Monday, January 28, 2013

" the best is yet to come and won't that be fine..."

“He couldn’t believe that sleep had robbed him of this spectacle night after night. Such are the writer’s privileges, he thought, nostalgic already for the present.” ― César Aira, Varamo

     A few weeks ago my sister and I were discussing the film Midnight in Paris. The movie was written and directed by the infamous Woody Allen. The plot revolves around a nostalgic screenwriter who is on a trip to Paris with his fiancé's family. Mysteriously, as he walks through Paris each evening at midnight he slips back in time to the golden age of the 1920s. He encounters the amazing composer, Cole Porter, charms Zelda Fitzgerald and ruminates with novelist Ernest Hemingway. How many of us have imagined traveling back through history to meet notable characters or relive legendary moments? Stored away in my closet, almost forgotten completely was a fifty-five page short story written for a creative writing course in my early twenties. Although alternative rock music is my first love there are many genres of music I cherish and appreciate. Frank Sinatra was "The Voice". Is it any wonder millions of women swooned? As an entertainer, Sinatra crooned with unparalleled depth and emotional sincerity. His gifted golden vocal chords are considered distinct and incomparable by many. "Ol' Blue Eyes" and his hipcat musical stylings continue to enthrall my ears, heart and soul. Soon I was given or purchased every Sinatra cd available. My cell phone ring tone for many years was " The Lady is a Tramp". (" and she won't dish the dirt with the rest of the broads...") Having admired Dean Martin from his earliest films with Jerry Lewis and being aware of Sammy Davis Jr as a consummate cool talent (add comedian Joey Bishop and handsome English-American actor Peter Lawford) I was infatuated with the Rat Pack. My story allowed me to envision singing gushy, lovey-dovey duets with Frank and impeccably performing "Candy Man" live on stage with Sammy. Renowned dancers Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron were also incorporated into my starry-eyed design. There are endless places and people I would like to travel back in time to meet and experience. Who would you like to encounter? What time in history would you visit? True, we only have the present moment but why not let the rare flicker of nostalgia ignite our imaginations.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"chop wood, carry water...."

“There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” ― Will Rogers
     Learning anything for the first time is intimidating. Initially, we may read the subject, then observe others but ultimately we learn by doing. Life is learning. Failure is not an option? Failure is always an option if you want to grow and continue to evolve. But I do get apprehensive. Nothing reminds me more that I am a cocker spaniel of the human race than when venturing and exploring beyond the invisible fence of my comfort zone. Cocker spaniels are happy, loving, gentle and sweet dogs but are especially sensitive to loud noises, raised voices and harsh training methods. They are also prone to excessive urination when excited. That may or may not be me. An early introduction to personal self-discipline was developed after serving four unrelenting years in high school marching band.(actually, I loved it!) When I felt irritated or rebellious though the purple beret came off before a performance. You want me to walk five miles in the sweltering heat of an August afternoon with this thirty pound drum strapped to my chest, Captain Band Director? Look who's not wearing the regulation hat....Sir! Who's in charge now?

   Self-discipline is a challenge. When being instructed and I sense another individuals impatience my sensitivity slowly escalates from whimper to growl. Not everyone trains or learns effectively in the same manner or at the same pace. Quiet calm is my prefered learning atmosphere. Having no desire to be alpha dog, there is minimal bark and I only bite when attacked. However, if you train me properly and toss me treats you will win my trust, loyalty and I might just lick your face. Enthusiasm, curiosity and a love of learning can be all but crated and caged without the proper teacher. Patience with numerous questions, endless repetition and understanding on the part of an instructor is priceless. There is an uneasy, nervous excitement when facing a new challenge. No matter how much you want to control time and effort , you can't be an expert unless you are a student first. Study and practice, practice, practice. If you dream of playing timpani with the symphony you begin with the triangle. (Ask, Ed Grimley.) If you want to run with the big dogs you have to jump off those comfy cushions.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

" I am kissing you......"

"One regret, dear world, that I am determined not to have when I am lying on my deathbed Is that I did not kiss you enough!" Hafiz- Sufi poet

        The creative process of keeping an online journal, much like life, is the journey and not the destination. My greatest enjoyment comes from actually researching a subject, quote, poem, person or photo and wondering where it will lead. There is a bit of mad scientist mixed with film producer in all of us. When I review my search engine results before submitting a blog I usually laugh out loud. Examining what thought lead to this thought and lead to the next thought is fascinating. Then you realize at certain rare moments you're not "thinking" at all. You are doing. You are creating. The path to the posted page is far more interesting than the page itself. Having complete creative control and freedom is a great empowering feeling. Being able to express ourselves is essential to our true nature. We are all creative beings. There are times when the seemingly unsolvable problems of the world completely overshadow beauty in our lives. The beauty is always there. Much like the clouds obscure our vision of the moonlight, criticism and negativity eclipse creativity and awareness. But the clouds always pass. Always.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

" De da da da, is all I want to say to you.."

