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The Art of … the photograph.

The art of …the photograph.

I don’t think I need to even utter a word about my obvious addiction to the art of photography. I am completely enthralled with not only the result, but certainly the process. My very first camera was a Kodak “Brownie”, if I am not mistaken, my Great Uncle Harve gave it to me. It was magical I was quite certain of that and the results were thrilling. I have had many cameras since then, each created their own treasures, each sustained memories, history and pure entertainment. I have thoroughly enjoyed black and white photography and took classes in both high school and college. An enlarger sits in my basement waiting for the darkroom I keep promising myself.

It’s fascinating my journey with photography. I remember when I first became a professional artist and the question was posed to me ” Do you think photography is REAL art?” I didn’t respond right away. I thought about it for a moment, wondering how I really felt about it. I admit my ignorance. While I had seen artistic photographs, I felt there were “too instant” to be real art. Still peer pressure seemed to win and I hesitantly agreed.

Through the years I have become more and more addicted to this (yes, oh yes it is!) fine art. Photographs tell a story in such a unique way. Fifteen people could take the same photograph and it would give you a unique view every single time. I have gotten to the point where I literally always have a camera with me. If I do not for some reason, I always regret it.

Cell phones! Once could say that everyone has a camera with them at all times (as according to an article on Ars Technica) 91% of America’s population uses a cell phone. (I am betting the 9% remaining are still in diapers) If you have a cell phone, you have a camera. Honestly? I think this is sort of sad. It seems the accessibility is sort of butchering the art of making a photograph. The instant gratification of recording a moment to post on facebook as opposed to the opportunity to think about angle, lighting, shutter speed and, well you get the idea.

There is something nearly ceremonial about taking a photograph, processing the film and then printing it. YOU are in control of the process, developing a photograph feels like Christmas to me. It’s a thrill to watch the image float to my eyes through the developing fluids. It’s exciting to get the timing just right, the exposure perfect- the angle of interest… it’s an art.

The other aspect- is very significant as well- some would say more so. Photographs are the record of our history. My Uncle Harve gave me a tremendous gift. Photographs put a face with a story, they reveal much about the content of life and give us a connection. Personally I DETEST having my picture taken, but honestly? I have tried to change that… because pictures, photographs give me the treasure of the past and the smile of the future. Simply said, if I did not have the photography below, my beautiful granddaughter might never know that my mother loved her as deeply as she did.


(I miss you, Mom)

So get in front of the camera and behind it. JUST take pictures- however you need to- use your cell phone, a great camera, black and white film- whatever! Make photographs- make art- make connections. These are the real treasures, more than gold that will last a lifetime.

In peace-
Susan

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The art of…. a kind word.

The art of… a kind word.

A lone duck swimming in a lake.
all alone…

It’s simple, right? We stumble through life just trying to get to the next step effectively. We work, we play, we think, breathe, eat and sleep. This is life, come what may.

You and I both know that life is anything but simple. In fact simple seems to be actually something we try to attain. I believe changing your world view has something to do with it. I seem to be clearly on this general “kick” of gratitude and of consciousness. It is vital to me to not only notice the flowers planted along my journey but to appreciate them. I admit there are some whirlwind days that I hardly notice even the most precious gifts, fortunately evening comes, I have the opportunity to rest and then I am able to rise with a new perspective.

My message today… you are NOT alone. You aren’t, I’m not… None of us are. That message came ringing loudly to me this morning. Let me explain.

This morning, I came into work with a full agenda. Every single moment counts today! It does every day, but I rarely pack in every moment of the day. Well today is THAT day. Every moment is dedicated to work, health and taking care of my family. Needless to say I was overwhelmed before getting out of bed at five-something this morning.

The early morning went well – I was able to get some work done, some cleaning and even a bit of laundry! My son got up a bit late- which started to ramp up the stress level for me. Upon our arrival at work I decided I was not being as effective with my time as I could. You know, when you start to beat yourself up for not being able to clone yourself and do about 56 things at once? I actually had one of those, and then came the ohhhhh I just want to paint today, moment.

So you feel it right? STRESS City! Yearning for something else, a little panicky about my schedule…

THEN the most amazing thing happened….

