четверг, 30 января 2014 г.

The Snowball

By Greg Lamothe

There's no other love like the love for a brother. There's no other love like the love from a brother.
~Astrid Alauda
As a young boy of eight it was a rare and coveted opportunity to be able to hang out with my older brother, Chris, and not feel like he would prefer that I be somewhere else. I can't say I blamed him. Our seven-year age difference placed me more than a little out of his peer group.
On one sunny winter day I was enjoying one of those rare experiences. Michael, one of my brother's friends, was struggling alongside my brother and me to roll an enormous snowball we'd been working on for some time. It was already twice my height and required special knowledge of snowball formation to be moved. We had, by trial and error, unlocked a secret to making impossibly large snowballs, and even with that knowledge we were struggling to move this monster.
The secret? Momentum. You dig out the bottom of the snowball on the side you want it to roll. When the snowball is properly sloped for rolling you station one guy on the uphill side, and one guy on the side you want it to roll, and you begin to rock it, back and forth; this is how the process gets its power. You keep doing this until it is really rocking, and then on the count of three everybody pushes together at exactly the right moment to teeter it over the breaking point for one full rotation. Then you have to do it again.
We were now fully engaged in rocking the snowball, and I was on the side to which it would roll. For a moment it stood still, looking like it might not go. Just one more inch and it would, but despite Mike and Chris's combined exertions, the snowball just teetered on edge.
I had moved to the other side to watch them push and could see desperation growing in their expressions. In a moment of sudden inspiration, I rose to my feet and raced towards the thing screaming at the top of my lungs like some furious war cry. Slamming into it at full speed, I hoped to provide the additional force it seemed to need to get moving. Pain shot through my shoulder from the impact, but the snowball did not budge. Caught up in the moment I shrugged off the pain and, wedging myself under the snowball I used my back to shove against it. Slowly it began to move, and as gravity took over we heard the gratifying sound of snow crunching underneath our creation as it rolled.
Now we had managed to achieve our original goal of positioning the snowball on the edge of a hillside where kids regularly went sledding. We thought we might roll it down the hill, but with the trouble we'd had just getting it to this point we were ready to take a break.
"That was hard, man!" exclaimed Mike, pulling an iPod out of his inside jacket pocket. He then lay down about halfway down the hill, with Chris sitting beside him.
I looked up at our work, which loomed high from where I was, just down the hill a bit.
I began to get an idea.
Mike was lying down with his eyes closed listening to music, and Chris was absentmindedly making snowballs and tossing them at a tree. They both sat in the path the snowball would take, if somehow it were to be pushed....
I began digging out the bottom of the snowball to get the leverage for the second stage of the operation. Without looking over his shoulder, my brother called out, "Greg, what are you doing to it?"
"I'm just... smoothing it." I answered innocently, with the first words that came to mind.
I continued to dig until I heard a crunch on the smaller snowball I'd used as a brace. Somehow, my brother and Mike had not turned around once to investigate, and stage two of the operation was ready to launch.
By now you have figured out what I was planning. The memory of the giant rolling ball inIndiana Jones had fired my imagination, and I was committed to seeing those guys' faces when they saw this thing thundering towards them. Lying on my back, I kicked the bracing snowball out from under the dug out side, then raced to the other to push with all my might.
The snowball began to roll down the hill. Chris looked up and saw it coming towards him, and when I saw the look on his face I finally began to consider the consequences of what I was doing. Seeing the snowball gaining speed had me wondering at the possible injuries that might occur when it ran over them. Then I remembered all the times I had worn that same look as Chris ran at me. We would see how he felt now that something more than three times his size was chasing him!
Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada The Wonders of Winter
For some reason, my brother ran straight. He could have jumped to the side and out of the path of the giant hurtling towards him, but in his terror he tried to outrun the thing. He leaped over Mike who was still on his back listening to music, completely unaware of what was about to occur. Then, the runaway snowball rolled right over Mike's upper body and head.
A split second passed where I thought he might be seriously hurt, or even dead. However, he shot up from the spot where he had been compressed into the snow.
"Whoa!" he shouted, with a look of astonishment.
In the seconds it took for this to happen, Chris looked even more horrified. Why didn't he jump to the side? It was starting to not be so funny when he looked like he might cry.
The snowball caught Chris by the heel. He went down face first in the snow, his scream quickly muffled as it rolled right over him, thundering on to crash into the chain link fence at the bottom of the hill, causing the fence to bow under the weight and speed.
In the silence that followed I looked on in horror as Chris lay face down in the snow, not moving for a second. His body had been compressed into the snow — flattened like in the cartoons I watched. Maybe he was dead. But no — he was moving! Eventually he managed to push himself to his hands and knees.
He looked up at me then, perhaps noticing how scared I was of his reaction.
A grin suddenly split his face in two and he said, "You little jerk!"
I grinned back as I realized I would live to enjoy my prank.
All three of us tried to tell the tale from each of our perspectives all at the same time. "I was listening to a song when everything went dark!" exclaimed Mike.
"I knew he was up to something," said Chris.
"You should have seen your face, Mike," I said.
On the way home Mike asked Chris if he wanted to come over.
Chris looked at me and said to Mike, "Why don't you come over to my place and the three of us can hang out and play video games or something?"
"Sure!" answered Mike.
I happily plodded home through the snow between my brother and Mike. I knew this day would always have a special place in my memories.

