Dear Mom, Can You Tell Me How You’ve Done It?

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As human beings, we wonder what mark we will leave upon this world. As busy moms, we wonder if that’s even possible between changing diapers, meals and laundry, as our mom role takes up our waking moments as well as our sleeping ones.

Today, I’m at Inspired By My Mom with a post I’ve shared before, but one that is near and dear to my heart. I hope you’ll take a moment to visit and read stories of moms who have left their mark in this world by the sheer act of being an inspiration to those around them.

Inspired by My Mom is dedicated to moms and to all the unsung female heroes that influenced, inspired, and encouraged us.  They are made up of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, friends, teachers, mentors, and all the other women that have come into and passed through our lives.  They have all left an impact and many of us may not have had the opportunity to recognize or acknowledge them at the time.

Dear Mom, Can You Tell Me How You’ve Done It?.

My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories Of Leaving And Losing Friends

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Have you ever lost a friend? Was that loss in some ways more painful than the end of a love affair? Women’s friendships so often come to a crossroads at which time two women can try to hold on to the friendship, staying connected, or the friends can take two completely separate paths without each other. Many of the essays in this book are about this moment in time, when both rupture and new beginnings are possible.

There are so many ways that friendships can end, and this book describes 35 of them, from each 35 talented and accomplished contributors. At the heart of each essay is the recognition from each writer that she has lost something very real and very personal, a connection that will never be forgotten.

I am proud to be one of the contributors to this anthology, alongside 34 very talented women writers. 

Today, I invite you to pre-order the book which I am sure will hit close to home for many readers

by using my special discount code: EX2014LV.

 

 

Pre-order the book and support our mission of sharing women’s voices, one story at a time.

Your autographed copy will be shipped on September 2, 2014, almost two weeks before its official publication date of September 15.

Pre-release sales profits will be spent on publishing and marketing expenses and on building our HerStories Project community.

The Hug That Has Lasted A Lifetime

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I cling to him, feeling the slippery slope of time catching up to me as the ticks on my watch drum in my ears like a tribal rain dance circling round my brain. If only I could freeze time and force it to turn around and head back in the opposite direction, even if it is against oncoming traffic. I know this is a route he is all too familiar with as he has spent his life on a similar road, always heading in the wrong direction, dodging incoming obstacles. It wasn’t always like this for us. There was a time when we traveled a different road, one smoothly paved with stones of hopes and promises. The uphill challenges on that road seem like small bumps compared to the mountainous climb that is his life now. I hold on tight savoring the hug, not knowing when I will have the opportunity to experience it again. My only thought being that it is the kind of lasting hug I will revisit time and again in the future, when he is out of my reach once more. It is the kind of hug that also makes me revisit the day I officially lost him.

Big Sister, Little Brother, First Meeting, Love At First Sight

I found him in his room. The youngest of three, he was the only one left with a room at home. As I approached, trying to connect words of comfort I didn’t believe existed, I realized he was putting on a shield of armor I would find impossible to break through. As he tied his green apron strings and adjusted his name tag, the look in his eyes showed turmoil more akin to a battle weary soldier than a nineteen year old stock boy. As my sister and I carried on with our distant lives in other states, my brother had lived the daily nightmare of slowly losing the man we all thought invincible, our father. He said he wished he could just go to work like normal…like none of this was happening. My heart understood his wish more than he would ever know. Still, I couldn’t let him leave as panic swelled within me and the minute hand ticked on the black cat clock on the wall, left over from our younger years and more innocent times.

I did what I thought was right at the time. I somehow convinced my little brother to stay and face our nightmare with the rest of us, and within a couple of hours of being home our father looked around him and took in each and every face in that room including my brother’s. He asked our mother if all his loved ones were there and when she reassured him they were, he took a deep breath and finally went home. I hugged my brother, grateful he had stayed by our side.

I would like to say that was the end of our nightmare, but for my brother it was the beginning of something much worse. For the next twenty-one years he has lived behind bars with visitation rights that are never long enough, and in a cell that doesn’t often see the light. He is trapped in darkness. Of his own making or mine?

