Wednesday, August 12, 2015

We Interrupt This Program...

This is my last post...for awhile.

I am writing my book.

I have no idea how long it will take to write my book and I cannot say when I will return to writing blog posts.

My book, like my blog, is non-fiction; an intimate and honest account of epic international adventure and personal discovery.

...but that's just me.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sorry, Not Sorry: The (Lost) Art of Making Amends

1994: The one year anniversary of my divorce was fast approaching. To mark the occasion, I wanted to do something very personal and private to my ex-husband. No, I wasn’t going to go all Girl With The Dragon Tattoo on his ass, but yes, what I had planned would definitely be painful. I was going to make direct amends to my ex.

What is making amends? Making amends is taking full responsibility for everything you say or do that harms another person—and more. Making amends goes beyond apologizing for wrongdoing. Making amends is about restoring justice. If Apologizing is admitting that you made a cross heavier to bear for someone else, making amends is admitting you made the cross heavier to bear and removing the splinters.

Making amends requires two things seemingly few people practice in our social shaming, mean-tweet world: empathy and humility. 

Before I made amends to my ex-husband, I first sought humility. Then, I made an honest list of everything I said and did that caused harm to him or to our relationship: My words that were cruel, unkind, destructive, untrue, or ignorant. My actions that were careless, disrespectful, demeaning, condescending, manipulative, ungracious. I looked at that list and I cried. No, I sobbed; openly, freely, and for a long time. I put myself on the receiving end of each item on the list—I felt each word, each action. I felt the pain, disdain, resentment, and dismissive cruelty. That is empathy, my friends.

The intent for making amends is reparation—to restore justice directly whenever possible. This can be a difficult challenge for our ego. When taking responsibility for the damage we have done to others, it is natural to also assess the damages done to us. In the case of making amends to my ex-husband, my ego struggled with each item I put on the list and countered with a list of his offenses.  What about his assholery? He should be making amends to me

I did make direct amends to my ex-husband in 1994 and, ultimately, I discovered that in letting go of ego and the inclination to take inventory of others injustices, I found serenity.

Practicing the art of making amends does not make me perfect, just peaceful.

But that's just me.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Horses and Humans: Love is Just Not Enough

Internationally renowned horseman and author, Chris Irwin, wrote an interesting article in California Riding Magazine about harnessing our male energy to train horses.

Chris makes it clear that male energy is not aggressive or abusive. Effectively balanced male energy is about being calm while courageous, decisive and assertive.

I can appreciate the appropriate balance of female and male energy—the Yin and the Yang if you will—as it pertains to rider and horse. As a novice rider with an abundance of female energy, my natural tendency is to exert my will with love. Just love. But “loving” a horse to walk, trot, and canter was not working and I often left the training sessions frustrated and exhausted. I learned that horses do not respond to or respect “just love.”

Love is not the same as protected and safe. For a horse to willingly submit to a rider, it must first feel protected and safe. This is where male energy comes into play, and Chris defines MALE energy as Male Authority Lovingly Expressed. This male energy allows horses to “trust that our power can protect and serve their vulnerability.” Understanding and utilizing balanced male energy benefits both horse and human.

In his article, Chris says:

“More often than not the issues people need to work on with their horses are their own consistency of personal boundaries, determined focus, resiliency, remaining calm, expressing appropriate assertiveness when being aggressively challenged, and an acceptance to be at peace with the natural process that conflict is growth trying to happen.”

“Conflict is growth trying to happen.”

I like this definition of Conflict. There is nothing angry or aggressive about it. Remembering that conflict is growth and a natural process is helpful for horse and human relationships alike, inside the arena and in life. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

California Girl

I was born a California girl. Okay, truth be told I wasn't really born in California and I didn't actually live in California until I was an adult, but throughout my childhood whenever I fantasized about running away, which was often, I had only one destination in mind—California.

I hadn't yet run away, or successfully convinced my parents to move to California, so I brought California to me. I saved my dollar-per-hour babysitting money, went to the local mall and got the California iron-on decal t-shirt I am modeling in a 1977 instamatic glamor shot. (I also bought Sun-In for my hair. Big mistake. That shit turned my hair orange.)

