Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Older Woman

I whipped around the roundabout in Sedona and took the exit that turns off into the nursing home where my friend, Betty, lives.  She and I laugh together about everyday life.  Betty has an engaging way of tilting her head to the side and smiling as we discuss baseball, family and purses.  Betty loves my purses.  She especially likes the ones that are colorful and have sequins.  I like to brighten her day with samples of homemade sweets and greeting cards.  Recently I designed a card for her with hopes to tickle her funny bone.

Betty showed me her new CD player during my visit.  It sits next to her recliner chair and oxygen machine.  She turned it on and set the volume high as we listened to Cracklin Rosie by Neil Diamond.  “Isn’t he wonderful, honey?”  Betty asked.

I told her he’s one of my favorites too.  “What does that mean ‘store bought woman’?” Betty asked. 

I explained to Betty he’s singing about a bottle of wine that he spent the night with…his store bought woman. 

“Oh, o.k. . . . . How old is he, honey?”   She had me there.  Could his age be 71?  We looked to Google and learned Neil turned 75!  Betty, at 94, joked that he’s too young for her!

“Cheer up, Betty, lots of guys these days go for older women,”   I teased.

Betty told me she has other CD’s, but she only listens to Neil.  I told Betty about the wedding anniversary in Phoenix one year when I attended Neil’s concert with my husband.  I told her how wonderful he sounds in person.  “He is a showman, Betty, and works hard on stage belting out all his former hits.  He loves his audience.”  She hung on my every word!

When I left Betty’s room, I sat in my car contemplating our friendship.  Somewhere in her long life wisdom showed her the way to love people, appreciate things and endure hardships.  Clearly she is aging and looking very tired.  Her example teaches me that though the physical body wears out, the spirit stays strong.  Every new day is a gift.

After my visit, I enjoyed making a homemade card for Betty.  On the front of the white pressed linen card stock, I glued a black and white picture of Neil Diamond.   I wrote inside how much I love her and the how the joy inside her bounces off to me.  

Oh to be able to see her face when the mail came to her room!  Then, again, maybe it’s a simple pleasure for her to reflect on her favorite singer who brightens her listening hours while she reads words from a friend who thinks she’s delightful!

I realize it’s the little everyday things in life that matter most.  

And thank you, Neil Diamond, for entertaining an old gal.  Make that two old gals! 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Promised Land of Cabo

The world of sales reminds me of fishing.  Salesmen live on the adrenaline of reeling in a sale.  When they get enough of them, they earn a reward or a plaque or a trip or all three!

After check-in at the posh Phoenix resort, I attended the first event on my agenda.  The noisy hospitality room erupted with cheerful conversations.  I collected happy hugs from co-workers from the company’s numerous locations.  Off to the ballroom, we enjoyed an elegant dinner along with a presentation of sales awards. 

The company thanked us for our talent and enthusiasm in selling their homes.  A new year of sales competition began and a reward would dangle in our midst like a lure at the end of a fishing line.

 “Who wants to go to Cabo San Lucas?  The Vice President asked a room full of cheering, intoxicated men and women.

I slept well in the luxurious resort that night.  The hotel catered a breakfast buffet for our group the next morning.  Rested and full, we left for the conference room eager for the unveiling of our company’s newest changes. 

My boss grabbed my arm and asked me to walk with him.  We got to the halfway point when his cell phone rang.  He held up one finger, sign language for me to wait.  I browsed in the gift shop to give the man privacy amusing myself with floppy beach hats.  Then I saw it.  Oh, my, I must take that maxi sun dress off the display rack and at least hold it up in front of the mirror.

I could not hide my pleasure of its perfect color and style.  

The boss beckoned me and I quickly returned the gorgeous showpiece to the rack.  At his side again, he commanded:  “Go back in there and buy that dress.  I’ll pay for it.”

“I don’t like it that much,” I lied, adding the way hotel gift shops mark up their dresses over 300%. 

Oh, I could have let him buy me the dress but I reasoned that he would weave the expense into extra charges on commission sheets somehow chipping away at my paychecks. 

But what if he thought the dress looked good too?   I will never know now will I?

Window shopping only teases what I wish could materialize.

Do you ever wonder if Moses felt like he window shopped with God?   In Deuteronomy, Chapter 32, Father God takes Moses to the scenic point.  “Look at the lush promised land, my reward for my people,” Father speaks.  “But not for you, Moses.” 

Over and over again in the Old Testament the message repeats:

Obey God and you inherit a blessing.  Disobey, and you get zip.

The concept works everywhere especially in the marketplace.  I worked hard that year and learned the Promised Land, Cabo San Lucas, hints of paradise!

I should have let him buy me that gorgeous sundress! 

The Resort

I love this with the family on the beach in the background!

Living life on the ledge!  Don't back up.

Look who I picked up in the Copacabana!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Final Chapter

Are you like me when you join a new group of people? Do you navigate the crowd wondering where you fit in the best?  I felt insecure when I joined Word Weavers, a Christian writing group in our town.  Liz and Tony welcomed me with their accepting smiles.  It meant a lot.

I sat with Liz in a small critique group one week.  I leaned in close so we could share a writer’s paper together.  She mentioned she would passively kick back and listen because she felt sick that day.  Tony kept his eye on her walking over with a plate of cookies and a hug for his wife.  But Liz did not eat.

