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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Teach Your Children

  I won't bore you with the usual apologies for not posting in a while.  We're probably both a little bored with that.  I just haven't written in a while.  Stuff's been going on.  I guess foremost would be that I'm re-employed after almost nine months.  Still haven't figured out a good schedule for writing yet.  I'm up too early and home too late it seems.  And, well, to be honest I just haven't felt like it I guess.  Either that, or it's just another manifestation of this self-destructive tendency I have.  That's a post of a different color though.

  Friday around these parts was not a good day.

  No. no, let's start that over.

  Children were murdered Friday.  Some of their teachers, people who would be role models in one way or another for the rest of their lives; were killed protecting children.  I understand that most, if not all, of you reading this have already heard all about it.  I won't glorify the killers name here.  I won't wonder about his meds or his problems.  I won't recount any of the ongoing investigation.  I won't try and make you feel sad.  I won't even give out an address where to send cards or whatever.

  If the simple fact of what happened that day hasn't affected you in some way, no words I can come up with will change that one bit.

  I would like to ask you a question though.  Has this instance of violence against innocent kids changed you more than say, umm, a school bus being blown up by terrorists in Israel?  Maybe that's too remote to care about.  Maybe you're sick of the whole Middle East.  OK.  How about U.S. drone strikes that miss their target and kill children?  I know, I know.  Sorry.  Probably too distant again.  

  Now, I'm not trying to take anything away from what anybody is feeling about last Friday.  I am trying to urge you to remember whatever you're feeling the next time you hear  of children paying the price for adult problems.  Whether it's child labor, sex trafficking, or plain ol' parental abuse; no child should be ruined by the world before they have a chance to change it.  Every child has the potential to be better than you.  Better than me.  Better than the greatest person you could think of.  It's the kids who see the world fresh and new.  The kids who see  things in ways we don't.  Every child is a treasure waiting to shine for the world.

  There's something else I have to mention here too.  I remember a time when people used to say that those of us in the U.S. were so lucky not to live in a place where war and terrorism are daily struggles.  Where no one had to walk around wondering what could happen next.  Truth be told, we don't need terrorists to come here and wreak havoc.  As Walt Kelly said in his comic strip Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

  I always marvel how people are able to come together in the worst of times.  To really see the connection between us all and embrace it.  I am always left wondering why though.  Why can't we be mindful of that all the time?  Why is it only in the tough times?  When I was younger I'd always hear people wanting to feel the Christmas spirit all year 'round.  Well... Why not?  Why can't we remember all the time?

  Hey!  Wait! I know!

  I bet you could!

  Well, we could together.

  I betcha if we really put our thinking caps on we could change the world one person at a time.

  You know the old drill.  Wave to the person in the car that you think did you wrong.  Other people have to get to places just like you do.  We're all in a hurry.  Make a point of holding the door for the next person.  Yes, even if you have to wait a few seconds for the person to catch up to you.  Pay something forward if you have the funds.  Can you imagine how you'd feel finding out your meal was paid for by someone you'll never see?  There are a ton of things.  I bet you could think of something that you wouldn't mind committing to.  Something small.  You'll feel good about it.  Really.  More importantly someone else will too.

Short and sweet tonight I guess.  Something to get me back in the swing of this blogging thing.

I have to warn you about the video that follows.  There are pictures associated with it.  Some not for the squeamish.  Oh, yeah, and it's not meant as a political statement either.  Oh, you'll see.

In the words of Red Green, "I'm pullin' for ya.  We're all in this together."

Peace



     

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Get Up, Stand Up

  I don't even know where to start.  Really.  So I'll just start peckin' away at the keys and see what happens.

  Ok? 

  Something is going to happen.  Something bad.  I don't what yet, but it's gonna happen.  It's not a matter of if.  It's a matter of when.  Can you feel it in the air? Through the ether?

  The thing is, I don't even know exactly what it is I'm talking about.  The problem I guess is that there are too many things to choose from.

  Wondering what the heck I'm talking about?

  Well, let's look at some of the choices shall we?

  First there's the economy.  The world economy.  How long can we spend money that doesn't physically exist except when more is printed?  Quantitative Easing.  Pfff.  Government buying its own debt only leads to inflation.  Doesn't it?  Elected politicians use billions of dollars to bail out the institutions and people who caused the housing market driven "recession" while ignoring the middle class people who have to end up paying for it.  Even though there has been an uptick in home sales because of drastically low interest rates there are still so many houses in foreclosure it will take years and years and years to clean all that up.  Banks are allowing people to basically squat in their properties, paying only property taxes in order to alleviate some of the workload on foreclosures.  Plus they don't want an inventory of houses.  We will probably see even more foreclosures if the jobs market doesn't pick up soon.  Oh, yes the latest numbers look all rosy and whatnot, but numbers can be manipulated to mean anything. The latest I had heard is that most of the jobs are actually government jobs.  Most of the jobs left in the economy as it sits are low wage positions that can in no way support a household in a way we can recognize.  The combination of Government and private debt is soon to cause a major change in the U.S. economy.  Some countries in the E.U. would likely quit the Union rather than take part in "austerity measures."  And why not?  In Greece unemployment is up 24%.  There has been organized looting.  People feeling like they have no choice but to steal food to support their families.   I'm sure some of the other countries would leave the E.U. rather than prop up countries they believe to be fiscally unsound.  

  Then there's the whole Iran/MIddle East thing.  The U.S. agenda of hegemony in that area can only portend more deficit spending leading to more deaths of American G.I.s.   Well, that and more money for a few privileged corporations while the middle class tries to pay for it all.  Why are we so interested in Iran anyway?  Nuclear proliferation?  Possibly.  Protecting Israel?  Mmm... Maybe.  How about ensuring that the Strait of Hormuz remains open to the people and business our government wishes.  Why have we allowed innocent people in Syria to die without lifting a finger?  There is nothing there that our government values.  Ask our one time ally Moammar Gadhafi what happens when we want something badly enough.  Now Turkey is exchanging missiles with Syria.  Oh yeah, and North Korea has just announced they have missiles that can reach American soil.

