Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Workin' the Wednesday Hodgepodge Vol 91

It seems only appropriate that answering the questions in this Labor Day Hodgepodge required a bit of work. I'm glad you joined the party sure to add your link to the bottom of my post before you head out to visit the neighbors. Here are my answers~

1. Americans will celebrate Labor Day this coming weekend. Do you know what we're actually celebrating? (without consulting your friends google or wikipedia, ahem) What's a project you're currently 'laboring' over?

I do know why we celebrate and I'll spare you my thoughts here about the need and function of labor unions in the 19th century being very different from that of the 21st century. I live in NJ and unions make the news here

As far as projects I'm laboring over...I don't suppose you want to hear me mention my photo organization one more time do you?

Okay, how about this-we want to do some landscaping to our side hill and also need the back hill seriously pruned. We cannot seem to get a quote on the project. Recently we had a landscaper out to look at the potential work and make some drawings. I had no trouble reaching him by phone and spoke a couple of times to an actual person to book the appointment. He arrived on time, was personable and professional, and was accommodating in that he made the appointment for early evening to allow hubs time to get home from work. This landscaper came highly recommended by more than one source and said he'd get a quote to us by the weekend. That was three weeks ago. We've left countless messages and I can't imagine why he hasn't gotten back to us and is suddenly unavailable by phone. It's a little worrisome, not to mention frustrating.

2. Labor Day also signifies the unofficial end of summer for most of us...what summer food will you miss the most? If you live in the Southern hemisphere feel free to substitute winter for summer.

Watermelon and tomatoes. I love all the summer fruits but watermelon is my favorite. And mid-winter when all the tomatoes are pink and grainy I'll be wishing I could sink my teeth into a red, ripe, fresh-from-the-vine Jersey tomato.

3. A well known proverb states, "It's easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission." Your thoughts?

I'm really more of an 'ask permission' kind of girl. Plowing ahead and then worrying about making up for it later is not my style. I won't be breaking the rules unless it's a matter of life and death. Ha- I'm sure my hubs is nodding his head at the truth of that last statement.

4. Food critic, film critic, art critic, book critic...which hat would you most like to wear?

No one is surprised are they?

5. When you were a kid, (besides your parents) who was your favorite adult?

There were many but the ones who popped immediately to mind were my grandma, the young mom who lived next door, a favorite camp counselor, and the youth leaders in my church.

6. The astronaut Neil Armstrong passed away last week. He was regarded as a hero by many generations of people all around the world. Do we still have modern day heroes? What makes someone a hero?

Back in 1969 the courage it took for those astronauts to climb into that little bitty capsule is mind boggling. By all accounts Neil Armstrong was a humble man. He liked to credit the thousands of NASA workers who made his moon walk possible rather than seeking the spotlight himself. I think bravery combined with integrity and humility is the very definition of heroism.

Our society likes to hold up sports figures as heroes but I disagree. I think sports figures can potentially be role models, but what they do is in no way heroic. Nor are celebrities heroic. And while great business leaders and entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs can inspire and change the world, I wouldn't label them as heroes either.

The world needs role models and heroes both. I think a hero is someone who, with great courage, deliberately and without regard for the personal consequences, puts others before self in order to accomplish something amazing.

Firefighters and policemen rushing in to the crumbling World Trade Center buildings-heroic.

One man standing firm against the tyranny of a dictator-heroic

Navy Seals, Green Berets, and other Special Forces rescuing a fallen soldier behind enemy lines-heroic.

A pilot calmly landing a plane full of frightened passengers in the middle of the Hudson River and then stating he was only doing his job-heroic.

Bravery is an essential component of heroism. I think humility and integrity complete the package.

7. I never get tired of __________________.

...a clear , bright blue sky.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Debby over at Just Breathe had a little musical meme on her blog last week and I told her I'd play along. The instructions were to name 15 vocalists (in no particular order) who will always stick with you...don't take too long to think about it, just the first 15 that pop into your head.

Okay, you know I'm not very good at that whole 'not thinking too hard about it' thing but here's a list of fifteen...

Steve Perry (Journey), Lou Gramm (Foreigner), Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Karen Carpenter, Don Henley, Bono, Martina McBride, Barry Gibb, Carole King, Phil Collins, Ann Wilson (Heart), Rob Thomas (Matchbox Twenty), and Christopher Cross.

Who would be on your list?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Questions for the Weds. Hodgepodge-Vol 91

Welcome to another edition of the Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer the questions on your own blog and then hop back here tomorrow to link up with the other 'laborers'.

1. Americans will celebrate Labor Day this coming weekend. Do you know what we're actually celebrating? (without consulting your friends Google or wikipedia, ahem) What's a project you're currently 'laboring' over?

2. Labor Day also signals the unofficial end of summer for most of us...what summer food will you miss the most? If you're in the southern hemisphere feel free to substitute winter for summer.

3. A well known proverb states, 'It's easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission.' Your thoughts?

4. Food critic, film critic, book critic, art critic....which hat would you most like to wear?

5. When you were a kid, who (besides your parents) was your favorite adult?

6. The astronaut, Neil Armstrong, passed away last week. He was regarded as a hero by many generations of people all around the world. Do we still have modern day heroes? What makes someone a hero?

7. I never get tired of __________________.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

And now for something different here's a list...

It's Monday and it's been a while since I did a random list, other than every single Wednesday but that's different, so today I'm going with a list of things I love lately.

1.Hubs took the day off on Friday and worked in the yard, washed his car, and hit some golf balls. I went with him to the course and practiced my putting. I don't actually ever play golf but I like putting and I love driving a golf cart.

2. Oh, and the view~

The view from our neighborhood course is pretty stunning.

3. Speaking of beautiful was a lovely evening weather wise so we dined Alfresco beside the lake.

Italian food and a pretty sunset...what's not to love?

4. Something else I'm loving? Instagram. If you're there send me your screen name and I'll follow your photography. I'm daleyshots.

