Archive | Family

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Another Step Closer

The last few days I have been in Chicago. Our youngest daughter, Alyssa, just attended her senior prom and is graduating from high school tomorrow. I can’t believe our adorable and feisty little redhead is going off to college in a few months. In addition to celebrating her graduation, I’m also back for a doctor and dental appointment- my last before moving, I’m staging the house for selling, and of course a day of play (ahem, work) with June. I also celebrated my last birthday in my home town yesterday. Although this visit has been filled with more work than play, we have all enjoyed our time together, falling back into the natural rhythm of our family.

I’ve been getting the house ready to sell in stages, removing the first layer of “stuff” last fall. I can’t tell you how many times my mom and I filled the car with items collected over the years, emptying its contents at the nearby Goodwill. Of course the same woman was always behind the counter, and I think I saw an eye roll a few times when she saw my car pull up. Living in South Carolina the last few months has really given me perspective on what I truly need, and what I can live without. There are no basements there and with the heat and humidity, you need to be selective when storing items in the garage. I did let go of a lot more this time around. There were more bags for donation as well as garbage and the house feels a little lighter. Bob and I decided to have a moving sale since there will be quite a bit of furniture that won’t be traveling with us and we’ll have a truck pick up what’s left, and take it for donation. It’s nice to have a plan.

I’ve accomplished a lot in the house this trip and definitely feel like we are one step closer to the final leg of our journey.  As I remove more layers of “us” from this home, I feel less connected to it. I always imagined leaving would fill me with sadness, and although I may shed a tear or two before the moving van pulls away, I am grateful for all the wonderful memories. Now that our family is grown, I feel it’s time for a new one to enjoy this house and fill it with the sounds of children, birthday sleepovers, and holidays. The grammar school and high school are within walking distance and it’s the perfect place to raise a family. I’m heading back to South Carolina on Wednesday, but will be back again for the 4th of July holiday where we will celebrate our nation’s birthday together, enjoying time by the pool and of course our town’s fireworks as we prepare to take that next step. It’s so true what they say about our lives being all about the journey and making the most of it, no matter where the road takes us. We are on a journey together as a family, but we are all on our own personal voyage as well. It’s a little scary but oh so exciting.

Have a great week! ~May

Sooner or later we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip.
— Robert J. Hastings

 

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Celebrating Mother’s Day

Have you thought about how you are going to celebrate your mom this year? For a few weeks, we have noticed the sweet Mother’s Day commercials showering mothers everywhere with flowers, candy, and of course a Hallmark card. Last year, May and June posted a special tribute to their moms, and today we thought we would offer a few out of the box suggestions for celebrating those women who mean so much to us.

                           

 

Along with your mom’s favorite flowers, how about writing and sending a handwritten note on beautiful stationery? There is something so special and personal about a letter written from the heart that you find in your mailbox. We love the beautiful stationery at Papyrus. In addition, they offer beautiful cards and planners as well as gifts for any special occasion. 

Have you thought about planning a Mother’s Day outing? Sure, there is always going out for the traditional brunch, but sometimes it’s fun to make it a little more personal. Why not pack a special picnic with your mom’s favorite foods and enjoy the day at the beach, a beautiful garden, or a park?  You can also host a little dinner party at your home, especially if you live somewhere where spring weather in May is not always a given.

We also understand that sometimes, a celebration isn’t possible because a mom is no longer with us, and yet we still want to honor her. Getting together with siblings to reminisce and celebrate someone you all called “mom” is a wonderful way to keep her close to your heart.

Of course if you want to give your mom a gift, there is nothing like a book. May and June love, love, love books and think a great coffee table book about Paris, or your mom’s favorite city, or something inspirational that she can regularly go back to is a perfect gift. Don’t forget to write something personal inside the cover and date it.

Is your mom into yoga? We both firmly believe that everyone should be enjoying the benefits of this beautiful practice. A new yoga mat is a wonderful way to say I love you, and you can find them in beautiful colors, patterns, and thicknesses.

How will you celebrate your mom?

Have a great weekend. ~May and June

“Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.” —Robert Browning

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A Sweet Day With My Sweet Girl

Happy Monday everyone! Our family reunited this past week for a little R&R, Charleston style. We’ve  spent the last few months in different locations and it was so nice to have several days to catch up on life and enjoy each other’s company.  Nicole, who just ended her spring break from USC, arrived a few days before the rest of the family, and the two of us had fun spending some quality time together. We cooked, watched movies, ran errands, and shopped of course. Although the weather was a bit brisk last week- too cold for the beach, the sun kept us warm as we walked several miles exploring this beautiful city. Each time we drive downtown, we discover something new, and after living here the past few months, I am quickly navigating my way around.

We are always excited when we come upon unique little dessert shops. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams was the perfect little cafe for a late afternoon treat after so much walking. We loved that it wasn’t your typical Baskin Robbins, rather this ice cream shop carries unique and creative flavors, and all their dairy products come from grass-pastured cows. They also have a few dairy-free options for those of us like myself who are not able to indulge in a traditional ice cream.

Nicole tried the Queen City Cayenne, and I had to have a taste. The flavor reminded us of a cup of Mexican hot chocolate. It was so darn good!! Now, these unique flavors are a bit of an acquired taste, and not for everyone. The last time we were here, Bob and Alyssa walked in, took a look at the options, and walked right back out. However, if you are the adventurous type and want to try something a little different, we highly recommend this King Street treat.

We are looking forward to sharing many more Charleston adventures.

Have a great week! ~ May

A daughter is just a little girl who grows up to be a great friend.

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One Year - Featured

One Year

Last week was the one year anniversary of my dad’s death. Sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday that he and I were out for a walk enjoying an unseasonably warm day, and other times it feels like he’s been away for a long, long time. The days leading up to the one year mark were a little melancholy, I must admit.  My brother and I had a wonderful conversation on the phone, reliving childhood moments that only the two of us share. I found myself thinking back to those last few days sitting with my dad in hospice, and quickly went through my phone to find a picture of the sunset I had taken from his window the night before he died.

As I awoke on the morning of our first year without him, I stepped out the door with Sawyer for our walk, and witnessed a stunning South Carolina sunrise. The colors were magical and immediately lifted my spirits and somehow, at that moment, I felt a little closer to him.

My mom and I spent the morning together doing something my dad loved. We took a long walk on the beach. As we strolled along the waters edge collecting sea shells and discovering little gifts only found in the ocean, we shared stories about my dad, many of them funny, and wondered what he would think about our lives today. Had he lived, he would have loved it here.

We also had moments of silence on our walk, with just the sound of the waves crashing on the shore to share space with our thoughts. It made me wonder, does time truly heal? Maybe. Or perhaps we are simply passengers on this ride called life that continues to propel us forward, not allowing us to hold onto our grief for a long period of time. My heart still aches sometimes. I miss my dad every day. I hate that I can’t give him a hug, or hold his hand like I did as a little girl. However, I felt him that morning on the beach. He was in the  ocean breeze and the cold salty water. He was in the sand between my toes and the warm sun shining down on my mom and me. Most importantly though, he is in our hearts where we will forever hold him close.

