Waking Trees

It’s going to be a beautiful day.

These are the trees in my backyard. The sun always peeks out behind them in the morning. What a beautiful sight.

These are the trees in my backyard. The sun always peeks out behind them in the morning. What a beautiful sight.

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National Day of Service: Participate in an event near you this Saturday

In 1961, JFK said in his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Our President is carrying that notion forward this Saturday.

President Barack Obama began the National Day of Service in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 2009. As part of the Presidential Inaugural events, the National Day of Service is a day for all Americans to come together and give back to our communities.

Presidential Inaugural Committee - Day of Service

This Saturday, January 19th, please join your friends and family in an event near you. Whether you can pull weeds, clean up a beach, donate blood, or help out in a local soup kitchen, there are all kinds of activities, and our communities need our help.

Visit http://www.2013pic.org/service/serve to find an event near you.

Amigoni: An Urban Winery

What happens when Leawood, Ks. home owners discovers a passion for wine?  Well, usually they would build a wine cellar and fill it with great wines.  But not Michael and Kerry Amigoni.  They began growing grapes in his back yard.  Eventually they bought land in Centerview, Missouri, just 45 minutes East of Kansas City to grow more and better grapes.  Mike selects traditional French grapes which are grafted on  vines that are sturdy enough to withstand Missouri’s extreme temperatures.

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But they don’t stop there.  After they grow and harvest the grapes, they turn them into wine.  Amazingly good wine by Missouri standards.  But the Amigionis didn’t stop there.  They restored a building in the bottoms across from the Livestock Exchange Building, and opened an urban winery.

The building is now inviting and offers Amigoni wines, Boulevard beers and Roasterie coffees. There is even a “barrel room” stocked with wines aging in Missouri made oak barrels.

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When Terry was the successful bidder on a wine tasting at Amigioni’s, we had never heard of the place.  But, we found it at 1505 Gennessee, in the Bottoms.  We visited on a cold weekend afternoon.  It was a great experience. The owners are gracious and accommodating.

As a friend of mine would say: “Definitely a repeat!”

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Missing Mom: Kay Mesle

imagesMom was born on December 21, 1918.  She died January 14, 2009, less than a month after her 90th birthday.  I was privileged to know her, to have her as my mother and as my friend.  I considered her “my rock”–the one person who, from as early as I can remember, loved me unconditionally.  She made everyone feel that way.

Mom was all about love: love of family, of bright colors and of the flowers in her garden.  She supported her children and grandchildren in everything we did.  We wanted her to be proud of us, and she always was.  She loved us unconditionally, whatever the circumstances, whatever the challenge.

Over the years we became aware of her favorite sayings for challenging times.  She never said: “it will be okay”, or that “everything happens for a reason”.  She did say things like “it came to pass, it didn’t come to stay, it came to pass”, and “life is what happens when you are making other plans”.  When she didn’t know an answer to a question, she would “put it on the shelf” until she had an opportunity to figure it out.

Even when mom and dad moved into an assisted living center, mom dedicated her life to beautifying the world around her.  Having lost the garden at the home she shared with dad, she became the volunteer gardener at the Groves, planting elaborate pots of brightly colored flowers for all of the residents to enjoy.  She visited friends and strangers alike who lived in the areas reserved for those who were incapable of caring for themselves.  She provided them the limitless love that was at her core.  When she died there was nothing left of her but her endless love.

Mom, I miss you.

This Is For You, Bill

A friend told me he likes our posts that feature Kansas City.  I love my city, and love taking pictures of wonderful places throughout the metro area.  Here are three photographs of the downtown Kansas City skyline.

From the Liberty Memorial:

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From the Jackson County Courthouse Parking Lot:

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From Truman Road:

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Have a great weekend.

Footprints

What do you believe in?  What do you care about?  What upsets you?  What do you believe matters to you enough to determine to make a difference?

Join a club.  Run for office.  Commit your time, money and/or creativity to making the world a better place.  How?  That is for you to decide.  Figure out what you are passionate about and strive to make a difference.

DSC_0866What do you want your footprint in life to be?

Flora

One of the beautiful things about California is the many varieties of flora you can find throughout the state. My two favorite areas are the wine country and the coast. Both beautiful. Both peaceful. But while the wine country continues to grow in both agricultural and economic development, the coast remains largely untouched. Thanks to the California Coastal Commission, established in 1972, and the Coastal Act of 1976, the use of land and water in the coastal zone is carefully planned and regulated. As a result, the coast north of San Francisco continues to be undeveloped, and flora continues to flourish.

