Wednesday, July 28, 2010
For the last few days I’ve felt like I sometimes do late in the day on Thanksgiving. Most of us are familiar with the feeling, especially those who are in charge of making the dinner. We feel a little frazzled, a little overworked, and certainly tired by the time that gorgeous feast hits the table. We’ve prepared, entertained, and fed the multitudes. We’ve laughed and cried and loved more than we’re used to, and we end the day (at least I do) with this incredible feeling. I compare it to the feeling in our belly at the end of the dinner. Uncharacteristically full, uncomfortable and achy, but content and sated, all the same.
My heart feels like that this week. I’ve had one of those roller coaster weeks, with crazy activity interspersed with tears, laughter, sorrow, and joy, and it’s left me with that uncomfortable ache that filling your heart to the brim with love can cause. It hurts so good.
Most of you have heard about the wedding I attended last Saturday. There are no words to describe how beautiful it was. In anyone’s book, it would have been a fairytale affair, with the sweet and beautiful Tori marrying her knight in shining armor, Dmitry, a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps. It was a multicultural affair, combining traditions from the U.S. and Russia in wonderful fashion. The bride was serene and elegant, the groom handsome in his dress uniform and supremely confident.
It’s always a tender moment when the bride’s father (and in many cultures, the mother as well) escorts the bride to the altar. Usually evident is a mix of emotions on the bride’s face, including everything from unbridled joy to fear and trepidation. The father’s face usually contains a different mix of pride and cautious optimism. On the trip down the aisle last Saturday, I witnessed something else entirely, radiating from both the bride and her father. Gratitude.
This day was but one to most of us, but everything in the world to Tori and her family. It was uncertain whether Joel could make it down the aisle at all on this most special day, but to be able to escort his youngest daughter to the altar to meet her brave knight was miraculous, indeed.
Just as miraculous was a beautiful and generous wedding gift given them by our friend, Danny Burns, who dedicated an entire hour + show of romantic classical music to the newlyweds and her parents on the eve of the wedding. It meant so much to the family that Sally sought me out before the reception to tell me that they all had “tears streaming down their faces” when she told her daughter of this incredible gift. You can read part of Danny’s dedication, and learn just why this wedding was so important here:
Sally, Joel’s wife and an incredible force of nature, had tended to every detail of the wedding, all while caring for Joel and seeing to it that he would have an enjoyable day. Having bought and sold classic cars before his retirement, Joel was surprised with a chauffeur driven 1956 white Rolls-Royce as he and his daughter prepared to leave for the church that morning. Other surprises popped up throughout the day from Sally for Joel, Tori, Dmitry, and the entire wedding party, all reflecting her love and gratitude for the happy day.
And the reception. Oh, my! I have had the good fortune to celebrate various occasions with Russian friends for several years, and I don’t know of any culture that surpasses theirs for a combination of respectful tradition and outright FUN. It began with the mother and grandmother at the doorway of the reception, holding a large loaf of special wedding bread and barring the couple from entering. After a beautiful and touching speech by the groom’s mother, Irina, and before they could come in, the bride and groom were each instructed to take a bite from the loaf, and the one removing the largest portion would be deemed the head of the household. To no one’s surprise, Dmitry is now unquestionably the head of that household.
Then there’s the vodka. Russians would honestly be unable to celebrate without it. It is intertwined in the culture and traditions of the country. After hours of reveling, the party kicked into high gear when the newlyweds were offered shots of vodka by relatives, with everyone proclaiming, “Gorka! Gorka! Gorka!” which loosely translated, means “bitter.” They then had to take the bitterness of the vodka from their mouths by kissing each other, the crowd counting out how long the kisses lasted.
The wedding and reception rank high on the list of my most happy days. Of course, the future is not guaranteed to any of us, so the day remains a precious reminder to me of how to live our lives with intent.
Oddly enough, the very next day was another poignant reminder of the same message with altogether different emotions. A friend of mine from NYC arrived to stay with us for a few days as he sorted through his late mother’s household and took care of her affairs. She passed away last month after a very brief but valiant battle with ovarian cancer, and it has shaken my friend to the core. As many of us have felt, he was unprepared to lose her just yet.
