Everybody’s Aunt ~ Sarah

It’s a few days after Thanksgiving and we are getting ready for bed.

“Now don’t forget,” my Mom tells me. “Tomorrow, I want you to go straight to Aunt Sarah’s. She’ll be waiting for you. You’re going to keep her company and help her with anything she needs.”

“Okay, Mom.” I reply. I know that I am really going to Aunt Sarah’s because she is old, really, really old. I am really going there to babysit her until Mom’s friend Audrey gets home from whatever it is that she has to do.

Aunt Sarah is like our furniture. We are secure with her and she is secure with us. She is warm and round and she loves us very much. She is not really our Aunt, but there is no kid in the neighborhood who does not call her “Aunt.”

The front door is not locked. It never is. And I come bustling in with my schoolbag in tow. Aunt Sarah sits in her chair. Her eyes are gentle and blue. Her skin hangs in folds from her face, her neck, and her arms. There is always a little curl at her lips. She wears a sweater even though the house is warm. She welcomes me as I enter after school. “Would you like some cookies,” she asks me. I stop to ponder. Should I say, “yes?” Because surely, I do want some cookies. Would it be right to let her take care of me? Because, after all, I am there to do her bidding. I settle on, “yes, please.”

Aunt Sarah rises ever so slowly from her chair and ambles slowly on into the kitchen. She pours me some milk and sets out some cookies. And so our afternoon continues. Aunt Sarah chats with me and the lilt of her voice delights me. Her wise words fill me with awe. I tell her about my day and she listens intently as if she were right there, in the moments I describe. We watch a show on the black and white TV screen and I ask if there is anything she wants me to do for her. She sips tea. I think there is milk in her tea and it strikes me as odd since my Mom doesn’t take milk in her tea.

Too soon, Audrey arrives home and it is time for me to go. I scurry on over to Aunt Sarah as she sits in her chair, and give her fluffy, soft body a hug and I plant a kiss among the folds of skin on her soft face. She kisses me back. She smells of Aunt Sarah, that beautiful, older than life lady, that I am in charge of.

I feel important and Aunt Sarah does too. She has listened more intently than words can describe. She has nourished a little girl with cookies and love. And she has kept me safe while Mom was away from home.

The real joy of knowing Aunt Sarah was in the lessons we learned, in running errands, and babysitting (even though she was also babysitting us). In fetching things for her, and sharing a cup of tea, or having a discussion about school, or toys, or siblings, we learned compassion. In soft, warm hugs and kissing the funny folds of skin on her aging face, we learned the value of human dignity. We learned so much more than any class could have taught. We learned to respect the elderly. We learned that we should be compassionate and caring toward the infirm. We learned that the elderly still had so much to offer. We learned to slow down. We learned that we were not the center of the universe (even as that person made us think we were). We learned love, unconditional love.


Do you have an Aunt Sarah? What lessons have the elderly taught you? Please leave a comment below.

What to Do When He Asks to Marry Your Daughter



You’ve loved her and protected her and hopefully taught her how to be self sufficient. You say you don’t have a double standard and you believe it with all your heart. Then one day a nice young man that she’s been dating approaches you and asks for your daughter’s hand in marriage.


“You want to marry my little girl? …that happy-go-lucky sweetheart who was wearing pigtails only a few short years ago?”

How do you answer this nervous young fellow? Is it really as easy as giving him a slap on the back, or a hug, and saying, “Sure! Great! That’s Wonderful! I give you my blessing?”


I can assure you that it is not that easy. Today’s world comes with a different blueprint from the one our parents came from and probably from the one that we emerged from. Values have changed. Work ethics have changed. The things we took for granted only a short time ago can’t be taken for granted anymore. Relationships look different and are different. But, no matter how different things are, some things never change. Some responsibilities fall to one side or the other, more heavily, than they would if they rested perfectly in the middle.

We’ve all seen that hilarious movie or read that book where the dad corners his daughter’s nervous boyfriend and asks, “What are your intentions, young man?”



Why not? The answers vary. Probably because Sweet Daughter pleads with him to be nice to her significant other. Probably because the talk of marriage is just that, only talk, at this time in their lives. Probably because Dad is busy working, providing for the family, paying the college bills or looking for a little down time when he’s off. Maybe because Sweet Daughter pleads that asking a young man that sort of question is “old fashioned.” Perhaps somewhere along the way Sweet Daughter grew up more quickly than Dad noticed, and before he knew it he had a grown young woman before his eyes, and he didn’t know how to speak to her as frankly as he did when she was his little girl. The list goes on and on…

But Dads, and Moms, take note. These are talks you can, and should, in fact, these are talks you MUST have, with not only your prospective son-in-law, but long before that, with your daughter. And you should not stop until you are sure your blessing is warranted.

