The Tao of Silver Bells

While walking toward the entrance of the local Albertsons tonight, I heard the spiky drone of the ring-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling of a Salvation Army volunteer’s bell as she stood sentry beside the familiar red-bucket-on-a-tripod. These ambushes have always presented me with a special set of issues. It’s not that I’m against charity and it’s not even the jaw-clenching assault of the bell itself, it’s the social politics that get to me, the sense of impending doom I feel whenever I have to gird myself to walk past them. Kind of like preparing to walk past the yard of the mean dog on the block when I was a kid, I must face a number of choices that I only just tonight recognized:
  1. She’s not only going to look at me, she’s going to say “God bless you”. Maybe if I don’t look at her as I’m making my approach–perhaps at my keys or the people coming out of the store–she’ll get the idea that I’m on an important mission and didn’t even see her. You who walk around with your cell phones in a constant state of arousal have it easy–you can pretend that you’re talking to someone.

  2. If she says “God bless you”, what should my response be? If I say it back to her she may think I’m a fellow believer and will wonder why I’m not putting money in her bucket. If I don’t say it, she may think that I’m a snob, or one of those people who avoid eye contact with passersby on the sidewalks. I might be going into the store to steal a grape, run over a stray tomato with my cart, or whip out a baguette and go postal.

  3. If I do give her eye contact and smile, then she’ll probably think I’m a tight-fisted phony.

  4. Then there’s the other issue. The Salvation Army discriminates against homosexuals. If I give her my pocket change, am I not supporting the organization’s homophobia? As I’ve walked past these people countless times each year, I’ve mumbled under my breath, “You don’t want my filthy homo money…”. Like not buying Dow products during the Viet Nam war, this usually works for me on the surface level, but it doesn’t solve the issue about walking past them in the first place.

  5. And then I have to go through it all over again on my way out. Sometimes my discomfort is relieved by the sheer mechanics of having a cart to navigate.

Last night I tried something different. As I neared the woman ringing her bell, I heard that she was singing a Spiritual. Not loud, but to herself. She was happy as could be, smiling and making the best of what was probably a very boring way to spend an evening.

Hey, I once spent a Friday evening hawking flowers on a street corner in Saticoy. I know from boring.

Because she was singing–and because I’m a musician, I suppose–I found that I wanted to look at her, wanted to say hello, wanted to put some money in the bucket. Nothing else mattered at that moment, nothing but her lovely voice and smile, her overall good-natured attitude, and the instantaneous melting away of my stupid barriers. I remembered that in my wallet was one lone dollar bill that I’d been carrying around for several weeks. I pulled it out and folded it, and as I put it in the bucket I said, “I’m giving you my last dollar just because you’re singing, and everyone should be singing this time of year.” She smiled and replied, “God bless you, honey. Have a Merry Christmas!”

I went on into the store wearing a grin, better able to face the long lines (caused by a computer outage) with patience and good humor, joking with the people around me. I even let someone go ahead of me. On my way home, I realized that I was actually happier for what had happened. What had always been an annoyance had been transformed into a spark of joy caused from my personal encounter with the woman and knowing that my dollar was going to help someone. It wasn’t much, but it was something. Seeing as how I’ve been on the receiving end a number of times, I thought of my dollar as seed money that will help bring about an ability to give to others on a regular basis.

It’s unfortunate how much energy I’ve put into avoiding these seemingly trivial moments when it’s so much easier and more pleasant to simply submit. Of course, I’m not putting money into every Salvation Army bucket I encounter this year, but I learned a valuable lesson. The Salvation Army’s tagline reads, “When you put money in our kettle, expect change.” I didn’t know that they meant me as well.


Cosmic Soup

I have been experiencing awakenings lately. For the past year I have known that I’m standing on the precipice of the future of my dreams, although I often experience want, illness and disappointment. Nettl has often said that she and I have been experiencing transition much like that of a woman in labor and about to give birth. Today, I feel the birth is in process. Throughout the past 30 years there are certain truths that have “pete and repeated” themselves to me, but I didn’t know exactly how to put them into practice.

