“Looking for Signs of Life,” column for Tues., June 7, 2016

One of the happier surprises that came with moving to Las Vegas 10 years ago was finding a hairdresser I adore. I wrote a column about the move and a reader in Indiana emailed to say that if I needed a hairdresser (ha!) she would highly recommend a young woman who was not only great with hair (and worked in a salon near my home) but was also a fabulous human being.

“You can trust me,” the reader said, “I’m her mother!”

I was sold. That’s how I met Julia, a gift to my heart and soul and hair. I would follow her anywhere _ even to a new salon where she recently relocated, a half-hour’s drive across town in heavy, hepmejeezes, traffic.

Despite what my husband may tell you, I’m an excellent driver. I like driving. I’ve driven across country a dozen times and loved every mile. More or less.

It’s not the driving that I mind. It’s freeways. And traffic. And drivers who fly like rabid bats ablaze on their way out of hell.

But an appointment with Julia is worth it. Absolutely. That’s what I was thinking last week, as I left her salon and got hit by a blast from Mother Nature’s blow dryer. It was 110 degrees. The wind was roaring off the desert strong enough to airlift a goat. And it was 5 p.m., prime time for hepmejeezes traffic.

What do you think? Did I get in line on the freeway? Or did I walk over to California Pizza Kitchen to order take-out?

At the counter, a pleasant young man took my order (two big salads, two small pizzas to go) and asked if I’d like something while I waited.

“Club soda with lime, please.”

“And how about some bread with olive oil?” he asked.

I could’ve kissed him. Instead, I fished Frederick Buechner’s “The Sacred Journey” out of my purse and began to read and rehydrate and stuff myself with bread soaked in olive oil.

When I came to a passage where Buechner writes about listening to our lives for the voice of God, I stopped to listen: A clatter of dishes. A murmur of voices. Muzak playing softly.

Then the music changed. And I smiled to hear the voice of an old friend: “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” by the late, blessedly great, James Brown.

I don’t know about you, but for me, James Brown is about as good as good ever gets. When his music hits just so in all the right spots, I find it impossible to sit still. So I began to move just a little, not much, a nod of my head, a lift of my shoulder.

Suddenly, I realized I was not the only one. A chef twirling pizza dough twirled it a little higher. A server delivered salads with a spin. An older couple closed their eyes and smiled. And a 3-year-old broke free from his parents’ grip to shake his little booty in the aisle.

No one climbed on the counter to dance. If they had, I was ready to join them.

OK, here’s the truth. I can’t swear that any of those things happened in reality. But I assure you they happened for me.

I’ve learned over the years that if we watch and listen for moments that make us glad to be alive, we will find them. It’s easy. They’re everywhere.

If we watch and listen for things that fill us with worry and fear and dread, those things will find us.  That’s easy, too.

What is hard is making the choice, glad over bad. But the choice is always ours to make.

My order came up, so I tipped the server for his kindness and headed home. Traffic wasn’t bad. The pizza was good. My husband was happy to get it. When I told him about my “moment” in the restaurant, he laughed like a little boy.

The late James Brown is, in some ways, very much alive and well.

So am I. So are you.

Here’s to choosing to remember it.


  1. Linda Kantowski says

    This is for your reader, Doris who asked the question if ever you considered to move back to California.. Doris, ..Sharon is my most wonderful, valued friend here in Las Vegas and I will arm wrestle you to the death if you try to coax her back to CA. I will not let her go without a fight!!LOL

  2. Doris lee says

    Great article as usual Sharon. I do wonder if you have considered moving back to California?

  3. Christine T says

    I had one of “those” moments, early, early morning, pumping gas at COSTCO.
    Me, a bit on the ancient side of middle-aged, got moving and grooving on the music from Dirty Dancing.
    Suddenly there was a voice.
    Ooops, pardon me? Said it again…the gas station attendant:
    “May I have this dance?”
    I smiled all day

  4. Good thoughts, I often wonder why people say they never hear God speak to them. I think that they just need to stop and listen. These are the moments that make my life.

  5. Sheila Torres says

    What you say is so true.. If you look for the good, it’s there – the happy moments! Bless you ❤️

  6. I just LOVE reading your columns. You always make me laugh, you have made me cry as well.
    Thank you for your gift!

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