Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Bunny Saga

Mandy’s love of bunnies began in the fourth grade when her teacher purchased one as a class pet. Mr. Cousins brought in a bunch of animals for the classroom one day: snails, fish, gerbils, a bird, and a baby bunny named Honey. Mandy was determined that at the end of the school year, when the teacher was giving lucky students the pets to take home, Honey would be her bunny.

(this photo is of Honey fully grown)
She didn’t have too much competition for the rabbit. Only one other boy had his sights set on it, since probably not many parents would give their children permission to keep it. So all she had to do was edge out Mario, her arch-rival of sorts during the elementary school years.

Mandy was a ruthless opponent. She volunteered to take the bunny home over the weekends. She brought in carrots and hay on a regular basis. She eagerly forfeited her lunch hour when the cage needed cleaning so Mr. Cousins wouldn’t have the chore of doing so. By the time Mario caught on and began asking to take Honey home over the weekends, he was about two months too late.

At the end of the school year, while names were being drawn from a hat to determine the winners of the frogs and the fish, Mandy was automatically declared the new owner of the baby bunny.

She spent the next several years with her constant companion. Honey learned to use the cage as her litter box, so she was granted free reign in Mandy’s bedroom. They watched TV together, and they sat side-by-side while Mandy played video games.

Sean built a pen-tagon in the yard for supervised daytime romps in the fresh air, and we marveled as the instincts kicked in and burrows were dug and filled with grass.

Honey died suddenly. We are not sure if she ate something which impaired her digestive system, or if she fell prey to uterine cancer as so many un-spayed females do in captivity. It was one of the most horrible things Mandy has ever had to go through. We raced to find an emergency vet still open on a Saturday night while Honey seizured and faded away. To this day I have a hard time thinking about it and it brings tears to my eyes, so I’m sure it does the same to Mandy.

A few weeks later we got Muffin to try to dull the pain. She was an adorable baby, a lionhead rabbit with cute little tufts of fur around her face and her tail.

Mandy and Muffin didn’t develop the level closeness that she had shared with Hon Bun, because by this time Mandy was dating and no longer spending every moment of her life in her room. Although Muffin doesn’t let Mandy pick her up or even pet her much, she enjoys our company, and will come to hang out with us as we sit and chat together on Mandy’s bed. She’s a good little girl.
(full-grown Muffin)
Remember that I said “girl.” This becomes important.

Around Christmastime this past year, we noticed some suspicious behavior. Mandy seemed to be up to something.

She had stopped at home to get her cell phone. Sean called me at work, because he noticed that she had rummaged around in her room and left in a hurry. He looked out the window to see her escaping with some sort of contraband under her coat.

“I’ll call her cell and see what’s going on,” I told him.

When I got no answer, he called me right back.

“I can hear her phone ringing in her room. She said she came home to get her phone, and then she didn’t even take it with her. I know she was hiding something under her jacket.”

By the time she came home later that evening, we both had those raised eyebrows and those questioning looks that most parents perfect when their darling children hit puberty.

“Okay, so do you guys wanna know why I’ve been acting weird today?”

“Ah, sure. That would be great.”

She unzipped her jacket and revealed a white baby lop-eared bunny. “Kurt got it for me for Christmas. I was afraid you guys might be mad. His name is Jack.”

You can see where this is going…

Jack and Muffin fought a bit at first as Muffin learned to share her territory with another rabbit and they worked out who would be the boss. But soon they were fast friends.
And more than friends.

We noticed that Jack was starting to chase Muffin around the bedroom. And although she ran, she didn’t run very fast. We could see that she was just taunting him, flirting with him, pausing and waiting for him to catch up…

We made Jack an appointment right away. But we were too late. By the time he had his required pre-checkup and his appointment for the snippity-snip was scheduled, I noticed something moving in the cage.

“Wait a minute… wait a minute… what was that?”

“What was what?”

“Something moved in Muffin’s cage.”

Mandy was alarmed. “Like a rat?”

“No way. It had a white ass.”

Yes, by the time we had found the two little babies, they were covered with fur, eyes opened, and they were running around the cage. They must have been very obedient little bunnies, because although we spent time with the rabbits every morning and night - feeding them, sitting with them, talking with them - we had never heard a peep from the cage.

Mandy named them Kyle and Sweetie.

