Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Worry Visits Here

Without being able to describe all the hurting bits and shards of thought-

Only knowing that something dreadfully sad is moving toward us,

Realizing that there is nothing I can do to fend it off or send it away;

Ranting and crying is the only release I can find.

Your loving support, thought & prayers will be there to help. Please.

Today is a moment by moment day. Time to practice what I know to be true. I know you understand. Perhaps the end to the worrying comes through yielding. To it so through it? Not yielding to the worry, but bowing my head and whispering, "As You will."

T.S. Eliot said, "Thy will be done is a hardly, barely prayable prayer, costing not less than everything." This one I'm facing asks a very great deal of me; for some of those I love, it asks everything.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Monday, March 30, 2009

Remembering Without Bitterness

I don't know Rev. Douglas R. Baker, but I would say he's remarkably smart based on this thought, "Forgiveness is not forgetting; it has more to do with how something is remembered. It's not remembered with bitterness."

I'd like to shake his hand and thank him. Because he's very wise. If you follow regularly, you know that my mind has frequently touched on this topic. I've written about it several times, like in Forgiveness- Part of Letting Go ... I seem to be fascinated or obsessed depending on how you view it.

I suppose it's because of all the things I've struggled with over the years, it's how to really give this blessing to others, and through them, give it back to myself. I will admit that I absolutely do have a much better understanding of it. I practice it more. I freely give it quickly. But, it will always need fine tuning. How about you? Where are you with this critical life skill of forgiving and learning to live justly with forgiveness?

Here's a great example of remembering without bitterness. Like most of the wondrous life lessons I've had, this one takes place with The King, or Jimmy, or Dad, however you've come to know him from my stories. But, like all good stories, it starts with me. (Yes, that was sarcasm you heard.)

When I was a child, I was very sick. Life-threateningly so. The doctors didn't know what it was or why. Nothing so dreadful now that we've come so far in medicine, but back in the day, it was truly something difficult to manage.

Each winter, I would develop pneumonia. I've had it about nine or ten times. When I wasn't struggling with that, I'd have severe bronchitis. I was painfully put through lots and lots of scratch tests to determine if I had allergies. Sweat tests. You name it.

Turns out I was pretty much allergic to everything, perhaps even breathing. Who knows. What I do know was being so sick, I couldn't even hold my head up. To this day, when I'm really feeling crummy you can tell. You'll see my head drooped over to my right shoulder; like an old rag doll.

I remember one Christmas morning being so sick and unable to breathe, that I couldn't even open my presents. I heard Dad say to Nanny, The World's Meanest Woman, "Mom, I'll take her later today. I just wanted her to have Christmas morning."

I remember hours held down in oxygen tents. I remember crying because I felt trapped inside and I hated it. I remember being held hanging over the side of a bed so that the nurses could rhythmically slap my back in an attempt to break up the killing congestion.

I remember how thrilled I was to receive cards, and when my Dad slowly made it through the door on his crutches to visit with me, there was nothing, nothing better in terms of medicine. And, I cried when he left. Man, I can only imagine how heart-breaking it was to walk away from your child who is crying and pleading, "Daddy, don't leave!" How awful. For both of us.

This went on until I was 12. They gave my father the news that they suspected I had Cystic Fibrosis. Whatever that was. I certainly didn't care. It was spring and I was home and feeling better.

Luckily for me, by then, they had newly developed diagnostic tools like broncioscopes. So, I went through that very unpleasant experience. Turns out, I simply have a bum lung- not C.F. Of course, you probably guessed that by now, as I wouldn't be sitting here talking with you. I would have been dead by the time I was in my late 20's or so.

I've stayed more or less healthy since. I had a scare with 'you have lung cancer,' about a year ago. That's a story for another blog. Maybe. I'm pretty much over the whole frustration of that one. Unless I talk about it.

So, here's how all this background goes back to Dad and what Rev. Baker said. You know I always eventually get back to the point.

Toward the end of my father's life, he had done what all wise parents do, slowly turning over parts of his life for me to manage. I was his power of attorney in person and property which made it so much easier for me to attend to his business. And, to help guide him through the hideously complex medical system. I can't thank him enough for demonstrating his trust in me, and for giving me the ability to work smoothly on his behalf.

One afternoon, I was sitting next to his bed and we were going through the bills so I could write the checks. Most of it was an amazing mass of junk mail. But, he insisted that he know what each envelope was before I tossed it. I called them out. He'd say, "Pay" or, "Pitch." We got into a rhythm and we were down to the last piece of mail, which I simply pitched into the can. He asks, "Hey, what was that?" "It's a request from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. They want money from you."

He commands, "Don't throw that away. Write them a check for $25." "What the hell for, Pop? No one has C.F. in the family."

He looks at me and says very quietly, "I have sent them money for the past 25 years. I remember how heartbroken and scared I was when those doctors told me that you probably had C.F. I don't ever want another parent to feel that way. So, I send my money so that shitty disease is ended. So that Cystic Fibrosis disappears."

I sat there holding that envelope like I was frozen. Overwhelmed by all sorts of emotions. Imagine, doing that for all those years and I never knew! "Sure, King, I'll take care of it."

Here's the thing: Dad keenly remembered the heartache that comes from being a parent to a critically ill child. And decided to remember in a different way. A way without bitterness. A way that could work to everyone's benefit. More amazing, it turned into a blessing to benefit people he did not know and who would never know him. He decided to forgive the lesson and grow his sense of gratitude through it. It's just one of the many reasons that The King makes me proud to be his daughter.

Can we do the same? Follow the example of remembering without bitterness?

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Silent Sermon Sunday

Well, I finally figured out the device for Your Mother Knows. A Grace note. A photo to view and take a breath with; perhaps a quote that moves me. A moment that invites you to reconnect with Source. To clear your mind and your heart for the week ahead. To say, "Amen," to the challenges left behind in your week just finished.

For inauguration of my contemplative device, I am using a wonderful image that Toni found on the internet and sent as a gift; she knows I love purple! Shall we sit together in the quiet and peace of it all?

Welcome to Silent Sermon Sunday.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Baby Showers And Garden Tillers

Michael is off to retrieve the tiller that we've rented for a few hours this morning. The attempts will be made to till up three new beds in the back gardens. One, is a shared bed for us and the neighbors, where Cindy and I will do our best to plant and tend a garden. I hope we have as much luck with our version of a Victory Garden. I am certain it will not get as much press coverage as the one recently installed at the White House.

After that, I have a baby shower that I must attend. I say must, because they are a true act of love since I actually don't like showers....of any sort. Don't like the silly games...don't like the hours of exclaiming,"Ohhh!," each time a box or bag is opened. I want to bring my gift, make nice, visit, eat, and blow. I know, I'm bad, you don't have to tell me.

And then, I must come get back here and finish yesterday's marathon that I thought would be a snap, but which almost snapped my back. I decided it was time to re-arrange the furniture in the craft room, and then while I was at it, go through my odds and ends and keep what's of value and pitch what is not. What the hell was I thinking???

We, card makers are a sick, twisted bunch. It's like our fingertips ooze glue which adheres any and all stray scraps of paper to our hands. Completely countermanding the desire to throw them away. I now have a gallon bag of odd bits of bright papers...I could use them in cards some day. Well, I could! Don't judge me.

But, while the craft room scornfully laughed at my defeat as I exhaustedly walked away last night...it's in for a show-down today. The Queen will return peace to her kingdom! And, so say all of us!

Well, I think I hear the garage doors, which means it's Tiller Time...one can only hope that it ends the day with Miller Time. Or wine or something.

Step back! She's going in!!

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Friday, March 27, 2009

How To Hold A Smile

"When we yield to discouragement or despair it is usually because we give too much thought to the past and to the future," said St. Therese of Lisieux. Boy, ain't that the truth. That's what comes from drifting off task. The task of learning to successfully live in the moment. Period.

Yesterday after reading Another Quiet Moment, Michael made a keen observation. He was struck by the heart-tugging beauty of Olivia's smiling baby face, "Wow, when you see a smile that big in a face that small, you realize that smiling isn't learned behavior...it's what we come with. You have to wonder how we allow our smiles to be erased."

Our smiles erased. That's powerful. Erased.

It happens through the toil and struggles most of us deal with daily. I know it's because of the negative space that fills so many of us and our brains. Life is hard. Truly hard lately.

But is it hard enough to rob us of something that is our birth right? Our natural way of being? The light in us?

It shouldn't be. But, for many, it is. It made me wonder, when was the last time I really smiled? I try to do it every day. At least once... I know I try. But, our smiles are erased bit by tiny bit without our awareness. And, I think like most talents, if you don't use them, you lose them. Funny- a smile can only be given away, but the ability to smile can be too, if you're not careful.

