Sunday, July 25, 2010


The needle on my compass is broken. It used to be quite reliable as far as my navigational partner, but currently it stopped pointing the way. Now what?! Maybe it is a good thing.

I often find that often the compass is not necessarily “broken” as much as it has an intrinsic intelligence that pauses its function to allow us to switch to our intuitive devices. I think things happen to keep us from plodding along life’s path in a “lemming-like” state just because. Like early sailors, if they were caught out at sea without a map or compass, they switched between what God placed before them, mixed in with a little “gut”, and they fearlessly tread onward driven by passion and fear of standing still.

However, when the path forward sometimes seems rather dull, frightful, unchallenging, or perhaps dismal at a given moment, we can take a peek in our rearview mirror. Although not always wise to “live” in yesterday, we can retrace a few paces and maybe examine our impact.

Is where we have been only what it appears on the surface? Is our past only comprised of our own circumstances? Are we travelling alone? I think we leave footprints.

In our travels we leave behind visible markers of our presence. Sometimes we leave perishable traces of where we have been–momentary evidence that we have passed through. It is our footprint on life’s sandy beach simply waiting on the tide of time to erase it. From the simple gestures, assistances we have loaned to a stranger, and idle banter with passers-by we can indeed leave a footprint along our daily path. Think back at the end of your day to simple moments of truth where we maybe encountered a stranger, exchanged contact, and then proceeded onward. Do you remember them? There lies a footprint. They took the place of another thought. In your absence you live on in someone else’s life–even if momentarily. Who knows where the nudge will take you?

Sometimes we walk through damp concrete–our steps indelibly present–proof of our presence strong and visible eventually hardening. Maybe they were words of encouragement that turned another’s life around at a crucial moment. Many times we are not always aware of the depth and impact our presence can make on another. We may not be aware of how close to another’s core we come. Sometimes with a simple anecdote we may save a life somewhere down the line.

Some of us are teachers. We share our skill so that another may flourish. Words, trades, jobs, and knowledge are precious gifts never to be taken lightly. Used in the hands of a creative master, we never know what momentum may be given to a simple statement or craft. Maybe our footprint here was simply stepping first in the right direction allowing others to follow.

As mentors past or present, we must not concern ourselves as much with where we are now going, but to remain at peace that we have fertilized another’s journey. Being a parent is one of the most crucial of this example. “Do as I say, and not as I do?” I still think we should lead by example noticing that a child learns life through our footsteps. If we are mindful now of our steps, less apology and reconciliation may be needed later. Time passed through anger and pain that could be well spent exchanging quality time–time spent laying a dual set of steps for future travelers. Lay your footsteps for your children as if they were pavers to cross life’s chasm. Often they are.

Sometimes our footsteps go through another’s garden. Sometimes we tread where we are unwelcome. We may have good or bad intention but still we find we have trampled another’s field. As with flowers, they can be damaged; they can be destroyed, but can also be replanted–seeds can be re-sown. We must realize that we may not be welcome to help in the recultivation. Even though we may be willing to dirty our hands and dig, and be willing to water the seeds for new growth, sometimes we must move onward and create our own garden where our footsteps are welcome. Maybe this new space must be fertilized with the lesson learned that we need to be aware that we also travel in a path shared by others, and that we must respect our fellow journeyers.

I find as I venture onward, I have become less attached to the path I leave but have increased in my respect of it. I realize that I am not the only one stepping. I also realize how much my steps leave behind a part of me both good and bad, and sometimes they are brief in their presence, and sometimes will remain long after I have left this Earth.

In my presence, and my awareness of where I am now, I can at least try my best to be respectful in where I leave my footprints. I also realize that sometimes I may leave them where I am completely oblivious to. I hope I don’t trample your flowers.

I finally realize that at some point along the way, I was often uncertain of what lie ahead, but now as I look back, I realize I kept walking onward. Sometimes I needed faith to keep moving to be able to put the story together later by examining the footsteps. I just hope when I reach the end of my journey, my steps were flanked by my loved ones, that they were pointed in a good direction and that when in a deep or dark area, the steps continued out of the valley.

Thanks for walking with me today.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Utopia: n. An ideally perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects.

I wonder if there is such a place.

Now I assume by this point the idea of “Heaven” has already entered someone’s mind. We could start the debate with going from a Biblical definition of “pearly gates and streets paved with gold”, to the nebulous interpretation of “spiritual elevation and enlightenment in this lifetime.” Since both lend themselves to passionate rhetoric, I will save that observation for another time as the topic in-and-of-itself leverages where I am going.

