Monday, December 31, 2012

"And we go 'round and 'round. Life is just a moment in Time..."

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?" -Robert Burns
     When I was in grade school I greatly disliked New Year's Eve. It meant the winter school break was almost at an end. It meant you would spend New Year's Day helping your Dad pack up all the Christmas decorations. Fast forward a few years and you spend New Year's Eve eating Totino's Pizza Rolls, drinking sparkling grape juice with your parents while watching Dick Clark in Time Square celebrate on television. "Rockin' Eve", whatever. A few more years pass and you start celebrating the New Year with druken lovers and friends at bars or throwing up on your shoes in a strangers backyard. As more time passes you reluctantly ring in the New Year at parties you never wanted to attend with fancy h'orderves, drinking glasses of champange and wondering who you will kiss at midnight. Then as more time passes you share the evening with family and friends. No plans, no big deal. How many people fall asleep before the clock strikes twelve? Wherever you are and whoever you are with this evening remember you DO have a reason to celebrate. Look around you. New Year's Eve is a time to reflect and a time to rejoice. Think fondly of those who have left us and be gentle and kind to those who believe they have nothing to celebrate. Raise your glass to those who love you and make you stronger. Raise a glass to those who don't know us or even care to know us. Their loss. Make so many toasts before midnight you can't help but be grateful to everyone. "I love you, man!", all around and I'll buy the next round. Make a toast and a choice to make every moment of every year a chance to celebrate and appreciate what you have. You do.

Friday, December 28, 2012

"After a full belly, all is poetry......."

“Food is a gift and should be treated reverentially--romanced and ritualized and seasoned with memory.” ― Chris Bohjalian, Secrets of Eden

     Our family issued a challenge to each other in the coming year. Our collective resolution is aspiring to a healthy individual weight loss before our Thanksgiving feast of 2013. Those of us participating will officially begin our "deprivation" on January 2nd. The word "diet" has never been in my vocabulary. When my pants become too snug I do what is necessary but I don't diet. Gourmet chef, Julia Child once quipped, “The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook.” My family like most families in the world gather to celebrate holidays, birthdays or Bingo Night ( wink, wink ) with plenty of rich creamy comfort foods and sugary sweet confections. Moderation is key. Usually, when we try to deny ourselves a certain type of food the craving for that food intensifies. When we trust our bodies to tell us when it's full or tune in to the nutrients our body needs, healthy eating habits develop. When we crave calcium we drink milk or eat yogurt and cheese (or a Dairy Queen Peanut Buster Parfait). When we crave vitamin C we eat oranges, apples and broccoli. Unless, you are my younger brother who refuses to eat any vegetable he can't hide in his socks and throw in the toilet later. Okay, in all fairness that was when our parents served us mixed vegetables with lima beans. Does my body need to eat an entire box of Cheddar Jack Cheez-It crackers every other day? Well of course not. But you get my point.

      Another reason my family enjoys food so much is because most of them are damn excellent cooks. Cooking is an art. Some of us are Rembrandt others are only capable of stick figures. It has been a privilege and my good fortune to taste and savor the divine creations of time consuming, utterly delicious cuisine. These scrumptious recipes have been prepared lovingly sprinkled with attention to detail and with more than a dash of happiness by my sisters, brothers, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, step-mother, nieces and nephews. Eating a meal together is not only sharing our abundance but also sharing conversation, our history, laughter and most importantly our gratitude. As consumers we live in a society where we shop at twenty-four hour grocery stores or have fast food handed to us from a drive-thru window. Are we really taking the time to truly enjoy our food? Are we mindful? We are so fortunate to have what we have. Savor it. Yes, my family is doing this for each other so we can add life to our years. There will be exercise, walking, dancing, push ups but no running! I like having my pants fit but I love my sister Laurie's homemade pizza even more. A toast to the coming year with moderation and a little reminder : "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death. Live, Live, Live!" - Auntie Mame

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"Be most excellent to each other...."

