Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Dash of Grace

Everything and everyone in my world is fuel for this blog. While not always comfortable with the notion, most in my realm know that they may read their name or be made to stroll, (perhaps 'forced march' is more accurate,) through a memory. Everyone also knows, I never write anything that would embarrass them. They are treated with respect and courtesy as I share my world with you. With that said, I want you to know that today's entry is about a very emotional and personal experience. It's being shared with permission. This is Opie's sharing; I'm just the ghost writer today.

Dash has closed his eyes and released his pain. Melissa and Opie, along with Zach, stood close as he took his last breath. They did what was needed to send their beloved pup to a place far from hurt. They are understandably heartbroken. They are, also, relieved because they know their pet is not suffering needlessly. His life ended with those he trusted most gathered close. Their familiar, loved hands stroking his fur, letting him know it was all right to go. A true blessing. Something all of us hope for when it's our time to go...

Yesterday was a long day for all of them. All woke to a day feeling lead heavy with dread. Pressing on their nerves and emotions. There's always the struggle to answer the question, "Damn, is this the right thing? I'm doing the right thing by ending my animal's life now???" It burns your brain while it exhausts you in the mad chase for certainty.

Amidst all of that soreness, Opie had a life-altering moment. He shared it with me, starting by giving permission to tell you: "Holly, feel free to share this with anyone and everyone; especially with anybody who is doubting a decision they've made or are about to make...

"I went outside to smoke this morning. The sky was gray and gloomy; the ground was wet from a light shower which had ended 20 minutes earlier. And there was almost an uneasy quiet. I lit my cigarette and a moment later, a choir of birds began to chirp. All different types of birds from all around. Several flew overhead and something seemed to well up inside me.

"A lump came to my throat and a few tears leaked out. Then, the rain started. It was a light rain, but it was coming down fast, kinda' like the rains that take place in a rain forest on TV, but smaller drops. As it started to wash on me, I let loose and began crying pretty hard.

"Then as I was finishing my cigarette, a cool, steady, gentle breeze blew on my face and ruffled my shirt. It was very soothing, and any doubts I had about today were washed away. I smiled knowing that it's the right thing to do. The universe is a funny place, and I'm glad to be a part of it, and even more glad that it reached out and touched me today, in a way that I never expected. I miss him already."

There are sacred moments in life. Few and far between. Moments when Spirit takes you solidly by the hand and reveals the essence of the vast universe. A split second that changes everything. An experience that turns on the switch of awareness of being a true Human Being. In the moment of deepest dark, a light sparks to illuminate the way. Your soul awakens to the glory of being and you feel connected to everything. You are given a miraculous moment of grace. A Dash of grace.

As so often happens as they depart, our beloved companions find ways to remind us that love does not end even though our days will. The short span of their lives reminds us that real love is measured in moments, not years. And Spirit, who gives us these creatures as a testament to the power of love and being in relationship with another, never leaves us alone in the pain of our goodbyes. Never.

Thank you, Dash. For all the doggy smiles; the moments of laughter you gave us; for the cuddles and kisses; for helping us to learn what it means to behave responsibly with love. Even on your last day, you taught us lessons about the beauty of this world and being alive. We will not forget them or you. Farewell, Special Boy. Dashel Dog.

I have sent you on a journey to a land free from pain, not because I did not love you, but because I loved you too much to force you to stay. - Unknown

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Friday, February 27, 2009

Howling Winds

I'm getting the White Eye from the Scotties. If you know anything about the breed, you know that when they get concerned, nervous, worried, they have this way of looking at you from the sides of their eyes...hence giving, The White Eye.

I suspect that if you could see me looking back at them, you'd see the Queen's version of the White Eye. The wind is blowing today. I hate the wind. So do Rory & Fiona. Thunderstorms that crack the sky open don't make me as nervous as the wind does.

There's something about it that makes me, literally, hold my breath. I remain anxious; tense. Want to bury my head under covers. Fi and Rory have opted to go nestle in their kennel till it's safe to emerge. Probably at 11 when it's treat time. Nothing gets in the way of treat time.

When I lived on Long Green Road, the house sat nestled down in the bowl of my property. The dividing line between my home and the neighbor was a massive row of white pines that towered above the houses. They hadn't been planted correctly; too close together. So, they were skeletal at the bottom and top-heavy; fully green at their tops.

My tight little home felt safe from most weather. Emotionally and physically, I always felt secure in that house. Even when the wind came up howling, it raced far over the top of the roof. But, the trees...those ancient, high, brittle trees. They would creak. Crack. SNAP. And, actually sigh. During the wind's rampage, I'd fret, "Will those trees make it? Or, is this house going to be smashed in the night?"

Yoki would silently go hide under the bed. Meggie, only, never seemed troubled. She left all worrying for me to do. She simply couldn't be bothered with such banal issues. Ah, the life of a Cairn Terrier Princess.

Here on Eton Drive, our home sits perched atop the lovely line of the Chestnut Ridge. It is the reason why we have such beautiful vistas to enjoy. But, oh, when the wind comes up? It slams our houses. The row of old, high pines that lace the back of the property take the brunt of its force. Without the covering support of the trees and brush that resided here with them prior to our development erasing all traces, I wonder how long the pines can buffer the wind before they yield.

I suppose I dislike wind because I can feel it but don't know where it's coming from and how long it will last. I can't project what its impact might be to my world. It's the sounds of fury that fluctuate greatly, so you're never able to get used to it. The sound of power that I don't share. It's bigger than me. It seems so random in what it picks to bring down. It destroys some things and slips past other things with only a whisper.

Today, my friend is watching the winds of change howl through his division at work. There, over 300 souls are being blown out of their jobs. Being escorted out of their cubicles and offices. Being escorted out of their hopes for security and blown into fear. It's another Friday in America. Another pink-slip Friday.

All over, the winds of destruction are howling. Powerless against it, all we Humans can do is brace and wonder at the randomness of who it will impact. Who will be left least until the turbulence strikes again. My friend has escaped the wind today. So I offer a prayer of thanks, mixed with prayers for all of those who didn't survive the blast.

There is always a blessed calm after the wind has ripped through and traveled on. I'm certain it will come...I just don't know when. Keep your head tucked. I think the winds will play havoc for awhile yet. I sure don't have any advice here. I only know, the wind makes me incredibly nervous.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I've had a lot of small bits of this and that with my family lately. And, thought I'd share them with you. I know the word used to describe snippets of information is, 'factoids,' but I thought Frocktoids is a better fit for us.

Wichita Falls seems to be agreeing with Evan. Sheppard Air Force base is much smaller than Lackland. But, Michael informs me that Lackland actually is a massive base and dwarfs most others. So, if Lackland is the first exposure to Air Force life, all seem surprisingly small to Airmen at first.

Evan is very pleased with his room accommodations and the size of his closet. It's actually a walk-in! His room mate and he don't see much of each other as they are on different shifts. Ev's day now begins at 11PM. That would be a great schedule for me since I am, by nature, a night crawler. Evan seems all right with having been assigned the third shift.

The chow hall is outstanding which is a huge step up from his experience in Basic. However, generally philosophical about these things Evan said, "I guess they even use the food as a way to stress you out when you're in basic, but I just had french toast here and it was slammin'!" Always a good thing...slammin' french toast.

Tech School runs 24 hours a day! In the few months' time that he will spend at Shep, he will have undergone about three and a half college courses of information. Talk about an intense mini-mester! He likes his instructor. Most things are done with Power Point presentations and he has to hand write his notes. Laptops not allowed in the classroom.

I suggested that, immediately after every shift, he sit in his room and transcribe all his notes onto his brand new laptop. That way, he gets to process all the new data twice. Somehow, that dual processing seems to plant the new info quicker. He thinks he might give that a try.

Life is good for Airman Frock. He has his phone back so he's in touch with the world again. He took the picture here with his phone! I adore hearing from him just checking in and saying, "Good morning, or actually,Good night." Sharing tidbits before he takes off for another day. His room is relatively comfortable and the training is interesting. He'll still be hoping for mail to read even with the electronic connections once again available so I'll have ample opportunity to continue practicing my penmanship. Our boy is doing just fine!

Melissa, on the other hand, is in a mad struggle at the moment. Things at her home are tense and sad. Dash, her five year old Jack Russell mix has thrown a disc in his back. He can't walk and is in a great deal of pain. "Dash" is one of the most appropriately named dogs I know. Except now. Now he's unable to move his back legs and wag his tail, bewildered and hurt. Melissa, Opie and Zach are uncertain.

Opie and Dash have become best buds. He's not sure what to do and hates what may be the eventuality for his poor dog. They are trying steroids and pain medication to see if this is a passing thing, hoping that his young age is working in his favor.

Melissa immediately drops into former vet tech mode to help the 'family' process all the info that's being thrown at them. It's a massive help to have her knowledge at times like this. But, she's also my daughter who is trying to do the right thing for her pet and the ones with whom she lives. She's my kid who can't help but painfully recall that she went through this same heartbreaking decision with her colt back in the fall. And, I'm feeling hard pressed to find a way to make it better for her.

