Thursday, June 28, 2007

A quote that moved and challenged me

"The only dream worth having is to dream
that you will live while you are alive,
and die only when you are dead.
To love, to be loved.
To never forget your own insignificance.
To never get used to the unspeakable violence
and vulgar disparity of the life around you.
To seek joy in the saddest places.
To pursue beauty to its lair.
To never simplify what is complicated
or complicate what is simple.
To respect strength, never power.
Above all to watch.
To try and understand.
To never look away.
And never, never to forget."
- Arundhati Roy

So many thoughts and responses come to mind as I ponder this quote.

I am determined to live every day of my life fully.

To love openly, deeply, and unreservedly.

To never forget how small I am in the universe, but also never forget that my presence in this world is not an accident. I must fulfill the role I was created to fill.

To remember that there are things I can do, prayers I can raise, money I can donate, letters I can write, calls I can make, conversations I can start and continue that can make a difference in the despairing, violent, painful lives that so many people live.

I am determined to seek peace, joy, beauty, and love every day - and pursue them.

To stop denying and belittling and apologizing for how deeply I feel about the people I care for in this life. Life is too short for all these games.

To keep it simple, all of it. Dinner. Travel. Conversations. Love. Writing. Reading. Faith. Communication. Keep it simple.

To watch, listen, touch, and be touched.

To sympathize, encourage, and cheer from the sidelines.

To look both strangers and friends in the eye. To smile with and at them.

To not turn away when someone is crying, but to hold their gaze and assure them that it is okay to cry. It is not necessary to apologize for their tears. And above all, it is not necessary to laugh when they cry.

I am determined to feel what I feel.
Love the one I love.
Laugh when I laugh.
Cry when I cry.
Live. Breathe. Rejoice.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Learning to Fly

I was gabbing away with my friend, Karen, on the telephone yesterday when she interrupted me to describe what she was seeing above her house. She said there was a bird flying high above her rooftop with a small bird on each wing. ON each wing. Taking turns at various intervals, one of the small birds would hoist itself up into the air and fly. Then it would land back on the wing of the larger bird, and the other bird would lift off. She said she'd never seen anything like it before - I never have. She paused in our conversation to point the scene out to her children, but by then the birds were out of sight. She said that when she'd first noticed the flying lesson, she had to stop and focus on what she was seeing: "could that be what I think it is?" is what she asked herself.

Yes, my dear, it was a flying lesson. Mama Bird teaching her little ones to fly. I imagined their "take off" - with each little creature flopping frantically in the air just long enough to get up onto a parental wing. Then up and away they went. I wonder if the little ones were afraid. Probably not. Why not? Because Mama was there: the one who'd always fed them, cared for them, and under whose wings they had sat many a morning and night before flight school began. This was simply the next phase of a life-long journey towards independence.

Even as I listened to her describe the sight, I knew it: That has "blog" written all over it.

Flying lessons.

In the life of a mother, there are flying lessons all the time. Every day. Teaching the little one to latch on to a full breast and drink. To sleep through the night. To sit up. To feed oneself. To walk. To talk. To run. To fall. To get back up. To read and write. To go off to school.

Which brings me to a personal and emotional flying lesson of my own. He's leaving. My son is going off to his first day of school on Monday, August 20th. My eyes and heart overflow even as I write this. Is this what mothers feel like when their children go to school as five-year-olds? I couldn't have done it then - so I didn't do it then. I kept my two precious fledglings here at home, under my wings far longer than most mother hens - and I don't regret one minute of it. The time has come, at least for Daniel, to take him onto my wing - or into my minivan - and let him fly off to school. As a ten-year-old sixth grader! It's about time, I know, but I miss him already.

Still thinking...

Who have my mother birds been? The ones who have lifted me off the ground, taken my high above the rooftops of those who choose to stay earthbound, and encouraged me to spread my wings and fly?

Ms. Roberts - my elementary school music teacher, who took a group of black kids from inner-city Brooklyn into Manhattan to Lincoln Center twice a month for what felt like years to listen to the NY Philharmonic Orchestra. From her, I learned to love classical music, subway travel, and Manhattan.

Loddie - the blind boy at PS 307 who taught me how to see with my heart, how to read with my fingers, and how to be touched by someone who simply wanted to know what I "looked like."

