Tag: family

Family, Friends and Neighbors

Wonderful Dads Make For Wonderful Daughters

 

Dad and daughter on the beach

Dear Reader:

Twenty fours years ago I called my husband to ask him to pick up ice-cream on his way home from work. It wasn’t something I’d done before, but still he didn’t have a clue that I had a bigger treat for him when he arrived home. That’s the night he got the news:

You’re going to be a dad!

Our daughter is a wonder and that is mostly a tribute to her own hard work and good heart. But, she’s a lot like her Dad. He’s an intellectually curious person with varied interests and those traits became evident in Natalie very early in her life.

I need only to tell you about my daughter’s favorite outfit at the age of four. She wore, nearly everyday, a green t-shirt with a picture of her favorite dinosaur, the Brachiosaurus, purchased by her Dad at the Field Museum gift store on a business trip to Chicago. She paired it with a pale pink (from the pink shed pink) sparkling tutu and tennis shoes that lit up when she jumped.

My husband used to say: “I want her to be well-rounded.” And, he made sure that she was. He read to her often…books about nature, space, travel, heroines and adventures.

It would be years later that the two of them took a National Geographic sponsored trip together to dig for dinosaur bones in the mountains of Colorado. Natalie returned having decided that perhaps paleontology was not the best career choice for her. They came home with sunburns, but also found treasures and vivid stories of the desolate terrain,  intense heat and thick chocolate milkshakes in the hotel room at the end of each day.

During the school years, my husband provided well so that I could choose to become a stay-at-home mom. Work was hectic but family was unquestionably his priority. We especially treasured time spent on the beach in California or Maui. He and Natalie were expert sand castle builders.

One of my favorite family stories took place on Natalie’s first trip to Hawaii. She and her Dad were completing a fabulous sand structure, when suddenly Natalie jumped up screaming. I could see her from the water running along the beach with a crab dangling from her finger. She had evidently upset one of the beach residents with her digging and he’d bit her in protest. My husband came to her rescue as I made my way to the shore. The next day he encouraged her to return to her work on the beach…with her finger properly bandaged.

He also nurtured an appreciation for art in our daughter. Although, she hated it at the time, her father commissioned a portrait artist and she had to sit for him for several hours so that he could capture her image on a huge canvas that hangs in our living room. She enjoyed much more the many trips to the theater in San Francisco and the museums in London.

When it came time for Natalie to pick a college, it was her Dad who accompanied her on the tours. It seemed only fitting to give him that pleasure as I had been the one to shuttle Natalie between home and school and the dentist and volleyball practice in the early years. Their father/daughter road trips to universities were a final bonding experience before Natalie became a self-sufficient adult.

Now that self-sufficient adult is riding out the pandemic at home with Mom and Dad. I feel so blessed to be able to skip the news articles about troublesome family dynamics in pandemic times. Natalie and her Dad are happy together watching a nature documentary or driving in the convertible or just shooting the breeze on a hot lazy day.

I am so grateful to the man at the center of my happy little family. He’s a remarkable husband and father.

Michele

Family, Friends and Neighbors

Happy Mother’s Day!

610826420.448023

Dear Reader:

I’ve collected quotations since I was a teenager…the wise words of others who seem to know exactly how I feel. There are bits of paper, handmade notebooks and beautifully printed books scattered among the shelves and drawers in my pink room. And, there’s an entire category of my blog devoted to the brilliantly pithy thoughts of others.

There are a few quotations that are so special that I can recite them verbatim. There’s one that I can still recall reading for the first time. It’s also the first words to appear when one googles “quotes about motherhood,” so it must resonate with many other parents.

“Making the decision to have a child — it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

Elizabeth Stone

I encountered that quotation for the first time a few days after my only child, my lovely daughter, was born. A friend had given me a journal for mothers that included space for my own entries along with the wise words of other parents. I’ve still got that gift, 23 years later! I never wrote a word of my own in the book, but I read all the entries.

