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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

teenage consequences

By now if you live in the greater Philadelphia region you have heard about the latest thing out of Conestoga High School. Two very white girls vaping, out of it, saying the N-word. Repeatedly.

This is unacceptable.  There is no other way to couch it.

It’s racist. It’s ignorant.

And then there is the whole vaping thing with what looks like that Juuling contraption I read about in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The article written by Mari Schaefer says (and I quote):

Social media is a window into the growing use of Juuls. In June, there were 10,000 Juul-related posts on Twitter. By December that number had climbed to 150,000, Dobbins said.

Locally, a video of two Conestoga High School students that has made the rounds on social media, more for the use of racial slurs, also shows one of the girls using a Juul.

In an email, officials at the Tredyffrin/Eastown School District in Chester County stated that using a Juul “would be considered a code of conduct violation, which would be enforced.”

Calls to local school districts, including Philadelphia, about Juuling on campus went largely unanswered — though two Montgomery County districts acknowledged the use of the product in their schools.

On Tuesday, wellness counselors in the Lower Merion School District sent a letter to middle and high school parents about the Juuling trend, suggesting parents talk “openly and honestly” with children about not only Juuling but also drugs and alcohol.

 

Ok now two excerpts from articles on the whole N-word situation:

Video of teens using racial slur sparks outrage at Conestoga
By Linda Stein, lstein@21st-centurymedia.com, @lsteinreporter on Twitter
POSTED: 03/10/18, 4:45 PM EST | UPDATED: 2 DAYS AGO

DEVON >> A video featuring some Conestoga High School students casually using the N-word is now the focus of a school board investigation.

The video, which was not made during school, is going viral – and not in a good way.

The video shows two white, teenage girls who are apparently vaping, using the N-word and laughing. The video has been widely shared on social media like Facebook and Twitter. The two girls have not been identified.

 

Community Matters: The “N”-Word has No Place in T/E Schools — Or in Any Schools!
March 9, 2018

I received several copies of the recent live social media post by two Conestoga High School girls with racial slurs. The ‘white’ girls use the “N”-word multiple times in the racially offensive video which has since gone viral.

For African-American students living in some parts of the country, the use of the N-word by their white peers may be routine. But I admit that in 2018, living in the T/E School District, I found the racial vitriol  of the video shocking and extremely disturbing. Am I naive to think that this video by a couple of Conestoga High School students is an isolated situation or … is it symptomatic of a bigger problem in the school district?

Following the video going viral, the T/E School District families received a letter from Superintendent Gusick which contained the following message, “T/E School District strongly condemns this and all forms of racist language. Although this video was not made during school, it has hurt and offended many in our school community. This is unacceptable behavior, and it will not be tolerated. The school will investigate fully and apply consequences as appropriate. T/E School District will continue to stand for respect and inclusion, with schools where all are welcomed to learn and grow.”

 

Now one of the girls was identified.  And her father posted a public apology. One has to feel his pain as a parent.

The actions of two teenage girls are going to have very extended consequences.  As I peered into the social media of it all, I was struck by something profound that a friend said to me:

I’m not saying in any way that what these girls did was OK – but the level of hate towards them is close to a lynching mob.

I have to agree.  Hate begets hate but somewhere we all as a society need to pause and think, don’t we?

Someone else said:

A number of problems have surfaced in this district but schools generally reflect the norms of their community rather than form them in a vacuum.

Also somewhat true.

I feel I have to ask why is it that only the girl who was the field hockey phenom on a fast track to UNC as an early field hockey commit was named by name?  Two girls are in that video.

And let’s step back and look at the other lesson here: two teenagers have learned that actions indeed have consequences and words do wound.

Teenagers never want to listen when you caution them about social media.  Even after the nationwide news in June 2017 when Harvard University revoked acceptances on students over…wait for it…offensive social media posts.

Words wound. Actions have consequences.  Teenagers are of the invincible age.  They imagine they are like teflon and nothing bad can happen.

Uhhh d’oh. Just because you think it’s cool to be an ass on social media, it doesn’t mean it won’t follow you.

