A Pocket for Everything

She is the keeper of things great and small
giggles and hugs, she keeps them all.

The good times and tough times cannot hide
for deep in her heart is where they reside.

The kisses you placed all over her cheeks
and the ones blown from your hand, she was sure to keep.

She grabbed them for later and hid them away
to warm her heart, on every rainy day.

Her memories are tucked safe in their place
and bring her immense joy, upon seeing the face;

Of the one she gave life and unconditional love
that is her blessing, sent from above.

Yes, she is the keeper, an angel with wings
for your mother has a pocket, for everything.

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Kindness To A Child

I am a child.
Like anyone else
I want to be heard,
Not just seen.

I have much to say
Much more to give
But I am told to go away,
Let people be.

You have an opportunity
To make an impression in my life,
For the actions you take
Will impact, who I am to be.

I watch you and I see
How busy you are,
Everyone wants your time
But today, you save it for me.

When you give me your time
My world stands still,
The way you stop and listen
To the words, I have to say.

I share with you my thoughts
As I look into your eyes,
My heart knows you are listening,
You do not look away.

Your choice is simple
And cost you nothing to give,
To show me how important I am
And not walk away.

Today you showed me love
And that I matter to you,
I am important in this life
Now and always.

For there is no greater gift
That one person can give,
Than to show kindness and love
To a child, every day.

A Friend Under the Blow Dryer

She is more than my hair dresser. She has been my confidant and my inspiration. She is instrumental in me taking the steps to follow my dream of becoming a writer. She has always encouraged me and she believes in me.

Every woman should have their own hairdresser.  I met my hair dresser back in 2001 when she opened her new salon in my office building. Marla and Company Hair Studio. I had been planning my wedding and I was in need of a hairdresser that knew how to manage and cut my curly hair.  After our initial conversation over the phone, I felt she was the hair angel I had been missing in my life.

I have had too many bad haircuts in my life to recount them all.  The pictures of my youth are sad remnants of my mother trusting my unruly locks to students at the local beauty school. For each of these future hair stylists and salon owners disregarded the golden rule of haircuts.  You do not cut curly hair the same way as straight hair!  I was the embarrassed, horrified living proof of that rule.

I did not have days of beautifully layered, feathered hair with the perfect Farrah Fawcett flip.  Oh no, not I, the redheaded middle child.  I was saddled with tight red ringlets to accompany me on life’s journey. I watched in envy at how my sisters, with their straight raven locks, could beautifully blow dry and curl their hair to create that flowing, feathered Farrah Fawcett look. It was every girl’s dream in the 70’s and one which escaped me in my childhood.

My 1970’s hair days were more like Bozo the Clown meets Larry from the Three Stooges.  Styling my hair resulted in a frizzy, defiant afro that refused to be tamed let alone flipped and feathered.  After spending hours on my hair to achieve “the look,” it appeared as though I stuck my finger in an electrical outlet and the electricity escaped my body through my hair.  Pieces randomly stood up like Alfalfas hair and refused to lay quietly, no matter the continuous Aqua Net assault.  It was a losing battle.

Until the 1980’s, where big, curly hair was the new trend and I was all of a sudden, trendy!  Nobody I knew had bigger, curlier hair then I did!  With a gleam of satisfaction, I watched my sisters with their straight raven locks; torturously sit for hours and hours on end to have it permed.  What a nightmare, to have our mother and aunt roll their hair in all of those mini rollers just to achieve big curly hair.  Aww, the revenge was sweet.  Finally, I had the beautiful hair!

But it was not easy to maintain the big curly hair.  Each new hairdresser I went to wanted to cut it off, thin it out or cut it into square layers.  It was all terribly wrong.  Why would you layer big, fluffy hair to lay on itself in a pyramid shape?  It was horrible.  I was convinced “beauticians” did not know how to cut curly hair.  So I set out to find someone who did.

I had a woman for a while that was very good with my hair but was soon to retire.  Then in 2001, a new salon opened in my office building. My wedding was over a year away and I needed a stylist that knew curly hair.  After speaking to her on the phone, I made an appointment for a cut.  She convinced me she knew what I was talking about and told me she also had curly hair.  After meeting her at my first appointment, I liked her instantly.

She was professional and I could tell she was really listening to what I said.  She was one of those people that high strung, type A personalities like me are instantly drawn to.  She was easy to be around. She had a very peaceful personality yet she was hip and cool.  Her salon was comfy and full of interesting things.  She was everything I wanted to be and I wanted to be around her. She made me feel a level of peacefulness I had not felt before.

