суббота, 29 декабря 2012 г.

Try a Smile

By Ferida Wolff

The world always looks brighter from behind a smile.
~Author Unknown

I was at the post office early that morning, hoping to be in and out and on my way at the start of a busy day. Instead, I found myself standing on a line that zigzagged through rope-defined lanes and oozed out into the hallway. I had never seen so many people there and it wasn't even a holiday. Someone must have made an announcement that I obviously missed, welcoming patrons with as many packages as they could possibly carry to bring them in at the exact time I needed to have my own parcel weighed. The line moved excruciatingly slowly. My mood turned edgy, then annoyed. The longer it took, the angrier I became. When I got to the counter — finally! — I concluded my business quickly and curtly and strode past the line that was now extending past the front door.
"Excuse me," I said, trying not to be too pushy. Several people had to shift to make room for me to get to the exit.

I strode out grumbling under my breath about inefficiency and how I was going to be late getting to my dentist appointment. I was scowling as I headed into the parking lot.

A woman was coming across the lot in my direction. She was walking with determination, each step pounding the ground like a mini-jackhammer. I noticed that her brow was tightly furrowed and she looked as if she could breathe fire. It stopped me in my tracks. I recognized myself and it wasn't pretty. Had I looked like that? Her body language said that she was having a really rough day. My anger melted away. I wished I could wrap her in a hug but I was a stranger. So I did what I could in the brief minute before she barreled past me — I smiled. In the space of a second everything changed. I could tell that she was startled, then somewhat confused. Then her face softened and her shoulders relaxed. I saw her take a deep breath. Her pace slowed and she smiled back at me as we passed each other.

I continued to smile all the way to my car. Wow, I thought. Look what a simple smile can do.

The rest of the day felt like a meditation on smiling. I became aware of people's expressions and my own, of the way we show our emotions so plainly. Now I use that awareness on an everyday basis, letting it remind me that when I am fighting the world, or see someone else in that position, I can try a smile. More often than not, the energy of the moment shifts with that one little gesture. The smile on the outside turns inward and the day becomes new again, turning a bright face toward the activities that are yet to come.

пятница, 28 декабря 2012 г.

"Daddy's Girl"

By Lisa Plowman Dolensky

Properly trained, a man can be a dog's best friend.
~Corey Ford

It was the day before New Year's Eve and my husband Ed said, "I still need a little more time to finish grad school before starting our family." I cried for hours, unable to fall asleep. I even called the Crisis Center and poured out my emotions for about three hours. (While he snored.) We had already been married four years, my "baby hope chest" of Golden Books was full, and there was a hole in my heart.
Books do not cry, wet, sleep, cuddle, or need you. So I decided to adopt "our first baby" at the pound. Ed would just have to understand.

I expected to pick a young pup, not more than two months old. I viewed cage after cage and petted yipping, yapping, jumping, snapping puppies of all kinds. Then my eyes locked with the sweetest and saddest brown eyes I had ever seen. Brown eyes just like "Daddy Ed's." A paw squeezed through the chain link. The fur and toe pads were baby soft. My hand was repeatedly kissed. I whispered, "Don't worry, Mama's here!"

The Humane Society attendant noticed my interest and said, "That's Princess!"

Princess was a little over six months old and was nearly full grown at thirty-something pounds. She looked as if she should be wearing dangly rhinestone earrings and a diamond studded collar. She was glamorous, with long black fur that framed her face and was crowned with upright pointed ears. Princess resembled a giant Pomeranian, but was in fact a hybrid of Spitz and Chow. When she stood up, her back hind leg haunches revealed a petticoat of whitish gray hair that continued under her tail. One could not help but smile because she looked like she had just unknowingly sat down in wet white paint and walked away.

I proudly purchased her and agreed to pick her up the next Saturday morning. I broke the news cowardly over the phone to Ed's voicemail, "We are now the proud owners of a precious puppy!" Click.

He took me first thing Saturday to buy ALL the things the new dog would need and announced them one by one in his parental tone: bowl$, lea$h, something to $leep on, collar$, $tuff to eat, chew toy$, etc. He was a natural. He smugly enjoyed watching me $quirm as I $pent about $200 on dog care purcha$e$ with my own money, which did not even include the vet and groomer vi$it$ yet to take place. I suddenly felt nauseous and had morning $ickne$$.

With the trunk packed with the pup's nursery-to-go, we arrived for our long awaited special delivery. Ed was surprised when he saw what a "big puppy" she was. She trembled as he carried her in both his arms threshold style to the car. That was the first time Daddy and his girl bonded.

That first night and every one after, she slept on the top basement step because that was as close to us as she could get once we turned in. We also soon named her Ed's favorite name for a future daughter, "Sophie." (Which can also be written: $ophie.) Sophie was often the topic of our dinner conversations. Like proud parents, we talked about her latest milestones and naughty chewing habits. We marveled at how she would walk up the driveway like a bear on back legs growling at the mailbox or recycling cart. We talked about how she loved to be held. She was amazingly quiet, probably because of the Chow in her, but the vet assured us that she had the cordial mentality of a Spitz.

I groomed her myself weekly, with tub, shampoo, and toothbrush. Once I was blow-drying her hair as we sat on the back deck while roofers were working next door. Can you believe the hammering stopped when the "brrrrwhrrrr!" of the blowdryer started? We must have been quite a sight. Every evening, I would pull in the garage after a long day's work, and I'd see Sophie stand up with pricked ears looking out the basement door window. Her dark silhouette looked like Batman and she would jump with excitement as I approached, humming the theme, "Daaa, daaa, daaa ,daa ,daaa, daaaa... Batman!" Late at night I rocked her and sang a favorite lullaby, "You are my sunshine!" She was loving and loyal.

Until one weekend morning. Something changed. Sophie bypassed me and ran to Ed first, licking his ankles constantly. Future mornings and evenings she greeted him most affectionately and vied for his attention. I might as well have been an empty food bowl. She was acknowledging me less enthusiastically. I had no idea why... but she suddenly preferred him. I admit I was privately jealous and puzzled. After all, I was the one who rescued her, fed her, walked her, brushed her, bathed her and changed her newspaper! I told myself that the loyalty switch was just a gender thing. Girl-dogs like boys. I put my frustrations aside and unconditionally doted upon her. I still loved her tremendously even if she seemed to love Ed more.

One Saturday during dinner I nonchalantly asked, "Have you noticed how much Sophie adores you?" Ed's eyes darted away. No comment. I continued, "I can tell that she likes you better. Have you noticed?" He deflected my remarks by shrugging them off and quickly changing the subject. Obviously, he knew I was hurting and wondering. How sweet... but he didn't offer any reason why or speculate. The only thing I was certain of was that she and I had good taste in men. I just had to accept that he was her favorite parent despite the fact that he did less for her.

