Moments Matter

Make My Day

The people stood in the line quietly, patiently waiting for their fix. With eyes half-masted, many still looked asleep and disheveled. The line moved slowly as each person was helped at the counter and then filed to the pick-up area.

I was no different.  I too, came for my 6:00 a.m. caffeine fix at Starbucks. Approaching the pastry case, a face suddenly popped up in a cheery, loud greeting:  “Good morning, welcome to Starbucks!”

Startled, the woman in front of me responded in a grumble, “Uh, morning.” She then turned around and complained: “This is ridiculous! They are way too friendly here. Have you heard how friendly and happy they are to customers?”

Yes, she was complaining about people being too happy in the early morning hours. In that moment, I felt bad for the woman. We need more happiness in our world. We need more love. We need more annoyingly, friendly Starbucks employees.

I also thought of my Grandpa Tucker who passed away more than 15 years ago…

Friendliest Man, Ever
He was the friendliest man I ever knew. He would walk into a restaurant, or road-side diner and approach each person with a handshake and a smile. He was so friendly and outgoing, you thought he was a politician shaking hands, kissing babies and shooting the bull.

Here's my mom with the friendliest man I ever knew - my Grandpa Tucker in April 1972 at our commune farm.

Here’s my mom with the friendliest man I ever knew – my Grandpa Tucker in April 1972 at our commune farm.

He loved people.

Being from Colorado with family in Texas, he was a friendly, southern charmer and retired oil millionaire. His love of people did not especially exclude women. He was known among many to woo the ladies with his charm, which explains his three marriages by the age of 60.

In addition to his charm, Grandpa Tucker was an infamous joke-teller. (He even received an award called the “Blue Brick” from one of his men’s groups for best joke of the year). After a meal, he would lean back in his chair at the head of the table and slide his fingers up and down on his suspenders as if he was ramping up for the introductory monologue. Inevitably, he would start off with, “Did you ever hear the one about…?”

After the joke, everyone would laugh. (And if you didn’t laugh, get ready for a second, or even third joke!) His eyes would glimmer and smile as if he had done his job of making you happy.

As part of spreading joy, he was active in all sorts of charities – from the Rotary Club, Meals on Wheels, to the Masons, Shriners Club, Lions Club…He even became the first male Candy Striper at our local hospital. It made him feel good to help other people.

Naturally, he raised his daughter (my mother) to be helpful and friendly to everyone. Carrying the tradition of friendliness, my mother encouraged her own children to smile at everyone.

Even today, I do my best to smile and say hello to  people – in the hopes of making them happy. I also do my best to role model being happy and friendly for my daughters. There is something enlightening about smiling at someone you don’t know.

Elevator Etiquette Goof?
I have a vivid memory of being friendly with a stranger during the first time I rode in a skyscraper elevator. With my fresh suit and briefcase in hand, I stepped inside the elevator with another man. I turned to him and said, “hi.” He turned and looked at me, his mouth gaping open, and replied: “Did you just say hi? Wow! No one in the last three years has ever said ‘hello’ to me in the elevator.” I thought to myself: “Oh no, I blew my first corporate etiquette rule – no one told me not to talk to anyone on the elevator.” He expressed how thankful he was for my friendliness. As he was stepping off the elevator, he then said, “Thanks for making my day.”

I thought of my grandpa at that moment. He would have been proud.

Heaven’s Gold Brick Awardimages
I know we are raising our children during a time where we teach them about “stranger danger” and always reminding them “don’t talk to strangers.” However, I think we need to teach them that sometimes especially when you are with an adult, it’s OK to smile and even say hello to a stranger. I noticed a few times during the past few weeks that my eight-year-old smiled at two kids she didn’t know as she passed by them. Later, I praised her for smiling and being friendly.

In my heart, I knew my Grandpa Tucker was smiling down at the granddaughter he never met. And, I am sure he’s probably telling a joke or two up there in Heaven and has already earned the “Gold Brick Award” for telling the best joke for eternity.

So, I encourage you – SMILE at someone you don’t know this week. I guarantee it will make their day.

God bless.

Do you smile at strangers? If not, why? Give it a try!