As my mom and I drove home under the umbrella of oak trees, we felt at peace. We also decided that we would spend every year on the anniversary of his death, celebrating his life in one of his favorite places,  on the beach.

Love you, Dad.

~May

There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in our hearts

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Thoughts on the Holidays

Wow! There is no questioning it, winter is here. Last weekend, we experienced our first major snowfall here in the Midwest. For me, Sunday was the perfect day to stay in and bake Christmas cookies. With the snow piling up outside my window, holiday music playing in the background, and my cookie sheets lined up across the counter, I mixed, measured, rolled out dough, and baked all the cookies I would need for family and friends this year. The warm sugary smells in the house were intoxicating, and as always, I couldn’t resist sampling the sweet inventory.

While looking for some ribbon for my cookie gifts, I came across a box which held forgotten family photos, and as I sifted through the memories, I uncovered many from Christmas’ past. My cookies forgotten for the moment, I brought the box upstairs and before I knew it, I was sitting on the floor next to our Christmas tree, surrounded by memories. Many of the snapshots made me smile, and some, while still sweet, forced a lump in my throat thinking about family members no longer with us. I started to line the photos up according to the time they were taken, enjoying the story that I was being told about my family, and how we all have changed and grown over the years.

From my dad playing Santa Claus for his grandchildren- and grand dog – to making gingerbread houses with the girls, seeing the Macy’s Christmas tree every year, ice skating at Millennium Park and enjoying a pizza dinner afterwards, and of course all of us sitting around the dining room table on Christmas night, playing a mean game of Taboo or Balderdash while nibbling on leftover goodies from the cookie tray, Christmas was always a special time.

I have to admit, as I looked back, I felt a little nostalgic. It’s funny how a photo can propel you back in time to moments long forgotten, and yet it somehow feels like it all just happened yesterday. And now, our once full house has been reduced to a busy seventeen year old, who has been flapping her wings in anticipation of her flight to college in the fall, eager to leave our nest. The house is much more quiet.

As I sat in the glow of the tree, with the aroma of my recently baked cookies still warming our home, I was reminded that although our Christmas traditions have shifted and changed with our evolving family, the spirits of those no longer with us along with the beauty, peace, and love of the season can never be lost. As the years pass, I am learning to keep my focus more on enjoying my family, and less on the superficial details of what Christmas should look like. There is something to be said for keeping it simple. I am grateful for my family, and although we can’t all always be together, our bond is strong. Despite the fact that there has been much discord in the world we live in, today, let us all try to love without judgment, and enjoy each other’s company this holiday season.

As I write this, it is early morning and there is a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. I’m enjoying a cup of coffee, the quiet of the house, and the beautiful lights on our Christmas tree where several ornaments made by my grandmother and me have been carefully hung. Our oldest daughter is home from college, my weary husband is home from his business travels, and they are all (including our pup) still tucked in their beds, with what I hope are visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.

Merry Christmas! ~May

Time was with most of us, when Christmas Day, encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and everyone round the Christmas fire, and make the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete.” ~ Charles Dickens

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As My Son Turns 30

I hope you all had a wonderful and filling Thanksgiving weekend, enjoying time with family and friends. In addition to celebrating the holiday, we had a milestone birthday in our family yesterday as my oldest son, Danny, turned 30. As I am writing this, I still can’t believe that I have a child who is 30 years old!! How can that be when I myself just turned 30? I feel like for me, 30 was yesterday, and although the reflection in the mirror tells a different story, my mind and spirit still feel young, too young to have a child that age. Thanksgiving has always been special for me because after being a week late and enduring a very long labor, Danny finally greeted this world 30 years ago, on Thanksgiving morning. There are certain memories we moms carry with us about the birth of our children. I remember with Danny the television was on in the labor room, and the same Sports Illustrated commercial with Dick Butkus in a tuxedo with a red bowtie kept playing over and over again. I was about to lose my mind when the nurse finally wheeled me out of the room. Of course the moment you hold your child in your arms for the first time, all else is forgotten. It is a feeling you carry with you all your life. There isn’t a love like it.

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So, here we are…I was thinking about the advice I could give as the mom of a 30 year old. As a parent, we always have our own experiences that we are more than happy to share with our children because not only are we older, which our children are always more than happy to point out, we are so much wiser. Remember the eye roll our younger selves gave our parents when they were so kindly offering their advice? My advice to you – listen to them! They are always right!

30 is a wonderful age to reflect on how far you’ve come, and where you still want to go. You are truly an adult at 30. You have had your 20’s to get to know yourself a bit better and are now starting to feel more comfortable in your own skin. You are beginning to gain your own experience and wisdom, and you are not so concerned about pleasing others.

30 is a time in your life when you begin to let go of the people you don’t feel connected to, and truly cherish the ones you do. You may have a smaller group of friends, but they are like family.

At 30, you are still ambitious, but start to release the tight grip you have on how you think your life should be, and find happiness in what your life is. You begin to see that life truly is a journey to experience, and your journey will be much easier if you are flexible, and able to adapt to what is ahead of you.

When I was in my 30’s, I was given the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, and it’s All Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson. It’s such a wonderful little book about not letting the little things in life make you crazy. So Danny, check your mailbox this week! You will refer to this little gem often and it will always be on your bookshelf.

As a parent, our biggest hope is that our children are happy. Son, as you move into your 30’s, try to always see the cup half full, live in the present moment – there is always something beautiful to witness when you do that – always try to do the next right thing, never lose your sense of humor because it will save you in your darkest moments, be kind, laugh, love, and know that you are loved. Life is always going to throw you curve balls, but it’s how you deal with them that count. Breathe….. And of course, know that your parents are always here for free advice, if you should need it.

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~May XOXO

Thirty was so strange for me. I’ve really had to come to terms with the fact that I am now a walking and talking adult. -C.S. Lewis

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Meditation

Giving Thanks. A Meditation

Here we are, it is the week of Thanksgiving and if you’re hosting like me, your menu is set, your shopping is done, with the food prepping about to begin. This is the first year my mom and I won’t be cooking together, now that she has moved south. Our family has gotten a little smaller, but we are still looking forward to spending time together.

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For years, I have taught a special yoga class the week of Thanksgiving, de-stressing with Yin Yoga, and ending class with a gratitude meditation. I would like to share that meditation with you today. Even though this is a week of food and family, we have to remember to take time for ourselves as well. This meditation takes just a few minutes, and it is a wonderful way to feel centered and grounded for the holiday weekend.

Find a quiet space where you can be alone for a few minutes. Sit comfortably with your head, neck, and spine in alignment. You don’t have to be cross legged on the floor if that is not comfortable. A simple straight back chair will work just fine. You can do this with a partner and take turns reading it, record it, or simply read it first, then close your eyes and allow yourself to be filled with gratitude and love.

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As you breathe, gently relax and allow all thoughts to slowly subside from your mind.  As you focus on your breathing, tell yourself that you are now open and ready to remove any blocks to your  understanding. You are now ready and willing to become aware of all the good that already exists in your life, all that you have, all that you possess. For a moment, think about how truly thankful you are for the people you love. Allow yourself to feel the emotion of gratitude deeply. Think about all of the things you love about them and take a moment to reflect upon how they express their love to you. Feel grateful for their presence in your life.