You see, the day my brother stayed and witnessed our father’s death he died along with him. Gone was the nineteen year old stock boy who played basketball with his headphones on because to choose between the two things that gave him the most joy wasn’t possible. Gone was the son who took pride in handing over the earnings of a grocery store employee to help with the bills at home. Gone was the light in his eyes. When I look into his eyes now I still see the turmoil of that fateful day and no medication has ever been able to erase it. So…I find comfort in revisiting these hugs, for it is the only reminder of the person I once knew.

Grandmother's Cross, Faith

The Tiny Gold Cross

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Today, I’m featured over at Our Life Songs  a non-profit organization designed to inspire, heal and motivate women who are struggling with disease, depression, anxiety and other difficult issues. I am honored to be a part of such a worthy mission. Please take a moment to visit them.

 

I sat across from her unable to take my eyes away, entranced by the weathered hands whose long, slender fingers wrapped around the tiny gold cross hanging on her neck. She slid it side to side, left to right, over and over again and I was mesmerized by the repetitive motion. I watched the cross swing on its matching gold chain at times of its own volition, others with a purpose it seemed only she understood. Much time would pass before I understood the meaning of it, not the meaning of the man who died on a much larger scale of the small cross, rather what it meant to the woman who loyally wore it.

Grandmother's Cross, Faith

As a little girl, I found myself looking for the hint of gold against her chest each time I visited. I walked closer to greet her, my eyes searched for it. As she held me at arm’s length, steps before I reached her, commenting on how much I had grown since the last time she saw me, I looked for it. Younger still, I can recall my small hands reaching for it as she held me in her lap and rocked me to sleep. She never pulled it out of my grasp the way other adults yanked things out of reach of a young toddler for fear of destruction. Instead, she let me soothe myself to sleep, my tiny fingers rubbing the gold until I drifted off into peaceful slumber.

Through the years, it was always there. And, as I got older I noticed she not only held onto it during the happiest of times as though thanking the Lord for all he had blessed her with but also in the saddest of times like when we learned of my father’s cancer diagnosis. She held it as she watched her daughter, my mother, absorb the news. And, as she watched my mother I watched her as the pain in my mom’s eyes reflected in her own. I leaned forward a bit as though in so doing I would be able to make out her plea as her lips moved in unison with the motion of the swaying cross. Back and forth, left and right, over and over again she slid the cross, her lips rapidly moving in a whispered prayer.
At those times, she seemed to wrap her fingers around it a little tighter, begging for it to provide more. More what?

Strength?      Hope?      Faith?

I would sense the urgency in the way she held the cross, and desperately slid it back and forth on its chain. By then, the once smooth skin it had rested upon when I was a child, was now etched with line upon line – each representing her walk of faith, her life’s journey. At times, the lines intersected on her wrinkled skin. I sat and wondered if perhaps there were paths that led her to other paths, each presenting a trial she was meant to endure, an experience that would shape the woman she became. Some lines seemed to have no direction, no beginning and no end, as though they consisted of choices left unmade or decisions changed at a certain point in time. However, it was clear to me even then that each line told a bit of her story, perhaps, because I can’t recall an occasion when I didn’t see it on her.

My grandmother always had it on her person, close to her heart and often reached for it. I think it kept her grounded, a constant reminder of her faith and something greater than her in this world.

Years later, as I entered the hospital room and approached the bed in which she was taking her last breath, my eyes immediately searched for the tiny gold cross. At that point, I needed the strength it always seemed to bring her. I needed the feeling of peace I had seen on her face after she held that symbol of faith in her hands time after time. As I looked at her chest where the hospital gown was pushed back a bit to reveal a hint of gold, I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. The lines were now many, blanketing her body like a road map of sorts and I like to think that’s exactly what they were. A road map of her life, her experiences, but most importantly her undying faith. And as I reached for the tiny gold cross that had become a symbol of comfort in my young eyes, I realized that it was so much more than that. Seeing it now through the eyes of a woman, I understood what it meant to my grandmother and in my times of doubt, during moments of desperation, I find myself holding the tiny cross that sits close to my own heart. I can’t help but pray that in the end my life’s road map is as beautifully etched as hers.

