Have You Seen This Child? Or Cat?

OPK: Most of us know what this stands for – Other People’s Kids. Usually, it’s not a positive term. It’s often got an underlying, even sinister meaning, like “You can’t take them anywhere (except church, heh heh heh…)” Of course, since Other People’s Kids have names and, since we don’t use their names when giving them the umbrella term of “Other People’s Kids,” it also implies a less-than-positive meaning.

Of course, we have all used this term, even if we haven’t done it in so many words. For example, we could have thought “Oh my God, when will it stop crying?” Or “I’m glad my kids aren’t like that,” or “Someone needs a nap/a bottle/attention/a diaper change/a timeout or a-good-swift-kick.”

Once, when I was a baby – so the story goes – my mother was out and about with me when some old biddy told her “Cover that baby’s head…” From then on, that woman’s comment, proclaimed her belief that my mother was an incompetent parent and that, if “that baby” were hers, such a shameful, tragic thing would never happen.

More likely, it probably also belied the woman’s sense of envy at not having kids, or having them any longer because they’d long since grown up and, grandma or not, her own kids don’t want her anywhere near their kids. My opinion? Even though I was just a baby, and this woman apparently spoke up on my behalf, as an adult I’m more inclined to think she was simply unable to find a man willing – or drunk enough – to inseminate her.

Every parent probably has a story such as that regarding their kid, and some careless or cutting remark a stranger made. It’s equally likely that every parent has also experienced a positive remark made about their child. As people, we are inclined to remember the positive remarks about our kids – “My, you are mommy’s beautiful baby,” or the negative ones “My, you are a handful today,” – based on our frame of mind.

If mommy or daddy didn’t get much sleep because their kid was up screaming all night, it’s possible that the parent will be more inclined to go with the “handful” remark. If everything seems rosy, even for just a moment, given how quickly kids’ moods change, then the “beautiful baby” remark fits best.

Of course, one fact that has not slipped my mind is that all of us, myself included, we were once OPK. As the firstborn in my family, my mom and dad were brand-new to the job of parenting. “Cover that baby’s head” remarks aside, they took, I’m sure, their share of “beautiful baby” remarks about me.

Then, as I grew older and began talking and walking, I was probably downgraded to “cute” because, next to the newborn kid the neighbors just had, I could no longer compete. Eventually, the remarks stopped altogether because, let’s face it, there isn’t enough time in a day for people to make remarks, even snooty ones, about every child they see.

You know, it’s funny, because it just crossed my mind that it’s also the way people tend to look at puppies. First, they’re “priceless, the way they are all curled up next to their mommy like that.” Next, with a little bit less enthusiasm, they become “so cute, the way they try to stand on their wiggly little legs and wag their little tails.”

Then, like their human counterparts, the puppy’s increased mobility (and lack of bladder control) gets them into more and more trouble. Soon, they become “terrible toddlers.” Then, parents or puppy owners alike say things like “I turned my head for two seconds, and look what he did…”

Next thing you know, they say “There’s a puddle on the living room rug,” or a once-spotless kitchen floor now has “…creamed carrots, peas, or spinach, etc. all over it.” And, of course, it’s all likely accompanied by a funny smell in the air. In time, a savvy parent or puppy owner can usually “tell by the smell” about 90% of the time which of the above it is.

Since the smell of a poopie diaper and doggie-doo is so similar, only the most masochistic new parents would have both a baby and a puppy at the same time. No matter what the TV commercials show, like those for carpet deodorizer and fabric softener, that curiously fun and happy and loving and sweet baby and puppy together seem too to be true. That’s because it’s BS, and unwary parents learn it-or will learn it-in a hurry.

My advice? If you absolutely have to have a pet, get a cat. Not a kitten, a cat. They are pretty low maintenance and can figure out how to use a litter box if they don’t already know how. Best of all, get an outdoor cat; you probably won’t see it much and, by the time you realize it was a mistake to get a pet in the first place, you’ll be happy you don’t.

If you’re lucky, it’ll bury its crap in the neighbor’s yard but not in their kid’s sandbox, so you won’t have to hear about it later. Think about it: your kid finally is taking a nap and, voilà!, You have a minute or two to yourself. The last thing you’ll want to hear is the doorbell ringing because little Jimmy from next door – with his mommy right behind him – wants to tell you he found a nice, warm lump in his sandbox just after he saw your sweet little Morris leave his backyard.

Depending on how much sleep you’ve been getting, you might wish to tell little Jimmy’s mommy to cover his head, not because it’s cold, but because you are seriously considering leaving a five-fingered tattoo upside it.
Remember, though, it’s not little Jimmy’s fault. His mommy is the one who knows damn well what you’re probably going through at that moment, and that cat shit is the last thing on your mind. My advice? Don’t do anything rash, tempting though it may be.

After all, no matter whose head needs to be covered – little Jimmy’s or his mommy’s – you’ll end up in the Big House, and your own child will likely grow up not knowing who his mommy or daddy is.

