Family, Friends and Neighbors

Family, Friends and Neighbors

On-board The Coast Starlight Train

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I am so impressed with this picture taken from my train window!

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I know it’s blurry, but I was on a train taking a photo of the railroad crossing sign…fun!

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Love the rows of green…love California!

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It was nice to leave the driving to someone else this time!

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Madonna and Bishop Peaks…I’m almost there!

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Time to toast the Cal Poly 2018 Graduates!

 

Dear Reader:

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight runs daily from Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California, via the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s a convenient option for me as it makes a stop in Salinas, which is less than 20 miles from my home.

I just need a ride to the station and I’m off! The kid in me seems to come out as I stand on the platform waiting for my train. I can’t help it. First, I see it, and then as it gets closer, I hear the great rumbling sound of the beast that will deliver me to San Luis Obispo.

For an additional twenty dollars, I’ve upgraded to a business class ticket so I’ve got a large seat with plenty of space to stretch out. Upon boarding, I settle in and unpack my brown bag lunch and prepare to just sit…and do nothing more than marvel at the beauty of my beloved state.

As the train leaves the station, it makes a steadily increasing chugging sound and the whistle sounds. I’m on my way to celebrate the graduation of one of my daughter’s friends from Cal Poly.

As a business class traveler, I’m entitled to free WiFi, but I know that perk is really no perk at all because most of the area between Salinas and Paso Robles is so remote that it’s without service. I find it oddly comforting to know that there are vast stretches of my state that remain undeveloped or sparsely populated and agricultural. So for three and a half hours, I sat back, relaxed and snapped photos on my iPhone to share with you.

Shortly after arriving, I continued to enjoy my day with a glass of local wine made from the grapes I saw from my train window.

Cheers,

Michele

 

Family, Friends and Neighbors

Like Mother…Not Like Daughter!

My daughter
My lovely daughter

Dear Reader:

When a woman gives birth to a daughter, I believe she consciously, or subconsciously, believes her daughter will resemble her in many ways. But why? It is an odd assumption upon thoughtful consideration. Why should she be more like her mother than her father? I’ve asked myself that question now for 21 years.

My daughter is her own person, but she is more like her father than she is like me. I can accept this…despite the fact that it took 28 hours of hard labor followed by an emergency c-section to bring her into this world!

I wonder at the differences!

She is:

  • ambitious but not competitive; I am competitive but not ambitious
  • reserved, i burst
  • quietly thoughtful, I am obviously opinionated
  • forgiving and patient; I try

She loves:

  • lace and florals; I like stripes and animal print
  • teal; I love pink
  • Thunder Mountain; I love It’s a Small World
  • Harry Potter and Jane Austen; I love Tinker Bell and Danielle Steel

But, we do share some common opinions and interests. We are both feminists, but she does not like to wear it on her t-shirt. We love donuts, doxies, Disneyland and Maui. We are happy when we are shopping at Lululemon or Target, walking the streets of London in rain or shine and sipping from English china while perusing beautiful books.

And, most importantly, we still love spending time in each other’s company. I hope that never changes.

Is your daughter very much like you, dear reader? Or is she more like her father?!

Michele

Family, Friends and Neighbors

Another Anniversary; Another Cup of Java!

Java for Me and You
I wonder how many cups of coffee we have shared?!

Dear Reader:

It’s been thirty-four years since we said “I do” under a massive oak tree in my in-laws backyard in Fresno, California. On the Monday and Tuesday before the ceremony, high temperature records were set that still hold today… 107°. I knew we were off to a good start when Mother Nature blessed us with a pleasant 90° for our big day.

In the years since then we’ve shared domestic bliss and emotional turmoil. We’ve lost grandparents, parents and a sibling; created an amazing daughter; owned six dogs and lost three; purchased four homes and sold three and endured one high-powered high-tech career. Who knows how many bookstores we’ve visited or San Francisco Giants games we’ve watched?

We’ve nearly called it quits, too. But, it seems, our decision to marry at twenty-four years young wasn’t as crazy as it seemed to our parents.

The poet e.e. cummings captured what I feel for my husband and put the words on paper:

this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart) 

We’ve outlasted the oak tree and I’m hoping we’ve got another thirty-four years together.

