In the dream, I was pretending to be dead.  I’m not sure why, I only knew that it was a part of some sinister plan involving the Thigh Master and world domination.  I lay, sprawled on the floor as if I had just fallen down a flight of stairs, waiting for someone to notice the mound of Mark blocking the exit.  My coworkers, with mild surprise walked around me until one of them used a giant scoop-shovel to coral my lifeless limbs and push me out of the way.  The surprising part of this dream isn’t that my fellow employees didn’t burst out into tears upon my death like I had hoped, it’s that my employer had such a large shovel.  Who has such a tool and for what purpose?  Are we frequently in need of body removal?  We’ve had employees mysteriously leave in the middle of the year, but I assumed they moved on to work in greener pastures not to fertilize them with their decaying bodies.  Toward the end of the dream, I confessed it was all a joke and that I was really alive so body disposal wouldn’t be necessary.  “Silly man,” they said, “Always pretending.”

It’s true, I do pretend a lot.  I pretend I’m famous or that I have a limp; I wear fake body parts and speak in accents of unknown origin.  It gets me through the day and doesn’t really hurt anyone.  My shenanigans run so wild they infiltrate my dreams making contextualizing them a nightmare.  According to dream analysis, pretending in your dreams reveals frustrations about not being taken seriously.  When you’re the funny guy, people only half listen and laugh assuming what you’ve said is witty or sarcastic which isn’t always true.  When I told my friend, Terry, my father died, she guffawed and said, “He did not.”  I assured her he had, and she reassured me he hadn’t.  After several rounds of, “He did / He did not,” she acquiesced, and we both laughed. 

The dream analysis also noted that dreaming about death signified memories, that the dreamer is undergoing a period of healing which seems apropos, but hardly noteworthy.  Aren’t we always in the rehabilitation process?  We’ve all experienced heartache and death.  Some of us handle it with tears and therapy; others of us rely on humor and a giant shovel.  I assume I’m a member of the latter; but maybe I’m just pretending.

The Band

I finally did it.  After 30 years of talking about starting a garage band, I gathered a few friends, a handful of instruments, and together we made sweet music.  Okay, we weren’t in a garage, we were in a carport and the music was more noise than melody.  We were sort of a garage adjacent band – a trio of trained seals beating tambourines and bongos. Unfortunately, the band split up shortly after performing our one song, “Smack My Bitch Up,” and completing a whirlwind tour of the sidewalk.  What can I say?  Sometimes dreams go south – in our case literally; our finger symbols player left us to go to Texas where he could sit around the house and play on his phone.  I guess our grueling two-minute performance was too much for him.  The life of a rock star isn’t for everyone.

Truth be told, this kind of whirlwind life isn’t for me either.  I prefer my days be filled with the sweet music of friendly chatter and my symbols to be figurative rather than finger.  Still though, I’m glad I did it.  I had the courage to take a dream and make it real if only for a minute.  Because of my audacity to be audacious, I can now regale unsuspecting strangers with stories of my epic band and our fall from grace.  We were young then and the whole world lay before us.  Today though, being older and wiser, we go forward knowing our story is still unwritten and when given a chance, we will sing it poorly and at the tops of our lungs.


A German magazine published one of my pictures officially making my artwork an international sensation.  Okay, sensation might be a bit too strong of word for a single piece in a small magazine, but the idea makes me feel sensational inside.  This picture was chosen to highlight an article written in German and, since the only word I know in the language is, “gesundheit,” I have no idea if the piece is good or bad.  For all I know, the writers may be calling me an inadequate fraud producing mediocre art or informing others that I make sausages from baby kittens; the only thing I am sure of is that they are not blessing a sneeze.  I suppose I could use Google Translate to decode the message, but I rather like the idea of mystery and if, as P.T. Barnum once said, “There's no such thing as bad publicity,” then this sausage making mediocre artist is at the top of his game.

We live in a world that seeks to explain away almost everything – How did life begin?  Are there parallel universes?  What is a hot dog really made of?  Who decides what art is good?  The magic of not knowing the answer to these questions relieves us from the urge to control everything in our existence and to eat foods that began life as a slurry of rejected parts. When a person accepts the idea of mystery, there is a tendency to flow with the stream of life without unnecessary tension and stress.  Not knowing allows us to get comfortable with our own thoughts, beliefs, and imaginations.  Mystery makes us go with our feelings and makes use of our intuitive ability to be directed by our inner guide.

Because the magazine printing my picture is a Buddhist publisher, I assume I am not being used to highlight the joys of consuming kitten sausage or being called inept as an artist or human.  My inner guide says my work is helping spread thoughts of peace and inner joy or at least playing a part in wishing others a sensational day.  Whatever it is, to those who see it, I say, “Gesundheit,” because it means healthy-hood, and because it is the only German word I know.


My husband and I are taking dancing lessons – two stepping to be specific.  After years of moving one step forward and two steps back in our relationship, we made a conscious decision to engage in activities that strengthen our bond.  Most of these steps are small such as taking turns operating the TV remote, others are more involved like the agreement to not dismember the other whilst he is sleeping.  Although I am of the firm belief that cowboy boots are a fashion crime, country dancing hardly constitutes capital punishment and am thusly willing to participate sans the bedazzled wardrobe so joyously worn by two-stepping enthusiasts.

 I, being the only one of us to clear a disco, lead our dancing duo.  It is the leader’s job to take the first step and guide the path of the couple.  Using subtle clues such as a raised hand or a slight pressure in grip, the leader navigates the two around the dance floor being cautious not to trip over obstacles or step all over his partner.  I do my job fairly well.  Sometimes I make a mistake and screw up our footwork or lead us into a corner, but so far, neither of us has lost limb.

 In relationships, it is often one member who charts the path a couple will take.  Sometimes the path is smooth, but often the chosen roads lead to dark corners.  When the couple is faced with crimes of the heart, they try pressuring each other into being something different, stomping on dreams, unable to get into sync.  Finding the way out of these corners is a delicate dance that requires a leader.  This leader has to subtly guide his partner to greater joy since a person’s individual happiness is closely tied that of his partner. 

When one half of a duo’s joy increases, his partner’s rises to meet it.  That is not to say that the leader is responsible for the other half – only that when one person leads the way through kindness, respect, and being present, the road to lasting joy contains fewer obstacles.  Of course, your partner must be willing to dance.  Once the two of you have taken one, and then two steps forward in harmony, you can feel more assured that you will be able to dance through the disagreements of TV shows and bedazzled jeans without fear of dismemberment.


In the year 1991 I bought my first car.  It was a 1973 Toyota Corolla that backfired each time I shifted gears.  It had no headliner and smelled vaguely of cat pee, so I set to work changing the things I could change – I spraypainted the rust, lined the headliner with stickers, and hung a new-car scented air freshener from the rear-view mirror.  All was better.

But not really.  Sure, my hair no longer stuck to the ceiling and the cat pee smelled fresher, but the internal workings were still subpar at best.  The paint did nothing to fix the oil leak or the treadles tires, and the air freshener couldn’t stop the gas fumes from infiltrating the interior.  I was only fooling myself believing that a better-looking parked car was going to get me anywhere.

People often try to change the inner workings of their lives by painting the exterior with better clothes and luxury cologne, but this plan often backfires.  Much the way new jeans can’t change the genetic predispositions; a new look won’t dimmish the scent of fraud.  Actions will always speak louder than words. 

When we are stuck in the rut of being who we were, we have to change more than the package; we have to change our interior thoughts.  To escape this endless parking lot, one needs to figure out his patterns of behavior and then find creative ways to counteract them and form new habits.  When driving we are taught the two-second rule -- the premise being that by following behind traffic by two seconds, one will have time and space to brake safely; when making decisions, the same premise applies.  Give yourself time before making a rash decision.  Understand your motivations and intentions.  Stop and breathe.  Only when we become aware of who are and who we want to be can we find the roads that will lead us to our destination.  It’s time to leave the cat-pee smelling past in the rear-view mirror and shift gears to the fresher future; hopefully in something more grand than a Toyota Corolla.

Rules of Engagement

When I was in the second grade I wrestled for sport; twice a week I’d attend practice after school and learn the ins and outs of takedowns and reversals.  Once I understood the rules and perfected a few moves, I got to be pretty good.  I enjoyed the sport until, in an adrenaline filled moment during a high stake’s tournament, I was taken down out of the mat lines, my head bouncing unceremoniously off the concrete floor.  I wasn’t seriously injured, and the fight continued until I was defeated.  After the match, I turned in my headgear and quit the sport.  If wrestling was going to hurt this bad, I wanted no part of it.

Rules exist to keep us safe, to protect us from harm, but sometimes the rules get broken, and someone gets hurt.  As an adult, my fights aren’t physical so much as emotional.  I’ll argue with my husband about who made the mess in the kitchen or which one of us is responsible for the discontent with life, and for the most part we follow a set of unspoken rules knowing how to push buttons but not cause serious injury.  For the most part. . .  but every now and then one of us will step over the line and say something that makes both of us want to quit. 

In life there are no referees to call illegal moves or disqualify an overly ambitious foe; there exists only a mutual understanding of rights and wrongs.  It’s up to us to wrestle with injustices, to pin down our feelings, and to protect our hearts while keeping our heads in the game.  If we’ve developed enough trust and respect, we bounce back from the pain – if not, we quit.  It’s hard work, it takes practice, and the rules aren’t concrete.  Take the time to learn the ins and outs of your relationships.  Trust your ability to reverse a takedown.  And wear headgear (just in case). 

Manty Liners

The problem with getting older isn’t the grey hair or wrinkles, it’s the way life dribbles away in slow, almost imperceptible ways.  One day you and your friends are day drinking at a drag club, the next day you’re dragging yourself to bed at 9:00 P.M. complaining about how you can’t stay up late enough to watch the evening news.

Time passes and the things you once controlled slip away; you fart when walking, forget the password for the internet, and dribble urine when you sneeze.  Incidental peeing has happened to me so frequently, I have taken to lining my manties with a paper towel certain that at some point in the day I will be required to quietly and discreetly remove the dampened towelette from my drawers and dispose of it in the trashcan by my desk.         

Getting older certainly has its drawbacks, but it has its rewards as well.  Older folks tend to recall more good memories than bad; we let things go easier; and we are more accepting of our faults.  Yes, my hair is greying, and yes, my bladder leaks.  But despite all these things, I think I’m pretty great.  My face is lined with wrinkles, my underpants are lined with a Brawny paper towel, and my life is lined with fond memories.  Now if I could just stay up long enough to watch the evening news, I’d feel as though my life were complete. 

Skin in the Game

My husband recently lost 150 pounds through hard work, dedication, and surgical procedures.  This dramatic weight loss left behind obvious reminders of his former self.  Wanting a little distance from the weight of his past, my husband had his excess skin surgically removed.  As a firm believer in reduce, reuse, recycle, I asked the surgeon if I could keep the flesh and perhaps make it into a nice wallet or leather belt – something to be uses as a reminder of why a healthy lifestyle is worth the investment.  The surgeon informed me this was not a possibility, and so the belly flesh went the way of the foreskins of circumcised individuals the world over, never to be seen of or heard from again.

To grow from the past and move into the present one must acknowledge the difficulties, flesh out the details, and let go of the pain.  Our unique emotional habits have a profound influence on the way we view life, the way we act, and how adept we are at moving on.  Emotions are like muscles – they can be trained to be depressed and sad or they can be honed to be joyful and passionate.  The first step is cutting through the fat.  It’s the small rituals that we do every day that build momentum and lead to massive change.  Eat healthy.  Meditate.  Engage in activities you enjoy like yoga or leather working.  A weightier existence often involves slimming down our bad habits and creating new ones that move us forward in the direction we’d like to go.  Find your purpose, then move toward it with surgical procedure.  With a little skin in the game, you can be living the life you always wanted.

Too Many Walls

I’m a sucker for home improvement shows; they always inspire me to make changes to my house.  Traditionally, these transformations involve paint and curtains, but every now and then I am inspired to modify things structurally.  Modern trends have moved away from separate rooms and toward open concepts that create easy conversation and the ability to watch the kids while preparing dinner.  Though I have no children and frequently prefer to converse with myself, I am intrigued by the idea of fewer barriers. 

We build barricades around ourselves all the time; we wall off groups of people, cage in our feelings, and hold our emotions captive.  We keep the world at arm’s length and avoid difficult conversations.  Good fences may make good neighbors, but a walled-up heart only makes a good deal of loneliness. 

Too many walls have been built in between us for too long.  It is time for a structural change.  It’s time to open our hearts and start a conversation with the neighbor we’ve never met.  It’s time to break bread with friends and strangers.  It’s time to fling wide the curtains and let the light shine in on our newly renovated hearts and homes. 

Brace Yourself

I had braces for my Senior pictures which means I didn’t smile.  I stared earnestly into the camera and did my best to convey a look of quiet consternation which ended up looking a bit more like quiet constipation, still, it was better than the crooked grin of my childhood days.  I had done my best to avoid the orthodontist; I tried pressing and taping my teeth into place which, of course, did nothing to prevent the inevitable.  I suffered the braces for two years enduring the headgear and rubber bands that slowly corrected the misalignment of my oral real estate.  Finally, upon the removal of the hardware, I thought I was free of the orthodontist forever.  But, alas, I was instructed to wear a retainer to keep my pearly whites in alignment or they may fall back into the old habit of bumping into one another and lacerating the lips.  Fair enough.

Sometimes we need help when straightening things out in life; we need a professional to reshape our thinking and help mold our beliefs.  It may take a few days or a few years, but guidance can help us align or thoughts to fit our lifestyles.  It will be hard.  It will be painful. And it will require maintenance to keep us from falling back into old habits.  Retaining the best version of ourselves is a job, but it’s one we can smile about.

A Blockbuster Tale

I worked at Blockbuster Video for a few years in the early 90’s during the changeover from VHS to DVD.  It was a great gig for a cinephile such as myself.  For $4.25 an hour and countless trips to the New Release wall, one was granted seven free videos a week and a plethora of in-store screenings of family favorites.  Sometime later, as a paying customer, I was given a Gold Card – an honor reserved for those who had rented a minimum of 125 videos per year.  Upon seeing this number, I took stock of the days and weeks spent in front of the TV watching fantasy people living fantasy lives that could have been spent living a life of my own.  Something had to change.  It was time for a new lease on life.

I rewound and reviewed the choices I had made and vowed to make better ones.  Rather than watching life pass me by, I became an active participant.  I stocked my days with friends and creative endeavors.  Now, I watch about two movies a month and Blockbuster has only one store left.  Maybe my new lease on life was more than the store could handle.  Or maybe that’s just some fantasy I saw in some movie.  Either way, I’m making the most of the golden opportunities that lye in front of me.

Bionic Thinking

I was born in 1973, the same year "Six Million Dollar Man" debuted on ABC.  For the first five years of my existence, former astronaut, Colonel Steve Austin, having fallen from the sky while testing an experimental lifting body aircraft, was rebuilt and made better, stronger, and faster than he was.  Armed with an enhanced version of himself, Steve combatted evil and thwarted the dubious plans of foreign governments.  Oh, how I longed to be bionic and be able to bend steel poles with my bare hands and jump over tall fences in a single bound.  But, alas, I was just a boy with no discernable strengths of fitness or mental prowess.

Later in life, having failed at becoming an astronaut and, instead, becoming an ass, I realized the only way I was going to combat my bad behaviors and thwart my dubious choices, was to become a better, stronger version of myself.  Unfortunately, bionics were not an option.  Rather than rewire my body parts to gain speed, I rewired my brain to slow down my thoughts.  This retooling of the mind allowed me the opportunity to bend my thinking and avoid jumping to conclusions.  This enhanced version of myself didn’t save the world, but it did save me from falling into a pit of despair.  It doesn’t take a bionic eye to see the value of self-reflection.  But I bet it wouldn’t hurt either.  I’ll have to ask Steve when next I see him.

Trust in Batman

I love cartoons, especially those created in the 1960’s.  I’ll sit and watch Batman, or Birdman, or Aquaman for hours; if the word “man” is in the title, it is bound to be entertaining.  The thing I like best about these animated melodramas is the fact the characters narrate what they are going to do before the do it.  If Batman is going to use his batarang to cut himself free from the Riddler’s net, he informs the audience of his intentions moment before he performs the task to the shock and awe of no one.  It’s not as if we aren’t clever enough to figure out what he is doing as he is doing it, the show’s creators just want to ensure there is no misconceptions or misunderstandings about our hero’s abilities to free himself from seemingly impossible situations.  If only life worked that way.

In life, people don’t always project their intentions before their actions.  No one, upon an introduction, says, “Hi, my name is John, and I’m going to break your heart and steal your poodle.”  Instead, we rely on a thing called, “trust.”  Trust is a central part of all human relationships; we believe in a probability that a person will behave in certain ways, yet this trust is rarely absolute, but rather is restricted to particular situations.  I trust Batman will save the day because I have a good feeling about him, an essential element of trust.  The riddle is in figuring out whom to trust and whom to not.  Without a narration, we have to trust our heart and know that we have the ability to cut ourselves free from nets of despair and save ourselves from heartache.  Misconceptions and misunderstandings are bound to happen, but I trust we can handle it, Man.   

The Skye's the Limit

I have a friend who, upon entering college, changed her name to Skye.  Her reason was simple – she wanted to; and so, she did.  Since that time, she has changed her major, changed her hair color, and changed her life.  We are told, growing up, that they sky is the limit, that we can do anything.  But what if we want more than the sky?  What if we want the moon and the stars?

On July 20, 1969, two American astronauts landed on the moon and became the first humans to walk on the lunar surface proving the sky is not the limit.  The sky is just the starting point.  If you don’t believe me, ask my friend Skye (who has since changed her name again).  If you want to do something, you’ve got to do it; you can’t just hope for it or talk about it; you’ve got to take action.  Take that one small step for man, that one giant leap for mankind.  Go boldly into your future and be the change you’d like to see in the world.

I Assume

The word “sportsman” has never been used to describe me.  I’ll play just about anything, but talent or skill with a ball is not in my repertoire, so one can imagine the surprise felt when, while shooting hoops with my students, I swished a half-court shot.  I had been playing more ball lately, but I assumed the distance shots were beyond my reach.  Of course, some research shows that when we assume, we are wrong better than 50% of the time.  So why do we assume?

One way our brain saves energy is by making assumptions. By drawing on past experiences, we find patterns in how the world works. When faced with new situations, we apply these patterns—or assumptions—to the new environment.  This process saves us the energy of analyzing each situation completely anew.  But it also limits possibilities.  If given half a chance, we may find we secretly harbor amazing talents.  We can’t all be basketball stars, but we can all be better people.  With half a mind to do so, we can change our whole lives.  Perhaps that is why my recent hoop success has got me thinking of buying shorty basketball shorts.  I assume they’ll look okay, but who knows?

An Affair of the Art

For the past several years, I have found myself torn between two loves – art and writing.  Both bring me joy, both make me feel as though I am contributing beauty to society, and both make me feel more complete as a complex individual.  When I am enjoying one, I feel as though I am cheating on the other.  It appears that I am experiencing an affair of the art.  So how to choose? 

Choice and decision-making are fundamental aspects of life involving likelihoods and possibilities that are uncertain, and the choices people make will determine, in part, their quality of life.  When faced with uncertainty, people often rely on the theory of expected value: When faced with a choice between uncertain alternatives, one will determine the positive or negative values of every possible outcome, along with each option’s probability, then multiply those choices and pick the option that produces the highest number.  In my case, art has contributed more income, yet I am most proud of my writing.  So, it boils down to a value judgement.

We humans make value judgments to know what we find important in life and what not based the perceived rightness or wrongness of something or someone, or of the usefulness of something or someone when compared to something else.  When one makes a value judgment one forms an opinion based on personal principles and beliefs and not on facts that can be checked or proved.  So, it comes down to the heart, and my heart tells me I don’t have to choose.  I’m in love with the process and not the product.  The process is valuable to me, if others enjoy the love child of my thoughts and art – fabulous.  If not, that’s their affair.

The Point

Last summer I learned how to crochet with the goal of becoming good enough to mindlessly create woven works of art that serve a purpose.  After many false starts and do-overs my too-tight tension has loosened to a workable consistency that easily accommodates the needle point and is stable enough to not unravel.  Now, a year later, I can crochet in the dark working by feel and a practiced know-how that guides me along to the finished product usually a scarf or blanket gifted to friends and family.  My hope is that every time a loved one wraps him or herself in these knotted delights, they will remember that someone loves theme enough to spend hours and days working through shoulder pain to deliver a present that literally warms the heart.

We find ourselves in tight spots frequently in life.  The tension of relationships and work creates pain that can make us feel useless.  We wander around in the dark searching for a purpose that will make us feel good enough to continue our existence.  We are faced with false starts and dead ends.  What we crave is a do-over; the chance to get it right.  Life, unlike crocheting, is not a mindless task.  To experience love and warmth, one has to practice, to work through the pain, to learn the lessons and make use of what has been given.  With practice, we can get better.  And that’s the point, isn’t it?  To get better.  To create a workable mindset that allows us to not unravel.  The only way out is through, and the only way through is practice.  I am currently experimenting with new crochet stitches.  My hope is that my art and my life will be more full, more beautiful, more useful.  It’ll take some time, but I’ll get there.

Let's Wait Awhile

My coming out story is rather dull.  There was no grand proclamation or gut-wrenching drama, just a slow realization that things were not as they seemed.  As a child of the 70’s and 80’s, homosexual representation was limited to funny, effeminate sidekicks on TV or tragic and repressed characters in movies.  Without realistic representation, the idea that a person, let alone me, could be gay never really crossed my mind.  The signs were there, I just didn’t know what they meant.  When I sang Janet Jackson’s “Let’s Wait Awhile” to my girlfriend when she would get frisky, I assumed it was because I was old-fashioned and believed in waiting to have sex until marriage. When I checked out other guys in the locker room, I assumed everyone else was doing the same – didn’t everyone have a boy-crush?  The answer is, “No,” not everyone has a same-sex crush, and sex before marriage is as common as a cold.  But the head never hears until the heart is listening.  So how do we listen with our hearts?

Sometimes, when we are trying our best to move past our troubles, things come along and block us; we get so caught up in what’s going on in our heads that we forget about our emotional selves.  The habits of behavior can be so ingrained in us that it is hard to tell ourselves that we are not feeling what we think we are feeling.  When this occurs, we need to wait awhile and place our hands on our hearts and feel what’s inside.  The heart operates in terms of energy and frequency and emits an electromagnetic field that can be measured up to 5 feet away.  Negative emotions, such as anger or fear, are associated with a disordered, erratic, incoherent pattern in the heart’s rhythms.  In contrast, positive emotions, such as appreciation or love, are associated with an ordered, coherent, smooth pattern in the heart’s rhythmic activity.  What we feel in our chest is our heart responding to our reality. It speaks the only language it knows -- energy.  Though listening to the heart sounds as cliché as an effeminate gay sidekick on a TV sitcom, the heart represents the self, and the self is no laughing matter.  Admit your boy-crush.  Admit things aren’t always what they seem.  Follow your heart, and your head will catch on.

Third Act Surprises

I am not a New York Times best selling author.  Nor am I a famous actor, or an acclaimed artist.  My opening act of life has been spectacularly mediocre and that is okay with me.  Still, one never knows what twists may come in the third act, so I have been constructively preparing for the unknown future.  I have begun writing and playing sports with my non-dominant left hand just in case I lose the right one in a terrible blender accident.  I have taken classes in everything from Reiki to Belly Dancing in case I lose my current job, and I have socked away small, unmarked bills in case I have to make a quick exit from the country.  As Louis Pasteur said, “chance favors the prepared mind,” so I prepare for unlikely chances.

The future doesn’t have to be scary.  Chance can be seen as opportunity – opportunity for growth, for adventure, for betterment.  In the face of unpredictable, uncontrollable situations, fear tends to fill in the blanks and we quickly lose perspective.  To keep things in balance, consider the “worst case” scenario you can conjure and take it as far as the imagination will go.  Then, imagine the “best case” scenario and blow it up into the wildest wonderful thing conceivable.  Finally, consider the “most likely” scenario.  Once one has imagined the most likely scenario, the worst case seems kind of distant, even highly improbable and absurd. Toggling these states can widen our lens and expand our perspectives in the present moment.  I am presently not a famous actor, but, if the time comes, I will be prepared having practiced my Academy Awards acceptance speech, “Thank you.  It’s really an honor just being nominated…”


The Rubik’s Pyraminx has 3,732,480 possible permutations making solving the thing a seemingly impossible task, yet this puzzle can be solved from any random position in less than 12 moves – the trick is knowing which moves move you closer to the solution and which take you further away.  Many things in life seem complex – relationships, balancing work and family, non-refrigerated meat in a can; the permutations of possibilities can be overwhelming.

To begin finding solutions to the myriad of twists and turns life can throw at us, one must first stop; stop and step away to create some separation between you and whatever is that is making you feel overwhelmed.  Be kind to yourself and know that misguided moves can be corrected and, often times, things aren’t as complex as they appear.  Relationships evolve, work and family find an equilibrium, and SPAM consists of only six ingredients, pork shoulder and ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite.  So few ingredients, yet prepared in the proper fashion, create a delicious experience.

Nothing but the Truth

Jury service is one of the most important civic duties a citizen can perform, and I have performed this duty exactly once.  It was the fall of 2011 and we, as an impartial jury, were instructed to parse out the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth from hours of testimony.  Having heard all the facts, it was our job to debate and deliver justice.

We, as humans, perform this type of duty every day; we listen to reports, form an opinion, and base our decisions and judgements on what we believe to be true.  These truths express our general understandings of how the world works and what it is and means.  But multiple things can be true simultaneously and contradictorily: those jeans make your ass look big and they look good on you; good people sometimes do bad things.  The truth is a slippery subject that is subject to interpretation. 

Everyone knows the truth.  Their truth.  The truth that guides their world.  But imagine how much bigger the world could be if we opened ourselves up to the whole truth, the truth beyond our beliefs.  Would the world be a better place?  Would justice be more rightly served?  Would we wear different jeans?  I’m betting it would be, but the jury is still out.

It's Not Sad; It's True

As a schoolteacher, I live for summer.  I take the time off to sleep in, lunch with friends, and learn some zany new skill like belly dancing or juggling while bouncing on a pogo stick.  Summer days seem to stretch on forever as one day blends with the next until, at last, the summer comes to a close bringing with it the worry and anxiety of the impending schoolyear.  In the blink of an eye, endless days turn into dark nights and the welling sadness of freedoms lost.

This cycle of joy and sadness has plagued me since I became a teacher, but this past year I realized that the end of summer isn’t sad; it’s just true.  Things come to an end – summer gives way to fall, friendships end, people die.  When we stop our stories at the perceived end, we aren’t telling the whole story.  The end of the day is just the beginning of the night. The death of a flower is the birth of compost for the next generation.  By learning to let the story unfold naturally from beginning to end to rebirth, the sadness becomes a moment to reflect and find the joys in what is yet to come.  The end of summer means the end of sleeping in, but it also means the beginning of molding lives, of making a positive difference, of personal growth.  As a teacher, I rely on facts to teach the lessons of life.  It is a fact that time marches on.  It is a fact that when one thing ends another begins.  It is a fact that I still cannot juggle while jumping on a pogo stick.  Not yet anyway, but this story is only beginning.


As an etymology junkie, words and phrases enthrall me.  Whenever I hear a clever turn of phrase, my mind immediately jumps to a visual, then tries to make that visual fit the scenario in which it was spoken.  The first time I heard the phrase, “Mind your P’s and Q’s,” I instantly thought of an alphabet kindergarten class where big letter teachers were minding little letter students.  That seemed silly, so I performed a little research and found P’s and Q’s stand for Pints and Quarts and dates to 17th century English pubs where bartenders would keep a watch on the pints and quarts of alcohol consumption – drunk patrons are, apparently, rude and sloppy and should mind their P’s and Q’s.  That makes much more sense than a classroom of letters.

Some may say that explanation is B.S. and move on to greener pastures, but I believe words have power and people should be aware of the meanings of what they say.  A person’s B.S., or Belief System, guides her every decision.  Humans form their beliefs first and then look for evidence to support them afterwards.  As a 'belief engine', the brain is always seeking to find meaning in the information that it receives. Once it has constructed a belief, it rationalizes it with explanations, almost always after the event. The brain thus becomes invested in the beliefs and reinforces those beliefs by looking for supporting evidence while blinding itself to anything contrary.  Passionate and Quick investment in beliefs can lead to intolerance and conflict, as history tragically attests.  If one doesn’t mind her P’s and Q’s one may become the victim of the brain’s own rude and sloppy bullshit.  Slow down.  Examine your thoughts.  Is what you think reasonable?  Does it make sense?  Or are you just trying to make sense of a nonsensical scenario?  A closer examination may lead to the realization that your belief system is full of B.S. 

I Don't Like Big Buts

In 1992, Sir Mix-A-Lot released the song “Baby Got Back” proclaiming his love for big butts and itty-bitty waists, and though I can appreciate a large rear end, I don’t care for its smaller cousin “but.”  We use the word “but” to soften the blow when delivering tough news: “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, but my dog had herpes,” or “I’m sorry I have to break up with you, but my horoscope says we’re incompatible.”  The problem with this little but is that it tends to negate everything that came before it.  “I mean it, but there are conditions.”  Essentially, we are admitting fault while blaming something else for our actions.   Instead of just being sorry, we are sorry outside forces made us do it.

“Oh my God Becky, did you hear his ‘but’?  It was so trite.”  An apology is about us acknowledging the wrongfulness of our own actions and making amends; it is not about pointing fingers at other people as a way to justify those actions.  So, fellas (yeah) fellas (yeah), you wanna say you’re sorry?  Then shake that but right out of the apology.  We all make mistakes and we all hurt others. When it happens, a sincere and well-thought-out apology is always the best first step in recovering your integrity.  Admit fault, seek amends, and keep on dancing.

The Scent of Sense

My most recent adventure has been essential oils.  I’ve taken a couple of classes, purchased a few aromas, and have tried to make sense of scents, but so far, the magic eludes me.  I’ve mixed Neroli with Lavender and Frankincense with Myrrh but have yet to uncover the essence of the essentials. 

Experience has shown that some things make sense and that some things don’t; and that not all things have to make sense to be sensible, yet I continue to try and fit the round peg of knowing into the square hole of the unknowable.  Why do the innocent suffer?  Why does evil get rewarded.  I don’t know, and after years of trying to right the wrongs, I’ve come to realize that attempting to solve the unsolvable only leads to anger and confusion. 

So, I don’t know Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino essential oil blend.  And I don’t know the secret to ending suffering or creating lasting happiness.  I do know that my actions affect others, and that it is essential I accept my limits and do the best with what I have.  If I can do those things, life will be smelling pretty sweet.  Take that Tom Ford.

Don't Play Ball in the House

In 1970, Peter Brady warned us of the dangers of playing ball in the house.  In the episode, “Confessions, Confessions,” Peter and his brothers accidentally break their mom’s favorite vase and, rather than admitting the truth, they hide the facts with glue and lies.  As one may imagine, this backfires and Peter eventually confesses and accepts the consequences of his actions.

When things break, we are given the opportunity to know exactly what those things are made of – be it a vase, a car engine, or a relationship.  By seeking and finding the little bits that make it whole, we can, sometimes, piece it back together and make anew what was once broken; and though this new thing resembles the original, it is different.  It is weightier.  It has a more substantial existence. 

As Peter discovered the hard way, running and hiding from the truth only leads to trouble.  We must admit fault and accept the consequences.  With a little luck, a lot of awareness, and a bit of glue, some things are reparable.  And if, in they end, they remain broken, our honesty and acceptance keeps the ball in our court and allows us to move forward a bit fractured, but unbroken.

The Practice of Pulling

Every spring I grow excited at the prospects of planting things in the earth – flowers, vegetables, herbs, anything I can point to and say, “Look.  I did that.”  And every summer, having nourished the fruits of my labor, I point to my land and say, “Look.  A weed is infiltrating my plot.”  At first, I am eager to bend and pull the invaders, but as time progresses, I begin to think that all this tedium is getting in the way of my life and that this work is beneath me.  I wonder, “Is there a point to doing this work that seems pointless; this work, with no visible end, no redeeming value, and no apparent urgency?”

It is at this moment that I stop myself and realize, “Yes, this work is literally beneath me, but this land is supporting me and nourishing me, and that the only life that is being interfered with is an imaginary one – a life of what-ifs and how-comes.”  An imaginary life peopled by an imaginary me.  But this work, this never-ending pointless work is practical because it is practice in perspective.  With only a change in perspective, the most mundane things take on inexpressible beauty. With perspective we learn not to judge. And when we don’t judge, we see things in a different light.  By bending to the tasks that seem beneath us we grow to appreciate the life in front of us.  So, I pull the weed.  And the weed after that.  And the weed after that.  Until I see the weed for the beauty it possesses and appreciate the lessons it has to teach.

Best In Show

Last Sunday I watched Westminster Kennel Club’s annual Masters Agility Championships competition where fifteen dogs competed for top prize.  Each dog ran a variety of obstacles hoping to be the winner.  After much struggle and strife, Verb, the Border Collie was crowned Champ.  Verb won with a fault free lightning-fast time of 31.3 seconds; his ladder climbing, hoop jumping prowess proved to be the best in class. 

After the event, I sat down to complete homework for a Master’s class I am currently taking in the hopes of being, if not best in show, at least good enough to graduate.  But like the dogs who don’t place in the Championships, I struggle to jump through hoops; and that is what this class is to me – a hoop through which I am forced to jump. 

After years of making excuses and grousing about the hoop, I’ve decided the time has come for me to thoroughly examine this obstacle and my reluctance to jump.  Initially, the class seemed pointless and a waste of time – a rung on the ladder of success.  Now, weeks into the struggle, I find that by looking past the hoop and into my thoughts of the hoop, I can find meaning and purpose.  Life presents us with obstacles that force us to change our thinking and develop our agility.  Of course this class will help me grow.  It presents me with new information and broadens my thinking beyond its traditional borders.  The class highlights my faults and that is why I must jump.  I may not be the best, but, upon completion, I will be Better In Show.

Planet of the Apes

According to scientists, humans evolved from primates.  We became who we are gradually, evolving new physical traits and behaviors on top of those inherited from earlier primates, mammals, vertebrates, and the very oldest living organisms; we formed colonies, used tools, built shopping malls, learned complex thinking, and developed ways to get along.  Sort of.  Evolution doesn’t follow a linear pattern – Species die out, converge, and form separate lineages.  Modern man (Homo sapiens sapiens) is no exception.  As time progresses and we begin to revert to tribalism, one has to wonder where do we go from here?  Do we evolve to become more tolerant and compassionate, or do we devolve to unibrows and toxic masculinity?

Separate groups of organisms belonging to the same species adapt in different ways to better exploit diverse environments and resources. That is, different groups evolve in different directions. Over time, these groups or populations may become so different that they can no longer breed together -- separate species are formed.  Luckily for us humans, compassion and benevolence are an evolved part of our nature, rooted in our brain and biology, and ready to be cultivated for the greater good.  Compassion isn’t simply a fickle or irrational emotion, but rather an innate human response embedded into the folds of our brains.  Though change is inevitable, we aren’t destined to become The Planet of the Apes.  Perhaps we are destined to build bigger malls where we can enjoy the company of other humans.  Perhaps not.  Time will tell; until then, we can breathe deeply, practice compassion, and hope for the best.


Mid-Life Crisis

My 49-year-old husband recently announced his arrival to mid-life by buying a convertible.  It’s sleek and silver and makes him feel good about himself.  I, being the overachiever, hit my mid-life crisis at 40 and marked it by binge drinking my way into the emergency room.  Ironically, the price tags for our crises were nearly identical.  I had imagined my middle-aged self to be the same me but with nicer clothes; I’d still attend gallery openings, weird theater performances, and drag shows at dive bars, but I would do them with more expendable cash and perhaps a slight limp. On top of that, I’d finally be able to speak and understand French, but “Non.  C'est la vie.”  My middle age is sufficiently boring and leaves me plenty of emotional space to appreciate the blessings in my life.  

What is a midlife crisis?  Why should middle age be a time of crisis; and what do we mean by “crisis” anyway?  Is it a time of change -- a fulcrum from what was to what will be?  Or is it just a fabricated leftover from generations gone by?  Explanations for why crises happen in midlife often highlight that many factors can coincide (family dynamics, career stalemate, hormonal shifts) and force a re-evaluation of one’s existence.  Whether or not these re-evaluations are warranted by reaching a particular age, the themes of change -- in our bodies, our family, our careers or ambitions, or our need to learn French -- are all deeply relevant to our sense of meaning and purpose in life.  Since purpose is reliably linked to better health, including agility, speed, and grip strengths among older adults, as well as better cognitive functioning and even longevity, and realizing binge drinking was helping exactly no one, I reached past my crisis and sought new purpose.  After years of burning the candle at both ends, I paused and reinvested time and attention in reflection and learning, reconnecting with my strengths, values, and what gives me joy.  And right now, what brings me joy is having coffee with friends, artistic endeavors, and cruising around town in my husband’s new car.  C'est vivre.

Music and Swine

As a city boy, the ways of the country are a mystery to me; hog shows and rodeo queens are about as familiar as backwoods hillbilly bands and camel anatomy, so when I recently found myself in the midst of a pre-slaughter pig show, my curiosity was naturally piqued.  The first order of business was the presentation of last year’s queen who would soon be relinquishing her thrown and duties of ribbon cutting and picture posing to someone younger and in tighter camel-toe jeans.  Next up was the pig showing where swine to small to be processed were strutted out and judged on hip width, bone structure, and body fat.  Herders corralled and marched their prized piggies before the judge beating the hogs into submission leaving me to wonder if this is how the rodeo queen is picked as well.

Hours later, the winning hogs and queens proudly posed for pictures wearing their respective ribbons and crowns preparing to be fattened up and sent to auction where the highest bidder will claim their future bacon and potential bride.  None of the winners in the evenings categories were of my choosing – I prefer my pigs to be potbellied and house broken, and my queens to be of the drag variety, but, as with everything -- pigs, people, music, and life – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

Unknown Potential

Recently, my husband had a few of his internal organs removed – his gallbladder, part of his stomach, his sense of humor; and since that time, his gastrointestinal tract vacillates between Soviet Blockade constipation and leaky water faucet anal seepage.  The latter option keeping both of us up most of last night.  By three in the morning, I began to wonder just how much and where a body could store such reserves of refuse; it was as if his body was ingesting, digesting, and ejecting bits of itself through every available orifice.  The whole act seemed super human and left me awe-struck.

As dawn arose and the sound of the flushing toilet faded, I recalled stories about average folks performing incredible tasks – a frightened mother lifts the car off her infant son, an elderly gentleman pulls his wife from a burning building, and I wondered just how much untapped potential lies in each of us.  Are we all unknowing heroes or Pepto ads.?  Does each of us possess the capability to save the world?  The only way we’ll ever know is if we clear out all the crap that’s blocking the way, and the way things are going, I expect my husband to take flight any day now.

Boob Tube

My family got our first remote controlled TV in the early 1980’s, until that point, I, being the youngest child, was expected to walk across the twelve-feet of living room carpet and turn the channel.  Not that I should complain, at least the TV was a color set and had a whopping 24-inch screen; the previous sets were black and white and had rabbit ear antenna capable of displaying four of the thirteen channels available on the twist dial.  Though the rest of the channels were filled with static, it was rumored that if you switched the knob to “U” and put tinfoil on the rabbit ears, you could see the Playboy station through the static.  Of course, my friends and I tried this countless times on all of our sets whenever the parental units were away having coffee or cocktails or whatever it was parents did when they got together and ignored their offspring.  We bent and twisted the rabbit ears in all manner of antenna origami desperate to catch a glimpse of a nipple or a butt cheek. 

And see them, we did.  Not because they were actually on the screen, but because we wanted to.  Somewhere in that forest of pixels was a mound of pink flesh, and we were determined to find it.  If one waited patiently and stared with intent, one’s eyes could force a vision of R-rated boobie to appear amidst the television snow.  Having witnessed this miracle of jury-rigging ingenuity, my friends and I congratulated ourselves and talked endlessly about our shared delusion of fantasy flesh.  Looking back, I imagine what else we may have seen in the digital chaos: Peace?  Love?  A penis perhaps?  It’s amazing what one can see when one is hoping to find it.

Beached Whales

As a teenager, I was into saving many things: trees, Cambodian refugees, and, my personal favorite, whales; nothing rendered a group, “Ahhhh,” like a photo of a dying whale beached on some Florida shoreline.  Add in somber music and a soft-spoken celebrity, and real change began to happen.  It is estimated that the economic benefits whales provide to industries such as ecotourism, and also the environmental benefits (such as how much carbon they remove from the atmosphere by absorbing it in their bodies) makes each whale worth about $2 million over the course of his or her life and, when that is then applied to all the great whales estimated to be living in the ocean today, the global great whale population is worth about $1 trillion, so saving the whales just might be worth the effort.

Whales, as a species, aren’t particularly cute – you can’t cuddle up to them and most of them have incongruous bumps and algae growing on them, yet mention whales to most people and they will recall Sea Worlds’ Shamu the black and white orca performing tricks for ah-struck onlookers.   A friend of mine recently told me a story of the time she, in her black and white swimsuit, singlehandedly managed to shut down the Wave Pool at a waterpark much to the chagrin of ah-struck onlookers.  She, in her infinite wisdom, thought she was drowning in the three feet of water used in this attraction.  She struggled against the tide, gasped for air, and signaled the lifeguard to stop the machine.  As he acquiesced and the waters calmed, my friend planted her feet firmly on the ground and walked to the water’s edge where she hid her head in Shamu shame. 

 Life is full of troubles for which we may need saving: forests are burning, refugees are fleeing, and sometimes, we find ourselves drowning in our own self-made disasters.  We can’t fix everything and we are sure to suffer at some point; but if we can keep our feet firmly on the ground, then maybe we can manage to keep our head above water.

Survival of the Unattractive

The moment I become famous my fourth-grade picture will circulate the internet like a Kardashian sex tape.  Not because it is particularly scandalous, but because it is particularly unattractive.  My bulbous head was decorated with bucked teeth, crooked glasses, disheveled hair, and my pasty complexion looked as though I had recently ingested the raw liver of a roadkill raccoon.  In my defense, I had just gotten out of a two-week stint in the hospital and didn’t even know it was picture day.  I had had a tumor on my lung that doctors removed by cutting me in half, spreading my ribcage and collapsing my lung.  I survived, and this picture tells the story of a hard-fought recovery. 

Then again, there may be a sex tape out there somewhere that could come back to haunt me.  Life is littered with bad choices and static reminders of them, yet we march on and eventually we get where we are going one way or another.  Given enough time, we grow into our bulbous heads and outsized personalities.  It seems anything can be redeemable when put in context.  All it has to do is survive. 

Waiting Rooms

I thought I had properly prepared for a morning spent in the hospital waiting room – I had a magazine, pen and paper, and an active imagination, but three-hours into a one-hour surgery proved me wrong.  I had finished my magazine, exhausted my paper, and let my imagination get the best of me.  I mentally prepared myself for bad news visualizing where I filed our funeral papers and debating whom to call first with news of the tragedy.  I imagined what my life would be like as a widower.  Would I need to move?  Would I find the silver lining in my own despair?  Would I be sad and lonely?

The word “sad” comes from the same root as the words “satisfied” and “sated.”  It is through sadness and its companion loneliness that we have experienced love.  As I sat in the waiting room, mind racing, I realized how much love I have experienced – the love of a partner, of friends, of strangers, of self.  The days are long, but the years are short; spend them wisely.  Love often and live the way you would have want to have lived the moment of your death, because you just never know.

My husband’s surgery was a success, though it appears he has “weird” anatomy in his stomach lining making things a bit more difficult than the surgeon imagined.  What can I say?  I married a difficult weirdo.  And I love him anyway. It appears the silver linings lie in the stomach.  Who knew? 

Better is Best

It was the kind of award only a drama geek could love.  And it was all mine.  I had been crowned 1989’s Best Mime in the State of Iowa.  A hard-fought battle had been waged, and I had arisen victorious.  I laughed, I cried, I humbly accepted my plaque and silently walked off into the future – the kind of future only an award-winning mime artist could create.  Which, turns out, not to be that different from the futures of butter cow sculptors and crossing guards.  Though the award didn’t really alter life in any meaningful way, it sure felt good to be the best.

Being the best at any one thing is hard work; one can’t rest on one’s laurels until the butter cows come home.  One has to grow and learn.  So that’s what I did, and the next year I was part of the Best Improve Team in the state, and the year after that, a member of the Best One-Act Play.  And the year after that, I was the best at nothing.  I laughed, I cried, I humbly swallowed my pride, and silently walked off into the future knowing that best is good, but better is best.  I’m not always going to be number one, but as long as I am better that I was a day ago, then that’s alright with me.  Or, as we say in the world of mime “_____ __ _______ ____.”


Last summer, my husband bought a karaoke machine for a family gathering.  Since that time, I have taken it over and claimed it as my own personal music maker.  I select a song, press play, close my eyes, and sing.  Sing might be too strong a word for what actually comes out of my mouth.  There are a few songs I perform well, but the vast majority of the hits of my youth are thoroughly slaughtered.  Songs I thought I rocked in the car, are not only lyrically inconsistant with what I have been singing, they are in a completely different key.  At first, I thought there was something wrong with the karaoke machine, or that perhaps the CD was out of wack.  But, no; it is me.  My lyricisms are strictly imagined.

With this new found realization in mind, I’d like to take a moment to apologies to all the ladies (and gentlemen), to whom I have serenated as a way of showing affection – I didn’t mean to ruin Careless Whisper or Endless Love, I meant it as a compliment.  And to all the parents who were forced to smile and clap for our Junior High’s version of Kyrie Eleison, I humbly ask for your forgiveness.  Sometimes in life we are too caught up in the moment to actually see (or hear) what’s happening.  We feel fortunate and assume everyone must feel the same, but one person’s fortune can be another person’s misfortune.  It turns out  Carless Whisper has a D key and a minor mode  -- much different from the garage key and major disaster I had been singing. What can I say?  You live, you learn, you aplogise. 

