Hoodwinked

            Neither my husband nor myself can sleep on planes, even on very long flights. When we arrived in Santiago recently, we weren’t thinking clearly. We’d prepaid a ride from the airport to our hotel, so all we were doing was getting luggage, then get out to where the ride would be. We failed to stop at a currency exchange, which turned out to be a huge mistake.

            As we walked past the line a drivers holding cards, we didn’t see one with our name. A nicely dressed man stood at the end, offering help. We both thought he looked somewhat official, so we handed him our confirmation paper. He claimed to have seen the driver, then went outside. Came back, reported that there was no driver. Then he called the number, we think. He spoke to someone, handed my husband the phone, who then was told that the driver had broken down on the freeway and we’d have to find alternate transportation.

            Of course, the nicely dressed man could do that! We’re stuck, right? So we agreed. He called someone. Next thing we’re being ushered out to the parking garage where the ride awaited.

            The car was an immaculate SUV with leather upholstery. The driver spoke no English, so the nicely dressed man rode with us.

            You’d think that by now we’d be a bit suspicious. Well, we were, but we needed to get to our hotel.

            Anyway, we took off down the highway. We have no idea if these guys are taking us to the hotel or out to a deserted place to kill us, but we’re stuck, zooming down the freeway.

            After about thirty minutes, the guy tells us they’re going to pull off the freeway to an ATM they know.

            It was a decrepit gas station in the middle of an extremely poor area. Homeless people were standing around. It didn’t feel safe.

            The driver got out a card-reading device and swiped one of our credit cards. It was declined. He swiped it several times, declined over and over. We don’t know why, but we’re both getting worried. Would these guys dump us here? Throw out our luggage and leave us stranded?

            Mike handed the guy his debit card. It was declined. Repeatedly. Then I made a huge mistake: I gave Mike my credit card!

            Fortunately I stayed in the car as the men took Mike to the ATM. All our cards were tried there as well, and all declined.

            The men conferred, decided to drive into Santiago to a major bank. At least it was in a good neighborhood! Again, all our cards failed.

            The me decided they’d take $40 US dollars. They dropped us off in the street in front of our hotel, not at the door, which was a bit of a walk.

            At least we got there safely!

            The hotel wanted a card as a deposit in case we drank the expensive water in the fridge. Our cards were all declined, as before. I tried calling the bank, but all I got was a prerecorded message in Spanish, which I couldn’t understand.

            The hotel clerk also called, got the same message, which was that our cards were declined.

            We needed money to get to the port the next day. Only Chilean pesos would do. Mike did have some cash, which we could exchange.

            After allowing us to check in, we walked several blocks to a shopping center that had an exchange. We got there, no problems, but no one that I approached at the mall spoke English! We kept wandering, from one floor to another, eventually stumbling into the exchange!

            No one there spoke English! Fortunately a nice customer offered to translate, so we ended up with enough pesos to pay for transport and to buy a little something to eat.

            McDonald’s was expensive! So all we got was four thumb-nail sized nuggets for me and a small cheeseburger for Mike.

            Back at the hotel, we arranged transport, but we had no money for dinner and no working credit card. I called our son Tim who is fluent in Spanish.

            He put together a three-way call to our bank. Our cards had been frozen due to suspicious activity. That was the good news.

            The bank gave us twenty minutes to get to an ATM and withdraw pesos. Tim somehow found an ATM around the corner from our hotel! The bank also agreed to keep my card active until we got home.

            What a relief! We had enough pesos to buy a little dinner and to get me a sweatshirt in Punto Arenas. We had credit to purchase excursions to see the penguins in the Falklands and to go to a ranch in Buenas Aires, which would also take us to the airport.

            After that experience, we now know to get money before leaving the airport. We know not to trust a nicely-dressed man at the end of the line, but to look for an actual taxi.

And we also know that our bank caught the attempts to steal our money!

We were hoodwinked, yes, but we survived to live to share our story.

Nightmare

One chilly fall afternoon

A stealthy plan did emerge.

My friend, of death, he did croon,

Until I felt the urge

And quick enjoined heart-cold risk

Sealed by firmly pounded fist.

I rose: formula in hand.

Fate bound to my enemy

In silence we did disband.

One embrace he gave to me.

I did blubber in stark fear

And chugged one last ice-cold beer.

Darkness fell. My heart did pound.

The plan, I had to enact.

I stepped outside and looked around/

My fate was sealed. That’s a fact.

I spied my foe; he saw me.

He tried to climb yon oak tree.

I grabbed him firm with my right hand.

Saw his mouth with pearly teeth.

“Open wide,” I did demand.

In panic, in disbelief,

I bashed him on his mean head,

Then left him there, as one dead.

Home, I fell into my chair.

Evil deed was surely done.

“Poor me,” I cried in despair.

My hand did bleed: I’m undone.

For Jack, the Cat, my hand clawed.

I’m caught. The plan was flawed.

