Friday, March 27, 2009

Chain Reaction

Believe, when you are
most unhappy, that there
is something for you to do in the world.
So long as you can sweeten
another's pain, life is not in vain.
Helen Keller

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A great sacrifice

Daddy's Poem
Her hair was up in a pony tail,

her favorite dress tied with a bow.

Today was Daddy's Day at school,

and she couldn't wait to go.

But her mommy tried to tell her,

that she probably should stay home

Why the kids might not understand,

if she went to school alone.

But she was not afraid;

she knew just what to say.

What to tell her classmates

of why he wasn't there today.

But still her mother worried,

for her to face this day alone.

And that was why once again,

she tried to keep her daughter home.

But the little girl went to school

eager to tell them all.

About a dad she never sees

a dad who never calls.

There were daddies along the wall in back, for everyone to meet.

Children squirming impatiently,

anxious in their seats

One by one the teacher called

a student from the class.

To introduce their daddy,

as seconds slowly passed.

At last the teacher called her name,

every child turned to stare.

Each of them was searching,

a man who wasn't there.

"Where's her daddy at?"

She heard a boy call out.

"She probably doesn't have one,"

another student dared to shout.

And from somewhere near the back,

she heard a daddy say,

"Looks like another deadbeat dad,

too busy to waste his day."

The words did not offend her,

as she smiled up at her Mom.

And looked back at her teacher, who told her to go on.

And with hands behind her back,

slowly she began to speak.

And out from the mouth of a child,

came words incredibly unique.

"My Daddy couldn't be here,

because he lives so far away.

But I know he wishes he could be,

since this is such a special day.

And though you cannot meet him,

I wanted you to know.

All about my daddy,

and how much he loves me so.

He loved to tell me stories

he taught me to ride my bike.

He surprised me with pink roses,

and taught me to fly a kite.

We used to share fudge sundaes,

and ice cream in a cone.

And though you cannot see him.

I'm not standing here alone.

"Cause my daddy's always with me,

even though we are apart

I know because he told me,

he'll forever be in my heart"

With that, her little hand reached up,

and lay across her chest.

Feeling her own heartbeat,

beneath her favorite dress.

And from somewhere there in the crowd of dads, her mother stood in tears.

Proudly watching her daughter,

who was wise beyond her years.

For she stood up for the love

of a man not in her life.

Doing what was best for her,

doing what was right.

And when she dropped her hand back down, staring straight into the crowd.

She finished with a voice so soft,

but its message clear and loud.

"I love my daddy very much,

he's my shining star.

And if he could, he'd be here,

but heaven's just too far.

You see he is a Marine

and died just this past year

When a roadside bomb hit his convoy

and taught Americans to fear.

But sometimes when I close my eyes,

it's like he never went away."

And then she closed her eyes,

and saw him there that day.

And to her mother's amazement,

she witnessed with surprise.

A room full of daddies and children,

all starting to close their eyes.

Who knows what they saw before them,

who knows what they felt inside.

Perhaps for merely a second,

they saw him at her side.

"I know you're with me Daddy,"

to the silence she called out.

And what happened next made believers,

of those once filled with doubt.

Not one in that room could explain it,

for each of their eyes had been closed.

But there on the desk beside her,

was a fragrant long-stemmed pink rose.

And a child was blessed, if only for a moment, by the love of her shining star.

And given the gift of believing,

that heaven is never too far.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.

Michael's Night

At the prodding of my friends, I am writing this story. My name is Mildred Hondorf. I am a former elementary school music teacher from Des Moines , Iowa . I've always supplemented my income by teaching piano lessons-something I've done for over 30 years. Over the years I found that children have many levels of musical ability. I've never had the pleasure of having a prodigy though I have taught some talented students. However I've also had my share of what I call 'musically challenged' pupils. One such student was Michael. Michael was 11 years old when his mother (a single Mom) dropped him off for his first piano lesson. I prefer that students (especially boys!) begin at an earlier age, which I explained to Michael. But Michael said that it had always been his mother's dream to hear him play the piano. So I took him as a student.

Well, Michael began with his piano lessons and from the beginning I thought it was a hopeless endeavor. As much as Michael tried, he lacked the sense of tone and basic rhythm needed to excel But he dutifully reviewed his scales and some elementary pieces that I require all my students to learn. Over the months he tried and tried while I listened and cringed and tried to encourage him. At the end of each weekly lesson he'd always say, 'My mom's going to hear me play someday.' But it seemed hopeless. He just did not have any inborn ability. I only knew his mother from a distance as she dropped Michael off or waited in her aged car to pick him up.. She always waved and smiled but never stopped in.