The Hockey Coach

By Jennifer Litke

Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.
~Benjamin Disraeli
My second son, Derek, was in the first grade and was having difficulties in school. His teacher was hard on him because he was the funny one; he always had to be telling a joke and his humour tended to be on the physical side. He would jump up on chairs or try to do back flips in class in order to get attention. And he did get attention, just not the kind that he was hoping for. He was being bullied.
Each day he would come home upset. He was afraid to go to school; he would refuse to get up in the morning, his eating patterns changed and he became very thin and pale. His smile faded as the weeks of bullying turned into months. The school did everything they could to help us but the bullying continued.
It was late February when things changed for Derek. He was walking home from school and it was dreadfully cold. His hat had been stolen and his snow pants were soaking wet after he had been shoved into a puddle. Our neighbour Cody, who had only recently finished high school, spotted Derek walking home from the bus and noticed how cold he was. He ran out of his house straight away and wrapped Derek up in a warm, wool blanket. Cody walked the rest of the way up the street and knocked on the door to speak to me. I saw how sad Derek was and I fell to my knees to hug him and help warm him up.
I wasn't sure if he was bored, or he was just simply an amazing kid, but Cody offered to spend some time with Derek every day after school. Cody waited at the bus stop for Derek to get home from school and he took him out on excursions. At first I didn't know where they went, but Cody had him home promptly at six. Initially there was no change in Derek, but after three days he came to me and asked me if I would buy him a pair of hockey skates. I looked at him; his little six-year old expression was serious as he waited for my reply. I smiled and said, "Alright." For the first time in as long as I could remember, his face lit up with the biggest smile. My heart melted and I knew that something great was happening for my son.
After I bought those skates for Derek, he spent every day with Cody learning to skate and learning to manoeuvre a hockey stick across the ice. A few times Cody allowed me to come to the arena in order to witness the skill Derek had acquired in only a few short weeks. I could hear Derek's laugh as he joked with Cody on the ice. It was music to my ears.
At the end of March, Cody asked if Derek could play in a hockey game. Cody was an assistant coach for the house-league hockey association in town, and he had special permission to allow Derek to play in one of the final games of the season. We were hesitant because we knew that Derek had only just learned to skate, and we were afraid of him getting hurt. But Cody assured us that he would be right there the whole time.
The day of the game we were so nervous for our little boy. But Derek had gotten up early that day, had eaten his breakfast in front of the fireplace and was half dressed by the time we got up that morning. As a family we all piled into the van and drove to the arena. Anxiously we waited for the game to begin. Cody took care of everything. He had a hockey sweater waiting for Derek and all of the equipment he would need. All suited up and ready to go, Derek joined the rest of Cody's team in their box.
Derek sat on the bench for the entire first period. We weren't sure why and we could see Derek's smile fade slowly as the game wore on. My eldest son whispered in my husband's ear during the second period and afterward got up and walked around to the other side of the ice in order to speak to Cody. By this point Derek was nearly in tears as Cody urged him to go onto the ice.
Derek was timid as he skated around during that second period. When he was on the ice he stayed far away from all of the other players, and steered clear of the puck. By this point I wasn't sure I even understood why Cody had wanted him to play in the first place. My "mom" instincts were kicking in and I wanted to get my son off that ice.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hooked on Hockey
The third period looked like it would be much of the same. Despite my yelling and encouragement from the stands, Derek remained far away from the action. Slowly two players from the other team had made their way over to where Derek was skating, and they tripped Derek, causing him to fall on the ice. As his head hit the ice, his mouth guard fell out and he bit his lip. Blood was flowing from his bottom lip and dripping down the front of him. The events unfolded in slow motion and I stood up screaming like a mad woman.
My eldest son pulled on my sleeve and tried to get my attention, but I was more concerned about what was happening with Derek. The referee placed the two players in the penalty box and then directed Derek to the opposing team's net. The referee dropped the puck in front of him and pointed toward the net. I glanced quickly at the scoreboard and realized that there was very little time left in the last period and the game was tied. (Scores didn't really make much difference in this age category, but it was our movie-magic moment so I mention it for that reason). I was still on my feet as I watched my son positioned directly in front of the net, and slowly my son took aim, lifted his stick in order to shoot that puck into the net. I had never seen Derek use that much concentration. The puck flew effortlessly past the goalie and right into the net, and the goal was awarded to Derek's team. After a few more minutes of play, the period was over and Derek had scored the winning goal. The sound of the cheers and applause from the stands made Derek smile and laugh as he skated off the ice.
After the game my eldest son finally got my attention, and it was then that he told me that the two boys who had tripped Derek were the two bullies who had been tormenting him all year in school. They were brothers who rode on the same bus as Derek. As I stood outside the change room waiting for Derek to come out, their father approached me in order to apologize for his sons' behaviour. We told him what had been happening all year and he promised that he would make it right.
Derek was not bullied again after that day. We witnessed our son's smile and sense of humour return, and we look back and realize that if it had not been for the selfless efforts of a young teenage boy and the game of hockey, our son might never have found his humour again. Cody continued to coach Derek long after that hockey game, and when Cody left for college that fall he left behind a young boy who could stick handle with the best of them, a boy with confidence and a killer punch line!

