Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Looking Back at Our Not So Finest Hours

"Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final." ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
I am reminded from time to time of the struggles our family has been through as we have, each in his or her own way, grappled with The Addiction and its hold on all of us.

Both hateful and insightful words have been uttered, such as, "It used to be so wonderful here, what happened," to "Yeah, you might be a good parent now but where were you ten years ago?"

True that - all of it.

Where was I? I was in the bog, in the cloud forest trying to fight off The Addiction in my mistaken belief that my Anger and self loathing could defeat it.

That's smart.

We all learn, we all ... get better. We all eventually keep moving and with the help of the Great Creator, The Universe, God or god, angels and signposts along our recovery pathways, assemble the counterintuitive weapons of hope, self worth and joy, not in a misguided attempt to defeat the Beast, The Addiction, but to render it powerless, useless. No longer able to syphon our energies from our hearts, bodies and souls, The Addiction slinks away, and disappears.

For many of us, having emerged long ago from the darkness of whatever hellish circumstance we allowed our children's addiction to place us, we can look back and see it. Whether we are on a hillside after recently escaping the dankness of the bog, the darkness of the rainforest or the unforgiving heat of the desert, or on the mountaintop, triumphantly looking back at numerous victories over our worst tendencies along with those times we failed and tumbled back to exactly where The Addiction wanted us, we can see it - the desolation left behind.

In our minds eye we can recall those times when we confronted The Addiction in misguided attempts to control, fix, cure. It's a scorched earth landscape, our actions having temporarily destroyed life beyond the immediate, our not so finest hours spread out from our self-centered centroid affecting our lives and the lives of everyone we hold dear, and perhaps others of whom we were not even aware. We can recall the tears, the anger, the glances that only conveyed one message: "Why?"

But like any aftermath of a destructive force, if we look carefully we can see green emerging from the destruction. Life, finds a way.

It is all part of the process, these missteps and failures. We've come out of the forest better for it, and looking back doesn't mean we beat ourselves up about the missed opportunities early on in our journey. What we have done is hard. What we will continue to do is harder. We are constantly reminded to recall what got us back to the slime and how we crawled out. We can see the saving grace that living our lives brings to our quest to become REAL. Our families, friends and even acquaintances will see the change and most importantly so will our children in various stages of their own pilgrimage.

Looking back affords us an opportunity to grieve for the lost time and energy and the hurt we placed upon those we love, while reinforcing our resolve to keep moving, to improve, to Live, Love and Laugh as a beacon for our children in the vortex with The Addiction and those bravely facing the headwinds of recovery.

Ok, that's enough looking back.

What's that up ahead? Hmmmmm.

...keep coming back
"Remember, you have two lives. You get your second life when you realize you have only one." ~ Frank Liddy

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Fable of the Sky Lantern

"Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts." ~ Wendell Berry

The town had been ravaged by so many years of drought, not only the drought that typically comes to mind from stories of parched river beds and forests ravaged by fire. This was a drought of the mind and soul, a drought of pessimism, loathing of the self and others, and fear.

Not so long ago the village had been riding a wave of prosperity. The people were happy, the birds sang, the sun shone almost all the time and nourishing rains would appear like clockwork late each afternoon.

It was as close to a simple Utopia as one could imagine. More recently however the most often phrase heard among the townspeople had become, "It used to be so wonderful here. Life was so good. What happened?"

Nobody remembered when what had happened, actually happened. It was a building of occurrences, not a catastrophe. It snuck up on the town and its inhabitants like a fog carrying a plague. Most recently the townspeople had even ceased venturing out of their homes unless for the most pressing necessities - work, food ... that's essentially the entire list. There was only darkness and dankness - grays, browns and every lifeless color in between covering the landscape.

No one trusted anyone. No one cared. No one laughed or cried. Shared feelings and experiences were locked up with them, tight in their homes. Shame ruled this little hamlet.

The town became a study in despondency - until a little peddler came rattling up its only road in or out.

