Thursday, October 24, 2013

Poor Man's Raman

Yes, I know it is spelled "Ramen". It's a play on words. Today is my sister's birthday and though she passed on in 2004, I talk to her often still. I also talk about her a lot, especially to her children. We both enjoy reminiscing, whether it is about the good times or the bad. It helps us forget about our own worries for a little while.

Today I am quite aware of my own isolation, with no children, my parents, sister, and partner gone, I spend a lot of time thinking about the past.

My nephew, Almon, recently called me and we talked for a long time, always feeling better afterwards. Both of us. He's the only one that calls me and it means so very much when it happens. It's like he knows. I know he's calling to lift his own spirits or ask for computer help or some other such advice but I find my own spirits lifted tremendously.

And then of course, there are the stories. We both tell tales that the other didn't know about his mom, Arlene, my sister.

A recent story centered around money, a subject we often talk about. We somehow got on the subject of food (a favorite of mine!) and Almon mentioned that his mom use to get him to sell ramen noodle soup packs at school for 50 cents. That was probably a quarter profit on each and I don't recall how many he sold each day but it did emphasize how tight money was for them.

My parents were the same way. My mom actually lived for a time without electricity and got water from a stream. I don't recall where or when this was but it made a lasting impression on her. My dad was more fortunate but he too wanted my life to be better than his had been.

They always encouraged me to do well in school in the hopes of getting a good job. My mother often told stories of how poor they were and gave what she could to those in need. She hardly ever TOLD me I should do this, she just did it and by example, I did too.

Since my sister was 16 years older than I, she wasn't around long and we soon moved to Saudi Arabia and left my sister on her own. Her boyfriend (and future husband) was a hard worker and they did well early on. Eventually they split and my sister struggled to care for the kids on her own.

There were times when I've had to struggle too and that's where so many things came together. I had always liked Ramen noodle soup and in those times when I've had to watch my pennies, I've learned to make even the simplest meal, like Ramen soup, tasty and cheap.

Someone had commented on a big container of mushrooms I had purchased and it made me think of a meme I had seen.

Did that person think that box of mushrooms was a meal or did they realize how many ramen soups it would be spread across? We often see others on a limited budget and begrudge them the enjoyments we may take for granted.

I realize that if you're on a limited budget you need to be careful with your money. It may take you years to save for something another buys in the blink of an eye. But we all are entitled to as much happiness as we can squeeze out of life and I remind myself of that when I find myself judging others.

Instead of harsh words, I try to find more words of kindness and encouragement. It isn't easy in a world where the successful have NO IDEA of the struggles of the poor. People make mistakes and once on the bottom, it is so terribly hard to get back up. I see some of my friends post the cruelest things while they are up on top. It would definitely change if they had to walk in someone else's shoes for a day.

So, here's to all the poor folks that kept going. I am not sure if I could have had the same strength!

This is a picture of my sister on the last visit I had with her at her daughter, Elia's house.

Since I didn't see her often, I brought all kinds of gifts for her to enjoy. She was in a wheelchair and didn't get out of her house much so I tried to find things that were very personal. She liked electronic gadgets and that's one of those electronic pets you carried around on a keychain. You can see how interested in it she was! The box of chocolate covered cherries is already opened, something I use to get her almost every Christmas we lived near each other.

In the background is a jar of pennies. She loved doing things like rolling money and cashing it in. I never carried pennies so I put them in a jar for charity. What better charity than my sister? After she passed, I started saving my change for the Ronald McDonald House and dropped it off at McDonalds.

This became one of my charities because my sister had had a daughter that was in the hospital a lot and she did not get to see much of her before her daughter, Elisia passed on. It was my way of giving to folks who might be in that same predicament.

I understand now Sister. I wish I had done more. I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Charity, The Other side of suffering

As I listen to one of the "Conversations With God" music CD's, the voices begin to clamor for attention. The signs inundate my senses and I often find myself talking back, getting annoyed at their urgency, so afraid a thought or action that is so important will be forgotten.

Disc 1:

My mom is up there with them now and I often think of the "Calvin and Hobbes" cartoon she loved so dearly because she said I was SO like him and Hobbes with my own teddy bear (and yes, at age 50, Teddy still is at my bedside). One of her favorites was posted at her work place. You know the one, where Calvin looks frazzled and quite annoyed and says “God put me on earth to accomplish certain things. Right now, I’m so far behind, I’ll never die.”

When it gets that way, I tell them all to shut up and go away! I laugh or cry afterwards and apologize and tell them I'm sorry and welcome them back. It's quite a scene really. Most folks believe in the afterlife but attribute such conversations to simply "talking to themselves", the mind's inner musings. I don't. I DO believe, truly BELIEVE, in the afterlife AND our ability to continue to use our senses to communicate with it in more powerful ways than science would have us do ONLY with what they have yet verified.

Call me "Crazy Ivan" and I'll usually smile nowadays and direct you here:

But I digress (I get lost in that blissful music!).

Disc 2:

Lately, I have shared their urgency as never before. I know where the future is pointing and I'm not sure I am up to the task appointed to me (and agreed upon) previously (a bit of light reading for the open-minded:

There are still the small day-to-day things I can do in the meantime, like this blog.

When I got up this morning, I went into the kitchen and my thoughts lead me back to a visit as a young child to the house of a friend of my parents. I don't recall who the family member was but we went into a bedroom to also see a bedridden family member who had polio. He was wasting away and I hurt inside to see him. The room smelled and I wanted to get away so very bad.

I am not sure why my parents took me in there, perhaps knowing how terrible it was and how important it was to show that man he was still loved and important and not forgotten but it was imprinted upon my mind very strongly. I wanted so bad for him to just BE BETTER.

So when I began searching all the many causes that were important to me, I realized how very small I was, how very poor I was, and how very great the needs of this world I love so much are. Where to start? Everywhere! What to give? Everything! When to do it? Always!

Of course, if you listen to those voices, you may find you've left the house with a pocket full of money and come back a pauper. Each and every day, until it is all gone. I have had days like that and those that depended on me in the past were not happy when I got that way, but how could I deny the power of THAT voice?

Disc 3:

It is not always easy but I do try to find a balance nowadays. So when I questioned the Source for something dear to me and it fell in my lap, I was quite astounded I hadn't thought of it myself.

I smiled, thinking fondly of the money I spent last night. It was for a friend's birthday as well as for the work of the Sister's of Perpetual Indulgence ( or on the net: but how fun is it when both the birthday boy and myself win prizes simply playing bingo to raise money for those affected by HIV and AIDS and other such charities?

Give until it hurts y'all!!!