Brassiere Basics

By Andrea K. Farrier

Friends are like bras: close to your heart and there for support.
~Donna Roberts
I'm a big girl. You know — curvy. Feminine. Buxom. Which, of course, leads to the inevitable need for a bra. I say need, here, in the most fundamental sense. I don't wear one to ensure a "smoother profile" or "better posture" — two of the many lies promulgated by bra manufacturers. No. My motivation for struggling into one each and every day is more a sense of self-preservation. You see, after breastfeeding three babies, they've become a tripping hazard. I can't say for sure, but my guess is that I'd be violating an OSHA mandate if I didn't keep "the girls" safely contained — for my own safety, and the safety of others.
Why am I exposing myself (figuratively and a bit literally) writing about such things? It's all my bestie's fault. She is one of those people who is funny, cute, and always looks pulled together and neat. During a break in a conference we attended together, she commented about how much she loved my dress, and asked me to take off my jacket so she could see the back. Thrilled to have impressed my fashionista friend, I started to slip my arm out of the sleeve, and then froze. I hemmed. I hawed. I made excuses, and blushed furiously. Finally, I had no choice but to admit the truth — I couldn't take my jacket off because the halter neckline of the dress would expose the back of my bra. Usually, this would not be a problem between buddies. However, my bra on that particular day looked like something out of a redneck fix-it shop. You can see, then, why I was hesitant to show it off.
The implement itself wasn't all that unusual. It was your typical Walmart bra — white, with a three-hook closure in the back, and made for nursing. The problem was, I hadn't nursed a baby in two years. Since the time it was purchased I had gained some girth, and had added a handy extender to give me some extra breathing room. The extender was black. And six hooks wide. And had been repaired in hot-pink thread. I might as well have used duct tape and baling twine. The final result couldn't have been much worse.
My friend, being the intuitive gal that she is, began to throw questions my way about the offending item of clothing. In short order she had guessed that I was ashamed to show it because it was a nursing bra, despite the fact that I was no longer a nursing mother. Thankfully, she accepted that as the reason why I was hesitant to flash some skin and show off the back of my dress, so I was spared the embarrassment of having to actually reveal my neon stitches and mismatched extender. I did, however, have to sit through a mild chiding about the importance of finding the right bra. Arguing was out of the question — partly because I knew I deserved the lecture, and partly because I was afraid she'd want to point something out and discover just how shockingly bad my undergarment really was.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls
At any rate, she was right. Since then, I've tried to be more mindful of my choice in brassieres. I no longer own a single nursing bra, and am down to just one extender, which happens to be the same color and width as the bra it is affixed to. Moreover, just last week I actually discarded a bra after the underwire broke, rather than simply pulling both wires out and continuing to wear it as-is, which is (I'm ashamed to say) something I've done in the past (hey, at least it's economical).
All in all, I'm glad to report that I've taken some major steps in the right direction, and am well on my way toward having an arsenal of support garments that's both attractive and strong enough to tote the load. And, not a moment too soon. After all, I'm raising three daughters who (if genetics are any indicator) are likely to be similarly well endowed. I'm determined not to let them down when it comes to brassiere basics. I'm sure the answers are out there — some mysterious combination of fact, science, lore, and Spandex — hidden deep within the pages of the Victoria's Secret catalogs, blueprints in the basement of the Vatican, and the annual OSHA safety guidelines. And if all else fails, I hope my daughters have a friend as good as mine, who knows exactly when to stage a brassiere intervention.

Comfort Food

By Christine Smith

No matter what else they're doing, women are also always nurturing.
~Cokie Roberts
My oldest sister, Joyce, was diagnosed with cancer on her sixty-fifth birthday and died three months later. In her final days, family gathered around to say final goodbyes. With each of us she would ask, "Are you okay with this? Is there anything I can do to help you find peace with my dying?" That's the kind of person she was — thinking of others when it should have been the other way around.
Before Joyce went into her deep sleep, she lay in her sick bed discussing favorite foods with me and another sister, Vina. Seafood was a favorite for Joyce; Mexican was my and Vina's favorite, with seafood a close second for both of us. Vina asked Joyce, "Have you ever eaten coconut shrimp?"
"I've always loved fried shrimp, grilled shrimp, shrimp scampi... any way it's cooked I love it. I haven't ever tried coconut shrimp though," Joyce replied with a wistful sigh.
My eyes met with Vina's in a silent agreement. Joyce would have a chance to try it this very day. We went on discussing favorites. My favorite Mexican food is chile rellenos. It happens to be Vina's favorite as well.
"You're looking tired, Joyce." Vina stood and motioned for me to come with her. "We will let you get a little rest but we'll be back in after you sleep."
Vina and I found a nearby seafood restaurant in the phonebook and called in an order of coconut shrimp. "You stay here, Chris, and I will go pick it up and bring it here."
Vina returned shortly and Joyce was awake. We took the food into her bedroom and got her fixed up with a bed tray. "You two didn't have to do this, but thanks." As she thanked us she bowed quickly to bless her food, then picked up a shrimp and quickly put it down again on her tray. Her voice was weak and fragile as she said, "I will have to try it in a little while, I guess. I need to close my eyes for a few moments."
We quickly took the tray and made our exit. "Don't worry, we'll save it for you," we promised. I placed it in the refrigerator, along with the casseroles and sweets. It was the very last food discarded. Perhaps both Vina and I hoped she would miraculously awaken and want it.
Joyce never came out of that sleep. She had spoken her last words and then went into a coma. We called in friends and family who had not had a chance to say goodbye and we waited. Taking turns we each sat by her side and held her hand. She lingered in this state for three more days.
We had a kitchen full of fried chicken, casseroles, and desserts that people had brought and left for us to eat. The house was overfilled with people now. My brother, sister and I decided we needed to leave for a short while and could use some food other than chicken or casseroles. We decided on a nearby Mexican restaurant. My nieces and nephews joined us, and we munched on chips and salsa with hardly a word spoken between us. Vina and I had both ordered chile relleno platters. Just as the waitress had delivered everyone's plates, and before anyone even took a bite, our cell phones began to ring. We knew before the words were spoken that my sister had died while we were all absent. Silently, we all stood, left our food untouched, paid the check and returned to Joyce's house.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven
The next few hours and days were spent in a fog. We all did what had to be done. However, Vina and I both shared a deep regret that we had not been there when Joyce took her last breath. It was almost like we felt we had deserted her for the sake of a tasty meal. Neither of us voiced this sentiment but it was there nevertheless. Guilt is such a senseless enemy.
For many years afterward I could not eat a chile relleno. I somehow associated this food with my failure to be there in the end for my sister.
Recently, my husband ordered for me while I was in the ladies' room. He had done this often before. He knew what I liked. "I ordered you a chile relleno. Is that all right?" he asked upon my return.
My pulse quickened, and a lump formed in my throat. "Yes, thank you," I replied.
How could I enjoy this meal? How could I even manage to take the first bite? My heart filled with sorrow and guilt. I picked up my fork but just could not make myself eat. Then I saw it. Right there on my plate, beside the rice and beans, a lone shrimp... a coconut shrimp... in a Mexican restaurant! "Did you order this shrimp for me?" I asked my husband.
"I didn't know they even serve shrimp here. Guess it comes as a food garnish or appetizer," he answered. "If you don't want it, I'll have it!"
My eyes filled with tears even as a smile covered my face. "No, I think it was Heaven sent... just for me!" I replied. My heart swelled with joy and peace.
I was able to eat my meal that day and have eaten many chile rellenos since. Although we discovered that coconut shrimp was indeed on the menu, our waitress assured us that it was not their policy to put them on a Mexican dish. How one single coconut shrimp ended up on my plate was a mystery. But I knew.
My sister managed to send me a message that only Vina or I would understand. Though Vina had let go of her sense of guilt, I never had. I am convinced that's why the shrimp was on my plate!

