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  1. TIA: Chapter 8

    September 12, 2016 by ccreamer


    Lisa reached up and tugged on her dad’s coat sleeve. Nathan looked down as she mouthed the word, Me!

    Standing bravely, Lisa held tightly to the coin her grandfather had given her after she’d challenged father and son to fix the feud that was way past in need of being fixed. She’d watched her father since that moment, grow and forgive. The two most important men in her life had faced a difficult thing and deepened her faith in family. She couldn’t not say something, as difficult as it was going to be.

    Fighting back the tears, Lisa spoke. “I’m so proud today,” she sputtered. “I know that sounds weird. I’ve known my grandpa all my life, but I didn’t know everyone he knew. There are so many people here I don’t recognize and I wonder how many stories I’ll never know. He was a grandfather to me. But he was a friend or a doctor or a neighbor to everyone else here. I bet everyone could tell a story that would amaze me and surprise many of us.

    “Grandpa used to take me to The Orchard when I was younger, just the two of us. He told me stories and showed me all the places he played as a child. I remember the old oak tree on the ridge. One time he let me climb up on the big limb he used to sit on for hours as a kid. He’d said it was a different world up there. It was so beautiful and magical, really. I remember looking down at him and he had the biggest smile spread across his face. He was so alive and happy in that place. I will remember that smile for the rest of my life.

    “Then, we’d always get ice cream at the soda fountain that was still open at that time. It was in the general store he used to go to as a kid to buy penny candy out of a jar. He knew the counter person by name and always asked about his family.”

    Lisa smiled at the memory, paused, and then raised her right hand high in the air, holding out one of Annette’s gold coins.

    “My grandpa gave me this golden coin when I was in high school. He said that I’d helped him and my dad. That I’d made a difference for them. At the time I thought it was kinda cool, you know. But I have carried this coin with me ever since. I’ve heard stories from Dad and Uncle Garrett and Annette at the coffee shop. I’ve actually witnessed coin exchanges in stores around Woodinville. I mean, gosh.” Lisa smiled.

    “This coin has grown in meaning. For me, it has become a symbol of trust and love. It represents a way to connect. And the truth is I have not been the same since I got it. It has helped me become more aware in every interaction I have with people, whether they are family or friends or strangers. When I open my purse to pay for coffee or something from the mall or a movie ticket, I see it there and I am reminded of my personal mission to be authentic with everyone I meet.”

    Lisa grimaced as she collected herself.

    “I loved him so much. He was my grandfather, and he was my biggest fan.”

    Lisa started to cry, making no attempt to fight it back. Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she walked up to the casket and placed the coin gently on the surface. She then leaned over and, just as her father had done, kissed the oak wood sweetly.

    “Goodbye, Grandpa. Love you forever.”

  2. TIA: Chapter 7

    August 30, 2016 by ccreamer


    Looking out on the gathered once again, Nathan felt a growing appreciation for his father and all the people he had touched in his life. Nathan’s admittedly skewed view of his father, especially during his adult years, had concentrated on their mostly contentious relationship. In spite of the recent two years of father-son reawakening, he hadn’t altogether resolved the hurt of the decade that had preceded it. But that was not on his mind as he addressed the mourners.

    “First, I’d like to thank everyone for joining us today. I think my father would have been pleased and a little surprised that so many people have taken the time to be here.”

    Nathan paused to quell his rising emotion. He took a deep breath and continued.

    “He lived in this community his entire life and opened his business here, wanting to stay a part of Woodinville and raise his family. He grew up on the farm next to The Orchard, which was near and dear to him. During our last visit he shared many of his childhood memories. I could see in his eyes as he described those adventures, the joy he experienced growing up there. One of his biggest regrets was not being able to hold onto the orchard and pass it along to Garrett and I.

    “But now, when I drive by, or see it from a distance, as we can from this beautiful spot, I think it has become his legacy all the same. The farmhouse is there, the orchards still produce, and families from the adjoining neighborhood and the entire Woodinville community enjoy it just as he once did.”

    Nathan gazed out past the group to the farmhouse in the distance, recalling that day at The Orchard when Jillian had told his dad about the coin experiment and his father’s spiteful reaction. They were then still struggling in their relationship. But it was shortly after that visit that they came to terms with the hurt that had distanced them from one another.

