Essays

Making Fun of Conspiracy Theorists is like Making Fun of Your Neighbors

We used to laugh at them. Watch funny documentaries about people who thought all sorts of “out there” things. We made jokes about tin foil hats and wondered how people could believe such things. We used to…

Photo by TJ Parker

Now, we are those people. As a society we’ve become them. We listen to all of these theories and speculations and we take them as truth. We follow along blindly, tin foil hats under our caps and hidden, but there. We don’t want big brother or those damn, fill in the blanks, to know we know, but we know.

No matter what side of an argument you are on, you are one of them now. Or it’s tempting to be. And like those foil hat wearers of the past, our forebears, we only believe our own sources. We don’t give any credibility to anything that goes against what we believe and “know” to be true. We are spoon fed and cajoled and frightened into believing the worst. The worst of the character of our neighbor, of our friends, of anyone who does not agree with us. They suddenly become other. You can’t trust those damn… those silly… those evil… those foolish… those people. And what’s more, some of those people are people we’ve known a long long time. Some of those people are people we care for. Some of “those people” are our people people. It’s a crazy thing.

I don’t know how we got so paranoid. So insular. I don’t know when it happened that so many conversations turned from the weather, the flowers, what was going on with our family, our work, our daily lives to can you believe what “those people” did? Can you believe what they said? Can you believe they actually think, act, feel, fill in the blank, that way? It’s so judgemental.

I like to think I’m immune. But I’m not. I’m in it too. I do it too. I don’t like that I do, but I do. I want to be better. I want to be free of it. I want to be IN my own life. Doing what I can do to better the lives of the people I love and who love me. Maybe even better the lives of the people I run into that I don’t know. You know?

This is culture examination and self examination all at once. I can’t fix what is happening in society. I can only change my own behavior. My own thoughts, ideas, and actions. I can only do what I can do, where I am at. So, I will try to. I’m going to try to. Be where I am. Love a lot. Be as kind as possible to those I know and don’t know. Be forgiving. Be gracious. Be gentle with the souls I come into contact with. People deserve that. Before all else, they deserve kindness. So do I. I deserve it too. I am going to refocus there. On that place of kindness. I am going to be open.

I am going to try… It’s time to start loving thy neighbor, loving my neighbors, again.

Essays · Family & Friends · Photography

Betty

My mother-in-law passed away a few days ago. It was unexpected and has been very difficult.

We were planning on leaving April 5 to drive from Illinois to California to see her. It’d been a year. A terrible year that included the death of my father-in-law 10 months ago, the death of our lovely boy Weston, and let’s not forget, COVID. Which is why we hadn’t been there in a year. COVID shut everything down, including us, and the visit we so desperately wanted to have with Betty after Don’s passing. It was devastating for K, but Betty kept telling her to be safe, for us not to come. So we were safe, and we didn’t go.

That morning K and Betty had a lovely exchange via messenger. Betty loved messaging K through Messenger. It was almost like a secret code she learned and enjoyed. They got to say I love you, which is everything. A bit later, she was gone. But K got to have that exchange, she got to say I love you, she got to hear it back from her Mom. It’s so important to say it. All the time. As much as possible.

Betty could be opinionated, tough, ornery, and sometimes difficult. But she was also full of fun and mischief, witty, smart, and she had a great laugh. She was fiercely protective of Don, as he had been of her, and she modeled, they modeled, a good, solid, loving, marriage and partnership. They loved each other. Truly and deeply. It was a beautiful thing to see. Life for Betty without Don must have been difficult. They were together for 71 years. Wow. 71.

Together Don and Betty created a beautiful family. Their children, each accomplished and successful in their own right, who themselves then made families of their own. And so it goes. The circle and cycle of life. Moving, flowing, creating, then leaving things better than they were when they arrived in so many ways.

For me, a person who came into the family 18 years ago, I loved them and felt honored to be a part of it all. Every family has it’s stuff, it’s difficulties, it’s rythmn, it’s joys and successes, and it’s love. My in-laws had love and a great history together.

I can’t seem to wrap my head around not seeing Betty again. That has been the most difficult thing for me personally. I know, for K, it is the same. Not being able to see her Mom again. It is devastating. But Betty would not want us to dwell there, or to be sad. She would want us to think of her with Don, together again. She would want us to think that she did not suffer and she got to live out her life in her own home, still fairly independent and free.

I will miss her sense of humor, that twinkle in her eye, her mischief making, her sharp mind, and yes, even her orneriness. Maybe most especially her orneriness. I don’t know why, but that part of her, the part that liked to poke the bear and challenge you was both infuriating and confounding and something to marvel at. She held her ground, stayed strong in her beliefs. I did not agree with her so many times, but I respected her strength and conviction. I respected that orneriness.

Betty was one of a kind. A truly unique soul. Someone I was very lucky to know, and very blessed to call family. I will miss her so. But now, looking across at my honey who is typing an email to her siblings, and thinking about them as well, I know Betty, and Don who left us 10 months ago, live on. They live on in K and her siblings. They live on in their children. They live on in the hearts and minds of the rest of the family as well. They live in me. Betty is still here, still present, and will always be. Love is an incredibly powerful thing. It holds on. It holds. And as we all hold onto each other through this, I will hold onto that as well. We all will. Love holds us. It holds.

Betty is holding us right now.

Essays · LiFe · Photography

That Time…

I have been, as we all have been, on edge. Anxious. Off-kilter. I think that’s probably the best descriptor. Off-Kilter. When I get like this I go into a sort of desperate, though not too desperate (I’ve been there and know the difference), searching for something to ease my mind, settle my soul, calm me the fuck down. I feel as though I can curse because it’s my blog, but also it’s 2020. If you can’t curse any other time, cursing now seems appropriate. I digress…

I am anxious, off-kilter. So many things have happened in our lives it would almost be funny, but it isn’t. From large (the passing of K’s dad, our boy Weston, and a friend of ours who had breast cancer… also getting into a bad car accident and totaling our Jeep) to smaller things (having to get a new fridge because our old one quit working, having our sump pump pipe break, dealing with things breaking or needing to be replaced at our rentals, etc.) it’s been a year of things not going quite right. Add to that the pandemic, and well… you know what I mean.

I haven’t been able to read much. I usually read at night, in bed, after K goes to sleep during one of the many documentaries (we prefer true crime documentaries in bed… I think that’s funny, but it is what it is). After she goes to sleep I usually grab the iPad and open whatever book I’m reading. I have a habit, if the book is good, of reading too late, not getting enough sleep. Lately, I can’t seem to get into any library book I’ve tried. I don’t think I’m going to make my goal of reading 30 books this year. I’m only at 20 or something. Goodreads tells me I’m 4 books behind schedule. I’m a reader, who can’t seem to read right now. So instead I look at movie lists and play different games on my iPad. I like this one particular word search game, but it has ads, I hate the ads but am too cheap to pay the 1.99 or whatever it is to get rid of them.

… I just read a newsletter from a friend that inspired me to finish this blog post. It was languishing in the draft section…

We keep trying to do things that help our moods. Saturday we drove about 5 hours, to Indy and back, to try and buy a chair at IKEA. Of course, with it being 2020 and all, they had the chair but not the ottoman. We ended up with a doormat in our cart and when we got to the checkout area the lines were so long we abandoned the doormat along with our cart and walked out with nothing. We got back in our new truck (the replacement for the totaled Jeep), greeted the girlie who we’d taken with, got her out and walked her around the grassy areas surrounding IKEA, jumped back in the truck, and found a nearby park so we could pull in and eat the picnic lunch we’d made and brought with. Then we drove home. Two hours there, about an hour and a half to shop and then eat our picnic lunch, and two hours home. It wasn’t a pack of peanuts, but it fit that bill.

Confused by the pack of peanuts comment? Let me explain…

There is a family joke that my grandmother, who we all adored, would drive 100 miles just to get a package of peanuts. She had a big sense of adventure I think we all admire. So when K and I called my Mom from the road back from Indy, my Mom said, you are like your grandmother, driving 100 miles to get a package of peanuts. Only we got nothing because they didn’t have the ottoman and the lines were too long to just buy a sweet new doormat.

K just reminded me of the hail storm we had. She was laughing when she said it, but it was a doozy. So many people we know here said they’d never, in their lives, seen hail like that. It kept the roofing industry going here, that’s for sure. We had to get a new roof put on our rental house because of it. Our roof, which is fairly new, only sustained minor damage. Not enough to replace it. Just another 2020 thing.

I know people keep saying that… it’s 2020. As if that explains it all. Maybe it does. Maybe there are just years that are hard for everyone. If I listed all the things that have not quite gone right for us this year, and some things pretty wrong, we would just start laughing. I mean… we were listing things off the other day and it was like, whoa… whoa nelly!

K and I play a game once in a while, I may have talked about it here at some point, I’m almost sure I have. It’s the perhaps game… when we see something interesting, strange, odd, we try and guess what it is, what it means, etc. As in… perhaps it’s this, or perhaps they mean that… we go back and forth, getting more and more ridiculous, we always end up making each other laugh. This year has provided its own game… it’s called That Time… it goes like this… remember that time, or how about that time we, or that time that thing happened, etc. We go back and forth naming off things that have happened… we can’t believe it all. It gets ridiculous, but it’s all true.

We are heading into winter now. Colder temps are arriving. We’ve managed to stay at least a little sane by being outside a lot with the grandkids so we could keep seeing them. Our visits are now going to be shorter. It’s hard to spend tons of time in a mask. For us and for them. For everyone. This is going to be a challenging few months.

We will be fine. We’ll take drives, take walks, make more picnics to eat in the truck, meet friends for socially distanced coffee (outside if we can), try and find things to do with the grandkids like cold winter walks in parks, maybe some sledding when we get snow. We’ll get through it. Movies and music and books, when I can read, all help. Love helps. Love always helps.

Soon it will be 2021 and we’ll play the That Time game, referring back to 2020, and we’ll shake our heads in disbelief that so many things happened in one year…

Here are some things I (we) have done to ease the restlessness and that feeling of being off-kilter…

  • We participated (and still are) in the great pumpkin hunt. Our park districts in our twin cities have joined together, putting painted rocks in parks for people to find. It’s silly, but I kind of love it. It’s a treasure hunt of sorts, which is always right up my alley.
  • I got on Letterboxd and made various lists of films, tried to find all, or nearly all, the films I’ve seen, and categorized them. It’s fun times for a nerd like me.
  • Speaking of films, I used the updated 2007 AFI 100 list and watched all the films I hadn’t seen on that list. The next step is to get the list of Oscar Winners and see all the films on that list I have not yet seen.
  • We’ve played mini-golf with the kiddos a couple of times.
  • We played frisbee golf with the kiddos, and by ourselves, a few times.
  • We went bowling with the kiddos when we realized they had instituted covid precautions we were OK with at the bowling alley.
  • We’ve met friends in parks and outdoors at coffee shops for some socially distanced chat time.
  • We’ve done a few little projects here at home, like cleaning out all of our extra electronics (old laptops and iPads and phones and Apple Airports and cords, etc.) and recycled them through Apple’s recycling program. It’s a great program if you’ve never used it. You can recycle all sorts of electronics through it, they don’t have to be Apple.
  • We made a silly lip-sync video that made us laugh and laugh and still makes us laugh and laugh.
  • We’ve gone on a lot of walks.
  • We are playing fantasy football again this year, which is always fun.
  • We have watched our friend, Larry (and a one-time guest spot by his wife, Lindsey) perform on Instagram nearly every Friday since March. It’s always a bright spot in the week.
  • We’ve talked to neighbors over the fence and on the other side of the street many many times. The connection is good, our neighbors are great.
  • We’ve messaged and Skyped with the family to check in and commune.
  • I’ve made a playlist or two for friends and for myself.
  • We’ve tried to take solace in the normal things that always bring us solace… the sound of the wind chimes, the changing of the seasons, the beauty that is everywhere in nature, and the souls of the people we love.

I’m going to try a new game right now. I just thought of it. It’s also called That Time, but it goes like this… remember that time that friend said that thing that made me smile… remember that time the light was perfect through those trees… remember that time my Mom called me when I needed it and she didn’t even know I needed it… remember that time K smiled at me her little smile… remember that time that cup of coffee was perfect in the morning… remember that time when something was magical, seemed magical… remember that time when the grandkids laughed and laughed… remember that time the girlie snuggled up to me and pawed me to get some pets and it was so cute… remember that time when things went right… when things worked out… when love was all around us… remember that time…

Essays · LiFe · Riley · Weston

Inside The Glass

Photo by TJ Parker

I feel worn down.

