adventure

It’s in the Details

A surprise picnic. The weather wasn’t great. We didn’t even really know the area. The option to hike it in would have been too much to carry.

A friend scouted a park with a pavilion. We wandered in tandem with the vague directions we had, then finally stumbled on the spot.

The coolers, tucked in the back of the jeep for hours, and boxes and bags were ported out. Then the spoiling began.

A white tablecloth was the foundation. Topped by a fall-themed tablecloth with muted hues. Draped with care over the metal picnic table. Then, fancy bamboo plates and utensils. Yellow napkins folded at each place. Then, the finishing touches…jewel-colored velvet pumpkins that later doubled as party favors / remembrances for each of the women there. A fall candle bought brand new for the occasion, glowing and sharing a hint of apple scent. A table worthy of special guests. Even out in the middle of the soccer fields and playgrounds. Then, a build-your-own lunch spread courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Nothing too fussy. Just nibbles to try.

In recent years, I have grown to love surprising people…not in the sense of surprise parties, but more about delighting people with over-the-top unique details. Whether it be decorations, unexpected custom cookies that match their party theme, party favors that make people giggle, artist-created invitations, or a meal fit for a queen, it feeds my soul to make people feel special and make occasions memorable. People are worth celebrating.

This also extends to presents I may drop on porches on a random Tuesday. Life is a challenge for many. Why not make people smile?

I hope when they pull out that pumpkin each fall they smile and remember a great day, and someone who cared about them enough to plan something special. Spoil people a little sometimes. They are worth it.

adventure

Local Flavors

I’m fortunate to have quite a few road excursions this summer. When I am out of town, I try my best to find and support local people and places. When I visit, these are some of the things I like to do that help me get to know a place.

1.) Start your day the local way

I’ve written about this before. Find a local coffee shop! Many have interesting traditions and can give you the “feel” of a particular community. If you prefer donuts for breakfast, hit the donut or bagel place, or have a full breakfast if you’re up for it. Yelp is my favorite app to use for local spots. I’m told google searches are more popular, but I’ve had better luck finding unusual and wonderful places with yelp.)

2.) Find a farmer’s market and / or grocery store

As a farmer myself, I love seeing what is in season. Maybe there are local specialties. On a recent trip to New York and Pennsylvania, I had my choice of both permanent farm stands with a variety of local products as well as an “every Thursday afternoon” market. I loved that I got to enjoy local strawberries in Pennsylvania, especially since the growing season for strawberries at home was already over. I also found locally made whoopie pies, pretzels, maple syrup, and other treats. Regional grocery stores can also give an interesting glimpse into different foods and traditions.

3.) Eat the local specialty

When my family took long road trips in my youth, my dad would hand me a book called Road Food, Good Food. Before google, yelp and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Jan and Michael Stern looked for local joints serving regional specialties. I was in charge of using the book, organized by state, and the atlas to find places that were at least sort of on the way to the destination. (But we have been known to drive hours out of the way for special types of pie, barbecue and more.) They now have a website that is still organized by state and will tell you the special dishes a place is known for and give you some small, independent spots to give that dish a try. This website is challenging to use, and reminds me of juggling the index of the atlas, map coordinates, and so on. But, it’s usually spot on with great little places and special foods.

Asking a local is another great way to find things. My aunt and uncle steered us to pink stripe cookies and Bison brand French onion dip in Western New York. Both were top notch!

Whatever you do, break out of the chains of chain restaurants and predictable average while you’re on the road! Experience new places in different ways.

family

Hi Dad

It’s Father’s Day 2021. My second official Father’s Day without my dad but truly the first that I grasp as we were just parting ways with my dad in 2020 amidst a pandemic. With the celebration of life so close to Father’s Day it still seemed liked we celebrated in a way.

This year is different. No dad to call on the phone. No gift to buy. No note to write. Nothing. I got to thinking of how I could celebrate Father’s Day.

  •  I could do all the things with my mom that I would with my dad since she is technically playing a dual role of mom and dad to me in the current day.
  •  I could spend the day going through memories from previous years and celebrate what was.
  •  I could write a list of things I missed most about him and add to it each year.
  •  I could honor him silently in something I do today.

What will I actually do? The day is still young but I am thinking. I will do a little walking as my dad liked to take walks. I will laugh some because he was always a jokester. I will talk to or exchange smiles with a stranger at the park because that’s what my dad would do. I will have a cup of tea and toast him as he loved a hot cup of tea.  I will look for a cardinal today to see if one passed by. If not a cardinal maybe I’ll see a sign he is watching.

I think of my dad often. I truly miss him. He can never be replaced. My mom is lonely without him. He wasn’t really a guy who gave lots of flowers but he was loyal to the core.

