Sunday, July 29, 2007

"Because we're family!"

Looking back on the weekend, it feels so right, having everyone home again. I find myself sighing and thinking, this moment, right now, is what it's all about. We spent most of Saturday doing the usual, unglamorous things: laundry, grocery shopping, getting one of the cars worked on, mowing the lawn, and the kids got caught up with their friends that they hadn't seen in some time. I think the house feels better, and it seems to sigh with contentment too, that everyone is home.
On Saturday evening, Dan and I met some friends for dinner at a place called The Chart House, which is in the foothills. The drive to and from the restaurant overlooks the city. It was nice to be up in the hills again, so much cooler than the hot weather we're having here. And it's always good to be with this particular group. The four guys have known each other forever -- before any of us gals came along. We've been in one another's weddings, raised our kids together and attended some of those same kids' graduation parties. We've been camping together since it was "just couples," and when the kids came along, we packed them up and brought them along. We have pictures of each other in our family photo albums, huddled around campfires, holding fishing poles and playing pick-up baseball. We laugh at the same stories over and over, remembering things we did 20 years ago, but can't remember what we had for breakfast. The first couple to have children goaded on the others, and now those empty nesters gloat at their new-found freedom and encourage the rest of us, with nests still crammed full, to hang in there, freedom will ring once more.
Then, this morning, I bought a bucket of bagels from Einsteins, Dan made a carafe full of coffee, and we sat on our back screened-in porch with Grandma and Grandpa, uncle and aunt and cousin, and listened to Joe's stories of his trip to Japan. We wanted to sneak in a quick visit before we head out again later this week, and Dad and Carol head off for their next venture. We all seem to be coming and going in all directions this summer, with travel itineraries that look like one of those maps at the bus terminal -- routes crisscrossing all over the place.
When we gathered in the mountains last week, we were meeting members of my step mom's family for the first time. My new-found family members are warm and congenial and friendly. We all seemed to mesh rather quickly with laughter being the common denominator in much of the conversation. Dan later made an observation about the bonds of "family". He recalled how, years ago, when we were in the process of adopting our first child, he was talking to our caseworker about "bonding" with children, and she talked about how even though Dan and I aren't related by blood, the bond we share will last a lifetime. Love is a strong bond, she said, and of course we quickly "bonded" with all three of our beautiful children. And now we have this extended family, made up of more adopted children, children brought to the family through various marriages, and when I'm asked, I sometimes have to think a minute to tell you who carries whose genes! Dan summed it up. "They say blood is thicker than water, but I think family is thicker than blood."
How true those words are. I think of the people in my life that have become my chosen family, and I don't know how I would make it through this journey without them. There's a saying that says, "friends are the family you choose for yourself." Somehow, I can't imagine myself capable of finding these people on my own. I know that God has played a hand in it. And I'm so thankful and blessed that he has.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Together again

It's good to be home again. Tonight, for the first time in almost two months, all five of us sat down at the supper table together. We went to Denver Int'l Airport at noon today to get Joe! He had so much to tell us about his trip, and stayed awake long enough to have the special meal that he requested for his homecoming. It's his favorite:

Turkey spinach meatloaf
Cranberry sauce
Baked sweet potatoes
Corn on the cob
Apple pie a la mode
The rest of us arrived home yesterday from our family reunion. I can't decide which part was the best.

Definitely being with family was the best part. We stayed at the Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park. It took 10 rooms to accommodate all of us: my Dad and step mom, Carol, my three brothers and their families, Carol's two sons and one daughter and their families. When we arrived, there were hugs all around -- we don't all get to be together very often, and the two families were also meeting for the first time. By the time we left there were even tighter hugs all around, and we all promised we would stay in touch and get together again.

Being in the beautiful mountains was also one of the best parts. Even though the area has been devastated in the past few years by pine beetles, turning thousands of acres to a deep rusty red. The beetles infest the lodge pole pine trees and they die. It's a dangerous situation, especially since it is the height of fire season in the mountains. While tragic, it is also a marvel to see how Mother Nature works. Similar to seeing Yellowstone National Park the year after the huge fires ravaged its forests, it will be interesting to see how the forests renew themselves with different species of trees.

We had so many fun activities to do, and for my kids that was the best part. And they got to be with their cousins, swimming until late at night, then piling in one of the rooms to play games and have snacks. During the day we went rafting, hiking, horseback riding, played archery and putt putt golf, and spent a day out on Grand Lake. On the last evening we had a family baseball game. The kids enjoyed having the grownups to play with, and the grownups -- well, all I could think of the next day was Toby Keith's song "I ain't as good as I once was. . . " I don't know where I hurt more, my muscles from attempting to run or where I sat while horseback riding the next day.

