Redefining Holiday Magic

This year has been a little rough and bittersweet. On the rough side, my family lost an important member quite suddenly and we are still trying to figure out how to deal with the open space he left. On the bittersweet side, my oldest started college and no longer lives at home full-time. And, my youngest started high school so there are no more wide-eyed children waiting on Santa to come. I’m left looking for new traditions or things to try so that this whole staring-down-an-empty-nest thing isn’t so daunting.

I’ve been digging around the internet looking for ideas, so maybe some of these would be helpful for you too.

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Major Mom Shift

I am 45 years old. My oldest daughter is on the cusp of graduating from high school. In five months, my household will change forever. My role as a mom will shift in some major ways. I will have daughters in the first year of new school situations–college and high school. I have watched from the sidelines while some of my best friends struggled with their own shifts, and while I watched intently, I had no idea the inner turmoil that comes with this time of life.

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Weekend in DC

In July, I attended a week-long conference in Baltimore. One of my dearest friends had recently moved to DC and I had not seen her in years. I realized how close I would be to her and decided if she could meet me in the District that I would make it happen. I booked a great hotel at a great price. We packed a ton of fun and great food into our weekend. Wanna see? It’s on the other side of the jump!

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Mother’s Day Approaches

We have a local florist that has been a part of my relationship with a very special person for over twenty years. My first mother-in-law [I refuse to call her “ex” because that makes it sound like she is no longer in my life] fell in love with Oberer’s, as did I, when I was planning my first wedding. As a mom to three sons, she didn’t imagine she would be included in wedding planning. But, we hit it off and even though she lived in Connecticut, I wanted her to feel connected to the wedding. Once I selected the flowers, I asked the florist to send her a bouquet with examples of all the choices so I could walk through them with her by phone and tell her how each one would be used.

She took on planning the rehearsal dinner with gusto. Because we had so many friends and family from out of town attending the wedding, she planned a larger event and invited many more than traditionally might be included in such a dinner. It was a great night with friends, family, shared memories and new ones made. And the centerpieces she worked to design with the professionals at Oberer’s were absolutely breathtaking.

For as many years as I have been a mom, my first mother-in-law has always remembered me on Mother’s Day. She plays a very instrumental role in my oldest daughter’s life and, as the first grandchild, my daughter has enjoyed a special relationship with her grandmother. It’s hard to believe my oldest will be a senior in high school this fall!

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 9.46.37 PMFor the past handful of years, I have been gifted with a gorgeous patio pot from Oberer’s for Mother’s Day.

These patio pots never fail to be healthy and gorgeous and they really liven up my lackluster porch. When you live in a 1972 tri-level in an older neighborhood, you need all the help you can get!

Sometimes the pots involve perennials, so it’s a gift that keeps on giving throughout the season. I always like to add fresh plantings in future springs/summers because you cannot go wrong with gorgeous full containers of flowers. The girls don’t even mind watering them either and the pots do thwart hungry rabbits ¬†better than some of our flower beds do.

Not to be outdone, my girls sent me some fantastic orchids today. They also included a Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 9.46.50 PMpretty vase–if I didn’t know better, I would think my oldest picked a vase that would look great in HER room once the blooms fade.

I know my husband ordered the flowers and penned the sentiment on the card, but he did it in the girls’ voice which made it very sweet. We have been married almost 14 years and have recently had some major moments, but he’s trying very hard and being the most mindful he’s been since very early in our marriage. I appreciate that.

This year, like most, the Army has scheduled something for him to do during the weekend closest to our anniversary. But, like any ride-or-die who waits out all distractions including Mistress Army, this is the LAST such anniversary. His outprocessing after 22 years of service is scheduled for the Saturday before our 14th wedding anniversary. I’m thinking we are going to celebrate two big moments that day!

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 11.04.03 PMLast Sunday was his final duty day. It was bittersweet. Luckily, it worked out that the girls and I could attend–especially given that our youngest had a soccer tournament. Sometimes it works out when you don’t play in the championship match!

What was just supposed to be us watching his final formation, turned into a bit of a special moment. He received some beautiful gifts from the troop and from or youngest plus had a chance to speak to all those assembled prior to them being dismissed.

It’s been a long road on many levels and we are forever changed by his service. We know that we are stronger for it and, for better or worse, we live with the edge the Army gave us. I don’t think we would be as tight as we are without his service and I know for a fact that I would not have met some of my closest, dearest and most fantastic friends who are now like family without it.

Julie & Julia

julie and juliaIt never fails.

Every time the movie Julie & Julia is on the television, I watch it. And, every time I watch it, I remember how new and exciting blogging felt when I started blogging years and years and years ago.

How that blogging led to a long stint in military blogging which led to the opportunity of a lifetime of blogging for a multi-author venture that was trailblazing and groundbreaking and utterly fantastic. Not that we were paid money, but we traveled to military bases and installations across the country [including Hawaii!] meeting, greeting and learning the ways of military spousedom from all perspectives.

My very closest friends I’ve made in my adult life are within that circle of multiple writers. They are my heroes, my muses, my sounding boards, and my soft places to fall.

 

Since leaving that founding author role [not a tough decision once it became clear of the planned bastardization and self-aggrandizement that came to fruition and continues], I maintain my good and solid bonds with those girlfriends. My writing? Sometimes now takes a backseat to everything life dishes out daily.

After the trip to Hawaii, I even plotted out the book I wanted to write. That notebook is gathering dust somewhere in my bedroom.

The funny thing is, every time I watch this movie, I am jazzed about the blogging and the cooking at first, but it always ends with the reminder and being jazzed about what comes to you from doing what you love–friendship and love.

Sneak Peek at Fall Photos

Our holiday cards usually contain a photo of our family. Sometimes, it contains several. I love receiving cards from friends and seeing their kids, their pets, their new haircuts, etc. I’m especially fond of the photos taken outdoors. Because the colors of fall make it my favorite season, my family opts to have our favorite photographer capture our memories weeks before Thanksgiving.

This year was no different. We snapped up the opportunity to schedule a mini-session the first week of October. Last year, we did our shoot closer to Veterans’ Day and nearly froze! This year, it was crisp, but beautiful. I love that our photographer will pick a photo from our set, edit it and then post it to her Facebook page, tagging us so we can see. It does a lot to build the anticipation we already have at seeing all the images.

This year, our family finally logged enough photo practice to be able to move through each pose quickly and without incident. No tears, no toddlers to cajole, no dogs to corral, etc. and we were able to do some shots that M1 suggested (me with each of the girls separately, my husband with each of the girls alone and then just my husband and me) that should make this set of photos even more precious.

I love snagging up the wrapped canvas deals from Groupon, Living Social, etc. throughout the year and then using the credits to update our walls each year. We have some gorgeous photos from last year ¬†and I am certain this year will be no different. Can’t wait!