In my small bucolic New England town sitting at the foot of rounded tree-filled mounds of earth we call mountains, I am nestled in the valley of the Housatonic with my fellows. Humans are not necessarily the majority of inhabitants here, although they claim to be in charge.
Some of us have been here a long time and some of us have been here longer. Personally I don’t think it makes a lot of difference. My own history in this place where I live now is very brief – I just moved in a year ago. Before that I was somewhere else I hadn’t lived long in and before that the same. I have always been welcomed as a native although that is hardly the case. Before my ancestors came here, they were some place else. Who can say otherwise?
It happens that here, where I live now, there are many we call Hispanic, they have been here far longer than I. They might have moved here, as I did, recently or years ago but they are only called Hispanic because the country I call mine invaded their country and won.
For some reason, perhaps because of the might of Teddy Rooseveldt and others, I do not call myself English-German-Dutch-French-Irish American, nor do I have to fill out forms or be counted as anything much. Demographics in this country have largely confined themselves to my gender and my politics, neither of which I have to explore to any degree.
I once did live in a place – Concord, MA, with three small, quiet rivers surrounding and running through my environs. It was only when they flooded and I had to drive thirty or forty minutes to get to a destination five minutes away that I noticed their existence. Time is relative until it isn’t and now the people I work with who far outdate my contribution to this area are being threatened. If not they themselves, their relatives, friends – you know what I mean.
Living here has become very stressful, we are being raided and rounded up. I used to ask my mother, “What did you think when you heard about the pogroms? About the raids? About the trains? What did you do? How did you act? What did it feel like?”
Her reply, like many of her answers to other questions, was more than disappointing. She didn’t know – about anything. She didn’t know what to do and she didn’t ask. In fact in her life she didn’t feel safe emotionally, I know that colored her heart. And she felt she had made her mark, made her life, even though she felt vulnerable in it as a woman. In truth if she had set herself free with her opinions and desires, she would have been shunned, pushed aside. She was pushed aside anyway and she didn’t invite more. It also wasn’t happening “here.”
Now it is. When Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) is pushed out of a meeting of his peers in the House of Representatives, we are in trouble. When my friends are rounded up all over the country –including the ones I know along this corridor between CT and NY – I am afraid.
Now is the time. This is on us.
People talk of Hitler and his ilk. They only mean they ones we know – Papa Doc, Idi Amin, Pol Pot – to touch the surface. But these days, this month, has caused me to think there are many Hitlers. We are surrounded. I asked a friend who lives in VT and has gone to Canada for decades – weekends visiting friends. She says that after this election when she comes back, they hassel her, take her phone, keep her and her husband pulled over. I asked after the tone of her interaction, what was on the minds of these agents who had been quiescent for decades. How could one person’s voice give them this power, this drive? Did she think they had been waiting for the chance? She thought it was that they could. Now, it was supported, they could be kings, they had a mission. That simple.
In such a simple world, I find simplicity too.

Speaking Tips

Have something to say.
I notice my dogs don’t say much until they need something. Then they do everything they can to get my attention.IMG_9647IMG_9683


Have an ear. Use it. Listen. You’ll know what to say next – i.e., how to respond.

Not good to be thinking about what you want to say next.
No. Bad.

DSC00034Tell the truth. Show up. Don’t leave without permission. Wag your tail.

Back Ground

This is the part of me that most of my friends say isn’t me. But it’s the me I know. It’s the me that didn’t have a voice. It’s the me that wasn’t noticed – although the scowl of my early years was duly noted and compared to my father’s – not a victory of any sort. But it is the funny part of me, the me that can laugh – I was laughing when I painted this portrait!

and this one –

and in this one I was moved to be with my beloved dog Zoe, just as she was, skin to skin

and yes, of course, I’m hiding behind her – in plain sight and faceless
the kid in me informing the adult
the fur beneath the skin
showing my love and loving obscurity
fire & ice = water
and a thirst is quenched


An Artless Day

I don’t know how to express what I want to say about seeing a deer, its back legs broken by a car, struggle across four lanes and a fenced median strip while we were on our way to see our daughter’s dance at college.

