Part 4: Love
The fourth secret of happiness is the simplest, seemingly the most obvious, and yet, often the hardest to fulfill: love.
This secret shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Jesus’ final instructions before leaving this earth to return to heaven was, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Mother Theresa encouraged us to “Do small things with great love.” And the Beatles reassured us, “All you need is love.”
They were leading us to happiness through love, but how often do we follow this good advice? Do we even know what it means to love?
Fortunately for us, St. Paul wrote a lucid definition of love in the 13th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
The verse is ubiquitous, found everywhere from key chains to weddings (my own included). It’s easy to see and hear these words and be reminded of the love we have for our spouses, and possibly our children and parents. The unconditional love we share with our immediate families is like no other, but if you truly want to be happy, take Paul’s words and apply them to every person and situation you encounter.
No matter how frustrated, angered, or hurt we are by someone or something, we must respond with patience, kindness, and selflessness.
Given our human nature, love is incredibly difficult. When we are slighted, our instinct is to act out of hatred, to want the other party to feel as terrible as we do, to hold a grudge. Responding to negativity with more negativity exacerbates an exponential misery, while pure love, and ultimately happiness, can be found in infinite giving and receiving of forgiveness. God does it for us and asks us to do it for each other, in the name of love.
Setting aside our selfish desires, including the desire for happiness itself, to serve someone else, is a true test of patience. We parents know this firsthand by the sacrifices we make for our children without expecting reimbursement. We do, however receive joy in watching them feel happy, even at our own expense. If we could extend that kind of love to all of our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers, imagine the magnitude of our happiness.
My experiment for you is this: try to act entirely out of love for one week, and I will do the same.
Do not allow yourself to become envious, proud, dishonorable, self-seeking, or angry.
Remember, I teach teenagers (who are notoriously difficult to love) all day, and it’s nearing the end of the school year, so this will be especially challenging for me. Being Irish, I’ve been known to have a short temper at times, particularly with inconsiderate drivers and fellow customers. There are a couple of people I need to forgive.
Love as Jesus did, as Mother Theresa suggested, as the Pauls (the Beatle and the Saint) instructed for one week. No matter what, treat every single person and situation you encounter with the same patience, kindness, selflessness, protection, trust, hope, and perseverance that you would show your spouse, child, parent, significant other, or best friend.
Check in and let me know how it’s going. On this pursuit of happiness, you cannot fail.
Make sure to also find out Robyn's first and second and third secrets to happiness.
May 16, 2013 02:43
By Robyn Barberry
Part 3: Living Junk-Free
The first two of four secrets of happiness were revealed to me by a kind grandmother
on an emergency trip to Dollar General. But, she had forgotten the other two. I scoured the web for the complete set of secrets, but couldn’t trace the source that had inspired her – and me. So, the last two secrets are coming directly from me.
The third secret to happiness is removing junk from your life. I’m not talking about the useless objects packed into your drawers, closets, attics, basements, garages, and underneath the kitchen sink – though that kind of junk is a part of unhappiness that we will address. For the purposes of this discussion, my definition of junk is anything you willingly possess or utilize that does not positively benefit your environment, body, and mind.
Let’s start with environmental junk. This is the clutter that we all have and are afraid to let go of, despite its uselessness to us. It doesn’t serve a practical function or even make us happy. It’s just there because we all know it’s a sin to be wasteful or we’re just plain too lazy to get rid of it.
It’s true that waste is sinful, but that doesn’t mean we should hold on to things that are broken or are no longer compatible with the way we live. Our space, no matter how large or small, is a gift, itself, and one which we should not waste by filling every crevice with junk.
Monks are wise to live a simple existence because it shifts their focus to more spiritual demands. Stuff can wear us down and consume us emotionally. The thought of having to clean out a roomful of junk alone is depressing. But, envisioning a tidy, organized space where an impossible mess exists, then making it a reality is so liberating, so exhilarating that there are entire cable networks dedicated to capturing such transformations.
We can experience the same joy in our own homes without a big name designer. All it takes is an objective eye to examine our “junk” as just that, objects. Letting go of stuff is often scary because we feel we’re letting go of a memory of a particular experience or person.