 

I Slip It On Like A Well-Worn Pair Of Jeans

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They came to this country with only the clothes on their back and a light of hope in their hearts that the strongest gust of wind couldn’t extinguish. They walked away from all they knew for the promise of freedom. They left it all behind for visions of a better future for themselves, but more importantly for their children. Those brave souls made huge sacrifices for myself and my siblings, and I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for them…my parents. As with anything or anyone we leave behind, no longer accessible to us, we don’t fully bid farewell. We still carry with us a little something that will remind us of times we will never again experience.

Denim, Well-Worn Jeans, Favorite Jeans

My parents may have bid farewell to their homes, their families and friends, and the island they called home, but they held on to their language, clothing themselves in it like a well-worn pair of jeans, slipping into it and feeling the comfort of the fabric as it wrapped them in the many memories of their history and home. While my parents learned the English language of their new country, in our home, we were encouraged to speak our native language. Around the dinner table, we slipped into it easily without even realizing it. At family gatherings, children and grown ups alike easily conversed in the Spanish sounds of a faraway land.

I may not have understood my parents adamant rules on embracing our native language, but nowadays I see things clearly. Being fully bilingual has opened doors for me in many areas of my life from career opportunities to lifelong friendships. I can easily slip from English to Spanish and back again in the blink of an eye, often amazing those around me with the ease in which I do so and begging the question, “Do you think in the language you speak or do you think in one language and translate in your mind before speaking?” To answer the question, I think in Spanish when I speak in Spanish. I think in English when I speak in English. There’s no rhyme or reason to my language of choice. I prefer to read in English rather than Spanish. I more often dream in English than I do in Spanish. However, when I pray I find I slip easily into a Spanish conversation with God…possibly because I was taught to pray in Spanish. My conversations with my mom are conducted in Spanish more often than English.

Well-Worn Jeans, Favorite Jeans, ,Blue Denim

An article titled, How Speaking Two Languages Can Improve Your Brain, at About.com discusses this in further detail. According to a growing body of research, not only does speaking two languages not confuse people or slow their learning in other areas, it may actually improve your brain—carrying benefits that go far beyond communication. According to Ellen Bialystok, an internationally known psychologist and distinguished research professor at York University in Toronto, there is overwhelming evidence that being truly bilingual—speaking two languages and using them regularly—will improve your brain. For bilingual people, both languages are “always on,” always active in their brains, no matter which language they are speaking at the moment.

All scientific research aside, I am grateful my parents encouraged me to embrace our native language. I have personally witnessed those who believe everyone should speak English as it is the universal language, and frown upon those who don’t. I have personally experienced people being offended when they do not understand a conversation being conducted near them, in a language they do not understand. Thanks to my parents, when I am around someone speaking their native language, I keep in mind that those words may be the only familiar thing they still carry with them. It may be the only remnant of their homeland, helping them keep their history alive while they make a new home and create a new history in a foreign land. And, I remember what it feels like to slip into my favorite pair of well-worn jeans, the comfort they provide, each tear a memory that no amount of fading can completely erase.

If you are bilingual, do you think in one language and translate to another

or do you think in the language you speak?

