четверг, 29 апреля 2010 г.

Things We Can Learn from a Dog

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Loving Our Dogs

BY: Joy Nordquist
1. Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.

2. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

3. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

4. When it's in your best interest, always practice obedience.

5. Let others know when they've invaded your territory.

6. Take naps and always stretch before rising.

7. Run, romp and play daily.

8. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.

9. Be loyal.

10. Never pretend to be something you're not.

11. If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

12. When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

13. Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

14. fThrive on attention and let people touch you.

15. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

16. On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

17. When you are happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

18. No matter how often you are criticized, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout.
Run right back and make friends.


среда, 28 апреля 2010 г.

Dancing Lessons

Chicken Soup for the Soul: True Love

BY: Cynthia Bilyk

Dance is the hidden language of the soul.
~Martha Graham

I learned about true love when I was very little. Every night after I was tucked into bed and kissed goodnight by my mom I knew that something magical would happen very soon. I found it easy to believe in true love when I witnessed it night after night with my very own eyes.

The sound of my mom in the shower would always awaken me shortly after I drifted off to sleep. Through the thin walls of our home, I could hear the shower running. I would hear the water turn off, and after a few minutes I would hear the hairdryer come on. The smell of my mother's perfumed face powder would come through the walls, filling my room with its scent. I could picture my mom putting her make-up on in the mirror: putting on eye shadow, lining her eyes to perfection, curling and darkening her lashes. Not that my mom needed all that -- she was a natural beauty who became movie-star beautiful every night after we went to bed.

Just as my mother was done in the bathroom, I would hear the door open and my father would walk in. The smell of the oil on his clothes would overpower my mom's delicate perfume. He would walk in and they would meet in the hallway, repeating the same ritual every night. Out my mom would step from the bathroom, wearing a beautiful dress, hair falling softly around her face, her heels sparkling from the light cast by the living room. My father would take her hands in his and twirl her around. They'd smile at each other and then he would go into the bathroom. Once again the shower would come on, and the strong smell of the soap he used would fill our room. I could hear my mom putting a record on in the living room. The soft music would fill the air as my father finished getting ready in the bathroom.

My father would step out of the bathroom, dressed in his best slacks and a crisp shirt. Gone were the oil and grime that covered his hands, face, and clothes from a long day of working at the oil rigs. He looked so handsome and strong. Old Spice would tickle my nose as I looked on. My mom would meet him in the hallway. She would come to him and they would stand for a few moments, looking at each other. Then he would softly kiss her. My mom would always smile and laugh after the kiss, and take my father by the hand as she led him to the living room.

Once in the living room, the music would be raised a little -- although not much, so as not to disturb us children. From my angle in the bedroom I could not see them as they danced, but when they neared the hallway, I could see their shadows dancing on the walls. Slowly they danced, on and on, sometimes silently, sometimes whispering and laughing. Every night I would fall asleep to this beautiful sight. I never had to wonder if true love existed. I saw it every night dancing upon our walls.


A Walk in the Woods

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Golf Book

BY: Neil Rosen

A passion, an obsession, a romance, a nice acquaintanceship with trees, sand, and water.
~Bob Ryan

I was in Florida, on vacation, playing golf with my eighty-something-year-old mother and two of her peers. On the 12th tee-box of a lousy round, having just swung as hard as I could, I found myself listening to the oohs and aahs of these octogenarians as they watched how far my ball traveled, and how high. Then I heard these oohs and aahs change to silence as the ball sliced and veered deep into the woods.

The shot went so deep into the woods that I could actually feel my blood pressure rising, rising as least as much as my self-esteem was plummeting. I seriously considered storming off the golf course right then, giving up the game forever. I was just about to slam my driver into the ground to blow off a little steam when my mother said, "Say hello to your father for me."

I turned for an explanation, clearly curious, a rash of frustration spread over my face like hives.

"Your father," she began, "told me just before he passed away, that if I ever needed to talk to him, or spend some time with him, or just be in his presence, I could always find him right here on this golf course traipsing through the woods. He'd be searching for his lost golf ball, he said. And he said it with a smile that made me understand he knew something that I didn't."

My father worked hard all his life, picked up his first golf club when he was about sixty. By that time, his muscle memory had full-fledged amnesia, so even though once in a while he'd manage to hit a good shot, he could never do it twice in a row. He was a hack.

"Your father never got frustrated," my mother continued. "Never made excuses for his bad shots, and he never stopped smiling. Even if he took a swing and missed the ball completely he still had a smile on his face. When you go into the woods and see all the dings in the tree bark that have been made over the years by errant golf balls, you can be sure that at least some of them were made by your father.

"And your father truly looked forward to each walk in the woods." She looked straight at me. "So go find your ball, and say hello to him for me."

With a lighter feeling in my head and my chest, I set off to find my ball. Entering the woods, I did sense my father's presence. At first I was aware of how quiet the woods were, but soon I became aware of how the woods had sounds all its own.

As my mind wandered I was paying little attention to the task of trying to find my ball. Yet, after walking far into the woods, I looked down to the ground and there was my ball within inches of my feet, resting in the center of a small clear patch of grass.

"Thanks, Dad," I said quietly.

Not only was the ball perfectly placed for a clear swing, there was also a window between the trees up ahead that gave an open shot to the green.

I sized the yardage and picked a club, stood behind the ball and pointed the shaft at my target. I went through my pre-swing checklist: yes, I was lined up properly; yes, my hands were lightly gripping the club; yes, I was taking deep, relaxing breaths.

I swung, somehow knowing that nothing further was going to go wrong on this day. Not on this golf course under my father's presence. The shot was going to be perfect.

The ball came off hot to the right and smacked a tree in the middle of its trunk. It ricocheted off a number of other trees and ended up fifty years deeper into the woods than where I was standing.

This time, as I started off to find the ball, I had a smile on my face. After all, it gave me more time to spend with my dad.


Victor Not Victim

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

BY: LaVerne Otis

The only disability in life is a bad attitude.
~Scott Hamilton

I guess we never truly know how tough we are until really tough times peck at our heels and dominate our souls. Sure, everyone has trials and difficulties. Trials and difficulties are a natural part of living, but sometimes those trials are so enormous that we can become disoriented, disillusioned, downright depressed, and caught up in a web of inactivity.

I grew up in a very dysfunctional and abusive family, and I quickly had to learn to either sink or swim. Even though my childhood was an extremely difficult period, I have come to understand that it really did prepare me to face adult difficulties straight up. I learned early on in my life that no matter what happens to me, it is my attitude about what happens to me which either makes me or breaks me.

I know the economy is as bad as it has been in decades, and I also know many people are downright scared about what their future holds. I have heard some people say they just don't know what they are going to do, and I tell them that when tough times come in my life, I just have to work harder for positive results. I use the fear and negative energy my trials produce to work harder for a positive solution. My parents did not conquer me and neither will my problems.

I was diagnosed with colon cancer in June 2003, and talk about a very tough period in my life. I was devastated and I was scared, and I certainly had many sleepless nights praying to God for strength and to help me beat this thing. But I also took charge and sought out the best surgeon and oncologist I could find. I then double-checked their recommendations with yet other physicians to make sure I was doing the right thing before I underwent major surgery. I had a positive outcome from that surgery, and the pathologists indicated that all of the cancer had been removed. They told me that I had no worries, and to go and have a good life.