    “I’d like to welcome anyone here to step forward and share a story about my dad, if you feel like it. I see many familiar faces, but there are many I don’t know. So, please, if you’d like to speak, I invite you to do so.”

  3. TIA: Chapter 6

    August 2, 2016 by ccreamer


    After a few minutes, when it looked like everyone had made their way from the serpentine of cars, Pastor Miller raised his right hand slightly to get everyone’s attention, and offered a prayer. Then, he spoke about a life and the contributions of a man committed to family, service and community.

    “Dr. Danforth Perkins was a gift to our community, and to his family. In his life he gave of himself to both and was a model citizen to which we all can aspire. It is incumbent on all of us gathered here to see this gift, and not dwell on the loss or the absence of someone we love.

    “Dr. Perkins grew up here. He started his business here. And he raised a family here. His legacy is here and will remain for the rest of our lives.

    “Nathan and Garrett have asked me to concentrate on the stories of those who are here today because they want everyone to have the opportunity to speak. Dr. Danforth Perkins had 45 years of helping patients and living in this community and he left a significant mark.”

    Pastor Miller gestured subtly to Nathan that it was time for him to address the group.

  4. TIA: Chapter 5

    July 25, 2016 by ccreamer


    Pastor Jeremiah Miller moved to the Unity Methodist Church almost 35 years ago. Woodinville was not that much different than the small town he’d grown up in in Tennessee and he and his family called it ‘home’ soon after they arrived. The beauty of the Pacific Northwest mirrored their own home town along with its small town values.

    Pastor Miller had also been a patient of Danforth Perkins for many years before he retired. Though Danforth was not an overly religious man, Pastor Miller knew he was a deeply spiritual man. He lived his life in such a way that any church would proudly call him one of their own. He was a good dentist and a generous member of the community. Every time Pastor Miller was in Dr. Danforth’s office, he invited him and his family to join him at Sunday service. He came off and on over the years.

    It wasn’t until Dr. Danforth’s wife was battling cancer many years ago that he came in need of someone to listen and not judge. He needed that desperately because Nathan had been consumed with his window business and Garrett was in dental school and too young to take on the burden of his adult suffering.

    At that time, in confidence, he admitted to his growing anger with his eldest son for abandoning him, and his wife, during this time to focus on his newly purchased business. The stress of keeping his dental practice alive while watching his wife deteriorate was physically exhausting and emotionally devastating. He struggled with the love he had for his son while harboring such repressed anger at the same time. That, combined with losing his wife of almost 30 years, had been crushing him.

    Pastor Miller knew Dr. Danforth had carried many burdens, not the least of which was his guilt for not being able to save everyone he loved.

  5. TIA: Chapter 4

    July 18, 2016 by ccreamer


    It was a short walk past the large oak tree; Nathan noticed the swing swaying in the breeze. He had arranged for the cemetery to install the wooden swing on the tree near the grave site. Sitting in the swing one could see The Orchard and the farmhouse clearly in the distance.

    He recalled their final visit to the farmhouse and the big oak tree on the ridge that looked out over the valley. His dad had many good memories from that spot, sitting up on a limb that gave a sweeping view of the orchard and all the goings-on that would capture a curious child’s young mind.

    After setting the casket onto the crossbars above the freshly dug grave, Nathan joined Jillian and Lisa, clasping the hands of both and taking a deep breath. Scanning the gathering crowd he marked the faces of friends, family and co-workers. Annette had shown up with several of her baristas. He was surprised to see the Woodinville police officer who’d pulled him over two years earlier. And the speech pathologist who’d cared for his father when he was in the facility on Aurora.

    Foster, of course, had brought his family. He was one of the most senior employees at Winning Windows and probably the only person outside of family Nathan had confided in about his father.

    How many varied lives my father touched, he thought.

  6. TIA: Chapter 3

    July 9, 2016 by ccreamer


    Nathan opened the car door for his wife, Jillian. Simultaneously, their daughter, Lisa, emerged from the other side of the car. Holding her skirt as she stood, Lisa appeared to be avoiding contact with the scene around her. Nathan noticed, and he felt for her.

