Monday, September 29, 2014


By Zelle M. in MI 
Age 10
 It was a warm summer morning in Hatch Valley, Virginia. A peaceful breeze floated down from the Mountains brushing gently the small town of Tucker that lay quietly between two great hills that formed the valley. It was a lovely day, as the sun shone on the pretty little 1950s town. The church bells rang signaling weekday Mass. In a small brick house on Main Street my brother Cody and I sat quietly saying the Rosary as we always did after meals. As the beads slipped through our fingers we prayed anxiously for the safety of each other knowing this would be the first time since our parents had died that we would be separated. I was going away to the state capital.                                          

“Oh Mary conceived without sin pray for us in our recourse to thee,” we finished the prayer.       Cody looked at his wrist watch and announced, “Better go get Belle, Nancy. It’s almost nine o’clock.”   

I nodded, jumped up and ran outside to the family barns. I would miss Cody, but I knew I was going for his and my own sake. There was a State Fair, where a race for all children ages 10-18 could attend. As an 11 year-old, I knew I hadn’t much of a chance, but it was worth at least trying for the 1,000 dollar prize. I entered the barns and walked into Belle’s stall. She was a beautiful brown horse with a white crease on her forehead. I would be racing her, for Cody had to work at home. I smiled at her as I entered. It was a shaky kind of smile, the kind you give when you are trying to be cheerful while nervous. I was just now the most nervous girl in Tucker.                                                

“Hey, girl, how are you?”  I asked. Cody and I had found her two months before in an old shack and had brought her home. And was she fast! I had spent so many days riding her through the mountains rushing through the wind never afraid of going even to the highest peak.  As the memories came back, I heard a car stop in our driveway. I peeked out and saw Mr. Simmons’ jalopy. I gave a faint smile and said,“OK Belle time for me and you to go places!”    

A few days later I sat astride Belle at the start line in Richmond waiting for the race to begin. I quivered and shook surveying the scene before me. We had only to go around the track twice and I kept telling myself it would be all right, but still I doubted it. Finally we were brought to attention by the starter who went through a long and boring list of rules. But at last he was saying,“On your mark…set…” Crack! The gun went off and with it went Belle. A herd of horses thundered down the track. Dust flew everywhere. Belle was in third place while I pushed her harder than ever before in my life.
                                                   "Old Hector" Public Domain Copyright expired

I leaned forward on her begging, “Oh please, Blessed Mother, help me win! I need your help!”  
Mary heard. Slowly Belle edged up on the second place horse. I whispered in her ear,"That’s it, girl! Come on, Belle, you can do it. That’s it!”   

Belle shot past the Black horse just as we began the second-and last-lap. I began urging her to run faster suddenly realizing this might be our last chance to catch the first-placer. Belle understood what my body’s pressings meant now. She began to advance on the white horse ahead of us. Every second seemed like an hour to me now. Belle was now neck and neck with the horse. I leaned further forward pushing Belle with all my strength. She charged past and seconds later crossed the finish-first! The crowds gathered in the stands erupted into cheers. I wearily slipped off Belle’s back. Streaks of sweat lined my face but I was happy. Now Cody and I could live a better life than the poor one we had once lived. I looked up at Belle’s face and stroked her neck lovingly and hugged her.
“I knew you could do it,” I whispered.

Now I stand on another dusty track, this one in New York City. Enthusiastic crowds celebrate with me my fifteenth victory. Standing silent at my side is Belle, Four-year-old Champion of Two years. Looking around I hope that more days like this will come, days of victory, days of joy, days of excitement. And all of these days with the one horse I would give my life for--Belle.

Monday, April 21, 2014

My Easter Rosary

By:  Michele L. Rich

Carina shoved her Easter basket into her closet, taking one last glance at the jelly beans and chocolate bunny that awaited her. 
“Come on Carina, let’s go,” her mom called. 
She pulled her new rosary from her Easter basket.  She couldn’t believe she had to go to Mass today.  Carina looked out of her bedroom window and saw Sara and Nate’s parents hiding eggs.  She missed the egg hunt every year. She sighed and slipped the rosary into her sweater pocket.     

As the car pulled away, Carina saw Sara and Nate racing across their yard, finding colorful candy-filled eggs and dropping them into their baskets. They waved at her, and she crossed her arms.
“Carina, what’s wrong?” Her mom asked.
“Why do we always have to go to Mass on Easter morning? I want to hunt eggs with Nate and Sara,” She protested.

 “We’ve been over this, Carina. Easter is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. We honor Him by going to Mass today.”
Carina knew she should want to attend Mass, especially since her class would soon celebrate the sacrament of First Communion.  But Father Rios’ homilies were so long, and kneeling while everyone else took communion made her knees tired.       
Carina dragged her feet across St. Anne’s parking lot, making lines in the gravel. Her mom nudged her as they entered Church. 
They sat beside Maria, her friend from Religious Education. Maria held up her rosary beads.  “Look what I got this morning,” she whispered.
Carina had almost forgotten about her new rosary beads.  She took her rosary from her sweater pocket and knelt beside her mom.  She looked around at everyone else praying their rosaries, including Maria.  Carina bowed her head and clutched it tightly in her hand. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her mom holding the rosary she got the year of her own First Communion.  Carina began to pray, rubbing her fingers over the smooth beads and focusing on the Sorrowful Mysteries.  She worked her way through the rosary, praying and thinking about Jesus’s journey and what he had been through.  

