The Read

Apr. 23, 2016

Back from my west coast excursion, was delightful.  Never laugh more than when I’m there; our CA clan has some genuinely funny people.  Especially Auntie K, (AK in the family vernacular.)  She could make a Trappist Monk cackle.  Certainly has that effect on me.  Being with them all is food for the soul. 

Had a tasty appetizer too, got to stay with Shay & Luke, his Mom (a saint,) his sister and a friend, in an cool Airbnb, (great place,) for his graduation.  A grown-up slumber party (always love those.)  (Okay, I think we’ve established, on a roll with parentheticals this time around.)  Congrats to Luke, he’s officially an MBA.  As of today, he has his MPA as well.  (Need a sharp math mind, I’ll hook you up.)

Small talk aside, let’s get down to it; flying is a trip (double entendre premeditated.)   Could you find a better classroom when it comes to studying personalities?  Can’t imagine.  Travelling, especially flying, brings out the best and the worst in people.  Encountered some real doozies during my transcontinental travels.

Throw a sizeable number of people into the Petri dish that’s Southwest’s boarding design and bacteria grows at a rapid pace.  Jockeying for your particular number in the A, B, and C groupings is like squeezing an elephant into a sandwich bag.  One rather large pachyderm and his sizable wife parked at the front of the B 16 – 20 slot and claimed the territory.  As number 20, (pulling up the rear,) I was privy to the ultimate shut-out.  A small woman in front of me had 19 and she latched on to the couple for dear life.  Between the four of us, we held the entirety of the available real estate.  Blissfully unaware, enters 15 and his wife, 16; the rightful owners of the prime property.  They were a really nice couple and they just floundered out to the side after being completely ignored by the indomitable trio.  Figured, surely, when our group was called, they would politely pause long enough for our outliers to enter the fold in their rightful positions.   Not a chance, the limited overhead compartments were obviously calling their names, because they didn’t pause a second before they headed for the flyway.  I marvel.  Self-absorption is seemingly contagious.  They slipped in line in front of me and there was ample overhead for us all.  Hallelujah!

But the final leg of my trip produced the taker of all cakes, a real peach of a woman; the bane of all within earshot.  The plane from Phoenix had an inordinate number of children aboard and the majority of them were babies.  Scattered throughout the aircraft, there was intermittent crying during the flight, but it wasn’t bad at all, (had an infant in the row directly behind me, she cried but it didn’t last long.  No one was annoyed, just sympathetic.)  As soon as the plane landed, our cake-eater stood up and turned around in her aisle seat, leaning her knee on the seat (two rows in front of mine,) and proceeded to hold court.  She zeroed in on two women, who were directly next to me across the aisle, and went to town.  Her comments were some of the most ridiculous I’ve ever heard.  Along with a bitter recounting that every parent thought their child was the cutest in the world, it was common sense to her that families with small children shouldn’t fly.  They all must have attended funerals, because why else would they drag babies on the plane and annoy everyone around them.  It was the only reason that would be acceptable.  Children shouldn’t be allowed to fly.  And she was dead serious.  Have to admit, that not being able to stand an injustice thing I’ve mentioned, it was working over-time, (you know how I feel about babies.)  But I kept my mouth shut and just observed.  As hard as I tried not to, I passed judgment; in my mind I deemed her a silly and preposterous person.  Couldn’t help it.  Not very good at this non-judgmental thing, although, God help me, I want to be.   My classroom of human nature, confirmed a valuable lesson though, one I always take away from such people; how I never want to behave. 

