28 Oct 2010, 4:26pm

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Halloween: Traumas To Treats

Halloween: Traumas To Treats
I came away from the neighbor’s house clutching my bag of goodies. I clasped my Dad’s hand as we walked to the next house.
I wanted to be a princess that year, but my mother said my plump, 5-year old body would look better as a ghost. Instead of a gown, I put on a warm winter jacket. She put a sheet over my head, trying to line up my eyes with the holes.
The holes never did stay over my eyes.
Sstrange creatures were all around me that Halloween night, so long ago. The hub-bub of motions and sounds were unsettling.
I heard footsteps come running up behind me. A big boy jumped in front of me.
He punched my arm. It made me drop my bag of candy.
“Hey, Dummy,” my brother said, “Our Dad is going the other way.”
The stranger let go of my hand saying something about how all little ghosts look the same. He reached for another ghost’s out stretched hand and vanished.
My brother dragged me back to our real Dad. I was scared and mortified,
Halloween was never the same for me after that.
It wasn’t until the first Year my husband and I were married that I started to enjoy Halloween.
We went to a party wearing costumes we had made. They consisted of cardboard panels painted to look like Hershey chocolate bars.
Mine said Hershey Chocolate Plain.
Yes, his said Hershey Chocolate with Nuts.
As each of our children began to go Trick or Treating, they wore a little rabbit outfit made from a warm pj sleeper as their first costume.
Their second Halloween costume was a clown outfit. Usually I put just a touch of make-up on their face instead of a mask.
I always dressed up in a brightly colored caftan and went as a “good witch”.
Once I labeled my witch’s hat “Witch”. My son’s hat said “Son of a Witch”.
As soon as possible, I started the children on making their own costumes.
One of my all time favorite costumes was one Will made himself.
He took two large, cardboard circles and painted them a rich, dark brown. He wore a white shirt and brown pants. In his mind, he looked just like an Oreo cookie.
Paul carried out a Museum class theme one year by re-using the cardboard turtle shell for his costume.
It was slow going around the neighborhood that year!
My nervousness about Halloween resurfaced when the boys were old enough to go Trick or Treating on their own. I admonished them to stay on our street, but…
I tried to make staying home to pass out the candy more fun and attractive than going house to house.
This Halloween was our first time as empty nesters.
My husband and I sat at the dining room table which is near the front door. We’d removed the glass insert from the storm door to serve as a pass through window.
The first treaters were several large teenaged boys around 5 P.M. The main flush of beggars went from 6:30 P.M. to about 8:30 P.M.
The last Trick or Treaters were several large teenaged boys at 8:45. Come to think about it, they sounded vaguely familiar! I wonder how many times they came through.
We had no hassles about costumes, tammpered with candy or curfews this year.
We happily answered the doorbell to put candy in each and every bag or hand.
As our neighbor’s spooky music swirled through the cold air, we laughed and teased the children and adults who came to our home.
We stuffed ourselves with Snickers and Peanut Butter Cups to our hearts delights.
I think Halloween has become fun again.
We’re just not going to tell our grown children how we ended the evening by sipping camomile tea.
(Copyright 1996, 2010 by Kate Chamberlin)

