A Week of Maddening Situations, Conquered by Kind Words from a Stranger

Hi Friends!

Tuesday we had a heavy downpour here in Southeast Missouri, and I came home to find one leg of my Crabapple tree toppled over, splayed across a couple of my potted plants. And it wasn’t the one leg that is barely clinging to life, nor the leg that stretches out over my cool weather garden and turns my lettuce and spinach into mid-Summer vegetables instead of the Spring crop they should’ve been. No…it was a perfectly healthy limb that helps shade the hammock I was lounging in on Sunday while reading my $1 library sale copy of Wild by Cheryl Strayed.


My son has a hatchet that I took outside last night to trim the skinny branches, currently loaded with crabapples in varying shades of a Missouri sunset, from the trunk that is now cut off from its life-giving roots. I made it about four branches in before realizing that, even though most of the branches were less than an inch wide, they were vast in number and I would be working for hours to trim them all off. I had no choice but to give up and wait for my friend with a chain saw to come and take it over. Thank goodness I have someone nearby who can do it for me!

In between rain storms and tree chopping, I’ve been working on packing for a weekend trip. My little sister is graduating from high school on Friday evening (I was in high school myself when she was born), and then we’re taking a trip down to the depths of Southern Missouri, about four and a half hours from where I live, to spend the weekend on Table Rock Lake just outside of Branson. My Mom, Stepdad and Sister are going, as well as my grandparents and my kiddos and I.

While I was sitting at work yesterday afternoon contemplating the fallen tree limb debacle and thinking of what all I still needed to pack for the weekend, I inadvertently ran my tongue along the side of my very back top tooth…and had a sudden realization that something was off.

I’ve never thought about the shape and feel of my teeth, but somehow I’ve subconsciously memorized every curve and crevice. That slight change I felt snapped my subconscious mind into consciousness. There was an indention with a jagged edge on the side of my tooth, which used to be level and smooth. The tooth had been chipped when I was in Junior High, requiring a filling. The filling that has been there for so long that it had become a part of me, was suddenly gone. Gone just in time for me to leave town for the weekend.

I immediately called my dentist to see if they could get me in today since I was leaving town at lunchtime on Friday. After several rings, a crackly recording broke the line, the voice of an office assistant telling me that they are unavailable to take my call at this time, and that their normal operating hours are Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday… It was Wednesday; the one day of the week they are closed. That meant no appointment today. That meant no appointment until Tuesday of next week when I’m back in town. And the side of my tooth is opened up like the top of Mount Mazama, exposing the soft and delicate surface inside to an endless supply of potentially pain-causing bacteria.

After leaving a message on the answering service, and wondering just how bad it was that I’d almost positively swallowed that mercury-filled amalgam filling, I text my girl group and then my mom to vent my frustrations. My mom responded to my text by asking me,

Did you get everything you need for Ashlyn’s graduation cake?

Ahlyn’s cake. Shit. It’s been months since we talked about it and I’d completely forgotten. So now in addition to having a dead tree limb sprawled across the top of my retaining wall and Crater Lake in the side of my molar, I had to do the quickest cake design planning of my life and rush to the store to buy supplies to bake a cake that night and then spend tonight, Thursday, tag-teaming it between cake decorating and finishing up my packing.

As I made my way home from work to inspect the cupboards and see what I needed for the cake, I stopped off at the mailbox before turning up the driveway. I stepped inside, flopped the mail down on the counter, then went to let Ruby in. I turned back to the mail to pick up the latest issue of Taste of Home magazine, when I noticed another envelope from St. Francis hospital. “They really need to get it together and stop sending me bills when I’ve already paid it online,” I thought to myself as I ripped open the envelope.

It took me a moment to realize what I was looking at. I expected to see a bill for the same $196.00 that I’d already paid, a bill they’d already sent me twice. Instead the bill was for $152.00. What? That can’t be right. As I read over the cost breakdown, I realized it wasn’t a bill for the glucose screen I’d already paid for. It was a bill for lab fees for the health screen I’d had as part of my annual checkup. Because the nurse practitioner sent me down to the lab for the blood draw, the insurance company didn’t consider it to be a part of my annual checkup, of which insurance pays 100%, so they refused to pay anything citing my deductible that had not yet been met. That no-cost annual doctor’s visit was now costing me a grand total of $350.