Who wants to end with that nonsense?  Not me.  Saved the best for last.  On the flight there, a direct from BWI to LAX, (long one,) I met a girl named Sam.  She offered advice on how to get the “Cloud” message off my iPad, which was in Airplane Mode, the Cloud should have taken a cue and split, but it was stubborn and stuck around.  (Btw, I hate the Cloud.)  Between she and the guy on my other side, we all tried and failed.  No movie for me.  Recognizing my dilemma, Sam took her earbuds out and struck up a conversation.  We talked for a good hour.  She was an incredibly engaging high school senior who had been on the other side of the country for a college visit.  Alone.  Inquired why she didn’t go with a parent and she shared that her Dad had died and her Mom needed to be home with her little brother; the one-year anniversary had only been a few days before.  She told me the story, cancer was the culprit.  Her attitude was commendable.  She didn’t want him to suffer anymore, it was his time to go; and even though it was a profound loss, he was still there.  It wasn’t platitudes, she felt his presence helping her family find their way.  Saw the truth of it in her words, and I loved her for it.  Flying brings out the best in some people, or maybe that’s just innately who they are.  Sam, a bright and upbeat Hispanic young woman, who’s going into pre-med, (have no doubt she’s going to be a stellar doc,) renewed my faith in the best of us.  When we were done talking, she handed me one of her earbuds and, together, we watched several episodes of a favorite TV show she had on her computer. 

Her kindness made the time fly.  (There I go again.)    


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Apr. 15, 2016

Joy comes in a variety of packages, some delight is a given; absolutely no way you can deny it.  But some, enters through the back door.  If you aren’t vigilant, you can miss it. 

In the case of the former, I’m compelled to share the photo to the left; it elicited such an ecstatic response when it popped up on Instagram, holding it partially responsible for this go round at my keyboard.  In the capture of that transformative moment there are a thousand wonderful words; they belong to, Dylan and Elisa.  An absolutely stellar pair.  Looking at this pic, I can feel the joy of their wedding day already.  Joining these two souls will be cause for celebration.  He is a successful, smart and loyal man, who works really hard but never makes mention of it.  She, well, she is a prize.  Accomplished in business and one of the sweetest and kindest people I’ve ever met.  The only regret I have about sharing this pic is not seeing Elisa’s face; she is an absolutely stunning woman.  Double-take beauty.  Dylan’s not too shabby himself.  One of our nephews in CA, his genuflect brought joy to a lot of people.  Classic joy.  Congratulations D & E. 

The other variety is a little harder to come by, but heartening, all the same.  It’s the joy found in difficulties.  Certifiable, you say?  Hear me out.  (Long on experience of late.)  If you follow this column, you know we’ve been in contention as the poster children for Murphy’s Law.  Some of the worst hits on the list haven’t even been revealed, but one thing I’ve realized in our gauntlet of challenges, there is an up side to everything. It’s all about how clearly you see things.  My cousin, Paddy, (who just happens to be Dylan’s beautiful Mom,) told me a story recently that gave me 20/20. 

Her youngest daughter, Peyton, an angel, (no, seriously) was volunteering at a children's hospital on Christmas Eve, spending time with kids who share a piece of her growing up, childhood cancer.  Peyton is a survivor.  Who gives back.  All the time.  She told her Mother there was a young boy, (kindergarten/first grade young,) who showed her a drawing he had just done of a rainbow.  She asked this little man, who was so sick he needed to be hospitalized over Christmas, what made him think of drawing such a thing; his answer,  “I choose joy.”    

Been carrying that little nugget around since she told me and it’s altered my vision.  On a whole, I’m a person who sees joy in most things.  Unfortunately, also have the deficit of being someone who can’t stand injustice; on any level.  Tend to be righteous about my reactions.  You could argue it’s a good quality, some do.  But, in truth, passing judgment is at the root of it all and, although I’ve searched, it’s not in my job description.  The worst test is my family, when someone hurts a member of the clan, enter full warrior mode.  This house being built has been another tough exam.  Have fail several pop quizzes on that front.  Miserably. 

