Five for Friday – It’s Spring Again (Part Two)!

Lou Rawls – Spring Again

Here is the second half of Spring Again! This time with a song by Lou Rawls you can enjoy with the kiddos. If you missed last week you can click here to see Part One of the spring reading list.

Everything You Need for a Treehouse
Written by Carter Higgins
Illustrated by Emily Hughes
2018 – Chronicle Books

Kids love tree houses. I think most Dad’s like them too! This is a wonderful book that takes treehouse design to new heights. The illustrations are complementary to the poetic imagery of the text. Carter Higgins takes us on a journey of the imagination through the woody canopy asking us to look up and imagine what could be. The treehouses can be quite elaborate, some even have libraries. Everything you need for a treehouse is about looking up and using your imagination.

One Springy, Singy Day
Written and Illustrated by Renée Kurilla
2021 – Abrams Appleseed

Bright, beautiful springy imagery throughout this One Springy, Singy Day. This book is a fun rollick through the life of a toddler on a spring day. From the excitement of playing outdoors to the learning and chores, you’ll have a fun time with its rhythm and rhyme. We have a lot of fun with this book because we can see ourselves in all the activities and daily routines. Your family will enjoy this one too!

Everybunny Dream!
Written and Illustrated by Ellie Sandall
2019 – Margaret K. McElderry Books

Unlike the folklore books (coming soon) this is a story about natural prey and predators… Um, having a sleepover party after a long day of playing together. The illustrations are fun and colorful and the text is easy enough that a toddler can jump in and read along. Every time I read Everybunny I would say to our daughter, ‘Get it? Get it?’ and she just thought that was so funny. Now she says, ‘Get it? Get it?’ every time we start laughing at a joke. Aside from the punny business, we have a lot of fun reading this one. Everybunny Dream! is a cute book, and it is nice to dream of a world where the fox and the hare are friends.

Written and Illustrated by Andy Harkness
2021 – Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Another close call for bunnies in Wolfboy! The most interesting part of this book is the way that Andy Harkness created the illustrations using glass as his canvas and clay and natural light as his medium. The artwork is stunning and it is no wonder; Harkness is an Emmy Award winning art director who worked at Disney for twenty five years before moving to Sony Pictures Animation Studio. Our main character, Wolfboy, hungrily tromps through the forest in search of the rabbits. We had fun trying to find the hiding rabbits on each page before arriving at Moonberry Meadow and satiating his furious hunger with moonberry pie courtesy of his friends–the rabbits!

When the Storm Comes
Written by Linda Ashman
Illustrated by Taeen Yoo
2020 – Nancy Paulsen Books

My three year old daughter is afraid of thunder. Growing up in the Midwest I don’t remember ever being afraid of thunderstorms-well once, but it was an ice storm and a tree fell on my window-but I guess you just get used to them and eventually it becomes good reading weather. When the Storm Comes takes place on the coast, but nevertheless, storms are scary to a kid. This sing-songy book has a nice rhythm and crisp illustrations to carry us through the storm. We weather it together. And from the first sign of danger to the final moment the clouds begin to clear, Ashman reminds us that all storms pass. This book is a great tool for helping your little ones get through their fears of frightening spring weather.

Thanks for reading! I hope this post helped you find some books to celebrate the oncoming spring! Please subscribe and share to show your support or purchase the recommended books through which also supports booksellers in your neighborhood. Find me on Facebook: AgentDadKC

Five for Friday – 24 Feb 2023

A Year of Everyday Wonders
Written by Cheryl B. Klein
Illustrated by Qin Leng

Wonderfully illustrated and fun to read, this is a great book for children in the earliest grades. I’m reading it to my three year old who is just starting to catch on to the idea of annual events and seasons. Everyday Wonders touches on the big events, like holidays, that mark our progress through the calendar, but mostly captures the the little moments that create so many special memories throughout the year. This book is one you will enjoy returning to year after years as well.

There’s a Tiger in the Garden
Written and Illustrated by Lizzy Stewart

There’s a Tiger in the Garden is all about imagination, and creativity is the antithesis of boredom. The story opens with Nora telling her Grandma, “There’s nothing to do and I’m bored.” As she sits in a room with toys strewn about the floor and piles of crafting activities on the kitchen table, her Grandma being the wiser, suggests a change of scenery. Grandma says she thought she saw a tiger in the garden and sends a skeptical Nora to investigate. Does she find him?

