суббота, 31 марта 2012 г.

Gold Medals and Tea Kettles

By Terrie Todd

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
~Proverbs 22:15
It was 12:30 a.m., and my seventeen-year-old daughter was not home. On a school night. I sat huddled beside my kitchen stove, drinking tea, reading a book, and trying not to worry on this chilly autumn night. At 1:00, she walked in the back door without excuses, and I grounded her for missing her curfew. The next day, I received a card from her with a long, handwritten note inside. My mind immediately went back three or four years to similar times when I'd received scathing, defensive notes pleading her case and telling me how unfair I was.

"Not this again," I thought. "I'm not sure I'm up to it." I took a deep breath, prayed a quick prayer, and read. What unfolded before my eyes turned out to be an absolute treasure! I couldn't have been prouder if they'd hung an Olympic gold medal around my neck. Among other things, she'd written:

"I sincerely regret it. And I'm not just saying I regret being caught, either. I regret scaring you, and I regret being so foolish. So, I sincerely apologize for disobeying you and for any unnecessary stress that I caused, and I ask for your forgiveness.... I respect your grounding me, too. I know discipline isn't exactly the easiest part of raising kids, and I'm sorry for making you do that. I love you."

She even closed with a slightly revised Bible verse: "Raise your child in the way she should go, and when she is old, she will not turn from it" (Proverbs 22:6). Wow! It couldn't get any better than that. I realized she was really growing up, and I loved the young woman she was turning out to be.

Over the years, through the pleading, prayers and tears, I have often been granted a new picture of God. Always the perfect parent, He chose to give us our own free will, even though He could have simply programmed us to obey. I think I'm beginning to understand why. I can no sooner "make" my children obey than I can make them fly. I can make my expectations known and put consequences in place, but the rest is up to them. When they choose to respond in the way that every parent hopes they will, the thrill of victory vastly outweighs the agony of defeat. May that understanding motivate me to obey my Heavenly Father quickly and to run to Him with regret when I've blown it.

I know that neither my daughter nor I have "arrived" yet. We are two very imperfect human beings with selfish hearts and stubborn tendencies. But for today, I'll clutch her letter to my heart like a gold medal around my neck. And when someone asks, "Is it worth it?" I'll respond with a resounding "Yes!"

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From Feral to Friendly

By Marsha Porter

You will always be lucky if you know how to make friends with strange cats.
~Proverb

My first glimpse of Rocky's raccoon-striped tail and brindle spotted head and back occurred as he rolled my yellow cat Abe onto his back. I was horrified at the sight of my cat being pinned under Rocky's striking white paws. From that day on, Abe became an indoor cat, and Rocky continued to show up for free meals. When my friend, a vet, saw him at my door, she urged me to get him neutered. She insisted it would cut down on his fighting and risk of disease. Using a humane trap, he was easily enticed into captivity by a plate of tuna. Neutering and initial shots went off without a hitch and I was advised to keep him inside for a day or two.
Although Rocky had been feasting at my house on a daily basis for several months, he had never allowed me to get within five feet of him. He would dart off as soon as I approached. I kept him in my garage, sure that when I raised the garage door he'd run out.

Two days passed and Rocky had become a phantom. I would put his food out in the garage and look for him, but he was always hiding behind a box or on a shelf. The only evidence that he was there was when I returned minutes later and picked up the empty plate. The first time I raised the garage door, I watched the threshold to witness his escape. Time passed but I never saw him. Finally I closed the door, wondering if I could have blinked and missed his exit.

The next day I decided to place another meal in my garage. Minutes later I returned to find it licked clean. Clearly he wanted to extend his stay a few days. Days turned into weeks, despite me opening the garage door every afternoon to allow him to check out. Six weeks after his surgery he was firmly entrenched and obviously enjoying the room service. Unfortunately, the weather was changing. As springtime took hold, I knew that the garage would soon be unbearably hot. As each day passed, I became more desperate for Rocky to leave. It was especially strange since he still did not allow me near him. I did, however, catch an occasional glimpse of him perched on a shelf or box watching me change his litter or water. I again tried the humane trap, but this time it didn't work. He had obviously lost his "every meal could be my last" mentality and let the tuna sit in the cage for three days. Frustrated, I went to retrieve the cage and just started talking to my elusive guest.

"What am I going to do with you? It's getting too hot for you in here! You have to go outside," I said. My voice cracked between words and I began to cry, wondering if he'd eventually die from the heat in my garage. Just then I felt something rubbing against my leg. I looked down and he paused. He didn't run away and I didn't move a muscle. Finally he looked up at me and I realized, for the first time, that he was blind in one eye. That did it. I couldn't put him back on the street. I slowly dropped my hand down and patted the top of his head. When I retracted my hand he stood on his hind legs leaning his front paws against my knee. His head now touched my fingertips. He wanted more attention. I continued rubbing between his ears and petting his back. It was a miraculous moment.

Each day after this, he ran up to me when I came out with food, litter, water, and we would repeat our bonding experience. I was able to pick him up and he'd rub his face against mine. Within a week, he was in my house sharing a room with his old rival, Abe. Now that there is plenty of food, the two have lost their need to fight. They often sit atop the hope chest that rests under my window ledge. There they form a neighborhood watch -- between catnaps -- until I return home from work.

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Love Again

By Tammy Ruggles

There are things that we don't want to happen but have to accept, things we don't want to know but have to learn, and people we can't live without but have to let go.
~Author Unknown

"I think Jay wants to ask you out," one of my co-workers told me as everyone else left the office for the day. "But he's a little nervous."

I was a little nervous too. Danny, my childhood sweetheart, father of our now twelve-year-old son, and love of twenty years, had been dead two years -- long enough for me to have grieved and moved forward -- but I couldn't entertain the thought of a new man.

I knew Jay. We shared a few cases together. He was a mental health social worker; I worked in child and adult protection. So occasionally our paths crossed.

Danny and I had vowed to love each other and stay true to each other forever. Our hopes and dreams had been wrapped up in each other and in our child. He would often say, "I have hope, you have faith."

And it was true. He had high hopes that anything and everything would turn out okay. In turn, my faith, in him and in God, was so strong I thought nothing could stand in our way.

When you're young, death is a safe wisp of smoke in the distance. Barely thought about. Barely a reality. You believe you're invincible and that somehow you are immune to that depth of pain and loss.

But in the middle of a cool, quiet September night, one phone call changed all of that.

"It's Danny," I heard a family friend telling my mother on another telephone extension at home. "He died in a car wreck."

He said more, but those were the last words I remember.

I should have done something. Gotten out of bed, driven to the crash scene, called his mother, run around the house clawing into my face with my fingernails, pounded my head against the wall, stabbed my heart with an ice pick... but I didn't. I just lay there in the bed in dark silence, hot tears sliding from my eyes.