Since the mid-seventies I have known of the basic laws of receiving and giving, reaping and sowing, “as above so below”, and the law of attraction. Sometimes I have been good at them and sometimes I have not. But I have recently come to understand how to do this in a way that brings the results that I desire.Thanks to The Secret, there are two images that linger in my mind. The first is of the universe and what it is. Image a “Google Universe” and view the vastness of space. Then swoop down to the galaxy, the solar system, the planet, your country, your county, your city, your neighborhood, your street, your house, your room, your body, your organs, your cells, the molecules, the nuclei, and finally, the atoms and what they contain: energy. The one thing we all share is this immense energy field. Physics tells us that we are moving in an actual energy soup and are connected to everyone and everything through it, that energy is never created, never destroyed; it always was and always will be, that when we die, the energy that is collected in our atoms does not die, but survives. I personally believe that this energy, when combined with all other energy in the universe, is God. That makes me not a creation, but a creator, and how I use my energy (i.e. how I think, feel, believe and behave) creates my reality. Not a titan on a throne, not destiny, not reward and punishment. Me. I create my reality.

“You create your own universe as you go along.”
Sir Winston Churchill

The second image is of Aladin and the Magic Lamp. In the original story there was no mention of how many wishes he could make–there was no limit. If I look at the universe, this energy, as the genie, I realize that I must make positive wishes that contain no hint of negativity. For instance, when bills are piling up it’s not the best thing to say, “I’m tired of being in debt”, because the two power factors of that statement are “tired” and “debt”; both negative, so we remain in debt and remain tired. It’s better to say, “I want to live a prosperous life”, which is positive. The genie’s response to either is, “Your wish is my command.”

Take my health, for instance. In the past year or so it has been easy for me to project ahead and say, “I probably won’t be able to (…do that, go there…) because of my health”. What response have I gotten?

“Your wish is my command.”

If I send my book manuscript out thinking, “No one’s going to accept this.” What will the response be?

“Your wish is my command.”

But if I put out positive energy instead, I will receive the exact same response. And it takes less energy to be positive than it does to be negative.

This whole thing has come as such a relief to me, because I can now release people from my expectations of them, forgive those who have hurt and harmed me, drop the luggage and move forward. We’ve all been hurt, all been mistreated. So what? The real issue is not to keep reliving those things by keeping them alive in us via anger or fear, the real issue is, “What am I doing today to heal myself?” If we allow our abusers and users to continue hurting us long after they’ve slipped into the history of our lives, we are giving them the power they stole from us. Not me. Not me anymore.

I have always said, “Thoughts are things”, but these words have taken on new life for me. I just wanted to share.


Steph Looks Like...

Here’s a little thing I found on MySpace (oh, don’t roll your eyes like that). Here’s what you do:

Google the phrase “(your name) looks like” and find the best one from the first page of results. Don’t forget to put it in quotes, otherwise it won’t work. Then come back here and leave it in the comments. I’ll go first.

Steph looks like a couple of kilometers of bad road.

Your turn.


It Was Great

It was without a doubt the best Thanksgiving that I can remember–and I’ve seen a few. Thanks upon thanks to all who shared it, whether in spirit or in person.


If I Don't Get a Chance to Say it Tomorrow...

I’m happy as a clam; all the kids are home at the same time. I can’t believe their ages!

Joel: 36
Micah: 32
Lauren: 18
Heather: 16
Nathan: 14

Nathan, Lauren and Joel are in the living room downstairs talking and laughing. Gone are the little pipey voices, the fussing, the bleep-bloops of video games, the screams and shouts… Do you remember how scared I was when we decided to get custody of Lauren, Heather and Nathan? And I remember all those weekends, holidays and summers that they would come stay with us when they were still just little. It was hard for me, because I’m from a small family. I wasn’t used to family life and hadn’t taken care of young kids in a long time. It was an adjustment, but I made it. And Ville was right when she told me that I was going to do well in my new role of Hausmandl/Papa.

So here we all are, my and Joel’s first Thanksgiving with Micah since 1975, Lauren’s last one before leaving home and Nathan home after moving in with his father in Wichita. All the chicks are in the nest and soon the house will be filled with the aroma of Thanksgiving.

However you spend November 23rd, have a wonderful day!


