Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Small Steady Voice

by Dubby Riley

A funny thing happened on my way to my next breath. I caught myself pausing to appreciate the space between. The frames of all the images in my head softened. The edges of all the tactile impressions extending out from me blurred and the little me grew smaller.

Who is that BIGGER me watching? An interconnected community of living intelligence--capable of forgiving anything and everything and laughing at the fecklessness of judgement. The utterly useless, futile, contemptible and pointless act of judging things as "right" or "wrong" is a burden and baggage which should be left behind. That doesn't mean we shouldn't learn to be happy and productive and good steward's of the planet. It's more about letting go of negativity. Face problems, understand them and find solutions.

Our Smiling Heart community is growing slowly. We have visitors who are new. Most of them remain invisible and choose not to contribute, for now. But folks are looking in, poking around, going through old posts. Unfamiliar faces are deciphering signals and putting the story together of these few authors and extended community of "commentors." Here is our message to everyone reading--Put a smile of hope in your heart!

Some have suggested that forces outside of us are at play and that these forces influence circumstances of the natural world. Perhaps some planetary attractions, lunar cycles, psychic phenomena are wreaking havoc on our dispositions. How would we know whether or not some rythmic drumming or celestial dance isn't permeating our moods and emotions?

As the world watches the unfolding of the worst man made ecological catastrophe ever to occur on our planet, it is understandable that we inherit despondency. Other events which have saturated the fabric of socio-economic conditions such as financial upheaval and the "creeping" spread of corporate power and influence put tremendous pressure on individuals. Half of the world population, about 3.5 billion people live on less than $2.50 per day. The richest 20% accounts for 3/4 of the world's income. A large percentage (perhaps 90% or more of us individuals who are blessed to be in the top twenty, ten or even five percent of the richest people on the planet) are also struggling to balance our finances.

Less dramatic from a global perspective but every bit as real for the individuals who experience pain are our personal struggles. Players suffering from disaster and heartache, personal loss and tragedy, such as death of a loved one, a sad twist in a love-life or even an isolated case of depression--must admit that we humans suffer. Buddhists call it the human condition.

So whether or not illusive energies and angelic forces are strangely permeating our culture, a negative and dark human-behavioral storm has been gathering momentum for quite some time.

In the midst of such anguish and turmoil a sweet and charming voice has been providing a background song. Celebrities occasionally join forces with grand productions such as WE ARE THE WORLD. Even Coke managed to infiltrate our higher consciousness with its bizarre suggestion that by drinking some brown sugar water, we'll find peace. But always, without once being disconnected from it, we've stayed attuned to a delicate note of hope.

I think great things can come from small voices. Humans may lose their foothold as the arbiters of planetary sanity. Quite frankly, I think the rest of the world species would benefit by the demise of the human experiment.

So it really isn't a matter of saving the planet. She'll do exceedingly well without us, thank you very much. But the question becomes: Is human culture worth saving?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

From Jo Floyd Lucas

It seems we’re living in a pressure cooker atmosphere these days, doesn’t it? I’ve heard from quite a few friends lately that we all seem to be burdened by more than our fair share of troubles and turmoil at the moment. Either we’re overloaded with personal issues or overloaded with professional issues, or both. Even if neither of those seems to be the case, the environmental disaster in the gulf has broken the hearts of many others.

Maybe, as some would say, this roiling atmosphere is being caused by the planetary formations right now. It’s possible that the intensity of our situations is magnified by the summer solstice. Some have even suggested that God is trying to tell us something. Me? I’ve given up on the explanations. Why ask why?

I have come to realize, to my great consternation, that I cannot control much, if any, of that which is going on around me, but I’ve also realized, with great relief, that I can mitigate the angst by my response to the turmoil.

How do you respond? By staying busy, so as not to notice your own discomfort? By becoming grouchy, short, or emotionally distant from your loved ones, so as not to feel the pain? By placing blame, so as not to feel responsible? All of these responses serve to momentarily assuage the feelings, but lead us straight to the edge of the cliff in the long run. Back away from the cliff, friends.

Take care of yourselves.

A few months ago, I was convinced that spare time was for others. Not me. I was the consummate homemaker, mother, grandmother, friend, volunteer, and community activist. I was too busy. Busy, busy, busy. Deep down, I knew I was overloaded, but life is sneaky that way. Despite our best efforts to live with intent, little by little we find ourselves giving in to the mounting pressures. My response to the stress causing me to feel exhausted, overweight, and mentally fragmented? Ignore it and move on! Really. Well, we can only ignore our situation for so long before we are finally forced to see the necessity to change.

To some, this insight comes over time. To some, it comes as a response to illness or injury. To others, this insight comes instantly without explanation. That’s how it was for me. It was like someone flipped a switch inside my head. That’s how instant and absolute it was. I was doing something quite mundane (unloading groceries) when I suddenly realized I had been unkind…to myself. I would never have let anyone treat a friend or loved one the way I had treated myself. In that instant, as corny and simplistic as it sounds, I changed.

I immediately determined that I would begin to allow myself to do three things; enjoy nature again (as I had done so completely and utterly as a child), eat foods that nourished my body and mind (not just those that were on hand or convenient), and allow myself more time to read for pleasure (‘pleasure’ often meaning in pursuit of knowledge, which I crave like sugar). Three little things I gave myself permission to do.

