Moments Matter

Friday Fiction #10: Danny Boy – Perfect Lemonade

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Editor’s Note: This is the final in a fictional series entitled “Danny Boy.” To catch up with the entire series, you can read these in chronological order:

Fiction Friday #1: Danny Boy – Promises Broken
Fiction Friday #2: Danny Boy – Moving Up the Ranks
Fiction Friday #3: Danny Boy – Redemption
Fiction Friday #4: Danny Boy – For Viv
Fiction Friday #5: Danny Boy – Outside the Lines
Fiction Friday #6: Danny Boy – Until We Meet Again
Fiction Friday #7: Danny Boy – Making Mother Proud
Fiction Friday #8: Danny Boy – Eyes Wide Open

Fiction Friday #9: Danny Boy – Rewriting His Story

The yellow petals rained down around him. His eyes focused on the rich green grass and crystal blue sky. He noticed an illuminating white light around each image so vivid and crisp. Danny lifted his head only to see a woman walking away. Her sheer white dress flowed as she strolled barefoot through a bed of flowers. He recognized the curly red hair.

With an outstretched hand, he reached for her. She kept walking toward the light of the grassy fields. It was as if she was alone. But she wasn’t.

She was at peace.

He tasted a familiar sourness in his mouth, and spit out a piece of lemon seed. Holding the seed in his hand, he flashed to the kitchen of his home.

Slowly walking, he cradled the lemons towards the kitchen while a few dropped to the floor. With a cigarette dangling from her mouth, his mother cut the lemon in half, and handed it to Danny. Gripping the lemon, he twisted each half on the glass juicer. Admiring his work, Danny lifted the squeezed lemon. He noticed the juice, seeds and shreds of lemon.

“Look, ma! I made lemon juice,” he said, smiling up at her. “Good boy, Danny,” she praised, peering over, and then taking a swig of rosé wine. The two continued the process of cutting and juicing. And, the final touches of adding sugar and mixing in a large glass pitcher. With table, signs, cups and cold lemonade in hand, seven-year-old Danny was ready for business.

On the sweltering day in the upscale neighborhood on the outskirts of Las Vegas, customers were few and far between. A few neighborhood kids stopped by on their bicycles for a quick five-cent aperitif. Later in the afternoon, a couple local cops who patrol the neighborhood (and who know his father intimately) bought a few cups of lemonade. When out of eyeshot, they took a taste of the sour concoction and quickly tossed the lemonade into the bushes.

The highlight of Danny’s selling day, though, was when his Dad cruised up in the all black 1957 Lincoln Continental larger than life. “Hey, Danny Boy! How much for a cold cup?” his father boomed. Danny’s heart raced at his biggest, most important customer yet. “Uh, yep, Dad, uh, five cents a cup, or five cups for twenty-five cents,” Danny quipped.

Getting out of his car in a dark blue pin-stripped suit and coordinating magenta tie, Jimmy’s shiny black patent leather shoes slid gracefully across the sidewalk. His wide shoulders towered over the selling stand. Danny nervously filled the paper cups. Jimmy read Danny’s handmade cardboard sign: “5¢ Dilishish Cold Lemonade.”

Jimmy admired the sign, and his young son’s entrepreneurial drive. But of course, he couldn’t go without offering a trademark Dougan “business tip.” “You know, son, if you had a cute little girl out here with a short skirt, you’d be rolling in the dough,” Jimmy said.

Danny looked down, and then heard the window slam behind him. His mother had probably heard the wisecrack from her philandering Irish mobster husband. His father then slipped a crisp $50 bill in the glass money jar. “Good job, kid,” said his father, patting Danny on the top of his head.

Danny remembers that day as one of the few good “normal” days with Viv and Jimmy. The day of lemons, love and light.

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

“Danny, Danny! Wake up, son!” the voice called. Danny could hear a loud clanking. Through the fogginess, his eyes fluttered open. He could see the arm of his father chained to the side of the bed railing in a single handcuff.

“Oh, thank God, son,” Jimmy said, carefully making the sign of the cross with his free hand.

“I saw her, Dad. Up there in heaven,” Danny said. “She’s in heaven. Mom is there,” he said. With tears in his eyes, he began to sob uncontrollably.

“Oh, Danny. I know why you tried to do it. But you’ll burn for it, son…for killing yourself. You understand?” Jimmy said. “You tried to do right, son…” he trailed.