Can I sit With You?
Written and Illustrated by Sarah Jacoby

I enjoyed reading this to my daughter as much as she enjoyed hearing me read it. Can I Sit With You is a cute and, at times, poetic story about a girl and her dog. The illustrations are as beautiful as the words. The book is a great read at bedtime or anytime when we need to transition from playtime to calm.

The Neighbors
Written and Illustrated by Einat Tsarfati (Translated by Annette Appel)

The Neighbors is my favorite on this list. A young girl who lives on the seventh floor with her boring ol’ parents is the main character of this story. On her way home she tells us about each neighbor on each floor as she climbs the stairs to her apartment. The lives of the neighbors are over the top, the illustrations are so fun to look over, and the silliness of it all keeps it interesting with each reading for dad and the kids. And don’t worry, parents; the parents aren’t as boring as they first seem.

Kitten and the Night Watchman
Written by John Sullivan and Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

Another cute story on this week’s list is Kitten and the Night Watchman. This is a great book for children with Dads that work overnight. Working overnight while everyone else is asleep may be difficult for a child to understand, and may even sound scary. But working overnight will sound much less frightening if your children think you are hanging out with a harmless little kitten all night. My daughter and I loved the imagination of this story and the shadowplay in the illustrations.

Thanks for reading! I hope this post helped you find some books to enjoy with your kiddos! Please subscribe and share to show your support or purchase the recommended books through which also links you to local booksellers.

You Won’t Like Me When I’m Angry

To be honest, do you like anyone when they are angry? Maybe Lewis Black makes it work for him, but you know it’s all an act. The title of angriest writer in the world was once hurled at Jonathan Franzen for his writing, a reputation he laments in the introduction to How to be Alone; “I’d managed to forget that I used to be a very angry and theory-minded person. I used to consider it apocalyptically worrisome that Americans watch a lot of TV and don’t read much Henry James.” The same rage could be directed at Facebook today. Regardless of how justifiable or charming we think our anger is, we often do not realize we have a choice in how we render this emotion.

Marvel Studios the Hulk

I used to take comfort in my anger, and rage seemed empowering and masculine. The masculinity of anger in our culture alone is difficult to shake. The inability to control my life lead me to lash out. When my daughter cannot figure out how to perform some physical task she growls and screams and attempts to make it happen anyway by shear willpower. I’ve seen the same hilarious scene play out in fully grown men, present company included. I can quietly laugh about it when my two year old throws a tantrum, but it’s terrifying when it’s me throwing the tantrum.

I have always been an angry person. I took anger management in my early 20’s. I attended a Buddhist temple for a while to learn how to meditate. I thought in my late 30’s I had left that anger behind me. But a few years back I blew up in anger when I was trying to quit smoking and realized almost every time I could remember being angry was the result of not getting something I wanted; in that particular instance it was a cigarette. What is said to be true of fear seems to be true of anger:

“the chief activator of our [anger] has been self-centered fear. Mainly fear that we would lose something we already possessed or that we would fail to get something we demanded. Living on the basis of unsatisfied demands, we obviously were in a state of continual disturbance and frustration. Therefore, we are taught, there will be no peace unless we are able to reduce these demands.”

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Anger is as much about control as it is about being selfish. If I can’t have what I want then no one will!! Misery loves company. If it is true that turning our anger on other’s causes them to be angry, perhaps further unleashing their anger on yet more people; realize how miserable it is to be angry at yourself!? The frustration my two year old feels when she can’t move an immovable object is the same anger I experience when I feel that I have failed at something. How do I break this cycle of violence within myself?

For the past year anger and self loathing have been a theme bubbling back up in my life. I feel like a failure. I lost my job. I can barely support my family. I don’t see myself as the super awesome dad I set out to be!! I watched two older movies I thought might make for a good future blog post about dad movies [My Life – a movie about an angry dad whose anger gives him cancer; Falling Down – a movie about an angry dad whose anger leads to suicide by cop] and realized I was settling back into my old angry ways. These movies are cautionary tales about becoming exactly the kind of man (and dad, and husband) that I never want to become.

You won’t like me when I’m angry. I know I don’t.