Last week, Liz passed away.  I attended the memorial service where I learned that Liz was a dreamer and fought for her dreams up to the very end!  Liz’s dream, her third book Jamie, came true.  The publisher approved her manuscript and moved heaven and earth to get the story printed in book form and delivered to Liz.  Encouraging family and friends surrounded the bedside and watched Liz clutch her book to her breast as she whispered: “I hope this book brings healing and forgiveness to all who read it.”

My Words are like Silver Boxes with a Bow on Top.

Years ago I listened to an inspiring message by Florence Littauer called Silver Boxes.   The heart of the message, from Ephesians 4:29, teaches that our words have power and meaning.  We choose!  Will we encourage others with our uplifting words or put them down with our negative ones? Florence suggested we view our encouraging words as a gift placed in a silver box wrapped with a bow.  

My favorite part of Florence’s message teaches me that dreams come true, but not easily.  When others invest in our dream by encouraging us not to give up but keep believing, we all celebrate the prize.  That’s what happened for Liz.

Today I weigh my words.  May they be full of encouragement to those around me.  May my words be like a silver box with a bow on top given as a present so that those lives I touch may never die with their dream still inside of them.

What do you dream about?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mama's Lipstick

I always wished I could do things with my mom like shop in the mall, share makeup secrets or go to the movies and watch romantic comedies.  My wish never materialized.   My mama behaved like a tomboy.  She loved baseball and pitched with a strong right arm.  She could care less about the latest fashion or the latest movies featured on the big screen.  She never polished her fingernails.  

One day after elementary school, I walked into the house to find my mom all dolled up in front of the bathroom mirror, foundation crème, powder, eyebrow pencil and rouge all over the counter sink.  “Who are you?” I asked, thrilled to see my mama putting on the Ritz.  Makeup in place and blotted, she immediately took it off.  “I don’t like the way it feels,” she exclaimed.

She retired in Arizona and protected her dry lips with a light rose lipstick, the color of natural lips, a step above ChapStick.  She wore it a few times experimenting once again with makeup.   I visited and she showed me her new tube.  “I want to give it to you.  I don’t like it,” she said.  I accepted it not for the color, but because it belonged to my mother.  It became a treasure.  For years, it lay next to my pens, staples and paper clips in my top desk drawer at work.   You never know when you just need a touch from mom to ward off a bad day.

I still have the tube of lipstick.  Occasionally I’ll apply it and think of her.  It’s a connection point for me like a kiss from Heaven.

I’m a different mom than my mother.  I have more in common with my adult daughters.  They resemble models with their beautiful Czech features and tall height.  Most of the time, however, you’ll find them in sneakers and tee shirts. They’re athletic, but not tomboys.

I received an early Mother’s Day gift weeks ago.  The girls combined their cash and bought me a Fitbit, a wrist device that records my steps.  I am forever receiving their challenges through email.  I perform or I get the pep talk.  Oh, they are so competitive!  I get it.  They want connection with me like I wanted with my mom.  I embrace it with gusto. 

This Mother’s Day, I reflect on my itty bitty babies whose steps I encouraged their first years.  I ponder how now they are encouraging mine.  We don’t have everything in common, but the most important steps we share together lead us in the right direction.  The direction of our Christian faith and that brings us ultimate fulfillment.  

    If they modeled tee shirts, I would buy one.

Love to get my steps in at this pretty park near my home.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Surprise at the Mall

I lost touch with a writer friend.  I missed her and her cheerful blog posts.  We met up in a most unusual way!  I’m still in awe of how it happened.

I finished my shopping at the mall and took a short cut to get to the parking lot.  The path led me through the food court.  The smell of Chicken Fajitas stopped me in my tracks.  I planned lunch elsewhere, but now I followed my nose.

I chewed my first bite of chicken taco salad when, out of nowhere, a loud redhead moved rapidly past the tables and into the booth with me.  “I know you!”  She shouted.  I pondered if I knew this crazy lady.  Did she mistake me for someone else?  She shouted louder and stuck her finger in my face:  “You’re Mary; you have a blog called Pile of Smiles and you live in the Verde Valley.”   It took me a second to compose myself.  I stopped chewing my food.  I know I stared too long at her face and then she said:  “I’m Jackie; I had a blog years ago – Fresh Anointing Oil.”

Wow, now I recognized her face just as she recognized mine from our blog websites!  We shared our lives through the written word.     Oh, we always said we’d meet up.  She lives in Prescott, just over the mountain from me.  Sadly, it never materialized.  She stopped writing.  Her website waned. We no longer emailed.  We lost touch. 

I couldn’t stop hugging Jackie.  I remember how our spirits meshed as we cried out to God in prayer.  I’m astonished how that woman prays with power and compassion.  She cried when I told her that.   I cherished the connection with her that day.  She’s a real person.  I’m a real person.  We’re not just “bloggers” talking to the air.

Forget Eating!  Let’s Have a Praise Party!
We caught up on each other’s lives.  We marveled at how God took care of us in each and every trial we shared.  We felt joy from head to toe.

I am changed somehow. The quiet drive home in the warm sun allowed me plenty of time to pause and think: 

People really do care!

We help each other through hard times.

Friendship is a gift.

I’m blessed to be part of God’s family
 where His blood flows through our veins.

I studied Luke, Chapter four, where the people in the town of Galilee wanted Jesus to stay and hang out with them.  He told them he couldn’t.  “That’s not why I’m sent,” He said.  “I must go to other towns and bring Good News to them.”

We’ve been sent.  Our blog messages influence, uplift and validate.  Let’s keep those words coming.  Confidently press “publish” because you just never know who you’re going to influence.  And you never know who you are going to meet…it just might be me!