Best Gift Ever– A Flight Home for the Holidays With My Baby

baby NatHome for the holidays takes on new meaning, when you live 4,000 miles away. Never has my longing for America been greater than after the birth of my daughter in Paris. The expatriate craves the loving cradle of family most during moments of great joy or sadness. Within the span of that year I had endured my fair share of despair. I struggled to recover from an accident that ended my athletic career, and a miscarriage that broke my spirit.

That winter of ‘84, I courageously tucked my 10-day-old daughter into a kangaroo pouch, navigated through the crowded Metro station and waited at the American Embassy for my baby to be issued her first U.S. passport. Just a short time later, with even greater trepidation, I swaddled my seven-week-old in a hand-woven blanket and carried her solo across the Atlantic aboard a 747.

At O’Hare airport, my sister’s and parents’ smiles lit up the universe as they welcomed the newest member to the family with tears of joy.

Outside the family homestead, light snow dusted the open fields and colored lights glittered, while inside, an aroma of gingerbread wafted through the air, a newborn’s cry rose above my brother’s piano rendition of Silent Night and my mom hung her handmade first grandchild ornament on the Christmas tree.

From Cleveland, to Omaha, to Chicago, to Eureka, to Sterling my siblings and grandparents coordinated the time and distance between a dozen careers, three states and two countries to be home for the holidays. That Christmas, I dressed as a svelte French Papa Noel to pass out presents.

But the greatest gift was not under the tree.

In the early years of marriage, we could not afford a cross-Atlantic flight, so in a gesture that showed incredible generosity and profound compassion, my Frenchman along with family contributions, gave me a round trip Air France ticket Paris-Chicago, so that the McKinzies could meet baby Nathalie.

This Christmas gift symbolized my husband’s love for his firstborn, his foreign wife and his American in-laws. By sacrificing his own holiday time, he acknowledged the importance of fostering family ties and respecting one’s cultural heritage in a mixed marriage.

The magic of those shared moments is engrained in my heart forever.

This December, that precious baby, now a dedicated doctor, offers another selfless gift. She sacrifices her family time to spend Christmas Day in the Children’s Hospital, taking care of kids too sick to go home for the holidays.Nat & dad

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Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

BookCoverImageIn appreciation of the teachers and coaches that shaped my life, I am offering a Black Friday special price for Home Sweet Hardwood. As a gesture of gratitude to the people that mentored you, offer a gift copy of the memoir of A Title IX Trailerblazer Breaking Barriers Through Basketball!

An All American tale with a European twist about a pre Title IX tomboy who fought for right to be allowed on the court and never gave up. Even when she could no longer play the game she loved. Home Sweet Hardwood makes a great holiday gift to offer a sporty daughter or granddaughter or an aspiring athlete.

“Observing the courage and determination with which Pat pursued her dream goes beyond gender and racial lines to reach a much deeper place within us all. This is a profound story of the strength of the human spirit in the face of extreme challenges. Inspiring, illuminating and awesome; Home Sweet Hardwood is certain to have an impact, not only on women of all ages, but upon anyone who has ever aspired to overcome all odds for something or someone that they love.”

Bil Howard, Readers’ Favorite 5 star review

Give a voice of to silent pioneers who helped pave the way for our high flying daughters of today. In the true spirit of the game- pay it forward pass it on.

Four decades, three generations, two continents, one game.

Order online now at https://www.createspace.com/3877698!

Use this special code YEYGSSZD and get a 25% discount! (valid through Friday midnight)

 

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How to Beat November Doldrums

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a view from our window

I don’t know about you, but I struggle to keep my spirits up in November. The cold, damp, dreary weather reflects my foul mood.  I am surrounded by germs a go-go at the school where I teach. The bacterial infection that I seem to breed within my bone marrow attacks every November leaving my body inflamed with a scratchy throat, stuffy nose, tight chest, achy joints and pounding head.

From my attic window, my bird’s eye view of the countryside reminds me to celebrate each season. In the foreground, spindly naked, tree branches bend low in the north wind. Barren fields line the auburn earth, and white caps dotting silver-colored Lake Geneva send chills down my spine. In the distance, the snow-patched Alps loom like a figment of my imagination. Layers of billowy clouds in various shades of grey roll overhead like waves on a churning sea.

With gratitude on my lips, I focus on the positive to help endure the November blues.