Kids today live in a different kind of scrutiny filled world.  Instant communication is great, but now look at two teenage girls who have in essence, tanked their cozy little worlds for transmitting ignorance.

Someone else said to me today:

These girls were probably at home when they posted this video, not at school. So I don’t quite understand how it is the fault of the school district and not the parents. …There are so many good things that happen at Conestoga and so many amazing kids that go there. Just hate to see them all affected by the foolish actions of 2 students…please do not throw all the kids into one bucket. Take it from me, there are a lot of good things happening at Conestoga, You just don’t hear about them!

 

So we are back to the power of the Internet. Which, incidentally, is why we all hear about the negative things so often at Conestoga. And we have heard about a lot of negative incidents coming out of this school and the corresponding school district over the past couple of years, haven’t we? And while not indicative of every student, every teacher, every coach, and all parents it certainly does make one pause and wonder about an unpleasant culture that pops up every now and again, doesn’t it?

Expressions of hate aren’t cute little things to be tossed around while giggling with your friends.  Words wound and these are words that are just a big bag of wrong.

People speak of social media boot camps.  I think they should develop them for middle school and high schools everywhere. Make parents, educators, and students attend.

And as for the parents who will say things like they didn’t know.  Ok look, I am the step-parent of a teenager.  They are the secret society.  They communicate by text and various social media platforms and via their gaming systems .  But we are the adults.  And while we should resist the urge to be prison wardens, we need to be present.

Parents need to be clear that actions have consequences. Parents need to set boundaries. Have difficult or awkward discussions at times.

Teenagers need to realize that social media can and will follow them.  Even adults are turned down for jobs and even relationships because of what people see on social media.

Trust me, I know. I am a blogger.

I have the video the girls posted.  I was going to include it on this post, but decided NOT to include it.

I want to have a different conversation, and that is the conversation of how we can all work together as an extended community wherever we live to strive towards ending this crap.  

We as the adults in the equation need to set a better example for the future generations. We live in a crazy volatile world, as well as a crazy politically volatile country.

We need to teach our children well.

We need to appreciate differences in other.

And from the Lord’s Prayer:

And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
 

I don’t know what else to say except, this whole situation saddens me. I feel like this country is spiraling out of control and it is reflected on every level of society and age group.

I am going to sign off now.  I have struggled with this post for hours.  I felt I had to write, but even now I wonder if in this situation are any words the right words?

Pax.

No automatic alt text available.

 

 

gardening with kids

Me, circa 1968.

I was a kid who gardened starting quite early. One of the first things I ever planted was corn. Yes corn. I was somewhere around the age of 3, we did it in school and yes I transplanted my corn plants into our walled garden in Philadelphia (lived in Society Hill until I was like 11).

Some of my earliest memories involved gardening with my father and his father, my Pop Pop. Pop Pop showed me how to plant tomatoes – Plum Tomatoes to be specific (he was Italian!) We also planted herbs. That first tomato plant yielded a tomato that looked like a little baseball mitt!

Gardening as a happy place started early for me. I also understood I had my plants I tended to, but left others alone. I learned early to stay away from the leaves of three (poison ivy, sumac,etc.)

The garden was not a place child-proofed other than a locked side gate in the garden wall that was locked to keep us in and strangers out – it was a walled garden with old brick walls almost 8 feet tall. I will admit I had a friend named Ali who was as agile as a cat who would climb her tall brick garden wall, walk over the edges of neighbors’ walls and climb down into my garden to hang out. It was quicker than walking around a long city block. I am happy to report she is alive and well and living in London with her husband and children.

I was told not to touch this subject with a 10 foot pole by a friend, but I feel I must. Yes I have certain plants that I do not plant because they are poisonous to domestic animals.

This topic comes up a great deal in my gardening group. And I do get frustrated sometimes by the questions. I understand that they are valid, but I grew up in a house that wasn’t childproofed to death, so did my stepson, and nieces and nephews. This also goes for a lot of my friends’ children.

