When Play is More Than Play

By Ian Anderson

This morning my son came into the living room and, without a word, began to retrieve the Lego blocks he’d put together the day before. For several minutes he searched, snapped pieces here and there, and laid his buildings and vehicles on the carpet in a very specific order.

Later, I made the mistake of picking them up and placing them in the toy bin; this evoked tears. Even though I hadn’t broken anything, he was sure he’d have to redo what he’d already done.

“If you’re not playing with them right now, they need to be put away,” I told him.

He still wasn’t happy. All that effort — for nothing. He didn’t say it, but he didn’t have to say it out loud because his eyes shot it at me.

I assured him his time wasn’t wasted. He finally moved on.

The summer allows me more time to watch and join my boys in their games, and as I looked over recent Lego developments, I realized what exactly it is they are drawn to: world-building.

Whether they’re acting out the latest drama — “Let’s play ninjas!” “We’re driving to college!” — or constructing boats or forts, they are using their imaginations to feed their creative drives with the worlds swirling in their minds.

It was Tolkien, the maker of Middle Earth and Hobbits, who wrote that world-building is what he did when he wrote, and what we all want to do because that’s how we were made — to create.

In Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water she writes about her young son’s intense feelings about his blocks. When they fell over, he would become fiercely angry and cry. Watching secretly, L’Engle realized that what she was observing in her son was a mirror version of what adults go through when their efforts fail.

Because we act from a deepness within when we do our best work, it’s natural to let anger bubble up when it all comes apart. And it begins at childhood once we are able to create anything, be it blocks, crayons, or story.

Perhaps I should have let the Lego city stand a bit longer. It’s clear that my son, like children in general, plays with a seriousness I should appreciate because he’s practicing for larger play. When he’s grown and he’s chosen the kind of work he will do, he will find deep joy in it when he uses his creativity to its fullest.

And for any of us our joy in work comes when we do the same, and our creative bent turns work back to play; it was this that was intended for us from the beginning.

Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.

Waiting for Spring

By Ian Anderson

spring-1569544My six year old boy is famous in our house for his great ability to anticipate what’s next: the next game, the next show, the next event. He looks to what’s to come, and even though it’s not healthy to live in a constant state of anticipation, I’ve recently learned some things from him and from the changing seasons.

Spring is the season of great anticipation after all. The ground finally softens, and new, thin branches turn colors so we know the sap has begun to move. Light increases and moves north. Birds return. The promise of sweet, warm air prepares its arrival ­— if only in our minds.

In his poem “To The Thawing Wind” Robert Frost writes:

“Come with rain, O loud Southwester!

Bring the singer, bring the nester;

Give the buried flower a dream;

Make the settled snowbank steam;

Find the brown beneath the white…”

Now, when the chills still threaten, I say those lines with him and look forward to the thaw.

And I watch my little boy play in the warming air, and I know his heart. He is a bundle of energy, and he prepares himself for what he can’t yet see. He hopes and waits. What I can’t seem to shake lately, however, is all the times I’ve failed him, all the times I should have taken joy in his presence and instead sought my own rest or agenda. I can’t help but imagine how sorry I’ll be if I don’t change something. But what?

Then, just like the subtle tilt of the earth, I know it: I have to anticipate giving to him, I have to imagine how I’ll set aside what I want for what he needs. And it’s true for my whole family, too. I wait for the trees to bud, and I see in my mind’s eye how they unfold and produce their fruit. So I should wait and see the moments to come with my sons, with my wife. I must hope and wait. That way, when the season is right, I’m there to reap a harvest.

Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.

Innviation to Fall

By Ian Anderson

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To the south of my childhood home stood a large sweetgum tree. It towered over the roof, over the street, over our neighborhood games. The pods were spiked and great for throwing at one another. The leaves were five-pointed stars.

I have this memory of climbing to the top to let the wind push me back and forth; I held the crown while I watched cars pass, their sounds distant. Birds flew under me. Another time, a friend and I played on a high branch and it broke. He reached out and pulled me to safety while the rotted limb crashed to the pavement. We both contend he saved my life that day. Of course there was a tire swing, too.

And now that my mind is filling up with that old neighborhood, I see from the top of the sweetgum that the trees point out all the important places: the willow sweeps over the yard with the pink house, the lemon tree pours over the wall of the neighbors to the east, and our kumquat tree peeks over the garage close by; a block over a friend’s avocado tree bends to the ground to welcome its boys, and it gladly drops its fruit for us. And the church’s lawn is carpeted with acorns just one house away.

