Trying to Stay Afloat

It feels like it’s been about seven years since I shared how to make lovely lemony shortbread bars. (It’s actually been 10 days – quite possibly the longest break from blogging I’ve taken since I started..!)

I must confess, I’ve been suffering from a bad case of writer’s block. For a combination of reasons – including majorly intensified stress at work and long hours, plus a general feelings of the “blahs” lately – I just have not been able to finish even start a post over the past couple of weeks!

writers-blockimage source

I’ve still been filling my very few spare hours with craft projects, decorating, and organizing, and I’ve had some lovely days with friends and family over the past couple of weeks, too. Still, I’ve had trouble completing projects, and I’ve had trouble finding the time to write about them.

But today, the sun is shining. It’s nearly 80 degrees out, and the work week has ended (kind of, I have a school related event to attend tonight still). It’s Mother’s Day weekend, which means it is a great time to reflect on how fortunate I am to have an amazing mother (and an amazing mother in law). Last year, I used the week before Mother’s day to share some stories and lessons learned from my mother, my grandma, and my Mommom.

DSC_5828 copyAnd this year, I am missing my Mommom even more this weekend than most.

beautiful-e1365262449119I hope you all enjoy a lovely weekend – and to all the mothers out there, enjoy your well-deserved day of celebration. I am feeling inspiration return, and I hope to pick back up with my semi-regular postings beginning next week.

I’ve missed you, friends!


Lessons from my Mother [ A Mother’s Day Series]

Today I finish my Mother’s Day Series. On Friday, I began by writing about my amazing Grandma. Saturday, I shared lessons and stories from my wonderful Mommom.

Today’s lessons from my mother barely scratch the surface. I was lucky enough to be raised by my mother and father in the most loving and supportive home imaginable, and I will be forever grateful for the lessons learned about the love, commitment, sacrifice and good humor necessary to raise a family.

Me and my Mother

Lesson #1: sometimes it’s OK not to tell. My parents marriage has been a lifelong inspiration to my brothers and me. They raised us through a clear partnership, never undermining the other or shirking responsibility. My father is an incredibly kind man, who managed my teenage-daughter tendencies with more patience than I ever deserved. My father is also fiscally conservative, and much smarter than I. He tried (is still trying, really) to instill the same values in me, and teach me to be smart with my money. My parents, as a team, worked hard to ensure my brothers and I had everything we could ever need, while simultaneously teaching us how to make good financial decisions. When my mother made an exorbitant purchase, it was usually my fault. And my mother taught me that it was OK to keep those purchases a secret. 🙂

Like every prom, for instance, when my mother repeatedly told me to not tell dad the cost of my dress (or dresses, as was the case one year). And every back-to-school shopping trip, when my mother spoiled me. I’m pretty sure every receipt from those trips was hidden from my father, just to spare him the trauma.

Mom- I’m not sure if this was a good or bad lesson, because occasionally I find myself ‘hiding’ the occasional purchase from my future hubby. But I guess we can agree to keep the secrets (well, since I’m blogging about this now, I guess the cat’s out of the bag…). What I’m really trying to say is- thanks, Mom, for buying me pretty things. (And thanks, Dad, for pretending not to be upset and telling me I looked beautiful).

Lesson #2: don’t be afraid to try new things. My mom put her career on hold to devote her time to raising my brothers and me. As an adult, I finally appreciate the sacrifices that my mother made, personally and financially, to care for her family. Once we were all old enough to look out for ourselves a bit, my mom made the decision to go back to school and become a teacher. Of anybody that I know, my mother was truly destined to teach. She is one of those inspiring teachers whose students remember for a lifetime- and one of the reasons I chose to become a teacher myself.

One of my mother’s greatest traits is her willingness, and eagerness, to continue learning and growing herself. My mom embraces new technology, ideas, and opportunities, and is not afraid to jump into the deep end and figure things out as she goes along. (Speaking figuratively, as one thing my mom did not learn- and likely never will- is how to swim).

My mother’s drive and commitment to her own academic, personal and career growth is an inspiration to me.

Lesson # 3: it’s ok to cry… but try not to.

For as long as I can remember, my mother has always firmly asserted her strength and ability to maintain her composure. If you ask my mom, she’ll tell you that she never cries. I am here today to tell you that she is flat-out lying.