"If you read someone else’s diary, you get what you deserve." - David Sedaris

     All of my life I've kept a diary or a journal as they have allowed me to document my dreams, my loves and measured emotional maturity. My journals also include the most lofty, idealistic crap poetry you will ever scoff at and ridicule. In the past, relatives and friends have given me blank journals as gifts so richly crafted and ornate it seemed a shame to waste an innocent tree on my mundane musings. Every so often, especially as we bid farewell to another passing year I dust off my diaries and enjoy a good laugh. Below is a journal entry from twenty-two years ago with my own current commentary in parenthesis. November, 2nd 1990something His name I repeat like a beautiful mantra. We spoke on the phone this afternoon to reassure ourselves we were not dreaming last night. (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit....) When we kissed it felt as if my knees would give out. I have never felt so intensely for ANYONE. (at least never in the last six months...ha..ha) Just thinking about him brings color to my cheeks and sends my heart pounding. I feel light and carefree. ( like I'm in a tampon commercial ). I'm in love!! ( the exclamation points were edited down to two for this blog ) He loved my poems. ( he was very kind and terrible judge of literature ) He wrote me, " I love you, Angel Butterfly " on a note. ( not a text my dear modern romantics ) I didn't want to let him go ( and no, we were not drunk ) He makes me so happy! I sat in the car tonight and just stared at him, memorizing his face, every line, every curve. It is so difficult to let him leave. Sweet dreams, My Love! ( big dramatic swoon ) Saying, "I love you" is not enough sometimes. He says it's like saying something is "good" when actually it feels really really "excellent". We should invent a phrase or secret code that means more than just, "I love you". ( and this is what I actually wrote) A phrase like, "I excellent you." No, I was far from being infatuated with Bill Preston or Ted Logan even though that very moment in my personal history was an "excellent adventure". Without a time machine how could I have ever anticipated the many adventures, passions and loves yet to come?

Monday, December 24, 2012

" peace on earth ....."

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), 1867) 
 I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day 

 Their old familiar carols play,
 And wild and sweet the words repeat Of peace on earth, good will to men.
 I thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom
 Had rolled along the unbroken song, Of peace on earth, good will to men.
 And in despair I bowed my head: "There is no peace on earth," I said,
 "For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men."
 Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men."
 Till, ringing singing, on its way, The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
 Of peace on earth, good will to men!

     Compassion is at the transcendental and experiential heart of Buddhist teachings. 

The Buddha was reputedly asked by his personal attendant, Ananda, 
"Would it be true to say that the cultivation of loving kindness and compassion is a part of our practice?" 
To which the Buddha replied, "No. It would not be true to say that the cultivation of loving kindness and compassion is part of our practice.
 It would be true to say that the cultivation of loving kindness and compassion is ALL of our practice."

Friday, December 21, 2012

"You need to get out of bed and peel some potatoes!"

"Get your shoes on! We are going to the air show. Go to the bathroom now because we are not stopping until we get there!"- Louis A. More "every other weekend"

     My father died two years ago today, December 21st, 2010. Although our family would rather celebrate life than the anniversary of a death I wanted to revive his memory with those who loved him as Grandpa Louie, Dad, Pops, Uncle Lou or simply, Louie. Dad bestowed all of his children with an appreciation of comedy and film. My father introduced us to movies such as Stripes, Uncle Buck and Animal House. He loved comedians Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Mel Brooks and Woody Allen. Every Friday night he video taped the Canadian comedy show, SCTV for me to watch the next afternoon. SCTV featured notable characters such as Bob and Doug McKenzie, Guy Caballero and my personal favorite triangle enthusiast, Ed Grimley. There were times we would talk on the phone while Seinfeld reruns or Everybody Loves Raymond was playing in the background. " Hey Lisa, the Jerk Store called", he'd cackle or "Are you ready for Festivus yet?" he'd joke.
     When he was in a serious mood his children were forced, I mean encouraged to watch documentaries and films about military history or warfare. How else would a twelve year old girl know how to whistle, "March from the River Kwai"? or even know what the hell, Tora! Tora! Tora! meant?  Growing up on Lake Erie he appreciated ships, boats and naval exploration. Lou was an avid videographer who filmed many high school marching and concert band events. Five out of six children were proud "band geeks". Dad had played the saxophone. He began filming high school and professional football training camps and worked briefly with the Cleveland Browns football program.
      As a veteran of the United States Air Force he had a passion for flying and airplanes, earning his private pilots license as a civilian. Like his Hungarian father before him he was associated with the railroad and had an almost scholarly knowledge of trains. One of Dad's hobbies was filming trains so on weekend ventures my brother's reluctantly accompanied him "railroading". Etched into our memories, he excelled at drawing and loved photography. Intentionally or not, most of his leisure activities incorporated documenting our childhoods in some way. All of his children inherited his positive qualities. We refuse to admit to each other we inherited MORE negative traits from Lou as well. Thank you, Pops. With love and peace. Serenity now. Serenity now.....