The concept of ‘spare time’ is, of course, a fallacy. We all have the same amount of time each day. We all structure this time according to our own wants, needs, and interests. Not a minute of it is extra, and each one is precious. Some of those minutes are set aside to care for your loved ones, so put your name on that list.

When was the last time you took a walk…alone? Yes, alone. Completely alone. No fair walking the dog or pushing the baby carriage. No iPod. No phone. Take a short walk and listen, instead, to the glorious music of nature. Walk with your body erect and your head high. It takes only as long as you want…give yourself fifteen minutes to experience something as wondrously simple as the honey bee on the flower. Your soul will thank you.

When was the last time you took joy in preparing food that grew from the earth? Smelling a melon, slicing a ripe tomato, or eating a few berries can bring so much more satisfaction to your body than unwrapping a package. Wean yourself off processed foods and turn back to the foods most of us used to eat...real foods. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your body responds.

When was the last time you picked up a book for the sheer joy of discovering the way the words roll off your tongue? Even children’s books are sometimes written with the skill of a poet, and shouldn’t be overlooked as great literature. From Rumi to Redbook to Dr. Seuss, enjoy a few words for your own pleasure each day. Your mind will be sharper and your mood brighter.

Give yourself permission to be on your list of loved ones. Find the three things you want to allow yourself to do, then do those things--guilt-free. We may not be able to solve all the problems we’re faced with, but if we pay more attention to our own well being, maybe we’ll create a little more peace within ourselves, be just a little bit healthier, and receive just a little more insight in the process.

As my dear friend, Freddy, said so well:

Give love
Give love
Give love

Love dares you to care
for the people on the edge
of the night, and

Love dares you to change
our way of caring
about ourselves.

This is our last dance.
This is ourselves...
under pressure.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

John Martyn with Kathy Mattea - May You Never

By Rick Hempy

It's been an extraordinary week. The cosmic joker has been busy. After having to replace an air conditioner the week before, our hot water heater sprung a leak and had to be replaced also. Friday night, in the middle of a live performance, my PA shot craps. "Stuff" seems to be coming apart all around me.

I know that this blog is about "Smiling Heart"(s), but this has been sort of a "grim and bear it" week. Through it all, my friends have been there. Many thanks to you all.

So here is a wish for you... my friends...

Meet my dad

By Nancy Kotsifakis
The last time I saw my dad alive, we hugged and I got to tell him how much I loved him. The next time I saw him I was smoothing down a lone gray hair on his eyebrow as he lay still in death, and I knew that this body was not my dad. The soul of my father with all of his stories was the man I missed. He had an incredible memory and was one of those that could remember and embellish a joke so well that you would not recognize that it was the same joke you told him a year ago. He loved to make people laugh. My mom put on a variety show for her church and just handed a microphone to my dad between acts. Without a script he just went from one joke to another - 'almost like a vaudeville act - and it made me join this church' one person mentioned at his funeral. I honestly think my father would have made a joke about the manner in which he died. He just 'dropped' dead as he was washing his hands for lunch. It was horrible for everyone especially my mom trying to revive him, my brother taking 3 phone calls to complete the sentence telling me he died - all of us were crushed. I walked around that funeral holding a big box of kleenex - for I had lost the man who taught me that I could do anything I had my heart set to do.

My dad would sit for hours everynight and explain scientific things to me - things such as how a TV worked, or on summer nights we would talk about everything under the stars. As a very small girl I would understand some very complex things from my dad - and he never told me that I was too young to understand. Of course, I might forget half of the explanation before I walked halfway down the hallway - but still for that fleeting moment I would really understand, and it led to my love of science and math and all things logical (music is such a part of math and logic to me as well).

My dad came from Crete when he was 6 years old (Petros Cotsifaki as listed above). He remembers days walking on that island, the trip on an Italian boat to the 'promised land' of America, and Ellis Island. During the trip he was tasked to take care of a little girl, and wanting to run around the boat instead - tied her up to a pole so he could run off and play. During that time the water started rising in this room, and he got into all kinds of trouble - but the Italian crew stood up for him and helped him hide from the irate mom -- the girl was just fine, but it was very scary! When he arrived at Ellis Island with his mom and 2 brothers, he was had to go off exploring on his own. The officers decided to divide the group in half and send them in two different directions. No one spoke English at the time, but his mom could see that my dad was on the other 'half' and that this other half was being herded to an entirely different process. She cried, and tried to plead her case to the officer's that did not speak Greek. Finally, my dad remembers that she opened up her blouse to reveal a breast and pointed at my dad - the officer made the connection, and probably never saw THAT kind of communication before!