Maybe when we were younger, it was true. My mom has a sarcastic edge at times, and does not necessarily wear her emotions on her sleeve. Yet my mother rarely leaves a wedding, graduation, concert, or chick flick with dry eyes. Usually, the louder her assertions that she will not cry, the faster the tears will flow.

I cry all the time. I cry watching the Today Show in the morning. I cry watching Friends re-runs. I cry when people around me cry. I cry when people talk about crying. I’ve always been a crier- I’ve always been a little bit sappy. I’ve learned from my mother that pretending to be tough doesn’t really change anything- things are still going to make you feel sad, or happy, or simply just emotional. The important thing is that your family and friends get you- and love you either way. Whether your a crier who owns it (me) or a crier & denier (mom)… it’s all good.

Lesson #4: be a good friend. My mother is a great friend. She has maintained long and wonderful friendships with many people. Because my mother is still close with her best friend from high school, I look to her as an example of how to be a good friend. My mom makes it a priority to find the time to spend with her friends. She is a thoughtful gift giver, a listening ear on the telephone, and a gracious host to friends for lunch or coffee. Growing up, I observed my mother’s close friendships and learned the importance of being a good friend from her.

I love that my mother’s friends are such an important part of my own life. I know, as people change, move, and have families, that life can get in the way. Friendship is something that requires effort on two sides- though the work you put in is repaid tenfold. I learned through observation the importance of friendship, from watching my mother my whole life. I take inspiration from her strong connections- with both old friends and new- and aspire to be the kind of friend she is.

My mother still has lots more to teach me. Next week, we have a sewing lessons scheduled (since I did not pay attention the first time around). Someday, my mom will have to teach me just how to be the amazing mother she is.

This Mother’s Day, mom, I want to thank you for these lessons and more. You are a daily inspiration to me, and both an amazing mother and friend. You deserve to enjoy a very special day today. I love you!

Lessons from my Mommom [A Mother’s Day Series]

I count myself lucky, among friends and other twenty-somethings, to have two amazing and loving grandmothers in my life. I adore them both, and do not see them as often as I would like. With Mother’s Day approaching, I began a post entitled “Lessons from my Mother”. I’ll share this post on Sunday. While writing, however, I realized I’ve had the privilege of learning from, and spending time with, my two darling grandmothers- and decided to celebrate “Mother’s Weekend”, and share a similar post dedicated to the influence both women have on my life.

Today I will continue my ‘mini series’ honoring the mothers in my life. I wrote about my steadfast Grandma and her love-filled cookies here, and will conclude the series on Sunday (Mother’s Day) with my own mother.

My Mommom (my mother’s mother) is one of the loveliest, most amazing women that I know. My Mommom and Grandfather met in high school.

My Mommom and Grandpop at Prom- 1951

Married now for 59 years,  Mommom and Grandpop raised two daughters, and a whole menagerie of animals.

My Mommom, like my mother, is sharp and witty. I can trace my speed reading abilities up the family tree through my Mother to my Mommom. I wish I had inherited my Mommom’s green thumb, but every plant I touch tends to die. The ultimate DIY crafter, my Mommom’s knit Christmas stockings and hand braided rugs are just a sampling of her abilities.

The stories I will share today paint a picture of my Mommom as the loving wife, mother and grandmother that she is.

Lesson #1- boys will be boys… so let them. This may seem a bit strange, considering my Mommom had two daughters. However, as each day brings me closer to my wedding and future with the love of my life, I cannot help but to reflect on the marriages of my parents and grandparents (all of which are inspiring). My Mommom must absolutely be the most patient and accepting woman that I know. The woman kept a home, perfected a recipe for homemade spaghetti and meatballs, and raised two girls, all while her husband (my amazing, animal-loving, Eagle Scout Grandpop)  ran a mini zoo in the house. By the time I came around, my Mommom and Grandpop had a fairly ‘normal’ collection of pets. Dogs, a couple of parrots, and a hawk in the backyard.

What’s that you say? A hawk is not your typical cuddle-buddy pet? Alright, so maybe that wasn’t so normal. For us, though, a hawk in the backyard at Mommom & Grandpop’s house was simply the norm. My grandfather is a falconer (Yes, that link will take you to the wikipedia page on falconry. Read up.) and so we were used to Grandpop’s hawks. If you find this unusual, however, just wait. When my mother was growing up, my Grandpop’s pets were slightly odder, even, than a hawk.

