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DECEMBER 2009

The Snowman, The Superhero & The Soldier

Several years ago, in the middle of a typical New England snowstorm, Melissa and I got a call from our Volvo mechanic that our car was ready for pick up. We didn’t have a second vehicle, so we had borrowed Melissa’s parents’ Jeep while they were away for a few days. It turned out to be a handy vehicle considering the snowy roads.

Because the storm clouds made everything dark, I turned on the Jeep’s lights for safety, which instantly caused its engine to slow, sputter and nearly stall. I quickly shut the lights off and the Jeep began running smoothly again. This was a clear indication that either the battery or the alternator needed replacing.

“Great,” I said to Melissa, “we’re going to break down on our way to pick up our car that broke down a few days ago. Is Mercury in retrograde?”

Melissa and I had been experiencing some hardships at the time. The repair we had on the Volvo was just one of a series of ill-fated hits we’d endured. So the thought of breaking down in a borrowed car seeming overwhelming.

We continued driving without incident. So, a few minutes later, more out of curiosity than necessity, I tried the lights again. This time the Jeep ran okay—for about two minutes. Then the engine simply quit. I steered the coasting Jeep to the side of the slushy road.

A bit panicked, I shut off the lights, the heater and the windshield wipers and then turned the key to try starting it again. At first, the engine murmured a low rrrr-pause-rrrr-pause-cough and that was it. It sounded like a dog with emphysema. I looked at Melissa. She looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders, took a deep breath and turned the key again. Rrrrrrr-pause-rrrrr-pause-cough-rrrrruuuuummmmm! Phew, it started!



Bob Olson, Editor



I grabbed the shifter, threw the Jeep into drive and we were rolling down the road again. But now the snow was rapidly covering the windshield, especially due to our lack of a heater and defroster. Hesitant but without choice, I tapped the windshield wiper only when absolutely necessary to clear my view. It didn’t affect the engine. But the windshield was slowly icing over. I didn’t know how far we’d get before I couldn’t see at all.

The Jeep threatened to stall when we stopped at a traffic light, but would stay running while revving the engine in neutral. Melissa jumped out and scrapped the ice off the windshield while I kept the engine revving. Once the light changed, the Jeep drove just fine until we arrived at the mechanic shop.

The mechanic agreed that the Jeep likely needed a battery or alternator, but he had no interest in standing out in the snow to take a look at it, especially considering he only worked on Volvos. When I asked if we could leave the Jeep in his parking lot overnight, he said we couldn’t because the plows would be coming to clear it.

“Really, not even if I leave it off to the side somewhere?” I begged.

“Sorry, I just don’t want anything in the way of the plows,” he rebutted. And that was it.

After paying for the repairs, Melissa and I swept the snow off our Volvo, scraped the windows, and devised a plan while it heated up. Her parents’ home was only a couple miles down the road. We decided that Melissa would drive the Jeep while I drove behind her since the Jeep drove better in the snow.  Plus, if it did stall again, I could swing the car around and jumpstart the Jeep without her having to leave the vehicle.

Our biggest concern was that it was getting dark soon and we knew the Jeep wouldn’t run with the lights on. But thanks to the white snow reflecting the remaining daylight, we believed we could get the Jeep home before nightfall.

We scraped the Jeep’s icy windows one last time and set off on our journey. Halfway to Melissa’s parents’ house, the Jeep stalled again. Melissa steered it into the nearest driveway, which belonged to a woodworking shop that sold handmade furniture. She got it only a few feet into the driveway before rolling to a stop.

Driving right behind her, I knew I needed the Volvo in front of the Jeep in order to jumpstart it. So, in a split second decision, I tried passing the Jeep in the narrow driveway. The snow made it difficult to judge the width of the driveway, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to drive over the lawn a bit considering it was covered with snow. Unfortunately, as I drove passed the Jeep, my rear driver’s-side wheel slid off the driveway and became stuck.

I tried to back the car up to renegotiate, yet the wheels just kept spinning. Further inspection indicated the car was hung up on something. Melissa switched vehicles so she could drive our car while I pushed. With no heat in the Jeep (since the battery was now completely dead), she was only too happy to get into the warm Volvo. Regardless of our years of practice rocking the car with her behind the wheel and me pushing the car, we couldn’t get a rocking motion going. I was going to have to shovel the snow from underneath the car.

I checked the trunk for something I could use as a shovel, but there was nothing. I checked the Jeep, still nothing. I needed to find a shovel. I hoped I’d find one by the woodworking shop, which was about a hundred yards away considering its long driveway.

Foolishly and inappropriately dressed for a snowstorm, I walked to the woodworking shop in five inches of snow wearing only casual shoes and a light jacket. My shoes would fill with snow; my foot would melt it; and then it would fill with more snow several steps later. My jacket, on the other hand, allowed the snow to pile up behind my neck, melting the snow very slowly as it dripped down my back. Having grown up in New England, you’d think I’d have known better. But I wasn’t planning on being outside in the snow. I was expecting to be inside a warm vehicle.

As most Maine businesses do in a February whiteout, the woodworking shop had closed early. I looked all around for a shovel, but there was none to be found. However I found some scrap boards beside the dumpster, one that looked like it might help me dig out the snow.

After fifteen minutes of pointless shoveling with this useless piece of wood, I decided to see if I could borrow a real shovel at a nearby house. Unfortunately, the nearest house was a half-mile away. So I fought the Nor’easter for the half-mile walk down the road, jumping in the snowy embankment whenever a car or snowplow drove by me. It was now completely dark, the road had no streetlights and, the way things were going, I wasn’t feeling lucky.

