mockingbirdonbroad – Mockingbird on Broad

Year of the Snake

Photo-3So far I’m not a fan of 2013, or more aptly named by the ancient Chinese Zodiac, “Year of the Snake”. Let me break it down…First, my beloved car “Tackle box” burst into flames on U.S. 1 thus leaving us with the unenviable task of finding a ride home and buying a car for the first time in nearly a decade. A month later, while vacuuming my area rug; the wheels literally fell off. The bottom of the vacuum just gave up and then sort of disintegrated right before my eyes. Apparently, this sent up a red flag to the appliances in my laundry room, because days later my washing machine started dumping water on to the floor as a sure sign of solidarity. This brazen act sent a clear message to the dryer which began shrinking clothes at an alarming rate while simultaneously making the clothes so hot I was forced to treat them like a game of Hot Potato. At first I thought, “No, the dryer wouldn’t do this to me- maybe the clothes aren’t shrinking…fingers crossed I’m just getting fatter.” No such luck, after our last house guest found their favorite T-shirt in the dryer where it now resembled a baby onesie, I had to face facts and lay the blame squarely on the rusted out shoulders of our dryer and sadly not my hips. Do you see what I mean? So far the “Year of the Snake” cost me a car, vacuum, washer, dryer and the unforgivable breach of etiquette of ruining the clothing of a guest and make me question the size of my thighs! But wait there’s more… You know how they say, “When it rains, it pours”, “A fool and his money are soon parted”, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Well I don’t know who these wizards/ prophets are, but pay heed- they know of what they speak (Except for the last one, I have no idea what that means). The “Year of the Snake” had us in its sights and I was running out of patience and money. Then just like in the movies, a ray of sunshine through the clouds. My husband and I went home to FL after a two year absence. We saw old friends and family; we went to the beach every morning and basked in the sun and surf, we ate and drank at all of our old favorite haunts… and then the “Year of the Snake” sank its teeth in us once again with a rock to the windshield and one last fateful family dinner where we drunkenly agreed to be the new owners of a 102 pound Labrador Retriever. How did this happen you might ask? We were shanghaied- simple as that! We went over for a family dinner, had a few drinks, and heard a sob story about a family member moving to foreign lands, a new baby, and not enough time in the day for the poor neglected animal. Before I knew what was happening, we were in our truck headed home, loaded down with long forgotten family memorabilia, some seashells, a basket of dog toys, and the largest Lab you’ve ever seen. Who can say “No!” to desperate loved ones? Well not this sucker as it turns out. Eleven hours later we arrived back home to our quiet town of Southern Pines. My husband and I both exhausted and in desperate need of sleep. We drug our luggage out of the car and collapsed into bed. Our new dog Dodge however had different plans. His car ride had been spent luxuriating on a plush dog bed where he took turns gnawing on a giant bone and taking long siestas. By the time he got to his new home, Dodge was well rested and ready to play. Beleaguered, we belatedly remembered his basket of toys and set them down in front of him in hopes he might play quietly and leave us to our slumber. Dodge looked excitedly at his bin of goodies and immediately dove in with abandon. Simultaneously, grabbing some large pool rings out of his basket; he slung them around his neck, shoved two squeaky toys in his mouth and began playing soccer with a well-worn tennis ball. As the delirious dog ran squeaking by, my jaw dropped and my husband exclaimed, “Why, he’s a circus dog!” “No.” I whispered reverently, “What we have here is a shop dog.” And so it came to pass that on a blustery cold morning I opened up the shop with a giant dog bed, dog bone, and Dodge. I’ve always loved the idea of a shop dog. A sweetly mannered laid back pooch that’d curl up next to me behind the counter or maybe sun himself in the shop window and lazily greet customers as they enter. My last dog was an angel, but he had a distaste for traveling far from the comfort of our queen bed or my