Happy Birthday to My Beautiful Mom

There are many adjectives that come to my mind when I think about my mom; they include generous, intelligent, courageous, kind, thoughtful, positive and beautiful. She’s one of the people I admire most in the world and it would be impossible to describe the impact she’s had in my life and in the lives of countless others. But here’s an attempt to express it.

Lovely both inside and out. Her beauty is so much more than skin deep, it comes from within. Everything from knowing just how to add a special touch to a meal or how to create a stunning floral presentation with flowers from the grocery store to the way she touches the lives of people in her family and community. She works tirelessly to promote the arts and volunteers her time to help those who need a helping hand.

Intelligent and creative. My mom is the go to person for advice on how to solve a problem or to get feedback on the best way to approach a situation. She gives thoughtful consideration to every detail and has a unique ability to see under the surface of a situation. Her creativity is boundless and ranges from how to draft just the right message in an email to just ‘knowing’ what flavors will complement each other, and how to turn a home into a masterpiece.

Nurturing and caring. We have a diverse family to say the least. It’s actually very cool and my mom is one of the primary reasons we are all so open and comfortable with who we are. I honestly don’t know where I would be without having had her support throughout my life.She always seems to know just when I need a new outfit to perk up my spirits and she’s always been there to support me, fix my broken wings and celebrate my successes with me.

Determined and dedicated. I’ve never seen my mom give up or throw in the towel while facing challenges that would make most people run the other direction. When she sets her sights on something, there’s little question that there will be a positive outcome. She’s dedicated to her family and is the backbone of support during the difficult times and the good times.

Amazing and adventurous. I don’t know many people my age that can say they went zip-lining with their mom. My mom has a knack for discovering hidden gems while traveling and in how she lives her life every day. She has accomplished so many amazing things and humbly continues to devote herself to her family and community.

I am endlessly thankful for my mom and everything she does. I wouldn’t be the woman I am without her. I love you so much mom!

Happy Birthday!

Easter 2016

the whole family in paul bunyans lap

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Aloha and Mahalo, My Trip to Hawaii

Aloha,

Several months ago my parents called and asked me if I’d like to accompany them on a trip to Hawaii in February of 2016. As you can imagine, it took me less than a nanosecond to say, “Yes!”

I’m a toes in the sand kind, warm weather, sun and water loving kind of girl, so a trip to Hawaii was like a dream come true – especially during the month of February when there’s not a lot of sunshine and it’s cold in the state of Pennsylvania. As happens when you’re anticipating a big event, from the time we made the reservations through the end of the year it seemed like February would never get here, then all of the sudden I was boarding the first of three flights – final stop the Kona airport.

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After picking up the rental car, the first order of business was to find the local Walmart and stock up on breakfast, lunch and snack food; we didn’t want to hassle with going out for breakfast in the mornings and it also seemed smart to reserve our eating out dollars for dinner. The second order of business was to check into a beautiful two-bedroom condo at the Wyndham Resort in Kona while my dad looked into the possibility of booking an excursion to the peak of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano and the highest point in Hawaii.

The expeida.com girl remained cheerful, but carefully calibrated our expectations by explaining that this particular expedition is usually filled within weeks if not months of the available dates. She called to make the inquiry and her smile broadened as she said, “there was a cancellation for three people on Monday?!”

My dad didn’t waste any time, “That’s amazing, let’s book it.”

It was the first of many serendipitous moments throughout the upcoming week.

My parents are not exactly what you would call planners when it comes to traveling; they like to take more of a “figure it out along the way” kind of approach so on Sunday we gathered information about the various excursions and booked a Volcano Tour and a luau in addition to stargazing on Mauna Kea. The remaining days were left open for exploring the island on our own.

In order to keep the roadside views uncluttered and natural, there are very strict signage rules on the island, so it’s not uncommon to receive an answer like this when asking for directions:

“Oh, you want to visit the coffee and nut man? Ok, here’s how you get there – go out of the driveway to the right and at the first stop sign, go right to the top of the hill, Lunapule Rd. Then go to the top of the hill and turn right at the stop sign, that’s Walua Rd. 

At the intersection, go to the yield sign and turn right on Kuakini Hwy; this will merfe into Hwy 11 Southbound. Keep going until you reach the 5th stop light, Halekiki St, and turn right – there’s a gas station on the right side. Now go down the hill to the second fire hydrant on the right.

