Part 4 : (Of My 6 Part series) A Good Sense Of Humor Is Hereditary… And That’s A Fact.

I was over my mom’s house the other day and we were looking in a closet to find a box containing some ace bandages.

Mom: “Erin, try that box on the left.”

I pulled the box down off of the upper shelf and opened it.

Mom: “What is it?”

Me: “It’s an over-sized sterling silver butter dish, still wrapped in the original tissue paper.”

Mom: “Oh, that was a wedding gift. We never used it.”

Me: (Laughing) “Well, that’s pretty obvious… either that or you have some serious OCD!”

The whole situation got me thinking about what makes a good wedding gift. What makes the difference between the wedding gift that’s still in the box when you’re 83 years old and the wedding gift you can’t wait to use?

I think the answer is two-fold: practicality and comfort. I know money is practical and  gives you the ability to buy whatever you want, but the comfort part of having money only lasts until you spend it.

My mother and father received a wedding gift that not only met the above criteria, but also provided a story that would live on for decades to come.

Back in 1957 when my mom and dad got married, an electric blanket was a luxury.

My parents were lucky enough to get an electric blanket for a wedding gift. It had dual controls and was top of the line.

Newly married and facing their first brisk night, they unpacked their brand new electric blanket and placed it on their bed.

After they each set their respective controls for their personal temperature preference, they slid under the covers anxious to sleep coddled in warmth and comfort.

My mom was a bit chilly.

She quickly adjusted her control to a higher temperature and waited for the heavenly warmth to kick in.

My dad, liking his bed warm but not too hot turned the dial on his control down a bit.

My parents both closed their eyes and tried to drift off to sleep only to be awakened at fifteen to twenty-minute intervals to adjust the temperature controls on their side of the bed.

The night of uncomfortable, restless sleep ensued as my parents tossed and turned adjusting their controllers for the blanket they were both so excited to own.

My mother turned hers up and my father turned his down.

Finally, my dad said, “I can’t sleep, I’m sweating. It’s sweltering under these covers!”

“Sweltering?” My mother replied, “I’m freezing! I don’t think this blanket works.”

“You can’t be serious?” My father asked, as he got up to turn on the light.

After checking if my mother’s cord to the electric blanket was plugged into the wall outlet, both connections to the base of electric blanket and the settings on each dial, they stared at each other and began to laugh uncontrollably.

“We have each other’s control, don’t we?” My mother asked with a smirk.

“Yes, we do.” My dad replied, shaking his head.

I don’t think that my parents got much sleep that night, but I do know they shared their ability to laugh at themselves, as well as this story for years to come.

In the long run, sleep is overrated anyway.

Join me for part 5: Adding Children Ups The Craziness Ante…

Just sayin…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 3: (Of My Newest 6 Part Series) A Good Sense Of Humor Is Hereditary… And That’s A Fact.

 

My parent’s first Christmas together presented one major problem.

The tree.

My father picked out the Christmas tree the first year my mother and father were married. A tree like the ones he had grown up with.

My mother: “That’s the tree you picked out?”

My dad: “Yes, isn’t it beautiful?”

My mother: (laughing) “That tree looks like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.”

My dad: “What do you mean? That’s the kind of tree we always had growing up.”

My mother: “Seriously? We never had a tree like that. We always had a full Christmas tree.”

Often, people who fall in love come from different experiences. This can be a stumbling block, or just a lesson in compromise and the perseverance it takes to make things work.

Let’s face it, what you love, is what you know… especially when it comes to your childhood memories, the way certain meals are prepared, or even your taste in decorating.

Yet, some of these things, like the style of your Christmas tree, can create an argument larger than who left the cap off of the toothpaste or how someone could forget to put the toilet seat down.

Not for my parents.

My mother went out and bought the fullest Christmas tree on the lot… what she had known as a child. She stood the tree in a stand and decorated it.

My father kept his Christmas tree up and decorated it.

The first year of their marriage, my parents proudly displayed two fresh Christmas trees in their small apartment.

One, a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, as my mother had called it… with sparse branches that hung towards the floor with the weight of the ornaments… this was the tree of a hard-working mailman, the father of eight.

The other, a full-bodied tree, with thick, rich branches. Reminiscent of the tree bought by the father of two, an appliance repairman.

When my sister and I came along, my parents celebrated Christmas every year with an artificial tree.

When we begged for a real tree, we learned of their differences and all about their first Christmas together. My parents laughed as they told us the story.

Growing up, we never got to have a real tree but we learned about the power of compromise and the importance of having a sense of humor.

For me, I tell this story with pride.

It has shaped my compassion, as well as, my ability to compromise and take another person’s feelings into account when you have a difference of opinion.

And you know what else?

My parents had another tradition that trumped my longing for the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree in my childhood home.

On Christmas eve, Santa not only brought the presents, he brought and decorated the Christmas tree.

Every Christmas morning, my sister and I woke up to see our Christmas tree for the first time. The twinkling lights would shine on the dimly lit hallway wall as we made our way to the living room. The first glimpse of our Christmas tree took my breath away and I was just as excited about the tree as I was about the presents that were under it.

It was truly magical!

As an adult, I know that my parents spent many late Christmas Eve’s placing color coded branches into the base of our artificial tree, stringing lights, putting up ornaments and assembling bikes into the wee hours of the morning. They sacrificed their sleep and most likely their sanity, to give us the most memorable and exciting Christmas morning any child could ever dream of.

I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world.

My parents are really special, amazing people.

But I know at this point I don’t have to tell you that.

There are always more stories and more laughter to come…

Join me for Part 5: My parents favorite wedding gift… well, maybe most misunderstood wedding gift…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Adventure Begins

I wrote my recent four part series within twenty fours hours and worked a double shift at my job. Although I’m planning to include some of my best posts, I’m feeling pretty confident that I can write a minimum of fifty new stories (That won’t appear on my blog) for my first book.

I was just texting with my friend, Bob.