  Then there's more trouble right here too.  The National Defense Authorization Act, which is voted on every year right, now includes language that strike the right of habeas corpus and the right of due process for American citizens.  With every shooting tragedy there is talk of taking guns away from U.S. citizens.  Wow.  Are you willing to give up your rights like that?  Are you willing to be scared by your government into giving up what this country was founded on?    

  Not to sound too over the top here, but in this new world of constant surveillance we live in; my phone and all the cameras dotted across this landscape always know where I am, drones will be filling our skies before you know it - in Texas they're trying to hang RFID chips around school kids' necks for "attendance purposes", I must say for the record that I am in good health and am not depressed enough to do myself harm.  My car is running pretty well too.  I know full well that's pretty paranoid.   Just had to say it though.  

  All of that stuff is of our own making too.  People forget that we are animals living on a planet floating through space.  I mean think about it for a second.  What happens when the good ol' sun sends an electromagnetic pulse our way big enough to shut our power off.  And it will happen sooner or later.  Our power infrastructure is in no way capable of handling a large pulse.  For a few measly billion dollars we could do a little preventative maintenance and ensure the grid's stability.  It won't happen though.  That's way too much money to spend on such nonsense.  And what about asteroids buzzing around all over the place.  Wasn't it just last February that we had a fairly close fly by of an asteroid?  If I remember correctly our space observers didn't even see it until it was on top of us.  Did you know that Yellowstone National Park is a super volcano?  What the heck is gonna happen if that thing ever blows again?  And global warming?  Is it a natural cycle, man made, or a combination of both?  Does it even exist?  If it does, hope you don't live near the coast when the sea levels rise enough to change local geography.

  I won't even bother to go into the Mayans, or the Book of Revelation, or the Mark of the Beast or any like that.  Although, did you know when Social Security was first started and the government started handing out all these numbers; people protested on the grounds that it was too much like the Mark of the Beast. 

  Wow.  I don't know about you, but I'm kinda bummed out all of a sudden.  There's a ton of stuff that could happen.  Who could possibly prepare for all of that?  Start buying those canned goods now.  Geez.

  So what do we have left?  If we're all not just gonna to walk around with our hands in our pockets lookin' down at our shoes waitin', what do we do? 


  Well, there's a lot we can do.  How about not watching the same news all the time?  You know, expand your world and see what else is being said out there.  Then how about getting involved in what's going on in some way.  Write your congressman, your senator.  Let 'em know how you feel.  If enough people do that it might make a difference.  Of course there's always voting in the first place.  Vote somebody out.  Vote somebody in.  Stand up for your rights.  Don't be scared into not making a change.

  How about thinking about what you'll do if the lights do go out.  Having some food and water stored away for an emergency is never a bad idea.  You don't have to wait for a  hurricane or nor'easter to be on its way.

  Ultimately the only thing that's really going to matter is how we treat each other.  Never lose sight of the fact that we are all connected on this planet.  How about Olga Korbut.  Remember her?  A little girl showed the world that we're all the same all over the world no matter the circumstances of our national origin. She actually visited the White House and President Nixon.  He said something like she had done more for the relations between the U.S and the Soviet Union than any of our leaders could.  Remember any of the feelings emanating from NYC after 9/11?  All the people on the street saying how it brought everybody together?  

  Why wait for that briefest of moments to remember?  Why wait?  The sooner we can all come together and realize that at deepest core of everything we all just want the same thing the better off we'll all be.

Keep your stick on the ice.






  

  

   

   

        

Friday, August 31, 2012

Make Someone Happy?


  A friend on Facebook was bored the other night.  She had overheard someone saying the phrase, "Happy wife, happy life." and wanted to know what people thought about it.  I had heard it before and my first thought was that the quote obviously came from someone (a man I'm assuming) who is dissatisfied with their life or relationship.  I couldn't help myself.  I had to start speechafyin'.   

  In its simplest form the statement is true.  The essence of it.  If you are with someone you truly love, you wish to see them happy.  If the love of your life is happy, then yes you'll generally find yourself happy too.  Some of the happiest times I've had were in the simple moments of making someone happy.  Well, I suppose I should really say; when I did something and the other person allowed themselves to feel happy.     

  Crap!  Here comes all that convoluted hard stuff.  I hate when that happens.

  Look, if you punch somebody in the eye, they're mostly gonna be mad.  If I handed you the keys to a new car you'd probably be pretty happy. That's all shiny surface stuff though.  It's once you start veering off into all the different scenarios of personal relationships that it gets complicated.   

  The plain and simple fact is you can't make somebody else feel something.  Isn't it about choices we make?  Isn't it how we feel about ourselves at any moment that dictates how we interact with others.  You can't make somebody love you can you?  You can court and woo till the cows come home.  If the other person just isn't into it, you're sunk.  Much like if someone is unhappy with life or a situation you're going to have a tough time trying to make them happy.           

  If one is in a blissful relationship where each is their own person and there is true communication and all that, the phrase would never even enter someone's head.  In a very general sense if you're happy with yourself your partner will be happy.  If you're in the type of relationship that is so prevalent in today's world where people don't really know themselves or their partners, the idea of that question is probably ever on a man's mind.  No sex?  Gotta make her happy.  Cold and distant?  What did I do?  Gotta make her happy.  Divorce?  Crap!  Try and make her happy.  It's a cold wind that blows when it all gets that complicated.  

  That's where the self worth part comes in, isn't it.  If you don't love yourself enough to be yourself, how can a relationship survive?  We've all had to make compromises in a partnership, sure.  But if you can't be the person that you were at the start of things how can you or your partner ever find happiness?  You just can't find happiness always trying to make someone else happy.  If you're in a relationship where you keep seeing red flags because you're making too many changes, always just trying to make the other person happy; something's gotta change.  If you don't value yourself or the relationship enough to change that situation then blame and resentment will start creeping in.