Two young women, in separate cars, who saw the deer hit by a man who did not stop were helping her get out of extremely intense traffic. The one who crossed the road with the deer – a pregnant doe – told of several men who tried to film the deer’s struggle with their cameras to post on YouTube. The young women had called 911. We called again, several times. I found our exact location on my iPhone and called it in. Paula and I and the young woman – I never got her name – stood where the deer had gone into the brush. The young woman had to leave, we reassured her we would stay. We stood for an hour as cars, trucks and buses raced by. Only one other person stopped to see if we needed help. Another woman.

When the police finally came, he was extremely nice and honored our watch and thanked us. He went up the hill and into the woods, he reassured us he saw the deer and he would shoot her. We heard the shot. Several minutes later another shot and the man came down, thanked us again, said the deer was in a better place.

During the hour we waited I reflected a bit on the men in my life. How so many men I love have told me they don’t have men friends, they don’t connect with them. They have women friends, they talk to women, go on walks, eat meals with women. I think I got it. I would not be interested in someone filming this horrific sight. I would not want to be with someone who couldn’t share wanting to put this right. And in this case it did mean killing. There was no other choice, it was the humane act of the moment.

I’m sure that the many thousand people who passed us in that hour or more were not all heartless men. I am sure that most people do not know what to do. They do not want to feel the intolerable feelings we carried with us as we five women watched and waited for help to come. I don’t blame them but I wish there was more courage.

I wish mothers of boys could teach them vulnerability. I wish fathers could hold their growing young sons in an embrace of new born love their whole lives. I wish teachers could touch students, I wish touch was sacred. I wish courage was more ordinary.

Dog Love

When my dog Liam comes looking for love, he isn’t expressing need. He’s full of himself and if I’m doing something else he does too. Until he sees a gap, then he enters and asks and I think the sun has come out. That’s Liam.

He doesn’t stress about my lack of communion, he doesn’t feel “less than.” He just waits for another moment. It always comes to him. When he wants play he grabs a toy and growls at me. If he gets nothing from me, he joins me at my feet. No less of a being than he was before.

I marvel at his equanimity. His strength and courage, the faith he has in himself. It isn’t even faith. That’s too thought-out, too human. He’s just who he is and that’s that.

I love to have Liam around me. He’s in balance and keeps me that way.

He’s not small.

Even as a puppy, he was as big as the biggest.

Branding – your message is your name.

Not your business name but the name people think of when they read your statement, your copy, your bio, your blog. The name they give you in their mind (nice person, want to know them – that kind of thing) the minute they see something you’ve put out into the world. Is it the logo you chose, the background of your Tweeter page? Is it the way you presented your ideas in Squidoo? Did you talk about yourself, what you like, trust, want and stop there? Did you include thoughts and facts about yourself in addition to trying on the needs and wants of others?

For me it’s the personable way you might explore yourself to me. A misspelling won’t turn me off too much but if there are too many txt’s and lites, I’m gone. I love dashes and I personally use too many parentheses – which I hope won’t be a problem for you, I know a little cuteness goes a long way! How you expose your life without too much information but enough to help me know I can trust (or not) your ideas, what thoughts come to you, how much we might share.

This last is crucial. What might we share? It’s a key in the deciding route we all take on the road to purchase. We are all looking for the Something that will make our next – career, baby quiet, dog lie down, smell go away, best cup of – there are no exceptions, we are going to contact someone for an issue we are dealing with. That Someone is going to fill our needs and make us feel good at the same time.

I’m a poet in one of my lives and when I send poems out for consideration I hope I have done my homework and looked at the magazine before I send and I hope the editor will actually look at my work before it’s sent back in the envelope provided. I was an editor once and I noticed that I wanted as much from the poet as they wanted from me. I had a problem to solve, an itch to scratch and I hoped that every piece of writing coming to my desk would be the one I’d be excited to read and want to publish.

There are no exceptions to this dance. We are all in the market for something. We all want to pay for some things and get some things free. We don’t want to pay for everything and we don’t want everything free.

This is a great time to be a small business in a big world. We are all looking for the niche where we will find comfort. The best places in my kids’ schools were the reading nooks where they could curl up and read or just look at books. They could be surrounded by comfort and get some cool information or a great story. Let your business be a nook, it’ll be on everyone’s list of things to do.

I love Seth Godin

I just got a new blog from Seth Godin. I love Seth Godin. There isn’t anything he says that’s not worth listening to, looking at, and really taking in. Every one is a “head’s up!”

