Tag Archives: hope

Surprises

Sometimes success happens long after you’ve given up hope for a happy ending.

Let me explain.

Years ago I visited a retired executive to go over my business plan. I wanted to expand my art business through manufacturing and licensing, but the retired executive believed I could never accomplish my goals because I lacked the time.

“You need 80 hours a week to do what you want to do,” he said. “Anything less is certain failure.”

That experience dampened my exuberance. Instead of walking away with a strategy to transform my business, I was advised to give up.

I didn’t follow the advice, but I did scale back my dream. I stopped pursuing manufacturers for a contract and settled for keeping production in-house. I stopped courting companies to license my artwork for personal checks, calendars, books, and clip art and settled for producing limited edition prints instead. I stopped trying to expand my market to art galleries in New York and settled with art galleries in San Francisco.

This week I received a call from an art gallery owner I hadn’t heard from in a long time. “Are you still at the same address?” she asked.

“Yes, I am,” I said. “Why?”

My largest and most expensive painting had sold. The art gallery owner was calling to confirm where to send the check.

After the initial shock wore off, a warm glow of joy and satisfaction overcame me.

I sold a piece of artwork I had mentally written off.

I had given up just like the retired executive had advised.

And I was wrong.

I started wondering what would have happened if I had not listened to that retired executive and had continued to pursue my big dream.

Who’s keeping you from pursuing yours?


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Christmas Angels

I am surrounded by images of angels: praying angels, guardian angels, love angels, wedding angels, and Christmas angels. They remind me of my life’s purpose: to be a messenger of God.

But in the wake of global unrest, political conflicts, and the potential Fiscal Cliff, it is difficult to see the angels in our lives, even during the Christmas season where images of angels abound.
When I drive around the city, I see fewer holiday lights. When I stop at the store, I see fewer lines at the checkout registers. When I stand at the post office, I see fewer boxes being shipped. When I go online, I see fewer messages of holiday cheer.

But if I look closer, past the glitter and glamor of shopping, entertainment, music and lights, I notice there is no room for me to place my unwrapped new toy in the Toys for Tots receptacle because there are too many donations for the receptacle to hold. I overhear more requests for the gift of one’s time rather than a laundry list of retail items from people’s “What I want for Christmas” lists. I taste more sweetness in the lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in years. I feel the firmness of a handshake for the appreciation of one’s company. I smell the pine from the Christmas trees even as I sneeze.

Angels are all around us, not just at Christmas. We may pay more attention to them during the giving season than we do the rest of the year, but they are with us every day. From the bus driver willing to let a late passenger board to the child willing to unload the dishwasher for an overworked parent, angels surround us. It is only our job to listen and hear the messages of love, kindness, joy, comfort, and hope they bring to our lives.

Tell us about the angels in your life:

Jia Blossoms

Jia plugged her iPod into the auxiliary jack of her Toyota Prius and listened to John Lennon sing, “Imagine,” as she drove up the hill to the back parking lot of Namaste Cafe where she worked as a waitress. Stepping outside into the blazing heat of another summer afternoon, she grabbed her thermal lunch bag and crumpled issue of Mother Jones and locked her car door.

“Excuse me.”

Jia glanced up into the dark brown eyes of a young man with disheveled blond hair. He was dressed in a frayed gray top and loose khaki shorts. A broken bicycle inner tube hung over one of his shoulders; a lumpy backpack against the other. Don’t look at homeless people, her father had warned her. They only want something for nothing. Just look away, pretend they don’t exist.

When the stranger stepped closer, Jia could smell grease and dumpster trash emanating from his bronze skin. She wasn’t sure if he was homeless or drunk or just in need of help. But she could not look away. She could not pretend he did not exist.

“Can I get a ride to the Pedaler Shop?” he asked. “It’s down Mendocino on College, about a mile or two from here. I need to fix my bike.” He lifted the broken inner tube for emphasis.

Jia’s gaze wandered from the man to the bike leaning against the willow tree next to the dumpster in the parking lot. The man followed her gaze, saying, “Yep, that’s my bike. I popped a tire going through a construction site.”

In a world of Jerry Springer, date rape, and online sexual predators, it was no wonder Jia heard her father’s voice: Don’t talk to strangers. They are dangerous. You could end up dead. But Jia suspected this man was as harmless as the bird with a broken wing she nursed back to health several months ago. Twirling her keys between her fingers, she said, “I have to start work in fifteen minutes.”

“If we leave now, you’ll be back in ten.”

Jia popped the trunk, and the stranger quickly dismantled his bike. It fit perfectly.

“My name is PAL.” The stranger extended his hand. “That’s short for Paul Alexander Loreau.”

