среда, 27 июня 2012 г.

Full Circle

By Caroline S. McKinney

The wheel is come full circle, I am here.
~William Shakespeare

"I'm going for a run," I said loudly as I went out the door and down the stairs of the apartment where my mother, brothers and I lived. I was in a bad mood, and needed to get out of the house, to put as much distance as I could between my family and me. Things were pretty bad as far as my relationship with my mom and brothers was concerned. As a teenager I kept to myself and seemed to find fault with everything they said or did. We were all trying to make things work, but the pressure of trying to support each other through some very hard times was beginning to get to me.

"I'm going for a run," I said loudly as I went out the door and down the stairs of the apartment where my mother, brothers and I lived. I was in a bad mood, and needed to get out of the house, to put as much distance as I could between my family and me. Things were pretty bad as far as my relationship with my mom and brothers was concerned. As a teenager I kept to myself and seemed to find fault with everything they said or did. We were all trying to make things work, but the pressure of trying to support each other through some very hard times was beginning to get to me.

So I began running. At first I would just take long walks to get away from everyone and everything. But the pressures and worries that filled my head and heart seemed to stay with me on those walks. I couldn't seem to shake the feeling that my family was falling apart and that I was only making things worse. My classes were a burden that I could hardly bear, and the part-time job I held at a donut shop felt like a dead end to me.

One day I just couldn't take it. I ran. I ran down the street and across the block and past another block and another. When I couldn't run anymore I stopped to catch my breath, bending over and feeling my chest heave with the effort of my crazy dash. Then I noticed that my head was clear, and that I hadn't thought about anything negative while I was running. So the next time I stormed out of the house and went for a walk I ran halfway through it. I ran until all thoughts of home and family and the miserable situation we were in faded from my consciousness. I found my mind clear and settled. I had found an answer. So I started running.

Things at home and at school and work didn't seem to get any better. As a matter of fact things seemed to get worse, as I pulled almost totally away from the people around me. My running became my release from all the stress and negative feelings I connected with my family. I went out running almost every day, no matter what the weather was like. If a day at home was really bad I'd go out more than once. There were days that I had to run and run and run to leave my problems behind. It was an escape that I turned to again and again.

hen one night I reached the lowest point in my life. I argued with my mom and brothers over things I should have been trying to help make better. Instead I blamed them for everything, and swore I was never coming back again. I went out and ran longer and faster than I'd ever run before. I ran until my lungs were on fire and I could barely see past the sweat that poured down my face. Overhead the moon followed me like a giant, unblinking eye.

Clouds rolled by. It started to rain. I ran past houses where soft lights shone through curtains and I could see people moving about. I imagined the families inside those houses laughing and listening to each other, offering help and hope to one another. I ran past the little neighborhood church where my mom liked to go on Sundays, and remembered how her last prayer at the end of each service was for her family. I ran past a couple walking the other way, holding hands and whispering to each other. The look on their faces was one of love and devotion. I ran on and on.

But this time instead of running until I could run no more and then stopping and slowly making my way back, I found that I'd run in a huge circle around the neighborhood, covering the endless blocks, the rain-slicked streets right back to my apartment. As I stood breathing heavily I looked through the living room window of the apartment, watching the shadows of my family as they moved about, picking up the pieces I'd left behind. I stood and thought about all the good memories, all the joy that existed there because of the love we had for each other. I realized I had to stop running from my problems, that I was responsible for helping my family, and that I needed to give them the love and support that I was looking for in them. I went back upstairs, listening to the sounds of the voices on the other side of the door, knowing I could make each voice a little happier, take away some of the sadness, if I tried hard enough.

Things got better. Those times that often seemed like they would never end changed, and our family grew closer as we held each other together. I still run. But now I run to think about all the wonderful people and the gifts that fill my life. I run to come back full circle to those challenges, those frustrations, those blessings and miracles that are mine to make the best of, not run away from. I run because I have a destination now: Home, and everyone there who's waiting for me.
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A Trip to Healing

By Jennifer Mallin

There is no friendship, no love, like that of the parent for the child.
~Henry Ward Beecher

"Mom, where's my white jean skirt!?"

My daughter's voice rose to a timbre more befitting a house fire than a lost piece of clothing.

"Mom, if I can't find that, I'm just not going to school!"

It was the beginning of her thirteenth spring, and it was at that moment that I realized I was no longer the mother of a preteen. I was officially the mother of a teenager.

"Mom, I hate this breakfast." (The same one she happily ate yesterday.) "You don't even know what I eat! Are you actually wearing, (eating, doing, saying) that?" And the worst one of all because I'd said the exact same thing to my mother: "Don't embarrass me!" (Finger pointing included.)

At times she was as clingy as a toddler, but most of the time she was pushing me away. Everything had become a struggle. Somehow, I thought teenagerdom would pass me by, that I was immune to it. My daughter and I have always been extraordinarily close. I was proud of the fact that I was known as the "cool mom." We could just look at each other and burst out laughing. We would sail along like sisters, secure in our sacred bond and secret language.

Complicating matters further was that I was a stay-at-home mom who suddenly developed a hobby that consumed more and more of my time. "You're always at the art supply store. Another art class -- didn't you just take one!?"

I felt that we were both striking out on our own but in opposite directions.

Packing for camp that summer was a nightmare. More clothes lay crumpled on the floor than in her giant duffel. We stood facing each other in a tense standoff.

"It's like we're not even friends anymore. It's like we're enemies," she yelled.

Later that night I sat on the bathroom floor, admonishing myself to try and do some yogic breathing.

"She's just a teenager," I repeated to myself like a mantra, through tears of hurt and frustration. I remembered her as a baby afraid to let go of me; holding onto my long hair like a talisman. But, it didn't still the ache in my heart.

I dropped her off at the camp bus that summer. We hugged each other hard, and I watched as she boarded the bus. Every other summer she would pop her head out and cheekily salute me with a kiss. This year she took her seat without a glance back.

I spent my summer painting, writing, and missing my daughter. I missed her and I missed the idea of her. I hoped our time apart would be somehow a time of healing.

Our last phone call before camp ended was a week before she was due home.

"Mom, will you pick me up?"

"Now?" I asked.

"No, at the end of camp."

"Don't you want to take the bus with your friends?"

I was calculating the driving time; nine hours in one day. Time I could be painting or catching up on the endless list of things that I always seem to be behind on.

"We could spend some time together," she pleaded.

I knew that she was reaching out to me.

"Yes," I said, "of course."

She swung her long legs into the car. She was silent and slumped dejectedly in her seat. She twirled her friendship bracelet, took out her camera, and began scrolling through her pictures.

