Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Change? Into What??

It's an interesting name, The Change. For a woman who hates change and despises being hot, this stage of life, The Change, is truly a trial.

There's a group on Facebook called, I Flip My Pillow To Get To The Cool Spot. I considered joining. I adore laying my head on a cool, crisp pillow. I turn mine a couple of times a night to get that second of refreshment. So, along comes, The Change. And, now I don't just flip my pillow. Now I spend nights migrating around the mattress searching for a cool spot. Not unlike those poor animals you see dragging the African Savannah in their desperate search for water.

We have a new latex mattress. Seemed like a luxurious idea because it molds to the body providing total support. No more tossing and turning. No more waking up with sore parts. Expensive? Hell yes, but we are so worth it. Yep. That's right. Have you ever seen what happens when you put a flame thrower close to latex? Why, aren't you the clever one, yessssss, it does dissolve! I'm fairly certain it's my body temp that has caused the crater on my side of the bed.

I seem to sink into the mattress like it's quick sand. Once enveloped, the spot heats up to the very same temps as on Mars. I'm a great marketer, but I'm not sure how even I could prepare a sales person to sell against this situation: "Madam, you'll adore this bed unless you are going through The Change. If so, we can only sell it to you if you have proof of adequate life insurance. And you'll need to sign this Hold Harmless waiver which insures that you won't hire Edgar Snyder to sue us for your unfortunate demise."

Covers on. Covers off. Covers on. Covers off! The turbulence turns the bedroom into a wind tunnel. Maybe it'll be better with just the sheet. How the hell did this cotton sheet turn into rubber when I wasn't looking?! Holy crap that's hot. Mere minutes later my body sends the panic code to my brain, "Are you crazy? Put something on or you're going to wake up with frost bite!" All night long, long, long.............

Poor Michael. He hates to be cold. So, when he realized how high my engine runs most of the time, he thought he'd struck gold. He calls me, The Source of All Warmth. Yep. That's me. And, I love that he snuggles against me for comfort and warmth. Except that, when he's all toasty next to me and I get a surge, with our combined body temps, I'm fairly certain the top of my head is going to pop off. The survival mechanism goes on red alert; the brain screams, "Warning! System overload eminent. Get the hell off now!!!!" Pushing your husband away in not good for a successful relationship.

Not wanting to ruin our new marriage, we've finally worked out a system. He wears socks, flannel bottoms and a shirt to bed. Sometimes a sweat shirt. I refused his plea for mittens and a muffler. Along with that, we have an extra throw on the bed ONLY on his side. Don't let that thing come over to mine! If he hears, "You have to move now," he reacts immediately to avoid Ground Zero. I have to say, it's all so sexy I can hardly stand it! My heart used to race from romantic moments. Now it races just before I combust into flames.

I hear The Change, for some women, can hang on for years. How fabulous. I wonder if life in Antarctica might be a good option? And, when The Change is over, what is it that women change into? I have to go, I'm feeling momentarily dizzy. Oh yeah, during the day when I surge, getting light-headed is part of the package. Delightful! Maybe if I stand in front of the open refrigerator... Yes I know it's only nine degrees outside! What's your point?

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Friday, January 30, 2009

Remembering CDM Redux

If you're wondering what's going on here, my blog had a mal-function and this entry was lost. It turns out to be a very special one for me and lots of people. So, it's being reposted along with the comments. Funny, yesterday was Charlie's birthday. And, today I had to repost my entry about him. He loved a good joke. I'd say this is his way of letting us know he's not so far away and still has a trick or two up his sleeve. Enjoy!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Early November is important to me for many reasons, a primary one being that it marks the anniversary of the sudden and all-too-soon passing away of Charles D. Mross who is known by those who call him friend and loved-one as, Charlie. And, for those of us who worked for and with him, also as CDM because of his way of using his initials to sign off on everything.

Charlie is one of those individuals whose passing never gets easier to accept. He's important enough that you simply become aware that, while the fun experiences one has in life add color and dimension to your personality, enduring loss and learning to live despite it, adds back bone and steel to one's soul. I believe Charlie would be glad to know that he added those qualities to our lives.

I had the pleasure, and sometimes painful opportunity, of working for Charlie for over six years as his Communications Director. In retrospect, they are the best professional years I ever had or am likely to have. It didn't start that way; in the beginning, Charlie made me uncomfortable-intimidated me, even. I often felt breathless or overwhelmed by him. Let's just say that Charlie had the quick-twitch style of a sprinter. He raced through everything...meetings, hall-ways, conversations. He was highly competitive and saw those around him as his team of whom he expected the same level of competitive energy. So, here's me, a woman who won't even run from a burning building attempting to work with a guy who lived as though his hair's on fire! Yikes.

The competitive spirit was apparent in our introductory meeting in CDM's office. It was the first of hundreds where I sat facing him, leg's crossed with his foot up on his knee. No socks on... a CEO who doesn't wear socks? Cool. Sitting in the high-backed leather chair that I nick-named, 'The Throne." He alertly watched me that meeting, allowing Bill Thomas, the V.P. of Medical Affairs, to ask all the questions. I was pretty sure Charlie was watching to determine if he liked my style. At the end of this vetting process, Charlie asked, "So, here's the important question, do you golf?" I looked him square and said, "No. But, I am a black belt in Aikido." He looked at Bill and back at me, "Okay, you win!" I didn't know him well enough to understand it as an indicator of his subtle, sometimes very subtle, sense of humor. And, I didn't know the importance of those words, "You win," coming out of his mouth, but I was to learn.

In the beginning, he was not my direct boss- that came later. Early on, I'd have these brief, shot-gun exposures to him. I called them, CDM Drive-by's. Mostly, I'd walk away feeling as though I hadn't done enough or failed miserably. "What the hell does this guy want from me? He makes me crazy, how the hell was I supposed to think of all that!!!" I'd go back to the office fuming thinking, "Crap, I hate this guy! There's no pleasing him."

Then, one day, Spirit sent insight when I had the pleasure of meeting his charming, warm, wonderful wife, Eileen. (You'll read more about her in other entries because she's very important to my life learning.) I couldn't imagine that this composed woman with an infectious giggle and charm could be married to CDM! But, looking in her eyes I could see clearly that she adored him. Next, I met his children; all polite, pleasant, and easy-going. They, too, had that look of respect and love. What the hell?

And, that's one of my biggest life lessons, thanks to CDM & Eileen. Up until then, if I didn't like a person, it was all about them, not me. However after meeting his family, I had to wonder, what was I missing about this guy? If he has such a great wife and kids, how can he be the crazoid I think? What am I missing? Through those questions I learned the invaluable lesson of looking at the complete person, not just the bell-jar of the current experiences; the necessity of discerning substance instead of fixating on style.

Eileen and the kids turned that relationship around simply through my exposure to them. I began to see the real part of CDM- the truth of him. He was competitive, but he wanted all of us to be winners. He did expect way too much of us at times, but that was only a fraction of what he expected of himself. He did want us to think ahead, but he expected himself to be visionary. He did want all of us to do our jobs completely every work day, but he expected himself to impact, for the positive, the entirety of health care in Maryland. Because he demonstrated that passion about his own performance, I came in every day determined to make my efforts reflect his.

Sadly, we entered dark days of restructuring, merging, aggressively building a health system. Instead of a successful community hospital on a mission to deepen its roots, we became the flagship of a commodity pimped out to the highest bidder. The war took a toll on lots of things. Satisfaction. Performance. Peace. Relationships. In the turbulence, somehow, I became a trusted ear and assistant. Someone who Charlie could depend on to allow him, when frustrated, angry or overwhelmed, to be a Human Being while never forgetting that he was the CEO. I was honored to be that for him. Even more deeply honored when, eventually, I became his friend.

I was cornered to take a position at the corporate office. I say cornered, because even though it was a promotion, it was a lot like living inside of a tooth-paste tube...the closer you get to the top, the faster you get squeezed out. "I don't want to go, Charlie. You and I both know what it's like there." He agreed but warned that with the current downsizing of management initiative, if I didn't go, he'd most likely have to eliminate my position. More importantly, he would never be able to promote me as he believed I had earned. "What do I do," I asked. "You go; ride it for as long as it lasts. You take your chances. It's all you can do," he said with a slight smile.

So, I did. The ride didn't last long- it was never intended to last long. That's the way they moved people out, by moving them up. Eventually, even CDM got caught in the back wash of negative movement. He left as CEO and after a very difficult time, moved on with his life, taking his chances, too. And, it was during the transition to this new opportunity, that Spirit decided CDM had run the very last of his life marathon to the finish line.

