Archive for December, 2009

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The Magic of Christmas

December 24, 2009

Our little Magic Man with Santa

I will never forget the day that I learned the truth about Santa.

Being the oldest in my family, and a kid people would categorize as a believer anyway, I believed in Santa Claus far longer than most of my friends.  In fact, it was deep in the summer of 1982, when I was between the 5th and 6th grades, when I finally learned the truth.

I was down the street at the Petersen’s playing.  I remember it being a normal summer day.  We had our bikes flipped over in order to work on and repair them (which usually just meant pushing the pedals as hard as we could to see how fast we could get the wheel to go, a good cleaning, and a little oil on the chain if we were lucky).  But, there we were, in front of the Petersen’s working on our bikes, considering selling the lemonade, and just shooting the breeze when one of my friends said, “Can you believe we believed Santa was real for so long?’

I looked at him puzzled and said, “What do you mean.  Santa is real.”

He laughed and replied, “No he’s not, and everyone knows it!”

I remember chuckling inside at his foolishness and in a tone that had a little “listen ding-dong” attached to it, responded with, “Well, if Santa’s not real, then who brings the presents?!”

Sure that this argument was irrefutable, I folded my arms and waited for what I was sure was going to be clumsy response.  I had him, and I knew it.

Then, quick as a whip, he looked at me snickering and said, “Your parents bring ‘em.  No Doi .” “No Doi“ was part of the vernacular of the day, which translated correctly means, “No Duh”

I was flabbergasted.  “Could it be true?” I wondered.  With a wedge of doubt driven right in the middle of my before solid belief, I flipped over my bike and rode home to get an answer.

I walked into the kitchen where my mom was cooking and belted out, “Mom, is Santa real?”  Not expecting this question in the middle of July, and wondering when I was going to find out the truth on my own, replied, “Well, what do you think?”

Right then, I knew it!  My friend was right—Santa wasn’t real.  I went downstairs to lie on my bed.  It felt like all of the magic had been sucked right out of Christmas.  The whole thing was all made up.  I postulated that if Santa wasn’t real the chances for Rudolph and elves were slim to none—and forget about the Easter Bunny.

Somehow, I made it through and that Christmas was as wonderful as all the ones before.

Now, this year with our little Coleman around I am excited for the believing in Santa to begin again.  Even though he doesn’t understand, I’ve told him all about The North Pole, Santa and the Mrs., Rudolph and the rest.  I’ve sung him the songs, and even though he’ll be more interested in the boxes and wrapping paper can’t wait for him to open his presents.

I’ve also been reminded this year—more than any year in a long time—that there is magic in Christmas.  It’s all around.

It’s in the face of my little boy, in the feeling of giving, in the excitement of finding the right gift for Kolette and in the gratitude I feel for her knowing she spends hours and hours to give me something special.

It’s in the way people’s hearts change for these few weeks every year.  Regardless of religion or belief, there’s just more kindness, more love.  People find compassion they’d maybe lost before.  Smiles fill peoples faces because of the accompanied increase in joy.  People remember what they have and gratitude seems abundant.

But, more than anything, the magic comes in hope.  Whether it’s hoping for Santa or hoping for peace, hope is everywhere.  It fills the hearts of the young and old, and brings with it an optimism that somehow makes everything OK.  We hope for things to improve in the New Year.  We hope that things will be better for our own, and we hope that things will be better for those around us.

All we have to do is open our souls and let the season fill our hearts with hope—then allow it to be accompanied by love, joy, cheer, gratitude, peace and gladness.   When we do, will all rejoice in the Magic of Christmas.

Wishing you a Very Merry,

Jh-

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Over The River…

December 11, 2009

I grew up a very lucky boy-luckier than I ever knew.  First, I had two of the best Grandmas in the wide world.  They were caring and kind and in their own way each second mothers.  Second, I was one of the few little guys who not only had the chance to grow up with all their grandparents alive, but we also all lived in the same city.

This meant lots of one on one Grandma time.  It was definitely something I loved, but it was also something I just assumed everyone experienced.

My memory is flooded with images of games we played, stories they told, and a bevy of experiences.

Me & My Grandma Hall

I can still see my Grandma Hall in the back yard peeling apples as she watched us play and every so often yelling out, “Apple peels for sale! Apple peels for sale!”  She loved kids.  When the whole extended family got together Grandpa stayed upstairs with the adults, while Grandma headed into the basement with the kids.  She spent hours teaching us how to be good people and about what was right and wrong for good kids to do.  She had a passion for family, and an addiction to Lawrence Welk (OK maybe not an addiction, but when you are a kid, a little of that goes a long way.) She was always up for a walk to “Chow Now “ for swirl cones, and never forgot to bring apples and carrots for the horses we would pass on the way.  She’d take us to “The Fun Spot” (a TINY little amusement park in Boise) and every Disney movie from “Snow White” to “The Fox and He Hound” at the Vista Theaters. She loved everybody—whether you knew it or not Florence Hall loved you (Florence—she even had the perfect Grandma name.)

"Grams" visiting me after my car accident

Grandma Ashby, or “Grams” (pronounced “grah-mz”) was just as good.  She worked at a bakery.  Not like a corner market bakery, it was like a plant.  Every time we went there she took us in the back to show us off to her co-workers.  I loved it—watching all those huge machines make thousands of loaves of bread, and the bread itself on giant conveyer belts that snaked all over the place from the ground to the ceiling.  The tour always ended with some treat of our choosing—she could make you feel like a king.  Her house always felt like home too.  Whether it was playing pool, walking to “Winstead Park,” drinking all the Shasta we wanted or playing cards, you always felt good when Grams was around.