Mr. Woodman - my English teacher when I was a senior in high school. He and his French wife had sailed from Europe to the States the summer before and lived on their sailboat in New York Harbor. I visited them at their house in France three summers later. He, Agnes, and their boisterous neighbors in Le Croisic introduced me to nude beaches, french wine, and small town life in Europe.

The leadership of the Women of Hope Bible Study who sensed something in me that I didn't know was even there. They asked me to be the keynote speaker at a Christmas luncheon nearly ten years ago, and I have been teaching and speaking and leading women's retreats ever since.

There isn't room to include all the Political Science, English, Literature, Psychology, and Spanish professors at Williams and Wesleyan who challenged me to speak with my own voice, to write my own story, and to stand up for what I believed with people I believed in. Nowadays there are friends like Maureen, Ale, Kate, Jill, Lisa, Nancy, Karen, Michele, Virginia, Leonie, Kristiana, and so many others who encourage me to keep writing, to keep spilling my thoughts, words, and questions all over everyone who will listen. There are too many supporters to name one-by-one, but just enough to keep me writing and thinking and blogging --> and flying!

I cannot leave out Steve, my generous, hard-working, longsuffering husband - who constantly encourages me to travel, to read, to write, to live this wild and crazy life I long for to the fullest. Years ago when the movie "Beaches" came out, I wept at the end, not only because of the death of one of the characters, but also because of the theme song. Steve embodies every line in that song: He truly is The Wind Beneath My Wings. Far more frequently than I care to admit publicly, I moan and groan and complain because I feel land- and soul-locked here in South Charlotte. I dream and scheme and find every excuse to leave home for various lengths of time, and all he ever does is say, "Go for it." Thank you, Steve.

Bette Midler sang it so well:
"It might have appeared to go unnoticed
But I have it all here in my heart

Now I ask myself, daily I ask myself,
who will I carry on my wings?
Whose journey toward freedom will I encourage and enable?
It's time for me to soar again, but this time with
baby birds, flight students in tow.
I suppose I'd better start with my own two children.
Off I go for some "mother hen - baby chicks" time.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Wouldn't it be wonderful if...

we surprised someone at the supermarket or some other place of business and allowed the person with the crying child or the longest face or the shortest temper to cut in front of us in the line?

we each sent a handwritten "snail mail" letter to a friend or relative every week?

at least one night per week, we each shared dinner with people whose company we enjoy (a different person or group each week - of course)?

everyone that we loved knew without a doubt exactly how we feel?

everyone knew all the people who live on their block - or in their apartment building - by name and greeted each other with kindness each time they saw each other?

the "silent treatment" were not experienced as punishment but rather as a time to enjoy the sounds of the world around us without feeling the urge to fill the air with words?

each of the women I love most in the world could get together and meet each other and we could celebrate friendship and womanhood and each other?

I could do the same with all the men I love?

no one raised their eyebrows or sucked in a quick deep breath when they read the fact that there are "men" in my life that I love? ("Plural, Gail? That's a little dangerous, isn't it? Does Steve know?" That's what you were thinking, right???)

high heeled shoes, mini-skirts, bare midriff shirts, tiny waistlines and large boobs were not the tools and measures of female beauty, but rather the quickness and width of smiles, the brightness of eyes, and the strength of hugs?

men didn't measure their manhood in terms of their sexual prowess, the age and make of their automobiles, or the size of their paychecks, but rather by the frequency of the hugs they give and receive, the depth of their friendships, and the number of times they mentor, encourage, and play uncompetitively with a child they know?

fear, revenge, and anger were abandoned as motivations for political and relational decisions, and mercy, grace, and peace were embraced far more often?

every child heard both parents say "I love you" every day - and know that they both really meant it?

every person heard those words every day from someone who really did love them?

I didn't feel the need to qualify most of these statements due to the way in which men, women, and especially children are abused and misused in our world?

you clicked on the link to Jen Lemen's blog and gave some thought to her current blog - which inspired me to write this one?

each person who read this blog - and Jen's - would add to the list? Please!!!

PS. thanks to all of you who have added comments in the past few days.
Your words are greatly appreciated.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thankful Thursday

Some time ago, I became enamored with the idea of keeping a list of life's simple pleasures. Not the big stuff, like life and health and a house I love, but the little stuff.