“Jia,” she said, accepting his hand. “It means beautiful in Chinese.”

PAL studied her for a moment. “Your parents named you appropriately.”

Jia felt the blood rush to her cheeks.

Without hesitating, Jia unlocked the doors. She tried to keep her eyes in front of her as she drove, not on PAL who sat beside her with his elbow leaning out the window. A warm breeze ruffled her hair. She welcomed the distraction. Pausing at a stop light, she could feel PAL’s curious gaze traveling the curves of her body before resting on the blue river of veins on the back of her yellow hand where her mother’s wedding ring circled her third finger. “You’re married,” PAL said.

Jia felt no need to correct him. She didn’t open up to anyone, not even strangers. But she struggled to focus on the road. Her thoughts kept returning to the stranger sitting beside her. She had an odd desire to tug him into her arms and kiss his tight mouth until his lips blossomed. She had been alone for so long, she could not remember the last time someone had noticed her. In her head, she heard her father say, He could be tricking you. You could get mugged. Then what would you do? No money, no car. You’d be lucky if he left you alive.

Pulling into the parking lot of the Pedaler Shop, Jia pointed to her watch. “I can’t stay.” But what she wanted to say was, I can’t go.

“I don’t expect you to be late for work on my behalf.” PAL reached into his backpack and pulled out a wadded ten dollar bill. “For gas,” he said.

Jia lifted her hand and shook her head, but PAL unzipped her purse and tucked the ten dollar bill inside.

“It’s my gift.” He waved good-bye before carrying his bike into the air-conditioned store.

My father’s wrong, she thought. He didn’t hurt me. She reached into her purse with a trembling hand and retrieved the crumpled ten dollar bill. For a moment, she stared at the rip in the center of the bill just below Hamilton’s face. She smiled with conviction. He did not want something for nothing.

The clock on the dash changed to 2:57 pm. Three minutes before her shift started.

Jia zipped up her purse and backed out of the parking lot and merged with traffic. Although PAL was gone, she could still smell him sitting beside her. She rolled down her window, hoping the warm breeze would erase the smell. But the wind acted like a whisk in a bowl, beating up and blending the mixture of grease and perspiration and desire. Jia turned around at the nearest intersection and headed back to the Pedaler Shop. She parked her car and stepped into the air-conditioned store. PAL was standing between aisles of bikes waiting for the technician to fit his tire with a new inner tube.

He glanced up, startled to see her.

“I’m not married,” Jia said. “The ring was my mother’s. I wear it to feel safe.”

A slow smile spread across PAL’s face. “What are you doing for dinner?” he asked.

“Having it with you,” she said.

If you enjoyed this short story, you will love my upcoming short story collection, The Human Act and Other Stories from All Things That Matter Press. To be notified of the release date, visit my Fan Page or post a comment below.

Change the World

It's a Circle

I don’t often talk about what inspires me. It’s difficult to share something so personal. I always assume it’s irrelevant to others. But sometimes it’s necessary to understand how something comes about, especially when it surprises you.

During the Thursday night Art Faire, several people came by my booth and looked through my cards. I can predict the perennial favorites: ocean scenes and flowers. What surprised me tonight was the interest in my avant garde piece. A blue spiral. Beneath the spiral, it read, “A single sentence can change the world…” and inside it read, “Thank you for changing my world.”

The card was inspired by my autistic son. For years he never spoke. Then, one day, out of blue, he said, “It’s a circle.” It’s one of the few sentences he can say on his own without prompting. Although I hear the sentence as frequently as a Top 10 song on the radio, each time Gabriel says it, the sentence sounds miraculously new. It literally changes my world.

When I was trying to think of new greeting cards to paint, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking, “It’s a circle.” I padded into the kitchen and turned on the light and wrote: It’s a circle. I drew a spiral above it. In the morning, I got out the scrap of paper and wrote on a new greeting card, “A single sentence can change the world…” I painted the spiral above it. Then inside the card, I wrote as a tribute to my son, “Thank you for changing my world.”

Simple, sweet, and heartfelt. I just didn’t know it would mean anything to anyone else.

On the back of the card, instead of signing my name, I wrote, “Second Thoughts Buddha.” I had been reading a lot of Buddhist literature, weaving it into the Christianity I already followed, getting back to the other half of my life which I had never really known. Of course, because I wrote the second sentence I thought of and not the first, it seemed only natural to write Second Thoughts Buddha instead of First Thoughts Buddha. The first thought was my son’s sentence, “It’s a circle.” My second thought was, “ A single sentence can change the world.”

My son has changed my world. With his single sentence. May someone somewhere change yours.