KENNEWICK, Wash. -- There are still plenty of shopping days left until the holiday, but Debbie Touchette's Christmas wish has already come true.
She found her gift - almost 6 feet tall and wrapped in a desert camouflage uniform - among the holiday decorations at a local shopping mall.
Touchette and her sister, Nancy Thiel, were at the mall Saturday telling Santa what they wanted. In addition to diamonds - an annual request - Touchette said she wanted her son safely home from Iraq.
Then she found Pfc. Bobby Touchette, 20, in among the Christmas ornaments.
"Oh, my God," the Prosser woman said, reaching out to hug the young man she had not seen in more than a year.
"What better Christmas present could I give than coming home and surprising her?" he said.
Touchette's son has been in the Army for about two years and in Iraq for the past nine months. When he learned two months ago he'd be home for the holidays, he told Thiel and his father, Bob Touchette, that he wanted to surprise his mom.
"It's been a tough secret to keep," his father said. "She's been so down and out about him not being here, and it's been tough not to break down and tell her."
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BLUFFTON, S.C. -- The name "The Vagina Monologues" doesn't suit Bluffton, so the town won't let the footlights shine on the play.
Town clerk Sandra Lunceford turned down the request for a one-night use of Ulmer Auditorium at Town Hall mostly because of the name of the production.
"I'm thinking more about the children; they would see those posters up everywhere," Lunceford said.
Eve Ensler's off-Broadway play, written in 1996, is based on a series of interviews about real-life joys and problems of being a woman. It celebrates female sexuality and explores issues such as sexual violence against women.
Actor and director Gail Westerfield wanted to put on the Obie Award-winning play as a charity fund-raiser for the Rape Crisis Center of the Lowcountry and Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse.
Jillian Walzer, Westerfield's production company partner, offered to provide details about the play and which charities would benefit from the production but was told that wouldn't make a difference.
"We have the right to say what comes here," Lunceford said last week.
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LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nancy Samuelson has walked around the world - without going very far.
It took Samuelson 16 years, 4 months, 25 days and 55 pairs of size six tennis shoes to walk 24,902 miles - the equivalent of the Earth's circumference.
She logged the miles in daily loops around a trail near her workplace in Lincoln, one lunch hour at a time. Samuelson, 42, had been making the daily trek about eight years when a co-worker asked if she had ever wondered how far she had walked.
Another co-worker helped her calculate on a computer how much distance she had covered, then helped her determine how long it would take her to walk the equivalent of the Earth's circumference.
Samuelson walks weekends, too, at home in Valparaiso. If the weather's bad, she steps on a treadmill.
"We did figure it out on a globe," Nancy said, "and I walk about an inch and a quarter a year."
She reached her globe-circling goal Thursday.
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PITTSFIELD, Maine -- Workers at a shoe plant were feeling more than a little tickled when they got their Christmas bonuses that, for some, totaled nearly $20,000.
Instead of receiving typical end-of-year frozen turkeys, the 200 employees of the SAS Shoemakers plant here were handed envelopes when they were called together Friday afternoon.
When Lawrence Wyman opened his, he found a check for $19,000. His wife, Charlene, got a check for the same amount.
The company this year awarded its employees with bonuses of $1,000 for every year worked at the company. Even those who had worked less than a year got $500 each.
The bonuses were particularly uplifting given that most news in the manufacturing sector this year has been about plants closing and employees being laid off.
"They called us all together and said we would each get $1,000," Lawrence Wyman said. "Everyone started clapping and then they said it would be $1,000 for each year worked."
And that's when the tears flowed. Some estimated that the bonuses totaled $200,000 or more.
SAS Pittsfield is a division of SAS Shoemakers in San Antonio. The corporate offices were closed Friday afternoon and company officials could not be reached for comment.
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