"I wish I were back in camp," she announced. "I'm camp sick."

We were driving along beautiful, winding, country roads in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I didn't know what to say, so I just drove, trying to puzzle out what was ineffable -- a loss I could not name.

Instead of feeling hurt and angry, I looked inside myself for something that I could give her, a gift that would somehow transform us both.

That summer day, we ate ice cream for lunch, sitting on the roof of the car, our feet dangling in the sunroof, ice cream melting down our chins.

We photographed barns, cows, silos and improbably a pirate ship that we imagined some ambitious parent had built -- sailing on the vast green sea of a cow pasture.

We traveled on dirt roads that did not have names and led to nowhere.

We held hands and walked by the banks of a sun-dappled stream.

We talked about all the art we would make and all the poetry we would write.

And we laughed again, a sound precious to my ears.

We pulled onto our moonlit, tree-lined road late. I drove slowly, reluctant for the magical day to end. My daughter was sleeping, her beautiful profile limned in moonlight.

There at the side of the road, I noticed a doe with a fawn trailing behind, lazily eating the overgrown summer grass. I pulled the car beside them slowly, sure that they would see us and bolt. They continued to eat and gaze at us unconcerned. I opened the car window, my daughter stirred and I heard her intake of breath as she opened her eyes.

We stared into the eyes of our own reflections and smiled knowingly.

I knew then that the greatest gift that I had to give my daughter was my full attention.

In the midst of our busy, crazy lives, to give someone we love our undivided attention says: "You are what matters to me in all the world. Right here, right now."

My daughter reached for my hand in that moment.

"I love you," she whispered.

"I love you, too," I whispered back.

And we continued on the road home.
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Ageless Occupation

By Phyllis W. Zeno

It came as a shock when the new president of the company where I had worked for 29 years called me to his office one Tuesday morning along with the director of human resources. He opened his portfolio and announced cheerfully, "We're planning a retirement luncheon for you this Friday and thought we'd get a list of the executives you'd like invited."
As editor of the company's travel magazine I had founded some 20 years earlier, I had received nothing but glowing reports on every review.

But the truth is, I was 78 years old and highly paid. I suspect the company felt that it was time to bring in a younger person at a lower salary in this period of economic stress.

"Are there no other jobs in the company where I might fit in?" I asked, reeling in shock.

The HR director stepped in. "None at your salary," she assured me.

"I heard they were looking for a writer in travel promotions," I ventured.

"You wouldn't be interested in that. The pay is in the thirties."

"I'll take it," I said boldly. "I don't really care about the money. I just enjoy working."

The new president looked startled. He exchanged questioning glances with the HR director, then folded up his notebook and stood up.

"Cancel the luncheon Friday, and see what you can work out," he said.

I seriously considered applying for the travel promotions job, but did I really want to take an inferior job after so many years at the top, just for the joy of working? If not here, maybe somewhere else.

If I was leaving the job I created so many years ago, at least I would leave on my terms, and I worked out a retirement that was very favorable to me.

But the fact was, I wasn't ready to retire. I loved my job... gathering articles about interesting people and places to visit, sailing on cruise ship inaugurals, crisscrossing the world to collect stories... and 78 didn't seem like the end of the world to me. Still, who would hire a 78-year-old editor?

Ah, but the wonderful thing about being a writer is that you can do it in your own home and no one needs to know your age.

A mantra my mother used to quote to me was: "Man, as the reflection of God, has infinite capabilities, limitless opportunities and ceaseless occupation."

Age played no part in that quotation. I only needed to know that I had infinite intelligence and limitless ideas and the right opportunity would present itself to me.

On the other hand, another favorite family phrase was "God helps him who helps himself!" I couldn't just sit home and wait for that opportunity to come to me.

I got on the Internet and started looking for writing opportunities.

There were offerings galore, but unfortunately most of them were in New York, and I was firmly situated in Clearwater, Florida. I had enjoyed a long and successful career. Perhaps it was time to sit back and enjoy beach living.

My age was against me, that was for sure. Or was it? Did my years of travel, coupled with my editing experience, count for something? I should not buy into the belief that I had outlived my usefulness. My body was not as mobile as it used to be, but my mind was as active as ever.

I returned to the Internet and started job-hunting again. And there, as if by Divine plan, was an ad for a travel writer in St. Petersburg. Perfect! I could write from home, and the employer never needed to know how old I was.

I dashed off a letter relating how I had ridden camels in Egypt and elephants in India, gone ballooning in France and mountain climbing in Africa and now was ready to freelance as a travel writer.

I didn't have to wait long for an answer. The publisher was interested in my background, would I come to his office for an interview?

My heart sank. I was not a gray-haired old lady with a shawl and a cane, but I was no young chick either. The important thing, I told myself, was to let him see that I had fresh, young ideas and the "go-get-em" spirit to go with them.

I climbed the stairs to his second floor office, strode into the waiting room and announced myself. The publisher was young and attractive, obviously enterprising and surprisingly interested.

For the next hour I laid out my ideas, entertained him with stories of my adventures and prayed that my age didn't stand in the way of freelancing some articles for him.

As I wound up my presentation, he leaned back in his chair, locked his fingers across his chest and was thoughtful. Then he said, "I think you're just the person I'm looking for to be editor of my magazine. Could you start right away?"

As simply as that, I became editor of Marco Polo travel magazine, with far-flung trips to exotic places like Mumbai and Dubai and Shanghai and destinations I'd only dreamed of. And all from the comfort of my Florida condo.

And all because I'd realized that ideas are not only limitless, they're also ageless, and your value is as infinite as you allow it to be, so you can find ceaseless occupation.
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Back in the Saddle

By Samantha Ducloux Waltz

All my life I wanted a horse. As a little girl, I put every dime I got into the mechanical horse at the grocery store, bouncing down make-believe trails. I counted the days until our annual summer visit to friends with Shetland ponies that took me for rides. Every horse book in the children's library had my name on the checkout card. As an adult, I held onto the dream, hoping some day to ride my very own horse.
To celebrate turning fifty, I bought an Arabian mare the color of a copper penny. Vida, trained well enough for a novice rider, was perfect for me. We spent a few days getting to know each other at the small barn where I boarded her. Then I led her into the arena and, with the coaching of an instructor, saddled up and swung on. Vida stood quietly while I settled onto the saddle, with a huge smile on my face.

By the time we'd circled the arena three times, my smile had turned to a grimace. My back hurt so much I had to rein Vida in and climb off.

True, I wasn't as young as when I'd ridden the mechanical pony. But an aching back after such a short ride? And Vida and I had only walked, not trotted or cantered. My back ached sometimes when I'd been on my feet a long time at work or after fixing dinner for company, but not like this.

