My Starbucks Name Is Leah

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People often ask me how I chose the name Leah Vidal as my pen name when Red Circle Days was published. Well…it’s my Starbucks name and not because they purposely misspell Leonor. I got tired of the barista stuttering when my coffee was ready or worse yet, not even trying to attempt my name at all leaving me to finally approach the counter for my not so hot coffee. I’m not one of those people who needs it piping hot, but I’m not the kind who drinks iced coffee either.

What kind are you?

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Picture this. You have just been served a steaming cup of your favorite coffee. You know, that cup you’ve been tasting since you opened your eyes to the tunes of your local station. Lifting the cup to your lips and inhaling that powerful aroma will make your senses awaken to a brand new day full of possibility, and everything will look just a little brighter with some caffeine in your system. For most of us coffee drinkers, that first morning cup is key to starting our day. That’s a lot of pressure on a little mug, even if it has carried the title of “World’s Greatest Mom” for twelve years and counting.

I personally, am a hold the hot cup in hand for a some time, taking it all in and allowing it to cool down a bit for fear of burning my tongue. However, I have been witness to some who cannot wait one second before taking a gulp. Not only am I in awe of these folks, specifically that their tongue can be submitted to such temperatures without even a flinch, but I also wonder if that’s how they approach life in general.

Coffee Drinker A: Are they the kind that are all about instant gratification, impatient, the “I Want It Now” generation? Are they the kind who don’t think before they leap/drink? Can they not be bothered with strategic planning and cost analysis or are they simply fearless, live in the moment kinda folks who will always take that leap of faith no matter the situation?

Coffee Drinker B: Based on my approach then, I guess I might be categorized as too fearful to make a move, the kind who has to analyze everything before taking a step/sip. Or maybe I just like to savor the moment, commit it to memory before moving on in case what’s coming down the pipeline isn’t as pleasant. I’m definitely comfortable in this category as I’m sure to avoid getting burned.

An interesting and totally random thought…the caffeinated approach to life. Think about it when you pick up your next cup of coffee or as you’re standing in line waiting to be rewarded with a steamy, grande, two sweet n low, skinny latte…oh wait that’s my order. Nevertheless, I guarantee you will observe both types of coffee drinkers all around you.

How about you? Are you Coffee Drinker A or Coffee Drinker B?

Of course, if you’re not a coffee drinker, then it’s a moot point. And, I just basically wasted 2.3 minutes of your life or however long it took you to read this random thought. Cheers!

Ten Things Of Thankful

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Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. – Melody Beattie

He was my introduction to so many things in life, my first in so many ways.

He was my start line to events I never knew I wanted to experience, my cheerleader along the way, always waiting there with a smile as I crossed the finish line.

He was my gas pedal when I didn’t know I needed a push and my brakes when I was unaware it was time to slow down.

He loved a road trip –  teaching me so much about life and himself on the open road during long talks I still treasure.

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He taught me lessons I didn’t always learn the first go round, but left me with a knowledge I would find priceless one day.

He was my guiding light when I couldn’t see the darkness that threatened to surround me. A beacon of hope I still gravitate toward.

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He was the first to hold me with strong arms that embraced me in such comfort and safety their presence still lingers on my skin.

He made me laugh when I took life too seriously, always reminding me to seek the joy in the pain.

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He not only worked hard to provide the basic necessities for his family, but more importantly the sense that what we had was more than enough.

A few days of bare feet on warm sand was enough to carry him through the harshest of winters.

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He loved with all his heart and made me want to love and live life as passionately as he did. Music made him come alive in a way that was contagious.

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He gave me more than ten things of thankful. He gave me life and left a legacy of love I will always treasure.

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A special tribute to my dad, my hero, my best friend.

It has been 21 years today since we said good-bye

and while I miss you every day,

I always take a moment on this day to honor you in a special way.

Thank you for being you and in turn making me the woman I am today.

 

Lizzi Rogers from Considerings does a weekly event called “Ten Things of Thankful” and for the first time I am participating. A bit late or a bit early, but participating nonetheless.

