Monday, August 29, 2016

Hang Out with the 20 Year Olds

Saw this on Facebook. I copied the link from Pinterest because it got me thinking...

I like hanging out with 20 year olds. Two of my favorite people are 20 somethings. I wonder why we insist on continuing to stick with others of our age when there is a world of fascinating people of all ages. I enjoy spending time with people older than me and younger than me. Sometimes I even enjoy being with someone my own age.  I enjoy hearing about what interests other people. I never want to end up trapped in time, trying to relive my youth and complaining about how different everything is. You never know what you can learn until you stop and listen to what excites another person. Here's a secret: continuing to learn is what keeps us feeling young.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Routine Time Together

There is one chipmunk who is always first to our feeders. I often find him sitting on the side stoop as I come around the house to put out seed. He's become braver over the past few months. He used to run when I looked at him. Now I have to avoid stepping on him because he will rush over before I finish filling the last feeder. I started tossing peanuts to him.

I call him Spot because of that little mark on his nose. (Note: Spot might be a girl, I can't tell)

Just like the blue jays that call to each other when I come out of the house with my cup full of seeds, Spot has figured out how to get first crack at the food. He watches and learns. 

Other animals have also learned. I didn't get a photo, but yesterday a squirrel climbed up to our window to peer in. I was late bringing out food. I never put food on the sill or anywhere near it, but the squirrel figured out that I usually go in this place. Maybe it saw me inside, eating breakfast, and wanted to make sure I knew there was no seed.

Whether I have adapted to their habits or they have adapted to mine, or somewhere in between, these animals and I have learned from being around each other. Life has a rhythm in our daily routines and we follow that rhythm.

I look at the routines of our family life. They can be more chaotic now. We have a jumble of clashing schedules and summer schedules are worse. As children become young adults, it gets difficult to find those moments of routine, of coziness together, of play. They become so much more important because they are rarer. So we adapt. For us, time together includes occasional evenings watching cartoons or a movie, Sundays at church, possibly followed by a visit to the bookstore with grandparents, and even those fleeting moments when we are all in the car together, discussing something we heard or saw.  There is a rhythm to life in our time together. These moments are the greatest opportunity for growth and learning. We learn a great deal from simply being with each other.

Monday, August 8, 2016

I've Been Outside...

The backyard has been alive with life this summer, and I'm taking advantage of my new camera. Here is a sample of my visitors:
(click to enlarge)



Female Hummingbird


Song Sparrow

Peck's Skipper

Gray Squirrel
Male Pileated Woodpecker

Monarch Butterfly

Bumblebee on Virginia Sweetspire
I hope you are all enjoying the outdoors as much as I am!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Poem for our Silver Day

Scenes of our Love

Tickets to the Renaissance
Eyes meet across the table
Conversation in the Balcony
And it begins.

Escort to dark subways
Lessons in passing
Hands touch, drawing closer
A call about Starlight
And so it grows.

Two left-handed, third of threes
Fairy tale number
For a magical life.

Time passes quickly
Performances as partners
Bears in fancy dress
Then One, Two, Three
We count our blessings

Anniversary of silver
The promise engraved in gold
As you wish
Ever after.

Author's note: There is only one person who will understand every line. I hope. I'm the one with the better memory.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Celebrating 25

This week my husband and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary.  It doesn't really seem like it should be that long. I still remember first meeting him after juggling club. I remember so many days walking around the city together. I remember him escorting me home after dates, even though the subway commute was at least an hour and a half if not longer. I once asked him if it was too hard to date me and he told me "I'd commute for you. Helen of Troy, if the Greeks had to take the train to get to her, they would have given up right there. But I'd commute for you!"

Our first quarter century of marriage has been spent raising our children, moving into a house, and working, scrimping, saving to keep our financial heads above water. We share our life: the joy, the frustration, the triumphs, the tears, the laughter. We spoil each other from time to time, with presents we know the other will love. My husband couldn't wait, so he gave me my present early, a new camera. A good camera. He knew I wanted one for years, but I always felt there were other expenses that needed to come first. My own gift for him seems like it's not enough now. I'll have to add to it.

