Sunday, November 30, 2008

Granny Rocks!

She tottered toward us and Michael said, "Oh, please, you're kidding me...," I looked up from the menu to see a tiny woman, tottering- that's the only word for it. Her hair was flame-red, an unnatural color at any age. But, on a woman of an incalculable age, well, it was truly startling. Her face resembled an apple past its prime. You know- the last apple, the one that waited weeks to be eaten until someone looks at the puckered, wrinkled, soft skin and decides it's better pitched in the trash.

She was slightly hunched in the shoulders but you could only see that when, turning sideways, she stopped to chat with each table before continuing her turtle trek to our table. I said, quietly, "Don't worry, there are lots of tables in this section, she might not be..." and before I could finish, there she stood in front of us saying with a surprisingly strong voice, "Welcome to Oglebay! First time here?"

"Yes," we confirmed while I continued to study the menu. "Well, you're in for a treat. I'd say you can't miss with the buffet...we have prime rib tonight. The ham's pretty good, too. But, you tell that missy carving it to give it to you your way and don't take no for an answer!" With a smile and a salute, Michael responded in sharp military form, "Yes Ma'am!" She cocked her little head and said, "I like you, son!"

Ancient Waitress continued, "The menu is good too, though, so I'll give you some time to look at it. What would you like to drink?" I said a diet soda would do and asked for water as well. Michael said he'd have the same. With that, a huge sigh emanated from the wee chest. "Oh, I hate it when they ask for water. Are you sure you want water, too? I just hate that. Used to be a time the bus boys set water as part of the table setting. That's when we did things right, not like these days. Okay, I'll bring you water, but you better drink it after I do!"

And, after being momentarily shocked by that response, I examined her and realized that in the wrinkled face haloed by shockingly red hair, resided two bright, impish eyes as sharp as they could be. A slight smile played on the thin lips painted red-orange to match the hair. As if by magic, right before my eyes, the apple turned into a gloriously interesting Human Being.

I couldn't help smiling; beaming, in fact. What fun to have such an interesting person as part of what would simply be just another meal at a restaurant. And, to think, when I first sat down, I was hoping we wouldn't be 'stuck' with her! What could I have been thinking? She was our topic of talk the entire time Michael and I were in line picking our choices. Turns out, she was right about the prime rib, it was very tasty, and the young, bored-looking 'missy' at the carving stationed who didn't even look at me, much less ask which cut I wanted...

Through the meal, we became part of her group she checked on regularly. We learned about "Granny," as the staff call her. You could tell it's a badge of honor in her eyes. "I've worked here 41 years. I'm 84! And, my heart's not so good now, so my dern doctor won't let me work more than two days a week. Oh, I love it here! If I didn't come in, I'd miss all my friends and everyone I work with! I just love it. But, it's getting harder for me..." And, more details and history flowed with the evening.

I noticed the diners all smiled at her. They spoke with a slight reverence even when teasing her in return to her wise-cracks. The staff stepped lively to help her when she automatically began clearing a vacated table. She spoke to each one by name; sometimes resting her hand slightly on the bus boy's arm when she said, "Thanks." She is a vital part of the wait-staff, even if it is a part that moves rather slowly. What is the magic quality some Humans possess? Is it that we are naturally attracted to people who love life? Do we resonate with that energy? Do we respect the effort we see from one so old and still so vital?

Later, she met up with me while I was looking over desserts. Quietly, she pointed at two choices saying in a conspiratorial whisper, "Don't eat that candy...and stay away from that cake. Those two aren't worth the space they'd take up in your mouth! This one's usually always good, and you can't go wrong with the pie. Of course, it's your choice, though." About the cake, Granny was right again. And, I told her so.

"Whad' I tell ya?! I tell all my guests what's good and what's not. I figure if I want them to come back again, I give 'em a choice, but I tell them what I know. After all this time, seems to have worked for me and them. But, my boss, don't always like that I do. Too bad! I don't work for him, I work for the people at my tables. And I need to take care of them right so they visit me again. Make sure you do!" She winked, collected the check, and walked on.

It was a great way to celebrate our second anniversary. Michael and I enjoyed the wonderful light show at Ogelbay. We visited the museum and great shops there. For hours, cars from all over the area and Ohio and PA snaked through the winking lights. We saw some really unique things.

But, the most memorable part of our evening came not from the zillions of colored lights used to light up six miles. It beamed brightest from a little spit of a woman- ancient and irreverent. Imagine doing a job for 41 years and looking forward to being on the job with everyone who works with you. Imagine being 84, and despite an ailing ticker, being a vital, important, and respected part of the world around you.

Something to aspire to, don't you agree? Michael and I were dazzled by her light and blessed to have this amazing woman take care of us for a couple of hours. You rock, Granny! Thanks for the lesson about what is possible in life. May all your days be merry & bright, just like you.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Friday, November 28, 2008

Fear Not!

I've grown wary of the 24-hour media world in which we live. 24 Hour News was created to provide a snapshot of the headlines, any time we needed it. Or more to the point, whenever we could spare a few seconds in front of the boob-tube.

But, what 24-hour access has spawned is a world of negative sensationalism that is the tool by which we are held hostage- sometimes glued to the television. I can't say for certain what part of the Human psyche it taps into, but I think it's the same part that attracts us to horror movies and thrillers.

Unless you work in the media, one tends to be assume that the goal is to provide information and news. However, every person who works at a news-station knows that their true reason for being is to sell commercial time. Thanks to 24-hour coverage, an entire new industry has emerged. People whose job it is to churn the same bits of information over and over. Make even the most mundane seem major. People who must find stuff to fill an entire day; raise even more capital. How? By making things sensational- not by providing the necessary facts. Get my point, here?

Especially in terms of the horribly disappointing economy, it's really important to keep things in perspective. Test what you're hearing against what you're experiencing. Trust your own world-view more than you trust CNN/NBC/FOX, or whichever alphabets you turn to for information. Regularly tune into some other source to balance your perspective. And, always keep in mind that the real reason they are on the air is to continue being on the air. Giving you unbiased, real information is secondary in the scheme.Let's always be conscious that the media, like all organizations, has an agenda. And, their agenda might run counter to our need to have good information.

Recently, I saw a For Sale sign on a house that proclaimed, "Sold in 11 days. Don't listen to the media!" Very solid advice. We should wonder, are things as terrible as we are being lead to believe? More importantly, if we continue to believe these things, how long do we hold things pinned in a bad spot? If we think we shouldn't spend our money, reasonably live our lives, how long and far will the economy continue to spiral backward?

Fear is the mind-killer. And, what we focus on is what we bring into existence. What we continue to fixate on is what we have the most-of in our lives. I know that we are exposed to too much negativity, apprehension, and FEAR. But, there's good news here- we can, and should, control how badly we allow ourselves to be frightened. It is within our power to control our exposure to negative, scary energy.

Fear is also the reaction to the unknown, the unexpected; it is the immediate response that puts us on alert so we can survive. That's a good thing. But, if allowed to continue, it tips and starts injuring physically, emotionally, mentally. Why? Because surviving is not the same as living. We need to ask, which is it that we want to be doing each day? Simply surviving in a heightened state of anxiety, or working our way to authentically living? I'd suggest that we should be working on living. We need to release fear and begin attracting what is positive and good.

This morning, I am thinking of the Archangel Gabriel and her encounter with the young, very young woman, Mary. Imagine being so young and told that you have been chosen of all the world's women to be the portal of entry into this reality for the Messiah! Who could easily take in a message of that magnitude? Who could not wonder are they mad? Who wouldn't be afraid of an encounter with a celestial messenger?

There are some who'd argue my view of the most important part of the story. For me, the most important part- the part I ponder, is Gabriel. Why this particular angel? And, why is such a major part of the story centered on this angel and what she says?

Spirit specifically chooses Gabriel because of her talent as the great communicator and her most calming demeanor. She is the best messenger to deliver emotionally charged, life-altering information. She is the Celestial Body's- Walter Cronkite, if you will. This Archangel carefully begins her newscast to the young Human. As she materializes in Mary's consciousness, Gabriel communicates first, "Fear not."

Or in other translations, "Hail Mary! Hello Mary- Do not be afraid." Gabriel knows that Mary's mind must be relieved of its instinctual fear and opened so she can process the wonder of what is about to happen. To be made ready for the immense possibility of it all. And, to be reminded that we cannot be afraid and have miracles in our lives.

