Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Small Change

**A small change will be put into place concerning This Friendly Village. From now on I will post regularly only on Wednesdays. Doing so will give me the flexibility to choose how many, which ones, or whether I decide to post on other days as well. So please....continue to check in. If you want to be sure to catch all posts, you can sign up to "Follow By Email" at the top of the right hand margin.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Warmly, Margaret

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Sweet Spot

Was it this (blasted) office project that has got me to thinking more about what my future plans will or should entail? I've been avoiding cleaning out and organizing it for a few years now, and then all of a sudden it was THE day to begin. I knew the task would be long and challenging. I knew that in facing all of that 'stuff' I would be called upon to make decisions. What stays? What goes? What holds value? What is no longer useful?

I've gotten rid of old files and created new ones. I have shredded reams of bank statements, insurance forms, receipts and records. Tossed out user manuals, out dated Christmas card lists and blurred photos. The recycling bin (which is the size of an enormous garbage can) is mostly full this week because of my efforts.

And I have finally dug into The Sweet Spot: That tender place I had been unwilling to touch for years that held homework projects, awards, schedules, team rosters, cards and small bits of paper written or drawn upon by three pair of young hands. Now that I've spent time with it, I know with crystal clarity why I rushed by so quickly, eyes averted, each day. It was something I didn't want to deal with and so pretended it wasn't even there. In the meantime it had grown like a mis-managed rhododendron; thick leaves and sturdy branches strewn about on top of one another representing years that have passed and boys that have grown.  A marriage matured, family threads interwoven and unique memories. Roots that run healthy and deep.

I didn't want to revisit that pile for what I did not want to see: Time.

In turning over what had settled comfortably into that spot, I've come across grade school collages, college essays, poems, drawings, sports programs, acknowledgments, certificates, newspaper articles and notes. One of my favorites was a piece of paper with tape stuck to it shouting "MOM CAN WE GO TO THE LIBRARY TODAY?" scrawled in a nine-year-old hand. There were comments on a first grade report card (one of which was 'quite a talker') that accurately describe a certain son as the adult he is today. A collection of photos show another, book in hand, in a rocking chair, in a beach chair, by the fire, by a pool, at home, on name it. Photos of him, of course, are still likely to be snapped with the book he is currently reading found somewhere within the frame. There is a photo of an exhausted three year old, sitting up to the dinner table, head fallen back, mouth open, eyes closed......asleep in front of a plate of lasagna and garlic bread. The same kid who, this many years later, would still never desert a good plate of food.

And so it goes. The Sweet Spot has not disappeared but has been sifted through, divided up and saved. Its unruliness neatly portioned off for each son, waiting for the right occasion to be passed on.

It's time for a change. Time to take stock. Time to wrap up a couple of projects and stamp them FINISHED. Time to ramp up and plan to put a couple of new ideas in motion. In other words, in my world, its time to shake things up a bit. Cleaning out the office.....revisiting those years that hung out in the pile in the corner reminded me of this......and I think that's a good thing every so often. 

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead!


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dedicated Space

Natural light. Uncluttered surfaces. Clean lines. Neutral gray. Blank walls. A dedicated space. Minimal distractions. This is the workspace I dream about.

I'm in need of a place to work and create that doesn't affect other people. Where their needs don't affect what I'm attempting to distill onto the computer screen or on paper. There are times when Marc hesitates to come downstairs if he thinks I'm in the middle of something at my spot at the kitchen table. He doesn't want to interrupt. I've asked people to turn down the TV or watch it in their room. They trip over my computer cord. I move my 'stuff' from the kitchen table then back again depending on mealtime. I've been known to write in the downstairs bathroom in order to have a little quiet, think clearly and complete a thought. 

Not fair to them. Not fair to me.

So I'm setting out to transform the tiny office upstairs. When the room was built for the former owners of this house, it apparently worked well for them and their home business, but it doesn't work at all well for me.

For one thing it's PINK. I've occasionally been described as a 'girly' girl and for a very long time my favorite color was pink. The other day, in fact, I returned home with a bright pink rain jacket to wear when I walk and was so very OK about that. Wearing it makes me feel happy and I have nothing at all against PINK. But surround me with muted PINK cabinets and walls, PINK wall to wall counter top and a PINK toned vinyl floor and I become nothing but sleepy and distracted. Colors on my computer screen are skewed by light bouncing off the surfaces. Writing seems nearly impossible because......well......I'm surrounded by this set up. Ever since I discovered how well the natural light and backyard view from the kitchen table work for me, I've been planted there in the main center of our home, thinking that was just fine....until I realized it wasn't. 