 It's not that you can't go see that movie you don't want to to show somebody you love 'em.  Or buy those flowers, or whatever.  Those are important moments in a relationship.  It's showing you care.  You will indeed show the other person you want them to feel happy and loved.  Just do it because you want to and not because you think you have to.    

On the other hand, maybe someone just couldn't think of a word to rhyme with husband.

I suppose I could go on.  And on probably.  I won't though.  I've poked and prodded at this post long enough.  

Keep your stick on the ice.  We're all in this together.

Peace



Sunday, August 26, 2012

Spiders and Snakes

  It's been over a month since writing some Notes, and well, there it is.  I do want to be more consistent about writing this blog. No excuses or promises of being better about it this time though.  Either I will or I won't.  I have been doing a lot of writing though.  Just not for this blog.  I guess you could say I've been using writing as therapy lately.  I've been lucky enough to find a therapist I don't have to pay.  Someone I don't even have to go see for that matter.  Someone who reads the words I vomit into the ether without direct judgement.  And I feel I've come a long way.  I was in stasis for a long time.  As often as I've told you that change is good and all the other  things we've discussed here, sometimes you just lose sight of your path.

  Some of you reading this might remember me mentioning in a past post or two how writing this blog started becoming very formulaic for me.  How I started trying to satisfy some set of self-imposed parameters.  That should've been a clue for me right there.  There was something wrong and I couldn't see it yet.  The thing was I wasn't really being creative any more.  Not in how I was approaching writing.  Not in how I was approaching life.  I really need to be creative in some fashion.

  And then there was the whole social aspect to life.  I have been spending the bulk of my time alone.  Not that I particularly mind being alone.  I never really feel like I get lonely.  Well, maybe every once in a while.  Nothing major though.  My point is that the whole purpose of this blog started out as a study in interaction. Kinda hard to talk about living with other human beings if you're always only in your own head.  I just didn't feel comfortable enough in my own skin I guess to want to be around others much.  I have been reconnecting with life outside me a lot lately though.  The all important human interaction drives my creativity with this blog.

  Right.  Now that that's out of the way, let's move on shall we?            

  I've wanted to write a post for some time now.  A lot of things have crossed my plate that I might have written to you about.  I just couldn't though.  Until today.

  Are you familiar with any Native American belief systems?  About totems and the medicine they carry?   As usual I know just enough to get me in trouble.  I've been blessed enough in my life to have been close to someone who exposed me to it.  I've  talked about it and even found out what my personal totem is.  I can't for the life of me remember what it is, but I knew at one time.  The idea is that everything around us has something to teach us.  A totem can be anything in nature.  If you notice a feather on the ground don't just pass it by.  It's trying to tell you that you are on the right path in some aspect of your life.  Have you seen a Red Tail Hawk lately?   He can see the distant hill and the rabbit trying to hide right under his gaze.  Hawk sees the bigger picture without losing the detail. Hawk may be telling you that you are ready to make a decision about something or make some change you've been pondering.  This way of thinking was an every day part of life.  Not a fad or religion, but a way to see the world we walk on.  A way to be part of the world along with every other single thing.

  Many of us don't even come close to realizing that we are part of the world and not its lord and master.  Few people would be mindful enough in today's world to realize that a simple spider that is seen in a corner every day might be a messenger.      

  Snake medicine smacked me right in the face today.  There was no being mindful about it.  I would've had to have been dead to miss it.

  I'm sitting in an Indian joint waiting a long time for service.  I was under the impression this place had a buffet on Saturdays.  At least the banner hanging on the building said it did.  When I walk in the guy who greeted me seemed kinda surprised to see me.  I held up my forefinger to indicate that there would be just one.  His extended arm invited me to sit anywhere I so desired.  He came over with a menu and I inquired about the buffet.  I'm not sure exactly what he said, but I knew the gist; there was no buffet.  I looked over the menu and decided what to eat pretty quickly.  Then I sat and waited.  And waited.  And...  

  Suddenly the two young girls and their mother sitting at the only other occupied table leapt up screaming and dancing.  I hear the word snake.  There is no one else around.  Whatever staff was on duty was M.I.A.  I go over to see what the problem is.  There's a tiny little black field snake on the window sill next to them.  The sill was in full sunlight.  Geez it musta been nice and warm there.  I took the snake with me and let it go outside as I left. I guess neither one of us should've been there.

  While I had the snake in my hand and it was trying to wrap itself around my wrist my mind travelled 25 years maybe into the past.  There was some stage production or other that I was involved in.  Now I don't remember the exact particular, but somebody saw a snake on the stage.  A tiny little black field snake.  I took that one outside too.     

  Snake medicine.  Snake medicine is about transmutation.  Perhaps turning something toxic or poisonous into something of value.  Like turning snake venom into antivenom.  It's about the process of change I guess.  In its simplest form the snake sheds it's skin to become seemingly new.  When it's done it's still a snake, but it's changed.

  At that very instant I couldn't help but see in full force the lesson of snake medicine.  I am definitely changed by life and choices I've made.  I have shed many skins.  But I am still me.  I am still the same person with the same things that drive me to live as I must.

  Stay on your path.  Find it.  Embrace it.  Walk it.

  Alright.  I'm outta here.

  I'm pullin' for ya.




      


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Eminence Front


Well, I've gotten myself into another fine mess. 


Depends how you look at it really I suppose.

I quit smoking. 


I know. I know. Yay! Right?

Yes, mostly. I suppose. Don't worry I can hear you saying "Mostly"?

Yes, it is definitely a good thing that I've quit. I've gone and done it all public like too. I posted on Face Book something like - "Transdermal nicotine patch. Day one". A bunch of my FB friends were very supportive. I appreciate that more than I can say. I'm sure if I contacted any of them for moral support they'd be more than happy to help me out.

For those of you that smoke, or have quit; you may want to skip the next paragraph or two, or five. Oh heck. I don't know if this whole post is for you. I just want to talk about what smoking is for a lot of people and why it's so hard to give up. Pretty boring stuff for current or ex-smokers I suppose. I mean, you already know the ropes.