Now, shift your consciousness to your body. Allow your thoughts to focus on this wonderful machine and how well it serves you everyday. Thank your body for enabling you to live out this lifetime. If your body is in pain, be thankful for the lesson that pain is teaching you. Then release it and be pain free.

Shifting your consciousness once again, allow yourself to feel fully thankful for your mind. You have the wonderful gift of thought and reason. Remember how good it feels to figure out solutions to problems, or help someone else through theirs. Feel the joy for this amazing ability, and be grateful. 

Finally, if you so desire, shift your consciousness to your spiritual self by being grateful for your connection to the God within you. Ask to be reminded that we are magnificent beings that are living out this lifetime to learn, grow, and express love on Earth. Be grateful for this life and all that comes along with it. Be grateful for feeling unconditional love and allow this divine energy to be part of your consciousness, always. 

Now, take a deep breath or two, and slowly open your eyes.

June and I would like to share a few things we are grateful for this Thanksgiving.

June– I have a tendency to focus on the problems and deficiencies in life, rather than all of the good that I have.  So, Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for me to consciously appreciate my life and all of its blessings.  This year I am very thankful for my husband who puts up with, at times, my crabbiness and unhappiness, who supports and cheers me on to work toward my dreams, who makes me laugh with his corny sense of humor, loves me without condition and who is my favorite friend and teammate as we move forward with an adventure we never planned, but are excited for the next chapter to come.  I am thankful for Gatsby who is always there with a cold nose and a warm heart, who will always accept pets and retrieve tennis balls, who steals my socks to entice me to chase him, who has me so well trained that I can read his mind and provides love, always unconditionally.  I am thankful for my mom and my brothers and all of the extra people they have brought into my life, for the fun times that we have shared and for the times we have leaned on each other.  I am thankful for my mother-in-law and all of those additional siblings I got who treat me as part of the family and not as an “in-law.”  I am thankful for all of those loved ones who are not able to join us for Thanksgiving, for whatever the reason, but especially my dad who taught me that family was the most important priority, championed all of my successes and was there always when things didn’t quite go as planned.   I am thankful for May who is my partner and fellow writer, who reads my texts in the early hours of the morning, who brainstorms with me, suffers through pilates and yoga alongside me and is the sister I always wanted.  I am thankful for my house that is cool in the summer and warm in the winter, for a closet with clothes to pick from, plenty of books to read and a soft bed to sleep.  I am thankful for food to always fill my grocery cart, a reliable car and a safe neighborhood.  I am thankful for my health and the health of all of my loved ones.  And I am thankful that while life does not always go according to my plan, I know that there is a plan greater than myself and one that is usually better than I could ever imagine.

May– This has been a year of ups and downs, twists and turns, and even a few surprises. This is my first Thanksgiving without my dad, and though I miss him terribly, he is in my heart and I will always be grateful for the love and encouragement that he gave to my brother and me. I am so incredibly grateful for all the wonderful support our family was given during the difficult moments. There aren’t enough words to express how much it meant to all of us. I truly have the most wonderful friends. I am grateful for my husband, you are my best friend and my rock. Our journey together is about to go down a new and exciting road and there is no one I would rather share this adventure with….buckle up!! I am thankful for my kids who always keep life interesting, sometimes a little too interesting. All I can say is thank God we all have a good sense of humor!  My mom, there are no words. She amazes me everyday.  I am thankful for my brother and his family who will be with us on Thanksgiving. Of course I have to mention our dog Sawyer, who sneaks into bed with us every morning and wakes us up with wet kisses, always greets me when I come home, and patiently waits at the door for his morning walk.  I am so grateful for my blogging buddy, partner in crime, fellow book lover, shopping pal, friend, and true soul sister, June. Who would have thought a shared yoga class would lead to this? I love this ride that we are on and can’t wait to see where it leads. Everyday I am grateful to have the ability to start over, to appreciate the present moment, and to see the beauty that is all around us. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a deep breath, and letting it go.

We wish you all blessed Thanksgiving filled with family, food, gratitude, and love.

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~May and June

“What if, today, we were grateful for everything?” Charlie Brown

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A New Chapter

This has been such a busy autumn.  In a few short months, our family has finalized the timing of our move, a daughter has left for college, my mom temporarily moved in with us, our oldest son was married, my husband accepted a new job offer that has him traveling- a lot, and last week my mom closed on her new home, she is officially a South Carolina resident, and for her, a new chapter begins.

My mom and I prepared for our voyage south by packing up her belongings and placing them into her 12 year old Lexus, which had me a little anxious weeks before we actually left, because there were a lot of necessities to pack into her car. Plus, I noticed that every time she went out, I heard the rustling of shopping bags as she tried to sneak back in, and I had to remind her that we only had so much space in the car.

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We had to get rather creative, but we fit it all in, and there was room for my suitcase too!!

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Our total time from Chicago to Charleston was fifteen hours, and we gave ourselves two days to get there. I think getting through Illinois and Indiana was the toughest part of our journey. In fact, we didn’t think we were ever going to get out of Indiana!

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Thank goodness for the delicious homemade pistachio/Craisin biscotti, baked by a family friend, to help us get through our trip. Their sandy texture and right amount of sweetness made these golden beauties a special treat to look forward to during the most boring leg of our journey. As we got out of the car at rest stops, we chuckled at the number of biscotti crumbs clinging to the fronts of our shirts, evidence of our new cookie addiction.

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We ate them all….

We traveled as far as Knoxville our first day and were exhausted by the time our weary heads hit the surprisingly comfortable pillows at the La Quinta Inn that night. By the way, La Quinta is pet friendly which was good to know, since I will be doing the drive again after Christmas with a doodle in tow (that will be an interesting trip) for several weeks to escape the frigid weather . After a wake up biscotti to start our day, we indulged in the complimentary breakfast offered at the hotel. Sunday, as we exited the hotel, we were greeted with a beautiful sunny day, our jackets discarded in the back of the car as we made the 5 1/2 hour journey through the Great Smokey Mountains, to our final destination. FYI- The name “Smokey” comes from the natural fog that often hangs over the range and presents as large smoke plumes from a distance. This was my first time driving through the Smokey’s, and it did not disappoint!! The scenery was breathtaking and at first I was irritated that my good camera was lost among the various bins, bags, and suitcases in the back of the car (plus I was the driver), but honestly, photos could never capture the the natural beauty outside our car window as we slowly wound our way through the lush green mountains. Although the midwest is currently experiencing their showy fall colors, traveling south we noticed the foliage was still a brilliant emerald green, with just flecks of deep gold and orange, their kaleidoscope of color still weeks away.

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Our trip was rather uneventful thanks to Google Maps, and we finally made it to our destination tired, hungry, but so happy to be in a place we love. For my mom, she was home. We are currently staying in my house which is just a few blocks away. As I write this, I am sitting out on my screened in porch in shorts and my comfy Chicago Cubs tee (Go Cubs!!), and it is a beautiful fall afternoon.

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Our days have been busy with everything that goes with moving into a new home and we are exhausted by the end of the day, but we have accomplished so much and I know my mom is going to easily transition into her new environment. She will be ok.

