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Challenge: Gratitude & Giving

The Lady in the Wild Pants

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There is nothing that touches my heart more than the kindness of strangers. When we think about the word “stranger” a feeling of spookiness can result but sometimes a stranger can prove to be an angel in disguise…

When I was pregnant with our first two children, Peter and I did not want to find out their sexes. There are so few fun surprises in life we decided that we could wait to find out exactly who these special deliveries were, ON their arrival dates. However, for our third baby, we decided it would be much more practical if we knew whether or not I was washing the bin of pink clothes or the bin of blue clothes? Whose room would this new sibling be moving into…my daughter Blake’s or my son Shane’s?

I’ll never forget our ultrasound appointment. It’s a girl! I hit the ground running. I had never been so prepared for a new baby’s arrival. I had all the baby girl clothes washed and waiting in her very own little section of Blake’s clothes closet. Her crib was set up with brand new girly bedding, picked out just for her! Blake eagerly awaited her new roommate.

While we were waiting for our new baby’s arrival, life was pretty busy with my then preschooler and toddler. I had an easy and comfortable pregnancy, so we were able to keep busy doing all sorts of fun kid adventures. It was in Blake’s pre-school class that we made lots of new mom and kid friends. One of my new friends was Kim. She too was pregnant and had two children that were the exact same age as mine. We all became fast friends and shared too many fun afternoons and evenings to recall. My kids lived for sleepovers at Kim’s house. I thought I was a pretty good Mom, but Kim…was a mom on steroids, tireless and constantly giving. Since I lived so far away from my own family and lifelong friends, I felt so grateful to have met her as she was that friend you could call and she’d just swoop in and take care of EVERYTHING, if you needed her to.

img_6420.jpgNew Year’s Eve 2005 (one of the many fun parties my kids enjoyed with Kim’s family)

Kim delivered her healthy baby girl that February. Elizabeth was a sweet baby and fit right into our little kiddie squad. I enjoyed watching Kim transition from mom of two to mom of three. She made it look easy. I couldn’t wait for my baby girl to come as I knew she would complete our little family. Elizabeth got baptized on May 4th. We were invited to her baptism, as we were now honorary family members. We got home that evening and I felt stuffed. Kim’s parties were always known for her abundant and delicious food. I was not due for two more weeks but I jokingly said to Peter that I better not go into labor that evening because if I needed another C-Section, the docs wouldn’t be able to perform one with all that food in my system.

As luck would have it, I headed into labor hours later. We packed up the new big brother and sister and headed to the hospital. Brooke came charging out soon after. It was a quick delivery (no C-Section, thank God!) . My doctor didn’t even make it to the hospital in time. Brooke was delivered by a resident. She was perfect. Life felt perfect. I called Kim that morning to tell her that I was lying in my hospital bed, holding my brand new healthy baby girl. She thought I had to be joking.

img_0531.jpgHere were the two “baby” girls, years later, building their bears together at the mall

Less than 24 hours later we were home and I was enjoying my new family of 5! I felt so good…I was vacuuming and doing all sorts of tasks I probably shouldn’t have been doing. I was also glad to have been so organized and prepared.

What I wasn’t prepared for was 24 hours later, I was burning up with fever and felt weak and achy. Peter’s mom rushed over to take care of Brooke, and Kim ran right over to pick up Blake and Shane as Peter and I headed straight to the ER. I was admitted with a postpartum infection (endometritis). I needed to stay in the hospital on IV antibiotics until the infection cleared. My roommate, just days before, was a first time new mom and now it was a sweet 85 year old woman dealing with cancer and blood clots. As I lied in the hospital feeling all hormonal and emotional, I immediately thought about what it must’ve felt like for my mom when she was away from her babies during her illness. I knew I was going to be fine and get to go home but she didn’t have that good fortune. I had never thought about THAT, from her perspective, until that moment. It was a realization that brought me to tears.

The timing of all this proved to be tricky as Peter was in the middle of a job that he was contracted to finish THAT week, as it was a home that was to be featured in a Charity Home Tour. His family came to the rescue to watch Brooke for him during the day, while he worked, and Super Woman Kim took my older 2 kids into her home for the entire week until I was released from the hospital.

Ultimately, I was fine. I left the hospital on Mother’s Day (best gift!), still weak and tired but so grateful to be HEALTHY and very excited to be reunited with all my babies. I had only been home a couple of days when I decided to venture out to the mall to shop for some thank you gifts for Kim and her family. I packed up the kids and off we went. I looked tired and bloated. I was still wearing my maternity clothes and definitely not looking or feeling my best but I made it out and I was grateful to feel up to that.

We arrived at the mall. This particular mall is huge and beautiful and had been my happy place since moving to Michigan. It kind of felt like Cheers, where everyone knew my name. Maybe not everyone. Maybe no one. But in my mind…It felt so good to be out. It felt so good to be with my kids. As we entered the mall, I immediately noticed this one woman in particular. She was stunning but it was her stylish pants that caught my attention. They had a wild but tasteful print on them. She confidently rocked the look. Maybe I just had style envy as I was still rocking my oversized garments. I thought to myself “I used to look like that.” Actually I never looked like that…but for the purpose of this story…I may have looked like that…

The kids and I headed up to the third floor to find some treasures at the Disney Store. Kim’s girls were really into Disney Princesses so our mission was sure to be successful. Brooke was being a very patient baby while Blake and Shane carefully helped me pick out just the right gifts for each of Kim’s three girls. We spent quite a bit of time making our final selections and then we were ready to check out. The cashier rang our entire order up and then I reached into my bag to grab my wallet and it wasn’t inside. I fished and I fished for it and then I realized I l had left it at home on our kitchen counter. I had purchased airline tickets just before we left. I told the cashier what had happened and she asked me if I wanted her to put everything aside and come back that evening. I stood there silent for a moment pondering how likely was it that I would really make it back home and back there again with my brand new baby in tow. I felt so defeated. As the kids started to realize we were not leaving with any of the surprises that they were so excited to deliver, I heard a woman say to the cashier “Please…let me take care of this.”

I quickly looked over to see who was being so generous and all I noticed was THE PANTS!!! THIS kind person was THAT lady with the wild pants. I, of course, told her that I could not take her up on this beyond generous offer. She then went on to tell me how the same thing had happened to her and her daughter at Dairy Queen and someone did this for them. This bill was definitely a little steeper than a couple of ice cream cones. I decided I would take her up on her generous offer IF she gave me her address so that I could send her a check (and steal her pants…lol). She told me that that wasn’t necessary but in my mind, of course, it was. As I profusely thanked her, the kids started telling me they were hungry for lunch. She looked at me and said “How much do you need?” I realized if she was offering and I was going to reimburse her I might as well go big so I could at least get Kim and her husband the restaurant gift card I wanted to gift them too. This lady was so sweet. She just handed me over all this money. I knew I was good for it but she didn’t. She just wanted to help me. She had no idea of all that lead up to this particular shopping excursion. She handed me her business card with her home address written on the back. I noticed that she was an esthetician and she worked for her husband who was a plastic surgeon in the area. I teasingly said that I could use an appointment with her to freshen me up to which of course she said “You don’t need me. You look great.”

I did send her a card with a check and letter inside. That was almost 17 years ago. I STILL think about how ironic it was, that out of ALL the people in the mall that day it was her that rescued us! And clearly, her kind gesture lives on inside of me as a reminder to pay it forward.

If I ever decide to take the botox plunge…I will definitely pay her husband a visit. And…I’ll be sure to remember my wallet this time.

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