In my life, I want miracles- not fear. For the same reason I do not watch horror movies, I am now limiting the time I spend in the company of newscasters. And, I constantly remind myself of the need to take all of it with a grain of salt in order to walk away with facts and not nerve-wracking sensationalism.

Fear not! As we move into a sacred season in the year, remember that an aware Human Being walks in the truth; looks for miracles be they large or small; is intrepid, and awaits good things because that is our birth-right. Stay open and willing to push back against fear. Do not believe all that you hear. What is it that your heart tells you? Therein resides the truth. Fear not.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Simply Put

I hope you find your way through a day filled with simple blessings. And, I thought this sweet Shaker song might help to remind us that true joy exists, not in the obvious, but in uncomplicated, simple things that are often over-looked as we race through our lives. Today, I am going to take a few moments to simply 'be,' and not just 'do,' my Thanksgiving. Won't you join me?

'Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
'Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we'll all live together and we'll all learn to say,

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

'Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
'Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of "me",
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
Then we'll all live together with a love that is real.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Recipe For Thanks Giving

I'm getting ready to prep things for tomorrow's feast. This will be an important holiday for Michael and me. Both of our kids will be with us, although with a dash of wistfulness we're aware the day draws closer when Evan leaves for basic training. Melissa will be bringing a guest, and we're looking forward to spending time with our daughter and making a new friend. It's the last Thanksgiving, for awhile, when Mike and his children will celebrate together. No matter how far our children go, we will always keep a candle burning in the window so they can find their way home. And, a place will always be set for them at our table.

For me, even with the tumult in the kitchen as I get things finished for the meal, I'll be thinking of the Maryland gang. And, I'll feel content as I look about at my family and guests loitering in the kitchen while I work. I'll revel in the laughing and talking that is music to my ears.

I will give thanks for it all, and most especially, I'll pause for a prayer for my beloved niece, Laura, who turns 30 tomorrow. One day, I'll tell you the story of how I fell in love with Lar-Lar. To top it all off, we're awaiting the arrival of her baby in the next couple of weeks. Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!

Funny how the circle rolls. One child excitedly leaves to start his new life, while we wait for the newest member to come into our family. It's a beautiful thing, Life.

So, I thought today, I'd share a recipe for you to incorporate in your day tomorrow. Please, feel free to use this recipe every day if you like it:
- A dash of fond memories
- A heaping helping of bright, new moments
- A smidgen of shenanigans
- A gaggle of giggles when, "oh no, we forgot the cranberries!"
- An ounce of moderation, (but don't overdo it)
- A cup of kindness
- A peck of hope and thanks
- A pinch of sorrow as we remember those no longer with us
- Love & Laughter; to taste, as much as you can hold

Blend well together; share immediately with yourself and those who mean the most, be they close or far. Happy Thanksgiving, my readers! Make merry. And, be glad.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Monday, November 24, 2008

Love Always- Me

Today is my second anniversary. That's reminded me of Jack Benny. Why a comedian? Other than the zillions of jokes about being married, "take my wife, please," and things of that nature, what would make thoughts about my anniversary lead to a droll, witty, comedian? For that matter, one who's been dead for years. My mind...sometimes I even wonder!

It's because I recall a story about Jack, who was deeply in love with his wife, Mary, for 48 years even though they didn't have an easy marriage. As the story goes, the day after he died, the door bell rang and standing there was a delivery man from her favorite florist, holding a ruby red rose. She told him it must be a mistake; she hadn't ordered flowers. Respectfully, the delivery man confirmed, "It's not a mistake, Mrs. Benny. This is for you." And, with that, he left.

Opening the small envelope, the note read simply, "Love Always- Jack." She called the shop and the owner explained that she had a standing order for a rose to be delivered every day for as long as Mary lived. He made the arrangements as part of his will, foreseeing a time when he might not be around to do a loving gesture.

Now, I know this might be Hollywood factoid mixed with legend. But, somehow I think it is true or I need to believe that something this wonderful could be true. And, on my own wedding anniversary, I ponder a love so strong that you want the one who has captured your heart to know how deep your feelings run. To care so much that your special someone never forgets, not even for a single day, how much they mean to you.

On any given day, I have a difficult time putting my feelings for Michael into words. As good as I am with words, they fail me in this one area. Try as I might, the attempts feel inadequate. I can only 'feel' how much he is to me, never really define it. And, if that happens while I'm standing here with him, I wonder how he will know when, or once, I'm gone. Because, I promise you, far past my time here on earth, out-pacing our brief time together, Michael will own my heart every day. His love is my daily rose, as I hope mine is for him. He will always be The One for me.

Happy Anniversary, My Lion. Love Always- Me.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More About Mary

The gathering at the funeral home was small. Only immediate family and a few of their friends standing by in loving support. When Lou died, there was more fan-fare; the Knights of Columbus came in full regalia to pay tribute to one of their own and to extend respectful condolences to Mary who, taking moments from her deep sorrow, shook each member's hand with quiet grace and thanked them for coming.

But being her turn, it's probably best that there was only the handful of people, who meant the most, gathered quietly to bid farewell. She would have liked it better that way. She wasn't much for being at the center of things.

I want to be more like Mary- With the group so small, I had the opportunity to talk to many of them and hear their select memories. A theme emerged. Mary was one of those rare individuals who brought peace and well-being with each encounter she had. One of those people who make you feel more peaceful, happy, or calm simply by sitting with them.

Aunt Rose Raymond was one, too. Somehow, you just felt better sitting in her kitchen. Sometimes she'd sit at the table and talk with you; other times you'd chatter away while she prepared dinner moving smoothly with a good cook's internal rhythm from stove to sink to pantry and back again. You could tell she heard everything you said...

Even with her back turned to you, you felt her heart and attention facing you. Aunt Rose listened a lot more than she talked. I believe that's the secret- no matter the topic, she made you feel listened to; attended to; important. As if she had all the time in the world, she listened while you talked. We, all, so desperately want to feel that.

Mary was the same sort. I heard words, 'loving,' and 'kind,' and 'joyful'. 'Patient,' and 'caring,' were also repeated. Gabe, her grand-daughter sighed, "She loved us and she loved life. You knew you were important and special to her. You just felt better being around her." What a glowing tribute to an irreplaceable life well-lived.

I want to be more like Mary.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ushering In The Holidays

Perhaps it's a by-product of growing older, but the past few years, each time I begin the chore of opening the myriad of boxes that store my Christmas decorations I think, "This is ridiculous! Do I really want to put all of this out?" I start the mental list of spots that 'needs done,' as they say here. The 'to be,' is omitted by most when speaking about action items. "Needs fixed; needs signed; needs dried." Not sure why, but that's how it is said, 'needs done.'

Can I eliminate some of it? Maybe not do all of it? What part doesn't make that much of a difference? No one's really going to see it any way. Three trees? We won't even be here on Christmas day this tree at all, maybe? And, so it goes as I pop off top after box-top. I am quite serious when I tell you I still have a lot of Christmas stuff.

A great deal of what I owned, has been passed on to other worthy Christmas homes. My wooden ornaments and colored lights went to friend, Dana. Her boys loved seeing them when they visited, so I thought it fitting to send them on with my love.

My glass ornaments of jewel colors, some around since I was a little kid, have now found a home with my fabu niece, Laura. Two years ago, when we went to her house for Christmas Eve, I got a heart tug seeing my decorations artfully displayed throughout her home and on her tree. Life moves on and traditions grow.

Christmas Eve in Maryland was always at my home with family and friends and presents for my niece and nephew to tear open. For that one happy night, I gladly invested hours decorating every inch of my place to give those I love, festive memories. I have passed the torch to Laura who continues traditions that mean the most to her. She & Eric now host Christmas Eve in their home; the group has grown very large with the happy addition of the Gonzalez clan to ours.

At my Cape Cod on Long Green Road, I stored my collection in the deep crawl-space upstairs. A trap-door carved in the wall gave access to the treasures awaiting each Yule. Some years unseen, mice would nibble at the edges of things. But mostly, wrapped well, everything kept just fine. Lar-Lar, watched one year as I climbed in, flash-light at the ready, to haul things out. Awed by the effort, she named it, "The Christmas Abyss." I laughed so hard, I almost dropped the box of ornaments I was handing her. "The Abyss," it remained.

Evan & Melissa are happy to have Christmases with Dad and Holly and we're making our traditions as a family. However, I'm sure for them, my bright sparklies can't take the place of the ones they grew up with when Beth & Michael shared a home together. Just as for me, it's not the same without the Maryland Contingent here to see my displays.

