Moments Matter

Oh, the trips you’ll take

Her little body wasn’t much bigger than the bright pink rolling suitcase. She pulled the luggage through the airport in a sophisticated, confident manner – weaving in and out of crowds. Kind of like she owned the place. I trailed behind in awe of her maturity. At one point, she stopped, leaned to one side, hand on hip to ask me a question.

I blinked my eyes in disbelief. No, make that shock. This was my little baby – my four-year-old daughter’s first airplane ride as a big girl. As she spoke, all I could hear was: “wah wah wah wah wah.” Kind of like the inaudible blare from the speaker of a fast food drive-thru.

When I tried to help her place the suitcase on the luggage check in, she scolded, “No, mommy, I can do it by myself.” I stood back hoping not to pass out on the airport floor.

So this is it, uh? Really?

My little girl with her pink suitcase.

I stared at her luggage in a daze, imagining her going places…

Suddenly she was in high school on a trip. Then, packing her bags for college. Her bedroom empty.

Then, she was unloading her suitcase and placing pictures in the dorm room. I come to visit. Gray haired, I see the little pink suitcase in the corner of her college room. I reminisce about the first time she strolled through the airport.

She calls to ask about going on a trip with her college roommate. They want to go to Mexico over spring break (hell no). She persuades me. I send her money. She packs her pink suitcase again.

She meets a nice young man. They get married. She packs her suitcase for the honeymoon. Happily and in love, she struts through the airport in a yellow sundress dotted with white daisies. Her long thick brown hair curled at the ends. She holds the hand of her husband while rolling the pink suitcase.

She is having a baby. She calls me on the phone to let me know they are leaving for the hospital. I am overjoyed. Her husband grabs the neatly packed pink suitcase.

Her family is about to embark on their first airplane ride together. I come over to watch my granddaughter. I spot the pink suitcase in her bedroom. She asks me if I can help her finish packing. We chat about the pink suitcase and its adventures.

I tell her, “Oh, the trips you’ll take…”

Back at the airport, these scenes flashed in probably just under a minute. I took this “fast forward in time” moment with the pink suitcase as a universal, cosmic sign – a message from God you could say.

The message? Now, right this very minute and from here on out – embrace those moments of joy and humility with my two daughters. I look at their faces a little longer – straining to remember how they look – how their little fingers fit in the palm of my hand.

I want to be there for all their trips in life – each and every moment – pink suitcase and all.

Did you have an epiphany or “light bulb” moment that changed your perspective about life and appreciating precious time with a family member(s) or friend that you’d like to share?

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No Bus Rides Here

At one time or another we’ve all done it – ridden in the infamous big yellow school bus. The driver is typically an older lady or man that usually greets kids with a nod of the head and a curt hello (code for “just get on the bus kid.”). For many kids riding on the school bus is one of anticipation and excitement. Not for me. As a kid, the school bus was more like someone telling me they had a big present, and it ended up being a sweater my great aunt knitted.

Last year, the school that my daughters attend launched a school bus program. My older daughter, when hearing about the bus program jumped up and down yelling, “Mom, mom, when can I ride the bus to school?” I responded with the standard “we’ll see” line. The notion of the school bus filled me with a mix of emotions from my past as a former rider.

Living in a small communal farm house outside the city during the 1970s, my mom tried to explain how fun it would be to take a “cool” bus to kindergarten. Then the big day came. I wore my new navy rose-printed pant jumper with flared bottoms.

My mom walked me to the top of our long driveway. I remember the hissing sound of the bus’s double doors opening as if I were being sent to the chamber of death. I was greeted by the driver – a friendly man – in his thirties with 70s-style, shaggy dark brown hair and a thick handle-bar mustache.

My bus driver was the only good part of having to be shipped off to the big house (school that is). He was nice, but best of all he could do a spot-on voice impersonation of “Donald Duck.” I recall nervously laughing and thinking that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Of course, this would be the first time I would experience my first feelings of true loneliness. As I sunk down in the black springy bus seat I looked around and I was totally, utterly alone. Then I thought to myself, they sent this big bus just for me. Am I that important? Where are all the other kids? This made my first-day jitters probably worse. As I slowly exited the bus, my driver did one last “Donald Duck” impression, which made me smile, but didn’t ease my fear of the big school as I stepped off the bus alone.

Angie, the Bully
The drop-off area was adjacent to the school on a hillside covered with patches of yellow daisies, long sloping hills and a winding pathway leading to the school. I stared blankly at the sterile looking school buildings and could hear the sounds of balls bouncing and children playing. With a mix of fear, excitement and curiosity, I was escorted to the kindergarten classroom.

