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365 Reasons To Smile- Day 219

sugar cookiesFrosted sugar cookies in the shape of hearts for Valentine’s Day have become as much a tradition in my house as Christmas cookies.

I love that my daughter does all the work (other than some of the clean up.)

But I also love eating them. I know they have absolutely no nutritional value, but part of what makes holidays special is allowing ourselves some guilty pleasures.

Eating frosted sugar cookies is definitely one of my guilty pleasures, and guilty pleaures always makes me smile

Day 219: Frosted Sugar Cookies Day 218: Children with a Global Perspective Day 217: Enchanted  Day 216: Having a “secret weapon” Day 215: Jack and Diane  Day 214: The Volkswagen Beetle Day 213: Moments that Can’t Be Recreated  Day 212: “The Soul” Quote   Day 211: Rubber Ducky  Day 210: Tracks in the Snow   Day 209: Finding a Penny on the Ground Day 208: Kids who Use Their Manners  Day 207: Reminders of Warm Sunny Days  Day 206:  Dogs Playing in the Snow  Day 205:  Descriptive Phrases  Day 204: Arsenic and Old Lace  Day 203: Reminders of Resiliency  Day 102: Stephanie’s Ponytail Day 201: Being Asked to Help  Day 200: Boys and Their Toys  Day 199: The Most Important Person  Day 198: People With Courage to Do What is Right  Day 197: Being Pleasantly Surprised by My Children  Day 196: Being Told I’m Young  Day 195: Good News  Day 194: Meaningful Eye Contact   Day 193: A Sense of Accomplishment Day 192: Growing Into the Person I’ll Someday Be  Day 191:  Matt Groening  Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy  Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence  Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work  Day 187: Funny Phone Calls  Day 186: Healthy Lungs  Day 185: Reality Checks Day  184: Coincidence  Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro  Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories  Day 180: A soak in a bathtub  Day 179: Optimism  Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names  Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day   Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey  Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass  Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes  Day 173: Family Acceptance  Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song  Day 170: Positive People  Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids  Day 168:  Jealous Pets   Day 167:  Family Christmas Recipes  Day 166:  Church BellsDay 165:  School Holiday   164: Unexpected Grace  Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control  Day 162: Anticipating a good story   Day 161: Hope  Day 160:  When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment  Day 159: Surprises in the Mail  Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial  Day 157:  A Garage on Winter Days    Day 156:  Real Christmas Trees    Day 155: Being a Parent   Day 154: Selfless People Day 153:  Nelson Mandela  Day 152: Memorable Road Trips  Day 151: Great Neighbors  Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself   Day 149:  Love Letters  Day 148:  The first day of Advent  Day 147: The Breakfast Club   Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude  Day 144:  Watching My Dog Play   Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met  Day 142:  When Our Children Become Role Models  Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness  Day 140; People Watching  Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children  Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice  Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage  Day 136: Postcards from Heaven  Day 135: Mickey Mouse  Day 134: Generous Souls  Day 133: I’m Moving On  Day 132: A Family That is Really Family  Day 131:   A Personal Motto  Day 130:  Mork and Mindy  Day 129: The Bears’ House  Day 128:  Veterans  Day 127: Doppelgangers  Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should  Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky  Day 124: When History Repeats Itself   Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122:  Helen Keller  Day 121:  The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song  Day 120: Sheldon Cooper  Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes  Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends  Day 117:  Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season  Day 115; Life Experience Day 114:  Changes  Day 113:  The Wooly Bear Caterpillar  Day 112: The National Anthem  Day 111: Parents Who Care   Day 110: Good Friends Day 109:  My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  Day 108:  A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades  Day 105:  The Peanuts Gang Dancing   Day 104:  Sharing a Secret Language   Day 103:  The Electric Company  Day 102:  Doing the Right Thing  Day 101:  When Siblings Agree  Day 100: Being Optimistic  Day 99: Trying Something New   Day 98:  The Sound of Children on a Playground  Day97: Good Advice  Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy  Day 95:  The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94:  Accepting Change    Day 93:  True Love     Day 92: Camera Phones   Day 91: Bicycle Brakes    Day 90:  HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness   Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart   Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green LightsDay 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious  Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer  Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs  Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids  Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of HayDay 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment   Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles  Day   3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs  Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street

Everything I Need to Know About Valentine’s Day, I learned in First Grade

candyheartsI always liked school, but I absolutely hated first grade. That’s because I had a very, very, very mean teacher.

Even forty years later, I’m still traumatized by memories of Mrs. Gladwill.

Normally, I’d feel really guilty calling someone out by name but 1) I’m not the only who has scars inflicted by Mrs. Gladwill and, 2) She’s dead. She died in 2008 at the age of 94. I know this because my mother sent me a link to her obituary. My mother, who is a very wise woman, knew I needed closure.

There’s no need to go into all the details of why first grade was difficult. There are just too many of those details, such as:

Watching fellow students have their ears twisted;

Sitting in class in fear of having “accidents” because, instead of giving permission to use the bathroom, Mrs. Gladwill gave lectures about “not planning accordingly”;

Having my desk put in the corner of the room so others couldn’t cheat from my papers.