Memories are truly funded by the people who view the decorations, not the decorations in and of themselves.

So, I'm getting ready shortly, to inventory what I must do. Do I really want to take it all back down again in a few's such a chore. Maybe just some this year. Or, maybe just the bobbles that Michael and I have started collecting together; our crystal stars...the fairies...

But, I know what will happen. Boxes open, I'll get excited seeing one that I like a lot; it will be like running into a dear friend that you haven't seen in a long time. Memories will flood me and I'll be holding treasured moments in my hand. Before long, all the boxes stand open; things everywhere. As if by magical powers, decorating will have commensed. I can't just put this out...this has to go with it. Oh, if this isn't out, I think I'd miss it. Dad gave this to me. This reminds me of Laura & Sean. And, so it goes until it's all crept out for another all-too-brief holiday time.

For now, I have to jet; My Beloved is getting ready to brave the snow to fabricate the exterior display and will require his assistant. That's his contribution to the decorating and he does a grand job. My Maryland family won't be here to see what we do. But, Melissa & Evan and our neighborhood family will. And, seeing the lights as they pass by will delight. It's about adding new moments and realizing that the current season is a gift that builds on my memories. That makes it worth all the effort. Looking forward to 'light-up' night here at our address on Eton Drive. Hoping you feel the same about your holiday decorating.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Love's Circle

Theresa, my neighbor, called yesterday to tearfully tell me that Mary has died. Not, that it wasn't expected, Mary was quite old and in poor health.

The real reason this is not unexpected is that she has been lost without Lou, who died in September. Mary didn't want to keep trying with her life-partner gone. There's not a soul here that doesn't understand the rightness of all of this. Or, doesn't take joy in the idea that Mary & Lou are happily together again. And, there's not a soul here who doesn't hurt for Theresa's sorrow of losing her mom.

This loss will be hard. T and her father shared love, but Mary & T had a very tight bond. They had that great relationship some women grow over girlfriends. Not simply mother/daughter. What a beautiful circle love is; Mary was there to joyfully witness Theresa's first quavery breath and T was there holding Mary's hand when she took her last. The circle is complete.

No matter how much we are prepared, or how old we are when it occurs, none of us can help feeling orphaned by a parent's death. It's not rational. Not based in thought. I can't explain it; I can only say that it's a deep resonance in your soul. A moment when you feel, "I'm all alone now," even though you know others are supportively around you. And, my friend has been orphaned the hardest way having lost both of her parents in a few months, not the usual years.

It will take time for Theresa to recover from being orphaned. We're here to make certain that she does. God speed with our love, Mary! We'll take care of your little girl. Promise.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Road To Hell, Paved By Women?

I am wondering what got into us. Why do we make things harder? Women should know better. I keep hoping these are isolated incidences. But, they're not. I hear about it more and more. I'm quite sick of it. Really.

Madeleine Albright, 1st female U.S. Secretary of State said, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." I couldn't agree more. As I see it, there will be a whole lot of sisters toasting their tootsies in an uncomfortably hot spot. And, they will have earned it. Tell me, why don't women worry about cultivating a spirit of cooperation more than they worry about competing against other women?

My best friend, Pam, recently started a job after two years of searching. Her prior position at Washington Mutual was eliminated due to restructuring. She did her due diligence through the interview process; asked the correct questions to be certain she was signing on with an organization that held better corporate values. She was excited about what she was told. Life as it was described seemed to be in sync with how she sees the world. Pam believes that a professional works daily to accomplish goals and objectives; to be a cordial, willing, dependable team mate; and an even better provider of customer service. Pammy is one of the best women I know.

Can I tell you how miserable she is? In her entire career she's never felt as alone or unhappy. Even the hostile end days at WaMu pale in comparison. She works with women, mostly. I can probably end here; for many, that's 'nuff said. My daughter Melissa, surviving various female-generated, work-place horror stories would simply say, "Yup. Been there; got the tee-shirt."

Not long ago, I took a job described as a good match for my skills. I lasted 90 days before pulling the plug. I have never done that before- never. But, the notion of going in day after day and dealing with the same craziness? Absolutely not. I kept thinking it was me...Did I miss something through the interview? Did I have a stroke and not hear them describe this hell?

It was a hard job: no problem. A hard job made miserable because it's a chaotic quagmire? Unnecessary. The staff was primarily women. Within days I could identify the ones who were pleasant to my face but starting the ripples of undercurrent when my back was to them. Sadly, not unexpected. When you must work with them in order to accomplish your duties, then what?

What I, as the new person, wasn't prepared for was the manager's position on it all. The boss, who wanted me very badly for this job, said, "I'm sorry to see you go. But, there's nothing I can do. I don't get involved with this stuff. I stay out of staff intrigues, follow corporate policy, and do my job." Nice. That's supportive. So, there's nothing that can be done to stop the insanity? Amazing.

How did it happen? When did organizations decide that it's simply easier to churn through employees with an attitude of, "We can always find another one." Abdicating responsibility of growing positive corporate cultures? You'd rather lose another positive, bright-eyed staffer than counsel a negative, emotionally-grinding one? Doesn't anyone see the waste that comes from constantly training new people only to have them run-off? Do you care that projects never move forward because they get dropped at the revolving door? What about the bad P.R. created by the abused employee telling everyone how bad things are at 'that place'? Can't you see that if employees behave badly with one of their own, they most certainly will with your customers? Honestly...

Pam's heartache is caused by the unwillingness of her office mates to incorporate her, show her the ropes, or welcome her. To share information. To lend the newbie a hand. To act like Human Beings. She is shocked by the passive-aggressive attitude the women exhibit. The negative things they say about the work and the customers. I'd like to tell her to hang in there; it's simply because she's new and it takes time. However, it has nothing to do with her being new. It won't get better.

If it hadn't happened recently to me- if it didn't echo Melissa's experiences, I'd say that Pammy just made a bad choice. But, she didn't. I didn't. It is how the corporate world behaves now. How did things spiral so badly? How did Human Beings, particularly women, devolve to the point where they'd rather destroy a new person's morale than lend a hand? What happened to caring about your grade in the "plays well with others," category?

Here's a heretical notion: Women, stop confusing your work place with a popularity contest. Contrary to the way many females on the job think, there is no requirement that you must like me in order to work with me. A mature professional respects that we both have places on the team, regardless of whether you'd choose me as a friend, and acts accordingly. Grow up! It's not about liking or disliking; it's about getting the job done. You don't have to socially groove with all your team-mates. Professional satisfaction can't be only about how you feel; it has to be about how you perform, too! And, the requirement to be a civil Human Being is not a variable dependent on whether you 'like' someone. Period.

The more important issue is when the disconnect occurred. Can businesses truly not know that things inside are shockingly different from how they represent them to a potential employee? Are they deluded or flat-out lying? And, if they know how things are... how far their culture has crumbled, when did they decide to turn a blind-eye rather than address it? Shame on them! Shame. And, especially shame on us, women, who purport to care so much about feelings.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You Just Never Know

We go through life thinking, either, we know how things are, or being clever enough to realize we'll discover as we go along. I'm not always happy with the knowledge gained from some experiences. But, as I see it, another piece to the puzzle is still a piece. So, I keep moving along...

Today, I'm thinking of Dad's wallet. The source of economic stability. "Daddy, I need some money for the field trip." Out came the wallet. "Pop, do you think I can go to the movies with my friends?" Wallet, out. "Daddy, I am beginning to look at colleges..." The wallet couldn't hold that much, but still, Dad was there to help.

Maybe the best lessons were the times when the wallet didn't come to the rescue. When, "No," was the answer. Or, as Dad generally phrased his descent, "Not today." Learning that you won't always get what you want is a hard, but necessary, life lesson.

The wallet was my opportunity to learn the importance of honor and respect for other people's property. "Go and get my wallet," was the command I'd hear. I'd fetch it, bring it to Dad who opened it and dispensed the cash. Unless I was instructed, "Go and get the money out of my wallet," I never touched Dad's Wallet. Never snooped through its mysteries.

I'm not sure how he sat in a spot beyond my natural kid-curiosity; he simply did. My grandmother didn't enjoy the same privilege. I was often in her jewelry box, or riffling through the contents on her kidney-shaped dressing table. Ponds cold cream and jeweled hat pins were simply too hard to resist. But, somewhere I learned that I couldn't just take something because it caught my fancy. I had to ask the owner before I helped myself. I'm sure Dad and family must have instilled those things in me, but I can't tell you how. It's just always been there. Thankfully.