Kyle is a skittish bunny, running away if you try to pet him or if he hears an odd sound. But he’s warming up to us.

Sweetie is just the opposite. She enjoys being pet, comes running to see us when we enter the room, and even enjoyed sleeping with Mandy up on her pillow when Mandy was still sleeping in her own room (I’ll get to that…)

What was most alarming was that Muffin was already weaning the babies, and Jack hadn’t even been snipped yet. Jack’s doctor agreed – Muffin was probably already pregnant with the next litter.

Luckily, the next litter was just one little baby, who we very creatively called Baby.

After Jack’s appointment, we figured we were set. Five bunnies. And Mandy wanted to keep them all.
(big daddy Jack)
But guess what? Jack must have hit Muffin up one more time before the surgery. One night at around midnight, Mandy found two naked baby bunnies back behind her bed.
And because Muffin kept climbing up on her bed to get to the babies, and because all the bunnies were becoming noisy in the night chewing on school papers and books, thumping little warnings to each other and running around, Mandy moved into the guest room.

She still wants to keep all the bunnies, but she wants them outside. So she begged her grandfather to come in for a visit from Ohio and build her a large, secure bunny enclosure in the back yard.

He’s due to visit in a few weeks. I’ll keep you posted…

Thursday, June 5, 2008

An Afternoon Hiking & Meeting Henry

“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.” ~Eleonora Duse

It was forecasted to be a beautiful day, so I got up early, put my hair in a ponytail, laced my sneakers and headed out with my camera and tripod. I was on the trail by 8:30.

I had the whole day to myself, so I meandered along the woodland paths leisurely.

I paused for a while at the dog cemetery. There was something very sweet about this place. It was evident that these pets were cherished family members. And given recent events I could certainly relate to that.

I paused again at a little waterfall. I love the sound water makes as it trickles over the rocks and gurgles into the pool below.

While photographing the waterfall, a red-sided flat millipede caught my eye.

And so did some mating mosquitoes on the bench where I sat to take a break.

Of course I had to spend some time at the pond.

There were lots of frogs and snakes to keep me occupied (and keep me vigilant as I stepped between the weeds).

When I reached the easternmost part of the trail, the dense trees gave way to reveal a sunny sky, a glorious river breeze, and the perfect bench from which to enjoy both. I took off my shoes, removed the pony tail that was tugging on my scalp and rolled up my dampened sweats. What a perfect resting spot.

It was then that I realized my camera battery was completely drained. In my haste to get out and enjoy the day, I’d forgotten to charge it.

Well that was okay. I packed everything up and headed back up the trail. I had been here before, and I would be here again. No matter.

But then, on my way up the trail, something caught my eye!

About 9 years ago while hiking with Mandy, we spotted their rubbery eggs littering a hillside above a cove along the river. The babies had already broken free and made their way down into the reeds and seaweed below. I made a note in my journal of what we had found there at the end of June. “Next year, we’ll come back in time to see them hatch, or at least see some of them descend into the water.”

And I’ve always remembered that. Usually in August, or maybe even July I think of it. But I never remember in June, so I’ve never gotten to see them.

And now 9 years later at the beginning of June, I had stumbled upon one on the trail.

I was amazed I'd even seen him at all. He was motionless, and he was so tiny! It was the sort of thing that Mandy would have noticed. She’s the one with the eagle-eye, spotting fossils as we walk, or interesting insects, or animal bones.

I have to call her, I thought. She’s the only one who will understand both my excitement at finding him and my disappointment over the dead camera battery.

“Aww! How big is he?”

“Well, if you hold out your palm, and then curve it up into a little cup, he would fit inside the cup.”


“I’m going to wait here a while and see if I can trick my camera into taking one more picture for me.”

“Okay, Mom, good luck!”

I did actually coax one more shot out of my camera, but the settings were all wrong and it came out completely black in the dark of the forest.

Now what?!

I had to call Mandy back. She would talk me out of this. It’s stupid, and it’s selfish… But she didn’t answer.

Am I really going to do it? I think I am. Damn it! I absolutely hate hate hate when people treat nature selfishly. I never want to disturb the wildlife. Even when I’m photographing something for a while, I’ll move on after a few shots, just so I don’t make it uncomfortable. I never want anything to be nervous, or feel threatened…

Or be removed from its natural habitat.

But there I was, taking my camera out of the camera bag and putting the little baby snapping turtle inside.

