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May 20, 2013


Kristin Carskadon

As long as I can remember it has been a running joke in our family to tease my poor, sweet Dad (the only male in the household) about his lack of awareness when it comes to birthdays and presents. In all fairness, he lived in a home with 3 girls and my mother. He was clearly outnumbered and a natural target. My Dad is nearly 70 now and a grandfather… but the legend lives on. If he isn’t paying close enough attention, Dad is famous for watching one of us open a gift with a tag that clearly reads “love Mom and Dad” and saying… “Oh, that is nice. Who is that from?”
That is what makes my treasured item special because when I was just a kid, my Dad picked out this special gift all on his own and even had it created by an artist just for me. Dad was having a co-worker who made beautiful ceramic pieces make an entire handpainted nativity set for my mother as a surprise. (This from a man whose legendary gift purchases have included ice chests and canned chicken.) In his defense, there was never a doubt, not for even a split second in my whole entire childhood and now even in adulthood, that I have a caring, loving father. He didn’t pick the gifts himself or gush over you all the time but his love and dedication to the four women in his life then and still to this day oozes out of every pore. He doesn’t have to shower you with imaginative, creative, lavish gifts because he loves you so hard you feel it bounce off of you. His eyes and his questions and phone calls remind you constantly that you and your needs are really all he thinks about. My dad makes love a verb, a merciful, tender reaffirming verb.
As a little girl, I collected ceramic dolls in old-fashioned dresses. Dad had the artist paint a tall, slender statue of a beautiful woman in a flowing light blue dress and long blonde hair. I marveled at her hair because I was blessed at the time with hair that resembled that of a clown. I displayed the statue of the girl in my bedroom on my dresser for years. I would always smile when I looked at her because Dad chose her for me.
Over the years, she was packed away with other childhood things and moved from city to city, home to home as I grew up. Then just three years ago, I found myself sitting on the floor of the garage dividing the remnants of an 18- year marriage down the middle. I picked through boxes trying to decide what I should take that would be meaningful to my daughter or had come with me through all those years. I ignored a small pile in the corner of the garage that just seemed too daunting. I told myself that there hadn’t been anything in there that I needed in the past 6 years, why even bother. In literally the last five minutes in that home while preparing to leave with a few things and my 12-year-old daughter, I moved something and saw a box labeled “fragile.” It contained cheap glass bowls and odd candlesticks...nothing sentimental, and I was going to just toss it aside. Then I noticed something wrapped carefully in a towel. It was the beautiful girl statue from my Father. I had almost thrown her out! When I saw her I found more tears… I thought they had been all spent in the previous days. She would come along for the next part of the journey, a reminder of a tender love and devotion of a sweet Daddy that endures still.

Tom Backiel

Years ago I purchased a healing cube paperweight and I have it on my bedstand so it is the first thing I see in the morning and last thing that I see at night. As I faced a life- threatening disease this year (of which I am mostly recovered) it has been the healing cube that has focused me enough to get strong and better in my health and in other areas of my life. I didn't realize how important it was going to be to me when I first bought it.

Jenny Cline

As a professional flutist, the instrument I play is the means of my livelihood. The flute which I play, in solo performances, chamber music, and orchestral work, is a vintage, handcrafted silver flute made by the William S. Haynes Company in February, 1939, two months before my mother was born. I am its second owner. Although I never met the first owner, the flute came to me in its original leather-covered wooden case, covered in stickers from music festivals in New England with dates from the 1940s and 1950s. The Haynes company is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, and until the late 1970s professional American flutists only played flutes manufactured by Mr. Haynes or by his protégé, Verne Q. Powell, who started his own company in 1927. I purchased the flute when I was 17 and about to go away to music school. At that time there was a seven-year waiting list for a new Haynes flute, so buying a used one from my teacher’s teacher, who knew that this flute was about to become available, meant that I could avoid the lengthy wait. The difference between this lovely handmade flute and the inexpensive production-line model I had been playing before was astonishing: suddenly it was possible to play with more nuance, sensitivity and expression, and technically difficult passages became easier to play because of the flute’s smooth mechanism and rapid response.

