A Parable of Love Lost and Found

There once was a young man, fair of face and long on dreams. He lived in a small town on the outskirts of a large city where lights glittered and dreamers chased after things he felt were passing fancy. What had caught his eye was in the small collectibles shop– a vase.

A vase of inimitable beauty, smooth and fair. It was finely painted with detail that delighted every passerby of the collectibles shop on the high street. At first the young man admired the vase from the sidewalk, too bashful to enter the shop, but one day he noticed that a trio of young men from his school entered, tinkle of the doorway bell sounding like a heavenly angel calling him.

From that day forward he visited the shop. He befriended the shopkeeper, asking all he knew of the origin of the vase. The young man at first dared not touch the fine porcelain, but in time he reached out to feel the smooth cool surface with a tentative finger. By the end of the summer he held the vase in his hands, his soft caress assured him that it was real, and for a moment, his.

As autumn approached and school resumed, the young man began his university studies. History was his major and he told the professor, in his favorite subject, of the vase and how it seemed to entice passersby toward the window where it was displayed.

“Tell me more,” the history professor said. As the young man described the vase, leaving no detail untold, the professor’s brows lifted. “This vase sounds like one worth a lot. One with a history that may entwine someday with yours.”

The vase continued to draw the young man back to the high street with the allure of a magnetic spell. One October day upon pressing through the collectible shop door, the shopkeeper called the young man to his station behind the counter.

“Why don’t you buy it?” the bespectacled and bent old man said, eyes sparkling from beneath the rims of his glasses.

The young man sputtered, not knowing how to reply. Surely the vase would be far dearer than his meager means might afford. “How much?” he asked, voice nearly strangled in his throat.

“For you, because of your continuing love and admiration, the vase is yours.”

The shopkeeper’s face blurred as the young man’s eyes filled with unbelieving tears. “Are you certain?”

“She is yours,” the shopkeeper said. Stepping out from behind the counter, he hobbled over to the display window, for the first time his crooked spine apparent.

The young man felt a twinge of guilt as he reached to take the vase from the extended hands of the bent old shopkeeper. Surely this old man could use the money such a beautiful vase would command. “I don’t know what to say,” the young man stared at the beautiful vase in his hands. He lifted his gaze to meet the shopkeeper.

“Love her,” he said, “Just love her. She is yours now.”

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

The young man nodded, trying to choke back the knot that rose in his throat. “I promise,” he said, turned, vase securely in hand, and left the shop.

A part of his home, the vase occupied a special place on the young man’s mantel. She was displayed, lovingly dusted, talked about to friends who visited, and cherished.

As one year slipped away into another, the young man became busier and busier earning his way in the world. He graduated university and won a job that required travel, but afforded him great prestige.

He now often forgot to dust the vase. He came to a place where he hardly noticed her anymore. She continued to grace his home and draw the attention of visitors. When a friend or colleague would comment on her beauty and preciousness, the young man nodded, glanced up at the vase and looked quickly back to his guest.

On occasion he would remember her, fondly clean her smooth surface and return her to her place.

One day the cat knocked her from her place on the mantel, a fine crack across her midsection the result. Oh, and a chip at her rim. “No matter,” the man said. You are still just as fine.” He returned the vase to her esteemed place on the mantel and ventured off on another of his business trips.

While he was away, he spent many hours wandering the streets of the new town to which his business took him. He peered through many windows of shops much finer than the small town collectibles shop. Some stores were exotic, holding goods so different from those of his hometown, so different from the soft smooth beauty of his prized vase.

A store in one town oft visited contained a bowl of extraordinary shine. It was deep blue like the sea, like a lapis lazuli polished stone. Only this bowl had been carved…etched by some fine artisan’s hand, with a border design so exquisite and exotic to his small town eyes that it mesmerized him much like the vase had those years ago.

He had to have her—the lapis lazuli exotic bowl so unlike the smooth fine beauty of the vase, yet so magnetic. He asked the store clerk the price of the bowl. ‘Gasp’, he tried to smother his disappointment as the clerk divulged the price.

Why this would cost me everything I have, he thought, smiling weakly at the clerk with a nod. “Thank you.”

