Saturday, February 27, 2010

A look at spirituality...

For some, the quest for spirituality can be a confusing one. Often mistaken for religion, spirituality in itself is a completely different subject. Indeed the two can exist in harmony, but can also exist separate from one another in certain contexts. Spirituality has certain components that leverage belief systems, as well as navigate us toward what we search for.

As religion in itself is a collection of belief systems, a way to profess and practice one’s faith to that which they believe; spirituality can be a preceding step to religious practices. As religious practice focuses on connection to, and worship of, a chosen inspirational deity and observation of certain traditions, spirituality starts by the development of a “connection” in and of itself.

A main goal of spirituality is an awareness of how ego can infiltrate and interrupt an individual’s connection and presence. Ego strongly tries to concern us with issues of self, narrowing of our focus, and often accumulation of material things for personal identity. It is steeped in the core belief that we are what we have, what we do, and what others think of us. Spirituality on the other hand focuses on a connection beyond us exclusively, and attempts to dispel the ego’s core beliefs.

We find in spiritual practice and principle, that a connection beyond ourselves is paramount to personal harmony. We begin an attempt to connect to our true self. Not the self that has the things, that has the titles, and the achievements, but the self that is deep within us, who is the purer form of who we are. The being we would be if the material things, opinions, and worries of tomorrow were not in the picture.

We also begin to connect to others. With that comes a development of respect for others, and their right to be individuals with individual beliefs that work for them. Coupled with respect comes a compassion towards others and the desire to allow them to be as they are, but also to extend a hand and heart to those who need it regardless of background or beliefs. Through thought, prayer, and deed we can be in constant compassionate assistance to others, and in turn make our own world a much better place to live. This is not exclusive to humans, but also all living beings including the planet on which we live.

Finally and most importantly is a search for a connection to a divine place that gives us peace and guidance. Not only acting as a beacon in a storm, but the desire to see the intelligence behind the design, a promise for something beyond us, and that there is a Divine concern for all of us as part of a greater whole. It is this quest that often places a religious practice before us to further strengthen our spiritual connections and maps out a path for us to travel. Spirituality can lead us to our religious path; our religion supports our spirituality, and healthy cycles can develop.

It sometimes can be difficult for people to jump into a religious belief initially. It can be intimidating as it may encounter people’s issues within themselves they have yet to confront, and to compare themselves to a set of values and practices comfortably can take time. However, by starting with progressive awareness of connecting to one’s self, others, and then to a divine being may be an easier transition.

By connecting to ourselves, we can start to figure out what we feel we lack, and what we seek. By connecting to others, we can see we are not alone, others have wisdom that will assist us, and there is indeed strength in numbers. In seeking a connection to a Creator, Source, or Divine being, we extend our quest to yet another realm, place our faith into more capable hands, and find solace in ways to make sense of the senseless. Compassion towards others venturing down this very personal path is essential to making the journey an attractive one. Even though many may arrive at the same place; depending on where one starts will determine the lanes and detours they must take to eventually arrive alongside you.

(You can take a personal spirituality quiz here.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It starts with a single step...

The journey of a thousand miles, starts with a single step! ~ Lao Tzu

        Yeah, I look good now Jack! (He pivots in the mirror admiring the work) I got back from working out and was preparing to shower. I catch a glimpse in the mirror of the Adonis staring back at me. “Yeah baby!” Okay, maybe not Adonis, but I no longer hold myself in contempt as I compare my physique to that of a candy bar left on a hot dashboard in July. I just got back from the gym, and I feel pretty good about myself. Yep, it was the first workout after a many year hiatus!

        At just a couple weeks shy of my forty-fifth birthday, I realized I no longer looked like I did in my hey-day. I used to be very active. I trained in MMA martial arts and kick boxing for many years, as well as lived for my power lifting type of workouts with a trainer. I went from a svelte 175 pound lean fighting machine to a 225 pound gorilla in a few short years. Then after blowing out my L4 L5 disc on a leg press, all my muscles decided to migrate to my equator for retirement. After a strict protein diet to one consisting of pain killers, gyros and beer, and sweets, I had to clean up my act. I got the pain killer and beer problem solved, but the diet was a bit more difficult. It was too slow a return on investment for an immediate gratification guy!

I told you that to tell you this: I have found that for me, movement creates motivation, and motivation turns into momentum!

        Movement does not necessarily need to be actual physical in nature, but activity, intention, or thought applied to a desired end result. All I know is that whenever I have embarked on a journey, I find it exhilarating. I remember my first martial arts class. I did not necessarily feel ten-foot-tall and bulletproof, but I did feel “empowered”. Fortunately for me, and the reputation of my instructor, I did not pick any fights.

        I try to celebrate the movement in the direction of my goal as opposed to focus on the distance from it. I find that simply starting a new venture that is dedicated to a better me or lifestyle for me is definitely worth giving myself an “atta-boy”. After working out, I felt really good. I think what was inspiring was not the fact that the sleeves on my shirt fit a bit more snug than they did upon arrival, but that I was investing in myself again. This type of investment has a high ROI. (Return On Investment).