First I've got to sift through what has found it's way into this office space. Placing things in there began with all good intentions. Important papers were kept in labeled file folders. Photo albums, baby books, journals, computer discs, owners manuals and supplies lived neatly inside cupboards. And then slowly I guess, because I don't remember ever consciously DECIDING to use the room for became a place to put things that I either didn't want to deal with at the moment, or didn't have time to deal with at the moment. At some point I began to avoid opening the door......unless of course I needed to stash something I planned to get to later. Once I found my perch with the nature-view-downstairs-in-the-light, the little upstairs office became stuck in kind of a time warp. And there is the slightest chance that in the last few months, so have I. Until I saw possibility. Then I began to dig in.  

At this point there are piles in the upstairs hallway on either side of the office door. Meaningful piles. Small manageable piles that make this clean out easier to deal with. Whatever happens to be saved from the shredder, the recycling bin or the donation truck is put away for real someplace else in the house. And rather than allowing myself to become overwhelmed by this (very large and involved) task,  I can see how each pile represents an opportunity I've taken during the past few years to hang out with one of my kids, invest in some fun or to take time for some other important responsibility.

Just a few minutes of sifting through paper, photographs and books each day, that's all I'm asking of myself. It should take another week or two, and after that I'm going to give someone a call to find out what it would take to remove the cabinets, counter top and floor. If I can afford it I'll make the window larger in order to have the backyard view I love so much. I'm planning to replace the lighting, find a neutral shade of paint and put a functional desk in there. One of my sons showed me how I could add a few extra feet of workspace by eliminating the linen closet on the other side of the wall. He also helped me visualize a whole new work flow.

Really......this isn't going to be as difficult as I thought.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Warmly, Margaret

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This Week

This is the email I sent to my mom at 10:09 PM last night:


Oh my goodness I have just realized what time it is....and I have missed posting
on my blog for only the second time in 15 months. I guess having the boys home
and helping them out has caught up with me. I will do it tomorrow.

On a funny note: yesterday I went on a long walk with my walking group. 5.6
miles, up and down so many hills. I was very tired when we stopped at Starbucks
for much so that I didn't even realize I had gone into the men's
bathroom until I was quite a few steps back out. I even wondered why the seat was up, which should have
been a good solid clue.  In fact, as I was exiting I saw a woman coming out of the other bathroom
.......(which at the time I could only assume was the men's, of course, not knowing that I
had just come out of it) and I kind of judged her for not being able to wait. At
some point I put two and two together.


Love, Marg


I fill my mom in on certain incidents like this partly because she raised five children and I know she can relate, and partly because I know she will laugh with me. Thank goodness.

Now that the boys are gone, I keep myself busy. I've paid attention to prioritizing the ways I want to spend my time and taken advantage of the amount of time that I now have. The past couple of weeks have served as a reminder of just how busy being a mom can be. And just how different the 'busy' is depending whether the boys are home or not.

At this point in my empty nest I've developed a regular routine. Certain days mean certain things. College breaks and vacations are on the calendar and mentally and otherwise prepared for well in advance. For some reason (even though I knew about them somewhat in advance) the hospital visits, doctors appointments and meal prep of the last couple of weeks threw me.

And there you have it: This is the only explanation I can come up with about why I inadvertently missed my Wednesday post or why I would have unknowingly chosen the men's room.

Wishing you a wonderful week and weekend ahead!

Warmly, Margaret

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Several members of our family are called Patrick by way of either their first or middle names.  All of them wear it well and are positive, forward looking folks. It is a name that, when I hear it, makes me happy. (We are not Irish.)

Something to ponder: I love what it says on the back of the Hale's Ales growler one of the boys brought home:

The Main  Thing
Is to keep the main thing
The Main Thing

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Few Things:

Evening light on a vineyard in Sonoma Valley. The wild mustard is in bloom.
A few tidbits from a busy week:

*I learned how to make rack of lamb. Lamb is something I love to order in restaurants, but for some reason have never made at home until recently. I checked out several ways to cook it, thinking it must be complicated because it tastes so good....until I found this recipe from the New York Times. Simple. It's what we're having tonight.

*I watched two movies this week that I'll recommend: Midnight In Paris and The Big Year. Both are fun, entertaining and have beautiful scenery. They had great messages and stories that made me think. (Anyone who knows me knows that I don't watch dark, violent or super-suspenseful movies.) Each of them are about pursuing something you love and finding balance in your life while you do it. I'll say no more.......