We can remove the guilt that comes with a deep purge by donating items we no longer need, hosting a yard sale, or taking advantage of websites like Craig’s List or Freecycle. Taking photographs can make it a little easier, too, by preserving the memory without overwhelming our space. You can even write a little story to go with each photograph.
William Morris wrote, “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.” By moving to that direction in our own environments, we are heading toward happiness.
Once we get the area around us under control, we need to think about what kind of junk we are allowing into our bodies. Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, but if you look around our country, it would seem as though no one got the memo.
The demand for fast, cheap food has taken us far from the fruits (and vegetables) of the earth, which God intended for us. The foods we’re choosing to eat in out-of-control quantities are destroying our bodies, causing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and a host of other maladies that didn’t exist one hundred years ago. We think that junk food brings us happiness, but the highs brought on by excessive fat, sugar, and salt are temporary and artificial.
Think of food as fuel for your body, rather than strictly a source of pleasure. Consuming appropriate portions of lean proteins, whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and plenty of water is one of the most recommended methods for eating to live.
As Catholics, we’re used to meatless Fridays during Lent (or all year for some families), but I have chosen to eat a vegan diet for the past three years. Though I know it’s a bit extreme for most people to imagine life without meat, cheese, milk or eggs, it works for me. I’m a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) at a local farm, which gives me the opportunity to enjoy fresh produce every week from May until October.
If you’re just beginning to explore a healthy diet, consider trying a new fruit or vegetable every week in the place of a sweet or salty snack. You’ll find yourself looking and feeling better in no time.
Food is not the only junk that people put into their bodies. Tobacco, drugs, and excessive alcohol also destroy our bodies. If you or someone you know has a substance abuse problem, find help in local organizations and have faith. It could be the very first step towards your ultimate happiness.
When we treat our bodies well, generally we feel happy. But sometimes we let other junk in through our eyes and ears that cripples our well being.
Why do we waste our time watching reality TV shows that exploit the worst side of humanity? Why do we obsess over the news, which is seldom much better? Why do we listen to music that makes us feel sad or angry? Why do we allow ourselves to get caught up in gossip?
When we’re feeling bored, we can pass our time by learning something new, by catching up with friends and family, or by volunteering for a worthy cause.
When the news brings us down, we can feel grateful for what we do have or seek out stories that renew our faith in each other on websites like happynews.com
or, my personal favorite, the Catholic Review
When we’re feeling down, we can talk to someone about it, listen to an inspirational audiobook (try Matthew Kelly) or uplifting music, or pray.
When we feel ourselves tempted to participate in badmouthing someone else, we should remember our Christian obligation to obey the Golden Rule.
Strip your mind of negative thoughts and let the bright side in.
In de-junking your life, you’re allowing God’s light to shine on you. Remove from your life any barriers between you and Him, and you will see the happiness around you and within you bloom.
And now it’s your turn: What do you see as being “junk” in our lives, and how can we get rid of it?
Make sure to also find out Robyn's first and second secrets to happiness.
May 08, 2013 12:37
By Robyn Barberry
Part 2: Trust
What do online shopping, dining in restaurants, and taking trips by bus, train, and plane have in common? They’re all things that make our lives easier and more pleasurable, but at a heftier cost than many realize.
We could refuse to buy online, and only pay for things at the store with cash, but then we’re limiting our options. Online shopping offers us greater selection and lower prices without having to leave the house. This is especially beneficial for moms of young children, like myself. I always say that if I can’t find it on Amazon, I don’t need it.
We could (and should) cook at home instead of eating out, but every once in awhile, it’s nice to be waited on, to eat something prepared by someone whose full time job is to create delicious food and not to have to argue over who cleans up the dishes.
Most of us spend ten hours a week or more in our car, so it’s a pleasure to use time en route to catch up on some reading when the opportunity presents itself to be chauffeured. Let’s not forget the time you buy yourself when going to New York by train or to Orlando by plane. At twice the speed of your car – or more – and not a minute spent in traffic or at rest stops, you will have more time to spend relaxing and sightseeing.
Online shopping, fine dining, and letting someone else take the wheel may make life a little more convenient, but they wouldn’t be possible without the second secret to happiness – trust.
