Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The bittersweet taste of 2014

As much as the years 2001 and 2004 were all about my girls, so to was the year 2014.

Major decisions were reached with them in mind. Foremost was my decision to move back to Tallahassee, a place I swore I’d never live again. As the old saying goes, “Never say never.” Not only did I move back there, I moved in with my girls. My ex needing to spend nine months in Colorado for work, this became a win-win-win. That’s to say a win for me, for my girls and for Tracy. To say that I cherished that time with them, fulfilling the role of full-time, stay-at-home dad from mid-February through early November, is a huge understatement. I loved it, the highs and the lows. I think the girls did, too. I watched Kenna thrive like she did under my guidance in 2006, when I was home for three months and potty trained her. She didn’t learn any “new tricks,” per se, but her sweet little disposition did just as much for me as it does for her. I managed a major school change for Merikathryn. She seems to be doing well in her new educational environs.

Needless to say, it was a year of transition and change for me. I ended a year-long romance with a woman to whom I was ill-matched. I’ll just say, its one thing to watch someone’s trainwreck life on TV. It’s quite another to live a trainwreck with someone. That’s what I was doing on Fort Myers Beach, so I’m glad I moved on from that situation. That said, I do still miss my beach and great friends there.

I navigated the treacherous waters of unemployment, found a free place to stay and made two trips to Indiana, all with the help of family and friends.

I’m still dealing with the earth-shattering news I received in late May that my mother is dying of cancer.

I’ll let that statement stand alone. It changed a lot of things for me, namely my perspective. There was nothing that was going to keep me from spending a good portion of my summer up there with her and Dad. My girls had gone to Colorado to stay with their mom for six weeks, so I hit the road in June and spent the better part of two months in Noblesville, Indiana. Memories were made with Mom that I will always remember and cherish, like conversations we had in her basement and on her back porch. I also got the chance to make some memories with my siblings, nieces and nephews. A highlight of that trip was visiting Holiday World Theme Park in August before returning home with the girls.

A disturbing vision by my sister, Keely, made me determined to get back up there for Thanksgiving, so the girls and I hit the road for Indiana, together this time. It was a very long drive, harder than most of the dozens of times I’ve driven that route up I-65. We enjoyed four full days in Indiana, capped off by a visit to Princeton with Mom and Dad where I finally got to meet my cousin, Shawn’s, adopted daughter. She’s already 2 years old and quite a beauty. The time I spent on the road was just another opportunity to bond with my own daughters. Again, time cherished and not easily forgotten.

We’re not quite to the end of this monumental year, but looking back I have SO MUCH for which to be thankful. Not the least of which is the time I got with my Mom and with my daughters. I’m still learning to practice gratitude and to radiate positivity. I’ve come quite a long way. Having more time with the girls and them at the center of my life, again, is the best thing that has happened in my life since I adopted both of them in 2001 and 2004.

Yes, 2014, you’ve been quite the banner year. Bittersweet. One that I surely won’t ever forget.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


As you may already know, my mother is dying of cancer.  By the time it was detected this past May, it was already in three areas of her body and she decided to forego treatment. My sister had a premonition a short time later that Mom would NOT be around for the Christmas holiday. About that same time, my daughter’s told me they really wanted to go to “Grammy’s” for Thanksgiving. I told them that come hell or high water, I’d make that happen for them.

With Thanksgiving now just a week away, my needing time off work to travel, the car needing brakes, an oil change and gas, I’m left to the goodwill of my brothers and sisters to make this trip happen for me and my daughters. Also, the cold weather this week has caused my place of employment to close for two days, cutting my weekly pay in half.

If you can help in any way—monetarily, with a gas card, offering to replace brake pads or provide an oil change—it would be greatly appreciated and we would certainly pay it forward. I can send you a request through PayPal if you will contact me Thank you.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

All we like sheep

All we like sheep have gone astray...

I've already been seeing ads for "Black Friday" like the ones that promise all the great holiday deals NOW! Nice try, Madison Ave. It's not enough that you have people camping out to get the best "doorbuster deals" of the season. It's also not enough that your Christmas displays go up in August, retail America. No, we need our best Black Friday deals and we need them in like October!!!

I just read an account of a couple of Best Buy patrons in Texas who claimed their spot on the sidewalk LAST WEDNESDAY!!! We're talking November 5th for deals that don't start for at least 21 days! Is anything really worth that sort of a wait? So you're first in spend your hard-earned money on something that will probably be obsolete, or on clearance, by early next year. KUDOS, idiots!!!

The doorbuster deals you get on a flatscreen tv this week will go for that same price every day of the week in about 6-10 months. Mark my words! But you have to have it NOW! Why? Because Madison Avenue and the American consumeristic mindset told you that it is this year's must-have. Stupid sheep!


There is no reason to camp out for three weeks for ANYTHING! I camped out 10 hours in the cold, once, for Rush concert tickets. I was 15 and the Internet wasn't even someone's fantasy yet. Now, that I have to work hard for every penny I earn and I respect the value of a dollar, I don't HAVE to have anything right now, except a warm meal and a place to sleep. Those are the real must-haves.

All we like sheep...are led around by the nose by Wall Street, telling us we have to have MORE and we have to have it NOW! Buy. Consume. Rinse. Repeat!

It saddens me, really. The fall holidays are supposed to be a time for families, sharing good times, comfort foods and happy memories. How did it ever come to this? People planning their Thanksgiving meals or cutting them short based on the sale ads from places like Wal-Mart and Best Buy. It's a sad statement on American culture.

My fondest childhood memories are of visiting my great-aunt's house in Vincennes or spending Christmases at grandma's house in Princeton. There was no getting up in the wee hours to stand in line in the cold while local news cameras capture our shivering and the cold stare of consumerism in our eyes. There were no news stories on the day after Thanksgiving of people being stabbed or crushed to death at the local department store. I'm not simply pining for the "good old days" I'm just saying look where we've come. It's not a better all.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Can we?

