Where Autumn Never Comes


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On Saturday, a box arrived on my front porch, and I remembered an old friend back home in Indiana recently asked me for my address. The package was fairly large and perfunctorily, I pondered what could be inside; the box felt as light as air in my hands when I stooped over to pick it up.

Curiously, I tore off the tape and peered inside. On top of a pile of various, vibrantly shades of fresh autumn leaves, rested a note that read:

Tonia,

I read a post of yours about missing the fall leaves of the Midwest & I thought I could help with that! I hope these bring a smile to your face and you’ll enjoy them for a little while!

Love & Miss Ya!

Regina

One lone tear rolled down my cheek. I was surprised by how overcome I was with raw emotion. After all, it was just a pile of leaves, wasn’t it? But, on the contrary, the gift was more thoughtful and meaningful than anything ever given me by a friend. It was a gift so powerful that it left me forever touched, because it was so simple. Regina knew I was a bit homesick for the Midwest and sent me a piece of HOME – vivid, reminiscent hues from my youth – all raked-up, and packaged nicely and left waiting for me on my doorstep by the mailman on an average, sunny day in California. Where Autumn never comes.

Regina’s gift is a reminder that giving isn’t about spending or going through the motions; giving is about getting personal and evoking feeling from the recipient as a result of the kindness bestowed by the gesture. If the gift is heartfelt, it will surely be richly treasured, in a way much like I felt about my wonderful, crisp pile of leaves.

As for me and my colorful treasures, I will discover fun ways to use them this fall. And, when autumn first turns to winter, I will seal them back up in Regina’s carton and use them again for another reason in a different Autumn season.

Thirty things to do with fallen leaves.

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Death Bed Friends


imageOne of my “hair therapists” is also a talk show radio host. Naturally, when we get together at her place for my new look, our “gifts of gab” kick into overdrive and we chat incessantly over coffee and English toast slathered with a tomato sauté. Kim has an uncanny knack at getting people to open up, which is why she makes both a superb hairdresser and radio host.

One day, somewhere between the time that my long locks were smothered with color and those new gray strands were just starting to simmer; Kim and I began talking about friendship. I told Kim that I have just a handful of Death Bed Friends. “Death Bed Friends? What are those?” she laughed. “You know,” I said, “Those few people who came into your life and stayed, who idolized your strengths, forgave you your many weaknesses, and could always find a way to make you laugh when you wanted to cry. Those people,” I continued. “They’re also the friends you could whole-heartedly hand your kids over to in your will, they’d mourn your death sufficiently before squeezing in on your widowed husband (kidding), but really they are the ones that last your whole lifetime and they’ll surely be the ones standing vigil over your bed in those last, dying days.”

As soon as I said it, I knew who they were; the people in my life that I was referring. Their images, one after the other, started popping into my head, but I could only count them on one hand. I began to really think about that and wondered if I’ve made enough of those kinds of friends. Then it occurred to me that, while those deeper, more meaningful relationships were fewer and farther between for me; the quantity of them has always been a manageable number to nurture and let flourish. There were even a couple of people who came into my life, disguised as Death Bed Friends, that weren’t, and they’re gone now. Still, the ones who remained, are the perfect number. I think we’re only allotted just so many ridiculously special people in our lives. Besides, how many people can you squeeze into a hospital room anyway?
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Of course, none of this lessens the importance of my sea of “Funeral Friends,” those amazing people whom I know would show up and mourn my death and celebrate my life. I love them too, and I need more hands to count those. But, that’s a whole different story over a different haircut and more coffee and toast.

I don’t have any plans of dying anytime soon. And, hopefully I still have plenty of time to cultivate a garden of special people in my life. One thing I know for certain; friends can be flowers or weeds. Grow flowers. And, if one of those flowers packs herself up and leaves your garden, just know she was probably really a dandelion pretending to be a rose. All the ladies pictured in this post are some of my roses.

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Baby’s Got Her Humor Back


I lost my sense of humor almost four weeks ago. It disappeared suddenly when I learned that someone who works for me, someone I cared a lot about, was hanging onto his life in a near-fatal car crash. What became immensely clear was that someone in our little family at TAG! The Creative Source was in trouble, and for the first time in seventeen years, “doing business” suddenly felt trivial and lacked significance. I felt guilty picking up the phone. Smiling or laughing was out of the question. And, like any mother; I worried that this young; twenty-three-year-old man wouldn’t pull through, after learning that he had something like a five per cent chance of surviving.

Catastrophic events in small businesses create snowball effects that you can’t even begin to imagine unless you work for one or own one that has been through one. People don’t deal with crisis well in general and they cease to function when they are traumatized. Traumatized people think and behave differently, and character becomes unbalanced.  Add work to the mix and projects get shifted, pushed off and even delayed. Traumatized people at work look out the window and the sky seems darker than it would on an ordinary day when life was normal and everyone was sitting in their respective chairs.

Small businesses are like families that lack only a dinner table. You get to know each other intimately. When one family member is missing; it’s different, altered and maybe never the same again. After the token, single day a small business owner “gets” to feel the pain that everyone else is feeling, the owner has to rise to the challenge, react and keep things moving along. Any good leader will tell you; even in crisis mode, the small business owner has to pick themselves up, stand tall and no matter what, they have to remember that the business is a living, breathing entity of its own. It has to go on.  Pushing the business back into forward momentum can be perceived as selfish, and the business owner walks a tightrope for awhile.  But, if the business owner doesn’t react, people could be out of jobs if clients reassemble and land elsewhere.

So, as a small business owner, I had no other choice but to keep things progressing along, shuffling duties, taking on extra responsibilities, listening and trying to keep people focused on the tasks at hand. We had some fallout. But, four weeks later; we’re better and stronger because of it. We’ll know better how to handle chaos and confusion next time.  Next time; I’ll know what to do.

So, as I mentioned; I completely displaced my sense of humor. It was gone, forever, I thought.  (You lose perspective when you are overwhelmed and fatigued). But, I finally found it again, although it took a couple of important events for me to locate it.  Last Saturday night, I ended-up at a small industry party in Dana Point, CA. Somewhere around 1:00 AM; I phoned for a cab to get me back to my hotel while a friend was listening to the conversation nearby. The operator at Yellow Cab asked me for my street name. I said, “Camino Capistrano.” The operator said, “Can you spell Camino?” I spelled it, “C-A-M-I-N-O”.  He said, “I’m sorry; I didn’t catch that.”  I spelled it once more and again he said, “I’m sorry, I still didn’t catch that.”  Frustrated and ready to give up, I said,  “Let me try it this way.  Candy. Apple. Mary. Isotope.” As soon as I said isotope, my friend and I started laughing so hard that I couldn’t finish the call.  Even the operator was laughing. Tears were streaming down our faces. We couldn’t stop; we were literally possessed by laughter.  For me, this otherwise, non-momentous occasion signified the first time in four weeks that I had really smiled or laughed at all.

Yesterday, I finally heard from my employee and friend who almost died. His voice was as clear and confident as if he were sitting in the office next to me. “Hi Tonia,” he said, and inwardly, I started to cry.  After ten minutes of talking to him and learning from him, in his own words, that he was going to be just fine; I hung up the phone and laughed and laughed and laughed. Laughter really is the best medicine, and now, finally, Baby’s got her humor back.

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”
Maya Angelou