As far back as I can remember, even before 1977, I always had a sense of explorative adventure. It is precisely this innate wanderlust that led me to a career in travel—always on the go; different planes, different people, different places. I've been all around this big, beautiful planet and I've seen all kinds of great and wonderful things, but I always look forward to getting back to the best place in the world. My happy place. My home. 

Yep, I am a California girl.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Friendships, Hearts, and Glass Slippers

If I were playing Family Feud and the survey question was, "Name things that hurt when broken," my answers would be: Friendships, hearts, and glass slippers. But this is real life, not a game show or a fairy tale Cinderella story. So when a friend recently ended our decade-long friendship, the hurt was very real, as was my heartbreak. 

I was confused, devastated, shocked. My feelings were all jumbled together in an emotional soup—a broth of betrayal with a sorrow stock. I desperately wanted to understand. I wanted to know what I did or said that contributed to the demise of our relationship. I was willing to accept responsibility for my part and make reparations. But my friend was absolute in her abrupt exit. 

Initially I felt a tremendous sense of grief for the loss of our friendship. I felt the pain of her absence in my life, but I felt something else too, something completely unexpected. Relief. 

It was like coming home at the end of an emotionally exhausting workday and taking off my shoes. At first there is pain as blood returns to compressed flesh. Toes that conformed and curled into cramped spaces relax and straighten. I rub my feet and walk barefoot on the carpet until the pins and needles are gone. Ah...relief. 

Relationships are like shoes: some fit, some don't. If the relationship is a good fit, with proper care, maintenance, and repair it can provide a lifetime of support and comfort—like a favorite pair of shoes. On the other hand—or foot—no matter how beautiful the shoes, be they Louboutin or Jimmy Choo, if the shoe doesn't fit, don't force it. Shoes that constantly hurt or cause pain and suffering have got to go. 

Same for relationships. If the relationship isn't a good fit and there is constant hurt, or pain and suffering—the relationship has to go. When someone I love decides to end the relationship and no longer wants to be in my life, the most compassionate thing I can do for myself, is let them go. 

So, it is with great compassion for my friend, Eileen, for our friendship, and for myself that I let go. 

With love.

But that's just me.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

My Space Hero

It is Saturday night and I am at a local bar (don’t judge me). The place is packed to standing room only, but a new acquaintance, Jennifer, and I manage to score coveted barstools located center-bar. We order drinks and begin a casual “Tell me a little about yourself” conversation. People all around us are laughing, talking, shouting, singing—a cacophony of voices. It is precisely these conditions in which I acquired the invaluable ability to lipread. 

Drinks in hand, the dialog transitions from first failed marriages to current lovers. I hear (lipread), “We have known each other since…” when a male bar patron with thinning, side-swept hair inserts himself—literally—mid-sentence. He leans in, his hunter-green polo shirt brushes my chin as he raises his arm and calls out, “Hey man!” to the bartender. I pull back.

Above the fray I hear clear as day, “Go behind me.”

Mr. Insert hears it too. “What?” he says to Jen.

“Go behind me,” she repeats.

“I’m just ordering a drink, I am not staying.”

“That’s fine, just do it behind me. We are talking. You can access the bar behind me without interrupting our conversation,” she directs.

“Oh, sorry,” he concedes as his Gucci loafers two-step to the other side of her.

I am in awe. With a clear, confident, non-offensive but firm tone, Jennifer informed the space invader of his violation and suggested he remove himself immediately. She unapologetically defended her space, and mine. Jennifer is my personal space hero!

Jennifer continues the conversation where we left off pre-interruption. After we discuss current lovers—she has one, I do not—we cover the usual get-to-know-you topics: kids, careers, Facebook...  I am listening (lipreading), but my mind keeps going back to the personal space scenario I witnessed earlier. 