With a sinking approval rating in the low 40's, American political candidates of the Democratic persuasion are asking that the President NOT campaign for them in their local elections. I don't know how unprecedented that is, but I'm sure that in my lifetime there were probably those who also said "Thanks, but no thanks" to support from lame duck presidents, like Jimmy Carter. But I digress.

Conservative hacks are saying that Obama could go down in the annals of U.S. History as possibly the worst president to date. And while I don't know if that is true, his popularity in the waning years of his presidency is wilting. And are we surprised?

I, for one, am not.

Now, before you start labeling me, you must know that I affix no party affiliation to my person. I am an independent thinker. Like many Americans, I am sickened by the greed and corruption of our government. I am distrustful of most politicians. And I agree that change is sorely needed.

That's what Obama promised back in 2008, remember?

But what clout did he really carry to bring about such radical change? How was this one-term Senator from the Midwest going to shake-up the beltway establishment and spark a revolution? I said it all throughout his campaign, though I was mostly talking to the dog and to my girls, "he's got no real political muscle, no clout to get this done."

He ran (and won, I might add) on a bunch of empty promises. So we have a highly disputed national health care. Has it really helped anyone? I'm still uninsured. But again, I digress.

We're still embroiled in the Middle East mess with no real sign of ever getting untangled and bringing our battle-weary troops home.

And now we're faced with a possible worldwide epidemic...a multinational plague called Ebola. And the powers that be in Washington can't put some common-sense travel restrictions in place. How about we ban inbound flights from the affected countries? Not saying, "don't send workers," but how about we quarantine them on a remote island for 20 days until they are deemed "all clear?" Heck, the DC incompetence cannot even protect health workers by disseminating quick and accurate FAQ's...just ask Texas Presbyterian Hospital.

No wonder the president's approval rating is at it's all-time low. He doesn't seem to stand for anything, certainly not the radical change he promised. Heck, he can't even use some common-sense judgment to protect our borders.

I'm glad that he finally burst through the glass ceiling for Black Americans. I am. We have our first black president. It's now in the history books. Let's move on.

Can we return some common sense to DC? Can we maybe get a middle-of-the-road candidate who is neither Democrat or Republican, but has some political clout to push through a common-sense agenda? Is that a pie-in-the-sky dream? Or is this country going to devolve into a second-world nation bent on revolution/civil war. I'm not being melodramatic, either. The two-party system has polarized this country to a degree where degenerates on both sides are hurling vitriolic word bombs at each other and nearly coming to blows. If this keeps up, don't be surprised when State's start succession debates in their legislative chambers. Heck, we have states now, like Florida and California, who want to split apart at the seams.

All I'm asking is that we don't get swept up in some media frenzy next time. Keep your wits about you and don't buy the hype. Elect someone with some real substance; someone who can get something accomplished other than the stalemate we usually get from Capitol Hill. I guess what I'm saying is, "Wake up, America!" and "Let's go!" *rah, rah, sis-boom-bah*

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jameis Lynched in the Media

I thought I was done arguing about the validity of the claims against FSU Quarterback Jameis Winston, but the media has the public worked up into such a frenzy that no amount of “justice” is going to satisfy the lynchmob.

Articles that have run in the New York Times and USA Today, with all of their “investigative integrity” and shameless editorializing, are keeping this story in the national headlines. My own family is now turning against me believing that I’ve been so tainted by my allegiance to Florida State that I can’t see the obvious and egregious nature of Jameis’ crimes.

While the whole world speculates about the FSU cover-up and the media hypocritically blames the University of a greed-fueled sell-out, I decided I’d weigh in and play the “what if” game, too.


…the video from Potbelly’s showed a drunken, underage woman leaving their establishment under her own volition and entering a cab with three football players?

…the Chris Casher video, now deleted from his iPhone, in fact, showed a horny college co-ed giving oral pleasure to the college qb of her own freewill?

…a hasty and thorough investigation of this alleged incident brought to light that the victim was indeed not a victim at all, but a regretful, hungover college co-ed who decided to cry “Rape!” after the consensual act?

…that investigation led FSU to forego a Title IX inquiry and also led the State Attorney to the same conclusion as was reached in 2013?

But no one wants to err on the side of a "repeat (repeat, repeat)" offender, right? I mean, after all, he DID steal $34 worth of crab legs!

No one seems to care that while the alleged victim’s name is blotted out of released legal reports and omitted from daily news stories, Mr. Winston’s name is smeared from here to China. No one wants to err on the side of the Heisman-winning, two-sport athlete and student. No one is speculating that he is innocent.

Because this is such a high profile athlete at a premier university, there MUST BE a cover-up.

And EVEN IF there was a botched investigation, that only damns the cops who botched it. Their ineptitude doesn’t immediately spell cover-up, nor does it prove the alleged perp got away with anything. Last I checked, the Law still presumes innocence until proven guilt. But not the Almighty American Media…because if it sells papers and increases readership, then morality and legality be damned!

Yet, those same “moralistic” media outlets would be crying foul from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court if THEIR rights were infringed in any way. And just how hypocritical do you have to be Gannett News Service, to accuse a government institution of higher learning (i.e. non-profit) that they are blinded by greed, when that’s what fuels your entire, for-profit industry?

Journalistic integrity, as well as objectivity, flew the coop a LONG TIME AGO! Any monkey flipping between CNN and Fox News can see that. The news media now panders to public opinion like Pavlov’s Dog. “Look it’s trending on social media…IT’S DEFINITELY NEWS!!!!”