It’s funny. As I was driving the many twists and turns through the Smokey Mountains, I was reminded of all the twists and turns we take on our life’s journey. For our family, this past year has been filled with the sadness of my dad’s death, the joy of a family wedding, and now a new adventure. I am so proud of this giant step into the unknown that my mom was willing to take by herself. It is so easy for us to stay within the comfortable confines of the life we know, especially as we get older. It is safe and predictable. To find your wings and fly to destinations unknown and experience all the many wonders of life is what gives our soul spice, and I admire my mom’s courage to fly solo.

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Later this week I will be flying back to Chicago. I am enjoying the last few days of feeling the warm sun on my face before heading back to the cooler grayer skies that often arrive in the midwest this time of year.  It will feel strange when my mom drops me off at the airport, and drives back home on her own. We have spent so much time together, especially this past year and living in separate states will take a little getting used to. However, we humans always find a way to adapt when our lives change direction, and we will all find a new normal until it’s time for my family to take our journey, and begin a new chapter.

Have a great week. ~May

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu

 

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Wedding Bells

I vividly remember the day my son Danny, and his bride Alli were engaged. It was a beautiful summer day and our families got together for a wonderful celebration in the city. Their engagement was two years, and I recall thinking back then, that there would be so much time to plan for their actual wedding day. And now, with their wedding this past weekend, I find myself saying, “Wow! That sure went by fast!”

I discovered no matter how you prepare, as a parent, you are never quite emotionally ready to see your oldest child marry. For me, it was almost surreal. As I sat in the church watching my son, my little boy take his vows, I felt like my mind and heart were being shown a mini movie of his life, little snapshots of his childhood up to the very moment he said, “I do”.

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The chapter of Danny growing up in my life’s novel ending, and a new fresh page of his life as a married man, a husband, about to begin.  I am blessed to have very close relationships with all my children, and our newly combined families had a wonderful time celebrating together. There will be beautiful photos to enjoy, I know. However, the sweet unexpected moments that weren’t captured on film, are the ones that I will always hold close to my heart. We love, love, love Alli and can’t imagine a more perfect match for Danny. We wish them much love and happiness in the years to come. I think my son David, the best man, said it best in his speech and I would like to share a portion of that with you.

“Remember that life is a mutable and transmogrifying experience, and to try to remain static within it is impossible, misguided, and just plain stupid. So everyday, do something that on the surface seems impossible, misguided, and just plain stupid, because those are the things that stay with us. No one ever says “do you remember that time everything went exactly according to plan and the outcome was just as we expected?” So, be aware that when things go wrong, and they will go wrong occasionally-such is life, that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It may just be the universe’s way of saying “hey, this is something you should file away.” Life may be corybantic, but it is not without purpose and the best thing you can do is embrace the chaos, and avoid prolonged lamentation. ” David Malone

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So Danny and Alli, here’s to you and your new journey as man and wife.  May your life together be filled with peace, joy, love, and laughter……lots of laughter. We love you!

~May (aka mom)

 

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Some August Favorites

Can you believe we are already moving into the middle of August? Where has the summer gone? Kids are going back to school over the next few weeks, the community pools will be closing soon, and before you know it, we will be back to the more structured life that often comes with fall. However, it is not here yet and while we still have summer with us, May and June would love to share some things we are loving in August.

What May is Loving

Every May, my husband Bob and I wipe off the dust that has settled on our bikes over the long winter, fill our tires with air, and hit the trails in our area. We both are early risers, and love to get out every weekend and enjoy the quiet of the morning. Fortunately for us, we can always find a Starbucks close by where we can partake in our morning beverage of choice, before continuing on our way.

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After a busy week, it is a great time for us to connect and enjoy each other’s company, plus we are getting a great workout too! We have both noticed the subtle changes in the season, especially in the last week or two. The sun is rising a little later, the mornings are a little quieter, and the once active baseball fields have been abandoned until spring. That is ok though, for now it is still summer and I will drink in every moment. My senses come alive as I breathe in the freshly mowed grass, hear the sounds of children playing, feel the warm wind on my face, and see the bright sun against the bluest sky. So far, our journey this year has taken us over three hundred miles, and we look forward to biking well into the fall.

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What June is Loving

June is loving the hydrangeas blooming right now. Depending on your variety, they may have actually bloomed a month or so ago but some are just now starting to bloom.  A lot of my hydrangea bushes bloomed in July but they still have their blooms and have now turned a little lovely light green color.  Next year, I am going to replace a couple of my plants that have not bloomed in a couple of years with a variety similar to this Vanilla Strawberry plant that starts white changes to light pink and then to a strawberry red.  Hydrangea

And my mom has a lovely bush that just bloomed so she brought me this beautiful bouquet today that I am enjoying in my kitchen.

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Hydrangeas are also my favorite because they were the centerpiece to the flowers for my wedding which was also in August.  So I am loving my husband this month and celebrating 9 years of marriage on the 18th.  We have been through some challenges that we never planned or expected on that day, but our relationship has grown so much in that time and I love him even more today.  We still have a lot of fun together and enjoy each other’s company. Although that may be tested when we spend our anniversary in the car for 10 hours on a road trip, but we will be happy to see our family when we get there.

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What We Both Love

Something that we are both loving right now is our summer sandals. Are you surprised? We both love shoes (especially June!) and want our toes to enjoy their freedom before they must be tucked away in cozy socks and boots. May came across these fun little red flats a few years ago, at Nordstrom Rack and although they aren’t great for long walks, they are perfect with a cute sundress or denim shorts.

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June found these fun mint green Minnetonka sandals, which are adding a nice little subtle color to summer outfits.  And they are a wedge so she gets a little extra desperately needed height too.

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Our local farmers market is a wonderful place for fresh produce, especially this time of year. The tomatoes and corn on the cob are at their peak as well as summer fruits, and the fall harvest is just around the corner.

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When we think of August, we are always reminded of the intense heat that goes along with the month, and this August has been sizzling. We have officially entered the dog days of summer, so, who better to talk about the summer heat then Sawyer and Gatsby! Now, you would think that Sawyer would love cooling off and paddling his heart out in the backyard pool, but he doesn’t like the water. We’ve done everything possible to entice him, but he doesn’t like getting wet. He would rather lay by the pool on his towel, looking pretty as he worships the sun.

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However, we are happy to report that last week, when it was so, so hot, Sawyer allowed us to bring him in the water, but not to swim. Bob carried him around the pool while Sawyer rested his head on Bob’s shoulder, eyes closed, enjoying the ride. He is quite the dog.

Unfortunately for poor Gatsby he does not have a pool because otherwise he would be out there all the time. He loves to swim.  When we had a lake house he would spend the whole time in the water fetching tennis balls, which was fine until we happened to be there in November.  He didn’t realize that the water could be so cold.  So during the dog days of summer, Gatsby goes and lays out in the grass or the driveway and cooks himself soaking up the rays.  And then if it is not cool enough in the house he begs for the air conditioning to be turned up, and who can resist that face.