5. We saw The Bourne Legacy on Saturday afternoon. We liked it and they definitely left an opening for a sequel. I am a fan of Jeremy Renner.

6. I love my iPhone but feel like my fingers are just a little too big for the keys. Does anyone else have that problem? When I text my girls I always sign it xoxo (don't laugh, they like it) only what I usually end up sending is coco.

7. We took the little red car out for an early morning drive on Saturday and Sunday both. Perfect convertible temps and I am loving these cooler mornings.

8. Sunday afternoon we watched hubs small town Alma mater play their longtime crosstown rival on ESPN2. They lost but it was a good game. Until the end obviously. Love the way a small town rallies round their teams.

9. I spent the rest of the afternoon tackling my photo organization. It is really hard to stay focused when I'm looking at old photos.

Just sayin'.
That's daughter2 with her mama and a favorite uncle way back when.

10. While I'm on the subject of sweet things...the little cutie pie pictured above turns 22 in a couple of weeks. Can that be right?

Yes, I guess it can because that's her on the left, smiling big and a long way from four. Still adorable though. And I won't even insert a sigh here because grown up daughters are an awful lot of fun too.

September rolls in on Saturday and in our house we brace for a month of birthdays, beginning with hubs on the first day of the month. Daughter2 will be celebrated in week2 and mine in week 3. Whoohoo! I'm spending a few days with Daughter2 on and around her birthday and there is nothing I love more than face time with my girls. I'm talking about real face time, not the fake computer kind.

11. I made these orange muffins with a citrus glaze last week and they are yummy! Light, delicious, and really moist. Next time I'll put a small bit of orange peel on top. I took them to Bunco and at first people thought they were corn muffins.

fyi-The recipe calls for one cup of milk and 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed oj. Reviewers suggested flip flopping that so I used one cup of oj and 1/2 cup of milk and the orange flavor was just right. You'll find the recipe here.

12. Because mornings on our patio have been so perfectly lovely temperature wise, hubs and I sipped our coffee there Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning.

We love watching the hummingbirds who are much braver now about dive bombing the feeder while we're sitting close by. They are amazing little creatures.

I'll stop there because that's a nice even dozen and symmetry is required to face a Monday, don't you think?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Stream of Conciousness ala Mid-Life

It's been a long week. All week I've thought we were a day ahead of what the calendar was actually saying. I don't know why, it's quiet here so maybe it's just that. I've been catching up on paperwork, getting re-acquainted with my vacuum, booking flights for some small trips next month, nothing truly urgent or pressing in the grand scheme of things. Nothing that really has to be done today, just tasks that can be accomplished any old time. There's laundry, but not mounds. There's dust but only enough to require a quick swipe of the cloth. The dog might like a walk and the plants need a drink, but if it doesn't happen today it can happen tomorrow.

This is mid life. Pockets of furious activity and then stillness. If the girls are home or we're expecting house guests or have travel plans, then the house buzzes and so do I right along with it. I might fall into bed at night wondering where the day went. But most days are just days, blank slates waiting for me to stamp them in some form or fashion. I make schedules and lists of tasks that don't need to be scheduled or listed but I do it anyway. I don't want to turn into a slug, and in all honesty, if you're not working full time its a short slope to slug-dom in this season of life.

I've been writing and editing some things I've written with an eye to sending them off to someone somewhere. I find its best to view it as a job and set a start and stop time, even if no one is looking over my shoulder or watching the clock and measuring my performance. I'm watching the clock. When you've got kids at home, no day is wasted, not even those days where you feel like all you did was spin your wheels. You are a physical presence in the life of someone who needs your physical presence. You are building stone by stone their mental, emotional, and spiritual health with the words you say and the tone in which you say them. The words you don't say count too. Every task done and those left undone, they all matter.

With a clean quiet house it is so very easy to waste a day.

When we first moved back to the states I imagined going to work full time. The first year though was full of transition, some anticipated and some unexpected and unplanned. We spent a lot of time reconnecting in person with family and friends scattered across several states. We set up our own house along with apartments for our daughters. I was available. Available to travel with my husband and take care of getting things done here, but mostly and most importantly, I was available to spend time with my girls and my mom and siblings when hubs traveled. Relationships need nurturing and that means face time. My girls are busy. Their schedules are somewhat set and it helped that I had flexibility. We are two hours from our closest relatives and many more than that from 2/3 of our family, including our own children. If I work full time what we lose must be weighed against anything we would gain.

Time is precious. We know this, have always known it, but that truth was re-learned in a very painful way this past year. I am not quick to give up the blank slate days in exchange for something that may not be of equal value.

So how to fill all that white space that falls between the small pockets of frenzy?

Well, I don't stay in my pajamas, sleep til ten, or watch TV all afternoon. I don't eat lunch standing up, hang out in the mall or spend hours playing games on the computer. By the time you reach mid-life you know yourself. While some of those things might sound appealing for a day, anything more than that I'd find depressing.

I need structure even if its self imposed. I need to lie down at the end of a day and see that day was marked. I know I'm not defined by a title, but if someone wants to label me a homemaker I don't mind. Homes need to be made so I'll view that as a compliment. Life might be a big picture but that picture is full of detail, intricate and complex. Someone has to fill in the detail.

So I sort, wipe, file, and organize. I make phone calls, greet repairmen, deal with the mail. I wait with a smile while car brakes are inspected and the dog is examined by the vet. I take care in planning meals and travel and all the bells and whistles that make special occasions special. I run on a literal treadmill. I write blog posts and essays. I remember birthdays, read books, and pen letters that need stamps. I keep track of dental appointments, library due dates and income tax returns. I participate in a women's bible study and play Bunco now and then. I talk on the phone with my mom and my girls. I listen, advice, commiserate, encourage, love. And in this season of life, I pray.

Not the sort of prayers I threw up back in the days of no sleep and parental exhaustion. Nor are my prayers like those of a busy mother juggling the collision of homework, dance lessons and pre-teen drama that occurs everyday between the hours of 4 and 7. We've even navigated the teen years now too, so there are far fewer tears shed and prayers confessed in the dark of night over tempers lost or bad decisions made.

