A Christmas Story in April

This story comes from http://www.surfersam.com, where there are many good jokes and some great stories. This is one to share. Read on and enjoy.

It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me.

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over, I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn’t worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.

Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” I was really upset then. Not only wasn’t I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We’d already done all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn’t going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn’t happy.

When I was on the sled, Pa pulled it around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. “I think we’ll put on the high sideboards,” he said. “Here, help me.” The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high sideboards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood — the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing?

Finally I said something. “Pa,” I asked, “what are you doing?”

“You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I’d been by, but so what?

“Yeah,” I said, “Why?”

“I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.”

That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. “What’s in the little sack?” I asked.

“Shoes. They’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a little candy.”

We rode the two miles to the Widow Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn’t have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy?

Really, why was he doing any of this? The Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn’t have been our concern. We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible. Then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?”

“Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt. Could we come in for a bit?”

The Widow Jensen opened the door to let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. The Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

“We brought you a few things, Ma’am,” Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children — sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn’t come out.

“We brought a load of wood, too, Ma’am,” Pa said. He turned to me and said, “Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let’s get that fire up to size and heat this place up.” I wasn’t the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat, and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn’t speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy that I’d never known before filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone’s spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and the Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us.”

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I’d never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after the Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes. Tears were running down the Widow Jensen’s face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn’t want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We’ll be by to get you about eleven. It’ll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn’t been little for quite a spell.” I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away. Widow Jensen nodded and said, “Thank you, Brother Miles. I don’t have to say, ‘May the Lord bless you,’ I know for certain that He will.”

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn’t even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn’t have quite enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that. But on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.”

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on the Widow Jensen’s face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered. And remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life.”

Take the High Road—Not Just for Others, but for You, Too

I am not the most reasonable person that ever walked this earth, and, as fond as I am of saying that I have a long fuse before I get angry–I really don’t. The littlest things can make me flame up like a marshmallow on a stick over a campfire. I can look at this two ways: 1) I am still a great big child and act like one, or 2) just as long as I don’t hurt anyone or break anything, I’m merely venting. (It goes without saying that I’d just as soon not have anyone see me vent…..it’s not pretty.)

It’s taken me years to figure this out, and here it is: you will never regret taking the high road when it comes to arguments, disagreements, misunderstandings, and the like. Life is just too short to hold grudges, plus holding them damages us inside. Staying angry at someone and letting that anger fester is not hurting the person who made you angry in the least. But it’s eating you up inside. As said before: keeping your anger burning about something someone said or did is like drinking poison to make that person sick. It just doesn’t work. They go on their merry little way, and you are the one suffering.

What works for me is forgiving out loud. I have a long commute to work and, the law of averages being what they are, I’ve seen some incredibly stupid, selfish and downright dangerous behavior. Like most of us, when I get scared, I go right from scared to angry. Scared because some idjit just put my life in danger and angry because some idjit just put my life in danger. Due to the fact that no one knows how someone will react to the one-finger salute, I don’t do that. Oh, I will certainly do it below the dashboard, but not where it can be seen.

We don’t know what another person may be going through. They may have just lost someone they loved, they may have been fired unjustly and have no idea how they are going to pay their mortgage, they may have been diagnosed with a fatal disease–and they are taking out their sorrow, angry, frustration and fear on the world around them. I don’t say this to excuse irresponsible behavior; I say it only because it helps me to dial down my own anger response.

Or then again, they just might be jerks who think they can do whatever they want whenever they feel like it. But either way, it makes life easier to blow off some harmless steam in the privacy of your vehicle, then say (or yell) “I forgive you–you JERK!” Funny how freeing that is.

We do so much harm to our bodies, minds and souls when we hold in anger or resentment. It poisons us and unfortunately can actually cause physical damage to our bodies over time. So swear all you want, throw things in the safety and privacy of your home; whatever it takes to free you up. But don’t hang on to anger—just forgive out loud and go on. Once you cool off, you can be comforted by the thought that you took the high road and did not make a big ugly scene or run someone off the road.

