Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Velveteen Rabbit


There are a few children's books in our house that have a permanent home on the “big people” shelves. This is one of them. A wonderful story about a velveteen rabbit and a boy, this is a profound and touching book for all adults who understand the challenge of becoming and staying “real.” As 2008 comes to an end, I thank my trifecta--Lindsey, Ethan, and Corban--for continuing to keep me real.




From The Velveteen Rabbit:

"What is Real?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled. "The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

10-Letter Word

A 10-letter word for a smart way to pass the time? Crosswords! They’re a daily habit for me. I’m downright obsessed with them, and I’m not alone. They’ve been the most popular word puzzle in history for almost 100 years. Today in America, they are in almost every newspaper and over 40 million people solve them daily, some of them in ink! I never graduated beyond a pencil with a strong eraser, one that’s up to the job of allowing me to make revisions along the way as I’ve gotten more information or seen something in a different light. (Come to think of it, there are some parallels there to how I live my life, but that’s another blog post subject!)

I have some books of crossword puzzles, but I can’t say no to the daily crosswords in the newspaper. It’s probably my imagination, but it seems to me that they start off manageably on Monday and progressively get harder during the week, culminating in Sunday’s mindbender, which often ends up as a group effort in our family, effectively debunking the idea that crossword puzzles are a solitary endeavor.

The invention of the crossword puzzle is highly underrated, in my opinion. The benefits are many: they enrich our vocabulary and sharpen our minds; they keep our brains flexible and healthy with daily bursts of sustained cognitive effort; and they lead us into so many areas of life, culture and history. After six days of hard eight-letter words, I’m considering taking Tuesdays off from my word puzzles as a day of rest. Oh, look! Today’s crossword theme is ‘Bookends’! Maybe I’ll begin my day off next Tuesday…

(This image is actually a painting by Darren Maurer)

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Child's Prayer

Is there anything more endearing than listening to a young child pray? There is so much beauty in their honesty and innocence. They utter words of unselfconscious truth, so ready to articulate what is on their minds and in their hearts. Corban trusts that his prayers are as important to God as they are to him. The subject matter reflects high points of concern or excitement in his day: well wishes for the frog we caught and released; a fervent wish that our old cat, Maddie, live just one more year; and, on the evening this picture was taken, a request to be brave enough to try new foods.

I know people who are so eloquent when they pray out loud. Their sentences are beautifully constructed of lofty words rising like incense to heaven. As impressive as that may be, I’m much more touched listening to my seven-year-old pray, discussing his special thoughts and wishes—sometimes common, sometimes comical, always touching—with God in hope and in trust. What a privilege it is to witness how the earnest and sincere feelings from his heart are translated into the simple beauty of words, resulting in an offering of energy, passion and feeling. It’s a good reminder to me that if my prayers are to mean anything to God, they must first mean something to me. Amen.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Astronomer

Thursday was a special day for my dad, who is a serious astronomy buff. In his honor, I'm sharing my very favorite poem about astronomy and the stars.

The Old Astronomer to His Pupil

Reach me down my Tycho Brahe, I would know him when we meet.
When I share my later science, sitting humbly at his feet.
He may know the law of all things, yet be ignorant of how
We are working to completion, working on from then to now.

Pray remember that I leave you all my theory complete,
Lacking only certain data for your adding, as is meet.
And remember men will scorn it, 'tis original and true,
And the obloquy of newness may fall bitterly on you.

But, my pupil, as my pupil you have learned the worth of scorn,
You have laughed with me at pity, we have joyed to be forlorn,
What for us are all distractions of men's fellowship and smiles;
What for us the Goddess Pleasure with her meretricious smiles!

You may tell that German College that their honor comes too late,
But they must not waste repentance on the grizzly savant's fate.
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light,
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

---Sarah Williams

Stargazing

I remember visiting my grandparents in Kansas when I was young. Nighttime in that rural part of the state defined darkness, and I’d get lost in the infinite wilderness of the heavens overhead. It was like staring up into something that had no top; it was like staring into infinity. When I was a little older, I’d crawl out onto the roof through my brothers’ bedroom window to watch the night sky fill with stars.

Today it’s harder to find an area dark enough to really see the stars in the night sky. There is so much polluting artificial light that deprives us of that intimate relationship with the nighttime sky. I worry that my children, instead of wishing on a star, will just wish they could see a star. How sad this makes me. The night sky and stars have always been such a powerful source of inspiration, reflection, discovery, and jaw-dropping wonder. What will be lost to us without this celestial muse?

I'm not a very talented stargazer, but I can locate a few constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, the North Star—what WD Wetherell calls a celestial lighthouse set in an immense and lonely sea. I can find the great winter hunter, Orion, by looking for his belt. But mostly, I just like to lose myself in the inconceivable dimension overhead. Just a few hours ago, I was standing in my driveway in the dark during a brief clearing between storms, gazing up at the stars. And this morning, awe and inspiration linger, filling my heart, left over from last night. There is hope.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Big Lake

There is such beauty in this area along The Big Lake. It calls you outside—in the summer to the beaches, piers, walking/bike paths, and in the winter to skiing, sledding, skating, and the impossible brightness of the sun on the snow. I maintain that you don't have to enjoy winter to appreciate the fresh and wonderful things nature does here when it gets cold and all the tourists go home.

There is deep, new snow everywhere. Lake Michigan is a formidable snow machine for our small town. In fact, with over 65 inches of snow in this month of December alone, it's getting to the point of needing Old Testament terms to describe it! The snow is calling me now, waiting for me, so I'm heading outside into my world remade white.

Snow in the Air

Snow in the air
long before the first flakes
started their long fall
from the heavens.
Snow in the feel, the smell,
the texture of the air,
feeling the falling barometer,
the shift in the weather.
Falling lightly at first, while
I stood at the sink,
mesmerized, watching
their dance downward…

…Accumulating white,
flake by flake
on the ground, the cars,
still quiet snow, light and airy
a film of white, cell by cell
cleaning the world
in white.

