Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A T-riffic Hodgepodge

Welcome back to your regularly scheduled programming this week-The Wednesday Hodgepodge. If you're visiting today from the A-Z Blog Challenge, you'll find my entry for the letter T at the end of this post.  In the meantime, everyone is welcome to join the Hodgepodge. Answer the questions on your own blog, then link back to that post at the end of mine. Here we go-


1. April 22nd is Earth Day. Are you inspired by nature? In what way?

Oh absolutely, in all sorts of ways. Nature inspires me to write, think deeply, dream, and worship. I'm especially inspired by sunlight on the water, the ocean, a mountaintop, or a beautiful sunrise. I often wonder how anyone can look at those things and say there is no God. I love cities, and can find a certain sort of energy and inspiration there, but not the quiet reflective kind I find in my own back yard.  

2. Down to earth, four corners of the earth, move heaven and earth, not have an earthly chance, or salt of the earth...which earthly idiom have you most recently encountered? Explain.

Four corners of the earth? Not precisely, but when I deposited one fiance, one daughter, and one boyfriend at the airport on Sunday afternoon, followed by one bride-to-be at the Amtrak station they were traveling to four different cities in three different states. And of course hubs and I are in a completely 'nother state, so yeah, quite often it feels like we are scattered to the four corners. 

We deal. 
More or less.  

3. Share one piece of advice you might give a newly engaged couple.

After every wedding comes a marriage. 

Being engaged is a very special time in the life of a couple, so nurture that relationship now more than ever. Invest time and energy in one another during these next busy and exciting months.  I think it must be extra hard in today's culture of social media and Pinterest and everything shared not to get completely caught up in the planning of your very special day, but remember after your very special day will be the rest of your very special life. Treat your relationship with the tender loving care it needs and deserves. 

4. When did you last engage someone to perform a job, task, service, home improvement or repair? On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) how would you rate their work and/or your satisfaction with the job or service provided?

We recently had a plumber out to repair a pipe that had burst in our garage. We've used them before and are always very happy with their work, good manners, the care they take in coming in and out of the house, and generally the price. I give it a 10. 

5. When did you last find yourself engaged in small talk?  Are you awkward or an expert or somewhere in between?

Well I'm not the expert my hubs is, seriously everywhere he goes he comes home with someone's life story. He knows how to draw people out and into a conversation. It's a gift. I'm pretty good with small talk, and it doesn't make me uncomfortable. Nobody here is surprised to know I can chatter about nothing at all when a situation calls for it, are they?  

6. What was the last historic place you visited?

Probably the restaurant we dined in Saturday night-One If By Land, Two If By Sea. It's located on Barrow Street in NYC, and was at one time Aaron Burr's carriage house. It's also supposedly haunted but we didn't see any signs of that on Saturday. I wrote about our evening here.

7. The world would be a better place if we just___________________.

Lived by the golden rule...'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Giving myself a small breather here today, and using this random space for my A-Z Challenge post. 

T is for Tradition

As I've been thinking and writing about marriage this month I've come to the conclusion that every component of married life really does come back to a single word-expectation. That's true in dealing with household chores, extended family, leisure time, child rearing, money...all of it, and it's no less true for what I'm going to call tradition. By tradition I mean those things that happened within your own family as you were growing up that stamped holidays, special occasions, celebrations, and milestones as belonging to your family. Things you'd like to recreate within your own family now that you're married.  

Every family has a particular way of celebrating birthdays, Christmas, achievements of one sort or another. Presents opened on Christmas Eve or Christmas? Travel at the holidays or stay home and circle the wagons? Thanksgiving dinner or brunch? Favorite home cooked meal on your birthday or dinner out in a fancy place? Homemade sweaters beautifully packaged or money in a card-pick out something you like? Paper plates picnic style or the good china?  

While you or your intended may think you don't really care one way or the other about the traditions you grew up with, once you marry it quite often turns out you actually do. There is something about leaving your family and forming a new branch with your beloved that makes a person suddenly attach importance and significance to the familiar traditions that say home to them. Or one or both of you just assume that of course we won't open presents on Christmas Eve, only to discover your counterpart was assuming that of course you would.  