A friend who I rarely get to see, passed me in the hall ( I was taking photographs for a project at work) and said to me,

       

“SUSAN! Did you see that I re-posted part of your blog?” (on facebook)

I admitted that I had not, and smiled, and thanked her (I was thrilled!)- I was truly excited that she felt the words were important. Then as she passed she said-

“Thank you, I really needed that.”

I was stunned. STUNNED!

Guess what? I really needed THAT. The whole goal, I believe is to take care of each other. That moment, seemed rather mutual. I felt affirmed, positive and good about stringing a few words together. The words she posted were those of St. Theresa. They came ringing true once again for me.

“May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.”

It’s the simple things – I promise you! Her words washed over me like a brilliant sunrise. Suddenly I felt the blessing of truly being conscious in my journey and trying to be faithful to my dreams.

To my friend.. I am grateful, I am willing to bet she has no idea what her kind words meant to me but I will make certain that her kind word is returned ten fold.

Thank you- Barb…

In peace,
Susan

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The art of…. being me.

The art of … being me.

One pink flower in a field of white daises.

Please take note… one pink snarky flower in a field of daisies….

Okay, now before you get all crazy on me, I am not suggesting in any way that I am worthy of being held to some amazing artistic standard. I am a human, plain and simple. However, I will admit to you that I haven’t always been terribly fond of myself. In fact I have struggled to “fit in” for most of my life. (or fade in nicely as part of the wall) I wanted to be normal … or something else I probably had no way of being. Yep, that’s me, the pink odd flower in the field of sweet, pure daisies.

This past year, I turned fifty, it wasn’t magical nor did I wake up on a Saturday morning feeling somehow transformed, but I believe a lifetime of introspection and effort has brought me to a place of acceptance. There seems to be some sort of wisdom that comes with fiftyish. I think it’s been a long process, a journey – one that isn’t likely to end any time soon either. Which at this stage of the game- I actually think is a good thing. (go figure)

One of the things I have beaten myself up about the most is I am not perfect. (don’t laugh!) I wanted to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect child… you get the idea. I thought that would make me the most lovable. I held myself to impossible standards and when I failed, which seemed to be all too often, it felt like the end of the world.

Luckily for all of us, I have grown. I know that the only real perfection has nothing to do with me. Perhaps it is the idea of intentional gratitude, the work on not only accepting but embracing my imperfections and the attempt to grow as a human being that has brought me to a place of knowing that this is exactly where I am supposed to be.

It’s exciting really. One day I was speaking with a close friend. She was in a similar place, beating herself up for not being Mom of the year. Without really thinking about it I looked at her and said, “maybe you were as perfect as you could possibly be for that time, with the place you were and with the tools you had. ” Tears filled both of our eyes – it really was a revelation- Often it seems that we gain wisdom later in life about a situation we didn’t handle to the highest of standards, but isn’t that called experience? Once we gain a little, we seem to handle things differently. We learn from our experiences, we grow…

Saint Theresa was a wise woman…
I am especially fond of Saint Theresa’s prayer-
“May today there be peace within.
May you trust that you are EXACTLY where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others.
May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content with yourself just the way you are.
Let this knowledge settle in your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
it is there for each and every one of us.”

This prayer sits inside my computer cupboard.

An image of a piece of paper with a prayer to St. Theresa

I look at it every day as I work, e-mail, create

So I dare you… enjoy the art of being you… sing, dance, praise and love the best way YOU know how.

In peace-
Susan

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The Art of … play

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.
Pablo Picasso

a little bit of something from this week’s art night…
Oh I know, I have been all up in your face about getting work done and being the very best that you can be exactly where you are. I am certain you are asking yourself, so what is she talking about? Taking time to play!?

May I ask you what fun is life without time to play?

There is a reason we have weekends, vacations, hobbies. There is a reason we veg out in front of a movie or our favorite television show.

There’s a reason.

WE NEED TO PLAY (notice the all caps- sometimes we seem to need a billboard to remind us what is important)

Picasso suggests that art is pure even easy for children. They have no quandaries with making a tree purple or maybe even polka dot kittens. Perhaps remembering to play, remembering that sort of innocence assists our spirits, even bolder it might inspire the purity of our souls. I suggest that it washes the dirt of life off of our souls and allows us to refocus on what is important.

