Monday, February 28, 2005

2/28/05 RM Newsletter: Love is a Verb

Today’s Quote: “We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (1 Corinthians 13:12-13 from THE MESSAGE)

Love reigns supreme. We know it. We feel it. And yet when we read the qualities of real love, we understand that they are impossible for our human nature to meet:
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. (I Corinthians 13: 4-7 THE MESSAGE)

We can’t keep our cool under pressure. Can’t put up with anything. Have you ever peeked inside your teenager’s bedroom and felt your blood pressure rise? Or examined your toddler’s toy messes only to feel an immediate wave of nausea? Grace and charm under pressure? Forgetaboutit! Good grief: my kids leave the kitchen a wreck and I practically go into orbit!

Can’t keep from wanting what we don’t have. I’ve wanted to remodel my kitchen ever since we purchased this house a year and half ago, yet I cannot afford to do so. I flip through kitchen decorating magazines, yearning for the time when I can create a room of beauty…secretly desiring what I do not have.

Don’t strut? Ever watched American Idol or The Apprentice? Quintessential strutting. Humility and meekness never even entered those equations.

We live in a culture that is anti-love. We’re told to watch out for #1. Go for the top—at all costs. Compete against our enemies—as well as our friends. We’re fair weather friends and distant relatives. Neighbors in crisis but unavailable otherwise.

Yet we know that love reigns supreme.

Why love? When we find it so impossible to love in our humanness. The King James Version of 1 Corinthians uses the word “charity” for love. Yet when we think of the common usage of the word, we think of giving to the poor. Almsgiving. Tsunami relief efforts. But that is not the meaning of the word in Greek. The Greek word is “agape.” Love for others that stems from a love for God. Love that is impossible to attain without first loving God. Charity without love for God puts too much emphasis on us. It focuses on how good we are. How generous. How thoughtful. Yet that is not the true meaning of this deepest form of love.

Agape love always seeks the highest good in others. It always looks for the best. Wherever. Whenever. In whomever.

It’s something that you do. It’s a verb. Love of humanity is a reflection of the love which we have for our Maker, and is manifested outwardly in positive, uplifting actions to others. Love is a verb. It means being kind to one another with acts of kindness. Tender-hearted with acts of tenderness. When others weep, weeping with them; when others rejoice, rejoicing with them.

Real love is not premeditated; rather, it is spontaneous. It literally burst out of us in extraordinary ways. Neighbors—as well as total strangers alike—have shown our family real love these past four months since Nick was diagnosed with leukemia. A veritable wellspring of love has erupted throughout Ridgefield, our tiny Connecticut town. Generous acts of mercy during this time of uncertainty have been expressed on a near-daily basis. Rather than people saying: “We’re thinking of you,” or even “We’re praying for you,”—both of which are appreciated very, very much—they’re acting on love. They’re bringing dinner after we’ve endured full days of chemotherapy in a town 90 miles away; they’re driving our children to tennis and violin lessons when I’m trapped in traffic on I-95; they’re sitting with Nick when he’s feeling too crummy to get out and about on his own. One family, the Davidson’s, even took our youngest son, Victor, on a week-long ski vacation during our winter break, as we were not able to leave because of Nick’s chemo schedule.

Extraordinary, extravagant love in action.

Love is a verb.

Oswald Chambers perhaps said it best in My Utmost for His Highest: “If human love does not carry a man beyond himself, it is not love. If love is always discreet, always wise, always sensible and calculating, never carried beyond itself, it is not love at all. It may be affection, it may be warmth of feeling, but it has not the true nature of love in it…There are times when it seems as if God watches to see if we will give Him the abandoned tokens of how genuinely we do love Him…We have to get rid of this notion "Am I of any use?" and make up our minds that we are not, and we maybe near the truth. It is never a question of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time.
There are dozens of people out there who desperately need your touch. Shut-ins who could use good cheer. Elderly folks in nursing homes, who never see a strange face, hear a song sung, or pat a fluffy dog. Moms who have suffered miscarriage who desperately need to hear that they will be okay with time. Neighbors who have just lost a parent who need a hot meal. Friends who are confined with the flu who need a pot of chicken-noodle soup.

I pray that you will feel moved to one extraordinary, extravagant act of love this week. Love is a verb. Go in love.