As I said, my own family, and many in Nole Nation, has been suckered in by all the media hype surrounding this story. No new facts have emerged, but Winston is guilty as EVER and the university obviously put football revenue above student safety and its own integrity. Why? Because the New York Times and USA Today say so!

My sister alluded to her daughter who is now in college and asked how I would feel if one of my daughters was in this situation. Let me just say, as a dad and an uncle, I’d be ready to do physical harm to ANY guy that laid a hand on ANY of my girls—daughters or nieces! I’d want to thrash them into an unrecognizable form, no doubt. But I asked her, in response, what if it was her son and she were 200% sure of his innocence?

Jameis Winston has a family back in Alabama who I’m sure cringe every time they turn on ESPN or go online. And like his family back home, his Tallahassee family is just as sure of his innocence. Why? Because we see him interact with fans and the public all the time. We see him on the baseball diamond ham it up behind unwitting reporters. We see him on the sidelines of Doak Campbell playing cheerleader to his backup who started during Winston’s suspension. He was suspended from the baseball team for the crab leg incident, by the way. We also see him stop for photos with young kids, go to class and practice every day undaunted by the media firestorm around him.

All the rest of the world sees is the strawman strung up in the public square by an overzealous media. The South is no stranger to public lynchings, I might add.

Which brings me to the race issue that no one is talking about…how many black men in the South get away with raping white college coeds? I would argue that there are a lot more prison cells inhabited by wrongly accused African-Americans than there are white men. Back in the not-so-distant past, this would have been grounds for a real-life lynching in Tallahassee.

But the media would have us all believe that the white establishment is rising to defend a black student accused of raping a white girl in a town with deeply Southern roots. The number of black men who have hung from the moss-draped trees in the rolling hills of North Florida is too nauseating to count. And don’t believe that the good-ol-boy system of justice doesn’t still prevail down here. It does. It permeates every level of the justice system, from college police departments to State Attorneys offices. So to report that this kid was shown favoritism in a small Southern town just because he plays football is beyond ludicrous. But what would a white reporter from a New York paper know about that?

Furthermore, there is the issue of character, to which my brother-in-law alluded earlier today. Why on Earth would FSU Coach Jimbo Fisher put his neck out there, placing his own multi-million dollar job on the line? Because he’s convinced that the kid is innocent. He knows more of the facts probably than most of us do. There’s no skeletons in Fishers closet, either. He’s as clean as they come. And he knows his kids. To accuse him of being part of this city-wide conspiracy is to call his character into question, as a coach, a man and a father. I happen to believe he knows more about this kid than I do. I also happen to respect him, so I’m gonna err on the side of the facts that I see before me. I'm not blinded by allegiance to my alma mater, I just believe in due process and vetting all the facts.

The media lynchmob will be onto another subject once a real crime is committed and covered up, but there’s no smoking gun in Tallahassee. It’s simply a case of he said-she said and we should leave it in the hands of the courts before we go stringing anyone up or ruining their future. Since when do we get to lynch a person based on popular opinion and media bias? All those high-horse media hacks, including ESPN’s Finebaum, need to get over themselves and quit their ridiculous hypocrisy. This has gotten SO OLD!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Finding the REAL Jesus

It seems to me that Christianity has been molding it's God, and likewise Savior, into a mere reflection of human beings for centuries. The more we can give Him human foibles and mortal characteristics, the easier it is for us to relate, to even visualize the Divine as something more casual, tangible and familiar. We've all but removed any of the mystery surrounding the Supreme Being.

That's why I was so particularly intrigued by the article "What Did Jesus Do?" published in the May 2010 edition of The New Yorker (and recently shared by a friend on Facebook). It focuses a lot on Mark's gospel, long held the oldest original source material for the New Testament. In Mark's narrative, whoever the author, a very human Jesus emerges. But his story, told in retrospect some 30-odd years after Jesus' death, was told in light of the Pauline teachings that had spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. And let's not forget that the canon itself wasn't formalized until sometime in the fourth century. That is, there was no Bible being shared or read amongst the earliest Christ followers. It is also imperative to remember the times in which those earliest Christians were living. Their world had just fallen apart. The Roman war had decimated the Jewish Temple, causing the first great diaspora. Jesus warnings about the end being near and the Temple being destroyed were fully realized for them.

Adam Gopnik, who penned The New Yorker article, reminds us:
So the long history of the early Church councils that tried to make the tales into a theology is, in a way, a history of coming out of the movie confused, and turning to someone else to ask what just happened. This is the subject of Philip Jenkins’s “Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years” (HarperOne; $26.99). Jenkins explains what was at stake in the seemingly wacky wars over the Arian heresy—the question of whether Jesus the Son shared an essence with God the Father or merely a substance—which consumed the Western world through the second and third centuries...People argued that way because they were part of social institutions—cities, schools, clans, networks—in which words are banners and pennants: who pledged to whom was inseparable from who said what in what words.
He argues that it was more about who would run the Church than it was about setting the historical record straight. Gopnik goes on to remind us further:

If one thing seems clear from all the scholarship, though, it’s that Paul’s divine Christ came first, and Jesus the wise rabbi came later. 
That's a point that seems to be lost on many literalist Christians who take every word of the Bible as, well, gospel. Even the early church's understanding of what Mark wrote about Jesus was colored by the radical teachings of Paul already becoming well-known in the Greco-Roman world. And it was the Roman Empire that eventually codified Christian theology and spread it across the known world.

The point is, what do we really know about Jesus, the actual first century mystic who lived like a homeless person amongst his small band of followers? Funny to me the backlash over a movie producer who wants to portray a very Middle Eastern-looking Jesus in an upcoming film. Why? Because we want a very Anglo Jesus, even a laid back, surfer looking dude like my mom had proudly displayed on our living room wall. Because that's easier for us to digest. Easier to relate to as mere mortals. Let's paint this Messiah in OUR image, so we can take ownership of Him.

