Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy New Year, Really!

It's time to get out your fun clothes and silly hats and celebrate the eve of the new year. Oh, wait, did you think that New Year's Eve is 12/31? Actually, for millennia, the eve of the new year falls on 10/31. Samhain, the most sacred of the pagan sabbats, falls on November 1. If you follow Celtic traditions, you're probably in full celebration mode.

In ancient cultures, all that could be harvested and stored was completed by October's end. The toil and hard labor of the farming year was complete; a time of much needed rest began. Anything not gathered was left in the fields to bless the earth and feed those creatures in need. Nights lengthen; the sun weakens. On this hallowed eve, the veil between the living and those who have moved on to the Summerland is the thinnest and we are able to easily recall and remember. We can communicate with them and they with us. Candles are lighted in windows to help the beloved spirits of our ancestors find their way back home to join in a meal of honor and remembrance. Often, an extra place is set for them in welcome. How wonderful!

For goddess cultures, tonight is bittersweet as well, because it pays witness to the goddess bidding farewell to her beloved and dying god who returns to the underworld. Mother Earth responds to her sorrow by slowing down and growing cold. Life hibernates. The goddess sleeps and dreams of the day in the near future when her god, who vanquishes perpetual death, returns to her and she will rejoice. The Sacred Wheel turns slowly.

I have reached the age and stage on this pass of the wheel when I am considered a crone. To have reached this 'old' age in an ancient civilization, I would be a major miracle, a tourist attraction, even! Today, not so much- thank goodness. The villagers visited their local crone for advise and answers. I don't know that I have answers, but look at what we do here. I'm sharing what I know about this sacred day, opening my door to your need, so to speak. And, you don't even have to walk through the cold night to get to me! You have to love technology. If someone ever says about you, "You old crone," thank them for the compliment! It takes character and strength to arrive at this spot in life.

So, put on something silly this evening, bright and colorful. When the doorbell rings and you open the door to all those little hungry beggars, remember they represent the spirits of visiting loved ones adrift this special night. Welcome them with sweet treats of happiness, love and remembrance. In return, they will fill you with moments of gladness as you recall Halloweens of the past.

Light a candle or your jack-o-lanterns to spread the glow of love and care. Feel the magick in the air. Be glad. Be light hearted. And, when you close the door on the very last of those visiting specters, remember that the earth rests and you should as well. The long nights beckon you to hibernate and dream. Dream your life and what you wish to see/be/have in the renewed times to come. Bright blessings on you and yours. I bid you the happiest of new years on this Samhain Eve.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Your Loving Crone - Holly

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dog As Teacher

As I sit here at the computer, I am joined by my two companions, Rory and Fiona. For those of you who haven't met them, they are my three-year-old Scottish Terriers, or as Aunt Katherine says, Scottish Terrorists. If you have ever shared a home with a terrier of any sort, you understand the jest. Terriers are nothing if not tenacious. I am amazed by what I learn from them each day.

I’ve been blessed by several canine companions over the years. Five of them have been Cairn Terriers, and one Husky/Shepherd mix. All of them have had very distinct personalities, some more lovable than others. My last Cairn, Meggie, who died after 16 good years, really believed she was a princess. Everyone called her that, so she must have been correct.

It was Heyoka, my mutt, who easily captured everyone’s heart and made them smile. He absolutely loved every second of life even though he’d been abandoned and left in the streets. Once he found his way to my secure home, he blossomed into the dog who taught me the most about love and loving life.

Each morning, he stood next to the bed wagging his tail, as if to say, “Happy to me, it’s a new day!” He’d hurry to the kitchen for a treat and his morning stroll in the yard. That was the start of his day for years. Even when it was hard as he got older, or when recovering from a painful surgery, he still wagged his tale and seemed grateful for the day. He was an uncomplicated dog with small needs and a huge sense of well being and joy. He gave me a great deal of comfort during the lonely times of my life. I miss his doggy smile and his adoring presence!