Why is it so hard to give up smoking? It's only nicotine right? Once you're past that it should be easy as pie. Once you're past the cravings and have found a strategy to not smoke any more, what's the big deal?

Well, it's a HUGE deal. Why can't some people stop smoking? Like the person who sees the TV commercial of the people with throat stomas and lights up any way. Or the person who ignores the smoker's cough. Or my brother who begged me for a Marlboro on his death bed. 

Who's always there just within reach? Waiting at your beck and call. Who goes to bed, wakes up, finishes meals, and takes breaks when you do? Who is at your side through good times and bad? After that argument. Before a job interview. And those long car rides. When you hate yourself and when you love yourself. It's the lowly, gross cigarette of course.

Why is it so hard? Because like so many addictions I suppose it's not just about the addiction. It's about changing your life. It's a death in the family. It's a divorce. And you have to CHOOSE to do it. You have to choose to ignore the siren's call for the rest of your life. I know it gets easier to ignore, but you have to kick that constant companion to the curb. That's hard for a lot of people. Especially when they don't see the ill effects of smoking. Or just choose to ignore them.  

Smoking is not illegal. There are no tests for cigarette use when applying for a job. The smoking bans in some areas are for many just another cross to bear to be in that cool smoking club. And it is a club. You pay dues every day. You hang around a special crowd of people. Your loyal to your brand and your clique.

Know what though? It's not worth it. It's not worth the constant stink that hangs around you. It's not worth the blunted senses of taste and smell. It's not worth the money. Not worth the hacking cough or the gasping, labored, suffocated breath as you lay dying in hospice. And I'll tell ya why.

Now I could be wrong; I have no title or piece of paper saying I know what I'm talking about, but isn't the basis of most addiction a low or nonexistent sense of self? I mean think about it. Most smokers will tell you straight up that they know smoking is bad. That smoking can kill. Many will tell you they wish they had never started. But they smoke anyway. People stuff their feelings back down with every puff. Just as the morbidly obese continue to eat when full. Eat when they know they shouldn't. For comfort. Self destructives all over the world will glibly tell you that it's one more nail in the coffin as they light up. Or laughingly refer to cigarettes as cancer sticks. It's all bravado. It's just a way to show defiance. To keep smoking. If you smoke and examine why you smoke I bet you'll find that it's all a front for not dealing with your real feelings. Some real issues.

And what of ex-smokers? Most smokers really hate the ex-smoker who is a fanatic over quitting. Sometimes they try to get others to quit. Sometimes it's the loss of a smoking buddy. Hearing the perils of smoking from an ex-smoker is like nails on a chalk board. Or whatever makes you shudder. 



Why are ex-smokers so adamant? Why the eminence front? A person who has recently quit smoking has to start toeing the line of a different life. Almost has to start preaching the word in order to have it stay rooted forever. I can't remember if it's seven or twenty-one days to break a habit. Smoking takes a lot longer though. If you're actually going to do something like this for yourself - yes, you must quit because you want to - you should feel good about it. You should be proud and tell the world. 

What happens if you do have a cigarette while you're quitting? Or overeat when you're trying to lose weight? Or anything for that matter. Well, duh! Just keep going. Don't tag yourself a loser and give up. Pick up where you left off and keep going. Every stumble is a chance to succeed. Don't use frustration or a mistake as an excuse for giving up on yourself. 

Just keep having faith in yourself. You deserve all the love and patience you can muster.


How 'bout I give you a break this time around? I'll let class out early just this once.



I'm pullin' for ya.



Saturday, June 30, 2012

Help

I put my foot on the clutch and started my car. Sweet. She still fires right up. It's a '95 Plymouth Neon. I don't know how many miles are on it. The speedometer works sporadically. If I drive in the snow or rain I end up with pools of water sitting in the backseat foot wells. I don't think I can get the spare tire out. Rusted in place. Oil consumption depends on how fast and how far I go it seems. Oh yeah, and the rear springs are broken and the front suspension is shot. Every pothole or bump creates quite the thump. I can't just pump gas in it either. Some part of the relief tube is not hooked up correctly and I have to trickle the gas in so it doesn't back flush all over me and the ground. She gets me where I need to get though.

I throw 'er into reverse and swing around to pull away. Shift into 1st and I'm off.

Whoa! Hold on! Something's not right.

Instead of my peppy little Neon taking right off she's all sluggish and I have to feather the gas and clutch to gain enough speed to shift into 2nd. First thing I think is one of the cylinders isn't firing. Need a tune-up. Bad.

Great. I had just made an appointment to get the brakes done. Had just scraped up the money. I'm going to have to use that money for the tune-up.

Yes, I suppose I could do it myself. Brakes are easy enough. A tune-up even easier. The problem? Tools. That and I haven't done anything like that in a long time. Never mind how long.

I've never been a big gear-head with cars. Sure I could buy the manual and follow the pictures and all that. I was never a tool collector either. Yes, of course I wish I had been. All the time. Instead I'll bring it in to a garage and let some guy earn his fifty and found. (That's $50 a month room and board. Oh, just Google it.)

The thing is though that as soon as I knew I needed to get a tune-up I knew our time together was coming to an end. I knew that I'd have to start pouring money in to it.

I was right too. I had the tune-up done and still needed the brakes done. And now other things were starting to break.

So I started looking for a new car. Not, you know, NEW new. Just something newer and safer.

I found an '03 Saab 9-5 Aero. Four cylinder 5 speed manual transmission with a lot of bells. Not sure about the whistles though. I went to the dealer a few times to look it over and read the Carfax. I still looked around to see if there was something else around that would be better and not so expensive to repair if needed. It was such a step up from what I had been driving for the last few years though I fell for it pretty quickly. I mean who wouldn't? It was a performance car with a stick. Performance tires and suspension. The the whole deal. And of course it was in so much better shape than my poor Neon.

I was feeling pretty good about my choice. I was arranging to get at some of my money so I could do the deed.

