The Voice

Seated behind me, an off-key singer belted every word to each hymn and prayer during the church service.  Her voice cracked and carried in all directions, butchering the notes, but she had all the words down pat.

Midway through the service, my daughter whispered into my ear, can you hear the woman’s voice behind you? I nodded.

It was time to pass the peace, a Catholic mass ritual. I wasn’t raised Catholic, so I’m not familiar with the religion’s formalities. Plus, it’s my nature to keep to myself. I prefer a seat in the back of the classroom, a drive-thru cashier who does not to take my order at my car’s window, a bike or yoga mat that’s off to the side in a workout room, and a private table in the back of a restaurant.

Attempting to participate in this greeting ritual, I gazed at the people near me, but everyone was busy greeting others. After a few seconds and an awkward pause, I turned to the row behind me. I faced The Voice.

The Voice is an older woman and less than 5′ tall, wearing a blue and white striped bucket hat.

We smile at each other, taking each other’s hands as I say, peace be with you.

Smiling and with the most crystal clear, melodic voice, The Voice spoke,

May God be with you, and may you never cut your hair. It’s beautiful.

Caught off guard, I fumbled for words and responded with an “aw, thank you.”

I wanted to reply, I learned so much while listening as you precisely recited each sacrament and hymn, but the mass continued, ending our face-time.

We knelt for communion. I quickly searched in my purse for a J⁴ angel.  I had just one, blue, matching the color in the stripes of The Voice’s bucket hat.  It was meant to be.

Leaving the pew, I placed the angel on The Voice’s praying hands. Kneeling on a prayer bench behind me, she opened her eyes, looked at the angel, and didn’t say a word.  I could feel the peace we shared as I exited the sanctuary.

As my week continued, I heard The Voice. I heard her confident yet labored singing voice transition into her soothing speaking voice. I heard her heartfelt words. I believe from here forward, The Voice will aid the awkward pauses when I’m searching for someone to greet.

Our actions and words have the power to bring peace.  Let’s be more like The Voice, being precise with our words and not worrying so much about what others think. Who knows what impact we may have on the world by putting our kind words out there. It doesn’t matter if we’re sharp, flat, tone deaf or out-of-tune.

It matters more that we’ve got offering peace down pat.

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“Offering Peace”

 

 

 

Earth Angel

For my birthday, LCP, my daughter, gave me a trip to Puerto Vallarta, using her mileage points.  She flew from SJC to SNA, and I flew from PHX to SNA. Meeting in the middle, we then traveled together to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

On the first leg, flying SWA, I had A37. I chose an aisle seat in a 3-seat row where a man was already sitting by the window, and as the plane began to fill, a flight attendant announced it was a full flight.  Minutes before the plane’s doors were closed, a woman asked me if she could sit in the middle seat next to me. I stood up, allowing her to move past me into the seat. As she shoved her carry-on under the seat in front of her, I noticed she, too, carried a black pack.  I commented, smiling, “nice backpack, that’s the only way to go.”

She responded, “yes, a purse doesn’t work for me.”

It doesn’t work for me either.

We began a conversation that lasted the duration of the 55-minute flight to SNA.

“I have my work and personal stuff plus my daughter – who I take everywhere with me when I can – so I need a bag to carry it all.”

She has a daughter, too.

I used to take my daughters to work when they were young. Instead of play dates, we had work dates.  We needed our load to be light, too, and a purse was extra baggage.

I got an SWA drink coupon out of my backpack and offered one to her.  She said, “no, thank you, I have one of my own, but I’d like to have a drink with you.  Is it bad to drink this early in the morning?”

Don’t worry about what other’s think – if you want a drink, have a drink.

I felt like her mother.

She told me about her job – that she works for an organic food brokerage company. During her pregnancy with her daughter, she was exhausted, stocking shelves and doing manual labor at a local organic grocery store.  She worked 14 hour days. Her body ached, and her legs swelled from her pregnancy.  She was a mess, worrying about how she’d be able to sustain this pace after her child’s birth.  One day, while stocking shelves, a man approached her, asking if she’d be interested in a sales position with his company.  He said, “you have a twinkle in your eye, and I know you’d be great.”

She was dumbfounded – how could this happen?  A stranger randomly hired her, and now she has this great job that allows her to travel, and often, when in-state, with her daughter – she says, it was God.

She told me about her travels all over southern Arizona, her work territory.  Often she takes her daughter, who sits in her car seat in the backseat of her car.  They talk about the beauty of the desert (she says, Patagonia is awesome right now!) and try local restaurants, together. She mentioned a great pizza place in Sierra Vista, and I mentioned I’d recently been to a great, pizza place in Florence.  She related that she goes to Florence quite a bit. I told her the only thing I knew about Florence, before finding the pizza place via Yelp, was the prison that’s there. She said, “yes, I actually have a friend who’s in that prison who I try to visit pretty regularly.”

