One Year Ago Today

comfort zone2

Kissed My Comfort Zone Goodbye
Originally Posted on December 31, 2012

Over time my comfort zone has become something of a trap; safe and comfortable, but stifling to my growth and realization of my dreams. My ‘rut’ is a sweet pill similar to “Soma” that Aldous Huxley described in “Brave New World”: … a quite impenetrable wall between the actual universe and… mind…

A little rhyme Huxley included about “Soma” is:
Hug me till you drug me, honey;
Kiss me till I’m in a coma;
Hug me, honey, snuggly bunny;
Love’s as good as Soma.

Psychologists have long told us that “man tends toward pleasure and the path of least resistance”. There is some deep down desire to get benefits without any more work or discomfort than absolutely necessary. Given a choice between something that is neutral and something that gives pleasure, humans most often choose the latter.  Today I throw off another layer of the old to embrace the new that comes with a fresh year tomorrow. 2 0 1 3 is going to be a remarkable year! (It was a remarkable year, but 2 0 1 4 is going to be even more so)

I used to have a comfort zone
Where I knew I couldn’t fail.
Same four walls and busy work,
Were really more like jail.

I longed to do the things
I’d never done before,
But I stayed inside my comfort
Zone and paced the same old floor.

I claimed to be so busy with
The things inside my zone,
But deep down inside I longed
For something special of my own,

I took a step with new strength
I’d never felt before.
I kissed my comfort zone good-bye
And closed and locked the door.
Taken from “I Used to Have a Comfort Zone” – Author Unknown

Just because a tendency is “normal” does not mean I must succumb to it. However, it takes a conscious leap of faith to move past my comfort zone. I am ready to make it and grateful that 2013 (2014) will be the year where I take big steps to break free and embrace my dreams.

It does not take a new day
To make a brand new start,
It only takes a deep desire
To try with all our heart.
So never give up in despair
And think that you are through,
For there’s always a tomorrow
And the hope of starting new.
From “Another Chance” by Helen Steiner Rice

Live It!


Life is crazy,
and totally unpredictable…
It’s going to push you over,
kick you while you’re down
and hit you when you try to get back up.
Not everything can beat you.
Things are going to change you,
But you get to choose which ones you let change you.
Listen to your heart,
Follow your dreams,
And let no one tell you what you’re capable of.
Push the limits,
Bend the rules,
And enjoy every minute of it.
Laugh at everything,
Live for as long as you can.
Love all,
But trust none.
Believe in yourself,
And never lose faith in others
Settle for nothing but only the best,
And give 110% in everything you do.
Take risks,
Live on the edge,
Yet stay safe,
And cherish every moment of it.
Life is a gift,
Appreciate all the rewards,
And jump on every opportunity.
Not everyone’s going to love you
But who needs them anyways.
Challenge everything,
And fight for what you believe.
Back down to nothing,
But give in to the little things in life,
After all, that is what makes you.
Forget the unnecessary,
But remember everything,
Bring it with you everywhere you go.
Learn something new,
And appreciate criticism.
Hate nothing,
But dislike what you want.
Never forget where you came from,
And always remember where you are going.
Live Life to its fullest,
And have a reason for everything,
Even if it’s totally insane.
Find Your purpose in life,
and Live it!

A great deal changed for me in 2013, mostly for the better. Now I am less than forty-eight hours from beginning a whole new ballgame: 2014! It’s a new season for me to take further what was learned and begun within this year that’s ending. For all the newness I am thankful. For all the possibilities the New Year brings gratefulness fills me.

Write it on your heart that every day
is the best day in the year.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

12 Steps To Third World Living


It generally is very difficult for Americans… to comprehend the realities of daily life for the billion-plus people who constitute “the poorest of the poor.” For these people, the question “What Is Enough?” has a very different meaning.

This little exercise – adapted from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s magazine Freedom from Hunger, and based on excerpts from The Great Ascent by Robert L. Heilbroner (New York Harper & Row, 1963) – may help to get you in touch with the reality of life in the shadows cast by our relative wealth.

* First, take out the furniture: leave a few old blankets, a kitchen table, maybe a wooden chair. You’ve never had a bed, remember?

* Second, throw out your clothes. Each person in the family may keep the oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. The head of the family has the only pair of shoes.

* Third, all kitchen appliances have vanished. Keep a box of matches, a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a handful of onions, a dish of dried beans. Rescue those moldy potatoes from the garbage can: those are tonight’s meal.

* Fourth, dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, take out the wiring and the lights and everything that runs by electricity.

* Fifth, take away me house and move the family into the tool shed.

* Sixth, by now all the other houses in the neighborhood have disappeared; instead there are shanties – for the fortunate ones.

