Monday, November 26, 2007

An Enchanted Holiday

My fifteen-year-old daughter and I have a Sunday afternoon tradition of catching a matinee. Our favorite thing to do is drive downtown to our local playhouse, bumping into neighbors and friends in the process, but as it only ever has one offering, we usually wind up going to the nearest town which has an enormous complex with a huge variety from which to choose. Oftentimes, the movie line-up is so intellectually or emotionally barren that it’s simply not worth our time or gas money. But every once in a while, a little jewel comes along that practically demands that we scatter our cares to the winds and devote an afternoon to cinematic magic.

Ahh! Such is the case right now with Enchanted. It has received such rave reviews from both real live professional critics and us general folks alike that we knew we had to go and see what all the fuss was about.

And what a delight it is! With terrific talent, a happy-go-lucky musical score that found us singing it all night long, and a classic fairytale storyline, one will find it nearly impossible to wipe the persistent movie-smile off one’s face when the movie is long over. Every single minute found us giggling, laughing wildly out loud, tapping our feet and grinning ear to ear.

Wishing I was still in the theater yet finding myself at work first thing this morning, I couldn’t help but reflect on the many less-than-enchanted issues of our day. Given my job and the necessary constant contact I have with the public, I hear stories virtually all day long ranging from health struggles to over-indebtedness to marital woes to wayward teens. Let’s face it: these are interesting times, to say the least. The markets are in turmoil, wars are still raging, and homelessness and joblessness and helplessness abound.

As we enter into the Holy season, perhaps we can be especially mindful that adding a little enchantment to our days would be a very good thing. While most of us will not whistle while we work, or break into song while we vacuum or scrub the toilets—as do Giselle and her animal friends in the movie—doing either one certainly couldn’t hurt…and just might make our day seem brighter. Dressing into gowns for our breakfast of OJ and coffee isn’t exactly what we do these days either…but choosing to dress in red for the holidays rather than the stale brown or black outfit worn every other day might prove to be just the mood-lifter you’ve been looking for.

And for that persistent smile stuck on my face yesterday during Enchanted? Well, I know that others will be happier if I choose to wear it more often than not these next few weeks ahead. For the holidays can be stressful. Shopping lines can be long and credit lines can be depleted. The weather can be downright dreary. Every single person I know, regardless of job status or age or economic privilege or educational attainment, can stand to be enchanted.

So do yourself a favor. Take a little break out of your week, no matter how busy or grumpy you might find yourself. Grab your spouse or your kid or your girlfriend or your colleague. And go see Enchanted. And vow to bring even a tiny piece of the movie back with you for those who move in and out of your life.

At least through the holidays.



Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Juicy Fruit

This week found my husband and me in Spain visiting our oldest son, Nick, who is studying in Salamanca for his junior year of college. Since he left at the end of August, frequent emails and skyping and phone calls have kept us in close touch. But we needed to see him, hug him, squeeze him and spend time with him. We yearned to experience, first hand, his new life there. To meet his friends and his Spanish madre. Visit his classroom. Check out his bedroom. Shop where he shops and walk down the streets where he takes his daily walks to and from school. Eat in his favorite restaurants. See what his Spanish adventure is all about. Top to bottom.

As a writer, I’m supposed to have words to match emotions. Supposed to have the ability to paint word pictures. Word smith my way through the past five days. And yet I can’t. It was too much of an emotional high. It hit my gut and my heart much more than it hit my head. Hit my throat and my eyes in ways completely unexpected. Caught me “confounded by glory” (as my new friend Hattie describes me.) with frequent lumps in my throat and drops at the edges of my eyes.

Seeing your kid grow up nearing completion is one of the best fruits of the labor. It takes years—two decades really—of planting seed in the most fertile of soils. Applying daily doses of sunlight and water. And rich fertilizer. Soaked with oodles of time. Sprinkled with diligent prayer. And nourished by the passing of time, some of which is barely endured by silence or absence or distance or illness…or all of the above.

