Tag Archives: friends

The Lost Art of Being Thankful

I told a friend of mine the other day that I wanted to bring back the lost art of letter writing. I admit, I am guilty of sometimes just sending a thank you text. If truth be told, I probably am also guilty of thinking I have thanked someone when I probably thought about sending them a text, but I was in the car, and then when I got home my children were acting crazy, and then it was too late at night, and then it was too early in the morning, and then I just totally thought I had done it, but I did not really do it; so in essence I had not adequately shown my gratitude. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be the one that is so busy with life that I don’t stop to appreciate the people and things that make life worthwhile.

Recently, a man in my hometown, who I used to work with but rarely see, stopped by Southern Charm and brought me a cup of coffee. It was so thoughtful and unexpected. I sent my mom a text, “Billy Houston just brought me a cup of coffee. How about that?” Oh, I thought about texting him and saying thanks, but I wasn’t sure if I had his number, or if he texted, or blah blah blah. A week or so later, he brought me another cup of coffee. And it was on a day that I really needed a lift. Text to mom: “Billy Houston just brought me another cup of coffee. What the hell? How awesome is that?” That night, I decided I must send a written thank you note. When I got home, I decided that I couldn’t send him a note on my Barbie stationary (although I did send a note to a local pastor and his wife on a Barbie card and they found it endearing, or so they indicated), but I vowed to send a note the next day. When I got to work, I pulled a card out of my stash under the counter, wrote him a note, luckily ran into his daughter who told me he had a PO Box and gave me the correct address, put a stamp on the envelope, and managed to even get the envelope into the mailbox at the post office. Boom. Mission accomplished.

Why is this important? Because when people go out of their way to show someone kindness, they do it because they want to; not because they have to. And because the minute we stop doing random acts of kindness or we stop appreciating these moments of humanity, we become empty vessels. The people who show kindness do so to bring others joy. But if they are never thanked, or at least acknowledged, their light begins to dim. It sparks a chain reaction that lessens their desire to do for others. Then before you know it, we are all just a bunch of self-centered asshats who can’t see the needs of others and don’t care to reach out even if we could.

Last week I got a lovely hand written thank you note from Haley Ates. This didn’t really shock me. Her mama is an English teacher and obviously raised her right. (In case her mama sees this, yes, I know you rear children and don’t raise them, but whatever, I think reared sounds weird. Blame it on rap music.) Not to mention she is young and engaged and more than likely trying to use up all of her stationary so she can get some new cards with her new last name printed on them. But this week I got a hand written thank you note from a man. Not only a man, from a football coach. And it arrived within a week of the event for which he was thanking me. I don’t want to act like an athletic man is less likely to hand write a personal thank you note, but in my opinion, and man is less likely to hand write a personal thank you note.

The impression this left on me wasn’t that Haley and Coach Moore are a crazy rare breed of humans who know how to hold a pencil and lick an envelope. It let me know that they are humble people of gratitude. The impact of these notes was a reaffirmation of my need to not only continue showing others, whether friends or strangers, that I care about them through small tangible acts or tokens of kindness, but to also take the time to truly thank those who show kindness to me. I needed this reminder. It’s often easier to anonymously pay for a policeman’s lunch, or (my favorite) buy the blue-collar old man’s single can of beer at the gas station after he has gotten off from an obviously long workday, than it is to thank the people who are closest to us who do so much for us every single day.

By the way, a great random act of kindness is a hand written note. Feel free to help me bring back the lost art of letter writing or to steadfastly show small kindness to others by commenting or messaging me your mailing address, or the mailing address of someone you know who may appreciate the kindness of a stranger. I’m not saying I’m going to mail you a Barbie card before the weekend is over. I mean I’ve got wine to drink and this DVR isn’t going to watch itself. But it will give me a database, if you will, of people to share life with over the course of the year.

I think I’m going start by mailing a card to my mom. She lives next door to me, but I bet she would like to read my words of appreciation instead of hearing me casually calling, “Thanks!” over my shoulder as I walk across the yard carrying a can of Fresca or masking tape or whatever item I’ve borrowed that I will never return. And to whomever is reading this… hey, thanks.

moore-thank-card

Zumba: 1, Corey: 0

If only we could look on the outside how we feel on the inside.