I found an old farmhouse and located the homeowner in the barn. She let me borrow her shovel, though it was a flimsy, plastic one that she must have bought at a pharmacy or convenience store. Nonetheless, it was better than my piece of wood.

Slogging the half-mile back to the car through what was now seven inches of snow, my hair, eyebrows, shoes, socks, jacket and shirt were now thoroughly frozen. I looked like a snowman.  With new determination, I returned  with my crappy shovel. It definitely worked better than the board, although it did nothing to chop ice. After another twenty minutes of shoveling on my knees to scoop the snow from under the car, I could clearly see that the wheel had not just sunk into a soft spot on the lawn—it had slid into a two-foot ditch on the side of the driveway. The belly of the Volvo was actually sitting on the top edge of the ditch.

Exhausted and defeated, I knew I was in trouble. I’d seen it before. When the undercarriage of a car is resting on the edge of a ditch, there’s only one way to get it out—a tow truck pulls it out, almost always ripping the muffler, gas tank or whatever other parts regrettably meet the ground as the car scrapes its way back onto four wheels.

My mind searched for ideas to avoid the litany of costly repairs that seemed inevitable. Maybe a helicopter could lift the car, I fantasized. Short of that happening, I knew the Volvo was getting towed back to the mechanic.

I hope the tow truck drops it right in the middle of his parking lot, I thought, still resentful that the mechanic wouldn’t let us leave the Jeep there.

It wasn’t long before my resentment toward the mechanic turned to anger at myself, at which time I began with some constructive self-talk.

What kind of dim-witted dumbass would attempt to pass the Jeep on this narrow driveway? What am I, sixteen years old? Stupid, stupid, stupid!

After my minor mental meltdown, I quickly went from anger at myself to bargaining with God (“Oh God, not now; please, not now”) to surrendering to the reality of my current circumstances. Once I landed on acceptance, I knocked on Melissa’s window, told her the predicament, and suggested she call for a tow.

Before she had a chance to call Triple A, a car pulled over on the side of the road. It was the first car to pull over in the 45 minutes we were there since first getting stuck. And there must have been 30 cars that passed. A stocky guy around my age (a young early 40s) got out of the car and asked if I needed help.

“No, I don’t think there’s anything that can be done,” I told him. “There’s a ditch on the side of the driveway and my car’s undercarriage is hung up on the edge.”

Without hesitation, the man walked into the snow, got down on his knees and looked under my car. He asked me to hand him the shovel, then began chopping away at the ice and snow.

At one point, he stopped shoveling and looked up at me, “This isn’t a very good shovel, is it?” I just shook my head and laughed.

When he stopped shoveling, the man cocked his head to the side and began staring at the car. Then he stood up and began walking toward the rear of the car.

“I’ll bet we can lift the car up and put it back on its wheels. The front wheels are on the driveway. We only need to get this rear wheel back up out of the ditch. Come on, we’ll lift on the count of three.”

I wanted to tell him that Volvos have three times the gauge steel as most cars, making them a lot heavier than a Toyota or Honda. But before I could say anything, we were already behind the Volvo and he was bending down to try lifting it up.

“Ready? One, two, three!” he said.

I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have time to grab the rear bumper before he lifted the car up and moved it over on his own.

What the…? I was dumbfounded.

“One more time,” he yelled. “One, two, three!”

This time I had a grip. But he lifted the car so powerfully that I was of little if any help at all. The Volvo lifted off the ground and back over onto the driveway.

Who is this guy? I thought to myself.

“That ought to do it,” he said. He dropped down on his knees again and looked under the car. “Your car looks okay. I don’t think you have any damage.”

He patted me on the arm. “You okay from here?”

“Yeah, I’m good. I can take it from here,” I told him, still blown away that he just lifted my car. He was the helicopter in my fantasy earlier. I thanked him for his help and asked his name.

As he walked away, he yelled his name but I caught only the last name before he hopped into his car and drove away. As he disappeared into the snowstorm, another car then pulled over.  This time a young man in his twenties got out. He approached me and held his hand out to shake mine.

He told me his name followed by the nearby town where he lived—Sanford.

I responded with “I’m Bob Olson from Kennebunkport.”

I thought it was peculiar that he told me his name and the town where he lived—peculiar but nice.

“Do you need any help?” he asked.

“No, thank you. That man who just drove off helped me. But I appreciate you stopping. You’re only the second person in over an hour who did.”

I told the young man what had happened and how the other guy actually lifted my car out of the ditch. We had a few laughs, then he said goodbye and drove away.

I managed to jumpstart the Jeep after the young man left, Melissa and I got home safely, and our day of adventure was over. The following week, it turned out that the Jeep needed an alternator after all. And I had my mechanic put our Volvo on a lift just to see if there was any damage underneath. There wasn’t.

The whole experience seemed miraculous, to say the least, especially considering a superhero with herculean strength just happened to be driving by during a blizzard. And he stopped to help us, too, which now seems like a small miracle in itself.

But to add to the bizarreness of it all, only a week after this incident, I saw a picture in the newspaper of the young man who stopped to offer his help. The article said that he was from Sanford, just as he had told me. It added that he had returned from a tour in Iraq only a week before I met him, which had me wondering if that’s why he introduced himself by his name and his hometown. Perhaps, I thought, that’s how soldiers introduce themselves to one another. But what sent chills down my spine more than all of this was that the young man’s picture was in the newspaper because he had just died in a car accident.

This experience happened several years ago and has always stayed with me, so I thought I would share it with you.