Michele

P.S. As there is never any photo-shopping on my site, I chose not to retouch my husband’s thumb. He suffered his injury building the fence to keep Winnie IN!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Family, Friends and Neighbors, Quotations

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Dear Reader:

My favorite people are the people who begin conversations with a question…this question: “How’s Natalie?” This gives me the opportunity to communicate straight from the depths of my heart. And, it immediately puts a smile on my face, because my daughter is my favorite topic.

I remember a strange encounter at Noah’s Bagels when Natalie was about four years old. I noticed a man at a nearby table watching us enjoy our cream cheese covered  indulgence. On his way out, he looked at me and said he thought it was nice to see a mother and daughter so obviously enjoying each other’s company.

“Oh, she’s my greatest joy, ” I remember answering.

He corrected me. “Well, your husband must be your greatest joy or you wouldn’t have her.”

If I ran into that man today, I’d tell him the same thing. Indeed, I love my husband, still. But as Alice Thomas Ellis so succinctly put it:

“There is no reciprocity. Men love women. Women love children. Children love hamsters*. Hamsters don’t love anyone; it is quite hopeless.”

Being a mother is, at once, both the most humbling and the most rewarding experience of my life. I will never consider it anything less than a miracle. It will always be the choice I am most proud of. It will always be the responsibility that drives me to be the best person that I can be.

It’s so easy to go on and on about what makes my daughter special, but I’ll just say that, despite all of her accomplishments, it is her kindness and generosity that I am most proud of. As I’ve watched her grow into an adult, I am so comforted to see her display a quiet, resolute strength and a deep understanding and acceptance of herself and those closest to her. She is a young woman who I both enjoy and admire.

I’d like to thank her for letting me “drop by” to enjoy a donut with her and her roommates. There is no place I’d rather be today than sitting across the table from my girl at SLODOCO dipping a maple bar into my latte.

Happy Mother’s Day, dear readers!

Michele

* When I repeat this quote, I change hamster to dog. Kids loves dogs and dogs DO love them back!

Dogs, Family, Friends and Neighbors

Winnie Waits…

Dear Reader:

Spring Break ended two weeks ago, but Winnie still waits for Natalie to emerge from her bedroom every morning. I’m sure she doesn’t understand what “college” means, but she seems to understand that something’s going on when the duffel bag comes out!

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Really?! She’s leaving already?!

Given how darling and devoted this dog is, I’ve begun to wonder if my daughter returns home to visit me …or her!

Michele

Family, Friends and Neighbors

Caveat Emptor!

 

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OMG…these socks are obscene!

 

Dear Reader:

Let the buyer beware is very good advice! I should have considered it before I impulsively picked up an innocent looking pair of socks sitting by the cash register and added it to my purchase of a very respectable t-shirt.

In my defense:

  • My daughter had returned to school after her Spring Break the day before and I was feeling sentimental and missing her.
  • Winnie had chewed up my “evening/bedtime socks” and I needed another pair.
  • They were wrapped in ribbon imprinted with the brand name MOTHER, MOTHER, MOTHER and folded so that you could only read “MOTHER”.

I really feel that the sales girl in the chic little shop on Ocean Avenue should have warned me. But, since she did not…Winnie’s got two new chew toys!

Michele

Family, Friends and Neighbors, Grief and Loss

Happy Birthday, Brother

Birthdays, siblings, brother, death, death of brother

Dear Reader:

He would be 54 years old  today, but instead he rests under a marker that reads: “Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not here—I do not sleep.”

Today,  I remember my brother. Perhaps, you, too, have a special birthday you remember but no longer celebrate in the conventional fashion. Or, maybe your mind turns to a loved one on the anniversary of his death. Loss will touch us all and I have found that it can be such a comfort to share the experience with others. I hope you will not mind if I share my story with you on this day that can not help but move me.

During his 36 years of life,  my brother, Matt Lehman, occupied a large place in my heart and in the imaginations of family and friends. He was handsome, stylish and charming. (Think Matt Dillon, seriously!) He was a salesman and a collector. He’d been born with long eyelashes and affecting eyes. And bat his eyelashes, he did! The gesture was even more disarming when it was combined with his ready smile. He radiated enthusiasm, as if for him the entire world and everything in it was exciting. He was a joy to be around, and so everyone wanted to be his friend.