I believe that's what the earliest Christians did. I believe that's what the Roman Church did. And we still do it today. Call it human nature, I guess. But the REAL Jesus is somewhere in between the pages of the Gospels. He's hidden in the mystery that is God, behind a shroud of darkness that cannot be unveiled by mere scholarship, intuition or finite understanding. Why can't we just embrace the mystery of his being and choose to all get along? If we cling to His reported message, "Love others as yourself," we can't go wrong.

I encourage you to read the entire article (here) with an open mind.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Radio is a JOKE!

Radio stations in the U.S. are a joke! Following the stale formulas of the 1950's, radio is holding on by a thread in this country. They are competing with iPods, internet radio and a whole host of other means by which fans enjoy their favorite music artists. Radio conglomerates don't seem to care. You'll have to pry those daypart clocks, rotation formulas and also-ran morning shows from their cold, dead fingers!!

I had the radio on in the car this morning for a full TWO minutes before I turned it off in disgust.

The most disturbing part is the clock that they all adhere to, going to a 5-minute commercial break (or longer) at the same exact time, every hour...ALL of them! It's worse than watching late night cable tv, what with their formulaic infomercials playing every 12 minutes at the same time on nearly every station. This morning, I happened to tune in just as they were all going to commercial break. You know, because the radio gods in the 1950's decided that listeners would remain tuned in if you took commercial breaks at A, B, C and D every hour like clockwork. We are all trained monkeys, aren't we? So, I turned from one preset station to the next only to be yelled at by an obnoxious local car dealer, promo'd out the wazoo and generally over-saturated with over-hyped pitchmen on every stop along the dial. Would it kill them to maybe stagger their commercial breaks? Especially when one conglomerate owns 80% of the local market share?!

The second most disturbing part about American radio--and this goes back to the trained monkeys that they believe us all to be--is the "play it over-and-over-and-over" mentality of the 15 program directors that run 100% of stations in this country (and 15 may be an inflated number, but I'm just guessing...there may be as few as 4). The rotation formula has irritated me since I was a kid and my sister's couldn't get enough Madonna or Whitney or Michael, so the stations decided to play the same 5 songs every 20 minutes. It's maddening. And that formula, which has been around since before the Beatles or Rolling Stones, is still being employed today! I cannot tell you how sick I got of hearing Pharell's "Happy" earlier this year, as the teeny-bopper stations played it in heavy rotation. And just like the yelling car salesman, I'd hear his voice on 2 or 3 stations at a time if I scanned my radio dial. If kids want to hear Pharell 15 times in an hour, let them put on some headphones and cue up their iPod or Pandora!!!

And in the morning time, when I'm on my first cup of coffee, fighting traffic to get my kids to school, and totally irritated with idiot drivers, the last thing I want to hear is incessant chatter. How about some damn music? I mean, this whole medium came about to keep folks entertained. It morphed into a 24-hour juke box, but now it's just a joke. Morning shows are the worst!!! Even the guys I grew up on, Bob & Tom out of Indianapolis, are still on the morning radio dial all over the country. And their show has devolved into them laughing at their own stupid jokes, talking over each other and basically following the same rough outline they started with in the early 80's! I don't want to hear old guys snorting, laughing and trying to out-gag each other. I just wanna hear music...and not the same 5 songs every 20 minutes, interrupted only by yelling car salesmen and endless promos. Is that too much to ask?

No wonder people are tuning out in droves. My only option is the CD player in my car so I've reverted to burning CDs from my MP3 archives on my computer. I keep a stash of the homemade compilations (like my old mix-tapes) in the car at ALL times! I hate what radio is today and how little it has changed in my lifetime. I'm shocked that advertisers still throw money at this dying medium. People have tuned out. And even when they are listening, trained monkeys that they are, it has become the background music to their lives. They aren't really paying attention anymore. It's like Muzak on the elevator to them. So do advertisers really think they are getting any bang for their buck? I don't think so. But radio seems to never want to change. They don't want to really compete in the changing landscape of electronic entertainment. Radio in this country is a joke.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

The Beatles, the Summer of Love and Me

I was conceived sometime near the end of 1967 after the infamous "summer of love" and the release of two preeminent Beatles albums.

Two of their best albums, musically and artistically, in my humble opinion.

The release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, arguably one of the bands brightest and most creative LP's, kicked off the summer of love on June 1, 1967, followed by the worldwide, satellite premier of "All You Need Is Love." That song became my sister's favorite Beatles song while we lived on Race Street in Princeton, Indiana. In fact, some of my earliest memories from that house so long ago are of sitting in the front living room near the stereo, listening to Dad's copy of Magical Mystery Tour, my favorite Beatles album of all-time, and the Sesame Street collection on 45. The former was released as a double-EP soundtrack in London to accompany the Beatles movie of the same title at the end of '67. I was yet a zygote in my mother's belly.

My father was completing his first semester at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. Mom was in beauty school, preparing to embark on a short-lived career as a hairdresser. My arrival in 1968, brought their aspirations and whatever career goals they had in mind to an abrupt halt. They married in March of that year and embarked on family life, Dad joining the National Guard on the very day his draft number was called. Bullet dodged.

Was I a lingering effect of the summer of love? I don't know, but that hippie subculture was certainly prevalent in the era to which I was born. And the Beatles were the official soundtrack to that era, my Dad owning several of their Capital releases on vinyl, including Meet the Beatles, Rubber Soul and Magical Mystery Tour. Needless to say, my sister and I about wore out the grooves on those old LP's, which were lost somewhere between Tallahassee and Indianapolis in the late 1980's. Sadly.

