July 17, 2015

A Conspiracy of Delight

Filed under: Feel-Good Story of the Day,MiscellAnnia — Tags: , , , — Ann @ 6:46 am


Several months ago Neal became enamored of a certain pastry sold by Sonoma Market — a “cakey” doughnut with lavender-colored icing containing bits of blueberry. We started calling it “the Purple Doughnut.” The thing is, whoever delivers the Market’s goodies every morning provides just one Purple Doughnut, and it must be very popular because, though we’re at the store several times a week and Neal checks the pastry display-case regularly, it’s seldom there. Since I’m up and about earlier than he is, running errands or heading out to work, I, too, started checking the pastry shelves and whenever I scored I’d sometimes tell the clerks, who know us, that I’d been happy to find the rare and elusive Purple Doughnut to take home to Neal.

This past Monday I stopped at Sonoma Market on the way to work. As I peered at the pastry shelves trying to spot the tell-tale lavender icing, a deli clerk rushed over to help me. I explained I was looking for the special doughnut to surprise someone. Though his English was fragile, “treats” and “surprises” are universal communications facilitators and he smiled at me triumphantly, pointing towards the hot bar across the aisle. Puzzled, I walked over and, sure enough, set out among the other breakfast offerings was a sampling of their baked goods — including the Purple Doughnut. The clerk seemed immensely pleased with my gasp of delight.

Four days later I stopped in to buy coffee on my way to work and, though it was later in the morning and the chances were slim, I checked for the doughnut. Immediately, the same deli clerk who’d helped me on Monday approached. “The doughnut?” he asked with a big smile. I nodded and started to walk over to the hot bar but he stopped me — “No, no, no. Come, look.” He pointed at the pastry display-case and explained, “Here. So no one could take it. Look.” And he showed me that he had tucked the doughnut way in the back, where it was hard to see. He’d been saving it for me. My child-like glee must have been contagious because he was grinning from ear to ear as I lovingly placed the treat in its white bakery bag.

As I checked out and was fishing for my debit card I told the clerk what I had in the sack so she could ring up the right price. “That’s a doughnut in the bag, Diane. A one-holed doughnut.” She broke into a huge smile. “Oh, is this the Purple Doughnut as a surprise for Neal?” “YES!” I exclaimed, astonished, and we both laughed. She said, “He’s going to be so happy.”

All the way to work I thought about these people, certainly with busy lives and busy jobs and probably families, and their own worries and concerns and priorities and maybe even aches and pains (we all have them), yet the deli clerk put time and thought and energy and heart into helping me get a silly doughnut to surprise someone, Diane bothered to remember that I liked to bring Neal his favorite doughnut, and both were rejoicing with me that I was able to do so.

I really, really, really love people. Maybe even as much as Neal loves his Purple Doughnut.

June 29, 2015

Ten Things I Love

Filed under: Feel-Good Story of the Day — Tags: , — Ann @ 9:56 am

Love stone

What do you really LOVE? “My kids, my spouse,” etc. — that’s a given.

I mean, what gives you that grand, swooning feeling of cherishing that makes you think, “I don’t ever want this to stop”?

My list would be long but some that come to mind immediately are:

1) listening to and making music, and especially certain songs and even parts of songs/harmonies
2) hiking in a beautiful setting
3) watching people do something they’re really good at — dancing, playing an instrument, card tricks, art, etc.
4) the sight of someone or something being helped
5) furry animals being cute or clever — crows playing, a kitten watching his mom bathe and trying to mimic her moves
6) the smell of bacon and/or coffee being made outside on a Coleman stove in the mountains
7) being in the mountains
8) reading or watching something that is exquisitely written
9) really clever, surprising, witty, understated humor
10) calming fragrances: vanilla-lavender, bay and eucalyptus when I’m hiking, freshly ground coffee, sunshine on pine trees, Geronimo’s fur


April 3, 2015

Praise asterisk, from whom all blessings flow

Praise Star

Is that you, God?

Yesterday I attended a Juvenile Probation training on adolescent trauma, facilitated by an excellent speaker who filled her presentation with amusing and/or intriguing anecdotes, no doubt in an attempt to keep us all riveted for 8 hours in a stuffy, fluorescent-lit room. She did a great job.

One story in particular will stay with me, probably forever. In the context of discussing gratitude-and-mindfulness research, she talked about being at an ascension meditation retreat some years ago and, one morning when the attendees were preparing to spend a good chunk of time in focused meditation and chanting, their teacher wrote on the board the phrase she wanted her students to recite out loud: PRAISE [*] FOR MY LIFE. The asterisk, of course, was meant to be a placeholder for whatever ‘higher power’ was relevant to each participant: God, Goddess, the Divine, the Source, Allah, the Universe, the One — whatever.

But as the group began to chant out loud, she became aware that quite a few of the participants were reciting, ‘Praise Star…,’ because they’d interpreted the asterisk as “Star” — a name for the One. She was so enchanted by the idea that she adopted it as her name for God and still uses the full mantra as part of her meditation-gratitude practice.