I consider the many situations when I voluntarily surrender my space to uninvited invaders. Whether it is social conditioning or somehow feeling unworthy, I realize that all too often my automatic response is to excuse myself from my personal space! If I want to be my own Personal Space Hero, I have got to stop apologizing when other people step on my cape!

I vow to honor my personal space by consciously owning it, defending it, or sharing it if and when I choose. 

But that's just me.

Yeah, baby!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My Residency in the State of Depression

I was in a funk. A vague, almost indescribable blue period. For the past few years, my existence slowly atrophied into a hazy state of being; of not feeling good most days and barely okay every other day. Welcome to the state of Depression.

I am not a doctor—though I self-diagnose like a summa cum laude medical school graduate—and I believe the origin of my depression to be biochemical, prompted by the simultaneous shutdown of my thyroid and my ovaries (pre-menopause). The result: unrelenting weight gain. I changed my diet, added hot yoga to my regular running regime, drastically reduced my sugar intake…and still the pounds kept coming. For the majority of my adult life, I hovered around 140, now these numbers started appearing on my digital scale: 150, 155, 162, 169… As my weight went up, my self-esteem went down. And it seemed it was just me, friends my age and even my older sister didn’t have the same struggle. I asked myself, Why can’t I keep the weight off? What am I not doing right? My answer was always a self-deprecating, Obviously I am not trying hard enough.
And that is how it started.

Add to that biochemical cocktail: a catastrophic life-changing event with my mother; the disintegration of a lifelong friendship with my sister; a devastating motorcycle crash and related posttraumatic stress (autocorrect replaced my typing "post-traumatic" as one word); changing residences—thrice; and changing work bases (Las Vegas to Oakland)—all within one year! I hadn’t yet admitted or even realized that all of these events were pushing me further down the rabbit hole of depression and lethargy. Since I was expert at playing doctor, I began to self-medicate…with alcohol. Lots of alcohol. Every day. Hello, vodka. 

Well-meaning friends who noticed I seemed “out of sorts” generously gave their opinions about what I should do to right the proverbial applecart: You should get another bike; You should volunteer your time; You should take up some other sport like kayaking, or scuba diving, or skateboarding…; You should adopt an attitude of gratitude, be grateful for what you have… 
Did I mention that my friends were well-meaning? 

I knew their intentions were good, but the key to offering unsolicited advice is the delivery. Anything beginning with “You should” or “You ought to” can be received as a criticism. Even the dictionary says this about the word Ought: used to indicate duty or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions. Criticism, however well-meaning, of someone who is in the grips of depression is never good advice. You ought to—NO! 

Even if I wanted to, I didn’t have the energy to act on my friends’ good intention suggestions. It required every cell of my being just to show up at work and act the part of the smiling Stewardess. Here’s the thing about depression—at least how I experience depression—it is super sneaky, an almost undetectable and gradual yet constant depletion of will, motivation, and energy. Like an unused appliance. Yeah, my depression was like a fucking useless VCR still plugged into an electrical outlet. Depression continued to draw enough energy to keep it alive, while slowly draining the life out of me. Detaching or liberating oneself from depressionlike disconnecting the VCR cables from the tv and removing that ancient devicerequires way more effort than letting it stay. So it did. Depression stayed with me for years and continued to suck the joy out of my life.

In February this year, friends Gina and Dave asked if I would ever return to riding motorcycles and something about it being “fun” for me. That statement gave me pause. I tried to recall, What was fun, and when was the last time I had any? I thought about what I used to do for fun: horseback riding; creating things, craft and sewing projects; skeet shooting and target practice. I decided to invite fun back into my life. I began to revisit some, and eventually all, of those things…just for fun! Now, I take weekly riding lessons at a nearby equestrian center; I found an indoor gun range and rediscovered that I am quite the sharpshooter; and I create customized cards and attach them to gift bags filled with sea glass I collect from the beach near my home.

Has fun completely displaced me from a state of depression? No. But I can honestly say that I don’t permanently reside there now and my return visits are shorter and less frequent. Depression is no joke, and although I am no doctor, fun is a prescription that works for me. (*It is worth noting that I also take levothyroxine—prescribed by a real doctorfor my hypothyroidism, and mega potency supplements to provide energy, mood and memory support.)

