Wednesday, August 27, 2014

the REAL ALS Challenge

Now that ice buckets are turning over in dwindling numbers, the real challenge is for the ALS Foundation to prove that this financial windfall will amount to more than just a drop in the bucket. It is their chance to prove to the world that they can leverage this cash to make a real difference in the lives of those suffering with the debilitating disease once known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. They have seen donations go up several hundred percent this year. Will they prove that they are worth their weight in gold, or cold, hard cash, in this case?

I used to work for a non-profit and I know how wasteful they can be. It doesn’t take long before expensive trade shows, fundraising galas, overhead and administrative costs eat a big chunk of the annual budget. Before you know it, there is very little to show for all the fundraising efforts.

If ALS Foundation is smart, they’ll be strategic and fiscally responsible to ensure that all the money raised through the once-in-a-lifetime, grassroots marketing campaign makes the biggest impact. And equally as important, they’ll tell their success story in such a compelling way as to generate an even bigger buzz over what was accomplished thanks to all the ice buckets being drained.

Otherwise, this will go down just as cynics and skeptics predict, as just another cute publicity stunt with no real or sustainable value. Once all the viral video stunts fade into obscurity, who will remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or the millions of dollars it raised?

On a counterpoint, I wonder why Climb For Water, Clean WaterAction and other similar charities haven’t jumped on the anti-ice bucket bandwagon to raise awareness of their fight for sustainable water systems in underprivileged parts of the world. That seemed like a no-brainer, but the opportunity is passing them by quickly.


Time will tell. Count me among the skeptics.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Human being, first and foremost

Andrew W.K. writes an advice column, akin to Dear Abby, that runs regularly in the New York Village Voice. See his latest column here about love and humanity trumping stereotypes and opinions. In speaking about politics and labels, Andrew W.K. says, "Anything as infinitely complex as life, reality, and the human experience can never be summed up or organized in a definitive system, especially one based on "left or right," "A or B," "us or them." He also asserts, "The world officially ends when we let our beliefs conquer love," and then concludes, "if you do pick a side, pick the side of love." In his opinion column, I heard him speak about how humanity often gets lost in the fray of arguments over things like political ideologies. This sparked a flame in me because of the Netflix original series, "House of Cards," I have been watching. It features award-winning actors Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright (who has been a favorite of mine since portraying Princess Buttercup as a teen actress in "The Princess Bride"). But the husband and wife tandem--The Honorable and Mrs. Underwood--are anything but honorable in that show. In fact, they are downright deplorable.

I am 11 episodes into Season 1 and I just lamented to the friend that highly recommended the show, a former DC insider, that I cannot stomach another episode of the nausea-inducing, faux political drama. **SPOILER ALERT** In Episode 10, Congressman Underwood, kills off one of the other lead characters, a fellow politician from his own party, and makes it look like an alcohol and drug-induced suicide. Part of his devious plot to undercut his patsy, Congressman Russo, was to tempt him to fall off the wagon, which he did by hiring a former prostitute, now temptress in a slinky black dress. Once the temptress gets him drunk and high, the senior Congressman offers to drive a near comatose Russo home, where he does the dastardly deed. I was shocked, but not taken totally by surprise. After all, Spacey's character, a minority Whip in the U.S. Senate, is inhuman...a political robot...a Dark Sith, if you will, perched upon Capitol Hill.

In that same episode, his wife who has grown tired of being his pawn, his ally, and mutual admirer, comes back to him from her true love...as if pledging her support for his ruthless political ambitions, regardless of his means of getting there. Robin Wright plays the heartless and death-grip cold Congressman's wife with skill and credibility. It's a far cry from her role as the beautiful, idealistic princess. She's still outwardly beautiful, there's no doubt, but her insides are dark and hollow like a vacuous, bat-filled cavern.

I was no longer amused by the DC couple's sadistic and narcissistic games. In the show I watched last night, they crossed the line. Their characters became sub-human. Non-human, in fact. The writers, who had gone to great lengths to create depth in these two characters, ruined it all in one fell swoop! They made them paper cut-out caricatures reminiscent of old comic book villains, no longer real and tangible. Likewise, the show has now become for me indigestible. I'm choosing to skip the rest of the episodes and find something more real to watch. Big Cat Diaries comes to mind. Hell, Bar Rescue would even be better entertainment.