        I felt this “high”, for lack of a better word, when I started my book, when I started yoga, martial arts, and a variety of other undertakings. When I have nothing to look forward to, I get antsy. I find that I will get bored. I will often disregard the present and look behind me. This is not a good practice for me. Since the past often contains many of my “learning experiences”, I try to let it go. I try to live by the principle that the present is the peace between life’s little punctuations. It is where I plug back in to myself to gain a few bars on the battery to be better prepared for what may come.

        Do I expect to be the bruiser I was years back? Nope. I just don’t want the neighborhood joggers to throw up if I decide to mow my yard without a shirt this summer. I do admit I fear getting “Moobs” (man boobs), nor do I want to need a "manzier" (see above). I mean if it can happen to Arnold Schwartzenegger, it can happen to me. I do however, want to keep my cholesterol down, add a few years to my life, and just feel good about myself taking steps in staying healthy.

        I noticed that when I invested in me, that which I looked at that day took on a new shimmer as well. I was amazed how the movement in one direction radiated momentum in many others. By focusing my energies in one area, many other areas benefitted as well. Hmmm. I like that! I wonder what will happen if I decide to intensify my focus on self improvement in many other areas of my life? I see quantum leaps happening.

        So my recommendation is to crack that book, take that class, walk a little or run. Re-examine the challenges that have loomed over you for a while. Don’t necessarily focus on the destination, but take that initial movement in the new direction. Remember too, that when you are green, you grow; when you are ripe, you rot! If you can move forward on something, move forward! The pace is personal and can move like a tsunami or a glacier; both are equally powerful!

        I hope you all find the joy in not just reaching your goals, but taking the first step. I hope you feel the satisfaction of embarking on a new direction; of taking on a new challenge. I hope you feel as I did as I stood admiring the man who is yet to become. I also hope you will forgive me as I close here to go get some Ibuprophen and try to straighten out my sore arms!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

FML - "Say WHAT!?"

        “FML”. I had to Google it. Maybe I am old, but I truly hope it is because I have had no need for the acronym. To those who must join me in the uninitiated corner of the room, “FML” is the antithesis of “LOL”. To the further uninitiated in all things emoticons and web vernacular here is the breakdown: “LOL – Laugh Out Loud” and “FML – F*** My Life”. Umm...Wow!

        Recently I have seen the use of this little tidbit at the end of posts from “friends” on social media. As I said – I had to Google it to find out it’s meaning so if it were to come up in everyday conversation, I would not seem as old as my kids think I am. I mean, there are parts of me that want to be “in-the-know” if not “hip”. Honestly I was saddened upon finding its meaning. I was saddened that people needed a new way to exclaim and project negative energy upon their perceived personal circumstances.

        Nowadays social media posts have proven to be more fun than aggravation for me. Currently, more people post on Facebook than vote; talk to people they would not pick up the phone to speak to, and keep in touch with loved ones from afar; as well as share whether or not they enjoyed their Vanilla latte. Can’t be much harm in that, right? (Debatable, I know.) What disturbed me though is that upon my search, I found a social media site dedicated to the FML brigade. It allowed for people to post a “status” per se, of a negative personal situation, why you stand behind your assumed “FML” label, and then allowed people to agree with you as well as to select “You deserved it!” Another “Wow”! I will not post a link and become a conduit for traffic to this place. Google it.

        Now I have, as many do, moments where things just do not go my way. In the past I have felt that God and/or the universe has a sense of humor and I was the punch line. I also realize the more I feel “cosmic victim”, the more I can find circumstances to substantiate this feeling based upon my chosen perspective. The key word here is “chosen”. What we focus on is what we see!

        I also realize that in the FML mindset, if I feel that I find contempt with my life, and that forces beyond myself are damning me to live a less-than-desired existence, why would I feel it helpful to personally add to the damning? I have been there and I get the pain. However I now realize upon reflection, whenever the metaphoric FML subway would open its doors to let me off, by clinging to this viewpoint, I would simply stand on the crowded coach, allowing the door to shut once again, and continue the ride. I was both conductor and passenger.

        Personal and emotional pains are valid. There are times when we encounter barriers. I have straddled so many hurdles I have split my pants. What I have come to realize is that “pain” is the incident that injures us, however “suffering” often is where we keep reminding ourselves we should still be hurting. The exclamations mentioned above that support the mindset of “because of this incident, my life sucks” or “because of that incident, FML” is counterproductive to getting beyond it. I will not judge my life by any one incident than I would judge a song by a singular note.

        You will not see the acronym adorn my site, nor infiltrate my vocabulary regardless of how my day is going. What is simply is, yet I can manage how I look at things. By labeling not only an event, but that my entire existence is in jeopardy from it, lends me to remain deeper and longer in that which I find overwhelming. Winston Churchill once said, “If you find yourself going through hell, keep going!” Although I may add another keystroke, I offer this alternative: “TTSP – This Too Shall Pass”!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Snow lonely?

