On Remembrance Day, Thoughts on Living in London

Lisa writes: Living in London for twelve years was an unforgettable time in my life and, looking back, there are many things I miss. Today, on Remembrance Day, my thoughts take me there.

Remembrance Day, poppies, living in London, Kate Middleton, Prince William

1. The richness of the English language.

I have no facility with foreign languages yet living in the UK I felt as though I had relearned my own. Every day someone used a word I had to think about, or used a word I knew in an entirely unfamiliar context. Every day my vocabulary and use of the language were enriched in unexpected ways.

2. Living in London always holds surprises.

Turn a corner and there is a tiny church, so small and perfect that if you were in a rush you would never see it. Look straight ahead and you could miss a row of mews houses tucked away down a narrow alley way. I could walk down the same street over and over and each time find something new.

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The More Things Change…

Lisa writes: Growing up in the 1970’s, in a swirl of social change, it was easy to see that the world we would inhabit as adults would be radically altered from that of our childhood.  So far, this has proven to be true. But humans only change so fast and there at things that remain unaltered and leave me wondering why.

vintage-couple1
 

Marriage

Ask a group of married woman what the most important decision of their lives was and a large number will say it was the choice of a spouse.  Yet women wait for men to ask them for their hands in marriage.  We grab the reins of our lives pursuing education and employment and in both we demand to be treated as equals.  And then, we wait…for a ring, for a proposal, for him to make up his mind…and leave this crucial moment in our lives in the hands of men.

Sports

Title IX was passed in 1972, thereby requiring that girls have equal access to athletics from kindergarten through college.  We urge our daughters to participate in sports and stand on the sidelines cheering them on.  And, yet, the audience for and interest in women’s sports is a tiny fraction of that of men’s athletics.  We give women’s sports our money, but not our interest, why?

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When the Pilot Says…I Have Some Bad News

Lisa writes: Last night I flew home from Chicago with my blogging buddies, Mary Dell and Theresa. We were there for BlogHer13, a long, exhausting and truly wonderful conference and, by the time we boarded the plane, we were ready to embrace our families and our beds. We had rushed to O’Hare, eaten foul junk food and were cruising at 30,000 feet when the pilot announced through the staticky PA system.  “Folks, I am afraid I have some bad news.”

some bad news, BlogHer13, Cleveland, flying into Cleveland

 

From that point a garbled message ensued. For a moment, I wondered why pilots in the Midwest seem to address passengers as “Folks” and in the East we are elevated to “Ladies and Gentlemen.” But then I realized that he had said, “Bad News.”  Bad news in flying covers a wide range of possibilities in my experience.  Bad news has been a 20-minute delay or some turbulence ahead.  Bad news was once the back door left unsealed and the plane not pressurized.  But this bad news was not that bad news. It was the dreaded words, “We have a mechanical problem and are headed back to Cleveland or Chicago.” It is never comforting to learn that the pilot does not know the plane’s destination.

Boarding the plane, the three of us made a new friend, noted cookbook author and blogging chef, Katie Workman.  Five minutes into the flight, we had filled in each other on our experiences at BlogHer13, where she had been honored.  In fifteen minutes we had covered husbands, kids, careers and our blogs and, by the time of the Bad News, we had known each other forever, which turned out to be a good thing.

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Sally Koslow Writes the Book on Reinvention

Mary Dell writes: Sally Koslow is a friend and was my writing teacher at Sarah Lawrence College.  The story of her success, including the publication this month of The Widow Waltz, and dark moments of her career are an inspiring story of reinvention.  She spills all:

Sally Koslow, Sally Koslow's The Widow Waltz, reinvention, summer fiction

 

From Sally Koslow:

Once upon a time—a long time, 30+ years—I was a magazine editor, the job for which I felt I was born. A shy kid, I learned to manage that handicap as I scaled the consecrated trajectory of high school newspaper editor/college English major/hometown newspaper intern/college town newspaper obit writer/moony poet. By the time I presented my still-reserved Midwestern self to Manhattan’s Conde Nast–which I was too big of a yokel at 21 to realize was the ooh-la-la of publishing companies–I had a fat portfolio of clippings. They helped land a job at Mademoiselle, a powder puff-y magazine with a literary edge: Sylvia Plath had once been a guest editor and the masthead prided itself on back-in-the-day, publishing the likes of Truman Capote and W.H. Auden and at the moment, Barbara Kingsolver and Jane Smiley.

In the 70s intense female ambition hadn’t yet reared its feverish head. No one expected to reach the top fast. Or ever. This allowed me to loll around MLLE until after having a child at 28, I became a freelance writer. When my son was four I returned to another magazine staff and began to rise in various ranks until McCall’s anointed me as its editor-in-chief in 1994.