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Hope you are finding some things to love this month!  Have a great weekend. –May and June

 There shall be eternal summer in a grateful heart. – Celia Thaxter

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A New Home

Even though I was born and raised in the Midwest, I think I’ve always been a southern girl at heart. I used to love taking trips to New Smyrna Beach, Florida to visit my grandparents. My mom and I would take long walks on the beach, and I always wished I could bottle that fresh salty aroma, and take it back home with me. When my boys were little, we spent many summer vacations on the warm beaches of Hilton Head Island, and Isle of Palms, South Carolina.

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A few years ago, my mom and I went to Savannah, Georgia and once again when it was time to leave, a piece of my heart was left behind, beckoning me back to the sweet south.

My husband and I always knew we wouldn’t be calling the midwest home forever. You see, we are not winter people. I always teased that I was really supposed to be born to a southern family, and there was a mix up. I’ve never been a cold weather girl, which has become more evident in recent years. I never look forward to the first snowfall, I don’t ski, and I’ve only been on a snow mobile once, and froze. When the girls weekends still included the company of us parents, we used to ice skate in the city, and would make it about twenty minutes before we were complaining of frozen toes, needing to warm up at our favorite pizza place. I hate being cold! Every year, the gloomy skies combined with the harsh temperatures and snow are enough to send me into a mild depression. When November comes, I’m ready to get into my pajamas, and hibernate until spring. I’ll take the warm sun and beach please.

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So, for the last year, we’ve been talking about our move and for many reasons including the weather, we happily settled on Charleston, South Carolina as the destination for our new home. We purchased a house this past February, and plan to take some time to do a little remodeling, to make it our own, and transition into our new environment. We have one more child who will be graduating next May, and then…..  As I write this, it is early morning and I am looking out at the beautiful natural landscape at my Charleston home, and I feel such peace.

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Our family has spent the week here, working on the house, enjoying the sites, the delicious food, the beach, and of course the sweet Carolina sunsets.

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Tomorrow it is time to go and as always when I leave here, a small piece of myself will be left behind, welcoming me back when I return.

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For now, I’m looking forward to starting some projects and decorating our new home.  I’ll be back and forth a bit, but that’s ok. Oh, and the best part, I will not be spending anymore Januarys in Chicago. In the coming months, I’ll share some of my home improvement projects with y’all, so stay tuned.

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Have a great week. ~May

“Charleston is always a good idea.”

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A Family of Flavor

I recently read the book The Memory of Lemon by Judith Fertig (a more detailed synopsis and explanation is coming on our monthly book post in a couple of weeks) where the sense of taste and the experience of flavor, is an important component of the story.  As I was reading the discussion questions at the end of the book (yes I weirdly read the questions even when I have no one to discuss the book with), one question intrigued me which was whether dessert flavors run in families and, if so what flavor is a favorite in your family?

I started to think about this a bit.  First, I think we can all agree that food plays a huge role in every family.  Every family has food traditions around a holiday, a day of the week or some other special occasion.  For some of my favorite memories, I can remember food that was at the event.  I remember that when we would visit my grandparents in the summer, we often would make homemade ice cream.  It was always vanilla.  And we would like to crank the hand churned ice cream maker until it became too hard to do that.  Then my dad would take over and we would be commissioned to sit our little behinds on top of the ice cream maker (on top a stack of newspapers) to help the ice cream maker still while it got harder and harder to churn.

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I remember that at my wedding, we had a formal sit down dinner with a first salad course.  I loved the salad at our tasting that had strawberries and goat cheese as a topper on spring greens.  Tom, though, hates mixing fruit in anything where he thinks it does not belong like a lettuce salad.  A compromise was reached and he received a regular garden salad because after all he was the groom.

In our house, we always had hamburgers for dinner on Saturday night after mass.  This was a tradition my dad grew up and funnily enough when Tom and I do not have a social commitment on a Saturday, we eat hamburgers on Saturday night as well.

I think because of those memories and experiences there are flavors in your family that everyone gravitates towards.  I am sure many of us have had that Thanksgiving dinner away from “home” where something doesn’t seem quite right because the turkey stuffing doesn’t taste the same.

And maybe some of it is genetics.  My mom, my youngest brother and I tend to gravitate toward desserts that are not overly chocolatey.  We tend to select desserts having more of a vanilla flavor like pound cake, plain cheesecake or shortbread cookies.  My dad and other brother, however, really preferred chocolate.  My dad’s birthday cake of choice was always German Chocolate.  None of my brothers or I like coconut which was very telling when my youngest brother at a young age requested his slice of Dad’s birthday cake without the German.   However, everyone in the family really likes angel food cake and chocolate chip cookies.

And possibly some of the flavors you prefer can indicate compatibility.  If you ask Tom and I, who obviously are not genetically related (thank goodness because that would be a disaster), about what kind of birthday cake we prefer, we will each tell you independently that we would like a yellow cake with chocolate frosting for our birthdays.  This has always been my favorite birthday cake as well as his.  And, he thankfully hates coconut as well.  Also, if we both love coffee (good thing since that was our first date) and if we occasionally have a treat with coffee it a sugar cookie or a piece of lemon pound cake.  Always a good thing when you can share a dessert to spread out the calories.

The sense of taste and flavors is such a powerful memory trigger.  It is interesting to think that we share the commonalities with the members of our family or loved one as a bond over our shared experiences and memories.

Does your family have some favorite flavors?  And you are welcome to share recipes with me 🙂 –June

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For My Dad

The month of June is in full swing. School’s out for the summer and for our family, a high school graduation. We’ve celebrated a birthday or two and are now heading toward the third Sunday in June, a day to celebrate fathers and father figures, those men that have loved and continue to love us, and who have made such a contribution to shaping our lives. This is for my dad.

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My Dad

I love picking out cards for special occasions, and Father’s Day is no exception. I’ve always been able to find just the right one that says how I’m feeling at that particular time. Sometimes my Father’s Day cards are all mushy and sentimental, and sometimes they are hysterically funny. While I was recently at the grocery store, I found myself perusing the cards when the reality hit that I would be buying one less card this year for Father’s Day. This past January 18th, my dad passed away after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer last fall. It still feels strange every time I acknowledge that he is gone – like if I don’t say anything, maybe it won’t be true. At my dad’s request, there was no funeral service, just a private celebration of life with family and his closest friends. I didn’t post to Facebook because at the time I was so overwhelmed with grief, I didn’t think I could handle all the kind words and condolences. So now, we are having that year of firsts. He would have turned 75 this past April, still a young man by today’s standards. Sunday it is Father’s Day, my first without him and although time does heal and as a family we are doing better, I find the grief I still carry in my heart bubbling up all over again. With that said, I don’t want this to be a post about loss, rather I want you all to know who my dad was, and why he will still be celebrated on this special day of dads.

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My dad was the first man I loved. I was trying to think of some of my earliest memories with him and the first that came to mind was raking leaves with him in the fall. At that time we lived in the city, and leaves were regularly burned on the curb. I had my little rake and used to love helping him.  (Although I’m sure it took him twice as long with my “help”.) Sometimes we would make piles and I would hide in one and he would pretend not to find me, or I would run through them.

