Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: What the Heck Happened?

January - We started the new year reviewing our hopes and dreams from last year and creating new ones for 2012. It was a herculean effort, but we finally got Charlie to start using the toilet instead of diapers.
February - It was a short month. It was winter and I was pregnant. We hunkered down. That's about the extent of it.
March - Ellis turned nine. Charlie would sit in the back of the van on our excursions around town and tell me all the things he saw. We realized that he could read. Ellis and Nate joined Josh and I for the first time in our annual bracket competition for March Madness.
April - We had our baby (and as the youngest of four, he truly is our baby). Isaac Edward was born on April 26. Grandparents arrived from Alaska just in time to enjoy those first new baby days.
May - I was happy not to be pregnant anymore as the weather turned lovely. Charlie's adjustment to having a new baby brother was pretty rough (on all of us). I planted tomatoes and basil and then proceeded to neglect them in favor of my chubby, adorable new human.
June - Nate graduated high school at the beginning of the month and turned 18 at the end of the month. Charlie began his four-year-old reign of terror (which actually started before his fourth birthday on the 20th). The black raspberries came in early this year, so Josh spent the whole month picking and was a mass of bug bites and scratches. We made delicious jam and black raspberry cider with the harvest.
July - I tried my hand at making pickles again this year and they were excellent (note to self: make three times as many dilly beans next year). We couldn't get our act together to go camping with the new baby, so we had a sleep out on the porch instead.
August - My sister and her family visited from Chicago. We had a wonderful long weekend with lots of fun for the cousins. I'll always remember my niece tearing up when it was time to leave because she was going to miss us. We all felt the same way, Vanessa. After a year hiatus, we finally got back up the the north shore of Lake Superior for a day trip and cook out.
September - Josh headed out for a solo Alaska vacation while I stayed home with our enormous brood. Charlie started preschool. Ellis started fourth grade and got an awesome teacher. Charlie took a dance class and we both made new friends. I started doing some consulting to replace Josh's second job that he'd been doing for the past two years.
October - Alaska grandparents came for a long visit. I turned 39. We put up yard signs and got politically active. Ellis started calling me on the phone on the days he was with his dad, and we had long, interesting conversations.
November - Josh marked another step along the way to decrepitude. Nate voted in his first election. We had nine around our table for Thanksgiving (our six, plus Josh's parents and brother). We still miss our visitors from Alaska (good thing they will return in February). Ellis got his orange belt in Aikido.
December - Ellis played basketball and we cheered him on from the stands. The world did not end. The holidays sprawled out for us over the last weeks of the year as we ate, rested, and enjoyed our gifts together.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Eight Months Old

He's  really acting like a big guy this month - reaching for the things he wants, standing while holding onto something (maybe he'll end up skipping crawling because there are so many walkers around here to catch up to.) There's a glimmer of recognition in his eyes for certain words and when I say, "Can I have a hug?" he leans right over to give me one. I can't wait to hear what all those babbles mean because he has the sweetest voice.
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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

For Unto Us...

My friend Amy created an Advent Blog called "Inside of Waiting" for the period leading up to Christmas. I shared the story of Isaac's birth and she published the post yesterday.

Please enjoy my post, found here:, as well as the rest of this wonderful blog about "waiting, learning hoping and anticipating" if you are so inclined.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Logic for the End Times

E: You know the Mayan apocalypse isn't real because they didn't take leap years into account.
Me: That makes sense.
E: I bet a kid in my class one of my treasure chest tickets that the world isn't going to end on December 21st.
Me: Wow! One of your tickets that gets you candy?
E: Well, it's a safe bet. Either way, I'm not going to have to give him that ticket. 
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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dear St. Paul: Is There Something You Want to Tell Us?

So last Sunday, we had considerable snow fall in our fair city and they ended up declaring a "Snow Emergency," which for all you non-Minnesotans, is a lot less exciting than it sounds and simply means the (usually) orderly process they use to clear the snow. (Incidentally, sometimes when they declare a snow emergency, Josh and I declare our own personal one because of all that talk about Night Plow Routes" and such --wink, wink.)

