By Chance

art, non-fiction, poetry 2 Comments »

This poem tells the true story of my father and my brother….and how one of my father’s paintings (he was a watercolor artist) found its way back to our family many years after my father’s death.

By Chance

This time
down in the basement
not far from the washer and dryer,
stacks of boxed Christmas ornaments,
a table filled with fly tying materials,
and shelves of things forgotten,
the son’s father allowed him to watch
and listen. The boy was seven.
He sat high near the work table,
next to where his father stood
as he swathed the rough textured Fabriano
with pale colors of moving water.
This will be the ocean, he’d said. Then he began
his vibrato whistle, like that of a wood-wind solo.
Pensieroso.

He whistled as the sable bristles,
an extension of his own long fingers,
dipped and twisted into the swirls
of thick titanium white, aquamarine,
emerald green, and ultramarine blue
on his pallet.
The son’s eyes followed
the brush’s movements while
his father created
an ethereal seascape for someone
who did not yet know
that by chance he’d see it,
have it speak to him,
make an offer
and carry it into his home—
a gift.

Azure liquid leaked from a sponge
his father wrung. He blotted in shadows
from the ocean up to the edge
of the masking taped paper
and then wisped thin lines of black
out lining the upper part of the indigo
and violet shadows
and the son watched
the dark run
into clouds.

Several more strokes
and a wooden weathered boat
tethered to a mooring buoy
emerged on the paper. Now he whistled
a shanty, as he worked
the impression of the rig.
A burnt sienna mast appeared and rose
into the overcast sky,
and then a loosely furled sail.
The father knew then what the son did not
and carefully drew
the brush from left to right,
to the stern. The father stirred
the brush in an old
peanut butter jar
full of blue-green water, whipped
moisture from it, set it down. He stepped away,
reached for an angular bowled pipe,
tapped tobacco, lit a match
drew in the smoke. The line of his
back tilted away
from the art and he ran
the pipe’s mouth piece across
his lips. He returned the pipe to its rest
and chose a finer brush, held it and waved
it like a conductor’s wand
through the air. He punctuated
the motion into white,
then black, then to the paper. This is a gull,
he said, and dipped again into the black
for the bird’s eye. The vibrato
in his whistle began
once more as a stiffer brush met
with a soft, washed-out yellow. Yellow bled out and away
from the sea bird, that stretched his feet
to light atop the mast.
In staccato fashion the brush dabbed in barnacles,
moss, sea foam, rippled reflections.
It’s magic, the son said.
Spirit, said the father.
Art is from God.

* * * * *

Thirty-three summers after
his father sold the painting
thirty-three summers after
his father died,
the son stood inside the frame
shop. Non-glare glass shards, soft
leaded pencils, gray gum
erasers, a rainbow
of matting scraps, metal squares,
velvety polishing cloths, Exacto knives,
moulding lengths, coils of wire, minute
brads, and powdery sawdust surrounded him.

Bells rang at the door—
unoiled hinges echoed its opening. A small
round, older man entered,
and in both hands he carried a large
paper wrapped painting.
Good morning, the son said.
The man placed the painting
on the counter, tore away the paper. It
means a great deal to me, the man said as he turned
it toward the son. Someone I loved
gave this to me. The man’s eyes
didn’t look away
from the art.
The son’s eyes focused
on a sea gull,
the yellow bleeding out and away
from it. The son ran
his hand down the glass
as though scanning prose and
rested his forefinger to the right
of the artist’s signature.
This is my father’s
work, said the son.
I sat next to him when he painted it. The man’s
eyes met with the son’s. He used to whistle,
said the son.

The man left the painting
for a new frame. The son
spoke to his mother, his sisters.
Come see, he said. The mother
set her hand near the name. The sisters
touched the frame.
The son stood back and realized
the sea. It is the ocean.
He watched and listened.

Two weeks passed and the son
called the man. I finished the frame,
said the son. The bells rang
at the door—the hinges now oiled
made no sound. The man stood back from
the painting, the ocean, the boat, the gull.
Your father would be happy, he said. The man
opened a manila envelope and handed the son
papers. This is a copy
of my will. The painting
will return to you one day. The son
did not meet eyes
with the man. Black type bled
through the yellow
highlighter—the son and the father’s name. The son
shook the man’s hand
and nodded. The son did not hear the bells
as the man closed
the door behind him.