In Lizzi’s words – “One day when life was particularly tough, I remembered a trick I’d employed when life had been tough before:

Find ten things, right now, to be thankful for about today.

And I began to write them on Considerings, partly to share what was good in my life, and partly so I could hold myself accountable for doing them. A week’s self-challenge of ten things behest a ten-day challenge, then a two-week challenge, and by that time I’d realised how much change I’d made in myself.

By actively choosing to seek the Good things – by hunting them down and dragging them out (kicking and screaming, sometimes) I was making a change in my own attitude.

Not only that, but people seemed interested in how I was doing this. Inspired to try taking charge in their own lives and actively seeking the Good. So very tentatively, I began a blog hop, with some very supportive, wonderful co-hosts, and Ten Things of Thankful was born.

Dear High School English Teacher, Don’t Kill My Buzz

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I sat at the old worn oak table and nervously tapped my foot on the linoleum floor, stealing glances at my parents as they sat next to me obviously trying to hide their own anxiety. How many students had awaited the unknown in this very room through the years? How many parents accompanied their children, likely being transported to a time when they were the student awaiting the fate thrust upon them by adults they never imagined becoming?

As the black hands ticked on the unsuspecting clock hanging on the wall, student became teacher, teacher became parent, parent became teacher, entering and exiting a place where respect was demanded, expected, obligatory, instilled in us and drilled into our psyche alongside the alphabet.

You, sir, entered the room without so much as a greeting, never acknowledging us as you took the furthest seat possible, distancing yourself and immediately setting the tone for our meeting. My parents said, “Good afternoon” to which you nodded, shuffled a few papers, and let the silence hang heavy between us. My dad and I made eye contact, the look exchanged between us saying, “this should be interesting” as we sat a little straighter and waited for you to speak.

 

“So, I’m told you want to be in Honors English. I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

I looked at my parents and took a deep breath. How could you possibly think it wasn’t a good idea when you had never met me and still hadn’t since you didn’t bother to introduce yourself to us?

 

“I’ve been in Honors English all through high school and would like to continue taking an Honors English course at this school.”

Another deep breath, silence, waiting.

“Well, just because you’ve taken Honors English at your old school doesn’t mean you belong in my class.”

 

Well, this was going splendid. At this rate, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in your class after all.

 

One of my parents spoke, I can’t remember which one, “Her current English teacher here recommended she transfer to your class because she did so well on her first two assignments.”

Red Circle Days

My first book, Red Circle Days, is available through Amazon, Nook, Kindle, Apple iBooks, and Sarah Book Publishing. Click on the photo to buy a copy!

It was then you took the time to look at my parents, almost as though you were surprised to find them in the room. Immediately, I could see the disdain in your eyes because they expressed themselves in English, not their native language, and spoke with an accent. You stared them down as I shifted uncomfortably in the hard, wooden chair. I wanted to tell you I was no longer interested in being in your class. I wanted to tell you I could already tell I would hate it because it was evident to me you were a horrible teacher and even worse human being. Anger bubbled up inside me when you finally responded to my parents. Unfortunately, so did a little something called determination.

“Obviously, English isn’t your first language and while your desire for your daughter’s transcript to reflect four years of Honors English is evident, I don’t believe her past courses have prepared her for my class.”

Looking back, I should have bowed out then, thanked you for your time and not pursued your class. However, I was young and naive, and you made me feel like I had something to prove. I’m not sure what we said to finally convince you to allow me into your class, but you did and so began the year of English hell for me.

It seems you were as determined as I was, except your goal was to tear me down, and constantly remind me I wasn’t good enough for your class. You shot down my creativity, wanting me to follow a set formula for every assignment, going so far as to demand I begin every last paragraph with the word “Thus” and never giving me a grade higher than C. I tried so hard to write the way you demanded, losing my voice in the process, but determined to show you I was a good writer. I approached you for your help since all you offered was critique with no tools to help me on my next assignment.

 

“What can I do to earn more than a C? What am I doing wrong?”

Your response stayed with me for years.

“Nothing really. You’re just not a very good writer.”