Flora along California Coast at Bodega Headlands

This is a shot from my mini-hike at Bodega Headlands back in November. Since I am usually focused on pictures of the ocean and of sunset, I thought this would be a nice addition to my photographic repertoire. Given, the ocean is still in the background, but these red finger-like plants were simply too interesting to ignore.

Open For Business: Truman Road

My visits to my dad involved a trip across town from Kansas City to Independence.  While my routes vary a lot, I often drive on Truman Road.  It is just wonderfully urban.

I particularly love this corner store East of downtown on Truman Road.  The storefront is covered with cartoon characters.  I never could figure out the name of the store, but it appears that it sells hats, CD’s and “skull candy”?  Seriously.  I don’t know.  The owners came outside to see what I was doing, but seemed pleased that I considered their art worthy of attention.

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These gentlemen were hard at work.  They appeared to be having fun as they worked. When they saw me, they waved and let me take their photographs. their work stopped for a moment.  They were in a good mood and so was I.

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xxx

What To Tell Our Daughters About Having It All

I am fascinated by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in the Atlantic outlining why “Women Still Can’t Have It All”.  [1]  It is an article worthy of thoughtful consideration.  But if women can’t “have it all”, we still have professional and personal options that exceed any expectations I had as I began my career 41 years ago.  Those of us who are trained for, and aspire to, professional lives can progress in our careers while raising happy, well-adjusted children. Maybe we won’t ever become a Secretary of State or Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, but we can be doctors, lawyers, government officials, fire fighters, and hold a host of other diverse jobs. [2]

DSC_0009Now, granted, I am not Anne-Marie Slaughter.  I will never have the opportunity to hold a position at the level Ms. Slaughter walked away from.  I do not know what pressures she faced.  But during the years Meg was growing up, I had periods of time in which my work seemed all-consuming.  There were certainly times I don’t know what I would have done without the loving support of Terry, my parents and Meg’s dad, a devoted father.

My generation of women is fortunate to have opportunities that far exceeded those available our mothers. I do not ever recall setting career limits on myself. I did look at my feminist world view and acknowledge, at least to myself, that if my world view was incompatible with having children, feminism wouldn’t last long.    With that in mind, I made career decisions that were consistent with combining career and family.

I was born in 1946, graduated from law school in 1972, and combined raising Meg and working in a challenging career.  If I made career sacrifices for Meg, I also had a great time as I juggled career and family. My friends have lived similar lives as they, too, have faced the challenges of our chosen lives. We have overcome challenges we never anticipated, but we’ve had a great time.  So what do we tell our daughters that will help them on their collective about balancing professional and family commitments. We can share our personal experiences.  Here are a few suggestions:

DSC_00101)  Make a smart decision about who you marry.  It is sad to see new mothers complain that their husbands are too busy, too important, or just unwilling, to help them care for their homes and children.  Seriously, if you don’t have a supportive spouse or supportive family, your career options are likely to be significantly reduced.  You may physically be able to have a career, and a family, cook the meals, clean the house, shop for groceries, pay the bills and otherwise keep the household going; but it would be hard to feel good about it.

2)   Spend the money.  My lawyer friend, Jennifer, quotes me–and I quote her–with this bit of wisdom.  It doesn’t matter who actually said it first.  If you are fortunate enough to have a two career family or a professional income, don’t fight with your spouse about who will handle chores like cleaning the house, mowing the lawn or even ironing his shirts.  Hire someone to do those chores.  If you can afford it, both you and your husband will more effectively balance family time and career time if you pay for outside help.

3)  Way too many professional couples put their desire for material possessions ahead of the best interests of their children.  Spending money to simplify life and to enhance your children’s lives should be valued as top priorities.  The quality of your children’s lives is way more important than expensive homes.  Possessions, excessive debt, and keeping up with the Jones should never take priority over providing for your children.

DSC_00034)  Find quality child care.  Whether it is at your home, at school, or in another nurturing environment, make sure that your children spend time away from you in an environment in which they are loved, intellectually and physically stimulated, and happy.  When Meg was little, I spent significant money on high quality child-care.  As she grew up we were able to transfer some of that expense from nannies to great schools and after school care.  See rule number 2.

3)  For years I brought work home at the end of the day.  Meg remembers that while she did her homework on the computer I was often working in the same room.  It certainly taught her to value study, hard work and education.  A bonus was that if she needed help with her homework, I was nearby.

