Friday, August 30, 2013

The Groom is in the House!

The anticipation of Matt's arrival home a few hours ago (for a short visit full of wedding details) kept me buzzing like any happy hostess - what should we eat?  What kind of wine?  Set out the towels!

Then it hit me - this is his last visit before he comes back home to marry.

We are so excited about October.  And I refuse, though I unconsciously can wander there, to go down the path of endings and ruminate there for any length of time (although you must agree that a parent's role diminshes - or should - when a child marries).  Rather, I share the same rush of excitement as he does, the hope and energy that every new beginning, especially marriage, promises.

I must admit, I read every word twice in Michael Gerson's recent essay about his son leaving home:

In describing the angst he feels on his son leaving for college, Gerson says:

There is no use brooding about it. I’m sure my father realized it at a similar moment. And I certainly didn’t notice or empathize. At first, he was a giant who held my hand and filled my sky. Then a middle-aged man who paid my bills. Now, decades after his passing, a much-loved shadow. But I can remember the last time I hugged him in the front hallway of his home, where I always had a room. It is a memory of warmth. I can only hope to leave my son the same.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Boat Outing!

A beautiful night, favorite people, cold beer, salty snacks - and a boat on the Chicago River.

Thanks to my wonderful SIL for inviting us on this adventure - we had a lot of fun!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Happy Birthday!

To my favorite 14 year old.  I only see her at family events - when there are a whole lot of other loved ones around.  And what I remember, when I stop to think about it, is the pleasant, helpful smile of a very lovely girl, eager to please and ready - always ready - to dance.

Love you Libby.

I wouldn't dream of posting your pretty picture here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Last and The Least

24% of US households don't have internet.  Extraordinary sacrifices don't necessarily include going without internet when, if you're poor, you have needs that are really compelling. 

This weekend we prayed for "the last and the least" - I kept thinking about prayers to end poverty and the knee-jerk reaction I have to turn my thoughts elsewhere because it is super painful and not very personal and I can easily keep it off my radar.  Just being born in America is a leg up by most standards.  A typical teenager in an African country, if they have a chance of surfing the web, will spend about $2 to watch a YouTube video, due to the low bandwidths.

I wasn't born a Kennedy but I also don't have to worry about my next meal, or my next trip, real or virtual.  All I really have to bother myself with is this:  am I doing enough?  Do my words match my actions?

Matthew 25:34-36  "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sit Stand!

As a member of a "Blue Zone" community, I've been thrilled CR/IC was chosen as a focus area where residents are nudged towards healthier behaviors, via social and environmental changes.  The Blue Zone philosophy is all about living longer and better (I was hooked when they proclaimed that moderate drinkers - like a glass of wine per day - outlive non-drinkers!).

One of their "Power 9 Principles" is moving naturally.  Apparently over the last 50 years, the need for American workers to move around has fallen (about 50% of all workers were physical on the job in 1960 - now that number is around 20%).  This decline is probably aligned with the rise in all-things-bad that we supersize.  So we are burning about 140 calories less each day and we're putting on about 12 extra pounds each year.

Did you know that getting up off the couch to change the TV channel burns 10 calories?  Also, count on burning 10 calories for stair-climbing, each and every minute!

I sure do value walking meetings!  It's good for health and seems to generate ideas and creative brainstorming.  It works best with only 1 or 2 others, though, or you are quickly talking about a reality show or the Hawkeyes or just miss out on the conversation entirely.

And then there's sitting.  Once I heard that "sitting is the new smoking" I stood right up and worked on getting this Sit-Stand Workstation for my office, installed by Shawn.  So now I stand all day and my commute has taken on a whole new meaning of acceptability.
Ergotron Sit-Stand Workstation in my office

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

form follows function

For so many Augusts, it was all decided for me.  I knew where my attention and energy would focus.  Immunizations scheduled, countless forms completed, an annual back-to-school tax free shopping weekend planned, new shoes for all!

We pretended for a bit this year, with our babies.  Two divergent paths going after one similar pursuit - happy, stimulating lives.  We were glad to participate in the process...Joe's move to DC, and Austin settling to Iowa City for dental school.  This week they are both going through orientation and their new opportunities provide us with excitement and hope.