Bob, is a gifted illustrator and I hope that he’s up for the challenge of designing the book cover.

So much to learn, so much to do… but I’m ready for a new adventure.

Stick around for the ride and I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

And, if anyone knows a good literary humor agent, please put in a good word on my behalf, I will be forever grateful!

Bob seems to think that I have an angel watching over me…

I hope he’s right!

Much love,

Erin Cooper Reed

 

 

Part 4: The Power Of Generosity – The Nun

John and I met her while taking our dog, Max for a walk in our neighborhood.

It was the flourishing gardens, and their vast contrast to her small, ramshackle house that originally caught our eye.

We often saw her out in the yard, digging, planting and watering at all hours of the day.

She was a short, robust, elderly woman, probably around seventy years old.

We would wave as we passed her house and she would wave back to us.

The first time we spoke to her, John had stopped to comment on all of her beautiful flowers and thriving vegetable gardens.

She told us her name was Cristiana, as she smiled with not only her mouth, but also with her sparkling blue eyes.

John and I both liked her immediately.

As the months passed, our dog walks led to personal tours of Cristiana’s garden, laughter and many conversations.

“Cristiana likes me, Erin, but she really seems to have an affinity towards you.” John said one day as we passed her house on the way to take Max to the park.

“Do you think so?” I replied, “Because, I think there’s something really special about her, it’s like we have a connection.”

“Well, it shows.” John stated, and I smiled at his comment.

We didn’t know much about Cristiana, other than she was single, Polish and could uproot a rhododendron with an ax like no one you’ve ever seen.

Cristiana, was funny, caring, soft-spoken and for the most part, a pretty private person.

By the time our friendship had reached the one year mark, we though it strange that she would invite us into her yard and share her passion for gardening with us, but never once invited us into her home.

There was a lot we didn’t know about Cristiana, but as with any friendship, we accepted it for what it was and carried on.

Eventually things in our life began to take another direction.

Our neighbor across the street, Madlyn, had an ailing husband.

Then we learned my mother’s cancer had returned.

Life became quite hectic, as we spread ourselves thinly between my mother’s and Madlyn’s home.

Max’s long walks to the park became a thing of the past and our visits with Cristiana ceased.

I felt bad. I worried about Cristiana living alone. I also worried about how she felt about us no longer stopping by to see her.

The seasons changed and we still hadn’t stopped over to visit Cristiana.

It was a hot summer day when we decided to walk Max to the park. Probably not the best decision when it’s over 90 degrees, but for some reason we went anyway.

I felt a twinge of guilt and as we passed Cristiana’s house and headed down the hill to the park.

Thankfully, she isn’t outside. I thought, feeling both embarrassed and as if I had abandoned a friend.

On, the way back up the hill, John, Max and I were panting from the heat and dying to get back home for a cold drink.

I glanced up when we reached the top of the hill and stopped in my tracks.

There was Cristiana standing at the end of the driveway wearing an old house dress and eating a handful of cheese bobka.

Max began running towards her, dragging John behind on the leash.

Before we knew it,  we were standing right in front of Cristiana, while Max jumped and yelped his greeting. She patted Max on the head as she tore off a piece of cheese bobka and tossed it on the ground, to Max’s delight.

“It’s so good to see you!” I said, as she gave me a hug. “I’m sorry we haven’t been around, but life has been hard.”

“I know it has,” she replied. “Please come here, there’s something I want to give you.”

We followed Cristiana up the driveway and into her backyard, as Max happily lapped up the trail of crumbs from the cheese bobka.

On a table near the house laid a pile of beautiful, freshly cut flowers from Cristiana’s garden. Her hands worked quickly as she formed them into a bouquet.

“This is for you, Erin.” She said, as she placed the most enormous bouquet I had ever seen into my arms.

“Thank you Cristiana.” I replied, shocked by what just transpired.

“Those flowers are absolutely gorgeous!” John added. “Thank you so much.”

“Cristiana, do you have something cold to drink?” John asked. “Maybe a bottle of water? I think Max could use a drink too, especially after that cheese bobka.”

“I don’t have anything cold.” Cristiana replied, “My refrigerator died, well, it was old and I just have some stuff in a cooler on the porch.”

We talked for a few minutes, but we all knew that it was too hot of a day to stand in the sun.

As John and I made the long walk back home we became fixated on the fact that Cristiana didn’t have a working refrigerator.

“John, she can’t survive without a working refrigerator.” I said with concern, “There has to be something we can do.”

“We certainly can’t afford to buy her a refrigerator,” John said. “But I agree, we have to do something.”

“Well, maybe somehow we can… we have to find a way.” I stated.

Once back at our house, and after having a cold drink, John got on the computer and searched for a refrigerator.

“Erin, come here and look at this!” He yelled.

I ran to see what he was so excited about.

“Here’s a 4.3 cubic foot, dorm room refrigerator. Perfect condition. Five minutes away. Fifty bucks.”

“How big is that?” I asked.

“It’s one of those tall college refrigerators.” John replied, “We can fit it in my car and have it at Cristiana’s in twenty minutes!”

“Oh, please call!” I told John. “I hope that they still have it… I hope they’re home.”

Someone answered on the second ring.

They were at home and would be waiting for us.

We could pick up the refrigerator immediately.

I let out a squeal of delight!

“Let’s go!” John said, grabbing his car keys.

We got to the house in no time, it was literally five minutes away.

The refrigerator was in perfect condition and John and I were beyond thrilled.

“So, you have a kid in college?” The seller asked.

“No, we’re buying it for a neighbor up the street…” I began, as I explained the story.

We removed the accessories from the fridge and the seller helped John get it into the back seat of our car.

I turned to pay the seller for the refrigerator.

“Forty bucks will do.” He said, as he gave me a hug.

“Thank you.” I replied, “I really appreciate it.”

We arrived at Cristiana’s and carried the college refrigerator up the driveway and into the screened in porch.

“What’s this?” Cristiana asked with tears in her eyes.

“We got you a refrigerator,” John and I replied.

