Monday, December 30, 2013

“Remember tonight... for it is the beginning of always”

   “Things are as they are. Looking out into it the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.”- Alan Watts

      Nebulae are both the starting points of stellar evolution and also the end. This is the nebula-star-nebula cycle. Stars that evolve into red giants can lose their outer layers during intense pulsations. Matter released is typically 97% hydrogen and 3% helium with a few other trace materials.  Nebulae are simply spectacular to imagine from photo's as evidenced above.(NASA). It reminds me of a perfect cosmic cotton candy cloud. It looks like a creation devised from our dreams.

     A nebula is a stunning swirling cloud in outer space, formed when portions of the interstellar medium collapse and collide together due to the gravitational attraction of the comprised particles. Out of chaos, magnificent order is formed. There is so much to discover in the universe and our own world we will never know all that exists. In one limited lifetime we may study or experience a mere teeny tiny fraction of our immense galaxy. Many philosophers and scholars have deeply contemplated the universe existing inside each and every one of us. Perhaps we are the beginning and ending of our own star cycles.

     There is so much beauty we overlook in the busyness of our daily lives. With all of our obligations and commitments we may forget to look up at the stars on occasion. Make the coming year an opportunity to slow down and observe. Allow yourself time to absorb and appreciate the many fascinating sights and sounds that surround you. May you make a resolution to tell your family how much you LOVE them all! Thank you.

 The brilliant English philosopher, Alan Watts once professed he "owed his solitude to other people". And without a doubt. So do I.   With Love & Peace Always.  Happy New Year


Thursday, December 26, 2013

"We don't laugh because we're happy, we're happy because we laugh."

Ron Burgundy: Brick, can you hear me?
Brick Tamland: I can’t hear you, Ron.
Ron Burgundy: You’re answering so I think you can hear me.
Brick Tamland: No, I can’t.

   Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. 
   Sitting in a movie theater surrounded by loved ones or even complete strangers who are genuinely
   enjoying themselves is such a captivating and contagious experience. Ultimately, our moods determine our quality of life. Laughter has the power to change our mood in mere moments by releasing chemicals from the brain called endorphins. When we're in a cheerful  mood it's passed on to others through out the day. Have you ever really thought what moods and emotions you're passing on to others? When you become conscious of how your smile and laughter effects the behavior of others, why wouldn't you want to do it more?  We all have the ability to share our happiness with others, directly or indirectly. Think of having a sense of humor as a gift we offer to take the edge off a tense moment or lighten the mood. Unwrap the gift of laughter in your life by watching funny movies, listening to your favorite comedians,  watching Comedy Central or visiting websites such as Funny or Die, Awkward Family Photo's or The  In a letter to his daughter Charlie Chaplain was said to have written, "a day without laughter is a day wasted." Don't waste any more time being unhappy in your life.

                                         "I don't trust anyone who doesn't laugh."
                                                                     ― Maya Angelou

 Even if we think we are too busy to laugh, think again. In today's tough competitive business world team building is essential. Group laughter can create a happy and motivated workforce which includes the element of strong team building.
 Have you ever worked for a boss without a sense of humor? Do your associates take themselves too seriously? People without an ability to laugh at themselves or see humor in the mundane,
 seem like emotional vampires that drain you of your energy. It may seem obvious but many companies are still out of touch with scientifically proven data linking human productivity and stress levels. Have you ever heard of Laughter Yoga? Laughter helps us face challenges whether at work or at home. In times of great difficulty, it's not easy to remain calm. Utilizing the essence of Laughter Yoga and its calming characteristics, we can learn to handle any situation effectively without losing  composure. Keeping a positive mental attitude allows us to cope with negative situations and deal with difficult people without absorbing their negative energy and attitudes ourselves. Read more at
 Laughter Yoga is a clinically proven technique to reduce stress in any work environment from stockroom to newsroom. Scientific research has shown that the brain needs 25% more oxygen than your other organs for optimal functioning. 25%!! Laughter increases oxygen which in turn increases optimal functioning. After watching a hilarious film or having a great belly laugh we feel refreshed and energized. Now don't forget to share that good feeling with others. Why not take a friend to see Anchorman 2 ?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

          One of many favorite scenes in the legendary holiday movie, A Christmas Story is when an elated nine year old, Ralphie Parker rubs sleep from his eyes after rising Christmas morning, slides open his bedroom window and in pure awestruck amazement peers out across his snow sugared neighborhood. "Wow!", the only word of wonder falls breathlessly from Ralphie's lips as he looks out in all directions. "Wow!"  That particular scene was actually filmed in 1983, not far from my hometown on the shores of Lake Erie. Today, you can tour the Christmas Story house and museum year 'round in Cleveland, OH. Even though the area is famous for blizzards and lake effect snow, the Christmas morning footage took a film crew over twelve hours to recreate the beautiful winter scene with ice machines.
     Children of all ages who have grown up adoring A Christmas Story's 24 hour television rotation never tire of reciting every line and savoring every classic quote. How many of us have to repeat the word "fragile" as "frag-geel lay" out loud every time we see it printed on a box or crate?. Thanks to genius author Jean Shepard, my childhood and a few of my siblings holidays were joyously punctuated with the anticipation of "What I Want for Christmas "theme writing (see video above), pink nightmare bunny suits, double-dawg dares, the glow of electric sex in the window and snowball sandwiches.