Warmly,

Bob Olson
OfSpirit.com editor

OCTOBER 2009

Intention + Action + Enthusiasm = Inspired Gatherings

Last March (2009), I wanted to begin working with individuals, one on one. With two cats, a dog and a niece living with us, there was no room, no privacy and too much noise to do it at our home. So I knew I had to get myself an office.

Not being one to procrastinate once I make up my mind on something, when Melissa called me from her cell phone on the day I made the decision, I told her about it. She immediately had some wonderful advice for me. 

"Bob, set an intention for exactly what you want with as many details as you can imagine."

I liked the idea, so I began describing the details to Melissa while we were still on the phone.  

“I want an office where I can see clients privately. And I’d like it to be just minutes from our home, but centrally located in Kennebunkport” I began. “I also want a separate room off the office that’s big enough for me to give workshops. Better yet, I want other people to present workshops there, too. We know so many authors and practitioners thanks to OfSpirit.com, it would be wonderful to have some of them as guest speakers. So the space has to be large enough to hold 50 people. And we can use the small office area in the back as a green room for the guests. It also needs it’s own bathroom, for sure.”  

I went on to describe a place that was private, clean, relatively new in construction, and had a peaceful energy about it.  

“Even more,” I told Melissa, “I want the workshop space to have an atmosphere like that of a big, comfortable living room. I want the place to be intimate, welcoming and peaceful.” 

Melissa’s response was, "Wow! How long have you been thinking about this, because that's a lot of detail?" 

"I’ve been kicking it around in my mind for a while,” I said, “but some of that just came to me as I was talking. Thanks for your help."
 
That was on a Monday and I thought about it for the rest of the week. On Saturday, Melissa and I went out to dinner with her brother in Kennebunkport. After dinner, as we were driving out of the restaurant's parking lot, he asked if anything was new, so I told him about my desire to find an office space. He instantly said, "Take a left! I know of a great spot that recently became available just down the street." 

A massage therapist had recently moved in with a chiropractor, so her rather large office had just become available. By looking through the windows of the vacant space, Melissa and I liked it. So we made an appointment to see it the following week. Unfortunately, it only had one large room for workshops, but no small room. It also didn’t exude the “living room” atmosphere I was seeking. I was just about to tell the building manager that I needed to think about it, when he said, "You know what? I also have another space that we just renovated on the other side of the building. It's got more privacy, is a little larger in size and it has a small office in the back. I think you'll like it." 

The place was beautiful--exactly what I was seeking. It had a big room that could hold 50 people comfortably, a small room in the back, a bathroom of its own, and it was private, clean, and quite new in construction. It had a new ceiling, relatively new windows, a new carpet, new toilet and new paint. Plus it had a wonderful, peaceful energy about it.  

The place had just become available. The building manager himself had leased the space for twelve years for his miniature furniture woodshop. And he was a delightfully kind and peaceful man. Melissa and I were sure that his positive energy was a big reason why the place felt so soothing. I signed the lease that same week.

In no time, we had a list of seminar presenters who were excited to teach there. We called the place Inspired Gatherings with a tagline of “events for transformation.” And we were pleasantly surprised that InspiredGatherings.com was still available. 

Although we signed the lease in March, we had no idea how long it would take to furnish it, get all the proper permits and inspections, obtain insurance and accomplish all the other six zillion tasks required to start a new business. Melissa says it's perfect that we didn't know. If we had, we might have talked ourselves right out of opening Inspired Gatherings. But now it is opened and it was worth all the time, effort and expense it took to make it happen.  

Our first event was with an amazing intuitive named Michael Gerrish. I handpicked Michael for our first event in August because I really wanted to share his gift with people. It was a bit stressful getting the finishing touches to the space completed in the week prior to the event, but it felt so good when it was all done. I have to give Melissa most of the credit, since it was her creativity that chose the plants and tree outside the door, the plants and flowers inside, even the framed photographs were her own. She even made sure there were fancy pitchers of water with fresh cut lemons, baskets of chocolates for growling stomachs, and Kleenex tissues for emotional moments.  

We had a great turnout for Michael’s event and an enthusiastic response from the audience. But more important than anything, Melissa and I had a blast. It just felt right, like we were having a gathering of friends at our home. In fact, people came up to us after the event and commented on how peaceful and soothing the place felt. That was the best compliment we could hear.  

We were then honored to have four-time New York Times bestselling author and life coach Cheryl Richardson present to a sold-out audience on September 18th. To have her give a seminar for only 50 people was incredibly rare, since Cheryl is used to speaking in front of audiences in the hundreds and even thousands. Without any hint or provocation from us, she actually opened the event by saying, “This place is so peaceful and cozy. Don’t you just feel like you’re in your living room?”  

While most in attendance that night came from New England, audience members had traveled from as far as Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Being on the coast of Southern Maine, we have gorgeous beaches, inns, shops and restaurants all around, so it’s a fun and breathtaking town to visit.  

It was even more amazing when, after her event, Cheryl liked Inspired Gatherings so much that she quickly booked another event on October 28th with the Britain’s top coach and bestselling author Robert Holden. Once again, Robert is used to speaking in front of much larger audiences. So to be able to offer both Robert and Cheryl together in one event, well, let me just say that Melissa and I are very proud to offer this opportunity to our community.  

Our third event (after Cheryl’s first event) was with Dr. Trish Whynot, a holistic counselor who taught about the power of our thoughts and feelings to deplete our energy. This was a smaller, more intimate event that showed Melissa and I that smaller events have their own charm and benefits.  