What kept me going was our ten-year-old son Travis. He was the reason I got up in the morning, put on a smile when I didn't feel like smiling, thought ahead instead of behind, found a way to push through each day, week, and month. I wouldn't let death cheat him out of a healthy, vibrant, whole mother.

"It's okay," he would tell me if he caught me crying. "It'll be all right."

Work and motherhood helped ease the pain of losing Danny. In the two years following his death, little by little I rebounded. I learned to laugh again, play again, have fun and make plans.

A few guys asked me out, but I turned them down. I wanted to move on, but it just didn't feel right. It had nothing to do with grief. It had more to do with feeling like I would betray Danny if I dated someone.

When my best friend Jolene heard that Jay was interested in me, she said, "Don't be afraid to give him a chance, Tammy. Danny would want you to love again."

Her words clicked into place in my heart like the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

She was right. Danny would not want me to waste the prime of my life missing him and pining for him. He would want me to have someone to love and share my life with, and be a part of Travis' life too.

When Jay called, I was alone in the office. Jay sounded bright and sunny, so cheerful after a long day at work.

We made small talk about cases, he asked me how my day had gone, and then finally he asked me if I wanted to go to dinner Friday night.

"Yes," I told him. "I'd like that." I knew Danny would want me to have a chance at love and happiness again.

As I drove home after work, I began to have second thoughts about saying yes to Jay, and for some reason the tears came. I began to talk to Danny in my heart. I needed to make a stop on the way home -- a client's house. The family lived up a rocky dirt hollow and across a rickety wooden bridge. I loved driving in the countryside, so it was a nice drive. But all the way there, I had second thoughts.

What if it was a mistake? What about the vows I made to Danny? Would he really want me to date someone else? I didn't know what to do. Should I call Jay back and break the date, or keep it and take one more step into the future? I just needed a sign from Danny. I asked him to show me a sign that it was okay.

That's when it happened. As I was driving up the hollow toward my client's home. A flock of a thousand or more butterflies floated from the bushes at the side of the road and across my windshield, so thick I couldn't see through them and had to stop the car.

I felt rather than heard Danny's soft, calm voice saying, "It's okay, Tammy. Go ahead. Love again."

Somehow. Somehow he sent those butterflies to me as a sign that it was okay to move forward and open my heart to romance, companionship, and love again.

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Dig Deeper

By Nicole Musselman Boykin, Dallas, TX

I can't do it never accomplished anything. I will try has performed wonders.
~George P. Burnham

I grew up in a basketball family, the daughter and sister of two NBA coaches. My brother, Eric Musselman, has been an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and Memphis Grizzlies. He has been the head coach for the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings.
My father, Bill Musselman, was a coach in the NCAA, the ABA, the CBA and the NBA. He was head coach for Ashland College, The University of Minnesota, San Diego Sails, Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves. In 2000 my father was an assistant coach with the Portland Trail Blazers when he suffered a stroke and was later diagnosed with bone cancer.

Days before my father died, at age fifty-nine, he could not walk. His eyes had circles underneath them the color of darkened grapes. His voice was raspy and low. His weight had plunged. His kidneys no longer worked. He had cancer.

The last day we saw him we arrived at the hospital early. He asked to be put into his wheelchair and taken to the chapel. He sat in the middle of the center aisle, hands folded, head bowed, praying to God. He then asked me to say a prayer. When I finished, he whispered to me to take him back to his room and grab his dark sunglasses, which he wore like James Bond in Bangkok, day and night throughout his life. When I returned, I put them over his eyes and then in a low voice he said, "Take me outside."

It was a beautiful sunny day and we wheeled him outdoors.

He turned his face to the sun and spoke to my brother Eric. "E, hand me that phone," he commanded, waving his hand. Dad grabbed the phone and then dialed with more energy than we had seen in weeks.

"Biggie," he said to Damon Stoudamire, Portland's 5'9" point guard, "It's Bill Musselman."

And then my father came alive. His voice boomed with an enthusiasm we hadn't heard in weeks, but had heard so many times in locker rooms and on sidelines. My brother and I were mesmerized and captivated by his words and the rhythm and strength of his voice.

We heard him barking at Stoudamire: "What is going on with you? You have got to dig deep. You have more inside you. Don't let anyone keep you down." His voice got louder and gained momentum. "Dig deeper! You have to go deeper! Get in there, fight, be strong, and be tough; we all have more to give then we think! Push yourself! Use every ounce of your potential! I know you have more, I know you can find more inside, we all can."

Dad's arms were waving like a symphony conductor. His jaw was clenched. His words were crisp and clear for a man who had lost all of his speech six months earlier from a stroke. Eric and I stood there a bit shocked but smiling and hanging onto each of my father's words.

On that day in the glorious sunshine, wearing his sunglasses, my father gave us our last life lesson, one last bit of advice that makes you believe that you have something glorious inside you. As Dad spoke to Biggie, he let us know that we have been given a gift from above and must dig deep to find it and then do everything possible to use it wisely and with impact. We must all live up to our potential, and our potential is infinitely greater than we can ever imagine.

My father was a great believer that if you kept your focus and were willing to work harder than you ever thought possible, even when your dreams didn't happen on your timeline, you could still accomplish great things.

My dad was interested in why people prevail and why people surrender. The will to triumph fascinated him. When I look back at his life, his greatest gift wasn't a fantastic basketball mind; his greatest gift was the dedication to follow his dream. Behind his steel blue eyes was a life full of passion. My father once told me, "Two percent of basketball players are born with endless talent, the kind of talent that would take a complete fool to mess up. The other ninety-eight percent are going to succeed because of how much they put into it and how deep they dig into their soul."

I looked back at the road my father traveled and it was filled with great successes, but also some controversies and brutal failures. But he never lost sight of where he wanted to go. Dad's life was cut short but he had something inside him that kept him moving forward, something that gave his life fullness and energy. His love for basketball was so powerful that no matter how much he succeeded or how miserably he failed, he still felt value in his quest. He was a focused warrior.


At Dad's funeral, an older man came up to my brother and introduced himself. He said, "Over thirty-five years ago I was driving down the two-lane highway on the way to Orville, Ohio. I saw a boy about eleven or twelve years old dribbling a basketball on the side of the road. I pulled over and said, 'Son, where are you going?'

"He kept dribbling and replied, 'Orville.'

"Then I asked him, 'Do you know Orville is ten miles away?'

"And the boy nodded, 'Yes.'
Then I asked, 'What are you going to do when you get there?'

"He looked up at me with this strange kind of smile and answered, 'Dribble back home with my left hand.'

"That boy was your father."

Now there is a guy who knew how to dig deep!

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среда, 28 марта 2012 г.