       How many of us reminisce when snow days meant playful hours frolicking in an enchanted winter wonderland rather than an inconvenience we have to shovel off walkways and scrape off car windshields before driving cautiously to work like the Grinch's we've become? It's not what you look at its what you see.
      As we grow older it's easy to lose our excitement and fascination. As adults our own intellect and arrogance allows us to falsely believe we know about every one and every thing instead of trusting our intuition to just ....believe. We cut off our own curiosity and creativity. It's imperative that we nurture our own inner nine year olds especially if we want to maintain a heart of appreciation and a wide eyed sense of wonder. When was the last time you were awe struck by nature or felt deeply connected to the beauty of the world?  When was the last time you were silenced by emotion or felt the wisdom of the mysterious?  Be grateful for the gifts you have right now. Be grateful for the beauty and richness of this moment. Being present is the greatest present you will ever give or receive.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

" knock on the sky and listen to the sound..."

 "Each celestial body, in fact each and every atom, produces a particular sound on account of its movement, its rhythm or vibration. All these sounds and vibrations form a universal harmony in which each element, while having it’s own function and character, contributes to the whole."
Pythagoras (569-475 BC)

        How many of us can name a Christmas or holiday song containing the word "bell"?  Have you ever wondered what the significance of bells and chimes mean in religious and spiritual ceremonies? The distinct ring of a bell resonates throughout space in all directions. Bells of churches call the masses together, signal warning, announce events or a time of mourning. Bells symbolize beginnings and endings.  A few religious practices use bells to ward off evil spirits and demons. Most commonly bell tones are used to purify and heal. The actual study of bells is called campanology.

       Bells seem to have a multitude of meanings and purposes and can be all different sizes, producing a multitude of tones. Bells can be made from ceramic or glass, metal and brass and some of the most popular this time of year are Sleigh Bells, Carol of the BellsSilver Bells and Jingle Bells.
       Scientists have long theorized that the universe is ringing with the sound of countless cosmic bells. These sound waves fill the emptiness of space with ripples like the surface of a pond pounded by stones. Sensitive instruments have allowed astronomers to derive and interpret the sounds of silence. The sound is deep and there is a simple reason the primordial sound is so deep, the Universe is gigantic!  Objects that vibrate more slowly have a deeper pitch. In a young universe, the size of the regions vibrating are many thousands of light years across so their vibrations are exceedingly slow.  Virtually everything on Earth is vibrating.
     Now imagine a bell resonating with a low deep tone. You can hear it in your ears, feel it in your mind and body.  In the universe the number of sound waves passing our ear per second or the sound frequency gives the sound its pitch which is about 50 octaves below our audible range.
      Plato, one of the deepest thinkers of our own universe and greatest philosophers of humankind stated  “Harmony sinks deep into the recesses of the soul and takes its strongest hold there, bringing grace also to the body and mind as well. Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order…"

                  .......and the musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart once wrote,
“The wonders of the music of the future will be of a higher and wider scale and will introduce many sounds that the human ear is now incapable of hearing. Among these new sounds will be the glorious music of angelic chorales. As men hear these they will cease to consider Angels as figments of their imagination.”
      So sound breathing life into everything does give a soul to the universe, " wings to the mind". In the essence of order on our beautiful flight maybe every time a bell rings an angel really does get its wings.




Saturday, December 14, 2013

"Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with you....."

Can be achieved
When the power of love
The love of power." -Sri Chinmoy

     According to Hollywood television lore if rock star David Bowie hadn't professed his hatred for the song Little Drummer Boy, the performance of Peace on Earth would never have been created. Apparently, a mere hour or so before Bowie was scheduled to sing the now famous duet with legendary crooner, Bing Crosby on Crosby's 1977 Christmas program, writers scrambled to assemble a contemporary composition Bowie felt would showcase his range. In the end both vocalists were appeased and the result is the strangely beautiful but classic melody melding of generations. Also featured (follow the link)  is the equally brilliant rendition of  Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy by Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly for the website Funny or Die. (both versions are a personal and family favorite)

What are the top five most beloved Christmas songs of all time? Lists vary from source, website and family but below are five of the most consistently requested around the country and the world.