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Mirror, Mirror

Check out http://augustmclaughlin.wordpress.com!

Check out http://augustmclaughlin.wordpress.com!

Editor’s Note: Writer and Blogger August McLaughlin is hosting Beauty of a Woman BlogFest 2013. Bloggers are invited to write about anything related to the theme, which is based on Sam Levinson’s poem, The Beauty of a Woman. So, be sure to check out all the other bloggers who will be sure to inspire and entertain with their take on beauty beginning February 22.

I hope you enjoy my thoughts as a daughter and parent in “Mirror, Mirror.”

“No, not that mirror. One that won’t make her stare at every flaw.”

I looked at my mother in awe of her wisdom and insight. She’s come so far in her 72 years of life. She’s overcome her days of yo-yo diets and stinging taunts of being fat. (See my post “I like ‘em healthy” that details my family’s body image issues.)

The sales person handed her another smaller size mirror with minimal magnifying ability.

“Oh, this one will do nicely. I’ll take it,” she said, returning the mirror.

My daughter had been asking for a vanity the last few years, but I had never wanted to emphasize the need to magnify aesthetics. As a society, we are bombarded with advertising and marketing messages that focus on looks – skinny jeans, airbrushed photos, fake boobs, ultra white teeth…I feared her sitting for hours primping and staring in the mirror. She knew my hesitation, which is why her comment about giving my daughter a mirror that does not accentuate flaws was so appropriate  – so sensitive.

My mom began setting up a makeshift vanity for my older daughter. The desktop mirror was the final piece of the set that included make up, nail polish, glittery hairbrush and accessories.

imagesMy daughter arriving home from school was thrilled to see her new vanity set up. I listened outside her bedroom door as the two sat together and “chatted girl talk” about makeup and hair, and, of course, my mom being a hairdresser for 40 years gave her beauty tips.

I heard my daughter’s giggles. I heard her joy. I also heard the beauty of their moment as grandmother and granddaughter.

In that moment, I felt a mixture of happiness and guilt…

I felt guilty for being so overprotective of my daughter. If I continue to instill confidence with healthy role modeling and age-appropriate exposure to all the se outside influences, my daughter will continue to grow into a loving and confident young lady.

As a parent, I have to learn to let go a little bit more, and allow her to define beauty as she reflects in the mirror.

Lastly, I need to give my mother credit. She wanted to give my daughter this gift. I am not sure if she realized, though, that she gave my daughter the gift of knowing that beauty lies within. That being a good, loving person on the inside is what matters most – not the reflection we see in the mirror.

Do you have any life lessons about beauty you’d like to share? What is your definition of beauty?

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#7 Fictional Friday: Leila & Keith…New Beginnings

Graphic designed by Kelly DeBie.

Graphic designed by Kelly DeBie.

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh and final fictional post in a continuation that outlines the bittersweet story of Leila, Keith and Billy. Here are the previous posts/chapters in chronological order.

#1 Fictional Friday: Her Billy
#2 Fictional Friday: Our Billy
#3 Fictional Friday: Letting Go of Billy
#4 Fictional Friday: Their Leila
#5 Fictional Friday: Leila & Keith…Rekindled
#6 Fictional Friday: Leila & Keith…An Affair to Remember

The next set of weekly fictional stories will begin in March. Without further ado, here’s to new beginnings

Gone.

Vanished.

Leila had finally opened her heart. Only to have it shredded. Now, she bled openly. Any inkling of pride now peeled away. She was raw for all to witness her hurt and pain.

She lay frozen in the hotel bed for most of the day following the news that rocked her world: Keith’s secret life revealed. In the hopes of breaking the hours of cold silence with just a room away, she continued watching the classic romance movie “An Affair to Remember.”

She bitterly soaked in the passionate moments between Carey Grant and Deborah Kerr. She thought this was the same type of love she shared with Keith.

Her body was aching and quivering – as if her system sensed the emotional stress from her wounded heart. She attempted to fight the urge to close her drooping eyelids. Relenting, she knew the dream was coming. It always did when facing significant trauma.