*A group of friends and I are working our way up to walking 13 miles......a half marathon. Yesterday we walked over five miles in a freezing snowstorm, then sipped coffee afterwards, dripping-wet and cold, at a nearby Starbucks. We stuck it out and didn't call our morning walk off due to the frigid weather (I really wanted to.....). I was proud of us (me)!

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead.

Warmly, Margaret

Saturday, March 10, 2012

In Training

This past week I made an incredibly spicy gumbo with chicken thighs and okra, which was followed by a visit to an Italian restaurant the following night. I chopped, simmered and pureed my way into pots of Potato, Carrot and Cheddar, and then Split Pea Minus-The-Ham soups. I discovered that dinner with three smooth side dishes (Pureed Roasted Cauliflower,  Sweet Potatoes Whipped with Butter and Maple Syrup, and Russet Potatoes Mashed with Sour cream) is actually kind of fun for the palate.

I baked loaves of Banana Bread with no nuts and a 9x13 dish of Pumpkin Custard. Stocked the refrigerator with tubs of store bought pudding and the freezer with boxes of popsicles. At some point I became concerned about the sugar intake of our household but attempted to make myself feel better by taking into account the amount of fiber served. (I so want to believe this makes a difference.....)

A few intentionally spicy meals with lots of texture and then a weeks worth of ones that slid down easily. Cooking this week has been a fun and interesting challenge.


I sat in the waiting room of the hospital and the waiting room of the doctors office. In the curtained off pre-op and the post-op rooms. I tried to ask helpful questions, but not too many. I made conscious choices about where to physically place myself in the above spaces and thought a lot about what it means to be the parent of a child in their mid-twenties versus one in their teens or younger. I played Words With Friends, watched a few movies and sat in on occasional episodes of Mad Men during the apparent viewing marathon that played around here.

I tried hard to find the line between helping out too much and too little. Between giving unnecessary advice and not enough. Between stepping in and stepping back. There was a lot of ruminating on my part regarding what used to be, what is now and what will be. I continued to return to my current theme of  "Have I (We) Taught Them Everything They Need To Know In Order To Get Along In This Great Big World?" I still evaluate, re-evaluate and try to make sure.

One of the boys had his tonsils out last week. Believe it or not, I may be repeating and adjusting to certain elements of the above scenario in just a few days with a different son.

During the waiting, the chopping, cooking, stirring and pureeing, I've had some time and inclination to think. There is nothing quite like squarely facing the adulthood of your offspring that nudges you to consider your own.

I they are......still in training.

Wishing you a warm and wonderful weekend, where ever you may be!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012


One of the reasons we ended up in the California wine country last week was that Marc had a work/educational meeting that he needed to attend. It was three days long, before and after which we took some time for ourselves. Only one of the meals we ate was a work-type dinner and this took place in the barrel room of a winery.

While Marc chatted away with colleagues, I spent time taking evening photographs around the grounds which were set high on a hill and allowed for a circumference of beautiful views. (And of course...there I was crouched low with my camera for the best shots in my dress clothes......) After a few tastes of champagne, we were ushered downstairs to a room illuminated with candles, overhead lanterns and colored stage lights. Dinner and our dinner companions were wonderful......but the best surprise was that we were treated to a few numbers from The Phantom Of The Opera on the small stage that was set up. It was lovely, haunting and eerily beautiful in this darkened room that smelled of wine and wood.

I'm not afraid to admit I enjoy a little drama now and then.

Wishing you a wonderful week!

Warmly, Margaret

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Making Sure

It's funny how parenting goes. The more years that pass, the more often I realize that I am digging deeper into it, instead of nearing its end point.  Its not something I will 'finsh' just because my boys are no longer at home.  And thank goodness.....
I still have meaningful, helpful and instructive conversations with both of my parents. Sometimes it is an incident that they recall and recount. Sometimes its when I tell them some small thing and one or both of them relates something similar that happened during their marriage or in my family growing up. Welcome advice often comes my way beginning with, 'Did you know that" or "I remember when......"

My boys are 24 and 19 and I still wonder if I've taught them enough.......if they know all they need to know. Have I sent them away with all the necessary information?

Yesterday I watched the day drift from morning sun into grey and windy sheets of rain. At one point I turned on my computer, barely paying attention to the red banner that blared across the top of the page declaring "Breaking News". I thought I would catch up with it later until I realized the alert was about severe weather......including deadly tornadoes passing through Indiana. I've made sure that my boys were instructed about a lot of things, but there was never any need here in the Pacific Northwest, to be sure that they knew what to do in the event of a tornado. So I made the phone call to the one who has lived for less than a half a year in Indiana. Just to be sure.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

Warmly, Margaret
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