How often Dad opened that black leather wallet probably built my foundation of being a generous spirit. If you need it, I have it and you ask, it's yours. That was how Jimmy saw the world, too. He was not a man who said, "I love you," but making sure you had what was needed was his way of putting love into action.

The true miracle of Dad's generosity is that I had no idea how often there wasn't much in his wallet. When it might have been totally empty. I never knew that. And, not knowing means I did not grow up fearfully- what a gift. My world was kept on an even keel. Thank you, Pop! Also, thank you for recognizing when I was old enough to hear the truth about our financial situation when it wasn't very good. Those times when our discussions guided me through the lessons of learning how to manage money and expectations.

Although it modified as I grew and gained life experience, I hold a galvanized image of my father. Meaning, I have my idea of who Dad was as, Jimmy, the man. Often, how we see our parents is quite different from the way others might see them. I know my father was far from perfect, but he was a superior parent. I know that some people may have thought Jimmy was a real S.O.B. Some may think him a saint. Depends on who you are and what your experiences with him totaled. Regardless, I know how I see my father.

We hold our images of our important people, but we very rarely get to peer through the window that provides their view of us. It's hard to know how others see us. You can ask, but that doesn't give first-hand experience. Most of the time, their words are all we have to go on. Knowing how others see you might be as important to the equation as how you see them. Just a thought.

So, back to Dad's Wallet. Turns out the same leather that paid for experiences in my life, also held the secret of how my father saw me. My importance in his life story. After Daddy died, I had the sad job of going through his belongings and handling his affairs. I held some chores back; I guess to be more emotionally ready. P.S.- you're never ready...

Dad's Wallet was one of the last things I tackled. More because I couldn't get over the notion that I was snooping which made me uncomfortable. I took a breath and started in. There was some cash in there; not much. Tucked in another part, a neatly folded $2 bill. A social security card, although he told me NEVER carry my social security card in my wallet for safety reasons... Good advice!

A dry cleaning ticket. A credit card. And, then...a small black & white photo of a cherubic little baby; the very first photo of me. Several color photos of a sad-eyed grade school child as she changed through years of growth. My high school year book picture. A creased and folded letter I sent years ago from camp. A small envelope with a lock of chestnut colored hair- In spidery writing on the outside, simply- "Holly."

Dad's Wallet yielded one final payment- the true view of how Jimmy saw Holly. His unsaid, "I love you," stowed in leather. Imagine experiencing that I was as important to him as he is to me. All those pieces of me closely carried daily in his pocket. You just never know, do you? But sometimes, if truly blessed, you get a glimpse.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Jimmy Dietor's Kid

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Retail Farewells

My good neighbor, Ron, is in the throws of the heartache marathon of liquidating his family business. It's been emotionally exhausting to take a community mainstay of 65 years through the process of closing. Having been raised in a family business that suffered the same fate, I understand the uncertainty, pain and sorrow. What do you do after the only work and professional definition you've ever known evaporates? King's Garden Palace & Nursery was a gardener's utopia.

Leaving my gardens behind in Maryland was traumatic. I wondered how I would start again in an area where it seemed my only choices were Lowe's and Home Depot. Not that there's a thing wrong with them as plant providers- I use them. But, there's a reason we use the term, 'garden-variety,' to describe the usual, the mundane, the dependable, though, nothing-special. Garden-variety is what the chain stores sell. If you're an avid gardener, the usual geraniums and ubiquitous evergreens simply will not do. A gardener is always on the hunt for the next fascinating specimen to invite through the garden gate.

When Ron and I were introduced, the Garden Gods smiled! He assisted in replicating some of the choices I had loved back home. If he didn't carry it, which wasn't often, it was ordered and dropped off at my front door when it arrived. There's service for you! He helped by talking over the differences of gardening in Western PA vs. Maryland. He supported my efforts to make my gardens individualistic, yet harmonious, in our intimate neighborhood.

The King Family's decision to close has made the papers in stories about the economy, the struggles of running a small business, etc. Ron is quoted about the uphill battle of competing against Big-Box stores. In our talks, that's come up as the major reason to close it all down. Sad. Sad for the family. Sad for us gardeners. Sad for the employees who depended on King's. But, truly sad for this community. Another employment opportunity lost. Another point of uniqueness gone. Another shopping experience- history.

Like most folks, my budget is an issue. I shop the Big Boxes to stretch it. I also know that if I'm frugal and use the chains, I might have money left to 'treat' myself at a favorite King's. But, what happens when our regular shopping patterns negatively impact a small business? If we abdicate our role of being 'loyal' customers, what then?

We find ourselves- bidding farewell to yet another local retail treasure. Being sad for our gardens. Sadder for a friend. Is it impossible for giant chain stores and solid small businesses to peacefully co-exist? Yes, if we don't support local establishments. So long as we make every purchase based solely on the criteria of price and convenience, we jeopardize the neighborhood businesses we enjoy. We have a responsibility to support area stores. The owners are often friends, neighbors or, at the very least, community members. We need to support each other.

Please, when possible, support your small businesses. They are what give your community its flavor and character. Wal-Mart can't do that. Neither can Lowe's or Home Depot. Taking nothing away from them, because I'm glad to have them, they are deliberately the same everywhere. Nothing unique about them at all. Wal-Mart will do just fine without your money; won't even miss it as a matter of fact! Your local merchants can't make the same claim. They rely on you and every transaction you make with them.

As to King's? Now, there was a place where your imagination could bloom with unique selections and a welcoming staff! I wish all involved, and most particularly my friend, Ron, the courage to stay positive and find easily, the next venue of professional satisfaction. Thank you for your contribution to this community. Whenever you see a beautiful garden, take pride in all your family's business did to make it possible! King's Garden Palace & Nursery will be sorely missed.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pagan Babies & Other Oddities

Who didn't love Fridays at SS.P.J.? How could you not? It was the most fun in the week. SS. Philip & James was the Catholic elementary school where I spent eight years with the same 25 classmates. That would be rare now. The school is gone, but my memories linger and I'm certain I'll share when they burble up to the surface.

I'm thinking of Fridays and how we looked forward to them, not just because of the two days-off looming close, but because that was the day we received the Weekly Reader! They came tightly wound in a packing tube which Sister popped open and unfurled as she walked around handing them out. Oh, what delight those four pages brought. They were in color! Had great games. And, we took turns reading a-loud the interesting stories usually consisting of an animal, a spot of geography, and other fun facts that you just didn't know! I couldn't wait to show Daddy when I got home. Poor Dad, I'm sure it was really boring but I have to say, he always met the Weekly Reader with enthusiasm! Just love my Dad...

The other Friday festivity was Art Class. I adored art class! I'm not sure how those nuns came up with such interesting projects for 25 messy school kids, but I'm grateful they did. Crayola crayons came out of our cigar boxes, along with paste that smelled good enough to eat, and construction paper! Does it get any better than that? We'll talk about the great glitter debacle another day...

The joy of art class often carried over to Monday morning when we'd see our artwork hung about the room...tacked to the bottom of the alphabet chart on the side wall. It was sorted in order of greatness; the most proficient to the least. Happily, while my stuff didn't always land the coveted first spot, it was generally close to the front. That gave me a great feeling. But, it wasn't enough to counter the humiliation of usually seeing my math papers ruffling in lonely last place close to the cloak room. Math & Me- not good.

Did you have cloak rooms at the back of your classrooms? No room for lockers, we had assigned spots along a wide wooden strip where we hung our coats and placed on the shelf above, our lunch boxes and other bits from home that we had dragged with us. Umbrellas and galashes on rainy days neatly arranged on the floor below. I liked the cloak room, even on the days when it smelled like wet wool. Despite 25 children, in typical nunly fashion, it was always orderly, smelled of wood polish, and felt full of anticipation. I suspect it was the energy of being sprung loose at the end of each day; you could feel it. The only time I didn't like the cloak room was when one of us was banished to it in punishment for some infraction of the many rules.

We didn't have a cafeteria, so lunch was eaten at our desks under the watchful, Gestapo-esque eyes of two 8th grade girls- The Safeties! I dreamed of the day I could be a Safety and wear a white belt with its badge. Man, to be a Safety! But, I vowed I'd never be a mean Safety. I would work hard to be The Favorite Safety- I wouldn't yell and pinch. Oh, and if you needed a drink of water, I would let you go to the water fountain. No denying anyone water ever again! Just so you know, sadly, I never did get to be a Safety.

