Life as it arrives and dreams as they happen

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Take My Picture

Great nostalgia is found in photos.  There were quarter generated booths which quickly snapped friends, family and lovers who squeezed onto wooden stools, flash cubes, flash bulbs and Polaroid portraits.  Indeed there is a memory somewhere mostly likely black and white, which will forever be in your heart.  If you are lucky however, it is also tucked into an album, envelope, hat box, drawer or hard drive.

I am one of those lucky ones who have all of the above, along with slides, negatives, prints, digital images and color copies of those people and places that became souvenirs of my life’s journey.  I also carry them in my heart and pray when I leave this life they will be imprinted in my soul.  I guess that would be a more intense way of saying, “Take” my picture – literally, into your heart and forever let me be a part of you.  I like that – well, with the exception of those grade school and junior high moments wherein I resemble a work in progress that never progressed.

There are certain pictures I have taken over the years, with whatever current camera contraption was vogue at the moment, that rose above just nostalgia or memory.  Those are pictures of developed emotion, showing exactly how deep the rivers of life truly are that run through our veins.  Those are the pictures that ask to be taken and they stand above all others.  Time, Look and Life magazines all knew about these photos and successfully touched the world with images from select photographers over the years.  Indeed, the magazines did well, but it was the photographer who was forever changed by the moment, because after all anyone can look into a camera, it is a moment that looks into the photographer.

As my father lay dying in hospice, his smile never left him.  When I went the last time for his groceries, I turned and snapped a digital photo. How do you put into words, a look that passed the lens, through my eyes and into my heart and soul?  A moment that was just for me?  In death, he gave me life.  I look at that photo often and I am never sad, the look in his face said it all – “I will always love you and always be a part of you.”  In that moment I was complete.  That was the first time I realized how intense and privileged it is to hear those three little words from someone:  “take my picture.”

After that photo, I looked back and found other pictures like this that would forever be just mine.  Pets with unconditional knowledge of my love, children who wanted me to know they were my life, regardless what would happen at 13, 18 and 21 and friends, family and lovers, who without a word reminded me they were signposts on my path of life.  Quality always the key over quantity this album will never reach multiple volume status.  I heard a photographer once call a photo “the money shot,” and I knew it was one of these where the moment and the man connected and smiled.

Today I was a grandmother when I aimed my camera, unable to articulate the words, my grand daughter looked up into my eyes and it was there, tears welled in my eyes.  There was no magazine to profit but yes, it was Time – Look – Life, and it will forever be in my soul as having been directly trusted, loved and wanted through beautiful innocent eyes and a soul who knows I will forever be there for her, connected, regardless what develops from that moment on.

A day with Lhotse Lee


****For a humorous read – check out my new book, “My Life Has Been A waist”****


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Cash doesn’t buy happiness, but change does

A song reached out from TV last night, “…the change in my pocket wasn’t enough…”  At first it was funny, because in this day of plastic, phone App and PayPal the thought of actual change in someone’s pocket was hard to believe.  It made me remember one of the last sounds I would hear at night as a child, my father placing the contents (and change) from his pants pockets on his dresser.  I don’t know why it was such a comforting or reassuring sound, but it was and I miss it.  Dad was stable, offering reassurance, love, laughter, patience and commitment and yet he was always open to change and another view point.  If he taught me one thing it was situations will always change but the soul doesn’t.   He simplified it best with “Pretty is as Pretty does” and he was right on the money.

Growing up we didn’t have a lot, since we never missed much, we never noticed.  I guess for those who are looking for that missing something money is the answer to change everything.  In that respect, I can offer some insight, after working in high level financial worlds, and having both friends and clients, that walked the streets of silver and gold.  The illusion, not unlike OZ is wonderful.  There truly is the concept of a stairway to heaven, a mix between the one Oral Roberts threatened to stay in for 8 million reasons and the communication nightmare of Nimrod, neither however have a hard rock soundtrack.  The people in life who walk these stairs won’t admit it, but they are emptier than our pants pockets – BUT they look and live great doing it.

On a business trip with a self made millionaire (who at age 50 had never walked into a 7-11, let alone eaten watery cheese nachos and a fountain soda) I saw this first hand when our gas tank was as empty, just like his soul.  He was disgusted by the feast my friend and I shared as we waited inside the store.  We laughed together in a comical communion of cheese, chips and candor making a special memory along the way.  Horrified, he commented that the concierge level of our hotel did offer an evening selection of meats, cheeses and pastries so he could wait to dine.   My point here is regardless of how much money he had, he couldn’t taste life in the moment or simply change.  I still remember those stale chips and laughter, but honestly I can’t remember that hotel or the rest of the trip now to save my soul.