You’ll see a driveway and a sign that says “Captain Cook Trading Place”, pull into the driveway. The coffee and nut guy is next to the granite and tile warehouse on your left – you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see boxes piled up to the ceiling.”

Thank goodness the directions were also written down!

Between counting stop signs and fire hydrants, trying to find the coffee and nut guy was a lot like being on a scavenger hunt. I have to confess that we ended up using a bit of modern technology to find him, but only after we tried and missed the destination more than once.

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The coffee man was nowhere in site (apparently he works his own and very elusive hours) so we opted to have lunch at the local eatery next door to the Captain Cook Trading Company.

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When the first bite of my crab-cake melted in my mouth, I would have sworn that I was dining at 5 star restaurant rather than sitting on a folding chair and sharing the equivalent of a card table with strangers.

As luck would have it, another serendipitous moment occurred and the coffee man arrived and opened for business just as we finished our lunch.

Surrounded by boxes of coffee beans and macadamia nuts, Emmerich (aka the coffee and nut man), shared his wealth of knowledge about the island and the process of roasting coffee beans to perfection. I didn’t get a chance to sample the coffee, but if it’s half as tasty as the macadamia nuts, it’s wonderful.

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Each one of our excursions deserves it’s own narrative, so for now I’ll just share a few of the highlights.

Monday we headed to Buns in the Sun, a local bakery and the meet up place for the trip to the peak of Mauna Kea. I’, not sure which was more amazing to be “walking in the clouds” at 9,000 feet above sea level or seeing the galaxy just beyond the Milky Way first hand.

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On Tuesday we set off with no particular destination in mind other than to visit a small artist’s community on the northeast coast of the island. Our adventure led us to the edge of the island and one of the most spectacular views of waves from the Pacific Ocean rolling onto a sheltered black sand beach.

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The entire trip was amazing, but I think if I had to pick, I’d say Wednesday was my favorite day. The last thing I expected that morning was for my dad to announce that he wanted to go zip-lining. His exact words (or close to) were, “I’m going to be 80 this year, who knows when I’ll have another opportunity to go zip-lining, so let’s do it.”

The drive there was almost as exciting as the actual zip-lining experience, but that’s a story for another day. The tour guides were awesome – two young guys who had just the right combination of personalities to be encouraging without being condescending and enthusiastic without being annoying.  I never imagined I’d see a waterfall in Hawaii, let alone while I was zipping across a valley going 50 miles per hour.

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Thursday, where to begin? There’s no way I can capture the day in only a few words. To sum it up, we had a private tour of parts of the island and the National Volcano Park. Yep, as it turned out, the other six people who had made reservations for the same day as us cancelled at the last minute and we ended up with a personalized adventure.

We saw sea turtles sunning on a black sand beach, walked through a lava tube had lunch on coffee plantation and learned about the rich history of Hawaii from our guide and companion for the day, Jim Carey (not the actor in case you’re wondering). Thanks to him, it was an incredible and unforgettable day.IMG_2706

Last, but certainly not least, on Friday we had a free day; I hung out by the pool and my parents spent more time gallivanting around the island, in the evening we attended a Luau – apparently it’s “state law.” 🙂

The dancers were mesmerizing, the food was delicious and the setting was spectacular.

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Some days it still seems like the trip was just a dream, but the pictures prove it wasn’t.  Words cannot begin to describe how absolutely magical this trip was. I will never forget it and will always treasure the memories.

Mahalo (many thanks) to my parents for this amazing experience, I’d have to say that I think I have the coolest parents on the planet!

My House, is a Very Very Fine House

Five years ago is a summer I will never forget and am glad that I can now look back on it with laughter instead of tears. In July of 2010 my life as a single mom and sole provider for my youngest son began. The first and most important priority at that time was to find a house to rent.

Finding a house to rent sounds like it should be pretty easy, but as it turns out it wasn’t.

I signed up to receive email notifications for rental properties that were within my budget, in our school district and accepted pets. Days and days passed with nothing showing up in my inbox. I was beginning to think something was wrong when, ding, ding ding – I had mail!

There was a house that met all of the criteria, so my realtor scrambled to make an appointment the very same day. Christian and I wandered through the house. The carpet was worn, there was a very damp smell to the basement, and the yard was seriously in need of some attention. Sizing things up, we kept repeating to each other, “it’s not great, but it’s better than the apartment.”

