summer in the poconos

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We spent our summer vacation at our favorite local lake (and house)…it was our fourth year at Lake Naomi! I get emotional looking back at previous years – I seriously cannot believe Henry + Marie are five. I unplugged as much as possible, and rarely checked social media. That ‘s a tall order for most of us these days, but for me especially since it’s partly what I do for a living. The time off was so refreshing, and our days were filled with fun and memory making. Things I don’t want to forget about this year include (but are not limited to): watching the kids as they bravely navigated the pool during swim lessons, eating fresh blueberries on the beach, family kayaking, rainy day monopoly + movie night, sandy showers, bunny spotting, long lazy afternoons, and a lantern-lit date night. It was family quality time at it’s seasonal best.

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lake reflections

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I had a lot of time to reflect during our vacation, and had an epiphany (or two, or three). It’s amazing how much clarity can come from a digital detox – I highly recommend it. While I had amazing quality time with my husband and children, I also felt compelled to process some deeply emotional issues that I’ve been internalizing for years. Oddly enough, as much peace as I find at the lake, I also find pain….allow me to explain. I spent time every summer from birth until I was thirteen at Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, with my extended family. As I was an only child, my Mom (very smartly) planned many family vacations and gatherings so that I would be close with my two cousins. We were very much like siblings – we fought like it, loved like it. I took my first steps holding their hands on the beach there. It was a sacred place for our entire (small) family, and where many of my most beautiful memories were made. I miss Lake Winnipesaukee, and I deeply miss that time of family unity. Much has changed since then, and it causes me a lot of pain at times.

I haven’t been there in twenty-four years (with the exception of a brief visit in 2006). And yet, my memories of it are as vivid as ever. I can still hear the sound of the water gently lapping onto the shore, the wailing of loons (one of the most hauntingly beautiful sounds in the world, in my opinion), and even the wobbly ceiling fan that I was sure would decapitate me every night as I slept. I can still feel the silky wet sand between my toes, smell the horses that were down the road on the walk to get ice cream, and see the storms that would move so quickly across the lake. Every detail about it is cemented into my mind, because it was always a place of peace for me during a time in my life that was ever-changing, challenging, and at times, destructive. I’ll refrain from digging deeper on that subject in this post, but let’s just say my childhood was like a roller coaster – with high highs, and low lows. The lake became an escape for me…a respite from the chaos.

We moved quite a bit for my father’s career (military and beyond), and there were only two places in the world that felt like home to me –  my grandparents home, and the lake. One was taken from me physically (when my grandfather passed and his house was sold), and the other metaphorically (I haven’t been invited, and have even been denied a stay, when I asked begged to visit after Henry and Marie were born). I wanted (and want) so badly to introduce my children to a place I hold so dear. It’s not mine, but it has ownership of my heart, as if it was. I’ve struggled with that greatly – to understand it’s hold on me, and also what “home” means to me. How can latitudes and longitudes carry so much weight? Without getting into complicated family details, I’ve become estranged with my extended family, partly due to the denied access. In fact, it’s quite possibly become tainted for me because of the turmoil…it’s hard to say for sure without visiting.

I discovered Lake Naomi (in the Poconos) thanks to my friend Chanee in 2013, and immediately felt an odd sense of familiarity there. While very different from Lake Winni, there are enough similarities to make me feel comfortable, and (mostly) at ease. This was our fourth year vacationing there (more on that soon), and we’ve made many treasured memories…I’m so grateful for it. It almost fills the void in my heart, and yet sadly, falls short. I feel like it will always be competing with my first love, and it will never quite live up to it. I’m hopeful that someday, the family will come back together. Someday, I might be able to share that important part of my past, with my husband and children. Until then, I will continue to reflect on the possibility of reconciliation—with my past, my family, and most importantly, with myself.

the lantern fest – with kids!

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We had a magical family experience recently at the Lantern Fest – I’m so excited to share it with you. I’ve been wanting to attend some type of lantern festival for most of my life. Floating lanterns have a history throughout Asia, as well as many other countries, and are used for purposes like religious worship, to make wishes, and of course, for fun. I can’t remember when my fascination with them began, but it was certainly pre-Tangled era. Speaking of Tangled, many children are familiar with this concept thanks to the film, and it happens to be a kid-friendly event. Children of all ages are welcome, but I was glad that Henry and Marie are at an age (almost five) where they could really participate. There were many fun activities for kids, to include: bouncy houses, face painting, live music and dancing, and of course ice cream and treats. We ALL had such an enjoyable and memorable time…click through for more, including the breathtaking finale!

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hineni

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I’ve been taking a bit of a break from (my) social media lately, and it feels good right now. What began as an unintentional hiatus due to our move organically became an intentional, and dare I say – necessary one. We’re feeling happy in our new home (despite the chaos of moving), and I’m appreciating the little things. Our previous master bedroom didn’t have a window, and just having light in our bedroom for the past few days has been incredibly uplifting. I know that sounds silly, but deprivation equals appreciation. That philosophy applies to many areas of my life – I’ve been too busy for too long and I’m ready to make time for myself, and for my family as a whole. I took a break from the boxes for a moment this weekend to leisurely read the New York Times in bed, which as any parent knows, is such a luxury. This article was waiting for me inside the pages of T Magazine, which is just what I needed to read, and moved me deeply. I relate to it on so many levels – it goes far beyond the topic of music and artistic creation, and introduced me to the word and concept of, hineni.

The expression hineni means “here I am” in Hebrew, and is used in the Old Testament. Some interpretations associate the word with an even more powerful meaning, which is “here I stand”. Leonard Cohen used the term in his song “You Want It Darker”, and when asked by a reporter what inspired him to use it, his answer was the following: “I don’t really know the genesis, the origin…that ‘hineni,’ that declaration of readiness no matter what the outcome, that’s a part of everyone’s soul.” There are issues in my life that have been incubating for too long, and I’m finally ready to face them. I feel an urgency, a need – to fully embrace this transitional time in my (OUR) life and emerge from it healthier, and more whole. I’m publicly acknowledging my personal needs, in the event that you might also be at a critical crossroads in your life and be searching for inspiration, as I am. In the words of another artistic genius featured in the article, Tom Waits, “…when dealing with emergent behavior there is nothing to do but respond…it was not the fire I imagined or dreamed of, but it was the fire I got.” I fully believe that the only way out is through – and it doesn’t have to be dark.

valentine’s day nostalgia

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Today I’m feeling nostalgic and thankful for these treasured moments captured in Paris two years ago. I’m so terrible about printing images, but my sweet friend and photographer Ashley Ludaescher sent these to me. While I still have yet to frame them (soon), I stare at them often. My heart is overflowing with love for my children – so much so that it hurts at times. It’s incredibly cheesy but true. Their unconditional love for each other, and for us, is overwhelming. At times I don’t even feel worthy of it. I hope everyone experiences a love as pure and true as this in their lifetime.

happy valentine’s day | joyeuse saint-valentin