This is not an uplifting missive, as is usually my way, about kindness and joy. Though those things are still trying to claw their way up out of me.

I feel worn down.

This has been a tough few months for everyone, I don’t deny it. The virus, the violence, the continued finger pointing one side to the other (whatever topic you pick there are two sides), days of isolation and separation and fear.

I devour the news, the numbers, the opinions about the numbers. I look for rays of hope, possibility.

Right now I’m looking for rain. It’s been hot here, muggy, for several days. We’ve had bits of rain, but nothing cooling. We need a little cooling off. Doesn’t everyone?

We lost K’s dad a month and a half ago now. It seems like longer, and yet, not. We just lost our boy dog as well. Just a week and a half ago. I’m still sad about both. I picked up our boy’s ashes yesterday, trying to picture taking them to his favorite spot, a particular beach in Oregon, releasing him there, letting him run forever. I cried in the Jeep after picking them up, feeling the absence of him.

I’m trying to get up. Be up. Look up. I’m trying.

Today is another hard day, I can tell already. I’m not fit for consumption. Meaning, I wouldn’t visit me if I were you. I’m not exactly a bundle of joy right now.

I feel worn down.

This is a temporary thing, these feelings, the way I feel right now. I know this. Logically, I do. I know I’m going to bounce back or up or some other direction. It’s inevitable. Plus, with my usually positive outlook, it’s in me, my natural state, I know I will. I will.

But… I feel worn down.

I need more coffee. I need to pet the girlie. I need to hug my wife. She is sad too.

The world moves on and you grieve. You keep grieving. Wheels turn, people live their lives, they don’t forget, but they get sidetracked by their own stuff. Of course they do. They fail to see that you are still grieving and hurting and sort of stuck where you are. You put on a good face. You laugh appropriately and ask about their days and you mean it. And yet, you feel a sort of black hole inside. An emptiness. No one notices it. You try and camouflage it. You do a pretty good job.

This is not my only experience with death. I’ve lost grandparents who I felt close to and a father and a step father and another step father. I’ve lost cousins and uncles and an aunt. We lost my Mom’s best friend when I was in college. This is not my first rodeo.

There is no point to this post other than to say I’m feeling worn down.

Loss makes you think of other losses you’ve had. I am not immune to the feelings of it.

You look at people living their lives and you envy them. They don’t know you are living in a bubble where time has slowed down. Stop motion is what’s happening over here right now. You?

I don’t know.

It’s freeing to say those words. I don’t know. Much more than saying, oh, I know. I know. I know. I don’t.

You know what it feels like right now? It’s like this…

The other day a spider was running across a wall in our house. I grabbed a glass to capture it so I could release it outside. Yeah, I don’t kill them, I try to save them. Anyway…

I just got a picture in my head of a giant glass coming down over me. People can see in, I can see out, I’m not in distress inside the glass, not really. In fact, I have a nice comfy couch and a tv and a laptop and great music and food. I have my girlie and my wife. But I’m in the glass and there is this separation. I feel the barrier. I know it’s there, even if I can’t physically see it. I can even say hello and wave to people on the outside of the glass. They can wave back. But the glass is there. It’s there.

I need more coffee.

Writing helps. Gets it out of me and onto the page, as if I’m getting that treatment, cupping it’s called, where they put the hot glasses on you and it’s supposed to draw out the toxins. My toxins are getting drawn out.

I’m trying. I’m trying. I’m trying. We went for a walk earlier. We sat outside this morning with our first cup of coffee before the heat started to kick in. Yesterday I watered the flowerbeds and the lawn for three hours, moving the sprinklers when necessary.

I’m still living life. Laughing and smiling at times. Meaning it, feeling it.

We’re in another excessive heat warning today. We’ve been warned. It’s going to be hot.

We could go for a drive. Go to the drive in. Do something. See something. Be somewhere else. Today is not a good day for any of that. I’m afraid I’d take this with me.

I hate wearing a mask. Just saying. It’s necessary. But I hate it.

K is going over to the rental to meet the sprinkler guy in a bit. Regular life stuff. The system needs to be serviced. I’m staying home with our girl, who just had minor surgery and has a big incision that has to heal, because we don’t want to leave her alone right now. We need to watch her. So I’m staying here. That’s OK. We’ll hang.

Poor her. She is deaf now. She is old too, will turn 12 at the end of this month. She can’t hear, is getting weaker in her hinds, and is sad herself, still grieving her brother. She’s never known life without him. She keeps looking for him. I love her so, our little spitfire.

We commiserate together. She and us. Our tiny family of three.

I feel worn down. Which doesn’t change the fact that I need more coffee right now.

I’ll get more coffee right now.

Photo by TJ Parker

Essays · Family & Friends · LiFe · Photography · Weston

The Life And Times of a Sword Swallower

This is the first morning in over 13 years I’ve gotten up and haven’t then heard the sound of little paws coming out to find me.

Weston was my shadow. My boy. He wanted to be where I was, most all the time. Following me downstairs when I went to fold the clothes from the dryer, outside if I went to look at the blooms in the yard or just to hang out on our deck, into the kitchen or the dining room, following me into the living room with hopeful eyes that I would sit in our chair and he could join me, settling himself against one of my legs. That guy even followed me into the bathroom where I was supposed to pet him until I was done and would then say OK which was his signal to move along.

He loved love, more than anything. He loved pets. He was insistent about them. Pawing or nosing your hand to let you know it should be on him, and no where else.

Don’t get me wrong. He was cantankerous. We’ve all been bitten by Weston. K and I more than once. He didn’t like certain things… to be picked up like a normal dog around the middle, to have things taken from him that he’d procured somehow, to have someone reach at him if he was in places he considered his den at the time, or just to try and help him when he didn’t want to be helped. He was independent, to a fault, but that was his way. And he would let you know it.

He was our little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The most loving dog you’d ever meet who wanted nothing more than loves from you and to give kisses right back and the snarky cantankerous boy who would have none of whatever he would have none of.

We loved him so.

Our little man was an amazing thief. He stole things all the time. We realized yesterday, as we picked up after ourselves, that we’d been thoroughly trained by him to not leave a paper towel or Kleenex anywhere he could get it. He would steal it immediately. He loved to rip up and eat those things. We’ve lost many pairs of glasses and Kleenex and post-it notes and paper towels to him over the years.

He even ate things he shouldn’t. Things that were dangerous for him. We were talking last night and laughing, amazed, at all the times he grabbed things and tried to eat them, or just swallowed them in a hurry so no one would try and take whatever it was from him. We called him the sword swallower because when we first brought him home, and he was so very tiny, we’d given him this bone we’d gotten for him. We were leaving him alone in the house for the first time, in his playpen, and we wanted him to have something good while we were gone. We weren’t gone long and when we got back we couldn’t find the bone in the playpen. We couldn’t find it anywhere. What’s more, he had this weird look on his face. Sort of surprised and slightly distressed, though he wasn’t acting distressed. We took him out of the playpen and he ran off into the living room where he jumped up on his chair and ottoman. We walked out of the room, walked back in, and there was that bone, all 6-8 inches of it, harked back up, out of him onto the ottoman. Lordy. We knew we were in trouble with him from then on. And over the years we were proven right. He stole and tried to eat a rib bone, same result with the harking it up. When we were camping once he found a piece of sausage someone had wrapped around a stick and then put hooks on and used to fish. Don’t ask me what that was supposed to catch, but there it was, discarded on the side of the river, and who would find it? Weston. Of course he would. He got a hold of it and then carried it around. We kept him walking so he wouldn’t try to start eating it because we knew the hooks would be disastrous. We got back to the Jeep and took out our bite gloves (yes, we had heavy cowhide work gloves we carried that we called bite gloves for times just like this when we had to get something from him or do something to him we knew he wouldn’t like). K managed to snatch that thing from him. To this day I don’t even know how she did it. And there was that time, road tripping as we do, when we were walking the pups near this gas station (sometimes there just aren’t great spots to take them on the road) and he found a petrified hamburger. It was hard and because he thought we might try to take it from him he tried to swallow it. He started to choke. I thought, right then, Oh God, he’s going to choke to death. I was trying to figure out how to give him the Heimlich maneuver and low and behold he managed to get it down. One time we’d returned from Europe and we had a bag of these really good chocolates inside a zipped up backpack. In fact, they were in a bag inside the backpack, inside a closed closet. He managed to get into the closet (it was a slider), get the backpack out, open the zippered compartment, open the package of chocolate, and eat them all. We were horrified. We called the dog poison hotline and were told we had to get some hydrogen peroxide down him so he would throw up. So there we were in the bathroom, on the tile floor, me holding him and getting the crap scratched out of me for it, and K pouring peroxide down his throat. It worked, he threw most of it up. But man oh man, what an incident.

We had to be hyper vigilant with him. He did what he wanted and sometimes that was dangerous for him. He didn’t care. He was Weston, danger dog.

He was also a smoker. He loved to find cigarette butts on his walks. If he found one, he would eat it. So we had to be vigilant when we walked him, butts, unfortunately, are everywhere. Crazy dog. We would joke that it was time to take Weston our for his smoke break. Because as much as we tried to keep him away from them, we was sneaky and got them anyway.

He was a smart little guy. Too smart. Too cunning. A true mischief maker.

K used to take him to her office once in a while, long ago when she had one. There were like 100 proof machines and next to each one was a garbage can. He loved garbage cans. Or a better description, he loved to knock garbage cans over. He was always looking for whatever treasures he might find there. Her staff would laugh when they came back in and ask her if Weston had been there. They knew he had because every garbage can, every last one, would be tipped over. When we visited anyone, my Mom, K’s parents, we had to make sure we went in first, his advance team, to put all the garbage cans up out of his reach. We had to scan for candy, or wrappers that might be places he could grab them, and move those things up high enough he couldn’t get to them.

Here at home he got into all sorts of mischief. You couldn’t leave your coffee cup sitting next to your chair for even a moment because the second you left the area he was there, drinking your coffee. He was a master thief, lying in wait, watching all the time, waiting for any opportunity. He pulled things off shelves in the kitchen. We had to organize with him in mind, and even when we did he still went for things. His reach, for being small in stature, was amazing. One time we came back into the living room and found he had managed to pull this old package of instant breakfast we had shoved to the back of the top shelf in the cart and forgotten about. He shouldn’t have been able to get that, but somehow, he did. We found him standing over the ripped up package with powder all over his muzzle. We re-arranged our shelves, again, for him after coming up from watching TV to find him in the living room with a bag of sugar he’d managed to somehow pull down off the shelf, drag to the living room, tear open, and enjoy. The most hilarious thing was the time we were downstairs watching TV in the evening and he had disappeared, which was always a bad sign. Suddenly we heard a loud bang. We both ran up the stairs to find he’d gotten a box of cans of green beans off the bottom shelf, drug it into the living room, and torn up most of an end of the box. I’m not sure how he thought he was getting into the cans, but you know, after everything he’d pulled off, I wouldn’t have put it past him. There is an endless list of things he stole and ate, or tried to eat. A classic was the time, when we still lived in Oregon, I’d set an egg salad sandwich on our pool table while I went into the kitchen for a moment, thinking that was a safe place out of reach for him. No. I came back and my sandwich was gone. He’d managed to jump up onto the sectional, get on the back of the sectional, and jump to the pool table to get to the sandwich. He liked to jump into chairs that were left out to get to tables. We felt like he could’ve been a circus performer in another life.

Every night he had the same routine. As we got ready for bed and after they went outside to do their business he would, as we brushed teeth and got some water and changed, go into K’s office and rummage through whatever pants she’d been wearing that day. He pulled them down off of wherever she’d put them and went through her pockets. If there was anything… Kleenex, cough drop, candy wrapper, he would get it.

A standard phrase yelled in our house for the last 13 years has been, “TREAT!”. It was our way of getting him inside if he was barking at a neighbor (he was friendly to them, but wanted them to pet him and if they didn’t, or until they did, he would bark at them) or a squirrel he’d run up a tree. Yelling “TREAT!” was also our way of getting something away from him he shouldn’t have. Again, we were trained, not him. We couldn’t just take anything from him because of his snarkiness so our option was to bribe him into letting whatever it was go. It worked, but really I think it was all just part of his plan. He would steal something he knew we didn’t want him to have, we would offer him a treat to give it up. Pretty smart. But then, he was a very very smart dog. It was a blessing and a curse, and also the reason for his name.