Then one day Michael stopped coming to our lessons. I thought about calling him but assumed because of his lack of ability, that he had decided to pursue something else. I also was glad that he stopped coming. He was a bad advertisement for my teaching! Several weeks later I mailed to the student's homes a flyer on the upcoming recital. To my surprise Michael (who received a flyer) asked me if he could be in the recital. I told him that the recital was for current pupils and because he had dropped out he really did not qualify. He said that his mother had been sick and unable to take him to piano lessons but he was still practicing 'Miss Hondorf I've just got to play!' he insisted. I don't know what led me to allow him to play in the recital. Maybe it was his persistence or maybe it was something inside of me saying that it would be all right.

The night for the recital came. The high school gymnasium was packed with parents, friends and relatives. I put Michael up last in the program before I was to come up and thank all the students and play a finishing piece. I thought that any damage he would do would come at the end of the program and I could always salvage his poor performance through my 'curtain closer.'

Well, the recital went off without a hitch.. The students had been practicing and it showed. Then Michael came up on stage. His clothes were wrinkled and his hair looked like he'd run an eggbeater through it. 'Why didn't he dress up like the other students?' I thought. 'Why didn't his mother at least make him comb his hair for this special night?' Michael pulled out the piano bench and he began. I was surprised when he announced that he had chosen Mozart's Concerto #21 in C Major. I was not prepared for what I heard next. His fingers were light on the keys, they even danced nimbly on the ivories... He went from pianissimo to fortissimo. From allegro to virtuoso. His suspended chords that Mozart demands were magnificent! Never had I heard Mozart played so well by people his age.

After six and a half minutes he ended in a grand crescendo and everyone was on their feet in wild applause. Overcome and in tears I ran up on stage and put my arms around Michael in joy. 'I've never heard you play like that Michael! How'd you do it? ' Through the microphone Michael explained: 'Well Miss Hondorf . .. Remember I told you my Mom was sick? Well, actually she had cancer and passed away this morning And well . . She was born deaf so tonight was the first time she ever heard me play. I wanted to make it special.'

There wasn't a dry eye in the house that evening. As the people from Social Services led Michael from the stage to be placed into foster care, noticed that even their eyes were red and puffy and I thought to myself how much richer my life had been for taking Michael as my pupil. No, I've never had a prodigy but that night I became a prodigy.. . . Of Michael's.

He was the teacher and I was the pupil for it is he that taught me the meaning of perseverance and love and believing in yourself and maybe even taking a chance in someone and you don't know why.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Doing the right thing

Two Choices What would you do? ... you make the choice.
Don't look for a punch line;there isn't one. Read it anyway.

My question is: Would you have made the same choice?

At a fund raising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended.

After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection.Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do.Where is the natural order of things in my son?'The audience was stilled by the query.The father continued. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.'

Then he told the following story:Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guida nce and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt.

I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again.Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.

The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay.As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.The game would now be over.The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman.Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates.

Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first!Run to first!'Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base.He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!'Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball, the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team.He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head.Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.All we re screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay'Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third!'Shay, run to third!'As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!'Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.'

That day', said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world'.Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

Moving Forward

Days do become difficult at times.
Don't focus on the discomfort
you may have to endure.instead, go ahead and feel
the extreme sense of satisfactionand accomplishment that comes
from moving forward and doingwhat must be done.

Crocheted Easter Basket

NOT my own pattern, but a beautiful little teacher gift!

Miniature Easter Basket Pattern
Fiber: 2 colors worsted weight yarn (color A, and B); I used Caron Simply Soft
Hook size: G US/4.00 mm
Notions: darning needle, small stitch marker
Stitches Used: ch, dc, sc, sl st
This basket is crocheted in continuous rounds.
With color A, ch 2
1: Work 6 sc in second ch from hook. Make sure to mark the beginning of each round with the stitch marker, remembering to move it up to the next round as you go.
2: 2 sc in each sc around. (12 sts)
3: (sc in next st; 2 sc in next st) rep to end of round. (18 sts)
4: (sc in each of next 2 sts; 2 sc in next st) rep to end of round. (24 sts)
5: (sc in each of next 3 sts; 2 sc in next st) rep to end of round. (30 sts)
6: (sc in each of next 4 sts; 2 sc in next st) rep to end of round. (36 sts)
7: (sc in each of next 5 sts; 2 sc in next st) rep to end of round. (42 sts)
8: (sc in each of next 5 sts; sc2tog) rep to end of round. (36 sts)
9-12: sc in each sc around. Break off yarn A.
13: With Yarn B, sc in each st around.
Shell Edging: (ch 1, skip 1 st, sc in next st, ch 1, skip 1 st, 5 dc in next st) repeat a total of 9 times. Ch1, skip 1 st, sl st into first st of next round, finish off.
With yarn B, ch 36.
1: sc into second chain from hook, sc into each chain across. Break off yarn B. Turn.
2: With yarn A, Ch 1, sc in each st across. Do not turn work.
3: Continuing with yarn A, sc 2 sts around end of chain, continuing on to sc into the bottom edge of each chain across. Do not turn work. Finish by sc 2 sts into the end of the chain. The end result is 1 row of color B surrounded by a row of color A on all sides.
Attach the handle to the basket, fill with an Easter treat, and you are done!