This one was about College graduates. They are not finding jobs. According to Seth, only 20% are being hired. He spelled out a plan for the other 80%.

This is directly from him – and it’s worth repeating:

“How about a post-graduate year doing some combination of the following (not just one, how about all):
Spend twenty hours a week running a project for a non-profit.
Teach yourself Java, HTML, Flash, PHP and SQL. Not a little, but mastery.
Volunteer to coach or assistant coach a kids sports team.
Start, run and grow an online community.
Give a speech a week to local organizations.
Write a regular newsletter or blog about an industry you care about.
Learn a foreign language fluently.
Write three detailed business plans for projects in the industry you care about.
Self-publish a book.
Run a marathon.”

Seth Godin June 9, 2009

Does that sound like “make a Self to believe in?” It does to me. You know there was a time when that kind of learning was a part of growing up. Maybe you were fortunate and had a playroom. Maybe you and your friends and/or siblings made up plays, did projects, made costumes. A child’s world was full of challenges in groups with objects they made or made believe.

Maybe your opportunities didn’t include something so structured but maybe you didn’t know that it was so important. Whether your parents had money or not I bet you found it paid to be inventive, to put yourself out and you found out at least a little bit of who you are by bouncing around in a group not just awash in your daydreams or one on one games.

More than likely your parents participated, they watched you, clapped, gave you pointers. Maybe you hated it, maybe you loved the chance to be in front of your peers and your leaders. It almost doesn’t matter because no matter what, you were getting something out of it. I bet the put downs you may have felt look less harsh now than they did then. I bet if you had some of these experiences time has worn off the edges and what you’ve gotten into since has made them look smaller.

My teenagers are heavy with the weight of their studies, their friends, their social networks. They think this is the heavy time in their lives. They are sure they have more eyes on them, more commitments, more drama and tragedy than they ever will again. They feel experienced and unsettled yet they expect a steadiness to their lives that what they rail against most gives them. They feel the hang of their safety net but not the support of it.

And, as Walter Cronkhite used to say, “and that’s they way it is.” And ever was and no doubt ever will be. But that doesn’t absolve us as parents, as leaders, as friends and mentors of our responsibilities to show them how we feel, who we are and what is important to us and to the world we inhabit.

We need to look at that list, get a head’s up, see what we see, who we are, what is important to us and what do we want to do about it. Then let’s all of us take some of those tasks to heart. Do them well. Because if college graduates are not getting jobs, if they are at loose ends, they need us now more than ever.

Why Am I Here?

That’s a question we might all find ourselves asking from time to time. Or worse, complaining or thinking we should be somewhere else. You know all those bumper stickers that say “I’d rather be……” Well, it is a question we should ask pretty often. The real question that most of us dare not think about is, “Am I spending these precious hours/minutes/days of my life doing what is good for me to be doing?

Do you ask yourself that question? And what answer do you get? Because if you can’t think of a good reason to be where you are, to be doing what you’re doing, to be with who you’re with – then you are in over your head. Or under your head, as in the case of an ostrich. Where is your head? That should be on your mind 24/7. It’s the only way to sanity. Otherwise you are making up stories, justifying (making up stories), explaining (making up stories), reasoning (making up stories).

Remember the weak link in the chain? How the strongest chain is only as strong as each individual link? I know the saying was the weakest link, but I don’t want to get into judgement calls. I want you to think about how strong is your link right now to what you are doing. How strong is your commitment to what you are doing? The link’s on you. The link’s IN you.

It’s not that you have to love every minute of what you do. Everyone has to do stuff that’s not to their liking – but, the big picture has to fit what you want to do, your goal, your dream, your reality. If you have to anesthetize yourself to get through part of a day, you’re wasting your time and probably that of everyone around you.

What can you do to get in synch with what you are doing right now. Can you tell yourself how you feel without getting nervous about what will happen when you know the answer? Can you stand to make a list of what you want and don’t want, what you like and don’t like. I’m not talking about a wish list or a complaint list. I’m talking about seeing what it is you are doing in a clear enough light to get some answers about your heart’s true mission.

In my study of meditation I’ve learned that menial does not equate with lowly. The person who cleans up, edits, cooks is often more important to the life of business/monastery/country than the person who heads it. More than likely the people you know best will be the ones who make a business function. In my experience, the best run businesses are headed by someone who is not afraid to do a small task. I know a very wealthy business owner who is out in the parking lot every morning picking up cigarette butts people throw out. His business is the whole business.