I don't think anyone has a perfect marriage, but I think when your spouse is your best friend you can get through any rough patch. A good sense of humor helps too.

No one knows how many years they are given, so I'm grateful for the years we've had together, for the love we share. I pray we are able to spend many more together.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Respecting Our Children's Interests

My oldest has been playing Pokemon Go. She has the only device that is new enough to handle it, so she shares it with her brother and sister. The library we work at has two Pokemon gyms and a Pokemon stop, so a lot of what she's collected came from there. She learned she walks about 3km (1.86miles) whenever she's at work. Library employees spend a lot of time on their feet.

It's been frustrating for me to hear so much negativity associated with this game. The NYC police commissioner, while reporting on incidents involving the game, complained, "That craze is one of the stupidest ones that I've seen. Don't understand it, don't intend to understand it. Has no appeal to me." That seems to sum up the problem. Adults who have no interest in the game are passing judgment without trying to understand what it is about. For years, I have heard so many parents lament that their kids aren't getting out/getting enough exercise. The creators of Pokemon have been trying to get kids outside for years, and now they hit on something that actually works. Even before the problems with luring players into unsafe areas and thefts of devices, Pokemon Go had a message on its app to remember to play safely. I know this because I asked my kids about it. I asked them to explain the game to me. Talking to kids seems to be the biggest problem for adults. Mocking a game that our children enjoy only makes them less likely to share their interests with us.

The people who are running into trouble playing the game are the ones who are not following common sense safety. If I'm doing something I love, like photography,  I get distracted too, so I try to remember the basics: Try not to go out alone. Be aware of your surroundings. Secure your valuables (in this case, personal info on your device). Keep off of private property. Don't play while driving. We have heard all of this advice before when texting was the big thing, when smartphones became popular, even when we were wandering around plugged into Walkmans when I was a teen back in the stone age (battery age?) of technology. There are probably examples before that, but that was the craze I grew up with.

My point is that safety is not an exclusive issue to this craze. We need to remember that the things we consider trivial might be very important to our kids.  If you want to build a relationship with them, be involved. Go with them on their Pokemon hunts. Walk with them. I think it's great that this is exciting kids (and older). They are getting outside. They are getting exercise. And some might even benefit from stealth learning as they find Pokemon near historic sites and monuments.

Monday, July 11, 2016

You Have My Permission to Do the Same

We had our first heat wave last week, and so I fell behind in my commitment to posting weekly. I'm stating this as a fact. I do this for the writing practice and simply because I do like to write. But life does get in the way sometimes.

I tend to beat myself up too much when I fail in a commitment, whether it is to myself or someone else. But there are times when there is nothing you can do but keep ahead of the wave. Work and housework pile up. Children get sick. Tragedies happen. We never know what each day will hold, so we must give ourselves permission to miss a deadline, to prioritize family or friends, to take a day for rest. That last one is the hardest for me. I'm very good at forgiving myself for prioritizing family, but I rarely prioritize myself. So when it was so hot that I could not stand the thought of sitting at my computer in one of the warmest parts of the house, I camped in front of a fan with a book and read.

I also took pictures in my yard.

Our cat "walking" on his leash

One of our many chipmunks


An oriole. He's been difficult to catch on camera.

I enjoyed myself. And I am not going to feel guilty about it.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Baby Dragons Cake

 It was cool enough before my husband's birthday to bake this. He's really into Game of Thrones (and trying to convince me to read them). All I know about the book is that there is a character who raises dragons. That sounded cool (or hot?) so I figured I would do the baby dragons on a cake.
 It's hard to tell them apart on the cake. They are all wings, necks, and tails crowded together. I used mini cake pans and cut the shapes of heads, necks, bodies, and tails out of the small cakes. The cake is a velvet cake recipe that I turned into a chocolate velvet cake. It had a nice dense crumb that really held together. I used melted chocolate to cover the bodies and hold the pieces together. My daughter made the different colored wings with a basic sugar cookie recipe. They all sit on a single layer base cake. I had two extra mini cakes, so I spread them out a little more and added the "Cake is coming" sign. Frosted and decorated with whipped cream frosting.

