Archive for May, 2014


V.A.H. {value added happiness}

May 22, 2014



This is one of my favorite ways to see my city.

I can quietly paddle the shoreline and observe the real in people’s lives. Because let’s be honest, the street-side of our homes? While not all Martha Stewart-y, we are definitely aware of curb appeal. But the backyards? That’s where we live. No one invites people over for a front-yard BBQ, do they?


And the houses I see from my water perch vary wildly in architecture and expanse. Some are big. Some are pretentious. Some are sweet. Some are haphazardly designed, function clearly trumping form. Others are gorgeous. And sometimes I get distracted, wishing they were mine. Then I remind myself they are all homes. Places where people live. Each lovely in their own way.

But out there on Saturday the spectacular houses didn’t hold my attention. Instead what I saw was their V.A.H.

Their Value Added Happiness. The small things that create big joy.

A rope swing. Well worn and frayed.

Three Adirondack chairs, bleached by the sun. A brick chimney abutting a tree-covered roof. Four posts, no walls. Yet a dining table. A set of useful stairs.








It isn’t Life’s Big Things that charm us. It’s the little ones.




And no matter the size of our house, or our family, we all have them. Our own V.A.H. Yet the speed of life is often exhausting, and we forget to stop. We think {or, at least, I do} that the faster we go, the more we’ll get done, the better it will be. Turns out, I’m wrong. It is the full stop that holds value.

Remember getting lost in a book as a child? V.A.H.

The teen joy of splashing shriek-ishly cold water on summer’s hottest days? V.A.H.

The adult laughter shared over the flavor in a glass? V.A.H.


What I learned from those houses wasn’t about wealth. It was about wisdom.

About stopping. And noticing. About getting down on hands and knees and looking under the big stuff. Figuring out how to hold still enough to see the dancing dust motes. The delight that waits patiently at our feet.

We think of childhood as being a time of enchantment. I think it is. Because, if our children are lucky, it is filled with V.A.H.

So. Let’s join them. All we need is a moment, maybe two. And the presence of mind to pause. To see the small. Because it turns out, it surrounds us. What’s your Value Added Happiness? Keep me posted.


time change.

May 9, 2014


It is 11: 28 p.m. We should all be asleep. Instead my toes are damp and chilled from standing barefoot on the front porch.

23 minutes ago Eleanor fell out of bed and hit the floor hard enough that it rattled a lamp, woke me up, and gave her a bloody nose. She never does things halfway.

But it wasn’t the bonk or the blood that grabbed my attention. It was her breathing. And the moment I heard that sound, my heart paused. Not out of fear or compassion. Oh, no. I went straight to you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me. Now she’ll end up staying home from school.

Not a very motherly moment, was it?

I was ready for times to change. Cole had come down with a vicious crud mid last week, and had been in bed, and needy, ever since. But this evening he had seemed to rally, ever so slightly. I had been so hopeful. So ready. So relieved at the thought of returning to our regular schedule.

To the return of me.

Instead, still half asleep, my husband and I responded to the raspy wheeze of croup with the well-practiced drill. Get outside in the cool, moist air.

Times have changed.

A few years ago we would be listening. Exchanging glances. Call the doc? Head to the E.R.? Now her trachea is wider and the threat from the sound of a barking seal is gone. Our role is to simply sooth and comfort.

In the doorway our son appears. “Are you okay? Ella? Will you be alright? I love you.” An unexpected sweetness to the moment. Our bedraggled band of four, huddled together, standing in our mismatched robes. Listening to the frog chorus and the endless drizzle of rain.

11:42 p.m. Tucking her back in bed. So close to escape. But not being able to breathe easily scares her. So it looks like the two of us are in this together tonight. Next is a request for the red ladybug. I search by Braille for the nightlight. An old ritual, mostly forgotten. Reserved now for emotional emergencies.

The ladybug shines its faint red stars, casting shadows on my college nights. Evenings spent huddled in the dark during astronomy class night labs. Our flashlights wrapped in red cellophane to keep our pupils from contracting- allowing us to see the subtle patterns of constellations.

11: 49 p.m. The dog peers up at me in confusion. I know, I silently tell her. I’m not where I’m supposed to be. And I resent where we are. Where I am. “Stress”, says Eckhart Tolle, “is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there’.” Aren’t we there yet?

11:53 p.m. and I am sitting in the reddish dark, scribbling tomorrow’s new-to-do list: Notify. Reschedule. Cancel. Rearrange. All the while fielding questions about Quidditch penalties.

11:57 p.m. I shift in her bed and hear the faint tinkle of a baby’s rattle. This weekend while looking at pictures, Eleanor spotted her silver rattle. And wanted it. Immediately. My eyes grew wide with a panicky glance to my husband. Where could that thing possibly be? He found it. Good man.

The raspiness has left her breath. Yet her legs are still restless under the sheets. My sleep will be fitful at best, curving myself around her body in an awkward L. Wedged between a stuffed animal elephant and an eight year-old.


12:09 a.m. We should be asleep. My feet are still cold. She reaches for my hand. “Just making sure you are still here, Mom.” I am. Right here. Right, I realize, where I want to be.

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