grateful for a week of vacation…

Scott went back to work today after being off for a week. I am thankful for the week of vacation. I am thankful to be back to a routine. You know the feeling, right?

We all have different kinds of friends in life. It adds the spice to living. When we announced we were moving to California, almost to a person our friends said, ‘We can’t wait to come visit you there!’ It’s something you say, no? It just seems like the appropriate thing to lessen the upcoming distance in your friendship.

But not our friend, Rachel. As soon as we found a house here in California, she sent me a text with her available dates and asked, ‘When can I come?’ (big grin) For any enneagram followers, Rachel is an 8. She waits for no man! She strikes out and gets what she wants. A weekend trip to the west coast was what she wanted.

And we were more than happy to oblige!

Therefore, our week of vacation was spent preparing for Rachel’s arrival, the daytrips we took with her, and then spending some quiet evenings alone after she left – vegging and relaxing. It was the perfect week!

It was great having Rachel here. She is a bundle of sunshine and energy. But we were also glad to have a representation of Kansas City walking around in our California home. It was a nice connection to our home town and our first out-of-town guest.

We picked her up from the airport and drove to San Francisco – defying the rain to stop our plans. We ate seafood on the boardwalk and shopped at an adorable Marketplace on the pier that was filled with artisan cheese shops, meat and fish markets and everything in between. All local shops. Scott and I both want to head back there soon with a cooler in the trunk to buy some freshly caught fish and make – what I’m sure will be – the most amazing charcuterie board ever! We always look forward to going back to San Francisco. There’s so much to see and do. And there’s nothing quite like the smell of ocean air all around you.

I told Rachel my goal for the weekend was for her to be able to go home and say, ‘We saw the ocean and then the next day, we saw the mountains.’ That’s the greatest thing about where we live – we are a short drive to both extremes.

On Day 2 we drove to Calaveras Big Tree State Park to gawk at the enormous sequoia trees. For me and Scott, it was our first time seeing snow for the year. It was chilly but certainly not unbearable. Besides, the enormity of the sequoias and the immense height of the pines kept your mind off any cold. It was a beautiful, picturesque drive. We stopped to take the occasional picture (but never enough for me!) and even popped into a local donut shop in a small town along the way. After seeing the trees (and eating our picnic lunch in the middle of the park…but inside the warm car!), we stopped in a few antique shops in towns we passed on our way up the foothills. It was the perfect little daytrip.


(Scott is standing on the stump of a giant sequoia. For reference, Scott is 6’3″!)

We arrived back home in mid-afternoon as the Kansas City Chiefs were playing their play-off game against the Indianapolis Colts. We recorded the game so we could watch it a little later than the start time. We sped through the commercials and eventually caught up to the end of the game to watch with the rest of the world as the Chiefs decidedly, 31-13. We are now gearing up for the game on Sunday against the New England Patriots for the AFC Championship. All fingers and toes are crossed.

On Day 3 – and sadly the last day Rachel was here – we drove around our nearby town of Folsom. We spend a lot of time in Folsom as well as attend church there. We wanted to show her our little historic church where we attend as well as some area shops. We did a little shopping, grabbed some lunch, then drove by the Folsom Prison (made famous by Johnny Cash) before driving to the airport in Sacramento for her return flight home. It was a jam-packed weekend and it felt invigorating and adventuresome.

For the remaining days of his vacation, Scott and I worked on a few projects around the house and did the normal running around town for this and that. But mostly, we took it easy. We watched some favorite movies and we watched some new ones. We played card games (complete with thick banter and bullying) and Scott made some wood projects in his workshop (which I will blog about soon.) I worked on my California Adventures album (also, an upcoming blog post.)

Scott and I are good at doing hard things together and doing slothful things together… we are a good team and you know what? I really miss him when he’s gone back to work after being off for a week…

We continue to enjoy our life out here on the west coast. It’s also a lot of fun when others come and enjoy it with us. Thanks for a great visit, Rachel!

Ex O Ex O

This cross-stitch piece is a few decades old. I’ve never framed it but recently ran across it while unpacking yet another moving box, and decided it needed to come out for awhile. I used a vintage hanger and hooked it on the edge of a hallway mirror.