During my first week of kindergarten in my 1970’s jean dress.

I enjoyed playing and all the fun arts and crafts activities in kindergarten. The days of kindergarten and the bus rides to school blurred one into the next, but then I had the experience of encountering my first bully – Angie Magnella. Angie was a bigger, older kid, who decided the blonde-haired little kindergartner needed to be picked on. I remember getting off the school bus and Angie grabbing me and pushing me right into the bee-covered hillside with a few choice bully words. I cried and I wanted my mom, but no one was there to help protect or defend me.

Holding On
So here is it is: The symbolic nature of the school bus is yet another sign of our children breaking away – flying the coop and building their own sense of independence. But I want to hold on longer. Even though driving and getting them to school can be so stressful (did I say so stressful?), I still love our chats, and how we sing songs together and listen to their favorite music. I cherish the fact that they still allow me to hold their hand as we walk to class. I’m just not ready for them to get on that bus – at least not yet.

Do you have a memorable moment on the school bus? I’d love to hear about it!

Bus Photo Credit by D. Sharon Pruitt.

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Part 2: Goddess of Braces

Editor’s note: Here’s the second part of the post “Goddess of Braces.”

The Installation
That was it. I did it. I made the braces “installation” appointment (kind of like putting your car up on one of those automotive garage lifts), and before you know it, I was miserable. For 20 long months, I was in a gum swollen, bleeding, Advil-popping nightmare. Trust me, I questioned my adult brace decision more than once.

Besides my husband lovingly referring to me as metal mouth, here were a few other highlights:
-Being in a meeting when one of my mouth bands went flying and hit a colleague in the face (she gracefully wiped the saliva off her cheek and continued in mid conversation).
-During a presentation at work, the CEO sat in front of me while I gave my speech. I proceeded to “glick” on his $5,000 business suit, while lisping in front of the company’s top management executives.
-Going out to eat with friends and workmates and not knowing that half your food is stuck in your braces. They would silently point to their own teeth as a signal to head to the ladies’ room STAT.
-Thinking that you are eating food, but realizing it is your own gum skin (uggghhh).

Oh, sweet, humility.

New Smile Debut
But then the big day came. I had my braces removed. I explained to my orthodontist how important it was that my teeth are polished to perfection for my debut. I went to the mirror in the orthodontist’s office. And there was my smile – just as big and beautiful as I imagined it.

I remember walking down the street after that and greeting complete strangers – giving them my best smile ever. By the end of the day, my mouth actually hurt from smiling. As a bonus and something most people take for granted, I loved it that I could shoot water out between my top two front teeth now.

I was all smiles with my new little baby at our first photo shoot.

When my husband came home from work that day I made my entrance down our stairs. We embraced. He told me, “You look even hotter than when I married you.” Chaaa-ching. The words every girl wants to hear from her dude.

Behind the Smile
In looking at my relationship with my teeth, I think having braces actually had little to do with my smile (or vanity for that matter). It was a statement to myself that I am worth the pain and all those embarrassing moments. I am deserving of a stunning smile. As one friend mentioned to me, “You are a goddess – worthy of the smile you want.”

I am almost religious about wearing my retainer nightly (oh ya, it’s a real sexy night accessory). If you’ve seen the movie “Date Night” with Tina Fey and Steve Carell you totally get the visual of the saliva-coated retainer. Need I say more, here?

About 16 months later, I had my first child. In the delivery room it was just how I pictured it. When she was born, I was all smiles. Not just because of my perfect smile, but that I was entering the next phase of my life as a mom. One that is full of smiles each and every day. After all, I am worth it – and so is she.

A big shout out and thanks to Braces by the Sea in Manhattan Beach, California. You guys rock!

Do you have any memorable brace moments – either humiliating or humbling that you’d like to share? I would kinda’ understand if you can’t beat my rubber-band flicking, saliva-filled stories!

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Blog Roll, Please!

When I sit down to write a post or article I am so excited. The type of excitement that feels like butterflies in my stomach – like before you go on stage, or give a speech. The creative writing process thrills me. Being a business writer for the last 15 years, I don’t recall feeling that same type of elation. The best way to describe it is…amazing.

As most of you know I’m a “newbie” at this whole blogging thing. I am a writer at heart, and have always wanted to publish my work and tell my life stories. The timing was just never right. Over the past year, my creative writing flame reignited, but I wasn’t quite sure exactly what path to follow. I sent some of my writing to a publishing executive – expecting to hear crickets. Instead, I heard positive feedback and encouragement (thank you, Suzanne Broughton!). I was asked if I had considered starting a blog. Blogging? I had thought about blogging, but was unsure where to start. I hardly maintained my Facebook page.