While the neighborhood bus is no longer necessary, we have had things to do to prepare, to refresh, to gear up.  Summer is giving up and we are ready to welcome what's next.

An October wedding really helps with the need to be busy, to have commitments you have promised.

It's form following function and it's the way I'm happiest.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

No Whine Here

Good wine, paired not necessarily with the perfect plate but with the proper company, can make an evening.  I was introduced to this wine by Katie's parents as a contribution (that was immediately consumed) to Joe's new apartment when they visited the night of our anniversary, the day Joe moved to DC.  Their move to Iowa from the DC area coincided with Joe's move to DC.  There was reason to pause, reflect, celebrate.
Any wine would've worked, but this crowd-pleaser was a hit.  Apparently it has a well-focused nose.  I didn't notice that, but I did know the subtle fruit background, which I later discovered was red raspberry and pomegranate, with a hint of vanilla. 
I don't have a problem with wine...I have a problem without it!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Here's to You

There are days in our lives that we will always mark and August 16 is one of those for me.  It's historical in importance, as it is the day of my parent's wedding anniversary.  They brooked the bumps of life with grace, so much so that it would take real thinking on this kid's part to even identify them. 

Their anniversary each year has been a gift to me.

Hope you pop the champagne and celebrate your success, mom and dad.  Cheers!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Happy birthday, DIL2B!

It's my future daughter-in-law's birthday today!  Happy birthday, Kelly!

You've been a part of our lives for almost ten  years, but there is really something exciting about making it official in October, when you make it official with Matt

Your sweetness and thoughtfulness, are the most attractive things about you, even though you are very stylish and always look so put together.  You bring a lot to all of us.  We are so excited about having you join our family.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Real Life

Vacation is over and the email inbox was waiting for me, along with laundry, and mail, and all the other little things we attend to in life.  Even as an empty nester, there's still a "have-to" or three everyday.

Our routines are the regular course of duties and actions we take, our rituals, and this type A actually finds that okay most days.  I'm chronically busy so it's not like there's any monotony.

It's the really routine days that get our brains dreaming.

And then again, if chosen with intention, our routines are the cumulative picks we have identified from that glorious list of options, everyday.

Right now, I'm headed to the Rank's time to swap a few stories with Steve.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Good morning, Merry Sunshine!

That's how I greeted my precious baby girl in the early years of her life.   This special girl has brought me so much joy, comfort, and satisfaction over the years...I love you, Katharine Jeanne!  Happy 29th birthday!

PS - so excited to have a birthday breakfast with you in a few hours!  Thanks for agreeing to pick us up from ORD!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hangin' Out in the District

We had a great time returning to the place where we started our vacation one week earlier - and jumped at the chance of more time with Joe.  We did a lot of talking and walking (including an afternoon visit to the National Cathedral and Rock Creek Park):
Friday night fun!
Cafe Luna
Spinach-stuffed Tilapia - thanks for dinner, Joe!
National Cathedral, Washington
Chevy's - in Arlington, near Katie's apt.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Almost Heaven...West Virginia

"Almost heaven, West Virginia..." Yep.  We've been singing John Denver and yep, we saw that Shenandoah River (by the way, a real thrill).

West Virginia - their license plate's motto is "Wild, Wonderful" - very interesting and actually I agree.  It's wild, as in, wild, wild west.  It's wonderful as in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Put one more check on the list of things we've wanted to do:  we hiked the Appalachian Trail (AT)!  Okay, just a small bit of the 2200 miles, but still - it was the AT!  And it was thrilling.  And scenic.

In addition to amazing wildlife (I spotted a blue heron and lots of living things I couldn't readily identify) and spectacular views, Harpers Ferry takes you back to the time of the Civil War as so many things happened there, including John Brown's raid and the largest surrender of federal troops during the war.  In listening to one park ranger, it became apparent.  He talked about how our country was divided...and fighting.  Many abolitionists fought on behalf of the belief that men should be free and slavery should be eradicated, but these same individuals were still racist, and still insisted on segregation.  The Civil War formally abolished slavery, but the Civil Rights movement a hundred years later is what advanced the notion of true equal rights - and the topic of race is still relevant and still controversial.