Praise Star For My Life. It has a lovely shine to it.

April 23, 2011

A Very Nice Somebunny

Filed under: Feel-Good Story of the Day — Ann @ 7:30 pm

For Me, From Not-the-Easter Bunny!

Earlier today I had to make a mad dash over to the pet store to buy cat food for Geronimo and since it’s right next door to Whole Foods, I thought I’d pop in to buy a small wheat roll to go with my dinner salad. But as soon as I walked in, there it was, tempting me: the Easter display.

My growing-up family, though not particularly religious, observed some Easter traditions: my Mom would make lacy pastel frocks for my sister and me, we had the egg hunt and pretty baskets and, when I got older, my mom always bought me one of those huge See’s chocolate eggs, decorated with frosting. Now, every year on Easter Eve, I get a craving for special treats.

So there I was this afternoon, my eyes abnormally bright with sugar-lust, staring at the bakery’s display of cupcakes frosted with “grass,” mini-bundts piped with spring flowers, and sugar cookies baked in the shape of eggs and coated with pastel frostings. The sweet-faced clerk stepped up to help me, and I explained to her why nostalgia for my childhood Easters had turned me into a treat-seeking missile. Caught up in the quest, she energetically showed me one delicacy after another, but everything was either too expensive or just not It, so I demurred. Feeling bad that I had taken up so much of her time, I asked if they’d be open tomorrow so I could come back and actually make a decision “when I’m not so tired.”

Though this made no sense at all, the gracious clerk smiled broadly and said she TOTALLY understood (really?) and then said, excitedly, “Ooh! I know! Wait right there!” I laughed and said I would, she went running to the back. I saw her fussing with something, and when got back to the counter she shyly held out to me a crumpled square of waxed paper in which were nestled three adorable candy bunnies. They were perfect in every way. I smiled, and she smiled.

I took the tiny sugar-warren, wrapped them, thanked her profusely, and left happy. I think she was even happier. The true theme of Easter is so much larger and deeper than anything having to do with candies or bunnies; nevertheless, an important aspect of the holiday was very much present in our encounter: joy. In this case, the joy of intuited need and fulfillment, the joy of grace, and giving, and gratitude.

January 23, 2011

One Smart Cookie

Filed under: Feel-Good Story of the Day — Ann @ 10:34 am

She Has the Secret

My niece reports the following conversation she had with her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter:

Mama: “Hannah, how did you get to be so smart?”
Hannah: (a slight pause) “Cookieeees!”

I’ve always suspected that creme filling had unique and unexplored properties.

August 12, 2010

Bobby and the Trumpet

Filed under: Feel-Good Story of the Day — Ann @ 5:05 pm

I was listening to Len Tillem’s “How come you’re callin’ a lawyer?” talk show on KGO radio while driving home from work today; at the top of the hour, Len put “Les” on the line to share the denouement of the call Les had made to the show yesterday.

Les — who sounded like a tired, kind, elderly Morgan Freeman — had previously called because the mother of his grandson, Bobby, had somehow become unable/unwilling to care for Bobby at some point, so this 14-year-old boy left home “with only the clothes on his back.” Now living with his grandpa, the musically-talented Bobby had apparently been begging his mother to let him at least come home to get his trumpet back, but had thus far been unsuccessful. I don’t know what the mother-son communication problem is, but it didn’t sound happy.

During the original call, Len Tillem had said that perhaps some of the listeners could help; he somehow made contact arrangements. So today when Les got on the line, he said he had talked to a “Mike in San Mateo” who told Les he had a trumpet he’d owned for years, hadn’t played in ages, and that he would gladly give his trumpet to young Bobby — all Les had to do was come down to San Mateo to get it. I’ll let Les tell the story as he told us over the air, quoting (roughly, from memory):

“Unfortunately, I had to tell him that without a car I couldn’t get down to San Mateo from Richmond…it would take hours and hours on different varieties of public transportation, and Len, this Mike said he would DRIVE up from San Mateo to Richmond and deliver it to us! He said he’d be there at 11 am the next day, and at exactly 11 o’clock he was on my doorstep with a beautiful trumpet. I asked him if he’d like to give it to Bobby himself, and he said he sure would. So we went to where Bobby was working — he does volunteer work — and Mike himself got to hand his trumpet to Bobby. Len, I took pictures and I’d love to send them to you.”

At that point Len Tillem got back on the air and said, “I’d love the pictures, Les, and let me tell you what ELSE happened after your call: we got tons of calls from listeners, wanting to do something. People were offering their trumpets — people were even offering money! I bet we got 15 calls from people all over the Bay Area, wanting to help.”

By this time, I had tears streaming down my face, thinking about Mike — who drove from San Mateo to Richmond! — and all the other good people who are our friends and families and neighbors and co-workers all over this beautiful and loving home we call the San Francisco Bay Area, all hearing about a little boy in need and dropping everything in their lives at that moment to contribute.

So if someone is having a bad day and says, “People are the worst!” or some such thing, please tell them the story of Bobby and the Trumpet.

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