The dust danced down the desert gorge. The shoeless young boy walked slowly while poking a stick at rocks alongside the dirt road. In a high-pitched chant, he echoed a song of hope.

He approached a woman slumped on the side of the road wearing a sheer Burqa. He longed to see some part of her face. As he walked closer, a man from nowhere with oversized strong hands grabbed his wrist. Leila recognized the large hands as her father’s.

The boy struggled to get lose from his grip, but was overpowered. The woman still remained stoic and motionless. The boy screamed for help as the man drug him like an animal carcass down the dusty road.

There was a rumbling sound as if a herd of elephants were headed down the desert gorge. In the distance, an enormous tidal wave roared towards the crevasse. The boy and man stood still as the wall of water headed towards them. The woman finally looked up, her eyes darting with fear. Leila remembered those eyes. They were the eyes of her mother. As the little boy screamed to her, “Mamma, mamma, mamma!” The boy lunged and turned his face. Leila recognized the messy brown hair, pouty lips and soft brown eyes as her big brother Mikie. Within a few seconds, the water swept through the gorge tossing all three of them like miniature toys.

Leila sat up in a sweat, her heart racing, she let out a gasp – as if she had been holding her breath through the giant wave. This same dream began the night she learned her brother had been killed in a roadside bomb on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The dream was so real. Drowning in doubt. Drowning in fear.

Still breathing heavy, the phone rang.

“Uh, hello,” Leila answered.

“Mom?” asked the voice on the other line.

Silence.

“Mom? It’s me, Billy,” he said.

Leila felt sluggish and lethargic.

“Honey, is everything OK?” she asked.

“Fine, mom. You didn’t call me this morning like you promised,” Billy explained.

“Is everything OK, mom?” he asked.

No, everything isn’t OK, she thought. This wasn’t the time, or place to tell Billy of Keith’s betrayal. Of her broken heart.

“Fine, honey,” she said. “How’s school going?” She made weak attempts to shift the conversation. “Can I talk to Dad?” Billy asked.

“He’s busy right now, “ she said, her voice cracking. Billy could sense something was wrong. She finally spilled the details of the photo – the deception. Her suppressed beliefs and doubts about being incapable of unconditional love now became reality.

Billy was clearly shaken by the revelation of his long-lost father leading a double life. Reassuring Billy that they would get through this together, she offered to catch the first flight out to New York from Kauai.

She picked up the phone to call the airline when there was a knock at the door. It was Keith. Through the knocking, she heard the final line from their favorite movie…

“If you can paint, I can walk. Anything can happen, right?” said Kerr to Grant.

She sprinted to the door, flinging it open.

Coming into her part of the hotel suite, he pulled open his wallet. He handed Leila a small scrap of old newspaper. It was the obituary of his family with a faded photo of woman holding a little boy.

Leila swallowed to avoid throwing up. Now, she felt as though she had betrayed Keith again by not believing in their love.

She reached for his hand. “I am so sorry, babe,” she said.

They embraced. She felt closer to Keith now than ever. Their relationship was in a deeper place where beliefs and doubts together can create a sane, magical world of new beginnings.

——————————————————————————————————————————————–

Writing Prompt: This week’s writing prompt from our Fearless Fiction Femmes Leader Molly Field was a visual prompt:

Art by Barbara Kruger.

Art by Barbara Kruger.

Be sure to check out my fellow Fiction Friday Femmes Fatales (lots of “Fs”) — many of whom are writing their hearts out with the same fictional prompt:

http://www.worldsworstmoms.com
http://www.bulamamani.com
http://www.susannenelson.wordpress.com
http://www.itsadomelife.com
http://www.debiehive.blogspot.com
http://www.mollyfield.com
http://quirkychrissy.wordpress.com
http://neargenius1.blogspot.com
http://the-suds-box.blogspot.ca/

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Acts of Love

I hid under her long, flowing cotton skirt. I was safe from the outside world. I played with the buckles on her Birkenstocks while she talked to an adult I didn’t know. After the stranger had left, I crawled out into the light.

My mom leaning over asked, “Shall we go pick apricots and make a pie, Kristal?” I jumped up and down as if I had just won a big prize.