I set out to do what I could to make the unbearable process a little easier. Together with a few others, we assembled a team of capable people to go the house and assist in sorting, labeling, and moving. My friend’s father, long divorced from his mother and estranged from my friend for many years, drove from Illinois each day to be at his side. Evenings were spent creating pleasant diversions for him in order to take his mind off the overwhelming task.
I was touched beyond words when I was presented yesterday with several of his mother’s possessions that my friend had chosen just for me, including music, artwork, and other special items. I had only visited with his mother a few times, but I knew her to be a woman of great substance. She was one of only three women in medical school when she attended in the 1950’s. She became a neurosurgeon, which was unheard of. She subsequently created the specialty of neuroradiology at St. Louis University Hospital, and was an eminent writer on the subject. Oh, yes…great substance. But at her memorial service last month, each of her children gave eulogies in which they asserted that this woman’s greatest accomplishment of all was in attaining sobriety, a journey she had begun 3 decades earlier. While her intellect and surgical abilities had saved countless lives, it was her sobriety that had healed her family. This was a woman of true substance.
My remarkable week concluded yesterday, when my friend told me that he had decided to go back to Illinois with his father after the day’s work, to stay overnight with him and his stepmother for his last two nights in town. That didn’t sound terribly significant to me until he confided that he had not spent the night in the company of his father since he was a very young child. Their relationship is healing as the grieving process for his mother continues.
So today, I feel the fullness of so much. Grief of illness. Grief of death. Joy of love. Joy of new beginnings. The roller coaster continues, and I know I’m just along for the ride. Like everyone else, I endure the dips and exalt in the thrilling view from the heights. I’m achy and happy all at once, but mostly just plain grateful to still be on the roller coaster.
I apologize for the length of this post. Someday I hope to learn the economy of Rick’s language. Until then, I remain a wordy girl. I hope you’ll bear with me.
Monday, July 26, 2010
I haven't posted for a very long time. I'm trying to "out-slack" Linda. She has an excuse... looking for property on the gulf so that she can establish a home for old hippies.
I've been thinking about returning to the "dream theme". You all know that I fancy myself a songwriter, and since some of my dear friends here, have allowed me to share that title with the real writer, Danny, I felt obligated to annoy you with something I wrote about a dream I had some time ago. It's a true story... sort of. I know the spirit of Smiling Heart is serious, but I hope there is also room for some occassional levity. Please forgive my lame attempt.
I dreamed last night I was drinkin'
in bar called Heaven's Gate.
An angel waitin' tables
told me it's gettin' late.
Saint Peter was the bouncer,
and God was schleppin' beer.
I heard him holler "last call!"
"drink up... get outta here!"
Saint Peter called a taxi,
and Jesus picked me up.
He dropped me off at Hell's Motel,
where the devil was the clerk.
He said "son we're glad to have ya,
Hope you enjoy your stay...
cuz you just my be here for a while,
if you don't change your ways".
So I'm sittin' in the Nickel,
tryin' to be a better man.
It must be workin'
cuz I think I'm feelin
better than I am.
(the dream continues... chapter two)
I was sittin' in group therapy,
whinin' about my life,
when in walked my new girl friend
with my soon to be ex-wife.
They recounted my lies in great detail,
and I had to confess.
When I was through, the group got up
and promptly kicked my ass.
So I'm sittin' in the Nickel,
tryin' to mend my wounds.
One more shot & I'm sure
that I'll be feelin' better soon.
I know I should be goin'
but there's time for just one more.
I'll be ten feet tall and bullet proof,
by the time I hit that door.
able to leap tall buildings in a single bound...
(at that point, the dream became all about flying, but that's another story)
Friday, July 23, 2010
Time and space and your natural desire to be "informed" without sacrificing the thousands of details which require your attention, and my own feeble ability to contribute to your greater education will leave much to be desired in this essay. I would like to promise you a series of thoughts which need to be mentioned, were I to give good and responsible consideration to the many topics addressed by Washington's massive intellectual dissertation. But at this moment I am so moved by something else from the Father of our Country, that instead of intellect I want to devote these few words to affection.
