them, so be gentle.
* Names have been changed.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Family Tree

On Sunday, C. and I took the kids out to C.'s grandmother's property on the state line (a two-hour drive). She passed away a little more than a month ago and we missed the funeral because we were out of the country. She was 91 and lived a long, eventful life.

We planted some flowers under a tree on her property and then visited her grave and placed flowers there. She is buried next to her husband who passed away in 1971. Her parents are buried next to them - they passed away in the mid 60s. After we left the grave, we talked to C.'s aunt and uncle for awhile - and his uncle was telling stories about his dad (C.'s grandpa) from WWII and after. It was pretty amazing stuff.

C. has been doing some research on his dad's side of the family -- this grandmother was his dad's mom. He has managed to trace one branch back to before the Revolution in Virginia.

I love that C. is so interested in family history. It has always been an interest and passion of mine - to know where I came from and what makes our family tick. Both my mom's and dad's families are traced back to at least the mid 1700s, if not earlier. I like being able to look back at those colonial Americans, those Germans and those Swedes and feel a sense of our personal history.

However, C.'s family tree research is leaving me feeling a touch melancholy. You see, we are married, but we don't yet have children together. We have a small little branch on the family tree - just the two of us. Yet, his kids' mother will always be on his family tree (with a dotted line for the divorce, I suppose) because of my stepchildren. That branch will go on, assuming my stepkids have children of their own, no matter what.

Because we never know what the future will hold, I can't be certain that our little branch will go on. I am happy that, for now, it's just us two -- but I do think I'd like to see what a combination of his family and my family creates. 

Related to that, my dad is the last in our family with our family name. My parents had all girls. I think there are some distant cousins carrying on the family name, but it's the end of it on our branch of the tree. I kept my maiden name as a second middle name for that reason. I don't want my parents' family histories to disappear just because I got married and took my husband's name. Not only am I part of C.'s family tree, but he is part of mine. 

Just musing. I guess it is a lot more important to me than I ever knew before.  

Monday, May 10, 2010

Post-Mother's Day thoughts

Yesterday was Mother's Day. I was fortunate to be able to see my own mom yesterday, and I thank her for her many years of love, wisdom, patience and guidance. I also saw my two sisters (also moms), my brothers-in-law and my four nephews. They are all amazing. C. and his kids joined us, and we had a great time.

I am not a mom. I am a stepmom. I am the first to tell you that those are two different things -- and that is not a bad thing. I will not get into all the differences here.

I do not feel "less than" by not being a mom. I might have my own children someday, and I will be proud to be a mom if I do. I also know that my life is valuable and worthwhile even if I don't.

I am a woman. I am a human. Both of those titles carry great meaning for me, and I believe that each human being has a special gift to share, and unique lessons to learn, regardless of his or her family status.

On Father's Day, I will post something similar for the guys, but today I honor all the girls and women I know: Thank you for just being you; thank you for being a gift to the people whose lives you touch - your family, your neighbors, your coworkers...; remember that your life has meaning and never let anyone take that from you by their words or actions; you are worth it.

I also want to stop and remember the people who have lost their mothers, as well as the women who would love to be mothers, but who can't be for whatever reason. Mother's Day is especially hard for them, and my heart goes out to them.

To everyone: Bottom line, be aware that the people around you are, for the most part, doing the best they can. Honor who they are and where they are in life. Remember to thank them, not just on one day of the year, but every day. Be kind.

We are all in this thing together and we are all different, but equal.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A break from it all...

C. and I just returned from a most amazing trip to the Canary Islands (part of Spain, but off the western coast of Africa). We stayed on Tenerife and had one night in Madrid on the return trip.

I truly enjoyed the European atmosphere combined with a low-key island lifestyle. We didn't see one other American until the night in Madrid, but we met several Brits and Germans. It was so refreshing to hear people speaking multiple languages and to experience life from a different perspective for several days.

After an incredibly stressful six months related to blended family issues, I can't even tell you how amazing it was to be away - far away - as just the two of us. Couples can reconnect on vacation in such a deep and meaningful way.

I don't have time to post a full trip report now, but I will share a few photos...