After muddling through this season called mid-life for a year or five, I've come to recognize the blank slate for what it is~a gift. I spend a lot of time alone and God and me have had some really good talks. Oh, back in the days of jam-packed calendars we had some talks too, but it was mostly me doing the talking. And if I'm being honest, my prayers were filled with lots of asking and not a lot of anything else. In hindsight I see that for the season it was. Prayers born more of necessity and immediate need than deep thought. I believe God knows this season and understands.

Enter mid-life. When it comes to talking to God I have all the time in the world. For the first time in my adult life I'm not in a hurry. I observe my children and the path they are walking and can take some time to really think about how to better pray for them. Life is no longer so busy that I can't step back and see the challenges my husband faces in his daily work life or to know his heart when it comes to family and his hopes and dreams for the future. Our parents, siblings, the needy, this nation called America...all the people put in my path in life, they're included regularly now in my conversations with God.

I'm surrounded by so much natural beauty and I finally have the clarity of mind to say thanks. To look back at my life and see how His hand has worked and to stand in awe of that and to acknowledge it too.

I know God hears our every prayer. He understands and answers those that are tossed up by the busy exhausted mom in the carpool line and the quiet contemplative prayers of the mom in mid life trying to figure out her new place in this world.

When your kids are mostly grown up (I realize I have an issue with saying all grown up, but I'm working on it)...anyway when your kids are almost all grown up its sometimes hard to find a way to be relevant. My daughters are independent and that's a good thing...a necessary thing. In fact, it was our goal all those many years ago, back before we understood what the full weight of that word might mean to us as their parents. I know my daughters need to make decisions, and even some mistakes in order to grow, just like I did when I was almost all grown up.

How thankful I am to know now, that in His grand design God didn't make it so we'd just snip a cord and set our children free. He lets us talk to Him when we want to talk to them. He lets us pour out all the worries and hopes a mother's heart can hold and He eases and soothes and gives direction.

Prayer is a way for me to positively impact my children without hindering their need to be independent. It means when I lie my head down on the pillow at night I can say today was not wasted.

Today I prayed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Welcome to this week's edition of the Wednesday Hodgepodge, aka HP90. It's a lot like PX90 except this is a workout for your brain.


Sometimes it's just fluff, but in mid August as summer winds down and the school year gears up fluff may be just what your brain needs. Add your link to the bottom of my post before you run off and see the neighbors.

Here are my answers~

1. Aloha! On August 21, 1959 Hawaii officially became a US State...have you ever been? Upon arrival would you prefer an orchid or a hibiscus to tuck behind your ear?

I've been.
You might say I got my start there.

Based on this picture taken with my older sister in sunny Honolulu I think I've gotta go with hibiscus. My mama thought it suited me once upon a time.

Fun family trivia-my parents were living in Honolulu when Hawaii became a state. She was already a state by the time I made my grand entrance.

2. Since we're talking tropical...what's your favorite food or beverage made with pineapple?

I make something we call pineapple stuffing which is always a hit. It's a simple recipe and the perfect accompaniment to a ham dinner. I'm happy to share the recipe...send me an email if you're interested.

3. Do you believe in soul mates? Explain.

As in there's only one person out there for you and you must search the world over to find him? No. But I do think once you marry your spouse can and should become your soul mate.

4. Share a memory about the house you grew up in.

My younger sister and I were afraid of the basement. It's unfinished and not a walk out so not an overly bright space, even with all the lights on. When I was a kid the laundry was down there along with a ping pong table, our dress ups, Christmas decorations, my dad's workbench and the extra frig and freezer. The stairs came down into the center and dead ahead was a black hole.

Actually dead ahead was a perfectly benign crawl space, but whoa! could our imaginations ever run wild.

My sister will not disagree when I tell you some of the most dreaded words my mother ever uttererd in our childhood were 'Can one of you girls go down in the basement and get me xyz?" We shared an unspoken pact to never go alone. It was sisterly bonding at its surest and finest.

True's possible I still don't like my mom to send me down to the basement to fetch something.

5. Are you comfortable with silence?

Yes, as long as it's not angry silence.

I feel the need to fill angry silence with talking. This sometimes makes angry people even more angry but I can't help it. I was born with the talking gene.

6. You spot a giant spider on your bedroom wall...what's your next move? (all spiders are giant, right?)

If hubs is home I call him to deal with it. If he's not home my next move depends on the sound I anticipate the spider will make when squashed. If it's going to crunch I can't handle it. I'll throw a heavy book on top of it and leave it there til hubs returns. If it looks like the spider lacks the crunch factor I'll grab no less than 800 paper towels and scoop it up with my eyes closed.

Here's another fun family fact-one time hubs and I were out and came home after our girls were in bed. They were in high school at the time. As we climbed the stairs I noticed a Tupperware bowl turned upside down in the middle of the staircase. There was a post-it note placed strategically nearby that said 'SPIDER' and then had an arrow pointing to the bowl.

I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

7. My idea of fun does NOT include_____________.

braggarts, complainers, taxes, or the dentist

8. Insert your own random thought here.

We saw this in a yard near the kayak launch on Saturday -

The family who lives in this house has five Goldens! FIVE! So cute!
I love dogs as much as the next person but can you imagine all that hair?

I could see the wheels turning in my hubs head because he'd love a houseful of setters, but I put the kibosh on that thought before he could even formulate it into a sentence said aloud.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Questions for the Hodgepodge-Vol 90

Volume 90! We've been at this a while it seems. Thanks for playing along every week. Or every other week. Or once in a blue moon.

Here are this week's sure to come back tomorrow and add your link to the party.

1. Aloha! On August 21, 1959 Hawaii officially became a US state. Have you ever been? Upon arrival would you prefer an orchid or a hibiscus to tuck behind your ear?