So I had to go back and start looking for the tools that helped me to overcome anger in the past. Meditation practice works best if you practice it. I haven’t meditated in about three years and found that the day I became angry enough to know I needed to, I was too furious to sit still. Once I calmed down enough to see the world was not, in fact, coming to an end, but that life is just more difficult than I hoped it would be I was able to take baby steps back into adulthood.

Anger is such a waste of energy, and a destructive expenditure at that. If you could pause that anger and channel that energy into something constructive think about how much you could do to improve your life? It was that moment of hopelessness that reminded me that as I am hitting bottom I need to bounce or else go splat!!

I happen to enjoy learning to manage anger through ‘eastern’ philosophies and spirituality, but you may find the the practice of forgiveness in Christianity is just as effective. Forgive others as you would ask them to forgive you and as you would forgive yourself.

I am currently listening to the audio book version of The Cow in the Parking Lot by Leonard Scheff while driving to remind myself not to be angry while driving. I already know how to do this, but I forget. I drive like a dick when I start feeling sorry for myself. I’m just a jerk in general when I feel sorry for myself. And that may be the difficulty that many people deal with. By taking a moment to step back and act with empathy rather than reacting with anger breaks that cycle of violence, both internal and external.

I’ll close with this; as anxiety increases empathy decreases. The more we focus on our problems the less we are able to see the difficulties our fellow humans face. So it follows, and I have found it to be true in my life, that as empathy increases anxiety decreases. When I make it a focus of my life to help other people, no matter what I am dealing with, it is always easier to deal with when I am able to help someone else.

The strongest people make time to help others, even if they are struggling with their own problems. What could be more manly than that?

Funny Money

Recently I decided to go for early morning walks around my neighborhood. There have been few reasons to get out of the house during the pandemic and I’ve noticed my step count is the lowest it has been since I first owned a smartphone that tracks steps. I get a little fresh air and some time to think. I’ll put in my airpods and listen to podcasts or music and just enjoy a little alone time.

During one of these cold windy walks I noticed a hundred dollar bill lying in the grass next to the sidewalk!! I thought to myself ,”How incredibly fortunate!! I decided to start getting healthy and now God is rewarding me with $100.00, something that could really help my family!!” My next thought was about inflation and $100 today is like finding a twenty on the sidewalk when I was a kid. And then my final thought was grief, because I found this hundred dollar bill not too far from where the highschool kids wait on the bus.

Some poor kid probably got a $100 from his grandma for Christmas, was showing it to his friends at the bus stop and then the cold wind snapped it from his grip!! Blown away!! Gone forever!!

What an unfortunate gift that God has bestowed upon me.

There is no way to verify the rightful owner and return the money. I would have to donate this money to a good cause to restore balance. But before I could figure out what I was going to do in such an unusual situation I discovered another hundred dollar bill on the way back to the house, blown even further than first!! And then another in my front yard!! How can this be!!

A Reddit user experienced a very similar situation recently.

All three were fake of course. The dim light of morning and the gloves keeping my hands warm helped to extend the suspension of disbelief. A sense of relief came over me as I now realized I was not the beneficiary of some poor kid’s misfortune. In fact, I was to the unsuspecting mark of some kid’s mischievous prank.

All was not lost, as I now had some funny money to play my own prank on my niece and nephews for Christmas. My daughter is still too young to buy into the idea of money having any real value.

I guess she’s still too young for an allowance!!

Memory Drive

Took a little drive around the city today, through areas I have never been and to areas I used to live. So much has changed over the last twenty years, some things in ways that I never would have imagined. There are neighborhoods that have sprung to life, suddenly the roads are resurfaced and the potholes are gone. There are other areas like around Independendece Avenue and The Paseo where the public housing was demolished and homeless camps now pop up around the area.

How ironic, how tragic.

None of us escape the consequences of our decisions, but we never seem to know which decisions are the best at the time. It is only in hindsight that we feel we have any idea what the correct decision should be.

The other strange thing about taking trips down memory lane is realizing how much is forgotten. The memory drive is corrupted and acessing the information alters it futher. For example, I am typing this post at the public library that I used to frequent when I was a kid. It’s seen some updates recently and I recognise very little. There is about an eigth of the stacks and I probably couldn’t find a single book I checked out here if I looked.