The next afternoon I had forgotten my wallet before running an errand and entered the kitchen through the back door because it was faster than garage entry. At the time I didn't realize it was also quieter. And there they were... caught in the act! "Grrrr! Grrrrr!" Both Ed and Sophie were growling, positioned opposite each other; on all fours, rear ends high in the air, sharing a dish towel in their mouths. They were playing tug of war!!!

I stood there watching in disbelief. Amused, amazed, and betrayed.

Then Ed's alpha male primal animal instinct sensed my presence. He turned his head and caught a glimpse of me in his peripheral vision. His end of the rag dropped from his mouth as his face full-blushed red in seconds. I believe at this point I won the dominant stare-off. Sophie jumped on him repeatedly trying to get back in the game. But the game was over. It was clear to me now why Sophie was indeed Daddy's Girl. A "Daddy's Girl" who would forever have her father's eyes and mother's heart.

A Little Bird Told Me

By Laura Robinson

Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible and receives the impossible.
~Author Unknown

I am sitting in the movie theater with my husband and tears are welling up in my eyes. We are watching About Schmidt with Jack Nicholson. It's the scene where a colleague is looking at a photo of Jack's daughter on his desk and says, "She's beautiful, does she live close by?" Jack responds, "She's the apple of my eye. I think about her every day. She's 3,000 miles away, in California, but it's okay — I see her a couple of times a year."
In the darkened theater, my husband glances over at me and whispers, "Honey what's wrong?" Tears are streaming down my cheeks now, and I choke out the words, "We have to move back to Canada. I have to be with my Dad."

I had always been the apple of my daddy's eye, and I knew that he was thinking of me every day, many times a day. I grew up in Toronto, Canada, but had moved to Los Angeles to be an actress. I was enjoying a successful career, had found an amazing group of friends and loved L.A. But I missed my family so much, and they missed me. I had been living in California for fifteen years. I had gotten married, and had two wonderful children. And even though we always came home for Christmas, and my parents came to see us in the spring, it never felt like enough. I had watched both my husband and my best friend lose their dad and mom, respectively. I saw how devastating that had been for them. My husband had been planning to go on a trip with his dad for years — they never got to do it. My best friend got a call that her mom was in I.C.U., raced to the hospital to be with her, but did not make it there in time.

The secondhand experience of those losses became a huge blessing in my life.

My dad was having health issues and a voice in my head had been getting louder and louder: it was telling me that time might be running low for him. Nothing was technically life-threatening, but my "daughter's intuition" was on high alert, and I was listening. And I am so grateful that I was, because in that moment, in that movie, I made the decision to totally re-route my life... and, thankfully, my husband and kids supported my decision and happily came along on the adventure with me.

We moved back the summer of 2003. Instead of seeing my parents twice a year, we started to see them every week. We all had so many great times together. My dad came to see my son play hockey, played cards with my daughter, and he and I would go out for breakfast a lot — that was one of our favorite things to do. We did all the simple little things there isn't time for when visits are rushed or pressured and you are trying to fit a million things into one week's vacation.

I wanted to be there for my dad, and I was. I wanted to have my kids get to know him, and they did. Most of all, as crazy as it seemed, and as hard as it was for me to leave my friends and life, I followed my heart, and for that I will always be grateful.

Because, after four and a half years, it happened. My dad went into the hospital for simple issues with circulation and one night, in front of my eyes, he had a massive heart attack and the next morning he died.

I was shocked, bereft and confused — but I was there.

I did not get the dreaded phone call in the middle of the night. Did not have to fly home and experience all the guilt and regrets that would have gone along with losing him and not being present. I had played that scenario out in my mind, and had done something about it before it happened.

Cut to the day of my dad's funeral. I was brushing my teeth, staring at myself in the mirror in the daze that comes at such a time. Drained, beyond tired, and cried-out, I caught a little movement out of the corner of my eye. A bird was sitting in the middle of the tree outside the bathroom window. I walked over to the window, turned the crank and opened it. I thought the bird might fly away at the sound — but it didn't. In fact, it never moved a feather and kept its eyes glued to mine. Suddenly, the world went very quiet, and everything distilled down to the bird and the tree and me. And in that moment, I knew it was my dad, coming to tell me he was okay, and that I would be okay. I felt my deep sorrow lift a little and the bird and I stayed there, our eyes locked on each other for a long time. I finally had to turn away, and when I looked back a split second later, the tree was empty.

Later that week, I was telling the story to a dear friend. She asked me, "What kind of bird was it?" "A robin," I said, "but he had grey feathers, which is unusual. I don't know why, but I felt like it was my dad." My friend grabbed my hand and said, "A robin? Laura, your last name is Robinson."

And there was one more piece to the story. I got an e-mail from another friend who had been quite close to my dad. She said she had asked a year or so earlier, that when he died, he would send her a sign, and then send the same one to me. My dad had agreed. She was writing to ask me if I had had any "signs" since his passing.

I wrote back and told her my robin story. She immediately replied, "I am covered in shivers right now, because the sign your dad and I agreed upon was a red bird. There was a cardinal on my deck yesterday. He stared at me for ten minutes. I'm sure it was your dad!" I understood then, without a shadow of a doubt that my dad had come to me, was watching over me and would continue to.

It's always so hard to lose a beloved parent, but what I am grateful for is that I do not have to live with regret: regret that I had moved so far away, that there hadn't been enough time to be together and to reconnect again after all those years. At the funeral, I said that I knew I had been unconditionally loved every minute of my life. I feel so lucky to have had that blessing.

I miss him every day but I have peace in my heart... and a little bird on my shoulder.

Shaping Up

By Dayle Allen Shockley

I have gained and lost the same ten pounds so many times over and over again my cellulite must have déjà vu.
~Jane Wagner

Staring at myself in the cruel light shining on the dressing room mirror, I said aloud, "I look pathetic." I meant every word of it. Without question, a good ten pounds had to come off — the same ten pounds that had appeared on every New Year's resolution list in recent memory.
I usually managed to take off the weight. I had plenty of practice and knew precisely how to adjust my diet in the kitchen, but the weight seemed to always creep back on when I wasn't looking. Something seemed to be missing and I knew what it was — exercise.

So, this year was going to be different. I resolved to pull out all the stops. I wanted to be toned and firmed and fit as a fiddle. I felt great when I discovered a woman's health club not far from home.

My first visit included embarrassing stuff, like recording vital statistics, my weight, and my body fat. I would begin classes designed to tone and firm my flab the following week.

