Saturday, July 31, 2010

Contagious Compliments

I stopped to do my grocery shopping on my way home from work last night.  Nothing unusual about that.  I do it every Friday. 

When I got in the store, I grabbed my cart and started fishing through my purse, trying to extract my shopping list. That's when I heard a female voice saying "You look lovely." I looked up to see a smiling young woman, holding a large grocery-store-bouquet of flowers in her arm like a beauty queen. She was speaking to an elderly woman who had just happened to walk past her. The older woman answered with a rather surprised "Thank you."  Obviously they didn't know each other.

I smiled to myself thinking, "Not your usual grocery-store exchange."  That's when I heard the young woman's voice directed at me.  "I like your jeans," she said.  "And your sandals are cute too."  Oh.  This is a little strange...and uncomfortable.  "Thank you," I said and began pushing my cart down the aisle. When I walked past her again, she told me, "Oh, I didn't see your necklace before. It's beautiful."

As I walked away, I heard the now familiar voice offering compliments to other shoppers.  This young woman was finding beauty in every person she saw and was openly sharing it with them. 

Maybe she was conducting some kind of social experiment and was noting our stunned reactions.  Or maybe she truly was taking the time to notice the positive in others and wanting them to see it also.

I'll never know her reasoning.  I don't have to. What I do know is that in those few moments, I saw a smiling young woman bridge the gap between complete strangers by offering them an unexpected compliment.  At first, it felt strange, almost intrusive. 

But as I continued my shopping, I noticed I was offering a smile and a little more eye contact with my fellow shoppers.  And somewhere inside, it felt good.

Maybe this was the simple secret this young woman wanted to remind us of:  It just feels good to be nice to others.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Risk - No Longer a Four Letter Word

What words do you think your children will remember you saying to them?  Do you send them out the door with a special saying?  I think my kids will remember me asking "Do you have a coat with you?" whenever they walked out the door.  Hmmm...maybe I could have come up with something a little more inspiring. :-(

I was talking with my friend, Jody, the other day. She is the mother of two small children.  Somehow we got on the topic of the values we want to pass on to our children and how those values had first been passed on to us by our own parents. 

With most of her child rearing days still ahead of her, Jody was telling me of some of the things she and her husband want to instill in their children while they are still young. She said that one of the things they tell their kids every day when they drop them off at child care is "Take a risk today."

I was stunned by the wisdom in that simple sentence.  There is an implied, yet clearly understood support that underwrites those words.  In encouraging their children to "take a risk,"  Jody and her husband are saying it's okay to reach beyond what is comfortable and known. That it's a good thing to do, even if they fail. And should they fail, mom and dad will be right there to support them.  What a marvelous gift! 

One of my favorite movies is "You've Got Mail."  I've watched that movie countless times, and there is one scene that always stops me cold.  Kathleen Kelly is describing her life to Joe Fox in an email. This is what she writes:  "Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around?"

Shouldn't it?  I think so.  I remember my mother telling me that I was "always a cautious child." I've
always chosen safety over bravery, security over risk. And because of that, I've missed out on so much. 

Yet in the past couple of years...after watching my children grab hold of life with both hands and embrace risk... I have begun to stretch myself.  It is often in small ways. Ways that others might not notice or even consider a "risk."  But I know.  And I know that it requires me to be a little braver than I like to be.  And I'm happy to say, I can see where it's making a difference.

My daughter shared a saying with me that I have posted at my desk at work.  I read it often. It says,  "To live without risk, is to risk not living."   I think I'll try to follow Jody's advice and "Take a risk today."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pushing Buttons

The other morning, I was changing the radio station in my car as I drove to work.  I do that alot.  When the DJs on one station start jabbering for too long, I'm quick to punch the button for another station that, hopefully, will be playing some good tunes.

That got me thinking.  What do the radio stations that I have pre-programmed in my car say about me?  Ever thought about that?  If a stranger was to get in your car and punch the buttons on your radio, what would they know about you?

Actually, I think my radio station choices make me look pretty well-rounded. The far left button, starts out with some country music. I started listening to country when I got my little Ford Focus about five years ago.  It happened kind of by default.  My old car only had five radio buttons, but the Focus has six. So suddenly, I had room for one more station, and country won out.

Next to country is a talk radio station.  That one ended up there by mistake.  Originally, it was an Oldies station, but then one day I punched the button and it had changed to all talk radio. I would change it but that would require me to dig out the instructions book to figure out how to re-program the button.  So far, that hasn't happened. 

Next to the "too-much-talk" station there is the "light jazz" station.  That one is totally a token station for when my husband drives the car.  I'm not too into the jazz; the songs never seem to end, but he likes it. And like I said before, I don't know how to re-program the button. *smile*

After the jazz comes a little classical music.  It's soothing when the traffic gets bad and I need to chill.  And then comes the Christian radio station. I hit that button so often that the number is actually worn off of it.  The final button takes me to the easy listening, contemporary station.

That's pretty much it.  My life in music genres. Since I rarely listen to music except when I'm in my car, it's nice to know that it's all there at my fingertips.  And then, of course, there's my CD player...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Secret No More!