The Life of the Party

By Kristiana Glavin Pastir

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.
~Oprah Winfrey
I didn't know what to do. So I cried. Hard. My housemates came into my room to find out what had caused my outburst. Liz and Stacey stood on either side of me, each with a hand on my shoulder or back.
"What's wrong?" Liz asked.
"I can't go to New Orleans," I said between sobs.
Looking back now, I realize I might've overreacted a bit. But, at twenty, the prospect of missing this once-in-a-lifetime experience with my friends was devastating. Our school's basketball team had just made it to the Final Four and all of my friends were going to the game. Up until that afternoon, so was I.
I had gone to nearly all of the home games, and a bunch of us traveled to follow the Orangemen during March Madness. After watching the team win the Elite Eight in Albany, New York, I was wicked excited to go to the Final Four. In New Orleans, of all places! It was going to be amazing.
We had the trip planned. Six of us would travel together — fly out Thursday to Mobile, Alabama, stay overnight, and catch a bus to New Orleans on Friday. We'd have all of Saturday to check out Bourbon Street and catch the semi-final games, tour around more on Sunday, see the championship game on Monday, and fly back Tuesday afternoon.
I had a brief presentation scheduled for that Tuesday at noon — part of a series of brief presentations each student had to make with only two scheduled for each class. So I figured I could reschedule mine, no problem. Wrong.
At class the Tuesday after the Elite Eight win — a week before my scheduled presentation — my professor announced no one could reschedule a presentation. No exceptions, no excuses.
I, of course, still tried. I had an extenuating circumstance. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My professor would understand. I was a good student, always in class with my assignments done on time. Surely she'd let me change this arbitrarily chosen presentation date.
Nope. She didn't budge. I could come to class and present, or not and take a zero. At best, I'd get a B in the class. Not acceptable.
That's what landed me in my room, angry and crying.
I had calmed down enough to explain this all to Liz and Stacey.
"Okay, so you have to be back in time for class on Tuesday," Liz said. "Not a big deal, just leave Monday night."
"Good idea," I said. It wasn't ideal — I didn't love the idea of traveling by myself — but better than not going at all.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls
With that settled, Stacey left my room. Liz had taken charge of booking our trip, so she immediately went online to revise it for me.
"What time is your presentation again?" she asked.
"So if we leave right after the game Monday night, we can catch the bus to Mobile at 11 p.m., get on a 6 a.m. flight and be back in time for your class."
"We?" I asked.
"Yeah, of course," Liz said. "I'm going back with you."
That brought on more tears. Without a question or second thought, she planned to travel through the night with me. We'd miss celebrating, or commiserating, with everyone on Bourbon Street.
"Are you sure? I don't want to ask you to do that."
"You're not making that trip by yourself. I'm going with you," she said matter-of-factly.
I hugged her, grateful beyond words. We had been friends since the end of freshmen year and had grown fairly close over the past year and a half. But still, I hadn't expected this. What a selfless act of friendship. And it turned into an even bigger deal when Syracuse won the championship. The minute the buzzer rang, we rushed out of the stadium, went to our hotel, picked up our stuff, and hauled butt through the partying streets of New Orleans to catch our bus.
As we waited to board, I turned to Liz, and from the bottom of my heart thanked her. I knew it wasn't easy to leave. All of our friends were either celebrating on Bourbon Street or back at school. Still in our Syracuse gear, even people on the bus looked at us oddly, obviously questioning why we were leaving early.
I fell asleep at some point on the ride to Mobile, and don't even remember the flight home. It all went smoothly, though, because I got back to school in time for class and I made my presentation.
We might've missed the party of a lifetime. But a decade later, that's not what matters. That night I realized I had a friend for life. And I still do.

The Heart of a Community

By Paula Meyer

In the country, community is a loosely defined term that starts with family, and tends to spread itself around through a network of marriages, friendships and other relationships.