“Thank you,” Cristiana managed to say. I’m not sure if she looked more shocked or relieved, maybe it was a mixture of both.

Together we began moving food and beverages from the cooler as well as from the broken refrigerator in her small house.

“Are you sure you want this refrigerator out on the porch?” John asked.

“It’s better here.” Cristian replied, “There isn’t much room in the house.”

When the job was complete, Cristiana took me by both hands.

“Erin, I have something to tell you, that I haven’t told anyone since I moved here.” She said.

“You can tell me anything, Cristiana.” I replied.

“I’m a retired nun. I prayed for you, for this. I asked God for help and I wasn’t sure how it was going to happen, but I trusted him.”

I stood looking at her in disbelief.

“And there’s one more thing, you and John are the angels I prayed for. Thank you.”

 

I have thought about Cristiana’s words many times since that day. I’ve also thought of all of the coincidences, all of the things that so easily fell into place, and then I remind myself that there are no coincidences.

What I’ve learned about generosity, I learned through practicing it. I have been fortunate enough to be on both the giving and receiving end, many times.

True generosity comes from following your heart, giving outside of your comfort zone, even and sometimes beyond your means, logic or reasoning.

And I know this: don’t be afraid to follow the direction of your heart, it will never lead you wrong.

Much love and good thoughts,

Erin Cooper Reed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 3: The Power Of Generosity – The School Teacher

To say that the neighborhood wasn’t ideal, especially at dusk, was an understatement.

We drove past a few check cashing places, privately owned convenience and liquor stores, all secured with bars on their windows.

I pulled into a parking place and shut the car off.

“We’re going to a pawn shop?” Marc asked.

“Do you want to get a laptop today, or not?” I retorted.

“Yes.” Marc said, as he let out a long sigh.

We got out of the car and shut the doors, as I hit the lock button on my key chain.

“Well, let’s go in.” I encouraged.

Reluctantly, Marc complied.

Once inside, I was surprised to see how packed the store was with both merchandise, and people.

We approached the electronics counter and were greeted by a man covered in tattoos.

“I’m looking for an affordable laptop.” I stated.

“Well, take a look at everything on this shelf and let me know if anything catches your eye.” He replied.

I immediately spotted a small laptop on the third shelf. It looked to be in good condition, maybe even fairly new.

“Let me see that one.” I said, pointing my finger.

The man placed the computer on the counter in front of me.

I asked, “How much is this?” As I opened the laptop and turned it on.

“Two hundred dollars,” He replied, “but it’s over three hundred brand new.”

“I actually need two laptops like this.” I said, “Both of my sons need one for school.”

“Mom, there’s another one just like that on the second shelf.” Marc yelled, sounding excited.

The man turned and grabbed the second, identical laptop and placed it in front of me.

“Do both of these work?” I asked.

“They work, you just need to reset the passwords and do a factory reset on both of the laptops,” he replied.

“I have no idea how to do that,” I confessed. “Plus, it’s more than I can afford to spend.”

“If you buy two laptops, I’ll give you both of them for two hundred dollars,” he offered.

The price had piqued my interest, but what was I going to do about the factory reset and the passwords, I thought, hesitant to make the purchase…

My deep thoughts were interrupted by a male voice.

“Hey, Marc! Good to see you!”

I turned to see a middle-aged, well dressed man with a big smile on his face.

Marc gave him a high-five, then turned to introduce me.

“Mom, this is my computer teacher at school, Mr. Bradley.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Bradley. I’m Erin.” I said, as I extended my hand.

“Nice to meet you, Erin,” Mr. Bradley replied. “So, what are you guys doing here?”

“Shopping for laptops.” I said, “I’d like to get these two, but I have no clue how to change passwords and perform a factory reset.”

“I’d be more than happy to do that for you,” Mr. Bradley said. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

The man behind the counter handed over power cords and quickly cleared a space where both laptops would be accessible.

Before I knew it, Mr. Bradley was hard at work resetting both computers.

What I didn’t realize was the entire process was going to take two hours. Mr. Bradley diligently performed his computer magic, as we watched and waited.

Just before closing time, both of the laptops were reset and as good as any brand new computer.

“Marc, your computers are just like you got them new out of the box. The first thing that you and your brother have to do is set up your passwords,” he said with a smile.

Marc was beaming as he thanked his school teacher and gave him a hug.

“Mr. Bradley, I can’t thank you enough!” I said with delight. “I feel like I should pay you for your time.”

“No worries, Erin.” Mr. Bradley replied, “It was my pleasure!”

“See you at school, Marc!” Mr. Bradley said, as he headed out of the store.

I turned back to the counter as the tattooed man said, “That will be two hundred dollars, plus tax.”

I took out the two hundred dollars that I had saved for an emergency. Then I counted out the tax from the remainder of the money I had left after our visit to Job Lot.

I paused for a moment as I watched Marc wind up the power cords and carefully gather both laptops.

We were both smiling, as Marc held his and his brother’s new laptops close to his chest.

My mind flashed back to the smile on the face of the woman with the EBT card, then to the tears, and the smile on the face of the once homeless woman, clutching her new tablet, as she waited for the bus.

It was dark as Marc and I hurried to get to the safety of our car.

On the way home, Marc was a flurry of joy and chatter…

“Mom, can you believe it? I can’t believe it! I can’t believe that Mr. Bradley was there… and we got these two identical laptops… and it was just what we had to spend! I can’t wait to use my new laptop and I can’t wait to give Rocky his! He’s never gonna believe this! Thank you mom!”

“You’re welcome, Marc.” I said, “Just know that when you give in life, you also receive in unexpected ways.”

“I know mom, I feel like that lady with the tablet did today, and it feels good!” He said.

“I’m glad, Marc.” I replied, “I hope that you always remember this day and all that you’ve learned.”

“I will, Mom. Can I be the one to give Rocky his laptop when we get inside?”

“Yes, Marc you can,” I said with a smile. “You definitely can.”