---Raymond A. Foss

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Miss Rumphius


You passed along here, perchance, a fortnight ago, and the hillside was comparatively barren, but now you come and these glorious redeemers appear to have flashed out here all at once. Who planted the seeds of lupines in the barren soil? Who watereth the lupines in the fields? ---Thoreau

I was inspired by Sizzie's blog post this morning about making a difference in the world. It reminded me of a beautiful book I read to my children when they were young, Miss Rumphius. As a girl, Alice Rumphius shares with her grandfather her hopes and dreams. He tells her there is something else she must do: “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” Alice does not know what that could be, but as the story unfolds she has a wonderful idea that involves planting lupine seeds.

Whether small acts of kindness, a personal project, or being part of a larger, coordinated effort of community or civic volunteering, we should never underestimate the small differences we can make. Over time these can add up to big differences of lasting impact. And it all begins with a giving attitude in our daily lives. It's a wonderful lesson for all of us. I wanted my children not only to learn, but to see in action, the truth that a life without cause is a life without effect.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tag! You're It!

My friend, Sydney, tagged me yesterday. I have to list five things I do to stay mentally healthy. This is something I’ve been working on lately, so the timing was great for this exercise. Here goes…

Journal Writing—I write longhand three pages in my notebook every morning. This is my brain drain. It empties my head of all the drama and petty, inconsequential stuff that can latch on like Velcro. Very often, seeds from this “compost pile” of writing will take root and you’ll see the result in my blog posts. For me, writing rights things.

Walking—I’m a solitary walker. It’s only one of several forms of exercise I do regularly, but it’s the one I like the most, and also the one I don’t think of as exercise. That’s not why I walk. I walk to experience silence and solitude, to reorder my thoughts and emotions, to recharge, to feel my connection to a much bigger picture, to immerse myself in nature, to regain my perspective.

Volunteering—This, perhaps more than anything else, helps me stay mentally sound. We all know there is more happiness in giving than in receiving, and this is something that consistently takes the focus off me, which ironically enough, helps improve my focus in my life. I have several things that are very special to me, for which I’ve consistently volunteered my time for 20 years now. Sometimes I have 15 hours a month, and sometimes I can carve out 70 hours a month. Regardless, I get far more back than I give.

Reading—This is so much a part of my daily life that it feels a little lame mentioning it here, but I try to incorporate into my daily reading uplifting and positive subject matter. This includes autobiographies of people I admire, essays by naturalists, spiritual content. Filling my head with positive things right before bed helps me to sleep better. I’ve heard it said that you are the same person today that you’ll be in five years except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read. I try to choose this category of reading carefully.

My Appreciation Diet—I have been doing this exercise daily for about three years, and it has made a world of difference in my mental outlook. Every morning, I write down on paper five things I’m happy about and five things I’m grateful for. This is harder than it sounds, but the key is that it helps me to focus on the positive things in my life. At the end of each day, I write down five things I did well that day. This is the hardest one for me, but it forces me to lighten up on myself, to cut myself some slack, and to appreciate my strengths and successes.

If I’m not mentally healthy, it feels like I'm driving with my brakes on. So these are the five things that help keep my life running smoothly and in peace, not in pieces.

Imprint in the Sand

This post is a reprint from October. I'm cheating this morning with this so I can prepare a second post for later today.

Corban brought home a book from school that had intriguing designs in sand made by living creatures. This one caught my eye. I loved the simplicity and symmetry, and I wondered what could have left such a mark. Turning the page revealed the gruesome truth…a spider! There are few things I hate more than spiders. How could it be that a hairy and horrible creature left behind this magnificent impression in his dance across the sand? We can be sure it was incidental. He was probably just resting, unaware of the imprint he was making and what the sand would look like when he trekked on.

As I studied the picture, it occurred to me that we too leave our marks and impressions on our world. We may never know the impact we have had or the scope of our influence. But as I dance across the sands of my life, I am more mindful of the imprints I make. It may not be any more enduring than this arachnid’s mark in sand, but for that moment in time it’s my hope that someone looks at an imprint I left behind and sees the world as a more beautiful place.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow Play

With 14 inches of new snow on the ground from our last storm, guess what we're going to do today? That's right! We're going sledding! After yesterday's chore of digging out, today we're going to play in the sparkling, white snow. Is there anything more fun than experiencing sledding through the eyes of a seven-year-old?

Sledding

Cold and bright, winter light,
Bundle up with all your might;
Cheery faces, noses red,
Is it time to get the sled?
Down the slope, swooping low,
Watch out, people, down below!
Like a skier, like a bird,
Only swishing silence heard.
Many times we sled the hill,
Many a whoop and many a spill…

…Winter wonders, sweet delights,
Snowy days and frost-filled nights;
Memories are made of this,
Childhood times of snowy bliss.

---Joanna M. Phillips
Sled on Snow, Ivanova Maria

Friday, December 19, 2008

Whatcha Reading?


Today is a snow day, so we're in for the duration of the storm. My very favorite thing to do on snow days is to read. I have a stack of books at hand... I'll be finishing A Passage to India today. Whatcha reading?


Please pop in and let me know what you're reading!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Art of Walking

Winter Silence, Leonid Afremov

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering. —Thoreau

It struck me when reading Thoreau recently that most of the naturalists and great nature poets were also great walkers, that walking was, in fact, part of their creative path, pivotal to their writing. Thoreau, Frost, Roethke, Emerson, Coleridge, Wordsworth—all prodigious walkers. Whether searching for meaning in life, exploring the relationship between man and nature, or as a compositional device, walking had a central role in their lives. I suppose that really doesn’t surprise me. To walk in a place over time is to know it, and yourself, intimately.

I’m a solitary walker; I like to walk alone, and there are some days when any excuse will do for a good walk. We all know that walking is good for us. It’s been said that for every mile we walk, we extend our life by 21 minutes. Walking grounds me. It is physically and mentally refreshing. I explore my feelings, clear my head, review my priorities, order my day, and settle my thoughts. Just think—all these benefits can be ours, free, when we walk. I know people who pay good money for that kind of therapy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Open Sesame!