My dad's father had to send the family to the US ahead of time, and they were instructed to take the train west as far as their money would take them. He joined them in Hanna, Wyoming where many other Greek families settled together - a community of Greek speaking people. My dad's father took a lunch sack everyday to the coal mine entrance until they eventually hired him. My dad was such a proud American, he spearheaded his own paperwork as a child, and was shocked when his paperwork was returned 'the name of the boat you put down is not the one you came in on'. Well, he thought...if they know THAT, then let THEM tell ME what boat it was! Unfortunately, things don't work that way in govt. and he eventually found someone who was on the boat so he could get the paperwork resolved. In the meantime he schooled the neighborhood kids on American history, and the boss of the coal mine took him and some of his friends under his wing to let them research subjects from his personal library. My dad said that he learned quickly not to ask questions because the answer was always, 'look it up'! Back to becoming an American - when the test day came for my dad and his friends, they got a ride to Rawlins and my dad was so confident and ready for this test he just couldn't wait. He knew all about the presidents, everything....but the judge said, 'I have only one question for you, and if you get it right that is all I will ask'. Well, the question was 'who funded the building of our new Rawlins courthouse?' My dad was crushed, he had no idea....heck he lived many miles away in Hanna and I doubt the newspaper was anything he spent time with as a kid.

Skipping past many more stories, my father was in WWII, and got a bronze star for 'shaving 2 1/2 years off the war' (as he remembers the letter saying - burned in the St. Louis fire, and lost in the Ruskin tornado). He worked on the airplanes and avionics - but had figured out a way to improve target accuracy and also to turn the airplanes around quicker (so he could get more sleep, he said). This is the same guy that twisted an old antenna around to heat up as a makeshift toaster. He went on to invent many things at Bendix and when he later opened an Avionics shop, he invented a Pitot Static tester that was portable and more accurate than standards even today. He envisioned making money for us, but that never happened. Instead, we got a better deal - to see this incredible mind at work, and his knack for finding the best in all people and events. I never saw him down or defeated - he was always looking at life with a positive attitude.

As my dad....zoom past alot more stories to the days I was 1 1/2 years old, and would just stop breathing. My father studied for his electronics degree from KU at night next to my bedside to make sure I kept breathing. Eventually - after more horror stories, they found my problem to be a very bad tonsil infection. My dad was the one I called at night the first time my foot 'went to sleep' ....this was something for dad, 'there are ANTS crawling all over my feet!', and he just chuckled but set my mind at rest as he explained this phenomenon.

I am writing this as I cook a special dinner with my dad in my heart, and just wanted to share some of my special memories. I inherited my dad's love for ice cream - and oh yes, when I look in the mirror now, I see this wild stray gray hair on my brow that I am so proud of. Thanks for everything, dad - you have been on my mind all day, and these wonderful new and old friends have made Father's day special for me once more!

time to choose

Thanks Dad

By Linda Van Treese

My Dad was my hero.

His collective family and many of his friends knew him as Ma and my mom as Ga. They got the monikers when their oldest granddaughter Stacie was born and when she tried to say Grandpa or Grandma, it came out Ma & Ga. For awhile it wasn't clear which was which, but Dad adopted 'Ma' as his new name and that's what we all called him from then on. He was so proud of that name that he even got a vanity license plate for his car that read, MaGa.

I have so many good memories of him that it's hard for me to pick one that stands out above the others. More than any other characteristic, I remember how sweet he was and his ability to retain his almost childlike innocence in his absolute love of life. Everyday was an adventure for him. I was so proud of him and his many accomplishments and especially later in life when I would hear something of his early life and how he grew up.

His was not a happy childhood and I don't believe he knew much love as he was growing up except from his brothers and sisters. But, for someone who wasn't shown much love, he somehow knew how to give love everyday of his life. It would have been easy for him to become a bitter and angry person, but instead, he chose a different path to trod. He loved our mother more than anything and the two of them together gave all of us an example to emmulate on how to have a happy marriage that lasted 60 years. His family was the most important thing to him.

I was remembering the other day all the things he taught me... how to grow things
how to swim
how to fish
how to ride a bike
how to ride a horse
how to waterski
how to build things
how to always be kind to and love animals
The list goes on and on... But, above all, he taught me how to have a positive and cheerful outlook on life, to be honest and to always try to do my best at whatever I did. The only thing he didn't teach me was bad habits...he didn't have any. I developed mine entirely on my own.

I never heard him say anything unkind to, or about anyone. He liked everyone and everyone who knew or met him liked him. He also had a wonderful sense of humor.

A few days after his surgery, Jeff the physical therapist, stopped by while Dad was having lunch. As you know, everything is pureed the first couple of days. Jeff gave Dad a spoonful of the pureed meat and said, "Mr. Pascoe, can you tell me what that is?" Dad looked at him and said, "Pate, French, goose."

He told me once that as a young man he had a temper. I never witnessed it or heard him raise his voice in anger. He was never judgmental. He had no vices, except for maybe his 'sweet tooth' and love of Polka music. He didn't smoke or drink and I never heard him use a swear word.

There is so much more I could say about my Dad. I will miss him everyday for the rest of my life. I'll also do my best to live up to his example of how to live life. He is going to be a hard act to follow. I'll feel him beside me just like when he taught me to ride my bike...running along side with a guiding hand.

The above remarks were given in eulogy at my Dad's memorial service 3/21/2009. I wanted to post in honor of all the great Dads out there and to thank them for the hard work they do and the love they give.