But my worst memory, by far, is Valentine’s Day.

Back in the early 1970’s, before there were strict dietary guidelines in schools, Valentine’s Day parties were one of the celebrated days of the school year. Preparation began well before the actual day. By the beginning of February, letters were sent home with both the names of classmates and a list of snacks, such as cookies, cupcakes and candy, that parents were asked to contribute. We used that list of names to painstakingly address a card for every single classmate – whether we liked the person or not. But we did pick out “the best” cards and candy (every card had to have candy) for our friends.

In school, we decorated mailboxes (shoeboxes covered with construction paper) in which our Valentine’s Day cards were to be delivered. The actual celebration was to be a festival of sugar and giggles.

The day before the big Valentine’s Day party, I could no longer hide the fact I couldn’t swallow. I’d begun to worry the day before at school when eating lunch was a painful challenge. At breakfast, while I was trying to somehow swallow a spoonful of Cheerios, my mother took one look at me, told me I looked like a chipmunk and declared I had the mumps.

I wasn’t just devastated. I was horrified.

Mrs. Gladwill simply did not tolerate illness. Every day, after she took attendance, she would take a piece of chalk and scrawl the names of the absent on the blackboard. In the eyes of first graders, having your name on the blackboard was equivalent to the adult version of being forced to wear a scarlet letter. Walking into the classroom and seeing  your name on the blackboard was the ultimate walk of shame.

Being diagnosed with mumps was not only a sentence to take that walk of shame, but it also meant I was going to miss the Valentine’s Day party. In the eyes of a six-year-old, life couldn’t have been much worse.

That Valentine’s Day was probably one of the longest days of my life as I spent every minute imagining all I was missing. Finally, sometime after 3:00, I heard the squeal of the school bus’ brakes as it stopped in front of my house. When my brother came into the house, he didn’t call me chipmunk or tease me for missing all the festivities. Instead, he handed me the shoebox I had so painstakingly decorated only a few days earlier. But now, it was full of Valentine’s and candy. I spent hours reading and treasuring all of the cards, even the ones I knew weren’t heartfelt.

A few days later when I returned to class, my name was one of many written in dark chalk on the blackboard. Apparently, some nameless person (me?) had come to school with the mumps and shared the virus with everyone else.

Eventually, attendance went back up and our class returned to the same, miserable status quo. But I didn’t. That Valentine’s Day taught me a lot about love:

1. Love is about the memories we treasure because, even though they sometimes grow out of difficult situations, they remind us of people and challenges we’ve overcome.

2.Love is about finding a song that will mean something to you at any age. For me, the  Rolling Stones got it exactly right. “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you just might find, you get what you need.”

3. Love is about having a family whose support will always make the worst day a little bit brighter.

4. Love is learning to treasure all the small gifts, even ones from people who may not realize that they were giving anything of importance.

5. Love is about taking care yourself, even when others will try to make you feel as though their needs should come first.

Most of all, I learned that Valentine’s Day is much more complicated than cards, or candy or having just one special person in your life. It’s about recognizing and acknowledge everything that makes you happy.

And, over the past 40 years, I’ve been immensely blessed with people, memories and circumstances that make me happy.

Which, is why, even though I may not entirely succumb to the sappiness of Valentine’s Day, I certainly embrace the sentiments, and the lessons, it’s taught me.

Ten Lessons about Love for My Ten Year-old Daughter

Being a very practical person, I’m extremely fortunate to have a pragmatic daughter. Unlike many of her peers, she’s shown little concern about romance and relationships. Other than incessantly listening to Taylor Swift songs and keeping tabs on Taylor’s love life, she just doesn’t seem to care.

And while I hope that doesn’t change, I also know that, eventually, it will.

I can’t imagine that she’ll ever be the type of person who feels incomplete without a significant other, but I do know that she will start dating at some point.

And that also means she’ll have her heart broken.

But before that happens, I feel obligated to share ten lessons I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) about love:

1. You can’t truly love someone else unless you love who you are. And who you are is an imperfect person who makes mistakes, gets mad and will sometimes say and do very stupid things. Love yourself anyone. How you handle your mistakes and flaws is more important than trying to hide them.

2.  Love is only genuine when you are being true to yourself.  Don’t pretend to enjoy something when you don’t. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t compromise. You should. Love requires a great deal of compromise. But compromise doesn’t mean you should pretend to be someone you’re not.  If you do, you’ll wind up being miserable.

3. Love isn’t a competition, and you can’t make someone love you. You will always be loved for being the unique person you are and not because you are prettier, smarter, funnier, sexier or nicer than someone else. Therefore, you should never worry about what others are doing to attract attention or affection. Being yourself is enough.

4.  You don’t fall in love. That indescribable feeling of “falling in love'” is usually a combination of infatuation and physical attraction. Love is something that is grounded in mutual respect, grows slowly and doesn’t necessarily bloom as much as it thrives.

5.  Love isn’t about romance. It’s about experiencing someone at their very worst and realizing that walking away would still be more devastating than dealing with a tough situation.