I asked what the charge is –

Armed robbery and car theft.

“He likes to fight, so he’s in trouble quite a bit. Lots of times I don’t get to see him during prison visitation because he’s being disciplined.”

I asked her how she knows him.

“We lived together throughout our childhoods – so he’s like a brother.  Our parents were meth addicts –  3 couples and their children lived with my parents.  When the parents would go on drug binges, we children would be handcuffed to a metal pole for hours. We were forced to do meth at around age 11, and there were times that we’d be up for 6 days straight, tweaking.  It’s weird though when our parents would disappear, we’d sneak up to the top of this hill near our house and just hang out – we felt like we were good.  It was in those moments that I’d talk to God, and know that everything would be OK, that He would take care of me.”

The children of meth-addicted parents craving love from mothers and fathers, only to be shackled to a metal post and abandoned for their parents’ highs.

“Just yesterday I had work that took me back home – I visited my mother, who’s still using. I had to tell her that she couldn’t take care of my daughter.  She was outraged.  I left with her being mad.”

You don’t have to feel guilty for leaving your mother yesterday. You can love her, but you can’t fix her.  The drugs are her daughter, not you.  She’s attentive to the meth, but you’ve been abused.  You can’t return to your abuser and allow it to infect you. As you love your own child today, you’re clean and sharing the beauty of this world with her.  Who knows – but I’d put money on it– your daughter will be taking you on a trip when she grows up and is out on her own.  She’ll be meeting you half way and helping you carry the load because you’re deserving. You share hard work, respect, and love, and with that cocktail, healthy relationships are born and nourished.

We each have our own drink coupons and mileage points – our own culminations of life experiences and influences.  Not all comes free – some of us have had to pay and to sacrifice enormously and to learn really hard lessons the hard way. However, finding happiness through goodness is free, as is trusting we’re never alone.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Be a good mother. Be a good daughter. Be a good father. Be a good son. Make a new friend or visit an old friend who needs reminding of the good in the world.

Change the world by changing the cycle. Rejoice when it’s awesome and believe

Good can come from the weirdest places, like sharing a drink on an airplane flight before 9 –

Life exists beyond the handcuffs –

Those cuffs make both prisoners and earth angels.

As children, we often have little choice,

but as adults, we choose.

Growing up and old has its perks –

Drink in these moments.

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Cascarón

Street vendors lined State Street in Santa Barbara for Fiesta! weekend, but the vending wasn’t like anything I’d seen earlier this month in Mexico City.

In Mexico City, the streets vendors primarily sell food and drink. Vendors set up mini-taco shops with grills on the curb – scooping corn tortilla mix out of a 5 gallon paint bucket with a sand shovel – jalapeño, chorizo, cilantro, cotija cheese, carne asada, pollo fundido, taquitos – you name it, they sell it – most often with an orange soda or a bottle of Coca-Cola.

But in Santa Barbara, California, where food licenses and food handling permits are required, the vendors sell mostly cascarones, which I, before now, knew nothing about.

A cascarón is a confetti egg.  With either a pin or a knife, an opening is made in the bottom of an egg, so the egg may be poured out.  The inside of the shell is then cleaned and dried, and the outside of the shell is decorated with paint or markers.  Then, the inside of the egg is filled with confetti or a small toy, and the hole is sealed with glue and tissue paper.  The cascarones are crushed over people’s heads to shower them with confetti.  It’s considered good luck to have a cascarón broken over one’s head.

During Fiesta weekend, the downtown Santa Barbara sidewalks are covered with confetti – multi-colored specks of tissue are strewn everywhere – many shops have window signs prohibiting the breaking of confetti eggs inside the businesses, yet somehow it seems no space is without a confetti dusting.

On Saturday morning, we waited on State Street for the Salt Caves to open. The Annual El Desfile de Los Niños (Children’s Parade) was scheduled to begin in a hour, and parade goers were setting up their chairs along the route. The cascarones vendors were open, busy readying for a day of selling their cascarones.

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Pink Panthers, Ernies, Berts, emoji faces, Winnie the Poohs, Pirates, Mexican wrestlers, Diamante Azuls, Buzz Lightyears, Chicks, Tony the Tigers, American, Mexican and British flags, flowers, initials – you name it, it’s a confetti egg.

The cascarones vendor who was selling in front of the Salt Caves spoke to us in Spanish.  She asked if we were looking for a particular style of cascarón. What do you like, I may have it? I couldn’t answer, so I asked LCP to translate.

“She says it takes 4 families a full year to make the cascarones they sell.  She says, they expect their children to work for the project, since they believe in discipline.  They don’t want their children in the streets or watching TV or playing video games.  Making Cascarones keeps them busy and out of trouble.”

After hearing her story, I reached into my backpack, pulling out a J⁴ Angel.  LCP gave the angel to the cascarón vendor, explaining we love her story and we want her to have an angel for the good she is doing in the world.