Here's me (far left) with my mom and little sister in the mid-1970s on our commune farm.

Here’s me (far left) with my mom and little sister in the mid-1970s on our commune farm.

Barefoot, I ran to an acre of land full of persimmon and apricot trees on our communal farm. My mom made a makeshift basket from her skirt as we picked each juicy piece of fruit.

In the kitchen, I helped her kneed the dough. Laughing with flour on my nose, she told me, “You are cute as a button.” The sweet smell of the apricot pie enveloped my senses. As a child, waiting for pie to finish baking seemed like an eternity.

The steam from the pie would swirl and spiral as my mom cut each slice. We would sit at our antique round cherry wood table with its lines and marks worn from meals being served for generations. I could hear the crackling of our wood-burning stove.

Now at the age of 41, I savor these childhood memories with my mother. I consider these moments with my mom priceless gifts.

As parents, the first few seconds we see our children open their eyes and scream in the delivery room, we finally have an understanding of the deep love and sacrifice our own parents made day after day.

The late nights. The meals cooked. The laundry. The cleaning. The bank accounts drained. The backbreaking jobs. The patience. Oh, good Lord, the patience my mother demonstrated.

Frankly, I wonder how she put up with me sometimes. Her open-minded, peace-loving attitude must have carried her through all those moments from a toddling terror, careless child, to terrifying teen. (I know it also didn’t hurt that she kept a bottle of Valium and a joint in the kitchen cabinet either).

Now that my parents are in their seventies, I am dreading the day my phone rings with “the news.” I gently tease my two little daughters that I am going to give them the “stop-growing pill.” Well, I want to give my parents the “stop-aging pill.”

I want to beg them not to go. They have given me so many gifts.

I thought of my parents’ mortality more recently when they came to visit. I had called them a few weeks ago in the hopes they could help me with a rather big project – a surprise garage makeover for my husband.

My parents (mostly my mom) love these types of design and remodel challenges. Additionally, they are now both retired so they have a bit more free time on their hands.

Seriously, we worked like dogs for three days organizing, moving, cleaning, purging, shopping, unloading, loading, scraping, boxing, hanging, hammering, climbing – and sometimes arguing.

Here was the end result:

Before

Before

After

After

After they left, I sat down in the garage. It was quiet and cold. Tears filled my eyes. It wasn’t because I had this well-organized half-man cave, half-playroom for my family.

It was the gift of love and time from my parents. They keep giving and loving without asking for anything in return.

No, we weren’t the Beaver-Cleaver Family growing up. But they loved me. They continue to give me so many gifts.

Just like my memories of baking apricot pies with my mom, I will always remember when my parents worked alongside me in my garage for three days.

In the quietness of the night, I confessed to my husband that I hope this is not their last act of love before they go…

In my heart, the moments I share with them are gifts to be cherished for a lifetime.

In closing, I’d like to share with you an excerpt from a post from a good blogger and writer friend of mine Molly Field, who discusses the mortality of her parents so poignantly in a recent post:

“Post 200. Be Present, Regret Nothing, Take Chances”

So being the only daughter and nearest my parents means this bowling ball inevitably will roll my way. I am a duckpin. In the corner. Number 10, hiding behind all the others and hoping that heavy, slow, lumbering Brunswick or AMF ball, its approach like thunder in the distance, will find its way into the gutter and not hit me, but I know it will. I am a member of the sandwich generation and the way I see it: you haven’t fully lived until you are.

When the time comes, when it gets intense and sad and truly inevitable (as if it isn’t already), my sibs will be on board; I know this. But no way you slice this: it’s going to be work…

I plan to take Molly’s advice and do just that. Be present, be here and work…after all, moments matter.

Do you have priceless memories you’d like to share of a special moment with your parent(s)? What acts of unconditional love do your parent(s) continue to demonstrate?

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#6 Fictional Friday: Leila & Keith…An Affair to Remember

Graphic designed by Kelly DeBie.

Graphic designed by Kelly DeBie.

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth fictional post in a continuation. The stories are written in chronological order, so I encourage you to begin with #1 before reading the post below.