To Think That I Saw It on 32nd Street

Yesterday, while crocheting on the front porch, a panda drove past my house on 32nd street.  Okay, it wasn’t a panda so much as a person in a panda costume, but still, a driving bear is an odd thing to see on a Monday afternoon in the city.  The most unsettling thing about this scenario was that the beast appeared to be staring at me as if I were the one out of context.  I’m not sure where the bear was going, I’m assuming a party or bamboo buffet, but one never knows for sure, and I was left to wonder what other things I might see on 32nd street.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll see a juggling alligator slip on a banana peel.  Banana peel slips are rare, yet they do occur.  In 2007 a woman was awarded $4,110.00 for injuring her knee in a hospital restroom after slipping on the yellow skin.  Who eats a banana in the restroom?  How do you not notice a dead banana on the floor?  Freud would have so many thoughts on this subject – as for me, I just wonder if I may see it on 32nd street.

Maybe next week I’ll witness the passing parade of a 510-foot cheesesteak; it’s happened in Philadelphia, why not 32nd street?  Maybe a winning lottery ticket will blow into my hands.  Maybe a misguided parachutist will land in my yard.  Maybe the party-gong panda will invite himself to dinner.  The possibilities are limitless.  Until then… things are what they are and wishing them to be otherwise is strictly conjecture.  The future holds many surprises, but for today, I will revel in the little delights of simple pleasures and passing pandas.

Mistakes Undone

Six-hundred channels from which to choose and nothing to watch.  It’s the same thing every day; I’ll view a few minutes of a Mannix rerun with special guest star Robert Reed (Mike Brady) or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, peruse QVC long enough to consider ordering a pastel pink and blue lighthouse sweater from Quacker Factory Clothing, or check out whom Judge Judy is tongue lashing this week.  Of course, this isn’t how I plan to spend my limited TV viewing time.  I’d rather watch a documentary about saving the planet from global warming or relax in front of a movie where hot actors destroy the planet while colonizing Mars.  With neither of these being viable options, I watch hospital reality shows where giant zits are popped like pinatas or botched up plastic surgery is undone.

These shows fascinate me, less for the inherent grossness that revolves around the inner workings of the human body, and more for the patient backstories.  I sit alone, twenty-seven minutes deep into the show, feeling bad for poor Rajee’s falling face, when I am informed Rajee had attended a black market "pumping party," where scurrilous characters offered low-price cosmetic injections of cheap substances such as cement and tire sealant as budget alternatives to higher-priced procedures.  Seems reasonable right?  

This is just one example of bad ideas gone south.  Each week the show highlights the downside to lifting one’s face with ass fat or stuffing one’s ass with breast implants.  After each episode I wonder, “Who are these people?  Have they no common sense?”  And then I think about my own bad decisions.  The drinking, the lying, the pastel blue and pink lighthouse sweater, and I realize, we all have bad moments.  We all do dumb things.  Some of us make it onto TV, others quietly suffer our own inherent grossness, but one thing unites us.  Actions have consequences, and at some point, we’ll have to face them even if our faces are full of cement.

Judge and Search

Though I am hardly a world traveling jet setter, I have taken international flights and every time I enter or leave a foreign country, TSA searches my person and my bag.  I’m not sure if it is my pasty white skin or bony body that poses the threat, but it never fails – I am searched, my husband passes through without so much as a sideways glance.  I know the stop is random, but so is the lottery and I have yet to win that.  I suppose I should be thankful that I am a light packer, and the search is quick unlike a friend of mine who packs 10 boxes of tampons “You know,” she says, “Just in case.”  In case what I wonder – in case the Hoover Dam springs a leak?  In case monsoon season floods the Hyatt?  In case Aunt Flow and twenty-seven of her twin sisters comes for a visit?  It seems a bit excessive to me and the TSA agents who are certain she is up to something nefarious.  Of course, she has been also known to pack plastic wrapped sharty underwear too, so maybe one does need an extra 9 boxes of tampons.  Shart happens and one aught to be prepared.

I’ll never know why I have been judged a threat while the man in front of me with dark glasses and a suspicious looking bulge in his pocket gets the “all clear,” and I suppose I don’t need to know.  I’m not packing cocaine laced tampons or sharty clothes, and so far, I have not warranted the exploration of my inner cavity, but one never knows.  How others judge me is not my concern, how I judge myself is more important.  And I think I am pretty spectacular.  I only hope my inner glow doesn’t leak suspiciously. 

The Naked Truth

I’m not a nudist, but I do enjoy performing mundane tasks naked; these duties range from vacuuming the floor to riding the unicycle.  In the confines of my own home, this is no big deal, but pedaling down the sidewalk on one wheel presents a different set of problems.  It’s not as though my naked self balancing on a cycle presents a danger to anyone but me, but the law has found it unacceptable and has forced me to ride back and forth on the 10 feet of concrete between my home and the garage.  It’s not exactly a relaxing jaunt, but it is an adventure none the less.

Now, if I had a desire to use a gun harness and gun as underwear, there would be no problem.  Thirty-one states in the U.S. allow the open carrying of a handgun without a permit or license, while fifteen states require a permit to carry said handgun – all of them require you do so clothed leaving me to wonder which presents a greater risk: an exposed nipple in the frozen foods section or an exposed firearm in the local bar?  With about 121 firearms in circulation for every 100 residents, the United States is by far the most heavily armed society in the world.  It’s not that we are necessarily more violent than other cultures - but our disputes are more likely to turn deadly, expert say.  Rates of assault in the United States are similar to other countries, but homicide rates are higher due to the prevalence of guns.

I’m no expert on the subject, but it seems to me that our priorities are a little mixed up.  We cover our bodies and expose our hatred and fear.  In 2018, firearms were a factor in 39,740 U.S. deaths (similar to the number caused by motor-vehicle accidents), with six out of 10 of those deaths being suicide.  As far as I have found, 0 deaths were caused by a penis lashing or a bare breast brawl. 

So it seems, as a society, we are at odds with one-another; our naked ambitions appear to clash.  But we do have common ground.  Around 80% of Americans believe in common sense gun legislation.  We agree that mentally ill persons shouldn’t access fire arms.  We agree in background checks and training.  We agree on so many things if only we take the time to see.  So let’s start there.  Let’s take one tiny step forward together and compromise on the rest.  I’ll responsibly wear a unitard on my unicycle if you responsibly store your gun and ammo separately.  It’s a small ask really.  I’ll do my part.  Will you do yours?

Turn it Around

A few weeks ago, I learned to crochet.  I’d tried it several years ago and only managed to create two-foot-long bookmarks due to my inability to complete a turn-around stitch.  But this time I had a better teacher who walked me through it step-by-step.  Eager to put my newly acquired skills to work, I immediately began making scarves to give away as Christmas presents.  I lined up my v-stitches, crocheted a row of 18, turned around, crocheted a row of 20, turned it around, crochet a row of 22 and so on.  By the time I stopped to view my progress, I had created what appeared to be the beginnings of a Shakespearean ruffle collar.  So, I pulled it out and started again.  After three false starts, I finally understood the importance of counting.  Now if I could just learn to apply even pressure and create equal stitching. 

With moderate success under my belt, I purchased fancy yarn and began making my first full-length scarf.  18 down, turn around, 18 back consistently and patiently.  Of course, my rows are about as straight as a boxer’s nose, but I haven’t let that stop me.  These imperfections impart a certain amount of “charm” that allows me to market my masterpieces as Picaso-inspired neckwear.  They are uneven and odd, but I’m not about to let the quest for perfection be the enemy of good enough; after all, these gifts come from the heart and are in perfect alignment with my values. 

Bust a Move

I love to dance.  I’ll do it anywhere – discothèques, grocery stores, cemeteries.  You name it, I’ve probably broken out some pretty sweet moves there.  My basic rule of thumb is: move with the hips and the body has to follow.  This simple suggestion ensures a smooth flow that relays a certain amount of eroticism.  That is unless your foot sticks to the floor mid-giration and sends you falling forward.  At this point you can either die of embarrassment, or act as though the jolt was intentional and follow it with a few similar moves and keep on keeping on.  And if you do fall – break out into breakdancing.  After all, falling is just another way to fly.

Life is riddled with pitfalls and potholes that can interrupt your dance, but if you are centered (lead with your hips), you will develop mental toughness.  Mentally tough people aren’t more courageous, talented or intelligent than others – they are just more consistent.  Mentally tough people develop systems that help them focus on the important stuff regardless of how many obstacles life puts in front of them.  It’s their habits that form the foundation of their mental beliefs and ultimately sets them apart.  So when you find yourself unexpectedly falling; go with it.  Turn your missteps into stepping out.  Rather than busting your heart, bust a move and keep on keeping on.

In Sync

My newest obsession is synchronized swimming.  The costumes, the artistry, the stamina – what’s not to love?  The two-and-a-half to five-minute routines are chock-full of wonder and delight.  Eggbeater kicks and water wheel turns dot the performances while swimmers hold their breath and move as a solid unit.  Judges look for closeness, timing, and artistic representation before doling out their scores and awarding the Russians another gold medal.

 Synchronized swimmers are in a league of their own.  Unlike televised sports such as soccer or football, synchronized swimming is a specialty sport not available in suburbia; to be a part of this group, one has to really want it and be willing to sacrifice in order to belong.  

A sense of belonging is an innate human need.  Individuals develop this sense when they feel connected to other people, especially those who share their distinct life experiences, interests, or goals. Partaking in activities that foster a sense of belonging promotes mental and physical health while helping individuals to flourish in all aspects of their lives.

So maybe your childhood goal wasn’t to don a sequined swim cap and perform water ballet for a crowd of dozens; maybe you weren’t destined to be QB of the football team; whatever your obsession, find a group who supports you and to which you can belong.  As for me – I’m holding my breath until I find other synchronized swimming aficionados with whom I can get close.   


“Don’t make eye contact.”  This is sage advice when on the subway or in the men’s restroom of the local bar and grill.  Years of incidental learning has taught American men the do’s and don’ts of restroom etiquette:


Do take the urinal next to the wall.

Don’t stand closer to one person than another.

Do pee on the urinal mint to release the cherry scent.

Don’t ask your neighbor how his day is going.

Do read the graffiti written in the grout lines.

Don’t correct the graffiti’s grammar.


Learning is a social process conducted, either directly or indirectly, with other humans.  We begin to learn by trying peripheral activities, then take on more complex activities as we grow in confidence and see other people perform them.  This happens in the home, in English class, and at Denny’s.

We start learning the day we are born. Before we even get close to a school class, we are already shaped in many ways.   People are social animals, so from a very young age, we learn how to behave in groups.  But sometimes we learn bad behaviors.  We learn to yell at and put others down, to fight and to hide our feelings.  So how do we learn to unlearn the old knowledge we cling to that hinders our ability to progress?

Unlearning is uncomfortable; it forces us to step beyond our comfort zones and let go of past beliefs.  Much of our knowledge is deeply rooted within ourselves, and it manifests through automatic behavior.  In order to break this process, we need to identify old knowledge and assimilate new then begin to foster curiosity while taking little steps toward the unknown.  Take the middle urinal.  Stand next to someone whose midstream on the end.  Ask him how his day is.  Just don’t shake his hand.  Not yet anyway.  Shake the dew off your lily, zip up, and head out.  The world has much to teach if you’re willing to unlearn what you think you already know.

Wet Dreams

I had my first wet dream as a junior in high school.  I don’t remember the fantasy, just the result.  Being curious about the rising of this event, I took a poll among my gym class to see how many of my fellow fellas had ever had a wet dream.  While on the subject, I asked for penis size and virginity status.  The results were eye-opening – not because of size or frequency, but because of participation.  Almost all subjects gave honest, direct feedback without embellishment or embarrassment.  I’ll spare you the details, just suffice it to say, I thrived among an average group who, from casual observances, were growers not showers.

This measuring of a man’s manhood got me to wondering about the measure of a man’s life.  Success is defined as: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose; so, to define a man’s success, we must first understand his purpose.  What is the purpose of life?  Unable to answer this on my own, I took a poll.  The top four responses were: family, career, faith, and friends.  None of these fit my belief that the measure of a man is found in his ability to bring peace to those around him.   Maybe my visions are just wet dreams – elusive, results oriented, and growing not showing.  I can’t speak for my fellow fellas, but I do hope whatever their dreams are, the strive for them without embellishment or embarrassment.

Back Seats

Growing up poor, white trash had its advantages.  Little was expected of us and the simplest things brought about the greatest joys.  Having nothing meant we were forced to use our imaginations to create worlds of wonder and delight.  My parents, to supplement income, hauled junk.  This junk sat in the back yard until enough had been gathered to haul to the scrap metal recycling centers for cash.  This cache of metal became our playground.  Water heaters were used for log rolling contests and copper pipes became lightsabers.  Bumps, bruises, and tetanus shots were par for the course, but persistence builds resilience, and we were a resilient lot.

One of my favorite junk yard games to play was Tackle the Bench Seat, where three or four of us neighborhood kids would line up, run toward the back seat of an Impala, and tackle it.  With this mission accomplished, we’d roll off, muddied and laughing.  Time to tackle it again.  For hours we’d play this pointless game – running, tackling, and laughing until someone stepped on a rusty nail and have to leave.  As we grew older and apart, backseats were use for making out and trying to tackle second base, but for that one moment in time, the world was ours, and we were ready to tackle it with a little teamwork and a lot of laughter.

Senior Pictures

Last night, while cleaning house, I came across my high school senior pictures.  Rifling through them brought back memories of youthful arrogance and bad fashion.  In one set, I had taken the liberty of fashioning a suit jacket out of old newspapers and magazine clippings; it was black and white and wrong all over, but this did not stop me from ordering dozens of wallet-sized prints to hand out to my fellow classmates.  Why I thought I had hundreds of friends who desired to carry a remembrance of me around I will never know.  Still, the memory makes me smile at how far I have come.

Now that I am closer to senior discounts than senior pictures, I have chosen to leave yesterday’s news in the past.  Sure, there are things I’d like to do-over or undo completely, but, lacking a time machine, I have elected to use those stumbled over bumps in the road as steppingstones to a better future.  Fashioning a better future from past remnants requires we forgive ourselves and others while taking responsibility for the harm we have caused – I’m sorry I hurt you.  I’m sorry I didn’t listen.  I’m sorry I forced you to carry around that hideous picture.

How Sweet It Is

Snack lovers are divided into two categories: sweet and salty.  I fall into the former.  I love sweets of all kinds – cakes, candies, and confectionaries of all shapes and sizes.  Sweet is widely considered to be a basic or primary taste quality.  Liking for sweet tasting substances is innate and presumed to be left over from our ancestors who likely evolved it as a way to make sure they recognized sweet foods with lots of calories and avoided bitter, poisonous things after trying a tiny bite. We are born with a love of sweetness and a dislike of bitterness.

Despite this propensity for sweet, Americans spend hundreds of millions of dollars on sour candy.  Sour flavor enhances fruit flavors as they offset each other, providing a perfect blend of sweet and sour.  Although I prefer my treats to be unadulteratedly sweet, I don’t mind a few Sour Patch Kids thrown into the mix.

Such is life.  We spend hundreds of millions of dollars indulging in sweet spots while trying to avoid the bitterness of everyday existence.  But the two are inextricably linked and denying the bitter only intensifies the feeling.  The sugar coating on Sour Patch Kids is made with tartaric and citric acid that reacts with the saliva on the tongue to create a strong sour flavor before the sweet gummy candy under the coating is released to produce the sweet taste.  To get to the sweet, one must work through the sour.  Life requires balance; acknowledging bitterness allows good feelings to return.  Experiencing these two with impartiality allows us to evolve.  When life delivers bitter pills, it’s our job to work through the sour and get to the sweet, heart of it all.

Calm in Chaos

It is widely believed that the universe emerged from a single, minute point, in a violent burst of chaos and creation.  From this chaos came stars, and planets, and black holes, and the whole cosmos of life as we know it.  From a distance, the cosmos appears to be full of random disarray; worlds collide, stars collapse, and life expands.  But the cosmos is not chaotic; the very word “cosmos” means order – it’s just an order we may not understand.

According to chaos theory, within the apparent randomness of chaotic complex systems, there are underlying patterns, interconnectedness, constant feedback loops, repetition, self-similarity, fractals, and self-organization.  When looking inward, chaos reveals order.

At first glance, life’s chaos may seem overwhelming when our thoughts get sucked down into a black hole of despair.  As our lives spin out of control and our dreams begin to collapse, we have to take a step back and look inward.  Looking inward sheds light and reveals underlying patterns.  Stop.  Breathe.  Engage in a little self-compassion.  Expand your connections to others.  Look at the stars – if this ever-expanding cosmos can create order, certainly we can find a little peace in our hearts. 


Recess duty is a pain in the ass no teacher is thrilled to receive in the luck of the educator duty drawing.  Typically, it’s freezing cold, students don’t listen, and you spend the majority of the time avoiding the health crises of broken arms and head concussions.  Every now and then though, the duty can be a privilege -- the sun is shining, children are polite, and you can laugh at your fellow teacher who is parading around trying to look authoritative having unknowingly tucked her shirt into the control top of her pink panties.  Of course, you will tell her of this fact (eventually); until then, you smile and revel in your superiority.  When you do call her on it, you’ll have to answer a few tough questions to justify the late notification.

Last night, I was notified of my duty to respond to a health and wellness survey.  The interviewer was polite and laughed at some of my snarky responses making me feel pleased to partake in the process.  This sunshiny mood quickly clouded over when I realized my privilege was showing.  Each answer reminded me that my current good health had a direct correlation to my entitled childhood.  My bringing up wasn’t fraught with silver spoons and world travel, but it was devoid of head concussions and broken homes. 

We can’t control our circumstances when we are young; luck of the draw places us in conditions that can be a pain in the ass, but as we age, we gain a certain amount of jurisdiction over our existence.  By seeking assistance, searching for meaning, and accepting input, we can pull our shirt from beneath our panties and face the world with authority.  It will be hard.  Others will claim superiority and laugh at our efforts while trying to keep us down, but we are more than our circumstances – we are head and heart and broken arms, and it’s our duty and privilege to make the most out of the life we are given.

I'm Sorry

One of the first phrases I learned in French was, “je suis désolé,” which means, “I’m sorry.”  I reckon it is taught early on because we non-fluent speakers butcher the language.  Instead of saying, “Il fait chaud,” (I’m hot), we’ll say, “Je suis chaud) (I’m horny), or, when expressing how much we enjoy “le chat,” (the cat), we express our delight in “La chatte” (the pussy).   Oops!  Je suis désolé. 

Apologies aren’t just social niceties; they are an important way of showing respect and empathy for the wronged person.  Apologizing has the ability to disarm others of their anger and prevent further misunderstandings.  Saying, “I’m sorry,” is crucial to our mental and physical health.  The act decreases blood pressure and slows the heart rate allowing the body to release endorphins.  A proper apology involves expressing regret, accepting responsibility, and proposing a remedy.  So, to the French I say, “Je suis désolé.  I’m sorry I said I was horny and enjoyed your pussy.  I’m still learning the language.  I will keep trying.”  Maybe someday I will be fluent in French; maybe someday I will be fluent in apologizing.   Until then – “Soyons amis” (Let’s be friends).

Furnishing Beliefs

When my husband and I bought new furniture for our bedroom, we were delighted to find a good deal and amazed that we agreed upon the three-piece set.  It was well crafted, durable and fit our version of manly comfort.  Once we got the furniture home, we realized our version of manly comfort outsized our actual bedroom.  We arranged and rearranged until we felt deranged by the vain attempts of fitting the pieces together.  Realizing our error in mistaking the furniture for the room, we agreed to separate the pieces, thus shattering the illusion of a stately boudoir. 

I’m not sure why we thought we could cram 30 feet of furniture into 20 feet of space, but we succumbed to the disillusion and paid the price.  Mistaking thoughts for reality is akin to mistaking the furniture for the room.  Sometimes our beliefs are big enough to encompass many truths simultaneously; other times, certain pieces won’t fit.  At these moments, we’ve got to get comfortable with discomfort and challenge our thoughts.  Do they fit in the bigger picture?  Are they well crafted?  Are they durable enough to stand the test of time?  If not, then maybe it’s time to shatter the disillusion and shop around for a new set.

A Fishy Tale

Growing up, we had many pets: parakeets, mice, dogs, even a kitten with two bodies and one head (okay, this one wasn’t so much a pet as a pickled oddity kept in an old mayonnaise jar and brought out to impress the neighbors – though it was birthed by my older sister’s cat).  Like most kids, I loved the idea of pets, just not the required work, and though I claimed dogs as my own, the only pet that was truly mine was a pair of goldfish named Frank and Dinah.  These two beauties were won at a fair and carried home in a sandwich bag. 

Wanting to be a good pet owner, I purchased my newfound friends a 3-gallon tank and filled it with colorful rocks and authentic plants.  Frank and Dinah loved it and took to it, well… like a fish to water.  It wasn’t long before I upgraded to a 5-gallon, then a 10-gallon tank.  The thing about goldfish is that, when properly cared for, goldfish will not stop growing.  Most fishes are in fact indeterminate growers. This means that, unlike humans, they grow until they die.  By the time Frank and Dinah went belly up, they could have easily passed for Fillet-O-Fish patties. 

Although humans are determinate growers reaching a certain height and stopping, this doesn’t mean we can’t enlarge our lives.  Seeking out new adventures and friends keeps our minds and hearts growing.  I have lived in the same town of 62,000 people my entire life, yet my mental tank, being filled with colorful people and authentic experiences, feels ten times larger. I may have stopped growing at 5 feet 10 inches, but I feel 10-feet tall and bulletproof.  My life is mine, and I won’t be caged.

Truth and Opinion

All of my life, I have been called some version of “skinny.”  Folks, thinking they are clever, ask if I ever eat, or inform me that I need to gobble down a juicy burger as if I had never been told such things.  I take these verbal abuses as an attempt at humor rather than a personal attack and wonder if they would do the same if I called them “fat,” and asked if they ate a small child for breakfast.  I, somehow, doubt I would get laughter and agreeance as a response. 

Growing up is a tough job.  People can be unintentionally cruel.  An adolescence spent as a card-carrying member of the Herd-O-Nerd club helped me develop a thick skin and an oddly strong sense of self-worth.  I learned that no one could hurt me without my permission and that people are less offended by what we say than they are by the truth in the statement.  The truth is some of us are skinny.  The truth is many others aren’t.  To find the truth, we need to stop cherishing opinions and develop our own self-worth.  Hmmm, believing in myself – that’s a clever idea. 

The Art of Doing Nothing

This morning I sat down to write and realized I had nothing to say.  After weeks of unusually high productivity, I found myself at a loss for words.  I’d begin a new piece, realize it was crap, delete, start again, and delete once more.  My mind was a baren field of potential, waiting for inspiration.  Desperately needing a muse, I searched the internet for relatable content only to find myself clicking away to the beat of my frustration.  Then I came across Niksen.  Niksen is a Dutch concept that literally means to do nothing, to be idle or doing something without any use.  This was a foreign concept to me.  I had no idea how to do nothing.  My nothing moments were filled with digital learning and chair yoga.  Frustrated by my inability to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), I put my hands in my lap and looked out the window.  For five minutes I opened myself to the world of overgrown grass, wandering tabby cats and flitting birds.  Were these things always there?  I really didn’t know.  I never stopped to look.

Practicing niksen can be as simple as just hanging around, viewing your surroundings or listening to music -- as long as it’s without the purpose of achievement.  Niksen isn’t meditation or mindfulness where one attempts to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment, niksen is more about carving out time to just be, even letting your mind wander rather than focusing on the details of an action.  Research suggests this act of slowing down produces emotional perks like reducing anxiety as well as physical advantages like curtailing the aging process and strengthening the body’s ability to fight off a common cold.  

This morning I had nothing to say, now, five minutes and 330 words later I can tell you that practicing the art of doing nothing is really something.

Curious Curios

My paternal grandparents had a curio cabinet.  A curio cabinet, for those who don’t know, is a specialized type of display case, for presenting collections of curios, like figurines or other interesting objects that invoke curiosity.  My grandparents’ cabinet was filled with polished rocks and melted soda bottles.  Every Sunday, my parents and I would travel to the tiny town where my grandparents lived; I would pick mulberries, wonder at these old folks known only as grandma and grandpa, and delight in the untouchable curios behind the glass.  I never knew the story behind the collection or how they had come to be housed together, which made my curiosity grow stronger upon each visit.  Oh, how I longed to fondle those untouchables.  Eventually, I inherited a few of the curios and have since developed a story of my own attachment to the items. 

Curiosity has many benefits; it boosts our happiness and achievement while strengthening relationships and improving overall health.  Curiosity helps us survive.  The urge to explore and seek novelty helps us remain vigilant and gain knowledge about our constantly changing environment.  People who are curious are not afraid of feeling uncomfortable and facing the unknown. They take action and are more open to getting out of their comfort zones for the sake of learning more about the things for which they are passionate.  So, if you have a zeal for melted soda bottles (as my grandparents clearly did) or dejected jr. high pottery projects (a fascination of my own), don’t put that spirit on a shelf -- be curious.  Seek adventure and find your passion.  If you’re lucky, your curios may find a renewed home in a future generation.

Hit the Floor and Dance Now

Back in the 1990’s, when clubbing was a thing, I used to go dancing on the weekends.  Having plucked, coiffed, buffed, and fluffed, I’d dress in my tightest jeans and head for the club.  As the lights dimmed and the music deepened, I’d search the floor for a worthy admirer and give him my, “You know you want this,” stare, then continue dirty dancing with myself.  Hours later, having cleared the dance floor, I’d head home and go to sleep exhilarated from the evening’s events.

Now, in present days, I clear the living room floor and dance in front of the mirror.  I don’t pluck and fluff as much, but I do give myself the “You know you want this,” stare, which I’ve come to realize looks a bit like I am having facial spasms.  I used to dance for the attention of others as if performing the mating ritual of some exotic bird of paradise, now I dance for myself.  Dancing is beneficial in increasing self-esteem and boosting confidence by fostering self-expression and developing social skills; it reduces depression and increases cognitive ability.  It also passes the time on an uneventful Saturday night.  Whether you are 19 or 90, sitting in a club or in your home – Dance.  You know you want to.

Gilligan's Team

On September 26, 1964, Gilligan and his crew set off on a three-hour tour that turned into a three-season television run.  The series followed seven castaways as they attempted to survive on an island on which they had been shipwrecked.  Most episodes revolved around the dissimilar castaways' conflicts and their unsuccessful attempts to escape their plight.  Fifteen years later, the cast rescued themselves by crafting a raft from there coconut tree hut homes, accidentally setting it aflame while cooking fish, and catching the eye of the U.S. Coast Guard.  Teamwork makes the dream work (eventually).

Differing ways of looking at the world, interpreting experience, solving problems, and predicting future possibilities work together to produce a distinctive mental tool set.  Diversity encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving.  Where one person sees a coconut, another sees a battery charger -- simply put coconut shells and saltwater together, along with pennies and hairpins, and “Voila,” a battery charger (if you're stranded on Gilligan’s Island). 

People with extremely different characters and backgrounds often find themselves in situation where they need to learn how to get along and cooperate with each other as a matter of survival.  Single minded thinking may produce a coconut cream pie, but it won’t save the day.  It’s time to cast away our differences, seek the strength in others, and find common ground.  Let’s just hope that common ground isn’t a deserted island run by a first mate named Gilligan.


The hardest part about being a writer is letting go of your masterpiece.  You’ve thought of, created, written, and rewritten your baby over and over again pouring your heart and soul into every word.  Now it’s judgement day; the day society decides your literary value.

With a fresh copy of my first book in hand, I cracked the spine and began reading.  It was amazing.  It was funny and poignant.  It had moral and wit.  It had a typo.  What?  How had this happened?  I had spent years of my life developing this project, and now its imperfections glared up at me from the page.  As shock turned to fear and anger, I began making excuses.  It’s the printer’s fault.  It’s the editor’s error.  Someone else is definitely to blame.

Ultimately, the fault is mine, and this humbling experience highlighted the futility in perfectionism.  We are flawed beings.  We make mistakes.  In some ways being a “perfect” human is being able to revel in imperfection.  As people, we are learners, we are adapters, we are creative and flexible, this is what allows us to survive and thrive in our environments.  To be imperfect is to learn, to develop, to fail, to succeed, to try something new, to try something that’s never been done before, to create, to love, to become a better self.  As a writer of life-skills, it only seems apropos that my book should be less than perfect – its author is flawed, and there’s a certain joy to that – a shared human experience.  The joy of imperfection is knowing that who you are is enuff (I mean, “enough”).

Drive-In Dilemma

When I was sixteen, my girlfriend and I went to the drive-in movie.  Every weekend, the theater played three movies, two old and one main attraction.  We arrived early to get the best parking spot (close enough to see, far enough back to not be noticed).  With snacks in hand, we watched the movie, held hands, and kissed.  As kissing turned to heavy petting and I was feeling her boobs and feeling her boobs, I realized I had no desire to take this action any further.  So, under the guise of replenishing our snacks, I took a walk.  This wasn’t right.  We weren’t right.  I was not a midnight movie watching, boob feeling, heterosexual.  This surprising revelation effectively squelched the main attraction.

As this realization settled in and I understood the path that lay before me was science fiction, I fessed up and began a new script.  It wasn’t a feature film, not yet.  It took time to develop character and strength.  But I kept going.  I left the old movie behind and devised a new plot.  Since that time, my ex-girlfriends and I have gone on to star in our own life shows, the drive-in has become Google, and my well-trodden path has become marked by fond memories.  It’s amazing how, when you’re facing the right direction, all you need to do is keep walking.  You may have to stop and replenish your snacks (or your heart), but eventually you’ll settle down into your own sunset.

A Laugh a Day

When we were children, my niece and I played, “Thump, Thump, Doctor.”  “Thump, Thump” was the name my niece gave the game due to my proclamation, “Thump, thump – Thump, thump,” every time I listened to her heart with the plastic stethoscope.  It made me laugh then, and still does to this day; and if laughter is the best medicine, then my thump, thumping heart will be beating away for many years to come.   

Laughter has many benefits.  A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body: it stimulates organs, relieves stress response, and soothes tension.  In the long term, laughing improves the immune system, relieves pain, and increases personal satisfaction. 

Laughter bonds us together and helps us overcome adversity; it is central to successful relationships with everyone from spouses to family, to doctors.  If you hear pain thump, thump, thumping on your door – laugh.  It might not keep the doctor away, but it will keep suffering at bay.

In the movie version of my life, I imagine my final days being filled with gut-wrenching sadness; not for me, mind you, but for those around me.  I imagine my loved ones crying and cursing God for taking me too soon (though I plan on being at least 120).  My voice will be a papery whisper as I tell everyone not to worry, I’m ready to go; I’ve had a good life.  They will mumble to one another about how good I look and how they’ll miss my electric smile and upbeat attitude – the type of dialogue to which the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences throws awards for best screenplay and directing.  My final days will be a life changing event.

My funeral (or should I say, celebration of life) however, will be a raucous comedy.  It is my fervent wish that no tears be shed at my demise.  My plans (aka – screenplay) involves Madonna music:

If we took a holiday

Took some time to celebrate

Just one day out of life

It would be

It would be so nice


loads of food, and hotdog costumes.  The screenplay continues.


Exterior, Beach – Midday

Shot from above.  Eight friends are gathered around a fire near the ocean on a brisk spring day.  All are wearing hotdog costumes and laughing discussing, “Remember when. . .”


Remember the time Mark went pogo-sticking in the nude?


How about the time we duct taped him to a chair and placed him at the bus stop?

All laugh as camera pulls back to a longer shot from above.  Friends continue to talk and laugh as the camera pulls further back revealing life going on beyond the group of friends.  Laughter fades as camera pans up to the sun.  Cue music.  Roll credits.


Life goes on.  Laugh a little.  Cry a little.  And thank the Academy.  It’s an honor just to be nominated.

Call of Duty

I hate to poop in public.  I’d rather do cartwheels naked in the laundromat than defecate next to my fellow man, but sometimes duty calls and there is no choice but to suck it up and let it go.  This happened a while back at The Olive Garden.  I tried to hold back; I thought happy thoughts, clenched my cheeks, and nearly sweated through my shirt.  Realizing there was no other option than to face my fear, I entered the stall looking nonchalant and prayed for quick release.  And quick it was – a noisy gusher powered by contents under pressure.  Realizing the ridiculousness of the entire situation, I began chuckle at myself, alternating between squirts of relief and bouts of laughter.  Upon completion, I made my way back to my seat relieved but worried someone would recognize my shoes and regale their lunch partner with the tale of the fancy man laughing at his own relief. 

Life sometimes delivers unpleasantness, and though we try to wipe it away or stall until the timing is more convenient, poop happens at its own will.  Rather than clenching our teeth and wishing for a different present, we can find humor in the events, make peace with the situation, and use the circumstances to develop a little resiliency.  Trust me on this one, it’s best to suck it up and let that shit go.


In the mid-90’s, I owned a pair of black pleather pants.  They were skintight and made my nonexistent butt look reasonably good.  Clad in pleather and plied with booze, I hit the dancefloor and boogied until closing.  Sweaty and exhausted, I went home and peeled the pants from my hot bod.  The naked truth about pleather is it’s uncomfortable and doesn’t breathe – everything gets hermetically sealed in like a Ziplock freezer bag.  Sure, pleather pants look good upon arrival, but when you get to the end of the night, there is a considerable amount of discomfort.  Still, I made it through the suffering and lost a few pounds of water weight.  If, what Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger, more resilient, and better able to endure hardships,” is true, then a night in pleather helped prepare me for the hardships of life to come.

Suffering is part of the human condition. No one escapes this life untouched by pain and heartache.  When we are in the midst of these heated spirals, we lack perspective; we feel trapped in a hermetically sealed bag of doubt; but every challenge we face and navigate strengthens our will, confidence, and our ability to conquer future obstacles.  Mental toughness is something like physical strength: it cannot develop without exercise.  After facing difficult challenges or moments, we are less likely to feel pained or challenged next time around.  So tonight, I think I’ll shoehorn myself into my pleather pants and face whatever life has in store.  It’ll be uncomfortable, but I’ll make it through.  And my butt will look good.

Xana-Do You Believe?

In the movie Xanadu, the viewer is invited to go, “To a place, where nobody dared to go,” which on the outset appears to be a disco roller rink where muses and musicians alike comingle over cocktails and choreography.  While in this makeshift discotheque, we enrobe ourselves in gold lame and search the landscape of our dreams hoping to find the right girl, the right job, the right future. 

In reality, Xanadu was the legendary capital city of Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan, designed 1256.  This city and was immortalized by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his poem “Kublai Khan,” which he composed in a state of a semi-conscious trance in the spring of 1798.

In both the poem and the movie, Xanadu represents the chance to change – to make life better, align our ambitions, and live out our dreams.  As human beings, our brains aren’t wired to make us happy; they’re wired to keep us safe.  It’s a lifelong endeavor to keep peeling away the layers of armor we’ve erected around ourselves to keep us safe and comfortable while shielding us from the vulnerability inherent in living wholehearted life.  Unfortunately, we can’t always skate through the pain unmarred.

In the movie, Michael Beck had a thought: He wanted more out of life than just day-to-day minutia.  So, he took action.  He faced his fears, enlisted help, and followed through.  He believed he could, and then he did.  We are only ever one thought away from changing our lives.  Dare to dream, roll out a plan, and skate toward your Xanadu.  Even if you don’t have a muse, you can create your own magic.  But first you have to believe.

Rain Dance

After being released from a short stay in a mental institution, I found myself unemployed and with a not-so-great reputation that preceded me.  Luckily, I had a friend who was a hiring manager for an apartment complex who took me on as a groundskeeper.  Needing a lot of time for self-reflection and physical exercise, the job was a perfect fit.  I spent my days listening to digital self-help books, contemplating the error of my ways, and communing with nature.  The downside was that nature wasn’t always cooperative.  Winter brought subzero temperatures, summer was filled with blistering heat, and spring ushered in April showers that dampened my soul.  Still, I felt blessed for the opportunity to move beyond the past.

In my two years of grounds keeping, I learned a lot.  I learned the importance of taking care of the soil.  I developed the skills to nurture and support living things.  I found ways to grow and blossom.  Storms came and went, and I weathered each and every one of them.  I was cold and wet, but it taught me that life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Soul Train

If you’ve lived through the 1970’s, you probably watched Soul Train on Saturday mornings.  Soul Train, for those of you who don’t know, was an American music-dance television program primarily featuring performances by R&B, soul, dance/pop, and hip-hop artists – essentially, a funkier version of American Bandstand.  My favorite part of Soul Train was the dance line where dancers formed two lines with a space in the middle for couples to strut their stuff in consecutive order.  The dancers were unpaid volunteers, whose skills varied from super-hot superstars to victims of fashion and two left feet.  Oh, how I wanted to strut just like them.

The word “strut” comes from Old English strūtian “to struggle,” a derivative of unattested strūt (Middle English strut “strife”).  And indeed, many of these dancers struggled in life and on the show itself – not only were the dancers unpaid (unless they performed with an artist), they were unable to get basic needs, such as tissues to wipe the sweat off of their brows, or more than one beverage each day during the long shooting of two episodes.  Despite these setbacks (and the many others facing minorities in the 1970’s), many of these dancers went on to successful careers in film, sports, and dance. 

Life is challenging.  Sometimes we get stuck in our bell bottoms and stumble over our two left feet, but we get back on the train, our souls bruised but not broken.  It’s time to strut your stuff, head held high teetering on your platform shoes making you way through the struggles.  It’s a tough dance, but when it comes to strife, there are no victims – only volunteers.

Don't Drag Me Down

Every now and then, my lithely 120-pound body comes in handy.  I’m excellent at hide and seek, look good in a dress, and can pull a child from an abandoned well shaft.  Though I’ve never been called upon to retrieve an unfortunate toddler from grandpa’s boarded over water supply, I have been called upon to dress in drag.  Using make-up and pasties, I highlighted the good, shadowed the questionable, and dazzled the crowd with illusion and artifice.  After a few laughs and a broken heel, the crowd and I went home better for having shared the experience.

Sometimes in life we are called upon to engage in creative acts of pretending, not to run from the truth, but rather to discover new truths.  When dark times overshadow our days, pretending joy or happiness can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, helping us discover or enhance our capacity for these positive feelings.  Feigning happiness doesn't count as happiness, of course; it won't bring all the positive benefits that real happiness will.  But when you paste on a smile there is something at work that is pretty dazzling.  Facial expression alone, without first feeling the corresponding emotion, is enough to create discernible changes in the autonomic nervous system.  Holding this smile will stir up real positive feelings, getting us to a better place.  Smiling boosts the immune system, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and makes people like us more.  If smiling isn’t enough. . . well then, put on a wig and highlight all the good things in life such as not being trapped in an abandoned shaft.

Parade of Pride

A few years ago, I had a pride parade of one.  It wasn’t my birthday, I hadn’t recently discovered a cure for cancer, nor had I won the lottery; I just wanted the world (or at least Bleeker St. to know I existed.  I rolled my windows down, cranked up the music, honked the horn, and tossed out organic fruit snacks to the masses of none.  It was great fun and I still smile at the memory.

Having a positive self-image and healthy self-esteem is essential to overall wellbeing, developing pride, however, can be a tricky process.  To find your self-esteem, you have to leave your comfort zone; rather than repeatedly doing the same thing and hoping for a different result, try something new.  Follow your passions and practice, practice, practice.  You may fail, but you’ll learn to fail better.  Build on success and compete with yourself.  Once you’ve found your happiness – celebrate.  Leave the bleak past behind you, take pride in how far you’ve come, have faith in how far you can go, and enjoy the journey of the parade.

Marriage Rights

In 2009, Iowa legalized same-sex marriage.  Iowa's supreme court’s decision was unanimous and emphatic leaving small-minded Americans shocked.  When most people think of the Midwest, they think of cornfields and missing teeth, but Iowa has a history of open minds and progressive thinking: in 1838, the Supreme Court of the Iowa Territory ruled that a slave from a slave state could not be forced to return to the slave state after reaching Iowa soil, in 1919, Iowa became the 10th state to ratify the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution (which granted women the right to vote), and in 1934,the first mosque built in the United States was built in Cedar Rapids.  So much for small minds in small towns.  With our newly minted rights in hand, my boyfriend of seventeen years and I got married. 

Since that time, we homosexual couples have been damned by ignorant folks trying to make our lives Hell, and for a time, I damned them in return praying that two wrongs would somehow make a right.  After years of mutual hate mongering and the hurling of hurtful epithets, I realized damning others only creates Hell for ourselves.  If I wanted to end this long-term love affair with suffering, I had to listen without defensiveness.  Doing the right thing the wrong way was getting us nowhere.  By listening, I realized that behind the rage was fear, and addressing that fear would take love.  If the heart of wisdom is tolerance, then the wise thing to do was to love every toothless, small-minded, beautiful opponent, because in Iowa, we have a right to love.  I reckon you have the right to love as well.  Are you going to exercise your rights?

Diamond Mining

Once upon a time in Arkansas, this boy and his parents mined for diamonds.  We were one of 1,500 that day digging through baren earth seeking precious stones.  The 37-acre field had been picked over by hundreds of thousands of stone seekers since the early 70’s, and though more than 33,100 diamonds had been found by park visitors since its opening, I felt I had a better chance of having a grand piano fall on my head than I did of finding so much as a diamond chip. 

Diamonds are the hardest substance on Earth and are formed one hundred miles underground where heat and pressure from the Earth crystallize carbon into rough diamonds.   Mining them requires patience and back breaking work.  My parents and I spent an afternoon in the fields, digging, sifting and bonding finding nothing more than quartz and fool’s gold.  This gentle act of family adventure created precious memories I carry with me to this day.  Time may harden our hearts and fool us into believing our fortunes lay somewhere in the future, but with the strength of gentleness and a few close companions, we may find slivers of delight in our everyday existence; just be aware of falling pianos. 

Molding Jello

As a writer, I find it best to begin the process with the end in mind.  Will this piece be funny or fatalistic, sunny or serious?  These questions help guide the thought process and keep me on track.  Left to my own devices I would wander aimlessly from one topic to another beginning with, “I’m going to write about writing,” and ending with, “And that’s why you can never have too much Jello.”  The story wouldn’t mold well, and the point would be lost in translation. 

As a human, I am aware of the ultimate last page, and am therefore trying to create an atmosphere of growth – the gradual progress made toward a goal in the present.  According to Nietzsche, “The end of the melody is not its goal; but none the less, if the melody has not reached its end, it would not have reached its goal.”   Yes, I have hopes and dreams for the future, but that doesn’t mean today can’t be a joy unto itself.  I have words on the page, hope in my heart and Jello in the fridge.  Maybe writing does lead to Jello.  Maybe I’ve wandered into uncharted territory.  The world’s a crazy place, and I’m going to enjoy it each and every day. 

Lobster Lessons

A few years ago, I got burnt like a lobster while working in the yard.  To combat the blistering pain, I placed cold compresses on my shoulders and face, applied aloe vera to my peeling skin and went shirtless as often as possible.  After about a week, I molted my red skin revealing the vulnerable pink flesh beneath and I wondered if lobsters feel this way when they shed their shells.

Lobsters show intermediate growth; that is, they grow throughout their lives and therefore spend much of that time preparing for or undergoing ecdysis (the process of an arthropod molting its exoskeleton).  As the lobster grows the shell becomes very confining, and it feels pressure which makes it uncomfortable.  The lobster then seeks protection, casts off the shell, and produces a new one.  When a lobster first emerges from the old shell, its new shell is soft and offers little protection leaving the lobster vulnerable.  It takes time for the new protective shell to harden and become a safe haven. 

Just as the stimulus for a lobster’s growth is discomfort, we humans can use irritation as a sign to grow through adversity.  Growth requires vulnerability and being vulnerable opens us up to the uncertainties of love, belonging, joy, and creativity.  If we can let go of control in the heat of the moment, embrace creativity, and cultivate trust, we can shed old habits that have hardened us to the world.  Human, like lobsters, need stress and vulnerability to grow and feel safe.  Peel back old habits, ease into the future and wear sunscreen.

Fear Not, Scooby Doo

One of my favorite cartoons is Scooby Doo, Where are You.  I’ve seen every episode a dozen times and fear not that the mystery will be solved with a few clues, a zany plan and a Scooby Snack.  Even though I know the outcome, I wait, with breath that is baited, for the mystery gang to rip off the mask of the Black Knight or the Beast of Bottomless Lake revealing Julie Johnson or Mr. Wickles.  Despite their fears, I know Scoob and Shaggy will always unwittingly save the day.

Fear comes from the brain. When people encounter something that frightens them, the hypothalamus in the brain reacts by releasing a series of chemicals to the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal-cortical system.  Conquering fear, however, takes more than a Scooby Snack.  When we are faced with black nights and bottomless despair, we can find clues to overcome these obstacles.  Sit with fear for a few minutes, determine of what exactly you are afraid.  Look at the evidence.  Find the humor.  Be okay with some things being out of your control.  Our life might not come with a laugh track like Scooby Doo, but we must laugh at the zany nature of it all if we hope to stand a ghost of a chance.  Jinkies! I think we’ve just about got this mystery solved.

Flexing the Heart

I have been scrawny all my life.  Though I have tried gym memberships, protein powders and hypnosis, I have never been more than a 120-pound weakling.  It’s not as though I don’t understand the physics of bulking up -- muscles become larger when their fibers sustain damage or injury, at which time the body repairs the frayed fibers by fusing them, increasing the mass and size of the muscles – I just haven’t thoroughly committed to tearing my muscles down while trying to avoid pain and injury.

I may not have turned into a hulked-out gym-bunny, but I have managed to jump over and tear down a few barriers to happiness.  When circumstances weigh me down, I flex my brain to gain a little insight.  Happiness can be achieved by working towards improving the status of our daily lives.  For example, we can work on seeking a job that brings innate satisfaction and purpose, on improving our physical health by exercising and eating whole foods, and on building stronger relationships with our friends, family, and community.  There may be some pain, injuries may occur, but these actions will help fill out our existence and make our lives bigger.  No need to tear down our souls to heal the heart (my favorite muscle), just exercise a little compassion, forgiveness and acceptance. 

Friendship Fallacies

Throughout life I have been a great many things: an actor, a writer, a success, a failure, a drunk, a life coach; and through these times I have maintained a core group of friends who have stood by me through the various incarnations.  As I get older and continue down life’s road, this circle shrinks as confidants move away, get married, and take on new roles. 