A memory in trees — that’s what I have.

And so when I found C.S. Lewis’s poem “Pattern” a few years ago, I put it to heart. The first four lines read,

Some believe the slumber

Of trees is in December

When timber’s naked under sky

And squirrel keeps his chamber.

The rest of the poem speculates that trees come to life during the winter months, which they enter with “spirit alert” because “The hunter wind and the hound frost/Have quelled the green enchanter.” Maybe that’s why I spent so much time in the shade among the leaves — I was just as enchanted as the trees themselves, and the spell still works on me when wind gives the trees a voice, or I see a boy swinging from a branch, or pine sap mixes with the heat.

The librarian from the first school I taught at used to give book talks to encourage students to read, but she also liked to gauge the change in the times by surveying the students on certain topics. One thing she asked new groups of students was, “How many of you have never climbed a tree?”

I’m still shocked by their answers. The boy from my childhood, the one who is still swaying from the top of the sweetgum, wonders, “What have you been doing, then?”

Awhile back, during the summer, I stood in the backyard and watched my two year old son. He faced me, but looked over my shoulder. His hands waved in the air. With half a smile I said, “What’re you doing?” He replied, “Dancing with the trees.”

According to Lewis, the trees “Awake to life and labour/When turbulence comes roaring up/The land in loud October.” Today I heard the beginnings of that wind, the one that strips our fire-red maples and pumpkin-orange oaks. And along the sides of the street I saw rumors of the leaf piles to come, the ones that welcome leaping children with the sound only splashed leaf piles make.

I smile at the thought of my younger self at the top of the sweetgum, especially when the wind shakes the cottonwoods like it did today. Maybe he’s still there, his arms wrapped around an upper limb, dancing with the trees.

This fall, before all the branches are bare, I’m going to add to my boys’ memories. I’ll invite them to hunt a tree to sit in. Maybe the wind will howl and the leaves will fly beyond our reach; and the ones that still hold on will weave in and out of the pale light and dapple our faces. You come, too.

Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.

Simple September

By Ian Anderson

calendar-1486888Despite the fact that summer temperatures remain, fall is here. Soon the cool air will storm back, and the leaves will turn in loud October, bringing with them the smells of Halloween and Thanksgiving.

How did the fall creep up on us so quickly? We weren’t looking, that’s for sure, and now the surprise is upon us. Why is it that each season speeds up on its way out?

It’s human to feel the passage of time as unnatural; a wise man once said that eternity sits deep within our hearts, so it’s no wonder time feels strange. Where do the seasons go? And is there a way to slow them down?

We can’t get time back, but maybe there’s something we can change about ourselves to experience more of each moment.

My family and I spent a week on a beach in Southern California at the end of July.

It was the first time our children had seen the ocean, and it took them a few days to become comfortable with the noise and force of the waves.

The best part of the entire week was to watch all three of them play in the surf and sand. Our smallest never did get used to the water, but when the large hole we dug was swamped by a wave, he had the greatest time jumping into it.

That time on the beach grows in me like a parable. We won’t find ourselves at the ocean again anytime soon, but we still have the ability to enjoy one another as we do simple things.

Somehow we’ve grown to think that our schedules need to be filled with lots of complicated activities in order to be happy. And yet, the more I spin myself, and the more I surround myself with lots to do, the more the seasons give me the slip.

Give my children some sand, a shovel, and a bucket of water, and we have given them hours of delight.

We don’t need more to do, we need less. And it’s true not only of what we do, but also of what we have.

Another summer goal was to clean out some of our rooms, especially the “play” room. The process of giving away toys was painful in spots, as beloved and forgotten treasures were unearthed. But that’s just it, they were forgotten.

Once those old trucks and crayons we stopped using were gone, we forgot again. And now that the room is clear of unused stuff, we play more in that space and the stress level has been lowered — it’s even evident in our children.

If I’ve learned anything this summer from my time with my children, it’s this: simple is better.

Southern California had a lot to offer us, and we could have braved theme parks or baseball games, but the sand and water was enough.

Back home, the same is true. Instead of playing in a room full of plastic, it’s more enjoyable to line up in the front yard and be sprayed with the hose.