2. Since we're talking tropical...what's your favorite food or beverage made with pineapple?

3. Do you believe in soul mates? Explain.

4. Share a memory about the house you grew up in.

5. Are you comfortable with silence?

6. You spot a giant spider on your bedroom wall...what's your next move? (all spiders are giant, right?)

7. My idea of fun does NOT include ______________.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Now and Then

When our girls were little we spent several summers sharing a beach house with another family. They have two daughters the same age as ours so it worked out well. Those were the days of mini vans, and loading them up for a week at the beach was a bit like working a jigsaw puzzle. The dads turned it into an art form and beach chairs and shovels, umbrellas and sand pails, coolers and suitcases, were squeezed into every nook and cranny before we could begin the two hour trek from Annapolis to Bethany Beach Delaware.

The excitement in the car was almost palpable and to this day my girls will say those weeks spent at Bethany are some of their fondest childhood memories.

Bethany is known as 'the quiet resort' I guess because it lacks the nightclubs and carnival rides you'll find in the neighboring towns of Ocean City and Rehobeth. There are still plenty of people, a small boardwalk, and a little town center where you can buy ice cream, skim boards, t-shirts, and 'chotchkies'. Oh, how little girls love them some chotchkies.

Fast forward twelve years and those same friends now own a home in a neighborhood near that very same beach. We spent the weekend revisiting old favorites and exploring new. The town itself hadn't changed a whole lot and we were glad. It's still small, still mostly families relaxing on the beach and kids playing in the surf. The smell of sunscreen and boardwalk fries, salt water taffy and sea air all greet us on the familiar breeze of some long ago summer.

We're minus the mini vans and the 8 and 10- year old pony tailed darlings, but I still love the feel of my toes in the sand.

Hubs and his pal kayaked and golfed, and we all enjoyed a leisurely lunch beside the bay. Lobster Bloody Mary anyone?

Rest assured, it tasted every bit as good as it looks.

The view wasn't too shabby either.

We picked crabs on the screened in porch Friday night and had a grown up dinner in a nice restaurant on Saturday. When we had little girls in tow, we didn't do a lot of grown up dinners in nice restaurants. We did pizza on the beach and that was fun too.

For everything there is a season.

Ice cream of course, is always in season. Hubs was, and is, slightly obsessed with Dickey's soft serve. It's the thickest, richest, most delicious frozen custard I've ever eaten, so thick in fact you almost need a fork.

Just so you know, a weekend requires at least two.

It was fun to be back in Bethany.
Fun to remember beach days spent with little girls.
Fun to know they've grown into the lovely young women we could only imagine back then.

Fun to be back where a kite and a memory are caught up in the same gush of salty sea air.

Where time is marked by the ebb and flow of the ocean tide...

...and the golden days of summers old and new we spent beside her.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Born in the USA

Dear Daughters (and any other 20-somethings who happen to be reading here)...

It's an election year in the US of A and I feel like there are some things I want to say to you before November rolls around. And another November in four years and all the Novembers ever after.

The dialogue in America when it comes to all things political (and everything is political in 2012) can best be described as coarse. Don't let the tone discourage you from participating in a process that is your right and a privilege still denied to many all around this world.

When I was growing up we got our news mostly from the three main television channels and the local newspapers. Anchormen and reporters had opinions and political inclinations but the news was presented in a mostly straightforward manner, leaving the listener to form his/her own opinion. That's not the case anymore which is why I encourage you to seek out the truth for yourselves.

If you want to know how a candidate feels on a particular issue, read what they've written in their own words. All of them. Unedited and un-spun. See how they've voted in the past and what experience they bring to the table. Go to the source-their own books, websites and speeches. Read these words in their entirety and in context, not slashed and tweaked and sensationalized in a way the speaker didn't intend just to invoke outrage or create the illusion of scandal where scandal doesn't exist. If you see an ad that's far-fetched or hear the media try to spin something in a way that sounds ridiculous and unbelievable then it probably is.

Avoid bandwagons. You have a brain so use it. Think for yourself. So much of the mess our nation finds itself in right now is of our own making. Expecting something for nothing. The urgent need to keep up with the Joneses, no matter that the Joneses make 10x the salary. A sense that life must be fair and everyone should have the same everything whether they've earned it or not.

No matter what happens down the road always, always work hard. Follow our example, not that of Washington -don't spend more than you earn. There will be things you want in this life-expect to work for them and trust me when I say you'll appreciate them more so for the working.

Learn to save, and sometimes to sacrifice in the immediate for something better in the long term. I realize this is counter to the message our culture spews out at every turn, but I hope you'll be smart and swim against the current here. If you can't afford to pay for cable television, a day at the beach, or a Starbucks latte on your way to work then don't. It's not the end of the world. Food, shelter, and clothes on your back are necessities. 300 channels and a $4 coffee drink every day are not.

Plan for your future and don't assume the future will take care of itself. Planning and saving, and not spending every dime you earn, opens the door to something wonderful in your life. The gift of generosity.

Be generous. Support those people and charities closest to your heart, whether it's an orphaned child through World Vision, teenagers navigating adolescence in a Young Life club, or a cancer research doctor trying to end leukemia. I believe God gives each of us a heart for something so listen to yours and invest your money, time, and talents where you feel His prompting. When you give you get, in ways that cannot be measured by net worth or the bottom line.

Be informed...listen to the news or read it online or whatever the next wave of technology allows, but do it in small doses. Take time to mull over what you hear and decide for yourself if it makes sense. When you listen to a lot of news it's easy to feel discouraged and adopt an attitude of 'what's the point', but there's still a point. When I look at you I see intelligence and compassion. I see big dreams and youthful energy. Don't let the world (or an actor, rap artist, or political pundit) tell you what's important. You know what's important.

Finally, don't whine. Nothing is more tiresome than an over privileged nation that does nothing but complain, so don't add to the noise that fills our television screens, our subway cars, our too long lines at the DMV. Instead, smile at the world you encounter every day. We know first hand that life is a gift and time is precious. Listen more and talk less. Be honest, but kind.