As the years ebbed and flowed through my bank account, life has been great and it has been devastating.  What never changed though was who I was, and what life, my family and friends meant to me (thanks dad).  What I loved never changed, what I enjoyed never changed – although yes, the location and style did have a “quality” adjustment now and then. When I closed my eyes at night to sleep, the same sleep washed over me and still does today, changing the night into day and giving me another chance to make a difference, right a wrong or change for the better.  Money has nothing to do with that process, but being empty inside does, just watch a few of the hundred commercials about what you need or how to change your depression.  Don’t get me wrong, depression is a real mental condition, but it is also an oversold fallback position aimed at those who think they should have or deserve more and don’t.

You may not get change back from your dollar anymore, or see it in a virtual account, but you can always use your “common sense” and change something in your life. A random act of kindness each day is more than a deposit in your soul; it is an offering that no church needs to explain regardless of your belief structure.  I also know once you start up one of those stairways, where not everything that glitters is gold, common sense becomes just that, “common” because for some sad reason it is important to have the “blueblood” variety as you become upwardly mobile.

Change can be great, if used properly.  A little extra money can make you more comfortable each day and your attitude will always make a difference in someone’s life.  If you are lucky and have them both, put them together for a winning combination! Regardless, either one alone can do wonders if it is shared.  There isn’t an upgrade to purchase when you think of heaven and we all know you can’t take it with you no matter how hard you might try.  So find a spare moment to change what you can before those you care about loose interest and compound the situation.

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Miss Plum with a TV in my head

Does anyone have a “clue” anymore??  Life has become one surreality television show after another (yes I made up that word) and I am ready to get out my view master!  What is wrong with us? When did we become the self centered, uncaring, violent, stupid beings that mutate in front of Plasma, LED 50 inch screens?  Good Grief Charlie Brown, when TV lost the Tubes, WE became the Boobs!

If you could look at society as a symphony, we were once directed with sections of woods, winds and strings that all came together producing solid and pleasant sound.  Now it is a dark, overly produced, incoherent video that only carries the redeeming grace that proves the radio star is dead and so is MTV. The way we see life is through a reality realm that expresses death, violence, and extreme everything including stupidity! Laugh if you will at Lawrence Welk, Happy Days, W.K.R.P., Mayberry or even the Addams Family!  But after those shows ended in the evening, there was family, friends, laughter, meals and self esteem.

Because he never had a Face Book page, I doubt if the name Charles Caleb Colton means anything to you.  Possibly however you have heard his quote:  “Imitation is the sincerest of flattery” and if you have, you will understand why he would be glad he died in 1832!

It really came together this week as the Florida trial for Casey Anthony was broadcast with comment on every news, talk and entertainment media outlet.  There were people literally running like Pamplona puppets, screaming and falling over each other in hope of being selected for one of the few pubic seats in the trial.  Are you kidding me? Then it dawned on me – no it is no joke, it is who we have become.

Physical trainers preach, “You are what you eat!”  And they are right, why is it so difficult to understand ‘We watch what we are?”  Oppenheimer himself could not have produced more destruction to mankind.  Family values don’t exist anymore, trinity of mother, father, child which was once the nuclear family has imploded and we have no one but ourselves to blame.  Seriously, our youth know where the Jersey Shore is but can they find Catalina?  (NOT the salad dressing).

Everything that is popular in our viewing window of life is dark in once way or another. In one hour, I can watch any of the following:

.     Kill a spouse, child or friend for greed, anger or revenge

.      Sexual stupidity or drunken fighting for amusement

.      Law breaking, stories of prison life or how to beat convictions with forensics

.      Live with multiples wives and upwards of 14 children, or 16 and pregnant.

.      Brutal animal death or torture

.     War, divorce, greed schemes,fraud

.      Medical science gone wrong or mistakes making valued lawsuits

.      Elderly abuse or children missing or abandoned

These samples only touch on the hundreds of daily televised selections, and most are found on “family” networks or woven into cartoon shows aimed at young people. Even more disturbing, is if you take the time as an intelligent person and watch the commercials shown in these time slots, the demographic they are aimed at and the subject matter is almost as depressing.   Who needs a Manchurian Candidate let alone Frank Sinatra; those tubeless vibrant color viewing boxes will do the trick just fine.

We need to wake up from the assimilation that this collective of acceptance and self satisfaction has provided.  Life isn’t going to ever be fair! Some WILL loose and Some WILL win, THAT is our journey, and you won’t always be able to dance to it!  Those struggles are what give character, pride and self esteem and maybe just maybe the incentive to be better than you were the day before.  Seriously, turn off the viewing day and hoist the American Flag again and make people think and do for themselves again.