A Cave with a View

By Pamela Goldstein

Nature reserves the right to inflict upon her children the most terrifying jests.
~Thornton Wilder

The United States is known as the melting pot of humanity. Canada, on the other hand, is called the mosaic of cultures. Is there a difference? Yes. In the U.S., people who immigrate try to blend in and absorb that wonderful American heritage of baseball, apple pie, picnics and July 4th.

We Canadians love being Canadian and we're proud of our country, as well. But we've never given up the culture from our previous homes. So, for example, when you go into the Grey-Bruce peninsula of Ontario and visit towns like Kincardine and Lion's Head and Tobermory, you find men looking as if they have just walked out of eighteenth century moors. And often wearing kilts.
When my boys were five and three, and I was pregnant with my daughter, we went camping in the peninsula.

Joshua, my eldest, had learned about caves from a TV show and desperately wanted to see one. Much to his delight just "a wee bit east of Lion's Head" were the Greig's caves.

It turned out that "wee bit" meant forty-five minutes. No matter, we made it.

"Hallo, lass!" said a kindly elderly gentleman in a red plaid kilt. "What brings ye to my woods?"

I told him we wanted to see the caves.

With a twinkle in his eye he said, "It'll cost ye two dollars a head."

I paid the man.

"Just follow the path down there a bit. It'll take ye around the mountain and into the woods on the other side. 'Tis a small hike, shouldn't take ye but an hour."

Forty-five minutes into the walk and we came to the first bend on the path. It was then that I noticed we were very high up and overlooking a lush green valley with ribbons of yellow wheat and wild purple lavender trailing through it. The morning mist was just clearing and the remaining glistening threads gave this pastoral scene an ethereal quality.

"He's so pretty," whispered Josh. He was staring into the face of a huge harrier hawk, not even ten feet away from him.

"Yes," I murmured as I slowly moved between Josh and this magnificent bird of prey that was eying his blond hair.

Now, I suppose at this point another more observant person would have noticed that there were no safety fences or guardrails along the way, but hey, this is Canada, the rough and wild country. It didn't even occur to me to question this.

After a while, the wide path suddenly turned into a ledge that was eighteen inches wide if we were lucky. I debated going back but reasoned that we only had a few more minutes to go. After all, the man had said it was only an hour's hike.

We put our backs to the wall and inched our way along. This wasn't a problem until I foolishly looked down at the tree tops a hundred feet below. I gasped with terror.

Did I mention I'm afraid of heights?

"It's okay, Mom," said Josh. "I know being high up scares you, but I'm not afraid. It's a good thing I'm leading."

Right. Being led by a five-year-old made me feel a lot better.

Another ten feet and we almost fell into an enormous cave that had partially collapsed.

"Whoaaaaa! This is awesome!" shouted Josh with glee. "Look at all those rattlesnakes. They look like Mississaugas. They're so cool."

Cool? Are you kidding me?

"Where did you learn about snakes?"

"The Discovery Channel," Josh replied. "Cartoons are boring."

He immediately started throwing stones into the cave.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Scaring them away. See? They're slithering to the back of the cave so we can go along the front."

Well, God bless the Discovery Channel.

We forged across four more gigantic caves, every time throwing stones to clear the way of snakes. At one point I forced myself to look at the view and I stopped moving. Now that the mist had evaporated I could see the vastness of the tranquil blue water of Lake Huron.

"It's so still," murmured Josh. "I never saw somethin' so pretty."

"Me neither, sweetie."

Finally, the path widened again. I could see a forest in the distance. A small glen nestled in front of it.

We were going to be okay.

Just had to get by the adolescent black bear that stood a hundred feet away.

"What'll we do?" whispered Josh. "I didn't see any shows on bears yet."

"We're going to sit behind this rock until he moves on," I replied, sounding braver than I felt.

"Awwwww, bear!" shouted Ben, my three-year-old.

"Shhhhh!"

At that moment I heard voices coming from the woods. Frantic men.

A large Scotsman in his kilt suddenly strode out of the forest and onto the path. Not a man to reckon with that was for sure. The bear seemed to agree. He scurried away when the Scot bellowed at him. At that point I think I was more afraid of the man than the bear.

He spotted us sitting on our rock.

"Oh glory be, praise God!" he cried. "I found them!" he shouted to the other men who were now entering the glen.

I smiled at him as he rushed over to us. "Good morning," I said as cheerfully as I could. "Lovely day, isn't it?"

I rose to my feet to shake his hand.

"Oh mother of God she's with child!" he cried. Then he noticed Josh and Ben. "Ach! And she has wee bairn with her! I'll kill him for this."

The man was nearing seventy and he was out of breath. I began to worry that he was having a coronary. "Are you all right?" I asked.

"Am I all right?" he shouted. "Jeezus, Mary and Joseph!"

He finally calmed down enough to speak to me. "I was scared out of me wits. No one has taken that trail for years. Since the side of the mountain sheared off. Are you sure you're all right, miss?"

"We're fine," I replied with a grin. "We had a great time."


Just then the elderly gentleman arrived. "It was a grand view, wasn't it?"

I noticed some of the other men mopping their brows with handkerchiefs. They had been terrified for us. "Indeed it was, sir," I said. "Worth every penny."

"I knew you'd fancy it," he chortled.

"What?" cried his son. "You charged her money for this torture?"

"Of course I charged her. Two dollars a head."

"I swear I'll be putting you in a home if you do anything like this again!"

Sean, the son, insisted that we all had to have tea and baps to make up for his ninety-four-year-old dad's "error" and listen to a few tunes from the bagpipes. (He was the leader of the town's pipe and drum band and they had been at practice.) Then we bid farewell.

T'was a grand day, indeed, in the Bruce Peninsula of Ontario!
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вторник, 27 марта 2012 г.

Eating My Idols

By Kim Stokely

Prayer may not change things for you, but it for sure changes you for things.
~Samuel M. Shoemaker

As I flipped through the pictures of my husband's retirement ceremony, I cried. The woman in the photos didn't even look like me. Over John's 20 years in the Navy, I had gained and lost over 300 pounds. Sometimes it takes the objective view of a camera lens to make us realize how we truly appear to others. I masked this last gain of 60 pounds under oversized sweaters and baggy pants until the person smiling at me from the photographs was a stranger. As I contemplated which diet to try this time, God seemed to tell me it wasn't only a diet I needed, but a change of heart as well.
The first step was to enroll in a diet center that concentrated not only on weight loss, but in teaching me how to cook and eat correctly. When I came home with my new food list, I broke into tears. I paid too much money to eat so little. I shook the offending paper in front of my bewildered husband.

"There's no way I can do this! I don't even like vegetables."

John gave me a hug and reminded me he'd support whatever I decided, but we both knew I had to at least make a valiant attempt to stick to it. I went to bed depressed and set for failure.