lovely neighbors couch. Now, Dodge gave me another chance at having my own cool Mockingbird mascot. I chose a day to initiate him when the weather was fowl and rendered my shop a ghost town. Dodge and I would open up the store together and bond over our mastery of our tiny little kingdom on Broad St… Of course, as soon as I opened the shop door the fantasy dissolved. Dodge who seemed oversized back at the house now seemed gargantuan. His great thwacking tail swung wildly, barely avoiding vases, candles, stacks of books and the most adorable glass pigs. His great nose pressed into shelves of pillows and rugs and then his serpent like tail finally struck a lovely set of salt and pepper shakers and sent them crashing to the ground. Alarmed by the noise of the crash he began racing around the shop like a Clydesdale in an arena leaving little jingling noises in his wake. Then much to my horror, Dodge skidded to a halt at the sight of my beautifully decorated display bed. The hundred pound dog eyed it with such adoration he reminded me of the old cartoon I watched as a kid, the one where Pepe Le Pew finds the girl skunk of his dreams and his black skunk eyes turn into giant red pulsing hearts. Before I could stop him the large beast flew on to the bed, circled and landed with a sigh. This all happened in 45 seconds…I had to shut my eyes against the horror. The words, “Bull in a China shop” had horrific new meaning. Dodge managed to take 10 years off of my life, grant a 50% off bedding sale, and forever destroy my fantasy of Dodge being the new face of Mockingbird. With my nerves shot, I began to sweep up the shrapnel from Dodges wake and I tried to figure out what to do with him for the rest of the day. Would he calm down or should I face facts, close up shop, and race him home before anything else catastrophic occurred? As I weighed my options the little ding of the shop door chimed to announce our first Customer of the day. With cat like reflexes one would not expect from a large mutant sized dog, he sprang from the bed sprinted to the front of the shop and did the thing that made my heart stop, my wrinkles deepen, and the taste of bile rise to the back of my throat. Dodge stood on his hind legs, rested his paws on our customer’s shoulders, and licked her face from chin to forehead. I swooned.   I actually swooned. Let me just say, I pride my shop on being a place where guests can wander in and feel at home.   There are thoughtful journals and cards or books and paper masks that will make you laugh out loud. Customers become friends and from time to time they will stop in, pull up an old rickety stool from behind the counter, and tell me what’s new. It’s not unusual for strangers to come in to the store and leave having shared some burden or confided either a sadness or great joy. I think sometimes it’s easier to reveal yourself to a total stranger. I love the interaction, as well as the idea that a simple shop in downtown Southern Pines can also have an elevated purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I like selling mustached sunglasses as well as the next guy, which is why I saw the end of days when witnessing my dog standing as large as a man accosting said customer whose only feature I could discern was a blonde ponytail. I rushed to the front of the store ordering Dodge to cease and desist while frantically apologizing to the blonde ponytail who was obscured by the dog’s giant head. Startled by my hysterics he quickly got down and to my extraordinary relief I heard giggling come from Dodges victim. The blonde ponytail was none other than my good friend Lauren. After ascertaining that all limbs were intact and there were no injuries, I treated her for mild shock with a promise of a bottle of Prosecco. She graciously offered to hold down the fort so I could run the most out of control mascot home for good. Oh yes, the “Year of the Snake” is alive and well. It might have given me a pass on what could’ve been a real game changer with the whole “When Animals Attack,” scenario, but there are several months left in the year for the other shoe to drop. I don’t know what else 2013 has in store for us but I’ll be sleeping with one eye open until December 31st takes a bow and officially draws to a close. The year has seen to it that we replace appliances, witness our dear car Tackle box burst into flames Viking Funeral style, purchase