Happy Daddy's Day

Rimsky-Korsakov St. Petersburg State Conservatory
From Jo Floyd Lucas
I have a friend who was born in Poland, spent his formative years in the USSR (went to study ballet at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory at the age of 12), performed as a principal dancer, married a Panamanian ballerina, and after traversing a difficult and circuitous escape route from behind the Iron Curtain, ended up living in Indianapolis, IN, where today he is a professor of ballet at a university. He travels the globe teaching ballet and ‘setting pieces’ on ballet companies. He is fluent in five languages. He is a true citizen of the world.

And for the life of him, he cannot understand Father’s Day.

His musings delight me endlessly. I never grow tired of hearing his stories, fabulous stories about his life as a child in Poland, his life when it changed abruptly as he was selected as a child of promise in the ballet world and had to leave his family, his life at the most highly regarded school in the world, his life as a performer, his life when it changed magically as he met his “Rosie”, and his life when they decided to defect from the USSR.

He possesses the unconditional love of country that only first generation Americans can have. His oldest son is now a proud United States Marine Corps Lieutenant, with tours of Afghanistan and Iraq and a Purple Heart under his belt. Neither he nor his wife has ever uttered even a hint of a complaint about the United States. They are poster children for good citizenship.

But he just doesn’t get this Father’s Day stuff.

One day I was helping him to construct a libretto for a ballet he was choreographing. It was about this time of year, and we were in St. Louis, where he was setting the ballet on the company I worked for. His wife and three children were back in Indianapolis. The afternoon was filled with work, but as it often happens with this friend, it was also filled with conversations veering off onto tangent upon tangent. At one point, I realized that he would be staying through Sunday of that week, which was Father’s Day, and was concerned that he wouldn’t get to celebrate precious family time with them.

“Will you celebrate the following weekend?” I asked him.

“Celebrate?” he asked, puzzled. “Celebrate why?”

“Father’s Day,” I replied. “Don’t you mind missing Father’s Day?”

My friend looked at me with that look of eternal patience that all good teachers wear. A smile crept onto his face.

“Tell me,” he commanded good-naturedly. “What is this ‘Daddy’s Day’? Why do you celebrate?”

“So our fathers know they are appreciated?” I replied, half stating, half asking.

“No, no, no,” he said emphatically. “We know we are appreciated when our children do well. They get good grades. They work hard. They succeed. THAT is our appreciation,” he continued. “No fancy card can tell us that.”

“Oh,” I replied, understanding the difference in cultural perspective. “I’m glad you explained that to me."

I thought for a moment how interesting our various points of view can be regarding something as simple as the national holidays we celebrate. How different it would seem to me if there were no Father's Day, or Mother's Day, for that matter. No picnics, no barbeques, no family reunions. Very different.

At that thought, I looked at him and asked, "So...I guess you don’t celebrate Mother’s Day either, then?”

With that, my friend suddenly burst into surprised laughter.

“What?” he exclaimed. “Of course we do…we’re not stupid!”

Happy Daddy’s Day to all the fabulous dads out there…you are appreciated.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Feels So Good

From Danny Burns

Well, I guess it's time I posted something or risk losing my contributor status. My mind has been quite preoccupied with the catastrophe happening in my "back yard". But, I've been trying to keep a positive attitude about the whole thing. That's not an easy thing to do when most of my Facebook (and other social media) friends are going through the same things and are constantly writing about it. And, I've been working long hours trying to keep the wolves off the doorstep.

I'm so pleased to have reconnected with the people on this blog. It gives me such great comfort to communicate with you all. And, I'm also grateful to those who join me each Friday for "A Box of Chocolates". The show is one of the few moments of my life that I forget most other concerns and am able to just "be". It makes me feel whole when I'm able to become a human being occasionally. Not thinking of my problems. Not worrying about anything. Just be-ing.

As most of you already know, music is my passion. It's quite a thrill to have everyone respond to the music in my shows with such youthful enthusiasm. It's almost always the highlight of my week. My theme song "I'm So Lucky" was written with my wife, my family and my God in mind. I now wish to extend this intention to you, my wonderful old-new found friends. I love you all very much.

Only a few years ago I was of a mind that I really didn't need many friends. I am a very accomplished recording/technical engineer and most of my interaction with other people was done on a professional level. I was a workaholic and being a techno-geek was my whole existence. I considered these people friendly acquaintances, but not friends as many of them would regularly take advantage of our relationships. I am a very accommodating person and like to please people. But, that is not friendship.

One of my professional acquaintances was a co-worker. I ran the technical services for the world's largest electronics company's audio division in the western USA (based in Los Angeles) and she ran the Nashville office. We would speak to each other on a regular basis and became real friends in doing so.

We met face to face for the first time after being phone friends for four years. She knew all about my painful divorce and subsequent failed relationships. I knew about all her trials and tribulations in the dating world. We seemed to be of the same mind on almost everything. We liked the same music. We were both musicians and singers. We fell in love soon thereafter and have been soul mates and best friends ever since. She helped to teach me what true friendship and love was really about. Without my beautiful wife, Marla, I may not have ever reached the point where I could accept being friends with all of you.

I recently went on a writing binge after a long dry spell with writer's block. I hope to soon find time to record some of these new songs so I can share them with all of you. I have never been so satisfied with my life...ever, and it is reflected in these new songs.

