… is in the eye of the beholder. I carefully coddled this beauty in my carry-on when I moved to Costa Rica. It was hand-made by a man who was told he would never walk again, much less create art pieces such as this frog. Jason was a handsome, dynamic CEO of a software company, a public speaker, a fit, well-traveled husband and father who sold his company for lots of money and planned to retire and move to Tuscany to dabble in wine-making. While preparing for his morning beach run he collapsed on the floor of his bedroom. His wife, happened to be home and rushed him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The immediate surgery saved his life, but left him unable to speak or walk. For years his friends and family loved and supported him. And now, my true confession: I was afraid of him! His distorted appearance coupled with the noises he made in attempts to communicate verbally froze my blood. My friends didn’t seem bothered; his wife dedicated herself to nurturing him and overseeing therapy. I was ashamed of the way I felt, yet powerless to overcome my feelings. I watched my friends make a fuss over him as though he were still the star he was in his prime. I was especially baffled by Jane, a tall, gorgeous redhead who would sit on his lap, kiss his cheek and playfully threaten to steal him from his beautiful wife, Loretta, who was standing beside his wheelchair. Years later something changed. Maybe it was the passage of time. Maybe it was that Jason had learned to walk, albeit awkwardly with a cane. Maybe it was that his grunting sounds now formed understandable words. Or maybe it was just me. It was at a backyard barbecue that I found myself sitting next to Jason. I looked him in the eye, and I saw him. I saw the Jason I knew. He was still in there. I saw the light within him; it came shining through his eyes. They twinkled with mischief, his lips formed a knowing smile, and I felt peace and love. My shame melted away, I nodded and hugged him hard. I looked around at our group of friends, some chatting around the wine table, others checking the steaks on the grill, and a warm rush of gratitude flowed over me. Jason nudged his chin toward the edge of the grass where some of the friends were hovering over ceramic frogs that were placed around the yard. They were choosing which ones they would take home. Although I was paring down my possessions in preparation for the move to Costa Rica, I felt honored that he offered me one. It is one of the few treasures I schlepped to my new ex-pat life. It reminds me to live in gratitude, for there by the grace of God, go I. I thank Jason for teaching me to embrace what I fear, to appreciate each day as it comes, and to cherish loved ones unconditionally. I love my beautiful smiling frog who seems quite happy on my patio in Roca Verde. She is a constant reminder to count my blessings, carry on, and keep putting on lipstick!