    Nathan walked to the front of the car with Jillian and guided her to Lisa. Like wounded birds, they leaned delicately on one another, their eyes glistening and lost. Nathan whispered encouragement to them and walked to the back of the hearse as the rear door was opened to reveal a dark oak casket. The beauty of the woodwork and the intricate ornamentation were invisible to Nathan. All he felt was the deep loss of someone he’d recently rediscovered. He and his father had overcome years of stubborn distance and their relationship had grown in ways he’d once given up on.

    The sight of the casket momentarily took his breath away. It was Garrett’s hands on his shoulders that prompted him to breathe again. He turned to embrace Garrett and Garrett’s wife, Beth.

    The loss of their father had hit Nathan much harder than he had expected. Though Garrett had the closer relationship, Nathan had long sought his father’s approval and love ‒ As any eldest son would. However, the happenstance of Annette and her coins had unexpectedly thawed years of detachment that had grown between them.

    Nathan had been hurt deeply when his father first accused him of using the coin as a gimmick, belittling him as a business owner, and more personally, as a son. His daughter, Lisa, had been the peacemaker, claiming her place in a generation that tells it like it is. She exposed their not-so-silent feud, challenging them to move past it. Everything changed after that, and for a little less than two years Nathan enjoyed the love of a father who’d held him at arm’s length for most of his adult life.

    As the casket began to roll out, Nathan, Garrett, Foster, an employee of Winning Windows, and three of Dr. Danforth’s long-time patients each in turn, clasped a handle and silently lifted Dr. Danforth Perkins to their shoulders.

    Nathan turned and kissed the casket, whispering, “Let’s go, Dad.”

  7. TIA: Chapter 2

    June 6, 2016 by ccreamer


    Woodinville Weekly-

    Dr. Danforth W. Perkins passed away last Thursday at Woodinville Community Hospital. He is survived by two sons, Nathan and Garrett Perkins. Dr. Perkins founded Perkins Dental in 1960 and practiced for 45 years before turning it over to his son, Dr. Garrett Perkins. “Dr. Dan” as he was commonly known was a pillar of the Woodinville community. In addition to running a successful dental practice, he gave back to the community in many ways. Once a month he opened the clinic on a Saturday to see children who were unable to afford dental care. His son, Dr. Garrett, has continued this practice.

    Dr. Dan participated in the All Fools Day Parade each year. If you never saw the giant tooth balanced on a float with multi-colored floss wafting in the wind, you missed out. His weekly contributions to the Woodinville newspaper contributed a vast amount of information about dental health. And it wasn’t uncommon to see him looking into a child’s mouth at the local supermarket. He was a neighborhood dentist and a friend to many in our community.

    His eldest son, Nathan Perkins, owner of Winning Windows, is well known for spreading coins in Woodinville for ‘excellent service.’ He got the idea from Annette Florence, the owner of Seven Coins Coffee who used coins in training her baristas. The idea behind it was to acknowledge exceptional service when they saw it in the community, which helped them in providing outstanding service in the coffee shop. Nathan started with seven coins and created an avalanche of incredible service throughout our community which contributed mightily to Woodinville becoming the winery mecca of Washington State. We have become a destination in the northwest, thanks in large part to Nathan. Dr. Garrett Perkins began handing out coins at Perkins Dental, sometimes giving out as many as a hundred gold coins a week. It has become a legacy of the Perkins family and something Dr. Danforth Perkins had become extremely proud of.

    In an article two years ago, Dr. Perkins was interviewed about the coins that were showing up throughout the community, he is quoted, “I’m terribly sad to say I thought it was a stunt when Nathan first told me about it, but I think he’s done more good in this community in one year’s time than I did in 40. It’s amazing how people have responded and how everyone took to providing really good service, or meaningful transactions as Nathan called it, with every person they met. I’m very proud of Nathan and what he’s accomplished with his business as well as in our community. And I love that Garrett started handing out coins at Perkins Dental. I couldn’t be more proud of my sons. Really.”

    Services will be held at the Unity Methodist Church on Monday at Noon.