Anyway, they started plowing (hee hee) on Sunday night and on into Monday. I didn't drive that day so Josh could take the "good in the snow" car on his long commute to work. By mid-day Tuesday, when it was time to drive Charlie to preschool, I loaded up the kiddos expecting smooth sailing. Instead the roads were horrible - like they didn't even plow some places - even on main arteries like the Snelling Avenue overpass of I-94. Hmmm....I thought.

That night on the news, there were all these stories about how the cold snap following the storm contributed to poor road conditions (well, okay, except there's almost always a cold snap after a big snowstorm). On Tuesday, roads were still kind of crappy, and as I drove north on Snelling to run some errands, I noted that, as I crossed over into Falcon Heights, the road became immediately clear and dry. What the hell St. Paul?

Fast forward to Saturday. After spending most of the week driving on slushy, partially-thawed and re-frozen streets, we get a message from the city saying that they are going to do some more plowing this weekend to improve road conditions. But to be clear, they are NOT declaring a snow emergency. No, instead, they've just called, texted, and emailed a bunch of people they have in their database to let them know that they are plowing the roads and that we should move our cars in the exact REVERSE order that we usually do during a real snow emergency. I really hope that works out for you, St. Paul.

Seriously, what is up with the snow removal, St. Paul? Did someone crucial to the operations get canned? Is there new management that has all kinds of "fresh ideas" that don't work for crap? Were you hoping that it was going to warm up enough this week to take care of things and it backfired? Are you jealous of Minneapolis and all the revenue they make with their byzantine snow emergency rules about "odd-side parking, even-side parking, oh just do yourself a favor and head straight to the impound lot to retrieve your towed vehicle?" Whatever it is, I understand if you don't want to 'fess up, just get it together, people. Otherwise, it is going to be rough winter.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

An Open Letter to the NFL

Dear National Football League:

Yesterday, I watched my team play like I have for most Sundays since I was a little girl. As a Minnesota Vikings fan, I am used to the emotional ups and downs (mostly downs) associated with watching football. But it was not Christian Ponder's horrible performance yesterday that made me the saddest, rather it was the relative silence about the murder of Kasandra Perkins by her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher, and his ensuing suicide. By not using your very public forum to talk about this horrific event in the context of domestic violence, you are missing a chance to make a difference in the lives of your players, your fans, and their families.

Sadly, Ms. Perkins' death is only the most recent story of family violence turned fatal that I have had to hear about. In October, a colleague's daughter, Tensia Martinez Richard, was shot to death by her estranged husband right here in Minnesota. He killed himself as well, and now my colleague is left raising her two orphaned grandsons. This summer, in nearby Hudson, Wisconsin, a dad allegedly murdered his three daughters to get back at his ex-wife. This has to stop, and it won't until men in positions of power and respect begin to speak out to other men about how domestic violence is not acceptable.

In October, when your coaches and players are wearing pink to support breast cancer awareness, I appreciate the solidarity as a female fan. Breast cancer will affect 1 in 8 women over the course of her lifetime. For domestic violence, that number is 1 in 4. Each year, 1300 deaths and 2 million injuries are caused by domestic violence. I am asking you to take a similar public stand against domestic violence and show me and other women who watch football that you think we have the right to be safe in our own homes.

Start with your players - tell them that the hits are only okay on the field, and don't protect the ones who take the violence outside the game. Then let your fans know that real men express their feelings with words, not with violence. All those boys who are watching, my four sons included, will listen to their heroes and remember the appropriate way to behave with their loved ones in the future. We need to make sure that no more women (or men) die and no more children are orphaned because of domestic violence.

I understand that such a horrible event can leave someone speechless. I can especially understand your feelings of discomfort that one of your players committed this terrible crime against the mother of his daughter. Please don't let Kasandra and Tensia and other women like them be forgotten in silence. You have the power and the forum to make a difference.

Thank you.