In our local library, a child can have his own library card when he can write his name. Corban has had his card for almost three years now. When he got it I explained to him that the little green and white plastic card was a ticket to anywhere and everywhere, and that there were unlimited worlds to visit and explore. It’s an astonishing privilege, being able to borrow books to take you anywhere you want to go.

We’ve progressed from picture books to chapter books to, now, periodicals and non-fiction. Books open doors, whole new worlds. Where have we gone? We’ve traveled to Egypt to see the pyramids; we’ve traveled across the ocean in a giant hollow peach; we’ve traveled to the Old West with Omri, an Indian named Little Bear and a cowboy named Boone; we’ve lived a whole winter with Sam Gribley and a Falcon named Frightful in a hollow tree; we’ve been to the moon in Jack and Annie’s magic tree house, and we’ve hunted the woods of the Ozark Mountains with Billy and his coonhound pups. What an awesome treasure there for the taking! But I have to go now… Corban is calling me; we’re leaving for Antarctica in five minutes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

White Lion

Winter came in like a lion this year. Our magnolia tree loves to reach out and collect the snow on its open palms. It’s put me in mind of Robert Frost.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know,
His house is in the village though.
He will not see me stopping here,
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer,
To stop without a farmhouse near,
Between the woods and frozen lake,
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake,
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep,
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

--Robert Frost

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cat's Cradle

The string game of Cat’s Cradle has always intrigued me. An astonishing number and variety of unrelated cultures play this intricate game of manipulating string or yarn between the fingers of two people. It takes precision, concentration and dexterity to pull it off. One miscalculation and the entire thing collapses into a heap of tangles and knots.

I'd like to think I can run my days and my life like a well-oiled machine, but I daily feel this tangle of invisible threads: household chores, school commitments, errands, obligations and work. Accomplishing all of these things sometimes leaves me feeling as though I’ve pulled off a complicated string trick. Sometimes I miscalculate or order my day improperly, and it feels like I’m left with an unproductive mess.

There is solace in knowing that I’m more than the sum of my errands and commitments. My success as a mom, for instance, doesn’t depend on keeping all the strings straight and ordered all the time. I don’t have to do it perfectly each and every time. Sometimes, by choice or by happenstance, my “cat’s cradle” falls into a hopeless jumble of knots. Dinner didn’t get started because Corban and I got lost together in a read-aloud book about mice riding motorcycles (we’ll order pizza). Or, the grocery shopping didn’t get done on a school snow day, but we made snowmen and forts in the snow. Or, laundry didn’t get folded, but we built a Mars space station out of Lego blocks.

These unplanned diversions pay their dividends in the form of closeness and spontaneous fun. These are the things that matter. These are where memories are made. And these are what remind me that my life is perfect, even when it’s “knot.”

Sunday, December 14, 2008

All Things Nancy

Of all the books I read when I was young, my favorites were the Nancy Drew mysteries. Even today, when I see or hear something related to Nancy Drew, I feel a spontaneous flush of pleasure that instantly transports me back. In her roadster with chums Bess and George, Nancy roamed near and far of River Heights, solving mysteries and outsmarting the bad guys. I read Trixie Belden and Cherry Ames as well, so why was this particular series so favored? It's hard to say for sure. Without a doubt, Nancy is a strong female role model: feminine and courageous, determined and confident, independent with a tremendous sense of responsibility.

Today, these books have distinctive yellow spines, but my original collection was of the older blue--what I call denim--bindings. No matter the color, I had a preoccupation with all things Nancy, the girl sleuth who transformed a series of mysteries into a cultural icon and became the most popular girls’ book series in publishing history.

I recently read some information about the woman who wrote many of these books under the nom de plume Carolyn Keene. Mildred Wirt was a ghostwriter who wrote 23 Nancy Drew mysteries on an Underwood typewriter in her Cleveland kitchen for $100 a book (Yikes!) over a 23-year period. First debuting almost 80 years ago, hundreds of millions of books have been sold. Mildred died six years ago at 96. As her curtain came down, I wonder if she realized her part in shaping the reading appetites of more than one generation of girls the world over. I’m sure I was not the only one to cut my literary teeth on these stories, which proved to be a real milestone for me. These books, more than any other, became the corner I turned from being just a kid who liked to read to something very different and much more. I began to build my literary canon with Nancy Drew. I put my eyes to the page 38 years ago and still haven’t looked up.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Just Desserts

Who doesn’t love ice cream? It became one of my major food groups while visiting Aunt Marge and Uncle Erv in Ann Arbor over a few summer vacations from school. A Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop a few blocks away became a sort of summer school, an education of the cold and creamy kind, in my youth. Cousin Debbie, Lisa and I biked there often, sometimes more than once a day. Chocolate Mint Chip, Blue Moon, Chocolate Cherry, Daiquiri Ice…we tried them all. Thus began a lifelong love affair with ice cream.

Ice cream, good at any time of the year, takes on special properties in the summer, especially when served in a cone. It’s a happy food; it’s also a comfort food. There is nothing I’ve found that an ice cream cone can’t fix or make better. It’s especially effective as stress therapy. Is it any coincidence that ‘stressed’ spelled backwards is ‘desserts’? I don’t think so!

Is there an ice cream gene that predisposes one to enjoy it immensely? Is it hardwired into our brains at birth or first exposure? Is it in our blood? It should be apparent from this picture that I’ve passed whatever it is on to my children. Poor things.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Shall We Dance?

Lindsey called from college yesterday to share some exciting news. USA Today called Marymount University, the only accredited fashion design program in the Washington, DC area, asking them to submit designs for Michelle Obama's inauguration gown. The illustration professor at Marymount called a handful of students to participate, and Lindsey was one of them! The submitted designs will be featured in USA Today, and one will be chosen as the First Lady's gown. Now that's what I call some portfolio muscle! I'll be posting Lindsey's design here when she sends it to me. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Repose

Repose, Dan Foster

I received this card a few years ago in December from an old friend in lieu of a holiday greeting. I loved the image so much that I kept the card, and today I post it as a reminder to myself and to my children...

