Family, Friends and Neighbors

Creativity, Family, Friends and Neighbors, Flowers, Inspirational Women, The Color Pink

The Bouquet on my Desk

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Dear Reader:

I wore my first sweater of the season last week; it was a chilly 68 degrees. It’s fall in California, but I have a summer bouquet to enjoy every day.! It was created by my blogging friend, Tamara Jare at My Botanical Garden. It was spring when I selected the lovely watercolor and I was anticipating summertime as I always do. I framed the small piece and it sits on my desk in the pink shed. I can almost smell the peonies, roses, grasses and spirea in full bloom.

As Tamara said, “It’s a special arrangement in the same way that each summer is special.” It’s particularly meaningful to me because it’s a reminder of one of the first friends that I made after creating my blog. I have a friend in Slovenia! I never thought I’d be able to say that!

Tamara found my site just two days after I established it and became one of my first followers. I was glad, not only to have her as a reader, but also to discover the beauty on her site. We developed a connection over the past months and have continued to communicate through e-mail.It was fun to discover how much Tamara and I have in common. We are about the same age and happily married with grown children. After she read my post  about aging, she shared that Oil of Olay (tanti anni fa) was the secret to her youthful good looks, too! We agreed that they must have a good advertising company!

We are both creative women who feel happy and complete in our lives. Tamara began her blog when her mother was terminally ill and the artistic expression helped her through that very difficult time. I started my blog when my one -and -only left me to go to college. If one could bottle creative expression, it would be truthful to state that it is a potent remedy in times of loss or change.

I’m sure that I will sound my age when I say that I am amazed to find women who are so seemingly like me in all parts of the world. I’m an “old dog” who learned a “new trick” and I’m grateful to be part of a blogging community with no boundaries.

I am hopeful that someday I’ll meet my friend in Slovenia, but, until then, her art keeps me company while I pursue my creative side.

Thanks Tamara!

Love,

Michele

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

It’s Not Over Until it’s Over

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Next time we’ll have a Sangria together, as she’ll be legal!

Dear Reader:

I visited my nearly 21-year-old daughter at college this weekend and over dinner I looked at her and said: “I like who you are becoming.”

She paused and so I felt the need to explain my random, motherly comment.

“You know… you are evolving, becoming an adult,” I clarified.

“Thank you, Mom,” she said. “But aren’t we all becoming someone?”

Well, that’s just the way my daughter is….wonderful and wise and inspiring! Indeed it would be rather boring and depressing if I were not also continuing to become someone. In fact, it is our shared evolution that binds us even closer.

I talk to her about my new adventures in the blogosphere and she shares the challenges and rewards of renting her first apartment. We hold each other accountable to the fitness goals we’ve set. She shares her academic successes and I recount how proud I feel when my puppy Winnie piddles in the appropriate place. We dream of our next trip to London…she to study and me and her dad to sightsee. I can see that even our relationship has become something new and beautiful. I’ll always be her mother, first, but it’s great to feel the warmth of her understanding as a friend, too.

I love that she reminded me that the joys of evolution are not simply for the young.

Here’s to getting better and better all the time,

Michele

 

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

Puppies are Good for Empty-Nesters

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A Favorite Photo-My Husband Admiring our Baby

Dear Reader:

One of my favorite regular columns in any magazine is the Harper’s Index in Harper’s Magazine…of course. It’s a simple list of interesting factoids that makes for fun reading and sharing. Today I learned:

Percentage of U.S. pet-custody cases that involve dogs: 96%

That involve cats: 1

Apologies to the “cat people” in my life, but I was not in the least bit surprised to read this! After all, dogs have a “pack mentality” as do people. (More trivia: what is the name of a group of cats????? Got you, right?!) All three of my four-legged family members are draped across my legs as I write this. It’s a chilly morning and they are earning their keep!