Charlie is never far from my thoughts; a dear friend always remains so. But, in these early days of November, he strides even more boldly through my mind. I'll finish with this CDM story. My department was responsible for a slew of publications. The outstanding editor who worked with me is a guy named, Frank Moorman. Frank is the best writer I know. Excellent, in fact. Here's a testament to how well he writes; CDM trusted Frank to write on his behalf and only required that we run it past him for any additions he might think to add. Unprecedented! One afternoon I get, "The Call," as my fabulous secretary Jo named them, to CDM's office. On his desk rests Frank's copy with only minor red-ink and I breathe a sigh of relief.

So what's up, I wonder. Charlie looks at me and says, "This is good, except for the major mistake. Do you know what it is?" Oh, great, a CDM Pop Quiz...I hate those. I look it over and can't see a thing. "No, Charlie, I'm afraid I don't."

He takes out his red pen and boldly circles a section where Frank has written, " of the premiere hospitals in Maryland..." I just look at it bewildered and admit still I'm not getting his point. He slowly caps the pen. Sits back in his seat, levels his gaze and says, "Holly, in life you can either be 'one' of many or, you can be 'premiere.' But you can't be one of the premiere." The room got completely still. The stillness that I now recognize happens when Spirit is speaking. "Thanks Charlie, I'll take that under advisement," I say as I leave his office.

Thank you for everything, CDM. For recognizing potential in me that I did not know I possess and helping me to grow into my professional power. For requiring I try harder when I thought I had no try left. For the opportunity to learn the importance of being a trusted confidant. For never settling. For being a loving man with integrity. For the lesson of the necessity to run the best race possible to the finish line. For being my friend. And, mostly, for instilling the passion to be premiere.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Posted by Holly at 6:40 AM

Eileen said...
My heart has no words ... I can barely make a sound ... does your Spirit hear me anyway?
November 7, 2008 10:05 AM

KAMross2 said...
Thank you so much for this amazing gift.
November 7, 2008 11:45 AM

LionKing said...
What an enlightening, powerful tribute to someone I never had the privilege of meeting...yet who has immensely impacted my life by his mentoring of my wonderful partner and wife...what an awsome power some people have to influence those who come after...and what a wonderful remembrance from the Queen to CDM's family.
November 7, 2008 2:47 PM

Kerrian said...
Holly - a hug from me to you for your wonderful words - love ya, Kerrian
November 7, 2008 5:48 PM

MelissaS said...
I technically worked for Mr. Mross (as I knew him) thru you. I guess I only had those drive-by moments with him. I had no clue what was happening behind the scenes.I am sorry he passed. And warm fuzzies to Eileen.
November 8, 2008 1:33 AM

Lauren said...
November 11, 2008 9:42 AM

The Unnoticed Difference

The mail man had a few minutes to chat with me recently. He stood waiting for me to get the last few stamps on a mailing that had to get out. Michael, (yes another one, what can I say,) is a very nice man. He's anticipating, with glee, retirement in five years. Almost counting days!

Making conversation, I asked if he liked his job. He responded, "I used to. Used to like it a lot. Not anymore. Everything has changed and the organization is chaotic. I wonder if the U.S. Postal Service will even survive." I asked him more about him and his life, this and that. Stamps all on, he grabbed the mail saying, "Well, see ya' tomorrow!" My, "Thanks, Mike, have a safe day," trailed out the door behind him.

One thing I noticed is his disappointment with the current situation. He used to feel his hard work made a difference. He's sure it still does to the people to whom he delivers the mail each day. He's equally sure his dedicated efforts don't make any difference to the people for whom he delivers the mail each day. To me, that's a real shame.

I have been blessed, yes, that's the correct word- blessed, to have some great mail carriers as part of my life's background. And, today I'm acknowledging the work they do. More than that, I'd like to commend them for being such wonderful Human Beings.

I've talked about my Long Green Road mail man, Tom. He's the guy who would help look for my dogs when they ran off. He's the one who put my mind at ease when I was afraid that living alone meant something could happen to me and no one would know. Tom's the one who boosted my courage about surviving a life in transition. Tom was never once in my house, or sat with me socially. Still, I viewed him as a friend and I looked forward to his cheerful hello; the dogs and I could quickly identify the sound of his mail truck in the driveway. Tom- a great postal employee!

Then there is Paul. The diminutive mail man on Northmont Street who almost races to each door on his route. It had been awhile since I lived where the mail is delivered to, or through, the door. The old oak door at that address has a brass mail slot for safe delivery onto the hall floor. I quickly got reused to the convenience of it! Shortly after moving in, I happened to be standing in the hall when the mail shot through the slot. With it came two dog cookies. Plop. Fascinating! I yanked opened the door and met Paul. He took the time to stand there while the dogs sniffed and met him, too. Yoki and Meggie learned very quickly to wait at the door for Paul's daily rounds.

Paul loves animals. He's learned through experience, that mail carriers are frequent targets for canine teeth. So, he makes friends with the animal patrons on his route. Even when another carrier took his route while he was on vacation, he arranged it so the treats were delivered uninterrupted.

Another wonderful man who made a big difference. I love him for being so kind to my old dogs. Yoki looked for him every day. Except Sundays...somehow Yoki knew that on Sundays, Paul wasn't coming. Amazing. I don't know how he found out, but the day after Meggie was gone, only one cookie came with the mail instead of the usual two. A few months later, when I told him that Yoki had joined her, he shook my hand in condolence. Tears in his brown eyes.

On Falkirk Road, big Lou with the large laugh was our mail man. Everyone looked forward to Lou. He'd chat. Always had time for you. One afternoon, Doog had a massive seizure in our upstairs hallway. I called 911 and tried to remain calm. I had to get him off the floor but it was impossible by myself. Miraculously, I heard the mail being delivered. I raced down but Lou was already a few houses away. I yelled, "Lou! I need you!" Thinking I wanted to hand him a piece of late mail, he said, "Okay, Mrs. Duggan, I'll be there shortly." I yelled, "No Lou, I really need you now!"

It must have been something about my tone of voice, because he turned and raced back. Dropping his huge leather bag on the porch he asked, "What do you need?" I motioned him in explaining. He followed me upstairs, staying with Michael while I waited outside to hail the ambo. Soothingly saying, "It's all right Mr. Duggan, take it easy..."

We found Lou sitting on the bed next to Michael. Talking very softly with him. He had helped him up, found his robe, and put it on him. When the EMTs started working with Michael, I noticed him very quietly back out of the room and dissolve without a sound. Lou was an angel in my time of need.

We sent a letter of commendation to the Post Master. Lou once mentioned that he was always being reprimanded for returning late from his route. Seems the personal interaction we loved about Lou was the very same thing that caused him to have low performance grades on his evaluations. That seems incredibly unfair.

Since hearing it from Lou, it's been confirmed by the other carriers with whom I've talked. Odd that the customer satisfiers that make them so memorable to us whose mail it is, would be dis-satisfiers to the company. Even Mike said, "I used to think I worked for the customers. But, the Postal Service doesn't see it that way. They don't see the job the same. I am not allowed time to have relationships anymore. So, when I retire I doubt that any of the people I've delivered to will even know that I'm gone."

Don't be so quick to think that, Mike. Oh, I'm sure that'll be true for some. But not most. Never under value your impact. It might look like bits of paper, but it's actually personalized dedication you drop in boxes or through our doors. Never underestimate your unobtrusive, almost invisible, presence. It may go unacknowledged, but it's not unrecognized. It means more than you know.

Think about the mail carriers or the others who cycle regularly through your life. How much they know about you; they hold what they know in confidence. Your mail person knows by what they deliver, when it's your birthday or, if you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Know when there's news that will impact your life. They know the joys and sorrows you're going through. They come and go with little pieces of life safely delivered to you. They are the unnoticed difference in your life.

If you don't know your mail carrier or the people who come to your house, try to change that. The effort is worth it. And, if you do know them, thank them today. Their job, like most, is becoming increasingly difficult to do. Your "Thank you," goes a long way to recharge an emotional battery.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

As Good As Can Be Expected

The other day, I happened to overhear two women discussing a mutual friend. When one asked the other how the friend was doing, she dropped to a whisper, “Well, considering the circumstances and all he’s been going through, he’s as good as can be expected.” They passed by and I went my way.

All day, that smattering of conversation kept circling back in my thoughts and it has me wondering. As good as can be expected…is that it? Is that the key? Could it really be that simple yet critical? Could our expectations really be the tipping point between success and failure? Between satisfaction and disappointment?

We all have examples of the extremes of expectation in the people in our lives. We have those who never accept no for an answer; who never lose sight of the goal. No matter how far-fetched the goal might seem, when others tell them it’s impossible, they just push harder. We have friends and loved ones who are miracles having beaten diseases or living longer than medical science expected.

On the flip side, there are those who, no matter how wonderful things are for them, never seem satisfied. And still others who, when life is going well, seem almost fearful that things will come crashing down at any moment. They sabotage their enjoyment.