But I didn’t make this cross-stitch piece.

My first husband, Larry, did. It was a hobby we picked up together and enjoyed during the first few years of our marriage – pre kids. He figured if Green Bay Packer, Rosie Greer could crochet, then he could cross-stitch (while he also coached college football.) Turns out, Larry got really good at it.

Each time I hear a commercial or movie refer to the ‘new family unit’, I can hear the critics cringe and roll their eyes. I’m sure it sounds like a rationalization to alter the look of a traditional unit like family. However, those of us living in a non-traditional household know all too well the depth of its meaning. And are grateful for a the enormous amount of grace it takes.

Larry’s mother recently passed away. She had led a good, strong life but the past few years had stolen her identity through the horrors of dementia. Our daughter, Hannah, told me Mammaw had died during the night and later that day I texted Larry. We exchanged a few texts and then, just as I had done when my mother died, he wanted to talk.

Now for anyone who knows Larry, his phonecalls aren’t conducive to the quick trip through Home Depot I was currently on – so I asked if he could talk in about an hour.

Once I got home and settled, I plugged in my phone and got a little snack…I mentioned he’s a long talker, right?…and waited for his call. We discussed memories we’d remembered of her. Funeral plans and thoughts about what was ahead, etc. An hour and a half of easy, safe talk with someone with whom I share history.

Larry and I give each other a wide space, each respecting the other’s world and privacy. But we keep up. And occasionally, our non-traditional family unit builds yet another strong bridge of mutual connection.

As always, he asked about Scott and said to be sure to tell him hello from him. It’s not done out of show, but out of a true appreciation for the people who also co-parent our amazing children.

God bless our home.
God bless our past, present and future.

God continues to bless this big ol’ weird family.

XOXO,

g

California or bust. (Spoiler alert: it was kind of a bust)

I had big plans to split up and blog our trip to southern California into segments based on all the places we visited.

Then the fires happened. It has been so sad here in California. And the thick smoke in the air is a constant reminder. That said, it was very interesting to be here while it was starting. I was fascinated – as a new Californian – to hear the new-to-me terminology and reporting. I learned so much that first day.

But as a result, we couldn’t get as close to the spots I had mapped out to visit. Hollywood, downtown LA, Calabasas, Santa Monica, etc. Instead, we went into the outskirts of Los Angeles and then took a different highway home. (Our original plan was to take Highway 101 on our way back north.)

So here’s a compilation of our few stops. Scott and I stayed in Ontario, California for a week – about an hour outside of LA – while he took classes for work. It happened during the daylight savings time change so our evenings were practically non-existent to be able to go sightseeing. So we planned on sight-seeing on our way home on Saturday and after class ended for the week at noon on Friday. The fires, however, raged on Thursday. So we quickly and deeply edited our list…

On Friday, Scott and I got in the car, checked the traffic to see which way to drive. Scott used to live in the Santa Ana mountains so he headed us further south toward Orange County. (You betcha I watched for Vicki, Shannon and Tamra at every intersection!!)

We took Highway 74 over the Santa Ana mountains which was absolutely fascinating for me – but I wasn’t driving on a two-way, winding road on the edge of the mountains. Scott did this even though heights are NOT his favorite thing!

(A very healthy grip -ha!)

I continue to be amazed at the difference in the mountains here as opposed to the Rocky Mountains – which I am more used to. But c’mon…where I’m from – the Midwest doesn’t have either so I have been loving all this new landscape to take in.

There’s been something about the mountains that I couldn’t quite pinpoint until this trip. I told Scott they look biblical! I can imagine the disciples walking through these valleys or Bin Laden hiding in a hole somewhere. I may be (…probably…) way off base but this is how I imagine the mountains of the Bible to look.

We stopped at the San Juan Capistrano Mission to look around. The swallows of Capistrano? This is the place. Swallows migrate 6,000 miles each year from Goya, Argentina to San Juan Capistrano in large groups.