        "Ya shovel sixteen tons and whatya get?" A flippin' backache that's what. Whatever the cause of the recent storms we have been enduring here in the midwest part of the USA, (and no I don't think it is not Al Gore and his evil minions, conspiracy theorists), but I know I have now evolved from the "Oh isn't this pretty crowd", to the "Okay will ya stop already crowd." I am now the ibuprophen poster child.

        The recent storms have left me encased in a snowy coccoon with the tops of my lawn furniture resembling the middle part of an ice cream sandwich. My poor little Shih Tzu is growing weary of high jumping through the drifts to only be able to tinkle on snow that is already at her "tinkler" level. Her coat matted from the snow to where I have now dubbed her "Dog Marley" for her dreads acquired from the frequent trips in and out of her snowy lavatory.

        I must admit I have to be careful for what I wish for. As a writer, but a writer with kids, the precious but few days I have any uninterrupted lengths of time to where I can write in solitude are not in abundant supply. I often wish I had a day to myself; one to write, to reflect, and to just do "guy stuff". Scratch things, walk around in poorly matched clothes, and eat where I want, with my trusty remote at my side. The weather granted my wish as my wife and daughter became stranded out of town for a few days. My son stayed at Grandma's to alleviate the childcare dilemma caused by school closings. I got my couple of days.

     By the second cup of coffee on day one I found that even though I enjoyed sitting at my computer with hair resembling Nick Nolte's arrest photo, I enjoyed the peace of writing, checking mail, sipping more coffee, and listening to my music as I sang along with the new "We are the World". (I wondered why all the dogs in the neighborhood were barking.) I also noticed the silence. I thought the muffled silence was from the snow, but it was also from in my house. This was what I wanted; or was it?

Note* - (As I write this, the family is home safe, however as my son has been licking his hand and wiping on my daughter, and her retalitory kick which started the crying and the resulting arguing, may make me rethink this post!)

        I noticed that silence is different when you are not sure when it will end. I found it uneasy. Even though I often beller for the kids to quiet down, I missed the madness. I noticed I would rather it be behind a closed office door than across county lines. I turned to my friends online. It seemed our precipitous culprit had left many stranded, some missing family, some not.

       I was able to see the noise happening in my friends lives. I saw pictures. I saw snowmen. I saw faces and text. I also encountered one young lady who was separated by sand and not by snow as her husband was being deployed in a dangerous area of the world. I said a prayer. I was thankful my family was still safe and close enough.
        I also enjoyed the supportive comments from friends on my blog and Facebook page. I wasn't completely alone. I chatted with people from three continents. I chatted with kindred spirits. I met new people. I wasn't alone in my snowy solitude. The friends I have online are like the little marshmallows in my hot chocolate. They add to the warmth. Little suprises that make you smile.

        Now I know the debate of having online social friendships and relationships is provocative and causes many to question the "healthiness" of said interactions. I feel balance is healthy in most any relationship or activity. What I found is that I enjoy adding "spice" to my community of friends. I have "work" friends. I have casual social friends. I have long term friends. I have online friends. I have blogger friends. All of them add their spice to my recipe of a really cool human interactive experience.

        I truly feel that human energy is something to experience, and there is no way a glowing box can offer the same connection. However, second to that is the "intention" and compassion that people offer via their keyboards amazes me at times. If one is truly receptive, you can "feel" the energy in the written word. I found the uplifting words of others can be a bridge to carry you over the chasm when there is a human contact void.

     I have always felt blessed by the friends I have in the physical world. I am also blessed to have met people in my virtual community that I would possibly never had had the opportunity. To not only reconnect with those from my past, but to now have friends from coast to coast, in the UK, Australia, Middle East, and so on, I feel that I have been bestowed with a precious gift. Thank you all. Thanks for the bridge. Thanks for the spice.

      In my snowy limbo, I admit I have not written on my blog as I wanted. Chores, snow removal, and recovering from lost business took precedence. I was blessed to get two awards though, and I promise to pass them onward. The first coming from a wonderful soul - Katherine Jenkins from Lessons From the Monk I Married. The Sunshine Blog Award. I too feel I often give the nod too may times to the same people so please pardon me as I sit on this as I try to share the love.

        The second came today from another kindred spirit and awesome blogger Marcella Jager from Belly Up to This Moment. The really cool thing is that she developed this award, and I refuse to soil her laundry by trying to explain it's meaning. I beg of you to check out her blog and find out it's meaning. Once again, I will pass it on. I want to find recipients.

        Thank you all for your friendship, both the tangible and the digital. Both hold equal weight. Thank you all for allowing me into your worlds, and when you pop into mine, I hope you enjoy the stroll. Even though some may feel that digital relationships are as shallow as a puddle of rain on a sidewalk, to others you may be the only other ones in the room. You may be the beacon, the bridge, and the spice. The quality of this connection goes beyond bandwidth, and thanks for your posts to my soul!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Is it in the cards?