Perhaps it does come down to expectations/goals/thinking about life and also of the sorts of people and circumstances we want in our lives. I find that, for most folks, this is pretty frightening because it means taking responsibility for our life. It means we can no longer feel powerless- a victim of circumstances.

Instead, we would develop the skills to be the master of our destiny. We'd be keenly aware that we create life a moment at a time, not just accept however it comes. It requires taking stock of life, as it is now, and systematically beginning to change it to fit our expectations.

Long ago, Dad cautioned, “People will treat you no better than you expect them to treat you.” There’s that word again…expect. And, when I was going through a bad spot, feeling that no matter how good I treated everyone, they never returned the same, a wise friend said, “Don’t train the monkey to behave in a way that you don’t want. If you want something, you have to be clear and communicate it. Don’t expect anyone to read your mind or, if you don't start articulating your expectations, be prepared for them to keep doing it their way.”

You mean I have to develop the courage and skills to tell someone exactly what I want and need? Yes! You mean I have to be clear about my expectations of myself and others? YES! This skill takes time to learn. Mastering it can take years. Start now.

Most won't risk it. The idea of stepping into the light, living the life they deserve, seems too much. So, they live in a constrictive half state: never truly happy, not exactly miserable. They end up waiting instead of creating. Waiting for the other shoe to fall. Holding on to things that don't suit. A relationship that is unsatisfying. A job they hate. And lament, "There has to be more to life!!"

If you find yourself in a place that couldn't possibly feel more uncomfortable, take heart. That's the exact spot where everything is possible and you are beginning to sense it. Step up. Question! Do you know what you want? Do you know your truth? It starts by wondering what could be for you.

Tony Robbins said, "Questions are the power that release us." In order to achieve something, you must be able to see it. Questions help do that. It's the start of imagination. It's the adult version of Let's Pretend. That quote woke my curiosity. It gave me permission to wonder what else I should be expecting of myself and life. I discovered that my expectations were too slight, my thinking too tight. It was scary to expect more, but it's been so rewarding! When was the last time you played, Let's Pretend?

If you know someone who leads a charmed life, don't envy them. Use them as a possibility template. Learn from them. How did their life become so wonderful? What did they do to make it so? In most cases, their life isn't charmed because of the possessions they have. It's charmed because of their attitudes, their expectation of self-performance, their willingness to try. Never settling. Remaining curious. Willing to ask, "What if?" Curiosity brings wonderment and joy to living.

That same ability exists in every one of us. Only some turn on the switch of imagination while others fumble in the gloom of tiny thinking. When you question enough, you come to the realization that it isn't you or your life that is insignificant; it's your hopes and dreams that are too small!

If your life is exactly the one you want, celebrate it. Be grateful. Help others. Be kind. Share.

But, if you desire life to be different, set your expectations and dare. Want more, better, and bigger. Realize that it takes dedicated effort to have it. Take honest inventory- what to keep and what to change. Imagine your future in great detail. Formulate the game plan.

You are the author of your life story, the artist of your masterpiece. Dare to dream more and think bigger. Have high expectations and begin the work to manage them. Develop the blessing of hope. Seek joy. Ask bigger questions and you will get bigger answers. Expect miracles! Your life is yours for the creation. After all, what do you expect?

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Storm Etiquette

You are incredibly lucky, on days like this, if you have a driveway. Or parking pad. Any spot that is yours alone, which allows you to park your vehicle off the street. If your car resides in a garage even better.

Mine used to, but now the garage is occupied by a much sportier tenant. Evan's car is living there while it waits for him to come to retrieve it once he is stationed. So my truck, no luck, is in the driveway. In bad weather, even if it's just a driveway, that's a good thing.

Growing up in the city, I didn't even know driveways existed. Homes, other than row houses, were foreign. Didn't everyone live with two families attached to their home by walls? If a strong sense of community exists, this intimate arrangement can be quite nice. Neighbors hop the porch rail to bring extra cake they baked or food that they want to share. Getting the neighbor's mail is no problem at all. Making sure all the kids are safe is as easy as walking outside and visually sweeping the perimeter.

Snow, however, can change all that goodwill in a short second. If you're not inclined to follow the unspoken rules of city civility...well, let's just say, you'll be shunned once the snow has melted. There are some things you just don't do. As well as things you must do.

The response to snow is as individual as neighbors. When I lived on Falkirk Road, Roseanne was my next-door neighbor. Her house was always, 'just so.' Like a firehouse dog waiting for the bell to ring, she dealt with things immediately! For Ro, most of life was a battle that required attack plans. She battled dust. She slayed grass that had the nerve to grow really fast after a rain. She fought the leaves even before they fell! The dirt that landed on the front porch. The city soot that covered windows. Any element that challenged her from keeping the orderly upper hand. And as it related to snow, she hovered. Shovel at the ready. Every hour or so she'd jet out to tackle it, or make husband Tony shovel what had fallen.

I have to say, like most of her house keeping methods, I thought this was extreme. But, that was Ro. However when Doog would sweat and swear, because the job was now massive since he always waited till the storm was done, I began to see the twisted wisdom of Roseanne's method. Handled a bit at a time, the work was more managable. The years I lived on my own, I employed her method. It was the only way that worked without someone there to help.

City ordnance insisted that steps, walks, and sidewalks in front of homes have the white death removed within a reasonable period of time. Even though, generally, the city owns the sidewalks. Still, you're responsible for keeping it cleared, or be fined. It's a safety issue.

Imagine attempting to dig a car out on a snow bound street...where do you put the snow? Certainly not out in the middle of the already clogged street. Or, behind your car onto your neighbor's. Probably can't throw it to the front, either; the other neighbor's car is jammed in the same predicament. How about, fling it onto the sidewalk? Okay, so long as it's only the sidewalk in front of your house.

Start there...bend, lift, fling. Repeat. Again and again. And, when the snow is really deep, after you dig it out, pray the snow plow doesn't pen it back in again while clearing the street!!!

Once the car is dug out, now what? It took hours. What happens when you leave? You will have to leave eventually. That guy up the street never digs his car out...never. That SOB will just come home tonight and put his car in your cleaned out spot. Ass! What can you do to make sure the hard-won spot is there when you get home? Ah...go get a lawn chair! Yep. That piece of light weight aluminum with its garishly colored, woven straps.

Against opportunistic neighbors, the lawn chair works with the same potency of garlic on vampires! How could something a fat person can collapse with ease, keep a motor vehicle out of a vacant spot? Because that's part of snow storm etiquette. If you're a civilized Human, you simply won't have the audacity to take over someone's hard work. Just won't. No civil person ever moves the lawn chair and steals a clean spot!

Being civil- it's the same reason the neighbors to the right and left of your house help you clear sidewalks. There's always one who doesn't hate shoveling as much as the rest of us. After they've finished their own, they keep going to meet you as you're toiling along. And, everyone does their best to take care of the elderly neighbor. Or the woman who lives alone. It's just how it's done when neighbors know and care about each other.

So, having lived with that mind-set, I wonder why many people in my neighborhood don't bother to clear their sidewalks. Do they think, "I'm certainly not walking in that mess and nobody who is sane will either,"? Perhaps. But, is it right to make anyone who may be on foot trod the street because the walk-way in front of your home isn't cleared? To do what's convenient or expedient at the inconvenience of others?

If the snow plow driver decided to clear every part of a street except the section directly in front of your house, you'd be really pissed! Seems to me that a homeowner opting to leave the snow on their sidewalk is sort of the same. True, it's your property and you can do exactly what you want with your stuff, but is it neighborly?

Dealing with snow is a butt-pain. It's often Herculean work. But, when we take on the task with the notion of courtesy and safety, it makes the effort worthwhile. Besides, your home owner's insurance is less likely to take a hit. Time to remember snow storm etiquette. Even if you are fortunate and don't need a lawn chair to secure your space!

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Me & My iPod

I've never been more enamored of a piece of equipment as I am my iPod. Not even my iPhone comes close. The phone is wonderful, but it's a tool. For me, a phone is a phone even though this one can do everything but dance. I'm sure it's just a question of time till Apple figures out how to make it do that, too. Among other things on the phone, I have a bubble-wrap-popping application just because I love the sound it makes. I know...crazy.

But my iPod, which I've practically imbued with a personality, goes everywhere with me. It's in my ears most nights as I fall asleep. I'm one of those people who needs music to go to sleep.

As a kid, I kept a radio on the floor by my bed. Can you imagine how frustrating that was for my father who didn't like any sound while he attempted sleep? The guy who couldn't bend down to turn it off? Yet, most mornings when I awoke, the radio was off. Fairies? Nope. Just Dad in his usual ingenious, determined way. I learned later that he used his crutch to turn the knob till it went off. Or, if that didn't work, he'd grip the cord with crutch tips. Standing unaided, he'd fish the radio up to dangle in front of him; turn it off and quietly put it back down.