I knew women in their fifties and sixties who rode. My idol was an eighty-year-old woman who got on her bicycle every morning and pedaled twenty minutes to a barn where she boarded her horse. Then she brushed and saddled her horse, and rode for half an hour. I wasn't a sedentary person. I walked, biked, and occasionally hiked. Was horseback riding really such a demanding sport? Or was there something seriously wrong with my back?

When I returned Vida to her pasture, she extended her neck for me to stroke the white blaze that ran the length of her nose. "What am I going to do?" I asked, looking into her soft, brown eyes.

She nickered softly. I swear that nicker was "exercise" in horse talk.

I made an appointment with an osteopath who had helped me with a knee injury two years before.

"Where does it hurt?" he asked.

"My mid back and lower back."

As he aligned me with gentle stretches, he reassured me that he felt no arthritis. An X-ray revealed no disc problems. I simply had a weak back, perhaps because all my life I'd had round shoulders and now had mild scoliosis.

"I just bought a horse and I want to ride her," I told him. "It's my dream."

"Work hard," he said as he handed me a prescription for physical therapy.

I didn't mind working hard cleaning Vida's stall, but back exercises sounded boring. However, I read online that a rider needs certain muscles to properly cue a horse. Furthermore, the soundness of a horse's back is affected by the balance and posture of the rider. A weak back would not only hurt me, it would also hurt my beautiful mare. I telephoned the physical therapy office and made an appointment for their first opening.

In physical therapy I learned to make a hip bridge, lying on my back lifting my hips so they made a straight line from hips to shoulders. I did a fair imitation of a bird dog, starting on hands and knees with a neutral back and extending my right leg and left arm, then reversing sides. I lunged across the floor of the therapist's workout room with hands on hips, alternating knees at a ninety-degree angle with my lower legs. I even did a side plank. Lying on my side, I contracted my abs and lifted my hips so there was a straight line from knees to shoulders. Sweat soaked my T-shirt. Did I want to ride this badly? I pictured myself galloping Vida across a field, wildflowers bending beneath her flying hooves. Yes, I did.

Figuring thirteen-year-old Vida could have back issues as well, I learned stretches and exercises that would help strengthen her back and we did them every time I visited the barn.

For two weeks I faithfully did my exercises. I wanted to do more than brush Vida's mane and tail, pick her feet, and lead her around the arena. The day I arrived to ride her again, Vida lifted her head from grazing and whinnied to me. I shivered with excitement. "Hi, girlfriend," I called as I walked toward the fence.

She ambled over and took a carrot from my hand. As I listened to her crunch, I slipped through the gate and wrapped my arms around her neck. "It's going to be different today," I promised.

I tacked up and climbed on, expecting to walk five laps around the arena, then cue Vida into a brisk trot. To my dismay, walking five laps was my limit. How long was I going to need to do my back exercises?

I thought of a biking friend who had injured a hip so badly in a fall that he couldn't bike without first doing a series of stretches. He didn't own a car and biked everywhere, which meant he did the exercises every single day. I breathed out. Would that be my fate?

I confided my struggle to a neighbor. "Yoga's what you need to strengthen your back," she insisted, and handed me a card for a local studio. "Alignment and core stability. Here's where I go. The instructors are all physical therapists."

It did sound like what I needed. I began taking weekly yoga classes and established a home practice that included locust, cobra, downward dog and plank pose. I wondered if any yoga positions were named after horses. As I lay on my yoga mat, lifting my breastbone and pulling my shoulder blades together, I pictured myself sitting tall in Vida's saddle. I had to keep at it.

For another month I brushed Vida's shining copper coat, and put her through a series of stretches. I lounged her, feeding the loops of line as she walked, trotted and cantered around me. I did my physical therapy exercises and yoga home practice daily. My yoga teacher remarked that I was standing straighter.

Six weeks from the day I first rode Vida, I mounted for the third time, patting her lovely arched neck and thanking her for her patience. We walked five laps each direction and trotted two laps before I grew uncomfortable. "Progress," I told her, dismounting and hugging her neck.

Each time I rode, Vida and I went a little further. Delight consumed me every time I got back in the saddle. I knew before long we'd be exploring trails together. Thanks to strong backs -- mine and hers -- my dream had come true.
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воскресенье, 24 июня 2012 г.

An Apple a Day

By Ruth Jones

I never had a weight problem in my younger years. In college, when my friends and I bemoaned our "Freshman Fifteen," I simply gave up dessert and the pounds melted away like ice cream on a July afternoon. In my thirties, I added an hour of aerobic exercise a few times a week and managed to stay trim and fit. Even when I advanced into my forties and gained a permanent five pounds, I felt great and still looked good in a swimsuit.
But then came the big 5-0.

Turning fifty flipped a switch in my body. Within a month, five new pounds established themselves around my middle and wouldn't leave, no matter how much I exercised. Half a year later, those five pounds had turned to ten, and on the cold January day I celebrated my fifty-first birthday, I weighed fifteen pounds more than I had the year before.

Then came the day I couldn't zip a pair of pants that had hung perfectly on my hips a year earlier. Something had to give. I embarked on a diet that included nothing but salad and water. Ugh! I was hungry all the time and felt too tired to exercise. The diet lasted three days, but I continued my exercise: walking two miles a day, several times each week.

Not long after that, a television program caught my attention. The topic was eating habits and how to control hunger. A high-fiber diet makes you feel full. Apples are a great source of fiber and relatively low in calories. Eat one as you prepare dinner, and you'll be able to control your portions more effectively.

Why not? I thought. It makes sense -- I'll give it a shot.

The next day I added apples to my grocery list. I ate one just before lunch and another while preparing dinner: a salad bright with carrots, yellow peppers, green spinach, and fat-free feta cheese alongside a new, low-fat Greek chicken recipe I had found in a magazine. I traded my usual glass of wine with dinner for a glass of Perrier. The chicken was delicious, and I was full after one serving. The apple trick was working. Day One of the new me.

My low-fat diet and exercise routine continued, but I didn't see much change when I hopped on the scale each morning. Those pounds were as stubborn as the proverbial mule. I ate an apple with a serving of fat-free yogurt for breakfast and tried not to think about it.

I started walking three miles instead of two and drinking an extra glass of water. My body was not going to win this argument.

Twelve days later, the scale gave in and declared me a winner. I was three pounds lighter when I stepped into the shower that morning. Ridding myself of the extra pounds was taking longer than when I was in my twenties and thirties, but by golly, I was losing weight.

Three more pounds disappeared by the end of February, a glacial pace compared to my younger days. But I was determined to win, determined to lose the weight, determined to get back in those pants I still couldn't zip.