But before my heartfelt tenderness is revealed, please allow my philosophical tendencies a slight reign of freedom. Should you grant that wish, then the general outline of the future "thinking" concerning Washington's major points is as follows:
A. I tremble by our first president's magnamity and his generous contribution in writing this address. But in the name of progress we should consider his words with a broader view of what the world has become. I propose that we broaden his definition of "the people" of this new country to be "the people of this new world." That we invite all people of all colors and all nations to be part of this great vision and great unity of which Washington refers.
B. That we reserve our own partiality of opinions and fears and that we embrace fully his great courage and nobility. For instance, I worry that our current president may have to submit his own farewell address, in just two years from now. And the reason for other emotions besides worry such as anger and grief and fear and negativity and judgement stem from my own conviction that our president is facing a tide of hate and corruption and ignorance. And further my prejudice is fueled by my relentless habit of blaming powers that "agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one against another" to use Washington's words. But honestly, instead of blaming and accusing, I understand that what is required is gentleness and loving devotion to people and planet, which includes how I behave toward those who seem to be "stirring the pot" of hatred and division. So instead of blame we should agree to listen carefully. Instead of accusing other people we should continue to focus our power on helping others and broadening our definition of unity.
C. Washington warned us not to develop an over-powerful military establishment. "avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty." His vision from that time extended backward and forward. He considered Rome and he considered England but how could he have seen Hitler's army or our own in Afganistan? But he seems to know them well. In every case, if you trace the problems of money and power it will lead you to military might. What do we need to learn or relearn or unlearn to stop putting young people in the path of danger so that money interests can maintain their grip of sovereignty over nations and people?
I'd like to promise to return to those subjects but I won't. I won't promise. With your kindness though and any show of interest, I'll gladly engage in further conversations which may develop into another essay, should such an effort be born of need or temptation.
So with these last few words I want to try to express how I've taken Washington into my heart with a new appreciation. He has helped me to grow as a man and as a human. He raises me to new levels and gives me new goals and new hope. I think if you'll spend thirty minutes or an hour to swallow his loving gift and then allow it to be digested beyond your intellect, you too will discover a warm glow that should help you be a better citizen and a better caregiver. What I mean by digesting this beyond intellect is allow it to coat your soul with the fineness of it. This is a supreme meditation, I'm convinced. It came to him and was meant to be shared so that mankind could progress. It is a precious metal, both medicine and armour. It will serve you well intellectually but it will renew you spiritually, if you allow it to.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Dreams. We think it’s a fun subject to kick around until it gets down to the nitty-gritty of it all. Dubby began this subject thread with an invitation to the rest of the Smiling Heart bloggers to share their dreams, and the blog went an entire week without another post. That’s just not normal for this normally talkative group! I am glad that I’m not the only one a bit shy about those crazy things going on inside the privacy of our own heads.
The truth is it’s very difficult subject matter to grasp, and extremely personal to share. The New York Times recently ran an article wherein the author declared Dream Groups to be the next Book Clubs. Not to be cynical, but I’m in doubt about the existence of large numbers of usually all-business New Yorkers sitting down on a regular basis exposing “their most vulnerable and uncensored selves,” as the author contends.
Dreams are often highly personal and very vivid. This can cause us to feel disturbed, agitated, or even scared. Unless one is oblivious. Like me.
It is my opinion that dreams take place more often and in more places than we realize. I have experienced ‘waking dreams’ (some might call them ‘visions’) during meditation, as well as garden variety night dreams, but I’ve also experienced recurring dreams that are very vivid, which I now know is the equivalent to hitting me over the head with information I’m supposed to have for some reason. But I’m oblivious (or I was), and so the information becomes more and more insistent in a futile attempt for me to ‘get it.’
About thirty years ago, I began having a recurring dream. In this dream, I am a passenger in a car (who’s in control here?), and we are driving along a busy highway. Suddenly, we come upon a hillside, where there has just been a jet airliner crash. No one seems affected but me. Everyone is driving along like nothing has happened, but I feel a HEAVY sadness overtake me. Sadness so heavy I can’t breathe. I watch the wreckage as we drive by, unable to take my eyes off the scene, and wonder at the loss of life. I can’t understand why I’m so deeply affected while others are untouched.