This peddler had come upon tough times one could see. Sitting on the driver's seat one could see his posture was clearly hunched, his face painted by years of sun, wind, dust and grit met upon countless roadways. His small wagon drawn by a single sad donkey that had seen better days as well bore the hand-painted words, "Chee-yiea - Tinker, Purveyor,  Pluviculturalist." At one time, perhaps decades ago, this wagon had been painted in bright reds, greens, oranges, yellows and blues - now the colors had blended, washed to each pigment's version of gray. As his wheeled home clanked along the town's barren roadway flanked by an even more barren, gray, lifeless countryside, the people locked tight in their tiny homes couldn't help but hear the cacophony of the utensils, pots and pans deftly arranged for effect on hooks placed along the perimeter of the wagon's weathered rooftop.

The traveller began his self endorsement as soon as he approached the first home on the sterile road, "I am Chee-yiea, your tinker, purveyor of everything you will need for cooking, clothing, and life. I bring your last chance for these. This town is known as a town of recluses. I however, have faith in you. I am the only artisan willing to make the journey and take a chance on a future for all of you that leads to a rebirth of your lives."

He repeated this again and again as he continued slowly along the bumpy village road. Not a sound was heard from within any of the homes he passed, not the large homes, the small homes, the tall or wide homes. In desperation he finally said the words he hoped would finally draw at least one or two of the townspeople from their seclusion.

"And I bring with me the magic crystals."

One by one the townspeople, all of them, slowly opened their doors, and squinting due to what little ambient light leaked through haze of the clouds began to gather around this odd little tinker. They proceeded to do what all citizens of towns do when visited by such a salesman. They slowly surrounded the wagon, donkey and tinker and began to touch and feel the various wares displayed while feigning disinterest.

Remember, these people had lost interest in everything years ago. The peddler knew the disinterest was real, a result of the shutdown of the town's life, beginning when the drought of the mind and soul, the drought brought by pessimism, loathing of the self and others and fear took hold.

"We have nothing to offer you for your wares," said one of the townspeople.

"Why would you even bother to come here? We are failures, the most worthless," said another.

The little tinker had been prepared for this. He had heard the stories and truly believed not all the rumors were true. He slowly reached under the bottom of the little carriage and produced a stool as if out of nowhere, then sitting down beside his conveyance unclasped a lock on the same side to reveal a drawer previously unseen. From the drawer he produced what appeared to be a translucent bag filled with a small frame made out of bamboo, threads of various lengths, a small square piece of fabric, a miniature wicker basket the size of a small drinking cup and at the last, a glass jar filled to its top with multi-colored crystals. He then climbed atop the little stool before the townspeople and began his well-practiced presentation.

"I have here the solution to the darkness that has befallen your town and the bleak prospects you all see for your future," began the little man. "These crystals you see in this jar come from the far reaches of the world, from the East, and possess magical abilities for changing barren to fertile, grays to colors, failed to prosperous. If you purchase these crystals, for a nominal fee I promise you, and by floating these high in the clouds using the sky lantern I will provide and assemble for you, at no additional charge, you will, within 7 days, see the rain fall once again gently from above, the clouds will depart, the sun will shine and the colors and crops you had cherished not so long ago will return." This, I promise you as sure is my name is Chee-yiea, Tinker, Purveyor and Pluviculturalist."

The townspeople stood in stunned silence. Never before had they been witness to this level of self importance. To imagine the little interloper had anything more to offer than pots, pans, buttons, clothing and other small wares that could be carried along from town to town was absurd.

"And what in the world is a Pluvicultuirst?" they were all privately thinking.

Soon the people gathered there began to laugh. It began as a chuckle, deep within each of their chests, a sound not heard or felt for some time - it was almost as if the effort was painful and foreign to them. The chuckles soon transformed to a deafening din of laughter, so loud and boisterous the townspeople, embarrassed and shocked by the volume, ceased their reaction in unison as if directed by a maestro's wand.

They all looked at each other, then turned their gazes upon this itinerant, this drifter who would dare to know what they needed, what they longed for and perhaps even privately dreamt of. Soon the feelings brought on by the laughter subsided and once again, the people of the little village reverted to the familiar, to the drought of pessimism, loathing of the self and others, and fear.