a new car and come home from Florida with a giant dog with a delicate constitution. I don’t want to hazard a guess as to what else might be in store. For now, I will content myself with the knowledge that things can be replaced and new pets can be a good thing. As I sit at work, I know there is a great headed, beaver tailed, circus dog tucked in bed waiting for us to come home. As we get to know him we stand amazed as he reveals his latest talents to our friends and family. I guess the shop doesn’t need a mascot after all. Meanwhile, the shop is open and an empty stool is waiting beside the register for the next customer who has an even bigger tale to tell…
April 09, 2015 by 70633490

Portal to the Universe

flag I have this shop in downtown Southern Pines, NC and I would’ve never guessed what a strange and wonderful portal to the Universe it would become! It’s been an awesome opportunity for me to meet great people who I somehow have persuaded to be my friends, it has also introduced me to the Sunrise Theatre which I love and would’ve never had the nerve to volunteer had they not been my downtown neighbors. The shop has also introduced me to some real crazies. Like the time a Hobo ran into my shop looking for his cat Wolfie…a cat named Wolfie… or the bewildered coffee drinkers who think they are next door at Swank and mistakenly order their salted caramel mocha, Frappa, espresso, extra foam thingy’s, to me. From my perch on Broad Street I’ve met friends and discovered Southern Pines in a way I never could have imagined. My shop is called Mockingbird and here are a few of my favorite stories from my little nest on Broad Street. The good, the bad, the ugly…
The Good
One day several years ago a red- haired, smiling customer walked in to the shop and as she was perusing the baubles and books we struck up a conversation and before long we were chatting like old friends. I mentioned that I would be going to Jackson Hole in a few weeks for my first ski trip ever! (Hey, I’m from Florida- I swim!) She exclaimed that she used to live in Jackson Hole and absolutely loved it! She promised we would have a blast. The lovely customer gave us a list of great restaurants and must see spots around town and then to my utter disbelief she offered to let me borrow her ski clothes! Kristen exclaimed, “Ski clothes are so expensive there is no reason for you to buy anything for just one trip. I’ll go home and gather up what I have and drop them off.” Have you ever heard of such a thing— a total stranger offering her ski wardrobe to a slob like me? I couldn’t believe my ears! I thanked her profusely and within a few days; good to her word she dropped off a huge bag of awesome cold weather gear which all fit perfect. Weeks later when I was up in the Wyoming Mountains (absolutely shredding the bunny hills by the way…) people much cooler than me would compliment me on my “rad” jacket or “totally awesome” hat and I would simply throw my head back and say something like, “This old thing? It’s a limited addition, you can’t get it anymore.” Hey, they don’t need to know the details! Every article she loaned was invaluable and perfect for the occasion. How do you ever truly show your appreciation for that sort of generosity? It’s been a few years since that chance encounter and Kristen and I have become great friends. She is my movie buddy and we are even in the same book club. Working downtown has also given me the good fortune to work next door to the Sunrise Theatre which has turned out to be one of the best happy accidents of my life. Movies have been a passion of mine for years. In college I even took a Screenwriting course and wrote a full length screen play. I’m sure it’s still packed in a box in the dusty attic waiting for Weinstien or Paramount to cast Minnie Driver and Gerard Butler as the stars… hey a girl can dream can’t she? I love being a volunteer for the Sunrise and being a part of a community that aspires to do right by our wonderful little town. So many vibrant characters work diligently to make the Sunrise Theatre a thriving place; a place for our community to come together and celebrate the arts in the Sandhills. I’m proud to say that I now Chair the committee that helps choose the films, but without the shop being next door to the theater, I really don’t know if I would’ve ever had the chutzpah to walk in and volunteer, but I’m so glad I did.