How do you have these talks? What do you say?

The great comedian, Steve Harvey has some cut-to-the-chase advice for young women. He has strong advice, with regard to the young man she’s dating. Mr. Harvey compares relationships to sincerity or “sport fishing.” He’s humorous but downright correct. Here’s what he has to say:

  • “If his conversation with you is extremely superficial, and never seems to graduate beyond the surface, he’s sport fishing. ~”
  • “If he genuinely seems interested in your needs, life, desires, and future, he’s looking for a keeper. ~”
  • “If he does not have himself together financially, emotionally, and spiritually, he may be sport fishing. ~”
  • “If he is capable of providing, and protecting his potential family, the way a real man should, then he might be searching for a keeper. ~”

**Excerpts From: Steve Harvey with Denene Millner. “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/4xQFv.l



Love and infatuation can produce blurred lines. Young people, in love, don’t always stop to read the fine print in a relationship. They are too infatuated with love to read between the lines. They might be afraid to ask the hard questions for fear of getting the real answers. But, in the absence of asking the tough questions, unhappiness lies in pursuit.


Young people don’t often view marriage as a job, that two people must work at, to keep the flame alive. They think the spark will always be there. But, life happens. People grow and change. Some people never grow or change. Children come. Jobs change. Needs change. Weariness happens. Bills keep coming. Marriage is hard. Families require time, energy, wisdom, money, fortitude…


Young men and young women view the same thing through a different lens, yet they don’t always devote the time needed for answer seeking. In order to make his point, my biology Professor from undergraduate work, Dr. Silverstein often remarked that, “Testosterone Rules!” And here’s what comedian Steve Harvey has to say about the subject:

“Here’s a generalization but in my experience, it’s true. Women love to sit and talk for no apparent reason but to talk, but we men, we’re just not cut out to chitchat for the sake of chitchat—we don’t have time for it. ”

Excerpt From: Steve Harvey with Denene Millner. “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/4xQFv.l

It often seems as if some young people want to get to the nitty gritty without really being invested for the long haul.

“We men are very simple people: if we like what we see, we’re coming over there. If we don’t want anything from you, we’re not coming over there. Period!

Excerpt From: Steve Harvey with Denene Millner. “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/4xQFv.l

It might not describe every man but it sure describes many men, and falling in love might not be the initial motivator.


If a young couple can’t demonstrate their mutual financial responsibility and maturity, they are not ready for marriage. Money problems have been the destruction of many a young couple’s marriage. It just doesn’t make sense to jump in until they have their financial heads on straight. Beware of telltale signs that indicate all is not well in money land. If you are planning to provide a wedding for your child, it might be prudent to let them carry the ball and gift them after they’ve proven they can in fact do so without that help.


Daughters: Men need to know that you need and want their time and their respect. They need to know that you want to be taken care of by them. Don’t say you don’t want that when a few years and a few children down the road you will need and want exactly that!


Parents: Ask a prospective son-in-law what he has, how much he has saved. Ask to see those records. 

Can he purchase a house? Can he provide adequate, respectable living arrangements if not a house.

Can he provide an engagement ring, a wedding?

You will surely meet up with an angry, defensive daughter who thinks you’re all about breaking up her romance by asking very personal questions that sound like they are motivated by money.


  • Will he be able to pay the bills and care for the family without her income when babies come along?
  • If not, what are their plans for a family?
  • And who will take care of the children? 
  • The who will care for the babies question is a big one.
  • If they both need to work, the birth of a child/children could impact “your” life for a long time.
  • If they say they’ll seek adequate childcare, can they really afford it?


It’s amazing how old young people can get without ever really becoming adults. Are these kids autonomous? Or are they tied to Mother and Dad’s apron strings? Do Mom and Dad constantly interfere in the young adult’s life, perhaps to make them more responsible? Does either set of parents have a hold on their child? If the answer is “yes,” then BEWARE! This just might not be the right time or the right person for marriage.

On the other hand, if these two young adults are blissfully happy, autonomous, adventurous, mutually respectful, financially responsible, and truly independent, it makes sense that they would be able to navigate the difficult waters of married life no matter what obstacles they might face. You, parents, might just want to give this couple your blessing.


What advice would you give to parents who face the question of: “May I have your daughter’s hand in marriage?” Please share your thoughts here.


