Archive for August, 2013

“If you can’t return a favor, pass it on”
   — Louise Brown

When someone does a good deed and the benefits fall on us, what is our first impulse?  We want to do some kindness in return.  There can be many reasons why we want to return the favor.  Perhaps we are filled with gratitude and simply want to express it in some tangible way.  Perhaps we try to stay even so that there is no accumulation of a list of favors owed that follows us around and weighs us down with guilt.  Perhaps we have difficulty accepting a favor from another person because we are afraid it will make us seem weak by comparison; and perhaps this touches on some ancient survival instinct we have that makes us strive to be at the top of the hill where the view is clear so that any sinister motives behind the favor might be spotted before we are harmed by the giver’s true motivation.

If we are raised to be independent and to attend to our own needs and responsibilities, accepting a favor might make us uncomfortable.  We might worry about what we will owe as payback or, worse yet, worry that we will never be able to get even again.  It is only when our need is so great that desperation takes priority over our desire to prove we need no one that we truly learn about giving and receiving.  Sometimes it takes a moment or two of desperation to motivate us to allow other people into our place of need so that it can be satisfied.  It is in that moment — the one where we know beyond a shadow of doubt that we cannot repay — that we learn something about giving.

Giving from the heart should not be done with a single thought of what we will gain in return.  Giving from the heart takes place when the abundant love that dwells there cannot help but overflow and find its way right to the spot in another heart that suffers emptiness.  Whatever we give should arrive on the coattails of that love.  Only then do we give freely and purely.  Only then do we give with the intention of meeting a need.  Only then do we not require the recipient to empty their own heart in order to fill ours.

Some years back, I was blessed to be allowed into the circle of someone else’s need.  There was no way this gracious woman, caught in her struggle with illness, could hope to return the many favors my heart was called to do.  In the midst of it all, I learned a simple, yet profound, truth.  Every good deed requires a recipient; and we are responsible, not only to give, but to sometimes be the recipient so that another person has the pleasure of giving from the heart.

I used to think that paying deeds forward only meant that if someone does a good deed for us, we should do a good deed for the next person we see who has a need.  As I become older and less able to provide the physical energy that I once brought to such things, I realize that another sort of paying it forward now becomes my responsibility.  I must now pay forward the role of recipient and allow someone else to gain the understanding I learned at the feet of my friend in need.

I still am an independent woman.  I still like the feeling of being able to take care of my own needs.  But I also enjoy the sweet memories of being the capable and able-bodied person who got the good feelings from helping someone whose strength now lay in the grace to accept my help and teach me the second side of giving.  May we all cultivate the grace to simply say “thank you.”  May we all open our hearts and give what they have to offer, without worrying about evening the score.  May we all pass on the legacy of interdependence, and may no one be made to feel less as we pass it on.

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”
      — Harvey S. Firestone

Today is the third day of school.  For my granddaughter, Cheyenne — a.k.a. “Tink” — it is the third day of first grade, and her third day began with tears.

One day this summer, when Cheyenne and I were talking about life, she told me that she had noticed a very strange thing.  “All my friends are HUGE!”  It made me laugh to hear this, and I thought how wonderful it was that she saw the other kids as incredibly big rather than seeing herself as tiny.  We have a board next to the stairway in our kitchen.  It stretches from floor to ceiling, and it is marked in quarter-inches from bottom to top.  For more than twenty-eight years, we have had our children — and now our grandchildren — back up to the height board so we can record their size and the date.  Our kids watched themselves grow up, and I watched them pass me by.  Now their children like to compare how tall mom or dad was at their age.

On Cheyenne’s sixth birthday, she stood tall and measured in at almost 39 inches tall.  She is perfect — a miniature, made in perfect detail, and stunningly pretty to boot.  The average six-year-old girl in the United States stands 45.3 inches tall; so, yes, she is little.  But she never felt smaller or lesser until the second day of first grade when a classmate decided to point out that she was really small.  Worse than that, the classmate informed her, “you wear baby shoes.”