Which brings me to my next subject: OPP, or Other People’s Parents…

In a movie entitled The Lottery of Birth, I got a fascinating glimpse of modern American existence as it relates to some very key topics, including: Education, Entertainment, Obedience, and Creativity. It focused on the importance of maintaining the status quo in the United States, and how some of our major institutions are complicit in accomplishing this.
One notable example was how the story of Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the New World is portrayed in the classroom. There, kids are taught that his arrival was a momentous occasion, worthy of celebration. While it’s true that Columbus’ arrival was momentous, it’s celebratory aspect would be diminished if the unedited story were told. Columbus and his men saw the natives, who had welcomed them with gifts and goodwill as threatening savages. They then wiped out a large number of the natives in a large-scale massacre on the natives.
Thus began the inauspicious beginnings of our cultural hegemony, a long-standing American tradition which continues today, even among its own citizens. The movie also illustrates how many aspects of modern American life are controlled by agendas created by external, faceless and even nameless entities, e.g. “the Company.”
9-to-5ers, for example, who spend five days a week working in myopic, highly controlled worlds have few freedoms, including prescribed bathroom breaks and meal times, and personal leave and vacation time allowances.
Restrictions are also placed upon news or magazine copywriters, whose content must fall within strict management-defined guidelines, while school teachers may create their own teaching methods, but with no curriculum deviation.
Next, the film details how and why higher education today has been scaled-down to eliminate graduates’ expectations of establishing careers, which greatly reduces both individual knowledge and wealth. Further, students won’t develop the analytical skills or sufficient requisite information to question society’s leaders, the thinking being that those who don’t know to ask, won’t.
My Silent, Silent Partner, I realized, has been my intuitive guide. As the grade school kid who knew something was up, but could not put his finger on it, I now understand its importance. So, even though my classmates seemed to function well within the highly-regimented classroom, I never accepted those limitations for myself. So, while others were busy “fitting in,” I was comfortable in playing the role of “odd man out.” In this I not only refer to college, but to all my classroom experiences.
Social Alienation is the best way I can explain being the “odd man out.” In essence, it meant those who did not accept someone else’s agenda as their own – like me – would effectively be omitted from all social interactions. What’s more, the nonparticipant – me – appeared stubbornly responsible for choosing not to participate in something with which I did not agree, but could not articulate. Even so, the status quo repeatedly tried to draw me back, believing that it’s insidious tactics would eventually bring a “nonconformist” like me back into the fold with everyone else.
In stating yesterday that it’s taken me a lifetime to realize that my thinking was misguided and even a copout, I realized this morning the benefit of questioning the validity of my lifelong attitudes. Happily, guided by my grade school intuition, my self-representation as being someone who thinks differently was spot on.
So, while I spent a great deal of my youth alone, I never thought of myself as a loner. Nor did I live a passive aggressive existence, standing quietly yet defiantly on a shifting, sandy riverbed as the world flowed around me. Instead, my Silent, Silent Partner unwittingly and adeptly handled my worldly contradictions, and freed me up to just be a kid.
That said, I wholly defend everything I stated in Shaking the Invisible, Guiding Hand, save for one key aspect; the motivations behind my thinking processes. My thinking is not – nor ever was – misguided at all but, in fact, spot on. As a kid, these concepts were over my head; I had no sentient thoughts on the matter.
However, as my thoughts matured, my subjectivity often conflicted with the largely objective world. Moreover, after college, there were even fewer people with whom I could share my pro-individualistic thoughts. Interestingly, I never questioned my thoughts until yesterday, when I really examined them. My sudden, 180-degree reversal yesterday, I now realize, was that of a man who’d grown weary of searching for a way to “fit in” to a world that would not have me. For a fleeting moment, the status quo almost had me.
Thankfully, I now see that my world is at odds with me and not the other way around. And, while I’m still not a loner, I still sometimes feel alone. But thanks to The Lottery of Birth, I know I’m in good company – and not alone – in threatening the status quo through my own independent thought.
Even so, the status quo has little to fear from free thinking people. It’s probable that, like me, other independent thinkers are a disjointed group of individuals, destined to never meet and to share our beliefs. What’s more, most don’t have the luxury of time as I do, instead opting for socially responsible pursuits, such as having a career, paying a mortgage, and raising a family. Such pursuits virtually require complete surrender of both our time and attention, and the status quo is thereby effectively maintained.
Those who differ with the status quo – as I have – may sooner or later discover their true selves. Whether it’s because of the words of independent-thinkers like Chomsky or Zinn, or anyone else, I shall always believe independent thought is something for which we should all be proud to have, and be willing to share. Long live creative individual expression and independent thought!