                5.  I'll Be Home for Christmas- Frank Sinatra

                          4. The Most Wonderful Time- Andy Williams version

3. A Christmas Song- Nat King Cole

2. Feliz Navidad- Jose Feliciano

1. White Christmas- Bing Crosby

Monday, December 9, 2013

"When you've made your secret journey. You will find the love you miss."

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere - on water and land.”
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass     

     Once during my elementary school years I relentlessly begged my parents to buy me the Police's album Ghost in the Machine. The first time "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" came on the radio, my love affair with Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland began. Seldom if ever being a demanding child my parents thankfully relented and the album became a Christmas/ early birthday gift. Along with my first drum set and a brand new pair of skates, listening to the album over and over has been a vivid, beloved childhood memory. You could say the intense fascination with the Police and wanting a drum set was comparable to Ralphie Parker's overwhelming mission for a Red Ryder BB gun in the movie A Christmas Story.
     The album features the songs, " Invisible Sun", "One World", "Demolition Man" and " Spirit's in the Material World". The title, Ghost in the Machine was inspired by the book of the same name written by Hungarian-British journalist, Arthur Koestler. Many years later I purchased the CD and  Ghost in the Machine along with the Police's incomparable anthology and most of my early music history is safely stored on an iPod.
     Another powerful track from Ghost in the Machine is featured in the video above called "Secret Journey". The footage for the video was taken from the 1992 documentary film Baraka-A World Beyond Words directed by visionary artist Ron Fricke (Samsara -2011). The entire film is an incredible photographic journey of human life and religious ceremony. Although the song" Secret Journey" isn't featured in the film the images and music created for the video above complement and enhance a surreal experience.
       Sting called " Secret Journey" -" a quasi-mystical song. You have to do something, go somewhere, to get outside yourself. I read the book "Meetings with Remarkable Men"(G.I Gurdieff)  which says you have to make a journey. It doesn't have to be a real journey, it can be a mental
         During the holidays, it's especially easy to become nostalgic or fondly reminisce of "better days".  Although we do adhere to traditions of the past we should also recognize and respect change. It's human nature to adapt and aspire, to take on challenges and study new ideas. So instead of lingering too long on Memory Lane feeling regretful or sad, recall all of the difficult twists and turns you've survived on your own unique path. Remind yourself of the knowledge, courage and strength you've gained. No one else has or ever will travel that road for you. Honor it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams."

“The greatest glory in living
lies not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall.”
― Nelson Mandela

One of my fellow writers posted an article on our social network about the truly amazing 109 year old pianist, Alice Herz Sommer. Immediately, it moved me to tears and set the tone for my entire writing and research day. Ms. Herz Sommer  is not only the oldest pianist in the world but the oldest Nazi Holocaust survivor. The video above is taken from the documentary of her inspirational story,  The Lady in Number 6 by Oscar winning filmmaker Malcolm Clark.

 Alice was born in 1903 and grew up in a loving, cultured family which was part of the German-speaking Czech-Jewish assimilated society. Alice's mother had been a childhood friend of Gustav Mahler and incredibly enough, Alice herself was playmates with writer Franz Kafka. Soon her enchanted secure world of writers, composers and artists would be destroyed by the Holocaust. As a child Alice grew up in a society that revered art, artists and great literature. It was a world where a concert, opera or book review made front page news in major newspapers. (Source:
       Alice suffered as no human being should ever have to suffer as she witnessed both her mother and her husband put aboard the trains to Auschwitz. During the filming of the documentary it was reported that she spoke of those times with an absence of hatred or malice, a quiet grace won the hearts of all who came in contact with her. Alice believed and still believes today that hatred only eats away at the soul.
     Along with her six-year-old son, Raphael, Alice was imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. It is stated that her most haunting memories were her feelings of helplessness and the inability to feed her child. Her son had so many questions about why they were at the camp and why so many people were being subjected to the indescribable nightmare of the Holocaust. Questions she and so many others are still unable to answer. Why?  Her strength and resilience was sustained by the depth of her sincere love of playing and listening to music.
And it’s from music that Alice derives her supreme optimism,
     “I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times – including my husband, my mother and my beloved son. Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy. I have no space nor time for pessimism and hate.”



Monday, December 2, 2013

“If we kill off the wild, then we are killing a part of our souls.”

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

      The US Department of State has declared December 4th, Wildlife Conservation Day and is calling out to individuals across the entire world to support threatened species by signing up for a Wildlife Pledge.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)  has embraced the initiative given the recent dramatic escalation in poaching of numerous animals. Illegal poaching is compromising decades-long efforts towards the conservation and sustainable use of wild species. Poaching and crimes against wildlife are deadly serious. In the past fifty years alone there has been a significant rise in the numbers of endangered animals including rhino's, tigers and elephants.  Notably, the Western Black African Rhino was declared extinct a few months ago.

     What can you do right now?

     Push for all governments to protect threatened animal populations.