Our country could use a little more optimism...don't let the 24/7-ness of the online world make you numb or jaded. America is not just a plot of land. She's people and ideals and principles, and she needs your tender loving care.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

You're Never Too Old for the Hodgepodge

Welcome to this week's edition of the Wednesday Hodgepodge. Everyone's welcome to play along...answer the questions on your own blog then add your link to the bottom of my post. The more the merrier!

Here are my answers-

1. I included this quote (attributed to William H. Danforth) in my blog post on Monday..."The best cure for a sluggish mind is to disturb its routine." When was the last time you 'disturbed your routine' and how'd you do it?

I think there is much truth in this quote. I have some small goals I've set to become fluent in French (Rosetta Stone), learn to play something on the piano (take a lesson), and to write regularly (I'm trying to keep a schedule, separately from my blog writing).

Once I hit my late 40's I definitely felt my brain go a little bit sluggish. I still read a lot, work crossword puzzles and believe trying new things helps keep you mentally sharp.

2. What's your favorite fried food indulgence?

I honestly eat very little fried food so I had to think about this one...maybe fried shrimp which I don't have often but I do love.

3. Did you have an allowance as a kid? What did you do with it? Do you give your own kids an allowance?

I think I had an allowance for a time but I started babysitting when I was thirteen and I don't think I got an allowance after that. We had chores but weren't paid for doing them. When I was a kid pre-teens were not doing a lot of shopping so other than putting money in our offering envelope for church we didn't spend much.

We gave our kids an allowance but it was hit or miss. In hindsight I wish we'd been more disciplined in this area but we have educated them in managing their money as they've gotten older and neither are crazy spenders. Any big ticket items they coveted while growing up went on a Christmas or birthday list and they had to wait for those. Waiting for what we want in life is a lost art I'm afraid.

4. What's something you wish you knew more about?

I'm interested in switching my blog to a website domain and I wish I knew what that sentence even means. It's all very vague in my head and I know I'd pay a professional, but I'd love to understand it a little bit better.

5. Is there anything you feel too old to do anymore? If so, what?

Pretty much anything that involves a lot of jumping.
If you're over 45 you know what I'm talking about.

I'm sure my girls are cringing right now.

6. What's a song you think has a great first line?

"They say that these are not the best of times, but they're the only times I've ever known...."

7. Who are you writing to/for when you create a blog post. In other you write, who is the audience in your head?

I write for my girls.

I love that all sorts of other people read here, but in the end my blog is for my family. I try to always have that thought at the forefront of my brain when I'm blogging and it keeps me from trying to be something I'm not.

I use the space here to record my (admittedly many) random thoughts about the world today, but also as a place to record family memories and experiences. I write a lot about my take on motherhood and mid life and as crazy as it seems, one day my girls will be 50. I like to think they'll look back here (I bind my blog so I have hard copies) and smile. I picture them reading, nodding their heads, knowing that once upon a time I felt what they're feeling too.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Have you ever heard of a gray catbird? We have one (or more) living in our side shrubs and its the craziest thing. I'd never seen or even heard of one until we moved into this house, but essentially it's a bird that sounds exactly like a cat. They're related to mockingbirds and can copy the sounds of other species, in this case a cat. The wildlife up here is never dull.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hodgepodge Questions-Vol 89

Here are this week's questions for the Wednesday Hodgepodge. Remember to come back here tomorrow and add your link to the party!

1. I included this quote (attributed to William H. Danforth) in my blog post yesterday... "The best cure for a sluggish mind is to disturb it's routine." When was the last time you 'disturbed your routine' and how'd you do it?

2. What's your favorite fried food indulgence?

3. Did you have an allowance as a kid? What did you do with it? Do you give your own kids an allowance?

4. What's something you wish you knew more about?

5. Is there anything you feel too old to do anymore? If so, what?

6. What's a song you think has a great first line?

7. Who are you writing to/for when you create a blog post? In other you write, who is the audience in your head?

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Christmas in July

So my girls were home for the weekend. Honestly it went by in the blink of an eye. Daughter2 was flying in from SC and naturally her flight was cancelled Friday morning. She was already thru security sitting at her gate when I let her know. I happened to see it online when I (thankfully) checked the airport website to see what terminal I needed for parking. I know flights need to be cancelled for various reasons, or no reason at all, but the airline has her cell phone, my home and cell phone, hubs cell phone, and email for all of us. They can't let us know? They can't tell her before she goes thru security? If it's posted online surely they can post it at the airport too.

There were gray skies up and down the East Coast so we needed a sure thing for Plan B. She went to the counter at the airport while I got online and hubs got on the phone. Eventually we decided to fly her to DC and have her ride Amtrak up that evening with her sister. I got her a train ticket and sister explained how to take the metro from the airport to her office. They were able to meet up for lunch and daughter2 got to meet some of her sister's co-workers which was nice. Afterwards she planted herself in a nearby cafe to wait. She was supposed to be home with her momma. Boo.

They got in around 7 so hubs picked them up when he left work and we met up at the diner in town for a late dinner. When my girls are home for a quick weekend I start to feel like I'm in an episode of Back to the Future. The clock takes on a life of its own.

We had tickets to see Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw on Saturday. They put on a great show and it is so much fun to see East Tennessee infiltrate the Giants/Jets stadium for a night. We tailgated with friends before the show and spent the rest of the night discussing the awesomeness of Tim McGraw's white jeans and of course, singing along with Kenny. Kenny got his start playing for tips at a Mexican restaurant on the river near our collegetown way back when. His music most definitely carries us back to a place in time.

Plus these cuties were in front of me for the whole show which made me supremely happy.

We got home super late so we slept in Sunday morning and then suggested to hubs we attempt a Christmas card photo before heading to the airport. He took some convincing but he eventually came around. I reminded him that the next time the four of us will all be in the same place at the same time will likely be Thanksgiving. I also reminded him that it's normally cold and windy at Thanksgiving and cold and windy means bad hair or an indoor photo. He is not a fan of bad hair so I'm pretty sure those are the words that changed his mind.

We tried to get the pup in the picture but she got a little too excited as we were making preparations and wore herself out. It was hot and humid which didn't help. She loves having girls in the house.

