Collecting Art, An Entertaining Family Tradition

When my husband and I married in 2004, we established an early tradition for our family…collecting art.

We are both creative people, and we love to fill our home with unique items that help to tell the story of our life together.

On occasions like birthdays, holidays, Valentine’s Day and our wedding anniversary, my husband and I do not give each other gifts. No flowers. No diamonds. No chocolates. No cards. No ties. No gizmos. This has always been our way. Instead, we purchase a piece of art annually. It is a gift with no shelf life, and something that we can both enjoy.

Throughout the year, my husband and I attend art shows and peruse galleries and coffee shops looking for that one special piece that speaks to us. Sometimes it is a sculpture, sometimes it is a painting on canvas, or sometimes a five-inch by five-inch photograph.

In February we will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. It is so wonderful to be in our home and look at the art that lives in our space. Each piece has a special story. Each piece is a special memory. These works are deeply personal and meaningful to us.

So what do we do to mark all of the special occasions in a year? We give hugs, and write love notes, we cook special meals together…and we always spend quality time as a family.

 

Simple Vacations Are Rewarding, Too (no matter what your Instagram feed tries to tell you)

We’ve just returned from a vacation in New England. Over the past week we wound our way from Kennebunkport to Portland, Maine and then on to Boston, Massachusetts. Our vacation was simple and included fresh sea food, trips to the ocean, and long family walks.

While we were away, I saw many of my friends posting photos of their adventures, too – from Mexico, to Florida, to Italy – families are taking this time to get away, explore, and unwind. Travel is a wonderful way to bond as a family, gain an appreciation for the world around us, and learn about different cultures. In an increasingly global society, travel prepares us to work with colleagues, customers, and collaborators from other lands. And as Saint Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

However, to reap the rewards of family travel, you don’t have to take an elaborate or expensive vacation. Jet setting families look pretty on Instagram, but many of us don’t have the funds or the time to set off on an around-the-world tour. In fact, a “staycation” or short trip can give us the same benefits. So friends, don’t fret about keeping up with the Joneses. Create a special experience that works for your family. This is something I know a thing or two about.

When I was a kid, my family couldn’t afford many long distance vacations, but we did have one fabulous getaway each summer. One of my favorite family traditions! My parents would cram sleeping bags, pillows, food, games, drawing pads and a box full or markers into our 1980s station wagon and we’d drive three hours to a placid lake in northern Wisconsin. There we would pitch a tent and cook our meals over an open flame. At night we’d lay near the empty country road that ran along our property and watch stars shoot across the pitch black sky. And before bed, we’d tell ghost stories with flashlights under our chins while munching on Jiffy Pop.

At the lake, my brother and I lived in our swim suits and always smelled like a mixture of Coppertone, Off!, and algae. There were no cell phones, no flush toilets, no showers, and we were in heaven. Those rustic, “roughing it moments” – as my dad referred to them – are some of the best memories of my childhood.

Tent camping taught us to appreciate nature. My dad would take us on hikes through pine forests in search of deer tracks. We would catch grasshoppers and learn how to tell time by watching the sun. On the shores of the lake, we would find snails and my mom would tell us about the escargot served in France. My brother and I would wrinkle our noses.

Those long summer days were filled with teaching moments. It was where I learned about the glaciers that once covered Wisconsin and the importance of freshwater lakes. We learned about the logging industry in our state and toured paper mills. If we ever complained about being bored, my parents would hand us the drawing pads and markers and tell us to make art.

Next time you’re planning a trip, think about something simple and close to home. Head to a museum, a State Park, or go camping in the woods. Encourage your children to put down the electronic devises and spend time with their imaginations. Help them expand their understanding of the world through fun, hands-on learning. Make it an annual trip, and start a new family tradition.