I wasn’t going to keep him, though. I was just going to bring it home, charge up my camera battery, and then bring it back. I’d been waiting nine years to see one of these things!

I was so ashamed…

Mandy was actually happy that I’d brought him home. She had really wanted to see him. We put the little baby on a plate of water while the battery was charging. It looked like he took a drink.

While we weren’t looking, he crawled off the plate and hid under the trail map.

When the battery was charged, I took the turtle outside to take a few photos in the yard. I mean, I had a baby snapping turtle! I should be able to get a decent shot of him, especially since he hardly moved at all.

I tried taking his photo in a few different places. He had such big beautiful eyes! And he stayed perfectly still. This is totally wrong. I’m using him. I have to bring him back.

After only a few snaps of the shutter, I went inside to grab the camera bag.

“You ARE going to bring him back, aren’t you Mom?”

“Of course! I just came in to get the bag.”

“You’re not thinking of keeping him, are you?”

“No. I don’t believe in keeping wild animals as pets.”


“I promise. I’m bringing Henry back right now.”

“Mom!!! Don’t you dare name him! Then you won’t want to bring him back!”

I was laughing. “I didn’t really name him; I’m just messing with you.”

Mandy fixed up a plastic container with some moist paper towels inside. It fit perfectly inside my camera bag so I could smuggle Henry back into the woods.

But when I went outside to get him, he was gone!

I looked everywhere. Mandy helped me. I thought instinct would direct him to travel downhill, so we focused our search on the side of the yard where it sloped into the trees along the border. The area within the trees was blanketed by an accumulation of leaves. With his instinct to hide, we were never going to find him.

After a half hour or so, we gave up and went in the house.

“I’m so mad!” I said.

“Me too,” said Mandy.

“I knew I shouldn’t have taken him. I knew it was wrong. I mean, not that he couldn’t survive here. But this isn’t where he’s supposed to be.”

Mandy and I sat in the living room and watched some television. I had promised myself I’d do nothing but fun stuff on my day off, no cleaning or yard work, but the wind was taken out of my sails. I ended up doing the dishes, clearing the counter, and gathering up all the recyclables.

With my arms full of emptied grapefruit juice bottles and a few cans, I headed out to the recycling bin, which was still outside by the street since garbage day. I set everything down so I could flip the overturned bin and fill it up.

And there was Henry hiding in the handle.

He’d walked all the way from the backyard to the end of the driveway, probably about 40 yards or so. If I hadn’t noticed him when I did, he would have crossed the road and been long gone. I couldn’t believe how far he’d traveled!

I was so happy to have found the little guy. I know I wasn’t supposed to take him, but I was definitely supposed to find him. Five minutes later we were in the car and on our way back to where Henry belonged.

But I had a dilemma. I was surprised at where I’d found Henry on the trail, because he was not near any of the streams or ponds, and the river was quite a distance away. Should I put him back exactly where I’d found him? Maybe to repay him for the ordeal I’d caused him, I’d bring him closer to the water.

I walked along the embankment of an offshoot of the river, a slow-moving inlet which was marked as a wildlife sanctuary. The bank was so steep, though. I decided to follow the trail for a ways until it dipped down near the water.
Once I’d found the perfect spot, I set down the camera bag and lifted the lid. Henry was ready to go!

I took him out and placed him under a tree.

The water was only about 5 feet away. Surely he’d find it. I decided to put a big oak leaf over him. Back at home he'd preferred to be hidden under the trail map. Maybe the leaf would make him feel safer.

I started to walk away, but I turned back. Maybe I should face him towards the water so he knows which way to go. I put him on the other side of the big tree root, facing the water. Then I put the leaf back on top of him.

Goodbye Henry. You’re a good turtle. Thanks for today. I actually felt a little sad. Mandy was right – I shouldn’t have named him.

I walked all the way back out the trail that ran along the inlet. When I got to the end, I stopped.

I wonder if he’s moved yet? I walked all the way back in. His little head was outstretched from beneath the leaf, looking in the direction of the water.

I decided I’d sit and watch his journey, feeling like a proud mama watching her child go off to kindergarten. Just wait until he finds that water!