Many say that our lives are an endless journey, unfolding before us as we go until we reach that fateful day until we, well, stop. As I continue on my own journey toward that day, I’m discovering an increasing number of things about myself that have been there all along. Most recently, it’s what I’ve always thought of as my “uniqueness.”
For better or worse, it has certainly kept life interesting. Moreover, though I never knew it was there, I’ve always known something was up, though I never could put my finger on it. A recent revelation, though, has finally begun to shed light on it. Despite the fact I’m unable to explain it fully, I’ve given it a name: My Silent, Silent Partner. It has always been there, an alter ego asserting its influence wholly without me even being aware of it.
Though it has taken many forms, my silent, silent partner has had one powerful, primary driving force behind it. Its inauspicious beginnings began like so many other things in life – when I was just a kid. At first, it was relatively quiet, and masked by so many things associated with childhood that it went completely undiscovered. From childhood to adolescence to college graduate it followed me, as influential as it was invisible and, therefore, hidden.
In retrospect, though, I could have seen it if only I’d known where to look. But it’s something that’s easy for me to say now, given everything I’ve had the chance to learn about myself over the years. But, of course, it hasn’t always seemed that way.
How I viewed myself relative to my world has always been in question. Like many kids, I wanted to fit in. But where? It was a question for which I never had an answer, though it wasn’t for lack of looking. Nor was it a coincidence, for no amount of searching would help me find something that wasn’t there. But though I was a resilient kid, I gradually realized I’d probably never find a place to fit in and eventually gave up. And, though I felt confused and hurt by this, I set out to find something new to take its place.
While my confusion was understandable, my only real injury was a bruised ego. In sizing things up, I decided to take the position that I was someone who thought differently than everyone else. I said it with all confidence, fully believing that my newly declared uniqueness was something for which I should be proud. It provided a handy – and lifelong – reason why I never I fit in to anything, even if it was only me that needed convincing.
A secondary benefit of this was that it could never be questioned. After all, who could doubt such a claim? What’s more, I imagined – à la Walter Mitty – that I might be viewed as a martyr of sorts, whose quest for uniqueness might even be worthy of unconditional support from the nameless multitudes who shared my cause, but were too afraid to set out on a quest of their own. In my mind, I would be their hero, allowing them to triumphantly albeit vicariously wave the banner of individualistic action and thought on their behalf.
“I’ve always acted and thought differently from everyone else, and I love that about myself,” became my mantra, one I’ve repeated for decades now. In reality however, I now see that those brave words for what they were; an excuse to explain how I did not fit in to a given situation. However, my attitude behind those words may have been the very reason I didn’t fit in, for if I found something not to my liking, it was all I had to say to explain myself. Since nobody could doubt me on this, it became the perfect copout, one that was so convincing that even I bought it.
Eventually, however, I could no longer deny or ignore it; my thinking had been grossly misguided, though it has taken me a lifetime to realize it. Interestingly, unlike my lifelong search to fit in somewhere, the true nature of my statement about being “unique” was the one thing I actually did find. It doesn’t mean, however, that my life has been wholly meaningless. Rather, it has given it a new purpose, this time from a completely different perspective.
My efforts now will be directed towards learning more about this once mysterious aspect of myself that even I had overlooked. I’ll make it a priority to articulate my findings as they arise and begin to make sense. I believe this may be helpful, to say the least, to anyone who may find himself in a similar position. For now, however, I cannot help but marvel at the thought of having an alter ego operating beside me all my life, with no awareness of its existence at all. It makes me wonder what else time might shed light upon that I am unable to see as yet.