        The one inch wide opening in the lid of the shoebox waited to swallow the validation I needed. The foil covered box with the randomly applied homemade hearts and adorned with ric-rac was what my young soul needed to help me know I was someone’s Valentine. The annual gesture of love and appreciation bestowed upon me from my peers finally arrived to where I would get the small folded tokens I desired to feel acknowledged, adored, perhaps even loved. Although the ubiquitous cards were as abundant as ticker tape in a hero’s parade, I cherished them as if “Be Mine” were a personal message from each young lady I had a crush on. Her personally scrawled, yet awkwardly scribed signature in the “from” line was intended for me to know it was from her, to me. Due to my initials: A. A. (Anthony Anders), I often sat in the first chair, first row, and got the first Valentines. I liked to feel, me getting the first cards was intentional. I see now getting them first was coincidental, getting any at all obligatory to each and every classmate. I still felt special. It was my choice.

        Later--- years after the tradition of placing the bi-folded gestures in a home-made box waned, I noticed a new tradition of exchanging flowers surfaced as a new way of dividing one another of those who had the adoration of another or others (plural) and those who apparently did not. Like feathers in the warriors head dress, the conquests visible for all to see, we were given the opportunity in our school as a fundraiser, the ability to buy flowers for our targets of affection. There were always the individuals who had bouquets so bountiful, they had to make trips to their locker to drop off the new acquisitions, to make room for more; and there would be more. I also remember the faces as they would light up with hope as the delivery person would appear with a bundle, and ceremoniously call out the names one at a time to pass out the tokens of love and adoration. I too remember the eyes of many cast downward in sadness as they were passed by. The problem being not only being passed by, but to get passed by again and again, in front of their peers, and then to leave school that day with no flowers in hand, both male or female. It must have been a long trip home feeling forgotten, unloved, and that the whole student body knew it. I can verify at times it was hard.

        As life progressed and the ability to take a date to a place nicer than one that has a clown for a mascot or super-sizing being part of the menu; I noticed the Valentine holiday became pressing as the awareness of being in a relationship, love, or even being “in-like” with someone was brought to the foreground of one’s priorities as the holiday approached. The “love holiday” often nudged us to realize we are to be coupled, to be searching for, or celebrating the love we currently have, or to get on the ball. Who wants to be eating take out Chinese on a TV tray watching movies on Pay-per-view, when the whole world is out on the town, in a romantic embrace, often paying twice as much for bad service in a dimly lit bistro? I remember feeling, “What is wrong with me?” “Damn you Hallmark”, I would curse to the heavens. I recommend Hunan Lion off Bethel Rd.

        My bitterness has long since faded as I refuse to substantiate how I am loved, by how many, or to what degree by the receipt of a card, flower, or chocolates (although I still love all the above.) I also find it hard to feel that 1/365th of my year is the benchmark to the relationships in my life as well as if I am worthy of love especially in respect to whether or not I get a physical token.

        I have been with my wife going on twenty years total, and we still exchange our tokens. (She likes Anthony Thomas chocolate covered strawberries.) I know enough about women and wives to know not to fumble there. If I do the story better include terrorists. I enjoy holidays as much as the next guy, but I have matured to realize that the gesture on one day does not make or break my love for others and the worthiness of receiving it. I also realize that even if one thinks that it is a “Hallmark” or consumerism holiday, it is often only a couple dollars and a few minutes investment to make a difference to those who cherish the gestures we bestow upon them consumerist or not. Most importantly I have found that the best Valentine was not created by Saint Valentine, but by Alexander Graham Bell. You can call your mother or father. You can call your kids. Call your spouse. Call your friends. If this is too personal, perhaps an electronic nod in the direction of those you appreciate or love is always nice to receive. Make Facebook worth your time for once. Take a lead from kids who make the best valentines, and I treasure every one I receive from mine (see above). The loving intention behind making the connection is a valentine in itself. One we can also do the other 364 days of the year.

and now some food for thought...

        Love does not have to be reciprocated to be validated. Someone does not have to be aware of our love to make it real to us. Sometimes we have to love at a distance. What we send out, we get back. Remember this, don’t forget to love yourself. Show in your own best way to express your love for those who matter in your life. Profess your gratitude to your friends for their presence in your life. And finally spend more time expressing your love than you do picking out your valentines.

I love you all! Happy Valentine’s Day 24/7/365...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Random Acts

Not being my intended set-up for this blog entry I will share with you this: I just entered my office as I passed through my living room where my wife was watching a court room drama. Personally, I find them vile and would rather have my TV stuck on the “How to work your DVR box” channel 24/7 than watch a minute of that swill. The stories were laden with venom, slurs pertaining to one subject’s sexual orientation, and a crowd of onlookers with their mouths agape like baby birds waiting for the next dose of regurgitated poison. I long for the stories beginning in “Once upon a time”.

