If you read this column with any regularity, you know I frequently call on authors, academics and other experts for guidance on the big stuff: parenting, marriage, friendships.
I learn even more from you. Your notes have lifted my spirits and shaped my thinking on just about every topic. As we close out the year, I want to share a few of my favorites (edited for length).
From Mike Blunk, in response to "Guilt is a poor foundation for a gingerbread house" (Dec. 15), in which I forced my sick children to bake with me:
"The sick day you spent at home is a great example of a mom doing the right thing. You didn't need to do a memorable project with them; they just felt better having mom there. I remember my sick days when I was a kid. My mom would clear the couch and set me up with a blanket and whatever was the remedy at the time. I seem to remember Jell-O, 7-Up and saltine crackers. A few years later my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and she was the one who needed to be taken care of. Having her there when I was sick was comforting and, when I think about it today, still is."
Nancy Hooks wrote in response to "Giving thanks for Junie B. Jones, and Barbara Park" (Nov. 24), about the death of children's author Park:
"My daughter is 28. She had dyslexia, and we had to do a lot of phonics and practice reading. Always at the end, we would read Junie B. Jones and laugh together. I miss Junie. She helped kids feel that they were OK with all their human flaws and feelings. It's so important for kids to know that they don't have to be perfect to be perfectly lovable."
Tom Williams shared this in response to "Time for working couples to do some math at home" (Oct. 6):
"My wife and I just celebrated our 24th anniversary, and, like most couples, we have had our ups and downs. I experienced an 'aha' moment about five years ago. Whenever my wife was stressed, I would respond with, 'What can I do for you?' I didn't realize the underlying message was that all of the responsibilities, like laundry and cleaning up around the house, were hers, and I was just helping. Now I see the things that need to be done as, well, things that need to be done. I often pass this little nugget along to my male counterparts to help them see the light."
Marti Beddoe offered some advice after reading "Looking for a lifetime guarantee on memories" (Oct. 13), about my newly blended family:
"As a stepmother of almost 25 years, I encourage you to be very sensitive to the fact that all stepfamilies, regardless of many healthy and happy feelings, begin because of a loss. One of their birth parents is omitted emotionally from the new equation. I wish that I had comprehended this when I remarried at age 40. I was besotted with love for my husband and naively thought that this joy would be shared by our five children. If I had been able to see more clearly, I would have comprehended the ambivalent, impossible position they were in. All children want to love both their parents. I would have expected and honored our children's grief and given them plenty of breathing room to adjust without expecting them to be instantly thrilled with their new life.
"They/we are all grown up now and we have overcome a lot. My stepdaughters come to me for help. My stepson has found a woman who loves him like he deserves. All our sons are amazing fathers and husbands. There are seven grandchildren to love. My husband and I are more in love than ever.
"I wish you so much wisdom as you create memories with your newly formed family."
Finally, Karen Larsen and I exchanged emails recently about how children shape us long after they're grown. About parents, she wrote:
"We're all the same age; we're just born at different times!"
Thank you for your thoughts and your time, which I know is precious.