Monday found me purchasing workout attire. I even found a gym bag with coordinating colors. My husband watched with a look that said, "Go ahead, but you'll fizzle out within a month." I deserved that look. Three years earlier, after my doctor recommended a good exercise program for my back, I had hired a professional trainer to come to my home and devise a customized workout for me. I was ecstatic about the possibilities and did everything she advised — for about six weeks.

"Never mind that," I told myself, "this time would be different."

At one o'clock, Wednesday afternoon, I marched into the gym; my spiffy bag flung across my shoulders in a way I hoped made me appear a veteran at working out.

Joining my fellow-flabbies on the exercise floor, I was pleasantly surprised to discover all shapes and sizes.

As the music started, an instructor named Kinsey, not weighing more than ninety pounds, stood before us and began barking orders.

"Okay! Are we ready?"

I was. At least, I thought so.

"Stand up nice and tall!" she yelled. "That's it! Let's warm up our shoulders and arms! Here we go! Roll 'em in! Take 'em out! Roll 'em in! And take 'em out! Great!"

Just about the time I mastered rolling 'em in and taking 'em out, the music's tempo shifted, and Kinsey yelled, "Okay! Let's warm up the upper back and those abdominal muscles!"

Oh, boy. I was short of breath already. If this was a mere warm-up, I smelled trouble.

"Keep those abdominals tight, ladies! Take it down! And pull it out! Beautiful! Take it down! And pull it out! Great! You feel it stretching?"

Not to worry. The leotard would never be the same.

"Stretch it out!" Kinsey screamed. "Use your legs now!"

Mine were trembling violently.

Kinsey was merciless. "Lunge!" she hollered, in perfect syncopation with the music. "Lunge! Two, three, four. Lunge! Two, three, four. Beautiful!"

I noticed Kinsey hadn't broken a sweat. To make matters worse, she was staring right at me.

"If you start to feel weak," she yelled, not missing a step, "take a little break." She smiled in my direction. "Side to side, now!" she screamed. "Come on, ladies! Push it back! Move those legs! Push it back! Keep that tummy tight!"

A couple of hours later, I dragged myself into the house and collapsed in a pile on the den floor. I now understood why exercise helped you lose weight: You were too tired to eat.

I still lay in a flaccid heap when my husband arrived home. "What happened to you?" he asked.

"Exercise," I moaned. "Call 911."

"I will make supper," he offered. I could only groan.

Later, as I trudged to the table, my face a picture of distress, my husband grinned.

"Are you making fun of me?" I asked, annoyed.

"No," he chuckled.

"So why are you laughing?"

"I am laughing at how silly you are."

I looked puzzled.

"There is nothing wrong with your body," he said. "and you aren't even close to fat." He patted my shoulder reassuringly.

As we said grace, I kept my head bowed a moment longer. I wanted to say special thanks for a man who not only knew how to cook, but how to stay out of hot water, as well.

Yet a Word May Change Your Life...

By JC Sullivan

Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I used to think that to make big changes in your life, you had to do big things. Harboring a bit of a defeatist attitude, I also assumed that big, scary actions would cost enormous amounts of money, which I didn't have. So, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy that I couldn't change my life and I stayed in my safe rut.
My optimistic friend Donna changed all that. A native Californian, she taught me the power of word choice. Reminding me that it was absolutely free, she took away my self-imposed economic barrier.

"Watch what you say because your subconscious hears the exact words, not what you 'mean to' say."

At first it sounded a bit "airy-fairy," but, with the proverbial nothing to lose, I decided to try it. Wow. This simple but potent piece of advice soon became a catalyst for all kinds of fantastic changes in my life, making me the most positive I have ever been.

Slowly I stopped using the word "can't," and that forced me to recognize that everything was a choice. Instead of saying, "I can't go with you tonight" I would say things like, "I wish I could go with you, but I already have plans and I don't cancel on my friends." I would try and remind my subconscious that I was choosing a different option; there is always another way. Sometimes it forced me out of old habits. Instead of saying, "I can't, I have to work," I found myself asking my boss for a vacation day!

I began to think more about which words I selected, trying to be as specific as possible about what I was trying to express. The next word to go was "should." Says who? The word "should" symbolized something I felt obligated to do but I didn't want to do. Instead, I started doing what I liked.

Unfortunately, I was getting great offers to attend events and go out for dinner and my time at my health club was taking a back seat. That led me to working out in the morning. While I'll probably never be a morning person, it was a great way to ensure that I got my workouts in. Nora, a good friend I met when I changed my workout routine, explained this phenomenon to me.

"Early morning, before you head into the office, is the only time you own. After that, your job can easily take over." How right she was!

Then I got rid of "never," replacing it with "not yet," particularly when responding to a travel question. For example, when someone asked me if I had ever been to a remote island in the Pacific, I would proudly answer, "No, not yet." Instead of closing a door, this expands the possibility of at least going someday.

I kept practicing and paying attention to my word choices. Over time, they became automatic. My careful word choices, practiced for months, became habits... habits that had a profound effect and got me to a positive place.

My best example took place when I was traveling. I had gone to Córdoba (the second largest city in Argentina), to spend some time with my friend Monique when a friend of hers, Regina, walked in and joined us. We were quickly laughing like old friends. Regina was originally from Ireland but had been living in the United Arab Emirates (in Dubai and then in Abu Dhabi) for some time.

"Wow!" I exclaimed. "I would love to go there."

"You've never been to Dubai?" Regina asked.

"Nope. Not yet."

"Well, what's keeping you? Come visit! You can stay with me — I'd love the company!"

I was dumbfounded. Here was a free place to stay in an Arab country known for ultra luxury hotels with Rolls-Royces and helicopter landings. How cool would that be? Cool, yes. But, me? No. I was scared out of my mind at the possibility of how easily my dream could happen! Fear was holding me hostage.

So I looked for an out. "You can take it back," I said. "I'm a backpacker without responsibilities and with a bunch of frequent flier miles, so I could come and visit you. Easily."

Regina, a wonderfully optimistic person, looked at me and shook her head.

"Darling, I'm a very straightforward person. I invited you, so I mean it. You're welcome to come and stay with me. Just tell me when."

One look at my doubting face and she added, "I'm not going to un-invite you. I'd love to show you around. We'd have a blast."

"But you barely know me!" I protested.

"We get along great. I have an extra couch and time off. We can visit Oman. Have you ever been there?"

I was too shocked to even spit out my classic, "No. Not yet."

"Where else is on your bucket list?" she wanted to know.

"Egypt. I would really love to see the pyramids."

"FlyDubai. They're a great budget airline and you can find ridiculously cheap airfares there. Of course, Egypt is pretty close."