These are seemingly small things, but remember what I said about the small things? Small things accumulate and become big fat snowballs, so its good to at least have some conversations about what home means to you, what family means to you, and especially as holidays approach, what you are hoping yours will look like.  

I think it's nice to incorporate a bit of both of you into your own family celebrations, which also means we can't dig our heels in about everything. When it comes to tradition I excel at the digging in of the heels. Sometimes I think God moved me to England just to show me I could indeed survive Christmas without being in the middle of my great big extended family. Maybe not the only reason, but it was for sure a bonus. 


In fact as it turned out, Christmas on our own was a whole new kind of magic, and we managed to make special all kinds of holidays and celebrations while living across the pond. They are memories I wouldn't trade for anything.

I don't use the word compromise a lot, because in my experience there is of course some compromise in marriage, but often what that looks like is one of you letting go of 100% of your expectation some of the time, and your spouse releasing 100% of his sometimes too. 

New traditions are often born out of neccessity, perhaps due to geography or finances or work committments. Sometimes new traditions come about because you take a little of his and a little of yours, stir them together, and voila-new tradition. Every couple will have to decide what works for them, but it's best to begin the conversation about how Christmas will look prior to December, and if having a box with a bow on it for your birthday is important to you then say so. 

Like everything else in marriage, how holidays, special days, and milestones will be celebrated comes wrapped in expectation, so in a word-don't assume. 

Two words I know, but I couldn't  manage to say it in one. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for 'Specially Special

Today is the day in which I shall attempt to recap the weekend that was, so everybody strap in. Daughter1 phoned home with her happy news about 9:30 on Thursday evening.  Not that we were all sitting around the phone or anything. I played it cool. Okay, not really, but I did manage to say a simple hello, what's up? and she said, 'You Know!!'. 

Yes! Since February, but I may have mentioned that here already. ahem.   

Daughter2, her boyfriend, the hubs and I had a nice day on Friday. We had lunch out then went to see Draft Day, which we all liked. Kevin Costner knows how to make a sports movie, plus he's aging very well. Just sayin'.  

I have already recapped the Friday night festivities, which you can read about here, so I won't re-tell that bit again now. You're welcome.

Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day, and we spent most of it outdoors. I realized pretty quickly that we are a house geared towards girls, because right away the boys asked if we had a glove, a ball, anything they could toss around in the backyard. I have a teeny tiny tennis raquet belonging to Molly the American Girl Doll. Will that work? 



Hubs literally sprinted down to the basement and came up with our old lacrosse sticks, a ball, and his mitt, and the three guys proceeded to play some some version of catch. As an aside, please pay no attention to our grass. It's been a long winter, and we're still down in the 30's at night so, yeah.  


It was convertible weather (with a jacket on), so hubs took Daughter2's boyfriend for a spin in the little red car.



And then he talked the guys into a hike through the woods to the top of our hill. Hubs has been swimming in a sea of estrogen for thirty years, and I'm so happy he's gaining a son. 



  While the men were being manly, we girls mostly did this-


You can't help yourself...it sparkles! A lot. 



We did wrangle them inside to dye Easter eggs, and once they saw they had no choice they quickly got on board. We all felt it was important for the fiance to see the intensity with which his future wife tackles this project.


Saturday evening hubs and I had arranged for a little celebration, NYC style. We had a driver pick us up at the house, then headed into Manhattan for dinner.


We dined in a restaurant in the Village called One if By Land, Two if By Sea, which at one time belonged to former Vice President, Aaron Burr. It was his carriage house, then later a pub and brothel, and finally a restaurant beginning in 1910. Do you know much about Aaron Burr? As it happens, neither did we, so I made a little trivia game for the car ride over, and we educated ourselves. Any excuse to play a game my hubs would say.


The restaurant is rumored to be haunted, but we saw no signs of that during our visit. One if By Land is always rated as one of the most romantic restaurants in NYC, and I have to agree. The setting is intimate, with lots of low lit chandeliers, wonderful food, and just the right level of attention from our very nice wait staff.


Hubs made the loveliest, most heart felt toast, which made the bride and her mama a little teary eyed. And the sister was quietly sobbing, but what can I say? We're an emotional bunch here.