All of my dogs possess the one virtue that I lack- patience. You might have guessed that from my rant about English! Although I am much better now than I used to be, patience is still not mine. It’s been said that, “Patience is a virtue acquired by habit.” So, I’ve attempted to acquire the habit of being patient. Watching my animals, sometimes I think I’m on the verge of understanding it more. Dogs don’t practice patience, they just have it.

Thanks to Fiona and Rory, I think I might have some deeper insight to the patience thing. The other day their walk was suddenly canceled when I had to take an important call. They waited hopefully for a minute or two and then, with leashes still on, laid down and took a nap. That’s when it hit me; I’ve been going about it the wrong way! You can’t acquire patience by doing anything. You can’t practice it until it’s a habit. Patience is the outcome of learning to live life with acceptance.

My dogs accept that they will get fed when I get to it. They accept that they can stay out in the yard for as long as I wish to be out there to watch them. They accept that they only go for a walk when I am ready to take them. They accept that it’s time for bed when I turn out the lights. And, it’s all right by them. Because they are so accommodating, I go out of my way to keep them on a usual routine, treat them with love, and do things they like.

So, instead of patience, I think I’ll start practicing acceptance. I’ll accept my day as it comes. Accept that people will not always do what I think they should. Accept that every situation will not come out as I’d wish. Along with it, I need a sense of hope so that each moment I always expect the best. Joy needs to be in that recipe, too. Joy in simple things like a drink of fresh cool water or my favorite snack. And, walks with the person I love most in the world. If I live in acceptance from moment to moment, I will be patient with things as they unfold. And, I will be patient with myself and those in my life.

But, for now I have to go. My two teachers are stretching and looking at me with hopeful expressions that say clearly, “It’s time for dinner, oh joy!”

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Mommer

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

For My Eyes, Thank You

Tiny brown birds stand out sharply against the white on the deck rails. Not even Halloween and there's snow here along the Chestnut Ridges of Western PA. Those big fat lazy flakes that mesmerize as you watch them fall. Slowly drifting, swaying side to side. The birds are busy hitting the bird feeder attempting to keep their bodies warm. Some sit fluffed up looking twice their size, heads tucked tightly to their chests. The scarlet leaves still on our tree blaze against the white.

In a couple of hours, this vision will be gone as the temps warm. For the moment, the first snow is another opportunity to say, "Thank you, Spirit, for my eyes!" Another experience to be grateful for being a Human Being so I can take in this sort of sensory input.

As the snow visits and re-visits over the winter, clogging traffic and making life temporarily more complicated, I know it will be harder to remember this tranquility and beauty. I'd better file it away under, 'Peaceful Moments' and try to recall it when I'm frustrated by the weather...sick of the constant assault of winter that will seem endless at times.

But, for this second, while I sit here and listen to the rush of the heat coming through the vents, and smell my cup of coffee... While I watch out the window at the early snow, I will be grateful for being alive and aware and acknowledge it. I'll hope you can find a moment like this in your day, too.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In English, Please!

This is one of those days when I say, "It's good to be Queen," as I know I am talking about something that might make some uncomfortable. So be it. It's not going to be politically correct what I write here. That's just fine. I believe that political correctness is the most insidious form of censorship ever and we would be well shed of it. That's a battle for another day. Having said that, read the rest of this entry being fore-warned.

I called Proctor & Gamble today to talk about a product; doesn't matter which one. Let's just say, I called an American company and the customer service call center is located in America. I checked that because, sadly, so many aren't located here anymore. The nice rep I spoke with was an American citizen; checked that, too. She was speaking with me, an American customer. With me so far?

So, explain to me why, when first tangled in P&G's voice jail system, an American sounding woman on the recording says, "Thank you for contacting Proctor & Gamble. To continue this call in English, please press 1..." ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Press 1 to continue speaking in English??? Press 1!

How about, we just continue the call in English which, while not the 'official' language of the United States, is pretty much the national average? Press 1?! How about, if you don't speak English and need assistance in your language, YOU press a button to get the call converted into something you speak?!

