perception is like a bend in the road….

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Being a writer and a blogger is a funny thing.  I am not a compensated blogger (and to check out how they often plan about things to write read this post), I write because I like to write.  I also write  because it’s my catharsis and way to work through things. I share my opinions, my garden, things in my life, and I even share my photography and recipes.

“Blogging” is a very widely used phrase today and face it, it is is fairly common  that with everyone you meet they either blog on their own or follow blogs. It is rare that you meet someone who doesn’t follow something.

Some people incorrectly refer to social media pages as blogs.  They aren’t, although bloggers share their work most easily via social media.

Perception, as defined is first of all from the Latin “perceptio” and is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information, or the environment.

Perception is like a bend in the road. Everyone sees the bend a little differently.

Human beings all see things differently.  Put a bunch of people in a room and show them a photo.  They all see different things.  Leave them in the room, and human nature takes over, and some of those who are stronger willed than others will try to impress THEIR perception upon people, tell them that their individual perception is the only one that matters.  You can literally watch as something goes from individual perception to more of a mob mentality. It’s fascinating.  (It happens in social media groups on Facebook all of the time. )

People are often so uncomfortable with the perceptions of others, no matter how benign. Some of these types like others to think blogging is a four letter word.  Or that the blogger is a bad person merely because their opinions and experiences are different from theirs. Or because a blogger is expressing some of their perceptions, experiences, and opinions openly.

Recently, I wrote a post about essentially the end of one chapter of my journey as a stepparent with a child graduating high school. I wrote about my perceptions, my feelings, my experiences. Today I heard from a friend.  Passing along a message from parents who did not like what I wrote.

Seriously.

I wonder, did they also have a problem about an article on stepparenting I wrote in 2017 for a regional magazine?

I am sorry they did not like what I wrote.  It was about my experiences. It makes me understand once again, why so many stepparents do not like to talk about their experiences.  It is often like we are not supposed to have feelings and experiences.  We are just supposed to soldier on and never talk about it at all.

Being a stepparent is the hardest best job I have ever had. At times it is exhausting and frustrating. And then there are those moments, those magical moments, where it all comes together.

I became a stepparent in my 40s. Most of my friends had been at parenting since their 20s, maybe early 30s. I knew when my sweet man and I got together it was a package deal, father and son. (They even have the same shaped hands.)

But being a fair bit older than parents with similarly aged children, I have felt at times like I was walking a tightrope without a net. When I am unsure, it is sometimes really hard to know what to do. Everyone wants to help and give you parenting advice. You don’t want to offend, yet sometimes you want to scream “stop” because the role of a stepparent is so different.

A stepparent is not a traditional parent.  You can’t replace the parent who is absent, and shouldn’t.  No matter the state of the relationship the natural parent (in my case mother), a stepparent must respect that bond.  And be aware, even if the bond is fractured, it does exist.

Everyone expects a blended family to emerge overnight.  That is a myth.  As much as you want life to be like a Hallmark Channel television movie, it isn’t.

Creating a blended family takes a lot of time and hard work.

As a stepparent I do not have that literal biological bond.   So there have been plenty of days I wanted to scream into my pillow “I can’t do this!” and I have cried buckets by myself out of frustration.  But underneath it all, if you nurture it and let it grow, is an amazing relationship.

As a stepparent you respect the family traditions you inherit with the relationship, and you work to create new ones.  Your job is not to erase the past, and together you create new memories.

For everything a writer writes, there will be at least one person who dislikes what you are writing about, and honestly, usually more.  And if you are a blogger, well just add to the numbers. Why? Because a lot of people do not consider bloggers real writers.

I am a real person.  I am a real stepparent.  I share some of my experiences because it makes others in my shoes as a stepparent feel less alone.  Much the way I also blogged my way through breast cancer.

Perception is a funny thing, and I am discovering it is especially funny when it comes to parenting.  I can never decide if it is because we are all supposed to have perfect Facebook-ready families at all times, or if people are just that uncomfortable if you are different, or your opinion is different, or if their kids think the moon is made of cheese and you think that is silly.

When it comes to being a stepparent, the parents I have met for the first time who are the least judgmental are individuals who were not born in the US.  As in people who grew up  elsewhere who came to this country and became citizens.  I think they are more kind a lot of the time because so many people can be so incredibly ignorant to those who are non-native born. As human beings we can be incredibly judgmental.  Sometimes it is very hard not to be.

I find this all to be a conundrum of sorts.  Here we are (in theory) supposedly teaching our kids to be good humans, yet often as adults we often can’t accomplish that on our own.

Well that’s enough from my catbird seat as a stepparent.

It’s all about perception.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

adventures of a meandering gardener

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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I saw that on a bench yesterday at Jenkins Arboretum.

I also fell in love with an oak tree named Quercus montana, the chestnut oak. I am going to add it to my woods. Jenkins had no seedlings available, so I will source elsewhere.

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 Quercus montana, the chestnut oak. 

As a gardener, I like to learn. Part of the learning is opening your eyes and heart to the experience of local arboretums. Jenkins Arboretum is my personal favorite. I belong to it and it is so easy to join – and the fees are quite modest!