 

Her Every Day Hero

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Sitting behind the small wooden desk, she watched the clock…2:20pm. Only ten more minutes and she would hear the sound that brought her closer to spending a few minutes with the man who filled her world with laughter and imagination on a daily basis. She brushed a curl off her face as she stole another glance at the old clock on the wall above the chalkboard whose black surface was covered with the dusty remnants of that day’s lessons. She wondered, how many questions that board had answered through the years? How many equations had been solved? How many teachers had written their name on the board as a form of introduction, their hand flying across its surface with a certain flare that came with the beginning of a new school year? She giggled as she looked up at Mrs. Hudson now. With only a month left in this school year, she had lost that flair, and looked as dusty and worn out as the chalkboard behind her. She better quit daydreaming or Mrs. Hudson would remind her to “join the rest of us in this world” again. Another peek at the clock…

2:25pm – Mrs. Hudson called her row to gather their coats and backpacks out of the closet. This always baffled her. Why did she refer to it as a closet, when in fact it was more like a tunnel with an archway on either end, two walls lined with hooks at just the right height for third graders? Curls bouncing she rushed through the tunnel pretending to be the conductor on a long train, chugging toward faraway lands filled with adventures. She could almost hear the train whistle as she exited the tunnel and took a left turn toward the classroom door, single file behind her classmates.

2:30pm – The sound of her train whistle was drowned out by the ringing of the school bell and it was all she could do not to run out the door. Mrs. Hudson gave her that look again, the one that said, “patience Regina, all in due time.” She hated to be told to slow down as much as she hated to be called Regina. Once out of the building, her little legs pumped as she rushed home to the man who never told her to slow down, encouraged her to dream and who never, ever called her Regina. She sprinted home pretending to be a two-time Olympic gold medalist as she crossed the finish line, flung open the front door and flung her backpack on the floor.

Catching her breath, she quietly tiptoed down the hall, careful not to wake him, knowing he only had a few minutes before his alarm woke him for his night shift at the plant. As she climbed into bed beside him, she carefully placed one tiny knee on the bed, having memorized where the springs of the old mattress would squeak. Unable to resist, she curled up against him, reveling in the strong arms that instinctively reached for her. “Hi Reggie.” She smiled and whispered, “Hi Daddy.” She knew what came next. She would lay beside him as they created stories based on the shapes of the water stains on the ceiling. One day it was a ship at sea, another day a fire-breathing dragon, each a lesson in possibilities. She never tired of it.

She would climb all over him and smother him with kisses, never caring that the stubble on his face would scratch her soft skin. He would laugh as she scrunched up her nose every time his face touched hers, and smile when it didn’t stop her from coming in for another round of kisses before he had to get ready for work.

She would follow him to the bathroom and watch him as he stood before the mirror and shaved. “Shall we pretend I’m a pilot getting ready to fly to Antarctica? How about a high-powered attorney trying a big case? Or a Super Hero about to save the world? What will it be today, Reggie?”

 

 

Reggie sat on the edge of the bathtub mesmerized by each stroke of the razor against his skin. In her eyes, he could take on the world. Suddenly, she stood and opened the linen closet. Her little hands pulled something from behind the towels and as she turned to the man with a recurring leading role in all of her adventures, she said. “No need to pretend Daddy. You are my Super Hero. Happy Father’s Day.” Holding back tears, he took the yearly gift of his favorite after shave and a homemade t-shirt. He never tired of it. He scooped his little girl up in his arms. Happy Father’s Day, indeed.

Paper Wedding Anniversary

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Glancing at the clock she moved toward the bathroom, aware of each tick announcing the passing of time, each minute bringing her closer to the moment her husband would pull into the driveway, wheels crunching gravel. He promised to be home early tonight, had even made reservations at her favorite little Greek restaurant. They would sit at “their table” tucked back in a cozy corner of the restaurant. The place where they had shared so many words over good food and a bottle of wine. Tonight they would celebrate their Paper Anniversary. Their first year as a married couple. She had flipped open her laptop earlier that afternoon and looked up the meaning to find the first year of marriage is like a clean sheet of paper, a new beginning upon which to write your passage through the years together. Also like paper, it is fragile and can easily rip, not having yet been tried by the fires of adversity and the storms of life.

It had been an amazing first year, this honeymoon phase of theirs, and she was sure there would be many more pages filled with happiness, hope, dreams and passion.