Common sense dictates a lot of this. Watch young children carefully when playing outdoors. Keep indoor plants safely out of the reach of children. Teach kids from a young age to ask an adult before eating or drinking anything. Don’t eat wild plants in front of little kids who will mimic you.

You can have a garden and have small children. And the thing is, like teaching them to cook, or even just make cookies, they will probably have fun.

I have friends who often had a more grown up garden in the front yard, and out back where the kids played was more basic. That seemed to work.

You can give your kids their own “first garden” in a few pots, a low to the ground rectangular planter, or window boxes. Or you can give them their own section to tend in the garden beds you have already established. Start seeds early inside like sunflowers,zinnias , cosmos , vegetables or culinary herbs. Or buy starter plants somewhere.

Connecting with the earth and gardening is such a positive thing.  Many local arboretums even offer gardening – Tyler Arboretum, Jenkins Arboretum, Morris Arboretum, Mt. Cuba Center,Longwood Gardens, and more. Here is a whole link on Eventbrite (click on hyperlink) for all sorts of  gardening related events that are kid friendly.

There is this website called KidsGardening.org which has all sorts of information. They have an entire section on gardening basics. The have other sections on garden activities and even growing guidesThey are based in Burlington, Vermont and even have a spot on their website about designing school gardens. They are a non-profit. They have been around since 1982.  I think they are awesome.

We seem to partially live in a cotton batting world where kids are so scheduled and often overly protected.  Sometimes they just need to be kids.  I think gardening is one of those things that helps that along. Give them parameters like you do when teaching them other things. Most of all, remember, the garden doesn’t have to be perfect. It is a fun thing you can do together, learn together, and create memories with.

I still remember how fun it was when we planted my first tomato plant, and I learned how to tend my herb plants. As a child, I also loved learning how to make terrariums. In high school I was a Shipley Sprout and we even competed in the Philadelphia Flower Show!  I won a couple of ribbons too for forcing bulbs! (Not first place, but it was still awesome!)

On the U.K.’s Telegraph website there is this article:

Churchill family gardening
Seeds of success: gardening with kids cultivates life skills  

5 SEPTEMBER 2016 • 10:45AM By Victoria Lambert

Anyone who has gardened with children will know what a pleasure it is to pass on skills and see the next generation developing a passion for planting.

There may be the odd moment where “weeding” decimates your new bedding plants or a snail collection is released en masse into the veg patch, but research shows we should stick with it as experts increasingly point to the value children get from gardening and being outside.

These benefits range from the chance to be active and get away from the omnipresent screens, to real mental health gains.

Back in 2000, a Texas A&M University survey of children under 12 actively involved in gardening projects in school, community or home settings, found benefits to children’s self-esteem and reduction in stress levels.

Closer to home, Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) research continues to back this up. It suggests children perform better at school if they’re involved with gardening, and many will develop a greater interest in healthy eating if they get to grow their own veg.

Caroline Levitt, who founded the Diggers Forest School and Nursery near Midhurst, West Sussex, believes the benefits of outdoor work even for the smallest children are huge. She says: “Children can learn so much and have fun, too.

“Gardening involves lots of different activities, such as design of the garden and choice of what to plant, and it can be a good team or friendship building exercise, as they take turns to water plants and share the weeding. This is also a good way to learn responsibility.

“Gardening can also be a fantastic sensory experiment, handling dry earth or gloopy mud and even worms! It is a great way for children to naturally learn patience while they watch their produce grow.”

Ms Levitt adds that gardening is useful for stimulating creativity. “We get them thinking about the design of the layout and in terms of how seeds are planted  – for example, neatly in rows or thrown into a pot…”

….Gardening for children is also closely linked to feelings of well-being. 

 

Rodale’s Organic Life also has an article on this:

The Importance Of Getting Kids Into The Garden

Turn digging in the dirt with your children into a lifetime of love and respect for nature. by Marti Ross Bjornson November 24, 2015

Gardens are magical, fun, and always full of surprises. Watch a child pull a carrot from the earth, brush off the soil, and take a bite, or see the anticipation in the eyes of a youngster creating a bouquet of flowers she grew. There is a natural magnetic attraction between children and the earth, whether it’s making mud or discovering a germinating seed emerge from the earth. Gardening with children, from toddlers to adolescents, opens new windows in a world dominated by technology.