The Top 10 Things That Make People Happy

While watching “Orange is the New Black” I was struck by the unhappiness, the emptiness in most of the characters’ lives. I know it’s just a movie but I am also keenly aware that books and movies are often based on real life experiences. This got me to thinking about happiness. What makes a person happy? I got out a pen and paper and quickly jotted down the things that make me happy I say quickly because I wanted my response to be spontaneous. The truth often reveals itself in spontaneity. Then I reached out to my friends and my Facebook contacts. I asked them to do the same, not dwell for a long period, but to answer spontaneously. The mixed results of mixed respondents were somewhat surprising, profoundly humbling, but singularly focused. Here’s what I learned:

Not once was Money, Job Security, Personal Success mentioned. But here’s what was overwhelmingly deemed important:

Family is Crucial

Photo Nov 29, 9 33 48 PM (5)

Elderly, middle aged, and young respondents all spoke of family being the thing that made them happiest. Family encompassed a large group of people including spouses, children, grandchildren, and extending outward to parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Not a few, but every person that indicated the importance of family, did so with a passion in the things they wrote. Family togetherness was key in the happiness factor. No matter the age of the respondent, enjoying the growth, accomplishments, and successes of their children and grandchildren played a role in their own happiness as did simply hearing the unadulterated laughter and happiness of their children.

Photo Nov 29, 9 33 48 PM (52)


Although on the surface, this might not be surprising, I was struck by the fact that no matter where a person was in the journey of life, family still came first and their happiness added to the happiness of the responder.

Grandkids and the joy they bring was one of the most often repeated claims. Given the fact that only about a third of responders actually had grandchildren, they were named unanimously as the greatest source of happiness.

I put Pets in the family category because, well, Pets are people too, and pets definitely make people happy. Whether or not they really are family, pets fill a void, enhance one’s health, lift depression, are oftentimes more loyal than human counterparts. Pets bring happiness.

Photo May 24, 6 32 38 PM

Friends Make People Happy

Friends and the fun times they share, the memories they make, the comfort they bring, ranked second in the happiness factor. Friends had a clear connection with laughter. Not as many men responded as did women but when they did respond, they equated happiness with friends in general, followed by getting together with the guys for a few drinks. Women, on the other hand, shouted out that girlfriends made them happy.


Helping Others

While it may seem that helping others adds more work and possibly more stress to another’s life, it was named several times as a cause for happiness. In fact, those that mentioned helping others are deeply committed to such goodness often at their own expense. So, while the commitment to help is difficult, the feeling of satisfaction gained brings a lasting joy to the giver.

Connecting With Nature

There were many references to different aspects of nature which brought happiness to the individual but suffice it to say that a walk in the woods, a swoosh down the slope, a day at the beach basking in the sun all bring happiness which leads to…

Photo Jul 15, 4 35 25 PM

Peace & Tranquility

Who doesn’t long for peace and tranquility? And when you have it, doesn’t it make you happy? In our fast paced lives, a day of quiet boredom, that allows you to simply “be,” is the most luxurious feeling.



I could have combined music with dancing or fitness but truthfully, music belongs in each of these happiness descriptors. Music brings friends and family together in happy ways. The rustle of leaves, a gust of wind, the silence of falling snow, the rush of waves, or a babbling brook, a bird’s song, and the rat-a-tat-tat of pouring rain are all music to the one who enjoys the peace and tranquility of nature. Music to love and cuddle to and music to work out or dance to are the tools of a lover or a fitness junkie. Who among us doesn’t like to pump up the volume while cooking or cleaning? And in times of travel isn’t music the thing that speaks the same language? So, while music is happiness in and of itself, it is also the universal bridge builder.

Love and Cuddling

Being able to cuddle with a loved one, our children, our grandchildren brings a warm satisfaction and through that touch we are assured that we are loved and that we love.

Fitness & Dancing

The release of stress, the ability to break free of our “guarded” exteriors, to let loose and move freely in dance produces endorphins. Endorphins alone are the reason that fitness and dancing make us happy.


To see other places, faces, people, and things through a new lens gives travel the allure of happiness.

Clean & Orderly Home

And here we are back to Peace and Tranquility, for when our house is in order, “All is Right With the World.”

To sum it all up, find some common ground like a park or the beach to connect with nature. Travel there to meet up with your family and friends. Pump up the music and help one another to unwind. Share some laughter. Get fit while you dance. BE HAPPY! When the day is done, return to your nuclear families and enjoy some peace and tranquility in your clean and orderly homes.

What things would you add to the list of things that make you happy? Please share your comments below.