My point being, and I hope those characters are just evil caricatures of the real vultures on Capitol Hill, is that I'm already turned off enough by politics and politicians. I don't need to be reminded how heartless and ruthless the people in that line of work can be. I'd like to still hold out hope that those running our precious country are not evil-bots, but real human beings with beating hearts. The now dead character, Congressman Russo, was just that. And for that reason, the show's producers and writers had to off him. He was too human, too real, apparently, for their tastes. They should have been DC Comics writers, not writers of a real-life DC-based television series. Sorry Netflix, this one was a bomb. Nice try, though. It started out well enough, like a darker, edgier version of "The West Wing," an old NBC political drama.

When we lose our sense of humanity, especially our sense of our adversaries' humanity, in the name of "being right," whether that belief is based on religion, upbringing, politics or whatever, then we have lost a piece of our own being human. That became more apparent than ever upon my visit with family in Indiana over the summer. My mom, who is cancer-ridden and preparing for the end of her life, had some very deep and impact-full conversations with me. In the end, we decided to put aside our differences, focusing instead on our love for each other. Our human connection and our family connection comes first no matter what differences in belief come between us at times. We can always agree to disagree and then focus on the positive. Just like the advice columnist pointed out to the guy who had written in, "Love your dad because he's your father, because he made you, because he thinks for himself, and most of all because he is a person."

Those conversations with mom are what will carry me through the difficulty of losing her one day. I know mom's heart and she's heard mine for the first time in years. We are at peace and that is a great feeling. She'll always be mom and I'll always be her firstborn.

Don't let someone else's opinion overshadow the bigger picture. They share a place in humanity alongside you, family or foe. You may not like them. You may even despise their position on things. As a human being, you should appreciate that they have every right to their opinion. Unless their actions prove otherwise, they are deserving of honor and respect. Just keep that in mind the next time you get into a heated discussion with your brother or sister. That is all. Thanks for listening. Please comment if this meant something to you.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Broad Ripple Effects

It's funny the littlest things that will trigger a torrent flood of memories. This morning, it was a loaf of bread. Opening the inner bag of a loaf of Pepperidge Farm bread, I was reminded of my childhood in Broad Ripple. That was back when Mom could afford to buy thin-sliced Pepperidge Farm sandwich bread. She was only feeding three little ones, not five, at that time. That's not to dis my baby brother or sister, but they just hadn't made it into this world yet and times seemed simpler back then. Maybe it was because I was so young and innocent in those middle years of the 70's decade.

We moved there when I was five and almost out of kindergarten. Dad had landed a secure job with the State of Indiana and saw his chance to escape the confines of smalltown, cornbread Princeton. By 1975, we were living in a limestone ranch at the corner of Delaware and Laverock across the street from the canal. That's where I made some of my favorite childhood memories which I will try to recall here.

The Broad Ripple canal, running northeast along Laverock, held so much adventure for me in those days. A walk along the tow path up to the Hook's Drugstore seemed like the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. There were ducks, honking geese holding up traffic along Westfield Ave, skipping rocks and a six-block walk that seemed like miles to these stubby legs. I'd venture up that way with a pocketful of change, intent on getting Sour Apple Now-n-Laters or Jolly Ranchers, Candy Cigarettes (which I'd "smoke" before I got home), and some Fun Dip. It was simple pleasures like that which lit up my world at age seven.

When Grandpa Doyle came to visit one summer, he died in '77, we walked the canal together. He was going to Hook's for a paper and some "hooch" and I was just happy to have some quality time with my Grandpa who no longer lived in Indiana, but had retired to south Florida. He was my only real Grandpa, as Mom's Dad had died in St. Louis when I was just three and a half. Anyway, I enjoyed that walk along the canal the most.

There was Broad Ripple Park, where I started and never finished swim lessons in what was once the largest swimming pool in the country, Meridian Street Methodist, where I played three years of baseball and Dad coached, and Baskin Robbins, where we went after every baseball game for a scoop or two of ice cream.