Things You Can Only Say on Thanksgiving

1. Talk about a huge breast!
2. Tying the legs together keeps the inside moist.
3. It’s Cool Whip time!
4. If I don’t undo my pants, I’ll burst!
5. Whew, that’s one terrific spread!
6. I’m in the mood for a little dark meat.
7. Are you ready for seconds yet?
8. It’s a little dry, do you still want to eat it?
9. Just wait your turn, you’ll get some!
10. Don’t play with your meat.
11. Just spread the legs open and stuff it in.
12. Do you think you’ll be able to handle all these people at once?
13. I didn’t expect everyone to come at once!
14. You still have a little bit on your chin.
15. How long will it take after you stick it in?
16. You’ll know it’s ready when it pops up.
17. Wow, I didn’t think I could handle all of that!
18. That’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen!
19. How long do I beat it before it’s ready?

Come Together

SAN FRANCISCO - Two peace activists have planned a massive anti-war demonstration for the first day of winter. But they don’t want you marching in the streets. They’d much rather you just stay home.

The Global Orgasm for Peace was conceived by Donna Sheehan, 76, and Paul Reffell, 55, whose immodest goal is for everyone in the world to have an orgasm Dec. 22 while focusing on world peace.

“The orgasm gives out an incredible feeling of peace during it and after it,” Reffell said Sunday. “Your mind is like a blank. It’s like a meditative state. And mass meditations have been shown to make a change.”...


Jane, You Ignorant Slut

Tonight I participated as a judge at Stillwater High School’s debate tournaments. When I volunteered for this last weekend I was in the bosom of my family with a few glasses of wine in me and I imagined sitting in the school gym at long tables upon which sat Tupperware carafes of water and styrofoam cups, and boxes of those little yellow pencils that used to be at bowling alleys before they got computerized. There would be an audience at my back, students on a dais, and I’d be flanked by half-a-dozen other judges. Like American Idol. It wasn’t until we were in the car that I learned that I would be alone in a classroom with two varsity Lincoln-Douglas debaters and a timekeeper. I admit it. I panicked...


Let's Talk Turkey

So what are your plans for Thanksgiving? What’s on your menu? Do you go the traditional route or do you try something new and different each year? Or do you mix it up a bit? What’s your favorite Thanksgiving memory and what do you like most about the holiday? What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food? What would make the perfect Thanksgiving for you?


Tattoo You

I’m probably just an old fart, but I don’t like tattoos. They look dirty to me because they’re usually the same color as the grease that gets trapped under the fingernails of auto mechanics.

I’ve only seen two that I liked (tattoos, not auto mechanics): the one of John Lennon that Ville has on her leg—it’s in pastel colors—and the other one is a white tattoo that I saw on telly once.

Anyway, Go over to Rustbelt Ramblings, where Prego describes how his mother called him Pendejo when she found out he’d gotten tattooed, and discuss whether or not society’s attitude toward body graffiti has changed.



I think I’m going crazy. Seriously, I think I’m finally losing it.

Maybe it’s because lately, every minute of every day feels like it’s consumed with fixing something, figuring something out, putting out fires, smoothing ruffled feathers, biting bullets, kissing ass, schmoozing, and fighting illness and fatigue and the accompanying guilt that I can no longer manage these things as well as I used to. From the moment my feet hit the floor to the moment I go to bed, my mind is bombarded with an ever-growing list of things.

The “disco ball” fireplace broke again. There are outside lights that need replaced. The light in the stemware cupboard is out. The start button on the microwave is broken. The light switch in the ice maker on the door of the fridge is going. The upstairs toilet won’t flush. The internet cable service was jacked. The DSL has been installed and all of the Outlook Express mail accounts had to be transfered (which meant doing what it takes not to lose everyone’s passwords, email, and address books). The street lights are out. The doctors office keeps calling every damned morning at 8:24, waking me up, and demanding money that I don’t have. The garage needs cleaned so that I can park my car in it. This is a big house. I’m older than everyone else. I’m sick. I have to work on one job to pay off the garage bill while begging for another job so that we can have Thanksgiving and Christmas. Do the math.