"Get out," they began to scream at the tinker. "We don't want you here. What makes you think we would be interested in anything you have to offer? And that silly bottle of crystals is an insult to all of us! Leave and never return!"

With that they took the pots, pans, spoons  and whatever else they could pluck from the sides of the little wagon and threw them at Chee-yiea, who collected as many of the wares as he possibly could, tossed them into the transport, and deftly leaping into the driver's ledge, gave the little donkey the command to move and they were off - as quickly as donkeys can.

Slowly, exhausted from the excitement and embarrassed by their recent spontaneous outpouring of emotion, the people returned to their homes, to the large homes, the small homes, the tall and wide homes.

All of them had gone except one small child who was too young, too innocent to have embraced the town's drought of pessimism, loathing of the self and others, and fear as a way of life. He was transfixed by what he saw, what the tinker had left behind. There at his feet was the translucent bag filled with a small frame made out of bamboo, threads of various lengths, a small square piece of fabric, a miniature wicker basket the size of a small drinking cup and at the last, a glass jar filled to its top with multi-colored crystals.

He sat with the collection and even at his young age was amazed that nothing had been damaged during the recent adult commotion.

"What did the little man call this?" the boy tried his best to recall what the man had said. "And what could he possibly make with this even if he could? He was just a little boy."

"SKY LANTERN!" the boy cried out in delight as he finally remembered. Soon a tear slid down his cheek as he thought, "I surely would like to see a sky lantern, but I am just a boy. I don't know what to do with this, these sticks, this bag, strings and things."

Then the boy began to cry.

And the skies above him darkened even more.

The boy's lamentations had not gone unnoticed by the townspeople. After shuffling back to their homes they had made certain to keep watch on the only road to the town should the tinker dare to return. Instead they were witnessing the grief of one of their beloved little ones. For even the most hard-hearted among them this was too much to bear.

Soon, they began to slowly reemerge from their homes and surrounded the boy who barely took notice of the gathering. One of the women sat down next to the little one and put her hand gently on his shoulder.

"Why are you crying?" she asked.

"That little man called this a Sky Lantern. It sounds so beautiful. But I don't know what a Sky Lantern is," he replied.

The woman looked around to the group and asked, "Does anyone know of this Sky Lantern? Joe, you're a carpenter. Can you help here?

"All I can think of is those bamboo sticks seem to be some kind of a frame," said the woodworker.

"Perhaps those strings are meant to dangle from the frame, but for what purpose?" said a woman, Melinda. the town's dressmaker.

"But what is the bag for?" said another. "And why is there a candle there? Is it part of this Sky Lantern?"

Soon, the town's blacksmith, a huge man named Benjamin who had worked all his life forging shapes out of nothing, who knew the power of heat and the gentle persuasiveness of the bellows to coax the best potential from the fire emerged through the crowd and simply said, "Wait a minute."

The blacksmith approached the boy, and kneeling on one knee with his his large hand covering the entirety of the boys little head he simply said, "I have an idea. Can I try something?"

"Joe, Melinda, you, you and you, come here, please. I think I know how this works, but I need your help."

The blacksmith, carpenter, dressmaker, the woman who had first sat at the boy's side and many others of the little village began intently studying the components left behind by the tinker. Within minutes they had assembled a device never before seen or even imagined by the villagers. The translucent bag became a square gossamer fabric framed by the bamboo, artistically fashioned by the woodworker that seemed to support the entirety of the apparatus. Suspended by four threads from the frame was a small basket that held the candle, for it appeared, as the blacksmith would say with a chuckle during the process:

"This is the only place I imagine the candle could go."

The townspeople looked at what they had created and each of them began to smile at what they saw, until they realized some components remained on the ground next to the little boy - a small square piece of fabric, the multi colored crystals and four short threads.

"I really hate when there are parts left over," said Benjamin.

"Never good," agreed Joe the carpenter who exchanged a wary smile with his much larger fellow craftsman.

Out of the back of the crowd two of the townspeople emerged who had up to this point remained silent during the apparatus' construction.

Patrick, the villager curator spoke first. "I have read stories of airships that use heated air to lift what are called gondolas, large baskets, to carry people and in one case, even a cow, into the air.