In writing this, I’m trusting that you already trust in God. You know that He has a plan for you and as long as you listen to Him, everything will work out just fine.
Trusting God isn’t the problem for most people. It’s trusting each other that we need to work on.
Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages of human development theory describes a crisis for each of eight life stages. The first stage, infancy, centers around the conflict trust vs. mistrust. Babies who receive appropriate adult attention when meeting their many demands will learn to trust, while those whose needs are ignored will grow to see the world as an inconsistent place where others cannot be trusted.
When I talk to other people, particularly those who follow the news a little too closely, more seem to fall into the mistrust category, which is unfortunate, considering the many gifts a little trust can send our way.
When we shop online, we are trusting that the company we have provided with our credit card information will deliver the goods we’ve purchased in a timely manner and keep our sensitive financial information secure. (It would also be nice if they didn’t flood our inboxes afterwards.)
When we dine in restaurants, we are trusting that the establishment is clean, that our server is in good health and has our best interests in mind, and that the people who have prepared our food did so in a safe and sanitary manner with every intention of pleasing our palates and nurturing our bodies. Does “dirty food” happen? Sometimes, but it’s rarer than you think.
When we travel in something other than our own car, we are trusting that the driver, conductor, or pilot is sober, conscientious, and knowledgeable of our route, that the vessel transporting us is in good repair, and that we will arrive safely at our destination.
I won’t even get started with the amount of trust it takes for parents to send their children to school, but you get the idea. Many things that bring us happiness begin with us trusting that the end result will be worth relinquishing some control over our situation. It’s almost like a cloud, the invisible barrier between us and the entity we are trusting in many cases.
There is rarely a person at the other end when we shop online – it’s a computer someplace else.
The kitchen is seldom visible in a restaurant, so we don’t usually see the chef who prepared our food.
The cockpit on a plane is sealed off from the passengers, who may get a nod from the pilot and a peak at the controls upon deplaning.
As a high school teacher, I can attest that I have met face to face with less than ten percent of my students’ parents. They mostly know me as a name next to a (preferably passing) grade on a report card that will have a (preferably positive) impact on the future. And that’s okay. I can automatically be trusted to look out for my students’ well-being when they’re in my care in addition to teaching them. It’s my job.
We don’t even see the people into whose hands we are putting our money, our mouths, our lives, and our children’s lives, but we trust them to care for them properly because it is their jobs.
When we trust, we are blind, being led to happiness by an invisible force we wholeheartedly believe to be benevolent. Sound familiar? It should.
As Christians, we are led by God because of faith. Trust is like faith. The difference is that faith is believing without seeing and trust is believing in someone or something else despite what you may have heard.
You may have seen a news story about someone who had their identity stolen because of online shopping and decided that you’ll only buy in stores. You may have chosen not to eat at a particular new restaurant because a friend of a friend told you the food was terrible. You may be terrified to fly because of a plane crash you heard about years ago. If this sounds like you, you could be missing out.
Seek out online shopping sites with secure checkouts and shop away. Other people’s opinions are important, but in the case of food, you can’t always trust someone else’s tastes. So, decide for yourself if that new restaurant is up to par – and tell them if they’re not so they can get better. Book that flight to someplace fun.
Not everyone loves his or her job, but most people want to be good at the job they do have. So, trust them to do it so that you don’t have to.
Take for instance, the Bay Bridge, a staple for most Marylanders’ Ocean City trips. Some people are afraid to cross it, but not me. I trust that the engineers who built it are way better at math than I’ll ever be. The bridge is that leap of trust that car travelers must take without having to leave the state in order to reach their sand, waves, Trimper’s rides and Thrasher’s fries of happiness.
Is everyone trustworthy? Unfortunately not, but that’s the most beautiful thing of all about trust. God gave us a conscience and intuition to send us that uneasy feeling when something is not right. Develop it. Use it. Above all, trust in God. Then, trust your gut. Then, you can trust others more.
Did you read Robyn's first secret to happiness? Find out what it is here.
May 01, 2013 09:18
By Robyn Barberry
Part 1: A Sense of Wonder
I was in a hurry to get out of Dollar General and to the Post Office before it closed to mail my CSA registration and just meet the deadline. I’d brought the completed registration form and check for a growing season’s worth of fresh produce, but forgotten in my haste to get Collin to swim lessons to grab an envelope and a stamp.