My husband and I have been married for 33 years and for 25 of those years we’ve had at least one dog. We were excited the day we finally moved into a pet-friendly condominium. It didn’t take long for us to adopt our first dachshund, Carly. For eight years, our friends and family had speculated as to when we’d have a child. They had a good laugh when we purchased a small library of books in the genre of how to raise the perfect dog and consulted a baby naming book.  There were whispers that we were “practicing” for our first child. The speculation grew when we took Carly to Sears for Christmas pictures.

Alas, the next member of our pack also had four legs. Bill, another long-haired miniature dachshund, joined us the year after our first. Jeff and Karyn of Wagsmore Dachshunds named the dog after the president “before the Lewinsky scandal” they told us. We thought our new puppy looked rather “presidential” so we chose not to change his name. It would be another two years before we had our only child, Natalie, and Bill would be the first to arrive in her room when she cried.

It’s impossible to imagine our home without a dog or two or three and perfectly outrageous to ponder me and my husband embroiled in a custody fight over them. But, there is no danger of this as we are happy together and have further bonded over the arrival of our latest baby “Winnie.”

Michele

P.S. A group of cats is called a “clowder.” I looked it up.

Family, Friends and Neighbors

TGFT!

Dear Reader:

No, that’s not a typo in the title! It’s Friday and thank god for it …TGIF! But, alas, today I’m also feeling grateful for Target. How did we ever accomplish anything major before this retailer came to our rescue? Thank God for Target! They’ve got shower curtains and small desks, frozen lasagna and iced coffee in large jugs, shower curtains and toaster ovens, laundry detergent and first-aid kits and lots of storage options:  bins, boxes and baskets of all sizes.

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First trip!

On Monday night, I hit the sack at 10 p.m. I was up at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday at my pup Winnie’s insistence and again at 4:30 to provide puppy relief. I loafed until 6 a.m. and then headed south down Highway 101 to help my daughter move into her first off-campus apartment. By 11 a.m., we’d made our first trip to Target. You may wonder: how many Target trips does it take to set-up a new apartment for three students? I’ve got the answer; read on!

Day one was devoted to kitchen set-up; we’ve got our priorities straight! Things went smoothly until we discovered the garbage bags did not fit into the very old trash compactor and we’d need a stepping stool to provide access to upper shelves to maximize storage. We started a list and prepared for trip #2.

We began the trip with a detour to the in-store Starbucks. Iced tea in hand, we headed our separate ways to divide and conquer. I found myself in the pop-up “Dorm/Apartment Kitchen Essentials Department” where I encountered three young men debating the attributes of two different silverware trays. I stopped to eavesdrop…just because I find the young amusing. In the end, they decided they didn’t really need a sorter.

“Let’s just let it rattle around in the drawer,” the tall one said to the other two. They nodded and were off… presumably to buy a frozen pizza or something really “essential”.

I wondered silently: would I want my daughter to end up with a guy who felt he needed a flatware organizer or a guy who knew he could live without one?

I fell into bed exhausted that night and woke at 1:30 and again at 4 a.m. Ah, the puppy has ME trained! The “girls” all left for work early that morning after letting me into the apartment for some solo unpacking and organizing. I sat on the small couch drinking cold coffee that I had thrown into the cart on trip #1. The day ended on a sweet note, as well, when I placed the pillow I’d secretly purchased on the faux fur chair in the corner of my daughter’s room.

 

 

Day 3 began with a fourth trip to Target. Why hadn’t I bought an under-bed storage bin yet?! There were exactly two left in the store when I reached up to pull one from the shelf at the same moment as another woman. I looked at her with a slightly desperate expression that she seemed to understand.

“Oh, I only want one of them,” she said. “First year or second,” she asked.

“Third,” I replied proud of my daughter’s seniority. I pointed to the next aisle where the last two shoe organizers resided.

“Get one while you can, ” I suggested. (Well, I had seniority, too!)

It was the final day of my visit and we made a fifth trip to Target. This trip required a visit to the Customer Service Counter where we had to return the curtains that didn’t fit and the chair that clashed with the sofa. All went smoothly.

