New Year’s Reflections

New Year’s Day is a moment for reflection and hope.  My family lives in South Africa, where the weather is warm, and New Year’s Day means lounging by the pool.  But, this year we are 10,000 miles away, in my home town, in a world covered in snow.  New Year’s Day cannot be spent outside.  I set out to discover new activities to occupy us, choosing my younger son to help me plan for New Year’s Day.  We drove to the local mall, in the midst of the Christmas fury to find a puzzle, and all the things a family needs to entertain themselves indoors for a day of private reflection amidst family fun. Battling the crowds, and my son’s amazement at how different life is in the States, we shopped for a puzzle.  Despite the frenzy erupting around us, we took our time.  Oscar wanted a puzzle that everyone would appreciate, and we searched diligently for the best fit.  The puzzle was just the beginning; we also shopped for delicious snacks and some poster board.  He […]
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Time is a Gift

How many times have I wrapped up yet another sweater or book that was carefully chosen as a gift for a loved one and felt somehow that I was getting it all wrong? Not that my husband wouldn’t like the color of the sweater, or my friend would find the book dull, but the idea of a real gift was somehow lost by the ordinariness of just buying something. Sometimes I made things, knit, sewn or cooked by my own hands, yet still it was just something that eventually made it to the back reaches of drawers or cupboards, mostly forgotten, even if much appreciated. In this crazy world we live in, hamstrung by work, family and money obligations, the most valuable currency we have is that of time. Spending the equivalent of a day’s wages on a gift may mean a big financial sacrifice, but taking the day off to celebrate love, rekindle friendship, to laugh and to connect in person with the people who matter most is usually an even bigger challenge. I decided that I wanted to find time instead […]
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More than Milk and Cookies: Christmas Food for Thought

An elaborate holiday meal surrounded by family on Christmas Day is something often taken for granted. I grew up in what can only be described as a “Leave it to Beaver” family: a new hand-sewn nightgown every Christmas Eve, gifts and cinnamon cider the next morning, and turkey with all the trimmings. With few exceptions, this was Christmas, but my husband’s childhood experiences sparked a meaningful change in the way I think of this day. Roy grew up with little to no tradition and quite literally very little food. From a young age, he and his brothers were often forced to resort to stealing from grocery stores and searching fast food dumpsters for anything resembling protein. While his success in business afforded him a comfortable lifestyle in adulthood, his desire to help others remains one of his most inspirational qualities. Shortly after we married, we adopted a “give, not get” tradition. Instead of exchanging presents, we bought food, personal supplies, and gifts […]
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A Bountiful Life

Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? Sumptuous food, the warmth of family and friends brought together in a collective spirit of togetherness, and the opportunity for a little much needed reflection on the important things in life. If you are fortunate enough to have even one person to sit down at the table with and enjoy a solid home cooked meal, then the meaning of Thanksgiving rings just as true. By being thankful, by pausing to see the positive aspects of our past and present reality, we raise the quality of our lives. By simply pushing out all those nagging pessimistic thoughts that invade our consciousness daily, we become the contented, grateful people we want to be, at least for a while. It truly is simple and it is quite simply true. My husband and I will host the family dinner this year, and I must say I wasn’t that keen on the idea. Last November we lost my dear mother who made every occasion fun and every holiday meal memorable. For weeks the prospect of giving thanks […]
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Make a Difference… Together

I’ve got two boys, fairly close in age, so the younger one, Oscar, does tend to be saddled with the outgrown clothes of his older sibling. Oscar may know what it feels like to have clothes handed to him, but he also knows that there are children in this world who do not have many clothes at all – new or used.  He was the one to suggest going through his wardrobe, to donate his old clothes to a local AIDS orphanage. As we went through his closet, Oscar began to realize that he only had clothes to fit 6 to 7 year old boys, and he became concerned.  “What about the other kids?” he asked.  Completely unplanned, we decided to hit a local thrift store and pick up some more clothes together. Oscar took the task of shopping seriously.  Every now and again, he would pause to ask, “do you think they need clothes for winter or summer?” or “do you think they have swimming lessons?” It was not his questions that moved me; it was the time and effort he was putting […]
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Hispanic Heritage Month: Door to the American Dream