Feral Little Secret, Fiction is for Lovers

She stripped down and stepped into the steaming shower to ready herself for the evening. As drops of hot water singed her skin her nerve endings came alive and she threw her head back losing herself in the waterfall of feelings born of another time. Her hands instantly travelled over every inch of her body conjuring up another touch.

She was instantly back there again…the day she first laid eyes on him among the group of hikers on foreign soil. She had felt something stir deep inside her and as they found themselves side by side in awe of the waterfalls around them, she felt the need to put distance between them. The others held up cameras trying to capture the scene no doubt in hopes of returning home with images to accompany their stories as they recounted their trip to friends and family. She recalled being torn between the habit of seeing the world through her camera lens and the need to feel every bit of this moment, free of all that weighed her down.

She walked away from the group making her way to the far side of the opening and toward a smaller waterfall tucked behind its lush landscape. Surrounded by nature there was beauty all around, but the need to stand under that waterfall as it made its way down the side of the mountain was overwhelming. Dropping her backpack and camera, she quickly ditched her shoes and stepped forward into the gushing waters. Immediately, she felt more alive than she ever had as the water flowed over her, drenching her hair and traveling down her body to her bare feet. Eyes closed, head tilted to the sky, she allowed herself to be completely present in the moment.

Expecting a cooling sense of peace, she was surprised by how her body betrayed her, instead feeling heat emanating from her very core. Her heart pounded in her chest against her thin, wet shirt. Her feet couldn’t seem to ground her. She reached behind her to grab hold of the rock wall for support. It was then she opened her eyes and looked into eyes bluer than the sky above her, piercing her to the deep recesses of her womanhood. Gaze locked, no words were spoken, none needed.

He crossed the short distance to her and as his arms circled her waist, she knew what was coming and knew she wouldn’t stop it. His mouth covered hers as his body pressed her back against the rocks and water continued to fall over them, holding them captive in its downpour. She lost herself in his strong arms, her legs acting of their own free will wrapped themselves around him. He lifted her to him and as her arms held tight to his neck, he pulled her hair back and trailed kisses down her neck. Fire coursed through her veins. Her mind commanded her to stop, but her body abandoned all reason as it begged for more.

His strong hands came to her waist as the trail of kisses continued lower and lower. As her bare feet touched the wet rocks beneath them, she looked down at the water as it made its way over the rocks, positive if not for his arms on her that she would be carried away with the current – such was the feeling of floating this complete stranger had imprisoned her with. His lips rested on her bare stomach as his hands moved to the front of her shorts. He fumbled with the button and in that moment they were both startled back to reality by a flock of white birds that fluttered all around them. Looking up, she longed to take flight with them, to rise above this madness she suddenly found herself in. Yet, never having experienced anything like this, she knew the temptation to circle back would be too great.

He dropped his hands and she stepped around him. The moment was lost and not daring to look into those blue eyes again for fear of being lost once more, she quickly hurried over to her belongings stopping only to grab her shoes and backpack and rejoined the others.

Out of breath, she turned the shower off and stepped out. Her reflection in the mirror was one of sheer sexual satisfaction as even the touch of the towel stirred her inside once more. She took a deep breath and headed to her closet, knowing just the dress for tonight’s occasion.

The look in her husband’s eyes confirmed her choice as he admired her over the candlelit table that evening. Dinner was delightful and as they decided on dessert and her husband studied the wine list for a second bottle of wine, she excused herself to freshen up.

Returning to the table, she found a small, white paper bird, delicately folded and placed to the side of her glass. “Where did this come from?” Smiling, her husband looked up from the menu at the tiny white bird she was twirling in her hands.

“I have no idea,” he said and went back to the wine list.

She let out a tiny gasp and as she looked around the restaurant she knew. It had been years since she’d seen anything as blue and piercing as the eyes that now looked back at her from the man standing at the bar.

 

Feral Secrets Button

Island Boy Finds His Once Upon A Time

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The last few weeks this true story has come up on more than one occasion, so I thought I would dust it off and share it once more. Enjoy!

