Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
There is a wonderful site called "Eyewitness to History" that is a priceless collection of true accounts of great historical moments and events. Every adult will enjoy these true-life glimpses and every student will need at least a few of these as they prepare papers on ancient kingdoms or US history.
The site and it's accounts will enlighten us on some topics, showing the incredible elegance and ingenuity of people who managed great feats without all our modern technology. It also blasts holes in romantic myths of courtly behavior during Medieval times, displaying the atrocities that occurred in those stunning castles, illustrating the barbarism nobles inflicted on the peasantry to construct them, and then to support the lifestyle.
I've spoken several times on the need to maintain a personal record. No one's life, no matter how mundane we may think it is, will be without value to someone looking back upon it. One of my very favorite references is a published diary of Martha Ogle Foreman, the young wife of a wealthy plantation owner and military man. Her diary entries are short and concise accounts of her daily work with occasional entries about the weather, the people who visited her, and the trips she took. It is an invaluable look at plantation life in the early nineteenth century, and it debunks the "The Gone With The Wind" idea about lazy lives of pleasure. Everyone worked--hard.
One of my favorite examples of the need to keep records comes from Dolley Madison's letters during the final hours at the President's House before it was burned by the British. These were a great resource to me during the writing of "Dawn's Early Light." A friend of the family who became disaffected from James Madison wrote a scathing report about the president saying he abandoned Dolley in the dangerous hours prior to the British entry into Washington, in a cowardly effort to save his own skin.
Dolley's letters to her sister, and a copy of hurriedly scribbled notes from James to her shows a very different picture. James told her over and over to be prepared to leave the house at any moment, and then he sent wave after wave of men to ferry her away, but he own letters prove that she chose not to leave without him. That she actually had those who had been sent to save her ruffled to the point of near anger with her, but still, she would not budge until she had secured a few of the nation's treasure, including the famed portrait of George Washington, and was assured she was completely out of time. Had it not been for her own record, history would have had only the bitter and untrue account of a disaffected friend which would have forever tarnished James Madison's reputation.
So why should any of this matter to us? Someone will write our record. Will we trust how we are remembered to someone else, or will we set the record straight? It's in our hands.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
I love seeing all four books together, but seeing all five together will be even sweeter. Thanks for the kind words about the series, and for supporting this project.
As you may know, book four, "Oh Say Can You See?" is a Whitney Finalist. Keep your fingers crossed!
Thursday, March 24, 2011
My mother's mother's side of the family is Portuguese. Her father's side is French/Portuguese, which made my mother a stand-out looking woman as I grew up in suburban Maryland in a white-bread, predominantly Anglo community. I thought this side of my heritage sounded so exotic and special, particularly since everyone said I favored my father and his seemingly plain English/German side. But being different and looking different was challenging for my mom, particularly so because she had lost her father at a young age and ended up with a step-father who had been abusive to her, verbally and physically until her self-esteem was shattered.
She had grown up wishing she were blonde and blue-eyed like the anglo kids in her school, who often looked and treated the more ethnic children as if they were less. It scarred her. When she moved east as a young bride, she hid from the people who noticed the shy, dark-eyed, dark-haired beauty that made them think of Sophia Loren. To her, each eye was a judgment, and she became nearly reclusive.
She lost ties to her Portuguese family in California, and so did we by consequence. She's in her seventies now, and we have a weekly "date." She loves to tell the old stories, about childhood parties at her Grandmother Rose Rodrigues's house where a family gathering meant upwards of 100 loud, loving, dancing, singing, card-playing people. She can't remember the language anymore, but she remembers hearing it spoken by the older folks around the table as they cut slices of dark, Portuguese breads and cheese, and by her aunts and uncles when they'd hold a conversation not intended for the children's ears.
I discovered copies of my great-grandparents and their children's records from their first immigration from the Azores to Hawaii. They're names were Maria, Alejandro, Joaquin back then. As they came to America, they wanted to fit in to their new country so they Americanized their names to Mary, Alexander and John. They worked hard, and served their new country in the military. Soldiers, hungry for home, would walk past the Rodrigues house during the holidays and hear a band playing music inside. They'd knock on the door and ask if this was the dance hall, Elmurst Gardens. The family would laugh and reply that it wasn't but that they were welcome to come in and join their party. It sounds like heaven doesn't it?