The Love Chapter/Love Psalm: 1 Cor 13 (from THE MESSAGE)
1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
2 If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing.
3 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

4 Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
5 Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
6 Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
7 Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

8 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. 9 We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. 10 But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
11 When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
12 We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

A Nick Note

Nick started another round of chemo on Wednesday. He took the two
days of therapy (Wednesday and Thursday) extremely well, only to
crash over the weekend. It's very powerful stuff. Please continue
to keep him in your prayers. He's received several cards and
handwritten letters this past week. What fabulous words of
encouragement...and love in action! Thank you!!!


A Quick Note

Today's my birthday and I'll be celebrating all day long. In
addition to celebrating with my family and friends up here, I
want to take this opportunity to tell you that I will be
celebrating our friendship, too. Thank you for being in my
world. You have encouraged me this past year, have helped me
to grow spiritually, and have walked in step with me during a
particularly tumultuous time. Words cannot express the
gratefulness I hold in my heart for your presence. Know that
I will be holding all of my readers deep within me--
especially today.

Monday, February 21, 2005

2/21/05 RM Newsletter: Childish Folly

Today’s Quote: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child….” Proverbs 22:15

I threw out my back this weekend. Whether it was on the tennis court or in the weight room, I'll never know. Regardless, it's been a miserable experience. Heating pads. Sofa time. More painand discomfort than I was ready to deal with.Yesterday, gathering impatience with too much HGTV (I think Icould now single-handedly renovate my bathrooms, excavate mykitchen, and re-decorate my son's bedroom on $100); too much news(it's all so depressing); and too much of "the art of doing nothing," I called out in near-desperation to my thirteen-year-old daughter: "Cristina. How much do you love me?""That depends," she shot back. "What do you want?" She knew the drill."Will you please make mommy a cup of coffee? Fill the water to the "3" line on the pot and measure two of those small scoopers inside the coffee canister into the unbleached filter." I have very precise measures for coffee; if I'm treating myself to the experience only once or twice a day, it's got to be just right. Icouldn't let it be blown because I had failed to give proper direction....

About ten minutes later, there was no sign of coffee. No percolating sounds, ringing like Pavlov's bell to my salivating spirit. No fabulous aromas, wafting towards my upwards-tilted nose. No evidence of that last loud noise of air and water mixing through the system signaling that the process has ended successfully.In too much pain to hoist myself off the sofa-but longing too much for that freshly-brewed perfect cup of Heine Brothers coffee-I gradually maneuvered myself towards the kitchen to checkout the situation. Cristina was out of earshot, as repeated attempts at getting her attention met with silence.I saw a very disappointing still-life: A coffee pot sat with water filled to the "3" mark on top of the coffee-maker burner. A quick flip of the filter proved that she had, indeed, filled an unbleached paper filter with coffee. And she had turned the switch to "on."At this point, I had to find my daughter. The conditions for an object lesson were too ripe. Screams from the bottom of our staircase finally made it to her bedroom, where she was particularly pre-occupied with make-up and hair. She bounced down the stairs into the kitchen, where I escorted her over to the coffee machine. "Cristina. Do you notice anything wrong with this picture?"She studied it a moment. "No, Mom. I did everything you asked me to do. I put the water to the "3" mark, measured two scoops of coffee into the filter and turned it to "on."I hovered over the coffee pot, waved my arms as best Icould-enduring back pain while at it-and said "Abracadabra. Turn this water into coffee." No response. "Abracadabra. Pleeeeeease turn this water into coffee." Cristina giggled."OK, Cristina. We don't believe in magic. We believe in prayer. Let's see if God will turn this water into coffee. Dear Lord...."And then she made me stop."But mom, I don't get it. I did everything you told me to do."It took me a minute-or two-to react with an appropriate response. I knew this poor child is not lacking in the brain department; I had her tested for Florida's gifted program-and she got in. I knew her hearing was good; she did listen attentively to my directions-and she did everything exactly as I had instructed. So how could this early-teen, who had seen me make coffee a hundred times in her lifetime, not get that in order for the water to convert into coffee it had to be poured into the machine. That water cannot jump from a pot into a filter. That ground coffee beans, no matter how special, organic, and handpicked with proper labor standards, could not cascade into the pot unless they had been in contact with steaming water! Had I failed as a mom?!?No. I just had a teenage girl with swirling hormones and a brain on space-drive. She was going to an out-of-town mall that afternoon with two of her best friends, and her excitement over the prospect of new clothes, new faces, and new shops simply crowded out brain space for anything as mundane as making a cup of coffee (for her bedridden mom).