Until.

Until I talked to my mother.

I was talking to her one night about needing a car and what I was going to do about it. The next night she calls me and says she'd like me to have her car.

Whoa! Hey, wait! I'm a fifty year old man taking care of business the best way I could. I knew how to handle this. I didn't need my mother running to the rescue.

I won't tell you how old she is. She'd kill me. No, really. Let's just say that for a few years now the whole should she drive any more conversation has come up a few times.

Her car is a few years older than mine and in desperate need of detailing. Desperate need. And, you know, I felt like I was already, umm, spoken for.

I was really torn for a while. Free car. My own decision. Another possible clunker. A pretty decent car that I felt I wouldn't have to worry about for a while. My own person. My mother to the rescue.

I guess the thing is though, who would turn down a free car? I'm still unemployed. I could use some of the money to make sure that the car is in as good shape as it can be. I could use some to pay off some bills.

There's all of that. But then there's me learning to accept help. Take a helping hand when offered. That's always been a tough one for me. I'd rather suffer anything sometimes than ask for help. It's not pride. It's deeper and sillier than that.

The other thing is letting my mother help me. I've never asked for help from her in anything. This would make her feel happy to be able to do something for me.

So it wasn't so bad. I allowed someone to help me out and the sun did indeed come up the next morning. Although it will take a while to get used to driving an automatic again.

If you're anything like me you're willing to help out any way you can whenever you're asked. The thing you have to remember is almost everyone you know is just as willing to help you too. We'll all make it through this maze. Sometimes you just need a little help.

I'm pullin' for ya.



Friday, June 8, 2012

The Heart of the Matter

I don't even know where to start really.

So  many post beginnings have flashed through my head lately. So many times I've thought "That's it! That's what the ultimate point of my next post will be".

The thing is though, that's not how I used to write this blog. It used to be all extemporaneous. I would see something or talk to someone and I would tell that story. Usually I'd pull something out of that interaction to remind you and me that we're really OK. That if we just remember each other it would all work out. For whatever reason I'd think of a song while I was writing and it just naturally fit with what I was doing. As a friend and I discussed at one point it was mostly unplanned (not the word we used) writing. By that I mean that it just happened that way. I never consciously started a certain way or tried to wend my way to certain points. It just worked out that way.

Something's happened somewhere along the way.

I used to write just about any time a thought struck me. I'd whip out my trusty phone and get to work. I'd get to the section of Blogger where I could start or edit posts and write away. After a while though Google changed their format a bit - well a lot - and I found it next to impossible to write on my phone. I found a blog editing app that was pretty easy to use and I was off again. This app even allowed me to start attaching videos to posts as I wrote. I thought that was pretty cool. It seemed kinda hard to edit things once they were published though. I always miss something when I proofread and just have to change it if I see something wrong on the live blog.

Then a laptop wandered it's way into my life. I could use Blogger to my hearts content. I could change fonts if I wanted to. I could spell check if the fancy struck me. There were so many things I could do that I couldn't on my phone.

So far so good, right?

 Well, yes. And of course, no.

I don't really consider myself a writer. I'm just a person who likes to write. I'm sure my punctuation is greatly lacking. I don't write drafts and rewrite them until things are perfect. I don't set a time to write every day. In other words I don't work at it. When I got a laptop it suddenly started to feel different. Flipping up the screen and turning on the computer was a concrete decision to write. Not that I avoid commitment, but turning on that computer was committing to writing. Suddenly it wasn't so spontaneous and fun.

The traffic to my blog is really fairly modest. I average, mmmm, about 250 pageviews a month. That's nothing compared to some that get thousands of hits a day. I'm not complaining, just making a comparison. I am actually always amazed and thankful for the reach of this blog. I suppose because I feel a loyalty to whatever audience might read this regularly I got too tied up with how I wrote my posts. I started trying to write things in a way that people had come to expect. I was trying to write the end before I had even stared the beginning. Almost like telling the punchline without telling the joke.

So there's a bunch of kinda internal stuff that you're probably wondering why I shared.

I'm not really sure except that I had a chance to show somebody this blog one day. There we were waiting to go to the Big Gig at the Comcast. I was talk with some one I had just met. We seemed to see eye to eye on a lot of things so I suggested he might like some of the stuff in here. I happened to glance at the archive list as he was reading and was shocked to see that I had hardly written anything this year. Never mind the post per week I had promised myself. I was barely writing one a month.

It was pretty easy to get to that point. A shrug of the shoulder over not writing one day. An unkept promise to myself to do it another day. Too much time spent watching TV. Tons of little things that I allowed to get in the way.

I'm sure you've found yourself in kinda the same situation over something. You know, going to the gym say. Some how you skip the gym one day. Suddenly it's six months since you've been.

It's so easy to forget. Forget that we are imperfect. That we are human. That making mistakes is what we're best at. Don't let it stop you though. If you stumble, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself and move on. You've gotta love yourself enough to get on with it already. You're not a failure for being here with everybody else struggling to make it through.

It's hard though isn't it? Sometime it's hard to forgive others. A lot of times it's hard to give ourselves a break. Sometimes we cling to the past and mistakes we may have made.

How can you expect to love and live a full life if your life doesn't include forgiveness. And of course it starts with you. Love yourself. Forgive yourself. To paraphrase a quote I've seen from the Dalai Lama; of all the people on earth you are the person most deserving of your love. The best way to start that is by a simple act of forgiveness.

I'm pullin' for ya. We're all in this together





Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Take Me to the River

I started out to go on a hike the other day. Not such an unusual thing really.

I say started to, but I never really made it. I got to the preserve, a place called Ragged Mountain, and noticed what looked like a family getting ready for a hike. There was a set of grandparents, a 10 year old, a dad, maybe another set of grandparents. As I got out of the car one of the grandmothers said, "Are you here for the..." I couldn't here the rest as a car raced by me. I walked up to the woman and told her I hadn't planned to and asked what was going on. Turns out there was going to be some guy coming by to give a talk on vernal ponds. (Don't worry, we'll get to what vernal ponds are eventually.) I was welcome to come along if I wanted.