Marla has been beautifully managing my hair now for 16 years.  I can only recall one incident where at my request; she attempted a certain hairstyle that did not work too well. Damn you curly hair! But as they say, hindsight is 20/20 and now we know not to go there again!  We have gone through various cuts and colors and laughed at the ones that did not work so well.  Sometime I feel like her guinea pig but I am ok with that because I get to spend more time with her.

She has been with me through my wedding, the birth of my two children, being a stay at home mom, going back to work, changing jobs, my sister’s cancer, a return to school and a new beginning to my dream career.  She has been cutting my kids hair since they were little. They are now 13 and 11.  She has heard all of my anecdotal stories about people places and things in my life and I know much about her life as well.  I enjoy that I am able to make her laugh with a story.

For years I have said to my husband how much I liked her and wished I could find a way to hang out with her.  She has an amazing positive outlook on life and when life has really stomped all over me, I go to her salon. Then about two years ago, things with my husband had just gotten bad.  I wanted out of my marriage.  I was drowning in the stress and the anger I was feeling so I went to Marla’s.  It was that day, in her chair when our relationship changed.

I am not the kind to discuss really personal issues. I tend to keep that stuff to myself but that day, I sat in her chair and did not say much.  She knew it was a telltale sign that something was wrong.  But I had nothing funny or clever to offer her that day.  With tears in my eyes, I looked at her and I asked her how her and her husband had gotten through 24 years of marriage.  She knew I was in a bad place.  She did not look at me with sorrow or with pity.   She merely pulled up a chair and listened.

Then she told me marriage is hard, and that I would get through it.  She talked about her experience with her husband and when it changed for them.  She told me how it seemed to her, I was just not being heard at home and I was frustrated because I was trying to do it all with no help.  She offered hope that it would get better.  She mentioned the place where she often takes classes that has helped her achieve a different outlook on life and an inner peace. She mentioned how for years she thought this place could help me; personally, professionally and creatively.  I said I would look into it and I thanked her for listening to me.  I sat there quietly wiping away my tears as she blow dried my hair.

A few months ago, she invited me to one of her Landmark meetings.  She had been telling me about it for years so I thought this was my chance to hang out with her and learn all of her secrets.  When they asked for members to volunteer and introduce their guests, she raised her hand.  I wanted to die.  I was out of my element in a room full of people that I did not know.  She knew I hated public speaking, I already told her that! I was not about to stand up and talk about myself.  Not even for her.

But then when she introduced me, she caught me off guard with the beautiful things she said about me.  I knew she thought I was funny but Kind? Brave?  Great kids?  Inspirational? Talented? Did she really see me that way?  I was speechless. She talked about how she looks forward to the days I am in her chair because she knows it will be fun.  She told them how I sent her a picture of the crazy way her employee did my hair and how it made her day because she needed a laugh at her dying mother’s bedside. She talked about her hope for me in the Landmark program and that she knows I will do great things in my new writing career.  She told them how I was one of those clients that became a friend.   Me?  A friend?  Yes!!  Finally!  I was her brave friend that day and I did speak to a room full of people, for her.

She is more than my hair dresser.  She has been my confidant and my inspiration.  She is instrumental in me taking the steps to follow my dream of becoming a writer.  She has always encouraged me and she believes in me.  She gave me my first writing gig by hiring me to create and write her new newsletters for her salons, Marla and Company Hair Studio.

My daughter loves her.  They have a running joke about Natalie taking over the salon in 10 years.  I see how she looks at Marla and I am sure she feels the same way about her as I do.  She wants to be like Marla when she grows up and that is just fine with me.

I am still a wife. Marla was right it did get better for us. I am also a mother, a daughter, a sister, a working professional, a part time student and a blogger. I volunteer at my kid’s school and I run them back and forth to hockey, dance classes, baseball and softball. In the midst of all the craziness that is my life, I have Marla. She now has two locations I can run to and hide when I need to be refreshed and inspired or if I just need to catch my breath.  And within the confines of her salon chair, I have a friend.

I would love to know if you have a “Marla” in your life? Please click on”comments” at the top to share.

“FRIENDSHIP” BULLIES

We all need friends.  Friends that are there for us when we are at our lowest, who will reach down to the bottom of our souls to bring us back from that dark place we have gone.  Friends we can say anything to and be are silliest and most heartfelt with.  Friends that love us for who we are and nothing more.  These friends get us through, anything and everything. We should teach our children to be this kind of friend.