For one, everyone in attendance who wanted to be involved had the opportunity. Plus Trish conveyed such valuable insights with her words and demonstrations that everyone went home with new tools for healing and transformation. And what Melissa and I enjoyed most was that we got to take part more than usual since it was easier to attend to our guests’ needs being a smaller event.  

In the near future, we have bestselling author and psychic medium John Holland coming October 15th, which I’m sorry to say has already sold out. There’s no medium who is more entertaining in his presentation and accurate in his readings than John, which I’m sure is why he sold out so quickly. So, with any luck, we’ll get him to come again if you missed out. Here is a list of some of our other upcoming workshops:  

1)      An Evening With Cheryl Richardson & Robert Holden (October 28th)

2)      Discovering Your Purpose (November 1st)

3)      Marketing For Mind/Body/Spirit Practitioners (November 12th)

4)      Intuitive Readings With Michael Gerrish (November 18th)

5)      Supporting A Clinically Depressed Loved One During The Holidays (December, exact date to be announced)  

All in all, it’s been a quite a kick-off for Inspired Gatherings, which is why I wanted to utilize this blog to tell you about it. I certainly hope you’ll check out the website and sign up for our event updates by email. But, more importantly, I also feel the story behind Inspired Gatherings is noteworthy because it represents what can be accomplished when we set intentions with details and enthusiasm. It really can be this simple. All I did was say it out loud to Melissa on the phone and I was led to the perfect space a week later. I then took action toward my desire. And once the ball started rolling, it was unstoppable. It was as if the Universe lined up to support us.  

Visit our website at www.InspiredGatherings.com for event listings and to purchase tickets.

Warmly,

Bob Olson
OfSpirit.com editor

JULY 2009

Friendships Have No Barriers

I recently lost a friend, possibly the closest guy friend I’ll ever have in my lifetime. So I thought I’d write about him today for three reasons: One, because I like to share the special parts of my life with my readers. Two, because he lived a lot of life in his 38 years and, therefore, is an inspiration on how to make the most of our brief time here on this planet. And, three, because something special happened after his passing that I feel is important to share with you.

David was born in Massachusetts, but his parents divorced when he was still a young boy, upon which his mother took him back to her home country, England. So David grew up in England, and when he turned 18, he wanted to get to know his father. So he moved back to the States, found himself an apartment, his father helped him get a job, and he discovered what life is like in the USA.

In a short time, David’s childhood sweetheart came over from England—a beautiful, creative young lady named Phoebe—and they got married. They lived simply and survived mostly on the love they had for one another. They seemed the perfect match. She was an artist and writer. He was a musician and singer.

I met David because my wife, Melissa, had taken a new job at the local courthouse where David had been working for only a few months. They immediately bonded because he was kind enough to help her avoid the many pitfalls he had experienced as a new employee. From there, they quickly became one another’s support, considering they were two hard-working, young recruits in a system entrenched with older employees just counting the days until their retirement, a hierarchy of cliques fueled by gossip, and a festering do-as-little-as-possible work ethic.

David also became a compassionate shoulder for Melissa to lean upon because I was suffering from a chronic depression that promised no end in sight. Any caregiver or supporter knows that it’s a stressful and traumatic experience to take care of someone who is sick—mentally or physically.  Supporters need their own support, and David was there for Melissa when I was getting shock treatments, when Melissa worried that I might take my own life, or when their coworkers were spreading rumors that I was dying or we were splitting up.

“Ahh, who cares what they’re saying,” David would tell Melissa. “It’s none of their business, anyway.”

While other friends were confused by my clinical depression and preferred to avoid Melissa and I rather than understand what we were going through, David and Phoebe encouraged us to get out of the house with them to go sit by the reservoir, play Frisbee in a parking lot or watch band concerts on the common. David even read the poetry I wrote at that time, which was my self-expression of the horrors in my mind. He often took what I’d written and turned it into song lyrics that took my despair and turned it into a more palatable emotion such as anger or even laughter at the nonsensicality of my distorted thinking. Aside from Melissa, he was the only person who wasn’t afraid to talk with me about my suffering.

We were all in the same income bracket, which was pretty broke considering Melissa and David each earned an entry-level salary and Phoebe and me were unemployed. So we did things that didn’t cost much money, which ironically became some of the best memories of our lives. We entertained ourselves by sitting around listening to music, watching a movie or sharing a pizza. Yet even after my depression lifted and our incomes grew, we still lived simply, like going to the local livestock fair, shooting pool at the bowling alley, eating at great but inexpensive restaurants, and attending the gardening expo at the nearby convention center.

David was 8 years my youth, but he showed me how life was meant to be lived. He was unusually mature for his age, yet still young in spirit. He was curious by nature. In fact, he was curious about nature: animals, birds, flowers, plants and trees. And he loved gardening. Imagine a twenty-something year old with his own vegetable and herb garden. His father let him create a 20-foot by 20-foot garden in his back yard because David had no place for it at his apartment house. He did a lot of research on hydroponics so he could grow things at home with only water and no soil. But hydroponics never replaced his love for planting, watering and weeding in the earth.

I think David felt a sense of peace growing vegetables and herbs, but he also loved sharing the tomatoes, peppers, kale, cucumbers, summer squash and collards with his friends and coworkers. He was proud of his creations, and he loved eating fresh food right out of the ground.

This, of course, led to his love for cooking. He knew everything about the spices, broths, cheeses and meats that, when combined correctly, created dishes that made my mouth water the moment I walked into his apartment and smelled them simmering on the stove. He, Phoebe and Melissa shared this love for the culinary arts, and would spend hours mixing up a chili, bolognaise or inventing some new dish. He and Phoebe’s favorite recipe was Chicken Curry.

