Skipping over the Middle Generation

The image of my adult children sitting on the patio, sipping cocktails with my mother makes me realize that: a) I am getting older, and b) I am no longer a crucial link in their connections, so therefore c) I must have done something right as a parent.

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Cheers!

My son and daughter took their first extended trip together and flew across the country- taking a break from work and other obligations. Of all the exotic or exciting places they could have chosen to spend their vacation time, they desired to see their grandmother. None of us had seen her since my daughter’s commencement last spring. Since then, a lot of things have happened for the better or worse and it definitely felt like a visit was long overdue.

We have traveled as a family for an annual visit almost every year, but this time the “kids” took matters into their own hands and planned their trip without the Middle Generation getting involved. As much as I would have loved to join them, I knew this would be a wonderful way for the two of them to reconnect with their grandmother on their own terms and without any interference from me. In fact, if my husband or I had been there, the dynamics of the visit would have been much different.

By skipping over the middle generation, the grandparent and grandchildren had no competition for attention and knew exactly where they stood in relation to the members of their trio. From the limited text messages or photos I received during the week, I could tell they were enjoying each other’s company. They also felt they could speak openly to her and tap into her life experiences and non-judgmental personality. In exchange, she was able to form a new bond with her grandchildren as adults with their own goals and dreams.

While it would have been nice to be a fly on the wall, overhearing all the interesting conversations they likely had, I am very happy to know they had this special time together without me. It is nice to know that the middle generation doesn’t always need to be the mediator or facilitator to make things happen. And as I reflect on the thought of the cocktail hour on the patio, between a grandmother and her now adult grandchildren, all I can say is how grateful I am that our family has this strong intergenerational bond. I am content that I have done my job.

Here’s to Adventure!

At some point in our lives, we come to the realization that our kids don’t need us as much as they used to and our parents are thankfully still in good health and independent. We are semi-retired and have more time for vacationing than we used to. One child is about to graduate from college and the other is soon leaving to pursue his musical interests on the road. So, it seems like the perfect time for Husband and I to make our own plans.

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Home is where you park it!

For years we have been fantasizing about getting a camper and going on our own adventures around the country. He introduced me to camping and I fell in love with being out in the National Parks, away from the stresses of everyday life. Well, a few weeks ago we found the perfect couple’s trailer and dove in! Last weekend we took her on her maiden voyage at a beautiful state park on Otsego Lake. IMG_0902

The weather was less than cooperative, but we had heat, electricity and indoor plumbing- much more glamorous than tent camping. In fact, if we had been confined to a tent all weekend, I would have cancelled the trip. Instead, the rain gave us an excuse to curl up with our books and still enjoy the nature views without getting cold and wet.

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We were able to get out for some walks and use the outdoor fire pit and grill in the evenings. Our dog was very compliant and didn’t go chasing after any wildlife and the three of us had a very cozy and relaxing weekend away from it all.

On our way home, we wrote down a list of minor projects to make things even better (e.g. a place to store books, a permanent trash can, an outdoor rug and shoe storage). But we couldn’t have been happier. We ate well and we were very comfortable on our real queen size bed- no more air mattresses and sleeping bags for us.

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Part of me felt like this was cheating. My late brother-in-law would have certainly called it that. He enjoyed the rugged lifestyle we shared on our camping adventures. However, as I sat inside with my book and listened to the patter of the rain on the roof, I could imagine him knocking on our door and asking if he could come in out of the chill and have a cup of tea.

We are looking forward to many more adventures this year!

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Escape from Reality

I just returned from a week long escape from the ugly and frightening political scene in America. My husband, daughter and I used her “spring break” to travel to Europe! As the days before the trip decreased in number, I became more and more excited about our getaway. We had made plans to fly on Icelandair to Paris (more on that later) with a 2 day stopover in Reykjavik. We left on March 4- right on the cusp of Trump’s ridiculous and unfounded accusation of Obama wiretapping him. Very glad to leave that one behind and fly to one of the more remote areas of the world.

When we disembarked in Keflavik Airport, the temperature was warmer than when we had departed Boston. So much for thinking we were going to “icy cold land”. Granted, we still needed to bundle up because much of the land was covered in layers of snow, but with the sun out it still felt pleasant compared to back home.

The jagged volcanic rocks showed through the fluffy white snow and were in sharp contrast to the lush greenery growing in proximity to the multiple geothermal pools and hot springs. The smell of sulfur in the air and the gurgling sound of the water reminded us to use caution when sticking our hands into it and not get scalded.