Happy Father’s Day to all the daddies out there. Whether by blood or by choice, dads have an opportunity to leave their mark on many in the world. I’m one of the lucky ones. I had a good daddy. I am forever daddy’s little girl and proud of it. Just shy of the 60 years of marriage mark at the time of his passing. He was truly one of the good ones. red heart

I hope another dad somewhere appreciates my Father’s Day post since I can’t have my dad for an in person Father’s Day. 

celebrations, family

Last Time for Everything

Country music isn’t necessarily my favorite, but I listen to it pretty often since my youngest daughter is a fan. I have a handful of artists I admire. Miranda, Maren, Dolly, and then there’s Brad. Brad Paisley. He may not have the most soaring lyrical voice, but his lyrics are witty, smart, and insightful.

Just a few weeks ago, my youngest daughter, the country girl, started her farewell tour, her victory lap, her senior year of high school. Tomorrow we will leave on a 10-day road trip bookended by two lacrosse tournaments, sandwiched around reunions with family, roller coasters, beautiful scenery and other adventures. Time with friends, time with each other, time doing new things, time doing what she loves.

It’s her last hurrah of youth. Last summer playing travel lacrosse. It won’t be long until senior year begins with all its fanfare and festivities. College choices will be made. Dreams will turn to plans.

And so begins a season of lasts. Here’s where Brad comes in with Last Time for Everything. It’s a song that plays over and over in my head. Last time hitting the road to the northeast. Last time taking the field. Last Spring Break. Last, last, last…

Some I will see coming. Some will catch me off guard. Some I will be prepared for. Many I won’t even notice until they are gone and done.

Sure, she will always be my baby. Just like the older two, she will always come home and open the refrigerator and look for her favorites. Bring her laundry and her dog. Get some advice on how to fix her car or choose insurance or ask questions about saving money. Maybe she’ll even curl up and take a nap while someone is cooking in the kitchen like I did at my parents’ house. Even after I was long gone, it was a safe place to just relax and be taken care of for a bit.

So I will enjoy each moment with her as she prepares to take a step out on her own. I will try not to overthink it and get ahead of myself, but instead just be in the moment, relishing this last trip around her childhood sun, all her hard work, ups and downs, accomplishments, and celebrations.

May I treasure this sweet season of lasts while it lasts.

celebrations

That Time of Year

Graduations. Awards ceremonies. End of year gatherings. Oh how fortunate one feels to be in public this year celebrating others. A gift of sorts. Really it is if you compare it to what others missed in 2020.

For me I’m selfishly excited. First I’m happy to celebrate others. Next to celebrate being able to celebrate at all. And finally to secretly honor those who missed their chance last year. The chance they can’t get back as time has moved on.

As we celebrate in any fashion this year let’s think of those who missed out last year. Some missed graduation. Others missed a normal funeral to honor a loved one lost. Many missed their wedding day. Some missed a big award day they waited many years to be a part of. Maybe even a final season of one’s sports team was missed. 

This year I went to a graduation. It was masked. It was socially distanced. It was different. But I was able to participate and celebrate the graduate. I didn’t take that lightly this year. While waiting I had many thoughts or reflections. It’s was an eye-opening experience in many ways. An awakening.

I went to a college signing event this year. I listened to the stories. The athletes who sustained season ending injuries in 2019 causing pain and rehabilitation to prepare for 2020 seasons only to have a pandemic hit. Only to emerge in 2021 to rise again and overcome. I would have missed these stories as they are not in the headlines yet deserve a spotlight as do the other untold stories. I may cheer in silence but I’m celebrating all who missed that opportunity for whatever reason I’m 2020. 

This experience also gave me a whole new level of understanding for playing like there is no tomorrow. Every game is like your last. Leave it all on the line. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed on or off the field.

Now that we are in 2021 and restrictions are lifted I seem to be on the go. Go here go there. Do I complain about being busy? Yes. Would I want to be in isolation? Heck no! I do however need to be able to pause and make sure I don’t miss celebrating others due to my busy schedule. For the reasons I noted above, others need the chance to celebrate in 2021 because so much was missed in 2020.

I may have too many graduations to make them all but I will send that card. Send that text. Make that call. It’s an important step in 2021. For all those virtually reading this I’m sending you a celebratory high five if you are in need of celebrating. For those of you who have the opportunity to celebrate a milestone in 2021, make it a point to honor others.

It feels good to celebrate others. If you have somebody in your life who missed something big in 2020, send them a follow up this year. A card. A note. A call. A secondary celebration for making it a great year despite the blah of 2020. Why not? We have so many have-tos in life why not just do something different.