pawspauseprose

Life as it arrives and dreams as they happen


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The Edge

my-edge

Funny how life eventually comes to an edge…and jumping is usually the least of our concern, at least for me, because after all, I had children.

Edges are a unique, but very literal descriptions of what happens when life throws you a curve. To prove it, next time you find yourself at the end of your rope, due to work or a relationship, take a minute and you catch yourself between glass, pill or puff, as you say no worries, I’m just taking off the edge…and, in such a moment, everything will become crystal clear. For me especially, it is also unwanted crusts, cut from the edges of countless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and the mother,  patiently telling her child’s story, prior to any judgment…taking off the edge with dad. She also regularly sits on the edge of her chair, waiting, praying, hoping and loving those same offspring, whenever they are out of earshot or view.

I never thought much about it, until one night in my not so distant and single past, after waking in the night, because either the timer on my playlist had clicked off, or I needed a drink of water. Regardless of the reason, it forced me to notice, that after 36 years, I was still sleeping on the same side of the bed, the same ten inches from the edge, on my right side, and nearest to the door. Ironic, since it has been years since anyone has shared that king-size space. Don’t get me wrong, I have tried going to bed on the opposite side, even tried getting comfortable dead center. However, before dozing off, I’ve inevitably moved to the edge, and to my place, where security, duty and memories live.

When my children were little, it was that edge allowing me immediate reaction time, especially after hearing a thud, cry, or groan of unexpected vomit (dog or child). Reaction time occurred in nanoseconds, while my husband and dog snored, oblivious to everything, and ever so comfortable in their 90% stake of the bed. It was also along that same edge, where I listened for car doors; make out giggles and keys opening a lock. In addition, although invisible to the naked eye, I also emotionally waited for them on the edge of another fearful abyss, until I knew they were inside, safe and secure. Occasionally as they grew, a bad dream, bad decision, or just a needed connection also placed them on the floor by my bed, where I would reach down from the edge to hold a hand or stroke their hair, until we fell asleep…along the edge of the bed, where they grew up and I grew old.

In later years the edge sharpened, as I worried with aging parents in hospice, and my children now out on their own, but I still jumped into action when the phone rang, ready for the worst, and praying for the best. This maternal world has remained now that I am alone, still no more than an edge to the floor, which more often than not disappears under my feet, as I prepare for what needs to be done. Living on the edge isn’t just something wild and carefree people do, it is also a mental obligation…one that changes you forever, and you never see coming.

As I write this draft, it is 3 am; I am snug on that worn ten inches of customary space, along the edge, and I couldn’t be happier. Tonight, there is also a grandchild sleeping horizontally next to me, her feet are pressed into the small of my back, and straddled across a large snoring dog, completing a layout that resembles the letter “H.” Yes, for years, I’ve slept this edge, and often warm bodies moaned in dreams, rearranged covers, and occasionally made contact against my skin in an unknowing act of security.  That being said, like tonight, that edge of my reality has always been clear and satisfying.

Tomorrow, I will go bed alone, somewhere south of 2 am, and without thinking I’ll lean over to put my glasses on the nightstand before returning to the edge. In society, some people find their edge of greatness after years of hard work, in a profession, after struggle and sacrifice, and others just teeter on  the edge of success,  never getting there. However, for me, I’ve lived on an edge of much more, because through care and concern, discipline and punishment I have been the unbroken circle, allowing everyone else to color their hopes and dreams inside my lines, reassured that I was only inches from the edge if they needed anything. Maybe my life never achieved a level of financial or public success, but it never fell short of what mattered in life, which is why I sleep very well these days and might just have an edge when my life is done.


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Give thanks or Thanks in giving…

 

giver-and-takeIt goes without saying, that everyone likes to be given something. Surprises however, I will leave on the fringe, since I hate them, as do most people I know…just don’t react well. That being said, gifts are still a nice way to confirm to someone that they matter, and it doesn’t matter if they are tangible or emotional, gifts are a necessity…like water in a weed patch.

There are however, two camps in this world, those that give and those that take, each having a few variations, no different from eye and hair color. Similar to physical attributes, we always will be who we are inside and no amount of wrapping paper or window dressing will ever change it. So ask yourself, which are you? I know that I am a Giver, and having been raised by Givers, it firmly solidified my direction in life…that of certain disappointment, and an intense happiness, having no earthly definition.