Research tells us that as time progresses, friendship circles shrink significantly because of shifts in priorities.  Our friends have become close because they are similar to us – we have similar values, tastes and preferences.  Friends fill a practical need, so when needs change, often times, friendships change as well.  Though it hurts, there are times when a friendship needs to end.  If someone is stealing from you, spreading rumors, lying to you or not supporting you, those are all pretty major transgressions that break the commitment that fundamentally defines what a friend is supposed to be.

The caveat is, don’t give up too quickly. Some people have a tendency to withdraw if they’re going through a tough time such as a lost job, divorce or family problem.  If you hold a friendship dear, exhaust all reasons for unsavory behavior. Stay resilient and remember, a true friend doesn’t accept us for who we are – they accept us for who they know we can be – actors, writers, successes, failures, and life-long compadres. 

Cinderella's Mistake

In elementary school, I was known as the Jump Rope King.  If the recess song had been true, it would have taken over a hundred doctors to fix poor Cinderella after she made a mistake and kissed a snake.  Eventually, well into the triple digits of jumping, I would make a mistake thus ending my turn. 

Snakebites can be deadly if left unattended; the trick is to know the difference between poisonous and non-poisonous varieties.  If bitten, remove constricting items such as rings and watches, note the snake description, and seek assistance.  A mistake in defining the two types of snakes could kill a gal.

Not all mistakes are deadly or require a hundred doctors.  It was clearly a mistake for Cinderella to kiss a snake, but perhaps it would have been an error in judgment for her to kiss the fella.  Maybe the yellow dress was all wrong.  Life teaches us many lessons – some of them are harmless such as fashion faux pas, others are more serious.  Either way, the best lessons are taught by the best teachers and our best teacher is our last mistake.   I would know – I was King after all. 

The Golden Rules

I’m a huge James Bond fan.  I’ve seen all of the movies, invested in the books, and have worn out my copy of the Theme Song Soundtrack.  I’ve spent hours and days watching documentaries and reading articles on everything from License to Kill to Goldfinger.  This research has led me to take The Golden Rule of Spying, “Assume nothing,” to heart.

According to a different Golden Rule, we should treat others the way we want to be treated.  This rule sometimes turns into a pathetic excuse for assuming everyone thinks and behaves the way we do.  Rather than assuming others share our values, as a good spy would never do, we need to treat them the way they want to be treated.  To do this requires we change pathetic to sympathetic and get to know others as free-thinking individuals with goals and dreams that may differ from our own.  You may have to follow the Fifth Rule of Spying, “Go with the flow, blend in,” to accomplish this mission, but if we are going to Live and Let Die, we’ve got to give it a try.

Rock of Sages

When I was 12, I got lost in The City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico.  Being 12 and invincible, I took to climbing rocks like a monkey takes to trees; I slipped between crevasses and mounted boulders certain I could tell the difference between one grey rock and another.  About 20 minutes into my foray in the stone labyrinth, I realized I was lost.  Each way I turned looked like the last.  As exhilaration turned to panic, I determined I would walk toward the sun until I found some sort of sign that could point me in the right direction.  As darkness closed in, I came across a path.  I turned right and kept on walking until I spied my parents just setting off to search for me.  I was safe.

In life, we often times find ourselves stuck in labyrinthine thoughts, reaching and grasping for some sort of explanation for our current existence.  These thoughts can be overwhelming, and we can wander through them forever, exploring who we are and revisiting old patterns.  Every detail seems to point the way to home, yet we stay parked in thoughts.  In the end, thoughts are just barriers – boulders blocking our sight with signposts pointing to the things, opinions and identities we think we need most.  What we need is a path – a way to put down one thing at a time until we can see things from a different perspective.  From here we can look into the setting sun and find the light in distant darkness.  The only way out is through, and the only way through is one step at a time.  Take a step.  And another.  Now another.  Now you’re getting somewhere. 

Secrets in the Cookie Jar

I have a cookie jar stuffed with the ashes of a person I never knew.  I acquired the make-shift urn by means of it being left behind in an apartment of the complex for which I had worked.  I named the unknown bag of ash Harley figuring it had equal propensity of being male or female and the name suited both.  Harley sits at home among the myriad of items collected from walking the grounds of said complex.  Brass knuckles, mutilated Barbies and foreign coins have all made their way into my collection of roadside oddities, and though my life is small, I feel I have filled it with weird and wonderful stories.

In this ever-expanding universe, it is our duty to explore our homes and our hearts.  Hidden within these realms lay foreign thoughts, bare knuckle emotions and surprises to delight and dismay.  Reach into to the cookie jar known as your You-niverse and collect the things that make you whole.  And if you die trying. . . I promise, I’ll collect your ashes and park them next to Harley’s. 

Stress Fractures

Several years ago, I fell off a ladder and injured my wrist.  The pain was bearable, and I only needed to wear a brace for a few weeks until the stress fracture healed.  Having never broken a bone before, I wondered what exactly constituted a stress fracture.  Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone. They're caused by repetitive force, often from overuse — such as repeatedly jumping up and down or running long distances; or, in my case, sudden stress placed on the tiny bone in the wrist.  Though not much of a health ailment, stress fractures require the injured party to stay off the affected limb until being cleared to bear normal weight. Then resume activity slowly. 

My stress fractured healed, and life presented me with a different type of stress.  The term stress was borrowed from the field of physics in 1920 by one of the fathers of stress research Hans Selye.  In physics, stress describes the force that produces strain on a physical body, in psychological terms, stress is described as the body's response to anything that requires attention or action.  Everyone experiences stress to some degree.  The way we respond to stress, however, makes a big difference to our overall well-being.  If we resist, our energy is concentrated on stress reactions which can lead to exhaustion and the body’s resistance gradually reducing and collapsing the immune system rendering it ineffective.  Rather than resisting and constantly bracing for the worst, we should slow down, breathe deep, and step beyond our repetitive cycles of angst.  We may fall but getting back up will ensure we don’t break. 

Turning the Screw

I’m not much of a handyman; I scarcely know the difference between a lag screw and a drywall screw.  This doesn’t stop me from trying to create projects to better improve my life.  Last summer, with the help of a friend, I made an elevated stand for my recycling.  Using old wood and random tools, I sawed, sweated and screwed my way through the vaguely planned out task until (after many initial mishaps and a bloodied finger) the job was done.  I stepped back from the somewhat crooked stand and admired the completion of a job mostly well done.  One year later, the stand has so far stood the test of time.

Building a better life isn’t like reading a good blueprint and remembering if for the rest of your life; it’s like a screw and a screwdriver.  You bring pieces together, hold them in place and twist the screw until begins to slide in.  It doesn’t turn easily just because we have the right tools.  It takes work.  Sometimes we screw up and wind up bloodied and dismayed.  Sometimes we lag behind and feel lost.  We have to keep our focus on the work, turning and applying pressure until the pieces are secured.  Only then can we step back and put our new life to the test. 

Spare Change

Whenever I need to get inspired and get my creative juices flowing, I go to The Old Market, have coffee al fresco and watch the myriad of folks eating lunch, buying postcards or begging for change.  The confluence of life and lifestyles never ceases to inspire my stagnant mind.  The other day I was partaking of just such an event with a friend of mine when a homeless man asked if I could spare any money.  I don’t normally carry cash, but on this particular day I had change from my recently purchased coffee.  I gave the man two dollars and wished him well.  “You know he’s only going to use it to buy booze,” my friend said.  “I don’t know that,” I replied.  “All I can do is put it out in the world, and what the world does with it is its problem.”  You do what you can, hope for the best, and move forward.

There was a time when I would scrape all my spare change together to buy a shooter of booze to get me through the day.  I hadn’t resorted to begging just yet, but it wasn’t far off.  Fortunately, I was shown compassion from friends and strangers who were willing to take a chance, believing I could be better than the circumstances in which I had found myself.  This compassion inspired me to believe in myself in a way I had never thought possible.  Not everyone was willing to see past the drunkard wasting his life – they couldn’t spare the change.  But change I did.  I found compassion for myself, and this self-compassion opened my eyes to the suffering of others.  Change doesn’t have to cost a lot; a few spare moments spent with someone in need or a simple cup of coffee.  Do what you can, hope for the best, and spread compassion.

Not So Seismic Shifts

Last weekend, I watched Journey to the Center of the Earth thoroughly engaged in the tectonic plate shifting, volcanic vent falling, fantastic adventure of it all.  I stayed up late waiting for the seismic shift of events leading to the erupting conclusion that spat the cast from the center of the Earth onto the vineyards of Italy. 

The following day I scraped and stained my privacy fence annoyed by the constant work of home-ownership.  Mired down in sweat and stain I was ready to blow my top when I stopped and shifted thoughts.  Volcanoes form when one tectonic plate moves under another.  Water trapped in the rocks in these plates gets squeezed out.  This causes some of the rocks to melt forming magma.  When enough magma builds up, it forces its way up to the surface and erupts causing destruction while altering the planet.  This same series of events happens in us humans.  We get trapped in cycles of negative thoughts which build up pressure until we finally erupt.  Not wanting to be wreak havoc on those around me, I switched my focus from annoyance to gratitude.  How lucky am I to have a home to repair, a spouse to complain to, and friends to whom I regale the tale?  The shift wasn’t seismic, imperceptible to others, but it allowed me to complete the task with joy.  By altering my thoughts, I was able to alter my day and save the Earth from one man’s hot-headed eruption. 

The Pendulum Swings

All of my life I have been known for my boundless energy; and even now, as I’m knocking on 50’s door, I still have as much energy as a 20-year-old.  Every night, before going to bed, I thank the universe for this gift, for I know, as time goes by, this vitality will be harder to come by and the pendulum will swing in the opposite directions. 

Energy is a mysterious thing; it can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The total amount of energy and matter in the Universe remains constant, merely changing from one form to another.  So, what happens to my energy when I die?

Energy is transferred from one object to another when a reaction takes place.  A pendulum is a simple example of energy transfer. Beginning at its peak position, the pendulum is not moving. It has some energy because of its height (gravitational potential energy).  When it is allowed to swing, that energy is gradually converted to energy of motion (kinetic energy). When the pendulum is at the bottom of its swing, all of its potential energy has been converted to kinetic energy and it is moving at its maximum speed.  When the pendulum reaches the end of its swing, it has transferred some of its energy to the bending of the string where it is tied at the top making them slightly warmer because of the fibers of the string rubbing together.  Also, because of its speed in swinging through the air, the air has become kinetic energy.  These small energy transferences will eventually stop the pendulum as it comes to a final resting place.

In life, the human body comprises matter and energy. That energy is both electrical and chemical.  In death, the collection of atoms of which we are composed are repurposed. Those atoms and that energy, which originated during the Big Bang, will always be around. Therefore, our “swinging pendulum,” that is, the essence of our energy will continue to echo throughout space until the end of time.  I guess I’ll still have boundless energy 20 years after I die.


I took Chemistry in high school.  I only signed up because it was widely known that it was a prerequisite for college.  Advanced science along with a foreign language and upper-level math were all recommended academic forays. I partook of all of these classes but found Chemistry to be the most interesting.  I had an amazing teacher who taught us the 118 elements of the periodic table and how all of these elements cycle through Earth’s system by process of change – dissolving, converting, reforming and dissolving again.  It is this process that keeps nature naturally balanced. 

Later in life, I had amazing teachers who taught me how to cycle through my emotions.  Our emotional and social dimensions are defined by our relationships with others.  Simply put, a situation arises, and we have thoughts about the facts of that situation; those thoughts form feelings and based on those feelings we engage in behaviors which in turn impact the situation (either positively or negatively), and the cycle continues and reforms.  Luckily, we can find balance once we are aware of the process.

There are proven methods to intervene at various points in the cycle and change the trajectory.  When we receive messages (from others or ourselves) about a given situation, we can clearly label these messages making them less likely to drive the cycle in an unhealthy direction.  We can also retrain our brains to identify automatic thoughts which can be negative or unhelpful, interrupt them and replace them with more constructive coping thoughts.  These actions seem unnatural, but they help keep us healthy.  It’s elementary – nature loves balance, and we are a part of nature.  Dissolve unproductive habits, convert old thoughts, and reform a better existence.  The only prerequisite is awareness.   

The Evolution of Destiny

Once upon a 65-million years ago, dinosaurs went extinct.  The cause of this catastrophe has been debated and argued over for decades, but whatever the reason, the event allowed for the evolution of mammals and eventually humans.  According to scientists, humans are the brightest creatures to ever roam the Earth, yet after a mere 300,000 years (a blink in time when compared to the dinosaurs’ 165-million-year reign), we are on the verge of collapsing the entire ecosystem taking ourselves and more than a third of the Earth's animal and plant species with us by 2050.  So much for being the brightest creatures.

I worry about human-caused extinctions and do my best to help the situation.  I reduce, reuse, and recycle; I drive efficiently and bring my own bags with me to the grocer.  In short, I’m trying to avoid what is surely inevitable.  This debacle used to keep me up at night, but now I’ve come to realize that 5-million years from now, life will be back to a new sense of normal; some new life will be top of the food chain and facing all new challenges.  This doesn’t mean I can’t keep trying.  My positive choices may not improve man’s destiny, but they can improve my current existence.  And I’m evolved enough to know that’s a good enough reason to try.

Minty Fresh Friends

As an artist, it is difficult to divorce yourself from you work.  When writing, we read what we meant to write and forgo repeated words and sloppy grammar; as visual artists, we mentally fill the gaps and connect the lines without actually doing it.  Self judgement is akin to trying to smell one’s own breath; you think it’s minty fresh, but you just can’t be sure.  And so, we rely on the judgement of others – a slippery slope at best; we find friends who will unabashedly support us and others who will find fault in the fabulous and are left where we started.

When criticizing ourselves, we must criticize specific, changeable behaviors, not global, unchangeable attributes (“My participles are dangling,” rather than, “I’m a horrible writer.”).  Blaming negative events on all-encompassing, permanent aspects of ourselves will likely lead to depression and health problems.  Constructive self-criticism, by contrast, involves a more optimistic explanatory style, focusing on specific and modifiable areas in need of improvement.  Even in situations where the blame is obviously ours ours (did I just write “ours” twice?), there may be situational factors that push us in one direction or another (that darn cat’s walking across my keyboard again).  So we’re imperfect.  Big deal.  With a little self-compassion, a few trusted friends and minty fresh breath, we can go forward in the world confident we are doing the best we can with what we have.

A Good Night's Sheep

I used to have trouble falling asleep.  I’d lay in bed ruminating about past events and worrying about unresolved issues.  I’d toss and turn predicting the future and arguing with myself over the best solutions.  After an hour or so, I’d begin chastising myself for not falling asleep and obsessing about how tired I was going to be if I didn’t make myself get some rest.  An hour or so later, still awake, I’d begin counting sheep only to worry about the horrible treatment of animals used in product manufacturing.  UGH!

The onset of sleep abhors attention, and the harder we try, the less success we have.  During the beginnings of nighttime rest, we slowly oscillate between attending to external and internal thoughts.  Of course, it's not just thinking about falling asleep that keeps us awake; obsessing about anything is likely to interfere.  To combat this struggle, I began training myself to count my breaths instead of sheep and searching for blessings instead of solutions to unforeseen problems.   Slowly, and with continued practice, I found myself falling asleep within 10-minutes of laying down.  And, come to find out, a good night’s rest contributed more to solving problems than ruminating about them until two in the morning.  Thank Goodness (one more blessing to count tonight).

Calorie Counting

My husband is trying to lose weight (again), and like most people struggling to lose a few pounds, he has jumped whole-heartedly into diet mode; he’s decreased his calories, increased his water intake and charted his weight degression.  Like most dieters, my husband has experienced losses and gains, successes and failures, and this cycle of up and down has disheartened him.  This time seems different; however, he has spent less time charting weight loss and more time on developing long term healthy habits.  Like Yogis around the world, my husband is taking the long view.

By taking the long view of life, we avoid getting caught up and mired down in the micro-moments of everyday existence.  Pain is real.  Sometimes we step smack into it and feel weighed down and though experiencing hurt is inevitable, suffering is optional.  By looking past the pain we gain insight into solutions.  From there we can chart a new course and lighten the burden.  Rather than counting calories, perhaps we should count our blessings.  And drink more water.

Seasonings Change

As a gay man, there are certain aspects of life to which I am supposed to have a predilection, and for the most part, I play the role well.  I can decorate a room with flair, dress with pizazz and cook with gusto.  As I have aged, most of gaydom has come and gone; my fashion before comfort days are over, and being a minimalist, home décor is moderate at best.  One aspect of gayness I still hold dear is the ability to cook well.  Even as a vegetarian, I can cull spices and seasonings together to whip up a spicy fillet or a juicy burger.

Adding spice to life makes us more seasoned human beings.  Learning new skills, volunteering our time, and connecting with others makes life’s difficult moments more palatable.  Sometimes life delivers us sour apples and things seem hopeless.  If, at these moments, we can pepper our existence with a more positive focus (say a cooking class or digital art), we can build resilience and use these experiences to create a recipe for success.  Sour apples needn’t put an end to an otherwise pleasant day; they can be used in making Apple Crisp, Apple Butter, or Apple Sauce.  The choice is ours – stay sour, or spice things up a bit and reap the sweet rewards. 

Future's Past

When I was in my twenties, I longed for my teenage years.  When I was in my thirties, I loathed my twenties, and now, in my forties, I’m happy to be where I am.  Looking back, I can see how the ups and downs of life affect our current circumstances; the goods and bads mutate and culminate into an identity that informs our feelings.  The negative motivations I carried around for decades dragged me down and couldn’t possibly lead to positive change. 

In order to grow, I couldn’t just let myself get older; I had to accept responsibility.  I began focusing on what I did want rather than on what I didn’t want.  With an end in mind, I started taking small steps toward those goals.  Each step took me further away from past identities and I began forming a better version of the old me.  Now when I look back, I am grateful for the trials and tribulations, for the falling down and getting up again made me stronger, and just as the past can dictate our present, our current circumstances can also dictate our past recollections.  When I look back over my life well laughed, I smile because I know I am more than the things that have happened.  I have more mistakes to make and much more room to grow.

Actions and Action Figures

When I was a young boy, I played with dolls.  I dressed them in fashion, accessorized with purses and shoes, and combed their hair.  Once this was done, I acted out their lives.  Later, once I had learned my place in the world, I played with action figures (dolls for boys).  I dressed them in military attire, accessorized with guns and bombs, put on their helmets and sent them to war.  Same action state, yet somehow making different statements.

As an adult, I’ve compared my childhood states of being with those of my later years.  Sometimes this brings me joy – I still delight in watching old cartoons.  Other times it depresses -- life was so simple then.  But comparing states of mind is like eating a banana and stating it’s not a very good apple.  Each moment in time is its own unique experience and can only be accessorized with other moments; trying to make it something else is just acting.  Our place in the world is wherever we happen to be – combing our hair, dressing up, or going to war. 

Three Balls, No Strikes

Several years ago, I learned the basics of juggling, and like most dabbled in talents, I’d forgotten more than I remembered.  Recently, I decided to brush up on the old skills and give it a renewed effort.  I started by tossing a single ball in the air and catching it with the opposite hand.  Then I moved to two and practiced until I was decent at that.  Finally, I fumbled up to three balls and dropped more than I caught until, eventually, I caught more than I dropped.  Now, I can comfortably juggle three balls for a fair bit before things go haywire and I bounce one off my head or trip over my own two feet.

There was no reason to begin juggling; I’m not planning on joining the circus and have no plans on moving up to chainsaws or sharpened knives, but facing the challenge made me happy.  One reason that challenge brings happiness is that it allows us to expand our self-definition.  Suddenly, we can do things we couldn’t before.  We are richer and fuller.  The more elements that make up our identity, the less threatening it is when any one element is challenged.  With all these identities bouncing through my persona, it strikes me that learning to juggle may help to keep me a bit more sane. 


During lockdown for Covid 19, I put together a puzzle that was gifted to me by the parents of a dear friend.  I hadn’t put a puzzle together in years and relished the challenge and the distraction from a world in chaos.  As is usual in puzzle construction, I found all the edges and placed them together to form a framework from which I could build and fill in. Over the next week, I examined pieces and found their homes until the picture began to become clear.  At this point, I came across several odd shaped pieces that didn’t fit in.  I tried shoving and coercing them into predetermined places that just wouldn’t fit.  Frustrated by my inability to complete the task, I walked away.

The next week, still in lockdown, I came back with fresh eyes and an abundance of patience.  I looked at the separate pieces; then I looked at the whole picture.  Through trial, error and forgiveness, I eventually found a place for each piece – even the odd ones.  As we put together the pieces of our lives, it’s easy to get frustrated in the chaos.  Often times we try shoving solutions onto problems they don’t fit.  This may get results, but it won’t make the picture complete.  There will be empty spots that beg to be filled.  Sometimes we’ve got to walk away, take some time and return with a forgiving heart and a patient mind.  I did finish the puzzle.  It looked a lot like the future – a beautiful landscape filled with wonder and potential.


This sounds bad, but I assure it’s not what you think. . . I wear out the knees in all of my pants.  Being a scrawny man, it is difficult to find jeans that fit properly.  Often times I’m forced to buy big waisted jeans to fit the length and then belt them in; so, when I find pants that fit, I wear them well beyond their intended purpose.  The first thing to wear out is the knees.  As a teacher, I am constantly up and down with my students kneeling to assist in reading or crawling around on the floor partaking in educational games.  I don’t mind doing these deeds and feel blessed that I am still able to get up and down at will; my pants, however, are less than blessed and bear the brunt of carpet and concrete and all the other hard surfaces on which they are placed.

I’ve tried being mindful and squat rather than kneel, but I just can’t do it and have taken to mending the jeans rather than replacing them.  By mending the pants, I am able to get more life out of them – they get me through more tough times.  It’s the same with life; if we are mindful of our actions, we can mend what’s broken and get ourselves through the rough spots.  Life is full of ups and downs, baggy pants, and tough times that can tear us apart but if we are mendful, it won’t feel like a big waist of time.  Mindfulness – ahhhh, fits like a glove.

Stepford Thoughts

In 2004 I watched the remake of The Stepford Wives.  As a fan of the original (and of the book), I was greatly disappointed with the updates.  As originally written for the screen, the 1975 version of the movie strikes an unnerving chord at a time when men, long accustomed to complete dominance in the workplace and home, perceived themselves as losing ground to a new wave of feminism.  The 2004 remake, however, was a flashy cartoon-esque comedy, poorly structured and completely missing its own point which was to tell the story of gender struggle as seen in modern time.

This misguided misfiring of intent has happened throughout history (or should I say, “herstory”).  Quality music gets watered down and synthesized, stories become misconstrued and misinterpreted.  Even Jesus, a bronzed skinned, brown eyed Jewish man born in Bethlehem has morphed into a fair-skinned man with light colored hair and blue eyes.  As a society, we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.  To find the truth, we may have to step back a little and ask ourselves a few tough questions.  Does our remade version of events make life better, or just better for us?  Does this new poorly structured story get to the heart of the matter?  Sometimes, to find the truth, we’ve got to critique the thought patterns that dominate our lives.  It’s a struggle, but the thoughts of living a watered-down version of real life is missing the point.

Finding My Religion

In February of 1991, REM released their hit single Losing My Religion, and though I loved the song, I couldn’t understand how one could lose one’s religion.  Perhaps this was because I never had a religion to which I belonged.  Sure, I had gone to church services and religious celebrations, but I never had a firm set of beliefs.  So, I went on a quest.  I took classes, read scriptures, prayed, and came to the realization that there are two types of religion: those that bend the truth to fit their faith, and those that bend their faith to fit the truth.  This, by no means, convinced me to join a sect, though it did force me to challenge my own beliefs.  If I didn’t believe in a God or several Gods, in what did I believe?  Unable to come to any quick realizations, I began an ongoing introspection process.  What do I believe?  I believe people are basically good.  I believe that life, as we know it, will come to an end.  And I believe that asking questions and seeking answers is at the heart of all religions – even those that don’t have a name.  I pray that this is true for I worship the idea personal growth and lasting peace.  Amen.

Mini Fires

Over the last few months, I have started several new mini habits in an attempt to bring more heat to my existence.  I’ve begun studying French for 1 minute a day and juggling 3 balls for a total of 6 tosses.  These small achievements don’t hold a candle to the ultimate goal of fluency, but they are a start and doable for most anyone.  As I have expanded these habits from a few words, “Trois balles” (three balls), to complete sentences, “Je peux jongler avec trois balles vingt fois,” (I can juggle three balls twenty times), I have realized that the very act of starting can lead to a conflagration of change.

Many of us have a fire in our souls to do more.  We want to conquer worlds, find love, join the circus, but don’t know how to go about doing it.  We ponder, second guess and over think our way out of passion choosing, instead, to play it safe.  To light the match we’ve got to start, and one way to start is to perform simple tasks everyday that feed the fire.  Maybe we juggle three balls every day.  Maybe we juggle passion and patience.  Whatever it is that sparks your wonder, light the kindling and watch it glow.  A tiny step won’t stop a blazing desire anymore that a tiny spark can stop a giant flame.

Earth Movers

This morning I intended to get to work early to put the final touches on a few projects.  Unfortunately, it was raining, and worms were crawling about in the drive.  Their shiny, brown segments extended and contracted as they made their way across, and the thoughts of squishing their bodies and dreams was more than I could bear.  I placed my coffee and bag in the car and proceeded to chauffer the little earth movers to safety.  With this mission accomplished, I headed to work with a light heart and a wet head only to discover dozens of worms congregating in the parking lot.  I couldn’t save them all and I was sure I would be reconstituting several of the survivors once the sun came out, but we can only do what we can do.  My intentions are always grand; my actions, at times, seem minimal, but if the smallest acts of kindness are worth more than the greatest intentions, then it brings me comfort to know my life has meaning – even if I don’t move the Earth, I can help a few earth movers.

50 Shades of Black and White

Three summers ago, I painted my living room grey.  It had been deep garnet for years and was more than ready for an update.  I chose this particular shade because, at the time, it was the color de rigueur and brightened up the place a bit.  Since that update, colors have come and gone and are currently trending white.  I considered lightning to white, but what shade?  Simple?  Pure?  Cloud?  And what texture?  Flat?  Eggshell?  Semi-gloss?  So many options.  So much for black and white being definitive; even basics have degrees.

As I pondered the paint isle, I had an enlightening thought: Nothing in life is black and white.  Rights and wrongs, simple truths and heartfelt emotions all have degrees and variants and rather than walking around on eggshells with our heads in the clouds avoiding the complexities of everyday life, we can examine our thoughts.  Are our intentions pure?  Have we distinguished subtleties?  Does this thought pattern bring joy to life?  If not, can the process be updated and brightened a bit.  Somewhere amongst the 50 shades of emotion will be the one that paints the picture best. 

Tai Cheesy

Over the past few weeks, I have begun studying Tai Chi.  I used to think the art was a cheesy, poor man’s version of yoga, but have since learned that Tai Chi is an act of self-study.  Practitioners learn controlled movements and derive personal meaning from them.  There are formulized classes and advanced study, but the benefits of Tai Chi can be had for anyone willing to take a few minutes to let go and move mindfully.  I have chosen a handful of 5-minute videos that I sprinkle in throughout my day.  It’s simple and I have found, through hard knocks, that the world is a simple place if you know how it works.

For many, the concept of letting go seems counterproductive believing that in order to let go, they’ve got to give up something – time, projects, television.  But letting go is not giving up, it’s allowing the heart to experience freedom.  Since the amount of happiness, you have is dependent on the amount of freedom you have in your heart, creating a little room for meaning offers big rewards.  This sounds cheesy, I know, but like Chester Cheetah says in the Cheetos commercials, “It ain’t easy being cheesy.”


When I was in grade school, I created my own club; I called it The Monkey Club because I loved to climb trees, jump from furniture, and hang from the rope we had suspended from our Honey Locust just like Tarzan did from jungle trees in Saturday morning cartoons. The club consisted of myself and a few neighborhood kids.  We’d challenge each other to daring feats of stupidity to occupy our time between bouts of juvenile delinquency.  The club disbanded after a few falls from high places resulted in bruised bones and egos.

As an adult, I traded monkeying around in trees to trying to tame my monkey mind.  As with the bouts of juvenile delinquency, bouts of inattention caused me a great deal of suffering.  I lost friends, quit jobs and left those who cared about me hanging.  In an attempt to counteract this suffering, I began creating moments of Zen.  I practiced breathing mindfully, eating slowly and paying attention to my thoughts without attachment.  I learned the path, and more importantly, I walked the path.  Simply put, I stopped doing stupid things and went from Tarzan Lord of the Jungle to Tar-Zen Lord of his Mind.


Last night, I stayed up late watching 1976’s Futureworld.  In this sci-fi thriller, guests pay $1,200.00 dollars a night to live our their fantasies in worlds where humans are robots, reality is faked and everyone has plausible deniablility.  As one may imagine, fantasy quickly turns to fear when the alternate robot versions of guests begin attacking their counterparts.  Shots are fired and face plates are shorn off revealing the true nature of the androids hardwired deceit.  Once the truth is revealed, the good guys win and depart Futureworld. 

Life is filled with promises of fantasy.  Use this cream and stay young forever, wear these jeans and be irresestible, marry me and your dreams will come true.  We spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on promises only to have our hopes shorn away.  It appears as though we are hard wired to believe our problems can be solved beyond the self – surely the right cream, clothes, person can make us complete.  We have been deceived.  If we can only learn to love our flaws and the flaws of others, we can find our truest self.  Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.   To be your best self, be your truest self – the self that exists right here, right now.  Depart the past and step into your Futureworld.

Class Master

I have three classes left to complete my master’s degree.  I’ve had these same three classes for the past three years and try though I may, I just can’t bring myself to take them.  While not taking these classes, I have indulged myself in a variety of non-degree educational opportunities.  I have learned how to be a skilled helper, the influence of comics on society and the science of everyday thinking.  Each time I take a class (or don’t take a class), I ask myself, “How will this class make my life better?” 

According to research, the only way to get better at a skill is to do more of said skill.  This is the purpose behind advanced degrees – to do a lot of activities and research under a topic umbrella.  The problem with this model for me is that I don’t want to get better at reading a textbook or posting arguments online.  I want to be a better teacher.  I want to be a better person.  I want to find truest self; and the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.  And so, I have chosen classes to help me better serve others.  I may never master the skill, but with a lot of practice, I can hopefully help others help themselves – no degree required.

Pattern Play

I have poor penmanship.  It’s not as though I lack the ability to write neatly, I’m just usually in such a hurry, I don’t take the necessary time.  Thankfully, humans have an incredible ability to decipher patterns and make sense out of nonsense without even realizing it.  As one example -- Thanks to the redundancy of language, “yxx cxn xndxrstxnd whxt x xm wrxtxng xvxn xf x rxplxcx xll thx vxwxls wxth xn ‘x’.”  Because this ability is so ingrained, it strikes me as odd that sometimes I am unable to decipher my own messages – Am I supposed get eggs or grow legs?  At some point, I just have to take a gamble or move on and hope the message isn’t life altering.

Humans seek patterns; it’s in our nature.  We see faces in places, hear messages in music, and determine meanings in texts and emails.  Yet somehow, despite this uniquely human decoding ability, we often miss the patterns of our own negative behaviors.  In our rush to live life, we take short cuts, x-out quality time with special faces in special places all the while laying blame elsewhere and never realizing our actions have consequences.  It’s not as though we are trying to shift blame, we just haven’t taken the time to fully investigate.  Sometimes you’ve got to grow new legs, stand firmly and admit fault.  You may not like what you find, but knowing your patterns is a gamble that pays off with a richer, more meaningful existence.


I used to rent a lot of movies; so many in fact, Blockbuster sent me a free Gold Card saving me money and allowing me to partake in even more cinematic adventures.  As I made my way from Annie to Zorro, I learned few things – Hitchcock was a genius, white people playing Native Americans is weird and film can teach us a lot about ourselves. 

Since my days as a Blockbuster aficionado, I have discovered Cinematherapy – a form of expressive treatment - like art, music and dance therapy - for medical and mental health issues.  Cinematherapy allows one to use the effect of imagery, plot, music, etc. in films on the psyche for insight, inspiration, and emotional release.  Film allows us to learn about ourselves in profound ways from the safety of our own homes.  Thelma and Louise gave me strength, Under the Tuscan Sun taught me independence, and Eat, Pray, Love showed me growth is a process.  I may never get a Golden Globe for my cinematic self-discoveries, but I can become the best performer in my life story. I’d like to thank the academy for this opportunity to learn about life.

Y ask Why

The English language has many rules, and knowing these rules is a lifelong process.  Learning about syllables and how each syllable must have a vowel and how the vowels are a, e, i, o, and u (and sometimes y).  What?  Sometimes y?  What does that even mean?  Y, to me, is the bisexual of the alphabet – sometimes it’s a consonant, sometimes it’s a vowel; it just depends on who it is hanging with.  And don’t get me started on the four different sounds it makes (again, depending on with whom it is hanging).  Though it appears that y just does whatever it wants, y, in its many incarnations, serves a purpose.  

Over my lifetime, I have been asking about “why.”  Why do I do the things I do?  Why do I want what I want?  What purpose does “why” even serve?  Much like y, “why” does many things.  “Why” helps us discover our truths.  “Why” helps us form our intentions.  And “why” helps us decide if what we want helps us fulfill our purpose.  So the next time you mindlessly perform a task or make a purchase, ask yourself, “Does what I am doing serve my purpose, or am I just doing whatever I want for immediate gratification?”  Don’t expect to know right away. Like learning English, learning about ourselves is a lifelong process. 

Ups and Downs of the Pogo Stick

This morning I ordered a pogo stick.  I bought it as a gift to myself for my 48th birthday – somehow it seemed more appropriate than new shoes or a corvette.  As a child, I was a pogo stick master.  I would hop up and down for hours perfecting tricks and jumping around the block.  I’d fall off, get back on and try again until the skill was mastered.  Eventually I moved on to stilts and dirt bikes adding to the collection of bruises and scars that come from the hard knocks of life.

Throughout our existence, we face many ups and downs.  We jump around from one situation to the next seeking to be the master of our lives.  Sometimes we fall; our egos get bruised and we question our purpose.  But our failures don’t define us, they are bruises not tattoos.  We’ve got to get back on our pogo sticks and keep on hopping on.  Once we’ve gone around the block a few times, we learn to fall better.  Here’s hoping I’ve learned to fall and won’t soon need a new hip.  There’s only one way to find out.

A Toadal Change

When I was thirty-something, I developed a few obsessive-compulsive tendencies.  Before I could begin eating a meal, I had to organize and straighten my silverware (fork, fork, knife, spoon equal distance apart and two inches from the edge of the table).  I had also become deathly afraid of stepping on cracks in commercial concrete walkways.  One evening, in an attempt to overcome my fear of stepping on cracks, I held my head aloft looking to the stars and blindly walked down the broken walkway.  I stepped on cracks and rocks and a toad.  In my attempt to avoid the catastrophic events that would surely beset the world if I stepped on a crack, I had killed another living being.  Something had to change.

Further down that same pathway, I came to a fork in the road.  And I took it.  I took a chance.  I purposefully stepped on a crack (and lived to tell about it).  Later that week I let my silverware rest in disarray.  And nothing bad happened.  With these successes under my belt, I went on to tackle other non-productive habits.  Once my desire to change had overcome my desire to stay the same, I could begin to grow.  Change is scarry.  Change is necessary.  And change can be forking awesome.

Clothing Habits

When I was in the 1st grade, I had a nylon blue and red long-sleeved disco shirt that I loved.  I wore it for school pictures, I wore it for recitals, and I wore it for fun.  If I could have lived in it, I would have.  I was very attached to this shirt and was quite sad when I eventually grew out of it.  As I got older, other articles of clothing defined moments in time: I had acquired the habit of wearing ripped jeans in the 80’s, hats in the 90’s, funky ties in the 00’s and so on and so forth.  Though I had an affinity for these fashion statements, they did not define who I was.

Habits, like clothes, become attachments.  We feel naked and exposed if we don’t partake of them.  Our identities are wrapped up in the perpetuation of these habits and we feel as though we can’t take them off.  Like clothes though, we can change our habits.  Once we determine why we feel we must perform a particular habit and the cues that preempt this habit, we can begin to change.  Trade that cigarette into a disco shirt and that disco shirt into a meditative walk.  Little steps lead to big change.  Speaking of change. . .  I need to slip out of these clothes and into something more comfortable. 

A Substitute for what we Want

Upon the completion of my Elementary Education Teaching degree, I spent a few years subbing and like most subs, I found the schools in which I felt comfortable, so comfortable in fact, I was sure to gain full-time employment beginning the next academic school year.  I had done my best, tried my hardest and had been praised for my efforts.  Eventually, a position opened teaching 1st grade.  I interviewed with top-notch lesson plans, engaging activities and a confidence built from years of experience in the education field.  I was sure to get the job.  Except I didn’t.  I was heartbroken.  I felt used and lied to and broken.  I had given my best and it wasn’t good enough.

After picking myself back up and putting my heart back out there I eventually landed a teaching job in the most unlikely place – a place to which I had never even stepped foot.  I was to be the new multi-grade elementary teacher in a level III behavior school; a job for which I had no real experience.  I jumped in, did my best and found I loved it.  Sometimes life isn’t fair.  Sometimes we don’t get what we want.  And sometimes, not getting what we want is exactly what we need.  Happiness doesn’t always look the way we thought it would.


I am currently taking a class entitled The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture, and it got me to wondering what superpower I would have if I could choose just one: super strength, a Lasso of Truth, flying?  So many choices. 

Superheroes came about as a means to combat negative feelings about the state of the world.  Between the Great Depression and the end of WWII, over 100 superheroes were introduced to the American public: some of them well known (Captain America, Daredevil), others not so much (Gay Ghost, Minimidget), all of them thwarting evil and fighting for justice.  So, what superpower would help me create a better world?

As I wrestled with this question, I thought about Spiderman’s, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and I realized that even without a great power, it is my responsibility to care for my fellow man, to stand strong against injustice, to tell the truth and to not fly off the handle in the face of adversity.  With this in mind, I’ve decided that my superpower will be a kind heart.  I have the ability to forgive, to love and to combat negative feelings.

Have you got a Second

My husband is notorious for calling me from another room to ask for my assistance in some task or another, and I am notorious for replying, “Just a second,” while I put the finishing touches on the 12 things on which I am working.  I can never just leave a room; I pre-plan how to get the most done en route to any destination – grab this, move that, dust those, etc.  It may take me 90 seconds, but I’ll arrive.  This, as one may imagine, is terribly frustrating for my husband which oftentimes leads to angry discussions of, “Why can’t you just . . .” 

When a person has a reaction to something in his environment, there's a 90 second chemical process where Cortisol rushes through the body preparing him to fight or flee; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.  To avoid the post 90 second stress loop, we can try focusing our attention on our surroundings, our breathing or even on unicorns – anything that stimulates the right (creative) hemisphere of the brain.  Once we’ve relaxed, we can try a six-second hug (assuming your partner is the cause of the stress).  The human brain begins to release enhanced levels of serotonin and oxytocin, which promotes bonding and boosts your mood. This physical connection literally forces the body to feel better, the longer the hug, the higher the level of chemical release.  So the next time your partner asks, “Can you spare a second,” you can reply, “As a matter of fact, I have 96 seconds to spare.”


The Big News about Being Small

I was a tiny child (short and skinny).  I was picked on, bullied and underrated; and apparently this is normal.  Research indicates that the human brain uses height as one factor in heuristic measures of social status and fitness with studies showing that infants as young as 10 months old unconsciously associate height with leadership potential, power, strength and intelligence. 

Being different (in my case, small) can make a person feel inferior and hopeless.  We may struggle with feelings of powerlessness or develop low self-esteem.  But I have learned, as I have grown (physically and emotionally), that these feelings are self-induced and that big things often come in small packages.  If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.  These tiny creatures are the world’s deadliest animals – even more so than giants like the great whit shark or Benghal tiger.

We different folks may have to work a little harder to convince folks of our might, but history shows it can be done.  Mahatma Gandhi was only 5 ft 3 inches and Martin Luther King Jr. was 5 ft 5-6 inches and they have undisputedly made a difference.  What’s more, shorter people live longer.  So, when you are faced with adversity, on what are you going to focus?  Your shortcomings?  Or your potential?  


It is said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend.  I reckon this is because diamonds have such a high monetary value; so high in fact, they are ranked as the third most expensive material on Earth (behind Antimatter and Californium). 

Value, in cash terms, is based upon the abundance of said item.  The world’s biggest diamond, the Cullinan, weighs approximately 1.33 pounds, is worth $2 billion and is the only one like it on Earth.  This diamond pales in comparison to the diamond planet 55 Cancri e, which weighs as much as 8.08 Earths and is said to be worth $26.9 nonillion.  Suddenly, diamonds don’t see so valuable anymore.

We, as a society, can place a value on physical items such as diamonds or cars or Antimatter, but how do we place a value on people or love?  Can we base it on volume or clarity?  Or do we still base it on abundance?  Cherished friends and lovers are meaningful because we have few in our lives, yet unlike diamonds, having more doesn’t devalue the ones we currently claim.  I wonder if we were to love every person on the planet, would we value one another even more? I reckon we would.


Growing up, we children were told to finish our plates; and if we did so, we could choose a sucker from the lollipop tree.  As a scrawny boy, I was rarely able to clean a balanced meal from my plate and was therefore denied the sugary pleasure of candy on a stick.  As an adult, I can eat what I want when I want.  Sometimes I order dessert first.  Sometimes I only order dessert.  The choice is mine.

As a society based upon Christian values, we are told that the suffering of this world will be rewarded with a sweet afterlife.  Deny yourself pleasures, have clean thoughts and table your feelings; eventually you’ll reap the rewards.  But I’m no sucker.  I know the path doesn’t save all it’s pleasures until the end.  Life can be enjoyed now.  It’s about balancing pleasure, pain, and hard work.  Succeed at this and you will receive your just deserts in every moment. 

Comma Rules

English, as a language, is said to be the hardest to learn.  We have more words, rules, and exceptions to rules than any other language.  As a teacher and a writer, one of the hardest grammar rules to grasp is comma use.  There are eight basic comma rules to memorize and put into use in the written form.  Most of them have to do with clauses and phrases and appositives, but the most practical way to know when to use a comma is to say the sentence out loud – if you find yourself pausing, there is probably a comma.  That’s the basic function of a comma – to give us pause and to clarify meaning.

Americans, as a people, are positively busy.  According to a survey conducted on 2,000 individuals, American’s have 26 minutes of free time per week.  So how do we find time to pause and give meaning to life amidst all the comma-otion?  We can start by forcing ourselves to stop periodically throughout our day.  This need only last a few seconds; just enough to switch off autopilot and to notice the world around us.  To do this, I have placed a bright orange comma on my computer.  This comma reminds me to pause, to breath, to find the meaning in what I am doing.  A pause in the day needn’t be an exception to the rule; with practice, it can become the rule itself.  If we can form this new habit, maybe we can have 27 minutes of free time per week.


To break up the school day and tap into students’ innate curiosity, I like to introduce experiments.  These can be science related: Do Skittles all taste the same?  Literature related: What if Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline was of African descent?  Or life related: Can an old dog be taught new tricks?  As humans, we are tiny vessels of knowledge set adrift in a sea of unknowables.  It is my job, as a teacher, to try and show my students how to navigate these waters.

So, do Skittles all taste the same? Yes – only the colored shells and scents are different.  As for Madeline; being short would be the least of her worries.  And old dogs. . . they can be taught new tricks.  By approaching our life as an experiment, we become open to possibilities – We don’t have to keep doing what we have done: jumping to conclusions, ruminating or lashing out at others.  We can pose hypothetical questions for ourselves: What would happen if, instead of instantly reacting to a people, we stopped and assessed our feelings first?  What if we interrupted our, “Us, verses Them,” mentality and stopped blaming “Those” people?  What would happen if we examined our motives before reacting?  Maybe we could learn to sit and stay with an emotion without judgement.  Maybe we would realize how sweet life can be.  And maybe we would realize that much like Skittles, we are all basically the same – only our shells are different.


I don’t like to shop; it’s expensive, I don’t like to try things on, and I rarely need the goods I buy.  To combat this lack of enthusiasm for monetary materials, I go to the Goodwill.  I browse the isles for color and texture, purchasing what makes my heart sing.  The other day I bought a groovy used shirt (which I didn’t try on) only to realize it was too small.  The length was good, but the girth was restricting.   Rather than returning it, I repurposed the fabric retaining the good feeling of creating less waste and donating to a worthy cause.  A win / win for a task I dislike.

Several years ago, I realized I didn’t like my life and desperately wanted to exchange it for another.  Circumstances were restricting leaving me feeling used and worn out.  Since it is impossible to return one life in exchange for another, I realized I had to try on new ideas and repurpose the life I had.  I turned hate into forgiveness, wasted time into creative practice, and unworthy thoughts into detached observations.  By changing my thoughts, I changed my world.  Now I feel my life is rather groovy – much like the new / used shirt I’m wearing now.

Unclogging the Present

Two months ago, in an attempt to keep my mind sharp and my body healthy, I decided to start clogging.  I had wanted to take dance since I was a child and never got around to it, choosing instead, to focus on academics and career growth.  Now, as an adult, with no real career success of which to speak and having failed at becoming the person I was supposed to be, I have chosen to unclog my creative juices and become the person I am.

Giving our present self the chance to live its daydreams takes practice.  We are instructed our whole lives to do more, be more, accomplish more.  These instructions are valid as long as they don’t forego our present selves.  Balancing tomorrow’s growth with today’s passion is a delicate dance.  We can’t blindly waltz into the future without taking a few measured steps, but we can take a break from rehearsal to tap into the moments.  That’s a ball-change I can get used to.

From O to Ohm

When I was a teenager I wanted to smoke.  It wasn’t to be cool or to fit in, but rather to get hooked and quite so I could gain weight.  I’d heard stories about people who were addicted to certain behaviors and got heavier upon quitting these habits.  I bought Virginia Slims and learned to French inhale and blow smoke rings; I’d take a puff, blow a few O’s and watch them dissipate feeling less than enthusiastic.  The truth was that try though I may, I wasn’t a smoker; there was no sense in faking it.  I was a skinny, non-smoking white guy and I’d just have to get used to it.