#1 Fictional Friday: Her Billy
#2 Fictional Friday: Our Billy
#3 Fictional Friday: Letting Go of Billy
#4 Fictional Friday: Their Leila
#5 Fictional Friday: Leila & Keith…Rekindled

Will Keith come clean with the truth? Will Leila let Keith back in her heart again?

Sliding the shower door open, his lean, defined buttock with its muscular lines reflected in the mirror. He wrapped the towel around his waist. Looking in the steamed mirror, he could faintly read the words that Leila had written with her fingertip the day before: “I LOVE KEITH.”

The words seemed distant. Unreachable.

Slipping on some clothes, he flopped down on the hotel sofa. He stared at the ceiling. A familiar feeling of numbness settling.

Meanwhile, in the adjoining room, Leila continued to cry. Her eyelashes stuck together from the tears that flowed like an endless river.

Attempting to take her mind off the deep gash in her heart, she flipped on the television. One of their favorite, classic movies, “An Affair to Remember” was playing.

 

Deborah Kerr asked Cary Grant, “What makes life so difficult?” Cary Grant answered, “People.”

Watching this movie had reminded her of the steamed windows at the drive-in movie where she and Keith first watched the film. As teenagers old classic midnight movie nights were a favorite date for them.

But this night was special. This was the night she gave Keith all of herself. The night of their sensuous conception – an affair to remember.

The drive-in speaker hooked to the window blared more than just movie dialogue as the two became one, and later became three – inevitably changing their life course.

“We’re headed into a rough sea, Nickie,” said Kerr to Grant. “I know. We changed our course today,” Grant replied.

Meanwhile in the other room, Keith’s eyes slowly fluttered to the pounding waves. Just before entering a slumber, the cooing of the Zebra Doves outside  awoke him. The soft whispers of the doves led him to ponder  the meaning of hope and new beginnings.

He thought of the time where he had lost all hope…when he learned of the car crash that took his family that fateful day. The stinging words that began, “I am sorry to inform you that…”

“Oh, it’s nobody’s fault but my own! I was looking up…it was the nearest thing to heaven! You were there,” Kerr explained her accident to Grant.

The rest was a blur. He blamed himself for years. “Why them? Why not take me?”

As he had grown closer to Leila and Keith over the past year, though, he felt a sense of betrayal and guilt. Guilty for being happy. Betrayal to his wife Melissa and son Phillip.

But Leila and Billy gave him clarity. Gave him hope.

How could he begin to explain his past life to Leila? How would she and Billy understand? She has already been through so much.

Keith knew life was precious. After five years of being alone, he had located Leila through some basic online high school classmate searches. But then to see the boy that looked like his twin made him feel like he was being given a second chance.

“Winter must be very cold for those who have no memories to keep them warm, and we have already missed the spring,” said Kerr to Grant.

Keith would not miss spring either. Jumping up from the bed, he had decided to break his silence.

Leila heard a knock at her door. “It’s me, Keith. I need to tell you something. Please open the door.”

Walking toward the door, she heard the famous last lines in the movie: “If you can paint, I can walk. Anything can happen, right?” said Kerr to Grant.

She unlocked the door. She, too, would not miss spring.

——————————————————————————————————————————————-

Writing Prompt: Your character is drowsy, just about to drift off to sleep only to be roused because s/he spontaneously remembered an intense moment from his/her past with another love? It keeps her/him up all night, distracted the next day.

(So, I know the post did not match the prompt exactly, but I just had to tell the story as I envisioned it. I hope you enjoyed it!)

Please remember to check out my other Fiction Femmes! From romance, sci-fi, murder…they will keep you glued to your screen…

http://www.mollyfield.com

http://www.worldsworstmoms.com/

http://www.bulamamani.com/fiction-femmes-fatales-2/

http://susannenelson.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/friday-fiction-6-facebook-envy/

http://www.itsadomelife.com/

http://www.debiehive.blogspot.com/2013/02/fiction-friday-challenge-episode-six.html

http://neargenius1.blogspot.com/
http://the-suds-box.blogspot.ca/

http://www.quirkychrissy.com/2013/02/08/fiction-friday-2/

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