Three days later the man
appeared again, carrying
a large paper wrapped painting.
This painting
belongs with you, the man said.
No need to wait
until I die.

Nannette Rogers Kennedy
November 17, 2002

This is the painting the man returned to my brother ~ it hangs in our home.

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Setting the Prisoner Free part 1

essay, non-fiction 3 Comments »

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you~
Lewis B. Smedes

Did you ever wonder, in the midst of a crisis:  Where’s the gift in this?  Many of the people I know, even though well traveled on a spiritual path, have asked this question.  For reasons of anger, disbelief, traumatic incident, fear ~ in circumstances such as these, the question is automatic for me; at least I’m aware that a gift will appear when I’m ready to open it.

In my late twenties (over twenty years ago), Itool box “happened” into a “new age” bookstore where my path took a sudden and steep climb.  Books like The Case for Reincarnation, Strangers Among Us, Journeys Out of the Body, The Road Less Traveled, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Out on a Limb, Past Life Regressions and anything to do with Edgar Cayce flew off the shelves and into my hands.  I read through these books at a remarkable pace and found myself back at this same book store in a week filling my arms again.  There was no turning back, nor did I want to.  Much of what I read resonated with me more than anything else I’d ever perused or heard before.  My proverbial tool box with dozens of new philosophical and spiritual tools overflowed.

Around this same time I was diligently moving my way through the seventeen year plan to an undergraduate degree in English Literature at Colorado State University.  During this period I also helped manage an up-scale restaurant—part of the reason for the remedial pace of school.  An average work week consisted of seventy hours.  So, it was two classes here, two classes there.

Three years later on a beautiful Spring afternoon, Warren, a regular customer, entered the restaurant before any other patron.  I, along with all the other employees of the restaurant, hurried around preparing for a very busy Saturday night—prom night for every high school in town. Warren nestled up to the bar, ordered a beer and a shrimp cocktail.  Shortly after Warren’s arrival, the restaurant filled to maximum capacity, and the bar overflowed with dozens of dressed up and corsaged teenagers.

Forty-five minutes into the evening, Warren had moved to a table, pulled out a .22 pistol and started to wave it around and ordered the teenagers who waited for their dining tables to get out of the bar.  He fired several shots into the walls and ceiling.  I picked up the phone and dialed the police as I watched one of the bartenders approach Warren to try and talk him down.  Within six minutes the police arrived, yet not in time for Warren.  A few seconds prior to the police entering the building, Warren jammed the gun below his right ear, pulled the trigger, and slumped forward onto the table.  Gone.  Just like that.

At the instant that Warren slumped forward, even though I stood only feet from him, I had the physical sensation of zooming out hundreds of yards away from him.  Slow motion followed as I thought “alive, dead, alive, dead.”  While in this out and away fog, I clearly remember saying indignantly to myself, “and the gift in this would be?”

The police bolted through the double doors with guns drawn asking everyone to raise their hands.  I couldn’t quit staring at Warren and the blood.  One of the police, a woman, repeated to me to raise my hands.  As I did, the woman explained the protocol, that she understood the situation.  After six or seven police canvassed the area, they told the handful of employees nearby that we could “stand down.”  A team of paramedics rushed in, pulled Warren to the floor and began CPR.

Draped in what I now understand to be shock, I turned and looked into the filled dining room alive with the hum of conversation, silverware against plates, laughter and background music.  Only two heavy glass doors separated normal and crisis~No one in the dining room seemed to have a clue of these two different worlds.  I began dragging huge potted plants and trees to create a visual barrier between the dining room full of customers and the bar where Warren lay with paramedics pounding his chest.  “What’s the point?” I wondered.

I turned, motioned to two bus boys and asked them to move the podium from the front door to the emergency exit as we would need to reroute incoming customers.

Kevin, another manager working with me that night put his hand on my shoulder, “I don’t think we will stay open.”

I stared at Kevin blindly for what seemed a full minute.  “Is everybody all right?” I asked.

“Physically.”

“Ma’am, I need your name,” a voice floated in from miles away.  “Ma’am?”

“You all right?” Kevin asked me.

“I need to make sure everybody is okay.”

The policeman bowed into my line of sight, “Ma’am, I need to get some information from you, first.  Your name?”

I spelled my name, “May I please go check on the staff?  I’m not going anywhere.”