Art Night-

I have an electronic calendar. (A sign of the times!) On my weekly “docket” is a standing play date (some days it works out better than others as sometimes real life gets in the way) Each Wednesday evening I have created an annual event- “Art Night”. The details of this event are merely “get thee to the studio!” I try (note the word TRY) to approach the evening with no expectations, with just the spirit of a child. As a professional artist it is sometimes difficult to let go and just play. I feel like I am supposed to be constantly in research for the next step. However it is often in these decadent creative moments I find my greatest joy. I suppose for me it is a combination of a mid-week vacation, a sanity check along with a healthy side of a creative outlet. As you might imagine I am not often gifted with a gratuitous amount of time for artistic explorations, yet they are as life giving to me as the air we need to breathe.

I invite you to play!

Playing can be anything- it’s personal to you. Go see a movie and really be present in the movie, turn off your cell phone, take in the screen, the sounds and even the smell of the popcorn. Take a mental break! If that doesn’t appeal to you- take a hike, see something new, feel the air, experience the physical rush and breathe in the moment. Finger-paint with your child, fly a kite, or even make a sandcastle. There are countless ways to take a moment, to play- it’s as personal as your shoe size, find your own glass slipper.

It’s not easy in our hectic lives to find time to play. Most of us sleep too little, and enjoy too little downtime. I will suggest that it is as vital as air that you do so. Just as art enhances life, so does the opportunity to play.
Now get out there and do something fun! Yes, that’s an order!

In Peace-
Susan

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The art of… Monday morning…

The Art of ….Monday morning…

A closeup of a yellow mum flowerGood morning… it seems to me that Mondays are the day we look forward to least.(okay, maybe tax day is worse) Why have we given Monday such a bad rap? For the large part of the population Monday mean the return to work after having perhaps two days off. Two days to do what we want, catch up on that things to do list and perhaps enjoy family time, a social engagement or some other fun. Usually mid-day on Sunday many of us begin to whine ,”I don’t WANT to go back to work, tomorrow.” It seems to be that we resist the order of things, the obligation, or perhaps we just don’t love our job.

Well…I have drawn one conclusion- it’s MY fault, if I don’t like Mondays.

Work seems to be more than a pay check. If it were just one of those necessary evils, I am going to suggest we wouldn’t be nearly as effective as humans. I know, money is a strong motivator. Being able to feed your family, drive a car and have a roof over your head is pretty much a need. I understand. HOWEVER, regardless of what you do it is up to YOU to do it well and bring the best to the table with it.

Let me explain… I have no illusions that each of us loves our jobs. There have been times in my life that I have held positions that were less than inspiring to me. I have told my husband countless times that “I just want to do art”. (hear SPOILED BRAT) However, I believe that every Monday (and the rest of the days of the week) will be made much better by MY attitude.

Bring negative, get negative back… it’s simple- what you put in, is what you are going to get back

It’s really about that whole gratitude thing again. I am GRATEFUL to have a job. I am able to provide health care for my family, I believe that on some level I do make a difference and well, I am grateful because especially these days not everyone can say that enjoy that comfort. So right from the beginning, I am more blessed than many can say.

So that said, if I am able to approach my job or really anything with gratitude instead of dread, chances are I will be much happier regardless of the job I drive to every weekday morning. I am not suggesting that if we are grateful, fairies fly around our heads and rainbows shadow every office wall, I am merely suggesting that if I approach my work, my world with a positive attitude, remember to be grateful for what I have it changes the dynamic, it gives me the ability to see things in a new light and perhaps it even helps me work through the frustrations.

So… happy Monday- I hope that somehow your new Monday morning attitude is positive- (attitude of gratitude!) have a great day!

In Peace-
Susan

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The art of… being real.

The Art of.. being real.

A stone angel holding some flowers.

I am pretty sure this post is going to be a brief one. It’s been the usual insanity – I have been working hard all weekend on Create Art 4 Good… I feel good about my work, and yes maybe a little discouraged that things aren’t moving fast enough- or maybe I am just tired but in general, I feel good. I think what I want to write about, what I really need to say is that it’s okay, no, better than okay, it is vital that we are not only grateful for what we have, it is right to be vulnerable… to be real.

I think we let things get in our way sometimes. Our priorities get messed up, we lose sight.