In recognizing Givers and Takers, we are quick to see certain deviations to their definitions. For Givers, there is total satisfaction in just providing joy, because they know a person so well, and can offer the unexpected. Then, there is having to do something out of guilt, because it is expected, and lastly, hoping to be loved and wanted as much as the recipient. These subcategories are gray, and often overlap. However, true intent always remains loud, clear, and in the forefront. Givers also tend to have less, and ask for little in return, having no problem being last in line.

Takers are another story, and although broken down much the same, there is a darker theme. They take because they feel it is due them, owing nothing in return, or because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, accepting whatever is offered without emotion. It can also be just a basic exchange of the moment, give to take, a time shamed ritual, where everyone feels good for a while. Takers also seem to have lower self-esteem, failing to understand any happiness or compassion behind the process. More often than not, they’re well connected and/or wealthy, abundantly able to offer to others, but fail, instead, only worrying how they will survive without all they have, and how lucky they are to always get things.

Ironically, we don’t come into this world as a Taker. After all, children are born filled with love and giving, it is  not until they are challenged, a new perspective develops. Any adult or dog, can readily attest, if a child is asked for a bite of their cookie, they give up the whole thing…with a smile. Offering all they have, except maybe Mr. Blanket, because children are anxious for a positive reaction, and love, no different from the expression in giving itself. In addition, as they mature, children also discover what special buttons to push, further bonding them to those they care about.

I know I am not alone, when I comment on many drawings and objects de knick knack I’ve received from tiny hands, because they knew what would make me smile. In return, I gave tears, laughter, acceptance and satisfaction, and completed the circle, anxious to do the same for them. In life, that is also the only quid pro quo that should ever matter, because it is far more than legally binding.

However, somewhere down the line, life changes us, and only true Givers ever survive. The others left standing become Takers, unable to fully respond in kind, needing attention and gifts as reassurance of their own value, while falsely seeing their intended place in a family, friendship, business or organization. When I see these Takers, I think of the Emperor’s new clothes. Nobody would tell the selfish man who wanted it all that he was actually naked…because they feared being out of his good graces, a different fact of human nature, which no Giver understands.

Every day in the media, we are bombarded with political and religious figures, celebrities and athletes, all showing what they have acquired or become, demanding to be noticed for who they are. These Takers are applauded, and given even more, by those hoping to receive attention in return…all of them missing the mark on giving, just taking what they can, and wanting, and wanting and wanting.

Like many, I have saved things over the years, those items that made me feel loved, and even more intangible ones reside in my heart. Nevertheless,  the pick it up and feel it variety still clutter my life, and collect dust…like me, as time and memories pass. It makes me wonder what will be said after I die, when people look at what was saved. Obviously, nobody will understand the green Tupperware glass with a melt mark on the rim, the tarnished Cracker Jack ring, complete with rhinestone diamond in the center, or the aged dog collar with long expired tags. I also doubt that anyone will feel  love from a vintage butter cookie tin, or tears over faded scraps of material and rick rack in a vintage button box.

Regardless of my odd legacy, those items gave back to me, teaching that the greatest gift of all, is knowing someone’s soul, and unselfishly making their heart smile – as often as possible. Maybe that’s why I have more pictures than albums, or space on a flash drive, so I could look back at photographed reactions, which delightfully I was responsible for, knowing they forever meant more than anything someone might purchase, wrap or mail.

Religion aside, whether you believe a story about dirty and odd gifts from a small angel, that later became a nativity star or not, you can’t dispute a child, offering a wilted dandelion, favorite toy, or drawing that is colored in a shade or design they know you love. You see, Giving is the purest form of love, and it never asks for anything back, only tarnished human nature does that. So look at objects in your life, those connecting to the core of who you are as a person. Hopefully, the first thought won’t be why the hell did I save that! But instead, where it came from, and who gave it to you. The second thought with any luck will be…yes, I still have the stuff, but I wish I had the Giver instead…and that my friend is a reaction everyone should take away.


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Successfully Unplanned

successfulMany times over the years, I’ve wondered, as we all do, about the what if, and what might have been scenarios in life, and how they compare to where I find myself today. It’s so easy to look back at photographs and memories, placing ourselves in the past, comfortable and innocent, not yet tarnished by the stress and drama of adulthood, while remembering from a youthful perspective. For me, I dreamed of being a wife and mother, and loving to write, I also hoped to be a published author, with fans that appreciated, understood and connected to my thoughts. However, as I circle my wagon for this last rodeo, I find myself not quite there, and frustrated, with a side order of dissatisfaction.