Now I don’t know whether you have spent much time with six-year-olds recently, but I can tell you that they do not want to be accused of having anything that is “baby.”  We spend a lot of time congratulating our children on getting “so big” and “so tall” that we might easily forget that not everyone is going to be even average height.  There is a difference between being small, which she is, and being somehow less or being identified as a baby.  What makes a day like this one so frustrating is that Cheyenne has been taught to be kind and to include everyone; but when she is in tears because of the unkind actions of a classmate, it is tempting to teach her to fight back.

Kids sometimes seem cruel, because kids are unfiltered.  What lurks in the back of a child’s mind is very likely to pour directly out of his mouth.  Sometimes we think this is cute, and sometimes we even encourage the lack of filter in order to figure out what is on a child’s mind; but the second day of first grade serves as a reminder that we all should use the filter that lies between the back of our mind and the front of our mouth.  We should exemplify kind speech and acceptance of differences.  We should teach our children about the times when it is better to be silent than to say something hurtful to a friend.

I remember one time when my son was in kindergarten and I was expecting a visit from an old friend.  He never had met Linda; and he was at that unfiltered stage of life when anything might pop out of his mouth with little thought behind what he would say.  Linda weighed in at 250 pounds, and I knew he would find that remarkable.  Before she arrived, I told him, “My friend Linda is coming today, and you will get to meet her.  I wanted to tell you about her.  She is very big.  In fact, you might say she is fat.  I wanted to tell you so you wouldn’t be surprised, and I wanted you to know that we don’t need to tell her she is fat — she knows, and sometimes it bothers her.”  Filter up, son.  Speak kind words.

Luckily, Cheyenne has a great mom, who also is tiny.  She reminded her daughter that the best things come in small packages.  She helped her find kind words to say if her size came up again.  She told her that sometimes kids say things because they are surprised and not because they want to be mean.

Grandma understands this, because she was tiny, too.  Of all the clothes I ever owned, the thing that stands out in my mind is a pair of velveteen saddle shoes with flowers on the saddles.  I wore them to seventh grade; and they did not cement a spot for me with the popular girls.  I am thankful that schools now have anti-bullying programs and that Cheyenne’s teacher spent some time today talking about differences and including everyone.  Nobody who is sixty-three should have to remember vividly a pair of shoes and still have a knot in her stomach.

Good things come in small packages, like diamonds, rubies, and Cheyenne.  She is precious.  A jewel.  And just the right size to be Chey.


 Click Here for my childhood theme song.



“Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes.”
  — Theodore Dreiser

Because we are human, we use words to share our thoughts, our ideas, and our dreams with other human beings.  Because we are created and carry a spark of the divine deep within us, we often find that our words are inadequate to fully express what we feel in our hearts.  We try to connect our feelings to those of others by expressing our experience in words, but we know that words can mean different things to different people.

As individuals, we know that each of us is unique.  We celebrate the ways we stand out in a crowd and are seen as creative or capable or wise in comparison to others.    As members of the human race, we may have more difficulty finding the sameness — the common thread that links us to others and defines us as members of the family of man.

Because so much of our response to the world around us takes place at a non-verbal level, we have difficulty discerning whether we all feel the same way when we see a nest full of baby birds or a painted sunset or a drop of morning dew glistening in the first light of day.  If I were to say to you that seeing a nest full of baby birds creates the same sort of feeling in me that I experience when I hold a newborn baby, I would tell you something about myself; but if birds are of no interest to you and holding babies makes you nervous, then our communication might fall short.

We watch the facial expressions of others and try to attach them with significance to the deep feelings we experience when our own faces look that way.  We reach out and try to feel the warmth of the divine spark as it ignites something powerful in another person that just might offer proof that we are very much alike, deep below our outward selves in a place called soul.  We struggle to explain that part of ourselves to one another, and find ourselves saying, “there are no words.”

Because we carry the divine spark of Creation within us, we are drawn toward the other creatures who also carry that spark.  Because we are human, we use words to communicate our shared experience, our shared hope, and our shared dream.  Because finite words cannot fully embrace the infinite depth of our humanity, we feel dissatisfied with the results our words provide.  Yet the human condition, the state of carrying something infinite in a very finite container, cries out to us again and again to speak the words that draw us closer to a description.  Because words are all we have to express that we have everything, we have no choice but to speak.  Let us strive to begin every sentence with love.