Whether you are an accomplished gardener or a novice, gardening with children is your chance to partner with Mother Nature to make magic. Don’t worry about achieving horticultural perfection. Just dig in and grow something beautiful or good to eat. Your garden is your treasure chest; you and your young gardener—exploring together—can discover its priceless bounty for an afternoon’s delight or for a lifetime.

Memories last longer than one season.

 

Anyway, just wanted to point out teaching kids to garden is a good thing.

Now, to be safe click below for lists of poisonous and non-poisonous plants:

PoisonControl.org: Poisonous and Non-poisonous Plants An Illustrated List

California Poison Control System: Poisonous and Non-Poisonous Plants

kitchen elves needed.

Unless you were a complete suck up growing up, you avoided the kitchen when cleanup was needed. I know I did, although I always ended up somehow being the one that cleaned up the kitchen for the most part.

But in my defense my mother is still a master at getting other people to do what she wants done, and she was relentless when we were growing up. Come to think of it, she was also very good at getting other people to cook for her. It’s not like we had Mrs. Bridges in the kitchen it was more like me and my father. (But I digress.)

Mrs. Bridges was the beloved Cook from Upstairs, Downstairs the PBS Show. She had a veritable army of footman, maids, scullery maids, and kitchen help. Most of us don’t live like that, and never did. Which means we really appreciate a little help around the kitchen.

However I have noticed throughout my life, that cleaning up the kitchen means completely different things to men and women. And I love and adore my husband, but he and I have vastly different perspectives on this topic. And he gets really annoyed when I try to talk to him about it like I did this morning.

Face it, there are just days being a domestic goddess is harder than others. When I came down to the kitchen this morning I felt like the he-man woman haters club had held a chapter meeting in my kitchen.

There was stuff everywhere (including grains of rice lodged underneath the glass cutting board) and both sinks were loaded with dirty dishes.

So I spent a good part of my morning before getting ready to work cleaning up the kitchen and loading and running the dishwasher. That also meant time vacuuming up additional grains of rice from off of the floor.

I know, I know there are bigger problems on the face of this earth, but cleaning up the kitchen in a small house to me is a really big deal. Which means when you come in the front door it’s not too far to the kitchen. So as a woman you want everything to look tidy. Or at least I do personally.

I also live in a male household. So cleaning up the kitchen generally speaking falls to me. Not because anyone is chauvinistic, it’s just because I have a little bit of OCD going on when it comes to cleaning up.

Yes…one of my pet peeves are indeed dirty kitchens. I used to know someone that was such a slob and a pile-maker in the kitchen, that every time I came home from her house I had to clean something else up. I think to this day every time my kitchen is too dirty it reminds me of theirs.

I am also stepparent to a teenage male, and sometimes I don’t even think he sees what is in the kitchen. He is focused on being a teenage male. So he comes into the kitchen he gets what he wants and he leaves. That can be a little frustrating when it comes to cleaning up as well.

However, when my sister quipped recently that she didn’t believe either of her children (niece and nephew) knew what the dishwasher was, I know this is not just a male thing it’s just a kid thing. And I know from my other friends that there are many similar tales of “kitchen destruction” left in the wake of various aged children.

I guess it’s the whole thing when you’re a kid you don’t understand, but when you’re a grown-up you understand all too well. It’s kind of like you never understood why your mother got annoyed when there were multiple boxes of half eaten cereal in the cupboard, until you open your own cupboard and you have four open boxes of teenager designated cereal, and two are the same thing.

It seems to me that when we were growing up for the most part we had little assigned chores we were just expected to do. If we were lucky we got a little allowance out of them, but most of the time it was just we were expected to do it. We were expected to help.

Whenever I mention this, this is where my husband asks me if I was a robot growing up, and no honey, I wasn’t. We just had chores we were expected to do. And that was for me when my mother’s inner Pennsylvania German shined through, so I try not to be a bear about it as an adult in my own house. But I haven’t quite figured out what the balance is which will get me help once in a while when I need it …without me sounding like a nag.