     Call for increased law enforcement.
     Impose strict deterrents to reduce demand for endangered species products and make sure your  own country honors international commitments. Take action now by asking Congress to support legislation which will crack down on wildlife trafficking and enact a moratorium on ivory trade in the US.   More than 30,000 elephants were slaughtered last year for their tusks and many of those tusks will end up in the US, in the form of carvings and small trinkets or jewelry. You have the power to make a difference.     

     Please, speak up on behalf of those on the front lines being threatened by dangerous armed poachers and ensure those protecting wildlife are properly trained, equipped and compensated for putting their lives at risk.

   Ask questions. Reduce demand for illegal wildlife parts and products now. Encourage others to ask questions and get the facts before buying any wildlife or plant product.

      Included above is part two of Poaching Wars, the thought provoking, eye-opening documentary produced and narrated by British actor, activist Tom Hardy. Warning: The video does contain graphic and disturbing images. The issue of wildlife crime should never be sugar coated or dismissed as something happening" far away" or "over there". Illegal poaching and the destruction of our wildlife systems affects all of humanity. For just as Mahatma Gandhi poignantly stated over fifty years ago,

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”  

Friday, November 29, 2013

“We love the things we love for what they are.”

“I have to see a thing a thousand times before I see it once.”
― Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again     

Our family traveled into the big city today. We toured 
The National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center where they collect display and  preserve the heritage of the United States.  Exhibits range in areas from social, political and cultural events to scientific and military history. Instead of participating in the post holiday shopping madness we decided to enjoy our Metro adventure and educational journey.  My loved ones hardly suspected  the joy of lovingly etching the memory of the moment in my mind. It was thrilling to be at the museum with them and indulge in one of my all time favorite activities, observing the human zoo.
     Unfortunately, our family is spread out across the country and it's very rare that all of us can be together. We had to Skype with my niece and nephew for our pre-Bingo bash pep talk. (Love you Bri and Drew) One of my brothers misses most of our holiday festivities because he works in retail. After Thanksgiving dinner we played Bingo for prizes instead of preparing for Black Friday like most American families. My sisters, brothers and sisters-in-law choose the most amazing and thoughtful gifts for all of us. Krissy planned and prepared a fabulous meal. (Thank you, Les and Laurie for my journal, book and so much more.)  Love you! The night before Thanksgiving we played a board game called Smart Ass and never laughed so hard in my life at some of the answers our family blurts out. Although we all have our moments when we watch a football game or play on our computers and cell phones, we don't let it interfere with our quality family time.
      Growing older, nieces and nephews slowly reach adulthood before my eyes, memories are cherished. Call it cliche but the holidays when we gather together recreating our history, laughing, sharing food and drinks are treasured beyond anything you could possibly purchase at a store. As the years pass there is a careful awareness of intricate details and subtle nuances and like a beautifully preserved museum portrait, family becomes more precious and fascinating. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

"Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky...."

"Claudia:  You don't know the first thing about me.
Joanne:  Likewise, I'm sure. If I just met you on the street... if you gave me your phone number... I'd throw it away.
Claudia:  Well, we don't have to like each other, Jo. We're family."
                                                                        Home for the Holidays-

     Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgivukkah. As we gather together with our loved ones this week, please remember you can get away with saying almost anything at the dinner table when you put the phrase, " With all due respect"  in front of it.
     "With all due respect, Aunt Marie you need to wax that mustache if you ever expect to find a husband."
     Speaking of  respect, depending on your family dynamic, there are certain topics of conversation you may want to avoid  due to their highly controversial nature such as religion, politics, gun control and your sex life . Unless you are on a personal vendetta or quest for provocation, discuss these topics privately. Don't be a ( pardon my French) douche bag Royal when your family is gathered together for the sole purpose of being grateful otherwise the only thing they will be thankful for is your absence. Please be mindful of all the employees working during the holidays if you are out and about. They would like to be home with their families too.

 Most importantly, and we are all guilty of this but won't admit it, don't judge and second guess your family members personal life choices. The couple without children is extremely happy despite what you may project onto them. Your single uncle isn't secretly gay. Grandma doesn't want your pity, she wants you to accept, love and respect the wisdom she has to offer. Remember to be grateful that you  have  family to share a meal.  Even though we may not always agree or approve of another person's opinions or lifestyle, make a sincere effort to look deep in your heart with compassion and understanding. With all due respect, no one is perfect.

 Be thankful for shared memories, laughter, comfort and good food. Honor a memory with love.  Appreciate your good fortune.

  please follow the link below

Love and peace to all.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

"It is the story that matters not just the ending....."

“WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep.”
― W.B. Yeats, The Collected Poems     

     November is Adopt-A-Senior Pet Month. Senior pets are amazing and deserve a special home to live out their remaining years. What can you expect from adopting a senior dog or cat?  During the month of November  most shelters and rescues are reducing adoption costs or waiving fees all together. Most senior animals have already lived in a home where unfortunately owners had to surrender or give them up due to financial or relocation issues. House trained, senior pets won't chew, bark or scratch every thing in your home.