We convinced each other that it was going to be great and we could make it work, so I filled out the paperwork, dropped it off, and held my breath. One day passed, another day passed, and on the third day our application was rejected – or rather we learned that the house had been leased to another family.

In between sobs I explained to my parents how horrible it was that we wouldn’t be moving into a house we didn’t love, in a neighborhood that wasn’t great. Wow, now it even sounds ridiculous to me. 🙂

It seemed like forever until I finally received another promising email, so long in fact that I had ordered and received new shower curtains, towels, and comforters for the apartment. I’d also hung new pictures and put flowers in the window of the apartment to try and lift our spirits and soften the memories.

As with the first opportunity, I was on top of the situation. Within hours of receiving the email I’d arranged a visit with the home owner. The references in the lease to specific types of nails and cleaning supplies should have been a clue that it wasn’t going to be a great fit, but it wasn’t….

I sent the homeowner pictures of my kids and of my home in Omaha as a way to convince her that I’d take good care of her property. After the she called and grilled my close friends (character references) about my ability to take care of a home, she extended the offer to rent to the house to me. Not only that, she agreed to let me paint the walls and I agreed to use the cleaning supplies listed in the lease.

Although the agreement was only verbal, I turned in my notice at the apartment complex with a smile.

The morning I was scheduled to meet the painter an email arrived,

Good Morning Beth,
 
Thank you for sharing the photos of your family and your home with me. You have beautiful children and a lovely home.
 
At this point, it is with sadness that I must tell you that I cannot enter into a rental agreement with you. After serious soul searching, tossing and turning through the night, I have decided that it is time for me to move forward in my life.
 
I have held on to that house for many years because I have a hard time letting go of things I love. I am starting a new job in a couple of weeks and it is time for me to lessen the load and stress I have been carrying for too long.
 
My days of being a Landlord are behind me. As I told you, I really want to sell the house. I’m sure you and your son are wonderful people and we would have had a great relationship. Nonetheless, the season in my life has changed.
 
I spoke to my Agent about this. She told me she just listed a beautiful house for rent which is available for immediate occupancy in the same school district which might be perfect for you. She will be happy to show it to you without delay. I believe these unfolding events will work out for the long term best for each of us. I pray your initial disappointment will become joyful just as quickly.
 
Sincerely and with very best wishes,
The woman who said she’d rent  to you

The house she recommended was so far out of my reach it wasn’t even funny. I honestly didn’t think the tears would ever stop after receiving this email. Thank goodness the management at the apartment complex accepted my un-notice and we still had a place to live.

I’d all but given up hope.

Then, serendipity made her presence known in my life.

My realtor texted me and, the next day I found “my house.”

The front walk was uneven and I made a mental note to be careful if I ever decided to wear heels again.  One misstep and I’d be sure to leave the whole shoe behind. My new landlord (lady) greeted with a warm smile and a hug after a single ding announced my arrival; I’d already begun to think of her as a friend.

“Let’s start the tour here in the kitchen, I’ll go over the appliances in here and Tim will be ‘round directly to show you how to use the fireplace and furnace. They can be a bit tricky, but you’ll be fine.  The neighbors are great and we’re only a phone call away,” she said.  

I took notes about everything from how low I could let the oil tank go, to which key went with which door, and how to prevent a moat from forming when it rains too hard.  I squeezed as many questions as possible in between her excited explanations.

The final stop on the tour was my bedroom.  “Now about your room, I’ve already decided this color is all wrong for you, its way too dull. But I want to wait a bit to paint so I can think of just the right color to fill it with sunshine for you.”

My room is now the color of sunshine.

I don’t have two cats in the yard and sometimes life is still hard, but I am grateful every day for my very, very fine house.

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A Week with the “Big Kids”

Kayaking on Big Sand

My oldest two kids are 1 year, 2 months, and 28 days apart in age and there is a five year difference between my youngest two. I think we started calling Jeff and Katie “the big kids” on the day Christian was born.

When the big kids were deciding on which college to attend we “wisely” advised them to choose a school that was within driving distance and not more than one plane ride away from Omaha. A seemingly brilliant approach to minimize travel expenses and ensure that we’d get to see them more than once a year.

Shortly after Jeff’s second semester of college in St. Louis I accepted a position with a company in Bristol, PA and began a 7 month commute between the Midwest and the East Coast. We physically moved our belongings to our new home the weekend after helping Katie move into her dorm room in Chicago.

