Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Uncommon Kindness

As the year is coming to an end, I want to tell you a story of an unusual act of kindness. I like to think of myself as a kind person; as are most of the people that I know; and on occasion I will go out of my way for someone, even if it means my own inconvenience; but I recently experienced an act of kindness that went far beyond that of what's common and as I was astounded by this person's generosity of spirit, I feel compelled to tell this story.

I have been working for my employer for approximately 12 years and although they've never paid me what I deserve, they have been very flexible with my schedule and they've even allowed me to work from home for the past 2 1/2 years; so I suppose you can say that I am sacrificing my pay for their adaptability. People often ask me why I don't get a different job and the truth of the matter is that I WANT TO BE A WRITER and until I can find a job as a paid writer, it doesn't make much sense for me to take something on that is just going to be another " JOB." Additionally, the hours that I would be available to work away from home would be limited, so it would have to be a very well paying JOB and in this economy such a position is hard to find.

Now, like I said a couple of posts ago, I've been sparing you the current woe is me of my life as I am acutely aware that my present situation is not unusual; but as it is pertinent to this story; I'm going to share:
In August all of the employees at my company were advised that business had not been going well; and therefore, we were all going to have to take a pay cut. I can't disclose the percentage of the cut; but suffice it to say that it meant hardship for my family.
In September Luis was told that he and all of the other managers at his hotel were going to have to take 8 days off without pay by December 31st.
And in October I was told that I needed to reduce my hours from 40 to 32 per week, as the company was having cash flow problems. The person who broke the news to me said "We're making reservations; we're just not collecting enough money for them." Now as the person who collects the money, this statement certainly left me to wonder "If I'm the person who collects the money, how can we afford for me to work any less?" I asked a question to this affect but regardless of the logic the company had decided that all 3 women in the accounting department were going to cut their hours and a number of other people were laid off. Ok, now I'm sure that some of you are thinking, "If the company claims to be having a problem collecting money, why aren't they firing Paige, if she's the one who collects the money?" And the answer my friends is simple; I am the Queen of COLLECTIONS! Not to toot my own horn, but I am EXTREMELY good at what I do and my employers know it; BUT, one person cannot be expected to collect money from 65,000 hotels worldwide, single handedly and that is exactly what they have been having me do. I should have a staff of at least 4 people; but instead it's just me and considering that it's just me; I've made them A LOT of money; just not ALL of their money.

The news of my new schedule immediately sent me into panic mode. My poor husband had already been working 2 jobs to try to earn some extra money, but between August and November our pay had decreased significantly and the money that he made at the pharmacy couldn't make up for all that was being lost. Much to his credit Luis remained positive and reassured me that we'd be OK; so I've been doing my best to refrain from acting like a nervous wreck.
My present deal with my company is that 3 days a week I work from home and 1 day a week I go into the office. I was in the office on December 17 and I was talking to my friend, (who for the sake of this blog I will refer to as DM;) and I told him that I got the distinct feeling that no matter how much money the company made they would never give my hours back nor restore my previous pay rate; and it saddens me to say that DM agreed. DM has been on my side for years. In fact he is probably the only person at my company who realizes how hard I work and what my contribution to the company has been. I shared my fear with him, he said "Well, I'll tell ya; after they cut your hours, I was thinking of going to the other guys and suggesting that we all take a little more of a pay cut so that you wouldn't have to lose a day. I realized that none of them were going to be willing to do it, so I thought that I would let them cut my pay enough to get your day back; but then I realized that if I let them do so, they'd never give my money back. So then I thought I would go to them and ask how much it cost to pay you for a day and offer to write them a check each pay period so that you could get your day back; and then after you, if I could, I would do this person and that person." And I don't think that I have to tell you that I almost cried. I think my jaw must have dropped to my desk because I couldn't believe how selfless DM was and what I was hearing. I thanked him profusely for even considering such an act, and assured him that I could never let him do so. We talked about how ridiculous it was that he recognized my value to the company while its owners did not and how his compassion surpassed theirs. And although his offer will never come to fruition, it is the fact that he even considered it that is extraordinary to me.

