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Look carefully...at the seemingly small moments...in the constant shaping of souls.- Neal A.Maxwell

Character

"Are you mad at me?" J asked.  

The question threw me. We were talking about the unusual, for him, amount of recognition he has been getting his Senior year:  Student of the month, Mr. Mistletoe (dance royalty), nomination for a national Science scholarship and now Best Personality - what would I possibly be mad about.  And then I remembered...

When I was in high school I had a dread fear of writing.  I took basic English until the AP English classes were finished with their research papers.  When I knew it was "safe" I told the guidance counselor that I thought I should be in AP English.  He looked at my transcripts and agreed, I transferred over.  My fear of writing followed me into college.  I read every course description very carefully - if a paper was required I did not sign up for the course.  Writing can be avoided only so long in college - Winter quarter, Sophomore year I was faced with the inevitable, in more than one class.  Avoidance / procrastination had worked thus far in my academic career so I avoided and/or procrastinated all my papers.  It didn't "work" for me this time, I have the transcripts to prove it.  My GPA nosedived, I lost my scholarships and most of my confidence.  I did not, however, learn from the experience and had a repeat performance Spring quarter.  Fortunately a wise mother and a good friend with a wager I couldn't refuse kept me from dropping out altogether.  Through hard work, persistence and retaking a number of classes, on my own dime now that my scholarships were gone, my GPA slowly crept up and I graduated in good standing.

Flash forward to J's 8th grade "Tribute to a Family Member" term project.  At dinner Friday night J mentions that his tribute is due the following Monday and he has not started it yet.  "One time and one time only," I tell him, "will I help bail you out."  He and I spent the entire weekend looking through pictures and letters, making phone calls and recording memories.  Monday he turned in his tribute and received an A on it.  When he showed me his grade I said, "I can't believe it!" and was visibly not thrilled.  He told me that I was the only mother he knew that would be upset by an A.  I told him about my lost scholarships and nosedived GPA and explained to him that I wanted better for him, that I wanted him to recognize early the perils of procrastination.  This A was certainly no help to that cause.

All of this remembering happened in an instant.  Coming full circle I understood the question, "Are you mad at me?"  I laughed and said, "Not mad, happy and proud."  I explained that there is a big difference between procrastinating what has to be done and getting public recognition after avoiding it for years.  One is about character - the other is simply nice, but not necessary, recognition of that character.

Our Christmas Angel

About 16 years ago I met E who sustained brain damage from measles she had as a young child.  Chronologically she is in her 60's, cognitively she is very childlike.  Initially I was shy around her - unsure how to respond to someone who looks one age and yet acts another.  I soon learned E is very accepting and not easily offended, my shyness eased and we became friends.  

E started spending Christmas Eve at our home 13 years ago.  She never answers her phone so we have always waited for her to call and then we go pick her up.  6 years ago we moved to a different town just under 10 miles away.  Christmas Eve we received our annual call, "Are you coming to get me or what?"  We were surprised by the call but more than happy to have her come, my husband calls her "our Christmas Angel." 

Last year rather than wait for a call I just went to E's apartment to pick her up.  She wasn't home but from past conversations I had a couple of guesses where she could be.  First stop, the cats at the local pet store.  Bingo - there she was, happy and ready to come home with me.  This Christmas Eve I showed up at her apartment again, and again she was not home.  First stop - the pet store.  E had been there the workers informed me.  They suggested I leave my number so she could call if she came back.  They informed me of her daily "route".  Her next stop normally would be the pharmacy/gift shop but that was closed for the holiday, they suggested I try the Mexican restaurant.  The workers there had not seen E yet - she normally came in at 7.  I should try the book store.  It was 4:10 and the bookstore closed at 4:00 for the holiday.  Walking away from the locked bookstore door I caught a distant glimpse of a gray head, green coat and distinctive gait.  There E was in the fly and tackle shop.  I ran in and said, "Hi, E."  She asked, "Where were you?  I've been looking for you."  I told her I had been looking for her and now we had found each other.  I asked if she was ready to come for dinner.  She told me she had given up on me and was planning on eating at the Mexican restaurant.  After walking back to the pet store to get my vehicle I drove back to the fly and tackle shop.  There E was talking to the salesclerk.  Are you sure you don't want to come? I asked one last time.  She was sure.

Driving home I was sad that we would not have our Christmas Angel at our home this year. Over-riding that sadness, however, was gratitude for the many angels that watch out for E each day.  The pet store, the pharmacy/gift, the bookstore, the hair shop, the Mexican restaurant...E was okay - she was home.

"Angel's Embrace"

My youngest, B, has always given great hugs.  He runs and jumps up into my arms, wraps his legs around my waist, wraps his arms around my neck and tucks his head against my neck.  The other day he ran and jumped up to give me a hug.  He almost knocked me over and I knew that would have to be the last running hug.  I squeezed him extra, savoring that he was still little enough for me to carry - knowing that will be ending soon as well.

Today my neighbor called me to come over, "Right now!".  When I arrived she told me she had something for me, "Not a present but something you have to have."  I opened the "not a present" to find a Willowtree "Angel's Embrace".  I choked up, it was me holding my son.  I looked at my friend and she said, "It's you and B!  The minute I saw it I knew you had to have it."

I put the angel in my living room.  When I look at it I feel hugged twice.  Once by B and once by a friend who heard what I had not said aloud.

Mr. Mistletoe
Last week my 17-year old was nominated "Mr. Mistletoe" for his high school's winter formal.  This week in PE he booted a soccer ball really far.  A classmate asked if he had a rocket for a foot.  He answered, "No, I'm Mr. Missle Toe."   
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