It would have been so much easier and expected if he woke me every night growling, "Turn off the damn radio!" Instead, because he accepted that it worked best for me, he struggled with the blasted contraption. Don't you just love Jimmy?!

My iPod makes this much easier. I listen; fall asleep; it turns off all on its own. Peaceful nights in the kingdom once more. What I couldn't have predicted when Michael hinted about giving me one, is how much I would adore the thing. I didn't even know I wanted one. I had my CDs and wonderful AR speakers. More than enough for me. When they first came out, I heard a reporter saying, "Imagine being able to take your entire CD collection with you anywhere, anytime? That's what Apple is making possible!" He went on and on about the miracle of it all. I remember thinking, "Why would anyone care if they could do that?"

The Christmas morning I opened it, I was surprised and pleased. But it was more because I suspected how expensive it was, not because it was something I was dying to own. The next thought was, "Oh,'s a gizmo. I'm not good with gizmos. You have to learn how to work them. It's probably complicated and I'll never use it. So now, he'll think I don't like it..."

Younger people seem to take naturally to technology. Thankfully, we have two technical proficients in the family. Evan set it up for me; Melissa helped by showing hers and talking through all the wonderful things it does. They were very patient. The family had fun while watching it go-live on my computer. Off it went from there. Now, I have about 700, yes- that's a real number, CDs on the thing. It's even named, Queen'sTunes.

I know I don't need all those CDs. In reality, can I actually listen to all of that music? The answer is, yes: just not in one sitting! It's grand to have choices. I may be ready to dump some of the music off of it, now. I've had it for over a year and I know the ones I've not really listened to much. No reason to keep them. On the other hand, since they only use a smidge of the memory, I could just leave them. We'll see how it goes.

So, here's my point about all of this: My iPod is a great example of a lot of things in life. New ideas that fall outside of the familiar territory. Most likely discounted as, 'Not for me,' until you discover the relevance. Especially with technology, until someone can demonstrate the difference it can make, it doesn't seem worth the effort to try and learn it. It's not that we're technology averse so much as we're technology unaware. But, once we get it? We really get it!

If you're a younger individual and want to relate to an older person, remember to talk about relevance. Share what you know and help us understand how it could relate to our lives. We'll appreciate your take on it all.

Instead of discounting the unfamiliar, how about we adopt an attitude of curiosity- of openness to possibility? With gizmos. And ideas. Most certainly with people. I hope I'm always open to trying, even if I'm not one to hunt out the wonders of the latest gadget. Hell, I'm still amazed by e-mail! But, life is better and increasingly connected thanks to technology. So, I want to be a bit more aware of the possibilities it holds. Just as I want to be curious about every Human Being I encounter.

It's normal to love what you know- what works. But, be open to what's coming. I can't predict that any gizmo will please me as much as my iPod, however it could happen. I hear this thingy called a Kindle is the new darling of the technically intrepid.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Monday, January 26, 2009

Two Dog Night

I woke up with zero enthusiasm today. Almost no energy. I have some, which I'm expending right now to talk with you. Not sure what I'll use for the rest of the day I know will feel like it is centuries, not hours, long. Don't know why...I got a good night's sleep. I think I did...

The Scotties certainly get a good night's sleep. They don't let the two full-sized Humans in the bed keep them from getting all the sleep they demand. Nope, not them. And, although it's a king-sized bed that should be more than enough room for two small dogs and two regular Humans, I'm not convinced anymore. Rory & Fiona think so; Michael and I would argue that.

How is it that we don't sleep in the bed that we paid for as well as do our two free-loadin' dogs? Because we can't. The Scotties don't allow it. Simply don't. They pick the prime spots in the bed, which really shouldn't be big spots; they're only about 16 pounds each! Despite where we pick them up and place them for our comfort, they morph into the space they prefer. Refusing to sleep with their bodies in a north to south position, they prefer to sleep horizontally across the bed. And, in the middle of the night they shape shift into Great Danes. That means Michael and I through the course of the night, unconscious, get inched closer and closer to the edge of the bed.

Or, looking for warmth, the dogs mash up against you. Sometimes evil in their attempts to hold you pinned unmoving for hours in one place. One behind you, one curled in front of you. Oh, you'll hear snores of contentment...but they won't be yours. When I wake up in the morning, precariously perched on the extreme edge of the bed while the rest is taken over by canines, can I tell you?

Ah, the absolute glories of pack living...

Ask anyone who has a pet, cat or dog, if the same thing doesn't happen most nights in their bedroom. Why do we do it??? I'm not able to answer that. No more than I can explain why an animal simply adores the chance to sleep in the big bed with you. They don't care how hot it gets, they want to be there with you. Frigid weather finds them curled tightly against you.

But, you know? You miss it when you're away from home. Well, not right away. At first you're almost giddy from the luxury of being able to sprawl any way you want! But in a few days you realize that the divinely big bed that's all yours begins to seem odd. And, when it's their time for the last farewell, getting into bed without them brings tears. You ache to hear their noises as they settle in for the night. Heartbreaking. Two friends of mine are going through that at the moment. Jan is missing her Wally. Ronda is feeling lost without Presley. Indeed, The King has left the building... this time taking Ronda's heart. I've been there. I understand.

So, I'll just have to take it slowly, I suppose. I really have no energy and enthusiasm for the day. The Scotties, you'll be glad to hear, at this moment are cheerfully ripping up the stairs. They have boundless energy. I guess they got a good night's sleep. I must admit, even feeling as I do right now, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dear Mr. Palmer,

In his usual unvarnished way of saying the truth, Evan tells me my handwriting, "Sucks!" I thought, "Humph! Nice. Considering you want mail so much, I wouldn't think it would matter that much!!!" HUMPH, say I!

But, with a moment of consideration, I have to admit- he's correct. Lately, it does suck. It's a by-product of an age when typing every correspondence and idea is d'rigeur. I really don't write much anymore. My handwriting has suffered for it. Apparently, that's the case for most.

I read a newspaper article recently that said that many teachers don't have time to teach cursive writing. That's because the average curriculum is so eavily weighted with standardized test taking preparation. In today's classrooms, we don't worry if we're teaching our kids anything...we just need them to successfully pass tests. Tests that don't measure knowledge and learning, but instead determine whether a teacher keeps a job. Real nice. It's maddening! Why don't we simply do our best at what we're charged to do? The measure of that success and effort will be evident, then.

No. That's too simple. Now we have trumped-up, false measures of a faculty. It's become a game. And while we're growing a whole generation of students who undoubtedly will know how to take a test after being drilled hours daily on the likely questions...they'll also be a generation that doesn't know how to reason, think, or have real knowledge. Why? Because they aren't being taught anything; they're being used as litmus tests for some arbitrary system.

If teachers need to be better, get better candidates. Or, how about this radical notion...give them the tools and resources they need to be successful! If we have teachers who have been worn out and sucked dry by a broken system, let's ask them to move on. Fix the system and hire those who are willing to continue to invest the effort! It can't be only about money as a fix; teachers will never be paid enough for what they do. Like most avocations and callings, there is way too much personal and emotional investment demanded. No good teacher could ever be truly compensated for what they do. Just as no craftsmen or artist is ever truly rewarded monetarily for the works of art they create.

For goodness sake! It's not about taking tests! It's about teaching!!! And, not everyone who supposedly 'teaches' should ever call themselves a Teacher. Time for us to identify and employ true Teachers. But, I'm getting off point...

It's sad that one more individualizing piece of life is slipping away. Handwriting is as individual as a finger print, a voice, a smile. Your signature is a unique facet of you. Imagine a world where a person can't even sign their name to a document? Ridiculous, you say? Me, too. But, handwriting could be going the way of the dinosaurs.

As well as I write, and by that I mean convey a thought for you to read, when you look at what I've written here, it's absolutely no different from the zillions of other black bits of type you'll take in today. True, if you know me you can, 'hear' me talking in my writing which provides an individual slant. But as you view's absolutely the same as everything else you'll see.

However, if you open your mailbox and there's a card in it from'll recognize that right away by my flourishes and style of writing. They distinguish me from all the other people you know. My handwriting becomes as familiar to you as the sound of my voice. And, isn't that part of the pleasure of reading a handwritten note? You know it's from a particular individual who took time to send something of themselves.

I remember the countless hours, practicing with those fat pencils; making those loops, loops, loops. And, those bold up and down, down and up, strokes on paper with three lines each. The Palmer Method alphabet scrolling across the top of the black boards for constant review.

Not every student excelled at handwriting that would make a Victorian proud...but all of us learned to write cursive and developed our individual signature... a singular style. Like most girls, I did pretty well learning Mr. Palmer's method. Over time, what with my artistic nature, my handwriting developed into an interesting 'hand,' as it's called. I've even been paid to address envelopes for special occasions.