The next morning I woke up and found a note card on top of my Bible. On it was a verse I had written the day before. "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the Lord, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly." (1 Chr. 28:20 NLT.) I knew immediately that I was the temple of the Lord. Losing weight was more than a diet, it was a test. A test the Teacher would help me pass.

Through Bible study and prayer I realized how I had used food as an idol in my life. I'd heard the idea before, how anything we turn to instead of Christ is an idol, but now God gave me a clear vision of exactly how I glorified food. I might as well have carved out tiny statues and placed them in a shrine where I could worship them each day. A bag of potato chips represented my god of anger. A chocolate chip cookie symbolized my god of joy. Miniature idols of macaroni and cheese and pizza sat proudly on the altar of my heart and rejoiced each time I turned to them instead of the Lord. Every celebration came with cake. Doughnuts eased any disappointments. Only after I'd satisfied my food idols did I turn to the Lord in prayer. But our God is a jealous God, and he was no longer willing to take second place.

The Lord commanded, "You shall have no other gods before me." Food had crept into my heart and pushed Him out. Not completely, but enough so I turned to its seductive satisfaction first, instead of trusting completely in God and his plan for me. Through prayer I learned to give even the smallest aspects of my life to God and deny food the opportunity to lead me astray. It hasn't been easy. When the stress of work or raising teenagers overwhelms me I'm still tempted to turn to a bowl of ice cream for comfort. But even though I walk through the Valley of the Häagen-Dazs I know my God is with me. He longs to pick me up and set me back on His path again.

The journey to lose weight has been an amazing one. I feel like the Israelites being led out of Egypt, free after years of serving a foreign master. Physically, I lost over 40 pounds, started exercising regularly and even learned to like vegetables; but the spiritual results are far more rewarding. I feel God's pleasure at my obedience to his will, and that is more satisfying than any mouthful of food has ever been.
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A Blast from the Past

By Gail Wilkinson

A child embarrassed by his mother is just a child who hasn't lived long enough.
~Mitch Albom, For One More Day

Most mothers wear many hats. My mother, literally, had a closet full. And, to my great embarrassment, she wore them in public.
Mom adored hats of all kinds -- the bolder the better. She had rows of tissue covered hats overflowing her closet and spilling onto attic shelves. Vibrant red straw peeked through one bundle, chocolate-colored felt from another, and an occasional ribbon or bow escaped the wrapping. Another child might have found Mom's hat fancy intriguing or exciting. Not me. In the small Midwestern town where we lived, practical, plain clothing prevailed. My goal was to fit in. Mom had a flair for standing out.

One frigid winter in my tender junior high years, Mom and Dad came to a basketball game where I was a cheerleader. Parents streamed in the doors, unwinding knitted scarves and popping off woolen caps. They wrangled their way out of sturdy parkas and canvas farming jackets. The crowd was similar -- bland and comforting. When my parents arrived, it wasn't hard to spot them. Mom was sporting a white rabbit fur hat with a leather bill (and it was "Belgian rabbit! On sale even, from Esther Kirk Boutique!"). It snuggled on the top of her head like a woodland creature trying to beat the cold. I hid behind my pompoms, waiting for Mom to find a seat and remove her hat. Nope! Too chilly in the gym -- the rabbit stayed in place all night.

A vacation photo memorializes Mom's favorite summer hat. The picture was taken on a road trip west, and we are posed in a Nebraska wheat field. Mom is wearing an avocado-colored short set that looks earthy in contrast to the waving wheat at our knees. On her head, however, is a bright orange straw hat with a bill wide enough to slice your jugular if you got too close. In the picture, Dad is keeping his distance. That hat thwarted my goal that vacation, of "not looking like a tourist." To this day, Mom sighs when she sees that photo, looks wistfully into space and murmurs, "I always loved that hat...."

Easter, as you can imagine, was the Academy Awards of hat exposure. One of Mom's favorites had a high, hot pink crown, completely engulfed with magenta flowers placed every quarter of an inch. The flowers carpeted the entire hat. Glorious! That Easter marked Mom's only attempt to pass on her hat obsession to my sister and me. She had purchased flower-encrusted headbands for us to wear. My sister and I remember that day as living proof that one's brain can be perforated by headband spikes. We swear that blood pooled on our scalps underneath the celebratory flowers. On the upside, I only have vague memories of the obstruction that Mom's hot pink extravaganza created in the pews that Sunday.

The mustard-colored English Bobbie hat was perhaps the most radical and surely the most embarrassing. Accented with leather braided cord, it exuded an authority that only a woman of confidence could pull off. Lucky for me, Mom was up to the challenge.

I did not inherit Mom's flair for flaunting a fancy hat. I still, much like in junior high, prefer to fly under the radar. However, I have grown to appreciate Mom's courage in wearing hats she loved, even if they elicited public stares or groans from her family. More importantly, I have received the powerful message of Mom's action: Be yourself. Don't worry what other people think. When people are looking at you, hold your head high. Even if there's a rabbit on top of it.
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Mom's Many Hats

By Gail Wilkinson

A child embarrassed by his mother is just a child who hasn't lived long enough.
~Mitch Albom, For One More Day

Most mothers wear many hats. My mother, literally, had a closet full. And, to my great embarrassment, she wore them in public.
Mom adored hats of all kinds -- the bolder the better. She had rows of tissue covered hats overflowing her closet and spilling onto attic shelves. Vibrant red straw peeked through one bundle, chocolate-colored felt from another, and an occasional ribbon or bow escaped the wrapping. Another child might have found Mom's hat fancy intriguing or exciting. Not me. In the small Midwestern town where we lived, practical, plain clothing prevailed. My goal was to fit in. Mom had a flair for standing out.

One frigid winter in my tender junior high years, Mom and Dad came to a basketball game where I was a cheerleader. Parents streamed in the doors, unwinding knitted scarves and popping off woolen caps. They wrangled their way out of sturdy parkas and canvas farming jackets. The crowd was similar -- bland and comforting. When my parents arrived, it wasn't hard to spot them. Mom was sporting a white rabbit fur hat with a leather bill (and it was "Belgian rabbit! On sale even, from Esther Kirk Boutique!"). It snuggled on the top of her head like a woodland creature trying to beat the cold. I hid behind my pompoms, waiting for Mom to find a seat and remove her hat. Nope! Too chilly in the gym -- the rabbit stayed in place all night.

A vacation photo memorializes Mom's favorite summer hat. The picture was taken on a road trip west, and we are posed in a Nebraska wheat field. Mom is wearing an avocado-colored short set that looks earthy in contrast to the waving wheat at our knees. On her head, however, is a bright orange straw hat with a bill wide enough to slice your jugular if you got too close. In the picture, Dad is keeping his distance. That hat thwarted my goal that vacation, of "not looking like a tourist." To this day, Mom sighs when she sees that photo, looks wistfully into space and murmurs, "I always loved that hat...."