I have a few brief memories of my mother's people from the 60's when we lived briefly in California. Then we never returned. They became ghosts to me--rarely heard from, rarely spoken of. My grandmother and her sister Dot flew east in 76 for my wedding. It was the last time I ever saw either of them. Grandmother is gone now, but Aunt Dot connected with my mother, and she and I began emailing some years ago. She sends me cute jokes and quizzes like the one I posted yesterday, and she tries to help me put my mother's family tree back together.
She sent this one as well, and I have to say, as I read it, my heart broke a little. How I would have loved to have known this kind of extended-family love:
Portuguese kids vs. American kids:
American kids: Move out when they're 18 with the full support of their parents.
Portuguese kids: Move out when they're 28, having saved enough money for a house, and are two weeks away from getting married... unless there's room in the basement for the newlyweds.
American kids: When their Mom visits them, she brings a Bundt cake, and you sip coffee and chat.
Portuguese kids: When their Mom visits them, she brings 3 days worth of food, begins to tidy up, dusts, does the laundry, and rearranges the furniture.
American kids: Their dads always call before they come over to visit them, and it's usually only on special occasions.
Portuguese kids: Are not at all fazed when their dads show up, unannounced, on a Saturday morning at 7:00, and start pruning the fruit trees. If there are no fruit trees, he'll plant some.
American kids: Will come over for cake and coffee, and get only cake and coffee. No more.
Portuguese kids: Will come over for cake and coffee, and get a fish dish, a choice of two meats, potatoes, salad, bread, fruit, espresso, multiple choices of cakes.
American kids : Will greet you with 'Hello' or 'Hi'.
Portuguese kids: Will give you a big hug, a kiss on your cheek, and a pat on your back.
American kids: Will eat at your dinner table and leave.
Portuguese kids: Will spend hours there, talking, laughing, and just being together.
American kids: Know few things about you.
Portuguese kids: Could write a book with direct quotes from you.
American kids: Eat peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches on soft mushy white bread.
Portuguese kids: Eat presunto and cheese on a fresh baked Portuguese roll.
American kids: Think that being Portuguese is cool.
Portuguese kids: Know that being Portuguese is cool.
I wish my mom had come away from her childhood holding fast to these ideas of self and heritage. Fortunately, my Mormon heritage instilled these same values of family devotion and love in my family, but I would have loved to have had some of those great Portuguese hugs.
Mom and I are going to try to get out to California for the Rodrigues family reunion this summer. She's never wanted to go, but this year, she says she's ready. I will hear about a lost side of my self, a side I never embraced. A side my children know nothing about.
Of all the history I ever research, this is the one I most need to understand. When we lose a child, no matter how he or she is lost, we lose a generation. What are we planting in their little hearts?
So I'll go to California, and then I'll try to reclaim a lost Portuguese/American/German/English generation. Thanks, Aunt Dot!
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
YOU ARE A PARTICIPANT IN A RACE. YOU OVERTAKE THE SECOND PERSON. WHAT POSITION ARE YOU IN?
ANSWER : IF YOU ANSWERED THAT YOU ARE FIRST,
THEN YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY WRONG! IF YOU OVERTAKE THE SECOND PERSON AND YOU TAKE HIS PLACE, YOU ARE IN SECOND PLACE!
TRY TO DO BETTER NEXT TIME.
NOW ANSWER THE SECOND QUESTION,
BUT DON'T TAKE AS MUCH TIME AS
YOU TOOK FOR THE FIRST QUESTION, OK?
IF YOU OVERTAKE THE LAST PERSON, THEN YOU ARE....?
ANSWER: IF YOU ANSWERED THAT YOU ARE SECOND TO LAST, THEN YOU ARE.....
WRONG AGAIN. TELL ME SUNSHINE, HOW CAN YOU OVERTAKE THE LAST PERSON??
YOU'RE NOT VERY GOOD AT THIS, ARE YOU?
VERY TRICKY ARITHMETIC! NOTE:
THIS MUST BE DONE IN YOUR HEAD ONLY.
DO NOT USE PAPER AND PENCIL OR A CALCULATOR.
TAKE 1000 AND ADD 40 TO IT. NOW ADD ANOTHER 1000 NOW ADD 30.