So often through the history of this blog, I have told you that I am all about the GREATER GOOD and THIS is a shining example of a man who in so many ways was exemplifying the greater good. He wanted the greater good for my family, and for our company and he was willing to try and contribute towards the greater good at his own expense. UNCOMMONLY KIND, is all that I can say.

We certainly don't all have the means to take on the financial burden of someone else, but we ALL can make a difference in someones life in one way or another. Whether it is to give a friend 5 extra minutes of your time when you really don't have it; or by volunteering, or extending a friendly greeting to a stranger ~ just because; we can all be facilitators of the greater good.
As we approach this new year, 2010; I hope that life continues to get better for all of you, in every way. May you all experience good health, both physically and emotionally, may you grow rich emotionally, spiritually, creatively and financially and may you put your dreams in motion and make them your reality.

As always I thank you for taking the time to take this journey with me. I thank you for your support and your encouragement, your laughter and your tears.
Till next time...

Friday, December 25, 2009


Although I'm Jewish, I've always been a fan of Christmas. When I was growing up, my parents wedding anniversary was on Christmas eve, and even though they were both Jewish, it was part of their anniversary tradition to put up a Christmas tree. Oh, there was talk in my predominantly, Jewish neighborhood, that one of the Howell's must NOT really be Jewish, but this was not the case. They just simply loved the festivity that a Christmas tree added to their anniversary and holiday season.
Our trees were always beautiful - always real and always at least 8 feet tall. The tree was adorned with 3 kinds of lights: the large old fashioned bulbs, small twinkling lights and bubble lights that sat on the branches with small tubes of colored oil, which when heated would bubble away magnificently. The ornaments were of different colors, shapes and sizes and each one was prettier than the next, and on top of the tree sat a ring with 3 pixies sitting around it, holding little lanterns which lit up. And it delights me no end, that to this day the pixie topper is still going strong and sitting on top of my tree. I guess if there's one nice thing I can say about Richie Howell, it's that he did a GREAT Christmas tree and he taught me how to do so as well.

Although we always had a Christmas tree, we never went to church or celebrated the holiday in any other way; after all, that's not what Jews would do. We did light our menorah and enjoy my mom's potato latkes and each year our parents would let us decide as to when we wanted to open our presents; at Chanukah or Christmas. We tried all different variations, like one present at Chanukah and teh rest at Christmas or all 8 nights of Chanukah and nothing at Christmas, but I'll admit, it was a little anticlimactic to have these Extraordinary trees with nothing under them, so we usually opted for the majority of our gifts at Christmas, but we forewent lighting our menorah and honoring our heritage.
After my parents passed away, I continued to celebrate both holidays; so marrying a Catholic guy didn't change my holiday traditions at all. We still light our menorah and decorate our tree; we just don't go to synagogue or church.

Many years ago, Big V gave me a Winnie the Pooh menorah. I had been a big fan for years; long before it was popular to be one. In fact, Luis calls me "Pooh," I'm assuming because of the resemblance of our bellies. Anyway, I went to take the menorah out of its box and it slipped out of my hand and broke (thankfully, nowhere near my feet.) I then took out my cheapie menorah that I've had forever and found that I only had enough candles for a couple of nights. "No problem" I thought, "I'll just go to Target tomorrow."