“Information is just bits of data. Knowledge is putting them together. Wisdom is transcending them.” ― Ram Dass

     The paradox of social media is this: it has inspired and united an entire generation of activists and advocates but still allows millions to feel isolated, alone and incredibly shallow. It's like eating chips and salsa before dinner. Inevitably, you have to order a Quesidilla Grande to make the hollow hunger pangs go away. Twitter following is like scarfing down an entire package of Oreo cookies. You know you will fall into a sugar induced sleep coma and want to rinse out your mouth. (practicing my metaphors this evening) Generally, I believe most people are honest with the information they reveal on social media. Who would doubt I worked at Vandelay Industries for two years? Who wasn't convinced the profile picture of me and Christian Bale at a movie premiere was photo shopped? Privacy matters. What benefit is there to exposing everything in our lives? How safe is it for children and teenagers to have their "time lines" revealed to the public? This may be difficult to read but most of us are really not that fascinating to other people. Maybe we should try to discourage youngsters posting their every obsessive thought about Tyler Blackburn or Selena Gomez explaining this does not constitute effective communication. Freedom of Speech is our First Amendment Right so carry on and on and on.... Anyone with common sense will refrain from making rude or crude comments about their boss, spouse, teachers or other family members online. Surely, people have enough sound judgement NOT to post incriminating videos or pictures of themselves or others. Well, one would hope. Recently, I was completely stunned to discover posts by college "educated" educators supporting the conspiracy theory that the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre was a government hoax. WTF? If only the "delete" button worked on making ignorance disappear!

      Human beings desire to feel and stay connected. People love to share what they love. We share photo's and memorable moments with family, friends and loved ones across the country and around the world. Twitter, Tumblr, Linked In and Facebook are a few of the most excellent resources to promote yourself, an educational institution, business, non-profit organization, musical group or blog. It has made a significant impact globally in connecting us to a world of previously unknown political conflicts and ideas. The Internet and technology in general allows us unlimited access to news, information and each other. In addition, thousands of people have connected and fallen in love using online dating services like and e-Harmony. How else would I have fallen for George Glass? Connect. Make connections. You have to stay connected is what we are all constantly advised.

     Would the world end if you turned off your computer or smart phone for one day? One day a week, allow yourself the silence and solitude of a missed voice mail or text. You will survive. Locally and personally social media seems to have done little to strengthen or create deep, genuine bonds. So much of what we do in everyday life and work is censored to keep up appearances. The social mask only comes off when we are alone. Outside of business I would rather have one or two sincerely, authentic, flesh and bone friendships than a hundred superficial online contacts. So I certainly understand people I know who have either never created or abandoned their Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. Life is short and time too valuable to waste on a million cursory comments. Why do you think Facebook invented the apathetic "like" feature? "Thumbs up" or "up yours" if you like. Whatever form of communication you choose, be true to yourself.

Monday, January 14, 2013

"you may say I'm a dreamer...."

“Words and thoughts concerning compassionate action that are not put into practice are like beautiful flowers that are colorful but have no fragrance.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
     Over the span of a decade I have taken and retaken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® Assessment or variation of the assessment more than twenty times. It took twenty attempts to determine if I actually had talent or skill. I'm joking. My lack of proficiency in math has always been horrendous but my fourth grade elementary school teacher, Mrs. Taano recognized that I wrote English goodly and occasionally strung sentences together that almost made sense. Not bad for an overly sensitive ten year old whose favorite activity was staring out the window daydreaming. Fondly, Mrs. Taano was the first teacher to praise me for being a good creative writer.
      One morning after a writing assignment she even asked our principal to come to the classroom and hear me recite my essay. The only time we ever saw our principal was when he was dragging a kid down the hall to be lectured or paddled. Yeah, they used to paddle kids. That makes me laugh now. My story unfolded in a beautiful, enchanted wonderland where we lived in harmony romping in fields of daisies, building tree houses or something and the animals spoke to us .... I really don't recall the entire essay because that was a long time ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Mrs. Taano whispered so sweetly to our principal, " Lisa's story is like a utopia."  
       Our principal smiled weakly and grumbled, " Well, I've got to get back to my office and do some important principal-ly stuff. Nice job, Liz."

