Wednesday, February 23, 2011

wednesday morning miracles

Say you don't believe in miracles? Then what about the daffodils popping out of the ground all around town? And the six-year-old across the street who can read a book all by herself now? Pink buds have appeared on the branches of trees lining the walk Diane and I take past the children's hospital. And I've noticed an almost imperceptible shift in her from pain toward peace. I give you, also, two friends who resurrected their marriage from a pile of rubble and ashes and last Saturday renewed vows with their three young boys gathered around. As if all of this weren't enough, Katie's gone and bought a hula hoop just for fun.

Monday, February 21, 2011

the boy who loved books

Of all that I have studied and learned about the great Abraham Lincoln over a lifetime, it was a children's picture book that helped me see past the almost mythic hero and connect to him in an ordinary, human way. Young Abe Lincoln, author Kay Winters tells us, loved to read and was seldom without a book in hand. This thread can be followed from his humble Kentucky childhood all the way to the White House. It's how he developed an immense vocabulary, a love of language and a gift for putting ideas into words in his own unique voice. Words which would one day empower him during the most famous political debate in American history and later in crafting the Emancipation Proclamation. A constant in Abraham Lincoln's brief but amazing life, prodigious reading is a common thread that weaves throughout the lives of most great thinkers and doers. Somewhere, right now, another child is falling in love with words. Words that will one day, if cultivated, have the power to change the world.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

outwitting winter

Winter can be very wily: weeks on end of cold and ice with a warm reprieve every now and then. Like the past few days here. It's been sunny. It's been extremely mild. It's been downright balmy. We're not through with winter yet, but this bit of Florida-in-February is a taste of things to come. So is my cherished recipe from the Tampa Treasures cookbook. I made it last night to match the weather.

Florida Key Lime Tart with Coconut Crust

Crust
1 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup gingersnap crumbs
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 stick butter, melted
2 tablespoons flour

Filling
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh key lime juice
1 cup sour cream

At least 3 1/2 hours before serving, make crust: preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Firmly press mixture evenly over botoms and 3/4 inch up sides of a 9-inch springform pan or pie plate. Bake 5 minutes. Cool, chill.

At least 2 1/2 hours before serving, make filling: Blend cream cheese and condensed milk. Add juice; stir in sour cream. Pour filling into chilled crust. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

I like to serve with homemade whipped cream and a sprinkle of raspberries.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love day, every day

Remembering how we used to decorate Valentine mailboxes in elementary school, made out of shoe boxes, construction paper and doilies. Always hoping they'd runneth over with lots of cards and conversation hearts on the 14th, but feeling a little nervous not quite knowing how it would pan out. That's why I was so happy when my own children were young and a note came home in their backpacks around the first of February saying to simply send in 30 signed Valentines to share, no specific addressee. How unimaginably different life would be if love was spread around equally and lavishly to all. That's what I'm daydreaming about on this Valentine's Day.
(click on Valentine to enlarge)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

the pizza & prosecco pledge

We're not doing regret. A simple pact, made by four friends who intersected at the same ad agency for a moment in time. Two now have big corporate jobs, one started her own thriving business (and was quoted just this week on CNN, I might add!) and I carry the creative torch as a writer. Between us, there are ten children ranging from newborn to college sophomore. Over pizza and prosecco, talk turned to the dream job that got away, the bad job that lasted too long, money left on the table, mentors, motherhood, milestones, mistakes. Then we made an executive decision: no regrets. No wistfully looking back and asking what if? Instead, we decided to appreciate where we've been, count only the blessings and try to find meaning as we go along. That's when the evening floated up and into the clouds, somewhere over a rainbow. To baby Liam's sweet smile, the best book we read last year, the inspiring co-worker, the importance of letting go of the junk while hanging on to the love, the supreme joy that somehow manages to show up amid the stress and sorrow. No regrets. Just set 'em down. And see how it lifts you up.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

pinky swear

Topped with fried pickles, onion rings and provolone, it's called the 'White Trash Burger' and you can order one at Pinky's in Charlotte. Pairs well with sweet potato fries and friendship on an ordinary work day - lunchtime, mid-winter - when the sun happens to be shining particularly brightly and, for at least a moment, all feels right with the world.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

score one for kindness

A Sick Day for Amos McGee won the 2011 Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished children's picture book published last year. When a kind zookeeper calls in sick to work one day, all of the animals he cares so tenderly for pay him a surprise visit to return the favor. There's kind of a Rockwellian aura to the pencil drawings and a humble, magical Mr. Rogers way about the story. I can see why it won the award and why children love it: it has a heart as big as an elephant.
(A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead. Roaring Book Press, 2010)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

most intelligent

No one was surprised when Tom got a perfect score on the SAT. No one, except for the College Board testing service, which kindly suggested that he take it again because there must have been some mistake. We weren't surprised, either, when he repeated his perfect score the second time around. Or when he was accepted to Harvard undergrad, then Harvard Business School and Harvard Law. He was voted 'Most Intelligent' boy in our high school class, but could have just as easily won 'Best All Around' for his sense of humor, cuteness, golf skill and amazing gift of friendship.

Tom and I walked the same route to Coleman Junior High, were lab partners in Miss Stern's Advanced Biology class and I was the lucky girl riding shotgun to school in his family's old station wagon during senior year. I'm happy to report that he hasn't changed an iota, based on our too few and too far between get-togethers, one of which was at dinner last night when he flew into town. Tom knows more about history, world events, politics, sports and business than anyone I know. Science, math and probably literature, too. But, more than just a repository of facts and solver of calculus riddles, he is completely engaged in the world, interested in everything. He's infinitely diplomatic. He understands systems uncannily well. He's creative and curious. He connects the dots. He cares. All of which I believe separates a true genius from someone who is truly brilliant. Like Tom.
(Engraving of Harvard College by Paul Revere, 1767)