Wintering Early

Too Soon to Hate the Cold…

I have heard so many people talk about hating the season of winter, snow, cold, wind, etc. already and it’s only November 20th!  It’s not technically winter yet and we have a long couple of months to go. 

Seasons are part of life.  We all know that winter will come; that shorter days will come; that cold will come; so why do we fight it?  Why do we challenge it with thoughts of depression, sadness, and frustration?  When we know it is coming?

I may be one of those people who likes snow (hate me now) and I like the changing of the seasons which mark changes in our lives, time, relationships, activities etc.  I welcome winter, I welcome the cold, I welcome the dark.  Because of three factors:

It is not avoidable.  It is like being made that the sun is shining in July.  It is not preventable, so mentally and emotionally prepare for darker days, grey skies, and coldness.

Winter is time to slow down, to rest more, find slowness and peace.  For some of us who go a 1000 miles per minute, this season is welcomed by those who need to rest, slow down, step away from long work days, from demands of work and family, to find rest.

It is a time to find peace.  To reflect, be still, find peace within ourselves, our purpose, our roles in life, etc.  To reflect and learn. To grow.

Cold, snow, and wind may have come a little earlier than normal this year but it is how you choose to fight it or embrace it that will define how you weather this season.  My hope for you is that you embrace it.  You don’t have to love snow or cold but accept that this is a season you will walk through, you will embrace and make the best of it in the midst of your life. 

Welcome to wintering.

Never too early…

Research shows that decorating your home early for Christmas and other holidays, makes people happier. I agree and love to put up our holiday decorations at the end of October. Bring on the holidays!

If you are an early decorator, you are my people. For one thing, decorating takes me a couple weekends, in phases. It takes a lot of time. And if I’m putting a lot of time into it, I want to enjoy it for as long as possible. Plus it does lift moods, creates a whimsical space and it it provides for beautiful lighting.

I do get teased. But I don’t care. For those who want to put up decorations for a few weeks and take them back down, go for it. I’m going to enjoy mine as long as possible. To those early decorators, I’m with you. Let’s spread some early Christmas joy! And yes, we do celebrate Thanksgiving. I don’t decorate for it but I’m thankful for my Christmas decorations.

Lume Exhibit

I love art and enjoy going to art museums and historical homes! As well as gardens and landscapes. I find the color and design inspirational and moving. For my birthday, I got tickets to the Newfields Indy Museum of Art Lume exhibit and it didn’t disappoint!

The exhibit is interactive and a submersion in the art which this exhibit focused on Monet and other amazing Impressionist artists’ work. Set to beautiful music, you walk in and are surrounded by color and sound. You can sit and watch or move around the exhibit as it weaves through numerous spaces. The art is also animated at some points.

Halfway through, there was a snack/lounge with food and drinks and you can take them with you in the exhibit. A kids space and more interactive elements. At the end of the day, it was amazing. Highly recommend for any art lover!

Trip out East

22 Hours in a Car with a Toddler…          

Enough said for anyone who has traveled with a toddler in a car.  Our trip out east was 11 hours there and back with 2 kids, 3 adults, and the toddler who hates her car seat and stroller.  Fun times.  But we survived and had a wonderful time!

We visited another du Pont garden and property called Winterthur which was completely different from the other formal gardens that we visited called Longwood (another du Pont property).  Both are amazing but in different ways.  As Winterthur is more natural landscapes, enchanting structures, and miles (25 miles) of trails. 

Henry Francis du Ponts’ home on the property is open for touring and there are numerous exhibit spaces with amazing decorative arts Henry was a famous connoisseur of decorative arts which is why Jackie Kennedy sought him out to be on her White House Restoration Committee. She even traveled to Winterthur to meet with him and tour his home/gardens when she was First Lady. 

Longwood gardens does not have a formal home on the property (there are some smaller but grand homes there) but consist of a large glass conservatory that is being massively remolded and formal fountains that are set to music.  More popular with tourists, it is busier with foot traffic.

The color, the landscape, the flowers, were stunning, and watching the kids have fun in the kid’s gardens, the enchanted forest, and tree houses (Longwood has treehouses throughout the property) was a lot of fun (and with a toddler, a lot of up and down stairs).

But like all good things, it came to an end.  We left and drove home through a blizzard, sunshine, fall leaves, and pretty much all seasons.  We survived with a toddler in the car and numerous meltdowns and little naps.  But we made it there and back. Hope that your fall break was relaxing and that you got to enjoy some time with family, and friends and enjoy the fall leaves.  

Here are the links to both:
https://www.winterthur.org/
https://longwoodgardens.org/

Lessons Learned

Relationship Lessons Learned

A number of us were asked to write our future niece a letter she could read prior to marriage to my nephew Jacob back in August.  I have grown and learned so much about love, relationships, and partnerships, over the past 20 years.  And I am still learning and growing. But here was my letter to her. 

Speak in Love (always and often): this is so hard, but every time you open your mouth (no matter how mad, hurt, annoyed, etc., you are) think about your words.  Once you say them, you can never take them back.  Words can cut like a knife.  But work on speaking in love.