Charlotte Flowers

Minnesota Vikings Fan (Skol!)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Seven Months

He's a strong sitter this month and takes advantage of his new favorite position to grab toys with his hands and bang them. There is a sweetness and a gentleness to this boy that is starting to surface. I love to listen to his cooing sounds and bask in his gaze that bespeaks a pure love of mama. My favorite memory this month, though, is watching Charlie kneel down to hug him and say, "Best friends, best friends, best cuties," and seeing Isaac smile back at his brother. How lovely to be claimed at such a young age.
With a first child, there seems to be such a hurry to meet every milestone. The third time around, I want to savor every moment, remember what it feels like to lift him out of his crib and hold his little body, knowing how quickly he will reach the point that he will be running full steam ahead into his own independent life.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012


The first time he went to Aikido, he sat on my lap and watched the whole time because he was too scared to participate. He conquered his fear and decided he wanted to go back the next week and try it again. That was two years ago, and today he tested for his orange belt.
And so it is that we all grow, with a little courage and a lot of practice, supported in community.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gender Part II

None of my children has been particularly rigid on the gender spectrum for picking things to like and dislike. I also have never felt that because they are boys that we would have little in common or the ways they are like me or not like me have anything to do with their sex.

Right now, Charlie has been exploring a lot of different shows on our Netflix streaming account. Since they have a specific "For Kids" channel, I give him free reign to pick shows (although sometimes that means I have to watch things that make me want to stick a pen in my eye). In addition to superhero cartoons (many of the same ones I watched as a kid), he also likes shows like "My Little Pony" and "Strawberry Shortcake." Currently, he likes a show called "Cake" that is about three girls who do crafts together. Today, we had this conversation:

Me: What do you like about "Cake"?

Charlie: Because she's a girl.

Me: Do you like girls?

Charlie: Yeah.

Me: What do you like about girls?

Charlie: Because they have a heart and they love people.

When people ask me about raising feminist sons, I always caution them to say, it's less about what you teach them, and more about the way you maintain the sweetness they come with and foster their natural desire to love and be loved.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rite of Passage

We all went together, proud that there are now three voters in the family. Nate's not as wonky as his father and I, so he was in a hurry to get back to hanging out with his friends, while we can't wait to start watching results coverage. To paraphrase one of my facebook friends: "it's like Christmas for policy wonks."
Voting with Nate today made me think about the first time I voted. Twenty years ago to be exact - Clinton vs. Bush 41. I have vivid associations with all the presidential elections I've voted in. Riding the bus to the polling place from my first adult job in '96; procrastinating on a Church History paper in graduate school while watching the '00 election results incredulously with friends; being an election judge in '04; staying home with baby Charlie in '08 while Josh and Nate went to a Bob Dylan concert. This year, I'll remember being proud that for Nate, like me and his dad, it wasn't even a question as to whether he would go vote.
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Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I'm Charlotte Flowers, and I approve of this blog post...

In the spirit of election season, Josh and I have taken to talking about each other and the kids in the tone of negative political ads.

"Big Spending Nate McCabe believes in entitlements for adult children that would bankrupt our family..."

"Ellis Huebner only resides in our district half the time, but he's always shown up for votes that would raise his own allowance..."

"Charlie McCabe promised to clean up his toys. Four years later, the volume of toys on our living room floor has only increased..."

"Isaac McCabe lacks the necessary experience to lead our family through these trying times."

"When the baby cries at 3:00 AM can we really trust that Josh McCabe will be ready to spring into action?"

"Call Charlotte Flowers and ask her 'Would it kill you to clean up the kitchen while you are cooking?"

Any friends out there with video skills that could help us make the full versions of these ads?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Half Way Through the Beginning

This boy is six months old today. He needs to slow down because mom thinks this is just going by too fast. Last week, he started eating solid food indicating his readiness by grabbing rice off my plate and stuffing it in his mouth. Charlie and I are having fun throwing all kinds of good fruits and veggies in the food processor to feed him. He's always had a voluptuous figure, so we all joke about how now he can finally start putting on weight.
If you put him down on the floor, he manages to scoot himself all over the place. We're not sure how he does it because he's not crawling. Perhaps he is part snake. He also likes to squawk in delight at things.
Going through the archives, I found pictures of me, Ellis, Charlie, and Isaac all around the six month mark. The boys and I love to look at the collage I created to note the similarities and the differences. Genetics are pretty cool.
Ladies and gentlemen is there any more perfect human specimen than a six-month old baby?