The townspeople began to giggle to think of a flying cow, then abruptly stopped. One never questioned the veracity of the curator. He was a very serious man.

"I believe this is what we have here, in miniature," continued the village keeper of knowledge with a sigh. "Ben you were the first to see this in your minds eye, correct?"

The blacksmith acknowledged the compliment with a simple nod.

It was then the Christina's turn to speak, the village apothecary.

"There are certain salts that burn with different colors like strontium nitrate, lithium salts, borax, copper sulfate, sodium carbonate, potassium sulfate, and some others. Those little strips you see there in the jar are probably magnesium. They will burn the whitest bright white you'll ever see," she could barely hide her excitement. "The little tinker may have left us a collection of these in his haste to leave."

Again, the villagers fought back their laughter. The healer, possibly the most learned among the inhabitants, often seemed to be speaking a different language.

"It would have to be a slow burn. I believe the small patch of linen there is meant to hold the crystals, perhaps suspended above the flame. But the cloth would burn too quickly. I fear we are missing a vital piece," said the town's healer.

At this, Ben the blacksmith simply said, "Don't anyone go anywhere" and quickly ran to his shop. Within minutes the people assembled near the boy, which by now included all of the village inhabitants, heard the familiar sounds made by furious banging and clanking of metal upon metal. This continued for what seemed much longer than the normal amount of time Ben would spend on forging shapes out of nothing.

Then, the clanking stopped. The assembled could hear the forge fire breathe its last gasp before returning to its red-ember ready state.

Within minutes, the blacksmith reappeared, breathless.

"Melinda," said the large man as he recovered. Do you have any sewing needles with you? Strong ones I mean."

"Of course."

Out of a piece of folded leather the blacksmith produced a small metallic square about the size of the orphan cloth, so thin, delicate and pliable it looked as if it could break apart at the slightest prodding.

"Melinda, could you sew the square cloth onto the top of this metal, then use those last four short threads to suspend the two pieces a few inches above the candle?"

"Certainly," said the seamstress.

"That metal is so thin there is no hope it can withstand the stress of a needle's piercing," interrupted the Curator.

Upon hearing this the blacksmith threw his creation to the ground and to the horror of all the townspeople crushed it with his boot heel. He then bent down, grasped the metal square firmly in his large hand, brushed off the dirt and responded,

"This is made of something called steel. It is as dense as iron yet much stronger, which allows me to produce items with less material, so they are much lighter. You are not the only person in this village who reads, curator."

This produced a smile from both the curator and apothecary, and an similar acknowledgment from the large man.

Using her deft skills from years as a seamstress Melinda fashioned the steel and cloth squares into a sort of carrier for the "salts" as the crystals would come to be called. Together she, the carpenter and blacksmith completed the sky lantern to the best of their abilities.

The Sky Lantern now assembled, the blacksmith produced from his leather apron a flint and steel striker.

"Hold this," he said as he handed the little boy a small stick with a frayed end.

It required multiple strikes of the steel against the flint but finally the wood caught the spark and flamed. Cupping his hands around the stick end and blowing gently until the combustion was complete the blacksmith asked the boy, "Would you like to launch this. It is your Sky Lantern you know."

The boy's hand was shaking so violently he said, "I'm not certain I can."

The woman who had been sitting next to the boy since the very outset gently put her hands on his, and his hands now steadied, the little boy lit the candle.

Not a few seconds passed when the translucent bag began to expand beyond its bamboo supports and within a few minutes more the magic of heat and air which the blacksmith and curator were both hoping for magically lifted the creation higher, higher into the air.

The Sky Lantern was now high above the village yet still visible to the inhabitants. Knowing what all the onlookers were thinking Christina the apothecary simply said, "Wait for it."

As if on cue sounds barely perceptible began to emanate from above, crackling sounds, snaps and hisses. And then, then the most beautiful site the little boy had every seen began to appear just below the cloud cover - greens and blues and reds, yellows and oranges and more greens and blues and reds, yellows and oranges followed by what seemed to be every color in between. Soon the dazzling white Miss Christina had promised joined the symphony of colors bursting above the town. Colors the little boy had never seen and hardly ever imagined blossomed out of the sky.

