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”

 

 

 

Sight for Sore Eyes

A late spring Saturday night – 6 couples get together for a dinner party in one of the most beautiful homes I’ve ever laid eyes on.

My beloved friend, who’s lived and beaten the odds against Stage 4 lung cancer for 2 years and 4 months is there.  She’s now an honorary guest at our cooking group’s dinners and may I say, tonight, she’s a sight for sore eyes!

She’s had her hair done for the evening, and her makeup is flawless. Wearing an airy, blue & white patterned blouse, a white sweater, and white jeans, she’s standing in the hosts’ newly constructed dream kitchen. Guests are touring through the home, and rightfully so, raving about the design and decor.

I’ve taken the tour, so I hunt for the kitchen trash can where I may toss my empty beer bottle while no one’s watching. Discreetly peering behind each cabinet front, I finally find the trash bin and also discover the cabinetry conceals the refrigerators, warmer drawers, freezers, and dishwashers.

Every possible eyesore is disguised.

Guests are milling in the kitchen, choosing their beverages and preparing the food they’ve brought for dinner.

Guests are swapping stories – how are the kids? how’s your work week? what part of dinner did you bring? and even a, who’s new BMW is out on the drive?  

She’s standing on the sidelines in silence.

When she talks, she coughs.

As the drinks flow and the volume rises in the kitchen, the food celebration begins – oysters on the half shell, beef filet on the rotisserie BBQ grill, stuffed portobello mushrooms, spinach salad and caramel-chocolate souffle. A feast fit for royalty prepared in a kitchen fit for a king.

I am watching her.

She’s watching the activity, the conversations.

She’s trying not to cough, stifling it, but she can’t control its persistence. She’s quietly putting a Kleenex up to her mouth and then silently slipping into the back room off the kitchen.

Her Kleenex conceals blood-tinged mucus.

Coughing up blood is the lung cancer’s newest symptom,

and it ain’t pretty.

In fact, it’s downright ugly and upsetting but

brings this thought to light –

All that is downright beautiful is also housing the downright ugly.

People struggle.

We often don’t know others’ struggles – some struggles are more apparent than others, but nothing is perfect, nothing is seamless. We shouldn’t be ashamed or scared of the ugly – for it’s through our struggling, we expose the truth.

We, as humans, often search for the ugly – others’ faults, shortcomings, and secrets but wouldn’t we be more constructive if instead, we all, as a community, opted to share and to celebrate our struggles, so we wouldn’t have to hide?

Instead of looking for the eyesores, we looked at the Sights for Sore Eyes to reveal where strength, courage, perseverance, hope and joy live –

Struggles teach us invaluable lessons –

Genuine moments, like this dinner party, where I see a beauty with undeniable strength enter and leave the room.

That ugly cough doesn’t have her. She’s got it.  She deals with reality but keeps moving, continuing to manage and to celebrate.

Her struggle is real, yet has a purpose.  I tell her story because I’ve been given the gift to watch her, in all her strength and glory, carry on. I am so grateful for her. She’s a

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“Sight For Sore Eyes!”

Heaven on a Stick

Don’t blame the fence, blame the gardener.

White picket fences don’t just happen.

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“That’s heaven on a stick!”

– Mrs. Jane Young, my first boss.

Mrs. Young liked perfection.

One Saturday in 1985, I arrived to work at 8 AM, and Mrs. Young gave me the day’s instructions.

“I’d like you to organize and display all the sterling silver and crystal in the display cases.”

She pointed to the hand-carved, mahogany, floor-to-ceiling shelving behind the waist-high, enclosed glass jewelry sales cabinets.  I knew from a prior conversation that Mrs. Young adored the cabinetry since it was a family heirloom and it was the primary design fixture of her family-owned jewelry store.

With no further instructions, she left for the day.

To say I was intimidated, at age 16, handling the fine silver and crystal and placing the valuables in the gargantuan, cherished cabinetry, is an understatement.

I worked a straight 8 hours, right through my lunch hour. I remember being a nervous wreck the entire day –

Am I leaving fingerprints?

Is that too high?

Does that look good next to this or does this look good next to that?  

Is this lighting going to help this sell? 

Fifteen minutes before the 5 PM close, Mrs. Young entered the store.

Arriving in her blue, crisply-ironed pantsuit with a silk, floral scarf tied at her neckline, she, an ex-NYC runway model, was exquisite looking, and she, herself, downright intimidating.

She gazed at the shelves, inspecting the design, and as I recall, after only 2 minutes or so, she looked me in the eye and gave her appraisal,

“This looks like crap. Now let me show you how it should be done.”

We worked overtime, transforming what I had made look like crap into what Mrs. Young expected and envisioned.

And on that day, I learned a valuable life lesson.

We may think we know what perfection looks like, but it takes more than hard work.

It’s takes listening, learning, accepting criticism, and paying attention to detail, plus a whole lot of practice.

It also takes heart, respect,

and a whole lot of desire,

and if it has true value and worth

we may have to focus for an entire day – maybe even weeks, months and years –

if it’s going to be deemed

“heaven on a stick!”

“That’s heaven on a stick!” (not “that looks like crap,”) has stuck with me since my inaugural design day in Mrs. Young’s jewelry store.

Mrs. Young left her perfect mark on me, and I credit Mrs. Young for teaching me a secret of sales –

how do you make others want what you have?

Invest in good gardeners.

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Beauty in the Beast

“I’d like to have a herb garden, but I don’t want the rabbits to feast like beasts.”

I planted a cactus in the middle of my herb planter, so rabbits couldn’t kick-back and comfortably munch on my herbs, and it sure seems to have done the job!

Looking for the beauty in the beast –

it’s transformational.

IMG_3539“Beauty in the Beast”