Blessed be and Namaste.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Convergence and the Second Sight

If you have ever read "The Foundation Series" by Isaac Asimov, then you are already familiar with the ability to see into the future. For the right computer, this is an easy task. Just look at the programs used to do this in the stock market and you will see a real world example where we are doing better but still have many variables to model before this becomes obsolete.

I read an article in a magazine (Popular Science, Time, or something like that) about the sophistication of the software used in some banks and places with a high possibility of terrorist activity that could now analyze people to determine if there appearance or activity indicated the possibility that they intended some harm to the bank or other area.

From the simple ability of facebook to recognize a face pretty well in the jumble of a picture, AI (Artificial Intelligence) software is becoming much more human-like in its abilities! As a programmer, this is a most amazing ability still (AI was never a strong-point of my studies) and the mathematics of time (Calculus) was also a struggle. These are two of the most powerful abilities of our own brain that we can also use to model the future.

This is what the weather man does when he shows you what the weather is going to be like, sometimes with impressive accuracy, a week or more into the future! There is of course, only a certain amount of computing power and variables that we are currently able to understand and model.

When a hurricane begins to form, even the best minds (human or other) have difficulty modeling such a convergence of possibilities to see into the future clearly. And yet, using many of these "other" modeling computers, even these complex events are often predicted correctly by these simple machines.

So with our sophisticated, organic systems, whom we claim we only utilize about 10% of the brains processing power, could we not be trained to produce some pretty impressive results?

Have you ever planned out a trip to the grocery store? What percentage of the time do you get pretty close to the results? Some might dismiss this ability but I can tell you from my own training, it is something you can improve and use to your advantage.

For me, it is something that fails if I attempt to over-think it. I do well to allow it to work in the realm of intuition, a sub-process of the mind that works best when not directed, pulling from all senses and data to come to the most logical conclusion. Left alone, it can work miracles.

Occasionally though, I become so alarmed at a piece of data that I attempt to direct the process. To force the answer, calling upon some of the very esoteric systems to KNOW with as much certainty as possible, that things will be okay. In essence, to go beyond simple prediction and use what ever abilities I had to CHANGE the future.

You can't blame a person for trying to avoid an accident. But sometimes you've seen the warning signs for a very long time, been given many opportunities to avoid disaster and still sit back, ignore the warning signs, and hope you will just be lucky and keep cruising on that luck.

If you push too hard to see or change the future too late in the game, you can find yourself in a very scary place, having gone too far, considered too many possibilities, and used tools you just don't have the training to understand the use or results of properly.

I can tell you that you have no one else to blame but yourself. You can continue to simply make excuses with your head stuck up your...stuck in the sand and the accident will still occur, with results that you didn't predict and might possibly be much worse that the original probability.

So here's a word of caution. Just because today seems easy to predict, don't take it for granted. The best systems in the world still fail at their tasks occasionally, organic and inorganic. Live life like a warrior, attacking each moment as if it were your last, for we truly never know with absolute certainty, what is around the corner. And love with that same ferocity and the same possibility, as if each moment is your last.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Love or Hate, Right or Wrong, How do you actually LIVE?

I usually do things alone because what family I have is not near and the few friends I have are busy with their own lives or not interested in what interests me. For me, this is a challenge because I am an introvert and easily stressed by crowds.

I have little patience for the lack of kindness society seems to have nowadays. So I took my meds to calm me down before I ever walked out the door (actually, in order to GET me out the door) and took a leisurely stroll through our local Whistle Stop Festival (made famous by the Whistle Stop Café from the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes".

It was a nice little stroll with many interesting stops.

The first shop that caught my eye was "The Creators Place" (Facebook: Creators Place) where I picked up bags of catnip and stevia herbs. Supposedly the catnip is good with Chamomile and Stevia is a natural sweeter. I already had the Chamomile and am looking forward to trying an herbal tea with the herbal sweetener! She was very helpful too and quite intuitive.

The next shop was "Blue Dragon Glass" (Facebook: BlueDragonGlass, with its neat flying dragon mobiles among many other stained glass crafts. She even taught classes in Trussville (near my home)! I resisted buying anything but very much enjoyed the conversation.

Next I came across a unique shop I failed to get any information on. I did buy one of their products so you can at least see it!

These planes were made out of all kinds of aluminum cans whose propellers spun in the wind! From the small $10 one above to 4 engine monsters at $45 or so. You can probably get information on the vendor from the Whistle Stop Festival (

Next, sugar skull candle holders caught my eye as they always do and made me think of my friend Teri.

They "S. P. Morgan Studio" ( are near Huntsville and are even willing to give lessons! Her mom was really sweet and helpful and her daughter, the potter, was very encouraging about trying my hand (with or without lessons) on a pottery wheel!

I soon came across the Shaklee representative whom I have spoken with before. Their line of Natural Nutrition supplements is interesting and informative. The processing that goes into many supplements is more harmful than the benefits you get from the actual substance! Check out for more information. A very knowledgable and friendly lady! While writing this blog, I noticed an error on her business card and left her a message about it. She called back to let me know she had not noticed it and would be getting new cards and thanked me for letting her know. How courteous!

Near the stage, a little boy threw his balloon-on-a-stick up in the air and it popped as it fell to the ground. He looked at his parents in frustration and began walking away. His mother immediately told him to pick up the stick the balloon had been on and put it in the trash. He looked around as if he didn't understand and was going to ignore her until his dad chimed in, pointed to the stick and repeated what his mom had said. He then marched over with shoulders slumped and obeyed them. I was again impressed.

I saw a shaved ice stand called "Avalanche Delights" (Facebook: AvalancheDelights) and decided to queue up for my favorite. Since I was already carrying my camera and YooHoo plane, I opted for a fresh squeezed Lemonade in a covered cup that was more easily handled. Yum yum yum!!!

I decided to venture over to the other side of the interstate and get a closer look at the trains parked in front of the old Wal-Mart in the Grants Mill Station shopping center (Facebook: The Station at Grants Mill) as well as the miniature golf, zip line and rope adventure.

My first stop was a tent called "Earthly Delights" ( which it turns out has had a shop in the Crestwood Festival Center for a year. They had some really nice soaps made with vegetable oil instead of animal products (like most commercial soap) if you are the vegetarian type that tries not to use animal products. I also learned that Kudzu Blossom soap exists and has a very nice scent!

After that I got close-ups of the parked trains only to learn they would soon be opening as restaurants!!!

What a novel idea for re-vitalization. Very encouraging!

I took some pictures of a few of the Fire Engines though you should pop by to see them all and the old British style phone booth.