Hmm.

A talk on vernal ponds.

Mmm...

"Thanks", I said. "That sounds nice".

I found out they weren't necessarily all grandparents. Two of them were, but that was coincidental. One man .was from the wetlands commission, one had another such title that I just can't remember. The other adults in the group represented the local land trust that takes care of preserves like the one we were about to enter. Stewards of the land preserving the rural character and quality of life in their home town. There was the 10 year old who was indeed spending the morning with his grandparents. And me. All of us making small talk, waiting. Waiting for some guy.

Some guy turned out to be Jonathan Richardson from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Now I do Jonathan a slight disservice here for I don't remember his total history. I do remember that he got a BS in Biology from University of Virginia. I remember that as of his talk he had just about 2 weeks to go before he gave his oral defense for his Masters thesis. I think that last part is correct. I think. If that's what one does to finish a Masters program. I've never done it, so I don't know. What I don't remember is his field work. What I can say is it's a lot. I mean a lot. He has spent so much time in the woods of the Northeast he could probably direct you to all of the vernal ponds in Connecticut from memory.

Yeah, I know, that's all nice and everything, but, what the heck does he do!  I've lifted the next bit directly from his highlight page on the Yale website.

"My research focuses on the influence of landscape structure on population persistence. More specifically, I am looking at the effects of habitat fragmentation in terms of gene flow, population genetic structure, and evolutionary differentiation among amphibian populations in the Northeast."

I'll let you read that over a few times while I get on with it.

As it turned out all of these people were meeting because some developer wanted to build some houses on some land that includes a vernal pond. We were going to take a short walk into the woods and learn the importance of vernal ponds. You know, show the important people from the important commissions and such the importance of preserving our wetlands and open spaces.

Do you live near a place where you can hear the peepers in the spring? You know the frogs calling out hoping for a one night stand. I don't anymore. If I'm lucky and I'm going somewhere at night I can hear them Doppler style as I drive by. I hear them sometimes when I'm out hiking, but it seems if I get too near or make too much noise they don't make a sound.

Some times when you here them they are inhabiting a regular old pond.

Some times you're hearing the cycle of a vernal pond.

See a vernal pond fills with snow run off and the first rains of spring. The dead leaves left over from the previous fall line the bottoms of these depressions in the floor of the woods allowing the water to collect and remain until the surrounding trees suck up all the water to feed their new leaves. Something pretty awesome happens while all that water rests in it's cozy pocket. This little pond starts to teem with life. All kinds of life. Frogs, salamanders, mosquito larvae, snails and fingernail clams, microscopic zooplankton. A ton of stuff. More than I can remember. The thing is it's a whole ecosystem. A food chain that is almost symbiotic. One layer of life somehow helping the another to survive. Sure the larger things feed on the smaller, but the smaller often take advantage of the larger in some way.

A whole world unto itself.

A whole universe that knows nothing of you or me. Nothing of cars or Mars or The Avengers or anything that we might know.

They know nothing of us. Have no capacity to understand the world they live on. All they know is their cycle.

Yet here we are.

 It's kinda like that for us too isn't it?

We swim through our lives barely looking up. There are so many things that we think we know. So many things that we are so sure of. So sure in fact that we'd start wars or argue with friends, hush our children, or look down upon out neighbors.

We're lucky in many ways. From where our planet spins in the solar system to the fact that we're all still holdin' on to what we've got. Just do me a favor and look up some time and wonder over the things that are still a mystery. Let go of what you know and wonder over all the things you don't.

I set off on another hike a few days later. I went to a place called Cotton Hollow Preserve. There's a river that runs through it. It's a popular place because of all the small water falls and rapids along the path.



I always watch the water run 'round the rocks. I watch the stubborn rocks buck and fight the constant flow.

I know it's cliched now, but we always have the choice in life. Be the rock or be the water. Be the rock and stay set in your ways no matter what's happening around you. Be the water and find a way to where you want to go.

As Bruce Lee is quoted as saying (though I'm sure it's much older than that) "Be the Water".

Well, it's that time again. Time where I feel like I'm just talking to talk.

Keep your stick on the ice.

Peace



Sunday, April 15, 2012

Keep on Working

Well, it finally happened.

I got laid off.

I'd been waiting ever so long. Not like a kid waiting for Christmas who can't sleep at night either. More like a person who has been watching people he works with getting laid off every week and can't stand the suspense of when your time is coming. The waiting and wondering. Ooo! I made it to morning break! Phew! Made it through lunch! Clocking out on a Friday afternoon thankful you've made i through another week. Seeing the Hatchet Man on a day he usually doesn't come in and knowing someone is going to be on the outside looking in soon. Usually more than one someone too. That kind of waiting.

See, I knew I was on the list too. No, really. I won't go into details of personalities and loyalties and politics, suffice it to say; I knew.

I should've been working on my résumé ages ago. There was a computer virus a long time ago and I lost whatever versions I'd had. I didn't have any hard copy to simply retype. So I knew I had to do it. And I had become unhappy enough that I should've initiated the change to begin with. And when I say unhappy I mean it. I don't remember a positive word passing my lips while I was there in a long, long time.

I'm not tellin' ya this for you to feel sorry for me. I've been in a lot worse scrapes.

Many people feel desperate losing a job at 50. I'm don't. I think I'm kinda relieved. Well, yeah. Relieved. As much as I felt I really needed the job, as lazy as I was in not writing a résumé; I didn't want to uproot myself again and start over some where else. As much as I'll always tell you that change is good, you don't always greet it with your arms wide open. Some times it's just hard. So I stayed. I stayed and did the best job I could while feeling the breeze of the pendulum as it got closer and closer. I stayed and watched good people have to leave without a chance to say goodbye. I stayed even though I knew.

But ultimately I wasn't given the choice. So even though I knew there needed to be a change and was avoiding it, it came wrapped up in pink paper.

