Lessons from Dogs

It was a cold and dreary one along the Chesapeake Bay. The weather brought with it a bit of unease and melancholia. I often find that spending some time alone with my dog on days like these helps ease some of that grayness.

Just me and the pup, that day. The kids had slept late and my husband didn’t feel like going out in the rain.

While feeding the ducks from the red brick lined sidewalk, a man approached. He asked if he could pet my dog. Gordon loves that, little attention junkie that he is.

While the dog did all his cute moves to get more scratches behind the ear, the man shared how much he loved being around dogs.  “Dogs never think twice about being nice. They seem to know if they are good to you, you’ll be nice back. Sad that doesn’t always work out for them.”

He thanked me, rubbed Gordy’s head and walked away only to turn around and head back. Gordon responded with an earnest shimmy of his tiny tail-nub.

With a shyness in his eyes, he said he hated to ask but he was homeless and hungry and wondered if I had some change to spare. Without thinking twice I handed him the only cash I had with me, a twenty.

I tend to be very wary of panhandlers having seen more than one head off for a fix. He could have been intending to do the same thing but I realized in that moment it wasn’t my place to judge. I could do a nice thing because it was nice and leave it at that. I could remember the lessons from dogs… and not think twice about being nice.

A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. ~ John Grogan

Heading back to the car I heard someone call, “Hey, Gordon’s mom!” I looked across the street and it was the same guy with a big bag full of sandwiches from a local shop down the street.

He beamed at me and said, “thanks for understanding.” Sometimes the lessons from dogs are the ones that teach us how to be better humans. 

how to make a starburst candy cocktail

Remember those cheesy 80’s ads for Reece’s peanut butter cups, “You got your peanut butter all over my chocolate!” Yuck, just nope. I may be alone in my loathing of that combination but I can certainly get behind the tagline for those ads, “Two great things that go great together,” if we’re talking vodka and starburst candies.  So the question now is, how to make a Starburst candy cocktail.

Time for a confession, the Starburst candy cocktail was an original idea of mine.  Oh sure, I’d love to take full credit for it but that rests with the little BBQ joint in suburban Maryland where my team, The Little Urban Achievers play (and by that I mean own) Pub Trivia.

While The Hideaway cocktail was tasty, it was just a tad too sour for me so I thought I’d take inspiration from their unique libation and give it my own twist. Of course, it will still be garnished with starburst – duh.

Starburst Candy Cocktail
Serves 1
Sweet, a little sour and perfect for happy hour!
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1.5 oz Limoncello
  2. 1.5 oz Stolichnaya Wild Cherry Vodka
  3. 1 oz Tart Cherry Grenadine by Quince & Apple
  4. San Pellegrino Aranciata
  5. Starburst Candy
  6. Cocktail Skewers
  7. Ice
  8. Cocktail Shaker
Instructions
  1. Place ice, limoncello, vodka and grenadine in cocktail shaker. Shake well. Strain into glass of your choice. Top with chilled Aranciata. Place several candies onto skewer and garnish.
Notes
  1. If using standard grenadine, add in some fresh squeezed lemon juice to balance the sweet and sour.
Adapted from The Hideway
Adapted from The Hideway
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

Using that craft grenadine may be the key to the success of this cocktail. Quince & Apple really let the cherry shine in this simple syrup. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but it doesn’t take much of it to impart that deep cherry flavor. Plus it doesn’t go bad. I may even give it a try as a flavoring for ice cream or pancake topping.

Though not YET tested, I suspect this would be great in the summer over crushed ice! Do you have a favorite candy? Think it might make for a tasty cocktail? Let me know. I’m always looking for new ways to mix things up. Mixology.. mix.. get it. Okay, maybe I’d better lay off the taste-testing for a bit.

so your kid wants to play the violin… now what?

Your kid came home with a gleam in their eye, rumpled paper in hand, informing you that they’d be taking up an instrument. So did mine. In fact, all four of my kids have come home with that same gleam at some point! Each time they did there was the accompanying dread. What instrument would they choose? Please, no drums! How quickly would they lose interest?  Once they settled on something, say the violin, how does one even go about choosing a violin for a kid? In other words, my kid picked a violin? Now now what?!

Let’s start this little chat out by saying that I come from a very musical family. My formative years were filled with my dad’s music. He was in a band when I came along. In retirement, he’s back in a band. Both my brothers play, the older one is rather gifted. Me… we’ll if you give me a sack I could carry a tune in it. The only instrument I play to any level of aptitude is the radio.  