My youthful neighborhood was 1960 normal, where fathers went to work, and mothers cleaned, made dinner and helped at school. There were also the right amount of bikes and bugs, and we played at night until it was dark, or until someone yelled for us to come in. I can’t complain, it was simple and basic, like the grocery and drug stores that were separated by Woolworth’s.  Looking back now, everything we needed was either there or already at home. I also had a best friend next door, and one across the street, along with other buddies, scattered on adjacent streets, eventually ending at our school. However, in the wonder years that would follow, both girlfriends moved.  One family went a block over, and the other a few miles further. We tried to stay in touch through junior high, but as everyone knows, along with boobs and facial hair, everything changes.

Back then, seeing through immature eyes, I only focused on my own existence, that of a lonely, nerd of a girl, more isolated than entertained, passing time as teacher’s pet, and being the one people counted on. Because of that, I missed seeing how the lives of my friends fell apart. Looking back, I see that I did become the wife and mother I hoped to be, even if it didn’t have the staying power of Mom and Dad. There were also high profile jobs and opportunities, where I achieved things never planned, opening more than a few doors (some of which should have been nailed shut), all offering me a look at the world many never see. I also wrote my books, and offered them to the world. In many ways, I filled that youthful bucket.

It was only then; all pieces fell into place, due to my still selfish hopes of being a bestselling author, and successful entrepreneur slapping me in the face. Looking deeper into my memories, I remembered why my best friend across the street moved…her father had walked out on the family. To survive, her single mother struggled, and took up sewing, before foreclosure put them into an alley apartment, hidden behind a questionable television repair shop.

As a kid, I had no idea the poverty they had been subjected to, because my ignorant middle class couldn’t relate. After I was married, I learned she had turned to drugs, and was selling herself on the street, almost dying after a bad abortion. Now, I only wonder what became of her and her two sisters. The life they got certainly wasn’t what they dreamed of, during lazy days when we played Barbies on their cement driveway.

My other friend, who moved from next door, only went down the street and a block over, but  got an equally unplanned life. Both of us had loved our fathers as true heroes, and although mine was much older, hers was a muscular, handsome man, that drove a truck for a living. It was also on once such trip, when he fell from his truck, landing on his head. The result was a true Flowers for Algernon bookmark, and his scrambled existence was never the same. Unable to cope, his wife turned to drinking, and was later diagnosed with cancer. She eventually took her life, leaving behind a family shattered in too many pieces. As an adult, my friend married and had children, but when it went south, she also turned to the bottle, and driving under the influence killed a man on a motorcycle. Like her mother, she too left a family in pieces, having been sentenced to prison for vehicular manslaughter.

Because my mind remained on a roll, I remembered more friends, one that died of AIDS, long before it became a known disease, years before any school reunion. And then another, one that lived the happy family home life I had known, dreaming as early as Kindergarten, that he would be a surgeon, (substantiated by the mouse he autopsied in first grade). However, his parents split after a rumored affair, and even though he took his dreams to college, he couldn’t make the grade in medical school…literally, ending up as a chiropractor in a retail strip mall. Sadly, I think the only shining moment in my recollecting, was a boy nerdier than I had been, picked upon mercilessly, and ignored long past not being selected in gym class. You see he became not just a beautiful swan, but a jaw dropping piece of man candy, every Heather bound cheerleader dreamed of landing. The perfect irony was he also came out as gay, and at our reunion ignored all of them! Karma, well played if you ask me.

It was then, that I sent my side of dissatisfaction back to the chef, and admitted to my fifty something self, that I had got a life better than most, even if I didn’t know it at the time, or during my own struggles with life, death and change. Because dreams never happen exactly the way we hope, and certainly not on any schedule we pray they will follow. However, there are always moments to be thankful for, and never take for granted. Something no twelve year old will understand, and most adults fail to appreciate.

That being said, I still hope those who read my book, Stiletto, smile between detective banter, and colorful clues, seeing there is proof of compassion in the world, and people who are LGBT are no different from anyone else, except sometimes better for what they have experienced. I also hope a few dollars from Glint in the Dark make it into the fund for justice I pledged them to, hoping to eventually help identify the killers, in the case that saw the West Memphis 3 falsely accused, and branded as felons. Most of all though, I hope I’ve made a difference as a mother, grandma, daughter, sister, friend and neighbor, leaving a small piece of my humanity behind after I am gone. Which, after all, may not be the dream we hope to have, but it is the only one that will ever matter, regardless of what we  live with and through.