They both successfully completed their degrees and landed jobs in their respective cities right out of school and so for the past six years we’ve lived more than double the distance apart from each other than I had anticipated. Circumstances over the past four years have left Christian and me with a lot of together time and unfortunately time and resources to spend individual time with Jeff and Katie haven’t been available.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the special opportunity to spend a week at my favorite place on earth with the “big kids.” Christian just started a new job and had to stay home so he could go to training. It was strange not having all three kids with me, and we definitely missed Chris, but it was also fun to have some time alone with Jeff and Katie.

Getting to Northern Minnesota is no small feat. I flew from Philly to Chicago and spent the afternoon writing in the cutest coffee shop ever while I waited for Katie to get home from work.

Cup and spoon coffee shop sign

Thankfully she conquered the spaghetti squash without a trip to the emergency room and we feasted on a delicious lasagna dish for dinner.

Katie cutting a spaghetti squash

Jeff arrived from St. Louis around 10 pm and we spent some time chatting and fine-tuning logistics for the 12 hour drive the following day.

I didn’t sleep a wink that night, most likely because of the three large glasses of tea I consumed late in the afternoon. I was super happy to learn that we could put Katie on the rental car as an extra driver so I could curl up in the back seat and snooze.

The lake was gorgeous and perfect for water-skiing. Jeff and Katie had their swimsuits on and were in the lake before their duffle bags were unpacked.

Big Sand lake First night sunset

They each got in a high speed tour around the lake just before the sky turned dark and ominous.

dark cloudy sky over the lake

The first few days were windy and a little on the cool side, so we entertained ourselves with trips to the local farmers market stands, the local candy store, and a variety of shops.

vegetable Market

We read books, took naps, and ended the day with a round of cards.

playing cards in the cabin

The rest of the week flew by filled with kayaking excursions and pontoon rides.

090 Kayaking on Big Sand

Beth, Jeff, and Katie on a pontoon

The pontoon is my favorite place to take pictures from. I could spend hours touring the lake at a leisurely pace while watching the clouds change in shape and color.

sunset picture from a pontoon ride

My brother and his family arrived mid-week and we finished out our vacation with lots of beach time and even a late-night girls only swim under the stars.

fun in the sun

One of our all time favorite activities is to attend the performance at the Woodtick, a small theater in Akeley, MN. It’s a musical variety show with local musicians and it’s a hoot!  There’s lots of campy humor and hand-clapping music.

The music ranges from Irish Ballads to silly songs to modern day hits and some good “ole timey” tunes as well.

Northern Minnesota is the land of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Across the street from the theater is the largest statue of Paul in the area, maybe even in the world. 😉

It’s a family tradition to take pictures in front of the statue before the performance. This year a nearby stranger offered to take the picture of the group. It’s not often that they turn out all that well, but I think this one did!

010 the whole family in paul bunyans lap
The week flew by far too quickly and before we knew it, the big kids and I were facing our 12 hour drive back to Chicago. I opted not to drive and instead spent the majority of the trip finishing an ink drawing I’ve been working on. (talk about role reversal. 🙂 )

Forest drawn in Ink

Now it’s back to reality and fall is just around the corner.

My Choices Shape My Future

My Choices Shape my Futuer

Last night I could not get past writers block. I did write for about an hour, but only managed to squeak out 2 ½ paragraphs that sounded forced. It’s easy to get carried away and strive to be profound when the art journal entry that corresponds with the written piece is “My Choices Shape My Future.”

This morning I deleted the words written last night and started over with a fresh heart.

Just as I was settling in, the steady low roar of the lawnmower stopped abruptly with the clank of the blade against a rock. I didn’t have to see what happened to know that my son felt the vibration from the impact, there were sparks involved, and the clatter was without a doubt the last noise the mower would make.

My writing direction changed once again. I was going to write about the fact that I’ve made some pretty bad choices and how they ultimately shaped my future in a good way. Thoughts about the power of positive, the importance of self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness raced through my brain.

The sound of the lawnmower brought me back to reality and to the smaller kind of choices we make every day. How we choose to handle life’s minor mishaps and whether or not we allow them to ruin the day.

This morning I had two choices, one was to be mad and ask my son rhetorical questions like, “why weren’t you paying more attention?” and then remind him that money doesn’t grow on trees and he really should be more careful. The other option was to take a deep breath before going outside, accept his apology calmly, and ask him to help me find a replacement.