I started parochial school at Immaculate Heart of Mary on Central Ave, where I took first communion and went to my first confession. Right across the street was the Kennerk residence, where I spent many an afternoon and a few overnights. Hugh Kennerk and I were best buds back then. Sadly, we drifted apart when my family moved away from Broad Ripple. His family eventually moved, too, to the outskirts of Zionsville.

Other best buds back in the day were Wes Priest and Cullen Ryan. I remember going on my first jog with Wes and his Dad one day, then returning to his house to wash up in an open shower in his parent's basement. That was a novelty. It was also a far cry from the Ryan residence, a palatial estate on North Meridan Street, near where I played baseball. I spent a few overnights with Cullen and enjoyed exploring what my parents called "the Coke mansion," complete with working elevator.

During those years, I also played basketball and football, though I've never been overtly atheletic. Football
was practiced and played at Riverside Park in downtown Indy, a good 15-20 minute drive from home through some of the most fascinating areas of town, to my young mind. Most intriguing was the long closed and run down Riverside Amusement Park. The old wooden coaster still towered over the trees but was guarded and obscured by a tall fence and overgrown brush. I used to imagine what it was like back in it's heyday, and that was before you could Google something and see old postcards online, so it was left up to my imagination. In the mid-seventies, that place looked like a scary ghost park. Why it hadn't been demolished by then, I have no idea, but I looked forward to that drive every time I had to be at Riverside Park to wear the green and yellow Packers uniform.

The last thing I'll recall here is the crazy way my Mom had decorated my bedroom at 6116 N. Delaware St. She found this black and white wallpaper of a male lion's head with a full mane. I guess it was pretty cool and haute couture for 1975, but it scared the dickens out of me. She had also handed down her old bed with the wooden headboard that had two sliding door cubbies on either side, the doors of which she also covered with a lion's head from the wallpaper. My bed backed up to sealed french doors that used to lead to the backyard, so there was no shortage of windows in my room. Let me just tell you, that when lightning would light up my bedroom, I was petrified. I'd pull the bedspread clear over my head and clutch it there, shaking and sweating until I couldn't bear it anymore. I'd pull it back after a loud thunderclap and yell through tears to my parents just beyond my bedroom wall. They'd always call back for me to come in their room. What they failed to realize is that what stood between their room and mine was a long, terrifying walk through the living room, past the world's largest picture window, around the corner and into the safety of their bed. I couldn't do it. I was paralyzed with fear. I carried that fear of storms into my late teens. Sad, but true. I don't know if it was the lion's fault, but that den of horrors during lightning storms certainly didn't help. Thanks, Mom ;)


We moved away from Broad Ripple in 1977 thanks to Mom's growing belly and our growing family. We relocated further east, nearly to I-465 and 56th St., and I was transferred to St. Matthew's for a year before a three-year stint in public school (IPS, btw, stands for Indy Prison System). We didn't leave Broad Ripple altogether, though. We still attended Central Baptist Church and I went back to the area for high school, reconnecting with many of my childhood classmates from IHM. Some of those connections are still strong as ever, thanks to Facebook.

Hard to believe that was so many light years ago. All of these memories are brought to you courtesy of Pepperidge Farm breads. :) You're welcome.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The value in being alone

So, I was reading this blog on Being Alone and #5 really resonated with me, "Learn how to talk to yourself." I've been talking about that a lot on this blog and how I've learned the intrinsic value of self-compassion.

But learning to be alone, especially when you've been co-dependent most of your adult life (okay, all of it), has been a challenge for me. I'm just starting to make peace with it.

I have a couple of friends, ladies who are older than I, who spend much of their time alone--eating alone, spending time alone and missing the physical touch and companionship of a significant other. I never expected that would be me...at age 45. But such is the space that I find myself in at this point in time.

Visiting with a very dear friend over the weekend, I was asked if I was dating anyone "up there" yet. He was referring to my current location in North Florida...up there, where I have a few old friends I'm connected with who are all connected to significant others, kids, etc.