 

for the record colored dark


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Heart, Brain and Soul are indeed, Lions and Tigers and Bears…oh, my!

ltbomy

We’ve all followed the yellow brick road in some capacity, as either a movie of wonder, life’s destination or just entertaining a fantasy of what if. Some of the more analytical in our world, even ask where the red road goes, prompting laughter or deep thoughts, while waiting for Godot or Yoda…depending on your out of body experience. That being said, when the scarecrow, the tin man and the lion are gifted with humanity, something already there of course, we sense a larger picture…something far and above a balloon, and movie set, and we are right.

Raised in the 60’s and 70’s, I had parents that had seen war and depression, moved for greener pastures, and always put family first. I guess you could say they valued life, and in turn gave us values of a lifetime. There was also never a right or wrong to question. Knowing the Golden Rule, I followed it straight and narrow, years before it became metric, and nobody knew what the hell was going on. That was however, until I became a teenager and wanted to be beautiful, and there was no movie set, fairy godmother or wizard to help my quest.

There was instead, a family drugstore, where Mom and Dad had been going since it opened. The owner and his wife were wonderful, and played a major role in my life, after I required heavy medication, in an era when it was not readily available or understood. This kind man also allowed us to have a running tab, paid off at the end of the month, insuring we could afford my prescriptions. As I matured, primarily due to this generosity, I learned the best acts of kindness are never seen or given to grandiose presentations. Instead, they are silent, felt in the heart and given by the soul, and if you’ve ever done or received them, you know no there is never any lion.

However, even the best laid bricks of mice and men crumble on occasion, and a few of mine did just that, shortly after turning into a teenager. As I mentioned, my parents were old school, meaning when I left the elementary world, our experiences didn’t match up. It was a time when I wanted to wear mini’s and jeans, which were all the rage, but girls couldn’t wear pants, only skirts and dresses just above the knee. Likewise, I wanted to color my world, Chicago and New York style, in makeup palettes and brushes of Avon temptation, something else never seen in our home. You see, if you had a red dye No.4 lipstick, and a Helena Rubinstein compact nothing else was necessary.

Hoping to convince my mother of the value behind such cosmetics, which incidentally, would be barely visible behind the thick lens of my glasses, I accompanied her to the drugstore and showed her the colorful display of powders, shimmers, liners and sparkles. Looking at all that was before her, I’m sure the once young girl in her memories had a say in the matter, because we left with light brown mascara, a pale pink blush, and nude lipstick. Yes, I had the mother lode, and was going to be beautiful! Checking out was an almost religious experience, and one I have yet to forget in my aging brain…the day the scarecrow in the field finally burst the bubble of beauty.

As time went on, my desire for beauty continued, long after the initial cosmetics were gone. I never understood why my mother assumed it was a never ending well of glory, because she never asked if I needed more, and unlike my own daughters, a replenishment didn’t just happen when she went to the store. That was also when I discovered misplaced courage, and crossed the road of honesty, stealing what I needed. Sadly, there is nothing as driven as a teenager on a mission of self service, and speaking from experience; I never thought I would get caught, because after all…we had an account at the drugstore.

Once I had perfected my shoplifting, which couldn’t have amounted to more than a hundred dollars if ever calculated up, I was in the zone. Walking into the store after school, I’d look at several cosmetics and often drop two, replacing one on the counter and one in my purse. I’d also walk around the store with my selections, removing something from a package as I browsed, leaving the empty box on the shelf. It was a thrill, a satisfaction, and in the time before I wasn’t caught, a lesson sent by a higher power.

You see, the clerk at the store was a woman named Betty, and also a family friend, usually working when I arrived. We’d exchange pleasantries, and I would go off to look at what was new, and occasionally buy something, always leaving with more in my bag. Then one day, in a less than Hallmark moment as I was reading greeting cards, attempting to hide an empty mascara package, I looked up, and knew she saw me. My blood went cold. I started to sweat, and as soon as her back was turned, I left the store. I also never went back to steal. Waiting for the other shoe to drop, I expected my mother to say something, or at the very least comment, that there were charges on her account she didn’t understand. But it never happened…only silence.