In the flute world, fads come and go. In the intervening years since I became a Haynes owner, many manufacturers of flutes have entered the market. The first companies to make inroads in this country were the Japanese flutemakers, but they have been joined in the past 30 years by companies from the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Each flute brand professes to have some feature that will help the performer play better, louder, faster, and higher, with new gadgets and gizmos, new materials, and new ways of cutting the embouchure hole (the hole that we blow across to produce a sound).

There are people who buy a new flute every few years, always in search of that next “thing” that will help them be a better player. But a flute is only as good as the person playing it. While a wonderful flutist can make even a mediocre flute sound good, a mediocre flutist will not suddenly become a better player on a better flute. I have held on to my vintage Haynes flute throughout my college and professional career, always seeking ways to improve my playing of this wonderful instrument, which I have come to know so well that it feels like an extension of myself. I know how it will respond under my fingers, and I know how to make it sing, and it has been part of all the proudest moments of my musical career. When it is in the shop and I have to play another flute, it is like having to cook in an unfamiliar kitchen without any of my favorite tools.

When I was living in Boston and my flute was due for its yearly maintenance, I would hand-carry it to the Haynes shop in that city’s historic Back Bay neighborhood. The office walls were covered with photos of famous flutists. On one visit, a woman went to a filing cabinet and looked up my flute’s serial number. She told me the date the flute was sold and to whom. I got a real sense of the history of the Haynes company, and felt a kinship with all the flutists who play or have played Haynes flutes.

Sometimes people ask me why I haven’t bought one of the “modern” flutes that are so readily available these days, and I just smile and say that I wouldn’t dream of parting with my vintage Haynes, which is not just a part of my life but a part of me.

Anya Sophia Mann

Everything I am, everything I was and everything I will be is there, alive with the flow of a beautiful pen giving life on the lined pages in the body of my Moleskine journal. Reverently in my daily ritual I embrace my journal, bringing it close to me as I feel my heart beat pulsing the rhythms of my dreams, hopes, desires, disappointments, ideas, intentions, sorrows and successes. I breathe my life through feelings, ready to express them intimately on the smooth pages. Who I am, I first met in written form in my cherished journal. Mirroring with words I see my reflection on the pages. The being I become dances in my journal to the music of my expressed thoughts and feelings. I watch my desired manifestations lift off the pages into my reality. My life-long journaling has taught me about me. My life poured onto the pages through the tough times. Silent secrets whispered from the tip of my pen shared in the sacred space of receivership with my beloved best friend, my journal. Journaling brought me into a world where I could live my truth. Words became alive, capturing my life, past, present and future. I learned most about who I am in my daily reflections living inside my journals. My life played out on the pages acquainted me with a person I came to know, love and respect. Myself. Self-empowerment grew inside as I came to know me more and more through journaling the ups and downs, twists and turns of my life. I experienced many courageous moments in my life inside my journal first, where birthed so many aspects of me in the non-judgmental space. What I hold most dear to me, is 'me getting real with me' on the receptive pages of my 'Dear God' journals. I met myself there first. My journal is where I paint my life with words and color my world with feelings before I live into my day. I appreciate more and more being the author of my life in every moment that I share in my journal. My journal taught me how to be authentic by authoring my own life. I love my life. I love my journal.

Rebecca Henderson

I hold very dear 2 matching engraved gold bracelets given to me by my great-aunt the Christmas I was 16....many years ago. Her father gave them to her when she was 16, which would have been in 1912. While they're worth some money, that in no way compares with the sentimental value that they hold in my heart....and around my wrist every time I wear them.