And then to wake up one day and see fruit! Not just hardly-ripe fruit. Fruit too hard to squeeze or of pale color or less than succulent aroma. But juicy fruit! Fruit that, when you grasp it, moves in your hands. Holds a delectable scent. And oozes out a few drops of liquid. It’s so ripe that it’s downright juicy!

That’s how I felt about our visit with our son. He has grown into a man of character and generosity. Of breadth and depth. Of balance. Concern and consideration for others. I know that, over the past three years, you have received “Nick Notes” on his continued progress. On his health. And his well-being. And I know that it will probably do your heart good to hear that he has grown into a person who I am happy to report is not only doing beautifully physically; he has grown into a man who I am delighted to call my son. He has born fruit. Wonderful, ripe, fragrant, squeezable fruit. Juicy. One of life’s most precious gifts.

It is my hope and prayer that as you journey though parenting that you, too, shall find juicy fruit awaiting you. If even in a couple of decades. It is so worth it. This labor that we call parenting—love—will take us to heights previously unimaginable. And Oh! What a ride!

I pray showers of blessings on this Thanksgiving to you and yours! Love the ones you’re with.

All my very best,


Monday, November 05, 2007

Whacked on the Head by Beauty

Robust reds. Brilliant golds. Burnt oranges. Crystal-clear blue skies. This scene—trees on fire set against gorgeous cerulean—blesses me every day when I drive up my hill towards home.

Outside, leaves rustle underneath my feet. Musty smoke cackles in my fireplace. Cold, fresh air fills my lungs. Window lights glow at our windows. The furnace kicks on inside.

Woolen sweaters have replaced our t-shirts. Cowboy boots our Crocs.

Hearty stews brew inside heavy Le Creuset casseroles. Football games consume Friday nights. Perfumed Seda France candles emanate from the downstairs foyer.

Oh how I adore fall!

One of my favorite things about living in New England is the generous changing of the seasons. There’s nothing subtle about living in Connecticut. We notice when fall strikes. Or when winter has officially arrived. Can’t help it. It hits our streets and our skies. Our skin and our heads. I sat—frozen—at our son’s football game this weekend, unprepared for the sudden drop in temperature. Dressed for a “casual Friday” at the office when I left early that morning and going straight to the stadium, I was ridiculously outfitted for the brissling cold outside; my twin sweater set, jeans and open-heeled mules were no match for it. I wrapped bright orange towels (given to us to promote both school spirit and our school color) over my nearly frostbit toes until I could stand it no longer and drove home for a quick exchange of lambswool-lined Uggs.

This lack of subtlety continued all weekend, and thankfully so. A quick peek into a new garden store revealed gorgeous fall arrangements, with silk turkeys, roosters and owls frolicking on the shelves with pumpkins and gourds. Freeze-dried artichokes accented centerpieces and terra cotta earthenware lined tabletops. What a fabulous ten-minute eye-candy break from my usual Saturday afternoon errand-hopping and grocery-shopping?

Sometimes, the beauty of the earth, the raw, unadulterated perfection of God’s creation just whacks me on the head. It jerks me out of my work-filled thoughts on my long drive home; the leaves literally demand that you stop doing what you’re doing or stop thinking what you’re thinking and give them your attention! The colors and patterns and flow of this season cannot be replicated by mankind.

If you do not live in a part of the world where you experience this beauty, I hope that you get the opportunity to visit someone who does. That you get the chance to take a long drive in the country, visit a pumpkin patch, pick apples in an orchard. Sit on a back patio and breathe in crisp air until it practically hurts your lungs. Allow yourself the dizzying awakening of being whacked on the head by beauty.

For winter shall soon be upon us. And the colors and patterns and flow will once again change. We’ll find, no matter where we live, that the rhythm of the winter dance will keep us moving at a tempo that would find us yearning for these lazier—glorious!—days of fall.