"I'm getting pretty sick of having my young pets blow up in my face," and I can relate having had to put down one of my Cairn Terriers when he was only four years old. Unbelievable what I put myself through.

It's never easy walking that last mile with your animal. Never. Sometimes it's easier, depending on the amount of suffering the animal might be experiencing, to understand the 'rightness' of your decision. But it never makes it all right. You do it because that's what a loving owner does.

Having had the experience several times prior to young Jessie, I knew what to expect. But, what I wasn't prepared for was the difference with Jessie being young enough to know and act like he just wanted to get the hell out of the vet's office that last day. He didn't 'look' or 'act' sick. He looked young and vital. I felt lousy sitting there waiting. Just friggin' awful.

But, Jessie's juvenile diabetes couldn't be controlled and was getting worse. Just as his aggressiveness was escalating. Jessie, probably feeling at risk since he was unwell, would attack Yoki simply for being the larger canine. I guess that was Jess's way of putting him on notice. Yokie would try to avoid it but, I broke up many dog fights. And, was bitten once in the process; not intentionally, my hand happened to be in the wrong place at the exact wrong moment. Actually, the bite was what stopped Jessie cold. He was very contrite.

However, I ended up in the hospital with blood poisoning from my own dog! Massive antibiotics pumped into me. A hand surgeon called in because it looked like surgery might be necessary. Thankfully the drugs reversed it. But, the hospital because of your own pet...

It was a bad situation for me and Yoki & Meggie. It had to be done. Though heartbreaking.

It seemed incredibly unfair. Jessie was a rescue Cairn. And, I couldn't help but feel cheated. I found him and brought him to a loving home only to have him destroyed within a couple of years. I suppose I can rest in the knowledge that I was able to give him fun and love for most of his life, regardless of how short that life may have been. I can see that now, but it took a very long time.

And, the irony is that Melissa and Opie went to West Virginia to liberate Dash from a shelter. He, too, is a rescue pup. They have given him love and joy. As he has brought to them. Prayers are needed all around. I hope you'll send them some loving thoughts today.

I don't want to end this post on such a sad note. So, I'll also share that I heard from Laura who enjoyed seeing Olivia as a recent post. She then said, "She gets more beautiful by the day, I swear!" What a mystery it must be to be a mother and watch your child change and grow. What a wonderful thing to be able to witness each day in your life. A blessing.

And, I hope that today, we can all find a moment of something beautiful, I swear!

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka WSM

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Aspirin, Anyone?

I woke at around 3 AM. Thought initially, it was because Rory & Fiona were plastered against me for warmth pinning me in place. But, that wasn't it. While it is true that they were glued to me, for a change they were laying parallel to me, so I can't blame them.

No, it was the familiar pain that runs just behind my right ear and down my neck. I have another weather headache. Bummer. It's still there now. So, I'm not thinking all that clearly. Which might be a good thing. For certain, it'll cause today's entry to be short.

I started with these headaches in my late 30's. They're pretty accurate in forecasting that the weather is going to shift. I get them when the weather is turning foul, which might be understandable. However, I also get them when the weather is going to turn fair. A change is, after all, a change isn't it?

Some changes we look forward to; some we dread. Interesting, if you use my head as an illustration, (god help us,) the same amount of discomfort is involved for change of both kinds. Yet, one type we don't seem to mind.

If change of any sort involves the same amount of effort, why does one happen with more fluid ease while another takes major sweat? I'm thinking, like most things it's about me, not the circumstances. It has to be my outlook, how I view the change; not the facts of the situation.

So, unable to change the facts...what is within my power is manipulating my view of the situation. Like, my ability to pop some Excedrin to manage this headache.

One of my favorite quotes is from Gordon W. Livingston: Happiness is not simply the absence of despair. It is an affirmative state in which our lives have both meaning and pleasure.

As that relates to change, I think it means that I can still find a position of contentment and meaning about my life, but not by attempting to minimize change. That can't happen. It's more about facing it and being curious about its potential, instead of fretting about it. Regardless of the circumstances, I have the power to see it from the affirmative state. I get to choose.

Like my headaches. Yes, they cause me pain. But, if I didn't have one, I couldn't tell you to get your umbrella ready to use later today. So, it's all good.

I'm on my way to find that Excedrin. And if change comes at you today, smile at the good ones. Remain open and curious about the ones that offer challenges.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tigers And Berries

Something seemed wrong. I watched closely while he stared at the television and asked, "Is anything wrong," "No, nothing," as he continued watching. A short while later, still not talking and seeing that flat level gaze, I couldn't resist the impulse to try again, "Are you sure nothing's wrong?" "NO! I'm simply paying attention so I can turn up the sound when the commercials are over! There's nothing wrong!!" Okay...I got don't have to yell.

Another version of that story, ends like this, "No! Nothing's wrong! I'm just trying to read!!!"

I'm not the only woman who puts a man through those paces. If I was, comedians wouldn't be able to make us howl with laughter when they perform their unique renditions of this idea. And, there wouldn't be a guy making big money on the circuit explaining his notion of a man's Nothing Box. So, I know I'm not the only one.

What is it about women that makes us over-analyze EVERYTHING? And, is there honestly such a vast difference between the sexes when it comes to how they process the world vs. our way? First answer, "I have no flippin' idea." Second answer, "Abso-friggin-lutely."

One of my favorite stories is about a guy and a girl driving home from a date. They've been dating awhile and everything between them seems headed in the right direction. However, this date, he's very quiet, which seems odd. Giving short answers to most things. He's driving and she's fretting, "What's wrong? Did I do something? Is he tired of me? Yeah, that's it, he's going to break up with me and he just doesn't know what to say to me. Can I do anything different? I really like this guy, how could this have gone wrong? What the hell did I miss???!!!!"

By the time they get home, she's in a complete emotional and mental melt-down. Bracing for the very worst. The guy, completely absorbed, unaware of her internal hysteria, is seriously contemplating, "Wonder when I changed the oil last?"

Yep. That about says it all...

I don't know. Maybe it all started in the days of the saber-toothed tigers. When the guys of the clan went out to hunt that stealthy cat, they'd be gone for days. Tracking it. Hanging back so the cat wouldn't know they were there. Searching the earth for the least little sign for tracks, bits of fur caught in the brambles, scat. The tiny details that tell a hunter he's on the right path. Silent hours remaining absolutely still so the quarry is unaware of their presence. Time becomes meaningless; everything else in the world becomes irrelevant. The hunters become the animal on many levels during the hunt.

That masculine, laser-beam focus was honed over millennia and can be witnessed, today, as men sit mesmerized by the electronic flickering fire-light. Seen as he concentrates on the television, to the exclusion of hearing your voice, and everything else in the world around him. If you ever wonder how a man can do that, thank the saber-tooth.

While men were laying for hours in the mud waiting to kill dinner, we females were walking great distances hunting, too. On the search for berries, grains, grasses, medicines, and other necessities. Finding a patch of berries, we'd start gathering as fast as possible to clear the bushes of their bounty. "Oh, here are some good ones, I found some more. Maybe there's more over there. Let's go see. How are yours? Oh, no, that one's no good. Let's keep looking!"

Combine that with, "Do you see the children? Children, don't go far! Put that down! Stay where we can see you. Which one of you girls banked the fire before we left the cave?! I swear, if you let that fire go out, I'm going to yank your hair! Stay on the look-out for willow bark, our supply is running low and you know the men will come home sore." So, when you wonder why we can't just pay attention to one thing...thank the berries and the grains, and the fire and the children, and the cave, and....and...and...

Both thought processes are valid and necessary. But they sure don't make it easy to live with each other.

Women tend to make it even harder. If your man isn't saying anything, in all probability it's because he's got nothing! Men are generally uncomplicated; their thought processes are straight forward and direct. It's we women who make it complicated. We create issues where none exist. We think about everything all the time, even when we wish we didn't. Like at 3:30 in the morning when you're brain clicks on by itself and won't turn off.

Men don't think until they have to.

I'm not sure why the feminine need to gather berries, pick lint, and multi-task continues today. But, it does. I have to remember to leave Michael out of that whirlpool. He always says what's on his mind. Eventually. When he's ready. So, if he's fixated and not talking, I think I'll try harder to leave him be.

I'm pretty sure we women would have been better at hunting the tiger. In all probability, the tiger would have simply thrown itself off the edge of the cliff rather than endure us asking repeatedly, "What are you thinking? Is anything wrong?"

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Judge At Wal*Mart

E.F. Benson wrote, "There is no surer way of calling the worst out of anyone than that of taking their worst as being their true selves; no surer way of bringing out the best than by only accepting that as being true of them." I find this quote pretty powerful. And, timely.

A new acquaintance of mine, Toni, shared a very disturbing, yet all too common, occurrence that happened recently at Wal*Mart of all places. Imagine...a disturbing occurrence at a Wally World. There are times when shopping there, that I recall a comment Michael made once when the store was stuffed with odd individuals, "Wonder where all these Carney folk hang-out the rest of the time?!" Which would be pretty flip and funny, if I wasn't also at the Wal*Mart. So much for my feeling smug and like I'm all-that...