Easter, as you can imagine, was the Academy Awards of hat exposure. One of Mom's favorites had a high, hot pink crown, completely engulfed with magenta flowers placed every quarter of an inch. The flowers carpeted the entire hat. Glorious! That Easter marked Mom's only attempt to pass on her hat obsession to my sister and me. She had purchased flower-encrusted headbands for us to wear. My sister and I remember that day as living proof that one's brain can be perforated by headband spikes. We swear that blood pooled on our scalps underneath the celebratory flowers. On the upside, I only have vague memories of the obstruction that Mom's hot pink extravaganza created in the pews that Sunday.

The mustard-colored English Bobbie hat was perhaps the most radical and surely the most embarrassing. Accented with leather braided cord, it exuded an authority that only a woman of confidence could pull off. Lucky for me, Mom was up to the challenge.

I did not inherit Mom's flair for flaunting a fancy hat. I still, much like in junior high, prefer to fly under the radar. However, I have grown to appreciate Mom's courage in wearing hats she loved, even if they elicited public stares or groans from her family. More importantly, I have received the powerful message of Mom's action: Be yourself. Don't worry what other people think. When people are looking at you, hold your head high. Even if there's a rabbit on top of it.
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Richie

By Robert Nussbaum

Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.
~Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

Empty nesters -- the baby boomers, alone at last. Somehow, empty and alone did not happen for my wife and myself. And in many ways, though there is sadness attached to this alternate reality, something good has emerged.

I recently read about what it means to be back under the watchful eye of your parents from the point of view of several recent college graduates. Let me tell you the story from my perspective.
My son is now 30, and he is brilliant. There is no other way of describing his intellectual capabilities. At two, he could pick up a record, find the cut on the album that he enjoyed, and put the needle to the appropriate sound. At six, he was teaching 10-year-olds in his elementary school about the latest on the computer. He wrote music and words for a song for his fifth-grade play. He graduated near the top of his class, had an outstanding academic career at Dartmouth, and was a star in his graduate program in public policy at Berkeley.

And he has spent the past five years, from the moment he called to say he was too sick to finish the last term of his studies and took a plane home, in the bedroom down the hall from myself and my wife.

This is not easy to write about, and it makes me feel a bit irritated with those young graduates who good-naturedly grouse about the difficulties they have in finding a world not ready, willing or able to accept them. But this is not about responding to them, nor about pitying myself or my son. This is rather about the benefit that has come from his unexpected return.

You see, empty and alone connotes that there is something missing. And what my son, in his mid-twenties and in his diminished physical state, brought back into our lives was an intellectual curiosity and questioning. Events of the world that seemed to swirl around my life without focus suddenly started to have meaning. Here was a young man, with all his passion for those who have been trampled in the rush of the few and the privileged to reach the top of the food pyramid. Here was my son, making me turn my attention to all that was wrong in so many arenas. Here was this young mind, challenging me to take issue with a world that had lost its compass. For you see, my son brought to me the gift of compelling me to think.

As my intellectual horizons broadened upon my son's insistence, I found that I took a real interest in exploring parts of our universe -- and my own mind, which had long been ignored. The sports pages no longer were the only focus. Soon, the news and opinion pages took center stage. My discussions with my son, while often still about the Yankees, more and more centered on matters that mattered in more fundamental ways. And I began to write about my reactions to the world around me.

Now I write almost every day. It is a role that I could never have fathomed and never would have taken on had illness not forced the return of my son to a nest he wanted nothing more than to abandon. And while he acts as my in-house editor, and responds with the most gentle of criticism to my less stellar efforts, my son's "this one is good, this is very good" is for me the sweetest of all sounds.

There is much more bad than good in watching a son turn 30 under your watchful eye, in a bedroom intended for many things other than his permanent residence. He can and should be spending the incredible gifts he was given on a world that could sorely use his skills and his passion. I know that each day he hopes and waits to feel the pain disappear, the strength to return to his muscles, and the weight that so mysteriously and dramatically dropped to as mysteriously and dramatically return. And maybe tomorrow will be that day. And there will be no happier moment for his mom and me than waving goodbye as he begins a life that has been placed on hold.

But if and when he does leave, it will be a sad time, too. For I have grown to be a more complete and mature person because of his presence. I have discovered things about myself that make each day of my life more full and interesting. So while I curse the fates that have been unkind to my son, I also thank them. I wish nothing more for my son than good health and a productive life, but I will be forever grateful for his unexpected return that made an empty nest much fuller.
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суббота, 24 марта 2012 г.

The Strongest Memory

By Timothy J. Larkin

The ball, a scuffed Walter Hagen 2, is cemented to a tee, and is mounted to a small polished piece of oak. A brass plaque reads: POLAND SPRING, MAINE, HOLE- IN-ONE, AUGUST 26, 1986. The memento sits on my father's nightstand in his room at the nursing home just outside of Boston.
He really was not much of a golfer, but he enjoyed the game immensely. A sub-100 round at the local city-owned course was a triumph. Never one to spend a lot of money, his clubs were branded "Rivalists."

Then, a most remarkable day. While on vacation with my mother, he decided to play a round of golf on the resort's course. My mother chose to sit by the pool.

Paired up with a partner he had never met before and whom he would never see again, he somehow managed to hit his tee shot 148 yards, over a pond and into the cup at the 6th hole of Poland Spring Golf Course. Truth be told, neither of them saw it go in, and they looked around the green for several minutes before looking in the hole.

It would give him pleasure for years to come, and at family gatherings he would seldom fail to remind any of his six children about the accomplishment. Since I was the only son who took up the game, he would also occasionally ask whether I had ever shot a hole-in-one.

My father is ninety-two now and suffers from advanced dementia. Visits to him at his nursing home over the past year have been difficult as each week seems to bring further deterioration. While he remains physically able, his short-term memory has declined markedly over the past few months and the foggy days outnumber the clear ones. He struggles to communicate, often choosing the wrong word or manufacturing words altogether.

We are grateful, though, for the wonderful care that he receives, and comforted by the fact that he is seldom angry or unhappy. We are resigned to the fact that he will never fully regain his memory.

His caregivers suggest that when talking to him you mention people, places, and things from his past, as a way to jog his memory. I try to get him to recall my mother, who passed away ten years ago, or his ailing sister, or his grandchildren, often with little or no success. The family photo album on his dresser brings little response. And, yet, there is that golf ball and plaque. Even on the darkest of days, if I pick up that plaque, and show it to him, and ask whether it was he who shot the hole-in-one, he will light up once more. The twinkle in his eyes returns and he grins. And if I ask how he was able to do that, he may even swing an imaginary club, his smile broadening. With even more prompting, he can even recall that he had a witness, lest there be any doubt about the veracity of the event.