Jonathan Floyd

The things I hold most dear to me are interestingly what I used to hate. During my young life, growing up at my parents home'....My father would come home from work, sit in his easy chair and relax. Before he started his magazine or book he was currently enthralled in, he would pull his shoes and socks off and then leave them in the middle of the floor. They were never touched again, until my mother picked them up and put them away. Loyally making sure her house was neat and tidy at all times. I used to wonder why she would do this and how could she stand such a blatant disregard for all of her hard work. I wondered why he would do this, thinking he enjoyed the servitude, and I would attribute other deep and vile evils to why this happened. One day, a few years back, I received THE CALL. Dad was in the hospital and not doing well. I flew down and got to the hospital. We went through the usual Doctor Explanations, bedside ramble, friends and family coming by, etc. That night we were back home, my Mother and I were sitting in the living room, and she started to cry. I was trying to comfort her and asked her to tell me what was on her mind. To my chagrin, she said that she missed his shoes and socks being on the floor. She knew if those shoes and socks were lying there, he was there and Dad was OK. I too started to cry but for a different reason: I was disappointed in myself. Here my parents had their system, each happy in their roles, and I was such a knave to come in and look down on my mother's perfect point of reference of "everything is alright." I felt such the heel. Many years has passed and I see myself becoming my parents, with a little of each of them mixed in there. I do not leave my shoes and socks on the living room floor; my wife and I do have our own process, though, much to the dismay of our children. In the corner of my bedroom, tucked neatly in the corner, is a pair of my Dad's old shoes and socks. Shoes polished and dust free, socks folded and tucked neatly in one shoe...and you know what... I look at them on occasion and I think to myself, "Everything is going to be OK." Thanks, Dad and Mom.

Gary W. Dozier

You are going to get much more than you bargained for in my answer, but it is all real and honest. First, there are two tools in my life that inspire me, that trigger my mind into operation better than any other tools. Each is at the opposite end of the historical spectrum. First is my notebook, sorta generic, but I prefer a 7x9 (roughly) book with narrow-lined pages and a border or margin for notes on my notes, plus a grid page on the other side so that I can doodle the details of an idea I may be developing. This doodle may be proceeding from my heat-oppressed brain, a layout of a banner or poster or any number of elements not suited for lined pages of text. This notebook must include a pen, preferably gel, not ballpoint nor fountain. I am a calligrapher, but clearly I have a specific array of pens for that purpose. For this effort I need a very fine point, black ink, but may add comments in other colors (blue, red, green) to enhance my message. It is this “back to basics” concept in a tool that I try to have by my side during my waking hours for any possible thought that needs documenting.
On the other hand, my other tool of penultimate importance is my iPad. I am a 66 year-old guy who spent 40-plus years in information technology and am now venturing into higher ed, finishing my M.Ed. so I can teach in college before my spirit takes leave of my body. This high tech tool is without a doubt the most significant technological tool I have seen and used. It brings me memories of my family, friends, places I have been and events I have attended. It serenades me with music of my own choosing, it entertains me, stimulates my mind, keeps me informed via email and the news feeds, and allows me to create with a technological edge.
Five years ago this month I was going through a vicious divorce, lost all my money and got a job that paid me what I had made 30 years before, but the economy was already tanking, and I was grateful for the opportunity to earn money to pay my way. It was in May 2008, that I was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer, since fully cured, but led to a diagnosis of esophageal cancer. After 28 radiation sessions and four chemo sessions, my doctors noted that the cancer could no longer be detected, but still could be there. Following their advice, I had my esophagus removed and took five months to recover, ultimately losing that job I had started. I share this NOT for sympathy, but to celebrate the fact that I have learned to appreciate the simple things in life. Truly, I DO stop to smell the roses, to pet the dogs and cats, to “talk” to the birds and chipmunks, to thank my Creator for this life, for my parents and brothers and for the friends and even for those adversarial to me (keeping me on my toes). I TREASURE every day and make a concerted effort to spread enthusiasm for life to all around me. It has had some delightful results.
So I have two tools that mean much. One is pretty simple and almost timeless; the other, high tech and far more engaging in so many aspects of my life. But these tools cannot hold a candle to the value I place in my family, friends and animal companions I have come to know and love over my lifetime. Thanks for letting me share this gargantuan entry. Peace.

Doug Vickers

Of physical things, the Parker fountain pen my son gave me. He is in the Navy and when I hold my pen, it is like I am hugging him. Until his service to our country is done, this quite often has to satisfy. I pray for the moment when this is not the case.

John Sterba

The object that I hold dear is my bomber jacket Majorca Briefbag. The bag is for women, but I'm a man and I love it. I have the Briefbag in all of the colors (except the feminine red), but the bomber jacket version is the one for me.
Perhaps one of the reasons I treasure it so much is that it was only available once, and has not been available since - as far as I can tell. Oh, how I'd like another because mine is wearing out after use every day for some years!
But there are many other reasons for my love affair with the Majorca Briefbag. Where can I start? The handles are just right - they stand up on their own so that I don't have to fuss with, and gather them up, in order to pick up the bag. The inside is beautifully lined and has a very nice zippered pocket.
Speaking of zippers, both the main zipper for the bag and the zipper for the external compartment go the perfect distance - 3/4 of the way around the bag (not more, not less); but, importantly, both the bag and the external compartment are restrained from opening too far by folded pieces of leather. Genius!
The pen and device-holding pockets (in the external compartment) are just the right dimensions for me, and there are just the right number of them. What could be better?
The Majorca Briefbag is perfect for me - if only Levenger would bring back bomber jacket!

