Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Gallon-full of Grateful

Today I was making Noah lunch when I accidentally ripped open an entire bag of frozen french fries. Darn! I thought, I only needed a hand-full and now the bag was completely torn in half.
(If you know me well, you will also know the twenty-five year old running "joke" that I can't seem to escape. The one about the sub-par way that I open cereal boxes. I always try my best, it just rarely works out for me.)

So when I inadvertently shredded this bag of french fries, my first emotions were shamefulness and self-disgust. It quickly turned to "shoot, what am I going to do with the other 90% of the french fries?"

That's when I went over to the cabinet, hunched down, and started looking for a gallon-sized Ziploc bag to solve my problem. Sure enough, they were there. (As were the sandwich size, the snack size, and the printed with measurements, 1 cup sized Ziploc bags.)

And then, it hit me! An emotion that kind of felt like what I'd imagine a Care Bear cloud would feel like if it were an emotion. This feeling of happiness and gratitude and rainbows and sunbeams!

Which is weird, I know, coming from a Ziploc bag, but suddenly, I had this overwhelming feeling of "MAN! I am SO grateful that I could come to the cupboard and there was the gallon-sized bag that I needed." And the feeling just grew from there as I stopped, motionlessly bent over. "I'm so thankful." "How did I ever become this lucky, to have such abundance in my life?" 

For many, a gallon-sized Ziploc bag might not often illicit such emotions, but I think that this moment was precipitated by a lot of small occurrences earlier in the day. Each one that I felt gratitude for.

First, it was freezing this morning, and I was thrilled! I saw my neighbor on my daily walk, and she declared this to be "Duluth" weather. She said in Duluth, if it gets near 80 degrees, people start wilting from the heat. I thought in that moment that I'm rather particularly suited to Duluth weather myself! Days like these, with their high, barely reaching 70, I had the rare chance to wear something cozy in the summer. So I'm spending the day in a super soft terry cloth tunic and leggings. It's like pajamas, but better because you can go to Target in them. And, the best part about it being freezing, is that I could almost pretend that it's fall. The season that I live for.

Before I realized how cold it was, early this morning I tried on a summer dress that I had sewn a couple of years ago. Even though it's a little strange looking and a little crooked, I felt so happy and proud that I had made it myself!

And then I topped the dress with a crocheted shawl, that I had also made myself. Complete with rosettes and bubble stitches. It was all too much of a "look" for errands I thought, but none-the-less, it brought me joy knowing that I could outfit myself and my family, should the entirety of the retail clothing industry implode. (Jon and Noah would be wearing floral, crocheted shawls.)

Also this morning, I received an email that camp was closed due to a power outrage from last night's storms. I thought, "Hooray! A chance for Noah to sleep in, and for us to have a quiet day together. 

Noah woke up, refreshed from a long night's sleep, in a good mood. He didn't fight me when I mentioned that today would be a day for pants instead of shorts. He even agreed to be a "helper" and go along with me on my two, regular Monday errands - the grocery store and Target. 

At the grocery store, Noah, finally being tall enough to see over the handle of the cart, insisted on pushing, and he did a great job. He found his snack seaweed and chose lunch items without hassle. We bought a bunch of fresh flowers. I felt so thankful for being able to bring food home from the store each week.

When came back and put away the cold food, Noah readily agreed to the weekly Target run. Some things are essential, mainly cat food and shampoo and toilet paper. You don't want to run out.
Noah asked if he could buy a small toy with some of his saved money. I agreed. He dumped out his little, miniature safe, and we sat on the floor counting quarters. I thought: "Wow, I did this as a kid too. We are making a memory for both of us." And how grateful I felt for this unscheduled moment.

At the store, we purchased everything on the list (Except for the liquid dish soap which I have forgotten). And when I paid the cashier, I thought: "How appreciative am I, that I can purchase the odds and ends in life that we need without worry.