But, there was something bothering me. I’d been very smart and ordered a few key pieces ahead of time and yet they still hadn’t been delivered. Just as I sat down, with another glass of cold brew, I had the text from my husband:  Lots of boxes delivered today  They’re for here?! 

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OOPS!

In the end, it took six trips to move my “child” into her first apartment and I’m glad I was there for all of them! Parenting is a long journey and it’s a privilege to feel welcome in my daughter’s world as she approaches the big 21.

Good night,

Michele

P.S. Hoping the puppy feels as tired as I do this evening!

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

A Competition of Elegance

Dear Reader:

The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (French, literally a competition of elegance) is ten years older than me and considered to be the most prestigious event of its kind. It is a charitable automotive show open to both prewar and postwar collector cars in which they are judged for authenticity, function, history and style.  Only the 200 best collector cars in the world roll onto the celebrated 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links where one will be awarded Best in Show.

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2017 Winner: 1929 Mercedes-Benz S Barker Tourer

 

But the Concours is only the finale of Monterey Car Week held annually in my home town every August. The entire week is packed with events celebrating the classic automobile. Most of those events come with a high ticket price, but if you have the resources you won’t be disappointed and you’ll be contributing to a good cause. Last year, over 2 million dollars was raised for various children’ charities.

I remember the first August we spent on the peninsula; I vowed to never do it again.

“Let’s just leave!” I told my husband.

I’d had a bad day. It took me 45 minutes to get to the grocery store. The parking lot in front of my favorite restaurant had been reserved for show cars and I missed my lunch date. The town was packed and I was crabby. Then… I saw a lipstick red Ferrari that took my breath away! I truly admire beautiful things of any kind… including cars. My father had been a vintage car collector and I’d spent hours watching him toil in the garage of my childhood home restoring several Model T’s and a gorgeous 1929 maroon Ford Phaeton. Cars are in my blood.

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Look what I found on the streets of Carmel: a Triumph TR6

I’ve learned to appreciate and look forward to car week. I’ve only attended one official event, but I enjoy the spectacle each year. There are so many opportunities to view cars all over Monterey County…  no ticket necessary. I enjoy getting dressed up throughout the week and strolling the tiny streets of Carmel hand in hand with my husband. We point and ogle and marvel at what we see drive by and occasionally we stop to sneak a photo! It’s fun, despite the disruption to our quiet lives!

Michele

 

 

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

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Dear Reader:

Baseball is seductive. I have not always been a fan, but it didn’t take long for me to surrender to its charms. My husband introduced me to the game about ten years ago and I’ve loved it ever since. I’m in the enviable position of being a San Francisco Giants fan. We grabbed the title in 2010, 2012 and 2014. We play in AT&T Park. With its expansive arcade bordering the San Francisco Bay, it’s one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country. There’s no better place to be when we’re winning.

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But, alas, baseball is like life:  you win some; you lose some.  There hasn’t been a lot of winning this year. So, my expectations were low when we showed up last week to watch our boys battle the Chicago Cubs. I figured we’d lose badly, but enjoy ourselves nonetheless. After all, being at AT&T allows one the opportunity to enjoy the sites and flavors of being in the city by the Bay. And, my husband and I were being joined by my daughter and her friend, so it was sure to be a good time.

First stop for me at the park is always the Farmer’s Market Stand where I order a Crazy Crab Sandwich and glass of Cabernet (organic, of course)! My younger companions had other priorities, and who can argue that the Ghiradelli hot fudge sundae is not worth the calories?!

 

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Suzie Katz and my girl…one sundae, two spoons!

 

I prefer a bit more “grown-up” dessert myself. I wait until the sun has set and the air is cool to enjoy another San Francisco treat:  the Irish coffee. Tourists have flocked to San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe ever since 1952 when Americans were introduced to the Irish coffee. Bartenders, wearing white jackets and black ties, make nearly 2000 warm, sweet frothy drinks a day. The parks version compares well, despite the fact that the bartenders are a bit under-dressed by comparison!

