Tuesday, April 30, 2013

now available in hard back!

A few days after I'd opened all of my wonderful birthday presents, I came home to see that the postman had left a package on our doorstep which was addressed to Charlie. So I brought the package in and showed it to Charlie and he swiftly went in to another room and opened it before coming out with something behind his back.  Then he presented to me one of the best birthday presents I've ever received...

My very own book!


Because he is a wonderful and incredibly thoughtful husband, without my knowledge, he found a company online that converts blogs to books and he took my entire first year of blogging and turned it in to what has become Volume 1 of The Amazing Trips.

Quite appropriately, it has been dedicated To My Family.


LOOK! There's even a table of contents!


The children went completely out of their minds when they saw that there were stories upon stories and pictures upon pictures of them in a real book format.  Considering all the writing that I've done about their lives, I told them that I don't want to hear another word about WAH! how hard it is to write six sentences in their homework journals each night.


While blogging has been a great means to capture moments and communicate with family and friends, if this blog were to go away - so, too, would so many of the stories and my memories about such things as the triplets birth...


And how we discovered baby Henry was on the way.


It was for that reason, that I allowed my custom domain (www.theamazingtrips.com) to expire this past March.  Fast forward 10 - 20 - 30 - 60 years, it's highly unlikely that someone (other than me) would continue paying for the annual renewal on a blog that was started in 2006.  And what about the day that Blogger goes away?  All of that time that I've devoted to capturing "our amazing trip of life" would go away, too.  So it's a good feeling to know that if/when this blog completely disappears, my children will have our family's legacy, captured in my writings and photographs.


To me, this blog has been a priceless labor of love. But if you had to put a price tag on it, the cost for the first year "Deluxe Version" was $167.00.  The second year (and subsequent years) will most likely cost more to convert to a book format because as time went on, so too did ahem, my volume of posts.  


To my descendants that may one day read these words:  It would appear that I have a tendency to drone on a bit more than is necessary.  (At least that's what my very own mother tells me.)  So I promise that from this point forward, I'm going to try and keep things more concise.  

Actually, that reminds me of a really funny story...

Oh, never mind. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

flowers for his honey

Henry brought me home some flowers earlier this week.


He'd picked them on the preschool playground, placed them in his zippered backpack where they remained for a few hours, before he transported them home and lovingly presented them to me. "Here you go, HONEY!" he yelled. "These beeuteful flowahs are for my beeuteful Honey!  Now, Honey? Honey? Kiss me on the LIPS!" 


The next day he brought me home another bouquet and the root base was even larger.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

on entering in to the 43rd year of life

Tonight, I hope to sit down and finally finish a post that I'd started three days ago, recapping my birthday weekend. Considering we had babysitters two nights in a row, which is completely unprecedented for us, you might imagine the caliber of fun that we'd enjoyed.


Friday night we went to see my friend, Holly, at her former neighbor's home. A home which was quite possibly, the most magnificent private residence we've ever been in.  Charlie and I had been thinking that it was perhaps the second nicest home we'd ever been in, until the hostess took us on a tour of the 5,000-bottle wine cellar and that put them right over the top. 


Saturday morning, I woke up to the most precious cards from the children...  



And the most wonderful gifts from Charlie. 


That the children proceeded to open on my behalf. 


We then trekked off to the circus and it was ... a circus.  


Charlie and I haven't been to the circus in our adult lives, so we weren't prepared for just how insane of an experience it is. We'd be sitting in awe at the death-defying stunts, and then, they'd take it to a whole new level.  You think it's crazy to see a guy riding his motorcycle on the tight rope? What if he has a woman suspended?  Oh yeah? What if he has TWO women suspended? 


Or what if two women are suspended by their hair ... while juggling? 


Do you think it's wild to see us ride two motorcycles around in circles inside a 10-foot metal ball? What if we had four riders? How about six? HOW ABOUT EIGHT?

We were having an enjoyable time, until the man whom I think might have been missing a significant part of his cerebrum, entered a caged area full of hissing lions and tigers on his own volition. Charlie can't watch ice skating, or women on the balance beam in gymnastics because he's afraid to see someone fall - so he almost passed out with the lion show and had to put his head between his knees. We both thought for sure this guy was going to be lunch. And we were going to see it happen. 