So, we're home for a week and then off again for a car trip to Lake Powell and then to California for Dan's family reunion. I don't know how it happens that we don't go anywhere, I mean ANYWHERE, for months, and then we're heading east, west and farther west all in a month's time. It has been fun!

I loved coming home to some books in the mail from fellow bloggers, and to another blogging award. This one was from Tristi, and it's a fun one Community Involvement in the Blogging World. I'm a schmoozer! I'll borrow from Lynne's post and explain with this definition.

Schmoozing as defined by is the ability “to converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.” When it comes to blogging, schmoozing is your ticket to making new friends, getting yourself noticed and building a reputation. (She stole this definition from Mike at Ordinary Folk.)
"Building a reputation." Hmmm. I don't know if I've ever had one (I'm usually pretty quiet in crowds), so now that I do, I hope it's a good one! LOL

As soon as Joe wakes up, I'll get the buttons on my sidebar! Oh, but first, I get to pass on the award to fellow "schmoozers." I've met so many great friends since starting this blog in February. I think we all schmooze a bit to build friendships in the blogging world. So I pick Robin and Stacy, who have both been so friendly and outgoing from the first time we started leaving comments. I can't remember where we all started, but I love visiting their sites and they always leave such great comments on mine. I would have to say, they schmooze real good and absolutely build community.

Now, I'm off to visit everyone. It's good to be home:)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blogger awards

Lynne, at Lynne's Little Corner of the World, was sweet enough to give me these two awards. To be thought of as creative and thoughtful means a lot to me, and especially so because if Lynne hadn't passed these on to me, she is one of the first people I would have thought deserving of them. Here's what they mean: The Creative Blogger Award is for those who bring unique and creative elements to their blogs. For those who incorporate art, music, creative writing, photo's, and other beautiful visual effects into their website. For those who put a unique spin on things and come up with new ideas. This award is for the artsy, the funky, the inventor, and even the rebel. This award is for those creative individuals who stand out from the crowd. The Thoughtful Blogger Award is for those who answer blog comments, emails, and make their visitors feel at home on their blogs. For the people who take others' feelings into consideration before speaking out and who are kind and courteous. Also for all of those bloggers who spend so much of their time helping other bloggers design, improve, and fix their sites. This award is for those generous bloggers who think of others.
Thanks, Lynne, I'm flattered. (blush) . . . but I could use a little help figuring out how to add these buttons to my sidebar, so I'm not so sure the technie part applies to me!
In turn, I would like to recognize the following bloggers.
Kim at Mom Musings - I love visiting Kim's blog. I feel like we cold sit down and have a cup of tea and find so much to talk about. She is thoughtful in her comments and creative in the photos she shares of her beautiful family.
Kris at Garden's by the Lake - If you haven't visited Kris's gardens, you don't know what you're missing! Everytime I stop by, my heart just sighs at the beautiful photographs.
Tristi at Tristi's Blogspot - Tristi's blog is a wonderful assortment of book reviews, writing lessons, and just musings about life in general. I never know what to expect. I love her sense of humor and I suspect there's some rebel in there, too!
Mel at Actual Unretouched Photo - Mel is a riot. She has a way of hitting the nail on the head when it comes to this whole motherhood things. She absolutlely puts a unique spin on things. She also has a terrific website on weight-loss.
Judith at Flight Song -- Judith has the heart of a poet. She is both thoughtful and creative, and her posts are thought-provoking and beautiful. I love her perspective.
This has been fun! I love reading everyone's blogs and appreciate the lovely comments you all take time to leave for me;)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . .

