She was sitting across from me at Northstar Cafe, a worldly young woman bubbling with teenage exuberance as she talked a mile a minute about ballet school and friends and curfews and travels. But there are hard parts, too, of giving up life as Emma Hawes knew it to move far from home and pursue a dream -- demanding instructors, aching muscles, homesick tears.

Why, then, is it worth it? When I asked the question, Emma -- for the first time in our conversation -- paused. She looked down, not into her colorful salad, but into a memory that was inevitably flashing with visions of bleeding toes and ice baths and bedtimes without a momma to hug. She turned her eyes upward, thoughtfully. "The gratification of being on stage."

There was no arrogance in her voice, just joy. "I think everyone has that -- something that gives them the best feeling in the world," she continued. "I don't know how to describe it, except that I feel like I'm sparkly." Emma's mother, Jane -- a friend of mine who wrote a story for this issue about letting her daughter leave home for boarding school -- listened intently. And then, just as her daughter finished, Jane's whole body relaxed -- satisfied, knowing. I'm certain she wishes everyone who has ever judged her decision to send Emma away could have seen her baby girl's face at that instant.

Because isn't that what life is about--finding those moments that make us feel sparkly?

I have photos on my desk to remind me as much. In one, my stepson Mitch is suspended upside down in mid-air between a swing and a lake, his arms and legs spread wide. In another, my stepson Kyle is wearing his green football jersey and holding a Gatorade cooler, laughing so hard his eyes are almost closed, having just drenched Coach Dad after a win. Above that is one of my stepdaughter Izzy celebrating a soccer goal, blond hair flapping in her face, fists clenched and mouth open, screaming in delight.

Another shows my husband and I at the top of New Hampshire's Mount Washington after a steep, rocky 8.4-mile ascent. We are sweaty and exhausted and beaming. And then there's the glossy of baby Cooper in all his nearly naked glory, Daddy's hands guiding him, wobbling toward Momma, blue eyes gleeful, a tiny tongue wagging from his toothless grin, so proud to have taken a step. When days seem too long and too busy and too stressful, I sometimes need to remind myself-don't we all?-of the point.

Someone once told me that in life, she wants only one thing: a house filled with love. It's an exceptionally simple, beautiful goal, isn't it? I hope each day that every decision I make aims to do the same. One way we can do that is to seek-and truly inhale-those moments of sparkly. Know what they are, map out how to get there and go toward them. Put the people you care for in the position to feel them. And give yourself permission to feel them, too.

Kristy Eckert, Editor

P.S. The North Market is a great place to find a little bit of happy. Inside, Market Blooms (where I'm standing in this photo) offers gorgeous bouquets. Bubbles boasts amazing smoothies (check out my fave in Crave). And The Greener Grocer sells fresh fruits & veggies