Happy traveling! -Mara

A Stunning New Orleans Wedding

Hi Friends! I’ve recently returned from my brother and sister-in-law’s destination wedding in the Big Easy. It was a beautiful and memorable affair that perfectly celebrated these two artistic wanderers. Rather than writing a long post about it, I thought I’d share some photographs that captured the spirit of this perfect day. I hope you find some inspiration:

The Bride

15000175_10154699193671323_1733178264794185375_o

Ceremony

Happy Faces

seth-and-masha

14938351_10154679649558792_5682388325010562527_n

Liz singing

Married

Our Family

Lovers

Happy Moms by Bryan Patrick Photography

Lovelies 2

The First Dance

mara-seth

The guys

Sparklers

Jumping In by Bryan Patrick Photography

The Bride and Groom by Bryan Patrick Photography

Commitment Reading of the Pueblo Indian

Before we met, you and I were halves unjoined except in the wide rivers of our minds. We were each other’s distant shore, the opposite wings of a bird, the other half of a seashell.  We did not know the other then, did not know our determination to keep alive the cry of one riverbank to the other. We were apart, yet connected in our ignorance of each other, like two apples sharing a common tree.  Remember?

I knew you existed long before you understood my desire to join my freedom to yours. Our paths collided long enough for our indecision to be swallowed up by the greater need of love. When you came to me, the sun surged towards the earth and the moon escaped from darkness to bless the union of two spirits, so alike that the creator had designed them for life’s endless circle.  Beloved partner, keeper of my heart’s odd secrets, clothed in summer blossoms so the icy hand of winter never touches us.

I thank your patience.  Our joining is like a tree to earth, a cloud to sky and even more. We are the reason the world can laugh on its battlefields and rise from the ashes of its selfishness to hear me say, in this time, this place, this way – I love you best of all.

For more on the wedding, check out To My Brother, With Love.

(Thanks to those friends whose photos I may have used to complete this post! Also a huge thanks to Bryan Patrick Photography and Race and Religious in New Orleans.)

A Note To My Brother, As We Celebrate His Wedding

This past weekend in New Orleans, my brother married a woman who is by all measures his perfect match – artistic, glamorous, well-traveled, loving, and generous. Their ceremony was stunning and I will share all of the details in an upcoming post, but first I wanted to take the opportunity to share a reflection about my brother, Seth.

One of the reasons I love writing about family traditions, is because of all of the fun and magical moments I shared with my brother growing up.

For as long as I can remember, Seth has been the most influential and inspirational person in my life. Though he is two years younger than I am, his emotional maturity far surpasses my own – and it has always been that way.  As youngsters, I was the loud one – the child who defied authority, was careless when sharing my opinions, and lived to have fun. My brother was introspective, thoughtful, and always sensitive to the needs of others. As we grew, we each found greater balance – his seriousness rubbed off on me, and conversely, I’d like to believe that my irreverence helped him laugh a bit more freely.

In college, I would return home on weekends to find my brother reading the collected works of Emerson, Thoreau, and Krishnamurti. He would tell me how inspired he was by philosophies that encouraged aligning ones life to the needs of the world. That is why I was not surprised when, after completing his degree in architecture, my brother fit his belongings into a backpack and moved to Africa to spend a year living, learning and volunteering abroad. An artist, Seth would share his experiences traveling across West Africa through exquisite pen and ink drawings. He also captured the sounds of his journeys, recording the noises of traffic, birds, drums, and voices.

That same year, I married the love of my life and began my own adventure. Our childhood was over, and my brother and I were venturing out on different roads.

As adults, we have spent more time apart than together – but wherever he happens to be, a piece of my heart is there too. And though we travel unique paths, I am grateful that our roads converge at the most important times. This weekend, as I watched Seth marry an extraordinary woman who shares his joie de vivre, my heart was full. You want the best for the ones you love most in the world, and I know that in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined anything better for him.

Congratulations, my dearest friend. What a beautiful life you have created.

seth-and-masha

 

 

To My Daughter On Her 7th Birthday

My Strong Willed, Spirited Girl:

Thirteen years ago, if someone had asked me about the best day of my life, I would have told them about the moment I met your father. From across a crowded room, we fell in love at first sight and I knew my life would never be the same.