Daughter2 attempted to give me a piano lesson while she was home. Taking a piano lesson is on my 101 in 1001 list. I think I'm a little bit hopeless but I'm going to try. She kindly reminded me of the way she sounded when she first started playing, but honestly I remember thinking she was cute. I did not sound 'cute'. I think I need pre-lessons before I attempt an actual lesson. Maybe daughter2 should move home and teach me.

Someone posted this quote on Twitter the other day-

"The best cure for a sluggish mind is to disturb it's routine"
~William H. Danforth

My mind feels sluggish these days and my piano playing is most definitely disturbing so maybe this will all come together? We'll see.

Nobody was ready to leave for the airport at the way too early hour of 12:30. So ridiculous. Of course they weren't ready...they just got here. Sigh. Like time, trains and planes wait for no man or adorable 20-something daughters, so ready or not we made our way to the airport.

Girls bring so much life and energy into the house.
The air is different when they leave.

Everybody agrees.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Follow your heart to the Hodgepodge

The blogosphere tends to get a little quiet in the dog days of summer, doesn't it? If you're in a slump, or you're just hot, tired and not quite ready for summer's end why not play along today? Once you've answered the questions on your own blog add your link to the bottom of my post and then go visit the neighboring countries.

That Olympic theme refuses to die. Sorry.

Here are my answers to this week's questions-

1. In an effort to combat obesity, the mayor of NYC has plans to ban the sale of large sugary drinks (anything over 16 oz.), initially in restaurants, movie theatres, and street carts. Corner stores would also be affected if they are defined as food service establishments. You can read more here. Your thoughts?

I understand his motivation, but I don't think it's up to the government to tell us what and how much we can eat and drink. Slippery slippery slope. I mean in reality people can just buy two 16 oz drinks but I suppose this ban would discourage that.

Here's the thing-people make bad choices in this regard (and hundreds of others) every single day. Will we next regulate how many bakery items you can purchase? How many pieces of fried chicken you're permitted?

I think the government has a responsibility to educate the general public in matters of health but beyond that, it's still a free country. When it comes to what we eat and drink I believe the government's role is to ensure food safety and to regulate/monitor/enforce the laws concerning the sale and distribution of drugs and alcohol.

Should people drink a 32 oz. Dr. Pepper every day? No.
Should they be able to decide that for themselves? Absolutely.

2. Art festival, music festival, food festival...which would you most like to attend?

Tough call...I'm going with music.
And maybe there could also be some great food available?

3. What are you irrational about?

Hmmm...did you read my post on Monday?

4. Do you feel confident you'll have a comfortable retirement?

This is a hot topic in our house these days as we inch ever closer. Given the current economic climate I'm not sure anyone can feel completely confident about their future financial well-being.

We've got children, hobbies, and a love of travel so actually filling the time won't be a problem. When it comes to our health we're doing our best to keep up with our 50-something selves. Let me just say that between the eyes, the teeth, the joints, the back, the heart, the colon, and the waistline it's a whole lotta work.

5. What's been your favorite Olympic moment so far?
(Not ever, just in the 2012 Summer games.)

I just love the US swimmers...not sure I can pick a single favorite moment but that 4 x 100 women's relay team is adorable. Missy Franklin, Dana Vollmer, Allison Schmitt, and Rebecca're all invited to dinner at my house!

6. What would you label as the messiest room in your house?

My house isn't messy. I live with a neat freak and a messy house would send him right over the edge. If I had to declare one spot the 'messiest' I guess I'd say my office. It's not messy but since there's always something that needs filing-shredding-dealing with, it's the closest thing to messy that I've got.

7. Do you follow your heart or your head?

A few years ago my next door neighbor had a party. He put tags with a celebrity's name on each guests back as they arrived and you had to walk around and ask questions to figure out who you were. Most people were given names of living musicians, actors, etc. but I was having trouble guessing mine. My neighbor said he chose it specially for me because when he sees me this is who comes to mind.

It was Cinderella.

I'm going with my heart.
I've got hubs to be the voice of logic.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Hubs and I went to the State Fair last weekend. Piglets that leap squealing from a platform to compete in a swim race make me smile.

What are they racing for you ask?

An Oreo of course.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Questions for the Hodgepodge-Vol 88

Below you'll find the questions for this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog, but be sure to come back tomorrow and add your link to the party. The more the merrier...

1. In an effort to combat obesity, the mayor of NYC has plans to ban the sale of large sugary drinks (anything over 16 oz.), initially in restaurants, movie theatres, and street carts. Corner stores would also be affected if they are defined as food service establishments. You can read more here . Your thoughts?

2. Art festival, music festival, food festival...which would you most like to attend?

3. What are you irrational about?

4. Do you feel confident you'll have a comfortable retirement?

5. What's been your favorite Olympic moment so far?
(Not ever, just in the 2012 Summer games)

6. What would you label as the messiest room in your house?

7. Do you follow your heart or your head?

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lunacy, Love, and Logic

When my girls were little I don't think I gave a lot of thought to what parenting a young adult would look like. I am pretty sure though, I figured by the time my daughters hit their 20s they would not be keeping me up at night, especially living many states away.

Note to moms of littles-they will always find a way to keep you up at night.
Oh and also, worry is the enemy. You need to know that.

Daughter1 was in a wedding in Michigan this past weekend so she flew out on Thursday and then back to DC last night. It was storming up and down the east coast, but I tried not to think about her up in the air while the wind whipped and lightning lit up the sky.

She had to make connections in Detroit both ways, but on the way out Thursday she was meeting up with two other bridesmaids flying in from Alabama. They would all three then get the same connection for the second leg of the journey further north. Daughter1 arrived in Detroit in plenty of time to make the 2nd flight which was leaving at 1:50 PM.

At 1:25 she phoned me to say the flight was boarding and her two friends were not at the gate. The girls were sharing a rental car at their final destination which was an hour's drive from the airport so she wasn't sure what to do. She was feeling anxious and needed me to feel anxious too.