For whatever reason, the first approach seems to be human nature but it really serves no purpose. My son already felt bad and knew he should have been paying closer attention, his face told me so. It wouldn’t have made either of us feel any better if I’d yelled at him. We’d both be feeling miserable, small, and angry.

Together we shopped online for a new mower. He selected an old-fashioned push mower for the following reasons: it was the most affordable, it’s environmentally friendly and quieter, and it will provide him with a little more exercise. I’m proud of the way he handled the situation. He also had choices, and he handled it maturely by owning what happened and remaining calm.

It wasn’t the way either of us wanted to start the day, but life happens and mishaps are part of the deal and we have no control over them. We only have control over how we react to them. I’m learning that facing problems calmly is far more effective and pleasant than hiding from them or living in a constant state of hysteria and discouragement.

I’ve come to believe the way we handle the little things life throws at us has a significant impact on shaping our future. It establishes a pattern of behavior and sets the stage for how we handle the big things.

My Choices Shape my Futuer

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Wonderful Moms, Especially Mine

I’d always assumed that Mother’s Day was started by Hallmark, but it turns out that’s not the case at all.  There have been various precursors to the spring holiday that can be traced back as far as the ancient Greeks and Romans.

It’s amazing to me how many historical people I’ve never heard of and the creator of the American version of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, is among them. The holiday became official in 1914 and interestingly she ended up spending the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar because it turned into such a commercialized celebration. 100 years later it looks like the holiday is here to stay.

It’s interesting to note that the roots of the holiday were started by her mother Ann Reeves Jarvis, who in the years before the Civil War, helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.

I am blessed to be a mother to 3 wonderful children and I am also blessed to have an amazing mom, who inspires me in so many ways. She is a beautiful person both inside and out. She is a passionate and loving person who gives tirelessly to her family, friends, and to the St. Louis Volunteer Committee.

Three lovely ladies in Nevis

She loves music and has a special knack for entertaining and preparing fabulous meals. We not only love each other, we like each other. 🙂 One of our favorite activities to share is biking in Minnesota. My mom can out ride many people half her age, which I think is pretty darn cool!

break from biking in Minnesota

Over the years I’ve learned many valuable lessons from my mom, I think the most important one is that mother’s provide a safe haven for their children – no matter how old they are. She’s been there for me every step of the way and I know I can always count on her.

Thank you mom, for being you.

I love you.

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Author’s Note: on this Mother’s Day Weekend, it seems fitting to share one of my recent entries in my affirmation journaling project.

I Keep My Children Safe

This may seem like an odd personal affirmation, but as a parent, there is nothing more important to me than my children. Although, as a human being I sometimes wonder if I’ve been a good mother.

I’m flawed, have made mistakes, and there are more than a few things I would do differently. My guess is that my parents and their parents before them feel much the same way.

I think one thing that is different, is that with each generation, at least in my experience, we become more willing to talk honestly and openly with our children about our hopes, dreams, fears, and failures. We’re more willing to talk openly about our humanity.

There’s part of me that would love to be able to keep my children from ever having to feel pain, whether it be emotional or physical. But I also know that’s not realistic and that at some level, painful experiences are part of life and need to happen.

The emotional pain somehow seems the more difficult to handle, both as a parent and as a child. With a physical injury, there are ways to predict and anticipate when the healing process will be complete and we can get back to the activities we love. With an emotional injury, the healing process is far more uncertain and unpredictable.

I can’t keep my children from experiencing pain, but I can keep them safe.

I give them a safe place to talk, to grieve, to “be.” They don’t talk to me about about every situation but they know I’m always here with open arms, unconditional love, a shoulder to cry on, and always, always accepting and respectful of their feelings. They also know they can count on me for honesty and constructive, but maybe difficult to hear feedback and input when it’s needed.

Keeping your children safe isn’t so much about protecting them from harm as it is being there for them when they come in harm’s way.

I keep my children safe

Don’t Throw Out the China

holiday table set with fine china

Divorce is hard. Even when it’s for the best it’s not an easy experience. It’s laden with “what if’s,” “should have’s” and “what do I do now’s.” This is my fourth Christmas as a single mom and tonight I’m more thankful than ever that I didn’t throw out the china.