Yesterday as I was pondering my next installment, I wanted something to do with “reaching out”, expressing our humanity; a connection mind you to where we forego the boundaries we encounter of a financial or physical nature and invest in others using our time or personal skill to receive our greatest rewards.

A fellow blogger ---MARTY from Coffee with Marty posted a beautiful post which set this in motion for me. His story yesterday, told of him going about his daily requirements and encountering another soul, and by his presence and the moment he took to actually look into the eyes of another, and see something “inside reaching out for connection”, well, I will allow you to read. It is when we reach out to others with open hands and open hearts; we are poised to receive our greatest gifts. Thanks Marty for leading by example.

I wish to share with you an experience I had one time, which lingers with me. I hope it always will. I will share my story and hope you all reflect on where you can be a “pebble in the pond”. Send your ripples my friends.

Once upon a time...

I have been blessed to not work Saturdays for many years. In the beauty industry it is quite odd, but aside from here recently, I spent many years as a trainer and my job was done by weeks’ end. Having a young daughter also gave me the luxury of spending quality time with her on Saturday mornings. (This time prior to the birth of my son). We would often do breakfast, and upon occasion, I would capitalize on my craft by taking her into the family salon and paint her nails, do her hair, and make her “princess-y”. Not typical of my male brethren, but I was blessed to have a craft that bonded me deeper with my daughter than many of my other “Dad” friends, and I was aware of the importance. I was teaching her how she deserved to be treated by other men.

After breakfast this morning, I wanted to stop by our local bookstore and check out the magazines. In my career, I have been blessed to be published often in hair and beauty periodicals. I would make it a practice to check the racks monthly to see where my work was that month and how many magazines I may be in. Alexa and I were perusing the shelves; I was thumbing through the magazines, and she was touching everything, her inquisitive toddler hands grabbing what she could.

I noticed to my right a young lady, early to mid teens, going through the hair magazines as well. She was cute in a natural way, slender build, and coarse curly hair, dark chocolate in color. She flipped through the magazines with an apparent exasperation, as if desperately looking for something. Her eyes scanned left then right, and repeatedly sunk to a saddened gaze as she flipped some more. Even though I was not focusing on her, I “felt” I should speak up. I casually asked what she was looking for, she replied that it was her Prom day, and she was looking for hair ideas. I mentioned I was a hairstylist, and special occasion hair was my forte’ and I would be happy to advise. I felt it strange that she waited until the last minute, but I know the fickle nature of teens, and perhaps she was asked last minute, but I remembered, just getting there was the important part; with whom, at times secondary.

I mentioned that looking at bridal magazines often are a better resource for what she sought and I offered a few to her that I knew may help. I flipped in tandem with her, and located a couple designs that may flatter her as well as respect her hair fabric. She lit up upon one design in particular and I concurred it would look great; soft, cute, natural, and with some work, her hair would look awesome. I told her to take it to her hairstylist and they should be able to create it with little fuss.

She asked me a few technical questions about the creation of the look. I asked her if she had a hair appointment as by now it being around 11:00 a.m. on a prom Saturday, appointments were a scarcity. She kept her eyes fixated on the look scanning it intently. She mentioned her aunt was going to take care of her. I asked if her aunt was a stylist. “No,” she replied. I offered her as many laymen’s tips as I could to help her, but her light dimmed; she quietly closed the book, thanked me, and said she doubted if it would happen. She turned to leave.

I stopped her and said, “If you trust I am not some pervert, and you are willing to follow me in your car, I may be able to help you.” I mentioned my name, and that my family had one of the cities’ most notable salons and day spas in the area and that I was the artistic director. I mentioned if she wanted, and was comfortable to follow me, I would do her hair for her. Stunned, she scanned me in my “day-off attire”, my flanking little princess, and I said, “Call your mom, tell her where you are and what you are doing, and follow me up the road.” Off we went in separate vehicles. I noticed she was on the phone with someone chatting feverishly with excited expression.

We arrived at the lobby of the eighteen thousand square foot structure where there were dozens of people in the lobby, many young hopefuls awaiting their hair appointments for their respective proms. The young lady approached the concierge and stated she had an appointment with Tony. She was met with skepticism as I do not work Saturdays, yet they saw me, and greeted her respectfully. I found child care by a technician for my little princess as I escorted my soon-to-be princess back to the styling area.

We finally formally greeted, as I extended my hand, “I am Tony, what is your name?” “Sam,” she coyly responded. The salon had many bustling stylists and beautiful young people scurrying about, and Sam was in her simple jeans and cotton shirt, not looking imposing or important. Meekly, yet politely she sat as she awaited her transformation. Soon we were surrounded by a few of the technicians as I stated, bridal and prom transformations was always my forte’, and since I did not work Saturdays, when I did it was often at $200 per head or more. The staff wondered “who she was.”