“Time to go back, Jimmy,” the guard ordered, slapping the other handcuff on his forearm.

“I love you, Danny Boy,” his father said, while being led away to his new home on death row.

“I love you too,” said Danny.

Moments later the nurse came in to check his vitals. “Can I get you anything, Mr. Dougan?” she said. Danny thought for a moment.

“Do you have any lemonade?” he asked. “I could go for a cold cup right now,” he said.

——————————————————————————————————————————

That was the final in the “Danny Boy” series. I’ve grown attached to Danny, Jimmy and Viv these past few months. I hope you have enjoyed reading as much as I’ve enjoyed the storytelling. I will be taking a bit of fictional writing break this summer. However, I will continue to post non-fiction to my blog a couple times a week. I really need to get back to focusing on my book, and other projects in the works over the next few months. I thank you for continuing to read my fiction. I may even consider turning this into an e-book at some point for those that like to read in a book format vs. blog post format.

Writing Prompt: “If life gives you lemons, don’t settle for simply making lemonade – make a glorious scene at a lemonade stand.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

Your character was given lemons, now paint their amazing lemonade stand. Tell us the story of their darkness, their light. Write the story.

Friday Fiction Friends used the same prompt, so please check out:

Tammy at Worlds Worst Moms

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Commemorating Memorial Day: The Threads of America

Editor’s Note: As we commemorate and acknowledge our service men, women and families for their sacrifices this Memorial Day, I cannot help but share a speech entitled “Threads of America.” I delivered the speech by memory in front of 3,000 people in September 1990 (Kuwait War was in progress) as a freshman in college. Now, more than 13 years have passed, and my heart feels the same sense of gratitude and love for those that continue to protect and serve. We are forever grateful. I especially thank my father, Karl, who served in the Army during the battles of Vietnam. I love you, Dad.IMG_0573

Think of a giant American Flag representing the United States. Imagine each thread, every fiber of that flag represents one person. Each thread sewn together gives the flag a unique texture. Each fiber weaves into another creating a pattern of courage, love, respect, death, grief…The diversity of the flag is what makes it more than just a cloth, it represents what we all strive for: INDEPENDENCE AND FREEDOM. Words from our history books offer glimpses into facts, data, accomplishments, but we can never truly know what it is like to be on the field of battle. Nevertheless, we can pay tribute to those who lay their lives on the line for our freedom. Our forefathers cut out the pattern for our lives’ paths. We must keep in mind that the changes and alterations we make are sometimes unchangeable. We must make our decisions cautiously, and we must learn from our mistakes, because the scars left from ripping the seams of our Great Nation can be forever permanent.

Happy Memorial Day and God Bless.

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Fiction Friday #9: Danny Boy – Rewriting His Story

Lovely logo design by Kelly Debie.

Lovely logo design by Kelly Debie.

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in a fictional series entitled “Danny Boy.” To catch up with the entire series, you can read these in chronological order:

Fiction Friday #1: Danny Boy – Promises Broken
Fiction Friday #2: Danny Boy – Moving Up the Ranks
Fiction Friday #3: Danny Boy – Redemption
Fiction Friday #4: Danny Boy – For Viv
Fiction Friday #5: Danny Boy – Outside the Lines
Fiction Friday #6: Danny Boy – Until We Meet Again
Fiction Friday #7: Danny Boy – Making Mother Proud
Fiction Friday #8: Danny Boy – Eyes Wide Open

Dear Danny,

I know it’s hard to be in the slammer, but you did it all to yourself. You could have had it all. The whore of a woman you called your mother – she was an accident. I used to think she was so worthless. Then I’d look at you. You were my Danny Boy. Now I see that all these years, you were just like her. After hearing you on the stand the other week, I knew you were not a true man. You were never a Dougan.

Jimmy

A single crocodile-sized tear fell to the letter. Even though Danny hated his father, he also loved him. How could he have feelings of love for such a monster?

Wiping his eyes, Danny remembered the story he overheard his father tell one night while at Dougan’s Pub. With a cigar and bottomless whiskey in one hand, Jimmy told his story of sadness, pain and vulnerability for the first and only time…

Jimmy felt the rock poke his back. He wiggled, tossed and turned.