Harpers Ferry Lower Town - near the John Brown fort
The Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers meet
Blue Ridge Mountains
AT - from Maine to Georgia
The 2"x6" white post markings indicate the AT

Thomas Jefferson visited Harpers Ferry in 1783 and wrote: "The passage of the Potomac through the Blue Ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature."

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Not All Who Wander are Lost

Today was a travel day - 500+ miles (I didn't count - road trips are an absolute blast with SJS even with a 50-minute wait to cross the Hudson because of Geo. Wash. Bridge roadwork, followed closely by a forgettable and yet unexplainable bumper-to-bumper on the Jersey turnpike for another 45).  But give us a charged iPod, Siri guiding us, and complimentary hotel coffee and we've got all we need for provocative conversation, with me ultimately identifying the solution for most of the world's problems.

We didn't really think about it, since we were focused more on the rain and the roadwork, but on reflection, I realize that today we traveled through the capitol cities of Hartford and Harrisburg, as well an ultimate count of 9 states in one day - NH, MA, CT, NY, NJ, PA, MD, VA, WV!

Tonight we landed in historic Charles Town, WV because we wanted to position ourselves for tomorrow, a date we have with next door Harpers Ferry National Historic Park.  We searched this quiet, unpretentious town, but could not channel Miguels for anything, though we tried.  All the local places were too scary for me and I refused Applebee's, too, so we grabbed Sam Adams and some pizza and are calling it a day well spent.

I saw a few good bumper stickers along the way today (like the appropo title above) and also this one:  "At Least the War on the Middle Class is Going Well".

Cheers to summer road trips...

And then there's this provocative license plate - dang I love this motto:
New Hampshire:  Live Free or Die!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


My type-A personality could take it no longer and, as our vacation days are winding down and seeming more precious, I insisted last night that we figure out a plan for the rest of our trip.  Not having a plan is fine at the beginning of vacation, but Monday is coming! 

It's then that we decided to make one more impulsive move and drive today to our easternmost state - the Pine Tree State - Maine!  We saw commercial fisheries and lumber operations, shipyards and lots of forested areas.  Did you know?  It's the least densely populated state in the USA, east of the Mississippi, and there are pine trees everywhere!
David's Restaurant in Portland - thank you Yelp (you were spot on)!
1-1/4 lb. lobster - this delicious creature was cruising the Atlantic only shortly before this
Maine lobster - this was a treat!
The home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - Portland's native son
Walking the East Prom Trail in Portland

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Boston Strong...and Healthy

Bean-town:  So much more than anything that name can describe...
Amy - always a favorite
Amy's son Jimmy, doing what he does
Amy's house, with Sarah, Becca, Shawn...and our rental car

We visited niece Amy and her 4 children, on the eastern coastline in Scituate MA.  Their front window faces the Atlantic Ocean.  Amy - living the dream!  Always good to catch up!

I was so impressed with Boston - all the offerings of a big city with small New England charm.

Clean streets, polite people, easy to move about - and no one seemed too hung up on the bombings of under 4 months ago.  There was very little evidence that something traumatic happened here.  It's as if everyone had agreed on the basic tenets of behavioral psychology:  don't reinforce bad behavior.

We went to all many of the historic sites, mostly via the Freedom Trail, a brick-lined path which encompasses about 2.5 miles downtown and leads the ignorant tourist (aka - us) to 16 historic sites, including the Boston Massacre,  Faneuil Hall, Bunker Hill, USS Constitution, and Boston Common.  There was so much to see.  And then we got off the trail, and went to where everybody knows your name...
Christmas card 2013?

Freedom Trail markings - makes it easy to tour Boston

Bunker Hill - 294 steps - yes, we climbed 'em!
Water shuttle - aka Ferry - got a great view of the city!
We were starving, and ate lunch in the park - and then, when full, came across this...we ate in the park commemorating the Irish famine - how's that for irony?
That Sam Adams - one cool guy!

On Boylston Street - site of Boston Marathon bombings
The only other Boston Marathon memorial we saw
Where everybody knows your name
I sat in Norm's seat
The beer (Sam Adams) was delish

When we thought we had seen everything, we stumbled upon this