Weston. Our beautiful boy. He was named after his birthplace, Weston, Oregon. It’s in the Blue Mountains, and it’s lovely. As we were driving to pick him up we’d already picked out a name for him. We had a tag and everything. But when we picked him up and he looked at us with those deep brown eyes, eyes that looked into you, that felt like they were a thousand years old, we knew the name we’d picked wasn’t right. We felt like he looked studious, nerdy, deep thinking. K said, he sort of looks like he should be wearing little glasses and a blazer. Kind of like Harry Potter. We laughed, but it was true. So on the drive back the name change process began. I don’t know how it happened, which one of us thought of it, but somehow in that conversation, as we were running over things, where was he born, intellectual people we could name him after, etc. we said the name of the town. We looked at each other and bam, that was it. Weston. Perfect somehow. Perfectly him.

You know, the funny thing about him, and about his snarkiness, is that we always warned groomers and the people at his vet office about his snarkiness. We always said, watch him, don’t try to pick him up around the middle, cradle him to pick him up, don’t try to take anything from him if he gets anything, etc. We did this every time. We didn’t want anyone to get nipped. But he never bit anyone at those places and in fact everyone always told us, when we picked him up, how wonderful he was. How loving. What a great dog he was.

And he was. He was a great dog. He was the best boy. Snarkiness, and stealing, and mischief, and all. Because with all of that came so much love from him. So much joy. He loved to go for walks and play ball and play with his toys and chew on his bully sticks and run on the beach. The beach was his favorite place. When we could let him off his lead he would run like the wind, chase balls, get sticks, dig holes. He ran and ran, he played, he chased birds, then he would trot over periodically to get a pet or two, giving you little gentle kisses to let you know he loved you as much as you loved him. Letting you know he was so grateful to be there with us, in whatever place we were.

He was our boy. Complicated and intense and a pain in the ass and so loving. So loving.

He had our hearts, and still does. He always will. Our beautiful boy. Our sword swallowing mischief maker. Our one of a kind, full of personality, wonderful, beautiful boy.

Sleeping

March 1, 2007 – June 28, 2020

Essays · Fuji X-T30 · Nature · Philosophy · Photography

Making Lists and Wondering… What the Hell

May 16

I’ve been making a lot of lists.  Movies to watch, tv shows to watch, dystopian books I’ve read, tasks to do, tasks done.  I’ve worked on budgets for us, for K’s parents, for the rentals.  I’ve walked the dogs with K, perused random things on the internet, and read too many news stories.  We’ve planted flowers after doing the whole social distance shopping thing to pick up the flowers.  I’m restless.  I know you are too.  We’ve watched the birds, purchased more than our share of oranges and jelly to feed the beautiful migratory Orioles, purchased bags of seed in that same social distancing way we shop for everything now.

Photo by TJ Parker

The girlie is standing on our deck right now shaking.  She’s staring at the back door and shaking.  K is making sausages for breakfast.  Riley is shaking.  It makes no sense.  I think she’s expecting disaster to strike.  For the smoke alarm to go off or some other big sound she knows she will hate.  It’s happened a couple of times before, the smoke alarm going off.  She knows this.  She does not trust sausage or the oven.  She is preemptively shaking.  I am too.

Aren’t we all?  What the hell is up?

I like to keep track of things.  I count.  I love when Goodreads tells me I’m “on track!” to complete my yearly reading challenge.  11 of 30 books read so far this year.  I just finished a good one last night.  I have a list at IMDb of movies that have yet to come out or have already come out that I want to see.  I have lists of movies I’ve seen.  I time the coffee when it’s steeping.  If I forget to put the timer on I count.  I’m slightly obsessive.  Who knew?  It doesn’t really surprise me, though I just noticed it recently.  

Things are quieter.  Not in my head, no, not there.  But quieter.  We were walking last night and actually commented on how it was so quiet.  Not as much car noise.  Not as many cars.  People were out walking as well, but in hushed tones. Crossing the street to keep the 6 feet rule intact.   I feel like we’re all hushed and waiting.  Sometimes holding our breath, hoping the big bad runs past us and doesn’t see us there, hiding behind that bush.  Everything is a movie scene in my mind.  

The weather is turning.  Finally getting warm.  It took long enough.  Of course we’re also in the middle of storm season so it’s warmer, but stormy a lot.  We’re taking advantage of some sun right now and enjoying our deck.  Dogs on dog beds or the chaise lounge.  They love it out here too.  We have a playset in our yard.  The grandkids have used it quite a bit over the years we’ve lived here.  We added an extra slide and a mini climbing wall.  Sebastian helped K build the climbing wall.  There are places for two swings.  One side has a swing on it and the other just has chains hanging down.  We had a baby swing there for years, but they are all too big for that now.  We took it down and gave it away meaning to get another swing seat for that side.  We haven’t done it yet.  We may never.  The grandkids haven’t been here in months now.  Not since before we left for the West Coast, before all of this really took off.  It makes me a little sad looking at those chains.  No seat.  Maybe no reason to put one on it.  We even started talking about taking down the entire thing.  We’re waiting.  Waiting to see what happens.

Maybe we’ll go for a ride today.  Get out and away from the house.  Go somewhere else to walk.  Look at other birds.  Stand in a different quiet place.

I’m struggling to have enthusiasm about much of anything lately.  It’s a problem.  I try to occupy my time, my thoughts, myself.  We buy plants, we shop online, I do the laundry and the dishes, K cooks, I have even cooked a little, K works, we watch TV and movies, we listen to music, we watch online streaming events, we make plans we hope we can keep, and we mourn the loss of activities we were going to do but that are now canceled.

We were going to camp in May and June.  Now we aren’t.  We were going to go to the pool with the kiddos a lot, we bought a pass, now we aren’t.  We were going to go to Ebertfest in April, we didn’t.  Dommy was going to go to Circus Camp at the end of June, he isn’t.  We were going to go to music in the park, we won’t.  We were going to enjoy the 4th of July parade and fireworks, we won’t.  

We’ve had quite a few mini disasters since returning home from the West Coast in March.  Our fridge went out and we had to have it replaced.  Our kitchen sink drain got plugged, some ancient, before we owned the house problem that reared its head and required a plummer, twice.  Our basement flooded because I didn’t put the washer drain plug back in properly and then ran a tub clean cycle, with bleach.  Many towels were used, fans were turned on, we took everything out under the stairs, the dehumidifier went into high alert.  One of the jugs of water we have in the basement for emergency supply leaked, after the flood was cleaned up mind you, separate incident, and got the stair carpet wet again.  We had to take all the stuff under the stairs from out again.  Fan plugged in and turning, again.  Drying things out.  At least the jug didn’t have as much water as the washer did when it leaked out.  A bit of a silver lining.  

A beetle just tried to commit suicide, accidental of course, in my cup of coffee.  It was wandering around the rim of it, then just plunged in.  I watched it struggle for a moment or two.  Flailing about, head under, legs going as fast as they could go, getting nowhere.  I took my cup and poured it into the grass to save the little thing.  It worked.  It started moving and I’m sure has wandered off by now.  I hope it’s learned its lesson.  Probably not.

May 18… 

It stormed last night.  It’s always so beautiful after a storm.  Deep blue sky, calm, hardly any wind.  Clear clean air.  We had so much rain in the last 24 hours.  Our rain gauge is nearly full.  Crazy amounts of water.  So much so we had ponds form in places in our backyard.  The streets flooded around here, where they are prone to.  The occasional car going by splashing it’s way through.  We could hear it, nearby.  

When it rains like that we get a pond on our patio we have to squeegee.  It’s butted up against the house and pools near a basement window.  We’ve never had it actually get deep enough to pour in the window, but it gets at least 2-3 inches deep.  We had to squeegee yesterday. Weston also wouldn’t go out to pee.  We had to leash him and take him to the front of the house so he could pee under the eave on the house.  We did this twice, trying to take him out.  We also leashed him and tried to take him in the backyard.  He had none of it.  Though he did pee on the house that one time.  Fun times.  It gives us anxiety for him when he won’t go out.  We know he has to go, he won’t go, he’s restless.  It makes us restless.

Our driveway is so slippery where the sump pump releases it’s stream of water.  It travels down that side of the driveway toward the road.  Not ideal, but changing it would require a major job and a lot of money.  We’re just not up for that.  Maybe someday.  But man… K fell down last night (onto a knee) trying to take Weston out to pee.  Umbrella in one hand, Weston in the other.  Slippery driveway.  Recipe for disaster.  She is sore today.  I nearly fell down taking out the garbage and recycling bins last night as well.  I didn’t, but I twisted in a way that I shouldn’t have.  I’m sore today.

We got a call yesterday morning about 8:30 that Mary’s dog, Wicket, had gotten out of the yard and was missing. The gate had blown open in the storm.  We went over immediately and started looking.  I was cruising up and down the streets in the big white van.  I’m sure I looked creepy.  I kept rolling down the window asking people walking by if they’d seen a little white dog.  No one had.  One guy said to me, now I know why you’ve been slowly cruising around the neighborhood.  Mary had said to me, laughing, I didn’t look creepy at all driving around in the big white van.  She was right.  I looked creepy.  K was walking looking for him.  We did this for an hour or so.  Finally Mary got a call from a neighbor two blocks over saying they had him.  Had had him since 1:30AM.  He kept setting off their security lights. Poor guy.  It was raining.  He hates the rain.  They said when they opened their door to see what it was setting off their lights he just ran in their house.  He’s old, crotchety, and doesn’t really care, so in he went.  Mary’s phone had been acting up and the woman had called her more than once.  Finally she got through and Mary and K walked over to get him.  When he got back to Mary’s he just ran in the house like nothing had happened.  Dogs.  I want to be them.

And another thing… our Jeep is acting up.  We went for a social distance drive.  Just us, a couple of bags of popcorn, some water, some binoculars, my camera.  We drove to some county parks.  They were too crowded to get out and actually walk anywhere, which was a bummer.  But we got out of the house, enjoyed each other’s company.  Listened to some music.  All was well until we got back into town.  Suddenly the Jeep is going wacko.  A message came on saying I had to put it in gear (it was in drive), it started shifting gears on it’s own, the battery light came on, and then it died at a stop sign.  I managed to get it started and we managed to get home.  We’re taking it to Bloomington today, if we can make it, to get it checked over, repaired, and serviced.  Saturday, after this occurred we rode the scooter over to the warehouse and picked up the van, so we have transport.  K will follow me in the van to Bloomington.  I hope we make it.  

You know how I said things keep happening… I wasn’t kidding or exaggerating.  K said to me this morning that it would be nice to have a day where nothing happened.  I agree.  Today we attempt to drive 50 miles to Bloomington in a Jeep that doesn’t want to work.  We’re hoping to make it, to not have to call AAA.  This is where I would put a fingers crossed emoji.

I have to check my lists today… see what’s to be done.  I just cleaned the bathrooms, changed the laundry over, and started the dishwasher.  K is working, in a meeting right now.  I can hear it.  Sort of.  She has the door closed.

It’s quiet in here right now.  No sound but the ceiling fan and the sump pump going off just now.  Quiet.  No one out, no one walking by, no one driving by.  Just me in this chair, Weston asleep against my leg, the hushed sounds of K’s work meeting. 

Time to get up, brush my teeth, and put on some clean clothes.  If we have to call AAA I don’t want to frighten them.  

What the hell?

Essays · LiFe

Changes Afoot

Hello all…

I’m going to jump right in… I’ve been restless with the blog.  Not sure how I’ve felt about it for a while now.  Do I get rid of it?  Keep going?  Change platforms?  Change the look?  Change?  Stop?  Change?  It’s a sort of weird mantra.  This annoying question.

I created a page at three other sites hoping to freshen things up, to give it a new feel, a new look, but not lose the content.  I failed three times.  The sites didn’t work like I wanted, the content wouldn’t transfer easily, or would, but then didn’t work when I followed the procedure.  A bunch of glitches.  A bunch of minor frustration, because let’s face it blogging isn’t rocket science or something that will change the world in any way.

In the end, I did what I’ve done in the past.  I started playing around here at WordPress with themes and style.  I trimmed some stuff here and there around the blog.  Extraneous crap, to be honest.  I mean, is anyone really looking at that stuff anyway?  And even deeper, is anyone really even reading this blog?  I’ve been blogging for 15 years.  Yep, you heard that right, 15.  I started at LiveJournal, moved to Blogger, and then came over to WordPress where I’ve been for ages.

Anyway… I wax on.  I ended up, once again, staying here because the content is all here.  I didn’t want to lose any of it.  But, I pruned and simplified.