If you are experiencing depression, maybe there is something in what I shared here that speaks to you. I hope so. I am not going to tell you what you should do, rather I will tell you what I am willing to do: I am willing to listen to understand and remain nonjudgmental. I am willing to ask, “What do you need from me?” I am willing to do whatever you need from me if I am able to do so without bringing harm to myself or you. I am willing to give you compassion, and a hug. I am willing to regard you with grace and acceptance.

I am learning to give myself grace and acceptance as well, regardless of what state I am in. 

But that’s just me. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Take Your Seat, Please

'Tis the season for holiday travel, and if Grandmother's house is a lot further than over the river and through the woods, you are probably going to fly. Congratulations! You chose to join the harried, huddled masses and experience the miracle of flight! To what degree you actually enjoy the experience, well, that dependsmostly, though not entirelyon you. And just so we are clear, it doesn't depend entirely on the Flight Attendants either.

Do your part to plan and pack accordingly. Some things you might want to consider: earplugs, eye mask, blanket or wrap, sleep aid and/or anti-anxiety meds, noise-cancelling headphones, first or business class. Seriously. It isn't just the service and amenities that make first and business class travel more enjoyable, it is their location. 

Just like in real-estate, what matters during air turbulence is seat Location. Location. Location. And the premium real-estate on an airplane is in the front. 

During turbulence, the back of the plane be like:

While the front be like:

Winter weather means storms and storms mean turbulence. Plan on it, and then be pleasantly surprised if you have a smooth flight.

Efficient pre-flight planning (or lack thereof) and seat location can influence passenger's very different perspectives of a shared experience. I am sometimes amazed and other times amused when a few passengers make anomalous comments about their experience, while the majority are enthusiastically complimentaryabout the same flight!

Keeping this Shared Experience/Different Perspective in mind helps me to not take it personally when I experience turbulence in my own life. Normally, I try to avoid conflict but sometimes—and it seems especially when I am struggling with my own difficulties or personal hardships—people will push my buttons. And it is those times that I try very hard to remember that person’s perspective, although different from my own, is nonetheless valid, real, legitimate—to them

Depending on how invested I am in the relationship and the possible outcome, my efforts at conflict resolution will vary. I may “put myself in their seat” and respond with compassionate understanding; I may simply agree to disagree; or I may give them my perfected, plastered Stewardess-smile and bid them, “Buh-bye!”

As we are set to depart 2014, it has been a mostly turbulence-free year for me, and for that I am truly grateful. No matter if we roam or stay at home, I wish everyone a first class 2015 with peace of mind, kindness of spirit, and joy of heart.

Your life is a journey, and you can choose to Take Your Seat in first class or coach. How you enjoy the ride is up to You.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sound Bites of Yesterday

Lawn sprinklers turned on full blast.

The Road Runner's "beep-beep" and Woody Woodpecker's laugh.

Old school bells.

Metal wheel rollerskates on cement sidewalks.

Typing class.

Cards in bicycle spokes.

Pencil sharpeners grinders.

Pong "blip-blip" and Pac-Man "waka-waka".

"Cha-Ching" of manual credit card machines.

New-sneaker-sole-screeches in a high school gymnasium.

 ♪ ♫ ♬   ICE CREAM MAN!   ♪ ♫ ♬

Friday, October 10, 2014

Willie Nelson's Driver

A day that began before sunrise at an airport in Buffalo, New York, ends after sundown at a hotel bar in Austin, Texas.

"Is this seat taken?" he asks with an affable smile. His black cap with red, embroidered western-style font reads Willie Nelson, but the white beard cascading off his chin and down his chest definitely says ZZ Top. 

"The usual?" the bartender asks with familiarity. 

He nods. "Is your husband still in Afghanistan?"