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During the warm months, he would always take my hand as we walked to the nearby park after dinner, and sometimes we stopped to pick up milk. He spent a lot of time pushing me on the swing and I always hated when it was time to leave. My dad also taught me how to ride a bike. I can still picture him running along beside me up and down the block until finally, I was flying down the sidewalk on my own, hearing him cheer me on. I was a Girl Scout back in the day, and every year there was a father daughter dinner, and every year he attended with me. I’m sure he was thrilled when I decided that Girl Scouts was no longer “my thing”. My dad was a light sleeper and on those occasions when I woke up from a bad dream, or if I wasn’t feeling well, he always came into my room and rubbed my back, reassuring me that everything was ok. My dad traveled a lot for business, often overseas and he always brought me back a little souvenir spoon from the state or country he traveled to. I still have the collection displayed on my wall today. Of course my dad taught me how to drive. His car, a Honda Accord, was a manual so he would take me to practice in an empty business lot on the weekends, and I still remember the terror I felt when he told me to drive it home, making jokes whenever I stalled. My dad walked me down the aisle when I got married, telling me right before the music started that he loved me.

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As a little side note to my wedding day, because it was December, my dad thought it was a good idea to put on self tanning cream the morning of the wedding, so he didn’t look so white in pictures. This was so unlike him… Anyway, he didn’t realize how much he was putting on, and long story short- his face was a lovely shade of orange. He looked like a ripe summer peach!  I’ll never forget standing at the back of the church, staring at him as he came to walk me down the aisle, and thinking, “What the Hell?” We laughed about that for many years.

In my adult years, my dad was always a voice of reason when my emotions got the better of me, and he was always so damn practical. Always. 🙂 He had a wicked sense of humor and could make me laugh so easily, even if I was having a bad day. I was never allowed to take myself too seriously.

As wonderful as my father was to both my brother and me, my dad shined when he became “Papa”.

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He was a wonderful grandfather to all his grandchildren. I remember when my boys were young, my dad would play Santa Claus every year until one Christmas, my oldest son wanted to know why Santa was wearing Papa’s shoes.

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He felt such pride when that same son joined the Army, always supporting him and talking about him to all his friends. When the boys were teenagers, my dad would stop by every Sunday morning with a box of donuts, fresh from the bakery, just for them. Speaking of friends, my dad had lots of them. He made friends wherever he went and I still remember last fall, we went to the store together, and the employees were all calling him by name, and stopping to chat. Those same acquaintances have been so saddened by his death, sharing stories about my dad with my mom.

It’s funny, as we all get older there seems to be this role reversal that happens with our parents where once they took care of us, we now take care of them. For the last few months of my dad’s life, I was taking his hand on walks, helping him on the stairs, and rubbing his back for comfort, reassuring him that everything was going to be ok. I guess that’s part of the circle of life. I miss my dad every single day, and yet I feel him every time I see a dad at the park with his kids, or teaching his child to ride a bike, or even when one of our girls sits on her dad’s lap. Although we won’t be making new memories, I will always treasure the old ones. I carry his love in my heart and there is a comfort in that.

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Happy Father’s Day Daddy.

I hope you all have a wonderful Father’s Day this weekend, and on a personal note, I’d like to wish a Happy Father’s Day to my wonderful husband, and my little brother.

~May

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A Day of Remembrance

Happy Memorial Day!

We are coming to the close of a three day weekend that has most likely been filled with parades, BBQ’s, fun with friends and family, and of course celebrating being a proud American. We always think of Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer, however it’s also a day to celebrate and honor the lives of all the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice, so we may continue to have our freedoms.

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The roots of Memorial Day go back to 1866, when women in both the northern and southern states of the U.S. placed flowers on the graves of the soldiers that fought and lost their lives during the Civil War. At that time it was known as Decoration Day. Women in the South were known to place flowers at the graves of Union soldiers as well, as a way to begin the healing process after this unfortunate war between the states.

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Over time, it became a day of contemplation and gratitude for the many freedoms we have in this great nation of ours. In 1971, President Nixon declared Memorial Day a national holiday, which is currently observed on the last day of May.

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In the year 2000, George W. Bush signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” where all Americans were encouraged to give a moment of silence at 3:00 PM, to honor those that have given the ultimate sacrifice. In addition to honoring the sacrifices of prior generations that have defended our country, I feel it’s important to thank the men and women who have served and continue to serve this nation, including my son Lt. Daniel Malone.

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And so, I hope you will all take a moment at 3:00 today, to close your eyes and honor all the brave men and women who make up our U.S. military, past and present, and say thank you.

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We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them.”  

Francis A. Walker

~May

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Why is Mother’s Day Not the Whole Month Of May?

When we attended open mike night at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville a couple of weeks ago, one of the songwriters performed a song she had written about Mother’s Day, and the chorus to paraphrase was something like, “it should be more than one day. Why not the whole month of May?”  She then went on to list some of the things her mom had done for her.  So that inspired me to list all of the things my mom has given to me.  Because let’s face it, our moms give us so much from the time we are children, and continue to do so even when we are supposed to be all grown up.  Because even as a grown up, I still need my mom.  This list of course is infinite so I will try and limit myself.

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My mom gave me (and my brothers) a brown bag lunch every school day all the way through high school.  Except for Fridays.  On Fridays she took the day off and gave us lunch money.  I guess the good news for my mom is that it was in the days before Pinterest, so she did not have to be creative with our lunches.  We were happy with peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches, maybe with some pretzels, a piece of fruit and a little treat.  But every weekday morning (except Friday) she would be up wrapping our sandwiches in wax paper and sending us off to school with lunch.

My mom encouraged my love of reading.  My dad had served in the military so he went back to college on the GI bill after he and my mom were married, and I was a baby.  Because of that, my parents were on a strict budget but somehow my mom found the money in her grocery allowance to buy me a Golden Book.  I still have that collection of Golden Books.  She also regularly took me to the library where I was allowed to take out ten books (it was always ten which seemed like a lot, but I now know it was her way of keeping track of how many books we had out).  We always read stories together even if I insisted on having the same one read over and over again.  She even let me name our first dog, Widget, after a picture book I loved.

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My mom gave me my pretty blue eyes.

My mom gave me independence and taught me to stand up for myself.  I was always pretty shy and sensitive.  When I was very young some of the other kids would take my sand toys in the sandbox and she would make me go over and get them back myself.  She also made me do this as I got older, whether it was speaking up for myself to a teacher, or one of my peers.  She also made me go to preschool even though I would’ve rather just stayed home with her.  There were many times that she pushed me to do something that I was not comfortable doing and even though it often resulted in tears (probably from her too), she knew that I needed to be pushed to be independent, to be successful, and to live the best life possible.  Heck, sometimes she still gives me a kick in the butt when I need it.

My mom gives me the gift of her organizational skills.  I struggle with being organized and even though I like to be organized, it is not something that comes naturally to me.  So she comes and helps me clean out my closets.  My mom keeps me on task, makes me get rid of things and makes the job more fun.  Even my husband knows that when it needs to be done, he tells me that I should call my mom.

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Similarly, my mom has helped me move so many times.  When you go to college and then go to law school and then have several apartments and then have a condo and then have a house, do you know how many times you move?  We won’t count because it is easily in the double digits.  Each and every time, she helped me pack and unpack.  Also, she is really good at lining kitchen cabinets with shelf paper, if you need someone.

