Lingering Lessons

(Photo: My sister, Linda Marie, and my grandmother sometime in the late 1980s, I think.)

Lingering Lessons:

I cringed and tightly clutched my dwindling chunk of chocolate, then, reluctantly, my eyes oscillated between my prized treat and her hopeful eyes.  “Can I please have a piece, doll?” she asked, in Spanish.  We had done this routine, always initiated by her, so many times before, and it always ended the same way: She’d try to coax me out of a treat; I’d guiltily deny her; she’d frown and explain that she didn’t truly want a piece and then kiss me anyway and carry on with household chores, causing me to slump away in shame.  Surely, this time would be no different.  But still, I couldn’t risk squandering my daily fix on a fleeting whim of a fickle woman.

But she wasn’t a fickle woman; she was my grandmother, better known as “Mommy Marry,” and she was challenging me to become a better person.  Mommy Mary was and still is, albeit no longer alive, the most generous, gentle, and compassionate woman I have ever known.  She was the type of woman to always cater to the needs of all those, whether friends or foes, around her before considering her own.  She was the sort of woman to selflessly devote the better years of her life to attend to her aging and ailing mother sans complaints. She was the kind of woman to graciously and warmly extend financial assistance without keeping tabs.  She was the type of woman to hone in on people’s positive attributes even when there seemed to be none, rendering my youthful mind bewildered oftentimes, as I could not penetrate beyond the inconsiderate surfaces of people harboring supposed goodness.

Despite my stubbornness, my grandmother strived to instill good virtues, such as generosity, compassion, and consideration, into me, hence, her incessant little tests.  Though I never responded the way she had hoped; years later, her tests and the exceptional example she provided through her lifestyle—along with the conviction from God—began to evoke changes in my heart and incite me to aspire to her extraordinary virtues.  I’m still plodding along somewhat ungracefully compared to her, but, someday, with God’s help and her example, I hope to become an equally wonderful example to, perhaps, my nephew and nieces and, someday, my own grandchildren.


Pumpkin Craft for Little Ones

Here’s a perfectly adorable yet incredibly inexpensive and easy Halloween craft for kiddies too young to, say, carve a pumpkin or bake a pumpkin pie. And the best part is that you already (well, you should) have all of the supplies needed for this craft in your home.

To begin, you’ll need: a pair of scissors, two sheets of paper (preferably computer paper), a rubber band (the slimmer, the better), an orange and a green crayon (though you can certainly use more hues for a more detailed effect), and last but not least, a Sharpie (or any permanent marker with a fine tip will suffice, really).

Step One: Crumple one of the two sheets of papers into a ball.

Step Two: Draw a circle (with a diameter of about 5 inches; I measured mine just for you) with your orange crayon and color it in (if your child is too young to draw a recognizable circle, you can do that part, then have him or her color it in). You can also use a brown or a slightly darker orange crayon for a more detailed look.

Step Three: Using your green crayon now, draw a larger circle around the orange circle, and then, still using your green crayon of course, color in the distance between the orange circle and the green one. Once colored in, the green ring, which will end up being your pumpkin’s stem, should be at least two inches wide (you can always snip some length off later). The finished product should resemble a Pre-K version of the insides–I’m thinking the mantle and core?–of our earth, which you can of course turn into a mini-science lesson! Or not. Up to you.

Step Four: Mold your colored paper around the crumpled ball from Step One, then with your scissors trim off the excess paper (again, if your child is too young for this step, you can help).

Step Five: Wrap the rubber band around the green stem.

Step Six: Give your pumpkin a face with a permanent marker, and (wah-lah!) you’ve got yourself a miniature, paper-made jack-o-lantern. Don’t forget to name the little guy. Then, fawn. And of course, craft some more!

Easy and fun, right? And the little ones will love it (I know because I’ve made dozens with children, between ages three and nine, at the Kids Club).

Caboodles: A Woman’s Toolbox

I don’t typically blog about my purchases, but I think this one is worth sharing. Well, with women. I bought my first Caboodles cosmetics case (a woman’s version of a man’s toolbox) yesterday at Target for $27.39 (plus tax), and now I don’t know how I ever lived without one. I realize that sounds so cliché, but this case is seriously the most convenient makeup storage organizer I have ever owned, which means no more makeup sprawled across my bathroom sink or bedroom floor, which also makes for a happy boyfriend.

Caboodles sells oodles of makeup/beauty supplies cases. Mine is called Stylist and comes equipped with a handle and two latches on the outside, both of which can be locked with a key, presumably for traveling purposes or to deter a klepto sibling/child from meddling with your goodies. Inside are six 4.5 by 5.5 inch trays that draw apart (like wings) to reveal a lower, larger storage compartment, in addition to 10 tiny straps attached to the sides, perfect for eyeshadow brushes or eyeliner pencils.

But my favorite aspect of my new makeup chest is that it is adorned with ornate black lace, which makes me want to display it in my room as if it were a decorative piece. It’s beautiful.

Dimensions: length: 11.25 inches; width: 6.5 inches; height: 8.5 inches

Browse the Caboodles website here. Enjoy, ladies.

Kids Say the Darndest Things!

Yes, I’m a writer. But I’m also practical and have bills to pay. Therefore, I have a day job as a “Kids Club attendant” at Gainesville Health & Fitness Center (until, I hope with fingers crossed, my writing career takes off). That is, I look after/play with/occasionally wipe the rear end of/entertain/feed/burp/sing to/and yes, even socialize infants, toddlers, and children, between the ages of 6 weeks and 12 years, while their parents work out.

