Small Acts of Kindness: Turning Things Around

Sometimes you need to be kind to yourself…

By Gail Kittleson

gailSpending the worst of the winter months in the Arizona mountains comes as a huge gift. We do this because of my sinus cavities. Yes, something good has come from those complicated caverns that have given me headaches for years. Miserable, repetitive winter headaches when I’m in Iowa…headaches that predict the rise and fall of barometric pressure, and trust me, that pressure fluctuates constantly in Iowa from December through March.

So through a series of circumstances over the past decade, we’ve been able to transplant from the frozen tundra to the Ponderosa forests of Gila County, just under the Mogollon Rim. The only downside is missing our grandchildren, but letter writing and phone calls help. So does the memory of nasty pain that stole full days of my life for years.

The benefit of feeling great and still being able to walk, even if it snows, adds so much to what psychologists call “quality of life.”  Another positive is meeting a variety of new folks in this diverse area. Yet another: incredible vistas to enjoy.

If all this weren’t enough, the wild animal friends traipsing our property provides daily inspiration. This bull elk captured our attention, and my husband captured him on video in our back yard.

This family of deer claims our yard as their “hood.” Several times a day, we see them passing through, and from time to time, they enjoy our carrot peelings and other veggie remnants.arizona-113684_960_720

What’s not to like? Honesty, I’ve always loved the mountains, always felt so much better stepping out of an airplane or vehicle in Denver or Glacier National Park. But I never dreamed I’d get to live in the mountains—just another of my pipe dreams.

Oops! Not so fast, Gail. You’ve encouraged other women to embrace their longings and seize the day. How about taking your own advice?

Our family experienced my husband’s two deployments to Iraq—one for fourteen months, one for a year. At the time, I had no idea his increased earnings there would pave the way for the fulfillment of this particular dream. Yep—we’ve always practiced frugality, but could never have afforded this luxury apart from Lance’s long, hot months in the Mideast.

Like my sinus difficulties, those deployments offered some pleasant side effects. So I’m going to end with a writing prompt for you writers that puts a character in dire danger. In the Arizona mountains. But dire can become delightful, right?

Prompt: Maggie Collier arched her back for a few seconds, then bent back down to her task. Cleaning out the iris beds would keep her busy for a week, if she kept at it for a couple of hours a day. She started to whistle, “It’s A Wonderful World,” but halted at a sound close behind her.

Turning slightly, she shivered. First a hoof, then a heavy animal scent enveloping her—a tangible, very large presence, defined by an enormous rack extending far above its head.

gailGail Kittleson taught college expository writing and English as a Second Language. Now she writes memoir and women’s fiction, and facilitates writing workshops and women’s retreats. In northern Iowa, she and her husband enjoy grandchildren and gardening. In winter, the Arizona mountains provide new novel fodder.


With Each New Dawn

In war-torn London, American Kate Isaacs grieves her husband, awaits their child’s birth, and welcomes her best friend Addie. But after her miscarriage, another meeting with mysterious Monsieur le Blanc launches her into Britain’s Secret Operations Executive (SOE). In late 1943, Kate parachutes into Southern France to aid the Resistance.

Domingo, a grieving Basque mountain guide-turned-saboteur, meets her parachute drop, tends her injured ankle, and carries her to safety. Reunited a few months later, they discover the injured Monsieur le Blanc who, with his dying breath, reveals a secret that changes Kate’s life.

In the shadow of the Waffen SS, Domingo’s younger brother Gabirel is missing. While Domingo seeks Gabirel, Domingo’s parish priest, Père Gaspard, creates a new identity for Kate.

As Kate and Domingo subject their mutual attraction to the cause of freedom, can mere human will and moral courage change the war’s tide and forge a future for them?

A Blooming Circle of Sunshine

IMG_7718By Gail Kittleson

This fall, we re-started a small writing class in my dining room. We’ve met for several years and bonded through focusing on  the memoir. Divulging our experiences in the written word takes a certain kind of courage, but these women have stuck with it. And we have fun, besides.

On this day, four women came one by one. They all had stories to tell, especially since we suspended meeting over the summer. So I was deep in one member’s story when the second arrived, and so on.

The last to enter the house, Mary, had typed out her story, a unique experience with her grandchildren during her daughter’s hospitalization, so she shared last. By the time she came in, we were all attending to the third woman who wore an ankle cast and needed to elevate her foot. Mary had given her a ride to class.

These details come to me in retrospect, because when I walked everyone out the front door after class, a gorgeous chrysanthemum plant took up a third of my bottom step. Golden yellow, arms spread in a cheerful globe, it’ll bring me joy for weeks to come.

And how did it arrive? Surreptitiously, at the hands of my kind writing friend—Mary, who gave the injured woman a ride and walked in last.

I speculate that she often occupies last place. And I’d guess she’s comfortable there, checking things out, making people comfortable, looking for forgotten details. I have no idea how many random acts of kindness trail her but am pretty sure there’s a lot.

Outside my window as I write today, there’s a blooming circle of sunshine, just for me. What’s interesting is, a few days earlier, I noticed these glorious autumn flowers but bought a much cheaper version in the least expensive department store I could find. “This’ll do,” I thought.

But Mary’s gift reminds me I might deserve the full-blown version—the best.

gailGail Kittleson and her husband live in rural northern Iowa, where they enjoy family and she facilitates a small writing class…small but powerful!
In winter, Arizona Ponderosa forest country provides even more novel fodder. Gail enjoys writing, reading, hiking, biking, meeting strangers, leading writing workshops, and re-connecting with old friends – please feel free to contact her.
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In This Together

Dottie Kyle’s world centers on hard work. When World War II steals her son and she loses herInThisTogether_w9364_750-200x300 husband soon after the Allied victory, her job at Helene’s boarding house gives her a reason to wake up in the morning. But when her daughter in California experiences complications in her third pregnancy and needs help with the little grandchildren Dottie longs to meet, old fears of closed-in spaces hinder her from embarking on a cross-country train trip. 

Meanwhile, unexpected challenges arise at work, and Dottie’s next-door widower neighbor Al’s sudden attention becomes obvious. Could he hold the clue to conquering anxieties that have her in a stranglehold?