View Finder

Since my daughters are no longer home full time I have become a bit of a photography buff.  Well, that may not be an accurate characterization.  Maybe I am a little obsessed with taking pictures – something of a rabid amateur – and the more I do it the more I want to.

Where the lake and sky meet.

Where the lake and sky meet.

Great portrait photography requires both skill and artistry to capture the essence of a person.  I am in awe of those who can do that, but it is not my focus (pun intended.)

Winter Ravine

Winter Ravine

Landscapes, nature, and architecture are my favorite subjects.   They never tell me to stop, to put down my camera, or to walk away.  They never say “bad hair day” or “I’m too fat.”  As photo subjects they simply ARE.  Fortunately, I live in an area where we enjoy four beautiful, yet very distinct, seasons.  So the subject matter is readily available and always changing.

A photo is a reflection of a moment.  It seizes a single point in time and allows us to keep it and then go back and review it long after the second has passed.  It also catches a singular and very personal point of view and makes it available to many sets of eyes.

Remarkable Ruin

Remarkable Ruin

By itself, photography does not create anything.  My goal is to simply capture the best image of what I see.  If that is an art form, then I feel blessed to have eyes that find beauty or interest in the world around me.

My camera is not high-end.  It is a very respectable Canon point and shoot with some great features and manual settings when I want them.  I am not adept at the manual settings, but do play with them from time to time.  Maybe someday I’ll graduate to a DSLR, but right now that’s intimidating and I don’t have time to learn something new.  Maybe I’m not really a Photographer, if I don’t use a ‘real’ camera.  But I’m okay with that.  It’s not my career, it’s a hobby.

Foggy Morning

Foggy Morning

So if you run into me I am not likely to take your picture, unless you’re one of my kids in which case I may want some snapshots to remember what you look like when you’re many miles away.  But I am likely to have my camera nearby since it is my almost constant traveling companion.  And if you see my car pulled off to the side of the road, it’s probably because something caught my eye and I simply needed to stop and save it to look at again later.  And possibly to share it with you.

Ageless at Work

Since when did so many workplaces become so young?

It certainly can’t be that I am getting old.  Absolutely not.  But the more offices, stores, and other workplaces I see, the more youthful everyone appears.  And I’m not just talking about the starter jobs.  There are middle-management jobs and often high powered top executive jobs filled by people who are easily ten to twenty years younger than me.  Or more.

I am one of those women who started her career in a place where few women had gone before me.  Back in the dark ages of the late 70’s and early 80’s when radio was mainly a man’s world, I was one of a growing wave of women entering the field.  I was no pioneer, but young women about my age were definitely on the cutting edge.  We believed at the time that women could have both a career and a family.  No one told us we couldn’t, so we did.  Honestly, we did it more out of necessity than out of any strident allegiance to the women’s liberation movement.  But we raised our families and simultaneously built our professional lives.

Now here I am all these years later, and I have suddenly noticed more and more youth in the workforce.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  These younger workers often come with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, bringing a breath of fresh air.  Occasionally they seem over-eager and hungry to move up the ladder, but not always.

So what does my generation still have to offer?  Plenty.

Let’s begin with experience.  Technology aside, there really is nothing new under the sun.  Much of what an office work environment brings is a regurgitation of the same old same old.  Perhaps we look for a different spin to put on it, but a planning session is still a planning session and implementation is still implementation.

For another thing we have skills.  Many of us have kept pretty current with technological advances.  Not to brag, but there are few people in my office who can actually run functional spreadsheets, know the intricacies of Word formatting, manage a database, and who also know the ins and outs of more challenging graphic design and report writing programs.  When you have worked for many years in a non-profit setting you learn to juggle multiple types of software in order to meet the growing demands of fundraising, marketing, and communications and still work within the confines of a tight staff structure.   Being a jack of all trades is often a requirement of any job today.

People skills should never be discounted.  Workplace dynamics have not changed, but we do learn to deal with them differently as we grow.  So the breadth and depth of a (slightly) older workers’ background should be respected and appreciated.

It’s no secret that we baby boomers have already started to age out of the workforce.  Maybe this is how Prince Charles feels.  There he is patiently waiting to become King of England, but his mother still has the top job.  If he ever gets it he may be too old to enjoy it.  And then there’s Prince William hot on his heels, ready to take over at any time.

So here I am with many, many working years ahead of me and feeling only slightly like a dinosaur.  I am not ready for retirement – physically, mentally, and certainly not financially – although there are days when the right lottery ticket could quickly change my mind.  But the more I look around the younger everyone else looks.  No wonder I need so much coffee to get through the work day.

Holiday Season

I really and truly love holidays.  The gatherings of family and friends, the festive seasonal decorating, and special foods prepared only once or twice a year all feel like love to me.  They are an outward display of caring for one another.  So is gift giving, and I enjoy trying to find just the right item that would make someone else feel warm and loved.

In fact, I love holidays so much that I honestly want them to come just one at a time.