Here's one thing I know...while I agree with Michael that smiling is a talent that we come with, what is learned behavior, is the artificial smile that so many of us get a day. You know the one I'm talking about...the smile that hits the lips but never travels up to the eyes?

I hate those. I'd really rather a person deal with me genuinely...if you don't want to smile at me, then don't. But, don't give me less than your truth. Smile at me with your entire face, not just your lips. Don't condescend as though I don't know that you're not genuine.

The other smile that is disturbing, is the one that makes the person look as though they're snarling at you or will eat you momentarily. I so don't need to see those, either.

So, where's your smile today? Have you seen it? Have you spontaneously shared it? Even if you're alone...did you smile when you spoke to your pet? If you don't have a pet, did you at least remember to smile at your reflection this morning? It may be the only smile you get, but at least it's a good one.

If the answer is no, then is it because you fit St. Therese's description? Are your thoughts stuck in your past or racing ahead into The Uncertain to come? I know that's what's been going on with me lately. There's some stuff going on in the Frock family that is hard...stuff I'll probably share when I know more. But stuff is stuff. And, it's making me weary; erasing my smile.

Today, I'm going to do my best to live in the moment. Moment by moment. Collapse my awareness of my troubles by concentrating on every task at hand. I just remembered to smile at Rory. I smiled when Michael took off for another long day, and I made certain that my loving smile migrated all the way to my eyes. So, I garanteed he has at least one for the day.

And, I smiled just now as I typed these words so that you can feel it when you read this.

Do not yield to discouragement and despair. "You'll find that life is so worthwhile if you just, Smile."

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Another Quiet Moment

I've noticed that some of my successful blogging 'friends', the ones who post extensively, are giving their brains regularly scheduled down-time by employing a crafty device. Each as unique as their blog. For instance, Mr. Author, creator of Life With Dogs, has Wordless Wednesdays.

And, it was on Ribbon's site fragments treasures memory that I first saw Six Word Saturdays. This handy notion was created by Cate, owner of Show My Face. The task is coming up with six solid words to share with an image posted for a reader's enjoyment. Energy is still required and invested, just not as much as a regular post. And, a good mental exercise for those of us (I include myself here,) who can be, err, long winded... It can be challenging to collapse lofty ideas into terse verbiage!

These are quite interesting. And useful. It's a difficult task, this business of daily crafting words for you to chew on. Daily sharing parts of ourselves, our lives. Displaying fragments of spirit out in the open. That's why your comments and questions are so helpful; they sew seeds in our odd brains so we can continue to fabricate.

So, how do we take a breather without shorting, a.) our own mental process and, b.) our readers who come to our sites to find stuff to fill their cups? I'd say these two are great examples. But, Your Mother Knows has yet to discover hers....I'm still questing about.

It can't simply be something banal, a toss away. It must still add value to the blog. So, until I nail one down, let me share what I do have- another great picture of our fair Olivia. I'm going with that today; I hope you like it.

She's certainly not being employed as a place saver, for I think her sweet expression and the deep soul of her eyes gives one more than enough to ponder for one entry. But, I also know that not everyone loves children and babies. Many don't find them fascinating in the least.

If you fall into the latter category having come to earth missing the Cooing Gene, then use this quiet moment to stop and examine her face in miniature bits. There's a wealth of information to consider. Mysteries to unravel. How do eyes that fresh hold so much hidden in them? A depth that shouldn't be apparent in one so new. Ancient wisdom peering out from an infant face.

A smile that big...one that is ignited by the face of someone dearly loved. A special smile singularly shared with a special someone. She is so young, and yet old enough already; when she sees Laura, she smiles so completely. How soon relationships can seal our hearts in a lifetime bond.

So, here's what I share for your close consideration today...Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Sweet Livy! Enjoy your quiet moment.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Great Aunt Holly

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Grace & Beauty Reside

Today, I need to be reminded that in each new day, despite the negative things that press on our nerves, beauty hides and waits. Plays Hide & Seek with us. Waits for us to remember the truth. Waits for us to insist on finding it. Waits for us to dig, perhaps, deep. Waits 'til we remember that we deserve it.

My cousins Val & Tom emailed these photos. How lucky to live where you can boat in warm waters most of the year, but more so, have your boat followed by these clowns of the sea! Don't all of us yearn to feel so vital, free, and high-spirited as these beauties?

What holds us back from experiencing the sheer joy of it all? To find a reason to jump for joy? I don't have big thoughts today...just big worries. I know that if I keep the faith and train my eyes on the horizon, things will work out. But, I'm only Human and some days are harder than others.

When I opened these pictures, they helped me remember the truth of today's wonder. So, I willingly share them with all of you. Drop your worries for a moment, take a deep breath, and remember the joy of being.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More About My Smiling Dog

After reading, Happy To Me, a reader requested, "Tell us the story of how you found him/he found you." Thanks Reader! Be happy to...

I look forward to Fall and the holidays it brings. One of my favorite is Halloween. I don't know...I guess it's that the kids' excitement is contagious. I've made it a practice to sit outside on the front porch in my witch's hat, hand out candy, and talk with all the little spooks and goblins who creep up the stairs. Love it!

Back in my younger days, I'd sit with my candy bowl on the porch of our tiny row home on Falkirk Road. Row home communities are fun on Halloween night. So many houses packed into such a small area means that the streams of children twist up and down and back and forth across the narrow street. It's quite a show.

This particular Halloween Night was almost over. It was late into the evening, all that remained were straggling ghosts and lazy teenagers who put on a hoody, drag around their mother's perfectly-good-pillow-case and mumble they're a gangsta, looking for a hand out...no effort or imagination. I hate that.

Roseanne was sweeping her porch as we talked, (If you're not familiar with my neighbor Ro, you can learn about her need for order here.) we decided it was about time to turn off the porch lights and go in. Just then, two of the cutest little Princess Jasmines, wobbled up my steep stairs. Eyes wide and excitement just sparking out of them. Says, Jasmine Number One, "Miss, does you know whose dawg this is?" Looking at her, I think she must be playing a trick....I don't see a dog.

Then Jasmine Number Two clears up the mystery. "No Miss, dat dog. He ain't ours, but he thinks he iz." And with that, clearing them on the stairs to come and say hello is a pretty large, but friendly looking dog. Tail wagging, nose sniffin'.

Witch Holly says, "No, Princesses, I don't know this dog. Ro, do you recognize him?" Negative. "Where did you find the dog?"

Princess Jasmine Number Two, clears up my foolishness, "WE didn't find him! He started following us all over. We got yelled at because he come up on the porches with us and some people yelled at us."

Princess Number One takes over the story,"Yeah! Like we didn't do anything and they yelled,'get your dawg off our porch,' and I said, 'he idn't our dawg and we don't know how to make him go away!' We don't know what to do. We can't take him home cause our Doberman will eat him."

A Doberman eating a dog? That just seems wrong. By now, Ro has stopped sweeping to get all the drama as it unfolds. I'm not certain what to do with the troublesome dog, who by now has come up on the porch and is smiling at me.

"Okay, girls, here's what I'll do. Mr. Mike and I will take the dog and put him in our kitchen. My dogs will be all right with that. We'll take him around the neighborhood tomorrow and see who's lost their dog. Sound good to you?"

Princess Number One looks at Princess Jasmine Number Two, they nod to each other..."Okay," says Number Two, "Dat's a good plan. Thank you Miss. Can we still have some candy?" Candy delivered, good nights exchanged, they walk away into the dark. And, Smiling Dog? He just stands there watching them go. We, the smiling dog and I, say goodnight to Roseanne and walk into the living room.

To be met by three confused Cairn Terriers and Doog. "Who's this? And, what the heck is going on, Hol?" I explain to all four. Michael says, "Well, what are we going to do with him?" I share the plan. He runs his hand across his forehead, agreeing, "Sure, we can't leave him out so we'll make it work. I'll walk him around tomorrow and see who's missing him."

The Cairn Terriers were Jamie, the gentleman; Meggie, the princess; and Fagan, my neurotic dog all the way from Scotland. Fagan would be a blog all his own. Let's put it this way...Fagan probably was emotionally ruined by making the trans-Atlantic flight at a very young age. Or, he was just born nervous and jerky and never got better.

I was the only Human he trusted, which is why the breeder, rather than destroy him gifted him to me, absorbing a pretty big financial loss. I sighed most days over Fagan as he was a difficult dog to have as a pet. Additionally, for several years we'd been struggling with his Cushing's Disease and other medical issues. Still, a spirit who loves you, is a spirit you'll work to keep with you.