Kelsie and I went to Target and much to my dismay I found nothing whatsoever for Chanukah or any other holiday but Christmas for that matter. I tried to ask an associate, but she didn't speak enough English to understand. She called over another associate who was also Hispanic, and looked at me like I had 3 heads when I told her that I was looking for Chanukah candles. She said "Maybe Linda," as Linda was the Caucasian associate who was heading our way; and when they called her over she politely said "How can I help you Ma'am;" and when I told her what I was looking for, her volume increased exceedingly. She shouted "OH, Chanukah! No, we don't have anything for Chanukah at this location. Maybe try the Bell road / Arrowhead store." She then said "I didn't know that there were that many people around here who were interested in Chanukah" (again speaking at the top of her lungs.) Next she told me that I could go online and let them know that I wanted this location to carry Chanukah stuff, and Passover and Yom Kippur too. She loudly followed that suggestion up with; "Do you know how to do that?" To which I calmly replied; "I think I can figure it out." Linda thought she was being ever so helpful when she wrote the store id # down on a sticky note for me; so I'm sure that she was shocked to find out that I went right to her manager to complain about her. OK, It's true, I was fuming. I was not only insulted that Target carried nothing for Chanukah, but then to be spoken to by Linda,the way that I was; honestly, if I was looking for items for my Kwanzaa celebration, would Linda have told me "Oh, I didn't know that people around here were interested in Kwanzaa;" if you know what I mean. When the manager came over I calmly told her that I wanted to make a complaint about the way I was spoken to by one of the associates. I went on to say "I was in your holiday section, but I guess you can't call it that since there is only one holiday represented over there." I then went on to tell her what had happened. I explained that Linda's raised tone of voice, which caused other shoppers to look over towards our conversation, made me uncomfortable and that I felt very insulted when she asked me if I knew how to leave a comment online; almost as if she was saying "You're Jewish so you must be stupid." And I told her that I was very disturbed by the fact that there were only Christmas items available. The manager apologized profusely, because of course that's all she could do - and we left the store, determined to find Chanukah candles before nightfall.
Disgusted by Target, we went to Walmart, but they too were void of any Chanukah provisions. I then went to the other Target location that Linda had recommended and again had to ask an associate as I didn't see any Chanukah anything. She told me that she thought they were on an end cap because they had recently been marked down to clearance and when we walked over to where she thought they were; there were none to be had. I suppose that no one in this area has an interest or use for Chanukah candles until they go on clearance. Out of desperation I went to Cost Plus, and they in fact had some beautiful Chanukah candles, for $12.99 and 50% off. I purchased the $7 Chanukah candles, shocked that I had to do so, but I reasoned that we spend a lot more money on Christmas than we do on Chanukah, so a $7 purchase for my holiday was justified. I tell you, I don't think there has ever been a year that I've wanted to light those candles and say my prayer more. I felt persecuted and sad, because it's not as if I live an area where there is no Jewish population; just a small one. I thought of my grandparents who were killed in the Holocaust JUST BECAUSE they were Jewish, and there was no way, that I would ignore Chanukah because it was difficult to find my candles.

Now, this experience didn't make me resent Christmas, or the good tidings for a Merry one. I LOVE Merry Christmas, I say it myself; because to me it isn't necessarily a religious salutation or sentiment; but a wish for a wonderful and special day. It is the one day of the year that most people share peace on earth and good will towards man but at the same time; no one else should be denied or slighted for their beliefs. And I think that I am feeling compelled to mention this because a day or so after my Target incident, a Facebook "friend" had put her status as something like, "I was so happy to see a Merry christmas sign at Target, " and then I can't remember her exact words but her implication was that she was tired of having to endure a Happy Holiday or Season's greetings sign and instead of Merry Christmas, just to be politically correct. Well, it was all I could do to keep from leaving a comment, but I knew that it probably wouldn't have made a difference if I had. She felt denied her preferred greeting, but I shouldn't feel bad that my holiday wasn't even acknowledged by this store or others? It's not like I was celebrating Festivus for crying out loud. On the other hand, a very kind soul sent me an email apologizing because she knows that I was raised Jewish, but she thought that she, may have sent me a Merry Christmas card as opposed to a Happy Holidays. I thanked her for being so thoughful and considerate and explained that I had no problem at all with receiving a Merry Christmas card. I don't expect someone to send me something different just because Christmas isn't my religious holiday. I am thankful for any kindness and I am happy to be the recipient of whatever well wishes the person wants to send.
And so, on this wonderful Christmas day; I wish you all the VERY Merriest Christmas, Season's Greetings, Happy Holidays and YES, a Happy Chanukah (although it's already passed.) I will not wish you a happy new year as yet; as I am going to try and rise to the occasion and complete another post by the 1st of the year and offer My new years wishes then.
Till next time...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Winter Wonderland