Ironically enough, the Beatles graced the cover
of LIFE Magazine the day after I was born.

My favorite of those, opened with the anthemic title track, "ROOLLLL UUUPP!" and I was hooked. I loved the psychedelic flavor to tracks like "Strawberry Fields" and "I Am the Walrus." The haunting organ-bathed tune by Harrison, titled "Blue Jay Way" was one of my favorites. Throughout, I loved their use of orchestration, of horns and cellos especially. The album, as well as the movie booklet that accompanied it, had a dreamy feel to it and I was always intrigued to see the actual film (Note: I just watched it this month for the first time). I can sing along with every tune. "Your Mother Should Know" sort of harkens back to the big band tunes of Benny Goodman, leading his orchestra on clarinet (and is similar to McCartney's "When I'm 64"). I really liked that one and "Baby You're a Rich Man" because they were so different from the tunes on earlier Beatles albums. I should also note my Dad's 8-track copy of the Beatles early years, which we wore out in the old family truckster, so I was familiar with most of their early hits. Their 1967 albums were a serious departure from the bubble-gum pop/rock of the early 60's and I quite enjoyed it.

I've been on this Beatles kick, focusing a lot on George Harrison, my new favorite Beatle, for a couple of weeks now. Not exactly sure what prompted it, maybe just a sense of nostalgia and wanting to revel in some of my earliest childhood memories. We have some old home movies shot at that house on Race Street when I was 4 or 5. They are much of the reason I still remember so much about that old house, but music, almost as much as smell, triggers my memory bank, and the Beatles certainly take me back to a happy, simpler, more innocent period of my life.

To whatever degree I owe a debt of gratitude to the "summer of love," I am thankful for the music it spawned (or vice-versa) and for my existence in the world. I think George would be proud of me for my self-awareness and gratitude. :)

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Catholic Guilt

My youngest siblings didn't grow up in the same way that I did. They didn't experience, or at least they don't remember, Mass, Holy Communion, Confession, Priests, Incense...well, you get the picture. My parents were pretty well done with the Catholic Church by the time my brother and sister came along in '78 and '79. So they didn't grow up with the idea of "original sin" being burnt into their subconscious by habit-wearing, prune-faced old ladies and men adorned in meekly-ornamented vestments.

I was thinking about this the other morning while listening to a classical music station on the radio. No need to delve into how my crazy mind works, but suffice to say my thoughts drifted to the Dark Ages and the control the Catholic Church held over the Western World.

At any rate, I was remembering how Catholic guilt was placed upon me at an early age. I didn't have a grasp of the Scriptures, I only knew the basic tenets of the Christian faith, as expressed to me in Sunday School and at Mass. I knew that because of my inherent badness, thanks to Adam and "original sin," I deserved to be punished. But my mere punishment wouldn't appease God at all. No, he had to send his Son to die. So, in effect, I KILLED GOD!

I was reminded of this constantly, through lectures, sermons, Scripture readings and icons. The constant icon in every Catholic Church I'd ever been in was the crucifix. In fact, every Catholic home in which I ate, played or visited had a crucifix proudly displayed somewhere. You couldn't get away from the constant reminder that YOU...YOU KILLED CHRIST!!!

Now, some believe that all Catholics are anti-Semites who firmly hold to the notion that Jews killed Jesus. This is not true. I, for one, knew that I ALONE was the reason for his death. I had the blood of the Savior on my hands.

Talk about guilt.

No wonder I had such a struggle with my conscience on a daily basis. That notion about Catholic guilt is more than just a nun's tale. It's real. I carried the haunting vision of that near naked man, cast in bronze, impaled on a wooden cross always. I couldn't escape it. Whether I was in the classroom at Immaculate Heart of Mary, in my friend's living room or at a Doyle family dinner, I was always sitting in view of the hallowed eyes cast down under the shadow of a thorny crown. And it was ALL MY FAULT!

I'm convinced nowadays that the church has effectively used that ploy to keep the masses under control for ages. It certainly worked on an adolescent boy in Indiana. And history has shown that it worked in the Dark Ages and still today. How many youth around the world carry that same albatross around their neck in the form of a rosary? How many of them walk under the shroud of Catholic guilt everyday, knowing that they aren't good enough, worthy enough or saintly enough?

And is that a good thing?

You be the judge.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Jameis Winston Fallout

I wrote yesterday on my Colts-Noles blog re: the Jameis Winston controversy. My seemingly unpopular opinion--if you look at and a few Nole-related FB pages--has only intensified since last night's knuckleheaded decision by the FSU Administration to extend Jameis' punishment.

In case you weren't watching or listening this week, Jameis' antics in the FSU Oglesby Student Union on Tuesday were tweeted about by fellow students. The next morning, the Heisman quarterback was making national headlines for repeating a vulgar phrase from a viral Internet video. It was a laughable "offense" that got many folks up in arms. It was college high jinks, captured on social media. There was no crime to be punished. There were no cries from students to have him removed from campus, the team OR the game, and yet, in recent NFL fashion, the powers that be decided his suspension from the Clemson game should be complete, reversing course on their earlier decision to only hold him out of the first two quarters.

Let me reiterate that THERE WAS NO CRIME committed. No one was hurt. The students who tweeted the incident were probably laughing at him. No authorities were involved--not the FSU Police Department, not the Tallahassee Police, not FDLE, not even a local crossing guard! So where is the punishment coming from? Perceptions? Do-gooders who have nothing better to complain about? An FSU Admin desperate to make themselves relevant?

