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.