Now if you are like me, silence is the great equalizer of life. It forces you to listen to your heart and soul, and allow your brain rip you a new one. Some people call it a conscience, but I know it as the oh shit moment, facing music only you can hear, while praying there won’t be a sold out performance with everyone you know. In my case, that silence continued for years, until one day, after I was engaged to be married, and then there were all kinds of police sirens. They weren’t for me though; they were for a 911 call at the drugstore.

Still loyal and conscientious, while working, Betty suffered a fatal stroke. I’ve always found it an odd comfort when people die doing what they love best, as if reaching the end of their yellow brick road, entitled to happiness. I still remember sitting in our kitchen, listening as the story unfolded, experiencing a mixed bag of feelings, as unrelated as stolen cosmetics in a purse, because after all that time Betty died with my secret. I had never acknowledged it, apologized or thanked her, and knew I could never make it right. It was in that moment, that the lions, tigers, and bears all came together, as my heart broke, my soul hurt and my mind knew the truth. I grew up that day.

As the years went on, the drugstore became a pawn shop, the family retired and we occasionally saw each other at church. I now see vintage ads on Facebook, for  cosmetics I  knew would make me beautiful, and I laugh, because it took something ugly to find the real beauty in life…something that comes from a pure heart and compassionate soul. Like my mother, I doubt Betty ever wore makeup in her life, but yet, I think she knew how important it was to a bespectacled young girl with pimples and a flat chest. She also let me tap my heels, free to go home, assured I knew the right road to take, and never to look back. You see, not all courage roars, and not all good witches sparkle, but the best ones watch over us for a lifetime.


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We just don’t a Dress the right things anymore

dress lgogTime and time again, I find myself going back to the past, where peace of mind waits, next to a daily newspaper, a ringing rotary phone no one is answering, and my father sitting in his chair, wearing a shirt and pants, with black socks and shoes. It is also a Saturday. You may wonder why such a memory continually drags me back, but I know, and it is because all of it is gone…never to be again, and I realize the impact.

Growing up, before we left the house, we used to dress. By that, I mean we cared how we looked. If you were flying off in a plane, going to the office, heading to school, or just shopping for an afternoon, overall appearance was important! Check out catalogs and ads before 1990 and you get my drift. Once upon a time, we cared how we presented ourselves to other people, and how we were viewed was important, and it didn’t stop there.

Coming home to be with your family in the evening, odds were you might have removed your shoes for slippers, but in general, you stayed in the outfit of the day, shared time and a meal together, and often watched television or played cards, sometimes with neighbors. I guess you could say, that life appeared to matter at lot more (unless you are a gay man…and well, I’m getting to that…sort of).

Never did you go for a job interview, an appointment…even the dentist, or to school, looking as if you could clean out a garage, or had just rolled out of bed. Likewise, going to bed, there were pajamas for the men, long pants in the winter and short in the summer, and oh, the nightgowns and peignoir sets women could choose from. However, no matter how beautiful they were, with lace and sheer fabric, if she was needed to leave her room, a practical robe was always waiting. You see, some things no matter how beautiful, still remained personal and private (what a concept!)

We also addressed the issues of life, corrected mistakes, took responsibility for our wrongs, and did everything possible to make the world a better place to live. Our attitudes, although occasionally misguided, which happens in a melting pot of society, still had family at the core, with love and compassion wrapped tightly around, all dressed respectively in a protective shell. However, as time passed, just like any other jaw breaker, the nuclear family saw everything sucked away, until all that remained, were shreds of family, and a lot of opinion and attitude. Personally, I don’t think anyone saw what was coming…at least they didn’t dress for it.

Forgetting a time when television and movies had a moral code, musicians couldn’t swivel their hips, and cleavage was found in a different rock formation, we started to let our hair down. After freedom was given to love, the press and our will, sweat pants and jeans gave free reign to loose flesh and tight opinions. We no longer cared what we looked like, as long as it was comfortable, and cared even less what people thought of us. However, we did care to address the faults of others, more vocal than ever before.

When the appearance of society shifted to grunge, our personal outlook also lost shape. Greed and opinions made laws, fought wars, and broke promises, while political and legal leaders also stopped being role models, becoming nothing more than fodder for reality television, something Cronkite once honored as the news. As long as we’re all comfortable, like cheap micro fleece Sponge Bob pants, and gray sweatshirts who cares about tomorrow.