What I didn't expect was the behaviors. I was positive that sweet Jamie would be friendly. Meggie was a wee pup so I thought for sure, she'd take to the visitor. Fagan, I was fairly certain would pee on a chair leg and disappear under the sofa in a nervous pique. Exactly the opposite happened; Jamie and Meggie stared at Smiling Dog with Cairn Terrier eyes rolling in distress. You could almost hear the, "Ewwww!" They wanted nothing to do with him.

It was Fagan who wagged his straggly tail in greeting. And, then began to tour him through the place. We followed as they stopped various places. Imagining the highlights, "Okay, this is our food bowl; this is where the water is. Treats are kept in here. These are toys, but we don't play with them. You can have them if you want."

Thinking the visitor and our kids might need to pee, Mike opened the back door. Jamie and Meg refused to go out. Fagan lead the way with Smiling Dog around the backyard. Reminding one of a Disney movie, Lady & The Tramp- big dog looking down on little dog; little dog looking up in response as they walked about.

The next day, a Friday, when I'm home from work, Doog says, "I walked the damn dog all over the place. No one has seen him, knows him, or has lost their dog. I don't know what else to do. I decided to run an ad in The Sun. And, I posted flyers. We'll just have to hope someone calls. If not, I'll take him to the pound on Monday."

I agree, "Looks as if we'll have a house guest for the weekend." Meggie sniffs as if to say, "Yuky. Make him go away." I tell her to be nice. Not possible.

From the moment he arrived, Fagan and Smiling Dog stuck together. Jamie and Meggie fell into a groove of avoidance. Remarkably, having four dogs in our tiny house seemed to be working all right.

But, on Sunday morning, after years of fighting the good fight, Fagan wasn't all right. In fact, he was terribly wrong. We had taken him to the vet's earlier in the week because of a rapidly growing gum abscess. The vet confirmed that it would need surgery the following week. We were conservative about all treatments because we knew that the Cushing's was going to take an eventual toll. But, I thought we'd have more time.

Sunday, time ran out. We kept him close all day. A vigil you hope to avoid. He failed more and more during the passing hours...his light slowly fading.

Laying back on the sofa, I cradled him. I looked at him, he looked up at me with a peaceful look. I cried. "Hey, it's up to the Humans to pick a dog replacement...it's not the dog's place to do it for them." He just looked closer at me. And, with that, he took a deep dog sigh. Closing his eyes for a nap.

That's the moment when I understood it all. Fagan had somehow made certain that his replacement was in place and shown around before he had to go. He picked the dog for us. And, died at home that evening.

We were distraught. It is a very difficult thing to sit with an animal while it struggles to take its last few breaths. There is fear involved. And uncertainty and panic. It is not peaceful as it is with a vet to assist with the process. I will never again allow a pet of mine to struggle through its passing.

We sat there for a long time, in shock, following his final breath. We cleaned him and wrapped him in a blanket. Walked upstairs. Numb. Jamie and Meggie hid. Smiling Dog stood close. We were shattered in tears. Smiling Dog, tried to turn around in a tight spot to leave the room. In the attempt, he whacked his head on the coffee table and hopped back with a startled look that clearly conveyed to the table, "What the heck did you go and do that for??!"

I couldn't help it...I started to laugh. And, as Humans can do in emotionally charged states, the laugh turned into a laughing jag. Doog eventually catching up to me in the process of holding our sides. Smiling Dog just stands looking back and forth between us wagging his tail.

And, in the quiet that followed I whisper, "Heyoka. We'll call him Heyoka." Michael agreed..."Perfect." The Lakota Indians have a group of very powerful medicine people- The Heyoka. Often called The Contraries, their job is to keep the tribe's energetic balance in place. They ride horses backward. Paint their faces and bodies in odd designs. Say 'yes' when the answer is clearly, 'no.' In times of great happiness, they do something harsh to bring the energy down. In times of great sorrow, they play the clown and act silly to make the tribe laugh, raising up the spirit.

Smiling Dog acted the clown in our time of overwhelming sorrow. And, that's how he became Heyoka; Yoki for short.

In the morning, we took Fagan's body to the vet. We were there when the doors opened. The tech looked down at the blanketed bundle saying quietly, "I'm so sorry. He was a brave little guy." The vet came out right away offering condolences and told us what to expect. Because he had worked with Fagan throughout the entire process from diagnosis to death, and treating Cushing's was just becoming possible, he opted for an autopsy; no charge to us.

Several days later, we took Yoki for a check-up and post conference about Fagan. The vet said, "This guy is only about three months old. Someone most likely drove into a neighborhood, and kicked him out of the car knowing there'd be lots of people around. He's lucky he didn't get killed. Luckier still to have found you guys." Giving the pup a big hug, he said, You're one lucky guy!" Yoki grinned back at him.

He then shared what Fagan's autopsy revealed. "He was absolutely eaten up with cancer. Holly, I'm amazed that he was alive as long as he was. Upon examination, I can't really understand how he was still here! He's a miracle in an odd way. I'll tell you what, as nervous as he was, he was a fighter and didn't want to leave you. Maybe he found this pup because he didn't want you to miss him too badly."

That made me cry. Hard. I can't know if it's possible for an animal to do that, but I believe that's exactly what happened. Fagan really loved me. So, now you know the story of how I found the dog. Or, more exactly, how the dog found me.

Yoki kept me company for 15 years. And, he truly adored me in the same manner as Fagan. I'm sure that when he crossed over into strange lands, it was Fagan who met him to show him around once again.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka LadyThing

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's Only O.K...

...if you're talking about the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Otherwise, it's not okay.

Ah, the power of three. Yesterday I had three brushes with this topic so I'm sharing them with you today. It's about the wonderful qualities of our mother tongue...that's English for those who are wondering.

ENGLISH! Learn it. Words, all words, have power. Use them wisely. Use them well. Find a grammar and style book that you like and refer to it. My favorite is Strunk & White's, The Element of Style. It's short, easy to read, easy to use.

For those of us who are wordsmiths, yes, the debate is constantly afoot about the idea that languages are living and must be allowed to change and modify. However, there's a fine line between change and deterioration. We're allowing it to erode through laziness and the need for speed. Technology is taking its toll. Unacceptable says The Queen. Class is now in session.

There is a great article in yesterday's Tribune Review written by Rege Behe entitled Shortcuts cost language a lot of its style. Give it a read. Behe says that it's not alright (no such word,) what we're doing to language these days. And, it's absolutely all right that he feels that way. He agrees with me; we've become worse for the obsession to be expedient. Case in point:

Melissa was telling us that she got this text yesterday: "HBTY. HBTY. HBDM. HBTY." Disturbing. It was her mother 'singing' Happy Birthday. Sigh. I'm not sure what's more weird. The fact that she text messages at all...the fact that the birthday wish came in code...the fact that it would have been so much better if mom had called and said or sang it. I'm going with all three.

Come on. Are you really so busy that it would kill you to type, see you, instead of CU?

Here is a list of some of The Queen's pet peeves:

Spell check, DOESN'T! You can't rely on it because it can't discern your intent. Regardless, (Notice I did not use irregardless, WHICH IS NOT A WORD! Although it is in the dictionary now because so many knot heads use it...but then again, ain't is in the dictionary too; need I say more?), use it anyway as the first pass on your work. At the very least, it will highlight things for your attention and consideration. Cripes. It's right there! Don't be so lax. Click it and see what it turns up. Even for your e-mails. It's too easy not to use it. Unless you're terminally lazy.

There, their, and they're: Learn the difference. There is no reason that their luggage is lost so they're truly pissed. Got it now?

Its, It's, Its': Its- belonging to it. It's- the contraction of it is. Its'- a failing grade when I was teaching and read it in a paper. Why? Because it's not a flippin' word! Stop doing that!

I.E. vs E.G. : We all know that I.E. is used to site an example. But, did you know that it's most correctly used only when speaking? It's Latin, id est= that is. As in, 'that is to say.' The say is your tip-off. However, when you are writing and wish to give an example, it's most correct to use, E.G. Latin exempli gratia=for example. Perhaps it's not earth shattering to use them interchangeably, but like every tool, using it correctly gives optimum performance.

I vs Me: This confuses many of us. Understandably. Which is correct? Easy enough to figure and train yourself. When you're not sure about using I or me, split them apart. Do you want Joe & I to take you? Split it: Do you want Joe to take you/Do you want I to take you? See, it's immediately apparent that you should use, me.

Let's do it a different way: Me & Joe will take you. Joe will take you./Me will take you; not unless you're two years old. Otherwise, it is- I will take you. You would be correct to say, I & Joe will take you, but it's stilted speech, so to be absolutely correct, you'd change to: Joe & I will take you.

Give yourself the gift of the deciding split and the entire me & I nightmare goes away.

Stop ending your questions with 'at.' Stop talking just before your mouth says it. "Where are you at?" NO! "Where are you?" Stop in time and save our ears.