jimi hendrix voodoo childThis afternoon, I was sitting downstairs at my usual spot-the dining room table overlooking our backyard-when I suddenly heard a loud crash upstairs. It sounded as if someone fell out of a passing airplane and tried to break their fall by grabbing our gutter. Hey, it could happen –the airport is only a few minutes away and, if someone’s going to fall out of one it’d probably happen sooner rather than later, right?
Anyway, almost immediately I saw something drop to the ground just outside the sliding glass door. Then I saw Sophie, our terribly bored doggie who’s been healing from an injured paw-enough for the past ten days drag her drowsy self up from the cool grass and walk cautiously toward the door, her nose up as she sniffed the air. For a dog literally scraping for things to do, this must’ve been a bonanza for her.
I realized then that it must’ve been a bird that hit the window before falling like a wet washrag, straight to the ground. Carefully, I slid the glass doors curtain aside to peek out at the scene; I wasn’t sure what I’d find. Would it be okay? Would it be injured? Would it be so angry that my house got in its way that it would lunge at my face and try to peck out my eyes? Thoughts of Ozzy Osbourne quickly crossed my mind, then flitted away just as fast.
Sure enough, there was a little bird lying there. Sophie cautiously tiptoed toward the bird as if walking through a minefield. She stood as far from the bird as possible while still being able to effectively point-and wiggle-her wet little nose at it. “Poor little guy,” I thought, “what can I do to help him?”
I remembered the popularity birdbaths enjoyed in the neighborhood in which I grew up – keep in mind, it was during the ‘70s – so the first thing I thought of was to get him a little water. So I ran to the garage and grabbed a large plastic lid from the recycle bin. I filled it up with water, and set it outside right next to the bird. If reusing is recycling, I figured this one couldn’t have been reused for a better purpose.
Not to sound heartless, but little did I know then I was about to learn more about birds than I’d ever care to know. And even though I didn’t really know what to do at the time, I figured a little water could never hurt any injured animal. If I were an injured animal, I reasoned, it certainly wouldn’t hurt me to have a swig or two. But I was at a loss as to what to do next. “I know,” I thought, “I’ll Google it and find out – I can’t be the only person who found himself in this position.”
As it happened, I was right; page after bloody page of responses came up on my laptop’s screen. So I selected the first one on the list, and the detailed education I was about to get on injured birds began. Long story short, I had been on the right track in offering it water. The only other recommendation that caught my eye suggested I “keep the injured bird in a safe place, away from any animals that might eat it.” Well, despite Sophie’s seemingly limitless appetite for mice and rabbits, this unfortunate little bird didn’t seem to be on her menu, at least not today.
I then got up and peeked out the window again. When I first saw it the bird moments earlier, it just sat there looking stunned, and I vaguely saw in it an image of myself, late on a Friday night during my freshman year of college. The bird looked fine, except for its right-wing, which extended outward, as if still in flight.
Now, however, the birds beak was wide open, as if it was winded, and trying hard to catch its breath. It made sense, I guess-I’d probably feel the same way if I flew full speed into a window. This time, however, the bird had moved over to the lid where it had clearly been drinking the water. Even more encouraging was that the bird seemed to have been gathering its wits a little. It had shut its beak and was looking around, blinking now and then. It had its bell rung, all right, and was just trying hard to recover. I’ve been there myself, and I know the feeling.
By this time, the bird had been there for about an hour or so. Google indicated that I should give the bird anywhere from a couple minutes to a couple of hours to regain its sense of-I don’t know what to call it- Birdieness, maybe? As if it, too, had read the Google posting, the bird seemed to be getting better by the minute, although it seemed a little embarrassed.
But after the bird moved an inch or two away from where it had hit, the moist, little white puddle it left behind made it obvious that the impact had knocked the poop right out of it. That feeling, I’m sure, could not be a good one. I imagine it’s hard for any animal, wild bird or otherwise, to maintain some sense of dignity after something like that happens, even if it was for a good reason. There’s simply no way it could keep an “I’m okay, everything’s cool” attitude before proudly flying off once again.
So, I gave it a little privacy for the next hour or so, and when I looked again an hour later, it was gone. I suppose that, other than a splitting headache, things could’ve been worse for it.
Anyway, that’s my good deed for the day. And, though I didn’t help this little bird with the expectation of anything in return, I nonetheless hope it will only visit my yard from now only to peck at worms and to sing happy little songs.

free public noncopyrighted Christie BrinkleyRemember those crop circles that became famous in England back in the 80’s? You know, the ones that had all those neat round and square geometric designs that were visible from the air? The ones which, when asked, all the locals could say was “I dunno, maybe alien spaceship landing strips, p’raps?” And do you also remember how, in the end, it all turned out to be a hoax, perpetrated by those same locals who really just didn’t get enough attention when they were growing up? Some prime-time network “news magazine,” in typical sensationalist fashion, exposed it all, and also exactly how it had been done. Through the use of only three items: a 4-5 ft. piece of wood, a piece of rope attached to either end of that wood, and a great deal more backbreaking hard work than (I believe) it was worth, some humble villagers outwitted the world, even if only for a few days.

Coincidentally, the exact same thing occurred here in my own neighborhood and, interestingly enough, it happened to be me who created it. But instead of wood and rope, I used an electric lawnmower and an extension cord in creating my crop circles. In fact, about the only thing the job I did had in common with that of the English villagers was the not-worthwhile, backbreaking hard work. Have I got your interest now? I hope not. But, just for kicks, here’s the story:

Last week, I set about organizing the garage, something that needed to be done since last October, when I first moved into this house. It was a mess, with stuff stacked and strewn hither, tither, and yon, as real men never say. Then again, real men place more of a priority on having a neatly organized garage. Hell, I don’t even have a poster of Sports Illustrated’s 1985 Swimsuit Edition poster girl on the wall in there. Do you think my wife would allow that? Well, let me tell you, real womanly wives wouldn’t care. Actually, I think they would, but no real man would ever admit that.

Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever organized a garage in August anywhere (even in South America, where it’s winter), but all I can say is that it’s hot, sweaty, thankless work. At some point, probably when I was really too tired and long past the point of where I should have stopped, I hurt my back doing the third or fourth “one last thing” before I called it quits for the day. I had been trying to hang up a bicycle-one that I used to be able to ride for hours and hours (and I called it fun, too)-on some hooks I just installed in the garage rafters. At the time, I thought it would be easy. But, as I told my chiropractor the next day “I twisted my back in a funny way as I held up the bicycle, which was much heavier than I remembered. Then, I felt something in my mid-back pop, and I had to let go of it.” After chortling a bit under his breath, my chiropractor restored my spine to its previous, correctly aligned condition.

Here’s the part where the aliens come in: two days later, I was out mowing our front yard with our electric mower. It’s hot, sweaty, thankless work too. On top of that, my throat was parched, and my feet were burning hot, almost enough to melt the rubber tread on my shoes from the inside out. In other words, I felt as if I were walking around on two well done, New York strip steaks instead of human feet. All I could think of was how good some cold water would taste once I finally was done with the gruesome task of mowing the lawn. Why gruesome? Well, it never was before, at least until last week, when I ran over a mouse. Enough said.