When I went for my annual physical a few weeks later, I stood on the digital scale in the doctor's office and watched in horror as the ten pounds my scale said I had lost registered as only six.

"That can't be right!" I said, wondering how I could pack on four pounds in a few short hours.

The nurse looked at me and smiled. "Does your scale say something different?"

"It must be the wool pants and sweater," I mumbled, stepping off the scale. I wanted to kick it.

I asked my doctor why it was so hard to lose the weight.

"Your metabolism slows down as you age," she said. "Do you exercise?"

"I walk three miles, four times a week."

"That's good. Keep it up. Do any weights?"

I didn't, so she suggested adding some hand weights to strengthen my upper body.

"What about your eating habits?"

I told her about the apple diet.

"It can't hurt," she said. "A woman your age needs extra fiber to stay regular."

Great. Add insult to injury.

I bought the hand weights and another bag of apples on my drive home.

"What's for dinner?" my husband asked when he got home from work that evening.

"Chicken. Any recipe requests?"

"I liked that Greek chicken you made a few weeks ago."

So I made his new favorite dish, eating an apple as I cooked.

The next morning, I added hand weights to my exercise routine. I had to take two ibuprofen that night to battle muscle soreness, but by the end of the week the pain was gone and I had increased the weight repetitions from ten to twenty. Four weeks later, I saw a difference in my arms. The flab was diminishing as muscles developed.

Although I've had a few setbacks, an apple -- or three -- a day is one of the best secrets to my dieting success. Eating an apple before each meal makes me feel full, which makes portion control a lot easier. And the more I exercise, the better my mood. I really like those little endorphins running around inside my head.

I can zip that troublesome pair of pants now. But best of all, I wore a sleeveless, size-eight dress to my college reunion this past spring.

I found my solution to the problem of the "Fifty-something Fifteen" and it all started with a bag of apples.
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Saved by "The Look"

By Caroline S. McKinney

I miss thee, my Mother! Thy image is still?
The deepest impressed on my heart.
~Eliza Cook

Many of us remember the power of "The Look" with which our mothers showed disapproval. "The Look" could convey such a strong wordless message that it would stop us in our tracks. My own mother used "The Look" rarely, but effectively.
Even though I am far, far away from childhood and my mother died some years ago, I frequently remember her voice or see her face as I navigate through life. But I rarely think of "The Look" anymore. Thus it was a surprise when the image presented itself to me at an entirely unexpected moment.

On a summer afternoon, I was running late to an appointment. As I hurried across town, I looked at the gas gauge and saw the tank was almost empty. Not willing to risk running out of gas, I pulled into a service station. I leaped out of the car, slipped my credit card in the slot and began to fill up the tank. I looked west at the Rocky Mountains, and then glanced around, noticing that only one other car was there.

I had skipped lunch and suddenly realized I was hungry and thirsty. The more I thought about food, the more I wanted to run into the small station and buy some snacks. I argued with myself that I didn't have time, and my empty tummy was about to win the argument when I heard a voice I hadn't heard for a long, long time. I heard a loud "NO!" The power and strength of that word startled me. Still, I reached into the car for my purse when I heard it again, but this time I saw my mother's face with "The Look." With some confusion, I obediently dropped my purse back on the car seat and turned to replace the nozzle. How odd it felt to be chastised so strongly for simply wanting to buy a little snack!

As I replaced the gas cap I felt a rush of movement behind me and heard pounding feet as a man raced out of the station and into his car. With screeching tires he raced away as the cashier came staggering out of the door yelling, "Did you see him? Did you see that guy? He just pulled a gun on me and took all the money from the drawer!"

By the time he arrived at my car he was so shaken that he sank down to the ground. I tried to gather my wits.

"Just now?" I asked. "You were robbed at gunpoint JUST NOW?"

The cashier's hands were shaking, and he asked again, "Did you see him? I've got to call the manager and the police and if you saw him you could give a description."

But I couldn't describe the man who had been a blur as he ran to his car and drove off. I only had a vague recollection of the car. What I remembered was the vivid image of my mother that had appeared and the loud "NO!" All I knew was if I had gone into the station when I wanted to, I would have interrupted the robbery. I would have walked in on a man holding a gun right by the front door. He might have turned it on me. He might have panicked and shot me and the cashier. I sat beside the cashier on the dirty pavement, my hand on his trembling arm, and felt my heart thumping wildly at what might have been. I closed my eyes and gave silent thanks to God for His mercy and a mother whose care extended beyond the boundary of death to keep me safe in this life.
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Mother by Proxy

By Kathryn A. Rothschadl

A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses.
~Chinese Proverb

My relationship with my mother did not begin in the usual way. I was not born of her womb. Her blood does not course through my veins and I didn't inherit her soft green eyes or her slender frame. Nor was I the result of someone else's poor planning, later to be adopted by my mother. She became my mother by proxy.
She came into my life at a time when I truly needed a mother. At first I resented her, even disrespected her. I saw her as an intruder in my life and I wanted nothing to do with her. But one hot summer afternoon, all that changed. As I was playing in the yard, she brought me a glass of ice water. I began to gulp it down and unwittingly inhaled a large ice cube. It became lodged in my throat and I began to panic. My mother saw my distress and immediately ran to my aid. She helped to dislodge the ice cube and then pulled me into a gentle embrace as I cried. All my resentment for her immediately disappeared and at that moment I knew that she was truly my mother.

Throughout my childhood, we did the kinds of things mothers and daughters are supposed to do. We went shopping, did errands, read books, and watched movies together. She taught me how to cook and clean, tend the garden and do household chores. She savored little moments with me -- times when it was just the two of us and we could do something special. Money was always tight, but she found creative ways for us to have fun. She was strict but fair and I adored her.

When I was a teenager, we had the usual ups and downs that girls and their mothers have. We fought and made up. I hated her and loved her. I pushed her away but always came back to her. She encouraged me to join extra-curricular groups at school and to pursue a college degree. She reminded me how difficult it had been for her to earn her degree so much later in life. And when I finally went off to college, we both experienced a loneliness we never anticipated. Somehow, through all the ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies, she was no longer just my mother; she had become my best friend.

Today, as an adult, I am forever grateful that this woman who did not give birth to me, who did not adopt me, and who had not planned on having me in her life, has given so much of herself to me. She is the one I call when I've had a bad day. She's the one I long for when I'm sick in bed. She is the one who can comfort me, reassure me and support me when I need it most.