The point is even libraries, an institution I still frequent today and have used throughout my life, suddenly become strange and unrecognizable to a version of myself from another time. Would ten year old me recognize forty year old me? Would he be as disappointed as I am when I look in the mirror, knowing he will never become an astronaut or a baseball player or a ninja?

Or will he be filled with optimism knowing that there are countless opportunities for reinvention? The libraries will evolve, and in fact have always evolved with the times, to become the institution that is needed for the time it is needed. I’ve always thought of myself as a fairly intelligent person but would ten year old me be able to understand such concepts? Forty year old me still struggles.

Drive on.

We’ll meet again in a few decades.

What We are Reading for Halloween 2021

Halloween is almost here!! We will be celebrating our third Halloween with our two year old and I have a feeling this will be the first one where she takes an interest in the holiday. She has already made it clear that she will destroy anything in her path that comes between her and some M&M’s. To introduce her the idea of Halloween and it’s activities we picked out a couple books from the library to share.

Clifford’s First Halloween
by Norman Bridwell (Scholastic, 1995)

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Everybody’s favorite bestfriend celebrates his first Halloween. In this book he is a long way from becoming the Big Red Dog and appears as the Small Red Puppy. The Clifford franchise is timeless, and my Mom probably read it in the 60’s when they were little kids. My wife and I loved Clifford as children, and we clearly have turned our two year daughter into a fan. Although, Clifford’s First Halloween isn’t my favorite story, it was available as a board book which is necessary to keep my two year old from taking her occasional anger out on the pages. When she gets older we will definitely add classic Clifford’s Halloween to our bookshelf:

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DC’s Super Hero Halloween (DC’s Justice League)
(Random House, 2021)

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My daughter has become a fan of Spiderman and Batman, and is even dressing up as Supergirl for Halloween. So of course I had to pick up this book to share with my daughter. If you like DC character’s then you will enjoy this book with your toddler. The art is appealing to kids and not boring to parents. It’s a cute book but there isn’t much of story, there’s a little humor that our two year old is too young for and most adults are too old for. But it has great message about true heroes sharing with their friends.

If You’re Scary and You Know it!
Carole Gerber, Noel Ill (Familius LLC., 2019)

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By far my favorite book on this list. I am sure this will become a holiday staple and an instant hit with Dad’s who are looking for books to read to their children. The art is colorful and interesting but reading it to our daughter is the most fun part!! It follows the tune of If You are Happy and You Know it (see below) and is a real tongue twister to read. The writing is clever and cute. I enjoy practicing reading the book and seeing how fast I can sing the song without getting tripped up.

Pumpkin Baby!
Elias Barks, Meg Hunt (Hazy Dell Press, 2020)

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I picked up Pumpkin Baby! because it is a flap book. Our two year old enjoys turning the pages when we read to her, sometimes before we are ready to go to the next page, and the flap books are always good at keeping her attention as we read through the book. The illustrator, Meg Hunt did an awesome job with the artwork and the story has a nice cadence to it that is fun to read. I go back and forth from a limerick like reading to imitating early rap (think Kurtis Blow and Run-DMC).

Hopefully, you and your toddler will enjoy these books too! If you have any favorites to share please do so in the comments!!

Busy Doing Nothing

I find it very strange that I have more ‘free’ time but often feel busier than ever before. I have my projects like every one else. Some of the items are quickly crossed off the to do list, others ongoing and neglected. Kind of like this blog. Thing is, I just haven’t felt like I’m winning at dadding. Some days I wonder if I am even surviving at life.

Of course the areas we are most productive in life are the ones that seem so effortless. They are habitual. We get the job done without putting much thought into it. At least that is how most of my paying jobs felt. How about you? Are you on auto-pilot? It’s okay to be okay with being on auto-pilot. We can’t all be Marcus Aurelius.

Creating productive habits is something I have struggled with since I lost my job last year. I found self-employment and a work at home job, so I do get to spend more time with my family. I am rarely working on something so important that I cannot take a minute to give my daughter attention. I’m not making much money either and that’s a big trade off. What is my purpose as a father and husband besides providing for them financially?