It's easier to see the dragons once we moved them to separate plates. They are like weirdly shaped, inside-out Ring Dings®.
The yellow winged dragon is grooming. I liked the positioning of it.
Poor red dragon broke a wing in process. I fixed it as best I could using chocolate for glue. After two days working on it, I really didn't want to do anything else to it.

They were quickly gobbled up.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Parenting Lessons from Fairy Tales

Parents often view many fairy tales and folk tales as cautionary tales for children. They read these stories ready to explain how the girl got into trouble by talking to strangers or how the boy ended up penniless because he made a bad business deal. The discussion might cover how faith and perseverance helped the young hero/heroine succeed against all odds. These tales are all about helping kids learn how to get along in the world.

Or are they?

I recently talked with my oldest about how hard it is to find kids who know the classic tales today. Parents don't seem to read these stories to their children anymore. Even among the children in my homeschool storytelling group there is a lack of knowledge of some of the most iconic stories. Are they irrelevant in our new age? Am I old fashioned in believing there is still a place for these stories? 

I don't think so. These stories appeal to our basic human emotions and desires. We may not endure the same struggles as these fairy tale men and women, but we can relate to what they go through. The metaphor of the story is what draws us in. Who hasn't fought a dragon (obstacles) to reach their castle (goal)? Who hasn't completed menial tasks while striving for something better? It may not be a prince charming, or even fame and fortune, but the basic idea is overcoming problems by finding creative solutions, and learning a little about yourself along the way.

One thing we realized is that it isn't always the hero/heroine's fault that they are stuck in a situation. Sometimes the problem is bad parenting choices. Maybe some stories were actually cautionary tales for the parent, not the child. Here are some examples:

  • Sleeping Beauty: Leave aside the bad social skills of not inviting everyone to your daughter's christening, now that she's cursed, you decide the best way to deal with it is to remove all spindles and spinning wheels from the kingdom. How about keeping a watchful eye on her and teaching her that sharp things hurt?
  • Jack and the Beanstalk: Don't send your child out to sell his beloved pet cow to the butcher. They had a bond.
  • Little Red Riding Hood: And don't send your child out into the woods alone! The poor kid didn't even have a bread knife to protect herself.
  • Cinderella: If we base this on the original, the father lets his new wife do what she wants to his daughter. Lax fathering is a big problem in fairy tales. Hansel and Gretel also experience it, 
  • Rapunzel: The other end of the spectrum is the fathers who try too hard. You know your neighbor is a witch, maybe it's a bad idea to steal from her. Try asking. This is also true of the father in Beauty and the Beast, who stole a rose for his daughter. And the father in Rumpelstiltskin needs to stop being so boastful about his daughter's skills.
There is always value in the tales we tell. That is why they lasted so long and keep returning in new forms. That's why I love a good story!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Coming to Flower

I once had a discussion with a friend and fellow gardener about finding "volunteers" in the garden. She said she never had volunteers, but it was probably because she was a compulsive weeder. As soon as something sprouted that she didn't plant, out it went.

I tend to weed slowly. I like to make sure I can identify the plant before I pull it up. You can't always tell what you are growing when it's a seedling. I have had unusual flowering plants appear in my yard simply because I waited to see what would happen. A year or two ago, a droopy petaled flower appeared in our yard because I decided not to weed it. It turned out to be a woodland flower called white avens.

White Avens, geum canadense
There is a saying that a weed is a flower in the wrong place. But it can also be in the right place and we just don't recognize it yet. Watching something grow without knowing what it will become takes patience and acceptance. Sometimes you have to let things be and see what develops. What we consider annoyances today can surprise us when they come to full flower.
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