* Seventh, cancel all the newspapers and magazines. Throw out the books. You won’t miss them – you are now illiterate. One radio is now left for the whole shantytown.

* Eighth, no more postman, fireman, government services. The two-classroom school is 3 miles away, but only 2 of your 7 children attend anyway, and they walk.

* Ninth, no hospital, no doctor. The nearest clinic is now 10 miles away with a midwife in charge. You get there by bus or bicycle, if you’re lucky enough to have one.

* Tenth, throw out your bank books, stock certificates, pension plans, insurance policies. You now have a cash hoard of $5.

* Eleventh, get out and start cultivating your three acres. Try hard to raise $300 in cash crops because your landlord wants one-third and your moneylender 10 percent.

* Twelfth, find some way for your children to bring in a little extra money so you have something to eat most days. But it won’t be enough to keep bodies healthy – so lop off 25 to 30 years of life.

Generally I consider myself a grateful and positive person. However, regularly something like the article above crosses my path and serves as a wake up call to how very fortunate I am. The more grateful I become the more I find to be thankful for. In this holiday season of plenty I am humbled by the ‘wealth’ life has afforded me.

We can only be said to be alive
in those moments when our hearts
are conscious of our treasures.
Thornton Wilder

Carry on, Santa, it’s Christmas Day, All Secure…

MilitaryXmasReadily I admit I fought through watery eyes to get this retyped here. Though I did not serve in the military, I have known many good men and women who did. While the poem was written specifically by a Marine for Marines, I have placed it here as a tribute to all military men and women, past and present. I honor and thank you. By your efforts I am able to celebrate Christmas quietly and without fear.

“Merry Christmas, My Friend”
T’was the night Before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.

I had come down the chimney with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live.

I looked all about, a strange sight did I see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree,
No stockings by the mantle, just boots filled with sand,
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kinds,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I’d seen,
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I heard stories about them, I had to see more
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read,
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan,
I soon understood this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
“Santa, don’t cry, this life is my choice.
I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps.”

With that he rolled over, drifted into sleep
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.

I watched him for hours, so silent and still
I noticed he shivered from the cold nights chill.
I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and I covered this Soldier from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.

I didn’t want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over and in a voice clean and pure,
said, “Carry on, Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all secure.”
One look at my watch and I knew he was right
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and good night.

Although attributed to many and often amended, what I have included here is the original poem in its original form written by James M. Schmidt in 1986. In December 2002, he set the record straight about the poem’s origin when he wrote “The true story is that while a Lance Corporal serving as Battalion Counter Sniper at the Marine Barracks 8th and I, Washington, DC, under Commandant P.X. Kelly and Battalion Commander D.J. Myers, I wrote this poem to hang on the door of the Gym in BEQ. When Colonel Myers came upon it, he read it and immediately had copies sent to each department at the Barracks and promptly dismissed the entire battalion early for Christmas leave. The poem was placed that day in the Marine Corps Gazette, distributed worldwide and later submitted to Leatherneck Magazine”.

Please share this blog with others in honor of our veterans and soldiers.

From the bitter cold winter at Valley Forge,
to the mountains of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq,
our soldiers have courageously answered when called,
gone where ordered, and defended our nation with honor.
Solomon Ortiz

Posted originally on Christmas 2012

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Virginia was the daughter of Dr. Philip O’Hanlon, a coroner’s assistant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  In answer to her question “is there really a Santa Claus” her father suggested she write to a New York City newspaper called The Sun.

Virginia’s letter found its way to one of the paper’s editors named Francis P. Church who wrote the now famous response.   His answer to Virgina remains today as the most reprinted editorial ever to run in any English language newspaper.

Dear Editor—
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon

September 21, 1897
Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds,Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah,Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now,Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Many have questioned if Virigina’s original letter actually ever existed thinking it was only fiction created by Francis Church as a basis for his editorial. However, the original letter written by Virginia O’Hanlon was authenticated in 1998 by an appraiser on the Antiques Roadshow and valued at $20,000–$30,000.

I’m grateful for the swell in my chest the little boy inside finds in reading Church’s reply to Virginia over a hundred years ago.  The spirit of Santa Claus will always be with me.

There’s more to the truth than just the facts.  ~Author Unknown

First posted here on December 19, 2011

With Open Eyes

butt collector

One day last week the streets around the Super Wal-Mart were clogged with cars much like ants swarming from a ‘stomped-on-anthill’. Inwardly lost in my own thoughts about what I needed to buy and yet had to do, my view of things was narrow and self oriented.

As I walked toward the entrance of the store, out of the corner of my eye I saw a man kneeling down picking something up. From the back his clothes were kind of dirty and there we sores on his head. Fairly quickly I  surmised he was somewhere between down on his luck and homeless. As I moved into present moment awareness, it hit me what he was doing.

