Fourth of July – hot dogs, beach parties, baseball games, fireworks…. Well, that is what it has come to mean for many and that’s great!  Originally, the reason for celebration was because a nation declared independence…broke away courageously from “the way things were done’ traditionally.
     This weekend I had the distinct pleasure of a brief encounter with two women who I believe exemplify the true meaning of independence…daring to do things differently than most…breaking the mold and taking a giant leap of faith to create something that you believe in!
Bright Spot – On Friday, July 3rd, I went to an Office Depot.  The last 2 times I needed copies and binding, I went to Staples.  That morning I discovered there was an Office Depot was much closer.  I hobbled in and explained what I needed done to the clerk, who was unbelievably helpful, by the way. It was going to take a little while.  A beautiful woman approached the counter to place her order and she asked about by foot.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, she asked if I knew anything about the local opera company.  I said that I didn’t because I was from out of town.  As fate would have it, we got to talking.  This delightful woman proceeded to share a little and then I couldn’t help but inquire further.  Her name is Marilyn Ward, the president of the St. Petersburg Opera Guild which is celebrating its 50th anniversary and who has over 200 members.  She wears many hats in her role.  She organizes fund raisers to support the educational program for the young Opera Company (celebrating its 10th year).  The annual Silver Bells Fund Raiser along with membership dues are able to contribute over $15,000 to these aspiring opera singers annually.  There are high school and college level competitions that are professionally judged and acceptance to the Company is highly regarded and sought after.  Marilyn is also responsible for providing refreshments to the opera cast members during performances.

Madame President,

     Her mission at Office Depot was to place an order for the Maestro, Mark Sforzini.   She adores him as do many others and referred to him as a genius.  He is also considered a modern day Renaissance Man and the visionary leader that was instrumental in the birth of the St. Petersburg Opera Company.  Maestro addresses Marilyn affectionately as Madame President and it brings to light the dedication and love she has for the company and for him through the twinkle in her eye and her unforgettable smile.  What an amazing woman, 77 years young…looking at a typical slow down, chill out retirement right in the face and saying, “No thank you!”  Independence with a capital “I.”   Marilyn, thank you for sharing such a lovely slice of your life with me.
Bright Spot – Monday, July 6th, I went to the post office to send a package and instead of going right back to the house, I decided to “practice walking” as prescribed by the physical therapist.  There is a small strip of shops, most of which are closed on Mondays, so I began my window shopping adventure…LOL  There was one storefront that caught my eye…a cafe called NIRVANA.

 To my delight, it was open!  I walked in with only one crutch…go me…and looked around at the colorful array of items for sale and the fun menu boards.  Moments later, I was welcomed by a pleasant voice that I soon discovered belonged to Rosie!  After we covered the “foot” saga and I ordered a scrumptious all fruit beverage, Rosie and I got to talking about her cafe.  Rosie’s father, Charlie, raised her on healthy foods and an enlightened attitude about self care.  She attributes her adult lifestyle choices to him.

Rosie in her cafe and juice bar

     In 1978, she opened her first cafe in Connecticut.  She moved a couple of times, opening similar cafes.  Rosie shared that the reason for the cafes is multi-fold.  Her main goal is to provide a welcoming atmosphere for ALL people regardless of what “step” they are on in their life.  In addition, she wants to expose people to alternative and healthier drinks and snacks than can be found most ‘convenient’ places.  She strives to live a Buddha Life.  It is not a religion as its name might is a way of life.  A life where one chooses to live in the present moment without attachments.  Making choices in moderation.  Connecting with others in encouraging, non-judgmental ways.  Rosie is the kind of person everybody needs at least ONE of in their life!!!  She is also working on saving $25 each week to support her dream to do some traveling, especially to France!  Go for it, Rosie!!!  Thank you for sharing your vision AND for the complimentary gluten-free cookies!
     Rosie and her son are nearly finished creating a website that exemplifies their philosophy. is great.  You will find inspirational quotes, products, an invitation to share your story, etc.  Check it out!

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