The Bad
Of course it hasn’t all been unicorns and rainbows in my little downtown shop. I’ve met my share of absolute nut jobs. Take for instance the time a Hobo ran into my shop shouting for his cat Wolfie. I was pretty positive that the man was mistaken. After all, wouldn’t I notice if a Hobo cat ran into the shop, but then I saw something move from the corner of my eye and to my utter amazement a pretty little gray cat stuck his head out from under my counter and gave me a look as if to say, “Don’t rat me out Bro!” Turns out Wolfie the cat sprinted into my shop, presumably to get away from its odiferous owner. By the time I got the man’s attention he had worked himself into quite a frenzy and marched and fretted over every inch of the shop bellowing for his beloved companion. It wasn’t until he came towards the counter that I noticed something was very wrong. Turns out the Gent had cut his foot on something, somehow, and was bleeding pretty profusely. My face must’ve betrayed my inner horror as I now saw the bloody footprints which serpentined throughout the entire shop like an evil snail trail. Seeing my horror struck face he quickly said, “Oh yeah, cut my foot…” He lifted his dirty bare foot up to show me that indeed his foot was cut and dripping blood. Seeing as I’m not the biggest fan of blood or bare feet (at least not in the confines of my shop) I asked him over the sound of the thumping pulse in my head and my own waning vision if he wanted me to call somebody like 911. That seemed to strike the wrong chord because the man quickly grabbed Wolfie and drug his bloody stump out of the shop all the while murmuring about a late train schedule. After a few seconds of my head tucked firmly between my knees, my vision returned and the woozy sensation in my stomach diminished. I was able to lift my head and see clearly as I took in the full scope of what occurred. There were bloody footprints all over the store; my cute little shop now resembled a crime scene! I had visions of being in an episode of Law and Order. You know those first thirty seconds that sets up the entire episode- right before the iconic, “Dun Dun”. I pulled myself together and got to work. I dumped every cleaning agent in my arsenal into my mop bucket and began industriously mopping every square inch. Customers occasionally would wander in and then discover the blood bath and beat a hasty retreat. Of course I would try and play the atrocity down, but the whole day sort of went like this: “Welcome ladies, how are you…sorry for mopping during the day, please watch your step… What’s that?...Yes, that’s blood….what no, everyone is fine, you see a Hobo came in looking for his cat Wolfie…yes a cat…I don’t know why he named it Wolfie…Yes well, he was bleeding rather profusely and…what? Oh, Okay…Sure … well please come again.” With eyes widening the unwitting customers slowly backed away and moved down the street never to return... When I finally finished cleaning and only tiny pools of Mr. Clean remained. I straightened up to stretch my back when to my utter disbelief, Wolfie the cat ran back in to the shop… and so it went for the rest of the day…
The Ugly
Then there are those customers who are accidental. They march in assuredly and make a B-line for the counter and proudly recite their coffee order. When I explain they are in the wrong store the response is mixed. Some blink owlishly and consider my words thoughtfully and leave without another word, others become defiant and demand to know when we moved locations! Because the coffee shop and my shop are carbon copies of one another I can see how the mistake can be made… to a point. Some customers mistakenly wander over to a section of my store and ask where the creamer or coffee sleeves are, pawing blindly at the stationary display before them. As nicely as I can, I inform them that sugar packets and lids are next door in the exact same spot—just one shop over. Once a customer waltzed in barked out her special coffee order and began smelling candles while waiting for her imaginary order to be completed all the while oblivious to her surroundings. When I tried to explain that she was probably looking for the coffee shop next door. She responded without looking up; immersed in the business of candle smelling, “I think I know where I am. Thank you- did I say large because I really need a large.” Why I never! The nerve of some folks! Lastly, there is my favorite kind of accidental customer; the ones who smile sheepishly at their own silly mistake and give a light hearted laugh at finding themselves in in this funny little predicament. Throughout the years I’ve enjoyed meeting customers and hearing what’s new in their lives: new babies, weddings, graduations, a good book recommendation. Some stop in regularly and give me a full update, while others just have time to wave as they walk their dogs or run errands. Some I just see for the big holidays; Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, etc. I catch up with them as they busily shop for loved ones and I feel such fondness and appreciation to be a small part of their lives. I owe so much to my little shop in downtown, but I could have never guessed that a small town gift shop could become a sort of strange and wonderful portal to the universe…and beyond. This one’s for you Wolfie, wherever you are…