It was for him, I think, his life's greatest achievement. And nothing else comes even close to bringing him back to an earlier, happier, time. Nothing.
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пятница, 23 марта 2012 г.

My Second Love

By Phillip Hernandez

Music inflames temperament.
~Jim Morrison

One of my closest friends, Adrian, made me a mixed CD of songs after I had a harsh breakup with a girl. Each song was meant to summarize points of my life, and the feelings and exchanges I'd had with different girls. He had written some not-so-kind things about her on the CD with pink marker, and it made me smile. Smiling with sincerity was difficult for me then. I spent my days hiding away in the practice rooms of the music center and skipping classes with my friends. I had become so numb that I could hardly even feel, let alone pretend to feel. Adrian's mixed CD was a temporary release.
At the end of my senior year in high school, I spent the majority of my time continuing to try to escape. That's when I fell in love again. Her black and white keys were smooth, and the mahogany body was beautiful. I would occasionally skip English class to meet "my love" in the theater. My understanding English teacher would spot me through the windows, sitting at the eight-foot Steinway grand piano in the orchestra pit. He'd smile and wave.

I had music theory class at eight o'clock every morning. It was my science, my philosophy, and my escape. Every day after class, I felt like I had accomplished something. My other classes felt like child's play compared to music theory. Transposing keys, figuring out major thirds and chords, and remembering to hold my fermatas were a completely different feeling. I had been playing piano and guitar for years, but I never really understood them until I learned theory.

At the end of the year, Flan Man, what we called our music theory teacher, asked me to meet him in his office. I had this overwhelming feeling that I had done something wrong, like I had cheated on homework or failed the exam.

"PHILLIPE... AIR-NANDESS!!" Flan Man always greeted me with a handshake and his crazy smile. "Phil, remind me where you are heading off to school next year."

"JMU," I answered. "I plan on doing the business program there... or maybe something with law."


"Listen. I hear you every morning practicing on the piano. You've really got something. A certain je ne sais quoi!" He was always a little over the top, but he wouldn't have been a very good conductor if he wasn't so quirky. "Just promise me, whatever you do with your life, you keep music close by. Keep practicing some theory. I wouldn't want to see your talents go to waste." I just nodded and he showed me the A I got on the final exam. I never walked into the music room again.

There I was, barely eighteen, and deep in my heart, I could feel that shadow of emptiness pressing my shoulders down. Flan Man's words had thrown me a curve ball. It was the epiphany I had been waiting for, and all it took was someone else telling me I was good at something.

The first time I ever snuck into the theater and unveiled the piano, I felt relief. I felt relief from my failed relationship, relief from the fear of leaving high school, relief from my own complacency. There is a sensation that overwhelms me when I touch the keys of a piano. It's as if my feelings transcend my physical body and are released through song; the notes on each page are the ups and downs of my own emotions. And now, thanks to my teacher, I realized that music had become my purest passion.
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Life Lessons from the Lab


By Rita Lussier

Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
~Lao Tzu

Several years ago in Oregon, three climbers on Mount Hood slipped off a ledge and slid more than five hundred feet in the ice and snow. After spending the night on the mountainside in whiteout conditions, with winds swirling at up to seventy miles per hour, the signals they beamed with a live transmitter were picked up by rescuers down below.
Despite the nifty technology that helped to pinpoint the climbers' location, one of the rescuers gave credit to Velvet, the black Labrador Retriever that had accompanied the climbers and huddled with them throughout the bitter night. "The dog probably saved their lives," he said.

What I love about this story -- besides the fact that they were all rescued safe and sound -- is that Velvet became a hero by virtue of just being a dog. There was no mention of the Labrador's extraordinary valor or intelligence or training. Apparently, Velvet's big life-saving technique was The Huddle. There she was, along for the climb, and when the going got rough, Velvet the Life-Saving Dog just lay there in a heap with the climbers, sharing warmth on a cold night.

Although my own black Lab has never rescued me from an 11,239-foot mountain, she has saved the day more than once when I've felt a frown coming on. And just like Velvet, what Lizzie does comes as naturally and instinctively to her as licking the dirt off her paws or rolling around on her back spastically when she has an itch to scratch.

When life gets too complicated, when the demands on my time are more numerous than there are hours in a day, Lizzie will rush up to me with her suggestion, tail wagging, leash in mouth. Somehow she knows there's nothing like a walk for slowing down your day, for taking in a breath of fresh air, and, as they say, for stopping to smell the roses -- although I don't think that's quite what Lizzie stops to smell along the way.

Every day, she reminds me that when someone comes through the door, returning home from work or from school or just stopping by for a visit, there's only one way to respond. Put on a happy face. No matter what kind of day she's had, whether she's been out for hours or cooped up in the house all day, she never fails to run to the door and shower whoever enters with all the drooly affection of her canine heart.

In Lizzie's world, there's no time to waste on fussy little details that could eat up time when there are so many more satisfying things to, well, eat. Just throw some of those nuggets from that giant bag of food in one bowl, pour a little water in the other and watch it disappear. Same food, same bowls, same enthusiastic response night after night. Why not be happy with what you've got?

She pulls out her best mood-altering tactic when I'm sitting at the little round table in the alcove in our kitchen. There I am, helping with homework or sewing ribbons onto ballet shoes, paying bills or just kicking back with a book. The next thing you know, this warm mound of fur plunks herself down at my feet, wrapping her front paws tightly around one of my ankles, as if to say: "It's about time you're sitting down. Why don't you stay a while?" I like to think of it as a hug.

In fact, if all else fails, Lizzie's solution is as simple as it is effective. Wherever you are, in the middle of the morning, in the middle of a movie, in the middle of anything -- except, of course, dinner -- it doesn't matter. Just nod off. Take a nap. And when you come back to join the rest of the world, surely you will have regained your stride.

There's nothing like a dog to remind me that in this complex world we really need to stay in touch with a simpler existence. As Velvet showed us, just being who you are is enough to make you a hero. And as long as you've got food in your bowl, a warm bed to curl up in and someone to wag your tail for, I mean, come on. Life is good.
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The Gift of Change


By Nancy Hatten

In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.
~Bertrand Russell

For years I was unhappy with most of the gifts I received for my birthday, Christmas or other occasions. I put a lot of thought into the gifts I gave to others, and it seemed to me that that they did not return the favor.
Didn't those closest to me know that I didn't enjoy reading romance novels? Or that gadgets for my car would go unused? And surely they should have figured out that if they wanted to get me a food gift it had to be chocolate! But no, the stream of gifts that I put in the back of my dresser drawer, gave away, or even sometimes threw away, continued.