But guess what I was more impressed with?! (just sort of joking) These cacti were huuuuuge! (Scott is 6’3″ tall for reference)

I mean! Again, I’m a Missouri gal. We don’t do succulents and cactus except in little pots on our windowsills. INSIDE! Is this even real?!

I really loved this cross and beads. It was large and heavy and….well, expensive. So I’ll settle for a picture of it.

We left the mission and drove to Dana Point Harbor at Doheny Beach. We walked out on the rock pier and I was NOT dressed for the occasion. But it was just a quick look at the Pacific Ocean for the first time since moving to California.

I promise to stop talking about them but this succulent was bigger than my head!

The picture below made me giggle a little bit. It made me think of all the filters you can buy on photo apps…

We ended up eating outside at a sweet restaurant. Salmon and delicious veggies at the perfect time as the sun set behind us. The cool breeze. The sloshing water on the boats. It was truly ideallyic.

…which ended with ice cream, of course. For the special cherry on top of a perfect evening.

These seals barking at the fishermen…… I die.

This was the view right outside our hotel. Three things to note: 1) Mt. Baldy loomed large everywhere we drove. 2) In-N-Out deliciousness and 3) All of this on G Street (big, stupid grin)

And then we drove home….

You see the mountains at the base of the picture. And the sad, red cloud of smoke hovering over it all.

The below picture is a little difficult to make out but you can see the Los Angeles city outline with the horrible cloud of smoke surrounding everything.

This was our view for quite a while as we headed back north – driving through the Sierra Nevada mountains.

By the time we got home around 9pm that night, our city of Fair Oaks, CA was thick with smoke and a very weird smell. It’s not a pleasant smell like burning wood or even a campfire. There is a chemical smell to it. Almost like a huge burning school nurse’s office. Our whole house had the smell – especially our garage. We tucked into bed, grateful to have a home to come back to. But also so very prayerful and saddened by those who were losing everything.

We had a wonderful trip together. We stopped at gorgeous fruit and nut farms and bought delicious fruits that we snacked on all the way to and from LA. We had delicious dinners together every night and saw amazingly beautiful country that was so very different than where we were raised. A lot of laughing and talking and being together in this new California Adventure. We were sorry we couldn’t see all the tourist sites but know that we’ll have other opportunities.

We are headed toward our mid-fifties and are determined to still experience and see new and exciting things. What a huge blessing. I am grateful, grateful, grateful.

A FINE ROMANCE by Candice Bergen

The original Murphy Brown TV show came out when I was in the throws of motherhood. I loved watching her show (from an old thing called a VCR -ha!) The writing was funny and her persona helped me feel more secure in womanhood. All things were possible.

My mistake, however, was subconsciously assuming Murphy Brown was, in fact, Candice Bergen. Bergen always plays such strong, independent, female roles. I loved her role in the tv show, Boston Legal. Again, unflappable.

So it was particularly interesting to read her memoir, A Fine Romance. Many of my misconceptions of her changed. (sidenote: not for the good or bad. Just different.)

Candice walks her readers through her early career, her marriage to French director, Louis Malle and their daughter, Chloe. A peek inside Candice Bergen as a mother and wife was a complete thrill. She is warm and gracious and her love for their daughter was – to be honest – convicting. She was a truly incredible mother.

Bergen spends time on the Murphy Brown period – which I particularly enjoyed. And talked of her now husband, Marshall Rose. I enjoyed reading about the struggle she went through while adjusting to another person in her life. She was honest and open about things many of us can relate to.

The biggest thing I enjoyed was her honesty about aging. It is tough, this getting older crap. I laughed many times through this part of her story. Oh Candice, I can relate.

Thank God for my friends. Mothers in their 50’s – running to beefy now, the traditional thickening through the middle. We clumpt together in our middle-age camouflage – black pants, long sleeves, more make-up than in years past – compensating with wit, attention, intelligence, experience. Bringing to bear, not the extra 15, 20 pounds we all seemed to be packing, but our confidence in who we were. The sizeable weight and force of our personalities.