 

I can end this story here…

But sometimes stories don’t end, and certainly true giving never ends.

Get ready for the grand finale…

Part 4

Could you imagine doing something generous, for an ordinary person, who actually turned out to be a Nun…

Sometimes, you’re called to help another human being…

Or, unbeknownst to you… you may be the answer to one of their prayers.

Stay tuned for part 4!

Erin Cooper Reed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2: The Power Of Generosity – The Homeless Woman

“Mom, can we go and get the laptops now?” Marc asked on the way home.

“We have to go back to the apartment and get these groceries put away.” I replied.

“You don’t have enough money to get both of us laptops Mom, do you?” Rocky asked.

“I wasn’t expecting to buy laptops today… but I’ll figure it out.” I said, having no idea how I was going to make good on that statement.

“Maybe we can just go look around.” I added.

“Look around?” Rocky questioned, “We’re never going to be able to afford them. I’m not going with you.”

“I’m not going.” Kevin stated, “I have a laptop.”

Thankfully, Kevin did have a laptop that his grandparents had bought him for Christmas. I was so grateful for that, especially at this moment, when purchasing two laptops could have meant having to purchase three.

“Well, I’m going.” Marc said, “Everyone in my class has their own laptop, to go on the school portal and do their homework assignments.”

“Well, good luck with that.” Rocky added, “We need laptops, not tablets, and laptops are at least three hundred dollars apiece. I know mom can’t afford that!”

I started to feel sick to my stomach. Rocky was right. I didn’t have six hundred dollars, but I had managed to stash two hundred dollars away, in a hiding place in my room.

We unloaded the groceries from the car and put them away.

“Mom, can we go get the laptops now?” Marc asked.

When Marc gets something in his head, he is relentless, I thought.

Luckily, I also had a little bit of cash left over from grocery shopping. I went and grabbed the two hundred dollars I had hidden, and motioned to Marc, “Let’s go.”

Our first stop was Wal-Mart.

As Rocky had predicted, I couldn’t afford any of the laptops there.

We headed over to Best Buy. Maybe we could find something on sale.

I couldn’t afford anything there either.

Marc looked discouraged.

“Mom, we’re never going to be able to buy two laptops.” He sighed.

“Don’t give up hope yet, Marc!” I said, although I was thinking the same thing. “Let’s go to Job Lot.”

“Okay,” Marc agreed, not wanting to give up hope. “Do you think we can afford something there?”

“We’ll find out.” I said, as we parked the car and entered the store.

All of the electronics were displayed in the front of the store. We stood with our backs to the cash registers, staring at shelves of tablets. They didn’t have any laptops.

“It’s getting late,” I said. “Why don’t we just get two tablets. They’re less expensive and you can do the same things on a tablet that you can on a laptop.”

“They can’t be tablets, Mom.” Marc replied, “Our school said they have to be laptops.”

“Well, not everyone can afford laptops…” I began to say, when from behind me I heard the voice of the cashier…

“Ma’am you’re $36.00 short. Do you have another $36.00?”

I heard a woman’s voice reply, “That’s all I have. I don’t know what I’m going to do, I need this tablet for work tomorrow.”

Without turning around, I pulled $36.00 out of my pocket and passed it over my shoulder to the cashier.

The cashier completed the woman’s transaction, as Marc and I began to argue.

“Mom, why would you do that?” Marc said, raising his voice, “We don’t even have enough money and Rocky and I need laptops for school.”

“Marc, lower your voice.” I instructed, “We’ll get your laptops.”

Angrily, Marc turned and headed towards the exit of the store, as I quickened my pace to catch up with him.

“Marc, wait up!” I yelled.

A woman I had never seen before stood in front of Marc and stopped us both in our tracks… She was crying.

“I just want to thank you for what you did for me.” She said.

I realized it must have been the woman for whom I had just paid off the remainder of her purchase.

“I took the bus here,” she continued, “With the last bit of money that I had. I was homeless, and Wal-Mart was the only store that would take a chance on hiring me, although I didn’t get enough hours. Now I’m starting a new full-time job tomorrow but I need to have my own computer, that’s why I got the tablet.”

“You’re welcome.” I said, as I gave her a hug and she hugged me back tightly, “Good luck with your new job.”

Marc and I walked to the car in silence.

As we drove away, we both looked toward the bus stop. There stood the woman, waiting for a bus, holding the bag containing her new tablet. She looked happy.

Marc was the first to break the silence in the car.

“Mom, that was really nice what you did for that woman,” he said.

“Everything is Karma, Marc. It all comes back to you. Just follow your heart.” I replied.

“Okay, I get it. ” Marc said, “But how are we going to get two laptops?”

An idea popped into my head.

It was a long shot, and we were running out of time before the stores began to close, but I was determined to get my boys their laptops.

We would have to go to a bad section of town…

And it was starting to get dark.

Join me for Part 3,

The School Teacher

As the story continues…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1: The Power Of Generosity – The Woman With The EBT Card

Sometimes the most normal, everyday occurrences lead to some of the most incredible moments of your life.

These moments are never planned, they just happen.

I live for these moments. They are as raw and real as life can be. The situation may seem small or mundane, and one could easily ignore it and let the moment pass.

Not me.

These are the moments that come on like a freight train and before you know it, you’re standing right in the middle of the tracks.

You could either step away, or stand directly in the path and get hit with the weight of the impact.

I automatically make the same choice. Every time…

I react with my heart.

It was a hot day in Charlotte, North Carolina. The combination of the extreme heat and the act of taking three boys grocery shopping led to high levels of impatience and irritability for everyone involved.

I only wanted to get in and out of the grocery store without a ton of requests from my boys for things I could not afford.

Being a working single mother of three, is hard. It tests your limits on every level: emotionally, physically and financially.

This day would be no different… except for the heat.

Somehow we managed to drive to the grocery store without a major fight breaking out among the siblings. One small victory for me.

I had to tackle my shopping list without buying anything extra the boys would beg me for, or randomly throw into the cart when I wasn’t looking.