        Anyway, you may recall having taken the "educated indicator" assessment yourself at one point in your life. Do the words introvert, extrovert, sensing, judging, thinking and perceiving sound familiar? The indicator is based on the combined research of psychologist Carl Jung and researchers Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Myers Briggs. The assessment is used by many colleges, universities and businesses to determine personality traits, suitable careers and how people interact in team building, leadership and conflict management situations within an organization. Certainly, you are not expected to believe you possess every trait in the results but it can be used as a guide to assist many of us who may have difficulty focusing on one meaningful career path. So I have taken this test one thousand times (exaggerated slightly) and every time is the same result:

 INFP An INFP is an Introverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiving personality type. Personally, the reason I've taken or been prescribed the test so many times is because my career choices haven't aligned with my true nature. Professors, career counselors and managers past and present have encouraged me to seriously analyze the description, take it to heart and use it to pursue my "dream" career. Considering an INFP is a "Dreamer-Idealist" I wasn't always sure how to translate the following personality traits into a successful career: "INFP's are introspective, private, creative and highly idealistic individuals that have a constant desire to be on a meaningful path. They are driven by their values and seek peace. Empathetic and compassionate, they want to help others and humanity as a whole. INFPs are imaginative, artistic and often have a talent for language and writing. They can also be described as easygoing, selfless, guarded, adaptable, patient and loyal."

       If you have taken the test, how well do you think the results of your assessment have helped you? Do you think you are in your ideal career? If you could choose any job in the world what would it be? One of my dream careers would be philosophical chocolate inventor/factory owner race car driving theater actor. And that counts as one ideal career by the way. Admittedly, there has always been a lot of "dreamer" in me. How else can I imagine a better world and then do whatever I can to make it reality?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

" the road less traveled....."

“Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak... Non-violence is hard work.” ― César Chávez
     A few years ago I resided in a city with a current homicide rate of 75% for young black males between the ages of seventeen and nineteen. The city was considered the "murder capitol" of the state for quite sometime and currently has one of the highest death by firearm rates in the country. After working hard and enjoying the single life peacefully in the city for nine years prior a few unprovoked incidents occurred that continue to shape my personal views on guns and crime in America. The who and why remains complicated and unclear. One evening as I headed off to work I approached my car to find a stranger sitting on the hood. I asked the man politely to remove himself from my property and he wandered off. The next day my vehicle was keyed while parked at my apartment complex. Naturally, as most people would do I filed both a police report and insurance claim. After having the vehicle damage appraised initially, it was repeatedly scratched over a few weeks and culminated with an ignorant, hateful racial slur being carved into my driver side door. So not only did I report the vandalism but also reported a hate crime. Let me get this straight!? Someone sits on MY car and then when I ask this piece of human garbage to get off MY property, I'm the enemy? Are people really that insane?

     Yes, yes they are and that is my point. People who don't value their own life will never value anothers life. What if I had overreacted and just whipped out a gun? What if he had pulled a gun on me? What if all I could do was stare out my window all day and night with a rifle pointing at the parking lot? What if I had gone and bought countless more weapons and stockpiled my own personal arsenal just waiting to ambush someone? What if they were going to ambush me ? What kind of life is that? It's not life at all, its just being paralyzed with fear and paranoia. And it's certainly not freedom. What if I allowed myself to be so afraid that I never left my apartment to speak with all the other neighbors who were being victimized by the same group of thugs? What if I had become so fearful that I didn't write letters to the apartment complex, state officials, federal agencies, civil rights organizations and anyone else who could offer ideas to help ease our communities drug, loitering and trespassing violators? Was it a violent gang member trying to intimidate an entire neighborhood who keyed my car? Who threw a cement block at my apartment window? What if the ignorance and violence just continued to spiral out of control? Who controls the fear? Escalation of violence is one reason there are even more illegal firearms and military grade weapons on the streets and in the hands of people who DO and will murder innocent people. They have a gun, you have a gun. They have two guns and you buy three. Where does it end? Criminals have access to Bushmasters and AK-47's, law enforcement agencies need more than a pistol to protect citizens as well as themselves. How else can they remove weapons from the street? How do they get on the streets of so many urban areas of the US? How do they wind up in the hands of seventeen to nineteen year old young adults? How do they wind up in the hands of gangs and drug dealers? Law enforcement agencies don't stock up and upgrade their weapons cache because they LOVE guns. They are dealing with the reality of gun violence every day not romanticizing it from a secured Hollywood studio or avid gun collectors mansion. Do we want everyone in American to dress for work in Kevlar suits as if heading into combat? Do you want to dress your children in bulletproof vests and helmets for school?