Now, with all this talk of me knowing it was coming some people I know would probably say it was a self fulfilling prophecy. You know, if you believe your marriage is going to fail you act in way that actually expedites the matter. The term was coined by Robert Merton. In his book Social Theory and Social Structure he contends that the prediction is false but made true by a person's actions. Most people associate this tendency in negative ways. It works positively too though. If you look in the mirror before you leave the house for the day and say to yourself that today is going to be the best day ever, you will inevitably act in ways that will help that along. Consciously or unconsciously.

All of that is not to be confused with The Law of Attraction. I haven't really studied The Law. From what little I've read it seems to be a system of visualization and meditation. You attract to yourself whatever you put your attention to. Like attracts like. If you believe you have infinite possibilities then that's what you'll have. If you believe you're poor or alone then that's what you are. It seems to me to have a lot to do with materialism too. Something like if you visualize abundant riches you'll wake up a millionaire. I've got little to say about it really. It seems a sham where people are willing to tell you the secrets to getting extraordinary things if you buy this or that book. Or, you know, maybe even book 2. I don't really know though. If anyone has had success with this and would like to share, you know how to get a hold of me.

So there's one theory that sort of says once you get something into your head you'll act out in whatever way needed to ensure the result you're expecting. The other theory is more about being an active participant in your life. Figuring out what you want or need and trying to influence the universe to do your bidding. There is a third thing I'd like to bring up though. It has to do with subjective reality.

Subjective reality is a belief system where there is only one singular consciousness in the universe. You. Everything else you see, touch, or love are projections of your thoughts. There nothing influencing what happens in your life. No predictions to prove or disprove. There is no universe to spar with and manipulate to your wishes. You are the universe all on your own and all of your wants and intentions are manifested because you create it. You are the creator. It's like dreaming. Everything in your dreams are projections of your dream thoughts. It's the same thing in the physical world. Everything is a projection of your thoughts. Now that's some heavy stuff huh?

How do you suppose these three things are connected? The only thing that I can put my finger on right away is feeling like everyone has the chance to get, or feel, or want anything we want. The thing is is that there are no real short cuts I think. As powerful and vast as the mind is, it all takes work. It takes you to know what you truly want. It takes you to be ever mindful that you can change what you have to what you want. You need to work. You need to keep on working. The change will not come instantly, but if you put your intention out there in the universe and work on it, things will change. Ya gotta put the work in to get the results. If you want to be a happier person, act on it and be mindful of it. If you want more money, do something about it. Go back to school for that degree you never finished. Get another job. Even a second job. Don't just wish for it.

Work for what you want. Work for it and keep on working.

All right.

I'm pullin' for ya. We're all in this together.














Thursday, March 22, 2012

What About Now?

Bet you didn't know that in my youth the elders of the church I attended were sure I was going to be the next priest to come from our parish? I was an altar boy. Head altar boy thank you. I was a lecter. I was the president of my youth organisation. I mowed the church lawn and shoveled the sidewalks. I went on retreats. I was lucky to have nothing but good, decent men of the cloth that I came in contact with. Idk. A lot of people thought I was on the fast track to priesthood.

There were some things that changed all of that. Nothing horrible. Just life.

You know, life. Girls. A job. A paycheck. There was all of that but, there was something else too.

A book.

I was reading a catechism book one night. A book a priest had given to all of us high school students. It was the first of it's ilk I had seen that was an actual thick book and not a thin volume full of pastelly pictures and simple words. This was a book that actually discussed the church and church history. And it bothered me. A lot of things bothered me about church all along actually. Mostly how people professed one thing while living another

But it was the way this book talked about the Catholic church that really opened my eyes in a different way. It was the unapologetic way it discussed some of the history of the church.

Like....

1095.

Recognize that number?

Here's a hint. It's a date in history. A fairly important date. Not a very good hint huh? OK, how about this one? It involves Pope Urban II. There, that's a dead give away.  I know some of you history buffs probably don't need any hints but, how about one more hint for the infidels? Ooo. Did ya catch that? Infidels?

Any guesses yet? Give up? It was the start of the Crusades. It gets kinda complicated after that. I guess it was the first successful Crusade. Yeah. I guess there were two others started but never really got off the ground. I think. It's been a while. There were a total of nine Crusades. That doesn't include the Recoquista waged to reclaim the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors or a dozen or more sort of sub-Crusades

Well, like or not we're going to continue the history bit for just a bit longer.

Anybody know any of the accepted reasons for all these mini wars?

There were a bunch as far as I remember. Like, it was a something to keep the bored kings and knights in Europe out of trouble at home. It was to claim Jerusalem back from the Muslims for Christendom. To help Constantinople reclaim land lost to the Muslims. Of course there's the whole wealthy Italian nobles trying to gain control of the Mediterranean Sea.

There are of course plenty of examples of the church putting its fingers in pies where they didn't really belong. I know that's putting it way too nicely. But a bunch of pieces of all those pies clicked into place for me just then and it put a bad taste in my mouth.

The church didn't seem to be acting very Christian mostly. Not very Christ like.

I've lived a lot of life since then. Not much of it inside the walls of a church.

The thing I thought about then and still wonder about now is, what about love? Why wasn't the church actively promoting love? I always figure that all of that history stuff was a long time ago. That was then.

But, what about now? Does your faith, or, do your beliefs preclude you from loving your neighbor? I bet not. I bet we're all a little more grown up than that now. I bet if you looked deep enough into what ever faith you follow, or belief system you practice, or whatever, the base line - that nugget of truth buried beneath the rhetoric - has something to do with respecting others. With taking care of those around you. With love. I don't really know that for sure of course, but I bet.

It's late. I'm outta here.

I'm pullin' for ya.

Peace



 


Monday, February 27, 2012

All You Need is Love

What do think happens when we die?