  • Birthdays. My beloved son was born 23 years ago. My treasured niece also shares a November birthday.
  • Basketball. Hoop season begins! I can follow my favorite teams again.
  • Harvest. Though I would have trouble growing dandelions, I grew up in a farm rich community and now live beside vineyards, orchards and fields.  Every year, I marvel at the harvest and admire the men and women who work the fields to fill our tables.

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    the fields in autumn with the Alps in the background

  • Thanksgiving. A table laden with turkey and all its trimmings is always a reminder to be grateful for family, friends, and mother nature’s bounty
  • Walk. I lean into the wind on my way to school feeling blessed for the ability to move my limbs. Each step I take I remember to be grateful to have a job.
  • Family. My husband lovingly shows his support by creating a program to keep track of my schedule when I start a regime of antibiotics and anti-viral again.
  • Voices. Once so rare due to cost, long distance phone calls, now offer a lifesaving link. Occasionally, old friends surprise me, my sisters ring regularly, my Big Kids Skype-in and as reliable as a church service, my parents call every Sunday. Support seeps through the lines in the voices that sustain me.
  • People. The best way to avoid a self-pity party is to focus on someone else. I help edit my senior student’s essay, reassure a distraught parent via email, and mail a sympathy card to a friend to acknowledge the pain of her loss.
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take a walk on the wild side

When your health falters, bad weather hits and the sad, dark days of late autumn bring you down – go for a walk, reach out, connect, engage, and share gratitude.

What keeps you going in November?

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Best Teaching Tip – The Back Pocket Plan

Le_Chat_30April12_025_copyAfter teaching for years, I know to be prepared for the unexpected, so I always carry a spiral notebook in my back pocket. On it, I have a list activities for those times when the lesson does not go as planned due to faulty technology, essay eating hobgoblins and the never fail, « I can’t present today my group member is sick. »

Kids today are so clever. They must toss a virtual coin on Facebook the night before a group oral presentations are due to decide which member of the team should be absent the next day.

Teachers become adept at thinking off the top of their head, seat of their pants and back of their eyeballs. Since my students weren’t ready, I resorted to the pack pocket plan. I led a discussion about how the weather echoes human emotions in the text we were studying. Then I opened the blinds and told them to stare out the window and write for 10 minutes about this typical dreary fall day. Write about whatever comes to mind regarding weather, how you feel when looking out the window today, how the rainy autumn affects your mood, how you dream of escaping this dreary classroom.

Educational studies show that students learn best when they see the teacher looking at a book during reading time or writing along with them during a writing assignment. I pulled out my pocket notebook and began scribbling.

At the end of 10 minutes, a few brave souls timidly read their pieces of work. Then I think as a ploy to save unwilling classmates, they insisted I read mine. So I began…

« This weather stinks. Rainy. Cloudy. Cold. Old man winter is coming round cloaking us in a death vice. I am sick of the foggy gloom that is November. I am tired of seeing the faded, grey view from my dark tinted glasses. I am weary from too much work and too little time. I want to crawl under my soft, lumpy duvet and hibernate until spring, but I can’t. My students are waiting with eager, smiling faces, fidgety and restless, full of life. So I put on a happy face and greet my class with a grin. They bring me enough light and laughter to endure the autumn blues. »

Bless their generous little hearts, when I finished reading, the class burst into applause. Right on time one ginger-headed boy, deadpanned, « You must have been writing about your other class. »

We burst out laughing just as the dismissal bell rang ending the school day.Le_Chat_30April12_022_copy

And that is why I love teaching.

What is your best back pocket plan?

Best Teaching Tip – The Back Pocket Plan

Le_Chat_30April12_025_copyAfter teaching for years, I know to be prepared for the unexpected, so I always carry a spiral notebook in my back pocket. On it, I have a list activities for those times when the lesson does not go as planned due to faulty technology, essay eating hobgoblins and the never fail, « I can’t present today my group member is sick. »

Kids today are so clever. They must toss a virtual coin on Facebook the night before a group oral presentations are due to decide which member of the team should be absent the next day.

Teachers become adept at thinking off the top of their head, seat of their pants and back of their eyeballs. Since my students weren’t ready, I resorted to the pack pocket plan. I led a discussion about how the weather echoes human emotions in the text we were studying. Then I opened the blinds and told them to stare out the window and write for 10 minutes about this typical dreary fall day. Write about whatever comes to mind regarding weather, how you feel when looking out the window today, how the rainy autumn affects your mood, how you dream of escaping this dreary classroom.