Surprisingly, my “No, we can’t get that today” statements, were heard and accepted without much backlash. I remember thinking my children were being amazingly compliant. In retrospect, I think my children finally came to understand, although their mother worked hard, she had very little means.

Finally, we approached the checkout… perfect, we were next in line.

In front of us stood a woman and her daughter who were placing all of their purchases on the conveyor belt.

I began to pull my own groceries out of the cart thinking, “I wish I could afford more for my boys…” yet, I was grateful for what we were able to purchase that day.

I jumped when the woman in front of me shoved my groceries back and slammed the plastic divider between our purchases.

“These are MY groceries!” she yelled. ” Yours go behind the divider!”

I was so shocked by her outburst I didn’t respond.

The woman began yelling at the young cashier: “Cold items go in a paper bag! What are you, stupid?”

“Really!” The teenage daughter joined in. “I think she is stupid.”

The cashier began to cry.

I glanced at my sons, all three of them staring wide-eyed, with their mouths open.

The young cashier began sobbing and ran out from behind the register. It was the last we saw of her.

A line was now forming behind me and I could hear people making comments and becoming impatient.

A replacement cashier entered behind the counter and continued the transaction as the security guard approached.

“What are you looking at?” The woman yelled at the security guard.

I heard Rocky mumble, “This is about to get good.” I nudged him with my elbow to keep him quiet.

“Ma’am, I’m just here to see that everything goes smoothly,” the security guard replied.

“You ain’t nothing but a fake cop,” she stated. “I ain’t afraid of you.”

I must admit, I rolled my eyes. For once I had made it in and, well, almost out of the grocery store in less than thirty minutes, with three kids in tow.

The new cashier hurriedly rung up the items and hit total.

The woman extended her arm and handed the cashier her EBT card.

“I’m sorry,” the cashier stated, matter-of-factly. “EBT does not cover, shampoo, conditioner and this lotion. That will be $15.98.”

Before the woman could respond, I said, “I got it!” I handed the cashier a $20.00 bill.

Slowly the woman turned around and looked at me.

Her entire demeanor had changed.

“Thank you,” she said, staring me straight in the eye.

“You’re welcome,” I replied. I collected my change and slid it straight into a donation bucket on the counter.

The woman and I exchanged smiles.

Her teenage-aged daughter leaned across her mother and also said, “Thank you.”

They gathered their bags and slowly made their way to the door while everyone stood in silence.

 

“Mom, why did you pay for that lady’s stuff?” Rocky asked.

I was aware that everyone was staring at me, including the security guard.

“Because it was the right thing to do.” I replied, “You never know what someone is going through in their life… remember that.”

But that wasn’t all there was to the story.

In the car, on the way home, Marc and Rocky announced they both needed laptops for school.

“Laptops? Are you kidding me?” I asked.

I had no idea how I was going to pull this off.

Then I met the homeless woman…

And the school teacher.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

If you keep yourself open to it, incredible things happen every day.

Much love,

Erin Cooper Reed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, You’ll Never Be Bored” Part 5: The Grand Finale

Was the moving experience just a prelude of things to come?

I’d love to say, “And we all lived happily every after…”, but truth be told it was only the beginning of the kind of events that left me asking, “Is this really my life?”

Well, it is and here I am ready to disclose it all or at least some of it.

I’m struggling with where to even begin…

We returned from North Carolina a day late. My boss at my new job was not happy, to say the least.

I ended up with only two shifts a week at my restaurant job…not enough to support the rent I signed up for.

John couldn’t find a place to live and I couldn’t afford the apartment that I rented. We talked about how nice it would be to live together. We also talked about our parents reaction to the news and our Catholic upbringing. In the end, we decide that we wanted to live together, not only to be together but also for all of the practical purposes…but how would we break the news to our religious parents and our teenage boys?

The only logical explanation was to hang the duck.

What???

John and I both lost almost all of our worldly possessions in our respective divorces. Whenever we contemplated the things we had, in a situation where we needed a certain gadget, or the right knife, or the proper screwdriver, we always joked “I had one but I lost it in the fire.” (Our metaphor for the loss of all of the things we once collectively owned)

Just let me note here that John Lennon has it right.

“Imagine no possessions. I wonder if you can?”

Well, I can because I’ve been there and it was the most freeing experience of my life.

When I first left an abusive 20 year marriage, all I had in the world was half a trash bag of clothes and two pairs of shoes. I was never a materialistic person, but that experience has changed me in a way that most people couldn’t even imagine.

And, it’s all good.

I’m smart, savvy, and completely disconnected from the material world.

Sorry, Madonna, but I am not a material girl.

Image result for images of madonna material girl

Owning nothing for that short period of time in my life was actually an amazing life lesson that has shaped who I am today.

Anyway, about the duck…

One of the few possessions that John got to keep from his divorce was a ceramic duck that he loved. It had hung on the wall of his family’s home when he was a child.

Somehow we decided to hang the duck, (over our front door entryway), invite our parents over for lunch and hope that they would notice, get the message, and surmise that John and I had decided to live together.

It seemed like an obvious, great plan.

Just for the record, it was a total bust.

Our parents never noticed the duck and we never had the guts to tell them about our living arrangement during lunch. In retrospect, the entire scenario seems ridiculous, especially seeing that John and I were respectively 46, and 45 years old at the time and well beyond needing our parents approval.

And yet, that wasn’t our biggest hurdle, by a landslide.

In December 2012, my boys spent their Christmas vacation with their father. John and I spent that vacation in an immaculately clean house relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

When my boys returned, everything was different, but seemly okay.

Well, except for my son Marc.

We were surprisingly functioning as a household, then left for a business trip to Pennsylvania.

Upon John’s return all hell broke loose.

John came through the door exhausted from traveling and he was running a fever.

“All I want to do is get into bed,” he stated.

It was l:00 AM and I was concerned about John’s weak condition. I suspected that he had the flu.