     Apparently, a few politicians want our teachers to teach, preach, baby-sit, be mommy AND daddy, a child's moral compass and NOW a damn weapons expert. Instead of writing this from home I could be writing this from a prison cell if I had allowed my anger and rage to overpower my humanity. Anger and fear solve nothing. It is how you choose to use that anger and fear that will create a solution. Gun laws and gun restrictions are a sensitive topic in our country right now and I have taken great consideration in hearing and understanding opinions of people on both sides of the debate. We do not simply accept violence as part of our American culture and stockpile more guns. Accept violence? No. Don't just shout over each other. Listen.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

" a better tomorrow...tomorrow..."

“Do you know what I like about comedy? You can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time—of anything. If you're laughing, I defy you to be afraid.” ― Stephen Colbert

     The high-def 3-D glasses included in Stephen Colbert's bestseller, America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't will increase the "depthiness" of your reading pleasure. By sharing this information I have already violated the Terms and Conditions Agreement of his book to which you have two options YES or OK. There is so much brilliant satire in the book you have to share. Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Report allows me to digest those gristly chunks of complex social and political issues otherwise impossible to swallow. Jon Stewart is one of the most thoughtful, intelligent writers and politcal satirists of our time and the Daily Show encourages an audience to contemplate the most serious of subjects while we giggle and guffaw. Aside from family, friends and aquaintances( my brother photoshopped this pic ) the four fearless New Yorkers who constantly challenge each other on Impratical Jokers arouses my pure sense of the absurd with their hilariously cheeky dares because it's true; you can't laugh and be fearful. There are thousands of different ways to explore humor.

      Observing and understanding the human predicament connects us all. Life is tragedy and divine comedy. People who are able to laugh at themselves have a developed sense of humility. Never trust people who are disingenious or lack a sense of humor. We are only human. We all have a capacity to increase happiness in ourselves and others. Possessing an excess of self-importance and seriousness builds up frustration, pessimism and negativity. We need to laugh. As the great American writer Kurt Vonnegut once observed, people either laugh or cry when they are frustrated and exhausted. Humor is a release. Laughter is the best medicine when generously administered with a deliciously sugarcoated spoonful of sarcasm. Stephen has also included a few shining examples of truthiness to validate your educational history on "the winning resume". Eliminate your competition in any job market by use of the following under, EDUCATION: Havard University, Yale Campus 1999 Princeton, N.J... B.A.- in Dartmouth Studies, graduated Summa Cum Stanford. Mr. Colbert has also written all of his readers A Letter of Recommendation because as he states " his readers now know him in the form of a book". When it comes down to nailing the perfect job or discovering what makes us laugh the old adage still rings true, its not what you know it's who you know.

Monday, January 7, 2013

"..and so shines a good deed in a weary world..."

“All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn't a dog.” ― Charles M. Schulz
       A few days ago I discovered The Washington Post reporter, Michael S. Rosenwald's online article about a program in Maryland where inmates train puppies for disabled veterans. Even before reading the entire story or watching the attached video segment the clouds of a work day lifted. Finally, a little ray of media sunshine and my faith in humanity was temporarily restored. How could this program not be a WIN, WIN, WIN for all parties involved? Numerous psychology studies performed by universities and health organizations affirm the amazingly, powerful affect dogs and other domesticated animals have on the human mind, heart and immune system. My first hand experience of this compelling bond we develop with our dogs is a topic I never tire of reading or sharing. The benefits of loving and owning a companion animal certainly outweigh any cost you may incur. Now imagine the positive effect the entire training process has on an inmate. Model inmates are preselected based on a background of previous military service to train the pups. A service dog in training thrives on an inmates accustomed routine. Typically, the puppies are with the inmates twenty-four hours a day for up to fourteen months including regulated sleep, meals, playtime and a rigorous training schedule. The inmates provide the dogs with discipline, security and structure. Together they have the potential to share an incredible bond which only increases when dedicating their hard work and accomplishment to the betterment of another. By the end of the course the dogs are trained to turn on and off light switches, retrieve, obey all commands and allow more freedom in the daily lives of disabled veterans.          The facility director in Maryland generously praised the program for providing a noticeable sense of calm and purpose among all inmates involved. It has been well documented that companion and service animals ease symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans returning from combat. The simple act of petting or stroking an animal is relaxing and lowers blood pressure. Dogs encourage exercise, sociability and shift mental focus away from the self in order to stay present in the moment. Other studies and programs enable shelter and service dogs to comfort the terminally ill, the elderly, children with learning disabilities, those suffering from trauma and reduce stress among college students during final exams. Dogs serve our military, security and emergency services in immeasurable ways every day. Adults and children profit from the responsibility of caring for an animal that becomes a member of the family and gives unconditional love. Rescuing a shelter animal or volunteering time to rescue campaigns and education is an important way to connect with our own communities especially with issues of animal abuse, neglect and population control. Who doesn't want to hug the hell out of a Golden Retriever after a bad day? Who doesn't miss cocker spaniel kisses? We have yet to imagine a word for ALL that is DOG. AWE-INSPIRING? Naturally. Well yes, human beings are awe-inspiring too. When they choose to be.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"be the change you want to see in the world...."