I guess when I ponder this place “Utopia,” this “perfect place” of moral, social, political, and aesthetic correctness; I wonder initially how it could exist.

Since it would have to have pleasing, inviting, and unimposing qualities, I wonder “whose” social and architectural plan we would use. Collectively, this “dream place” would be difficult to create as it would require people to agree in a broad and accepting manner as to what is for the greater good of all. One message, universal acceptance and love, acknowledgement of people’s uniqueness, forgiveness, and compassion would need to dominate the recipe. It has been tried in religious institutions, societies, and cultures, and sooner or later the ideals challenge a few to eventually decide to dissect and create their own interpretation. The old model no longer works for some. Thusly, this diminishes and dilutes the initial ideal. Can we agree? Can we agree to disagree?

Are we running “to” something or running “from” something? Why are we running anyhow? Is what we have entirely broken? Is it beyond repair?

Two incidents caused me to reflect upon today’s topic and one was from a friend stating that a community that would be isolated, surrounded by nature with like-minded people may be an answer to avoiding the evil societal menace; a commune of sorts.

The difficulty lies in the fact that over time, inclusion of many like-minded people will disturb the balance of the nature sought to become the backdrop for said reflection and enjoyment. (Google humanities impact on any place it settles – overall not a great track record.) Disallowing people to join would then perhaps become the exclusionary prototype which prompted the exodus in the first place. Sooner or later by default a “society” would be created. Who will stay, and who will be left behind when the decision is made at a later point that this Utopia has become tainted?

The second was an online posting of a song I have grown to love over time. It is “Somewhere over the rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. (I will post the link below as it should be viewed and shared.)

It is a brilliant, lofty version of the tune made famous by Judy Garland in the Wizard of OZ. The song also ponders this storybook version of a beautiful space coveted by mankind. I agree I would love to often propel on the wings of an angel and find myself in the land of bluebirds and gum drops. I can close my eyes and sometimes come real close. Maybe that is how we are supposed to find these spaces. Maybe they are in us and not “way out there” or over the elusive rainbow.

Utopia for me is a shift in perception.

Although the thought of “perfection” is a difficult pill to swallow if the subject matter is mankind, I do realize that my perception becomes the filter in which I view my surroundings; things can indeed become “better.”

Perhaps this “Utopia” will become available. Maybe it will be revealed to me and others in this lifetime. Maybe the big reveal will require me to leave this physical plane. I know that I have found it from time to time in a spot down by the river. At times it is with a group of my friends. Sometimes I have also found it in my own backyard. You all are welcome anytime.

Somewhere over the rainbow by IZ

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Friends share...

A couple good blogger friends had been so kind as to ask me to contribute a post to their blogs. I humbly accepted and now they are available to read.

The topics are in some ways similar as I address the issues of what people consider "success," and the other addresses the "Journey to Joy."

They have really great hearts and really great blogs as well. Please pop in, browse around, and enjoy!

Thanks for reading here, and thanks for reading there!

Have a great day all! (Links below)

First Impressions by Mansi Bhatia - Article Title: "Success - Loosely Defined"

Journey to Joy by Bill Bruner - Article title: "My Journey"

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Beauty is what the heart sees

Author's note ~ In writing one of my most recent blogs "Who...AM...I?", I observed and commented upon our sense of "self-identification." I tried to present concepts to chew on pertaining to how we incorporate certain "things" and ideals into our lives to either feel “greater-than or less-than.” Amazingly, I omitted a facet of that discussion I encounter quite frequently. It’s my job. The subject is "beauty." My personal interpretation and attachment to this subject has changed over the years. My exposure to this subject and those seeking it has broadened my perspective not only on the subject itself, but those in a perpetual quest to obtain it.

I am a beauty professional by trade. I used to think that made me an “expert” on the subject. I won't bore you with my credentials or my resume' as I find them no longer applicable.

For years, a quarter century to be exact, I have travelled the globe sharing and acquiring knowledge on this subject to be a sought after beauty guru. Yes, I have done TV, worked with celebrities, and have my work featured in magazines. Again, these are dusty trophies of a man who has been blessed with a new perspective.

Beauty is an opinion.