Miles away a little man sat next to his little untethered donkey and his weathered carriage and watched from afar with pride, the fruits of his benevolent scheme.

"They figured it out!" smiled the tinker.

The story is told among the people of the village and among inhabitants of towns far and wide that on that day, after the airborne display of colors finally faded, the clouds that for so long had suffocated the landscape parted, allowing sunshine to gently blanket the village and its residents for the first time in what had seemed an eternity.

Yet that was not what was astonishing. What was astonishing was the few clouds that remained produced gentle life-giving showers for days, nourishing the grounds, the flora and the fauna of the region. This along with the sunshine began to slowly turn the landscape from the darkness and dankness - grays, browns and every lifeless color in between that had become the accustomed, to colors rivaling the Sky Lantern display of that miraculous day.

The village of course flourished, the people recognized it was their multitude of talents, personalities and backgrounds that would save them from falling once again into the doldrums of the dark past.


"And what became of that little boy who started it all, you ask, who found the pieces deliberately left behind by that tinker? My name is Will, I am now the town Curator. I will never forget what my mentor Patrick said years ago on that day of days."

"Impossible," he said.

And nobody will forget the response from our healer Christina.

"No Patrick, it's a miracle," she answered.

"So goes the story of the miracle of the Sky Lantern. And there it is, the remnants, here in our village museum, a testament to what can be if we work for and trust in The Miracle. This we have placed right next to our Pluviculturist display," smiled Will.

"My father would be proud of what you have done here," said the young man standing next to the curator...

"But what's a Pluviculturist?"

. . . keep coming back

"I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair with a love so vast and shattered it will reach you everywhere" ~ Loenard Cohen

Friday, December 15, 2017

Selfless or Selfish? - That, Is the Question

"Each of us sends out positive or negative vibrations, often without being conscious we are doing so. What if we made an effort to be consciously positive to resonate messages of the highest good for others and ourselves? What if we made a deliberate attempt to keep our thoughts aligned with God's perpetual optimism, to refuse to be stuck in self-centered fear? Our thoughts speak louder than our words. In order to change what we create, we must change our thinking. We must mind our mind." ~ Albert Clayton 

Here we are again, in the middle of the holiday season, one of the most wondrous and yet most difficult times for many of us whose children are struggling through addiction and recovery. Whether we are living with our babies and separated from them emotionally, or parted from them by minutes or miles, the holidays can exacerbate the many challenges to our journeys.

We ask ourselves, "Where are they, what are they doing now?" The temptation to fix our children during this season of light and joy, to control The Addiction, becomes amplified.
"Can I fix her just this month? Can't I bring him in, if only for the holidays?
The maddening, mind-twisting, gut-wrenching and totally counter intuitive answer to these questions is simply:
The two words that come to mind, selfless and selfish, have distinct meanings of course yet seem intertwined in our hearts and souls as we proceed along our journey pathways. By living our lives to the fullest and seeking the joy and adventure The Universe has laid out for us we often feel a pang or two of guilt.
"How the hell can I (insert personal life endeavor here) while my son is languishing in the jail cell of his addiction, while my daughter is struggling with her recovery?"
Merriam Webster defines selfless simply as: Having no concern for self.

Doesn't this mean if we do not attend to our children, if we do not do everything in our power to turn their lives around for them, we then become the selfish and not the selfless. A very recent and very personal experience may better illustrate what I am trying to say.

As I write this it is two days until the deadline for choosing a health care plan under the Affordable Care Act. Last night our 26-year-old recovering and I sat down to review his options. He had begun this the previous weekend and found the medication he is taking (this time under a doctors care 😌 ) is not covered on ANY plan. He and his mom had worked the ACA website to the best of their abilities. I was not asked for assistance nor did I offer any.

I knew my time would come.

So as predicted, with three days until deadline number 2 son and I sat in our office after work to continue what he had already begun. As I watched him navigate the site I said, "You've gone as far as you can go. You've done what you can." I then added, "All you can do is talk to a human being tomorrow about your meds to see if there is anything you're missing." That is all I said. I was done - a gentle nudge in the right direction.