I then took pictures of the miniature golf and Zip-Line & Rope Adventure areas and headed out.

I was hungry and tired and stopped in a restaurant to get something to eat. Up until this point, it had been a wonderful day with lots of kind and friendly folks. Even the girl taking my order was overly friendly.

I sat down and two people sat down beside me. We exchanged a few pleasantries before the lady became snippy. I recognized my own smart-ass attitude in her and so avoided a smart retort and explained the situation to her though she was unsympathetic. I refrained from any more drain on my energy by keeping silent.

On the way out, I sat in my car with it in reverse but the brake on as a family walked as slow as possible past the back of the car. The last girl even started taking long stretching strides as she finally passed as she looked at me. I began to easy out and she hollered to her parents that I was trying to hit her.

The father came charging out back out of the restaurant (that's how long they had stretched the line of people in the family), threatening to harm me and telling me that they didn't have to move out of the way and I was in the wrong. I had no intention of hitting them but I should have realized that were just itching for a fight. I again stopped talking, backed the car out and left.

Since then, most of my time has been spent at home trying to de-stress. Hours of fun are so easily erased by the self-righteous indignation so many people seem to revel in nowadays.

Whether it's the person that SLOWS DOWN when blocking traffic to the person that blocks an aisle in a super market or holds up being checked out at a register while someone in their group continues to shop, these people are all aware of what they are doing and are just hoping you will say something so they can make a scene.

I think the most disappointing ones are those that display their religious jewelry or bumper stickers which imply they are loving, compassion, and kind AND will scratch your eyes out with those same icons. And they wonder why so many lose faith.

The power and energy behind HATE is often hard and loud and hurtful and thus impacts us in ways that can so easily wash away the LOVE that is soft and quiet and pleasant. So for me, I have to pull back to my home where I feel the safest and recharge my body and soul through prayer and meditation, restoring my battery of positive energy before I venture back out again.

I want to stay home, to be with myself and give up on the world but Spirit won't let. It makes me reach down into the earth and then up into the sky and feel the love and energy coursing through me to the point I am shaking and crying with the overwhelming presence that opens up within and without.

And when that happens, how can I turn my back and give up? With such return of love and energy, I have to go back out and continue to try to raise up the world, person by person, bit by bit, just as Spirit ALWAYS does for me whenever I ask.

For now, I'll stay at home with my blind cat Sheena and re-charge. It's amazing how she knows something's wrong and plops herself up in between me and my pc now that she's discovered my new workspace I set up just yesterday. Pretty smart and I am very grateful for her love.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Robot Nation

I was talking to a good friend at lunch today about technology and realized I had more to say on the subject when I got home and found it being addressed online too.

When I was in high school, we took an entrance exam called the ACT which also asked us a series of questions in an attempt to suggest careers we should consider. It was a little graph with an asterisk in the area of jobs suggested for me. My asterisk was placed in an area void of jobs. I now wonder if it was a prediction of the future!

I really enjoyed my own company and preferred not to work with others. I was the typical science geek, happy to play with my chemistry set or breed fruit flies. I didn't like directing others AND I didn't like following orders. So when I had time to reflect, it really made sense to me.

One day in college, I was going to play tennis with a friend of mine and realized I had forgotten the tennis balls. I gave her my racket and looked at my watch, estimating how long it would take me to go get them. I can remember her smiling and commenting how nerdy it was to time everything I did. I had never realized how silly it was and began trying to stop doing it.

Over the years, I used my watch to begin avoiding people. If I approached someone I didn't want to speak to, I'd glance down at my watch to see what time it was. It went from being rude to avoiding ANY eye contact and socialization. It got so bad that I finally stopped wearing a watch in order to force myself back into the REAL world.

So now I go through life without a watch on my arm, my cell phone is turned off in the car for emergencies, and so far I have resisted even getting a tablet. If I know want to read something, I get a book. It eliminates the temptation to become engrossed in useless stuff and instead, engage with the world and people around me.

In The Robot Novels, we see humans crowded under domes after sucking the planet dry, eventually overcrowding causes us to move to the stars where land is plentiful and people few, some served by thousands of robots, rarely meeting another human face-to-face. From the disposable use of the planet to the gradual decrease in human interaction, it seems to be a very accurate forecast of where we are going.

I try to fight it by interacting more with the world around me and doing my bits to be more aware of the landfill I personally create but it doesn't seem to be something that the general public really cares about.

The smart device revolution is changing the world in very strange ways. From losing social skills to grammar and simple decency, many things once considered valuable are supplanted by gadgets. I wonder though, when we run out of plastic (think O-I-L), how will this new "ME" society handle it?

The Hunger Games:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Borrowing trouble from the future

My environment growing up caused me to be quite pessimistic. I also have the tendency to play out future possibilities in my head. This combination often leads me to expect a bad conclusion to something before it ever happens which I wind up stressing over until the event actually occurs.

Yesterday was a good example. I had purchased a set of tires for my car which included free rotation and balancing for the life of the tires. When I brought my car in, they took my initial paperwork and receipt and put it with the work order.

I wandered around the store for quite some time, never hearing my name called. The second time I checked, I found my car had been completed and they had not called me. This, of course, lowered my expectations of their performance. They checked me out and I began driving home when I realized my original paperwork and receipt were missing.

So I turned around and headed back to the store. I was told the service department was closed and was directed to customer service. The clerk there went looking for someone from automotive and it turned out they were not closed and someone was still there. Expectations were again lowered.

The person I spoke with was not the initial person that checked me in and no one was around that knew anything about my missing paperwork. No one was interested in pursuing the matter so I asked when they opened the next day.

That morning, I called only to find out the person that had processed me would not be in for another 2 or 2 1/2 hours. I decided at that time that a face-to-face would be better and drove over to the shop.

I found the person that had served me and was told they did not know where the original paperwork was. Luckily, the other clerk overheard the conversation and told my clerk that the papers had been found and put with last nights papers.

My clerk went looking for the original paperwork and did finally find it. Although the process was stressful and annoying, I let it preoccupy my thoughts and affect my attitude for much more time than it needed.

I recall a management class that used this problem of not being "present" in the moment to teach us a simple technique very useful when you notice such thoughts distracting you, especially at critical times like driving. When you notice you've wandered into a subject from the future or past, say out loud, "Stay!". Refocus on the present and stop thinking about the distraction.

It may take a few times when the issue is particularly strong in your mind so let's hope the windows are rolled up as you drive down the road hollering "stay, Stay, STAY!!!"

Saturday, August 10, 2013

When is part of me no longer me?

I once read a book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" ( It was not something I would have chosen but the salesperson was cute, so I bought it. Having bought it, I read it before passing it on to my neice Melinda who was going into Pharmacy.