The vendor took the angel in her hand and lifted it to her lips.  She kissed the angel, held it to the sky and then held it to her heart. Gracias, gracias.

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The beauty of humanity –

showering down on us like confetti

from a cascarón.

 

 

J⁴ Angels

Will you please come to Mexico City with me?

Too unhealthy to go to MXC – J⁴

Calling all angels: we need a choir.

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J⁴,

your angels are packed and ready to travel,

celebrating

no prefacing

it’s all practice

line it up

let it move through you

every meal matters

those are your angels 

it’s all about the stories

I’m not done

I’m not going anywhere

You’ve perfectly said and done everything,

and now your angels, a fulltiming choir, are equipped to sing your praises,

carrying your wisdom and relaxed joyfulness

into the lives of those who desperately need inspiration

from your tremendous courage.

Eternally yours,

RP

In the Eyes of an Angel

“If you’re a messenger when you travel,

if you’re delivering something to someone,

then you won’t get hurt – you’re protected.

Whoever gives you the message is

who’s energy makes the good luck charm.”

– Manuel, tour guide, San Antonio de Areco, Argentina, JJJ’s angel winner 4.14.15

Throughout our 4+ week South American journey, we delivered daily a JJJ’s angel to an unexpecting person or place.

Is this person or place worthy?

Has his or her presence or this place

impacted us in a positive, moving way?

The angel “winner,” usually confirmed with only a head nod and smile between LCP and me, happened in the following way.

I’d get into my Fort Knox backpack and pull out my Ziplock full of JJJ’s angels. I’d try to find the most fitting angel – red, yellow, teal, orange – male, female – hands in prayer, hands reaching up in joy, or arms flexing in strength. I’d then hand the chosen angel to LCP who’d deliver the angel to our day’s recipient or if it was a place, we’d, together, try to figure out how to secretly leave the angel in its new home. We never spoke about our angel delivery service – it just evolved.  I carried the angels in their protective bags, and LCP delivered the angels since she could translate in Spanish.

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During our journey, we found that each person or place had significance, yet one angel-giving really stood out.

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Midway through our South American journey, on a Saturday morning, we decided to take a walk to a local flea market by the El Cementerio de la Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was a last minute decision, since we didn’t have any definite plans for the day. We entered the park-like area, bought a Coke and walked the sidewalks under make-shift sun tarps and along side rough-sewn plywood tables. We did a hot-lap through the market. Fairly disappointed with the flea market’s goods, we sat down on a park bench in the sun and people-watched.

A man, setting up his booth for the day’s business, worked directly in front of us. He assembled his plywood table, covering it with a blue fabric.  He put up a shade screen to protect his booth from the sun’s glare. He carefully removed his silver jewelry from his display cases and polished each piece as he found a place for each on his booth’s tabletop. He worked meticulously, and as he polished and placed his merchandise, cupping his elbows were arm braces attached to crutches. I could see under his table that his legs were deformed, causing his body to tilt dramatically sideways. Yet, there he stood, so steadily, working in the direct sunlight and taking such care.

After getting his table set, the man motioned to the vendor manning the booth next to him. It appeared the man asked if the adjoining table’s vendor would keep an eye on his table. I watched the crippled man leave his booth and cross the hillside where he had set-up shop. He hobbled slowly, and with his every movement, I could feel his struggle – his apparent struggle to walk, to simply move, and to freely journey. He turned and traversed the hillside. His arm crutches holding his body back from tumbling forward on the incline. He waited at the pedestrian walkway, crossing six lanes of Buenos Aires traffic – exceeding the walk time limit and causing oncoming traffic to pause. He used his crutch to lift himself onto the curb. His legs followed his arms’ lead. The man hobbled half way down the city block to a bank of porta-poddies set up along the street for the day’s market. He waited for someone to exit and then he climbed inside, struggling as he used his upper body to lift the rest of his body into the green, plastic mobile unit. He struggled silently – not complaining, not grimacing, and all the while, smiling. The door closed on the porta-poddy, and I looked over at LCP on our shared bench.

She’d been watching, too.

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We did the approving nod, and I reached into my bags.  I chose an angel. Working quickly, before the door opened on the Porta-Poddy, we approached the man’s stand. The neighboring vendor, who had been watchful, had looked away from the table to speak to a customer, so we were free to place our angel.

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We set the angel next to the man’s polishing tools and turned into the flea market’s crowd. We didn’t speak. We didn’t look back. We moved quickly, without any struggle, disappearing and continuing on our journey. We had left our message for the unsuspecting man at his Buenos Aires flea market booth. We don’t know when he returned, what he thought about his discovery or where he would later keep his angel, but hopefully, upon discovering his angel, he knows he is a powerful messenger.

Go freely, despite struggles, and be a messenger – give positive energy without reservation for the benefit of others – and trust that angels are all around us, watching – looking out for us.

Go be a messenger in the eyes of an angel.