Perhaps it was the thought of that poor little mouse and what it endured in its final few seconds of life that gave me the inspiration to keep going, I don’t know. But I do know that I suddenly looked down at the extension cord and realized I was about to run it over. And, as anyone who has ever worked with anything electric at all, ever, cutting the cord means at least two things. First, nothing further gets done. Second, the cut cord either means that it must be fixed or (as I don’t mind admitting, having run over the cord once already this year) it must be replaced with a new one.

So, even though I don’t believe I think very well on my feet, especially when they feel like well-done New York strip steaks, I thought I was making a real genius move when I quickly snatched up the extension cord and, with a sudden flick of my wrist, twirled it out of the way just before running it over.

However, I just as suddenly felt that familiar pop in my mid back and, with half the yard still to mow, I now had to complete the job with a spine that now felt more like Jell-O than bone. Between that and the heat, and the swollen feet, I began to get pretty ticked off. What’s worse, the most difficult part of the lawn to mow-the one that had been taken over by a particularly evil and moist weed which never failed to clog the mower-still remained to be cut.

True to my experience, the mower clogged time and again. Growing angrier with each pass of the mower, I began to bounce the mower front-to-rear to loosen up the sloppy, guacamole-like wet grass underneath. The strategy worked, and left behind greenish piles of sloppy stuff that truly was nightmarish. “Martian guts,” I think I began calling it. I don’t know, I was so hot and out of sorts by this time.

But to my credit, I trudged on until the job was done, though I was thoroughly spent by that time. Down and defeated, I reeled up the extension cord that had been used for the job, cussing at every turn of the crank. Then I went up to the house and unplugged the cord from the wall outlet, then stood upright and proudly marched into the garage where, after closing the door, I nearly collapsed onto the floor in pain.

Instead, though, I stumbled into the living room, my face covered with salty sweat that dripped down my nose and onto my shoes. Little pieces of neatly cut green mulch defiantly stuck to my face, as if daring me to wipe them off with my sleeve-which I did. Then, as I was beginning to feel truly manic, the pain reasserted itself, and I realized that no amount of Tylenol could ever help me then. So, I choked a bottle of vitamin water, and pathetically lay down in a heap on the living room floor, begging forgiveness for all the wrongs I’ve ever done to anyone ever in my entire life. But my beseeching brought me no pity; only after about twenty minutes-as the label on the Tylenol bottle indicated-did my pain eventually begin to subside.

It wasn’t until the following morning, after some sleep and a chance to gather my wits, did I realize what I’d done: looking down onto the lawn from the upstairs window, the way I had bounced the mower back and forth to loosen the wet grass left circular divots on the lawn where the blades had cut more closely than anywhere else. Further, the 21”-width blades-which left corresponding 21” wide lines back and forth across the yard immediately reminded me of the English crop circles. And while maybe my yard didn’t nearly demonstrate the complexity of design those clever English villagers created, it certainly did resemble an alien landing strip more so than could be found in any of my neighbors’ yards.

For some reason, all this alien mumbo-jumbo became a backhanded point of pride for me. I mean, come on – I wasn’t trying to be clever. It’s obvious this was only a lawn mower… Isn’t it? Could my neighbors really be thick as a brick? At least those English villagers created special tools to perpetrate their little hoax. They earned their five minutes of fame-and they bloody well deserved it, too. As for me, I think what I accomplished that day is something only a real man could do. That’s why I’ve decided to order the back issue of 1985’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Perhaps, under Christie Brinkley’s watchful eye, a hoax of this proportion will never happen again. For now, though, all I know is that I’m the only one who seems to have noticed.

I’ve always thought things to be a bit trite when the conversation turns to the weather. I am, however, discounting the fact that here in Colorado, the weather can be a very dynamic subject indeed. To refer to the weather here as “trite,” especially this time of year when it doesn’t seem as if winter is done yet could be fatal. I loosely think of this as the “Donner Effect.” It could mean the difference between getting somewhere safely and getting stuck in mountain snow several feet deep and changing the way you look at food forever. There, despite your better judgment, you may nonetheless find yourself hungrily eyeballing people around you and wondering how they might taste on a bed of lettuce with a little salsa verde spread on top…

Even the dogs in the backseat would start to feel a little fear as their hackles mysteriously begin to rise despite the absence of a cat, or another girl dog. Then, they realize you’ve been looking at them in the rearview mirror and, intuitive creatures that they are, can just tell you are thinking “Hmm, that old gal over there looks like she’d taste pretty leathery, but that young pup’ll do in a pinch…”

Anyway, drama aside, any skier or snowboarder can tell you that some of the best snow often falls this time of year, or at least they’d like to think so, given the need to justify the high cost of season lift passes-which is a drama in itself. But that’s up in the high country.