Toni was packed in line when, from several aisles away, she hears a woman yelling. The yelling turned truly blue. Everyone began staring at this woman cursing and threatening at the top of her lungs, to beat her children if they didn't do as she directed. F Bombs, etc, boiled out of her mouth. No one intervened. Froze in place. Embarrassed. All clearly uncomfortable.

What upset Toni the most was that the only people who weren't effected by her bad behavior were her children who continued what they were doing. Totally oblivious to the woman's rant. Which means, her cursing and behavior have become the wallpaper of their lives. They don't even notice or 'hear' it anymore. However, you and I know verbal stones like that leave a mark on the spirit even if they aren't registered by the ears.

Toni's initial reaction, like most around her, was stunned shock. Then she felt the urge to get in the woman's face and give her what she was giving. Discretion took hold so she stayed away. Conflicted, yes, but she didn't escalate the situation further by confronting her.

Then the most remarkable thing happened; Toni considered that she might walk up to the woman and say quietly, "'Hey, are you all right? Could you use some help?" She didn't do that, either. Afterward, she sat in her truck and cried because she felt like she let an opportunity slip by. An opportunity when she might have made a critical difference.

Lots of people weighed in on this story of hers. Most, in trying to help Toni feel better, called it like they saw it about the apparent ignorant behavior of this woman who acted like trailer trash. Some had suggestions of how to effectively punish her by reporting her for child endangerment or abuse to the authorities. A normal reaction, I'd say.

But is normal what is needed here? It is so easy, when a Human Being is behaving badly, to go immediately to a judging place. And, to decide that the bad behavior you witness is the sum total of the person. To dismiss that they may have any redeeming qualities at all. The place where we secure our own position of superiority by looking down from the moral high ground. "I'd never behave in such a manner." "I'm a superior parent and role-model." "Clearly, there is something wrong with this woman." "Oh, how disgusting!"

It's a predictable reaction, when we have our senses assaulted, to think these things. So, I am completely impressed with Toni's moment of clarity when she considered that, perhaps the best thing to do for this woman and those children, was to offer a compassionate response. One that defused the situation through openness and an offer of support.

In all probability, she would have been met with, "Who the hell do you think you are? Mind your own damn business!" But, that's not important. What is important is that Toni was given a moment of grace when she considered a better way. She continued her good work sharing the episode. And, that gave us a moment of grace to consider how we might do better.

So, Toni did a great deal to intervene, even though she felt as if she had failed miserably.

This is a prime example of the concept of being A Peaceful Warrior. You've heard me speak of bushi. I first came to this Japanese concept while training in Aikido. What you learn as you progress through martial arts training is that true, Bushi-do/Warrior's Way, is peace in action. Even if the action appears to be aggressive or physical. The action is taken only for the purposes of securing peace and harmony. You deflect hostile force with equal positive force, in order to neutralize its impact.

As it relates to Toni, she neutralized the negative impact of this Wal*Mart patron through her soul searching and wondering what she could do to make things better. And, by telling us so we can wonder the same. Our thoughts now combine to spread more understanding and compassion to the world through her experience.

When you find yourself in a situation that brings out the judge in you, remember that you are being given the opportunity to be a Peaceful Warrior, instead. You cannot know what the person, who is acting out, is going through so you can't effectively judge. That's not your job anyway. Your job is to learn to meet each individual eye-to-eye. On equal footing, not from a false position of superiority believing you know best. Your job is to act as Spirit's agent. Your job is to be the loving face of Spirit in an unkind, unjust world. Your job is to be a reflection of Spirit.

That's a much harder task; judging is easy. But, taking up the challenge of always seeing the truth and goodness of a Human Being and gently reminding them of it, does service to everyone. It's the way of the Peaceful Warrior. Trust that all experiences are for your highest spiritual growth and development. Especially those which make you uncomfortable and stretch you into new ways of thinking and being.

Thanks, Toni. You made a huge difference by being in Wal*Mart this weekend.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Of Feral Cats & Men

Aunt Rose Burrall lived in the country far from my concrete experiences on 27th Street. She died when I was just a kid, but not before she taught me how to embroider. I learned John Deere green and how to ride one. Her property was the first place where I saw wild flowers blooming. She taught me the Black-eyed Susans, Queen Anne's Lace, and I can't see a summer-sky-blue, chicory weed blooming without thinking immediately, "Aunt Rose."

Living with her a few weeks one summer, only, I learned all of those interesting things. But, the most interesting was the wild, orange tabby cat with whom she shared her carport. I never knew of feral cats. I thought all cats lived with people, in houses, and begged to be petted and fed. Theirs was a fascinating relationship.

The tom had no name, or if he did, he didn't share it. Aunt Rose respecting his independence, called him simply, The Cat. Every evening around the same time, The Cat stalked across the field to the carport to await his meal. Most evenings, Aunt Rose had it waiting. I don't think Uncle Bob even had his meal waiting for him when he got home, but The Cat did.

The first evening, she directed, "Holly, you can't touch this cat. Don't go near him. You can watch him. But you have to sit quietly or he'll take off. He's not a pet. " I was eager to meet The Cat. And did my part by sitting on the other side of the carport while he made his way up to his bowl.

I remember the stare he gave me. Hard. Suspicious. He stood frozen which held me frozen in the chair. Eventually, he turned his back, dismissing me, and tucked into his meal. As soon as it was done, he was gone. My aunt seemed perfectly fine with that. I wasn't. "Aunt Rose, why does he leave? Doesn't he want to stay with you and Uncle Bob? Where does he go? Why can't you pet him?" On and on the questions flew out of my eight-year-old face.

I was a blend of surprised and indignant. I couldn't help it, "Gee, you pay money to feed the stupid thing and you can't even pet him or love on him?!" She laughed. "I don't know where he lives. I don't know where he goes when he's gone. I feed him because I can. Sometimes he visits with me. He's not my cat. The Cat belongs to nobody. It's all right that way, Sweetie." And, for Aunt Rose, it was truly okay. I certainly didn't get it but, for the two of them, it worked just fine.

I had the chance to watch The Cat, after becoming a bit more comfortable with me, stay for a visit after he dined. I remember him sitting next to my aunt's chair while she watched the red sun drop down into the fields; The Cat unblinkingly watching with her. You could sense some ethereal tie between the two. And, when his feline clock struck the hour, The Cat evaporated without a sound. Marking the end of another summer day.

My aunt died shortly after my visit. She endured a long hospitalization, never making it back home. When she left for the hospital, one of her requests was to make certain The Cat had food each day. Uncle Bob found the time to do that. The Cat came every evening, ate quickly and promptly left. However, on the day Aunt Rose died, The Cat didn't come. The great orange tabby was never seen again.

How did The Cat know? I can only guess that the wild heart which beat in that feral feline was, in fact, in deep relationship with Aunt Rose even though it looked like no relationship at all. Impossible to define in usual terms yet, genuine.

Melissa and I were talking about men we've dated. How some, seemingly with the best intentions, believe they want to settle into a relationship, only to learn that they hate it. Domestication begins to change them. They lose their fun nature. Eventually the whole thing falls apart.

She was with a great guy for four years before they came to an understanding; they're meant to be dear friends, not lovers or mates. It took him awhile to conclude that he doesn't want to be in a relationship and he became less and less himself in the process. It grieved them both to watch the change and not understand why. Once he knew what he wanted and, more importantly, once Melissa was willing to acknowledge she wanted more, things got better. For both. He now knows he only wants a casual string of encounters with others. He doesn't want a 'girlfriend'; he questions if he'd ever want to marry. At least for now. So, they've gone off to pursue separate lives but, they saved their friendship which is important.

I can relate. I once had a torrid physical relationship; Jeff was intriguing and fascinating. We were fabulously compatible- physically. But, after our moments of romping and conversation, he'd evaporate until the next encounter. With a kiss and a sly smile, he'd quietly slip away just like The Cat did every night after dinner on the carport.

At the start, I was absolutely in sync with the parameters he had set. He was clear about what he wanted and what he was willing to provide. More importantly, he was absolutely honest about what he didn't want. He didn't want the entanglements of a relationship. I heard what he said. Considered it closely. I was busy with my life, career, and finding out who I was after my marriage ended. It seemed like a good deal and for quite a few months it was...

Seemed like. Because, here's the rub...most women can't stay casual about deep physical relationships. Without it being our direct intention, women begin to bond with their lover. On emotional levels we can't predict ahead of time. Try as we might, if we have continued, sustained contact with a lover, we become emotionally enmeshed.

Once it happens, we begin hoping to change The Cat's nature. We discount what we know and stop listening when we're reminded that he isn't looking for a forever home. We delude ourselves, "If everything between us feels this good, I know we're headed toward something lasting." We dismiss what we've been told; worse, we begin to believe we have the power to change his mind. And, that's when the problems start.

Without intending to, I began to invest myself. I began hoping for more from Jeff even though I didn't recognize it. Sensing the shift in me, he pulled the plug and walked away. As fun as the sexual relationship and friendship was, he needed his freedom more. And, in leaving, he taught me a very valuable lesson.