Here's another: "What did you want it for?" When you hear yourself ending questions with prepositions, it's because you're not asking the correct question. Learn to ask better questions. The real question here is not what, it's why: "Why did you want it?" See? Easy.

It's, "i before e except after c, or as sounding like a, as in neighbor and weigh. Most of us know the first part of this handy device, but many didn't get the last bit. So, I share it with you today!

Melissa says that, often, when she's reading this blog, she feels as if I, "Sneezed commas." I had to laugh! It's a great description. There were five of us around the table when she made her observation. Three of the five, including me, went to Catholic school and were taught by Grammar Nazis, e.g. The Sisters. I am exceedingly grateful to the nuns for having the fortitude to teach us the rules of usage and correct form. It is what distinguishes many of us. The three Catholic kids stood firm on the whole comma debate. We get twitchy if we don't use commas to separate any, and all, independent clauses. Commas were sacrosanct and it's difficult to cut them without great trepidation...

I admit, even for me, punctuation is really, really tricky and deserving of its own blog. So, I'm not going there today. Except to say, give yourself an exclamation point moratorium- no more than a carefully considered few to a communication. Because, if everything is emphatic, then nothing is emphatic.

I also know that writing styles change. Rule of thumb- si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more; si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. In other words, learn the style manual that is currently acceptable at your place of business or school and adhere to it. The AP Style Manual has done away with many of the sneezed commas that used to be de rigueur. While I'm learning to reduce their numbers, I'll never view them as extraneous.

One that I insist on though, is the serial comma. I absolutely abide by it. The flag is not red, white and blue. There is no color named, 'white and blue.' Doesn't exist. Being most specific, the flag is red, white, and blue. We can argue this one over drinks some night.

As this relates to the various modes of communication now at our disposal, we've become shiftless instead of more efficient. We've become less personal in our personal communication. We're systematically removing human interaction. Stop it! Use tools in descending order. Stop sinking to the lowest, most distancing, mode of communicating as your first choice. Whenever possible:
- speak face to face. Yes, it can take additional effort but do it!
- If you can't, then call.
- If that's not possible, email.
- If that's not possible or you are mobile, text.
- If you want your communication to be lasting, write it.

The caveat to this rule: In order to be most effective in your communication, learn the recipient's preferred form of communicating and use it as much as possible. For example, I really don't like the phone; I prefer email and check it with alarming frequency. If you want to get something back from me as soon as possible, always go for email first. However, if you prefer the phone, I'll give you what you need your way.

Finally: Remember, all rules were made to be broken. But, you need to know there are rules and consciously decide to run counter to them. This is most obvious in creative writing. Acceptable. But you must know the rules.

My friend Frank sent this yesterday, and although I can't determine who the author may be, it's well worth sharing so enjoy:

This is English

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Then shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Let's face it - English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren't invented in England.
We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,
we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,
and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing,
grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?
Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?
If you have a bunch of odds and ends
and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If in the past, teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
in which your house can burn up as it burns down,
in which you fill in a form by filling it out,
and in which an alarm goes off by going on.


Namaste' Till Next Time,

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy To Me!

Let's face it, I think I exhausted every word I ever thought or heard in yesterday's post. Even I have to admit it was pretty hefty in content and scope. Today, my brain isn't filled with words to share. And, it is the weekend, so I'm sure you'll let me slide.

This morning, I woke to a sunny day. Saw the light streaming in through the colors of a sun catcher. A gift from dear friends, Leanne and Mark. I cast a blessing their way when I look at it. I am momentarily mesmerized by the beautiful colors. Colors winking and smiling on me. Red, orange, turquoise, blue.

Yoki came to me while I laid there. It reminded me...Many mornings he'd pick up his head sensing that I was awake. (How do dogs do that?! How do they know even if you don't open your eyes or move, they know!) Thump the tip of his tale in acknowledgment. Meggie would stay curled next to me, too indolent to care that the day was beginning. He'd lay with me while I watched the same pebbles of color. Allowing me the brief few minutes of quiet and peace, perhaps prayer, to get ready for the day. But when they were done...

"Happy To Me, It's a new day!" You could almost hear him say. He'd bound off the bed and to the kitchen for his carrot and 'big cook' chomping with gusto...and then out to the yard. The Princess following stoically behind.

I thought I'd share a picture of Yoki with you today. This was taken not long before he died. I find it fascinating that he was old and stiff by then. Sore most days, I'm guessing. Yet, he looks pretty young at 15. Is that because of his playful attitude and nature? Or because dogs are unaware and unconcerned about age?

When I see this I see a smile. I see solid contentment with being. I see a dog who adored me; of all my dogs, this one utterly loved me for reasons he couldn't share through words. Just actions. I see a spirit to marvel over. I see an animal companion and loved one that I miss a great deal.

Heyoka, my dog of very simple needs. My dog of massive daily joy at every new day. The one who taught me that joy comes in the simple, predictable things in life.

He never took any of them for granted. He just gobbled them up with gratitude.

I think I'll try to follow his example today.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka LadyThing

Friday, March 20, 2009

Enough! Know When To Say It

For the love of God! Be warned. If someone like me, someone who is lousy with numbers and math, can see that there's a problem here....well, let's put it this way....we're all royally screwed.

Because if the problem continues long enough and grows messy enough, even someone who as stupid as I am with numbers can finally see it. Even though, by then, it's a total cluster screw. And, Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm telling you....

This economy and Washington's attempts to correct it? The Queen can see the problem. Time to roll down a flight of steps to kiss your ass goodbye.

Yesterday, I'm listening to the news. Big mistake. I don't know why I do it. It's not unlike yanking out my eyelashes. And, I hear the latest attempt by the Fed to correct the economy is to put another TRILLION dollars into the fix. Absolutely crazy, right? But here's what's truly appalling, the trillion? There will be a bit of a delay while they feverishly PRINT IT FIRST!

Print it?! Are you kidding me? Print it!

Isn't that about as ridiculous as a youngster's foolish thinking that just because you have blank checks in your check book, it's an indicator that you have money to spend???

How old were you before your fiscally responsible parent disabused you of that wrong thinking? I was about 10. Didn't any politician have parents who helped them understand that when it comes to money and living life....

Don't write a check that your money and mouth can't back up!!!

If we keep lying to ourselves...if we keep printing money. You'll need a wheel barrow full of it to take to buy a loaf of bread!

Don't take my word for it; go read about life during our Civil War, when Confederate currency became worthless. Or, read about the Russians and what happened to their Ruble. Or, Germany following the war. Or, what lead the French to their Revolution. And, it had nothing to do with cake! Which, by the way, Marie Antoinette NEVER said. But for God's sake, learn what happens when a government continues to act like fools, behave without a conscience, and do whatever they want- refusing to listen to the people.

Couple that with our current mania for all inclusiveness, and we have a flash point that is Armageddon in its potential. This could be the end of American civilization as we know it. I'm not suggesting whether that's a good or bad thing, that's on you to decide for yourself. I'm simply stating that life as we recognize it may well be over. You better get ready.

Look, here's the deal. It's not real; none of it. Money is not real. It's a tangible representation of energetic exchange. But, you have to ask, what's really going on here? If it isn't real, what's wrong with continually printing more of it? Because, when you print money instead of working to correct a problem, it further pollutes a bad situation. Because, it's not backed by truth, not funded in real currency- it's not genuine. It will do no good at all to help things get better!

As Betty Davis, in All About Eve, said so memorably, "Fasten your seat belts boys, it's going to be a bumpy night!"

You know that I believe that all of us succeed or none of us does; a rising tide raises all ships. But, that's on the energetic, spiritual plane of existence. Here on earth, where life is a learning lab constructed for our highest spiritual development, failure is a necessary part of the rising tide.

As Humans, we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. Failure makes you look at yourself. Wonder about what should have been done differently or better. Humbles you and makes you more open to awareness of yourself as a spiritual being. It's hard and bitter. Failure is not for the weak-hearted. But it is critical to the future.

Success simply tells you, keep doing more of the same. It's not innovative. It doesn't change. It's actually quite static.It's failure that makes us curious about what we missed...what could be improved...what's what!


So, when we insist on this mindset that all of us must succeed, the astronomical cost associated with it be damned, the reverse is what we get. We set up conditions for all of us fail. Cease to be. We legislate the spirit of winners and entrepreneurs out of our country.

Based on our current crazy behavior, if we had authorized the Federal Government to run the Titanic, there would have been ZERO survivors! Why? Because they would have insisted that none of us could get into the life boats unless all of us did.