As the tiny turtle climbed over little sticks and rocks and leaves, he occasionally tumbled and flipped over on his back, but he immediately righted himself with a quick twitch of his head. He’d pause for a bit, look around, and then resume his expedition. Finally, he reached the rocks at the edge of the water…

And then he was in. He dug his way under the seaweed and muck with his tiny clawed feet, and then his little head popped up above the water. He burrowed his way under the vegetation again, and then up came his little head, over and over. Was it possible for a little turtle to be happy? He sure seemed to be.

Good luck Henry…

“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.” ~e.e. cummings

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Memories of Butchie, Part 1

Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really. ~Agnes Sligh Turnbull

It was a cold Saturday night in February. The ground was covered with layers of ice and snow, but with powerful swings of the pick Sean was able to break through the frozen ground to the softer earth down below. He and Brian hollowed out a perfect hole, free of rocks and roots, to be Butchie’s final resting place.

“I don’t want any roots bothering my boy,” Sean declared, his voice cracking.

Although his footprints were still visible in the snow outside my back door, my most loyal friend of the past 14 ½ years was gone.

He wasn’t even my dog at first. Amanda and I had moved away to California when Brian was just 9 years old, and my mother tried to fill in the emptiness left in his life by getting him a puppy. Brian named him Butch after his favorite scene from Lady and the Tramp, where the dogs are served dinner behind the Italian restaurant. Tramp had different names, depending upon the restaurant at which he was dining, but the Italian guys called him Butch:

Joe: Here's your bones, Tony.
Tony: Okay, bones. Bones? Whassa matta for you, Joe? I break-a your face-e! Tonight, Butch-a he's-a get the best in the house!
Joe: Okay, Tony! You the boss.
Tony: [Showing Tramp the menu] Now, tell me, what's your pleasure? A la carte? Dinner? [Tramp barks]
Tony: Aha, Okay. Hey, Joe! Butch-a he say he wants-a two spaghetti speciale, heavy on the meats-a ball.
Joe: But Tony, dogs don't a-talk.
Tony: He's a-talkin' to me!
Joe: Okay, he's a-talkin' to you! You the boss!

Butch was a hyper little puppy, so my mother signed him up for obedience school. Although he was a fast learner, he didn’t get enough exercise or attention in those early days. My mom brought him to all of Brian’s soccer practices and football games at first, but once he was a full grown bucking bull of a pup, she couldn’t handle him at the sidelines any more. He had to stay home alone all day, then every night while they were out at practices and games.

By the time I moved back from California, Butchie was an unruly one-year-old. To make matters worse, he was gated in the kitchen, because something about the new carpeting my mother had installed throughout the house made him want to hunch up and take a crap.

Amanda was afraid of him when we first moved back. She was just over two years old, and the very first night back in New York she woke up screaming.

“What’s the matter Little One?”
“Butchie!” she managed to say through heaving tears.

Oh, man. I was afraid of this. The poor little thing was terrified of this animal. He was twice her size and knocked her over whenever he came within a foot of her. And so she was having nightmares already, probably of him biting her and tearing her up or something…

“What happened,” I asked her.
“He… he… he took my piyyow!”
I stifled my laugh. Amanda’s pillow was one of her most treasured possessions. Since I’d imagined the line between dreams and reality to be blurred at the age of two, I very dramatically called down the stairs, “Butchie! You Don’t Take Amanda’s Pillow! That’s Not Yours!”

This seemed to satisfy her, but the next morning she woke up screaming again. This time, I wasn’t quite as horrified. I was actually quite curious to know how her mind was working.

“What’s the matter Little One?”
“Butchie!” she managed to say through heaving tears.
I gasped. “What… did he… DO?!”
“He… he… he took my DONUT!” (Another item cherished by my toddler.)
“Well I am going to yell at him!” And I called dramatically down the stairs again, “Butchie! You Don’t Take Amanda’s Donut! That’s Not Yours!”
After that, she never had another nightmare about him, and they became the best of friends.

But there was still the issue of his lack of socialization. I tried to take him for walks up the street, but he tugged so hard that it was difficult to keep both he and Mandy’s stroller on the side of the busy road. So that was out.

I would try to wear him out in the yard, but he needed to be leashed at all times since the yard wasn’t fenced in. I would kick the ball around with him and try to get him some exercise, but he was young and needed much more.

If you wish the dog to follow you, feed him. - Unknown

Brian eventually trained him to go around the yard without a leash on. Whenever he walked him, he carried a bone in his pocket, so Butchie stayed right by his side. When they got back to the house and into the back door, Butch would get the bone. Eventually, we could just let him out and watch him from the window, and he’d always come back for that bone.