 Older pets are playful yet quiet and calm with fully developed personalities. Older dogs will understand commands and greet strangers appropriately on your daily walks. Ready to be loved again, they will give back more than you know. Imagine a senior dog or cat as part of your family joining you for the holiday festivities. Even better, just think of how much affection and gratitude a senior pet will feel for the humans allowing them to live out their golden years in peace and comfort. 

It's true that many people are reluctant to adopt senior pets due to potential veterinary costs. Be honest with the shelter and discuss the history of the pet with your vet. Quality of life in senior pets is just as important as any other time. Most senior animals are healthy and have plenty of energy. Let them bring greater meaning and quality to your life. Give thanks for the love and loyalty of animals this holiday. For more information about where to find a senior pet in your area check out petfinder &

If you are unable to adopt a dog or cat in November consider donating to your local shelter or volunteering at a rescue. To learn more about controlling the pet population in the US click on the link below.

Monday, November 18, 2013

"all dreams spin out from the web of life....."

 " For we did not weave the web of life.
We are merely a strand in it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
Let us give thanks for the web and the circle that connects us.
  — Chief Seattle,

       My mother had a great appreciation and love for Native American history and culture. At four or five years of age I recall being completely captivated by gigantic glossy photographs in beautifully bound books outlining North American tribes, locations and customs. Mom was proud of her Choctaw heritage on my grandfathers side. The same blood which warmly ran through her veins, now rushes through me and flows through my brothers and sisters. We have lovingly embraced her unique qualities and calm demeanor. We see with her piercing eyes, we share her profile, her gentle smile and  move with the womanly curve of her hips. We hear her laughter and the sound of her voice when we sing. We feel the caressing clasp of her hand when we dance. We feel her breathe renewed hope into our weary lungs after the cruel world knocks out the wind. We have been softly spun from her delicate web of life.

     My entire childhood was spent absorbed with wanting to learn. There was a voracious appetite for attempting to unravel the fascinating mysteries of human existence- religion, philosophy, our planet and the universe were subjects I wanted to know- needed to know. Both of my parents and older siblings created an environment that fostered a love of reading and curiosity. Having access to libraries, diverse literature, three sets of encyclopedias and an unrestricted tolerance of evolving ideas is an experience I'm beyond grateful for having early in my life.

  Upon discovering the following poem by Native American poet Mary Tall Mountain it reminded me that our mother's web of love lives on inside all of us, forever connecting my brothers and sisters. The poem is dedicated to all of those who have lost a loved one much too soon. Look inside your heart. Remember, we're held together by the greatest everlasting bond and in many cultures and languages in the world,  "There is No Word for Goodbye"    

“There Is No Word for Goodbye” 
  by  Mary Tall Mountain from The Light on the Wall.
Sokoya, I said, looking through
the net of wrinkles into the
wise black pools of her eyes.
What do you say in Athabascan
when you leave each other?
What is the word
for goodbye?
A shade of feeling rippled  
the wind-tanned skin.
Ah, nothing, she said,
watching the river flash.

She looked at me close.
We just say, Tlaa. That means,
"See you."
We never leave each other.
When does your mouth
say goodbye to your heart?
She touched me light
as a bluebell.
You forget when you leave us;
you're so small then.
We don't use that word.
 We always think you're coming back,
but if you don't,
we'll see you some place else.
You understand.
There is no word for goodbye.

-with love, peace and gratefulness that we will share  our Thanksgiving together.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

" It's the only gift that you have...right now."

"We so rarely look at the sky. We so rarely note how different it is from moment to moment, with clouds coming and going."-Brother David Steindl-Rast


      While researching an article about expressing thankfulness I discovered Louie Schwartzberg's breath-taking film, Gratitude.  The video alone is an extraordinary gift. So I want to give my family, my friends and any one who reads this an amazing present, right now. Please, please take a few moments out of your busy schedule, rushing around, talking, texting, planning, being frantic from our fast paced life and be still. Put down the cell phone, stop what you're doing on your computer or at your desk. After you watch the video go outside (weather permitting ) and just stare up at the sky." Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky.."   Appreciate all the beauty that surrounds you. Remind yourself what a good day really is...
Thank you.

 All the ways I love you.....

Sunday, November 10, 2013

“The whole world can become the enemy when you lose what you love......”

   “That is what death is like. It doesn't matter what uniforms the soldiers are wearing. It doesn't matter how good the weapons are. I thought if everyone could see what I saw, we would never have war anymore.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close     
   On Veterans Day, November 11th,  please take time to sincerely reflect on the sacrifices that are being made and have been made by our military and intelligence communities at home and abroad. Be thankful for the life you lead as a United States citizen. Show your gratitude for those who love their own country enough to make the ultimate sacrifice.  Author C.K Chesterton once wrote -“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”  We protect what we love. Contemplation on that statement alone is intensely profound.

