среда, 26 февраля 2014 г.

Check Is in the Mail

By Edwin F. Smith

You can tell the size of your God by looking at the size of your worry list. The longer your list, the smaller your God.
~Author Unknown
The columns didn't balance, so I ran them again. Same result. I wanted to blame the bank, but I knew the error was mine. No matter how I analyzed the numbers, I didn't have enough money to make it through the rest of the month.
I suppose everyone has had the sinking feeling that swept over me that day. It's a part of financial life to balance the accounts, and find that a simple error in addition or subtraction had left us short. We deal with it, but I was nineteen years old and 6,000 miles from home in a foreign country with an overdrawn budget, a missionary companion with his own financial struggles, rent due and an unsympathetic landlord.
Six months earlier I had worked as a "hoddy," tending the needs of a handful of brick masons in the hot August sun. The work was hard, but the pay would help me sock away some extra money before leaving on a church mission. At the moment, that hard work and August sun seemed pretty enticing.
The opportunity to donate two years in the service of the Lord was both an honor and a challenge. The mission was voluntary and self-funded with help from my family, if necessary. Since my father was a schoolteacher nine months out of the year and a driving instructor during the summer, we had always had sufficient funds for our needs but not enough for surprises. It would be no different during my missionary experience. Faith was certainly going to be an ongoing part of my service in faraway Germany.
My companion and I shared expenses and we were both out of money. We put the matter to prayer, seeking divine intervention without a clue as to how the Lord would help us resolve our problem. We retired for the evening, with faith in our hearts and zeros in our bankbooks.
This was pre-Internet, pre-Skype, back in the 1970s. Our only communication was the postal system. A letter took eight to ten days from Munich to home and the same in return. So as I mailed my letter home asking for $60, I knew it was a futile effort, since I needed the rent money the very next day.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen
That night, we tried to avoid the building manager, who would insist on receiving the rent on time. He wasn't a bad sort — he was just doing the job he was paid to do. As we crept past his apartment, his door opened.
"Sie haben eilpost," he said without emotion. That means, "You have express mail." I took the envelope from his outstretched hand. Then he reminded us that the rent was due.
We went inside and I used a butter knife to open the priority mail envelope. Unfolding a single sheet letter within, a check for $60 fell out. My father's letter was three words long. "You need this."
It is difficult to express the thoughts that rushed through my mind. For that check, in the exact amount needed, to have arrived within twenty-four hours of our mailed request, my father would have to have known our specific need and mailed the funds almost two weeks before we even knew we had a problem.
Many months later I expressed my gratitude as I related this experience to my father. He told me he arose one morning and knew that I needed $60. Without knowing why, he rushed to the post office and mailed the check, by express mail. Many people would write such things off as coincidence, but I recognized then and have often since, that miracles happen.

No Offense, Grandma

By Sharon Fuentes

Dreams are today's answers to tomorrow's questions.
~Edgar Cayce
I was twelve years old when my maternal grandmother passed away. The day we buried her was the very first time I saw my mother cry. Unable to deal with all the raw emotions, I retired to my room and hoped that sleep would bring me comfort. But it brought me far more than that. It brought me back Grandma Ruthie.
She came wearing the baby blue dress with the rose corsage that I had always seen her wear in the picture on my mother's bedside table. She sat at the edge of my bed and said nothing at first, as if she was waiting to see how I would react. I was scared of course and thought I must be dreaming. Perhaps I was. My grandmother told me that she was okay. She told me it was okay to laugh and to keep doing the things I usually do, as life goes on. She told me to be kind to my mother and to understand that she is doing the best that she can. And just as I was warming up to the idea that this was real, that I could ask her questions about what it was like on the other side, that she could explain to me what really happens, she was gone.
The next day I tried to tell my mother what happened but she was far too immersed in her own grief to hear of such nonsense. So I said nothing more of it to anyone.
I honestly did not give much thought to that incident until many years later. I was married and pregnant with my first child when my paternal grandmother passed on. I was sitting with my older sister sharing memories of all the wonderful times we had with our lively and mischievous Grandma Gertie. We laughed as we remembered her playful spirit. It was then that my sister nonchalantly mentioned how she hoped she would not visit her, the way Grandmother Ruthie had so many years earlier. I was shocked and asked her what she meant. She then proceeded to tell the story of how our grandmother had visited her that night so many years ago too. She described her wearing the exact same dress as I saw her wear and how she spoke the same words she had said to me.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages From Heaven
The thought then came to us that perhaps Grandmother Gertie, who had just passed on, would try to pay us a visit as well. We both were a bit freaked out by this. Although I wanted to know that our grandmother was fine, I honestly did not think I could handle her visiting me. After all I was very, very pregnant. My sister joked that she did not want her to come to her either. We laughed and said into the air, "Grandma if you are listening... no offense but please go visit someone else." I had no dreams or nighttime visit that night and neither did my sister.
The next morning the two of us received a phone call from our cousin who lived out of town and was unable to come to our grandmother's funeral. She told us of a very weird dream she had the night before and how Grandma Gertie had come to tell her she was okay. She laughed as she said she did not understand the next part of her dream. "She told me to tell you both that you are chicken and that Sharon... I know you did not want to know, but you are having a boy, so there!" She then went on to say how real the dream was. My sister and I knew better but said nothing. That day we went shopping for baby boy clothes because we were positive that I was indeed having a boy... which I did!