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Mmmmm…Irish coffee!

 

So, as you can see, we enjoyed the flavors of the park. But, as in baseball and life, one can be surprised. And, we were. We saw two well-played games…we won two well-played games! We felt the old familiar glory…for a couple of days.

I don’t care if I ever get back,

Michele

 

P.S. If the Giants win, the crowd is treated to the sounds of Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” That never gets old.

Family, Friends and Neighbors, Flowers, Grief and Loss, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

What a Beautiful World!

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With a closer look, this flower came to life!

Dear Reader:

I’ve been thinking a lot about time and place lately. It seems to me that place matters little if the time is not right. It was a philosophical cabana boy who got me thinking about this. I had left the Carmel fog for the sunshine of Carmel Valley to enjoy a glass of bubbly poolside. I was admiring the stunning view of blue skies, old oaks and green hills when he handed me my chilled glass.

“This really is paradise up here, isn’t it,” I commented. I hadn’t phrased it as a question and yet he took it that way. “Well,” he said flatly, “I guess paradise is where you find it.” Clearly, he had not found it where I had.

It could be argued that he was working and I was lounging and as such we had different viewpoints, but I think it’s more than that.  In my younger days, I often failed to appreciate the beauty around me…the beauty that offers solace, inspiration and perspective. Understandably, I was rushing, worrying, working and tending; now there is less of all of that and more time to notice what’s around me.

I do remember the orange leaves in the fall of 2000, though. It was my brother’s last fall and he knew it. We’d met to have coffee and pastry.  We sat outside at a small bistro table admiring the view. “Of course, I never appreciated it quite so much,” he said. Fall had always been my favorite time of year, too.  I loved the tree colors and the crisp air and, in my younger days, the joy of beginning a new year in school. Yet, that day was different; we sat and breathed it in. We were happy.

As I grow older, I do stop more often to appreciate trees, stars, flowers and vistas and I am always struck by how marvelous it all is. I feel content to sit by the windows in the morning and watch the breeze in the grasses and the squirrels in frolic. In the afternoon, I marvel at the fog as it drifts in slowly to ultimately form a thick wall. I walk outside at night sometimes just to look up at the sky.

I enjoyed a visit with my neighbor this morning and as we cleaned up the coffee cups she pointed out the kitchen window to her garden. “People talk about yoga,” she said. “This is my yoga.”

And, I understood what she meant. If you take the time to notice it, the world is a beautiful place.

Have a lovely day,

Michele

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

She’s Flying…Off to College!

 Dear Reader:

I nearly collided with a jubilant young girl yesterday upon my arrival in the lobby of a large hotel.  She was happily spinning about with her arms outstretched. “I’m flying Mom! I’m flying!” she exclaimed.

“Fabulous,” came her mother’s enthusiastic reply. “But, don’t fly too close to the stairs!”

I remembered my daughter at the same age.  She was energetic, determined and curious. I could imagine her dancing beside me. She is now in Southern California, a 20-year-old college sophomore, earning excellent grades while working part-time. Today she made a deposit on her first off-campus apartment for next year. She is flying!

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Shopping at T.J. Maxx for my daughter’s first apartment. Hmmm…maybe a knight for protection?!

She is also studying abroad this summer. She received the good news that she had been accepted into the international program on March 22, the day the terrorist attack took place in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster in London. I was shopping for fun stuff for the girl’s apartment when I received a message from my husband about the Manchester attack two days ago.

Terrorist attacks are by nature appalling, but those that target children and young adults are the most heartbreaking. It’s hard to hold back tears when listening to a parent describe how they feel about their child’s death. This is not the way life should be. Parents should not have to face the death of their children. I wish there was something I could do to assuage the pain of those who have lost children and yet I imagine that there is nothing anyone can do. The pain will never leave.