On Saturday evening, once the children were sound asleep, we left them in the care of another neighbor babysitter and we rendezvoused with three other couples at a fancy little restaurant downtown. By 11:00 PM, two of the more responsible couples told us that they needed to get home to their babysitters. But our babysitter told us that she didn't need to be home until 1:00.  So instead of Charlie and I acting our age and going home and putting on our matching Snuggies, we opted instead to not go home just yet. 

Long story short, we went to an Irish Pub where there was an abundance of college-aged kids.  And at some point, as Charlie and my friend's husband sat upstairs in the "quiet" part of the pub, my friend and I went downstairs to the "dance" part of the pub where we proceeded to dance like we were half our age.  During this dance-fest, my friend points to me and yells to the group, "TODAY IS HER BIRTHDAY!"  And someone shouts, "Woo-Hoo! How old are you?" And because it was so loud they'd never hear me if I told them, I instead held up my hands - four fingers on one hand - two fingers on the next - and everyone applauds, "Woo-Hoo! Twenty-four!" 

Um. Twenty-four? 

I should have just gone with it, but I felt compelled to tell this crowd of youngsters they had it backwards. And once I shook my head and reversed my hands, there was the briefest moment where the dancing slowed and people craned to look at me in the strobe light darkness. Then a young jovial frat boy who could've been my son, gave me a hip bump and yelled,  "42? There ain't no shame in that, baby!  There ain't no shame!"  

While I've opted to adopt that as my new catch phrase, I decided in that moment that there would have been a whole lot of shame if someone else had hip bumped me and I wound up with a fracture or otherwise incapacitated. So I decided it was time to go home and have a cup of warm calcium-rich milk and contemplate how not only are the days of riding two horses while standing up most definitely over ... so too are the late night/early morning dance-offs in a nightclub. 


Not at all surprisingly, due to our back-to-back fun on Friday and Saturday night, all the plans I'd had for Sunday morning went flying out the window when I woke up feeling like someone had smacked me over the head with a board. So I immediately turned to Charlie and demanded, "How could you let this happen?" and I don't exactly remember his response but I think it had something to do with, "It's not my fault."  

So I told him something along the lines of, "When I'm crazy enough to jump through a ring of swords that have been set ablaze and I'm blindfolded ... you must not just stand there and watch.... 


No, it is your job as my husband - just as it my job as your wife - that in this circus of life that we're in together ...


We must catch each other before we fall." 


And if by some chance we miss, we must make the injured party mashed potatoes, provide a foot rub, and allow them the opportunity to sleep in until noon.  

I'm pretty sure that was in our vows. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

things that are awesome

Tonight is the eve of my birthday.

Tomorrow, nay, in five minutes ... I'll turn 42-years old.

At this point in my life, I can say that without question: Life is wonderful. Life is beautiful. Life is perfect.  Especially when you look at it through the right set of lenses.

Tonight, those lenses are focused on the fact that Charlie and I had the chance to visit with my absolutely beautiful friend, Holly, and her absolutely beautiful daughter, Isla. They were visiting Virginia from California, because Holly used to live here - and came back to visit - and was thoughtful enough to include us in her celebration with her old Northern Virginia friends.


Friends are awesome. Especially those friends that you continue friendships with for years and years and years.  I met Holly running.  Does anyone remember when I joined Mom's in Motion with my friend, Jessica?  Those were the days when I thought that perhaps I could possibly be a runner. Back in the day when I'd run and run and wonder why my feet would fall asleep after less than a mile, only to later find out that it was a severe circulatory disorder and unless I wanted to undergo major surgery, I should probably give up running altogether and instead take up walking or swimming or cycling.

So I gave up running ... but never gave up my running friends.

After talking with Holly tonight about how difficult it can be to meet people, I believe it is important to go, today, and find yourself a friend. Find yourself so many friends that your heart feels like it could burst from the friendship. Everyone needs a friend and more importantly, everyone is looking for a friend. Should you be wondering, "How do I make a friend?" My advice is to show an interest in other people. Invite them over for dinner, or for a walk. Or perhaps, get their family to join your family for a BBQ.  Maybe it seems like a tall order, but friends are what make life worth living.


Have I written yet about the family with six children that moved in to our neighborhood last year and the mother was expecting the seventh baby?  And when they moved in, I told them that if there was ANYTHING we could do to please call us? And they called us when the mother was in labor with baby #7 and asked if they could drop off five of their children for a few hours?  And Charlie watched those five children + our four children for a total of NINE children for several hours and when the mother delivered baby #7, she named him Charlie and I don't think there is ANY coincidence in that?

That is awesome. 