Years ago, I took a self-awareness course. They can get pretty intense, and to my dismay, I was chosen out of my class to sit up in front of everyone and have the instructor “work me over” verbally. Long story short, this is one of the techniques used to break through someone’s pent-up grief or anger and ultimately free up the person holding on to it. It’s hard–but it forces you to let go of the anger. The instructor described how hanging on to old hurts can become an unhealthy habit that keeps you from moving forward in your life. The way she put it was this:

“Holding on to old hurts and resentments is like dragging a sack of bricks around wherever you go. Say someone wants to know you better; maybe even start a meaningful relationship with you, but no–you show them your bag of bricks and say, ‘oh no, I can’t do that because I have to carry these and I don’t have room in my life for that and you, too.'”

It was a great visual of how we hurt ourselves over and over again by NOT letting go of past issues. If we can just deal with them one at a time, let each one go (because you really don’t need them, do you?), and forgive OUT LOUD–we can be free.

So, for you and for me, let’s just make a habit of taking the high road. It’s better, and there’s so little traffic.

 

 

If We Own Five Pairs of Scissors, Why Can’t I Find ONE PAIR?

Honestly, I cannot figure out for the life of me where in the heck all our scissors go. We have two orange-handled scissors; one in the office and one in the kitchen. We even have a pair of black-handled “kitchen” scissors for dismantling whole chickens and such, and there are two pairs of red-handled scissors downstairs in the Crankee Yankee’s domain.

However, when I need scissors, I can’t find one single pair! Now that Spring is here to stay, the Crankee Yankee is busy making screens for the back porch and of course is using the orange-handled kitchen pair to cut them. When I asked him why he couldn’t just bring up one of HIS scissors from downstairs, he looked at me as if I had bats flying out of my ears and said, “but these were handy.” Sigh.

I wouldn’t mind so much if I could give up the pretense that each time I need to cut something, that the scissors I have so carefully put in the kitchen and office would still be there. But no. The same goes for the scissors downstairs. When doing the laundry I often find clothes or towels that need loose threads trimmed. So of course I look for the red-handled scissors I know “live” down there. But no–they are either out on the front porch or wandering aimlessly around the garage. The last time that happened, I had to resort to cutting threads with one of those pink plastic safety razors.

You see, I lived alone for many years, and learned that it was far easier to follow the “don’t put it down, put it AWAY” motto. So I’m used to having things in specific spots. This year will mark 13 years that the Crankee Yankee and I have been married, and my reliable old system just doesn’t mesh with the Crankee Yankee’s free-wheeling pick-up-whatever-you-want-and-don’t-necessarily-put-it-back habit. I spend a good part of my life asking things like “where are the orange-handled scissors that belong in the blue pottery crock on the left of the stove?” or “where is the pen I left hanging from the refrigerator magnet near the shopping list?” or “where did you leave the cover for the big frying pan?” And so on.

Like a gypsy in the night, the Crankee Yankee just seems to spirit these things away from their rightful places and I can’t seem to break him of it. It’s always “I’m only going to use <insert item I’m looking for here> it for a minute,” or “Oh, I left that in the car under the drivers’ seat–I think.” And it doesn’t do a bit of good for me to just buy more items; they, too go missing in no time flat.

I guess I am going to have to design a tool belt just for him. He already owns a few regular tool belts, but the one I have in mind will be wired up to administer a mild electric shock when scissors and such are not put back where they belong.

Anyone know of a good (and cheap) electrician?

 

Ageism or Just Plain Rude?

I just read something that really smoked my drawers. Here it is from http://midlifebloggers.com/:

“SKECHERS SHOE STORE, SHERMAN OAKS GALLERIA.

The shop is empty except for an OLDER WOMAN, the customer,  and TWO 20-SOMETHING MEN, the sales staff.

The woman is carefully examining the shoes on display. The young men are hanging out at the front of the store talking and rearranging shoes in the display window. They pay no attention to her and finally she holds up a shoe and interrupts:

WOMAN

“What material are these shoes made of?”

FIRST SALESMAN

“Ummm. I don’t know.”

WOMAN

(unbelieving) “You don’t know?”

FIRST SALESMAN

(Uncertain) “Um, no.”

WOMAN

“You work here and you don’t know what material the shoes are made of?”

FIRST SALESMAN (to SECOND SALESMAN)

“No, do you?”

SECOND SALESMAN

“No. They’re shoes.”