The cover was off a large cigarette disposal and the man was selectively gathering partially smoked butts. He’d pick up each used cigarette, glance to see how much was left and then put the ones with a few puffs left into a ‘baggie’. I quickly took a single phone photo (just above) just after he stood up and began to place the top back on the container.

Being a smoker is in my past. I remember the cravings that once in a while caused me scour my ashtrays for a cigarette butt with a few puffs remaining. Only once in a while did that happen and only until I could get to the store to buy a fresh pack. The guy collecting from the Wal-Mart ashtray was gathering the only smokes he could afford: free butts. Smoking is a bad habit; no doubt. I feel sorry for anyone who still smokes, but even more so for someone who has to collect what has been in other’s mouths to satisfy his habit.

In this season of giving, the wish I send out to the ‘butt collector’ is one of love and good wishes that life improves for him. But then, maybe he was an angel sent to make me more present, aware and rooted in ‘now’. Or possibly he was both destitute and angelic. I’ll never know for certain, but will long remember what he left me with.

All that’s needed to elevate my level of gratitude is pay attention. With open eyes there is always something to behold that reminds me how good my life is. In recollecting my most difficult times and bearing witness to those of others, I find reflections that make me better grasp the richness I am blessed with today.

And hard times are good in their own way, too.
Because the only way you can achieve true happiness
is if you experience true sadness as well.
It’s all about light and shade.
Gabrielle Willams

Sex Is Sacred


C. Joybell C. made a post on Facebook this morning I found moving. Here’s a portion:

Sex is sacred. That’s just the way it is. It doesn’t matter what you tell yourself in order to get away from the truth, the underlying fact is that, you take into your soul a piece of another’s soul and you embellish a piece of your own soul upon another, when you have sex. Like it or not— we are not animals.

The Rosicrucians state that at the heart of the soul there is Love, Sex and Fire. You play with one, you are endangering the other two. Play with any, and you are endangering the condition of your soul. People walk around not able to see the holes in their souls created by their many meaningless sexual encounters, they think in their minds that they’re okay, but the soul is pulled and pulled into a thinner and thinner matter.

…I’m serious when I tell you— sex is sacred. It is to be done with those whom your soul has bonded to. That is, if you care at all about the form and matter of your soul. It doesn’t even have anything to do with morality and religion. It is in fact all about the immortality of your spirit. C. JoyBell C.

A year and a half ago my post here titled “If You Have Something to Say” was about the author of what’s just above.

Her Facebook page says “I am a myth. The myth is real”. If you go searching for information about C. JoyBell C. you won’t find much other than her quotes which are deep and frequently inspiration. All I can tell from a photo (above) and short interview I found on-line is she is young with wisdom beyond her years.

C. Joybell C. is self-described as “an American born self-taught writer of Asiatic Anglo-Celtic European descent… grew up in-between cultures and crossing borders… great-grandfather was a Taoist High Priest… other great-grandfather was a Southern Georgia Baptist Herald. Fighting to live life for herself and not for others, she is defying her status quo in being a writer and this is exemplary of who she is.” She is the author of “Saint Paul Trois Châteaux: 1948″ and “The Sun Is Snowing: Poetry & Prose.”

C. Joybell C., thank you for the insights you have brought into my life over time, most recently this morning. From my past is guilt of treating sex as less than ‘sacred’, but I learned better. My old habits hurt others, but it was me I hurt most. Now knowing the true value of sex (“you take into your soul a piece of another’s soul and you embellish a piece of your own soul upon another, when you have sex”), I am deeply grateful for the growth that brought me parallel to that insight.

Love is blind, they say; sex is impervious to reason
and mocks the power of all philosophers.
But, in fact, a person’s sexual choice is the result
and sum of their fundamental convictions.
Tell me what a person finds sexually attractive
and I will tell you their entire philosophy of life.
Show me the person they sleep with
and I will tell you their valuation of themselves.
Ayn Rand

The Best Childhood Christmas


It was Christmas morning and the first one without my father. My Mother, Brother and I now lived in an old country house that had never been painted on the outside nor finished off on the inside. The floors were uneven and sagged in places due to the foundation only being stacks of rocks underneath. In the three rooms used as living space the walls and ceiling were covered with flattened out cardboard boxes that had been tacked to the rough wall studs. The toilet was a small shack about fifty feet out the back door.

My Father was still in the world then. He had chosen to leave a wife and two young boys in favor of another woman who was pregnant with his child. The divorce was final and my Mother in her pride had told her former husband that she wanted nothing from him. And in doing so, she denied herself any sort of support from the man who had fathered her children.