John made his way upstairs to find Marc lying diagonally across our queen size bed, with a death grip on the corner.

“I’m not moving!” Marc yelled, “There is no way that John is sleeping in this bed!”

“Marc, John is sick,” I pleaded, “Please just let him go to bed.”

Marc is a strong and willful kid. We tried everything that we could think of, but there was no compromising and no moving Marc.

Finally around 4:20 AM, I said, “This is ridiculous. Let’s go to a hotel.” I grabbed a bag and started throwing some clothing in it. Leaving was a just ploy to get Marc out of our bed and a long shot, but it was worth a try.

We got in the car.

“Where are we going?” John asked.

“No idea. Just drive around the corner.” I said.

My phone rang. It was my ex-husband. (Apparently Marc had called his father)

“So, you’ve abandon the kids?” My ex-husband asked.

“I haven’t. We’re just having a problem.” I said with disdain.

“The police and an ambulance are on the way,” my ex replied, then hung up.

We were only up the street. “John, turn around,” I said.

We headed back to the house. The police and the ambulance never came but Marc did finally relent and made his way to his own bedroom.

This was just the beginning of the power struggle between Marc and John but not the end of our challenging circumstances.

That summer, John decided to send a friend who was in a domestic violence situation some money so she could leave her husband who was in the military. She even came to stay with us for a short time until she got on her feet.

Once she had found her own place and was in the midst of her divorce, we received a phone call.

“Hi, may I speak with John please?”

“May I ask who’s calling?” I inquired.

The voice on the other end of the line rattled off his name, rank and informed me that he was an investigator with the military, the United States Government.

He set up an appointment to drive out from Washington D.C. to get sworn statements from us for the investigation that was underway during our friend’s divorce proceeding.

When Marc returned from school that day, he walked in the door and found John and I seated with the two investigators.

“This is my son Marc.” I said.

Each of the investigators shook Marc’s hand and explained that they were from the United States Government performing an investigation.

“Did I do something wrong?” Marc asked nervously. “Are you here because my brothers and I were ding-dong-ditching houses? I promise we won’t do it again.”

“No, we’re not.” one of the investigators replied, “We are not allowed to disclose why we’re here and neither are your mother or John.”

Rocky had just gotten off the school bus. As he climbed the front porch stairs Marc flew open the door.

“Rocky, the government is here for an investigation but they can’t tell us why.” he yelled.

“What’s going on mom?” Rocky sighed as he entered the living room, “Am I in trouble?”

“No Rocky,” I replied, “You’re not in trouble but we’re not allowed to tell you why they’re here.”

“Let’s call Kevin!” Marc piped in as he ran to the phone.

The investigators spent hours asking us questions.

Then my phone rang. It was Kevin. “Mom, what’s going on? Is the government really investigating our house. Is it something we did? Just tell me…”

“Kevin, I can’t tell you and it’s nothing that any of you did,” I stated.

“Well, is it something that dad did? Is it?” Kevin pleaded.

“No, Kevin” I replied, “It’s not about any of you.”

The investigators gave John and I each three sheets of paper and had us sit in separate rooms. We were instructed to write our sworn statements detailing anything that our friend had confided in us regarding her suffering any kind domestic abuse.

John was done in half an hour and barely had one written page, in the same time I had filled three sheets of paper and asked for more. (What can I say? I’m a writer!) John was asked to go back upstairs and fill the three sheets of paper that he was given. I laughed to myself.

When we were done writing and I thought that it was finally over, we sat while the investigators read and initialed every page and asked that we do the same.

My phone rang again. It was my ex-husband.

“Hello.” I chuckled.

“Um Erin, please tell me that this has nothing to do with me.” He said.

“This is unbelievable!” I replied, “This has nothing to do with any of you!”

“Well, I hope that you’re telling me the truth.” He said, before hanging up the phone.

Before leaving, the investigator thanked me and handed me his card…in case we could think of anything else…

Exhausted, I said to John, “Can you believe that took three hours?”

Before John could answer, Marc piped in, “They were here for three hours? Did you leave them alone at all? What if they bugged our house or put some cameras in?”

“They didn’t Marc but you better behave just in case,” I said jokingly.

Marc began picking up knickknacks and looking under tables. “Mom, what’s that flashing red light?” Marc asked in a panic, pointing towards the ceiling.

“That’s the smoke detector Marc.” I said.

It wasn’t long before Rocky joined in and began helping Marc search for cameras and other devices.

“Okay, guys. That’s enough.” I demanded, but I did not calm their fears and the search continued.

Luckily, I had the investigators business card…and I wasn’t afraid to use it.

I picked up the phone and dialed the number.

“Hi, it’s Erin. Sorry to bother you.” I said.

“No, bother Erin. Did you think of something else that you’d forgotten to tell us?”

“Actually no, I didn’t but my boys are flipping the house looking for cameras and bugs that they believe you may have planted.”

The investigator laughed a deep hearty laugh and said, “Put Marc on the phone.”

“Marc, the investigator wants to talk to you.” I yelled.

“Me? He wants to talk to me?” Marc asked looking bewildered.

I handed Marc the phone.

I’m not sure what he said to Marc but he seemed to put off the camera search…at least for a while.

Eventually, things went back to normal, whatever that means in our house.

The following spring, there was a rash of signs being stolen from Cumberland Farms Stores.

I guess it became a sort of dare among teenagers and college students to pull into a Cumberland Farms and try to steal the life-size cardboard David Hasselhoff signs in the parking lot.

Image result for image david hasselhoff cumberland farms sign

I’m not sure if the appeal was in scoring a sign on a dare, or in the fact that David Hasselhoff was sporting white linen capris that made the entire idea so inviting but it became a trend across the country.

One night the Cumberland Farms down the street from our house became the source of such a prank. Unfortunately, the prank went a bit too far and the outcome was tragic.

A teenager that was attempting to steal a David Hasselhoff sign was approached by the clerk from Cumberland Farms. The clerk tried to retrieve the sign and somehow his clothes got caught in the perpetrator’s car door. The clerk was dragged by the vehicle, resulting in severe injures and trauma to his head.