It brought to light some things I really hadn't considered a lot. I remember talking about one issue with my niece Ethel. She made me aware of the process that a body goes through after death unless the family intervenes. The draining of the life blood and mixing it with chemicals to make it a non-biohazard and then dumping that part of my body in the sewer, in particular.

I had told her that if she was ever involved (being the oldest) in making decisions on the disposal of my body when I die that I wanted it cremated immediately and then spread with my mother's ashes. That's when she explained that if you didn't say so, your life's blood had a different, less dignified journey. I was surprised and appalled.

I believe that once a Spirit moves on, you can do what you want with the remains according to the person or family's request and in a dignified manner. For many, I believe this is also an opportunity to show respect and grieve, however you need to.

I don't see the necessity of pumping the carcass with chemicals, preserving it, or spending vast amounts of money on the burial chamber, markers, or plots. That's just my way. I have lost enough people in my life to understand the need and desire for others to do so. I just look at the graves we constantly dig up from the far past and do not desire for that to be me in the far future. So burn me, grind up the bits, and toss me to the wind! Say a prayer and come back to that beautiful place in the woods to visit whenever you want, remember me, and enjoy the Creator's beauty with joy, happiness, and anything else that comes upon you.

So this book I read about HeLa cells made me aware that once a bit of me leaves me, it is no longer mine even if it is labeled as me. Did you know that? If blood or urine or saliva is taken from you, it can be used in many ways you probably didn't know about or even want. You might even be appalled by some of its uses.

So when I came across this ( article today about forcibly taking a person's life blood from someone, ANYONE, while they are still alive hit me in my Spiritual gut. Yup, right through the Sacred Heart. Perhaps it's my Catholic roots. Or the Lutheran ones. Or the Methodist ones. I may be a religious mutt but any way you cut it, it is MY blood and it is SACRED to me.

I feel like we are losing every freedom we have, one by one. There's always a law upholding the reason but that does NOT make it right! Some day soon, we are going to all begin to wonder where our freedoms went as they quietly chip away at them by justifying each time they do so. Even a criminal has rights. Their blood is my blood and it is the right of ANYONE to keep every single drop of it!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Synchronicity - A Tale of Two Hummingbirds

Like many, I often ignore the whispers of the world. Gentle reminders that begin to stack up, getting louder and louder until they finally slap me in the face!

Today was one of those days. It all started when I noticed my hummingbird feeder had gone down a bit and then stopped. In the back of my mind, I knew the little fellows had arrived, checked out the local watering hole, and found it wanting. I knew it was sour.

I kept putting off changing it but someone didn't like that. I fed my fish, tended the plants, and rushed back in before the skeeters got their fill of MY sweet nectar!

A day or two ago, I saw a friend post that they had filled their hummingbird feeder and were no longer worried about being attacked by hummingbirds. I found this amusing, made a note about filling mine and almost instantly forgot about it.

Today, between thunderstorms, I went outside to tend the garden. I looked up at the hummingbird feeder and noted I STILL had not fixed it and promptly went on my way to other things.

My cat was enjoying having her "pond" back for the first day so I filled it up enough so that she could have her fill of water.

She was soon sated and waiting at the door to go back in (One drop of rain had fallen and hit her and it was time for the "Princess" to head for dryer ground!).

I convinced her to stay a while and proceeded to tend the plants. There was no need to water them so I picked up an empty pot to start rearranging stuff when I was almost run over by two hummingbirds that had just flown from my red honeysuckle plant heading for the feeder that I was in the way of.

(This is a picture of the red honeysuckle from last year since the hummingbird is already at the newly cleaned and refilled feeder.)

I froze (so as not to frighten them TOO much) as one zoomed around my head. The second one (that was chasing the first) stopped and hovered a foot away, staring me in the face. BUSTED!!! He stayed their for a few moments just to make sure he knew I knew he knew. Ya' know?

As soon as he hummed away, I put the pot down and grabbed the feeder. I brought it inside, turned the faucet on and started cleaning it. I couldn't help but take a sniff and yup, it was sour. That little hummingbird staring me down popped into my head. I could almost imagine the smugness on his face!

I washed it good, filled it with heaping spoonfuls of hummingbird mix (with one to grow on) and put it back out. The ants were waiting too but I got rid of them. Hopefully the birds will notice it's full and give me a second chance (they always do). Soon the "hum" of their wings and the "chitter" of territorial chatter will soon fill the air again. And I will try to be a bit more "mindful" of my cues and avoid the wrathful look!!!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Realist. Optimistic or Pessimistic?

Let's begin by working from a similar set of definitions.

Realist ( - One who is inclined to literal trust and pragmatism.

Pragmatism ( - ...the doctrine that the meaning of an idea or a proposition lies in its observable practical consequences.

Optimistic ( - One who usually expects a favorable outcome.

Pessimistic ( - A tendency to stress the negative or unfavorable or to take the gloomiest possible view.

Now I believe that I am a Realist whose life experiences have molded me into a pessimistic person and I constantly struggle against my nature. I would prefer to be naturally optimistic but at the moment, it is something I have to work very hard at.

From the outward appearance of never smiling to the internal criticisms of everything which are almost constant, I am doom and gloom, inside and out. And yet, I feel that recognizing this issue is a good step in the right direction. When I catch myself frowning or thinking negative thoughts, I can say "STOP!" and try to look at things in a new way.

What made me think of this today was a beautiful summer thunderstorm that began as I was walking out of the grocery store. It was raining steadily but not too hard and everyone was sitting around waiting for it to end instead of braving a few drops and walking the 30 feet or so to their vehicle before their cold food got too warm.

I walked out into the rain, smiling. I was thankful for the Baptism Mother Earth was giving me (I need all I can get!), the way it was cooling things down, and how it would help a very parched land. Plus it reminded me of the "Duck Walks" I had with my sister who was handicapped and could not run. I remembered her wonderful tinkling laugh and how I'd scamper under trees trying not to get too wet and then running back to my sister's side because she could not run to get out of the rain and I didn't want her to suffer alone (though she never really did seem to mind). It was beautiful and happy to me though I am sure most of those folks sitting under cover waiting for it to stop didn't see it that way. I have to admit, I found it quite amusing that it began to pour furiously before I had made it out of the parking lot.

Now I am not always able to be optimistic. Earlier today when a man picked up his son and then pushed in front of me to let him get something out of a display I was browsing, I was quite angry and disappointed at how rude they were. It seems parents cater to their children's every whim, that saying "No" or pointing out that walking in front of someone else is rude (and it is polite to say "Excuse me") have been completely forgotten in order to keep a child happy. So I just turned away, went somewhere else and waited for them to finish. It is one of those examples that reinforce my pessimism.

