On Christmas night I did something I have never done before. I went to see a professional basketball game.
Now the reason I have never done that before is because I was sure that it was something I would not like.
But my son, Mr. Nice Guy, has lately become a huge basketball fan, and The Entrepreneur decided it would be nice if the whole family went to a game together.
So off we drove to Cleveland to watch The Cleveland Cavaliers battle with the Washington Wizards to maintain their 14-game home winning streak.
I thought I was going to die of boredom. I anticipated an anxiety attack from my fear of heights knowing we would have the worst seats at the very top of a gigantic arena.
But you know what? I had a blast!
Who knew that there was so much more to basketball that what is going on with the actual game. If you get a little bit tired of watching the players dribble up and down the floor so what. There is something else to entertain you. There is the Jumbotron.
There is a wonderful slice of American Pie up there on the big screen. You get to meet the players and pick the one you think is the best looking. Then there is the Mistletoe game, where they zoom in on a couple and force them to kiss.
There are funny posters made by fans and close-ups of darling children who are fans in training.
At half time you can watch a mini-concert and some guy getting paid $25 a ball for three minutes worth of long shots.
At the time-out breaks the impossibly cheery cheerleaders will lead you in a yell or just kick up their gold boots for your entertainment.
You can make some noise with plastic bats that are handed out to the crowd and make a mess throwing fake snow placed on your seat in party-favor bags.
If you are lucky you might catch a T-shirt shot into the crowd or a lottery ticket attached to a mini-parachute that falls from the ceiling.
Somewhere in all of that activity the game might get exciting. You might catch yourself on the edge of your seat in the final minutes of the game when the opposing team pulls ahead.
You might realize that your normally reserved son is handing out hugs like candy when his team pulls ahead.
After the win, you might wait calmly in the line to get out of the parking deck and join in with the fans who are honking endlessly in celebration.
You may realize, like I did, that you were wrong about something you never wanted to do.
It just might be a whole lot of fun.
Yesterday a friend who is struggling financially told me a story about how some of her co-workers stepped in to help her this holiday season.
She and her husband are on a debt-repayment program and her entire salary is used for paying the payments. He lost his job in Corporate America and is doing manual labor to support the family.
There are no purchased presents under her tree this year. For her children, she has made gift certificates redeemable for items they want as extra money becomes available.
The other night, she answered the door, and one of her co-workers was standing there with an armload of groceries. She returned to her car and came back with a ham, two bottles of wine and several wrapped gifts.
Someone had emailed her boss to let him know the tough times the family was having. An email went out to the department, and a collection began.
My friend said it was hard to accept the gifts. But she said her feelings of gratitude were stronger than her feelings of embarrassment.
She said that for once she feels the real meaning of Christmas and is so grateful to be working at a job where people really care about her.
This story did a lot for me. It made me feel so grateful that I am able to give my children some things that they want and need this Christmas.
And it made me realize that those of us who are lucky enough to be in that situation have an obligation to help those who are not.
Every year my networking group has a gift exchange. The spending limit is $15. The rules are that you bring a wrapped gift and put it in the center table and then you come up according to a number you have drawn.
The first person picks a wrapped gift and then the second person can steal that gift or choose to open another one.
There are 21 men and four women in this group.
Each year I spend a lot of time contemplating the perfect gift because I want people to fight over my gift. I want them to love it and steal it from each other. I want my gift to be the "it' gift of the holiday gift exchange.
So far I am batting zero on that one, because I refuse to do the one thing that will ensure success: I refuse to bring a bottle of wine.
Bottles of booze are a big hit at the gift exchange. Yesterday a bottle of Shiraz was stolen 10 times.
My carefully chosen gift of a high-end car snow scraper with an expendable pole was a complete dud, along with a thought-provoking book on how to increase sales, a pair of movie tickets and a box of gourmet chocolates.
Maybe it's the economy.
I guess there is a reason why they call them "spirits."
I got my new issue of Oprah yesterday. A fat Oprah is on the cover looking at a thin Oprah from a couple of years back. The tag line says: "How did I let this happen again?"