"Iraq," she corrects, and pours diet Coke into a tall glass over crushed ice, "he comes home on the 15th for three weeks." She brings his drink and places it on a napkin in front of him. "Where you going this time?" she asks as she folds her arms on the bar top. The long sleeves of her black T-shirt raise just enough to reveal a calligraphy script tattoo above her right wrist.

"The tour starts in Missouri tomorrow night, then moves in and out of Texas and the states that surround it for two weeks." A ringing cellphone (his) breaks the conversation.

I take advantage of the interruption and ask the bartender for her recommendation from the small, yet surprisingly diverse menu.

"The fish tacos are really good," she says convincingly.

"Done," I say and continue eavesdropping.  

"You should come join me on tour, we'll be in Jackson then. Okay, that'll be great. Talk to you tomorrow. I love you, honey." He pulls the phone from his ear, presses a button and the screen goes dark. "That was my son," he volunteers to me, "he's 30, but we still talk everyday." I had not expected the identity of the caller to be his son; I thought it was a wife or lover, though my response could cover both the actual and the assumption:

"It is great that you two are so close." 

I try to recall the last time I spoke with my own dad. A year, maybe two? A birthday - mine? A hospital stay - his? My memory as thin and distant as the relationship itself. 

"I've been Willie Nelson's bus driver for 32 years." he says, bursting my thought bubble. "My son has been on every tour with me since he was born. I'd drive at night and he'd fall asleep on the floor or in the seat next to me. When my son was 10 and we were on tour out west in California or Arizona, he said, 'Dad, I want to drive 500 miles.' So, when no one else was on the bus, I let him drive 100 miles a day for five days. He was never scared or intimidated because I was always right there encouraging him that he could do it. Now he is a pilot and an engineer."

I am enraptured, and somewhat envious of their father-son bond. He continues between bites of chicken enchilada.
"My 84 year old mother-in-law informed me that she wanted to mow her own lawn, so I bought her a riding mower. My wife was not happy; she thinks her mother is too old to drive. I explained to her that age shouldn't be the determining factor that limits people; I believe you are never too young, or too old to do what you love or try something new."

While I contemplated his free fatherly advice and words of wisdom, Willie Nelson's driver bid goodbye to the bartender and returned to the life he loves...on the road again.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Top 10 Reasons I Broke Up With Facebook

1.  Being on Facebook was like drinking vodka. I do both for the "feel good" factor; but when being on Facebook became an addiction, it was time to quit it. Facebook was the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I did at night. My virtual life had become unmanageable. 

2.  More real time to be with real people, in my real life. For real.

3.  I had 300 Friends on Facebook with whom I shared my virtual social life, yet I was being social all by myself. I watched videos on my phone while taking a dump. I perused photos and scrolled my Newsfeed while dining at a table for one. I shared posts with Friends while lying on a kingsized bed, in a hotel room that I shared with no one. 

4.  Political campaigns and elections. Nuf said.

5.  All the self-promotion and perpetual look-at-me status update marquees. Sometimes too much is too much.

6.  I try not to hate people...or judge, or compare my life choices to others.   Facebook made that harder.

7.  This year was my 30 year high school reunion, only it wasn't much of a reunion
Many classmates were already virtually connected on Facebook, therefore actually attending the reunion was an unnecessary expense or an inconvenience. The 10 year and 20 year reunions were more exciting, largely because I hadn't seen my classmates during those 10 year timespans. At the 10 and 20 year reunions, I was surprised to see how much people had changed, or how little. It was interesting to catch up with classmates and learn about their families, work, hobbies, lives. Now I can look forward with anticipation to reconnecting with the next reunion.

8.  The trolls, the haters, and the public shamers. Mean people suck.

9.  I don't want to be the subject of Facebook "social experiments" and information gathering.

10.  I sent a message to a friend I hadn't spoken to in decades informing her that although I was leaving Facebook, I would like to stay in touch. Since I didn't have her email address or phone number, I gave her my contact information. Minutes later, she called me. We talked, and laughed, and shared our hurts...for three hours. Six years of Facebook "likes," smiley faces and heart emojis never made me feel that good. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sentimental Jewelry

I wrote dozens of letters, many with photos enclosed, to Marty during his overseas military deployment. (Handwritten letters and personal photographs from film that was developed and processed in about an hour is how we "stayed in touch" in the 80s.) Tragically, Marty would not return from this deployment, nor to me and his beloved family. He was lost at sea when the helicopter crashed that day in May 1989. 