She was asked, “How do you know Tony” and was met with the response, “I just met him in a bookstore”. The reactions were worth watching.

After idle banter, pin curls, irons, and a lot of spray, she emerged from under my cape a stunning vision if I do say so myself. Not because my hair style so much as the light within her shone brightly. We never discussed the fee. She realized I was finished and then also realized, it was this point when people pay for their services. She timidly and humbly reached into her jeans pocket and retrieved a crumpled twenty dollar bill. She said, “This is all I have to my name, please accept it.” I grabbed her hand and curled her fingers back over the bill and said, “It’s all on me. Use your money to have a good time tonight.” After a lingering tearful hug around my neck, she bid farewell to me and the surrounding onlookers, and bound out the door. I never saw her again.

A couple years went by, and I was going through my morning mail at work, and I saw a normal white envelope with the address hand-written in blue ink. The note was from Sam. She mentioned that she was now graduating and had just finished a paper for a teacher on someone who had touched her emotionally and deeply. She mentioned it was me. She detailed the depth of what one random act of kindness did for her and her esteem on a very special night. Again she thanked me. Once again the tear appeared in my eye (as well as the one while I write).

I never forgot the power of extending a hand to another. I never forgot that we all have gifts we take for granted, that others consider invaluable. I too hope that should my child ever be in that position, an angel may come down to soothe her as well. I look often to be that pebble in the pond in someone’s life. Reflect yourself if you will, on a time or times, when you have been able to make a difference in someone’s life by sharing of yourself. I would love to hear. Thanks for reading.

And they lived happily ever-after.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

(Don't) Quit Your Day Job

     Sitting here this Sunday eve, I start to feel the effects of PMS; “Pre-Monday Syndrome.” Now mind you I am blessed in the fact that my work week actually starts on Tuesday so I am spared what many feel in a handful of hours from now.

     Monday mornings, I do have to return to my drill sergeant duties in getting the troops ready for school, my chef’s duties in getting lunches ready and often off to the grocery to buy the required sustenance for the upcoming week, and I once again return my attention to the online banking and work related emails. Oh yes taxes...*urp*...taxes. (I think I threw up in my mouth a little).

     Anyhow – I often briefly scan my Facebook account to see what friends are up to, my duties on other accounts, posts and random how-do-you do’s. Most of the status updates however, post laments of Monday and the related dread of its arrival.

     In writing my book, one point I observed is that if people “hated” Mondays as much as they profess on my scrolling social network screen; and they lived an average life of approximately eighty years, they would be spending 11.4 years of their life in a state of dread and dismay. Profound huh? Add another day to the mix and, well, you do the math!

I think this stems a lot from the proverbial “Day Job” that haunts us.

     I find it interesting as I sat here most of this wonderful Sunday creating my book proposal and query letters for my book I have written. I spent hours upon hours (my kids were gone or entertained), feverishly trying to give my dream the leverage to get published and perhaps unfurling my sails to venture into new and uncharted blue waters. My dream is to one day be at my own book signing, my book an inspirational tome to where I hope the attendees are if not moved at least entertained. I want the cardigan sweater with the patches on the elbows. I want progressively bad eyesight that accompanies the career of a writer. Okay, maybe not.

     Why is it I spent much of my coveted weekend propped in front of a keyboard “working” when I now dread going back to work? Why do others feel the same? When did our dreams of doing what we do, just simply become an income generator, a hurdle to get through, and like an old lover, we now only consider a friend (if at all)?

     What is interesting to me is when I ask people, “If money was not a concern, would you be doing what you are doing now?” The answer most often is “no”. Secondly and peculiarly is that what we would do for fulfillment is quite often completely and randomly different from what we now do. Does this shift occur from boredom with the task? Does it occur from external disillusionment? Were expectations to high to begin with? Perhaps a force we could not see like the economy caused our emotional detachment. Maybe who is in charge of our progression is a hindrance. It is rough when your boss is a mean or lazy a-hole, and you are self-employed...

     I often hear, “Don’t quit your day job” directed to someone following their passion. Usually a discouraging outburst by someone who wants to see you tethered to that which weighs you down. Ah, the day job; the nemesis of excitement, yet that which provides the necessary sustainability to exist in the dreamless world, and slows our progression to be able to peer through our sextant and focus on the next guiding star.

     What helps me is in reaching for my goals and new territory is that I realize that my day job is truly what keeps my boat afloat in the meantime. Also I am more aware of when I am simply wasting time. Recharging is one thing, but when I could be utilizing my efforts to achieve whatever task, hobby, or dream I need to work on, I am more in tune to my application of my mental and physical efforts.

     Funny too is that I realize now that in my desire to not be at work, and have my leisure time, I would often waste much of it with boring tasks, watching TV, or daydreaming. The daydreaming spent wishing my life were different. Who was to blame? What can I do differently?