If the Federal Government was funding Thomas Edison as he attempted to invent the light bulb, we'd be sitting in the dark. We'll never know the true number, but it's famed that it took Edison 10,000 attempts to make a bulb that worked. When a reporter asked him how he felt about that sort of grand failure, Edison said, "I haven't failed, I simply now know 10,000 ways not to create a light bulb."

However, if the current political climate were running the show, they would have said,"That's all right Thomas, we don't need to keep doing that now. You tried really hard, though; good job! Here's some money. Go invest in lamp oil or whatever. We'll continue to do just fine with that."

Stop allowing Big Government to increase its footprint and control of FREE enterprise and the economy! Please. I'm begging. There's no place for Washington in private enterprise. It will cease to be and then, so will we. Oh you're right, attempting to legislatively decrease the gap between the haves and the have-nots, absolutely means we'll be on a more level playing field.

But the field will hold a tent city where all of us struggle to survive!

Ask the Russians how the experiment with socialism worked! Everyone certainly was made equal; equally poor, starved, terrorized, and unmotivated to attempt change. They were provided housing and forced to live with perfect strangers; the lights on most of the time but there were no books to read, nothing to watch; heat worked most of the time but no thermostats to control it; government provided health care that one waited months to access; unaffordable food although Russia is a massive country that could be farmed but there was no equipment or supplies; and very little else. Wake Up! It's not like we haven't seen examples of what's currently beginning in our country!

Big Business and the me-first-you-last behavior that goes with some big money is a necessary part of the dog at the gate. It's the part that's likely to bite you, true, but it's also the part that keeps us on our toes and moving forward. Big money is also the thing that supports philanthropy...gives us medical buildings....gifts us public libraries...parks...museums...works to end social ills, disease, hunger.

Everyone is furious with AIG for doling out bonuses in this shitty economy. Agreed. But, don't ask the Washingtonian thieves to do anything to correct that. Stop looking to the government to legislate correct behavior! Have you never heard of BIG BROTHER?! What? You think because we passed 1984 that we dodged that bullet??? Focus on the real problem- politicians who didn't set up the stipulations on the bail out money as part of the agreement! Who didn't proceed with a plan instead of a panic.

You can't give someone a loan, without stipulations and parameters, and then attempt to control how the person uses the money! That's legislation after the fact! Not possible! Why aren't we angry that we have politicians who are that stupid, that corrupt, that asleep at the switch, that they give our money away, and then act like bastions of correct behavior post facto?

Doing the morally correct thing, freely making the best choice for the best outcome for all of us, is a process of learning to be a real Human Being. You can't legislate that! It's a process. It's understandable to be frustrated that the AIG execs, despite knowing what total chaos we're facing, still can't find it in themselves to do the right thing and refuse the bonuses. You should be furious with politicians who are that stupid and short-sighted. But, don't expect stupid behavior to effectively change insensitive behavior. It can't.

We cannot continue to turn to Washington for a fix; it's like leaving a dingo to watch your baby. We have to get right with the fact that some things will perish. Some things need to be allowed to fail. We're not playing pee-wee T ball here! We all don't get to stand and swing repeatedly until we connect. We can't all live small so all of us feel good. We must allow things, some individuals, and perhaps this economy, to hit bottom. We need to do it sooner than later.

If we sanction the Fed to continue to print monopoly money, our Dollar will be so devalued, we'll lose our world standing totally. No one will trade with us. No one will lend us a thing. Foreign money will pull out and things will collapse. We'll be held in a terminal dog paddle hoping we can stay afloat. Endlessly struggling to keep our heads above the rising waters. Eventually, we'll succumb, but not before we ruin the world for our kids and grandchildren.

Enough! It's time to take a solid stand. This far, no further. There are times when you have to be courageous enough to surrender the useless struggle. Allow yourself to sink. Perhaps drown. Sink to the very bottom with your faith intact. But, once you sink, when your feet brush the firm bottom, you have the chance to push UP and break the surface. Living once more.

I know it's frightening. But, it's time to pick our poison. Do we want to be killed in tiny small doses delivered without our control? Or would we rather pick the time and place of the battle? The battle that might kill us, but may prove to make us victoriously triumphant through passing defeat. Stronger for what we endured. Wiser for what we lived through. Not just here in America, but for our entire global village.

I can guarantee which choice this old Spartan makes. The question is, which one will you make?

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pieces of My Past Slipping Away

I figure by the time I'm taking my last breath, I will be the Incredible Invisible Woman. I'll be gone without a trace. You won't be able to locate me by any landmark whatsoever.

It's actually kind of creepy. My friends don't seem to have this problem. They can take you on tours of the sites where all of their growing up moments happened. That's one of the delightful first dates Michael and I had; he took me on a tour through Emmitsburg and Hanover showing me where he went to grade school...the home that his Dad built...then where he grew up as a teenager in Hanover...his high school...where he hung out to have his first drinks, legal or otherwise...

It was wonderful. Besides home movies and pictures, actually being with the person as they recall their past glories, infamies and embarrassments, you begin to feel a deeper connection to them.

Not so with me. SS. P. J. that I've talked to you about, my grade school SS. Philip & James, stopped being a school years ago. Sold. And, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia moved on. Seton High School, beloved by the Daughters of Charity, sold by the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The school lost its singular identity and was wedded with Keough High, clear on the other side of town. That was truly heartbreaking to all of us Seton grads.

I can take you to Towson University to show you around...thank goodness. It's shot through major growth since I was there, but I can still identify favorite spots.

Today, Mike Wicklein writes to tell me another landmark of my fond past is likely to disappear shortly. Unless it can be saved. The grand Senator Theatre located on York Road is very close to auction.

Every major city has lost jewels like this. The opulent theatres of days long past, when taking a beau to a movie or show was a major delight. The balcony. The large plush seats that rock slightly and hug you in comfort while watching the flickering images.

The majesty of the huge screen with velvet curtains flanking it; opening slowly at the start of the show. The gold guilt filigree work on the walls. The fabulous Art Deco sconces. The expansive marble lobby. The sheer beauty of it all. Imagine spending massive time and artistic energy to build a room so opulent; a place where you spend most of your time in dark and shadow while there!

Doesn't seem to make sense, why bother? Because art is beauty, that's why. And, movies are art, although thanks to DVDs and cable we forget that. The artisans who built these theatres understood that artistic beauty is important when it is obvious; but perhaps, more so, when it is subtle or hidden. It creates an experience.

The question becomes, why are we so quick to let gems like that evaporate? Why will we go to a mall and wander for hours through the florescent noise of it all, but don't care if we maintain historic, beautiful buildings that are the graceful style-notes of our cities?

Are these things no longer important? Or, has classic elegance become a commodity that is too expensive to hold dear?

I don't live in Baltimore anymore. But, The Senator Theatre is no less important to me. I remember seeing The God Father there. The refurbished Lawrence of Arabia. Saving Private Ryan. The Passion of The Christ. Fantasia. Beauty & The Beast, when I cried while hearing from the seat behind me, a little girl about five totally absorbed and enthralled, dressed in her best party dress and tiny hands clasped to her chest, sing along to the title song in a wispy, warbly voice. How beautiful! Could I ever forget such magic?

Watching the wide screen, in a comfy seat with luxurious leg-room, surrounded by the Art Deco decor, I was transported into these cinematic moments. In a movie house where audiences clap in appreciation at the conclusion of most movies! When was the last time you heard a movie audience applaud?

Like you, I've gone to other movie theatres. Some I remember, many I don't. But, I can tell you all the movies I saw at The Senator. Why? Because being in The Senator was part of the experience. Part of the magic. As with many wonderful life moments, the venue adds to the memory.

Can you say the same about the last place you went to watch a movie? I'm betting, not so much. So, why do we allow these important sites in our lives to die?

Where's John Waters? And, Barry Levinson? Ed Norton? These producers/directors/actors are Baltimore Boys made good in Hollywood! Their movies often debuted with great fanfare at The Senator. Surely they could assist with the financial salvation efforts!

Where are the politicians who are supposed to represent Maryland and its treasures? Surely in the massive spending spree we're currently enduring, some money for historic preservation can be found. Which takes me to Maryland's Historical Society. Where are they in this fight? Or, do they only worry about representing and treasuring something after it has disappeared into the past?

Where's Towson University in the call to action? It has one of the largest Mass Communications Departments in the United States. And, has churned out thousands of film making hopefuls; video wannabees; marketing and public relations possibles. How can they not mourn the passing of such a grand example of local cinema history? I know they've suggested that they may be interested in the real estate, but how about keeping it a community resource just as it is now?

If you're in a position to help The Senator, I hope you will. The Senator Community Trust is a group of concerned Marylanders who are working to pay off the mortgage and maintain it as an art house. There's got to be a place for this sort of thing in Baltimore's life today. It seems a better solution than allowing another piece of valuable real estate to sit dormant and decay. Can we keep our cities viable, livable, if we allow all beauty and history to be auctioned?