“Everything I do is going to contain the message that men who are going to be comfortable with powerful women are going to be more powerful men.” ― Joss Whedon

     Right now if you are reading or watching the news it is almost impossible to ignore the issue of sexual assault. The headlines detail the sickeningly vicious gang rape and death of a young Indian woman in New Delhi and has uncovered the brutal sexual assault of an unconscious teen aged girl by a group of football players in Steubenville, Ohio. Rape is a violent act used to control another human being. Rape is about power. Although both men and women can be raped, women and children are more likely to be victims of sexual assault because they can be more easily physically subdued. There is no typical rapist. Studies show that men who commit sexual violence come from every economic, religious, ethnic, racial, age and social group. 85% of rapists are men known to their victims.

      Exactly what are some countries and societies teaching boys and young men about women? Certainly, I am not naive to the fact that violence and rape have been used to control people since the beginning of civilization. Have we, as a country, been teaching men to respect the rights of girls and women? Are men and yes, even some women in the United States respectful of the fact that a woman has the right to control her own body including the right to contraception, sexual activity, abortion, childbirth, and even marriage? All of these factors add up when contemplating women's rights issues. When men read news articles, watch movies or speak to actual rape survivors they must allow themselves to fully feel compassion. No matter how harsh, men must allow themselves to view rape victims as their mother, wife, sister or daughter. When we speak to young men about equality and respect for women we must remember they are observing their own fathers, friends, mentors as well as being influenced by the culture around them. When men speak of women they must show respect, love, encourage empowerment, choice and understand a womans right to her own mind and body. Acts of violence, murder, torture and rape are human rights abuses that occur all over the world.

 “Woman's degradation is in mans idea of his sexual rights. Our religion, laws, customs, are all founded on the belief that woman was made for man.” stated social activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton over one hundred years ago. We live in the United States of America, a country I love dearly but is not even on most "top ten lists" of best countries for women to live and thrive in the world. Are you surprised? I sure the hell am.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"in a half-forgotten dream......."

“Just as the wave cannot exist for itself, but is ever a part of the heaving surface of the ocean, so must I never live my life for itself, but always in the experience which is going on around me.” ― Albert Schweitzer
     Do you ever wonder why you intuitively connect with certain people and not others? Have you ever discovered an author, deciphered a poem or heard a gifted speaker whose words seem to resonate with your own thoughts? Have you ever received an email, letter, phone call or text message at exactly the right moment? Do you ever hear a song, watch a movie or see a photograph more meaningful than mere coincidence? Some call this event kismet, some may call it Divine, others may describe this as simple synchronicity. We may understand how we feel this connection with those we already love but what of complete strangers? One seemingly insignificant exchange has the power to touch our hearts and inspire our minds. One word, one line, one movement and we are submerged in the tides of humanity, floating on the waves of the universe. Many years ago I memorized the lovely Early Sonnet written by the Romantic poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson. It seems to describe the indescribable, a meeting of two souls in "states of mystical similitude" with an understanding of our deep connection to those we barely know at all.......

  As when with downcast eyes we muse and brood, And ebb into a former life, or seem

  To lapse far back in some confused dream, To states of mystical similitude;

  If one but speaks or hems or stirs his chair, Ever the wonder waxeth more and more,

  So that we say, "All this hath been before, All this _hath_ been, I know not when or where".

 So, friend, when first I look'd upon your face, Our thoughts gave answer each to each, so true--

Opposed mirrors each reflecting each-- Altho' I knew not in what time or place,

Methought that I had often met with you, And each had lived in the other's mind and speech.