My mom is my best shopping partner.  We spend some of our best time together going to our favorite stores and having lunch.  Sometimes we just go to Target together just to buy our necessities although even those trips usually end up with a few extras in our carts.  She will even go shopping with me for a new pair of  jeans.  I also know that her opinion will be honest and kind and vice versa.

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As a child she was always the one to soothe the skinned knees and wipe away the tears.  And as I grew and even now, she tries and soothes my hurt feelings, and life’s disappointments and frustrations.  While she cannot take them away entirely, her support and sympathy are sometimes enough to assuage that hurt feeling, if just for a bit.

My mom showed me that life does not end when the worst thing imaginable happens.  When my dad died suddenly, we were all devastated, and she understandably more so than the rest of us.  However, she did not give up even though I am sure there were days she really wanted to.  She helped me plan my wedding which happened only six months later.  She hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon a summer later which had always been a dream of hers.  After five years she opened herself up to the possibility of having another relationship, and not living the rest of her life alone.  Basically, my mom was able to transform the life that she thought she was going to have, into the life that she now has, and is happy again after something so devastating happened to her.

My mom has helped me become the person that I am today.  She (along with my dad) gave me my strong values about family and treating others with kindness and respect.  She taught me that to stand by and watch something wrong is as wrong as doing it yourself.  I know many women worry that as they get older they are going to turn into their mother, but there are many things about my mom that I would be happy to be just like her.  Happy Mother’s Day (for the whole month of May)!  –June

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For My Mom

Happy May!!! Mother’s Day is just around the corner. In fact, it’s this Sunday, and so it got me thinking about all the ways we celebrate our moms. As a kid, I remember the sweet Hallmark commercials on TV which started weeks before and always left you in tears, and do you remember the FTD Mother’s Day bouquet? When my brother and I were young, there were always flowers on Mother’s Day, for my mom and my grandmas who we would visit, and we celebrated the special day by going out for dinner.

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As a teen, my mom and I would take an annual trip to New Smyrna Beach, Florida on Mother’s Day weekend to visit her parents, while my dad and brother enjoyed their weekend together at home. We would go out for lunch, or my mom and I would make dinner and a special dessert to celebrate. After my grandparents passed away, we did the traditional Mother’s Day brunches, but more recently, my mom and I started traveling again. We had a lovely Mother’s Day weekend in Savannah, Georgia a few years back, and this year we will be spending Mother’s Day in Charleston, South Carolina.

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As children, it’s difficult to have a true appreciation for our moms, and what they do for us other than taking care of our basic needs at any given moment. I thought my mom was so cool because she was my Brownie leader, introduced me to what would be a life long love of foreign films, and, of course, took me on many trips to the Art Institute. Her love of culture definitely rubbed off on me, and we still enjoy doing those things together.

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Let’s face it, the teenage years can be a little crazy. This is especially challenging between a mother and daughter, when we daughters think we know it all. I’m sure there were times when my mom wanted to give me a swift kick you-know-where, but she never did. I’m happy to say that our relationship never underwent the almost constant turmoil that many mothers and daughters experience. We may not have agreed on matters all the time, but there was always a mutual respect for each other’s feelings. Besides, we always enjoyed each other’s company way too much. I have to say it really wasn’t until I was older and became a mother myself, that I truly understood the depth of love and sacrifice a mother makes for her child. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without my mom’s presence during those early years, when I was a young mom. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and was terrified that I would somehow inadvertently “break” my child. She literally moved in for a few weeks after my first son was born, not only to help me out, but to give me the confidence I needed to take the reigns when it was time for her to go. She’s always been there for advice and, many times, a shoulder, and she has been a wonderful grandmother to all seven of her grandchildren.

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Like everything in life, there is an ebb and flow that occurs, and this includes relationships. Our relationship has changed with the hands of time. We’ve both grown wiser as women, as well as mothers, and it’s deepened our relationship with each other. There is a friendship that has developed, she’s still the most beautiful woman I know, she’s my business partner, my confidant, and yet, she will always be my mom.

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I hope you all enjoy celebrating your moms this weekend. Here are a few quotes about mothers and daughters from two of my favorite authors. Happy Mother’s Day. ~May

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No, we didn’t plan the same color shirts… 🙂

“Even as a small child, I understood that women had secrets, and that some of these were only to be told to daughters. In this way we were bound together for eternity.”

―Alice Hoffman, The Dovekeepers

“As mothers and daughters, we are connected with one another. My mother is the bones of my spine, keeping me straight and true. She is my blood, making sure it runs rich and strong. She is the beating of my heart. I cannot now imagine a life without her.”

―Kristin Hannah, Summer Island

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Shed Project Management

We have needed a new backyard shed for a few years.  We have a smaller house with a small two car garage and because we like to park both cars in the garage, we do not have a lot of storage.  That means that an outdoor shed is really essential.  A shed was already in our backyard when we bought our house, but it was old back then, and over the last eight years has been getting in worse and worse shape.  One of the walls was rotting and you could see through it and every time there was a storm (or even a light breeze it seemed), a few more shingles from the roof would blow into the yard.  So we decided that this was the year!  No one said home ownership was glamorous.

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So I don’t know how your marriage or household works, but in our relationship there are certain projects or tasks that I take responsibility for, and there are others that are my husband’s responsibility.  For big matters we definitely seek input from the other, but someone has to be in charge, and one person cannot be in charge of everything.  So, for many things it is divide and conquer.  This shed project fell under my husband’s list.

The two of us together picked out the new shed.  Last fall we started looking for a new shed.  We checked out some of the big box stores and then we found a shed specialty franchiser near our house.   However, we did not buy it at the time because it was November and we knew we were not putting a new shed up in the middle of winter, so we waited  until spring.

One thing that is interesting in relationships is how each of you in the relationship has strengths and weaknesses, and how those attributes can balance each other.  I have known this for awhile but I observed this quite clearly during what I will now call “The Shed Project.”

For people who do not know my husband, here are some things that you need to know about him that are important to The Shed Project.  He is very, very smart.  He has an undergraduate degree in Physics Engineering (I do not even know what that is, probably because the word physics alone scares me) and a graduate engineering degree from MIT.  He is extremely analytical and left-brained.  If I ask him to hang up pictures in our house, the tape measure and the level come out.  If I hang up a picture in our house I eyeball it on the wall, get out the hammer, and put in the nail.  He wrote a thesis and I cannot even understand the title, let alone any of the content.  He has taken more math classes than I even knew existed (my niece and nephew have taken advantage of this and he is frequently called on to help with math homework).  He keeps spreadsheets for our finances and his hobbies tend to be things that are tedious, involving details and precision.  However, time management is not his strength.  Although he means well, he constantly underestimates how long it is going to take him to do something.  Also, he does not do a lot of physical labor type projects.  He is great at fixing our computers and all things electrical in our house, but other house projects are generally not his area of expertise. We tend to hire what he likes to call our “extended team” for those things.

