Remembering Italktoomuchitis

giphy1Greetings!

Although I think all my past blogs are funny/magical/clever, I don’t often repost them for the fear that thousands of likes rather than an appropriate few will jam the WP system.

Keeping that in mind, I was wandering through the rocky mountains of my memory and thought about this blog from June 2012. It hits the bullseye once again.

 Chit Chattin’ Cathy

doll Chatty CathyI subscribe to a few blogs where the author has broken out of their silent shell, finally finding a voice that is sparkling and true.  It’s not easy sharing something as personal as one’s self ― especially if that “self” has been suppressed for longer than one can imagine. I appreciate their efforts to finally let the world know who they are.

I, on the other hand, suffer from Italktoomuchitis.

I don’t remember when I contracted this disease.  It certainly wasn’t in grade school (too ugly), nor high school (too busy trying to get pinned). I worked in downtown Chicago for a PR department, but trust me, it was far from glamorous…or talkative ( I was rather submissive in those days). Found love, got married and had babies. I didn’t think of myself as overly verbal back then. But now I wonder — when did I become so…chatty?

Chatty is a relative word. Those of us old enough can remember the “Chatty Cathy” doll.  Pull her string and she’d say a half dozen things. What a novel idea at the time. For those of you a bit younger, this phenomenon was a highlight in Steve Martin’s tirade in Planes, Trains and Automobiles: “It’s like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest, you know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn’t pull it out and snap it back – you would. Gnah..gnah…” Well, I’m beginning to think I’m that doll — and I’m the one pulling the string.

These last few years I think I’ve carried the chatty thing a bit too far. One question and everybody knows what I had for dinner last night, why I think my cousin’s child is out of control, the cramps I had this morning, and how much my dentist charged for root canal. I spill my son’s secrets to his wife, and tell my customers not to buy today for it goes on sale tomorrow. What is wrong with me? Since when have I become this effervescent fount of non-interesting information? I find I want to respond to everything. I have an answer for everything. Whether or not it’s informed. I find I have little patience for opinions other than mine, and need to comment on every and all things that come my way. I try and keep my mouth shut most of the time, but believe me, sometimes it’s a struggle.

I wonder if it’s that old person syndrome. You know ― the older you get, the less you care about what others think.  That seemed like such a cliché when I was younger. All those old fogies saying what they want to, not caring if they offend this person or that.  Most over 70 were a little crotchety and unreasonable, but hey, maybe they just weren’t thinking straight. Pre-Alzheimer’s and such.

As I got older I started to get where they were coming from. Now that I’m teasing the 60 mark, I’m finding those outspoken 70-year-olds weren’t so far off the mark after all.  Having spent a lifetime trying to get my thoughts and opinions across to others, I can see why caution is thrown to the wind and oldies say just what they think. I’ve been questioned and second-guessed more times than you can count; I’ve been unsure of my choices and bothered by the choices of others. I sometimes wonder if I should have turned right instead of left, if I would have made a difference, if I should have said something back then.

And I have gotten to the point where I’m tired of not being listened to.

I’m not saying that my opinion is any better than anyone else’s. We know the world by what we’ve experienced. I have kept my thoughts and opinions respectful and private. But in suppressing the nonsense that runs constantly through my head, I find myself talking and sharing more than when I was 20. It’s like the filter is broken. And I wonder — is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Through this need to reveal more than the neighborhood stripper, I find myself volunteering information that no one is interested in. Well, maybe they are, but in a superficial sort of way. I think we all do that — we listen to others babble their life stories, their grocery store nightmares, their crazy family history or their list of illnesses. We listen because we really do care. Not that we can do anything about their stories, but because we know that sometimes others just need someone to listen.

Often the babble that comes out of other mouths has nothing to do with what’s really going on inside. Maybe the storyteller suffers from insecurities, or illness, or loneliness. Maybe sharing the story of their kid’s accomplishments is a way to assure them that they did a good job as a mother or father. Maybe all they want is to be noticed. To be cared about. To be liked.

Many things fuel our chatter — or lack of. Where we’ve come from is not nearly as important as where we are headed.  If chit chatting about great recipes or the knucklehead in the cubicle down the hall gives us a little clearer sense of self, I’m all for it. We all need to get the chit out of our heads so we can think clearer and feel stronger. And as long as the chat is not destructive, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of babble at the bubbler.

Alas, sometimes I think my only solution is to wire my jaws shut.

Happy Social Media Day!

SMD_logo_v1Today is one of the most important, fun, overwhelming, nonsensical days around — Social Media Day!

Who doesn’t use social media these days? I mean, even my hubby uses texts and email (the rest take too much time to learn).

Mashable launched Social Media Day in 2010 as a way to recognize and celebrate social media’s impact on global communication. While every day is essentially Social Media Day, June 30th, 2016 marks the seventh-annual official global celebration.

Social media is our adversary and our savior.

At a glance we can see what’s going on with our friends and neighbors and Kanye. We can chat in places we can’t talk (bathroom, anyone?), sign documents and send them without touching paper, give and take advice for free, and learn the latest dance moves and how to make quinoa, all without leaving the confines of our comfy chair.

Of course, the B side of all this is TMI. We can find out what starlet is not wearing underwear, our friend’s political slant, and who got busted and/or jailed and/or wound up in the hospital.

It’s an ugly world sometimes, and social media can make it better or worse.

There’s nothing better than an inspirational ditty that shows up on your Facebook or Twitter account. They kinda catch you off guard and hook ya into believing in the world and yourself.  But there’s also a dark side to instant messages. Bullying, suicides, rants, nude pics, dope deals,  all can make a bad situation worse.  Sometimes it’s hard to filter out the bad to sift out the good.

So you’ve got to take a stand and clean your mind and the clutter that comes your way. There will always be some one — or some thing — you don’t agree with. Big deal. Let it pass. Tweet your tweet, post your post, Pinterest your Interest and move on.

Be nice on Social Media Day. And Every Day your words are dancing across the air. There are a lot more important things in the world than number of tweets and pings and stats and all that goes with the monster called Social Media. Like reading my blog! Like writing YOUR blog! Like tweeting “I love you” to a family member. Like sending a joke to someone who can’t get around.

Have fun! For what better way to announce the good things in your life than on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, WordPress, Google, yadda yadda yadda….?

Have a great weekend everyone!

Top 10 … no, 20 … no, 5 … List

56179-cat-on-keyboard-typing-gif-hI43I have a love/hate relationship with the end of the year. I cannot keep up with all the “best of” or “top ten” lists that collect this time of the year. I’ve already scanned the Top 100 Wines of 2014, Highest Paid Celebrities of 2014, the Most Disappointing Movies of 2014, and 9 Actors That Make Nothing But Bad Movies. Heck — there’s websites full of top ten of anything you ever wanted to keep track of.

There are sad lists (Celebrities we Lost in 2014 ) and obscure lists (10 Fascinating Facts about J.R.R. Tolkien). There are goofy lists (Top 10 Influential People Who Never Lived), and beauty lists (5-, 10-, 25-, 75-Top Beauty Tips). Enough to make your head spin.