WOMAN

“I know they’re shoes. But are they leather? Are fabric? Are they–”

SECOND SALESMAN

“Yes, maybe, whatever.”

WOMAN

“I came in here specifically to buy a pair of Skechers, but you’ve just lost the sale.”

FIRST SALESMAN

(a bit pathetically) “But why?”

WOMAN

“Why should I spend my money in a store that doesn’t even care enough to train its sales staff–”

SECOND SALESMAN

(interrupting) “Yeah, well, whatever.” (waves arms motioning for the woman to leave)

WOMAN

( walking away) “Was this the millenial idea of retail service? Or was it ageism?”

And here are just some of the comments:

“If you were a hip shopper you would have googled your question.

But apparently, your age has kept you back. I’m surprised the salespeople didn’t throw the shoes at you. I would have. Their job is to ring you up baby, not answer your silly questions. That’s why the internet was invented. When I shop for shoes I take my iPhone with me to the store and google what I want to buy. I read the reviews and get the data MYSELF. Got it?

*WTF are you going to do when salespeople are replaced by robots and tablets, which is coming very soon. Go shoeless? Or naked? Or hungry from starvation because you aren’t educated enough in technology?

Ever ask a salesperson what kind of material is used to build a car? Bet most of them don’t know that either, honey.

Use the friggin’ internet and shut your pie hole.”

And this:

“Well, darling, at least they didn’t call you a hag!”

But then there were also these comments, which made me a little less angry:

“What kind of sales staff were they?? They don’t even know what kind of product they are selling.. This must be reported to their employer.. Tsk..”

“I think it’s a little of both – but you nailed it by blaming managers for not training staff (who they probably pay minimum wage) not only in courtesy and customer service, but also in product detail.”

“Certainly not ageism. If a salesman can’t respond to a simple question, he doesn’t deserve the sale or the job. Shows a lack of work ethic. I encountered a lot of these people who just wanted to collect a paycheck.”

Ok–I try to keep my posts positive or funny or thought-provoking. But this exchange makes me both mad and sad. Think about it: those of us who are 60+ grew up in a time where we actually spoke to people instead of texting them, and you knew everyone and they knew you. Just about everyone we knew was raised with pretty much the same set of values, i.e., respect for elders, basic manners, no swearing and no sarcasm, pledging allegiance to the American flag, morning prayers, and so on.

I’m not saying that everyone should grow up the way we did, but sheesh–there is a whole lot of gracelessness, meanness, rudeness, lack of courtesy, violence, ingratitude, and downright sh*tfullness out there (pardon my French). I think these attitudes hurt us in ways we can’t even imagine.

Sigh. This is why I turn more and more to positive web sites such as the Kindness Blog. When I start thinking that there is little good left in the world, I always find something that lights me up. This IS goodness and kindness and joy and love in the world. Sometimes it just takes a little effort to see it.

May your day be filled with more positives than negatives.
*For all of us walking antiques who do not text, “WTF” is short for “What the f**k?” Charming, no?

 

Forgive Everyone Everything (again)

I recently found this on http://mysuccessvision.blogspot.command and had to share it. I think it’s wonderful and it’s inspired me to do better in my own life. Read on!

“I believe that forgiving someone who has done harm to you is a sign of strength and not a weakness. No matter the magnitude of harm they have done to you, it is indeed good to cultivate the habit of forgiving. It takes a lot of patience, endurance, fortitude and a good heart to actually forgive someone.

Also we must not feel bad about asking an apology or sorry to someone. It actually improves our character, and relieves us from our guilt. We must never ever tease or comment anyone from our heart though at times we may have to do so based on the circumstance. I believe the act of taking revenge on somebody as a foolish act. There should never be a tit for tat. I hereby would like to apologize to everyone who feels I have done something harm.