So here we are more than ten days before Halloween, and along come the trappings of our national obsession with Christmas shopping.  We have received no fewer than six Christmas catalogs in the mail in the past week.  Apparently retailers still feel a need to provide Christmas catalogs, despite a clear push towards online shopping.  Going hand-in-hand with these catalogs is what I call the “Christmas creep-up” of television advertising – just a few well-placed commercials for holiday goods now, and a smattering of Christmas movie promotions.  But next week there will be more, and even more the week after that.

I am not a Scrooge, and really do love to shop.  But we have clearly become a nation of excess.  I enjoy buying gifts for family and friends, but we try to focus on practical things that our kids might actually need.  Never the less, shop.org is forecasting retail sales to increase between 13-15% this holiday season – to $82-billion.

And when did Halloween become so huge?  The National Retail Federation estimates that 158-million consumers will spend an estimated $6.9-billion on Halloween costumes, candy, and decorator items this year.  When I was a kid our single Halloween decoration was a carved pumpkin, and our costumes were whatever we pulled out of mom and dad’s closet, or made with some of the fabric stored up in mom’s sewing stash.

My mom passing along turkey carving tips to my daughter.

My mom passing along turkey carving tips to my daughter.

But let me take a moment to reflect on the forgotten holiday:  Thanksgiving.  It is one of my favorites!  I love that’s it’s just a day to spend with family, enjoy a great meal, and pause for a bit to express our gratitude for all that we have.

The TV is usually on the background while I’m cooking since our kids have always loved the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  (No – it is NOT the “Macy’s Day” parade – please get the name right.  Thank you.)  But the only stress for the day comes in menu selection:  jellied or whole-berry cranberry sauce, red or white wine, apple or pumpkin pie?  Those are the greatest questions and all easy to solve when the answer is BOTH.  Okay, there might be a little stress about college football games, but that’s it.  No gifts to worry about giving or receiving.

And now, in recent years, retailers have discovered that Thanksgiving is another day when people might want to shop.  As if they can’t get their fill on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or Cyber-Monday.  Seriously, I AM a shopper.  But there is no way I want to shop on Thanksgiving Day.  Ever.

So here we are, rolling into the “holiday season,” which now encompasses almost three full months.  Just thinking about it is overwhelming sometimes.  Despite attempts to keep it all at a modest scale, it is absolutely a challenge and that, by itself, becomes stressful sometimes.  I pledge to find time to enjoy each holiday as it comes.  But is it any wonder that I am also looking forward to New Year’s Day, spent almost entirely in pajamas and slippers?

Fond Farewell

If we’re lucky we get three types of family:  the family we’re born into, the family we marry into, and the family we happen to pick up along the way.  For us, the Jones family falls into that last category, which means we are really lucky.

Today, we said goodbye to Dick Jones, the remaining patriarch in a huge spread out, yet very connected, family.  Dick was one of those people who made everyone feel welcome both at his business and at his home.  He was not a large man, but had a laugh as big as all outdoors.  He had a mischievous grin and a gentle nature.  A baker by trade, most of the town either knew him or had heard of him.

Dick and Marilyn “Jean” Jones raised five children, and ended up with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  In addition, Dick came from a large family, so there are multiple layers of cousins, aunts, and uncles.  Each year at the Jones family reunion they form a large circle and count off.  Sometimes there are well over 100 people there.

We are what you would call “shirttail” relations.  In Swedish they call it “släkt till släkt.”  (Hope I got this right.  I am not at all Swedish and it’s the best spelling I could find.)  Here’s the real scoop on how we’re related:  my husband’s mother’s aunt was married to Adolph Jones, who would have been Dick Jones’ uncle.  Confused?  Don’t worry, lots of people are.

But this little piece of information many years ago caused Dick and Jean and their kids to take us under their wing and into their family.  It’s not that they needed more cousins – it’s that they sincerely considered us cousins.  Dick may never have realized how truly important that was to my husband, who grew up somewhat apart from his own father and his own extended family.  For longer than our children have been alive, we have been welcomed like family into the Jones/Jonsson clan.   It created a lasting connection that leaves us feeling truly blessed.

The extended Jones family came from far and wide for the funeral today.  You could honestly feel the love in that church.

So here I am baking and thinking about Dick Jones; a kind and gentle man who found time to make glögg every Christmas, baker extraordinaire, and always had a twinkle in his eye, a strong faith, and enormous love for his family.  Thanks for including us, Dick.  We loved you and will miss you.

Walk a Mile

The semiannual wardrobe switch is on – swapping out light weight spring/summer for the heftier fall/winter items.  It is during these times that I truly realize how much of a shoe collector I have become.  Oh, it’s not a full blown Imelda Marcos type addiction.  But shoes often speak to me, and what they say is “buy me.”

This switch from sandals to boots has me thinking.  If it’s true that you can never fully know someone until you walk a mile in their shoes, then my question has to be, “which shoes?”  Exactly which facet of me would someone get to know by walking a mile in my shoes?