I don’t know from where his zest for life stemmed, but it seemed ingrained in him from childhood. It must have been, as he was one of those people who seemed to know a little about a lot of things. He could read an article, watch a documentary or take a course and he retained 90 percent of the information. I guess we call that a photographic memory; yet he wasn’t an intellectual. Oh no, David was a cigarette smoking, beer drinking, softball playing, fantasy football kind of guy, but with a brain for knowledge.

Perhaps his knowledge came from his willingness to learn. Phoebe recently remarked that he was like one of those speed-dating services where he would master some new skill or talent, then move on to another.

One day he stopped by my house because he had just taken a stone wall building course at the local botanical garden, a place he loved to visit. He also took a course on making beer, then bought a beer-making kit and used to brew up the best tasting beer I’ve ever enjoyed. I was the bottle washer and capper while he did all the technical stuff. After making a batch of beer, we’d kick back while he played Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Black Sabbath or a lot of songs from bands I’d never heard on his guitar for me, Melissa and Phoebe.

David was actually the lead singer of a band that played at some top nightclubs in the city. Imagine, here’s this guy who moves here from England knowing only his father, and, before a year has passed, he’s joined a band that’s headlining in the most popular clubs. Some souls just fit a lot more living into their life.

As I reminisce, it seems we spent most of our weekends with David and Phoebe, often hiking, picnicking, going to the zoo or having cookouts. Even when they eventually had a baby girl, named Daisy, we simply continued our weekend excursions with a new member to our group.

A great lesson I learned from David was to never let the weather affect your plans. We went to an outdoor Cranberries concert in a hammering rain, had cheese and wine in a field of wildflowers with the blistering sun over our heads, and froze our feet ice fishing in the dead of winter. David had never been ice fishing before, but wanted to try it. So he borrowed his father’s ice drill and fishing gear and we figured it out while the girls skated around on their ice skates.

Although David seemed like the right-brained creative type, he was quick to pick up technological skills, as well. I remember we purchased our first computers at the same time, to which David then became a technological whiz, so much that he filled the first IT position at the courthouse where he worked and started his own computer networking business on the side. Later, when I began creating my first websites, David became my tech guy who helped me out with all my computer and Internet problems.

Sadly for Melissa and me, when Daisy turned 5 years old, David and Phoebe decided to move back to England where David’s mother and Phoebe’s mother and sisters still lived. My heart was broken to see them go and I felt a deep sense of grief knowing that the 8 plus years we had spent together had come to an end. But I knew it was important that their loved ones see Daisy grow up, and Phoebe really needed the family support since David worked long hours. That was 9 years ago in the year 2000, yet I still feel them close in my heart when I think of them.

Interestingly, Melissa had a dream about David, Phoebe and Daisy just two weeks ago. In the dream, Melissa and I were visiting them in England and having a wonderful time. According to Melissa, it was an unusually vivid dream. She said it brought back all those tender moments and loving feelings, as if we had really been reunited. Then, just this past Friday night, she had another dream about them.

Three days later, we got the news. On Monday evening, we got the phone call that David had passed away from cancer on Friday night around midnight (EST). As I mentioned, he was 38 years old. Although it’s always surprising when someone his ages dies, David had contacted us a few months ago saying that he had a tumor in his leg removed, had gone through radiation and was given the “all-clear” from his doctor. It was just like him to inform us after the fact. He wasn’t the type to parade around announcing his drama. Nevertheless, we were thrilled to hear that he was okay; and, as so many of us do, we thought we had years ahead for lots of reunions. We didn’t.

Apparently David began experiencing symptoms only a few weeks after our last contact that brought him back to the doctor. He discovered that his body was suddenly riddled with tumors where it had been totally clear just weeks prior. According to Phoebe, his health failed quickly and he passed much sooner than anyone had expected.

Although we were unable to attend his services in England, Phoebe told us that hundreds of people attended, so many that a line of people were unable to fit inside the church and had to stand outside. David accumulated friends easily, and not just in England. When they lived in the States, he was the first to offer to help someone move to a new home, fix their computer or give someone a ride. He and Phoebe even let someone stay at their home temporarily. It was this selfless generosity and compassion for people that attracted people to him.

Having learned of David’s death Monday night, Melissa talked with David in her mind most of the day Tuesday, asking him for a sign that he’s okay. Although we know from our work in this field that death is a doorway home, and that our loved ones are always in a safe and loving place after their passing, it’s always nice to get the confirmation. On her way home at the end of the day, Melissa stopped off at a local sandwich shop. While waiting for the sandwiches to be made, Melissa was standing by the cash register when an employee suddenly picked something up from the counter and handed it to her.

“Here, you want these?” said the girl.

Melissa held out her hand and asked, “What are they?”

As the employee dropped something into Melissa’s hand, she said, “They are two coins from England. Someone paid with them and they’ve just been hanging around here.”

Melissa held the coins in her hand. One for me and one for Bob, she thought to herself. Her eyes instantly welled up with tears, confusing the girl behind the counter.

“You have no idea what you just did,” Melissa told the girl. “We just lost a friend from England and I was asking for a sign from him. Thank you for this.”

With the sandwiches now ready, Melissa grabbed the bag, thanked the girl again and began to leave. That’s when the girl who gave her the coins yelled, “Tell Bob I said hi.”

We have no idea how the girl knew my name.

Melissa and I each took one of the English coins and are carrying them around with us. Melissa’s coin is dated 1992, the year she first met David.