I had an extremely frustrating day. I felt like I was spinning my wheels, a vendor let me down AGAIN and it hit me harder than usual. I was depending on the product being delivered , went out of my way to get it and when it did not happen- it rocked me. Again, I KNOW I am tired- but it shouldn’t have gotten to me the way it did.

Unfortunately it made me question my goals. I began to wonder if all of this is too hard. I am working full time, trying to start a business and still manage to be a loving engaged family member… today felt like all that blew up. I licked my wounds all day, letting doubt seep in, allowing worry to weaken my faith in this process instead of remaining solvent.

I lived my day today running errands, a family party, general insanity- I felt this sort of cloud over me all day. Hectic… just like every day.

When I got home tonight, I had an email- one that jolted me back into reality.

There’s a deadline tomorrow for a major project I am working on. The email is from someone who needs to submit some things for that project. She wrote me because she is upset, her submission will be late.

Doesn’t sounds like a big deal, does it? It is. This woman is worried about a submission to me (who by now is feeling self centered and spoiled) and she is upset because she is going to miss a deadline….

because she is fighting for her life.

I will respect her privacy- but essentially she is undergoing treatment and has been dealing with an infection. She has a fairly high fever and has been in and out of the hospital. What is she worried about? NOT herself, not her health… but the fact that she might miss my deadline.

Once I read this.. honestly nothing else mattered. I felt like God’s hand came down from heaven, smacked me in the head and reminded me of what is important. oh and just in case you were wondering? The vendor that messed up AGAIN today wasn’t important enough to cloud my entire day. It wasn’t worthy of that priority. Maybe it was merely in place to teach me something… or maybe it just was what it was. Either way… I allowed it too much of my energy. I suddenly feel vulnerable, human… and back in touch. It isn’t about stuff. It isn’t about deadlines.

After reading this e-mail, I felt like everything was stripped away as far as the “fluff” of my life and I am back on track.

So again.. the little stuff doesn’t matter- burnt toast, stupid vendors or your cat’s hair balls.

People matter. Honor matters, good intent… matters.
Keep it real

In Peace- (with prayers for my friend)

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The art of…. saying goodnight

A sunset over a lake

It seems so simple- we do it every day. It is a simple gesture that we take for granted. I have witnessed families who just sort of disappear at night; there are no hugs, no warm wishes, nothing. It confused me- it was just a moment, but seemingly a vital one.

I will confess to you, that I am extremely blessed. I have three children ranging in age from twenty-three to seventeen and with rare exception every single time they leave the house, rise from their beds or just sporadically each shares a warm greeting, usually accompanying a hug and kiss. I see my children act with the same respect and affection not only with me, but also my husband and any other treasured adult in their lives. It is heartwarming to see my twenty-one year old son stop what he is doing to hug his grandfather wishing him a good night as he leaves for the evening. He doesn’t just do it because it is a sign of respect. He does it with love and meaning.

I’m lucky – I know.

The other night I was reminded again that “the little things” are most important.

I was tired. Nope, not just tired, I was completely exempt. My daughter who works ungodly hours was already in bed. My younger son had gone to bed, and my middle child was standing at the sink doing dishes. For the first time that I can ever remember I simply waved to my son, and said, “Goodnight, Patrick.”  He responded in kind as I was making my way to my bed. There was no kiss, no hug… nothing. It felt awkward. I remember being half way to bed thinking, I should have hugged him.

That night- I laid in bed unsettled, I thought about the fact that I didn’t take one second, just one to properly say goodnight to my son. What was I thinking?

I have taught my children that we never go to bed angry. For those of you who live with young adults, you understand that this might be at times difficult. However, I try to live with no regrets and teach them to do the same. It seems to me that when you go to bed angry it sets the stage for too much negativity. There are stresses in raising children, in life in general, but nothing seems to be so bad that you cannot remind your children that you love them, unconditionally.

This sort of felt like that – I neglected to take the time to bridge anything that might have transpired between us. I suppose my ceremony of “good night” is sort of like a Palm Sunday tradition to me. My father has given us a tradition where you give those you love a piece of palm which has been blessed in church. You present the palm to others apologizing for anything you might have done to hurt or offend them in the previous year. It bridges any hurt and cleans the slate for your relationship to grow and flourish. A year seems like a bit too long, so I suppose in taking the time, even a moment for my “goodnights” I hope to bridge any negativity and level things out between us.