Sometimes kids do the stupidest things. We look at them and scratch our heads and think "What in the world were they thinking?" And we know they've been taught and guided and parented well; they've been fed and bathed and have gotten enough sleep; they've been rocked and read to and attended to. And yet they still do the darndest things.We need to be constantly reminded-and our kids doing silly, stupid stuff on a fairly frequent basis will be reminder enough-that they are works in progress. That they have a long way to walk up the learning curve. That things that we take for granted as "common sense," "street smarts," or "having a good head on your shoulders" come in a variety of shapes and sizes. That we should never assume that a three-point plan will get the project to completion. Sometimes, you need that fourth point.

As you move about this whirling, swirling sphere of motherhood, try to remain patient with your young ones underfoot. Some are too hungry or too excited to listen. Two-year-olds have tantrums to get attention. Some are hormone-impaired. They break curfew, sneak out of the house, and assume that all movies playing at the theatre are just fine by you. Some have an "in one ear and out the other" modus operandi. They didn't hear it, didn't see it, didn't do it. "Not me" did it. (Does "Not me" live at your house like he does at mine?)

Be patient. Be calm. Keep parenting. Motherhood can be particularly discouraging. I've been discouraged a lot lately by my own kids failing to do the things they've been taught-over and over again-to do. Laundry lies on bedroom and bathroom floors rather than in the central hamper; dirty dishes stand stagnant on bedroom desks and basement tray tables rather than freshly cleaned in dish drainers; beds display crumpled sheets rather than ones properly tucked in. It's not like my kids don't know how to do this stuff. I've patiently-and repeatedly!!-taught them how to pick up what's dropped, clean what's dirty, and fix what's broken.But kids are still in development mode. And they will move forward one minute only to move backwards the next. And then they'll step sideways for a day before they sprint ahead for a week. I suspect we'll all find-one day-that they'll turn out just fine. Not necessarily because of our efforts in parenting. But in spite of them.

So move onward and upward. Stay the course. Parenting is not for cowards. Be in-your-face when you need to be. And relaxed when that's the right response.

Wishing you patience for the week ahead! Carolina

A Nick Note

Nick's counts were high enough last week to go to school but too low to start the next round of chemo as planned. So he had the week off. He was thrilled to get to school everyday and get up to speed with his workload there. Spending time in class with his friends was especially satisfying; being able to enjoy his normal routine always lifts his spirits. We were all thankful for the break, and used the opportunity to get caught up in all the things which have fallen behind around here. He starts the next round Wednesday. Please keep his endurance and stamina in your prayers, as well as his complete and total physical healing.

Monday, February 14, 2005

2/14/2005 RM Newsletter: Be My Valentine

Chocolate wrapped up with a big red bow? Hershey’s kisses by the bagful? Roses brought in by the dozen? Valentine’s Day gifts with free shipping popping up all over the internet and landing on your doorstep?

Yeah, yeah. Dark and rich. Lots of it. Red and white. We get it.

Don’t get me wrong. My eternally favorite Valentine’s gift is dark chocolate. As I’ve put myself on a dark-chocolate deprivation diet these past few weeks…and feeling pretty crummy because of it I might add…the presence of chocolate in my house these next few days will be a sight for sore eyes (and for my sore brain and heart, too. No one can argue: dark chocolate is fabulously emotionally therapeutic.) So I’m all for buying your sweetie dark chocolate for Valentine’s Day! And I’ll never turn down flowers of any kind, nor last-minute gifts bought on sale!

But let’s see if we can get a little more creative here. This holiday has existed since Pope Gelasius officially declared it a Christian holiday in 496 A.D. to honor St. Valentine, the patron saint of lovers. But let’s face it: whether it is celebrated with religious significance in your family or not, this holiday comes with certain expectations. Expressions of love may vary from family to family, but we all want to be treated to something sweet, something we might not do for ourselves, and something that reads: “I am thinking of you today my love. Relax. Enjoy it. You’re so worthy of my undying devotion and love.” Be it for the sole enjoyment of your spouse—or for your kids, parents, and friends as well—think about ways that show you are thinking of those you love on this most special of days.

