on gratitude

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The holiday season brings with it a range of emotions – but this year, more than ever, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude. There is nothing in the world more important than our family: the two little humans holding my hands, and my husband (having a rare turn behind the camera). While we have so much to be thankful for, there has been a dark cloud over us for quite a few years – some of which I’ve shared here, and some that I’ve kept private. At times it has felt hopeless, like everything was an uphill battle. You might be surprised by this since most (not all) of what I share publicly are our happiest, and most memorable, moments. For those of us who share pretty content on the internet, we often walk a fine line between sharing too much and not sharing enough. Please know that while part of me would like to share it all, some things need to be kept safely guarded. Maybe someday I’ll be able to elaborate, but for now it’s still too fresh.

For the first time in years, I feel like we can (cliché alert) finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve learned the hard way that the only way out is through, so to speak. We were dealt a serious dose of humility, and have a different (and healthier) perspective on life. If you’re currently fighting a battle of your own (aren’t we all), please know this: it will get better. The memory of it will stay with you of course, but the darkness should not. I have a bold proposition for you this Thanksgiving…try to be thankful for the battle. That may sound easy for me to say, now that we’re on the other side, but it’s still challenging for us as well. However, with every struggle, there is a hard-earned lesson, and sometimes a beautiful gift, even though it can take some time for it to be realized. When you look for the silver lining, look for the meaning…you might be surprised what you discover. Wishing you a holiday season filled with hope, love, and gratitude.

dia:beacon with kids

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The Dia:Beacon was one destination that was set in stone during our Hudson Valley itinerary. It’s an uber cool gallery housed in an old Nabisco box-printing factory. An extension of the original Dia in Chelsea founded in 1974, the Beacon was opened in 2003 and houses many large scale installations. I had been wanting to see Richard Serra’s work in particular, and figured the kids would appreciate the scale of the art at the very least. Admittedly, I hadn’t read much about the artist or his inspiration before our visit – which was actually a benefit, in my opinion. I was able to experience the art without any bias and come to my own conclusions. One thing was for sure: it was extremely photogenic.

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storm king with kids

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My birthday (October 1st), happens during my favorite season – autumn. When presented with a road trip opportunity this year, the destination was an easy choice for me. I chose the Hudson Valley, as I’ve been dreaming of a fall visit for many years. For some reason I’ve never made it there, despite seeing (and swooning over) New England in peak season. My desire to visit the region strengthened after seeing so many friends on Instagram share gorgeous images from the Storm King Art Center. Founded in 1960, it’s the home of incredible sculptures from some of the most prominent 20th century artists. While the foliage wasn’t quite what we had hoped for (this unseasonably warm weather is infuriating), the art didn’t disappoint. Henry and Marie were very engaged throughout our entire visit, and retained quite a bit of information. I’m sharing some tips for visiting with young children…click through for that and more from our visit!

 

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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.