Press 1? I don't think so. I'm not against cultural diversity in any way. Am not against it. After all, I'm only second generation in the United States. Trust me when I tell you that having a multi-cultural world, to my mind, is a great thing. However, I speak English as an American citizen and even with the cacophony of cultural dissonance in this country, I expect English to remain paramount. It is my express wish that it be so!

I resent so much of what we do in this drowning tide of political correctness. I do not suggest that we shouldn't be inclusive as much as possible, but we're headed in the wrong direction now! I respect cultural norms and practices. I find other countries and languages fascinating. I believe we're a stronger nation because of the varied cultures that live here. But, is it impossible to celebrate our diversity and remember that we must have things that unit us as a nation? Is it too much to expect that one of those points of union might be speaking the same language? Why does it seem that we constantly look for ways to splinter our population into slivers of difference pandering to the false god of diversity? Why has the goal of being a United States of America fallen in importance?

I am sad that I am not bi-lingual; I should be. I should be fluent in Albaneze which is a dialect of Italian that grew out of the flight of Albanians into Italy. So, what happened? It's Louisa and Nick's fault. When my grandparents arrived here in 1907, they did not speak English. They were not educated. Both could barely sign their names. They did what all hard working immigrants did in their new homeland- they took jobs they could find. Others helped them learn their way around in this strange land they had chosen. They found teachers who could help adults learn English and rudimentary reading and writing. Over time they prospered and became American Citizens.

Nick and Louisa only spoke to a couple of others in their native language. I often heard them speaking to my grandmother's brother, Joe, in that exotic blend of Italian with gypsy. I loved it. But, they did not speak it to their children or grandkids. Between Great Uncle Joe and Nanny & Pop, there were nine children. Except for two who picked it up on their own by listening, none spoke Albaneze because their parents believed strongly that, "We are Americans and we speak English now!" Deliberately, they would not speak their native language to their children. They were proud till the day they left this Earth that they had achieved the dream that America offers. They left their old world behind, embraced all parts of being American and that also meant the ability to speak English.

So, please, don't ask me to press anything to continue in English. Just don't. If you wish to live in America, don't ask us to accommodate your unwillingness or resistance to using English. When I worked for a month in Russia, the average citizen didn't speak English. There were no signs posted everywhere in multiple languages, none even written with the western alphabet. Any idea how hard it is to read Cyrillic? And, while I wanted to practice what little Russian I knew with my students and colleagues, I very rarely got the chance because they desperately wished to practice their 'American English,' as they called it! Back in my own country, I'm required to press a key to continue a call in English? My head's going to explode...

If I go to another country, I expect that I might have to ask for a translation. I do not go with the expectation that my lack of fluency in the native tongue will be accommodated. If someone comes to live in the U.S. the same should apply.

I will help anyone learn their way in their new country. In return, I learn customs and ways. Teach me to speak your language and I'll help you learn English! I am delighted that we are beginning to understand that we should be bi-lingual and intensely teaching other languages in our schools. But, English is universal; it is the language of commerce. It is the language in which world business is conducted. In most other countries, being bi-lingual is the standard; generally it means that the individual also speaks English.

So, if you speak other languages, outstanding! But, remember, English is the primary language in America. That's as it should be. I am not pressing a button to continue in English. Don't ask me to press one button. Nada. Nicht. Nunka. Nyet. No. Understood?

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Magic In The Air With Magic Me There

Michael, Evan, and I took advantage of this gorgeous autumn day and drove to the other side of Pittsburgh to Clear View Stables to watch Melissa and her mare, Magic Me There a.k.a Jeannie, take part in the horse show.

Jeannie and Melissa are at the beginning of their love affair with each other. It's been interesting getting to know Jeannie as part of our family. A retired race horse, she often finds it necessary to let you know that she's pretty superior in every way. Please don't forget it. Melissa is becoming increasingly adept at reminding Jeannie that she's the boss and not the other way around. However, the learning curve is pretty steep for both at times!