Actually she needed me to be the voice of calm and do my worrying in private which is what I did. Mostly I pray but the edges sometimes fray with worry. Worry is part of my DNA and occasionally likes to rear its ugly head when it comes to daughters out of reach. This was one such weekend.

Young adult children living far from home call and tell you their car won't start as they are leaving for work. Or they can't locate their Social Security card and need it right this very minute. You are on the receiving end of life's everyday frustrations, but are just far enough away not to be of any practical help. You learn to live with this but sometimes you wish you could hop in your car and come to the physical rescue. You settle for being the safe place to land.

I told Daughter1 to just get on the plane and sort out the next bit once she reached her final destination. That's what moms do. We listen to our children's cares and absorb them into our own bloodstream. They feel lighter and the knowledge of that makes me feel lighter too. And heavier, but mostly lighter. At 1:44 I got a text saying, 'They made it!' They had six whole minutes to spare which in the world of 20-somethings is the equivalent of three days.

Daughter2 has been in grad school pretty much the entire summer and in her spare time is gainfully employed in a lovely shop and also babysitting from time to time. She was supposed to go out with friends who were in from out of town Saturday evening, but she texted me after she got off work and said she wasn't going because she wasn't feeling good.

Not feeling good?

Do you have a fever?
Stomach ache?
Sore throat?
Are you sad?
Does your mother drive you crazy when she peppers you with questions?

She said she was just feeling eh. Eh? What is eh?
I'm over 500 miles away and will be needing the definition of eh please.
She texts me back a smiley face and says she's just tired and going to bed and will call me on Sunday. Something niggles.

Sunday comes. No phone call. Minutes pass, then hours, and at some point I know she's at work. At least I think she's at work. Maybe she's all alone, sick as a dog, laying on the bathroom floor in her apartment. How will I know?

Sometimes this is what the inside of a mother-brain looks like.
A mangled jangled criss-crossed mess of logic, love, and lunacy.

I text.
Thank you Alexander Graham Bell, Steve Jobs, and Matti Makonnen.

Did you know Mati Makonnen, an engineer from Finland, is credited with inventing text messaging?

If you have young adult children you can make a regular old phone call anytime and listen to the echo of your own head, or you can text and get a near instantaneous response. Daughter2's phone is never out of reach and no matter how ridiculous my question she always answers.

Except for yesterday.
No reply.
I have a talk with myself and tell myself I'm being silly.
She's at work. She'll call later.

And of course she does, because she wasn't lying on the cold hard bathroom floor, but was instead selling beautiful clothing to customers at her job. When she calls however, we're in the middle of an insane electrical storm and because worry has spread like a virus now I tell her I'll call back when the danger of electrocution has passed.

And I do, but she's getting ready to meet a friend for dinner. She's still not feeling 100% so I tell her to text me when she gets home and she assures me she will.

Except she doesn't.

My mother radar was just pinging off the charts all weekend. There was no good or logical reason but if you're a mother you know sometimes radar malfunctions. Worry gets into your wiring and short circuits your brain.

I head up to bed around 11 and send an innocent text asking if she's home. No reply so I wait. I read for a while and check my phone but still, nothing, nada, zilch. At 12:30 I send another text. I wake up during the night and look at my phone's blank screen. I get up in the morning and see the same.

The mind of a mother is oh so tricky sometimes. I resist calling her because I know she will think I am nuts. Because in this instance I am.

Instead I look around for my sensible self and go read my Bible. I start with the verse that says take every thought captive and move on to the verses about not worrying. I feel better. I blast some praise music.

I know daughter2 is babysitting for a 12-week old this morning which is a whole 'nother thing but that worry must be set aside so I can focus all my anxiety on my immediate worry.

Did she ever come home last night?

Apparently the cage door swung open and some of those captive thoughts flew free. I manage to reel 'em back in with a little help from Paul.

Did she come home last night? Yeah. She did. Of course she did. At 9 pm. She was tired and went to bed. I know this because after another trip to my sunroom which is my favorite space to be still and know that He is God I get a grip on my thoughts.

Ping. A text... 'Just saw your text...I came home and went straight to bed. Will call you after babysitting.'

She comes home every night. She is sweetness personified, making straight A's in grad school and holding down two part time jobs. Last week, between work and exams, she spontaneously made a lasagna from scratch and delivered it to my sister after my brother in law was hospitalized. She takes care of 12 week old babies and multiple toddlers and I don't need to worry because she holds them close and talks and smiles and coos at them. She knows CPR and The Wheels on the Bus and how to be silly. She pays her bills on time and gets herself to work and school and home again, where she remembers to latch the deadbolt without any help from me whatsoever.

There's a little saying I saw on Pinterest that said, 'How come when I call my parents and they don't answer it's no big deal but when they call me and I don't answer it's WW3?'

Because we're parents, that's why.

My girls and I are close. I speak to one or both of them pretty much every day. In spite of how this post reads, I'm not a mom who calls her kids 10 times a day or even every day. I am always happy to talk but I leave the calling up to them. They have busy lives and I prefer they call when its convenient for them to talk as opposed to me calling and them feeling like they have to talk. Every now and then something flies onto my radar. I don't ignore my mother sense because quite often it's legitimate. Issues need to be addressed and prayed over and released. Other times though, it's my old enemy worry. It might begin with something small, but worry is like rain to a dry garden. It makes things grow and that's as true in mothering as it is in all areas of our lives.

Sometimes I think about what I was like at ages 24 and almost 22. I remember how capable I felt. How confident I was in whatever I wanted to try. How little thought I gave to what my mother must have felt having me far from home, very independent, and nary a cell phone in site.

Did she look at me sometimes and feel astonished to see a fully grown adult standing where a knee- socked little girl stood just a blink or two before? Would she say the worry sometimes fell like rain?

When my grown up daughters call to tell me they have a fever, car trouble, or a broken heart they are suddenly the dancing, pony-tailed girls of yesteryear.