It’s not for anyone else anyway, it’s for me.  And I couldn’t get rid of it.  I couldn’t get rid of those long-ago essays about my grandma and life and other deaths in my life, I couldn’t get rid of all the photos and travel posts and reviews, couldn’t get rid of my journey when I was sick, or of the myriad of little posts of poetry and art and the other quirky and strange stuff that sometimes catches my attention.

I’ve been in a social media trimming phase over the last several months.  I got rid of a bunch of sites I never used but was a part of.  I’m down to the big ones – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  I never tweet.  I will probably be getting rid of that as well.  Who knows.  It’s the same process we took with our finances at home – going over everything to see what works, what doesn’t and needs to go.  It’s a good process.  A spring cleaning of sorts.  It’s liberating.

So here I am.  Same old blog, same hosting site, but a new look, a new feel, a new “me”.  We’ll see how it goes.

 

 

 

Essays · LiFe · Poetry · Video · Weston · Words Written

It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day

I’m a huge fan of Nina Simone. My favorite song? Feelin’ Good. I like it in all its iterations I guess. Most people probably have forgotten all about Nina’s version and skipped right to Michael Buble. That’s OK. I don’t think she would mind. Nor would she care about the Muse version. I like that one a lot. Who sings it isn’t nearly as important to me as the lyrics.

I started really loving this song when I was 45. I liked it just fine before that, but when I was 45 I came down with a little bout of Leukemia. Music has always been huge in my life, songs associated with people, places, events.  Feelin’ Good got associated with my healing, my being alive.  It was a new dawn, a new day, and I was, after months of treatment, feelin’ good.

Photo by TJ Parker

Here I am, years later, still in love with this song.  Still associating it with the thrill of being alive.  Because, well, I am still thrilled to be alive.

K and I were sitting here talking the other day about how weird it was that it was going to be 2019.  How it seemed impossible in some way, that it was nearly 2019.  I don’t know why it seemed like such a big deal because, after all, it’d been 2018 for nearly a year, but somehow it did.  Somehow time has taken a leap.  The idea that 2019 was nearly here, and I’m still here, and though I’m older than I used to be, I’m not as old as I’m going to get.  If you’d asked me in 1983 when I graduated from high school what I’d be doing in 2019 I wouldn’t have been able to even imagine it, being so far in the future and all.   And now here we are, so far in the future and all.  Weird.  Not bad.  Just weird.

Friends of ours recently asked us to attend a party.  They asked everyone who was invited to bring a bottle of booze, an appetizer, and quote or song or piece of writing to be read aloud and shared. I think it was meant as a sort of send off to the year passing and a greeting of hope and inspiration heading into the new year.  Cool idea.  Sadly, we couldn’t go, but I was thinking about what I would’ve shared if we had. 

There are a lot of quotes I could’ve shared.  I’m a quote person.  Just see the inspirations page of this blog for proof of that.  The fact that I get nervous and shy at times might spur the use of a quote.  I probably would share a quote like this…  “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  ~  W.B. Yeats 

I could’ve shared a poem.  I’m a lover of all things poetic and have been reading and writing poetry since I was a wee sprout, sometime near 1983 I’d say.  I was 17 then, and graduating from high school, so my poems were very broody.   I might’ve shared a poem at the party if I happened upon or could think of one I thought might be inspirational.  Maybe the E.E. Cummings “I thank you God” poem…

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

 
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)


how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

 
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
 

 e e cummings 

(in ‘complete poems 1904 – 1962’)

Or maybe something by Pablo Neruda, Charles Bukowski, or The Type, by Sarah Kay.

If I had my wits about me I might’ve thought of something profound or witty or inspirational to say all on my own.  Possible, if I’d had my wits about me.  Sometimes they are vacationing and leave me searching for the right words, the right feeling, the right way to say what I want to.  

Weston is currently crying over K’s shoulder as she eats her morning oatmeal.  It’s the first day of the new year.  He likes oatmeal.  Sometimes all that matters is the hope that you’ll get the last bits of oatmeal left in the bowl.  That someone will remember you like them, and that getting them will make your day.  That those bits are what will bring you joy right at this moment.  And maybe the story of Weston and the oatmeal bowl is the only profound thing worth sharing.   It’s the simple things in life that are worth everything.  Finding moments of joy.  Moments of happiness.  Moments of peace.  We don’t need a lot to make us happy and joyful.  Bits of oatmeal left in the bottom of the bowl will do.  So I’ll say this… go out there and find your bits, whatever they are for you.  See them for what they are, for what they mean to you.  Relish them.

K has finished eating and Weston is now licking the bowl.  His crying has stopped and he’s blissfully enjoying this tiny moment of joy.  I’d say, like Nina, he’s feelin’ good.  A pretty great way to start 2019.

Essays · Family & Friends · Love

Fathers

I originally posted this in 2013, but thought it could use a re-post.

Fathers

I started writing this on Father’s Day and was, as can happen, distracted by actual life events.  Visits from family and then traveling can do that.  I nearly forgot about this post until I noticed it idling there, the red “draft” sitting beside it in my post queue.  It was important to me to get this piece of writing out there, so here it is… late, but no less important to me.

Originally, like most people, I started out with a Dad.  One.  He was full of life, fun loving, sporty, loved his coffee, loved to laugh and laughed a lot, went gray early, had false teeth, played the pedal steel guitar better than I’ve heard anyone else play it, had a major sweet tooth, was legally blind, and smiled with his eyes… Warm and full of love.  My Dad was a dork, which I inherited.  Totally goofy with a dork’s sense of humor.  I’m honored to carry that on.  I’m also so happy to have his sense of joy.  It’s the best gift he passed on to me.  That and his sense of play… and awe.

When I was a tad older, and not much mind you, Mom married Bill and brought another dad into my life.  For 33 years he was the man of our house.  Bill had a sly sense of humor, often a mischievous twinkle in his eye, a love of science and the PBS shows Nova and In Search Of, could fix nearly anything, was the best BS’er I’ve ever seen, adored his tractor, loved a good pancake breakfast, and loved my Mom.  Bill taught me to love learning, whether he knew it or not.  He had a keen and curious mind.  Always reading National Geographic, Scientific American, and the like, he was interested in how things worked. And even though he wasn’t much of a traveler he wanted to know about the world.  He was a guy who didn’t have a large formal education, but he was a very educated and very intelligent man.  Bill, or Billbsy, as Kev and I called him when we were younger, was a guy of deep feelings and strong opinions.  I didn’t often agree with his politics, but that was OK too.  Bill had the ability to talk to anyone and did.  I was always amazed at how he just struck up a conversation with the people he was around, whoever they were.  He taught me to fly fish, to love small Mom and Pop motels and car trips, and passed on to me a great appreciation for the mysteries of the larger world.  I am oh so grateful for those gifts and for the gift of seeing my Mom love and be loved so well.

A few years after Bill passed Mom met and married Don.  I recently, after Don’s passing, wrote a blog post about him so I won’t go into all the things about Don that impressed and amazed me, but I will say that after just having attended his celebration of life I was so awed by the number of people he affected in such a positive way.  He was an amazing father and grandfather.  He lived an amazing life and I was so honored to have had him in mine for a time.

I gained yet another dad when I married Karen and met her dad, Don.  From the beginning, even though Karen’s parents tend toward the very conservative, they accepted me, and our relationship.  I knew I was in when Don, one day, put his arm around me, called me kid, gave me a little squeeze, and smiled at me.  That small gesture meant more to me than I can express.  He has been strong, and wise, and has shown me love from the start.  I  also, see an earlier blog, had the honor of being chosen by him as the forker during a new in our relationship Thanksgiving dinner.  I won’t explain here, but needless to say, I was thrilled to get the job.  Don is steadfast, opinionated, warm, curious, and can, even still, move fast when he’s headed somewhere with a purpose.  He has a fantastic laugh and does it with a great twinkle in his eye.  He gets joy from small things, which has been a great lesson for me because when it comes down to it it’s the small things that matter.  He’s quiet, reads voraciously, loves his family and extended family with a passion, and is a solid rock of support and strength.  I appreciate his presence in my life every day.  And like I told him this Father’s Day, privately with a little kiss on his cheek, he is the only dad I have left and I love him so.

Lastly, when talking about Dad’s, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about my Grandpa, my Mom’s dad.  Grandpa, who I also wrote about in a couple of previous posts, was the epitome of a fantastic father and grandfather.  I learned so much from him… how to play cribbage and backgammon, how to tie my shoes, what a good person should be.  He had a love for life, an adoration of family, and a playfulness and sense of joy that was so strong it still flows through our family.  I was with some of the family this last weekend and I could see him in all of us.  Those were some amazing genes he passed on.  He is the father of my Mom and so through her, he also gave me so many gifts.  I was blessed to have him in my life for so long and am so lucky to be a part of him.

As I look back at this list of fathers, my list of dads, I am amazed at the quality of the men here.  They were nothing like each other, and yet the most important thing about them, their ability to love well, is shared by all of them.  Most people get one dad and I have been fortunate enough to have four.  They have been, and are all, each one, a blessing to me and my life.  Men, who might be reading this, and I know a few uncles, brothers, brothers in law, a son in law, friends, and cousins who might, you should know you are valued.  You, as fathers, are priceless.  You bring so much love, joy, strength, and happiness to the children in your life.  You might not know this, or be aware all the time, but you are so loved.  What you do, what you provide, is invaluable, and I, for one, am so thankful and grateful to you.  Watching you dads be dads is an amazing thing.  It’s a joyous thing.  So thank you fathers, mine and the dads I get to watch every day being fathers to their daughters and sons.  Thank you, and happy Father’s Day.

Essays · Family & Friends · Leukemia · LiFe · Love · Philosophy

Eight Years

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Photo by TJ Parker

Eight years ago today a doctor walked into my hospital room and told me I had leukemia.

Since then I’ve periodically asked a question of myself.  Not, as you might expect, why me, or even just why.  There is no why.  It was random, not predictable, and as far as we know not preventable.  It just was.  So the question isn’t why, but who.  Who was I then, am I the same person now, what did I learn from the experience?

I’ve written here about my philosophy of life a bit… which is basically kindness is key, our love for the people we love and who love us is all that really matters, find joy in the every day, and don’t lose hope about the things that matter to you.  But as this day rolls around every year I find myself doing a bit of an assessment.

I believe in forgiveness, in kindness, joy, hope, and love.  But, I’m not always the best at those things.  And on this day I find myself trying to remind myself who I am.  I find myself trying to forgive myself for the ways I know I’ve hurt people, which doesn’t let me off the hook for those slights, but it does let me employ one of my strongly held beliefs which is that each of us is doing the best we know how at the moment.  Sometimes our efforts aren’t that great, and we don’t handle things well, but at the moment we are only doing what we can with what we have.   It still means we have to try and do better, be better.  We owe our people that.  But, we also can’t continually beat ourselves up for the things we’ve done.  This is where apologizing comes in.  Sincere apology.  We admit what we’ve done, we feel it in our bones, the ways we’ve hurt someone, and then we say we’re sorry for it.  The apology is freeing for both people.  So I ask, have I apologized enough and meant it.  Have I forgiven others, have I forgiven myself?

Kindness.  Have I been kind?  To my people, to strangers, to myself.  Am I moving through the world as a kind person?  Do I say thank you, look people in the eyes, empathize, treat people with respect, watch out for their feelings, simply honor people as the beautiful human beings they are?  Am I kind to myself?  I hope so, I hope I do all of these things, but I know the answer is, I don’t always.  So I need to be more kind.  We can always be kinder.  I think there’s always another level of kindness to strive for.  I think the key for me is to be aware, to be present with people.  If I am, I’m kinder.

Joy.  It’s easy to get discouraged in life.  About our place in it, circumstances we find ourselves in, the state of the world.  The enemy of joy is fear.  So the key is to not be fearful.  But, that’s a tough one.  Having gone through this whole life-threatening experience I find myself afraid of the random and unknown.  Afraid of what could happen, suddenly, without warning.  This fear has no face or name or even bearing on what’s actually happening in my life at the time.  It just comes with large amounts of anxiety.  And when it comes it eats my joy whole.  Like a kipper snack.  So I find myself searching for ways to lessen the fear and find the joy.  I’m innately a silly, joyful person.  I’m a dork.  I can find joy in the smallest things when I’m not afraid.   So I’ve spent some time working on and continue to work on trying to be present in the small moments of life, which I feel is where joy lives.  In smiles and sunsets and dogs and wind in the trees and whispered secrets from grandchildren and laughs over nothing at all.  I try to remind myself to be present.  Nothing is promised to us, which certainly includes time, so we have to live now.  Be alive now.  Be joyous now.  This is a tough one, but I’m trying.  The wind chimes are going strong right now on the front porch, and the sound is magical, and there is joy in that.