As a long time participant in trend releases and magazine spreads depicting what the masses should consider beauty, I now find an ironic humor in this. In my quest to help extinguish the burn of insecurities injected into public by my own images, I found I was often raising the bar all the while trying to boost my clients to help reach it. It was like trying to get somewhere by walking down the up escalator.

Hopping in the way-back machine we find many trends that were presented to and entertained by the public. For example:

In the days of Cleopatra, hair was colored with ground minerals and plants, permed with ingredients ranging from dirt to dung, and others at times had their subjects' heads shaved to not overshadow the royals in their beauty.

In the days of Marie Antoinette, the huge high-rise hair styles we see in paintings were obtained by cutting the hair of slaves and attaching them to the aristocrats with a concoction using lard.

In some time periods and cultures, obesity is sought after as it shows a well-fed life of leisure. The Rubinesque curvy women of earlier centuries were a sought after companion. Jenny Craig would have been a heretic.

Nudity in some countries is the dress code.

If beauty was not an opinion, often keeping designers, trainers, and therapists employed, we would not be burdened with what the latest new anything is. The standard would be health, acceptance, and function. No more women's magazines with the heft of a Los Angeles phone directory clogging our mail slots in the fall.

Beauty is a facade.

I really, really, admire women. I truly do. Outside of a Photoshop master, is any collective group worthy of respect for their deceptive prowess? Let's start at the top and work downward...

Hair - Cut, colored, Permed, lengthened with extensions. Teased, moussed, sprayed, pinned, and secured.

Eyelashes - Tinted, thickened, lengthened

Makeup, Botox, Restlyne, fillers, and micro-demabrasion.

(We are just getting to the neck!)

Spray Tan. Tanning bed. Sunshine.

Breast augmentation, reduction, push up bras.

Tummy tuck, liposuction, creams, oils, and ointments, and we can't forget Spanx.

Thighs - See lipo and Spanx

Calves - High heels

Feet - polish and pedi

Hands - Can't get a pedi without a mani.

I have seen almost all these on one woman, and this does not even include the wardrobe selection.

Now I can appreciate all this effort and can also enjoy the visual appeal. I am a man you know. What is interesting though, is that somewhere down the line, someone, or a group instilled the idea that we were not good enough in our original form. Our age becomes a curse as our normal natural progression that allows us to become wise, become parents, and to expand our experiences in the world and the related nicks and scratches make us become "lesser than." Is an octogenarian any less beautiful than an adolescent?

I admit I like being a man. I just have to shower, use some deodorant and toothpaste, and a comb, and we are just as good on our wedding day as we are on our day off. I will also admit I will wait until the ladies leave the room until I exhale and let my gut relax.

Beauty to me is who we are or how we would feel in a lightless world. I have always said: "Everyone is a dimmer switch away from being a 'ten'." I feel sad when people use the benchmark of "beauty" when feeling whether or not they deserve love, companionship, or affection. Maybe the trends change each season because not enough people are buying it. Maybe people are smarter than they are given credit. I think they are.

I have always tried to help people achieve a harmonious balance between function and fashion. Our beauty regimen should be an ongoing and expanding appreciation of the necessary restoration that allows us to be happy with ourselves today. It is okay if this changes frequently. What we see on the outside is only the wrapping on the gift.

Beauty is what the heart sees.

Never dismiss the hearts connection to what it finds as beautiful. True beauty doesn't concern itself with acknowledging weight, age, labels, or logos. Beauty is what we feel when we warm in the presence of something. We stare, we desire, we connect. Why? Often we do not know.

The ability to see beauty first in ourselves allows us to see it around us and in others. Beauty is love that sees beyond the surface. It is the magnetism without reason and bond without boundary.

If beauty were only visual, are the blind capable of its appreciation? Of course.

True beauty cannot be trimmed, Botoxed, or squeezed into jeans. It has no age, gender, nor is it a number on a scale. Beauty is a divine gift given to us by our Creator to be enjoyed without challenge.

Beauty can be found in all things tainted only by negative reflection.

Beauty is an opinion - make yours positive.

Beauty can be a facade - go deeper to appreciate the true beauty.

Beauty is what the heart sees, may yours have 20/20 vision.

This VIDEO is quite an eye opener to the world I used to work in, and also greatly supports my point.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Ever asked a kid who they are? Aside from the standard response of their name, you will also get a variety of responses being “My name is (insert name here) and...

“I can tie my shoes!”

“I can go pee-pee on the potty!”

“I have Spiderman shoes!”