Basically, it was just a lovely day of small reminders of just how thankful I am. There are always the big things in the front of my mind that I hold gratitude for..... a wonderful husband, a great son, a cozy home, a community of the most wonderful friends, and so on and so on and so on. Sometimes though, it takes the littler things, all added up, to just stand in awe. If that makes sense.

Even if you're missing out on some of the "bigger ticket items" that you'd like to have in your life to be thankful for, if you can, for the time being,  acknowledging the small joys can be amazingly rewarding too.

Here are a few of my "small gratitudes" from the past few weeks. What are yours!?

Thankful for finding new ways to dust, and having helpers!

For the pretty, little gifts that Noah makes me at day camp. Like this beautiful glass fusion earring and necklace set! :)

Grateful for Grandpas that stop by for a few hours on the hottest day of the year so far. And for a mini-pool to dip our feet in.

Thankful for the opportunity to cook for my family when I want to express my love. Snickerdoodle recipe HERE!

And for finding the BEST crisp cucumber and dill salad recipe yet! Perfect for warm summer evenings. (This one was from a cookbook. Let me know if you want the recipe. Basically it was two English cucumbers sliced, salted, left for 15 minutes and patted dry. Some sour cream, a bit of red onion, lots of dill, salt and pepper, white wine vinegar and sugar. Leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to meld the flavors. Delicious!)

Thankful for the times when it's too cool to turn the A/C on, but too warm not to throw open the windows. A perfect opportunity to make a window seat for a cat. 

Appreciative of family bike rides and fire engines sitting outside the station.

Oh! Did I mention gratitude for boys with haircuts, so they can stop getting upset each morning when their Moms try to comb their long hair!? Noah decided to get a short haircut for a change. I think he looks nice! Noah and I are trying to get used to it. I think we secretly both miss his long hair. But something else that I'm grateful for - hair that grows back and the ability to change one's hairstyle up any which way!

Feeling really lucky for husbands that go along with any cheesy photo op.  :)

And for ice cream in an old farmhouse in one of my favorite places around: 

And how could one forget my gray-haired readers. I'm TOTALLY thankful for YOU, and for having the chance to  share this strange hair-color journey with new friends! Actually, I am feeling lucky to have white hair. It has forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and to just go with the flow. Something that I've never been good with. Having this experience has changed my life for the better in so many ways! (Also, I have to tell you, I'm thankful that now I'm done with "growing out" my hair. I have some brown still mixed in there, but the gray has grown all the way to the ends. There is something so settling about being past the growing out phase. I PROMISE, for all of you who are going through this process now, one day, you wake up, and your new color feels just, "normal".  It feels like it's "you" and it's not a huge deal anymore. So hang in there, things get a lot easier! )

Riiiiiing! What's not better than the jangly ring of a vintage phone? I'm appreciating this ebay find that arrived this week. Not only was coincidentally sent from Toledo, Jon's hometown, but when the packaged arrived with the return address on it.....the previous owner is living on Jon's old street!!! WHAT are the chances? Toledo is a BIG place! 

I love that this little pond resides at the bottom of our street, and that right now, the Lilly pads are in bloom! Big, hot pink flowers. I also love that the pond is home to hundreds of koi looking fish, some snapping turtles, frogs and even....... A FAMILY OF GREEN HERON!!! I saw the young Herons just the other day. It was nerdily exciting. I tried so hard to get a good picture, but they were up in the tree and sadly, none of the pictures came out well.

And finally, I am grateful for sweet cats who are happy to see their boy when he gets home from camp.

Until next time, remember the little things are special too!

With Love,

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pavarotti & Aeroplanes - Remembering the True YOU!

I've decided to try something a little different this time. This post was began a couple of months ago, in an attempt to simply record a childhood memory with a special message. Someday, when I'm old, and the details become even foggier, I'll be able to look back to How Bourgeois and re-remember the story I'm about to tell of the summer of 91'.  Or perhaps one day, Noah could read the blog and learn about his parents, which would be, in my humble opinion, pretty cool! Wouldn't you love to know your parents in their own words, from a time long ago? And even maybe, at some point, I will have a grandchild or two, and wouldn't it be just amazing if they could come and read all of this? I would have really enjoyed hearing more of my Grandma and Grandpa's stories through their words, pictures and videos.