The Dead Body

By Karen E. Lewis

Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.
~Sophia Loren
I never thought I would make a new friend by finding a body on the porch. But one day I happened to look outside our spare bedroom window, which faces directly onto our next-door neighbors' back door and porch area. I was surprised to see an older woman I did not recognize and had never even seen around our street. She was sitting peacefully with a small plastic Tupperware box on her lap containing what looked like candy.
Her body was slightly slumped, head tilted back with a small bathroom towel wrapped around her hair. I thought she was asleep.
So I went about my day and later returned to the window again. I noticed the woman had not moved at all. As I looked more closely at her face, I thought her skin looked abnormally pale. At this point I thought she was dead but was not one hundred percent certain. There was no movement of her chest or stomach, or any sign of breathing from what I could see.
My first thought was that maybe I should go to my neighbors' door and let them know. I wondered how long she had been there; my guess would be a matter of hours. I waited a short time, and just as I was about to leave, the back door of my neighbors' house opened and my next-door neighbor stepped out onto the porch. She walked straight past the body, almost as if she did not even see it. My neighbor went straight down the stairs carrying a laundry basket in her hands. She was down the stairs and out of sight for at least ten minutes.
Then the neighbor came back up the stairs, mopping each step from the bottom to the very top. At this point I thought that surely my neighbor would notice that this woman was dead. It was very strange. To me, it was obvious that there was a dead woman on my neighbors' porch, but she proceeded to clean around the chair where the body was without batting an eyelash. I was really starting to wonder what was going on, so I decided to take a photo of the woman.
I mentioned to my husband that I was going to go around to our neighbors' door to see if they realized there might be a deceased person on their porch. Of course, I understood that this was a very sensitive issue. I was only going to mention that there might be a woman on their porch... and maybe they should check to see if she was okay.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls
My overactive imagination couldn't be contained. I started to wonder, "What if the woman on the chair was murdered? Maybe they sat her outside on the porch because of the smell, or maybe she had been hit on the head and the bathroom towel's purpose was to cover the obvious wound!" I was being crazy, I thought. Or was I?
So my husband stayed at the window while I went next door to speak to my neighbor. He was waiting to see if anything happened to the body while I was next door. Off I went, nervously, with my cell phone in my pocket.
I rang the doorbell of my neighbors' house and waited patiently behind the iron gate. Through the glass door, I could see my neighbor approaching with a huge friendly looking smile on her face. She opened the door and asked, "Would you like to come in?" I felt a bit apprehensive but accepted her invitation.
Once inside, I blurted it out. "I'm really concerned about the woman on the porch." I had barely finished my sentence when she burst out laughing. Her husband looked at me over the top of his glasses and smiled. She took me out onto the porch and her husband followed.
They went straight to the body, picked her up, and started flopping her around. I was shocked. It turned out she was a dummy!
My neighbor explained, "Our house was recently burgled, and somebody gave us this dummy to give the impression there are people in the house whenever we're away. We just left it on the chair for now because we were going to give it a good clean before using it."
A little embarrassed, I laughed. "From our window, it certainly looks real, all dressed in tracksuit bottoms, sweatshirt, and a pair of running shoes." My neighbors certainly saw the funny side. I don't know who was the biggest dummy here but I sure felt like one, and of course every time we see each other now we can't help but laugh. It's probably something I will never live down. As neighbors we never really had the opportunity to be introduced or know each other at any great length. The dummy on the porch was a great icebreaker for us. Sometimes the craziest situations lead to making a wonderful new friend.

Discount Shopping

By Keith Smith

An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.
~Spanish Proverb
The Belfast, Maine of my youth was not the coastal tourist village that it is today. At the time, Belfast was still a blue-collar town where Maplewood and Penobscot Poultry (a chicken processing company) and the shoe factory were the big-time employers. McDonald's had yet to move into town.
Before the supermarket existed, there was Cottle's, an independently-owned food market where my dad worked. And Cottle's is where my mother would do her once-a-week shopping. Because we lived a few miles inland from Belfast, we'd usually combine the grocery trip with a visit to see my grandmother. Of course, Grammie Stairs ALWAYS had cookies ready for the grandkids.
On one particular shopping day at Cottle's, I stood behind my mother as she was unloading the grocery cart and checking her items out at the register. The candy displays on either side of me were full of Life Savers, peanut butter cups, Clark Bars, Tootsie Rolls, Sugar Babies — you name it!
"Can I get some candy?" I asked.
My mother rarely veered from her list so I wasn't surprised with her response. "No."
This much I knew for certain. "No" always meant "No." There was no sense in me asking a second time. But I really, really wanted that candy!
I reached for a Sugar Baby package. My mother didn't notice. So I figured she probably wouldn't notice if I ever so coyly stuffed them into my pocket. We continued checking out and walked with the bag boy to the car where he loaded the bags into the car's trunk. No one detected my action — not my mother, not the cashier, not the bag boy — no one! I did it! Wow! My very first shoplifting experience! A five-finger discount! How exciting! How easy! How rewarding! Got my candy and didn't need one penny to get it!
I sat in the back seat as my mother drove across the bridge to where my grandmother lived. Slowly, so as not to make any unnecessary crinkling noise, I opened my prize and carefully slipped a Sugar Baby in my mouth. No one piece of candy ever tasted so good! She might have said, "No," but I'd said, "Yes," and look who'd won!
When we pulled into my grandmother's driveway, I knew I was in the clear. Miles and minutes separated me from Cottle's. As I prepared to open my car door, I confidently slipped a few more Sugar Babies into my mouth. They would tide me over until I got to Grammie Stairs' cookie jar inside.
Big mistake. "Keith, what have you got in your mouth?" I looked up at the rearview mirror and could see the reflection of my mother's eyes staring intently back at me. "I asked you a question! What have you got in your mouth?"
Though I'd recently become skilled in the art of shoplifting, I hadn't quite mastered the art of giving false testimony. "Uhhh... just some Sugar Babies."
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom
"Sugar Babies? Where did you get the money to buy them?" Why was she asking such a foolish question? She knew I hadn't purchased them. It was no big deal. Nobody even saw me take them. It was one little package of Sugar Babies. Let's just go into Grammie's! "I... uh... didn't really buy them."
"That's what I thought!" And then, rather than just going into Grammie's house and giving me a good scolding, she began backing out of my grandmother's driveway. Evidently, the same God who spoke the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelites at the base of Mount Sinai (number eight being "Thou Shalt Not Steal"), inspired my mother that day with, "Thou Shalt Not Raise a Thieving Son." And it was obvious from her lowered eyebrows, clenched teeth, and pursed lips that Commandment number five ranked high in her book, too: "Honor... your mother, so that your days may be long in the land...."
As she drove away from my grandmother's house and then back across the bridge, I knew exactly where we were headed. To Cottle's! This was so stupid! We're talking twenty-five cents here! A return trip all the way back there was a ridiculous waste of gas and time, if you asked me. Why was she turning this into such an emotional drama? What was she trying to prove?
I didn't have long to find out.
My mother pulled into Cottle's parking lot, cast one more glare my way, and marched me into the store. She proceeded to hunt down Mr. Proulx, the store manager! Why would she want to bother an important man like Mr. Proulx about me needing to pay for some candy that any cashier could more easily just take care of?
Once she located him and got his full attention, she said, in a voice that could be heard from three aisles away, "Tell Mr. Proulx what you did!"
I knew Mr. Proulx. I liked Mr. Proulx. But on this day Mr. Proulx was taking all of his cues from my mother. There was no room for doubt... I was on trial and Mr. Proulx was judge and jury! Through tears, I admitted what I had done and apologized. My mother put a quarter in my hand to give to him. Mr. Proulx listened and accepted my apology along with the twenty-five cents. He then issued a stern warning, explaining what the consequences would be if there was ever a repeat performance. Snuffling, embarrassed, ashamed, I totally understood the significance of my actions and what they might lead to if not nipped in the bud: Sugar Babies today, grand theft auto tomorrow.
My mother seemed satisfied that I'd learned my lesson as she chose to take me home rather than drop me off at the Waldo County jail for a night or two of reflection with my fellow criminals.
To this day, often while in a checkout lane near a candy rack, I think back to the lesson I learned from my mother. Thanks, Mom, for keeping me from a life of crime.