My brother was one of the fabulous 8th grade Milk Boys, though! I was so proud when he'd come with his crate to our classroom! He always had enough chocolate milk to go around. Not like some of those other milk boys with more white milk than we ever wanted- he did it the right way. If one of those chocolate milks was frozen, somehow, I'd be lucky enough to get it. If it was to be had, he'd make sure I got the coveted frozen milk. And, when he left, he'd always catch my little sister eye and give me a smile. Glenn was the best Milk Boy, ever.

Recess was held in the classroom, too. Somedays, if the Spirit moved her, Sister would lead us in silent straight lines outside for some fresh air. Generally, though, it was 10 minutes in the classroom. She'd go to the locked cubbie in the cloak room with an able assistant and they'd come back with the choices of candy, along with the Utz potato chip bags. And, pretzel rods; those costed less than the chips.

During certain months, recess was turned into the opportunity of learning the value of doing good Catholic work- Saving The World From Darkness. That's when we would have the choice of buying treats, or 'offering up,' our recess-money to buy our Pagan Baby. Yep, buy a Pagan Baby in a far-off land like Africa, mostly. Ours was not the only school to do this. I went to school in Baltimore City; Michael went to school in the country-side of Emmitsburg. He, also, knows about the Pagan Babies. Ask him!

Instead of eating candy and chips, we could be buying a baby! Who didn't want to buy a baby?! Money jar full at the conclusion of the Pagan Baby Drive, we'd have a drawing to choose the name of our acquired Pagan. If your name was picked, the baby would be named after you. One year, can you believe the luck, my name was drawn. I still have that certificate someplace declaring that there is a Pagan Baby in the world lucky enough to be named Marie Louise.

What do you mean, that's not my name? Okay,we had to add Marie or Mary because all the girl Pagan Babies had to have it. But, Louise? Sure, that's my name. It is! At least at SS. Philip & James. You see, there's no St. Holly- at least not yet. In order for me to be baptized, Dad was strong-armed into giving me a good Saint's name. It was either re-name me entirely or add one. So, he tossed in Louisa, after Nanny, The World's Meanest Woman. And, that's how I went through eight years of my life being called, Louise Dietor. Somehow the 'a' never got on my school enrollment papers to add further confusion to things. Crazy, I know. Nonetheless, there is a Pagan Baby in the world who is named Louise sort-of after me. So, it's all good!

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly, aka Louise(a): please, don't forget the ''a"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Tale of Cheeky B.

He's adorable, clever, cheeky, ambitious, and entertaining. Or... He's annoying, opportunistic, greedy, bold, brazen. It really depends on who you are in the garden hierarchy as to how you see the chipmunk who has taken up residence in the garden wall.

I first noticed him when peering out my bedroom window, which provides a perfect view of the top of the wall. There he lay in all of his stripped grandness...flat out...taking advantage of the heat of the stones to warm him all over. Not worried about a blessed thing, that one. I was mesmerized. How cute! So still; just an occasional eye-blink. I thought, "How often do you get the chance to observe something that's that fast and timid up close?" Turns out, lots of times because this little critter ain't afraid of nothing! Adorable.

At first, he was a great addition to my garden wildlife. He seemed happy to industriously vacuum the ground under the bird feeders. That's a good thing because I'm sick of weeding where the seed sprouts into who knows what. I started thinking of him as my wee gardening assistant. Enjoyable.

But, the birds don't find him all that charming. I see them bunched on the branches of the nearby bushes, little heads cocked in watch as he spends way too much time down there for their liking. They can't eat with him darting back and forth, back and forth. He's like that annoying guy at the party, you know the one, who races up to the table and loads his plate with the really choice hors d' oeuvres while the rest of us considerate, polite guests only take a few.... No regard that there are others who might want a few morsels. Ass.

Even the blue jays are frustrated. Jays by nature are bold and aggressive. They're the mafia of the bird world and have been known to kill other birds at a feeder, 'just because.' The sheer size of them makes them intimidating. Up close you really see the theory that birds are descended from dinosaurs. Jays remind me of those crafty velociraptors in Jurassic Park. They're also smart birds; if you don't give them a challenge, they can quickly eat you out of house and peanuts. So, I got this contraption that looks like a slinky, ends attached together. It holds whole peanuts. It makes the jays work for their reward. They sit on the ring and pull at the peanut for a bit before working it free. Good for them and way easier on my bird-feeding budget.

The other day, I filled the ring. Shortly after, I hear jays outside raising a ruckus. That only happens when the ring is devoid of nuts. Going to see what's up, I see this flustered jay hopping back and forth, all but screaming, "Holy crap! Do something!" Because, sitting on the ring like a fat guy at an all-you-can-eat buffet, is the munk pulling at the nuts. Grabs one, shoots away. Comes back immediately, grabs another. The jay sits there in total defeat. What power does that chipmunk have to keep a jay at bay? Bold.

The cheeky bastard emptied the ring. Emptied it! Later, when talking with Michael, we figure that he'd helped himself to hundreds of peanuts over two days because he had filled the ring the day before. Pig.

It's hardest on Rory & Fiona; they know he's there and are compelled to hunt him. Terriers + Rodents = Gasoline + Match. Terriers were designed by humans to be ratters. They rush after any small thing. It seemed like a clever idea to allow the pups to lay on the back of the sofa and watch the chipmunk dashing around in the garden. I thought it was a way to occupy their dog t.v. That didn't last long.

Recently, I heard Rory, who is the most docile Scottie ever, sounding as though he's possessed. I race to see what's up and there's Boydog plastered to the door, eyes rolling, looking out at- you guessed it, the chipmunk sitting up just on the other side of the glass. Are you kidding me? Sitting up watching my terrier go wild? Rambo-Munk.

Michael has taken to releasing the hounds. He figures if the munk is going to taunt them, Fiona & Rory should at least have their shot. It's like watching a garden version of Wyle E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. Michael opens the door...the chipmunk, upon hearing the door open, has ample time to make his rapid escape... Scotties jet out making unearthly shrieking noises that would make any warring Highlander proud...Braveheart In The Garden...they dash to the last known spot of their nemises....alas...he is gone. Meem, Meemp! Dammit.

From deep inside the garden wall, I believe I hear little chuckles. I can't be certain.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In The Image & Likeness

I had an interesting experience last night. I can't fully explain it, but it's worth sharing. I met a group of fellow Light Workers; Reiki practitioners all. They've been meeting for several years sharing Reiki and different techniques of working with energy.

Paul, a kind and centered soul who spends his summers in far away lands to experience ancient ways of deepening connection with his Divine Spark, led the group through a meditation. Vipassana, a meditation modality used by monks in Burma, is believed to be a psychic healing technique. It creates the space for you to become passively aware of your complete body. To acknowledge, while not reacting to, any sensations that come along be they pain or bliss. To bring about healing to anything that requires it. It also welcomes in the Divine to pay witness to the totality of you in the moment-lumps, bumps, and all. It's spiritually saying , "Spirit, I am here. Please see me."

As with most meditations, you sit in silence, waiting for something to happen...going on hoping anything might happen...going on wondering how long do we have to sit there...going on, okay, enough I don't want to sit here...going further beginning to unravel...going further unfamiliarly, quietly being...quieter...still. Blessedly, Still.

I have to talk more with Paul, but what I understand is, with Vipassana and other forms of meditation, the practice is to get to our place of internal quiet. The spot of- Least Of, which acts as an amplifier, if you will. Coming from this spot of stillness, all energy work, prayer and light, magnifies and grows much more powerful and brighter. When intention emanates from sacred stillness, it's like throwing on halogen high beams.

Here's the impression I took away: The door bell rings and to my surprise when opening the door, Spirit is standing there! Of course, I invite Her/Him in to sit and have a cup of coffee. Sitting in the silence last night, there were moments when I became internally fidgety and uncomfortable. In my mind, that's the point when both Spirit and I had run out of things to talk about; neither certain where to go next...

Longer into the silence and following my breath, I grew connected to the others as we sat together. Instead of individuals, we became a collective of energetic beings and I felt that shift. In my mind, that's when Spirit and I shifted in our visit from the uncomfortable silence of nothing to say, to the welcomed, relaxed silence of a couple who know each other so completely that they can just 'be.' Words no longer necessary for effective communication with each other. Completely in sync.