I woke up several times that night, every single time, I thought about Patrick.

Guess what? The next morning, I greeted him with a hug. When he left the house, he kissed me – we exchanged warm sentiments as I gave him a longer than usual hug.

That night- I specifically said goodnight to everyone in my home. I reminded them of my love for them and yes, I slept much better too.

It’s a simple thing, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but clearly it was for me. I am blessed that my twenty-one year old would WANT to hug me, let me not take that for granted. For me it is a symbol of love, and act of warmth that requires little effort, but has a big impact.

It’s in the little things

I wish you peace.
Susan

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The Art of… taking a risk

A brick pathway going under a series of arches covered with grape vines.

Get out there, go for it… DO.

So, I admit to you that I actually pride myself in NOT being a couch potato. I don’t watch television; I don’t play video games or use the stumble upon endlessly on my computer. Rarely does it seem that I “vegetate” in a non-engaged way. So clearly this is a source of pride, right?

Hmm, perhaps it shouldn’t be.

While it is probably good that I don’t take a lot of slacker time, it is also true that I am not as engaged in life-giving activities as fully as I should be.

No- I am not suggesting that it would be wise to put my life in danger to gain some sort of exhilaration in my days, only that it might inspire a spark or two to take a few chances along the way.

A risk is an act of ambition- willingly losing control. I’d say I am not very good at that. Yet, I confess then when I do actually let go and jump off the metaphorical cliff I am better for it. My art is better for it. It is 99.9% of the time a GOOD thing.

Even though I make my best attempt to live outside the box, I find that I seem to gravitate, I suppose as most humans do, toward the safe. Safe is great- it keeps you from being hurt (sometimes), however it ALSO keeps you from breathing in that pure crisp air that life has to offer. You know that fresh experience when you have never attempted something before. You have a unique view, you’ve broken out of the routine – life is fresher, more pure- maybe even exhilarating!

So why do we self-protect so much? Why is it easier to hide in our routines and not breathe just a little once in a while? Safe- for the most part seems to be just that SAFE. It prevents you from pain (maybe) but also prevents you from living more fully.

On August 9th, 2011 I took a HUGE risk. I launched Create Art 4 Good. Now just about two months later, I can honestly say it has been one most amazing journey. (I wish there was a more effective word for amazing) This is the culmination of much of my life as an artist and hopeful humanitarian. It is an active role to support the arts, to support the people who breathe, dream and need art to sustain their souls, it is an active effort to give back to those in need by using our talents for their good. Because this is so close to my heart, you bet it is downright frightening. I am afraid to fail; I am even more terrified of letting others down.

So why do it? For me-there wasn’t another choice. I was merely existing- I wasn’t living. I allowed my talents to sit safely in a box locked in my studio that seemed to serve better as a store space then a room facilitating great work. I numbly crawled  through each day. Create Art 4 Good is giving me the opportunity and the drive to do everything I have always wanted to do. To make a difference. No, I probably won’t feed the world’s hungry, but I will change my little corner of the world. I promise you that!

Create Art 4 Good seems to have its own drive, when I am weary or discouraged, I always find a new reason to dig deep for the energy to move on and work through any issue. I have learned incredible things in these last two months about the world, about myself, and about the facilitation of dreams. It is truly life giving for me.

So, why am I sharing this with you? You have a dream, I know you do. Today, I invite you to work towards it. I know it’s not always easy. I work a full time job, I have three amazing yet at times challenging children I am honored to be raising, a grandchild who reminds me that people are TIRED at fifty, a husband who works full time and goes to school…. You get the idea. I have PLENTY of reasons to not pursue Create Art 4 Good. But for me- in spite of my commitments, or perhaps because of them- I have jumped in with both feet. This risk- this effort is more than I ever dreamed it could be. I am excited to continue this journey- (I cannot wait to see what happens next!

So today- I extend the invitation to you, my friend. JUMP off the cliff. Find your dreams and touch them. They do no one any good sitting in a box on the shelf. No regrets refuse to be numb to the gifts of life- GET busy!

Get out there, GO FOR IT… DO.

In Peace,
Susan

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The art of… dark days.