These two women have shaped my life in more ways than I can count.  Regardless of the fact that Grandma Hall died when I was just eight, and Grams passed away just a few years ago, they have been there through the good and the bad, to help me find my way.

Last Wednesday, Kolette left for the Dominican Republic to visit her folks for a short week. Coleman and I stayed behind, so that meant Cole was going to be staying at Grandma Hall’s.  I decided to join them and took my work up to Park City every day.

Coleman with Grandma Hall

What I saw was nothing short of magical.  With that much one on one time the two were putting their own little relationship together.  Watching them made me think of Kolette’s mom “Grandma Judy.”  Coleman’s spent many a night there and those two have their own special bond.

Cole with Grandma Judy

It was like looking in a mirror. They both do now all the things I’m sure my Grandmas did for me at that age.  I watch as they teach him how to do new tricks and what things are good and what things aren’t.

More than anything, it made me excited—excited to see the little things that end up to be their special traditions.

What I do know is this.  Cole, like me, is luckier than most to have two Grandmas close (most of the time) who love him like their own.

I know like me, that as Coleman grows up, he is going to look for every chance to go “Over the river, and through the woods”

Jh-

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Surprises On Both Sides

December 2, 2009

Some friends of ours came to the house to see Coleman the other day.  Our friends have gotten to that point where they don’t even pretend to be there to see us.  All pretense is gone.   They’re there to see Cole and if we happen to be there then its just icing on the cake.

But during all the oohhing and ahhing, over Cole (they hadn’t seen him in months) one of them turned to me and asked how the whole fatherhood experience has been in comparison to what I’d expected.  In my answer, I began to think about what has been easier than I anticipated and what’s been more difficult.

Easier:

  • Holding—I’ve been able to hold him far more than I expected.  Cole’s temperament has been a big player here, and it’s been a little gift from heaven.  From the very beginning, Coleman’s always has been calm in my arms. Whether it was letting me feed and burp him in the beginning to being able to cruise around in my chair with him on my lap, or in my arm, my ability to hold my boy has far surpassed my wildest dreams.

  • Feeding—From the bottle through to our current Gerber/Table food stage, I’ve been able to feed Coleman.  I was sure that this was going to be something that only Kolette was going to be a part of.  However, it’s been something that I’ve done nearly every day.  Whether it’s been throwin’ some formula down his gullet (thanks Boppy), or slingin’ some sweet potatoes into his mouth, I’ve managed to feed Cole nearly every day—at least once. I’ve been able to hold a bottle, hold the container of baby food, and work the spoon.  It’s been a huge help that Coleman sits in his High Chair with his arms down and mouth open wide—but, as a quadriplegic, I never expected to be a part of that part of his young life.

  • Playing—I felt sure that I’d be able to play with Cole, but I thought I’d have to wait until he was older to really “get involved wit it.”  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  We’ve figured our all kinds of things, from throwing him around while I’m lying in bed to playing games after he eats.  We’ve used toothbrushes, cups, pretzels, wooden spoons, and anything else we could think of.  One of the real joys of my life has been playing with my buddy.

More Difficult:

  • Picking Him Up—It’s been hard from the day he was born to the day I write this post to watch him need to be lifted off the floor, out of his crib, from his High Chair, or up from his playpen.  It kills me.  I watch my boy need help and I can’t help him.  It definitely makes me feel helpless.

  • Getting Down on the Ground—If I had ten minutes out of my chair, there’s no question that much of that time would be spent playing with Coleman down on his level.  I watch others do it, and it’s different than having him on my lap.  I love the time I get face to face, but it’s on the counter or in bed.  As I watch him play, it’s easy to tell it’s different when it’s down in his environment—on his terms.  How I’d love to play with his stuff, at his height with no distractions, no counter top, no moving wheelchair—a just me and my boy.

  • Not Being Able to Watch Him Alone—Kolette and I have been able to make it so I can keep a monitor and watch over him while he naps, but if he wakes up, have to have someone to call to come take over.  Kolette works so hard, and when she has to be somewhere else, I’d love to be able to care for him all on my own.  It may not seem like much, but I’m his Dad and look forward to the time that the two of us can stand on our own two feet.

Now, before anyone feels bad, or wants me to look on the bright side, understand this—I am richly blessed. I have more and do more than I ever expected to have or do, before I had my accident. After all my injuries, I realize that I am one of the few that is lucky enough to say that I am married to my best friend and have a champ of a boy for a son.  I love my life—every single minute of it.

But, like every life there are things that are easy and things that are hard.  I think everyone goes into this fatherhood thing blind, but, because of my unique situation, I believe I went in blinder than most.  I therefore thought that it might be interesting to evaluate the good and the bad.  And, I have to say; I was surprised at some of my feelings on both sides.

However, thinking through all of this did bring me to a few undeniable conclusions.

First, I have a saint for a wife.  The majority of the things I’ve figured out to do have been because she was helping me think through them, both to find the answers, and support me through the learning curve.  She is definitely of the “If at first you don’t succeed” camp, and that has blessed my life as much as it has Coleman’s.

Second, a little patience goes a long way.  There are so many things we’ve figured out that we wouldn’t have if we had given up the first go ‘round. I’m grateful for patience.  It’s given me the chance to learn so much more about what I can and can’t do.

Finally, I can’t wait to see what the future holds.  I know there will be somethings that will surprise me and be easier than I think, and some that will disappoint and be more difficult.  But, so far it’s been the journey that’s brought the joy, and I can’t wait to see what’s around the next bend.

Jh-