As an adult I want to be at peace.  Not because I think I can avoid conflict or somehow heal the world, but rather to have a weightier existence.  To do this I practice mindfulness and meditation.  I’ve traded blowing O’s for exhaling “ohms.”  I sit and allow thoughts to dissipate trying not to get hooked into old patterns of behavior.  Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not.  I’m still a skinny, non-smoking white guy, but I’m O-kay with that.

Connecting Dots

The other day, in an attempt to keep my mind sharp, I was working on an adult dot-to-dot picture. As I hunted for the starting point, I wondered what this jumbled bunch of pixels would possibly become and how they could unite to form a cohesive unit. As I moved from one dot to the next, the picture slowly came into sight. After a great many steps and a few wrong turns, I realized this mess of points was turning into the earth. Once I managed to complete the process, I had the whole world in my hands.

Life is messy; there are points when it seems impossible. We make wrong turns; we miss connections and have to start again. Oftentimes we are forced to take a step back and reexamine our choices. With time and patience it begins to make sense though – the picture becomes clear. We may never have the whole world in our hands, but we do have a place in it. To find that place, we have to begin making connections.

Infinite Nothingness

As a teacher, it is my job to help students better understand the world in which they live.  I show them how letters form words; words form sentences and sentences convey meaning.  Or how numbers have relations, and these relations are interdependent on one another.  For instance, if I double a number I have twice as many, and that halving that double gives me the original pair.  This formula works for every number in existence except 0, (which doubled results in the same number) and infinity (again the double results in the same number).  Which begs the question, “Can I have nothing and still have everything?”

I have doubled many things throughout my existence: spending, consumption, bad habits.  This doubling did not bring about infinite happiness as advertising suggests, so I began zeroing in on these things and whittling them down to a minimal and have found, the less I have, the happier I feel.  So, let’s look at the number 0.  By itself it represents, “no quantity,” but add that zero to any other number and it ten-folds it each time: 1 becomes 10, 10 becomes 100, and so on and so forth stretching into infinity.  Perhaps having nothing won’t add meaning to our lives, but maybe the realization that everything means nothing without a strong relation to others will. 


A Handleless Vase

Many years ago, a good friend bought me an expensive vase.  I love it.  It’s smoked glass with gold handles and just the right size to hold a small bouquet.  In short, I find it beautiful.  When I tell others how much this beauty had cost, they give me a confused look as if to chastise me for spending so much money on an empty vessel.  “It was a gift,” I implore as a means of justification, “and look how pretty it is.”  The truth is, it’s just a vase – it doesn’t end wars or feed the hungry; in fact, it doesn’t even hold flowers.  It just sits there being a vase.

Ahhh, yes; the truth.  The funny thing about the truth is, unlike my vase, the truth has no handles.  It can’t be held and twisted, bought or sold.  We seek truth to justify our beliefs and to give us purpose, but the truth doesn’t belong to us.  The truth is a gift.  We can try to mold it and shape it to justify our means; but we can’t change it.  It’s just the truth – a thing of beauty that can only be observed and respected. 


I have lived on the block of Ave. A 100 N. for over twenty years.  As the last house on the corner, my yard holds the sign labeling said block.  I mow around this sign, turn into my drive past this sign, and apparently, never look at this sign.  Recently, a friend of mine informed me she always knows where my place is located because of the green “A loon” street sign parked in my yard.  “That’s crazy,” I thought.  I’d never noticed A 100 N reads A looN if you take the time to observe.

This got me to wondering how much of the world I don’t observe because I’m not taking the time to notice.  In the rush of our everyday lives, we tend to function on autopilot doing what we do because it’s what we’ve done without every taking in the whole picture or questioning our motives.  It’s lunacy.  So, I parked myself in front of the No Parking sign that also stands sentinel in my yard and started observing.  I noticed neighbors I’d never seen before, squirrels playing chase and birds building nests.  All this beauty, and not a single loon is sight (except, of course, the sign).

Facts First

It is a fact (the truth about events as opposed to interpretation) that the average person lies to others about two times per day.  If lying has evolved from self-deception as scientists believe, then the question remains, “How often do we lie to ourselves?”  We, as humans, rely on a biased set of cognitive processes to arrive at a given conclusion or belief.  We often deny facts and believe falsehoods because we are emotionally attached to the stories being told.  Denial of reality, or not crediting something that we know is true, is a way we unconsciously inoculating ourselves from pain.  Refusing to acknowledge that something is wrong is a way of coping with emotional conflict, stress, painful thoughts, threatening information and anxiety.

The problem with this process is that facts don’t change regardless of our feelings.  Our feelings, however, may change depending on the facts.  By recognizing true problems, we can begin to fix them and the best way to fix them is to listen.  Listen to what is being said (what others are telling us and what we are telling ourselves), separate the facts from the story, and most importantly, be a friend.  It is a fact that being heard helps us heal.  I wouldn’t lie to you (at least not about this). 


I think it is fair to say that we live in a toxic political environment.  If a toxin is a harmful substance produced within living cells or organisms that impede that organism's growth, development, and reproduction, while lowering the body's capacity to prevent the free-radical damage then America (and society writ large) is indeed suffering from toxic shock.  We spend our days attacking differences, developing conspiracy theories and retweeting lies all in the name of an America founded on the ideals of tolerance and freedom from persecution.  

To combat toxins, scientists have invented antidotes (substances capable of counteracting poisons) that work by reversing the effects of the original toxin.  So, what’s the antidote to our current toxic environment?  We’ve got to reverse course.  If we want to live in a tolerant country free from persecution, then we must stop persecuting one another.  By restricting the flow of hateful speech and toxic language, we can minimize the damage.  Let’s open our minds, listening with our hearts and agree that it’s okay to disagree.  A good dose of acceptance can go a long way in the healing process.

Inevitable Knowledge

I have spent my entire life pursuing higher education.  I’ve acquired a handful of degrees and certifications, dabbled in quantum physics, parallel universes and cellular matter.  On some level, I felt that knowing everything about life could shield me from pain and death – as if being really smart would help me avoid the inevitable. 

I have spent nearly fifty years without ever realizing I am just a visitor in this bag of cells I call a body and that someday those cells will get sick and die.  Maybe they will awake in a parallel universe.  Maybe not.  But I’m here now, and I’m smart enough to know that what I do matters, and that although I can’t prevent death, I can make life better.

Artificially Flavored

I don’t like strawberries, which, as a child came as a surprise; after all, I liked strawberry shakes and strawberry sodas.  Why shouldn’t I like the berries?  Strawberry, as a flavor, is an agreed upon delusion of sweetness.  Somehow, collectively, we have fooled ourselves into believing artificial experiences are representative of their authentic counterparts. 

The word “artificial” means “a copy of something natural.”  These man-made alternatives have been overtaking our human existence for decades: we fill our stomachs with artificial foods, fill our breasts with artificial fluff and fill our days with artificial experiences.  Why experience “Awe!” in nature when you can experience an awesome game on your phone?  Why waist your time on art when you can see artificial?  Why eat a strawberry when you can consume artificially flavored red dye number 5?

Natural flavor is normally quite complex, with dozens or hundreds of chemicals interacting to create the taste sensation.  Artificial flavors have just one or a few.  An authentic life is filled with dozens or hundreds of rich experiences, whereas a life spent scrolling through binary code only allows one or a few.  Like many, I do not like natural strawberries, but when it comes to life -- I do enjoy the berry sweet goodness of an authentic experience.


As the school year wears on, we teachers’ patience wears thin, and this year mine had reached the breaking point just before Winter Break.  With mid-year testing behind us, and two weeks off in front, I gave my class a free day to engage in a variety of school appropriate activities.  For most, this was gladly accepted and partaken of with great enthusiasm, for one student, however, it was yet another opportunity to test the boundaries.  He bargained, he refused, he pressed beyond reason thrusting me out of my usual Zen-like personage.  I needed to re-Zen before I became resentful.  I took some space, took some breaths and reassessed the situation.  I was fine.  The class was fine.  The world hadn’t fallen apart despite my momentary lapse in Zen. 

Sometimes we get mad.  Sometimes we get depressed.  Sometimes we are tested.  At these moments we have a choice: we can refuse to accept that things are as they are and rebel against the truth, or we can slow down, take a break and breath.  Given a bit of time, these tests pass leaving a whole variety of opportunity in front of us. 


I grew up in a sensible family: we hid our emotions, avoided conflict and wore sensible shoes.  We didn’t express love or despair or go to the emergency room for life’s little boo-boos, rather, we covered them up with a bandage, stopping the pain for the moment.  My bandage of choice was alcohol and random pills – they were cheap and numbed the discomfort (made perfect sense to me).  So, it came as a bit of a surprise when one morning, after an hour or so of pain numbing drinking, I blacked out and woke up in the emergency room.  My big boo-boo of a life had finally reached Emergency status.

Laying there, surrounded by my oddly emotional family, I took a moment to emerge and see just what exactly my life had become.  I was a thirty something man who had never told his parents he loved them, had never cried in emotional distress and had not yet learned to live an honest life.  That Emerge-N-See room visit showed me that it’s okay to express love, to feel my feelings and to leave the past behind.  Seeing was the first step to recovery.  It was time to rip off the bandage and start a new life, emotions intact and in sensible shoes.


As a teacher I am frequently accused of not being fair.  I hear complaints about assignment length, break times and snack choices – “He got more,” they’ll say, or, “My worksheet is longer,” followed by, “You’re not fair.”  And to an extent, these students are right.  Fair as a noun means, “something that is fortunate,” and to these students, the work load doesn’t feel fortunate; fair as an adverb, however, means, “in a matter that is honest or impartial;” and as an adjective fair means, “freedom from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.”

So, am I fair?  No; my decisions will not always feel fortunate, my snack choices may not be the favorite, and assignments may vary.  Do I act in a fair manner?  Yes; my actions are guided by honesty and are for the benefit of others.  I may not always do the right thing, but I think it is fair to say, I will always try to do what is right.

Impossibly Possible

Once upon a deep, dark day, a young man felt broken and down; he had hurt the ones he loved, loved the things that hurt him and drank enough to forget the whole mess.  He became so fluent in this language of despair; he began to feel a better existence was impossible.  That is until he learned a different language.

Language is a funny thing – it works by ascribing value and meaning to letters and sounds.  Take the word “impossible.”  At face value it means “not doable,” but if we break it down into “I’m possible,” a whole new meaning can be applied.

And that is want this young man did – he ascribed value and meaning to himself and began exploring the language of possibility.  He found he could love again.  He could forgive others.  He could start a new story – Once upon a possibility. . .



In the mid-80’s I had a Transformer watch.  In its “normal” state it looked like a rather large hunk of red and blue plastic shaped around a digital watch, but with a few twists and turns, it became a robot: still a watch, but so much more.  It was amazing and brought fun to function as well as time spent afterschool for not paying attention in class.  What can I say?  The transformer made me do it.

In the mid-90’s I had a SpongeBob Squarepants watch I used to cover the cuts and burns I had given myself in an attempt to focus my attention on anything other than the racing thoughts running around my head – a few slices, a little blood and instant release.

Now, in my middle ages, I don’t wear a watch – I have nothing to hide, my transformations have laid me bare.   I’m paying attention to my existence and focusing on all the good things life has to offer.  As time passes by, I realize through all the ups and downs, twists and turns I’m still me, but so much more. 

Searching for Purpose

I have spent most of my life searching for purpose.  I’ve tried various careers, various intoxicants and the validation from various others, yet my truest self remained elusive.  With each adventure in self-discovery, a bit of heart revealed itself.  With pointed attention and non-attachment, I found that these morsels of goodness had one thing in common – they all revolved around helping others.

Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” and having been lost and wandering for a number of years, I decided to heed Ghandi’s advice.  I volunteered my money, my time and my very blood.  With each little piece I gave away, I felt fuller. By stepping outside myself I was afforded a better view of my own humanity – my problems seemed smaller, my wants more trivial.  By serving others, I had helped myself and found my purpose.

Time Magician

When I was child, I wanted to be a magician; I had a magic deck of cards, a hollow quarter and a fake thumb to aid in my quest to fool the average onlooker into believing I could perform the unimaginable.  Magic works by creating a conflict between the things a person thinks can happen and the things that they experience.  The true secret behind magic lies in clever psychological techniques that exploit limitations in the way the brain works.  It’s about distraction – while you’re mind wandering over there, I’m altering reality over here.  Ta Da!

Our minds are wandering from what we are doing 46.9 percent of the time; this means that we are not truly present almost half of our lives.  While we are busy fretting over future endeavors or worrying about past injustices, life magically passes us by.  These day-to-day distractions dictate our reality and determine our value systems.  Where once we valued time with family and friends, now we value Instagram. 

Where we place our attention, we place our value.  If we can focus our attention for just one second longer on our present moments, we can begin to realign our lives with our values.  With practice, one second turns into two, two turns into 4, which magically turns into a way of living.  Ta Da!  A life that reflects our hearts.  It’s not magic – it’s attention.

I Am Not an Algorithm

Last summer I spent about a month unsubscribing to junk emails that had been cluttering my inbox.  Each time I selected a message from Silver Singles, or Gadget Lab I tried to backward engineer how and why said message landed in my inbox to begin with – what had I Googled that made it seem as though I wanted Serbian Tanja to “do” me, or that I somehow couldn’t live without a light-up toilet seat?

Each keystroke typed on a digital platform adds to our ever-growing algorithm.  These platforms harvest personal data and make behavioral predictions to target users with ads and articles disrupting both our privacy and agency.  As we blindly search for lyrics to that 80’s Kajagoogoo song, Google, and Facebook and all the other platforms to which we are members remit lines of code that dictate who we are, then feeds us information to reaffirm this belief.  If we aren’t careful, we lose our personal identity and become our social media feeds.

People tend to accept the reality of the world with which they are presented.  If we are told over and over again that light-up toilet seats will make us happy, then by golly, we will go out and get that seat.  As an owner of, not one, but two, Squatty Potties, I can assure you that toilet accessories do not a happy person make.  Let’s do the math: if Advertising + Time Spent = Squatty Potty, then What + What = Happiness?  For that, we’ll have to write our own algorithms. 


It strikes me as odd that two people can experience the same event at the same time but come away with different theories of what happened.  I work in a Level III Behavior school for students who have experienced trauma.  When we see a child running across campus, we assume they are running away from programming; for the casual observer, it appears as though the child is enjoying a lovely escapade in the greenspace.  Same action – different goals.

In life, we run a lot; we run to the store, in from the rain and away from our problems.  These actions all look the same but are guided by very different intentions.  Having observed my running habits over time I realize that there is a difference between running away from problems and running toward solutions.  Running away from troubles leaves you lost, out of breath, and no further from the stored-up fear than when you started.  Running toward solutions, however, creates space to examine the problems while we catch our breath, sort through the details and come in from the rain. 


When I was 17, I came out as “gay.”  It was 1990 and I had just ended a relationship with the girl I had been dating since middle school.  In a matter of weeks, I had gone from boyfriend to flamer.  My gay light shined proudly and lit the path for other closeted gay boys to open up and become their truest selves much the way my homosexual predecessors lit the path for me.

As a 47-year-old gay man, my path has opened up to a great many more wonders.  Thanks to the teachers and gurus who have shared their light, my life is filled with contentment and acceptance.  I am no longer just a flamer; I am a candle – solid in my understanding malleable in my thinking and ready to help others ignite their happiness.  If it is true that thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened, then allow me to share my flame and my truest self.  Together we can conquer the darkness. 

Team Spirit

As an elementary student I went to James B. Rue School.  We were the Roadrunners and we were proud.  As a Roadrunner, I competed against other local elementary schools in track, art and academics perceiving we at James B. were the best.  For Middle School, I attended Woodrow Wilson Jr. High.  We were the Warriors and we were proud.  We warriors were comprised of Roadrunners, Roughriders, Eagles and a dozen other mascots from a dozen other elementary schools.  My former competitors were now my classmates and my perceived superiority diminished as we formed a new and better team.

As a registered voter I am a Democrat and I am proud.  We stubborn donkeys believe Muslims are good Americans and immigration is an asset for the U.S., unlike those Republicans who disagree with us on everything.  Or do they?  When polled about the topic of immigration, the majority of Republicans agreed Muslims and immigration are good for America.  What if the problem isn’t that we disagree on everything, but that we don’t know on how much we do agree?

In a world where algorithms determine our news and perceptions are presented as fact, we’ve got to ride through the roughness of political warriors and find our commonalities.  We must reimagine a bigger ‘story of us -- a story of our country that prizes understanding over judgment, openness over dogma, and empathy over exclusion.  A united American team. . . I can be a part of that.  Go Eagles!


In 2000, 3-Doors down released a hit single called Kryptonite and, until recently, I never knew all the lyrics.  I loved the song and would mindlessly mumble along spitting out the chorus with conviction feeling as though I was both Superman and Crazy.  The opening lines:

     “Well, I took a walk around the world to ease my troubled mind

      I left my body lying somewhere in the sands of time.”

felt strangely apropos, and it seemed as though the song had been written specifically for me and my wandering mind. 

Come to find out, 50% of the time we are not really paying attention at any given moment, rather, we are mind wandering.  Our attention gets hijacked by our troubled mind and this kryptonite makes us feel stressed or threatened. Superman uses his X-ray vision to see things clearly, we mortals must develop other skills such as mindfulness to accomplish this clear-sightedness.  Using mindfulness’ laser-like focus enables us to ignore what is happening 3-doors down and stay in the present moment.  It might not make us super, but Man, it sure does help us enjoy the sands of time.

Heavy Loads

Last weekend, my husband and I ripped out our old concrete steps and replaced them with new wooden ones.  For 9 hours I tore apart, loaded up and reassembled a variety of materials until  my little body could take no more; I went to bed early and slept soundly.  For the next two days I felt about 120 years old; my back ached, my legs hurt and I had a hard time getting up and down my freshly constructed stairs.  The load was heavy, but I lifted with my legs and not my back, so recuperation was successful and I once again feel like a 20 year old.

About a decade ago my husband and I nearly ripped apart your relationship.  We had torn down our trust and built up emotional walls as thick as concrete.  For the next two years we worked on reconstructing our selves as individuals with thoughts and dreams, and as individuals who are part of a couple.  We took the necessary steps of personal growth and couple’s therapy, and can now look forward to another 20+ years together.  Rebuilding a life is hard work.  It takes time; it takes patience.  Eventually, you realize, it’s not the load that breaks your down: it’s the way you carry it. 


As a man in America, there are certain gratuities that govern my existence: I’m allowed to pee outside, to have grey hair and to drink before noon.  What I am not allowed to do is express emotion.  No, these I must suppress in order to live a productive and fearless life.  “Real men don’t cry,” is what we’re told; we should, “Suck it up and be a man.”  So that’s what I did – I sucked it up, bottled it in and let it ferment like a not-so-fine wine, and like a not-so-fine wine, after 40 years, I exploded.  I blew my cork and spewed my discontent.  I hadn’t been living fearlessly, I had been living feel-lessly.   By not allowing myself to feel and express my emotions, I had successfully kept myself in a cellar of despair. 

To uncork the pain of my screwed-up life, I sought stewardship.  I needed someone to serve me information and a kindly ear.  I searched the menu of supports and ordered a sampling of several (paying attention to the body and breath, taking time to evaluate situations, identifying stressors).  With a full glass of pertinent information, I can now go forth and live fearlessly while feeling what I feel without judgement.  It is a fine life indeed.

Short Circuit

To keep my students actively engaged in their learning experience, I have invested in a variety of STEM activities.  One of the student favorites is a circuit block system where students connect electric circuits in order to light a bulb or play music or start a fan.  After a bit of time and practice, the students can quickly assemble the blocks to achieve a desired result.  Last year, I had a student who mindlessly connected the circuits to light the lamp but had incorrectly snapped a block in place and unintentionally turned on the fan which flew off its base and clipped the tip of his nose.  He had short circuited himself and needed a band-aid to fix his boo-boo.

We humans seek patterns due to an inherent negative bias.  Our brains have evolved to navigate our environment using bias and speed rather than accuracy and analytics.  We scan for patterns around us and rapidly respond in fear.  This stems from primitive days but tends to short circuits our happiness in modern times.  To fix this boo-boo, we have to form new connections.  We can do this by practicing gratitude.  Each day connect with 5 things that make you feel grateful.  After around 21 days some of the old brain circuitry may be clipped and new connections formed to create a more positive bias.  Positivity – I’m a fan of that.

Tall Orders

One of my favorite leisure time activities is to try new foods at local restaurants.  Oftentimes, during these culinary adventures, I’ll order the 3rd item on the left or have the server surprise me with his or her favorite dish.  Some servers enjoy this task, others find it a tall order to fill, concerned I won’t approve of the choice.  I respectfully assure the waiter that I will harbor no ill-will toward him if I dislike the selection.  For many, this practice seems like a ridiculous waste of time, but for me, it broadens my world and opens possibilities.

Another practice of which I like to partake is Loving Kindness Meditation.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., talked about the need for “aggressive nonviolence,” and during troubled times Loving Kindness Meditation is my preferred form of aggression.  It’s a pretty tall order, loving the unlovable, but it is how we best serve humanity.  When one practices good will, one removes fear and negative reactivity from the mind.  Once the mental plate is cleaned, it can be filled with patience, kindness and understanding.  Think of all the things that could be possible if we served each other a big, heaping plateful of love and respect.  It might taste a little bitter at first, but a full heart is a delicious possibility.


I once wrote a newspaper article about roadkill.  If you’ve ever driven cross country, you’ve probably played the game, “What Splat is That?” where contestants try to identify the various carcasses littering the sides of the road.  In the Midwest, a great deal of our large splats belong to deer leading me to wonder, “When will deer adapt to leaping rather than looking when they see the oncoming lights of a Mac truck?”  A deer’s stop and freeze action may assist him in the woods where he blends in with the surroundings, but his forest camouflage does nothing to slow a moving semi.  Evolutionarily speaking, it’s time for an upgrade.    

One would think that staring down a semi as it barrels down on us would give us the impetus to move, yet often times we knowingly repeat the same bad habits and reap the same bad consequences.  Our lives are littered with the carcasses of poor choices, yet when faced with the evidence of our shortcomings, we struggle to identify the problem.  We haven’t yet adapted to a new way of being and so we stand there letting life run all over us. 

If a deer wants to avoid a Mac truck, it need only step aside; if we want to avoid being run down by negative consequences, we must step outside ourselves for a moment, witness our triggers and monitor our responses.  Once we realize the cause of our actions and our response to them, we can evolve and adapt.  The next time you feel like a deer in the headlights, step aside, look at the situation and determine an appropriate course of action.

Audi-os Troubles

Once upon a time I drove an Audi.  It was used and green and got me where I needed to go.  After driving it for about a year, it began to have engine issues.  It had trouble starting, the radio would cut out randomly and sometimes the interior lights wouldn’t work.  I tried expensive gas, replacing the tires, and cursing at the darn thing to no avail.  After months of issues, my Audi finally stalled for good.  I took it to the experts who informed me rain water was making its way from the windshield, down tiny flaws in the car’s design and into the wiring underneath the floorboard which drown out the circuitry effectively rendering the car useless.  No longer would the Audi take me to the grocery store or therapy appointments.  I would have to find another way.

Often times, we humans attempt to solve internal problems with external solutions.  We change our location, change our medicines and change our cars in an attempt to drown out our troubles; these changes are akin to putting on new tires to fix a broken engine – the tires will help you run smoother while you’re headed downhill, but they won’t fix the internal workings.  Eventually you’ll wind up stranded.  To bid our troubles Audi-os, we’ve got to fix our internals systems.  We may need to seek experts and design a new plan, but it can be done.  But first we’ve got to get started.


I have spent a fair amount of time (years on end) putting toxins in my body, booze, pills, poor choices, etc.  Unfortunately, this makes me the rule rather the exception in America.  To counteract our habits of making poor choices and self-medicating, we Americans have developed “cure-alls” like juice cleanses and aromatherapy.  Drank too much last night? – try a beet and carrot juice cleanse.  Stressed out by a relationship – light a lavender candle.  These remedies temporarily purify us leading us to believe we can continue our toxic ways.  The more we detox, the more we retox.  But applying a materialistic approach to our pain, boredom and need for attention, is just a band-aid.  What our suffering really deserves is compassion.  All suffering is worthy of compassion, even the suffering we create for ourselves. 

Although compassion is an innate skill, it takes practice to apply it properly.  The Tibetan word for practice is “gom,” which means “getting familiar.”  The practice of self-compassion is about getting familiar with the part of us that is naturally caring and getting familiar with what it feels like to apply that tenderness to ourselves.  Rather than applying a quick-fix band-aid that numbs the pain, we need to face the problem.  Mother Teresa said, “Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”  The person nearest to us is ourselves.  Compassion starts with us, for us.  Light a candle, grab a glass of beet and carrot juice and treat yourself as you would treat a dear friend who is struggling.  No matter what pain you’ve experienced or toxic environments you’ve created, your future is spotless, and you can begin again. 

Beauty Products

Having been a cosmetologist all of my adult life, one may expect my medicine cabinet to be filled with miracle creams and magic spritzes meant to keep me young and amazing.  In reality, my beauty regime consists of shampoo, conditioner and a body lotion.  Globally, anti-aging products are expected to rake in over $330 billion by 2021. But a recent study suggests a cheaper way to stave off senescence is loving-kindness meditation which aims to cultivate warm-hearted, positive emotions toward oneself and others. 

The magic ingredient in loving-kindness meditation that aids in youthful looking skin isn’t ceramides or Hyaluronic Acid, its Telomeres (DNA-protein complexes inside every cell that protect it against daily wear and tear).  As we age, our telomeres get progressively shorter and the shorter our telomeres get, the sooner our likelihood of dying.  The good news, however, is that certain behaviors and lifestyle choices can either slow their shrinkage or even make them longer.  For a cheap way to lift sagging skin, try lifting your spirits with exercise, sleep and loving kindness.  You may not look 20 or 21, but you’ll feel amazing.

Love Hurts

Last Saturday I was dancing to my 80’s playlist when Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love,” blasted through my speakers.  I got so into it that I smacked my hand on the edge of the table proving that love is not only addictive; it hurts.  So many songs, poems and movies have been written about the pains of love that one feels there must be some truth to the sentiment.  According to scientists, social rejection and physical pain are rooted in exactly the same regions of the brain, so as far as your brain is concerned, the pain you feel from a breakup is no different from a stab wound, and as much as we think of “heartbreak” as a verbal expression of our pain or say we “can’t quit” someone, these are not actually artificial constructs -- they are rooted in physical realities.  Like pain teaching us not to touch a hot stove, heartache exists to teach us something.  It focuses our attention on significant social events and forces us to learn, correct, avoid, and move on.

Love isn’t all bad though; love is effectively a painkiller.  Love activates the same sections of brain stimulated by morphine and cocaine, and like these drugs, the effects of love are quite strong.  It appears as though love can both hurt and heal depending upon its usage.  I’m not sure about Robert Palmer and his love addiction, but I plan to use my love to heal (starting with my injured hand).


Each night, before going to bed, I look to the moon, grateful it is there, and say a list of things for which I am thankful.  Over time, the list has grown and the moon, in all its phases, has remained a constant companion for this tradition. 

It’s not always easy being grateful.  Sometimes, the dark side of life creates shadows over the good and I want to push away the sadness and grief.  The desire to avoid what’s unpleasant is part of human nature.  But this nature only increases our psychological distress, inflexibility, anxiety, and depression, while diminishing our well-being.  Allowing these emotions to eclipse our being creates irrational worries that darken our days.

But shadows let us know there is light.  When we turn toward our physical pain, we are less likely to be trapped in cycles of suffering; when we turn toward our sadness, we are less likely to be stuck in depression; and when we turn toward our anxiety, we are less likely to be paralyzed by it.  Believing that we can live lives devoid of suffering is sheer lunar-cy.  Bad things will happen, and when they do, we can invite them in as a temporary guest, take a gentle and curious look, then release the pain.  Each time we practice being with our difficult emotions, we grow inner resources and become more full.  Though I appreciate the moon in all its glory, I rely on my own inner light to illuminate my path.

Socia, Meania

I was a small kid – at least, compared to my fellow elementary students.  For a long time, this bothered me until I realized it was all relative.  I was only small when compared to other midwestern 7-year-olds; when compared to starving nations, I was a veritable giant.  Comparing ourselves to others is a great way to know if you’ve reached a growth spurt or not, but it is hardly an accurate means to value personal growth – for that, we need social connection rather than social comparison. 

New studies suggest that happy people avoid the trap of social comparison.  In modern times, our need to be social can backfire on social media, if we accidentally activate the comparing mind – a source of much unhappiness.  Of course, this can happen offline, too.  But the toll looms bigger online, with of all the perfectly curated images of people’s lives inviting us to compare our insides to other people’s projection of their outsides.  If we’re not aware, social media can become social meania and make us feel small and insignificant. 

Yes, social media is contributing to a new era of social stress, but when we accept that it is here to stay, we can also see it as a new opportunity for connection and mindfulness.  Before opening your favorite social media site, consider your intentions and expectations – use this time to connect rather than to distract.  Technology does not define us, despite social media trying to put us into categories and reduce us to a series of likes and interests.  We’ll have to make big decisions to not feel so small in this ever-expanding world, but it can be done.  We grow with each little change and become better versions of ourselves.  I was a fine 7 year, but I’m an even better 47-year-old (but who’s comparing?).


For the longest time I was stuck in a rut of depression and loneliness until one day, “Poof,” I felt less sad; it was like magic, one day suicidal, the next day hopeful.  So, what had changed?  The word magic dates to the 14th century and means "the art of influencing or predicting events and producing marvels using hidden natural forces," and I suppose it is the perfect word to describe the process.  The truth is, I was less depressed than I was scared – scared to change, scared to admit my shortcomings, scared to forgive and to ask for forgiveness.  The fear of what might happen or the worry that I was somehow not enough kept me stuck.  Regression and depression had become a habit, and old habits are hard to break.

To break the old habits, I enlisted the assistance of others.  These folks helped me face my fears by helping me become better attuned to my body and my personal narratives.  Our brains tend to seek the fastest, most efficient way to relieve stress when we feel it.  That means, because the brain likes predictability, we rely on solutions that have provided short-term stress relief in the past – like seclusion and substance abuse.  Unfortunately, these habits aren’t magical solutions, they are illusory.

For most people overhauling their lives, there are no seminal or life-altering, “Ta da!” moments. There are simply communities, sometimes of just one other person, who make change believable.  So that’s the magic then – believing.  Believe in change.  Believe you can.  Believe you’re worth it.  We are our own natural forces; sometimes we just need another person to show us how marvelous we really are.


Driving through Iowa doesn’t lend itself to much excitement; the land is flat and filled with mile after mile of, what looks like, the same cornfield featuring the same silo.  It feels less like you have traveled 310 miles and more like you have driven around the same country block 310 times.  If one were to take I-80 through Iowa, one might believe the state has a population of 3 people and 600 silos when, in reality, there are 3.15 million people and 161 silos.  Funny how the facts don’t match the perceptions.

In today’s world of “othering” politics, we often find ourselves in fields of disinformation.  Our media diets, social media feeds, even our in-person relationships lock us into silos of agreement, where it’s easy to demonize and oversimplify those with whom we disagree.  But are we really that different?  An ear of corn has approximately 800 different kernels all making up one delicious ear of corn.  America has approximately 328.2 million different people all making up one United States of America.  So how do we get along?

Corn kernels are packed closely together to help ensure pollination and species survival.  To ensure our species survival, we’re going to have to get a little closer.  We must connect with people with whom we disagree.  Me must politely share are differing views.  We must, “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.”  Let’s take a que from Iowa’s motto as “A place to grow.”  Let’s get out of our silos and sit together at the dinner table, eat our corn and cherish our differences.


I used to drink beer.  The problem was one beer was never enough.  I needed 10 or 20 or whatever it took to feign some degree of happiness.  I felt good for a while, but ultimately the numbness wore off and I was left with the core feelings of depression and despair.  I guess the wealth of alcohol didn’t solve my problems.

In America, we are raised to believe that more is merrier, bigger is better and money buys happiness.  We spend our weekdays slaving away at jobs to earn money we can spend on the weekends.  We buy houses and cars and microbrews and consume two-thirds of the global market for drugs prescribed to combat chronic sadness and hopelessness.  While we’ve been on this shopping binge, our rates of depression, obesity, heart attacks, divorces, and suicides have skyrocketed.  Without money, it’s impossible to thrive and difficult even to survive in the modern world.  But money isn’t a god.  It’s something to use. Not something to crave or to worship, and certainly not something that should rule our lives.

Up to a certain point, money is vital to happiness for almost everyone. It can buy food, clothing, and beer and provide for our basic needs. Once a person’s basic needs are met, though, money takes on a different meaning.  The more one looks at the data comparing people’s monetary wealth with their levels of happiness, the harder it is to see any correlation at all once you get past the poverty line.  Surveys of the richest Americans, for example, show happiness scores identical to those of the Amish, a people who intentionally live almost entirely without cars or telephones or brewskis.

Money, it seems, is a lot like beer.  Many people like it, but more is not necessarily better. A beer might improve your mood but drinking 10 or 20 not only won’t increase your happiness tenfold, it might not increase it at all.  


When I was in the 6th grade, I got a home perm; it was tight and fuzzy and turned my hair into a lovely shade of burnt.  The high hair highlighted my buck teeth and highwater pants and made me a target for a great deal of teasing.  One may think this harassment would have scarred me for live, but truth be told, I only remember it because of pictures.  Why is it our brains tend to hold on to negative memories like Velcro while good memories slip away like butter on a Teflon pan?

Unfortunately, humans are a bit hard-wired to remember bad things while forgetting the good ones, but this doesn’t mean we are stuck to depression.  Life is full of difficulties and name calling mean kids that have the potential to hold us down.  The key isn’t to avoid these pains —it’s through our challenges, after all, that we learn deep lessons.  Instead we can foster positive experiences that offset those challenges.  These good things that we recall can over-write negative memories.  When I am stuck in a negative rut and don’t want to make that depressing memory permanent, I go on a Happy Hunt – I search my surroundings and find three things that make me happy (a flower, the sound of laughing, my own good health); this presence and state of mind helps me relinquish my pain and transform my mood into something more positive.  With enough practice, this skill sticks and becomes a way of life.  Try it – look around you.  What, at this moment, brings you joy?



I am a huge fan of the TV show Sex and the City.  It’s funny, its sexy, it’s hot.  On the surface, the show is a glitzy frolic into a make-believe world of fashion and fornication, but at its heart, Sex and the City is about relationships and curiosity; and mixing the two together (as the show deliciously depicts) is often like playing with fire.

Our curiosity, as humas, has evolved over millennia helping us make decisions in an unpredictable and uncertain world.  Take fire for example.  Man didn’t just wake up one morning and declare he would invent a means of advancing himself; he observed nature and experimented.  He persisted, until finally – heat and lasting fulfillment.  Choosing to explore the unknown rather than avoiding it is the key to a rich, meaningful life.  So, let’s get all glitzed up and be present for whatever the world has to offer.  It might not be sexy, but it’s bound to make us better even if we get burned at first.



Though I have no children of my own (and have no desire to have any), I do get a secret thrill watching babies giggle at their own feet.  They seem perfectly content sitting in their chairs or laying in their cribs and shoving their feet into their mouths.  As an adult, I have stuck my foot in my mouth on many occasions and have derived no pleasure from the experience.  Instead, I chase happiness the same way Wile E. Coyote, chases Road Runner – always two steps behind and headed for a cliff.

Perhaps it isn’t the chase that’s the problem; perhaps it’s the goal.  I have spent years seeking happiness in more friends, more experiences, more success only to realize that this “more” strategy is, by its very nature, not sustainable.  If we hope to return to our childlike contentment, then maybe we should seek that contentment in whatever moment we happen to be experiencing. 

The word “contentment” comes from the Latin “contentus,” which means “held together” or “intact whole.”  Since then, the word has evolved to describe one who feels complete, with no desires beyond himself.  With this in mind, I begin to reexamine my relationship with what is going on around me rather than my reaction to it and I find that I don’t have to chase Road Runner, I don’t need to tally up more successes and -- although I am physically capable -- I don’t need to put my feet in my mouth.

Old Man

Last week, in a fit of rage, a student called me, “Old man.”  Though tis is hardly the worst thing I have ever been called, I found the comment stunning, not because the statement is particularly rude, but because I have never been called, “Old man,” before – “Faggot,” sure, “Asshole,” you bet, but “Old man?” – Never.

Later, with this new nomenclature bouncing around in my head, I questioned if I was, indeed, an old man.  The average life expectancy of the American male is 78.5 years, and at 47 I am on the downhill slide which, I guess, by definition, makes me old.  The problem is, I don’t feel old.

For a good portion of our lives we engage in unconscious conformity (taking the views of others and making them our own).  This conformity leads to fatigue and disappointment.  So why is it this old man has such energy?  It’s simple – I have based my life around my views and not those of society writ large.  Don’t just take my word for it; try I for yourself.  What is your definition of age?  Of success?  Of happiness?  Answer honestly – live thoroughly. 

Good Trouble

I got in trouble at work two weeks ago – it wasn’t for misbehavior, obstinance or shotty work, it was for advocating change.  I asked the right people the right questions, got the right answers only to be told I was wrong for doing so.  I had officially gotten into, what John Lewis called, “Good trouble.”

Good trouble is seeing something that is not right or fair and then doing something about it.  Good trouble frequently involves sit-ins, mentoring, and peaceful protests.  Good trouble is a slow process that elicits lasting change.  Martin Luther King jr. said, “Be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves, we will so appeal to your heart and your conscience that we will win you in the process,” and this is what I try to do at work – this is what I try to do every day.  So, let me get myself into some more good trouble while I sit down to stand up and ask, “What are you going to do today to elicit positive change?  How are you going to get into good trouble?”


I like to think of myself as a considerate human being, and by considerate I don’t just mean thinking of others, I mean considering the ways of the world and my part in it.  We are all philosophers on some level – we have opinions and views and love to point at events and say, “This is the truth.”  The problem with this philosophy is that “truth” and “fact” are two different beasts.  “Truths” are rooted in beliefs of events, whereas “facts” are events untainted by beliefs.  These two concepts are similar, but different.

The way facts become truths is an interesting journey through our mental filters.  When we are presented with a set of facts (say a bottle of soda placed in front of us), 10-15% of our brains take in the new, visual information, while 85 – 90% of our brains begin searching our memories for meaning.  If we have seen a bottle of soda before, our truths align with the facts; if we have never seen a bottle of soda before, our brain begins telling stories and our truths don’t match the facts.  This very scenario was hilariously played out on screen in the movie The Gods Must be Crazy

So how can we trust our truths are in fact, factual?  We begin by seeking all information.  We often miss what is directly in front of us because we aren’t looking at the whole picture.  Our brains are hardwired for details – this is why we miss the forest for the trees.  If we want our truths to be as factual as possible, we must look at the subjects of our attention objectively.  Slow down, look at the big picture, listen to opposing views, gather the facts.  We don’t live in a world devoid of our pasts, but we don’t have to let the past taint our present.  As students of philosophy (the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence), realize that many facts can be simultaneously true, and that sometimes the best philosophy is to agree to disagree.


The Birds and the Bees

One of my favorite ways to relax is to sit on my front porch and watch life pass by.  I was deep in the middle of this very act last week when I spied a flock of birds spring to life from a distant tree; they flew up like a swarm of locust, glided around a bit, then landed back in the same tree.  They did this several times as if they were performing some kind of primitive bird ballet.  “Why do they do this?” I wondered.  “How do they know where to go?” 

This type of behavior happens all over the animal kingdom – Bees swarm to protect the group, ants gather to find food, even cells combine to replicate and grow.  If it weren’t for cooperation, humans literally wouldn’t be here today.  So why do we find it so hard to get along?

As living organisms, our first instinct is to cooperate, yet it is clear to anyone who’s ever been stuck in rush-hour traffic, human cooperation can break down, sometimes suddenly.  To cooperate means, “To work jointly toward the same end,” and as thinking beings we tend to believe our end is unique.  In a small sense this is true; we each have a multitude of interests we’d like to see to at any given moment, but the ultimate goal of humanity is to thrive, and the only way to successfully thrive is to cooperate.  Cooperation isn’t the absence of conflict of interest, it’s a set of rules for negotiating conflicts of interest in a way that resolves them.  With this in mind, let’s resolve to cooperate.  I’ll forgo my interests in your time of need if you forgo your interests in my time of need.  If we can do this, we can glide through the tough times and grow to become better human beings.

Something in Me

One of my favorite silly jokes is to reply to an unsuspecting individual who has stated, “I’m hungry,” with the retort, “Hi Hungry, nice to meet you.”  It never gets old.  We often begin statements declaring who and what we are: “I’m cold.”  “I’m tired.”  “I’m depressed.”  The thing with these declarative statements is that it implies that our existence is determined by our feelings at any given moment.  Most of us would agree that feeling hungry for a snack is a far cry from literally being starved.  Rather than declaring we are a feeling, we should state that, “Something in me feels. . .   “This subtle shift in language reminds us that we can be multiple things at once – We can be hungry and happy; we can be cold and thoughtful; we can be depressed and hopeful.

We, as thinking beings, are greater than the sum of our parts.  We are not simply humans having experiences of being (happy, sad, hungry) – we are beings having a human experience.  “Hi Being, it’s nice to meet you.  My name is Mark, and something in me is delighted to see you.”

Black and White Television

When I was a child, I had a 13” black and white television set on which I watched the black and white world play out before me on 3 channels.  As I grew older my sets grew bigger, the channels greater and my black and white world opened up to all the colors of the rainbow.

Recent events have made me once again examine the black and white world – not through the television lens, but through the lens of my privilege.  My Leave it to Beaver world has opened up to a technicolor extravaganza and I am left wondering, “How can I help change the channels of racism?”  I can admit my privilege.  I can be aware of my biases.  And I can write black words on white paper to create sentences of togetherness, acceptance and love.  It’s not much (those three words), but it’s a start.


A New Pair of Shoes

My husband has upwards of twenty-five pairs of shoes, of which he probably wears six.  He sees them, buys them, then shoves them under the bed or in the back of the closet or any where else they will be out of the way.  It’s as if simply owning a good pair of running shoes will help him win a race he has yet to run. 

Being in the proximity of any one thing hardly makes that thing a useful commodity.  Having good intentions, for example, is a worthy quality to possess, but good intentions without action are as useful as boxed running shoes.  We’ve got to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk.  We’ve got to slip on our fancy new shoes and run around doing the good deeds that have been gathering dust in the back of our minds. It’s not enough to have the shoes, we have to start walking in them too.

The Corner of "B"

A few years ago, I was in a car accident; I was T-boned at the intersection of “B” and “25th” by a preoccupied man who missed the stop sign and plowed into the side of my car.  Both of us were rattled, but neither of us were hurt.  The police were called, a ticket was given and apologies were made before a tow truck came to haul away my wreck of a vehicle.  Though no lasting physical damage was caused, I’m guessing that man pays closer attention at the crossroads.

There are many crossroads in life that alter our existence; most are minor and leave no lasting damage, but others have the potential to wreck our lives.  If we fail to stop and pay attention to the details, we can hurt ourselves and others.  Slow down.  Look around.  Pay attention when you come to the intersection of “B” and “Aware.”  The signs to happiness are out there – we just have to open our eyes and see them.

Another Man's Shoes

As a minimalist I have five pairs of shoes of which I purchased one of them myself, the rest were hand-me-downs from friends and family.  Each pair of shoes serves its purpose as formal wear or athletic attire and though most of them aren’t a perfect fit, I have managed to wear the soles down from usage.  It is no exaggeration to say that I have walked a mile in another man’s shoes.

This ability to tread with another man’s soul not only applies to shoes, it applies to empathy as well.  Our collective conscious feels and carries the weight of friends and family – when they feel joy, we feel joy; when they are in pain, we are in pain.  Just as wearing a single shoe makes walking difficult, dealing with our emotions solo makes traversing Life’s path troublesome.  Through empathy and kindness for our fellow man, we can minimize life’s hardships and maximize life’s joys.  I’ve shared the empathy of others, and trust me, it’s a perfect fit.


I grew up watching the Brady Bunch on TV.  I learned the importance of telling the truth, the glory of togetherness, and that life’s major problems could be solved with a potato sack race on the perfectly coiffed lawn.  Later in life I learned that the family members I held so dear were just actors on a set – the children I thought of as friends weren’t brothers and sisters, their parents didn’t always have the answers and their perfect lawn was really Astroturf.  These “family” members struggled with drug addiction, disease and death just like the rest of us.  Perhaps the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Last year I was offered the perfect teaching job in the perfect school, so I quickly accepted the positions as one might perfectly well suspect.  When I got there, the hours were long, the job was impossible and I found myself longing for my old work bunch of previous years.  Sometimes in life we have to learn the hard way that the things we dislike most about our circumstance may be the things we desire when circumstances change beyond our control.  With this in mind, I left the new, perfect job and returned, with renewed optimism, to my old job.  I realized, once again, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and sometimes, it isn’t grass at all – it’s Astroturf (as was the case for the sports field in my last job).  Rather than continuously searching for the next perfect thing, we should feel gratitude for the blessings that are right in front of us – the good, the not so good, and the potato sacks.


My mother passed away last winter.  It was a snow day and I was home from school.  I was scooping snow so the mail carrier could access the box when my sister told me it was time.  I put down my shovel, went inside and stood by my mother’s bed as she took her last three breaths.  One moment she was there, the next she was gone.  It wasn’t unexpected and I didn’t cry.  I said my goodbyes and went back outside to finish scooping the drive, except now I wasn’t doing it for the mail carrier, I was clearing the path for the hospice workers to collect my mother’s body so it could be prepared for her funeral.  It’s funny how the same act can have different meanings depending on its purpose.

When I think back to this event, I realize how fleeting our moments are – they are here and then gone in a single breath.  It’s what we do with our moments that matters. And that is why I have taken to checking myself and asking, “Is what I am doing bring me joy?  If not, what can I do so that it does bring me joy?”  Sometimes that change involves a change in activity, other times it involves a change in attitude about the activity.  My mom was 77 when she died – older than most, younger than many.  I wonder what she thought in those last few breaths. . .   Was she grateful to be surrounded by her loved ones, or was she simply trying to breathe?  I’ll never know.  The time has passed.  You see, it’s not about how many moments we are allotted, but how much purpose we put in each moment.