Dollar General was the only place between the gym and the post office, and I entered the store praying that they’d just so happen to have envelopes. A towel-dried Collin was immediately drawn to a long aisle of toys.
“Look at the bouncy ball, Mommy!” he said.
“Not right now, Collin,” I said, ducking into an aisle of office supplies.
“But it’s blue,” he said.
“Those are just for show and not for sale,” a salesman said, and gave me a wink before disappearing.
“Come on, Collin,” I said, discovering an aisle of packing supplies, where, by chance, I discovered a variety of letter sized envelopes. He trailed behind me, bored.
As I weighed the merits of security lined versus self-sealing, Collin slipped away from me into yet another aisle of toys. I grabbed the closest box of envelopes and dashed after him into the next aisle.
“Oh, wow! Look at these cars!” he shouted.
“Not now, Collin,” I told him. “We have to hurry.”
A lady came towards us and said, “A sense of wonder.”
“Excuse me?” I asked. I noticed a baby
gift bag in her cart and wondered if she was buying for a new grandchild.
“Oh, I was listening to this Christian radio show while I was quilting, and the man said you need four things to be happy. The first thing is a childlike sense of wonder. He said we lose it too fast and as adults we forget that magic children see in everyday things.”
“You’re right,” I told her, embarrassed by my pushiness and failure to recognize the toys that were as important to Collin as my envelopes were to me. I started to walk toward the line, but turned around and asked, “What were the other three?”
She visibly struggled to remember. I waited patiently.
“All I know is that the second one is trust, but I forget the other two.”
“That’s okay,” I told her, and smiled. “I think I really just needed that first one today.”
As we waited in line, I didn’t stamp my foot or sigh loudly like I usually do when I’m in a hurry. Instead, I kept the conversation going.
“Are you buying a baby gift?” I asked her, indicating the bag on top of her cart.
“Just a bag for the gift,” she said. “A dear friend is having her first grandchild, and I made the baby a blanket.”
“Those are the best kinds of gifts,” I said. “Unexpected, one of a kind, and from the heart. I wish your friend and her family luck.”
I paid for my envelopes and made it to the post office in plenty of time. When we got there, I looked at the commemorative stuffed animals with Collin as we waited in line. We both agreed that Pooh Bear was the best.
Contrary to what I’d once believed, a sense of wonder doesn’t slow us down. It makes time pass by faster. And it’s more fun.
Wonder means taking in the details around you and letting yourself lose focus for just long enough to learn something new, to make a connection, to appreciate something that exemplifies your definition of beauty.
So, next time you’re passing the toy, or cereal, or candy aisle in your hurried shopping trip, take one moment to stop in and soak up the joy. Watch cartoons for a few minutes rather than the news. And don’t be afraid to ask “Why?” questions well past the point of “Because I said so” and “I don’t know.”
Want to know what was "unexpected" in Robyn's last blog? Find out here.
April 25, 2013 01:36
By Robyn Barberry
When the doctor’s office called with the results of my blood test, I expected everything to be normal. But, in this life, things seldom go as expected and normal very rarely exists.
“You’re pregnant,” the doctor told me over the phone.
“What?” I asked. It didn’t register.
“You are pregnant,” she repeated.
“But I just had a baby,” I said.
“Well, you’re about to have another one,” she said.
And so I am.
After the initial shock wore off, I began to worry. Some of the medication I am taking has been known to cause birth defects.
Panicked, I met my prescribing doctor, who, along with my obstetrician referred me to a high risk specialist.
“You’ll need more testing this time around,” she explained. “We’ll be looking for a heart defect, cleft palate, and issues with spine development. There’s also a risk of still birth. Overall, you have a 5% chance of facing complications.”
“That means there’s a 95% chance things will be okay, right?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
Along the way, I’ve had to explain that I am Catholic and will not be terminating this pregnancy no matter what the outcome might be. My care providers have been extremely supportive.
When we finally told our families, and were met with tremendous warmth and well wishes, I felt my inner strength grow. We’re not doing this on our own.