I was too terrified to act that day. Eventually, thinking about how much fun it would be, I gathered my courage. Less than a year later, I cashed in a bunch of frequent flier miles and went to visit Regina in Abu Dhabi. She took me to amazing places and we had profound discussions on changes we wanted to make in our lives. Before I knew it, it was time for my side trip to Egypt.

When I checked into a hostel in gorgeous Alexandria, the owner triple upgraded me, saying that I was the only person to have ever written my request in more than one language.

He added, "I would like to make your dream come true." Was I dreaming?

He walked me to an ocean view room with a private bath, and breakfast included! All for twelve dollars U.S. Knowing I was on a budget, he carefully explained how to take public transportation to Cairo. With the word "Great Pyramids" written in Arabic, I hopped from one small bus to the next. I will always remember my first glimpse of that Wonder of the World.

Returning to Abu Dhabi, my eyes filled with tears when I told Regina about my adventure. I thanked her for making such a difference in my life.

True to her word, she was the perfect hostess: we went all over and she became one of my dearest friends. And still is. We're trying to figure out where to meet up next.

All because I used the words "not yet."

вторник, 25 декабря 2012 г.

Whistling Dixie

By Marie Stroyan as told to Carol McAdoo Rehme

There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child.
There are seven million.
~Walt Streightiff
Life in the 1950s was gentle and innocent. There was a simplicity and freshness in adults and children alike that carried over into the holiday celebration, as well. I was a young mother, excited about decorating a real tree the year after our first child, Diana, turned two. After all, what could be more thrilling than seeing Christmas through the eyes of my toddler? No stone would be left unturned, I decided. My daughter would have the best holiday I could create.

Diana greeted the seasonal activities with wide-eyed interest and cheery enthusiasm. She sampled my homemade sugar cookies — but seemed to prefer the raw dough. She admired the tree and left all the shiny ornaments alone — mostly. She helped me tape Christmas cards to the hall mirror — then artfully rearranged them, again and again, proud of each new display that she created. And she endured our lengthy shopping excursions — perhaps in part because we ended each one with a stop at Murphy's, the local five-and-dime in our small hometown of Medina, New York.
"Should we go get our treat now?" I grabbed her dimpled hand and led her to the deep chest cooler against the far wall of the store.
There, squeezed tight against me, Diana stood on tippy-toes, stretching to see while I searched for her favorite: a cardboard Dixie cup of vanilla ice cream. My little daughter's coffee-bean eyes sparkled under the strand of plump red and green bulbs strung overhead while she watched the busy shoppers and waited to savor her icy treat, one bite at a time.
I reached into a box for a small wooden spoon, closed the lid to the freezer, and gave the clerk fifteen cents.
"Wait until we get to the car to open it," I reminded my little one.
As December 25th drew ever nearer, I tucked her into bed one night. Priming her for the excitement of the holiday ahead, I asked, "Diana, what would you like for Christmas?"
She cocked her silky blond head and sing-songed sweetly, "A Dixie ice cream."
I tried to hide my grin as I snuggled the blanket under her chin. "Well, yes," I agreed. But, thinking about the baby doll I'd already wrapped — along with a host of carefully hand-selected items — I pressed her for more. "But isn't there something else you want, too?"
Diana considered the question at length. "Hmmm," she said and then brightened in sudden decision. "Yes," she nodded, "a spoon."

The Christmas Surprise

By Claire Field

At Christmas, all roads lead home.
~Marjorie Holmes
Christmas day is always crazy at my in-laws' house. Gran and Pops McClanahan have four adult children: three sons and a daughter. All have married and together they have produced ten grandchildren — seven boys and three girls, ages twelve and below. I married their youngest son, Sam.

In the summers and at Christmas we all gather, driving from our various homes on the East Coast, to spend time together at Gran and Pops' nine-bedroom summer house in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Although it's a large house, twenty people make it feel smaller, create sporadic "sleeping" schedules, and usually offer grab-what-you-can eating arrangements. I am often reminded of the "Old Woman in the Shoe" nursery rhyme where "she had so many children she didn't know what to do."
But as unruly it is for the adults, it is a blast for all the little cousins, and at Christmastime it's double the fun. The cousins have often not seen each other since summer and Santa is coming too!
Unlike some families, the McClanahans don't draw a single name out of a hat so each person only has to buy a single holiday gift — no, each family buys gifts for every other person. Gran and Pops love the over-the-top merriment.
Surprisingly, despite our five families, the McClanahans as a group only acquired one dog, a large Yellow Lab with a square mug named Rumbo, a resident of New Canaan, Connecticut with Gran and Pops most of the time. Rumbo was once considered my husband Sam's dog, since Sam was the one who spent the summer raising and training him back when he was a pup; but with our growing brood Rumbo officially moved to Gran and Pops' place, with us remaining occasional dog-sitters since we live nearby.
Two years ago, Christmas in Narragansett was like the previous ones — the kids were another year older, they still had boundless energy, and the promise of Santa energized them even more. Rumbo also had gotten older. He was nine and arthritic. He would wander around wagging his tail looking for a pat, but he spent most of his time away from the chaos of fast-moving children, snuggled in his well-worn dog bed.
That Christmas Eve we, not Gran and Pops, had brought Rumbo up from Connecticut. When we arrived and started to unpack I tossed Rumbo's dog bed under the huge, beautifully decorated Christmas tree. He looked the picture of doggie adorableness under the twinkling lights and ornaments, his large mug resting on the edge of his dog bed looking out at us.
By that evening all the other families had arrived, one by one, unloading more bedlam into the house. As the presents were added under the tree, Rumbo's bed shifted, but we all lavished him with a tummy rub and a quick snuggle as we scooted him this way and that. Giving us his normal "smile" and wag, he didn't seem to mind.
That evening we had a festive dinner, and after the cleanup, Gran let Rumbo out. We all went to bed, knowing we'd be up again in a few hours.
Indeed, at 5:30 the first of the kids awoke. One by one, the eager children herded their parents downstairs. Over the next few hours, seemingly hundreds of presents were torn open. Long-desired toys magically appeared, somewhat useless household items were passed among the parents, and laughter could be heard sprinkled between Christmas carols being played on someone's laptop. Paper and discarded wrappings were everywhere.
As I scanned the chaos I noticed Rumbo lying in his dog bed, wrapping paper scattered all around it. It was the first time I had focused on Rumbo since I had woken up, and I decided to give the guy a Christmas rub. As I walked toward him I wondered if anyone had remembered to feed him or let him out that morning. I didn't remember seeing him outside.
His eyes were open and I knelt down in front of him and pet his head.
"Merry Christmas, Rumbo!" I said, giving him a scratch.
Rumbo's eyes and mouth were open, and his long tongue was hanging out, but he didn't move. Suddenly I noticed that he felt sort of cold. As I looked into his unmoving eyes and held their vacant gaze, I realized that Rumbo… was dead.
"OMG!" I wanted to text somebody. What the heck was I supposed to do?
I knelt in front of him, blocking him from the rest of the room, as my brain went into panic mode. It was Christmas morning. I was in a room full of children and there was a dead dog under the Christmas tree. I touched his leg — yes, it was stiff, and rigor mortis had set in.
I actually laughed. I realized that it was a perfect McClanahan Christmas moment. Most people find squirming puppies under their tree, but here at the McClanahans… it's a little different. You always had to think on your feet around here.
I quickly deduced that this was a job for my husband — a "real" McClanahan. I stood up, casually pulled my husband aside, and gave him the facts. Word traveled fast through the adults. Each in turn looked over at the Christmas tree and saw Rumbo "asleep" underneath it.
I had recovered enough from the shock to ponder the details: Where does one take a deceased dog on Christmas? What happens when your vet lives three hours away? Who do you call? And then, how do you sneak a dead 120-pound dog out of a house full of ten children? If we chose to leave him where he was, when would one of the kids notice that Rumbo wasn't moving, or go over to pat him as I did?
Well, it turned out to be surprisingly easy. Each mom gathered her own brood to go do something "exciting" away from the family room, and the four dads got to work lifting the awkward, stiff dog, still in his dog bed, and placing him in the back of Pops' pickup truck. Someone grabbed a blanket and gently covered him.
And there Rumbo stayed on Christmas day, out in the fresh Rhode Island air.
It was a while before it occurred to one of the kids to wonder where Rumbo was. As a group we had decided not to tell them until Christmas was over. Our stock answer was to be "I don't know," which is normal since people never know where anyone else is in that house.
It certainly wasn't an easy decision to leave Rumbo outside, in the back of a pickup truck, on Christmas, of all days, but we told ourselves that our options were limited. We were sure that Rumbo — the kindest, and most gentle dog in the whole world — had joined Santa on his sleigh, and together they were finishing up the rest of Santa's Christmas deliveries.