Months later, several large boxes arrived at Marty's childhood home. I shared the unenviable task of opening those boxes and reviewing the contents with Marty's grieving father. Through tears, we took inventory of all the remnants of Marty's life. Each item and personal effect solicited stories of a life too short, yet well-lived. Perhaps most difficult were Marty's shoes. Both his father and I realized then the finality of it all, and the difficult truth that no one would ever fill Marty's shoes. And there, underneath several pairs of shoes were a stack of letters, my letters to Marty. He saved them in their original date-stamped envelopes. Eventually, I found all but two of the photographs I sent Marty. I can only imagine that he had those photos with him when he died. 

On the day of his memorial service, Marty's mother gave me a small, gold locket. I put a favorite photo of Marty inside and wore the locket in honor of the man I loved. Since then, I learned that sentimental jewelry and the military have quite a lovely history. 

In the 1860s, women wore lockets which carried photos and sometimes locks of hair to honor their men who were away during the Civil War. Lockets became popular again in the 1940s as "sweetheart" jewelry during WWII. 

Before lockets, there were perfume buttons. During the Victorian Era, perfumes were oil based and could stain clothing. Perfume buttons with velvet fabric and an ornate brass overlay were made so women could dab perfume on the velvet and attach the button to their dresses. 

As a gesture of endearment, a woman would give a perfume button to her man before he went to sea. An officer might then stitch the button inside his uniform collar so the scent of his woman would accompany him on his voyage. The tradition of perfume buttons and the military continued to the Civil War. Stories of soldiers who died with a button in their pocket, or how the scent of a perfume button helped them through the stresses of battle were retold by soldiers who survived. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

You Are Pretty to Look at While I Talk About Myself

I enthusiastically dived into the dating pool, only to discover it was the shallow end of the pool. Shallow pools aren't good for diving, or dating, but they are good for blogs and country songs—just ask Taylor Swift. If I wrote a country song about my recent dating experiences, I would title it, You Are Pretty to Look at While I Talk About Myself.

That was the response I got when, on our third date, I said, “I hate to interrupt what is yet another of your fascinating fish stories, but I just have to say that I am truly impressed with your uncanny ability to turn every topic into a conversation about you. It’s not even a conversation really—it is more of a monologue. While I pride myself on being an attentive listener, even I have my limits, and you exceeded them about two hours ago."

There was only one thing that shut him up, and it wasn’t fishing. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very good at that either. I may be able to feign interest as a listener, but I am not willing to feign anything as a lover.

A girlfriend recently shared this paid advice from a so-called dating expert, “Don’t talk about yourself so much, men would rather you listen while they talk about themselves.” I could have told her that for free and she could have spent the $200 on a good vibrator, at least then she would be spared the endless fish stories…and still get her happy ending. 

This “dating expert” also gave her advice on how to find a man: “Forget about your hobbies and activities; theater, art, literature…you are never going to find a man that way. What you need to do is get yourself a gun permit and go to a shooting range. There are lots of men at a shooting range and not many women. That you have no legitimate interest in guns is completely irrelevant.” Basically, get the guy first, then be yourself. What? No. Just no. 

Here is the problem with dating advice for women, it’s always about what she needs to do: How to Find a Man; How to Get a Man; How to Keep a Man. Like it’s her job or something. Ladies, this is the only dating advice you need: Believe in Your Worth. You will attract others who do too, and you won’t rely on a man to validate your worth. That’s it. Now, get back to doing something really meaningful and enjoy life! If you need me, I’ll be at the gun range.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Be Careful What You Wish For

Today's beach walk: Of all the colors, cobalt blue is the rarest sea glass I find. So, today I decided to put the power of positive thinking to the test; I focused on finding cobalt blue glass, I visualized the brilliant color and exact hue. I got a bit greedy and decided that my find would be a large piece.