Certainly, I didn’t have a lot of time for writing in those early days, but I think the pages were left blank for another reason, too. My feelings about my baby were too deep to convey. Initially, I fell in love with her tiny toes and chubby thighs. I cherished the moments the two of us shared in the dark of the night in the rocking chair in the corner of her nursery. I marveled that my husband and I could create such a beautiful little thing.

And, then my baby grew. It was still hard to put into words the depth of my joy and awe. She kept me busy. She was quick and curious and into everything. One night after she’d gone to bed, my husband and I child-proofed all the cabinets. The next morning she screamed in protest when she found she couldn’t open them.

It was about that time that I went back to work leaving her at a day care center run from a small family home in my neighborhood. The mother/daughter team who looked after her had been in business for more than 20 years. I could see the surprise in their faces the day they told me that they had to take extra measures to keep my daughter from getting out of the playroom. Apparently, no other child had challenged their security system in the same way.

Shortly after that, I came to the realization that I didn’t want to miss a single one of her escapades! I quit my job and never looked back. I was a feminist and a stay-at-home mom and I knew that I was blessed.

It’s still hard to put into words how I feel about my daughter. I feel inadequate to the task. But, I’ll try. My daughter is a capable, accomplished adult with a college degree and a job. But, it is her personal attributes that are most impressive. The curiosity she displayed as a baby and toddler are still evident, but she is a composed, quiet and thoughtful woman. She is, most of all, the kindest person I know and for that I could not be more grateful.

In years past, I visited my daughter in San Luis Obispo to celebrate Mother’s Day. She was attending Cal Poly University and those trips were such fun. We celebrated with donuts at SLODOCO, walks around downtown and conversations about her future as she approached the end of her college education. We never could have imagined what this year would bring. I’m so happy my heart is under my roof this Mother’s Day.

Hugs,

Michele

Pandemic Prose, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

Banana Bread in the Time of Pandemic

 

warm banana bread

 

Dear Reader:

Indeed, it is quite difficult to be anxious or sad or anything but satisfied while enjoying a piece of banana bread, dotted with melting chocolate chips, warm from the oven and prepared by one’s lovely daughter. Mmmmmmm….sweet… for the moment.

The truth is: I am blessed. My pantry is full. I’m locked down with my husband and only “child.” I’ve got three long haired miniature dachshunds, wonderfully caring and supportive neighbors and a beautiful garden, courtesy my husband. I have every reason to be grateful. And, I am.

And, yet one can juggle many emotions. Blessed, yet stressed.

We have now lost 64,000 people in less than two months. Nearly 2,500 people die every day. The last time I remember viewing death tolls on a daily basis, I was a young teenager and we were involved in a needless conflict in Vietnam. I recall one of my heroes, Walter Cronkite, coming into my family room five nights a week with the grim numbers, pictures and stories.

Now, I can not help but express shock every time I look at the ever increasing numbers. We’ve lost more people in six weeks than the Vietnam War took in 19 years. Those numbers sometimes make sleep difficult. One night I dreamt that Gavin Newsom was not the Governor of California, but instead the President of the United States. Dreams dashed, at 2:30 in the morning, I found myself ordering toilet paper, bleach and a bit of chocolate from Walmart. I try to avoid the temptation to view the latest news on CNN or the New York Times in the dark of night, but most times I can not stay away. There is no good news, it seems.

I am one of the lucky ones.

And, yet, I worry. My 90 year old mother in law called yesterday to say she felt unwell. She was experiencing some of the symptoms of Covid 19. She is residing at a retirement community two and a half hours from my home. (Why mention that? Doesn’t matter. We can’t be there.) The on-site nurse visited her in her apartment and told her that they could not transport her to get a test. She’d have to drive herself or travel by ambulance. The trip was only a mile down the road and so she drove and took a test and was told she’d get the results in a week. The reality is that there is no medical intervention with this disease until you can’t breathe.

From my front porch where I go for a change of scenery, I watch neighbors and passers by. During the early days of the stay at home order, we were all so diligent. But the introverts are now having trouble consistently maintaining six feet in distance. These are the people who are the most fun at parties. We all know them. Some are young and seemingly healthy, others are in high risk groups. I look away.