I haven't really found my place "up there" yet and I certainly haven't been looking to date anyone. That time seems like a far off in the future sort of place for me. Right now, I'm trying to acclimate myself to this newfound loneliness.

It's a feeling I haven't experienced since 2000 when I sunk into deep despair. I'm not sinking, not in the least. I'm trying to make the most of every minute of alone time, either enjoying a pursuit I'm passionate about, looking for places to volunteer or talking a walk to gather my thoughs and talk to myself.

Like I said, it's been a challenge for me and not nearly as easy as just taking a walk...but I'm getting there. The hours between 9 p.m. and 12 a.m. are the most difficult. That's when I wind down with either some good music, a movie or some TV. I get ready for bed and lie down alone. I lay there in the dark and wonder if I can do this for an extended period of time.

I'm a snuggler by nature, so it is sometimes difficult to get cozy enough for sleep when I'm in the bed alone. Pillows are rarely a good enough substitute. Some nights, I take bourbon to bed to help me relax and doze off, but I don't like to rely on alcohol too much of the time. Other nights, I lay with my journal by my side and try to recapture the highs and lows of the day, what I've learned or remembered or shared. That helps to clear my head of all the clutter, as does paying attention to my breathing and trying other relaxation techniques, but nothing is quite as efficient or effective as someone to hold close, to melt into at that time of the night.

I'm determined to make the most of this alone time, though. To realize that I'm enough to keep myself calm, fulfilled and happy. It's something I've never even tested before. I dated my fiance for 4.5 years before marrying her at age 24. We stayed together 20 years, then I had another relationship right away. No time for me in between. No time to really deal with my separation, what it meant for me personally and no time to heal. That's what I'm finally getting to do now, but it has multiplied due to the loss of two significant others from my life.

You live and learn. I get that. This is my learning curve. I'm learning the value in being alone.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

NO MORE Years a Slave

After watching the highly acclaimed feature film on slavery, I had time to think about the themes of the movie and apply them to my life. The main story of slavery aptly applies to my mental and emotional state for many years. Living as a slave to fear, inadequacy, anxiety and depression, I was a trapped in my own living hell. Not any longer!

I was just journalling this morning, cup of coffee by my side, morning sunlight on my face, that life has a peculiar way of teaching you lessons...of teaching ME, especially (I'm kinda hard-headed).

Photo I shot onstage at a
Sunset Celebration, Times Sq,
Fort Myers Beach
It was two years ago that I met a woman who would rock my world...both literally and symbolically. We played in a cover band together, getting to know each other over 9 months time before we ever officially dated. Then came the moment of that fated first kiss...and I was hooked.

Fast forward through that struggle of a blossoming relationship and here I sit today ready to close that chapter of my life. You see, I'm going down there in a couple of days to retrieve the last of my things, pay off a debt that I owe and get my drums out of storage.

It wasn't easy coming to terms with the fact that I was unevenly matched with a woman that I once thought could be a lifetime partner. We both carried our own baggage into the relationship, but we just couldn't manage to bridge the gap between us and share the heavy load. And to be honest, I went in kind of blindly and foolishly before my divorce was ever final. Lesson learned.

So I get to finally close that chapter of my life this week. Not an easy thing to do, as it's taken me nearly 10 weeks to arrive safely at this juncture. But I'm here.

I won't go so far as to say that I was a slave in that relationship, but I certainly felt stuck for a number of months. Unable to get my shit together, get up and get out, I remained and fought through the emotional rollercoaster of "should I stay or should I go." That's on me. Nobody else to blame. I was just fighting some personal demons. They are the ones who enslaved me from childhood.

But a slave no more, I'm ready to embrace my newfound freedom. And again, to be clear, I'm not talking about freedom from the previous relationship with an incredibly beautiful woman (photo above). No, I'm talking about personal freedom from some demons, some hangups that have haunted me all my life, held me captive through fear and intimidation. Those demons made me believe that I *needed* someone to fulfill or complete me (I realize now that's called co-dependence). I didn't and I don't, but I realize that now. Lesson learned.

I won't go again into another relationship quite so needy or ready to attach. I'll take it slow, allow things to grow organically. I won't ever allow myself to feel stuck ever again (I did that to myself). And I won't go back to slavery...EVER...AGAIN!