Along with the advance of technology, we also work from home, another reason not to dress for impress or swim with the sharks. We can have a pile of nachos and a soda on the desk, as we tap on a keyboard for $15 and hour, while alternating between eBay and Facebook, offering troll behavior and opinions anonymously as we feel like a somebody. Even a trip to the bank is gone, since direct deposit is a given, just like the calories those nachos will eventually deliver to our ass. However, what does any of it matter…we’re comfortable!

In order to address all that is wrong with the world anymore, we have to first look at ourselves, in a true reflection of what not caring has allowed to happen. Because if we don’t start, and accept some inconvenience, and uncomfortable moments needed to make the effort, the foundation for society will continue to crumble, just like the cake, which we probably stood over the sink eating for breakfast. We can’t expect change if we don’t start with ourselves, and in a world of a few billion people, that’s a lot of ourselves needing to listen.

I also find it pathetic, in a country teetering on political chaos, that we prioritize half-naked women on a daily basis. We’ve made them famous for over sized lips and butts, and of all things, are envious over the way they dress, in thousand dollar outfits with purses, costing as much as a car. There is no logic or wisdom to such behavior, especially when we refuse to tolerate a normal person, taking great pains to look nice, who just wants to be accepted for the gender they associate with, and use a damn bathroom!

Maybe it really is that simple. We give a shit for what we can address personally, feel comfortable in and know will never directly affect us. However, what we should be giving a shit about, is the country, the complete breakdown of society, humanity, and personal rights, all of which we’ve flushed down the toilet, after pulling up baggy sweats, on the way to a television set or laptop computer.

Dress for success isn’t an ancient slogan, and addressing the facts isn’t a onetime threat. They are both a way of life, which if we don’t wake up and remember, will have us struggling to survive in a country that has become too comfortable at doing nothing, forgetting how to break out a sweat and suit up when the time comes.


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Strike the pose and let the door close

vogue it

There was a saying once, that you were old when you worried about the denigration of the youth. Now, however, it is the denigration of society and the entire human race, and worrying about it has long since grown old. Vogue Magazine, the timeless tome of advertising, style and impulse dreaming, was in the news today, with an exhibit, which confirms that flash for cash is no longer model behavior, leaving behind negative images, cluttering the stage of society. That being said, it also confirms there isn’t any social left in humanity, so along with your exhibition, please pen a new moniker for this world…the darkness where we co-exist.

Newspapers and magazines were the first tangible window of the world, bringing fashion, news, humor, spirituality, cartoons and advertising. Teething on these pages of once mighty trees, was a rite of passage, which gave us the option to share life with one another, offer an opinion or quote a fact. I am proud to have known it, because it is where my mind learned, and yearned for more. However, as that desire grew, so did curiosity, and soon Pandora’s Box was laid open, against waves of invisible communication, offering more than ever dreamed possible.

That being said, knowledge is not rude voyeurism, which is what now corrupts our minds, hearts and souls. Why is it news to know the intimate deals of strangers or celebrities? Watch boils and cysts pop open, spewing yellow and green pus against blood stained gauze, or hear heart wrenching details, as someone dies or an animal is killed? Likewise, underwear is just that…something worn under…and in private,  not something for public commentary! Nothing is sacred anymore, personal or sentimental…because if it will get a response on social media, it is posted, and all the more, if it could be liked or become viral…as well as vile. We don’t dream or live vicariously anymore, we live for quick attention, even if it is bad, or disgusting.

The society we have created, has fallen back to a Roman thumbs up or down with more lying than lions, as people tear down lives with hateful comments or jealous retorts. Everything is now offered for public critique, and there is no end in sight.  Bullies, advertising companies, media productions and our very children will continue this game of life to the end, as it gets darker and darker. People are hurt, some die and some  simply give up, all because of empty words and personal bravado, stepping in where it never belonged.

Lord of the Flies is no longer a book against a wall, but a reality, as we turn on one another just because we can, and know we will come out victorious with Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter crowds of invisible applause and approval. I remember fears that Strawberry Fields would forever brainwash the youth, offering ideas of free love, pot and LSD, music and nonconforming lifestyles, sure to undermine the establishment. However, as someone from that same slice of American Pie, I saw more love for one another, compassion, and roots of family values than I ever saw hate, blood and destruction.

All lives mattered when I grew up, and we didn’t need to make it a statement, we just respected it and one another. Yes, there were times of political and racial unrest, but the foundation my home was on, was committed to caring, and with my open door, open heart and open mind, I didn’t need an open Wi-Fi- signal to share. Life, like everything else, only works when it is taken care of, allowed to find its own level, tended and nourished with honesty and love.