I can't change the world but I can change how I react to it. For me, as my doctor put it, that requires "Better Living Through Chemistry" but it is better than ending up in jail. Some people are alive today because my "Death Stare" has not yet been perfected. And I think that is all I will say on that. Read into it what you want.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Spiritual Practices - Finding your own path

The contradictions, guilt, and fear that many of the spiritual stories I read are one of the strongest reasons I decided to not participate in formal religions. Instead, I made my own path to follow.

I was never one to perform particular rituals on particular days. The idea of participating in a shared experience at the same time and place, over and over, whether it is a weekly thing, a monthly thing, or any other time or pattern is just not something I do well with. I find repetition to cause such things to lose my attention and thus, its power.

Instead, I listen to others, occasionally share in their rituals, and perform my own when and where I see fit. Of course, I occasionally find myself being directed to do such things in places and times not designated as "acceptable" for "unusual" behavior. As we moved into the scientific age, it became more necessary to restrict metaphysical/spiritual experiences to places of worship on specified dates (depending on each religion). I've never understood how people can deny these experiences when they don't occur during the standard worships but when I exhibit these behaviors outside of those times and places, I'm seen as "crazy". Bless their hearts.

To deny the intuition I receive is like a slap in the face to my guides. I live my path all the time, and when required, act upon it as I feel I am directed. I still restrict it at times and am saddened and wonder what I've missed when I do but the world is a very strange place. We live in a world of science and still cling to the unscientific spiritual world, forcing it into OUR time and places. Hopefully a better balance will be found someday.

Today's blog came about as I was walking in a circle, thanking my friends for their guidance and gifts whatever they might be. I skimmed a tree branch and a big wood roach dropped onto my shoulder near to my ear just as I was saying this. I couldn't help but laugh and think of the cartoons where the little devil appears on your shoulder to whisper bad things to do into your ear.

I brushed it away with a feather I had in my hand and said "Well, except for roaches. I don't want any roaches!". I couldn't help laughing even more because I've always thought of my Creator and guides as my friends and they understand me oh so well and can't resist an opportunity to share their humor with me. It was a magical moment.

An odd thing to say from someone who hates roaches like I do but as I've said before, "To the enlightened, Spirit does not always move in mysterious ways!".

Monday, May 13, 2013

Tree Hugger

I apologize for the musing nature of this blog as it seems I rambled quite a bit more than usual. The real struggle was to not make it too long even though it is still about twice as long as my typical posts. Trees kept popping up in my online news feeds and I found myself thinking of Willow trees and then on to other trees from there. Even today when I logged on to preview and post this entry, I got distracted by other tasks and forgot my original purpose. Within a few moments, the following tree popped up and I remembered that I had really come on to post about trees! I love how magically the Universe speaks to us at times!

My earliest memory of trees is from a story my sister use to tell me. Sometime when I was living in Saudi Arabia (between the ages of 3 1/2 to 6), I fell out of a tree and sprained my arm very badly. At the time, my sister (who was still in the States) had a dream about this happening and wrote to my mother about it. I remember the tree though I don't remember falling out of it. It wasn't the tree's fault and all I remember was that my mom no longer allowed me to climb trees after that.

The result was that I was limited to climbing trees only when I was with my dad. I remember climbing a very large oak tree in Westwego, Louisiana not long after returning to the States. I went so high, the branches swayed in the breeze and I could see clear across the levee to the other side of the canal. I was stuck for a long time, afraid to come down and afraid to call out for help and risk angering my father and losing all climbing privileges! If my mother had known, she would have feinted from fright!

We didn't have many trees that were easily climbed in Avondale, Louisiana where I spent my pre-teen years (when we weren't overseas) but the trees we did have had other uses. There was the large persimmon tree in the back that occasionally dropped a few fruits which my parents loved (though I didn't care much for them). In the front was a large shade tree and our neighbor had trees that dropped green fruits that were great for throwing at other kids in war games (though how we were never hurt, I do not know!).

Our neighbor across the street had a Willow tree and often wrestled with the annual caterpillar infestations whose silken nests he often burned out of the tree. I remember the challenge of learning the painful lesson that some caterpillars could sting. After that, it was then a challenge to let them climb on me without causing them to sting or testing new ones to see if they would. I couldn't resist learning this for myself and even had to re-learn it when they didn't sting right away! To predators, the pretty colors might say "Stay Away!" but all I could see was "Touch Me!" (a few pics here: )
and here's one of the pics of one from the page which I often tempted fate with:

I always liked the way the Willow trees' branches hung down like a natural enclosure with their long slender leaves and the way they liked to grow along the river banks. So when a neighbor near where I live now cut one of the few in the area down, I noticed it right away and was quite saddened by the event. It was not near the house and turned the area into a bare bit of lawn that seems so naked now.

When we moved to Mississippi, we were surrounded by woods owned mostly by the paper company and I was very happy to spend the day walking through the woods, imagining all sorts of adventures! So when it finally came time to choose a place to work, the parks and trees of Alabama helped me to choose this area over places that offered more money.

A co-worker had introduced me to hiking at Oak Mountain State Park and I nearly killed myself near the high point on the mountain trying to climb into a low-branching Oak tree. I just couldn't resist doing it though I wondered what people would think of a grown man climbing a tree like a monkey.

In the neighborhood I live in now, we have many tall older trees. They don't have the support of the woods in these urban settings and often lose parts or entire trees from the storms that come through. I finally had to cut both of the old Bradford Pears down after two storms had taken much of them down and made the rest unstable.

The old Oak in the front has twice lost huge bows to storms though my neighbor and I have been lucky not to have any damage from either time. It is missing most of its canopy and looks like a very large twig or an old balding man with whom I am happy to share it's waning years with.

As I mentioned earlier, when I saw a post about Willow trees, I started to reminisce about my love for trees and recalled my last visit to the neighborhood where I had grown up in Avondale, Louisiana. The trees, the shrubs, and even the plants were mostly gone from my home and many others in the area. They looked bland and naked, bereft of foliage and I realized that the area seemed less pleasant, as if it lacked some energy from the missing foliage. I'm not sure why it had been stripped but it definitely didn't feel the same as it did when I was a kid.

I'm fortunate to now live within a mile of the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve where all sorts of trees and plants grow. I may not be able to identify most of the species but I enjoy their shade and beauty. Sometimes I just have to go off the trail to be near a particular one. To touch it and sometimes, to hug it. Some may think that odd and I have finally come to a point where I understand this disconnect such people have and the lack of understanding it causes.