He could only visit the shop to gaze at the bowl when his business took him to that town. He became more and more disenchanted with returning home. More and more eager to travel, to see other places, meet new people and not often enough return to admire the lapis lazuli bowl.

When at last he decided to sell what he had, to gather up the sum of his savings and venture to the town to buy the bowl, he felt a twinge in his gut. A wave of guilt and the memory of the promise he’d made his small town shopkeeper those years ago to love the vase. “Love her.” The shopkeeper’s voice echoed in his ear. “Just love her.”

The young man brought the bowl home but he did not display her. He kept her at first safe in his suitcase, He bought a safe for the bowl. No one must know he’d spent all his savings and sold so much to buy the bowl. People would think him not only foolish, but those few who knew of his promise to the small town collectibles shopkeeper, and truth be know, to the vase, would surely scorn him. Those who had witnessed his great love for the vase, what would they think?

He was ashamed. But the bowl was so exotic, so beautiful, so different than the vase. He stole a look at the bowl as often as he could in the privacy of his room, but he still kept the vase at her place on the mantel. She was still beautiful, if cracked and chipped. She still graced his mantel and warmed his home with her style and her warmth. He still loved to have her there. She was so familiar, so wonderful.

One evening the man returned home, tired and in need of rest, a bit of a lift. He went to the safe and carefully took out the bowl. It shone with the same magnetic loveliness he first remembered in the far away store. Setting it on the chest of drawers in his bedroom, he turned to get himself a cup of tea from the kitchen. His gaze fell upon the vase.

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Anger filled him—an anger he did not understand. Why would the vase he’d loved for so long bring such anger? He glanced back at the bowl, turned to the mantel, grabbed the vase and threw it to the floor.

The sound of the shattering porcelain filled him with a combination of dread and satisfaction. Looking at the many pieces now scattered across the floor, he grimaced. “No matter,” he thought. “I still have the bowl, more exotic and precious than anything.”

He swept up the pieces of the vase, but could not bring himself to toss them in the dustbin. The voice of the old shopkeeper buzzed in his ears. “Love her.”

“Damn,” he said. Opening a glass mason jar, he poured the shards in. He placed the jar with the colorful pieces of the vase back onto the mantel. “I still love you,” he said to the shards.

There he kept the vase for years. He patted the jar most days thinking what a good old vase she had been and indeed still was. Had he the time and energy, one day he promised himself he would carefully glue her back together. He would get to that someday.

In the meantime he lived his life, traveled for his career and kept the lapis lazuli bowl stored away in the safe to steal a look on occasion.

One day many years later he read in the newspaper of the passing of the shopkeeper. How sad, the thought, a tinge of melancholy and guilt piercing his heart. He sat at his kitchen table reading the paper when the doorbell rang.

“Who is it?”

“The shopkeeper’s wife,” answered a cracked old voice from the other side of his door.

The man opened the door. “Yes?”

“May I come in?” she asked. The white of her braided hair belied her years.

“Of course,” the man said, opening the door and lifting his arm to welcome the old woman inside.

“Never mind me. It’s this letter I have come to deliver.” She extended a gnarled hand, letter in envelope. “You knew my husband.”

“Yes,” the man said. “He was kind to me.”

The old woman nodded, lowered her eyes to the floor and turned to go.

“Wait,” the man said. “Is there more to tell?”

“It is in the letter,” she said, turning an eye back to him over her shoulder. With that she left.

The man returned to his place at the kitchen table, knocking over his cup of tea as he reached for a butter knife to use as letter opener.

“Damn it!” he rasped, slicing open the letter.

Young man, the letter began, scrawled in a careful hand.

If you read this now I have died and you are left to continue your loving care of the vase I entrusted to you those many years ago. If she has weathered the years intact, I know she has brought you much love and satisfaction. If she be cracked or chipped with time and wear, I know you have loved her all the same. If she is broken, by your hand or that of any other disaster of life, do not leave her shattered, for a vase lovingly glued back together is stronger at the cracked places than ever she was as a whole. She will always show the scars of her brokenness, but she will love you even better than in the youth of her perfection.

Remember your promise and your true heart – to love her as much as she has loved you.