And, just like that you extinguished my creative spark. You planted a seed of doubt that grew with each sentence I wrote for many years to come. The sad part is, I let you. I allowed you to convince me that I wasn’t a good writer. I let you strip me of the confidence I had when I took pen to paper and made my words come to life.

I was 18 then, under the impression that teachers always know more than their students, that all teachers want to better their students . I’m now 43 and know better. I now know not all teachers are good teachers, not all teachers have their students’ best interest in mind. Fortunately, I also know teachers like you are the minority.

I don’t know where you are or if you’re still on this earth, but I want you to know something.

My creative spark was reignited. These days, I grow more confident with each sentence I write. I make words come to life and never start my last paragraph with the word “Thus” because to this day that word makes me cringe. However, I’m going to make an exception today because (no thanks to you) I’ve learned I have a way of expressing myself in writing that touches people, that stirs enough emotion for them to come back for more. The beauty is I didn’t have to lose my voice to do so.

Thus, I AM A GOOD WRITER.

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My second book, a collaboration with a group of women writers, is available through Amazon.

My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends is officially released today. My story is on page 69. Click the photo to buy a copy! 

Have you every had a teacher, a boss, a co-worker, a friend, plant a seed of doubt in your mind? How did you handle it? Did you dismiss it or let it grow?

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?.

Wheels – Photo Friday

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“Life is like a wheel. Sooner or later, it always comes around to where you started again.” – Stephen King

 

 

When the wheels come down 
When the wheels touch ground 
And you feel like it’s all over
There’s another round for you
When the wheels come down 

- Foo Fighters

A Message to My Children on Their First Day of School

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Some of you may have seen this post over in The Huffington Post this week. I thought I would share it on the blog for all of us who are gearing up for a new school year this week. I hope it’s a smooth transition for kids, parents, and teachers!

Dear Olivia and Evan,

As I opened my eyes this morning, the realization that you will be starting a new school year at a new school today held me hostage for a moment. Today, you embark on yet another new chapter in your young lives, and as we rode the elevator down from the 17th floor I thought of so many things I wanted to say to you. Things I’ve already covered in the many conversations we’ve had leading up to this day, but as a mom can’t help but feel the urge to repeat in case you didn’t hear me the first time.

Floor 16 – I wanted to tell you that I know what it’s like to be the new kid. I understand the butterflies in your stomach and wondering if you’ll make friends. Believe in yourself. I do.

Floor 15 – I wanted to tell you I understand worrying about finding your way both physically and socially. You’ll spend a lifetime finding your way. Never give up.

Floor 14  – I wanted to tell you that sometimes the new kid is at a disadvantage simply because you are new, but the very fact that you are the new kid is sometimes an advantage in and of itself. Embrace the adventure.

Floor 13 – I wanted to tell you that as the new kid other kids will be drawn to you. Some won’t accept you. That’s okay as it will be their loss.

Floor 12 – I wanted to tell you to embrace this new experience with a positive outlook because while it is all strange and a bit scary today, very soon it will all be routine and familiar. It’s the circle of life.

Floor 11 – I wanted to tell you to try not to look so nervous. Sometimes the simple act of smiling can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It is said a picture is worth a thousand words. I believe a smile is worth at least that much.

Floor 10 – I wanted to tell you if at any moment today you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, just breathe. You’ll be amazed how a couple of deep breaths can help you see things in a whole new light.

Floor 9 – I wanted to tell you to remember you only need one good friend. Quality trumps quantity.

Floor 8 – I wanted to tell you how my heart is torn between wanting to keep you home with me all day where I can love you and protect you and wanting you to go out there and have experiences I can’t provide for you. Don’t grow up too fast okay?

 

Cheerio!

 

 

Floor 7 – I wanted to tell you how I prayed last night that those you cross paths with today will see you as I do…smart, kind, caring, funny, creative. More importantly, I hope you always see yourself as I do.

Floor 6 – I wanted to tell you not everyone will have things in common with you. Embrace the differences. They may pleasantly surprise you.

Floor 5 – I wanted to tell you to be patient with yourself and others. Time has a way of charting our course from the trivial to the really big stuff.