In spite of my best intentions, sometimes the worry still falls like rain.
In those moments I remind myself gardens need sunshine and I'd best go find some.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gold Medal Memories

I've been working on my photo organization and yes, I realize I've been saying that since 2010, but in my defense we have a lot of photos here people. Most are of the old fashioned variety so it takes time to sort, toss, scan, date and make copies for the appropriate people. Plus I might lack the discipline of an Olympic athlete and am easily distracted.

Anyway, I've come across envelopes filled with pics of my girls participating in various athletic endeavors and thought it would be fun to discuss some of my favorites in this week's Thursday Thirteen. The Olympics of their childhood so to speak. I know that's a stretch but I do better when I can springboard off a theme.

Seriously I could work the Olympic analogy all day long.

I'll play we go-

1. My girlies participated in a variety of sport during their growing up years, and yes I'm counting ballet as sport. If you don't think it requires skill, strength, coordination, and hours and hours of dedicated practice then you've never stood on your toes til they bled.

There has always been a softness about my girls...not in the sense that they're weak, but in the sense that they are delicate. Petite. Small boned.

Case in point-that's daughter1 in front there and I think it's safe to say she's got her game face on. Intense. Serious. Determined.

She is equivalent in weight to a hummingbird.

2. Not convinced? Exhibit B-daughter2.

Are there certain photos in your collection that you get a little lost in until all of sudden you realize you've been staring for several minutes with your face stuck in a ginormous smile? That's how I feel when I look at this picture. It is so her.

The sassy pose, the infectious grin...happy just to be alive sharing a Saturday morning with friends, distracting the opposition (and possibly her own teammates) with her running chatter about why the grass is green or why she loves the color blue, counting the minutes until her favorite part of the match-the end. At age five she was all about a high five and a snack.

3. Glancing at my girls, the first word that pops into your head would most likely NOT be fierce.

Apparently though, they do have a smidgen of the fierce.

4. It's harder than it looks to run and cradle a ball while wearing a shirt the size of a dress.

Whose idea was it to stick this little peanut in the goal?

Probably hers. She might never have set foot in a goal but that's neither here nor there. She would have those coaches convinced she should play goalie.

5. Speaking of goalies...I'm pretty sure at age 10 daughter1 did NOT volunteer to be goalie. I think this was a case of everyone has to take a turn in the cage.

Lady coach on the right is giving daughter1 a big giant pep talk. Man coach on the left is trying to figure out what in the world is the deal with that goalie jersey? My girls spent most of their elementary school years wearing uniforms at least four sizes too big.

6. Unless we're talking ballet 'uniforms' which are technically called costumes and are made to fit just right.

A role in The Ballet Theatre of Maryland's 'The Nutcracker'.
I saw the show six times that year.

I'm a mom.
It's what I do.

7. Field hockey in the state of Maryland, and particularly the town where we lived, was over the top. We tried it. We liked it. We did not want to dedicate our lives to it which, in a nutshell, is my biggest complaint about organized sports for young kids in the 21st century.

8. In her heart she's always been a dancer. A coordinated dribble or a graceful have to choose.

When you're fourteen should you have to choose?

9. Spinning skirts and pointe-y shoes called her back to a barre on the wall and Tchaikovsky in the air.

Everything about this picture makes my heart leap.

10. When we moved to England daughter2 joined the swim team. Daughter2 had never in her life been on a swim team and while we knew she could swim we were not certain she could swim at the level required for team competition in high school.

See #4.

The team needed swimmers and she was game. One of the things I loved about the International school was that the kids were encouraged to try all sorts of sport they'd never have a chance to compete in back home. If you haven't been on a soccer team most of your growing up years you'll likely not make a high school team in the US. You might even be pretty good if given the chance but often the coaches have been following the players thru the younger leagues and know who they want on the team.

Our school's motto was more of the, 'Hey, why not try out for soccer?' mentality.

And so it was that daughter2 ended up on a swim team for the first time at age 14. That first race was a little hard to watch but her fellow swimmers yelled and screamed and cheered her on and she did it. She mastered the butterfly and the flip turn and you know what else? Ending up on that swim team meant she saw Paris and Antwerp and Cairo with her teammates.

I would have gone swimming for a trip to Cairo.

11. I've blogged about this before but daughter2 went off to uni and phoned home one day to say she tried out for cheerleading and made the team. Huh? Had daughter2 ever in her life been a cheerleader? Nope. Does she ever let a little thing like inexperience keep her from grabbing what it is she wants in life? Nope.

Has this attitude turned my hair gray?
A little.

I've saved two of my favorite pics for last.

12. This picture takes me back to the sweetness that lies beside the spunk in daughter2. Here she is with her basketball coach. This little team had such a fun season. The coach had a bunch of children of his own and a very nice way with a gaggle of girls. At the end of the last game he made a little speech and each girl went up individually to receive her trophy and shake his hand.

Not daughter2. She flung a heartfelt unexpected hug on him and the sweetness of the spontaneity just made your heart melt. His too. I'm telling you she gets under your skin and into your heart in the blink of an eye.

13. And then there is this-

We don't forget the big things in a child's life. Birthdays, celebrations, graduations...those moments are marked in a hundred different ways and can be brought to mind in a quick second. But the thousand little pieces of yesteryear that once upon a time filled your every thought and hour? Their detail is a little harder to recall.

The sweetness of an orange on a sunny Saturday.
The muddy shoes and damp, sweaty hair.
Innocence on a lightly freckled face.

Moms and dads in camp chairs chatting on the sidelines, no one eager to hurry the day along.

Games, lunch, unscheduled minutes to fill.
Cleats tossed into the corner and too big shirts into the wash.

The song of the neighborhood in late afternoon.

Grass mown under a brilliant blue sky.
Bicycle tires across the pavement and the sound of a swing flying high.
Children's voices light on the breeze as day rolls into dusk.

Tiki torches and dirty feet.
The fairy light of a firefly beckoning a pony-tailed girl to chase.

I see this photograph and I remember what I never wanted to forget.
The extraordinary ordinary of childhood days.