Tears filled the man’s eyes and drowned out the signature at the bottom of the letter, droplets splashing on the ink. Collecting himself, the man pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his nose.

“No matter,” he said, and turned toward his bedroom where the bowl lay inside the safe. As he walked slowly toward his bedroom door a great wave of grief crashed over him. He dropped to his knees and wept for the foolishness of his youth, for the time he’d spent stealing glances of the lapis lazuli bowl and for the manner in which he had taken the vase for granted. She was always there gracing his mantel. Always there, even though he had grown to hate her ugly brokenness; the brokenness he had caused when he cast her down.

Gathering himself back to his feet, he sobbed. He would honor the shopkeeper’s last wishes, glue her back together and get rid of the bowl. No longer did he long to see the exotic beauty of the blue lapis for he had finally realized the worth of loyalty, of perseverance, and of the true beauty of love.

Image courtesy Freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy Freedigitalphotos.net

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Newport Beach Hosts 108th Annual Boat Parade

As the sun set over the harbor, the 108th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade began its five day float in the harbor Wednesday night.

Mickey Mouse was grand marshal of the parade. The Disney Resort supplied a float honoring the January return of the Main Street Electrical Parade to its home park.

About 80 boats, yachts and other floating vessels followed the 14-mile route around nearly the entire harbor. Thousands of spectators lined the waterways.

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The parade repeats nightly through Sunday, beginning at 6:30 at the Bay Island Channel starting point. It takes the parade nearly three hours to reach its finish at Bay Island.

 

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The Dark Night of Infidelity

Cheating scrabble

“The biggest mistake spouse’s who’ve had affairs make is withholdinginformation, minimizing facts, and telling more lies.

In the final end it will not be the affair or the sex with the other person that has hurt them the most.

 

It will be the lies.

 

What you need to realize is that you have already hurt your partner/spouse as much as it is possible to hurt a human being. There is only one way you can hurt them more now, and that’s by telling more lies.”

 

– Anne Bercht, Infidelity Expert

 

If you have never been betrayed by the person you love most in the world, count your blessings, but don’t discount that it may happen. Statistics in modern America dictate that anywhere from twenty two to sixty percent of men and forty percent of women will step outside their committed relationship at some time in their life. If the affair partner is not one of these ‘counted’ individuals, the numbers rise, making it closer to eighty percent of all relationships suffering through infidelity. And why would one think a betrayer would tell a poll-taker the truth if they have lied so egregiously to the person they claim to love more than any other? The numbers are staggering. Infidelity is rampant.

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

A dear friend of mine and an avowed ‘Ex hippie’ with all the free love philosophy acted upon in those days once told me that although she was widely promiscuous in her hippie youth, she never slept with a married man. Now a staid and beloved mother and grandmother, accomplished in her job and well liked by all, she is the picture and reality of a respected woman. “The one thing I taught my kids to listen to from me—if they chose to flush all the rest of the advise I should ever bestow—Live by the Golden Rule.

 

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

 

There is zero room in the golden rule for the betrayal of infidelity—  “hurt your partner/spouse as much as it is possible to hurt a human being”.

 

They say emotional pain rivals any agony of physical injury. And so it is true. When the person you thought had your back, thought of you as the most special and precious human being on the planet turns to another in the most intimate of acts—sex, there is little else to compare.

 

Relationship experts say it is not unlike the effect of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as the realization sinks in that your beloved has done the ultimate devaluing of you as a person. Sleep interrupted by torrents of tears, jolting waves of anxiety and grief, stomach aches, sickness all accompany the days weeks and months after ‘discovery’. The betrayed can think of little else.

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

They say all things can be forgiven. I believe that is true. People forgive such as those–the murderer of their children, or the thief of their life savings. This super human feat of compassion is at the core of the philosophies of the most respected giants in our culture—Martin Luther King Jr, Ghandi, Jesus—and yet it is equally available to we mere mortals.

 

Forgiveness.