We drove many kilometers from the airport to the famed Golden Circle, Geysir

and Gullfoss waterfall

until finally arriving at our hotel in Hvergardi, appropriately named Frost and Fire. All across the land we were impressed by the geography of the mountain passes, the flat plains, the high buttes and the frozen lakes or steaming creeks. Signs of humans were densely concentrated in the city and outlying towns and then only found on random ranches and small settlements as we drove farther out.

 

Something about the majesty of the territory and the sense of what it takes to survive here just seemed so amazing. It made me realize that no matter how in control and powerful we as humans think we are, Mother Earth will do just fine after we have wiped each other out through greed, hate and stupidity.

The plants and animals that can survive in these surroundings will still be around long after humans are extinct. To come to this place is very humbling indeed.

 

Peace!

Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite

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Last night, my husband and I went out to a local restaurant and then a live musical show with another couple. It was a Saturday night and it should be our right to enjoy these activities without fear of endangerment. The terrorists who carried out these attacks in Paris don’t deserve to be called human. They are evil and have committed heinous deeds. I find it hard to believe that there is a higher benevolent power that condones the slaughter of innocents in his/her name.

Je t’aime Paris! It is the city of love and legend. It is the place I would go for a romantic getaway- which I have done on more than one occasion; and I am sure a number of the victims were there for the same reason.

I am saddened to learn that Paris has been attacked by Islamic extremists. The city is on  lockdown and the French borders are closed. The only consolation is that my daughter is not among the casualties. She is studying abroad in another city of France- although she had contemplated travelling to Paris for the weekend to see the Eagles of Death Metal perform at the Bataclan theater.

Fortunately (in this case) she had a conflict in her school schedule which changed her decision for weekend travel plans. She has been in France since August and has found the French people to be very friendly. She has enjoyed the freedom of travelling throughout Europe- whether to Switzerland, Netherlands, Spain or within France. What a shame that this wonderful global experience is being dampened by fear and hate.

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President Obama proclaimed that France and America share the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Isn’t that what all the victims of the attack were doing Friday night- good food, entertainment, camaraderie? That is exactly what my husband and I, our friends and countless other people were doing together on Saturday night. While I enjoyed the food and the show, I could not stop thinking about how it would feel if someone came busting through the door with AK-47s or bombs.

While Paris seems far away, I definitely felt like I was attending the show in the spirit of not letting terrorists get us down. My daughter, on the other hand, reported that no one is going to the  cafes or restaurants in her area. I am sure she will have travel restrictions in the coming week.

I don’t know what can be done to  stop the spread of terror, but I hope the next round of presidential debates give us some answers. In the meantime, I am thankful my daughter is safe. And I thank her for all the photos in this post. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of France. Je suis desolee. But we shall overcome….

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Technically It is still Fall

I couldn’t resist posting today, 12/13/14, the last day of this century that the date is sequential. And, unbelievably it is still a week until winter begins. While we have been enjoying the early start to the season, some of our relatives have already fled to the warmer climes or will be doing so soon. As for us, we are heading to Wyoming for a ski trip with family over the Christmas vacation. As they say, if you live in the northeast, you better like snow.

For those of you who don’t like to venture out in this weather, I hope these pictures at least convey how beautiful it can be. Cheers!

Signs of Fall under the snow

Signs of Fall under the snow

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A Red Bellied Woodpecker came to call

A Red Bellied Woodpecker came to call

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Living Vicariously

There are times when living vicariously through others is a good experience (i.e.enjoying photos of a friend’s cruise on her blog). Then there are times when it is a nightmare.
Case in point: my husband texted me a few hours ago asking for our AAA membership account. He and my daughter had been away overnight for an admitted students day at one of the colleges she is courting (another post).I was expecting them home right around the time he texted.
I suppose it was better they were able to contact me and explain why they were delayed instead of me worrying why they were late- so thanks for cell phones.  Fortunately,  it was nothing serious- just a case of negligence, stupidity and inattentiveness. Apparently, they were so involved in discussion that they never noticed the fuel gauge warning come on and indicate they were low in gas. Even though we have a hybrid engine, the backup electric battery did not suffice to get them to the nearest gas station. When they called me, they were stuck on the side of the NYS Thruway.
I gave them the AAA info they needed and then, realizing I could do nothing else, went to soak in the hot tub which I had prepared for their arrival.
Try as I might,  it was hard to relax and enjoy the experience. I kept thinking about them stuck on the side of the road, unable to get home, and how this negative experience might affect my daughter’s reflection on the college.  Even though I was not in the car and was safely at home, soaking in my hot tub, I could not let go of the stress they must be experiencing.
Thankfully it is nothing serious.  AAA should be arriving soon with a few gallons to put in the tank and send them on their way home. I guess if I had to put a value on things,  my daughter has learned a lesson about monitoring her gas tank and not letting the same thing happen when she is on her own.  Furthermore,  I am thankful that I will not be the object of ridicule on this matter for many years to come.