In truth, the rainbow child knows the real deal.  It’s what I choose to see and feel that constructs my days.  This delicate boy, with a horrible injustice gripping him, chooses to see the joy in life.  He clears the fog.  Yes, there have been trials, some circumstantial, some inflicted, but the outcomes were not altered by my negative reactions, only made more difficult.  Use the mantra all the time and it’s true ~ it is, what it is.  Finding the good in difficult situations changes everything; it brings peace.  (Which is totally under-rated.)   

Need to post a little early this week; going coast to coast.  Board a plane this afternoon for California to attend Luke’s, (my brainy son-in-law,) graduation from Pepperdine.  As of Saturday he will be an MBA.  More classic joy.  A second graduation follows next weekend, (duel major, wasn’t kidding, smart dude.)   Bring on the merriment.  He and Shay have earned this; three years of a long-distance marriage is finally over.  Their elation is palpable.  

Won’t be attending the second graduation, my west coast tour of happiness takes me south for the second leg.  Visiting some regulars to the blog, our beloved matriarch and patriarch, AK & US.  Been too long, can’t wait to see them.  Huge bonus comes with a visit to their haven of a home, their children and their families live close; anxious to see them all.  Peyton, the angel, is numbered in that crew; her middle name, but of course, Joy.  Won’t have to look far to find it this week.   


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Apr. 9, 2016

How many times have I restarted this post?  Lost count.  It’s silly, but this first one from the house, (yup, finally in,) feels like it ought to be about that monumental leap.  (Especially considering I left the story with us stranded in our subterranean digs.) But every time I’ve started writing about the long and rocky road that ended in finally living under our own roof, the story stalls out.  So I’m shelving it.  The completion of the project (we’re in, but haven’t quite gotten to the finish line,) could go such drastically different ways, who knows how it will end.  Will circle back when it does.  One thing I will say before moving on to the chosen topic for my return from the wilderness, we got a dog.  A Chocolate Lab pup, who sits squarely in the middle of our hearts; Milton.   (Inside tip, training a lab pup in a yard that’s a construction site can be dangerous to his health and your rugs.  Loves to consume dirt, among other things...yum.) 

Okay, the move will return at a later date, on to bigger and much better things.  Since the house story wouldn’t come, I had to ask myself, what are you feeling passionate about?  The answer was easy, it’s big, beautiful and sugary. 

Have the distinct privilege of being the president of the Board of Directors for a world-class mecca of magic, The Carroll Arts Center.  I might be a little bias, but I believe it qualifies as the eighth wonder of the world; the place is impressive.  Especially when it’s filled to the brim with sugary marshmallows, during the annual PEEPshow.  Truly, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.  Sculptures, films, photography, paintings and dioramas, all crafted from the little marshmallow treat, Peeps.  We use the event as a fundraiser, it’s free to the public but visitors can buy chips and vote for their favorites.  There were 159 creations in the building this year.  From the seven-foot Muppets Swedish Chef, (the Grand Prize winner,) to a flawless reproduction of a Faberge Egg, magic abounded in all sizes.  Over 24,000 people toured the exhibit in a 12 day span.  Visitors make the trip from far and wide.  It’s worth the effort. 

(An image of the winner, Swpeepish Chef, can be found here)

The closing awards presentation was this past week; needed to share some much deserved thank yous with the audience, (especially to the artists, without their wild creativity, there is no show,) then introduced the Director of the center, Sandy Oxx.  She took it from there, recognizing our sponsors, handing out special awards, and the announcement of the much-anticipated winners.  There are certain times in life when you’re particularly moved by the tremendous value of something; I was given the rare opportunity to acknowledge that gem publically.  Not talking about the PEEPshow itself, but the person who made it happen.  