I know this thinking is mostly the product of cultural expectations and clichés. I know I have a lot more to offer than sustenance and shelter. I know I carry my own delusions. I used to think being the stay at home dad would lead to the ideal life where I would blog about it and I would become an inspiration to millions of stay at home dads.

But the truth is I need to do this blog to remind myself of the father I want to be. The only difference between this and a private journal is that hopefully someone reading this will leave a comment that starts a conversation I never knew I needed. Or that someone else stumbles onto it and hears something they needed to hear. That’s what I really hope for.

Dad’s helping each other be better dad’s.

Happy Father’s Day (2021)

This is my second Father’s Day as a Dad. Hopefully I am doing a better job as a father than I am as a blogger. If you are a Dad you know how time consuming Dad Life can be. My wife and I recently re-watched the movie Parenthood (1989). I have seen this movie several times; the first time was in the movie theater when I was eight years old. I always enjoy seeing how my own understanding of things changes depending on what ‘stage of life’ I find myself. One scene stood out this time around was when Gil (Steve Martin) and Karen (Mary Steenburgen) are having an argument. As Gil is about to leave Karen says “Do you really have to go?” to which Gil replies, “My whole life is have to!”


What Dad can’t relate to the frustration of being a responsible adult? It is almost as if responsibility means doing anything other than what you want to do with your life!! And now I have to feel even more guilty for being such a selfish person!! I’m laughing as I write this and you should know I am mocking such an attitude. It is an easy attitude to adopt as a parent, but didn’t we know going into this that we would need to put aside our selfish aspirations and do everything we can to set our children up for success? Or at least that we would need to make better use of our time to accomplish both?

Some Dad’s can’t do it. They go to the store to buy a pack of smokes and never come back. But what do they do with that newfound freedom from responsibility? Do they become super successful at something and return to take care of the children they abandoned? No. I have a feeling that if I cannot handle the responsibility of being a father AND being successful at other things, I probably have a mindset that prevents me from being responsible or successful at anything.

I don’t have to do anything.

I get to be a father.

So this Father’s Day I woke up at five in the morning, although I intended to sleep in, and put my Dad Pants on. I made some blueberry pancakes for my wife and daughter and took a minute to remember how grateful I am to be a Dad! I didn’t do it because I had to, I did it because I want to. And I am so grateful that I get to! And I suddenly realized that Father’s Day is another day for me to show my appreciation for my family.

A while back a mentor taught me something about birthdays. I used to get a little depressed in the days leading up to my birthday. I felt that I usually didn’t get what I wanted, or what I expected. I was prepared every year to be disappointed on my birthday. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Who would want to be around miserable ol’ me on my birthday with an attitude like that? That mentor taught me how to change my mindset about my birthday and turn it into something that hasn’t been disappointing since! I take my wife out to dinner for my birthday! And I intend to treat my daughter and wife just the same on Father’s Day. When I make it about me, my expectations, and what I think I deserve I will always be disappointed.

When I clear away the clutter of a world that is always trying to sell desire and convince me I deserve this or that, I can focus on what is in front of me and what really matters. The greatest gift I can receive is to be with my family eating blueberry pancakes on Father’s Day. That Attitude of Gratitude helps to ensure that I’ll get to celebrate Father’s Day with my family again next year.

It’s been a while!!

2020 was a tough year, for my family as I am certain it was for everyone else!! Things are starting to open back up, the weather is getting nicer and I’m finally feeling motivated enough and hopefully enough to pick up the pieces and move forward. We recently were able to get set up at the library in our new neighborhood so I thought this will make for a nice re-entry into the blog and get back into the habit of regularly posting again. Here are three books we picked up that I am certain your family will enjoy!!

Little Blue Truck
This is a great book with a message about humility and compassion. The story teaches us that being kind to others is more rewarding than being selfish, but the Little Blue Truck shows the greatest character by helping another in need even if others think he was too selfish to deserve it!! Great cadence to the reading which my daughter loves and the illustrations are beautiful and fun!!

Little Blue Truck
by Alice Schertle, Jill McElmurry (Illustrator)

If You Happen To Have a Dinosaur
This whacky exercise in imagination and colorful illustrations is a winner! Even the text is playful. Imagine the possibilities if you had a dinosaur around. What could you do? A lot! But just don’t ask your dinosaur to carry your picnic basket!!