The Secret of the Cedar Chest

By Gail MacMillan

Good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one.
~Augustine Birrell
For many years I've kept my guilt regarding the cedar chest a secret. I felt deeply ashamed of the lack of self-control that led to my infamous behaviour. However, this Christmas I've decided enough time has elapsed (the statue of limitations on such crimes must have expired) that I can now confess.

To begin, I must admit to being an incurable bookaholic. I always have been. In fact, one of my earliest memories is of standing behind my mother as she washed the lunch dishes at the kitchen sink, a book in one hand, pulling on her apron strings with the other as I begged her to read, "just one chapter, please, just one chapter."
My mother contributed to my addiction. I cannot recall her ever refusing to leave the sudsy pan, dry her hands, and follow me to the living room. There, we'd curl up together and while away the afternoon, deep in our love for the printed word. A devoted amateur actress, she read with passionate expression. Carried away on the wings of her words, I would listen mesmerized.
The books I remember best from those days were the works of Thornton W. Burgess. My favourite among his bevy of loquacious animals was Reddy Fox. Reddy frequently outfoxed himself through some small flaw in one of his nefarious schemes.
When I finally learned to read on my own, I experienced one of the greatest epiphanies of my life. There was magic to be found on a printed page. It had the power to sweep me away into another time, another place, another spirit. Words flowed over, around and through me, enthralling me to the core. I read everything from the corn flakes box on our breakfast table to the set of University Encyclopaedias published in 1902 that I discovered in my grandmother's attic. (It wasn't until I looked for the word "airplane" and couldn't find it that I realized the venerable age of this fascinating reading matter.)
While other children hounded their parents for toys, I begged for books, books, and more books. The Christmas season presented the paramount opportunity for my supplications. Each autumn, I began to prepare a long list of titles I'd be delighted to find beneath the festive tree. Since we had no bookstore in our town, the Eaton's catalogue was the only place to purchase these desirable items. Consequently one special Sunday afternoon each November my mother and I would sit at the kitchen table with that lovely, plump book while I selected the books I most desired from the limited selection on the two pages that offered reading materials.
My mother, knowing how I devoured the contents of books the moment they arrived in our home, never let me know when she was picking up the parcel at the post office. And definitely, never where she hid the precious package.
Overwhelmed by my reading affliction, however, I'd become sly and unscrupulous. No book could remain unread anywhere within my ability to ferret it out. Thus, one day the year I was ten and desperate for a good read, I began my quest for her hiding place in earnest.
I dug through closets, into their darkest, most remote corners and topmost shelves. I burrowed under sheets and towels in the linen cupboard, and even checked beneath the mattress in the guest room. Nothing.
Stymied, I followed my mother into my parents' bedroom and sat down on the edge of the bed. I watched as she opened the cedar chest beneath the window. My father had handcrafted it for her on their engagement. She kept her most treasured possessions in it; things like her wedding gown, my christening dress, her collection of hand-embroidered linens and, anathemas to a Reddy Fox fan, a couple of fox fur capes. Their presence had always made me shy away from the cedar chest.
I watched as she folded a pillow slip she'd finished decorating with moss roses. When she bent over the cedar chest to store her handiwork, I started to turn away. I had no desire to see the pelts of those poor, unfortunate foxes.
Then something caught my eyes. Peeking out from beneath a lace tablecloth, the top corner of a shiny, new BOOK!
My mother hastily lowered the lid and glanced in my direction. Had I seen it? Struggling to appear nonchalant, I began to hum "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" as I swung my legs against the chenille bedspread, and gazed up at the ceiling. She hesitated, then drew a deep breath and headed out of the room.
"Come along, Gail," she called as she started down the stairs. "We have cookies to bake."
My heart dancing with joy, I skipped along after her. Visions of how I'd invade the cedar chest later when I was alone upstairs waltzed through my head.
That evening after I'd been tucked in bed and my parents were safely settled in the living room listening to Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen on the radio, I slipped my bare feet onto the cold linoleum that covered my bedroom floor and tiptoed across the hall. I carried a small flashlight. My father had given it to me the previous Christmas, in case of power outages, he'd said. He'd never intended it to be used in a book burglary in his own home.
Trembling with the thrill of the forbidden, I eased open the cedar chest, slipped my hand beneath the folded linens, (being careful to avoid those fox furs) and felt them... not the usual two but four, count them four, slick new books, their dust jackets as smooth as silk.
I slid out the topmost volume. My breath caught in my throat as I read its title. The Secret of Shadow Ranch! The Nancy Drew mystery for which I'd longed for the past two years and for which Eaton's had always sent a substitution!
Resting my back against the cedar chest, I squatted on the floor, opened the Carolyn Keene classic to page one, adjusted my torch and began to read. Although I wasn't then familiar with the term multitasking, I quickly became adept at it. While I read I had to stay alert for the slightest indication that either of my parents was about to come upstairs.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada
Oh, the bliss of those stolen moments. My heart hammering, I read Nancy's adventures for over an hour. My bare feet felt like blocks of ice on the cold floor. I shivered in my pyjamas but I continued.
Then I heard my father suggesting a cup of tea before bed. Trembling from the enormity of my crime, I eased open the cedar chest, slid the book gently beneath the table cloths and pillow slips and scuttled back into my own room.
Snuggled beneath the covers, the flashlight still warm in my hand, my overwhelming need for a book satisfied, I drifted off to sleep. Visions of Nancy Drew, Bess, and George riding the range at Shadow Ranch replaced the sugarplums that were supposed to dance through children's heads just before Christmas.
In the hard light of the next morning, I admit I had a few qualms. As I sat at the breakfast table and glanced over at my mother, I knew I was destroying her joy in the big surprise she must be hoping to produce on Christmas morning with that long-sought-after Nancy Drew title. But I was incorrigible. That night, as my parents listened to a Christmas concert broadcast from Halifax on the living room radio, I cautiously opened The Secret of Shadow Ranch to Chapter Five and read on.
By the time Christmas Eve arrived, I'd devoured all four books and was contemplating re-reading Shadow Ranch. No, I told myself sternly. You'll bend a page, you'll crack the spine. Quit while you're ahead.
My extreme enthusiasm as I unwrapped each book on Christmas morning might have been a tip-off to less trusting parents. Their faces flushed with my reflected delight. Cradling my treasures in my arms, I curled myself up in a corner of the couch and in the flickering tree lights settled down to indulge myself in a full Christmas morning of re-reading.
My criminal activity continued during the next three Christmas seasons. It might have gone on much longer had I not made a major faux pas in my eagerness to defend the work of my then-favourite author, L. M. Montgomery. I'd read all of the Anne books and had been longing for one of the author's more mature stories entitled The Blue Castle. Not an easy book to find, it was proving as elusive as The Secret of Shadow Ranch.
But joy of joys! A week before Christmas it appeared in the cedar chest. Reading it by the light of my torch, I thrilled to the courage of heroine Valancy Stirling and identified with her need for freedom and self-expression. It was so romantic, the ending absolutely wonderful. When I finished reading two days before Christmas, I hugged it in the darkness beside the cedar chest.
On Christmas morning a bevy of relatives descended on our home. It was my parents' turn to host the Yuletide dinner. One of my maternal aunts wandered into the living room as she waited for the meal to be served and found me in my usual reading corner of the couch, absorbed in The Blue Castle.
"Well, Gail, I see you got another book," she sighed in mild exasperation. Not book-addicted, she couldn't understand my fascination.
"Yes, a perfectly lovely book." I put my finger between the pages of the first chapter to mark my place and beamed up at her.
"Another novel, no doubt," she scoffed sitting down opposite me. "I never read anything but the newspaper myself. Those things are nothing but nonsense."
"Oh no they aren't!" I couldn't bear to hear my beloved books defamed. "This one is about a girl who leaves home to nurse a sick friend and falls in love with the town outcast. Later she discovers he's really a millionaire, they get married and live happily ever after."
"Do they now?" I turned to see my mother standing in the living room doorway. My finger slipped from its place at page six.
Her lips curled up into a smile, she winked and turned back into the kitchen.
My mother died three Christmases later, a victim of cancer. Her legacy to my love of literature, however, lives on in my heart and home. Thornton Burgess's The Adventures of Reddy Fox and The Secret of Shadow Ranch remain beloved parts of my library. The Blue Castle occupies a place of honour beside the family Bible.
As for the cedar chest, filled with family photos, it sits in my living room, symbolic of those happy Christmases when a book could make my dreams come true and a mother who understood.