~Marsha Bolton
My cousin Rosaire Desrosiers was a young man when he and his wife Alice left their farm in Ste. Anne Manitoba, for a day of Christmas shopping in Winnipeg. With confidence and smiling faces, they kissed their six children goodbye that November afternoon in 1954 as they left Rosaire's fourteen-year-old cousin Simone in charge.
Late in the day, Simone busied herself with the evening meal, preparing a rather elaborate spread while the children watched and played. As she worked, the wind whistled through holes in the walls where insulation should have been. But the children didn't mind.... this was their home, a place where the family celebrated life with laughter.
As they finished their supper that evening, the lights went out with a deafening bang. Louis, the eldest at eight, went off in search of a flashlight to further investigate the problem. As he fumbled around the closet, he found it odd that something resembling a pair of cat's eyes was being reflected off the ceiling.
Simone realized in an instant what those reflections were. Without hesitating, she wrapped the baby in a blanket and yelled for the other children to get outside quickly. The roof of the house was already engulfed in flames. With snow on the ground and no shoes on their feet, Simone hurried the children to her parents' farm fifteen minutes away, carrying the baby in her skirt to keep her warm. Turning only once, she shuddered as the house disintegrated entirely in flames. What a close call, she realised with a breath of relief. At least she had got all six children to safety.
When Rosaire and Alice returned that night, they went into shock when they found their home in smoking ruins. Although they thanked God and Simone countless times for their children's safety, both Rosaire and Alice knew that difficult times lay ahead. All that they had ever owned was lost. With little insurance to rebuild, Rosaire despaired at the apparently hopeless situation. He and Alice found little to laugh about now.
Realising they had nowhere to go, Rosaire's father, Magloire, gladly opened his doors to his son's family. The children adored their pépère. Although it was a temporary solution, Rosaire knew that his young brood would benefit from the attention lavished on them by their grandfather.
Yet, even with Magloire's assistance, Rosaire was desperately in need of money. The recently purchased Christmas gifts were returned and the small insurance policy cashed. Even then he knew there was not enough to rebuild, and was resigned to renting a home.
Then, Johnny Goosen, an old school friend, came over to chat. Johnny's solution was simple: "You buy what material you can, Rosaire, and we'll all help you rebuild."
As the lumber began to arrive, so did the truckloads of people wanting to help. One truck after another showed up with family, friends and neighbours; people from both French and Mennonite communities. Together they worked in the cold and snow to build the Desrosiers a new house.
When one job was completed, Johnny Goosen would put in a word at his church for someone specialising in another trade. Sure enough, the next morning, a plumber or electrician would appear.
With Christmas only one week away, the work was suddenly finished and the Desrosiers were finally home!
Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada The Wonders of Winter
As the last of the workers left, Rosaire and Alice sat back in amazement in their new kitchen. So much had happened in the last two months, and they were so grateful. But, having spent all they had on building materials, they had no money left for gifts to put under the tree.
Even after all they had been through, Rosaire and Alice still did not want Christmas morning to be a disappointment for their children. They decided to share with their children the joy that they felt from the generosity of all their friends and neighbours. Each night they worked feverishly, using imagination and leftover pieces of wood to build a dollhouse, a wooden horse, and other beautiful gifts. They were determined that Santa would come to their home after all.
Unbeknownst to them, their son Denis was watching. He would position himself nightly at the top of the stairs and watch the two elves at their secret work. And then suddenly, with two days left before Christmas, Rosaire and Alice stopped their craft, leaving some projects incomplete. This mystified Denis, but he didn't dare ask why.
On Christmas morning the children awoke to a tree magically laden with beautiful gifts and sweets. Denis noticed that many of the gifts had not been part of their parents' workshop, and quietly wondered where they had come from. Rosaire and Alice decided to keep the secret safe for the time being, as they watched their children's overwhelming joy.
It was only years later that Rosaire finally told Denis and the others the secret about that day, his eyes brimming with tears. Two days before Christmas, the local parish priest Father Laplante had arrived as an emissary. Apparently, the community's generosity had not stopped with the building of the house. They had also collected enough gifts to ensure that the Desrosiers children had all their Christmas dreams fulfilled. And so the late night work had stopped.
Good to his word, on Christmas Eve, Father Laplante had arrived at their door with satchels of presents contributed by the many well wishing families and friends.
Years later, as Uncle Rosaire reflected back on the events that transpired that cold winter of 1953, he was still moved to tears when he remembered Simone, who is my mother, Johnny Goosen, and the countless others who gave so selflessly. The Desrosiers found great joy that year, not because the people gave with their money, but because they gave with their hearts.

суббота, 25 января 2014 г.