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Chobani: Nothing But Good

Lisa writes: I would not buy a product simply because the founder is a small businessman who has a passion for entrepreneurship and who donates 10% of all the proceeds.  I would not buy a product simply because the company has invested in the towns in which they have their plants and the employees are insanely passionate about the company.  I would not buy a product because they have a trendy new store in NYC that sells flavors and combinations that make your head spin.   Or would I? One word, “Chobani.”

What if it tasted amazing and had incomparable health benefits?  What if it was fat-free, portion-controlled, all real and came in flavors like Pomegranate and Passion Fruit?

Chobani Greek yogurt, Greek yogurt, calcium for women

At Grown and Flown, you are not used to hearing us talk about products, but there is one product that Mary Dell and I are so obsessed with that we had to explore further. Their stylish website was a perfect place to begin.

When we discovered a shared craving for the little cups of yogurt and fruit we set out to meet the Chobani people who make our day, every morning.  You might call us Yogurt Groupies.

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College Graduates in the Age of Harry Potter

Mary Dell writes: Congratulations to the college graduates in the class of 2013. In addition to having their degrees in hand, they also have the distinction of spending their childhoods during a time that could forever be known as “The Age of Harry Potter.”

My son, one of these nearly 2 million graduates, texted me from the processional line forming on the far side of the college quad, “here with the faculty wearing Harry Potter robes.”  His analogy was apt.  Not only did he and all of his friends have on black gowns, but the array of academic regalia included shockingly colorful decoration. On graduation day, a history professor might lack only a wand to complete his transformation to real life Hogwart‘s teacher.

Academic Regalia for faculty, faculty robes at graduation, college graduates, graduation procession

It is no wonder that Harry Potter images came readily to mind. For once upon a time, in the fall of 1998, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone barreled into the US. From it’s September 1 release date, our son’s generation (and their parents) began to fall under J. K. Rowling’s literary spell. Here are ways their childhood was uniquely enhanced by her creativity:

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Fatherly Sayings for Father’s Day

Mary Dell writes, thinking about Father’s Day: From the very moment we become parents, we nourish our baby with words.  We coo and sing lullabies to our newborn and delight in his every linguistic response. Soon we add expressions – sometimes those we learned from our own parents – to teach a lesson or impart a value.  At this, my father excelled, and I know I am the better for it.

father's day, dad and daughter, father and daughter

Dad was a country-boy at heart and had a folksy way of speaking.  A petroleum engineer, he traveled around the world analyzing oil and gas fields. Whether he was in a boardroom on Wall Street or sitting at our kitchen table talking to my sister and me, he remained grounded by his boyhood in Pecos, Texas. As Father’s Day nears, I remember him and his favorite fatherly sayings:

He was pragmatic – he owned his own business, managing it amidst the extreme cyclicality of the energy industry.  “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s tail all the time” was both his worldview and how he helped his daughters cope with their own periodic disappointments or moments of good fortune.

He was sympathetic – “Hard to get all your raccoons up one tree” was his way of saying that he understood the frustration of not achieving goals, whether they were mine, his corporate ones or those of a hunting dog.

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The Generation Gap Isn’t What it Used to Be

Lisa writes: The generation gap that separated me from my parents was defined by our views on music, sex, skirt lengths, the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon’s presidency. My whole goal in shopping was to buy things my parents hated. But my children and I like the same music, have similar politics and shop for clothes in the same stores. The issues that separate me from my offspring are of an entirely different nature.

Where has the generation gap gone?  Once defined by cultural touchstones and political splits, the gap that divides the generations is now far more subtle, defined by differences in outlook and attitude, rather than fundamental beliefs.

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My sons think nothing of leaving the house and venturing out in public in their PJ bottoms. This has been a recurring nightmare of mine since 1971.

I use cash. They use credit for any purchase over 24 cents.

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12 Most Lip-Smacking Recipes for a Memorial Day Cookout

Mary Dell writes: At the end of every month, I tear off another page of our oversize family calendar and toss the tattered sheet away. April lands in the recycling bin and I am gleeful. There, on the last line for May, is the gateway to summer: Memorial Day Weekend.

At Grown and Flown, our friend and neighbor, Renee Cohen, is chef/instructor of CuisineArts Cooking School and supplied much of the culinary inspiration for this Memorial Day cookout.

Memorial Day Weekend, American flag, Memorial Day cookout, cookout recipes, watermelon margaritas

 

1. Lemonade with fresh mint

Mix together the juice of 10 lemons, 6 cups water, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 sprigs mint. Adjust to taste and add 8 sprigs of mint. Refrigerate and serve in tall glasses with a sprig of mint in each.

2. Watermelon margaritas

This recipe is from the late, great Gourmet magazine: Cut up a watermelon into cubes, place in Ziplock bag and freeze overnight. Place the frozen watermelon (5 cups), 1 cup Tequila, 1/2 cup Triple Sec, 1/2 cup fresh lime juice, and 1/4 cup sugar in a blender and blend until the consistency is slushy. Best watermelon margaritas, ever!