So, without further ado........ a few simple, written snapshots of a most amazing summer. Once....upon...a....time.................................


THIS  short, beautiful video follows two older Dutch women, as they over come fear and take their very first flight. It was incredibly moving and joyful to watch. It's difficult to forget the silence and the awe that one can only find while looking down upon the earth from an airplane's window. At least, that's how I feel. It's nice to see these women find that same transcendent experience. Their reactions are so genuine and pure. I hope it makes you cry and smile at the same time too! Like it did for me! :)

There were several instances over the weekend, one being this video, that brought up memories of a very poignant time in my life. A summer that I rarely think about these days. Each time that I was reminded over the weekend though, I told Noah a little more about that magic summer, but here I'd like to tell you the whole story - a short, little picture postcard of memories.

This is a story about the summer that I turned fourteen. It's not a very long story or a particularly exciting one, but the message is important for all of us - it's that we must never forget who we really Are!

It's so easy to fail to remember  the "me" that's deep inside of us. The me, that's hidden behind layers and years of experiences, opinions and things that we are told to believe about ourselves.  Both the good and  the bad.  Fourteen-year-old you, is usually quite close to the true you. The you at your core.

When we grow older and life entangles us and fear and doubt creep in, there's often hiding inside the younger you who was bold and fearless! Boundless and free from at least some of the endless, chattering ego mind that weighs down so many of us now.  Those snapshots of youthful intrepidity are golden, and remind us that we are mightier than we know!
It was the summer of 1991, and I'd just turned 14.  My parents had been divorced for a few years, and my Mother was recently remarried. My father, newly returned to Michigan, from New York. He moved to the upper east side of Manhattan, for what turned out to be a one-year stint. He would call most days, but I refused to speak with him on the phone after he up and left for a new job. I was hurt. And I don't know if it was me and my refusal to talk on the phone, or the fact that his car was broken into twice in less than a year, but eventually, my father decided to moved back home.

Both of my parents were busy with their own lives, and both traveled for work. In fact, I believe this was the year that my Mother called my brother and I from Universal Studios to say that she taken the "Back to the Future" ride twice in a row, and that it was fantastic. We went back and forth between our parents' houses, but summer left long stretches of open time needing to be filled.

This was the first summer that I ever agreed to go to sleep away camp.  I was and I still am a homebody. Little wooden cabins without bathrooms did not appeal to me. Neither did mosquitoes, the dangers of ticks, overly sentimental renditions of Kumbaya and the Indigo Girls round' the camp fire. Not so much. But for whatever reason, I did finally agree, at the ripe old age of fourteen, to try Black River Horse Camp for Girls.

Here is their description from the website:

"Imagine going to the pasture to bring in your horse, grooming and saddling him, riding him through sunlit fields and wooded trails.

Then spending your afternoon jumping on the trampolines and having a picnic at the Outback. You can try your hand at tennis, camp crafts, boating on Lake Lorely, bottle feeding a new calf and/or baby goat. Also, wonderful farm food, swimming in the beautiful pool that is heated and shaped liked a horse head, girl talk in the bunk house after lights out and hikes along the wooded bank of the river."

This was a utopia. What girl would not want to permanently run away and live at Black River Horse Camp for Girls? What ADULT WOMAN would not want to run away and live at Black River for "rides in sunlit fields", "bottle feeding new calves" and "swimming in a horse head shaped pool"?

But for some reason, that summer, I lost my mind. At least for a week I did. When my Mother and stepfather dropped me off and then said their "goodbyes", I began to cry. I began to cry and basically didn't stop for an entire week. In fact, I was so distraught and full of doom, that, for the first and only time in my life, I could not bear to eat! (This is how you know things were bad.) The counselors and staff were so concerned. No amount of reasoning or cajoling or the usually distraction-worthy activities could break my dread and anxiety.