Two hours later, after filling out police reports, giving interviews to other officers, and going through a critical incident debriefing, the building was empty of all patrons, paramedics and police.  The music was off and the lights were turned up.  Only managers and a handful of employees remained.  I had already shoved all the money and receipts into the safe and made my way back toward the bar when I heard the un-oiled wheels of a mop bucket cross the parquet floor from behind me.  Steve, the general manager, steered the bucket with the handle of the mop.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Cleaning up the blood.”

I thought, a crew of people came to take care of the floor, walls, ceilings and tables.

part 2 tomorrow

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Serendipity (conclusion)

essay, non-fiction No Comments »

The next morning, Sunday, I had an eight-thirty seminar. I didn’t care. I was going to the rosary instead. At 6 wayneda.m. my eyes opened without the use of the alarm. I showered, dressed, had a cup of coffee, pulled the rosary from the bottom of my computer bag and headed off to the lobby. I couldn’t find Immaculee anywhere. Instant disappointment. I scrambled my way to the front desk and asked about it. Nobody knew anything. They referred me to the registration desk for the conference. I asked the women at the conference registration desk who all looked at me like I was some kind of nut. I explained that this was an impromptu sort of thing arranged late last night. One of the women got on a walkie-talkie and someone radioed back that Immaculee was meeting with some people in the bar. I took off running and laughing at the fact that this rosary was taking place in a bar.

When I arrived there were about fifteen women sitting on couches and chairs around Immaculee. There was one space left on one couch. I promptly sat. Immaculee was answering some questions regarding her experience during the genocide. Then she passed out copies of information about the rosary. By now it was eight-thirty and the group had dwindled (people left to get to their seminars). Immaculee explained the rosary itself, holding up her rosary. My eyes almost popped out of my head. Other than the fact her rosary was clear crystal beads (mine are blue crystal) our rosaries were identical, same crucifix—an unusual crucifix—and everything. While I’m fairly certain this rosary I held came from my mother’s home, I’m not sure just how it came to be in my computer bag.

When the prayer/meditation of the rosary eventually got underway, Immaculee interjected throughout the meaning of the sorrowful mysteries. From the time we made the sign of the cross at the beginning until the sign of the cross at the end I wept. It was like someone turned on a faucet. I wasn’t heaving or hysterical, but tears kept a slow steady trickle down my face. The small space we sat in had such an incredible spiritual energy that it is beyond any words. As we prayed I noticed we were now down to eight, the exact same number of women who spent 91 days in the bathroom in Rwanda together. It was so powerful. I had no Kleenex with me and at one point I stood and walked over to the closed bar to grab a napkin or two—no napkins. I’d asked the women on either side of me if they had a Kleenex and they did not. Consequently the dress I was wearing served as sponge. When we finished the rosary, I hugged and thanked Immaculee. I bought a cup of coffee, walked outside, and sat by the pool. It was Sunday morning, early still, and I was the only one there. The following is my immediate written response:

November 13, 2005

Chills surround me from my feet to my head even though it is probably seventy-five degrees out here. I’ve just said the most powerful rosary with Immaculee from Rwanda. To feel in my heart even the secondhand pain this woman has endured and her glowing energy of forgiveness is so much for me to take in and accept that the emotion has risen to the point which my body cannot contain it. My cry comes from deep within and cannot help from spilling down my face and on to my breasts, where I can feel my heart pounding beneath. I have no Kleenex now, nor did I during the rosary. The tears are so deep. Immaculee has suffered so much, spending 91 days in 3 x 5 bathroom with seven other women, going in weighing 120 pounds and leaving the tiny cubicle weighing only 65 pounds. Her father, mother and brothers were hacked to death with machetes—ethnic cleansing. I do not understand this hatred. She said the rosary everyday, several times a day, with the rosary her father gave her when she fled into hiding, and she knows that her love of Christ and God are the reason she survived. Every time she got to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” part of the Our Fathers, she stopped as she says she always does whenever she says the rosary because she doesn’t know how she could ever forgive those that trespassed against her family, but she knows she did. How powerfully beautiful for her to be able to say the rosary at all, but to say it with an honest knowing of those words, and to be reminded each time she professes this part of the prayer that she does know the true meaning. It’s beyond my scope of comprehension. She begged and prayed for God’s favor and had a faith that willed it so. While she led the rosary with the seven of us, every one of us cried. I have no rights to complain. Just before the sorrowful mystery of Christ carrying the cross, Immaculee said, looking into each of our eyes, “What we must remember is that Christ carried His cross under such painful conditions,” she paused and began to cry. “What we must remember, is that God, Christ, do not want us to cry, but rather remember that Christ died for us, and that all of us make sacrifices, and that we are very connected. We are all one as is evidenced by our tears.” I will never be the same person as I was yesterday, never. And here I sit beneath a gorgeous blue sky, bathed in sunlight, sobbing into a pool towel. Oh my God, thank you, thank you, thank you. Immaculee, bless you and thank you.