Backing up just a bit, a little over three years ago Christian and I moved into my lovely artist’s vessel, aka home.

my lovely artist's house - the livingroom

We’d been living in an apartment that was one third of the size of the house we left behind. This meant that one third of our belongings were sold, a third was in storage, and the rest was in the apartment. Although I’m not so sure it was quite as evenly split as that.

After much angst we found a house to rent and it was time for the belongings that had been gathering dust in a storage container to meet the light of day. I scheduled the moving company to deliver the contents of the storage container and my parents volunteered to help me unpack.

surrounded by boxes

I won’t go into all of the details but suffice it to say it took me 322 days to unpack all of the boxes and turn my porch into a slice of summer.

finishing touches

Unpacking items I hadn’t seen or used in two years was almost as surreal as walking through my house and marking things with labels that designated the disposition of individual belongings as keep, sell/donate, or store.

My standard line for the day the storage arrived was, “I haven’t used it in two years so I don’t need it, put it in the donate pile.” Memories, both good and bad, poured out of each box I opened. Naively I thought the experience would be without emotion.

One of the most difficult moments was when I opened the box labeled “china.” I unpacked a dinner plate; memories of Thanksgivings, Christmases, and special occasions flooded my mind and pushed tears down my face.

Hoping no one had seen, I stood up and said, “I haven’t used it in two years, donate it.”

It’s an understatement to say I was irrational that day and if Christian hadn’t asked, “but Mom, what dishes will we use for special occasions?” – I would have thrown out the china.

For me the china represented the hope I had as a new bride and the disappointment that things didn’t turn out the way I had planned. For him the china represented family, traditions, happy times, and perhaps stability or familiarity.

Tonight he asked if he could set the table for dinner. We’d invited his girlfriend to join us for pre-holiday meal; he chose to use the china.

holiday table set with fine china

Thank goodness I didn’t throw it out.

Wasn’t it Just Yesterday?

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. My Ex and I had been looking for a dog for a few months, with the help of his mom. She was very active in animal rescue and adoption efforts and passed along leads to us as they came her way.

The phone conversation started something like this:

“Hello”

Long pause.

“A miniature dachshund?! How much smaller can a dachshund get?”

I dashed downstairs to the computer and Googled “miniature dachshund,” printed out pictures of half a dozen cuties, and ran to the top of the steps holding the pictures up and singing, “see how cute they are!”

Although he was skeptical, Eric agreed to go meet Annie, a beautiful auburn mini-dachshund with a heart shaped spot on her tail. I don’t think it’ an exaggeration to say it was love at first sight.

A few months later we decided to surprise the kids with a pal for Annie. Romeo, a handsome dapple joined our family as a Christmas puppy. From the very first day we brought him home, Annie and Romeo were inseparable.

the puppers

You may be wondering why we didn’t call them Romeo and Juliet. Annie was already well over a year when we adopted her and over two by the time Romeo came along, so it didn’t seem right to change her name. Besides, we’d already assigned her several nicknames like, Anna, Anabelle, Belly, and Bellerbee and who wants to start learning a new name let alone a bunch of alternates ;)?

Romeo was a compromise for Oreo, which Katie had set her heart on for his name. We all have a different memory about how the name Romeo came to be the choice, but we all remember Katie being adamant about The name Oreo.

They loved long walks in the park, digging holes, and chasing squirrels. Back in the day when people used to thaw meat outside in the sun without worrying about food poisoning, Annie managed to leap frog onto the patio table via a chair and consumed an entire package of pork chops. Pork Chop Annie was quickly added to her long list of nicknames.

Romeo was known as Mo Mo, Me mo, Mobert, and Moby to name a few. I generally referred to them as a pair, they were my “dudes.” The dudes spent many hours chasing each other around the legs of the table, scurrying under one end of the sofa and reappearing on the other end, and slipping and sliding on the hardwood floors. Any toy with a “squeaker” became squeakerless within the first few seconds of receipt.

The winter before last, Annie’s age began to catch up with her. Stairs became more than she could manage and Christian and I shared more than a few tearful nights wondering how long she would be with us. I was thankful that she defied my prediction and came back just as scrappy and sassy as ever.

Last spring I thought the “time had come” again; Jeff and Katie even made a special trip over Memorial weekend to say farewell. Little did we know that things would turn out quite differently than we thought.

