Saturday, October 30, 2010

Doing double duty

Opportunities to nurture pass quickly
One night about eight years ago, everyone was upstairs watching T.V. while I was downstairs cleaning. After about an hour, my youngest son Mark, who was five years old at the time, came trotting down to find me in the laundry room trying to remove stains. He tugged on me a little and said, “Leave it for tomorrow. We don’t want you to be alone down here.”

As a young mother, being alone was something I actually fantasized about, longing for the day I would have enough time to really “get something done.” I was touched, though, that this little boy cared about me enough to leave the pull of television and seek me out. Mark has always been concerned for me. In fact, when he was old enough to go to school, he would pray specifically for me during morning prayers: “Please bless Mom that she won’t be lonely at home.” The truth is, when I finally did have some hours alone, I felt a sort of guilty pleasure; every day was a private party of sorts. So, both our prayers were answered: I was alone but not lonely.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dads and daughters

As a very little girl, I used to love playing in a closet just off the back stairs. If I closed the door, I felt alone in a house otherwise teeming with people but safe in a world full of potential adventure and hidden treasures: hundreds of worn paperbacks, my mother’s colored array of high-heeled shoes, and stylish hats in hatboxes from another era.

Exploring in the closet one day, I played with the door’s heavy, brass lock and accidentally locked myself in. Suddenly, I didn’t feel safe anymore. My fun and adventure quickly turned to fear and isolation--feelings mostly foreign to me as a child. Even those dearest to me couldn’t help me escape. My mother couldn’t explain how to unlatch the lock, my brothers couldn’t unlock it from the outside, and my sisters couldn’t comfort me with their kind words.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Leaving something behind

Write to change the world
Not long ago I listened to an audiobook called Sweet and Low, the story of the Brooklyn-based family that created the artificial sweetener by the same name. These family members, unfortunately, through time, allowed selfishness and greed to destroy generations of love and family ties. Author Rich Cohen, the inventor’s grandson whose own family was cut off from inheriting any money, realizes as he writes the memoir that his inheritance was not in the millions of dollars but in the story itself. Words and stories alone can be a legacy bequeathed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Born to sing

"All God's creatures got a place in the choir"
The other day, after five years of recalcitrant piano practicing, my 13-year-old son asked me (once again) why I want all my children to play the piano. “Five reasons,” I told him. Then, right off the top of my head, I listed these
  1. It helps coordinate your hands and eyes.
  2. It helps make connections in your brain that you might not otherwise make.
  3. It gives you a creative outlet.
  4. It gives you another language--another mode of communication--to express yourself.
  5. It allows you to serve others.
It’s that fourth reason—another way to express yourself—that really sells me on the idea of music in general. Although I’m not a pianist, I still express myself through singing. Moreover, I believe everyone is wired to sing. In fact, one of my favorite children’s tunes affirms this idea:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Leapfrogging mistakes

Sharing mistakes helps others avoid them

One autumn day my friend Judy gave me some of the most delicious, moist pumpkin bread I had ever eaten. Turns out it was baked by Gayle, a culinary veteran. I thought, “Maybe if I get Gayle’s recipe and hear any tricks she has, then I can skip over a lot of bad recipes and make my own scrumptious pumpkin bread.”

Soon after, Judy’s husband Doug taught a class on making homemade rolls. When he was first learning, he consulted with the experts, including his mother who showed him her way then counseled, “You’ve got to find your own recipe, Doug.” So, he made rolls every day for a month, each time making adjustments to measurements and oven temperatures, changing pan sizes and types, and so forth. By practicing over and over, he discovered his own recipe for perfect rolls. Because he was willing to share both what did and didn't work, it’s now easier for me to make great homemade rolls.