I’ve heard tales of pet raccoons, baby chicks, an owl and… a skunk. I did a little fact checking, and received this list from my mother:

“When I was growing up we had: baby chicks from Easter that grew into crowing roosters in our back bedroom of our Philadelphia row house, a crow named Pete that could talk and whistle, a raccoon named Snoopy who could (and did) flood the basement by turning on the water, a skunk named Rosebud, 2 flying squirrels (both of which drowned in the toilet), a chinchilla, an iguana named Lizzie, 4 little saw whet owls, and several dogs, but no cats because Mother does not like cats. When Dad got into falconry, they had a great horned owl named Plato and then many hawks, several of which they raised from infancy. A prairie falcon named Sundance learned to fly by flying from lampshade to lampshade in my parents’ living room. Dad trapped a white footed deer mouse in a havahart trap and decided to keep it as a pet. It was pregnant, so soon they had an aquarium full of mice, all of which escaped into the house when Dad took the lid off the cage. We also had hamsters and guinea pigs, but those were normal.”

My mother finished this list with the words: “Yes, your Mommom is a saint.”

I’ve also heard tell of my Grandfather’s tendency to pick up roadkill off the side of the road, and store it in the family freezer. (Hawk food. duh).

I never once heard my Mommom complain about these animals. Is it possible that, behind closed doors, my Grandpop got an earful every now and then? I’d imagine so. Maybe when Snoopy the raccoon flooded the basement, or possibly after the litter of deer mice escaped into the house. Even so- their marriage is now 59 years strong. I believe that my Mommom loved and accepted my Grandpop for the naturalist, adventurer that he is, and did not try to change him. Too many relationships today are marred by one partner demanding drastic changes of the other. I will try, in my marriage, to remember my Mommom’s patience. If my (future) husband spends an entire Saturday playing video games, or disagrees with me on a political issue (that one is not an *if* but a *when), rather than demanding that he change or adjust his personality to better suit mine, I will remind myself: Mommom lived with a skunk.

My Mommom & Me

Lesson #2: even though I can’t knit… I learned a lot. I do not know how to knit. I so wish that I did, so that I could knit scarves as Christmas gifts and baby blankets when my friends become mothers. My Mommom attempted to teach me to knit several times. It never worked. I lack patience. I am easily frustrated when I am not perfect at something right away. My mother tried to teach me to sew several times, with the same results. I grow tired of repetitive actions, cannot control my restless legs, and eventually… throw in the towel.

Despite my complete failure each time my Mommom broke out her knitting needles and beckoned me to join her on the couch, she continued to try. A major factor working against Mommom during these knitting lessons was that she attempted to teach me while we were on vacation. Who wants to learn to knit when the beach is three blocks away? Poor Mommom tried and failed at our knitting lessons for a few summers in a row, before throwing in the towel herself. I could kick myself, now, for not taking advantage of free lessons that would have led to years of happy crafting on my end. Mommom does not knit herself, anymore, and she never managed to teach my Mother (who claims left-handedness as an excuse), so now I need to get it together and teach myself.

Looking back now, I would not change a thing. I would not tell Mommom not to bother, to give up on me. Because on the occasions when we did sit side by side on the couch in our rented beach house, I got to soak up full, un-interrupted Mommom & me time. I got to hear stories of the annual family vacations to LBI back when my mother was a little girl. She shared tales of ridiculous pranks our boy-heavy family would play on one another. She’d sneak me a Werther’s butterscotch candy from her beach bag (they were a daily beach necessity) while patiently modeling the purl stitch. I was lucky, growing up. I was my parent’s only daughter, and my Mommom and Grandpop’s only granddaughter. Despite being the middle child (along with all of the usual neurosis that accompanies children in the middle), I was the logical choice for knitting lessons and shopping trips. And I am so grateful that my Mommom attempted to share her talents with me, because I was lucky enough to get her full attention. Someday, I’ll figure this whole knitting thing out, and I hope I can sit together with my Mommom on the couch and show her.

Mommom and Grandpop with their Great-Grandson (my nephew)

Lessons from my Grandma [A Mother’s Day Series]

I count myself lucky, among friends and other twenty-somethings, to have two amazing and loving grandmothers in my life. I adore them both, and do not see them as often as I would like. With Mother’s Day approaching, I began a post entitled “Lessons from my Mother”. I’ll share this post on Sunday. While writing, however, I realized I’ve had the privilege of learning from, and spending time with, my two darling grandmothers- and decided to celebrate “Mother’s Weekend”, and share a similar post dedicated to the influence both women have on my life.

