An unexpected gift brings joy

The event itself was a gift.

I moderated the recent first ever Latina Summit sponsored by the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on the river at the General Motors Renaissance Center. Three women of substance offered worthy observations about business and success in hopes their words might help someone seeking to make strides in both.

There were role models on the panel and scattered throughout the audience. There was great camaraderie of spirit. There was great food.

But before the afternoon ended, there also was a moment to left me dumbstruck.  A scarfwoman I’d never me walked up to thank me for participating, to tell me she appreciated what I offer through my newspaper column and what I said as I moderated the panel. I thanked her and complimented her attire, including a beautiful scarf of lavendar, turquoise, green and blue – my four favorite colors.

“I’d like you to have it,” she said as she took it off. I did what any self-respecting woman would and said, “Oh, no.”

But she insisted. So I did what any woman who loves a good gift would: I accepted it with gratitude and humility.

What she did I had done before:  Someone complimented a bracelet. I took it off and gave it to them. Someone liked a pen (I use Papermate Inkjoys exclusively.) I offered it to them.

There is such joy and giving and getting that I like doing both as often as possible. So I accepted the scarf, a gift from Sylvia Gucken, assistant to the chairman of the Ideal Group. At the moment she gave it to me, I hope an angel got her wings. But if they didn’t, I know that Sylvia may have made a case for her to get her own.

There should be a special place in heaven for people who make other people’s day.

She made mine!

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.

The Jar: Counting our blessings all year long in 2013

The Facebook posting stopped me short.

A California nonprofit was encouraging Facefriends to find an empty jar and – beginning January 1 – filling it up regularly with good things that happen all year. Then on New Year’s Eve, anyone who does can open one of The. Best. Presents. Ever.

I’m in.

I’ve done this before – on a smaller scale. When I’ve hosted celebrations, I’ve given guests cards to write notes. No further instructions. Some of those have been among the most moving, special gifts I’ve ever received.

And at a recent work anniversary celebration, I hired a photo booth and I have dozens of photo strips of and with friends.

But this? This is something different. This is a reminder to take a moment every now and again over an entire year and celebrate.

I always say: Celebrate the small victories. They count.

Now, we get to count them.

I’m doing it, and I’m excited about it. Who’s with me?


Making Time Stay On Your Side

I didn’t need anybody to tell me that I was wasting time.

I’m trying to finish a project, which is, of course, the exact reason why I was watching the “Ten Cutest Videos of 2012” as collected by

But then, I had a second thought.

What if, rather than wasting time, I was taking command of it.

Sometimes, I thought, taking a break can be good for what ails you.  I’m an A personality who operates at 78 rpm all the time. It was only after I had surgery last February and was forced to stay in or near the bed for three weeks that I learned what operating at a more deliberate speed felt like.

And I liked it.

So now, when I map out my days – days filled with my day job (writing columns), my night job (finishing what I hope is the final rewrite on my novel) and my life jobs (the volunteer work I do for my church, my sorority and other organizations) – I remind myself that a little break doesn’t keep the work from happening. It just makes my brain function better.

Yeah, I know it sounds like an excuse to goof off. But it isn’t – if it’s only 15 minutes out of 10 hours.

So if you want to try it, I’ve got some cute pandas and beagles to show you. Break a leg on the work front, but on the way, take a minute to smile.

With a friend like Mark . . . and an Otter Box

Celebrated the eve of my birthday with wonderful friends in Washington, D.C. and learned two valuable lessons. My friend, Mark and I had a small accident on the way Jaleo’s, my favorite restaurant, in Arlington, Va.

We were chatting and laughing and Mark turned the corner to sharply, running over the extremely high medians (as Arlington tends to have in the city center). He got out and tried to push the car back over the nearly-foot high concrete barrier. No go. So he asked me to get behind the wheel.

I was holding my coat (The weather was gorgeous!) and my phone in my lap. I jumped out, ran around and took the wheel. I steered in reverse, while he pushed us out of a predicament.

Only when I got to the restaurant a little while later and got read ty take photos, did I remember that my Iphone had been on my lap!

Mark dutifully went back to the car to, hopefully, find it on the floor.

We got worried when he had been gone for more than 20 minutes.

Suddenly, he walked in and handed me an Iphone. I said “This isn’t mine.” LOL! Silly me. Of course it was mine, minus one Otter Box case that had kept my phone from being destroyed when it landed in in the street and was run over.

Yes, run over.

When Mark didn’t find the phone in the car, he dialed my number, and a Marriott-Crystal City Gateway employee who had found it on the street answered, saying “Is this your phone?” Mark drove over to get it.

Phone is FINE!

Two lessons: 1) Everyone should use an Otter Box to protect their Iphones.

2) Everyone should have a friend like Mark.


The best gift of all

This Christmas, I am working harder on holiday gifts than ever. This year, I’ve decided not to buy them. This year, I am writing letters, notes of admiration, realization and reflection, for my dearest friends.

The decision really made itself. I just returned from a trip to Dakar, and just didn’t have time to spend in stores trying to decide which thing that my friends already own I should try to replace. I imagined strolling down aisles and through department stores and the very idea gave me a headache.

Which one could use another sweater? Which one might like another pair of earrings that are more my taste than theirs? How many more ties can I buy?

Nope, this time, this year, I am using the gift God gave me to create a unique gift for each of them: notes of encouragement and gratitude, words to let them know how I feel about them, how much I appreciate them being in my life.  If they take them in the right spirit, they won’t think I’m dying and saying goodbye, but will understand how much I love them.

I made three exceptions: my friend, Shelley, who is among the smartest, funniest and most practical people I know. I got her a picture frame. She’s already decided what to put in it. my friend, Phyllis. I had decided before I left that I wanted her to have something tangible that she could show off; and daughter, sister, brother, aunt and cousin, who comprise my nuclear family, the core that is left back in North Carolina. I knew before the plane took off for Senegal that I would bring them something back from there.

Everyone else gets the best of what’s inside of me, what I think of them and feel about them.

I hope they appreciate the words as much as I appreciate them.