Oblivious. Although this dream was upsetting, I rarely gave it much thought. I was a busy, busy young mother of a growing family at the time, and not excited at the prospect of delving one bit deeper into the dream to find any potential messages hiding within. I just wished it would go away.
A few years later, that recurring dream became an actual living nightmare. One hot August night in 1992, I learned that my older brother, Mike, had died in a plane crash in Phoenix. He had been valedictorian of the senior class of Ruskin High School, 1970, and flying was all important to him. He had moved to Phoenix in order to pursue his love of flying. After selling his vintage WWI biplane (a Bucher Jungmeister) a year earlier, he contented himself with taking out rented airplanes from time to time in order to keep his license current. Mike had rented a Cessna that August afternoon, and the plane, according to the NTSB, had simply come apart in the air, the wreckage strewn across a hillside in the desert. It was only after learningabout that small piece of information that I realized I had been offered advanced warning about Mike’s death, but hadn’t wanted to open the message.
The next day my parents, my twin (Joyce), and I arrived in Phoenix to handle the dizzying arrangements connected with a sudden death, and naturally, we were devastated. Most of all, I found myself wondering what would become of Mike’s soul, which was very bright and beautiful. Mike had been an atheist since his high school years, but was still a very loving, ethical man. One of his favorite phrases was, "Good for the sake of Good, not for the sake of God.” For what it’s worth, I always felt he used the words, ‘God’ and ‘Religion’ interchangeably, which I consider to be a mistake. But through it all, Mike was the best man he could be. I hoped his soul was okay. After a mind-numbing day of wretched decision making, the four of us finally turned in for the night.
I dreamed this dream in neon Technicolor, more wildly vivid than anything my mind could ever imagine. I wasn’t in this dream. In fact, no one was in the dream. Not one person was visible in the setting. As I observed the scene, I realized that it was our old Ruskin neighborhood. East 112th Street, to be exact. I had not seen the Ruskin area for almost 20 years, but there it was, right before me. I recognized the street signs. I recognized the neat rows of little houses. I recognized the white stone in front of our house with the numerals ‘7806’ etched into it. I even recognized the old junk heap of a car that sat in the neighbor’s driveway for so many years. There was just one difference. It was Technicolor Ruskin. The colors were so vibrant they actually VIBRATED. Everything. Every tree, every sidewalk, every vehicle, every house, everything was vibrating with life and color, and radiating happiness. I could feel the vibrations, the colors, and the joy inside me.
As I experienced this wonder, I began to hear the voices of children playing. Happy, delighted laughter sprang up from the earth, from the large neighborhood trees, and even from the sky. Laughter was coming from the clouds, and coming from the cars. It was everywhere. Everywhere. The laughter of the invisible children was palpable. Suddenly, it was alive inside me. Suddenly, I was laughter and love and joy.
Then, I could hear another voice above the excited voices of the children. Only I couldn’t really hear it. At least, I can’t begin to describe the voice in words. But I understood the voice to say this,
“Now children, I want to let you all know that another little boy will be joining us today. He’s had a very difficult time, so I want everyone to be especially nice to him.”
With that, the laughter began again, but this time every child’s laughter was on the same wave length, and the vibrations of love built up so high that they lifted me into the air. I experienced a feeling of elation as I never had before. I could hear the cries of welcome to the newcomer, and the loving reception he had been given.
I woke with a start, smiling, and then gradually felt the grief sink in once again. But, oh! That dream stayed with me. It would not leave my body for a good long while. Restless and still full of the dream, I could NOT lay still, and so I rose and went into the hotel room's bathroom so as not to wake Joyce. But, as twins sometimes do, she felt something unusual, and woke, too. We sat in the bathroom as I told her every detail of the strange dream. We cried. We hugged. We commiserated. We marveled. We knew Mike was back home in Technicolor Ruskin…with friends.