I was so upset when I heard the news. We frequented Cumberland Farms and I knew this clerk. His wife was pregnant and she, as well as his mother, both worked at the same Cumberland Farms as he did.

I knew that this meant that there were now three people in their family that were out of work with no income. The clerk was in a coma and his wife and mother were sitting vigil at his bedside.

I fired up the computer and began to type.

“What are you doing?” John asked.

“Figuring out how to get on twitter.” I replied.

(I had never sent a tweet in my life, but trust me I was about to)

“Twitter. What for?” John inquired.

“I’m going to tweet David Hasselhoff.” I confidently replied.

“Whatever you want to do, babe,” John said with a smirk. He had become accustomed to my harebrained ideas.

“And say what?” John asked.

“I’m going to tell him what happened. I’m going to say that this family needs his financial help and his support in their time of need. I mean, come on, David Hasselhoff is wealthy. In my opinion with wealth comes the responsibility to do good and help others… so I’m going to figure out how to get in touch with him.”

I followed the steps and set up my first twitter account. I composed my thoughts, wrote what I wanted to say and sent my tweet to David Hassselhoff.

John was supportive but I’m sure he was secretly questioning if I had lost my ever lovin’ mind.

Just for the record, I hadn’t. I’m just passionate and not afraid to act on my feelings. Strange to some… normal to me.

To my surprise David Hasselhoff responded to my tweet and we had a conversation on twitter. He thanked me for letting him know what happened and promised he would look into it.

The next day the Connecticut Post newspaper reported the story and even  mentioned my tweet and the David Hasselhoff response.

John and I spent the morning doing some gardening and planting flowers before our lunch date with my parents.

It was a warm day and I lifted my gloved hand in an attempt to brush a dangling lock of blonde hair away from my face as I smudged a streak of dirt across my cheek.

“John, the garden looks beautiful.” I stated, as a NBC Connecticut newsvan parked in front of our house. “He’s probably here about my David Hasselhoff tweet,” I joked.

The driver got out followed by a cameraman.

“Excuse me. Are you Erin Cooper Reed?” The reporter asked.

“I certainly am.” I replied.

“It took me forever to find you. Is it okay if we interview you on camera?” The reporter asked.

“Sure, can you give me a minute to get cleaned up? I’ve been gardening all morning.” I said.

“Uh, we really need to do this now,” he said with a smile. I insisted that I needed to clean up so he said, “We’re going to get the camera set up out here. It will take about five minutes. Can you be back by then?” I dashed upstairs.

On the way up the stairs and into the bathroom to wash my face, my cell phone rang. It was my dad.

“Hi honey! Mom and I are on our way over to pick you and John up for lunch. Are you guys ready?” he asked.

“Dad, NBC news is here to interview me. Could you hold off a bit before you come over?”

“No problem honey. How much time do you need?”

“About a half an hour.” I said.

“Okay, see you then.” My dad replied, “Love you.”

“Love you too dad.” I said, then hung up the phone.

Now, you know that your life is truly crazy when your dad calls to pick you up for a lunch date and you tell him that NBC news is there and he isn’t at all surprised… I mean not in the least.

My interview with NBC news went well and aired that night.

As far as I know, David Hasselhoff never sent the family of the injured man any money like I had hoped.

We haven’t heard from John’s friend lately but I hope that she is doing well.

Marc still finds way to torture John on an almost daily basis but I know that someday when he’s older he will come to realize and appreciate all that John does for him.

As for me, I continue to live with my heart on the outside of my body, speak my mind, challenge the perspective in any situation and find the humor that gets me by.

In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And just for the record…there’s more, there’s always more…so much that I may decide to continue this series down the road.

Stay tuned!

My life, I swear!

Much love,

Erin Cooper Reed

“Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, You’ll Never Be Bored” Part 4

Toes on the dashboard, wind in my hair, radio on, I love a road trip…even in a big old moving van.

John and I drove as far as Virginia.

We located a hotel, moderately priced, yet surprisingly brand new.

Perfect.

John loves to cook so we went shopping for a feast, some crab legs, vegetables and potatoes. What the hell. We had made it this far and it was time to relax.

We entered the exquisite hotel lobby and checked in.

Our room was perfect, nicely decorated and clean with a small kitchen featuring all brand new appliances.

This was going to be a great night consisting of beautiful  surroundings, a delicious meal and some well deserved alone time before we returned to the grind.

I slipped into something comfortable. (Does that sound cliché?)

Actually it was a pair of comfy pajama bottoms, a t-shirt, a clip in my hair and some happy to be bare, feet.

I started unpacking some of our belongings. “Maybe I’ll take a shower,” I shouted to John.

“Okay, babe.” he said, “Go ahead and I”ll start dinner.”

I walked into the bathroom to find…several flies. Gross.

“John, there are flies in here!” I yelled, “I’m going to the front desk.”

“Okay babe.” John replied, “Whatever you want to do.”

I exited our room and walked my bare feet through the plush lobby carpet and right up to the front desk.

“Good evening.” the desk clerk smiled, as she gave my outfit and bare feet a quick once over.

“Hi.” I said, “There are flies in our bathroom.”

“Flies?” She questioned.

“Yes,” I said. “I hate flies and we’re about to make dinner.”

The clerk left the desk and returned with some insect spray.

I thanked her and headed back to our room.

John was already engrossed in preparing our meal. I gave him a kiss and headed straight into the bathroom and began to spray.

“What are you doing?” John yelled, “That smells gross and I’m trying to cook.”

“Getting rid of these flies.” I said.

“Babe, don’t worry about the flies right now,” John said.

“I can’t stay here with flies! I think I got them.” I yelled, between coughs.

“Why don’t you just relax and read a book or something.” John suggested, “I’m going to make you an amazing meal.”

“Okay, good idea,” I said in agreement.

I grabbed a book out of my suitcase, laid down on the bed and turned on the light.