понедельник, 24 декабря 2012 г.

Someday Finally Came

By Julienne Mascitti-Lentz

You don't raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they'll turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes.
~Walter M. Schirra, Sr.
My husband, Ron, just crossed something off his bucket list. Forty-five years ago, Ron's dad took him to his first hockey game at the Chicago Stadium. Back then there were only the original six hockey teams. The game was the Blackhawks versus the Red Wings. At that time, Ron's family could not afford seats at the game. The best his dad could afford was standing room only, in the nosebleed section. He bought the tickets for one dollar each. Ron remembers the feeling of excitement just being there with his dad, in the midst of all those other hockey fans. The standing crowd was four people deep. They were so high up that Ron said when got a glimpse of the players they looked like ants on the ice. Even so, Ron says that night at the Stadium was one of his best memories of being with his dad.

Ron always thought that he would reciprocate and take his dad to a game. But sometimes life happens and we don't get the opportunity to make good on our promises, even when those promises are to ourselves.
After Ron and I got married, we got a call that his dad had a terrible accident at work. Ron's dad worked in construction. When we arrived at the hospital, the doctors told us that Dad was going in for surgery. The doctors feared that he might lose his leg. Luckily, his leg was spared. The doctor built a cage, held by pins that pierced through his leg, that he wore for a year. The technology that held his leg together was new and we often joked that he was the bionic man. Eventually Dad went back to his construction job, but the cold winter in Chicago bothered his leg immensely. So over thirty years ago, Mom and Dad moved to Florida until just this September, when they moved back home to be close to us.
As Christmas approached, Ron wanted to get Dad something very special. He remembered his promise to take his father to a hockey game; he wanted to recreate one of his favorite father and son memories. When Dad opened his Christmas gift, there were tears of joy in his eyes, which matched the ones in Ron's.
The game night arrived. Ron and Dad were both excited about once again seeing the Blackhawks versus the Red Wings, this time at the United Center.
At the beginning of the game, they showed Red Hawks highlights for four minutes. When it was over the attendants rolled out a red carpet, two veterans walked out — one from World War II and one from the Iraq War and stood on center ice. Then Jim Cornelison, the national anthem singer, walked out. The lights dimmed and they shined a spotlight on the three men as well as on the American Flag. The veterans saluted while Cornelison sang the national anthem. Ron and Dad were proud and emotional, as I am sure many people in the crowd were.
In the United Center, there are four large screens on the scoreboard showing the score, replays of the game and fan participation. Throughout the game, the video screens showed highlights of games played in the past as well. Ron and Dad saw the game they were at forty-three years earlier as the screen continued to combine showing the old with the new!
Their favorite part of the evening was during one of the crowd scans, the camera showed Stan Mikita in a luxury suite with his grandsons, and Bobby Hull with his family in another luxury suite. Ron looked over to his dad and asked him if he knew who that was up on the screen. Dad said, "Yes, of course, the Golden Jet."
Times had changed. Ron and Dad now sat in great seats on the main level. The tickets cost more than a dollar, but the feeling was the same. This lucky father and son enjoyed simply being at the game together. And what more do you need than that?