I learned that I have to regularly evaluate a contract. Make sure I'm still willing to accept the original terms. Be open to renegotiate when things, for me, have changed. And, be ready to shake hands and walk away if the other person isn't. I have to be honest with myself and them when I'm no longer able to live with terms as originally defined. And, that takes courage.

Aunt Rose and The Cat accepted that she could stop feeding him if she cared to, just as The Cat could decide to not come to her address each night to eat. The odd relationship worked because both understood they had a voice in how it went.

A feral cat deems to share a sliver of its life, but it will never live with you completely at ease. It will always demand to know, even if it comes inside, that it can easily make an escape. Above everything else, even the need for food and comfort, a wild cat needs space, the open sky and all the perils life on the outside brings.

Share aspects of a feral cat's life but don't attempt to domesticate it. Do not believe you know better than The Cat. You have to accept that the relationship will be mostly on its terms and could change without notice. If you can't handle that, or dream of changing the cat, best let it go elsewhere to find its meals and few moments of comfort.

Aunt Rose was an exceptional woman in many ways. I'm grateful for her lesson of allowing a spirit to come and go as it needs to without trying to hem it in and change it. She was never heart broken when The Cat left. She accepted it and didn't fret about when she would see it again. And, she cherished the moments they shared, but she didn't live her life hoping The Cat would do more than visit the carport.

If you are in a relationship with a feral male, leave the door to your heart ajar. The Cat will always need to slip off without notice. A man who says he doesn't want to be in a relationship isn't mistaken. He's telling you his truth; take him at his word. Accept what you hear and make your determination to play or pass based on what you've been told and not what you hope you can make of it.

Having a feral relationship can teach the lessons of acceptance, living in the moment, and listening. All of which are good things. But, understand, when it comes to love it's not all that you'll need. Or, all you will want. Still, I hope you experience the secrets The Cat can provide. It will give you lots of special, fascinating moments to hold close. More importantly, it can teach you to want more for your life and love. And, the courage to continue the quest to find it.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Miracle of You

Okay, part of following this blog is putting up with some of my emotional cooing, I know. But, when you look at this adorable face, don't you have to smile and give me some slack?

Olivia is one month old, as her very elaborate flyer explains! In her face I can see that magical blend of mother with father. And, I know that cherubic face will change back and forth for quite awhile. First she'll favor Eric, then one day she'll look like Laura. Eventually, she'll settle on her singular Olivia Grace face. Her face will become as dear and as loved as Eric's and Laura's. And for her parents who created her, her face will be one of the most special of all.

Isn't it a miracle when you consider that, of the millions of people in the world, there is only one of you? Just one. Others may look very similar to you. The way someone acts might recall you to someone, but there is only one You. You will never be replicated. Ever.

So, on days when you are down, and life isn't going as you want, try to drop back in a place of wonder. The spot that allows you to recall that you are the only one of you that will ever be. Take time to sit in that miracle. The miracle of you.

As for me and this blog, I hope you'll be patient as I share our Olivia's journey to her singularity. She's a beauty and a wonder. Just like you.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka, Great Aunt Hol

Friday, February 20, 2009

Moments of Truth

I woke up this morning and checked my iPhone to make sure it's good to go. Just as I do most nights, I left it plugged into the computer to sync and charge. Not that I have to worry much about my phone being charged; my cell rings so infrequently that it actually startles me when it does jangle for attention.

The battery, last night, showed critically low. I had that ominous doom screen that shows a blank battery except for the blood red bar left at the very bottom. Death eminent. So, what happens usually is, when I get up in the morning I am greeted by a gumby green battery and it's all good to go. Not today, however. Today, I still have the battery of doom. And, I don't have a flippin' clue why that could be. Same iPhone, same computer, same docking cradle. Ah, but wait...

Last night when I synced up, I got a notification about downloading the newest version of yadaya. So, I hit 'yes' and went on to something else. You don't have much choice; if you say no, the gizmo eventually stops working correctly. But, when you say yes, the gizmo may not work correctly, either. A damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. I fear I have become the victim, yet again, of Moment of Truth failure. Which means I'll most likely be on the phone, on hold for hours, with Apple.

Technology is grand when it works as it's meant to, but most of the time for doesn't. In fact, it makes me very nervous. Very easily tweeked when it comes to gizmos. Not very comfortable with the 'bugs' that usually need to be worked out of the first version of the newest software downloads...

I learned that the hard way when I was running a creative services division. It seemed that every other day, one of my creative guys was coming to me, "Holly, I need money to upgrade to the latest version of software for, (fill-in-the-blank)." The problem was that the latest version of software was never inexpensive. Never. Shocking actually. And, if I recommended that we hold off and not install it...well, let me tell you the argument that I got back warning against it was amazing. My photographer, Ben, needed a slew of software. Greg, my graphic artist needed totally different software for his work. Some of the stuff they could share, but there was always a wish list of vast differences. Unending. But, if you're a good boss, and I was excellent, getting what your team needs to be successful is your main focus. And, main budgetary headache.

Being the boss and Queen, I'd win the budget argument. Only to lose the tech war. We did it my way. Once. I'm a quick study. It only takes one hard lesson. So, as I directed, we waited on the next version of the software. And, when the budget permitted we loaded the version after that. Can I tell you? It's like the world ended. None of the programs on the system wanted to play nice with each other any longer. Error messages. Fatal this and that. What an ass-pain.

I have to give my guys credit...although I could read it clearly on their faces, they never once said, "I told you so." Good men.

And, that's how I developed my Moment of Truth Theory. See, when everything is brand new, and all programs start out with the virgin version, they're all on equal footing. They play well with others. But, once the software geeks start developing the next versions of (fill-in-the-blank) they don't collaborate with the other software companies. You don't hear them asking, "We're getting ready to launch our next update. Are you ready with yours so they'll stay compatible? No? Okay, we'll wait." Just doesn't happen.

So, the Moments of Truth get bigger and bigger and the spaces between working compatibility, in reverse correlation, get smaller and smaller. In order to avoid these cascading headaches, you're held hostage to the expenditure of each and every upgrade.

If you only have a couple of software programs on the computer, I suppose it's not that big an issue, but in a creative department, there are many and they are expensive and massive. You just want to pull your hair out and scream, "Can't you all talk with each other so we can keep this coordinated better?!" Nope. Can't be done. So, keep the check book handy.

Just like my life...the more things I have to attend to, the greater the moments of truth when I could be missing something or screwing up. I suppose it's the truth for all of us. And, now that my internal hard drive is older it's so full of information, that I really worry. The problem is, I don't know how to delete files from my brain to make room for new info. I'm just hoping that I don't get a fatal error message anytime soon.

I'd write more, but I have to get on hold for the next 24 hours with Apple. Oh goodie!

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Days of My Life

Ordering drinks at the bar, we stood sandwiched in between people chatting over their beverages. We stood awhile before the young, good looking bartender could reach us. He smiled, took the order and then asked Melissa, "Can I see your ID, please?"

She produced it and he thanked her. He laughed when I said, "Wait, you didn't ask me for mine!" Looking at me, I swear I detected a slight glint of pity, "That's all right, no need!" Sigh.

Melissa is short, compact, curvy, adorable. She's also 30! But, she still gets carded pretty regularly if she's not in any of her usual haunts where the barkeeps know her. As for me, well, let's just say the last time I was carded, the bartender did it as a favor when I said it was my birthday!

Technically, they're not wrong when they pass me over to be carded; I am now, obviously, a woman of a certain age. But, if the law required carding emotional and mental states instead of cronological age, I'd still be legal to drink, although not by much. Because in my world, where I live all the time and the sky is always Holly World, I'm perpetually 28 years old.

I'm not certain how I got stuck at 28. I can't recall anything absolutely monumental that blazed that age into my psyche. I simply know that I'm 28. No matter how the mirror attempts to prove otherwise.

While we were with Evan, we adopted one of his Wingmen, Daniel. His family couldn't make it to graduation. We had more than enough love and pride to share, so he became part of Frock Nation. Soft spoken, sweet and funny, throughout the few days he shared bits of his life and his hopes and dreams.

On our last day together, he walked out of the shop were they take graduation photos saying, "Mrs. Frock, I need a mom's opinion, if you don't mind." We went back so I could look at the proofs and help him pick one to send to his mom. He gave one to us with a note of thanks on the back for being his 'family' at this important time. Later, he and I shared a private moment when I said, "Daniel, I'm going to talk with you like a mom, if you'll allow me," to which he readily said, "I wish you would, ma'am."

As a preamble, I told him that he might be surprised to hear that I could absolutely relate to him because, while he looks at me and sees a woman who's miles down the road from him, in my head I was only a few years older than he is now. He smiled at that. Said, "I think I understand, Ma'am."

Maybe it's a good thing...this split age of mine. Perhaps it is what helps me to relate to others who are younger. Helps me to be patient with those who are older since I'm now sensitive to my own aging process. Keeps me curious about life. Makes me quest for the next missing piece. Even though I am saddened at times when I feel my body aging and I see my hair now silver. I feel like what people see is not the truth of me. That person is inside, hidden. My little secret. Only to be revealed if you take the time to know me.