Our world loads us down with more problems and information than we can hold. Our distractions abound. Our lives are full of demands, commitments, obligations and responsibilities. In addition, there are endless opportunities, as well as worries about the future. These things can submerge us. In our confused, busy and sometimes scary world, we can learn a lesson from nature—the importance of repose. Ovid recognized this; he said, “Take repose; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” My antidote to overwhelm is to take a walk, breathe quietly, be still inside, and see the peace and beauty in nature. It's immediately apparent that as we struggle to make sense of things, life looks on in repose. What does this teach us? To make sure of the more important things. To give more than we get. To appreciate the gift of today and the promise of tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Oh, Nertz!"

I was looking at this picture of my Grandma Kay this morning and found myself caught in a net of reminiscence. She died nine years ago this month. There is so much I miss about her. She smelled of Noxema and the Faberge perfume she loved so much. I remember her collection of S&H Green Stamps, the ever-present Kleenex up her sleeve, her wacky chicken dance, the raw onion and liverwurst sandwiches, her pickled beets, and her macaroni and cheese, which we still can't duplicate. I remember sitting with Patrick and Lisa at the kitchen table with our coloring books while Nana made homemade oatmeal at the stove. She taught us a new language, born in the generation that shaped her: suitcases were grips, apartments were flats, K-Mart was the dime-store, and “Oh, nertz!” was the closest she came to swearing while I was growing up.

Basic, full of substance and nothing fancy, Nana was a creature of habit. I can't begin to count the mornings I woke to hear her moving about the house; her location in the kitchen betrayed by the clinking sounds made by her spoon on the inside of her mug at breakfast, always tea with milk and toast with apricot preserves. What I would give to hear that sound now. A huge believer in fairness and equity, Nana faithfully watched both Judge Wapner and Judge Judy, always ready to dispense their words of wisdom as she thought they applied to us.

This picture is somewhat of an anomaly. Nana hated the camera. So to see her mugging for it in this way is a real surprise. It also says something about what Patrick was always able to pull out of her. Whatever it was, Erma Bombeck was able to do it too, so I thought it fitting to close this tribute to Nana with an Erma Bombeck quote that could have been written just for her: When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.” You did, Nana, and we'll never forget you.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bunnicula

I’ve always been a voracious reader, and it was important to me to pass along a love of reading and books to my children. When Lindsey was born, I learned a lot about how to do that from a man named Jim Trelease, who wrote The Read Aloud Handbook. Jim’s never steered me wrong. One of the stories he recommended as a read-aloud was the James Howe book, Bunnicula, about a vampire bunny that comes home with the Monroe family on a stormy night. The tale that unfolds centers not on the family’s, but their pets’ reaction to and adventures with Bunnicula. Chester and Harold are absolutely unforgettable.


I’ve read this book to Lindsey, Ethan and, now, Corban. In my perfect world, all kids would know this story by first grade. It's a classic and, along with other books, it resounds as a cadence of their childhood. I’m posting this today in fond memory of all the read-aloud time I shared with each of them, and knowing the picture of the white fruit will evoke a smile. There is such power in pretend, and the littlest people have the biggest imaginations. Feed them well.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Leftovers

Leftovers are a very personal thing, so I hesitate to mention them here except that they taught me a lesson recently. Everyone handles leftovers differently. There are those creative and courageous souls who, even while making dinner, are already thinking about what they can do with the leftovers the next day. I’d like to be clear, I am not one of those! Don’t get me wrong. I can’t stand to throw perfectly good food away, especially food I worked hard to prepare. Simply throwing uneaten food into the garbage isn’t an option.

My compromise is to spoon it into plastic food containers—if I can find the matching lids—and tuck it into the refrigerator. I do this to console myself (from guilt about starving children in China, I’m sure) because I know even while I’m storing the food that I will never, ever reheat it by choice. No matter how creative you get with it, it’s still reheated food. There are a few exceptions, of course. Chili, heavy winter soups, homemade spaghetti sauce fall into this category for me. But if given a choice, I don’t eat leftovers. Living in a snow belt in Michigan, leftovers in winter do tend to allay fear of being stranded for a day while snowed in. “In the worst of cases, we could always eat leftovers,” I think, which smacks of survival rather than real enjoyment.

These plastic food containers will stay stacked and sometimes labeled on the refrigerator shelves until they migrate their way all the way to the back, where they go through a mysterious process that turns them into what an old friend calls ‘meat cake’. Unidentifiable and smelly, the next step is feeding them to the garbage disposal. In the end, I’m still throwing away food, but at this stage it’s no longer good food so my conscience is soothed.

Although I know everyone won’t share my dismal view of leftovers, I think we can all agree that life would be a sad thing if they were all we had to eat and offer to others. I carry this metaphor to all areas of my life. How tragic to habitually live a life of leftovers. My lesson for my children here would be this: Never let what you do to earn a living leave you with nothing but leftovers to offer to the rest of your life (family, home responsibilities, hobbies, interests, community involvement, passions, dreams, friends…).

There are people who allow their jobs to so deplete them they adopt the attitude upon arriving home of, “I gave at the office.” Let’s face it; that’s no more attractive than ‘meat cake’, and surely smacks more of survival than life. We must do more than fill our present place to be truly happy, so I’ll call on Winston Churchill’s words to make my point: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” And that’s my prayer for you, Lindsey, Ethan and Corban. Give your best and be happy.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Buried in Our Hearts

Grieve not,
nor speak of me with tears,

But laugh and talk of me
as if I were beside you.
I loved you so…
It was Heaven here with you.
--Isla Paschal Richardson


Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Old Mom and the Sea

Mark the date on your calendars. It happened. Corban called me “old” today. At seven years old, he doesn't understand the manners aspect of this, the incorrectness, the loaded meaning, the implication. Why is that such a difficult thing to hear? Maybe it punctures my self-perception. What did he mean? Was he referring to my age? How I look? This gave me pause as I considered this new label from Corban. I poked hopefully at this word, "old," looking for something positive to soothe my self-image.