 

‘How can I ever forgive such betrayal?’, the hurt partner asks her or himself. As is true with most seemingly insurmountable life challenges—one minute at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time. Yes, even if the betraying partner is unrepentant and leaves the relationship, one day at a time the hurt partner can regain his/her life, take care of him or herself and realize that the betrayal is no reflection on them, but rather the deep hole of inadequacy, the low self esteem of the betrayer. It takes a healthy person to face any and all relationship problems head on through talking with the partner and/or seeking outside help. So many many choice other than infidelity. Finding solice outside the relationship puts gasoline on the fire of discontent, taking the betrayer ever the further from what would actually build his/her self respect and core relationship—integrity.

 

Ah but we are frail humans. We tell ourselves lies, we make excuses to do what we know is wrong. We blame the very person we are betraying. We take the easy way out, the path of temporary thrill and pleasure at the expense of our soul.

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

All souls can heal. All souls can be forgiven. Yes, even those who ‘hurt their partner/spouse as much as it is possible to hurt a human being.’ Even if the relationship ends, forgiveness, compassion and sympathy for the betrayer is not only possible, but the only path to a fulfilling and happy future. Ridding your heart of resentment, thoughts of revenge– and replacing those thoughts with thoughts of compassion is not easy. Nothing worthwhile in this life is.

 

The key to surviving and thriving after the ‘most hurtful experience possible in any human life’, is feeling and getting the energy of all the agony out, moving through it like a firewalker over hot coals—be kind to yourself and realize, truly come to grips with, the fact that betrayal is one hundred percent the choice of the betrayer.

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Are you a perfect partner? No one is. Even the best, most loving relationships are comprised of two imperfect persons working day in and out to respect each other, compromise, value and uphold each other through all the challenges of a full life.

 

Betrayal would never happen if we all took the Golden Rule into account in all our decisions, most especially one that shatters, at a minimum, one heart—the betrayed partner, but with the possibility of agonizing so many others—children, siblings, friends, parents of the betrayed as they watch their beloved friend/child/sister/brother suffer the most painful experience of their life. Communicable disease and broken families all lie on the guilteen of infidelity as soon as the betrayer crosses the line, pulls the chord releasing the blade of ‘the gift that keeps on giving’–an act that can unleash horror and destruction. It can never be unheard, unfelt, un seen once the hurt partner becomes aware. Life will never be the same.

 

Weakness, low self esteem, immaturity are the scars so many carry into relationships that can seem Cinderella-perfect at the start. Un-addressed issues of childhood, baggage taken on throughout life and just plain unrecognized vulnerabilities lead so many down this path of destruction. But when the midnight bell tolls, life as the couple knows it shatters, never ever to be the same again.

 

Forgiveness.

 

Doing the hard work to rebuild. Whether together or apart, each person from the couple must move through the ramifications of the choice made by one—if either or both ever hope to heal and grow into the stronger, wiser person possible on the other side of this life altering experience.

 

Together or apart.

 

Wait until the emotional storms pass because this is too important a decision to be made quickly or in the throws of agony. Three to six months is the wisdom of the infidelity experts. Three to five years before healing, should the couple choose to stay and work together toward a better tomorrow.

 

Unimaginable pain with lifelong consequences or—

The Golden Rule.

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Follow it, talk to your partner about it and perhaps this ‘hurt as much as it is possible to hurt a human being’ may never darken your door.

 

Peace.

 

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The Gift of Desperation

If you have someone in your family who has an obsession–someone who is driven to partake in a self destructive habit that by definition leaves a trail of collateral damage in his, in its wake, you know the agony and despair in watching them travel a path into darkness. Perhaps the most difficult thing to accept is that YOU are powerless over their addiction.

Image result for images dr jekyll and mr hyde

Wiser words never spoken: “The only person you can control is yourself.”

I am in the the unwilling club of agony. My family member is an alcoholic addict.

A chilly May gray overcast hugged the L.A. coast, 6:45 a.m.– I attend an early morning AA meeting as visitor. A welcoming elderly gent with a twinkle in his eye and warm hug  greets me after the meeting.

“Most people drift through a vanilla life, little good nor bad to color their days. We with the disease of alcoholism are blessed. We have been given the gift of desperation.”