As we drove home we noticed the city had kindly lit the Empire State Building in pastels just for us, or possibly Easter, but we prefer to think it was for us.


Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful and there were baskets and breakfast, and then church and more picture taking. The boys are almost used to me and my camera. Almost.


Can I just say too, that one of my most favorite things is looking down a church pew that is filled with my people? My heart feels like it wants to just spill right out and over.


After church we had our traditional lunch menu of baked ham, pineapple stuffing, deviled eggs, and roasted asparagus, and then the guys played pool while we girls may or may not have opened up the box that has held my wedding dress for the past thirty years. I think I'll save that for another post. Maybe.

And I guess you know what happened next. In what always feels like the blink of an eye suitcases were being loaded into the car, and goodbyes were being said, and grown up children were boarding trains and planes until the next time.

"Where we love is home-home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts." 
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. 

Hodgepodge Questions-Volume 171

The Hodgepodge is back after a much needed break last week. If you're here visiting from the A-Z Blog Challenge, and are looking for my post on the letter S, it will be up a little later today. Much later actually, but before tomorrow so no rules broken. Not that there are actual rules, it's just that I like to set deadlines for myself to be sure I get all the letters in on time.  I would never want to be labeled a blog challenge slacker.

Anyway, here are the questions that need answering on your own blog for our Wednesday link up. Hop back here tomorrow to add your blog to the party!


1. April 22nd is Earth Day. Are you inspired by nature? In what way?

2. Down to earth, four corners of the earth, move heaven and earth, not have an earthly chance, or salt of the earth...which earthly idiom have you most recently encountered? Explain.

3. Share one piece of advice you might give a newly engaged couple.

4. When did you last engage someone to perform a job, task, service, home repair, or improvement? On a scale of 1-10 (ten being the best) how would you rate their work and/or your satisfaction with the job or service provided?

5. When did you last find yourself engaged in small talk? Are you awkward or an expert or somewhere in between?

6.  What was the last historic place you visited?

7. The world would be a better place if we just__________________________.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bloom

I know everyone is posting their Easter pictures and weekend recaps today, and trust me when I say I have a lot to recap, but... I'm going to save all that for tomorrow. Did I tell you my Daughter1 got engaged last Thursday, and besides Easter we celebrated that event this weekend too?


Well we did, and I have many words and more than a few pictures to share, but first there's today.

When I settled on my A-Z Blog Challenge theme of 'married with children' there were a few words that popped into my head right off the bat, and today's word is one of them. I will go ahead and tell you up front it's not a happy word. In fact, it's one of those icky words that shows up at one time or another in, what I feel is safe to say, all marriages.

R is for Resentment

We all have expectations going in to marriage, and then heaps more expectation is added to that pile once children enter the picture. I think for the most part our expectations are a reflection of the homes we were raised in, and the roles our own parents played or didn't play, as we grew up.  

Men and women come into marriage oftentimes assuming their spouse will manage the same home and family responsibilities that their own mother or father managed. Will you both work? Share household chores?  Who plans meals, shops, and cooks? Who manages the money? When children come along, how will their physical and emotional needs be met, and by whom? Will one parent stay home, or is daycare an expectation? Will you spend all your weekend hours together? Have girls or boys nights out? Vacation with family? Never vacation? 

I'm not specifically doling out advice to my bride-to-be daughter this month (okay, maybe I am) but hey she reads here, and this word is one she will likely have to work out within her own marriage some day. She is marrying a boy with a calling, a boy who will have an exceedingly demanding job, both in terms of the long hours his profession requires, as well as in responsibility and mental focus. He'll need to stay on top of an ever changing field, which means a lifelong commitment to learning. There will certainly be room for a wife to feel resentment.

Dear all brides-to-be-

Resentment is a weed, and should be killed before it has a chance to grow. 

Signed,
Been there, done that, but maybe not always as quickly as I should have. 

I imagine most married people reading here have had occasion to feel resentment. I think I hate that feeling more than almost any other. That first year as a mother of two I remember feeling irritable and resentful, sleep deprived and just plain exhausted. It's not like hubs was out living it up either. He was driving an hour+ to work, racking up frequent flyer miles with lots of business travel,  travel that sometimes meant leaving on a Sunday afternoon in order to be in some other city for an early Monday morning meeting. These things were not within his power to change, but nobody said resentment was logical.  

