Anything to bring out the smiles

I love to smile. I must have been taught that as a little girl.  And growing up, oddly, finding just about anything as excuse for smiles stuck as a habit.  Nice, don’t you think? A senior now, a Lola (Grandma) still growing up, often I see myself reaching for reasons to smile.  Besides the good feeling, the stretch of up to 43 facial muscles is healthy exercise without the strain. A habit pleasant and attractive on the outside;  healthy and soothing on the inside.

I’ll share here some excuses for my smiles, hoping to inspire  observations or thoughts that might bring out the sunshine in your face – enough to blow out the blues.

—  A female friend who had never danced before was so excited to enroll in a dance class at the Palo Alto community center. Without knowing the kind of class she chose, she dove enthusiastically into a novel adventure. When she got back from class, I asked what she learned – she said wide-eyed, Argentinian tango! Little did she know the demands of the dance, not to mention that tango is one of the most patterned and exacting of the ballroom dances. Her first homework, she said, is to practice walking in a straight line with regal, confident posture. I watched her do just that on my living room floor.  A bit of a struggle for her to walk the line as she tripped on her toes, but her face was all smiles.  I was happy for her – she was enjoying it. Something different and strangely challenging – just what she needed after a day’s hard work in school.

—  I watched the latest Spiderman in the movie theater that was surprisingly packed.  I liked the previous episodes, so I looked forward to being entertained by another exciting adventure on film. The truth is, the visual and sound effects were too much for me, probably because I got older since the previous offerings in the series. While my friend enjoyed the scenes and thrills, I sat closing my eyes as I compulsively shoved popcorn into my mouth. The louder the blasts got and the quicker the scenes flashed, the faster I gobbled the popcorn. With apologies to Marvel fans, I desperately wished I was sitting in the lobby outside, just people watching and finishing up my bag of greasy buttered popcorn.

Until – I heard Philippine Tagalog spoken on the screen. Opening my eyes, I saw an older woman, mother of the young girl in the story, reacting to the mess resulting from a skirmish between superheroes. The mother said (English translation) – It’s so disorderly here, better clean up the mess.  Nothing extraordinary about this line, but it made me smile. I was surprised and delighted to hear Tagalog inserted in the script. So OK, maybe I did like the Spiderman movie – the film used a Filipino family and inserted a few seconds of Tagalog words in the dialogue.  I was still smiling when I walked out of the theater with my friend, trying to explain to her for the third time what that matronly mother said to her  daughter.

—  Today, I tried for the second time to find frozen lasagna that I knew I placed in my freezer weeks ago.  I wanted to bake it for dinner. Well, this was the second time for me to search for it, so frustration and annoyance pervaded my attitude. Almost giving up, my fingers felt frozen clumps at the bottom of my freezer.  I took out the package and was surprised to find a bag of frozen shrimps. That made me smile. I thought of cooking them right away. But a better surprise – frozen lasagna was underneath. I must have given up looking the first time because of the prickly clumps that covered what I was searching for.  Wider smiles from me.  Two delicious entrees for dinner – shrimps and lasagna!

—  Strangely funny — Driving on my way to work, I spotted the US postal service van come out of the imposing Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto.  My first thought was – the postman delivered mail to the silent residents. Though at the back of my mind I knew the cemetery office is behind the gate, somehow I  couldn’t stop my imagination from the weird suggestion.  Well, who knows? A lot of mail perhaps to one very important unnamed tomb in the middle of an expansive lawn bordered by trees and cement benches – where Apple’s Steve Jobs is rumored to be interned. And the thousands of other silent residents, my husband included, receiving mail.  Now, my smiles burst into giggles.

—  An important aside — my exhortation to parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, bosses – a simple praise can go a very long way. That’s exactly what I got today. From a professional coach for an ongoing major project morphing out of my favorite hobby –-  “Great work, Linda!” You guess right – I’m all smiles today.

Linda P. Jacob