6. Love is about having passion in your life – but not necessarily in the way you might think. Never invest so much of yourself in a relationship that you don’t have time for everything else you love. Be passionate about a hobby. Be passionate about a cause. Be passionate about your family and friends. And also be passionate about your love.

7. True love means you aren’t worried about what other people think about your relationship. If you spend time worrying about what others are thinking or saying, you likely have concerns yourself. If you’re confident about your relationship and the integrity of your significant other, you won’t care what others say. Always stay in tune with your inner voice and be honest with yourself.

8. Love means saying you’re sorry. Unlike the quote “love means never having to say you’re sorry” made popular in the 1970’s movie “Love Story,” love means that you’re willing to let go of your ego. Admit when you are wrong or when you’ve said or done something hurtful. And when you are in a relationship, you will say and do hurtful things at times.

9.  Don’t expect love to always feel exciting and new. Just like life, love can sometimes be dull and boring and predictable. Relationships are like roller coasters: sometimes they can be difficult and sometimes they can be easy and fun. But being able to work together during the uphill battles is what makes the downhill ride so enjoyable.

10. People do change, and that can affect your relationship.  Our experiences shape who we become. The person who you fell in love with several years ago will probably be different from the person you know today. And you will be different too.  Many times, you can join hands while you grow.  Sometimes, you drop your hands and grow apart. Often, the decision is yours, but sometimes it isn’t.

As I share these lessons with my daughter, I realize that I could add so many more. But I figure one for every year of her life is enough for now. Besides, she often doesn’t listen to me anyway.  Despite that, I do want her to hear one message loud and clear:  even though she will ALWAYS have her mother’s heart, I  hope she is also able to follow her own.

Valentines Day 2011: Genes, Family, Love and, of Course, Dogs

I never grew up with really warm and fuzzy feelings for my grandfather. The strained relationship was more than just a matter of not clicking. It was more an issue of two head strong people who were so sure they were in the right, the other person had to be wrong.

When I first began complaining about him to my mother, she tried to convince me he had a lot of great qualities. And, if I look at the matter objectively, I can see that he did. As a child growing up in Oregon, he and my grandmother made sure that, even in their seventies, they travelled from Michigan to visit us twice a year. No matter what. Even after my uncle died in a plane crash, they still made the trip via air at times, which I now realize was extremely hard on them.

And when it came to matters of giving gifts of money or material possessions, he went beyond the call of duty to be fair.

But when it came to matters of who he respected and held in high regards, I never measured up. Not because I wasn’t smart or determined. I was both. What I didn’t have was the ability to keep my mouth shut, a natural respect for my elders or, most importantly, a Y chromosome. And nothing was ever going to change that. And therefore, nothing was going to change about my relationship with him. Or so I thought.

But time and perspective have a way of altering our views. Admittedly, when my grandfather died of Alzheimer’s in 1998, my relationship with him hadn’t changed. But now in my mid-forties, I’ve bumped along the path of life long enough to accept some of the hard lessons it teaches.

And one of the toughest for me was recognizing how much I am like my grandfather.

Granted, I think I could teach him a thing or two about tolerance and about not taking life too seriously, but other than that? I’m definitely his granddaughter. No doubt about it. I’m no scientist, but I have no question that the helix of DNA he passed on to me carried the genes for being outspoken, strong-willed, and impatient. That same blue print is also completely missing the genes for being calm, detached and deferential.

I may not care about the same things he cared about, but I don’t think that matters. At least not to me. Granted, my conservative grandfather is probably rolling over in his grave at some of my beliefs and loyalties, but that’s all right. What’s shaped my passions and values isn’t part of the DNA. I get those from my life experiences and the choices I’ve made.

But in remembering my grandfather, I realize there was one passion we shared. And, even though there may be no scientific proof, I’m pretty sure it is an inherited trait. I’m positive that there is a gene for undying love and compassion for animals, particularly dogs.

I know my rigid, self-controlled grandfather was beholden to the pull of the “dog gene.” His absolute adoration of dogs above people is only matched by my own. When my children or husband comment about how I love dogs more than I love them, I smile. I know I should be denying it, but instead, I think of my grandfather: a man who would fly or even drive a couple thousand miles to visit his daughter and grandchildren. Or so everyone else thought.

But even as a young girl, I knew differently. When he and my grandmother would arrive at our house, it wasn’t me or my brother that would make his face light up. It was the sight of our lab/German Short hair mix, Charlie Brown, that would make his eyes twinkle and his usually stern mouth break into a smile. And, if you look back through family photo albums, I think there are more pictures of grandfather with Charlie Brown than there with any of the rest of us.

I never saw my grandfather get enthusiastic about much, but he was always enthusiastic about animals. And even though a lot of things about my grandfather bothered me,that never did. And now I know why.

Because I was exactly like him. I still am. And, now, I appreciate all the traits he passed on to me.

Now, on this Valentine’s Day when we are supposed to let those we love know, I don’t have the opportunity to tell my grandfather what I’ve learned. That I loved his passion for animals, and, after all these years, I know I also loved him for that passion… not as much as I love my dog, but I still loved him.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Grandpa.