When Melissa talked with Phoebe by phone, she shared her story about hearing from David at the sandwich shop. Phoebe loved her story and had her own story to share, which she agreed that I could share in this blog.

On Tuesday, the same day that Melissa was given the English pence at the sandwich shop, Phoebe had to register David’s death certificate with the town. After returning home and going out for a walk, she began talking with David, as she had been doing regularly since his passing. This time, however, she felt as though he was talking back. She was hearing his voice in her head. Sure that it was likely just her imagination, Phoebe asked David to give her some form of confirmation that she was actually hearing him and not just her own imaginary voice. That’s when she heard David say, “You mother wants to buy a blue dress.”

The next day, Phoebe saw her mother, or her mum, as they say in England. Although hesitant to ask her mum about what David told her, she knew she needed to find out the truth. So she asked her, “Mum, did you recently buy a blue dress?”

Her mother said, “No, Phoebe, I didn’t. But yesterday I saw a blue dress that I wanted and went back to the shop 5 times but just couldn’t get myself to spend the money.”

Regardless of time, distance or death, friendship has no barriers.  

Warmly,

Bob Olson
OfSpirit.com editor

MAY 2009

Four-Coincidence Pileup On The Universal Highway

A trusted colleague recently submitted an article for OfSpirit.com Magazine. Oddly, as I was reading through it, I kept getting an intuitive feeling that it was plagiarized. It was like the word “plagiarism” repeatedly entered my thoughts, which was a weird experience since I’m not a psychic.

What made this more confusing is that I knew this woman as a person of integrity. Because I found it difficult to believe she would steal someone else’s writing and present it as her own, I shook off the feeling, convinced I had enjoyed one too many cups of coffee that morning.

As I continued reading the article, my feeling that it had been plagiarized got stronger. But when I began reading a section of the article that was about this woman’s personal history, I thought to myself, “Aha! This actually happened to her. It’s not plagiarized. I’m being unreasonably suspicious.”

Despite my arguments against it, when I finished reading the article, my intuitive feelings persisted. So I decided to copy and paste just one simple sentence into Google to nullify my concerns. Although I had reason to dispute my sixth sense, I also wondered if she had never been taught about plagiarism and had done it without realizing it was wrong. So I pasted a line of the article into Google.

What resulted from my Google search was a website with an article that not only had that exact same sentence but also the same entire paragraph.

My heart sank.

Was my intuition right about the plagiarism and wrong about this woman’s integrity? Or had she merely never learned how to properly reference other people’s writing when she used it? I didn’t know why she did it, but there was no question in my mind that her words were not her own.

I walked away from my desk and told my wife, Melissa, what I had just uncovered.

“Well you’re going to have to talk with her about it,” said Melissa.

I knew she was right, but I wasn’t thrilled about having to do it. What if there was a perfectly good excuse that I hadn’t considered, yet my questioning her on it insulted her and damaged our relationship? So I did what any person would do who prefers to avoid conflict: I procrastinated the issue and moved on to something else.

Not 30 minutes later did the phone ring and guess who was calling me? Melissa looked at the Caller ID, smiled and said, “Well, there you go,” as she handed me the phone.

The woman was calling me about a completely random and minor question. I quickly answered her question, after which I had to say, “Well, now that I have you on the phone, I need to talk to you about your article.”

It turns out that this woman had hired someone to help her write the article because she was too busy to write it herself. This is a common practice known as ghostwriting. My colleague, of course, thought she was paying the writer to write the whole article. Instead, the writer wrote my colleague’s personal history but chose to steal the words of other writers to fill out the article.

In order to talk with the writer about the issue, my colleague asked me to email her the paragraph that was plagiarized and the website where I saw the originating article. Before doing so, I pasted a different sentence of the article into Google just for kicks. This time, I found that two completely new paragraphs of her article had also been copied—and from an entirely different writer’s article.

I couldn’t get myself to test another sentence in the article. Three stolen paragraphs were enough, and from two different writers and articles. However, while doing this last Google search, I also noticed my colleague had an article that was posted on another magazine’s website. This was a different article than she had submitted to me. So, out of curiosity, I took a line from it and pasted it into a Google search.

What came up was some guy’s blog that had the exact same article—word for word, paragraph for paragraph. There must have been 800 identical words.

I told my colleague about the blog, to which she replied that she had actually written that article herself. This meant that the blog writer had plagiarized HER. All I could think to say was, “Wow, now you know how it feels.”

While this blog might appear to be a lesson in plagiarism, it is not, although I certainly think more people ought to know the proper way to steer clear of copyright infringement (a vast problem on the Internet that few people fully understand). With that said, what amazes me most about this story are the ways that the Universe has weaved its web using the magic of intuition, coincidence and spiritual guidance. Let’s look at what took place:

1) My intuition screamed that this article was plagiarized, so strongly that it overcame my intellect’s arguments that it was not.

2) The very first sentence I pasted into Google was one that had been stolen.

3) In less than 30 minutes, my colleague was inspired to call me for a random, minor question while I was procrastinating calling her.

4) I stumbled upon the blog of some guy who had, in turn, plagiarized my colleague, helping her to experience both sides of the intrusion.

Any one of these events could surely be chalked up to random coincidence. But when a series of coincidences pile up in a row, all leading toward a powerful lesson in the end, I can’t help but to admire the intricate infinitude of the Universe.