So, in the Holiday Head-Spining spirit, I’m going to add my own 3 cents worth of a list. Here are my ___ Favorite Humoring the Goddess Blogs of 2014 (I’ll leave it fill-in-the-blank until I see how many I pick…)

 

 

thFashion No-Nos for Summer (5/28/14)

http://wp.me/p1pIBL-yP

Companion to the original “Fashion No-Nos For Goddesses of All Ages” (3/1/14, http://wp.me/p1pIBL-yP )  or its predecessor, “Goddess Tips for Women and Men!” (6/18/12, http://wp.me/p1pIBL-fr),  this blog  encompasses everything that is wrong with Flair after 50.

 

1950vogueI’m Too Sexy…for my (too small) Shirt  (6/26/14)

(http://wp.me/p1pIBL-zE)

This kinda goes along with my Fashion Nonsense blogs, i.e., getting rid of things I’ve held onto longer than my college graduate has been alive.

 

 

 

cherryWhen is a Cherry Not a Cherry? (8/27/14)

http://wp.me/p1pIBL-AT

My sophomoric mind gone even more childlike when I hear old words that have new meanings.

 

 

 

Nike SB Dunk High Heel Shoes 126034Magic Shoes (10/3/14)

http://wp.me/p1pIBL-Dq)

Who knew that buying a pair of gym shoes could be so stressful?

 

 

 

 

And, okay, last (but not least)….

 

doll Chatty CathyChit Chattin’ Chatty Cathy (6/12/12)

http://wp.me/p1pIBL-eQ)

I know it’s from 2012, but I still suffer from Italktoomuchitis. And it hasn’t gotten much better.

 

 

 

Do go back and take a peek at the world that was 2014 — heaven knows what the New Year will bring! (Maybe I should start writing something like, “20 Things You Can Do With Chalk”..)

 

Escape With An Oldie But Goodie

2013-08-14 16.59.06It has been one heck of a week. I shall not go into the sorid details, but suffice it to say I’ve come out on the other side clean and meek and reformed. So to speak.  I’m going away for the weekend to sit and look at the lake and play with my grandson and go for walks and watch cheesy videotapes (no TV). I don’t get phone service up there, which is probably a good thing (except I’ll have a lot of posts to read when I get back).

So I wanted to leave you with some fun reading from June of 2012. It’s about a disease I still have….Italktoomuchitis.

Happy Memorial Day!

 

 

Chit Chattin’ Chatty Cathy

doll Chatty Cathy

I subscribe to a few blogs where the author has broken out of their silent shell, finally finding a voice that is sparkling and true.  It’s not easy sharing something as personal as one’s self ― especially if that “self” has been suppressed for longer than one can imagine. I appreciate their efforts to finally let the world know who they are.

I, on the other hand, suffer from Italktoomuchitis.

I don’t remember when I contracted this disease.  It certainly wasn’t in grade school (too ugly), nor high school (too busy trying to get pinned). I worked in downtown Chicago for a PR department, but trust me, it was far from glamorous…or talkative. ( I was rather submissive in those days.) Found love, got married and had babies. I didn’t think of myself as overly verbal back then. But now I wonder — when did I become so…chatty?

Chatty is a relative word. Those of us old enough can remember the “Chatty Cathy” doll.  Pull her string and she’d say a half dozen things. What a novel idea at the time. For those of you a bit younger, this phenomenon was a highlight in Steve Martin’s tirade in Planes, Trains and Automobiles: “It’s like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest, you know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn’t pull it out and snap it back – you would. Gnah..gnah…” Well,I’m beginning to think I’m that doll — and I’m the one pulling the string.

These last few years I think I’ve carried the chatty thing a bit too far. One question and everybody knows what I had for dinner last night, why I think my cousin’s child is out of control, the cramps I had this morning, and how much my dentist charged for root canal. I spill my son’s secrets to his wife, and tell my customers not to buy today for it goes on sale tomorrow. What is wrong with me? Since when have I become this effervescent fount of non-interesting information? I find I want to respond to everything. I have an answer for everything. Whether or not it’s informed. I find I have little patience for opinions other than mine, and need to comment on every and all things that come my way. Fortunately, I keep my mouth shut most of the time, but believe me, sometimes it’s a struggle.

I wonder if it’s that old person syndrome. You know ― the older you get, the less you care about what others think.  That seemed like such a cliché when I was younger. All those old fogies saying what they want to, not caring if they offend this person or that.  Most over 70 were a little crotchety and unreasonable, but hey, maybe they just weren’t thinking straight. Pre-Alzheimer’s and such.

As I got older I started to get where they were coming from. Now that I’m teasing the 60 mark, I’m finding those outspoken 70-year-olds weren’t so far off the mark after all.  Having spent a lifetime trying to get my thoughts and opinions across to others, I can see why caution is thrown to the wind and oldies say just what they think. I’ve been questioned and second-guessed more times than you can count; I’ve been unsure of my choices and bothered by the choices of others. I sometimes wonder if I should have turned right instead of left, if I would have made a difference, if I should have said something back then.

And I have gotten to the point where I’m tired of not being listened to.

I’m not saying that my opinion is any better than anyone else’s. We know the world by what we’ve experienced. I have kept my thoughts and opinions respectful and private. But in suppressing the nonsense that runs constantly through my head, I find myself talking and sharing more than when I was 20. It’s like the filter is broken. And I wonder — is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Through this need to reveal more than the neighborhood stripper, I find myself volunteering information that no one is interested in. Well, maybe they are, but in a superficial sort of way. I think we all do that — we listen to others babble their life stories, their grocery store nightmares, their crazy family history or their list of illnesses. We listen because we really do care. Not that we can do anything about their stories, but because we know that sometimes others just need someone to listen.

Often the babble that comes out of other mouths has nothing to do with what’s really going on inside. Maybe the storyteller suffers from insecurities, or illness, or loneliness. Maybe sharing the story of their kid’s accomplishments is a way to assure them that they did a good job as a mother or father. Maybe all they want is to be noticed. To be cared about. To be liked.

Many things fuel our chatter — or lack of. Where we’ve come from is not nearly as important as where we are headed.  If chit chatting about great recipes or the knucklehead in the cubicle down the hall gives us a little clearer sense of self, I’m all for it. We all need to get the chit out of our heads so we can think clearer and feel stronger. And as long as the chat is not destructive, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of babble at the bubbler.

Alas, sometimes I think my only solution is to wire my jaws shut.

Enter Stage Right …The Drama Queen

opera-singer-1Ahhhhh…the life of a Drama Queen. Always in the spotlight. Always one-upping friends and family with tales just this side of Edgar Allan Poe. Their problems, their accomplishments, are always bigger/sadder/more confusing than anything you may have experienced. You’re allergic to cat hair? They’re allergic to cat hair, laundry soap, pollution, and chocolate. You get headaches? They get super-duper three days-in-the-dark whoppers.

I know we all have our physical and mental ups and downs…no race is run without sore feet. It’s just that most times Drama Kings and Queens are more…dramatic…than their counterparts. They always have something wrong with them, whether it be their health, their job, their relationships, or their kids. Every time you turn around — well, you get my point.

Now — what do you do if one day you yourself become the Magi of Drama??

It’s so easy to cross that barrier at times — often you don’t even know you are one. When my friends tell tales about their kids, I always have a story to tell about my kids. You’re going to Las Vegas? I’ve been there three times! You had the flu for three days? I had it for a week! Are these the signs of one-upmanship?  Am I competing or sharing? Encouraging or bragging?