Even a small donation will help; money or your time. Or, if you have ideas of who might be in a position to help, please forward this to them. Ask if they will help. Talk about this with your friends and neighbors.

When the lights go down in The Senator, I hope it's because of that great moment of anticipation of a show about to start. Not because we didn't care enough to save such a glorious Baltimore treasure and keep the power on.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

By Product of A Spoiled Age

It's sunny. Almost 70. So, I'm not going to be here long. I wanted to stop by to make an observation and ask a question more than write from my outstanding font of wisdom. Just a notion that I'm rolling around in my head thanks to my long phone visit with BF Pammy, the other day. 3000 miles can't get in the way of best friends, that's for certain...

I think I'm wondering about this because my beloved winter clothes are going to be put away here soon. I adore the weather in spring. Hate the heat of summer. Get giddy over the growing cool of fall. Love the need for sweaters and wubbie clothes in winter.

So much can't be hidden by a tee-shirt and shorts, know what I'm sayin'? Too much is simply way too much in light weight summer clothes. And, this body of mine is so not ready. Sigh.

Okay, but it came to me that my friends in Russia don't really worry about what they weigh. They don't worry about every bit of food they put in their faces. In London, when I was there, the height of fashion could be seen in all the windows, but I didn't hear it constantly from my Brit friends. Neither do I note it from my friend, Caroline, who is French. French, for heaven's sake...and they created high fashion!! I'd have to ask Coke about the Germans when he was living there....but knowing his gal pal, Lou, I don't believe so for them either.

Nope. It's only here that I constantly hear us being obsessed with how we look, don't look. Weigh...don't weigh. It's here that I think we are obsessed with something as trivial and meaningless.

I'm wondering...when life is as comfortable and easy as it has been for most of us, is it indolence that causes us to nit-pick so much about how we look and weigh and if we're fashionable? Is that it, do you suppose? Or do Human Beings simply have to have something to fidget over?

When you have to concentrate on more pressing things like having a job...having a paycheck that will stretch till the next one...wondering how you'll live now that the 401K has tanked...is there really such a thing as global warming and regardless, how can I minimize my impact on Mother...how much will utilities, such as gas and electric, rise and what will we do when/if we can't afford them....How can we stop this massive explosion of spending that will change our children's world forever if we don't...

When you have those concerns...will we continue to act so spoiled and silly as exhibited by our obsession with our body images and what we wear?

This is not to say, that I am not an advocate for being healthy. I certainly am. But, I am wondering if we won't be forced to finally come to terms with the notion that healthy is an active positive state not shape.

I also know that fashion is living art. And, when all the comfort and ease of living is stripped away, as it appears it is for the foreseeable future, fashion becomes the color and interest for many. A necessary diversion. It's one of the reasons why Vogue Magazine, regardless of its hefty price, continues to be purchased during hard economic times.

As Humans, we simply have to give our brains a positive thought in order to keep on keeping on. And, for many perusing the world of high fashion is one way to do it. I admit, some of those fashions are awesome...some make you wonder. It's all good.

So, what do you think? Am I right about this? Is it possible that we'll only have time to worry about being healthy and whole now, instead of constantly acting like gad flies swirling around the trivial?

I can hope. Because I and my too big, not ready for spring, butt are headed out to dig in the dirt. Therapy for the weary and worried. Try it. Or, go buy Vogue and spend time looking at the beautiful images there. However you do it, put worry on hold somehow for part of your day. And consider, do you really have the energy to worry so much about things that don't matter?

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Before And After

Like most people, I've struggled with feeling unimportant and unappreciated at times. Especially as a kid coming up...there were times when my family simply didn't understand my genius.

Even when I was in my 30s and running a department for a major hospital, my considered opinion was completely disregarded by my crazy family. Or worse, at work, those above me wouldn't listen; I'd get the patronizing, "Well, thanks for sharing but I think we'll do it this way..." GOD! It used to really rankle me.

That's how I came to my life view that even Albert Einstein's parents never saw him as more than their kid...what did he know, really? A rocket scientist can successfully blast people into outer space, but when at home, is just a kid to his or her parents.

It's not that we don't have good ideas and inspired moments, it's that we get 'fixed' in people's perceptions as to who we are, when we are. And, it's hard to see the changes. The growth. The acquired wisdom. The Divine inspiration.

So, the usual reaction is to push back. Insist that you be listened to. Argue your very valid ideas, concerns, knowledge. But, then you're not only ignored, everybody starts wondering why you've become so very disagreeable. A Know-It-All. Immature. Strident. Annoying.

That didn't work, now, did it?

It wasn't until I started training in Aikido and was exposed to Japanese life philosophy, that I finally gave up my struggle to be understood and acknowledged as having a brain in my head. Interesting to think, that while I was taking my plummets onto the tatami mats, I was truly growing into my life. And, liberated from the need to constantly make myself heard.

There's a wonderful philosophy that is part of Japanese life called Sempai/Kohai. When you first hear these words in the dojo, you incorrectly translate them into Senior/Junior. Sempai translates into: "One who has come before." Kohai to: "One who comes after or follows." In the very hiarchial culture of Japan, knowing who you are in the long line of humanity is critically important. Knowing your place. So is respect of elders. Those of greater wisdom. The need to serve as an apprentice before you can ever be considered a master.

Not unlike Senior and Junior. But, those two terms, as we use them, are fixed positions; a father is the Senior, the son with the same name is Junior. However, Sempai/Kohai, I was to learn, are complex, fluid states.

One of the reasons I am so fascinated by Eastern philosophy is that, generally, it always holds an "Ah ha," moment. It's not unlike an onion when you peel away the first skin. There's still so much there- it's simply a different onion. Sempai/Kohai is no exception.

In the dojo, which is a microcosm of Japanese feudal life, the senior students are cared for by the juniors. They carry the seniors' bag....they fold the seniors' hakama at the conclusion of practice. They clean the dojo. They apprentice through these chores. And, in return, the seniors take on the responsibility to teach. To mentor. To support. To completely care about the development of the juniors.

When I was learning, I had a great deal of difficulty with forward rolls. In Aikido, this is a critical skill because we are taught when attacked to roll onto the earth. Using that momentum to successfully get up on our feet again; ready for what might be coming next. But, for me, the notion of pitching myself forward onto the mat from a standing position was impossible. I froze.

It took months and months and months of attempts before I successfully did it. One of the biggest triumphs of my life. And, the dojo's. Everyone on the mat stop and applauded; everyone there had worked to help me hurtle my fear. So, when I finally learned how, it was as if all of us had achieved.

Because I struggled so hard and long with this very simple, but vital learning, I became the Aikidoka who was responsible to teach new students to roll. Not the work I wanted, but it made sense. And, as I learned and progressed, it became clear that I was the 'senior' to ask questions of on techniques because of my ability to make the abstract, tangible.

Let's be clear....it wasn't because my technique was more superior. There were many, including Doog who already had a black belt in another art, who were far superior when it came to moves and technique. But, because I am approachable and easy to learn from, many junior students often asked for my help.

One of the Kohai during my time at Baltimore Aikido was Steven. I adored him and his wonderful energy. An artist, Steven has that delightful creative spark about him. He was curious about it all. Wanted to know everything. Questioned. Experimented. Was always polite while continually pushing the envelope. He made me a better teacher because I had to be ready for anything. He was one of my favorite Kohai; I was one of his many Sempai.

Time has passed. Life moves on. He lives in Colorado where he continues to practice Aikido. He is now a very advanced Dan, (black belt.) I, on the other hand, after nine years had all I could physically handle and stopped playing Aikido. I am only a Sho-dan; a first degree. I am proud of my accomplishment. It is never far from my thoughts and I handle most conflicts with my understanding of aggression, and how it can be re-directed, thanks to Aikido.

Some months ago, I heard from Steven. He was going back to Baltimore to teach a seminar; it's quite an honor to be invited back to your home dojo as a guest instructor. He wanted me to know so that I might be there. Unfortunately, I couldn't. But, what he wrote is the point of this long ramble today. He said, "It would mean so much to me if my favorite Sempai could be there with me."

His favorite Sempai... I was humbled. Honored. Because, in reality, he is now my senior. He has been promoted way beyond my rank. Surpassing me. In Aikido, he would be Sempai now. But, in typical Steven fashion, he honors me by acknowledging that I walked the road first; for him, I remain Sempai. Both in life experience and in our memories of each other.

In life, regardless of who you are, what you know, what you have achieved, you will always be Kohai to someone who has come before. But, you are also Sempai to all of those who come after you. We are both Sempai/Kohai all in one being. No need to struggle.