Inside, in a candid article, Oprah tells why she has gained back the 40 pounds she fought so hard to lose.
She says it is not really about eating too much, or about not exercising enough, but about not taking care of herself. She says that she is back where she started because she has placed a priority on her work and her projects and hasn't taken the time and effort necessary to make herself feel and look good.
That is a great message and one that she sacrificed her pride to make.I have also been putting off the things I want to do until the things I need to do get done. But what I am figuring out is that the list of things that need to get done is way to long.
Reading that article made me decide that in the new year I am going to try to do the things that make me feel great. I am going to have to make time for that and it is going to be tricky, but it has been too long since I:
Read a book
Wrote a poem
Took a run
Wrote a letter
Cooked a nice dinner
Spent time with my best friend
Thanks Oprah for my New Year's Resolution!
This is The Overachiever. Her name is Abby.
In this picture she has just stomped up the stairs from the basement, where she has been living while getting her Master's Degree in Speech Pathology.
Saturday she will put on her cap and gown and say goodbye to college and to living at home.
This morning she kicked me off the internet, left toast crumbs in the bathroom, stole a pair of my socks and rang the doorbell after forgetting her phone.
But I will miss her.
Next week she will move into her own apartment, take off her waitress apron and start a real job.
We won't miss her two cats (well maybe a little) or the mood she gets in after a bad day.
But we will miss how she takes such good care of her little sisters and the energy she brings when she walks into a room.
I am proud to send her out into the world and so happy she has found a career where she will be making a difference in the lives of so many.
You Go Girl!
This year we had the perfect Recipe for a Successful Christmas Tree:
1. Cut one eight foot tree
2. Drive home with tree hanging out back of car after roof-binding failure
3. Struggle to place in tree stand and center
4. Remove tree from stand when you realize you have forgotten to atach plastic collection bag to base first
5. Attach bag and place in stand again
6. Fight with family over which section of tree should face the front
7. Spray with some fake snow for a realistic effect
8. Wait for fake snow to dry
9. Unpack lights
10. Send hubby to store to replace broken strand of colored lights.
11. Force hubby to apply both white and colored lights to please all family members.
12. Unpack ornaments
13. Get emotional over ornaments with photos of children when they were small
14. Force children to leave computer screens to hang a few ornaments
15. Break a beloved ornament and cry
16. Hang the rest by yourself
17. Unpack old tree skirt and vow once again to buy a new one
18. Dim the lights
19. Stand back
20. Admire the Magic
The other night at a school function I stopped to chat with The Athlete's former third grade teacher. She said that although it has been five years since she had The Athlete in class, she thinks of us often because of a note I wrote thanking her for letting The Athlete bring in the gymnastics medals and trophies she had won to share with the class.
I remember that I thought it was so great at the time that her teacher encouraged all of the children during a "news of the day" segment to get up in front of the class and share anything special that had happened to them. This gave The Athlete an opportunity to share her wins with the class.
And so I went to the store and bought a thank you card and wrote her a note to tell her so.
The teacher said she saved notes like the one I had written and pulled them out over the Christmas holiday every year to read again. She said notes like the one I wrote helped her remember why she chose teaching as a career.
And it got me thinking about notes and letters.
Sometimes I will get a letter in the mail from my dad. He is not a big talker. He hasn't visited in 15 years, and he stays pretty quiet at the rare family event.
But his letters are filled with news of his everyday life on his hobby farm in South Dakota. He gives me news of hunters who have come to go pheasant hunting with him and what he is planting or harvesting at the time.
Those letters are a treasure to me. I have kept them over the years with other special notes and letters in a wooden box my son made for me.
Whenever I get one, I get a thrill thinking that someone I love took time out of their day to put pen to paper and send me a note.
Unlike emails, these pieces of paper are a tangible reminder that things I have done have been appreciated and people I care for love me back.
So I encourage you. If someone has done something special for you, or if you know someone who is going through a hard time and needs some encouragement.
Send a note. It just might live forever.