(I even took detailed photos of the bathroom in a desperate attempt to convince my Mom never to send me back. I wanted bathroom empathy because not only were they COMMUNAL bathrooms, but the stalls had painted plywood doors! Plywood doors! A horse could accidentally come barreling through those lightweight doors!)

The staff had never seen anything like it I suppose. At night I'd have terrible nightmares of home, and wake up sobbing because my family and pets were so far away. During the day, it wasn't any better.
What the counselors and the rest of the staff didn't know, was that I was an already anxious kid, just sorting out a tumultuous divorce, remarriage, and new family situation. A kid who was delivered to camp by one parent, my Mom, who was about to leave the state, and that I was to be picked up by another parent, my Father, who I doubted even knew where the camp was located. (I was incredibly worried that he would A.) forget the correct day to pick me up and B.) would not be able to find the camp, which was an hour or two from home.)

BUT, probably more than any other reason that I was completely freaking out, was because at the end of camp, I was being taken to the airport TO FLY TO LONDON, ENGLAND BY MYSELF!
Which is the second part of the story you see. There were all kinds of fun reasons for a fourteen-year-old kid away from home for the first time to freak out, and they didn't all have to do with the communal bathrooms.

In the end though, everything worked out ok at Black River. Better then ok actually, it was a fabulous place. It really was heaven on earth in many ways. The horses and being in beautiful nature and the snack shop......

After the first week of freaking out, and crying and not eating, the staff agreed to call my Mother. Which I am thankful to them for making this exception. And also which, in turn, gave me a chance to CONFIRM that it WAS communicated to my Father which date I was to be picked-up and exactly where. I was also getting hungry after living on grapes and chocolate milk all week. The phone call helped me get my appetite back.

In fact, I was feeling so much better, that the second week, I went on to win an award for "camper with the best sense of humor." This was presumably after I wrote and preformed a skit in which I acted as a clumsy and accident prone dental hygienist. I still have that award today, a little painted totem pole. It is one of my most prized possessions.

On a side note, can I just stop for a brief moment to ask if anybody else has had the same, following issue? It's kind of making me nuts!  I'm having a really difficult time typing this post because half of my right hand and wrist are wrapped up in a dish cloth. I read online that other MacBook owners are having the same problem with the sharp edges on their laptops. Are you!?

I spent two consecutive days working online earlier in the week, typing for hours. My inner wrist lays along the hard edge of my laptop and the raised, sharp metal edge of my new raised lap desk. (Which now, as I the these words, am wondering if the metal desk is the cause. I could feel it hurting my wrist as my hand moved over the edges, but I had to keep going! I woke up with a faint bruise and realized that I have been injuring my wrist and need a solution. I researches and saw that you can buy foam strips for the sharp edges, but they cost money and I've read that they fall off. So, I decided to type wearing a dish towel wrapped around my wrist. It's working well. No pain, it's just difficult to type and looks dumb. Here, I'll take a picture of my invention.

HA! Look! It's my cleavage and my fleshy arm! (Hey, can we talk sometime about sorrow that is squishy arms in summertime?) Ignore the dish towel hand. The real story here is the fact that I accidentally (HONESTLY) just took a total cleavage shot. DOH!

And then her blog was never the same ...................................................

Back to horse camp.......

Here is one quick story worth sharing:

There were so many things to love about horse camp. Balancing Dixie cups full of horse poop on the brim of my beautiful, beloved, velvety riding helmet, the kind with the perfect satin bow stitched to the back, was not one of them. (It was an exercise in proper posture and form.)