And, just the other day, my Boy-chic says my handwriting 'sucks' because I no longer spend time using it enough to garantee it stays true and readable. As I get older, my hands don't have quite the same tone and control as when young and flexible. But, no more excuses. Time to get back to practicing my handwriting.

So, I went to a teacher's supply store and bought a cursive writing work-book. It even has stickers so I can be rewarded when I make really fine letters! I'll be practicing my Palmer method daily, even if it's only to write my alphabet a couple of times. I don't want anything about me, not one single thing, to slip away from lack of use or attention. I promise to do better, Mr. Palmer!

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Friday, January 23, 2009

Grand Trumps Great!

One of the things I love best to do in the whole world, is make introductions for people who I believe will really enjoy each other's company. Or can help each other scholastically or professionally. And, while I've never made a love match for two folks, I sure would like to do it. I must have been a Matchmaker in a previous life...perhaps several.

I simply love it when like minds find each other and I was able to be part of that. So, I guess that's what I'd like to do with our brand new sweet Olivia. I know, she's really too small to worry about meeting a man, but there's this new guy who's just moved into the area. His name is Simon and he loves to wear hats. Knowing his family, I know he comes from great stock. His father is strong but quiet and very steady and loving. His mom is an adorable woman who is good with numbers, strong sense of family and loves fun.

So, Olivia, please meet Simon! He's the newest member of our extended clan. Simon Charles Racicot, arrivied on 1-22-09, at 7:22am. He's here five weeks sooner than we expected which might mean he's a lot like his quick twitch grand father Charlie! If so, oh my, be ready folks! But, Livvy, as it relates to you, I'm sure he won't mind that you've had a few weeks more to get to know Earth. He may even prefer older women!

Congratulations Elija and Kim; you'll be wonderful parents and guides. And, congratulations to my girl friend Eileen. Who is now Grand, just as I was made Great. She's always been grand in my eyes. You've heard me talk a lot about her and you've also read her comments here about what I write. You've also read how I feel about her husband, Charlie who, while no longer physically here with us, is equally proud of their youngest daughter's new endeavor.

Eileen's been prompted by this new guy to start a blog of her own called, very appropriately, "Simon Says" and you can read all about the adventures of Simon and his MiMi as Eileen will be affectionately known.

Look for her continued shared wisdom here on this blog. And, follow her at so you can read an account of a burgeoning love affair between my friend and the new man in her life. Congratulations to my Mross family and welcome to the world, Simon. I'm perfectly positive you'll find that Simon Says quite a lot as the days go along.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blink of An Eye

Have you seen this girl? I saw her just the other day...she's a sophomore at Towson State. She's working student registration which is where this picture was taken. And, she's about to take on two additional campus jobs to help pay for school. Her family just moved from Howard Street to their new home south of Towson in a really cool neighborhood called Rodgers Forge.

Nixon has resigned; he was not a nice man and good riddance. The gas "shortage" has been resolved. It was a hoax and not real. Her brother, Glenn, is a Merchant Marine Officer sailing for Texaco. He should know the facts; gasoline was held at the terminals until the oil companies got the price they wanted for the gas. Now coffee has gone sky high and people are protesting by not buying. Everyone's sure that coffee prices will come back down, but the price of gas sure won't.

She doesn't drive...doesn't own a car. Takes the bus to school. Or, walks. If she's lucky her new friend, Karen Andreone, will whizz by in her Beetle and give her a lift. She really appreciates that.

One morning her crazy dog, McKeever, got out the door behind her. She was running late and fumed, "I don't need this crap from you!!!" She got on the bus yelling, "Go home!" She noticed her Cairn Terrier running like mad behind the bus trying to catch up. Hysterical, she pulled the bell cord to alert the driver she needed to get off and raced just in time to keep him from getting hit by a car. Missed morning classes that day, but saved her first dog's life. She loves that damned dog; her father bought him as a surprise graduation gift for her. McKeever adores her. He sleeps curled next to her each night. They'll have 15 years together.

She's not doing that great scholastically at T.S.U. She's used to the attention she got from her teachers at Seton High. Everyone knew everyone. At Towson, she's known only by a social security number which she just recently memorized. The scholastic excellence will come along, I'm sure. A Master's degree is definitely in her future...but not immediately. For now, she's doing great with the social aspects of college. That part, she took to like a duck to water!

Recently, she changed her major from Theatre to Mass Communications. It was a hard choice, but she figured becoming a successful actor is as likely as being struck by lightning. And, being a starving artist holds no appeal. So, perhaps media work might have more possibility. And, that's how she meets Michael Duggan, the wild Irishman with major attitude and beautiful eyes. He's a member of the television crew, which is her other campus job. Doog, she believes, hung the moon and completely captures her heart. Although, the relationship will be on again, off again. She'll date other interesting guys and have great moments with them. She'll learn a great deal from each experience.

She's also just met Pammy. In an acting class. Pammy hated her at first, admittedly for no reason. But one morning, they got to talking while waiting in the hall for class to start and it all changed from there. They become Best Friends. Pam moves in the next year or so to Washington State. She never does move back to Maryland. None of that effects the bond; years later, even without the benefit of seeing each other often, they remain Best Friends. Pretty amazing and a remarkable gift.

Have you seen this girl? Maybe I should ask the guy who took this picture. They became close friends. His name is Coke. Well, it's actually Constantine Hagepanos. But, who wants to say all of those syllables? He says he was in third grade before he could absolutely spell his name without mistakes...I can believe that. He and she remain dear friends sharing life experiences. He keeps his artistic aesthetic, but works with numbers. Earns a Master's degree in Tax Law & Accounting...and he's very, very good at what he does.

Have you seen this girl? She's busy and hardly ever home. It's hard to keep track of her. But, I swear I saw her just a few days ago.

When I look in the mirror I see I've traveled miles and years. But, I feel as if all those things just happened. Not long ago. In the face that peers back at me, I see traces of that pretty girl with the long dark hair and sad eyes. But, only traces... I stop and consider the mystery of this journey. It goes by in the blink of an eye. One unassuming breath at a time.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First Day At The Office

Can you imagine a first day at the new office being any more huge than the one Mr. Obama is having? Think back on any first day you've had...they compare, even if the magnitude of outcome is very different.

Hoping you're giving off that friendly and competent vibe coupled with the correct level of authority and ability. Inside, feeling a bit shy and anxious as you meet all the players. Wondering which person on the staff is likely to be one you'll look forward to eating lunch with most days. Identifying the one who is competent but a wee bit sparky; you'll have to tread lightly around that one! The individual who does a completely dependable job but goes unnoticed. The one who's most likely to become your Lieutenant because you can trust and confide in him, the rest of the staff will accept him in that role. And, he's willing to take it on.

That first day sitting at the new desk. Feeling a little uncomfortable. As if you're intruding on someone else's space. Looking at the drawers and wondering if there are enough of them. Then looking in the draws to see if anything is left of the previous owner. A pencil that's not yours; a few paper clips... Wondering how you should arrange your stuff. Is the phone on the correct side of the desk? Do you really want a blotter or does it take up too much flat surface? Still, a blotter lends a certain bit of class...we'll see how it goes.

Beginning to assess the strengths and weaknesses of everything in the office. Are the cubicles large enough to function and keep office mania to a minimum? Do we even need cubicles? Does anyone like them? Does that copier keep up with the work load? What's with that fax machine? It looks like the first one ever invented...put it on the short list of immediate changes. Wonder what the budget is like?

Searching each team member for strengths and weaknesses. Which weakness is a by-product of lack of training and mentoring? Any individuals that need to be moved-on because their weaknesses are lack of ability, enthusiasm, or just not a good fit for the tasks at hand. That'll take some time to discover. Chats and direct conversations will be required.

What tasks are we charged with that need to be unloaded? What programs are we responsible for that aren't productive and a resource drain? What do we excel at, and what do we enjoy doing? Are we aware that we set our course toward success? Is each ready to ask and answer the hard question- what's my role in performance excellence? Note to self: how do I lead them there once it's clearly defined?

Moving on to the immediate critcal question; where do we keep the coffee pot? How do I like my coffee? Hot-the rest I'll take care of myself. Oh, you feel like that's your job? Okay, if that's what works for you so long as you'll let me bring you a cup once in awhile. And, if you ever need a hand cleaning out the pot, you'll ask so I can pitch in. If so, we have a deal.

Answering the phone you've just rearranged the first time it rings...taking a breath and answering with friendly authority..."Good morning, this is..."

While the challenges of that particular oval office are of a scope I cannot a person who's had her own first days, I know exactly what sorts of small things our new Commander In Chief is doing as he sits behind his new desk. I will hope that his first day finds his phone on the side he likes best and that his favorite pen is exactly where he expects it. Going forward, while I expect him to be the President, I will remember that he's also a Human Being at that desk. So, I'll be patient.