Today, in both of their events, they trotted away with blue ribbons. Extremely unexpected and impressive. We're very pleased and excited. But, more than that I'm proud of Melissa. It's not easy owning a horse...quite expensive! In order to have a good stable for Jeannie, her feed, and necessities, Melissa has basically taken on a second job at Clear View where she feeds, mucks, and helps in any way that the owner can put her to good use. It's countless hours of hard work in exchange for Jeannie's room and board. The return is wonderful for Melissa.

Cool ribbons aside, it strikes me that the real reason this achievement is so remarkable is that the two girls have gone through some deep heartache recently. Jeannie birthed an adorable baby boy about five months ago. Melissa named the colt, Connor, who quickly became the darling of the barn. The trouble was that Connor never could get his legs to work as they should. Although Jeannie was a devoted mother, Melissa an incredible owner, and Connor a willing spirit, his problems worsened. The sad day rolled around when we all had to accept that, despite everyone's best efforts, it wasn't ever going to work out.

So, a couple of weeks ago, on another beautiful fall day, Michael and I went to the stables to meet Melissa and some of the regulars, and spent time with Connor and Jeannie while waiting for the vet. Under the pure blue sky we gathered as Melissa held her colt and the vet ended his suffering. Let me tell you something about my wonderful Step-Daughter...she has been a vet tech as part of her professional life and has a great, earthy, no-nonsense, extremely loving way with animals. However, although she's assisted in hundreds of these merciful acts, she had never put down one of her own loved pets. This was a huge thing for her and she handled Connor's passing with grace and dignity even though I knew it was all but destroying her. Sometimes, doing the right thing is the most difficult thing of all.

Jeannie has struggled too...her equine brain trying to figure where her little guy has gone and returning to life as just another mare in the stables. Together, she and Melissa turned toward life and have moved forward. Slowly. But, definitely forward. Jeannie is gaining weight. Her personality is building; sometimes her thoroughbred attitude is a bit much, but hey, that's the joy of Jeannie! She's learning to depend on Melissa. And, Melissa needs her just as much.

Today our girls showed everybody what it looks like when two work as a team. And, as we left the stables, we passed by Jeannie's stall with its two blue ribbons hanging there to mark what it can be like when you start to participate in life after great sorrow.

Life does go on after tragedy; you can either move with it or let it pass by without you. I'm happy that Melissa and Magic Me There have moved with it. Watching them in the ring today, was a glowing reminder that even after the most sorrowful of storms, blue skies do return and blue ribbon days await.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Transition It Is, Then

It'll start happening with more frequency, I fear-- this getting news that someone you care about has lost their job will happen more and more in this recession. Down-sizing; right-sizing; fear-sizing. Sigh...

This is the second friend who, over the past few days, tells me they've lost a job. My friend today says it comes as a nasty shock. I think you always have that gut feeling prior even while telling yourself to ignore it as paranoia. Even so, when you hear it out loud, it slaps you flat. You panic; you wonder how you'll make it. You get angry and really, really scared. Friends unite in support saying the right things to sounds good for a second, then the feeling of uncertainty and dread washes back over you.

Having been uninvited to the corporate party a couple of times in my career, I find that I still don't have words to heal that hurt. I can only suggest that you make certain you don't make a bad situation worse by taking it personally. It's not personal; it's business. It's just business. Until or unless you hear someone say, "You're ugly and your mother dresses you funny," it's strictly business. Remember that. You end up wounding yourself more if you take it personally by wondering and churning and thinking negative thoughts about yourself or them.

Now what? You freeze..shut down. Some get really pissed-- I guess that's a coping mechanism that works for some. It never did for me. Instead, I tried to accept the decision because I know that I am always exactly where I am meant to be every second of my life. Even when it feels like ass. Even when it scares me silly. Even when it makes me cry. It's always for my highest spiritual growth and learning. So long as I remember that, and ask for the grace to walk through it, I know that Spirit sends what is needed when I need it. The same is true for all of us. I promise you!

Take the time you need to be hurt but only for purposes of moving through it. Try not to react with fear because that is the mind-killer. Fear has no place in your life. It does not serve. Do NOT rush ahead to the, 'what ifs,' and try to calculate how you'll make it. You can't see the future so it only creates more anxiety. Every time you find yourself doing that, say out-loud, "Stop!" Pull yourself back into the present moment, breathe, and realize that you are alive and everyone you love is close. Collapse your day to the current moment when you find you're scaring yourself to death! Minute to minute is all any of us have, really.