He is your best friend: I have never had a best friend that was my partner/spouse until now.  Having someone that I can share everything with, who can look at me or know by my tone of voice, how I am thinking or feeling, is pretty amazing.  Knowing each other deeply is key.  Always keep learning about each other.

Date night: keep going on date nights.  Even when the kids come.  Make it a commitment on both of your parts to go out to dinner or go to a movie twice a month.  This keeps you connected.  Makes you both have to prioritize each other and your marriage.

Help each other to grow: I remember reading an article about a wife/mom who was throwing a fit because her husband said he wanted to go to grad school.  In the midst of her venting to her best friend, her friend responded wisely, “you can (today) choose to grow with him and support him or you can choose to grow away. He is asking you to grow.”  Support (equally) each other’s dreams and hopes.  Grow together.  Become better people, together. Bring out the best in each other. I have known many couples who devoted a majority of their time to bashing, ripping on each other, and degrading each other (verbal and emotional abuse) and your relationship with not withstand these hurtful fights, words and abuse.  This is not love. This is a tactic to keep someone small, devalued, and scared. You will grow apart (words push people apart)! Don’t go there. Learn to love, value and respect your partnership and grow together.   

Respect, respect, respect: respect each other at all times.  Honor each other at all times.  If you don’t respect each other, then you don’t love, care, or uphold, etc. your relationship.  Your respect for each other, your roles, contributions, work, etc. to this life together is important and knowing that are appreciated and valued by each other is vital.

Those are my words of wisdom, encouragement, love, and support.  Welcome to the family my dear.  I am here if you need anything.  From one wife to another, wishing you the very best and with lots of love!

Love,
Natalie   

Chicago by Water

A day trip to Chicago took us down the Chicago River on an architectural tour to see the skyline, the buildings, bridges, etc. Seeing a city or place from the water is very different than walking on the ground.  You learn so much from a different view. 

We have done this architecture river tour dozens of times and each time we go, we learn something more about the history of Chicago.  There are numerous tour companies, but we like the Chicago Cruise Line which has a little more intimate of a boat and tour (smaller and fewer tourists).  Retired history professors provide the tours, so you get a mix of architectural information and history simultaneously.  You can start lining up 30 minutes prior to boarding, which we strongly encourage getting there at least 20 minutes early so you can get a good seat.   

Even if architecture is not your thing, just floating down the river, on a fall day, watching people, buildings, and bridges pass you by is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.  The tour/boat last about 90 minutes and consists of a Starbucks coffee, lemonade, tea,  a bar, and snacks.

If you want something to do in Chicago and enjoy learning about history, this is a great tour!  Easy to purchase online, get to (they board at the Ogden Slip, not the river), and it is on time and well organized.  They also do Chicago history tours, Devil in the White City tours, evening cruises, etc. 

Long Live the Queen

Queen Elizabeth’s funeral is tomorrow and I can’t help but write a short blog/tribute to her as a queen, leader, mother, grandmother, head of state, and the list could go on and on. Her many, many roles and responsibilities are beyond my understanding but this strong, hardworking woman set an example for numerous generations when it came to duty, devotion, and again, hard work.

Queen Elizabeth is described and portrayed in books, movies, documentaries, and in the media as a steadfast and consistent foundation of English leadership and monarchy. The traditions and rituals of monarchy have been challenging and hard to uphold, maintain, and follow as it has put her in a challenging position with her family, her children and grandchildren at the expense of trying to keep the monarchy together, intact, and moving forward.

As I have read numerous books and have watched countless documentaries about the royal family, I have developed a deep respect for the Queen. Her job as a monarchy has not gone with pain, challenges, and sacrifices to her children and family. She had, at all times, put duty above all. She was an amazingly strong woman surrounded by advisors and courts that consisted of men who felt she could not lead or didn’t know how (at the age of 25) but she did and continued to prove them wrong. 15 prime misters walked through her doors not to mention tremendous change, upheaval, scandal and loss. The Queen kept the monarch together.

Important and impactful men and woman cast a big shadow, leave big shoes to fill, and not one can match up to her abilities and strength. The phrase, keep calm and carry on was put into use during WWII but the Queen’s parents as London has blitzed by the Germans. This quote holds true today for many around the world and also the royal family as they pay tribute to an amazing woman. Long live the queen and keep calm and carry on.

Labor Day

Why do we celebrate Labor Day?

September 5th is Labor Day but what is it, why do we celebrate it and how was it founded?  For many of us, it marks the end of summer and the start of school or the fall season.  For others, it’s nothing more than a day off.  But this federal holiday has great historical meaning to many hard-working Americans. 

At the turn of the century, due to many horrific labor conditions, unfair wages, etc. protests started to spring up throughout numerous industrial communities.  Those who were poor, immigrants, children (young and the old), and others worked incredibly long hours, in horrible and unsafe working conditions and with little pay.  These strikes were often plagued with violence and even death.  Two pivotal strikes included the Haymarket Riot of 1886 and Pullman Palace Car Company (1894).   Both of which took place in Chicago.