Cell Phone Madness

By Zulema Anahy Carlos

Everything in moderation... including moderation.
~Julia Child
"Surprise!" was the first thing I heard as soon as I opened the door. My family and friends were all gathered together. There were colorful balloons all over the house, a big poster that said "HAPPY BIRTHDAY," and of course a cake with a number 12 candle. It was a wonderful feeling knowing that I had finally turned twelve and I might possibly get the thing I wanted most.
I saw my mom and dad coming towards me with a small package wrapped up with really nice pink paper with flowers on it. When I ripped the paper and opened the box, I couldn't believe my eyes. I had really gotten a cell phone! I ran to give my mom and dad the biggest hug ever. "Thank you! I love you guys!"
"You're welcome. We knew this was going to make you happy but we didn't only get you this because you turned twelve, but also because you are doing well in school. We expect you to keep getting good grades."
"Of course I will!" I said confidently.
As soon as I got to school the next morning I was showing off my phone and asking everyone for their number. It was cool how I got so many contacts on the first day.
It felt like I didn't even exist in that class anymore. I wouldn't pay much attention to the teachers because I was too busy on my phone. Luckily, I didn't get caught using it.
I'm pretty sure that the teacher did notice that I stopped paying attention to her because a week later we took a test and I failed. To make matters worse, my mom had to sign the test.
It was hard to show my mom the test. She was used to seeing A's and B's on my tests. Well eventually I showed her and she couldn't believe it. She was angry but most of all, she was disappointed. Seeing her like that made me feel bad.
Weeks passed and my dad started to dislike the fact that I had a phone. We would argue every day about why phones are bad for us. He would say, "Anahy, can you please stop texting?"
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Kids
"I'm not doing anything wrong, I'm just texting my friends. I don't think there is a reason for you to get mad."
"I don't mind if you text your friends, but don't do it when someone is talking to you, when you are eating, doing homework, or when we have guests. It's rude."
My mom also joined the conversation "Anahy, I have also noticed that you never pay attention to us, your brother or sister. It's like you have your own little world now and we don't communicate as much with your phone between us."
I acted like they were wrong but then I started to wonder if it was true that I was being impolite.
A week later I tried going a whole day without a cell phone and it didn't go that badly. My relatives came over and it was the first time that I wasn't using my phone. Everyone noticed because they were asking me about it. It got really annoying because everyone exclaimed "Wow!" Finally you are not using your phone." That day I had so much fun because I was actually spending time with my family and paying attention to them. From that day, I had a different point of view towards cell phones.
Phones really take you away from the rest of the world. When you use your phone you move from the real world to a technological world. I'm not saying that phones are bad and not to use them, but you do have to make some time to spend with your family too and not get stuck with your phone all day. My phone took away time from my homework and from my family. It also affected my grades.
I will keep using my phone, but I have it under better control now so that it doesn't interfere with my real life.

воскресенье, 23 февраля 2014 г.