That made it easier to play with him in the yard.

He obsessed over his popped soccer balls and popped basketballs. Before they popped, he would get his teeth stuck in them and have his mouth stuck open until I pried the ball out of his mouth. Once they popped, he would whip them back and forth so hard that he’d be pummeling himself in the face with them. And he would chase them up on the hill until he was thoroughly exhausted and I made him stop and come in the house.

When I found a soccer ball at the pet store with rope around it, it seemed like the perfect toy. He could carry it around easier and I could throw it. But man, did he pummel himself in the head with those things even worse. He loved those balls.

To a dog, motoring isn't just a way of getting from here to there, it's also a thrill and an adventure. The mere jingle of car keys is enough to send most any dog into a whimpering, tail-wagging frenzy. - Jon Winokur

When I finally got a car, our options for playtime increased: I took him for rides. It got him out of the house, it was something different and interesting for him, and I could walk him where I didn’t have to worry about the road so much.

The river was a favorite place for all three of us. It seemed he could smell the river long before we got there. Either that, or he recognized the road that lead to our little patch of sand on the Hudson. By the time I was within a few miles of it, he’d be dancing back and forth in the back seat from one window to another, because he knew where we were going.

I used to have to park near a garbage pail, so when he barreled out of the car he wouldn’t rip my arm off. Dogs always mark a garbage can, so there were plenty of sniffs there to keep him occupied while I rolled up the windows and locked the door.

Whenever we got to our destination, he was so excited he’d have to take a crap. Eventually I recognized the pattern, so I would park far away from other people so they wouldn’t give me that “You’d better clean that up” look. I was always prepared with my plastic bag. But it was still more polite to defile the weeds than the sand of the beach the kids were playing on.
While there, he would happily spend the entire time fetching sticks from the waves.

When I’d tell him “no more,” he’d pick up his stick and bring it into the water himself. When he dropped it, it would start to float, and he’d quickly snatch it up again. He would drop it again, stare at it for a moment as it bobbled in the waves, and then snatch it up before it got away.
Or he would go into the water and bring out every floating stick he could find, and the bigger the better. He'd try to drag an entire tree from the river if he saw one. It wouldn’t be long though before he’d drop the stick at my feet again, desperately wanting another throw.

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semihuman. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog. - Edward Hoagland

He and Amanda had a favorite game at the river. I’d throw two sticks, one for her and one for Butch. They’d both dash into the water to get them. Butch would only chase after his own stick, and Amanda would only chase hers. Then it would be a race to see who got back to me first. And Butch was fully aware of the competition. He’d be swimming his fastest, shooting her sideways glances as they swam neck and neck and raced out from the waves.

He would chase sticks until he literally made himself sick. One day at the river he threw up and almost passed out. I don’t know if it was heat, exhaustion, or too much river water.

The dog is the god of frolic. - Henry Ward Beecher
Back at home, I got Butchie used to being let into the livingroom with us at night. Eventually, he was given run of the whole house all day and there was no more gating. That helped with his behavior at home.
But he was still a cut up. He didn’t like us all sitting around on the couches watching TV. And he knew what would get us up: He’d steal our shoes. He was smart about it though. If he wanted to get me up, he would steal one of my shoes, bring it over to me and stand there staring at me, wagging his tail. I’d reach for it, of course, and he’d duck out of the way. Eventually there would be a chase, and everyone would be laughing at his antics and he couldn’t be happier.

If he wanted to get my mother off the couch, he would show her one of her shoes. To get her up faster, he’d show her one of her high-heeled work shoes. That never failed to get her attention, although she wouldn’t be laughing.

He could show Amanda any shoe and she’d be pissed. It’s fun, when you’re the youngest in the household, to have someone that ranks below you and you can scold. So any shoe would get her up, and any attention was good attention for Butchie.
Another favorite activity was fetching the newspaper. At first, my mother would bring him outside to the driveway with her when she got the paper, and she’d put it in his mouth so he could carry it in. Eventually, all she had to do was open the front door and say, “get the newspaper!” He’d happily retrieve it and bring it into the house. We’d have to offer him a bone and get it out of his mouth fairly quickly, though, or he’d start tearing into it. This always got a reaction out of us, and that was always his goal.