People who suffer the disease of addiction travel predictable steps/stages as they descend into their own personal hell. To compound the tragedy, they do not travel this road alone. They betray their morals, their integrity, everything and everyone they hold dear to protect their addiction. They are self centered. They drag their most beloved friends and family down the rabbit hole. Those who love and care about a  ____ -oholic, whether his disease drives him to drink, or drugs, gambling, overspending, over focus on sex, overeating, self centeredness or over-anything, are truly powerless over the goal of the addiction or the addict. The addict will literally walk into the gates of death and hell to maintain his ability to obtain his selfish goal.

Lie, cheat, steal, betrayal of all they know and love, addicts destroy everything good and true in their lives in service of their addiction. Warm, gentle, funny personalities erode into Mr Hyde, a shadow of their former beloved Dr Jeckyl-self. The addict is consumed by his addiction, and along with him, so goes his family.

“Dr. Henry Jekyll is a “large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty with something of a slyish cast”, who occasionally feels he is battling between the good and evil within himself, thus leading to the struggle between his dual personalities of Jekyll and Edward Hyde. He has spent a great part of his life trying to repress evil urges. He creates a serum, Image result for images dr jekyll and mr hyde or potion, in an attempt to mask this hidden evil within his personality. However, in doing so, Jekyll transforms into Mr. Hyde, a hideous, evil creature without compassion or remorse. Jekyll has many friends and has a friendly personality, but as Hyde, he becomes mysterious and violent. As time goes by, Hyde grows in power. After taking the potion repetitively, he no longer relies upon it to unleash his inner demon i.e., his alter ego. Eventually, Hyde grows to be stronger than Jekyll.” – Wikipedia

Family members, as loving and helpful individuals, try with increasing frustration, to help the spiraling Mr. Hyde in their life. Surely he can be saved by love?

No. He can not.

There is no love, nor power strong enough this side of heaven to save the addict from himself. It is he alone that can do that with, as AA says, ‘help of his higher power.’ He is the only one who can save himself.

So what of the elderly alcoholic gent who so ebulliently proclaimed his gratitude for the tortuous path he has travelled, his genuine smile stark contrast to the dreary morning?

What is the gift of desperation?

When you have lied, betrayed, stolen from and cheated the person(s) you love most in your life. When you have lost every shred of self respect. When you rage against the very person’s who are trying to support and love you back to health– a moment of such desperate desperation brings the fortunate sufferers of addiction to their metaphorical knees. They face their Mr Hyde. Hideous and unconquerable.

It is only through a fearless moral inventory, confessed to God, self and one other human being–it is through reparations made to all those so harmed by the addict’s selfish destruction—it is through total surrender to the powerlessness, that the addict is reborn.

And isn’t it this very descent into hell that provides the stark contrast to the light and life of living in personal truth?

It is through honesty that intimacy is built. It is through the nakedness of self awareness and total willingness to be transparent that the morally, emotionally destitute rise from the ashes of their addiction into the light of truth and honesty and love.

And it is only from this place in hell that an individual can experience the gift of desperation.

____________________

Are you or do you have an addict in your life?

How have you survived the hell on earth of the addict’s personal and corporate destruction? As part of the wreckage strew in the addict’s path, what brought light and love back into your life?

As a family member wounded over and again by the addict you love — How have you experienced your own gift of desperation?

 

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In the Midst Of The Arizona High Dessert

Chaparral dots the slowly ascending landscape. Tall saguaro cactus fall behind, pine trees joining in as you climb from low dessert to high. Around a gentle curve of highway a surprise juts from the horizon, revealing a deep orange interior of smooth, naked rock that comprise wind and rain cut sculptures. Jaw dropping.DSCN5796

All of a sudden, the visitor to Sedona is transported to the backdrop of many a Hollywood western. But instead of John Wayne or a posse rumbling horse-top, a sprinkling of Southwestern buildings snuggle up to the sides of highway 89, dwarfed by  towering mesas and time carved mountains that rise in surrealism from the dessert floor. Like huge mounds of citrus sherbet, each sculpture is a compilation of layers of sandstone, the darkest umbers closest to the earth, in ever lightening shades- layers of orange and rose toward a cerulean sky.

Small wonder that this has been a holy place for millenium of native people, now a center of ‘new ageism’ and spiritual retreat. There is a pervasive feel of the mystical in the wind that has sculpted the cliffs for ions.
Western religions have a firm foothold as well.