Police Report

By Chantal Meijer

'Tis sweet to know there is an eye that will mark our coming, and look brighter when we come.
~Lord Byron 
"Gee, what a hunk!" I thought, as the blue-eyed RCMP officer strode towards me from behind the police counter.
"How can I help you, Miss?" he asked, very formally.
"My father's missing," I said without preamble. "He's overdue from driving back from a job in Edmonton, and we haven't heard from him. My mother's frantic. She thinks he's gone off the road somewhere."
"I'm acting, here, for my mom," I made sure to stress, even as I felt myself shrinking to the size of a six-year-old. "She's the one who wants to file the report."
The dashing Mountie asked me a few questions, and then filled out a missing persons report.
"I'll pass the report on to the CNR Police in Edmonton," he said. "I'm not on duty tomorrow so someone else will call you as soon as we hear something."
I repeated my phone number for him — twice, seared his nametag into my memory, thanked him, and left.
It was an exceptionally cold winter. The snow, both in town and on the highways, was above average, making for dangerously icy conditions. It certainly was out of character for my dad to not call my mom along the route from Edmonton to our hometown in northwestern British Columbia — a driving distance of over 800 miles.
When I walked into the house I shared with my twin sister, I blurted out, "I've just met the most wonderful guy on the face of the earth. And... I got his name!"
"You'd better phone Mom," she said, rolling her eyes.
The next day someone, not Blue Eyes, called from the RCMP detachment to announce that my father had been located, safe and sound.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada The Wonders of Winter
"Your dad was a little embarrassed at being pulled over by a police cruiser," the officer added. I relayed the good news to Mom and the family breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Days later, after Dad had arrived safely home, he confronted me. "Do you know how embarrassing that was? I've never been pulled over by a cop in my life."
"But Dad," I retorted in self defence. "Mom made me do it!"
Crisis passed, I searched for Blue Eyes in the phone book but he wasn't listed. Darn it, I thought, I'll never see him again.
From then on, every police car I saw took on new meaning. No longer trying to avoid them, I was now aiming for them, hoping to catch a glimpse of Blue Eyes' face. But no face was his, and a few Mountie faces even scowled at me as I nearly drove into them! After a few weeks of near misses with every police car in town, Blue Eyes was still nowhere to be seen.
Several months passed before I saw him again. As fate would have it, we crossed in the doorway of a local pharmacy. He was dressed in civilian clothes, wearing a suede leather jacket that was quite becoming. After saying an initial "Hi," I thanked him for his assistance three months earlier, we engaged in light conversation, and then slowly retreated from the doorway to get out of people's way.
Then, under the stares of other shoppers, he said the magic words: "Do you want to go somewhere for coffee?" Inside I was jumping up and down. We went to a restaurant a block away where we drank hot chocolates and talked about ourselves and our families, including my no-longer elusive dad. Before parting, we exchanged phone numbers.
"You know that wonderful policeman I told you about?" I enthused to my sister, "Well, I just had hot chocolate with him at a restaurant!"
As of this writing, we've been married thirty-eight years, and two of our four children have followed in their father's law-enforcement footsteps. I've always had an aversion to ice and snow, but when those exact winter conditions forge warm hearts, as they did with us, there's no complaint from me.

Dating 101

By Camille Hill

When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that is in itself a choice.
~William James
I flunked Dating 101 a long time ago. Yet there I was, age sixty-seven, considering entering the online dating field.
By happenstance, the day I decided to look at the online dating sites was the very day there was a free weekend on one of the more popular sites. That meant I could go online to look, to see if there were indeed men living in my area in the age bracket I thought was reasonable. I found a plethora of men looking for love. Excited, I began to fill in the questionnaires on two different sites. I wasn't sure I wanted to go live at the moment but at least I could consider their questions, form my answers and then when I was really ready, it would be easy to proceed.
As I filled in the questionnaire on one site I came to a series of questions about my ideal partner that also had a box to check off marked "deal breakers." I considered my options and decided that a deal breaker for me would be any man who was shorter than I was. I checked off that box. The question about weight was a bit of a puzzle but finally I decided that their definition of "heavyset" probably meant very overweight and I knew that was not something I was attracted to, so I checked off that box too. The deal breaker box concerning smoking was a no brainer — I had no desire to be with anyone who smoked — so I checked that box. The deal breaker box concerning drinking was also checked as I did not imbibe alcohol and had no desire to be with someone who drank regularly. A few more selections and I was done with that part of the questionnaire. I decided to stop at that point and logged off. I had not completed the questionnaire but thought I would do so another day.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game
The following morning, when I logged on to the site there was a message telling me that my profile had been accepted and was now online and live. Heart palpitations would not be an exaggeration as I raced to the site to look — and yes, there I was. No pictures, an uncompleted profile and worst of all, all the deal breaker boxes that I had so carefully checked off were there — as what I required. Yes! I wanted to meet men who were very heavy, shorter than me, who drank regularly, and smoked! Yikes. I couldn't figure out how it was that I was now online when I had not approved that. For a few minutes I couldn't figure out how to get my profile down, but I finally found a section of the site that allowed me to hide my profile. Whew!
I then turned my attention to the other e-mails I had received only to discover I had received about thirty hits from interested men who sent me their detailed information about their heights, smoking, drinking lives, as well as pictures showing a variety of midsection girths. The humour of it all hit and I started to laugh, and laugh, and laugh. Was this a sign? Was I meant to explore online dating? Should I just give up and remain single? Was a lasting love beyond my ability in this lifetime? What did it all mean? These questions and more flitted through my mind even while I was laughing at myself.
A day or two later I went back in to edit my profile. This time I deleted the deal breaker boxes and simply put down that I was looking for a man to be my companion, my love, and the most necessary ingredients were being spiritual and having an open heart. I think my online dating mishap was a lesson that I needed to stop focusing on the deal breakers and, instead, focus on the positives.