Like playing catch with my son
taking a lemonade and sweet tea break between 2 sessions of catch with him
brownies with Andes' candies melted on top

rediscovering the beauty of calligraphy: why did I ever stop?
organizing scrapbook and cardmaking supplies
finding the perfect sketch pad for collage making
finding it in my stash of stuff in the dining room

sandalwood rose sugar scrub in the shower
clean hair
clipped and filed fingernails
a Sunday afternoon pedicure - complete with the paraffin dip

journaling on the big red couch in the living room
Sabrina Ward Harrison books, especially Brave on the Rocks
The Decorated Page - a book on creative journaling
pulling all those books out at a time when I'm feeling uncreative

planning on a trip to Starbucks tomorrow morning
taking that cup to go
getting on the road to go pick Kristiana up from a week of sleepaway camp
listening to her stories of her time away

praying for my 16-year-old niece who is in Spain for the summer
calling her on the night before she left to wish her traveling mercies
recommending that she buy a journal to chronicle her voyage
reading the email she sent today: she's loving the journal
wishing I could be there with her
knowing she will love my favorite country in the world

watching "The Lost City" - an Andy Garcia film about Cuba
listening to the commentary on the film
falling in love with Havana, Cuba, and Andy himself
how wonderfully handsome, debonair, and intelligent he is
discovering Ines Sastre, a Spanish actress and model
learning more about the history of Cuba

going out to dinner tonight with Steve and Daniel, my two leading men
leaving right now


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day -

To fathers everywhere.
To fathers who are with their children
and fathers who are separated from them.
To fathers who have lost their children
and fathers whose children are yet to be born.
May you all learn to be the very best fathers you can be.
And above all, may you know the love of Our Heavenly Father in your own lives.

Happy Father's Day to children also.
To children whose fathers were/are fabulous
and to those whose fathers were/are dreadful.
To those whose fathers love them and those whose fathers abuse them.
To those who know their fathers
and those who do not.
May all the children of the world - young and old alike -
know the love of our Heavenly Father,
His true, deep, pure, and perfect love.

I miss my father today. Well, I miss him everyday, but today especially. He was one of the good ones: present, attentive, loving, kind, encouraging, and careful to live an exemplary life as a husband and father in the best sense of both of those words.

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

College Reunion Notes

Taken from Joseph Dispenza's book entitled, The Way of the Traveler: "My story is the journey of my life through time and space. It is a tale of valiant undertakings - fording rushing rivers, making my way through the dark woods, crossing the long, wide fields, battling dragons - this leads me to the crystal palace of wisdom. Returned, I gather the threads of the journey. I prepare to tell my tale. And what I have to say is this: 'Once upon a time...'"

One of my pre-travel rituals, inspired by Joseph Dispenza's book is to fill both sides of a 3 x 5 postcard with spiritual goals and provisions for my journey. In other words, although I knew that the external reason for our recent trip was to attend our 20-year college reunion, what was the internal motivation or goal for the journey? What did I expect to learn or experience along the way? And, other than clothing, cosmetics, and an umbrella, what provisions would I need in order to be fully prepared to make the most and the best of the trip?

When I went to New York City last August to meet up with the writing group I'd been involved with for five years before moving to Charlotte, I carried along: a sense of humor and delight; awe and wonder; the ability to listen without interrupting others; the willingness to stop speaking if others interrupted me; and the gift of observation of others and myself. Quietness of mouth and spirit wasn't as difficult as I'd expected it would be.

When Steve and I flew to England with the children two years ago in March, my spiritual luggage was filled with patience, humility, the willingness to submit to others, flexibility, acceptance, grace, kindness, gentleness, curiosity, interest, laughter, an open heart, a sense of adventure, and as always, awe and wonder. Anyone who knows anything about that trip knows that it was the single most difficult family vacation we have even taken. I needed every ounce of patience, humility, and flexibility I carried along, and then some...

This time last week, as I prepared for our class' evening soiree, I dangled words of encouragement, my sense of humor, curiosity about the lives of others, and good memories of my days in college around my neck along with my diamond cross pendant. At the same time, I laid aside my ego, my desire to be impressive, and any sense of intimidation or unworthiness I might feel. I wasn't quite as successful at leaving jealousy or self-pity behind as the tales of world travel, first class or private jet flights, and dancing with kings, prime ministers, and presidents (no exaggeration!) made me wonder if perhaps I should have married the duke of Madrid when he asked me way back in 1989... only kidding on that last detail!

Why did I go to the reunion? To see old friends. To make new ones. To wander in awe and gratitude around the Williams campus and reminisce about all the scrapes and near misses that I survived, all the victories won on the track and in the classroom, and of course, to buy purple and yellow Williams stuff!