A sun setting over a lake

I know what you are thinking- what could possibly be redeeming about “dark days”?  It doesn’t seem conceivable that the murky, gloomy mood we each find ourselves in sometimes has anything encouraging to offer.  Each of us seems to trip over them occasionally; nothing seems to go right, everyone we encounter adds fuel to the already flaming fire and it appears we are entrenched into the black hole. It’s almost like we willingly steep in our “mood” rather than recognize the potential positive.

Humph-

The thing about darkness is that we literally experience it in a physically way- EVERY SINGLE DAY! Sometimes the dark can literally engulf you, swallow you up. Those days feel hopeless, perhaps even despondent. However if you think about it- the light wins every SINGLE time.

If you make that extension from the metaphor of our daily lives to our spiritual and emotional well being, I would suggest that in spite of the darkness, or even more boldy, BECAUSE of the darkness, we are blessed by this journey.

In art, lights and darks or rather contrast is a key design element. The eye appreciates and even understand the piece to a greater extent because of the contrast involved.

Without dark one cannot appreciate light.

Darkness – dark moods have something to teach us. Often the stresses of life culminate until we crash, physically, emotionally, or both – (you choose.) Dark times can be desperate times; we are clouded by fear or negativity. We forget, or maybe refuse to see the light.

Darkness is an opportunity- to step back, to evaluate and to work through the source of negativity. Researchers have even suggested that a mildly bad mood even helps us to think better. It promotes the ability to critically contemplate about our external world and even facilitates communication. Go figure!

Darkness seems to enable reflection in a unique way. We want to explore the seed of our darkness and expel it. Humans do not seem to generally find comfort in the deepest of darks but seek the light.

It is interesting when we actively embrace darkness-for example at a child’s birthday party; we invite the darkness while a few delicate candles illuminate the honoree as we celebrate with song. The darkness makes the moment more special, the illumination highlights the glory of the moment. Once the lights have returned the general reaction (when our eyes adjust) is a sort of relief. The light fills the room and the merriment continues. That seems to be certain proof that darkness isn’t a bad thing.

Like the moment at the child’s party when darkness can be completely uncomfortable and encompassing, it seems evident that we not only will survive the darkness we might even embrace the opportunity within it. Bad moods are not the last word on our lives, but perhaps an invitation to pause and reflect, take a time to evaluate the moment. Perhaps there is a stress that we can let go of or a situation we can begin to rectify, regardless I suggest that darkness is a gift, an invitation. I think the point is you absolutely have countless opportunities even in your darkness!

Darkness is an invitation! Dark moods are a cause to reflect, to better our own lives. So the next time you experience one, I invite you to embrace it, understand it and grow from it. I promise you, the sun will rise out of the darkness and the day will be born in new light.

In peace-
Susan

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The Art of …Kindness

The Art of ….kindness

First- let me apologize. I have tried for nearly two weeks to slim this blog entry down. I did manage to shave off eight hundred words (which of course I just added with this disclaimer)- however, I feel like this story needs to be told. Please stick with me until the end. I PROMISE the next blog entry will be MUCH briefer. Thank you in advance for your grace….

It seems to me that we forget how a simple act on our part affects another life. We learn more and more each day about how our “footprint” affects the environment of the earth. Every single thing we do from buying Styrofoam cups or conversely perhaps planting a tree seems to truly have an impact.

What about our humanity?

After camping for a weekend with my treasured family, the journey home became one interesting adventure.

I will spare you the gory details, however I will share that in the few hours before we managed to pack up the car and leave a fire extinguisher, teeming rain and much frustration and anxiety all became involved.
That was before we even left the campground.

We were wet, cold and muddy. Oh, and there was no heat in the minivan

AND- it didn’t start.

After a quick boost from my brother- our minivan was revived. Gratefully we were on our way.

As the morning hadn’t been enough “fun” within the first ten miles our journey our minivan chugged and choked and came to a horrible stop.

DOA.

We were in the middle of nowhere, with nearly dead cell phones (remember we were camping for the weekend? We enjoyed roughing it but had no electricity to charge cell phones) and yes, it was still raining- harder in my head then outside our still and sad mini-van. But yes, the rain was there.

Again, I will spare you the unpleasant details. Eventually AAA was called. The good news is they would arrive within ninety minutes. The bad news? The tow home would be $3.50 a mile (for about 80 miles) and could only seat two of the four of us.

Now with the pouring rain, enter a good side dish of despair.