And this brings us to a book I finished reading a bit ago, “The Old Man and the Sea” (which I also thought would make a smashingly clever title for this blog post). Hemingway is not my favorite author, but stepping outside my typical literary fare recently, I reluctantly opened the book. Seriously, how interesting could a book about men fishing in Cuba be? It surprised me to find a deeper message that touches us all. It's really a story about a man who travels far away to find what he thinks he needs, and then comes home to find that what he wants is right there.

Maybe part of getting “old” is recognizing that life isn't about having what you want, but wanting what you have. Or, maybe being "old" hints at those things of comfort we surround ourselves with and keep coming back to. Thus, I choose to believe that when my youngest son calls me “old,” it has less to do with age than it does with wisdom and with precious and treasured comfort and familiarity. Thank you, Corban. What a gracious compliment from a seven-year-old. I, too, have come home today and found right where I want to be.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tempus Fugit

I love the Autumn. I love it when we turn the clocks back and create a 25-hour
day once a year. There is something exciting and preparatory about this for me, as if we're battening down the hatches for a long winter, dark early and late.

This year, though, life is different here. This year, Ethan has his driver's license and a pickup truck. He also has wanderlust, a need to be mobile. Just a little while ago there was nobody he would rather spend time with than me. What happened? How could he be old enough to drive away from me already? He spends some weekends with us. During those times, we set the clock to family time and enjoy some idle hours in our mad dash to do nothing but be together. I value every minute, knowing painfully well how easily we can miss the things that matter most in life while time flies.

At 16 years old, he has lots of friends and lots of commitments. He's constantly connected by means of his cell phone, so when a better offer comes along (inescapable), off he goes. I kiss and hug him when he leaves, grateful for the too-brief visit. I tell him to be careful and wave goodbye. I can't ask more of him. He's already given me more than I could ever ask for.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Grounds for Change

I’ve been distracted for the last two weeks, which explains my absence from this blog. Because of some natural supplements I'm taking for 30 days, I'm off caffeine and coffee for the duration. Now, you could say I’m a serious coffee drinker. I love the taste. I love the smell. Ah, it’s like freshly ground heaven. This is no recreational pleasure; it's a medical necessity at this point. I just love living life at a full gallop. Amazon’s head honcho, Jeff Bezos, was heard uttering my motto: You haven't had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it's running.

Currently, I'm two weeks into the protocol. My coffee hiatus is self-imposed, but this is much harder than I imagined. For example, I’ve actually had caffeine withdrawal symptoms: edginess, headaches, shakes, inability to concentrate. And I’m still not adjusting well. I never believed I had a problem with caffeine; in fact, it appears I now have a problem without caffeine! Mornings are especially difficult, like right now… I could kill for some coffee. No, really, try me!

Decaf? I don’t like it. I’ve tried it, but honestly, decaf coffee isn’t really coffee. I’ve also tried decaffeinated teas and, although I can drink them, they’re not coffee. A good cup of coffee... now that’s my cup of tea. When I get done with this 30-day protocol, I'm going to make myself a cup of coffee. It’ll be so strong it'll wake up the neighbors! Mmmmm.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quid Pro Quo

Corban lost his two front teeth this last week. They’ve been loose for a month or so but have taken their time falling out, as if they knew the spaces left behind would forever change the appearance of the baby of the family. I’m grateful for that because Corban is the last of three, and I’m in no hurry for him to rush through the stages that will lead him up and away from me.

When his teeth came out within hours of each other, Corban was disturbed by the space left behind. He didn’t think it looked right, and he knew it didn’t feel right: strange, slippery, smooth and empty. And there was that tiny bud of white poking through, a new tooth, waiting to grow into the space left behind. There are no choices to be made here; this is a natural process that all of us pass through, but it’s a miraculous one to ponder.

Sometimes life does that to us too, leaving behind, through no choice of our own, empty space, unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Things change and we are left dealing with a new landscape—physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, socially, spiritually—that doesn’t look or feel right. After all, who is not just a little afraid, just at first, of pure space, the breathtaking, empty and unfamiliar space of unlimited possibility and opportunity?

Unlike losing a tooth to make way for a new one, we often do have a choice about what will fill that space in our lives. We can choose to make way for something new, which sometimes means we have to be willing to let go of something old. But it’s all about what we can get when we give something up… quid pro quo.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dirty Laundry

I have the privilege of working from home, which means that daily chores are squeezed into unspectacular and ordinary moments between batches of my transcription and editing. I was laid low by the flu this week and found my house, after three days of doing almost nothing, a mess. Feeling like I can rejoin the living today, I began by addressing the most pressing and dreaded of my household chores... the laundry.

Of all my household jobs, I hate laundry the most. I hate the big baskets of dirty clothes that seem to breed in the upstairs hall. I hate that all the clothing is inside out because that's the way it’s been taken off. I hate having to extract socks from pant legs. I hate sorting darks from whites, and I hate transferring heavy, wet clothes from the washer to the dryer. I hate folding clothes—especially those horrible fitted bed sheets—and I hate matching socks. I put the clothes away just to see them back in the laundry basket within a few days.

This humblest of chores ranks right up there with cleaning the toilet (and walls and floor) after a first-grade boy has used it. I do these things without complaining, understanding that the chores which fill my ordinary moments are necessary to the smooth functioning of our household. Watching Corban, however, I realize this all may be a matter of perspective. After all, when he encounters laundry implements—the dryer, clothes baskets, clothespins—surely he doesn’t see the drudgery. In the eyes of an adventurous and imaginative child, there are no ordinary moments.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Our Glue

It starts with an attitude, I think. It’s about enjoying the present, the way children do. It’s about getting silly and enthusiastic about little things. It’s recognizing the power of laughing and the art of play. I learned this from my mother, and fondly recall the long-running Don Ho jokes. It’s what I’m trying to pass on to my children. Because they are eight years apart in age, I’ve been able to enjoy this for many years. Where my children are gathered, there is a real chance of laughter and fun breaking loose. Whether we’re singing into celery microphones in the produce aisle of the grocery store, dancing the Family Fan Dance, or throwing popcorn up in the air to see who can catch the most in his mouth, laughter has really been a glue helping us stick together and stay close.