I have learned since that day to keep the doors of my heart, mind, and soul open to the messages I might receive. I regret how closed I was for such a long time. Today I encourage everyone to “do me a favor and open the door.”
Oh, yes, I forgot. Although I still think of my brother nearly every day, and have been preoccupied on many occasions with airplanes, travel, and my brother's untimely death, I never had the dream again about the airplane crash on the hillside.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Since I haven't worked (except to help at school in the kitchen) I have lost my confidence because of my age. WOW! Who would have thought I, Vicki would lose MY confidence. I am taking it on right now! I am back.
Thursday I have an interview at a salon, something I haven't done in 30 years. My daughter and family think it is time, too. So I am embarking out into this real world of trying to really find a job. I have been to about 30 salons and they look at me like I am crazy at my age to try and start again. But friends, it is time. I am sick of not being able to spend when I want. I don't need very much, just a little freedom.
So every one of you wish me luck on my new endeavor. It is not going to be easy. It will be a lot of hard work but I miss people of all ages and I am meant to be around people. I love people. Sounds crazy but I love every one--quirky, weird, odd, different people of all ages. I feed on them and they me. So here goes, world.
I am BACK!
Thanks to all~~~~~~<3
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Not always sweet. Sometimes they'll shake you to an erect panic or accompany soaking wet symptoms along with various forms of anxiety. But from where or for what reason do these nightly escapades emanate? Are they simply cartoons and little movies our minds assemble from an erratic mix of data? Or are they messages from the deep? Perhaps a way for our brains to file and process stored information?
My oldest brother is a neurologist and for a time he ran one of the most prominent sleep labs in New England. His theories about dreams are vastly different than mine. But one thing we do agree on is that the human brain is so complex and capable, that it is beyond our ability (at this time of our science) to understand it fully.
But this essay won't be a scientific analysis of dreams but rather a mystical approach to the subject matter. I'd say we will discuss it philosophically, although we'll soon be trapped again by the rationality of science and theorem, so I'll stay loose and free by calling these views mystical or "alternative."
First let me tell you about several recurring dreams which have always been part of my repetoire. I love to prove to people I can fly in my dreams. Often I'll be saying, "See, I told you I can fly!" Sometimes I have trouble landing. Sometimes at first I have a little trouble taking off. But always it is me flying, often in a large enclosed space and almost always to show people that it can be done!
Also another recurring dream I have is between certain commercial air flights and fear that baggage doesn't make it on board. I've been on this certain flight over and over, which goes to an exotic place and when I get on board, the plane is huge and the rooms are like big theaters.
Other common dreams are some which I've heard others have often experienced. Not being able to find my locker at school. Finding myself naked or having to get between places in public after I've lost my pants. There have been periods of profuse sweating. During the last few years, in conjunction with some psychic exercise and meditation, I've experienced the sweating to move along chakra points and have been able to wake to take note exactly which part of my body is sweating. This is not always an unpleasant experience and has often seemed almost euphoric. Very profound dreaming accompanies this phenomena and the dreams themselves are extremely enjoyable, but usually I don't remember the content as much as the feeling of euphoria.
Now a little about the mystical approach. Since these little blinking letters spring from the tips of my fingers, and because this is the internet and we all know that at least half of what appears here is utter non-sense, I can pretty much say what I want. We officially have a whole 16 readers now. We suspect that others come and go and that at one time as many as twenty or more people may actually visit! Not a best seller but quite a few folks to be standing in an elevator!
So curious reader, my theory is that dreams are here to help us navigate the SPIRIT world. Something along the lines of "elders" or "angels" or as Carl Jung called it a "collective unconscious," has a voice and wants to communicate with us. I think at the time we're in, in which the world is facing serious consequences because of a severe strain on its ecosystem framework caused by toxic human behavior, there is a chance that more messages than ever before are flooding in.
To put it simply, I've often light heartedly proclaimed, "I've heard the Voice of God. And it is saying--HELP ME." Or another way to say it is that as part of the planet, in the same way that quarks and electrons and neutrons are part of an atom or an element, we as humans are not disconnected from the living organism called Earth. Since we are connected to it, it communicates to and through us on a full time basis. Some people think they know what their cats are thinking. Some people are quite certain that plants communicate with them. I think the only thing that separates us from the planet is a misunderstanding. How can we possibly not be connected to it?