We were stranded with an automobile that now required (no doubt) a pricey repair but also was going to cost us hundreds of dollars to just get it home. Let’s not even mention the fact that there were four of us to get home and a very limited opportunity to try to explain to someone where we were to rescue us. Oh and don’t forget the pouring rain!

UGH!

My husband decided to walk back to the previous town to try to get an understanding of where we were so that perhaps we could call my father to come and rescue us. AAA said it would take at least an hour and a half.

The children began leaking their angst in hushed tones

My stress level began to rise

As countless cars, trucks and tractor trailers speed past us, an SUV stops at the stop sign perpendicular from where our minivan sits lifeless on the road. It stops for an unusual amount of time. I am watching this vehicle with growing suspicion as my children have now began to share words of comfort recognizing my strain.

Eventually an older gentleman comes over to us and tells us that we are going to move the mini-van out of the way because he worries we will get hit by a speeding vehicle. My husband has not returned from his venture and I am overwhelmed by the offer of help.

Not in a good way.

It feels like another decision I need to make and I am concerned I am making the wrong one. Obviously it is a good thing to get off a main road; however, I worried that something further would go wrong in our attempt or perhaps trusting this man was the wrong choice.

I was relieved to see my husband hurrying back to the car.

Obviously the choice was clear.

We moved the car and ironically in spite of the slipped discs in my back, it felt great to move it. I could do something proactive. It meant something. I wasn’t just sitting there.

Then I called my father. As soon as he agreed to come rescue us I burst into tears. What a dweeb.
My father asked a simple question, “Where exactly are you?”

I still had no clue where I was, so I passed the phone to my husband who in turn passed it to the man who stopped to help us. I heard him tell my father that we would be waiting for him at McDonalds on Route 96. In my head, I thought, “We are? How are we getting there? WITHOUT Duffy?”

A new level of panic set in.

After hanging up with my father, a new conversation ensued. This man, a little quirky, seemed to be pretty harmless. He offered for Duffy (my husband) to use the phone at his house if need be. He then kindly motioned for us to get in the car. My husband, sensing my anxiety thanked him, but then said, “You have been so helpful, and I don’t even know your name.”

“Vincent” he stated- “Vincent Smith”

The two men shook hands as if to sort of seal the agreement to keep us safe and deliver us quickly to the Mecca of Grease. I kissed my husband goodbye, told him I loved him and got into the SUV with our new friend Vincent.

I admit it. I had some anxiety. Two of my three children sat quietly in the back seat while I made conversation with Vincent trying to insure his honorable motives.

I am ashamed of myself for being nervous.

I am even more ashamed of a society that manufactures fear of anyone you don’t know.

Vincent chatted away for the next five miles as he described the landscapes that we were passing. He pointed out schools that he devoted his free time to care for. He retired a few years back and his advice to me was to NEVER retire. He said that he was happiest being busy and thought I would be too. He told me countless stories in this very brief ride.

We laughed, we shared, and we bonded.

Then, I offered Vincent gas money for being so kind to us.

Here’s what he said, ”well Ma’am that would be an insult! This is a holiday (it was Labor Day) and I am just trying to help someone out!”

Tears welled up in my eyes.

Not because I didn’t give him $10 for gas, but because I didn’t trust him, because I even feared him a little. But more- because I was in the middle of nowhere, on the way home after an extremely stressful morning- and my new friend Vincent, was there to save the day and keep us safe.

I was grateful.The rain began to clear a little. Both the storm in my head, and the one outside.

Here is what I hope you take from this. It is a weird and wacky world out there… Unfortunately experience has taught us that we are to be at the least cautious, I suppose that lesson remains. However, maybe just maybe we can take the time to be a “Vincent” to someone else.

Vincent (along with my father who came out a cold and rainy day to rescue his family) just did what any decent person would do. He isn’t going to win a medal for it, or be mentioned in the newspaper. He is a common man, looking out for someone in need.

With his simple act of kindness- he became MY hero.

It’s our turn next- We don’t have to run out to try to save the world. Not really- we just be a little kinder, share a kind word, a card of encouragement. It’s been my experience that we never really appreciate the impact of our actions- both negative and positive.

Vincent made a difference. So can I.

Oh, and just one more thing- be open to the blessings of a stranger- your life will be richer
In Peace-
Susan