Here goes: ROCKET MOM’S Top 14 Ways to Say “I Love You” on Valentine’s Day:

1) Bring food to your sweetie in bed. Strawberries or raspberries, along with a fresh pastry, French toast (or “freedom toast”), or scrambled eggs, served with piping hot tea or coffee, make for the perfect way to start the day. Ernie surprised me Saturday morning with a cup of Starbuck’s and a freshly baked croissant (I rarely eat bread or pastries so it was especially precious) as I was getting ready to hop into the shower. A wildly romantic way to start the morning (if you know what I mean…)
2) Buy your sweetie fabulous chocolates. Please don’t do the normal, everyday stuff that he or she eats all year long. Expand your “chocolate wardrobe.” Visit your favorite chocolatier or specialty food shop to buy exotic chocolate. And be sure to buy enough to last at least one day. If you’re a man, you probably won’t get this, but it reads: “Buy your sweetie some wonderful stuff by the case!” If you’re a woman, no instructions necessary. If you’re menopausal, I’m sure you’re already one step ahead of me.
3) Bring home at least one long-stemmed rose. Red, pink, and white all work. Rose re-spelled spells “EROS” after all. It’s a sign: roses are meant to be given on Valentine’s Day. No need to splurge on two dozen…unless you want to, of course. This holiday started out with humble intentions by a Catholic pope for crying out loud, and has become wildly commercialized. So don’t feel like you need to buy into all of that; go simple and humble if you prefer low-keying it. But do treat your sweetie to a flower or two.
4) Write handmade love poems. Not just for your honeybee, but for all of the tootsie rolls in your home, too. Place them in envelopes next to their beds, in a pretty china bowl in the dining room, or next to their backpacks. For the language-challenged, rest assured that two lines will do. Fall back on “roses are red and violets are blue” to get you started (if you must). And remember, poems don’t have to rhyme. Keep them simple but stylin’. Encourage older children to write poems for their siblings and for mom and dad, too!
5) Pull out your wedding photos and your wedding video. Re-live the memory of your wedding day. Listen once again to the vows you took. Delight in the way your spouse looked on that most special of days in the history of your family. Affirm to your mate that he or she looks even more beautiful today that on your wedding day.
6) Cook heart-shaped food. Be it pancakes or waffles, muffins or scones: bring out the heart-shaped cookie cutters, waffle irons, and baking sheets. This is the one day of the year to truly use them. Splurge on whipped cream, real butter, and pure maple syrup.
7) Leave love notes in your children’s lunchboxes. Make your own, using simple stationery, or just use index cards and stickers. Write one thing that you love about your child. Tucked safely in with his or her lunch, it’s a surefire way to let him know that your love is secure.
8) Make or buy simple gifts. Nothing extravagant. I bought Ernie some toiletries to complete the set he received at Christmas. A bottle of spearmint-scented body spray and another of bed linen spray are just enough to let him know I didn’t forget him on Valentine’s Day (of course there’s the shower thing…) My kids are each receiving tiny boxes of handmade truffles, along with one small gift, unique to each one of their interests.
9) Wrap simple gifts extravagantly. This is the time to use gorgeous wrapping papers and bows. And display them in full view. One of the best parts about Valentine’s Day is the element of mystery and suspense. The gifts I have bought will be seen by my family for a couple days—wrapped and in view on our dining room table—so that they have some time to wonder what lies underneath all of that hot pink wrap and big white bows.
10) Do something unexpected. Someone in your family may be wishing for some thing—large or small. It might seem trivial to us, but monumental to your toddler. Go ahead and surprise her! Valentine’s Day gives you a great excuse to express your love with a token gift of appreciation. And it doesn’t have to cost a dime, either. Maybe junior wants a play date in the park, just with you. Perhaps your wife has been bugging you to fix the kitchen sink or hang a picture in your foyer; your hubby may be nagging you to sew on a button. Simply organizing your husband’s sock drawer—or tool box—would be a wonderful gesture that reads: “I thought of you today!” Think of similar yet simple loving gestures for your kids: ironing a shirt or cleaning out a messy bathroom drawer shouts: “I love you.” And allowing your teenage daughter to spend thirty extra minutes on the phone today qualifies as an unexpected love gift that she’ll treasure for weeks!
11) Do dinner in. Few things could be easier to make than beef tenderloin, yet it is one of the most satisfying foods on the face of the earth. Encourage the kids to get to bed early, and plan on a thoroughly romantic candlelight dinner in the comfort of your own home. With music softly playing, china perfectly set, and sterling silver shining: the evening can be executed with relative ease, and is guaranteed to bring pleasure to both you and your spouse. The experience of dining—rather than eating—is one I am convicted to bring to my own family. It is physically, emotionally, and spiritually satisfying.
12) Do lunch out. Schedule a mid-day tryst with your spouse. You’ll save a lot of money by dining out at lunch instead of at dinner, and the infrequency with which you probably do this sort of thing will make it even more special. If your husband or wife works a great distance from your place of work or your workplace in the home, this may present some creative challenges. But see if you can sneak it in. Just for today.
13) Give massages. Total body work, back rubs, and foot massages are all perfect Valentine’s Day gifts for all of the members of your family. The gift of touch is a gift that every single person alive today needs…and needs much more than we think, and much more than any one of us probably gets. Be it extra hugs or warm rubs with massage oil (or even Ben-Gay!), commit to using your hands by giving the gift of physical touch on Valentine’s Day.
14) Show up naked. Can’t believe I wrote that. But after asking my husband to help me with this list, this was his sole, shining contribution. Truth be told, it was actually our old pastor, Mike Breaux, who implored us mothers to do just that. Not just on Valentine’s Day, but everyday. He went through a litany of things that men need to do to express romantic love to their wives, with only one thing wives need do to show romantic love for their husbands. And this was it. Funny: of all the sermon points my husband has memorized over these past twentysomething years, he chose this one. Whether this proves that men still do have a one-track mind…or that behind every rocket mom is a rocket man, I’m not quite sure. But I can attest to the fact that, if you’re too exhausted to do the other thirteen; too spent to even think about buying or creating, wrapping or shipping; and too broke to buy out, lunch out, or bake out, this is really all you need to do on Valentine’s Day. See for yourself.