A Few Short Minutes

By Diane Stark

Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away.
~Charles Caleb Colton
"So, what are your plans for today?" my husband, Eric, asked me when we returned home from church one Sunday.
"I have so much to do that I don't even know where to start," I said. "The sink is full of dishes, the laundry hampers are overflowing, and I need to bake cupcakes for the school bake sale. Oh, and one of the boys has a birthday party to go to this afternoon." I sighed and added, "Plus, I really need to get some writing done."
Eric nodded. "What time is the party?"
My eyes lit up. "Are you offering to take care of that one?"
"I was hoping to watch some football this afternoon, but I'm sure I can squeeze that in."
I thanked him, wishing I felt more optimistic about my chances of squeezing in some writing time. Lately, it seemed that everything else was squeezing out my time at the computer. It bothered me that I hadn't been writing very much, but I was a mom first and a writer second.
Eric made lunch while I threw a load of clothes into the washing machine. While we ate, our daughter Julia said, "Can we go out for ice cream tonight?"
Eric and I looked at one another and smiled. "Sure, that sounds good," he said. "We'll hit Baskin-Robbins tonight, but only if the Colts win."
"Daddy, stop teasing," she said. "I know we'll get ice cream even if your team loses."
Eric smiled. "You're right, but it's double scoops if they win."
An hour later, Eric had returned from birthday party drop-off and settled in front of his football game. I was still working in the kitchen, but I could feel my computer calling me. I sighed, knowing the odds of getting any writing time were slim. There was simply too much to do to sit down at the computer for any length of time.
From the kitchen, I could hear Julia pestering Eric about the ice cream.
"We'll go when the game is over, honey," he answered, not taking his eyes from the TV.
"But can't we just go now?"
"There's six minutes left in the game."
"Six minutes? What can happen in six minutes? Can't we just get the ice cream now?" she asked. "The Colts are winning by fourteen points. There's no way the other guys can catch up in just six minutes."
Eric sighed and shook his head. "Honey, a few short minutes can change everything."
I finished the dishes and plopped down on the couch beside Eric. "Are you done already?" he asked.
"No, but there's no point in starting anything else if we're going to be leaving soon."
Eric shrugged. "Six minutes in football time is like a half-hour in regular time. Get out your computer and see what happens."
I sighed. "I don't think I'll really accomplish anything, but I'll try." I fired up my computer and began working on a story I'd started several days before but hadn't had time to complete.
As I typed, I could hear Eric clapping and yelling at the TV. Then I heard Julia say, "Is it over, Daddy? Is it time to get the ice cream now?"
"Soon, Julia. There's two minutes left."
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers
"Two minutes? Why can't we just leave now? The game is over anyway."
"This game is far from over. Just a few short minutes can change everything."
Eric's statement caught my attention. Of course, he was right. In football, two minutes can change the entire game. But his words were true about more than just sports.
I'd been at the computer for less than thirty minutes, but I'd managed to complete a solid first draft of my story.
Just those few short minutes had made a difference.
I thought about all the other little blocks of time in my life that I thought were too short to use. Now I realized they were too long to waste.
Not to beat a dead horse, but the football analogy really appealed to me. A touchdown is nothing more than getting the ball across the field, yard by precious yard. Sometimes it happens in one amazing, record-setting pass. Other times, it occurs more slowly — and more painfully, with the running back pounding out just a few yards at a time. Either way, seven points is seven points.
I realized my writing was the same way. Occasionally, fabulously, my stories get done in one long burst of inspiration. As a writer, there's nothing better than those precious hours when my muse visits and I have nothing more to do than enjoy the creative process. But since my family insists on eating and wearing clean clothes every day, those times are few and far between.
My life circumstances don't provide me with many big chunks of time to write. So I needed to use the small chunks productively.
And that's where my new motto came in: A few short minutes can change everything.
I bought one of those tiny netbook computers and left it on my kitchen counter. I began writing while I waited for water to boil and frozen pizzas to bake. It wasn't always super-productive, but I usually got a paragraph or two written. After a week or so, those little blocks of time would add up to a first draft.
It was a whole lot more than I would have had. I thought again about my football analogy. Sure, it's more exciting when the touchdown happens with a deep pass downfield, but the points add up the same, no matter how the team gets into the end zone.
Finally, minute by minute, word by word, I was writing. I was submitting my work and getting it accepted. It was my own personal end zone, and it felt nothing less than amazing. No matter how I got there.
A few short minutes were indeed changing everything.