I suppose what it comes down to is how deep the puddle is that you’re/I’m splashing in. I waver between telling friends about serious situations (such as illness or death), and trying to mind my own business. Yet these things boil and bubble inside of me until I find it’s easier to tell the truth than get tangled in the web of lies and half-truths that trinkle out. Before I know it I’ve offered TMI, and think — Drama Queen.

Yet I find there is incredible healing in slipping into the DQ role at times. Like the day I found out I had the big C. My husband and I were shocked enough, and when I went back to work, I immediately told my workmates.  It just kind of bubbled out. I found so much support and tears and understanding that I suddenly was embarassed. Yet relieved. The same was when I had a bit of surgery a few months later. Or my mini bout in the hospital. Not a big deal. Yet it was easier to tell others where I was than pretend I was in Graceland for three days. Same with my dog passing away. As my last blog indicated, A Dog is Just A Dog and a Cat is Just a Cat…Right? was a therapeutical way to deal with a sad situation. Yet as soon as I hit publish, I thought — Drama Queen.

But I also offer sympathy and a lending an ear to others who are in need. I don’t think twice about listening to friends about their saddest moments: their father passing away, their bouts with Crone’s Disease, their inability to find a job. My heart hurts with them, as if it was me going through the ups and downs. Their happiest times, too: a friend at work got a beautiful tattoo; I gushed over it to the point that I want to get one, too. My kids are going away for five days (their first since they were married 7 years ago); I gushed over their adventure to the point that I want to go, too.

So I think — are my friends and family Drama Queens and Kings too?

When you think about it, talking about your ups and downs is very therapeutic. I know at least half of my recoveries have been because of friend and family support. The pressures that build up inside of us are more than we can handle. Even if we are SuperMan/Woman, we all get to that point where, if we don’t let our anxiety out, we turn and twist into something ten times as messed up as before. Sometimes we need an outlet, an ear, of someone who can do nothing about our problems, but still can relate to the feelings. They are our pressure cooker valve, our second glass of wine.

And they are our mirror. Good friends and family don’t let us become Drama Kings and Queens. We get too dramatic, too out of control, they steer us to calmer waters.  Which is what we needed in the first place. The point is, don’t be afraid to share your highs and lows with those around you. Your therapy is their therapy.

And after a hot spell, what’s better than a cool dip? I know lots of people who are cool dips….

What Is True Success?

So many things make us happy; so many things make us sad. So many times we wished we  had turned left instead of right; so many times we are soooo glad we did turn right instead of left. Sometimes I get really sad that I’m soon going to turn 60 — where has my life gone? Other times I look back and am sorry my mother never made 54. I’m sad that I had breast cancer; other times I’m so glad they found it when they did.

Life is packed with highs and lows, yellow and blacks, snow and scorching heat. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s always been about. For us, for our grandparents, for George Washington and Kublai Khan and St. Joseph. I’m sure they all had a hundred things they wanted to do at one time, too.  Just like us. We all want to be appreciated for what we’ve done. What we’ve become. We all would like to think that our time here on Earth has been for the Greater Good.

This is not a confessional blog; this isn’t a tell-all or a bad news bomb.  I’m sitting on my sofa this cold Sunday afternoon, looking at the bare treetops in my front yard. Of course, you know me — I’m also watching football, eating lunch, doing laundry, getting ready to write some in  my latest novel, wondering what I’m gonna wear to work tomorrow. I’m also thinking about the fun I had with my grandbaby this weekend, thinking of taking some drugs for my achy legs, and feeling guilty I haven’t played fetchie with my dog today.

That’s really what this blog is about. Sometimes I feel I should be pushing this blog harder, trying to share the Word with more readers. Other times I think I’ve run this horse to the finish line, and should start a new creative venture.  Yet more often I think  I’ve let my writing simmer on the back burner for so long it’s started to dry up and stick to the pan.

How do you know if you’ve succeeded at what you tried to do? What is the measure of success? Big paychecks often are an indicator;  good health, always. Waking up every morning is a success all on its own. Family? Kids? Making the perfect apple pie? All of the above are successes if never done it before. Success has always been measured from the heart first, from the masses second. And often it takes on a meaning more cosmic than one thinks. I think I make the best spaghetti sauce this side of the Mississippi. If you don’t agree, does that mean it’s not good? Of course not. All it means is that I can eat it all myself.

Writing is the same thing for me. What is being a successful writer? Have I ever been published? A short  story here or there in the past 10 years. Have I won awards for my creativity? No. Have I ever I gotten a call or email from a publisher? No. Do I think I’m a successful writer? Yes. Definitely.  I’ve had people say positive things about my stories; I’ve brought smiles and tears to readers.  I’ve written 4 novels, 1 novella, 32 short stories, 42 poems, 84 blogs, and 3 novels in-progress. I think that’s being successful. Why? Because Ive continued to do what I love, no matter what the  result. I’ve had fun making friends, creating worlds, and trying things that make me uncomfortable. I encouraged people to believe in themselves, given life to middle-age heroines, and never killed off  the main character.

There are still so many paths to follow, worlds to explore. And that’s only after I play with my grandbaby, fetch my dogs, pet my cats, cuddle my husband, go to work 40 hours a week, clean my house, grocery shop, get together with family and/or friends, and dozens of other responsibilities. Life has only so many hours, and I’m still struggling on squeezing a few more out of every week.

So what this all boils down to is that I’ve driven the Humoring the Goddess train long enough. Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to believe in yourself, have fun with your life, and laugh as much as you can. There are so many things you can’t change, so why not toss your hands up and laugh and move on? You’ll know the things you CAN change..that little voice in your heart/head/soul is always there to remind you. Your job is to listen.

I have enjoyed entertaining you all these years more than you know. I have learned so much from you. I might try another blog, or finish one of my novels, or sit and spew poetry until I feel nauseated. I’m sure I’ll be back and visit sometime. If I start something new I’ll post it. I will look foward to hearing from you and YOUR projects. You will always find me at my email world…  humoring_the_goddess@yahoo.com.

There is always a path ahead of you. Always. It’s up to you which one you take, or how often you turn left or right. In the end, none of that matters — the only thing that matters is that you keep walking.

Keep Humoring the Goddess…and Loving your Life…

Claudia Anderson

Chit Chattin’ Chatty Cathy

I subscribe to a few blogs where the author has broken out of their silent shell, finally finding a voice that is sparkling and true.  It’s not easy sharing something as personal as one’s self ― especially if that “self” has been suppressed for longer than one can imagine. I appreciate their efforts to finally let the world know who they are.

I, on the other hand, suffer from Italktoomuchitis.

I don’t remember when I contracted this disease.  It certainly wasn’t in grade school (too ugly), nor high school (too busy trying to get pinned). I worked in downtown Chicago for a PR department, but trust me, it was far from glamorous…or talkative. ( I was rather submissive in those days.) Found love, got married and had babies. I didn’t think of myself as overly verbal back then. But now I wonder — when did I become so…chatty?

Chatty is a relative word. Those of us old enough can remember the “Chatty Cathy” doll.  Pull her string and she’d say a half dozen things. What a novel idea at the time. For those of you a bit younger, this phenomenon was a highlight in Steve Martin’s tirade in Planes, Trains and Automobiles: “It’s like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest, you know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn’t pull it out and snap it back – you would. Gnah..gnah…” Well, I’m beginning to think I’m that doll — and I’m the one pulling the string.

