More Thoughts from a Daymaker

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on December 27, 2012

Clouds for Five More Minutes With

In a previous post, I introduced a book called “Life as a Daymaker: How to Change the World by Making Someone Else’s Day,” written by David Wagner, and promised I’d share a few choice bits with you.

So here is some food for thought. . .some of my favorite excerpts from David’s inspiring book.

“It does not take a lot of effort to be a Daymaker. Just behave in a caring way and watch what happens. Your life will begin to fill with perfect moments that serve the highest good of all.”

“Perfect moments are not rare for a Daymaker. They happen all the time.”

“You have not lived a perfect day until you have done something for someone without expecting them to pay you.”

Do you live your life this way? Are you conscious in the way you treat others?

In today’s world, where people are so self-involved that they are often downright rude, even simple words such as “please” and “thank you” go a long way in making someone’s day.

More stories from: Editor's Notes,Featured Story

Holiday Memory: The Green Tartan Night Gown

Written by Laurie on December 20, 2012

Two years ago, this holiday memory submitted by Laurie, a regular contributor to Five More Minutes With Web site was the winner of our first-ever Holiday Memory Contest!

Her first story for us, A Whiff of Perfume, documented the ineffable memories she had when she smelled her mother’s perfume.

The House on Sylvan Lane chronicled her happy childhood in a very special home.

In The Green Tartan Night Gown, she again weaves a compelling portrait of family life as she was growing up. As with her two previous stories, I can’t read it without shedding a bucket full of tears.


Everyone has his own way of celebrating Christmas. In our house, these “family traditions” had to be adhered to year after year. My mother was the producer of Christmas and the keeper of the rules.

On Christmas morning, we took coffee or hot chocholate and a special Christmas Danish to the fireplace to open our stocking gifts. These “treasures” were anything from candy and cosmetics to kitchen gadgets and school supplies that we wrapped in red or green tissue paper. We took turns unwrapping them one at a time.

In an attempt to make the day last as long as it possible, we took a break to get the turkey in the oven, dress up for the day, and slowly gather around the Christmas tree for the gift exchange. Dad was Santa and passed around the colorfully wrapped presents. We watched as each opened a gift and, made appropriate oohs and aahs.

Selecting, wrapping and giving gifts was very important to my mom. Christmas wasn’t Christmas unless you had packages under the tree with your name on the gift tag.

As time went by, the mantle passed to me. I became the producer of Christmas in my home, but my mom still was the enforcer of the traditions. On this particular Christmas, we all had to bend the rules to accommodate my mom’s treatment for ovarian cancer.

I now lived in Florida where my parents spent their winters, so we were able to arrange for mom to come as usual and continue with chemo. She was so weak when she got off the plane. I got them settled in their condo about five minutes from my home, bought a miniature live Christmas tree, and tried to make it as festive as possible.

To make it easier on mom, I set up the stockings turning their kitchen bar into “the fireplace mantel”. On Christmas morning, I drove to their condo for coffee and Danish and the familiar stocking gift ritual which my dad and I kept alive.

Later in the day, a very frail mom wearing her crooked wig came to my house to finish the Christmas traditions around my tree. The gifts were there, but this year’s pile wasn’t as big and I expected nothing from my mom except the gift of her being with us that day.

This time, I was Santa. She directed me to a package with my name on it in her handwriting beautifully wrapped. I opened the box and pulled out a full length flannel night gown in a green tartan pattern.

What made the gift so special is that my mom made my dad drive her to the mall so that she personally could pick out the gift — something to keep me warm since she knows I always get cold. The tears came down my cheeks as I tried to hide them behind the warm comfy night gown which reminded me of my mother’s love and the importance of celebrating Christmas her way.

That was our last Christmas, but the gown comforted me and brought back warm memories of a lifetime of Christmases with my mom. They are never the same without her.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Mom

Five More Minutes With Our Pets on the Rainbow Bridge

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on December 17, 2012

Anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet (which I suppose we are now supposed to refer to as “companion animal” if we want to be politically correct) knows how difficult that can be. Animals give us unconditional love and ask for hardly anything in return.

Unlike relatives and friends, they don’t bring a lot of emotional baggage. They are (often) pure sources of joy and wonder.

So when the following poem crossed my desk at 9:42 one morning, I couldn’t help but read it and shed a tear.

Here’s to all the wonderful animals in our lives cats such as Bo-Bo, Jasper, and Henry-san, and dogs like AmandaTimmy, Matchin, and Lucius who are no longer with us physically, but will always live on in our hearts and minds.

And here’s to meeting again to cross the Rainbow Bridge.


Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.

There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.

There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance.

His bright eyes are intent; his eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.

The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

Author unknown…

Writing for Five More Minutes With

Written by Braiden on December 10, 2012

Managing a large Web site, and one with such a provocative zeitgeist as Five More Minutes With, has been a truly unique and rewarding experience for me.

Every now and then, I get an e-mail or comment that lifts my spirits. Such is this one from a fellow cookbook author and food writer (part of my other life), Marie Simmons. She says:

“I wanted to write and let you know that I finally had a moment to spend with your Web site. It is lovely and fabulous and so heartfelt. I have forwarded it to a bunch of friends.

“We have all struggled with loss over the last few years and this is a perfect place to stop, pause, think, and take a moment to really use our words to express all those feelings spilling, and sometimes spewing, from our hearts, if not our gut.

