I think the Winter doldrums have been setting in for many of us—including me! It’s amazing how long this season can seem when there is a lack of sunshine for many days in a row. Fortunately, we have seen the sun shine brightly several times during the last few weeks, and I have seen many people smiling just to feel the warmth when they step outside. It doesn’t take much to make Michiganders happy—just a little sunshine and the chance to be out and about.

Last week was a rough one for me, and I was beginning to think it was never going to end. It was just one of those weeks where I couldn’t catch a break! It started out with my middle son not feeling well on Monday and staying home from school. This doesn’t happen often, and it definitely threw me for a loop. Of course, we know all too well what happens when one person in a family gets sick. You guessed it—it was my turn on Tuesday and my youngest son’s turn on Wednesday.

As we spent several days in a row in our house (a rare occasion), we began to realize that our house seemed a bit colder than usual. Yes—our furnace was broken! No problem, though, because one of the hockey dads is in the heating business and came to our rescue. He came out to our house and replaced our furnace within 24 hours. I feel so fortunate that I knew someone I could call in a crisis. Even better, it was someone I trusted enough to come into my home when no one was there because I had to make hockey team dinner for one of our sons team on the day the furnace was being fixed.

I’m sure many of you sports moms have hosted a team dinner (or two or three) throughout the years. Our hockey team dinners are held at the hockey rink, and usually two families sign up to be in charge of each dinner throughout the season. This year, the other mom I signed up with for our dinner thought we should try something “different.” Did I mention that the rink is nearly an hour from my house? She wanted to set up a potato and salad bar—yum! I thought that sounded like a great idea, but the only main dish I could think to accompany those items was some grilled meat. I also told her I would bring fruit, cookies and Fairlife chocolate milk—the only drink the boys would want to drink.

Although I was a bit worried about how I was going to keep grilled meat warm on an hour-long drive to the rink, I was excited about the menu and the choices we had made. Of course, when I told my middle son about the menu, he looked at me like he was completely uninterested in what I was saying and told me he wasn’t even sure he would be able to make it to the dinner! I thought to myself, “How many more months until he is done with high school?” Some days are more frustrating than others!

I didn’t let my son’s attitude deter me, and I began to work on my plan to get my main dish to the dinner. Well, I am lucky enough to know many of the chefs and bakers in our great town (imagine that), and as I explained my dilemma to one of them, he said to bring the meat to him and he would take care of it. He called me on Thursday and asked what time he should expect me to pick up the grilled meat. I told him that 3:30 p.m. would be great, and he said he would have it ready by then. How awesome is that?

So, on Thursday afternoon, I started my race to pick up the chocolate milk, fruit, cookies and, of course, the grilled meat. I went to the store to pick up the chocolate milk I thought I had ordered. Unfortunately, the store had not placed the order, and they didn’t have any in stock! I decided to try Walgreen’s in Grand Haven, but they didn’t have any either. Next, I headed to Meijer where I found seven bottles of the Fairlife chocolate milk. As I grabbed all the bottles on the shelf, an older gentlemen was standing behind me and asked it there were any more bottles on the shelf. I apologized and explained that I needed it for a team dinner. He said he was just looking for one bottle, so I smiled as I handed over one of the highly coveted bottles of chocolate milk. So far, my part of the team dinner wasn’t going very well!

At that point, I raced to the front of the store to pay for the six bottles of milk and realized it was almost 3:30 p.m.—the time I needed to pick up the cooked meat. I had to pay with a check because I didn’t have my credit card or any cash with me. No big deal, right? Wrong! My check got declined because I hadn’t written a check at Meijer in more than three years. After some discussion, I was able to pay with my check—thank goodness. As I finished in the checkout line, I realized I had forgotten the fruit. I hurried back to the produce section and started rifling through the fruit as quickly as I could. By now, I was getting very worried about being late—for everything! And, the story just gets better from here.

I turned around to head back to the checkout and just about plowed over a woman who was about 20 years my senior. Of course, I immediately apologized and said, “I should pay more attention. I’m rushing and trying to get somewhere else on time.” She simply smiled and replied, “I remember those days—you look like you need a hug.” So, right there in Meijer, this complete stranger gave me a hug and said not to worry and have a great day. Wow—I was speechless!

That hug must have been just what I needed because everything else was smooth sailing from that point on. I paid for the fruit (without any trouble), went to the trusty bakery, and picked up the sugar cookies with the perfectly-crossed hockey sticks on each of them. They were beautiful (and delicious)! I headed to my final stop (only a few minutes late) and picked up the meat, which was grilled to perfection. The chef loaded it in my car with one warmer burning to keep it warm, and advised me not to take any sharp corners—he knows me well. I made the 50-mile drive to the Southside of Grand Rapids without any problems and delivered the food to a great group of hungry hockey boys.

Everyone always says, “It takes a village…” I’ve always known that to be true, but I discovered for myself last week how true that statement really is. Thank you to the stranger at Meijer for calming me down, to Julie and Michelle at Elegance of the Seasons for the perfect cookies, and to Justin of Grand Finale Desserts for the amazing grilled meat. The boys were happy and well fed, and my “sweet” middle child even looked over the dinner on the buffet table with a big smile and said, “Bring me home a BIG plate, Mom. I have an appointment at 5:30, so I can’t stay.”

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