In equal awesomeness, one night a month, I get together with several women in my neighborhood (including the mother of seven children with the baby named Charlie) for an evening of chocolate and wine and camaraderie. And I've decided that there are very few things in this world more awesome than sitting around with a bunch of women TALKING. We actually don't talk that much. We mostly laugh. Because the stories that we tell and share which we think are so unique to us, really aren't that unique.  Motherhood. Wifehood. Womanhood. Humanhood.  We're in it, together.

That is awesome. 

Charlie was so envious of my evening get togethers with the neighborhood ladies, that he set up a Ping Pong A-Thong (I mean, Ping Pong Tournament) for the men in our neighborhood. And so it is that one night a month, dozens of men in our neighborhood get together and whack a ping pong ball around a table for several hours and they have more fun that I can properly convey here.  They're now also forming a dart group and foosball group and poker group. Because men need friends, too.

Now I just think it's funny how the men get so much satisfaction from doing something physical, while the women are perfectly content to sit and chat. And chat. And chat. And wow, is that the sun rising in the eastern sky? How is it that we've been talking for 10 hours? So, who wants to host breakfast?

That is awesome. 

Also awesome ....  neighborhood babysitters who are the daughters of our amazing neighbors whom have seven children and at 14-years old, she thinks that a fair rate for babysitting is $3 an hour.  Which is approximately the same rate that I charged when I was a babysitter TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO.

So when we tell her,"We think a fair rate is $10 an hour," she nearly falls over with excitement and we now feel fairly confident that we'll be able to procure her babysitting services every single weekend from now until the time she moves out of the house.

Last, but not least .... awesomeness knows no bounds like the FBI and Boston Police Department who were able to piece together what happened on Monday during the marathon and then, uncover and apprehend the suspects less than four days later.

I'm so proud.

At 42-years old, I'm so proud to be an American wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend.

And now, I need to go find myself a comfortable pair of shoes and reading glasses.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

my beantown

The news from Boston about what happened yesterday during the marathon is devastating.


While I only lived in Massachusetts for a small fraction of my life and haven't resided there for more than 30 years, I still consider it my hometown. I was born there, baptized there, married there. And thanks to my father and his numerous cemetery plots, will most likely be laid to rest there. Most of my family still lives there. They are scattered from the Cape to Stockbridge. The Red Sox are my baseball team; the Patriots are my football team. The Celtics are my basketball team, and the Bruins are my hockey team (if I could ever get myself to watch such a violent sport.)

Years ago, when I first took Charlie with me "back home" to meet my family in Massachusetts, I warned him we were a big group.  There are more than 40 grandchildren on my mother's side, alone. Since most of them went on to have several children, very soon our numbers were easily in the hundreds.


As we were walking through Boston's First Night on New Year's Eve, circa 1992, back in the days before cell phones and Facebook, we accidentally bumped in to one relative, and then two, and then another and another as we quickly and unexpectedly amassed a spontaneous reunion of descendants from Francis and Margaret Coleman.  It was spectacular. 


Along a similar vein of spectacularity was when we were merging lanes in to the Callahan Tunnel on our way to Logan during rush hour.  Charlie was very nervous about driving in the notoriously aggressive Boston traffic and was stressed that we'd crash our rental car and/or miss our flight back to California. When I pointed out that my cousin, John, was driving the car next to us and surely he'd let us merge, Charlie didn't believe me - until my cousin saw me leaning out the window and stomped on his brakes while yelling in a thick Bostonian accent, "OH MY GAWD! IS THAT MY BABY COUSIN? HOW THE HELL DID YOU GET HEYAH?" Thanks to my cousin for stopping his lane of traffic ... we merged, we returned our rental car intact, we made our flight.

We still talk about it, to this day.  


My mother was born in Dorchester and several of my relatives still live there. While not confirmed, I suspect that the Catholic church where they're holding the candlelight vigil for 8-year old Martin Richard tonight, is the same church where my Aunt Ann sings Mass every week.  The second confirmed victim, Krystle Campbell, was from Medford and Arlington. I have family there (and there), too.  All of the victims and their families are in my heart, including the culprit of this heinous crime. I'm very saddened to think of someone being so disillusioned and lost that inflicting this kind of pain on innocents would seem like a good idea. Usually after an attack of this magnitude, you hear people talk about, "Those responsible should go straight to hell."

From my perspective, they're already there. 