So the only question remains is, do we have a conscious or consciousness connection to it and everything else related and connected to it? In what part of our brain does the human self exist?
Go dream about it and get back with me. Don't let the bed bugs bite!
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Kids say the darndest things. They really do. I must have that very thought dozens of times each day, especially now that I’m spending every day with my two grandchildren. I remember many times my own four children had me laughing in wonder and delight at something they’d said, and now I regret not writing all of them down. I wasn’t smart enough to see it at the time, but I’m certain that if I read them now I would see the wisdom in their remarks, rather than just the simple humor of them.
My grandson, Tony, is a little philosopher. Chronologically he’s only seven years old, but his soul is that of a much older man. His eyebrows are often knitted in serious thought, and he feels things like love and sympathy very deeply. He once told me it was ‘pretty silly’ for his mom and dad to sometimes forget that he was “the best thing that ever happened to them.” Oh, yes, this boy can philosophize.
Now that I’m ensconced here in the serenity of Portland for a few precious days to visit my daughter, Andrea, I have a little time to rehash and relish some of the wisdom I’ve heard from my little philosopher lately. One recent conversation had a particular resonance to me.
As some of you may know, I have assigned every day of the week to a certain activity or pursuit this summer. It’s a great way to help children to know what to expect each day. To a four year old (as my granddaughter is), ‘Monday,’ ‘Tuesday,’ and ‘Wednesday’ may hold little, if any, meaning, and there is sure to be confusion when discussing our plans for the week. But if we say, ‘Arts & Crafts Day,’ ‘Library Day,’ and “Writing Day,’ they quickly learn what to expect.
This summer, we’ve named Friday ‘Adventure Day.’ It’s a day when we explore, attend an event, go to visit friends, or think up some other outing for the day. As it turns out, we have also unwittingly turned it into Dairy Queen Day by ending the outing with a free treat from DQ (thanks to coupons saved for eons, I should be able to make it through August). Sitting in Dairy Queen, watching Tony & CiCi enjoy a rare ‘junk food’ treat, and waxing philosophic, has become the high point of the week for me. Last Friday, here’s how the conversation went, while Tony eagerly devoured his Dilly Bar;
“So, Yia-Yia,” he began. “You know about this Circle of Life thing, right?”
“Well, yes, I think I know what you mean by that,” I replied.
“Really, do you?” he asked.
“I’m pretty sure,” I said, “but why don’t you refresh my memory?” I was puzzled now, wondering what he was thinking, and how we’d gotten on this dicey topic. This could end badly, I mused. Had he been watching The Lion King or something?
“You know,” Tony said, his eyes shining now. “Like how bugs get eaten, then the bird that ate the bug gets eaten.”
“Yeah, exactly,” I said. “That’s called ‘the food chain.’”
“No, it’s the Circle of Life,” he insisted.
“Really?” I replied.
“Yeah, it’s this way, Yia-Yia. The animals eat each other, then the lion doesn’t have anyone to eat him, so when he dies, his body lays there on the ground until it becomes part of the earth, then the earth grows the grass that the other animals and the antelope eat, and THEN,” he said dramatically, “That’s when the circle starts over again!”
“Ohhhhh,” I said seriously. “So it just goes on and on like that?”
“Yep,” Tony replied. “It’s like people living and dying and growing up and having babies and the circle starting over again. Same thing. It’s the entire whole earth.”
I was impressed with his understanding of the concept. “Wow. That’s right,” I replied. “I think you’re exactly right. “
“Okay,” Tony said. “I was just checkin’ to see if you knew about it.”
God, I love my little philosopher.
Okay, friends. Here it is. Everything has a life span. Everything and everybody. Nothing is exempt. We’re all in this grand Circle of Life together. From the tiniest bug to the entire whole earth. I’m just checkin’ to make sure you know.
When I was searching for 'The Circle of Life' from The Lion King I ran across this version, which I thought was very inventive. Enjoy!