Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Soup of Spring Vegetables


This soup would be a delcious, beautiful addition to your holiday dinner. It is the green of spring itself and delicious. It can be made the day before and gently reheated.

Pistou Soup of Spring Vegetables:


1/2 lb asparagus cut in 1/2 " pieces
1 1/2 lb fava beans ( I use edamame beans, shelled)
1 c peas
1/4 C chopped fresh herbs such as mint or parsley or dill (I use dill, mint, parsley and cilantro)
2 c fresh basil
1/2 c + 2 tbs olive oil -- more during the emulsifying stage if needed
1 large shallot
2 c vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 c heavy cream
thinly sliced mint or basil for garnish

In bowl combine edamame (or fava beans) peas and peeled chopped asparagus. Transfer half to the blender or food processor and chop up. Add basil and slowly add 1/2  cup of olive oil pureeing until smooth, They mixture should be bright green and smooth. If not add more olive oil.  Reserve other vegetables.

In large pot medium heat warm 2 TBS oil. Add shallot; cook until translucent 2 -3 minutes. Add reserved vegetables, pureed vegetables and stock. Heat soup, stir occasionally until warm and all the vegetables are bright green -- about 10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle into bowls and swirl a bit of heavy cream into the middle.

Serve with crusty bread.

Yum!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Rare and Beautiful

I read something beautiful.

I’ve
wanted
to read
Les Misérables since I saw the play in London many years ago. Not only was the music gorgeous, but during the play I understood, for the first time, something about meaning and symbolism in literature. At the end of the play, I understood that the barricade that the student-rebels had built stood for life and beyond it, as the final song celebrates, is a place free from misery, that is, heaven.

Published in 1862, the book begins with a stated purpose that is relevant today as told in the preface:

"So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved… so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless."—Victor Hugo Hauteville House 1862

The original novel is long, some editions as long as 1,200 pages and there were sections that I found soporific, but the action of the plot is both insightful, inspiring and challenging. And contained within the miles of prose are some of the most stirring descriptions of what is beautiful in life.
a garden fence made from apple trees

For those unfamiliar with the story, the narrative follows the life of a man, convicted of stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving family, who has just be released from serving nineteen years on a prison ship. Jean Valjean’s distinguishing physical characteristic is his enormous strength. But his mind is baffled in darkness and his spirit is ruined.

On his first night of freedom, the convict faces prejudice and can find nowhere to sleep or eat. He begs hospitality from a village priest, known fondly as Monseigneur Bienvenu (Bishop Welcome). It is about him that I want to tell you today.

Modern fiction, writers are told, must begin with a massacre of thousands, or some dark deed as is commonly shown on CSI and etc. This, modern writers are told is necessary to “hook” the reader Les Misérables begins differently. It shows the reader the interior life of the devoted man who, in the next pages, will welcome the utterly lost man.

“…the bishop’s day was full to the brim with good thoughts, good words, and good actions. Nevertheless, it was not complete if cold or rainy weather prevented his passing an hour or two in the evening… in his garden before going to sleep. It seemed as if it were a sort of rite with him, to prepare himself for sleep by meditating in presence of the great spectacle of the starry firmament….He was there alone with himself, collected, tranquil, adoring, comparing the serenity of his heart with the serenity of the skies, moved in the darkness by the visible splendors of the constellations, and the invisible splendor of God, opening his soul to the thoughts which fall from the Unknown. In such moments, offering up his heart at the hour when the flowers of night inhale their perfume, lighted like a lamp in the center of the starry night, expanding his soul in ecstacy* in the midst of the universal radiance of creation, he could not perhaps have told what was passing in his own mind; he felt something depart from him, and something descend upon him…


"He would sit upon a wooden bench leaning against a broken trellis and look at the stars through the irregular outlines of his fruit trees. This quarter of an acre of ground, so poorly cultivated, so cumbered with shed and ruins was dear to him, and satisfied him.


"What was more needed by this old man…? Was not this narrow enclosure with the sky for a background enough to enable him to adore God in his most beautiful as well as in his most sublime works?... A little garden to walk, and immensity to reflect upon. At his feet something to cultivate and gather; above his head something to study and meditate upon; a few flowers on the earth, and all the stars in the sky.”