  8. TIA: Chapter 1

    May 30, 2016 by ccreamer

    If you closed your eyes, the sound of birds and crickets was all there was. The air was warm, though cooled somewhat by breeze enough to rustle your hair. The pastoral setting could be felt.

    Rolling hills framed the background in fall colors of golden yellow and orange. It was a postcard autumn day in the Woodinville countryside. Peaceful. Perfect by Pacific Northwest standards.

    The sound of a car’s slow approach broke the silence. Gently, at first, as if unwilling to disturb the scene. The one became many, a long line of cars with headlights aglow. A shiny, black mechanical serpent weaving its way along a winding road barely wide enough to justify the intrusion.

    A long black limo stopped adjacent to the large oak tree supporting a rope swing. The cars, one after the other, rolled to gentle stops. The perfect Woodinville fall day resumed, though the birds and crickets waited in anticipation. A single autumn leaf fell slowly, silently to the ground next to the tree.

    Nathan Perkins was the first to emerge from the car behind the limo. Standing up, he stopped, making the most of the serenity around him. Then, drawing in a deep breath, he looked back over his shoulder and focused on the ominous line of cars. Unlike his recurring dreams of two years ago, he was not frozen by fear. That did not, however, make it any easier for him this day.

    He was here to bury his father.

  9. Traders of the Lost Art

    May 27, 2016 by ccreamer

    This is ground zero. TOTLA. I didn’t know what it meant several years ago when it popped into my head. I’ve tried to force several ideas into what it ‘might’ become since then, but it wasn’t until The Transaction sprung to life on a cross-state road trip to Spokane Washington that the answer emerged. Four hours of non-stop brain-storming and an idea was birthed, a fable was formed.

    The ‘lost art’ I refer to is service and suddenly everywhere I go I am seeing service in absentia. It is indeed lost. It might be lost at the hands of a rudderless small business with no clear understanding of customer service. Or it might be disguised as an ill-advised dictate from corporate as part of the mission statement or an element of a culture the higher-ups want to sell to uncritical customers. But it lacks authenticity, all the same, and is frequently uninspired. It isn’t service. It is scripted (aka forced) interaction.

    It is plagiarism of the human spirit.

    We have all been in checkout lines where the cashier asks, ‘Did you find everything you need?’ It is a hollow question which may provide a conversation starter, but in the end a smile would likely accomplish just as much, or more. There is rarely any attempt at connection. ‘Thank you, Mr. Jones [cashier reading off receipt]. Have a nice day.’

    The simple point of The Transaction is the exchange between people that takes place at a more authentic level, with the possibility of a deeper connection. It need not be reserved for family and friends or special occasions. It can, and should, take place every day, with every opportunity that comes along.

    John Gottman, the relationship expert, says:

    “There’s a habit of mind that the masters have which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully.”

    It needn’t be limited to marriages and partnerships. Nor should it be expected to thrive only in churches or societies or organizations where their core beliefs require it as a common condition of membership.

    Being in service to your neighbor, your partner, your customers, your community or your planet is equally beneficial no matter what the setting. And requires very little effort or sacrifice.

    This story, The Transaction in Action, is about what happened after the seven coins in The Transaction were passed out. Two years later, we see the impact the coins, and the actions connected with them, had on those involved and what affect it had on the community.

    Life is a coin… You can only spend it once.

  10. Generosity may be ‘Magic Pill’

    September 2, 2015 by ccreamer

    Generosity may be Magic Pill to Happiness and Longevity
    Seattle Times
    August 30, 2015

    “Volunteering moves people into the present and distracts the mind from the stresses and problems of the self,” said Stephen Post, founding director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York. “Many studies show that one of the best ways to deal with the hardships in life is not to just center on yourself but to take the opportunity to engage in simple acts of kindness.”

    That’s one thing we clearly see in The Transaction. After giving a coin out for what he feels to be really good service, Nathan’s mood (and day) improves. The act of acknowledging someone without gain is a dip in the pool humanity.

    “For example, if you give people a gift card for a Starbucks cappuccino and call them that evening and ask how happy they are, people say they are not happier than if you hadn’t given it to them. If you give another group a gift card and ask them to give it to a random person, when you call them at night, those people are happier.”