Educational studies show that students learn best when they see the teacher looking at a book during reading time or writing along with them during a writing assignment. I pulled out my pocket notebook and began scribbling.

At the end of 10 minutes, a few brave souls timidly read their pieces of work. Then I think as a ploy to save unwilling classmates, they insisted I read mine. So I began…

« This weather stinks. Rainy. Cloudy. Cold. Old man winter is coming round cloaking us in a death vice. I am sick of the foggy gloom that is November. I am tired of seeing the faded, grey view from my dark tinted glasses. I am weary from too much work and too little time. I want to crawl under my soft, lumpy duvet and hibernate until spring, but I can’t. My students are waiting with eager, smiling faces, fidgety and restless, full of life. So I put on a happy face and greet my class with a grin. They bring me enough light and laughter to endure the autumn blues. »

Bless their generous little hearts, when I finished reading, the class burst into applause. Right on time one ginger-headed boy, deadpanned, « You must have been writing about your other class. »

We burst out laughing just as the dismissal bell rang ending the school day.Le_Chat_30April12_022_copy

And that is why I love teaching.

What is your best back pocket plan?

Kizzie « Tales » – Story of an Adopted Dog

KizzieThe first year I moved to France, I dreamed my dog, Skippy, died. I knew she passed away before my folks even told me. Ever since I have pined for a puppy. So nobody was happier when my sister, Karen’s family, adopted Kizzie, a 9-month-old black lab.

Kizzie showed her true puppy colors from the get go. The Carlsons stopped counting the times they caught her chewing on forbidden objects: pillows, hats, glue bottles, photo albums, TV remotes. When Kizzie discovered the basement, Marie’s old baby gate came down from the attic to limit the curious pup’s explorations.

“Everyday we learn something new about each other!” Karen said. “Kizzie goes to school for dog obedience training, but I’m afraid she will never pass kindergarten.”

But our Kizzie is one smart pup. She locked Marie out of the house. Another time the “Houdini” dog slipped out of her locked kennel and met Marie at the door wagging her tail with pride.

In the evening, she not only dragged Dick’s boots to the door when she wanted to walk, but she also retrieved his orange reflector jacket for night strolls.

On her first trip to the lake, she found hidden mouse poison and made a precautionary trip to the vet for intervention. But she won over the entire family especially the grandparents who go ga ga whenever Kizzie is in the room. No wonder pet therapy is so beneficial in retirement homes. Don’t let her charm fool you. As soon as your back is turned, she will snatch up your favorite pillow, hat or slipper and chew, chew, chew.

But keep this in mind when that darn pup gnaws up another favorite shoe, dogs may be good for your health.  http://www.fmnetnews.com/latest-news/pet-therapy-reduces-fibromyalgia-pain When I was sick, my arm dangled off the bed to pet our adopted puppy, soothing my sore throat.

With a dog in the house, you never know what will happen next.

“One night, Kizzie whined all night, stopped eating and cringed when we got near her tail. She had eaten a dead fish at the lake, so we thought she had some intestinal infection,” Karen said. “Turns out that retriever dogs are especially susceptible to “swimmer’s tail” an injury to the base of the tail from using the tail as a rudder.”

Apparently, Kizzie suffered from a sprained tail known as  “Limber Tail Syndrome”. http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/8_1/features/15685-1.html

“It was sad to see our happy-go-lucky pup look so downcast with her tail tucked between her legs.”

But not for long, her tail wagged double time during her first summer camp at the McKinzie’s cabin, a Club Med for dogs. Kizzie sat under the swing in yard, rode in the kayak, chased chipmunks, swam after ducks, and ate hotdogs over an open fire. Kizzie was always underfoot, especially at mealtimes when she would stick her nose in the frig or under your arm when you lifted your fork.

Yet despite her antics, when the Carlson’s drove home, we were sad to see her go. While we waved goodbye, the mischievous princess sprawled across three seats in the back of the van and preened like a celebrity. Apparently Kizzie’s kennel days are long gone. The dog, her dad swore would sleep in the garage now has her own bed on the porch, plate at the table, and special puppy toys.

Kizzie is an extraordinary dog – but don’t tell her that – she thinks she just another one of the Carlson girls!