One pretty positive note, especially living in a congestion box like D.C., his commute to work is ridiculously easy. Well, maybe not while he's learning his way around his new house...but I'm sure that'll get easier over time. Good Morning, Mr. President.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Gathering

Why do we gather here? Every four years in the frigid temperatures, why do we stamp our feet in the cold and shiver to catch a glimpse? Why do we brave the crowds? Why do we wait for hours for what we hope will be a sight?

Why do we gather here? In the Capital of the United States. Among these impressive buildings that stand as monuments to an ideal.

Why do we stand by with a catch of emotion in our throats? With hopes laid bare. Prayers whispered. Why do we gather and stand shoulder to shoulder with others we do not know and are likely never to see again?

Why do we gather here to watch a man, we do not personally know, place his hand on a bible? To hear him utter an oath to protect, defend, and guide? As his family, who supports him in his efforts and daily life, stands close while he does. Does he pin as much hope to his words this day as we do? And, are we willing to help bear the heavy weight of the responsibility he takes on?

Why do we gather here every four years? Because we are citizens of the greatest country in the world. Because we act as witness to the miracle of the peaceful passing of power to a new leader. Only the 44th link in a chain that connects this grand experiment to its inception. We come to feel the mystery of democracy in action. We come to be part of the challenge of democracy. We come because it is more than a privilege; it is our birth right. We gather because, as no place else on earth, we can.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Have A Dream, Too

"And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

This is the far reaching vision that one brave man, who agreed to be the voice of Spirit, shared with the world in 1963. Over 40 years later and we're still toiling to make it reality. If you wonder why we have men and women in uniform all over the globe. If you wonder why our warriors, so very young, shoulder the burden. If you wonder why families must nervously wait and pray. If you ever wonder...ever question the rightness of it all...this is why.

When we think of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., it's generally in terms of race relations and his front-running efforts to resolve racial inequity in our country. Tomorrow's inauguration of the first black American is a miraculous exclamation point to Rev. King's dedication and vision. So much has been achieved. So many have cried in pain and heartache to see us move in the correct direction. So many, including this brave man, have given their life to the call.

But, not just in the United States. Freedom must exist for all of us on Earth. For, if it is not available for everyone, then none of us will have it. And, to those who have been shown the correct ways, the toil and challenge to bring them into reality falls as well. A prophet can't just have a vision, a true prophet must begin the work to make it real. So, we go to the dark corners where freedom does not exist and people suffer. We bring a new way of thinking and being. We toil. We sweat. We bleed. We rejoice when our efforts take hold.

There is so much more that needs to be done. "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal," is a rousing part of the same speech. And, while most would consider that it's still addressing the issue of race relations, I would suggest that we look at this in term of inequality that still exists between the sexes. As a woman, I have a dream, too.

So long as women and men are not treated the same in the work long as women continue to be be paid 70 cents to every dollar a man is paid for the same long as women do not share pay equity, a subtle form of slavery continues. Women who are the solo captains of family vessels will not be able to provide. Single women will struggle more than is necessary. The world will not move forward as it is meant to move. It's time for us to remember that equality still does not exist in all facets.

So long as we do not honor our female energy as much as we honor the male energy...we remain unbalanced and in conflict.

Tomorrow, as we witness the dream of many being realized by President Obama's swearing in as our new leader...remember the work that must continue. And, rekindle your hopes and dreams of a correct, balanced, and equal America. Today, and all days, remember our warriors who hear the challenge of the dream whether home or abroad, understand the justice of bringing it into being, the price that may be asked, and respond.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's a Religion...

I grew up with the Colts...the real ones. Not the ones that now live in another state. Taking nothing away from Mr. Manning and the boys in Indianapolis, I like them, but they're not the Colts of Baltimore. Johnny Unitas and other team mates used to dine in our restaurant. Mr. Unitas was a quiet, polite man who always had time for an autograph or a word from an adoring fan. Arty Donovan once told my father who used to love to tease him, "You outta' be glad you're crippled, you little bastard, or I'd have to kill ya!"

When the Mayflower trucks stole out in the middle of the night, along with all the parts of the franchise they took, they also made away with my love of the game. Since then I don't much care one way or the other. And, while I was delighted that Baltimore got a team again, I didn't really get invested in the Ravens. Still, your team is your team and you always want them to win. And, they wear purple! That's always a plus in my eyes.

And, then I moved here. Oh, my god! Can I tell you that rooting for the home team takes on a completely different meaning here? It's not just hoping your team's a religion here. A way of life. the only excitement for towns that were ruined by the closing of industries, loss of can drive through areas that are dark, dismal, no signs of life, but still you'll see Steeler flags and other bits of team spirit. The one bright spot in an otherwise bleak existence.

In Pittsburgh, unlike the rest of the world that has four seasons, there are only two. It's either Steeler Season or Waiting For Steeler Season.

So, while I feel a wee bit conflicted today as the Ravens get ready to level their best against the home team...I have to let you know, we'll have Evan's Steeler jersey laid out on the sofa while Michael and I wear ours. We'll even have Rory & Fiona dressed in Steeler shirts!

I know, I know...for those back home, you'll think I've gone over to the dark side. Perhaps I have. All I know is that the Steelers bring passion and joy to so many, that I can't say it's wrong to hope the Black & Gold makes it to the big show once more. And, even better if they can be the first team to have six Super Bowl wins. Now, that's a lot of bling on fingers, I'd say!

In this case, because of where I come from and where I now live, I can honestly say, "May the best team win." But, while purple is my favorite I'll have to forsake it. It's the black and gold that hold my hopes. Mine, and the thousands of others who live here in Western PA.

Go Steelers! 2009 AFC Champions!

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Saturday, January 17, 2009

They Need You

I'm on my way to clean out the pantry. Wish me luck. Why is it that so many spaces seem to have minds of their own? The second you turn your back, they re-arrange themselves into total chaos. You straightened it to your liking, but does it stay that way? Nope. I think I've done this pantry 150 times. Well... that might be a slight exaggeration, but not much of one.

It's January which means it's the perfect time to go through and examine the shelf-life on items. Yes, capers could probably survive a nuclear blast, but do you really want to put them in something you've made if they're that old? Probably not. Same with your spices. Go through your stash and get ready to dump. I know it's hard; those little bottles seem too good to throw out. But, if you haven't used that curry powder since the great tampolie fiasco of '04, it's not curry anymore. Time to pitch it. Trust the girl who grew up in McCormick Land!!! We know about spices and dry ingredients.

The most wonderful smell comes over the city and surrounding counties when McCormick is producing cinnamon. And, many is the day when there's a peppery bite to the air when that's in production. Ah, what a smell! When they brought down the old plant in the Inner Harbor, I swear you could smell spices for months as they cleared the rubble of walls that had been steeped for decades in spice production. That was a beautiful old building and we were all sad when they made the decision to drop it.

We love to collect them and have them on hand. But, if your spices are older than six months- okay I'll be reasonable, if they're older than a year they're no longer true and your cooking efforts won't shine. Send that ancient Paprika to a Hungarian gypsy grave! Going forward, if it' not a spice or herb you use pretty regularly, just buy the smaller containers. That way you won't feel like you're wasting it.

Oh, so onto what I wanted to say when starting this: Please, please, please, it's so cold out. They need you so much right now. If you feed the birds, make sure there's plenty for them. If you don't regularly, as you're looking through your cupboards and come across stale bread, old crackers, toss them out for the birds. Same with old fruit. If you have an orange that you don't want, cut it in half and leave it on the deck rails. They have to eat to keep up their body temp and now that the ground is hard or snow covered, if they don't get something from us, they'll go hungry.

Have a great weekend. I'll talk with you more if I make it out of the pantry alive. Better go find a hard hat first...those bottles hurt when they jump off the shelf at me.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No's To Know

I am always too hot. So, if I think it's cold, it's too damn cold. So cold that my brain won't even think. Which means not much from me today. While I wait for my thoughts to thaw so I can write something intelligent, I'm simply going to list all the "No's" I think are important and that you should know. Starting with answers to ubiquitous weather questions:

-No, I don't think it's cold enough for me, but thanks for asking...

-No, I really don't believe a witch's tata is a fair comparison for cold...

-No, it doesn't make me feel better that at least I'm not living in Antarctica. All things are relative.

-An informed 'No,' is a good, if not better, answer than an uninformed, "Yes." When the best answer to give is 'No,' give it. When the best answer to hear is, 'No,' accept it and move on.

-Use, 'No,' wisely.

-No and anger generally do not mix. For the same reason one keeps nitro and glycerin separated until ready for an explosion.