    Although I've never experienced combat or fought in battle I am certainly indebted to those brave men and women who protect our freedoms. Understand this, there are many countries in the world where I would be arrested and thrown in jail for writing or saying some of the things I take for granted every day. In many countries women are denied the most basic human dignities. Women are denied the right to vote, have a career, own property or manage money, choose or use any form of birth control, select who they marry, walk the streets without a man , attend school, drive a vehicle or even reveal their faces in public. In some countries their citizens aren't allowed to openly protest or criticize their own government, read controversial books or literature, be openly gay or practice their own religious beliefs. In many countries parents force their own children to work fourteen hours or more a day to buy food and necessities. These children never attend school and some girls are sold or married off to men twice their age.
 So the next time you are sitting comfortably in front of your big screen TV, inside your expensive homes with your overflowing pantry shelves and whine about your cell phones, cable bill or used car, put your life in perspective. Be truly thankful. We must all be thankful.

 Below is a link to an article I wrote expressing my gratitude for a few outstanding veterans organizations that continue to transform the lives of millions of veterans and civilians:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"animals may be different from us, this does not make them LESS than us...."

“When animals express their feelings they pour out like water from a spout. Animals' emotions are raw, unfiltered, and uncontrolled. Their joy is the purest and most contagious of joys and their grief the deepest and most devastating. Their passions bring us to our knees in delight and sorrow.”
― Marc Bekoff, The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy - and Why They Matter     

          Tragic news. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has officially listed
 Africa's western black rhino extinct. Unbelievably tragic, because this was entirely preventable by humanity. The announcement was made following the latest review of animals and plants by the world's largest conservation network. The IUCN  also warned that other rhinos  are in critical danger including Africa's northern white rhino which is "teetering on the brink of extinction" and Asia's Javan rhino, fighting for life due to continued poaching and lack of conservation. We don't care and if we do, we aren't doing enough.

      The causes of animal poaching are a widely open topic but greed tops the list. Animal poaching occurs when illegal hunters seek out and kill endangered animals or animals that could be in a protected area. The majority of illegal hunters do it strictly for money. It's seen as a business venture similar to trading stock or buying real estate. The selling of illegal animal products around the world profits somewhere in the high millions if not billions.  A few hunters may kill for the ‘thrill’ or ‘fun’ involved where others poach for the products themselves.

     The effect that poaching has reaches far past the animals that are hunted, but the surrounding areas and animals as well. Having a non-natural food chain link added into a wildlife food supply is a huge issue of survival for other animals. Poaching is causing animals that have been in the world for thousands and thousands of years to become endangered and now extinct. There are not enough of these animals to reproduce and they lack food to survive. The animals at the top of the food chain rely on the animals at the lower end. They are dying of starvation because of human beings. Do you think this doesn't effect us?
 With illegal animal poaching comes the illegal animal trade. Gangs, drugs, illegal firearms are introduced to these areas or control and manipulate the surrounding population. They are nothing more than warlords.  Radical animal poachers as well as illegal buyers are ruthless and heavily armed people. In many cases, local villagers are too scared to speak out in fear for their own lives. The video above Poaching Wars is the first part of a two part documentary filmed in Africa earlier this year.(both parts one and two can be seen in their entirety on We follow compassionate British actor Tom Hardy, who narrates the unflinching  reality of  impassioned conservationists, wildlife experts and those brave enough to stand against illegal poachers.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

““Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”      
Mahatma Gandhi
Where did the popular internet meme, "Keep Calm and Carry On." originate? According to historians,  1939 in preparation for massive enemy air attacks, it was supposedly used by the British as pre-World War II motivational poster propaganda.
Simple, effective and truthful. When there are metaphorical shit bombs being dropped on you every day at work or crapostrophic missiles fired at you from family and friends, what can you do? As the father of Taoism, Lao Tsu once observed, “The best fighter is never angry.”  Can you be a loving, kind and compassionate being when you are full of rage or hatred? We are all fighters.   Either we choose to spend our entire time on the earth angry, upset, bitter, resentful and full of vengeful meanness towards others or we can face fear, keep calm and get on with the business of our own life. How long are you going to let other people control your happiness? Stop giving away your power.

 First, you need to recognize how much control  you do have over a situation. If circumstances are out of your control such as another's emotions, beliefs or attitudes, you must change your own perspective. You can't truly control another's mind any more than you can control the weather. When thunderstorms come thirsty flowers begin to bloom.  Get your raincoat, grab your umbrella splash in the puddles, dance- sing in the raindrops as Gene Kelly. Keep calm and carry on.