“Make friends with the angels, who though invisible are always with you. Often invoke them, constantly praise them, and make good use of their help and assistance in all your temporal and spiritual affairs.”
     — St. Francis de Sales

One of my favorite books to read to my children was Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears A Who.  Lovable Horton the elephant is walking one day when he hears a very small voice from a dust speck on a flower.  He uses his very big ears to listen to the voice and decides to take what he hears seriously, in spite of the jeering from the sour kangaroo (and the young kangaroo in her pouch said, “me, too!”).  He persists in spite of a beating by the Wickersham brothers, who steal his flower and even stays true when a black-bottomed birdie drops it into a huge field of flowers.  He does all this to fulfill a promise, because, “an elephant’s faithful, 100 percent!”

Often, during the final years of my father’s life, I would marvel at the way he insisted on taking care of my mom.  Just before his death this July, he and mom celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary; and Dad showed us, with every ounce of his strength and fading stamina, that he took his vows seriously — in sickness and in health, until death do us part.  Often, as his final years unfolded, I would think of that Seussical elephant and hear him say, in my father’s voice, “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant.  An elephant’s faithful, 100 percent.”

By now, you may be wondering what Dr. Seuss has to do with St. Francis de Sales, and what Horton the Elephant has to do with angels.

Toward the end of his life, my dad spoke more and more about his coming transition from life to afterlife.  I was privileged to spend a good bit of time talking with him about whether he was good enough to warrant admission to heaven or not, whether the things in his life that he regretted would exclude him from such a beautiful place.  “I hope there’s a heaven,” he said to me one day, “and if there is, I hope I’ve been good enough to go there.”  He also confided that sometimes, at night, he could hear something moving around in the bathroom and see flickering shadows move across the doorway.  “It’s been going on for a while,” he told me, “and nothing bad has happened so far.”  I suggested that maybe it wasn’t anything bad at all.  “Maybe it’s your guardian angel, Dad.”  There was a pause on his end of the telephone line, and I could hear his eyes grow wide as he said, “You know about her?”  He went on to tell me that he had first seen his guardian angel years ago, when he and mom lived in their condo in Clearwater.  He told me about how he had tried to figure out whether it was someone he had known — maybe his Aunt Ada — although he could not be sure.

Months later, after ninety-one years caught up with Dad, he had relinquished most of Mom’s care to the staff at their assisted living quarters.  He lay in bed most of the day as well as the night, and he showed little interest in eating and drinking.  He would perk up now and then and check on things, but soon he would return to his sleeping and waking and sleeping some more.  As his final day approached, I heard reports from the nurses that Dad was spending a lot of time talking to people who were not there.  Immediately, I thought of his alter ego, Horton.  “Who were not there?”  I thought of a time, about a month earlier, when Dad had told me that sometimes he could see a young man standing in his room who looked at him with wide eyes.  He saw this man as friendly and would greet him whenever he appeared.  Now, as he lived with one foot in this world and one in the next, he was talking to “people who were not there?”

I firmly believe that Dad was talking to people who WERE there.  I thought of Horton and his dust speck that held a whole society that simply could not be seen with the naked eye or heard with anything less sensitive than the very large ear of a very tuned-in elephant.  I thought of the debates about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, and I laughed at wise old Dr. Seuss and his ability to speak the truth in such a whimsical way.  I thought of how we live every day surrounded by angels and how we allow the sour kangaroos to convince us that we should not be talking to “Whos who are not.”

It has now been six weeks since my Dad followed the voices that only he could hear and arrived in his new home.  Whenever I miss him, I stop for a moment and close my eyes until I can feel him right beside me in a form that eyes cannot see.  Whenever I wish I could tell him some news of our family, I just pause and send the message out into the invisible world where angels live, and I remember that there are things we cannot touch or see that are very real.  A tear falls from my eye as I type this; and as it makes its way down my cheek, I brush it away and put on my elephant ears.  There in the silence, I hear the message that all is well.  Filled with gratitude, I turn to face a new day, surrounded by love.

“You are the person who has to decide. Whether you’ll do it or toss it aside; You are the person who makes up your mind. Whether you’ll lead or will linger behind. Whether you’ll try for the goal that’s afar. Or just be contented to stay where you are.”
   — Edgar A. Guest

Some of the earliest rhymes of my childhood were recited to me by my great-aunt Essie.  She was a great fan of Edgar A. Guest, and her favorite of his poems was the one about the man who did what could not be done.  “He started to sing as he tackled the thing/That could not be done, and he did it!”