It would be really nice to have occasional kitchen elves visit me. Unfortunately I live in Chester county, so I’m far more likely to get a mouse instead 🤣

Thanks for listening to my womanly gripes, and men? Live dangerously help your ladies clean up the kitchen. One benefit will be will you save money on hand cream and manicures.

Thanks for stopping by.

modern family


The concept of family is a sacred thing. When you are little they are that group of people bought together by blood that all look like you.

As you grow up you realize as you form your own family units the concept of family can be redefined. I have a lot of friends who don’t have much family by related blood per se, so the friends fill the family shoes.

When my sister and I were little there were a lot more of us. Not in our immediate family, we were just four people- but through aunts and uncles and cousins and great aunts and great uncles and grandparents and great grandparents there were more of us.  As we grew up, the numbers thinned. But we still had both of our parents.

In 2005 our father died. He had fought prostate cancer valiantly and on his own terms.

For me, the death of my father is still somewhat of a surreal event. My memories from that time are a lot like flashes of  Kaleidoscope images.  Lots of bits separated by flashes of color.

I remember my mother and my sister being so instantly devastated and falling apart around me that I was almost afraid to grieve for a very long time.  I remember looking out across the church which was standing room only giving one of  my father’s eulogies .  In order to get through that and not embarrass myself by dissolving into tears I found two of my friends Stevie and Barb, and focused on them.

Other things I remember from the day of my father’s funeral were two people who weren’t there. One was my father’s brother, his only brother. Even as a child I never thought much of him and I pretty much wrote him off after that. He was like a selfish caricature version of my father. Truthfully, and without guilt and reservation, I can say with a clean conscience I don’t care if I ever see him again.

The other person who wasn’t there that day was my godfather.  That was a more bitter pill to swallow, especially since he lived down the street from the church. He was literally two or three blocks away.

My late godfather was a great disappointment to me on that day.  He had known my father (and mother) since high school and he gave the toast at their wedding.  So I let my godfather go. I was sad for a moment when I heard he had died, but I did not attend his funeral which was at the church a block away from where my father’s funeral had been held. I saw no need to open that door one last time.

We all moved on. It took a while, but we found our way and it was OK but it was different.

Then in 2010, we also lost my brother-in-law quite suddenly.   Our little family unit was devastated all over again. It nearly broke me to watch my sister and her children grieve because there was nothing anyone could do other than to be there for them. It was also so incredibly hard to watch my mother grieve this new loss as well.

Eventually the clouds lifted and we all moved on. One day our mother finally ‘fessed up and told us she was seeing someone. (We had suspected this, incidentally.) Mother seemed almost scared to tell us like we would be upset.  But we weren’t upset, we were very and truly happy for her. We also felt that our father would not have wanted her to be alone because he loved her that much. Our mother was truly happy and alive again, and we loved it.

So for the past few years we have watched a rather remarkable love story develop and unfold. At a time in life where a lot of people tend to wind down and accept a more solitary existence, my mother once again found love.

And my sister and I grew to love her gentlemen as a surrogate father. We felt so lucky and so blessed to have him.

I am especially personally grateful for him as he really gets me as an individual . He has this uncanny intuition with people and capacity to listen to, understand, and love that is just lovely. I don’t know how else to describe it.  And on Monday, 22 May, 2017 he officially became our stepfather.

It was a quiet and intimate occasion, just the children and the couple whose dinner party inadvertently introduced them. Yes, this was something that happened quite literally by fate.

My mother and new stepfather were married by a judge they knew. After the ceremony was complete, the judge asked the children if they had anything to say. My sister spoke, but I didn’t have my words at that time. So I did not speak.

It has taken a couple of days for my wandering thoughts to come together. And among those thoughts I marvel at the modern family we all have become.

My own little family unit is a blended family, and now my larger family unit is a blended family. My sister and I have five stepsiblings! We gained four brothers and one sister…and that does not include spouses and children!

The thing about my newly blended family is how marvelous they are. Seriously, they are awesome.