That said, I always wanted to play. Longed to, in fact. I love music, I just wasn’t suited to playing it myself. I got my mom’s word gene, the music one skipped me. Though I can share that when it comes to playing the theme song from MASH on a clarinet, I totally channel Glenn Miller. 

When the music gene that missed me started to show up in my kids, I was so proud. My amazing humans could do this music thing! We made it through each of them taking up with recorder, most of our hearing intact. Then came the violin and some struggles.

When the folks from Yamaha reached out to ask if I’d be interested in helping parents learn more about choosing a violin, I was totally up for that. Yes, this is a sponsored piece but it is also something I really wish had been out there when we were learning all the things… the hard way! 

Things to Know About Choosing a Violin

Choosing a violin is not the same thing as choosing a violin shaped object

Trust me, I love finding a great deal. When we found a $45 violin on Amazon it was a thrill. The rental place wanted that much a month! What we received certainly looked like a violin. Did it play like one? No. In fact it was so difficult to tune, string and even play that in the end we ended up with a rental contract and out more than that $45. Lesson learned; beware the violin shaped object!

Renting doesn’t make as much sense as you think

When the oldest came home with that gleam the rumpled paper in is hand was a rental agreement. Our school system doesn’t supply instruments. We figured he’d lose interest in a month or so, which made renting seem to be the sensible choice. 

What we ended up with was a contract that got us a more than gently used instrument. The violin is a delicate thing, keeping it in good shape makes a big difference in how it plays. How it plays makes a difference in the level of joy your child may get from learning to play. 

Buying can seem a steep price to pay at first. For us, we had three more kids who might take it up at some point, so the cost savings was clear. I’d say that if you buy and have just one kiddo, see if they shop you purchase from has a buy-back program. This could make both budget and musical sense. 

Enlist expert help 

I can not stress this point enough… when choosing a violin for your kiddo, expert help is key! I’m not saying you have to spend four hours in a showroom with a guy who works on commission but certainly don’t try to go it alone. Yamaha has a great tool on their website specifically designed for families. 

The Violin Finder can help you with everything from fit and sound to the brand that will work best with your child’s skill set. Our youngest son is 6 years into playing and as he has grown so has his violin. I had zero clue that we’d need to level-up as he grew up. Yamaha has helped us figure these things out. 

Let it be fun

Yes, they’re going to need to practice and sometimes that means butting heads. Two of my four didn’t really stick with playing music because practice just wasn’t their thing. The other two found fun in not just choosing a violin but exploring their musical gifts. Honestly, I think fun is the deciding factor. Let them enjoy the process, even if that means noise cancelling headphones for you. 

 

 

 

Getting Your Child A U.S. Passport When You Are The Custodial Parent

We travel, like a lot. It’s kind of our thing. When this show began to hit the international road though, there were few bumps. One of the biggest was figuring out how we’d go about getting a US child passport when I was the custodial parent and my ex-husband lived on the other side of the country.

Sharing that experience made the story that follows among my most visited posts. I’ve updated it with a few new details and am posting again in hopes of helping out where I can. If you have questions, let me know. I’ll try to answer them or at the very least, point you in the right direction. 

getting a US child passport when you are the custodial parent

When my eldest daughter turned sixteen, we gave her two options; Have the traditional soiree known as the, “Sweet Sixteen” party, or take an epic trip. It was no surprise that a child who wants to major in International Studies chose the trip. What did surprise me were the hoops we’d have to jump through getting a US child passport. 

You see I have the honor of being her custodial parent. I’m beyond grateful to my ex-husband for making the sacrifices he has, they’ve allowed me the joy of getting to watch her grow into the amazing woman I know she’ll be. He and I have made every effort to co-parent, which can be hard when you live on opposite coasts.

Bumps in the road, caused by the physical distance between her parents,  have been few and far between. So when it came to getting her passport, neither of us figured there would be any big issues. He’d sign a form, we’d go down to the office, she’d be ready to take off for Ireland.

BUMP!

It turns out that there are a number of extra steps in obtaining a passport for a minor child when their parents are divorced. Here are some of the questions we had getting a US child passport with only one parent available. 

How Long Will It Take?

At the time this post is being written, the average processing time for a passport book (just the book, not the card) is 4 to 6 weeks. You can pay for expedited processing, which will have the passport in your hand in 3 weeks. Need it faster? Go directly to an Agency office – not a third-party authorized processing location, like a post office– and you can have it in 8 days, pending approval of need. Generally this means there is some sort of extenuating circumstance, like medical need or bereavement. 

How Much Does It Cost?