I'll leave you with my latest. I wrote it with the intention of writing a love song without using the conventional "I love you" sentiment that is so common in many songs, mine included. I simply wanted to describe the feeling I had without using the word love. It's a simple but heartfelt song (poem) that was written about my best friend, soul mate and partner for life.





Thursday, June 17, 2010


Last week when I died
Someone turned the waves
Into wheatfields
And the song of the water
Was in my hands

The night too slow to sing to.

--Terri Wilson

I'm packing my stuff, getting ready to move out of the house on Tennessee Avenue, where I've lived longer than anywhere else in my life except for the house in which I grew up. I've shared this space with my two wonderful housemates more than nine years. Whoa! It has been a great situation.

But everything has a lifespan. Last winter during the blizzards it came to me that the time to live alone (first time in more than 25 years) was fast approaching.

My move is scheduled for July 15, into the sweetest little apartment you can imagine. You are all invited to come visit once I get settled (and after I find a fold out couch). When you walk through the front door, each of you will say, "Awwwww!! How cute!" That's just how sweet the space is.

Digging through all my stuff, sorting, tossing, recycling, is like an archeological dig. I've rediscovered so many amazing things tucked into dark corners or long buried at the bottom of some box or another. I'm dispatching a lot of this old stuff that either means nothing to me any longer, or represents terrible times in my life that I no longer need to hang on to.

The above was written by my old cohort Terri Wilson. She was the administrator in the orchestra personnel office at the San Francisco Symphony when I worked there. Terri was beautiful and almost freakishly talented. She could paint, play the piano, cook. She wrote the most amazing poetry. It still blows me away. She was odd, yes, but - who among us isn't? I found the above poem just now, written about three weeks prior to the day that, for reasons I will never understand, she overdosed on something, lay down on the beach at Half Moon Bay, and died.

Terri, I hope you are flying high somewhere or another. Damn you were good. I still think of you and love you! xx

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Help Wanted: Facilitators

by Jo Floyd Lucas

As many of you might guess from knowing me, I consider my calling in life to be that of a ‘facilitator,’ and by that I mean, simply, ‘ one who serves to assist the progress of another person or a group.’ Although I used to think this a simple vocation requiring more instinct than intellect, I have recently come to realize that the skill set of patience, observation, respect, and awareness required of facilitators is rarer than I thought.

I think most good mothers are facilitators. We stand by as a neutral force, not taking sides in disputes (unless there is bloodshed), encouraging growth, keeping people on track, and giving guidance and encouragement when needed. We love to see people (especially of the little variety) accomplish their goals, and we love to see the larger group (families) cooperate and move forward.

In the corporate world, some executives are given the title of ‘Facilitator’. These executives go through weeks of training and make lots of money doing what mothers have been doing each morning just by trying to get the kids out the door and onto the school bus on time. Go figure.

Some of my life’s most fulfilling moments and some of my deepest personal relationships have sprung from simple gestures of facilitation. “How can I help?” is something I ask often. It’s short and sweet, it doesn’t offer a simple solution or wordy advice, and it requires more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. It fits almost any situation of any scope, from a child learning to tie her shoe, to a friend who has confided that her teenage daughter is pregnant. I’m always fascinated by the response to that four-word question. Many people are simply reluctant to verbalize what it is they need, and others need help even determining what they need, but a few have been just waiting for someone to come along and ask the question.

I've noticed that almost no one is comfortable these days in asking another for help. How did this happen to our society? We used to live interdependently with one another in communities of friends and neighbors. It was nothing to ask for a cup of sugar or to borrow a tool, or to even raise a barn if we needed it. Have we become so self sufficient that we are unable to ask for the help we need in order to solve a problem?

Whatever the reason, I think it’s high time the people at BP gathered a few good moms together to help facilitate a plan for cleaning up that awful oil gush in the gulf. I’m sure that an inexpensive and effective method would be implemented immediately.

Have you ever seen a mother go into action when she finds out the kids have invited the new neighbor over to say hi, and the house is a wreck? Oil spill or toy spill, that mess is cleaned up within minutes, making the most of each child’s abilities in a timely manner. And on a really good day, coffee is ready and cookies are on the kitchen table by the time the doorbell rings.

Oh, yeah, BP. Recognize you need help. Ask for it. Use a few facilitators. Call on a few good moms if you dare. Get the job done, already, and get it done right.

And even though I’m really, really, VERY angry at you for making such an awful mess, for the sake of my grandchildren, I will ask, “How can I help?"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Laughing Hearts

by Dubby Riley, class clown

You know what's funny? No, I'm serious. Do you know? Because I'm interested. Time to laugh. There's always room for a good joke. Two guys walk in to a bar. Traveling salesman knocks on the farmer's door. The other day I met this guy. Those are all fine, but just living out of our lives--what can we turn around and look at that will make us giggle?

This is an interesting meeting spot. A bunch of middle aged crazies telling stories. Here's mine. I'm a dad, but getting kinda old and rough around the edges. The other day my daughter, who is 13 and fairly certain that I'm a total embarrasment, came rushing in to my office and said, "Meagan's dad is coming in. Go change your shirt."