Is it Heaven you are destined for? Pearly Gates, Angels, reuniting with loved ones waiting patiently for your arrival. Maybe you meet your soul group. Figure out if you learned what you were supposed to. Taught what you were supposed to. Maybe you never got it right. Maybe you need to come back and try again. Hopefully the souls that surround you aren't tired of trying to help you out. Maybe it's back down the Hoober Bloob Highway. Maybe it's nothing. Maybe we just close our eyes and that's that. Theories and beliefs abound.

So many people believe different things. Religion and science each try to get us to see things their way. Experiments, seances, NDEs, exorcisms, so many things telling us that something happens to us when we pass away. Pass on. Pass over.

We just don't know though. We can place our faith in something: believe with all our hearts. But, we just don't know. That is the one secret no one can tell you. That is one of the few things we truly face alone. Maybe that's what makes people feel they're afraid of death. The aloneness. The possibility of pain. I think most of it comes down to the fact that we just don't know what's gonna happen.

Well that and being alone. It doesn't seem to me that we are built to be alone. We started out as Hunter-Gatherers. Or was it Adam and Eve? Either way we weren't alone. We are always with somebody. Clan, family, spouse, parish, community, co-workers, what have you. So many people turn the TV on as soon as they get home just for some noise. Just so as not to be alone. We need to feel part of something.

It's funny though. As much as we strive to be accepted into the cool group at school, or share a faith in a church with others - to fit in: we try and find ways to show we stand apart. We strive to excel on our own. We'd rather look back and see our own lone footsteps in the deep snow to feel the satisfaction of having done something ourselves. We move away from our families to make our own life. We often trade the love and closeness of our spouses and children for our own pursuits: work, play, whatever you can think of that takes you away from what started as your true joy.

So we swirl through this life in a confusion of motives and desires. Sometimes we're confused. Sometimes so sure what will give us that flash of happiness.

Ok, here we go. Ready? The thing is...

You can walk around feeling that flash all the time. Yeah, I know. Seems impossible.

All ya need is love.

Cliche? Maybe.

But it's true.

Nah, not the mushy can't live without you stuff.

How about the every day I'm glad to be alive stuff. How about the life is full of pain and happiness and I know how you feel stuff. The we're all in this together so let's treat each other right stuff. The do what's right stuff. The lend a helping hand stuff.. How about keeping that in your heart and  your head for a few days and see how things change. How you'll see that your true joy comes right from inside of you. How you are the center of all possible things and it's just up to you to fully engage.

So what I'll leave you with is a quote from the movie V for Vendetta. To me part of what that movie is about is how love can change your life. Me being me, it's a part that always makes me cry. If you know the movie that seem impossible, but it's not. If you're not familiar with it, put very simply it's about fighting totalitarianism.

 "It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place, but for three years I had roses and apologized to no one. I shall die here. Every inch of me shall perish. Every inch, but one. An inch. It is small and it is fragile and it is the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it or give it away. We must NEVER let them take it from us. I hope that whoever you are, you escape this place. I hope that the world turns, and that things get better. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that, even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you. With all my heart, I love you."

I'm pullin' for ya. We're all in this together.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hold Your Head Up

*Sigh*

I'm bored. Bored I tell ya. Bored, bored, BORED.

I came home with a pizza to share with my roommate after work today. He wasn't home. I checked the mail and found a bill. I ate my share of the pizza in my room flipping through the channel guide to find something to watch

There's nothing on TV. My Iphone sits on its charger staring blankly at me. The DVD player waits expectantly for my latest Redbox pick. Books from the library are piled on my bureau. No one to chat with on Facebook.

I guess I'm just waitin' to go to bed so I can get up and do it again. The sun rises. The sun sets. The tides do it too.

The same ol' same ol'.

 *Sigh*

Bored I said.

Just another plain old ordinary day. Yup.

*Sigh* *Blink, blink*

Well, but, wait.

There's magic in ordinary days. Isn't there? Isn't there magic in the sun coming up every day? (Ok. You know I don't mean sorcerers and witches and spells and such, right?) Think just for a minute about the moon giving us the tides. Or the millions of years it has taken to give us Mount Everest. Think about the breeze that caresses your cheek on a beautiful fall day.

Isn't there magic in the feeling you get when you know your partner is right next to you. I know I felt a bit of magic watching a father holding hands with his son as he taught him all about watching for cars while navigating the big big parking lot. I wanted to stop them and remind the dad to hold on to more than his son's hand. Hold on to how he feels roght now. The love and pride he was feeling is enough magic to last a life time.

Maybe I picked the wrong word with magic. Every time in type the word magic all I can think of is David Copperfield or Harry Houdini. I mean there are tricks and illusions. Things we don't know the explanation for. Or even if we do know the explanation we don't know the why or the how.

It's like me studying computers. I learned all sorts of things. Backwards compatibility. Where memory resides  in RAM. All sorts of things. Still though when I sit at a computer I don't know why 0's and 1's do my bidding and make words appear on the screen. Even though I've taken them apart and put 'em together I just don't know why it works like it does. 

One of my favorite lines from anything ever would be from Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales. He's explaining to hs grandson what Christmas used to be like when he was a kid and some of the presents he had gotten. 

"And pictureless books in which small boys, though warned with quotations not to, would skate on Farmer Giles' pond and did and drowned; and books that told me everything about the wasp, except why."

We can know everything about everything and still not know why. I guess that's where magic lies for me. The fact that we live in such a world as this. That for as long as I live there will always be things to amaze me.

Geez. Feeling kind of frustrated right this minute. I don't think this is coming together the way I originally wanted it to.  The whole point I was going to make is that there's magic in you and around you too.

Every day way face the choice to either keep our heads down and go about our life like nothing else matters. Like there isn't a whole world spinning under our feet. Like there aren't things all around to amaze us. Baffle us. Make our hearts break. Confirm our faith in one another. 

So hold your head up. There is no one on this planet like you. There is no one who sees the world the way you do. There is no one who can affect the world like you can. See the magic in ordinary days.

I know. I'm disappointed too. I've kinda forced this post and I feel it shows. We'll see how it goes next time.

Keep your stick on the ice.

Peace

  



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