Fall is here and will go just as quickly as in years past, but I won’t let it pass without seeing all of it.

Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.

Seeking my happy place

By Kendall Vogts

running-shoes-1421645The school year is officially under way, and, as a teacher, coach, and wife to a teacher, I am feeling the freedoms of summer slipping away. I also feel the pressures of teacherhood, the dog-tiredness, the need to be there for my students and team, and the really strong want to just chill with my husband like we did over the summer.

In all of the craziness that comes as we move farther into the school year, for teachers, parents, and even the kiddos, it’s important to take time to do the things we love; even if it’s a bike ride, a movie marathon, or eating a favorite meal.

The special things tend to get buried under the stress, and that is why I am making it a goal for the school year to continue to do the things I love.

Doing our favorite things does not have to be limited to the three months in the year that we feel most “free”.

Along with the school year stresses, there is something else that I have been feeling that I find so exciting.

I know I am not the only one who feels fall coming. The cool mornings, mild afternoon temperatures, and crisp smelling air are screaming at me, “Fall is here, Kendall! It’s time!”

It is the perfect time to do one the things that I love so much.

I am a runner.

I don’t always run the farthest or the fastest, but since my senior year of high school, I have been a runner.

Like quite a few other runners I know, I prefer to run when it is cool outside, but the coolness and crispness of the fall air aren’t the only reasons why this is my favorite time to run. Running in the fall allows me to feel the most warming nostalgia, and I seek to recreate those feelings every time I run in the fall. That is easily one of my favorite things.

In college, I would visit my hometown of Minneapolis, Kan., and as a member of my college cross country team, I would need to do runs when I was away from campus.

In Minneapolis, I have a route that I absolutely love to run. It never gets old, and that is because it’s my happy place. That is a path that I try to recreate wherever I am. I run different routes where I currently live, and I have specific routes that I run when I visit my sisters in Oklahoma or Minnesota.

And I run them for the same reasons — those feelings.

When I am away an my happy place, it really doesn’t matter what the course looks like, or how challenging it is.

What really matters is that the air is cool and crisp, the leaves are changing, I am in my favorite long-sleeved T-shirt, and it smells like fall.

I take in everything my route has to offer, and I lose myself. The chaos of school, students, athletes, and a messy house leave me, and I am happy.

As the year continues, I will make it a point to “escape” in this way as often as I can, and I hope that you and your family are able to do the same thing.

Set down the dishes, the homework, and the car keys. Choose something special to you, and escape!

Kendall Vogts lives and teaches in Central Kansas. She is married to the luckiest man alive, Wichita Family Magazine publisher Todd Vogts.

Fall Without Summer

By Ian Anderson

Globe_and_BookTeachers have it easy, and I can say so because I am one. Of all the professions, teaching allows for a whole season of escape. I’ve heard rumors of year-round school, and talk of ridding the system of the old agrarian way of doing education. We simply do not need summers off because so few engage in farming anymore. That’s how the talk goes, and there’s more about the benefits of a year-round schedule, how students are more likely to hold on to what they’ve learned if the long summer break doesn’t interrupt the flow of learning.

The advantages of year-round school aside, I have something to say about summer — especially because the school year approaches so quickly, and I want to cling to it a little longer.

There are different kinds of leisure, two that float up before me. One includes swimming, books, and long naps; the other kind isn’t one that we think of quite as quickly — it’s work that doesn’t require much of our brain.

The first is what we all want right when the last school bell rings in May, even those of us who haven’t had a proper summer break since school days. The heat and the water call to us, or maybe it’s the hum of the air conditioner or the sound of a fishing reel. Memories forged from the unforgiving July sky aren’t readily forgotten. This kind of rest gives the mind a fresh starting place for the flurry of the fall.

As a student I didn’t see my summer painting job as a leisure activity, but I see it now. In between lifting weights and running for fall sports, I did the slow work of rolling and brushing paint on thirsty walls. I would wake early and work long hours, sometimes outside in the heat, sometimes inside. I could let my mind wander while my arms and hands did the work. Even now, similar tasks at home allow me the space my mind needs to have ideas and think through problems. Often it’s during these times that I pray, too.

Perhaps our nation has outgrown the original purpose of summer break, but perhaps not. Students and teachers alike not only need time to choose their own reading, or do a bit of sleeping in, but also the opportunity to work at things that allow for reflective thought. As the school year energy begins to flow, I wonder whether it would come without summer break; I don’t want to find out.

Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.

Re(a)d, White, and Blue

ReadingBooksBy Ian Anderson

If you read the June issue of Wichita Family, you know my family and I enjoy the game of baseball. However, the recent rains have put a bit of a damper on the usual baseball activity, at least the backyard baseball games. Many of our June days were spent inside watching the clouds pile themselves and dump their contents on us. When the storms canceled our plans, we exchanged baseball for read- ing. Even though it feels like we just escaped the trappings of school days, something about summer reading feels different.

As a teacher, I spent the school year pleading with my students to read, and I remember my own school days — even in college — when my teachers pleaded their own cases for classroom books. One specific moment stands out. I was supposed to read selected chapters from one of the most imposing American novels ever written: Moby Dick. Throughout the spring semester I resisted the reading, every once in a while grinding through a passage, and somehow still passed. However, with the dread of the white whale fresh in my mind, I spent the rest of the summer reading the whole story, cover to cover.

What had seemed insurmountable had become enjoyable; I look back on that summer with affection, and I have distinct memories that will forever be associated with Herman Melville’s classic.

So what was the difference? Why did I resist the small portions of the book in the spring, only to embrace the whole work in the summer?

The June rain reminded me. It may have stopped our baseball games, but when we pulled our books out, my gratitude was renewed for the ability to choose what I read. It’s so simple, but reading becomes a relaxing activity, one that refreshes and grows us, when we are loosed from the bonds of compulsion.

I often tell my students that the summer is the best time to read; many of them agree, but I get plenty of loaded stares as well. But reading goes hand in hand with time off, and the same goes for shorter vacations and weekends.

It’s the independence.

This is the month our nation celebrates not only the freedom to speak our minds or own our own land, but also the freedom to read and think for ourselves. May we never take that for granted.

Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.

May brings change, anticipation for future

WFM_May2015PMThe school year is coming to a close, and that means graduation time is at hand.

This might mean Kindergarten graduation, eighth grade graduation, high school graduation or even college graduation.

Regardless of the level of education your loved on is completing, this is a big deal. It is a milestone in life. It is something to be celebrated. Make sure you take the time to praise those who are moving onto the next phase of life.

Time.

That’s kind of the theme of this issue of Wichita Family Magazine.

Essayist Ian Anderson shares his thoughts on making time with his children and family, and contributing writer Taryn Gillespie shares a story about a woman who truly understands the value of every day we are all lucky enough to spend on this Earth.

Don’t waste it. Enjoy it, and make the most of it.

This is important to keep in mind because with Spring fully underway and summer right around the corner, it is easy to get sidetracked by the myriad of distractions popping up with the rise in the temperatures outdoors.

I know I always have a laundry list of activities I want to get accomplished when the weather becomes nicer, but it is important to build in time to do what is truly important — enjoy the company of those closest to you.

Maybe that means taking a trip to a fun location, or maybe it means sending your children off to a summer camp so mom and dad can have much needed time together. No matter what it means to you, ensure you make the time to accomplish it.

For me personally, this means getting married to the woman I love. A lot of time is being spent on planning it so everything runs smoothly, but my fiance and I need to remember to enjoy the time together.

There have been instances where we’ve both gotten frustrated with try- ing to get the guest list down to the right number or figuring out meal and tux options, but we shouldn’t allow this to cloud our vision. Even when we are frustrated, we need to take solace in the fact we are frustrated together, starting our lives as husband and wife.

Also, we need to remember to be in the moment on our big day. We can’t let the details bog us down, especially if they don’t all go according to plan because, let’s face it, they probably won’t.

Instead, we just need to enjoy the moment and savor the time together with our family and friends.

After all, that’s what’s truly important.

Defining and Redefining Love

Guest essay by Ian Anderson

HeartMy wife and I are in the stage of life where the most romantic gesture comes in the form of sleep, with sleeping in as the red rose. Three boys, seven and under, have remade our romance; they’ve done so unwittingly, and they have given us a gift we didn’t expect.

As a younger man, I had certain ideas about what my marriage would be like, as well as ideas about what father- hood experiences would bring me.

Perhaps some were more vague than others.