If only we could look on the outside how we feel on the inside.

I have a varsity letter for cheerleading. I dead-lifted 155 lbs for time at CrossFit. I own really nice running shoes. And I’ve watched two whole seasons of So You Think You Can Dance. So how hard can it be to wiggle around to some music? So hard that today, I came to the realization that I will never, ever, even remotely, be considered cool. Hell, cool probably isn’t even cool anymore. Now it’s sick. Or maybe sick was yesterday’s term. I’ll tell you what’s really sick. Sick is that Zumba crap. And I don’t mean sick like cool. I mean sick like you’d have to be out of your ever loving mind to want to try that stuff once you’ve hit the back side of forty.

Back to my demise of cool. It started when I would joke with a young waitress and she would fake laugh like I was witty and scurry off to get me another diet Coke. I figured she just didn’t get the joke, right? Then, one day I made a clever comment to a few college age kids at a gas station. I honestly think I saw one of them roll their eyes. Seriously? I am cool. I do not look my age. I can still do the splits. I’ve even got rap music with explicit lyrics in my iTunes. But today was the final epiphany. Today, sobbing in the parking lot of the community center, it finally hit me: I am my mother’s age. I will never be cool again. I am old.

What brought me to this stark realization? Zumba. Actually, it wasn’t even Zumba, because this class doesn’t bother with the licensing fees. It was “dance fitness.” I got my ass handed to me by something called dance fitness. Oh, I hear you, sister. It took you two months before you could get all of the choreography. I’m catching your drift; it was the hardest thing to figure out that body roll. But here’s the thing: I didn’t leave dance fitness six minutes into the class because I felt like I couldn’t physically handle the grueling arm movements. No, this class gave me a mental beat down.

I would describe to you in length the intricate series of kicks and flicks and popping and locking that was going on all around me in dance fitness, but it would only underline my ever loosening grasp on the modern world. This body roll thingy? Honey, rolls go on a plate. If a roll is going to be a part of my body, it’s going to be from the inside out in the form of cellulite. My body rolls hang over the top of my pants. They peek out from beneath the backside of my bra strap. They are not part of any sort of rhythmic or graceful movement. And this pelvic thrust action with coordinating arm movements? Listen, I’ve got two kids, and a stork didn’t leave them on my door-step. I have been privy to some pelvic thrusting in my day. But not in front of a giant mirror and six other spandex clad thrusters. It’s awkward when I’m watching TV with my kids and the dance to Greased Lightning from Grease comes on. Do you really think I’m going to jerk my baby maker back and forth with clenched fists at my side in front of God and everybody? I don’t think so.

I went to the Zumba website, just to take a look. Maybe I was looking for a chat room where I could find some sort of support group for Zumba drop outs. You know what I found? They had the nerve to describe their “fitness-parties” as “easy to follow.” Well, turn out the lights, that party is over. Maybe I should have dipped into the kids’ ADHD meds before I went, because I was totally lost. Better yet, maybe I should have brought some for the instructor because as soon as I would get one part of my body moving the same way hers was, she would totally change what she was doing! It would be like asking your grandmother to climb Mt. Everest and just about the time she’s making it to the top you yell, “Never mind, Grandma, we’re going to climb this mountain over here instead!”

So if you’re wondering where you’ll find me in the morning, it won’t be at dance fitness. I’ll be somewhere totally uncool like drinking coffee and talking about the weather, or at the Piggly Wiggly buying some Activia. This old broad won’t be shaking her way into shape. Sign me up for Silver Sneakers. I’ll go sit on a folding chair and do arm curls with 12 ounce cans of vegetable soup.