But the cancer did return in November of 2004, and I was completely devastated once again. I endured another six-hour surgery, followed by chemotherapy treatments. It took me months to recover from these procedures. My body was so weak and I thought the chemo fatigue would never end, but I took one day at a time and I finally returned to my normal life again. I fought all of the negative thoughts I had during this time, determined that cancer was not going to take me.

I have been cancer-free for over four years now, but recently had to undergo major spinal fusion surgery, with the addition of plates and screws to hold my spine stable and secure. But, hey, these are the medical cards I have been dealt in my life, so I will play them the best way I know how. I refuse to be a victim in all of these health issues. Instead, I choose to be a victor. I truly believe these problems have made me a stronger and better person. They have taught me to be more compassionate for other people, especially those who are sick. And I certainly have a much deeper appreciation for life on a daily basis, and for the love and companionship of my dear family.

Yes, there are rough economic times out there, the job market is unstable, and it is getting very difficult to make ends meet. But so what if I have to do with a little less? So what if my retirement plan is worth forty percent less than it was at this time last year? I am just very grateful I still have my life, and I am also very grateful for how much closer my family and I have grown as a result of my health issues. That is worth much more than a large stock portfolio.


Hello, Young Lovers

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Happily Ever After
BY: Philip Harsham

He appeared almost Lilliputian, dwarfed by the big hickory rocking chair he occupied on the porch of the old Riverside Hotel in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. But we could hardly help noticing him on that warm mid-April day: While others lounged about in casual attire, he wore a dark-blue pinstripe suit, a Harvard-crimson necktie and a straw boater. The gold watch chain draped across his tightly buttoned vest glinted in the sunlight as he rocked ever so deliberately.

He watched bemusedly as I stepped from the Jaguar XK-150, my pride and joy, and walked to the opposite side to open the door for Diane, my bride. His eyes followed as we trailed self-consciously behind the luggage-laden bellboy, and he smiled a knowing smile when we neared his rocker.

"Hello, young lovers," he said. Our honeymooner status was unmistakable.

The man we came to know as Mr. B was in the dining room, sitting alone with a cup of tea, when we entered late the next morning. His eyes came to life when he saw us. He rose with some effort and beckoned us toward him.

"You'd make an old man very happy if you joined me," he said with an octogenarian's formality. I wonder even now why we did. Perhaps it was the angelic expression his face assumed. More likely, it was our honeymooner self-consciousness -- we'd been found out by an elder and felt compelled to comply with his wishes.

He was a Canadian, an attorney, he said, still practicing in Winnipeg. But he'd been spending Aprils in Gatlinburg for almost fifty years. He and his wife would come with their son and daughter and explore the mountains on horseback, getting to know every scenic vantage point of Mount Le Conte, every turn in the tumbling Little Pigeon River.

After the son had died and the daughter was grown, Mr. B and his wife had kept up their visits. And he still made the annual trek even though his wife had died three years earlier. The mountains and the valley were touchstones for him, sites of pleasant memories that were revived with each visit.

"I've had a love of my own," he said, his eyes misting. He asked detailed questions about our wedding and told us in detail of his own, some sixty years earlier. During brief periods when a conversational lapse threatened, he softly hummed "Hello, Young Lovers," the song from The King and I.

That night he sat alone during dinner, careful, he later told us, not to "get in love's way." But he glanced often in our direction, and we knew he was not alone; he was deep in reverie, dining with his own true love. Returning to our room following an after-dinner walk, we found a ribbon-bedecked bottle of champagne. An accompanying card read: "See Mr. B in the A.M. for instructions as to its use."

He was waiting for us in his rocking chair after breakfast, the look of a leprechaun on his face. He handed me a piece of paper on which he had sketched the river, a place where we could leave our car, a footpath and points at which large boulders made it possible to cross the cold mountain stream on foot. His shaky-handed path led eventually to a river pool indicated with an X.

"The champagne is to be chilled in the pool," he said. "You are to spread your picnic lunch on the grassy knoll to the right of it. It's very secluded. A very romantic spot." We could only gape at him, certain he was spoofing.

"Your picnic basket will be delivered to you here on the veranda at precisely noon." He was on his feet then, moving away. He turned and added: "It was our favorite spot, our secret place."

We never saw Mr. B again during our honeymoon. We wondered whether he'd fallen ill. But inquiries to the hotel staff were answered with, "Oh, he's around," or "He often likes to be alone."

Our firstborn was almost three when we next visited Gatlinburg, and Diane was six months pregnant with our second son. We approached the aging hotel not in the Jaguar, but in a practical sedan. Our arrival went unnoticed.

But when we walked into the hotel lobby the next morning, our son toddling ahead, the old man was sitting in an overstuffed lounge chair. Seeing the child, he stretched out his arms, and our son, as if drawn by a magnet, ran into them.

"Mr. B!" we exclaimed in unison.

He smiled that beatific smile.

"Hello, young lovers," he said.


Duet for Fiddle and Viola

Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Cat

BY: Elizabeth Creith

When a cat chooses to be friendly, it's a big deal, because a cat is picky.
~Mike Deupree

When you live on a farm, you choose your cats for mousing ability rather than for their cuddlesome qualities.

It's the reason I chose Fiddle, a skinny, green-eyed tortie with long paws and a fearsomely quick pounce.

Of course, I didn't know she was a good hunter when I got her. But her mother was a good mouser, according to my friend Nancy, whose grain storage was mouse-free, so it was worth the risk.

She was cuddly when she was a kitten, round, with soft fur. As she matured, her baby fat melted from her bones and she became a skinny, spooky, predatory cat. She reverted to her cuddly kitten self only when she was pregnant. When the kittens were weaned, she returned to her career as Lurker-in-the-Shadows. My grain storage was mouse-free.

When Fiddle was five years old, I had a run of spontaneous abortion in my ewes. The distressing part was that the ewes miscarried late in the pregnancy. In the middle of the thrill and hustle of lambing, all that new life, my favourite part of the year, came the shock of lamb after lamb emerging from the womb, tiny, perfect and dead. Over half my lambs never drew breath, or had any possibility of it.

Belladonna was one of the last to lamb and, like most of the others, she delivered early. She'd shown no signs of imminent delivery; no triangular hollow in front of the hip to indicate the lamb had dropped into position, no swollen udder, no nesting behaviour. She just pushed out a tiny black lamb, covered with the slime of birth, onto the manure of the barn floor and stood looking at it.

Without hope, I wiped the remains of the sac away from the muzzle and was astonished to hear a little gasp. The tiny thing shook its ears and produced a barely audible bleat. Belladonna strolled away. I tucked the baby, slime and all, into my jacket and headed for the house through the late-March snow.

I kept colostrum in the freezer for just this kind of emergency. While I was feeding the newly-dried lamb her first meal, Fiddle, who must have sneaked into the house on my heels, came creeping across the room and put a tentative paw onto my knee. Before she could pounce, I brushed her off.

"Not a mouse," I said to her, although I could hardly blame her for thinking of the lamb as prey. I could cup it in my hands with the legs dangling through my fingers. On my kitchen scale, it weighed a bare two pounds.

A newborn lamb has to be fed every two hours. A barn full of lambing ewes has to be checked every three or four hours. I was already strained from the lack of uninterrupted sleep. Keeping Fiddle out of the house was impossible; she was not Lurker-in-the-Shadows for nothing. Time and again I found her at my knee as I fed the lamb.
I kept the lamb in a box with a towel and hot-water bottle, in the spare room with the door closed. When I got up at night, I would check first to see if it was worth warming the bottle. I fully expected the lamb to die between one feeding and the next, but she hung on.