Here in the low country-the Denver Metro, that is-snowfalls this time of year typically mean muddy shoes and wet socks (or a muddy shoe and a wet sock, for those missing a foot or more off one leg), and an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet of earthworms for any red breasted robin. All they have to do is roll out of the nest, down the tree, and onto the street, where they can happily hop around from puddle to puddle, suckin’ ’em up like so many al dente spaghetti noodles. “A bottle of red, a bottle of white, it all depends upon your appetite…”
Kidding aside, my neighbors and I woke up two mornings ago to a nice, white blanket of snow which, though it looked nice, we all knew would turn to slush in only about fifteen minutes. And though it was great for the grass and great for the birds-terrible for the earthworms, though, in a Darwin Awards sort of way-it was likely to leave an indelible mark upon linoleum kitchens and carpeted living rooms alike throughout the neighborhood.

You’ve heard of house proud? Well, how about truck proud? In this neighborhood, the men are very proud of their “four-by’s,” to a point where I sometimes believe they’d sooner take off their muddy boots and put pink, fluffy slippers on instead before risking getting the interior dirty on sloppy days like yesterday. Mud belongs on the outside, don’tcha know?

But ask their wives, and I bet they’ll tell you the same thing: These are the same guys that won’t think twice about wearing those same muddy boots into the house. But, if you think about it, it makes sense, as no man wants his wife or kids to see him wearing pink fuzzy slippers around the house. In the truck it’s okay, though, ’cause only the dog will see him there and he ain’t talkin’ anyway. It’s enough to make me wonder what, if anything, the neighborhood women who drive trucks might put on their feet on muddy days. Heck, life’s confusing enough as it is; it makes me glad we drive a brown Subaru wagon (but not glad enough to put down my street address, just in case any of the neighbors are reading…).
See? Talking about the weather isn’t always bad, especially when it’s me doing the talking. I’ve hardly mentioned the weather at all, and even when I did, I really didn’t. So, in case you haven’t had enough yet, all I really meant to say was that yesterday, after it warmed up, I drove Sophie down to the nearby bushes she loves to run around in. Just as I thought, mosquitoes had been busy breeding-as if they were confident malaria had no known medical remedy and that causing another outbreak would be a matter of community pride.

As I’d expected, many of the newborn mosquitoes, a.k.a. six-hour-olds, clung to the windows, daring me to come out so they could suck a little blood and take it back to feed their two-day-old parents. And, if there was enough left over and the old sods were still alive, their elderly three-day-old grandparents would get some, too.

This in mind, I hit the gas pedal and, at around 15 mph, even the heartiest of the bugs blew off the windows. The windshield wiper took care of the rest in a cold-hearted, uncaring, Darwin Awards kind of way, but this time for mosquitoes. Then I rolled down the windows so Sophie could stick her nose out and feel the wind rushing between her ears and up her little doggie nostrils too.

I was a little hesitant to do it, even though I know how much she loves it, because every now and then a rogue breeze finds its way up her nose and causes her to sneeze. It usually creates a simultaneous whiplash effect for her, which usually abruptly and violently ends with a sharp “thunk” on the car door window frame as well as an ejection of a generous portion of doggy-snot. It’s the sort of thing that could draw applause from even the most stoic of cats, though it typically only causes a grimace of empathic pain to cross my face because, let’s face it, cats are smart enough to not stick their heads out of moving car door windows and, whenever possible, avoid being in moving cars at all.

So off we went, riding along with the car windows down, and Sophie’s head sticking out of one window. I could hear the gentle, scrunching sound of the gravel underneath the car tires. Then, to my amazement, I had a fleeting sensation of sitting in the bedroom, first thing in the morning! “What’s happening,” I wonder, “this has to be a dream!”

Actually, I wasn’t dreaming at all. In fact, I was completely lucid. What fooled me, however, was that the local frogs were also in their beginning throes of breeding season, gettin’ down and dirty makin’ tadpoles. It was the sound of that racket that took me back to the bedroom, where my multi–adjustable white noise machine had been making that same sound since Christmas. Ha! I had grown so used to hearing the machine version of The Amphibian Dating Game that I didn’t recognize it in nature! Well, there you have it, the reason for the seasons, at least as far as I can tell.

And, if you are as confused by these reasons as I am-and I bet you could be if you really tried-then you can understand why I chose communications as my college curriculum and not biology. What’s more, just as I began this posting by stating my belief that talking about the weather is among the lowest, least creative forms of conversation, I haven’t really said anything about the weather at all. That said, if I could suddenly combine this with the odd skill of pointing at things that aren’t really there in a TV studio-but are plainly visible to viewers at home-I guess I have the right stuff to be a TV weatherman! Think Brick What’s-His-Name from the movie Anchorman, and you’ll know what I mean. Now, where did I leave my slippers?