Now granted, my Ronald McDonald House t-shirt which I got for some volunteering deal, does appear to be ready for the recycle bin, but I'm working in my home office here. "Dad, don't say anything dumb," she warned me as I buttoned up a silk shirt from the closet.

"This look ok for ya?," I asked as the door opened for Meagan's dad, Brian. "Well, it IS kinda wrinkled," she worried. Brian was fine. He loves Darby. I think he might have wanted to wear a different shirt though. I mean, girls with grass skirts? C'mon!

How are you with technology? I try to keep up but these gadgets...kind of frustrating. Take my phone for instance. Drives me crazy. Today I met a lady at our new building and I need to "save" the phone number for this businessman who has her art in his office. This is suppose to be simple right? So putting in the number--no problem there. I was able to learn how to do that within my first few years of training. But I still do NOT know how to correctly enter the name. Why don't they make it simple. Home? Cell? Work? Work--call it work. OK, Name. So you start to type it but there are three letters for each key. So it tries to guess which one you mean. So when I think I 've got it, I've changed the guy's name from Harold Miller to Nofart Offer. Great. Should be easy to remember that one.

These are all true stories by the way. Here's one that could have only happened in this family. I absolutely bust a gut every time I think about it. My wife's grandpa has been gone a number of years now. But my gosh, what a sweet heart. I swear, the most gentle soul I've ever met.

I didn't see this happen but him telling the story put you right in the scene. So you know how cats can totally clean themselves, right? What they can't get their tongues on, they'll lick their paws and use them as wash rags--you know what I mean.

So Grandpa Ferguson was talking to his wife's friend who was visiting. Now I didn't know the lady he was referring to, but I knew Anne's Grandmother who was a very proper lady. So I would guess her friend was similar.

So Grandpa Ferguson said to the lady, just as the kitty cat was grooming itself, "Don't you wish you could do that Marge?"

Now the cat had been doing something pretty innocent like using its paws to clean behind its ears or something. But just as he got Marge to look at the cat, the cat started in licking its private parts. See, I'm laughing so hard right now I could barely type this line. I guess Marge gave Grandpa Ferguson a glare and left him speechless. He said he was totally unable to think of how to recover, so he just left it as it was.

Here's to you to being able to lick your own private parts or better yet, to having a good laugh trying. Anyway, give us a story. We all have a funny bone waiting for a little nurturing.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


from Reya Mellicker

I believe in miracles, I do. I do NOT believe that miracles are events that happened a long time ago. I think they occur every day. In order to experience a miracle, you have to be open to the concept. You have to pay attention.

This blog is, to me, miraculous. The interconnections, the willingness to think well of each other, in spite of our differences is, in my opinion, the peace process in action. I am in awe of this and our convos on Facebook.

Not much else to say. This post is my excuse to put up photos of the heart-shaped cloud I saw yesterday, between client sessions, from the window at my office. It only lasted for a minute or two, but it was beautiful. You can not plan for visions like this, timed perfectly so I could not only admire it, but capture it digitally as well.

Miraculous, isn't it? Aren't we? I say yes. Love to all,

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Moving on in my life--

by Vicki Wiseman

OK here goes--
My life changed on Sept. 12, 2008.
My daughter was pregnant with her 5th child. Happily married to the man of her dreams. Scott had just been accepted as a Professor for youth ministries at Central Bible College.

My son John was getting ready to head to New Orleans to help in the relief effort for Hurricane Katrina.

David and I had just returned from Morrisville, Mo after a grandparents day. What a beautiful day it was!

Cori recently bought 3 days before a new motorcycle for Scott. He had always wanted one. We had no idea not that it would have made a difference. We got the call at 6:33 on Sept. 12, 2008- Scott was coming home from church 5 minutes down the road and was struck head on- killed instantly.

We immediatly came down. After much soul searching. John moved in with Cori. David started working from Morrisville, and I commuted back and forth from a 30 year job as a stylist in Lee Summit which I loved.

Fast forward to December-we put our house on the market.

John had gone to the doctor for a knot on his neck- no big deal right? Wrong! Cancer- Hodgkins Lymphoma stage 3, . Three major surgeries-10 chemos- 14 radiations. What a year right?

We sold our house in April of 2009. Moved down to the country and tried to find a job. Unfortunatly when you reach 55 and arn't young and cute you age out of the beauty industry. At home I was Vicki the cool lady- all ages loved me from ages 1-99. Down here I was old Vicki with a widowed daughter and a son who had cancer. Talk about not belonging.

So now fast forward to smiling hearts. We all have had heartache-changes-epiphanies(love it). I too am struggling to fit in and the people of Morrisville have been very kind. I guess this forum was made to change my life. I have been happier than I have been in a long time! Thanks to you all! Each one of us has a story. I thought the time to tell mine was now.

FYI- my grandkids are thriving! Connor-11, Caiden-9. Grace-6,Coltin-3 and Christian-1. I have made the choice to be happy in spite of my circumstances.
Did I count on raising 5 kids again? No but they are a lot of fun and alot of WOrk.

Thanks for letting me express myself and I won't take up more space.
Love to you all! This blog has been a JOY to me!

