Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

January 7, 2011

100 Foot Measuring Tape, Snowfall Estimates and Engagement

     Most of my tools are cast-offs from my dad.  Doubles, older versions or not quite right screwdrivers, wrenches and hammers.   During the recent blizzard, tending to some household fixes, I found a dim gray oval shaped object which turned out to be a hand retractable tape measure.  When I told my Dad, in sunny Florida, what I had found, he said, that must be the 100 foot tape measure.  In snowy New York, with the tv obsessively broadcasting number ranges, 8-10, 12-16, 20-24, inches and feet were very much on my mind.

A 100 foot tape measure can measure things large and small.  You can pull out the tape as far as you need.  Unlike with the more modern push button retractable tape measures, however, in order to “rewind” you open a lever on the tape measure and reel it in.  The more you measure, the more effort it takes to get the inches and feet back in their place.

As the snow continued to fall and blanket everything in a pure and beautiful whiteness, the news stayed focused on numbers and measurements.  Reporters in snowdrifts used  yardsticks to emphasize the breadth of the storm. Looking out my window, I couldn’t help thinking that there was another part of the story more compelling and important.

Juxtaposed with this stormy weather was a wonderful upheaval of a different type in our family.  Our oldest son became engaged and the couple is a shining example of love and happiness and excitement.  Well wishers called with congratulations before, during and after the storm.  The most common questions were when are they getting married, and how long have they known each other?    Some even asked how they will make a living (since both want to continue their schooling).  Most questions focused on numbers and specifics.

Much as a few minutes in the snow convinced me of the futility and inappropriateness of rulers to measure something amazing and astoundingly beautiful, a few minutes with the bride and groom reminded me of the importance of immeasurables.  I could no more quantify the transformational calmness and quiet that the snow brought than I could encapsulate the magic of two young people finding each other and committing to a life together.    If we invest our energy in measuring, pulling out the tape measure to its end, what do we miss?  And how much energy do we waste reeling in the numbers, to get back to zero and the real important stuff.

As I write, more flakes are falling elegantly onto the yard and the streets.  The young couple is visited almost daily by fed-ex bringing terrific gifts to start their lives, and by telemarketers who pounce on the newly engaged offering flowers, photography and such.  I know they can, like all to-be married couples, get caught up in the measuring game – tracking who gave what, how many of this or that we need, how big should the bridal party be, how long the dress’s train.  But they are smart and passionate people, and I hope that in this season so blessed with flurries (please not enough to shovel again), and through the first purple crocus signs of spring, and into the summer sunshine they hope will shine on their union, they will not for one moment be distracted.  They have, in each other and their strong and powerful love, a magic beyond all numbers, an unquantifiable jewel.  The gifts, the dress, the party, they are all just the wrapping for the true prize, a life lived and shared with a loving partner.

So, with last week’s snow melting, and more on the way, and with our family, and its newest couple still floating, I will try to take a new approach this winter.  Even as wedding plans and future snow falls may force me to focus on numbers, I want to focus, at least equally, on those things even a 100 foot tape can’t measure.  I’ll be looking for the sun through snow crusted branches and smiles shared between loved ones.   It won’t bring the Spring any faster, but it will, I know, keep my heart wonderfully warm.

 Dedicated to Eitan and Gabby – may the love you share grow with you , always.



  1. Thank you for your sweet and profound words. Even your emotional writing retains a beautifully academic (and even poetic) ring. You’re good at what you do!

    Comment by Eitan — January 7, 2011 @ 4:05 pm |Reply

  2. Thank you for your sweet and profound words. Even your emotional writing has a beautifully academic (and poetic) ring to it. You are great at what you do.

    Comment by Eitan — January 7, 2011 @ 4:06 pm |Reply

    • Thank you for the inspiration and the admiration! I hope we are always blessed with good times and good words to share.

      Comment by Life's Toolbox — January 7, 2011 @ 4:52 pm |Reply

  3. What a beautiful way to frame the new couple’s relationship and
    share your hopes that they see past all the numbers to the essence of building a life together. Mazal tov to all!

    Comment by Naomi Nadata — January 19, 2011 @ 2:31 pm |Reply

  4. Our sentiments exactly… but put as only you can put it!!Loved it all and love all of you!!

    Comment by E. and S. — January 21, 2011 @ 1:21 pm |Reply

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