I’m a firm believer that there are no coincidences, and that everything happens for a reason. But this doesn’t mean that when something noteworthy occurs, we recognize it for what it is, or even understand the reason for it at the time. For over nineteen months since my accident occurred, for example, I had been wondering why. In fact, a long list of Why questions arose in my mind, for which I never had an answer. Why did this accident occur at all? Why did I survive it? Why is everything so painful? How long will it be this way? Why, why, why? And on and on it went. Clearly, I knew deep down there must be a reason for what was happening, but I never seemed to have a reason why. I became very, very frustrated, to a point where I was ready to give up many times. It never seemed to make any sense, experiencing these repercussions from my accident-the pain, arrogant doctors, and a general inability to do things I took for granted only a short while before, etc. To my credit, at least I kept asking and wondering Why, as if I knew there was a reason but didn’t yet know what it was.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve begun to pick up some solid reasons for what was happening. Understanding them has accelerated my healing-and minimized my most painful symptoms-just by being present, even though I don’t yet know why they’re there. And maybe I never will. But this didn’t happen by accident. For several months, there has been a succession of positive people introduced into my life, too many to mention right now, really. Their names will likely pop up here and there in this blog over time, but what’s important is that they are there for me now. In fact, we are all there for each other, and therein lies our strength.
At first, I didn’t think anything of it; one or two friendly people coming along here and there didn’t seem all that unusual. Then three or four more, then five or six more. Suddenly, I realized there were now several new people in my life, positive and powerful people who, though I didn’t know it then, would be the foundation upon which I could build a new life. As I said about how I now see my post-accident life in an earlier posting, “my adventure can now really begin.” And it’s true.
When it comes to uncovering truths about yourself that have been there all along yet you have failed to see them, it’s hard to describe sudden awareness of any of those truths as a revelation. After all, they were there all the time, but they just weren’t visible. But, as a close friend mentioned just the other day “when the student is ready, the teachers will appear.” For me, the most prominent and powerfully positive person in my life is my wife, Kami. She has long been a conduit of my energy-both good and bad, (often the latter, I must admit)-and it’s no coincidence that she introduced to me-or should I say re-introduced to me-a notion that had long been established in my mind, back in my mid-20s. That is, considering the limiting and toxic role shame has played in my life.
Growing up, I was immersed in shame. Mom and Dad had their share of shame issues, and these spread like wildfire through our house, to a point where it was our norm, our reality. Shame had such a remarkable influence and played such a powerful role that it, or more precisely the fear of even more shame, defined our lives. Though I think we were all too close to see it, the driving force behind all of this shame was Fear. We were always afraid, afraid we couldn’t afford this, or hold onto that, that maybe we weren’t good enough-or deserving enough. There was always a palpable fear of what could happen. Naturally, in the midst of such an environment, true joy and gratitude for what we actually had went unacknowledged and unappreciated. Fear was the dominant, driving energy, cloaked in the insidious disguise of Shame.
What we didn’t know then was that everyone experiences shame, that no one is immune from it. Nor should we be. There are many good reasons for the existence of shame in our world, such as the role it plays in humility (read modesty) that keeps any one of us from believing we are an all-powerful, living deity of sorts. But in our family, what we did not realize was that everyone’s shame-each of us individually- seems to us like the most shameful thing imaginable because it is our shame. But, for now, what I intend to address here is how shame concerns me personally.
Suffice it to say that my parents, both very productive people in their own right, had created a home that largely duplicated the homes in which they’d been raised. I believe they learned, as kids at home, that the conflict that accompanies fear-based living, in this case through shame, was a normal part of every day, family life. And so it was before them, then later for me and my siblings as well, and there is no fault to be found in that. My parents, being the goodhearted, well-intentioned people they are, simply did the best they could with what they knew at the time. Beyond that, their time was highly divided between work, raising a family, running a household, and all those other things that are part of everyday family life.
In this sense, they were probably too busy to see the real root of conflict within our family, even if they knew to look for it. I certainly didn’t, for there were many, many times in which good, and truly positive times existed, enough to keep us from questioning those occasions when life was less than pretty. Eventually, as I approached eighteen, I prepared to move out of the house and into the adult world. I had spent my final and most memorable years there as an awkward, self-conscious teenager. And just as the last song you hear can stick in your head long after it’s over, I similarly replayed many of the same experiences from my childhood, and it left me feeling particularly naked and exposed within my new world.
As I said, our own shame is paramount in our lives, for we are the ones who are most aware of it and therefore, the most vulnerable to it.
But, one evening a few weeks back, Kami made mention of a book by a man named John Bradshaw, who I knew earlier (from my early 20s) as the author of a book called Homecoming. Then, I saw him as just another best-selling author who was heavily promoted on PBS during pledge drives. It made PBS lotsa money, and garnered Bradshaw a considerable amount of attention as well. So, while I may have picked up a thing or two about his book-and even met him briefly as a volunteer answering phones at a local PBS pledge drive-I took little else with me then.