It’s not that I mind doing things for everyone, it’s just that hearing “thank you for…” would make me feel a whole lot less grumpy, resentful, stressed, and taken for granted. Bless Joel’s heart for being a self-starter and taking on a number of responsibilities for me around here without me having to ask. It really helps and I appreciate his initiative and consideration.

For the past two nights, just as I’m drifting off into sleep, I’m wakened by the sound of my own brain reciting the times tables. The first night I got as far as the 7’s before I even realized what I was doing. Last night I was up to the 5’s. And during the day my mind repeats the same phrases over and over until I have to verbally tell myself to stop. I’m counting things, like the number of stays in the shade of my desk lamp and panes in the window.

Don’t feel the need to leave comments, this is just a beef fest; I’ll get over it with another cup of coffee.

7×2 is 14, 7×3 is 21, 7×4 is 28, 7×5 is 35, 7×6 is 42… SHUT UP!


Made the Switch

Because accessing the internet was impossible all weekend long, as well as all of the trouble Cox is having changing over to SuddenLink, I switched today to Chickasaw DSL. It’s kind of slow, so I’m going to call them tomorrow about it. But slower or not, at least we’re back on the web!

UPDATE TUESDAY 11/14: I upgraded and we’re moving along just fine now. I may upgrade again, when I can afford the $50 a month.

Also, we’re cat-sitting a little white and black cat we call “Diva” (her real name is “Diversity”) for a neighbor who lives catty-corner (lol) across the cul-de-sac while he’s on vacation. He wants us to keep her, but we can’t unless we take her in as an Anne Frank cat. Not sure I want to risk that again. She’s really kind of ours anyway, because whenever she gets out of his house, she comes over here and meows all night to be let in. When that isn’t accomplished, she goes around to our back yard and sleeps on our patio. Ironic, isn’t it? We took in Rachy a while back, a cat that we couldn’t get to stay; he just up and left us. And now we have a cat that we can’t get rid of.


Block Party

A family is moving in next door.

I was wakened at around 8:30 by the doorbell and was asked if I could move my car so that the driver of the block-long semi could back into the cul-de-sac. And there has been a lot of shouting back and forth between the four kids. Let’s hope they’re really into video games.


Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

Where do all these crumbs come from? I’m not aware of sitting over my computer keyboard eating packages of saltines or Shredded Wheat. The most action this baby sees is coffee (and wine), and so far I haven’t spilled any on it.

In the opening of “French Kiss”, staring Meg Ryan, there is a scene in which she sits cleaning her keyboard with a Q-Tip. I can top that. When I clean mine I take the keys off and clean each one individually with a Q-Tip and alcohol. Plus, I have a spray paint sized can of compressed air. One of the things I’ve liked about having a black keyboard is that I can’t see all of the finger schmutz, but as of this morning I no longer find that to be an asset. It seems that our keyboards are incubators. Here’s a little something I found at DeskDemon.Com:
Shake, Shake, Shake, and Shake Shake Again. What’s fallen out of your keyboard? Well, if it hasn’t been cleaned recently, there’ll be visible things such as crisps and biscuit crumbs, hair, the odd fingernail, and maybe a sprinkling of dandruff. But what about the things you can’t see?
  • Saliva. Every time you breathe, moisture is created and it settles somewhere!
  • Dead skin cells. Yes, afraid so. We all shed millions every day and where better to come to rest than in a computer keyboard?
  • Body fat. Believe us, it’s true. Every time you type, touch a screen or telephone, the oil in your skin leaves a microscopic film. Just think what a few months’ build up looks like under a microscope.
You may not mind having a collection of nasties in your keyboard if they belong to you, but what about when equipment is shared? Do you really want to collect body fat and saliva from someone else? Thought not!
I’m not anal-retentive about my computer. I used to be, until my family grew from two to seven. Now, I kind of accept that we humans can’t live in vacuums or sterile glass bubbles. The Erwin-Wallers may have germs, but they’re our germs, damn it! And I’ve gotten over the ick factor of several years ago whenever I think about all of the micro-organisms in our bed linens, as well as the weird power/guilt I feel when I realize that I’m annihilating entire universes teeming with life with every shower.

Guess I’ll clean my keyboard today.