“Quit you’re moving around, Jimmy!” yelled his father, Frank. Seven-year-old Jimmy pulled the cover over his head, and then defiantly stuck his tongue out at his father. “Marianna, get in here! I need the hot water for the mix!” he screamed.

Jimmy continued to hide under the patched quilt that was woven by his Grandmother Irene from their mother country of Ireland. This was one of the few cherished family items brought over by boat when Jimmy was a baby.

The sound of the train shook the empty whisky bottles. Jimmy’s mother finally threw open the door of the tent. Jimmy caught a glimpse of her swollen ankles out of the corner of his eye. Under the blanket, the heat of the fire made him sweat. His mom quietly shuffled across the dirt floor while his father grunted around the whiskey still like a mad scientist.

Like the fire, Jimmy could sense the tension between the two. “Why the fuuuuck did you bring me this metal pot, Marianna? It’s too small,” he slurred, pushing the boiling water towards her round, bulging stomach. And then, in almost perfect harmony, his mother’s shrills and Jimmy’s screams filled the tent echoing past the railroad tracks to neighboring houses.

The rest was a blur except for faint memories of holding his mother’s trembling hands while she was carried away on a hospital gurney with severe burns to her abdomen. Jimmy had big plans for him and his new brother, Aiden. He would teach him marbles and jacks, and after school they could play kick the can and stickball.

But those hopes and dreams vanished. His mother did her best to reassure him. “Oh, my boy, Aiden is now in heaven with Grandmother Irene, ” she said.

That night, his father drank himself into oblivion. As little Jimmy cried himself to sleep, he vowed to be a rich, successful businessman. He would never live the life of a poor, drunken Irish immigrant.

By the tender age of 10, he began his mob career beating up kids for their lunch and pocket change. By age 16, he joined the ranks of his Uncle Bobby Dougan’s Gang of Irish mobsters. And by age 20, Jimmy had successfully run and managed a fairly sophisticated ring of cons, scams and rackets in Boston, and surrounding neighborhoods.

Now, staring at the handwritten letter from his father, Danny crinkled up the paper into a ball and tossed it to the floor. “Jimmy became exactly who he wanted to be,” said Danny to himself in his cell. “You wrote the story, be a man and own it. And now, Pop, I’m writing my own story,” he said. Humming the melody of his mother’s favorite song, “Danny Boy,” he tightly cinched the bed sheet in a noose.

DANNY BOY
Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side,
The summer’s gone, and all the flowers are dying
It’s you, It’s you, must go and I must bide.
But come ye back, when summer’s on the mountain
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow,
It’s I’ll be here, in sunshine or in shadow,
Oh Danny Boy, Oh Danny Boy, I love you so.
But should you come, when all the flower’s are dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be,
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an Ave there for me.
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me
And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be
If you’ll not fail to tell me that you love me
Then I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.

whooooh. dark. once again. loved writing this stuff. this time around i really got into the some of the historical background of the Irish immigrants, but wish i could add more. hope you enjoyed it. i am not sure if Danny is coming back. i guess i will figure that out next week.

Writing prompt this week was provided by lovely and talented Molly Field: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.” — Anne Lamott

Friday Fiction Friends! Want to read some more fiction for the weekend? Curl up and check out these writers, who have put their hearts into their pieces with their own take on the same writing prompt:

http://katbiggie.com/friday-fiction-friends-part-8/#sthash.x2UTkCWw.!tpo.uxfs

http://www.bulamamani.com/

http://worldsworstmoms.com

http://debiehive.blogspot.com/2013/05/fiction-friday-challenge-be-nice-or-ill.html

http://www.mollyfield.com

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Q&A With Mom About Part D Medicare – A Better Chance at Living

Editor’s Note: This is the final of a two-part sponsored post about Medicare Part D brought to you by Walgreens. As I mentioned in my first post entitled Part D Medicare: Buying Time With Loved Ones, this is an important message – especially to children of elderly parents, or grandparents. As a daughter of parents in their 70s, this Question & Answer (Q&A) sheds light about how my mother’s perspective of medical care was shaped during her lifetime; and her concerns about future care.

My mom (front second to left) with her family during the 1950s in rural New Mexico. Her mother and father in the back row, older brother (far left) and youngest brother Ronnie (far right).

My mom (front second to left) with her family during the 1950s in rural New Mexico. Her mother and father in the back row, older brother (far left) and youngest brother Ronnie (far right).