 

It’s hard to follow these kinds of things in reality, but to be a good person and to improve the quality of our soul, we must mold us to be free from the vampires such as EGO, FEAR, ANGER, not forgiving. Eradicating these evils implies we are escalating on our path towards the evolution and to reach that oneness within us. Below are certain points which I found interesting on the net:

 

  1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.
  2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Buy a lock if you have to.
  3. Buy a TIVO, tape your late night shows, and get more sleep.
  4. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement: My purpose is to___________ today.
  5. Live with the 3 E’s: Energy, Enthusiasm, Empathy.
  6. Watch more movies, play more games, and read more books than you did last year.
  7. Make time to practice meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, and prayer. They provide us with daily fuel for our busy lives.
  8. Spend more time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.
  9. Dream more while you are awake.
  10. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less foods that are manufactured in plants.
  11. Drink green tea and plenty of water and eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli, almonds, and walnuts.
  12. Try to make at least 3 people smile each day.
  13. Clear your clutter from your house, your car, your desk, and let new and flowing energy into your life.
  14. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts, or things you cannot control. Instead, invest your energy in the positive present moment.
  15. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class, but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
  16. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.
  17. Smile and laugh more. It will keep the energy vampires away.
  18. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
  19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
  20. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
  21. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
  22. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
  23. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  24. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, and wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
  25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
  26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”
  27. Forgive everyone everything.
  28. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  29. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
  30. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
  31. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Y our friends will. Stay in touch.
  32. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful, or joyful.
  33. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
  34. The best is yet to come.
  35. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.
  36. Do the right thing.
  37. Call your mother and father often.
  38. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements: I am thankful for __________. Today I accomplished____________.
  39. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.
  40. Enjoy the ride. Remember that this is not Disney World and you certainly don’t want a fast pass.”

Furious? Give It a Day

I’m not proud of the fact that I have a bad temper, which is sometimes accompanied by such charming activities as:

  • Throwing things
  • Yelling
  • Swearing
  • Feeling hugely sorry for poor old me
  • Making all my cats hide until I calm down

There–I told you I wasn’t proud of it. For all I trumpet about being a good sport and trying to understand the other person, well–I don’t always take my own advice.

So, after years of painful mistakes and cringe-worthy memories of things I have said and done in anger, I have learned the following:

  • Recognize the anger (well, duh)
  • Place the anger properly (i.e., don’t assume that everything that makes you mad is the other person’s fault)
  • Understand that other people make mistakes–just as we do
  • Resist the temptation to call or email the person with whom you are angry
  • Most of all, MOST importantly–give your feelings a day. One day.

If one day isn’t enough, give it another. Follow this until you can address the situation sanely and without anger. If it takes a week or more, then that’s how long it should be.

Case in point: I ordered the most gorgeous bracelet; I had it custom-made for me. I chose all the elements and left it up to the artist to put them together. Two days later, I received it. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning and ripped the package open.

There it was–an absolute perfection of silver chain, luminous moonstones, and glowing pearls. It was, in a word, magnificent. I put it on, and, because of its chunkiness, I wasn’t able to fasten it.

Well–I had already had a lousy day, and was so looking forward to this marvelous creation and wanted to wear it right then. I complained long and loud about it and was ready to send an angry email to the seller and give him a piece of my angry mind.

I even called a friend who also makes jewelry and complained to her. She listened and agreed how frustrating it is to look forward to something and then not be able to wear it. Then she asked me if I was still mad.

I replied that damn right I was still mad! I could hear the smile in her voice as she said, “Why don’t you give this a day or two? You’ve had a couple of bad days, and you may be lumping this together with your disappointment that you can’t wear the bracelet right away.”

I was gobstruck–she was absolutely right; what I needed to do was to give it a day (or more) before contacting the artist. Now you would think I’d have the brains to figure that out, wouldn’t you? I mean, I was angry, not stupid. (Well, stupid mad, anyway.)

So, that’s what I’m did. I gave myself two days to cool off, then I contacted the artist and explained my issue. All I needed was three more links to give the bracelet more play, for which of course I offered to pay. And guess what–the artist wrote back and said he would gladly send me three more links–no charge! How great is that?

Lesson learned–you certainly have the right to go bat-crap crazy about something; just don’t act on it right away. I needed those two day to get over myself and think clearly. Thanks to my dear friend who suggested it, I gained a calmer state of mind and was better able to communicate. AND I didn’t throw anything! So the furious-at-first-glance thing? I’m making it a rule from now on to just give something that frustrates or angers me a day. Just one day.

(And hey–I used part of my angry time to vacuum the house. I was in a bad mood anyway, so why not?)