ADD ANOTHER 1000. NOW ADD 20 .. NOW ADD ANOTHER 1000.
NOW ADD 10... WHAT IS THE TOTAL?
SCROLL DOWN FOR THE CORRECT ANSWER.....
DID YOU GET 5000?
THE CORRECT ANSWER IS ACTUALLY 4100...
IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE IT, CHECK IT WITH A CALCULATOR!
TODAY IS DEFINITELY NOT YOUR DAY, IS IT?
MAYBE YOU'LL GET THE LAST QUESTION RIGHT.... MAYBE...
MARY'S FATHER HAS FIVE DAUGHTERS:1.NANA,2. NENE,3... NINI,4. NONO, AND ???
2.WHAT IS THE NAME OF THE FIFTH DAUGHTER?~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~
DID YOU ANSWER NUNU? NO!OF COURSE IT ISN'T.
HER NAME ISMARY! READ THE QUESTION AGAIN!
OKAY, NOW THE BONUS ROUND,
I.E., A FINAL CHANCE TO REDEEM YOURSELF:
A MUTE PERSON GOES INTO A SHOP AND WANTS TO BUY A TOOTHBRUSH.
BY IMITATING THE ACTION OF BRUSHING HIS TEETH HE SUCCESSFULLY EXPRESSES HIMSELF TO THE SHOPKEEPER AND THE PURCHASE IS DONE.
NEXT, A BLIND MAN COMES INTO THE SHOP WHO WANTS TO BUY A PAIR OF SUNGLASSES; HOW DOES HE INDICATE WHAT HE WANTS?
IT'S REALLY VERY SIMPLE
HE OPENS HIS MOUTH AND ASKS FOR IT...
DOES YOUR EMPLOYER ACTUALLY PAY YOU TO THINK??
IF SO DO NOT LET THEM SEE YOUR ANSWERS FOR THIS TEST!
PASS THIS ON TO FRUSTRATE THE
SMART PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE!
HAVE A NICE DAY sunshine!
Monday, March 21, 2011
I belong to two writers groups--LDStorymakers and ANWA. Both are comprised of LDS writers and authors. LDStorymakers is open to all LDS authors who've published a book through a traditional publisher. ANWA is a women's group of LDS writers and authors in every stage of the process--from those already published to those drafting a book they dream of someday writing. The groups meet different needs, and each is a source of support and camaraderie for a part of my life that is often confusing and under-regarded by other friends and family members. I chose to belong to LDS writing groups because there are special challenges for people trying to publish clean, moral, but high-quality literature in a world where "dirtying-it-up" is often the key to success.
No matter your genre, your experience or your level of success, I highly recommend joining a group to all authors--aspiring or otherwise, and here's why.
1. A writers group helps validate the creative part of you that few other people "get." You may be blessed with a supportive circle of people who encourage your gift and aspirations, but only other writers, and maybe other creative artsy people, can understand the intimate personal tug a manuscript has on your heart. Writing groups surround you with people who understand your pain, your elation, your frustration and your insecurities. This is huge.
2. They will clap, cheer, cry, and sulk with you. Your project often becomes an appendage to you. Digs at your manuscript are visceral. You need a place to vent and heal so you don't bring all that emotion to the dinner table every night.
3. Empathetic people will truthfully assess your work without destroying your dream. Anyone can find someone who'll tell you you're piece is great. You've cringed watching such people at auditions for "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance," and watched their view of themselves be destroyed when someone tells them their cheering momma and daddy were wrong. Devastating. Effusive, unqualified praise can be just as crippling as receiving a brutal, unconstructive hachet job. You want to surround yourself with people capable of providing honest, constructive feedback that will help you improve and grow, while encouraging you along the way. A writing group will do these things for you.
4. You will learn. More people means more experience, more knowledge, more insight, more opinions. If your group is generous, (mine are!) they will share the good, the bad, and the ugly side of publishing; they will steer you away from time-wasters and pitfalls. They will share tips from grammar errors to publishing ideas, from industry trends to book signing no-nos.
5. Many either sponsor or attend writers' conferences. LDStorymakers has a spectacular conference coming up in May. ANWA hosts theirs in February. These are break-out opportunities for authors and aspiring authors to take diverse classes on the craft of writing and to glean current info on the current literary market. The contacts made at these conferences are invaluable. Hear success stories, meet other authors, pitch to agents and publishers. It's AWESOME!!!