“I am a cub scout!”

“I am four years old!”

Ask a teen to young adult and the response also expands beyond the name.

“Oh that is Brittany, she is a cheerleader!”

“My name is Doug, I am captain of the football team!”

“That is Jill, she is valedictorian!”

“Yeah, I think I have heard of him, he goes to Ohio State.”

“Doesn’t she own the blue Mercedes?”

As Adults:

“Wow, you are having lunch with him? Isn’t he the bank president?”

“That’s Darlene. She has twins and is married to the famous baseball player.”

“Don’t you know who I am, I could own you!!”

“How can I go to jail? It will ruin my reputation!”

“They are nothing. They don’t even have a full membership to the club.”

As we age:

“That is my son. He is the City commissioner.”

“I am the ex-CEO of such-and-such industries.”

“I am grandpa to seven wonderful kids.”

I guess I reflect upon this as I pondered for a moment on asking myself: “Who am I?”

I often times find myself trying to make this personal reconciliation when something changes in my life. At times it is also when I am trying to become okay with the fact of where I may presently be in my own personal timeline. Maybe I should be somewhere else. Maybe someONE else. Is what I am doing a good testimony to who I am supposed to be? My identity. What is this thing called identity anyhow? Why is it our name, our identity has to have some sort of subscript attached to it?

As I started to dig a bit deeper, I started to realize that for me to get to the bottom of my query I had to do a couple things. One was to separate my circumstances from what I call my identity. I quickly learned that I am not what my circumstances dictate. The most hurtful thing we can do is to attach our circumstances to a personal opinion of ourselves. Often these labels occur in crises such as financial difficulty, relationship squabbles, affliction and addiction, loss of property, separation from groups or people we care for.

In the past I would attach a negative label upon myself due to the addition or subtraction of one of the above mention categories. Who I am, the me deep inside does not have to change because of an endeavor, poor choice, good choice, or circumstance I found myself in. Bad circumstances do not make me a bad person any more than going to a football game makes me a quarterback.

So it stands, I am not what I do.

I also realize that things can come and go. In these recent economic times, many have been humbled by the realization that nothing, especially toys and money last forever. Sometimes one of life’s best lessons can be to lose some-things we worship. I realize that if I used to drive a Mercedes, and now drive a Chevy compact, I am no less a person. Should one think this to the contrary, explain to me how you may justify one’s “human stock” dropping after a hurricane because their belongings are destroyed. It doesn’t. Often their best assets surface.

I am not what I have.

I have time on my hands. I write a lot. I also get time to play. I do not have the time to try to manipulate nor adapt to what others think of me. I can live the life I believe I am supposed to. I can try to live on the greater side of good. I seek compassion and connection. If you don’t find any favor in that. So be it. I don’t have time to try to make you like me. Does my worth really grow if you do? I would rather be alone for the right reasons, than famous for the wrong ones.

I am not what others think of me.

In deep contemplation of “who I am”, I find it hard to explain. The moment I try to explain it, I label myself. Am I a Dad, husband, business owner, swell guy, martial artist, reiki practitioner, and foodie? Yes– by activity or practice, but it is who I am inside that allows me to connect to those things collectively. Who I am makes me seek them out, or try to be the best at those things, and yet, if those things change, who I am necessarily may not.

I find “who I am” is found in the space between. My identity goes beyond my name which was given to me without my consent (not that I dislike it). My identity is not tainted by opinions including my own. It is the music without sound and the light yet without luminescence. It is ethereal, nebulous, and spiritual. It is the part of me that doesn’t need a compass to know where my true North is.

Who I am is the part of me that I would be with no one around. It is the part of me who I would want to share with my most cherished loved ones. It is the me I long for, when who I “think” I am or should be is most present in the room. It is who I know I want to be. It is who I am okay with.

The “I” I seek is where I find peace. It is where I know. Where things seem correct. Struggle stops. No outside appreciation is necessary. It is from that peace and awareness I become most radiant, and therefore I end up becoming what my ego most often wanted me to become, just now with the substance to back it, but the humility to not need the adoration. I am a sum of my experiences. I am the recipe of myself that has no ingredients. Empty yet full.

I guess what I have found is that no matter the onslaught, and inversely the joys, I am still the same being. I am I.

I am not a title, hood ornament, number on a W-2, position, label on clothing, your opinion or mine, I am who I am supposed to be, and for once I really, really feel okay with that. No matter what I gain – I am the same guy. No matter what I lose – I am the same guy. If you love me – I am the same guy. If you hate me – I don’t care.