When you long to be acknowledged for what you are; when you hope to be viewed as proficient and knowledgeable, wait and be patient. Stay open. Be willing to assist instead of prove. Recall those areas of your life in which you are expert and knowledgeable. Be willing to possess a beginner's mind about the parts of your life you need to develop. Someone who is behind you is looking and watching. While someone who is ahead of you is hoping to see you succeed. Lead by example. Stay humble.

Kohai will learn from you best that way. While Sempai will be reminded by your harmonious example. Today I wish you moments when you are acknowledged as Sempai. And moments when you learn something new as Kohai.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Sho Dan

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Remember To Thank Your Aunt Jean

Michael and I met Jean about five years ago when we first moved to Greensburg. We were in a mad hunt for all sorts of new service providers. You know how it can be when you move into an unfamiliar area, suddenly all the people you relied on are no more and you have to pick through the unfamiliar maze to secure replacements.

Meggie and Yoki were still with us. Meggie was quite the elderly dame at 16. She looked like a stuffed animal that had been loved too hard for way too long. Not unlike the Velveteen Rabbit, she was beautiful to me, but I'm sure most everyone else had to look closely and long before they could see her Princess beauty.

What with moving and all that goes with it, I hadn't groomed Meg in a long time. Oh, let's be honest; I hadn't groomed her because as she got older, keeping her in her Cairn Terrier cut was just too hard on her. She'd squirm and struggle. And, well, what can I say, I caved. I'm not a perfect mother...

By the time we got here, Meggie was really in an unfashionable state for a Princess. We happened to be in the only PetsMart in the area buying food and Michael suggested,"Why don't we stop in the grooming department and ask about getting Meggie done?" I had to pause, (or is that, paws) and consider it. I had never had Meggie professionally groomed; I'd always done it. And, now that she was so old, I was concerned that it would really upset her system. More so, because she was loosing her eyesight and wouldn't really know what was going on, I wasn't keen on the idea. I ticked off these very valid concerns to Michael who said, "Okay, I understand but let's go see anyway."

Trusting him to be less emotionally blinded by it all, I followed him through the door. I asked the receptionist, "Who, here, is the groomer who works best with very old dogs?" Without hesitating she answered, "Oh, that would be Jean!" We asked if she was available to talk. She happened to be between, 'clients' so she came to meet us.

Jeannie is warm, friendly, with kind eyes that sparkle when she talks about her craft. She has that great voice some women smokers develop; a bit of gravel in the sound that makes it husky and pleasant on the ear. She laughs a lot. Smiles even more. And, she knows each of her clients and their parents by first name. She oozes confidence. Even though she's had her fair share of bites and scratches, she loves her job.

We talked about Meggie and her issues and wondered if she would be willing to take her on. She agreed immediately. When we picked up the Princess from her time with Jean, she looked like a new girl. Still old, and mostly blind, but she was clipped, washed, and pampered back into shape. And, more important, she wasn't shaking and scared. I know she felt better. And, she certainly smelled much better. We were delighted!

Not too long after, Meggie said her goodbyes to this world. And, we didn't see Jean again for months. Back in the store for food one day, I said to Michael, "I want to stop in and see Jean." He wasn't sure why but followed. Jean happened to be at the counter and smiled. I said, "Jean, I don't know if you remember us, but you groomed, Meggie, my really old Cairn." She said, "Sure I remember you...how have you been?" I couldn't answer right away. Then quietly, "I wanted to stop by and tell you how much I appreciate your care of her. She was really old and frail, but she seemed perfectly fine with you. And, I didn't want you to think we hadn't been back because we didn't like your work. I wanted you to know that Meggie died a month or so after her visit with you."

And, her response is what has made Jeannie so very memorable for me. Jean didn't say a thing for a long moment but her eyes filled with tears. Then, "Thank you so much for letting me know. I can't believe that you would take the time to come and tell me. But, thank you. I am so sorry for your loss."

We talked for a few more minutes and said our goodbyes.

I couldn't help but be touched. Imagine someone shedding a tear over the loss of a dog she had only met one time! An old smelly dog. And, for demonstrating her understanding of the fact that I had a significant hole in my heart caused by Meg's leaving.

So, when it was time to welcome Rory and Fiona into our lives a year or so later, you know who we wanted to care for them. And, they've been seeing Jean every two or three months since we've had them.

Oh, they don't like it. They shake and get all wound up. But, each time we walk in and Jean greets, "The Kids," as she calls them, I can see the tips of their shaky tails wag in acknowledgment of her voice. How wonderful they look when we come back to get them from their visit with Aunt Jeannie. She single-handedly changes them from Wild Highlanders back into Scotties.

A week or so ago, we got a phone message, "Hi. This message is for Rory and Fiona, not Holly and Michael. Kids, this is Aunt Jean and I think it's time you came to see me soon." Is that a riot? Fi and Boy Dog were searching for the delete button so we wouldn't hear it, but we caught them just in time. I followed up and confirmed; Scotties sighing as I did.

We'll be leaving here shortly to go meet Jean. So, I gotta jet. But not before I acknowledge the work this wonderful woman does. And, remind you to think of the fabulous Jeans in your life. If you get the chance, say thanks to them this week.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Friday, March 13, 2009

I Feel Safer Now

Yesterday, the Mayor of Pittsburgh and his city council demonstrated such legislative prescience, that I am completely amazed and have to share it with you. It's not often that a group of politicians are this vigilant and concerned with citizen safety. And, it's even more rare when they move so quickly to make sure that bad guys are tagged and dragged out in the open, thus neutralizing their danger.

The hours following the Steeler Super Bowl win in January were the last straw. How many times can you witness such deadly behavior and not do your political best to end the madness? In my opinion, this legislation will make some uncomfortable, but The Council is paid to do the right thing for the City of Pittsburgh and its citizens. Many may violently disagree with the new legislation, but it has to be done. So, be aware, if this groundbreaking bit of law-making passes, hence forth, there will be no more couches permitted on open porches.

Ever again. And, we will sleep safely once more.

Yeppers. No more West Virginia gliders will be seen on Pittsburgh porches. Unless yours is glass enclosed...then you can have one. But, if your porch or front stoop is open to the atmosphere, you may not, under penalty of law, have a couch there. Nope. Not any more...

It's simply unsafe. Those rowdy students from Oakland at University of Pittsburgh could come along and snatch it to set on fire in the streets! Or, those crafty brainiacs at Carnegie Mellon could use it as a space rocket or something, turning it into a trajectory of doom. Who knows what can be done with a settee? So, we're removing them from a bad guy's arsenal. Forever.

So there, Mr. Bad Guy! Ruffian Students. Rabble Rousing Super Bowl Winning Pittsburgers. Take some of that! No more divans for you to use against us! And Pittsburgh is safe again!

But I wonder....aren't we rushing to judgment about these upholstered assassins? Aren't we sending a biased message here? Is it fair? Politically correct? Shouldn't Pittsburgh law makers also be legislating the couches' partners in crime? Who is going to have the guts to go after the Zippo lighters? Doesn't anyone see what I see? I think we need to crack down on the easy access to those city transients, those disposable lighters! Those cheap, sparky domestic terrorists.

Maybe we should license them. Make it less easy to walk into a convenience store and snatch one off the rack. Perhaps a three day waiting period? Personally, I think that if those trouble making lighters weren't around everywhere, the couches would settle down and stop causing such problems.

I think I'll write to the mayor and let him know my thoughts on this.

Here's the only bit of advice I can give you if you don't live in Pittsburgh and you don't have such protective legalisation to keep you safe: If you walk into your home today, and you hear even the slightest bit of growling or noise coming from you sofa--RUN. It's gone rogue and can no longer be trusted to live safely with you. Find a way to get it outside immediately. Then call the frat houses at U Pitt. They are highly trained in this circumstance and they'll happily come and take it off your porch for you.

And remember: When couches are outlawed, only outlaws will have couches.

Or something like that. God, today is one of those days when I am simply misty eyed to live in America.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Readers: Can't Live Without 'Em; Can't Shoot 'Em

Blog followers are as individual as the bloggers who post. Maybe even more so. Some blogs have zillions of followers...I'm not sure how that happens, but I'm attempting to find out. Most blogs, like mine, have a good handful of loyal readers. Mother probably has more lurkers than intrepid souls who actually signed on to follow. Hell, my family hasn't even signed on to follow my blog. I'm not certain they even read it.

The way followers follow is equally individual. I have one follower who makes my blog the second stop of her morning coffee rounds. And, Your Mother Knows is in excellent company; it's next after she peruses the New York Times...special company, indeed! This reader is the reason why I attempt to have the post up fairly early. I don't want her coffee to get cold while she waits on my lazy muse....