Last night got me thinking about my upbringing in Catholic school and learning to recite large portions of the Baltimore Catechism. If you're from the Catholic tradition, you'll be chuckling or groaning in rememberance about now. There's a great deal I no longer keep as part of that experience, but one memorized mystery truly defines how I see things spiritually.

It is imprinted, "I am created in the image and likeness of God." The Image & Likeness. Like most profound things, this one is glossed over and not recognized for its seminal importance.

This doctrine means that if you could look at Spirit and then look at me, you would not see a difference. It doesn't say that Spirit created us to look sorta' clearly says, if you see one you see the other. We are Spirit's Human face.

So, I wonder...if we would accept that miracle...

If we constantly remembered that miracle and owned the power of it...

If we walked in the truth of that fact...acted with each individual we encountered with that awareness...

Would we be living in a different world? A better, happier world? A more loving world?

You are not a separate entity from Spirit; you are not less-than. You are not a creature that was created for Spirit to direct. You are a vital thread of the vast net of Spirit. You are a unique and qualified reflection of Spirit. You are Spirit. You/Spirit- not only connected; You/Spirit-the same as!

Today, I will remember, that I am lovingly created in the image and likeness of God. With each living being, I will remember that I may be the only reflection of Spirit's loving face they may encounter. And, I will act accordingly. What a responsibility! But oh, what a profound honor.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Are We There Yet?

We're coming up soon on what's reportedly the heaviest travel day of all- Thanksgiving. The time of year when the dreaded four word question, “Are we there yet,” is asked repeatedly until you want to jump out of the car window. Michael's retort to the kids was always, “Is the car still moving?” That was the cue that they better sit quietly and look out at the passing scenery instead of attempting to make him crazy. Of course, today's kids have it vacant staring out the car windows for them, they can sit and watch a DVD!

Are we There yet? Interesting that we are always in such a hurry to get There. Even as adults, we’re no different. We believe that There has to be better than Here. And, we apply the same thinking in terms of our physical and emotional health and wellness.

Are we There yet? Often, when life isn't going as we envision, we attempt to rush to our desired destination- Feeling Different. “If I could only lose all of this weight,” or, “I want to feel better about myself,” or, “I just want to be in love with a great person.” We focus only on the different way of feeling instead of considering our personal journey and how much we learn while working to achieve a goal.

The problem with solely focusing on the end result is that often the goal is pretty lofty. And, achieving it may take major time and effort. Few of us have the patience to accept that change happens a tad at a time. We don't like Here but There seems unattainable; we grow frustrated. The destination seeming too far, we slow to a crawl. Or, quit in the middle. Loss of momentum is a sign that we need to change direction. It’s time to re-direct focus to the joy of journeying, not arriving at Feeling Different. Personal journeys are accomplished a step at a time just as a long road trip is completed a mile at a time.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Life is a progress, and not a station.” Progress can be slow. We sometimes meander taking steps forward, sometimes backward, before we find ourselves moving forward once more. When the going gets especially difficult or challenging, stop and rest. Taking a break and focusing on something else is the best way to clear heads and hearts so we can renew our efforts. It’s not unlike pulling over to the side of the road after you’ve driven for hours to stretch your legs and rest your eyes.

Are we There yet? When we constantly leap ahead to the conclusion of the ride, we miss so much. For today, let's concentrate on where we are in this moment. When you bring your focus into the now, you find that you can relax and stop fixating. It takes practice; it’s not easy staying in the moment, to not look so far into the future. But, it’s worth it to calm your thoughts and find comfort in things as they exist. Try to discover the simple pleasure that hides in things-as-they-are instead of constantly wishing things-to-be-different.

Life is not better There. Besides, you can’t arrive at a new and happier place until you’ve done a thorough job in mapping Here. Once you clearly see the starting point of who you are now, what's needed, what's desired, it’s easier to list the required changes to arrive at Feeling Different. Excitedly plan your life's road trip.

You'll find what you need as you travel along. Trusted confidants or professional resources can cheer you on when the road seems too steep. Keep traveling forward with their help. However, for today, look at the scenery; take in the view. Oh, and the answer to the question, “Are we There yet,” is, “No.” The truth is, when you get There, it becomes Here. So, sit back and enjoy the ride! It's all about the ride.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Monday, November 10, 2008

Is It Fear of Falling Or Failing?

In her book, Steering By Starlight, Margaret Beck writes, "We aren't born with these negative feelings. Human infants have only two natural fears: the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling." This is an "Ah-Ha!" moment for me. Do you find it as stunning? Are you kidding me? Those are the only two fears I came with? How the hell did the rest of it all glom onto me? Who did this? And, why?

Can it be true that the entirety of the things that make me crazy and stop me from trying is acquired behavior? Imprinting us with fear starts from the beginning. We're taught to be afraid simply to keep us alive. "Hot! Don't touch!", "Don't run with scissors!!", "Stop it or your face will freeze that way!!!" We've all heard these dire warnings.

My all-time favorite was from Nanny, The World's Meanest Woman. She'd say, "If you don't listen, you have to feel!" She was right; if I'd have listened when she said, "You're gonna' get hurt," I would have saved myself some painful experiences. Despite the pain, in my head I'd be huffing, "You're not the boss of me! It's my life and I'll do what I want, so there!" Even if it scorches me a bit around the edges.

I used to have a sign in my room, "Runs with scissors!" Ah, life on the edge. Now I think, man, that's pretty dangerous! On lots of fronts I've become a wuss... What happened to that girl who would chance running with scissors? Life is lived to have experiences; to acquire first-hand knowledge. Getting hurt and failing are necessary parts of the experiment. Given that, what's the tipping point that turns the use of fear to keep us alive, into the demon that keeps us from living?

I still hate loud noises. Heights make me nervous. But, they don't keep me up at night. By Beck's meassure, no survival issues for me. Instead, the things that do make me Sleepless In Greensburg are quality of life issues that I've layered I still attractive because I sure am getting older! Where's the money going to come from? Is there something wrong with me? Wonder what he really meant by that? Do I look fat in this?????!!!!!!

The idea that I'm my own worst enemy is always a tough pill to swallow. But, learning that I'm also my own Bogey Man? Oh, for heaven's sake...

I'll be pondering this one for awhile. Do you find Beck's statement as frustrating and enlightening as I do? Your thoughts and comments will be most appreciated. Check back and see what others share. More importantly, how do we proceed from here? How do we become truly intrepid? How do we remember that surviving ain't living?

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Who Am I, Now?

The greatest irony of life is that, in order to have your true heart's desire, your authentic need met, you often have to trade away your definition of Self and life as you know it. At least, such is the case for me.

I desired a deep, lasting, encompassing love and friendship. After years of questing, that prayer was answered when Michael and I met. In order to have the relationship, I moved from everything familiar and good about my life to that point. Maryland meant home, professional contacts, teaching, my social construct, my family. We moved to Greensburg not geographically far east of Pittsburgh which, by the way, if you've never visited Pittsburgh, is pretty cool and you should make a trip. However, from a tactical point of view, regularly attempting to get there from here? You'd have to ingest Prozac...lots and lots of Prozac.

You simply can't easily get there from here. The road leading into Pittsburgh is called The Parkway. It is, dually, the most appropriately and ironically named stretch of real-estate ever. Trust me when I tell you that you'll spend way more time parked on it than moving along it. Once you get close, access funnels down to a tunnel into the three rivers valley where the city emerges like a living post card. Beautiful yes, but a true ass-pain of a drive. However, I digress; back to Pittsburgh in a sec...

Geographically, I'm also not far from the life I left behind- only three and a half hours. In four years living here, very few of my friends and family have visited. I've talked to some about this. The expectation that we must always travel there bothers me. I am not singular with this issue; ask anyone who's had the audacity to move away and they'll echo my experience. I understand that everyone is there so, if we want to be part of a holiday or special occasion, we must go to them. I get that. But, simply to visit each other and sit in the warm space that's created when you are in the presence of someone you love and miss? No, I don't see why we must always go there.

"It's just easier if you come here. We're all here." Who's it easier on? Certainly not Michael and me. The drive is not shorter for us; it's three and a half hours whether we head east or they head west. I get that life is busy. But, when people tell me their lives are slammed and so much is going on, what I hear is, "You need to understand, we can't take the time. If you come here, we'll be very happy to see you, though." Sigh.