Finally the inevitable happened, and I failed to close the door properly when I went to get the bottle. Padding back upstairs in my nightgown, I was shocked to see a wide line of light falling across the hall floor from the guest room.

When I got into the room, I could see that my worst fears were confirmed. Fiddle was in the box with the lamb. From the sharp motion of her head, she was biting. It was probably already too late. I didn't want to look. But I would have to put her out with her prey -- I didn't want blood and guts on my guest room floor.

As I looked down into the box, Fiddle looked up. Her green eyes were slitted and she was purring. Her paws were wrapped around the lamb, who shook her wet, cat-licked ears at me and bleated. At the bleat, Fiddle turned and took the lamb gently by the neck, as I had seen her do with her kittens when they wouldn't hold still for washing. Then she went back to work on the lamb's face and ears.

I waited until she was done, marveling, grateful and sleepily amused. When the lamb was washed to Fiddle's satisfaction, I gave her the bottle and tucked her back in. Fiddle curled around her, purring.

"Two points off your predator license, Fiddle," I whispered, stroking her head. I went back to bed for another snatch of sleep, leaving the guest room door open.

I named the lamb Viola.



Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery

BY: Heather McGee

How beautiful a day can be

When kindness touches it!
~George Elliston

My husband and I finally came to an agreement to settle our divorce and I thought I would be able to get back to living my life and enjoying my babies.

Then, after I had given him substantially more than was his, he decided he wanted more. Because it seemed as if the demands would never end, my first thought was to tell him I would see him in court. However, I was so tired of living in this state of limbo and not knowing if things were ever going to just settle down and be normal again. The bad thing was that he knew that.

I was pretty sure that I was going to just take the deal and be done, but I called my attorney and said, "I have to think a little. I haven't had much sleep, so I just want to make sure that I am making the right decision. I'll call you at 3:00 to let you know what I have decided." I knew that any additional money cut from my budget would make my life and that of my children even more difficult.

I looked at the big, blue eyes of my children and said, "Let's go for a drive." My daughter was asleep before we were very far from the house, but my son enjoyed the sights. We drove to the scenic, southern part of the county where the road, shaded by the trees, rose and fell with the hills. The drive was relaxing and pretty, and I hoped that maybe it would clear my head a little. We drove and drove.

We had driven until it was about thirty minutes past lunchtime. "Baby, are you hungry?" I peered into the rear-view mirror to see if my son was nodding in agreement.

"Yes, Mama. Hungry, hungry, hungry."

There was a small town just ahead with a little restaurant that had always caught my eye, but I had never stopped. I decided that today would be as good a day as any to try the little restaurant that looked like a grandma's house. Grandma always makes you feel better.

"Okay. We'll stop up here and eat."

My daughter was just waking up as we pulled up to the cozy restaurant surrounded by huge oak trees. As we stepped onto the wide front porch scattered with rocking chairs, I was hopeful for a peaceful getaway.

We walked in and were told that we could seat ourselves. The restaurant was an old house, reborn, with many rooms to choose from. We walked across the creaky hardwood floors and through the rooms until we got to the sun porch that I thought, surely, looked like the happiest spot in the place. My son commented on the quirky decorations. "You don't put chairs on the ceiling," he laughed, and we talked about all of the other funny things we saw.
There was a table just off in the other room, but within viewing distance, where a group of mainly silver-headed ladies was seated. Some ladies were decked out in festive hats and others with rosy-cheeked smiles. They looked friendly and happy, enjoying a lunch date with their friends.

The kids and I ordered, and became enveloped in the little world we had stumbled into. We looked out the windows and talked about the green trees, the birds, the squirrels, and the soothing shade. I was very much enjoying our respite from the overwhelming stress that had consumed me the past couple of days.

The waitress approached our table. "The ladies at that table," she said, motioning toward the group of smiling faces, "Said they want to know all about that perfect mother over there with her children. Is your husband in the Air Force?"

"No," I answered, flattered by the compliment. I scrambled for how I was going to answer this question without making anyone feel awkward for asking. "He just doesn't want to be married anymore."

Her face looked shocked, and she said, "I'm sorry. I'll let them know so that they can keep you in their prayers." Tears welled up in my eyes. These days, people only had to show the slightest concern, and I fell apart. With much effort, I managed to keep the tears from tumbling down my face.

My children and I enjoyed our meal and lazily took our time. I knew that when we walked out the door, I would have to snap back to reality. The 3:00 deadline was quickly approaching. I didn't have the absolute clarity on my decision that I had hoped for, but at least we were enjoying ourselves.

When we finished eating, we paid our thirteen dollar bill. Then, just as we were rising to leave, the waitress came over and handed me an envelope sent by the group of ladies. It read, "Beautiful Family. Prayerful Good Wishes." I walked over to tell them thank you without opening the envelope. The bulge inside told me all I needed to know. Tears streamed down my face, and I couldn't even begin to control them. They had no idea the message that they had just given me straight from God. He is always there to take care of us, and sometimes He sends silver-haired angels to see that the job is done.

When I got home, I opened the envelope. Inside it was $72. I called my attorney and said, "I got some clarity on the settlement offer at lunch. I'll take his deal." I didn't second-guess my decision at all.


понедельник, 19 апреля 2010 г.

My Dad Is as Nice as a Fish

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

BY: Stephen Rusiniak

One night a father overheard his son pray: Dear God, Make me the kind of man my Daddy is. Later that night, the Father prayed, Dear God, Make me the kind of man my son wants me to be.

I still remember the sounds of my dad beginning his day: the ringing of his alarm clock, the running water as he shaved, the coffee maker, and the rattling of cupboards and dishes in the kitchen. The sounds of leather straps against cowhide told me he was lacing up his work boots while his coffee was cooling. His quick breakfast was followed by the thud of the kitchen door closing, his old pickup coming to life, and the crunch of gravel under tires as his truck left our driveway.

Only then would I tiptoe downstairs, grab his still-warm mug, fill it with milk and add a couple spoonfuls of sugar -- just like him. While my pretend coffee was pretend cooling, I would lace up my pretend work boots -- Keds high-top sneakers. After consuming the horrible milk and sugar concoction with coffee grinds floating on top, I'd quietly sneak outside and climb on my bicycle -- now magically transformed into a truck. As gravel crunched beneath my two wheels, I'd ride off to the pretend house I was building. In the make-believe world of my four-year-old existence, I wanted to be like him. After all, he was more than just my dad; he was my hero.

I suspect the vast majority of young children view their fathers, as I did, in awe -- a real life super hero able to do anything. During my early years there was nobody bigger, stronger or more important than Dad. At the end of his workday, when he'd come home, he'd pick me up, rub his day-old whiskers against my giggling face and then launch me into the air above his head. The thrill of momentary flight coupled with the knowledge that his strong arms and calloused hands would always catch me and keep me safe remained a metaphor for all he would become to me.

As I grew older, his hero status began to diminish as my world expanded. I started seeing him as a man with foibles like the rest of us mere mortals. I also began seeing less of him as my life took me in different directions. But on occasion, our paths did cross as he coached my baseball team or volunteered with my Scout troop. Sometimes we'd even see each other across the kitchen table during dinner. I was entering my teenage years and, at the time, I was certain it was my dad who was changing. And losing his ground as my hero.