Forgive us our trespasses

by Rick Hempy

“I got these lines in my face tryin’ to straighten out the wrinkles in my life” - Ramblin’ Jack Elliott

Once again, I’ve been less than diligent in contributing. I have been keeping up though... with the thread, with the direction, with the tapestry. Jo challenged us, early on, to create a masterpiece. Well, it’s coming together nicely from where I sit.

It has been a true pleasure to reconnect with you all, and a great joy to gain some insight into who you are now, some forty years later. Many of your posts have been spot-on, dealing with issues of diversity, acceptance, respect.

Personally, I’ve been working hard on the tolerance thing for some time now... understanding that not everyone in the world sees things quite the same as I. In fact, I doubt there are many at all, and that’s probably a good thing. It seems to be a concept all of us feel is important, as it’s gotten considerable attention, in one form or another, here in Smiling Heart. As Jo pointed out earlier, it’s a lot easier to talk about than to practice. That’s the part I am still working on..., a work in progress.

Recently, I realized something else I needed to add to the list. That would be forgiveness. I’m not good at multi-tasking, (what with the brain damage and all), and I figured trying to be tolerant was enough for anyone, but this thing wasn’t going away... this forgiveness thing.

I had a face-to-face confrontation, (both faces being mine), last weekend, over some bad shit that went down almost forty years ago. I had a realization... an epiphany. I love epiphanies, (I'm quoting Reya here). I even wrote a song about one. This particular epiphany was about coming to understand that I needed forgiveness... and not from those I had terribly wronged back in the day. They had forgiven me long ago. I needed to forgive myself.

They say confession is good for the soul. I know the Catholic religion puts a lot of stock in the notion. That may well be, but when you’re done confessing, don’t forget to forgive yourself. It’s amazing how much easier it is to forgive others once that’s done.

I thought it appropriate to wait until Sunday to post this, since it all sounds a bit "preachy". Purely unintentional. It's really more a personal thing, but like I said, the dog ate my blog, and I had to think of something, so... forgive me.

Love from the heart,

Friday, June 4, 2010

Circle of Friends

by Linda Van Treese

Who knew that a brief three months ago I would re-connect with people I haven't had contact with in almost forty years? Thank you Dubby for finding me and including me in your circle. You have no idea how excited I was to see your 'friend' request. I had thought about you over the course of years and wondered what had happened in your life.

Then I discovered you had within your circle of friends others that I have thought about as well and wondered how they had faired in this game of life...Jo, Rick, Reya, Danny, Wade, Dan, Janie, Vickie, Nancy, Lowell...I remember you all. I'm happy to have you in my life again so many years later and even though I didn't know you well way back then, I hope to know you better all these years later.

Excellent posts by Reya and Jo. Lowell's reply to Reya's post I found thoughtful and logical. Logic, for me always wins out over emotion when someone is trying to make a point. That's not to say that there isn't room for passion in any discussion, but passion can be expressed without having to resort to name calling and using labels to make certain people or groups of people feel uncomfortable about even expressing an opinion for fear of being labeled a racist, homophobe, socialist, communist, redneck, liberal, conservative, feminist, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum.

I've tried to determine when all the 'labeling' began. When I was a kid growing up in California I don't remember ever making a distinction about my friends or the kids I went to school with based upon their skin color. True, we didn't have any black kids, but there were plenty of Hispanic and Native American kids. My best friend was an Indian girl named Rosemarie and I thought she was so beautiful with her long hair that was so black, it looked almost blue and doe brown eyes...I was envious of her 'uniqueness'. We were Yin and Yang for sure and inseparable as friends and companions until she left our public school to attend Catholic school in third grade. This was years before political correctness or diversity training.

Then, we moved to Kansas City the summer of fifth grade. It wasn't long before it became apparent to me that people segregated themselves into 'groups'. That was the first time I'd ever noticed it or was aware of it. Even in school, kids seemed to 'group' up and I never felt like I fit in anywhere in particular. One incident I remember occured in sixth grade. Most of the kids had a 'history' and had grown up together. I, on the other hand, was the 'new' kid. One popular girl in one of the other sixth grade classes let it be known that she wanted to 'meet' me during recess in the girl's bathroom. This was not a request as much a summons issued by the sixth grade 'It' girl. I went to the 'meeting' not knowing what to expect really. Phyllis was there before me with her cadre of syncophants. I had with me two of my friends, Shannon McMeen and Kathy Cox. Phyllis started to give me the third degree wanting to know where I was from, where I lived, why I wore the clothes I did and weirdest of all...why I didn't wear bobbie socks with my tennis shoes. I told her I'd never worn socks before because if you did (being from California) you'd have a tan line. She also informed me that if I so even looked cross eyed at her boyfriend, I'd be sorry. Evidently that was the real reason for the meeting. Rumor had it that her boyfriend had smiled at me or something. Phyllis and I were never friends, but she never beat the crap out of me was an uneasy truce.