So many have chimed in about Jameis Winston's character, his immaturity, his poor judgment and his lack of humility and sense. But let's really look at Jameis' decision-making. First, he CHOSE to come here. He put in brutal two-a-days, grueling workouts for TWO SPORTS (not just football) and has excelled at BOTH! He's brought plenty of attention, good and bad, to the University. The good has come with plenty of purse strings attached. Has the bad caused irreparable damage? Have we lost trophies, sponsorships or dollars from his actions? No. And I'm not saying it's all about those things, but to the Administration, those things should weigh pretty heavy. So in their rush to judgment, rush to appeal to the masses, to the media, to social pressure, did they even consider the fallout of a loss tonight? A loss of a potential championship game? The loss of a portion of their fanbase?

For this tried-and-true Nole, the REAL embarrassment is in A) how this whole situation was handled by the University; and B) in their reversing course like we've seen for two weeks in the NFL. Let's face it, they caved to outside pressures instead of handling this in-house with some tact and grace.

That was my problem from the beginning of this whole mess on Tuesday. Call Jameis in, handle the situation privately, in-house, and get in front of the media circus with a concise, consistent message. Don't let it spin out of control. (Sorry, I worked in PR for a number of years).

Because this stupid incident is in NO WAY RELATED to alleged sexual abuse, shoplifting or BB gun shooting, and yet they've let the media dredge all of that up, tie it in a bundle and submit it as Jameis' resume. Forget the fact that he's been a stellar student in the classroom, a crazy highlight reel phenom on the baseball and football fields and a funny, charismatic, engaging leader on campus. He's not some thug with a long rap sheet, as ESPN has been touting all week. He did his community service "time" for the crab leg theft. No other charges were ever brought against him. So how does cursing on a college campus rise to this level of ridiculous backlash?

The kid has made some poor choices, no doubt. What kid hasn't? And has social media REALLY raised the bar THAT high? That you have to maintain a level of sainthood in college to appease the rich, white establishment? I say let Jameis be Jameis, and allow this whole situation to fade into obscurity. But IF we lose to Clemson? Guess what, FSU leadership? This discussion is NOT going away and the end result will NOT be good for you...for us, as Nole Nation.

My frustration has now risen to the level of disgust. Interim President Stokes has lost my trust and respect. And for the team's sake, I hope she's ready to suit up...because we need her as 3rd string QB!

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.

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 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 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.

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!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The sacred dunes at the state park

They may not be the Mountains of Mordor, but these dunes might as well be. I once took a pilgrimage there with "my precious."

These photos, shot Sunday morning in Panama City Beach, show the very spot where I carried a then 3-month-old baby girl, wrapped in a warm, fleece blanket. It was October thirteen years ago and I was taking my oldest daughter on her first ever trip to the beach. My folks and my sister's family were visiting from Indiana. As usual, I was up before the dawn. My new baby was still sleeping, but something was drawing me into the pre-dawn solitude towards the pristine, sugar sand dunes of the state park, just a few hundred yards from our condo.

I wrapped my already swaddled bundle of joy in my favorite blue, black and white blanket, as it was chilly on this dark morning along the Gulf coast of North Florida. I walked with her and a disposable camera, as I didn't have my Kodak digital camera back then, through the cool sand up into the dunes. Found a nice spot that sheltered us both from the wind and planted myself in the sand, clear of any sand spurs. Surrounded by those green and white blanketed hills, I waited for the sunrise. But I was met by the Divine.

Those of you old enough to remember the mini-series, Roots, will certainly recall the dramatic scene where the father, played by John Amos, raises his infant into the air symbolically. That is precisely how I felt in that moment, like I was offering this precious baby back to the cosmos, or back to God, from whence she came.

You have to understand this baby was a miracle blessing to me at the time. I've even written how she saved my life. But in that moment, I felt something more than mere gratitude. I felt the hand of the Almighty in a very real way. I was humbled beyond measure. I knew that I didn't deserve the great prize I had won, but I was going to cherish it with everything in my being. And that I have.

I have an outstandingly beautiful and gifted daughter who is about to turn 13 this summer. And as I walked that same path over the weekend, I was struck again by the beauty of those dunes and what they represent to me. I was overcome with emotion, as I am now, typing this through tears.

It was another pre-dawn stroll along the beach, like I'd had back in 2001. This time, I had my digital camera, and though the pics didn't all turn out spectacularly, I have them as a token...a reminder of what happened in my life over a decade ago. Those dunes will always hold a special place in my heart.

They are now a sacred spot. And just like the photo below, of the sun rising over them, the sun rises everyday in my life, rain or shine, because I have that bundle of joy in my life.

I love you, MK.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Advice on love, relationships

I’ve got some news for this guy, this “love expert” Gerald Rogers and I’ve got 4 years on him. I was married 20 and I was the one to file for divorce, so I’ve got a little different take on things. Unlike Mr. 15 Minutes of Fame (he appeared on the Today Show after his post went viral), I don’t ever intend to marry again. Will I fall in love? Probably. Will I find a committed partner to share in my golden years? Maybe, we’ll see. What I won’t find is another co-dependent, mutually devastating cluster like I was in.