24 Oct 2010, 2:03pm

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My Graces

Guide Dog Chronicles: My Graces
by Kate Chamberlin
It was with fear and trepidation that I returned to Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB) for the October?November 1998 class to train with my third guide dog.
I trained with my first guide dog, Future Grace, a Golden Retriever, in September, 1989 and had a wonderful experience, not only at the training center, but for the next 8 years. She was retired in September, 1997 because of cancer and died three months later.
I trained with Wheaton Grace, a big, loveable Black Lab, in February, 1998, but She had to be retired in June, 1998 because of seizures.
I felt anxious about being able to commit to another dog after such a disappointment. I had neither the naivete of the first time trainee nor the high expectations I had prior to training with my second dog.
Having to live in a dormitory with 11 men and women you’ve never met, can cause some stress. A mutual friend put me in touch with another woman several weeks before class when he realized that we’d both be at GEB in
October. Patricia M. and I had several phone visits and looked forward to training together. I was pleased to find that we were roommates. That was one worry taken care of.
My February class supervisor, Lynn Robertson, was teamed up with Melinda Angstrom and Andrea Martine. These three women were professional, enthusiastic and excellent dog trainers as well as having great people skills. These high energy folks warmly welcomed be back and helped me settle in to the routine. I liked them immediately and another worry was gone.
During the first two or three days, they talked with each of us and got to know us as individuals. What our personal needs were, How fast we walked and Where we’d be living, working and traveling.
Each trainer had been working with ten dogs during the previous four months. They were trying to make the best match of canine and human to have a successful team.
As one of my classmates said: We come with only two legs and leave with six legs and a tail.
I was matched with an 85?pound female black Labrador
Retriever named Finch. We trained in White Plains: walking on sidewalks, stopping at curbs, crossing six?lane highways and going through a revolving door.
In Manhattan, we rode the subway, took a bus, walked in Central Park and had lunch at Consails. I knew I’d accepted this new dog into my heart when I started thinking of her as “my Finchlee Grace”.
I planned and plotted exactly how I would introduce my new guide dog to my retired dog, Wheaton. Although they are both female Black Labs about the same size and weight, I wanted to be as sure as possible that they would be friends. Wheaton’s puppy raiser wasn’t able to take her back and I couldn’t find a good retirement home for her. I knew that GEB would take her back and find a home, and yet, our bonds were strong and I wanted to keep her, too.
It was about 10:00 P.M. when Finchlee Grace and I arrived home from Yorktown Heights (NY) following graduation. My son, Paul, stayed in the van with Finchlee as my husband, Dave, sighted guided me into the house. Wheaton couldn’t wag her tail fast enough or rub against me enough, just like a cat. There was no sign of reproach for being gone three weeks. Is there any other reunion more open and joyful than a dog greeting her master?
I then went back to the van and put Finchlee on leash. My son sighted guided me down the driveway and onto the street. Finchlee piddled at our mailbox and we went for a short walk.
Meanwhile, my husband leashed Wheaton and walked down the driveway, stopping at the mailbox. The dogs saw each other across the street as I headed back south and they headed north. We stopped and talked for a moment before Dave brought Wheaton across the road to us.
I talked softly to the girls as they sniffed each other. Before they started to get frisky, we walked up the driveway together and into the house.
The rest of the night Wheaton slept on a tie-down on Dave’s side of the bed where she’d been during my absence. Finchlee was on my side, curled up on a small rug I’d let her use at the training center.
On Sunday, as Dave and I held hands, we went for a walk with the girls on leash along the street that would become my routine walk. It was a calm time for the girls to do something together and for Finchlee to get familiar with my neighborhood route. In the house, we kept each on a leash, letting them occassionally sniff each other. I didn’t feel comfortable about letting them have free play just yet.
Monday after Dave left for work, I sat at the breakfast table for a long time. Finchlee lay on my left and Wheaton on my right. What in heavan’s name was I going to do with two 85-pound black Labs?
“Take it slowly,” my GEB trainer’s words came back to me. “Do obedience everyday.”
And that is what I did. Each dog has a tie-down in our “training room”, formerly our game room. Each in her turn is put through sit-stays, sit-downs, sit-recalls and several other exercises. If one barks, she hears my stern “Quiet”. After grooming and a piddle break, they get to watch me do my floor exercises and 30-minutes on the treadmill.
At first, I tried to heel them, holding both leashes, and get from room to room. I found it difficult to walk when wound up like a May Pole. I soon realized that this was not what I could handle. Wheaton is so very laid-back, I tried voice commands on her and it worked.
At the top of the stairs, I say “sit” and they both sit. After “Wheaton wait”, I say “Finchlee heel” and go down. At the bottom, we stop and I call “Wheaton, come”, and she does.
It’s like choreographing a ballet. The more we work together, the more graceful we get. Each dog seems to know her role and willingly does what is asked of her. Wheaton Grace is content to be an at-home friend and companion, while Finchlee Grace enjoys being in harness and on the go out in the world.
It will take six months to a year to become a really smooth working team. You can help me train Finchlee by remembering not to pet or talk to her or otherwise distract her when she is in harness.
I find it helpful when you tell me about my environment, such as, “You are approaching the stairs up (or down).” “There is a loose dog on your left.” “I’m holding the door open for you.”
The next time you see us, won’t you hale us and introduce yourself (but don’t let her pleading “pet me” eyes get you into trouble.)
(Published January/February, 1999 Good Dog! Magazine) copy right © 1999, 2010 by Kate Chamberlin. All Rights Reserved.