Herbert D. Hentzen III

It was September 1986 and I found myself struggling to get through the airport in Singapore, trying to get home to Chicago afterI got deathly ill from a fever the previous week. Walking past store after store, I came across a display of Cross pens. I saw a Grey fountain pen and wondered what it would be like to write with one. So for $30 I bought the pen and boxes of ink cartridges. Little did I realize, this was just the beginning of a love affair with fountain pens - all kinds - Levenger, Mont Blanc, Pelikan, Parker, Waterman, and Delta, to name a few.

And the stories .... from The Hague, to Salzburg, Austria, to California, to Janesville, Wisconsin, to Washington D.C. to Hamburg, Germany, to England and back to Chicago.

And the linkage to an art long lost - the written word, the handwritten letter, the quick handwritten note of thanks. To write slowly, deliberately and with the purpose to communicate in a very personal and meaningful way to those you work with, share stories with and love - this is the ultimate expression of fountain pens!

To write with a fountain pen is to find yourself with the power to send more than just a message to someone - it is to say I care so much about you, who you are, what you are all about, I will take the time and energy to write you a note with one of my most personal possessions.

The fountain pen is an expression of individuality, personality, imagination, wonderment, and a life full of what matters most -- to show someone you care!

Sheryl Lee

Almost four years ago my brother died of cancer. During our last years together he would frequently send me Moleskines. I enjoyed them very much. I recently returned from a month-long trip to my sister-in-law's. During that time she gave me a stack of them that he had purchased and cherished. These books, large and small; lined and blank; upright or sideways, are a special gift to me that is truly tangible. I love them.

Kim Hunter

My partner, best friend, confidant, soul mate and mentor known as mother has partially left me, which means the best part of me died. A thief, known as Dementia, has robbed us of our last years together and now I without her trying to learn how to continue on at 63 and she at 92. She does not know me and all I can do is speak to a blank face and empty beautiful blue eyes and see a gentle smile from time to time as she holds my hands and remember how funny and clever and totally loving she was. Gone are the wit and charm of one of the most brilliant and amazing women I have ever known, who entertained presidents of major corporations, senators and street cleaners, and treated everyone as a very important person.

Everyone in the French Quarter where we lived for my lifetime knew her, as she walked 5 or 6 miles a day, and if you needed to know where she was at anytime you just stepped out and asked anyone who was employed down here in the day like the shop owners, street cleaner, the maids leaving the hotels, or any or the regulars around and they would say, "Now Kim, you know Nana goes for an ice cream every day about this time and takes the river walk route to get there because she loves those views of the ships going by." She was beloved by all who knew her and charmed by her genuine warmth and sincerity.

Through 2 husbands, raising 2 children and life, my mom and I were never parted for my life. We worked together, ate together, watched TV together--everything. She was sad with you, happy with you or there just there when you needed her.

After her departure to a nursing home 2 years ago, I kept some of her clothes. When I feel lonely or blue I put on my mom's blouse, and somehow I don't feel so alone, and it helps make me feel close to her. Such a small thing, and yet so important to my feeling of security and peace.

Theodore Lierman

Some time back your company offered an electronics case that clipped on your belt. It was a Bomber style, complete with plaid interior. This case has two compartments; one zips shut and is divided into two, the other is a pocket with magnetic cover. I have used this case now for over 7 years. Everywhere I go (I travel quite a bit) I receive compliments on the case. Everybody wants to know where they can get one. Unfortunately, this case has been discontinued. I love this case. It carries my smartphone, wallet, and several other items that medical conditions require me to carry. It is something that I really I hold special and keeps me prepared. I've found a similar one, but it doesn't quite stack up to my original. I've made some minor repairs, but the case overall is quite the same and it is my item that I hold dear.