Today’s post will focus on my father’s mother- my Grandma.

Grandma is a force of nature. My Grandma, along with her loving husband, my Pappap, raised six children- four boys and two girls- on a farm in central PA. She worked as a nurse, and in retirement dedicated her time to volunteering at her church. She can bake cookies and sweets like nobody’s business, and is the proud grandmother to thirteen grandchildren and one great-grandson.

My wonderful Grandma taught me so many things throughout our time together, and today I will share two important lessons I connect with my Grandma.

Lesson #1- size matters not.

While this lesson could easily apply to my mother and her mother- both mighty yet short of stature- I think the sheer size of my Grandma’s family renders her ratio of inner strength to actual physical size particularly awe inspiring. As I said, six kids… thirteen grandchildren. Add husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends to our ever growing family- and you’d find a farmhouse literally packed to the gills every holiday… with Grandma in full command. My father, and his brothers and sisters, grew into fantastically interesting adults, living full lives and raising wonderful children of their own (myself included, of course). My father’s patience, calming presence and strong sense of responsibility to family and friends is surely a reflection of expert parenting on the part of Grandma and Pappap. In fact, my father towers over his mother in height- yet Grandma firmly holds the position of family matriarch. And although I stand a full head taller than my Grandma (thanks for those genes, Dad)- she possesses a steady strength I could only hope to attain.

Over the years, I have witnessed my Grandma’s incredible strength in the face of tragedy. She lost her daughter, my aunt, to cancer. Such a loss flies in the face of the natural order of things. Mothers are not meant to bury their daughters.

When my Pappap passed away, in my heart I found my own pain compounded by the understanding of my Grandma’s loss. It is a painful certainty that eventually, we all must say goodbye to the people we love. When these crushing realities become too difficult to process, I think of my Grandma- of her strength and grace throughout all of life’s obstacles. And I count my lucky stars that I have such a wonderful woman in my life.

Grandma with her great-grandson, my nephew (posing as Padington Bear!)

Lesson #2- a box of cookies means I love you.

My Grandma bakes cookies every Christmas. I’m not talking a dozen or so chocolate chip and a couple of batches of sugar cookies… I’m talking hundreds and hundreds of Christmas cookies in scores of varieties. I’m pretty sure she starts baking in July, storing the delicious goodies in the freezer, just to meet her yearly quota. Each of her children and grandchildren have their favorites, and nobody lets Grandma off the hook if there are not enough of the peanut butter, coconut or cornflake variety to go around.

Every Christmas, Grandma hands out buckets and tins full of cookies to each family. When my brothers and I all lived at home, we would fight over the cornflake cookies (our favorite). When we went off to college, we would receive a box of Grandma’s cookies in the mail every December. I loved sharing my Grandma’s cookies with my friends and roommates each year. Due to the large amounts of Crisco and sugar used in the baking of said cookies, my health-conscious BFF Eric would occasionally hide the box of goodies from his female roommates… supposedly “saving” us from our own lack of will power. It is surely safe to say, however, that my Grandma’s cookies brought many a smile to the face of homesick college students each year.

Grandma’s Christmas cookies are more than a wrench in a diet plan or late night snack… my Grandma’s cookies are her special way of spreading her love across the miles and state lines between her and her family. A box of cookies from Grandma- whether hand delivered or dropped on the front porch- means, quite simply, I love you.

Grandma- I love your cookies, and I love you, too. Happy Mother’s Day.

My Mommom (left) and Grandma (right) along with baby S.

Photography by Amy Migliore of Focal Point Studios

Monday Motivation

Happy lunchtime on a lovely Monday afternoon! Here are some of my favorite things this week that keep me motivated to work hard & live well!

Motivation for the Spirit ~ Be Filled With Joy print from The Wheat Field on Etsy.

For the Sweet Tooth ~ Five Minute Key Lime Pie from Six Sister’s Stuff. Key Lime Pie is one of my favorite summer treats, and this recipe looks easy & so delicious!

For Mom ~ Need help deciding on a gift for Mother’s Day? Charlotte’s Fancy offers five great suggestions for handmade gifting.

For the Wrist ~ I’m in love with this Viscid Watch from Anthropologie in Sky.

For Eating ~ I am in love with this Yellow Chickadee plate from Crate & Barrel. It makes me want to cook pretty meals.

Thanks, friends! Have a great Monday!