Winter Dog

By Jeanette Lynes

What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it's the size of the fight in the dog.
~Dwight D. Eisenhower
The dog found us late in February, that trough of winter after the valentines have been sent, when there's little left in the world to love, when the first peeping violets seem an eternity away. As if rising from a drift of snow, it suddenly appeared to us, ragged and yellow, shivering, rib-worn and gaunt, yet wagging its tail frosted like fern. Its floppy ears looked frozen at their tips, its scraggly Terrier-like-beard grizzled with frost. It was no dog we knew, and living in rural Ontario, the dogs of our township were familiar, part of the neighborhood fabric. This unknown one stood scratching at the door of our house, lifting one paw at a time as if to offer each a brief respite from the cold. Wagging its frosted fern-tail.
"Don't let it in!" my mother called out to me from the kitchen. "You let it in, it's game over. Besides, we already have a dog — and he eats too much."
This was a fact. Ed was our big, lumbering part-something, part-something else mutt. He had a huge appetite and slept away much of the day beside the stove. He was supposed to have been a fierce farm-guard. That had been our plan for him. He was not scary at all, could have been a stand-in for a cartoon dog quite popular at the time, Marmaduke. Ed didn't even bark when the strange yellow dog scratched for help that day.
I opened the door a crack, enough to see the poor mutt's system of raising and lowering its paws. It whimpered and still Ed did not hear, or hearing did not care. I compared Ed's warm, padded cushion by the stove with the plight of the winter dog, with its frostbitten ears, outside.
"Mom — it's cold — please?"
My mother emerged from the kitchen, her hands covered in flour. She was trying to give me the evil eye or, as we called it then, the hairy eyeball.
"You want to let it in," she said to me, in flat tones.
I bobbed my head energetically. "It's cute."
"Cute? Can it shovel snow?" she asked.
I shrugged.
"Can it clean stables?"
An even weaker shrug from me.
"Then what use is it?"
The yellow dog, of course, came to live with us. The truth was, it was not uncommon for pets to be driven to the country in a car, then dumped out and abandoned. Drifter, I named the stray, because he looked, when he appeared to us, like he had risen from a drift of snow. There were many storms in those days, and in fact our road had been closed for two days when Drifter came scrabbling at the door. If someone had dropped him off, he had been alone in the howling wind and blizzard for at least a couple of days. Winters were more severe in the years of my youth.
The yellow dog loved us for taking him in — he rolled about in a bliss of gratitude meant to be entertaining, we supposed, until my mother would say, "Yes, all right, all right, Drifter, you are here, now, you can stay."
Ed regarded Drifter with a benign indifference. As long as Ed's food bowl wasn't affected, Ed was cool.
Drifter was frightened of cars. If it was true that he had been abandoned and pushed out of a car, as we speculated, perhaps he feared a car would open its door and snatch him away from us. Ed, on the other hand, loved riding in the car.
One day, two winters after Drifter was brought into our house, my mother took Ed to town with her, grocery store run, taxes to pay. I didn't want to go to town, I needed to work on my 4-H project: a pair of pajamas I was sewing. Leopard pattern, the latest thing. I was old enough to stay home alone, had done so before. Besides, I wasn't alone. Drifter was there. I whirred the machine into a pleasant frenzy. I didn't hear the car engine idle in the yard, but Drifter heard it. At first I thought it was my mother and Ed, back from town. She had promised to buy puffed wheat cereal and marshmallows; we would make squares. I'd been thinking of those squares the whole time I sewed, so I ran to meet her.
It was not my mother. It was a frowning man in a dirty overcoat and sloppy galoshes. Already out of his car, beating his way over the snowy path to the front door.
Drifter sent out a wail of volleying barks, guttural, alarmed. Growls I'd never heard issue from his throat before. He stood on his hind legs and watched, through the window, his nose poking through between the drapes, the man approach our house. The man knocked on the door, spiraling Drifter's growls and barks into an even more crazed, intense pitch.
"No one is home!" I called nervously through the door.
"Doesn't sound like that to me," the man snapped.
I started to blubber that my mother would be back any minute.
Then man paid no heed.
In those days, no one locked their houses. The concept of a locked door was foreign to us, for city people. The man pushed the door open enough to stick his ugly face into the kitchen.
Drifter went berserk. He leapt and lunged at the man, and sank his teeth into his dirty overcoat, ripping a segment off the lower sleeve. Whatever kind of dog Drifter was, there must have been some wolf in his line. His eyes lit like two red-orange, searing flames.
The man swore at Drifter, but could not shake him off his sleeve, though he kept cursing and shaking his arm. It was like Drifter's teeth were permanently stuck in the man's coat. I cried harder.
Suddenly my mother appeared at the doorstep. And Ed. Like I said, Ed was the biggest, sleepiest, laziest dog, but something about seeing Drifter clinging, growling, at the man's sleeve, lit dynamite under him. He became, at that moment, the guard dog we had envisioned. Ed grabbed the back of the intruder's overcoat and it was clear to all of us that his next move would be sinking his teeth into the man's backside.
My mother told me to phone the police. By the time they arrived from town to our farm, the man had retreated back into his car and, throwing out a long spray of snow from his spinning tires, he tore out of our laneway and down the road in a white cloud. When the officer arrived, we were able to describe the man and his car in detail. Not long after, the police caught him. They had been looking for him for a while.
After that day, Ed and Drifter guarded us with their lives. They became a tag team, a duo-security force. I got these neat gold badges from prizes in cereal boxes and I attached one to each of their collars.
Though my mother and I never spoke about that first day Drifter came to us, I knew from the start she would let him in; country people have an unspoken custom about any desperate, hungry creature shivering outside in the wild, freezing elements — it is bad luck not to help them — moreover, they will repay your kindness someday when your thoughts are far as they can be from any economy of generosity, when you've embarked on an errand of absolute ordinariness, like making a run to town for milk and bread and cereal and paying the tax office.