But as I said, there are no coincidences-there is a reason for everything. Kami brought to my attention a more recent bestseller by John Bradshaw, this one entitled Healing the Shame That Binds You. Suddenly, a light went off in my head and I thought, “A-ha! It is shame that has been my nemesis all of these years and that’s what I need to resolve if I am to ever make my life my own. Immediately, I purchased the audio version of the book and digested it hungrily, page by page, and chapter by chapter. Each section, it seemed, contained a parallel to be found with what Bradshaw mentioned and what I had experienced. Sometimes, it seemed as if he described verbatim my experiences.
And even though I said before that it’s hard to consider something that was within you all along a revelation, reading that book was a revelatory experience for me. The answers had been right there, under my nose all along, perfectly positioned in a place where I could not see them. But now that I had, it was truly liberating. I woke up the following morning feeling liberated-I felt so much energy, mostly gratitude and joy for finally coming one step closer to answering the question Why that I had been asking for so long. It seemed there was so much to think about and so much to do about it that I hardly knew where to begin. Nevertheless, I’d never felt more confident that this was possible, and I continue feeling this today.
Within a matter of days, an influx of people and events took place that raised my self-awareness to previously unimaginable levels. In fact, I have recently been so busy with these activities that it wasn’t until just now that I made this observation.
In addition to the influx of positive people that had already been showing up, these new events suddenly brought groups of such people into my life. The first of these to come to mind was the opening night of an eight-week-long program entitled A Course in Miracles. There, I was surrounded by like-minded people in a safe and sacred space. There, we were encouraged to articulate what we believed to be our best personal course of action for surmounting the sometimes overwhelming obstacles and/or toxic attitudes residing within us that served to block our progress.
Enter another “a-ha” thought, and I was off and running, this time in the right direction.
The following weekend, a Hay House conference event-named after its founder, Louise Hay-entitled I Can Do It took place in Denver. There, I experienced two days of immersion and concepts that all served to promote gratitude, joy, and positivity. The focus was upon how these concepts could manifest themselves in our everyday lives in consistent and pervasive ways. Kicking it all off was an engaging and enlightening two-hour presentation by multiple best-selling author Dr. Wayne Dyer. His personality shone through as he made point after point regarding some of the more noteworthy events of his 74+ years of life on this planet. While I’d heard of him, I’d never read any of his forty-three published books, nor heard or saw any of his broadcast interviews or presentations.
However, while standing in line before the show to pick up a few bottles of water, Dr. Dyer strolled past the line and through the crowd, as if a man without a care or worry in the world. Seeing this, a man who is touted as a rock star in the world of self-improvement and healing, strolling through an audience before the show as if it were nothing-made me love him immediately. I mean really, what are the chances we would ever see this happen with pro athletes before a big game, or musicians before a big performance, or even the President of the United States prior to making an address to the nation? In my experience, the chances are nil. Yet this modest man through all his humility, made what was perhaps the most indelible impression upon my mind as to the power of change that one person can bring to this world.
The following day, Dr. Roger Teel, the founding minister of Denver’s nondenominational Mile Hi church-made a thought-provoking presentation of his own, followed by an afternoon presentation by Kate Northrup concerning the psychology of personal finances. Just as important, we were surrounded by friends throughout, not to mention thousands of other like-minded souls who just as easily would have been willing to share their experiences with us as we would with them. It was a wonderful event, filled with possibility and positivity, gratitude and joy, and education and enlightenment.
Being immersed in such an environment, I realized, could not undo a lifetime of immersion in a lesser environment. But it was not meant to. Rather, the primary focus was upon living in the here and now and in anticipating and building a life based not on Fear but in Joy. And while I was something of a sponge there, soaking in many of these details presented to me formally for the first time, my learning curve was very steep and I felt like a kid in a candy store. But, it seemed, most everyone else did, too.
We are all, as I came to realize, a work in progress and life itself is a learning process that continues forever.
For all of the tangible points I encountered during A Course in Miracles and the I Can Do It seminar, the final remarkable event (for this posting, anyways!) in which I participated was a John of God prayer circle two nights ago in Boulder. Sitting in a darkened church meeting room, nearly two dozen of us basked in front of a candlelit altar upon which varying likenesses of ten entities were displayed, among them Archangel Michael, Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Mary, Dom Ignacio, and several others.
Since this event was about faith-as well as the exponential power of prayer among a group-it’s easy to describe. That is, everything that took place was of an ethereal nature that simply must be experienced to be understood. In fact, although I experienced it, it’s safe to say I don’t understand it. But then again, that’s how I define faith anyways, and that’s what this event was all about. All I know is that when I left the meeting, I felt enervated, healed-at least from the pain in my hand, and that’s what I’d been praying for, and that I had several new and positive people that were now part of my life.
Note: John of God is a healer who lives in Brazil, in a location known as The Casa. The basis of his healing is simple, but sometimes difficult to find in our everyday, manic worlds-Love, that is. If you are interested for whatever reason, I highly encourage you to research him online, in writing, or in whatever manner suits you best.
Finally, please always remember that every entry I make in this blog is created with love and gratitude and joy. The Love and the Joy comes from my heart and is directed both from the place inside me where my words gather for eventual presentation to you as well as for the powerful feeling I get from writing. The gratitude I have is for you, the reader, whom I hope will take something positive from what I have written here, even if-maybe especially if-all you take from it is a smile