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"a dream that will need all the love you can give..."

" Maria, these walls were not meant to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live." -Mother Abbess, The Sound of Music

     One of my all time favorite movie quotes comes from the classic film The Sound of Music. Yes, it is considered by many to be a sentimental family film richly layered with award winning songs and unforgettable lyrics written by the famous musical gods, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. It is also a story of love, survival and conviction.
    Setting the scene: Max Detweiler, a long time Von Trapp family friend reveals his great concern for Naval Captain, Georg Von Trapp after the Captain has been informed that he must leave his family and report to the Nazi Naval Headquarters in Bremerhaven, Germany. As a newlywed husband, a renewed loving father and proud nostalgic Austrian, Georg is irrevocably disgusted and opposed to all of Hitler's hateful, tyrannical ideology. Georg never disguises his contempt in every interaction with the Third Reich from ripping down their hideous flag hung without his permission from his homes balcony to trading insults with his egotistical, paranoid "superiors". All the while Max, Maria and the Von Trapp children are sensing and observing how fearful and hostile the world is becoming as the men surrounding Georg feel threatened and angry over any type of resistance.
      Max, wanting to appease the rising power, perhaps for his own selfish motives, pleads with Maria, "He's got to at least *pretend* to work with these people. You must convince him." Maria, although aware of the danger her husband and family face responds with one of the most compassionate and courageous lines describing the constant struggle for love and human justice, "I can't ask him to be less than he is."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"My heart goes back to wander there..."

“If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.” -Albert Einstein

       Looking back at our earliest memories with happiness my sisters remind me of our childhood- a childhood faded over time and idealized could only be described as magical. We spent hours outside playing. Using only our imaginations we  relished our make believe palaces, pretending, creating stories. One day we were performers and rock stars and the next day millionaires, college professors, kings, queens amid castles with royal knights. We dressed up in our Mom's clothing, scarves, jewelry, shoes and applied her cologne and make-up. We enjoyed  Barbie dolls, flashlight tag and "war". We played Stratego, Monopoly and the game of Life. We would walk unaccompanied to our little neighborhood grocery store to buy "pop" and candy. When we felt daring we would climb down the cliffs at the end of our street to the shores of Lake Erie. We would collect shells and toss stones into the waves. We watched many sunsets and reflected in peace. Our bicycles were our horses to gallop away to adventures. Our yard was our playing field for badminton and football. We spread out  blankets under our sprawling oak trees, looking at books while eating bags of Doritos and sandwiches. We played with all the kids on our block and visited with parents who knew us by name. It was a carefree time full of wonder and exploration.
       When the adult grind becomes overwhelming and stressful with politics, bills, our jobs and the endless "to-do lists" it's easy  to conjure up the past. Friday, in tears watching the news of the tragic events unfolding in Newtown, Connecticut I texted my older sister, an elementary school teacher. "Do you know?". She replied back with one simple phrase which was understood. " I want to be ignorant." She wasn't referring to a denial of reality, brutality or tragic loss of life at Sandy Hook. She was reflecting on a temporary ignorance is bliss where the unfairness and cruelties of society are unknown, a time before we hear and see too much of the world. A time before our innocence is lost forever.