Warmly,

Bob Olson
OfSpirit.com editor

APRIL 2009

As Luck Would Have It: A Los Angeles Carjacking

In 1990, my wife, Melissa, and I lived in Los Angeles for a year. Being in our twenties and just getting started in life, we decided to try city life for a change. We had a Ford Bronco II that was constantly in the mechanic shop. So, one day, after our little SUV was towed to the shop, I had to rent a car.

Although I rented the cheapest car the rental company offered, they upgraded me to a mid-size car since they didn’t have any cheep cars left. They gave me a brand new, red Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, which I thought was just the coolest car in the world.

About 11:00 that night, it was time to pick Melissa up from work, who was working at Pier One Imports in Santa Monica. It was Christmas season, so they were open later than normal, which meant I had to wait for her to close up the store.

Melissa was the assistant manager, so she was always the last one to leave. I was so used to waiting for her that it wasn’t unusual for me to fall asleep in the parking lot. And while I normally sat in my car with the windows open (keeping in mind that this was Southern California), this particular night was chilly, so I had the windows closed. The truth is that I was sitting in the car playing with the electric windows and door locks in my boredom. Not having these luxuries in my own car, I had a slight fascination with them.

At one point, I noticed in my rear-view mirror that five young guys were walking into the parking lot. I didn’t think anything of it and assumed they were just passing through. Then I noticed that one of them was standing to my right by the passenger’s side door with a smile on his face.

Since I was used to people in the city asking for spare change, I expected this was what he wanted. After all, I was now sitting in a brand new sporty car, so I probably looked like I had money to spare. As I was about to roll down the window to talk to him, that’s when I noticed that all five guys had surrounded my car. One stood in front of my car, one behind it, two at the doors on my side of the car, and then there was this guy who was smiling at me at the front passenger’s side door.

Before I had a chance to think, the three guys at the doors were attempting to open them. Lucky for me, I had unknowingly left each of the car doors locked when I was playing with the door lock button. Within seconds after failing to open my doors, the guy standing beside me began to beat on my window with his fist, which had absolutely no effect on the glass. That’s when he pulled a gigantic screwdriver out of his belt that must have been a foot-and-a-half long.

This was all happening so fast that my brain hadn’t yet acknowledged that I was being carjacked. Within seconds, however, my mind and body went into flight or fight mode. I knew I had to get the heck out of there. Unfortunately, because I was not used to this car, I faltered when trying to get the car started and into gear.

As I stammered to get the car going, the guy next to me began jamming the screwdriver into the side of the window where it met the door and began prying it in an attempt to buckle the glass and make it break. Instead of the glass breaking, the molding around the window fell off. So the carjacker turned the screwdriver around and started slamming it like a hammer into my window, which was a strange sensation that distracted me from finding the shifter. Instead, I was preparing my body to protect myself from the broken glass. The glass still did not break.

I finally got the car into drive and hit the gas peddle. The guy’s eyes in front of the car opened wide as he dove to the side. The Cutlass Supreme shot off causing two of the guys who quickly jumped on the car to take to the air. I drove behind Pier One Imports and arrived at an adjacent street, thereby causing me to stop and wait for traffic. In seconds, all five guys caught up to me and had surrounded my car. They were now slamming my windows again; yet the windows still would not break.

Once traffic allowed, I spun into the street and drove down to a gas station about a quarter-mile away. I jumped out of the car to a payphone (cell phones were still a luxury at this time and we didn’t own one). I immediately called Melissa at work and told her not to leave the building. She told me that she had already heard noises like someone was trying to break into the store, so she locked herself in the back room office and called 911. But the 911 operator told her to go into the store to see if anyone was there, which seemed like ridiculous advice; so Melissa hung up on her and hid under the desk. She was about to call 911 again when I called.

I hung up with Melissa and called 911 myself, guiding the police to Pier One. I then drove back there and waited. In minutes, the police arrived by car and helicopter, but never caught the carjackers. Melissa was safe.

The police told me that I was very lucky. Carjackers generally shoot through the window while shooting the driver at the same time. That way they can just unlock the door, pull out driver and take the car. They said that the screwdriver was likely meant to stab me if they had got the door open, but they never got that far.

In the days after this happened, everyone who heard this story seemed to agree: I was lucky. I was lucky that the windows did not break. I was lucky that I coincidentally left the doors locked after playing with the door lock button. I was lucky that it was unusually chilly this night so that I had the windows closed instead of open as usual. I was even lucky that I was awake instead of sleeping as usual. Just imagine how long it would have taken me to react if I were sleeping.

On the other hand, I also recognize that I was unlucky that my car broke down, because that led me to rent a car. Nobody would have wanted to carjack my crappy car. I was also unlucky that the car rental company was out of cheap rental cars, so they upgraded me to a mid-sized car, a brand new Cutlass Supreme (a red one to boot), although that made me feel lucky at the time. I was also unlucky that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, which means I was right in the random path of these thugs who saw my fancy sports car as they were walking down the street.

So was I lucky or unlucky? We can ask ourselves these types of questions all day long. Was I lucky that I beat my illness or unlucky that I got sick in the first place? Was I lucky to have survived the plane crash or unlucky that the plane crashed at all? Was I lucky that my team won or was the other team unlucky and lost? And what does that mean when my team loses tomorrow; does luck change from day to day, hour to hour, or minute to minute?

What if this is not a matter of luck at all? What if this is simply a matter of experiencing life, having good and bad things happen, and then moving forward in the best way possible without giving it a label and without placing responsibility for it anywhere or on anyone?

I’m not trying to make a statement or teach a lesson here. I just think this story incites a great question, one to which we may never know the answer. Yet we just can’t help wondering as we go through life, can we?