I have been practicing yoga for several years and this practice has made me more flexible in body and mind, so when a friend of mine (32 years my junior) challenged me to a backbend competition, I felt I was up for the task.  He went first.  From an upright position he thrust his arms behind himself, leaned back and fell into a near perfect isosceles triangle.  This approach was new to me as I begin my backbends in a prone position and pop up from there.  Surely, I, with my years of yoga experience, could perform this minor feat of acrobatics.  I stood up straight, thrust my arms over my head and fell backward into an isolated lump.  This was clearly going to take some practice.

The word “practice” means: to perform, to work at, to exercise.  And that is what we must do if we ever hope to better ourselves.  I practice yoga not only to exercise my body, but also to exercise my mind – to stretch myself beyond my usual thinking.  Notice the definition of practice does not include: to work toward perfection.  I’m not perfect.  I still get angry.  I still harbor resentment, but, because of practice, I do so less often.  And because of practice, I can now fall into a backbend from an upright position – not perfectly, but better than I could before.


It is widely known that humans share 98.8% of their DNA with apes; not so surprising considering the similarities – both have opposable thumbs, both live in groups and both show signs of care and concern for their brethren.  What is not so widely known is that humans share 50% of their DNA with bananas.  Try though I may, I struggle to find the similarities.

I got to thinking about this scientific fact while watching a political debate the other night.  Given what I had seen on TV, one would think political parties have less in common than humans and bananas.  It seems as though we can’t agree 10% of the time let alone 50%.  And so, I began searching my own opposing views.  Is it possible to find commonalities with such extreme differences?  Let’s see. . . both parties have opposable thumbs, both parties thrive in groups, and I’d venture to say, both parties care for and are concerned with their fellow man.  Hmm.  Caring for our fellow man; that sounds like a good place to start.  Now, as for bananas – more than 96% of Americans have them in their household.  I guess we can agree on some things if we try hard enough.


According to my horoscope, today will bring more clarity to life and bonds will be strengthened.  It appears as though the stars and planets have finally aligned and shined their light upon me.  As I pondered this confluence of information, I got to thinking about space and how the planets and moons revolve around a single star the same way protons and neutrons revolve around a single nucleus at a cellular level.  Is this similarity strictly coincidental, or is it by design?  And if so, can it be that our universe and all its inhabitants (including myself) are merely a part of a much grander life?

The human body is comprised of approximately 30 to 40 trillion cells.  When functioning properly, a person is capable of living a long and healthy life, but if a single cancerous cell begins to relentlessly divide and conquer, then that life is cut short, however, humans also possess evolved white blood cells capable of disrupting the membrane of the cancer cells forcing the those cells to undergo programmed cell death.  It appears that cells are capable of both good and bad deeds and that, depending upon those deeds, a body will live or die.

If it is true that our universe is part of a single cell in a grander life, then our deeds affect that life.  So now we have a choice – do we want to be a cancer to this and all existence, or do we want to promote health and well-being?  The answer seems clear; by being better and kinder people, we not only help ourselves, we help all of existence.  These bonds are inextricably linked – what affects one, affects us all.

Flipping Out

Last week my cell phone died.  Actually, it didn’t so much die as wouldn’t charge.  This caused me much distress as one may imagine, but not for the reasons one may suppose.  It wasn’t the fact that my phone wouldn’t recharge, it was that my phone, a Motorola Razr V3 flip phone circa 2004, was no longer supported by the network.  How could this be?  The V3 flip was so innovative 16 years ago – sleek, modern and oh so satisfying to flip the case closed to quickly end an argument.  How could this marvel of technology no longer be supported?

A phone, according to Webster is: “an instrument for reproducing sounds at a distance,” that’s what a phone does – that’s what the Razr does; I use it to connect to others when we can’t connect in person.  Since 2004, cell phones have come a long way.  They are no longer used to connect, but to disconnect.  The average American spends 5.4 hours a day on his phone avoiding connecting with others and the network supports that.  I want to recharge by spending a mere ten-minutes a day talking to a friend and have been banished. 

So, I called the network and flipped out.  I stated my case, I talked with a supervisor and eventually I got my way.  My new vintage Razr is connected to the network and I can connect with others.  Having successfully navigated this minor crisis, I have learned that, when faced with adversity, I can support myself.  Case closed.

The Real World

When we are young, we tend to believe that we live in a cartoon world made of Nerf where no harm can befall us; a world where actions don’t have consequences, gravity doesn’t exist if you don’t believe in it and mistakes are always forgiven.  The first time I realized this world only lives in Cartoon Network is when I was 31 years old and working in a retail shop.  I was storing unused goods on the top of a closet roughly nine feet above ground.  While in a hurry and not paying attention, my foot slipped off the walkway, propelling me forward off the ledge where gravity quickly took hold and pulled me face first into the concrete ground below.  Stunned and in pain, I surveyed my body for damages.  Thankfully I only received a bloody nose, a bruised arm and a blistering dose of reality.  At that moment I knew I was not invincible and that actions do have consequences. 

Later, having been checked out by a doctor and given the okay to return to work, I climbed back up on the ladder and finished the job I had started.  I figured, if my face could take the reality of concrete, certainly I could face the reality of my life.  Sometimes we get hurt, sometimes our egos are bruised, and sometimes we fall.  But in the real world, it isn’t how many times you fall, but how many times you get up that counts.

Almost Great

I recently went on a vacation to Branson, Missouri and like most good travelers, I made my packing list and checked it twice: Shorts? Check. Underwear?   Check.  Camera?  Hmmm.  I wrestled with this one for a bit.  Why shouldn’t I pack my camera?  How could I prove the fun I had without photographic evidence?  And then I thought back to all the great pictures I had of almost great life moments; moments spent getting the camera out of the bag, composing the shot, faking the smile – moments that could have been spent enjoying the experience. 

Research shows that humans devote 47 percent of their waking moments mentally time-travelling and that the more time a person spends mind-wandering, the less happy he is likely to be.  And so, I opted not to pack the camera, but rather to focus on the experience as the experience happens.  So how was my trip you ask?  Amazing – I ziplined over the lake, I shopped, I ate, I thought and I appreciated; I appreciated every little moment.  I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures to show you, but I went on vacation for me, not to regale others with my fantastic adventures. 

Window Pain

No matter how much I research and how much I learn I am always surprised by how glaringly simple life really is: we are who we are, when we are and where we are, yet we’re so busy looking beyond our present moments we cause ourselves ceaseless pain.  It’s a bit like running into a plate glass window; we know it exists because we see it every day, but somehow, in moments of distraction, we run smack into it.

This very thing happened to me the other day; I was busy living my life when something caught my eye outside.  In a hurry to escape my present pain I ran face first into the pane of glass separating my current self from my perceived future self.  At first, I was shocked; how had this happened?  From where had the glass come?  How did I miss something so obvious?  And then, as the pain subsided, I started to laugh at the absurdity of it all.  Once again, I had failed to focus my attentions on the present moment and I wound up paying the price.  If one wants to enjoy life, the answer is as clear as the plate glass window separating us from the future – pay attention to the moments as they happen then proceed with caution to the next.

Wake Up

The other night I dreamed of mass suffering -- the kind that implores people to forgo their morning cups of coffee in order to sponsor a child or perhaps an entire village, except in the dreams I was the perceived savior.  These sufferers looked to me to end their pain.  I dutifully proposed plans to feed, clothe and shelter the masses, but none of the plans seemed viable.  I racked my brain for ways to help, but came up empty handed.  After what seemed like an eternity of sadness my dream-self told my real-life self to, “Wake-up.”  And so, I did.  In the light of day, with eyes freshly open, the suffering ceased at last.

With the feeling of the dream still weighing heavily on me I realized that I need to “wake up.”  I need to open my eyes to the ruth of what is – the good, the bad and the insufferable.  With eyes open I can face the facts as they are: Yes, there will be suffering.  No, I will not be able to end it all.  But I don’t have to focus on it.  I can make my way through the dark, stumbling along the way, but always certain my suffering is a choice. and today I choose light.  I choose to be awake.


It has been said that a little white lie has never hurt anyone; little things like, “No, that dress doesn’t make you look fat,” or, “Of course I still love you,” often smooth over a sticky situation until the truth unfolds itself.  But when those little white lies become the dark existence of your life, the whole thing becomes a mess.

After years of telling little lies and big, fat fallacies, I decided I wanted to transform my mess into a message.  And thus, began a quest.  After hundreds of hours of therapy and hundreds of dollars spent on self-help books, I’ve found the message is simple:

Tell the truth.  Tell the truth.  Tell the truth.

Tell it to others.  Tell it to yourself.  It’s simple, it’s powerful and it works.  And best of all, it doesn’t make you look fat or leave a sticky mess – I swear it’s true.   

Invasive Species

Last week I watched a documentary about invasive species.  It seems that in man’s infinite knowledge he thought it best to bring in foreign life such as plants and pythons to help control the population of the less desirables, as Mother Nature clearly didn’t know what she was doing when she designed her Garden of Paradise.  Indeed, these foreign adversaries choked the life out of the lesser beings then continued right on conquering and killing anything else they chose since they were now the top dog in town.  Now we have a new problem – How to overcome these new nuisances without destroying what remains of Nature’s delicate balance.

The thoughts of this conundrum invaded my mind as I attempted to meditate this morning and instead of accepting them and working with them, I chose, in my infinite wisdom, to replace them with other thoughts which eventually invaded and overtook the entire meditative process.  The trick to meditation, and to life itself, is to work with what is present in any given moment.  Instead of railing against or trying to choke out the unpleasant, we have to find ways to create balance.  This may be through quiet contemplation, friendly chatter with a close confidant or it may be to learn that all things serve a purpose; even snakes, weeds and personal pain.


This morning I awoke to the first above freezing day in weeks.  Birds were chirping, stars were shining and hope loomed heavily in the air.  I deeply inhaled the Day’s potential and wished this Tuesday a hearty, “Good morning!” knowing today was going to be a good day.  And it was until I checked the forecast upon which my mood suddenly turned cloudy with a chance of pain.  Sure, today is lovely, but tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that mark a return to Winter’s bitter cold.  Chances of rain and snow dot the future like landmines dot an Iraqi field.  Leave it to Tomorrow’s sorrow to overshadow Today’s glory.

And so I realize I have a choice – I can fret about the coming Week’s bitter potential, or I can enjoy Today and all it has to bring.  So, I open my eyes and see what is currently around me: warm coffee, warmer friends and a blazing sun.  The weather may turn cold and pain may befall my future, but for now my heart is full of sunshine and happiness which makes the future seem a bit more bearable.


One of my favorite horror movies is The Exorcist – it’s scary, tragic, a little gross and part of me believes the events depicted on the screen might actually happen in real life.  Not that I’m a believer in Heaven and Hell (except the ones we create for ourselves), but you never really know until the jig is up, and so I’ve taken to exorcising my demons through mental and physical exercise.  Yoga, meditation, a bit of cardio and a lot of gratitude have become my heavenly ritual.  By exercising my body and mind I hope to exorcise any demonic thoughts that may possess and hold captive my being.  By freeing my thoughts and shining the light on my darker side I have gained acceptance to the good, the bad and the slightly gross aspects of my person.  I’m neither an angel nor a devil -- I am a human and am therefore, horror of horrors, imperfect.  May the power of Christ (and Allah, and Buddha, and the universe) compel me.  Until then I will keep exercising and exorcising my mind.   

Working Through the Pain

The other night I spent a good half hour in the hot tub soaking my cares away and hoping to relieve the pain in my aching back.  I turned the jets on in the “hot zone” which are meant to be a shiatsu massage of sorts for whatever body part they are aimed, in my case my shoulders.  I sat, neck deep in hot water, grinning through the pounding pain of the jets working away at my scapula convincing myself I was relaxed.  Ahhhh, nothing is more soothing than having jet propelled water pierce your inflamed soft tissue.  After about ten minutes of torture I toweled off and went to bed.  Two days and several ibuprofens later I did indeed feel better.  Not quite the instant relief for which I was hoping, but relief none the less.

Easing suffering often comes with time and pain.  When I first began my journey to happiness, I was hoping it would be as simple as saying a few New Age-y Hail Mary’s, reading a couple of spiritual books and maybe having a long commune with nature.  I did all those things and more, yet happiness remained elusive.   I should have taken Lily Tomlin’s advice and known that “Things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse.”  Facing your fears, admitting your faults and accepting your consequences sucks.  Worry and doubt pound away at you making your heart ache and your head spin.  But in time, this pain becomes a part of you.  It’s like learning to wear a ring or a pair of eye glasses – you get used to it – it helps you remember from where you came and to where you are going.  Happiness might not come today, it might not come in a year, but with patience and practice your burdens will relax their vice-like grip on you.  But first. . . you’ve got to work through the pain. 

Courageous Addictions

I’ve had many vices in my life -- booze, pills, 70’s television shows, and as I’ve aged, I’ve managed to wean myself off of them.  I no longer drink; I swallow nothing stronger than an Advil and only watch about an hour of TV a day. The one vice I can’t seem to shake is coffee.  What can I say. . .? I love it -- the taste, the smell, the pure joy of the first sip. Coffee brings me pleasure and, according to science, is good for my liver.  The downside to coffee is it stains the teeth turning my pearly whites to a lovely shade of mother of pearl.

At this morning’s dental appointment my hygienist polished my chompers, not once, but twice. The machine roared to life scraping away the remnants of my last remaining vice and I began to wonder if maybe I should give up coffee all together.  Then my mouth began to water as I thought about the Super Chug of java waiting in my car and I knew I didn’t have the courage to quite today. For a moment I felt weak, then I remembered that courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes courage is that little voice at the end of the day that says, “I will try again tomorrow.”  Perhaps I will try again tomorrow, but for now, I’ve got a mug of “dental hygienist job security” calling my name.


My new teaching job in my new school comes with a new roster of students.  This year, in my Advisement Class, I have a Hispanic girl, a gay guy, a bisexual girl and a transgender student; one might say my class is a veritable United Colors of Benetton ad.  Like most working adults I tend to discuss my job when I am out and about with friends. Having such a diverse group of learners leads to many questions from those who don’t have the luxury of working with such a fine cross section of humanity.  Most of the questions focus less on what I teach and more on how my students live their lives, especially the lives of the transgendered classmates. “Are they boys or girls?” to which I respond, “They are both.” “Do you call them ‘he’ or ‘she’?” they inquire -- “I call them by whatever pronoun they prefer.”  Then the questions get really personal, “Do they date boys or girls? Do they date other transgender people? Are they gay? Are they lesbian? What are they exactly?” and on and on the inquiry goes fixated on gender and sexuality, never once pondering the students as people with dreams, ambitions, problems and goals.

Being aware that people are at dis-ease with what they don’t understand, and knowing that others who are different are frequently considered to be diseased, I have tried to come up with answers that will both quell the curiosity and ease the unwarranted fears in a language I know will be understood.  The simplest answer is, “LOVE.” These students love who they are, they love one another and are seeking love from others. The “who,” “what,” and “how” are irrelevant. Love is love no matter what parties are involved. My advice, as a teacher, is to practice love. Practice it at work, practice it at play, practice it whenever you can.  Think of it as your homework. Good luck. I hope you get an “A+.”

Backward Thinking

Often times, when I am stuck in traffic or waiting for a train, I entertain myself by reading bumper stickers and road signs backward.  It passes the time and makes the waiting more bearable. Through this process I have discovered many palindromes (a Toyota = atoyoT a), as well as several interesting backmasked messages (Dog Park = kraPgoD).  Though this is a fun way to ease the mind, sometimes I can’t help but curse my bad luck and worry I’ll be late for life, even though I am perpetually 15 minutes early for everything.

As humans, we frequently find ourselves stuck behind a train of thoughts worrying life is passing us by.  This backward thinking causes much anxiety and leads to krappy moods and depressing dispositions. When will we learn to stop and enjoy what is right before our eyes be it a Toyota, dog crap or God’s park?  Life isn’t out there somewhere beyond the train tracks -- it’s the thing that happens when we are busy making other plans. Today is a new day. This moment is a fresh start, so no matter where you are (in a car, at your desk, lying in bed), take in your surroundings, count your blessings and be an active participant in your existence.  

4-Letter Words

I’m not much of a cusser and never really have been; even as an awkward teenager I never felt compelled to sprinkle 4-letter words throughout my speech in an attempt to fit in.  It wasn’t as if I was a prude, I just never really understood the value, purpose or meaning.  When one says, “That was sweeter than shit, man,” that doesn’t narrow the category down much – I’d venture to say most things are sweeter than shit.  And who exactly are, “The fucking cops,” anyway?  Are they physically fornicating while in hot pursuit?  The words don’t make sense in the context in which they are used.  This topic interested me so much that in college I wrote a term paper about the etymology and usage of cuss words.  Come to find out, most swear words have humble beginnings and only bear a vague resemblance (if any) to today’s context.

Cuss words aren’t the only words that have changed throughout time – their meanings shifting and morphing into other forms of speech.  Take, for instance, the word “love” – my favorite 4-letter word.  Love can be a noun (an intense feeling of deep affection), a verb (a deep romantic attachment), or an adjective or adverb (one can own a lovely scarf, or we can lovingly care for others).  Of all the definitions for love I think I prefer bell hooks’ the best -- Love is a combination of six ingredients: care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust.  With this meaning at heart I go forth and spread my Love to others, sprinkling it throughout my day in both actions and words.  To me, that makes sense.  It has purpose.  It adds value.  Man...  I fucking love, Love.


Yesterday I shoveled what had to be a literal ton of snow; not only did I scoop my own driveway and walks; I also shoveled the neighbor’s and my mother’s drive and walkways.  Midway through this unintended work-out, I pulled something in my back.  The pain shot through immediately, yet I kept on keeping on until the task was complete making sure to lift with the legs and twist as little as possible.  Later that night, having swallowed a couple of Advil and a Melatonin I drifted off to sleep cursing my aching back and smiling at a job well done. 

This morning, during yogatation, I practiced body scanning meditation in an attempt to listen to my body and figure out its needs – when I know what I feel, I can then begin to heal.  Sending deep, soothing breaths into my back eased the suffering and opened the day up to possibilities. 

Oftentimes it’s not my body that aches, but my heart and my soul, and in much the same way as I treat an aching back, I can treat my aching thoughts.  To ease the suffering, one has to stop and decide what really hurts – perhaps we need to forgive someone, let go of an expectation, or release pent-up anxiety.  Once we know what we feel, we can begin to heal -- to do this, start with a deep, soothing breath.  Now exhale and let the possibilities of today open up before your eyes. 


One of the quickest ways to ensure you have reached adulthood is to count the number of insurance policies you possess: health insurance, car insurance, life insurance, etc.  All of these insurances are meant to ensure you are covered for all of life’s little mishaps.  Crack a windshield – fill out the auto insurance paperwork, crack a tooth – file a dental claim, crack a skull – time to check out your health (or possibly life) insurance.  If you are properly covered, nothing will be cracked but you will be broke.

Having been an adult for some time now I’ve begun to ensure the insurance of life beyond my Self.  I ensure a clean environment by reducing, reusing and recycling, I ensure the health of others by donating to charities, I ensure clean air by planting trees.  I’ve cracked my heart open and have let all my love infiltrate the entire universe.   Loving everyone, I assure you, is the best insurance policy.

Filling Cracks

When I was younger, I used to pass the time, while washing my hands in the restroom, by making faces at myself in the mirror and wondering what life would be like if my face stuck in the twisted contortion I had created.  Would people laugh at me?  Would my friends still like me?  Would I still like me?  Nowadays, when I look in the mirror, I pass the time by pulling my wrinkles taught and wondering: Do people make fun of me?  Are my friends as wrinkled as I?  Should I do something about these wrinkles?  I could slather on creams or fill the lines with Botox and make them disappear for a while.  But would that make life any different?

Recently I read about the Japanese practice of Kintsukuroi (golden repair).  In this ancient practice, broken pottery is repaired with powdered gold or silver mixed with lacquer, so that the repair reflects the history of the breakage.  In essence, the repaired object reflects the fragility and imperfections of life while adding beauty and strength.  The once broken object now returns to its wholeness.  So, I’ve decided to apply this same principle of acceptance and reparation to my life as reflected in my face.  As I near my golden years I go forward embracing my silver hair and facial flaws proudly displaying and growing from the error of my ways.  It appears that flaws aren’t fatal after all, they just add strength to character and beauty to being.  I’ve earned these laugh lines and natural highlights.  They aren’t signs of old age; they are signs of a life well laughed. 

The Ants Go Marching

It has been said that humans are the most advanced species on the planet having brains composed of 100 billion cells.  It has also been said that we advanced thinkers spend approximately 38 hours a year stuck in traffic.  We curse at, run into and even shoot one another in frustration only to get up the next morning, take the same roads and hope for different results.  This, according to Einstein, is the very definition of insanity, yet here we are X number of hours into an equation that always equals frustration.  So much for advanced thinking

Ants, by contrast, have brains that contain a mere 250,000 cells yet ants are never stuck in traffic.  Hundreds of thousands of ants get up each day, work together and literally move mountains without ever having to shoot one another.  Ants, like most animals, have learned the shared value of cooperation; they know that if they all march to the same drummer, they move much faster.  This cooperation happens throughout the natural world – nature nurtures life through communities.  Mutual cooperation began 3 billion years ago when single celled organisms combined and helped one another build all that surrounds us today.  So the next time you are stuck in traffic, instead of making mountains out of anthills, practice cooperation; after all, it’s cooperation, not combat, that makes life flow smoothly. 


I grew up a small child with buck teeth and glasses.  I was awkward, lacked rhythm and wasn’t particularly smart.  When one dawdles through life with such stature one tends to be at the receiving end of name calling and harassment.  And though these clever nomenclatures were meant to offend I wore them as a badge of honor: when my classmates would say to me, “Get off the bus Waldo,” as if they were in a Van Halen video I would hunker down behind the bus driver and bury my nose in a book knowing someday I would get even.  I harbored this anger and honed my verbal skills until by the time I was prepared to graduate high school I could return hateful epithets with the best of them.

Developing verbal ballet skills did indeed come in handy – they got me through college which parlayed into a newspaper writing job and eventually filtered into books and magazines.  The one thing of which I could never find a use was the pent-up anger.  I carried it with me through my party hardy twenties, my angst-ridden thirties and dragged it behind me over into the big 4-0 at which point I declared I had had enough.  I was tired of lugging around this excess baggage.  So, I decided to let it go.  I forgave my past and all the people in it.  I forgave Richie Becera for asking me if I was going to be a midget in the second grade, I forgave the pair of junior high boys who tried to stuff my head in the toilet and most importantly I forgave myself.  I too had caused suffering; I too was weighing me down.  It’s a hard thing forgiving one’s self.  It seems silly and selfish, but it’s not.  It’s a necessity.  Forgive others, forgive yourself and then get back on that bus and let it take you into your future.


Next to my birthday, Halloween is my favorite holiday.  I love getting dressed up as someone else, collecting goodies and maybe frightening a few unsuspecting folks.  Growing up I, like most people, had no knowledge of the true meaning of Halloween; to me it was a day to get loads of free candy from perfect strangers.  As of recent I have begun examining the reasons I do the things I do – including encouraging kids to dress in drag and take candy from strangers.  Turns out Halloween is an ancient Celtic celebration marking the end of summer and the beginning of the dark, cold winter.  It was at this time the Celts believed that the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and that the ghosts of the dead may return to earth.  It seems only logical that we should offer them candy to bridge the divide between their old life and their renewed one.

I no longer feel compelled to dress up and be someone else on Halloween or any other day of the year.  Through the years I have learned to strip away layers of ego and artifice to uncover the real me.  No longer disguised as funny or fragile or faulty I have found that I am a treat unto myself.  Like the Celts, I believe in building a bridge between my old life and my renewed.  I can be saucy and saintly, pray and play, collect the good while alleviating fear.  I am leaving the dark, cold days behind me and celebrating the warmth of fine friends and perfect strangers (who hopefully have candy).

Buying Happy

When one is feeling down in the dumps it is common practice to go forth and buy a little happiness.  Nothing lifts the spirits like becoming the proud new owner of this week’s must have fashion trend -- ruffled shirts, skater sneakers and cinched waists.  Or was that last week’s trend?  Considering the constant flux of fast fashion, it’s no wonder the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year at an approximate cost of $1,700.00 per individual.  Many of us drop $50.00 on a shirt without ever knowing that that same $50.00 could feed a school-aged girl for an entire year in most third world countries.  With all this merriment littering our floors you’d think we would be the happiest nation on Earth yet only 1 in 3 Americans report being happy while citizens of the poorest countries rank among the jolliest folks in the world.

How can it be that the same people who work for pennies on the dollar to assemble my wardrobe can create happiness for themselves without spending a dime while I own a closet full of clothes and still see a therapist?  Maybe it’s because these folks have learned to stop treating people like things and treating their things like gods. Maybe they are aware that happiness doesn’t exist in tangible goods.  Instead of heading off to the store to bury our problems in cashmere, let’s face our problems and accept them as part of existence.  If we can learn to do this, then maybe we can learn to create our own happiness, after all, happiness is always in fashion and it’s always available. 

Not Something Else

For all intents and purposes, I can justify just about anything I want in the world if I try hard enough.  If I want Raisinets, I call them “dairy” and “fruit.”  If I want to sleep in I call it “beauty rest.”  If I want to binge watch an entire season of Will and Grace (yet again) I call it “research.”  And I can convince myself that these thoughts are true for a short period of time.  Inevitably reality smacks me in the face with stomach aches and missed appointments.  Oh, why do I try and make things other than what they are?

Most things in life are what they are precisely because they are not something else.  Raisinets are not dairy and fruit – they are sugar and soy lecithin.  Twelve hours of Will and Grace followed by twelve hours of sleep don’t make me pretty or smart, they make me a well-rested smartass.  And try though I may to believe it, my thoughts do not comprise my Self.  I am me precisely because I am not something else – I am not the air in my lungs, the cells in my body or the thoughts in my head.  I am something more.  I am the thinker of the thoughts, the conscious of my brain, the justification of my being.  Though I am comprised of cells and thoughts and Raisinets they don’t constitute my Self.  The Self is more than the sum of its parts.  The Self is hope and dreams and will and grace, so it’s time I stop thinking I am something I am not and accept that I am all of what I am – fatally flawed, hopelessly hopeful and ever evolving.

Seeing Clearly

I have worn glasses ever since the third grade.  Through the years there have been some style hits and misses as evidenced by school pictures and vacation snapshots.  Though the looks change, my eyes keep getting worse.  Last summer I updated my appearance with some snazzy little frames scarcely bigger than my eyeballs themselves.  Insert bifocals, coat the lenses with scratch resistance, pay the man half a week’s salary and see clearly once again.  The price of vision is astounding.  Even without the rose tint and glare guard, eyewear is an investment that requires a bit of saving.

Vision doesn’t only exist through the eyes.  Vision is also a mental process – it’s a series of thoughts and beliefs that form our views of others, ourselves and the world.  For years I’ve stumbled around blindly making my way through life running into obstacles and tripping over bad habits.  It became clear that I needed clarity.  Enter “Mindfulness” and “Meditation” – eyewear for the soul.  These practices made things glaringly obvious.  I had made one hell of a mess, most of which was a blur, all of which I had to see.  Mindfulness and Meditation don’t rose tint the world and make it something it is not, they show the painful truth – only we are responsible for our actions and only we can fix them.  So, I set about adjusting my thoughts.  I accepted fault, made amends and vowed to do better.  This investment in self-examination has saved me from a life of blind ambition.  My vision isn’t perfect (it never will be), but with a little focus, I can make it better. 

You're Fired

When I first got a real job, I took my first real girlfriend on our first real date.  I picked her up in my parents’ station wagon and took her to the movies.  The night’s feature was Disney’s The Little Mermaid and it was fantastic.  We held hands, ate popcorn and, as the show neared its happily ever after ending, we professed our love for one another.  Years later I quit the job and fired the girlfriend; turns out neither one was compatible to who I was at heart, and it was too much work trying to be someone I was not.  I needed to stand on my own two legs and venture into my unknown future.

Though it is difficult, it is sometimes necessary to leave the past behind.  As we grow and change, sometimes we expand beyond the restraints imposed on us by the people and situations with which we are surrounded.  And sometimes those we love outgrow us and must leave us in order to pursue their future.  Recently I was fired from the heart of a friend who had moved beyond my drama – I had become too much work and it was time to leave.  Although this saddened me a great-deal I have learned that the connection between two people goes well beyond location and that sometimes happily ever after doesn’t always look the way you thought it would.  My friend and I are both standing on our own two feet, making our way through the flotsam and jetsam of life searching for our happy endings.  Our movie is less like Disney where everyone gets what they want and more like Hans Christian Andersen where everyone gets what is necessary.  Our lives are different.  We’ve traveled different roads.  But as long as those we love are happy and free from suffering, then all is well.  I wish those in my past the best of all things for as Mr. Andersen said in his original The Little Mermaid, “The prince’s happiness is my happiness.”  


As a teenager I was obsessed with the way I looked.  My hair was perfectly coiffed, my jeans were tightly rolled and I made sure everyone knew I was wearing a “Calvin Klein” T-shirt.  During my formative years, labels were important to me be they clothes, social status or relationship specs.  I skipped school to be one of the “cool kids,” and started dating just to be part of “a couple.”  I raced from place to place and fad to fad to fit in allowing these labels to define who I was – I was “a teenager,” and therefore I was “normal.”  To be anything other than a white, middle class, Calvin Klein T-shirt wearing, tight jean rolling, ½ of a twosome would have been unthinkable.  What else was there?  The only other labels were derogatory and unsavory.

As I grew older and cool kid gave way to humanitarian I chose “lifestyle” in lieu of “labels.”  Instead of being part of a “couple,” I became part of “oneness,” I traded “Calvin Klein” for “Goodwill,” and grew from “teenager” to “hu-man.”  It took some time, but I finally came to the realization that labels are for spices and the only race I want to be a part of is the awakened human race. 


Many years ago, I joined a fitness club thinking dumbbells, trainers and treadmills were going to make me healthy.  Adorned in sweatpants, T-shirt and sneakers I joined the ranks of New Year’s Resolutioners working off those extra holiday pounds in vain attempts of acquiring an Adonis like figure.  Having embarrassed myself on most of the machines I settled down onto a state-of-the-art treadmill so fancy I swear it could do my laundry if I programmed it to do such a thing.  Walking side-by-side with other stationary movers I began my journey to nowhere.  We listened to our earbuds, wiggled our fannies and watched the digital display slowly remind us how far we hadn’t gone.  After walking through an entire 80’s playlist I found I was still where I had started – just more tired and more frustrated.

What I learned from the New Sole F80 Treadmill was that I was getting nowhere fast.  Going uphill and gaining no ground couldn’t be what life was all about.  I decided the treadmill was not my salvation, so I cancelled my membership and headed outside where I could commune with nature and find my own New Soul.  Instead of going nowhere, I realized I was now-here – I was in my moment, fully present, making changes and appreciating the scenery.  I still don’t have the body of a Greek God, I still make dumbbell decisions, but I’m learning.  I’m training myself in the art of Living.  Through hard work and constant-change I am becoming fit – fit in body and fit in mind. 


My first childhood crush was on a boy named, Mick.  Mick was smart and handsome and completely unaware of my feelings.  When I was a teenager and more experienced in the ways of the world, I developed a crush on a young man named Michael who also remained blissfully unaware of my existence.  These minor emotional infractions hurt my heart and caused it to crack a bit.  It wasn’t until later in life when I bore witness to the pain and suffering of others that my heart truly felt broken.  Racism, sexism, ageism and all the other “isms” tugged at my witness and left me feeling hopeless and depressed, and just when I didn’t think I could take any more, I experienced death up close and personal. 

Crushed by the unbearable weight of despair I let my heart burst.  All the pain and misery bled out and numbed my being.  Slowly and methodically I examined the bevy of pain – I invited each one to show his face and make his case.  I listened.  I acknowledged his existence.  And then I let him go.  After a while my heart began to feel whole again and for the first time, I realized that hearts don’t break – they break open, and when they do, they are ready to be filled with love and light and forgiveness.  An open heart isn’t a crushing end, it’s the beginning of a beautiful experience. 


In certain circles I am known as an entertainer of sorts – this may be because I am likely to burst out in song at any given moment, or perhaps because I love to make a splashy entrance, or maybe it’s due to the time I have spent on stage.  Yes, Folks, I am an actor, or what’s left of one anyway.  I’ve been on stage countless times and in many roles.  From my humble beginnings as a silent mime to award winning performer, I have honed my acting skills.  The thing about acting is that a performer must surround himself with a committed cast and be willing to practice, practice, practice – each movement, word and breath must have a motivating reason, otherwise the performance won’t feel real.  Through the years I have become a better actor yet remain far from perfect.  And that’s okay with me. 

My newest role isn’t one I play on stage, but one I have implemented as a way of life.  I have become a Practitioner of Mindful Living, and as the name implies, this role requires a lot of practice.  I begin each day with an hour of yogatation – this is the Mindful Practitioner’s equivalent of acting rehearsal.  I stretch my body and release my mind searching for my intentions and motivations.  When these have been cast, I can go about my day peacefully inter-acting with the world’s cast of characters.  Sometimes I struggle, sometimes I forget my lines, but as they say in the theatre world, “The show must go on.”  And on it goes.  It’s not a perfect performance – I’m not a perfect practitioner, but that’s okay with me.


I have been 5’ 9” ever since I was 17 years old.  My driver’s license says 5’ 9”, my body mass index is based around this number; this is the height that makes me an average sized man for a guy in his 40’s.  Given this information you can imagine my surprise when, upon my last two physicals, I measured a stately 5’ 10”.  Statistically I should be shrinking not growing, yet somehow, I have gained an extra inch.  I have been eating better and exercising regularly, but according to science I should have stopped growing at 20, yet somehow there is more of me.

The fact that I continue to grow is encouraging.  Against all odds, I have become a fuller, more densely developed individual.  I’m sure science will attribute this phenomenon to cell division and rogue hormones, but I attribute this growth to spiritual maturity.  In my younger years I was devoid of any set belief system – I shrunk away from the thoughts of God or Gods or Heaven or Hades and lived in my own private Hell blaming my circumstances on whatever unforeseen spirit was convenient at the time.  I was stuck in a rut stunned and stunted by own circular thinking.  Life wasn’t measuring up to my expectations and the whole world was to blame.  Barely able to keep my head above water I chose to stand up right and accept my life exactly as it was – messy, disjointed and running short on spiritual highs.  I sought help from without and worked from within.  I asked questions and found answers.  I consumed what worked and spat out what didn’t until there was more of me.  So here I am: 44 years old, 5’ 10” and still growing.  It’s amazing what a healthy diet of leafy greens and spirituality can do for a person.

Naked and Nude

When I was 24, I posed nude for an artist friend; it was the most revealing thing I had ever done.  When the portrait was complete, I put my clothes back on and went about my life.  The painting was called “Adam” and no one knew it was me except for the artist and myself; at this point I realized how much one can hide when one bares one’s ass – no one knew my thoughts, my feelings, my dreams.  I kept those to myself.

When I was 42, I got emotionally naked and wrote a book of personal essays laying bare all the asinine events of my life.  My thoughts, feelings and dreams were out there for all the world to see and judge and although I had been nude before, this was the first time I had stripped off my emotional armor and lay my naked self out there for all the world to see.

Having had both of these experiences I have learned that taking off your clothes is easy – what lay beneath is just anatomy; flashing folks your thoughts is tough – what lay beneath is your soul.  If you want to connect to others, you must expose yourself; you don’t need to strip off your clothes, but you going to have to get a little naked.


As a young gay boy growing up in the mid-west, I was called many names: faggot, queer, homo, etc.  and even as a child I was aware the intent was hurtful, but the name calls made zero sense.  Take “faggot,” for instance -- faggot just means “a bundle of sticks, twigs or branches bound together.”  Was this supposed to be offensive?  And how about “queer?”  Queer means “strange or odd from a conventional view point.”  This was a compliment, not a put down, after all, most unique things are valued primarily because they are different like a Picasso or a custom motorcycle.  Finally, we come to “homo” or, “the genus of bipedal primates including modern humans.”  Nothing quite as offensive as being called a modern human. 

Of all the names I have been called I think “homo” is the most accurate.  “Homo” is the beginning of “Homo-sapien-sapien” – what scientists refer to as “beings that are aware and are aware that they are aware.”  Essentially this just means that we are thinking primates, but, like most names, when you dig deeper, there is more to the story.  Thinking is different than being aware.  Humans spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours “thinking” about something other than what they are doing.  Being “aware” however takes great restraint.  To be “aware” one must be totally present in whatever is happening at the moment.  Take this moment for instance.  A you aware of your posture?  Your breathing?  Your surrounding?  Your thoughts?  If you are a “homo-sapien-sapien” then you are aware of all of these things and more.  If you are not, then see if you can stop “thinking” and start becoming “aware.”  Take it from this “homo,” awareness is worth thinking about.

Friendly Population

On a recent trip to distant states, my husband and I passed the tiny town of Friend, NE – population 996.  At the heart of Friend is Shop EZ Gas where one may fill up on petrol and peanuts; needing neither of those, my betrothed and I headed west to meet friends further down the road.

Unlike Friend, NE, our distant companions offered us neither gas nor nuts (though we did do a few nutty things), yet somehow, I felt full – my love tank runneth over with joy.  When you stop and think about it, friends are a lot like convenience stores – they’re there when you need them and are open 24/7.  Friendship may not always be EZ, we may not have 996 of them, but if you are lucky, you’ll always have a few in your heart no matter what state you’re in.  

Practice What You Teach

I have worked as an Elementary and Reading teacher for a good many years now, and through those years I have grown in my profession.  I have learned how to develop relationships with students, assess needs and relay information in a digestible fashion.  These skills (developed through years of hard work) have made me a valuable team member and a leader in my school, so it came as quite a shock when I was recently informed I would no longer be teaching Elementary, or Reading, or even in the same complex as I had been, but would be moved to a new building, in a different school and working with secondary students on Social Skills. 

Initially I was angry, and then hurt, and then confused?  Had I done something wrong?  Were my skills outdated?  Was I being replaced by an app.?   Why had this obstacle been thrust into my path?  After a few days/daze of internal discussion I realized I could look at this situation in one of two ways:  as an obstacle to be overcome or as an opportunity to be enjoyed.  Being the consummate student in Buddhist wisdom, I chose the latter.  As soon as I viewed my new role as an opportunity, my mind calmed, my heart swelled and I began thinking of all the ways I could affect positive change in my new role.  As a teacher, I expect my students to practice what I preach, and as a student of life, I must practice what others teach and this lesson in acceptance has been thoroughly learned thanks to a shift in thought.

Mission Accomplished

There are a few words of wisdom from childhood that have served me well in my adult life.  My dad used to say to me, “Any job worth doing is worth doing right the first time,” and, “Don’t waste your one phone call on us, because we’re not getting you out of jail.”  So far, I am arrest free and continue to work diligently at everything I do.  Diligence has paid off for the most part.  I have graduated college, built a home and remain steadily employed.  I tackle my responsibilities with fervor and work until the tasks are completed at which time I can sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor.  Mission accomplished.

There is, however, one aspect of my life that has been hindered by this, “can do it,” attitude.  And that is meditation.  Like most things in life I sought to do meditation right.  I read books, watched videos and bought CD’s in order to tackle this whole mindfulness thing so I could cross it off the “to do” list.  But when your mind is full of mindfulness know-how it becomes nearly impossible to meditate and to meditate “right.”  After many frustrating attempts at getting meditation done, I began to question why I was meditating in the first place.  What did I hope to accomplish?  What did “right” meditation look like?  Slowly I began to realize that meditation isn’t a job and can’t be done “right.”  Meditation is simply attention with intention.  By focusing my attention on noticing the comings and goings of my thoughts I was no longer held prisoner by them.  I was a free man – free to sit back and relax, free to get the job done (or not), free to just be.  If our job in life is to accept our lot, then thanks to meditation and mindfulness, I can honestly say, “Mission accomplished.”

Carry On

When traveling, I can pack an entire week’s worth of clothing in an overnight bag; my husband, on the other hand, requires two full sized suitcases.  Since we are a couple, and couples merge their lives and their belongings together, I gladly carry my husband’s baggage along with my own.  “I got this, Honey,” I say while hoisting our bags into the trunk, “You go ahead and check us out.”

For many, my willingness to carry both bags seems subservient – they reckon each partner should carry equal weight.  But let us not forget that the root word of “carry” is “care.”  Simply put – I care and because I care I accept all manner of baggage from all manner of people.  And because others care for me, they check out the road ahead and smooth the path.  It appears that if everyone cares enough, our journeys will be fruitful.  With this in mind, I suggest we all go forth and carry on (though I reckon we can all let go of some of our baggage).


I’m a creature of habit by nature – I eat the same meals every day, follow a tight schedule and know one way to get to every place I need to go.  For the most part this rigidity keeps me on the right road for healthy living and peaceful prosperity.  This being said, when an unannounced change occurs, I skid off track and am forced to cool my engines while I come to acceptance and develop a new plan for this unexpected detour.  Eventually I arrive at my destination, unscathed but slightly rattled.

Coming to grips with the winding roads of life has been a challenge, but I’ve begun to read the signs, take in the sights and enjoy the journey.  If, like Tom Cochrane says, “Life is a highway,” I find I do want to “ride it all night long.”  I want to experience all the bumps, beauty and blessings this life has to offer.  I also want to enjoy this road trip with a few good friends. 

Like most people, my friends and I started off this road trip searching for Happiness – we’ve travelled together through hills and valleys, weathered storms and soaked in the sun.  Somewhere along the way though, our motorcade got separated – our paths changed.  As we each seek Happiness, we are getting off on different exits.  For now, I am resting in the City of Contentment waiting for the roads to cross and our journey to continue.  I’m aware we can’t all be at the same place at the same time, but it brings me peace to know my friends and I are travelling down the same road and that we will arrive at our shared destination of mutual Happiness someday.




I graduated high school at 5’9” and 120 pounds; now, 25+ years later I am 5’10” and 120 pounds.  For many retaining their high school weight seemed an impossible task due to slowing metabolism, the chaos of work and family, not to mention Krispy Kremes popping up on every corner.  For me, I maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly and compulsively read labels and self-help articles.  While others supplement their fast food diet with jars of vitamins, I like to get my nutrition direct from the source.

Nutrition isn’t the only thing people have been supplementing.  It seems as though we have been trading real life experience for Kardashians and chaos – we rationalize how our lives may be bad, but at least we’re not directionally naming our offspring.  We busy ourselves hoping to be rich, wishing to be thin and buying our way to happiness As Seen on TV.  The problem is supplements aren’t food, reality TV isn’t real and neither will satiate our hunger for actual experience.  I have tried supplementing pain with pills and boredom with booze but they never really satisfied.  I needed to experience them whole heartedly and in the raw.  Once I faced my fears, I became healthier in both body and mind.  It took many years and a lot of tears, but I no longer drown my carrots in Ranch or supplement experiences with distraction, instead I keep my plate full with leafy greens, fabulous friends and a colorful existence. 


Last night I had dinner with some fabulous friends.  We shared our thoughts, our feelings and our memories.  We laughed, we cried, we ate too much.  It was as though we were in the final minutes of an episode of Golden Girls where all life’s problems are solved with a few words of wisdom and a slab of cheesecake.  Picture this, six friends, some old, some new and all having a good time – that was pretty much it.  It was the kind of scene with which I’ve always wished my life were filled.  As a child, I wanted desperately to go to Eastland School for Girls, hang out with my friends and have Mrs. Garret solve my problems.  When I grew older, I strove to be a Sex and the City gal, hang out with friends and have a disembodied voice solve my problems.  I guess what I have always wanted was to hang out with friends and have someone else solve my problems in 30 minutes or less. 

Growing up I thought life functioned like a T.V. show -- a little drama, a little laughter and a quick solution to our predicaments.  I carried this belief into adulthood only to realize no one was going to solve my problems for me.  It became clear that I was the narrator of my life; I had to write the script, direct the show and star in the production.  Once I was fully able to accept this new title, I set about casting the supporting roles and to them I’d like to say, “Thank you for being my friends.  We’ve traveled down the road and back again.  Your hearts are true.  You’re my pals and my confidants.”  Together we can face The Facts of Life no matter what they be – good, bad or overflowing with cheesecake.


When I was a child, I dreamed of becoming a movie star.  As I aged, I devised a plan to obtain that dream then proceeded to put that plan in motion; I took theatre in high school, performed in local plays as a young adult and developed an addiction to alcohol as all good movie stars must do.  According to my research (Entertainment Weekly and TMZ) these steps should have guaranteed me great success, but much to my chagrin I did not become a movie star, instead I became another statistic – a middle-aged wannabe with mounting debt and a cabinet full of anti-depressants.  What went wrong?

At 40, and with the realization that my chances of becoming a movie star ranked near that of becoming an astronaut, I finally did the unthinkable – I stopped.  I stopped reliving the mistakes of the past, I stopped planning for a future I cannot predict and I stopped playing by someone else’s rulebook.  To put it plainly, I began living in the moment.  That moment is this moment and this moment is good.  I am not a movie star, I am not addicted to alcohol, I am not watching TMZ – I am breathing peacefully and enjoying the fact that someday I may be famous and that someday I may become a different kind of statistic all the while knowing that that someday will happen when it happens and I will be grateful for it when it occurs.  Until then I will sit back, relax and watch the stars twinkling around me.


Once upon a summer vacation a few friends and I went on a snorkeling adventure in Cancun, Mexico.  Ahhh, the sun, the surf, the sin all bidding us, “Welcome,” at least for a while.  Our snorkeling exploration began under a blazing a.m. sun where two-by-two we boated five miles to a secluded reef, dropped anchor, masked up and dove in.  Mesmerized by the colors of coral and the fine selection of fish I slowly drifted away from my touring group and into the middle of nowhere.  The sights were breathtaking and so was the sudden surge of waves lapping over my snorkel.  I popped my head up just in time to feel the rain pelt my face and experience the panic of being eerily alone in a vast sea.  Panic stricken I tried to retrace my strokes following familiar coral and friendly fish.  After what felt like hours of flailing about, I reached a group of non-English speaking tourists who pointed me in the direction of my rain-soaked compadres patiently anchored and awaiting my arrival.  Safe at last -- I had survived the storm.