“I will write something as I digest. I loved what you wrote about your Mom. Tight writing, but so pure and sincere.

“I did want to say it is difficult to plunge into these thoughts in such a public forum. I need to process and sort and decide how to do it.

“You might want to address this in content. Maybe begin with poems or other ways to communicate.

“Grief sometimes clouds our thoughts. And in a moment of anguish we may later feel embarrassment at being perceived as “gushing”.

“What I admired about your essay is your ability to “filter” but yet convey your feelings. This is not easy to do.”

Thanks, Marie! You bring up a lot of good concerns. I hope FMMW fans will muster through and submit their stories. . .

More stories from: Editor's Notes,Featured Story

You Can Choose to Be Happy!

Written by Braiden on December 6, 2012

I remember that when I was growing up, my mother found joy in simple things, such as growing her own orchids under black lights or arranging the roses and dahlias from her garden

My mother’s mantra was, “Live each day gloriously.”

And despite her deep, dark secret–life as a hidden hoarder–I choose to believe (and maybe I need to believe) that she did manage to find some sort of beauty in each and every day.

I remember that when I was growing up, she found joy in simple things, such as growing her own orchids under black lights or arranging the roses and dahlias from her garden.

At a recent culinary conference in Palm Springs (part of my “other life” as a food and wine writer), keynote speaker Pamela Jett, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) seemed to agree with Mom’s philosophy.

The very first suggestion she shared among her time-tested tips for better communication was the following:

“Get up every morning and choose to be happy. Don’t stay neutral and don’t opt for misery.”

Inner victory precedes outer victory, the acclaimed speaking professional reasoned. Accept responsibility for your attitude and make it positive! Choosing to be happy is proactive and a lot healthier than languishing around in the doldrums.

Have you chosen to be happy today?

More stories from: Editor's Notes,Featured Story

My Memorial for My Mother

Written by Braiden on December 3, 2012

The following is the the two-page document I shared with the people who attended my mother’s small memorial service in Austin, Texas, on August 17, 2005.

Welcome to this memorial for Julie Rex. Any of you who knew her knew she was from the South, and so had many “interesting” view on life and death, particularly on funerals.

Which puts her family in a funny place after her death last Saturday. Mom didn’t want any “doings,” and by that she meant a lot of pageantry, pomp, and circumstance. But those who knew her knew how much she loved a good party, so instead of calling this gathering tonight to celebrate her life “doings,” let’s call it a party. So. . .welcome to the party.

As my husband Spencer and I were flying here from Seattle on American Airlines’ red-eye flight on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, I had many quiet hours to think about Mom. As is my pattern as a professional writer, I wrote down my thoughts quickly, recklessly, in their raw form once we landed in Dallas and had a two-hour layover.

I cleaned my notes up a bit, edited and organized them, and tonight I’d like to share my thoughts with you.

Mom’s motto in life was to “Live each day gloriously.” I’ll say it again: Live each day gloriously. Mom was a relentlessly upbeat person who never saw the glass as half empty, but always as half full. She took delight in simple things—a perfect pink rosebud in a crystal vase, a homegrown peach sliced into cold milk, the baby sparrows that landed on her beloved bird feeder.

Within the last two years, the physical limitations of her body—the defibrillator, almost total blindness, severe arthritis in both hands and one knee—would have killed most mortals. But, up until her last week to 10 days, Mom kept up a brave front, until I think she just could not see the glass as half full any more.

I grew up in suburban Philadelphia in the 1960s, where Mom was the prototypical good mother. Some of the things I vividly remember from childhood:

–Going to the farmers’ market on Tuesdays and Saturdays, where the Amish people pulled up in their horse-drawn buggies to sell us everything from fresh-killed chickens to shoofly pie. As the author of six books on the Pike Place Market, this exposure to farmers’ markets from an early age has had a profound effect on my adult life.

–I remember her bringing cupcakes for the entire class when it was my birthday—white cake and pink icing, of course.

Rock-hunting for rubies and sapphires in North Carolina one summer vacation. She had a beautiful ruby-and-gold ring specially designed for me from our discoveries and I still wear it to this day.

–Her orchids painstakingly hand-pollinated and nurtured under black lights.

–Science projects that took over the laundry room.

–Her outdoor garden with specimen rose bushes, dahlias, peonies, and her beloved (being a true Southern belle) magnolia trees. People in Pennsylvania never could understand how those fragile trees could survive the harsh winters.

–Car trips through Mom’s beloved South with stops at places such as Mammy’s Barbecue in South Carolina (those were less politically correct times) and The Deck in Brunswick, Georgia, with the best fried shrimp and hush puppies.

–Finally, the numerous cats we adopted, beginning with Diamond, the tortoise-shell Persian, when I was six and Brad was three.

To wrap up, I’d just like to say that Spencer and I went to see Mom at the funeral home on Monday. I was worried that she might be ravaged by all the pain she may have experienced during her last moments, but we were relieved to find instead her face beautiful, unmarked, without a wrinkle. In death, as in life, her bearing was regal, her hair neatly combed. She looked like a movie star.

Most importantly, she looked totally, completely, at peace.

So instead of mourning her death with pretentious “doings,” it seems much more appropriate to celebrate her life with a gathering of her favorite friends and family. Because anyone whose credo was to “Live each day gloriously,” wouldn’t have it any other way.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Mom