Getting Ready for Camp

Just when I thought I was back from vacation and ready to resume my routine, I have another task on my to do list- getting the kids ready for summer camp. In a few days I will be driving them 2-3 hours away for their respective overnight camps. My son is focusing on some serious tennis strategies and drills while my daughter will be taking classes in veterinarian medicine. I am sure they will each have a great time, but in the next few days we have some preparation to do.

First the easy things: washing the laundry and labelling the clothing they plan to bring, as well as buying twin xl sheets for their dorm beds. Next the annoying things: filling out paperwork, signing waivers and driving to the doctor’s office to get copies of their health forms. Finally, and most importantly, soothing the nerves. This will be a new experience for both of them. The questions arise: Will I make friends? Who do I tell if there is a problem? What if I don’t like it? Other than reassurance and distractions, I think the only way to calm the nerves is to tell them that we will come back to get them if there is any reason they need us. Of course, I am assuming that once they get there they will love it and would find it too embarrassing to call home, so they will stick it out, even if they become homesick.

In the meantime, all I can do is make sure they have everything they need for their 1-2 week stays. At least it is not college. Imagine how much preparation that will take. At least I have a few years. I’m looking at this experience as a trial run. It should be good practice for everyone.

Beach photos

I just returned from a relaxing week at the beach. The smell of the salt air and the sound of the waves was so soothing. Swimming in the warm (if you call 70 warm at that time of year) water and body surfing the waves was invigorating. Walking the beach, feeling the sand between my toes and being lulled by the rhythm of the surf was the best way to unwind. The weather was cooperative and the whole family had a wonderful time. Now I am back home, catching up on chores but trying to remember it is summer vacation. Let me just post some of these pictures and take myself back to the beach. I hope you can go there too.

The thrill of the surf and salt water

Pretending I’m a kid again

Sunset over the salt marshes

Feel the power of the ocean!

 

The Magic of the Beach

  In four more days my kids will be done with school and we will be heading to the Jersey shore. No, not the raunchy version that we see on tv. We stay on a family friendly island where wild nightlife means riding the roller coasters or double shot. And there are no bars to visit in the evening, instead we hit the ice cream parlor for our favorite sundaes. If you want to gamble, you’d have to go to Atlantic City- or pull out the cards and chips for a family game of poker. The days are spent building sand castles or boogie boarding and the evenings are for lacrosse and sunset walks on the beach. Even though there are wi-fi and cable tv, the kids are more likely to pull out a board game or walk to get ice cream. Something about the salty air and the sound of the waves makes us all relax.

The scramble to get packed in a few short days and the long drive to get there, will be worth it once we cross the bridge with our windows rolled down so we can catch our first breath of the ocean. Something in our senses connects that smell with eating cotton candy or salt water taffy, relaxing on the warm sand or floating in the buoyant water.  The memories have compounded over the many years we have gone to the same beach. We have our traditions built in. We already know what activities we will do and where we will eat and sleep. The order or frequency does not matter, as long as they are all covered.

I have my pile of books at the ready. I plan to bring them down to our spot and relax under the umbrella. If the waves don’t put me to sleep, and I have time to read between swimming and walking on the beach,  I hope to finish at least one book by the time we leave.

My husband is preparing his fishing gear. He loves to get up early and throw his line in, hoping to catch dinner. Success is not his goal, though. It is the seduction of the waves, the unexpected tug on the line, the uncertainty of whether it will be a striper, a sand shark or a shoe. Any catch is a good one.

The kids have their lacrosse sticks and boogie boards for some fun beach activities. At some point they will probably decide they are not too old to build sandcastles and will take on the challenge of defending their fortress against the tide. Long ago I passed on the sand castle building techniques which my father had taught me. They know how to look for the biggest clam shell as a shovel and how to dig a trench so they can dribble muddy droplets through their fingers for a more gothic look on the facade.