Hope. It’s tough to be hopeful when all you see is the stuff that’s not working out.  But as I’m taking a look this year I find myself reminding myself that life is perception.  We see what we want.  Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes of all time.  It comes from the movie, The Abyss, “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and he sees Russians. He sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”  At the time the film was made the cold war was still in full swing, so the Russians were the bad guys.  But the point isn’t that part of the quote.  The point is the essence of it which to me means we see what we want to see, which is frequently driven by our personal fears, and we have to look with better eyes.  So, I can either see the world from a place of love and forgiveness and hope, or I can see fear, I can see enemies.  I try to come from a place of seeing people as friendly, as human, as trying.  Again, I don’t always succeed in this, but when I do, hope springs and the world looks different somehow.  Brighter, fuller, rich in color and possibility.  It is hopeful.

Love.  I believe in connection and responsibility to and for that connection.  Life is about love.  Who we love, who loves us.  It’s about how we love.  Do we say it?  Do we show it?  Do we let the people we love feel the love we have for them?  For me, this brings gratitude into my life and makes me want to share that gratitude.  To say how grateful I feel for the people and love in my life doesn’t even cover it.  I am sometimes overwhelmed by the waves of it.  Struck profoundly silent by the weight of all the love I know I have in my life.  But, it’s sometimes too easy to see what we don’t have in life, what we think we’re missing.  And in the muck of that, we sometimes forget to take stock of what we have, or even to recognize that it’s there.  Who we have and what that means to us.  Love is all around us.  It’s all around me.  So, as I go through this day I let that wave of gratitude for enormous and profound love wash over me.  Hold me up.  It did when I was sick.  It’s what got me through.  Even though I was semi-isolated when I was sick, I felt the love pouring into me.  Lifting me up.  Holding me.  I felt it.  And luckily, I feel it still.  If I sit with it for a few moments I cry.  Out of a gratitude so overwhelming it crushes me in all the right ways.  That’s where I want to live, where I try to live.  Even when things are tough, the love is there.  I have it, and I try to give it back.  We’re responsible for giving it back.  For loving, and loving well.

Eight years.  If I think of all the beautiful and strange and magical and messy things that have happened in my life in the last eight years I’m amazed and so moved by it all.  It has definitely not all been easy, and there have definitely been sad and heart-breaking times, but there have also been so many moments of joy and laughter and love.  And I guess maybe that’s the point of taking stock.  Which is to say, it’s a messy thing, life.  But it’s in the middle of all that mess we find love and hope, kindness, and joy.  And I remind myself, isn’t that an amazing and beautiful thing?

Eight years.  Eight years on top of the nearly 45 years before those.

Wow.  What a ride it’s been so far.

 

 

 

 

Essays · Holidays · LiFe

Gratitude and Grace

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

I had a great conversation the other night about gratitude and grace and the things that are important in life.  It was lovely, and a good reminder.

 

It’s very tough to not be overwhelmed by the things in life that don’t go as planned, the things in the world that are heartbreaking.  It’s easy to forget ourselves, forget the good and the light and the hope.  But this time of year, it’s all about those things.

There’s meaning in the little things, it’s really where the good stuff lives.  A smile, a sunset, a snuggle from one of the dogs, the laughter of a grandchild, light through the trees, a good meal, warm socks, a good hug, small kindnesses, small generosities, the bluest blue in the sky, music playing, walks in the crisp air, a good meal with friends, love, love in any form it comes to you.

I have no big message of thanks, this year, but will offer this.  It isn’t about the big things, the mighty changes, and large leaps.  Those things are rare.  What it’s about, and should be, are the small things.  Those little moments of grace and gratitude.  They are the meat of life, the soul of it.

And in that vein, we’re going to take the dogs out for a walk on this crisp Illinois fall day.  The sky is the most lovely blue.

Essays · Opinion · Photography

We Need to Remember

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Photo by TJ Parker

“If we are to survive the most divisive presidency in generations, it’s up to us to climb down our family trees and better understand how we got here. It’s up to us to ask fellow countrymen “where are you from?” with a lot less fear and a lot more wonder.” – Bill Weir, States of Change

 

We need to understand what drives us, our opinions, our ways of being and thinking in the world.  Why do we denigrate people with views different from our own?  Where is the wonder? Where is the respect?  Where is the humanity?

I was reading the transcript from CNN’s Bill Weir’s program called, States of Change, Homecoming.  His show, one I haven’t watched all the way through to fully disclose, is an exploration of his roots.  They are interesting to be sure, but that’s not what grabbed me. What grabbed me was the thought that we have opinions, some virulent, strong, unchanged despite our best efforts to be open.  Why is that?  Where do they come from?  Shouldn’t we be interested in that?

It’s easy to pronounce our opinions, to put down other opinions, to think we know best and act as if we do by spouting and re-posting article after article or meme after meme putting other’s opinions, lives, views, down.  Way down. That’s low if you think about it. Our opinions are made.  Made from our experiences and our feelings about those experiences.  We forget this.  We forget to put that big old magnifying glass we so easily point at others back at ourselves.  We are, none of us, without flaws.  Our views, even though we might passionately hold them, are not rule of law, are not even always a greater truth.  They are just our truth, our views.  We forget that.

What I’m saying is, we should be looking at our own views, at ourselves, to really examine why we feel as we do, and then, shockingly, be open to others who might feel differently.  They’ve had different experiences, different influences, leading to different views.  It doesn’t make them, or ourselves, idiots. Just makes us humans with different opinions.  I can believe something to be true that you do not believe it true, and vice versa, you can believe something I don’t believe, that’s OK.  Different opinions lead to varying solutions.  Varying solutions solve our problems.

I was also watching coverage of the Harvey rescue efforts.  Two rescued sisters were interviewed.  During that interview, they said they thought it was beautiful that in these divisive times, when people are standing firmly on either side of an invisible line, both racially and politically, that all is forgotten and the community comes together, no color lines, no political lines, to help.  It is beautiful.  What’s sad is that we need some disaster to remind us that we’re all human, that we should and do love each other.  No qualifiers.

I don’t know what all this means.  I feel I need to shout out into the void occasionally to say, remember… remember to love.  Remember to be kind.  Remember we’re, most of us, just doing the best we can to live our lives.  Remember we’re different, we’ve had different experiences.  Remember that’s OK.  Forget fear.  Remember to have wonder. Remember to be fair.  Remember to be gracious.  Remember to be gentle with the feelings of others.  Remember.  If we can, if we do, everything changes.  Love prevails, even in small moments, or big ones, like what’s happening in Houston.

We need to remember.

Essays · Rants

Time to Look in the Mirror

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

We see what we want to see.  That’s part of the problem.

I was perusing Facebook, which I must say prompts many posts on this blog, and I saw a theme.  Negativity.  Plain and simple.

There were posts about “those” people.  Of one sort of another.  You know them, the idiots, the ridiculous, the terrible, the stupid, the crazy, the deluded, the poor things… them.   They seem to be everywhere, “these” people.  They must be.  Everyone is talking about them.

Then it hit me.

We are a beautiful lot, humanity.  A tapestry like no other.  Preferences, likes and dislikes, and ways of being in the world that differ from each other.  We are sad or happy, diet coke or Pepsi, Chevy or Ford, Republican or Democrat,  dressing on the side or on the salad, rural or city,  cream or taking it black, gay or straight, married or single, serious or silly, tomAto or tomato, and on and on and on.  We love our families the best way we know how, we want the best for our kids or grandkids, we want to earn a decent living, take vacations, laugh a lot, and we want the right to live peacefully, with joy.  Each and every one of us.

But it’s not that simple.  Because what I noticed today, as I was perusing, was that people see what they want to see.  They notice what they want to notice.  I bet they don’t even know they’re doing it.  We seize on information, posts, articles, videos, that speak to us.  Things that in some way support our world view.  There’s probably a theme to how we post, what we post, etc., only we don’t even know it.

We need to pay attention.  To ourselves.  Instead of looking out at what that idiot said or didn’t say, which by the way, in and of itself, that language on its own, is wrong.  I would hope no one would put me in a class of “those idiots”, just because I happen to align myself with a certain ideology.  But they do.  Friends have posted many things about liberals being idiots or crazy or wrong or disturbed or… it goes on.  I’m shocked by it, every time.  Just as I’m sure some of my more conservative friends feel shocked or hurt when a liberal friend of theirs posts something about those idiotic conservatives.  Let’s be honest… none of us are idiotic.  We just don’t agree with each other.  That doesn’t make me an idiot, it just makes a person with a different opinion.

But I digress.   This doesn’t just apply to politics.  I noticed it applies to many things… the videos people choose to post, the things they choose to put out into the world under their own names…. it’s interesting.  Are you a person who posts things that are generally positive, generally informative, upbeat, things that speak to beauty and light and love.  I’ve seen those people, and honestly, I hope I’m one of them.  Or are you someone who sees the dark and the crazy and the wrong in everything and then feels the need to put it out there?  And if so, why? So others like you can agree how bad everything is, or so that you can enlighten those of us who may be Pollyannas who try to look for the good?  I’m not being rhetorical.  I really want to know.

There are people who feel the need to fight everything, against life and what they see as wrongdoing.  I get trying to fight for what you think is right.  I get speaking your mind and your truth.  What I don’t get is a person coming across some debasing or derogatory or hurtful thing and re-posting it.  What’s the purpose of spreading that kind of negativity?  If you have strong opinions, if you feel things are wrong in the world and need fixing, find what you think are some solutions, speak to issues from the place of problem-solving, not finger-pointing.  Re-posting terrible things, some not even based on truth, just for the sake of talking bad about someone or something, is wrong.  You aren’t shining a light on them, you’re shining a terrible light on yourself.

We need to look at ourselves.  Decide if we want to be people who create solutions, who seek a more beautiful world for all of us, or are we people who debase, make fun of, and act from fear.  Who do we want to be?  How do we want to live?  What do we want to be putting out there into the world?  What do we want to be teaching our kids about how to be in the world?  Hurtful to others, or uplifting to others.  It’s up to us.

Look in a mirror.  Look at your personal news feeds.  Look at everything you’ve posted in the last year and judge for yourself.  What kind of person are you?  Are you happy with that?  If not.  Change.  Let’s lift people up.  Let’s inspire with kindness and goodness and love. Let’s try to speak from joy.  From positivity.  From a place of understanding, humility, and love.

I know there are things wrong in the world.  I know there are things that need to be changed.  One of those things is people calling other people idiots or other derogatory names.  One of those things is people being hurtful just, it seems, to be hurtful.  Let’s start being, and communicating, like intelligent humans.  After all, we are.  Sometimes I think we just forget ourselves.  Get swept up.  Let’s be better.  Let’s look with better eyes and hearts at a world that is a beautiful, wondrous place.  Let’s talk about that.

52 thoughts · Essays · LiFe · Philosophy

52 Thoughts: Fifth Thought

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

I’ve been thinking.

Today the sky is blue.  It’s cold, but beautiful.  The birds are at the feeders.  The squirrels are trying to get to the feeders.  The dogs are chasing the squirrels.  They picked up our garbage and recycling today as per usual.  I’m listening to music.  We’re about to head to the gym to do some circuit training, then we’ll go grocery shopping.  Tonight we’ll make dinner.  At some point this afternoon we’ll try to take the dogs for a walk after we put the girlie’s sweater on, she gets cold.  We’ll eat dinner and watch some TV or a movie, maybe one we will be picking up at the library as we do our errands today.  My honey will work.  I’ll do laundry, empty the dishwasher, clean up the media room.  We will pet the dogs and cuddle them.  We will talk and laugh and smile at each other.

I’ve been thinking.

It’s a great life.  We have a great life.  It’s nice to remember that.

52 thoughts · Essays · Opinion · Philosophy

52 Thoughts: Fourth Thought

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

We have to hold onto each other.

It’s simple.  We need each other.  We always have.  No one person operates in a vacuum. We should be concerned for our fellow man.  We should find reasons to love, instead of reasons to push people away from us.

We get nowhere in life by isolating ourselves.  By only listening to ourselves and those who agree with us.  By thinking we have all the answers, that we know everything.

Certainty is good, but it should always be tempered by an open mind.  We should always be open to other ideas, to new ways of thinking, and to the fact that others might not agree with us.  Certainty doesn’t make what we think better than what those who disagree think.  That’s a common error.  Just because we believe something to be true, it doesn’t make our ideas better than the ideas of someone who doesn’t believe the same thing. Arrogance is never attractive and is often destructive to relationships and to the world.  We have to learn to accept that our way is our way, it works for us, but it might not for someone else, and that’s OK.  It doesn’t make them less than.