This thinking that we should consistently be the ones to travel? Simply not equitable. So, I don't see people I care about as much as I'd like. Even though it's not so far. I don't press the issue anymore. Please know, however, that you have an open invitation should you want to come to my home and share some time with us. We'll leave it at that.

In my former life, I was professionally well-regarded. I had a fab network! I may not have been able to directly get you to the person you wanted, but I probably knew somebody who knew somebody. That sort of network takes a lifetime to enmass and is not transplant-able in a new location. I was a favorite instructor at Towson University. Several of my former students stay in touch with me which is incredibly rewarding. Here, I'm not yet a professional entity and the universities, so far, aren't interested.

My Maryland circle of friends was large and incredibly interesting. Happily, I'm learning that it's possible to make new friends in new places. I've even made a girlfriend or two. I've also made some high-flight contacts with a few area business professionals, but so far, the right job for me has not materialized. Maybe tomorrow or the next day. I hope and stay vigilant.

Now, back to Pittsburgh; I could probably land a job there. For someone with my skills and background, The City as it's called here, would be the obvious place to search. But, can I tell you? I'm simply not emotionally and physically capable of enduring the hour and a half drive each way every day. If that makes me sound like a loser well, alrighty, then. This is a dilemma; like everyone else, finances are an issue. I must contribute financially. I hate that it's all on Michael; it's stressful for both of us. When we made the choice to relocate for his professional reasons, how could we have guessed? The move has been rewarding for him. Not so for me. I don't know, maybe it's always harder for the one who, 'comes with.'

The past few nights, I've had vivid dreams. I'm standing in each house I've occupied. I'm listening to the current owners go on and on about all the hard work and changes they've made to the house to, 'improve it' and make it their own. In the dreams I vacillate between feeling slightly annoyed to down-right weepy. Especially at my house on Long Green Road. I loved that house. And, while the changes the current dream owner has made to the dream house are interesting, it makes me sad that I no longer live there and that it's changed. It's not mine anymore. It's gone on without me.

I realize that the dreams are my psyche' nudging me to stop wounding myself repeatedly by clinging to my past. Why can't I embrace what's to come with as much regard as what's past? What's wrong with me that I can't let go and start looking forward? It's a weakness of mine, this constant looking backward with longing. Everyone else seems to look ahead excited for change. I don't do that easily. Ever try to drive a car by looking only in the rear-view mirror? It can't be done. You must gaze ahead to travel successfully. How do I learn to do that about living? I need a life windshield...

Who am I now? I know quite clearly who I used to be- I used to be somebody! But, I'm not sure exactly who that somebody needs to be now in this new space. It's really, really emotionally hard work to tease it out. When everything is pulled away and you no longer walk the comfortable, familiar terrain of knowing, you're left with the need to re-map life. The path is unclear to me and I feel lost.

I am sure of a few things- I'm a stranger in a strange land, but how long it continues to feel strange depends on me and how willing or resistant I am to embracing my new life. It's time for me to redefine, 'home.' The Laurel Highlands of Western PA is now home. The area I live is quite beautiful with nice people who smile and say hello. I am the owner of two adorable Scotties, another life-long dream of mine! I have an incredible home that makes me proud. I'm beginning to be considered a friend by some very interesting and kind folk. I'm a stellar communications professional despite the current lack of a position to validate that. I'm a loving step-mother and that meets another life goal because I believe I would have made a good mom. Now, I can test that theory. Since these 'kids' of mine are actually grown-ups, I can also be a friend to Evan and Melissa who grow daily in importance to me.

Central to it all, I am wife and partner to Michael, the man who is instrumental in my reaching some of my goals. And, despite the heavy lifting my life feels it requires at the moment, I'd trade my Maryland life again to live the joy, love and wonder that comes from this defining, pivotal relationship. It is not too steep a trade for such a miraculous dream come true. I absolutely adore this man! More important is the knowledge that he feels the same for me. I will probably always miss Maryland but, Michael is life and home.

Meanwhile, if you know of a good professional opportunity for me please, hook me up! Anyone east of Pittsburgh need a good writer? An excellent communications professional? Care to help a gal create her just-right-life?

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Man Not Machine

Yesterday while running errands, I jetted into the drive-thru of my favorite fast food joint for a drink. The upbeat voice in the order box said, "My name is Nicky, can I take your order?" I did what I always do before yelping my order into the box, I said, "Hi, how are you?" After an uncertain pause, the box replied, "I'm well, thanks, and how are you?!" I answered and gave my short order.

At the pick-up window, a young sparkly girl wearing a headset came up next to the one handing me my drink and excitedly said, "Hey, I want you to know you're my all time favorite customer! I just told my manager that you actually said hello to me and asked how I was!! No one has ever done that. Ever. I come in here everyday trying to be nice to people but no one has ever done that for me. Thanks. You made my day!" Wow.

Next, I headed to Target. The register lines were a tad long giving me time to look around. I saw Target Team Members all say hello to the people in line. Some briefly responded; some on their cell phones didn't even hear. Others were engaged in conversation with the person with them. Not one customer engaged in conversation during the check-out process. A few said a hurried, "Thanks," as they snatched their bags. When it was my turn, I did my usual eye dart to the badge for a name. When Team Member Paula said hello, I responded, "Hi Paula, how are you today?" Again after a brief pause, she beamed, "I'm good, thanks. How are you? Did you find everything okay?" We chatted and I left thanking her for her help.

So, why this entry; this sort of stuff goes on countless times a day. Yes, it does. I'm calling attention to the uncertain, brief pauses that happened in both of those exchanges because that's the important bit. Those pauses are an uncertain brain attempting to process a new experience. Attempting to process the experience of being acknowledged! The one who takes an order or helps in a check-out line is a Human Being, not an extension of the cash register! In our haste, our self-absorbed methods of getting through our day, we forget.

The pause is the sad state of affairs in customer service. We treat them with no regard and transparency, and eventually, even the most bright-eyed of retail workers begins to act like the air has been let out of their balloon. They act in that flat, dis-interested way that most of us customers find infuriating. It's a shame on both sides of the cash register.

If you don't consciously remember, with each encounter, that you're dealing with a Human Being and not a machine, start today. We've all had retail jobs, or suffer with one currently. Most of us can relate to the lack of regard we endure in those positions; it doesn't feel good at all. So, don't pass it on. Try an experiment next time you're in a store- Deliberately look for a name badge and use the person's name when they wait on you. If that's not possible, take a sec to look them in the eye saying, "Thank you very much for your help today!" See if it doesn't change the look on their face. I know it will make you feel better. It simply will.

One of my favorite Dave Barry quotes is, "A person who is nice to you but mean to the waiter is not a nice person." We think of being mean as specific rude behavior, but ignoring a person is a form of meanness that is endured much more frequently. So, are you a nice person? Would a sales associate be able to say so conclusively based on your encounter with them?

Oh, here's another thing: Please, let's stop acting as if the tele-marketer is a roach that crawled through our phones and into our houses. I know they're annoying. But, it's the concept/company that's annoying; they are not annoying-they're people doing a job. Based on how most of us react when called, do you honestly think that any person who had a choice of another job would deliberately be a tele-marketer?? Not unless they're insane! So, please, be kind in your dismissal and refusal of their product. They're Human Beings trying to get through their day earning a very small wage, enduring lots of negative energy. You can be the one note of kindness they may get in a shift.

It's simple enough, costs you nothing, and is the very least we can do. And, ask Fast Food Nicky, it can mean more than you may ever know.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New Day & A New Time

If you're lucky enough to have had your feet hit the floor this morning, (or you won't be reading this if they didn't!), you'll be feeling one of two ways- exhilarated because your candidate won the race or deflated because yours didn't. Either way, it's a new day. So, the question becomes, how will you walk through your day? What will you do with the moments that make it yours?

I will start by congratulating both candidates and thanking them. What a grind the past two years have been. I'll start by saying a prayer for both- for President Elect Obama, that he has the courage and fortitude to be worthy of the prize. And, for Senator McCain, my prayer will be that he easily finds the next way to be of service and to successfully define himself. The same prayer goes for their families.

I'll pray that the monumental swell of emotion that comes from Mr. Obama's win lasts longer than the first few days. I'll pray that the millions who stood with him are rewarded for their trust and belief. I'll pray that we give him the benefit of doubt when he doesn't immediately manifest all that's been promised. After all, lasting change rarely happens immediately. For the millions who voted the other way, I'll pray that they have the courage to keep open minds and the ability to stretch out of their comfort zones to begin an era of harmony that our national song desperately needs.

