Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Love Connection #2

There's been an overwhelming outpouring of love and hugs around the story about the meet-up between my sister Reenie and Jan Bills of Two Women and a Hoe. Jan is the woman behind the construction of a pallet garden for my friend Trudy.
The Love Connection story was initiated well before where my reporting took up. Have a look the pre-quel, which was filmed and produced by Urban Dirt.

You can see just how Trudy's  block wall pallet garden transformed a huge, bare expanse into something wonderful to behold and brought a immeasurable joy to Trudy and to all of us who love her.

~ xoA

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Love Connection

This was no ordinary coffee date at a funky college neighborhood coffee shop in Detroit. It was the first-time meeting of two strangers, Jan and Reenié, who had been brought together by love and a mutual friendship that spanned nearly 3,000 miles.

Jan Coppola Bills
Jan had become Facebook friends with our buddy Trudy. Their interest in, and love of gardening and all things green and good for the earth, brought them together. Jan is the owner of Two Women and a Hoe™ in Royal Oak, Michigan. Trudy is a landscape manicurist and designer in Bakersfield who is courageously facing cancer

It was Jan who made Trudy’s wish for a pallet garden to be constructed in her yard on a brick wall come true. Though they had never met in person, Jan’s desire to make this happen for Trudy led her to contact her friends at Urban Dirt in southern California. Dave Walrod and his crew showed up the first Saturday in March, and the dreamed-of pallet garden became a beautiful reality.
Pallet garden with some of Trudy's plants on the ledge
Reenié is my sister. She and her husband Don live in a suburb of Detroit, close to Royal Oak. When I mentioned how near each other the two women were, Trudy asked, “Do you think Reenié would meet Jan and give her a hug for me?”

“Absolutely!” I said, knowing my sister’s compassionate heart and that she'd love to do something for Trudy. And that is how the coffee date came about. 

Reenié and Trudy have history through sharing the same August birthday and many laughs over the years when Reenié would visit Bakersfield. And, then there was that time when my sister met Trudy and me at the Women in Motorcycling banquet in Ohio back in 1997. 

So  speaking by phone, the two strangers who would soon be friends arranged that Jan would come to Reenié and Don’s home for coffee last week. Reenié said, “Jan showed up right on time. With some lovely Danishes in tow! I love her already.”

There were hugs and Trudy stories in addition to becoming acquainted with each other. Sipping black coffee and munching on pastries, the two women discovered that, among other things, they both enjoy playing golf -- as well as their love for Trudy.

Reenie and Jan
Reenié’s email that accompanied her photos read:  “What an awesome day we had. It was all thanks to Trudy! What a wonderful gift she gave to Jan, Don and me from so far away.” 

Trudy, March 3, 2012
And the feeling was mutual. Jan wrote, "Oh, I had such a great time with Reenié and Don! Glorious birds of a feather DO flock together! I am so grateful for the new wonderful friends I have made because of one special lady named Trudy!"

Love. It has the power to connect people who may never have met.  I can’t help but think about what it can do for all of us, whether near or far.
~ xoA
Trudy checks on her wall after a windstorm

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Practicing Speaking Spanish

Sun setting on a San Miguel hillside
Before saying “adios” to San Miguel, opportunities to practice speaking Spanish unfurled before me like a blanket being thrown out to cover a bed. 

Short conversations with our housekeeper, Azucena, had sent me to the dictionary in search of the correct words. I’d become pretty good at writing short notes, but it’s the actual speaking that is the thing I needed. One day, we talked about her daughter, who is in her last year of high school, and this young woman’s hopes to go to college and become a doctor. We smiled and nodded, repeated and signaled, and, magically, I understood.

My confidence increased after an experience at the Biblioteca, where conversation groups meet twice  weekly for practice in English and Spanish. I dropped in a couple of weeks ago and began conversing one-on-one with a young student named Juan. Though studying less than a year, his command of English was terrific. He asked questions, supplied Spanish vocabulary for me, and gently corrected my pronunciation, verb tenses, and sentence structure. Then, Juan encouraged me to join the group that had formed across the courtyard. When I hesitated, he said, “Ok. We will stay here another 15 minutes and then we will go join the group. You really should. It will be good for you.” And, that is how we did it. 

The following week, I was in the neighborhood pasteleria to pick up a small tres leches cake. Standing there in the bakery, and with no other customers bustling in the door, I had an opportunity to have a conversation with Hilda, who was working the counter. As she wanted to practice her English, we spoke in both languages, helping each other with the necessary words. We spoke getting-to-know-you language, like at a cocktail party; small talk, about the weather, and that she preferred cold weather to hot; where I was from, and that she has brother who lives in Minnesota. Hilda and I connected.

That same evening, as I sat alone on a wrought-iron bench in el Jardin, a 35-ish-looking woman with a long braided pony tail and wearing black pants, a black jacket, and white blouse approached me and asked if I spoke Spanish. “Solo un poco” (only a little), I answered, but she sat down anyway and began by asking if I knew where the Central Bus Station was. Heck, yes, I did, and I knew how to give her the directions in Spanish, too!

Our conversation continued, and I learned that this was Juana's first time in San Miguel, she had come seeking work. In the late 90s,she had been employed at a fast food restaurant in Phoenix for one year but returned home to a nearby town after her job ended. Her mother and 16-year-old son live there, too. She needed a cigarette, and when I told her I didn’t smoke and never had, she complimented me. “Muy bueno!” and then mentioned how not smoking was better for my heart and lungs. We laughed together. When it was time for me to leave, I repeated the instructions to the bus station and wished her good luck in finding a job.

What I re-learned is that just trying, even though I struggle with speaking Spanish, is the key. The important thing is communicating and practicing and I will get better at it. It’s like developing any skill, working at it, making errors, and learning from those mistakes will eventually produce results. I'm recommitting myself to speaking more and improving my Spanish.

 Another thing  I re-learned is how communication humanizes people and brings them together. And, that made me think about how different the world be if we could all communicate with someone who is different; if we could step out of our comfort level and just try to connect.

~ xoA