Not only was I struck by the character of the priest, but the original beauty of the description. This writer thinks about sublime and wonderful things. This writer sees rare, exquisite qualities and ideas. It is this vision of Victor Hugo that “hooked” this reader.

The priest's rare inner quality so shown in this description makes believable his extraordinary gesture in the next scene. where Jean Valjean, repays the kindness of the old man by stealing the household silver. When he is caught and dragged back to the village, the priest insists that he gave Valjean the silver. “Jean Valjean, my brother, you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.”

And so, a man full of love and inspiration, sets in motion the redemption of another. The story tells how Jean Valjean becomes “a man who saves others.” And so, I think the preface copied above is right. As long as humans suffer, books like this are valuable, but more than that; as long as humans live they need careful, inspired descriptions of the subtle, important gold in life. And this Les Misérables offers in abundance.

This is a garden near Victor Hugo's home in exile on the island of Guernsey. Hugo was exiled for his political views.


*ecstacy spelled the archaic way, and in the archaic use meant a kind of spiritual awakening or experience.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Solomon's Puzzle -- The Dream

It began with a dream. I was living in a far off land where heat sizzled the sidewalks and lizards visited my kitchen cupboards. But I dreamt of snow . One night, I had a dream where three boys were lost in a snowstorm. Their home was a place near the sound of rushing water and their rescue was joyous.  I saw them, saw the snow, heard the water and couldn’t forget the image. It stayed with me as if it were a photograph.

This is the story of how I came to write my novel, Solomon’s Puzzle. Set in modern dayAnnapolis, it tells the story that began with my dream and ended as a beautiful depiction of the community I love here and the power within them to restore life. The title references King Solomon’s famous decision where two adults claim one living child. My book explores the idea- What if the child had been given to the liar? So many people have asked to read Solomon’s Puzzle I’ve decided to print some copies which will be available around Thanksgiving.


I had no intention of becoming a novelist. My family was growing and I had given up earlier plans of being a newspaper reporter. But the images of the dream returned to me in moments of quiet, in those clear moments of thought before sleep, or when we were driving long distances in the car and I wanted to ignore the skirmishes in the back seat.



I gazed at the dream in waking hours. Though I had not read John Gardner’s book On Becoming a Novelist yet, he description of the writing process fit my thinking. He says that writing fiction is similar to peering at a dream trying to figure out what’s happening. I think this is because the images in a dream are not exactly like real life, they’re close enough that we recognize them. They are symbolic representations of our struggles, fears, triumphs. So it is with fiction.


When my family was young and busy, I woke one morning with a desire to write, but I was far too busy to do so. Besides church and home responsibilities, I was home-schooling my two older children and I had two other active tots, one who loved my company and one who had to be watched constantly less he swallow sharp dresser knobs, drink the dog's heartworm medicine, try to climb out the window or swim in the mud.



Anyway,I had no idea what to write about. The popular books were bloody mysteries, which I’d read and admired the plotting, but didn’t want to imitate. I guess I was more interested in why violence happened and the results than who did it. Romance novels abounded and were said to be easy to publish and lucrative. Eventually, I did try to write one, but was told my characters were too complex, too thoughtful, so I sold parts of it to a British magazine which, at the time, published thoughtful fiction. There were the popular Christian prairie novels which I’d read and found diverting and that’s all. And finally there were self-help teaching books. But I had no intention of telling people how to live.



Not writing but wanting to write made me dream in snatches during the day. I thought about the teenagers I’d seen in the snowstorm and I wondered about them.
Why did the one boy stand apart?
What had caused his reluctance?
What could explain the looks on the others' faces? Gazing such at the vague but compelling image of my dream I came to understand my characters. I knew their names, and what they laughed at and what they struggled against. I began to sense a story that I wanted to tell.


When I shared my desire with my family. In their typical way, they were accepting and joyful about my hidden desire. They helped make time in our schedule and space in our home to write.

My family supporting me, I began. It was time to learn to write.


Monday, March 22, 2010

First Flowers


In the beginning of March the world looks bleak. No more snow, little possibility of the lovely white flakes covering the muddy landscape. Most everything is gray-brown and this year, so was the sky. We drove to Baltimore to celebrate our daughter's birthday with the family and the sky was the same wet color as the misty pavement we sped over.