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Thursday, October 25, 2012


It was the day after my twenty-ninth birthday and I was pregnant with my first son. I was working at a hospital foundation and Josh worked there too, although we were just friends and coworkers then. Mary, our other left-leaning colleague got a call from her husband and she came to find me and Josh to say that Paul Wellstone's plane had gone down near Eveleth, MN. We turned on public radio and stared at each other with a numb disbelief as we listened to the coverage that Senator Wellstone, his wife Sheila, his daughter Marcia, and campaign workers Mary McEvoy, Tom Lapic and Will McLauglin were dead.

Ten years later, when I think about Paul and what could have been, I still get tears in my eyes. Paul Wellstone was one of the reasons I moved to Minnesota when I was a young woman. I wanted people who were smart enough to elect such a fearless, unapologetic voice for justice to be my neighbors. Josh remembers him from his days working on campaigns as a person who took the time to know people's names no matter what level they were at. Senator Wellstone cared about people and he never wavered from his belief that "we all do better when we all do better."

I think I'm just going to keep crying about this loss until there are more people in politics trying to fill his shoes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

F--k! I'm Thirty-Nine.

Sometimes you wake up and you realize you are now thirty-nine. Or more accurately, sometimes you are going to bed well after midnight because you are doing some work for a consulting contract after your kids have gone to bed and you realize that it has become your thirty-ninth birthday, and you say, "F--k! I'm thirty-nine."
In response to your cry, your husband, who is well past thirty-nine himself (which is one of the nicest things he's ever done for you), assures you that it's good to be thirty-nine. He says, thirty-nine is a good age because you spend it coming to terms with the fact that you are almost forty and what that means to you, so that by the time you turn forty, you're happy to be forty. He says that you're still young, unlike him who will turn a really advanced age on his birthday next week. You take this all in and reiterate your plan that all future birthdays of yours will be celebrated as anniversaries of your thirty-ninth birthday. He says that he will know how old you are even if you do that. You give him a dirty look and take comfort in the fact that when he's senile (which will likely be sooner than you are) you will be able to shape his reality to your advantage.
Sometimes, on the day before your thirty-ninth birthday, you are picking up your kid from preschool and are driving by the college campus that is in the same neighborhood and you realize that all those college kids, even the seniors, were born in the nineties, which is the decade in which you went to college. Those were good times and it blows your mind how quickly time has passed since then.
Reflecting on all these things later, you recognize that this, too, is one of the best times of your life and that there are some positives about turning thirty-nine, and because you like to make lists, you do so:
  1. Being a life-long curmudgeon, you feel (to paraphrase the character Nick on New Girl) that you are finally starting to age into your personality.
  2. Sure, your thirties went fast, but that's because you spent all of them being madly in love with five amazing guys, and you note that you're getting really good at figuring out how to use the time you've been allotted on earth.
  3. There's a brief window in our culture in which women are neither too young to be respected or too old to be relevant. You have the sneaking suspicion that you may now be in that window and you should use this power to your advantage to create some social change.
  4. Your age, coupled with the fact that you are happily married to a man who is so attracted to you that sometimes, when you are not in the mood for romance, you have to be careful not to touch his arm in a friendly way, means that you can put to rest the tiresome sex-object bullshit that plagues younger women. You can go to the Y and focus on keeping your body strong and have compassion for the young women who feel they need to wear perfume when they work out. You vow that you will never again wear a thong or uncomfortable shoes or get a bikini wax for the rest of your life.
  5. Watching your husband in his forties, you know that it really is possible for a person to get better with age.
There now, that's better. Happy freaking birthday to me!
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Monday, October 22, 2012

Some Songs to Celebrate Eight Great Years, Part 5

In October 2004 (basically over the course of the whole month), I fell in love with a very good friend of mine. It turned my whole world upside down and changed everything for the better. To celebrate that happening eight years ago, I thought I'd share a few songs that make me think of us and the life we've built together.
Song #5: "Ball and Chain" by: Josh McCabe
"We were meant to walk together, but it sure is a tricky climb."
It wasn't a given that we would end up together. We knew each other for over two years without recognizing that we had feelings for each other beyond friendship. It was very complicated. We each had a kid with someone else and there was the tricky matter that I was still married to my someone else. We were working together (for the second time) in a pretty toxic environment. That October was a roller coaster with each of us experiencing the greatest love of our lives and, at the same time, despairing that we could never do anything about it.