My new blogging site is: http://bobolson.wordpress.com

Warmly,
Bob Olson

MARCH 2009

The Universe Creates Miracles To Support You

I was talking with a friend the other day who recently lost his job due to the new economy layoffs. This all came rather unexpected since he had been in his industry for 30 years and always considered his employment secure. He now toyed with the idea of doing something completely different for work, but lacked the confidence necessary to take this risky leap of faith into the unknown. Knowing that I have been self-employed since I was a teenager, he called me to talk about where my confidence for risk-taking is found. He needed to chat in hopes that he, too, might tap into such a mindset.

Without having any pep talk planned, I met my friend at a local Starbucks and began talking about my various entrepreneurial careers throughout my life. I hoped that the answers he sought might show up in my stories. They did. One story after another, it became clearly evident that I have been supported by some unknown force in every venture I’ve taken. Miracles occurred to help lead me toward my goal, usually in the form of coincidence. The more memories I recalled, the more evidence I acquired that I’ve been guided and supported.

For the sake of time and space, I’ll give only one example. When I got out of college with a degree in Criminology, a professor had encouraged me to become a private investigator. So I became licensed and hit the streets as a Private Eye, not really knowing how to drum up business or even the proper way to investigate. After a few months of struggle, a high school buddy of mine told his step-father about what I was doing. The step-father was a lawyer who used a private investigator now and then, so he offered to introduce me to him. I instantly hit it off with the veteran P.I. and he let me hang with him for a few days to see what he did for work. Coincidentally, he was at a place in his life where he had become more interested in his side business of repossessing cars for banks and his investigations had piled up due to his lack of interest in them. Long story short, I first began working with him to help him with his case load and later took over his business and clients.

After discussing several stories like this with my friend who had recently lost his job, I recognized a pattern. Once I decided what I wanted in life, I always took action very quickly. In metaphysical terms, I set an intention and then followed that intention with action. My action told the Universe what I wanted and often helped to put me in touch with people who could help me. Sometimes, where I landed was not exactly where I had originally taken action to go; it was even better. And what I realized was that if not for my action, I might have never got where I landed, because it was my action that put me in the right place with the right people and at the right time for the miracles to occur.

I encourage you to take some time to think about and write down all the lucky breaks, divine coincidences and miracles that have occurred in your life that have allowed you to achieve your goals, meet the right people and attract whatever you’ve needed to have, be and do in order to meet your desires. These are not just random coincidences and lucky breaks. These are examples of the Universe supporting you.

If you actually take the time to write down all the evidence of this in your life, you will feel immensely empowered. Knowing that the Universe/Spirit/Source/God has got your back will help you to have the courage to take the necessary risks, get through the tough times and feel the inner peace amongst the chaos. Imagine knowing that you are not alone. How would your life change if you felt supported in this way? It’s certainly an exercise worth trying.

My new blogging site is: http://bobolson.wordpress.com

Warmly,
Bob Olson

JANUARY 15, 2009

New Simpler Blog Style For A New Simpler Life

I started blogging February 11, 2006. My blogs began as 500 words or less. They were simple comments about life, vignettes of lessons I’d learned. At this early stage, blogging was fun because it was quick and easy to do; it was an intimate way to communicate with my online audience. Yet the problem began when my readers, including friends and family members, began to comment on how much they enjoyed my latest blog entry, and the feedback encouraged me to write more.

By September 2006, my blog entries began to get longer, maybe 1000 words in length. I was now telling complete stories, most of which landed with a lesson about life. This only incited more praise from readers. The most common comment, “I started to read your latest blog and found by myself reading another one and another one. Two hours passed before I realized I needed to get back to work…or get to sleep…or feed my children.”

By April 2007, my blog entries had become full-length articles. Before I knew it, I was writing 3000-word blogs and I was out of control. Still, the longer my blogs got, the more positive feedback I received. A book publishing editor even asked if I’d consider publishing a book of my blog stories, though I didn’t have enough yet to complete a book. Moreover, I now felt obligated to my blog readers to continue with the more in-depth stories, despite feeling like I was now writing book chapters rather than blog entries.

By early 2008, I told my wife, Melissa, who posts my blogs on OfSpirit.com Magazine and in our newsletter, that I was giving up the blog. I confessed that I didn’t have time to write the stories anymore. She understood but kept encouraging me to write a new story when the next magazine and newsletter issue came around because she knew how much creative satisfaction I gained from it. On occasions when I absolutely couldn’t find the time, Melissa merely posted an article I had previously written in its place. Since my blog entries were already like articles, nobody cared. In fact, according to reader feedback, some of my most popular blog entries were articles I had written years prior.

With the New Year having arrived, it seems appropriate that this is my last blog entry of length (though still under 600 words). What’s happened is that something that I love doing has become somewhat of a burden, and that’s when I know it’s time to stop. So, rather than give up blogging completely, I’ve decided to get back to basics. I’m going to write blogs the way they were originally meant to be written: one to three paragraphs at a shot. I’ll miss writing the stories, but maybe there’ll be a book of stories someday.

So in the coming weeks and months, I’ll do my best to pass along any helpful, interesting and potentially life-changing information that crosses my path. It might be a website, a YouTube video or a book. And if I learn any life lessons along the way, I’ll just pass the lesson along in a brief post. Already I have some lessons I’ve learned over the last few months that I can’t wait to share with you, so please visit my blog often. And if you like the new, simpler format, be sure to let me know (comments are welcome on the blogging site), as it will encourage me to keep it going and keep it simple.

My new blogging site is: http://bobolson.wordpress.com

Happy New Year,
Bob Olson

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