These last few years I think I’ve carried the chatty thing a bit too far. One question and everybody knows what I had for dinner last night, why I think my cousin’s child is out of control, the cramps I had this morning, and how much my dentist charged for root canal. I spill my son’s secrets to his wife, and tell my customers not to buy today for it goes on sale tomorrow. What is wrong with me? Since when have I become this effervescent fount of non-interesting information? I find I want to respond to everything. I have an answer for everything. Whether or not it’s informed. I find I have little patience for opinions other than mine, and need to comment on every and all things that come my way. Fortunately, I keep my mouth shut most of the time, but believe me, sometimes it’s a struggle.

I wonder if it’s that old person syndrome. You know ― the older you get, the less you care about what others think.  That seemed like such a cliché when I was younger. All those old fogies saying what they want to, not caring if they offend this person or that.  Most over 70 were a little crotchety and unreasonable, but hey, maybe they just weren’t thinking straight. Pre-Alzheimer’s and such.

As I got older I started to get where they were coming from. Now that I’m teasing the 60 mark, I’m finding those outspoken 70-year-olds weren’t so far off the mark after all.  Having spent a lifetime trying to get my thoughts and opinions across to others, I can see why caution is thrown to the wind and oldies say just what they think. I’ve been questioned and second-guessed more times than you can count; I’ve been unsure of my choices and bothered by the choices of others. I sometimes wonder if I should have turned right instead of left, if I would have made a difference, if I should have said something back then.

And I have gotten to the point where I’m tired of not being listened to.

I’m not saying that my opinion is any better than anyone else’s. We know the world by what we’ve experienced. I have kept my thoughts and opinions respectful and private. But in suppressing the nonsense that runs constantly through my head, I find myself talking and sharing more than when I was 20. It’s like the filter is broken. And I wonder — is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Through this need to reveal more than the neighborhood stripper, I find myself volunteering information that no one is interested in. Well, maybe they are, but in a superficial sort of way. I think we all do that — we listen to others babble their life stories, their grocery store nightmares, their crazy family history or their list of illnesses. We listen because we really do care. Not that we can do anything about their stories, but because we know that sometimes others just need someone to listen.

Often the babble that comes out of other mouths has nothing to do with what’s really going on inside. Maybe the storyteller suffers from insecurities, or illness, or loneliness. Maybe sharing the story of their kid’s accomplishments is a way to assure them that they did a good job as a mother or father. Maybe all they want is to be noticed. To be cared about. To be liked.

Many things fuel our chatter — or lack of. Where we’ve come from is not nearly as important as where we are headed.  If chit chatting about great recipes or the knucklehead in the cubicle down the hall gives us a little clearer sense of self, I’m all for it. We all need to get the chit out of our heads so we can think clearer and feel stronger. And as long as the chat is not destructive, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of babble at the bubbler.

Alas, sometimes I think my only solution is to wire my jaws shut.

Nothing to Write About — My Life is a Bore

            Fifteen hundred words.  One thousand, five hundred words.  That’s what the contest rules stated.  Surely I could come up with something to write about in fifteen hundred words or less. I sat at the kitchen table, spiral notebook open, pen poised.  But my pen stopped after the word “Someday”, the “Y” becoming an ornate doodle of Elizabethan proportions.  What could I write about?  My life was so ordinary, so mundane compared to the experiences of those around me.  I had no juicy stories of divorce to share; no exotic locations to describe, no secrets to expose. 

            I sighed, looking at the fancy “Y” on the paper.  What about humor?  I thought about some of the funny stories I’d heard through the years.  There was the one about my husband’s childhood friend Meathead who built a go-cart out of a lawn mower engine and a ladder and some old wheels.  It was direct drive, no brakes, no steering wheel to speak of — all it did was go forward.  Meat took off, drove down the alley and right into a telephone pole, splitting the ladder by its rungs, the scene unfolding like something out of a cartoon.  Or the time another friend tried to be George Washington on the point of their fishing boat, standing strong and proud as it came to shore.  The boat slid onto the sand bank, hitting a sand hill just a little too fast, and he went flying into the air, making a perfect mud angel.

            Naw, I wasn’t good at humor.  What else?  What about drama?  I thought about tidbits I could turn into an entertaining yet meaningful short story.  I thought about my father, a proud man who fought in World War II.  He remembered the war as if it were yesterday, yet when he died at 85 he could barely remember what he had for breakfast.  I remembered the story he told about being in a foxhole with a couple of his buddies.  He turned to grab his thermos and pour a cup of coffee; a shell landed in the foxhole, exploded, and when he turned around his bunkmate was gone. Or the story of my friend’s daughter and her struggle with cystic fibrosis.  The beautiful girl who died at twenty-eight because her lungs just couldn’t support her body anymore. It was the first funeral service I had been to where I’d had seen a “life” board; a bulletin board filed with pictures that spanned the girl’s entire life.  I couldn’t believe her board could be so full at 28 years old. Or something sappy about family illnesses or faithful pets.

            No, those weren’t the kind of stories judges wanted to read.  Not in a mere fifteen hundred words.   Surely there was something extraordinary I could write about.  Oh, there’s my friend Ari — she’s wild and creative and just a bit eccentric.  She talks to spirits and ghosts, and is delightfully in tune not only with her psychic powers but also her business sense.  What about the friends I made at the Renaissance Faire?  There was the gypsy wench from Germany and her artistic husband who created medieval magic from fabric. And there was the short, hairy artist with a beard that ran half way down his neck that worked marvels with pewter.  Wild people, great people.

            Or my family members.  Loud and burly Uncle Bill, balding and boisterous, a loving man that enjoyed a beer or ten as much as burgers and brats; or Uncle Scott on the other side of the family, the one with the heart of gold and a passion for aqua shoes.  Then there was Grandpa, the fishing guru and legend, someone who knew everybody and everything that happened in his little town.  And what about my kids when they were little?  Rooms so messy we’d need a bulldozer to clean them, or paintball wars, or wrapping Christmas presents while eating shrimp at midnight?

            I kept doodling on the empty page.  What about all the friends I’ve made through the years? I’ve known farmers and writers, mechanics and truck drivers.  I’ve come to know special education teachers and helicopter pilots, football quarterbacks and massage therapists.  Surely there were stories scattered throughout their lives.  Well, I had friends, but no one extraordinary to write about.  No one who spent time in prison or traveled through Africa on safari or had lunch with the President of the United States. No one that broke any records or invented something that changed the face of America.  All I knew were people who worked for a living: ordinary people that fished or painted or watched movies on the side of a barn or made jewelry or delivered pizza or coached soccer teams.

             I tore off the top sheet of paper, crumbling it into a tight ball, and started on a fresh, clean sheet.  The black ballpoint rested on the thin blue line of the paper, ready.  Yet nothing would flow.  Not an “E” or an “S” or anything in between.  I looked outside the window at the emerald green fields and weatherworn barns in the distance.  The sky was electric blue, and the pine trees appeared as arrows pointed skyward.  The chatter from the birds was almost deafening as cardinals, blue jays, and a handful of other serenaded from the edge of the woods.   For all I knew there could be elves and fairies just on the other side of the sumacs, unicorns mingling with the horses at the farm next door, and aliens making crop circles in the field on the o]=her side of my house. There could have been CIA agents or ex-Nazi criminals posing as salesmen at the store in town.  There could be a meteor heading towards my little town right at that very moment, or treasure buried under the lopsided oak tree at the edge of my property.