6. Open your eyes to other opportunities. ANWA breaks us into smaller critique groups. My group meets online once a month. Our lesson topic was on the self-publishing and the niche market. I left that meeting so thrilled, with new ways to use my historical research. I'm so excited to give this new idea a go!
I could list a ton of other reasons why a writers group is crucial. Do a little research and see if you can find a writers group or critique group in your area. And plan to attend a writers conference this year. I highly recommend the Storymakers conference. I'll be working at Bootcamp and teaching a class on historical fiction. The cost of the conference is very affordable, and you'll leaved revved up and inspired.
Click and come! Launch your dream!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
I live on the east coast in the midst of a great many military bases. Several years ago, one base was moving missiles from one location to another. Rather than transport them via the highway, a less-traveled route was chosen that took the convoy over a few miles of country roads. At one point the flatbed carrying the payload had to cross an older bridge. The structure wasn't built to handle the weight and as a result, the truck jostled, the missiles slipped, and several broke loose from their straps, breaking through the rail and into the ravine below.
A friend lived within five miles of that bridge. She had no knowledge of the accident until a knock sounded on her door and an official told her she had fifteen minutes to evacuate her house. That's all she knew. No return time or date was given, no best-case, worst-case scenario was provided. She didn't know if she would ever see her house again, but she knew what she should take. She and her family had rehearsed this scene out in preparation for just such an eventuality.
Her important documents and selected photos were assembled and at the ready. Her 72-hour kit was stocked with food, clothes, toiletries, water and small bills. An emergency meeting area and contact plan was in place so other family members could find her and one another later in the day. In short, a stressful situation was made less so, and a possible disaster was made manageable.
We laugh at stories about ancestors who "stuffed their money into mattresses" but if a real emergency arose, would you have small bills on hand? A few years ago a terrible winter storm hit us, knocking out all the power for several days. Electric doors wouldn't open, cash registers wouldn't work. A small convenience store was operating on a cash-only basis. Returning change was a luxury. Some people surrendered larger amounts than their bill because they were at the manager's mercy. We've made it a practice to store an emergency stash of one-dollar bills since then. And change. If cell phone lines get jammed or your battery goes dead, you'll appreciate change for a call.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
The images stunned us. We were wrenched by Japan's suffering. I heard prayers uttered for her and her people in every Church meeting, at meals and at bedsides. I knew it was happening across the United States and the world.
Good people of conscience reach out to others when disaster strikes, but who could imagine such a catastrophic triple punch heaped upon a suffering people as occurred when the nuclear power facilities began to go critical. Homeless, displaced persons were now bringing blanketed babies to white-suited officials to be scanned for radiation. Those images made me want to cry.
Following the earthquake and tsunami, an American journalist questioned an on-location colleague asking, "There was widespread looting after Katrina. Is looting a problem there?" The journalist looked behind himself at the broken ruins of a shopping district where the physical disorder was otherwise a scene of empty quiet. "No, I haven't heard any reports of looting, but I wouldn't expect to. In Japan, if you drop your wallet, you're likely to have it returned with all the contents intact."
I've watched the images in the background of reports since that interview. I haven't seen looters, sign carriers, or displays of violence. Instead, I've heard reports of people who've stood in long lines waiting for ration of water, who after receiving two bottles, handed one to someone in need. I've seen civility.
I've heard it explained as the "collective mindset" of the people. The memories of some will leap to World War II and the pain of that day. My mind shifted to the chaos in Wisconsin--to angry assemblies whose vitriol erupted into threatenings and abuse over issues far less life-altering than the loss of loved ones, destroyed homes, the erasure of entire communities, or the collective shift in life being experienced by our Japanese neighbors.
We will send government aid, and Americans will do what we do well--we'll send personal donations to relief organizations, we'll continue to pray, we'll answer the call for help in whatever way we can--but in the end, I hope we take the opportunity to receive as well as give, and model the example of civility displayed by the Japanese this week.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
I also have a flat head. I have to assume that my mother was ahead of her time, placing me to sleep on my back long before pediatricians declared that position to be the Holy Grail of infant rest. Or maybe it's genetic. My mother has a rounded head, but she wears a wig 24/7, so who really knows? And my father? Well . . . he wore a flat-top, and that cut makes everyone's head seem flat in back.