April 09, 2015 by 70633490

Ode to my mom

Happy Mother's Day BlogI have this mom…who is this huge force of nature. A conundrum really: tiny but strong, sickly yet robust, she’s the one you want in your corner when you’re sick, but she’s the often the one who’s ailing. My Mom, Suzanne isn’t just one thing. She can’t be summed up on a wooden plaque or frame and Hallmark has yet to scratch the surface. She can make me laugh or scream depending on the day. While being extremely opinionated and very good at imposing her will, she is also the most charitable and loving person I’ve ever met. She confounds me. I love her with all my heart and yet she can push my buttons like no one else in the world. In one breath, she can tell me how pretty she thinks I am while the next is spent reminding me how dried up my hair and skin look. Let me try and describe this complex mother of mine. I am a child of a very tiny woman. With hands the size of a china doll and the stature of a small pre-teen I can actually tuck her little body under my arm; like a giant Crane with wing outstretched as if protecting a baby from the elements. Of course my Mom is oblivious to her Lilliputian size. She believes herself to be as tall as me and twice as tough. While my six foot stature surely casts a shadow on her tiny bones she actually is very strong. Don’t believe me? Try paying for lunch and then watch in horror as your once able bodied limb crumples to dust as her sweet baby doll hand clamps down on yours with a startling ferocity. If you can hear over the sound of your delicate phalanges being ground into oblivion you might hear her whisper, “I’ve got this.” Why she takes such umbrage with my attempts to pay for a meal is one of life’s great mysteries, like why Pluto is no longer a planet… Mom is a real no nonsense type of lady. She doesn’t wear a lot of makeup, never had a manicure, never has had her hair professionally colored or highlighted, and never had a spa day. “Wasteful”, I can hear her say with a shake of her head, and yet her rules don’t seem to apply to her daughter. She is forever reminding me about keeping up my nails, my skin, and my hair. I know watching your child grow old must be traumatic, but the constant scrutiny wears this old daughter out. I see my parents twice a year and the reunion usually goes something like this, “Mom, it’s so good to see you, how was the drive.” We then share a prolonged hug with excessive back patting, (on her part). “Hmm, don’t get me started.” She sighs with an eye roll, and then her little baby hand touches my face and her eyes inspect me like a bug under a microscope. “What cream are using on your face? I don’t think it’s working.” She then strokes my hair, “So dry, have you tried Pantene.” And then the one, two knock out, punch, “You need to pay attention to your posture I think you are getting a hump.” At which point she whips me around and begins pounding on my “hump”. “Nothing uglier than a tall girl with poor posture”, she says raising her voice to be heard over the back pounding. Out of the corner of my eye I see Dad give me a wink and pour himself three fingers of Elijah Craig. My Mom, Suzanne is a cancer survivor and when I was in High School she had the horrible surgeries, the wretched chemotherapy, and the unenviable job of raising me. Take your pick as to which one was the worse hand to be dealt. She hid her sickness from me. Of course I knew she was sick, but when she wasn’t in the hospital she put up a very brave face and to my knowledge unless hospitalized she never missed one of my volleyball games. Through all of her struggles, she still managed to make me feel important and find joy in my accomplishments. Her poor little body has been traumatized and yet she arises from the ashes every time like the old wily phoenix. Not much has changed all these years later. She still has the terrible habit of minimizing or denying her medical difficulties and despite the onslaught of “helpful hints and reminders” like reminding to be put on lipstick one hundred times a day, I know she is the one I still want in my corner. My Mom Suzanne, who comes to work with me every day when she is here on vacation and talks to every person who walks in the shop as if they are old friends is still someone I’m constantly learning from (but please never tell her that…) My Mom has never met a stranger and is constantly stopping to chat on the street to compliment folks on their hair or sweater or dog… She often does this thing that used to make me crazy. My Mom will walk up to a stranger and tuck their tag back into their collar. The victim usually jumps a little but then upon seeing my Mom’s smiling face they relax and smile too. Now to my ever loving shame, I find myself doing the same thing. I hear Mom in my head asking, “Wouldn’t you want someone to tell you if your tag was sticking out?” I’ve