Chapel Of The Holy Cross

Chapel Of The Holy Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother nature had a treat in store in the black night of February. Thunder snow. Winds howled and the sky split with thunderous slashes of light. Swirls of white blew through the night.DSCN5788 DSCN5858 In the morning the mesa were dusted with white and the air veritably cracked with cold. The earth that bakes under a relentless sun throughout most of the year was now blanketed unnaturally white.

Over the next few days sparkling of diamonds drifted from the pines and the ice that made the highways treacherous, melted. DSCN5850

 

 

 

 

 

 

That limo-led winery tour looked better and better.DSCN5921

 

 

DSCN5825A visit to the Tlaquepaque Village, built to shadow its counterpart in Mexico, wrapped up with a delicious beer tasting at Oak Creek Brewery.

 

DSCN5821DSCN5902DSCN5930Whisked back to the resort in that glowing limo…

Sedona —

Ancient, alluring, mystical.DSCN5823 DSCN5799

Modern.      Artsy.

 

 

 

 

 

DSCN5914DSCN5838 DSCN5876Magical.

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Oscar Nominations – Huge Congratulations to the film, Brooklyn and Saoirse Ronan…

When I reviewed the quiet film, Brooklyn, I knew it was brilliant. Alas, Oscar does not always ‘see’ such brilliance. Much to my delight, 5:30 a.m. Oscar nomination announcements have proven me delightfully wrong about The Academy and so right about the wonderful film, “Brooklyn”.

 

Have you seen Brooklyn? What is your ‘take’?

A 1950s Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) who sets sail for America, soon finding herself torn between the new life she’s created and a loyalty to her homeland.

 

Click over to read my review:  http://midlifeboulevard.com/p-london-brooklyn-review/

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For The Love Of A Dog

Whether you’re a cat or a dog person, you have experienced some of the most profound love there is this side of heaven.

Like our kids when they are young, our pets depend on us for nearly everything, dogs more so than cats. The feline, when pushed, can fend for himself, nabbing the occasional rodent or bird. But our canine companions look much more intently to us for sustenance in the form of food and emotion.

Is it because dogs have eyebrows to define expression? Is it their devotion? Perhaps it’s the deep look into their beloved owner’s eyes or the tail wagging, wiggling party when she arrives home. Whatever it is, there is a bond between owners and their fur babies that goes beyond description.

Yes, cats may be aloof, especially when ‘another’ human is in their house. What cat owner will not attest to their feline’s true ardour, curling up on a lap or rubbing with affection in circle eights around ankles? Perhaps a cat’s affection is more subtle, but that does not make it untrue.

My little Yorkie, Milo, came down with a nasty gastro-intestinal bug a few days ago. Usually ‘five pounds of fun’, he quickly turned into four pounds nine of very lethargic, sickly little man in the blink of an eye. Granted, animals cannot talk, but for vets to accost such a little man with probes and needle-sticks just seems to add insult to injury. The financial toll added up as quickly as the emotional drain on me, his human mom. I found myself trying to control my temper, wondering why the vet could not take one step at a time as she worked to rule out ailments and illnesses.

It took my frazzled, frayed, but cooler head to ask her to slow down. The blood work took only ten minutes to come back from the onsite lab, ruling out the horrid disease she had at first suspected. The vet wanted to do xrays, I.V. and hospitalization from the get-go even before blood testing was back. Not only would this have set us back one thousand dollars, it would have meant leaving our already frightened little man with people he doesn’t know in a place he’d never been. Not ideal atmosphere for recovery when careful administration of medications at home could have met the vet’s prescription for his health just as well, without the stress of what would surely seem abandonment to Milo.

Is there bedside manner taught in veterinarian school? One wonders.

One day later, Milo was keeping down his bland diet of chicken and rice (he hated the canned prescription diet) evidently to spite the vet who had reticently okayed it as homemade supplement. Giving him a prescription liquid suspension via tiny plunger tube (looks like an injection syringe without the needle) elicited a punitive canine scowl accompanied by smacking and tongue juts, but Milo was a trooper through it all. Implicit, complete trust.