 When we got there, our daughter's house was spilling light and full of dear people; I was able to put aside my shivers over the weather.

Why is it so hard to believe that spring will come. The eyes, the heart, the soul are desperate for it with a  longing for light and color and warmth so strong that waiting feels like a fear that this year winter might just last forever!

But this week, I found flowers in my garden!

Joe and Andrea had given them to me as a birthday gift and one day in the fall, Joey, Jack and I stuffed them hurriedly in my all weather flower pots. 

They bloomed!

I cut some carefully and found that the pansies in my windowboxes, which were knocked off the windows by the blizzard had survived and were blooming!

The coral bells' leaves have come back to life in all their amazing variety. The lilacs' buds are fat!

 So when the flowers appear, all seems truly right in the world. Flowers, so useless, so essential.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Interrupted Again!

At my house, the enemies of Gi Joe have captured a bit of real estate beneath the desk. They are known by the name of their evil organization “Cobra.” Every week, the Gi Joes storm this stronghold and capture the Cobra soldiers, carry them off to jail. Unless they are wounded, then they have to go first to hospital and then off to jail. The story is played out the same way, many, many times during the day.

What always happens next is that the Gi Joes are so happy they’ve taken care of the bad guys that they have a party. During this party, two scary robots disguised as an ancient alligator and a fierce-toothed dinosaur creep over to the jail and rescue the wicked Cobra warriors. Back they run to their fortress. And the story starts all over again. And so we play for a couple of hours.

It’s not that it gets tedious, oh, no! You'll not hear this Grannie complaining. But this week, during the tenth or twelfth rendition of the story, we were interrupted by a big, brown wolf spider. Joey and Jack found it and came to get me, claiming it was a black widow. They were thrilled and both flopped down on their bellies to study the creature.

Good thing Uncle Karl had stopped by. He assured us that it was the very friendly (not so friendly looking) wolf spider and grabbing two tissues, picked up the big, brown hairy fellow.

Joey and Jack were stirred with an apprehensive delight as the spider crawled up and over the tissue that their brave uncle held and turned to keep the spider crawling and not biting or scurrying away. I found a jar and we put him there.
Jack has the fascinated look of the scientist... or maybe of the poet? Either way, he's an animal lover

After admiring him, we had to find him food. I don’t know why I have critters in my house, as I do clean it weekly, but we found some lady bugs, some stink bugs, some ants and a flying ant in the usual places. You see every week, Jack checks the windowsills for the orange lady bugs that congregate there, and he checks by the back door for ants and squeals, “Bug! Bug!” when he sees one.

With great care and cooperation we opened the jar lid and dropped in the bugs.

Joey told Jack, “As soon as the spider gets a whiff of that bug’s scent, he’ll go after it. You watch.” Joey let Jack hold the jar and everyone was careful and attentive. They wanted to take her home, but in the end we decided to let her go free outside. I hope he comes back to add a little disruptive excitement to the very routine capture and escape of the Cobra warriors next week. Or, who knows? Maybe something else will happen?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Favorite Bread Recipes

I’d like to share two old, favorite bread recipes.

This is the most delicious quick bread recipe I have. It is not too sweet; it is so deliciously flavored you won’t believe it. YUM!
Honey Date Bread
1 cup chopped dates
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup boiling water
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
Grease and flour one loaf pan. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Boil water, pour boiling water over the chopped dates.

Mix sugar, honey, egg, oil and vanilla; beat well. Mix in separate bowl flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the egg/oil/sugar mixture alternating with the water and the dates. Mix only until the ingredients are incorporated. The dough will be thick.

Put the dough into the pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes. This recipe can be doubled.



Cornmeal Yeast Bread from the More With Less Cookbook
Makes 2 loaves.
2 pkg dry yeast in
½ cup lukewarm water
½ c sugar
Dissolve yeast in water with sugar
Add:
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil.
¾ cup water or rice milk
1 egg
Mix well, then add gradually
1 cup white flour
¾ cup cornmeal
Mix well, then add and knead until smooth:
3-31/2 cups flour (can mix white flour with ½ cup wheat germ and flax seed)
Put the dough in a greased bowl and cover for 1 hour. Shape into loaves and place in 2 greased, floured loaf pans. Let rise until double, about 40 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

This bread has a lovely, even texture and a delicate flavor. It’s wholesome but not heavy. It's wonderful for a dinner bread or for sandwiches.