Those demons can SUCK IT!

That's all for now. Peace my friends. And thanks for listening.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

free form flows

waiting for calls or e-mails that would never come
words that could have soothed and healed
were never going to be spoken
not by the willfully victimized
certainly not by the broken

trust was shattered long ago
never to be restored
the cornerstone of loving
of giving and receiving
taken for granted or ignored

party on the longheld cry
for past pains and sins
you'd rather cover and deny
why cry out for help
when that would lead others to discover
what's become a latent choice
over and over and over

alas the wounded soul
one day will recover
might take a minute longer
then another and another
but time heals all wounds they say
whoever they might be
take these scars and grow
forever, still, a legacy you'll leave

Friday, April 04, 2014

How do you mend a broken heart?


They say that time heals all wounds, and I'm sure that it's true. Sometimes, it's hard to believe, though, when you're in the midst of the healing. And what of the lingering scars? The heart is never truly the same, ever again. I know that mine won't be.

Some call my previous relationship a total rebound. I'm not sure I'd qualify it as that, even though I've considered it. To me, it seemed like much more. And if you asked her, I'm sure she'd say that it was much, much more than that. Whatever it was, it happened. Two hearts were broken. And time? Well, it's just begun the process.

It took me several weeks to come to grips with the fact that I had suffered another broken heart. Because, truth is, I asked for the breakup. She didn't want it. I knew that my heart was no longer in it 100% and there was always the lingering issue of distrust. It's possible that we both sabotaged the relationship. I'm willing to accept my share of the blame. But no matter who shares or accepts what portion of the blame, it doesn't change the simple fact that two hearts were broken, wounded and left bleeding. It just took me longer to realize and accept it.

Since I'd sorta started the separation last year, in my own heart and mind, I thought that I'd already dealt with all of the hurt feelings, the disappointment that it wasn't what I thought, and the anger over being so blind and foolish. I was being blind and foolish to think that. :)

The day I hit the road aboard a Greyhound bus, the realization of "goodbye" hit me as I crossed the bridge out of town. It came crashing down all around me and I cried for a good 20 minutes, trying to hide my sadness from the other passengers. That was just the beginning...and it was a LONG ride home.

Going to bed alone for the first time in more than a year, I began to taste loneliness again. That was sobering, too. I wasn't quite prepared for the loneliness and all the crazy thoughts it causes you to entertain. But that still didn't unlock the buried heartache.

I'm not sure what the key was that opened that door or when it even happened, but for days now I've been dealing with the real heart of the issue, if you'll excuse the pun. I'm fully accepting now that I have suffered another broken heart. I wasn't anywhere near being over my girlfriend, no matter how much I'd fooled myself to believe that I was. I still love her and care for her very much. But I no longer give her the power to hurt me. The damage has been done. No need to exacerbate the pain by revisiting the wounds.

That is why I've tried like hell to live in the present. It's hard for me, though. I'm programmed to keep going back and analyzing things, looking for areas where I was wrong, where I acted foolishly or where I could have reacted differently to what was going on. That's just how I'm wired. I'm very critical and analytic like that.

Going back to re-read old e-mails, journal posts, blog posts and to look at photos on Facebook only perpetuates the painful memories of what was and wasn't there. Sadly, I can't keep myself from looking at all of it from time to time. And maybe that's part of the process, too...the healing.

At any rate, time has just begun to tick away. With every tick of the clock, I am hopeful to find some small dose of healing. I know that I've made some strides just this week, but that came only after taking two steps back. Hey, I'm hard-headed, too, and sometimes slow to learn. And admitting that my heart was truly broken was a huge step forward.

Several friends have told me this week, "it's obvious you still love her and care for her," and I'm glad they can see it. I doubt that she believes it, and I guess that doesn't matter anymore. I'm ready to live and let live. I want us both to move on and find true peace and happiness within ourselves. Only in reaching that Nirvana, can we be fully who we are and offer "the treasure of us" individually to someone else.

Here's the perfect song to accompany this post:


Well, here's to recovery...Cheers!

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