I think he found it hilarious when I would try not to laugh at him and try to make my girly voice really low: “Heeeeeeeeey! You... Drop it!” He would freeze in his play-bow and just wait. If my mother laughed, the chase was on. If I couldn’t hold my mad face and let a smile slip, the chase was on. Many times, our newspaper reading began with page 3 or 4 since the first few outer layers were torn to shreds.
But he could always make us laugh, and he knew it.


He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him… When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. – Gene Hill

Friday, May 16, 2008

What's Going On

Hmm… where to begin? Quite a lot has happened over the past few months…

My best friend died...

My mother got a new puppy from the shelter...

I took a wonderful vacation…

The bunny population in my daughter's room increased...

I threw a big party...

And I've had quite a few photo shoots...

Each of these headlines will become a separate post in the coming
weeks, so the details are forthcoming.

I'm also going to be working my way around the blogosphere
and saying hello to all my friends.
I've been busy, but I've missed this place...

Saturday, January 19, 2008


"It is the mark of great people to treat trifles as trifles and important matters as important." (Doris Lessing)

Back in dance class, we were taught to “spot” when we were spinning.

Spotting is where you keep your focus on a particular spot in the room, and as you spin you whip your head around in order to keep that point in your focus for as much of the spin as possible. There’s a part of the rotation when you are not focused on your target, but this is brief, because as you spin you whip your head around and refocus on your spot.

Spotting is the secret to successful turns. It keeps the dancer oriented and aware of her movement and direction. It also prevents disorientation from a lack of focus and diminishes the dizziness from spinning.

I think spotting is the secret to success in life as well.

There are plenty of things that compete for my attention as I twist and twirl through existence…

There are the bills and the laundry, the furniture that needs dusting and the malfunctioning computer that needs repair…

There’s a mountain of negativity in the world and on the evening news.

There’s the guy who cut me off on the highway, and the snotty inattentive waitress at the restaurant, and that automated call that comes through at dinnertime every night with “a very important message for the cardholder.”

There are always errands to run and appointments to make.

And then there are all the little surprises that creep up on me when I least expect them and really make my head spin…

But I try not to let less important things consume me and set me spinning out of control. It’s not that they don’t receive some of my attention, but they don’t monopolize my focus. I can’t focus on everything, or I’ll end up dizzy, or back in bed with the covers pulled up over my head.

Though I may turn in different directions during the course of my day, or my week or my year, I try to remember to refocus on the spot.

For me, the spot is filled only by the ones I love most and the things that are important to me.

My family is there. They’re my main focus. They’re the reason I do everything that I do. My husband, my daughter, and my dogs comprise the bull’s-eye of my spot.

The rest of my family is there too, in a ring around my bull’s-eye. And my extended family and my husband’s family are in another ring. I have a ring of close friends, too.

I think at the end of the day, all that really matters to me are the ones I love, and the relationships I have with them.

There are other things I care about, of course. I care about my job, but only because I need to make money to help support my family. It's not one of my central rings.

I’m passionate about photography though, and I’m still working towards making that the main money-maker. Photography gets a ring in my target.

And there are causes that I care about, like homelessness and hunger and animal welfare. I’m going to try to make a ring to do some good this year, even if it’s only making donations. I’ll see what I can do…

I have to remember to include myself somewhere in my spot, because it’s easy to forget what I need. My needs are simple though: I need exercise, I need to be creative, and I need to spend quality time with those I love. I’ll have to remember to give myself a ring in my spot this year.

Even if everything else becomes a swirl of deadlines and to-do lists and problems and inconveniences, it’s my goal for 2008 is to keep my priorities in sight, maintain focus on the things that are most important to me, and make sure I am truly devoting quality time to them and enjoying them. The year will be gone before we know it, and I don't want mine to have been a blur.

"Whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power." (Stephen Covey)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Believing in Santa

(I know I'm a little late, but I'm still in the Christmas spirit...)

I grew up believing in Santa.

One Christmas Eve when I was very young, my brother and I heard him knock over an ashtray in the living room. We didn’t get out of bed though – we were too afraid. We knew he only came once we were asleep, and we didn’t want him to catch us awake.

So we just laid there frozen in our bunk beds until we finally dozed off again. But for years, that was proof that he was real.