That connection and desire to be near and even touch the trees and plants is what makes me different from some folks. I feel a very intimate and spiritual connection with the natural world. I see things many others do not notice but I no longer hide my perceptions nor do I apologize for them. It is what it is. If someone criticizes my ways, I learn not to share that part of my life with them but I am not diminished by their opinions. Annoyed a bit and disappointed that they don't share my views but hopeful that in time they will have the opportunity to experience some of the things I have.

I do worry that it might happened only when there aren't any more trees to hug but only time will tell if enough people are able to reconnect in time to realize how precious the trees really are.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Fat - the final frontier of acceptable humor

I am morbidly obese. That being said, I still find myself joking about other people's weight. Even though jokes poked at me (and those I poke at others) hurt. It seems that since this is something most over-weight people can change, it's a form of criticism that is okay. In this case, I know personally how hurtful it is and yet I let such comments pass (or even utter them myself).

Over the years I've tried to change. To at least keep such thoughts to myself when I see some huge person in skin-tight clothes or not even able to cover-up their rolls of fat. Even the word "fat" comes out as if it's some curse word, spit out like poison. And in the process, my own self-loathing is reinforced with each negative thought, word, or action.

The first step of course, is self-love. To forgive yourself for not being what others and even yourself believe to be the only way to be. Of course, this can apply to other issues besides being fat but that's my focus for the moment. I should also acknowledge when something is said by a friend that hurts me and definitely work harder on refraining from such hurtful statements myself!

Although I still tend to be pessimistic and find the "always cheerful" type of people to be annoying, there is a method to their way of thinking. And the thing about what annoys us in others is that it is often something we lack and our own lack is what really annoys us.

So the way to change is to emulate these cheerful folks even if what we say is not true and we don't believe it. You don't have to insist nothing is wrong in your world, just try a few positive affirmations to change something simple, like saying "I love myself.". Positive affirmations are a form of self-hypnosis that really can work to change your view of the world.

I had a friend once that was a channeler. The first time he spoke to me, he relayed a lot of information, all of which applied to my life though he knew little of me. I didn't really believe in such stuff but I did write it all down.

One of the things he told me to read was a book, "You Can Heal Your Life" by Louise L. Hay ( Though I haven't finished it yet, it is full of positive affirmations and a great reminder of how well this works.

I am also fortunate to have reconnected with a cousin of mine who is Spiritual, Wise, Kind, and very into these positive affirmations. She often sends me links to various techniques, meditations, music, and such that help me to re-focus my efforts when my own energy is waning.

The point here of course is to have a few positive folks in your life and try to minimize the negative ones. Unless of course, you enjoy that environment. Each one causes chemical reactions in the brain and some people get use to the feelings caused by negative or stressful situations and believe they need to maintain that feeling by remaining in bad situations.

If you want to make a change for the better, start within and love yourself. Look in a mirror at least once a day, smile at yourself, and say something positive even if you don't completely believe it. Bit by bit, you'll change the world. Working from within yourself and expanding out into the multiverse. We are each part of a wondrous whole and we each matter and have an impact on the world. Make it positive!


Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!!! For more info, try

I do try to be mindful of this wonderful planet we live on every day. As usual, there are the ideals I strive for and the things I actually accomplish.

I see petroleum products as harmful in so many ways and yet I am very dependent on their use. When I learned of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (, I decided this was one of the things I could do something about. I switched to using reusable grocery bags and no longer bought anymore butane lighters since these items made up a large portion of this mass.

I even switched from a gas-guzzling sports car to a more economical car (from 17/24 MPG to 24/32) and began driving less aggressively. I do miss my Mustang but for now, I feel it was a good move.

I am still participating in a garbage recycling trial in my town though no one in office really seems interested with moving forward with the project. Their main concern is if it will save money and we all know that shouldn't be the focus of such a project.

I have lots of plants outside and even some inside to help with air quality. I haven't yet gotten to growing much to eat but I am working to expand that effort this year. First to a few more herbs and then maybe next year with more staple plants.

According to the site, Climate Change is the focus this year. With such a short amount of climate data, I feel the causes and trends are still vague. Still, I do see the changes. From immense glacial sheering, the effects of sea temperature on marine life including the beautiful coral reefs, unusual storms (frequency, strength, time and place), droughts, sea levels rising, and the effects on the various ecosystems, something is definitely happening whatever factors are contributing to it.

Perhaps I've watched too many disaster movies but I worry that things will swing severely out of control in such a way that it devastates life on earth. According to evidence, the human race may have reached a low of only 15,000 individuals due to the Toba volcanic eruption at one time. We don't know what something like that might due to our modern world.

That's why I feel that being conservative in our population growth is also a good "earth friendly" practice until the other issues mentioned are managed much better. We can then slow the need to destroy forests to maintain our growing population and start becoming more aware of the things we do and the reason for doing them before we take a step in the wrong direction.

As we destroy natural habitats, much of it will be lost forever. So the first step is to just think about the simple wasteful things we do. Wasting food. Hoarding. Leaving electrical devices on (lights and other devices we aren't even using). Researching and even trying new forms of energy. And gently encouraging others with things we see they could easily incorporate into their routines. When someone comments on you using reusable shopping bags, buy one for them to try out.

Give living plants as gifts and suggest doing things with friends and family that expose them to the outdoors. A plant sale or a walk in the park. The benefits can be more than you realize. And we just may wind up leaving a little something worth having when we are done borrowing the Earth from those that will need it after us.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A foot in both worlds

Have you ever noticed how readily some people accept unusual events and others seem quite adamant to explain them in scientific terms?

As I grew up, I was very much the type of person that liked to have an explanation for everything, firmly rooted in science. Neither one of my parents had a very good education and I believe that is why they often messed with me instead of giving me straight answers. They often didn't know the answer so they made up funny ones to hide their limitations. That way, when I found out the real answer, they could just laugh off the one they had given me.

They did encouraged me to seek out the answer for myself and provided me with resources to do so. This began with encouraging me to read and providing me with lots of reading material. They bought me a set of Compton's Encyclopedias some time around starting school and as college neared, a set of Encyclopedia Britannica's was added. They might not know the answer but they wanted to help me find it.

But all along the way, I encountered things that science could not answer to my satisfaction. As I got older, though my education continued, I seemed to have more mysteries instead of less. For a while, I dismissed those things I could not explain with explanations like coincidence or simply the limits of my own intelligence. I was determined to remaine firmly rooted in the analytical no matter how many whispers I heard to the contrary.