4)  Cook on weekends and/or combine home cooking with high quality carry out.  I always wanted Meg to learn how to cook from me. In our home, meals were a very social activity for the two of us.  When Terry joined our family that didn’t change.  It was fun.  Cooking together taught her life skills and healthy eating habits.  It also made the kitchen smell great. [3]  But it wasn’t ever a burden.  In a pinch, I always had something in the freezer that I could serve with fresh vegetables and salad.

DSC_00055)  I regularly participated on boards and non-profit groups in addition to holding down a full-time, demanding job.  But I generally limited my participation to organizations that met early morning, noon, or at 4:00.  Rarely did I leave Meg for evening meetings or social activities.  It just wasn’t worth it.  Our rule of thumb–evenings and weekends were Meg’s time. As she grew more independent, Terry and I were able to expand our social calendar.

6)  As Meg matured, her after school schedule involved studies, friends, sports and music.  She was able to participate fully in these and other activities with friends until one of us picked her up from school. Those activities helped her develop as the wonderful person she is today.

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7)  Try to take your child to school.  It is amazing what you learn about their lives by observing whether they are happy to start the school day.

8)  Flexibility is extremely helpfully in finding balance.  By having our children when our careers were already established, my friends and I were able to have greater flexibility to participate in school activities.  I looked at it this way–many of my friends found time to play golf, the rest of us watched our children play sports. It just meant more time working at home after hours.  See 3 above.

9)  If you reach the point where you believe your family is sacrificing too much for your success, consider a change.  Don’t feel defeated, don’t feel that you have sold out. One of my most successful friends stayed home for the first years of her daughter’s lives.  With all of her success, she is a senior attorney in her firm and has a very close relationship with her family.  She works long hours, but has prioritized her children’s needs and time with her husband in a healthy way.  Her family has always been close. She rarely sees her friends.  Nothing wrong with that! We all understand, we are in the same boat.

IMG_2091If Professor Slaughter is correct, that she should no longer sacrifice her family to the overwhelming schedule she faced in the State Department, I would argue that men can face similar dilemmas.  Joe Scarborough, host of “Joe in the Morning” on MSNBC, describes that his resignation from his position in the U.S. House of Representatives shortly after being elected to his fourth term was motivated by his concern for his two sons: “they’re at a critical stage of their lives and I would rather be judged at the end of my life as a father than as a congressman.”  He is not alone.  Would anyone suggest that either  Scarborough or Slaughter is a failure for making compromises to meet the interests of their children?  Surely the answer is no.

DSC_0005From the 1960’s and 70’s until today, the world of mothering has significantly changed.  Has my generation of women successfully maneuvered the challenges of happy families and fulfilling professional lives? Maybe not completely.  But I have few regrets.  Meg knows she was-is-and always will have top priority  in my life.  As she and her generation of women take on the responsibilities of family and career, the proof that my generation has successfully combined family life and professional commitments is found in the quality of their lives and the lives of their families.

IMG_0009How do you know whether you are successful in balancing your career and family?  I like to think that the quality of our children’s lives answers the question.  Meg is a happy, productive 29-year-old.  She is well-traveled, well-educated, and leads a rich full life.  Married and living in California, with her husband and two dogs, she is a loving, caring person.  She gives every indication of being proud of her family, her parents and all of our life choices.

What more can we ask for?  I can’t think of a thing!

[1]  Professor Slaughter was the first woman Director of Policy Planning at the State Department. Her article appeared in the July-August 2012 issue of the Atlantic.  At the end of a two-year sabbatical from Princeton University she left her position with the Obama Administration and return to her faculty position as Professor of Politics and International Affairs.

[2]  As Shania Twain sings in She’s Not Just A Pretty Face:  “She is a soldier.  She is a wife.  She is a surgeon, she’ll save your life . . . She’s not just a pretty face.  She’s got everything it takes. She’s mother of the human race.  She’s not just a pretty face.”

[3]  I grew up in a home where the smell of food permeated the house.  Continuing that tradition was important to me.

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The opinions expressed in this blog are not the opinions of our families, our friends or our employers.

Hiking up Ring Mountain

For the first day of 2013, the New Year’s crew made its annual trek to a beautiful place in north bay. We chose Ring Mountain for our hike this year. With beautiful, 360 views of San Francisco Bay, it’s hard to beat.

View of San Francisco Bay from the top of Ring Mountain

Richmond Bridge

It’s a great place for a hike, where you can go a long or short ways, depending on your mood. Hope you enjoyed your first day of 2013!