Soothing Solutions

A large stone fireplace is the most prominent feature of our living room at home. That, along with the built-in bookcases that line another wall of the living room, was the main reason my wife and I bought the house.

Honestly, the fireplace is too large to be of much practical use. It takes such a big fire to emit any real heat that it's really just for ambience (either that or my Florida upbringing didn't equip me with effective fire-making skills). But still. On a cold dark night, is there anything more comforting than a roaring fire (my shortcut/secret: cover a fire log with wood and set the whole thing ablaze), a glass of red wine or single-malt Scotch, and a good book?

OK, so that sounded vaguely pretentious. But hey, comfort is as comfort does. And that's what works for me. And, without pointing out the obvious and belabored, the world we're living in right now, well, it requires comfort. And if fire and firewater don't do it for you, we have a few more suggestions. Senior editor Blake Miller and associate editor Sarah Crosland compiled this month's cover package, in which we humbly submit twelve pages of ideas for how to stay soothed in troubled times. If nothing else, Chris Edwards's gorgeous photography should offer some respite for the soul.

Blake and Sarah each pulled double duty in this issue. Blake profiled two of Charlotte's stay-at-home dads, part of a growing group. One lives in Fourth Ward, the other in Indian Trail. Each is glad to be at home with the kids, but each also bucks traditional Charlotte, with its legions of stay-at-home moms. The story, which starts on page 78, is a fascinating window into a changing city.

Sarah, meanwhile, is not an anti-environmentalist, but her brother, who she writes would sooner eat an aluminum can than throw it away, used to call her an eco-terrorist. So she decided to park her SUV, feed her dog organic chow, and turn off the AC, among other Al Gore-approved deeds, for thirty days. She documents her struggle in a laugh-out-loud story, which is also packed with tips, that starts on page 84.

Elsewhere in the issue are profiles of two people who are at the top of their respective fields. Swimming coach David Marsh left Auburn University, where he had just coached his team to a national championship, to come run Charlotte's SwimMAC. While here, he has trained three Olympic gold medal winners, and he and his crew aim to make Charlotte one of the nation's top training destinations for post-collegiate swimmers. Jarvis Holliday's story starts on page 57.

Kevin Martin grew up in Waxhaw, served as student body president at UNC Chapel Hill, and was appointed by George W. Bush to chair the Federal Communications Commission, making him the most powerful person in the telecom industry. His tenure will end when Barack Obama's presidential term begins, and his future is up in the air -- some speculate he'll run for public office. Mike Madden's profile starts on page 51.

There's plenty of other good stuff in the issue. So get that fire going, pour yourself a glass of something special, and start reading.

Coming next month: How Newcomers Have Changed Charlotte • Green Getaways • Spring Fashion