We (the children) have all gotten to know each other over these past few years as our parents came together from being widowed.  So this is actually a really happy time for all of us. We all have had our bittersweet moments as we remember the parents who are no longer with us, but we are so fortunate that our parents have found such a wonderful love together and bought all of us together.

The power of love and happiness is a powerful thing indeed.  We are all stronger and better together. A true case of  Yours, Mine, and Ours — which incidentally is one of my favorite movies.  (The 1968 version starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda.)

Believe in love. It takes you on the most unexpected journeys in life.

Thanks for stopping by.

prom season means prom reminders

Victoria Pan, a senior at Downingtown East High School, earned the grand prize in the Positive Prom Message contest. This is her image as published on Facebook. See https://www.facebook.com/chestercountyAVOID/  https://www.facebook.com/DowningtownAreaCTC

It’s prom season. And well, prom is a lot different then the “good old days”. This beautiful illustration was the Positive Prom Message winner and Miss Victoria Pan at Downingtown East is the artist.  I hope Victoria doesn’t mind me featuring her art in this post – it is a beautifully executed and powerful piece of art that demonstrates maturity beyond her high school years.  Plus I just like it.

A lot of these proms are not close to home.  They can be at venues quite far away.   Lots of schools have parent group sponsored after prom activities,  instead of after parties of glory days gone by.

No matter how time has passed, it is still a terrific night to be a teenager and a nail biter of an evening to be a parent.

You want your kids to have fun. But you want them home in one piece. Proms need ground rules.

Who is driving to the prom? Who is picking up from prom? When do they come home?

What is the distance between the prom venue and the after prom event and to the various domiciles of kids? How long are these after prom events that schools and parents sponsor? I know of one that runs from 11 pm to 5 am. So, if a kid has a Cinderella license in PA and drives to prom, how are they supposed to drive legally to one of these post prom events? If parents are doing the chauffeuring, when do they get to sleep that night of prom?

When did prom get so complicated?  Or was it always this complicated but when we were teenagers we just did not pay attention to other than who we were going with, who we were sitting with at a table at prom and what dress were we wearing?

Yes, my junior prom way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth….

I do remember the whole dress shopping of it all.   We didn’t show a lot of skin back then, and the heels? Well our mothers made sure we could walk in them if we wanted to wear them. And there was a lot of “no” when it came to dress choices and parental eye rolling that we even suggested wearing a dress that made us look like hoochie koochie mamas.

Today if my friends and I were teenagers and we wore what we were allowed to wear back then, we would have looked like we were sporting Morman “modest ” clothing.

I also remember my mother and her friends rotated dresses between them – so if we were going to more than one prom it was like the mom version of “rent the runway.”  We borrowed someone else’s dress so we had no prompeat dresses from school to school. Who knew it wasn’t a new dress? (we’d never tell!)

Now prom is a big business and well half the guys don’t wear tuxedos anymore.  And what is with this trend that the guy’s tie and/or cummerbund matches the girl’s dress color? Is this like prom Garanimals? Sorry it is a trend I think is dumb.  It’s like yo Barbie, Ken will match you. And a great deal of the girls’ gowns do indeed look like Barbie inspired clothing, which I do not know is a good thing. It just is.

Girls are doing wedding caliber hair and make-up and nails.  How much does prom even cost today?

And then there is the whole promposal thing.  You can’t just ask someone to prom. It has to be this whole production.  Prom bombing a kid’s car to ask them to prom is one way to do it.

I saw this in 2011 and snapped a photo

These promposals have gotten competitive…and expensive.  At Bucks County’s Pennsbury High School they have been banned during school hours.

And wow, these promposals whether you are male or female seem like big pressure to me.  And what happens if someone turns your promposal down? Then what?

But once we get past the where the proms are, where the after parties and events are, and who is wearing what and who is going with whom, it boils down to kids being safe.

State Representative Duane Milne sent around a sober reminder today via e-mail.  I close with that because well, have fun kids but stay safe.  And take pity on your dear “old” parents who now understand why our parents were glad prom season came but once a year for a brief window of time!