But one thing that I DID love was grooming class!
On the first full day there, I feel asleep during morning quiet time, and none of the jerks in my cabin people bothered too wake me when it was time for our cabin to go "choose our horse for the next two weeks." Instead, I woke up on my own, all alone, and raced to the barn fifteen minutes late. It was then that I learned they were short a horse, and that, since I was last, I would not have a horse, but a llama. A LLAMA to groom. Which at the time was devastating. When you dream of combing a beautiful Palamino's coat, and braiding her mane and tail into intricate designs, a llama, it just doesn't cut it. Oh, and by the way, did you know that llamas spit?

But when life gives you llamas..........
So Dolly and I went like this for the next two weeks....Comb, get spit on, comb, get spit on, comb, get spit on.
She was a sweet girl.

When I saw the video of the two Dutch women that I posted above, peering out the window of their plane, it reminded me of the summer of 1991, and what I feel was my particularly fearless trip to London. It is not everyday that a newly graduated 8th grader gets the chance at a solo trans-Atlantic flight and two week trip abroad.

One of my life-long best friends, Michelle, was in London visiting her father, step-mother and baby sister. Michelle's father had been transferred to England quite a few years prior, but in that time her parents had divorced and she and her sisters and mother moved back home. But, this made for summer-long trips to see her Dad. Which, sounds pretty awesome if you ask me. And so, one year I decided to go and visit Michelle for a couple of weeks, and take in the sights and sounds of London!

I remember this: Laura Ashley was very popular at the time, specifically, Laura Ashley rompers. HAhahaha. Remember those!? I wore a Laura Ashley romper on the flight out. (NOT paired with high-heels as seen below. Whaaaat???) And also, equally as ridiculous awesome, a floppy hat with the front brim pulled up. Like Blossom.

(Wait, I have found a verrrrry nice photo taken this same summer. (Oh man. I am going to regret sharing this.)  Note the highly sophisticated and gorgeous ensemble that I surely put together myself. The grown-up "essence" of a linen hat and fisherman's sweater thrown casually over my shoulders... In summer. Or the double layering of necklaces. I was sporting both a sentimental locket and a perfume bottle on a long, leather chord. Rad! And quite possibly, THE best part of this brilliant look, the neon green fanny pack worn in a non-ironic way. Because, fanny pack. Any now you know why I was called The Welcome to the Dollhouse girl for way too long......)

On the flight I had my Walkman and tapes of Cat Stevens, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jesus Jones. And OMG, DEEE-LITE.  I had no idea what to do in customs, how to reach the overhead bin, and I was frustrated that even at fourteen, I was still considered a "MINOR traveling alone." Because, DUH, I was actually a teenager!

I also remember, somehow, amazingly, being bumped up to first class on that flight! There were big, comfy, leather chairs, that I curled my legs up in and watched the Atlantic Ocean below while drifting off to sleep. I was offered ice cream, and woke up just as the sun was appearing over the horizon. Land ho! I had did it! The Beatles homeland! I have arrived!

When I landed, nobody was there to collect me. (There were delays with the trains.) So, I was led to the "Chidrens' Holding Pen" or so that is the name that I remember. And, I had to wear a pin, a big pin that identified me as "traveling alone." I was peeved, not because my friend and her step-mom weren't there, but because I was now basically an adult who was in the "Childrens' Holding Pen!"

Luckily, Michelle and her sweet step-mother arrived very quickly, and then we were off! I have a picture of us on the train from Gatwick to their flat in regent's Park. I had  sun-ined my dark brown hair to a crispy um.... toffee orange color, far any kind of natural shade. I felt cool.

What followed was two of the best weeks of my life. I wish I remembered them more. We traveled the city, just the two of us, hopping the tube. There was the prerequisite sight-seeing, but we also just bummed around like fourteen year old girls do!

(Unfortunately, back then, I was not much of a photographer. Most of the pictures that I took turned out like this....boring, tilted shots of building and things, mostly with my finger partially over the lens.)