For a moment a mix of terror and indignation  - we all know that look - came and went. He reached for his phone and realized he was outside the normal business hours when the ACA call center would be available.

Then one of those little miracles happened. He looked at me and said, "You know there's an app you can use to get coupons for my medication. I'd be spending $50 or $70 a month instead of $300, and I could get a lower cost plan off the marketplace for medical. He showed me the app. The terrified, indignant (angry) look softened to a one reflecting achievement. He had a plan all the time.

He didn't need me.

This will become his accomplishment - not his mother's or mine - and another mile logged along his recovery journey.

Last weekend required a lot of selflessness for me to stay in the background, to refuse a call not sent until the following Wednesday, to reject my fed-by-fear baser instincts to rush in and save him when as it turned out he didn't, doesn't need saving.

Perhaps I'm the one who needs saving, regularly.

It would have been selfish for me to SAVE him. I would have been taking care of me, not my son.

Now, are there times we need to intervene to save a life?

The answer to this question is a resounding YES! We'll know it when we see it. We will remain close enough to our children to let them know there is unconditional love for them if they'll take it. We'll see when they need a rope thrown to them to pull them out of the muck. And we'll be there when they simply say, "I can't live like this anymore."

We can remember the stealing of victories AND consequences are selfish, not selfless acts. When we insert ourselves where we needn't be we are putting ourselves right where The Addiction wants us. We become allies of our children's mortal enemy.

Be the beacon, not the bully. They've got this, most of the time. They just don't know it yet - until they know it, that is.

. . .keep coming back
"Enveloped in Your Light, may I be a beacon to those in search of Light. Sheltered in Your Peace, may I be a shelter to those in need of Peace. Embraced by Your Presence, so may I be present to others." ~ Rabbi Rami Shapiro
"For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we each are free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world." ~ Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks 

Thursday, December 7, 2017


"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy." ~ William Butler Yeats

Roads diverge, paths split into pathlets and constantly cross each other in a seeming spiderweb of possible directions.

Unlike Robert Frost in his poem "The Road Less Travelled" we have chosen many roads more often taken, some by reflexive choice, others out of necessity. It has truly made all the difference in our lives, hasn't it? After all we have experienced we should be masters at making the correct choices, navigating, knowing when to zig, when not to zag, to emerge at last to that meadow of sunlit delights at least for a time.

We should be.

During our wanderings as we searched for our own recovery destinations, the roads, trails and pathways we chose were those most often travelled by parents of children who have wandered into the vortex created by The Addiction. The trails were named the Fix Her Trail, the Control Him Trail, the Cure Trail and the ubiquitous Anger, Rage, and Depression trails, all loops, bringing us back to our starting points at the Despair Trail head.

We all know how that turned out. It's so easy to be tempted to take that familiar, oft trodden pathway.

Frost got it right taking the road less travelled. In his poem we witness a conscious decision on the part of the traveller. This was no snap judgment to proceed down the trail seemingly untouched, the one that "...wanted wear," He stood long and hard peering down both options at the fork, and, "... knowing how way leads to way, (he) doubted if (he) should ever come back."

He decided.

Unfortunately, unlike the expedition made by Frost, our journey tracks are often intersected with invitations to take the easy way, the downward sloping footpath leading to the same shit from our recollections. We must be vigilant in our convictions that our children's journeys are theirs to navigate. There is no need to search for them, to wander down the pathways made wide by hundreds of parents like us in the infancy of their recovery journeys. It is a constant process of deciding to SEEK and SEE the joy amid the tragedies and struggles of our children, to bathe in the sunbeams trickling through the treetops to take in The Universe' treasures. We become adventurous contrarian trail hikers.

We'll catch glimpses of our babies on their journeys, watch their progress as they proceed up and down their trails, falling, picking themselves up, dusting off the dirt and the occasional bloody scrape, learning, failing, winning.

We can just decide not to engage in The Addiction's temptation to throw ourselves onto the rock and muck as well. We're better than that - we've logged too many miles to be duped into once again going down that road. We'll know when and if we need to intervene. The miracle is, thankfully. they have the intellect and tools to find their way.