After my prayers, I will probably do something mundane like brush my teeth, make my bed. My day will go on as before because I didn't run the race and neither did you; I simply did my small part yesterday and that's done for now. Reality sets in. Life moves on. Change is afoot even though we can't say we know we'll all like it when it manifests. Most wanted change. We needed change. Be careful what we asked for because we are certainly going to get it. Some of the change will be welcome, other changes will not go well. But, that's the very nature of change. Going forward, do our parts when asked and keep open minds and hearts.

This morning, nothing looks different at my house, how about at yours? But, we all know things are different; history has been made. I hope we can each add our unique means of making sure the history is positive. Look for the way to keep your part positive. Proceed with a joyful heart and know that all will be well. Yesterday, we were a nation of Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. With the gift of this new day, I am praying we can get back to being a nation of Americans. How about you?

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Long May It Stand

Today, my entry is simple. Let us remember the truth of who we are. A nation United, undivided, with integrity, and principle. A land where opportunity still exists. The complete words of Katharine Lee Bates say it much more eloquently than I ever could. God Bless America and her wonderful inhabitants. Long may we stand.

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet whose stern impassion'd stress,
A thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness.
America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes prov'd in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness, and ev'ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears.
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Monday, November 3, 2008

Are You A Stingy Gifter?

My friend, Chris, said something that I thought would be good to share. The holidays zooming at us provide great opportunity to consider how we share and give gifts. Chris was describing how she and her husband, Brian, have 'adopted' an elderly lady who has been kind and generous to them.

Marie is 'financially' poor. I say financially because in spirit Marie is quite wealthy, sharing what she has with her friends and family. She does it all the time; it's her way of taking care of the ones she loves. Chris & Brian often take Marie grocery shopping and then pay the tab for what she puts in her cart. They are happy to have the opportunity to take care of this kind woman.

Recently, Chris has become frustrated when she learned that as soon as Marie can get her pasta made, her sauce jarred, or other goodies ready, she gives them away. Chris thinks that since she and Brian pay for the food so Marie can survive, she shouldn't be giving it away. She's told Marie and also suggested that if she wants to do that, she and Brian aren't likely to continue helping with the grocery bill. Seems pretty reasonable; Marie's family certainly doesn't step-up to help but they take what she gives them. Chris' goal is to make sure her friend has what she needs, not feed the mooching family!

Except, it isn't reasonable. If you truly give a gift, you can't attach restrictions to it. If it's really a gift, you can't tell the recipient how to use it. Giving someone something isn't an opportunity for you to feel superior believing you know what's good for them. A gift doesn't come with a contract and strings. You must genuinely give it to be used as the person wishes. Otherwise, it's not a gift, it's an obligation- to you. Not reasonable.

In healthy relationships, both parties are on equal footing. One is not more-than while the other is less-than; you are peers who share an equal exchange of energy. Sometimes you give and they take, and the reverse also happens. If you have more personal wealth and wish to help, you must also allow your friend to stay your peer by sharing what they can, how they can. That sharing can be with you, or they might wish to pass the gift along to others.

Are your intentions honest? Are you really giving a gift, or are you expecting the recipient to be beholding to you? When I asked Chris, she thought for a minute and then answered, "I guess I hadn't thought of it like that. I was trying to take care of her. But, looking at it your way, I've been a stingy gifter!" Yep. That's exactly right. I couldn't have named it better.

Don't be stingy. Give with an open heart and hands and let the gift work as it will. No stingy gifting this year, okay? Give and let it go. The person who receives your generosity will be better for it that way. We feel good when we've helped others; those of us who can give are blessed. If your gift gives the recipient the chance to feel good because they are then able to give, it doubles in its positive energy and they are blessed as well. What a gift, no strings attached. Thanks for the lesson, Chris!

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Temperance In All Things

Temperance- (noun,) Moderation in action, passions, thought, or feeling. The quality of restraint.

Advice not asked for is not advice- it's meddling. It's interference. No matter how well intended, if someone has not asked your opinion, resist the impulse to spew. It will not do good. What makes me think of this today? It was being caught at a stop light on my way to the grocery store. A long, long light where, on the corners, people held right to life signs. Signs against abortion. Against euthanasia. Against. Against. Against whatever. Perhaps it sounds odd, but it intruded on my day, I just wanted a pleasant ride. At the same time it makes me proud to be a member of this society where the right to publicly assemble and express a view point is protected. Still, this I could do without.

Young and old were there. At times I wish I still had the hubris, or maybe it's passion, of youth to think that complex moral issues are easily reduced to black or white views. Absolutes sure make life less complicated. It's this way or it's NOT. It's right or it's WRONG. You're either for us or AGAINST us. You're either part of the solution or you're part of the PROBLEM. You're either a Democrat or a Republican. Here's what I know- important life issues are very rarely concretely black or white. On important topics, you have to admit that both sides have valid points. Most of life takes place in the murky gray space between the two extremes. That's what makes it so messy. That's what makes it so highly emotionally charged in uncertain times such as these.

I wonder about those who know they hold the truth. I believe it's impossible to know the absolute truth about anything. Far from absolute, it's simply what's true for me. Opinionated as I am, I keep my thoughts to myself on these highly personal and volatile issues. Not because I don't passionately feel things or have an's just that until someone specifically asks me, hanging it out there only adds to the chaos or falls on deaf ears. So, I pick my occasions carefully. I choose my words with even more care when asked for advice. I've also learned that I must give someone the space to change their minds as they gain more information or life experience. That means, I've tempered my expectation that simply because you asked and I told you, that you'll take my advice.

I saw a sticky note the other day that read, "Everyone is entitled to my opinion!" Maybe, but seeking it? Probably not. We all know people who think like that sticky note; they believe they have a duty to tell you everything they think about you and how you live. Sigh. How frustrating is that? When it comes to exercising your right to publicly share your opinions on a street corner or at home with a member of your own family and friends, please consider that opinions and advice not asked for are not helpful- they're interference. Noise. Inflammatory even.

Temperance. We could benefit from keeping the quality of temperance uppermost in our minds, especially with election day drawing so close. Vote. Please vote. Not because you believe you can effect outcome or have it go your way. Vote because you have the right to express your opinions by the ballot you complete. Know that the outcome will be what it is meant to be. Be temperate in your response. If your candidate wins, rejoice but don't gloat. If your candidate loses, be temperate in those negative comments you'll want to hurl. Do not go about being a nay-sayer or the harbinger of doom about the demise of our country. Do not hype fear.

Both candidates- the one you support, the one you hate; the family members who love them; the hundreds who have worked for them, have given everything they have to this election process. Pray for them or at least wish them well. Trust that Spirit guides us in all things known and unknown. Seen or hidden. An election is no exception. So, please, let us be temperate in our thoughts and actions on November 4 and after.
Namaste' Till Next Time,

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Odz & Enz

This will be a short entry...mostly because I can't think of much to say. There are chores that need doing that I keep putting off. Nothing major, just no motivation to dig in and get done. But, the gardens need to be put to bed and my fun garden thingies need to be stored before the cold cracks and breaks them. So, I'm off to get started.

Two bits of homework for you today- first, when you sign on to read things here, make sure you take a moment to look at the comments which I really appreciate reading. You will, too. I can bet as the blog goes on, there will be times when the comments will be more compelling than what I post. And, as I said when I started, I need to know what you think, what's of interest, and get ideas from what you share. So, read what others say when you're visiting. Besides using this blog as an exercise to stretch my brain, I'm also hoping to build community with it. Invite your friends who might find this interesting to join us.

Next, make sure you turn your clocks back an hour tonight. You get an extra hour of sleep- always a good thing! We go back to early dark in the evenings, true, but you won't have such a hard time getting out of bed in the mornings because it's still too dark to consider getting out from under the covers.

I have friends who complain about the time change, daylight fades too quickly, not liking to drive home from work in the growing dark. But, I like being able to peer in houses when the lights are gives me a warm feeling. It's not like I'm being creepy or stalking! I can't linger long as I'm driving by. I suppose it's because I imagine the people all snug, preparing to eat dinner or simply lucky to be already home and safe while I'm traveling through the cold. I wonder about those that live there and what their life stories might be. I adore this time of year. Hope you can find something that makes it resonate with you as well.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
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