Things to know about me is that I am innately good at time management.  If I have a large project or a party to plan I tend to work backward and know how long it is going to take me to complete all of the steps to get to the end result.  I never pulled an all-nighter in college or law school because of this, since all of my work was done with time to spare.  However, I tend to spitball precise projects (see hanging pictures) and as a result often get frustrated when something doesn’t look quite right.  My hobbies tend to the more creative such as crafts, reading and writing.

Finally, the weather broke and we went and purchased the shed.  We decided on a classic barn style shed in a traditional red and white color scheme.  My husband spent a lot of time worrying about the size. Even though this one had the same  footprint, it was going to be substantially taller.  He measured several times.  I, picturing it in my minds eye without a tape measure, kept telling him it would be fine.

The franchise had a price for the shed and install, but then wanted to charge extra for items such as procuring the permit (our village requires a permit for a new shed) and also the demolition and removal of our old shed.  When my brothers were told about that, they were quick to volunteer to help my husband with the demolition of the old shed.

There were months of planning for the new shed.  I think my husband applied for the permit at the end of February.  We had it within a week.  Then he had to plan when to remove the contents of old shed, when to demolish the old shed, and then when the new shed would be installed.  Because the items from the shed were going to be stored on the back porch in the meantime, my only requirement was that The Shed Project was finished so that I could enjoy porch season starting in May.

I think there was so much thought into The Shed Project because he knew about his time management issues. I heard about every step of the project many, many times. Here’s another difference between us.  Most of my planning goes on in my head and then gets done.  Apparently, my husband likes to plan these things out loud to a sounding board.

So finally the shed was emptied of its contents and a date was set to demolish the old shed.  However, we had to have a way to get rid of the old shed because our garbage pickup will not simply take these items if they are out by the curb.  We had to get a dumpster service.  This is where I saw our differences up close and personal.  I looked at the shed and pictured the size of the dumpster in my brain, with no real reference to how big it really was, and thought no problem, it will fit.  My husband measured the old shed and then took the measurements of the dumpster and did math (I’m not sure what kind of math) to figure out that yes in fact the old shed once demolished would fit in the dumpster.

The April Saturday slated for demolition dawned sunny but cold, and the demo team of Tom and my two brothers showed up ready to work in exchange for the promise of beer and pizza once done.  Had I been thinking, I would have gotten all of them Chip Gaines favorite t-shirt “#Demo Day.”

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(Striking a manly pose before the first swing)

Unfortunately, I missed part of the entertainment, but from what I understand, the support beams were knocked out with sledge hammers after the doors were removed, and the shed just collapsed in a fairly neat pile.  I was teasing all of them beforehand that I had my very own Big Bang Theory in the backyard.  They were the start of a bad joke beginning with- what do you get when a Chief Information Security Officer, an Executive Librarian, and a High School AP History Teacher with four graduate degrees between them knock down a shed?  However, they did a great job. The shed was removed and no one had to go to the emergency room.

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And last week the company came to install our new shed.  Isn’t she pretty?

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The Shed Project seems to have come to a successful conclusion.   We have a few small matters left to complete including a light fixture installation and getting the stuff off my porch and back in the shed, but I think we can safely say that my husband did a great job. –June

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Ode to the Stepmom

I’m sure that most of you who regularly read our posts know that I have a blended family. I have two grown sons from a previous marriage, and my husband has two daughters. When we married, my boys were in college and high school, almost ready to leave the nest. The girls, on the other hand, were in second and third grade, still baby birds.IMG_1327

Sorry some of these older photos are grainy.

Because my boys were older, my husband’s involvement in their lives was more on an adult level. He was there to guide them and give advice, but he didn’t need to be involved in their day to day schedules. My role with the girls was a little different. They required more care, and although my husband has always been very involved in their lives, being girls meant that sometimes they needed more of a female presence when they were at their dad’s. I have been a step-mom to Nicole, 19, and Alyssa, 17, for nearly ten years, and have been in their lives a few years longer. I’ve always referred to myself as their “step-mom” or called them my “stepdaughters,” and every time I say that, I have to admit I cringe a little. I can’t help it. I ALWAYS think of Cinderella’s wicked step-mom, Lady Tremaine. Why does the word stepmom have to have such a negative connotation? Did it start with Cinderella?

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I’m proud to say that the girls and I have a wonderful relationship. We snuggle on the couch and watch movies, go for lunch, get mani’s and pedi’s, shop, share clothes, and talk about life like most mothers and daughters. In fact, I can’t imagine my relationship being much different if they were my own flesh and blood.

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When we’re all together, our blended family is its own unit. Both Bob and I refer to our step-children as our sons and daughters, because to us, they are just as much our children as our biological children. Even my sons’ wife and girlfriend have become part of our blended family. I recently had a little chat with the girls to ask how they felt about the word stepmom, and hear their thoughts about removing the word “step” from future posts, simply referring to them as my girls/daughters. They were in agreement with this and dislike the negative connotation surrounding the words “stepmom” or “stepparent”. Nicole says that our relationship is unique in the sense that there’s more opportunity to be friends because I’m not her biological mom. They still see me as a nurturing role model that compliments their mom in a healthy way.

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Now, I think it’s important to note that this in no way is meant to be disrespectful to or diminish a mother’s role. The girls have always called me Pam, and the boys have done the same with Bob. For many families, the role of mom is somewhat universal, extending also to in-laws and the parents of friends who have treated us like their own children.

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As you can see, I’ve gotten shorter over the years.

So, from here on out, the word “step” will no longer be used in future posts about my girls, and I just wanted to give an explanation as to why.

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Parenthood requires love, not DNA

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~May

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Making Memories

Every year, my oldest stepdaughter Nicole and I take a little excursion to the city for the day. We’ve done this since she was in grade school. In the past, my husband Bob and youngest stepdaughter, Alyssa would attend a Cubs game on the same day, and afterwards, we would all meet up in the city for pizza.

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We do this at Christmas time too, but more on that in December.  Now that the girls are older and have very busy lives, Bob and I find ourselves having to work our way into their ever-changing schedules. Our little tradition has taken a few twists and turns along the way, but that’s ok. It’s a reminder that change is constant, yet we’re still strengthening our family’s bond by creating long lasting memories. Nicole and I finally made plans to take our trip to the city this past weekend. Although we generally don’t let the weather stop us, I wasn’t sure if our November day would cooperate, but thankfully it did. It was sunny and in the 50’s with no wind (Windy City).  It was beautiful.

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The skating rink at Millennium opened this weekend

We usually don’t have a specific agenda – we are all regularly in the city and have seen it all – so we usually just throw caution to the wind and figure it out as we go along, which makes it more fun. One thing’s for sure though, there are going to be a lot of laughs, walking, shopping, and treats.  Did I mention walking?? We kept track of how far we walked….8.2 miles.

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Found these cute beaded bracelets

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Nicole ate them all

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Yes, that’s a Christmas tree behind us and it’s November 15

As you can see, we took a few photos of our day, but for the most part we kept our phones safely tucked away. Photos are great, but sometimes we’re so caught up in taking the picture, we lose the loveliness of the moment. Although baseball season is over (Great year for the Cubs!), Bob and Alyssa did meet us for pizza, and all was right with the world.

~May

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