By the time I reached my twenties, his status had been fully restored. It remained a comfort and blessing to know that no matter where my life took me, his strong arms and callused hands would always be there to catch me and keep me safe should I fall. By the time I married, his hero status was cemented, but he'd become more than just my dad and my hero -- he'd become my friend and would remain so for the rest of his life.

When my own son, Michael, was seven, he completed a classroom handout for Father's Day. His fill-in-the-blank answers to the incomplete questions afforded me a peek into the state of our father/son relationship. To the question, "My dad is special because," he wrote, "he cares for me and listens to me." I was moved. "I like to make him smile by," "doing my best at school." I was pleased. He noted that I looked at the things he did and that I taught him how to catch a baseball, but one answer puzzled me as much then as it does today. To the question, "My dad is as nice as..." he wrote, "a fish."
I was confused. I asked him what that meant and he just smiled -- and gave me a hug. He never did explain his answer, but his hug required no explanation.

A few years later he had to compose a short piece about someone who was his hero. Many of his classmates picked sports figures, celebrities, and cartoon characters to write about. Michael picked me. And so it goes -- like father, like son. I'll forever remain thankful for having been a fortunate recipient of my dad's love and friendship, and I can only hope that as Michael's teenage years are winding down, he will still feel the same about me. If he does, I'll promise to do my best to live up to that honor. And to remain as nice as a fish, whatever that means.


воскресенье, 18 апреля 2010 г.

Tree of Knowledge

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

BY: Carol E. Ayer
Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience.
~Victoria Holt

Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience.
~Victoria Holt

I hefted my backpack onto my shoulder, locked my dorm room, and headed for the stairwell. Outside, I looked around for my bicycle, but couldn't see it anywhere. Then I glanced up and saw the bike -- nestled high in a cluster of tree branches, completely out of my reach.

I experienced many an excruciating moment during my first, and only, quarter away at college. But this had to be the most excruciating of all. My cheeks burned with humiliation. Who had done this? Did I know the person? Had I angered someone? Or was it just some random and unkind act? It took all my strength not to fall to the concrete in a sobbing heap.

Unfortunately, this was only the latest in a series of incidents that led me to a huge decision. I'd had it. I withdrew from the University of California at Davis only a few weeks later.

I'd decided to attend Davis for one and only one reason -- my friend, Karin, was going there. "It's close enough for us to come home when we want, but just far enough away so that it feels like a true college experience," Karin maintained. But she and I ended up living across campus from each other. I was left adrift on a raucous, coed floor (I'd asked for a same-sex, "quiet" floor). I grew lonely and depressed, homesick beyond words. I began restricting my food intake, the only area of my life I felt I could control. If it weren't for my no-holds-barred weekends of eating back at home, I might have easily succumbed to anorexia or bulimia.

One afternoon, I found out that the boys on the floor had rated each of us girls on a scale from 1 to 10. I scored second from the bottom, with a paltry three. I'd never felt so undesirable. How would I ever find a boyfriend?

It didn't help that the one boy I danced with, at the one get-together I attended, didn't talk to me afterwards and ignored me when we passed in the hallways. My self-esteem was suddenly at an all-time low.

Meanwhile, my roommate viewed dorm life as the ideal chance to break away from her conservative upbringing. She began experimenting with drinking, partying, and sex. Because her college experience was at the opposite end of the spectrum from mine, she couldn't sympathize with my unhappiness. And Karin was busy making new friends. She loved the dorms and the socializing. She also couldn't understand my plight. It seemed like no one could.

The story had a happy ending, however. I graduated three years later from UC Berkeley (a university I was able to attend while living at home) a much happier woman. I was wiser, too, for I had learned an invaluable lesson about myself. I was not a typical college student.

Our society places a high premium on going to college, and views the social opportunities to be just as important as the educational ones. Living in the dorms is considered an important and desirable rite of passage. But not everyone is made for college, nor is everyone made for a college dorm. I had a miserable time at Davis, but I learned something important -- I wasn't like everyone else. I needed a lot of alone time and privacy, and it took me awhile to warm up to people. I didn't like staying up all night, and preferred reading to partying. And all of that was okay. That was just me.

No textbook or teacher could have taught me a better lesson, and for that reason I don't regret my brief foray into college life. Well, maybe I do regret parking my bike so close to that tree.


Recess Moment

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales

BY: Jeanne Muzi

You learn something every day if you pay attention.
~Ray LeBlond

When you teach first grade, you spend a good deal of time developing fluency: fluency in reading, fluency in math concepts, fluency of thought in writing. Yet my most memorable lesson in fluency occurred on our school's playground and I was the learner while my student was the teacher.

It was the beginning of the school year a few years ago and I had a little boy in my class who came from a non-English speaking home. He was very quiet and incredibly shy. I wasn't sure how much he understood during the school day and I was especially concerned that he just stood by himself at recess and did not play. If I tried to talk to him, he would turn away and tightly shut his eyes to hide from me.

After a day or two of this, I decided to enlist the help of one of my outgoing and friendly little girls. I called her over and she ran to me, pigtails flying, eager to help.

I immediately launched into a long speech about what I needed from her. I asked her if she would try to get him to play, and I started babbling all these suggestions on how she could start communicating with him. I explained she could do this, she could do that, she could try this idea, she could try that idea. She touched my arm to stop my incessant talking and looked up at me in that wise and worldly way that only a six-year-old can, and said, "Don't worry. I speak Kid." And she ran off, sun streaming through the trees, her white sneakers kicking up bits of mulch.

I stood there all alone, silently watching her. It took less than a minute for the two new friends to run off, hand in hand, happily joining a game of tag taking place all over the jungle gym.

My sweet little girl was right. I did not need to problem-solve for her. She spoke Kid fluently and accomplished what she had been charged to do.

I often think of that small moment at recess, about what I learned and how important it is for all teachers to speak Kid -- big kid, little kid and middle kid. I knew my focus must be on teaching students how to think, how to approach problems, and how to figure out solutions and never take the opportunity away. We must be ready to learn from our students because those "teachable moments" during the school days are for us, the teachers, as well as our kids.


No Carts

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Golf Book

BY: James Swigert

Golf has probably kept more people sane than psychiatrists have.
~Harvey Penick

Golf is not just a game; it can save someone's life. I know it did mine.

Fifteen years ago, I went through a divorce. I had married my high school sweetheart, but after nineteen years together, it was over. I was devastated.

I moved into a two-room apartment in the center of town. The place was a far cry from the four-bedroom, three-acre ranch in the country where we had been living previously.

All of my friends were married and after a while I realized I couldn't spend every day at their houses. So when I wasn't at work, I found myself sitting on a barstool.

I was in the worst mental and physical shape of my life. I didn't care if I lived or died. And believe me, there were times I wished it was the latter. I was drinking heavily just to fall asleep at night.

My best friend kept trying to get me to go golfing with him. I had played football, basketball, and baseball in school and couldn't see how anyone could call golf a sport. You didn't run or jump and the uniforms were really ugly, especially the ones the older players seemed to fancy.

I had a birthday coming up. My children secretly asked my friend what I wanted. Instead of telling them what I wanted, he told my children what he thought I needed. So on my fortieth birthday, when I opened my card from the kids, out dropped a gift certificate for eighteen holes of golf at our local municipal course, cart not included. My friend and I set up a tee time and met on the day.

I kept saying, "Let's get a cart," as we made our way from the parking lot to the clubhouse, but he kept insisting we walk. I offered to pay for both of us to ride but he wouldn't budge. "But this is my birthday," I said. "What kind of present makes you lug thirty pounds on your back for six miles?" But my friend won out. We walked.