Clearly Kristal (CK) talked via phone with her MOM about healthcare/medical care and its role during her life, including the past, present and future…

CK: Tell me a bit about where and when you grew up?
MOM: I grew up in New Mexico during the 1950s in a rural area. Our house was a Spanish style home with a flat roof and poles sticking out. There were about 500 people in our town. I remember a blue mirror above our fireplace mantle. We had hardwood floors and a tiled kitchen. I remember my mom bought a tile floor cleaner that was expensive. To pay for the appliance, she charged neighbors to use it on their floors until it paid for itself.

CK: What was the healthcare like back then?
MOM: The nearest hospital was a 40-minute drive. We didn’t have a doctor in our town. I remember getting basic shots like the small pox shot. Or, you went to the doctor when you were sick. But that’s about it. When my mother went into labor with my younger brother (Ronnie), my dad left to bring the doctor back. My dad came back 15 minutes later, and Ronnie was coming out feet first. Some of his brain cells were dead, and he was born with spastic paralysis (to his legs) and mental retardation. He was the sweetest person ever, and that’s why we moved to California. We wanted to find a state that helped take care of special people like Ronnie.

CK: What is your philosophy on medical care – from early diagnosis, prevention, to treatment and recovery?
MOM: We’ve come along way when it comes to medical care. When I was 16, my mom had a cancerous brain tumor. I think she could have been cured because of technology now. I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in the 1980s, and they now have a cure and drug to fight the disease. I also have my grandmother’s bad knees. I just had knee replacement surgery. In the old days, you would have never had a new knee. You would be given a wheelchair. We now have a better chance at living.

CK: What are your concerns as an aging adult when it comes to healthcare/medical care?
MOM: I’m afraid of Medicare being cut. I’ve heard rumors that the new healthcare system from Obama will have a panel that determines if you will get healthcare and certain procedures depending on your age and health condition. I hope they don’t assume we’re not a productive part of society, and we’re just old. I hope this doesn’t happen. (Interviewee takes deep sigh)

My mom enjoying retirement by traveling with my dad and her dog, Taco.

My mom enjoying retirement by traveling with my dad and her dog, Taco.

CK: What advice would you give your own children when it comes to caring for elderly or aging parents?
MOM: Thanks for the ‘aging and elderly’ parents question, Kristal! (chuckles; then serious tone in voice returns). It’s a hard thing to say. You really need to have some type of an income, or long-term care insurance or plan. In-home care is also expensive. It’s an open-ended problem. Talking about it is a good first step I think.

CK: What do you know about Medicare Part D costs and plans?
MOM: I hadn’t really heard much about it until you mentioned it to me. I did ask a few of my friends, who had heard about it. I think it is good we take care of people to an extent. The government pays a tremendous amount of money towards caring for people. And, as workers we have also paid into the system. As a Medicare recipient, I have never had anything turned away. I don’t need to skimp on my medications now. Medicare is the best insurance in the world.

CK: Anything else you’d like to add, Mom?
MOM: That’s it? Goodnight, Kristal. I love you.
CK: I love you too. Goodnight, Mom.

WalgreensALT FINALMore About Medicare Part D and How it May Help Improve Quality of Life

▪ According to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, in 2012 there were over 31.5 million people enrolled in Medicare Part D and the findings of a new Walgreens survey showed that more than one-third of Medicare Part D beneficiaries (37 percent) surveyed have daily concerns about their prescription drug costs and one in five say they’ve had to make sacrifices, such as delaying filling a prescription or skipping doses, to help manage medication costs.

▪ Using a preferred network pharmacy, if one is offered by the Part D plan, can potentially save beneficiaries hundreds of dollars each year on prescription co-pay costs. Yet, only 21 percent of respondents switched to a pharmacy within their plan’s preferred network as a way to save, and one-fourth (24 percent) are unaware of whether their plan offers a preferred pharmacy option.

▪ Walgreens, which is in the network of hundreds of Medicare prescription drug plans and participates in the preferred networks of four national Part D sponsors, offers savings of up to 75 percent on prescription co-pays over select pharmacies for a number of plans in which it is a preferred pharmacy.

