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!

life’s patina summer barn sale

I love Life’s Patina at Willowbrook Farm in Malvern.

Their summer barn sale is going on and runs through Sunday June 3.

The hours for Saturday June 2 are 9 AM to 5 PM.

The hours for Sunday June 3 are 10 AM to 4 PM.

Willowbrook Farm
1750 N. Valley Rd
Malvern, 19355 United States

Phone:
610-952-2254

Website:
www.lifespatina.com

I found this little quote card there (see screenshot at bottom). It seemed fitting for the day today. Today is the 7th anniversary of my being breast cancer free.

Thanks for stopping by.

to the class of 2018

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Photo from my own high school graduation, 1981.   

The other day Spotify popped up with Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence in the song rotation.  Now it’s like an earworm.  The opening lyrics were playing in my head when I woke up:

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standing by

The song was written in 1989 by Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby.  Bruce Hornsby has been one of my favorite musicians since forever, and I liked this independent phase of Don Henley, so I have always loved this song.

I wonder if it is on my mind because this is the last week of high school for our son, my stepson?

I know that as a teenager about to graduate high school we are all annoying parental units, but where has the time gone?

GraduationI remember with great love the 10 year old with big eyes who loved hot chocolate and who used to make me apple slices with peanut butter on them.

Mind you I  love my 18 year old very much, but well…teenagers don’t make you apple slices with peanut butter or want to sit and drink cocoa with you.  They are here, and then they are out with their friends. Zoom. Zoom. Zoom.

Our son has done tremendously well in high school and we are SO proud of him.  He was accepted early decision to a truly remarkable school.  He is poised for success for the rest of his life.

And one of the best things I can say about our son, is that he is very much his father’s son in so many ways.  He is kind and loving and has a true generosity of spirit and loyalty to all in his world.  He has wonderful friends.

Time has flown.

In a sense, he (my son/stepson) and I have grown up together since as a stepparent I was late to this parenting game.

Sometimes it was very hard for me, I won’t lie.  Not because of our son, but the whole getting used to being a parent.  And being a stepparent is vastly different a role from being a parent.   It’s more of a supporting role.  And sometimes you have to keep your mouth shut, even when you don’t want to. (And well ME not having an opinion sometimes is torture!)

When he was in 8th grade I did not know if I could do it.  First of all, they all started dating then.  Dating in 8th grade is not something I did – probably because I was a year plus ahead in school, so I know back then, my emotional levels were completely different from my classmates. But it’s a different time and you do your best to adapt.

My growing up as a stepparent has not been without odd experiences.  Like the first dance.

I remember the first dance, the spring formal for our son in 8th grade like it was yesterday.  I was so incredibly nervous.    It was my first social function for the school as a stepparent.  They needed someone to photograph the group of kids going together to the dance, so I volunteered.  It is something I already do, and having a camera in my hands in new situations is very calming.

We were going to the house of the girl our son was dating for pre-dance photos.  First girlfriend, first dance, official stepparent debut.  And no one spoke to me while I was there. Seriously.  I walked in and no one said hello, no one spoke to me the entire time.  Not even our son’s date’s parents at whose home the photos took place. It was like one of those dreams where you are speaking to people, but you are invisible, so they glide on by, not hearing or seeing you.

I was ready to hang up the stepparent dress right then and there.  It was awful.  Almost as bad as my first experience in the car rider line when I accidentally got into the wrong line and people surrounded my car and started yelling at me like I was an ax murderer. But then it all changed. Then I met the parents that helped me grow and get through high school as a learning stepparent.

These were the parents who welcomed me before the 9th grade dance.  Parents of boys and girls in his class, and I am appreciative of all of them.  I love the time spent with them. They welcomed me to their circle. And from there, we watched our kids grow.  I no longer felt such the outsider.  I felt I had a place among them.

I just spent time with a few of them over Memorial Day Weekend as a matter of fact. We laughed and talked about high school with the kids. It was wonderful.  And every single kid has a  bright future ahead of them.

In a way this is also like my graduation as a stepparent.  Sounds weird but it’s true. I survived and he survived me surviving.  We survived him learning how to drive and me being nervous, SATs/ACTs, girlfriends I didn’t like, and generally growing up.

And that growing up is both of us. My son deserves a medal for surviving me learning how to be a parent and stepparent.  It’s hard.  And some days I swear I still stink at it. But again, I love this kid.  To the moon and back.  I did not give birth to him, but he is firmly and forever etched in my heart.

His father and I love him so much and are  so very proud of him. (And he will tell you I had the total meltdown complete with tears this morning when I told him how proud we were of him.)

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Back in the Dark Ages before social media and cell phones when we graduated

I have many friends with graduating seniors this year.  Some of whom are close friends I have known since we were basically the age of our kids.

To my friends: I have loved every prom photo, travel photo, dance recital , sports event, travails of boyfriends and girlfriends and swearing we of course did NOT drive our parents as crazy, every everything.  You guys have been my rocks, my teachers on the learning curve of not losing your mind on dumb stuff. It is somewhat surreal to think our kids are graduating as I remember graduation with some of you.  Lined up in our white dresses, with our flowers.

To my friends with all of this ahead of them, get out your tissues…it’s emotional parental puddle time. And take time to smell the roses.

Where has the time gone???  It feels like yesterday I was in his place, getting ready to graduate.

(And yes, I am passing along my earworm)

Thanks for stopping by.

 

marshallton/marshallton… in negatives

So a friend of a mutual friend bought a box of stuff somewhere at a sale a while back.

They wanted this cool wooden box, and they really had no idea that within the box was a treasure. Or in my opinion a treasure.

Part of what was in the box were negatives of older Marshallton, PA….1966.

What is really exciting is who is attributed to these negatives. And that would be George Albert Mershon, Jr. – as in the man who created the Marshalton Inn, Oyster Bar, and Bar & Restaurant in West Chester. He was also one of the creators of the Marshallton Triathlon.

Apparently there are a whole bunch of Marshallton area photos. The person lending me these images put them on a light box and sent them to me.

The Marshalton Inn under Mr. Mershon, was a favorite of my late father’s. I remember special dinners there.

My friends and I loved the Oyster Bar and we had several totally fun nights before Thanksgiving at the Bar & Restaurant. The Gobble Off was SO fun!

Still today, I love the Four Dogs Tavern.

And for those who wonder about the Marshallton/ Marshalton of it all refer to the current website:

Some may notice that the name of the village (Marshallton) and the name of the restaurant (Marshalton) are spelled differently. During a property transfer, “Marshalton” was misspelled on a deed. The error was never corrected.

I love when I have the opportunity to share cool stuff like this with my readers. Especially given all the development over near the village of Marshallton. It’s important for people to remember the “good old days”

Happy Memorial Day. Remember those who served — like George Albert Mershon, Jr. He flew planes in the Navy during the Korean War.