Friday, March 12, 2010

My Happy Day

The sun shine was yellow and warm.
Valerie and Clare came to visit
We laughed and talked.
It's comfortable being together.
We went for a walk in our beautiful home town.
We took pictures of places in my novel.
We visited USNA's lovely chapel.
Clare was blessed by one of the priests there.
We admired the beauty.
We looked up and smiled.
Clare loved it.
So much to think about.
Val sang a song. Her voice soared up into the chapel's dome.  Clare joined in, singing and imitating her mom.
A crowd gathered and though tears stood in my eyes, my heart was happy.

We came home and had a cup of tea.
May your daughter bring you as much joy as you've brought me, Valerie. Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Support Your Local Poets


Baltimore poet, Mary Azrael, has written some beautiful riddle poems. I was introduced to these lovely and insightful poems many years ago when I taught at Carver Center for Arts and Technology north of Baltimore. And, of course, I read  them tomy students to teach vivid language use in my classroom.

Riddle poems are found in the oldest of our literary record. Anglo Saxon riddle poems are famous and intriguing. And puzzles are good for the mind!

Below are a blend of these poems for your enjoyment. See if you can guess the subject and if you can, write it your answer in comments. If you’re really brave, try a riddle poem of your own.

1. An Anglo Saxon Riddle poem translated by Craig Williamson

A life-thief stole my world-strength,
Ripped off flesh and left me skin,
Dipped me in water and drew me out,
The hard blade, clean steel, cut,
Scraped-fingers folded, shaped me.
Now the bird's once wind-stiff joy
Darts often to the horn's dark rim,
Sucks wood-stain, steps back again
With a quick scratch of power, tracks
Black on my body, points trails.

Scholars think that these riddles were sung in the mead hall where the community gathered for food, shelter, safety and entertainment. They are often suggestive of sex and violence and may make the reader (especially if she’s a teacher standing before open-minded students) a little nervous but just as often sing the worthiness and beauty of every day items.
creating a stone path is a riddle of  fitting piece of unyielding stone to the earth and the space.

2.
Who can eat the fire
and roll over still
pale as a pebble and cold?

Who can swallow
in silence the sun
and give back whole
in total silence the sun?

Who is the thief
who wants nothing for keeps
but this instant of power?

xi by Mary Azrael from “Riddles for a Naked Sailor” published 1991 by Stonevale Press Burkittsville, Maryland

I like the way that this riddle gives the object a surprising personality and of course I like the image of “swallowing the sun.” Who wouldn’t want to be able to do that?

a quilt is a sort of a puzzle


3.
A sliver of yellow
swells to a hollow bud
blue where it lcings to the wood.
Held apart
it will split and swallow
itself in its dwindling heart.

Never a flower
on its own shriveling stem,
it must touch another
to bloom.
Then see what poppies
of burning color
will shake themselves loose
with a glare and a hiss.

xii by Mary Azrael from “Riddles for a Naked Sailor” published 1991 by Stonevale Press Burkittsville, Maryland



This riddle is one of my favorites. I like the idea of the poet observing the world around her and then trying to make these every day things arise in people’s minds without naming them. What do you see in these poems? What do you like?

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Extra Eye


Many writers and sages claim that love is blind.  The idea is that love keeps us from seeing with cold accuracy those we love. I remember a plaque at my grandparents’ house showing an elderly couple kissing. The caption read, “Love is blind, the neighbors aren’t.”


In a poem by Sylvia Plath, named “Mirror” she explores the importance of modern society's interest in youth and beauty. In it she says that the mirror just reflects the truth, “unmisted by love or dislike,” suggesting, like other thinkers, that love clouds our view of reality. This line from the poem reinforces the idea that love's view is not the true view.

This common belief is why mothers apologize when they recognize their children’s gifts. I suppose there's historical reason for the caution in our cultural attitudes. After all, it was a mistake for Napoleon to elevate his brothers and sisters and their spouses to royal positions all over Europe. But not many of us can really claim blindness anywhere close to Napoleon's level of delusion. (He was a slightly crazy military genius).