We need to hold onto each other.  To take care of each other.   We just do.

52 thoughts · Essays · LiFe · Opinion

52 Thoughts: Third Thought

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Photo by TJ Parker

Lately I’ve been struck by how much our culture has sadly moved to a do as I say not as I do philosophy.  If you want to relate it to politics, it’s both sides saying about the other that this or that has been said and it’s terrible, unconscionable, awful, then they turn around and say something equally as terrible, unconscionable, and awful and somehow that’s OK.  It’s as if people think they can say, post, write, whatever they want about a person or a thing, but others who might have an opposing opinion have no right or are somehow unamerican if they believe differently, talk about things differently.

One of the things I love about this country is the tapestry.  We are different.  We think differently about things, our lives, our problems, the solutions to our problems.  And just because I may disagree with you, or you with me, doesn’t make either one of us wrong. We just see things differently based on our personal experience.  This is where empathy comes in.  Or at least it should.

We get so caught up in our own stuff.  Our problems, our routines, the daily minutia of our lives.  Of course we do.  What’s happening for us on a daily basis can be all consuming if we are experiencing something tough in the moment.  It can be all consuming just going through a regular day.  Laundry and bills and work and dishes and cleaning the house and taking care of the kids and the kid’s schedules and our schedules and health issues and taking care of our pets and on and on.  It’s easy to be buried under it.  We have blinders on and get caught up in it all so that when we are speaking about something, looking at something and rendering an opinion about it, we tend to do it from our perspective alone. We forget that everyone else is going through the same thing, getting through it in their own way.  That’s millions of people and millions of perspectives.  Each based on their own philosophy earned from living their life.

So, what does all this rambling mean?  What am I trying to get at here?

We need to somehow remember that our opinions aren’t the only opinions.  That the views of other people mean something.  If nothing else they mean something to them. Honest criticism is good.  Honest criticism is necessary.  No one individual opinion matters more than another.  If you don’t like how I’m doing something, especially if it relates to you, or someone you care about, or a subject that matters to you, you have a right to speak your opinion about it.  I would hope you do it respectfully.  I would hope you would be genuine and sincere.  But I would hope you would say something.

Disagreement is good.  Calling someone out for doing something hurtful to others is good. Having a difference of opinion about how to run the government or raise your children or enhance education or clean up the environment is good.  It sparks conversation.  During conversation ideas are exchanged.  When we exchange ideas we come up with more creative solutions, we go at problems from more than one direction.  Things actually get done.

First though, we have to get over this silly notion of doing as I say not as I do.  Let’s instead do what we say.  Let’s expect that if we are critical, others might be critical of us in return. This does not make us unamerican.  On the contrary, it’s what makes us an American.

52 thoughts · Essays · LiFe · Opinion

52 Thoughts: Second Thought

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

People are good.  Inherently good.  For the most part.

I believe this.  I always have.

We just got done watching the Star Wars films, by the numbers, not in the order in which they were made.  Why do I bring this up?  Because the whole Darth Vader story is that anyone, if they give in to anger, fear, and hatred, can become dark, can become a force for evil, for negative energy.  Conversely, it also teaches us that there is hope, even for people who may be angry and fearful and full of hate.  There is good in us all.  Some of us may have forgotten it or refused to see it, but there is good.

OK, yes, this is corny.  But, it’s true.  Maybe not for the Emporer in Star Wars, who was so evil he could not be moved toward good, but even for Darth, there was hope.  There was a part of him that was good.  I know this is a weird time to bring up a character in a science fiction film, but I believe science fiction is often a good predictor of, and reflection of, where we are going and who we are, or could be.  It’s why I love it.

Many people I know want to look on these as dark times.  I guess, from a certain perspective, they are.   I myself fight against that feeling some days.  Yes, they may be challenging.   Yes, there may be things happening in the world that don’t jive with a personal point of view, and that’s hard.  It may seem dark.  It may even seem like there are evil people out there trying to do evil things.  Some of that is true.  Some of them are indeed the Emporer.  But, I truly believe mostly they are just people who don’t do things the way I or possibly you think they should.  Does this make them evil?  Inherently evil? No.  It can make them scary, for sure.  It can make them seem dark, absolutely, but they aren’t evil.  Most of them anyway.

We need to be open.  To remember to act with empathy. To try and see people for who they are, totally, realizing they’ve come from a place of having their own life experiences, instead of as just for what they’ve said or what they believe about a certain thing.  We need to ask questions, to listen to the answers to those questions even if they differ from what our answers might be.

People are inherently good.  If we start from that place, thinking that way, imagine what we could accomplish.  Imagine a world where people gave each other the benefit of the doubt, instead of just doubting.  If people acted from a place of understanding instead of fear.  From love instead of hate.  Darth might become Anakin all over again.  What a happy twist to the story that could be.

 

52 thoughts · Essays · Going Global · Philosophy

52 Thoughts: First Thought

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

It’s 2017.  I’m happy about it.  I kept waiting for it, ready to start anew.  Ready for a reboot.

Last year was stressful.  Surprising and tense and divisive and nasty.  Many good things happened in my life, but I was greatly affected by everything happening in the world, and that stuff, the stuff splashed all over mainstream media, was frequently disheartening and disappointing.

K and I spent the last weeks of 2016 doing daily random acts of kindness.  It helped both of us to be more positive.  To look at things from a different, and more uplifting, perspective.  We vowed, going forward into 2017, we would continue trying to look at the world from the place of kindness.  Continue to do random acts as they presented themselves.  I think we will.  We both believe kindness is key, a necessity.

I was thinking last night about the news, being affected by it, getting upset, etc.  After all, it’s still there.  Just because we’re in a new year doesn’t mean it all miraculously goes away.  I have friends who are so passionate about the state of things they are still posting political stuff on Facebook and Twitter.  I get incensed about certain events, just as they do, but I don’t post them.  It’s not my way.   My way is to post things I believe to be positive, uplifting, and kind.  It’s a different way of going at things, which is OK.  Mine helps me, theirs helps them I’m sure.

In that vein I started thinking about the effect all of this information has on me. Bombarded with news reports and posts about news reports and political events and health crises and how this thing or that thing is bad for you.  It’s easy to get sucked in, to focus on it all, to think that those things have significant value in my life.  But honestly, they don’t.  Yes, I do care about the world, I am concerned about a lot of it.  I am.  And K and I will be volunteering for a couple of organizations this year in order to try and step up and do something productive and positive.  But if I spend too much time thinking every day about all of it I’m not living right where I am.  I forget to look at what’s good in my life, there is a whole lot that’s good.  I miss appreciating great sunsets and how beautiful the light is shining through the trees.  I am not present.

It’s so easy to be distracted, to look outside my life and focus on what’s wrong with everything.  But that would be a disservice to my life, and I definitely wouldn’t be honoring all the magic that exists in my every day.  The way to honor my life, to live it fully, to be present in it, is to notice the magic.  To soak up the moments.  To put my focus on the people and the sunsets and the smiles.  To pay attention when I’m having a great conversation, or when one of my grandkids laughs, or when my honey smiles at me a certain way.  To honor this beautiful life I have to be responsible for feeling it, being IN it.

So to hell with bad news, crazy politics, and all the negative crap.  I can’t change the whole world, I can only do my small part.   I will act with grace, or at least try to.  I will be present and faithful to this beautiful, amazing, glorious life I’m lucky to be living.  That’s where my energy needs to be spent.  On walks and dog loves and kisses and hugs and music and beautiful words and great meals with family and laughter with friends and taking photographs and writing and silly and kindness and joy and love.

This is what I will do. That is all.

 

 

Essays · LiFe · Love · Politics

Time to Get Out and Rake

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Photo by TJ Parker

I was sitting here at my dining room table yesterday looking out the sliding glass doors to my backyard like I’ve done countless times over the last five years.  It was a beautiful fall day in Illinois.  The sun shining, the air crisp, the leaves falling in cascades and covering the yard. I realized we’d have to rake again soon.

We took our dogs to the vet for their yearly check up, some shots, a blood test.  They are good.  They did well during the vet visit.  They got some treats from the girl at the Espresso Royale drive-thru afterward as we got our large breves with an extra shot.

After the drive-thru we came home and had a visit with our daughter and grand daughter.  Our grand daughter is not much over one and half, her second birthday is coming up in February.  She is busy and curious and is speaking sentences, which is a little freaky, but oh so cool, coming from such a young one.  Our grandsons didn’t talk this well this early, so it’s a bit of an anomaly for us, but really awesome.  She played with shells and rubber duckies and blocks and a wooden bus we have that has doors that open and wooden people inside.  She watched videos of dogs and her Mama dancing and some muppets.  She laughed.

We took a run to our local Menards to get some door tab insulation.  I actually have no idea what they’re called, but they do really help to keep that cold Midwest air out of the house.  We also stopped in to get toilet paper and a 16 count box of fruit cups in real juice with cherries in them.  We call them cherries and all of the grandkids love them.  We like to have some on hand when they come to visit.

We made a great dinner last night of our version of chicken parmesan with broccoli.  It was awesome.  We watched a movie, held hands, pet the pups, and decided to go to bed early to continue watching Good Girls Revolt on Amazon.  If you haven’t watched it, do, it’s pretty damn good.

I was incredibly sad all day, we hugged each other a lot, and in fact at one point I had a good cry, but…

Life, mine, ours, is beautiful.  It goes on.  It continues to move forward.  One beautiful moment and day after another.

And, as my honey says, no vote can take that away from us.  We have each other, our love, our life together, no matter what.   She is amazing.  My rock, my center.  I love her so much.

Today I got up, turned on the High Hopes playlist I started making, poured a cup of coffee, sat down, we talked again as we’d done yesterday about places we might start volunteering, and I looked out to the backyard where we are having another beautiful fall day.  There are tons of birds at our feeders and the wind is hitting the trees and creating a rainstorm of leaves out there.

We are really going to have to get out there and rake.

 

Essays · Opinion · Rants

Shouting Out to the Void

970226_1264549013559639_2015577727281643272_nWe let ourselves forget we are all one people. People trying to be happy, to provide for our kids, to go on vacation, to pay our bills. We hug our children and grandchildren, laugh at silly jokes, watch movies, eat popcorn, tie our shoes. We want something better for our kids than we had, we want our grandchildren or future grandchildren to be happy, fulfilled, to find whatever success they might be striving for. We love our dogs and cats, fold our laundry, sleep, hug, cry, work in gardens, clean our houses, wash our dishes.

I don’t know when we forgot. I don’t know when that happened. Fellow man. Something you don’t hear much anymore. Do unto others. We might hear that some, but it doesn’t seem like people abide by it, or they do, but only sometimes.

Kindness, love, togetherness, a willingness to help each other. Without judgement or condemnation or a sense of being somehow better than someone else. I can tell you, you are not, I am not, better than anyone else.

I shout these things out into the world occasionally. Like now. I wonder if anyone is listening. If there’s anyone out there who feels the same. I’m filled with hope and sadness all at the same time. That’s life. Beautiful and ugly, soul killing and uplifting, all things at once.

Shouting to the void helps a little. At least, I say to myself, I’m putting out a positive message. I’m saying, out loud and in print, be kind to one another. Be gentle with the feelings of your fellows. Be empathetic. Be helpful instead of hurtful. Be understanding.

Essays · LiFe · Politics · Rants

After 10 Minutes on Facebook

I just spent 10 minutes on Facebook and now I have to write a blog post.

Oi!  I can’t take it.  Politics, division, divisiveness, people being crappy, showing their dark sides, thinking it’s funny.  It’s not.

I don’t care who you support.  I have my opinion, know what I’m going to do come November.  I expect you do too.  Why must we, over and over, post things on Facebook that are cruel character assassinations of candidates.  I mean on both sides.  I just saw it from both sides.

If you post, post something that includes facts, reflects your educated opinion, or supports your position in a classy way.  What’s with all the personal attacks?  Where did common decency go?  When did it become OK to publicly deride someone?  Sure, public figures sort of open themselves up for criticism.  So, criticize them intelligently.  I’m so sick of the memes showing one candidate or another with some intended to be cutesy, but isn’t, superimposed quote or other additions.  My God people.