Liking Yourself

Success is liking yourself,
liking what you do,
and liking how you do it."
Maya Angelou
Daddy, how was I born?
A little boy goes to his father and asks 'Daddy, how was I born?'
The father answers, 'Well, son, I guess one day you will need to find out anyway! Your Mom and I first got together in a chat room on Yahoo. Then I set up a date via e-mail with your Mom and we met at a cyber-cafe. We sneaked into a secluded room, where your mother agreed to a download from my hard drive. As soon as I was ready to upload, we discovered that neither one of us had used a firewall, and since it was too late to hit the delete button, nine months later a little Pop-Up appeared that said:

You Got Male!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Never Give Up

Don't give up.
When we still have something to give,
nothing is really over until
the moment we stop trying.

Nancye Sims


Optimism is the faith that
leads to achievement.
Nothing can be done
without hope and confidence.

~Helen Keller~

Being Different

Don't undermine our worth by comparing ourselves with others.
It is because we are different that each of us is special.

--- Nancye Sims --


Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is a beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it. Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is life, fight for it!

Mother Teresa

Chains of Love

We may not always realize
That everything we do
Affects not only our lives
But touches others too.

A single happy smile
Can always brighten up the day
For anyone who happens
To be passing by your way.

And a little bit of thoughtfulness
That shows someone you care
Create a ray of sunshine
For all of you to share.

For happiness brings happiness
And loving ways bring love
And giving is the treasure
That contentment is made of.

© Samuel Beach 2007

Tears of the Sun

I thought about my family today and realized it's been a month since my mother returned from Vietnam and I have yet to hear from her.

When she spoke of going back to her country I was apprehensive about the outcome. I suppose I had every right to feel that way - I have yet to communicate with her since. It has been 41 years since she last saw her country as a teenage wife and mother fleeing her war torn homeland. I remember her telling me that I was the reason she didn't return home after the war had ended.

My mind drifted back to the first severe punishment she ever endowed upon me. I remember her telling the story of her brothers lying supline on their stomach while the punisher lashed their backside for as long as the punisher felt was deserved. All the while, never moving nor flinching from the pain and discomfort - rather taking this reprimand with dignity and respect. This was the behavior she expected from me, and because I was unable to lie dormant and suffer, the punishment was more severe.

After this beating, I remember crawling to her for forgiveness, and hoping that she would mother me and scoop me into her arms and gently rock away that pain. Rather than the love I desired, she turned to darkness, avoiding my pleas and touches - behaving as if I were unworthy of life and affection. These are the memories I am left with when I think of her return adventure to her homeland.

It was late in the 70's that I recall a shoebox my mother always hid on the top shelf of a linen closet. In this box contained pictures and letters written in her native tongue - all of which she would never translate nor read to a child eager to know of grandparents or uncles so far away. What she did tell me - often out of loathe - was that her father had wrote her professing an end to the war and a request for her to return home. When she informed him of my existence, his reply was to leave me behind and return alone. I was the sole reason she never returned, and she made no bones about reminding me of the burden I'd put upon her. Obligation as a mother prevented her from going home, prevented her from the existence she desired. She made it clear that she despised me for this, and I'm almost certain that she carries this animosity yet today.

As I was the burden, my middle sister was an attempt to save a dying and loveless marriage. The youngest sister was created to serve as a teacher to the middle child, as doctors speculated that the 7 year difference between her and I was too broad for a child with special needs to mimic from. In between these pro creations my parents slept in separate rooms and separate beds. Perhaps it is these reasons why my mother favors my youngest sister, or maybe it is because she too was the youngest in her family.

There are days, like today, where I equally loathe both my youngest sister and my mother for the feelings of inadequacy I am left with.

My sister has always realized the vantage point she sits upon. Knowing that she's the favorite, as well as her offspring, gives her leverage for preferential treatment when gifts or financial rescues are granted. I know that she didn't conscientiously choose this favoritism based on birth order. She has however, evolved to expect these gifts and never hesitates to boast about her superiority, nor does her children hesitate to remind my daughters of their inferiority when gifts are mailed from grandma.

Rather than despair about inequality and wallow in self-pity, I have vowed to let God deal with the things they do, but I must admit, I have a hard time waiting patiently for justice.

More than this, I worry about history repeating itself within my daughters. My oldest; brooding, needy, transcending into adulthood and pushing away from my protection, while my youngest, knowing she is the last, lavishes in the love of a despairing mother clinging onto the desire for the unconditional love a young child offers. Each two very different individuals, as my youngest sister and I, and I wonder if time will find me in my mother's shoes - granting preferential treatment of one over the other. Despite my vows of equality amoung my girls, I worry that one day I may find myself loathing my oldest because of opportunites I bypassed for her well-being as my mother does me. I worry that the rift of these teen years will rip apart the fragile fibers woven between mother and child, and I pray with passion that she will never know the emptiness that fills one's soul upon realizing the void of a mother's love - this very void I am left with today.