Not one day has passed since this event that I haven’t thought about it. The Prime Mover conducts such extraordinary symphonies. While I know the music is ubiquitous, it is in hearing each note and listening for its significance to the entire piece which creates the spiritual encounter. I am forever grateful, blessed and fortunate.

My daughter is still talking about her experience at the conference. She too, believes she has had a true awakening.

mmiI have shared this experience with a dozen people. I even bought the recording of the night’s lecture and transcribed it so I could read parts of it to those with whom I have shared my story. The beauty is that everyone has thanked me for sharing and I feel I have made a positive impact on their lives. One elderly gentleman, that I didn’t really even know with whom I shared the story, wept and told me that I was the best thing that had happened to him in a long time, and that that in itself was a gift I must carry on: be the best thing that happens in some one’s life every day for the rest of my life. That’s a good goal, don’t you think?

While I’ve written a thank you to both Dr. Dyer and Immaculee, the best thanks I can give to them, is to tell this story and attempt to spread the inspiration. I hope it inoculates you with just a fraction of the spiritual energy it gave me.

Nannette Rogers Kennedy
Fort Collins, Colorado

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Serendipity (part 2)

essay, non-fiction 2 Comments »

meditation

continued from yesterday

Over the next five years I read and reread this book and another Wayne Dyer book, The Power of Intention. I purchased the CD’s of both books and listened to them so much that I actually had to replace them both. I made back-ups so that I wouldn’t go broke replacing them. I have introduced so many to people to these books and CDs that I’ve been asked if I work for Wayne Dyer. My pat answer, “I work for God, as does Wayne Dyer.”

So last spring, I finally made the decision to attend a Wayne Dyer lecture. I’d first chosen the October Wayne Dyer conference in Dallas. For a myriad of “everything happens for a reason” reasons, I ended up changing my reservations to see Dr. Dyer in Scottsdale this past November.

I need to backtrack a bit and add some history here to demonstrate the synchronicities which occurred prior to my arrival in Scottsdale. In August of 2003, I moved my then 8 year old son, fifteen year old daughter and myself from Fort Collins, Colorado to Kansas City, Missouri to care for my dying best friend, my mother. It is a decision I will never regret. My mother lived just short of a year after our arrival. Six weeks later we were preparing to return home to Colorado when my son was diagnosed with a serious kidney disease which caused us to stay on for another year in Kansas City. My young son was on 70 mg a day of prednisone for seven months—a fate, in hindsight, worse than the disorder itself—and the doctors told me the next step was chemotherapy. What put my son on the road to recovery was him talking to his kidneys and demanding that they heal and me deciding to wean him off this terrible drug. He believed that if Wayne Dyer’s daughter could get rid of a chronic skin condition by talking to her “bumps” (p94, Spiritual Solutions) then he (along with prayer) could make his kidneys well. He has been in remission for several months now. During this extended and unplanned medical stay in Kansas City, is when I decided that I would somehow or another see Wayne Dyer in person. I needed a live “Wayne Dyer” fix, as it were, to get myself back into the spiritual swing of things.

Just before moving back to Colorado this past October, I ran an estate sale for my mother’s possessions, going through every closet, piece of paper, file, drawer, box, etc., in her seventeen room home to separate the seed from the chaff. This experience in and of itself is one I don’t care to do again, but the actual selling of the family home of forty years was one of the sadder good byes I ever made.