Why did I go to the reunion, really? To travel back in time to meet up with the young woman I was then, to congratulate her on graduating so many years ago and for blossoming into the woman I am now, to give thanks to God for all that I learned there, all that I suffered there, and all that I experienced there that has contributed to the woman I am today. I went there to be re-united with the 21 year old who left that campus with great pride and great sorrow: I had done it, and then I had to leave the security and simplicity of undergrad life behind.

I did all those things. I walked, talked, listened, watched, took photos, asked questions, journaled, marveled at the art in the museums, and bought purple and yellow stuff. I thought back on classes I'd taken, Christian Fellowship meetings I'd led and participated in, parties I'd danced at until the wee hours of the morning, bookstores I'd perused in search of books by Alice Walker and Joy Harjo, dorm rooms I'd slept in and woken up in, and marveled at how far I've come in my life. I pondered the great divides in my life that I experienced as a student at Williams: between Christian fellowship gatherings and late night parties, between political science discussions on campus and political conservatism at church, and between all that I had been raised to believe at home and all that I was beginning to understand and believe about the world that existed outside of our home. I admit that many of those divisions are as real for me now as they have ever been. At the same time, I recognized how much I have learned along the way, how many people I have known and loved, and how blessed my life has been.

As an undergraduate, I received a scholarship from the class of 1957. I'm not sure why they chose me, but they did, and I was enormously grateful. As part of my Class of '57 Scholarship responsibilities, I had to attend various parties and dinners with that class. During one of those events, I met Charlie and Cathy Berry; he'd graduated with the illustrious and generous class of '57. It was love at first sight for the three of us: he with his shock of thick white hair and irrepressible sense of humor, she with her pencil skirts and quiet refined dignity, and me, with my short afro, big smile, and amazement at the wealth they must have had in order to sponsor a NYC girl like me at an expensive college like Williams.

This year, Charlie's class celebrated their 50-year reunion. During lunch on Saturday, I walked over to where they were having their lunch and stared at those smartly dressed men and women for what seemed like forever until I spotted Charlie. Dapper and handsome as ever, he was sitting on the steps outside of Chapin Hall, eating and talking to the people around him. When our eyes met, he put his plate down beside him, scampered down the stairs, threw his arms open and shouted, "The love of my life," as he embraced me in his still-strong arms. I felt like the woman in the diamond commercial whose husband throws up his arms in Venice's Piazza di San Marco and declares, "I love this woman."

Charlie's greeting echoed words I'd been saying to myself all weekend long. I'd wanted to throw my arms up to the sky and say, "I love this place. I love this life." In my travel journal, I had written story after account after detail of the time I'd spent in Willamstown, of the lessons I'd learned outside the classroom, and the many things and people I wish I'd known better when I was there.

Has my life been ecstatic every day? Not even close. Have I often wished for second chances to do some things differently? Every single day.

But I wouldn't trade those
joyful and fulfilling days,
those dark and dreadful nights,
those brain- and gut-busting classes,
those heart- and leg-busting track workouts,
those dancing, drinking,
laughing, loving,
dangerous, delightful,
studious, stupendous,
challenging, checkered,
rigorous, riotous
four years for anything at all.

I realize now that the motto I chose for this year while in Spain in early January - "Live this moment fully. Breathe it fully." - is the motto I've lived my entire life. I just hadn't worded it so succinctly until recently. May it always be the way I live my life - rushing rivers, dark woods, wide fields, and ferocious dragons, notwithstanding.

Again I quote Dispenza: "For me, as for the heroes of old, the journey draws to a close in thanksgiving. In the temple of this journey to the heart of myself, I bask in the light of new wisdom so dearly won, so graciously given."

Friday, June 15, 2007

There are days...

when everything, including rainfall while I am out walking Maya, makes me smile.

when the clouds, the cool drizzle, the wimpy, brown lettuce in the supermarket, and the never ending pile of laundry downstairs cannot put a dent in my joy.

when music makes not only my feet, but also my heart want to dance.

when prose reads like poetry and runs through me like streams of living water.

when my mind, my soul, my heart, and my entire being want to take flight and alight on the uppermost stair of the Spanish Steps in Roma, la Citta Eterna.

when grace and peace and joy and love overwhelm each of my senses all day long.

when love is in the air all around and deep within me.

when all is well with the world.