I know some men who want to (and do!) spend every Saturday and Sunday playing golf with their pals, or lying stretched out in their favorite chair watching back to back sporting events. My hubs has never been one of those men, not as a husband to me or as a father to his daughters. I'm sure he sometimes wanted to, but he's always put his family first, and usually done so with a smile. I also know men who resent their wife spending time with girlfriends, spending money on herself, or pursuing hobbies that don't include him. There's all sorts of places resentment can rear it's ugly head. 

Even in this empty nest season of life, there have been times where hubs has traveled a ridiculous amount for work, and I've been home, and then the weekend arrives and he's thinking he can relax and lay low, and I'm thinking, 'Let's go do something." 

Expectation and resentment go hand in hand in relationships. 

I don't think you can necessarily predict going in what it is you may come to resent as you live life with another human, but I do think you can have a plan to minimize and handle resentment as it attempts to de-rail marriage. And I think this simple statement is the secret to a happy marriage in pretty much all areas actually, but particularly when you feel resentment creeping in.  

Put the needs of your spouse before your own. 

I'm not saying don't take care of yourself, but marriage above all else needs to be lived out unselfishly. I know that notion is contrary to so much of what is out there in the world at large, but when you are in a marriage where that other person puts your needs and desires before their own, it is a beautiful thing. Does it always happen? No, of course not...we're marrying other humans remember? And sometimes it's hard. Really hard. Because, as we jokingly say in our house, 'I want what I want.'-ha! 

We all know what resentment feels like. We can recognize the early warning signs...the growing knot in our stomach, the tension that seeps into our tone, the way our head fills with thoughts of whatever it is that's bugging us, or whatever it is we're wanting but not getting, the mental list you begin constructing of how over-worked, over-stressed, over-burdened, over-everything you are.

I read somewhere recently that many marriages break up, not over big serious things, but over an accumulation of small resentments never dealt with, that have now built up into an unbreakable wall. So what helps? I'm not a therapist, I just play one on my blog,...

1. A hot bath. I'm serious. I believe a long hot soak in the tub can help you see life differently.

2. A nap. See reasoning in #1. 

3. Making a list of three things things I love about my hubs.

4. Praying for him. 

5. Praying for me.  

6. Telling him what's bothering me, what I was hoping for or expecting, using words to try to figure out a compromise, but...at the right time, which is generally not when he has just walked in the door. 

7. Re-read that list I made in #3. 

We most often define love in terms of what it is, yet in that that oft quoted scripture, what it's not is given equal importance. I don't know a lot, but I do know those words were not written there by chance. 


"...it is not irritable or resentful...
1 Corinthians 13:5

So tend your garden my sweet daughter, and brides everywhere, for in so doing you make room for love to bloom bigger and more beautifully with every season of married life. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Quite a Night

So where was I?


Oh yes, my Daughter1 is engaged!!!

I wouldn't be posting today, except skipping a letter of the alphabet would make me twitch. I'm going with something short and sweet like the bride-to-be.


Hubs and I collected the happy couple from the Amtrak station while Daughter2 and her boyfriend finished making dinner and setting up for a mini-celebration. Daughter2 bought that super cute bag for her sister and the hot pink package is a personalized Erin Condren Wedding Planner I'd purchased.


Remember I've known for over two months (I know!! Two months!!)  that this day was coming so I had plenty of time to order something personalized. We are huge fans of Erin Condren planners in our house. This one has the names of the bride and groom printed on the cover in a pretty font, but the markers are hiding that.


Daughter2 made these positively fabulous vanilla almond cupcakes with cream cheese icing, complete with silver sprinkles and wedding-y wrappers.


Did I mention they were fabulous? We also had balloons and a banner and a champagne toast and then dinner at 9:30 PM which is just how we roll around here sometimes. 

So far having a bride-to-be in the family is sublime.

Happy Easter everyone! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Will You Marry Me?

When I chose my theme for the A-Z Blog Challenge this year ('married with children'), it's possible I was privy to a secret that today I can finally share.