Josh had taken the summer off of work that year and had a lot of time to play and write music. By the time fall rolled around he was in peak condition. Therefore, when things seemed most bleak for us, he was able to use his talent, as artists have throughout history, for the purpose of wooing the woman he loved. Listen to the song here.

Obviously, it worked. Once we made up our minds to be together, it seems like that whatever other tricky things may swirl around us, the one thing that has never been complicated is our love.
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Friday, October 19, 2012

Some Songs to Celebrate Eight Great Years, Part 4

In October 2004 (basically over the course of the whole month), I fell in love with a very good friend of mine. It turned my whole world upside down and changed everything for the better. To celebrate that happening eight years ago, I thought I'd share a few songs that make me think of us and the life we've built together.

Song #4: "Theme from tpt's Almanac" performed by Cantus
A post wherein I admit to extreme nerdiness.
It's Friday. I've never been much for going out on Friday night. Even as a young woman, I've always wanted to be home in cozy clothes, watching television, and feeling the hopefulness of the full potential of the vast expanse of free time before me. In regards to television, I've enjoyed many a nerdy show over the years, but none comes close to the nerdiness of the current iteration of shows I watch with my beloved husband. Every Friday night, we watch the local public affairs program "Almanac" followed by "Washington Week" on our local PBS affiliate. Yes, we are political junkies (especially local politics). This time is sacred, and it's what passes for date night these days.
In regards to "date night," a popular practice these days, we don't get out much. Instead, most nights of the week, after the children are asleep or quietly ensconced in their rooms, we hang out together. Sometimes we talk about heavy stuff, sometimes we watch a show and riff back and forth about the content, sharing many laughs, and sometimes we trade back rubs. We may be more starved for sleep and have less personal alone time than we would care for, but we are not starved for adult time together, and our relationship is rock sold because of it. It also helps that we like each other better than anyone else on the planet.
Wishing you all a cozy, nerdy Friday night.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fall Break

It's a long weekend for me and the kids, so we decided to celebrate "decorative gourd season" by walking down the block to the neighborhood pumpkin patch.
We picked out a couple for carving and some little ones for playing with inside the house. Charlie will likely give the small ones names and create scenarios where they need to be rescued from imminent peril. There will be much shouting in feigned distress.
We will hold off carving until closer to Halloween. I learned the hard way once that if you carve too soon, your jack-o-lantern becomes less Halloween-spooky and more moldy-and-eaten-by-critters scary.
Sometimes random time off from the regular schedule can help you remember that it is a fine use of a day if all you accomplish is a simple adventure to collect something which has no purpose but to delight your children.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This Boy is Trouble

There's no way to know for sure how the plastic cutting board made its way into our oven where it melted into a toxic-fumed pile of goo. I have my suspicions, though. If they are correct, that will mean two "Ramona Quimby" moments in one week. The other being when I went to check on why he was taking so long in the bathroom and discovered he had squeezed a whole tube of toothpaste into the sink.
Pray for me, people.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Some Songs to Celebrate Eight Great Years, Part 3

In October 2004 (basically over the course of the whole month), I fell in love with a very good friend of mine. It turned my whole world upside down and changed everything for the better. To celebrate that happening eight years ago, I thought I'd share a few songs that make me think of us and the life we've built together.

Song #3: "January Wedding" by The Avett Brothers
"True love is not the kind of thing you should turn down."
I loved this song the first time I heard it because it was released a few months after we had our own January wedding. For the longest time, we weren't sure whether we would get married. Truth be told, having Charlie together is what made us seem most married. Nevertheless, shortly after Charlie was born, I had the opportunity to reduce my work hours to part-time and spend more time at home with our then-littlest one, and I needed access to Josh's health insurance to make it work. Pretty romantic, huh?
Actually, treating our wedding like a minor administrative function turned out to be quite romantic. It was a freezing cold Monday in January when we got married at the courthouse. It was Chinese New Year, the first day of the Year of the Ox, a very practical sign (being an ox, I should know). I forgot my camera, so there are no actual pictures of us getting married, which is probably good since Charlie was sick and had thrown up on me at least three times that day and I didn't feel much like being photographed. We didn't have any rings (I got mine later, Josh still doesn't have one).
Nevertheless when we stood there saying our vows, beautifully written by the judge who married us, it felt exactly like a celebration of our relationship should. We were just a couple of best friends, raising kids together that were grown up enough to know that responsibility only enhances true love.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Some Songs to Celebrate Eight Great Years, Part 2