We are better than this.  Our culture, with social media, has sunk so low that people think this crap is funny, when in fact it’s bullying behavior.  What are we teaching our kids?  That it’s OK, if you don’t like someone, to post something terrible about them, disparaging about them, out there for the world to see?  That it’s OK to make fun of other people?  That just because you don’t like someone you can publicly humiliate them?  Because every time something like all the ridiculousness I just saw is posted, that’s what you’re saying to your kids.  That it’s OK to bully, to deride, to act like a total ass, to treat others with disrespect.  And then, later, when your kid posts something about someone because they don’t like them, what are you going to say?  No no, you shouldn’t do that.  I guess that’s just a case of do as I say, not as I do.  We need to teach respect, kindness, love.  We need to be teaching you can disagree in civil way.  You can not like someone, but you don’t have to make fun of them, and in fact you shouldn’t.

If the goal is to get people to change their minds politically, you’ve missed the mark.  What you’ve accomplished is showing you can be mean, you can be nasty, you’ve shown your lesser self.  I don’t want to see that side of you.

Again, you don’t like someone, fine.  You don’t like them.  Feel the need to plaster your feelings all over Facebook… fine.  I’d rather see what you’re up to today, get a little photo of your shoe or your workspace or your beautiful smile, but if you must post something, if you just have to dip your toe in the cesspool, then be smart, be kind, be classy about it.  Simply post a status message saying… I support this person, and this is why.  Or, I don’t support this person, and this is why.  Re-post an article you think makes a good point.  Keep the slander, the meanness, the jerkdom out of it.  Would you?  Could you?  Will you?  Won’t you?

Crap, I’m slipping into Dr. Seuss… that’s how serious this has gotten.

I guess it’s just so tough to go on social media and see posts from people you love that turn your stomach.  That make them seem different than the people you thought they were.

Elevate.  Rise above.  Be the people I think you are.  Please.  I can’t take it.  I just spent 10 minutes on Facebook and I had to write this post.

Essays · Opinion · Philosophy · Rants

Maybe There’s Hope For Us After All

IMG_5153I believe we all basically want the same things, even if we don’t agree about how we might get them.  Trying to understand each other, giving each other simple respect as human beings, goes a long way.  We all have different experiences which inform how we’ve decided to live our lives.  There are many ways to happiness.  My way works for me, yours works for you, we can agree to disagree.  And if we can, if we can stop trying to tell each other what to do, how to live, if we can be forgiving and generous of spirit, we can be sympathetic, we can hope.

I’m not a religious person.  Spiritual, yes, religious no.  But even so, through my life I’ve been fascinated with organized religion.  I’ve taken classes, studied, and I’ve been exposed to religions of differing kinds through my family and friends.  I have seen people, in regards to their religion, be their best selves, and I’ve seen them be their not so best selves.

I never understood, growing up, why my Grandma on my father’s side played favorites with her children and her grandchildren.  Her choices seemed arbitrary, nonsensical.  There seemed to be no precipitating event or behavior that caused those choices.  I was, without a doubt, a favorite.  My brother was not.  When I was small I didn’t know this, or realize it, but then I grew.  I became aware of the behaviors of adults, of the kids around me.  I started to notice how my grandmother treated my brother.  It wasn’t good.  I was all cakes and smiles and praise and good cheer, he was insulted and degraded and made fun of.  When I noticed this, I started not wanting to go to grandma’s house anymore.  I loved my brother and I knew, innately, that my grandma’s behavior was cruel and mean and not at all acceptable.  I couldn’t get past how she could be so nice to me, buying me gifts, playing games, be so loving, and then be so awful to him.  He’d done nothing wrong, yet she acted as if his mere existence repulsed her.

My grandma was also very religious.  Religious as in talking in tongues, holy rollers, and tent revivals.  This never bothered me in and of itself, though it did scare me a lot when I went to church with her and the preacher was screaming and people were falling down in the aisles.  When I visited she would sometimes tell me stories from the bible, always choosing Revelations and emphasizing how if people weren’t good they would be branded and burn.  Scary stuff for a 7-year-old, but none of that really ever deterred me from seeing her, not even when she took me to a tent revival and had me saved by another screaming man.  I started not wanting to go see her on church days, but really I still loved seeing her.  Until, that is, I realized how she treated my brother.  Once that realization hit I instantly felt an incongruity.  I wasn’t more than 9 or 10, but I remember thinking how she was a person who espoused religious beliefs of love and faith and hope, but acted against them.  She was a hypocrite.  What I felt about religion told me it should be about love and understanding and compassion, not cruelty and judgement and disdain.

The other side of my family, my mom’s, wasn’t religious at all.  I found out later my mom’s mom had grown up in a religious household, but events happened that caused her to turn away from organized religion.  I think they all went to church as a family, for a time, but eventually that faded out for most of them.  When we visited my Mom’s parents religion was never discussed.  Instead we were taught to play chess and backgammon.  The arts were encouraged, books were encouraged, music was all around.  So was laughter and love and a very tight sense of family.

I grew up in a home with an atheist (my step-dad) and an agnostic (my mom).  We didn’t talk about religion much in our house, except when my step-dad mocked it, or my mom would explain that she thought, fundamentally, the tenants of organized religions were mostly good (do unto others, kindness, hope, love, compassion) but that organized religion, in the hands of some, seemed to be used to control, conquer, and judge people.  My mom, who treats people the best of anyone I’ve ever met, with respect and compassion and kindness, was and continues to be a great  role model for me about how to be a wonderful human.

Fast forward several years in my life.  I’d taken many courses on religion, read many religious books (large sections of the Bible, the Tao, Buddhist teachings, tenets of Hinduism, parts of the Koran, etc., etc.) and had formed what is the basis of my own spiritual thought.  No one religion encompasses what I think and feel, but they all actually have things in common, and have in their own way contributed to my philosophy.

I’ve had great experiences with people who are religious as well.  Being gay, this is a tough thing as many religious people condemn me for being who I am.  But, I have some wonderful people in my life, who are very religious, and have shown me, over and over, what love, truth, kindness, and understanding are.  Which is why I want to talk about my friend, Pat.  I met him a long time ago, 17 years or so.  We worked together, were office partners, and ended up loving each other like brother and sister.  He is a super religious guy.  Very much a man of his beliefs, very solid, very sure.  I respect him immensely for that.  As you can tell, I’m not a Christian person, and I’m gay, so our deep and abiding friendship was somewhat of a surprise to both of us.  And yet, it continues.  I have deep love for him, and I know he shares the same feelings for me.  He has been, at times, a youth pastor, a regular guest preacher, and very involved with whatever church he has belonged to over the years since I’ve known him.  He’s moved a bit so has had to change churches more than once, always finding a church home and always getting very involved with it when he does.  I also respect him for that.  He’s a man of faith, and his faith is strong.

Pat and I once had a very long very heartfelt conversation about my being gay, what he thought of it, and what he thinks the bible thinks of it as well.  At the time we had this conversation, which was several years ago now, he was not pro gay marriage.  He is a religious guy and he felt (and probably still feels) that a traditional marriage ceremony is inherently a religious ceremony.  I, who am now legally married to my partner of over 13 years, obviously disagrees with him on this point, but that’s OK, he doesn’t argue it with me.  We agree to disagree, which is OK too.  What he said to me that day, about my being gay, was beautiful.  He said that nowhere in his bible (and he knows it exceptionally well) does he interpret that people should be judged by anyone but God.  He said God teaches judge not lest ye be judged.  Judging, in and of itself, is a sin as great as any other.  He said it wasn’t his place to judge me.  He said it’s his place to love me, be kind to me, be accepting, and let God do what he will.  He believes that man is not God, and therefore shouldn’t think that he/she has the right to act as if they are acting for God.  I love Pat.  His beliefs are strong, and they don’t allow him to condemn me.  He would never do that.  He has often said he wants to bring me to his church and talk to the congregation about love, about our relationship, about how two very different people can form beautiful bonds with each other and how that’s what it should be all about.

This country, that I happen to love, was formed largely by people fleeing religious persecution.  People who weren’t able to worship and believe as they wished without consequence from their government, fled to a place where they could worship and believe as they wished.  We’ve somehow forgotten that.  If a person is not a Christian, in my experience, many Christians now seem to believe they have the right to tell that non-christian person they are somehow less than, and that they should, in essence, be cast out.  When did it become OK to judge?  When did it become OK to feel that because you believe a certain way you have the right to tell everyone else how to believe, how to be, what to do?  When did it become OK, with total arrogance, to feel that condemnation was a right anyone could have.  I don’t tell anyone what they should believe.  My feeling is that what works for you, as a person, as far as your belief system goes, is yours.  Your relationship with God, however you see him/her, is your business, your right.  I will not interfere with that, and I expect not to be interfered with.

I also expect that your religious beliefs, whatever they are, stay out of my government.  There was a reason for separation of church and state.  It was meant to protect us from any one group, who might gain power, from asserting its beliefs and wishes on to the rest of us, who could be in danger of experiencing consequences for not going along.

I know a lot of Christians now believe they are being persecuted.  I don’t see that, but I’m not them.  For all I know, it could be happening.  But here’s the thing, persecution because of religion has been going on for centuries. Since the beginning of religion.  Perpetuated both by and against people of varying religious beliefs.  I don’t think any one group, whoever you are, has the right to tell another group what to believe, how to live based on those beliefs.  Nobody should be discriminated against because of their beliefs, whatever they are.  If you have a set of rules, morals, tenants you live by based on your religion, more power to you.  I have mine, and they are no less real or valuable than yours.  As long as your beliefs aren’t hurting anyone, believe what you will.  We fear what we don’t understand.  When we fear we sometimes strike out.  When we fear we don’t always act as our better selves.  When we fear we create division and anger and hopelessness.  All things contrary to what I believe is the most important part of any religion and/or belief system… love.

I know there’s no answer, and I know some people will disagree with me, may even become incensed or angered by something I’ve said here.  And I guess that’s OK.  You are entitled to your opinion, to your feelings.  As I am.  But if you do get angry, remember this… I’m not angry with you.  I just want us to talk to each other.  To realize we are all just trying to get through it the best we can, with the most dignity, compassion, and love in our lives as possible.  I think, ultimately, most of us want the same things.  To be respected as human beings, to be allowed to believe as we wish without repercussions from our government or our fellow humans, and to live the happiest of lives possible.  If we can just meet at that place, with that realization, maybe there’s hope for us after all.

Essays · Going Global · LiFe · Rants

Looking With Our Better Eyes

IMG_1785I was just reading a piece I have in draft, one I never posted here.  It was a general rant about how much of what we read, see, are offered to take in via news and social media, is negative, derisive, and ugly.

I’m not going to post it.

I still agree with what I wrote.  How I’m tired of the negative, how I yearn for the positive. But I’m too old to be on the playground, and that’s what it feels like.  It feels like what it was to be out on recess, caught in the middle of some ridiculous name calling fight.  How those fights seemed to escalate into the absurd and how the passion for those ludicrous arguments seemed to escalate as well.  Escalation turned ugly, pushing turned to shoving, sometimes turning to blows.  It’s exhausting.

I want a revolution of thought, I’m getting bogged down without one.  I want kindness, ideas, offered solutions, compassion, a recognition of simple human dignity.  I don’t think I’m the only one.  I think most of us feel this way, even as we sometimes find ourselves participating in those playground-like antics.

What if, for a day, we posted only something positive.  The old adage, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  If that’s you, post a photo of a sunrise or a cute puppy, or your grandchildren instead of that negative thing you are about to post.

What would that feel like?

I get up, I make my way to the french press and the tea kettle, I get my steaming mug of freshly made delicious coffee, I empty the dishwasher, I fold the laundry, I open my laptop to check email, then I head to my news feeds and finally Facebook.  I’m shocked to see news articles about new inventions and good deeds and how even though I may not agree with this politicians views on this or that thing, they have good intentions, or are good in this one area, or they’re smart.  I see that everyone seems to be posting how happy they are about this or that event, or friendship, or job opportunity, or the tasty hot meal they had last night.  I read about how this guy, running for this office, had this idea to solve this problem.  How interesting.  I hear that even though Democrats and Republicans and Tea Party people are staunch, they are fair, and understanding, and compassionate toward those who don’t agree with them.  I see kindness and forgiveness and goodwill toward fellow humans.  I see us disagreeing with respect.  I see sharing and helping and love.

Life is a matter of perception.  It always is.  We can look and see terrible things in our opponents, in the government, in each other, or we can look and see that even though we don’t agree it doesn’t make either of us a monster.  It doesn’t make either of us an idiot.  From there we can have reasonable discussions, we can listen to each other, we can gain understanding, and we can start to move forward, freed from the quagmire of distrust and finger-pointing and nastiness.  There is something to like in almost everyone.  Just as there is something to dislike.  We see what we want to see.