            But I would never know, because I was convinced I lived in a vanilla-coated world.  There wasn’t one single person to interview, nor one inspirational vista, nor one slice of comedy to fill my empty sheet of paper.  There was never anything interesting going on in my life.

            At least not fifteen hundred words worth.

Merlot at the Lake House

Quick.  Name a handful of your favorite movies. Not the “great” ones that are in your library ― the ones that define you. The ones you don’t admit entertain you time and time gain.  Are you what you watch? Are you big enough to admit that you are what you watch?

 It’s Saturday night: the boys are sleeping, the dogs have had their bonies, and I have settled down with a glass of merlot. Been a long day, a long week. Having just come off of my father-in-law’s passing and pressure-filled days at work, I find my emotional state still dancing on stalagmites. So I pull out a movie ― one I haven’t allowed myself to watch in some time. The Lake House.  Why is that?

There is nothing wrong with movies and books that reflect our inner selves. We are, of course, a reflection of many things around us — movies, books, the weather, the heart.  We develop our creativity based on what we’ve learned and what we’ve experienced. That is why self-help and raw human confession books are so popular. We are a world lost in the chaos of ego, everyone needing to be heard, no matter what the cost.

But back to movies and books. Both are tools of escapism; both reflect a little bit of what fascinates us deep inside. Not that we would live that life ― just that that life seems to resonate a bit with something Freud or Nietzsche would have had a field day with. Some connections are obvious; others are as nebulous as the morning fog.  My husband is nut when it comes to John Wayne ― any form, any era. Is he a big, larger-than-life hero type? Maybe not, but I can see flashes of the Duke in the way he struts sometimes.  Another good friend of mine loves books by Stephen King; I don’t think she is off on some modern-day blood and gore pilgrimage, but I can see her fascination ― the impossible becoming possible.

So what about The Lake House? Does this genre define who I am?  Am I lost in the fantasy of two time periods communicating through a mailbox? I am a preacher that we are  all multi-faceted diamonds in the rough. That we are so much more than the whole of our parts. And we are. But there are still signs in the universe (and in the media) that are plainly obvious.  Some resonate louder than others. Let’s ramble off a few of my favorite movies: The Lake House, Passion of Mind, Practical Magic, Chocolat. I’m sure that says a whole lot about my inner and outer spirit. That I am an escapist, a romantic, a time traveler. Funny that I also write about time travel, modern day women thrust into arenas not of their choosing:  alien worlds. Does my writing parallel my movie and book preferences? Does yours? Not just your writing, but your artwork; the books you read, the homemade cards you design, the jewelry you make, the dishes you cook when you are free to be yourself.

Sometimes we fall prey to pressure from the outside to be or think or watch what everyone else is being and thinking and watching.  As we get older, we fear we will be made fun of if we do not get the meaning of Barton Fink or Super Bad, or we don’t get rap or MTV, or we don’t laugh at movies filled with stoned characters or girls with their breasts hanging down to Brazil and back. I myself tremble at the thought of telling others I enjoy listening to Glen Miller and Frank Sinatra as much as Gaelic Storm or Steely Dan or Metallica. How can I be spread so thin over the planet? How can music and movies and books reflect who I am, who I’d love to be, when I’m in a hundred places at one time?

 As we get older our needs change. What thrilled us at 20 bores us at 50. Not that our youth is invalidated; on the contrary. We have evolved, just like everyone else. The things we thought risqué at 25 make us smile knowingly at 40. I suppose that’s because the world ever evolves, ever moves forward. And even though we move forward as well, we have the ability to focus on whatever era we wish. I have a friend who loves science fiction; the science part, the infinity part. This person works with computers, a field infinite and definitely scientific. Is sci-fi merely an extension of their reality? What about another friend who is very logical during the day yet hooked into murder mysteries all other times? Is her enjoyment of figuring out “who did it?” a reflection of working things out in her life?

 I suppose the point of this story is to encourage you to follow whatever direction your spirit guide sends you. When I was younger I questioned everything. “Does this mean something?” “If I turn right and go through the woods, instead of left and down to the field, does it mean something?” Now I know that every decision is just that. A choice. Turn left, turn right. It doesn’t matter. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just a choice. Both turns take you back to who you are. Just like whatever movies you watch, whatever books you read. Enjoy adventure, enjoy historical sagas. Enjoy accounting manuals. It doesn’t matter.

 Having found that contentment regarding my decisions, I wonder what it means that my other favorite movies include Boondocks Saints and Con Air.

 Put… the bunny…back in the box…

Reincarnation as a Walmart Greeter

            Most of us run blindly through life, taking kids to football games or buying groceries or celebrating birthdays or oohing and ahhing about flower beds and great lasagna dinners, never stopping to think that one day all this wonderful madness will end.  There are those who believe in the ever after: angels and Elysian Fields and all the chocolate you can eat.  Others believe in reincarnation: behaving yourself in this life is a sure bet you won’t come back as a newt or a grasshopper in the next.  Some believe you never wake  up; others believe eternity is one big, made-for-TV movie. But what happens if you don’t want to think about the afterlife, period?  What happens if all you want to do is get  lost in Star War movies or the Food Network or dreams of vacationing in the Bahamas?  Does avoidance equal ignorance?

            I sometimes wonder if humans were meant to dwell on the afterlife as much as we do.  After all, whatever is going to happen is going to happen.  When all is said and done, if we are all going have a glorious resurrection, why should we worry about it?  If we believe our destiny is to reappear on another planet in another galaxy, why sweat the small stuff? 

            None of us like to think about death.  Most of us unconsciously think we will live to be 90 or better.  We pop a few vitamins or walk around the block or stop smoking and think we have it made.  And, for the most part, we do.  We look around us, feel terrible about those our age who have passed on to greener pastures, and hope we can stay out of
those same pastures a bit longer. Yet there is always that heebie geebie feeling we get from that foul reaper that makes us feel we should do a bit more to insure a place in the afterlife.  Whether its prayer, abstinence, volunteering or tithing, we always make an effort to hedge our bets, putting an extra chip on the gambling table just in case.  We give a little extra to the United Way or volunteer to work the concession stand at the high school football game, even if our kid doesn’t play football.  We help old women cross the street, and try not to get uppity if someone offers to help us cross the street.

            How does that lessen our apprehension of our final moment?  How does contributing to the bake sale or adopting a pet from the shelter make us breathe easy about our last moments on Earth?  The older I get, the more I realize that all the anxiety, all the trauma I go through worrying about what happens at that final moment doesn’t mean a thing except heartburn.  One of the prices we pay for being born into this world is having to leave it at the end.  I’m not sure there is some cosmic string that is destined to be cut at some particular moment; I do believe that the joy we find in this life, and possibly the next, is based on the pleasure we give and receive from others.

            Whether you read the Bible or Harry Potter, you cannot escape the fact that good deeds do not go unheeded.  That even if there is no cosmic God or Goddess who pats you on the head for being a good person, you are rewarded anyway.  There is something  about doing something nice for others — and for yourself — that brings its own brand of satisfaction.  Putting a plus in the “good” column just plain feels good.  Accepting that we don’t always get accolades for our diligence is a learned experience; I find myself still waiting for acknowledgement that I saved the life of a cat who was beaten by an irrational neighbor 20 years ago or that I was the DD more times than I can count. I know
my heart always feel better when I label myself “nice” instead of “mean.”  I feel good when I put a smile on another’s face; I feel bad when I make someone cry.

