Tag Archives: Natural World

Sometimes pumpkins are Jack-o-lanterns; sometimes they’re milestones

I stopped by Farbman Group headquarters to drop off my iPhone 4 with Rodney, the company wiz who has rescued me from umpteen tech traumas.

Rodney was setting up my new iPhone 6.  (Lord, help me.)

While there, I wandered past my old office. I had an office at Farbman Group for about 30 years, in Troy and then in Southfield, MI. Since cancer, aleha hasholom (Hebrew for R.I.P.), I began writing on my laptop from home—wherever home was at the moment. But my old office remained, with my old files and books and photos.

Several months ago, an exec with the company suggested in the gentlest way that since I hadn’t used my office for several years, I might consider moving out. No rush. Whenever I could manage.

Our long-time, capable, exec assistant Denise had retired. Her capable successor, Sandra, volunteered to help. The first day, I got through about 4 files in 2 hours. Each reminded me of some person I had met or a cool house I had scouted and/or photographed for a story in Detroit Monthly magazine or, later, Better Homes and Gardens and other publications. And then there were the countless hours I spent in that office working on my first book and the numerous drafts that resulted.

It took three tortuous days to clear out that office. Dear Sandra stuck by me through the tears and stories. I felt as though I were cutting out chunks of my life. Finally I gave Sandra some vague directions and let her finish the job. What I couldn’t bear to part with, like the magazine covers featuring my stories which my mother had framed, now resides in boxes in a closet in our house.

As I visited this time, I could see that “my” office now showed only one sign of my occupancy: A grey metal bookend in the shape of a hand supported someone else’s books. Someone else’s papers lay on the desk. I choked up again.

Also because that same morning Burton had accompanied our grandsons to an orchard to pick pumpkins, and I remembered taking their daddy, in elementary school, to do the same thing. And because in the lobby of Farbman Group offices is a banner featuring several buildings and a photo of son Andy, along with the words “Over 35 Years.” And because in the last 2 months, on this blog, I’ve written eulogies for two friends, both my age.

Time doesn’t creep up on us, it races. Enjoy every stride.

I could put words together for lifetime and never say it better than William Wordsworth:
Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower, we will grieve not; rather find strength in what remains behind.

Sun shines & Earth (literally) moves around Big Sur wedding

Chilly, misty fog enveloped the Big Sur. Not the weather Katie Connor and Gregg Nelson had hoped for on their big day this past August. About 100 friends and family were on their way to the Carmel Mission Basilica in Carmel, CA. The couple had arranged for mini coaches so guests could enjoy majestic views and whale watching.

“The Night Before I Do Bar-B-Que” was cool and overcast. The next morning, Mother Nature’s mood had not improved. Katie says, “I knew there was a chance for fog. On the drive to the ceremony, I told myself the fog has its own beauty and romance. But it was not what i’d hoped for.”

Guests included Katie’s girlfriends from childhood in Grosse Pointe, MI, and from Wellesley College and Gregg’s from New Jersey and Rutgers. They came to the Big Sur from all over—Boston, New York, London, Hong Kong. Katie’s mom had argued for Napa so guests could spend free time golfing or wine tasting. But Katie held firm.

The wedding was called for 1 pm. About 2 minutes before the bride and bridesmaids’ mini coach reached the basilica, the clouds cleared. The sun broke through.

Katie glanced at Marilyn and said, “It’s Grandma.” On the drive back, the sun shone.

Our good friends, Marilyn, a retired exec with Neiman Marcus, and Michael, a retired Michigan Court of Appeals judge, had two sons in the 1970s. They were delighted when their third was a girl. Katie was born two weeks early, on grandmother Alvina’s birthday.

(Fashion detail: Though unable to make the wedding, Burton and I did make it to Katie’s christening in the backyard of the Connor home, overlooking the Detroit Golf Club. I remember baby Katie’s charming embroidered white organza dress. Alvina made it from Marilyn’s graduation gown, worn on graduating from Holy Family Academy in Chicago, a Polish girls school from which Alvina also graduated.)

When Katie was little, Marilyn often told her a story:

When Alvina got to heaven, God said, “You lived such a good life taking care of your invalid husband. What can I do for you?” Alvina asked God to send his dearest angel to her daughter. God said, “But this is heaven’s favorite and sweetest angel.” Still, on Alvina’s birthday, God granted her wish. On that day in Detroit, major storms struck. Marilyn explained, “The other angels were crying because their favorite angel was leaving them and going to earth.”