Twelve years ago, I would have told them about the day I married your dad on a pink sand beach. Looking into his eyes as the ocean waves rolled upon the shore, I saw a future of endless possibilities. I still do.

Seven years ago, of course, I would have told them about the magical day that you were born. Now that I know you, I’d say it was a perfect entrance. Quick and timely, right on your due date. I know how you hate to be late to a party! That was the day I realized how far my heart could stretch and how deeply and fiercely I could love.

Today, if someone asked me about the best day of my life, my answer would be different. Today I would say that the best day is the one that I am blessed to be living right now. Each and every minute that I get to love you and your dad, and feel your love in return is a celebration. My life is no longer defined by single, once-in-a-lifetime events, but instead measured by the beauty of ordinary moments that bring us together.

Your laughter, your smile, your dad’s bad jokes, our hikes in the woods, our dinner table conversations…those little things have become the most extraordinary pieces of my life. And every morning when I wake up and I see your faces, I know that THIS is going to be the best day I have ever known.

I am a lucky woman. You have transformed my world and taught me so much. I am constantly in awe of your capacity to love, your ability to learn, and your desire to work hard. You are thoughtful, hilarious, and creative beyond belief. You inspire me to live my best life and to reach further than I ever thought possible.

Happy birthday, my love. Thank you for making every day the best day of my life.

-Mom

Happy

A Hike In The Snow

In the Midwest, we’ve just celebrated the first snow fall of the season!

There is something dreamy and ethereal about the first dusting of snow. It makes the world look and sound different…colorless and hushed.

For kids, the first snow represents an opportunity for magical play and exploration. Snow: a cold substance that can be packed into balls, sculpted into figures, or moved into angels. Oh, what fun!

One of our longstanding family traditions has been to take a winter hike after the first snowfall.

Well, when my daughter found out that flurries were moving into our area overnight, she made me promise to fulfill this tradition. That evening, as she was getting ready for bed, she asked me to write the promise on her hand so we wouldn’t forget.

A promise is a promise

She woke up before the sun, squealing with joy that the world had been painted white. “Mom, mom, let’s go on our hike!” she cried. “Honey, it’s not even 6:00 a.m.,” I replied, folding my head deeper into my pillow. But she wouldn’t take no for an answer. As a compromise, I helped her get dressed in all of her winter gear and let her run around outside while I sipped coffee in the comfort of our warm home.

Eventually, the sun was up, I was caffeinated, and we were all ready to go. My husband, daughter, and I set out on a winter wonderland adventure!

Girls hiking

Over the river and through the woods

First sled ride of the season

Love birds

Urban waves

Sledding

Hiking with a sled

Boots in the snow

Burrrr

The river in white

Hiking in the snow

Wintery staircase

 

 

 

 

Family “Field Trips”

I’ve noticed that sometimes busy families get stuck in ruts….parents working all hours, kids plopped in front of screens, fast food served on dinner plates…everyone is together but not really together at all.

To keep our family playing, talking, and bonding, each weekend we take family “field trips.” Just like the exciting, fun-filled trips we took in grade school, these outings are designed to get us exploring and playing together…really together. They get us out of our daily routines, help us facilitate rich interactions, and allow us to build lasting memories.

We usually head outdoors and visit our community’s natural resources, living museums, and free play areas. During these “field trips” there are only five rules: 1.) no electronic devices, 2.) have fun, 3.) get messy, 4.) try to learn something new, and 5.) run wild! And yes, princess dresses are perfectly acceptable attire.

Our daughter loves the uninterrupted time with mom and dad…and we love sharing our passion for nature with our little one. We’re creating healthy traditions that, we hope, our daughter will continue when she has her own family.

Here are some photos from a trip we took this past weekend…a forest hike followed by playtime along the shores of Lake Michigan. Free, fun, and fabulous.

Entertaining Family wants to know, what does your family do to stay connected?

Waves along the shore

Chair in the woods

Butterfly

Father daughter bonding

Paths in the sand

Rocks on the shore

Standing on the tip of the world