I like to think that Edgar and I have some things in common.  Neither of us writes the sort of poetry that wins critical acclaim; but I like to think that each of us, in our own unique way, conveys a down-to-earth message that offers our readers a chance to pause and consider the choices we make and the way they affect the direction of our journey through life.  I liked the poem about doing what could not be done.  Even as a child, I internalized its message that we shouldn’t believe everything other people tell us – especially where doing our best is concerned.

Perhaps that is what appeals to me about today’s verse.  “You are the person who has to decide.  Whether you’ll do it or toss it aside.”  There is that old theme again — the one of choosing what we will pick up and what we will lay down, what parts of our life no longer serve us and what new gift requires that we make some room.

As my very last, final, ultimate, really — no more, child prepares to enter her senior year of high school, people want to know what I have planned next.  This strikes me as funny, because I hope I have not put all the “next” on hold for these forty-two years I have been parenting.  I hope that I have picked things up and laid things down many times — often enough to maintain an interest in becoming more today than I was yesterday.  It will be odd to finally lay down the responsibility of full-time motherhood and free up a little more personal space in my pack.  Where will I go next?  I haven’t a clue!  Today I am here, and that is exactly where I choose to be.  A year from now, my answer may be different; but there is one thing I know for certain:  I will be the person who makes up my mind, as usual.

For now, I truly am content to stay right where I am.

“If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.”

  — Orville Wright

No matter how long we live, there is something built into human beings that prompts us to aspire to grow and to learn and to be entertained by new ideas.  The first day of school is just around the corner, and I laugh as I hear kids of all ages counting how many more years they have until graduation.  They look forward to the time when they are finished learning and can get on with their adult lives.  I smile as I resist putting a damper on their dreamy vision of the future as a place where all has been learned and they will rule the earth with the wisdom represented by a mortarboard and a diploma.  I gaze with my own dreamy eyes into a future where they will continue to unfold and to blossom long after the strains of Pomp and Circumstance have faded into the past.

There is an old joke about the reason why we should never assume; and although it has an old and tired punchline, there is value in the message.  We should never assume that what we hold to be true today lies at the end of wisdom.  If we truly are wise, we will leave some wiggle room and tend the roots of our ideas so that they can hold on tightly and continue to produce growth.  Before long, the small sprout we tend will branch and reach and stand sturdy like a tree.  It will learn the cycles and seasons of existence; and each time around the circle will nourish it and send its branches reaching ever higher toward the unknown.

As we tend our trees of wisdom, we may stop from time to time and prune away a weak  branch or two that steal the strength needed for new growth.  We may brush up against other inhabitants of the forest and discover something we share in common.  We may graft an idea or two onto our own sturdy limbs and invest some energy in discovering what fruit may grow when our ideas merge and our shared dreams ripen and produce something new.  We will look at our trees and see that they are strong and true and beautiful; but we also will remember that the same was true on the day we planted the tiny sapling that had not grown a single branch.  We will let life’s breezes make our leaves dance and celebrate the way that our truth evolves from season to season.  We will hold fast to the knowing that each new branch touches another piece of the infinite Truth that leads us on toward wisdom.

Never assume that you have arrived.  Keep growing and reaching and touching new things.  Don’t hold on so tightly to today that tomorrow eludes your grasp.  It is in tomorrow that wonderful things can unfold.

“When I don’t like a piece of music, I make a point of listening to it more closely”

     — Florent Schmitt

Music has always been a huge part of my life.  Both of my parents grew up in families that played and listened to a broad variety of music.  Mom had learned the classics on piano as a child, and the same music still is played and enjoyed by my brother today.  There were evenings of show tunes, sung around the piano after dinner with each of us taking a particular part for a solo.  There were popular songs, sung along with the radio or spun through the magic of tiny grooves in vinyl on our old record player.  There was guitar strumming and recorder duets and eventually, amplified music played by my children through speakers.  We have learned, performed, and even written collections of tones that we call music for as long as I can remember.