-There are no stupid questions; just people too stupid or stubborn to ask.

-No attempts are too small, so long as they are genuine.

-No job is too small or insignificant. If it needs to be done, do it.

-Nothing from nothing leaves nothing- Billy Preston

-No business like show business? This gives new meaning to multi-tasking...along with everything else I have to do, I act every day at the office!

-There is no time like the present. Make it count.

-No one loves you more than you can love yourself. Start practicing.

-No person should go to bed feeling unappreciated. Always say, 'Thank you.'

-No. But, thank you for offering.

-It's, 'No Sir and No Ma'am,'...Where have our manners gone?

-No whining!!!

-No way!

-No fear.

-No worry; it's a waste of your precious energy.

-No regrets.

-No one is better than you; you are unique and wonderful just as you were made to be...

-'No,' is a complete sentence. (This is my new favorite shared by JoLou. Thanks Jo!)

No warm-up in sight. Colder tomorrow. Even so, we're one day closer to spring!

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Regulating Sound

There are sounds that regulate your day. Tiny somethings you hear, but don't hear, providing a sense of certainty. That needed predictability. And, thereby, comfort.

Once a sound moves into this category, regardless of where you might hear it outside of its usual purview, it is immediately recognizable. The person or thing that made it will be immediately recalled. I know after living with five of them, that the barking dog you hear is a Cairn Terrier. I can tell you immediately that it is a Love Bird making that racket...or a Cockatiel's twittering. And, once you live with Scotties, you'll always recognize their greeting, "Aroo!"

Take the Zippo lighter, for instance. When you hear the sound of the 'zing' as the metal slides open and snaps shut, yep, you know it's a Zippo. That sound still, even though I'm pretty anti-smoking, to me means, "All's right with the world. I'm safe." Every night before turning in, Dad smoked his last cigarette for the day.

That metalic scrape, as the lid flicked open, meant Daddy was only a few feet away in his adjoining bedroom. And, if I was having trouble sleeping, hearing his lighter was the best tonic.

The ticking of a familiar clock is one of those regulating sounds. Interesting- there was/is a brand of clock called Regulator. Recently, the grandfather clock required a house-call. The clock man, Mr. Ferguson, discussed Grandfather in a manner that made me think of a doctor questioning a family member during an exam. "And, what happened just before it stopped ticking?" I explained in detail. "And, once you started the pendulum, what then?" More detail ending with, "It just didn't tick right. Michael got a bit frustrated with me because he got it ticking, but it didn't sound right. He thought I was being crazy."

Mr. Ferguson, got very animated, "Oh no, my dear, you're absolutely correct! You could probably hear that it was saying, 'tock tick, tock tick,' when you are used to it saying slowly, 'tick tock, tick tock', am I right?" "Yes! That's exactly what it was doing!" Diagnosis secured, he went right to the issue to correct it. As he was leaving he said, "We know our clocks and how they sound even though we don't hear them most of the day." A very apt description of those wonderful sounds that we hear but don't hear in our daily lives.

The old Seth Thomas mantel clock upstairs has regulated Dietor days for over 80 years. Dad wound it religiously every Sunday evening before passing the key over to my keeping. In our family, when a kid turned 12 and not a moment sooner, they could be trusted to wind the old clock. Daddy taught me on my 12th birthday and it was quite an honor!

S.T. was my comforting companion when I was small. Often sick with pneumonia and other lung ailments, there were many nights when I was unable to sleep. Everyone and everything around me slumbering. It made for long, lonely nights. But, every 15 minutes a light, bright sound reminded me that all was well. Through the deep dark, the Seth Thomas sang the quarter hours to me. Most of the time, I very rarely 'hear' it. However, just now, I heard it chime as I'm writing this. Coincidence? Probably S.T. heard me talking about it!

Today, in the early morning dark, I realized that I have an additional sound to regulate my day and remind me that I am blessed to be alive. I heard Michael picking his glasses off the night stand. That's a sound he's brought to the symphony of our life together. For me, it's the new Zippo. Just as comforting and just as regulating.

Sounds and sights bring predictability and comfort. We all have small joys like that. Joys that generally go unnoticed, but still, are very potent. Today, I'll be listening for them with intention and hope you will, too. Thanks for listening!

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Knowing The Difference

Humble- not proud or haughty.

Humbling- to make humble in spirit or manner.

Humiliating- extremely destructive to one's self respect or dignity.

I find that we often use words interchangeably. It's a problem created by our English teachers who insisted that we broaden our vocabularies. Demanding that we en-masse all the adjectives and adverbs we can, but never really teaching us the nuances that words have. How using one might sound close-enough but not really be correct. And, in fact, convey the wrong thinking.

Words. All words have power. Great power. And, we need to use them wisely. I love words. But, you probably know that by now. While I'm not great with numbers, words and I share quite a close working relationship. I find them fascinating.

Lately, I've struggled with my inability to find my professional power. And, while I've given up trying to replicate my former glory days in Maryland, I still struggle. More to the point, it causes friction and anxiety because money is an on-going issue.

Not to say that misery loves company, because I certainly don't want others miserable to make me feel better, but I'm fully aware that the current economic state of the country means that lots of other qualified people are about to discover what I've been dealing with for the past several years since moving here.

Which is to recommend from personal experience- don't make the mistake of self-defining by your profession. Because, once it's pulled away from you, if that's the primary way you see yourself, you'll be emotionally flattened. And, don't stay anchored to who you used to be or you'll never be at peace with the need to re-define yourself in the new world order.

Easy enough for me to say. But, I chafe at doing it. So that's itchily where I am today. Knowing I have two college degrees. Knowing that I used to be a high-powered executive. Knowing that I used to be a well regarded free-lance consultant. Knowing that no one here seems to give a damn about all that I was; my resume makes for a quick read before a quicker toss.

So now I work four hours a day for nine dollars. Because that is what a good organization is kind enough to offer. And, even this is a temporary thing; I'm filling in for a returning staff member. How I feel has absolutely nothing to do with the organization, which is a good one. It's all me that's creating the internal static. They knew when they offered it that it is far below my abilities and what I should expect from employment. But, they had the need and I was available...

It goes to prove my point, by the are not found in the newspaper. They're found because of the people you know. In this case, Melissa has a friend who works for the organization and they were chatting and Melissa said, "Hey why not contact my Step-Mom? She'd be great for you!" And, that's how it happened.

I realize that when I'm having my internal chatter about this employment, I'm feeling angry or frustrated. It's humiliating! Is it even worth my effort for $36 a day when I used to make three times that in a billable hour?!!!! The answer is- YES.

Because their offer is genuine. It was clearly articulated. And, every day as I leave, they say, "Thank you very much! See you tomorrow." Which is a lot more than many people ever hear at their job.

The answer is- YES. Because I need to work, not just for the money but because I need to contribute to the world. And, because I have skills and talents that will fall apart if I don't do something to keep them honed.

The answer for both parties is- YES. Which requires that I work harder to let go of the self-inflicted sense of humiliation. No part of my nine dollar an hour job is extremely destructive to to my self-respect or dignity. So, feeling humiliated is self-inflicted. What a shame.

It's time for me to take a deep breath and work harder on accepting things as they are. To liberate my thinking by being grateful for what's been offered. To view my current circumstances as humbling- not humiliating. To polish my spiritual mirror; to make humble in spirit or manner. To be a professional who always delivers what my client needs regardless of the wage. If it's real, and I took the engagement, nothing less than my best is acceptable.

I could stand to eat some Humble Pie from time to time. Wonder if I can get that a la mode? It will go down easier that way.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Starting A New Week

I read this quote today and I think it's perfect to remember as we go through this upcoming week: Your smile can bring happiness to someone...even if the person doesn't like you.

Smile. Such a simple thing to do. Let's try an experiment. Smile at people as often as you can. Share the reactions you get here on the blog. And, I'm not saying do that cheesy grin thingy we do at times. I mean offer your genuine goodness in your smile. Smile with your eyes. When you answer the phone, a second before you begin to speak, think, "Smile!" See if it doesn't positively change how you sound.

Smile. This isn't so someone who thinks they don't like you becomes your best friend. Let them be entitled to their opinion. Or tied to its weight. But, smile to liberate yourself from caring so much what they think. Smile to lighten your daily load. Smile to push fear and worry away even for the split second it takes. Lift up your being, just as a smile lifts up the corners of your mouth.

Smile. The week awaits.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Baby Vs. Bathwater

"Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater," we're warned. Hear it all the time. But, do you know the difference when you critically need to know?

During my closet clean-out, I sorted through my jewelry case. Jewelry is a particular passion of mine. I must have been a crow in a past life- if it's bright and sparkly I'm attracted to it.