Floor 4 – I wanted to tell you to not be afraid to try something new. That’s the beauty of a clean slate.

Floor 3 – I wanted to tell you to listen when the teacher speaks, when someone new talks about themselves, etc. Listening is one of those skills that will come in handy later in life.

Floor 2 – I wanted to tell you to follow instructions when necessary, but also to make sure you always express yourself. It’s okay to speak up.

Ground – As we exited the building for our short walk to school, I took each of your hands in mine and said, “Just be yourself, and remember how much I love you. I’ll be waiting to hear all about your experiences this afternoon.” I realized that’s really all you needed to hear. Love, Mom

What advice do you give your children on their first day of school?

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.

 

Puerto Rico Comic Con – Photo Friday

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I’m usually a big believer in “Being Yourself” and am always encouraging the kids to be true to themselves at all times.

Every now and then though, it is definitely okay to be someone else!

We had a blast at Puerto Rico Comic Con and next year we will join these folks in costume!

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Statement: Bank Account Low. Immediate Deposit Necessary.

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“If you think back and replay your year and you don’t recall tears either sad or happy consider your year a waste.”

This line has stuck with me for some time. I don’t recall where I heard it, but I’ve carried its meaning with me each year as I’ve looked back at my life and the string of moments that are now in my past. Moments I may not have fully appreciated at the time and others I vaguely recall fleetingly passing through time…my time, my year, my life. As is often the case, life’s little moments present the biggest lessons but too often we are so caught up in what we are feeling in that particular moment that we miss the full essence of its significance. The present moment stirs up emotions that slowly roll over our heart and mind like a cloud cluster across an expanse of sky blocking the light that could bathe us in warmth and wisdom. It is only when the clouds move on that we look back, not knowing what we are seeking but sure we’ve missed something meaningful.

Beach, Sand Art, Heart In Sand

Thus, if I could give my younger self a bit of guidance now that I’ve had some time to deposit moments in my memory bank, I would share the following.

  1. Life isn’t always what it appears to be. Always take a moment to look beneath the surface. It is when you dig a little deeper that treasures are discovered.
  2. There are moments when your heart will break into a million pieces. Know that another moment will arrive that will put those pieces back together and you will be the better for it.
  3. The moment you think you can’t do something is the moment you’ve allowed someone else’s negativity to cloud your judgment. Believe in yourself.
  4. There will be moments when your heart will burst with love. Cherish them. These are the moments worth living for.
  5. At times it will feel like you’re drowning, kicking your legs, burning your lungs, clawing at the surface. Keep going because the moment where you can shoot out of the deep water and break the surface, filling your lungs with air and feeling the sun on your face once more isn’t as far off as it seems.
  6. There will be moments when you will be so proud of your accomplishments, you will want to share them with the world. Share them and bask in the glory, never forgetting the journey that got you there.
  7. The moment will undoubtedly arrive, likely more than once, when you will be paralyzed by fear. Do not let fear dictate your outcome. Pray. Listen to your heart. Choose a direction. Take the first step.
  8. If the moment ever comes when you have to choose whether to forgive or forget, understand that the two do not go hand in hand. You can forgive without forgetting.
  9. You will have regrets. Do not let them define you.
  10. Moments of failure are necessary in life. In order to be a winner, you have to understand what it’s like to be a loser.

Beach, Sand Art, I Love You

Contrary to popular belief, filling your bank account with money shouldn’t be your ultimate goal in life. Money may make some aspects of your life more comfortable, give you a sense of security, and maybe provide some experiences you might not have otherwise. However a memory bank full of moments and each tiny detail that makes up a single moment in time is definitely worth your effort.  Don’t miss out on the many opportunities to fill your memory bank with “moments.” Good or bad, each moment will be one of many of life’s valuable experiences. It will be scary sometimes to think of what the future holds, but know that it will be filled with many many moments…some of which you will learn a painful lesson from and some of which you will want to relive over and over again. Just know that a memory bank full of “moments” will be more valuable than gold when you get older.

 

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