Christmas Thoughts   Let us put Christ back in Christmas, shall we?Shine with His love for all the world to see.We’ll be the beacons of light and joy,Bring good wishes instead of a toy.  Brighten the season with inner glow,Strong enough that it will surely showOur belief in the Lord and His loveShining on us from heaven above.  Put away the tinsel, silver trim,Red ribbon and lights that don’t dim.Pray for peace all over our big earth,And wait, for the day or our Lord’s birth.  Dedicate our time to gentle ways,Praising the Lord Christ all of our days.We’ll speak of miracles, large and small,People blessed who answered the Lord’s call  Working with the homeless and the lost,Ignoring cold and personal cost.Praise Him daily in jubilant song.Offer Him our thanks all the day long.  We’ll be the beacons of light and joy,Carrying His love instead of a toy,Shine with Christ’s love for you and for me.Let us put Christ back in Christmas, shall we

Christmas Letter

Miracle of birth, one special night

Every knee bent down; eyes shone so bright

Rejoiced as glorious angels sang out

Restful repose enveloped all about

Yearnings fulfilled with the Savior’s birth

Counselor child; marvelous, wondrous worth

Hark, ye citizens, to news of great joy

Rewards to come, thanks to this baby boy

Invoke God’s love, through the Christmas story

Shout of salvation, reachable glory

Treasures at hand, and blessings awaited

Magical, mystical, event fated

Amazement, revelation, and delight

Savior, Counselor, miraculous sight

The Meaning of Christmas

the angels sang a lullaby

the night that Christ was born

in chorus of sweet harmony

they sang  upon that morn

the Magi came from far and wide

to worship at His feet

they knelt and prayed right by His side

and vowed of Him to speak

the shepherds gasped in awe and fear

for Christ had come that day

to bring a message all must hear

before they fall astray

a star shone bright up in the sky

above His tiny head

and peace to all it seemed to cry

while He slept snug in bed

and so, dear friends, let us all fall

upon our knees and pray

for we must answer Christ’s call

rejoice in Him today

Holy Time

 there is only here and nowand the once was and the soon to bethe should be, the could be, the might bejoined together, past, present, and futureblending into seamless timebeginning at the beginningstretching off into the eternitymarching in a straight linefrom time before all records were keptpointing to time unknown dropped in, snuggled in, squeezed inhuman beings alter the universeirrevocablyjumping barriersleaping across boundariesin pursuit of dreamsquests for an unholy grailchasing illusive butterflies of chancethat change predetermined destiniesaltering time forevermore some keeping meticulous trackof minutesdaysmonthsyears while others intentionally forget the doneglossing over the finishedas if brushing off fliesfor by shedding the pastthe future liesuntarnishedunblemished shining bright as the star that ledthe Magi to Bethlehemin search ofthe One who would bethe only here and now

Holiday Blues

         

What do you tell the children

who find no quarters under their

pillows – the missing gift of the

tooth fairy – when the proper

homage has been paid?

What do you tell the sad little girl

whose stocking is empty

Christmas morn – after leaving the

last cookie and a small cup of

milk – the thanks for the Santa

who never came?

What do you tell the young boy

who has no basket to leave on

the table – decorated with colorful

paper eggs and filled with shredded

newspaper – and all that’s inside are

a few stale jelly beans?

What do you tell the teenager

whose fifteenth birthday came and

went – with no party, no gifts, no

happy times – to mark the majestic

coming of age?

What do you tell the lonely ones

who never get a heart-shaped card

or candies – a sign of friendship and

love – who had only wished that just

one person would care?

What do you tell the little ones

who have no feast to cram into

their mouths – in honor of those who

survived – and so bite into stale

peanut butter sandwiches?

What do you tell all the unloved

children, young and old, who rise

day after day – wanting nothing more

than a gentle hug – and receive

harsh words instead?

For some children have everything

they could ever want while others

have nothing but emptiness – no

hope for more – the rejoicing washes

over, leaving not a drop of joy.

Let us cry for them

And then pick up our mantle

Of gentleness and offer whatever we can,

Whatever small bit of joy

Lurking in cabinets and pantries

Deliver it to a charity

Where we can witness the joy

That abounds in simple giving.

A Time for Hope

The holiday season is upon us. For many of us, it’s a time to enjoy family, share good food and a few laughs, decorate the house and give gifts to people we love.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so blessed. They live in shelters, broken-down RVs, or with an abuser who keeps tabs on everything they do. Too many have no money in the bank, no way to plan or save for a better life. Food is scarce, but thanks to pantries and kitchens that pop up this time of year, they can get a nice, warm meal. Perhaps the only thing that gives them hope.

            All too often we forget to say thanks to all those who have helped us over the years. They might have paid your college tuition, bought you a used, functioning car, took you shopping at a grocery store or at a well-known thrift store to but winter clothes.

They buy pet food so that your dog or cat can eat.

They donate clean, washed clothes to charities.

They offer rides to church and then sit and pray with you. They take you to doctor’s appointments when you’re too ill to drive yourself. They cook meals, clean your residence and look after your children when you are at whatever job you’ve been able to find.