The older you get ,the faster time seems to go, (with the exception of time spent at work of course.) I mention this because in addition to it being the holiday season, it's also the birthday season at my home. Kelsie is celebrating making it to her 6th birthday today, and Lyndzi will be turning 8 just one week later on the 18th; so naturally I've been reflecting on how quickly these incredible years have passed and looking forward to all that I will share with my family in the years to come. As a parent it is bittersweet to watch your babies grow. In some ways you want them to remain small and always in need of your help and in other ways, it is delightful to think of all the endless possibilities that lay await and all of the new experiences that we will encounter at each different stage of their lives.
I think back to when I was Nicky's age and try to remember what I was like and what I was thinking then and it's hard for me to believe that we have already gotten to that point with our amazing boy; but we have. Nicky's grade recently had "THE Talk;" and it just doesn't seem possible to me that it could ALREADY be time for that, and yet it was. A few weeks after "THE Talk," Nicky came home and was very excited to tell me that he was going to be bringing home an invitation for the 5-8th grade Winter Wonderland, school dance and I was smacked in the face with the reality that my babies are no longer babies by any stretch of the imagination.

Nicky was really looking forward to going to the dance and protective mom (ok OVER protective mom) that I am, feared this dance would be his ruination, for despite the fact that Luis and I can both bust a move; our boy has no coordination whatsoever. To say that Nicky is rhythmically challenged might be going too far, but suffice it to say that my memories of the spasmic displays that I've seen during holiday parties and other dancing opportunities were not inspiring my confidence. I wanted to coach Nicky without insulting him and so I recommended that he subtly bounce to the beat and keep his hand gestures to a minimum. Thankfully he was receptive, as I explained that I knew first hand how cruel kids could be and that if anyone found a reason to make fun of his dancing, they'd probably never stop. And for those of you who are fans of psychology and may think that I was transferring my own stuff on to Nicky, so be it.

I was teased mercilessly as a child and pre-teen and if I could do anything to help my child avoid that; psychology be damned; I'm gonna do it!! Now, don't get me wrong, I certainly didn't want Nicky to be scared to go to the dance; just PREPARED; I mean it's what I would have wanted someone to tell me, if they knew something that could possibly protect me from a world of hurt; and luckily Nicky and I have the type of relationship that he knew I was trying to help him, not hurt or intimidate him.
I told Luis about the dance and he too was concerned that Nicky might not use the best judgment about dancing and ultimately do something to embarrass himself; so we agreed that one of us might volunteer at the dance just to give him some encouragement and keep a watchful eye. I asked Nicky if he'd like one of us to volunteer at the dance and though he is usually happy to have us on his field trips, he said " That's OK; I got it." And so we had to let him go.

Nicky got dressed for the dance according to the Winter Wonderland dress code: Black, Navy, White, Silver, or Red. He wore black pants, a long sleeve, stone grey, knit Henley shirt and black shoes ~ And my boy looked GOOD!! When we dropped Nicky off, we couldn't help but notice how grown up all of the kids looked and how excited they all seemed to be. Luis even commented on different kids outfits; in particular this one little girl in a red, shiny,shirt. Leaving Nicky at the dance was definitely taking a leap of faith for us, but we drove off hopeful that he would have a wonderful time.
The 2 hours flew by and we went back to pick Nicky up. Luis pulled up to the curb content to wait for Nicky to come out, but when I saw some other moms going in; I wanted to do the same. Luis felt confident that Nicky would come out on his own but I reminded him that I had friends inside that were teachers and I could try to find out how it went and Luis responded with a typically male "Do what you want to do." So the girls and I were off like a shot.
Upon entering the building we were greeted by Nicky's teacher; who told us that the dance had gone very well and that Nicky had danced with a girl (I will call "B") for most of the night. I said that I didn't know B and his teacher said that she was in the other class. His teacher told me that so many of the kids had come up to her and said how surprised and happy they were to see Nicky dancing, because he is SO shy and she told them to leave him alone so he could have a good time and reminded them that you can't judge a book by its cover. Well, of course I was on the verge of tears; but just then Nicky came over to me and I held it together. I asked Nicky if he'd had a good time and he said "Yes," and promptly gave me my change for the evening. There couldn't have been more than 2 minutes left to the dance so I asked him "Are you ready to go or did you want to finish up?" And he said "Can I finish up?" so I said "Sure," and with that, he went back out on to the dance floor and proceeded to put his arms around the waist of the little girl in the red, shiny, shirt. Her arms were around Nicky's neck and they danced slowly to the last song of the evening. I was frozen in my place as I watched my baby dance like a young man, in the arms of this pretty, little girl with hope on her face; and Nicky's teacher leaned over to me and said "That's B." Once again I was almost in tears, but in a way they were tears of joy, because I can now look forward to a new phase in Nicky's life. He had made it through the dance without incident and was beaming with a confidence that I rarely see in him. He said good night to B, and thanked his teacher and we got into the car. I whispered to Luis that the dance had been a success and that Nicky had danced with B most of the night and then pointed out that she was the girl in the red,shiny, shirt; to which Luis replied "Well, I noticed her first."