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College Graduation and the Parenthood Abyss

Mary Dell writes: My son, our eldest child, will celebrate his college graduation this weekend. Today, while I sit in the kitchen, I read the fine words of another mom whose child recently graduated. I begin to imagine the moment when our son’s name is called and he walks onto the stage to receive his diploma. I feel a familiar maternal adrenaline rush beginning to rise and recognize it as the same one I have felt every time I waited for my child to stride onto a stage or take his place at home plate.  But I also sense a new ingredient. After the ceremony concludes and we drive back home, he will no longer be our “school child.”  Exactly what will replace that two-decade long identity takes me to the edge of a parental abyss.

college graduation, schoolhouse, school, college

No longer will his schedule, and ours with him, be dictated by a calendar of September- May. The school schedule, with its rock-solid predictability, provided the foundation on which his life in the classroom and the sports field was built. For three months each summer, the structure relaxed but sprang back to life in the final days of August. Then, before the first class began, we bought new school clothes (last year’s were always too small, too short) and new supplies to load into a crumb-free backpack. The obligatory first day of school photos now fill our albums, shoeboxes and flash drives.

After Sunday’s college graduation, we will begin a new era with our son.  We will place graduation photos in last pages in his childhood photo album, close it and put it away.

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Grown and Flown in Today’s Wall Street Journal: Cheating in School

Wall Street Journal, WSJLisa writes: Last Fall, in the wake of a number of high-profile cheating scandals, Grown and Flown examined cheating in school.  We were surprised by some of the facts we uncovered. Technology, academic pressure and changing attitudes have increased the incidence of cheating in school and made it even more important that parents discuss this issue with kids from an early age.  It was our good fortune that The Wall Street Journal found us and included us in an article this morning entitled “How Could a Sweet Third-Grader Just Cheat on That School Exam?”

cheating in school, Wall Street Journal, kids cheating,

In this wonderful piece, Sue Shellenbarger finds that cheating is tricky parental terrain “The line between right and wrong in the classroom is often hazy for young children, and shaping the moral compass of children whose brains are still developing can be one of the trickiest jobs a parent faces.”  Shellenbarger found that rates of cheating rose as kids moved into middle school and high school and thus the conversation needs to start when school begins, as early as kindergarten.

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Motherhood and the Empty Nest

Lisa writes: This morning, The New York Times posted a wonderful article, “After the Children have Grown,” about motherhood and the transition to the empty nest.  The author, noted psychologist Madeline Levine, confirms what Anna Quindlen has often said, that the real empty nest begins the day our youngest child graduates from college.  Yet Levine takes a different look at our children’s separation as not a single moment but rather one more step on a long path of pain and happiness that is parenting.  She explains,

Motherhood inextricably weaves growth and loss together from the moment of physical separation at birth to every milestone passed.

Yet she finds that, in some ways, parents are unprepared for this transition despite the fact that we should have seen it coming.

motherhood, empty nest, mothers and sons, after the children have grown

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A Last Lesson on the Importance of Friendship

Gabby, a Grown and Flown friend, writes: One of the good things about being a parent three times over is that I am more focused on life’s ordinary moments as my last child inches her way toward leaving the nest.  Recently, I was packing to go away for a rare “girls weekend” when my daughter sat down on the edge of my bed and asked me about the friends with whom I was traveling.  Ultimately, our conversation shifted into a philosophical one about her own friends and the importance of friendship.

I will readily admit my many failures as a mother but one of the things I am most proud of is the way I have communicated through action (and words) how much my friends mean to me.

importance of friendship, friendship, high school friends, high school girls

I am inordinately grateful and comforted when I look at my two older children who have already “flown the nest” and see the kinds of friendships they have established.  They demonstrate to me that they understand how to be loyal, inclusive, trustworthy, forgiving, and supportive in times of trouble.  They accept and celebrate differences. I am wowed by the way that they have chosen their inner circle (with an extended selection of friends beyond this)  based on “matters of the heart”  and common values.

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Mother’s Day Flowers

Grown and Flown sends you this digital bouquet of Mother’s Day flowers taken by our friend, TBKilman, at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. We invite you to click through these stunning photos. Have a wonderful day!

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Mothers and Daughters, the Teenage Years

Mary Dell writes: Teenage girls travel in packs, migrating between friends’ houses. Over time, mothers and daughters from each family get to know one another well. When it is our turn to host a Friday night sleepover I am delighted. On Saturday morning, while serving pancakes, I pull up a chair with my daughter and her friends and join them for a chat.  Learning how to be welcomed (momentarily) into my daughter’s group, yet heeding the cue to disappear, are lessons I learned from my mother when she was the one wielding the spatula.

I recently asked my oldest girlfriends about their memories of those long ago school days. Here are some of the things they remember:

mother and daughter, teenage girl and mom in the 1970's

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