So take a flat-headed woman, give her difficult hair, and compound her problems by also leaving her devoid of any natural hair-styling abilities, and you've got a person in need of a serious support group.
For years I asked my stylist if I had enough gray to warrant coloring my hair. I always enjoyed her enthusiastic, "You? Not for a long time." And then one day there was a pause in her assessment, and then next trip the answer was a gum-snapping, "Yeah . . . we really ought to address this before it gets worse." Worse?
The grays have taken over. I mean, like a good infantryman, I battle back against the encroaching enemy line, but they are a new generation of combatant. Gray hairs have a mind and constitution all their own. They don't easily obey the round brush, or the blow dryer. In fact, they often mock the blow dryer, sadistically using the heat to advance their own wild, split-ended agenda. Ohhhhhh. . . I've seen it, ladies! I've lived it!
And my problems are not unique to me. I've seen the spirits of other brave women broken by errant hair. I ask you, why was such a needful topic like hair not universally addressed in public school? I'm not talking Cosmetology-level courses which, like AP Bio and History, are clearly constructed for future professionals in those fields. No, I mean, why wasn't it a PE elective like Health? I ask you, which life skill is more universally needful--Hair Care 101 or Volleyball? Which is more likely to be detrimental to getting hired--a mangy mop of hair, or a sloppy serve from the baseline? I think we can all agree on this.
It may be too late for me, or for the poor daughter I abused by repeatedly putting her hair in the same Princess Leia side-knots for seven years, but I urge all mothers to set aside the flash cards, the soccer drills and the oboe lessons long enough to skill your girl on basic hair. You'll all thank me someday.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
No, this isn't actually my desk, but it's close . . . or at least it was, and will be again unless I clear the calendar a tad. You see, I've simply got too much going on right now.
The daily "must-deal withs," have been overrun by the "small-projects" and the "if-you-don't meet-this-deadline-bad-things-will-happen" stuff. You know. I bet you do it too.
So on the daily list, there are the necessities of life. It may be that "Fish got to swim and birds got to fly," but likewise, food must be bought, meals prepared, dishes done, or surely you'll die.¸.•´¸.•´¨) ¸.•*¨)¸.☆
The same holds true for laundry and and bill-paying, and certain household chores that may not literally kill you, but will likely remove you from the social roster.
I've got several of those "project things with a deadline" going on too--tax prep, a pioneer trek I'm planning for the youth of my stake, tax prep, preparation for a class I'm teaching at the Storymakers' Writing Conference in May, tax prep . . . (did I mention tax prep? That really stresses me out.)
There are also other needful concerns that are always there, like a three-year-old, tugging relentlessly at your heart--the people things like genealogy, and my Mom who is beginning to slip away, or my children whom I miss, and faraway grandchildren Tom and I need to see. Poor Tom. . . that's another neglected issue altogether. . .
Right now, a deadline is looming for book five, the final volume of Free Men and Dreamers, "In God Is Our Trust," and that is currently the biggest stress in my life. I want it to be great, to tie up every loose end, to leave my faithful readers satisfied and sad that the journey is over, and to make new readers anxious to grab a copy of book one and begin. And that takes a a mind that can focus.
So last night I cleared my desk of trek papers, tax stuff, research material, genealogical group sheets, and articles that need writing so I can focus. I might seem aloof or distant for a while, but I'm here, "clearing the mechanism" as Kevin Costner would say.
I'll have updates from time to time, but basically I'm hiding out from my editor, so if you chance to see her, mums the word, okay?
Sunday, March 6, 2011
The words and stories weren't new. Perhaps it was my state of mind that made them fresh, or perhaps it was the evocative delivery that made them ring so true. In either case, they slingshot-ed me out of my foxhole, injecting optimism back in my heart. Every message was wonderful, (probably a sign that I had succeeded in adjusting my attitude for good reception), but a few closing points made by our visiting Church authority, really resonated with me--
1. "Yet if Thou wilt, I'll drink it up."