Nicky regaled us with all of the details of the dance and it turned out that B had asked him to dance and he gladly accepted her invitation. Nicky had the time of his life and his new found confidence was thrilling. I told him that I was so, incredibly proud of him and that he probably made B's night; (because I totally can remember what I felt like after my first dance;) and I commented that he seemed so confident that he might even score a goal at soccer on Saturday; and HE DID! I actually heard one of the mom's say; "Nicky should go to a dance every friday night;" and I honestly wish that he could.
It is such a fantastic feeling to witness the growth of someone you love; whether a child, a spouse or a friend. To watch a person strive towards their potential and realize who they are, what they can do and what is out there for them. Life really is a wonderland!!!

Till next time...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Simple Pleasures

Seasons Greetings one and all!
When I first thought up the idea for this post, it was in response to the difficult economic times that we are all facing. I hadn't really been feeling like the Queen of ANYTHING which was certainly one of the reasons; OK, EXCUSES for my latest disappearance. Truth be told, I hadn't really had anything to write about that wouldn't make you want to slit your wrists after reading; so I thought it best to keep to myself. I know that things are tough ALL OVER and that everyone has their share of woes and sorrows, which is yet another reason that I chose not to regale you with my current state of affairs. So instead I decided to take the high road , and focus on the little things that make me happy; the simple pleasures, if you will. I had been compiling a list of things that put a smile on my face and bring warmth to my heart and now that I've waited so long to share this message ; the holiday season is upon us and I think it's an especially timely suggestion to reflect on those things that cost little to no money but bring us comfort and joy. I know, I know Kumbaya and all that - but I can't help it; I just gotta be me.

My Top Ten SIMPLE PLEASURES (in no particular order):
1. We recently discovered that a Hummingbird built a nest in the Lime tree outside of our guest room / office window. It appears that the hummingbird built the nest out of dryer lint and every time that I see the charming, little bird in her nest; it brings a smile to my face. (That's what I wrote WEEKS ago.) What happened next, was that Luis discovered that the Hummingbird had laid 2 eggs in the nest and so we now have baby Humming birds as well. How GLORIOUS! Don't ask me why, but I feel blessed to have them living in our tree. Luis, Nicky and I would go out daily and check on them and they are now big enough to fly. I am hoping that they build additional nests and continue to grace us with their presence; because they do make my heart smile.
2. My children's smiles.
(Need I say more?)

3. Hershey (my Chihuahua) When I originally wrote this down, (several weeks ago) it was actually; Taking walks with Hershey, because for various reasons; OK., EXCUSES - I hadn't been going to the gym. I was planning to go back but at the time it was SO beautiful outside, that I decided to take walks instead and take Hershey with me. It was invigorating to be outside on a beautiful November day and I must say that walking WITH Hershey and enjoying her companionship was just the icing on the cake. But on the 13th, I had a freak accident, involving one of my toes, due to another simple pleasure, "The smell of Pine;" and I haven't been able to go for a walk since. Now, before I go on and on about my wonderful dog; I know that I have peaked your curiosity about my toe. Let's suffice it to say that on Friday the 13th I was in Walmart and I wanted to smell a pine candle that they were selling (because I LOVE the smell of pine) and when I took it off the shelf, another candle came crashing down on my toe. The toe in question is an unsightly thing called a hammer toe (that I was born with, even though Michelle K has been trying to fabricate some type of accident that caused it.) Anyway the toe is is bent down and the glass candle landing on it has dislocated my joint. I know this because 2 weeks later, I actually went to see a Podiatrist, who had to give me a shot to numb it and a shot of steroids and informed me that I am going to require surgery. Now as fearful as I am of shots; you HAVE to know how painful this injury is in order for me to agree to take the shots; so hence NO WALKING or exercising has been going on. BUT, I can recall how loved and safe I felt walking with Hershey and since it was on my initial list, I have decided to let it remain. Truth be told, having her in my life brings me much happiness, no matter what we are doing.