We have become a nation that cares less about the future than the past it passes on.  Some stories our parents told, like walking 10 miles in a blinding snowstorm to school, may have been exaggerated, but the basis was solid.  You faced the hard work, you didn’t give up and you respected not just those around you, but yourself as well.  The concept is so simple it should be made into a television show.  Oh wait, it already was many times over and then cancelled.

Good night John Boy and Mrs. Calabash, and May God Bless.

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Do you have Prince Albert in a can?

Smile as you read that, and we are on the right track.  If however you have no idea what the hell it means, or assume it is a crude piercing of a body part, pull your jeans up over your boxer shorts, adjust your belt and/or stick ear buds back in place and carry on – just as life is doing, at a pace you will never fully understand.

As kids, we made prank calls on black rotary dialed phones, with receivers which would now have forensic weapon star status on a CSI episode.  Phrases such as:   Do you have Prince Albert in a can? Let him out he can’t breath (it was tobacco by the way) and is your refrigerator running? Go catch it!  Seem a world away now with texting, sexting and tweeting which go on 24/7, passing for entertainment and relationship, but never restraint!  Trust me, when I went to a ball park it was to watch a player and maybe grab a coke and wiener during the game.  Today I can see the player grab his wiener after some coke when he brings his game!   Life has finally caught up and greased this geeky wheel – I have grown old.

When we baby boomers started to seed the garden path, we were like new appliances in a dream home.  Long running, top of the line and filled with status and value.  The old Frigidaire went to the garage to hold soda now and then, until coil and condenser coughed one last time.  We were the next best thing to sliced bread, we didn’t trust anyone over 30 and we were gonna change the world!  So what happened?

It happened, the world changed.  For starters most new appliances had minimal warranty and lousy parts and the old Frigidaire is still working in the garage!  That would be an awesome euphemism for our generation if it wasn’t so damn true.  The generation, who gave us life, knew how to live, how to make things last and most of all how enjoy life the best they could, and while they did it they shared it with us.  Just look at Betty White, we have elevated her next to Mother Teresa and why?  Easy, because she is being who we never will be, and for what we miss so much, and it has nothing to do with being famous.

Things are “retro” and “vintage” now, but the memories they evoke are still fresh and remind us we are growing old too fast and when exactly did that happen?  There is a marketing ploy that says it best, saying they will buy back outdated technology, if you bought your electronics from them originally – because it changes overnight. Well, I still have that rotary phone and I laugh, because during the last power outage, it was the only phone working in our house after cell phone and computer batteries had died.  Is all this progress really success?

Playboy and National Geographic were more than magazines; they showed kids the world and “hinted” at “around the world” teasing innocence and knowledge.  The internet now offers anything possible in any language with the touch of a button to anyone.  Buy it, see it, steal it, show it, sell it, live it or die from it, OMG wouldn’t Jane Jetson and Buck Rogers be proud!  We have taken the last of our generation, along with the two behind us on a fast forward journey that has no time or space and certainly no Ron Serling.  We sell wrinkle cream, padded bikini tops and shape-up sneakers to 8 year old girls, boys father children or go to jail before knowing how to shave and each day becomes just another foot before the other, as we descend into deaths destiny.  We have forgotten how to enjoy, enrich and entertain the inevitable, as our parents and grandparents did – like Betty White still does.

If HG Wells arrived into town today, there would not be Morlocks for him to fear, just his fellow man.  1984 passed without Big Brother taking us into a Vonnegut styled Montana and Bergeron universe, but is that really a good thing?  There is no cohesion or consequence anymore in relationships, employment, politics or life.  We have allowed life to live us, and we just go through the motions.

I wish my grandchildren could “know” the emotions of life as I did.  Doorbells and telephone calls you heard on a quiet morning if the window was open or fireflies and frog songs at night.  Movies in the gym after school, or a potluck dinner and delight, from a cheap plastic prize in a box of cereal, which seemed to last forever until you could retrieve it.  Athletes who played the game for love or money not love of money and people you counted on and not just “liked” on a computer screen and televisions that brought the family members together in the evening, not in the car, pocket, smart phone or laptop.

My father would have said I sound like a broken record, but then again I would understand that.  My kids would say it was a scratched CD or corrupt download on a Nano.  Actually it is because I do understand all of that is why I miss life.  My generation wasn’t stupid, yes we were dreamers, but we reached for the stars and made things happen and used our brains to do it.  I guess being smart was something I took for granted, we went to school respected our teachers and learned things back then.  Now that same technology we invented does everything for us, and for those in our footsteps.

