Random Brain Dumping

Musings and observations about life

My favorite Christmases

Oh, so many Christmas memories, my favorites being three: two as a child and one as an adult.

In my life, I’ve seen two white Christmases, separated by four decades.

My first white Christmas was in North Carolina, where my family was visiting my maternal grandmother. Grandmother’s porch was the type that kids could play under, so when the snow hit, that made the porch a great jumping off point.

I recall jump after jump into the snow, but what made that Christmas a favorite is that Santa visited us at Grandmother’s house … and our house.

Yes, I was that young and still believed in Santa Claus. I have no idea what Santa brought me that year, but I do remember getting home and having presents there, too.

Bass violin

The bass was a piece of art in my living room until my youngest son got his own place.

How did Santa know to leave presents at both houses?

Fast forward six or seven years to the summer, where I asked for a watch for my birthday. I’ve never been one to ask for much, but that year, I asked for what I wanted.

I didn’t get a watch for my birthday. I got what was probably my first dose of disappointment. For months, I struggled to swallow that disappointment. How could I hold on to disappointment with the two people who made sure I (and my nine siblings) had things I needed?

I didn’t dare ask for anything for Christmas. I don’t even know if I participating in “calling” the various possibilities in the Sears and Roebuck catalog that came just before Christmas.

Usually, the kids would get the catalog and go through it; if one person called a toy, no one else could claim it. Lots of wishful thinking, as I don’t think we ever got anything from the catalog.

On Christmas morning, though, we would wake up early and rush to the tree to see who got what, even keeping count of who got how many.

This Christmas after my first disappointment, I only recall getting one gift. Knowing my mother, I probably got more, but one stood out.

A small box with a tortoise-shell watch with square frame and brown band.

Somewhere among the stuff I will never throw away is that watch, missing half the watch band and long-since inoperable.

Running a close third of childhood favorites came the day after Christmas, the year my father called from the hospital to say my mother had had a girl. Finally, a baby sister after three younger brothers.

Finally, I’ve had a tough time deciding which Christmas was the best, but my favorites as an adult all were about other people.

I recall scraping up $2,500 to give my youngest son a bass violin in his third year of playing, a gift he still has but later told me he had wanted an Atari that year.

Then, was the year I gave each of my siblings custom-made dog tags as key chains, with “Margaret and Bill’s Top 10” on the front, the sibling’s childhood nickname and birth order on the back.

And the calendar with three generations of pictures corresponding with birth months, and the birthdays written on the respective dates. Oddly, that 2007 calendar mirrored 2012, so we got to use it again.

My favorite Christmas of all, though, was the first time I picked a name from the holiday tree at work. The names were of children in a shelter, with their Christmas wishes written on the back.

I chose several children, not wanting to leave anyone out.

That year was the first time I actually saw someone’s Christmas list. It’s amazing the simple things on the list.

Basic things. Backpack. Underwear. A few toys.

That year, I realized I’ve lived a blessed life.

I’ve always believed that simple things can have major rewards. I know now the simple act of giving is far better than receiving.

December 24, 2012 Posted by | Random Brain Dumping | , , , , | 4 Comments

The power of whoa

I watched in horror a video of a woman whose horse reared up and flipped during a rodeo event, the horn of the saddle almost slicing off the woman’s face as the horse landed on her.

One word may have saved the woman’s life.

When I ride my horses, I tend not to use vocal cues. I don’t say, “walk on,” “canter,” or “trot” to get them to move at different gaits.

Instead, I use leg cues. If I want the horse to walk, I squeeze both legs and the cheeks that touch the saddle. To get the horse to trot, going a little faster than a walk at a one-two pace, I kick both legs just a little and make a clicking sound with my mouth. For the canter, even faster but rocking-chair gait, I make the kissing sound and press only with one leg, depending on the direction I want the horse to go.

The leg cues all are done when I’m mounted. The horse literally gets a feel for what I want it to do. I’ve heard others using vocal cues, and I was taught to use them on other horses. My logic for not using them was I didn’t want my horse to confuse my words with another’s if we were riding in a group.

I worried that if a fellow rider told her horse to canter, my horse would start cantering on her command and not mine. I’ve been on a horse during a riding lesson where the instructor told me to pick up a canter, and the horse, hearing her command, picked up the canter without me telling it to do so.

Just recently, though, I was reminded of that video, and the word that may have saved the woman’s life.

I decided to start using that one word when riding. It’s a powerful word, an effective word to use whether mounted or unmounted.

On my last ride, I told my horse to whoa, and she stopped immediately. I hadn’t taught her that, but someone had.

As the woman in the video was dragged in the arena, she realized her foot was stuck in one stirrup. With a clear mind, the woman yelled, “Whoa,” and the horse stopped long enough for her to remove her foot. The horse then trotted away.

The woman survived, and her face was reattached.

Doctors and a four-letter word saved her life.

December 10, 2012 Posted by | Random Brain Dumping | | Leave a comment

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