I didn't realize it at the time, but it was the best birthday present gift I could have received given my circumstances.

I hit a couple of shots from 100 to 150 yards that landed within ten feet of where I was aiming. I was hooked. My friend said he hadn't seen such a look on my face in a long time. It was a mixture of surprise, excitement, and joy all rolled into one.

We finished the round and I actually had a couple of bogeys on my scorecard. Before we got back to the clubhouse, we were already making plans for our next outing.

By walking, I was getting all this fresh air in my lungs, and you know, the bag really isn't that heavy when you set it down every 100 yards or more. I found that swinging the club served two purposes. It stretched my back out so I was ready for the next haul. It also helped to beat away the stress and frustrations that life had handed me.

That night I found myself exhausted, but in a different way than the other nights when I had went to bed at closing time. I slept like a baby, dreamt of pars.

Thanks to my friend and my children, I was introduced to the greatest sport ever invented. Yeah, that's right, I said "sport."

I truly feel that the life I was living wouldn't have lasted very long at the rate I was living it. And today I still head to the course instead of the bar.

This weekend, I'm taking my eight-year-old grandson to the course and am looking forward to that look of surprise and excitement and joy on his face when he gets a hold of one. Also the thought of him going to sleep dreaming of pars.

If you know of someone who's going through a rough time, buy them a round of golf without a cart. You might just save their life.



Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Golf Book

BY: John Hawkins

Golf is full of reward but seemingly incapable of forgiveness, which makes it an ideal endeavor for those whose lives need a bit of reshaping. When I quit drinking in 1990, I had no idea golf would become my personal salvation. A chopper who had taken up the game six months earlier probably has no business leaning on it so heavily. Maybe the calling was subliminal. Eighteen years later, I still haven't devoted much mental energy to wondering why.

As a sportswriter with too much idle time, no wife or kids and not a lot of money, I found my roots in the rubber mats at the driving range. There came evenings when I was striping 2-irons like a real player, those cruddy balls soaring wonderfully into the night, but without a mentor -- someone to show me how to play and play with me -- I might not have stuck with the game.

So if I never see Michael Keating again, I am indebted to him beyond my last breath. A former sports editor at the Washington Times, Keating was shot in the head execution-style during a robbery in 1986. He hired me two months later, an occasion made memorable by his showing up for my interview in a jacket and tie instead of a wheelchair.

The guy was bulletproof. Keating returned to the golf course within six weeks after the incident, and if that bullet hadn't crashed into his skull in December, the end of the golf season in the mid-Atlantic, he might have come back sooner. Acknowledging Keating's toughness made my nine-beer nights easier to avoid. His intelligence and patience had me breaking 90 less than a year into my sobriety.

On what seemed like hundreds of mornings, we had the 7:03 A.M. tee time at Lake Arbor Golf Club, a semi-private mousetrap that runs through a nice neighborhood of a Maryland suburb. A 3-handicap who couldn't make a four-footer unless his life depended on it, Keating taught me the swing, the rules, strategy and etiquette. When I overslept one morning and missed our scheduled appointment, he made it very clear that if I stood him up again, the previous round we'd played together would be our last.

I'm sure he has gone through a few dozen belly putters by now, but the guy could sure hit a golf ball. Keating's old school, one-piece takeaway served as my swing template, and by the time I left town in 1995, I could consistently shape an iron shot and score in the mid 70s. For all the ten-second parcels of advice he gave me, there was never a formal lesson. You can talk and demonstrate all you want, but five minutes of instruction won't get you anywhere. Five hours of practice will.

When Keating thought I was ready for it, he took me to southern Virginia to play in my first tournament. I remember holing a few putts and realizing that competitive golf is a different game than the one we'd been playing at Lake Arbor. There have been a lot of good days since, certainly plenty of lousy ones, but not drinking hasn't been a problem for me. My wife keeps beer in the refrigerator. My friends have a glass of wine or three at dinner. The demons of temptation haven't come knocking.

I look at my drinking days as a phase of my life that has come and gone. The only Alcoholics Anonymous meetings I've ever attended were by a court order twenty years ago. But I know the AA route has worked for a lot of people, so I don't knock any method. When a struggling drinker asks for advice, I keep it short and simple. You won't quit until your heart tells you to, and if you do, quitting isn't going to solve the rest of your problems.

Quitting will, however, make them easier to deal with, although a snap hook or a chunked bunker shot are sure to test your resolve.

In September of 1995, I took a job with Golf World magazine, which meant moving out of the Baltimore-Washington area for the first time. Five years of clean living made the transition to Connecticut easier, but after covering mainstream sports my entire career, the game that had saved my life was quickly becoming my life, which isn't to say a man can't suffer worse fates.

I eagled marriage, joined a club, got a little better each year. By then Keating had launched his own magazine, Washington Golf Monthly, and we hooked up six or seven times between New York and D.C. for a series of best-ball matches with our editors. The north duo lost just once. My editor-in-chief, Geoff Russell, and I collected several hundred dollars in wagers. This is funny, because I do remember Keating telling me years earlier that he'd give me $100 if I ever beat him straight up.

Maybe the check's in the mail, or maybe I'll see him again someday, although it's fair to say Michael Keating is the reason this game has given me more than I ever could have imagined. The guy was bulletproof. I have a strong sense of gratitude. We'll call it even.


A Championship Friend

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR

By Brian Vickers

I wonder where to start.

In 2002, Ricky Hendrick and I became friends, and we had raced together a little bit, but we hadn't spent a whole lot of time together.

Then, at the last race of the year in Homestead, Florida, Ricky invited me over for a party he was having on his dad, Rick Hendrick's boat. They were looking for someone to replace Ricky in the No. 5 NASCAR Nationwide Series car, which he had decided not to drive the following year.

Ricky wanted it to be me. He called me up and said, "Hey, do you want this job?"

I said, "Absolutely."

It was a tough decision for me. I was racing for my family team at the time. We were pretty much done; we were out of sponsorship and were going to shut down anyway, but it was tough to make that choice. But this was the opportunity of a lifetime!

Rick had asked Ricky to run the team, but at the same time he wanted to be in control. He had a hard time letting go. He had someone else in mind to drive the car, but Ricky stood his ground. He basically said, "If you want me to run this team, this is who the driver is going to be. If you want to run it, that's fine. I'll do something else."

I didn't really know Rick at that time. Actually I had never met him, and I wanted to introduce myself and talk to him. So at the end of the race weekend, I went by his boat. I never told him how I knew where it was, though, until later on -- I knew where it was because the party was on it!

Rick and I sat and talked for more than an hour. Then I went down to the Keys and spent some vacation time with my family. A little while later, Ricky called and said, "If you want the job, it's yours." So I went to Hendrick Motorsports, worked out the details, and started driving for Ricky.

I remember we signed the contract at Rick's office. Rick had a garage out back and he had this awesome car, a Porsche Carrera. Ricky was showing me around, and Rick made some comment, jokingly -- "If you win the championship, I'll give you that car," or something like that. He's always throwing carrots out there. He's a great leader. He definitely knows how to motivate people, but obviously he didn't think we were going to win the championship our first year.

That was a great year. We were fortunate and ran very well. We won our first race together, Ricky and I, at the Indianapolis Raceway Park (IRP), which was a very special moment. It was a hard-fought win, but everybody did their job and we had a fast car.