The sound of the waves, the sand beneath his feet, the warm ocean breeze were all a part of him, ingrained into his very soul. He was a true island boy, climbing palm trees in the blink of an eye to retrieve a coconut, catching fish with his homemade spear in the most primitive manner. It was the only manner he had ever learned…not from his father, as he had never met the man who had given him life. His mother never spoke of him. He carried his questions in his little heart, the one place they couldn’t cause the fleeting glimpse of pain he sometimes saw in her eyes…the pain she thought she hid so well.

Puerto Rico, Army Jeep, Black and White Army Military Photo

He studied the only photo of his father he possessed, memorizing every detail. Even when he closed his eyes he could still see the way his father looked in his uniform, the way he slightly leaned into his military jeep as though someone had caught him on his way somewhere. Where was he going? Who held the camera that provided the only piece of the puzzle that was his life, his story? He held the tiny black and white photo, yet held not a single memory of this man…a stranger to him.

Mike and Mom Rita early to mid-1950's

It came as no surprise when the little island boy grew to be a soldier as well. He and his mother moved to the United States so he could join the army at the age of eighteen. It wasn’t long before the island boy fell in love, married and had a family of his own. His young bride, wanting to know everything about him would ask him to tell her about his father. She wanted to know if he ever thought of him, if he ever wondered what became of him, if he was ever curious to meet him. His response never wavered. He had a good life, a loving family, and no need for anything or anyone else. After years of seeing the hint of pain in his eyes, she stopped asking him. Many years would come and go before she would tentatively broach the subject once more.

It was the age of computers now, when the internet was becoming all the rage and she had embraced the technology. She loved being able to communicate with all the friends she made during their numerous military relocations. And, she had become interested in a genealogy website where she could build a family tree. Once again, she asked her husband about his father. This time, he handed her the tiny black and white photo his own mother had placed in his small hand a lifetime ago. She scanned it, placed it on the site and listed her husband’s name as someone looking for his father. Neither one of them thought anything would really come of it. Yet, life has a funny way of making connections so intricately weaved, they leave us mere mortals astounded.

Across the ocean, a secretary at a military base happened on that very website. She gasped when she saw the photo and immediately printed it. Her boss arrived shortly after, and headed straight to his office. The first thing his eyes landed upon was a printout of a tiny black and white photo of a man in military uniform. There was no mistaking it was his father. He immediately took the contact information his secretary provided, and made the call that would forever change the life of a little island boy. He never doubted for a moment this man was his brother. Their father had shared a story with him, and the time had finally come to share it with his brother.

Their father had been stationed on a small island and had fallen in love with a young girl. He had returned home at the end of his assignment, but headed back to the island during the first military leave he had only to find that young girl gone. He questioned friends, family, neighbors to no avail. In the end, he found one person willing to talk. The news he was given was heartbreaking. The young girl died giving birth to a baby boy who also didn’t live.

Their father had refused to believe it. In the following years, he made several more attempts to find what his heart believed to be true, but all attempts ended the same. With a heavy heart, he returned home, went on with his life, married and had children, never returning to that island.

Somehow his heart knew what no one was willing to tell him when he sought answers so many years ago. His son lived, and one day he would know their story. He had hoped to look in his son’s eyes, and share this history with him, hug him and let him know he had gone back for them. While on his death-bed, coming to terms with the fact he would never get that opportunity, he shared this story with his youngest son. Their father requested when the brothers finally found each other, the story be shared with the son he never met.

There was silence on the other end of the phone line as a lifetime of questions were finally answered. The island boy, whom my husband calls Dad and my children call Pappa, found a family he never knew he had and a story he never believed could be his own.

Island Boy Finds His Once Upon A Time

Island Boy Finds His Once Upon A Time

I Slept With Him For Years…featured on Erma Bombeck website

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I am honored to have my piece, “I slept with him for years for fear of being alone” featured on the Erma Bombeck website today.

Please check it out and share away!

Hope your weekend is filled with love and laughter wherever you may be!