It's a matter of deciding, most of the time and to the best of our ability, to take the road that may still seem a bit unfamiliar.

Believe me, it will make all the difference.

. . . keep coming back

"We did not ask for this room or this music; we were invited in. Therefore, because the dark surrounds us, let us turn our faces toward the light. Let us endure hardship to be grateful for plenty ... We did not ask for this room or this music. But because we are here, let us dance. ~ Stephen King

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Giving Thanks Throughout The Year

"Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot." ~ Hausa Proverb
Each year at Thanksgiving my family knows it's coming - the appeal for all who are present to express one thing for which they are thankful. It is a cruel tradition of mine, I demand it every year. I think this year I'll wait until after our turkey has been dispatched so they'll think they have sidestepped the torture!

The "they" in particular are the two most affected by The Addiction, the recovering and his younger sibling, who are most resistant to gratitude yet most in need of daily doses of it.

I am prepared for the eye rolls, the "Dad ... Nooooos", and their apparent urgent need to do something, anything, somewhere else.

Maybe I should ambush everyone early, in the pregame-appetizer phase of the day?

No matter the cost I will remain steadfast in my belief that Gratitude is as important and nourishing on our national day of thanks as the turkey I will lovingly, hopefully, smoke to perfection (there's that word again - sorry!) over a 4-hour period in the early afternoon.

Thanksgiving Day is a chance for us to rekindle a practice as important as eating well in moderation, exercise, finding the FUN, seeking the JOY, all those resolutions we make at the turn of the calendar each January.

But why stop now? Although the western calendars begin the holidays with the feastival of turkey and pies I always think of the season beginning, this year on October 19, with the Hindu Diwali, the festival of lights. What better reason to be grateful than the victory of good over evil?

We can think of the extended Thanksgiving weekend and the ensuing celebrations as springboards to gratefulness throughout the year, rather than one and done commemorations that end with resolutions that resolve nothing. Once again, by becoming grateful for what we have rather than obsessing about the negatives - and those negatives WILL come - we may again become beacons to our children to focus on the positive, deal with the bad as it appears, then move on.

Keep moving.

Becoming thankful for each day is a prescription for living life to its fullest. It's a daily multivitamin required to maintain our equilibrium and carry us along paths both clear and fraught with obstacles. These gratitudes can be as simple as "sunny day" or as momentous as "finally cancer free" and reflect who and where we are on any particular day. Our children bathed in the constant negativism of The Addiction might even see us, persevering, making it through the muck and hedgerows of life with vigor to experience what is out there for us all if our souls are open to the possibilities of The Universe.

So make that $2 investment in a 5.5" x 4" college ruled notebook and pen - they're available at your local local dollar storeand get writing. I'll even help you with your first entries:
 Bought the notebook
Bought the pen
On my way to gratitude
It's really that easy.

We'll touch base this June!

. . . keep coming back

"A verse from the Veda says, 'What you see you become.' In other words, just the experience of perceiving the world makes you what you are. This is a quite literal statement." ~ Deepak Chopra

Monday, October 30, 2017


"Laugh, when you lose all your money, Or you can't find your shoes, to cover your feet... Laugh, at the things that are wrong, if you think it's this song, then laugh." ~ "Laugh" The Monkees, Phil Margo, Mitch Margo, Hank Medress, Jay Siegel

Do you people-watch? I do. As we approach the Holidays my people watching skills become ramped up to a heightened degree in preparation of the parade of souls we all will soon see on Halloween, Thanksgiving and the myriad of theologically-based (and other) observances occurring through January.

This may be premature but I would like to wish everyone a happy and joyous Saturnalia!

I have mentioned, even very recently, the coffee house I frequent prior to starting my day. Visited by the old, the young, elementary, high school and college students, their teachers and professors, professionals, laborers, blue, gray and white collars, cops (and perhaps an occasional felon) and even a few community builders who try to remain anonymous but to those of us who know them or remember them from local news stories years before, this place is an absolute cacophony of personalities, facial expressions and I'm certain, ongoing life stories.

Let me catch my breath.