This baby is not just Patrick and my baby. He or she is not just Collin and Frank’s baby brother or sister or our parents’ grandchild. Our baby will be shared with our friends and family. Our baby will belong to the world. This baby will be a child of God, and we are prepared to love him or her no matter what may come.
For now, we pray for a happy, healthy baby. If it is God’s will, we will graciously accept His gift.
Please pray for us!
April 10, 2013 04:14
By Robyn Barberry
Every year on Good Friday, my parish, St. Joan of Arc in Aberdeen, joins its neighbor, Grace United Methodist Church for an ecumenical commemoration of Jesus’ journey from condemnation to death. The procession of the cross begins at Grace United Methodist Church with a prayer service. Then, participants gather outside to walk the walk that Jesus did, stopping six times to reflect upon his acceptance of the cross, meeting his mother, Mary, being assisted by Simon of Cyrene, meeting the women of Jerusalem, being stripped of his garments, and being nailed to the cross.
At each station, a brief reading retells the details of each event. Between the stations, two verses of “Were You There” are sung. The procession ends at St. Joan of Arc, where the cross is laid on its side in front of the church. A second short service closes the event and the congregation gathers downstairs for a light lunch prepared by St. Joan of Arc volunteers.
I was honored to be a part of this moving experience this morning, along with my father. The journey, after all, is one we share with Christ our Lord. With every step I took, I felt closer to Him. I found myself more enlightened with every step I took.
Some of my observations:
· I live two blocks down from my church. The passersby today were more than just people in cars and on bikes, they were my neighbors. They were people I will see again. Some Christians may be reluctant to be so transparent about their faith as to be seen participating in an event like the procession, but I was proud. I’m not ashamed to let my neighbors know my faith, whether or not they agree with my beliefs. In fact, I hope it lets them know they can always expect compassion from me.
· There is scientific research that proves the benefits that exercise has on the mind. Walking, in particular, has a major impact on the quality of our thoughts. Being in motion enabled me to reflect more on how Jesus must have felt carrying the cross, wearing the thorns, saying goodbye, awaiting his fate. I was focused more intently as I listened to the readings and considered deeply the meaning of the words we sang than I normally am.
· We spend so much time riding in cars, worried about what’s going to happen next, that we forget to slow down and process things. Walking changes that. I noticed for the first time today that the daffodils are blooming. They’re the first signs of spring, a symbol of resurrection, and I nearly missed them. The daffodils reminded me that Easter would soon take away the sorrow we were experiencing as we sang “…sometimes it causes me to tremble…”
· One of the most meaningful points of our journey was when a group of children volunteered to carry the cross during our last, and longest, leg. Jesus asked for the children to come to Him, and at that difficult moment, they did. With very little help from adults, they led us to St. Joan of Arc, where many of them attend school. To spend their day off in prayerful service to our Lord, is inspiring.
It was a bit brisk to have my own boys outside, so they stayed with my mom. Next year, when Easter is later, I would love to bring them along.
March 29, 2013 03:04
By Robyn Barberry
has been keeping pretty busy over the past week as we move back into our home. On the one hand, it’s exciting to finally be able to enjoy our semi-new house, but on the flip side, keeping track of our belongings in a place with un-established order is beyond frustrating.
It started with the socks, specifically Frank’s. It would be obtuse for me to portend this tale with some anecdote about the sock fairy or the dryer’s appetite, so I will spare you the redundancy of another sock cliché. However, I would like to point out that baby socks are considerably more difficult to manage.
First: Babies do not keep track of their own clothing. Otherwise, they would keep it cleaner, need to be changed less often and be less likely to lose it. Perhaps they need some of the same peer pressure that teens face when it comes to their apparel. That would encourage babies to take drastic measures to look their best at all times (and maybe not spit up all over holiday formalwear).
Second: Baby socks tend to come in multipacks of adorable designs in bold or pastel colors. If you lose one with a football on it, you have the option of pairing the football with an orphan racecar sock or ditching the lone rangers all together. All white socks are a better option, but it’s hard to resist the siren call of hightop baby socks in every color of the rainbow.