Jill Gordon

The letters home to my parents from overnight camp are the objects that I hold most dear. I was consistently, heartbreakingly homesick for each of the 3 summers I went to camp, yet I returned on my own volition.

The letters go into bittersweet details about how many hours I cried, what I was doing when I stopped crying, and each letter weaves in at least a handful of pleas for them to come and get me...and be sure to be the first in line at the gate.

The magic in these letters for me is a combination of things. For one, they are handwritten; ink on paper. As a writer and collector/hoarder of all-things ink and paper, these would be precious no matter what story they told.

These written snapshots of my pre-teen experiences also symbolize one of my favorite characteristics about myself, my ability to push through even when events are painful and seemingly unbearable.

These letters are a testament to how much my parents value me. They've moved many many times since those camp letters were written and yet they've kept them safe and intact through it all, and we talk about them pretty often, too.

I guess that the most recent addition to the list of reasons that these letters hold a special place in my heart is that I am currently getting my own son ready for his first overnight camp experience. I can only hope that I will have the self-restraint to not write him letters quantifying the minutes I did or did not cry about his absence!

Cynthia Pfaff

In a world where we now allow objects to define us, I have strived to hold people and memories most dear in my life. However, my 1998 Honda Civic has become my daily reminder. In a time of my life that I really couldn't afford her, I bought her and now that I can afford new, I choose not to replace her. As my family teased when I got her painted instead of replacing her, I realized how reversed priorities have become in this world. There are days that I see a vehicle on the road that is attractive and when I find myself wanting one, I am reminded that my car is just transportation from one place to another and not who I am. I have had opportunities to share what I've learned from my little green charm with some who put themselves down because they don't drive a fancy, expensive car, in hopes they are able to see themselves as valuable even though their transportation is just that. So even though I don't necessarily hold my car dear, I hold what she has taught me and reminds me daily of as priceless.

Marsha Donovan

Something that I hold dear is a framed needlework piece that was from a great great aunt. It says:

"After Clouds Sunshine"

Marc Levy

In our current fast-paced world, where emails and tweets dominate the communication, it stimulates me to remember a time when the pace was slower and more introspective. It challenges that drive to do more and more or grab harder onto things around us ,with an understanding that quality trumps quantity.

In my youth I learned an important lesson while sitting on the beaches of Southern California. The harder I grabbed onto the sand, the less I actually had--and that is true in the pleasures of life. The harder we try to hold onto all of the things we have around us, the less we actually will have in terms of joy and pleasures. It is really about the quality of our experiences and not about the quantity of them.

So in terms of what is dear to me, it comes down to the ability to share the joys and pleasures of life with others. Sharing those pleasures in a way that allows others to get the full sense of the event and the experience. Creating the vicarious opportunity to be there and to feel the feelings and understand the thoughts while not rushing into a series of other quick glimpses. No, in a way to savor that period of time.

For that reason I enjoy a good pen as a writing instrument that allows me to hand-write the messages. It allows me to transcend from the busy fast-paced world of the internet and land squarely in a solid mode of communication that has been used for centuries. The written word with ink and thoughtful consideration is an expression with depth and clarity. It is a communication sharing an investment of our energy and thoughts, personalized--not copied or attached or sent to an email list.

The pen pulls me away from that speed and impersonal world we often find ourselves in during the day. It moves us away from grabbing hard onto the sand in the beach, and slows us down to enjoy the art and fact of communication. We can express our love or our concerns and freely share the joys and sorrows we feel.

Yes, the pen symbolizes what is dear to me and allows the freedom of expression without spell-check or deletes. It is a way to touch others that breaks from the rush and temporary world we find ourselves. The pen is a way that we ink a bit of ourselves onto paper that can become part of what is dear to others.

Vaughn Johnson

My object is the wrist watch on my wrist from waking to sleeping. It is literally the first thing I put on when waking and the last thing removed when sleeping. As a timepiece it is relatively simple, but as a tangible object it reminds me that I am alive and yet enjoy the gift of time. I am reminded and inspired to choose wisely how that time is spent

Kimbol Soques

I wanted this to be about something beautiful. Something I hold in my hand, smooth or rough, that makes me smile. A treasure I glance at, anchoring me to a place, a time, a state of being.