Since that fateful summer extravaganza, I have applied the skills of paying attention and staying anchored to other aspects of my life.  I'm still searching, following beauty and seeking adventure, but I stay anchored to the present moment knowing that there may be storms, but I am not lost.  I am a seeker and a finder.  I can navigate the waters of life like a free-swimming fish and simultaneously stay firmly grounded like a stout, colorful coral -- as the great Sufi poet, Rumi, said, "You are not a drop in the ocean.  You are the entire ocean in a drop."  being aware allows me to stay afloat in an ever-changing sea.


Every year as the snow falls and temperatures drop, I curse myself for living in the Midwest.  November’s nippy air is nothing but a nuisance, I detest the dark days of December, fret the frost of February and vow that someday I will move to the tropics where the only battles with nature will be hurricanes and heat waves.  Yet every year I survive and find that the bitter winter has brought about an appreciation for spring – the days seem sunnier; the flowers appear brighter and life gets livelier.

It is said that from darkness comes light; this is true not only in nature’s bounty, but also in human nature.  Darkness falls upon our lives be it crumbling relationships, financial hardships or the build-up of stressful minutia in day-to-day life.  When we are in the depths of our despair it feels as if emotional winter has left our hearts cold and empty, but with time and understanding, we can begin to thaw and accept our situations without judgment.  We can step back and let the storm pass knowing that darkness cannot survive in the presence of light.  Pain inevitably will come nipping at our hearts – we needn’t fear it or reject it, it is a part of life.  It is temporary and it helps us appreciate the little miracles that happen every day.

Catch and Release

I’m not a hunter, but I have friends who are, and through them I have learned a couple of laws that govern the “sport.”  For instance, for catch and release programs, many states require a license just to catch fish and put them back in the water. It does not matter that you are not intending to keep the fish. You pay for the use of the land and waters, and the upkeep of the area.  For those who hunt to kill deer, it might be prescient to know that it is illegal to hunt at night and that a buck must have both antlers shorter than two inches OR have three or more points on one side of his rack before being taken.  So many rules, so many deer and all I ever hear about is the one that got away.

I don’t want to catch, release or kill anything in nature.  I’m much more content sitting and observing it all passing by while appreciating the fact that nature exists at all.  No rules, no laws, just pleasure.

These same principles guide me in my meditation practice.  The goal of meditation isn’t to kill our thoughts or catch and release them, the goal is to observe our thoughts – recognize that we have them, appreciate their existence then watch them leave.  This isn’t a law and there is no punishment for doing it “wrong,” which is a good thing, because on more than one occasion I have found myself wrestling with a 3-point thought trying to kill it – that’s the price we pay for maintaining our mental landscape.  Through practice and patience, I can now take pride in bragging about all the thoughts that got away.  There one goes now, and she’s a beaut. 


As a reading teacher, one of the skills I teach my students when they are struggling to comprehend is to find root words that anchor the sentences they have read.  For instance, the root word for “patiently” is “patience” which comes from Latin’s “patientia” meaning: a quality of suffering – submission.  Knowing the meaning of the key word gives the sentence a purpose – it’s no longer just letters on a page – it’s an idea being expressed. 

Finding the root is a skill that goes well beyond the written word.  Armed with patience and persistence (Latin – “persevereus”: continue steadfastly) we can seek out the root of our suffering and comprehend our existence.  We suffer because we cling; we cling to ideas, people, even life itself.  Once we come to the realization that clinging causes misery (Latin – “miseria”: a cause or source of distress) we can opt to let go of our false ideas and accept life as it is (life – Middle English: the general or universal condition of human existence) – nowhere in this definition does it say life is good or bad.  Life is just existence.  It’s a collection of moments vast and unique and interconnected.  Any definition beyond that is all Greek to me.

Routine Mainenance

Owning a house is constant work; there’s routine maintenance, emergency repairs and constant cleaning.  The other day I was scraping and painting my trim when I spied a storm on the horizon.  Thinking I could beat Mother Nature I applied a thick coat of paint to my porch railings only to feel the first sprinkles of what promised to be a full-blown storm just as I was applying the final strokes.  It seemed as though Mother Nature was, once again, showing me who was boss.  Rather than rail against the rain and curse Ms. Nature for spoiling my plan, I opted to sit back and enjoy the show of lightning.

Observing what Is has become a skill of mine.  When storms are brewing on my mental horizons, I watch carefully as the clouds begin to block my thoughts.  At this time, I begin a little routine maintenance of acceptance – I scrape down past my initial reactions, peeling through perceived pain and injustice to get to the bare bones of the problem.  At this point I sit – I let the storm wash over me as I remain unattached to an outcome I cannot control.  From here I let my thoughts dry out while I clean away the constant clutter of useless thoughts.  The storm moves on and I am grateful for having applied another coat of peaceful existence.

Changing Spots

As thinking beings, we have the great luxury of being able to change.  We can change our minds (unlike the fruit fly whose brain only consists of 250,000 neurons), change our address (unlike the barnacle who never leaves his home), and we can change our hair (unlike the leopard who cannot change his spots).  It seems as though we can change virtually any aspect of our self on a whim, but can we ever really change who we are?  We hear things like, “Once a cheater always a cheater,” or “Men – they’re all alike,” and tend to believe these things to be true.  This broad, overgeneralization of people may have been useful in our primitive days when quick decisions determined life and death, but in modern times when we are less concerned with marauding villagers and more concerned with lasting happiness, perhaps learning to change our spots would suite us well.

A leopard’s spots are no mistake – they help it blend in with its surroundings providing camouflage for survival and therefore have no need to change.  But people do need to change.  We do make mistakes and we do change our surroundings.  So, how do we effectively change our spots?  We change our spots by changing our brains, and we change our brains by changing our behavior.  The mind will try to force any situation it meets into its favorite ways of perceiving and will react with distress when it meets resistance.  Conversely, when we stop and examine how we typically respond to situations, we create space for more flexible responses.  What flows through the mind sculpts the brain.  So, if you don’t want to blend in with all the other cheating men in the world, learn to detect yourself falling into old, familiar patterns.  Once you spot them, you can change them.  Now go get ‘em, Tiger.

Major Identity Crisis

When I first went to college I majored in Theatre.  I put on costumes, memorized lines and became someone else for a while, but a star I was not, so I switched my major to writing where I could create worlds to exist the way I wanted them – I set the scenes, wrote the lines and created a pseudonym, yet a famous writer I did not become.  So, I switched my major, changed my life and became a different sort of wannabe.

Eventually I graduated with a handful of degrees and no discernable identity.  Throughout those years I changed and morphed in desperate attempts at finding myself and only managed to become unglued, unhinged and unrecognizable.  So, I stopped.  I stopped looking beyond myself, I stopped the incessant cycles of wanting and hoping, of dreaming and praying for things to be different.  Instead of creating worlds of my own, I learned to appreciate the world as it is.  Instead of acting as though things were different, I accepted that things are as they are.  The paradox is that once I accepted myself as I was, only then could I change.  Let me introduce myself – My name is Mark.  I’m not a famous actor, I’m not a brilliant writer, in fact I’m nothing special at all – I’m simply everything I need.  And that’s quite enough, thank you.

Picture This

I’m a bit of a freak when it comes to backing up important files.  I save a copy to my laptop, desktop, work computer, USB and then print two hard copies – one for home and another for a separate location just in case a tornado comes and destroys my home and workplace taking with it all my life’s accomplishments.  The one thing I didn’t have stored in multiple locations was pictures.  I didn’t bother to do this because I had safely stored these thousands of memories to “The Cloud.”  Ah yes, this great technological mystery that no one understands but everyone trusts – this modern-day god. 

Well, like a god, The Cloud can sometimes be vengeful.  Such was the case for my pictures, or shall I say, my former pictures.  Yes, The Cloud in all its infinite wisdom decided my digital memories were no longer valuable and thusly deleted the files effectively erasing years of happy documentation.  How could this data deity delete my past?

After much turmoil I decided that instead of railing against the computer gods I could reboot my thought process and accept that the past clearly did not want me.  It was time to let go and move into the present where new memories are waiting to be made.  I can still access the old files when necessary – they are effectively on my memory’s hard drive, but now I can focus on what’s currently on my home screen – the present – today’s sunshine, today’s flowers, today’s clouds.

Table for 1

According to School House Rock, 3 is the Magic Number, after all, it takes 3 legs to make a tripod or to make a table stand.  Taking this bit of wisdom to heart I built my life around 3 good friends, each serving a specific purpose and each supporting the pedestal on which I placed myself.  This design worked for many years until one of my legs suddenly ceased living.  Needless to say this made my magic design a bit wobbly, so I supported myself on my two good friends and fashioned another support out of vodka bottles and prescription drugs.  This new configuration proved functional, it wasn’t near as sturdy, but I remained upright.  It held for a few years until the second leg and then the third leg exited my design. 

With nothing left but bad habits and misplaced anger I decided that 3 was not the magic number; no indeed, I decided that 1 was the magic number.  When I looked at the number 1 written on a scrap of paper I noticed how much “1” looks like “I”.  Was it possible that “I” was the magic?  That “I” already possessed the things necessary to be happy?  I wanted to find out, so I build a new table with love as the core and compassion as its top.  Turns out this table is quite sturdy standing alone, it’s tall and proud and capable of handling what forces may come down upon it knowing its one lovely leg is not going to buckle under pressure.  So I invite you to pull up a chair and sit for a while.  That’s the thing with tables – that’s the thing with love, they function best when serving others.

Prize Nuggets

I have been an avid reader for well over twenty years now, everything from pulp fiction, to song lyrics to the sides of cereal boxes.  Reading is my way of making sense of the world, seeing it from different perspectives and trying to make my way in the safest way possible.  Throughout these many years I have come across little nuggets of useful knowledge.  These tidbits of hidden agenda are a bit like finding the prize in the bottom of the cereal box – you search and sift and make your way through to retrieve the item for which you purchased the darn thing anyway.  And when you find this shiny new nugget, all is right with the world.

Having poured over a vast array of books and closely studied the music I have come to the conclusion that, “What the world needs now, is love sweet love.”  We don’t need any added flavors or sugars; we can take our lives exactly as they come: bitter sweet and perfectly balanced.  We need to love always and, in all ways, fill our hearts with gratitude and let our cups run over.  There’s no need to cry over spilled milk; there’s more in the fridge anyway.  So, my friend, sit, relax and know that life, as Tony the Tiger says, is “Grrreat!”

Choosing My Religion

People, as a species, like to put things into familiar boxes -- we are, Single, Married, Widowed, Divorced, Separated; we are White, Hispanic, African American, Native American, Asian, Other; we are our gender, our age, our income, our religion, and so forth.  When forced to describe myself in these terms I am a married 45-year old middle-class white male of ________ religious persuasion.  That last one is a tough one.  What religion am I?  

I’ve attended all sorts of religious institutions, from the Temple of Christ to the Church of Disco, only to discover that none of them felt quite right.  As the author of Buddha in the City and the creator of Buddhist art, I am frequently asked if I am a Buddhist.  Putting the, “Is Buddhism a religion?” debate aside, I will answer the question by saying that I practice Betterism.  By “Betterism” I mean that I take what I feel are the best parts of religious practices and combine them to create a better existence for myself and others -- I seek God in the details, Buddha in the silence and the Best of all situations.  To put it simply, my answer to, “What religion are you?” is “D -- all of the above.”

Balancing Act

In an attempt to make my life easier I have set up automatic withdrawal for several different bills.  The thought was, “I can sure save a lot of time by not filling out a check, stuffing it in an envelope and dropping it off at the post office.”  Having withdrawals taken out automatically also saves on paper, gas and money -- all great things for myself and the environment.  The down side to all this goodness is that I often forget about these depletions in funds and continue to fill out checks to my heart’s content believing I have the dough to cover the checks.  Before long I am negative on all accounts – bank and attitude.

The only way to solve the problem of being negative is to do whatever is necessary to turn the situation around.  This may be to do a little extra work to rake in the cash or to do a good deed to crank up the karma.  Either way it’s all about balance – what we take out we must put back, and more importantly, what we put out, we will get back – it’s all about investment.  Invest in being a good person now: deposit happiness wherever you go, check your attitude at the door, save the love you receive.  Do these with pure intent and your karma bank will always be positive.

The Fabric of Life

When I was a sophomore in high school, I signed up for sewing class.  Sewing is not the kind of elective most 15-year-old boys deign to take, but for me, sewing was just another creative outlet for an unruly mind.  Throughout the weeks and months of pinning and stitching mismatched fabrics together to form an article of clothing I learned how sometimes seemingly unlike patterns can form a cohesive unit when assembled in the proper fashion.  The end result of my foray into stitch-witchery was a novel little vest whose two fabrics (one “Dry Clean Only,” the other, “Do Not Dry Clean”) yielded my first hand-wash only garment.  It was in this proudly worn, hand-made vest that I had my Senior pictures taken for the yearbook two years later. 

Blending into society is a bit like sewing mismatched fabrics together – we are different yet must come together to form a cohesive whole.  After all, we are all a part of the fabric of existence – tiny threads woven through place and time.  If we can acknowledge each other’s unique qualities, capitalize on our shared interests and understand that our differences make us stronger we may just create a snapshot of a peaceful humanity that lasts for years to come.


The other night I was watching a documentary about the atrocity of Chernobyl.  I sat emotionally crippled being witness to the death and destruction brought about by man’s carelessness.  If only more attention had been paid this devastation may have been avoided.  Then just when I had become thoroughly numbed by the hopelessness of humanity the documentary shifted paradigms to present day Chernobyl where flowers bloom through rusted swing sets and trees peek through the roofs of dilapidated buildings.  Interesting how that works – through chaos comes life.

This natural order of things applies to life in general – destruction happens, relationships collapse, tempers flare, emotions disintegrate.  At this point we can either feed the flames of chaos and wait for our lives to implode or we can step away, take some time, breathe calmly and let the goodness of nature fill the cracks with renewed faith.  In time this goodness will permeate our existence and create a new landscape of love and acceptance for ourselves and for all who venture in.

Weird Science

As a nerdy child and awkward teenager my social status ranked somewhere near that of the single celled amoeba.  My dignity and pride were frequently feasted upon by larger, more complex organisms in the food chain.  To shield myself from the pain I often retreated in the movies and, like all good children of the 80’s, I found particular solace in the movies of John Hughes.  Of all Hughes’ films the one to which I most related was Weird Science – the story of two social outcasts who used their ingenuity to recreate their world and join the ranks of the cool kids.  Lacking the scientific prowess to realign the human genome I sucked it up, toughened my skin and joined the ranks. 

As time progressed, I put less faith in movies and weird science and hung my hopes on live people and real experiences.  What I learned is that we don’t need crazy experiments to alter our existence to fit in with the rest of humanity, we only need to accept the fact that all life is interconnected.  Real science has proven that all existence is woven together into a single fabric.  The stars in space, the stars on the screen and the single celled amoeba are inseparable.  They are one.  We are all one. 

Center Stage

In college I briefly majored in Theatre.  Having been in high school productions and won a few awards, Theatre seemed like a logical choice for a successful career.  After all, I had been an extra in Fame and West Side Story, surely a three-picture movie deal couldn’t be far behind. 

The thing I love best about the stage is its predictability – every move is blocked; every line is memorized.  There are no surprises -- at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  The problem is sometimes in the middle of a performance and in front of a packed house a line is forgotten or a prop goes missing throwing the unprepared actor off his game, but as the saying goes, the show must go on.  So, you do your best, take your bows and hope for good reviews.

These types of fumbles happen in life as well – you expect events to occur a certain way, expect others to behave in a pre-prescribed manner and expect a happy ending just like in the movies.  Then, somewhere in act two, someone forgets his line or completely exits the scene leaving you center stage without a script.  Life, like theatre, doesn’t always unfold in expected ways.  If we want to make it to curtain call with some degree of happiness, I suggest we stop expecting people to act in the ways we want them to, stop expecting things to go the way we planned them, stop expecting to ride off into the sunset.  We can’t always expect the unexpected, but we can accept it, and if we can learn to accept the challenges of act two, we won’t be disappointed at the final curtain.

Clearing the Path

This winter has produced nearly four-feet of snow so far; and with a month to go before the calendar says it’s spring, my aching body wants nothing more than to bend, melt and contort my shovel into a lawn sculpture.  I’m tired, I’m sore, and I’m feeling a bit bitter toward the bitter cold.  Each time the snow falls blanketing the trees and walkways with fresh powder I head outside to clear the path for those who trudge through to get where they are going.  I don’t know who they are or why they cross my path, but I do know what it is like to trek through difficult terrain.  And so, I shovel, knowing full well I’ll be thriving on ibuprofen for at least a week.

The paths in our life aren’t always as smooth as we would like them to be.  Sometimes we head out on a sunny day only to be stuck in the snow.  Other times we face difficulties we could never have imagined.  Thankfully, we aren’t alone in our travels.  Someone has always gone before us to make our way a little less painful.  We may have to contort old thoughts, melt old grudges, or stop and shovel ourselves out from time to time, but the path is there if we continue to work through the heartache.  Eventually we will get to where we are going; and when we arrive, we can look back and see how our struggles have helped others struggle a little less.  And that makes me feel better than ibuprofen ever could. 

Less is More

For the past couple of months, I have been in the midst of a minimalist movement getting rid of tired old keepsakes and tired old habits in an attempt to streamline my living space and my mind.  Decades of “Can’t live without,” keepsakes purchased with the intent of creating a fashionably inviting living space littered every flat surface and zapped any thoughts of relaxation as I spent my time guarding, dusting and rearranging these seemingly precious things until one day when I dared to ask myself, “Why do I have all this stuff?”  Unable to answer this question sufficiently, I decided I could live without it.   As each item was dropped off at donation centers throughout the city, I felt my soul stretch out in its new expanded horizons.  

Suddenly my home appeared larger and more inviting.  By living with less I found I had more – more room for peaceful thoughts, more space to expand my horizons, more freedom to cherish loved ones.  Although I have removed a great deal of superfluous stuff, I still hold tight to the things that bring me true joy.  My art no longer matches my sofa, but the few items I proudly display match me.  They remind me of those who bring comfort and joy to my life.  They let me know that I am loved and that I am capable of love.  By shrinking my world, I find I am capable of living a bigger, more focused life.

Home Run

I’m not much of a sports fan.  I know the basic rules from elementary gym class and usually root for the team with the cutest uniforms.  The only time I ever watch anything that centers around a ball is when I’m dining at a restaurant that has a big screen TV hanging on every flat surface.  At this time I am glued to the set cheering my fashion forward sportsman on to victory patiently waiting for the crack of the bat to unleash the possibility of a homerun; and although I don’t have a favorite team, I somehow feel disappointed when the team I’ve declared should win, based solely on their color choices, has their star player hit by a curveball and removed from the game.  No chance for victory now. So, I return to my dinner a little bummed but no worse for wear. 

This game of ball is rather like the game of life – you practice hard, you do your best and hope to win.  But sometimes life throws you a curveball.  This may come in the form of a break-up, political setbacks or harsh words delivered by a loved one.  When this occurs, we can wallow in pain and remove ourselves from the game, or we can check our game plan and realize that only we have the power to hurt ourselves.  Words, like the crack of the bat, are only sounds – we ascribed meaning to those sounds.  They can signal a homerun or game over; the choice is ours.  Live in pain or live in acceptance knowing we are all on the same team and we are all searching for home.

Freshly Squezed

For most of my adult life I have tried to treat my body with respect by eating well and exercising regularly.  Recently, in an attempt to up the healthy quotient ante, I’ve traded my pre-packaged entrees for nature’s fresh produce and home cooked organic meals.   Sure, this procedure is more time consuming and I don’t always know exactly what I am doing, but the rewards, I’m sure, will prove worthy of the effort.  The other day, in this enlightened state, I decided to start my morning with some fresh squeezed orange juice.  The problem was I didn’t have any oranges – just bananas, so I contemplated a glass of fresh squeezed banana juice.  This proved to be a difficult task and even if it had been successful, would not have satiated my craving for orange juice.  

This squeezing oranges out of bananas conundrum got me thinking about how often we, as wishful thinkers, try to make events in life something other than what they are.  We plant the seeds of hate and try to harvest a field of love, we dream of peace but argue over how to achieve it and we hold on tightly to the things we need to let go.  If we want love or peace or freedom then we must already possess them, we must make them an organic part of our being. Just as it is impossible to get orange juice from bananas, it is impossible to give hate if you only have love inside. 


When I was a tween I wanted, more than anything, to fit in.  This meant I needed tight rolled frosted jeans, a leather bomber jacket and penny loafers with a dime in the tongue.  When I was a twenty-something, I wanted a high paying job, a nice car and a well-manicured lawn.  In my thirties I wanted world peace and to house the homeless.  For all those years what I really wanted was for the world to bow down to my needs be they selfish or selfless.  As life unfolded and my wants and debts grew along with my depression and social pariah status I realized I could want until the proverbial cows came home and still not be happy. 

I have sought for, and fought for and even attained some of the things I so desperately wanted only to find these things didn’t solve my problems.  Searching for happiness in attaining wants is like trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, just when you think you’re about to get to it, the reward fades away leaving you tired, jaded and empty handed.  Having learned this lesson the hard way, it pains me to say that what I want most now is to not want.  It seems paradoxical to want to not want, but it’s what I need.  I need to know that the rainbow is a joy unto itself and that life is its own reward.  I need to know that wanting is akin to wasting – it’s wasted time, wasted energy, wasted thoughts.  I want to know; I want to fit in with this logic.  But until this want fades away, I will continue to chase it.


One of my favorite holiday movies is It’s a Wonderful Life.  It’s my rock in the stream of Christmas movies playing from Thanksgiving to New Years.  I watch a great deal of this genre bobbing along with the Grinch, or the Ghost of Christmas Past, but it is always George Bailey and his journey that catches my attention.  Like most movies of its day the makers bait us with star power, reel us in with an impossible love story and hook us with an indisputable truth – we all make a difference.

For many years I had been sinking, reliving painful pasts, hardening my heart and trying too hard to swim upstream.  Like George Bailey, I could see no way out.  So, I sank to the bottom where, without being pulled by the currents of discontent, I examined my life and what I wanted it to be.  I discovered I wanted two things: to be happy and be free from suffering – the same two things all sentient beings desire.  So, I decided to stay there, a tiny pebble in a tumultuous stream knowing that by accepting all things that pass by with love and gratitude I create a calming ripple affecting all who come in contact.


Last summer my husband and I visited friends in Colorado.  This friendship came about like most in-so-much as we met them through mutual friends who introduced us and we hit it off due to our mid-west roots and love of all things nature.  While visiting these friends, the six of us took a historic train ride through the mountains where we were instructed in the ways of the steam engine and the laws of land. For instance, did you know it takes 22 tons of coal to travel about 200–250 miles?  Or that aspen trees propagate themselves primarily through root sprouts, and that each colony is its own clone so all trees in the clone have identical characteristics and share a single root structure? These trees help cleans the environment of the coal dust -- the same coal that was mined from directly beneath the aspen’s roots.  Funny how things are connected.

Connections are everywhere if one takes the time to notice.  This morning, while trying to connect my mind to the earth during yoga, I began to think about these linkages.  My body is connected to the ground (the same ground to which all beings are connected). My breath is part the same air the rest of the world (including the aspen) is breathing.  Each time I breathe in and with every step I take, I am connecting with all of humanity through all of time. This is the case every minute of every day, yet rarely do I stop and think about it.  With this in mind I challenged myself to make friends with the world -- every last dirty, mean and lovely part of it. Afterall, its totality resides within my lungs and keeps me grounded in my moments.  I have a choice: I can focus on our divisions or take joy in our common roots. So, for today I fill my lungs with joy and stand firm in my belief that I am okay. And if I am okay, then the rest of the world must be too.


My college experience represents a general facsimile of my life – continuous and ever evolving.  I’ve changed my majors a half-dozen times, I’ve taken classes slowly over the decades and have collected degrees as though they were trading cards.  My first bachelor’s was English and although I went into it knowing it was probably “useless” as far as employment was concerned, I simply had to invest in my love of language.  Part of that love was understanding words, their roots and their uses.  For instance, “khaki” is a Hindustani word meaning “solid color” and has been morphed over the years to mean boring “business casual.”  That’s what happens with words – they start out meaning one thing and evolve into something completely different.

Applying this knowledge of word evolution to the words I use to describe myself I’ve come to the conclusion the meaning of “me” as a person has also expanded to include a vast array of seeming unrelated terms.  For instance, me as a “writer” used to mean I was paid to put words into print, now me as a writer simply means I think on paper – different, yet born of the same root. 

In all my seeking and finding and learning and growing I’ve come to the conclusions that no matter how far I search or to what depths I explore I will never come up with a definitive definition of what it means to be “me.”  I am a work in progress, a day-to-day evolution of who I was and who I will be.  I am evolving: developing gradually, especially from a simple to a more complex form.  I accept that.


Around this time of year, when the leaves are changing and early morning fog haunts the air, I bring my holiday gift purchasing to a close worried that I don’t have enough time to finish up those last-minute trinkets that add spice to my presents.  For many folks, October seems a bit early to even contemplate Christmas – Halloween candy isn’t even ½ off yet, but the task of gift giving has been weighing on my mind since December 26th.  I’ve spent months thinking of themes that put the “fun” in “functional” and bring joy to the lives of others.

It used to be that I would drive about town, finding a bit of this and some of that to add to the basket until everything was just right.  Now, all my shopping is one click away – I don’t even have to show up to be one of the first 100 customers in the door to receive my discount; in fact, I don’t even have to show up to give my loved ones my long thought out present.  I can order online and have their gift shipped directly to their door.  Lately though I’ve been contemplating the meaning of presents.  Why do we give them?  Is gift giving an act of love or a responsibility?  Are they meant to bring us closer or to one-up each other?  And why are they even called “presents?”  According to the dictionary a “present” is to “give something to (someone) formally or ceremonially.”  In the modern world we have forgone the “formally and ceremonially” part in lieu of “quickly and conveniently.” 

This year I’ve decided that instead of “presents” I will give “presence.”  The most personal gift a person can give another is his time.  What better way to show love and affection than to put another being above all other life responsibilities?  For me, personal connections are more important than sweaters, or blenders or candy canes and they have a better return policy as well.  So, I may still show up with a spicy little gift purchased months ago, but more importantly, I will show up with my well thought out presence.

Poop Happens

When you live in a household with nine dogs it is sage advice to, “Watch your step.”  You would think after years of canine cohabitation I would have taken this advice to heart, yet somehow, I’m still surprised when, in a hurry, I “Put my foot in it.”  Though I am frustrated when this happens, I accept that dealing with shit is just a part of life; I clean off my shoe and carry on with my day.  That’s the price you pay for the unconditional love of fine, furry friends.

Proverbial, “shit” happens throughout life: sometimes we’re sick, sometimes we’re tired, sometimes we are just sick and tired of being treated like a dog.  It is when life has kicked us around to the breaking point and beyond that we have to lick our wounds and accept that this too shall pass.  Nothing lasts forever: Not joy.  Not pain.  Not the crap on our shoes.  If you want unconditional love, you’re gonna have to put up with a little poo when you least expect it.


Weathering Storms

As of recent there has been a spate of natural disasters: hurricanes, tidal waves, tornadoes, drought – you name it and it’s happening somewhere in the world.  Here in the Midwest though, our natural disasters are typically less destructive than in other areas.  Sure, we have storms and snow and the occasional tornado, but these events come with warning.  Unlike earthquakes, tornados don’t usually happen suddenly; first there are clouds, then driving winds and finally destruction.  For us Midwesterners, we hear an alarm and head to the lowest level with a flashlight and a radio and brace ourselves for chaos.  Earthquakes, on the other hand, just happen.  One minute you’re baking a soufflé, the next, the ground is falling out from under you.  It’s true that warnings save lives.

 Emotional storms, much like weather, can come without warning.  You’re going about your daily business when you spy dark clouds on the horizon.  They look threatening, but, like the Midwesterner who stands on his front porch watching the circling clouds unaware of the tornado, you don’t prepare yourself for the tidal wave of grief coming your way. Suddenly the world collapses beneath you are you are drowning in depression wondering, “What happened?”  With no way out you cling to whatever is thrown your way: booze, pills, false hope.  But these external things won’t save you; they can’t save you.  The problem isn’t the storm on the outside, the problem is the storm on the inside.  If we hope to survive the storms in our lives, we have to prepare.  We have to be aware.  We have to heed warnings.  Know your Self.  Take time to examine your intentions, your motivations, your goals.  Ask yourself, “What do I hope to achieve by doing what I am doing?  Does this act bring peace to my world?  Are my intentions good?”  If you can ask yourself these questions, then the answers are as clear as a summer’s day.  Heed your warnings, prepare your mind and you can weather any storm.



Last week, while sitting in yet another “team” meeting at work, we began discussing the importance of working together to achieve our common goals.  This discussion has happened many times in many formats and typically ends with the sage words of wisdom, “Let’s work together, folks.  There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’.”  This saying always gets my mind wandering (as so many things do) and I realized that there is no ‘I’ in ‘eye’ or in ‘aye, aye, master,’ either.  Funny, I thought.

I played this ‘I’ game for a while and wondered who exactly is the ‘I’ in ‘I?”  Is the ‘I’ my braIn, my mInd – I don’t thInk so.  So, who am ‘I’? Scientists have studied thisphenomenon for many years now and still can’t point to a specific spot in the human anatomy and say, “This is the origin of being.”  Perhaps this is because we are all a team after all.  We are a part of each other working together to make the entire universe succeed.  We are pieces of a total oneness, a collective conscience wanting to be happy, to be loved, to be at peace.  Funny. . . there are no ‘I’s in ‘happy,’ ‘love,’ or ‘peace.’  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.


I am the youngest of four kids and as such I learned different skills from each of my siblings.  My sister, Cynthia, taught me to sew, Jennifer taught me to bake and my brother, Todd, taught me how to play chess.  Of all these lessons, I found chess to be the most difficult; there are so many rules and schemes – Castles can only go forward and backward or side to side, Rooks can only move at an angle, and don’t even get me started with the Knight.  It seemed impossible.  I was just a boy, what did I know about strategy?

Eventually I learned the rules and got pretty good at the game.  Navigating the chess board is kind of like navigating life – we follow the notion that we can only move in certain directions at certain times and that certain people have certain jobs.  But life isn’t chess.  Life isn’t about right and wrong, black and white, win or lose – it’s about suffering or not suffering.  If moving forward causes suffering, then move sideways.  If that causes suffering then stand still a while, no one is going to knock you off the board.  Others may flit about trying to avoid suffering but you can simply stand still and breathe – be the king of your life.  Choose happiness.  That’s the only way to win.

Deeds Great and Small

I’m always looking for ways to better the world.  I plant trees in the rainforest, I give to charities, I donate blood products, yet I still feel like there is more I can do.  What is that one thing, that stellar action that will define me as altruistic?  How can I, “Heal the world; make it a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race?” in much the same manner as Michael Jackson sang about in 1991?  I’m not famous.  I’m not rich.  I don’t have a million followers on Facebook. 

I struggled with this dilemma all morning long debating what my next move, as an insignificant mortal, should be.  After much thought I decided to smile.  “Worthy” causes are no more or less worthy than the causes in our own backyard.  To heal the world, we’ve got to heal ourselves then present that self to those around us.  Kindness knows no size, sees no color and knows no bounds.  So, for today I smile.  I smile and know that the problems of the world aren’t solved by a few great deeds, they are solved by a million small kindnesses. 


I’m not the kind of guy who has to have the latest invention in technology, I still have a flip phone, I’m not on social media and the only reason I ever got email was because my job required it.  Still, I do have many of man’s newest inventions and, at times, they have made my life a bit easier.  Speaking of time, this is another of man’s inventions that is overused by modern society.  We are constantly rushing toward the future while dragging our pasts along in an attempt to beat the clock.  The problem with time is much like the problem with social media –they are both poor substitutes for actual connections.  Being connected to others via facebook is hardly the same as being connected face-to-face; and being on time is hardly the same as being in time – being in the moment.

To be free of time means to be free from the psychological need of the past for identity and future for fulfillment.  Time is less an invention than an illusion.  Worrying about past mistakes stunts present growth; believing in a future heaven creates a present hell.  Being where we are, when we are and with whom we are is undeniable – it is one of the only truths that exists.  Put down the phone, disconnect with artifice and connect with the Now.   The Now is perhaps the greatest invention: it never goes out of style; it’s constantly updating itself and it’s available to all.

Losses and Gains

For a man in his mid-forties I haven’t experienced much death; so little in fact, that I can count the number of deceased close companions on one hand.  For all intents and purposes this is considered a good thing and I count myself blessed for the good health of myself and those around me.  When I first experienced the passing of a loved one, I was numb – it was too soon, I wasn’t prepared.  I sucked in my tears and filled the hole in my heart with mundane activities that glossed over the pain.  This technique worked for many months and I went about my life preparing for the next inevitable loss.  This preparation for the unknown was exhausting and wore down my reserves until I came to the acceptance of impermanence and the scientific laws of energy.

The first law of thermodynamics is that energy can be transformed from one form to another, but can be neither created nor destroyed.  With this in mind I realized I didn’t have to feel a loss when dealt with death.  My loved ones weren’t “gone,” they were just transformed – their energy still existed, their essence still moved about in the universe.  Their energy, my energy, all energy in fact, has been around since the dawn of time and will continue to be around long after this life as we know it ends.  Now, when I admire the beauty of a spring flower or feel the first rays of the morning sun caress my cheek, I know that I am being touched by loved ones; it’s their love communicating with my love and instead of feeling loss, I feel gratitude.  I haven’t lost anything, in fact, I’ve gained another fond memory.




I love hats: bowlers, fedoras, porkpie, you name it I wear it.  Every time I put on a new hat I feel as though I am slipping on a new personality.  When I wear my porkpie, I listen to jazz and snap my fingers to the beat saying things like, “Dig it,” and, “Go cat, go.”  When I top off my wardrobe with a fedora, I get mysterious and hang out in dark corners taking in all the goings-on around me. The point is the hat dictates my behavior.  The good thing is the hat is easily removable – take it off and I am plain old me.  But who is that?

Much the same way hats have dictated my persona, the identities others (and myself) have ascribed to me have guided my behavior.  At one point in life I had decided I was the crazy drunk uncle and as such I arrived at many family functions inebriated and full of silly jokes – I was crazy after all.  Being the crazy drunk uncle gave me the excuse to behave badly and to make poor decisions because, everyone knows, that is what crazy drunk uncles do.  Unlike removing a hat though, getting rid of this nonproductive persona was a bit more difficult.  First I had to realize I wasn’t the person I pretended to be.  I wasn’t innately crazy; I didn’t need to be drunk.  In fact, I didn’t even particularly like those aspects of myself.  I behaved that way out of habit.

So, who was I exactly?  That took some examining.  Once I took off my crazy hat and disrobed the costume of expectation, I realized I am not any one thing.  I am an amalgamation of all my experiences, of all the people I have met and of all the choices I have made.  I am constantly changing.  If I were to sum up my findings and knit them into a hat I would have to say I am a basic stocking cap – warm, inviting, malleable.  I am comfortable.  I can endure tough times.  I can adjust to fit whatever occasion over which I am stretched.  I can “Dig it.”

Second Chances

When springtime comes and Mother Nature graces us with sunny days and warm nights, I like to hop on my bike and pay tribute to Ms. Nature’s bounty.  I enjoy riding through town with no destination in mind, listening to the birds and taking in the sights.  Some days I pay heed to the budding trees, other days I take notice of new construction in the neighborhood.  One day last year I was on such a ride when on the corner of 32nd and 2nd, I spied glimmers in the road.  Upon further examination I realized the glimmers were quarters – a whole bunch of them -- $6.00 to be exact.  For a man who doesn’t gamble, it felt as though I had hit the jackpot.  I collected my slightly worn coins and continued on my ride feeling especially blessed.

I have passed that same corner of 2nd Ave. for virtually 47 years and have never found so much as a dime, now, since experiencing my lucky loot, I feel as though 32nd Street owes me more than a penny for my thoughts; it owes me a second chance at money and happiness.  I am so insistent a bounty of treasure lay there that every time I pass by I nearly miss the STOP sign and ride head on to an ugly demise at the front end of a Mac truck all because I am too busy paying attention to what I believe should exist.  The problem with second chances is that we often don’t get them and riding our luck may mean we head ourselves into preventable circumstances.  We shouldn’t waste our time wishing for what isn’t or counting or blessings before they’ve happened, we should practice appreciating what we have right now.  In this spirit, I recently rode by the corner of 32nd and Second Chance; I didn’t find a jackpot, I didn’t get hit by a Mac truck, but I did notice a freshly bloomed daisy.  “Wow!” I thought, “This must be my lucky day.” 


As a former theatre major, newspaper writer and hair stylist I think it is safe to say that I am a bit of a talker.  I come from a line of talkers with, bless their hearts, southern roots.  I can talk to anyone, anywhere, any time and if no one is available I am quite content having a conversation with myself.  Conversing is a bit like ice skating – just skim the surface and execute the landings, no need to get bogged down in the details.  The problem with this triple Salchow approach to the exchange of ideas is that this glossing over is only the short form of the program.  As the saying goes, “God is in the details,” and if you miss the details, you miss the point.

Conversation is meant to enrich our lives and help us better connect to our fellow man, but if we listen only with the intent to respond we miss the connection.  Ice skaters get bonus points for connecting skills, humans get bonus points for connecting ideas.  If you want to enjoy the long program then you’ve got to connect – you’ve got to listen with the intent to understand.  If you can listen with both your heart and your mind then the long program will be filled with fascination and you will find all the practice has made you a first-class communicator. 

Walk the Walk

One of my favorite exercises has been, and continues to be, walking.  I love communing with nature and watching life unfold around me as I meander to no place in particular.  It is during these walks that I unfurl the deep crevices of my mind and let out all the unknown anxiety that has silently been plaguing my freedom.  Frequently I will invite friends to come along with me hoping that they too will take a few minutes to relax and unwind.  During these walks we exchange ideas and offer each other tid-bits of wisdom learned from hard fought battles.  It is easy to talk the talk when you are not actively living your pain.

But how do we walk our talk when we are deeply embroiled in the conflicts of day-to-day living?  We must, as they instruct in walking meditation, walk as though our feet are kissing the ground with every step – that is to say we must be purposeful and attentive. The soles of the feet are extremely sensitive to touch due to a high concentration of nerve endings, with as many as 200,000 per sole.  Like the soles of our feet, our souls need to be aware of our surroundings.  Sometimes life’s terrain is rough and we may stumble and fall.  Sometimes the roads are long and arduous.  But if we keep going, feeling with our soles, believing with our souls, we’ll make it through.  So, kiss the ground, take your time – eventually you’ll get to wherever you are going.


For someone who works in the public-school system, I am rarely ever sick.  Sure, I’ll get a runny nose or a sore throat from time-to-time, but never am I debilitatingly ill.  I liken this immunity to being exposed to virtually all manner of disease and disgust as a teenager working at the grocery store counting bottle returns and cleaning restrooms.  I’ve touched all sorts of unknown substances and have, thus far, lived to tell about it. 

This being said, my first year in the school system exposed me to a new strain of stomach flu the likes of none I had ever experienced before.  Until that moment in time I was unaware how many orifices in the human body could simultaneously leak – “If this is dying,” I thought, “let me go.”  I lost 5 pounds and all will power that day. 

Suffice it to say, I did survive and came to the conclusion that the upside of being sick is that it helps you realize how nice your regular condition is.  Sure, we may be disgusted with the world or feel debilitated by our thoughts, but if we stick it out, we develop immunities to life’s imperfections.  Let go of all the crap and learn to go with the flow and you’ll find that this too shall pass. 

Making the Grade

As a teacher I am often called upon to judge various student works: writing samples, art projects, behavior needs, etc.  Years spent in the field have made me pretty good at this task.  I’ve memorized the writing rubric, I understand the goal of art projects and I get the need to teach replacement behaviors; still, I prefer to judge tasks that are less interpretive.  I like to grade math papers where the answer is either right or wrong or history exams where the dates are set in stone.  Regardless of the task, it is my job to determine growth.

As people, we often judge one another.  Sometimes there are standards that we all agree upon: vandalism isn’t art, two wrongs don’t make a right, punching someone in the face is bad behavior.  But often times we judge people for reasons that aren’t standardized.  We call them ugly, or deficient or failures because they don’t look or live like we do.  We say they worship the wrong god or have the wrong priorities.  We judge them by a set of standards that aren’t standard.  We judge them not by who they are, but by who we are, and who we are is still a work in progress.  When it comes to making the grade for myself and for others, I’d rather get an “A” for Acceptance than an “D” for Discrimination.


Like most American children of a certain age I spent a good portion of my youth consuming T.V. shows such as Sesame Street, Scooby Doo and anything by Hannah-Barbera.  Television was a wonderful escape from the strenuous duties of homework and hide-and-seek.  As I grew older, my appetite for entertainment switched from cartoons to cable news – the adult way to escape life’s calamities.  My media cup flowed over with perils from around the world and stuffed my head with negative thoughts.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized the consumption of media is much like the consumption of food – we are what we eat.  If I feast on cookies and cakes my body responds with high blood pressure and excess poundage; if I feast on violence and heartache, my consciousness becomes dark and dismal.  With this in mind I looked up the definition of consumption which is: The using up of a resource.  My being is a resource and I want not to waste it, so cookies and cable news must become, as Cookie Monster says, “A sometimes snack.”  Instead, I shall feast on leafy greens and positive affirmations – and perhaps a small dessert of CNN and a Scooby Snack.  Now that’s a diet I can stick to.

The Luxury of Waiting

I’m a pretty patient person by nature.  I am unperturbed in the grocery store when the patron in front of me has chosen the express lane to purchase her entire weeks’ worth of foodstuff, I kindly slow down so unobservant travelers can change lanes at the last minute, I am totally content reading out of date magazines whilst I wait for the physician’s assistant to call me back to the cold examination room.  I think of these events as exercises in day dreaming preferring to let my mind wander instead of focusing on these minor injustices.  The one thing for which I have no patience is myself.  I curse my inability to finish a book before it’s due back at the library, I loathe the fact that I haven’t yet finished my latest art project and I hate knowing that I have not yet figured out a way to save the world from itself.

Like becoming good at most things, becoming a patient person took practice.  By constantly monitoring the way I reacted to situations and catching myself in the midst of inappropriate responses I was able to stop and begin changing my habits.  Slowly my new and improved acceptance took shape.  Now if only I could use this same technique to mold myself into a being of perfection.  It’s not as though I don’t try – I practice deep breathing and going for walks, I stretch my muscles and my mind in vain attempts of attaining the ever-elusive enlightened state, yet flawed I am.

I guess the good news is that I don’t have to be perfected, I simply have to accept the fact that I am already perfect – I am everything I will ever need.  I have good moments and not-so-good moments, moments of clarity and moments of confusion, but most of all I have moments.  It is what I do with these moments that enlighten the spirit and today I choose patience with the world and all its inhabitants, including, and most importantly, me.  Someday this too will be habit, until then – I accept, I accept, I accept.

Have a Nice Trip

I’m the type of person who considers “being late” as arriving at my destination anything less than fifteen minutes ahead of scheduled time.  I hate to make people wait and will treat myself with reckless abandon in an attempt to arrive within my quarter-hour comfort zone.  This being said it is no surprise that I have driven without caution, failed to properly yield for my fellow citizens and recently came crashing to the ground while scurrying along the icy walkway leading to my appointment.  It was just one of those days where time kept slipping by and before I knew it, I was late. 

So, there I sat, cold and miserable being forced to yield to destiny.  I stayed like that for some time and felt the ground, and smelled the air, and absorbed the lesson in life – time and circumstance can alter at any minute and change the future in unforeseen ways.  My job is not merely to arrive at my destination, my job is to love much, live peacefully and gracefully accept what was not meant for me along the way.  I’ll arrive when I arrive – it may be 15 minutes early, it may be 15 minutes late, it may be a quarter past never, but somehow knowing the journey is the destination makes life’s little slip-ups a little less painful. 

Making Room

Last night my husband and I stopped to help a stranded truck driver broken down on the side of the interstate.  With flashers blinking and safety vest on, we lent a helping hand to this down-on-his-luck driver.  As my husband poked and prodded engine nuts and bolts, I watched as oncoming traffic shifted lanes allowing room for the broken down to make repairs.  A twist, a turn, a sudden shift in hardware and all was well.  Upon completion, my husband and I reentered traffic and made our way home feeling better for having lent a helping hand to someone in need.

Sometimes, when we are broken and down, we need a little space to falter – to breathe; we need room to twist and turn and shift our thinking without fear of injury or a mangling death.  Sometimes we can do this alone, and other times we need a little help from friends.  We’ve got to make room in our hearts and allow others to see the nuts and bolts of what makes us work – we must merge our souls if we want to keep on trucking on.

Seeing is Believing

I’ve worn glasses since the third grade and since that time my eyes have progressively gotten worse; now I’m at the point where I can’t even see the eye chart – just a lovely Rorschach Ink Blot on the wall that resembles an angry butterfly or possibly a three-legged frog doing the Can-Can.  I expect my eyes to degenerate over time, it comes with aging and I accept that.  My biggest problem with the eye doctor is that the test has been the same since I first got glasses some 35+ years ago.  The doctor asks me, “What’s the first line you can read?” and I say “E.”  I don’t really see the “E,” I just know that’s what the letter is.  Someday the test will be different and I will still see an “E” because when you look for something long enough, there’s nothing else you’ll see.

Seeing the things for which we look happens in our daily life – psychologists call it “self-fulfilling prophesies.”  If I think I will fail, chances are good that I will.  If I think I am sick, my body reacts with hot flashes and a turned tummy.  But, if I look for beauty or hope or love, I will see them because, much like the “E” on the eye chart, these things are always there.  Sometimes they are difficult to make out, but they exist – you just might have to read between the lines.