In so many ways, people reach out and offer hope to the hopeless, joy to the joyless and kindness to those who have only been shown hate.

I am grateful to everyone who has blessed my life, who helped me work toward a career that I loved, who babysat my kids and who brought over homemade cookies and fudge.

I am lucky to have friends, both long-lasting and casual, who smile when they see me.

My husband and children have filled me with joy so many times that it’s impossible to count.

My wish for you is that you also feel the joy.

A Simple Request

            

Wishes wasted on what-nots and

Wing-dings wear away in time,

While fabulous fantasies of futures

filled with wondrous windows of

opportunities allow for nothing

but disappointments

Instead innocence insulates believers,

inspiring individuals to dream devilish

dances, daydreams of defiance, dramatic

challenges coursing through lives

unbroken, undefiled by demons of despair,

hearts healed and whole withstanding

weather-related attacks against

conformity.

Dream on, dreamers.  Dance with the stars,

sending sparks spiraling through the universe,

understandably lighting lustrous lives

leavened by luminous love,

spirited souls searching for something

of substance, something to shatter

defamations and destroy doubters.

Give me guidance, goodness, graciousness,

generosity that I may share my successes, spreading

goodwill and good cheer whenever my tired feet tread.

Help hinder the disbelievers, doubters, nay-sayers,

never noticing nothing that threatens to toss around

their firmly held convictions, no matter how mundane,

how mutinous.

  

Grant me the ability to appease, appreciate, applaud

those whose talents top mine, to see the dedication

and hard work woven into each wondrously crafted

creation, recognizing remarkable determination to succeed.

 Allow me to march with those who mark places,

who work with the angels, who weave satisfying stories

and craft perfect poems, earning the everlasting

satisfaction of success.

These things I ask.

Gratitude

            As Thanksgiving approaches, I have been pondering all the things that I am most grateful for.

At the top of my list is my husband. He accepted me for who I was, has nurtured me and encouraged me to expand who I was, allowing me to become the person I am today. Without him, I would still be the shy, backward individual who truly thought that no one would ever love her.

My children come next. We tried so hard to get pregnant, but month-after-month it didn’t happen. And then we were blessed with our first child. He was a joy and brought so much light and happiness into our lives that we feared we’d never have a second child. But then, we became pregnant again.

This time our daughter was born. She was so tiny, but when her eyes could finally see me, my heart rejoiced. Now we had two wonderful children.

It took some time to conceive the third time, but when that son was born, once again we felt truly blessed. He was an easy-going-child.

The three didn’t always get along, which was to be expected, but most of the time they did.

Watching them grow, helping them with their schoolwork, being present when they played sports or were in a concert, meant so much to us. We couldn’t attend everything once they were in middle school, but we divided up the occasions as much as we could.

Seeing them graduate from high school and then college brought immense joy.

I am grateful to my faith. When I was in college, away from home for the first time, I questioned my church. Was Catholicism really for me? Or was it standing amid a forest, listening to birds sing?

It was both, and still is today.

My faith has helped me when I was sad or troubled. It has given me a base upon which I can bend over and touch God’s grace. It has filled me with love and gentleness and kindness. And it gave me my singing voice for the first time in my life.

I am grateful to Mike’s sister who believed in my dream to become a teacher. She paid my college tuition so that I could earn my Elementary Teaching Credential. Without her help, I could never have achieved my lifelong goal to teach.

Teaching fulfilled me. I loved watching my students’ eyes light up with understanding. To hear their voices excitedly talking about the subject we were learning. I loved watching them in the playground, running around with such a profound love of life.

My teaching career spanned over thirty-three years. I began working with preschoolers and retired teaching highschoolers. All those different age groups brought me joy. And fulfillment.

I am grateful for all of my grandchildren. They are wonderfully talented, bright, loving and polite human beings. I love them all. There’s nothing like hugging a grandchild, even when they have grown taller than you. I miss them terribly.

I am grateful for my friends. There are some I met through my church. Our kids grew up together. We went on picnics, walks and play dates. Some of those kids are still friends with mine!

Unfortunately, very few of my work colleagues stayed in contact after I either transferred to another school or after I retired. Even though we drifted apart, they each blessed me in some way. They taught me patience even when they “borrowed” my lesson plans and claimed them as their own. That was a great compliment, but I didn’t understand it at the time.

They shared ideas with me, helping me to tackle administrative duties as well as endless amounts of paperwork.

And the times when we did meet socially, they made me smile.

I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to grow intellectually as a professional and as a writer. While I didn’t always go home with a profound lesson learned, I prided myself in incorporating at least one thing into my work. I still do that today.

I am grateful with the life I’ve led, even when I was depressed or trapped in my abusive family, for I took away from those situations that I could choose sadness or I could choose joy. I chose to be happy.

I am grateful the I am relatively healthy for my age. Sure, I’ve got issues, but I don’t let them drag me down. Instead, I accept them as a challenge to overcome.

In summation, I have much to be grateful for. All my varied experiences, all the people I’ve me, all the things I’ve done had enriched my life in unimaginable ways.

For this I am grateful.