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A mom learns to forgive, plus free and cheap things to do with kids

'The Gruffalo' | Jan. 12

The David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts is staging The Gruffalo, the musical adaptation of the award-winning picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. The Gruffalo tells the story of Mouse, who strolls through the woods scaring away other hungry animals with tales of the terrifying Gruffalo. But then Mouse comes face to face with the creature he has been making up stories about. The Gruffalo is appropriate for children ages 3-8. The show runs at 2 and 4 p.m. in Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. Tickets start at $10.50 Call (813) 229-7827 or buy at strazcenter.org or at the ticket office at the Straz Center.

Nature program: Rangers guide children ages 9 to 15 and adults through this weekend's "Florida Native Americans and Their Canoes" and next weekend's "Woodpeckers of Lettuce Lake," at 10 a.m. and noon Saturday and Sunday at Lettuce Lake Park, 6920 E Fletcher Ave., Tampa. The price is $5 per child, $5 for a childless adult, free for adults with children. Cash payments only. For information, call (813) 987-6204.

Educational theater: Children can participate in a workshop on the history of folk music with the New Christy Minstrels and founder Randy Sparks at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Carrollwood Cultural Center, 4537 Lowell Road, Tampa. The new season of theater performances for children focuses on educational themes woven into the entertainment. The cost is $7 for nonmembers, $6 for members and $24 for a family four-pack. For information, call (813) 269-1310.

Target Tuesday: Get a peek at the hands-on Glazer Children's Museum for free from 2 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, perfect for an after-school or post-nap diversion. The event is presented by Target. The Glazer Children's Museum is at 110 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa. For information, call (813) 443-3861.

Plant Museum character studies: Theatrical, single-character vignettes bring turn-of-the-century hotel staffers and guests to life at the Henry B. Plant Museum, at 401 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. The rotating list of characters includes Theodore Roosevelt, former lieutenant of the Rough Riders; Edith Roosevelt, first lady in 1901; Arthur Schleman, a hunting and fishing guide from 1895; Pauline Smith, telegraph operator; Maggie Stroud, a laundress from 1920; and Henry A. Dobson, a soldier in the Spanish-American War. The show takes place at 2 p.m. Sundays through May 26 and is included in museum admission: $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, $7 for students and $5 for children ages 4-12. For information, call (813) 254-1891.

I yelled at my neighbor as she stood in her front yard, and my choice of words held little resemblance to ladylike prose.

Once a dear friend, I fell out with her in 2011. I don't feel compelled to divulge all of the gruesome details here, but know that I had grown to love her and spent much of my free time with her.

She possessed one of the most genuine, loving and giving hearts I had ever encountered, but she made some choices last year that broke my heart.

Each day, I couldn't avoid seeing her as I walked out my front door. I'm not proud of the words I spewed, but I wanted to project my pain on to her — a pain I had never felt in all of my life. I wanted her to hurt as much as I did.

But I never wanted to hurt her son.

My heart stopped after my tirade when I saw him step out from behind the tree.

He just stared.

I got in my car and drove off.

I returned home to find my youngest son not speaking to me. He went over to play and was told what happened. He had seen her crying and her son was very upset.

• • •

I'm fairly decent with words, but I can't merge any letters to form a soluble thought about that ugly moment.

I grabbed my son's hand and marched down to her house. While my child listened, I apologized to her son. I told him that I was angry and should never have said those things.

He let me know he didn't understand why I was being mean to his mommy. He was never privy to the details, so none of this made sense. In his eyes, I was wholeheartedly in the wrong.

She chimed in with something like "It's not that simple. Mrs. Heather has a right to be mad."

I gave him my word that it was over. He would never hear or see me yelling at his mother ever again. I then took her hand and said I was sorry for my litany of vitriol against her.

She acknowledged that I was hurting and somewhat entitled and she understood I needed to heal in whatever capacity it took.

My son witnessed the entire conversation and simply sat there in disbelief.

The next morning while taking my son to school, we passed my neighbor returning home. I smiled and waved, and she reciprocated.

My baby, 9 at the time, still learning to develop his words and emotions, grabbed my hand and said, "I am so proud of you, Mom. You did the right thing. And it just … makes me happy."

Barely withholding my tears I laughed and said, "I'm glad you approve." I gave him a kiss on the forehead, and he went on about his day.

Most days, I questioned how I would extricate myself from my pain, but I naively believed I was putting on a facade that left the rest of the world around me able to function. I selfishly believed I was the only one enduring the suffering.

My family begged to differ.

After my son gave me his approval for turning the corner, I came home that night and had a powwow with my two teenagers and my husband.

I knew this war wasn't over, but I saw an end. They were skeptical, but I know they were witnessing the slow death of my inner peace. Maybe they were clinging to hope, as I had often taught them to do.

• • •

It was a slow process. I had made no promises of rekindling a friendship, only a guarantee that there would be no more venomous lashing out.

I invited my neighbor to spend New Year's Eve with us. We recalled good times and bad, laughed, mocked and recognized that we emerged from this event as better people. My family can't completely understand how this unraveled as it did.

But it's not lost on them that they have their mother back, and with more peace than may have ever existed.

I find myself in less pain as I let go of it. I'm starting to feel like the woman, wife, mother and friend I used to be, only improved. If I had never succumbed to pain of that depth, I don't think I'd know my own strength.

I also don't think I would be as compassionate as I am today toward those who inflict pain on those they love. I'm grateful for that gift from the "life lesson fairy" of 2012.

The lesson in this episode? You don't forgive those who hurt you to give them peace. You give it so they can stop robbing you of your peace.

In a world where pride and ego thrive, I'd endure every ounce of the pain again to be able to truly learn this for myself and model forgiveness for my children.

Have a peace-FULL 2013.

Heather Tempesta is a Brandon wife and mother of three, a 16-year-old boy, a 14-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy. She balances a full-time job with support of youth football, cheerleading and high school football, all while serving as a part-time CFO, maid, chef, chauffeur and ATM.

A mom learns to forgive, plus free and cheap things to do with kids 01/03/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 3, 2013 3:30am]
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