суббота, 22 декабря 2012 г.

The Christmas Tree Sale

By Teri Stohlberg

You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.
~John Wooden

When my son was in Cub Scouts a few years ago, I volunteered to be in charge of the annual Cub Scout Christmas tree sale here in our small town of Woodstock, Connecticut. I was able to find a supplier who agreed to sell me sixty trees at a good price, which the Cub Scouts could then sell at a nice profit. The day before the sale, the trees were delivered and locked just inside the gates of the fairgrounds. The plan was to open the gates the next morning and sell the trees. I had carefully scheduled each Cub Scout in the pack for a two-hour shift in which they would sell the Christmas trees (with a parent, of course). I had even stood up at the pack meeting and given the Scouts a pep talk about doing a good job selling the trees and about having Christmas spirit. (I think the scouts had more spirit than the parents did, as they grudgingly signed up for their shifts.)
The problem occurred when there was a heavy snowfall that night; about one foot of snow fell, and the snowplows had plowed the snow up high right against the gates as they were clearing off the road in front of the fairgrounds entrance. I arrived there early that morning with my young son and daughter and two snow shovels. My husband was at work, so he was unable to help. As we tried to shovel away the huge mountain of snow, I realized it was hopeless, and it would take two days to shovel the snow away from the gates in order to get the Christmas trees out.

I thought of all the time I had spent organizing the sale, and how disappointed the Cub Scouts would be if they couldn't sell the trees. I also thought of all the money they would lose. As we continued our futile attempt to shovel away the mountain, I thought about my options. I could not afford to call a snowplow company to clear away the snow. I was also sure that all of the snowplows were busy anyway, clearing off parking lots and driveways. If the Cub Scouts had to pay for plowing, their profit on this fundraiser would be gone. I thought of calling parents to help me shovel, but I knew that would take hours, even if I could get any of them to agree to help, and the booth was scheduled to open in one hour!

Just then, a man with a large snowplow pulled up and offered to plow the entire area for free. I watched in awe as he quickly did the job. He also took the time to clear off another large area, so that cars could pull up and park.

I was so overcome with gratitude that I forgot to ask the gentleman his name. But he had white hair, a long white beard, and as he drove away he said "Merry Christmas." I remember my son asking "Mommy, why do you have a tear on your cheek?" I looked down at him, with his little Scout uniform on under his coat and said "I'm just happy it's Christmas." The Christmas tree sale was a big success, and we sold all the trees that day.

This Christmas Is Different

By Kathy Whirity

If I had known how wonderful it would be to have grandchildren, I'd have had them first.
~Lois Wyse

This Christmas is different. For so many Christmases past, as our kids grew older, a feeling of bah-humbug was usually experienced. This was especially true when they entered high school and college. Boring and predictable adequately described their wish lists.
It's been a long time since we danced down Santa Claus Lane as we watched our giddy little girls sit on Santa's lap asking for the perfect doll or other must-have toy that we couldn't wait for them to open on Christmas morning.

This Christmas is different thanks to the arrival of our very first grandchild. A very Jolly Old St. Nick will be making a stop at our house this year and it doesn't even matter that the future little believer is still way too little to believe.

Grandpa and I took a trip to Toys "R" Us the other day because now we have reason to peruse the tot-sized merchandise. What a treat! The rows and rows of toys seemed to stretch for miles, taking us on a jingle bell journey back to yesteryear where the kid in us was once again reborn.

We headed straight for the infant aisle. I was ready to do some browsing. Oh what fun it is to shop in a great big kiddie store!

This new grandma was bent on buying my dear grandbaby a toy chest. I settled on a darling pink and purple one with a bench for sitting on.

My daughter thought my gift idea was a good one as long as I promised not to go on a merry mission to fill it. I promised — with fingers crossed, of course.

This Christmas is different. Our family has grown by one and she is the reason our hearts are alive with wonder. She has no clue the giddiness her grandparents feel at sharing her first Christmas with her.

The only thing better than being a kid at Christmas is being a grandparent at Christmas.

It's been quite a long time since Santa and toys have been part of the same sentence at our house.

Avery will be decked out in a pretty red party dress and black patent leather shoes. She'll drool between giggles and the smiles she'll make us work extra hard to coax from her.

My very best gift this Christmas will come after the presents are opened and the feast of turkey has been eaten. It is then that I'll steal a quiet moment with my angel of a grandchild. As I rock her in front of the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree, I'll hum a little lullaby in her ear, as I always do, and from my heart I'll sing the praises of a loving God who has given us the greatest gift of all — a baby to love, and the opportunity to see life through the eyes of a child once again.

Molly Passes the Torch

By Mary Z. Smith

There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.
~Ben Williams

Dad passed away, leaving Mom alone. She traveled from her home in Florida to South Carolina to be with my brother's family the week before Christmas. While there, Molly, the family's Westie, adopted Mom. Wherever Mom seated herself, the furry white bundle of love made sure she was by her side. When Mom rested her head on the guestroom pillow at night, she'd find one of Molly's bones tucked under her pillow. Arriving at the breakfast table each morning, there was Molly's favorite pink sock resting on Mom's chair.
All too soon it was time to return to Florida. Mom was lonelier than ever.

My brother Dave called to check up on her. "Mom, you never did let us know what you really want for Christmas this year. Did you think of any ideas?"

"I guess what I'd like more than anything in the world is a little white Westie like Molly to love. I'd name her Kati with an 'i' at the end."

"We'll have to see what we can do."

Christmas arrived in sunny Florida with palm trees blowing on a warm breeze. Mom was cleaning up breakfast dishes when she heard the doorbell ring. She hurried to answer it. In walked my brother Dave and his wife Andrea carrying a miniature version of their dog Molly. Mom immediately buried her face in Kati's fur. My brother set to work assembling the puppy's crate. Andrea filled the doggy dishes with clean water and puppy food.

Later, as everyone was settling down for the night Mom noticed a familiar pink sock inside Kati's crate.

"Isn't that Molly's favorite sock?"

Dave rubbed his chin thoughtfully before answering.