Let your friends support you. Accept a kindness where it is offered. Do not expect much, but never accept less than you deserve. When you are overwhelmed and can't remember who you are, turn to those you trust and let them remind you of the truth and wonder of you. Wait with patience and anticipation of wonderful things to come.

I am sure that many of us, in the upcoming months, are going to have to discover the courage to re-invent ourselves. But, really, every day of our lives we should be living with the courage to do that. So use this difficult experience as a means to practice living in the moment. It's Human nature, though, to get comfortable with and prefer what's predictable...what we have...what we know.

So, let me help you with what I know this minute. Let me tell you what you can count on. You are not your job; you are worth more than that. The fact that it's gone does not lessen you. You are not defined or constrained by a job title or what you did at the office. You are bigger than that! You are not alone. You are loved. You are wonderful. You will have help when you need it. And, you are being given yet another opportunity to stretch your wings and find out how you can fly even when the wind currents die or change. Have faith...we stand with you.

Namaste' Till Next Time,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Get Ready, Here We Go

So, here's the first installment of me talking with you. Why? Why would I add yet another blip to the blog universe? Well, it's your fault...all of you. Yes, you. How so? Because people think I, 'know things.' They think I have an interesting way of taking abstract concepts and emotional issues and putting those thoughts into words. It's my ability to cut through it. It's my willingness to share what I've learned and what I'm experiencing. The other day, a new acquaintance of mine, a very savvy exec asked me, "Holly, why aren't you blogging? You should be blogging!" I believe Spirit speaks to us in voices we can recognize. Alex was the third person to say something to me about blogging in a few days. Okay, so I hear You! I get it. So, here's me, finally finding the courage to do this in a public forum. Good for me! I hope, good for you as well.

I used to be an adjunct faculty member at Towson University, and many times about the discussions we had in class, my students always said, "We need to have more discussions like these. Why doesn't anyone tell us this stuff?" There's no simple answer to that. I suppose it's because those of us who have family only get told the, "thou shalt nots," and what to be fearful of...the stuff that teaches one how to get by in a world as complex as ours, well, not so much talk about those things. I used to think it would be just the females who were interested in my points of view, but the guys in the class would say, "We need to know this stuff, too!" So, come one and come all.

Michael, my beloved has always told his kids, Melissa & Evan, "Experience is the best teacher, but someone else's experience is even better." And, so, that's what this is about. I'll tell you my thoughts about being a Spirit-centered, sensual, sexual, aware Human Being. I will share my notions of spirituality and my connection with Spirit. I'll share my concepts of being a woman and the strength of living completely. You'll get to know my friends and family who are truly wonderful people. You'll hear me speak often of my dad, Jimmy. Now, he was a real character and the most insightful Human Being I've ever encountered.

So, back to your mom and why I titled this blog as I did. Turns out, your mother knows these things, but honestly, she's bound by the code of being a female and a mom and well, there are rules of engagement and etiquette. Me? There's good news and bad. The good news is, I'm not your Mom, so I can tell you what I know to be true without emotional anchors. The bad news is that, I'm not your Mom. So, I'm not worried about hurting your feelings or making sure self-esteem doesn't suffer. That's on you. If you read something here and you don't agree, please, with the same respect I give you, let me know how you feel. If something you read makes you feel uncomfortable, dig deep and figure out what caused it. Let's talk about it when you have an inkling.

Understand something- you are important to me. Even if I don't know you personally, you are important. Your time is important; your view point is important. Your willingness to share with me is critical. Those who know me personally, who lovingly call me Queen of The Universe, know that they can trust everything that I've written here today. They know that I never forget my responsibility to the truth and the need to be kind and loving. For those I've yet to meet, let's take a walk of faith together and see how this goes. I believe it'll be an experience from which we both gain.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly AKA Queen of The Universe
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