I guess that's why as I grew into adulthood, I made a concerted effort not to fit into any particular group. I would describe myself today as conservative on fiscal issues and libertarian on social issues. That's not to say that I might or might not approve of someone's choice of lifestyle, I just don't think it's any of my business how someone chooses to live as long as they respect my choice not to embrace their choice as some kind of 'right'. I think part of the problem we have today is this propensity for politicians in BOTH parties to encourage this idea that we, as Americans, are really just 'groups' that they can exploit and pit against one another for their own purposes. I believe that purpose ultimately ends in control and loss of freedom.

I don't know about you, but I grew up and left home a long time ago and I don't need any government to tell me they know better how I should live my life. I also don't appreciate the legions of 'victims' the politicians insist on creating. Without victims they can't propose rules, regulations and seemingly endless entitlements for one group or another that are imposed with the intended purpose of creating a political class that will insure their continued power and control.

What we need are real leaders, not politicians and I say, a pox on both their houses. Even though I didn't vote for our current President, I had genuine hopes that somehow, maybe, we were ready to move forward as a nation and to finally realize our true potential as a people and I wished him well, I truly did. Sadly, I don't see any improvement over the past administration and the continued path toward insolvency as individuals and as a nation fills me with a dread and foreboding.

I see this blog as a good place to start a new conversation based upon respect for each other and in recognition of the fact that we have much in common regardless of our individual ideologies. I consider it a priviledge to be included in your circle.

P.S. Jo, you can 'cut' in line anytime my friend. I don't think I have a particular place in line or order of posting.

Of One Family

By Jo Floyd Lucas

First, I must apologize to Rick and Linda, in front of whom I'm sure I must be 'cutting in line,' but I saw this beautiful, dangling thread hanging from Reya's previous post, and felt compelled to pick it up and continue weaving. (Pardon...'scuse me...sorry...pardon me...and farther up in line I go.)

What resonated with me so clearly from Reya's post, 'Variety is the Spice of Life,' is the idea of perspective. When we open ourselves to learning from others, we acknowledge a different, though equally valid, perspective. When we can begin to accept other valid perspectives, we can incorporate them into our view of the world. When our view of the world becomes clearer through this multidimensional perspective, we can begin to seek effective solutions to our problems.

This is not as easy as it sounds. While we outwardly disdain shows of bias or chauvinism, most of us inwardly feel it. Maybe it stems from our fears of anything different from what we have experienced. Maybe it stems from our cultural upbringing. Maybe it stems from the beginning of evolution and the 'survival of the fittest' DNA. Wherever it originates, this blind bias is counterproductive, and some of us will have to work very hard to see things from a different perspective.

It can be so easy for us to speak with authority on any given subject without realizing that our perspective may be skewed. I speak as a woman. A woman of European ancestry. A middle aged woman. A well educated woman. A woman blessed with prosperity that few others in the world will ever know. 'correct' can my perspective be?

A few days ago, Dubby posted Part II of a fascinating series of videos titled, 'Native American Prophecies.' Today, I submit Part I, which begins to examine our different perspectives, and how our own eurocentric perspective (and our difficulty in accepting other perspectives) has contributed to many of the enormous problems we face today.

Most fascinating, I was completely unaware that the war we 'Europeans' call World War I came hundreds of years after the war that Native Americans named the First World War. In addition, I was enlightened to hear that by the end of World War II, the population of Native Americans had gone from 60 million to 800,000. And yet we pontificate about the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust. Wow...different perspectives can really help us to see the big picture.

Maybe by listening to the wisdom of these Native American elders we can gain a new perspective. Maybe we can begin to see the wisdom in each other. Maybe we can open ourselves to the process of learning from one another. Maybe, like Reya said, we can begin to 'celebrate diversity' for real. Maybe, like the elder said, we will recognize that we are 'all of one family.'

Maybe...if we do all this...we can even begin to solve a few problems.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Variety is the Spice of Life

from Reya Mellicker

The Capitol dome and the Library of Congress look like brothers in this pic, at least to me. But if you have a different opinion, that's OK!

Remember way back in the last millenium, during the 1990's when the phrase "Celebrate Diversity" was so popular? I do - well - vaguely. Celebrate diversity, eh? I think it's hard to even tolerate diversity, let alone celebrate it. Yet I agree with the sentiment. It's a worthy goal.

My habit is to blame things on the Bush administration, which is probably unfair as everything is so complicated that any superficial finger-pointing is just ridiculous.

It was during those years, though, that here in the U.S. we became so intolerant of each other. My friends who are congressional staffers tell me that Newt Gingrich instructed his staff not to fraternize with Democrats. From there it got worse and worse. Where, once upon a time, deals were made "across the aisle" as they say, now Congress is so divided that the whole process is kind of a joke.

It's not just within Congress that this rigid intolerance runs wild. I notice how carefully I walk on eggshells when speaking with a friend who is a moderate Republican, as if having different opinions from his is some kind of offensive situation. Why is it offensive to disagree? Why is it that so often people are personally insulted by the differing opinions of others? I thought that's what America was supposed to be about.

One of the reasons I love this blog is that although we have similar values, there are differences of opinion among us. I think that's a good thing. I've said before (and often) that I never learn anything new when talking to someone with whom I agree completely. Healthy debate, open minds and differing opinions expressed honestly and without vitriol could take all of us, (not just here on the blog) a whole lot closer to true compassion.

Peace, love and understanding. Yeah.