Forget Regret

I’m a forgetful person by most accounts – birthdays, PIN #’s, future plans.  In fact, I am so forgetful that I have taken to mailing out a year’s worth of birthday cards on New Year’s Eve just to ensure I don’t forget to wish those closest to me a happy day.  I’ve tried mnemonic devices, day planners, clever acronyms, to-do lists, and colored post-it notes, yet I still forget why I entered a room.  With all this memory loss you would think I could forget my past transgressions yet they manage to haunt my life and taint its little joys. 

When I am in the midst of painful despair wishing I hadn’t done the things I have and forgetting the fact that I somehow managed to survive the bad choices and atrocious judgment, I find it helpful to stop and ask myself, “Why am I doing this?  What do I hope to accomplish with rehashing all this regret?”  The answer is always the same – “Nothing” – nothing is accomplished by living in the past.  So, I’ve learned to let go – let go of the “shouldas,” let go of the “couldas,” and just accept that it “woulda” been nice if I had lived life differently and to accept that I didn’t.   Since then I’ve never regretted letting go.  But if in the future, I ever do regret letting go, I’ll be sure to let go of the regret.


The Road Less Traveled

Spring is my favorite time of year.  I love watching the trees turn from brown sticks to green velvet to fruit laden treasures.  It lifts my spirits and energizes my soul.  When nature is kind enough to shine her love down on me, I take the opportunity to walk near the river’s edge or hike amongst the forest meandering through the well-trodden paths of previous nature aficionados.  I can spend hours watching the breeze dance in the trees and musing as squirrels play games of tag or argue over nuts.  Every so often I get a Robert Frost moment and am compelled to take the road less travelled just to see where it leads me.  It is during these moments that I find how truly wonderful nature can be.

Trekking through Mother Nature is much like treading through Human Nature – there are well trodden paths that lead to predictable results of arguments and discomfort and there are other less examined trails that lead to unforeseen adventures.  I spent many years mapping the route and following the path that lay before me only to realize I was stuck in the same forest of confusion and dismay wondering how I got there.  Finally, I saw the forest through the trees and realized that how others treat me is their path; how I react is mine.  Instead of being mired down in the underbrush of hidden agendas or drowning in despair, I can stop struggling, go with the flow and chart my own destination.  After all, it’s spring – everything is new.  It’s time for a new way of thinking, a new way of non-reacting. It’s time to start down our own paths.

Scene 1

Growing up my life was very much like Leave it to Beaver without the pearls and cardigans – my dad worked, my mom took care of us kids and I did all the fun, mischievous things children are supposed to do.  As I grew older my life more closely resembled Rosanne – troubled, but loved.  As a young adult my life could best be described as an HBO original film fraught with self-made trauma and spiraling despair.  These scenes played out as my thoughts and the things I thought I should be directed my every move.  I cast myself in many roles trying them on for comfort, dressing the part, saying the lines and going through the motions only to discover I wasn’t any of them yet they were somehow all a part of who I was.

Slowly I began to realize I wasn’t the actor playing a role written by thoughts, I was the director witnessing the thoughts and guiding the actions.  When a thought passes through our minds, we assume it must be directed by our true self.  But much like TV, those mindless thoughts lull us into preprogrammed characters that have cast us as “unawares” who act on conditioned, habitual responses.  These thoughts are merely surface phenomena, a commercial break trying to sell us an identity that isn’t really ours.  Thoughts are just thoughts; they are neither good nor bad, right nor wrong – they’re just reactions, not an identity.  Instead of getting lost in the story your thoughts have written, witness your thoughts and write your own script.  Be the director of your life.  You might not win the best actor award, but perhaps you’ll be nominated for best original screenplay.


As a traveler I am hopelessly inept.  Outside of knowing the sun rises in the east and settles in the west I am totally lost; I can even get lost in my own home town.  There have been many occasions where I have intended to arrive at my destination 15 minutes early looking impossibly fresh and totally together only to be veered off course by the sight of falling leaves, grazing cattle and wrong turns – Next exit: Nowheresville – population: me.  Yet again my good intentions have gone out the window.  I am frazzled and late and fit to be tied.  You’d think I’d learn to pay attention and use a map.

It is said that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions and having been to Hell on several occasions I believe this to be true.  I never intended to hurt my loved ones, I never intended to wander astray yet somehow, I have been distracted by the shiny objects and empty promises of the road most traveled.  Having driven down this rocky road for many years I finally learned to stop and ask for directions.  I have been guided by wise words in helpful books, knowing smiles from friendly elders and tough lessons from hard knocks.  The path I follow now is less traveled and has better sign posts.  It’s rocky and beautiful and filled with the same potholes as before, but now I not only have good intentions, I have awareness.  I’m aware distractions exist and wrong turns are abundant.  But now I’m in no hurry.  I’ll arrive when I get there wherever there may be.  For now, I’m just enjoying the journey looking impossibly fresh and sort of together.


My favorite horror film of all time is William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist.  It’s engaging, it’s scary and one has to watch carefully to thoroughly enjoy all of its subtle nuances and subliminal messages.  To fully understand the importance to detail in The Exorcist one needs to understand how film works.  Celluloid moves static pictures at a rate of 24 frames per second.  Unlike a camera however, the eye does not see motion as a series of frames.  Instead, it perceives a continuous stream of information rather than a set of discrete moments.  This persistence of an afterimage fools audiences into thinking things are other than what they truly are.  In the case of The Exorcist, the filmmakers slipped in 3 frames (⅛ of a second’s worth) of the demon, Captain Howdy, periodically throughout the film to keep audiences off balance and constantly wondering if they saw what they think they saw.

Like film and its afterimages, our lives tend to flit by without us paying much attention to each individual moment.  We spend our nights rehashing our days and our years remembering our demons.  We miss the sunrises, the laughter, and the miracles occurring every ⅛ of a second.  Having lived most of my life off kilter, I have recently decided to take a page from Blatty’s script – I’ve inserted micro-moments of joy into my days in hopes those details will somehow put my life back on balance.  I give this new life a 5-star rating and applaud the fine, nuanced performance of its star player – ME.



Remote Control

Like most couples my husband and I often disagree about what to watch on TV.  He enjoys reality shows about million-dollar sailing yachts or individuals surviving naked in the wild while I prefer news networks or reruns of old sitcoms.  Rather than engaging in disputes over mindless television viewing and reaching for the remote, I tend to sit back and go with the flow, if this doesn’t work, I’ll engross myself in a magazine in the hopes that he will see my disappointment in programming and offer up the remote control.  Typically, this does not happen and I find myself slowly paying less attention to my reading and more attention to the debacle unfolding on the screen.  Though I hate to admit it, I often times enjoy this unforeseen adventure. 

Scenes like this happen a lot in life.  You start out with the intent of doing one thing and begrudgingly wind up doing another.  Life is like that – you chart a course, set your sails and hope for the best, but sometimes life has other plans and this is where it gets interesting.  You could rail against the wilds of life feeling naked and afraid determined to remain in control or you could relax a bit and channel into the present moment viewing what it has to offer.  By relinquishing the perception of control of what it is you think you want, you will find the enjoyment you seek – it may be on a different station, but it is always within your reach.

Set a Drift

Recently, in a state of reverie, I listened to the 90’s P.M. Dawn song “Set a Drift on Memory Bliss,” and like most songs from the 90’s I realized I really didn’t know the lyrics even though I once owned the cassette.  I belted out the chorus, eyes closed and in what felt like perfect harmony only to fumble through the verses spitting out the few words I thought I knew.  We’ll it’s not the 90’s anymore and there are no excuses for misquoted lyrics, so I Googled the words and found them to be nothing like what I had been singing, yet totally relevant.  One verse in particular stuck out in my mind:

“I can remember when 
I caught up with a past time intimate friend
She said, "Bet you're probably gonna say I look lovely
But you probably don't think nothin' of me"
She was right, though, I can't lie
She's just one of those corners in my mind
And I just put her right back with the rest
That's the way it goes, I guess”

I let these lyrics wash over me thinking about all the friends who have come and gone through the years, each one serving her purpose only to become a faded picture in a dusty frame.  This thought saddened me for a while until I realized that unlike the P.M. Dawn cassette, I didn’t own my friends and it is impossible to lose what you don’t possess.  I do, however, own my memories and those I know line for line and am able to replay them whenever I wish. In fact... I feel a bit of nostalgia coming over me.  I think I’ll set myself a drift on memory’s bliss right now. 

Waiting to Exhale

I was a happy child by all accounts.  My needs were met, my heart was full and I was blissfully unaware of the world beyond my nose.  In my 20’s I opened my eyes and I saw, for the first time, the abundant suffering all around me: war, famine, climate crisis, addiction, destruction, etc.  I took these problems very seriously and went about saving the world without a plan and with total conviction.  I was so intent on my misguided mission I would hold my breath to save oxygen for those who lived in polluted parts.  Of course, this didn’t save the world – it just made me out of breath. 

By the time I reached 30 I was exhausted and the world was still falling apart.  I had failed and now the world was kicking me about like some kind of grand experiment in emotional pain.  If misery does indeed love company, I had partnered with the entire universe.  I no longer held my breath, yet I couldn’t breathe.  I felt as though I had taken on the suffering of the world, made it my own and now we were all infected.

Finally, at 40, I exhaled.  I had been holding in, for too long, unnecessary suffering.  What was done was done, what will be, will be.  I learned that wearing a fur coat to the beach does nothing to house the homeless – my suffering did not ease the suffering of anyone else no matter how hard I tried.  So, I developed a new plan.  If misery loves company, so too might joy.  Instead of choosing to be miserable, I chose to be happy.  I focused on sunshine and green grass and the daily miracles of existence.  Suffering hasn’t gone away and war hasn’t ended but now I know they are not the only things out there – so I smile.  I smile and I breathe: Inhale.  Exhale.  Ahhh.  Life is good.


Minor Adjustments

This past summer my husband and I purchased an adjustable bed which goes from flat to zero gravity in a matter of seconds. I can program my favorite positions into the bed’s memory and, with the touch of a button, I can prop my head up to read, elevate my feet to soothe my aching legs or fold myself in half in reverse downward dog style.  The possibilities are limitless, and since the acquisition of this new bed and its minor adjustments, the kinks in my neck have subsided and my REM sleep has increased.  Who knew such a small change could have such a dramatic effect?

In addition to the bed, I have been making other small changes in life.  I have learned how to forgive (myself and others -- we’re all doing the best we can with what we have), how to accept what is (pain is inevitable, suffering is optional), and how to witness my thoughts (they are not good or bad, they are just thoughts).  Implementing these small adjustments in my mental process has subsided the pain in my heart and increased my ability to love.  Now, I need only program these new thought processes into my memory for a more restful existence -- an existence that props up my heart and elevates my soul. 


When I was in elementary, I was a part of our school’s track team.  We were the Roadrunners and we were proud.  I was a sprinter and therefore relied on quick, short bursts of speed and agility to lead me to victory and blue-ribbon pride.  Long distance, easy does it, pace yourself was never my forte.  What had to be done, had to be done now – none of this, “slow and steady wins the race,” stuff for me.  I set my goals and was off and running. 

I kept this same go get ‘em attitude for the next several decades until I experienced what all athletes experience – I hit the wall.  Suddenly I wasn’t 20 anymore.  Energy was harder to come by, finish lines seemed farther away.  Faced with this realization I changed my course of action.  I switched from running to yoga and from “gotta go,” to “let it be.”  The finish line is still the same, but the rewards are different.  I no longer strive for good, better, best; today I strive for happiness and contentment.  I’ve learned that the final stretch isn’t somewhere down the road, it’s right in front of me, it’s the day-to-day victories of human connections and heartfelt camaraderie.  I’m still in the race, but this race is simply known as the human race – or as I sometimes call it, the “humane” race and everyone gets a participation ribbon.

Little Deaths

Once upon an emergency room visit, I had an epiphany – “Today is the day.”  Ever since I was a child, I had the aching feeling that at some point I was going to lose my precarious hold on to reality.  For decades I had successfully managed to stay balanced between the real and imagined world dipping into one or the other to avoid confrontation and unpleasantness.  I had grown adept at skimming the surface of actuality keeping myself busy without ever really facing facts.   Then one morning, when I awoke with the desire to escape, I crawled into a vodka bottle and couldn’t quite get away so I kept right on crawling.  Having literally banged my head on the countertop to try and knock some sense into myself I decided it was time to let go.

When I awoke in the ER, I wasn’t surprised or mad or scared, I was strangely at peace.  I knew at that point that I couldn’t hide from the facts any more.  My life was real, my choices had consequences and only I could change things.  Four days in what I affectionately called “The Nut Hut” allowed me to unwind and focus on myself without the distractions of everyday existence.  I died a little in there, but I came to the realization that to live is to die over and over again.  Each day we are reborn and what we do today is what matters most.  So for today, I celebrate life – I accept my tiny deaths ever grateful for having the experiences.  Today is the day; the day my life begins anew, the day I become a better person.  I am 16,380 days old today yet still a newborn looking at the world through fresh eyes.  What an amazing place.  Happy Birthday to me.


As a teacher it is my job to assess student progress and adjust plans as needed to meet my classroom’s needs based upon the results of tests given throughout the year.  In the past this was done in formal fashions with pencil and paper and rights and wrongs.  The problem with this method is that formalized tests only give you a snapshot of what a student knows on one particular day – these assessments don’t take into account learning styles, gender / race biases or the fact that the student may perform differently on any of the other 364 days of the year.   Unfortunately, all too often, these tests become the only means of determining if a student is passing or failing.  Students then get lumped into groups where they tend to self-fulfill the prophecy given to them in red ink.  Thankfully, in more modern times, we have come to the conclusion that assessment is an ongoing process and that the only way to determine student knowledge and need is to take the student as a whole being who has highs and lows, good days and bad days, right answers and wrong thinking.

As a student of life, I find I am tested a lot.  Sometimes these tests are of a formal variety: Do I believe in Heaven?  Can I forgive injustices?  Where are my keys?  These questions have definitive answers and give a snapshot of the kind of person I may be, yet they do not determine exactly who I am.  Spiritual practice isn’t tested all at once, it’s tested daily in normal situations where no one is looking except (hopefully) you.  These tests aren’t a matter of right or wrong, good or bad, they are a way of helping us make adjustment in our behavior so that we can become the kind of person we hope to be.  There are days when I fail even the most basic assessments in human dignity, but this does not make me a failure.  It simply shows that I am growing.  Though I try my best, sometimes I succumb to wrong thinking.  But if I pay attention, this wrong thinking may lead me to the right conclusion.  Life is full of tests.  The best we can do is study often, try our best and hope for growth.



I love art – everything from Pollock’s splatters to Rothko’s squares.  I’m fascinated by the way a few controlled brushstrokes or slight change of hue can transform a painting’s mood from exciting to somber to chaos.  I’m mystified by an artist’s ability to envision a scene and create that image with his own two hands (or, in the case of Christy Brown, his left foot).  Of all the artists I’ve viewed I’d have to say my favorite is Monet.  His play of light and perspective allow me to see something new each time I witness his work.  When seen close up it appears to be a jumble of chaotic brushstrokes applied with no thought or plan, but when viewed from a distance, one can see the beauty of the entire picture and how each stroke contributes to the whole – one less bit of light or dark and the entire picture would be incomplete.  It’s easy to see why Monet’s impressionism has left an impression on me.

I’ve noticed how perspective applies to many aspects of life.  Sometimes, when I’m stuck in the middle of my own chaos, it appears as though things are happening for no rhyme or reason – as though I’ve painted myself into a dark corner.  But then, as time progresses, I’m able to step back and see the whole picture.  This bit of darkness was necessary to help me see the light – to see something new.  These highs and lows, lights and darks give perspective.  Thanks to these experiences I am able to grow and transform from a person who envisions peace to a person who creates peace.  I am my own artist and, just as Bob Ross paints happy little trees, I’m going to paint a happy little life.



Monkey Mind

Last night, just before bedtime, I had a brilliant idea for a new Buddhist children’s book about 10 Little Monkeys Jumping Through The Mind, and just like the monkeys that jump on the bed, the mind monkeys cause turmoil until one by one they leave the mind and the brain is free to relax and meditate.  It was such a good idea that after two hours of story development I had to get up and write the whole thing down.  Now I could rest.  If only it weren’t for the brilliant illustration idea, which I kicked around for another hour before getting up to jot down a few ideas.  Finally, I could get to sleep. . . if only I weren’t so excited to start this new adventure. 

It was at this point, 4 sleepless hours into a good night’s rest, that I realized my monkey mind had gotten the best of me.  I had spent the past several hours developing a story to teach children how not to follow their brains down every rabbit hole only to fall down my own freshly dug terrain.  This big, deep, tiring hole was filled with flashy “What ifs” and “Can’t waits.”  These future selves were so exciting that I sacrificed the present peace. 

So today I sit, the present moment of last night’s future self, nodding off and dreaming of a good night’s rest.   Sleep – now there’s a novel idea.


Improvement Projects

Recently my husband and I have gutted our Kitchen in the hopes of quickly installing a shiny new one.  I should have known at the first swing of the hammer that no home improvement project is ever quick or easy.  First come the decisions: what color of cabinets, what type of countertops, which style flooring, wall color, curtains, etc.; the list goes on and on.  And just when you think you have it all figured out, an unexpected electrical error forces a change in plans.  If I have learned anything from home improvement projects it’s to pack plenty of patience, accept that alterations will be made and know that things don’t often go as planned.   Someday my home will be my sanctuary and all the work will pay off in dividends.

Self-improvement projects often follow the same pattern.  One guts one’s soul in the hopes of quickly filling it with laughter and joy only to discover that laughter and joy are on back order.  Instead you fill it with late night television and early morning cocktails.  Finding your peace is like making your house your home.  You’ve got to shop around a bit, try religions on and pick what works for you.  Sometimes you hit the nail on the head on the first try, and other times you discover one religion isn’t big enough to fill your soul.  Slowly – patiently your head will become your home – your sanctuary.  So, go ahead and swing that hammer.  It won’t be easy, it’s sure to get messy, but it will always be worth it in the end.


The other day I was having coffee at my favorite little shop when some friends and I began discussing spiritual quests.  Having dabbled in a variety of religious expeditions it was stated that I should move to a remote mountain top and sit in contemplation where I might come to extensive realizations about the meaning of life.  I must confess that this picture did seem rather quaint and fit the images of sages throughout history.  As lovely as this journey appeared on the surface, I am a city boy and need my creature comforts such as heat and indoor plumbing.  Besides, I have spent a lifetime making mountains out of molehills, climbing to the top only to sink down to the valleys of depressions – I have experienced great highs and terrifying lows.  I don’t need elevation to take my breath away.

According to the mountain sitting sages of yesteryear everything we will ever need in life is already with us – we are complete, self-actualized beings waiting to burst forth from the shells of disillusion.  With this in mind I sit in the coffee shop, 1,090 feet above sea level contemplating life.  It appears to me, from this vantage point, that life is pretty darn good.  I’m breathing easy, climbing obstacles as they come and enjoying the view.  I am my own mountain and each day I climb a little higher in a quest to conquer my fears and disillusion.  Someday I will arrive at my peak.  Until then I’ll continue navigating the terrain with a little patience, a lot of love and indoor plumbing.




One of my favorite fair games is the “Guess Your Age / Weight” booth; it’s my favorite because I always win.  My slender build apparently makes me look younger and terminally ill as I am always being under guessed on both accounts.  Mother Nature and Father Time have been kind to me throughout the years blessing me with good health and dewy skin.  Time, however, marches on and it has recently started marching across my face leaving little crow’s feet in its wake.  Age spots and laugh lines now announce to the world that I have changed age brackets and can officially be called “middle aged.”

I guess life isn’t a fair game and one cannot be young forever.  This wrinkle in time known as my existence is a blessing.  With this knowledge I’ve decided to gray gracefully, be ageless instead of trying to age less and consider my wrinkles as a sign of a life well laughed.  I still exercise and moisturize not because I am trying to defy Father Time, but because it’s a healthy habit Mother Nature rewards with high energy, a glowing smile, laughter and a few laugh lines.  I guess I can live with that.

Simple Simplicity

I used to cheat on tests.  Rather than study my notes or read the assignments, I spent my time devising elaborate plots and sneaky plans to acquire answers much the same way Scooby and the Mystery Gang developed zany traps to catch the bad guy.  I did things like write answers in code on the rubber edge of my shoes or create a system of coughs, yawns and pencil drops to coordinate with choices A, B, and C.  These highly detailed tactics helped me pass class, but they hardly prepared me for life.  I would have been better off to simply put forth the necessary effort and broaden my mental horizons to include the slope intercept formula and the names of all the states and their capitals. 

I used to cheat at life as well.  Rather than putting forth the effort to face things as they were, I devised storylines and characters that intercepted one another creating drama and despair.  My zany plans trapped me into thinking life was a constant struggle and capital sins were being committed to and by me.  Since this time, I have studied my behaviors and patterns and have come to realize that life is kind of like a test where each day we are faced with challenges and uncertainties.  The trick is to not cheat ourselves out of unlikely joys, but to read our intentions and respond accordingly.  The difficulty in life is realizing how simple it really is.  Sometimes life isn’t a matter of A, B, or C -- sometimes the answer is D (all of the above). 

Filling Gaps

My job title is technically Academic Specialist which is really Title 1 which means that I am a remedial reading and math teacher which means that I am . . .  well, that’s a bit more difficult to pinpoint.  My job description is to provide intensive interventions to students who struggle in reading and / or math in hopes of catching them up to speed and preparing them for their future academic endeavors.  I’m a gap filler – I find what skills are missing and I try and teach those skills in a way that is significant to the individual learner.  To accomplish this, I meet with students one-on-one for 30-minute sessions several times a week.  We get to know one another; I find what makes them tick and how best to teach to their needs.  Thrice yearly I assess their growth and continue down this path of recovery.  It’s a fantastic job and I cherish it dearly.

As a human my job description is simple – my job is to love; to love people, the planet, the unlovable.  My job is not to be loved or to tell people how to love.  To accomplish this task, I sit one-on-one (just me and myself) for 30 minutes in daily meditative contemplation.  I search my soul to seek what is missing and what skills I intend to set forward that day to help thrust humanity into a more peaceful future; this may be a simple smile, a kindly word or a helpful gesture.  Each day my skills as a peace keeper are tested.  Some days I fail, some days I succeed.  But the fact is I’m growing.  I’m filling in the gaps created by hardship and love loss.  I’ve found what works for me.  It wasn’t easy. It took lots of trial and error.  But here I am -- a teacher, a student, a lover of humanity. . .  and I’ve got a lot of work to do.


Growing up I had a smile that could best be described as “out of place.”  My teeth were better suited for a Jack-O-Lantern and maintained a somewhat “sculpted out of barren earth” quality.  This, however, did not stop me from smiling and upon entering high school I headed to the orthodontist who, through pain and patience aligned my chompers to a more suitable position.  Through the support of braces, headgear and faithful friends willing to look past my metal mouth I survived the awkward years.  Today I smile freely confident all is right.  I still wear Invisiligns at night to keep things from shifting and visit my dentist regularly in hopes that this maintenance program will keep things in place for years to come.

My teeth aren’t the only things that were out of line.  My thoughts too had shifted throughout the years leaving me hopeless and barren and, much like my teeth needed support, my soul needed assistance.  I needed something to put things in place so I could smile again.  And thus, began the ongoing process of awareness and acceptance.  Like visiting the orthodontist, witnessing your truths can be a painful experience, but through pain and patience comes alignment.  Thoughts, like teeth, shift if left unattended.  Our souls need support – something to brace them up in times of trouble.  I’ve found that with a few quiet moments of nonjudgmental contemplation and a few good friends willing to accept your flaws, the truth is a lot less painful than perceived.  In fact, the truth is pretty darn good when accepted for what it is – it’s a moment in time – a fleeting experience.   Like braces captured in senior pictures, the truth is undeniable and totally harmless. 



Learning the Language

Bon jour, mon nom est Mark and I am learning French.  I’m not travelling to Paris or taking a college class, I’m not even making French toast; learning the language is just something I want to do.  So, I’ve bought some books, downloaded the app and have begun fumbling my way through conversations, conjugating verbs and missing connections.

Another language I am trying to learn is the language (or should I say, “languages”) of love.  According to Gary Chapman there are five love languages and each of us speaks a primary version.  My own is Acts of Service, but I dabble in Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch.  For now, I’m struggling to make the connections – my verbs (actions) don’t conjugate well with my intent, but I’m learning.  By practicing giving love the way others receive love I am hoping to communicate in a more meaningful way.  I’m not fluent in love yet, but I’m certainly getting better.  Until then, as the French say, “Beaucoup d’amour àvous, mon ami,” -- “Much love to you, my friend.”



This morning, while sitting in meditation, trying to silence my thoughts, I began noticing all the sounds around me – the heater fan, the ticking of the clock, cars running the stop sign outside my home, and I realized how much noise is involved in silence.  Through much patience and practice, I managed to tune out the outside world and began to notice the noise inside.  My mind was aflutter with questions: What shall I have for breakfast?  Is my spine aligned?  Does anyone stop at that stop sign? 

For all the noise about quieting the mind I realized it is the most difficult simple thing to do.  I also realize that as days tick by unnoticed and weeks pass by into years, stopping to appreciate the calm in the chaos is something I must do.  I must stop my incessant thoughts, I must stop worrying about my imperfections, and I must stop at the stop sign outside my house.  I must do all this and more, but first I must stop obsessing about stopping.

Making Friends

Making new friends can be an arduous task.  Often times we are bogged down with fear and doubt in the presence of the unknown; we question our beliefs, our interests and if we have spinach stuck in our teeth.  We create scenarios where we are laughed at, degraded or completely ignored, and by the time we have built up the courage to make our presence known, the moment has passed so we retreat back into ourselves missing yet another opportunity to connect with a like-minded spirit. 

Miss Manners tells us to make friends we need to be A.L.E.R.T. – Amiable, Loyal, Encouraging, Respectful and Thoughtful.  Follow this simple acronym and abundant friendships will be awaiting your chance encounter.  So, brush your teeth, hold your head high and introduce yourself.

Thanks to Miss Manners I know how to make friends with strangers, now how do I make friends with myself?  Over the years I have cordoned off parts of my personal history that are less than flattering – not only do they have gunk in their smiles, they are fairly well grimy all over, yet this unfriendly past likes to creep into my friendly presence and make me question my interests and my beliefs.  For years I have chosen to ignore these truths and hang out with the parts of my mind I enjoy.  But I can’t hide any longer.  I must remain ALERT.  So today I greet the unsociable parts of my soul – I stick out my hand and I say, “Welcome.  Thanks for coming.  Because of you I am me and because I am me, I think it best we be friends.”  I respect my pain, but I shan’t remain loyal.  Sorry Miss Manners, but four out of five ain’t bad.


It is said that the average American weighs approximately 175 pounds.  It is also said that the average person will cry 64 liters (141 pounds) of tears in his lifetime.  I’m no mathematician, but that formula doesn’t leave a lot of room for anything else.  In fact, it leaves a mere 34 pounds for the rest of living.  We could fill that 34 pounds with 16 pizzas, or 44 cans of bear, 15,422-dollar bills or with countless smiles.  Many things weigh heavy on our hearts and make us feel like we are drowning in sorrow.  Literal oceans of tears are created by human suffering.  And if we allow ourselves to float along and never rock the boat to see what happens, we may be stuck in this sea of sorrow forever.

This may sound depressing, but the beautiful truth is that freedom and joy are our true nature.  We may cry tears of sorrow or tears of joy – the choice is ours.  So, go ahead and rock the boat; if you fall in you can laugh at yourself knowing that suffering is a part of life and that joy is yours for the taking.  As Truvy Jones said in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

Air Breathers

According to science the first air breathing animal dragged himself onto land about 4.8 billion years ago.  Finding himself in hot water and wanting a bit more out of life, this pre-historic fish dragged himself onto land and took his first breath of fresh air beginning an evolutionary process that has led to this moment.  This process was fraught with difficulties – how to walk for instance or how to protect oneself from the elements to name just a few.  Somehow this fish, through time and patience, gave rise to a new life form from which all of us air breathers have descended.  

Evolution is a change in an organism that better allows it to adapt to its environment in order to help it survive.  Humans, like all life forms, evolve.  I think of my own evolutionary processes.  Finding myself in a bit of hot water and wanting more out of life than the cesspool of misery and discontent in which I had been living, I dragged myself out and took a deep breath of fresh air.  And then I took another and another until I was able to ground myself in my new-found freedom.  No longer tied to my past thinking I am able to stand upright and accept responsibility for my own evolution.  I have developed skills to protect myself from the harsh realities of life.  Through time and patience, I have arrived at this moment – a moment of utter contentment and though I still haven’t grown a set of wings, I feel as though I can fly. 


I played many games as a child, everything from Red Rover, Red Rover to Freeze Tag to Hide-n-Seek.  For me, as a tiny child, Hide-n-Seek was my favorite.  I was wiry and malleable and fit nicely into tight crevices and dark corners.  Throughout my years as a hider and a seeker, I have found that the best places to hide are in plain sight.  Humans, hard wired to sense danger, see only what we are seeking which means we are blind to the obvious and blind to our blindness – when we focus intently on one thing (such as where a person may be hiding), we don’t see other things (such as the person sitting next to the fence).  This single-minded blindness helps us get immediate tasks done but also severely limits our sense of the world.

I have found, from years of looking for happiness in all the wrong places, that joy can be found in the most obvious locations.  Happiness is a budding tree, a kindly word, or sitting quietly next to the fence.  There is no need to travel the world when there is a world of pleasure right in your own back yard.  With this knowledge in mind I open my eyes and holler out, “Red Rover Red Rover send Happy right over.”  With any luck, Joy will bust through. 

Forging Ahead

I have been small my whole life – sleight in stature and vertically challenged.  This ailment has left me stranded on the high end of the teeter-totter and the last one chosen for sporting event on more than one occasion.  To overcome this dainty dilemma, I grew a big personality and an incredible work ethic.  I’ve garnered awards, accolades and an appetite for achievement.  I push myself to exhaustion and beyond all in the attempt to prove my worthiness to a past that doesn’t even know I exist.  At this pace I may push myself right into an early grave.  The average American male has a life expectancy of 78 years and I am certain, with a little hard work, I can die at 73.

The problem is I don’t want to die at 73 or even 78.  I want to live to be at least in the triple digits (as if I needed to prove something else).  But how do I live to the high end of mortality with my heightened sense of duty slowly killing me?  Perhaps I don’t need to prove myself so much as forget myself.  I need to forget the follies of the past and forge a future of forgiveness.  I need to pitch perfection and downshift my drive for success.  I need to let go.  So now I begin.  I’ll start with this senten. . .


Once upon a time my husband and I bought two tickets to paradise (otherwise known as Jamaica).  We strolled along white sand beaches, dined on richly seasoned food and drank deep, dark coffee; we snorkeled, played games and sipped exotic umbrella drinks to our heart’s content.  For 5 days and 6 nights our spirits were lifted and our souls were brightened. And then we boarded our plane and came home descending down from heaven and into drizzling rain, bland cuisine and Folgers coffee.  So much for paradise.

Since our time in Nirvana I have dealt with dark days and poor choices.  For years I’ve yearned for my utopian paradise growing deeply depressed and broken hearted.  Why could I not find my own heaven on Earth? With spirit broken I took some time to investigate this conundrum.  Utopia, by its very definition, is an imagined place or state of being in which everything is perfect. Simply stated -- utopia doesn’t exist in reality.  So, I took it upon myself to make the best of what I had. Sunshine? Check. A place to call home? Check. Someone to love and who loves me? Check. Once I focused my attention on the things I had rather than on the things I wanted, I realized my paradise was with me all the while.  Nirvana isn’t a location, it’s a state of mind -- the only thing missing is an exotic little umbrella.

A Grain of Truth

When I was a child my brother told me that grits were made from pig guts and, as a dutiful younger sibling, I believed him.  It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20’s that I discovered grits are made from grains and are actually quite delicious.  For the greater part of two decades I suffered the loss of a breakfast staple holding fast to a belief that wasn’t mine.

It appears that we, as people, are loyal to our suffering.  I was told I had depression and therefore was depressed; I was informed I was manic and dutifully swung into action.  I held onto those identities without question, believing in my guts that I was born to suffer.  Truth is – I wasn’t.  Grits are grains and suffering is optional and both can be a delicious part of life when prepared in the proper fashion: a little cheese, a lot of love and smothered in acceptance make both grits and suffering completely palatable.  But don’t believe me. . .  try it for yourself.


In the 80’s I had a mullet.  It wasn’t Billy Ray Cyrus long or Bon Jovi big, but it was business in the front, party in the back and I wore it proudly.  This fashion faux pas required a lot of work and we children of the 80’s worked hard.  We moussed and dried and sprayed and fluffed a hole clean through the ozone layer in an attempt to plug said hole with big bangs and crunchy curls.  Volume was the key to this style and we cranked up the puff to unnatural proportions.  Now, years later, we look back at our high school yearbooks with fond memories and nervous laughter giving the caveat, “Everyone was doing it,” so the atrocious hair was forgivable.

Today my hair, what’s left of it, is cropped short and requires little more than a spritz of water and a light pat down.  I’ve replaced my businesses in the front, party in the back to peace in the front, chaos in the back.  I’ve left the heartache, the pain and the mousse in the past and face my present with patience and understanding knowing that forgiveness holds my heart and hair in place better than Aqua Net and anger.  I’ve worked hard to make myself whole – I’ve lowered the volume of distraction and have filled my heart with love, neither of which cause holes in the ozone.  Come on, try it – everyone is doing it.



Eye for an I

Growing up I was taught that I was not allowed to throw the first punch but that I was allowed to hit back.  With this sound piece of logic tucked into my pocket I went forth doing unto others as they had done unto me – when hit in the eye, I hit back, and when hurt in the heart I hurt back.  I held on to grudges and grief letting them build up until a hurricane of emotion unleashed itself onto the innocent.  Tucked safely away in the eye of my own storm I trudged on giving as I had been given believing all of my actions were justified.

All this emotional and physical punching did little to ease my pain and brought even less in the form of gratitude.  Turns out “an eye for an eye” doesn’t make the whole world equal, it makes the whole world blind.  And blind I was indeed.  Not only did I suffer from the “eye for an eye” mentality, I had also been inflicted with the “I for an I” attitude – meaning I did what was best for me.  I took what I wanted without stopping to see the effects of my actions.  My selfishness had effectively blinded me and in turn had blinded others to my good qualities.  I am a kind soul with a gentle heart whose eyes have opened to the error of his ways.  I now see people for who they are – individuals struggling to make their lives better.  If we stop to take the time to see people as complete individuals and not as individual acts, we may find the infliction of pain isn’t about hurting an individual, it’s about an individual’s hurt.  Let’s see each other as equals who make mistakes.  “An eye for an eye” may make the whole world blind, but having “an eye for an I” can make the whole world kind.


My husband has recently been on a hunt for health care coverage – not an easy task for a man of a certain age with a certain number of pre-existing conditions.  The thing with insurance is they will gladly pay for your long term, reactive care but will not pay for pro-active tests – no need to check the heart if it’s still beating, but when it stops, they’ve got you covered.  It seems Blue Cross and Blue Shield may leave you feeling blue and we, as a society, have grown to accept this reactivity as normal.  We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours covering up and bandaging what could have been prevented.

This is how life unfolds for many of us – something happens and we react (or overreact) without ever investigating causes and intent. This pre-existing judgment frequently leads to unnecessary suffering: misunderstandings lead to broken hearts instead of conversations; missed dates lead to cancelled friendships instead of rescheduled laughter.  If we want to be content with our lives then we have to pro-actively manage our thoughts.  To avoid the blues, we have to investigate the blues, to unbreak the heart we must examine the heart.  Look inside and trust yourself because, as All State Insurance says, “You’re in good hands.”

I Spy

I’m not an observant person for the most part.  I miss the forest for the trees and am certain to be struck dead by a bus while I am busy thinking of future endeavors.  Though I tend to miss the big picture, I can pick out the details.  I can find Waldo in a sea of red and white stripes and spy 7 “G”’s and 2 Paper Clips hidden in the I Spy photo.

This absence of a big picture has plagued me most of my existence.  I’ve searched for God and the meaning of life only to get bogged down and mired up in the silly trivialities of day-to-day troubles.  I replay injustices over and over, dwell on past pains and predict imperfect futures all the while blaming God and the Universe for my failures when instead I should be focusing on lowercase god – the god who is in the details.  This god (the god of good) presents himself not in a flowing white beard and red and white striped shirt, but in the warmth of a breeze, the aroma of a flower, the crook of a stranger’s smile.  This god, like Waldo, frequently hides in plain sight and can only be spied when you aren’t trying too hard to find him.  So stop searching for the capital “G” God and take in all the good around you; maybe then you will see the god in the details and, if you really pay attention, you won’t get hit by a bus either.


There are many events in life that help shape who we are.  Events such as winning a sporting competition, being elected Prom King or getting an “A” in Algebra give us a sense of accomplishment and value like few other events can.  We regale strangers at parties with tales of accomplishment to ensure them we are worthy of their time and though these events are small pieces of the puzzle known as the Self, they are not the total picture.  I say this because there are other happenings in life which are less productive but also tend to define who we are; memories of abuse and failure often creep into our daily lives and bring us down making us feel as though we are somehow incomplete and broken.  Balancing the positive and negative can be a royal pain in the ass, but if we can somehow exercise our free will and separate Self from the things that happen to the Self, we may begin to realize that we are a whole lot greater than the sum of our parts.   Events may define a moment, but a moment doesn’t have to define a life.


Over the past year or so I have been deeply entrenched in a minimalist movement.  I’ve whittled down my clothing to a total of 100 articles (including shoes, socks, shirts, shorts, pants, ties and manties [panties for men]).  Having completed this gargantuan task, I moved (or should I say removed) on to room décor, furniture and finally luggage.  Through the years I have collected quite an assortment of travel paraphernalia from exotic locals and stashed them away thinking I may someday use the swizzle sticks and beach bags.  Sifting through these items brought about thoughts of old escapes and future disappointments.  The time had come to move on – a new life doesn’t need old baggage.

As humans we tend to drag our pasts into future endeavors.  We over pack, pay the fines and never use the things we thought we needed.  In truth, we need only a single carry-on containing love and forgiveness.  So, let go of regret, release heartache and hop on the plane to your happiness.  When you leave the past in the past and live for the now you always arrive on time.


When I was a teenager, I joined BMG Music Club and got 12 cassettes for a penny.  Being a lover of music, this deal seemed tailor made for me.  Among my first tapes were Cindy Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, Greatest Hits of the 80’s and John Lennon’s (Just Like) Starting Over.  From these cassettes I collected a dozen of my favorite songs and placed them on a mixed tape – the soundtrack of my life at the time.  I played this tape over and over, memorizing every word and dancing to the beat.  It is safe to say that I knew 12 songs really well and mumbled through any music played on the radio.  Change was not my favorite track and thusly never got played. 

Frequently we structure our lives like a mixed tape – we play set rolls, believe certain things and close ourselves off to anything deemed “unusual.”  Each day becomes a repeat of the day before and our greatest hits become yesterday’s favorites.  It is at this point we need to tune into the world around us and channel our energies into acceptance.  Life is more than just our top 12 memories.  It is a veritable playlist of potential hits, but if we never play them, we’ll never know.  It’s time to update our stagnant mixed tape to digital radio where the hits are non-stop and new favorites await discovery.  It’s time to make a new soundtrack, and the good news is it won’t cost a cent.  Every day is a new day and it’s just like starting over.

On the Menu

I began my writing career as a food columnist for a weekly paper.  Once a week I would dine at a new restaurant to sample its delights.  I tasted wines from around the world, ordered hors d'oeuvres and devoured decadent desserts. For the most part my reviews were positive, but there were the occasional culinary catastrophes that left a bad taste in the mouth.  After a year or so of this adventure I left the paper to sample other offerings from Life’s menu.

I tasted success, ordered friendships and devoured new experiences and for the most part this new life was good, but there were a few catastrophes that were unpalatable – too much drinking made me a drunk, friendships flailed and death was anything but decadent.  So, after several years of these misadventures I ordered a fresh start and came to the realization that all men will taste disappointment and death, but only some will taste life.  So today I taste life and it is good.  I start with a glass of gratitude and finish with a feast of forgiveness.  Mmmmm.  Tasty.




Morning yoga has its problems – it’s early, I’m tired and my brain is still stuck in dreamland, but physical exercise is a priority so I buckle down, limber up and try my hardest.  Like most life events, I feel it is best to ease into my yoga session; I start with recumbent stretches and work my way up to standing poses before settling back down to sitting meditation.  After years of this routine, you’d think I’d be a pro, but alas I am not.  Frequently, when I try to exercise my body and exorcise my mind, I allow my brain to branch out into other thoughts.  Before long a storm of mental activity has hijacked my routine and my tree pose sways precariously, its weak roots twisting and turning in an attempt to carry the weight of my thoughts.  Timber!

Storms of the mind are much like storms in the sky – they are dark and scary and make our days difficult to complete.  Frequently, when darkness falls upon us, we topple over succumbing to the winds of chaos when instead we should take heed from the trees.  Trees bend and shift allowing storms to pass through, and each storm makes the tree take deeper roots.  We too can become malleable in thought and stay rooted in peace.  Instead of lumbering around rehashing the past or predicting the future, we can plant ourselves in the present moment and open our minds to the possibilities of the Now, even if right now is tiresome and early.  Eventually Now will be later and the storms will have passed, but until then I remain slightly off balance -- Timber!

Lost in Translation

In modern times we rely on electronic communication to relay feelings and ideas – we email, text and tweet our messages to friends and coworkers in vain attempts of actually communicating.  Often times these messages are misconstrued and become something completely foreign to what was intended.  It’s as if we were in the 2nd grade and playing a game of “Telephone” where the first student whispers, “Freedom, love and the pursuit of happiness,” and the last student hears, “Feel free to sue my Aunt Enis.”  What?  That doesn’t make sense.  Such is the case in disembodied words. 

According to psychologist these crossed wires have more to do with our own feelings and expectations than the actual words.  In the absence of facial expression, tone of voice and good old-fashioned “vibe,” we tend to “fill in the blanks” with assumptions and judgments.

Over the past several years I have tried to disconnect with judgment and instead call my attention to the truths of each moment, and in doing so I have hung up my past depression.  Today I am happy.  Most people see the word “Happy” and think euphoria, laughter or unbridled frivolity, but that is not what true happiness means.  Janis Joplin once sang that “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose,” and I feel that definition is spot on, so if I may dial into Ms. Joplin, I will define happiness as, “having nothin’ left to fear.”  Today I am happy – I am unafraid.  I fear not my past, I fret not my future and I don’t even have an Aunt Enis to muck things up.  Happiness. . . pass it on.


I used to believe I was adopted and that my real parents were fabulously wealthy.  I was certain they were watching me from afar and waiting for the moment when I performed some amazing task like saving a child from a burning building or turning water into wine.  Upon the completion of said miracles this make-believe parental unit would burst onto the scene, grace me with their presence, sweep me away from my menial existence and thrust me into a new lavish life of servants, sailing and sunshine.  So far there have been no miraculous mergings of water and wine and no money bags; just regular ol’ me and my fine, fancy-free folks living our lives of minor miracles and little graces. 

Another belief to which I clung was the belief that I was broken – that life had singled me out and beat me down.  Not only were my parents not fabulously wealthy, I was scrawny, sad and sick of myself.  I believed I was hopelessly flawed and destined for heartache.  Yet here I sit unbroken with a beating heart.  Perhaps it is not me who is flawed, but my beliefs instead.  Maybe we all cling to better versions of ourselves – someone richer, someone stronger, someone heartier.  But I’m guessing that person already exists inside us and is just waiting for the moment we perform the miracle of opening our hearts and minds to the possibilities that we are already perfect.  We don’t need money or strength or wine.  We need acceptance – acceptance of ourselves and of others.  Adopt this belief and you will see how perfect your imperfections can be.


The Art of Acceptance

As an appreciator of art, I have always wished I could paint like Picasso or draw like da Vinci, but instead I do both like an uninspired toddler.  I start with a grand idea and somewhere between my head and my hand the vision is jumbled -- my dainty dog has turned into a horrific horse and my house has become a hapless heap.  I could erase it all and start over hoping to turn my mess into a masterpiece or I could call my landscape an abstract and decide it is a beautiful expression in form and idea.  After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I think it is better to call this art experiment a happy accident rather than sad ineptitude.  Whatever you call it, it is definitely not what it started out to be.

Like my misadventures in art, my life too has become something other than what it started out to be.  Somewhere between the grand idea of fame and fortune came sorrow and sadness and since life is the art of drawing without an eraser, I had to make the best of what I had created.  Instead of calling my existence a fantastic failure I call it an act of acceptance; my many mistakes have become mini miracles for lessons learned for without the hapless happenings I wouldn’t be where I am today, and today I am an appreciator of all things present be it houses, horses or uninspired toddlers.

Give a Cheer

Growing up I was never much of a sportsman – I wasn’t into football or baseball or any other ball for that matter.  I was however into Tae Kwon Do.  My brother (my childhood hero) was into it and therefore I was into it.  I kicked and stretched and punched my way to a second-degree black belt before quitting and joining the Cheerleading squad where I kicked and stretched and spirit fingered my way to the top of the pyramid.  Back in those days I could do the splits, back flips and kick higher than I could reach.  Ah yes, the glory of youth.

These days I’m into yoga and spirit leading.  I kick and stretch but can no longer do the things I once could do – my splits don’t reach the ground and my kicks only reach my head, but I haven’t given up.  Instead, I have let go.  I’ve kicked the idea of forever young out the door and have spread my thoughts to the acceptance of an aging body.  My muscles may ache, but my heart is content sitting at the top of this new, sturdier pyramid.  Now I cheer for my Self the way I used to cheer for others, “We are proud of you, say we are proud of you!”


My first Major in college was Theatre, and then it was Liberal Arts, Writing, then English, then Education, back to English, one more shot at Education and now it’s Reading.  Some of these have ended in various degrees, others will just be chalked up to life experience.  During this major Major crisis of identity seeking, my one constant was that throughout the schooling experience, my Minor remained History.  I love history.  I’m fascinated by other cultures and times.  I am thoroughly perplexed that hundreds and thousands of years ago, without the aid of computers, we could build pyramids, create governmental systems, aqueducts and Parcheesi; we found love and family and uncharted islands then somehow, during the Dark Ages, managed to lose or forget that knowledge. Now, with all our advanced technology we can find solar spots on distant suns, but we can’t recreate the pyramids, keep the government operating or manage to find two matching socks.  Yes, history’s mysteries are fun to explore and have much to teach us; yet the mystery of our personal histories run deep with moral and intrigue.