"Funny thing about that sock... We were getting ready to leave the house for our trip here. Molly was sticking to Kati like glue. Andrea knelt down to give Molly a hug, explaining that we were bringing Kati to you. Suddenly, Molly raced off, disappearing upstairs. Seconds later she came barreling back into the kitchen. In her mouth was her favorite pink sock. She placed it directly in front of Kati as if to say, 'I took care of Grandma while she was here with us. It's your turn now, Girl! Take good care of Grandma. I'm passing the torch to you.'"

Kati's favorite toy has been the pink Christmas sock to this day... and Mom and her sidekick, Kati, are inseparable.

Playing Shinny on Macamley Street

By Hank Mattimore

Growing up, if I hadn't had sports, I don't know where I'd be. God only knows what street corners I'd have been standing on and God only knows what I'd have been doing, but instead I played hockey and went to school and stayed out of trouble.
~Bobby Orr

We didn't have ice skates or an ice rink, but we kids were blessed by the gods of hockey with the perpetually snow covered streets of south Buffalo winters. Heck, we had taped up hockey sticks, a puck (sometimes a tin can), and goals marked with old sneakers. What else did we need? We played with heart and a passion known only to eleven-year-old boys crazy in love with the game of hockey.
It was the mid-forties. Our Buffalo Bisons hockey team, American League farm club of the legendary Montreal Canadiens NHL team, was burning up their league. Buffalo won the coveted Calder Cup several times in the forties.

We kids listened to every game on the radio (no TV yet) and would take turns sharing tear sheets from the sports pages of the Buffalo Courier-Express newspaper. We'd pore over the stats of each game at school. "Did Pargeter get the hat trick last night? Wow! That's twice this month already."

My best pals — Dave "Murph" Murphy and "Bones" Miller — along with Don, Bernie and myself were the hard-nosed ones. We played when Macamley Street was slick with ice or loaded with two feet of snow. We played in the sleet and the rain and right through some of Buffalo's biggest snow squalls. Bring it on. We were ready.

Our uniforms were jeans, winter coats and earmuffs. Playing in our overshoes, we didn't look much like hockey players but we played with the intensity of pros, right through the icy winds that blew off Lake Erie and the black and blue hurts on our shins. We checked our opponents into the snow banks that lined Macamley Street. The only local rule we observed, in deference to our complete lack of protective gear, was no lifting the puck.

The only time we stopped playing was when a car made its way down the street and we had to pause to let it go by. Otherwise, our games went on for hours or until the street lights went on. That was our signal to call the game and return to the mundane world of family life, homework and cleaning up for dinner.

Two or three times a season, our gang managed to get the money together to take the bus downtown to see the Bisons play at Memorial Auditorium. We lived for those days. The Aud, as we called it, was a first-class indoor sports arena with seating for about 12,000 fans. We could only afford the cheap seats so we sat way up in the higher regions of the auditorium, but we felt lucky just being part of the raucous crowd cheering on our beloved Bisons.

Just before the breaks between periods of the games, we would hustle down from the cheap seats to the lower floor where the teams had their locker rooms to catch our team coming off the ice. Just to see our heroes up close was a thrill. Sometimes, we'd get brave and yell out our encouragement: "Hey, Al way to go" or "Nice game, Pargeter." If we were rewarded by so much as a grunt from one of the players, we felt graced by the Almighty.

But nothing prepared us for the time one of the Buffalo players came off the ice carrying a hockey stick that had a crack in the shaft. He apparently had just noticed the crack and was about to hand it to the manager for disposal. I was right there in front of him. Summoning up all the courage I had in my eleven-year-old body, I said, "Can I have it?" The player looked down at me for a second. "Sure kid, it's yours." He thrust it into my waiting hands. It was a miracle. I had a real professional hockey stick.

Oh My Gosh! Dave and Bones crowded around me. "He GAVE it to you?" exclaimed Bones. "Wow! Are you lucky." Everything was a blur after that. We watched the final period of the game but I was lost in a haze of unexpected good fortune. My hands clutched the stick tightly, but my soul was already in paradise.

We played shinny again at home but it didn't take long for the already-damaged stick to break into two pieces. I taped it up the best I could and kept it for a while in the cellar of our house on Macamley Street. All too soon, our hockey crazy period ended as we grew into adolescence and went our separate ways to different high schools in the Buffalo area. Eventually, the Buffalo Bisons morphed into the Sabres of the National Hockey League. Alas, I find myself living in California now, far from the snowy streets of south Buffalo.

Ah, but the memories remain.

вторник, 18 декабря 2012 г.

Truly Appreciating Coffee

By Heather Humrichouse

No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee's frothy goodness.
~Sheik Abd-al-Kadir

When I married Mike, I knew he came into the marriage as a full-fledged CA (Coffee Addict). It didn't bother me. I liked the smell of coffee and the yummy scents that came from the kitchen when he brought home specialty coffee beans like Kona and flavors like Irish cream, crème brûlée, English toffee, and amaretto. And yet, I had no desire to try it.
My husband offered me a cup every day with a smile on his face, claiming he'd wear me down eventually. My friends even tried to talk me into trying it. "I love having Maxwell House moments with my husband," one confided. I rolled my eyes.

Then Samuel James was born and life took a dramatic turn. Now the mother of two little ones, and far from family, I was exhausted. My husband's new job had him leaving at the crack of dawn and after several sleepless nights I could barely function. One morning, I stumbled downstairs and spotted the coffee pot still glowing, with one cup of coffee still warm.

A moment after I took my first sip it hit my bloodstream. My eyes opened wider, I walked faster, I smiled bigger, and it felt great. From that day on, I started drinking coffee in the morning, claiming that it was just to help me function after sleepless nights. The afternoon espresso was a little harder to explain.

Five months later, Sam was sleeping through the night. I was getting eight hours of sleep and still craving coffee in the morning. My husband smiled knowingly. "You like the stuff now, don't you?"

"All right," I cried. "Fine. I love the sheer variety of options — the syrups, the decaf, half-caf, the so-caffeinated-that-my-eyes-don't-blink-for-a-week, the lattes, the cappuccinos, iced, tall, grande! I love the Styrofoam cups with the sippy lids so I don't spill. I love that coffee and chatting go together so well! And fine! Maxwell House moments do exist and they are wonderful. I love wrapping my fingers around a big, beautiful ceramic mug and the warmth it brings me. And when I've had a really bad day, I can sneak a bit of whipped cream and chocolate syrup into my coffee and no one's the wiser."

I think my husband was a bit surprised. I think he was more surprised when, a couple of weeks later when Sam was sick, I told him that I believed a person couldn't truly appreciate the blessing of coffee until they'd been sleep-deprived at least once. So I gave him the wonderful gift of being on night-duty with Sam.

He didn't exactly thank me, but I think he did appreciate his coffee (and me) a lot more the next day. And that's all the thanks I need.