     Now as I sit and try to narrow my 11.4 years to a more palatable number, I also spend reasonable time with reasonable expectations on adding variety to my life. Quit my day job? Who knows? The next best-selling author? I still don’t know. Cardigan sweater with the patches? Wal-Mart here I come.

     What I do find is that when my job and life become boring or challenging, the effort I can dedicate to another goal or dream is enough to distract from my displeasure with the “same ‘ole, same ‘ole.” It is energizing and nourishing. It often alleviates the “day job” from the target of my whining, and redirects my focus to healthier tasks.

     From hairdresser to writer is quite an odd transition. As I said, many of us find where we are quite a bit different from where we wish we could be. As I look here to my right I have a small square hanging from my wall with the inspirational quote: “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” I am attempting mine---what would you do?

  This is also posted on Writers Rising  

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Stand up? Nope, sit down.

     I used to be funny. My material was greeted with belly laughs and an unsurpassed adoration that kept me always seeking a new comical way to engage my audience. My shtick had range. I found that my material emulated those I found funny in my youth. I have been compared to Michael Winslow from the Police Academy movies as I can easily mimic sounds that make people wonder how they came from a human mouth. I could do the frenetic pace of classic Robin Williams. Perhaps the prop comedy stylings of Gallagher would be needed for laughter. Maybe I would channel some Steve Martin circa “Wild and Crazy Guy”. No matter the influence, I found that I was considered hilarious and was always in demand.

      My audience was an audience of one; my young daughter. Now as the tattered playbills have seemed to fade, I have evolved from “hilarious” to “weird”. It is funny how my comedic platform has similar interest to her now as My Little Pony, Barbie, and Dora the Explorer. A few short years and adolescence has skewed her perception of the classics. Pokes to the belly, body function noise imitations, and cartoon voices are met with a wrinkled nose, raised brow, and a look of disgusted surprise. I get more “thumbs down” than “thumbs ups” now.

     I have learned to realize after many times of tapping my emotional microphone wondering “if anyone is out there” that it may be time to get new material. My audience has changed yet I have not. I admit that I do not find the current humor format dictated by the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon within my scope of taste or understanding. I know, “old dog, new tricks”, but I find now that I have taken on the role of censor more than comedian.

     It is difficult as a parent when the awareness surfaces that we are now running interference more than entertaining. I have found that as my daughter’s abilities grow, the more I am able to find things that scare me and that I have to protect her from. The things she most desires to do or participate in. I know it is just nature’s way, but I long for the simplicity of an “arrow through the head gag”, and to also know that my words went unchallenged. There is currently more debate than I remember and I have not yet even embarked into the dating years. Maybe then the arrow through my head may become a real one.

     What I have found is that even though I may not appear “funny” as much as I like, and perhaps my days on the proverbial stand-up stage may have changed, I do not have to lose my sense of humor. I can bring this filter to the table when the challenges of raising a pre-teen daughter surface, and I may then be able to start laughing at myself a bit more. Heaven knows I will most likely be the star of many Saturday Night Live quality sketches. I am also sure I will be quoting a lot of Rodney Dangerfield claiming “No respect!”

      The blessing is that I have two kids and my son is six years old. My old material still works on him. Ah yes, the classics! The old whistles, raspberries, and Donald Duck impersonations rank up there with the “put-your-hand-under-your-arm-pit and pump your elbow to make rude noises gag.” That always was a winner. My encore performance awaits!

     I do find though that I am still tops on my daughter’s list for sage words and advice that only a Daddy can give. Loving hugs and kisses are always still in generous abundance. I realize too that even though my material may not garner as many belly laughs as it used to, my daily actions and love for my kids can produce many smiles. I also notice that my kids have a great sense of humor as well and are happier for it. I guess it is time to pass the clown nose to the next generation and start laughing at their routines as they improv their way through life.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Feeling mortal


     Tired--- so very tired I feel the wind chill as it courses through the holes in my rusted armor. Once resilient, the tarnished exterior succumbs to the wear of a seemingly never-ending onslaught.

     I find that once I embrace that youth is not eternal, mortality become more imminent. Each grain of sand that slips through the orifice of the hourglass represents another lost opportunity. Often disregarded as ceaseless gifts, these grains represent the time fleeting. The orifice widens. The sands, they fall as the transition mocks us with the truth of an eventual eternal slumber. We must play before bedtime.

     No longer feeling like the sting of a wasted day is not felt. The days, they slip like pages torn from a book, blowing--- lost to the wind, their words to be forgotten. I scramble to gather my words, my legacy, trying to hold onto the best chapters. Maybe someone will want to read someday. Will anyone care?

     How did this personal erosion occur unnoticed? The silent carcinogens of doubt, of apathy--- they ate their way through. It spreads the disease that eventually releases the tethered cords that secure me to the stronghold of my spiritual wharf. The wind it blows. The wind it is cold.