How You Can Help Your Toddler Be Smarter Than a Fifth Grader

You’ll probably shake your head with disdain and amusement, while thinking, “Yours and everyone else’s kid… yeah, right!” when I tell you what I’m thinking.
Our three year old grandson is REALLY smart. No, I mean REALLY, REALLY smart! How did this happen? Well, let me start by making an observation. Kids today, in general, are very smart. They are often much smarter than their counterparts of, say, 30+ years ago. Although I make this generalization, there’s more to this than meets the eye. While many kids are smart, some might only appear to be average, and  only some of them show their potential. Many kids are  not recognized for the smarts they have, or are capable of.  But I believe they are actually much smarter than we perceive them to be. Here’s why I hold these beliefs.
Kids are exposed to so much external stimulation, in the immediate world around them, starting from infancy.

Kids converse with adults, and adults converse with kids far more than they did in years gone by. In past times the old adage was that “kids should be seen and not heard.” Both adults and kids held up to that standard back in the day, but not today.

Have you watched some of the TV shows toddlers are watching these days? I must admit that some of the BBC shows are instilling magnanimous vocabularies in our children. Not only do kids use these words but they use them in context, correctly. Bravo!

Technology has become much more readily available to all children and they have a propensity for navigation that puts many of their seniors to shame. With the availability of technology comes a plethora of learning and interaction never before available to young people. While children still have the toys of years gone by, many also have laptop notebooks, Kindles, Nooks, or iPads. If they don’t own some computerized device personally, they are available in libraries, and in the classroom. In the absence of mid-sized computers they may still have access to smartphones.

So, here’s my message: Tune in to those shows with your toddlers. Use the vocabulary you hear therein. Take advantage of that technology. Don’t be so quick to give your children a video game. Rather, do the research, find some interactive stories and learning tools, and add them to your technological gadget of choice. Let your kids explore in the safety of your presence. But, most importantly, interact with your kids, by knowing how they’re interacting with said technology. Talk with them. Ask open ended questions that make them think before they can respond. Listen, I mean, REALLY LISTEN, to what they have to say. Compliment their thoughtfully crafted responses. Laugh with them. Learn with them.

IMG_0517  IMG_2361

You will never be disappointed with what they have learned and what they have to teach you. You will be impressed by the vocabulary they are using. And, you will find delight every step of the way, in their antics and in their enthusiasm, not only for learning, but for teaching.

What’s your experience with today’s toddlers? How do you create learning experiences for your toddlers? Please leave a response below.


Every Day is Mother’s Day ~ Mother ~ A Phenomenal Woman

\mu th er: 1. a female parent. 2. one’s female parent. 3. a term of address for female parent or a woman having or regarded as having the status, function, or authority of a female parent. 4. a term of address for an old or elderly woman. 5. a woman exercising control , influence, or authority like that of a mother: to be a mother to someone. 6. something or someone that gives rise to or exercises protecting care over something else; origin or source.
MOTHER, I say her name with reverence, with awe.

She is truly a “Phenomenal Woman.” Thank you, Maya Angelou, for penning this term. Our mother, mother of nine children by birthing, mother of all in wisdom and grace, she really is phenomenal.

I close my eyes and transport to my childhood, to our home. Children playing, children studying, boys wrestling, wrapping and rubber banding newspapers, laughter, song, endless sound… happy chatter-
Rumbling tummies in response to the aroma wafting from the kitchen as mother prepares yet another simple (but to us kids, gourmet) meal.

Our mother, our mother, a graceful woman by any definition, but beyond graceful, a hard working, loving, nurturing, penny wise, prudent wife, a family manager whom others could come to in times of need, that’s our mother. And she always respected our father.

I never recall our mother gossiping or using foul language.

With nine children she could manage to keep a neat, clean house, cook meals, help with homework, walk to ball fields with toddlers in tow (she didn’t drive), and get us all home after one or more of our brothers played ball, scrub us clean, and get us to bed, only to begin again in the morning.

Terms that describe our Mother… Phenomenal, graceful, loving

I look back on the values instilled in each of us as children, and once again, revere the woman that drove the lessons home by her quiet example:

  • honor your parents
  • help one another
  • say your prayers
  • sing
  • dance
  • fulfill your responsibilities
  • be kind to the elderly
  • be good to those less fortunate
  • don’t judge others
  • respect your elders
  • respect yourself
  • love one another
  • don’t take what isn’t yours
  • share what you have
  • family is most important

The order of these things isn’t important because she expected all these things. Did we fall short? Often. Were/are we perfect? Nope. But, as I sit today with my family, nuclear and extended, I realize how very much we love one another and keep one another in check. I realize that graceful, loving, and phenomenal are perfect terms to describe our mother. I realize that, without a doubt, our strengths came from a humble woman, who did her job and took care of her family selflessly, and lovingly. There is none among us nine that does not revere, Mother.

For our family, every day is Mother’s Day.

What positive terms to you use to define “MOTHER?” Please leave a comment in the box below.