Thoughts about spending time with my wife certainly outnumbered thoughts about my children. And then, three years into our marriage, our first boy crashed into our world (literally, in a sense — he was born five and a half weeks early in the middle of a winter hail storm).

Never had I experienced such a rapid life change.

All our priorities shifted, as they must when babies arrive, and my ro- mance with my wife was no exception.

My wife and I found ourselves in deep, uncharted waters, our maps of previous journeys of little to no use. The way we spent time together, the way we communicated (and what we talked about), and what we valued in one another grew from a two- to a three- person affair.

It was messy . . . still is.

Could it be we often let our concept of love remain fixed throughout our ever changing lives?

How is it that we could ever grow older, add responsibilities, add little ones (and one day send them off on their own), and not expect to have to al- low our love to also grow and change?

Maybe it’s that taste of romantic love.

I Never Knew How Selfish I Was

The first shock of marriage was to adjust to living with my wife — the daily things I used to do because I was alone, such as reading or watching a game
at my own leisure, had to be planned around her, or given up for her.

And that’s painful; routines die hard. And yet, that’s love, isn’t it?

It’s not so much the flowery notes and chocolates, it’s the willingness to show another person they are worth the interruption.

The word interruption feels cold, but we feel that way about, well, people.

The ones around us have that frus- trating habit of usurping our plans. And I can always choose to watch the game instead of talk to my wife, yet if we allow the tug of love to get to us, the interrup- tion is no longer an interruption — it is, the people are, exactly what you and I need to grow out of our old, self-serving ways.

The effect is, of course, much more powerful with little ones.

Infants can’t tell time; two a.m. is not 2 a.m., it’s snack time. They will have their snack, and they tell us so with a volume better suited for outside play.

I don’t know when the growth happened, but I know it came and I know it was — and is still — painful.

Every little part of me that died went howling and fighting to its death.

Sometimes those parts are resurrected, and I have to cut their throats anew. The bloodbath rages on weekends when the boys want to build, pretend, wrestle, read, talk, talk, talk, eat, build, pretend.

Often when they sleep, and are finally still, I stand and watch their chests rise and fall, their contented breaths wrecking me; maybe it’s in those moments love tries to seep in and hurt me again, because I’m reminded of all the times that day that I was not savage enough to kill my own desire on their behalf.

Or on my wife’s behalf.

I’ve had more practice with her, yet I fail just as often as with the boys.

So, What About Romance?

Those ideas I had as a single man about romance, yes, they had to die.

At first, they had to die the death all self-serving desires need to die in order for romance (or any love) to work; if I refuse to speak my wife’s romance-language, it’s not romance (or love) at all.

I learned and continue to learn (and relearn) to think of her needs as more important than my own. Indeed, it’s when I do this that I find I’m in the right mindset to receive love as I’m giving it.

This is when I no longer see my wife as an interruption; I see her as she is — she is lovely, and she is my opportunity to express love.

And so it was that when the boys were added to our number, my love for my wife had to become new once more.

I was aware, and knew deeply in many ways, that other loves existed; my mother and father showed me great love as a child, I have many great friendships, and my God has expressed His (un)dying love for me — and He continues to do so in all the “interruptions” He sends and redeems before my very eyes.

Yet, until I became a father, I didn’t know the depth of what marriage meant. Children brought along another death, and in its shadow I learned my wife was a friend, an encourager, a blessing beyond romance I am still discover-

ing. Now, romance comes to our marriage like the prom- ise of a long-awaited holiday: the work weeks flow one into the other, yet the calendar still whispers of the rest and joy to come.

This Valentine’s Day, I’ll thank my boys for showing me a rose does smell as sweet with another name — sleep- ing in on Saturday morning.

Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.

Love from the Perspective of One Dating

Guest essay by Kendall Perry

I have been in a loving, committed, dating relationship light on who I really am, the woman who was many times for over a year now. not herself in order to be in love.

HeartI know that I am with the man that I will spend the rest of my life with, but my road getting to this “prince” of mine has been filled with Knights, jesters, and even a few frogs that I have loved . . . Or felt that I loved.

Knowing that there are many out there who have had the same experiences with dating, brings me the courage to share this peak into my journey.

My faith, wholeheartedly, leads me to believe that there is one person with whom I will spend the rest of my life. However, my experiences have proven to me that the man at the end of my future aisle could have been a number of men because I have been in love more than once.