given this question a lot of thought and frankly; I don’t think I care. So why might I ask, am I now compelled to do the tag tucking? Genetics is the only answer I can come up with these days. Here’s a perfect example of my Mom’s ability to gab with a total stranger. Several months ago a lovely woman came in to my shop and explained she had never been in, but heard great things about Mockingbird. We got to chatting, because let’s face it—I am my Mother’s daughter and she described meeting a lovely lady in Doug’s Auto Body. The customer explained that the lady went on and on about how great Mockingbird was and what an interesting combination of inventory I stocked. After a while the customer (Laura is her name, by now we’re old friends) asked, “Could the lady at Doug’s have been your Mom?” I asked her, “Was she tiny with curly hair and compliment you on either your eyes or sweater? Did she by chance tuck your tag in to your collar?” “Why yes, I do believe she complimented my eyes.” “Of course she did, they are beautiful, so clear and bright.” Aw jeeze what’s happening to me? I think I’m turning into my mother!” I exclaimed. With a slight pause Laura asked, “Would that be the worst thing in the world? She seemed lovely with such positive energy. I imagine she makes everyone around her feel good and she clearly is so proud of you.” Why this comment stopped me cold, my Mother who is tough as nails and ready to give a person the shirt off her back. My Mother who always tries to leave people with a compliment or a smile was the type of person I’ve been trying to be without knowing it my entire life. So yes, I might have a sharp tongue and I even might tell you when there is lettuce between your teeth, but hopefully I am also the person you can call if you need support, a laugh, or a hot chocolate chip cookie. I am my Mother’s daughter and I can’t think of a greater compliment that that…can you?
April 09, 2015 by 70633490

One Thankful Mockingbird

scouted coverHello I'm Sundi, owner of  the The Mockingbird in Southern Pines, NC.  I've had my shop since 2008 and I have to say this feels like my best year yet.  I'm inspired and motivated, but most of all so very grateful.  I really am... for people who know me this might come as a mild shock as I've a bit of a reputation for being rather ... cynical.  With a deep cleansing breath I say to you, I am feeling the love! People can shop anywhere, so when someone walks through the door of my shop or clicks on our shop site- I feel honored.  In this day and age of Amazon and big box...everything; I want my customers who walk through my door to feel like they are being taken care of.  I choose every piece of inventory in my store which makes me an expert at just about everything under my little roof.  That is how we small businesses can set ourselves apart.  We have to provide excellent service and be extremely knowledgeable.  (Let me pause here to slide my little Soap Box back under the counter)...now where was I... Not everyone buys something and not everyone appreciates my point of view, but many do-- and for that I couldn't be more thankful.  Everyday customers say the sweetest things about my little shop, Mockingbird.  They don't have to, but when they do it always thrills me a little.  I imagine it's sort of how a mother must feel when their baby is complimented.  Don't get me wrong, I know my shop is not the same as raising a baby, but believe me it has been a labor of love every step of the way. For the last few years I really was feeling overwhelmed and panicked, but most of all I felt what I was doing had no meaning.  I couldn't  help but think to myself, "Shouldn't I be doing something that makes the world brighter or better? How am I contributing to the world by running a gift shop?"  However, during this past holiday season and over the last several months I realized that I am helping in some small way.  I've customers who rush in on their lunch break and need to pick up the perfect  gift or just the right condolence card and I am able to help them with that quickly and efficiently.  Some folks walk in and just need to a peaceful place to gather their thoughts.  Often times customers I've known for years come into gossip a little or share a quick laugh or tell me of something they are struggling with and I feel so fortunate they trust me enough to share these moments... So as I step into the world of the Blog for the first time and try my hand once again at a website I feel a renewed sense of love for my work and a sincere sense of gratitude for being allowed to do what I love.  So this year,I will try and be mindful of the good people that walk through my shop door and say lovely things when they are under no obligation to do so...so when those few customers who wander in and are less than impressed I will remember that one can't please everybody all of the time. I will also remember to smile and wish them well.  As for you, thank you for stopping by and please stay tuned as I'm just getting warmed up; there will be laughter, there will be heart break ,and damn-it there will be shopping!