The heat for the house we now called home was supplied by a long, squatty cast iron wood stove with stove-pipe that went up and out through the living room wall. Doors were always left open into the other rooms so heat could reach there.

Over in the corner was a beautiful holiday tree that had been cut from my Grandfather’s farm. Until I was almost out of my teens I thought a Christmas tree was always cedar because that is what we always had. Back then I did not realize how luxurious it was to have such a good smelling, almost perfectly shaped six-foot tree that had probably taken ten years or more to grow before we cut it. (There hasn’t been a cedar tree for the holidays since, but it’s something I should put on my bucket list.)

One convenience the home did have was electricity. The “juice” powered a single light bulb in each room that hung naked on a wire from the ceiling. The light was turned on and off by a string that hung down from a switch on the light socket. This morning the light was not needed because the lights on the tree gave the room a warm, multi-colored glow.

The six months previous has been sad ones for my brother and I. Our Dad never came around and we had to relocate to the free-rent old farmhouse my grandfather owned. The house was drafty, money was short and went mostly to feeding the three of us.

That Christmas morning my brother was five and I was seven years old. In spite of our recent sadness, we had complete faith in Santa Claus. And walking into the ‘living room’ we were not disappointed. There was a new, red Western Auto bicycle for each of us to replace our old tricycles. Neither of us cared that the only other things we got were “tidy-whitey” underwear and a bag of marbles. We had bikes!

Much happened as I grew up, bad things, and my Mother has responsibility in many of them. We have not spoken in years and are not likely to. I forgave her years ago. I will always be grateful for that Christmas morning when I was seven. I imagine she had to put the bikes on layaway or credit to be able to get them for us. In doing so she made the best childhood Christmas I remember and will always be thankful to her for it.

Forgiveness is a form of gratitude.
When we forgive others,
we show them the mercy
that we have often received
and been thankful for.
Sarah Ban Breathnach

I’m Happy


An interesting personal phenomena is the happier I have become, the more I understand what makes me happy. Living for years with a somewhat disgruntled attitude while searching for happiness never brought me closer to being happy. Only deep personal growth and an altered view of life allowed me to find it.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have tracked identical twins who were separated as infants and raised by separate families. As genetic carbon copies brought up in different environments, these twins are a social scientist’s dream, helping us disentangle nature from nurture. These researchers found that we inherit a surprising proportion of our happiness at any given moment — around 48 percent.

If about half of our happiness is hard-wired in our genes, what about the other half? It’s tempting to assume that one-time events — like getting a dream job or an Ivy League acceptance letter — will permanently bring the happiness we seek. And studies suggest that isolated events do control a big fraction of our happiness — up to 40 percent at any given time.

But while one-off events do govern a fair amount of our happiness, each event’s impact proves remarkably short-lived. People assume that major changes like moving to California or getting a big raise will make them permanently better off. They won’t. Huge goals may take years of hard work to meet, and the striving itself may be worthwhile, but the happiness they create dissipates after just a few months. So don’t bet your well-being on big one-off events. The big brass ring is not the secret to lasting happiness.

That leaves just about 12 percent. That might not sound like much, but the good news is that we can bring that 12 percent under our control. It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness, given that a certain percentage is genetic and not under our control in any way. The first three are fairly uncontroversial. Empirical evidence that faith, family and friendships increase happiness and meaning is hardly shocking. Few dying patients regret over-investing in rich family lives, community ties and spiritual journeys.

Work, though, seems less intuitive. Popular culture insists our jobs are drudgery, and one survey recently made headlines by reporting that fewer than a third of American workers felt engaged; that is praised, encouraged, cared for and several other gauges seemingly aimed at measuring how transcendently fulfilled one is at work.

More than 50 percent of Americans say they are “completely satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their work. This rises to over 80 percent when we include “fairly satisfied.” This shouldn’t shock us. Vocation is central to the American ideal, the root of the aphorism that we “live to work” while others “work to live.” When Frederick Douglass rhapsodized about “patient, enduring, honest, unremitting and indefatigable work, into which the whole heart is put,” he struck the bedrock of our culture and character. From an article by Arthur C. Brooks

With great gratitude I can say, “I’m happy”. While there are purely joyous moments now, I don’t exist in a constantly blissful bubble. Instead, I simply choose not to have “bad days” any more. Difficult ones certainly, but never a “bad one”. Any day alive is a “good day”. The best lives ever lived contained “a great deal of joy and happiness with a lot of heartache and grief mixed in”. Coming to see the wisdom of that statement and living it has been life changing.

The difference between a Good day and a Bad day
has less to do with the circumstances
than the power we have over our thoughts.
Neil Sutton