Friday, December 14, 2012


"Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear." --Nelson Mandela
It is in our greatest time of sorrow and disbelief that we ask why? Why did this happen? Why can't we seem to prevent this type of crisis? Why were such completely innocent children so senselessly murdered? Why does the human mind erase all traces of empathy to slaughter? Why do we continue to allow such easy access to weapons? Why are we ignoring signs of hostility and violence in our youth? Why is our mental health system letting young people fall through the cracks? Why are we debating about gun control again when we had the opportunity to change laws after the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings? There are so many questions that need to be answered. The children and adults who lost their lives today at Sandy Hook Elementary could have easily been your children or my loved ones. The residents of Newtown, Connecticut believed they lived in an ideal location where their children would flourish in safety far away from fear and brutality. All of these important questions make us pause and examine our own lives and communities. Let us reflect and be grateful for those around us whom we love and cherish. Let us show compassion for all children and adults affected by this tragedy. Let today bring us hope for our ability to create change tomorrow. Why? Because it must be done.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"And we all lived happily ever after..."

“I have an immense appetite for solitude, like an infant for sleep, and if I don't get enough for this year, I shall cry all the next. ” ― Henry David Thoreau

     When one reminisces about their youth they refer to their "salad days" or if you prefer "Ramen Noodle" days for the Millenniasl. During our early twenties we seem to fall in and out of love as quickly as you can Google, "divorce attorney". Still there are those who find their "soul mates", marry and live blissfully forever after as little birdies sing and forest animals dance in celebration. Truthfully, there really is a beauty and innocence in marrying your first true love. It is what romance novelists live for and what most young couples have been taught to emulate. Who doesn't love the movie, " Enchanted"? Who doesn't cry after watching the "Notebook"? You have a soul, right? Couples who have evolved while sharing an enduring, loving union should be honored. It is very rare and special. Similarly, we need to honor and respect those who choose not to marry. If arranged marriages were common in the United States imagine how many desperately relieved fathers and families there would be? My father's spirit may be hovering above my computer exasperated. Here is a brief synopsis spanning twenty years of phone calls with my father. "Hey, Pops!, I'd chirp. And Louis would reply, "Lisa! Have you found a man yet? "Lisa, when are you getting married?". My "Ramen Noodle" days were pretty damn lively and I regret nothing. Love and sex and romance are wonderful! On occasion, I do feel as out of place with couples as Lady Gaga in a Nicholas Sparks novel. Actually, after years of concern regarding who would take care of his "little girl" my father understood. In one of our last conversations he confided, " Just do what makes YOU happy." Being single is not a disease that needs to be cured. Not everyone who chooses to be alone is ever lonely.

Monday, December 10, 2012

"Mostly I'm silent...."

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” ― Ansel Adams
     Maddie was my best friend, companion, therapy dog and adventure vehicle co-pilot for almost twelve years. She was the George Putnam to my Amelia Earhart, the "Goose" to my "Maverick", the Cal Naughton Jr. to my Ricky Bobby. On long treks she curled up content on the passenger seat but on short trips around the neighborhood she sat in my lap. Maddie would rest her head on the car window frame as I propped up her body on my arm. She had full access to the caressing breezes that blew back her beautiful flowing cocker spaniel ears. One evening I remember switching off my Arcade Fire cd to listen to the radio. The song playing was classic Chicago from the seventies. "Beginning's" is a very upbeat, positive song that seemed to define our moment in the setting sun perfectly._
_"When I'm with you, it doesn't matter where we are, Or what we're doing. I'm with you, that's all that matters. Time passes much too quickly when we're together laughing. I wish I could sing it to you, oh no, I wish I could sing it to you. Mostly I'm silent. Never think about words to say."