     So tired--- I realize that my body is no longer able to withstand the torrent. Bruised and blistered, I may have won the fight, but realize that upon healing, the scars restrict the agility once needed to maneuver the obstacles. I bend, it hurts. I twist, the body responds with pain.

     Will the realization that the path I now tread is far off course from the destination I once sought. The goal is no longer to arrive where I once aimed, but to simply find sustenance along the way, to not emotionally starve as I seek refuge from the expectations I once had. It doesn’t taunt, but it does haunt. Will I ever settle again into feeling I am almost home?

     I find it challenging to separate this score I keep with myself as to what I ventured to achieve, the successes that I once harvested; long since consumed, now left with the remnants of missed expectations. Although playing for both teams, I find myself rarely celebrating victory.

     The hypocrisy sneers as it sinks its meat hooks into me. It bears its enthusiasm as I am made aware that I detach so easily and divert from my nature. I derail. I slip into a lack of awareness that I am not able to counsel myself with the same love and compassion I would show others, including my enemies. Does this make me more contemptuous than my nemesis’? How can inflict the deepest cuts yet allow myself no sutures?

     So tired. Unable to fly I am held captive by guilt and responsibility. Living in the shadow, the sun no longer reflects off my now rusted armor. The once impervious metal now only adds weight. Responsibility stands in the way of dreams. Dreams being the air that sustains me and dispels the pain, yet with responsibilities choking off its nourishing supply. Blue I choke, gasping I whither and release my clutch to hope.

     Holding myself in contempt, I realize I have opened Pandora’s Box and have lost the lid. The sirens call to lure me further from the shore, beyond where the lights upon the shore illuminate the refuge for return. Time being the link to possibility; the rope grows shorter with every passing day. Soon I will be set adrift at the mercy of the current.

     Mortality it looms over the fallen. Only can I rise up and patch the holes that expose me to further barbs. Perhaps realizing I am mortal, I can hold time as a most precious resource. I am not immune to the disease of doubt--- contagious and draining. Should I choose to rise like the phoenix from the ashes, I must add faith to my arsenal. I mustn’t stand as an army of one, my current condition needs support. Standing over my defects like fallen comrades, I must check them like bodies on the battlefield to look for survivors. Once nursed they can stand beside me guarding the flanks.

     So tired, yet once rested may I rise to a new dawn. Hope it can peek through the cracks like a sliver of sun’s rays to warm whatever it touches and to light the way to the door. The fool continues the same path with his progress eternally impeded. Choosing right, choosing left is choosing the life restoring detour. Just go! Wait no longer for the rusted armor to weigh down the soul into simply sitting before the wall that impedes it, cursing its presence.

     Perhaps shedding the weight of what once protected is the ideal course. Vulnerable yes, but light, allowing the body and soul to heal and run freely in the direction of the sun. No more shall the burden of past baggage weigh me down. Rest and restore. Sleep to soothe the tiring ache, arise to the promise of new shores. Seek solace in the realization that one pivot in a new direction leads to the potential for a new journey with a new outcome. Eternity shifted in a simple pivot. The subtlest of turns affects destiny.

     Mortal I am. The opponent of mortality is life. Sleep will I now to awaken with new hope. Life is not measured in time spent. It is the collective story between our entrance and departure. Sometimes more of the story needs to be written for the rest to make sense.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A new avenue - Movie Reviews!

     What I have found that leverages my passion in writing is being able to share my perspective. I have enjoyed writing for many years as a contributor for hair and beauty magazines (Celebrity Hair Styles 101 Hairstyles etc.), for marketing purposes, blogging, as well as authoring a book. I think what I enjoy most is the challenge of my attempt to invite many to sit at the same proverbial table, enjoy fellowship while consuming the material at hand, and then only after consumtion, to be able to discuss what they did or did not enjoy. It is the portal to the presentation of the material I enjoy as much as the material itself; sometimes more so.

     A dear friend of mine, BRYAN ERDY whom I met many moons ago when I was affiliated with NBC, is a reputable movie critic with the credentials to support his chosen career path. He has a wit and engaging demeanor about him that I think makes him choice for interviewing celebrities, presenting reviews, and to be an on-air television presence.

     Recently he has become a "fan" of my writing, and has been a true friend in supporting my new found passion. In showing his support, he has allowed me to contribute to his site which supports his local and national movie review duties. His site, Movie Planet (Yes, you can click it!) is viewable to people with FaceBook accounts and I now invite you to come visit and if you enjoy the page, please become a fan. I have since written a few reviews in my "flavor", and the first one you can now read is on Avatar called "Why Avatar Matters".

 I would love your comments. Should people request the reviews, at some point, I may be able to seek other avenues to present them in other places. I also recently did a post called "I See You" looking into the "spiritual" connotations of the movie.

     The site will have reviews, chats, banter, and a host of other "movie-related" tidbits as well as discussions where you may add your input. If you pop by, I once again thank you deeply for supporting this new venture for me as a writer, as well as to support other great people in an exciting new direction. Thank you all as always!