In my comments, I shared the history of our annual fundraiser; Sandy entered the Washington Post’s, (believe it was their inaugural event,) Peeps Diorama Contest in 2007.  She walked away from the experience with something far more valuable than a prize, she had a vision.  The next year she launched the PEEPshow at the Carroll Arts Center, no limits were imposed; she offered a blank canvas of creativity and the community answered the challenge, (and then some.)  It’s exploded in popularity over the years, garnering mainstream national media and morning talk show coverage, (even ESPN has gotten in on the act,) with the story spreading to international shores as well; showing up on a French newscast.   Mrs. Oxx introduced what has become a premier art exhibit, showcasing a magical art form that grows more enchanting every year.   (Check out the pic above, Winnie the Peep, one of my favorites from this year.)  She has brought unfettered joy to our community and beyond, and I couldn’t be more in awe. 

The event has revealed some mind-blowing artists as well; one family in particular, The Mondors.  Lead by the creative genius of their dad, Rob, the Mondor Family has produced standout entries, year after year; with larger than life characters, handcrafted to perfection.  The leadership at, Just Born, (one of our sponsors and the manufacturers of not just Peeps but a wide array of popular confections,) has claimed several of the Mondor masterpieces for their headquarters.   Enchanting recreations of Big Bird and Goofy welcome visitors to their building.   In addition to Rob Mondor and Crew raising the bar to celestial heights, he also offered a free workshop, showing people how to tackle the magical monuments.  Our grand prize winner this year learned from the best.   (You can see a picture of another grand prize winner, the Mondor’s, “Just Born Goofy”, in this link.) 

The reason I share this sweet story?  The joy.  So much of it radiating from one location. The Arts Center was packed, thousands of people a day.  Worked the front door for several shifts and people who waited in a three-block long line to get in, (in some brutal cold wind,) then got stopped again in the entrance area, (because the building was bulging,) were giddy at the thought of making it in the doors.  This went on for hours, every day.  All smiles.  And laughter.  It filled the building.  The most diverse cross-section of people gathered in one place and the atmosphere was one that left no room for nastiness or anger.  Our guests embraced the joy of the event.  (It’s impossible not to.)  In a world preoccupied with dissention and division, we need all the joy we can get.  Thanks to Sandy Oxx’s fantastic phenomenon, you can always find it, in full supply, at the Carroll Arts Center’s annual, PEEPshow.   Bravo, Mrs. Oxx, bravo. 


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Jan. 16, 2016

Told you I’d find my way to topics again, and what a topic it is, the Law of Vibration.  But first, I should tend to a little house keeping.  No, we still don’t have one; or a date.   Considering the time it takes to schedule movers, we’ll pass the one-year anniversary of signing the contract before we get to move in.  I guess we’ll find out what day it’ll be finished, the day before it is.  Interesting way to do business. 

On to better topics.  Recently, I’ve been engrossed in studying, the Law of Vibration.  Stumbled on it in a rather round about way ~ spiders.  Since we’ve moved to the stink capitol of the U.S., have recruited some new arachnid friends.  They follow me around.  Very strange.  Spiders are in my reality; noticeably.  In the beginning, they were everywhere; on me, next to me, dropping down to greet me.  Oy, a little unsettling.  Figured I’d get the scoop, looked it up on the all-knowing internet.  The explanation: spiders are vibration sensitive and are drawn to people’s vibes.  Thankfully, they’ve graduated to just sitting next to me.  I recently ask one not to crawl on me.  Figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.  It’s the craziest thing.  When I’m lying in bed, sitting at this table, (new basement perch for the computer,) and even when I’m visiting my congressman in the loo, they’re not picky about location, just vibration. 

In all of my research, the best explanation for the law of vibration, came from the website, Universe Laws, and it goes something like this: human beings are made up of molecules, just like everything else in the universe, which means, we are nothing but pure energy.  We share this state with everything; rocks, clothes, this wooden table beneath me, all energy. 

This is the Law of Vibration.   