I joined Jenkins because of my current garden. This is a spectacular natural property.  The history is as equally lovely.  It was created as a love story, and because of that love, became a public garden:

The home and twenty acres on which the Arboretum was first planned were formerly the property of H. Lawrence and Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins, given to them in 1928 as a wedding gift by Mrs. Jenkins’ father, B. Pemberton Phillippe.

The groundwork for Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens was laid in 1965 when H. Lawrence Jenkins established the Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins Foundation forever preserving his property as a living memorial to his wife, an avid gardener and wildlife enthusiast…In 1972, Mrs. Louisa P. Browning, owner of the adjoining property, donated her 26 acres, expanding the size of the Arboretum to 46 acres. The Browning property, including a house designed by the renowned Main Line architect R. Brognard Okie, is currently in a private area of the Arboretum. The private areas will continue to be developed and may one day be open for public visitation.

(Another perk of membership is a lovely book about the history of Jenkins!)

But the plant addict in me loves something else at Jenkins: their garden shop!  Open daily 9 am to 4 pm it is a comprehensive selection of native beauties, many from their own gardens.  Sun and shade loving plants. I have purchased several of the Jenkins plants every year for the past few years.  I have planted some of their azaleas (some deciduous), discovered really fun perennials like Chelone or turtlehead.

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Garden Shop selections at Jenkins Arboretum

Jenkins is open to the public 8 A.M. to sunset. Plants are available for sale in season, and they have a marvelously curated gardening book shop inside the John J Willaman Education Center. Yesterday I treated myself to two books:

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I chose The Wild Garden Expanded Edition by William Robinson and Rick Darke because so much of my gardens bleed to the woods.  This book, remarkably, was first out in 1870. This new edition, contains the original text and modern chapters courtesy of Rick Darke. It was through this book shop I also discovered  David Culp’s The Layered Garden a few  years ago. They also sell Jenny Rose Carey’s Glorious Shade which I previously wrote about and think everyone should have who has any shade gardens or wants to learn.

Now, I bought the Great Gardens of the Philadelphia Region Adam Levine, Rob Cardillo on a whim, and am glad I did. It is a great guide to go garden exploring with!

Plants I bought yesterday at Jenkins were several cultivars of Mountain Mint – great in dappled to shady areas, natives…and deer do not like things in the mint family so it helps protect my gardens. I also bought a couple different kinds of sedges – Ssersucker and Silver Sedge. They are also fun natives that add interest and have a lovely mounding habit.

(Did I mention that as a member you get a 10% discount on already reasonably priced plants??)

Jenkins Arboretum is a happy place for me.  A lot of people use their trails for exercise too.  But it is a marvelous property to meander and I see something new every time I am there.  They have been quite inspirational to me with planting my current garden, too.  Every time I go, I find ideas and inspiration. My one wish for them is I wish they sold more tree seedlings. They have the most amazing trees!

If you have small children there are also things to do all summer long – check their calendars and Facebook events for events and story times! (Pre-registration is required for a lot of things.)

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While I was garden meandering I did also visit the Barn at Valley Forge Flowers.  They are selling among other things, my favorite garden spade – the spear headed spade – in several sizes!  They are totally worth having.  They cut through a lot and make dividing and digging in difficult areas a breeze!

Happy Gardening!

loch aerie photos from 1991 courtesy of george w. pyle, jr.

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All photos courtesy of George W. Pyle, Jr.  Today’s photos are from 1991.

Late yesterday, almost like the perfect birthday present, George W. Pyle, Jr. sent me more photos of my favorite old lady, Loch Aerie/Lockwood Mansion.  The photos came with a note:

These photos were taken in 1991.  My family and I were back visiting relatives and I saw some people standing out in front of the house so I took a chance and drove in to speak with them.  The person living there with his family at the time was Anthony Alden.  Mr. Alden was an architect.  He allowed me to walk around the property and take pictures.  I have 23 photo total.

Anthony (“Tony”) Alden is an architectural curator who loved Loch Aerie and put buckets of his own money into her from around 1980 until the mid 2000s when he moved out.  According to The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2016:

In 1980, architectural curator Anthony Alden moved into a Loch Aerie with boarded-up windows and no heat. He sank thousands into its restoration, hoping to buy it from the Tabases. Alden called it an “undertaking of love” but was unable to reach an agreement with the Tabas family. He moved out in the mid-2000s.

Before he left, Alden joined with a group of residents, environmentalists, and historical commission members who fought to keep Home Depot at bay when it bought land next door to build a store in the mid-1990s. The historical commission negotiated to minimize the impact to the house, Caban said. But its gas works were removed, and the pond and much of its grounds were paved over.

These photos are truly amazing to see and they show Loch Aerie BEFORE Home Depot when the beautiful old fountain still worked and the pond existed. Remnants of the original Lockwood Gardens still existed.

After looking at the photos, and knowing the history which includes two fires (one believed to have been started by vagrants), it is truly a testament to how she was built and her architect Addison Hutton that she survived.

If you drive by Loch Aerie, as I do weekly, you will notice work is progressing nicely. The lovely new owners had hoped to be opened by this spring, but if you have ever lived through an old house restoration or an adaptive reuse, you will know that it takes it’s own time.  I am so grateful to the  Poirier family for taking on the restoration. It makes me so happy every time I drive by!

Here are the photos:

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