What better feeling is there than to have laughed so hard you’re crying and your stomach muscles hurt? It’s even more remarkable during those teenaged years when they're more self-conscious, reserved and don’t want to draw attention to themselves. Even during these times, I’ve been able to be silly and have fun with them, like in this picture. Grandma Diane’s house is always good for goofy props, and something just happens when you put a silly hat on. I guess that’s what’s meant by a laugh being a smile that explodes.

I used to take the lead in all this silliness, but children don’t need to be taught how to laugh. Now I follow their lead, and they’ve taught me how to play. Over the years, as I've been working hard to teach them all about life, they’ve been teaching me what life is all about.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Spot On the Couch

For more than 30 years, on any given Saturday afternoon in the Fall, you could find me in front of a television watching my beloved Michigan Wolverines beat the stuffing out of their gridiron opponents. I understood the main idea of football from a young age: move the ball down the field and somehow get it over the line at the other end. To accomplish this, each side is allowed to do things to the other that off the field would be illegal, which makes this more of a collision than a contact sport.

I’m not a sports nut in general. For example, I don’t care at all for basketball, with the intolerable squeaky-shoe sounds made on the court floor by men playing in what looks like their underwear. It’s all about these colorful teams of young men outside in the autumn with an unlikely shaped ball playing not just for points, but for school pride. I’ll watch any NCAA team play football (except Notre Dame!), but the Big Ten is my preferred conference, and the maize-and-blue is the team in my heart. Until this season…

With a new coach and a new strategy, my fierce Wolverines have had a losing season; their first in 41 years, making this something I’ve never had to deal with before. It’s become so painful that I cannot watch the games anymore; it somehow blunts the pain and disappointment to read about the lost game after the fact. The hardest part about this is that I suffer alone in my family. Lindsey and Ethan are both Spartans, and David’s football loyalty is to the Indianapolis Colts, those professional athletes who have to be paid to play. Bah!

The side benefit of this losing season is that it has freed up Saturday afternoons for me. I’ve filled this time with other things—writing or reading, hanging out with my family, watching DVDs of the grand days of football under Bo—but there’s nothing more satisfying than calling fellow Wolverine aficionados to commiserate and talk about the good old days. I remind myself that the University of Michigan still has the winningest program in football history, and I dream of returning to my spot on the couch on Saturday afternoons next September.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My New Leaf

It must be the current of change I feel in life this time of year when the leaves fall that reminds me to switch out my closets. In our old house with tiny bedroom closets, this involves pulling my cold-weather clothes out of storage and packing warm-weather clothes away. I notice that I’ve hung on to things I no longer wear and that don’t fit. Why do I do that, moving unused stuff back and forth? And it’s not just the clothes; it’s easy to accumulate clutter everywhere. So after my closet is changed out, I use this clearing-out feeling to get rid of all sorts of unused stuff that has found its way into our house.

Where did all this stuff come from? How did this junk get here? It’s like so much flotsam and jetsam that washes up in the tide of my life onto my beach, my house. It lies around, and then is replaced with more stuff when the next tide comes in. At one point, these things had value, a purpose, a function. Then something changed. No longer cherished or useful, they lost their place in my daily life—replaced, discarded or forgotten—and have been tucked away instead of thrown away. I commit to clearing out this accumulated junk, which once had purpose, in order to make space for the new.

I wish it were as easy to do this with the emotional stuff I cart through life, like baggage full of useless, outdated and outgrown things I no longer use or need but refuse to part with. As familiar, and therefore comfortable, as they are—and as uncomfortable as it feels to shed them—this emotional stuff becomes clutter that congests my inner landscape. Like my wardrobe change-out, I’m going to take some time each Autumn to review accumulated emotional defaults to see what’s working, what ‘fits’, what can be discarded and what needs to be replaced in order to make way for the new. Because this, too, is my junk, which once had purpose...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Chapter Two

Back in October, I wrote about the antics of Ethan and his friends at the Muskegon Lumberjack hockey games. Some of you will have seen this before, as I sent it out in an email a week or so ago. Since I've been asked for an update from more than a few, I thought I would post the original email to bring everybody up to speed. Here it is:

For those of you who know about the masked men masquerading as Lumberjacks from my blog, this is chapter two of their saga. Their initial goal was to get season tickets to the hockey games and their picture in the newspaper. With four games under their collective woodsmen belt, they've achieved both. They next set their sights on local network TV and being invited onto the ice during intermission. Imagine their surprise when the VP of Muskegon Lumberjacks approached the boys at the last game to ask for a meeting with them to discuss mutuallly beneficial future promotional ideas. On the table are including them in the TV commercials promoting the hockey team and incorporating their images into promotional pieces like posters announcing upcoming games, for which they'll be paid! I'll keep you posted as the boys get agents to manage their exploding careers as hairy mascots!

In the meantime, they've become local celebrities of a sort. People are asking for their autographs, swarming them at games wanting photos taken with them, and making in-game personal requests of them to sing songs to other fans present. I've been asked to attend their next home game. Ethan has promised to make it memorable for me. I have no idea what that means, but I have a week to get ready! I'll keep you all posted!

Since that email, the boys have been invited out onto the ice for the intermission game of Chuck-a-Puck, and the Lumberjack gift shop is now selling their beards to the team's faithful following. They have even been featured in a 30-second Lumberjack promotional spot on You Tube. Here's the link, if you want to take a peek! Muskegon Lumberjack Promo Spot

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wilma and Betty

I had to laugh recently when I heard someone say that the cartoon “The Flintstones” was really promoting Marxism, and that there were ideological messages about the individual’s place in society hidden within the cartoon. That sure wasn’t the message I got from watching “The Flintstones,” a staple in my Saturday morning lineup of cartoons while growing up.