 When you allow others to treat you unfairly, question your morals or belittle your judgment you are giving them permission to hurt you. Before you react with anger or tears, stop yourself. Examine why you're feeling the way you do. Most importantly, why is someone threatening you or making you feel unworthy? Power, greed and control reveal a person's arrogance and excessive abuse of manipulation. However, the most powerful among us remain understanding, empathetic, confident and secure. Calm, peaceful people don't viciously degrade, attack or persecute any one or any thing to find their own sense of peace- their own power. So stop. Take a deep breath and examine all motives. As a great Zen philosopher once stated if you, "Don't start none, won't be none.".                           Keep calm and carry on.

for more ways to KEEP CALM follow the link below........

Thursday, October 31, 2013

" Here we are now, entertain us......"

“I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.”
― Kurt Cobain
If I had a Hot Tub Time Machine I would travel back twenty years and be a professional musician. In the present, I would like to beat out my nephew for a chance at an internship with the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. Currently, he is a communications major and fellow music connoisseur.  He has performed in marching and concert band and plays guitar. Like his auntie he prefers alternative rock music but he is definitely open and aware of all genres. He would be the most knowledgeable, entertaining and professional rock guide on the planet. So lets take a brief journey to the shores of beautiful Lake Erie in Cleveland, OH  and examine the 2014 inductee nominations:

Nirvana- My own college memories are closely tied to the music and lyrics of Nevermind, Nirvana's most successful album. Nirvana's arrival on the scene with "Smells like Teen Spirit" added much needed zest to a world of stale and complacent pop music. Until Nirvana, my friends and I were still reminiscing with The Smiths and the Pixies because everything else was crap besides the Beastie Boys and Alice in Chains.

KISS-  Say what you will about rock gods Kiss but anyone who grew up in the 70's dressed like Gene Simmons or Peter Criss for Halloween. You can't stop yourself from shouting the anthem, "I want to rock n' roll all night and party every day!"  My parents thought it was perfectly acceptable for their second grader to dress up as Paul Stanley, starry-eyed and all.

The Replacements-  Considered pioneers of alternative rock, Paul Westerburg and The Replacements have influenced hundreds of "indie" musicians including Gaslight Anthem.

YES- Believe it or not the English rock band Yes has been assembled in one form or another since 1969. They are known for elaborate symphonic compositions and a brilliant stage presence. Yes is a band that not everyone recognizes right away but we've all heard their music. "Owner of a Lonely Heart" was one of their more commercially successful hits but listen to their earlier material such as  "Round About".
Other inductee nominations include the well known and loved Hall and Oates, rapper turned actor LL Cool J and hip-hop legends N.W.A.

For the complete list of nominees visit the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame website or if you see my handsome nephew Andrew he will happily answer any of your music related questions.

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Strewn with time's dead flowers. Bereft in deathly bloom..."

“It's better to die laughing than to live each moment in fear.”
― Michael Crichton

Why do we love vampires? What is our obvious obsession with blood sucking creatures of the night? With just a few more days until Halloween I thought it would be interesting to delve into a scary monster mystery and get us in the mood. Of course not all vampires give us nightmares. Take for example three of my favorite; the sweetly delicious Count Chocula, everyone's first spirited math instructor Count von Count. How can we possibly fear a vampire that taught us the value of addition and subtraction?  And the handsome howling host of  Monster Chiller Horror Theater, SCTV's Joe Flaherty as Count Floyd.
So, why are we so fascinated by Twilight's Edward Cullen and Anne Rice's' Lestat de Lioncourt? (Interview with the Vampire)? Psychologists speculate we may associate vampires with healthy rebellion. They are the "bad boys"(or girls) of ghoul, the masters of the undead. The blood thirsty adventurers that tempt our imaginations. Most vampires are portrayed as misunderstood loners who seek out their long lost eternal companions.
Vampires can be seen as dashing and sexy, the favorable ones like Twilight's Edward and True Blood's (HBO drama series)'Bill Compton love so passionately. They are flawed. They aren't fake, goody two shoes or respectable. They definitely struggle with being good over being bad. Most people desire a type of dramatic love story. Many couples live for the drama they create in their own relationships. Deep down when we get our fangs into the matter, none of us are perfect. Do we really want a perfect mate? Well, let that be your own mystery.

Vampires through time:
The historic first film vampire was portrayed by Max Schreck in Nosferatu, 1922.
 Charismatic British actor Christpher Lee played a vampire ten times in film and television movies.
Barnabas Collins of the '70's soap opera, "Dark Shadows" was recreated for the film of the same name by Johnny Depp in 2012.
Bram Stoker's Dracula - Gary Oldman

Hungarian born actor, Bela Lugosi was the inspiration for the brilliant, British Goth punk band Bauhaus's eerily defining tribute, "Bela Lugosi's Dead". This is one of my all time favorite hauntingly creepy songs. First released in 1979 the tune has stood the test of time and it's always perfect for Halloween. Portraying the character most notably, Lugosi played Count Dracula beginning in 1931 with the movie Dracula.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

“A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home.”

