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  • Week before Thanksgiving, 2011.
    My arms are wrapped around a “slightly perfect” green floral chair.
    Standing on the corner of Halsted & North.
    Waiting for the # 8 CTA bus.


    8 years earlier I owned a 2 acre Estate on land near the Long Island Sound in CT.
    I was the executive that gave the world Ann Taylor Loft.
    Profiled in the Wall Street Journal,
    6 figure salary,
    Stock options & bonuses,
    Original Paul Klee hanging in the great room of the “main house”,
    And a driver to bring me home at night from NYC.

    A marriage stopped,
    All things divided,
    Downsized,
    New Job,
    A return to my home town of Pleasantville in Indiana.

    A stray question from my sage sister Sue.
    “What have you always wanted to do?
    Out of the recesses of my mind
    I blurt out ...
    "The Peace Corps"
    I wanted to snatch it back as soon as the words left my lips.

    Now I would have to ACT on it…

    Kenya 2005…

    All that I possessed was in 2 small suitcases full of the “essentials’.
    Only one luxury item …a hair dryer,
    Most important item … The book “Where There is No Doctor” telling you what to do when bugs & worms start to crawl out of you skin.

    5 months in...
    5 AM in the morning ...
    Woken by the rising, rhythmic voices of the Muslim “Call to Prayer”,
    and the Cock-a-doodle-doing of the roosters proclaiming the sunrise.
    I am lying underneath the mosquito net on top of a 2 inch foam rubber pad.
    Watching a parade of African ants make their way from my window seal, across the concrete slab and up the leg of my cot to feast on the toxic powered substance that was supposed to keep the bed bugs at bay ... I put on my headlamp to fill up the darkness & finished reading the novel.

    "A Yellow Raft in Blue Water"

    I read the last paragraph:

    “As a man with cut hair, he did not identify the rhythm of three strands, the whispers of coming and going, of twisting and tying and blending, of catching and of letting go, of braiding.”

    As I closed the book,
    I realize I have been stunned into numbness ...
    I feel a flood of tears rolling down my cheeks ...
    It was then I realized …
    in giving up everything, I was now free to accept...
    "The catchings & letting goes"

    I had spent my life accumulating, owning, possessing ...
    Things, money, titles, and …yes even… people.
    And now was the time to ...
    let it all go.

    A NEW NORMAL

    The less I owned and possessed the bigger my life could be.

    Time to collect & catch the small encounters that ...
    connect us one to the other

    For the next two years ... Kenya & it's people gave me a life-time of forever moments.

    The daily “take my breath away” moment when ...
    I swung opened my door to my view ...
    From my plateau of Lake Naivasha ... of Mount Longonot ...
    And the expanse of the Rift Valley.

    Meeting "Too cool little boy Joseph"
    & "The Little Rose of Ngong Road".

    Having a baby boy named after my son ... Courtney &
    A baby girl named after me ... Hannibal

    The daily sightings of striped donkeys.
    The nightly sounds of hyenas in the hills.

    And ….The Matatu rides !!!
    The public transit vans meant to carry a maximum of 14 passengers
    But always stuffed with up to 32 men, women, children and assorted animals ...
    Smiling,
    laughing,
    singing,
    praying,
    yelling,
    dancing ...
    And when stuck in the mud ... We would all exit and help push it back onto dry ground.

    Back in the States …October 2011.
    Determined to continue my journey that the less I owned and possessed
    The bigger my life …
    Moved into a teeny-tiny
    "nest”, overlooking Montrose Harbor here in Chicago.
    Only set of wheels, a yellow cruiser.
    Made a resolution to not buy anything new from
    11/11/11 until 12/12/12
    (Except … of course … food, undies and personal care items)

    But a week later I received a $50 gift certificate from a home furnishing store.
    I called their 800 # to convince them on the phone to let me apply the $$$'s to my existing bill.
    I hear exasperation in her voice.
    A need to not go over her allocated time per customer.
    I am sure she had tagged me as some kind of Crack-pot as I explained why I could not buy something new
    I told her …
    ”Never Mind”

    So I decided to go into the belly of the beast and explain my dilemma face to face.
    As I wandered the busy store a salesperson finally asked if they could help me ... I told her…
    and you could see her eyes roll back into her head.
    She exhaled and said she would get the manager.

    When I explained to this very big blond scary woman,
    there was a moment of silence,
    and then her head went back and she laughed out loud and said:
    "I should not encourage your behavior of "not buying anything
    new, but this is too sweet a situation,
    Let's have some fun...follow me" and off we went into the stock room.

    She took me to a small dark corner and let me know that in this pile of stuff, were items that were bought and returned and that could not go back into stock because something was wrong with them.
    She asked if I found an item or items that I was interested in, would applying the certificate to that item still work with my "resolution",
    or if I wanted, she could apply the certificate to my existing bill.

    I looked at this sorry bunch of stuff and said:
    "Well let me at least look"
    At first view, there wasn’t anything that caught my eye
    But peeking from under a bedspread was a hint of green.
    As I lifted the spread
    The floral green chair seemed to say "ta da!
    I am ready to go home with you" (just like a stray dog)
    But my heart dropped.
    It really would not work with the colors of my décor.
    I guess my years in fashion retailing still had some weight.
    I told the manager it would probably be best to just take the credit.
    As we were leaving,
    I turned one more time,
    and it was beckoning me
    "Please please take me home!"
    I said "I'll take her!"

    Now I needed to get her home ...
    so this is how I got here on the corner of Halsted and North ...
    Hugging a nearly perfect green floral chair ...
    Waiting for the number 8 bus…

    As I waited for the bus,
    the other waiters kept eyeing me
    One lady said "nice find”.
    The bus came and I climbed on with my chair.
    The whole bus became involved.
    A man piped up
    "now that is one way of guaranteeing a seat on the CTA
    BYOC... Bring your own chair "
    people laughed.
    Someone else said
    "No, she must have found out that she didn't have enough seats for Thanksgiving ... a hippy aunt from California must have decided to come at the last minute" ... After the canned CTA announcement said "please give up your seat to the elderly, pregnant or disabled"
    Someone else said ... "Yes, yes... The lady with the green chair ... Please give up your seat, I am style disabled!"

    This bus had become a comedy improv on wheels.
    Pure contagious joy!
    Reminding me of my Kenyan Matatu rides.

    Once off the bus, I only had a few blocks to walk, but people smiled as I walked by hugging my green chair and as I walked into my building, a young lady stopped and said ... "That is one sweet chair"

    One “slightly perfect” green floral chair really is a little off kilter to the rest of my décor,
    but this is where she belongs
    when I see her ... I will always remember the amusing journey we took together... connecting to others
    One Sweet “Slightly Perfect “ Green Floral Chair.
    The sweetness of a simple life, indeed!






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