If you ask me who I am, my name is Tony. My identity is not my name and the labels past and present that may be pinned to it. Who I am is somewhere inside, protected and flourishing. I hope the real “me” gets to meet the real “you” someday.

The name will have to do for now...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independently dependent

As I scratch the mosquito bites on my ankle once again, I continue to reflect on their source.

(*Side note: “OFF” only makes you sticky, smell like old lady perfume and weed killer, and does not work! – Author’s Opinion)

Recently, one of my favorite holidays has become the observation of Independence Day; July 4th to be exact. In the good old U.S. of A. we gather with food, fun, and fellowship and a robust celebration. Often involving block parties, parades, and potlucks; we gather, we cheer, and we bond.

The highlight of the festivities reaches apogee at the onset of dusk, as fireworks both public and private light the night sky. A friend observed how ironic it is that we celebrate our independence by simulating a war. It is kind of like celebrating weight loss by dressing up as a Twinkie. Interesting.

I still love the entire kit and kaboodle though. As I started the day, I enjoyed the walk up the street to the parade route. The parade in our community is quite the spectacle. It is a continual string of our veterans, local schools, cub scouts and cheerleaders, musical performances, floats, and a colorful mix of pretty much anything with legs and wheels. There is also a lot of red, white, and blue to be seen as well.

The day starts with a friends’ house becoming the hub of activity among our circle of friends, some close, some on the distant social fringe. People share the most precious gifts with one another: the company of their loved ones, recipes passed down from the matriarchs in their family, their time, their joy.

As the day progressed, people dispersed for power naps, other festive obligations, and simple leisurely reclining in the shade somewhere. The celebration is lengthy, so one may need to recharge at some point; some more so than others if inspired by an abundance of Bloody Marys.

In my down time and leading into the evening’s festivities I reflected on my observation of Independence Day. I am independent, but I am also dependent.

Truly I am thankful for the ongoing efforts of those who allow me the right to live as I do, where I do, and to not be living among rubble, oppression, and flying ordnance. In the grand scheme of things, as the universe blew on the proverbial Dandelion seeds allowing them to fly then land as they may, I am so thankful, I took root where I did. But I also looked at what nourishes me; what I am dependent on.

Now I am not talking “dependent” as if my life would be “lesser” without them, or “who I am” is dependent on them, but the things that nourish my soul, and that which I am grateful for.

My loved ones. Not just the people in my gene pool, but my friends, my friend’s friends, and those I have yet to meet. As I swam in the sea of people celebrating patriotically, I realized, they are all my family, and I love them all, the Americans as well as those enjoying the fruits of our land.

I have always believed Norman Rockwell had a hand in developing the community where we live. I am blessed not only with the aesthetic beauty of my surroundings, but the care those who are my neighbors share. It is not as much prideful, but done out of love. It is lush, mature, and green. Parks are prolific, and the sense of community prevails year round. In retrospect, I realize I have been able to find these qualities in many of the places I have lived if I take the inventory with the proper perspective.

My ability to become. Not just to “be” but “become” is what I am also thankful for. Opportunity flourishes in the absence of oppression, and for those keeping watch at the door, I salute you. I admire that the greatest gift we often extend to others is a chance... even if it is a chance to fail. Some in this world are told who and what they will be from their first breath, and their path is paved for them. I would rather carve my own way through a jungle following my own hearts navigation, than to follow the blacktop laid down by another for me.

Collectively the fact that I can even share these thoughts with you, and that I could even expand into sharing my spiritual or religious views with anyone in a public forum is a monumental blessing in itself. With that, the fact that we could disagree, publically display our views, and display flags, colors, and icons of our choice is amazing in and of itself. Once again I profess my thanks to those who fight under our flag often times for the rights of those who do not always choose to observe it, and their right to that opinion.

I guess I have become dependent on these things, these principles. It is our independence that provides me with the ability to become dependent on them. I am thankful for both. I try to not let this sentiment be observed only once per year.

So eat, drink, and be merry fellow Americans and invited guests! Prepare your “Ooooo’s” and “Ahhhh’s” for the holiday’s pyrotechnic performances. Don’t forget to extend a little thanks, a nod, and a fist bump to those who helped you obtain the right to wear that goofy star-spangled outfit. Lastly, choose your insect repellant wisely!