By day two he was barking at backyard squirrels and by the evening, playing around with his rope bone, flinging it into the air, watching it bounce and pouncing on it, only to repeat the playful dance. The vice that crushed my heart loosened over the hours to a dull ache as I watched my precious little man revive.

It is wisely said that grief is the price we pay for love. Our canines and cats have too-short lives with us, so by definition, we will experience their loss. The agony of it brings tears at the mere thought. But to try to imagine my life without this little character blessing me dozens of times a day as he brings smiles and laughter? How impoverished my house would be without his little collar bell tinkling as reminder that he follows my steps, looking to me for love and giving it back one hundred times over. Precious does not begin to describe.

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Say What…Sacramento?

Don’t feel bad if you don’t know the answer. There are many Californians who do not know the capital of our Golden State.

John Sutter may have insured the secure beginning of the city with his fort, but it was the discovery of Gold at Sutter’s Mill, some fifty miles northeast ,that propelled Sacramento into the forefront of affluence, giving it the monitory clout to provided the building needed to house the political and financial offices.

Yes, it was the riches so mined that eventually convinced politicians of the time to make this locale at the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers the permanent seat of power.

From Old Sacramento

to the Civil War era Capitol building,

this place is rich in California history. It was by hook, crook and a narrow vote, that the capitol building was saved from the wrecking ball in the 1970’s. Sixty eight million dollars, hundreds of craftsmen and close attention to detail provided through old photographs, and the State Capitol was revived to its former glory. The original brick used was literally crumbling, so it took engineers and artisans some pretty miraculous work to achieve what is now so beautifully restored.

From the mosaic of California poppies, each stone removed, cleaned and replaced, to the rich woodwork of the staircase, to the amazing plasterwork, every inch of the place is a source of pride.

The former location of the treasury is frozen in time, now a mini museum.

Each of the legislative chambers magnificent. The décor of the chambers reflects the precedents set in British Parliament. The color red, featured in the Senate Chambers, is historically associated with the House of Lords. In the Assembly Chambers, green is the predominant color, a tradition borrowed from Parliament’s House of Commons.

Little devils overlook both chambers, said to be a ‘signature’ of the artisans who were not allowed any other concrete identification of their work.

In the chamber hallways are portraits of each past governor. The upper floor is where the most modern office holders reside. Each portrait was commissioned by the governor so pictured. Our present governor Jerry Brown has a portrait that stands out, as he does. It is from his first stent as governor (when he was so much younger, brasher and sported lots more hair) and will have a second placed across the hall once his (2nd) term nears an end.

No city tour is complete without a visit to the best creamery on the planet. Leatherby’s family run ice creme parlor has the most decadent offerings that simply must be tasted to be believed. Mmmmmm…..

And yes–all this touring came at the cost of parking—free on Sundays. Well…the ice cream does come at a price, but who’s counting….

money or calories?

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When Good Dogs Go Bad

If you have ever had a canine as part of your household, you know they have a bundle of emotions to rival the most extravagant diva. Some suffer in silence, but that tends to be the exception.

Like this morning. I had a service call scheduled. The service man would arrive between 9 and 11.

9:25a.m. – I have pressed the safety envelope as far as I dare. The dogs follow me into the bedroom, par usual—my three satellites . ‘Slap’. I put up the gate, corralling DSCN3803them in the limited comfort of the room they happily call their domain every night of their lives.

“Small, Medium and Large”, as they are affectionately known to other doggie parents in the park, do not take kindly to having their household free range upset. But as the ceramic doorbell plaque at my front entrance warns, “Release the Hounds”, they like unknown company even less.

There is an inborn, ingrained, instinct present in canines to protect the domicile. I get it. They love their ‘mommy’ and the ‘others’ that inhabit the house. The men that live here are tolerated, even loved when they are rubbing any of the pink tummies so happily presented at the least provocation. Mommy? They would rip jugular from throat to save her from unknown males in uniforms—or so they posture.

A service-man?

Dakota Night BarkingHe is the devil incarnate only to be rivaled by the whir of a weed whacker or roar of a leaf blower. Gardeners are, in the doggie job description, loathed and to be barked at from first footfall to turn of truck key upon exit.