The longer I live, the more I realize one simple truth: all of us, every one of us, has a purpose in life. Wait, make it two simple truths... All of us have a purpose in life and that purpose is to perpetuate Good. To go against that in our current evolutionary state is to go against nature.


Last night, as I was up much too late, I turned on the television to catch the news. My news comes from Comedy Central because it is hilarious and I understand it better that way. On the Daily Show, Jon Stewart interviewed President Carter. And on the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert interviewed President Clinton.  Here are these two US Presidents who could have resigned from the public spotlight years ago - but are opting instead to continue their lives in service.  Clinton said, in so many words, that he is motivated to serve for selfish reasons because when he helps others, it makes the world a better place for him and hopefully, for his grandchildren one day.

Perhaps I dozed off in biology, but I'm 99.9999% sure that all of us mammals are wired to continue our species.  No surprise, President Carter's sentiments for doing good were nearly the same: Make the world a better place for future generations.  And so it is that these former Presidents are negotiating peace in war-torn countries and saving millions of people from guinea worm infestations when they could instead be playing golf.  Why? Because doing good is the best medicine for the heart, the soul, and the world - which needs to remain intact for future generations.  So in these unimaginably terrible moments, like those that existed in Boston at the finish line of the marathon yesterday, it never ceases to fill me with wonder and awe, that goodness manages to shine like a beacon, eradicating the darkness and fear and miraculously restoring faith in love and kindness and humanity.

This morning, I recounted in very general terms what happened yesterday to our children. Not surprisingly, they were full of questions. What about the people who were hurt? Did anyone die? Why would someone do something like that?  They are trying to get their minds around it, just as I am.

When I showed them a picture of the scene at the finish line, William commented, "Wow. Would you look at all the people who are out there helping!" He paused for a moment before continuing, "Someone did a really bad thing, Mom.  But I'm happy to see that there are a lot more people that are out there doing GOOD things."


I surveyed each of the pictures closely to see if I could spot my cousin, Paul, one of the many heroes on the Boston Police Force, or my sister-in-law, MaryAnn, one of the many skilled nurses at Mass General .... while also praying that the good people continue to exponentially multiply throughout our world, just as my Irish Catholic family has so successfully done throughout the state of Massachusetts.

And may God continue to bless the people of my hometown.

Monday, April 08, 2013

life really is a beach

Today was a beautiful day in Virginia.


The temperature was in the high 70's which was a blessed change after the frigid 40's that we experienced last week.  So when I traipsed off to work this morning, there was sadness and remorse in my heart that I'd be trapped in a building all day with nary a window in sight, when I could be at home gardening, tossing a ball with Louie, playing with Henry following preschool, and preparing for our second graders to come home on the bus.


Those feelings of remorse happen quite a bit, especially when the weather warms up. I start to feel sad and frustrated that I'm in a drab office when I could be at home and thus begins the downward spiral. If I let myself go down that slippery slope, the next thing you know - I'm calling real estate agents to list our house and trying to figure out where we could stretch our buck the furthest so I never have to work again.  Charlie doesn't it like it when I "Go There" because I tend to get a little punchy asking questions such as why am I still working?  Why hasn't my husband stepped in and physically stopped this madness?


Because sometimes you love your job, Jen. Remember? 

On this perfectly sunny day, I most certainly do not remember.

All I know is that you get to be home during the week while I'm in window-less misery.


Last week, Charlie joined a gym. He signed us up for a glorious gym that is mid-way between our home and my office so we can meet there after work.  In six days, we've been four times. And actually, no, I can't walk very well at the moment and can hardly lift my arms above my head.

Why do you ask?  

Going in to this endeavor, we both established some goals that I'll write about at a later time. But for now, all that matters is that this past weekend, Charlie shaved his goatee in to a Fu Man Chu until he is able to reach his health goal.  Yesterday he confessed that he is on a fast track to reach that goal because he said he feels like a freak walking around looking like this...


So when I called him from work this afternoon and told him that I was definitely planning to go to the gym directly after work and what time would he be there? He told me that he wasn't going anywhere because he'd had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  


Apparently, Charlie dropped Henry off at preschool while the birds were chirping and the sun was shining.  Henry was delightful and said hello to all the teachers and gave him a big kiss goodbye. Charlie then drove to Starbucks because he needed a little something in the form of a venti-sized hot caffeinated beverage and while there he bumped in to several friends.  One friend as he was placing an order, another friend as he was picking up his order, and yet another friend on his way out the door.  He told me that he felt like the King of the World.  This was his town!