While I am the oldest of my mother’s six children, I was the only one who did not permanently reside in the Kansas City area. Therefore, the trustee and executor of the estate fell into the lap of my brother—the next eldest. Quite unfortunately, my brother is an alcoholic, and consequently, has not dealt well with the death of my mother, the selling of her belongings or ultimately the family home. In a nutshell, there were many disagreements over the handling and sale of our family home. This caused a major division of the family—something none of us foresaw at all. For my part, I was deeply hurt through words, actions, and seemingly complete disregard for the fact that I uprooted myself and my family, not only with the intention of caring for my mother, but also of making sure we all stayed as close as we’d always been despite any familial “dysfunctions.” In the end, I left Kansas City, angry and prepared to never speak to half of the family, particularly my brother and my godmother, again.

November finally arrived, and my fiancé and I could hardly wait to get to Arizona to see Wayne Dyer and several other inspirational speakers at a conference called “Celebrate your Life.” We also looked forward to a much needed respite away from family trauma/drama. Three days before we left, my laptop computer caught a heinous virus—I’m a writer and, silly as though it may sound, I wondered how I would survive the Celebrate your Life conference without my laptop—the repairman told me it was highly unlikely that he could get it up and running before my departure date for Arizona. Pens and a pad of paper would have to do—I somehow suspected the world wouldn’t end without a laptop.

Two days before we were to leave, the woman who was supposed to take care of my seventeen year old daughter while I was away, had a death in the family and could no longer help us out (my daughter has been struggling with drugs/alcohol and the law, and could not stay home unattended). I called my ex-husband out of state and asked him to please come up and stay with the kids. I re-explained how long I’d been planning this event. I reminded him that previously he assured me he would help out if anything fell through. He could not come. I became furious. He doesn’t work and has the means to get to Colorado. I picked up the phone, called the airport and bought an expensive instant airline ticket for my daughter. I was not going to miss this event. I needed to take care of myself for a change—as is suggested by all airlines, I needed to put the oxygen mask on myself first so I could then help those around me.

The night before we left for Scottsdale, the computer repairman showed up at my door with my fixed laptop. Delighted at this surprise, I placed it next to my luggage and smiled at how things worked out.

part 3 tomorrow
nannette

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Serendipity (part 1)

essay, non-fiction 4 Comments »

I’m reposting this piece here from my facebook notes at the request of several people~

Written: January 6, 2006

ser·en·dip·i·ty: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

Not every experience in our lives bears repeating—by a long stretch. Human nature, however, is such that we all are often compelled to remain noisy about those things that are inconsequential, at times even malign—the stories that should probably be kept silent. This experience though, is one that begs me for music and a voice to sing it loudly. This is a story of synchronicity and serendipity.

Many people believe our world happens in a random fashion. For me, this is incomprehensible, not to mention frightening. Fortunately, my mother raised me to believe that everything happens for a reason and happens just as it should. She would often remind me that this does not necessarily mean I will always know the reason. The thing that happens to me that I may not understand now, I may understand later, or maybe never. The things that happen to all of us are always a part of the bigger picture and not seemingly part of our own smaller picture—there really are no ordinary moments. In order to know this, we must all realize that if we subtractclarence one instance, one moment, from our lives it would change everything. I think about Jimmy Stewart and his role as George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life as a glaring example. When he is down on his luck and disappointed with his life, he wishes he had never been born. And just like that, Clarence, his guardian angel grants George his wish. The beautiful lesson here of course, is that George’s life does matter and without him in the world he touches no ones’ lives—nothing remains the same.

One throw of a pebble in the water does change everything. It may take some time to feel the effect, but the ripples in the water carry energy, and that energy cannot be destroyed. I long for the time when everyone on this planet recognizes this fact. This is not a story of a string of disconnected coincidences. Simply, there is no such thing. This is a story of perfectly orchestrated synchronicities and how raising my awareness and truly seeing these instances as part of one fluid masterpiece have profoundly and forever changed my life. I know that anyone who reads this, will be left with a permanent imprint of the mystery in our everyday lives—and by “chance” you don’t agree with the premises of this story, the question of the possibility will forever be with you. And that by itself is good.

I suppose this story begins with Wayne Dyer, inspirational writer and author. One of his books, There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem “happened” into my life about five years ago. My brother-in-law had called me and told me that another brother-in-law of ours had just been diagnosed with a serious and rare form of cancer. He was only forty years old and the prognosis was grim. I received this phone call in the evening and I was away from home, alone at a friend’s house high up in a remote area of the Rocky Mountains. I happened to be sitting on a bed and watched myself in the mirrored closet doors as I listened to the details of my brother-in-law’s illness. My shoulders raised, my posture sagged, and I looked as drained of color as the white walls around me.