When I began teaching, my friend Jo-Ann advised me to try to look for the potential in the students – especially in those students who might occasionally be irritating. This concept was a common theme in our morning devotions at school. We hoped to be able to see our students with eyes of hope, with eyes of vision.

Recently I enjoyed a lively conversation with a former student. His warm outgoing nature made me smile, his kindness and generosity of spirit touched me. But when he was in high school, these qualities were well-hidden, maybe in seedling form. How gracious of God to allow me to meet up with him again and see how beautifully he’s grown.

It’s refreshing to look at things differently and James Barrie does so in his book The Little Minister. He says, "Love it is said is blind, but love is not blind. It is an extra eye, which shows us what is most worthy of regard. To see the best is to see most clearly, and it is the lover's privilege."


This outlook helps us remember to look again at those around us, to search the irritating ones for the spark within them that yearns for expression. Maybe she’s frustrated, maybe she needs someone to believe in her. This way of looking at love helps us to reconsider the gift within that bossy, willful child. Maybe he simply can’t wait to accomplish the dreams he can sense but can barely now define. The extra eye sees not the physical, it sees beyond time and the limits of the tangible.

Seeing with the extra eye means recognizing the gold within others. It means paying attention to the dream. It means focusing on the treasure that is behind the clumsy attempts people make at using gifts so big they’re scary.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Bearded Uncle


"I have a good eye, uncle; I can see a church by daylight." Shakespeare in Much Ado About Nothing

Children love their uncles. They’re enough like their fathers to be trusted, but they provide a different perspective on life and manhood.
They’re a little bit of extra fun an excitement.
Joey’s eyes light up when one of his uncles tells a story about when his dad was young. The connection must seem mysterious and delightful to a child. Here’s someone who looks similar to his father, knew his father in that intriguing time where all the stories say his father was young and behaved more like the child himself. The uncle is a witness to his father’s youth and humanity.



Teaching Joey the form of the sonnet was as interesting as a beard

At the moment, Joey and Jack have three bearded uncles and two with occasional scruff. When they talk about their uncles, they distinguish them by the state of their beards... scratchy, big beard, no beard, etc. The beard is the identifying feature.
Hanging out with Uncle Andrew

Surrounded by such a crowd of uncles, Joey came to my house bursting with ideas about when he would someday be grown up.
“When I get to be a man,” he said, with fierce determination, his fist clenched to make sure it happened, “I’m going to have a beard.”
“Why would you want a beard?”
“You can shave it. Or you don’t have to!”
“You look fine now without a beard,” said I who knows how fast children grow up.
Joey shook his head. “I want to be like Uncle Jake. He has a beard.”
“Yes,” he has a nice beard,” I agreed. I happen to know Joey’s Uncle Jake. He is his mother’s sister’s husband and was once a dear student in one of the liveliest, dearest classes I ever taught. Later we were colleagues at the same school.
Jake, Jen and I at the hospital waiting for Joey's birth

“Yeah. Uncle Jake’s got a great beard. I love it!” Joey is enthusiastic if he’s anything. “And when he gets up in the morning,” Joey said, “Uncle Jake looks in the mirror he says, ‘I look good!’”

“Jake says that?” I laughed.
“Because of his beard. He looks good.”

Jack is also fascinated with beards. He was playing with the bubbles in the sink here, which is a sort of tradition for Jack, but this time, he put them on his face. “I be Uncle Andrew,” he said, delighted with himself. Of course the whole family admires Andrew because he can figure anything out and build anything. Like Jack, we think there’s some special strength in his beard.

The boys’ Uncle Karl also has a beard. Once, he had been on a river trip for over a month and came home to surprise us with a beard that would have won a prize. Joey and Jack both remembered this for a long time and when Karl was mentioned, they’d say “beard” or “scratchy” and wrinkle up their noses as they shivered with delight.

I guess it is the novelty also of seeing this extravagant amount of hair on someone’s face. It distinguishes them absolutely from women. It suggests the strongest of animal traits —lions or bears and the sensory memory of its tickle takes the apprehension about it away.
  