I. Was. Fuming!

With the previous medical bills I’d already paid, plus this new one, I’ve spent $550 on medical bills in just the last couple of months, plus will have another bill for the dentist to replace my missing filling. None of this, of course, in my budget!

I stormed off to the store in an angry rush to buy the things to make the cake I’d forgotten about. My mom offered to just go ahead and buy a cake, but I said no. I’d agreed to do it for her, even rejecting her offer to pay me for it, and I wasn’t about to put her in a position to have to buy a cake at the last minute when no doubt bakeries all over town were booked solid for graduation cakes. I pulled into the grocery store with financial stress and aggravation at the situations I’d found myself in this week taking over my every thought.

I entered the store and made a beeline for the butter, picked up the eggs from the next cooler over, then strolled down the baking aisle to get the powdered sugar for the icing. I made my way to the checkout, where a lady was bent over selecting a candy bar from the shelf. She looked up and saw me, and gave a cheery “excuse me,” before bouncing out of the way, then doing a double take at me. “Oh I love your hair color! And with those big blue eyes, that hair just pops!”

I was shocked right out of my angry stupor. It took me a second to shift from my rage at health care in America and broken trees and broken teeth, to take in this lady’s words. I was finally able to usher out a thank you as I came back to reality, then switched gears to my usual joking nature saying “I wish I could say that it was real, but I have to give my hair dresser all the credit!” She remarked that I could’ve fooled her. I thanked her again as she went on her way and I dropped my items onto the conveyor belt.

As much as I was feeling like the universe wasn’t on my side, I couldn’t help realizing that sometimes it also knows the perfect time to send the right people across my path. As I drove home I realized that I’d forgotten to buy almond extract. A moment later I realized I’d also forgotten the sour cream, and even the blasted two boxes of cake mix that are the very foundation of this cake recipe! Even so, the seething anger had subsided and my focus returned to the task at hand.

I drove past the turn to my house and continued to the grocery store nearby–the one I would’ve gone to in the first place if my brain had been focused instead of running on autopilot while anger consumed me–to pick up the items I’d forgotten. When I got to the checkout there was a lady in front of me, half of her items scanned and bagged, and at least a dozen 1-liter bottles of Diet Coke still being rung up. She paid, and then the cashier asked her if she wanted her receipt.

This was a very simple question requiring only a “yes, please” or a “no thank you.” Instead the lady retorted, “of course I need my receipt. Just like I told you last time. This is a discover card. You have to have a receipt.” She snatched it from him in a huff, and he glanced up at me, our eyes meeting with unspoken disbelief at this lady’s rudeness. He helped load her bags into her cart, then she walked away and he began ringing up my items.

“Don’t worry, I don’t need my receipt,” I said with a reassuring smile as I handed him my $10 bill. “Oh, you don’t need a receipt for your discover card?” he asked sarcastically. “You have no idea, she acted like that the whole time she was here.” I told him that some people just can’t help but be rude, and commented on how tough it can be to work in customer service. He’d handled it well, letting it roll on by and not feeding into her attitude. I hoped that a little reassurance from one stranger would help make up for the unnecessary rudeness of another. And then I went home to bake my sister’s cake, my entire mood changed in less than an hour.

Isn’t life’s timing funny sometimes? If it wasn’t for my angry stupor, I wouldn’t have ended up at Neighborhood Market to encounter the kind words of the lady at the checkout. If I hadn’t forgotten half of the things I needed to bake the cake, I still wouldn’t have bumped into her. I also wouldn’t have ended up at Food Giant when I did had I not forgotten those things, where I helped lift someone else’s spirits after dealing with a rude customer.

Today was pay day, so I paid my doctor bill to get that off of my mind before the weekend. Then I got ahold of my dentist and they had an opening available at 8:30 tomorrow morning. My boss agreed to let me have the whole day off instead of just the afternoon that I’d originally scheduled. With the exception of the tree limb, which my friend is going of take care of next week, the mishaps have been handled and I’m free to enjoy a weekend away.

I get to spend time with my family and my kids on the lake, and take my new inflatable kayak for a spin. I haven’t been able to have a kayak of my own because I don’t have a way to haul one with my Honda Civic. Now I have one that will fit neatly in the trunk!

Speaking of which…the time has come to load all of my things into the trunk and prepare my house and my pets for a long weekend. I hope you all have a beautiful and sunny weekend, and I will write to you again soon!


be kind
Image from amysmartgirls.com, via Google Images




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