If you Happen to Have a Dinosaur
by Linda Bailey, Colin Jack (Illustrator)

Littles and How They Grow
This book is beautifully illustrated and very fun to read. By far my daughters favorite book on this list! Parents will find this book very relatable and your kids will enjoy hearing you read it to them. But beware, that last page brings a little tear to my eye as I’m reminded how quickly my little girl is growing up. Cherish these moments with your little one!!

Littles And How They Grow
by Kelly DiPucchio, AG Ford (Illustrator)

Posting From an Undisclosed Location

Hey, Dads (and WordPress readers)!

Sorry for the lack of updates, but as you can imagine things are crazy right now.

I, like many of you, am feeling the effects of the corona virus in my life. These last few weeks were already going to be difficult-new job, fixing up our house to sell it, finding a new place to live-but I never expected the anxiety levels to be this high!

For starters, our daughter is a premature baby under the age of 12 months. Covid-19 could be devastating if she were to be exposed to it. I would be devastated as a parent if I knew I was the one who exposed her! So my wife and I have taken the precautions we can to try to protect her, but with something this serious and unknown there’s no guarantee that we can prevent it.

There are also the economic consequences. This may the worst time to try to sell a house or buy one, and we cannot afford to pay two mortgages. Up until this week I wasn’t certain that I would actually have a job to pay for anything! Thankfully, my start date has not changed. What has changed is that from day one I will be working from home, on-boarding and all, which comes with a variety of other anxieties.

Social distancing is another matter entirely. The country has never seemed more divided at a time when we really need to come together, spiritually not physically. Physical distancing is what we should really call it. There are many great ideas on how to stay connected. But I worry that in a time when we are already suffering from a pandemic of misinformation that we’re licked when it comes to doing what we need to do slow the spread of Covid-19. It’s one thing to disagree on policy, it’s another to disagree on facts.

WHYY Radio Times – Connection and kindness during the pandemic

So what have I been doing to cope with all of this? Let’s start with the simplest thing, knowing what I have control over and what I do not. Simple but not always easy. For one, I can make sure I wash my hands, I cannot make other people wash theirs. There is not point at being angry at other people for how they choose to deal or not deal with this pandemic. It’s out of my control, and it’s out of your control. The sooner you accept that the sooner you can focus your time and energy on what you can do.

I have tried to maintain a schedule, minus a few late hours trying to finish working on our house to get it ready to list, by going to bed and waking up at my regular times. Sleep is essential to good mental and physical health.

It has been difficult to unplug, but if the news or social media is stressing you out, turn it off, put it away and spend some quality time with your family. Play a board game. Cook together. Learn to tie knots! Anything is better than obsessing over something that is out of your control. Staying glued to your news feed may seem comforting, because we all thirst for information when facing an unknown situation, but drinking from a fire hose is a bad idea.

Know that this is temporary. It doesn’t mean things will go back to the way they were, but chances are we will have different things to worry about a year from now. In the meantime, I am trying to do today the things I need to do to set myself up for success in the future. Work out more if you have the free time. Learn how to cook and eat healthy, it’s not like we’re going out to eat all the time right now. Keep saving money and investing for retirement if you are fortunate enough to have a job today. Teach yourself something new if you suddenly find yourself with a lot of free time. And most importantly, hang out with your family. Take care of them. They need you right now and you, as a Dad, are the person who can comfort them in scary times.

I see a lot of jokes about being stuck at home with the family, but trust me, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be in your children’s lives. Don’t waste it worrying about things that in the end will not be as important. No man says, “I wish I had worked more hours” on his death bed!

Meditate. Pray. Take a nap. Do whatever it is you need to unwind (just a heads up, drinking increases anxiety) that improves your mental health. Write, even if you have never written before. Sit in a quiet place and record voice notes on what you are thinking and feeling. As soon as you bring it to the surface, you have a chance to identify what you are afraid of, whether it is worth fearing, and if there is anything you can do about it. Reflect on the moment. Step back and then you can calmly take action to resolve it. If you can do anything, then know that! The best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain.

This is going to be a trying time for all of us. I know that it has been for me, but I also believe that we will come out stronger on the other end of it. This is a time to practice humility, compassion, and gratitude. Everyday is a gift, don’t waste it.

Now listen to this great song by Toad the Wet Sprocket and relax.