At the time, Ricky and I and a few other guys lived together in Charlotte. We had a lot of good times. We became really close and had a lot of fun and made a lot of great memories. So we went back after the race and threw a big party to celebrate the win, and it was great.

Later on in the year we won some more races, and then we ended up winning the championship. Being able to win my first championship and win it with Ricky, the youngest owner ever to win a championship, is one of my most memorable moments in racing. I've never seen Rick more proud than when his son won the championship as an owner.

It was definitely a very, very special year.

The following season we raced in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. There were some ups and downs; your first year in Cup is usually a struggle.

Then in October, in Martinsville, Virginia, there was a plane crash. It killed Ricky and a lot of other good people. It was a very sad day. It was my 21st birthday; we had a big party planned that night.

It was a very hard time in my life. Ricky was like a brother to me.

But he accomplished a lot in the short time that he had. He impacted my life in so many positive ways, and gave me an opportunity I can never repay him for. He taught me by example to accomplish as much as you can every day, because you might not get another chance.

For the longest time I couldn't even talk about Ricky's passing, or think about it. I still think about him every day, every time I get into a race car. He was a great man and I think he was going to do a lot of great things.

I miss him.


Blooms of Wisdom

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

BY: Kathy Harris

I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.
~Emma Goldman

My mother loves flowers. As soon as warm weather comes around, you will find her planting, mulching, watering, weeding and fussing over everything from tulips to mums. For a number of years we lived next door to each other, and she spent as much time in my garden as she did her own. After the blooms became plentiful each summer, she would cut colorful bouquets to enjoy inside the house -- both hers and mine. I would often come home from work and find a beautiful arrangement of fresh flowers on my coffee table or bathroom vanity.

Shortly before Christmas one year, a local florist offered a bouquet-a-month special. It seemed to be a made-to-order gift for Mom, a great way to thank her for all of the flowers she had given me through the years. I couldn't wait until Christmas so I could give it to her!

After the holidays, in early January, I drove her to the florist to pick up her first month's bouquet. The small bunch of mixed blooms the florist handed her, while fresh and colorful, would hardly fill a small vase.

I was so embarrassed.

But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and moms are good at soothing their children's feelings. After we returned home, she began to arrange the half dozen stems she had received.

"Mom, I'm sorry," I told her. "I can't believe how skimpy that bouquet is."

She looked at me and smiled. "It's okay," she said as she adjusted the flowers. "It allows me to better enjoy the beauty of each one."

I was struck by the insightfulness of her remark, because it illustrated how much she loves flowers, each and every flower. Yet it also related, so poignantly, to life in general and helped me to realize something bigger and more important -- that when we have too many good things we often fail to enjoy the beauty of each one.

Thanks, Mom, for helping me understand that less is sometimes more.


Husband Instruction Manual

Chicken Soup for the Soul: True Love

BY: David Martin

Why does a woman work ten years to change a man's habits and then complain that he's not the man she married?
~Barbra Streisand

Congratulations on the acquisition of your brand new 2010 husband. You have chosen the best that modern biology has to offer in the way of life partners. While your 2010 husband is built to last a lifetime, these care and handling instructions will help you get the most out of your man.

Laundry instructions: Although we have implemented many improvements in this year's model (e.g. -- automatic toilet seat replacement, limited childcare abilities, expectoration and flatulence control), we have not yet perfected an automatic self-laundering option. Thus, you must repeatedly remind your husband to pick up his dirty clothes, sort his laundry by color, and wash appropriate-sized loads. Some owners have found it easier to simply perform these functions themselves.

Dressing instructions: Most husbands come with only two wardrobe options -- work and casual. Therefore please ensure that you assist your husband in any clothing purchases in order to avoid nasty fashion surprises. As in past years, the 2010 husband has pre-set fashion preferences which may clash with your taste. To date, we have yet to perfect an acceptable "color sense" module although the deluxe accessory package does include a formalwear option for occasional use. WARNING: Constant wardrobe monitoring is strongly recommended especially on weekends. Repeated exposure to baggy sweatpants and hole-filled T-shirts may void the warranty.

Cooking instructions: If you chose the deluxe accessory package, you can count on your husband to successfully cook meals on his own for many years to come. The standard model, on the other hand, has few kitchen skills and a limited cuisine. Unless you're willing to invest the time necessary to train your husband in the culinary arts, don't expect much beyond making toast and boiling water. However, all models do come equipped with the outdoor barbecue function.

Listening instructions: Despite years of research, we have not yet been able to produce a husband who really listens. Wives are free to urge their spouses to listen and "express their feelings" but we can offer no guarantees that you will achieve any meaningful results. Through persistent effort, some customers have trained their husbands to adopt a semi-satisfying simulated listening posture.

Fitness instructions: Your 2010 husband is properly proportioned and in good shape. However, in order to retain that shape and those proportions, you must insist on a strict regimen of daily exercise and a healthy diet. Failure to keep your husband active and eating properly will often result in a sluggish spouse with a widening waistline and a sagging seat. WARNING: Do not rely on in-home exercise equipment and always ration beer, pizza, and chips carefully.

Romance instructions: Although the listening capabilities of the 2010 husband are limited, he does possess excellent eyesight. Thus, in order to activate the romance function, emphasize visual stimuli. Sophisticated conversational and emotional skills are still not available on the 2010 husband although our genetic engineers hope to have an improved product ready by the next millennium.

LIMITED WARRANTY: Our 2010 husband is guaranteed against defects in workmanship for ninety (90) days. If, for any reason, you wish to return your husband during the warranty period, we will issue a full refund but only if he is returned in his original packaging. After that, you're on your own.


If I Didn't Laugh, I'd Cry

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

BY: Anne Dunne

Every survival kit should include a sense of humor.
~Author Unknown

Every survival kit should include a sense of humor.
~Author Unknown

The phone rang just as I finished my morning coffee. I cringed at the insistent intrusion into my day so early in the morning, but I also knew it meant bad news.

"Want me to get that?" I yelled to my husband John.

"No, I will," he said with resignation in his voice.

We both knew what the call was about before he even picked up the receiver. His sales client for the morning was canceling, again. This was becoming a daily ritual.

With the downturn of the economy John had fewer and fewer sales calls. Designing and selling kitchens wasn't exactly a lucrative business right now. Add to the mix the fact I had retired early last year due to health challenges, that John is well into retirement age, and, well, "Houston, we have a problem."

My husband had turned from a loving, carefree guy to being what I called "a grouchapotamus." We used to laugh and kid about all sorts of things but lately there wasn't much laughter in our home. I was becoming increasingly tense and John was keeping to himself. I knew something had to give or we were going to explode or implode -- I wasn't sure which.

I called my friend Gerry to chat about my problems.

"Anna, don't worry. His bad moods are his way of handling what he can't say. He can't tell you he's scared and worried."

"But, I would tell him if I was," I argued back.

"Guys aren't like that," she counseled. "They just don't talk like we do."

"You can bet on that," I said. "I'm going to try to get him to open up if it kills me."

"Well, good luck with that," Gerry replied.

We went on to talk about other happier things, our kids, and the latest television shows.

John had worked in the yard all day and fell asleep right after dinner. So much for our chat.

The next morning I waited until he had finished his coffee and broached the subject of feelings.

"So, how are you feeling about the loss of your clients and sales?" I asked.

"How do you think I feel?" John replied in a testy tone of voice.