There's no moral to this entry...more my musings on the curious course of life. How we can be so different inside from what our outside might lead one to believe. I suppose it might be something for younger people to ponder...the notion that common ground is there between generations. The common ground of Human experience is much greater than the dividing point of physical age.

I hope I am always willing to meet and be met on the common ground.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gone Without A Trace No Longer

So, I'm thinking about the black smudges of cyber ink that I'm creating this morning. I'm watching the letters form on the computer screen as they fly out of my noggin, through my fingers, to the key board and onto the screen.

Once I check them, they will be sent via a mouse click to the blog when I hit the, 'publish post' button. A mere matter of seconds later, you will be able to review the latest addition to Your Mother Knows. I will take a sip of coffee and be satisfied that I was able to come up with another entry. How does she do it? Actually, she's not sure. And, some mornings when she sits down at the keys, she thinks, "Writing is lonely work!"

I'm not sure why that surprises me as much as it does. It's an aspect that I didn't consider...the lonely part, I mean. I suppose, previously, I wrote articles, memos, reports and never really worried about them after I was done. It was getting it finished by deadline that was the victory. I quickly moved off to the next item clamoring for attention. Unless I got a letter from a reader, which was always very gratifying, I didn't consider what I had completed because there was still so much that needed to be done.

However, this blog is completely different for me. I totally invest in it. Most likely because it is my brain child. It's me, sent via computer, to you. It's very personal. And, I find that many days it feels as if I am having a conversation and thinking/hoping that people are there and hearing me. But, without feedback I don't know for certain. Without reader comments, I can't know if it's really worth the cyberspace it takes up. Having shared that, I hope my readers understand their worth and have a sense of importance to the success of this endeavor.

So, writing daily can be lonely. Ultimately, a writer has to rest in the belief that what they write is worthy and will reach the correct ears. It's all we can do. The urge to create and share is too great and can't be ignored.

But, here's another thing to think about. And, I'm saying this especially to my 'younger' readers who use the computer, their cellies, and other gizmos to stay completely, totally, 24/7 connected to their friends and world. These items are part of the main-frame of your life; things you take for granted. But, they are deceptive and you need to be more careful with this technology and ability. You need to understand what's really at stake here. You need to rethink this techno-world. You need to stay more vigilant than you are at present.

Case in point: Just yesterday, two of my Facebook friends, not connected to each other, posted the same article as a thread. It was about the fact that, even if you take your page down...close it down and delete it, the content is still accessible by Facebook. Still accessible, even though it's your intention that it be locked up. That's a potential nightmare and Facebook is now working to sort it out based on tons of negative comments they received about their new policy.

Same with this blog. If I decide to quit today, and delete my account...I'd move on to another hobby and forget about it because I did my part and deleted it. But, even so, the residue of the blog remains. What happens to the cyber residue of our personal lives that remains?

We've already had cases of employers going immediately to Facebook, MySpace, etc, to view a potential employee's page. To see what sort of craziness might be there. To be a cyber Peeping Tom in order to determine what sort of person they may be considering. Or, using it to make the decision to exclude the person from the list of qualified candidates. And, there's nothing to stop them because it's public information.

I'm not sure about you, but I can say with a certainty, that at times there are things on my page that I wouldn't want to be used as a barometer of my professional abilities. Facebook is simply a diversion and a fun way to pass time with those I know. Reality check- you can't be that naive! None of us can. If you put it up, it's there to be seen. By anyone. For any reason. What does your Facebook page say about you?

Walking through the airport the other day we passed a guy having a very animated conversation, appearing to be talking to himself. Very disturbing. When I was a kid, Dad was adamant that I cross the street away from anyone talking out-loud to themselves. Now, thanks to Bluetooth technology, many of us walk about looking like inmates from the asylum as we conduct our business in front of anyone and everyone!

This guy was going on and on about how, "he's a friggin' idiot and I can't stand that I have to deal with him..." That was as much as I was barraged with as we passed each other. But, it was enough to remind me, "Wow, buddy, do you think you're in a cone of silence so that you can say those things and not be overheard by the entire world?!"

Cell phones are not private. Everyone around you hears your business. Most of us are uncomfortable being put into the position of being eaves-droppers. But, we don't have a choice. People talk in front of you saying anything and everything. It's all TMI!!!!! Way too much information!

I'm asking you to stop using these wonderful contraptions without consideration. You must be vigilant and more aware of their power. Be more concerned about the info you share in the open. Think about the places people can now look to find you and form their opinions of 'you.' You must be the keeper of your life in this cyber world of ours. It's not gone when you are done with it. Parts remain.

You can burn a diary. You can rip a letter into a million tiny pieces. You can destroy a phone number. Crack a CD. Shred a document. Any hard copy can be gone without a trace.

But info shared on air-waves, and most especially in public, stays public. The computer parts of you remain. Somewhere. Somehow. For someone to use or see. Even after you've deleted it or closed it. If what you say is something that will embarrass you at some point down the line, do not use open technology to share it. Do not put it on your computer pages. Do not! Because if it can come back to haunt you, it may just do that.

Information, even after the delete key is struck, is gone without a trace no longer. So stay aware. Be grateful for technology and have fun with it. But always remember that mass communication tools work for you and just as quickly against you. Proceed with caution.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Click Your Heels Together Three Times...

There comes a point while I am away, no matter how much fun it may be, that I just want to go home. Some trips it may not happen till I'm touching down on a runway or the last few turns away from the front door. But it always comes, "I just want to get home."

In this one aspect, I am a true Cancerian. There is no place like home. I would never have had adventures in Oz because unlike Dorothy, who had to have a house dropped from the sky to learn, I have always known that.

No, my development has come through growing the courage to discover exactly how big the world is, instead of making it small enough to be easily contained within the four walls of a house or the familiar boundaries of a neighborhood. I've always had moments of mild panic after I agree to travel.

I didn't fly until I was well in my 20's. My maiden flight was '83 when Doog and I went to Seattle to visit Pammy. What an experience. It wasn't a fear of flying that kept me ground bound; in fact, I'm always thrilled with the moment when you feel the plane break the bond of gravity. There's nothing like that sensation for me. (However, the fact that our car was stolen the night before my first flight didn't help my emotional state at all!) I didn't fly or travel simply because the opportunity didn't present itself.

I have some very intrepid friends. Coke jumps at any chance to have life experiences. He was immediate in his acceptance to become a five year ex-pat for Deutsche Bank and went to live in Frankfurt. Me? I have to carefully consider the notion of going to the beach for five days.

That's one of the reasons why, when asked to go to St. Petersburg for Towson University, I went into a tail-spin of mental calisthenics. If it hadn't been for the voices of those I trust telling me in various ways, "Holly, you can't pass up an opportunity like this," I would never have had that life expanding experience. Never. I don't seek things like that. And, now that I've had a few, I wonder if I haven't missed out on many things- which seems a bit of a shame.

So, as it relates to Russia and other trips, I need to thank Eileen and my other friends who talked me through my thinking out-loud in order to come to the right conclusion. And, Doog & Jen who happily agreed to take Yoki and Meggie to their home in Silver Spring, while Al & Mary took my bird, Angel. Just like I have to thank Cindy & Allen for having Rory & Fiona come to visit so we could go with a clear mind to San Antonio.

Like most big events in life, we don't go it alone. There is the support team who make it possible. The friends who chip in to watch the house, get the mail, help you pack, watch the animals. The ones who make sure that life back at the ranch flows on uninterrupted so you can have your adventure. I've always been so very grateful for them. And, when asked, I happily agree to be part of the ground crew for my friends.

We are home again. And, Evan is in Wichita Falls at tech school learning what it takes to be part of the ground crew that keeps all those C class planes moving and doing their jobs for the Air Force. He's on his way to being a crew chief, I'm certain. And he will be an outstanding one. Someone asked when I said he was going into the Air Force, "Oh, so will he be a pilot?" I answered, "No, he's going to be the guy that makes sure the pilot can fly safely." Taking absolutely nothing away from those training to be pilots, to my mind, Evan's training seems a huge responsibility. And, I can't think of a guy who I'd trust more as a wingman or part of a tech crew than Evan.

I am home again. Glad to be here. Well, except for the piles of laundry that now require my attention! I want to thank all of those who have ever played a part in my adventures. If not for you, I wouldn't have had them. You've helped me go and come back safely again. Just as Evan will do every day he is in the Air Force.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Monday, February 16, 2009

Planes & Buses

All the Frocks are traveling today. We head back to the place we call home; back to temps in the 20's and the consistent threat of snow. Still, we'll be happy when we see Rory & Fiona. Those two sound as though they have really enjoyed their vacation with Aunt Cindy and Uncle Al. It might be that they'll prefer to stay! I'll hope not. I've missed my dogs.

While we are waiting to head to the air, Airman Frock is facing an eight hour bus ride courtesy of the Air Force to his tech training in Wichita Falls. That's as far to the Texas border as you can get before falling over into Oklahoma.