Matt was the youngest of three siblings. He was like the exclamation point after his two sisters. And, he certainly was not meant to be the first to die. But, as he told me one day after a visit to the cancer treatment center “how can I ask ‘why me’ when there’s a 12 year old child sitting next to me waiting for his chemo treatment?”

There was never any hope given other than the  possibility that treatment could extend his life a bit. It was in July 2000 that I received his phone call telling me it was cancer, “not a good kind,” and the doctors had estimated he had four months left. In the end, he lived a full year after his diagnosis. He made the most of that year, generously sharing the time he had left with those who loved him.

I vividly remember an exchange with Matt during one of our last visits. His faith was unshakable; he was going “home.” I did not share his strong beliefs, but I found myself explaining that I couldn’t go with him just then. I needed to stay and raise my 4-year-old daughter. My baby brother was going somewhere and some part of me felt that I should go with him or instead of him. Or maybe, some part of me wondered how I could bear my grief.

For a long time after Matt’s death, I felt sure that every ring of the phone would bring news of illness or death. And, of course, just below the surface was the fear that came with being brutally reminded of my own mortality. But, I have celebrated the milestones of 40 and 50 remembering that my brother never did. I am grateful for the years I’ve been given to test my commitment to my husband (shaken but never destroyed!) and to watch my daughter grow into an adult I admire, respect and love.

And, so  with tears in my eyes and a big smile on my face, I remember my dear brother today but not beside the headstone that bears his name.  For he is not there. He lives with me in my heart and I know in the hearts of many others.

I welcome you to share your remembrances of those you have loved and lost.

Love,

*Shell

* When he was young, Matt could not manage to say Michele and so I was Shell to him for as long as he lived.

 

Creativity, Family, Friends and Neighbors, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

Tutto e Possibile!

A look inside from the pink shed
“I Dreamed I Could Fly” by Los Gatos artist Maralyn Miller.

Dear Reader:

The first thing I see when I enter the pink shed is the image of a young girl, dressed in pink, flying over her suburban neighborhood.  I purchased it fifteen years ago to hang in my six-year-old daughter’s bedroom. Natalie, who turned 21 a few weeks ago, re-gifted it to me as she felt it would be perfect in my writer’s shed.

I know that flying is common in dreams, however I never fly. Actually, I fall in my nightmares. (I believe this is related to my severe acrophobia!) But, the painting was a simply lovely artistic representation of the hopes I had, and still have, for my daughter.

I imagine the young girl in the painting feels strong, free, capable, gifted, independent and joyful. When I was young, my Italian grandmother, Nonnie, was my cheer-leader. “Tutto e possibile,” she’d enthuse. I’ve tried to carry on that tradition with Natalie.

We all need someone to remind us that “anything is possible,”especially as we begin a new year!

May 2018 bring you success and contentment.

Michele

Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Family, Friends and Neighbors, Quotations

The Comfort of October

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“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

—L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Dear Reader:

There’s something so comfortable about October. It’s a month to simply enjoy. It doesn’t ask much of us, unlike November and December that bring with them expectations and responsibilities.

This month I’ve enjoyed:

  • shopping at the farmers market with my husband
  • artichokes in balsamic with sun-dried tomato aioli (bubbles on the side)
  • a visit to a pumpkin patch with three lovely Cal Poly students
  • hot cocoa with whipped cream sipped with a dachshund in my lap
  • pumpkin bread, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin everything

I  ask only a couple of things of myself every October:

  1. I begin my holiday shopping! It gives me such pleasure to find the perfect gift for everyone on my list. (My daughter’s birthday is December 20th, so I get to buy twice as much for her!)
  2. I fill up bags of food and warm clothing to donate at my local food bank and homeless shelter. It is somehow even more rewarding to help others as the holidays approach.

And every year I find myself, quite unconsciously at first, reflecting on the year that is drawing to a close and the year ahead of me. The chill in the air and my plans for the future exhilarate me in a way that the month of January does not. I love October!

Hope you’ve had a wonderful month, too.

Michele