He knew people!  

He walked out to the car with his sweet cup of Joe in hand and a big smile on his face. He got in to his car - looked to the right - looked to the left - and slowly started to back up only to realize that someone was driving at a faster than acceptable rate down the row, so he quickly hit the brakes.

(I should probably interject here that Charlie was in a minor accident two weeks ago so he is very, very sensitive to his driving at the moment. Please, don't mention it.)


He said that there was no impact - he was still far enough in the parking space so this person could get around him, so everything seemed fine.  Oh but, the driver of the other car, slammed on his brakes, screeched to a halt, threw his arms up in the air and started screaming as if someone had just trespassed against him with the most serious personal offense imaginable. 

Charlie's happy feeling of Peace on Earth, Good Will towards man was instantly eroded. And when the man in the other car continued to rant and rave and wave his arms about his head as he drove past my husband, Charlie with his Fu Man Chu said it took everything in his power to not back out of the parking space and ram his car in to the man's car as hard as he could.  My husband who has been going to church almost every weekend for the past year and embracing the message each week, said he wanted to ram, ram, ram the other man's car so badly so that all that would be left was a twisted heap of smoking metal.  But then he stopped himself from doing that because the police would come and he'd get in trouble and our insurance would likely go up. Yada yada yada. 


So instead, he got a hold on his temper, pulled himself out of that dark space, and patiently drove home nursing his coffee which didn't taste nearly as good as it had two minutes prior while pondering if his new mustache was creating this overwhelming feeling of machoism and destruction?

Fast forward two hours, he drives back to school to pick up Henry.  When he arrives, he spots Henry on the playground with his preschool friends - roaring like the dinosaur that he often likes to pretend he is. Charlie ushered our son to the car, drove home - picked up the triplets from the bus stop - tried his best to herd everyone together to unpack their backpacks, finish their homework and eat a healthy snack - and it sounds so simple, but do you have any idea how exhausting this work actually is? 

I'm tired just writing about it and imagining the scene.


Less than five minutes before I had called to say, "Hey! It's a beautiful day, let's go to the gym!" Charlie had snapped in two when Henry, once again playing out his dinosaur part, accidentally hit William in the face.  Hard. So when I was talking with him on the phone, my husband's voice was hoarse from a bout of yelling.  Why don't they listen to me? Why don't they pay attention? Sometimes I'm convinced the dog minds me better than these messy little creatures do! 

I told him, "You need to go to the gym. You need to leave the house - right now - put the children in the car and drive them to the gym and embrace the TWO HOURS of child care while you work out and sit in the steam room."  I continued, "I don't know much, but I do know that going to the gym is something you need to do this very instant."  


My husband took my advice.  And when I met him at the gym 15 minutes later, and we sat next to each other furiously pedaling away our frustrations on the bicycles, I concluded that there is no such thing as an "Easy Life" at this point in our existence. I tend to think Charlie has the most dreamy situation being home all day and he tends to think I have the most dreamy situation being at work all day.

When in reality, both of us are protecting our sanity like fragile castles made of sand against the inevitable tide that is life consisting of parenthood, work-hood, and crazy mid-Atlantic drivers.


Our children are our greatest blessings and nary a day goes by we don't thank the universe for them. But it's a good thing we have our senses of humor and the feeling that each day is a new adventure. Otherwise, we'd surely be doomed.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

easter reflections, one week later

For the first few days we were in Florida, the weather was cold and windy. By the latter half of the week, it started to warm up and by the time we were due to leave on Friday, the temperature had finally reached the high 70's.  So we did what any irresponsible fun-loving parent who had a two-day drive before them and whose children are due back in school on Monday morning would do.  We scrapped our plans to leave on Friday and instead decided to leave on Saturday.


But by Saturday, the temperature had reached the 80's and my sister, Eileen and her son, Tommy, were planning to fly in that very same night from Michigan - and how could we leave when they were coming in just a few hours?  So we scrapped our plans to leave on Saturday and decided to leave on Sunday.  But we didn't make those plans until Saturday late afternoon, once we'd already said goodbye to Mom and Jim and drove back to our hotel to checkout.

All in all, it was a good thing we decided to stay. Because we forgot to lock our door, the Easter Bunny not only came in to our hotel room and hid eggs while we were sleeping, he also hid eggs all around the hotel pool for the guests to find on Easter morning.