I brought my Rollerblades, and Michelle's from home, and we skated around and around Regent's park. I'll never forget the stares that we received. Apparently, this was just before Rollerblades came to the UK. We must have looked odd. Also along the lines of looks, somebody said that they knew I had to be American when they saw me, and I asked "how?" And they said, because I had a tan! That boggled my mind. Wasn't it summer in the UK too?

We rode horses in Hyde Park and I almost cried, it was such a dream. The horses were so well behaved I thought, they listened to my every command with such ease. A quiet click of the tongue or tap with the stirrup. So civilized these horses were! So polite. The epitome of English riding I felt.

One day, we took a train out to Windsor Castle and to somewhere in the (relative) countryside, to Michelle's country club. There was a BEAUTIFUL green, rolling, manicured lawn that lead to a swimming pool like I've never seen. And something else that I had never seen until this point...... TOPLESS SUN BATHING WOMEN! It was difficult not to blush or stare or freak out and run away.  (Michelle and I had to walk out of a production of the Nut Cracker once because we could not for the life of us stop laughing at the men in tights. It was bad.)

I also made a pen pal at this country club. He had the sweetest British accent and told me that his father was the head of some football association. I had no idea which sport he was really talking about at the time. Football or soccer...???

One evening, Michelle's parents were going to take us to see Les Miserables!  I was feeling tired and jet lagged and Michelle told me that I had to try to stay awake. Which, of course I had to because, come on, Les Miserables in London!!! So, before leaving, Michelle and I walked to the corner store, purchased our goods, and proceeded to force-feed me an entire bag of Crunchies and Flake bars. And a lot of Coke -a- Cola. Our plan, (remember we were just fourteen) to pump me full of as much sugar and caffeine as possible, so that I could stay awake through the roughly three hour play. The only problem was, was that we had no concept of "sugar crash", and the last thing I remember is a lovely British girl in front of us asking her father for some "Straaaawburry" ice cream for intermission and thinking that it sounded so lovely how she said "strawberry", and then I passed out.
Oh, and I do remember some candies called "Minstrels" and laughing my head off because minstrel sounded like, oh, blush, MENSTRUAL and oh my gosh....

And one thing that I remember the most was that Pavarotti was giving a free concert in Hyde park to celebrate his thirty years in opera! There were more than 100,000 people there, including the beautiful Princess Diana. Unfortunately, we did not make it to the park for the concert on that rainy day. Instead, we were completely smashed into over-flowing subway cars in the tube. At one point, I was panicked by being nearly suffocated by the most tightly packed crowd I have ever been in! It was really scary.

Alas though, terrifying memories of being crushed in a crowd are far outweighed by the experience of shopping at Miss Selfridge, and of buying my first pair of Mary Jane style Doc Martins, and of shops that only sell socks, which I thought was sooooo cool. Oh! And the DREAM COME TRUE MOMENT of the trip....... having my picture taken while crossing ABBEY ROAD!!!!!!!!!
WOO HOO!!!! Life COMPLETE!!!! I need to find that photo. It's around here somewhere! It was one of the best moments of my teenage life! :)

So,  those were the memories of the summer of 1991. And the deeper point of this whole, winding practice in story telling, is that whenever your feel scared or overwhelmed, think back to a time when you were brave. When you were still untouched by too many "what if" scenarios in your head, still not notching all the opinions and expectations from the world around you.

That summer I left home for a ranch and traveled across an ocean on my own. Would I have the courage to do that today, all things considered? Probably not! I'd have every worry in my head knocking around..........my child, my husband, my home, my cats, the airplane, the communal bathroom, the homesickness, the money, the judgements, the on and on......

And this is why remembering who you REALLY are, can be such a beautiful and helpful thing!
In an ironic and timely coincidence, in the past eight days I have been invited to take a week-long cruise in Hawaii or Alaska, and was invited on a trans-Atlantic cross on the Queen Mary!
Hmmm......will I ever be as brave and adventurous as the old me.........????? ;)

Until next time my friends!!! Remember YOU and be as brave as  you can be!
With Lots of Love,