 Well, be careful what you wish for...or be more specific.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In the Glove

Science and math were never my strongest attributes, but one does not need to be a genius to know the truth in this law of physics: Everything is Energy; everything we think, do, say, create, believe, imagine, feel... If you want a different reality, change the frequency of your energy. Sound simple? It is, really.

My New Year's Resolution is to create a life of "Awe" by changing my conscious energy. An integral part of this resolution is to be a more positive, creative, and compassionate person. I also want to attract, invite, and nurture relationships with people of like integrity and character. I somewhat jokingly tell friends, "Put on your Catcher's mitt and be ready to receive what you ask for because the Universe will pitch when you least expect it." I learned from experience and follow my own advice, which is why I am ready to catch almost everything the Universe throws at me!

One of those unexpected pitches came while I was on my morning run. Two cyclists collided head-on right in front of me. The male cyclist escaped unscathed; the female cyclist and her bike did not fare so well.

This is Nancy, with her dislocated shoulder and broken bike. Nancy rides the bike trail, Castroville to Carmel, 52 miles roundtrip regularly, and she drives from San Jose to do it!  Nancy is a strong, positive, creative, and compassionate person. So when the Universe pitched Nancy at me, I was ready with my mitt and offered her a ride.

Not all of the pitches have been hardballs. I caught a nice softball recently when I attended a workshop at Esalen. The workshop was titled, Writing from the Heart, with Nancy Slonim Aroniean incredibly positive, creative, and compassionate author and facilitator. In fact, all of the workshop participants were positive, creative and compassionate people, which confirms my belief that the best of humanity is available in abundance.

Change your energy, change your life...and be ready for those pitches right in the glove.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Keys to Truth and Happiness

I left the house later than I normally do for my morning beach run, but I had stuff to do. Stuff like: coordinate my running outfit; and read the news feed on Facebook while I wait for the caffeine from my fifth cup of coffee to kick in. So eventually, off I go.

Clouds dissipate and unmask a radiant sun and clear, blue sky. Ocean waves playfully lap at my feet as I trod along the sandy shore. This is my bliss! When I reach the three mile halfway turnaround point I decide to push myself and keep going. I guess the caffeine finally kicked in.

As I sing out loud to my favorite iTunes running mix and scan the beach for pieces of sea glass to add to my growing collection, a bright, metallic reflection flickers at the waterline and captures my attention. I stop and retrieve a set of keys: a large Honda car key fob and several gold keys attached to a Monterey Bay Aquarium key chain. I look up and down the beach for a possible owner, but there is no one. For all I know, the keys could have just washed ashore. I continue on with keys in hand.

How do I reunite the keys with their rightful owner? I could take the keys to a public parking lot a half mile back and see if any of the cars respond to the key fob. But what if the keys belong to a guest at a nearby hotel? Or a resident of the beach community? I ponder my options for about a mile or so...and check that my own keys are still securely in my pocket. I tug the zipper again just to make sure that it is completely closed. Losing your keys sucks. I know this for real.

A woman runs toward me, but hers is not the measured gait of a runner on the beach for exercise, hers is a full-on panic sprint. I know instantly that I have what she is searching for.

"DID YOU FIND A SET OF KEYS?" She manages between breaths.

I hand her the keys and her desperation turns to delight. She looks as if she is going to hug me, but doesn't. "Oh my god, I walked all along the beach and had no idea where I lost my keys. You don't know how grateful I am that you found them. I cannot thank you enough!"

Our kismet encounter reminds me of this truth: There are over 7 billion people on this planet and our lives constantly intersect, with or without our being conscious of those interactions. We have the potential to be a positive or negative influence, based on our choices, actions and timing in any given moment. Returning lost keys to their owner may seem like a trivial encounter...until it is your keys that are lost.

I am going to keep on doing what I do to make my interactions with others positive. But that's just me. You can find your own keys to truth and happiness.