Within hours of the attack at the concert, the Facebook page for college parents was filled with one simple question:  Is your daughter/son still planning on traveling to Europe this summer? Though our “children” are young adults, study abroad is made possible by parents. So the decision to go or not to go becomes a conversation that begins with:  “Do you still want to go?”

My daughter was upset by the news but does not want to “waste the opportunity.” My husband and I agree. As a young child we taught her to look both ways and to dial 911, and, most importantly, we tried to model responsible behavior. Thankfully, she was an inherently careful, thoughtful, observant girl and she did not cause us undue worry. Now that she is also an adult, we can discuss the fact that life is unpredictable which makes it that much more precious. One must fly despite the fact that the stairs can not always be seen.

Unless circumstances drastically change, my daughter will soon be on a plane heading toward a wonderful 7- week- long adventure…and my heart will be there, too!

Michele

Family, Friends and Neighbors, Grief and Loss

Mean Mothers

Dear Reader:

As we drove home from Southern California yesterday, my husband asked me, “Does Mother’s Day upset you or make you sad in a way?”

I knew exactly what he meant, but the question still took me by surprise as I was quite happily surveying grape orchards and remembering the events of the weekend. If you know me from my blog, you know how proud I am of my daughter and the close relationship we share. If you are one of my dear friends, you begin every visit with the question, “How’s your daughter?” I love talking about my daughter. I simply adore her. She is my single greatest source of pride.

So, why should Mother’s Day in any way upset me? Well, the answer has to do with my mother. She died three years ago on the morning after my daughter had major surgery at Stanford Hospital. In life, my mom had loved being the center of attention and so the timing of her death seemed appropriate.

One of the nurses heard me take the emergency call from my sister and she became immediately quite concerned about my state of mind. My daughter was scheduled to spend four days in the hospital, but she would need continuous home care for several weeks. The doctors and nurses, my husband and I soon realized, were training us to take care of her at home. Her release would be determined not only by her condition, but also by our ability to care for her. The hospital chaplain was alerted to our situation and within the hour began appearing at our door. My husband shooed her away several times while I snoozed, but she was determined to talk to me.

“Ah, good, you’re eating!” she exclaimed as she approached me late that night in the cafeteria. “I’m Dusty, the hospital’s multi-faith chaplain and I’m here to see if you’d like to talk.”

Really I just wanted to eat, but I was polite. I thanked her for her concern and let her know that I was tired, but fine, and that I knew exactly what I needed to do:  take care of my daughter.

“But,” she continued, “it’s hard to take care of someone else when you are suffering yourself.”

How could she know that was exactly what I’d told myself for years when I thought about my mother? She was simply unable to be kind or nurturing as she was in pain. The explanation served to protect me from completely absorbing the constant emotional assault she inflicted on everyone close to her. My mother died without having a relationship with me or knowing her only grandchild. “She’s no longer in pain,” I told Dusty and I left her to interpret the comment in any way she chose. I returned to my coffee and eggs as she left finally satisfied that she had done her job.

A week later I found myself speeding down the freeway to attend my mother’s funeral. I paid my last respects to the woman who had created me and who had, I think, helped determine the happy course of my life.

“You know we may not have Natalie if it weren’t for my mother,” I answered my husband.

I missed out on having a strong bond with my own mother; maybe that’s why I finally decided at 35 to throw away my birth control pills!   We all make choices and those choices are often based on needs we may not even consciously be aware of. Maybe I needed a strong mother/daughter bond. I did not have that with my own mom, so I set about to create it with my daughter.

It has been many many years since I felt anything for my mother, but it took time and counseling to resolve issues from my childhood. It seems to me that it is still taboo to speak about one’s mother in anything but appreciative terms, but for those readers who can relate to my story, I’m sorry… and I’d like to offer the following book recommendations: Mean Mothers by Peg Streep and Mothering Without a Map by Kathryn Black.

I’ll borrow Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words to perfectly describe my feelings about my life: “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else…”

I am so fortunate to be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with my daughter. Happy ending!

Sincerely,

Michele