I was initially interested to read this memoir about a woman who shaped many of my generation’s views on womanhood. I was pleasantly surprised to find a woman who is all I expected – independent and strong – yet so many other layers of depth were revealed. She is a wonderfully loving woman who seems to have the gift of giving small tokens of love to those she holds dear. She was always, always, always gracious to the subjects she was writing about. This book was written in 2016 and included a line that made me chuckle: “If Sarah Palin had run for president, we would have brought Murphy Brown back on the air.” I guess Donald Trump had as much material to work with as Sarah Palin did!

Cultured, loyal, well-traveled and fluent in French. An affectionate mother and friend. An ever-evolving and relevant woman even now. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

4.5 out of 5 stars

AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE by Tayari Jones

There are too many loose ends in the world, in need of knots. You can’t attend to all of them, but you have to try.

This was a raw glimpse into a marriage under extreme outside pressure. I found myself continually thinking, ‘This is exactly how I would probably react.’ It was an exposed view into the upended lives involved in an otherwise all-American marriage. We often go into marriage thinking it is an agreement between two people, when actually it includes more people than just two spouses.

It was difficult to mentally assign a protagonist and an antagonist to the cast of characters. The reader can easily identify with and feel empathy for many of the characters and their sorted reactions to love and heartache and the burden of life’s circumstances that are dealt differently to each one of us.

Tamari Jones unknowingly laid open our souls before us to voyeuristically nod our head in agreement and cringe in recognized moments of selfishness. Many readers will not identify with the exact storyline, but will nod their heads in enigmatic acknowledgement. Jones turns us around to the mirror and asks her readers to answer some timely questions about race and class in America.

May was a good month for reading. I enjoyed all the books I read:

PRAIRIE FIRES by Caroline Fraser

…one felt like one was listening, not reading…

I finished a book this week that left me a little distraught. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The National Book Critics Circle Award and named one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year – even more than that, it absorbed so much of my childhood, leaving me with very happy memories and contributing to my lifelong love of reading.

I was excited to read the biography of the life of a childhood ‘friend’ – Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilderby Caroline Fraser. I absolutely loved my copies of each of her children’s books, in particular ‘Little House on Plum Creek’ which seemed to capture every inch of my imagination with the devastating prairie fires and the onslaught cloud of locusts. Living in a home underground set my mind on fire as a child, wondering what it must be like to live that way.

What I never considered was the real-life devastation locusts and prairie fires would have on a farming family…

I honestly don’t know if I can recommend this biography to a fan of the Little House books or tv series. It was difficult to read the true events that happened behind these childlike books of fiction. Prairie Fire covers the entirety of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life, so it is exhaustive in its details taken from her diaries as well as city and state records. It is bookended by the real Charles Ingalls at the beginning of the book and Michael Landon in the end. (In fact, Landon’s….end…is discussed. His backside was so popular on the tv series ‘Bonanza’ that he decided to wear no underwear in the ‘Little House’ series. Is this something we really need to know?!)

BECAUSE I was such a fan of the books and later the tv series, I found this book fascinating. But fascinating in a car-wreck-I-can’t-look-away kind of way. There are parts of Laura’s life that I now wish I didn’t know. I will not be able to look at the books with the same innocence I always have in the past. As a fellow Missourian, Laura and Almanzo’s home in Mansfield, Missouri, is that of lore around here. Reading Prairie Fire gave me a different perspective into her life and that of her childhood.

I mean – of COURSE her life was not as idyllic as the books and tv show led us to believe. Her books were carefully categorized as fiction for that very reason.

As a history student in college I thought a study of pioneer women would be enticing to study someday. I suppose that’s because it is a time period that I do not believe I could have endured very successfully. The arduous trek across untamed America toward uncharted land…no calling ahead for hotel reservations! So it was interesting to read ‘behind the veil’ of the hardships the Ingalls and later the Wilders endured to settle land and build their dreams.

The books are not the truth but the truth about our history is in them.

Yes, I recommend this book because it holds valuable insight into the trials and hardships of building America. (Only slightly touching on the Native American aspect of ‘building America’.)

No, I don’t recommend this book because it will taint your bucolic image of freckled-faced Laura and her adoring family.