      The line, "mostly I'm silent" resonated with me most. The deep wordless silence we experience with human beings, animals, especially dogs is so profound. I used to tell Maddie aloud I loved her a thousand times a day. If she were human she may have thought, "Geez! Enough, already! I know..I know!!" Silence is a gift. Love is not always communicated by words. Love is shown by our actions and felt simply by BEING there. After a few days I felt absolutely compelled to purchase Chicago's Greatest Hits featuring "Beginnings", playing it whenever Maddie and I went for a ride. Singing at the top of my lungs in the car I would do my best Robert Lamm impression while from the passenger seat Maddie curiously gazed at me with those gorgeous, soulful, brown eyes. Was she thinking," my owner is bonkers"? "You sound nothing like Robert Lamm.", " I love you too, crazy human." "When do I get another treat?" Dogs never think about words to say and that is one reason we love our dogs so much. As the song played we happily continued on our journey. Now whenever I listen to the song in my car I glance over at my empty co-pilot seat, smile, whisper, "I love you" and mostly I'm silent.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

"It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine...."

“A man is like a novel: until the very last page you don't know how it will end. Otherwise it wouldn't be worth reading.” ― Yevgeny Zamyatin, We
     According to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar the world ends on December 21st, 2012. You have about two weeks to fully enjoy yourself or better yet, BEGIN enjoying yourself. NASA released an educational video ealier this year that explains the Mayan calendar reassuring thousands of concerned citzens there is no evidence a meteor is whizzing through space to destroy the Earth. Much to my surprise there are hundreds of governments around the globe issuing statements to calm anxious populations. Here in the United States, I've explored a few online news stories wih the pleasure of discovering comments by trolls and sincere posters.. Here are a few sample quotes from an "end of the world" article: "I bet a guy $1000 the world doesn't end on 12/21/12.I can't lose either way."******* 
" What about the aliens that are going to attack us and billionaire, Robert Bigalow knows the secrets !!!"******* 
"Buy an island to live on, the zombies cant swim, the downside is you will eventually run out of Twinkies and starve.." 
********"Just in case it is true don't pay your bills until January."
*********"The world better end on the 21st. I've done no Christmas shopping this year."
******"I think I died long ago and this is my eternal punishment."
*****"Wow! If they can promise the world won't end why can't they promise a budget?"
******* " If the world were going to end I'd eat a load of chocolate, cakes, drink beer, then hire ten female escorts to send me out with a bang!"*****I adore, Earthings!
*** ******* Have you ever thought about how you would spend your last day on earth? What would you do? Who would you spend it with? Would you cry in a corner or make love? The truth is we never know when our time will come. Any of us. Appreciate and be grateful for the moments you have right now. Let perspective change your worldview rather than unfounded meteors, alien attacks or doomsday prophecies.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"There's still time to change the road you're on...."

“Question for your life: Would you rather be the first female U.S. President, the first woman to walk on the moon, or the first woman to be courted by two clones who looked like Christian Bale?” ― Jarod Kintz, $3.33

Choice. The word choice as a noun defined by the dictionary means- An act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.
       From the first moment you rise in the morning to the last minute before sleep you are making choices. Young men and women in their late teens and early twenties are asked to make some of the most meaningful choices in their lives without experience or practical knowledge to back them up. What college do you want to attend? What college can you afford? Who is paying for college? What will be your major? Do you want to join the military? Do you want to get married? Do you want children? Do you want to travel? Do you want to learn a trade? Do you want to go straight to a 9 to 5 job? I am getting nauseous just writing this so imagine how a young adult might react. Fear. Remember that feeling? (those of us past thirty five?) When you ask adults at what age they felt comfortable in their own skin most reply at the age of thirty. (some say never and that is another blog entirely) All of us can and will change careers or life paths. However, I am focusing on young adulthood. There is so much pressure on young adults to make many uninformed choices based only on projection rather than reality. It's a lot like buying car insurance. Young women especially have more choices than ever before and choices can be overwhelming. Possibilties and dreams of the future give us extraordinary hope but without a plan or a goal in mind you start to panic. Recently, a young woman I met at work admitted she felt "old" at twenty-five. Twenty-five!? Her friends were getting married and having children. She wants to make her own decisions and needs to explore her career options before settling down. Rather than age being the issue, society, family, and monetary obligations often force us to commit to careers, marriage and children before we know ourselves or understand what makes us truly happy. The choices we make dictate the life we lead but we must reassure young adults that change and growth is part of our journey and if they make mistakes or fail they will always have options. They will always have a choice.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Oh, the places you'll go......"