After spending the night at our house last week, we were getting everyone ready to go to church. I came downstairs with three big Velcro curlers in my hair. The boys stared at me with that closed-mouth, suspicious look.
“These help my hair look good,” I explained. “They’re curlers.”
I picked Jack up and he reached to touch one. “They’re really just for girls,” I explained primarily because I didn’t want him to try to pull it out.
“No they’re not,” Joey said.
“Boys and men don’t wear curlers that I know of.”
“Why?” Joey said with the bitter edge of injustice in his voice.
“It’s not done in our culture,” I couldn’t think of anything else to say!
“For good reason,” said my husband.
Not one to give up easily, Joey vowed, “Uncle Jake wears curlers.”

I guess that explains why he looks so good in the mirror in the morning.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Olympic Inspiration?

Have you ever wondered if you would have fit in better in a different time period?

For the past two weeks during the Olympics, I have found myself wishing that I had raised my children in different decades.

Earlier because things were more straightforward, or later, like now, because moms in 2010 have some remarkable examples to motivate children.

As she brought up her children in the fifties and sixties, my mother in law was firm about children attending school whether they wanted to or not. I respected and admired her for this. My husband, responding positively to this inner confidence went to school every day and actually won prizes for consecutive days in attendance.
They look pretty serious or even confused, but these children went to school anyway.

Not so my children in the eighties and nineties. The trouble in our house began when one of my children was sent to school against his wishes because he knew, inside his confident little self, that he was getting sick. "Nonsense," I said, thinking to live up to my mother-in-law's worthy example. I sent him on his way. An hour later, the school called to say said child had puked all over the classroom.

He didn't want to go to school. 
After that victory, there was simply no living with this particular child. He wasn’t crazy about school anyway, considered it an interruption. Now on days when he didn’t want to go, he held his stomach and said, “Remember that one time? Remember when you sent me to school when I said my stomach hurt and I threw up? Do you want that to happen to me again? Do you want them to have to call you again?”

A few years later during the early years of the Internet, I was in graduate school and received an email from this same child home sick. His father had taken the day off to care for him.
"things are bad here. Dad's making me clean my room tho i'm really really really sick. when are you coming home?
love from,
the sicky"

It turns out that he's a natural teacher. Loves teaching, helping kids work together, knows how to talk to students, how to motivate them to be their best selves, and he is, in fact, in graduate school earning his master's degree in education. Hated school, fought against going and now finds himself called to one of the most richly rewarding professions (I'm not talking about cash).  Hmmm... how is that possible? What did I miss?
What's not to enjoy when you can play poker in the back row during a school band performance? Not that anyone would ever do that...

The problem with the eighties and nineties was that the only example at hand of an athlete that was useful for inspiring children was Michael Jordan. (Mike Tyson, for example, was not what I had in mind). And I used Michael Jordan. I wasn't the only mother to do so. We with normal children all used him. His story became a sort of a chant among certain mothers when their children were mad or crying or pretending not to care because they went unnoticed at school or were outright (justly or unjustly) rejected. “You know, we’d say,” eyebrows up for emphasis. “Michael Jordan didn’t make the basketball team his tenth grade year. And look at him now!”
Eric Hidin'
And eventually there was Wayne Gretzky who was rumored to have never been forced to practice. He wanted to practice! He begged to practice! He refused to come in out of the Canadian cold so he could keep practing all through the semi-darkness of the Canadian arctic day. That, my dears, I would say, is how he became The Great One.

someone is still not smiling

But if I were raising my children now in 2010, I’d have a truly remarkable role model. Were they crying because they were afraid of the school bully? Were they throwing up and so didn’t want to sing in the Christmas Concert? Were they suffering from a 101 degree fever on the way to their first ballet recital?

You can't tell little "Ribbon Candy" has a fever, can you? She's not smiling because someone made her wear lipstick so she pressed her mouth together.

If I faced any of these lame excuses with my children now, I would only have to point to the 2010 Olympics where that brave downhill skier  actually, with great fortitude and courage, forced herself to ski with a broken pinkie.
Can you imagine?
Did you see the headlines about it?
Think what my children might have achieved had I this news to use to encourage them!  I can see the headlines now.

Child Plays Chopstick Though Brother Crowds Bench

Boy Cleans Toys Up Despite Bad Attitude

Girl Struggles To Carry Hefty Doll in Adult-Sized Backpack

Here's to doing our best despite life's broken pinkies.