Unfortunately, the first thing that popped in my head was: keyboard. A particular one, true. It's orange, with white mod flat keys, and fits in my purse. But while that one makes me smile, it's not the only one. It's all of them.

See, I'm on the hinge, age-wise. My school life was predominantly pencil- and paper-based; I earned my bachelor's degree in the age where computers were in centers, packed full of people at finals-time. For all that, I wrote my first stories at age three... on a typewriter. It seems that my hands have never been able to keep up with my ideas.

Perhaps it's my left-handedness; I could never master the odd hook on the top of the 'r.' Perhaps it's the death-grip I've never quite loosened on my pens, wearing me out before I begin. It doesn't matter. When I learned to touch-type at fourteen, I leaped into full-throttle composition. Multiple drafts? No problem. First to last, writing began, flowered, and ended at the keyboard.

Like most epiphanies, over time its gloss faded. I was amused by my children bringing friends to stand at my elbow, watching my fingers fly. But only recently did I again stop and consciously claim my keyboard.

I'd tried Julia Cameron's discipline of "Morning Pages" more than once. I understood where their strength lay. But at three manuscript pages my hand cramped, my letters mangled beyond recognition. Sure, they're not designed to be read again. But to be unable to decipher them at the outset? Depressing. I would walk away.

This spring I paused. I considered the barriers I threw up. Mornings with teens are not reflective spaces: fine, what about evenings? Or afternoons? My hand gets so tired. And when I lose the thread of my thoughts, I can't retrieve it from the written page - so frustrating! What about using a computer instead? Not portable. Not nimble enough to grab a small slice of time. What about that little smartphone? In my pocket all the time, my excuses about access evaporate. Sure, texting-typing is tiring, too... but for every smartphone is a wireless keyboard.

Keyboard. Leads to reflection, and earns my affection. In orange, reminds me of my freedom. Freedom to claim writing, in any part of my day. Nothing touches me more deeply than that.

Tony Rauche

Of all the things that I hold dear there is a glass jar with a metal screw top. I think my mother got this jar filled with laundry detergent or some other product as a giveaway, probably sometime in the 1950s. By the time I began noticing this jar, she was using it to store coffee. My strong recollection is hearing that jar being opened in the morning and knowing that my mother was about to make coffee and start our day. The smell of freshly brewed coffee would follow and life in our home would begin.
It is not the jar itself which is valued, but the sound that the jar makes when it is opened. This is such a powerful sensory memory for me, in paticular, because I am a musician and sound is central to my life as a performer and a university professor. This sound is the sound of our family life--my mother and father, and my sister and me. It is the memory of a secure home, a warm and inviting center for our family, relatives and friends. And of course, a memory of my mother's great care and love. No one would suspect what value the sound of that jar has for me, but every once in a while I open it to experience the flood of memories and feelings that it generates for me, and I am happy to share that here. Thanks.

Linda Lowen

I was a young mother -- like many others -- sitting in a beach chair on the coast of Maine, watching my husband and two daughters play in the sand and surf. But unlike the others, I hid below a beach umbrella, wearing a long- sleeved shirt and shivering in the heat. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer three weeks earlier, I'd had an emergency hysterectomy, yet I didn't want to ruin plans for our week-long summer vacation. So while my family tried to enjoy that day at the beach and pretend everything was all right, I sat alone with my thoughts and fears. I'd be returning to New York in a few days to start six months of chemo, and I was scared.

As the tide went out, I saw a handful of kids squatting and digging into a stretch of exposed shoreline. They came running back up to their mothers, giggling. It looked as if they'd been dipped in chocolate. Each child was covered in a slick brown coating. I wandered down, curious, and saw the receding waters had exposed a tidal mud flat. I plunged my hand into the mud and pulled up a sticky lump. Without thinking, I molded it between my hands as I walked back to the chair.

The shape gradually took on a female form, very crude and rudimentary like those ancient female goddesses unearthed by archaeologists. I saw a spiral shell at my feet and picked it up. It had a vaguely female anatomical structure. I pressed it into the mud lump I carried, and worked on my handful of found art for the rest of the afternoon as the mud dried and retained its shape more readily. At the end of our day at the beach, I placed it on a flat piece of driftwood and left it to dry in the rear window of our car.

