Gift list

Today’s post is an essay by one of my English Composition I students, Hannah Shell. Hannah is a true ray of sunshine. After spending a semester observing her in class and getting to know her through her writing, I completely understand why her parents would want to bless her by surprising her with a car on her 16th birthday. I hope my daughter has as lovely a spirit as Hannah someday. 

I have been given numerous amazing gifts that I am beyond thankful for. The first most memorable gift that I have received this year was on June 27, my 16th birthday. I had just finished a rigorous cross country practice that took place in the hilly trails behind Batesville High School. It was a scorching hot summer day, and after that long run, my legs felt as if they would collapse any second.

As I stumbled to the parking lot, searching for my dad’s white farm truck, I realized that there were no cars in the parking lot, and he was running 15 minutes late. I sighed and began to dial his number when I heard three honks that came from a car pulling right up in front of me.

photo (1)My stepmom, her short blonde hair bobbing up and down, was clasping her hands together in the passenger’s seat, and my father, who sat in the driver’s seat, was waving his hand out the window, almost as if his arm was about to fall off. The radio was blaring, making the mirrors shake, and there was a giant red bow that sat on the hood of the maroon Pontiac G6. I threw my hands over my mouth and started jumping up and down out of control. I was completely surprised and immediately ran to give my parents a huge hug. My first car was more than perfect, and I am so grateful for such a wonderful gift.

The second favorite gift that I have received this year was on Christmas morning. My whole family was gathered around the Christmas tree with so many gifts underneath. The gifts were wrapped in  all kinds of beautiful wrapping paper and brightly colored ribbons. Christmas music was playing softly, and we were all drinking hot chocolate with fluffy marshmallows scattered on top. I had a red fuzzy blanket wrapped around me and a permanent smile on my face because I just love the happy atmosphere and warm feeling of Christmas morning.

After unwrapping many wonderful gifts of clothes, makeup, and jewelry, I held my last present in my hands. It was my turn to open, and my family looked at me with just as much anticipation to see what was inside. I eagerly ripped off the wrapping paper. It was a white box with the Apple symbol on the outside, and I immediately knew what it was. I looked at my parents with an even bigger smile. I opened the white box, and an iPhone 5 was perfectly placed in the center. I picked it up out of the box, and the cold screen felt so wonderful in my warm hands. I flipped it over on its side to pet it as if it were a cat. The smooth back had absolutely no scratches. It was exactly what I had been wanting, and I am very thankful for it as well.

The third greatest gift I received this year happened one evening when I was at Colton’s Steakhouse. Although I had spent most of my money on gas for the week, I was craving Colton’s buttery rolls, and I was willing to spend what was left of my money on some delicious food.  After inhaling three oozing, hot rolls, I ate a fresh dinner salad topped with tomatoes, cheese, and my favorite salad dressing, ranch. Then I proceeded onto the main entrée of a sizzling sirloin and crispy French fries. The steak was cooked perfectly with only a little pink in the middle, and the thick, warm fries melted in my mouth. As I leaned back in the booth, feeling full and content, suddenly the friendly brunette waitress with red lipstick and extremely white teeth came to my table. She informed me that some gentleman had paid for my dinner and then briskly walked away with a smile.

My jaw dropped; I was in complete shock. My heart was so full fo happiness that someone was so generous to pay for my meal. This was not a new car or brand new iPhone 5. However, it was a random act of kindness, and sometimes, the gifts that cost little to nothing are what can make you the happiest.

Seeds of life

*Thanks to Mary Agrusa for sharing her thoughts on Mother’s Day with us.*

Sometimes it’s the simple things we share with our children that have the most dramatic impact on their lives. Prior to and for a few years after the birth of our daughter, my husband and I were avid gardeners. Back in the early 70’s we faithfully read Rodale’s Organic Gardening and applied the lessons learned. We planted a wide variety of vegetables in the garden at our home and maintained an additional plot at a community site, specifically for growing corn. A move overseas followed by years of Florida living ended our gardening adventures.

Mikael's garden

Mikael’s garden

Our daughter grew up to be a confirmed urban dweller. She prefers the city to a more laid back country atmosphere. She surprised us two years ago when she shared that, along with a few friends, she had ventured into canning. Last summer she and her husband took the next step and secured a plot in one of Boston’s communal garden sites. Next, a request came for any canning supplies still in storage. We packed up our thirty-something year-old Victorio Strainer and sent it off to serve the next generation of family gardeners. She was ecstatic, and our old friend got a new lease on life.

Patriot’s Day is a state holiday in Massachusetts. It also marks the running of the Boston Marathon and the unofficial beginning of the gardening season. My daughter’s usual routine was to grab breakfast and head to the finish line to cheer the wheelchair and elite racers. Last year she called us all excited. “Turn on the TV and find the race coverage. I’m on the Jumbotron at the finish line.” We scrambled and searched sports channels and internet feeds, but alas, we missed her debut on the big screen.

This year, instead of being at “their spot” at the finish line, my daughter was at the garden. When I called to check on her, I was unprepared for the sound of her tearful, frightened voice. She couldn’t reach her husband. Her calls to his phone went to voicemail. She didn’t know if he had gone to the race, but if he had, he would have been at “their spot,” the scene of the first bomb explosion.

My heart sank. Thoughts of “what if” bombarded my mind. Fear attempted to grip my soul. Suddenly her voice changed. A text from her husband confirmed he was at home safe and sound. For our family, the day had a happier ending.

As a mother I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child. Our son-in-love is the son we never had. To lose him would’ve devastated all of us. Daily we pray angelic protection around them both, and the angels did their jobs that day. I wouldn’t have guessed that the seeds of gardening planted in our daughter’s life so long ago would bloom and not only produce a second generation of gardeners, but also one day save her life.

No quit in me

*Special thanks to guest writer Henry Petty for this wonderful post.*

 

Henry at Race for the Cure 2012

Henry at Race for the Cure 2012

I recently ran a 5k jingle bell run.  I was pacing myself really well, running then walking, walking then running, walking then walking, and running less and less.  I had passed a couple of people I knew were “health nuts,” and I overheard them say, “He runs at lunch, so he’s doing really well.”  This gave me the juice to push myself harder than I ever have.

Then I gassed out.

Around mile 2, the two people who had bragged about me around mile 1 surpassed me with ease, one even patting me on the back almost in an act of charity.  To make things worse, an elderly gentlemen with Santa hat and dress slippers speed walked right past me.  He was the guy I was now pacing with.

So I dug deep down inside to muster up my heart and soul to really get out there and push myself harder than I ever have.  I saw the seemingly never-ending incline on the bridge that connects to the Clinton Presidential Library.  I was booking it.

I passed the older gentlemen, and, within seconds, I passed the two “health nuts” who were walking and striking up a conversation with other runners.

I’ll take that victory.

I’m grateful for my inner drive, knowing that I can overcome anything with enough guts and determination.  There isn’t quit in me, and I’m grateful that inner strength hasn’t quit on me.