We will bring our kayak along so we can paddle down to the pier or if a pod of dolphins happens by we can quickly jump in and follow along. In the past we have had the fortune to see them fishing within a few feet of us, diving underneath our kayak and popping up on the other side. It is a more memorable experience than visiting Sea World.

Shell collecting, especially in the ungroomed areas of the beach, almost always results in unusual finds. Horseshoe crabs, seagull feathers, sea glass, and lost trinkets will wash up along the high tide line. There are long strands of seaweed that have little  pockets of air.  They are every kid’s favorite ocean treasure because they are fun to pop!  On our beach walks, there have been two occasions where we came upon a crowd of people assisting a beached whale. Once, a family member helped carry it to the truck bed on which it could be driven to a rehab facility.

Jelly fish and crabs are the only creatures to avoid in the water; but I humourously remember the days of shark sightings when I was a kid, the year that Jaws was released. Most of the evacuations were caused by paranoid adults who were totally spooked by Steven Spielberg. Anything floating in the water or touching their leg was considered to be a shark. After that summer, I decided to never see the movie, lest it spoil my enjoyment of swimming carefree in the surf.

When my kids were young, I spent a lot of time playing on the beach or in the waves with them. Now they are old enough to wander the beach without me. They can come and go between the house, the beach, the roaming ice cream truck and the hoagie shop. No one has to be on a schedule and everyone can relax or have fun in their own way. The beach casts a different spell over everyone; but it provides a type of magical therapy for all.

Guilty Pleasures of Vacation

Over the last few days I have had time to reflect back on the wonderful family vacation we just took in Jamaica. The property was beautiful, right on the Seven Mile Beach. The food was delicious. There were multiple activites and entertainment to enjoy and all of the staff were extremely friendly. We felt so welcomed and relaxed- no worries, mon! It was only the presence of the security guards at each entrance and the ones patrolling the beach, keeping solicitors in check, that reminded us we were in a third world country.

This man must have paid a fee to sell his wares at Beaches.

I decided to support him by buying a few pieces of deco art made out of coconut shells. There were musicians travelling from resort to resort to eek out a living. I enjoyed listening to their music from my balcony.

This marching band performed at the resort, probably to raise funds for their high school.

There were also women offering to braid hair and men peddling cigarettes and ganja or rides on a wave runner. We declined all of those options.

For one day, we hired a driver to take us to some tourist spots. First we rode a pontoon boat in the Black River where we saw crocodiles and egrets. The tour guide threw scraps of meat into the water so we could snap shots of them. Then we visited the YS Falls where a guide escorted us to the rope swing, walked us out on the falls and snapped many photos with our camera. Finally we took a boat out to the Pelican Bar. It was a beat up old motor boat but the captain was still able to use it for the short ride out to the reef.

Everywhere we went, US dollars were the accepted currency. Normally we have to exchange money in foreign countries so this is a sad statement about how much the Jamaican economy is supported by tourists from the US. But even more revealing was what we observed as we drove around the end of the island near Negril. Many of the houses were formed from concrete and scraps of tin. They were smaller than the family room in my house and obviously had no running water. Sometimes there would be a separate outhouse in the backyard. We saw children fetching water in buckets to carry back home and women washing clothing in the creeks. It made me feel guilty using extra water during my shower so I could shave my legs. I began throwing bathing suits in the shower with me to do laundry without wasting extra water.

None of these observations were missed by my kids. While I did not feel the need to emphasize the differences in our lifestyle, my husband did ask them a few questions to confirm that they knew what they were seeing. I think they were most disturbed by the story our driver told us about his deprived childhood, eventually running away from home and trying to create a better life for his own children- especially one that included school. He pointed out a prominent building behind a barbed wire fence which he said was a very expensive school and only select students could attend. Even though it was fancy by local standards, it must have made my kids appreciate the quality of their own public education. When we returned home I heard no complaints from them about attending school the next morning.

I am glad that we were able to take that day to see parts of the island and the people who live there.  I am not going to allow myself to feel guilty for enjoying my vacation, served by people in a very poor country. However, it was a  good reminder to be grateful for what we have as well as to be charitable and help others when we can. On the last night we were there, Beaches held a fundraiser for the Sandals Foundation. They were taking donations to improve schools and hospitals on the island and my kids immediately got in line to purchase a token paper lantern. When we lit ours in the name of some family members, my son added under his breath, “and to world peace” as we watched it soar high into the sky. It seemed like an appropriate ending to our otherwise fun vacation.

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