I was leery to say the least. After doing research, and forming my general blogging plan, I launched Clearly Kristal on May 23 – just three short months ago. Ironically, I feel like I’ve been blogging for years. Even my four-year-old daughter asked me, “Mom, when are you going to be done with blogging?” It has been a rewarding, invaluable learning experience. Part of entering a new industry, such as blogging is teaching yourself an entirely new set of skills. Many times this was a scary process.

When I felt frustration, or lack of motivation, here’s the mantra that continues to drive me: If you are not willing to learn, you are not willing to grow. If you cannot learn from your mistakes, you will not reach your goals and aspirations. I have always been a risk taker. I am willing to fail. But I will always try again.

I am so grateful for the love and support I’ve had since day one. Furthermore, I know this may sound cliche, but I feel like if I have helped just one person reflect, or modify a behavior this whole blogging experience is a success. I know this is just the beginning of an amazing journey.

The part that overwhelms me is the enormity of the blogosphere related to social media. Tweets. Facebook. Google Ratings. Klout. Pinit. The list goes on…I try to take a deep breath one day at a time when it comes to social media.

Think: Mantra.

However, the gem lies in those many talented writers and storytellers. These bloggers are real, honest people that share their life experiences with humor (LOL), sadness, encouragement and even inappropriate topics (these are usually the best ones). Each one is unique and offers their own take on life.

Over these short months, I have learned from my fellow bloggers. I thought you might enjoy checking out some of my favorites – those bloggers that have touched my heart with their stories – their moments. I’m so glad I took the chance at blogging – by not only being a blogger, but learning from other writers – many of them moms as well. I have included a few of my top favorite blogs in the sidebar under Blog Roll (sidebar). I will continue to update the list periodically. Hey, maybe you’ll learn something, or take a risk – after all those moments matter.

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Part 1: Goddess of Braces

The metal wire caught on my lip and I began to bleed. I popped another Advil. I could taste the blood in my mouth. My husband saw the wire chain across my top two front teeth and playfully teased, “Now you are definitely a metal mouth.”

There I was at the age of 32 with braces. Beautiful, uncompromising braces. Back then looking at me from afar you thought: that woman has got it together. Nice business suit, corner window office, sweet ride, Starbucks in hand. But then, I smiled. That ruined everything. I had braces. Believe it or not, braces meant so much more to me than just improving my smile. Let me explain.

Fitting In
Growing up, we were lucky if we had a toothbrush and toothpaste. Not oozing with money, dentist visits were few and far between. Oh and did I have cavities – four giant, deep silver fillings to be exact. I think of my silver fillings kind of like tattoos. You have them for life. They mark you and your history. Where you came from. Part of who you are.

When I go to the dentist now they always want to replace my silver fillings for the new clear fancy ones, which are not supposed to pollute your body. But for now I have kept my fillings just as they are – a part of me.

Well, the part of me that I always had insecurities about were my teeth. My front top and bottom teeth were both crooked – one overlapping the other. And I had one tooth on my bottom right facing the wrong way. Throughout my childhood and growing up I was the one that smiled with my mouth closed. Looking through old photos the other day I noticed my embarrassed, half smiles.

Here I am at the age of 10 with my half-smile and my hand-sewn “Garfield” dress.

But it was more just my external demeanor. Going to school in a well-educated, rather affluent area most kids had braces. Around the age of nine when it came time for me to get braces, my parents opted to have four of my teeth pulled – rather than pay for costly orthodontics. As my parents told me, “Braces are not a necessity.”

I was devastated. It was already hard enough fitting in as a hippie child in a conservative academic environment – outfitted in bell bottoms, hand-made dresses, second-hand shoes and funny hair. Kids at school would have that after-brace teeth look – you know the one. I was green with envy. I wanted straight teeth, a smile I could show off to the world. This is me – SEE!

Never Too Late
I told myself, someday I will get braces and have straight teeth. I reached those milestones in life – graduated from high school, college, promoted throughout my career and got married. I finally had the salary and health insurance to get my long-awaited braces. But then I started to question myself – in my early 30s – is it too late to have my dream smile?

My husband backed me all the way, and encouraged me to listen to my heart. He loved my smile with or without perfectly straight teeth. However, the next life milestone was just around the corner – and the biggest one of them all – being a mom. I knew that when my child was born I wanted to hold that baby and give my brightest smile. I envisioned myself in the delivery room and literally flashing that newborn my gleaming pearly whites.

Stay tuned for part two…

Of course, I’d love to hear any “metal mouth” experiences that you’ve had over the years!

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