Trucks in the Sand

She ran through the woods, breaking through beams of sunlight as her laughter trailed behind her. In the exuberance of her youth she was never winded. Her feet moved from dirt to water to leaves without thought as she chased her dreams down the slope of the ravine. Miles away, he pushed his truck through the sand. The sounds of squeaking swings and children’s voices filled the air around him. His lips vibrated with the noise of a motor and he maneuvered his vehicle across the sandbox, planning his upcoming attack. They had never met. Their eyes had never locked in a glance. He had never heard her sing to her baby doll and she had never watched as he tried to be brave after falling and skinning his knee. Yet years later as she lay in bed, twisting to find the ultimate position of comfort then drifting off to slumber as gently as a summer breeze through an open window; he stood guard in the heat of the desert, eyes alert and mind racing; as trucks rolled by in the sand. He would protect her with his life, this girl he’d never met; now a woman with children of her own. He would not question her devotion, but persevere in his. He was bound by honor, by duty, by destiny; and giving up his freedom to protect hers was as natural as the blood that coursed through his veins. She would never know him. She would never know why he chose to serve her. Some days went by and she didn’t even think of him. But in her heart of hearts she knew he was there and she took comfort in it. She prayed that a gloved hand would never pause above an officer’s brow as his mother clutched a folded flag. And whenever she saw one of his comrades in an airport or a grocery or on the street, she would thank him; even though she knew her words would never reach them all. Miles away, she was the last thing on his mind, yet he continued to fight for her as if she was in his heart.

Six Years

Six years and I still hear your voice
Booming loud above the noise of the world
Six years and I still hear you humming
Never waiting for the music to start
Six years and I feel your lap beneath me
Stroking my hair and playing with my fingernails
Six years and I still feel the floor vibrate
Rattling the window as you walk down the hall
Six years and you’re still scheming
Another gadget to slip into the house
Six years and it’s time for a jigger
Maybe a finger more
Six years and there’s no one like you
No one to fill your void
Six years and I still miss you
Forever my soul mate, my friend
Six years that feel like a lifetime
Yet only the blink of an eye

An Extra Special Night

One of the best hours of my life took place in a community college cafeteria. I was surrounded by both friends and strangers as I watched a few people that I knew and several more that I had never met bare their soul for the world to see. As the first contestant took the stage, the novice emcee and the makeshift décor took a back seat to an extraordinary gentleman singing Michael Jackson’s Human Nature. As tears started pouring down my cheeks, I repeated to myself over and over, “Don’t think about how special this is. Don’t think about how special this is. Don’t thing about how special this is.”

I was at the first annual Extra Special People Awards pageant, and the ageless black man before me was not only singing one of his favorite singer’s songs, he was baring his soul for all to see. I’ve heard of them called retarded or handicapped or handicapable, but I was there to see Bobby, and he was not any of those things to me; he was simply my friend. I managed to pull it together for a bit, until Kristen took the stage. I knew her story. She went to my father’s church. I remember going to services with my mother right after my oldest child was born and being almost ashamed to carry my perfect, healthy child into the sanctuary in my arms. She had been normal by the world’s standards. She had been everything a parent could want, until just two years into her life; fever had left her soiled by the world’s standards. I couldn’t imagine how I would feel if that was my child. She was loving and vulnerable and sweet and all things good. And now I watched her on stage, singing into a microphone, blushing and bashful as ever, but beautiful and proud of all that she is. Any thoughts I had of salvaging my makeup were long gone.

I saw contestants sing and dance and even do comedy before Bobby took the stage to perform a dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I had to admit, the man had skills. He had more soul that I ever would when it came to the dance floor. He even winked at the judges before he finished his routine. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand and they were soaking up every thrust and movement that he made. But unlike any stage performance I had ever witnessed, this one was pure and true. These Extra Special People were not on stage for the applause, or for the glory or for their fifteen minutes of fame. They were there for their time to show the world who they were and what they were made of, and it was beautiful.

The personality and talent and soul that walked across that tiny stage before me was bigger than anything I had ever seen. The local beauty queens and youth that volunteered their time before and during this spectacle didn’t do it for recognition or out of duty. It was oblivious that they had seen the amazing people that stood before me as some of the purest examples of humanity, yet so often overlooked if not scorned by society.