Writing is my passion, yes. But kids may be a close second. What’s not to love about a small person who speaks his or her mind, minus the malarkey? I love the spur-of-the-moment, candid—sometimes inappropriate—things kids say. Take for instance a five-year-old boy who, after noting another mother drop off and pick up her son from the Kids Club within a 20ish-minute time span, decides to comment on said mother’s measly workout effort: “Man, that was fast! You just dropped him off here.” Which, of course, prompts a fierce, you-better-not-say-another-word death stare from me, which looks something like this (but not as scary). Mr. Big Mouth gets the point, turns around, and reabsorbs himself in his Xbox gamming.

But by then the damage is done and the poor, embarrassed, and now red-faced mother spends the next three awkward minutes justifying her short workout—early morning, long workday, even longer yesternight, blah, blah, blah—before scurrying away with her son. Awkward, yes. But deep down, I love and even agree with Mr. Big Mouth’s commentary. So I give him a little nudge and smile, and let him know that his brutal honesty is (albeit funny) inappropriate.

But sometimes the brutal honesty I love is directed at me, in which case I don’t love it so much. Like the time a 4-year-old girl (we’ll just call her “Rebecca”) lifted my pant leg, rubbed my leg, then shouted so the entire room, parents and coworkers included, could hear: “Miss Cindy, you gotta shave!” And she had the audacity to giggle. But. She’s still one of my favorites.

I should mention, since then, Rebecca has taken it upon herself to randomly inspect the stubble status of my legs, which has inspired me to shave more frequently, but when she catches me on my off days, she doesn’t hesitate to call me out. That little brat. But I love her.

I suppose I love those cute little demons, I mean, angels, for the same reason I love writing: I appreciate their unfiltered thoughts the same way I applaud and strive to write honest, blunt, and sometimes uncomfortably raw stories (for my blog, anyway).

Fallen: The New Twilight

If you are a die-hard “Twilight” groupie, then Lauren Kate’s “Fallen” saga is a must-read. In fact, there are several parallels between the two series: Girl meets superhuman boy. Girl and boy fall madly, deeply, and irrevocably in love. Girl and boy are separated and subsequently miserable. Girl and boy reunite and sparks fly, but not without a looming, mystical danger threatening to permanently separate the pair.

I abhor when too much about a book is revealed, so I’ll do my best to adhere to the “less is more” mantra. Here is a rundown of some of the “Fallen” saga’s highlights and downfalls, as compared to the “Twilight” one, without ruining the series for you.

Highlights: Lucinda Price and Daniel Grigori are slightly friskier than Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. Daniel is just as chiseled and gorgeous as Edward, only Daniel isn’t dead, cold, pale, or blood-thirsty. “Fallen’s” plot mirrors “Twilight’s.”

Downfalls: The author is addicted to unnecessarily abusing alliteration to the point of absolute annoyance (yes, just like that). Then again, Stephanie Meyer’s books are riddled with spelling errors. Bella is funnier and spunkier than Lucinda. Lucinda is so hardheaded and heartless sometimes I long to reach inside the pages of my book, lace my fingers around her neck, and choke her (well, I suppose her stupidity toys with my emotions, which is a plus). “Fallen’s” plot mirrors “Twilight’s.”

What are you waiting for, Twihards? Read the “Fallen” saga, then tell me if you enjoyed it as much as I did. The saga begins with “Fallen,” then comes “Torment,” and finally “Passion.” The last book, “Rapture,” is not yet out but is expected to release sometime next year. Can’t wait.

Nothing Worse than a Broken Heart don’t think there is a worse pain than a broken heart.

Whether it’s the loss of a loved one or the loss of a cherished relationship, a broken heart can debilitate even the strongest man or woman.

It consumes thoughts and disrupts sleep. It can make simple tasks, like attending classes, working, and eating, unbearably hard.

Even when the broken-hearted manages to laugh, the immense twinge of loss never fades.

Broken hearts are especially evil because the only cure — the return of the one responsible for the pain — is always out of reach, making it the worst kind of agony.

It’s a pain I’ve known all too well and wish never to know again. It’s a pain I’ve undoubtedly inflicted on others—and for that, I’m sorry. It’s a pain I wouldn’t even wish upon an enemy.

But if it means anything at all, time does help.

Candy (and Sometimes Food) Smugglers

Not my purse; nor my pick of sweets.I’m not sure if it’s illegal, but Chris and I usually smuggle candy (and sometimes food) into movie theaters. If the prices weren’t so ridiculously inflated, we would gladly buy from the theaters. But when a small soda at a theater costs more than a 2-liter soda bottle at Publix, I’d say the theaters are doing the robbing.

Usually, I’m the culprit who has to do the smuggling with my oversized purse, making me feel like I’m doing something naughty.

But because I forgot my basketball-sized purse at home during our last movie outing, our food-smuggling escapade was more creative than usual.

We had to stuff Chris’ coat pockets with our Subway subs — we hadn’t eaten all day — and strap his Coke and my Ice Tea bottle around his waist with his belt. Luckily, his coat is big enough to fit a 250-pound man, so the hidden goods weren’t easily detectable.

However, Chris was paranoid because he looked like he gained 50 pounds. So much so he’d snap whenever I wandered too far from his side. (He thought the closer I stood to him, the less absurdly obese he looked. Not true.)

But we made it, passed an attendant ripping ticket stubs and a security guard, unnoticed.

We felt less guilty after an elderly woman to the left of Chris reassuringly swayed a bag of non-theater peppermints and smiled at him after seeing us unload our subs and drinks.

“It’s just too expensive,” she agreed.

It’s nice to know we aren’t the only food-smuggling moviegoers.