After hanging up the phone, I pushed myself from the bed and began to pace. Within seconds I felt sick to my stomach, scared, anxious, and dark—that inevitable outcome of feeling boxed into a corner. “Go outside and breathe,” a voice in my head pleaded. I stepped outside into the chilly November mountain air, inhaled deeply, closed my eyes, let my neck fall back, and lifted my arms from my sides, palms up. I opened my eyes, exhaled a visible plume of breath, and searched the sky. The stars’ distance seemed further than I remembered. It was deadly quiet and this only exacerbated my helpless and isolated sense of doom. I walked back inside the unfamiliar house and rapidly felt as if I were sinking, that my brief attempt at treading the proverbial rough water was pointless. I sat down. I stood up. I wore a path from the kitchen to the living room genuinely not knowing what to do with myself. I cried. I turned on the television and wondered how even an actor could be laughing at a time like this. I turned off the television and headed back toward the kitchen. In the dining room on the table lay a book: There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem by Wayne Dyer. Oh is there? I thought cynically. I picked it up and “randomly” opened it up to page 143. The bold print read: Chapter 7, Lord, Make me an Instrument of thy Peace. This first sentence of the well-know prayer by Saint Francis of Assisi, caused my shoulders to drop. Instead of reading below the chapter title, I looked at the last paragraph on the previous page:

Spiritual solutions mean you are an instrument for giving peace rather than demanding that you be given peace. This means coming to grips with the ultimate irony of a problem-free life, as expressed in the conclusion of the Saint Francis prayer. “For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” Yes, we receive by giving, and this turnaround in thinking is essential to finding spiritual solutions. It begins with becoming an instrument of peace (142).

Because I was raised in a household with six children, it should come as no surprise that my mother constantly pled with us children to become instruments of peace. Consequently, my feelings of some relief from the recent news about my brother-in-law, was two-fold: the mere familiarity of the message and the message itself. In order to find peace, I was going to have to be a conduit of peace. This was my introduction to Wayne Dyer. This was a new start and I heard the message.

More tomorrow,

nannette

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Practicing Integrity

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loveFor the past several months I’ve pondered frequently about integrity in my writing, my job, my love of positive and thought provoking quotes, and even when I’m driving around in my car. Specifically, I want to better myself in “walking the walk.”

It’s not that difficult to find fantastic and inspiring quotes. It’s not difficult to share these quotes in a note to a friend. It’s not difficult to clip a quote from a magazine and stick it to the refrigerator. It’s not even difficult to enjoy thinking about great quotes in a meditative fashion.

Where I am most tested with integrity is in the everyday situation~when I forget my quotes and inspirational thoughts.

Three weeks ago, I drove my car to a coffee shop where you can drive up to a speaker, order your coffee and then drive up to a window where you pay and receive your coffee. The first three times this woman spoke through the speaker, all I could hear was garbled static sounds and then the word “Africa.” I even looked over at my son in the passenger seat and asked him if he could understand what was said and he shook his head. I apologized to the woman and asked if she could speak with her mouth further from the microphone. She did. The question: Would you like to buy a pound of coffee and the proceeds go to help children in Africa? I said, “Sure.” The woman said, “Great! That will be $15.00 at the window.” That was it. She was gone.

I sat there until she spoke through the speaker again. “Yes?” she asked. “I wanted to order a couple of coffee drinks.” The woman laughed and asked me what kind of coffee we wanted. I ordered the drinks and drove forward. I waited behind the car in front of me for several minutes (nearly ten minutes to be exact) while I watched this woman lean out the window and talk with a person who appeared to be her friend.

This is where I get frustrated and “forget” that I truly want to be kind, understanding and sympathetic. I start thinking things like “incompetent, rude, time is wasting.” And without fail, once I start thinking about the negatives, the more negatives come my way. The woman in the car in front of me finally leaves. I drive to the window feeling frustrated and then she asks me if I’d like my coffee beans ground. Since I don’t own a coffee grinder I needed to have the beans ground…this could have been accomplished during my ten minute wait.

My quandary is that if I complain, I’m continuing the cycle of frustration…if I don’t, the next person receives the same kind of lackadaisical service and in the end I’m frustrated either way. I remind myself when I am pulling away that I should “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” (Plato), and that the “True measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. Do something great for a stranger today” (Unknown).