Those six months of chemo were followed by second-look surgery. Afterwards, my oncologist told me something few ovarian cancer patients hear -- he gave me a clean bill of health. The two preschool-age daughters I'd been afraid I'd leave motherless are both in college now, and this July will mark my 19th year as a cancer survivor.

That lump of clay is still with me. I drilled a hole in its base, mounted it on a block of wood, and now it sits on my desk, looking like something you might find in a museum -- an artifact from some lost civilization. It is an artifact of sorts -- a reminder of challenges faced, a disease overcome, a life well-lived since I learned how finite our time is on this earth. But unlike those lost civilizations, as you can tell from this story, I'm still here.


A glance around my working area reveals what touches me. A well-marked open Bible with a special pair of reading glasses is partially covered by a hand-stamped notecard, ready to go into an envelope. Nearby is a piece of partially completed cross-stitch, just an arm’s length from my open computer with a china coffee cup to its side… a relic from my teaching days. And then there is my Circa notebook. I have always loved paper. Loved to write. Loved to think deeply and then try to put my thoughts into words. I have journal upon journal tucked into a box in my closet and file upon file of random thoughts stored here and there in drawers, but there is nothing that touches my life quite like my notebook. It holds my calendar, my schedule, my poems. It contains birthday lists and budgets, blog ideas and daily blessings. It is me wrapped up in leather. And it is beautiful. So beautiful that while I dream about adding another notebook to my collection, I’m afraid to. I feel like a mother looking at her first child and wondering if there could ever be room in her heart to love another. But then an exquisitely crafted little bear that watches near my computer catches my eye. A little bear that was made by a dearly loved second child. And I remember that love grows when it is shared. Even love for a notebook.

Tardy Ubehor

My son is an active duty Marine, serving on the West Coast. He's twenty-four and has been the main support and prop in my life, especially since his father and I divorced in 2011.

I've been a teacher for almost thirty years, and although I may be considered biased because he's my son, he is simply one of the kindest, strongest, and most honorable young people I've ever met. He actually THINKS about honor, and doing the honorable thing. He measures his life by a code that is uncompromisingly honest and true. For Christmas he gave me a necklace with three charms. One is a round disk with the inscription: "U.S. Marine Corps Mom," one is a jade four-leafed clover, and the last is a ribbon with yellow and red, white, and blue on it. It's called the "Marine Corps Good Luck" necklace. It's not expensive or fashionable, and the chain it came on turned my neck green.

I wear it every day as a talisman against gunshots, IED's, and terrorists who want to kill my son simply because he's chosen to dedicate his life to the defense of his country. It helps remind me that not every parent's child comes home from war, and it causes me to give thanks for the resolve of those families who lay their hearts' blood on the altar of sacrifice for freedom.

I replaced the chain...twice.

Paul Young

Sadly, I come from a family in which connection and concern for one another are missing from our genetic heritage. I've been estranged from my family members still living for nearly 40 years. Yet I still treasure and draw inspiration from one very old photograph - my brother at age 2 and I aged 5, just after my mother and father separated. He's looking off camera right, wondering what comes next. I'm staring calmly and directly into the camera, wearing a clip-on bow tie and V-neck sweater, already aware of my new role as The Man of the House. I am fearless and announcing myself as Protector. This photo goes to my heart every day, reminding me that, despite our 'failure to communicate,' I love my brother as much today as I did on the day of that photograph. And when I doubt my powers and and my ability to move through the daily muck, it reminds me that somewhere - some days buried deeper than I'd like - I'm still that fearless, calm child daring the heavens to fall.

Diane Grych

The thing that I, literally, hold dear is my father's cane. I have been a Daddy's Girl all my life, and, in the past five years gradually became his caregiver as he grew more frail and his health failed. Sadly, I lost my sweet Daddy on December 22, 2012- the day after my 61st birthday, and he was laid to rest on what would have been his 88th birhtday- December 26th.

I have been a cane user for the past seven years, and have gradually acquired a number of canes. After Daddy's passing, my husband shortened his cane for me for my use. It is mahogany wood with a hand-sculpted bone handle, and it is now my favorite thing. When I lean on it, I remember the loving support Daddy gave me from my infancy to the end of his earthly life, and when I hold the handle, I feel his spiritual hand in mine Thenk you so much for allowing me to share my story.

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