In my teen years, these unexplainable events seemed to happen more. I think sharing these with my parents is what lead them to discuss mental illness. The things I observed at times obviously seemed crazy and this disturbed my parents. I recall getting lectures about keeping certain observations and such to myself that were unusual.

They emphasized that these experiences were not normal and might be considered crazy, which was a bad thing. Even going to a therapist or psychiatrist was a bad thing that could create a very undesirable stigma around a person.

Oddly enough though, my father decided to take me to a psychiatrist at the University when I was in the eight grade for a variety of psychological and I.Q. tests. He never did say why he did this. It may have been just to get an idea of my intelligence but I know a lot of other tests were also included. I wonder now if they were noticing I was different somehow and were trying to at least keep me from exhibiting unusual behaviors in public. What those were, if any, I still have not entirely figured out.

During my first years in college, I suppressed my spiritual side but after a while, I found this to be a very boring existence. I liked the belief that the world had mysteries and possibly even things science could not explain ever. As I began to pursue my spiritual studies, I finally began to open up to the possibility of the unusual occurring to myself and more importantly, to others.

My first metaphysical teacher had explained how we arrive open to everything that happens to us on so many levels. As we grow, through our own observations and interactions with the world and what others tell us, that world usually begins to become smaller and more defined as we dismiss those things we can't explain. His teachings helped me to stop that contraction and even reverse it.

Now, I don't spend so much time trying to define everything in my world. I especially try not to deny those things I don't understand. I usually try to avoid spending too much time and energy explaining my view to those that are still rooted in science or their own beliefs. I find they drain me and cause me to doubt and I really to have the time and energy to waste on such debates and negativity.

It may mean I'm labeled "crazy" but I am use to that by now. I am annoyed when folks that claim to have their own unusual experiences think they're okay but I'm not but I do understand. They just haven't made that next step back into a larger world. I know how hard it was for me to take that leap so I have to try to give others a bit of slack n their journey.

I often imagined myself walking on the edge of a cliff, with a vast dark nothingness I seemed to be always about to fall into to on my left and a flat barren landscape on my right. It was as if I had to choose, sane or not. There was no grey area, no room for both.

I still remember this image in my mind but what I actually imagine now is a world where both exist in a cacophony of interwoven multi-layers. I try hard not walk too far into either world but remain open to both. It makes my world just a bit more magical than it used to be.

Hopefully, more folks will have the courage to walk their own path, making the world a bit more magical, one by one. Someday, it will be safer to share that view openly and we can all lighten up and enjoy ourselves and this wonderful, magical world we all live in...together.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

One Tribe - Theory versus practice. Love is the Law.

When I am asked what my religion is, I simply tell people I am Spiritual. When asked to clarify what this means, I explain I have developed my beliefs from my observations and interactions with the world and the many belief systems that are out there. This includes a large dose of the belief systems I grew up around but removing those concepts my heart tells me aren't divine. Love is the Law.

That was probably the hardest step to take. To move beyond the fear of many systems of belief and think for myself. To dare to question anything that I knew in my heart wasn't true. Especially with texts that were very old, passed down orally, written and rewritten many times and in many languages. I realized that the divine nature of any text could easily have been changed, lost, or never have existed at all.

Interestingly, it was a great Aunt of mine who was very proud of her Christian standing that made me realize these religions weren't so perfect and gave me the courage to begin questioning things and finally find my own Spiritual path. Early on in a visit from her, she began preaching to me. I remember how important it was that I didn't say I considered myself "religious" but instead declared I was a "Christian".

To me, this seemed a very prideful thing to say and went against what I thought should be some of the qualities of a Christian, such as being humble and focusing on just being a good person. Of course, being part of the LGBT community, I was already beginning to see the incongruities just in the texts so these real-world examples of how each person put theory into practice were just strengthening my beliefs that I wasn't "Christian" material.

The problem was that after a while, seeing so many different interpretations of just this one faith, the knee-jerk response to so much confusion, negativity, and condemnation was to just give up and disconnect from having any beliefs whatsoever. For me though, this just couldn't work. The world spoke to me on a mystical level and I found myself most content with a belief in this Spiritual world.

So I began to study many types of beliefs. I especially enjoyed as a good reference to many different texts. Eventually, I created my own course of study and came to view the world as "One Tribe", focusing on the similarities and the belief that we are all truly connected.

The thing I have had to fight the most is remaining open to the experiences of others. Respectful of their beliefs and practices as well as their experiences. Still being buffeted by a vast majority of Christians in the area I live in, these are often the ones I want to judge unworthy and immediately dismiss instead of finding that "common ground" I spout about and remaining open.

This is of course, my blind spot. I am not practicing my beliefs and closing down because someone else has not practiced their beliefs as well I think they should have and I've become the prideful one. So I have to remain on guard, picking myself up when I stumble, relying on others to help me keep an open mind and heart in order to grow as a Spiritual being. And in doing so, respecting all faiths and hopefully learning from the best of each.

Namaste - The Divine within me recognizes the Divine within you, We are One.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Oscillation - Learning a lesson

I was having a discussion with a family member recently about raising kids. Of course, since I don't have any human children, any information I attempt to add to the conversation is immediately dismissed as not having any worth. I am use to it but the conversation does get misdirected or completely collapses at this point.

Nevertheless, it did get far enough for me to form an example of how I view the learning process and how it can be applied to a wide variety of situations.

When you begin trying to teach a youngling new ideas and concepts, they often make mistakes. These mistakes can be enough of a lesson in themselves or can require more emphasis by the teacher. Some like to bring the big "SIN" word in and use guilt as their tool to teach. I try to look at most incidents as "cause" and "effect", simply a "mistake" or "mis-step" and a lesson to be learn, in my view, a better way to do something.

If the youngling survives its mistake, then you determine the next course of action according to the maturity and intelligence of the subject. This "youngling" could be a six-month old human or all of humanity, to show how vast this concept can be applied. So what they might comprehend from the mistake or lesson is quite different depending on their maturity.

After a few collapses of society, what is remembered, evaluated, and passed on may change. Some of this is due to how well we communicate (papyrus, stone, transistors, etc.) and our view of our world.

I tend to think spiritually in a global manner when it comes to lessons we are teaching ourselves as a society and think of this Intelligent Totality as my parent(s). What part of a lesson applies to me?

Our world has become very complex, growing quickly in many directions. Profit seems to drive much of what the rich and powerful do without regard to the effects on humans and their environment. Few truly believe we borrow this planet from the future whether or not they have family that will need it, or will return ourselves, finding a garbage can over-flowing where the earth once was.

