Tag Archives: teenager

Kill Them With Kindness

DelTacoGrumpy old Walter came in every day, and every day he ordered the same thing. Del Nachos no tomatoes. He never smiled. Never said think you. Just placed his order, waited for us to call his name and then carried his tray to a table facing outside the store to eat.

Walter didn’t know our names–we didn’t think–but we knew his because calling orders by name was a must.

I loved working at Del Taco, but I Did Not Love grumpy old Walter. I also did not love little kids that made big messes. Or people who came in one minute before close and ordered the whole menu. Or wiping my eyes after chopping jalapenos. Good God that hurt.

Sorry, got sidetracked. Back to Walter…and the kids…and those last minute people out to ruin life as we know it.

Before you could work for Del Taco, you had to train. And training was serious business. You had modules to study and tests to take, and our bosses were intense about those training sessions. To this day I can tell you the history of Del Taco. I can also tell you Del Taco took customer service seriously. Those lessons I learned about kill them with kindness have been life savers over the years. But MAN they were hard to follow through on. At least they were until one day after about six months of Del Nachos with no tomatoes.

Walter shuffled when he walked. And he had silver hair and deep set wrinkles like Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men. And he really liked those Del Nachos.

For some reason I set out to make Walter smile. Maybe my friends and I had a bet or something, I’m not sure. I just know I decided to do everything in my power to get him to like me. Pretty soon all of us were doing it.

Walker would walk in and we’d greet him like an old friend. “Walter!” And then we’d yell back “Del Nachos no tomatoes.”

Then that six month day of reckoning.

A mom with multiple children made a mess around the table next to where Walter sat. And by mess, I mean HOLY FREAKING COW, KIDS, did you eat anything or reenact nuclear war?

So I had the sweeper out on the floor when Walter came in and we all yelled Walter like he was our very best friend. By this time Walter had softened a bit. He still didn’t smile, though.

When his order I came up, I grabbed the tray and took it to him and made sure to tell him how happy we were to see him. To be honest it had kind of become true. Somehow in the effort to trick him into smiling, he’d become a character in the daily life at Del Taco. A character I’d miss if he skipped.

Walter took the tray and Then. He. Spoke. He said thank you.

It was incredible.

It was just the start.

Because once Walter started talking, he didn’t stop.

He explained

Why he came to Del Taco every day.

And ordered Del Nachos.

Without tomatoes.

Turned out Walter liked tomatoes. But his wife didn’t. So they ordered their nachos to share, and he sacrificed the tomatoes for her. And when she died, it was like this one thing would bring her back. If only for a moment.

And then he said thank you again. Because every day he came in and we greeted him with smiles even though he knew sometimes he could be surly.

Walter taught me a lot about life that day.

I use Walter in my classes pretty often to tell kids they never know whose life they’re impacting. I was lucky Walter told me. People don’t always tell you, but rest assured, every person you meet could be a Walter. ❤

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Memories

Back in the day…
Rebellion was my middle name. It wasn’t fun, but I sure did wrap the emotion around my shoulders and shove it in my mother’s face every chance I got. Not my dad’s. Just my mom’s. I don’t know if it’s because I’d heard the stories of my dad’s youth and didn’t want him to relive those days or if it was just because my mom spent more time at home. Probably the latter.
Somehow we made it through those rough teen years.
But for some reason that tug of rebellion stuck with me. I can’t count the number of times my mother’s been on the phone with me, simply discussing, and I’ve turned it into an argument. Usually the topic deals with religion. Sometimes it’s Harry Potter. 🙂
She thinks he’s all about real witchcraft, I think he’s fun and fiction. (Just like the prince in my last book.}
Now that I’m closing in on the upper 30s something’s shifted. I don’t want to debate. I can’t change her mind about the stuff we disagree on and she can’t change mine.
And that’s okay.
There. I said it.
My mother does not have to live and breathe by the word of her eldest. She can have her own opinions, her own beliefs, her own code of conduct.
And just because we’re different doesn’t mean I’m going to burn in Hell. 🙂
What exactly does all this have to do with my writing?
It goes way back. For the last five years I’ve avoided writing an inspirational romance simply because my mother begged me to write one. In my mind, her request was tantamount to embarrassment of my other work. Silly, but then it takes a gal who’s buried her head in books for years a while sometimes to figure out real life.
My new work is an inspirational, but it’s different from most I’ve read. We’ll see where it goes. Today in the shower another idea popped in my brain. Another inspirational. Both are dark, gritty books. But I’m going to have a good time writing them. And then I’m going to go back and write the inspirational I avoided writing for five years just because my 18-yr-old self from long ago kept whispering that I didn’t really want to write a book about God when I wasn’t even sure what I thought about God. Not that I didn’t like Him or appreciate Him, but that I didn’t get Him. Silly me. There was nothing really to get. I just had to accept that He’s there and go on about my business.
I wish I would’ve figured all this out 18 years ago, but I didn’t. Since I can’t change the past, I’m going to let it go.
And tonight when I write, I’m going to say a quick thanks to my mom and God.

It’s Always Been

I can’t remember exactly when I first started telling stories. I think it might have been the day I was born.
But I do remember the first story I wrote. I used a purple crayon to create a young hero who saved the life of an elderlchoking victim at a McDonald’s restaurant. The victim was choking on a McDonald’s french fry. He turned out to be a millionaire and he gave a ton of money to the hero and everyone lived happily ever after. Pure heaven in my little kid mind. Probably more the idea of McDonald’s than the idea of a ton of money.
Back then we were poor, but I didn’t know it. My mom stayed home off and on when she could. My dad was in the military. McDonald’s was a huge treat. Lord knows we didn’t go out to real restaurants.
But my little kid brain had a great time creating that story. And my mom listened attentively while I read it to her. When I was done she asked me for more. I gave her what she asked for and I had a blast doing it.
A few years later I was writing teen romances for my friends. I wrote the words with blue EraserMate pens and I always used blue college ruled spirals. I have no idea how many of those stories I wrote, and I have no idea where they are today. I know my mom always asked me why my heroine’s mother had to either be dead or dying from a terminal disease. I had no idea. I just liked to make my friends cry when they read my books.
And my friends did read them. Every day they begged me for new chapters and every day I had those chapters ready. (Homework was another thing altogether!) They were a critique group of sorts, I suppose. But they couldn’t take the pplace of my number one fan for years. My mom. She doesn’t read what I write today, but she still asks me how my writing is going. She still talks about “when I get published.”
I’m lucky! And I better go call my mom and say thanks!