It is said that where the Arts are concerned, everyone is a critic.  I may not know everything about music, but I do know what I like.  I remember taking a Music class in college and being introduced to dissonance for the first time.  This was not the sort of harmony that would suit the barbershop quartet.  This was no “Sweet Adeline.”  In fact, my ear, which had been trained to seek the blend of traditional harmonies was offended by this new sound.  How could notes that were only a half-step apart be played simultaneously and be called music?  I struggled with such an idea; and in order to fully engage in my new learning experience, I had to step outside of my comfort zone and try to hear what the composer was expressing in such different tones.

Many years later, I must admit that dissonance still is not my favorite sort of music; but now that I have lived a bit more of life and experienced some events that create the same emotional response, I can see that there is a place for such a jagged sort of sound.  When I was a young girl, such experiences had not yet touched my heart; and my ears could not understand the musical telling of such feelings.

As each of us travels through our world, we create the symphony of love and laughter, of sorrow and tears, of pain and anguish that is our own personal expression of being alive.  As we encounter others and share our music, we sometimes find that we are confronted with unfamiliar notes that awaken our discomfort and make us wish we could close our ears and walk away.  Sometimes we discover that our own song may do the same to another person.

As my musical life has unfolded and as I have had the pleasure of hearing my own theme blend beautifully with those of others, I have learned to appreciate all sorts of music.  We must be careful, when someone sings an unfamiliar song, not to turn a deaf ear to the music that challenges our sense of harmony.  It is then that we must give full attention to the pain of another human being and allow ourselves to step into their experience.  It is then that we have the opportunity to grow in compassion and understanding as we learn again that the human condition is vast and varied.  It is then that the song of another heart can touch our own and awaken something new and exciting and harmonious that lies sleeping in our own.  It is then that our ears can relax and truly listen to a new chord and hear that it is music.

“If one considered life as a simple loan, one would perhaps be less exacting.  We possess actually nothing; everything goes through us.”

  — Eugene Delacroix

My great-aunt, Essie, loved Abraham Lincoln.  She grew up in his home state of Illinois, and his reputation was still quite alive when she was born in 1886.  Often she would tell me stories — folk tales of sorts — about our 16th president.  They had, no doubt, been handed down by her parents’ generation, and she saw Honest Abe as a good role model.  One story she liked to tell was the one about Lincoln walking several miles through the rain to return a book he had borrowed.  He had covered the book with his coat and made sure that it was returned, not only on time, but in perfect condition.  She would then tell about how this great man had written his lessons on a piece of slate, using an ember from the fire for a pencil.  I think there were messages in her stories about not wasting paper or sharpening a pencil before it was due.  I know she taught us to borrow things with a sort of solemn reverence and return them on time and in mint condition.  She taught us to treasure books, just as she had taught our mother; and the storybooks from my mother’s childhood — well-read by several generations — still are intact.

What would our lives be like if we treated each moment with that same sort of solemn reverence and respect?  We spend each day taking in the experiences that come our way and processing them into something we can return to our world.  How do we alter the moments we process?  Would we walk several miles through the rain and protect the treasure we have been loaned, or would we let it fall into the mud beneath our feet?

According to my wise aunt, Abraham Lincoln had a real love for learning and a real love for humanity.  He knew how to treat the loan of something precious, and his example is one worth following.  Let us hold tenderly each moment that comes our way.  Let us surround it with love as it passes through us and make it wonderful before we return it to the lender.  Let us develop a passion for living the loan we have been given and honor the lender by using it well.

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

  — Rabindranath Tagore

When my sweetheart and I decided to marry, more than twenty-eight years ago, we talked about what sort of life we wanted to share.  We knew we wanted a family, and that family would be the epicenter of whatever me might do to shake the earth; but our mutual choice was more that just raising a family.  We chose to live a life of service.  Now, before anyone wants to shout, “sucker!” or start to plan warm testimonials, I should explain a little more about what it means to live such a life.

It did begin with a dream that life was joy.  Because there had been times in our lives when undeserved support had come our way from unlikely sources, we understood what it was like to be on the receiving end of someone else’s service.  It seemed indisputable that a good way to live would be to serve others as we had been served.  Since it is next to impossible to repay good deeds in kind, the best choice is to pay them forward; and this became our focus — not to pay back those who had earned our service by first serving us, but to do the small things we could do to make the world a little bit brighter, a little bit kinder, a little bit more hopeful.