But this new and never before seen/smelled man in dark uniform ringing the bell (didn’t he read the warning?) send Small, Medium and Large into an epileptic cataclysm of jumping, turning, growling and yapping to rival end of days.

So I admit it. I lured them into the bedroom and shut them in. As I sit on the edge of what is usually my comfy relaxation chair in the family room, they gather at the gate wedged in the doorway, a sad trio. Medium cries pitifully in a tone that rivals the upper registers of human hearing. Small sits neatly looking upward to the top of the gate awaiting the return of Mommy’s face. And Large? She takes advantage of the cool wood floorspace to sprawl in her more mature patience.

Medium’s whine grates at my frayed nerves as I try to distract myself by watching The View. The two hour window is half over. Don’t the service providers realize the assault on doggie psyches their waiting window inflicts?

Should I go in the bedroom? The gate is somewhat challenging to step over, especial in a rush to answer the door. And when the bell rings, we have already discussed the perfect canine storm that will erupt. Now Medium is sniffing at the gate trying to catch a whiff of her Mommy’s presence. The fan is on, blowing my scent away from them and into the family room. Medium tones down the whine. No Mommy means wasted whine.DSCN3885

11:04 a.m. “Ding dong” Bastard.

At least all the suffering has not been wasted. The bedroom explodes in a blizzard of righteous barking. The suffering has paid off. All three get to protect the domicile with their vicious posturing. I know they’d melt at the first forward advance, but for now, we’ll let them think it was their persistent fear-envolking threat that sent him on his way.

Flip. The gate is set aside and they run full out into the backyard with two more minutes of aggressive din to make sure he is gone. As they file back indoors, smug expression of triumph lifting the curl of each lip, I collapse into my chair–comfy once more.

“Thanks, guys.”

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Stuff They Don’t Teach In School

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book,
Don’t know much about the french I took
But I do know that I love you,
And I know that if you love me, too,
What a wonderful world this would be

-Sam Cooke, Wonderful World

I think Sam is light years ahead of most of us.

I’ve been thinking lately about the really important stuff I never learned in school. Not to lessen the vital role of an educated citizenry.

An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people. – Thomas Jefferson

Surely we all need to know more than basic literacy. The push to teach divergent thinking; the necessity to be able to evaluate. Bloom’s Taxonomy, familiar to teachers from simplest forms of thinking progressing to those that are more complex as: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and lastly evaluation. In creative production both thought divergent and convergent thought processes are necessary as one first diverges ideas in numerous quantity, and then narrows and refines the array through convergent thought processes.

We could debate the quality of teaching styles and the ease of falling back into the lowest level of memorizing facts so prevalent in days gone by before nearly anything could be looked up at the touch of a computer screen. But that is not the stuff of which I speak.

They don’t teach you how to love somebody in school. No talk of love as a verb and not only a feeling.

They don’t teach you how to balance your finances, save for retirement, avoid usury interest rates, form and follow a budget. At least most schools don’t and of those that do, it is not core required curriculum.

They don’t teach you the consequences of your life’s earnings. How to be rich. How to be poor.

They don’t teach you to read body language. To develop your emotional intelligence.

They don’t teach you what to say to someone who is dying.

How do I advocate for my child if he is disabled?

What do I say when my mother loses her husband?

How do I stand up to bullying?  Why do other kids bully? Is it more about them than me?

They don’t teach you that you get more from helping others than you ever give and that giving is the way out of doubt and feelings of inadequacy.

They don’t teach you that a job hunt is a full time job. How do I interview? What does a good resume look like?

They don’t teach you that impulsive decisions can lead to long term regrets and consequences. What will that dragon tattoo sprawling across my midsection look like with a fifty year old beer gut or a ninety year old sagging physique?

They don’t teach you how to hold a baby, how much it actually costs to raise a child or even IF you have the hutspa  to be a parent…and if you don’t–that’s Okay.

They don’t teach you how to age with grace and to respect those who are going through the slings and arrows of aging and ageism.

Most of all—they don’t impress upon you the importance of walking through your life with others. Friends are the glue of sanity and the joy of sharing life.

What are some of the things you wish you’d been taught in school?

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