From Gym Friend to Real Friend

By Ferida Wolff

Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?
~Frank Scully
I have been going to the gym for years, hoping to keep my body strong and my bones straight. My mother had severe osteoporosis and I was determined to do all I could to prevent that from happening to me. So I worked out — hard.
On this particular day, I was pressing through my twentieth pushup with a metal weight perched on the middle of my back, feeling every muscle complain, when I heard a woman's voice say, "I don't like this." At least I wasn't the only one who found working out at the gym trying. When I finished, I looked up and saw a familiar face, a woman who had been going to the gym regularly like me. She was doing sumo squats. We complained to each other about how hard the exercises were today. Our trainer ignored us, as usual.
She finished her workout and left while I was just at the beginning of mine. Our trainings frequently overlapped so we had the chance to talk while we sweated. We were always glad to see each other as gym friends but had never made an attempt to get together outside of the gym.
Later that week, as she was leaving and I was coming in, I said on a whim, "Would you like to meet for lunch some day?"
She seemed pleasantly surprised.
"Sure," she said.
We made a date for the following Friday after our workouts. She would do some errands and come back for me after I was done.
"Great!" I said, and we went our separate ways.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls
As the date drew closer, though, I wondered what we would talk about.
On the day we were supposed to get together, our trainer handed me a note. It was an apology. My gym friend was called in to work and wouldn't be able to meet me. I thanked him for the message, stuffed it in my purse, and went on with my training. But it made me a little edgy. Had I been too pushy? We had never really chatted about anything substantial. Would it be embarrassing for both of us? Had she thought about our meeting and decided it was a bad idea after all?
When we met again she was the one to bring up our getting together. So we made another date. This time she stayed on the treadmill while I exercised and waited for me. We left together and went to a local restaurant in the same shopping center. It was an unusually warm winter day so we ordered and brought our plates outside.
As we settled down we looked at each other across the table and before we knew it we were halfway through our meals and deep into conversation. We learned more about each other as we ate our salads than we had discovered in all the years during our workouts. We found that we had similar philosophies and interests. We talked about family and travels and whatever else popped into our minds. Almost two hours passed before we decided we had better move on.
We had parked our cars side by side without even knowing it.
"I decided," she said, "that I only want to be friends with someone who speaks to my heart."
Then she smiled warmly and I knew she meant me. And I knew that I now had a girlfriend who would be part of my life in and outside of the gym.

My Final Foster Home

By Amanda Plaxico

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
~Mark Twain
Moving into a foster home is quite a scary experience for a child or young teen. I moved in with my foster parents, whom I now call mom and dad, at the beginning of the second semester of my freshman year in high school. I was fifteen years old. My social worker Tonya said, "They have three children of their own, one boy and two girls, all younger than you. They also attend church regularly."
My reply was, "Okay," as I was too nervous to think of anything else to say. She continued to inform me that they were good people and had been foster parents for a long time, and that they were well known and respected in the community.
As we pulled into the driveway, my heart began to pound hard in my chest. Before Tonya could shut the engine off, a lady and two children came outside to greet us. The lady, Linda, began talking to Tonya as we began to exit the car. The children came to my side and started talking to me, all at once. They could have spoken a foreign language and I wouldn't have understood them any better. Tonya informed Linda that I hadn't said much and that I was pretty nervous, from what I caught of their conversation. As we started to remove my luggage, the children yelled that they wanted to help. They each grabbed a bag, and I grabbed my largest suitcase and another bag. We went into the house while Linda and Tonya continued to talk.
We took my luggage into Sonya's bedroom. She was the youngest and she had bunk beds, so this was to be my bedroom as well. As we laid my luggage on the floor, Sharon, the middle child, sat on the bed asking so many questions that I couldn't answer them all. Sonya remained standing beside me asking questions as well. All the questions and their excitement just added to my nervousness.
When I began to open and unpack my luggage, Sonya and Sharon showed me which drawers to put my clothes in and which drawer I could use as a junk drawer. As I emptied each bag they wanted to see what I had. Linda came to the bedroom and told the girls that they needed to quit bugging me, but I told her it was okay. They were just curious.
After I finished putting everything away, Linda went to another room and Sharon and Sonya took me on a tour of the house. Then they took me outside to show me their horses and barn. Sonya wanted to show me her swing set and asked me if I would push her on a swing for a few minutes. It was Wednesday, church night, so we went back into the house to start preparing for church.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Kids
Linda was ironing her clothes as Sharon and Sonya dressed for church. Linda and I talked about my past foster homes and about her husband Ray and Junior, the oldest child. She told me that Junior was at his cousin's house and Ray was at work. Before I could ask what time they would be home so I could meet them, the door flew open and four people came in talking and laughing loudly. They started talking to me all at once. Linda laughed and told them to leave me alone because they were probably scaring me to death, but I thought it was funny.
I was ready for bedtime that day as I was tired from all the activity. But Sonya continued to ask questions and talk to me until Linda threatened to go and get her father.
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. As every day went by, my foster parents treated me just as if I were their child. I lived with them for several years and even when I was acting like a typical smart-mouthed teenager, they never called Tonya to come remove me and place me somewhere else.
After living with them and seeing how life could be, I was inspired. I saw how working hard and staying away from drugs and alcohol could lead to a good life. My life before foster care always involved moving from place to place and I saw lots of drug and alcohol abuse. I am so grateful to my foster family for showing me a different and better way of life.

вторник, 18 февраля 2014 г.