Today is one of those days.
Mille grazie.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I'm Back

It is good to be home, sleeping in my own bed, using my own bathroom, and walking around barefoot without wondering what my feet are touching and being infected with.

One thing I know for sure: I don't miss living in a college dorm and sharing the bathroom with countless people. Yikes!

Another thing I know for sure: I've still got it - the travel bug, that is. Sixteen hours in the minivan a week ago today as we made our way from Charlotte to Williamstown, Massachusetts. Then on Sunday we drove from Williamstown to Manchester, Vermont. From Vermont to Danbury, Connecticut on Monday. On Tuesday we drove from Danbury to Winchester, Virginia, where we spent much of the night under tornado warnings and watches. Then yesterday we completed the final leg of our journey: from a brand new Country Inns and Suites in the middle off VA to our favorite bed and breakfast of all: our very own home.

We spent a quiet, prayerful hour on the campus of Virginia Tech yesterday, walking around, wandering through the main campus bookstore and student center, and picking up lunch. Posters, memorials, and a quilt with the names and faces of the victims reminded us of the sorrow that VT bears two months after that unspeakable tragedy. My son asked one simple question as we approached the campus in the van: "Is it safe?"

Some of the highlights of the trip:

Seeing old friends at Williams.

Listening to the stories of what my classmates are doing with their lives.

Thoroughly enjoying all the questions they asked about homeschooling. "You do what? What made you decide to do that? How much longer will you continue with it?"

Making new friends.

Walking languidly, blissfully, through two of my favorite museums in the country: The Clark Art Institute and the Williams College Museum of Art. Awed. Amazed. Wowed by the magnificent Renoir, Millet, Pisarro, Prendergast, and too many others to name.

Eating as many raspberry linzer cookies as I could get my greedy hands on.

Finding and buying one of the most colorful, bedazzling scarves I'd seen in a long time - and getting compliments on it the first time I wore it.

Basking in the grand and not-so-grand memories of my days as an undergrad in Williamstown. Being thankful for each memory and writing many of them in my journal.

Recognizing the many changes on campus in architecture, policies, and population. Accepting those changes and honoring the good intentions of the college to meet the needs of its faculty and students.

Taking a few minutes every day to recognize the many changes in myself, accepting those changes, and honoring the fact that my needs too must be met.

Being humbled by and enormously grateful for my children's ability to ride in the minivan for hours and hours on end without complaining. No TV or DVD player on board. A couple of electronic handheld games, 6th Grade Brain Quest cards, a book I read aloud to them, drinks, snacks, and an innate willingness to gaze contentedly out at the mountains and valleys, the farms and cows, the truck stops and rest areas that we passed - that's all it took to keep them contented for nearly 30 total hours in the car. At one point I told them that they do not understand how unusual they are in their ease at car travel - they are a lot like their mother: put me in a car, on a bus, on a train, on an airplane and send me anywhere. I LOVE TO TRAVEL!

As always, there is much to process. Much to journal still. And always many thanks to be raised for safe travel through blazing sun, flashing lightning, and torrential downpours (thanks be to God for much-needed rain), for peaceful travel (it's one of the very few trips when my husband and I returned home as friends and not angry combatants), for the emails, text messages, and prayers of friends, and for the fact that our home is still standing, in one piece, and not under attack by Charlotte's fierce insect brigade. And Maya seems to have survived her first stay at a kennel without any apparent trauma to her body or spirit.

All is well.
I'm back.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

On the Road Again...

Day and Time of Departure: Thursday, June 7th. 4 AM.

Destination: Williams College, Main Street, Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Purpose of Trip: Twenty Year College Reunion

Companions for The Journey: Hubby Dear, Daughter, Son, Toyota Sienna minivan, and my journal... among many other things.

Day and Estimated Time of our Return: Wednesday, June 13th, 12 Noon.

Fun will be had by all.

Traveling mercies to you all - and to us!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Taking Out a Second Mortgage

A friend of mine in Sevilla, Spain, recently took out a second mortgage on his house. Not in order to do any renovations on his already beautiful home. Not to buy a new car or pay off credit card debts. Not in order to make a downpayment on a house by the sea. No, not even close.

He and his wife extracted equity from their home and extended their mortgage payments in order to buy a building in the inner city section of Sevilla to establish a church. It's the same church I went to visit last October. At the end of a tiny strip of shops and bars, there sits the church of Nueva Sion - New Zion. Inside that church, this small group of Christ-followers sings, prays, and listens to my friend speak about the truths of Christ and His love for all men, women, and children. Inside that church, they also offer free cooking classes to women and English as a Second Language classes to children in the neighborhood.