In October 2004 (basically over the course of the whole month), I fell in love with a very good friend of mine. It turned my whole world upside down and changed everything for the better. To celebrate that happening eight years ago, I thought I'd share a few songs that make me think of us and the life we've built together.

Song #2: "Kathleen" by Josh Ritter
"Every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied."
Over ten years ago, I was working at a non-profit and Josh started working there a few weeks later. I still remember the first time I saw him standing outside my cubicle looking distinctly Alaskan in his brimmed, wool-felt hat and parka. I remember thinking, I have no context for this person as I've never seen anyone quite like him. I guess I'd never seen the Northern Lights before. He remembers my flashing eyes peering at him with energy, curiousity, and their ever-present suspicion. We didn't fall in love until a couple of years later, but somehow, on that day, we got connected to each other for good.
The thing is, eight years later, the best part of my day is still the time he walks in the door. My heart beats faster and I can't help grinning from ear to ear. Eight years later, the things that I do and think don't seem real until I share them with him. Eight years later, I know that he will do anything I ask him to do with love and a good will, and I will do the same for him without batting an eye.
How is it that two independent-minded curmudgeons could be totally ruled by each other? I guess it's what we were always looking for.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Some Songs to Celebrate Eight Great Years, Part 1

In October 2004 (basically over the course of the whole month), I fell in love with a very good friend of mine. It turned my whole world upside down and changed everything for the better. To celebrate that happening eight years ago, I thought I'd share a few songs that make me think of us and the life we've built together.

Song #1: "Take It From Me" by the Weepies
"Funny how it's hard to take a love with no sting."
When we first got together, Josh and I had a lot of damage from the relationships we had with the parents of our first children. Many times we'd be midway through an argument when we both realized we were really fighting with someone else. We built up a lot of trust for each other during those early tumultuous days and discovered that we'd found in each other the thing we'd always wanted: someone we could give absolutely everything to, who would take it and use it to make themselves into the best possible person they could be.
The best relationships are the ones where everyone gives to each other and winds up richer. So here's "a toast to the plan we've made to live like kings." With each other, we are wealthier than we could have ever imagined.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Welcome Change

The last two autumns were rough on me for various reasons and had me wondering if fall and I just don't get along. This year, however, I've been feeling much more positive about the season, enjoying every last moment of the magical light and colors before they fade away into winter.
Now, I can't vouch for how I'll feel when they do that silly daylight savings time thing and wreak havoc on light-sensitive types like me by exaggerating the already growing darkness, but if I'm going to feel good through October and November any year, this one will definitely be it. Here are some tricks that have kept me happy so far:
  •  Getting outside everyday. Keeping in touch with nature keeps me feeling more positive about its changes.
  • Dressing for the weather, not the calendar. Since temperatures have stayed so warm, I've only worn socks two times since Labor Day. Why do bare feet make me so happy? Perhaps because it makes the transition seem gentler.
  • Feeding my senses. Autumn is encouraging my creativity, with all the visual beauty inspiring my photography and the bounty at the farmer's market fueling my desire to cook delicious food.
  • Embracing slower rhythms. This working from home thing definitely suits me. Especially this time of year because I don't have to get moving in the morning until after the light comes in fully. I can also use the earlier dark as an excuse to knock off early and snuggle in with all my lovelies. Productivity is overrated.
 It makes me happy to welcome October and embrace and enjoy change rather than feeling like I'm struggling against it.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

A Good Day for a Walk

September ended sun-drenched, still and warm.
Dry showers of leaves flew against the bright blue sky
Twirling downward to create a skittering, crunching carpet.
We walked together as three generations
With instinctual understanding
Of the beauty of the cycles of life.
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