The best part of Easter for me, was watching our children who had done a fair job of finding a large number of eggs around the pool - realize that a lot of the children hadn't found any eggs - so unprovoked, they took every last egg from their baskets and re-hid them so that the younger kids who had no eggs, would have something to find. And on the way out of the hotel, Carolyn took some money that she'd saved up and brought with her on the trip to buy a souvenir, instead decide to put it in a golden egg that she then handed to one of the housekeepers as we were leaving. Every so often, we're handed an exceptionally proud moment in parenting. These were two of them.

Then we drove back to my mom and Jim's place to say SURPRISE to my sister Eileen and my nephew Tom ...


.... and it turns out the Easter Bunny had swung by there, too, and left the children brand new sand pails filled with 50 pounds of candy. I'm not sure how he knew we were coming, but that Easter Bunny sure is a tricky one!


Earlier in the week, my mother had bought hats for the girls, some silk flowers and a glue gun, so they could affix various decorations for a personalized Easter bonnet.  Since my mother's mother, my children's great-grandmother, was a milliner at the turn of the 20th century - this was a fun activity for them to do from a heritage perspective. Carolyn's hat turned out very dignified with a simple bow and flowers...


Whereas Elizabeth glued a dozen plastic eggs to her hat and adorned it with stuffed bunnies and a wind up chick.


It suits her perfectly.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

sunrises, sunsets, and moonshadows

When my parents divorced more than 30 years ago, I never thought that my mother would remarry. Mom told me that after having spent the first half of her life caring for people other than herself, she really enjoyed her independence.  When I was around 11-years old, she met a man, Cornelius Keaton, who took her out for a dinner a few times. After their second or third outing, he suggested - in my presence - that they get away for a few days to the Great Smoky Mountains.  That sounded great to me - so I jumped up and said, "Fun! When do we leave?! What should I pack?!"


Well, as it turns out, Cornelius wanted to take my mother to the Great Smoky Mountains ... not my mother and her 11-year old daughter.  Mom wasn't interested in any of that "hanky-panky" so Mr. Keaton got his pink slip.

And that was the end of a potential romance. 


When Pat, Jim's wife of 50+ years died more than a decade ago and my mother and Jim started to spend time together, it made my heart so happy that the two of them had found companionship in one another.  By that point, I'd been living in California for several years and my mother, although surrounded by close friends and her sister, was alone in South Carolina.  But then Jim was there and suddenly, she wasn't alone anymore. She had someone to travel with, to eat dinner with, to sit and talk with, to hold hands with, to care about, and to love.


My mother will turn 80 in July and Jim will turn 90 in December. They'll be celebrating their four-year wedding anniversary this coming September.  Several years ago, Jim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Last year he was placed in hospice, primarily because my mother needed a break during the day. Caring for someone round-the-clock can be exhausting and my mom was at the brink.  Since then, Mom has come to realize that it's easier taking care of Jim in Florida than it is in South Carolina and by all accounts, Jim is doing better in the warmer climate.  He is able to get around on his own and is the same jovial, welcoming - albeit sometimes forgetful - man that I've known and loved for so many years. My mom is crazy about him (sometimes crazy frustrated) and he's crazy about her, usually serenading his bride with love songs throughout the day.


Companionship is so important. Studies have shown, time and time again, that people who have someone to share their life with are happier and tend to live longer.

Of course Jim's not my father and I don't treat him as such. But I do honor and genuinely respect him as the kind and gentle man who is my mother's husband.  I'm convinced that one of the keys to my mother and Jim's success and happiness, is that each of them respects the relationships that they've had with others before their union. Jim has a healthy relationship with his friends and children, independent of my mother; just as my mother has a healthy relationship with her friends and children, independent of Jim.  From what I can see, they aren't insecure or jealous of any relationships that each other has that doesn't include them.  Instead, they trust one another and are happy in their togetherness. They do not cast any expectations on each other nor those around them. They are living just as The Prophet by Kahil Gibran had prophesied two people bound by marriage should live (my mom read this at our wedding):
... Love one another, but make not a bond of love.  Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.  Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.  Give one another of your bread, but eat not from the same loaf.  Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each of you be alone. Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.  Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.  For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.  And stand together, yet not too near together.  For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow. 
I'm so thankful that Mom and Jim have each other and they have intentionally and graciously chosen to open their lives to us so that we are able to make joyful memories, together.  Because when it all comes down to it, that's what life is all about. Family. Friends. Happiness. Unconditional Love.


And of course, Happy Hour while watching the sunset.