If you can love the small parts of what you are doing probably you’ll love the larger parts. If you can get with each minute, the hour takes care of itself and your goal will look more reachable to you. I know they say that about pennies and pounds too and I hope you’ll look for the shiniest penny you can find in every minute you spend, whatever it is you are doing. Don’t “Just Do It” but make sure you like the process. It’s where it’s at.

This is what you fear most

There is no magic bullet to getting rich. Hard work will not get you there by itself. There are no tricks. People who are rich are just like you, only different.

When you decide to get rich, you have to; 1) change your attitude toward yourself and others, 2) have a vision, 3) keep hold of that vision, 4) define your goal(s), 5) identify your limiting beliefs, 6) listen to your true self – anytime a “should” comes in, you’re on the wrong track.

The reason you aren’t successful is often due to a tennis match between your negative and positive feelings about being rich and successful. This game can manifest as inertia, self-sabotage and procrastination.

Your body can be an antenna for what makes sense for you to pursue. A trained athlete may make a wrong play every now and again but we wouldn’t be watching if their moves were random and dominated by opposing influences.

But this is exactly what we do. We think we want (did I hear a should?) one path and then we hear another, advice, e-mail, the news, we have so many venues for information. Most of the choices you make don’t depend on “bad” and “good” to prove their veracity. The simplest move on your part requires the most faith in yourself. I’ll go back to the athlete analogy; what if Tiger Woods ( you choose a sport) had decided to try snowboarding and baseball, his mother wanted a soccer player, his uncle first draft on a baseball team. Would you have heard of him?

Look at yourself. How many things do you do? How many do you do well? How did you come to be doing most of the things you are doing? Did your family growing up have anything to do with it? Do you hold beliefs you don’t even know about? Do you have judgements you don’t know and can’t define?

Each judgement has started with your belief system. Each belief system starts before our comprehension kicks in so we become adults believing without reason or experience. We are swayed by others’ life experience, as were they.

Time to give it up. Be your own success story, kick the limiting beliefs. Stay tuned!

Gratitude Habits

Appreciation – the most important habit.

There are five easy ways to participate in the appreciation game.

First, be appreciative of the life you have. Whatever it is, right here, right now, you have a life worth living. You are here because of your infinite wisdom and this is the life that’s yours. When we look at our lives with love, the love is returned. When we look with appreciation at ourselves, that is returned. It’s a straight shot from us to us.

Second, appreciate yourself. Start small. Can you smile? Do it. Make a list of the wonderful things you can do. Everyday review what you’ve done. Have you picked up something on the street and put it in the trash? Have you smiled at someone? Have you appreciated your dog, your cat, your child, your spouse, your friend. Do you love everything you call yours? Why not? They are a gift, from you to you.

Third, appreciate what’s outside you, what you see, feel, touch. All the music, books, movies that you can access – all for free if you need to. Do you know that other countries do not necessarily have libraries and lectures, old movies for their citizens for free? What great opportunities we have for personal development and enrichment and entertainment. Every municipality in this country offers great excursions at little or no cost into worlds beyond our immediate borders.

Which leads right to # four which is appreciating other people. People who share their knowledge and skills, their enthusiasm and hope with us. Slide shows, books, lectures, dances, theatre – the list is endless. There are people around us picking up trash, rescuing wildlife, reading to kids in schools, recording books on tape for people who have trouble with the written word. There are millions of great stories among us who are never on the nightly news. People who are great neighbors and friends, lovers who are kind, spouses who aren’t indifferent, friends who are true. Heads up! Check them out. Pay attention to what is right under your nose. Don’t walk by another person without smiling – unless you are in a place of danger – you know where you are and what’s the right action to take.

Fifth, take this opportunity to team yourself up with those around you. Once you start smiling you’ll find people drawn to you, you’ll start seeing how they are like you, how you fit in with them. You have to make an attempt to know them – if you still feel like you’re good and they’re idiots, you’re not listening to “them,” you’re not seeing “them.” If you truly see people for who they are you will see commonality and in a funny turnabout, you will see your own uniqueness. The more we concentrate on our feelings, motivations, the truth in us, the more we feel connected to those around us.

So, take a leap of faith. Be kind. Be generous. Start here, now, with the most important person you know – YOU!