2. Sometimes we need the faith to do the impossible.
3. Get out of the boat!
Point one comes directly from the fourth verse of LDS hymn 191, "Behold the Great Redeemer Die," the point being, hard things will come.
In the September 2009 Ensign article titled, "Lessons From Liberty Jail," Elder Jeffrey R. Holland warns us with painful honesty, "In one way or another, great or small, dramatic or incidental, every one of us is going to spend a little time in Liberty Jail—spiritually speaking. We will face things we do not want to face for reasons that may not be our fault. Indeed, we may face difficult circumstances for reasons that were absolutely right and proper, reasons that came because we were trying to keep the commandments of the Lord."
God knows us. He knows what we're going through. He can and will consecrate them for our good, but what these events do to us, or for us, relies in large part, on how we handle our circumstances. Will we drink them up, or choke on them? Some of these experiences will make us better, wiser, stronger, more compassionate, more grateful, they'll move us onto a new path, open a new door we wouldn't have seen with our own half-closed eyes. In short, follow God, drink it up, and become more holy.
How do we do that? That's point two--having the faith to do the impossible. Now faith to do the impossible isn't a license to be reckless or irresponsible, but to follow inspiration, to leap further than you believed you could, past the light and a step into the darkness. It means to stretch muscles--spiritual and physical--beyond your comfort because He asked you to, and because like all proud fathers, He's at the finish line cheering you on.
And where do we begin? By getting out of the boat. Remember Peter? For a second, he believed he could do the impossible, and though he eventually faltered, what did he learn about Jesus, about himself, and about his relationship to divinity because of the few seconds when he did not fear? And it all began because he had the courage and faith to simply get out of the boat.
That's my motto this week--to get out of the boat! My boats are many. They pen me in and keep me . . . safe? Perhaps, but they also limit me and define my boundaries. I want to be unbounded and filled with possibilities.
What are your boats? What keeps you bounded? Weak faith? Fear of failure? Age? Lack of education? An over-scheduled life? What if none of those things had any power to define you? What would you try? What would you become? So long as our ears are tuned to His voice, we have no fear to walk, even on water. Peter did it, even if just for a few steps. But first, we have to have the courage to get out of the boat.
(Painting, "Fishermen at Sea" by Joseph Mallord William Turner)
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Annette Lyon--author, wife, mother, editor, mentor--provided me with a new opportunity last week. Her daughter was involved in a Flat Stanley project, and she asked me to participate. A dear friend and I carried Stanley to Washington on a very windy day, to photograph him at some of the Capital's most interesting sights. We nearly lost the paper guy in gusts of fifty-mile-per-hour winds over the Potomac, so much of our tour had to be conducted from within a car, but we had a blast. (No pun intended.)
The timing of Stanley's arrival coincided with an invitation I had received to visit a third-grade class on "Read Across America" day. I packed Stanley up and carried him to Winfield Elementary School here in Maryland, to meet Mrs. Cage's class. Her students are roughly the age of my Stanley's creator--Annette's daughter--and they were very familiar with Stanley.
We talked about books and about writing. I brought along some of my favorite children's books including my ultimate favorite, "The Velveteen Rabbit," and a few others I thought would be interesting, like my husband's "Roy Rogers" Golden Book from 1948, and an old book we inherited titled, "Prairie Boys" that bears an inscription on the cover that reads, "Christmas 1900."
I read a few paragraphs from "Prairie Boys," and noted how different the language and topics of children's literature was a century ago, then I read them my children's favorite storybook, "Leo the Lop." Though my children are grown, and the world has changed considerably from the one they grew up in, the story of accepting oneself and others was perhaps more relevant than ever to these sweet-eyed students.
Stanley took center stage next as I showed them some images of his visit to D.C. The students were probably most impressed by a bit of dazzling trivia--that the Library of Congress contains 530 miles of bookshelves! I have to admit, that little factoid boggles my own mind.
All in all, it was a therapeutic afternoon to be back in a classroom with children. I suppose the truth of it is, I miss the recentering that comes from being with children on a daily basis. I had spent the early morning listening to reports of Charlie Sheen's meltdowns, and news of Libya's civil unrest, the DOW's plunge and rising oil prices. After all that, it was revitalizing to spend a few hours with lovable children as we read about bunnies and cowboys, and allowed our imaginations to run wild. This is the stuff that matters.