When the church bells rang, she crossed herself with everyone else and sat back in her seat. She put her rosary in her pocket, but kept one hand on it throughout the homily.  Father Rios talked about the true meaning of Easter. She tried to listen closely this time.
When it came time for communion, Carina knelt and held her rosary.  She watched all the families go up for communion together – Moms, Dads, Grandparents, and kids not much older than her.  As she ran her fingers over each bead, and concentrated on the sacrifices Jesus had made for her, she realized she was a part of it.  She now had her own rosary, and in a few weeks she would take Holy Communion. 
After Mass Carina showed Maria her rosary
“Oh, those are pretty!” Maria said.  “We are having an Easter egg hunt at my house at 2:00 today.  Can you come?”

Carina looked at her mom, who smiled and nodded. 
After lunch, Carina ate her chocolate bunny and grabbed her Easter basket, ready for the egg hunt. She slipped her hand in her sweater pocket. The rosary was still in there – cool, pink, full of meaning and wonder.  She didn’t think she could ever go anywhere without her rosary, and she knew she would never again forget the true meaning of Easter.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lent Later

Lent Later

My hands were raised, ready to shoot a basket, when she appeared.
“So...what are you guys doing for Lent?”

I lowered my arms and frowned at my little sister. “We’re in the middle of a game here!”

Neela turned to my friend Austin. She’s always trying to talk to him. “Tomorrow's Ash Wednesday. Are you giving something up for Lent?”

“Yes,” he said. “Video games.”

“That’s a tough one,” she said. “I’m giving up gum.”

“Gum!” I cried. “You can’t have gum anyway with your braces.”

She pouted. “Which is really hard for me, Chris.”

“But it’s not a sacrifice just for Lent.”

“Well, what are you giving up?” she demanded.

I wanted a better goal than Neela’s so I said, “Pop.”

“But you love pop,” said Austin.

“Yeah," I said, "but a person should really sacrifice something for Lent – not just pretend.”

Neela rolled her eyes and headed back inside.

The next afternoon when I got home from school, I headed to the kitchen like usual for a bottle of pop. I was taking a big swig when Neela shrieked, "You're drinking pop!"

I almost dropped the bottle! "So? What’s...oh! I forgot about Lent.” Which was true. I looked at the already-open bottle. “Well...I might as well finish this and start my sacrifice tomorrow.”

Nina folded her arms. “Some of us started today like you’re supposed to.”

I snorted. “Are you still pretending that gum thing is some kind of sacrifice?”

“I’m not pretending.”

 “Right,” I said. “Keep telling yourself that.”

The next day the weather got surprisingly hot. I was dying of thirst by the time I got home after school. I remembered about Lent this time, but it didn’t seem fair to have to give up pop when I could be dangerously dehydrated.

It won’t hurt to begin Lent later, I told myself, grabbing a pop and taking it to my room.

When Neela came to tell me supper was ready, she spotted the empty bottle. “Gee, Chris. Did you ‘forget’ about Lent again?”

“No! I’m just getting started a little late,” I said. “At least I’m making a real sacrifice.”

“It’s killing me to give up gum,” Neela whined.

“It still doesn’t count for Lent,” I told her.

The next morning, Austin plopped beside me on the bus. “It's hard to live without my games.”

"They don't call it a sacrifice for nothing," I said.

"I know! So how's the no-pop thing going?"

My late start would be hard to explain so I just said, “Good.” Which would be true today, right?
But that afternoon, after baseball practice, I had to put things off again. The coach rewarded the team’s hard work with a cooler of pop. Refusing to drink one would have been rude.

On Saturday, I rushed through my chores because Austin was coming over. After I finished, I figured I deserved a treat so I had a few swallows of pop. The last ones before I really started Lent, I told myself. When I saw Austin coming down the walk, I put the bottle back in the fridge and hurried outside with the basketball.

Neela followed right behind me and said, “Hi, Austin!” Then she launched into this big story about how she was suffering over her phony Lenten goal.

“Sheesh, Neela!” I interrupted. “Why don’t you stop pretending you’re actually doing something for Lent? You're nothing but a fake.”

“I’m a fake?” Neela shouted. “You’ve been drinking pop every day!”

“Not much,” I said. “And anyway...I had to do it. And...and I’m not doing it anymore.”

“Right," she said. "You drank some today then put the bottle back in the fridge for later.”

“I did not!" I yelled. "I mean…I’m not going to drink it!”

“You are, too!” she yelled back.

We went on like that until we noticed Austin was stomping off down the road!

“Great,” I said. “You made Austin mad.”

“And you embarrassed me!” Neela burst into tears and ran inside.

I told myself I didn’t care Neela was upset. Hey, she embarrassed herself with her bogus sacrifice.
I shot baskets awhile then went inside for something to drink. I thought about getting some water, but why waste the pop I already opened?

After I got out the bottle and closed the refrigerator door, Neela was standing right there. She didn’t say anything, but she didn’t have to. I was doing just what she said I would! And I called her phony?

“Busted!” I said with a puny laugh. Neela frowned so I got serious. “Okay. You were right. I’ve been faking my way through Lent so far. But I’m not making any more excuses to put things off.” I emptied the bottle into the sink then put it in the recycling bin. “There! I mean it this time. I’m starting my sacrifice for real.”

“Me, too,” she said. “Giving up gum is hard, but I want to do something more. I’m not sure what...but something.”

Neela left the room then, and I got a glass of water which actually tasted pretty good. I was glad I wasn’t putting off my Lenten goal any longer, but I still didn’t feel quite right. When I finally realized what was bothering me, I gulped the rest of the water and hurried off to take care of things with Neela and Austin.

Apologizing was something else that couldn’t wait until later!