Now that I have children of my own, I know how strong and how beautiful the bond is between a mother and her children. I understand the responsibility to put my children before myself. I ache when they hurt and I smile when they are happy. But could I so unselfishly provide for and love a child who was not my own? I would like to think I could; I would like to think I have learned by example.

As I watch her with my children now, I am amazed at her patience and understanding. I am touched by how deeply she loves them, and reminded of how blessed I am that she came into my life.

Had our paths never crossed, I have no doubt that I would not be the person I am today. My life most certainly would have disintegrated into a downward spiral. The moment she entered my life, she changed the path I would take. She steered me in the right direction and stayed with me until she was certain I wouldn't lose my way. Then she entrusted me to continue on my own, and became a beacon in the distance, a presence to let me know she was always there if I needed her.

My mother does not fit the negative stereotypes associated with her role. She was never cruel to me. She never put her birth children before me. She has given me nothing but unconditional love.

She is the single most influential person in my life. She is my stepmother and I am proud to call this beautiful woman "Mom."
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Escape Artist

By Sheri Bull

A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of.
~Ogden Nash

If you happened to go by my house this morning, you might have seen me climbing out a window. My home has two very usable doors, but instead I removed a window screen and crawled outside. The reason for my behavior has to do with my dog.
I am the owner of a nine-year-old yellow Lab. I will never forget the day my husband told our three young daughters that he was bringing home a surprise. He took out from his jacket a little bundle of golden fur with a tail that would not quit wagging, and from that moment on, Sundance stole each of our hearts.

Sundance loves to be a part of my daily activities, and has learned by watching me just what the day may hold. If I have my work shoes on, chances are I will be working in my garden and he will be living up to the retriever part in his name by catching the weeds I pull and throw. If I am barefoot in the summer, he seems to know I intend to sit in my swing and read or write, in which case he will pant next to me, napping, instead of enjoying the comfort of air conditioning.

However, I think Sundance's favorite activity is running with me. When I tie on my running shoes his ears perk up, he wiggles his bottom, and he stays at my heels until we are out the door. In his youth, we would go four miles together, but he has aged and now his limit is two miles, which isn't bad considering in human years he is over sixty years old.

I often go the two miles and take him with me, but occasionally, I like to run three or four and therefore leave him behind. When I get back, he follows me around with a droopy tail and sad eyes which seem to say, "What did I do wrong? Why didn't you take me along?"

Since I cannot bear to hurt my buddy, I have tried to trick him. He sleeps in our laundry room, which is also one of the entrances to our home. If I leave soon enough in the morning, I can sneak out the front door and get back before he gets up. Lately though, he has caught on to the sound of the front door opening and barks and whines until I get back. Then he proceeds to pout for hours. Fortunately, the window has been working just fine, as long as I change my incriminating clothes before I greet him.

Some people wonder why I would go through all this trouble. After all, Sundance is "just a dog." Well, he is more than just a dog to me. He has become one of my most perceptive friends. He senses when I am having a bad day and quietly stays by my side or puts his chin on my lap. He is aware of my good days and the mood changes as we wrestle and play. My loving Lab does not care if I do not wear make-up, have bad breath, or suffer a bad hair day. He does not notice if I sing off-key or judge me if I swear; he just faithfully stays by my side.

I have learned much from my loyal Labrador Retriever. Too often I have judged others or held back affection because of looks, smell, or actions, all the time never considering the circumstances in their life. Thanks to Sundance, I have come to realize two of our basic human desires are to be loved and enjoyed. My finest days are when I have been with my best friends who love me and want to be with me. My best friends come in the form of: my husband, special women, my family members, and yes, Sundance.

So, do not be alarmed if you happen to go by a house in the wee hours of the morning and see a middle-aged woman escaping through a window. She is just protecting the feelings of a beloved friend.
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четверг, 21 июня 2012 г.

Playmate Dates

By Michelle Civalier

My childhood may be over, but that doesn't mean playtime is.
~Ron Olson

Marriage is wonderful for a lot of reasons, especially because you no longer have to date. As I tossed my bouquet to all of the single gals, I also threw away the need to constantly suck in my stomach, wear make-up to bed, blow-dry my hair after every shower, and pretend like I never do "Number Two." It was such a liberating moment. Unfortunately, it didn't last.
Three years flew by, and our little family grew by one toddler. I am my son's chief playmate, but after a few years of constant companionship, I began to suspect he had grown bored with me. I couldn't blame him. Frankly, I am a little dull. My version of "Old McDonald Had a Farm" always uses the same animals. I only have two silly faces, and I'm terrible at vehicle impersonations. It was clearly time to find us a friend.

I knew exactly the type of mom I needed. She would have an open schedule and a yearning desire for adult company, as well as be respectful and tolerant of my germ phobias. Her fashion would consist predominantly of elastic, so I wouldn't have to start wearing real clothes and sucking in my (now much bigger) stomach again. And, of course, she must have a toddler about my son's age.

I plopped my son into his stroller, and proceeded to scope out the neighborhood. Apparently, I am surrounded by a million young children who are parented by a million working mothers without the time or energy to pencil me into their already hectic schedules. A couple of them put in a sincere effort to plan a play date, but ultimately their laundry was more important. I had to broaden my search.

I met a lady at the park with a child my son's age, but her slingbacks and carefully styled hair confined her to a bench (with her cell phone), leaving me to socialize with both of our children. Another lady I met was nice enough, but the runny nose she swore was teething-related made my household sick for two weeks. Pretty soon, I was handing out my number to mothers at the toy store and the market, and even posting bulletins on the Internet. Everyone responded to my desperate attempts at friendliness with big eyes and a plastered smile, but no one ever called.

Friendless and still unable to come up with more interesting animals to live on Old McDonald's humongous farm, I decided to take a break from my playmate dating. I was standing in my driveway one afternoon, trying to entertain my son with the wonders of rock landscaping, when Lisa walked by with her toddler. Lisa was a stay-at-home mom! Lisa didn't want to come onto my driveway because her son was getting over a cold, and she didn't want to share his germs! Lisa wore exercise pants and one of her husband's T-shirts, and her hair looked dirty! She was perfect. We exchanged numbers and set a date.

As with any first date, I was nervous, but still looking forward to it with eager anticipation. I had dreams of impromptu trips to the zoo together, walking our little ones to their first day of kindergarten, and splitting the cost of a limo for their prom. Of course, I was forgetting one major detail.

My son had to enjoy the date, as well. Not only was I thrust back into the dating world, but now there was an extra person with his own set of criteria. Apparently, my child wanted a friend who would share his toys without hitting, pushing, or throwing hard objects at his head. It quickly became obvious that Lisa's son was not going to fit the bill.