I watched as Fred and Wilma and their neighbors, Barney and Betty, dealt with stone-age suburban problems, work issues, difficult bosses, friendships, crises, out-of-control pets and children, and their primitive versions of modern conveniences. They got caught up in the same things we do today: fads and crazes, celebrity idolization, dreaming of the ‘good life’. They struggled through mistakes and misunderstandings, bad decisions and anger. They laughed and cried, fought and made up with one another, always learning important lessons about life and relationships along the way.

But it was Wilma and Betty I admired most. They were the level-headed ones. They were strong female voices of reason. They served to check and balance the harebrained schemes Barney and Fred dreamt up. Most of all, they were best friends for more than 30 years. My very favorite Flintstone episode was when Wilma and Betty took Judo lessons to protect themselves from a neighborhood prowler. I loved their practical responses to things (most of the time!) and their mutual support. I still think they’re great role models for girls, teaching us the importance and endurance of friendship. It takes a long time to grow an old friend, and every minute is worth it. Yabba-Dabba Do, Lindsey and Maria!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No Book Left Behind

The summer before third grade, my mother gave me a gift beyond imagining: a set of Nancy Drew mysteries. I loved reading before then, but that gift started me on my path as a lifelong reader. Reading is my life. I can’t imagine not having books around me. They give my life weight and continuity; they are an escape and a comfort and a joy; they are my way of life. Books are, in fact, my drug of choice. They are also my predominant and preferred d├ęcor; I’ve always believed that decorating is mostly about having enough bookshelves.

I read a wonderful quote once: A house without books is like a room without windows. This is a fundamental truth in my life, one I want to pass on to Lindsey, Ethan and Corban. I want my love of books and reading to light me like a lamp for my children to see by. It starts with my attitude toward reading; it’s about contagious enthusiasm. Is there any greater gift to give a child than the magic of books? I’ve read aloud to all three of the kids. In fact, Corban and I just finished “Where the Red Fern Grows.” This is my third time through this book as a read-aloud, and I’m never quite steeled for the ending. But even with my breaking down in the telling, it becomes a story none of them will ever forget.

Thanks to Jim Trelease, we know reading to our kids can awaken sleeping imaginations and increase language skills. We know it can improve listening comprehension and reverse the horrible epidemic of our children going blind in their minds’ eyes. But this is not about showing our children how to read; it’s about teaching them to want to read. It’s about passing on the joy. It’s this joy that takes me often to the used-book room of our beautiful and small local library. For 25 cents you can buy a paperback, and for 50 cents a hardcover. I could borrow the books for free, but there is something satisfying about holding and reading a book that’s my own… For such a small cost, I can buy myself the gift of abundance. Even better, I can share that gift with my children.

Friday, November 7, 2008

My Symphony

I was 17 years old when I first read Leo Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilych,” a story about a judge in Russia who despised his job and his wife. He trudged through his whole life angry because he wasn’t fulfilling his dreams and passions. On his deathbed his last words to his wife were, “What if my whole life has been wrong?” As a teenager, that was a new thought for me. But as an adult and mother, it’s even more profound because its implication stretches to include my children.

I’ve always believed that each one of us has music to play in our life. Some of us know early on what that music is; others figure it out later. But to die with our music still in us, unplayed, is tragic. I want to play my music in my life, and I want to teach my children how important it is to find and play their own music. Lindsey, Ethan and Corban each have their own interests, hopes, desires, passions, abilities and gifts. As their mom, I have the privilege of listening to each of them at different times and encouraging them. How I love that! Each has a unique melody, beautiful in its own right. But when all three play at once and together, I hear a symphony!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Just For Me

I have a friend who manages a health club, and a few months ago she encouraged me to join. I’d been lamenting about how physically weak I’d grown since my back injury and subsequent surgery, but I resisted her. It hurt to get out of bed in the morning; how in the world was I going to lift weights and such? Nevertheless, I signed up and made a commitment to work out at the club for 30 minutes a day five days a week. I felt great the first day. The second day I hurt all over! By the fifth day, I wondered why I hadn’t done this sooner.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t the sore muscles and how I look in spandex right now that discouraged me from committing to this. I truly believe you can’t look good and get better at the same time. Surprisingly, signing up at a health club felt selfish. It felt selfish to carve out 30 minutes a day just for me, just to get stronger. And seeing my bank account automatically debited a fee at the beginning of each month also makes me feel selfish. I could be contributing that money toward a new car for David, for goodness' sake! It’s as though I’m lavishing time and money on myself for no other reason than to want to feel better, more fit. Is that a good enough reason?

I’ve been at it for two full months now. As the weather gets colder, I’ve noticed it’s getting harder to leave the house to work out. Some days I have to fight the temptation to stay at home and curl up with a book and big bowl of popcorn. The fact that I am feeling stronger is good motivation, but sometimes even the laundry and scrubbing the tub sound better than exercising. I had no idea my selfishness would take such self-discipline!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Marathon Man

When I think of marathons, I usually think of races, but I was reminded recently that people also walk marathons. Within a few years of some major health issues, Dad began and finished the Duke City Marathon in Albuquerque, walking 5K, no small feat. Having been plagued by a nagging back problem myself, I know personally how easy it can be to find ready, easy excuses for not extending ourselves to find new limits, so I found this commitment on his part very impressive.

The dictionary defines ‘marathon’ as a noun meaning any long and arduous undertaking. I like the comparison of a marathon to life, which is also a long and arduous undertaking! I also like the distinction between how we experience our marathons, by walking or by running. I’ve learned we don’t need to live life at a dead-run, as though we have to finish fastest and first to succeed in life. When we choose to run through life pell-mell, so much is missed, so much is a blur, and in our rush we pass too much by because our focus is down the road.