The National Council of La Raza President, Janet Murguia’s article on Hispanic Heritage Month for scholastic.com. Share these inspiring words with your children.  Enjoy! "Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to promote civil rights and to appreciate the many Hispanic characteristics that have become an important part of the American culture, says Janet Murguia, President of the National Council of La Raza. "Hispanic Heritage Month is an important time for kids to understand that different cultures exist in America," she told Scholastic Kids Press Corps. The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is the largest national Hispanic Civil Rights organization in the U.S. As the NCLR council's president, Murguia says Hispanic Heritage Month helps showcase Latino talents in many sectors: the arts, science, business, and entertainment. Murguia has a long history of work in the public sector. She served as deputy assistant to President Bill Clinton in the White House and is currently on […]
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A Few Cups Too Many

My boyfriend’s not much of a coffee fan.  He likes a good, hot mug every morning, but that’s it.  My family and childhood friends, on the other hand, are big coffee drinkers.  They’re from New Jersey and New York, where coffee is not only a means to wake up; it’s an essential socializing accessory.  After a few months together, I brought my boyfriend to meet them.  We spent a day visiting different people in their apartments, and every time, they offered us coffee.  My boyfriend was too polite to say no.  He even ended up having an extra mug when one of my friends was disappointed that the pot hadn’t been finished.  The day went well: my loved ones loved my boyfriend.  We started to walk back to the friend’s place we were staying at, and I can only imagine my boyfriend felt relieved.  That is until he suddenly started shaking and having heart palpitations. By the time we got back to my friend’s apartment, my boyfriend could barely breathe.  Terrified, we […]
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A Note on Love

Have you ever heard of National Love Note Day? Well, now you have. The world definitely needs more love letters and what better time to implement this idea to the most beautiful soul I know…my partner, my love, Raven. I had written her a letter in honor of this holiday; it turned out pretty well, in my opinion, and thought I would share with you: My Dearest Raven, From your child-like wonder, to your sense of adventure, to the sound of your laughter, makes my life more enriched, and makes my heart sing. One of my most favorite, sentimental memories of time spent with you illustrates all of those attributes.  It was about two years ago, I told you that I had a surprise for you, so I packed our bags, and without question from you, off to Orlando we went. After checking in at our delightful hotel that greeted us with chocolate chip cookies, we put our belongings away, and went out for a bite to eat.  After dinner, we were driving through the downtown Disney area, and you looked […]
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Note Your Love

Have you ever heard of National Love Note Day? Well, now you have. The world definitely needs more love letters and what better time to implement this idea to the most beautiful soul I know…my partner, my love, Raven. I had written her a letter in honor of this holiday; it turned out pretty well, in my opinion, and thought I would share with you: My Dearest Raven, From your child-like wonder, to your sense of adventure, to the sound of your laughter, makes my life more enriched, and makes my heart sing. One of my most favorite memories of time spent with you illustrates all of those attributes. It was about two years ago, I told you that I had a surprise for you, so I packed our bags, and without question from you, off to Orlando we went. After checking in at our delightful hotel that greeted us with chocolate chip cookies, we put our belongings away, and went out for a bite to eat. After dinner, we were driving through the downtown Disney area, and you looked to your right […]
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Honoring Service and Grandparents

When you’re a kid, grandparents serve as instant gratification for all things sugary and noisy. Mine were no exception. Grandma made Chef Boyardee pizza on the nights I slept over, and we all had chocolate-dipped cones at Fosters Freeze on Sundays. As far as I knew, grandpa was just grandpa. The grandpa who conspired with me to scare grandma or dad with a miniature cannon we periodically fired when no one was looking. The one who worked in the fireworks booth for the Lions Club and put on the best 4th of July celebrations ever  (even when one of the pyrotechnics went awry and left its permanent mark in grandpa’s perfectly-manicured lawn). The grandpa who put firecrackers on the cactus tips and blew the thing to shreds … with dad’s help, of course. I always knew my grandpa believed in serving his community, but it was my husband, Roy, who drew my attention to grandpa’s military service in World War II. In a keepsake letter for the family, and in my grandmother’s […]
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