Love at First Puke

By Karen Martin

Love is a game that two can play and both win.
~Eva Gabor
"Heads, you meet me in Chicago. Tails, I come to Zion." Please-oh-please be heads, I thought. What in the world would I do in this sleepy little town to impress a guy I'd just met yesterday?
"Well, I guess I'm coming to Zion!" David announced through the phone.
"Great!" I faked enthusiasm. "See you in a couple of days."
I hung up and started wracking my brain. The coffee shop? Boring. Bowling alley? Maybe a decade ago when we were in middle school. A walk near Lake Michigan? Too romantic for a second date.
Then I remembered my dad's friend who raced sailboats on the lake. The previous summer, I'd gone along as "rail meat," moving from one side of the boat to the other to help shift the sailboat's weight as we made turns in the racecourse.
I asked Dad to get David and me an invite from his friend for that week's race. He did. He also got himself an invite, which meant my winning date idea would now include my father. Oh well. There was no time for a Plan B.
"Are you sure you don't want to take something for motion sickness?" I asked David a couple days later as we drove toward the lake. He had never been on a sailboat before, and I knew from experience that the lake could get pretty choppy.
"Nah. I'll be fine."
"You'd make quite an impression on me if you got seasick," I teased.
Ten minutes later we arrived at the harbor, leaving the muggy August heat behind. A refreshing wind whipped off Lake Michigan. Waves splashed against the sides of the docked boats and knocked them against the wooden pier.
"It's a rough one!" called Brian, the sailboat's captain. "They considered calling off the race, but we're going to give it a try."
I nudged David's arm. "Last chance for the meds..."
He shook his head. "I was born for this!" he said, and he hopped aboard a sailboat for the first time in his life.
After a few minutes of puttering through the harbor, we bobbed out onto the open lake and the boat rocked in eight directions at once. Oh! My stomach didn't like that. Good thing I took the motion sickness pills.
Crash! A wave tumbled over the side of the boat and drenched everyone on board. David laughed. "This is awesome!" he shouted over the loudly cracking sail.
David and my dad helped Brian wrestle the sails to get the boat to the starting area. The lake threw two more waves over the side and they laughed — Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn on a nautical adventure.
When all the sailboats were more or less in starting position, a bullhorn blasted through the wind, and the race was on!
"Left siiide!" shouted Brian over the snapping sail and crashing waves. We tripped and banged into each other as we scrambled to the other side of the boat, which was rocking wildly in all directions.
"Right siiide!"
Someone slipped and fell full-force into David's lap. Everyone was dripping wet and laughing. I laughed, too, and ignored the funky feeling that lingered in my stomach. I'd been on a sailboat at least a dozen times before and never had any problems.
The wind settled down a bit and things got quiet as we sailed into a straightaway.
"We're in third place!" called Brian. "Good job everyone!"
David turned around and grinned at me from the front of the boat.
Not a bad second date, I congratulated myself.
Suddenly, my stomach lurched. I grimaced and put my hands on my belly. It lurched again.
This can't be happening, I thought. I scrambled to the back of the boat and leaned over the railing. A stream of vomit disappeared into the churning wake behind the boat.
I don't remember making my way down into the hold. I don't remember where I got the plastic bag. I don't remember how much longer we were out on the lake. But I remember the number of times I puked into that bag. Thirteen.
"Down below is the worst place to be," I heard someone say from up on deck.
"She should come up here and focus on the horizon," declared someone else.
They could say whatever they wanted. There was absolutely no way I was going to stay up there and let David watch me throw up all over myself.
A pair of legs appeared on the ladder that led down into the hold. I considered hiding my barf bag but decided it would be wiser to keep it within reach.
I wrinkled my nose and winced up at David. His face was all concern and compassion. He put his hand on my leg, and romantic butterflies quivered in my already churning stomach.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game
"Is there anything I can do?" he asked.
"No. Thank you," I said. "You really don't need to be down here. I'm sure it reeks."
"I want to tell Brian to turn the boat around," he said.
"No way!" I replied. "We're in the middle of a race!"
Somehow, I survived the race. Somehow, there was a third date — and many more after that. And twenty-two months later, with our feet planted on the delightfully solid ground of a mountainside, David asked me to be his wife.
During the months we dated, people often asked how we met. The sailboat story usually came up. "I was so impressed with her when she said we couldn't drop out of the race," David would say, making me sound like a champion instead of a pathetic invalid. I adored him more with each telling of the story.
One day, with our wedding date approaching, David made a confession. "Remember that time I flipped a coin to see whether you'd come to Chicago or I'd go to your town?" he asked.
Of course I remembered.
"Well, I was curious to see where you were from and meet your family, but I didn't want to sound too eager."
"Yeah...?" I could see where this was going.
"So... I really did flip a coin. But it wasn't heads."
David hurried to explain that he hadn't actually lied. He had never said whether the coin landed on heads or tails; he'd just announced that he would be coming to visit me. I was mad, but only a little and only for about two seconds.
I've sometimes wondered what might've happened if that second date had been in Chicago like the coin toss said it should be. We would have had nice dinner out, perhaps. Or maybe strolled along Navy Pier and watched the choppy waves from a safe distance. But then I wouldn't have had the opportunity to impress David with my determination to finish the race, and who knows what would've happened? So it was worth suffering through the queasiness. Ten years later, we're still married, still in love — and still haven't gone sailing again.

The Pregnant Gals

By Crescent LoMonaco

Strangers are just friends waiting to happen.
~Rod McKuen
I babysat when I was a teenager to make money to spend at the mall. But it was more of the "feed the kids, plop them in front of cartoons, and set the clocks ahead one hour to put them to bed early so I could chat all night on the phone with my girlfriends" kind of babysitting. Not the kind of babysitting that requires Early Childhood Education units, CPR training, and age appropriate play projects that today's parents look for when choosing a babysitter.
Fast forward to age thirty-nine and pregnant. I didn't know anything about pregnancy, let alone raising a child. My whole life, I'd been a career woman. I used my education, time, and expertise on work, not children. I could whip up a project in no time flat. Projections, spreadsheets, reports, marketing, retail, and customer retention came quickly and easily to me. Going through pregnancy and raising a child did not.
Where on earth could I get a crash course on pregnancy and child rearing? What I needed was CliffsNotes, if you will, on everything I needed to know, and the stuff I didn't really want to know, but probably should. Of course, I went to the Internet.
I searched for pregnant women in my area who might like to get together. Nothing. I thought briefly of going to the local parks to look for pregnant women to ask if they wanted to hang out. Creepy. I thought how nice it would be to have a site, much like a professional matchmaking site, which would put fun groups of like-minded women together. A little more searching and I found the perfect one!
I typed in my zip code and found... nothing! So, I started my own group. I called it the Pregnant Gals. I touted it as a group for pregnant women to get together to share education and information, talk, laugh, cry (hormones, you know) and drink coffee (decaf, of course). Within the first week, I had twelve members!
In the beginning, we got together every week and shared our experiences. We took our ever-expanding bellies for long walks on the beach, drank decaf for hours at the local coffee bar, and tried the new hot restaurants downtown. Boy were we a sight! People commented often. We got everything from, "How sweet. Reminds me of when I was pregnant," to "Honey, I'm sure glad I'm too old to be in your club!"
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls
We swapped stories about baby names, anxiety, weight gain, nursery colors, in-laws, and birth plans. Having such deep topics to discuss bonded us together faster and deeper than I've ever bonded with any other women.
As we approached our due dates, some girls began to drop out of the Pregnant Gals club to deliver their babies. Amazingly, we all delivered within six weeks of each other.
A couple of the Gals moved away, some we never heard from again, but six of us still remain extremely close. We see each other at least once a week, sometimes more. Our husbands get along with each other, so we expanded our group to the guys as well. We babysit and grocery shop for each other. We have lots of play dates with our little ones. We go wine tasting, and even manage a group date night once a week. We now call ourselves the Not-So-Pregnant Gals.
I love my new life. Lunch dates have turned to play dates. Morning meetings have been replaced with morning feedings. I no longer whip up projects; I whip up eggs and oatmeal. I love that I now know how to do all of these things, and I love that I was able to learn all these things from such wonderful women.