Well, suffice it to say, it went downhill from there. Before long we were screaming at each other, hurts were hurled back and forth, and before I knew it I blurted out "I want a divorce."

"Fine, but you'll have to leave," my husband yelled back.

I left the house in tears and jumped in my car. I trembled as I drove in circles for a half hour and finally pulled over and parked in a neighborhood near our house. I hated to call our grown daughter, but she was wise beyond her years and I needed to hear a friendly voice.

"Hi Karen," I blubbered through my tears.

"Mom, what's wrong?"

"I think Dad and I are getting a divorce after forty-four years," I said.

"You're not serious."

"Yeah, I just can't live with him like this. We're bickering all the time and he won't talk to me," I sobbed.

"You two can't break up. You've always worked through the hard times," she counseled.

"Yeah, but this time is different. He won't let me in. It's his damn ego; you know it's all tied into his performance as a salesman."

"Go home, talk to him in a loving way. Scott and I had a really bad fight one time and I told him I wanted a divorce. I didn't know what to say after that. I knew I had to mend things so I prayed, ‘God, you have to help me, I'm lost here, I don't know where to turn or what to say,' and when I talked to Scott, the right words just came out. Try it."

"Ok, I'll give it a shot. It can't get any worse," I said.

I went home but John had left for his weekly sales meeting. I started some laundry and then I made my lunch with a heavy heart. Just as I was putting a pot of tea on the stove, John walked in. My heart flipped when I saw him. What was I going to say?

Before I had a chance to speak, he came over and put his arms around me in a big bear hug.

I was surprised but I hugged him back.

"I love you," he whispered. "I hate it when we fight."

"I love you too, so much."

"So, are you going to divorce me?" he asked with a sheepish grin on his face.

"No, I figured in this economy I can't afford it," I replied.

And he let out a big belly laugh, something I hadn't heard in a long time. I won't lie and say everything is great all the time, but we started a dialog that night that continues to grow. Maybe it's the couple that laughs together that stays together.


среда, 7 апреля 2010 г.

Field Trip Fiasco

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales

BY: Ron Kaiser, Jr.
When I accepted the teaching position at the small private school in the Green Mountains of Vermont, I expected to be passing on my love of language to middle-school children with learning disabilities. I did not expect to be standing in a parking lot with a bleeding little girl surrounded by Vermont state troopers, hands at their holsters. But that was exactly my position at 11:25 AM one August day.

At seven years old, Sabrina was on her third set of adoptive parents when she showed up at Autumn Acres. Our little school only housed about sixty kids, but they were sixty kids who'd already seen more horrible things than most people ever see. Sabrina had it worst of all.

I wasn't with them at recess when it happened, but Sabrina managed to climb fifteen feet up a tree and then fall. When I came into work Monday morning, teachers huddled in corners, from which I could hear snatches of conversation: "... wasn't being watched... shouldn't be left alone... bit her tongue completely in half...."

Sabrina showed up for school on Friday with her jaw wired shut. They were able to re-attach the tongue, but there had been significant nerve damage, and it was questionable that she'd ever be able to speak normally again. Mr. Garrity, the principal, pulled me aside as I was warming up the van to take the kids on a field trip.

"Mr. Kaiser, we really want to get Sabrina reintegrated into the population as quickly as possible."

"Sabrina? I don't know if bringing her is a good idea. We'll be walking a couple of miles. If something should happen..."

"Look, Mr. Kaiser. Rather than punish her even more, I'd like you to take her along on the field trip today."

Of course they wanted Sabrina to go on the field trip. That way none of the administrators would have to deal with her back at the school.

I parked the raucous student-packed van in the handicapped spot at the Green Mountain Animal Sanctuary. Mrs. Bourne, the science teacher, got out of the van, and opened the back door to let the kids out to stretch their legs and eat the orange slices we'd brought for snack. The seven other teachers walked over with their lists. Each teacher would have eight students.

I heard a cough behind me, and there sat Sabrina alone in the van. I looked at my clipboard; she was not mine. Her blue eyes looked even bigger than usual, her face drawn and her jaw sticking out as if she was angry. I couldn't tell if she truly was, or if the wiring made her look so. I stepped into the van and extended my hand to her, and her big eyes became narrow slits. She shook her head vigorously. She didn't know me. To someone who'd experienced terrible things at the hands of those closest to her, a stranger must have looked like another predator. I stepped back and Sabrina extended a white, skinny arm to Mrs. Bourne.

Mrs. Bourne took her group straight to the skunk pen, outside of which was a table holding little metal cans. Each can had a perforated top, and everyone was invited to pick up a can and smell the skunk's musk. The badger pen was located near the skunk pen and the badger musk smelled like the worst armpit in the world according to one boy. He was right. I gagged after I lifted the can to my nose.

We continued on the winding tarmac to the hut housing the moles. When I stepped through the doorway I saw Sabrina standing perfectly still and staring up at a mole burrow behind the glass. Behind her was what looked like a giant captain's wheel, but with badgers and moles and skunks and mountain lions and other animals painted on it. When the wheel stopped, the animals would be lined up with either what they preyed on, or what preyed on them. But it was the wheel itself that preyed on little Sabrina, because when she took a step back, the wheel's wooden handle slammed right down on top of her head. She collapsed to her knees and I heard the haunting, muted cry of a child trying to scream through a wired jaw. Sabrina's lips were drawn back as far as they would go and her teeth were bared to expose the thin strips of metal running across her teeth, and blood seeped from between her teeth. She'd bitten her tongue stitches.

I radioed for help, and fearing she might choke on her blood, I stooped and in one motion tipped her over into my arms and stood. She immediately began kicking her feet wildly and thrashing and screaming as if she had a gag in her mouth. I began running the mile or so back to the van.

Sabrina was still kicking as I ran, and her attempts at screaming had jetted blood from between her teeth all over the right side of my head and face. Sabrina was only sixty pounds, but she began to get heavy as I plodded along, fetching strange looks from bystanders who saw a man running away with a screaming, bloody girl who sounded as if she'd been gagged.

The science teacher Catharine had heard my radio transmission and she was waiting at the van, with a little boy named Derek.

She said, "Do you want me to drive her to the hospital?"

"I can drive her. Can you just get her in the van for me? She doesn't trust me." I put Sabrina down and Catharine took both her hands and bent down, whispered something to her. Surprisingly, Sabrina stepped into the van and sat in the very back. Derek climbed in and even snapped her seatbelt on, then belted himself in too.

"Can I come?"

"Oh, um, actually that's not a bad idea, Derek." I started the van and heard movement behind me -- Sabrina was trying to unbuckle her seatbelt, and Derek was holding her hands so she couldn't.

"Hip-hop!" cried Derek. "She likes hip-hop!" I tuned the radio to a rap station.

"Turn it up! Loud!" he cried. In the rearview mirror, I could see Sabrina smiling in her blood-sprayed white T-shirt, bouncing to the rhythm.

I called the school on my way to the hospital, but they gave me other instructions. Sabrina's parents did not want her brought to the small local hospital, but to Children's Hospital Boston, where she had her tongue sewed back on in the first place. I started to protest, but she did seem okay back there with Derek, so I agreed to meet Sabrina's parents in a parking lot on Main Street.

And it was there, with hip-hop music blasting, blood-covered Sabrina and Derek dancing, leaning against the driver's door myself covered with blood, that the three Vermont state police cruisers arrived and surrounded me.

They exited their vehicles and, gun hands at their hips, slowly began walking toward me. I was leaning on the car watching this unfold, thinking this was just what I needed to top off this wonderful day.