Katie, who inherited her mom’s musical and theatrical talent, grew up to be a talented singer/songwriter. She performs as Kat Solar. Gregg is a chief operating officer in Europe for Macquarie, an Australian investment bank. They met in New York, Katie says, “when friends dragged us out on a night we both planned to stay home. Gregg was tall like my dad with an old world charm that reminded me of Humphrey Bogart.” (Gregg is 6’7′; Katie, 5’6″.)

Back to the wedding: Dinner at Ventana Inn overlooked the Pacific on what Katie calls “a flawless night.” Three hours after midnight, some guests were still dancing; the rest, asleep. None felt the geologic event that took place 100 miles away. Northern California was struck by the biggest earthquake to hit the region in 25 years. A magnitude-6.0 tremor shook the Napa Valley, triggering fires and power outages and tumbling chunks of buildings.

How’s that for a wedding night? Talk about the earth moving.

Katie didn’t remind her mom that she’d lobbied for Napa.

(Any Godsigns stories in your romantic life? I’d love to hear them.)

Shih Tzu Orphan Annie Finds A Home

In April of 2011, Sandi and Jerry lost their beloved blonde Shih Tzu, Sammy.  Sammy had been part of the family for 17 years and was the couple’s second blonde Shih Tzu.  Sandi and Jerry had both grown up with dogs and had owned one through four-plus decades of marriage.

Sandi was done.  She didn’t want to go through the sadness of losing another pet.  Their children were adults, living on their own.  They had just remodeled and redecorated their house in Scottsdale, AZ.  And Sandi wanted to travel without worrying about a pet left behind. Case dismissed.

But not quite.

Jerry spent months researching websites, looking for a third blonde Shih Tzu and hoping Sandi would relent.  He found the Ruby Ranch Shelter in Phoenix, AZ.   Owner Pam rescues unwanted dogs, many with special needs, and fosters them until finding them a home.  On weekends, she shows them in a pen she sets up at Petsmart.

Sandi remained firm.  No more dogs.

Cut to Yuma, AZ, 150 miles from Scottsdale.  An elderly woman had two blonde Shih Tzus—one with bladder stones,  one healthy.  Unable to afford surgery for the first, the owner left both dogs with a vet.  He called a local rescuer.

After almost 1 and ½ years, Sandy recovered from grieving Sammy.   She began to think “it might be nice” to have a dog again.  She gave Jerry her qualifications.  No puppy.  A female.  (In case of an accident, she wouldn’t lift her leg on new upholstered furniture,)

That was all Jerry needed to hear.  He emailed Pam.

Pam had both dogs brought from Yuma to Phoenix.  She funded surgery for the sick one and contacted Jerry about the other.

Sandi and Jerry, who had seen and passed on a different dog, drove to Petsmart.  They met a 5-year old Shih Tzu named Annie.  They held her, walked her on a leash, and fell in love.  Annie won Sandi’s vote.  Pam agreed to keep Annie for a week while the couple took care of previous commitments.

Sandi says, “As we left, Annie was standing with her front paws on the fence of the pen.  She watched us walk away.  Her big eyes seemed to say: Where are you going?  Don’t you want me?”

After a week with her new family, Annie stopped hiding under the coffee table.  Now she dances on her hind legs when Sandi & Jerry come home, has taken over Jerry’s favorite chair, and sleeps snuggled in their bed.  As Sandi puts it, “Annie, like Sammy, runs the household.”

Sandi says, “With people and dogs, there’s chemistry.  You just know when something is right.  Annie’s a perfect fit.”

Rescue dogs often don’t come with papers.  Annie did.  Looking through her papers, Sandi was startled. She realized that the exact time Annie’s former owner decided to give her up was the exact time she changed her mind.

In Yiddish there’s an expression, beshert, or meant to be.  That’s just how Sandi and Jerry feel about Annie.   As for Annie (sorry about this…), she thinks it’s bow-shert.


(Please send me your Godsign stories about subjects that bark, neigh or simply speak.)


After Hurricane Charley, These Shoes Were Made for Talking

I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t love shoes. In Terry’s case, the quest for a pair of sandals also led to a meaningful encounter.

It was summer of 2004, soon after Hurricane Charley, the strongest hurricane to hit southwest Florida since 1960.  After wreaking havoc in the Caribbean, Charley hit landfall on the peninsula and devasted much of Port Charlotte.