American workers were determined to be heard and valued for their work.  As a result of these numerous strikes, labor laws were put into place to protect workers and Labor Day became a day of celebration and rest for many. 

Today is for you to those who get up each day, go to work and work hard to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities.  I truly believe that all who can work should.  When people work and have a purpose, they tend to be happier, self-supportive, contribute and give to others, and have a fuller life.  Most people need purpose.  A reason to think outside of themselves.  I understand that many people don’t like their jobs or hate what they do, but still get up and do it every day.  Hard work ethic is the foundation of our American economy. 

My hope is that those who can work, that are not working or contributing to society, find the motivation to go into the workforce and help build our economy and communities.  Many did not return to work after COVID, and our supply logistic systems and overall economy have suffered. 

Labor Day is for you, the hard-working American who gives of themselves, who contributes to society, and gets up each day with a purpose and goes to work.  I hope today, is a day of rest for you.  For you to know your hard work is appreciated.  For you to know your work and purpose are valued. 

Do you have to attend every game?

It’s August and school starting mean football season at our house. Our 15 year plays football which means he dresses varsity and plays JV. Therefore, fall, school, and football has swooped in and pretty much destroyed my calendar and I assume many others.

Believe me, I enjoy football season and look forward to watching my son enjoy playing the game.  Many of us enjoy those moments when your child truly loves and enjoys the sport and they are fun to watch.  However, do you have to attend everything that your kids are in?

I have had many, many conversations over the past couple of months with moms and dads and almost all have said “YES” or “I can’t miss not getting watch them!”  I also get the, “I think you are crazy look” for even asking this silly question from a few.   However, from some, I see heavy shoulders, downward glances, and the weight of the world on their shoulders as they run in circles to every single event.

What is it that tells us in our heads and hearts, that we have to be at everything?  Is it parent guilt?  Is it social and societal pressure?  Is it out of habit?  Every family and parent is different and I will never tell anyone how to parent.  That is your business, not mine.  But why I bring this up, is that I see the quality of life for many parents and families, the level of stress, the level of running in circles, deflating the fact that you enjoy or want to see you kid do well and you want to be there to support them. 

You know what, I don’t make every game, horseback riding less, practice, etc.  The secret is out! I missed my son’s first JV game due to sickness and I did cry.  Call it parent shame or just the disappointment that I wanted to be there, to watch him play, to support him.  I had to remind myself, I can’t make every game and it’s ok. There will be dozens, upon dozens of games.  He understood and knew why.  He was good with it.

Sometimes my work, travel or another event like a wedding shower, wedding, etc. disrupt the fact that I (we) cannot be there.  But you know, your child knows you love them, that you support them and you are their biggest fan regardless of your presence.  That they can be successful, without you in the wings, that they can have a great game and talk your ear off about it when they get home.

I will call my kids before or after, get photos sent via text message and I hit up the next game, lesson, etc. the following week. 

I understand that your child might have their best game ever, or they hit that homerun or break that school record, make that first goal, etc. but I bet you money, they will do it again.

I had to remind myself not to put so much pressure on myself!  It is hard enough to be a parent and raise children today.  Don’t add to the stress and unrealistic expectations!  Find a balance, and learn to accept that you can’t do everything and that this is OK. 

Take care of yourself.  Take care of your sweet family and find time for yourself.  No more parent shaming and guess what, you don’t have to attend everything.

Back to School

In the past two weeks, many of us have gone back to school. For colleges, school starts tomorrow. It’s fun to see pictures on social media of families moving their kids to college and helping them set up their dorm rooms or apartments. A big change for many as they wave goodbye to their child and hope they make good choices, study hard and find good friends.

I have taught college students for 10 years between two colleges/universities and much has changed over the years, especially with COVID impacted high school youth. For 1-3 years, we told school-aged students not to come to school, not to play sports, not to get a job, they had no prom, no homecoming, etc. They just stayed home, because of COVID. Then these students come to college and it is like hitting a brick wall. They are shocked they have to come to class, that they must turn in homework, and that they need to engage in the class and be prepared to be successful. It has been a rough year or two helping these students make adjustments and take ownership of their academic journey.

The biggest challenge I have faced with students is their lack of time management which leads to self-diagnosis anxiety or stress-related issues. These students have been made to do little and be held accountable for little. So college is like a huge shift from kid to adulting. Students also don’t like the feeling of being stressed which is a natural and a lifelong emotion they need to adjust to, manage and work with to be successful.

So each year, I go over this college success handout that I created based on my own college experiences and from teaching college for a decade. If you have a high school or college student, feel free to share. My goal, as a professor, is to help students learn and grow in their academics, personal values, faith-based foundation, and help them become the person they are meant to be. This means building these life-long skills and abilities.

If you dropped off a child at college this past weekend, my heart is with you. Your child will do great and help encourage them to grow, learn and surround themselves with good people.