  1. Make the effort, of course. Be romantic, sure, but guard your heart. Gerald says, “She chose you,” as if you had no say in the matter. Go in with your eyes wide open and realize that you chose EACH OTHER. Both parties should be equal in their giving. And if you learn to love sacrificially, you’ll never go wrong in trying to outdo your partner.
  2. Guard your heart (see above). Love yourself fully and don’t settle for someone who doesn’t love themselves. You have to protect your own heart fiercely. But if you radiate that kind of love and confidence, you’ll attract the right kind of woman.
  3. Fall in love. Again, be romantic. But know that love is not just some gushy mesh of sentimental feelings and words. Love is action. Be a doer, not just a talker. Show your love and stay connected. It doesn’t fall just on you, but you can certainly lead by example, or better yet, LOVE by example!
  4. Be realistic. She’s not perfect and neither are you. “Always see the best,” as Gerald suggests is not reality. There will always be things about your partner that could improve, and that may even bug you. Get past them. If they are immovable objects that would hinder your moving forward, either get help or get out. “Focus to the point where you can no longer see anything but love?” C’mon, dude, get real. Again, love is not some puffy cloud of lovey-dovey feelings up in the stratosphere. Love is both a choice and an action, but you have to see your partner for who they really are, warts and all. If you can’t handle that, then stay single.
  5. Show tough love if absolutely necessary. Everyone has faults. Some people that we love NEED to change for their own good. Sometimes a tough love approach is the only way. Is it our job to change our partner? No, certainly not. That burden falls on them alone. If you can lovingly help your partner see where change is needed, then is it more loving to avoid the challenge or to meet it head on? Ask yourself the difficult question.
  6. Be accountable. On this point we both agree. You share half the burden in the relationship, whether there is credit or blame to go around. Accept your share, apologize if you have to and carry on. You can only control you, period.
  7. Be honest. You have to be honest, first, with yourself before you can be honest with your partner. Are the things bothering you because of your own faulty perceptions, past hurts and failures? Be honest with yourself before going to your partner with a grievance. If there IS someone to blame, it could be the both of you. Only an honest, adult discussion can get you through what’s troubling you. For one person to bear the brunt of the blame is completely unfair and unbalanced.
  8. Be who you are. Don’t put on masks for your partner and don’t expect her to wear them either. Give her the freedom to be who she is and to express herself genuinely. Don’t make assumptions about gender roles, like Mr. Rogers. The man doesn’t always have to be the pillar of strength upon which she leans. You should be equal partners in the relationship, able to lean upon each other. She will be your pillar at times, as you will be hers. It’s no one person’s job to be the Rock of Gibraltar all the time (refer to #4 and  #7).
  9. Be silly. Be child-like, but not childish, and laugh as much as possible. Gerald hit a home-run on this one. I was suckered into believing, at the beginning of my marriage, that I had to “behave like an adult.” I lost the utter silliness that my ex and I had shared, at times, as a young couple. Laughter is, indeed, a good medicine.
  10. Know and speak love languages, fluently. If you don’t know them, then read Gary Chapman’s book about them. Go back and re-read #3. Love is action. Actions speak louder than words. Put your love into action by speaking your partners love language fluently. Be a doer. Be sensitive. Read the damn book, already!
  11.  Live in the moment. He was close on this one and the one, above. Be in the moment, fully present and appreciate what you have.
  12. Sex is good. And in a committed relationship, it should be fantastic, but that only comes through connection. Stay connected. “Masculine presence?” What the hell is that guy smoking? And how many Harlequin romance novels has he read, anyway? Sometimes your partner will want you to be the aggressor and other times she will want to dominate. Sex, as in love, is a give and take. Communicate. Be in the moment and give it all you got. If either of you has hang-ups about sex, then please go to a counselor or sex therapist. It will kill the romance, otherwise.
  13. Learn from your mistakes. And if you see old patterns popping up in your relationship, nip them in the bud. No one is an idiot, but only a crazy person keeps repeating the same mistakes/patterns and expecting a different outcome.
  14. Be passionate. Know what you want out of life and go after it. Allow your partner the freedom to do the same. If she has different interests than you, then encourage her to explore them fully while you do the same. Giving each other the space to enjoy different things just makes sense. Don’t give up the things you are passionate about just to please your partner and don’t expect her to give up those things, either. Enjoy your differences. Admire the passionate side of your partner and encourage her pursuit of things only she enjoys. In other words, don’t be a controlling douchebag!
  15. Trust. Ahh, the “t” word. One of the most difficult things to cultivate and maintain in a relationship. Sure, there is a level of vulnerability that you must maintain in order to have it, but you don’t have to be gullible. Trust is given but it is also earned. Be a trustworthy person and get to know each other. If she is trustworthy at the same level, then be as vulnerable and transparent as you want to be, but go in with your eyes open and your heart exposed. Know that it can be broken or hurt at any time. Being able to trust depends on your full willingness to be hurt at some point. Only gullible, foolish people give away their trust immediately and without reservation.
  16. Allow your partner to love you. Trust and vulnerability go hand in hand, see above. But allowing someone to love you when you are completely naked to the core is really difficult. Some people just can’t handle that another person would love them after seeing just how vulnerable they are. You are loveable. If you love yourself fully (see #2), then you should have no difficulty in receiving love from your partner.
  17. Never stop dreaming together. Growth comes naturally. People tend to give up on their dreams, however. If you have an equal partner who shares your hopes and dreams, then you have something really special. Foster that sense of wonder and romance in each other. Don’t ever lose it. Setbacks will inevitably come, but they can be overcome when you are a team.
  18. Money. Interesting Mr. Rogers should bring it up. Marriage is nothing but a legally binding financial contract. Surprised that his divorce didn’t teach him that. Keep money out of it. Relationships are about people, not about improving your financial future. Common sense dictates that you’ll have to combine and share resources, but don’t let them get in the way of relationship. Things are just that. Things. They are unimportant. The love of your partner will get you through just about any problem in life. Money solves nothing. My divorce taught me that marriage, in the eyes of the state, is nothing but a business agreement between two parties. Who needs a contract to live with someone they love?
  19. Forgiveness is for you, not your partner. Don’t think for one minute that forgiveness is about releasing your partner from blame. It’s about releasing yourself. I think that’s what Mr. Rogers was getting at, but he talks about the past like it can be left there and never brought up again. See #4. Don’t live in a fantasy world where everything is unicorns and rainbows. Skeletons won’t remain hidden in a closet. They rattle around and make noise. The past will always be part of your present and future. You can’t lock it up and throw away the key, pretending that it never happened nor will ever affect you again. That’s foolishness. Your past is what shapes you. Your history with your partner is the only foundation you’ve got. If there are cracks in it, deal with them. Do your best to patch them, but don’t ignore them. The same goes for you as an individual. Embrace your past. If there are cracks in your character, do what you can to fix them, even if it means seeking professional help. Don’t you want your partner to have a whole and complete person to love? Well, you can’t be whole and complete until you learn to forgive. Start with yourself.
  20. Repeat #3. Learn that love is a choice, a sacrifice and an action. If you really chose love, then you’ll choose to act, to put the other person first and to succeed. Success depends on the both of you, but it starts with you. That’s the only thing you control in a relationship is you—how you act, react and respond. Choose love. Real love, not the gushy sentimental, Harlequin romance love that Mr. Rogers is seeking.