I have dated, committedly, since my sophomore year of high school; believing in love and loving the feeling it creates so much, that each dating experience became so incredibly serious and “real life.”

Each relationship had me dating with a purpose. During the life of those relationships, I was able to picture many of the suitors as the man I would spend my life with.

Of course, all of these past men would have fallen into the category of “my type” — sweet, dark hair, hard working, and funny, with a little facial hair!

I would meet the particular man, and after some time spent guarding my heart, I would fall for him based on his qualities, how he made me feel, and also how he was able to, secretly, mold me into the perfect fit for him and what he needed at that time in his life.

And that pattern continued in many relationships, without me realizing it. I would be blind to my new mold — loving this guy like crazy.

But eventually, the love would fizzle out, the happiness would turn to bitterness and skepticism, we would burst from our forced molds, meaning the relationships then ended.

So what makes my current man the one that I will commit the rest of my life to?

Well, he has never asked me to change. He has never discreetly tried to mold me. Instead, he has helped shine a light on who I really am, the woman who was many times not herself in order to be in love.

He has embraced my faith, helped me to see that my silly side, controlling and obsessive sides, and my annoying, childish side don’t need changing.

He has also helped me realize that my imperfect attempts at loving the way God created me to do, are for him, and always have been because my kind of love fits his needs and takes care of his heart.

To find someone who fully embraces your cracks and flaws is the best gift that dating has to offer. And that is why I have so much faith in the dating relationship that I am in.

He is my gift and my future.

That is how I know that this go around with love, and picturing this amazing man at the end of my future aisle, is real.

As a dater, feelings of love will come and go. The “right” person in that particular time of life will swoop in, take up residence, and pluck at your heart strings. But then the plucking might lead to festering, and the festering could lead to leaving.

While these experiences and poor examples of the delight that dating can be, hurt, they will be worth it because from them, you learn exactly why that particular relationship did not work. And from that, youlearn what to look and wait for in your next dating experience

The right person will make your dating experience one that transitions beautifully into a forever relationship; no swooping in and out, but a bold march in, with no intentions of leaving.

So from the perspective of one dating, date!

Make yourself vulnerable, and find yourself as you get lost in the perfect relationship!

Kendall Perry lives and teaches in Central Kansas. She is dating the luckiest man alive, Wichita Family Magazine publisher Todd Vogts.

Remember love on Valentine’s Day

WFM_Feb15PMThe month of February is a month dedicated to love and romance. An entire industry of cards, chocolates and flowers is built around it, thanks to the flagship holiday of Valentine’s Day.

For the February 2015 issue of Wichita Family Magazine, I decided to take a different approach to address- ing this. Rather than espousing all the great gift and date ideas a person could use to treat his or her loved one, I thought it would be better to actually look at the idea of love and what it means because the best date or the perfect gift aren’t the point of Valentine’s Day. Rather, it is to show someone how you feel. Perhaps that involves a fancy dinner or a sparkling new necklace with matching earrings, but the important point to make is that you love someone.

On the following pages you will find essay about love. They are from different perspectives, but they all show what love is and could be. They look at the heart (pun intended) of the matter.

The idea is love evolves. It is always present, but it doesn’t always take the same form.

This is true regardless of how you look at it. Each individual has a different perspective on love, and each individual’s perspective on love changes with time, experience and needs at any given point in life.

These essays are not intended to tell you how you should view love, as it is a very personal emotion. Rather, the goal is to encourage you to truly con- sider love and define it on your own terms. The writers of these Valentine’s Day Essays want to help you gain a larger perspective.

In an ideal world, the essays will help and inspire you in your own relationships, but at the very least it is hoped they will entertain.

Doing an issue based almost solely on the topic of love is a gamble for Wichita Family Magazine, but I feel it is a universal topic. I hope you enjoy this special issue of essays. As the publisher, I want to be able to experiment and still serve you, the reader. I hope I haven’t missed the mark with this issue.

As always, I welcome feedback of all kinds. Please feel free to email me comments or questions. My email ad- dress is publisher@wichitafamily.com.

More importantly, though, enjoy February and Valentine’s Day. Make it a special time with those you hold closely in your heart (whether it is a significant other or your entire family).

And don’t stress about gifts or dates. Just show how much you care.

Of course, flowers and chocolates are rarely turned down, so that is al- ways an option.