Yesterday, we had a great day with him and one of his wingmen, Daniel. They both told some hilarious stories of their adventures during basic. And, they laughed at some of the ones that Michael shared from his days at Lackland.

Still, it was sad to stand there to watch him for the last time as he marched away back to his dorm. We stood until we couldn't see him any longer. Just like a family will.

So, he's on his way as we are on ours. Melissa just arrived with her cases in hand. Time to go. We'll see you soon.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Friday, February 13, 2009

We Have An Airman Now

We all gathered in the clear blue to watch 798 of America's finest young men and women get their service coins. A moving sight. Watching the men and women being so brave and standing so tall. Watching the loved ones sardined on the stands. Listening to the National Anthem played by the Band Flight, Evan's flight. It was glorious.

Today, we watch the actual graduation ceremony. The one that is the final stamp of approval to this rigourous training. And, we know it will be as rewarding as yesterday. We will see where Evan has lived and learned. We'll meet his T.I. who actually said some of the things that we would find shocking.

Evan looks fabulous. In his element. Tall. Proud. And, now part of the most outstanding Air Force in the world. How far a person can travel in two months time!

When he handed me my parent's pin, I cried. So not what I expected. I am more grateful for that small piece of blue metal than I've been for most things I have ever received in my life. To be acknowledged as instrumental in such a huge life moment...

All of the Frocks are air borne once more; some of us with pride and one of us as a new Airman. All of us as a family. Congratulations, Evan. For hearing the call. For continuing the Frock family tradition into the wild blue yonder.

Off We Go!

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Texas Says Howdy, Ma'am To The Queen

We walked up the front steps and through the front doors. We didn't knock, we didn't wait till someone answered, we just made ourselves at home and walked on in. Several men stood there, watching us, badges glinting; guns in holsters at the ready. Hand resting casually on them. No sign of alarm as we walked past. Just a level look before a slight nod of welcome.

The place was a beehive of activity. People rushed here and there. Far away down long halls you could here an occasional door bang closed. A sense of respect and quiet permeated the massive building. Everything orderly. Grand in its expanse. And, to think, it almost burned to the ground in '83. You can't tell by how things are now.

That's how we found the Capital building in Austin, Texas. It makes me proud to be an American. To think that across these great states, any citizen has the right to walk into the halls of their government buildings. For a purpose. On business. With idle curiosity. With a need. With a hope. Just because. We live in a wonderful democracy. And, in this age when Washington seems to be an island completely unto itself, with its own agenda and rules, having an opportunity as we did, really helps to remember the rightness of our way of life.

What I found truly amazing is that, once we cleared the front entrance, there was no metal detector to walk through. No guards at the doors searching every bag and purse. Just a small sign stating, "persons and possessions may be searched." I found it so liberating. And, I wish we could go back to that more trusting way of life. But, I know we probably never will.

So, in the rose colored, graceful capital building in Austin, I was given a moment of freedom and grace as I exercised my legs and my rights as a citizen of America. I was humbled. I was glad.

Michael was stationed for two years in Austin, 34 years ago. It was fun to watch him look it all over and remark about the changes. The air base he worked at is now Austin's airport. And, when he was there, many of the grand trees we saw on the capital grounds were just young upstarts. The tall buildings that now face the capital were not there. You could stand in town and have an unimpeded view of the wide expanse of the capital and its grounds.

One thing hadn't changed. The sense of energy and friendliness. Probably the wonderful combination of it being a massive college town and the seat of government. It felt the way Towson feels to me. It had that great Annapolis vibe. It felt like home in an odd way.

I still haven't seen an armadillo; I'm on the look out. Michael calls them speed bumps. I suppose it's the Texas version of our groundhogs. I'll let you know as soon as I see one! Stay tuned. I believe The Queen of The Universe may go to bless The Alamo today! It's 81 degrees and stormy. The San Antonians are so happy; last year they only had seven inches of rain. I'm delighted to bring some from Western PA to share with them!

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I'm So Outta Here!

San Antonio awaits the entire Frock clan. Except for Rory & Fiona; we've made arrangements for them to stay with Aunt Cindy & Uncle Al. I hope they behave and act like respectable house guests instead of wild Scottish Highlanders!

Mike and I will have a couple of days to see the sites before Melissa and her friend Zach join us on Wednesday. Then on to Evan's graduation from basic on Friday. It'll be interesting to hear Mike's take on San Antonio and how different it is since he was at Lackland years ago!

I haven't yet decided if the lap-top will make the trek with us. While it certainly would make it easier to stay in touch with you, there's another part of me that questions, "Do I really need to drag one more thing around with me?!" So, the decision is not yet made, just as I am not yet packed.

Packing makes my head hurt. I hate it. Michael, on the other hand, seems to march right through it. Clothes, shoes, toiletries, book, done.

Me? Even though I am far from a girly-girl who needs to look glamorous and enviously pulled-together each day, packing is complicated. Clothes: do I take a fresh top for each day? What about evenings if we go out, do I need dressier clothes? Shoes: do I need dress shoes? Walking shoes and tennis shoes? Toiletries: Don't even go there; shampoo, perfume, make-up, face cream... crap, do I even need to take it? Why don't I just go to WalMart there and buy it. Most critical, which jewelry: depends on what I'm wearing, so I best make choices first.

Now, it all fits in one suitcase, but does it meet the weight limitation so we're not charged a $50 extra fee?! These air lines, hell, Jesse James used a gun when he held people up; somehow that seems a lot more honorable!

And on and on and on...So not fair...Traveling for me is already stressful enough!

At any rate, that's what is yelling for my attention this morning, so I better get moving. Not only do I have to pack for me, I have to pack up Fiona & Rory, too! Make sure you check in regularly, because you never know, I might just finagle a daily post. But, you know me, if not, rest assured I'll come home with lots to share about our adventures with Evan and Texas.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hearts Under Scrutiny

One of the annoying by-products of the whole, "You have cancer/ you don't have cancer," nightmare I went through, was the battery of tests that weren't really related to the issue, but part of the medical fishing expedition.

At the time, they added to my frustration, plucked my nerves, and expanded the general state of hysteria. But, in the calm of the afterward, I'm glad I have the results. I now have a baseline of bodily performance in areas that were declared, issue-free.

One of those was the cardiac stress test. Not the most pleasant thing, especially when the 'stress' is induced chemically. You're very certain that you're being squeezed to death in 30 seconds by some unseen demon. However, the crew is there to root you on and it doesn't last very long. Compared to other things they did to me through that whole episode, this test ranks as one of my more favorite experiences.

This is our weekend ladies. If you're quick about it and throw something red on, you can get an additional 20% off any purchase at Macy's. We're becoming a nation of advocates of helping women pay attention to their hearts. If 20% at Macy's doesn't do it, I'm not sure what will! Even Coke is getting in the act with their red dress campaign.

I don't come close to the same power as Macy's and Coke, but I'm certain I can add to the campaign efforts. Today's entry is all about you and the need to place your heart under scrutiny. Please, learn how it works. Learn how your heart responds because you are a female. And, PLEASE, become aware that most health care folk are just beginning to ask the right questions of women in order to correctly diagnosis when you might be having a cardiac issue. We're different. Our physiological response is also very different from what was taught. Conventional medical wisdom and knowledge is predicated upon male anatomy. Nothing wrong with that, but not as inclusive as it needs to be in order for a female to survive.

So, this morning, I'm turning you over to a more knowledgeable individual. Her name is Bonnie Weiner, MD. On the Seconds-Count Physicians' Blog she lists the signs and symptoms you, as a woman, should know:

Chest pain or discomfort;
Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back;
Feeling weak, lightheaded, or faint;
Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder;
Shortness of breath.
Additional Signs, Particularly Common Among Women:
Shoulder or neck pain,
Stomach upset,
Unusual tiredness.

We further complicate things because we are prone to thyroid problems which, if not treated, can pretend to be heart issues; menopause and its array of symptoms; along with acid reflux disease. A few months back, I was in the ER at Latrobe Hospital because I experiencing what I hoped was my usual acid problems, but seemed to last way too long. I knew it couldn't be my thyroid because that's being managed.

Michael rightfully said, "Okay, that's it, we're headed to the E.R.!" The staff was great; they asked all the right questions, reacted very quickly. When it turned out to be nothing life-threatening, yes, I was a tad embarrassed, but the physician's assistant said, "Don't be. We'd rather say, 'nope nothing serious,' than wonder where we should send our condolences. That's why we're here, and why you should have been here, too."

It was my stomach; just another developing issue of GERD. If you don't know what that is, look it up. Lots of us have it, especially as we get older. The feelings it can give often mask cardiac issues. And, it's difficult to tell the difference without tests. So, don't try to self diagnosis!

I'm asking you, regardless of your age, to learn your body as you change through life. Learn and relearn it. Know what's usual for you. Pay attention when you're feeling 'odd.' Always trust your gut! Your instincts will keep you alive, but you have to listen. Oh, and stop trying to run the world! If you aren't feeling yourself, and can't determine why....let the experts work with you. Get help, don't be stubborn. Guys, the stubborn part certainly pertains to you, as well! Don't waste time, just get help.