Just a few days after this experience, I decided to put signs on the backseat side windows of my car. They both say LOVE. Knowing that I have these signs in my windows for everyone to see, keeps my integrity where I want it to be. I am Love and while I’m in my car, I am very aware of this because of the signs serve as reminders.

We are all spirits in progress. Patience is my hardest area. Wayne Dyer says “If you have eternal patience you will experience immediate results.” I will spend more time on understanding and practicing this one.

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Ask for a Sign

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cardinalmom(Regarding yesterday morning) As I prepare for this unbelievable trip to South Africa (now only two days away), I’ve thought of my mother quite frequently . . . how much I want to tell her about this opportunity, this gift that has been handed to me. I know she knows. I speak to her quite often. Yesterday morning I asked my mother for a sign . . .

Almost five years ago my best friend, my mother, died in June. In late August that same summer, I was still living in my mother’s home preparing to put it on the market. In 90 degree weather with 90 percent humidity, I’d picked up my then nine year old son, Casey from my sister’s home. Casey and I drove to my mother’s home with plans of going swimming.

The instant we walked into the house, we both realized the air conditioner was not working. After a few ughs and groans, Casey and I changed into our swimsuits. As we locked the front door behind us, I spoke aloud to my mother. “Mom, I have no idea what your plumber friend’s name is, have no idea whom to trust on air conditioners, and I hope this isn’t too expensive. Please give me a sign that this will work out.”

Within twenty minutes Casey splashed in the pool and I had made myself comfortable in a lounge chair. While relaxing, I heard my mother’s voice in my head. “Don’t worry. I’ve got the air conditioner covered.” I laughed out loud thinking that I was making this conversation up in my head. I opened a book, began to read. I couldn’t stay focused on the page and wondered who I would call in the morning. I heard my mother’s voice in my head again. “I said don’t worry.”

The next morning as I dried off from my shower, the door bell rang. I poked my head out of the bathroom and told Casey to answer the door. I could hear Casey talking to someone, but couldn’t understand what was being said. With a towel wrapped around me, I moved into the hallway and called down the stairs. “Who is at the door, Casey?” Casey didn’t answer, but a male voice did. “I’m Troy, your mother’s plumber.” I said, “Stay right there. I’ll be down in a minute.”

As I hurriedly threw on my clothes, with a total look of shock on my face that I could see in the mirror, I heard my mother say, “That will teach you to listen to me.” I laughed and said “thank you” to the ceiling and dashed down the stairs to meet Troy.

“What are you doing here,” I asked, sizing up Troy, who looked like a “biker”, beard, tattoos, longer hair.

Troy began, “I was driving a couple miles east of here and I just started thinking about your mother. And I thought, ‘you know I haven’t checked in on Barbara in a while.’ So here I am.”

“Well, Troy, my mother died two months ago, but she brought you here today.”

Troy looked at me kind of funny & made condolences. I then proceeded to explain how I believed he came to arrive there that day.

Troy removed his hat & scratched his head. “I don’t believe in this stuff. I’ve heard wild stories like this before and I’ve never believed in this kind of thing. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing. Now it’s happened to me. None of my friends are going to believe this . . .” Troy went on in his doubt and skepticism ending in surprising belief.

And the air conditioner, Troy did me a huge favor and didn’t charge me for the labor on a new air conditioner.

The day after the air conditioner was installed, I looked out on the patio and saw a sea of cardinals, more in one place than I have ever seen in my entire life, at least fifty of these gorgeous birds perched on the patio furniture. My mother always said she’d come back as a cardinal. Hmmm.

(Yesterday morning) I woke and the first thought on my mind, after thinking four more days until South Africa, I thought again of my mother, how excited she would be for me, how she would say ‘how brave I was’, how I’d love to hear from her.

I went downstairs, started a pot of coffee and sat at my desk. As I began to check my cell phone for any messages, my phone beeped telling me of a new text message. It was from my daughter Mary. The message read “I was taking Piper [my four month old first grandchild] into the next room and I looked out the window and in the tree sat three cardinals.” There is my sign. I live in Colorado; my daughter lives in Kansas City. Cardinals do not make their home in Colorado. Out of the blue, my daughter text messages me that she has just seen three cardinals. I write back: I love you, Mary. It is unusual to see more than two cardinals at once. It’s a good sign.

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