My Man from U.N.C.L.E. may be in autopsy and not Los Angeles (shades of David McCalloum) where they say:  “I piggybacked the upload with a Trojan and corrupted the streaming data packets by initiating stack buffer overflow.” And I know exactly what they are talking about and even how to do it, and didn’t need a condom joke either!  Not bad for an over 50 grandma, that once had hot pants (the attire not the vernacular) and could sing a song about Barney with eyes that had nothing to do with a search engine (‘Google” it – seriously.)

Baby boomers aren’t just EBay searching a lost childhood; we are holding close and remembering a life that is fading away as fast as we age.  Once we made life, we knew life, we lost life and we lived life.  Maybe decisions we made weren’t always right, but we made them! We protested for them, we believed in them and we lived with them.  Now everything is done for us, and can be changed by the click of a computer key, a cell phone, a youtube or tweet.  Nothing is left to chance; we are so damn prepared we don’t even need the Boy Scouts anymore!  But then again who really goes on outings anyway, unless a travel agent books you into a wifi five star resort with catering and activities waiting?  What we thought we would want in the future, we dreamed as science fiction and delighted in the what if?  Now we have it as a daily nightmare, with no consequence and it has become a shoulder shrugging why not?

So with sarcasm and defeat, I feel a need to go figure out how in the world the castaways packed all those costumes and props on Gilligan’s island, what a snipe hunt is and how Donna Reed never got dirty in the kitchen and I will do it for no other reason than I always knew it was impossible, but the improbable was hysterical and comfortable.

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Stoned and Blessed

There are times as a parent when you realize life will step in saving you at the last minute, when you are at the end of your rope.  Granted, it may not be what you hoped for, but as wisdom says, “God does hear all prayers; he just chooses not to answer some of them.”  Personal growth is found in that unanswered prayer, a blessing we give ourselves. I had this confirmed in the early 1990’s as I struggled to give my three girls the best life I could.  I was a well paid executive, but divorce had hit us hard economically.

That first Christmas alone, I was unsure how I would pull off the lists Santa was getting and Mattel and Nintendo profit sharing would benefit from.  In December that year, I took the girls to lunch and as we ate, I noticed large rocks in the parking lot landscaping.   My writer’s brain sparked an idea.  I “borrowed” 9 of the nicer rocks when the girls didn’t see and we headed home.  Once home, I sat my little cherub faces down and presented each of them with 3 rocks.  You would think this was odd, but actually I love rocks, so they were not particularly taken back by their mother’s odd gesture.

Explaining Santa was unable to accommodate all lists that year; he was sending 3 gifts early in the form of rocks.  Each girl had to take care of her rocks in the coming weeks. Christmas morning they would become something special they wanted.  Ok I was impressed with the concept and they were thrilled!  I had no idea how serious they would take the mission.  In the weeks that followed, those rocks ate with them, bathed with them and had better living accommodations than at most five star hotels!  It also gave them something to occupy their time with, other than countless holiday commercials for buying Christmas and arguing with each other, as that age is required to do per their employment contract as children.

Once I purchased gifts I could afford, I felt good.  There was no pressure I would fail.   I knew we had each other and gifts were an extra touch along with cookies, the tree and our favorite nativity set which incidentally had two baby Jesus figures.  In those days, my youngest explained he was a twin (that is another blog!).  Life was blessed and I was looking forward to Christmas, even though divorced and alone I knew there would be nothing in my own stocking – little did I know!

The night before Christmas each girl gently placed her rocks under the tree.  They said goodbye and even shed a tear, wondering which rock would turn into what gift on their list.  The moment was one I will always cherish.  After they went to bed, I placed two gifts for each under the tree and 6 rocks went into my car for a return to their fast food landscape project.

Christmas morning, paper was torn and screams of delight as each discovered what they had been given.  Then excitement faded into a blur of mere happiness, as they saw a lone rock for each of them.  I wasn’t sure what would happen next, but wish I had it on film!  As if on cue, each girl began to acknowledge which gift wasn’t there and WHY!

“That WAS my Barbie dream house, but I know it isn’t there because I took mom’s nail polish and spilled it.”   “Mine was supposed to be a Sega but I know it is because I lied to mom.”   “I knew I should have told mom you didn’t really kick me.”   My mouth hung open as all these confessions came forth.  Here they were, not upset they weren’t given more gifts, but admitting to the bad they did that year, knowing it had consequences and they were sorry.  Their confessions were matter of fact in the moment and once done, they were happy with what they had and dashed off to play.

Short of my grandchildren’s first Christmas, that was the best memory I will ever have.  I learned that morning I was a good mother; my daughters had morals and values and were being raised as I had prayed and my own stocking had never been as full.

Yes, the best prayers are answered when you find what you need in your heart and realize blessings don’t come with a price tag or fancy wrap.  The best ones are along the road of life in the dirt and rocks that our feet follow on our journey.