I want you around to read my cyber doodles for a long time. Your relationship with me is part of the clock works that keep my heart happy. So, know yourself. Know your heart. And be here to share it with me for as long as possible.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, February 5, 2009

To Dream, Perchance To Blog

Saying "Shut up," turns out, causes quite a reaction. Probably why I decided to stop saying it, and what I should expect for breaking my own rule. Even The Queen can expect to be called into question at times. Good, say I.

When writing Shut Up Hollywood, trust me, I considered that I could open myself up to being viewed as hypocritical. I went right ahead and did it anyway! Bold, ain't I? As my touchstone, Eileen, questioned in her response, aren't we all entitled to find a voice for our thoughts? A means of expressing our views? More to the point, doesn't the immediacy of communication options make it more accessible for the average person to share publicly? Yes. Yes. And, yes.

What's at issue here is not the right to have a voice and express it; God Bless America! It's more about how it's done. The underlying reason for it. Like Dad used to say, "What gets most people in trouble is not what they say, but how they say it." He was cautioning me to watch my tone of voice and check my attitude. But, it also applies to the mode of communication one uses to express their notions. Just because you have a hammer, doesn't make you a carpenter, sort of thing... If you don't use it correctly for honest reasons, mass communication tools simply help you make a quicker, bigger, more obvious mess.

Dad endured the trials of dealing with a kid who has a really fast brain and an even faster tongue. Couple that with the immature notion that the truth always needs to be said, and you're looking at a potential human nightmare. How do you keep that pup alive? Everyone will attempt to kill her. Quite a challenge.

One day, when he'd had about all he could stand from my 'mouth,' he looked at me dead calm and said, "Girl, you better get ready to go through life wearing a helmet." I laughed, "What the heck does that mean?" He continued, "If you don't learn to control your mouth, it's your only option. People who aren't your family don't have to tolerate it. They're only going to take your crap for so long before they'll simply try to mash you in your head. So, either learn to keep your mouth closed, or change the way you say things to people. Or, wear a helmet to protect your head."

Well, there you have it. He was right. Completely. And, obviously it made an impression because I decided to begin to use my powers for good instead of evil! Most likely why I decided to get into communications as a profession. Definitely the reason why I choose my words so carefully.

I am very good at what I do. I've learned to keep my personal thoughts separate from my professional ones. There's occasional bleed through, I know. But, I'm very clear about where the personal Holly starts and ends and the professional, Ms. Dietor begins and ends. I've trained myself that way. My professional responsibilities honed it even further.

As that relates to yesterday's entry, it's about knowing where the private you starts and stops, vs. the public you. Let's face it, we all have our public personae. And, we are the person we can be in the privacy of our own environment with our selected friends and family. For someone like me who was a spokesperson for so long, it gets so that if you're outside of your house, you operate under the assumption that your being seen and recognized. Even if you're at the store shopping for tonight's dinner. It's safer that way.

Once, I was standing in line wearing a sweat shirt and pants. No makeup. Hair was clean but not much else. It was Saturday and I was completely comfortable and messy. I'm waiting in line, the woman behind me says, "Excuse me, but didn't I see you on television the other day?" In fact, she had. I was on the news for a hospital related topic. I said, "Yes, that was me, and I think you have a wonderful career ahead as a detective because I sure don't look like that in real life, do I?" She laughed and said, "That's all right, you look fine. I just wanted to say I thought you did a good job."

That encounter and others, taught me to be aware that people are hearing, listening, and observing more than we might like to think. Nothing creepy, it's just the way of things. Even when you're hoping or feeling that you're invisible, someone probably 'sees' you.

I wish people, who live their lives in the spot light such as those in Hollywood, would understand that there are two parts to life and act accordingly. We hear so many bemoan that they have no personal lives once they become 'known.' But, a huge part of that problem is created for themselves when they don't control public access. Too often expressing their opinions in public when they could have smiled pleasantly and not shared. Catch my drift?

So, as it relates to a blog: Why does anyone risk it? I'm sure there are as many reasons as their are bloggers. Some do it to keep a group easily informed of what's going on, like Eileen is doing about her grandson, Simon. Another does it to blow off steam about various topics. As for me? I do it to keep my writing skills sharp while waiting for my next professional opportunity.

People think I'm a good story teller and I have a sense of humor about things. We all need to laugh more and I'm happy to oblige. I blog because I'm a natural teacher and hope to give us something to ponder and be curious about. To expand our thinking about things. To consider possibility. I noodle on the computer keys to entertain you. I blog to think out loud, as it were. I blog to keep my imagination awake. It's fodder for dreams which I invite you to share with me.

I suppose I do it for the same reason one keeps a journal. Except this one, I share with anyone who wants to take a peek. I blog to keep my spirit open to others; it takes courage to write some of the things I share about myself, or my point of view. Sometime I worry that it could change how you feel about me. But, that's a risk all writers contend with at times. And as they say here in Pittsburgh, "If it needs said, it needs said."

But, my blog stays fixed in one spot. You must come to it to hear me. I can't force my opinions off on your ears and eyes. Or unexpectedly upset your equilibrium. Another person challenged, "Can't you just change the channel when an actor is saying something you don't want to hear?" Certainly. If I react quickly enough, sometimes, I do. But, should I have to? I'm suggesting the need for all of us to think before we speak. And, sometimes not speak at all.

Not every thought or idea that comes into your head needs to fly out of your mouth. And simply because you're asked for your opinion, doesn't mean you should share it. There are times when discretion is the better part of valour. Or, as Lady Dorothy Nevill said, "The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment."

I admit, I am not always able to resist temptation. But, I do try very hard. I think all of us, and most particularly those who live their lives as public personae, should all try a bit harder.

Now, where did I put my helmet?

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Shut Up Hollywood

I haven't said, "Shut up," in a long, long time. Somewhere along the line, I decided it was disrespectful or, at the very least, rude. I admit to a declared, "Shuuuuut- up!!!!," when someone says something outrageous or funny. Granted, it's a silly response, but I heard a young kid say it and it tickled me. So, occasionally it leaks out.

Telling anyone to, "Shut up," is not me anymore. I figure everyone is entitled to their idea, their opinion. Just as I'm entitled to not listen to it. Like advice, unless it's asked for, best to keep it to yourself. Advice, not asked for, isn't advice- it's interference. An opinion not asked for, isn't an opinion- it's noise.

I hated it through the election process and was glad the urge to spew was quelled when the campaign signs came down. However, I'm noticing it creeping up again and it really annoys me. So, I simply have to say it. "Shut up!"

The other day, Ashley Judd makes a pronouncement about how she's glad to be "living in America again," going on to say how America was destroyed under the previous president, ya-da, ya-da, ya. Old news, Ash, let it go. Tom Hanks, one of my absolute favorites, recently disappointed me when he couldn't resist an off the cuff comment. Assuming facts not in evidence, Tom. And, who knows when Sean Penn will enlighten us all with another outlandish statement. Anyone know what time the Mother Ship is coming back to pick him up?

You are actors. ACTORS! Stop believing your own press. Why do you feel you have the right to make public pronouncements and have them ingested by the populace? Let me say it're all simply actors. Not rocket scientists. Not humanitarians like Mother Teresa. Not brain surgeons. Not inventors. You're actors!

Your actions are scripted and determined by a director. You say lines that someone else wrote for you to say. Wearing clothes someone dressed you in. Standing in an environment that was fabricated to convey a specific moment in time. The character you play is a writer's brain-child. It's make believe and you are only a tooth in a big cog.

Renown director, Alfred Hitchcock was misquoted as saying, "All actors are cattle." He went on the record to set it straight, "I never said all actors are cattle; what I said was all actors should be treated like cattle." Amen, Mr. Hitchcock. Amen. If cattle aren't shouting their opinions from the fields where they stand, I'm thinking actors should follow their lead. When you're standing on the red carpet, flash us your bright smile, not your personal opinion!

There's a valid reason that there was a studio system in the hey-day of Hollywood. In the 30s, 40s, and 50s, all actors were under contract to a particular studio. You had handlers and public relations people. You were given housing at the studio or a home to occupy; an allowance; you had staff to attend you and spy on you. It was decided what you would wear, how you would look in public. With whom you would be seen. And most particularly, what you would be allowed to say in public or to a reporter. Your life was completely scripted on and off the set.

If you didn't abide by the rules, you were OUT! Didn't make any difference if you were Bogart or the newest darling. The rules were the rules. It kept things in order for the most part. Why? Because, actors, like most creative minds have a tendency to be chaotic. Sparky. Unpredictable. And, in a complex environment, you can't have everyone walking about half-cocked, shooting off their mouths simply because they believe their own press. It was the studio execs' way of managing a vast enterprise, egos, and an actor's misguided sense of importance.

Ah, the good old days well before my time. I miss them. Today's actors, who are simply working slobs like the rest of us, are too often given the opportunity to spew their opinions whenever they wish. And, I want to scream, "Who asked you? Shut up!"