Third: Not one company has succeeded in manufacturing baby socks that will stay on my boys’ feet. Perhaps my children are of the wiggly variety, though I have a sneaking suspicion I am not alone in facing this problem.
Frank has been found barefoot on multiple occasions lately. I partially blame our new Pergo floors, which don’t offer the friction carpet did as he crawls all over the living room. Over the course of two weeks, Frank managed to dwindle his sock collection down to two matching pairs, one of which was too small.
I was dressing Frank to go to his grandmother’s one blustery morning and could not find a single pair of socks. I couldn’t be an unfit mother! The boy needed socks! I needed St. Anthony! Then, I remembered the emergency pair I kept stashed in my diaper bag.
Since then, I have been finding random socks in closets, mixed in with other laundry, under every piece of furniture, most likely stashed by our cats. I gathered all of them into a plastic bag and finally played a little matching game on Saturday. Now Frank has more socks than the rest of the household combined.
Sunday morning, Patrick wanted to run to Home Depot before church so that he would have all the materials he needed to fix up our garage for storage. But, since we are still without routines or real order, he misplaced his keys. After scouring the house, and turning up empty handed, I said a prayer to St. Anthony. Soon thereafter we found the keys in a seemingly logical place – under a gym bag on the dining room table. Patrick had just enough time to go to the store while I got the boys ready for Mass.
But, as he left, I realized the front door was wide open the whole time we were looking for the keys. I knew both of the boys were safe, playing in the living room, but hadn’t seen the cats and began to panic that they had gone outside. I found one, Bailey, under our bed, but Jameson was nowhere to be found. I began tearing apart closets, shining flashlights under furniture, whistling, shaking treats, but there was no sign of him. When it was time for us to leave for church, I decided that praying would be the best way to bring him back to us.
We ran into my dad on the way in. He had already ushered and attended an earlier Mass, so he went to look for Jameson. After the first reading, Patrick said he was going to go help my dad. I was so worried that I found it hard to focus. I kept asking for St. Anthony to help us find Jameson throughout the Gospel. I had St. Francis on line two. Just when I was beginning to pray to him, Patrick reappeared smiling.
“He was under the bed,” he whispered.
“Didn’t we look there?” I asked.
He smiled and shrugged. We knew better than to ask when a prayer was answered.
March 28, 2013 03:54
By Robyn Barberry
This week in art class
, we created reverse animal portraits with white gouache on black board. Patrick painted his favorite animal, and I painted Collin’s.
Everyone has a favorite animal. Mine has been the polar bear for nearly twenty years, when I saw one maneuver through an enormous tank at the Seattle Aquarium with fluidity and grace that defied its species. Patrick has been a loyal fan of the penguin since reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins in elementary school.
Patrick's painting of a penguin
Fortunately for both of us, our beloved beasts from opposing poles can be found right here in Baltimore at the Maryland Zoo. I took Collin there this past fall. I was so excited about introducing him to animals from faraway places, especially his favorite at that time, the elephant.
To my dismay, Collin didn’t seem interested in looking at or learning about the zoo’s exotic residents. Something else had caught his eye.
“Mommy, look at that silly squirrel (pronounced “squway-rul”)!” he said, pointing to the aforementioned bushy-tailed rodent as he bobbed in and out of a trash can.
“Collin, we can see squirrels at home,” I said. “Now, look at how long the giraffe’s neck is!”
Over the next few weeks, Collin told everyone we talked to about all of the squirrels we saw at the zoo. He continued to study the squirrels around the neighborhood and point out the goofy things they did, like run into each other or dangle from a limb like a gymnast.
Robyn's painting of a squirrel
For the first time in my life, I began to notice squirrels rather than ignoring their existence until they run out in front of my car. And Collin
was right. Squirrels actually are pretty funny.
The eyes of a child often help us to see life in terms so simple, they are profound.
We seek. We seek. We continue to search for something better. Seldom do we realize that what we’re looking for is right before us. It just needs to be seen through other eyes. We can always explore beyond our boundaries, as well, so long as we never lose sight or let go of what’s right in front of us.
Patrick and I continue to be penguin and polar bear fans, and will return to the zoo to see them when it gets a little warmer. Collin cannot wait to see the squirrels and their elephant friends again. Frank will probably point at everything, but maybe he’ll teach me something.