Monday, May 26, 2014

For the Love of Isla Vista

In honor of the lives needlessly taken on May 23, 2014 in Isla Vista, California, the malfeasant responsible for this atrocious crime shall remain nameless and faceless in this post.

Much is written in the redundant 141 page manifesto about love denied for its author. About how, despite his desperate efforts to attract love, the Law of Attraction failed him. Yet, in all those rambling pages, there is not a single paragraph expressing love for family, friends, or humanity. The Law of Attraction, whereby like attracts like, did not fail in this case: One is denied the love of others, if one is completely devoid of love for others.

As is true of love, the community of Isla Vista will prevail. Love always does.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Rock

When invited to my home, I make one request of first-time guests, "Please bring a small token that best represents you." I ask that the guest place their object in the "story bowl" and be prepared to share a story of how and why this piece is symbolic. Although the request is simple and the objects unextraordinary, the stories are anything but; like that of the rock.

The rock was found on a beach. It is covered with holes and various indentations, the effects of sand and ocean saltwater. Although strong, tough, and seemingly formidable, the rock is forever profoundly changed by the environment that surrounds it.

I am like that rock. I often find myself on the beach; surrounded by sand and ocean saltwater. Although strong, tough, and seemingly formidable, I am forever and profoundly changed by all that I love, and by whom I am loved.

But that's just me.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Not Yet Rated

I am having breakfast at Denny's the other day and, although you can have breakfast at Denny's anytime of the day, it is actually morningabout 8:30 am. In a nearby booth, I observe a young girl, about age four or five, climbing on top of and then over her seat to the adjoining booth whilst singing a song that sounds stupid and made up. As a childless adult, most children's songs these days sound totally lame and nonsensical to me, even the real ones. When I was a kid, we had badass real kids' songs about magic dragons and being swallowed by a boa constrictor.

All of this child's gymnastics and theatrics may be an attempt to get her mother's attention. It is not working. The woman's expressionless face and, as far as I can tell, her remaining life force is completely absorbed in her smartphone, like an electromagnetic sponge. I make a judgmental note of her lackadaisical parenting style and obnoxious child as a waitress approaches their booth. In a higher-than-normal tone, but exceedingly common for women in the customer service industry whose incomes are dependent on tips, she says, "What a cute little girl! She is cute enough to be on TV!" I spit my coffee across the table and spatters of the mild brew are absorbed by a paper place mat. I quickly scan the restaurant and, when I am satisfied that there are no witnesses to my public faux pas, I casually resume eavesdropping.

The mother finally unfixes her gaze from her cellphone and addresses the waitress matter-of-factually, "Yes, everyone says that she is cute enough to make it on TV. If you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she will tell you that she wants to be on TV."

The waitress makes the obligatory inquiry and the girl replies in high-pitched, monosyllabic squeals, rhythmically timed with stomps of her feet, "I. Want. To. Be. On. T! V!"

Instantly, the embers of a feminist fire within are stirred. Why is this girl's cuteness the qualifier for TV worthiness? Why not recognize her athleticism? Or extol the virtues of her lyrical creativity? Why not inquire if she has an interest in science, nature, aviation, or underwater exploration? It really pisses me off that so much importance and attention is placed on something so subjective as a little girl's appearance. I cannot even finish my Grand Slam. I leave a sizable tip and the restaurant. Wham! Bam! No thank you, ma'am.

This whole "cutie" encounter was difficult for me to digest and stayed with me longer than my half-eaten breakfast. Why did it upset me so much? What do I care if this girl is cute enough for television, or not? I mean, she isn't my kid. It took me awhile to realize that what made me feel ill at ease had nothing to do with cuteness, or the kid for that matter. What really bothered me about this entire incident were my own subjective judgments about worthspecifically one's worth as a girl; a mother; a waitress; or a childless, single womanand there is nothing cute about that.

One's choices, aspirations, and endeavors may be different than my own, but as for appropriateness or worthiness, it is not for me to judge. I can either sit back and enjoy the show, or change the channel...and leave the ratings to the Nielsen's.