Although I feel at one with my table right now, (we are very close,) oak just isn’t my vibe.  Human energy vibrates at a different frequency.  Much higher.  Hence, movement.  All this harkens back to our high school science days.  Energy, mass, speed of light stuff; E=mc2, it’s all too Einsteinian for my brain.  As the website mentioned, “This is all fine and dandy philosophical stuff, but what are the practical applications of the law of vibration?”  Scientists have come to some interesting mathematical conclusions, everything (and everyone) has a specific vibrational frequency.  People found on the higher side: millionaires, (the Powerball winners just took a quantum leap,) people in successful relationships, happy, optimistic, and fit people.  Those with the highest frequencies, spiritual people.  Well, there’s a no-brainer. 

Even more interesting to me, you can work to raise your vibrational level; and it’s all easy stuff.  Drink water, take a walk, listen to music, be grateful, love as much and as often as you can.  I kid you not.  Pleasant, decent and kind thoughts make those dancing protons, neutrons and electrons kick out the jams.  Leave it to the likes of Einstein to approach spirituality from a method.  But, numbers don’t lie.  Faith can be measured with quantum physics. 

This rather heady topic leads me to another one of my unusual and memorable incidents.  It happened when I was seven (and now, I believe it had everything to do with the vibe.)  I walked into the kitchen of our Omaha, Nebraska split foyer, the hottest new middle class symbol of success, (boy, that dates me,) and saddled up to a small Formica table; taking a seat across from my grandmother.  By this time, she was well into both her 70s and dementia and she didn’t talk much, and certainly not when she was absorbed in polishing the bottom of my Mother’s pots. (Guardian Service, by name,) it was big, heavy-duty aluminum cookware.  I guess it was as good a way as any to fill your time when you’ve lost your footing. 

Realizing what she was doing, it struck me, maybe I should help her; a way to communicate without having to say a word.  She could be a nasty woman, always was to my Mom, (her daughter-in-law, who was an absolute sweetheart,) but in this deteriorated state, she was a pussycat.  On the table was a cotton-like polish you could pull directly out of a tub and rub to your heart’s content.  Grabbed a pinch and a pot and joined the party.  (As a part of our regular Saturday chores, Mom taught us how to polish.  We had two brass tables and we kept those puppies spotless.  I had this down.)  As we sat there, silently dedicated to our collective home improvement project, all of a sudden, I found myself above the kitchen, watching the scene below.  Took in the aerial view for a moment and then a voice posed a question.  It wasn’t really something audible, more like a universal connection, “What is the meaning of life?”  I answered, not of myself, but of the whole, “Love.” 

After that, I was back in my body, happily laboring away.  The peace I felt in that state has no words, I won’t try to explain it.  Suffice it to say, it was like nothing I had felt before or since.  A frequency removed.  Quantum physics.  Certainly made an impact.  (And you wondered why I’m always pushing love on you.) 

Would venture a guess things like that happen to children all the time, was just given the gift of being able to remember it.  Guess the reason, so I could share it.  So, here you go, that stuff about us all being One isn’t just spiritual mumbo jumbo, no matter how you dice it, we’re all made up of the same energy.  Unzip the perishable container we walk around in and we couldn’t help but connect.  That’s the vibe. 

Gonna keep working on raising my vibrations, I need to; don’t have the love thing down enough.  But I’m moving in that direction.  According to the principals of E=mc2, when an object is pushed in the direction of motion, it gains momentum and energy.  Going to keep moving toward the center, where the vibrations move at the greatest rate, where it’s pure Light.  Where Love lives; yes, that’s the vibe.  


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Jan. 2, 2016

Our story picks up pretty much where we left off, (one of these days I’ll get back to writing about topics, there are so many juicy items to chose from, but not just yet,) the Christmas nomads found a home.  Talk about gifts, we had several offers of deliciously desirable places, and from some treasured people.  Thoroughly humbled by all the generosity.