Throughout elementary school, I had the hardest time falling asleep on Christmas Eve. I would just lie there, wide awake in my brand new footy pajamas (every year we received new pj’s so we’d look presentable in the Christmas morning photos). Every once in a while I would turn over and look out the window above my headboard.

No reindeer on the roof.

No sight of them in the sky.

I would lie there waiting for him for as long as I could, but I’d eventually doze off sometime after midnight.

In the morning when I ran downstairs to check under the tree…

“He came! He came!”

And I would wake everyone in the house.

One year it was my brother who woke me. It was about 3:30 in the morning and sure enough, the presents were overflowing from beneath our twinkling tree. Duane woke me up first, and then the two of us ran to wake Mommy and Daddy.

“He came!”

“He did?”

“Yeah! Can we open presents? Please??”

“You can each open one, and then we’re going back to bed until the morning.”

My mother chose two from the pile that looked identical. One had my brother’s name on it, and one had mine.

Inside we each found tape recorders and three-packs of blank cassettes.

My parents went back to bed, and Duane and I set out to master the buttons and record our voices onto the tapes.

“Well… it’s Christmas morning,” Duane announced in a voice that was scratchy from a winter cold. “Mom and Dad went back to bed, and me and Tam are playing with our new tape recorders that Santa brought us.”

“I wanna talk!” I whined from the background.


My brother slid the recorder over to me, and I sang a song I learned from Bugs Bunny:

“I wiss I was in Dixie... Hooway! Hooway! I wiss I was in Dixie… Hooway!”

Lots of giggles followed, and then the loud click of my brother stopping the tape.

We stayed awake playing with our tape recorders until the sun came up. And when my parents finally got out of bed and made some coffee, we were allowed to see what else Santa brought…


When I was a little older, we used to call a phone number advertised on TV to hear a story read by Santa. I’ll never forget the year we called at around 9 o’clock on Christmas Eve. Santa didn’t answer – it was Mrs. Claus:

“Oh my goodness,” she said. “What are you still doing awake? Santa is on his way to New York right now!”

I think our eyes shot out of our heads and ricocheted around the room like superballs. “Santa’s on his way here right now! We gotta go to bed!”


Duane was in 5th grade when his friend John caught his parents putting the presents under their tree. And he told Duane, and Duane told me.

“There’s no such thing as Santa, y’know.”

“There’s not?”


“Well I’m not telling Mom and Dad that I know.”

“Why not?”

“Cuz then I’ll only get half as many presents.”

You see, about half of ours were labeled “From: Mom and Dad” and the rest were labeled “From: Santa.” I figured if I let on that I knew, there went half my stuff.

I was no dummy.

Christmas isn’t quite the same once you don’t believe. It’s fun to get all the presents, of course, but it’s more fun when you believe that something magical happens while you’re sleeping.

I was fourteen when my little brother was born and the magic was rekindled in our house.

When he was eight years old, Mandy was born, and so the magic continued on.

It wasn’t easy with her though… she was an extremely inquisitive child. I had to have very creative and consistent answers to her questions, consistent handling of such things as wrapping paper and handwriting, and even some serious acting skills.

“Mom….. this present says Santa, but it’s wrapped in YOUR wrapping paper.”

My face looked shocked, then even more shocked, then a vision of pure amazement…

“He… touched… our… stuff??? Oh my gosh! I wonder what else he touched!!” I started looking around the room.

“You think he used our tape and scissors too?” I asked. “I wonder if we can fingerprint this stuff?!”

She gasped. “You think he could have done it without his gloves on?”

“I don’t know! This is so cool! Are there any others he wrapped with our paper???”

And so another hole in the amusing charade was filled in, and the magic lived on. Mall Santas, flying reindeer, how the dogs sleep through it all… I creatively explained every piece of the puzzle, or at least presented a sound hypothesis. And when I just didn’t know how to answer, I’d say, “You know, I’ve always wondered about that too. What do you think?”

In the fifth grade she figured it out after seeing a movie on TV. And with that, all the magic collapsed liked dominoes, one after the other – the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny – everything gone in one fell swoop.

She was even a little annoyed that I had lied to her.

Of course, the holiday isn’t really about presents or Santa, and my daughter knows that.

But every year Mandy says to me, “You always made Christmas so great, Mom. I miss when I used to believe.”

And I tell her someday, when she has a child of her own, she can revive the magic all over again.


"Christmas--that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance--a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved." -Augusta E. Rundel