            Whether or not those points add up to admission through the pearly gates I don’t know.  I myself don’t have a clue whether I will meet my mother and father on the other ide, or if I will be reincarnated into a wealthy family (something I would thoroughly enjoy).  What I do know is that it makes me feel good to do good in this world.  I have no control of what happens when I close my eyes for the last time — no one does.  All I can hope for is that my good behavior and loving heart will have counted for  omething.  That loving my kids over and above normalcy and giving my dogs extra bonies push me up a notch on the ladder of happily-ever-after.

            It will be my luck that the day I decide to visit Scotland, the Loch Ness Monster will instantly devour me in one gulp, and all this angst will be for nothing.  My fear is that my repayment for being such a jolly good soul is that I come back to this world as a Welcome Wagon Lady or a greeter at Walmart.  Which, on second thought, isn’t such a bad idea.  After all, that’s what I want to do when I retire in this life.

            Although I know I have to fight my husband for the job.

To Dream or Not to Dream…That Is the Question

       33 To Dream or Not to Dream     One of the yin-yangs of hormone fluctuation is sleep, or lack of it.  Between hot flashes and finding a comfortable position, my REM’s make rare visits,  leaving my consciousness floating in the bubbles of semi-sleep through the world of dreams.  Now, many people say they don’t dream; others leave a notepad on their nightstand so they can record the ching chang jumble that comes out in the middle of the night.  I believe we all dream, but length, depth and retaining capacity is what makes everyone’s claim different.

         Scientists and talk show hosts tell us our lives are influenced by anything and everything, and our dreams are one way of dealing with all of it. Dreams, and  their alter ego, nightmares, can result from everything from eating pizza before bed to an argument earlier in the day. Dreams can be triggered by stress, anticipation, having too much time on your hands or, more likely, not enough.  Scary movies, sappy movies, long distance phone calls — everything can leave a chip in your mind that can explode into a myriad of dreamy scenarios.

            The great thing about this flight through those shadowed clouds, though, is the variety of experiences it presents.  I doubt my conscious mind could make up half the things my subconscious does. And if it could, would it be as fun?  In my dreams I interact with bosses from 20 years ago and talk to family members who are no longer with me.  I wander the halls of my grade school, look out on Lake Michigan from a high-rise balcony, and walk through castles of long ago.  I have driven off cliffs and been chased by  unseen dragony/monster things. I have stood in a shadowy alley talking to Edward Norton and had coffee with Kiefer Sutherland.  I have run from building to building to building, either looking for something or trying to get somewhere, and have jumped and bounced and flown my way across the landscape.

            Where in Jove’s name do we get these ideas from? 

           Being a writer, I often bring some of the unearthliness of my subconscious and put it into forms that entertain me and others. Without analyzing every laugh and tear, I try to bring these esoteric beings into my writing. The more nonsensical, the better. Other people transform their dreams into paintings, gardens, photography, and card making. 

            Of course, the down side of dreams is that they don’t always give you a direct answer to your cosmic questions.  It is fairly obvious that when I dream of my son as a toddler rather than a college kid, I am searching for the olden days connection we had when I was omnipotent and he was subservient.  When I am wandering through corridors and cross loading docks and down long hallways filled with shops and warehouses and theaters I am lost in more ways than I care to admit. But instead of interpreting these dreams as portents of bad things to come, I would rather see them as insights to the possibilities that lie ahead. We have the ability to choose which meanings we take to heart and which  we toss out.  We can choose to see rain in the clouds or we can just see clouds.  We can choose to see dragons shapes or bouncy cotton balls in those clouds or we can just see clouds. 

            The best course is always to take a little of both. Don’t ignore the clouds that are really thunderheads, and don’t get the idea of stepping out of a plane to bounce on their springy tops.  But also let those clouds be dragons or snakes or baby diapers. Nod at the thread of reality that runs through the middle, then make what you will of the rest.   Don’t worry what others think your dreams mean, or if you can’t remember their endings.  The old adage that it’s the journey that counts, not the destination, is just as true in your onscious state of mind as in your conscious one.  Don’t read more into your dreams than what is there.  And create whatever you want from them.

            As for me, I’m looking forward to tonight.  I told Kiefer I’d meet him at the coffee shop sometime around eleven.  Maybe I’ll even ride my dragon there.

I’m Not Paranoid — I LIKE Looking Over My Shoulder

          

Have you every done something, created something, that, even though it was fun at the time, gave you a feeling that one day it would come back and bite you in the…leg?  I don’t mean those illicit or illegal things you may or may not have drank/smoked/ingested when you were young and stupid.  These are more the things you have done in
the heat of the moment of your adult life that make you look over your shoulder and say…oh dear…what if someone finds out?

Let me explain.  One day I was having a bad day — you know those kinds of bad days — stress and miscommunications and a bout of acid reflex that turned out to be gallstones. Too many projects, too little time. It was a tough moment: deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.  I needed therapy, I needed relief.  Other than finding another job, I needed a way to release all of my pent up emotions so that I wouldn’t start playing a kazoo in the parking lot every morning.

So what does a writer do to release the pressures of every day stress?   We write, of course!  I sat down with my little laptop and wrote this wonderfully twisted short story about sales managers and voodoo symbols and poisoned candied violets.   I had a psycho antagonist and a young, up-and-coming, newly promoted female heroine. I had a clash of egos, a bit of upper class snobbery, and even a twist ending.  It was great writing, great therapy.  So much so that, after polishing it up a bit, I thought about trying to get it published.

It was then that I felt the nibble on my leg.  What if I did get it published?  What if it became a best-selling short story?  What if I actually made money on it?  What if the world — or worse, someone I knew — found out that the story was inspired by them?  It’s kinda like having your best friend buying you a present from her favorite store, something that fits her personality to a T but is a major faux paux in your fashion circle.  She loves it, you hate it.  You think about taking it back to the store to exchange it for something more…you.  So you laugh about it with a friend at a barbecue, and who should appear on the other side of the grill but that same-said friend wearing the same-said T.  What if she heard you?  What if she asks you why you weren’t wearing your “gift”?  What if someone says, “Isn’t that the awful shirt you were just talking about?”  Odds are your friend never heard a word, but…

 This sort of paranoia crosses all generations, all friendships, all common sense. It’s not just a writing thing ― we all get weird when we say something about someone that we later regret, fearing the repercussions that might follow.  We do many things in the throes of passion that make us feel self conscious when we come floating back to reality sometime later. What would happen if the kids walked into the bedroom one night to legs and arms were all over the place when they thought you were out to a movie? What  would happen if we called in sick to work only to run into our boss at the mall? What if, in a fit of rage, we threw a rotten squash out the back door, only to inadvertently smack the neighbor’s dog in the chops?

We have been taught that we have to please everyone, make everyone feel good, even at our own expense.  While that may ring true most of the time, there are times you just need to take a chance on being naughty.  Take a chance on getting caught.  I didn’t mean any harm when I started writing my ditty.  I had always wanted to see if I could write something spooky and revengeful and strange and it was just an accident that the bad guy looked a lot like the co-worker hulking over my shoulder all the time.  I never really meant for the antagonist to resemble my co-worker. Nor would I ever think that he would go out and poison the world because sales were down.  But it made for such darn good fiction!