Have you read it yet? Tell me your thoughts…

PLENTY LADYLIKE by Claire McCaskill

S U M M A R Y   +   P E R S O N A L   T H O U G H T S :

One of my favorite apps on my phone is the Hoopla app through the Kansas City Public Library. At any given time I am usually reading one physical book and listening to one audio book through either Audible or Hoopla. I just finished a book that I have listened to in the car, while working around our home or at any open opportunity where I can multi-task by listening while also doing something mundane with my hands. I was a late comer to audio books, but I’ve become a big fan of them for some genres – memoirs being my favorite audio book.

Claire McCaskill is a state senator for Missouri. aka: a home girl. Her influence in the Senate has been one of strength as a moderate voice. In particular she has worked hard to eliminate earmarks and financial waste spending due to her previous role as state auditor.

Admittedly, this was particularly interesting to someone from Claire’s homestate of Missouri. She spent a significant amount of time in Kansas City, so it was fun to read of places she mentioned and to know exactly where she was talking about. But overall, it was thrilling to read of the rise and success of a woman. I like to refer to myself as a feminist who also enjoys letting her husband put the gas in her car. That’s to say that I believe there is a balance between feminism and femininity – of which we should not need to apologize for either. So the title ‘Plenty Ladylike’ piqued my interest. I do not believe men and women are ‘equal’ in the most crude definition of the word. But I strongly believe the combination of men and women on any project makes for the most successful and well-rounded outcome.

You can’t use your clout to change the things you’re passionate about unless you have the clout.

In other words, there is no need to feel apologetic about rising to a powerful position when you are working for a greater voice to accomplish the things for which you feel a strong pull. This is how things get done. Whether it’s a local election, a local school position or a community committee – position yourself to do the most good and have the most effective voice for your cause.

I enjoyed reading about the relationship between the female members of the Senate. They regularly meet for dinner – no press or staff allowed. Just a safe place to discuss the unique position they find themselves in: as mothers, wives, senators and all the competing forces that surround those roles. Periodically, the female Supreme Court justices also meet with them. Oh to be a fly on the wall…

While women in high offices is becoming more and more acceptable, and blatant gender bias aren’t as prevalent, there are still passively used phrases that are unique to women in the political arena. McCaskill has been accused from male opponents as not being ladylike enough or that her actions were unbecoming of a woman. While less abrasive than the time in her early political career when a male legislator asked her if she brought her knee pads (?!!!?), these passive phrases are still a way to keep a woman in her place.

Other obstacles women are in the unique position to combat: what their hair looks like, whether they have bags under their eyes or how well their clothes fit. Claire talked of a female colleague who the press pointed out she had worn the same dress in the same month. (Yes, there were times when I also shrieked out-loud in my car at the craziness of our society!Would we even know if a man had re-worn a navy suit twice in one month?! ugh.

McCaskill wrapped up her book with a somewhat new challenge to women, an area where women have not been historically known to participate in. McCaskill wrote of the bargains and security nets women build for themselves and for their future. However, women also need to look at the ways in which we invest in our future by donating our money to charities and political campaigns. This is also a way in which we can make our voices known about the areas in which our souls are stirred and our compassion is awoken.

The term ‘ladylike’ is not a label we need to shirk off or eliminate, but rather to redefine. Standing strong in adversity, being brave enough to speak against a wrong way of thinking, and maintaining the core of who we are (be it in 2″ heels or manure-laden boots) – THAT is what it’s like to be a lady.

I recommend this book to all persons interested in the political trajectory of any candidate – the local elections that lead to national elections, with a few failures and mistakes along the way. In particular, I recommend this book to my local Missourians as they will find even more tidbits of interest throughout the book.

I’ve never met a political candidate I agree with 100%. Such is the case with Claire McCaskill. But I am proud she is representing Missouri and our moderate political ideals. As with McCaskill, Missourians are often more willing to cross party lines when it means coming to an equitable solution.

M Y  R A T I N G : 4.5/5

A U T H O R : Claire McCaskill

P U B L I C A T I O N  D A T E : August 2016

P U B L I S H E R : Simon & Schuster