At the end of the night, as each participant was given a sash and flowers and crown along with an award that suited what they had brought to the stage, the crowd stood and applauded and those men and women basked in the glory of it all. It wasn’t a conceited moment that they felt they deserved or a moment that they felt better or normal or good enough. It was a moment when they knew without a doubt, that the people in that cafeteria, the people that had paid money to come see them; those people not only accepted them, but loved them.

I went to a pageant for mentally and physically challenged people tonight. I went because my dear friend has a twenty-nine year old Down Syndrome child and I thought I should go support him. I went because Kristen would be there and she had worked so hard to graduate from high school recently and I knew people that didn’t go to her graduation because she was retarded. I went because I love Bobby and when I walk into his mom’s coffee shop, he stands up, steps away from his cartoon and hugs me.

A group of volunteers put together a pageant for Extra Special People so that for at least one time in their life, they could shine and be normal and have one of the most special hours of their life. Little did they know when they were making the sashes and buying the crowns that they would provide one of the most special hours of mine.

My friend, Bobby.

Two Empty Chairs

When the air begins to get crisp, they meet out at a cabin in the woods. One by one they trickle in, down the dirt road and up to the little lodge. Most of their lives and all of their pretenses are left behind when they travel that bumpy road. Each one has something special to share whether it’s food or drink or possessions or stories. Activities have become habits and habits have become traditions. The first one in will light a fire and pour a drink that will soon become a round as the others arrive. They will be well settled by the time I arrive. As I climb out of my truck I will be enveloped by the smell of smoke and whiskey and the feel of stubble and fleece. Although I was born several decades too late and am of the wrong gender, they have allowed me into their brotherhood. Most have known me since my first days. They have watched me grow from baby to girl to woman and have walked beside me though happiness and heartbreak. They stand beside me without question and when others drift they remain to tell me about how things would be if they were but thirty years younger. Their actions are those of gentlemen even when their words are not. They find me a chair and pour me a glass and we tell dirty jokes and talk about women and morons and each other. The world stands still while we sit in the cold waiting on the evening’s meal. And each night when the time comes, they offer me just one more and I decline and slip off into the night. Their jobs change, their wives change and their lifestyles change, but the bonds that have been forged in the fall night air always remain the same. And now the season approaches. The temperature is dropping and you can almost smell the weather. The tracks are fresh and the rye is green as leaves gently float to the ground. I know my next encounter is just around the corner and I’m getting excited about seeing my motley crew. But now my heart is heavy and I wonder how I will feel. I know we will have laughter. I know we will have stories. I know we will eat and drink and talk about everything and nothing. Yet this time it will be different. There will be cold beer in the cooler and fresh scallops on the stove-top, but this season there will be two empty chairs.

Thinking of Thomas Lee Shannon and Bob McKinnon. May they both rest in peace.

Billiards

Shall we play billiards?
Roger will direct my shots.
Who’s really playing?

We need a dollar.
You can get one at the bar.
Same price as L.A.

One more drink, William.
Make this one in a tall glass;
Diet Coke for me.

Clean break. Balls scatter.
Of course, you got a ball in.
Will I get to play?

Smoke rises. My turn.
What do I do now, Roger?
Easy said, not done.

Lucky shot, I guess.
My skill is not a factor.
My turn is over.

Back and forth we trade
Turns, bright smiles, happy laughter.
The game is over.

Now I must play him?
I’d rather be playing you,
But at least you’re close.

This should not take long.
My inexperience shows.
One more lucky shot.

Eight ball side pocket;
If it goes, the game’s over.
Dammit! My stick slipped.

We continue on.
I should have already left.
One more Diet Coke.

One more game? There’s time.
There is nowhere else to go.
I don’t want to leave.

Leaving means goodbye
And I am not ready yet.
So rack them once more.

I watch while you play.
I want a little more time
To memorize you.

To soak up your lines,
To etch your smile in my head,
Your voice in my brain.

Something to take home;
A souvenir of our night
To remember you.

Why’d you make that shot?
That means it is time to go.
Nothing keeping us.

Two thousand fourteen:
Roger looks forward to it.
William is still lost.

We walk to the truck,
One step closer to leaving,
Closer to good bye.