I can't blame them entirely; the media creates this static. They keep giving them face-time and asking for their opinions, as though they're authorities on every topic. And we lap it up, content to hold them in a false position of advanced knowledge. But, if we didn't listen in awe when they speak, a lot of this nonsense would dissipate. I'm afraid that's not likely to happen. We don't seem able to separate the actor from the roles they play, either. And, we certainly believe the press that gets spun about them.

Please, Hollywood elites, I'm begging. Just do your job; remember it's a job. Yes, you are entitled to your opinions just as any other Human Being is entitled. But, you do not have the right to use your fame to shoot your mouth off in public. You do not possess super human powers to set things right from the pulpit of your pulp fiction. You're an actor. So, act.

Recognizing your skill, your craft, your hard work, your ability to entertain, I am thrilled to applaud when you provide a worthy performance. I do not, however, applaud your running off at the mouth because you believe that working in Hollywood gives you power. Quite the contrary, I truly dislike you for doing it. If I want to know what you think, I'll ask or read your book. Just act. Don't talk.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

That's What You Get

Joy of all joy, it's snowing again! Oh my! What a surprise! I'm not sure that I can stand the wonder of it all. See, I told you when I wrote about the first snow fall months ago, that it would come to this. Wonder can turn to disdain in the blink of an eye. Especially if the eye is momentarily frozen by a snow flake! Crappola!

So, I'm wondering....what other industrialized, world-leading nation on the face of the globe uses a rodent to determine how long winter will last? Any other takers? Hmm? Is there a ground hog prognosticator anywhere else? NO! That's because ground hogs are basically only good for standing on roadsides to help prefect your driving skills. They are part of the road hazard course. A lump that jumps out startling your reflexes and testing your ability to stay the course. When you decide to work with a ground hog, that's what you get!

They are NOT weather people. Oh wait, I take it back. Weather people get paid even though they're wrong most of the time. The ground hog simply gets stuffed back in his hole after doing his due diligence. I'm fairly certain no money exchanges paws with him; now his agents, (yes, the rodent has agents,) on the other hand, that's a totally different story. So, maybe they are the same.

In life, in order to be successful, you're told, "Work with what you got." And, if you want to experience an excellent example of that advice, you must go to Punxsutawney and see it for yourself. The entire town industry is built on a rodent. It's annual budget is made on two days in February! Driving through, you'll see multiple statues of Phil. One in front of the McDonald's with golden arches on its chest. The one in front of a florist shop is mosaic with flowers all over. In front of the public works building, Phil is wearing a hard hat. You get the idea. Punxy Phil beeny-babies in gift shops, and on and on. It's hysterical. If you want a room in the one large hotel in town, you'll pay $500 a night! And, get this, thousands of people stand on Gobblers' Knob to watch the event.

An event, I might add, that is rigged! Yep, you heard me, rigged. Yesterday Phil saw his shadow. Hence, six more weeks of this crap. SIX MORE WEEKS! But here's the problem. It was overcast in South Western PA yesterday. Not surprising. You already know we almost never have sunny winter days here. Please, tell me how the friggin' ground hog saw his damn shadow! Anyone? Anyone know?

I see how this works...I suppose if you yanked me out of my dark hole and held me up in front of a zillion cameras with working lights on, I'd see my shadow. Immediately followed by a heart attack. Rigged; six more weeks!!

Though rigged, it could still be changed up a bit. I'm opting for a new prognosticator. Something a little cuter and less likely to bite. Maybe I'll give them Cheeky B. The Chipmunk. Or, let's see, how about a llama? Yeah, next year I want it to be Llama Day on February 2. Punxsutawney Philomena the Llama can stand there, bat her long-lashed eyes, and tell me I'm going to have six more weeks of winter. At least that would be different. Because sure as hell, the length of winter won't be.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Boss Meets The Queen

"How old do you think he is," queried Jackie. Before I could take a stab at a guess, Judy responded, "I read it in the paper today; he's 60." All I could think was, "Holy that even possible?" But, thinking back to the day I met him, yeah, that's about right; I was 20 and he looked to be cruisin' close to 30. Glenn said, "I can't imagine moving around like that, hat's off to him!" Jackie, in her usual succinct way of seeing the world followed, "Well, he certainly looks much better and healthier than Keith Richards or any of the Stones."

Yep. Bruce Springsteen rocking out the Super Bowl half-time show. We all sat watching with slight smiles as we considered that another Rock icon is now in his 60's. As are the Stones. Paul McCartney is even older. Still rocking. Still succeeding at the music thing. I suppose it's not as amazing when a crooner is still singing in their twilight years. Hell, look at Tony Bennett still wowing audiences and in his 80's! But, a rocker? You have to give them their props!

As he started wailing Glory Days, it seemed the perfect moment to share my up close and personal glory day with The Boss. It was '76 and I was working on Towson University's tech crew for the Special Services Department. Mike Wicklein was the crew chief. We were a band of wild things who liked crawling on scaffolding. Didn't mind working in the middle of the night to set up a stage or strike one. It was long, hard, dirty, back bending work. And we loved it.

As part of the grand opening of the Rock & Jock as we called it, which was actually this massive sports complex, (well, massive in its day, not so much by today's standards,) the University made the smart marketing move to hold concerts there. The trick was, how to find entertainers who were reasonable for the budget and could attract a crowd.

That's how this guy and his band out of New Jersey, who was attracting a lot of buzz, got booked to be the headliner. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band. So, at 0:dark:30 the morning of the concert, our crew gathered with his road crew to discuss how we would collaborate to bring this show together. It was their show, but it was our building.

Back in the day there were few, if any, female techs. As I stood listening to the tall, lanky, biker-looking thing, who was Springsteen's head roadie, I thought, "Wow, this is an interesting life style. Should be cool to see how all this comes together. He turned to me and asked, "So, Honey, what will you be doing for us? Fetching coffee and what not?"

I didn't respond, just leveled a gaze at him, Wicklein said, "No way. She's one of my best. And, I'll put her up against any of your guys, any day." He laughed and shot back, "Okay, tell you what. I'll bet you money on that. My guys are the best in the business and this isn't a job for a chick." I walked away thinking, "Assmunch." And, they shook on it.

The day was long and intense. Worked like Trojans, the lot of us. The two crews got along great together. Late in the day, Springsteen, his band, and the trailing entourage of groupies and other parasitic life forms, showed up. They rocked the house that night, too. It was a great time.

Around 2 AM when we were striking it all, which meant by then it was a 15 hour day, Head Roadie walks up to Wicklein and me and he shakes his hand. There may have been money pressed into palms, I'm not certain, Roadie says to Wicklein, "Damn, you weren't kidding. She's outstanding. Sorry I shot off my mouth!" And, I stood there thinking, "You're still an ass but at least you're honest!"

A little while after, I was standing alone coiling electrical cords. He walks up and offers me a pack of matches with a phone number written on the inside cover, "I could use someone like you on my crew. Here's my number. If you ever want a job, call me." Now, that was rewarding. I have to be honest, I really considered it. Very appealing offer. But, I didn't have the courage to leave school so close to graduation. And, I probably wouldn't be talking to you now. Most likely I'd be dead! But, it's interesting when you think about the paths your life could have taken. That whole roads less traveled, notion...

The band cleared the building. We get radioed that someone left a bag down in the holding area. Wicklein says, "Hol, go down and look for the duffel bag and run it out to the bus." I race downstairs of this- let me remind you, brand spanking new, multi-million dollar building, go in the room and stop dead. Are you friggin' kidding!!! When I say they were pigs, I'm being kind. They wrecked that room. Food smashed on walls; have you any idea what a Twinky looks like squished into a wall? Not pretty. Trash everywhere, furniture over-turned. Absolutely disgusting. We made certain it had been spotless when the day stared and they did this to it?!

I found the bag and took it to the bus. And that's how The Boss met The Queen. There he stood in his glory, two hard ridden chicks hanging one off each arm. Laughing and being all that. I walk up. I remember staring at him and thinking, "This is a rock star. A rock star. Idiot." He looks back a bit of a question on his face, as I say, "Mr. Springsteen? Here's your bag."

He was probably expecting the usual request for his autograph. As I drop the bag on the ground instead of his outstretched hand, I say very quietly, "This is a brand new building. It cost us millions to build. We invited you here. Paid you. What you all did in that room down there? It was unnecessary. You and your gang should be ashamed of yourselves. Shame on you."

I remember, as I turned away to get back to work, seeing a flicker of surprise in his eyes. I know from the look on the girls' faces, mouths hanging open in "o", that it wasn't what they expected. Who talks to The Boss that way? It was gratifying, but not for long; I was too exhausted.

I have no allusions of grandeur. I'm certain that my tiny verbal spanking didn't rock his world. If you asked him, he probably doesn't even remember playing at Towson State University. Even so, I don't regret saying it. Most likely, they've continued to act as they want, thoughtlessly ignoring the mess they leave for others to correct in their rocking wake. And, have been greatly rewarded for it. But, that's not my problem. That night, The Queen had her say.

Yes sir. Queen trumps Boss any day.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Queen of The Universe aka T Moose
N.B. The photo is me from my tech crew days. The end of another long day...taking a break with Mike Wicklein and Larry Durner, (supine).
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