Sharply angled toys flew unbridled around the room, my son's sensitive skin sported red marks from aggressive squeezes, and the high-pitched sounds of consecutive tantrums permanently stole a range of my hearing. As I struggled to disguise my horror, I realized I had personally arranged the first of many chips at my son's innocence. Lisa was largely unconcerned that her child was a toy-stealing, WWE maniac. And having little experience with this type of social interaction, I was unsure of how much offense I was allowed to practice. By the end of our ninety-minute play date, I had long left the honeymoon phase and was thinking about divorce. She never called, and that was fine with me.

After spending time with Lisa's son, I was tempted to throw holy water and garlic at every toddler I saw. Even though I was frustrated and upset that such a simple task as finding a little friend for my son was turning into Mission Impossible, I knew that I had to keep trying. My dating days may be over, but my son has many, many more ahead of him. I reminded myself that it took time, but I did eventually find my soulmate in my husband. With a little time, a little patience, and a little less violence, I remained hopeful that we would find our playmate, too.

So, I took a deep breath and called an old acquaintance to ask if he and his daughter would like to come over to play. We didn't have much in common except for the ability to procreate, but the kids had a great time. And, really, that's all I needed.
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среда, 20 июня 2012 г.

Black Flags

By Ashley Townswick

For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
~Matthew 6:8

I'd spent most of my time in pools over the summer and was a fairly decent swimmer. When I was twelve years old, my mother took my two sisters, Samantha and Christine, and me on vacation to Mexico. Since my father had died a few years earlier, it was important to her that my family keep a tight bond. There was a big gap in ages between my two sisters and me, but they didn't seem to mind me tagging along as we explored the area. We did bond and we had a fabulous time together.
The irritating part of the trip was that the entire week in Mexico there were black flags in the sand telling us to swim at our own risk. My sisters, young and invincible, spent one day swimming and enjoying themselves despite the warning and were absolutely fine.

"Give it a try," Samantha encouraged me.

"Fine," I said reluctantly as I followed them into the scary water.

They were so right. The water was amazing. I easily jumped over or swam through large waves. We had a blast together.

The next day we went back to our spot. Everything looked the same. The waves were just as tall and nothing really had changed. Or so we thought.

"Mom, the water looks great. Will you join us?" I asked.

My sisters added their encouragement to win her over. Before long, all four of us headed into the water.

It didn't take long to realize just how wrong we had been about the conditions. Partway out, where the water had only been up to my neck the day before, I couldn't touch bottom! I started swimming alongside Samantha.

The waves grew six feet tall. "Dive in Angela!" Samantha yelled.

"I can't!" I screamed, afraid of the giant wave heading toward me.

"You'll be fine. You have to dive into it," she coaxed. 

I jumped. I really had no choice. Under the water I felt pulled from every direction, like invisible strings held me down. I bounced off the ocean floor and looked up at a light above my head. I kicked and moved my hands as hard as I could but I didn't move. The breath in my body tightened as I started running out of air. The light was inches from my head but I couldn't reach it. I panicked. Twelve is a young age to think you're about to die.

It's weird how time slows at a time like that. I'm sure it was about a minute but it felt like so much more. I prayed, "Help me God! Save me!"

I was about done struggling and ready to give up when I felt something pull me up. I broke free of the chain that held me under.

"Are you okay?" Samantha asked as I bobbed out of the water.

"I think so," I coughed.

"We need to go!" Samantha said leading me back.

I swam for my life that day. As I neared the shore I saw my mother washed up on her side like a fish, scraped and beaten by the rocks. Christine was okay beside her.

I learned three valuable lessons in life that day. Always keep your family close because you never know when they may pull you through the storm. Avoid the Pacific Ocean when black flags are out.

And pray to God and He will save you.
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Blackberry Magic

By Hank Mattimore

Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.
~Alex Haley

Blackberry pie. Is summer ever complete without at least one day devoted to picking blackberries and making a blackberry pie?
There's a ritual connected with blackberry picking. Rule number one is that it can't be planned. You just have to be out taking a walk and you spot some blackberry bushes. "BLACKBERRIES!" someone shouts, and drawn by some ancient and unexplainable law of nature, you run towards the bushes. Soon, your hands, your arms, your clothes are bathed in that sticky purple nectar.

I succumbed to the lure of the blackberry just this past week. True to the ritual, I did not plan to go berry picking. With my foster grandchildren, seven-year-old Mark and nine-year-old Jennie, as my companions, we had set out to take our new Village dog, Sammy, for a walk down the country road near home. Jennie spotted the blackberry bushes first and let out a scream of delight, "BLACKBERRIES!" You could almost hear the dog thinking, "So much for taking me for a walk."

We plunged into the glorious cache of blackberries, squeezing and squishing, reaching out with bare arms towards the blackest and sweetest of that luscious fruit, dodging those nasty thorns. Drat! Why weren't we smart enough to wear long pants? We were being faithful to ritual, that's why. We were all wearing shorts and, of course, had no container for the berries we were picking.

We improvised. The plastic bag we brought along for Sammy's business (never been used I assure you) served the purpose. Magically, the bag began to fill.

"Is this enough for a pie, Grandpa Hank?"

"No Mark, we need more. I think it takes three or four cups for a pie."

The day was hot. I felt my T-shirt sticking to my body. Mark was wearing a goodly portion of his haul on his shirt. "Ouch," yelled Jennie, as the thorns attacked her bare legs. The three of us (and Sammy, who waited patiently in the shade) stuck to our task, intent on making these black beauties our own.

"Mark, don't pick the ones that are still red," admonished Jennie. "I'm not," replied Mark indignantly. "Geez, I know THAT much."

Still, it was obvious from the kids' enthusiasm that they were having a ball. Forgotten for the moment was the grief they carried as victims of abuse and neglect. All that mattered was that they were enjoying this warm summer day picking blackberries.

Mark yelled across the road to a woman passing by, "You know what? We're gonna make a blackberry pie all by ourselves."

"With vanilla ice cream on top," chimed in Jennie.

The bag was bulging with berries as we returned to my apartment. I had never made any kind of pie in my whole life but there was no way I was NOT going to bake a pie for these kids. With the help of a recipe from the Internet and ready-made pie shells from Safeway, the kids and I put together a blackberry pie fit for the gods.

In the great scheme of things, I suppose the experience of picking wild blackberries and baking a pie with a couple of foster kids is no big deal. But it's a memory this old guy will savor for a long time. I dare to hope that the kids will, too.
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вторник, 19 июня 2012 г.