I teach my children two things.  First, every person matters so give everyone a fair chance and second, to be kind.  I encourage them to be understanding of others even when others are not being nice.  I cannot protect them from the heartaches life offers but their heartaches should not come from their so called “friends.”  A great friend makes life so much better.

We do a disservice to our young children when we label their classmates as “friends” at such an early age when children have no concept of what a “friend” actually is.  We say things like, “did you make any friends in school today?” Or “did you sit with your friend at lunch today?” Eventually, children begin to believe that because they are with these same kids all day, then they must be friends.

Then the bullying starts; making fun of their hair, clothes, weight, etc. Before long, children begin to think the teasing and name calling are a part of friendship. They get used to being bullied and they confuse it with real friendship. We need to teach them not everyone is going to be a “friend” and that it is alright to walk away.  They need better tools to be prepared on how to deal with these situations; that do not include bullying or being bullied.

The very definition of the word bully is, one that is habitually cruel to others who are weaker.

“Friendship bullies” are cruel.  They were never taught to be real friends.  They use double speak to convince you they are your friend. They complement and insult you at the same time.  They laughingly say mean things to your face and then say it was a joke.  They talk behind your back and try to convince others not to be your friends.  They make you feel bad.  They convince you they are your “best friend” by using words such as, “you better” or “you have to” and “I thought we were best friends..”  For children, these are the hardest disappointments to handle because they grew up thinking these were their “best friends.”

Time and again, I have seen my daughter bullied by several of her “friends.” Bullied for not agreeing with them or doing what they wanted her to do. I have seen her outcast for speaking her own mind and standing up for herself.  I have wiped away her tears for the names she has been called.  I have seen text messages that have called her two-faced and accused her of “friendship betrayal” for having other friends and she is only in 5th grade!  It is heartbreaking for me to see her struggle with this.

She has not met her “best friend” who God himself sent her from heaven.  All she knows are these girls she has grown up with, who have treated her this way because someone treated them the same way and made their bad behavior acceptable.

There is a better way to teach our children, especially our girls, what a real friendship is.  How children learn to treat each other reflects what they see at home.  Little girls see how their mother’s treat other women in their lives, both good and bad.  They imitate that behavior towards their own friends because they think it is normal. This is when the “bullying friendships” begin and they are usually based in jealousy, pettiness and fear.  It becomes a vicious circle of hurt and confusion. We need to teach our children, love and compassion, not competition and jealousy.

If we just stop and think about our actions towards other women, we can teach our little girls how to be true friends and stop the bullying.

The Deli Counter And An Ex!

It was one of those days that completely catches you off guard and you are just not prepared for what is coming your way.  My day happened at my local grocery store.  I was finishing up my Easter shopping at my local Mariano’s and I was having lunch with my daughter.  While eating our pizza, I looked up and saw a sign for Easter calzones $5.  Well, that is a good deal, I thought. I cannot pass that up.  And yet, I wish I had.  I told my daughter to stay put a few minutes while I went to get one.  She’s almost 11, just relax!   I tossed my last piece of pizza crust in my mouth and got up to get a calzone.  They were not in the front of the store so I asked the man behind the pizza counter where I could find them.   The man insisted I follow him. I insisted they were not up front.  So he said, “Come this way, they are in the back.”  I turned on my heels to follow him and told my daughter to stay put and do not talk to anyone.  I’d be right back!

I looked over to where the man was pointing…then I saw him.  I recognized him immediately. My ex-boyfriend!  Not THE ex-boyfriend, but my teenage ex-boyfriend who used to stare at me with that, “you are my first love and I am never going to get over you” look.  Our eyes met.  He was standing at the deli counter, right next to the very calzone case I was headed to.  This day did not start great and now it was about to take a crap at Mariano’s.

Did you ever have one of those days where you are a six foot tall redhead that stands out in a crowd and you have nowhere to hide?  Well, I do!   I was exposed!   I could not hide behind the employee I had been following.  He was the size of Tattoo from Fantasy Island!  Remember how short that guy was? It was pointless; I had to see it through.  So I waved at him.  A barely raised hand at my side caught off guard, half-assed, awkward wave.  The one that says, “I’d rather be anywhere but here.” The same wave my kids give their classmates when they see them outside of school and I make fun of them for being dorks.  Only now, I was the awkward, waving dork!  It is very difficult to remain cool when your face goes from Wonder Bread white to Cherry Kool-Aid red in no time flat!