I came across a box that I haven't touched in several years. I knew what it was; I haven't looked at it since I deliberately banished it to the back of the drawer. It hurt too much. But, this time when I looked at the earrings and matching necklace, it didn't hurt. The tanzanites winked at me like Elizabeth Taylor's eyes. That soothing gorgeous violet blue. And, in a good way I immediately thought of John.

I absolutely loved him! But, it didn't last. And, it broke my heart wide open. Pulled me apart emotionally. Completely disassembled me for awhile. I was so furious with him for being stupid with my heart, that anything to do with him was simply too painful to consider. I stayed that way for a very long time. I don't feel that way anymore. In fact, John and I communicate often. When I fell for him, it was because he was a wonderful guy who was sweet and kind...and he is, still. He's living a contented life. I'm glad that he's well- and happy to call him my friend.

Michael often jokes that I picked him because I didn't want to change the monograms on the towels. Pretty funny... I will admit I love the name. It's strong and loving. Most Michaels are the nicest men. And, my Michael clearly lives up to his name. Both my Michaels do.

He thought it odd when he learned of my bond with former husband, Michael. He couldn't get his head around the concept; it's so drastically different from his experience. His ex-wife won't even say his name so being in relationship with Beth is impossible. It's a shame considering they share an ongoing bond because of Melissa and Evan, and even more because Michael is willing to be friendly with her. But, Beth refuses to acknowledge that Michael exists. And, that caustic way of thinking, I don't understand. Why wouldn't a woman want such a marvelous man as a facet of her life?

It doesn't happen over night; it took a couple of years after our divorce for Michael and me to find our way back to each other. But, it was important to both of us that we did. Now, my two Michael husbands are friendly. We socialize. I love wife Jen, who is intelligent, kind, and generous. And, Grace, their wonderful little girl calls me Aunt Holly. First Michael sang at my wedding and Gracie was the most adorable flower girl! They are an extension of my family.

I couldn't imagine life without Moo in it. I've loved him since meeting him in college when I was 19 years old. At this point in life I have become, "his side of the family," since he has no other family. No one who knows his stories from his younger days. As he knows mine from my younger days. You just don't throw that sort of bond away. He's not my husband but he's still Moo and I'm still Shine.

Like John, his life path was tied to mine for only awhile. Then it was time to search for what was right. 'Awhile,' is a relative term. I'm not comparing the time-frame since Michael and I were married 14 years and in relationship even longer, while John and I were together about a year. But, in terms of the emotional investment I made they are very comparable.

So, what's with me, that after both these guys whom I loved walked away from 'us', I'm still in relationship with them now? I must be crazy, most think. After they left, what's with me that I wouldn't shred all evidence of their presence? Why do I retain bits and pieces, like jewelry, books, notes? Or, after some healing time, with the individuals themselves?

I suppose because I never understood why anyone would throw out a perfectly good baby with the dirty bathwater.

It's natural to react when we're wounded. To seal ourselves off from further hurt and respond with total anger. Rage even. But, when it's cooled off? When you're not so raw from the experience, what then? Do you remain angry with them for the rest of your life? Do you continue to hate the one you adored so completely? Or, do you remember that you loved them? Learned from them? Became more because of them? Are a richer Human Being for having encountered them? Do you leave your emotional door ajar should a special someone wish to return?

Would you rather remember only the few last broken moments of hurt and sorrow, or easily recall all the preceding joy and happiness you experienced with them? Would you prefer the lie, "He was a liar and lousy! He didn't love me because he broke my heart," rather than honestly remember all the good qualities that attracted you? Would you prefer to walk around with anger that burns a permanent hole in your heart or would you rather mend it?

If you're not willing to recall the good things, you make yourself out to be pretty foolish. I mean, why would you have been interested in someone who doesn't have good qualities? Me? I'd rather think of myself as a discerning individual who only wants quality people in my life, even if they untie their ties to me. So, tossing the poor baby out with the water isn't an option for me.

I can't ignore the rightness of a Human Being to change, grow, and move. If I want those things for myself, I can't deny them to someone else. We all have the right to follow our hearts. We have the obligation to grow through experiences with each other. We have the right to search for what we want and need to be authentic.

I don't always like it, especially when it means I don't end up with what I want. But, I must acknowledge that we have rights, even if someone I love needs to part company with me. It's always hard. Painful. Sorrowful. Hurtful. However, it's always right in the end.

I know that if I'm open to possibility, love always grows into its correct shape. It finds its correct space in my heart. It continues to support and love me in ways that I couldn't have predicted. At the very least, I get a sense of peace when I say as they're going, "I wish you well."

I've talked here about lovers and husbands, but I apply the same thinking to friendships and family. To all relationships that have been emotionally meaningful. For me there's not enough love in the world or my life. I'll always hope for more and for the opportunity to share more. I don't much care what form it takes. So long as it's genuine. And real. So, the baby stays with me long after the bathwater has circled the drain.

The same liberating option exists for you to exercise. When it comes to relationships, are you able to tell which is the baby and which watery part to let go?

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Friday, January 9, 2009

Great Expectations

I was talking with Chris and she said, "I'm trying to live my life without any expectations. That way I'm never disappointed." Makes sense. Who needs to be disappointed? I hate it. You, too?

Though the thought made absolutely good sense when she said it, it rolled around in my head long after we hung up the phone. "That way I'm never disappointed." I kept hearing her tone when she said it, not the words. The tone of voice said way more.

Trying to describe a tone of voice is harder than replicating the words for you to read. I'm going to try because, as so often happens when I speak with her, Chris becomes the torch that Spirit uses to light up dark corners. So, stick with me while I try...

I know that I have said exactly the same. You've probably thought it or even said, too. It's common to attempt to avoid disappointment. Often, after repeatedly being let down, the thread of awareness comes when we think, "If I don't expect a thing from anybody, at least I know what I'll get. At least, no one can let me down..." The word we leave unsaid is, "AGAIN!"

When Chris said it, I got an image of a sweet little girl playing by herself. Doing that talk out-loud thing kids do when they're engaged in singular activities. In my mind, the little girl was playing alone, not by choice, but because no one else would play with her. The child was feeling, "Fine. I didn't want to play with them any way. I can have fun all on my own. So there!"

It's a show of defiance rather than living the sadness of being wounded, or hurt, or let down. It's also the bravado that helps us move on when we've been disappointed. It's not exactly lying to ourselves, more than it's a coping mechanism that helps us move on instead of staying stuck feeling bad.

It's also not genuine. It's not really how we feel. It's a mask for our disappointment. It keeps us from feeling vulnerable. But, it's a lot of effort for nothing because people can see right through it; even you don't believe it when you say it.

Disappointment comes from needs and expectations unmet. Is there a way to live life without expectations and, hence, without disappointment? Yes and no. Disappointment must be experienced so we know what we need and want, and how to build a life around unpredictability. It means determining what sort of people we want to be surrounded by vs. those who simply make life too hard.

We have to experience disappointment, but the problem is that many people live disappointment. And, that's toxic.

We have expectations. They're often goals when managed correctly. But, expectations can only be those that we hold for ourselves, not of others. And, we can't be rigid with them since goals only work when they flow with us. We can only manage our own behavior, never manage the behavior of others. We can manage our response to disappointment, but never avoid the possibility of it. And, really we shouldn't want to...

When you drill down through the issue of expectations and disappointment, you come to what the Buddhist describe as the suffering we feel from our ego insisting on controlling everything. For insisting on certainty. The suffering that is caused because we demand to know what to expect all the time instead of living life moment to moment. Accepting it as it comes.

We only become disappointed because we expected someone to give us what we hoped. Or, do what we needed them to do. Or if they don't measure up to our notions of them. And they failed us.

But does that mean that you defiantly decide to do everything for yourself? Never ask for another thing? Never tell someone you need their help? No. That's the little child who says, "I didn't want to play with them anyway..."

Instead, we learn to be brave and risk disappointment by remaining open to possibility. And, learn where we stop and start; where we must brush up against others to thrive. We learn when we should rely on them and when we should manage things on our own. We learn to be honest and say what we need. When necessary, we clearly articulate our expectations; we hold them to a minimum. And, as a Peaceful Warrior, we view life as it comes instead of being disappointed when it doesn't go exactly as we want. We learn to embrace, or at least tolerate, uncertainty.

We learn to develop compassion for our own weaknesses and flaws as we hope others will do when we fail to deliver or let them down. Because, we certainly will; it's only Human to fall short of the mark at times.

We hold hope instead of expectation. We learn to live with more heart and less ego. We love people, accepting them just as they are, so when they are at their least, they get a glimmer of their potential when they can't see it for themselves. We are honest with them and that starts by being honest with ourselves. We begin to discern the difference between the absolutes and the negotiables.

You'll be able to say, "I'm trying to live my life without expectations. That way I'm never disappointed because I know that life is good and I'm always hopeful about what's to come." It's better that way.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
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