Ripple Effect

By Eve Legato

When I was seven, my family moved into a newer, bigger house to fit our growing family. The best feature, though, was not the house's size, nor the fact that I would get my own bedroom instead of having to share with my sister. It was the small creek just down the hill in the woods behind the house. Even then, I recognized its significance.
While my siblings and I spent our childhood playing in the woods beside the creek, I never took time to stay still and observe the water. Being a teenager changed that. The creek became my refuge.

I would come home after a stressful school day and walk straight down the hill. I would balance from stone to stone until I reached a big boulder in the middle of the creek, and there I would sit and write in my journal, the water bubbling around me.

Countless times, I ran down that hill to escape a fight with my parents. I'd sit on one of the stones and cry as I watched the water. But something about the sound of the water, its continual sloshy flow, slowed my tears. I found myself watching the tiny ripples, thinking about how there were so many of them that you couldn't begin to count, how they constantly, consistently appeared. Even with all its activity, the creek had a steadiness, and it steadied me.

Now I am an adult in New York City, and my location makes it hard to hold onto any kind of calm. Busy people constantly surround me, blocking the sidewalks and crowding the subway cars, and the fever pitch of their hurry is contagious.

On one very stressful day, I called my trusted friend Sara during lunch. I was sitting on a bench in Madison Square Park and tons of people were walking by, but I couldn't stop my tears. My ex was in town, I told my friend, and I explained how the ex managed to make me happy one minute and angry in the next. My co-worker got a promotion, I said, and I was happy for her in theory, but seeing her in a new position freaked me out about my own job. Was I performing well enough?

"You can't hold onto these feelings," said Sara. "I mean, don't be mad at yourself -- we can't help feeling the way we feel sometimes. But you can't carry your jealousy and anger around and let it stress you out. You have to let it go."

"I know that," I said. "But I don't know how. How do you just drop feelings? How do you let them go?"

"I don't know," said Sara. "Maybe you need to meditate or something."

Meditating seemed as good an idea as any. I hung up the phone, prepared to take a few deep breaths before heading back to the office. I tried to think of an image to hold in my head while I breathed. Something that signified calm.

Then I let out my breath and laughed. I was sitting right in front of a fountain! I approached it, remembering the creek that had helped me growing up. The water spouted from the top of the fountain and fell into the pool below, creating a million ripples that flowed into each other as new ones appeared. Water was steady -- it didn't disappear, but it was constantly changing. I needed to go with the flow, to let myself change.

I walked back to work calmer than before, grinning at almost-forgotten memories.
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воскресенье, 17 июня 2012 г.

Unforgettable Hug at Orange County Jail

I volunteer for Orange County Jail's "Lights On" project on Saturday nights -- in a RV, from 11PM to 4AM, we provide a safe space for released prisoners until they find a ride home. Of the many interesting stories I've heard, a particular story of 50 year old prisoner really touched me.

After his last stay in jail, this 50 years old guy was homeless. He did have a family member and a friend that would let him sleep over sometimes, but on this particular night, he decided to come back and hang out with us in the RV.

He told us how he has "anger issues". He'd got into fights over "petty things", he'd been a small-time burglar, he'd been arrested for being under the influence while driving or being in public places. . He'd been a small time burglar and had been in and out of incarceration for a lot of his life. In fact, most of the friends he made were from prison (he'd pray with many of them and become friends that way). And like that, he was just kind of floating through life.

One day while he was on parole, he was sitting at a bar drinking a beer. All of a sudden, the customers started running out to see some kind of commotion. When he got outside, he saw that there were 2 men beating a woman on top of a hill that was a few blocks away.

Nobody was doing anything but watching. "I was a little drunk, but then all of a sudden I felt really angry about what I was seeing," he said. The feeling inside him was so strong that his ears started ringing. He doesn't remember how he jumped a couple fences and scraped up his hands as he got to where the action was going on, but by the time he realized what was going on, he had chased away one attacker and had another man in a choke hold!

Then, a taxi driver came and pulled a gun on all of them. Fortunately, the lady that was being beaten up was able to tell the taxi driver who the good guy was. He told the taxi driver that he was on parole and didn't want to be involved at all; the taxi driver didn't say anything and let him run away. The lady, it turns out, went into a coma for 2 weeks but thankfully, she survived.

Some time later, our prisoner friend actually ran into the lady on the streets, as she was able to say, "Thank you." But, the rescuer said that he didn't think much of it.

A few years later, while being released from another unrelated prison stay, he became friends with a man that he was released with. Later, he figured out that his new friend was the brother of the lady that was attacked. After it was explained that his sister was saved by this new friend, the brother said, "Stand Up!". The rescuer was not sure what to do or even if this was a challenge to fight. But as he stood up, he got the biggest hug he had ever experienced!

And he said that's when the "Thank You" from before really sunk in, and he felt it.
http://www.helpothers.org/story.php?sid=9020

The Traffic Warden's Toes

I was recently on a working trip to Mumbai. One evening I took an autorickshaw home from work. It was around 6 p.m. and there was heavy rush hour traffic. Because of this the rickshaw was traveling at a snail's pace.
I was lost in my own thoughts, thinking about the day's events, when a Mumbai police traffic warden materialized as if from nowhere. He ran alongside the rickshaw and slapped the driver three times, quite violently, across his face.

I was shocked by this sudden turn of events! I asked the driver to take the rickshaw to one side of the street and stop. I asked if he was hurt and he said his eyes were sore because of the slap. Other than that, he said, he was fine.

I asked what had happened. He said that, by mistake, he had run over the traffic wardens shoes. I told him he should have stopped and apologized. But, at the same time, I knew that the driver did not deserve getting beaten up like that!

So, I asked the driver to accompany me to the spot where the traffic warden was directing the traffic.

Then I called the traffic warden to one side and in a gentle voice told him that the rickshaw driver accepted his mistake and wanted to apologize for it. The warden, who was all set to react again when he saw the driver, calmed down on hearing my words and the tone of my voice. The driver accepted his mistake but started complaining loudly that he did not deserve to get beaten up.

The heated discussion began to attract a crowd. Some of them were other rickshaw drivers who were taking the side of their fellow worker. Sensing that matters might quickly spin out of control I calmly told the traffic warden to accept the apology of the rickshaw driver and let bygones be bygones.

Fortunately good sense prevailed and the traffic warden accepted the apology of the rickshaw driver. Then the voice within said, "Please bring about a true reconciliation between them."

I listened to the inner voice and persuaded both of them to shake hands, which they did and they parted as friends.

We went back to the rickshaw and proceeded to my destination. As I finished paying the fare he said in a soft voice, "Sahib, thank you for what you have done."