Some people see being a servant as synonymous with being a martyr.  They are the ones who shout, “Sucker!”  They are the ones who discourage us by pointing out that this or that person really does not deserve our kindness or support — that they are taking advantage.  It is easy to fall into the trap of equating service with martyrdom; but when that happens it is seldom the fault of the person in need.  Martyrdom is flashy, but it often burns out quickly.  We need to learn our limitations and take care of ourselves so that we live to serve another day.  We need to understand that the small things we do make a difference in the big picture.  We need to be comfortable with the fact that we cannot always fix every problem or solve every dilemma for every individual.

Some people see being a servant as something unusual enough that it requires a testimonial.  They convince themselves that living such a life is beyond their reach and that the people who choose to serve are somehow superhuman and endowed with abilities not available to ordinary folks.  Being a servant is not a complicated or superhuman choice.  We all have heard the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The conclusion is that it was the Samaritan who cared for the man’s wounds and gave him a place to stay, and held him in his heart was truly his neighbor.  The punchline?  Go and do likewise.

It is a simple thing to be a servant.  It does not require a lot of time or a lot of money; but it does require that we pay attention to how we spend each of those resources.  Take a moment to speak a kind word.  Share a smile with someone who seems to have lost theirs.  Listen to the hearts of the people you meet and mend their brokenness with your own humanity, showing them that they are not alone.  Dream that life is joy, know that life is service, but be careful.  Before you know it, service will be joy, and your life — and possibly your world —  will forever be transformed.


“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”

  — Rabindranath Tagore

If you want to learn something, talk with an educated man.  If you want to learn something new, talk to a child.

As we hurry through our adult lives, we hardly even realize that we take on conclusions reached by other people and consider them our own truth.  We no longer stop to ponder what lies in our path, because a single glance opens a definition we have learned for the creatures, objects, and even people who inhabit our world.  We glance, we define, and we move on.  We may not even be in a hurry, but we live as though we have time only for the passing glance and no need to look closely at anything.  If you would like to have a lesson in what you may be missing as you scurry along, my suggestion would be to find a small child and to travel at her pace for an hour or two.  It just might change the way you view your world.

When was the last time you squealed with delight over something that caught your eye?

Our backyard contains several fruit trees — two with pears and one with apples.  I have been thinking about readying my fruit baskets and planning for the season of picking, sharing, and freezing.  I have counted and estimated how many pieces of fruit we will have to deal with, thought about the task of pruning after the fruit is picked, and tried to figure out how I will fit this work into my already busy days.  We love  having fruit outside that just waits to be eaten, but we have learned to glance toward the heavy branches and see work.

This week was the first time our little granddaughters were here so close to picking time; and the idea that there might be fruit growing on a tree simply captivated them.  “Look, Grandma!  Apples!,” cried Harper as she ran toward the pear tree.  “Actually,” I replied, “those are pears.  The apples are over there,” I said as I indicated the tree on the other side of the yard.  For the next hour, as we chatted and played, Harper brought me pear after pear.  “Look at THIS one!” she would croon as she extended her arm toward me and displayed yet another piece of fruit that had fallen from the tree.  She had no concern that they were not yet ready to be eaten.  She had no desire to pick the ones that still were attached to the branches.  She simply wanted to hold them and feel them and look at how pretty they were and be amazed that they were growing on a tree in her grandma’s yard.

It has been some time — probably since the first year we saw fruit on our trees — since I have felt that sense of excitement and awe.  After an hour with Harper, my sense of wonder was renewed; and I found that I was eager for the day when I would invite her back to stand on a ladder and pick pears to fill a basket.  When our time together was done and the kids had pulled out with their mom and dad and headed for home, I turned to walk into the house.  There on the old picnic table, lined up in the space between two boards, were at least a dozen pears.  They were arranged in order by size, with all the red blush sides turned in the same direction.  They were beautiful.  They had been placed there with love and awe by my little granddaughter.  I could still hear her squealing with delight as she found another pear and another until her array was complete.

If you want to know when it’s time to pick and how many baskets to bring, give me a call.  If you want to know how wonderful pears really are, I’ll be sure to invite Harper so she can tell you.