On the other hand, when you walk there is time for noticing the surroundings, for good conversations, for meaningful contact with others, for holding hands. Not only does the pace allow time to speak but, more importantly, it allows time to listen. We all know walking is good for our health, but it’s good for our spirit, too. In the marathon of my life, my dad’s shown me there is grace and dignity in, not dashing, but walking through life. This slower steady pace requires the same commitment. And those who care the most about us know the sacrifice and cost for us to cross the finish line… and are proud.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lifesavers

“You have to wear a life preserver if you play around the pool,” we told Corban. We had to smile at his uncharacteristic caution when he loaded on four of them. It was a game to him, but there was certainly no harm in it. If you can’t swim, you can’t have too many life preservers!

I was able to swim well by the time I reached the third grade, but there are still times I wear a life preserver for protection or precaution. Growing up on Lake Michigan, you learn quickly to have a healthy respect for the water. You have to watch for undertows, rip currents and waves, of course. When the conditions get dicey, it’s nice to be able to shuck into a life preserver, just in case.

Sometimes the waters of my life can get choppy. I am affected by world events, anxieties of life, physical limitations, stress fallout from personal decisions or reactions to others’ decisions. When they come rushing at me from out in left field and catch me off-guard, there are times I find myself unprepared and ill-equipped. I need a figurative life preserver to help me cope, to provide safety and security and enough buoyancy to ride it out.

What do I turn to when I’m feeling swamped and need a little buoyancy? Hmmm… Good books, good friends, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, popcorn, good coffee, prayer, my loyal cat. How nice that we can surround ourselves with things like this when we find ourselves in the midst of ‘rough seas’. And when I take off the life preserver, I’ll stop a minute to be grateful for and appreciative of those things that calm my waters or help me weather them. Well-defended against crisis, stress or the unexpected, we can’t have too many life preservers!

Friday, October 31, 2008

The World on My Back

On the first day of school, Corban’s backpack was stuffed with shiny and unopened supplies he’d need for the new school year. He had not only the functional things—pencils, markers, crayons, glue sticks, scissors (which he’d broken in by giving himself a haircut a couple of days earlier)—but a snack, a juice box, an extra pair of underwear, a card with his identification card about where he was from, as well as a card with his destination, where he was going. He even had a new Webkinz in his pack for show-and-tell. All of this was strapped to his back. When you’re six, these are the things that matter. When you’re six, this is your whole world. When you’re six, this is all you need.

I’d like to carry a backpack with me. It could hold my functional things, sure, but how much sweeter would life be with my favorite snack, a good book, a special treasure to show-and-tell my friends? And you never know when an extra pair of underwear will come in handy! With a well-stocked backpack, I’d be prepared for whatever life threw at me. There have been times I could have really used an identification card to remind me of who I am and where I’m from. If I got lost, someone could head me back in the right direction. Better yet, I’d like a card with information on it about my destination, where I am going, as a reminder to myself. In real life these things aren’t always so easily spelled out. Strapped into my backpack, I’d have my world on my back. My world on my back? In the end, I think I’d rather have my world in my arms, something I really only feel when I hug my children.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What It's Worth


Train tickets to Dodge City, Kansas… an arm and a leg.
Getting through Union Station in Chicago… tedious.
Chocolate cake in the dining car… $7.95.
Train ride across America with Corban… entertaining.
Spending a week with Dad after 32 years… priceless.




Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Owl Moon Sledding

There is something sacred about Owl Moon Sledding. You need a few things to come together just so. First and most importantly, you need a child of the appropriate age. Corban, at seven, is just such a child. Second, you need a full moon on a clear night. Snow, of course, is important, as is a good sledding hill. A sled or other slick-bottomed device to propel you at breakneck speed down a hill in the dark is the final component. All these ingredients combine to create magic.

Duncan’s Woods is our Owl Moon Sledding spot of choice. A bowl-shaped hill, the moon reflects off the snow with an almost impossible brightness. There is something still and dark and deep about the woods on an Owl Moon night. Sound is muffled, and there is a palpable sense of trespassing, intruding without an invitation. It’s as though the woods has imposed a curfew at dusk, which you’ve dared to break.

All the pieces don’t often come together just right, which is what makes the night so special. Its rarity gives it significance. But where does the magic come from? Do we create it simply by being there? Are we only allowed to witness it, like some visitor who after a few minutes is gently urged on his way? Are we a part of the magic, a catalyst? We inhabit a magical and mysterious realm for an hour or so, until small cold noses drive us back indoors.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chopsticks

While in Denver visiting Lisa a couple of years ago, we took Corban to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. A four-year-old with an enthusiastic bent for novelty and challenge, Corban was determined to eat his food with chopsticks. Chopsticks can be a dangerous implement in the hands of small child, and the menu had a long list of chopstick etiquette trivia. Corban, oblivious to all those printed rules, cheerfully broke every one! This shows, of course, what happens to rules and etiquette when enthusiasm bubbles up.

It was almost painful (and occasionally dangerous) to watch Corban try to eat with his chopsticks. He worked on capturing one green pea for close to 15 minutes. Nothing if not determined, he stuck with it. My frustration for him evaporated when I realized he was having fun. As I watched him I saw that in the hands of a child, chopsticks blur the line between work and play. There is such magic in a child’s enthusiasm. This day it spelled the difference between merely eating and accomplishment!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Imprint in the Sand

Corban brought home a book from school that had intriguing designs in sand made by living creatures. This one caught my eye. I loved the simplicity and symmetry, and I wondered what could have left such a mark. Turning the page revealed the gruesome truth…a spider! There are few things I hate more than spiders. How could it be that a hairy and horrible creature left behind this magnificent impression in his dance across the sand? We can be sure it was incidental. He was probably just resting, unaware of the imprint he was making and what the sand would look like when he trekked on.

As I studied the picture, it occurred to me that we too leave our marks and impressions on our world. We may never know the impact we have had or the scope of our influence. But as I dance across the sands of my life, I am more mindful of the imprints I make. It may not be any more enduring than this arachnid’s mark in sand, but for that moment in time it’s my hope that someone looks at an imprint I left behind and sees the world as a more beautiful place.