Nicole J. Phillips
At this very moment, if all has gone well, I am on an airplane with my three children heading back to Fargo. It was the kindness of an event planner who first gave the idea wings, and the kindness of many other community members who made it take flight. Saul and I lived in Fargo for 10 years before moving to Ohio, where he now leads the Ohio University Men's Basketball team. Saul has gotten to make a return visit, but the kids and I haven't been back since we moved away three years ago. Boy are we all excited to see our favorite people, places and things!
I was at a Weight Watchers meeting this morning. Don't ask. The wheels fall off the bus pretty quickly when you live in a family who loves to celebrate track meets, baseball games and good grades with ice cream. Easter baskets don't seem to help the problem. Anyway, I was sitting in the meeting listening to the celebrations and challenges the other members were sharing when one woman brought up an interesting predicament. "Clearly my husband doesn't understand this whole weight loss thing," she started, "because he keeps buying me chocolate."
I didn't think time travel was possible until I was sitting at a track meet the other night. It was my daughter's very first meet. I thought it would be my very first meet too. I was told ahead of time that it would be a test of endurance — not for the student athletes, but for their parents. In anticipation of the four-hour event, I brought along my chair-in-a-bag, a football and a thermal tote full of snacks for my younger boys. I found the perfect spot in the sun to settle in and watch the action. I wasn't sitting there 10 minutes when I started having flashbacks.
My friend who is a teacher showed me a very funny poster. It has pictures of two owls. One owl is looking wise and well-tailored in his round glasses and cap. The other owl looks like a deranged lunatic with a torn shirt and frayed feathers. The caption on the poster says, "Teachers at the beginning of the school year" and "Teachers at the end of the school year." As a classroom volunteer, I've had the privilege of seeing students up close all year long. I have to say, when spring is in the air, something strange happens to those little bodies.
How is it that things can look so drastically different based on our ever-changing outlook? Like the little park bench that's tucked along a pebble path and surrounded by colorful blossoms. It looks so quaint and inviting, until that becomes the place where your boyfriend chooses to dump you. Then it looks rusty and worn out and covered in bird poop. Some things that are beautiful become less captivating, but as Diana Anderson of West Fargo found out, it also works in reverse. A nice evening can become magical when kindness enters the room. Here's her story:
A whole new language arises during the month of March in the house of a college basketball coach. We use words like "seed" and "bracket" in daily conversation, but even more curious, in my house at least, is the way my husband begins to use the word, "March." In the midst of a tight game on TV, Saul will yell out things like, "It's getting awfully Marchy in here!" or "It smells like March!" I've even heard him say, "I'm feeling Marchy." That one makes me a little nervous. It's sort of like living in a land of Smurfs. It's Smurftastic!
I am about to rat out my fellow columnist. In a good way, of course. Bob Lind has been writing the Neighbors column in the Fargo Forum since before I was born. Just kidding. But he has been writing it for quite a while, right around 20 years in fact. His words introduce us to the people, places and things that are right under our noses that we sometimes forget to see. He helps us solve mysteries, like Who is Olga? (Feb. 23) and charms us with delightful anecdotes like the Unexpected Valentine Moment in a fast-food parking lot (Feb. 14).
A strange thing is happening. The kids are fed, the dishes are done (sort of) and the couch begins calling my name. Actually, it's not the couch that's drawing me in, it's the television. Ahhh, Netflix. I've always admired the beauty of being able to watch what you want when you want it, but at the risk of sounding like an 80-year-old woman, I don't think most of what's on TV these days is worth watching. And certainly not with my kids in the room.
I went to visit my father recently. He had a stroke about 9 months ago and is now a permanent resident in an assisted living facility. He hasn't yet regained the use of the right side of his body, so he relies heavily on my step-mom and his nurses to tend to his every need. Every several months I have the opportunity to travel from Ohio to Wisconsin to see him. Each time I go, my heart breaks at the thought of leaving.
Remember the old National Enquirer magazine commercials? "Inquiring minds want to know. I want to know." I talk about the health benefits of giving and how awkward situations can be smoothed out with kindness, but the more opportunities I have to speak in public and get immediate feedback from those messages, the more I realize I'm getting it wrong. Well, maybe not totally wrong. It's just that I've been missing a key element in the equation. There are inquiring minds out there and they all want to know the same thing. "How do I deal with difficult people?"