While Dan is still away on business, and Joe is dodging typhoons, earthquakes and tropical storms in Japan, Luke and Em and I have had j u s t a b o u t as much fun as we're going to have with one another this summer.
The novelty of eating out has worn off. Granted my budget and their culinary tastes don't allow us to do much beyond the usual sandwich and hamburger places. Last night, we stretched and went to a really nice pizza place, with a salad bar, pizza buffet and little t.v.'s at each table. As I sat, vowing I would never eat pizza again, the two of them argued about what show to watch on the little TV. It was a fun time.
We've seen every PG movie that's been released this summer, and Luke has seen every PG-13 movie that he's certain involves NO ROMANCE or yuck like that. We've reached the maximum allotted sleepovers that I can stomach. We've worn out the carpet in the youth section at the library and claimed our prizes for the summer reading program. We've stayed up late and eaten popsicles on the back porch until our tongues are deep purple and red.
The two of them can't wait for Joey to get home so they'll have someone else to blame for the dirty glasses and empty yogurt containers that mysteriously appear on the coffee table. I can't wait for Dan to get home so there will be someone else in the house who doesn't whine about what's for dinner, take pleasure in changing the channel when others aren't looking, and can drive himself wherever he needs to be.
Tonight, we're invited to a friend's house for . . . pizza. But it's okay. Because there will be other kids there for mine to swim with and then play pool. And I get to visit with my girlfriends and count the days with them until school begins. And tomorrow. . . Dan is home, and it's one week until Joey gets home.
Life is good.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Back East

It's been less than 24 hours since I returned home from my trip with Dan. Our time together is separated by a baseball game, having coffee with my brother, Matt, and visiting with my Dad. In my mind's eye, the weekend already has a soft vignette border around the edges.

From Horsham, Pennsylvania, which is just north of Philly, we drove in our rental car through Lancaster County. It is Pennsylvania Dutch country, and we marveled at the magnificent barns and acres upon acres of lush green crops. The locals drive the roads with their horses and buggies, and the barefoot children play in the yards or ride their scooters alongside the roads. Dan laughed at how I loved the sight of the laundry hung out on clotheslines that stretched across their farm yards. Sheets and towels and their solid colored shirts.

Our destination was the battlefield at Gettysburg. We drove along the roads of the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside, carrying just the things we needed for the day, and drinking in the bliss of traveling so easily, just the two of us. There are enough cup holders, we get the whole back seat to spread out maps and brochures, hats and cameras. We enjoy it ten times more now than we did BK (before kids), because we've experienced how complicated it can be with three children along.

He stops so that I can photograph every memorial and statue (I love statues), and I patiently trod behind him so we can climb every observation deck and point of interest. I read aloud from the touring brochure, until the dates and facts start to jumble in our minds and we agree to just enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of these hallowed grounds. On the way back to the hotel that evening, we go through the back roads of Lancaster County, driving through a covered bridge and catching glimpses of the residents at their evening chores. An Amish man brings in his team of horses from a field. He rides, standing up in the wagon while holding the reins of three Belgians horses, hitched so they are walking abreast. In the dusk, the sky behind him is beginning to turn pink and it's a picture I want to hold in my mind forever.

The next day we head east into New Jersey to spend the day at Long Beach Island. I have so many memories of being there as a child and with my boys when they were little. Dan and I sit in view of Barnegat lighthouse and have our lunch. Later we walk farther down the beach and just enjoy the ocean. We share memories of our childhood vacations and talk about trips we want to do with our kids before they fly the nest.

There are so many things that are distinctly "back east". Seeing Queen Ann's lace on the side of the roads, lightening bugs in the dusk, farm stands selling Jersey corn, and toll booth after toll booth. Yet, even knowing how small our world has become, I'm surprised at the familiar Starbuck's signs all around (and glad for them!) and more surprised to find that 98.5 on the radio is Jersey Country (Jersey Country? What happened to the familiar jingle of WNEW New York?) So, we drive through the back roads of rural New Jersey, listening to Toby Keith. Life is good.

On our last day, we spent a wonderful afternoon and evening with my aunt and uncle and cousins at their home. We got caught up on new things and re-lived a lot of the old times. I can't begin to put into words what it means for me to be with these people, my first family. It's going back and being who I was before my life now. Not that you can ever really do that, but they knew me first as just Karen. They've seen me so few times in my capacity as a mother, wife, homemaker. They see me and they see my mother. And when my aunt and I are together, my mother feels so very close, and we know she is shaking her head at the two of us, gossiping and carrying on. When I'm with them, I remember so clearly what it was like to be part of the family I once was. And that's all good, because that was such a very good time in my life.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Getting to the heart of things