In that case, will the rise and fall of civilization be remembered? If so, will we continue in our selfish abuse of resources, or perhaps choose a better path for our one tribe? Will the losses we suffer to humanity and the environment be enough or will humanities elders need be more heavy-handed in their guidance?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Alpha Dogs: Nature versus Nurture

I was making a cup of coffee this morning in what I consider a very "New 'Awlins" way, albeit, the bachelor version. I don't have Tete's (the nickname I called the cajun lady, Emily Dinett, that I grew up around which she said meant "little Aunt" in cajun French) old ceramic white percolator so I use two heaping teaspoons of Folger's Instant to get that dark rich flavor I recall.

I also use evaporated milk which gives it an almost "cooked" flavor and plenty of sugar like Mr. Peter (Tete's husband). Of course, since I am diabetic, that means 10 packs of aspartame instead of heaping teaspoons of sugar that Mr. Peter would scoop out at the end of drinking his coffee like a sugar coffee candy!

That's where my mind would lead me in my thinking to my father, the alpha dog. In all things, he tried desperately to control or at least influence most things around him. This included constantly teasing Mr. Peter about the amount of sugar he put in his cup and the sickly sweet syrup left behind that he would then scoop out and eat.

I don't recall if Mr. Peter even bothered to argue with my dad on this issue. He probably did say something but he knew it was a waste of breath. The difference was that Mr. Peter didn't alter his behavior to suit my dad's protestations and I liked that. Perhaps that's why I am the way I am, having both these men as influences in my life.

That's when the topic of Nature versus Nurture arose as it often does. It seems to me that there is something in my genetics that makes me desire to control things but since even my lineage is in question, I'm not sure on this point. I do know that I have a lot of my father's traits and this one is a particularly strong one that I struggle with constantly.

With my sister being 16 years older than me, I pretty much grew up as an only child. Even my sister gave me my way and my parents said from Kindergarten (when I was first asked what I wanted to be when I grew up) that I would make a perfect lawyer, because I liked to argue and always had to be right.

Eventually, it is a behavior that spirals out of control. People that have known me for a while give me both respect and resentment at the same time though most don't even realize it. Even though I have tried to tone down my dominating nature, it's not easy and the results are often that everything becomes a competition. When I become less antagonistic or even complimentary, it is pounced on as a victory instead of appreciated as a compliment.

In that case, I can either react by re-asserting my dominance or struggling against my nature and swallowing the need for chest-beating and the desire to inflate my self-pride. It isn't easy but after a certain point, you realize you really don't have to prove anything. You can share what you know whether it is acknowledged or appreciated, knowing you have helped and that is really all that is necessary. Simply being the change you want to see in the world.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Elephants and other things I don't want to forget

I use Microsoft's Bing Desktop which is a search box that sits almost hidden on my desktop and has the added benefit of changing the background on my desktop everyday. Today is the image above of the Elephants with the description "A herd of elephants in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya".

For a few days, I've been getting little hints that it is time to go visit the zoo. Of course, as you become aware of something, you are more likely to notice things that trigger that idea. So I can easily say that it isn't synchronicity but just coincidence though I personally prefer the more magical belief.

I have always had a strong attraction to elephants. My father bought a beautiful table while working overseas when I was very young. The two feet were actually carved into elephants with ivory tusks and toenails and other inlay. It quickly became "my table" and now has the middle of one side of it worn from the black lacquer down to the wood from propping my feet up on it all my life while watching television (no matter how many times my mother hollered at me to "Get your feet off the coffee table!)". It was just too convenient! And now that worn spot triggers fond memories of my mom (even when being yelled at).

The circus use to come to New Orleans and set up near Schweggman's supermarket. After the first time going, I got to go to the tent and see the elephants up close. They would probe with their snouts and I remember thinking I could sneak back in and free them all from the chains that bound thier feet even if I knew they wouldn't get very far.

That memory always reminds me of the time I got to ride an elephant. I don't know where it was or how old I was. I do remember being scared that I would hurt this big animal by stepping on it and grabbing its ear as I climbed up. There was no seat or reins, just a bareback ride as its keeper lead it along. I was on top of the world!

Later in life, I got the nickname "Elephant Ears" because my ears stuck out. At the time, I didn't know that had partially been caused at birth when the doctor had to use the wrong forceps and crushed my skull. It took a long time to discover this because my mom held the belief you didn't speak of bad events and draw that energy down on you but I was persistent and eventually got the story from her.

So when folks teased me and called me "Elephant Ears", it was bittersweet. I knew they meant it in a cruel way and many nights I fell asleep with my ears pressed tightly against my pillows in hopes that they would grow closer to my head. At the same time, I thought of my elephants that I loved so much and bit by bit, became less annoyed and more special by their taunts. Once I heard "An elephant never forgets!", it was just one more feather in my cap.

As I grew up, my mother and I talked about how they had decided not to have surgery in hopes that my head would grow out properly. I told her that as science improved, it was probably better to wait and that I could get them fixed if I wanted to now but I was okay with who I was. If I had known at the time that I was the second son and my brother Freddie had died of meningitis, I would have understood my mom's fear of losing me and the thought of any surgery on my head.

So here I sit, looking at a beautiful picture of elephants in Africa, remembering many interesting things about them, hoping to visit them someday in their own natural habitat, and thinking I really am overdue for a visit to the zoo.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Year of the Snake

I ate at a local Chinese buffet today to celebrate the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). The server was one that waited on me often and she was particularily upbeat and talkative. I suspect it was because of it being the Spring Festival. She said she was very happy to serve me today (something she didn't usually say) so I told her "Thank you and Happy New Year.".

She actually gasped and stared for a moment. Then a broad smile filled her face and she asked "Chinese New Year?". "Yes." I responded.

"Thank you and Happy Chinese New Year!". She almost bounced away. I was quite glad a friend had reminded me of the date yesterday, which I may have missed otherwise. It was such a warm feeling to know why she was so upbeat and to acknowledge why and add to her positive energy.

I left a big tip with another waiter that came to the table. He obviously noticed (and I was worried she might not get the tip). He told me he would be back with my change. I told him to keep it and he responded by saying he would let my server know I had left it (as if he had read my mind).

We are quite a melting pot in this country and it's fun to learn and share in other cultures. I was blessed to travel a few times when I was young (and the world seemed kinder), so I have been exposed to a variety of different cultures. My parents taught me to respect differences even if we didn't agree with them. I have since learned how enlightening this can be.

I don't always do as well in following the principles I set for myself. It seems so much easier to follow the grooves in a road even when you don't want to. The mind is the same way. Paths laid down over time are hard to change but it is worth the extra effort. If simply for the reward of one more smile.