A quick review of my collection reveals pumps, flats, sandals, wedges, loafers, sneakers, clogs, boots, and flip-flops.  zebra shoesI have footwear for work, social occasions, shopping, and hiking.  There’s something for the city, the country, and the suburbs.  My feet are prepared for picnics or fine dining.  I have black suede boots, bright red loafers, hot pink Barbie slides, and a slightly fabulous pair of boat shoes in a zebra stripe, which daughter number 2 pronounced “hipster” when I bought them.  I’m not sure what hipster really means, but they are fun to wear, very comfortable, and were super-cheap.

But I digress.  The real point is, which me would someone know if they randomly picked a pair of my shoes and took a stroll?  Would they discover the all business, at home in the boardroom me?  Would they know the laid back have a beer over a card game me?  Maybe they would find the gardening me, or the Sunday crossword puzzle me.  It’s possible the hanging out with girlfriends for a night of fun me would go along for the walk.  Or maybe the Marlene Dietrich “I want to be alone” me.

Then there is the other little problem.  It is honestly not possible to walk a mile, or even a quarter of a mile, in some of my shoes.  They aren’t made for walking.  They’re just made for being all-out gorgeous.  Like the silvery gray strappy sandals with the lovely three inch heels.  (Sorry…sidetracked again.)  And if you’re not walking, or dancing, all night, you’re going to look and feel amazing in those shoes.

There are so many sides to each of us, and so many ways to express ourselves.  Serious.  Silly.  Sassy.  Casual.  Classy.  Fierce.  Frightened.  Giving.  Yielding.  Speaker.  Listener.  Questioner.  Partner.  Helper.  Uptown.  Downtown.  Boardroom.  Mudroom.  Sewing.  Mowing.  Reading.  Writing.  ‘Rithmatic.

One mile in one pair?  That’s not nearly enough to get to know who I am.  Don’t walk in my shoes.  Instead, walk beside me and let’s just talk.  Then we’ll get to know one another and you won’t judge me for my shoe collection.  But wear your sneakers so you can keep up.

Married 30 Years

I swear thirty years has flown by in a heartbeat.  To say out loud that we’ve been married thirty years it sounds like a very long time.  Having lived it, though, it doesn’t seem long at all.  Maybe that’s because it’s been a pretty good thirty years overall.  Like any marriage we have had ups and downs.  We have experienced overwhelming joy and delight, extraordinary sadness and loss, the mundane trials of daily life, the stress of illness, raising two fabulous daughters together, financial woes, arguments, and laughter – lots of laughter.

When we married thirty years ago we were both hard working people in wedding pic weblow paying jobs.  We could not afford a big wedding, so we didn’t have one.  Instead we had a small wedding with family and very close friends on hand.  My mother sewed a wedding suit for me out of fabric I had chosen.  We had a beautiful autumn wedding with potted mums as decorations, and were married outdoors on a day that turned from drizzle in the morning to warmth and sunshine in the afternoon.  My parents picked up the tab for a very nice luncheon reception at the country club where my father was a member.  It was lovely, memorable, and meaningful.

Note to young people on the verge of getting married:  your wedding day is not about the wedding.  I enjoy watching Say Yes to the Dress as much as anyone.  But if you can’t afford a lavish one-day party that rivals the cost of a brand new car or even a house, then you should think of a creative, stylish, and less expensive way to get married.  Because the real focus of your wedding day should be on the MARRIAGE.  It is about bringing together two people, and two families, and two sets of friends, and making sure that these two people are supported and loved as they embark on what can be a fabulous journey, creating their own family and building their lives together.

If I could sum up what has made our marriage work for thirty years, I guess it would be commitment, respect, and laughter.  Just to be clear, it is only in hindsight that I can recognize these things as significant.  We never set out to make them happen.

Commitment is sometimes hard work, and sometimes requires frequent re-commitment, not even in a substantial way but more as a thought in your head or a gentle gesture.  You can develop other friendships, outside interests, and other activities on your own, but a strong commitment to your marriage means you will always come home at the end of the day.

Respect leads to conversations that are more caring and important, and actions that reflect true admiration.  Respect is the essence of a loving relationship, far more than passion.  You can only truly trust a person whom you respect.

Laughter is salvation in the challenging times and makes the ordinary easier.  Find a life partner who makes you laugh and you really will have married your best friend.

I am fortunate to have a husband who allows me to be myself, has helped me grow as a person, demonstrates his commitment to our relationship, cherishes his role as a father, and makes me laugh almost every day.  He is caring, kind, and as patient as the day is long – a perfect counterbalance to my always impatient and often hot-headed Irish-Italian temper.

Our marriage has not been perfect.  Just like thirty years ago we are still hard working people in fairly low paying jobs, and there is still a lot of room for improvement in us as individuals and as a couple.   Maybe we’ll really get it right in the next thirty years.