"Reflection of God" by Morgan Weistling. This print, as well as other works by the artist, is available at Christ Centered Art dot com
Yeah, my very first "intentional" tag. Xandra over at Heart of Service tagged me and asks "What are five things you dig about Jesus?" Well, I have to admit, I peeked at some other people's answers. My Protestant sisters are a whole lot more versed in their scripture than this Catholic girl. So, I'm just gonna tell you what's in my heart.
1. Jesus shows up in the most amazing places and at the most amazing times. Sometimes he's in the eyes of a person you love. Sometimes he's just a whisper. And sometimes he's a feeling so powerful, you just can't ignore him. But just when you need him, if you look and listen, he's there.
2. He knows how to have quality, meaningful time with the people he loves. All it takes is good food and conversation -- nothing fancy, no pretense. I think Jesus would really love bbq's if he had the chance to experience one.
3. Jesus loves kids. He calls the little children to come to him. And he loves seeing the kid in all of us. He just likes that kind of faith.
4. He wore sandles all the time and never put on airs. For being the most well-known figure in history, he never owned a home, wore fancy clothes, held office, had an editor or a PR guy. He's famous because he has the most awesome heart. He's just so "real" that way.
5. Jesus adored his mom, gave glory to his Father and always put other people first. And that's what we're supposed to do. Not judge them, preach to them or try to make them be like us. We're just supposed to love them. Pretty simple.
And I'll tag anyone who is reading this and would like to give it a try. Just leave your link. I'd love to see your thoughts:)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Things I love

Kelly, at My Utopia, has challenged us to come up with a list of things we love. For my list, I already assumed that you all know I love my family and friends. And, in the interest of time, I'll limit my list to 10 things:
I love it when I find my reading glasses right at my fingertips and don't have to search for them.
I love the sight of the American flag. Seeing it flying from people's porch steps, lining the street during our community's annual parade, seeing a color guard march by just brings a lump to my throat.
I love real letters that come in the real mailbox.
I love my white Keds mules I found at Kohl's this summer. I wear them every day.
I love car trips (ask me about this one after we get back from California).
I love the sound of my nephew's little voice when he calls me "Tunte" (German for aunt).
I love that I can count on 3 bottles of milk and a little pint-size bottle of half 'n' half to be delivered to my door EVERY Monday morning. Without fail. EVER.
I love the sound of the smack of the bat sending a baseball far into the outfield.
I love to browse through fabric stores. I love collecting fabric. I love fabric.
I love looking through photo albums -- my own or other people's. It doesn't even matter if I know the people in the pictures. I just like to see special moments captured in a photo.
What do you love?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Looking ahead

I'm doing something a little different with my reflection this week. Rather than looking back, I'm looking forward. . . The first half of the summer was for kicking back and taking each day as it came along. We had some things on the calendar -- baseball games, piano lessons, some bbq's -- but for the most part, the days were unplanned and we've been enjoying being home. At least the three of us that have been home! On Thursday, I get to begin my summer adventures. This morning I took Dan to the bus stop, where he'll head off to the airport for a two-week business trip. The nice part is, I get to meet him in the middle of it! On Thursday, I'll board a plane and meet him in Philly, where we'll take a few days and travel the area. We'll spend a day visiting my aunt and uncle in New Jersey, a day at the shore and another day visiting Amish country. None of these places is new to me, but having four days alone with my husband is the whole reason behind the trip. Rather than come home for the weekend, he thought it would be nice for us to sneak in a get-away. When I get back, I'll have a week before Dan and Luke and Em and I head up to Granby for a family get-together. We'll spend five days with my family and my "new" step-family. My dad and step-mom (still newly weds of three years), have planned a gathering for all of their 'kids' and grandkids. I can't remember the last time I've been with my brothers and their families for more than half a day. And I'll have two step-brothers and a step-sister and their families along to boot. The trip has been dubbed the "Getting to Know You Tour. . . Together Again for the First Time." It should be fun, and I can't think of a more beautiful setting than in the Colorado mountains. The day after we get home, we'll head to DIA to greet Joe! He'll be home from his 6-week stay in Japan. During the next week, he is completing his Eagle Scout project, and then we'll head off to Lake Powell to spend five days with my brother and his family on a houseboat, and from there drive to California for Dan's family reunion. We'll return just in time to make a run to Target for school supplies, and then the kids start school. What's that about enjoying the journey, not focusing too much on the destination? That will be my goal for the next month. To enjoy each stop along the way, being with each of my family members, and not getting too caught up in what's next and where are we on the calendar? And, of course, I'll be stopping in here to reflect on it all.
For more Weekend Reflections, check out Judi's place.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Sweet Serenity of Books