8 Oct 2010, 1:53pm

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Flag and Faith

Our Flag and Faith

It dawned like any other mid-winter day in upstate New York. It was snowing and it had snowed throughout the night and would probably snow the rest of the day, too. As I rested in bed waiting for the little ones to wake up, I listened to a narrator’s voice reading a story about time travel. Through my head set, I heard the occasional thrumming of a helicopter. It wasn’t part of the taped story, but I didn’t give it a second thought.
During breakfast, the boys were their usual quarrelsome selves, noisy, boisterous and full of confidence. I heard the helicopter thrumming over head. I hoped whoever the Mercy Flight had plucked up from harms way would make it.
Today was a mandatory bath morning, so my kidlets could choose a bubble bath or regular bath along with the usual array of measuring cups, spray bottles, little boats and toy critters for tub-time fun. The helicopter thrumming was unmistakable even over the noise of the bathtub faucet.
I estimated that the helicopter flew over head about every half-hour. I’d heard the television news reports about being on orange alert for a terrorist attack. I began to be concerned about living within the ten-mile radius of the Ginna Nuclear Plant. It’s northern border is a wide open expanse of water . A foreign country just north of that. Perhaps these were neither random maneuvers nor the Mercy Flight but fly-bys with a purpose.
The mini-school bus came to take my 4-year old to pre-school, my husband left for work and, then finally, my toddler and I laid down for a nap after our lunch. As I drifted into sleep, the helicopter droned passed the end of my street, along Route 441.
Abruptly, my house shook violently as trees crashed every where, shattering windows and shredding the plastic we’d duct taped over them. I woke and rushed to a north facing window. A huge, black column of smoke, debris and heat rose above the orchard and homes. I ran to my toddler’s bedroom to scoop up the screaming, terrified child and heard the phone ring. I hoped that call meant the Emergency Preparedness people were, indeed prepared and coming to transport us to safety.
The phone jangled again in my ear, ending my terrifying dream. It seemed so real. My heart was pounding. I felt cold and petrified. What if it had been real?
I suspect this is what terrorism is all about. The enemy wants you to be so un-nerved and paranoid that you can’t function normally. Fear is a very real emotion that is quite hard to subdue. It can permeate every fiber in your body and daily life, totally disabling you, if you let it.
We need to persevere, though. Go about our daily lives, while at the same time, we mount an awareness and preparedness campaign.
Cornucopia has just finished a series of Good Citizen essays written by high school students in Wayne County, sponsored by the Col. Wm. Prescott Chapter of the NSDAR. These essays are full of love and respect for our United States of America. These young people look to us for leadership — even amidst their bluster and rhetoric. Let’s not let them or ourselves down.
Fly our American Flag and keep the faith.
( This article originally appeared March 6, 2003)
Patriotic Cornucopia: A collection of Essays from Cornucopia by Kate Chamberlin Published in the Wayne County STAR Newspaper, 1994-2004
Copyright © 2010 by Kate Chamberlin, All Rights Reserved.

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