That’s really all I have to say on the subject. Maybe I missed my calling as a counselor. Life has taught me some tough, but invaluable lessons. One of them was not to marry someone, at least not until you’re older and really know who the hell you are. Love yourself first. That’s how I’ll end this long post. Love yourself and the rest will follow.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mind-cleansing walks in Springtime bring about control

I've been saying the Serenity Prayer a lot, lately. Not the verbatim prayer (at left) that you'll hear at most A.A. meetings or self-help groups. No, I've just uttered some version of that prayer nearly everyday. It has helped.


I've been taking walks around the lake in our neighborhood, enjoying the Spring weather here in Tallahassee. The mild temps, sunshine and fresh air are good for my soul. The walks are good for my body. The Serenity Prayer and the reaffirming self-speak have done wonders for my mind and emotions. The last few days, I've been referring to these walks--2.5 to 4 miles--as mind-cleansing walks. And they have been. It's been my chance to center myself in the middle of the day.

The last year has been a grueling one. I'd even argue that it's been one of my worst, possibly second all-time. I've survived a divorce, a failed relationship, an extended separation from my children and other minor set-backs along the way. I've always heard what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but that hasn't necessarily been the case except for in my darkest times.

I did come out of a severe depression in 2000 much stronger, but still battled many of my demons. I even survived a suicide attempt at the end of that year. A few months later, I was restarting my life in a new house and about to adopt my first baby. I learned a lot about myself in that year of about-face orientation. I still had a lot to learn and I'm not always the easiest student. I can be quite stubborn and hard-headed.

A look at Springtime Azaleas in bloom all around my
Tallahassee neighborhood
After some serious setbacks in 2006 and 2008, I was still determined to maintain my course even if I wasn't headed in the right direction. Fast forward to 2013 and circumstances tried to kick me down again. Out of that tumultuous year, I do believe that I have emerged even stronger still. So maybe it has taken several years and a couple of really bad ones to get my attention, but I have learned and grown.

It's been on these mind-cleansing walks that I've seen the most evidence. Take today, for instance, I put into practice the learned art of self-compassion. I walked 2 miles around that lake, speaking affirming words to myself that entire time. Thankfully, I didn't encounter too many others on the walking path. After a rough and emotional morning, it was the perfect therapy for me.

I read a book about self-compassion in December 2012 and it was quite eye-opening for me, but I won't repost here what you can read in my blog entry here. Suffice to say, that this was quite an accomplishment for me, and putting it into practice today made me realize just how far I've come since 2000. There was still so much critical energy, so much pessimism and self-doubt in me even after I recovered from my depressive episode. It took years to finally overcome that, and I still struggle with it.


“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” ~Maya Angelou

It was just a few days ago on one of my mind-cleansing walks that I accepted an important truth and slayed an age-old myth. That myth is the one that convinces us we are in control. As I was contemplating this blog post, I ran across another good one by a dog trainer in Texas. He talks about The Control Myth and how it skews our thinking (Note: this is more than a blog about dogs, so take a minute to read it, it's really good).

The important truth that I realized on my walk is that I can only control three things--my actions, my attitude and all that goes on between my ears. I like to draw a small circle just in front of me when I'm walking and talking to myself (I know I must look crazy, but I don't care what people think of me). I make that circular motion with my hand and remind myself, "This is the extent of my sphere of control."

I can't control anything beyond that sphere, that in reality, encompasses only my body and nothing outside of it. I can't control people, the weather, circumstances, other's perceptions of reality, etc. I can only control me, and more importantly, what's going on inside of me.

This afternoon, I also ran across this cool little series on WikiHow about gaining control of your emotions. That one, for me, is huge, also. I was on my walk yesterday, a four-mile round trip to Publix, when I really had to do some digging to realize what was wrong with me. The day had started off rather pleasantly, then I let myself get upset about things outside my control. I went on my walk thinking I just needed to be more positive. Well, I realized after some digging why I was upset and allowed myself to just be upset for awhile longer. My feelings had been hurt, so it was okay...not to be okay. After realizing the root of the issue, I dealt with those negative feelings and then got past them, giving myself permission to go there and then walk out of it. That's an example of controlling your emotions. It doesn't mean allow only the positive ones. It allows space for all emotions to grow and subside.

For me, the control comes in when I deal in a healthy way with all my emotions. I don't bottle any of them up or try to stifle the painful ones. I just let them breathe. I go outside and try to focus on the beauty of nature. I try to live in the here and now, focusing only on my present surroundings. I breathe deeply and listen to my heartbeat. I try to keep my wandering mind in check. The last couple of days this has worked well for me.

As I continue this crazy, out of control journey called Life, I hope to gain more control over the things I actually have the power to do so. I will continue to let go of the things and people that I cannot, thereby denying the myth. I will continue to love and affirm myself in order to maintain a positive attitude. I will not be reduced, as Maya Angelou said in the above quote, by all the events that happen to me. I will stay rooted in reality.

Drawing a small circle around me, I can only control this area right here. :)