We can see the negative in things, in life, in each other, and we can dwell there.  If that’s the case, that’s what we will notice, that’s what we will pick up on first.  The problems, the differences, the ways in which things are not right.  Or we can see the positive in things, in life, and in each other.  We can dwell there.  In that place there’s forgiveness, problem-solving, things to build on, there’s hope.

It’s up to each of us to decide.  I’d just like it if I could wave the magic wand and for one day we helped without criticism, we offered opinions without disparaging someone else, and we talked about solutions with kindness, instead of venom and animosity.

I believe, with all my heart, each of us is doing the best we can in the world.  Making our way the best we know how.  Sometimes what we do is not that great, and most times if it’s not that great it’s because we faltered, or we were never taught a better way, or we ran into something that spiraled out of control.  We don’t know anyone else’s story.  We can’t presume to know.  We also can’t presume to think our ideas, our solutions, our way of doing things is the only way, or even the right way.  There are many paths to a good solution, there are many “right” ways.  Yes, there are wrong ways too, but we must make people feel safe in order to help them change.  We must make them feel listened to, just as we like to be listened to.  We can’t bully, or push, or strong arm people into our way of thinking.  Most of us hate being told what we should be doing, but we don’t mind being talked to, respected for our opinions, and offered other opinions in return.  We don’t mind a good chat.  We all feel we should be respected.  That doesn’t change with position or ideology or background.  We all want to be respected as human beings, and we all should be.

I don’t expect that we’ll all hold hands and sing Kumbaya, but wouldn’t it be great if we went at things with that in our hearts.  If we were open, loving, and kind.  If we all realized we were in it together.  Facing it together.  Because we are.  None of us are in it alone.  Everything we do, small and large, effects other people, and spreads like a ripple out from ourselves.

I can only start with me.  So this is me saying to me that I’ll try to be more present, more aware of what I say, how I say it, what I put out into the world.  I’ll picture the faces of friends and family, I’ll try to act with hope and kindness and understanding.  I will try not to judge.  I’ll try to be fair.  I will try to be a better listener.

Sure, we have a lot of problems, but there are also so many things that are good and beautiful out there.  Look around.  See them.  Feel what that feels like to see them.  To use a line from The Abyss, a movie I love, “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and he sees Russians. He sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”

Look with your better eyes.  Look with them, and see.

Essays · Family & Friends · LiFe · Philosophy · Poetry

Our Beautiful Souls

IMG_3123When something shocking happens in life our world shrinks down.  Everything we know somehow narrows, magnifying the thing in the center that is our pain, our sorrow, our grief, our fear, our shame.  Suddenly we do not see, cannot see, anything outside of what we feel.  We begin a sort of sleep walk.  Moving around, going about the necessities of life, unaware of anything outside of our immediate place in time.  We see ourselves putting on shoes, getting something to eat, talking to friends, paying our bills.  Yet, we are disconnected from all of it.  Suddenly apart from the world, in a cocoon of emotion we can’t even begin to know how to escape.  Everything feels like a dream, as if there is a veil between us and the rest of the world.

Slowly though, the world returns to us.  We start to wake up.  We notice the rain, or a bird, we are aware of the smile of a friend.  We begin to find interest in things we’d forgotten we used to love, and still do.  We look up, and out.  We feel the warmth of the sun and feel the rhythm of the world.  We learn that life moves on, moves forward, one small moment at a time.  Until, finally, we are mostly ourselves again.  A piece of us utterly changed by our experience, but still, ourselves.

The whole of this experience, though usually terribly painful, is beautiful.  The feeling of it, the pulling away, the return, all bring a deeper meaning to our lives.  It can, if we let it, help us to find a peace and a grace we didn’t know before.  It can help us to see more deeply into things.

Life is a gift.  Our friends and family are gifts.  We are lucky, even with the pain and sorrow that inevitably come.  After all, pain and sorrow only come because we were brave enough and our souls beautiful enough to love someone or something.

“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)I am never without it (anywhere
I go you go,my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)
I fear no fate (for you are my fate,my sweet)I want no world (for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)”

~ E.E. Cummings

Essays · LiFe · Opinion · Philosophy

Words to Live By (Part 5)

“If I saw you hitchhiking, I’d smile and return your thumb’s up, just for you doing such a great job of being a positive roadside influence.”
― Jarod Kintz

1935760_142466655801_6505249_nBeing positive, having a positive attitude, looking at things with a glass half full changes everything about your day and your life. A person can look around and notice all the things in life that aren’t right, or need work.  They can wait for things to break or go wrong.  Or they can look and see the things that are working now.  They can see the blue sky, that there’s light and love and beauty all around them. One way leads to stress and worry, the other to contentment and happiness. We all worry, we all fret about the things that can go wrong, the things that might be going wrong, but we can’t live there, in that place. We have to live with light, and be in love with life. If we can manage that, even in times of trouble, we become a force for the positive. We can learn to see past what might not be OK now to know it will be soon.  We stay open to the world, instead of being afraid of it.  Light wins, dark abates.

“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.”
― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Playing, as in riding a bike, or swinging on a swing, or going down a slide, or jumping in a bouncy house, is good for the soul. Those things speak to the kid living inside us and encourages that kid to come out and play. Being playful, however you do it, brings so much joy and happiness into our lives. It can be telling a stupid joke or saying something dorky to make someone laugh. It doesn’t matter how you get there, it’s that you get there in the first place. Joking around, being dorky, being willing to play, brings out the kid in us, the kid that’s always there, waiting to smile and have a good time. The kid that knows how to make things lighter and brighter and new.

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Reading  a good book opens the world to us. Words create bonds.  They convey insights into life, living, emotions we might not understand, ways of living that are different from ours, or the same as ours. In every good book I read I find some new meaning and depth in life.  A turn of a phrase can enlighten and fills out more of the story of living. Books open worlds otherwise unknown.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Friendship carries us through everything in life. The value of living is found solely in our relationships with others. In the experiences we have with the people in our lives.  Our friends can be there throughout our lifetime or people we only know and spend time with during shorter periods. They can be family or other people we’ve chosen to spend time with along the way.  Their presence gives meaning to all the most important experiences of our lives. They strengthen us when we need it, hold us when we need it, tell us the truth when we need it, and bring more love into our lives than we can even believe possible. The people we love and who love us back are the most important.  Period, the end.

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

Generosity of spirit and of self brings peace and tranquility to life. When you give of yourself you put out positive energy into the world, broadening it. Being generous of spirit means you give of yourself in small ways and big. You don’t have to give out loads of money, but you can get inclusive, you can share what you have to share, include others in your life, be gracious, be open, be willing to help when help might be needed, be a light when someone can’t see through the darkness in their lives. Being generous just means opening yourself and giving of yourself without thought for what you might gain from it. It’s selfless, and being selfless pulls us out of our own heads, our own lives, reminding us that we aren’t alone, and that we aren’t all there is.  It’s so important to remember that.  Be generous with your time, with your heart, with yourself.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Appreciation for things in life, be it the actions of a friend, the kindness of a stranger, the smile on the face of someone you love, or wet kisses from your dog, brings a sense of connection, joy, and awe about this life we’re living. Knowing to appreciate what you have, not so much the things, though appreciating those as well says you realize others might not have what you do and you should be grateful for what you have, but for the people in your life, for the food on your table, for getting to experience the experiences you do, helps you to cherish life, cherish living. Appreciating the actions of others says you acknowledge a kindness or a gesture of goodwill. Having a real appreciation for things means you don’t take them for granted. Not taking the people and things in your life for granted means you feel what they bring to your life. Feeling that brings meaning.

“i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)”
― E.E. Cummings

Being thankful for good and kindnesses and help and smiles in our lives further connects us to those moments. It brings a warmth and sincerity to our every day. A person can never say thank you enough. From the check out clerk to the post lady to helpful visits from family to just an everyday act of being passed something you asked for. Saying thank you spreads good will and encourages others to spread it as well. Saying thank you says you acknowledge the importance of what just happened. Saying thank you fills your heart with beauty and grace and a happiness that doesn’t come any other way. Being thankful, to your bones, for life’s little wonders, and some big ones, creates a force for so much good inside of you that it spills out to others. It gladdens our hearts as well as the hearts of those around us. You will never regret saying a deserved thank you. You will regret not saying it. We don’t act alone in the world, saying thank you acknowledges that. It’s a powerful force for good.

“When You Are Old”

WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.”
― W.B. Yeats

Grace can’t be put on, it has to be cultivated inside of us. Simplicity of movement, of thought. Being present for people in your life. Not like a bull in a china shop but by being quietly there. Not everything has to be done with a big splash, some things require a quiet manner, they require a certain dignity. I struggle with this, but reach for it, try to cultivate it in myself. I have seen grace under pressure, I’ve seen simple dignified grace. It is a beautiful thing.

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” 
― Marcus AureliusMeditations

Keeping quiet, not speaking unless you have something good or positive to say, perpetuates good.  Speaking out of turn, gossiping about others, even stating your opinion when it’s not asked for or warranted, creates discord, chaos, and possibly hurt feelings.  It’s always better to stay out of things.  Jumping into situations only helps to keep them going, to keep the negative talk in the fore.  There’s a difference between standing up for something or someone, and putting yourself into the drama.   There’s a proper way to stand up for someone or something without being nasty or ugly or hurtful.  If someone is hurtful, you don’t have to sink to that level.  If someone is bullying, you don’t have to become a bully to fight against it.  Don’t talk about others.  Talk about ideas.  Talk from a place of love and understanding.  Use your powers for good.  It will help to keep the chaos at bay.  It will simplify your life.  It will keep you from being the victim and will add to the strength you already have.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” 
― Hunter S. ThompsonThe Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967

Adventure can be found right where you are.  I watch the grandchildren and everything, including a leaf, or jumping off a step stool, holds adventure for them.  There’s a lesson in it.  We get so caught up in our daily lives with the business of living;  paying bills, making money, doing chores, we don’t stop and look and experience things in a pure way.  We’ve forgotten how.  But, it’s still in us.  Those feelings of awe and inspiration and wonder.  So go on an adventure, even if you can’t leave your house right now.  Make a game of it, tackle a task as if you’re on safari, narrate doing the dishes.  All of this beautiful life we’re living is an adventure.  It’s incredible.  Say yes to life, even if you’re unsure.  Grab it.  Be bold.  Be brave. Be adventurous.

“I examined the poets, and I look on them as people whose talent overawes both themselves and others, people who present themselves as wise men and are taken as such, when they are nothing of the sort.

From poets, I moved to artists. No one was more ignorant about the arts than I; no one was more convinced that artists possessed really beautiful secrets. However, I noticed that their condition was no better than that of the poets and that both of them have the same misconceptions. Because the most skillful among them excel in their specialty, they look upon themselves as the wisest of men. In my eyes, this presumption completely tarnished their knowledge. As a result, putting myself in the place of the oracle and asking myself what I would prefer to be — what I was or what they were, to know what they have learned or to know that I know nothing — I replied to myself and to the god: I wish to remain who I am.

We do not know — neither the sophists, nor the orators, nor the artists, nor I— what the True, the Good, and the Beautiful are. But there is this difference between us: although these people know nothing, they all believe they know something; whereas, I, if I know nothing, at least have no doubts about it. As a result, all this superiority in wisdom which the oracle has attributed to me reduces itself to the single point that I am strongly convinced that I am ignorant of what I do not know.” 
― Socrates

To be humble, to know you don’t know everything, allows you to be more relaxed with others.  It leaves you open to new and different ideas.  It broadens what you could experience, it creates a space to let others in.  If we think we know it already, there’s no room for anyone else.  If we are continually certain of everything, there’s no space for beautiful surprises and mistakes.  Being humble in our opinions and in our lives creates a place that says we are all in it together.    Absolute certainty, being right, is the bane of relationships.  Connections get severed because of it.  There’s always more than one way to look at something.  There’s always room for another idea, another thought on the subject, another viewpoint.  If there’s one thing in life I try to remind myself of its that I don’t know everything, I haven’t experienced what others have experienced, and my thoughts and ideas and opinions are no better than anyone else’s.

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” 

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

You can look at everything in life as something to battle, to conquer, and to fight, or you can look at everything from a place of love, understanding, and togetherness. Either perspective colors your world, informing how you live your everyday, and how you see things.  The choice is always yours.  If things have been done to you, you can turn around and project that nastiness out onto others, becoming the very thing you despise, or you can be the better human, rise above, and transform that ugliness to something wonderful.  The world is full of bullies who use as an excuse the fact that they themselves have been bullied. Do better.  Perpetuate good, light, and hope instead of fear, anger, and hurt.