Maybe someday compassion, understanding and brotherhood will again be in vogue, and having pride and class won’t be something held up for comment, but will again define character in more than an exhibition. Then again, we’ve moved so far in the wrong direction, does anyone even care? What I do know, is that Somewhere over the Rainbow there are more than a few Grateful Dead, happy they are not living in the shadowed reality we’ve accepted, and taken for granted.

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http://www.mzlks.net
My newest on the shelf at Amazon

 

 

 

 


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Pink and Blue or Gender To You

loveisblue

Music has always played a role in my life, and once upon my hippie journey, Chicago even colored my world. There wasn’t a time my trusty Panasonic yellow cassette recorder, or uniquely shaped, turquoise AM/FM radio wasn’t by my side. There was also a cool 8-track player in my room, one that had removable speakers, and of course the Wildcat hi-fi, which turned 45’s, allowing Steely Dan to reel in the years and Sinatra to visit New York, from a thick 78, that had once been my father’s. The diversity of my musical tastes was and still is, every bit as overloaded as the buffet restaurants where I love to eat. However, in the 60’s and 70’s, life just seemed to have spun better.

When I entered Junior High, my buffet of acquaintances also changed. Students from all around the city now met at one school, far different from the neighborhood clique of our elementary days. We shared everything from arts to dreams…some shared smokes or worse, and others having discovered puberty, shared their tongues. Life had become a festival of discovery, and around that same year, I discovered love was blue.

Elevator music was also very real in those days, and that meant instrumental, dreamy and corny renditions of any song you could imagine, was offered by anyone from Lawrence Welk to Ray Conniff (Google if you must.) One such song, “L’amour est bleu” (“Love Is Blue“) was composed by André Popp, lyrics by Pierre Cour, in 1967. The glory of this syrup-sweet song, were the alternating verses in French, which made me feel like I was more than a bespeckled fourteen year-old girl, a few miles North of Denver, Colorado. I must have listened to it every day, practicing those delicate words, as if they were pink cotton candy, and I refused to let them melt in my mouth. Then I sat next to a new boy in class, and saw his French book.

Jay, was one of those new appetizers on my learning buffet. He had come from a school several miles away, and was a gentle giant. Standing next to me we could have made another person, between my height and his bulk.  Looking through our respective thick glasses, we also saw life in a special way. Our friendship continued, probably due to the fact that we were nerdy outcasts, happily meeting in our Assistant Period, where we delivered movie and film strip projectors from the Audio Visual department. It was then, that I also learned his dream was to build a Harpsichord, and thinking lovingly of Lurch in the Addams Family, it was a perfect fit for Jay’s eclectic aura and size, along with his incredible talent to draw anything.  All that aside, he was still learning French!

One day I mentioned my love of the song, and my inability to accurately pronounce the words. You see, I had taken the verbal street of Spanish, and although el amor es azul may have sounded exotic, it was romance I wanted…and shit, I still do…but I digress. I remember now, how Jay laughed at my request…I’m sure it sounded like some crazy chick thing, which young men don’t get until it is too late. Nevertheless, the following day when I went into class, Jay asked me go with him to the music room. Never before had a room been more appropriately named…not for the instruments it housed, but for the chalkboard it contained…one displaying the phonically written lyrics to Love is Blue.

If that had happened today, like anyone else, I would whip-out my always present cell phone, and take a photo of Jay’s painstakingly perfect work, to save and print later. However, back then, it was a number two pencil and spiral notebook, and I wrote those words as if they were a letter to God. After I finished, Jay sang the song for me in his own oddly feminine voice, pronouncing each word, making sure I had understood his odd, but literal breakdown of sound and syllable. In that moment, I felt beautiful, and prayed to someday get to Paris.  I also loved my friend and his unexpected gesture, one that had gone straight to my heart.

As years passed, we drifted into different classes and circles, and then to High School, where the process of re-assimilation started all over again. That was about the time I lost track of Jay, and traveled to Spain as an exchange student. It was there, in 1977 as I stood in a loud outdated discotheque, that a burly Spaniard, flirtatiously whispered the words to “Michelle” by the Beatles in my ear. Caught off guard, I realized he only spoke Spanish and had apparently taken great pains to memorize the French lyrics of:

Michelle, ma belle
Sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble
Tres bien ensemble

An ocean and several years apart, suddenly I was with Jay, the sweet boy who had cared enough for his friend to grant an odd adolescent wish. The rest of my trip I didn’t feel as alone, because I knew I had an overweight, somewhat unpopular guardian angel watching over me.