It is one thing for me to worry, but a far worse thing for me to know that my daughter is worrying. And, of course, she is. I love to chant at her, “you’re trapped with us,” in my sing-songy way. She was two weeks into her first post-college job and just beginning to search for an apartment when the pandemic hit.

She’s been working on a group project with a co-worker in a similar situation. He’s living in his family home after transferring from another city. He’s trapped, too, but his parents are “even more elderly” I’m told. When they aren’t talking work, they’ve shared concerns about the day they’ll return to the office. They are both worried they’ll expose those they love to the virus.

There are so many who are suffering so much now. And, this weighs heavily on me. I’m a doer and so I search for ways to help. And, of course, there are always small things one can do even from one’s home. These are the acts that help me to cope.

And the good moments. There are still so many to enjoy. As I said, I’m one of the lucky ones.

I’ve  actively managed my mental health and well-being in the 20 years since I slipped into depression as a result of my brother’s cancer diagnosis. I am currently drug-free. But as my doctor says, “you’re ahead of the game…you’ve got a drug that you know works for you.” My friend, Prozac. I know it’s there. And, I’m confident I’ll know if I need to turn to it again. I’ll do that without hesitation. Just one more thing to thank the brilliant scientific minds for.

But, in the meantime, I’m reminding myself of the wisdom gained from a special counselor who over several years of weekly visits gave me wise advice to turn to in so many situations.

I can imagine her sitting across the room from me now.

“I really have no reason to feel sad when I am in such a good place compared with so many others,” I’d begin.

“It’s a pandemic, the first in our lifetimes. I’d say your feelings …anxiety, worry, concern, sadness…sound reasonable. And, so you must…”

Make friends with the feelings,” we’d say together.

“And give yourself permission to let in the joy, wonder and beauty that life offers…still.”

She was such a wise woman. Gone but still helping me live my best life. I refer to her as one of my “angels,” the people who have lived in my world for a time and made it better forever.

And so, I’ll begin another day at home appreciating my life and allowing my feelings to  come and go. I’ll get by in the same way I always do…with the love of family and a little help from my friends, sweetened by my daughter’s presence, and of course, her banana bread.

Hugs,

Michele

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

Merry Memories from My First Christmas in Sacramento, California

 

My Kitchen Chalkboard
My Kitchen Chalkboard

Dear Reader:

I have a serious Christmas problem! I shouldn’t tell you but there are 20 boxes labelled “Christmas Decor” in my basement. My husband counted them as they were being moved into our new home and now taunts me with the number.

“Twenty boxes!”

But, why not? Christmas brings out the joyful child in me. I adore shopping, wrapping, decorating and entertaining. My daughter’s birthday falls on the 20th, so it’s a big month in our home!

Hope you’re making merry memories this year.

Hugs,

Michele

Christmas Lights
Our new neighborhood is decked out!

IMG_6790 2
Our home is decked out!

IMG_0008
The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is 130 years old and beautiful.

IMG_6802
I love It’s a Small World in Disneyland; my daughter made sure I’m ready for my next visit!

IMG_6808
Chanel No. 5’s red edition was a thoughtful gift from my husband.

 

 

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

The $1,400 Gingerbread House

“Oh, life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.”

From the 1983 classic A Christmas Story

Dear Reader:

I absolutely LOVE Christmas. I love it all…the carols, the movies, the trees, the egg nog, the presents and most especially the fun of assembling and decorating a gingerbread house with my daughter. We’ve been creating in candy and frosting since Natalie was four years old.

This year within days of her return from college, we set up our decorating station at the kitchen table in our new home. It was such fun. Truth be told, I’ve been having a hard time adjusting to the move. But, as soon as my girl arrived, my mood improved. We simply need to make memories in our new home…I thought. And, a gingerbread house was the perfect start.

Two days later, it was time to celebrate Natalie’s 22nd birthday. We’d do whatever she wanted. Turns out it was a simple request. Pizza on the couch while watching one of our favorite seasonal movies: A Christmas Story.