Sarasota, where Terry lived and worked, had been spared. As do most of us when tragedy occurs, we feel saddened for those affected and grateful we weren’t among them.  But we go on with our lives. Terry went on with her busy life as a mom of three and part-time server at a restaurant. She was on her feet much of the day, often in a cute and comfortable pair of sandals trimmed with palm trees. Terry says, “I couldn’t go anywhere without someone commenting on my awesome sandals.”

Heading to her local Sears to purchase another pair, she was disappointed to learn that store no longer stocked them.  “I was so determined to have another pair that, out of the blue, i drove all the way to the Port Charlotte Mall.”  The 45-mile drive paid off.

Terry found another pair of palm tree-trimmed sandals. Still in the shoe department, rejoicing over her purchase, Terry spotted an employee who appeared on the verge of tears. She approached her and asked what was wrong.

“She must have sensed my genuine concern,” Terry says, “because she poured out her very sad story of all she had lost in the hurricane.” The department was quiet, and the two women spoke for about half an hour. After, Terry says, this formerly distressed woman managed a smile. Terry could see relief on her face. “I don’t remember what I said. Whatever it was must have been what she needed to hear. I think I gave her hope.”

Terry drove home on a high fueled by the chance to make a difference. “It was clear why I went so far to buy a silly pair of shoes. I had to get to Port Charlotte and be the shoulder this woman needed at that moment. I’m always happy when God calls me to serve.”

Thankfully, Florida has reached the end of what proved a mild hurricane season. We never reach the end of the season to help others.

(Have a good Godsign story?  Even if it’s not weather related, blow me away by sharing it.)

On A Farm in Northern Michigan, A Grateful Appaloosa Says Goodbye

Highs and Lows.  They’re part of a day on the farm.

The day started off with grey skies, chilling drizzle and wind.  And a call alerting us to the poor health of our Appaloosa mare Chinoek.   “Collicky,” our manager warned.  The vet was coming.  At the stable we peered into a stall at a long brown and white speckled face.  Chinoek, at 30, was no longer the proud, galloping steed who, with a flick of her head, could back off the herd.  She had been given medicine to settle her stomach.  She wore a navy blue blanket.  She gazed at us sadly, then limped to the bars of the stall, to Burton and me in turn.  We each reached in to give her a gentle scratch.  She lumbered to the center of her stall, bent her arthritic legs and  heaved with a thud to the sawdust laden floor.

That day we had agreed to host a trail ride on our farm as a fundraiser for The Front Porch restaurant in Ellsworth, MI, a tiny town hard hit by the last recession.  The Front Porch is unique and not just for its yummy American fries.   Begun and supported by several local churches, it operates on an unusual basis.  Diners pay what they can for breakfast and lunch–sometimes more; sometimes zero.  When only a few riders signed up for the trail ride, it was postponed–fortunately since it was a sad day around the barn.

Part of the event was a raffle.  A $500 cash prize was donated.  By the day of the drawing, all 1000 tickets were sold. Additional donations raised a total of $7000.  John, manager of the Hastings Funeral Home in Ellsworth and past president of The Front Porch, was the star ticket seller.  Early on he’d tried selling a ticket to a local man.  It was against his religion to gamble, the man said.  “Don’t look at it as gambling,” John parried.  “It’s a charity donation.”  The man reached for his wallet.  John started to write his name on the ticket.  The man objected.

John had recently conducted a funeral for someone who died in his young 50s, leaving behind a wife and six children.   The widow was struggling to support her family.  John wrote her name on the ticket.  Others joined in this effort, without ever informing the possible recipient.  By the end of the raffle, John had racked up 670 ticket sales.

The drawing took place at our barn.  The winner turned out to be a retired woman who’d taught in the Ellsworth schools, as had her husband.  Their son was getting married soon.  She was thrilled to save the money for the church wedding.

Sara, the large animal vet, showed up.  Burton met her at Chinoek’s stall.  I didn’t have the heart to join him.  Winter was approaching.  Chinoek was suffering.  Sara had put down her sister the day before at a different barn.  She recommended the same for Chinoek.

Burton returned to the farmhouse and told me what had happened.  I said, “This morning when Chinoek came over to each of us, I had the feeling she was saying, ‘Goodbye.’”

“So did I,” Burton said.  “I mentioned it to Sara.  She said, ‘I don’t think she was saying goodbye.  I think she was saying thank you.’”

Now, it’s your turn …

Please send me your Godsign stories, big and small, about humans or animals. And, please, share this story with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook icons or the envelope-shaped email icons. Invite friends to share their stories, too.

(And special thanks to jumpinghooves for the photo, today.)