An injury and old age took Romeo from us unexpectedly in August. He was a proud boy who chased squirrels and hunted for rabbits every chance he got. He stood guard fearlessly before a storm, but had an unusual fear of flies that would send him under the nearest bed or into the closest closet.

romeo standing watch before the storm

Annie loved giving kisses, sitting on laps, and never turned down a tummy rub. Every afternoon at 4 pm, Annie assumed a watchful position on the bottom step, waiting for Christian to come home from school. Her habit didn’t change after he left for college.

Annie_saying goodbye

Yesterday, I had to do what every pet owner dreads for the second time in two months.  It was hard, but it was right. The vet was kind and compassionate and reminded me that when one of your “dudes” loses their passion for life and is experiencing discomfort, the kindest thing we can do is say goodbye.

It was a sad day indeed, but I cherish the memories of the joy the pups brought to the lives of my children and I take comfort in the knowledge that Annie and Romeo are once again together.

Fall, a Season of Ch-ch-ch-Changes

Spring is usually the season we associate with new beginnings and fresh starts. As the plants and trees come back to life after lying dormant during the long winter months our hearts fill with hope. We look forward to the season of graduations, confirmations, and weddings, the ceremonies and celebrations that represent new beginnings and change.

I hadn’t thought about it until this year, but in many ways fall is really the season of fresh starts and new experiences. Fall marks the passage of children from necessary nap-times to kindergarten kids. Every new grade marks a milestone for students and the parents who shake their heads and wonder where the time went.

This year, fall brought about one of the most significant changes in my life since the birth of my first child.

On Wednesday August 21st Christian packed up the remaining travel necessities like snacks, Cd’s, and our not so trusty GPS.

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He somehow managed to squeeze the last few items into the back seat on top of an assortment of suitcases, duffle bags, and boxes which were piled as high as possible without blocking the rear-view mirror.

Christian and his girlfriend exchanged one of the longest pre-sunrise goodbye hugs in the history of young love. The sky was clear and dry, but our eyes were not.

We started our 17 hour journey with a stop at Wawa for a not-so-nutritious breakfast and a giant cup of coffee.

The last time we packed up the car to drive 1/2 way across the country was five years ago, the fall we moved from Omaha to Yardley. It’s almost impossible to comprehend the number of changes that have taken place since we moved.  Among the many changes, is the fact that Christian is no longer a boy; he’s grown into a mature and wonderful young man.

It seems like yesterday he was making a goofy face at me on the drive to Pennsylvania.

Christian in the car on our move

And it literally was almost yesterday that he helped me tackle a thousand mile drive.

Goofy face while driving

We abandoned our outdated GPS in favor of Siri fairly early in the trip. Our not so trusty GPS kept losing the signal and recalculating routes because it lost our location.  Christian’s foot was more than a bit heavy, so it’s a good thing I was driving when we pulled into this rest stop or he might have started his college career with a speeding ticket.

speed trap

I didn’t know until this trip, just how many goofy faces my son could make.

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Thank goodness he’s also willing to smile and show me his handsome face.

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It also turns out he’s a great multi-tasker. He can switch CD’s, text with his girlfriend and at least 5 other people while having a conversation with his mom. I seriously thought his phone was going to explode.

Our stop at “Steak n’ Shake” meant free wi fi.

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Another goofy face while pondering the menu selection.

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More texting (not sure what has happened to our technology free meal rule).

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And a giant Cookies and Cream shake topped with a mountain of whipped cream.

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We arrived at Kay and John’s at 11:02 pm, just like Siri said we would. After seventeen hours in a car it was wonderful to get a hug from family friends and have a glass of wine before falling into a comfortable bed.

We followed Jeff through the maze of morning traffic and I somehow managed to keep up with my oldest son’s lane changes. Orientation leaders directed us through the parking lot and provided instructions for the drop off.

It’s incredibly well organized, the kids on the orientation team load each student’s belongings into a large bin on wheels and before you walk back from the parking garage it’s in the dorm room ready to be unpacked.

The actual unpacking was a bit discombobulated, but that’s a story for another day. People kept mistaking Jeff for an incoming student and not an alum, which gave us some good laughs.

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The next two days were full of orientation sessions. It was all a bit exhausting and overwhelming. For the first time ever, I secretly kept tissues in my purse because tears kept creeping out at the most unexpected times.

Saturday was the final day of orientation and after lunch it was time to say goodbye for now. I snagged one of the orientation leaders and cajoled Christian into one more picture.

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Now begins my journey as an empty-nester and another season of change.