For minors (under age 16) the fee for the first application is $95 plus a $30 processing fee. If you need expedited service that will set you back an extra $60. For the most accurate and up-to-date info on fees, be sure to use the calculator on the State Department’s U.S. Passports & International Travel website.  

What Documents Will I Need?

Since this post is specifically about obtaining a passport for a child who’s parents are divorced, I’ll address that.

  1. Proof of Citizenship: Certified U.S. Birth Certificate.  OR Naturalization Document, Certificate of Citizenship, Consular Report of Birth Abroad.  ORIGINALS not copies! You will get your document(s) back with your child’s passport.  
  2. Evidence of Parental Relationship – a document that lists you as the parent: U.S. or foreign birth certificate, adoption decree, divorce/custody decree.
  3. Photo Identification – for all parities. Make a copy of the front AND back of each ID. For example I made copies of her school ID, her father’s and my driver’s licenses.
    NOTE: If the parent who is not present at the appointment does not reside in the same state, you MUST provide TWO forms of ID for them. I missed this information on the website . As a result we had to make a second appointment which delayed things by two more weeks!
  4. Parental Consent – both parents must be present. Here is where it gets complicated for custodial parents (like me). If one parent can not be there you’ll need to have them complete a Form DS-3053: Statement of Consent. This must be notarized
  5. Passport Photo – here is a good resource for DIY passport photos if you’d rather not stop by say a CVS or Costco and have one “professionally” done.
  6. Application Forms – here are links to PDF versions of the forms DS-11 and DS-3035 Statement of Consent DS-5525  Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstance. note: all these forms are also available online at the State Department website. ALSO if you are filling the forms out by hand, be SURE to use black ink. YES, I failed to do that as well! 
  7. Passport Fees – See Above.

After a few hiccups, and maybe more than a full hair-pulling sessions, we got her all set to go. It’s off to Ireland for her first visit there, my third and tagging along will be her Grandfather, returning to his ancestral home for the first time. I can’t wait to experience the Emerald Isle through their eyes! 

As we all know, Government processes change often. I’ve provided these tips as a guide based on my personal experience. That said, be sure to double check with the State Department before applying for your child’s passport.

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Podcasts to Love: Sunrise In Your Pocket

Sunrise in Your Pocket. What does that even mean? Why should you care? That is how this joyful little podcast begins. Though those questions may sound a bit silly, or even cynical to some, I’ve come to find that both are actually profound in the most unexpected of ways.  The way host Elena Sonino encourages listeners to see those answers, is why this makes my Podcasts to Love list. 

Maybe I should start this post with a little bit of catching up. Two  years ago, somewhere right around this time in fact, I shuttered the doors of the small marketing business I’d been running for over a decade. Though I loved what I was doing, there was something missing both in my work and my personal lives. Cliche though it may seem, I needed a better balance in my life.

In my mid-forties, two kids grown and on their own, two edging ever closer to the leaving leaving the nest, menopause looming, I was feeling a bit lost.  It was time to find myself again. That started with a job change. 

I took a leap into the world of wellness at the urging of an amazing physician, who after over twenty-five years in primary care and  seeing two daughters through college and into adulthood, was herself making a change by moving into restorative medicine. Together we opened two new businesses. One is a holistic approach to wellness and weight loss, called BeBalanced. The other is a medical practice called ACRM.  Here we focus on wellness, especially in women,  through an east-meets-west philosophy that addresses the whole person; body, mind, spirit and more.  

It hasn’t been easy. If I’m being truly honest, it has been really hard. The rewards though outweigh the challenges… on most days. It was on one of those challenging days that I found Sunrise In Your Pocket.

Sunrise happens after its been dark all night… ~ Elena

Surprisingly,  even when you spend your days helping others feel better you can end up feeling a bone-deep exhaustion that can spiral into losing your own way in the journey.  For me veering off the path manifests as losing motivation. questioning what success means and if I am even capable of being successful at all.  

The first episode (listen to that here) of this podcast I listened to Elena say, “… We don’t actually have to see a sunrise to know that it is there. We can count on it happening everyday because we know it will. Imagine having that sort of faith in yourself. “That hit me like a bolt of lighting. Do I lose my motivation or is it my faith? 

I think what I love most about this podcast so far is that it isn’t some  cliche, self-help, find-your-why, hustle, breathe and you’ll have ALL the answers, thing. It is an honest take on how we can find our way. As Elena puts it.. 

I’m a life coach and I’m about to tell you that… forget all the self-help… we sometimes need people to hold our hand or help us get out of our own way. ~ Elena

Come listen with me. Do you have a podcast you love? SHARE! 

 

 

Travel. Eat. Drink. Write. REPEAT