I didn't speak up. I didn't want to hurt the feelings of those I loved and cared about, but my resentment began to grow. I felt like the most important people in my life didn't really know me, or maybe didn't care enough about me to think about my likes and dislikes.

One day I was unwrapping a birthday gift from my teenage son -- a blouse more stylish than I felt comfortable wearing. My first thought when I peeled back the tissue paper and saw the blouse was that it was another candidate to hang in the back of my closet. But when I looked up at Jason's face and saw him smiling at me with anticipation, I finally got it. It was an epiphany that made me readjust the attitude of a lifetime in a moment.

"What do you think, Mom?" Jason asked, barely waiting for me to pull the blouse out of the box. "I thought it would look so nice on you."

"It's beautiful," I was able to say authentically as I hugged him. In that moment of clarity I realized that Jason saw me as someone who would be open to receiving and wearing something more elegant than my usual attire. He wanted to give me something special.

"Try it on -- I want to see how it looks," Jason added.

"I know just the skirt to try it with," I said as I headed towards my closet.

When I re-entered the living room with the outfit on, Jason was waiting. "It looks just like I thought it would. It's pretty on you, Mom," Jason said.

I tried to stop the tears that were welling in the corner of my eyes. "Thank you, honey. It is a beautiful blouse. I can tell you put a lot of thought into picking it out."

"You're welcome Mom -- glad you like it," Jason said, and he continued to smile as he gave me another quick hug before he walked away.

Jason probably wondered why I was so emotional over the gift. He had no way of knowing that he'd given me much more than a blouse.

I began to think back on gifts I'd rejected as a bad fit for me and grasped the fact that maybe the people who gave me the gifts saw something in me that I didn't see in myself. They might have thought I was more romantic, or adventurous, or saw me as a better cook than I gave myself credit for. I began to see myself as others saw me. That opened me up to change and growth.

In the years since I received Jason's present, I have rarely felt disappointed when a gift doesn't match my interests or desires. I go into holidays with no expectation of receiving anything, and then everything I receive becomes a blessing. The idea that someone thinks of me, and spends precious time, thought and money to purchase and wrap a gift is more than enough for me. It is amazing how much more pleasant each occasion is, and how much more I appreciate my family and friends since this insight.

There is definitely something special about receiving a gift that is perfectly suited for you. But I have found it is just as special to receive all gifts with an open mind and a grateful heart and spirit.

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среда, 21 марта 2012 г.

A Free Fall with a Soft Landing

By Beverly Beckham

However motherhood comes to you it's a miracle.
~Valerie Harper

She never believed. Not in her core. Not the way she believes that morning follows night. Or that ice melts in the heat. Or that if you throw something into the air, it will fall back to earth. This kind of certainty eluded her.

Tara's faith was tenuous. Some days she hoped. Some days she despaired. Most days she wondered if she would ever be a mother.
Her mother, Jill, tried to help. "It will happen, Tara," she said. "I promise you. And when it does, you will look back at this time and think it was worth the wait."

But the drumbeat in Tara's head was "When? When? When?" And it never stopped. It was like a radio left on in an adjoining room.

It takes love and faith and courage to raise a child, any child. It takes closing your eyes and leaping into the unknown, then free-falling to the ground below.

But how far below? When you adopt, you don't know. So it takes patience, too, the wait harder because it's uncertain, waiting always a strain even when you can draw a circle on a date and point to it and make plans.

But when you can't point? When the pages of the calendar turn again and again and there is no circle?

Tara and Rob made plans anyway. They decorated a room, bought a crib, books, blankets, and stuffed animals, and dared to imagine at every child-centered celebration that went on in their lives -- their families big, their world full of other people's children -- that soon they would have a child, too.

Maybe next Christmas. Maybe next spring. Definitely next year.

Days drag when you're counting minutes, but somehow seasons fly. Summer came again, and there was still no baby. Babies were everywhere, the beach full of them.

Summer was Tara's season of discontent.

"It will happen, Tara. I promise," Jill continued to say. But it was getting harder and harder for Tara to believe.

And then the call came, and a picture of a baby boy. And there was relief and joy and hope and thanksgiving. But still no circle on the calendar. He could arrive in two months. Or it could be four or six or eight months.

His picture sustained her. This was her son. But then came the "what ifs." What if something went wrong? What if he didn't come? What if now, after falling in love with him, memorizing the shape of his lips, his eyes, the tussle of his hair, she lost him?

She didn't. Chase Henry Matthews arrived at Logan Airport, eight months old and beautiful, so wanted and already beloved.

A woman half a world away loved him enough that she gave birth to him. Another woman, his foster mother, loved him as her own for eight months. Another brought him here, to the United States, to Tara and Rob, who loved him even before they knew him.

It doesn't seem so long now, the long, long wait. This is what happens when you land on soft ground. You forget the time spent sad and afraid and crying. You forget everything except the baby in your arms.

Tara's mother had told her this. But children never believe their mothers, not even grown children, not even when their mothers have walked where they've walked, not even when they've wept the same tears.

For Jill's promise was never based on faith alone. She knows firsthand not just that morning follows night and that ice melts in the heat. But that the heart melts, too, and forgets its sadness in the presence of joy. For many years ago, when she herself was a young woman yearning for motherhood, the clock was a drumbeat for her, too, years of days spent playing with my children while waiting for a child of her own.


And then a social worker put Tara, just three days old, in Jill's arms. It was February, not October, in an apartment, not an airport. And it was thirty-two years ago.

But the moment of absolute love was the same.

Back then, I watched Jill cradle Tara, breathe in her smell, stroke her cheek, look into her eyes and adore her.

And now I have watched Tara, too, cradle Chase and do all the same things.

Sometimes, a woman gives birth and becomes a mother.

But sometimes more is required. Sometimes a woman has to leap off a cliff with her eyes closed and her arms open and wait and trust that her mother is right.

"It will happen," Jill said.

And miraculously -- for every child is a miracle -- it has.

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You Can Have It All

By Masha Malka

What is sad for women of my generation is that they weren't supposed to work if they had families. What were they going to do when the children are grown -- watch the raindrops coming down the window pane?
~Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

When my first baby, Veronica, was born I felt that I had it all -- the loving husband and the baby I always wanted and waited so long to have! I just couldn't get enough of her -- I couldn't wait for her to wake up so that I could play with her; I wrote her songs and letters; made hundreds of pictures and videotaped her every progress.
When Veronica was two years old something strange happened. As I was hanging out the laundry I felt tears running down my cheeks. And then I felt a deep yearning inside of me for something else, for something that was not a part of my life at the time. As much as I loved my baby and staying home with her, I had to do something more.

So I went back to school. I decided to continue my education through an online university (Capella University) so that I could still be with Veronica as much as possible. I studied while she slept and a year later I received a Graduate Certificate in Teaching and Training Online.