I never know what is behind the smiles, frowns, far away gazes, sidelong glances and even sometimes a mien that betrays a person with the weight of the world on his or her shoulders. It's none of my business, and many if not all of us have been there. As parents of addicts we have been at one time or another members of that exclusive club of those at odds with The Universe, struggling against ourselves to find some peace amid the craziness.

Conversely, I am sometimes witness to unabashed joy, treated to bursts of laughter from some of the young women from the high school up the street. I see expressions of delight blossom as they review their social media posts. I wonder if the joy I am witnessing is a function of being so early on in their life journeys, then I remember the delight can often takes a hiatus at final exam time. Of course, many of us parents of siblings of addicts know even kids are not totally immune from life's devastating upheavals.

Everyone has has ebbs and flows, ups and downs, even teenagers. Nobody can maintain a complete level of euphoria 24/7, but we MUST allow ourselves to take the time to SEEK and most importantly SEE the joy when it is there, when it is presented to us. This is the joy that comes from a contented and centered heart and soul and not the kind borne of negativity, sarcasm or the misfortunes of others so, so prevalent in today's entertainment.

It is the joy that surprises us, that sneaks up on us along our journey and stays with us, not for a little while but then again, not so long as to spoil us into thinking this is the way life is all the time.

It is the joy that elicits laughter for no logical reason at all. We can find the joy, the laughter, whether we're 13, 30, or three times 30. The joy, the laughter is out there - or IN there, inside all of us. It starts with being grateful at the start of every day for the little things, then going out there to conquer the world.

It's a simple strategy: be open to The Joy, find The Joy, then LAUGH - oh hahaha!

. . . keep coming back

"It's not so hard to see exactly what I'm after. Sometimes a tear should fall but I require giggles and chuckles..." ~ "Laugh" The Monkees, Phil Margo, Mitch Margo, Hank Medress, Jay Siegel
"Laughter is carbonated holiness." ~ Anne Lamott

Friday, October 20, 2017

What's Our Hurry?

"Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it." ~ Soren Kierkegaard
I spend many weekday mornings at a local Starbucks that has an interesting vibe. Nestled in a decidedly leftish-of-center middle to upper middle class community and fueled in part by a girls high school and a university, both up the street within walking distance, this coffee shop is a meeting place, the Marktplatz of the area in my town called Old Orchard.

In an effort, I guess, to carve out yet another slice of the population to become Starbucks customers the caffeine giant recently launched a new service. You may be one of the many who have succumbed to this latest siren call of the Starbucks mermaid. Patrons with the 'bucks app on their phones and tablets can now pre-order their frappuccino and croissant which will be magically ready for pick up upon arrival - no waiting in line, no eye contact with anyone necessary, no conversations short of the obligatory thank you required. 

I think it's sad.

I was struck by this just the other day as I watched a woman navigate like a roller derby jammer through the throng of folks awaiting their orders. In her haste she almost flattened one of them and making no apologies darted left, then right, to reach the counter where her order lay waiting.

She was gone before you could say "no whip, no foam, no fun", as those who had not called ahead remained, many engaged in short conversations with friends, others chatting with those who were heretofore perfect strangers.

Once again The Universe was tapping me on the shoulder with a reminder: you've got places to go on your pathway, you can see that beauty awaiting in the distance but it really is OK to pause and look around to see the beauty all around, even if the place where you are now may not be where you're going, or where you want to be.

There are wonders, beauties and mysteries everywhere, even in the darkest of rainforests or the most forbidding and desolate wastelands - really! You just have to be willing to take time to notice, take in those hidden gems of splendor, then keep moving. It may often require a pause along your journey pathway and rather than remaining steadfastly focused on the end game goal of that next horizon take your eye off the prize, for a moment at least. Look around.

Amid the darkness of our children's struggles are glimmers of their REAL, their true selves. You may have to look hard, but it's there, buried beneath the muck of The Addiction. We can take heart they are still there, as beautiful as we remember and as we acknowledge this beauty we are once again  affirming our love for our children.

So slow down, it won't hurt.

What are you waiting for?

. . . keep coming back

"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday." ~ A. A. Milne