It wasn’t until my five year class reunion, that I learned a very sad, albeit sobering fact. My dear friend Jay, who had colored the lyrical linguistics of my life, and shaded beautiful drawings on my notebooks, had died. I suppose it could have just been one of those marks on the path of maturity we have to make, loosing friends along the way and growing from what we shared.  However, Jay’s untimely passing before we turned twenty-five, before an unseen health crisis of life changing proportions was different…Jay had been gay…and Jay had died from AIDS.

Talking to a mutual friend at the reunion, I learned the horror that had befallen the gentle boy I once loved as a kindred spirit, while we survived the caste system of education. The tears I cried that night, were as fresh and real, as if I had been at his wake. The world lost a remarkable soul, and then, no one knew why…worse yet, they didn’t know all he could have been.

Love is Blue was one of the first MP3 files I burned to a CD, and later transferred into a playlist. I still get emotional listening to the pink cotton candy words, all of which I can still pronounce.  But now, their love is a little more blue, as I also remember a dog eared French book, a blackboard and a heart that knew compassion. It may be decades later, but yes, even then Love Wins.

Thank you Jay for being my champion of life, long before I knew I needed one, and for confirming humanity and compassion for another person is the only way to live, words I will keep in my heart until I die.


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Can you see me?

see meCloset doors open and close, mirrors reflect black or white, and all the time the question is the same…or is it? In the past few days and weeks, we have seen a world class athlete expose his intimate secrets and gender identity, as well as a black leader in our sea of society, exposed as Caucasian. Excuse me as I sit down and shake my head for a moment, while brushing off all the twitter and headline backwash that came with the headlines.

In my home and in my heart, I find such personal announcements to be quite sad. After all, they have exactly the same soul as the person who woke up last month, last year or even last week, all that changed, was a little decorative window dressing, and for that alone the world fell off its nut, and they felt a need to explain.

Respecting anything or anyone has long since expired in our culture, and with that has followed compassion and trust. Why is it so damn important in our lives, who is married to who, who wears a bra or a jock strap, buzz cut, Afro or pin curls? The core value of life isn’t connected to some sparkle, shine, shade or flavor on the outside. Just ask yourself, when was the last time you bought something and kept the box, throwing the contents in the trash? Ever craved just a candy bar wrapper? How about settling for a picture of a house instead of some cozy 2 bedroom with a kitchen? When your beloved pet ages do you kick them to the curb? How about a special dinner date with empty plates? The part that makes a difference is the core component…the soul, the meal, the heart, the security and nothing else!

We label and judge everything, forgetting to care or help, and it doesn’t take more than a two minute check on social media or the world as a whole, to see that sad fact. People are showered with celebrity, for no reason other than they have opportunity, money or are attractive, pushing the world further into ignorant pits of self-loathing. How hard is it to understand we are all in life together for a reason, and that together we have the ability to make incredible things happen! Caring for one another should be as easy as breathing, but instead, we work at having selfish and cruel intentions, which never better anyone or anything.

Just like a chain or the DNA we all carry, each link is vital for survival and strength, and I like to think that is also why our hands can hold, and our hearts can open, making them ready to attach others in life. If a person or child is secure and happy, we have no right to judge the social structure where or how they live, and it should never be up for a vote by a government, or be a form of media news. If someone is doing the job they can, or living an honest life, all that should be up to us, is to maybe see if we can offer something to better the process, thus forging another link in humanity.

There has never been a moving van behind a funeral procession. Material things, along with opinions and judgments stay behind after we die. What does remain, however, is who we were, who loved us and the difference we made or tried to make. So the next time you are at the store, reach over and buy a candy bar…but save just the wrapper. Think about what you wasted in time, money and content after you threw the chocolate away, and how stupid it was…then, apply that same principle to your life.

The next time you decide to judge someone for their appearance, social standing or values, especially when they have no impact on you personally, remember two things. One, an empty wrapper and second, the simple fact that when you ask someone where they are…they usually say Here, something as basic as life itself.  Maybe then you will understand all any of us ever have is a simple, but sometimes earthly decorated soul, which lives in the only here and the only now, just wanting acceptance.

 

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