That same year I traveled to Las Vegas to attend a workshop on Accelerated Learning Techniques and became a certified trainer. Four months later I flew to Thailand to attend a Transformational Thinking Certificate Program. By then Veronica was three and a half years old and I was "working" on having another baby.

When I got back from Thailand I was so full of ideas and desires to start a career in training that I decided to postpone having the second child. Yet, just two weeks later I discovered that I was pregnant!

"Well," I said to myself, "why should a pregnancy and a baby stop me from doing what I really want?!" So I proceeded to design my first workshop and delivered it when I was seven months pregnant. I have to mention that I had a terrible fear of public speaking and it took all my courage and determination not to give up on my idea.

After the success of my first workshop I was "too pregnant" to deliver any more but I still felt I had to do something, so I converted my workshop into an e-book, designed a website and six weeks later started selling it online. I knew absolutely nothing about e-books or selling them online when I had that idea.

My second baby, Julia, was born a week after Veronica's fourth birthday. Three months later we sold our house and moved to Bulgaria! My husband and I wanted to do corporate training for emerging markets and decided to be closer to the action. Not knowing anyone there and with two young children, we dived right in to finding clients and developing our first workshop.

I put my desk in the living room so that I would not miss "any action" while I was writing workbooks and doing my research. I also hired someone else to do the house chores so that when I did not work I could just be with my girls.

I still wrote songs and letters to my kids, as well as took lots of photos and videos. My career, though demanding, provided a perfect balance for me.

When Veronica turned seven and Julia turned three I felt like my life was getting a little easier. The girls were in school and more and more independent; I was in the middle of writing my second book and there was a big demand for my coaching services. Though I really wanted to have a boy, I decided my family was perfect as it was and that I should not have any more children and give more focus to my career.

Ha! As I said that to my gynecologist, he informed me (after the routine check-up) that I was pregnant! Completely shocked and realizing that with the third child I might have to let go or postpone quite a few of my dreams, I did not know what to do!

Since I am still not sure "how it happened" I thought to myself that this was really meant to be and it was not for me to decide whether this was the right time or not. So I just decided, as with everything else in my life, to take it one step at a time.


I did not give up on any of my dreams. Two weeks after my baby boy David was born, my book was published. I felt like I gave birth to two children that year. The joy and fulfillment was indescribable.

I chose to breastfeed all of my kids, which meant frequent wakings at night and not much power to think or do. Yet, I had to get back to work -- my clients were waiting and the book needed attention.

When I had only Veronica and no career, I used to think that it would be impossible for me to take care of more children. I just could not image how some women did it. Now, with three children ages nine, five, and one, as well as a rapidly growing career, I realize that we greatly underestimate our power and our strength!

My new book, The One Minute Coach: Change Your Life One Minute at a Time came out in October 2008. I am busy doing what I love and I have created a perfect balance between my career and my family.

My children are growing up understanding that taking care of personal needs is just as important, if not more, as taking care of other people's needs. I still work from home and I am a very involved mom -- attending all of the recitals, teacher meetings, doing projects with my kids, and taking them on "dates with Mommy."

When we let go of our fears, do what we love, and just take it one step at a time --we can have it all!

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Invisible Mom

Invisible Mom

By Deanna Ingalls

See everything; overlook a great deal; correct a little.
~Pope John XXIII

It had the potential to be a happy day. My thirteen-year-old daughter had been selected to join the National Junior Honor Society at her middle school and parents were invited to the induction ceremony. But at the supper table the night before, my daughter's words squelched my excitement.
"You know I won't be able to talk to you tomorrow," she informed me in her matter-of-fact tone.

"That's fine," I remarked casually, wishing inside my little girl still wanted me by her side. "After the ceremony, I'll leave quietly. You'll never know I was there." My words seemed to reassure her.

"Well, I just wanted you to know, that's all."

"Don't worry, Jelly." Her eyes widened at the mention of her family nickname. "I won't do anything to embarrass you."

The morning of the ceremony, I stood in my closet, hands on hips, surveying my wardrobe. I decided on a beige shirt, black pants and black shoes. Plain and simple. That way I could blend into the background. Never be noticed. My hand instinctively grabbed my denim jacket, the one my daughter calls my "mother coat." I sighed, leaving it on the hanger.

I arrived at the school fifteen minutes early hoping to get a good seat. I figured if I couldn't talk to my daughter, at least maybe I could get a good look at her when she got her certificate. I chose the second table from the front so as not to appear overly anxious, yet still be close enough to snap a quick picture as her name was called.

I glanced down, noticing a small strip of my lower calf was revealed. My daughter's voice whispered inside my head: "Not cool, Mother." I quickly pulled my sock up, then tugged my pant leg down. Now there was no skin. My daughter would be proud.

I scanned the rows of students already seated in alphabetical order by the stage. Several were peering around the audience for a familiar face. They waved, then smiled, obviously spotting their parents in the crowd. I wished I could be so lucky.

Finally, I recognized a delicate pink ribbon in the back of my daughter's hair, her body straight like a statue, feet on the floor facing the stage.

Several brave moms ventured down to where the students were seated minutes before the ceremony started. With cameras in hand, they called their children by name. Did they not receive the same instructions I did last night? Or maybe they chose to ignore them. My camera sat quietly in my lap. Not long ago, I was one of those moms. But not anymore. I had promised I wouldn't embarrass her.

The ceremony began. One by one, each student's name was called. Each received a certificate. A few parents snuck down close to the stage, crouched to the floor and snapped close-up pictures of their children. Instead, I pressed the zoom button on my camera and hoped I would get a good shot. I clapped quietly as her name was called. No whistling. No yelling. No standing up to cheer.

After the ceremony there was a reception in the cafeteria. I stood alone, scanning the crowded room for my daughter. Finally, I spotted her across the room in a circle of friends. She was laughing and talking, obviously enjoying the day's festivities. I wanted to run up to her, throw my arms around her and tell her how proud I was. How much I loved her. I took a deep breath and remembered my promise.

Parents were starting to leave. I couldn't see my daughter any longer. She must have gone back to class. I would have to wait until she got home to tell her how proud I was.


Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It surprised me since I didn't know that many parents at her new school.

"What are you doing standing over here all by yourself?" my daughter jokingly asked. Had she forgotten her instructions from the night before? Before I could fully appreciate her gesture, she excitedly jumped in with another question.

"Would you take a picture of me with my friends?"

Would I? I couldn't unzip my camera case fast enough. She even introduced me to her friends.

By now, the crowd was dwindling as parents filed outside and students headed back to class.

"Well, I guess I better be going," I announced reluctantly, not wanting this rare closeness to end.

"Well, you have a good day, Mother." My daughter beamed like a ray of sunshine. My heart swelled with pride once more. And suddenly, it was a happy day after all.

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