“This light bulb is out.” I said, “I’m going back to the front desk to get one.”

“Okay, babe.” John sighed, “Whatever you want.”

I made my way back through the hotel lobby and up to the front desk clerk.

“Were you able to get rid of the flies?” the desk clerk asked.

“Oh, yes. I did,” I replied, “We have a light bulb that’s out.”

The desk clerk rubbed her eyes and said, “So you need a light bulb?”

“Yes, I do. John is cooking us dinner and I’m going to read.”

“Oh, good.” She said, not sounding too happy. “I’ll get you a light bulb and bring it to your room.”

“Thank you,” I replied, “I appreciate that.”

When I got back to the room, John was busy with dinner.

“Did you get the light bulb?” he asked.

“No, I have to wait for her to bring it.”

“Why don’t you just relax, open that bottle of wine and pour us each a glass,” John suggested. “You’ll need some ice because it’s not cold.”

“Okay,” I said, “No problem.”

I grabbed two glassed out of the cabinet. These will do.

There was a knock at the door. I opened the freezer and a landslide of ice cubes poured into the kitchen covering the floor.

I slid on the ice and almost fell as I opened the door to our room a tiny crack.

It was the front desk clerk.

“I have your light bulb.”

“Thank you,” I said, as the ice machine spit more ice cubes onto the floor.

“Um, our ice machine seems to be broken. Can you please bring me a broom and dustpan?” I asked.

The front desk clerk looked stressed but tried a form a smile. “Sure, I’ll be right back.”

I struggled to finally shut the door.

I couldn’t shower.

I couldn’t read.

I couldn’t drink warm wine.

I decided I’d load the dishwasher with all of the things that John was finished using in the kitchen.

The front desk clerk returned with the broom and dustpan and was knocking at the door.

I opened the door to let her in and she offered to help me clean up all of the ice cubes.

“You don’t have to do that,” I said, as I went to the dishwasher to load all of the things that I had gathered that needed to be washed. As soon as I placed the items into the top rack, the dishwasher came loose from under the cabinet and tipped forward onto the kitchen floor.

We all burst out laughing. How could you not?

“I guess the top of the dishwasher isn’t screwed into the cabinet.” The front desk clerk surmised.

“I guess not!” I laughed, “Would you like to stay for some crab legs?”

“I love crab legs!” the desk clerk replied.

That night we sat and broke the crab legs with the bottom of a metal pan that we found in the cabinet. We didn’t have a nutcracker.

It was ten o’clock at night by the time we finally ate.

The wine was warm, but the company was good.

My Life I Swear!

And, that was just the beginning of this crazy ride that John and I have been on for the past 5 years.

In retrospect, it’s nothing in comparison to what happened next.

Want more?

Stay tuned!

There’s always more… 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, You’ll Never Be Bored” Part 3

John pulled right into the auto body repair shop.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“We have to get this rental car fixed. We didn’t take the insurance and if we return the car like this, the rental company is going to charge us a fortune.” John replied.

“So is an auto body shop.” I argued, “Drive me to AutoZone and I’ll get it fixed.”

“AutoZone, what the hell are they going to do? AutoZone doesn’t do body work.” John said.

“Trust me.” I countered, “As a single mother, I’ve gotten plenty of car repairs done at AutoZone. Just drive me there.”

“Okay,” John said with a smirk, “If you think so…”

We pulled into AutoZone and got out of the car. As I went to walk inside, I turned around to find that John was right behind me.

“Oh no, go stand over there, away from me,” I said, “I’ve got to do this myself.”

John reluctantly stood off to the side and waited.

As I approached the counter of the parts desk, I was greeted with a smile by an employee with a name tag that read, Carl.

“What can I help you with today?” Carl asked.

“Well Carl,” I began, “I have a bit of a situation on my hands…”

I went on to explain the circumstances that led up to and included the scraped, yellow painted side of my rental car and how I failed to take the insurance that went beyond the hundred-dollar deductible that my credit card provided.

“I know just the thing.” Carl said, as he lead me down the correct isle to locate the product I needed.

Carl handed me two seperate containers and a cloth. Ten dollars each. Not too bad I thought.

I  thanked Carl, paid the twenty dollars and walked out the front door.

“I got it!” I yelled to John.

He replied, “So that’s going to fix it? How much was that?”

“Twenty dollars.” I smiled, as I opened one of the containers and dampened the cloth.

“This is ridiculous.” John stated.

“Just wait over there John.” I instructed as I went back inside.

A few minutes later I returned with Carl in tow.

“Carl, I’m really not sure how this works.” I said.

“I’d be more than happy to show you ma’am.” Carl said with a smile, as he began to spread on the first product and really put some elbow grease into the application.

Carl and I began talking and exchanging stories about rental cars and car repairs.

“You see,” Carl said, “Once you wipe all of this off, then you can apply the second product…just like this.”

John waited patiently as Carl worked and recounted a story about how he took a rental car to an outdoor concert. He said that he and his friends sat in lawn chairs that they had placed on the roof of the car. When the concert was over and they removed the lawn chairs the entire roof of the car was dented.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“We were young, we just returned it that way and left it in the parking lot. We were scared shitless, but we never got a call from the rental company or got in any trouble.”

We both laughed and before I knew it, Carl was detailing the door jams and the rental car was perfect. No one would ever be able to tell that anything had happen to the car at all.

I handed Carl a twenty dollar tip and thanked him for all that he had done.

When Carl went back inside, John walked over and said, “I can’t believe this! You just got our car repaired for forty bucks!”

“Yes, I did!” I smiled, “Stick with me and I’ll show you the ropes.”

“It doesn’t hurt to be a pretty blonde.” John said as he gave me a hug.

I blushed and glanced at the time.

“We’ve got to get on the road.” I said, “I have to get home and get to work. We’ll drive as far as we can then find a hotel for the night.”

How hard could that be?

Stay tuned for PART 4 and the rest of our adventure.

My Life I Swear