P is for Proposal

My precious first born baby girl and her sweet boy are officially engaged!


He asked the question last night, she said yes, and now all that's left is the happily ever after.

They're headed here for the weekend and I cannot wait to hug my girl, gush over her ring, and overwhelm my future son in law with excessive picture taking, happy tears, and lots of words. I will try to contain myself, but y'all...hubs had a phone call from the boyfriend over two months ago, so we have been keeping this quiet for what feels like forever. Daughter1 couldn't believe it when we told her how long we'd known the plan, and her sister even got to see the ring way back in early February. February!! I know!!

The groom was away for six weeks on an assignment and then there is all the distance and complicated logistics to be worked out, so Easter weekend was the day. Personally I cannot think of a better weekend to ask a sweet, tender-hearted, faithful girl to be your bride.

I have much more to say-ha!, but there's a whole lot happening here this weekend, and I don't want to miss a minute. I'd love for you to hop over to Daughter1's blog and say hello.  As you might imagine, she is only a little bit over the moon.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Golden Oldies

It's Thursday, and since we've conveniently landed on letter O in the A-Z Blog Challenge today, let's keep it simple.

O is for Golden Oldies

I'm so happy to have both my girls home for the Easter Weekend. Both their boys will be here too so a full house, which in my opinion is the best kind. My girlies are best buds, and they don't get to see one another in person nearly often enough, which means weekends like this one are always special.

So let's talk Easter. I love this day perhaps more than any other single day of the year. Easter marks a miraculous moment in time, a moment that through the centuries has remained constant. Sure. True. A day set aside especially to celebrate God's great love for us, and the gift of hope He gave this tired troubled earth. That gift still there for the taking.

In spite of snow in the middle of April, the ground still yields to the One who made it, and never is that more evident than in springtime. The days become longer, the sun shines brighter, life blooms.


Spring unfolds ever so slowly in this part of the country, but I think the anticipation, the small glimpses we're given before we see the natural world in all its glory, helps us notice and appreciate it all the more.

Are those little girls in that photo too cute, or what?


We always begin the day with Easter baskets at your seat in the kitchen. Yes, still. You are never too old for an Easter basket. The boyfriends are going to discover the truth of that statement this year too-ha!

One of our most favorite moments captured on video was Daughter2 at age three spying her basket and shouting, 'TAPE!!  I GOT MY VERY OWN TAPE!!' Toddlers and scotch tape equals match made in heaven.


After baskets there would always be an egg hunt. The boys coming to my house this year can relax...we won't make them hunt eggs. We will however, insist they dye some because certain traditions you just don't mess with.


Oh my stars, could they be any cuter?  I think not.  My mom bought those coats which are too precious for words. They wore them for two or three Easters because we grow 'em slow around here. Same thing could be said about our tulips. That flower bed they're standing in is pretty impressive, isn't it? In my defense we'd been in that house less than a year.  


I have always loved pastels at Easter. In NJ it quite often feels like winter on the day, but in Maryland spring came a little earlier. Everybody's growin' up. Ages  9 and 7 in yellow and pink, with fancy frilly 'church' socks and brand new Easter shoes.

Pay no attention to the flower bed.  


I couldn't find the 'before church' photo of my girls at ages 8 and 10 so I'll have to settle for a basket shot.  Daughter2 is the spitting image of my sister here.  My sister will say daughter2 is the spitting image of me.  People always thought my sister and I were twins, but we didn't get it. When I look at this picture I get it.

This shot captures the essence of daughter1-

Sweetness personified.  

My hair?
It was the 90's people.

Fast forward a few more years, and Easters looked something like this-


In high school my girls spent Easter breaks with Young Life, in places like Romania and Bulgaria, doing muddy work assignments and loving on orphans.


Seeing first hand how people the world over need to hear and know the message of hope that Easter brings. 


I'm not sure how the verse found in John 3:16 became something to be mocked, but in today's culture it seems it has. Still, everything you need to know about Easter is found right there-

'For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life.'

I pray your weekend is filled with sunshine and family, and most of all with the knowledge of God's great love for you and the hope He offers each one of us at Easter and always.