Others only pop by occasionally, prompted by my email saying that I've written about something they may find interesting. Laura would be a good example...if I post about Olivia, I know she'll take a peek. Otherwise, there's a lot going on in her life and well, she's got too much on her plate to take the time to peer inside of her crazy Aunt's world, daily.

I know some of you read each and every word I've crafted. Some only skim for the highlights. How in-depth someone reads may have to do, again, with the subject matter. If it's not of particular interest, you'll check it out because you like/love me, but not find it all that captivating. You'll move on quickly to the next thing clamoring for your attention and time.

Same when it comes to comments; the topic is the deciding factor on who is most likely to leave a comment. For instance, I know some of you really enjoy the stories of my growing up years. You particularly like my emotional pieces; the softer side of my personality is the part that you respond to. Others find my controversial take on current affairs to be of interest. As Jen said, "You have a way of revealing the absurd for us." Still others resonate with an entry when it's sarcastic or droll. You like the sparky parts of my nature. If I make you laugh or chuckle, you like it very much.

Why? Because readers are all very different in their likes and not-so-muches... Sometimes I write a topic that I'm certain will cause a heap of reaction only to hear not a peep. Michael says, "Well, what can anyone say to that?" I'm always surprised. So, you keep me on my toes because I never know what's going to spark discussion.

And, that's okay.

I'd like to believe that everything I write is of major importance to some reader, but I know that's not always the case. None the less, I work hard to make it worthy of your time. I never take you for granted. And, on more than one occasion, I've reminded you that you and your shared thoughts are very important to me and the success of this blog.

Having said that, let's get something straight...

This blog is mine. I write it because I want to. It wouldn't be as much fun if you weren't part of the process, but in all probability I'd write it if you weren't. I write about what's of interest to me and my views of the world. It is all about me. Good to be Queen, as it were. This blog is more or less a diary...my journal. It's me, laid open on the computer screen for my consideration. And yours. While you might prefer one side of my personality and entries, let's be clear, just like you I have many facets and I'm likely to write from all of them.

This blog is me. It's not edited. Not washed through filters for every one's comfort. It's not homogenized. It's not run through the politically correct gauntlet. It's not ever going to be. It's my thoughts, my views, my life. Shared. I craft it for my growth and personal development. Perhaps for yours as well. Or, at the very least, help build understanding about the trials of being a Human Being. And its joys.

Why am I talking about this today? Because I'm a tad cheesed-off, at the moment, with a reader. Oh, not one of mine...thankfully. But, it wouldn't make a difference if it was one of us. I'd have to call you out on this behavior even more so if it was one of us here at Your Mother Knows...

No...I'm reacting to learning that a fellow blogger, Toni, of Seaweed And Gardenias that I enjoy a great deal, was recently "tsk, tsked" by a visitor for some of the words and image choices she saw there. Are you kidding me? That's way beyond the pale. And, in this particular case, doesn't even warrant that sort of snide reprimand. There was nothing vulgar on the blog.

The writer refers to this individual as "another Blog Nazi." Someone who believes it's their responsibility to keep writers in the gully of polite society or sensitive to all readers out there in blog land. Yeah? Well, here's what I have to say about that...

Dear Reader, please kiss my word-smithing, idea churning, muse tussling, muse inspired, energy investing, openly sharing, always respectful, willingly brave, all inclusive, never hurtful, non- discriminating, totally honest about my inner thoughts, ever loving ass. Please. And, I say that with all the love and respect I can muster.

Here's the thing: There are millions of blogs out there for your enjoyment. If one you like, on a particular day leaves you less than satisfied, chalk it off. It's either, the author as a Human Being is having an off-day, or maybe it's you. But, don't ever criticize what was posted; criticized as though you believe you're Emily Post of the Blogasphere. You're not!

However, if what is regularly posted there is not your cup of tea or coffee, move on and find another. But, don't you dare leave a comment bomb about word choice or images that an artist shares with the world.

That's not your role in this brave new world of communication. With all due respect, unless you're a paid critic who has been asked for your critique, if what you see doesn't float your boat, go find waters that are better suited to your taste.

I'm just sayin'...

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Take A Breath!

Over the past few weeks, I can feel the disturbance in the force. Big time. Of course, it could just be me. But, I doubt it. Don't you find it the same? Tension is high. People are a bit sparky. Patience is low. Tolerance for B.S. is way thin... I find I want to slap the livin' crap outta' something. I just can't find a truly deserving target for the slap.

It's like dancing with a ghost. I can feel it but when I get close to identifying it, it slips away. And, I'm left to cycle around and feel it build. Again. This burbling feeling builds like a scream that never reaches my lips.

Am I reacting to the world around me and our growing fear and sense of doom? I'm increasingly disappointed with the on-going disconnect of Washington politicians with the rest of the world. I mean, really, really disappointed that hope and change seem to be running hand in hand with cataclysmic crappola and spending. On what? Have you seen the difference? Felt it? Benefited from it? Me and mine certainly haven't.

I suspect I wouldn't be so very frustrated if we hadn't been promised so much. But, the new administration promised it would be different. Better. Change things. And, it was promised that the Washington elite would get their house in order and set the world on fire once the White House was Dem. Right all the wrongs of the universe. But, not so much. It's business as usual with all of them. And, I think, "This is how revolutions come about." But, I don't want to live through the heartache of a revolution. Do you?

To add insult to injury, you read in today's paper, when everyone in America is wondering how they'll survive, the Elite refused to put all future raises to their salaries up for vote. Nope. They took that right out of the bill. No vote on raises...they'll continue automatically. They deserve their raises, without question or consideration. Yep, because that's the good life for Washington politicians these days... They're above accountability. They get paid regardless of performance or the lack there of...That's just for us little people. Little people who voted those asses into their seats.

But, how about you? Do you just get an automatic raise now? How about a raise at all? Or are you one of those who's been asked to take a salary cut? Or, have you been told your salary is frozen for at least the next year? How about, do you even have a salary now, at all?

Of course, out here in the toolies of Western PA, maybe my vast geographic space makes it harder for the wave of Washington do-gooders to impact my life for the better....okay, yes, that was sarcasm.

I just want to slap that crap out of something...and I so resent feeling this way.

I've been in stressful situations and times before. But, it didn't seem so pervasive. And, since it wasn't everyone feeling the same shitty way all at once, it seemed I could find a few moments of respite from the tension and strife. Now, it seems close to impossible.

But close to impossible means there's still a tiny crack for the possible. Tiny. Tiny. Tiny. Something so small even a mouse would have a hard time slipping through.

I think I'll try to recall a moment of grace I got on a day just like this one. It's all right if you think I'm really, truly crazy after I share it. I know it is real. And, I promise you that it happened just the way I'm telling it now.

I was sitting at my computer working on a project. My consulting practice was slowed to a crawl. I was living on my own and not certain how I was going to pay my mortgage and my bills. I walked through most of my days feeling like I couldn't take a deep breath...wondering when the other shoe might drop. Wondering what the hell I'd done to deserve a life in this sort of chaos....

All that as background while I worked to complete this tiny crap-assed assignment for my only client. Absorbed in it. And, that's when it happened....

I was listening to the words as they hit the computer screen, hearing the tick of the keys and hearing my own thoughts as they swirled around the construction of the words...

And it was like, you know when you are driving along listening to the radio and you hit a spot where another station momentarily bleeds through and stamps all over what you were listening to? It's startling because it's really loud and only there for a moment.

It was like that, because suddenly, there was an empty space in my thoughts as if someone turned down the volume and I heard a voice. Yes; a decidedly male voice... Not my Holly Thinking Voice. I heard clearly and quietly, "Proceed with a joyful heart and know that all will be well." A few more heart beats of silence followed. Then like a door closing, I was alone again.

I sat there. Not moving for moments, or an eternity? Fingers curled over the keys. Calm. Quiet. And, then I felt it. The first deep breath, like a sigh, I had taken in days. I slowly went back to my work and the calm and warm feeling lasted all that day.

I know that the message was not one that I conjured up. It wasn't from inside my head. I heard it like you're hearing what I say to you now. I know I was visited by something much bigger than I can imagine. Why I was graced, I can't say. Other than to make me grateful, there's no reason for it. Except, I know that when we are truly in need, Spirit provides. And, I was in true need. At times like today, it's a stretch but, I am able to recall that visit and it continues to provide calm and quiet.

So, I want to give it to you. Because I need to have a moment when life feels right. Because I have no way to change how scared and frustrated we're all feeling. Because we all so sorely need it. And we are worthy and deserving of all good things. Despite evidence to the contrary...life is good and we are worthy.

Today, "Proceed with a joyful heart and know that all will be well."

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Blog Widget by LinkWithin

My Previous Musings