▪ Walgreens You’re Worth Savings initiative aims to educate Medicare beneficiaries about cost saving opportunities and how to get the most from their health plan with three easy steps that can help Medicare Part D beneficiaries save as much as 75 percent on prescription drug costs:

1. Review your Medicare Part D plan

2. Talk to a Walgreens pharmacist about cost concerns and ways you might be able to save

3. Compare co-pay and other costs against your current plan and pharmacy

Have you begun the conversation with your parents about their long-term care and medical care? If so, how’d it go? If not, what’s holding you back? Have you had a chance to compare medicare part d plans? Here are some tips from a previous post about how to jumpstart the conversation: Plan Now & Be Prepared: Tips for Caring for Elderly Parents.

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An Important Repost: Saved Again

Like most evenings, my husband and I relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company. The warm summer breeze flowed, and the sound of crickets filled our cottage home. I heard the familiar “bing” on my iPhone, and took a quick peek at the headline of a local breaking news story, which read: “Man Convicted of Molesting Two Girls.”

While my daughters slept warm in their beds, I read the horrors detailing this monster’s crime at the same park my girls climb, jump and play. Carefree.

A few weeks ago, when hearing about the Ohio Kidnapping case, I had thought briefly of my near childhood abduction. But I pushed the thoughts from my head. In a sad, ironic twist while writing this post, this flashed on the news: “Girl Escapes Brazen Kidnapping at Barnes & Noble.” The same bookstore I frequent with my two little angels.

So here, once again, I was facing the issue of missing and exploited children with tears in my eyes. Not for me. But for these children. It goes without saying to keep your children close. Talk with them. Teach them. Be vigilant, alert.

Here is my story entitled: “Saved Again.”

Crouching down, I looked towards the waves while my feet sunk in the wet beach sand. I heard a voice call from a distance. It was a strange man.

He walked towards me slowly. He had long, scraggly hair. I noticed he wore only a white bed sheet tied around the lower half of his body.

Photo attribution: Flickr by Mike Baird.

Photo attribution: Flickr by Mike Baird.

He instructed me, very specifically to walk towards him by taking “10 big steps.” I stood up and inched forward counting in my head. Paralyzed by fear.

Suddenly, I could hear my mom calling me for dinner.

“Saved,” I thought.

He followed after me. I hid in the camper of my dad’s truck under a blanket. I would peek out my head occasionally. The evil in his eyes told me only one thing: he wanted to take me and do bad things. I knew this at the age of eight.

No Fear
I thought of my attempted abduction while watching my daughter in Karate class earlier this week. She was learning self defense, and how to fend off a stranger abduction.

My stomach turned as I watched her twisting, wriggling, punching and spinning away from evil (mock attacker). Looking through the glass window at her struggling drove home the reality that she could be taken from me and bad things could happen to her.

I want her to be strong and smart. I don’t ever want her to feel that same paralyzing fear.

It also reminded me of how close I came to being taken. How close I was to evil.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
My story of almost being abducted ended happily. But, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, nearly 800,000 children younger than 18 are missing each year, or an average of 2,185 children are reported missing each day.

We’ve all had those moments in a store when we look a way for a minute, and BAM, your child is gone. The panic as a parent is horrific.

When talking to your kids, Nancy A. McBride, National Safety Director
 National Center for Missing & Exploited Children offers some important coaching words.

Tell them to:

  • Stay put and do not wander away from where they first became lost. Staying where they are increases children’s chances of being found unless that place becomes too dangerous because of severe weather or another potentially threatening situation. In that case children need to go to the nearest safe spot and wait for rescuers.
  • Make noise either by yelling, blowing a whistle, or attracting attention in some other way. This may help bring someone to their rescue.

Say these once to your children. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

The End of My Story
My story of almost being taken did not end with me hiding under a blanket, though.

First, my father called the police to report the incident immediately.

My dad, having connections in law enforcement learned the man was recently released from prison and was a convicted child molester.

Years later as an adult when talking to my dad about what happened, he revealed that after dropping us off at home, he went back out in the dark and found the man at the beach laundromat.

My dad being a man of few words, a “Gran Torino” vigilante of sorts explained: “I took his manhood. That’s one of the worst things you can take from a man, Kristal.” (Note: My dad did not physically harm the scum bucket, more mental intimidation, if you will).

Ironically, I felt a sense of relief and comfort after learning the end of the story. I prayed that this monster never had the opportunity to harm any child again.

For me, I thought: “Saved again.”

Have you spoken with your children about the dangers of strangers? Do you have a system of communication in case they become lost in a store, or other public place?

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