I hope you enjoy a day of love and laughter with you and yours on Valentine’s Day!



Monday, February 07, 2005

2/07/05 RM Newsletter: Be There and Be Glad

Today's Quote: "It is impossible to live a pleasant life without
living wisely and well and justly, and it is impossible to live
wisely and well and justly without living pleasantly." Epicurus
(third century B.C.)

Some people have figured out how to thoroughly enjoy life.

It was evident last night when I was able to enjoy a concert by our local symphony orchestra. As my husband felt like he had just caught a touch of the flu, he told me at the eleventh hour that he needed to get to bed early and let me go it alone. My initial “ugh” at a Saturday date night sans my date (several last minute phone calls to friends offering our unused ticket led nowhere; our younger kids were too tired from playing in the snow all day to even think about it; Nick was neutropenic and was staying close to home) almost forced me to stay home, too. I had spent a couple hours earlier in the day disassembling Christmas decorations, but “life got in the way” and I was not able to complete that lovely little ritual (kids to be picked up; errands to be run; much-needed manicure to be enjoyed), so I had the perfect excuse to stay home and finish that project. What with garlands strewn all over my foyer floor, our artificial tree still standing, angels perched on windowsills, and folk art Santas standing watch on every available tabletop: there was certainly plenty of work to do in order to get my house whipped back into post-Holiday shape.

But I knew that the concert would be powerful. Not only was a guest pianist performing, but Beethoven’s Overture to Coriolanus (a favorite) and Mozart’s 40th Symphony were on tap. With freshly-done nails and an urge to not only escape the chaos of my half-disassembled holiday d├ęcor; I looked forward to the self-indulgent luxury of enjoying beauty, if just for one night. So I struck out on my own.

Once there, of course, I was thrilled that momentum overcame my initial impulse towards inertia. Settled into my seat, with good friends directly behind me and others scattered throughout the auditorium, I closed my eyes and prepared for the enjoyment which was to come full force. I embraced the infrequent freedom to “be there and be glad.” To allow classical music to soothe the emotional exhaustion which has burdened me quite heavily lately, to relish the solitude, and to be fully grateful for the evening’s aesthetic feast.

Beethoven did not disappoint. (He never does.) Indeed, his overture was conducted with unusually high energy. And then immediately after intermission, we enjoyed the ritual of “the golden baton.” At last spring’s fundraising gala, our symphony president, Sabina, entered the bid which would seal this honor: conducting seventy-plus of the finest musicians in New England for one piece. She had looked forward to the event for almost a year. And it showed. Dressed in a gorgeous black ensemble, she took to the stage with gusto! Tapping the beat of Wagner’s Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin with her right arm, she used her left arm to add nuance. Her own artistic expression. While conducting, she sang.