We’ve got a bigger house this year so I placed Nat’s birthday gifts in our living room under the tree. As we left the family room, I checked to make sure all the plates and pizza scraps were removed from the coffee table and shut the adjoining door as our three doxies are not welcome in our formal living room.

It’s funny how you develop a sixth sense about these things when you own dachshunds, but I knew something was wrong the second we returned to the family room.

Where’s Winnie?! I quickly answered my own question when I discovered her on top of the kitchen table gorging on our gingerbread house. The next thing I knew I was slipping on my boots and throwing a coat over my p.j.’s while my husband googled emergency veterinary services. Luckily I thought to toss the half empty bag of Navitas cocoa nibs into my purse.

The veterinarian was not particularly concerned that Winnie had consumed about 10-15 milk chocolate chips (see the empty bowl up top) or large quantities of coconut and frosting. But the cocoa nibs that we surrounded our house with, because they so resembled dirt or gravel, necessitated a call to the Animal Poison Control Center .

About an hour and a half after we checked in, we were called into a room to consult with a vet who looked too concerned for me to be comfortable.

“We’ll need to keep her tonight,” she began. “She’ll be put on an i.v. and her heart rate and vitals will be monitored.”

There was more rather serious conversation until I finally asked if her life was in danger.

“Well, the experts at the ASPCA are very concerned about the cocoa nibs. That’s straight chocolate and she had a large dose for an 11 pound dog.”

“She can’t die,” I said. “Today’s my daughter’s birthday.”

“She probably thinks Nats is eight,” my husband whispered as we left.

“All she had to do is look at me to know our daughter is not eight,” I replied. “But, no one wants their dog to die on their birthday no matter how old they are!”

As you can see, Winnie lives! She spent two days in the ICU at a cost of $1,400. She’s asleep in my lap now. There aren’t too many things nicer than having your daughter home for the holidays and a sweet, small, warm creature to warm your heart and home. And I’d say that we made a memory!

I’d like to challenge anyone to show me a more expensive gingerbread house.

Hugs,

Michele

P.S. The cocoa nibs are excellent in yogurt, but I’ll never buy them again!

Dogs, Family, Friends and Neighbors

So Many Options!

Which rug will it be?
Two out of three dachshunds agree on the first rug option…the third could care less as the sun is shining outside!

Dear Reader:

I’ve been in my new home now for exactly 25 days. I always think that I should count the boxes when I move, but I never do. Part of me thinks it would give me a sense of accomplishment to know how many boxes had been packed and unpacked, but the smarter side of me knows that I’d be better off not knowing.

There are a lot of boxes. My husband and I love to collect…art, china, books and all things Christmas! I’ve managed to get through about 3/4 of them.

I’ve only had a washer/dryer for four days now and we are still waiting for California Closets to come and install new master bedroom closets in the empty spaces cleared by our contractor. But, we are almost fully functional here! As you can see, we have the bandwidth to consider rug options for our kitchen nook, so that’s an improvement over the first ten or so days when we were drowning in wrapping paper and trying to find the dust buster.

I am making friends with my new town and feeling confident that life here is going to offer so many opportunities to learn and grow. I’m truly excited to get beyond the “home set-up phase” and onto the “live my best life phase.”

I’ll be doing a reveal of my new pink shed soon. Watch for it!

Hugs,

Michele

Creativity, Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Aunt Bessie’s Tablecloth!

Aunt Bessie's Tablecloth!

Dear Reader:

Let me introduce you to Amy. She’s wearing her Aunt Bessie’s tablecloth, and she’s so happy that I noticed just how magnificent it is!

I had an amazing sandwich at a tiny little neighborhood restaurant in Sacramento last week. Despite how very hungry I was when I walked through the door, the first thing I noticed was that dress and the woman who wore it so joyfully.

I never hesitate to compliment people…why should I…that’s my thinking. I see it…I like it…I say it! And, sometimes I am rewarded with a great story, as I was on this day.

“Excuse me,” I said as she hurriedly passed me. “But, I must tell you that I adore your dress.”