“So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist     

 Once again as a reminder to all, October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog month.  The video above was discovered posted on YouTube by a fellow writer.  Please, take a moment to watch.  Dog lovers, pet parents and potential adopters around the world will be smacked warmly right in the feels. Dawg lovers already know the endless benefits of owning a furry friend/child but what happy waggin' "tails" would you tell prospective pet parents? 
 A dog is always there for you. When no one else listens or seems to care about your awful day, your dog will run straight to the bathroom and retrieve a wad of dirty old snot-dried Kleenex from the garbage can. "Here, let it all out", they sympathetically encourage." I've only been staring out this window waiting for you to come home since 9:00am." Your dog will be all ears, lick salty tear stained cheeks. Hugs. Hugs. Kisses. More hugs. Treats.
Dogs need exercise and so do you. Studies show pet parents are healthier, less prone to symptoms of depression, disease and allergies. You will be walking, running, chasing, throwing, dancing and possibly being dragged down a sidewalk on a daily basis. Believe me, this is a beautiful thing. Exercise boosts your own mood, allows you to meet neighbors and ensures your dog is releasing enough energy for a peaceful nights slumber. A dog will alert you when strangers stop by   and will sound the alarm when the door bell rings in case you didn't hear it the first time.
All dog owners can testify  that your dog will writhe in ecstasy at the mere hint of jangling car keys. A ride in the car for most dogs is like a human finding a long forgotten twenty dollar bill in the pocket of an overcoat. "YESSSSSSSSSSSS!" Not only do they LIVE to accompany you on the front seat, your dog wants to steer, navigate, enter GPS information and choose the satellite radio station. But of course the biggest thrill, as Frank Sinatra once crooned in "The Lady is a Tramp".... they" love the free fresh wind in their hair. Life without care."  Dog's love feeling the caress of a cool breeze, sniffing the air, catching the scent of a million fast forwarded stories dripping from a windy trail. And you will want to give them every opportunity to have the experience once you witness their pure pleasure and sheer joy! Most importantly, a dog is sharing a poignant moment with their best friend. Moments, though the length of their lives will sadly never match our own, are intense dog moments.  Dogs live in the now. You will treasure those memories in your heart forever. So to sum up why you should adopt a dog this month, a former boyfriend once joked  he wanted to come back as my dog in his next life. It's the love. It's all about the LOVE!

Please, save a dog's life by giving them a forever home. Adopt from a shelter today.

Monday, October 21, 2013

" We're fascinated by the words--but where we meet is in the silence behind them..."

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”
Leonard Cohen

      At a previous job about ten years ago my co-workers entertained each other with daily creative team chat room conversations. All  of us would agree on a thought provoking topic such as our favorite comedy movie quotes, hottest male/female athletes with foreign accents or "finish this 80's hair metal band song lyric". One evening the selected subject was  "Choose Your Fantasy Parental Unit". We speculated about our fantasy football teams and fantasy rock band musicians so this wasn't too much of a mind stretch. Realistically, most people love their own parents or at least tolerate them until adulthood. Granted we were all in our twenties, thirties or older, some teammates were parents a few grandparents and we all encouraged relieving stress and expanding our imaginations. We were working for a technology company so Bill Gates, Tim Berners-Lee and Fujio Masuoka "fathered" quite a few of my associates. At the time my chosen parents were Oprah Winfrey and the Dalai Lama. One can only imagine the philosophical punishment lectures that may have transpired  in my youth after "Mom" and "Dad" discover a bottle of Peach Schnapps my best friend stashed in my book bag or the time I "earned" a big fat "F" in my high school trigonometry class. So my fantasy parents selection was based on the multitude of admirable qualities Oprah and the Dalai Lama possess including resilience, kindness, compassion, tolerance, a love of books and animals

     Every now and then you have to let go. Let yourself imagine you can do or be anything. Why wouldn't you? As children we did this every single day. It's how we discover why we are here. Author and theologian, Albert Schweitzer once brilliantly observed, "At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."  In life you will encounter other people, watch films, hear music, taste food and read novels that inspire you to reach far beyond the self imposed limits of your day to day comfort zone. One such author of an extraordinary book I read inspired me to follow my true passions. I felt so motivated by this writers journey that I wanted to show my great appreciation by contributing in some way to an emerging idea so much greater than myself. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm wasn't shared or supported by as many people as I had hoped, putting myself in a self inflicted financial bind, missing out and messing up a new adventure.  Although my generosity was well intentioned, nothing went according to  my six month action plan. There is no one to blame but myself. Lessons learned. Looking at the big picture with gratitude I still crossed my finish line. Be aware, be awake, be conscious and always be grateful for those who reignite your flame.