The Atheist and the Preacher's Wife

By Lori Zenker

Two people of similar nature can never get along, it takes two opposites to harmonize.
~Ram Mohan
When I was a kid, I had no trouble making new friends. "Just look for someone like you, and talk to them," I would instruct my younger sisters, showing them how to easily create a circle of friends.
But now that I was in my mid-twenties, newly married to a minister, and living in a town far away from my family and friends, meeting new people wasn't so easy.
My husband, Mike, was the pastor of a large church, in a town where people had grown up together and already had all the friends they needed.
I found a job waitressing at a family restaurant, hoping to find a friend, someone just like me, with similar values and interests. But most of the staff there were young and single — their lives consumed with school and parties.
A petite blond girl was instructed to show me the ropes at the restaurant. Melynda had moved to Canada from Ireland a year earlier, and with her thick Irish brogue I could barely understand her. "So, yer a preacher's wife?" she snickered. "Aye, if I ever darkened the doors of a church, it'd fall down on top of me!"
She had a temper, with a foul mouth that could make a sailor blush, and was about as polar opposite from me as you could get, or so I thought.
As I walked home after my shift, I realized she was walking right in front of me, and I saw her go into a little house just around the corner from mine.
The next day we met, while walking to work, and I reluctantly joined her, cringing at her crude stories. However, it turned out she was actually my age, married, and lived in that small house with her husband and numerous cats.
She made it immediately clear that she was an atheist, and wanted nothing to do with church people.
Frankly, she terrified me, and was about as far from my conservative upbringing as you could get. She told me stories about her wild teenage years when she would wear clear plastic dresses with nothing underneath.
And yet, we met to walk to work together, and home again every day.
One of the benefits of waitressing is always having pocketfuls of change. "Why don't we stop in a couple of shops on the way home?" she suggested one day. And that began our daily habit of thrift store shopping, where we'd buy dresses, sweaters and shoes.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls
Then Melynda introduced me to auction sales, where we bid together on beautiful antique furniture, as well as strange and crazy items to fill our homes.
We bonded over our interests in vintage things, art and gardening, but also over our mutual dislike of our waitressing job. We became a twosome at work and we were always paired to work together — whether it was waitressing, decorating the restaurant, or buying flowers for the restaurant patio.
Mike and I were hunting for our first house to buy, and she searched with me — she had a critical eye and a harsh tongue. I think our real estate agent was afraid of her too!
Soon, we were inseparable, spending every weekend together, and going places that the other girls in the restaurant wouldn't dream of going, like junk shops and art stores. The restaurant uniform required wearing a tie, so we began to make our own and sell them to the other staff.
We started a booth at the farmer's market, selling artsy things we'd make, or find and make over. I was the quiet, calm vendor, trying to keep Melynda's crazy temper in line so we didn't drive the customers away.
We talked about everything... everything except our religious beliefs. Yet, somehow it didn't matter. I was tolerant of her language and crude jokes, and she listened to my stories of the activities at church, and the interesting people I was meeting.
One day I invited Melynda and her husband Mark to a sports and dinner night we were having at church. Surprisingly, they came, and even more surprisingly, they participated with great enthusiasm. At the end of the night, she responded, "Boy, I really like your church. I would join right away if it wasn't for the religious part!"
We have both since moved away from that town, and live over a hundred miles away from each other. My life has changed, as I've become a mother and raised three children, while Melynda has built her dream home along a lake and filled it with pets. Neither of us works as a waitress anymore. But we've remained close girlfriends, and still share our love of collecting junk, being creative, and renovating our homes.
Each Christmas we mail each other gifts, and I eagerly look forward to the box I'll get from her, full of treasures she's found for me through the year — a vintage blanket, old Christmas ornaments, a teapot she's made. No matter what it is, I know I will love it, because even though she's still an atheist, and I'm still a preacher's wife, those aren't the things that matter in our friendship.
I'm glad we were both able to overlook the things that might have initially stopped us from enjoying a creative friendship. And since then, I've learned that when you're looking for a girlfriend, don't bother looking for someone just like you — because what you really need might be just the opposite!

Ski You Later

By Dennis McCloskey

You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.
~Henry Drummond
When I first spotted Kris, she was driving a canary-yellow Ford Mustang two-door sports coupe with six cylinders under the hood and a four-speed manual transmission. Years later I would joke that I fell in love with the car before I fell in love with the tall, blond driver.
Kris and her girlfriend — both teachers — were moving into the same Toronto apartment building where I lived with my long-time buddy. The year was 1972 and all four of us were recent university graduates and starting our careers.
I was an eligible, twenty-four-year-old bachelor and Kris was a stunning bachelorette. We both loved sports and soon became good friends. Very quickly we discovered that downhill skiing was our passion.
For the next year, as we progressed from companionship to love, we found that the relationship was quickly "going downhill" — that is, we were downhill skiing often at the Blue Mountain ski area in Collingwood, Ontario. Once, on a mountain outside of Calgary, Alberta, I hinted to Kris that one day I would propose to her on top of a mountain.
For years, I'd had an abiding desire to move to Australia. The more I learned about it, the more I fell in love with it. I liked the Aussie's love of sport and the temperate climate, with 340 sunny days a year in the city of Sydney. That appealed to me since Canada sometimes seems like ten months of winter, and two months of bad skiing!
Best of all, I would not have to give up my love of downhill skiing because Aussies ski in the snow-clad Australian Alps — in July and August.
I decided I would quit my job, give up my apartment and move Down Under. That was the easy part.
The hard part would be telling Kris.
She knew of my desire to live in a country 9,670 miles from Toronto, and had made it clear she would never leave the country of her birth, her family and friends, or her teaching career.
I knew that in order to realize my dream I'd have to break up with Kris.
I chose a warm summer evening to break the news to her. I invited her to go for a walk with me in the neighborhood, and brought along some tissues because I knew there would be tears from both of us.
As we sauntered along Talara Drive, near our building, I broached the subject slowly. "You know how I've always wanted to move to Australia?"
She slowed her pace. "Yes," she replied somewhat hesitantly and expectedly, as though she knew what was coming.
"Well, I'm going to move there at the end of the summer. I wish you would come with me."
Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada The Wonders of Winter
Kris stopped and looked deep into my eyes. I saw a tear roll down her cheek. I prepared for the waterworks that I knew were coming, but I was taken off guard.
"Dennis," she said in a voice as kind as could be. "I just want you to be happy, and if this will make you happy, I think you should go."
Whoa! That's not the reaction I was expecting!
Was this a test to see how much I loved her? No. I realized she was speaking one of the fundamental truths of the universe: that love isn't owned and it can't be taken, only given. She knew if you really love someone, you have to give him the freedom to choose.
I mumbled something like, "Oh, okay, um, well, we'll see."
We continued on our way but I was deep in thought about this wonderful woman walking next to me. If she was willing to sacrifice her happiness so I could live my dream, she was a very special lady.
In the coming weeks my life's priorities changed. My desire to emigrate to Australia weakened as my love for Kris strengthened. A year after that fateful walk, Kris and I were skiing at Mont Sainte-Anne near Quebec City. I knew the time had finally come, so during one ascent up the mountain in the chairlift, I proposed to her. She accepted immediately, and not because I had threatened to throw her off the chair and into the snow if she refused!
We were married on August 22, 1975 and thirty-eight years later our love is as deep as the mountain snow we have skied on together, in places like Whistler, British Columbia; Sunshine in Banff, Alberta; Steamboat Springs, Colorado; Jay Peak, Vermont; and many areas of Quebec, including Mont-Tremblant in the Laurentians, Mont-Orford in the Eastern Townships, and of course, Mont-Sainte Anne.
Kris and I have travelled together to dozens of countries since our first date and we still enjoy downhill skiing as much as we did when we first met. We've still not visited Australia, but it's on our "Bucket List" and when we do, you can be sure we'll be skiing together in the Australian Alps, and we'll think of what might have been.
We may even exchange an Australian greeting for the decisions we made so very long ago: "Good on ya, mate!"