“Oh, it was once my aunt’s Christmas tablecloth and I inherited it!”

Well, that’s not something you hear everyday, I thought. But it helped explain the great happiness that I felt emanating from this woman. Her aunt saved the bright red, hand-embroidered cloth for just a single day each year. Her niece remembers it fondly.

“I wasn’t sure what to do with it,” she continued. “Then one day my friend offered to turn it into a dress so that I could enjoy it all year long.”

Now that’s a story to love! I’m still smiling!

Michele

Family, Friends and Neighbors, Grief and Loss

Forever Young

552267596.777681
Matt Lehman, February 1964 – July 2001

Dear Reader:

I’m a writer; I love language.  But sometimes a picture says it all. Just a glance and you can surely see the joy and the pain I feel when I think of my brother. He was handsome, charismatic, kind and very easy to be with. It seems impossible that he’s been gone for 17 years. He will remain forever young as he is in this picture joking about his girlfriend’s early morning romp through the water.

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

Dogs, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

My Memorial Day Cardio Workout

Winnie the innocent
What Mom?!

Dear Reader:

On any other Monday morning, I’d be killing it on the Cybex arc burning in excess of 600 calories in 50 minutes. But, Zone Fitness was closed for Memorial Day, so I took to the streets in my slippers and p.j.’s, blanket wrapped round my shoulders for modesty’s sake.

To be sure, this was an unplanned session of cardio. It lasted only 30 minutes, but it was more brutal and intense than anything I’ve ever done in the gym. It began just after I’d poured my second cup of coffee.

“Where’s Winnie?” was the rallying cry! When you live with three dachshunds always under foot, you develop a sixth sense that warns you when one of them is in trouble (of their own making)! We called for her and searched the yard, but it quickly became clear that she was gone!

My husband and I ran to the driveway to begin our rescue mission while our daughter, home from school for the weekend, changed from p.j.’s to street clothing.  Tom headed left. I went right and flagged down a car just as he rounded our corner. I didn’t know him, but he knew enough about me that I didn’t have to tell him the breed of my dogs!

“Oh, I’ve seen your doxies,” or did he say “heard your doxies”? It’s all a blur. “I have a dog; I understand,” he continued.

He offered to drive, slowly, around the loop that is our street and search for my girl. My belief in the kindness of strangers is so often validated.

I continued down the street, alternately yelling “Winnie” and explaining to any passers-by that my dog was loose, and very tiny. About 20 frantic minutes after the realization that she was gone, I felt the first tear slip down my cheek. I began knocking on doors. People can be very sweet when presented with a strangely dressed, very sad neighbor at their door. No one had seen her, but everyone would watch out for her. A few even joined me in the street.

It would be about another 10 minutes before my husband found our pup and sent our daughter out in the car to look for me. I learned he gave her simple instructions.

“Don’t come back without your mother!”

Back in our family room where our day had quietly begun, my husband described what he’d learned about Winnie’s great escape and brief adventure. I must describe the geography of our home for you to fully appreciate her great feat.

Our house is below street level, so our garden is terraced. Stone walls divide each level. Our little one had jumped four 18 inch walls (we knew she could do that) and a 2 foot metal fence (we didn’t know she could do that) and then tunneled under the bottom of the fence to arrive in our neighbor’s back yard. She didn’t stop there, though. She tunneled further to pop up in the next neighbors yard and had just left and crossed the street when the man who offered to help me spotted her from his car and called out to my husband.

My husband called out to Winnie, who obviously knew she’d been a bad girl. She turned and ran away from him, but thankfully back the way she’d come. She arrived in our yard to my husband’s great pleasure (or displeasure)?!

Dachshunds were bred to burrow and they are known to be trouble-makers. Our Winnie is an overachiever in both areas! Thankfully, this is a story with a happy ending, but I also think it’s a cautionary tale to anyone thinking about acquiring a dog:

There are dogs and then there are dachshunds…beware!

Michele

P.S. On a positive note, I did get in some cardio…and my husband will be getting his workout after he returns from Home Depot with cement and lumber to build a bigger, better fence!