Hearing those words I knew I had a made a difference in somebody's life. I thanked God for the support He gave me!
http://www.helpothers.org/story.php?sid=31658

At A London Bus Stop

One late winter's evening I was standing at a bus stop in gloomy, wet and windy London. Then I noticed a young man running as fast as he could and just behind him there was a number eight bus.
He wasn't going to make it to the bus stop in time - unless I did something!

I held my hand out and stopped the bus. The guy was still running, so I proceeded to walk slowly towards the bus. I put my right foot on the step to keep the door open and, finally, the young man reached the bus stop!

He stopped next to me and leaned against a tree to catch a breathe and let me get on the bus first. But I turned around and stepped back. He looked at me with surprise. Then he understood what I had done for him.

He got on the bus but still kept looking at me. I smiled and turned away. The bus left. I felt good.

Every little helps!
http://www.helpothers.org/story.php?sid=31583

Hearts and Hurricanes

By Priscilla Dann-Courtney

If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it.
~Toni Morrison

My husband and I are rookies when it comes to travel as a couple. We stay in the United States and have ventured to Mexico only recently.
In contrast, I grew up in a family where travel was one of the four food groups -- good health demanded it. Summers were spent voyaging to Europe on the Queen Mary, picnicking in the English countryside and watching tremendous men throw logs the size of redwood trees at the Scottish Highland games. At six years old, I found nothing about this interesting, romantic or beautiful. I spent a lot of time just wanting a hot dog. The youngest of three children, I was squashed in the back seat between my brother and sister, feeling carsick and dreading the next castle. Inevitably I would feel lost in a large group of foreigners, listening to a French guide point to doorways and furniture in excited tones. Castles smelled like a mixture of my father's starchy shirts and musty closets. In between museums, my mother read to us from Michelin guidebooks as my father drove haltingly ahead on a different side of the road. Like the guides, she too would get very excited, interjecting, "Isn't that fascinating?" like a chorus hoping we'd sing along.

So now, decades later, I am trying to find my own sweet melody in travel -- as my husband and I venture away each year without children. Our recent trip to the California wine country began with yellow sticky notes decorating the kitchen counter, as my son and daughter would be left in the care of a dear friend. The notes were yellow reminders about two tennis lessons, one dentist appointment, my son's volunteer work with developmentally disabled adults, two Halloween parties, one school field trip, garbage pick-up and plant watering. Puppy care, bunny care and fish feeding had their own full page. The puppy goes to Canine Campovers and I had to remind my friend she gets car sick so to avoid stop and go traffic.

My careful note taking occurred before a couple of last-minute emergencies threatened to scuttle our vacation plans. A Florida hurricane hit my son's university and my father-in-law had triple bypass surgery.

Suddenly my organized sticky notes provided no comfort, no direction. When I was making reservations at our Mendocino bed and breakfast, I hadn't taken into account old hearts and young hurricanes. Our family looked like the route map in an airline magazine -- my son was driving north, my father-in-law was ailing in the south and we were considering going west.

My father advised, "Go west, your son will be fine."

My mother said, "Stay home, you should be there."

My husband was pondering traveling to a southern ICU, and I was left with a lot of cross-outs on sticky notes. My heart told me we needed to get away. I'd recently had a dream in which my husband and I stopped in the kitchen to talk to each other! Obviously our lives were moving too quickly. As I zipped my suitcase, guilt was stuffed in the corners next to a good novel and my running shoes. We were going anyway, with charged cell phones, Internet access and the hope our self-care wouldn't impinge on dying hurricane winds and recovering hearts.

We landed on a rainy San Francisco runway. The Hertz lady said we needed a six-cylinder engine for the curvy wine-country roads. I was more concerned about the color of the car and was just happy to be standing next to my husband with no one asking me for anything. We weaved our way up north on Highway 1, listening a radio station that played old songs from when we were in ninth grade.

After stopping in Santa Rosa for tofu and vegetables, a shared glass of wine, a shared cup of decaf coffee, and a shared chocolate chip cookie, we were feeling like adolescents again. Without children, we were free to be children. The Mendocino coast brings together the redwood forests, rocky cliffs and a quiet blue ocean. The stillness of the forest on morning runs matched an inner stillness allowed by our solitude. In our regular life, my husband and I have gotten used to running separately. Young children demanded "revolving door" running. My husband would return through the front door and I'd head out the back. He usually did the early run just because he felt more comfortable with a headlamp -- but no revolving doors in Mendocino.

Daily calls back to the "real world" kept us informed about heart and hurricane realities. Power to the university campus was restored; my father-in-law's pacemaker at full charge.

There are no sticky notes on vacation, and stepping out of a morning shower has no deadline. We hit more coffee shops and bakeries than wineries. Heading home, our suitcase zipped more easily because we had no guilt stuffed in corners. Everyone survived. And I am reminded of the importance of making the pace slower -- it strengthens the heart in a marriage. So tomorrow when the winds blow again, we're that much stronger to take care and hold tight. And someday, we might even make it to a French castle.
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суббота, 16 июня 2012 г.

A Wedding Gone to the Dogs

By Mary Z. Smith

I think we are drawn to dogs because they are the uninhibited creatures we might be if we weren't certain we knew better.
~George Bird Evans, Troubles with Bird Dogs

My brother-in-law and his fiancée were getting married in a beautiful park in upstate New York. Their wedding plans were a little different from most couples, to say the least. They arranged to have their two dogs, Sadie and Clarence, attired in wedding garb. Our daughters, then six and eight, were asked to escort the dogs down a narrow walkway covered in rose petals to the waiting bride and groom, who would be standing inside a pristine gazebo.

The wedding day arrived, and things seemed to be off to a good start as Sadie, draped in a gown of flowers, sauntered down the aisle led by our younger daughter. She took a seat in the front row as Sadie, her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth, obediently situated herself beside the radiant bride. Impressed guests nodded happily.

Next came our older daughter leading a tuxedo-clad Clarence down the aisle. As Clarence got closer and closer to his master, his eyes focused on Sadie as she sat staring in his direction. Before our daughter knew what was happening, Clarence broke free, charging toward his canine bride-to-be faster than a bull released from a bullpen. Reaching Sadie, Clarence tenderly pressed his nose against Sadie's. The wedding guests gasped in unison. The bride and groom exchanged anxious glances while the minister attempted to take control.

"Friends, originally we were all invited here today to witness the union of two special human beings in Holy Matrimony. But as we all know, life is full of unexpected surprises. Surprise can be a good thing. Marriage should be filled with unexpected surprises, as Sadie and Clarence have shown us today. So, let's admit that this wedding has gone to the dogs... and have a doggone good time!"

The air filled with joyful laughter as my brother-in-law and his fiancée exchanged wedding vows and kisses. At their feet, Sadie and Clarence looked on.
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