Maybe I’m just overreacting. The resemblance to any real person, place or publication is purely circumstantial.  Isn’t that what disclaimers are all about? No one I know would read “Horror Daily” or other scary publications and recognize my antagonist  — they are too busy reading gossip magazines.  And anyway, there could always be a dozen other “Claudia’s” in the writing world.  No one would know it was me.  Would they?

So the dilemma is this:  What do I do with this great story now that it’s written?  Do I keep it in a journal, hidden away, only to go back and read it whenever I am under pressure?  Or do I get brave, send it out to contests and publishers and take my chances?  Do I give in to my paranoia, or throw care to the wind and just go for it? 

I think for now I’m just going to let it sit in my computer.  I’ll wait until the pressure is released and the people in my office return to being human again.  Then I will send it out to such obscure publications that there would be no way in Hades he would read it.

I also will remember not to eat any candied violets.

Frivolous Facts and Faldaral Part II

In Star Wars, The Millennium Falcon was originally modeled after a hamburger with an olive next to it. Because the name of the ship had not been finalized at this time, storyboards refer to as the pirate ship. Some boards indicate for the first version of the pirate ship (which became the Blockade Runner) to be changed into the ‘Hamburger Boogie’ version.  Hans Solo rides off into the galaxy sunset aboard the quarter pounder.

In the movie Carrie, the slow motion scene at the end of the movie was filmed in reverse to simulate ghostlike movement effects. If watched vigilantly, cars can be seen driving backwards in the upper left hand corner of the screen. When I was younger, playing “Strawberry Fields Forever” by the Beatles backwards revealed Paul was dead, too. Alas, I could never get the turntable to turn backwards fast enough to prove anything.

For the movie the Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland was paid $35 a week while Toto received $125 a week. That renubds me of one of my earlier blogs, Diamonds Are A Dog’s Best Friend.

To achieve the sound of thousands of snakes slithering in the movie Indiana Jones and the Raider’s Ark, sound designer Ben Burtt stuck his fingers into a cheese casserole. This was augmented by applying wet sponges to the rubber on a skateboard. Eww. Clever — but eww.

Basil (the herb) was once believed to have the power to breed scorpions. According to one recipe, “three crushed leaves are put under a clay pot. After a few days a tiny scorpion will be born”.  With the help of basil one could also summon scorpions. Pliny, a Roman writer, claimed that a handful of basil pounded with 10 sea crabs would do the trick. What the real connection between basil and scorpions was we will never know. Nor do we want to.

Average number of eggs laid by the female American Oysterer year: 500 million. Usually only one oyster out of the bunch reaches maturity. Those numbers make me itch.

Humans shed about 600,000 particles of skin every hour – about 1.5 pounds a year. By 70 years of age, an average person will have lost 105 pounds of skin. I wonder why that never equates as pounds lost on a diet.

Chocolate syrup was used for blood in the famous 45 second shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, Psycho, which actually took 7 days to shoot. The article never said how much chocolate syrup was used. A lot of sundaes went topless that week.

 Jethro Tull is not the name of the rock singer responsible for such songs as “Aqualung” and “Thick as a Brick.” Jethro Tull is the name of the band. The singer is Ian Anderson. The original Jethro Tull was an English horticulturalist who invented the seed drill. Reminds me of the movie Armageddon. Oscar: I tell you one thing that really drives me nuts, is people who think that Jethro Tull is just a person in a band. Psychologist: Who is Jethro Tull?

 During World War II, bakers in the United States were ordered to stop selling sliced bread for the duration of the war on January 18, 1943. Only whole loaves were made available to the public. It was never explained how this action helped the war effort.

 The Mona Lisa has no eyebrows. It was the fashion in Renaissance Florence to shave them off. I wonder if they wore underwear that peeked out of their pants, too. No one would ever know.

When the Mother Ship passes over Devil’s Tower near the end of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, R2-D2 can be seen hanging from the bottom of the ship.

The carpet designs seen in Sid’s hallway in Toy Story are the same carpet designs seen in The Shining. That’s the creepy side of recycling.

Celery has negative calories. It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with. Yum. Or is is it Yuk?

The strawberry flavor in your ice cream contains 50 different chemicals. Nature cannot be imitated, and this is the best example. Just to recreate the flavor of “strawberry”, some fast food companies add 50 different chemicals including benzyl isobutyrate, phenythyl alcohol, amyl acetate, mint and cognac. So, the next time you consume strawberry flavored ice creams, milkshakes or desserts, do remember the recipe. Now that’s not Yum OR Yuk. That’s Ick. Vanilla, please.

A quarter of raw potato placed in each shoe at night will keep the leather soft and the shoes smelling fresh and clean. They forgot to add that if you don’t take the potato out it turns into potato toe jam.
In 1939, the Hollywood Production Code dictated what could and could not be shown or said on screen, and Rhett Butler’s memorable last line in the famous Gone With the Wind, presented a serious problem. A few of the suggested alternatives were “Frankly my dear… I just don’t care,” “… it makes my gorge rise,” “… my indifference is boundless,”  “… I don’t give a hoot,” and “… nothing could interest me less.” Although legend persists that the Hays Office fined Selznick $5,000 for using the word “damn”, in fact the Motion Picture Association board passed an amendment to the Production Code on November 1, 1939, to insure that Selznick would be in compliance with the code. Henceforth, the words “hell” and “damn” would be banned except when their use “shall be essential and required for portrayal, in proper historical context, of any scene or dialogue based upon historical fact or folklore … or a quotation from a literary work, provided that no such use shall be permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste.” With that
amendment, the Production Code Administration had no further objection to Rhett’s closing line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”  Which is a damn good thing.

And, finally…..for those of you with time on your hands….

 If you counted 24 hours a day, it would take 31,688 years to reach one trillion!

May the Horse Be With You

          A friend of mine works at a wild animal sanctuary.  The work is hard and dirty, and the pay non-existent, as she is a volunteer.  At first glance you would think she scrapes out stalls and washes animals mostly because she is a Good Samaritan; because she wants to help animals who have seen better days. While this is true, she also works with the animals so she can give them space to share their stories, often sharing ones of her own.

            Nash is one of her favorites. He is a cougar who was used by a gang for protection, much like a guard dog.  Chewie is a camel, donated because he was to be slaughtered and fed to the wild cats as he had severed rear leg tendons.  And RC, her favorite, is a blind horse. RC came from a place that forced her to live in filth, which was the eventual cause of her blindness.  My friend listens to their stories, working with them to bring a bit of peace and comfort to their world.  And she swears when she look into their eyes she can hear them talking back.

            There is no hocus pocus here— there is no run away imagination or desperation for someone to talk to. Sue is a down-to-earth, hard working, funny friend that just happens to listen better than a lot of us.  You hear animals too – you just don’t realize it. How many times has your cat looked up at you and meowed, and, without thinking, you ask, “What do you want?” as if you expected an answer?  How many times have you gauged what your dog wants by the speed of their wagging tail or the perkiness of their ears? How can you figure out the difference between wagging for food and wagging to go outside and wagging for pets?