When I went there last October with three other women, we offered workshops on music and journaling as well. We sat outside and painted the fingernails of young girls, painted faces on children, and helped set up an outdoor concert on Columbus Day - remember that "in 14-hundred and 92, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." He began his journey in Sevilla and that's where he ended it as well - his body is buried in the cathedral there.

There we were, practically in the shadow of that enormous cathedral, spending time with some of the poorest people in the city. Offering hope and love in an area where hope and love seemed to be in short supply. Rubbing hands and elbows literally - with cream during our mini-manicures - and figuratively - while cleaning up the local park - with my friend and our brothers and sisters in the faith, we touched and loved dozens of people that the tourists in Sevilla never see. Over and over they asked us, "Why are you doing this? Why are you here?" Our answer was both simple and preposterous: Because we love you and Jesus loves you.

They took out a second mortgage. A huge financial risk. And for what?
To show an oft-neglected neighborhood that they are loved.
To teach mothers who have few resources how to extend their meager provisions to feed their families well.
To teach children who have low educational expectations that they can increase their personal and professional potential by speaking English as well as Spanish.
To tell another chapter of the greatest story of love, grace, and risk ever told.

After all, what greater risk can Anyone take than to reach out and touch lepers, to feed and heal untouchable men, women, and children, and speak one-on-one with women in a society where men prayed and gave thanks that they were not born a woman?

What greater risk can Anyone take than to challenge the status quo of wealth, power, and prestige by turning over the tables of money changers, by critizing the supposedly most religious men in the nation in public places, and by breaking Sabbath laws established hundreds of years before by healing a crippled man - all in the temple?

What greater risk can Anyone take than sending their one and only Son into battle, into an embittered and violent world, not with guns and bombs, but with love, forgiveness, grace, peace, light, hope, and healing in His soon-to-be-pierced hands?

And what about that Son, the one who could have rejected the entire plan and asked God to come up with another one, what about the amazing, risky, unrequited love that He showed 2000+ years ago and continues to show today?

Is a 25-year mortgage risky at all in comparison with that kind of love?

Makes me wonder: What am I willing to take a second mortgage for?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

"Today I am Gratituding for..."

* That wonderful verb my children made up for giving thanks: "to gratitude"

* the rain that is falling outside. We need it desperately.

* a few hours of time home alone (with Maya) while Steve and the children head off in different directions for time with their friends. I am here at home with my very best friend - me!

* the joy of cooking by and for myself: a mixed-up pasta dish with broccoli, tomatoes, pasta sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and elbow noodles borrowed from a neighbor - there's nothing like starting a pot of sauce and then figuring out that you have no pasta. I have decided to call it "pizza pasta."

* eating my salad and "pizza pasta" alone in the family room while watching French Open tennis on television

* chocolate with almonds and toffee for dessert

* the chance to watch Daniel's baseball team win two games this morning. I still find it very difficult to believe that I have a ten-year-old son who pitches, catches, and plays outfield on a baseball team. And sitting next to me was my 13-year-old daughter who is nearly as tall as I am. Me! Half the time, I barely feel old enough to drive; how is it possible that I am the mother of a teenager?

* the end of our homeschooling year

* the fact that I have homeschooled my children for nine years and will continue to teach my daughter at home while Daniel heads off to school in the fall

* the pile of books I plan to read this summer: oh, the places I'll go!

* peace like a river that flows through and over me in waves lately

* knowing that I can draw from the well of peace and strength when I feel worry and weakness coming on

* birthday celebrations with and for friends

* the sound of birds on our windowsill in the morning. Twice this month, I have been awakened by birds after I had turned off my alarm and then stayed in bed. They have acted as my snooze alarms. Both times I smiled and thanked them for singing me awake.

* the warmth and friendliness of Charlotteans: Kristiana and I met Shelly and her two beautiful red-headed children, Caine and Celeste, at Caribou Coffee this morning. She told us that they go there every Saturday morning, and every week they make new friends. They even know the names of the dogs of some of the people they meet. This morning on the way there, Caine asked his mom if she thought they would make new friends today; she answered that she thought they would. She was right.

* Right now I am gratituding for this life.
This day. This moment.
Thanks be to God.