Okay. Here it is. I've kept it in for a month. But it's a secret no more! I'm going to be a grandma!

My son, David, and daughter-in-law, Monika, found out on Father's Day (how appropriate!) that they were going to have their first baby. They wanted to keep it hush-hush until after the first doctor's appointment which wasn't for a few weeks.

So for the past month, I've had to keep it zipped. I'm good with secrets. Really I am. But this one just about did me in. After all, I've waited for a long time to have the title of Grandma bestowed on me by someone other than a little boy at Ross.

Now we are counting down to February. There's even the possibility that baby could share my birthday or my husband's birthday. But hopefully, the sweet little one will have its very own birthday.

With a grandbaby on the way, not to mention my daughter's wedding, I'd better look at getting a second job. Baby showers and bridal showers don't come cheap!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Words from the Past

We had a leak in our laundry room this weekend that resulted in the need to pull out a whole lot of "stuff" to get to it. Once my handyman husband had it fixed (thank you, honey!) I started sorting through boxes that hadn't been touched in years.

That's when I came across a folder that had the acceptance letter for my first...okay only...short story that I've ever sold, as well as a copy of the check I received for it. Thirty-seven dollars and fifty cents. That's what they paid me. And it felt like a million bucks!

As I looked through the folder, I also found several "thanks-but-no-thanks" letters for various other things I had written and submitted.

It's funny, when I read these things now, it almost feels like someone else wrote them. There have been a lot of years of living since those words spilled out on those pages.

But while I have changed in many ways, I still recognize myself in much of it, especially in the poetry. I'm not sure if that is good, or bad, or simply the way life works.

I wrote the following poem many years ago, but I think I needed to read it again today.


this path you've chosen for me
is awfully rough at times.

Even with You at my side,
my progress is marked by a
constant succession of scabby knees
and bruised shins...
souvenirs of the tumbles
I've taken.

But if You stay with me,
I'll continue to get up and start again
because I know that each step
I take with You,
brings me that much closer
to heavenly ground.

So, Jesus,
if you see too many
scabs and bruises healing,
give me a nudge.
Maybe I've been sitting
and resting too long.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer At Last

Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest! Last week we set records for some mighty hot days. And while it has cooled down a little, it finally feels like summer is here to stay for a bit.

I've enjoyed the warmth and the special feel that only summer brings. But it's also made me a bit nostalgic. During the past couple of days, I've thought about some of my childhood summers and the things that I miss. For instance:

Summer dinners comprised of only fresh corn on the cob, picked just minutes before from my dad's garden.

Helping my mother can everything from pickles to pears.

Playing frozen tag outside with the neighbor kids after dinner.

Babydoll pajamas.

The smell of freshly mowed grass coming through the window of our basement bedroom.

My mother's giant bowls of potato salad, macaroni salad, and shrimp salad.

Eating juicy wedges of watermelon while sitting on the back patio steps.

The smell and taste of sun-warmed raspberries that had a way of ending up in my mouth instead of in the baskets as we picked them in the early morning sun.

Camping trips to the ocean every year where we had a blast digging razor clams.

Listening to the sound of my parents' voices outside by the campfire and the crackling of the fire while my sisters and I tried to go to sleep in the tent...usually with little success.

Anticipating the return of my grandparents who spent their summers in Kodiak, Alaska as cooks for the fishermen and the trip to the airport to pick them up.

Staying up "late"... as in 8:30...since we didn't have to get up for school in the morning.

And probably, most of all, the absolute innocence of the times, knowing that my parents could do anything!

It was all a very long time ago. But that's the good thing about sweet memories; I can call them up at anytime and it's like they happened just yesterday!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Say "Yes" to the Dress...But Which One?

Well, the quest for the perfect wedding dress has begun! With two days of shopping and three bridal shops behind us, my daughter, Elizabeth, and I are no longer quite the wedding gown novices we once were.

So far, the problem hasn't been not being able to find anything we like. Quite the opposite. We've found more than one dress that could "be the one." And the fact that she looks gorgeous in just about all of them, makes it even harder! I wonder how difficult it would be to get Randy from "Say Yes to the Dress" to come and help us decide.

Right now, we have two top contenders. Of course, these are not the same top two contenders that we had found after the first day of shopping. NOOO! Day two helped us eliminate one of the original dresses, only to be replaced by another gown.

So now, we're doing the split screen thingy. We bring up the picture of the first gown on the computer and then the picture of the second gown and compare the two. And yep...they're both beautiful!

The next step is to bring in the friends and family to check out the two dresses. I have my doubts about this actually helping in the decision-making, but I suppose it's all part of the process.

Elizabeth and I have talked about checking out another shop this week. I can't help but think that we'd only be asking for trouble. I mean, do we really need MORE choices? I just don't know.

But, I will do whatever my bride-daughter wants to do. Afterall, she is my only daughter and I've enjoyed every minute of this experience with her. So...bring on the shopping! And if push comes to shove, I've got a quarter in my wallet that we can toss!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July!

God Bless America!