I tried to efficiently suck the remaining pizza crumbs out of my teeth and I immediately started to take an inventory check.  Good hair day, check!  Make-up on today, check! No obvious wrinkles, check! Clean clothes, check!  Cool converse sneakers, check! Looking good in my jeans and sweatshirt at our age, check!  I am a little thicker since out last encounter but not thick enough that I don’t look good in my skinny jeans!  Looking good, check! Toot Toot!  How long had it been?  I tried to calculate how long since I had seen him.  Could it really be 16 years?   Oh god, we are old.  So, I stood tall, sucked in my gut and gave my standard greeting; in all of its formality. ”Hey,” I said. “Hey,” he replied.  This was painful and awkward!

I immediately started an inventory check on him.  His curly brown hair had thinned and turned to waves of grey.  His blue eyes were surrounded by creases of aged skin that had seen years of outside elements.  There was definitely more of him but not so much that anyone would mistake him for Fat Bastard in the Austin Powers movie.  He just looked middle aged and somewhat distinguished.

I wanted to break the ice so I wiped my mouth with my hand and said, “I was just eating pizza, I probably have crumbs all over my face.”  He clearly wanted to break the ice as well because he said, “Your face looks fine but they are all over your sweatshirt!”  I brushed off the crumbs and laughed.  Ice broken!

My pizza crumbs ice breaker worked like a charm.  We chatted about family and caught up on each other’s lives.  We walked back to the café to get my daughter and he went to meet his wife at the check-out.  We said out good byes and wished each other well.  He went his way and I went mine.

But I could not let it end there.  I was dying to see his wife and I had my daughter with me. I had to be non-chalant about my stalking.  So I hurriedly dragged my daughter all over the store to finish the shopping.  I had to get up front to see his wife!  Not because of any jealousies or insecurities but because I am a woman and this is what we do!  My daughter said, “why are you walking so fast mom? I can’t keep up with you while pushing this cart”!  So I slowed down and we made our way to the Cool Whip isle where I then realized we forgot the angel food cake for the dessert!  So we rushed back to the bakery area past the checkout lanes and there they were. Finishing up at the register, putting groceries in their cart!  The ex-boyfriend and his wife. We went to the bakery and they disappeared out the door.

Later in the car ride home, my daughter said to me, “Mom who was that guy you were talking to?  He looked weird and had such big eyes.”  I told her he was an old friend.  She asked where I knew him from.  I told her he was an old boyfriend from a long, long time ago and she said, “Ew, that’s gross, you guys are so old. Did you kiss him?  Gross!  I’m telling dad!” I told her we did kiss long ago and it was ok to tell dad.  She did not waste a nano-second of time telling dad when we got home.

It is hard to comprehend it was so long ago and that we are really this old.  I drove home in a silent satisfaction that after all this time; I won the battle of the Exes. I aged better. I still looked good. I have a great life.  But we all know looks are not everything.  I tell my kids that all the time.  But as humans who have loved, lost and been replaced, we cannot help wanting to be the winner.  Who knows, maybe he left that store with his wife and thought to himself, “I win!”

It Manners to Me!

Has anyone seen, “excuse me”?  It appears to be missing.  I just cannot seem to find it anywhere.  It is not at work, or school, or the grocery store or the mall!  It is definitely not in the car or on the train!  Nor is it on an elevator or in a door way.  Did it take a vacation?  Did it move to another country?

Has anyone seen “excuse me?”  I wish I knew where “excuse me” was.  I really miss it!  It used to be so polite and had so many friends.  It was always around when you needed it.  No matter who you ran into they would always have “excuse me” with them.  It was nice.
People really liked to introduce “excuse me” to everyone!  Whenever you would encounter them coming in or going out of a door, they would introduce, “excuse me”.   When you were standing in line and someone needed you to step aside they would again introduce, “excuse me.”  When they bumped into you they were especially excited for you to meet, “excuse me.”   And now, “excuse me” is hardly around anymore.  If it is, people have stopped introducing it to other people.

Have we outgrown “excuse me” these days?  Have we become so wrapped up in our Smartphones and iPads that we just forget to introduce “excuse me” to people?  Have we become such an isolated society that nobody needs a friend like “excuse me?”  “Excuse me” was excellent at starting conversations with people, face to face, anywhere.

It seems to me that we were a much friendlier society when we were all friends with “excuse me.”  We were less hostile when we were out and about.  We actually made eye contact with other human beings and we were able to make more friends at work and school when we introduced “excuse me.”

I hope we can find “excuse me” soon before we totally become a complete nation of rude-hand-held- smart-phone-finger-flipping-downlooking-zombies!