Fittingly, we ended up at an angel’s house.  How perfectly apropos for Christmas.  Ann, the guardian who gives me shelter when I wonder back to the old hood, (wondering has a schedule, pretty much once a week,) gave me the metaphoric keys to her cottage kingdom, (got my own key a long time ago,) for an entire week, while she’s been in Colorado with her precious family.  (Tapping this installment out on her computer.)  So, the complete cohort, the enigmatic eight, descended on her house.  We had a home, (my second,) beds, a fireplace, and a practically-perfect-in-every-way Christmas tree.  Our family holiday was rescued.   Beyond the children all gathering from hither and yon, this charming abode was my favorite Christmas gift.  Thanks Ann.

In case the title didn’t give it away, this episode is about gifts. 

Things have improved since we last talked.  Not so much situations, more the mindset.  The house still isn’t done, but it’s getting closer.  What?  I’ve said that before?  Yeah, well, this time I think it’s possible.  If I had to put a target up, (dare I?) I’d shoot for mid-January.   After a year, the long-awaited gift, our delightful digs will finally change hands.  No more excuses and delays and disappointments.  Man, what a gift it will be.  Hopefully, by the next installment, we’ll have a move-in date.  I’ll keep you posted. 

Been holding onto a present I got the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Actually, I got this gift some fifteen plus years ago, his name is Jake.  He was an adorable toddler, youngest of five and the only boy in his family.  When he was eighteen months old, his adventuresome spirit took him one step too far; he fell into their pool.   He’s now a young man who has lived the majority of his life incapacitated and profoundly handicapped from a brain injury. When he was three, I signed on to be one of a number of people who offered to help with a special therapy, BRAINnet.  His Mom, Donna, (one of the people I admire most in the world,) exhausted every tool available to help Jake rehab and allow him as much comfort as possible.   It takes three sets of hands to carry out BRAINnet; for years, was on the schedule once a week.  When we moved, all that came to an end.  A huge loss.  Theirs is a family that had become mine.  I’ve been with them through some major expansions.  Three weddings and three babies.  Tiny sisters, three of the smartest little toe-headed girls you’d ever want to meet.  And hysterically funny.  As they flourished, they worked their special brand of therapy on our hearts while we worked on Jake.  Truly, these people, all of them, were a gift in my life.  And after not seeing them since last January, the Saturday before Thanksgiving we all gathered for a special occasion.  

Every two years Jake’s family organizes a pig roast and silent auction to help with the cost of his care.  It’s always the perfect kick-off to the holidays; approximately 400 people from the community gather to celebrate and support this beautiful young man and his extraordinary family.  This year’s festivities came with news, another wedding on the horizon, their youngest daughter; and a new baby for the most recent newlyweds, this time a boy.  Pure joy.  Absolutely stellar people.  At one point during the evening, the middle munchkin, Nadia, a fascinating four-year-old, grabbed my hand and danced me around the entire perimeter of the hall, (there were over 300 auction items, it covered some serious landscape,) a little moment of magic I won’t soon forget.  Walked out with an auction item, some of their famous fried chicken, and a priceless reminder; happiness is always there, even around the most difficult of circumstances.  Donna, Doug and their beautiful children know, life is what we make of it.  And they have created a masterpiece. 

As you can imagine, and probably experienced yourselves, there were some gifts exchanged for the holidays.  (Note, photo above.)  Our children came up with some standouts in the gift-giving department.  They have the perfect recipe of excellent taste, blended with admirable generosity; they regularly cook up some meaningful presents.  But, as delightful as their gifts are, the true bounty is the givers themselves.  Without question, BK and I agree, they are the ultimate gifts.  Priceless.  Always feel a little bad about spilling their lives across my web page.  They’re quietly supportive but I can imagine it’s somewhat bothersome.  I can’t help it.  They are extraordinary.  Doesn’t every parent feel that way?  Well, it’s true.  The mere thought of them thrills me.  Their creativity and capacity, their compassion and concern, each of them is drawn to the underdog, reaching out to people who need help the most.  Gifts; to all the lives they touch.  Certainly to mine.    

Happy New Year.  Here’s to a healthy, happy and fruitful year for us all.  May your lives be filled with the priceless gift of love.  The greatest of all.  

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