I wore a smile from the moment she took the stage until the moment she left it. Not only because I enjoyed watching her conduct. But because I knew how much she did. She was clearly enjoying herself. She had a “be there and be glad” attitude. She had a dance in her step and a song in her heart. She knew this was a moment to be treasured for the rest of her life; we knew it, too.

A party afterwards to honor the guest soloist, the event sponsors, and our “guest conductor” upheld my sentiment. Cheerful conversation around an overflowing food table, joyful celebration with uplifted champagne glasses, and intimate catching-up with old and new friends alike, all taking place in the restored barn that our local art guild calls “home,” placed high priority on enjoying life. On living pleasantly. No arguing over dichotomous and divisive politics. No cold shoulders. Only a common love of beautiful music, and of food and wine which nourish both body and soul.

Moments like these might seem superfluous to the outside observer. Casual and common, they could appear repetitive. Redundant. Stuffy. Snobby. But beauty cannot be denied. Our spirits crave it and our emotions run dry without it. We long to feast our eyes on beautiful objects and our ears on beautiful harmonies. We need to forge relationships and to cement friendships. And staying home every night just doesn’t offer that.

Motherhood—especially in its early stages—can be extremely isolating. It is, indeed, difficult—if not downright impossible—to get out when one is nursing a newborn babe or straddled with toddlers trapped in the “barnacle syndrome.” Resources of time, energy, and funds can prevent those of us with the deepest desires to “be there and be glad” from embracing and enjoying evenings like this.

Now more than ever, with the rush of the holidays clearly behind us, yet without the freshness of spring immediately before us, it is easy to get blindsighted by February’s dreariness. By winter’s—and motherhood’s—isolation and loneliness. Lack of sunshine and fresh air can make curmudgeons out of the most cheerful among us. No flowers to brighten our days or bright colors to brighten our wardrobes, nor warm weather to brighten our plans; February presents opportunities to “be there and be glad” but we’ll probably have to look harder for them. So invite a friend to coffee, meet the playgroup moms for lunch, dawdle over a new decorating magazine, enjoy a manicure…or simply turn on your favorite classical music station to imbue beauty into your own home.

Enjoying life, living wisely and well, and infusing it with pleasantness certainly means living with integrity. It means building character. Growing through pain and suffering. But it also means allowing the tiniest, simplest acts of everyday living to be enjoyed with clarity. With gladness. Curling up with a good book has held pleasure for mankind through the centuries. As has breaking bread with friends and family. Or sitting by the fire. Watching a movie with your kids. Walking the dog. Taking a hike. Simple pleasures. Breaks in the routineness of everyday life. Treats of solitude as well as of companionship. All are to be treasured. Embraced. With gladness.

I hope you are able to break the dizzying pace of your week and do something—anything—which allows you, too, to be there and be glad.



A Nick Note

Nick just finished the second round of the intensification stage; the hardest two rounds are now behind him! He has sailed through both with flying colors, pleasing both doctors and parents alike. I dare say I could not handle the protocol with the grace with which he has. He has tapped into the deepest reservoirs of strength and faith to endure extremely uncomfortable bouts of chemo-induced nausea, fatigue, and muscle aches and pain. His “grace under fire” has been a powerful testimony to not only Ernie, the kids, and I, but to the doctors, nurses, and fellow patients and parents who see Nick on a near-daily basis. Thank you for your prayers, your phone calls, your emails, your cards, your kind gifts, your dinners, and your transportation of our other three kids. They are all very much appreciated. Please forgive my lack of writing formal thank you notes; I usually relish the gesture. I am hopelessly behind, and beg your patience and understanding. Nick will have the week off from chemo drugs, although he and I will make a few trips into the clinic for blood work and likely transfusions.

A Quick Note

Quite a few readers have emailed me recently asking if I was available to answer questions and dilemmas of one sort or another. Some of these revolve around motherhood; others have little to do with parenting. Purely objective advice is sought. Please know that I consider it a privilege to help you sort out everyday issues, whether they pertain to parenting your newborn, dealing with your teen, or helping you figure out how to publish your book. I am honored that you would ask for my input. Please keep those questions coming. They make my day.