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
     My love affair with books began when I was three years old. My family owned several sets of The Encyclopedia Britannica, easily accessible on two carved wooden shelves in the living room. They were useful building blocks. My beloved Fisher Price Little People had amazing suburban homes and clearly defined neighborhoods with two car garages. Stacking books on top of each other may have been my first experience with playing Jenga. How high could they go without toppling and hitting my big fat preschool noggin?
      My actual love affair with READING however, began while looking at the pictures in books and using my imagination to create endless adventures. (assuming you are near my age) Who doesn't fondly recall Richard Scarry's Busy Town, Dr Seuss, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Billy Goats Gruff and Mr Pine's Purple House? What's that? You say you have never heard of Mr. Pines Purple House? Well, let me enlighten you. It happens to be the very first book I learned to read all by myself. "Mr. Pine lived on Vine Street in a little white house. "A white house is fine," said Mr. Pine, "but there are FIFTY white houses all in a line on Vine Street. How can I tell which house is mine?" Will Mr. Pine find his house? What happens? How does it end? Sorry, you will have to buy the book! I am eternally grateful to Mr. Leonard P. Kessler and (my family of course) who had to endure the one hundred and eighty two recitings thereafter. Since that first encounter I have never stopped loving to read and believe it or not my comprehension has actually advanced following that initiation into the literacy league. It cannot be stressed enough to children of all ages that reading will develop a sense of curiosity compassion and understanding of the world even if you seldom venture off the front porch of your home on Vine Street.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"You musn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, Darling......"

“Did I do anything wrong today," he said, "or has the world always been like this and I've been too wrapped up in myself to notice?” ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ―
Each minute cell holds cosmic soul
Our fragile frame of fragmented stars explodes on dusty brain,
DNA debris.
 A blue print of the universe buried deep in the nucleus of being.
We carouse distant galaxies, revolve about illusion sun.
 Illumined sparks as comets, glaze midnight skies.
 Asleep, we are space travellers with passports to the moon,
 dreaming reality.----- "REAL" (poem written December, 1993)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Love is never lost......................

“If you love someone, they leave you. But if you don't love someone, they leave you, too. So your choice isn't between loving and losing but only between loving and not loving.” ― Steve Rasnic Tem

     As surely as you breathe you will experience love and loss. Love and loss are part of the human experience. If you are fortunate you will be granted many many years loving your family, spouse, significant other, children, lovers, friends, your pets, a beautiful sunset, a vast ocean.... But you WILL experience the pain and joy of love and loss. It's unavoidable. You cannot hide from loss, you cannot ignore suffering any more than you can avoid death. In fact love and loss have made you the person you are today. Do you remember the first time you lost someone or something you loved? How do you forget? The memory of our first experience of loss shapes and molds how we will continue to live in the world. Our first loss forms the curves and contours of our existence. Loss is the architect of our heart.
     The greatest loss of my life occurred in my childhood. My mother was entirely too young to die at the age of thirty-nine. She loved her children and always wanted to be a mother. In my memory she was LOVE incarnate. When I think of her brief time on this earth and the fact that she had to leave behind five children it is more than my heart can bare. She was the source of all the love that shown so brightly upon me and the moment of her passing felt as if the light disappeared from my soul. When people callously toss out the old adage "time heals all wounds" I cringe. Time does not allow any of us to forget. Time only provides us with the challenge to change and adapt. When all our inner searching and exploring is over we realize we are still loved and need to show our love to others. When we are wounded or cut open time will heal a wound but scars always remain. There are many wise and beautiful people who reveal their scars openly with courage and strength. If you have scars it means you have lived. It means you have survived. Now you must continue to love.