Already Mom

By Jeanne Blandford

Adoption is when a child grew in its mommy's heart instead of her tummy.
~Author Unknown
"I don't get it. Why are you adopting us?" The entire family, all six of us, had gathered in the living room to have one of our family discussions. Mom looked serious as she tried to explain.
"Your father and I were talking with Mr. Peterson, our lawyer, and the truth of the matter is he said it would be best if I legally adopted the three of you."
"The three of us?" I asked.
"Yes. You, Lisa and Robbie."
I looked at my older brother Robbie, who seemed to understand what she was saying.
I looked at my older sister Lisa, who nodded in agreement.
I looked at my little sister Jenny, but she just looked away.
The four of us kids sat while Mom explained, "Look at it this way. You know I am your mother, right?"
We all nodded.
"And I know that I am your mother. But we have to make it legal so everyone will know. We need to go to court and have a judge rule on it. When we go to court and the judge says I am your mother, the entire world will know."
I guess I appeared clueless because my big brother, who was already in ninth grade, said in his usual rude manner, "It's like this -- if Dad croaks and some other relative wanted to, they could say that Mom wasn't blood and they would have the right to take us away from her."
At last the light went on. I finally understood.
My birth mom died when I was eighteen months old. My dad remarried six months later. When my "stepmom" married my dad he had three kids: me, two years old; my sister, Lisa, four; and my brother, Rob, five. Four years later my sister Jenny was born. I was so young when my mom passed that I never considered my "stepmom" anything but my mom and my "half-sister" anything but my sister, so this whole legal thing confused me.
"We have an appointment Thursday to go to court and talk to the judge," Mom said.
"But that's a school day," Lisa said.
"Well, guess what? We are taking the day off!" Mom replied.
"P-a-r-t-y!" was all Robbie could say as he danced around the living room.
"Listen up everybody. When we meet with the judge he will ask each of you questions about me, our family, and our home life. He will ask you if you feel that I take good care of you. Do you feel safe? Do you love me?"
I looked at Jenny, who had her head down.
"I'm going to tell him how mean you are and that you lock me in my room and..." Robbie teased.
Mom just shot him a look... that look.
"Okay. Okay, I'll behave," Robbie said.
Minutes later I looked over and Jenny was gone.
"What's wrong with Jenny?" Lisa asked.
"Why? Where is she?" Mom asked.
"She ran to her bedroom," Lisa said.
We all went to Jenny's room and found a sobbing bundle hidden under a heap of blankets and stuffed animals.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Kids
"Pumpkin, what's wrong?" Mom asked, as she gently lifted the covers off our hysterical sister. Jenny was crying so fiercely that she could barely breathe, let alone tell us why she was so upset.
Finally, after some deep breaths she stopped and just stared at us.
"I thought you loved me," she finally squeaked out.
"I do. We all do. Why would you say that?" Mom asked.
"But you don't love me as much as you love them."
This time Mom was the one who looked confused.
"You know I love you. I love you all."
"But you don't love me enough to adopt me."
For the first time that afternoon there was complete silence as we all tried to understand what Jenny had just said. Then it occurred to us. With all the family meetings and discussions, we never realized that Jenny, as young as she was, didn't understand that legally she did not need to be adopted.
Mom smiled as she took Jenny on her lap and explained that Lisa, Robbie and I were born from a different mother but that we were a part of her heart. Jenny was her birth daughter, born of her body. She was already legally hers so she did not have to be adopted.
We all hugged her, except Robbie who messed her hair and called her a doofus.
That Thursday we all drove to the courthouse. Mom made us dress in nice clothes. Robbie kept pulling on his tie. Lisa kept pulling on her dress. I kept pulling on my hair as we waited to meet the judge.
When it was our turn to appear in front of the judge he asked each of us if were happy and if we wanted Mom to be our mom forever. Of course Robbie had to be smarty-pants and say he'd think about it, but quickly laughed and said "Yes, of course." When the judge asked Jenny what she thought, she looked at all of us, smiled, and said, "I'm happy that we are all adopting each other." So, together we raised our right hands and swore that what we had told him was the truth and nothing but the truth.