4. A strong cup of coffee. I LOVE the smell, I savor the taste and it warms my body and soul. The first morning cup of the day is something that I really look forward to. Coffee can energize and inspire you. It can be social or something that you enjoy on your own. And I feel compelled to mention that my mom was a BIG coffee drinker and she always had a pot of coffee brewed, no matter what time of day. She drank it hot or iced; it was her beverage of preference and every time I smell or taste a cup I feel an irreplaceable connection. Ahh Coffee!

5. Getting a book that I want - at the library. I am almost giddy when I am fortunate enough to find a book that I really want to read, available at the library. it doesn't happen all too often, but when it does, I am on a high.

6. The smell of a barbecue. Even if it's not me who is going to get to enjoy the meal; I just adore that mouth watering smell.

7. A tidy house. I treasure the feeling of calmness that comes over me when I walk down the stairs in the morning and everything in our play room is in its place. There's nothing laying on the floor or overflowing from the bins; it's just TIDY, and I feel good!
8. I don't know that I REALLY have to say anything about this one; but this is me we're talking about; so of course I will. If you are a GLEEK like me, then I know you totally understand. If you haven't seen it but you like music, and a little bit a drama; you should definitely check out this show. If you don't, then I equate it to being a Trekkie.
This show isn't rocket science; it's not the best written thing on TV, it's just something that speaks to me. It's the first non-reality show that I've really gotten into in a LONG time and I look forward to watching it on Wednesday nights.

9. Making someone laugh. Now honestly, what better gift is there than a good laugh? OK, maybe you're thinking that a BMW or an all expense paid vacation COULD be better than a laugh; but let's be realistic. 1. A laugh is ALWAYS good for what ails ya, and tingles your being (ohh, that didn't sound EXACTLY like what I meant; butchya get the point I'm sure.) And 2. This IS the "SIMPLE pleasures" list. Now we know how good it feels to just crack up. To laugh so hard that you can't catch your breath or you think you're going to pee your pants; but to be the one who causes that laughter is a feeling that is far more precious than rubies.

10. Finishing a blog. The sense of satisfaction that I get when I complete a new post on "The Bumpy Ride" is beyond compare. I am always excited to add a new post to my repertoire because I feel as though I am taking one step closer to achieving my dream of becoming a professional writer. Every time I actually publish a post, I am tenuous about the reaction that I am going to receive, but I know that if I don't try, I am already failing and that is NOT acceptable to me. Even just sitting down today to finally get this post out; I felt as though I was really breathing for the first time in a long while. As my fingers started tapping against the key s and my words were appearing on the screen, I knew that whatever doubts I've been having were unfounded, because this is EXACTLY who I am and what I should be doing ~ I feel it in my soul. So yet, once again, I am getting up on that proverbial horse and I am going to try and ride this baby for all it's worth because WRITING is really not an option for me; it's a necessity.
And with that, I encourage you all to be who you are. Know your truths and pursue your dreams; whether personal or professional. I recently found out that a friend of mine passed away very unexpectedly. He was 39; and although I am profoundly saddened by this loss, I am using his example to remember to live for today and not waste a minute because none of us ever knows how many we will be given. Rommel was an extraordinary individual who loved life. He knew who he was and he lived accordingly and that is more than most of us do in a much longer lifetime. I urge you all to be thankful for the things that bring you simple pleasures, take care of yourselves and be who you are.
Till next time...