Kmart Christmas, Paid in Full, Holiday Tradition, Random Act of Kindness Pay It Forward

Christmas – Paid in Full

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“Lord, give me strength.” She pulled up to the house in the dark of night, cut off the engine, and leaned her head back against the seat. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. And so began her nightly ritual as she arrived home from her second job each night. She reached across the seat and grabbed the small bag containing toilet paper, toothpaste, a gallon of milk, and a loaf of bread before exiting the car. She prayed it was enough to hold them over until Friday when she would once again stretch her small paycheck like a magician pulling colored scarves out of a hat.

She quietly entered the old house, treading lightly across the creaky old floorboards so as not to wake anyone. After placing the milk in the fridge, she willed her tired muscles to carry her up the stairs, knowing once she reached the top her exhaustion would be forgotten as she stopped in for a glimpse of her sleeping angels. Her life wasn’t always that of a single mother with three children, but life doesn’t always turn out the way we once dreamed. She was living proof of that. And yet, she wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world if it meant erasing the three greatest blessings in her life. As usual, she found the twins cuddled up together in one twin bed as though reverting to the comforting days of the peace they experienced in the womb. She covered them with a second blanket, kissed their foreheads, and made her way down the hall. She passed Jacob’s room, knowing she would find her ten-year old son asleep in her bed once again. She no longer moved him back to his own bed, taking as much comfort from sleeping with him as he did with her.

As she did every night, no matter how late she arrived, she filled the tub and soaked for a bit. Surely, it made more sense to take a quick shower and jump in bed, but she needed these baths. It always felt like a cleansing of sorts as she imagined washing away all her troubles before laying her head on her pillow. Otherwise, she knew her worries would circle her mind and sleep would elude her when she needed it most. Thank goodness she still had her mother with her to stay at home with the kids while she worked. She wouldn’t know what to do without her help, but she also knew she was getting older and that wouldn’t always be the case.

This time of year was always the hardest and loneliest for her. It was when she seemed to feel the full brunt of being a single mother the most. She wanted a magical Christmas for her children, but she had stopped believing in magic long ago. How do you continue to help your children believe when the world has stripped you of your hope, your dreams, your faith? As she lay beside him, she watched her son sleep and realized the tranquil look he once possessed was beginning to fade even in his dreams. “Lord, please give me strength.”

She woke before the sun. Gathering the envelope labeled “Savings” in her nightstand before heading out once more. She hoped to make it back before the kids woke up. As she pulled into the Kmart parking lot, she ran the numbers in her head and knew she would have to choose only one item on the list for each of her children. She didn’t have enough for the rest of the items she had placed on Layaway, but Christmas was just days away and she had to have at least one gift under the old Charlie Brown tree in the living room.

She asked the Layaway attendant to please pull up her list so she could select the items she could afford. The list wasn’t long, although she had surprised herself that day by allowing herself to dream for a bit, imagining she actually had the means to give her children the items they asked for this year.

The young girl hit a few keys and said, “Paid in Full.”

Kmart Christmas, Paid in Full, Holiday Tradition, Random Act of Kindness Pay It Forward

“There must be some mistake,” the woman said and repeated her name. The young girl gave her the biggest smile she had ever seen. “I was working the evening shift last night, when a couple came in with their two young children. I heard them explaining to their kids the meaning of putting something on layaway and how blessed they were to be in a position where they had never had to do that. They then asked me to pull up a layaway list that included children’s items and paid it in full. When I asked them if they wanted me to contact the person, they said no. Just tell them we said, Merry Christmas and God Bless.

The young lady then proceeded to hand the items over to the woman who stood motionless, tears streaming down her face. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” The young lady handed over the final item and said, “Don’t thank me, that family gave me faith that magic still exists. Merry Christmas to you and your children.”

This is our yearly tradition with our children, and all of us have come to look forward to it more than any other aspect of our holiday season. The story above is just one of the versions I’ve imagined in my heart throughout the years. Do you have a family tradition during the holidays?