Today I was thinking, “What if my history had been different?  What if I had made better choices, had always done the right thing, had listened to my heart?  What might my present be if my past had been different?”  And then I realized it didn’t matter.  I am where I am.  My life has been built up, crumbled down and rebuilt, I’ve been lost and found and thoroughly confused.  I’ve survived my dark ages and now I’m in uncharted territory.  I’m discovering that it’s not me who suffers, only the person I have imagined myself to be.  My past is done, my future is not here, it’s the present that is omnipresent.  And so my story goes.  I’m living my now, accepting my past and searching for my missing sock. 

Faking It

When I was in beauty school we were instructed to, “Fake it ‘till you make it,” – so you’ve never given a crew cut, act as though you’ve given hundreds; all of your perms relax after 48 hours, pretend it was a body wave.  Basically, we were told to lie until the skills we were learning could catch up and turn our fibs into facts.  Now, decades later, this heresy of hair truths can be backed up by hard fought know-how and practiced integrity. 

Faking it reaches well beyond business and deep into our personal lives.  For instance: I used to fake that I was happy – I smiled, I laughed and did the things I was supposed to do and then 48 hours later I’d shut the door and weep.  I did this for decades believing that someday I’d make it – I’d actually become the happy person I was faking being.  But faking it isn’t enough.  We have to work at it; we have to get uncomfortable and face unhappy truths.  We must keep doing this and faking it until we aren’t faking it anymore.  Much like the practice of perming requires trials and errors, the practice of happiness too takes a bit of trial and error.  So, relax, mistakes will be made, suffering will occur.  Keep smiling and learning – eventually you won’t be faking it and, when that moment arrives, you’ll see the beauty in the journey. 


When I was in high school, I had many nicknames; there was “Marky Mark,” “Markus Aurelius,” and my personal favorite, “Shut Up, Faggot,” this last one given to me by a Neanderthal football player whose locker was housed just outside the Drama Room (my home away from home).  Each day I was greeted by this cro-magnum’s personalized nom de plume and each day I ventured forth a little changed by the experience.

Since the days of nicknames and their ensuing drama I have evolved.  The mild-mannered Marky Mark has grown to become magnanimous Mr. Edmondson.  My calloused heart has collapsed and softened, my fragile soul has expanded and forgiven.  This evolution has led this homosexual Homo-sapien to forgive that Neanderthal for I now know that hurt people often hurt people and that loving people can love people.  So, I send my love to the big bully and to all the bullies of the world for the only way to conquer hate is with love. 

Road Blocks

As a creature of habit, I know one way to every place and I take that way even if a shorter route is available.  For the most part this strict regime has served me well, but every now and then my road is blocked and I am forced to venture into the unfamiliar.  My stress levels rise as I chart dark alleys and dead-end roads.  Curse those city employees and their flashing yellow lights – how dare they make my path smoother.

Eventually, the roads are fixed, the barricades are removed and all is forgiven.  Forgiveness seems to have that effect – it removes blocks between where we are and where we want to be.  If your relationship is a little bumpy – forgive your partner.  If past thinking is blocking your future endeavors – forgive yourself.  If dark thoughts have led to dead ends – try forgiveness; it’s a turn in the right direction.

The Big Bang

Once upon a creation, on the corner of Time and Space, there was a Big Bang and all life was born (or born again [and again and again]).  Eventually this hot mess spread out and formed the Earth and life and sticky situations.  Since then people have explored the farthest reaches of the galaxy searching for answers to questions of origin, purpose and identity.

I too have sought answers to these questions and it appears to me that if our DNA is essentially stardust then, aren’t we all the centers of our own universe?  With this belief in hand I boldly went where every man has gone (and has come from) before – I went inside; I explored my thoughts, my intentions and my big, banging heart.  What I discovered was the universal truth: We are all one -- one perfect being waiting at the corner of Time and Space.



Going Through the Motions

Every day I greet the morning with a hearty, “Good morning, Morning.  It’s going to be a wonderful day.”  It’s my way of getting started on the right foot.  After this ritual is complete, I feed the dogs, brush my teeth and begin my hour-long session of yogatation.  This time is meant to be a retreat for my body and my mind, stretching both and soothing raw nerves and painful reminders of deeds done.  A few Downward Dogs, 108 chants in Sanskrit and a million thoughts later I’m ready to start my regularly scheduled life.  That is always the intention, but like many good intentions, things don’t always go as planned.  My mind wanders, I lose my balance and I go through the motions never really getting myself aligned. 

I do this a lot in life – go through the motions.  I show up for events, smile, nod my approval, spend my 108 minutes in the company of others without ever really aligning my spirit with theirs.  The experience is pleasant but forgettable and I soon retreat to the comforts of my own home where I can begin the downward spiral of, “Oh woe is me.”  Eventually I catch myself in my negative thinking and stretch beyond the thought and into the acceptance of the thought.  Thoughts have no real power; they’re just firing and misfiring of neurons; we give them power by attaching judgment – this thought good, that thought bad.  Judgment throws us off balance.  If we want to stay aligned and start off on the right foot, we’ve got be fully present in every aspect of our lives rather we are brushing our teeth or brushing off the events of the past.  Take a deep breath.  And exhale.  Now back to your regularly scheduled life.

Al B. Sure

The number one song for the month of April, 1986 was Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus,” or as my good friend thought it was called, “Eat me I’m a Danish.”  A silly mistake, but I can see how it could happen, after all, I was certain P.M. Dawn’s “I’d Die Without You” was called “I’m Down with Al B. Sure.”  These minor mishaps prove that we only know what we know and we stick with that (singing it at the top of our lungs) until we learn the truth.

History is riddled with men (and women) who were sure of one thing only to discover their truths were based on falsehood.  Christopher Columbus, searching for spices, found America.  Dr. Spencer Silver sought a super-strong adhesive only to develop the Post-it note.  Siddhartha Gautama shielded from the suffering of others eventually became a Buddha and taught that suffering is the path to enlightenment. Each of these men were experts in their field yet somehow managed to fail on an epic level and turn that failure into an unforeseen success. 

Though I’m no expert on any one thing, I have experienced epic failure – I’ve failed at love, I’ve failed at friendship, I’ve even failed at “Name That Song.”  And like Columbus and Shakyamuni Buddha I have sought to turn my failures / sufferings into success.  I’ve embraced life’s difficulties, acknowledged my shortcomings and learned the falsehood of my truths.  I may be no history maker, but I am making a new history for myself; a history of seeking and finding, of learning and growing, of acceptance and love.  I may remain uncertain about song lyrics and geography, but Al B. Sure to keep on searching for the truth.

Choosing Paths

I love hiking.  Trekking through the woods and taking in nature in all her glory.  I’ve spent many an afternoon walking down the paths carved out in the hills by all of the nature lovers who have gone before me.  Every now and then I get adventurous and walk my own path.  Hoofing it through the rough and tumble hills can be challenging without a guide and more times than not I wind up twisting an ankle or breaking a nail.  That’s the price you pay for going it alone.

Trekking through life can be a bit like conquering nature.  You can stay on the well-traveled roads created by others and live the life someone else has created for you, or you can venture off and make your own way.  Mistakes will be made, twisted thoughts will occur, you might never reach your planned destination; but much like the rogue hiker in uncharted territory – you must trust the ground beneath you.  Approach each step carefully, feel your feelings and for Goodness’ sake, use a guide book.  Read.  Listen.  Ask.  Although the path is yours, you are not alone.  Seek your truths in the truths of others who share your goals.  Cherry pick what works for you and create your own map.  Eventually, with time and patience, you will see the forest for the trees.  After all, the journey is the destination.


On warm summer days I like to lie still in the grass and make shapes out of clouds – tiny turtles combine to become giant giraffes which are swallowed by seas of cirrus clouds making their way into the future.  On other occasions, when I’m feeling less perceptive, I see only wisps and blobs making storms on the horizon.

Our lives, like drifting clouds, change from moment to moment with our perceptions.  Sometimes tiny events are blown into giant storms and those storms wreak havoc on our lives.  Without awareness we may misinterpret our experiences as something other than what they are -- a moment in time making its way into the future.  So, sit still for a while and let the clouds clear.  The future is what you make it.




One of my guilty pleasures is staying up late and watching infomercials until the wee hours of the morning.  I’m enthralled by the inability of the average adult to successfully crack an egg or hold a beverage without the aid of today’s newest “can’t live without” invention.  Sleep deprivation makes me think,” Gosh, my life would be so much easier if only I spend the $9.99 on this fantastic item.”  So, I whip out my credit card and anxiously wait for my next disappointment to arrive in the mail.  And disappointing it is; I use and abuse my cracker of eggs making a mess and cursing my gullibility.  Slowly I begin to realize that wrapping lies in pretty packages doesn’t make them true or worthy or any less messy.

I’ve followed this pattern for much of my life – thinking I am broken or inept then believing the lies I am told hoping for a quick fix.  But the truth is I’m neither broken nor inept.  I’m quite good at handling broken hearts and broken eggs.  I don’t need the aid of empty promises and free shipping.  I just need to crack open my heart, examine my truths, trust in my abilities and maybe go to sleep a little earlier.


I’m an intelligent man by most accounts.  I read voraciously, write studiously and love unconditionally, yet with all this wisdom I still do a lot of dumb things: I chain myself to untrue thoughts, I break my heart again and again and behave in ways that are detrimental to my health.  Oh, when shall I smarten up and free myself from this pattern?

They say that as we get older, we get wiser and I believe this to be true for I have taken a few lessons to my broken heart and have accepted their truths as fact.  Wisdom tells me I am nothing – that the world will survive without me; Love says that I am everything – that my heart will go on and on.  It is between these two that I must learn to live for as we become wise, the heart becomes free and I am intelligent enough to know that a free heart is a wise thing to have.  Lesson learned.



6 Degrees

Back in the 90’s I used to play a game called 10 Degrees of ME.  It was based on the game 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but since I’m not famous I reckoned I should get a couple extra steps.  Having met a few famous people, I could usually connect any person, anywhere in the world to me within 10 steps.  Here’s an example: I’ve met Mathew Broderick who is married to Sarah Jessica Parker who was in Footloose with Kevin Bacon who is connected to everyone in the world.  Done!  The idea is that all living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other.  In other words – we are all interconnected.

Today, my 10 Degrees of ME game is somewhat different.  Instead of linking myself to movie stars, I’m attempting to chain my happiness and peace of mind to those who need it most.  If the theory is correct that we are all connected and it is also true that happiness is contagious, then isn’t it possible that my smile could literally brighten the universe?  So, to you, my new-found friend, I wish you all the joy in the world – may your days be filled with wonder and merriment.  Now if you can smile at one other person who in turn smiles at another eventually Kevin Bacon will smile and we all know what happens then.  Now, more than ever, we “Gotta cut loose,” and let our happiness shine through. 

Two Doughnut Days

I’m a naturally fidgety person – I shake my legs, pace the room, randomly burst out in song and dance, and in doing so manage to burn a lot of calories (around 350 a day according to most experts).  This constant movement helps me maintain my svelte figure and eases the guilt when I decide it is a two-doughnut day.  The problem with this movement is that it often detracts from feeling a presence with my moments.  I can’t seem to, as Depeche Mode sang, “Enjoy the Silence,” I flit about like a humming bird avoiding my thoughts and busying my hands with menial tasks meant to bring about a brighter future.

It has been said that, “Stillness is the language God speaks, and everything else is a bad translation,” and as much as I would like to say I am fluent in Godaneese, I can merely state my name and ask for directions.  As I wander aimlessly searching for answers, I’m forced to question what I am avoiding.  Why the need for constant movement, for mindless mental chatter?  I guess it doesn’t really matter for no matter where I go, I have no choice but to be there.  I’m tired of avoiding and I’m sick of being lost in translation -- it’s time to stop and learn the language.  “Hello, God.  It’s me, Mark.  Would you like a doughnut?  I have a feeling we’re going to be here for a while.” 


I’m skinny by nature – I can eat what I want and not gain weight.  As a teen I took advantage of this metabolic fortune and gorged myself with fries, fritters and fajitas never once thinking about the health consequences of my dietary choices. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I took an interest in my physical well-being; I began exercising and became conscious of what I fed my body.  My diet became balanced and my body responded with lasting energy and a smooth complexion.

Recently, having studied The Science of Happiness, I’ve come to realize that our souls need a healthy diet as well.  I’m not talking about broccoli and Brussel sprouts, I’m referring to developing healthy habits of consuming and appreciating micro-moments of joy on a daily basis.  These moments may consist of observing grass growing in the cracks of pavement or the sound of church bells on a sunny day.  These precious seconds are the leafy greens of happiness.  If we can train ourselves to notice these minor miracles (as we train ourselves to eat five servings of veggies each day) the result may be lasting mental energy and a smoothing out of life’s rough spots.  Now that sounds like a diet worth trying.



S & M

Most people spend their lives attempting to avoid discomfort – we swallow aspirin, get massages, and sidestep conflict, but according to Madonna, “There’s a certain satisfaction in a little bit of pain.”  For those of us who find pleasure in masochism we set up parameters to ensure our exquisite pain, as John Mellencamp says, “Hurts so good.”  To guarantee satisfactory satisfaction we create safe words, safety knots and establish mutual trust.  If these things can be guaranteed, then the suffering can be divine. 

Though I can appreciate a slap on the rump every now and then, I’m less than pleased when life slaps me in the face with emotional unpleasantness.  I used to tie myself to the turmoil describing it and myself with unsafe words such as: alone, broken, and hopeless.  What I lacked was trust – trust in myself and in the universal goodness of humanity.  Gradually I untethered myself from my misunderstandings and developed a new set of safety words to help me appreciate the pain, words like: acceptance, time, and presence.  Armed with these words I go forth, not seeking pain, but accepting its exquisite lessons. 


Olnygeniuoses can raed this sentecne. . . at least that’s what scientists tell us. It seems the mind wants desperately to make sense of the world around it and will, when necessary, make things fit into a context it recognizes.  “Olny” becomes “Only” or Jesus is spotted in the burnt crust of a grilled cheese simply because we really want those things to be so.

Sometimes this trick of the mind serves our greater good – typos don’t slow us down and the miraculous grilled Cheesus gives us hope in the divine.  But sometimes this mind play interferes with our acceptance of life as it is – the moment-to-moment unfolding of events that constitutes our existence.  Sometimes our minds make things that are things that aren’t.  For instance, if we have been hurt in the past, we assume we’ll be hurt in a similar fashion in the future.  This fallacy causes anxiety that tricks us into thinking we are destined to a life of disappointment and pain; but just as a grilled Cheesus is nothing more than burn toast, a painful past is nothing more than a difficult moment in time.  So, eat your sandwich, live your life and accept that you don’t have to be a genious to see the truth (and the truth is I misspelled genius).


Space, the final frontier.  These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. . . and every other sentient being.  Space is the one thing that is relatively constant on the micro and macro levels.  Everything of which we know (or think we know) consists of 99.99% space – this is the distance between planets, galaxies and the atoms in our bodies.  Our brains, which contain approximately one hundred billion nerve cells (about the same number as there are stars in our galaxy), think of this space as nothing.  The problem with this view of space is that it negates 99.99% of who we are (or think we are).

Space is not nothing – space is emptiness.  Emptiness doesn’t mean nothing exists at all, it means things don’t exist the way our grasping minds suppose they do.  A table, for instance, is not one solid object, it has legs, a top, sides, etc., and those parts are comprised of smaller parts – the top may be wood covered in glue and laminate which is comprised of malamine resin and fiber board, which is . . . well you get the picture.  And just as I (a man, a writer, a citizen) am made of even smaller parts (thoughts, feelings, emotions) which are made of even smaller parts.  My mission is to boldly go and investigate the space between my thoughts for just as the entire universe arose from emptiness, so too might my awakening arise from somewhere in the 99.99% of emptiness that comprises the Self.  It’s time to explore new worlds – to seek out new life, not in outer space, but in the space inside myself. 


“I’m hungry.”   I’ve said it a thousand times in a million different ways: “I’m hungry for fame,” “I crave the spotlight,” “I’m starving for attention,” yet rarely (if ever) have I been truly hungry in the traditional sense of the word – feeling or displaying the need for food.  There have been times when I wanted a second cookie or desired another helping of macaroni and cheese, but never have I gone without -- I simply plopped down my $5.00 and gobble up my designer cupcake.

It is estimated that 1 in 9 people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy and active lifestyle.  It is also estimated that ending world hunger would cost $30 billion per year.  Both of these problems seem too big to fathom, so let me do the math for you.  If every person, who isn’t starving, exchanged their $5.00 cupcake for a $5.00 food pantry donation, we would have a surplus of money in the World Food Fund.  You see, we don’t have to do everything, but we must do something.  Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”  With this in mind I find I no longer hunger for fame or desire fortune, but I do crave the chance to make a difference even if it is just $5.00 at a time.

The "F" Bomb

I was raised to never cuss.  No “F” bombs or foul mouths at my family table.  My mom was so opposed to “F” words that we tooted instead of farted.  Since that time of tooting and not giving a poop about cussing I haven’t really inserted “F” words into my every day existence.  For the most part this alleviation hasn’t caused any harm and has only led to a richer vocabulary fraught with fantastical hyperbole.  There is, however, an “F” word I have recently come to embrace that many find difficult to say.  That word is “Forgiveness,” and just as most people don’t know the true meaning of the “F” bomb (it’s Indo-European for -- to stab and dates back to the 1400s), they tend to misunderstand forgiveness.  Forgiveness isn’t about letting the offender off the hook and it isn’t a passive activity that demeans the offended.  Forgiveness does not mean forgetting; it doesn't necessarily even mean reconciling with the person who hurt you. Instead, it means changing your own attitude toward this original hurt so that it doesn't continue to wound you.  And the best part is that forgiveness can be learned and tends to be contagious.  So, the next time you’re thinking, “I hate you, you fucking asshole!” try thinking, “I forgive you, you little toot.”  I bet you’ll find your heart rate slows, your tension eases and your heart feels fuller.  Mom would be so proud. 

Continue Going Forward

I am directionally and technologically challenged.  I can’t find my way around a detour or a Smartphone.   To get to where I am going, I tend to rely on familiar landmarks and directions written on a post-it-note.  Having said this it will come as no surprise that my first encounter with a cell phone GPS system left me separated from my destination by a bridgeless ravine and the instructions to, “Continue going forward.”  With no place left to go, I nearly cast myself into the abyss in an attempt to be anywhere but where I was.

Detours such as this happen frequently in life.  We travel down our path to happiness only to find the road blocked with anger and ennui.  When we find we have come to the end of the road we can either hurl ourselves into the pit of depression or park our thoughts for a moment of quiet contemplation on the corner of Acceptance and Patience.  From this vantage point we can reprogram our hearts and just be happy to be on the journey.  Breath in.  And breath out.  Now, “Continue going forward.”

What Happens In Vagus. . .

One of my favorite vacation spots is Vegas.  It’s my favorite because it’s like a mini tour of the world: Paris, Rome, Hell – it can all be found in Vegas.  I am in “awe” beneath this neon heaven and when one is in awe, one’s stress level is reduced, one feels humbled and one’s state of well-being is improved.  When I wander the streets of Vegas, I feel a part of the global community – I am sophisticated like the Parisians, I am strong like the Romans and sometimes I act in devilish ways.  It’s a good thing, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

Another Vegas that lights up my life is the Vagus Nerve.  This nerve is our longest cranial nerve and acts as The Strip does in Vegas – it shuttles emotions from the brain to the heart, lungs and gut much the same way as Las Vegas Blvd. shuttles people from Paris to Caesars Palace; both have the potential to make us happy or sad, to feel good or bad.  To stimulate the Vagus Nerve, one only need to chant, laugh, breathe deeply, exercise, relax or engage in positive social relationships.  When these things happen, the Vagus Nerve lights up and we are transported to a state of “awe” where our devils are banished and you can bet feelings of well-being will pervade extending beyond ourselves and into the global community.  So, sit back, relax, chant a bit and know that what happen in this Vagus, doesn’t stay in Vagus.


For many years I crammed my days and nights with activities – work, rehearsals, cleaning, drinking, partying, drinking, movie watching and drinking.  This flurry of activity was meant to ensure I had a fulfilling life rich in experiences and void of emotional attachment.  If idle hands are indeed the devil’s workshop then I did everything I could to keep him (and every other soul) away.  I skated along life’s surface swallowing my feelings and numbing my mind trying desperately to avoid thin ice, but when one skates in such haphazard ways, one cannot avoid a breakdown.

Perhaps breakdown is the wrong word – maybe it should be called a break through, for once you have sunk to your bottom and the numbness wears off, you get a chance to see things clearly.  I wasn’t living a fulfilling life; I wasn’t really living at all.  A fulfilling life is one full of feeling, in fact, “fulfilling” literally means: making someone satisfied or happy because of fully developing his or her character or abilities.  Notice fulfilling isn’t about the self, it is about helping others and the only way to help others is to feel fully, to listen intently and to give freely.  So today I give myself to you.  And you.  And you.  Helping you fulfill your needs, fulfills mine. 


I like to think I am an organized person.  My bottles face forward, my spray tops face East, and if left to my own devices, I would label everything from (and including) floor to ceiling.  “A place for everything and everything in its place,” I always say.  This compulsion for labels and order help to simplify my life and make it easier to access whatever becomes necessary in any given moment be it flashlight batteries or organic pumpkin seeds; I have it all bagged and tagged.

There is a time when this order causes chaos and that time is morning meditation.  I sit facing East, counting my breaths and labeling my thoughts – in breath one, out breath two, this thought fun, that thought blue.  From this point, the mind panics, “Wait a minute, I’m not supposed to be judging my thoughts.  Oops, that was a judgement.  Crap!  Do I have any batteries?”  And on I go labeling my discontent.  Eventually I get a hold of my compulsion and label my thoughts as just that – thoughts.  They are not good.  They are not bad.  They are just thoughts coming and going somewhere beyond my head.

Professing to Pray

Working with children forces one to constantly look at life through different lenses.  As a teacher, each year brings a new group of students with different needs, views and beliefs.  As a professor of Life Skills, the topic of religion inevitably surfaces forcing me to challenge my beliefs.  Students ask, “Do you believe in God?” to which I respond, “I believe in Good, the double “o” god.” “Do you believe in Hell?”  they’ll inquire. “Where did we come from?” “What happens after we die?” And on it goes.

I don’t profess to have the answers, I just moderate the debate.  I espouse the views of religion, introduce the facts of science, and show them how to disagree appropriately.  Class ends and I carry the debate with me well into the wee hours of the morning where I come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter what any of us believe.  We’re here now and we’ll get wherever we’re going when we arrive. Until then, I pray to Goodness for acceptance.

Buddha's Hand

My first professional writing job was as a food columnist for a local paper.  This weekly gig paid me to go forth and eat.  Having feasted upon local fare, I put my experiences into type and gave readers a taste of something new.  Usually this task wasn’t terribly difficult as most of my culinary readers had adequately sampled Mexican entrees, southern soul food and Italian gelato – a few properly placed adjectives to activate the salivary glands and voila – an article is served.

The problem with writing comes when one is forced to describe the indescribable; for instance, how can one inform his readers of the delectability of Buddha’s Hand Fruit Sorbet to a reader who has never sampled the fruit?  It has a bright flavor with a pink finish.  Does that help?

Now, as a writer of soul inspiration, I am tasked with the job of describing things like “happiness,” and “Nirvana” to readers who may have never experienced either state.  So what is “happiness”?  How does “Nirvana” feel?  I reckon they are a bit like the Buddha’s Hand – bright and pink and worth checking out for yourself.  But don’t take my word; go forth and feast on what makes you happy.  It may be a walk in the woods or a bowl of gelato.  Whatever it is, savor it mindfully, sample it frequently and feel your Nirvana.

Observation Vacation

One of my favorite places to vacation is Las Vegas, Nevada which seems odd to most people as I don’t drink, I don’t gamble and I don’t consume mass quantities of food.  What I do do is observe.  I sit and watch the cast of characters parade past me on their way into the bowels of the Neon City where they will follow their dreams of fame and fortune down to the conclusion of their very last dime lost at the Craps table.  For me, this is entertainment.  I don’t judge, I don’t follow them up the strip, I just observe and appreciate the fleeting parade of eccentricities. 

Sitting in Vegas is a bit like sitting on the meditation cushion – eccentric thoughts come and go and the mind wants to follow them down to their very last conclusion.  There is a lot of crap in my head and to try and sit and observe without judgement is always a gamble.  Sometimes I win the distraction battle, other times it’s a bust.  But unlike Vegas where the house always wins, the odds in meditation are stacked in your favor. 




When I was a kid my spine was a bit out of whack causing my left leg to be a quarter of an inch longer than the right. To combat this misalignment, my chiropractor skillfully twisted, contorted and cracked my back until all of my vertebrae were precisely ordered.  I wore a cork lift in my right shoe and patiently waited for my body to realign and leave me with a perfectly straight gait and a proudly held head resting on a nicely ordered spine. In the end, the pain was worth it and I can look back to those years with satisfaction and nervous laughter.

Having successfully aligned my back, I am now working on aligning my Being.  Often times, for reasons I have yet to fully understand, I feel a bit out of whack.  Sometimes I have anger and fear and depression and these feelings can be crippling. To adjust these temperaments and lift my spirits I try to practice radical acceptance and loving kindness. I contort and twist my mind around situations in order to align my thoughts. I find that having my thoughts in line helps to support mental habits that are capable of carrying me through the day much the way a nicely ordered spine supports and carries the entire body.  For now, the process can be a bit painful, but I know someday I will look back with nervous laughter and satisfaction -- if only I can put in the hard work and patience.

Time Passages

One of my favorite gifts to give is a page-a-day calendar.  I love it because each page brings something new -- some nugget of information or helpful thought to make the day brighter while leaving me to wonder, “What will I learn tomorrow?”  It’s also a reminder that someone is thinking about you. Each time a page is ripped off leaving yesterday behind, the receiver may pause and think, “I am grateful I have friends who care about me.”  Perhaps that is all just wishful thinking on my behalf, but it makes me feel better to know my best intentions are broadening the horizons of another while simultaneously surrounding them with warm feelings of love and respect.  For me, the calendar is the gift that keeps on giving.

Much like the page-a-day calendar offers little lessons in life, life itself offers lessons that transcend time.  Each morning we rise to a new day full of challenges and unexpected adventures. If we can learn to pay attention to our thoughts and our bodies, we may learn something about ourselves and the world at large.  Go forth into today with courage and acceptance, leave yesterday’s trepidation and fears in the past. This day is a new day -- one I have never lived, and according to my calendar it is National Look at the Leaves Day.  That sounds promising. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.


Some people pass their time watching funny cat videos or laughing at Olympic diver faces, I like to pass mine viewing optical illusions -- I enjoy the enigma and trying to figure out what it all means if I first see the vase or the two faces in Rubin’s Vase, or if I notice the old woman or the beautiful lady first in My Wife and My Mother-in-Law.  The thing with illusions is that once you declare something as true and unchangeable, it is difficult to see it any other way. M.C. Escher made an entire career out of challenging our perceptions and forcing us to see the improbable as probable.

It wasn’t so long ago that I held the belief that my life was destined to be a certain way.  I had said certain things, endured certain injustices, performed certain deeds and therefore had no choice but to suffer -- my vase was full of self-pity blinding me from the kind faces seeking to help me notice the beauty within and around me.  I had clung to this suffering for so long I was sure there was no other way. But like most illusions, destiny can be many things at once. Sure, there is suffering and of course there are repercussions for actions, but if we can slow down and back up for a bit, we might notice the life in the cracks of our despair.  It takes rain to make a rainbow and shit is an excellent fertilizer. The light of prosperity comes from the darkness of pain. We have a choice. One must decide on what one is going to focus -- will it be old habits, or beautiful possibilities? I’ve made mine. What will yours be?

Partisan Divide

We can agree (can’t we) that modern politics is divisive at best.  Rather than working together to vote for what is suitable for society, parties work independently to seek what is best for themselves.  With all the bickering and backstabbing nothing much is getting accomplished except the division of a nation that is strongest when standing as one.  It used to be that we voted for something, now we vote against something else and wind up with nothing to show except embittered parts that refuse to work as a whole.  By failing each other, we are failing ourselves.

This morning, while trying desperately to put my heart into my yoga flow, my mind kept wandering to politics.  I fought against this intrusion, but it kept coming back. “Focus,” I told myself while shifting to downward dog, “Be in your moment.  Appreciate your presence.” And for a brief bit of time my heart melted into the mat and felt the solidity of the earth beneath it. Then the mind piped up, “How dare they . . .” and on the battle went.

Much the way a divided government accomplishes little, a divided soul can scarcely govern a life.  So today I unite my heart and my mind. At times they are in conflict, but they each have something to offer if only I can listen with patience and acceptance.  Patience and acceptance, heart and mind -- all one standing together working to unite the bitter pieces of its broken universal soul. Now that’s a thought I can stand behind.



I begin each school day by posing the question to my students, “What is your intention for the day?”  By doing this, I am asking them to actively participate in their lives. An intention, unlike a goal, must be stated in a pro-active fashion (meaning: tell me what you are going to do, instead of what you are not going to do).  And unlike a goal, which is either pass or fail, an intention can be unmet, yet complete -- an example being: “My intention is to finish all of my homework.”  This is a great intention that I strongly encourage, but sometimes you get to the end of the day, and despite your best efforts, unforeseen events such as illness or fire alarms or productive daydreaming get in the way leaving a bit of work unfinished.  If task completion were a goal you would have failed, but since the completion of a task was an honest intention and was striven for with great fortitude, your intention has been met. Simply stated: an intention gives us permission to fail without being a failure -- it gives us room to grow.

I pose these types of question to myself every morning as well.  My intentions are:

“To listen in order to understand.”

“To accept life on life’s terms.”

“To forgive those who have harmed me.”

“To ease the suffering of others.”

At the end of the day I find I still talk too much, I am still resistant to change, and regret still lurks in the dark corners of my mind.  But I am not a failure. I am a work in progress and I intend to keep trying until my intentions are met.

Seeing With Our I's

A recent change in jobs has forced me to return to college to earn a degree I’d rather not acquire.  As the start date looms nearer, I find myself dreading the prospect of homework and deadlines and final exams.  I complain aloud to no one in particular that: “I’ve already been to college,” “I already have multiple degrees,” “What could I possibly benefit from more assigned reading and reports?”

Deep in the midst of my whirlwind of despair I catch myself seeing the world through my I’s instead of my eyes.  When I stop and look at the situation, it becomes clear that this schooling isn’t about me, it’s about learning new skills to help my future students.  Frequently, when faced with the unknown, people tend to become insulated and can’t seem to see beyond themselves while growing fearsome of what they don’t know or understand.  It is at these times that we need to take a step back and open our eyes to the whole picture. Most things aren’t about us personally, we are just a tiny piece in the puzzle of humanity.  As for me, I’m going forward with my I’s wide shut and examining the ever-expanding horizon. If I have learned anything from this experience, it’s that I still have a lot to learn.

Sorry, We Are Closed

Once upon a long while back, I ventured into a coffee shop, laid down my bags and baggage and filled my soul with good vibes and better java.  This joint felt like home when home wasn’t such a happy place. Since that first day, my cup has runneth over with positive changes and happy events.  Through it all, this space -- my space -- has remained a constant, nurturing environment that has allowed me to grow and express myself with old friends and new ideas.  And now the shop is closing.

As I look around at barren walls where my art once hung, I can’t help but feel a little saddened.  A chapter of my life is ending, my cup is nearly empty. Where will I find another home away from home?  How will I express new ideas with old friends? How will my life remain the same? The simple answer is: it won’t.  The one sure thing in life is that change will occur. So, I guess I’ll pack my friends in my heart and make my home wherever I am at any given moment.  And at this moment, I am taking my final sip and thinking, “Maybe I’ll start drinking tea.” That might be a nice change.



My eyesight is 20/400, which means that what the average person sees clearly at 400 feet, I must be a mere 20 feet to see -- basically this means I am rather blind.  This insight into my eyesight comforts me when I consider all the mistakes I have made in the past – I couldn’t see clearly and therefore fumbled and fell and continued blindly making mistakes a mortal ought not-make.  The good thing is that since hindsight is 20/20, I have seen the error of my ways and can now go forth making new, different mistakes.

As my eyes worsen and my path narrows, I look to the horizon with kindsight.  Like the perfect vision hindsight provides, kindsight lets us know what we should do, and that is to see the kind that is all around and within us.  I still make mistakes, I continue to run into obstacles, but now I see them clearly – these bumps in the road are a chance to grow, to adjust my vision and continue on.  With kindsight the world is a little less frightening, the past a bit fuzzier, and the future a lot less blinding. 



Bon Voyage

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I watched a lot of television.  One of my favorite shows was The Love Boat, especially the beginning when each week’s cast of characters would stand on the ship’s deck and wave to their loved ones on shore who would emphatically wish them a hearty “Bon voyage,” -- a term used to express good wishes to someone about to go on a journey.  Confetti would fly, hopes would soar and the Pacific Princess would make her way to the horizon where it would slip into the beyond so hearts could connect and new adventures begin.  After much travail, the cast would return to port with their hearts full, ready to enrich the lives of the ones they had left behind.

Saying, “Good bye,” to the ones we care about is difficult.  Often times we stand by and watch our beloved slip closer and closer to life’s horizon.  We wait, waive, and hope to keep them with us for just a moment longer, but like the Pacific Princess fading out of sight, into its next adventure, our dear ones fade away to embark on their new journey waiting for the moment they can return to our hearts and enrich our lives.  I guess it’s not saying, “Good bye,” so much as saying, “Bon voyage.  Have a safe journey.”

Déjà View

I’m not a big fan of driving; it bores me.  I have a hard time staying awake.  I don’t find it relaxing.  Driving, to me, is a necessary evil that helps me get to where I am going.  Perhaps it is because of this dislike that I am a cautious driver.  I get in the turn lane miles ahead of my exit, check my mirrors and brake accordingly.  Because I am cautious it caught me off guard when the other day, during a winter snow storm, I managed to get myself stuck in a rut.  I had done all the right things: I had driven slowly, I had pumped the brakes, I had checked my mirrors – in fact that was when it happened, while checking my rearview mirror.  I was to busy looking behind me to see the rut in front.  “Déjà vu,” I thought to myself as I slid in deeper, “Haven’t I don’t this before?  Haven’t I spent enough time looking behind me?  When will I learn?”

It's true my past has been a rocky road filled with ruts and dangerous curves, yet somehow, I have managed to navigate my way out.  I have learned how difficult it is to transition to the next phase of life while still clinging to the last.  In short, I have learned to look ahead with cautious optimism and a sense of déjà view (remembering the past, while looking to the future).  With this in mind, I rocked my car forward.  And back.  And forward once again until I had moved beyond the rut.  I was back on the road, eyes ahead and well on my way to where I was going.



Out of Focus

As an elementary teacher, it is my job to set rules and ensure all abide by these rules.  As a rebellious adult, it is my job to push boundaries and break rules, so it is no surprise that while playing a riveting game of Freeze Tag with my students, I broke my own rule about sliding down the slide feet first and thus broke my glasses when I slammed face first into a student.  “FROZE – ha-ha – Gotcha!” was my initial thought quickly followed by, “Oh, crap, now I can’t see.”  I used this opportunity to illustrate to my students the importance of following rules – actions have consequences.

I somehow managed to fenagle my students into the classroom where I left them with other staff and proceeded to drive home to get my spare pair of glasses.  Easy enough (or so I thought).  The problem with this plan is getting home.  My glasses had snapped in half and therefore would not rest on my face which meant I had to balance holding my glasses together while navigating the road, steering the car and stopping before I ran smack into a bridge or any other obstacle in my path. 

Trying to balance your vison of the road with the actual road is a lot like trying to balance your vision of your life with your actual life.  Sometimes the two are the same, but often times there is a split and I wondered, “How can I see a clear future if I can’t see the end of the hood?”  And then it dawned on me. . . Imagination.  By combining my memories, my realities and my imagination I was able to navigate home safely – It takes all three to make your visions a reality.  One cannot accurately see with the eyes if the imagination is out of focus.  Live your life and dream your dreams, somewhere in the middle of the two lies existence. 

Seven Days a Weak

Recently we, as a country, have been asked to socially distance ourselves from one another.  For many, this change goes relatively unnoticed since certain generations were seemingly born with an i-Phone permanently attached to their faces (I guess the old adage, An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” is more appropriate than ever now), but I, being of the rotary dial generation feel this distance weighing heavily on my shoulders.  I do my yoga, walk my dogs and try to maintain an otherwise healthy lifestyle, but seven days without a meaningful connection makes one weak. 

To strengthen my resolve I spend my time, not on the phone checking in with others, but in the open air checking in with myself, and what I’ve found as that I don’t know me very well.  I’ve been so busy doing this and avoiding that, that I’ve forgotten what a great person I am.  In modern times life is less about living fully and more about living from one distraction to the next.  Now those distractions remain at least six-feet away and are seemingly unreachable.  So why not reach in and shake a perfectly sanitized hand with yourself?  Get reacquainted with your hopes and dream.  Ask yourself tough questions and stick around for the answers.  Put down the phone, grab an actual apple and check in with yourself – “Hello, Self.  How are you doing?  Things are a little rough, but I think we’re going to be okay.”



The Truth

Once upon an opening night I played audience member to an awful play staring a tertiary friend.  I clapped dutifully, slept periodically and kept my snarky asides to a minimal.  My plan of making an unnoticed escape was thwarted by the ambling audience and I was forced to exchange pleasantries with said friend.  “What did you think?” was the first thing out of his mouth.  “Ahhhh,” I said hoping to find a sparkling spot in the unpolished stone of a play.  I scraped the edges of my cranium searching for a true statement that sounded remotely positive, “I really liked that costume,” was what came out of my mouth.  “Thanks, it was borrowed,” was his reply.  “Well I really liked it, and now I really have to go,” I said before making my escape.

Later that night I got to thinking about this exchange of information.  Did my friend want my praise or my truth?  Sometimes these two are the same, but often times they are not.  That’s the danger of asking questions. . . You might not like the answers.  But if you are brave and you are willing to get hurt, then the truth can help you grow.  I applaud those who seek.  It’s a dirty job, but I find wearing a swanky costume helps you sparkle through the unpleasantness. 

Wind Chimes

Throughout history, wind chimes have been used to detect changes in wind speeds, to frighten away birds and evil spirits and to gussy up an otherwise dull front porch.  Whatever their purpose, I have always found them to be a disturbing nuisance disrupting my sleep and interrupting my thoughts, so it was quite a surprise when within one month of my mom’s passing, I received two sets of windchimes from three different friends.  As any good friend must do, I hung up my wind chimes and waited for the evil spirits and birds to clatter away upon the inevitable clanging of the tubes.  Much to my surprise the sound was not a nuisance – in fact I found the ringing filled me with a new sense of wonder and delight.  What had changed?  It wasn’t the sound, it wasn’t the wind and it wasn’t the evil spirits.  Perhaps what changed wasn’t the things, but rather my thoughts of the things. Having received these chimes in honor of my mother they no longer represented commotion, they now stood for memory. 

Upon further investigation, I find that wind chimes have been used for centuries in cultures around the globe and not just to scare away the undesirable, but also as a tool to attract peaceful spirits and to ward off evil.  Amazing how a tool, like a thought, can be used for so many purposes depending upon the intention.  Hmmm, determining my thoughts. . . I like the sound of that.




I learned how to juggle while working the Bag the Cat game at the 1990 Renaissance Fair.  In order to drum up business for my “shooting stuffed cats through a hoop” game, I tossed my cats in the air, catching and releasing them until, eventually, I was juggling.  It took a lot of patience, a lot of time and a lot of concentration.  The trick to juggling is to keep your juggled items close to you so as not to lose control chasing a rogue one and throwing your balance completely off.  Sounds simple enough, but it requires a bit of practice.

Learning to meditate is a lot like learning to juggle.  When we slow down our thoughts, our brains switch to Default Mode – the mode that propels us to the past or the future in an attempt to satisfy it’s desire to “think.”  As we try to non-judgmentally observe our thoughts, they tend to go rogue and our mind chases them, throwing us off balance.  Keeping our focus close to us, say, on our breath, helps us maintain balance.  With a lot of patience, a lot of time and a lot of practice, you can have this whole meditation thing in the bag.


As a compulsive observer of life, I’ve come to realize how much we are products of advertising.  We buy scents to make us sexy, clothes to make us successful and spa treatments to make us serene.  We work, work, work in order to buy, buy, buy ourselves a little happiness as seen on TV – Act now and receive two orders of happiness for just $19.99.

I, as a product of advertising, have purchased a bit of this “lifetime guaranteed” happiness only to realize the “lifetime” must be referring to that of a fruit fly, for I still have moments of anger and sadness and discontent.  It appears I have fallen for a bit of false advertisement.

The problem with advertising is its intent is to make money, not to create lasting happiness.  In fact, lasting happiness is exactly what advertisers don’t want you to feel, for if you were truly happy, you wouldn’t need the advertised product.  The next time you whip out your credit card to buy a little joy, check your intentions and ask, “How will this product improve my life?”  “What void am I trying to fill?”  “Why do I think I need this product?”  My guess is you’ll find that happiness can’t be bought, but rather, must be created.  I guess this means happiness is internal.  Hmmm?  Internal happiness . . . I buy that.




Every morning, after yoga and before meditation, I take three deep breaths inhaling positive energy and exhaling negative energy.  Then I take one deep breath inhaling peace, patience, and loving kindness, before sealing these in my heart and beginning the arduous, 30-minute task of non-judgmental thought witnessing.  This routine sets me on the path for a peaceful existence in a chaotic world.

Normally I am successful at letting the world roll off my back, but every now and then the chaos shatters my peace and the brunt of the world becomes too much to carry.  I huff and I puff and I blow things out of proportion wishing they were different while praying for peaceful solutions which never happen.

Illusions of peace are straw houses meant to deceive us.  Peace isn’t an experience free of challenges; peace is an experience that’s expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened.  With this realization in mind, I huff and I puff and I blow my illusions down.

Pulling Focus

When I was a child, I wanted to be a magician.  I practiced card tricks and simple slight of hand illusions in the hopes that someday I would find joy and success as a Vegas Lounge Act performing nightly at The Stratosphere.  The trick to magic is to pull the audience’s focus from one place and put it in another; for example, if I want to secretly remove your watch, I might snap my fingers in front of your eyes with my left hand while simultaneously removing your timepiece with my right hand.   You think the magic is happening in the snap, when really, the action is taking place in a completely different focal zone.

Focus is not only the trick to magic; it’s also the trick to happiness and meaning.  In our search for meaning, we tend to focus our attention on the meaning of life rather than on the meaning in life.  Meaning manifests itself in what we creatively choose to do with our life – it’s in our experiences.  If we focus our attention strictly on the results of our endeavors, we miss the joy in the moments, so snap to it and see the magic that is happening right before your eyes.  If you look closely, I’m sure you’ll see through your disillusions. 




Once a month, every month, the school for which I work practices disaster drills -- sometimes fire, sometimes tornado and sometimes intruder.  At best, these drills are a distraction, at worst, they are a freezing foray into the outdoors where we pretend to watch the school burn until a staff member has checked the building and assured us that, “All is clear,” at which time we reenter the building and continue on with our lives.  Students often ask, “Why do we have to practice these stupid drills?” to which I respond, “So we will know what to do in an actual emergency.”  This answer does nothing to assuage their dour attitude, but is true none-the-less.  Preparation is key to survival.

Disaster comes in many forms from burning buildings to burning desires that destroy us from the inside out, and much like we must be aware of the emergency exits in occupied buildings, we must be aware of ways to escape the thought processes that preoccupy our mind.  The only way to do this is practice.  Meditation and awareness help us recognize our thoughts while shedding light on paths to end the suffering created by these thoughts.  Implementing a daily drill of mindfulness helps ensure we will know what to do in a actual emergency without leaving us out in the freezing cold.  Focus.  Breath.  All clear.  Time to reenter our lives.




When I was in the fourth grade, I had a tumor on my lung.  No one knew how I developed it, how long it had been there or if it would ever come back; they only knew that it had to be removed so I could breathe freely.  They knocked me out, removed the growth and sent it to pathology where it was deemed benign.  I was disease free, yet one would hardly call me healthy – I had been cut in half, split apart and sewn back together.  It seems that the absence of disease is not health.

Having no guarantees as to if my tumor would come back or not set my mind at dis-ease.  For years I thought every little pain meant I was riddled with cancer.  Thankfully this has not been the case and I have learned to accept that pain is inevitable, and suffering is optional.  This all leads me to believe that although the absence of disease may not equal health, perhaps the absence of dis-ease may equal contentment.  Once I let my worries go, I could breathe freely.  Ahhh, acceptance – just what the doctor ordered.


As a freshman in high school, I signed up for drama class.  One of our first tasks was to perform a group exercise, known as The Human Knot where all of us stood in a circle holding a tissue in one hand.  From here, we reached our arms toward the center and grasped someone else’s tissue until we were all linked together via a paper chain.  From here, we were to unknot ourselves without letting go of or ripping the delicate fibers that held us together.  We performed this task a number of times learning to cooperate and communicate.  As one might expect, our tissues were worse for wear, but still recognizable.

Our next task was to make something new out of the tissue, with the caveat being we could not add to, glue, tape or otherwise alter our tissue.  I made an origami heart, Steve made a nose warmer, and Patty made a picture of a white polar bear playing in the moonlight.  Who knew so many wonderful items could be formed from a torn-up tissue?

Since that time, so many moons ago, I have had to try and make something new out of my torn up and broken-down life.  Thanks to the cooperation of friends and strangers I have managed to rebuild my heart, paint myself a new life and keep my nose warm.  By taking what was useful and refashioning it into something different, I find I can release the knot of panic in my stomach and mend my delicate soul. 


12.01.2022 11:44


Please share more like that. <a href="">Best Injury Attorney Los Angeles</a>