Stacy, at Exceedingly Mundane (don't you just love that blog title?), hosts a Question of the Day. Today her question was about libraries. Do you visit your local library, have a card, and what is your involvment? I loved this question, because it took me on a trip down memory lane. When I was growing up, the local library was one of my favorite places, especially in the summer. My brothers and friends and I would ride our bikes there, and it was always so refreshing to arrive at the cool, brick building after a ride on the hot, asphalt streets of our neighborhood. We would sit on the floor in the aisles between the book stacks, reading and sorting through our choices. We always signed up for the Summer Reading Program, which consisted of reading 30 books (series books such as Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys didn't qualify -- a smart move by the librarian to get the kids to broaden their horizons a bit.) When we read our 30 books, we were rewarded with a gift certificate and an American Flag -- one of those on a stick with the gold point on the end. We thought it was just the cat's meow. This morning, I took my daughter to our local library -- same library that I went to as a kid, but it is now in it's third building and about 90 times bigger. She is in the Summer Reading Program, which has a "sleuthing" theme this year. Today, she'll learn about finger printing, decoding and following clues. When she finishes reading her 30 books, or 30 hours of reading, she gets an ice cream party and a free book. And for every 10 in between, she'll get a certificate for a kids' meal at Chic Filet or free bowling pass. Just for signing up, she gets a book mark, and a coupon for an Icee. The Children's Room was full of kids and parents, looking through the stacks of books, then heading for the "reading area", which has been beautifully decorated with a mural of a forest, filled with stuffed chairs of different primary colors, and inhabited by large stuffed animals representing the forest. I find myself thinking about Meg Ryan's character in "You've Got Mail." Her quaint little book store is being replaced by a huge chain book store, and she is so prepared to hate it. Yet, when she walks into the children's section, so much larger and fancier than what her store had to offer, she realizes that although the environment is so different, people's love of books is still the same. Perhaps our libraries have to be fancier and jazzed up, to attract kids who are used to seeing their stories animated on a TV or computer. And, I have to say, it's a lot more comfy sitting in those colored overstuffed chairs than on the hard floor between the stacks of books -- although I still find myself sliding down to the floor, just to browse a book or to nestle beside my daugher and read over her shoulder. Following on the 4th of July -- is there anything more American than a library? Where you can go for free to read books that are free and, for the most part, uncensored? And finally, Charles Elliott says it well: Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers. And P.J. O'Rourke, gives the reader this wise advice: Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Remembering our wedding. . .

Annie has a wonderful Time Travel Tuesday. . . remembering our weddings. Unfortunately, I can't seem to scan any photos, so until I work out the bugs, here's the story:)
Dan and I were married on June 2, 1984. It was a beautiful day, after having poured rain on the rehearsal dinner the night before. It's funny, but when I think back to 'the wedding' I almost always think of the near-catastrophe that occured because I neglected to confirm that the band was coming! My roomate/best-friend/maid of honor realized this the night before and, first thing, in the morning told my mother. She immediately called the band, and sure enough, they didn't have us on the calendar!! God bless this man, he pulled together his band members and enough musicians, that we had our band, and it was the best party ever! I felt so bad, because it was one of the few things that my dad really wanted for my wedding -- the rest was all Mom's and my planning. I just plum forgot to call and confirm -- ditsy young thing that I was.
I'm glad I got a chance to look through our album this morning. Most of the day has remained a blur in my memory, but looking at the photos, we sure had a great time! I hadn't looked through those photos in years, although we do drag out the "bride and groom" champagne glasses most anniversaries to toast one another.
I think back to all the planning that was involved in this 'big day'. The dress, the bridesmaid's gowns, the tuxes, the rings, the flowers, the gorgeous cake with the topper that was made using the vintage bride and groom topper from my parents' wedding -- all done with fresh flowers. The dancing! Dan and I took dance lessons before the wedding -- his idea -- and it was the best thing we ever did. When I think about it, the dancing and the music were the best parts of the whole wedding -- my dad and Dan's ideas, and the only one's my mom and I went with from them! Of course, Dan wanted our first dance to be to the song, To All the Girls I've Loved Before, sung by Willie Nelson. I don't even remember the first dance song, but it sure wasn't that one!
We had a dinner buffet and dancing for about 250 guests. We spent our first night at the beautiful Fairmont Hotel in downtown Denver, which is no longer there:(, and the next morning left for our honeymoon in Hawaii. I knew where we were going, but that was it, as Dan planned the whole thing as a surprise from the first night to where we stayed on the islands -- first Oahu and then Maui. Ahhh, as much as I loved being there 23 years ago, I think I would really appreciate a tropical vacation with just my husband a hundred times moreso, now! Maybe for our 25th?? (hint, hint)
If I can get the pictures up, I'll update this later. Thanks, Annie, for hosting this! (And thanks, sweetie, for 23 wonderful years.)