"I've got a hurt kid here -- I'm waiting for her parents to pick her up!" I yelled. They closed in, and I handed over my license. They seemed to think they'd caught me at something. Then I saw an older woman standing on her porch, peeking out from behind a post with a cordless phone in her hand. Of course I would probably have thought it suspicious too if I saw a man in his late twenties hanging out with a bloody little girl, having a hip-hop dance party in a parking lot. As it turned out, they thought I was a pedophile luring children with music.

When I look back at that day, my most stressful ever of teaching, what sticks in my mind is not being mistaken for a pedophile, or any animosity toward poor wounded Sabrina, but the kindness of that little boy Derek, who like so many good people who pass briefly through our lives, touched me with his goodwill and moved on before I let him know how grateful I was.


A Dad Says Goodbye

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Wisdom of Dads

BY: Joseph Danziger
Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay

I watched her and her mother decorate her college dormitory room. Everything in place, organized and arranged, just so. Attractively designed bulletin board with carefully selected, and precisely cut, colored paper. Pictures and remembrances throughout of her dearest friends. Drawers and boxes under the bed. Her room nicely accommodates not only her clothes, accessories and bric-a-brac, but her roommate's as well. I closely monitor that which I would have, in the past, ignored, knowing that this time is different. As her half of the room takes on her essence, I begin to accept that her room at home is no longer hers. It is now ours. Our room for her when she visits.

I find myself thinking of when I held her in the cradle of my arm, in the chair alongside my wife's hospital bed. One day old. So small, so beautiful, so perfect, so totally reliant on her new, untested parents. All manner of thoughts went through my mind as I examined her every feature for what seemed to be an eternity. Time marches relentlessly.

She looks up now, catching me staring at her, causing her to say to her mother, "Mom, Dad's looking at me funny."

The last few days, I touch her arm, her face -- anything -- knowing that when my wife and I return home, she will not be with us and there will be nothing to touch. I have so much to say, but no words with which to say it.

My life changed from the day I drove this child home from the hospital. I saw myself differently that day, and it has led to a lot of places that I would never have found on my own.

She says, "It'll be all right, Dad. I'll be home from school soon." I tell her she will have a great year, but I say little else. I am afraid somehow to speak, afraid I'll say something too small for what I'm feeling, and so I only hold on to our goodbye hug a little longer, a little tighter.

I gaze into her eyes and turn to go. My wife's eyes follow her as she leaves us. Mine do not. Maybe if I don't look, I can imagine that she really hasn't gone. I know that what she is embarking upon is exciting and wonderful. I remember what the world looked like to me when everything was new.

As I walk to the car with my wife at my side, my eyes are wet, my heart is sore, and I realize that my life is changing forever.


воскресенье, 4 апреля 2010 г.

My Worst -- and Best Easter

Chicken Soup for the Soul: True Love

BY: Natalia K. Lusinski
Easter spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life.
~S.D. Gordon

They always say, "You just know, and it will happen when you least expect it," but I never believed them. Especially in L.A. In ten years of living there, dating was among my favorite -- and least favorite -- of hobbies.

After yet another handful of bad dates -- which included a guy who told me he does coke ("but just quarterly"), a guy who said he is getting better in regard to his last break-up ("though we might get back together"), and a guy who proceeded to flirt with everyone except for me at a party I took him to ("I had a great time," he said -- little did I know I had set up a speed dating event -- just for him) -- I had had enough. And that was all in the same week. And, in L.A., this was typical. Quantity, not quality, and I was tired of it. Having grown up in the Midwest, where were all the guys with Midwestern manners? I had the best boyfriend ever before I moved to L.A. and was convinced all these bad dates were payback for my breaking his heart ten years earlier.

"They" also say to meet someone through friends. But guess what? The above three examples prove "them" very wrong.

This last date, the speed dating one, took place on Easter, with a guy from church at a post-Easter brunch. And I didn't think of his behavior as anything more than un-Christian. The previous year, I had given up dating for Lent; now, I wondered why I hadn't this year, too.

Easter night, a group of my non-Christian friends were meeting for dinner as they did every Sunday night. After the above, being in another group situation was the last thing I wanted to do. But since I was all dressed up and had nowhere else to go, I thought, "Why not?"

For the next hour, I sat parked in front of the restaurant, on the phone with my friend Courtney debating whether or not to go inside. At the time, it was more fun to complain about my day and why not to go in.

"I'm not dating anymore," I told her. "It's too hard. I'm just going to focus on my writing," I added. "Yeah, but that's hard, too," Courtney said. "Yet you keep doing it." True, I thought. "Just forget about them, truly forget about them," Courtney added. "You know that everything happens for a reason, and there is someone better out there for you than a flirty guy who wants his ex-girlfriend back and does coke quarterly," she said. I couldn't help but laugh; I knew she was right.

I decided to go into the restaurant, only to realize I had left my driver's license in a drugstore across town, one that was closing in a half-hour. I drove back to get it, then drove back to the dinner, wondering if it was even worth going in anymore, over an hour later.

Outside the restaurant, I saw a guy at the valet, Tyler, whom I had known six years prior, one whom I had had a crush on. He asked if I wanted to go have a drink. Though it was tempting, I knew my friends were waiting for me, and I wanted to see them, so I declined. I secretly thanked God for the ego boost as I stepped inside.

Once there, I saw another guy I knew, Paul, one I had met a couple years ago, one of those people you meet and have chemistry with, yet neither of you are single, so you say you'll stay in touch, but don't. Yet here he was, alone. We talked for a few minutes, and he told me he would find me before he left. Fair enough.

I thanked God for the second ego boost, and finally met up with my friends. After we caught up a bit, a guy and girl whom I did not know joined our table. The guy, David, was sitting next to me, and we soon started talking... and talking... and talking. A few minutes in, I started to like the guy -- he was just so... normal, didn't flirt with everyone in the room, and had no ex-girlfriends or coke habits to speak of. I couldn't remember the last time I had clicked with someone so immediately.

However, I had no clue if the girl David arrived with was his girlfriend. I certainly didn't want to talk to him so much if she was, like the speed dating guy had done to me. I asked David about the girl: they were just friends. Phew.

David and I then remembered we had first met eight months prior, at a friend's birthday party. I had even taken a group photo at the party, with him in it. We also discovered that we had been at the same Halloween party months before, yet never saw each other at it (back then, I had a boyfriend, so checking out other guys wasn't on my radar). Finally, David and I realized we shared a best friend, Jeremy.

I suggested we each text Jeremy to tell him we had met. I had given up texting for Lent, so this was my first post-Lenten text. Jeremy wrote right back. I opened my phone for David and I to read at the same time, without reading the text myself first. It said, "Hey, I was thinking of setting you two up. :) He seems like your type." I don't know who turned more red, me or David. "This will be a good story someday, of how we started dating," we said in unison, a little perplexed, yet intrigued.

Jeremy had also texted David, asking how we had met. "J-Date," David wrote back jokingly. The funny thing was, just the other week, I had told Jeremy I was going to go on J-Date, for another Christian girl I know went on and ended up marrying a guy from there. Little did Jeremy know that David was kidding. (If you are reading this now, Jeremy, I guess the secret's out.)

Jeremy then texted me, saying "You're on a J-Date even though you're Catholic? And on Easter? Is that allowed?" "God has a great sense of humor," is all I thought. After all, Easter is a time of rebirth.