Twin Pop

By Donna Teti

A sister is God's way of proving He doesn't want us to walk alone.
~Author Unknown
My twin sister Sue and I loved the first days of spring. As children we looked forward to those warm afternoons when we could shed our coats at recess and look forward to playing outside when school was over.
We could not wait to leap off the school bus, grab a basketball, bike or tennis racket and head outside to play. Sometimes we played at the park. Other times we grabbed some of our allowance and walked to the 7-Eleven for a cola Slurpee.
With the days getting longer, we finished dinner and homework as quickly as possible, then ran outside to play kickball or hide and go seek. We tried to squeeze in as much playtime as possible before dark.
Our time together was precious. As twin sisters we had a special bond. We even had a special nickname for one another: Twin Pop!
As adults we continued to enjoy the beginning of spring. Sometimes Sue called me on the phone and happily exclaimed, "Hey Twin Pop, did you know it's going up to seventy degrees today? Let's meet for coffee."
"That sounds great!"
Quite often we picked up coffees and met at our local park just to sit on a bench, chat for a while and enjoy the beautiful weather while the kids were in school.
Other times we got our kids together. Sue and I would trail behind them as they rode their Big Wheels and tricycles in one of our driveways. As they got older we watched while they took off down the street on their big bikes. We smiled at each other, remembering our own childhood and those first days of spring.
But on the first days of spring in 2003 everything suddenly changed. Sue called me one evening. "Hi Donna, do you want to get together for coffee in the morning?"
"Sure, I have a Bible study until ten. Let's meet afterwards."
The next morning my kids and I were leaving for the bus stop when the phone rang. My third grader Caroline answered it. By her voice and smile I knew who she was talking to. "It's Aunt Sue!" she said with joy, handing me the phone.
"Hi Donna, do you mind if I cancel coffee this morning? I have a headache. Can we get together tomorrow or later this week?" I assured her that was fine.
"I hope you feel better."
"Thanks! See ya later!"
Two hours later when I came home, I found many messages on my machine from loved ones urging me to call them immediately. I reached my friend Terry. She told me that Sue had dropped her son Billy off at school, gone to the local bank, and while she was waiting in the drive-through, had a stroke.
I was stunned and confused. What was she talking about? Sue was forty years old and in perfect health! How could she have a stroke?
I was in shock as my friend drove me to the hospital. When I saw Sue in the emergency room, it hit me hard. I could not process what had happened. It made no sense to me.
My energetic sister who I had just chatted with hours before was lying on a table hooked up to machines and not able to talk to me.
"Hi Sue," I spoke gently. "Don't worry. You are going to be okay." I babbled on about the plans our families had made to go to the shore that coming summer, "You'll be feeling great in time for our vacation!" I tried desperately to find the right words to give her hope.
A few agonizing hours later I learned Sue's stroke was massive. Time would tell if she would have a future with us. Close friends and family began to arrive. We sat quietly in the waiting room, frozen in shock.
It had been a long day. Late into the evening there was still no improvement. I prayed for her healing. I prayed for my strength.
We headed home for the night.
The next morning, I received a phone call. Overnight Sue had slipped into a coma. We headed back to the hospital.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven
The lowest point of the morning was as I watched Sue's three young children, Stephanie, Kristen and Billy, turn to us and smile, their faces filled with hope, as they walked through the critical care doors with their dad to see their mom. I went in to be with them a few minutes later. As the children stood courageously around their mom, even in a coma, from Sue's eyes one single tear trickled down her cheek. I wiped it away.
A little after noon my husband Marc took me home to rest a bit. As I tried to drift into sleep, I knew. Sue had just passed.
Moments later Marc came into our bedroom. He gently spoke to me. "Hon, we should go back to the hospital now." Later I would learn he had received a phone call at the time I received my message that Sue had passed. Neither of us said a word in the car ride over. We both wanted to believe a little longer.
But as we arrived at the hospital ten minutes later and were getting into the elevator, Marc turned to me with a heartbroken look on his face.
"Hon," he started.
I stopped him and said, "I know."
I went in to see Sue for the last time. Her oldest, Stephanie, had been sitting by her side for hours just holding her hand. I came up behind Stephanie, leaned over and spoke softly in Sue's ear. I wanted to reassure her. I tried to be strong.
"Hey Sue," my voice was shaky. "You know I love you. Please don't worry about your kids. I love them so much and I will treat them as my own. I will always be there for them." I felt empty and alone as I was speaking to her. How would I live without my twin sister, my Twin Pop!
My heart broke for her family. I wrapped my arms around Stephanie and hugged her tight. Just then an amazingly warm hug filled with love wrapped around me and Stephanie. I recognized that warmth and love. It was a mother's love, a sister's love. It was a beautiful feeling of comfort and peace. Like the warmth of the sun on those first days of spring.
I turned my head but knew no one would be there, at least no one I could see. I believe it was a gift from God, a hug from Sue to remind us that a special bond never dies.
See ya later, Twin Pop.