One more thing about squirrels: I play a game with my students where you replace the word “girl” in any song with the word “squirrel.” For instance:”I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May. I guess you’d say, what can make me feel this way? My squirrel.” Hope you have fun playing my game!
March 14, 2013 11:47
By Robyn Barberry
If Collin had it his way, he would eat macaroni and cheese for every meal, every day. It’s pretty typical for a 3-year-old, and who could blame him? Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. But, boy cannot live on Annie’s shells and cheddar alone. And so begins the conflict.
We stopped asking Collin what he wanted to eat when he began demanding macaroni for breakfast. The Cheerios appeared on the table along with pouts and protests. Dinners were even more difficult, as chicken was left out to dry and certain vegetables to remain nameless travelled a nomadic path across the plate.
When we asked our pediatrician for advice, she suggested that we offer Collin the food we have prepared and nothing else. If he refuses to eat, the plate is covered and stored in the refrigerator for the inevitable moment when Collin says, “I’m hungry.” For the most part, it works.
Then there are times like today, when we went to a Chinese restaurant after Mass and Collin asked for - you guessed it – macaroni and cheese. When we explained that they didn’t serve macaroni, he asked for tacos. But, when his shrimp fried rice arrived, Collin nearly cleaned his plate.
Collin’s desire for a twenty-four hour macaroni and cheese buffet isn’t much different than some of the requests we make of God. We want our lives to be perfect, comfortable and everything we want at all times. But, that’s not possible. It’s just not good for us.
We need variety in our lives to balance us and help us to grow. But, just as Collin resists salad, we often look at the rough times in our lives as being distasteful without benefit. God aims to nourish us through our struggle. However, we often grow angry with Him just as Collin does with us when we give him fish and broccoli instead of you-know-what.
In prayer, our job isn’t to ask for an endless supply of whatever our version of macaroni is. Instead, we should be thankful for the multi-faceted buffet God lays before us. He nourishes us even when we feel we are starving. We simply must appear at His table. And don’t worry. There will be just enough macaroni there to make you feel good.
March 05, 2013 12:58
By Robyn Barberry
On our second night of our black and white art class, which also happened to be Valentine’s Day
, Patrick and I were assigned portraiture, and chose each other as subjects. We didn’t realize just how challenging and meaningful the assignment would be.
Portraiture is something I’ve enjoyed since I began taking art classes. I guess it’s because I love people. I’m amazed by the way no two faces are exactly the same. Even identical twins bear slight differences. Our faces are what make us ourselves.
Initially, I wanted to draw our boys
, but children’s faces are notoriously difficult. It’s a matter of proportions. Their eyes are big, their mouths are small, and they grow so quickly.
Adults’ faces change with time, too. The nose and the ears continue to increase in size as we age, and of course, there are the wrinkles.
“Never draw the lines under the eyes on a lady,” our teacher, Rob May said. “And don’t shade too much under the chin or she’ll have a beard.”
After explaining and illustrating facial structure, proportions and other tips, Rob encouraged us to do basic sketches, which would then be shaded with tiny dots. It seemed simple enough, but our pencil erasers quickly disagreed.
One eye was bigger than the other. The nose was crooked. The lips were thin. The chin was too sharp.
When recreating each other on the page, we sought perfection. Once we relaxed our standards, we began to have fun.
“This looks nothing like you,” Patrick said, as he erased and redrew my iris for the fifteenth time.
Patrick's portrait of Robyn
“That’s okay,” I said. “It’s your first portrait.”
Patrick hadn’t drawn a person since elementary school, but he practiced all that he learned to create a version of me. He had more patience for the dot shading than I did.
I’m pleased for the most part with how my portrait of Patrick turned out, though I should have spent more time on the hair and made less of an outline around the nose. I also wished I could have shown the twinkle of light in his eyes, but that’s one of the limitations of the second dimension.
Robyn's portrait of Patrick
The trick to creating a good portrait of someone is to try to capture the person, flaws and all, as God made him or her at that moment. It helps to know that you’ll never be one hundred percent accurate. God alone is the master portrait painter.
February 27, 2013 11:37
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By Robyn Barberry