             Like Pavlov’s Dog (no pun intended), many interactions are learned through repetition, through action and reward. Animals don’t have the capacity to think at the same level as humans; they merely remember what gets them fed or pet and repeat these acts over and over again so that you, in your personification, believe they are thinking and speaking. But regardless of all scientific explanations, there are still plenty who connect with animals on all sorts of levels.  Some are upfront and obnoxious about their rapport; others never admit to conversations with anything lower on the food chain than themselves.  But there is something about the presence of animals, domesticated or not, that touches us in indescribable ways.  The connection is on an energy level that cannot be detected by scientific methods. You have to admit, the moment you look into the eyes of your dog or cat or the lions at the zoo, they look back and you feel something deep and primal.

            Oh, we say we listen — to our friends, our spouses, to our bosses and our kids.  But do we?  How often do we stop and really listen to what they’re saying? How many times does someone start to talk and, before you know it, your mind has slipped forward to what’s for dinner or a song you can’t get out of your head? How many times do we look into each other’s eyes and feel what’s truly there? Experience the unspoken energy?  Not as often as we could; not as often as we should.   We are too busy, too stressed, too tired, to stop the chatter in our head and listen to what’s being said, both verbally and non-verbally, by those around us. We don’t mean to not listen —we do care about others.  We care about how they feel, what they think, what they do.  But we have forgotten how to slow our lives down and listen —to feel the cosmic energy being sent our way.  There is no place we need to be so quickly and desperately that we need to cut off the current between another who is trying to connect.  We don’t have to connect forever — just long enough to make a difference in their lives.

            I’m not saying we should try and communicate with every chicken or cow we see, or every butterfly that passes by.  But who’s to say there’s not a basic need in all life forms be understood? To be accepted?  Even if for a nanosecond? Maybe it’s not a conscious thought; maybe it’s more primal than that. Maybe it’s just instinct. The instinct of comfort, of the instinct of contentment.

          In the long run, it really doesn’t matter if communication with animals is real or not. What matters is we need to think of others besides ourselves. We need to slow down and not over-think and over-analyze everything. In their simplicity, animals remind us of who we once were.  Of where we came from.  We came from a world that was quieter, simpler than the madness we experience these days.  And slowing down, communicating with animals, and each other, is worth the time you take.

           When my friend nuzzles RC, the blind horse, she may not be looking into his eyes, but she is feeling his energy, his story, his gratitude.  He thanks her for taking the time to brush him, feed him, to nuzzle him. She doesn’t care if this exchange can be measured by scientists — all she knows it that she is making the horse feel better, and in the act of listening, feels better herself.

            Not too long ago my cat of 18 years passed away. It was a gradual thing, old age and kidney shutdown all part of the cosmic circle. I spent a lot of time talking to her those last days.  I told her stories about our younger days, reminded her that I was there, and that we’d always share our energies in the form of memories. I don’t know if I made her passing any easier, but in listening to her breathing, I heard her story, I shared her life. 

            My life is better for it.  Yours will be, too.

Cosmic Chatter

              Do you sometimes have a hard time concentrating?  I don’t mean pay-attention-to-your-driving duty or don’t-cut-your-finger-when-chopping-onions duty.  I mean concentrating on spiritual things.  Ethereal things.   The airy-fairy connection between us mere mortals and that famous ‘higher power’.  Do you ever wish that your mind would shut up for five minutes while you try to summon a spirit from the Great Unknown?

            You know how it goes. You clear your schedule, get rid of the kids, feed the dogs, and hide the cell phone in the silverware drawer.  You make an effort to visit your special place, your sacred altar.  This can be your garden, a spot deep in the woods, your kid’s sandbox, or your living room sofa.  You tell yourself that today you are really going to connect with the void and what lies on the other side.  You have read books on angels, faeries, ghosts and extra terrestrials, and figure it’s about time you connected with one. So you get into your sacred mode.  You breathe slow and deep.  You close your eyes, rest your mind, and say a prayer.  The atmosphere is perfect for communicating with whatever is the source of your power.  You feel the tingle of something larger than life not too far away. And suddenly, there it is.  That nagging thought.  That idle chatter.  That empty gossip.  And the more you try to tune it out, the louder it becomes.

            Monks in monasteries found salvation kneeling on stone floors.  Buddhist priests found nirvana contemplating a blade of grass.  Priestesses found the secrets of gods and goddesses tending fires.  So surely you could find what you’re looking for right in your own back yard.  After all, you have a whole ten minutes!  But your mind won’t cease its aimless prattle.  Your thoughts wander from your need to buy a shirt to match your navy pants that are just a bit too tight to the price of gas to trying to remember the name of the movie star that played that crazy professor in the movie you watched last night.  You snap back to the center.

             Block those thoughts!

            You close your eyes, trying to drown out the stray thoughts with the repetition of a prayer or a mantra or the alphabet — anything to bring structure back to your concentration. 

            Wham!  You forgot to mail the check for the phone bill! 

            Stop it! 

            Bang!  Did I unplug the curling iron?

            Pay attention!

            What should I make for dinner?

            SHUT UP!!

            You continue with a dogged perseverance.  You pray harder.  Louder.  You try to summon the angel, the sorcerer, the alien.  This being is a member of your guidance team, a pointer towards self awareness and universal peace.  A very important part. Yet your mind won’t stop trying to chat with you.  You think about your boyfriend, your job. You wonder about what the dog is doing now that you’ve tossed him in the back yard without supervision. You think about things you should have said, things you shouldn’t have said. And you suddenly become conscious of your outer-self nagging your inner-self to be quiet.

            Why can’t your mind just sit still for a while?  What is Archangel Michael going to think if you let everyday distractions get between you and him?  How can you have a direct cosmic connection with Cleopatra when all this blah blah is tainting your aura? You were so serious about this connection when you planned this escape!  You are a good person, a pious person.  You’re the sort of person that stops for squirrels crossing the road and kisses your kids ten times a day (even if they’re 27) and takes only ten items to the ten-items-only checkout aisle.  You are kind to old people.  Or you are an old person who is kind to young people.  So why is it so hard to quiet your mind long enough to connect to the spiritual?

            Maybe it’s because you’re already interacting with the spiritual.  It’s all around you.  Connecting with angels and prophets and faeries and ghosts of the past happens all the time.  We just don’t slow down enough to experience it.  The innocence of children, the memories of parents and grandparents, the words of sacred texts and of simple poetry all connect us with the ethereal.  We just have to learn how to recognize it.  The wild world of faeries can be found in the unbounded energy of a puppy; the music of the angels can be heard in the morning chatter of the birds.  God speaks clearly to us through our own conscience. We just fail to heed the advice we’re given. 

            What has this got to do with all this mindless chatter that drives you crazy?  The thousand thoughts that run through your head are nothing more than your own spirit cleaning house, sifting through all the garbage so that it can get to the heart of the matter.  In the peace and quiet of the sandbox or your front porch you can safely sift through your thoughts and emotions, finding clarity in reasoning and understanding in reflection.  Your mind finally gets tired of rambling and lets the purity of your intentions come through loud and clear.  You figure out where you are going, what you want to say, what you should do.  And that’s what you came there for in the first place, isn’t it?

            So don’t worry the next time you look for a cosmic connection and find static on the line.  It’s just the faerie queen telling you that you left the check for the phone bill on bathroom counter next to the unplugged curling iron.