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What a wonderful, wonderful weekend!

Saturday morning, the house was all cleaned, and smelling fresh, the yard looked great, and the fence was adorned with red, white and blue bunting banners – a gift from my darling neighbor, Kay. I began prepping food and preparing a fresh peach cobbler while Mother and I chatted.

Mother, Jose and I ate lunch on the deck, and then ran some errands. When we returned, Destin, Stacia, Parker and Fred were at the house.

We went to Indian Riffle Park off of Stroop Road where we chatted, ate peach cobbler, and watched Parker and Jose play.

Then, we journeyed on to Young’s Jersey Dairy outside Yellow Springs. We petted goats, took pictures and chatted more. Stacia, Parker, Jose and Fred road the tractor train.

While we waited to be seated, Destin and Jose went to the driving range, and I believe they hit the walls of the shelter more than the golf balls. There were hilarious tales of how they were also experiencing near misses from one another. I am filled with so much delight when I watch Jose with his Uncle Destin, and always recall the wonderful times spent with my own uncles.

We enjoyed a delicious meal at the main restaurant. Unfortunately, Parker became ill as we were preparing to leave, and the projectile vomit was Olympian in proportion, and distance. However, poor Stacia caught most of it down her front, her back… while Destin was gagging out in the parking lot from the stench, Stacia, bore it, and wore it with her typical good humor, and grace. In the car, poor, tired Fred began wailing. At one point, Stacia, who could have been overwhelming stressed, leaned up to Jose and said, “So have you had your fill of birth control this evening?”

We lost it!

After prepping the bedrooms, getting the boys to bed, we hit the deck with the tikki torches lit – what a beautiful site the yard was with the torches illuminating the yard. Destin and I were the last to close down the deck chat – and I believe we covered all the issues of education in an hour.

Sunday morning, I was up at 7:00am, and joined Mother on the deck for coffee before showering and making breakfast. We dined on the deck with eggs, pancakes (even chocolate chip), frappes, bagels, etc..

We spent more time on the deck while others were showering.

At 1:00pm, we all walked over to Lincoln Park for the Holiday At Home festival. What a neat thing to have in your own back yard! I love this weekend! We walked through the festival, grabbed some lemon shake-ups, and Mother purchased candles.

As we began our trek through the park, Jose asked if he could push Fred in the stroller. Stacia asked, “Jose, do you think the stroller is a chick-magnet?”

We lost it again. Destin, of course, came up with several scenarios of what Jose could tell the ladies.

At 2:00pm we were back on my deck for taco salad, topped with Stacia’s home-made salsa which is the best I have ever eaten. I have tried her recipe and cannot hit it on the mark.

At 3:00pm, the cars were packed and this leg of the weekend had come to an end. Waving good bye from the porch, a family “must do,” was difficult. I was still sniffling a little as I put away the food from lunch.

I chatted with my neighbor lady, Kay, and invited her family over for supper since I had SO much left over for taco salad. We agreed on 7:00pm. Jose went to work and I took a 45 minute nap.

At 7:00pm, Kay and her daughter, Laura, were dining with me on taco salad. Laura’s husband, Don, was not feeling well, and the kids were off doing their own thing. Time spent with Kay and Laura are always a blast, and there is always tons of laughter. I was blessed with wonderful neighbors growing up in Elwood, wonderful neighbors during my college years in Muncie, and although I enjoyed my neighbors in Centerville, my Kettering neighbors have been an absolute blessing and delight. The Moore-Parker house next door, and the Stephenson house (Bob, Chris, Henry and Frank) behind us are the best neighbors one could possibly have.

Jose returned from work and joined us on the deck with his supper he brought home from One Lincoln Park.

At 9:00pm, all was quiet at the Haasienda.

Tomorrow morning at 10:00am, I will be on the other side of the high school’s campus to join thousands for the Holiday At Home parade, one of the largest in the state. Hopefully I will sit with the Lockharts.

I will also be the proud teacher as several students pass by, leading their bands as drum-major. And I will be the proud pappa as Jose marches by with the Marching Firebirds.

What a wonderful Labor Day weekend, and it isn’t over. I doubt that tomorrow will top the sheer joy I have experienced these past few days with family and neighbors/friends.

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Noticing Synchronicity

When events appear to fit together perfectly in our lives it may seem at first that they are random occurrences, things that are the result of coincidence. These synchronous happenings, though, are much more than that, for, if we look at them more closely they can show us that the universe is listening to us and gently communicating with us. Learning to pay attention to and link the things that occur on a daily basis can be a way for us to become more attuned to the fact that most everything happens in our lives for a reason – even when that reason is not clear right away.

When we realize that things often go more smoothly than we can ever imagine, it allows us to take the time to reflect on the patterns in our lives. Even events that might not at first seem to be related to each other are indicators that the universe is working with, not against, us. This idea of synchronicity, then, means that we have to trust there is more to our lives than what we experience on a physical level. We need to be willing to look more closely at the bigger picture, accepting and having confidence in the fact that there is more to our experiences than immediately meets the eye. Being open to synchronicity also means that we have to understand that our lives are filled with both positive and negative events. Once we can recognize that one event is neither more desirable nor better than the other – they all have an overall purpose in our lives — then we are truly ready to listen to the messages the universe gives us.

While we may not be able to see everything in our lives as being synchronous, we can certainly use hindsight to be more aware of how the universe guides us. This sense of wonder at the mysteries of the universe and the interconnectedness present in our lives will help us see our overall ways of being and will in turn make it easier to work more consciously towards our spiritual evolution.

Grounding Ourselves

We often hear people telling us to ground ourselves, but we may not be sure what that means and how we might do it. Grounding ourselves is a way of bringing ourselves literally back to earth. Some of us are more prone than others to essentially leaving our bodies and not being firmly rooted in our bodies. There’s nothing terribly wrong with this, but while we are living on the earth plane it is best to stay grounded in the body.

One of the easiest ways to ground ourselves is to bring our attention to our breath as it enters and leaves our bodies. After about 10 breaths, we will probably find that we feel much more connected to our physical selves. We might then bring our awareness to the sensations in our bodies, moving from our head down to our feet, exploring and inquiring. Just a few minutes of this can bring us home to bodies and to the earth, and this is what it means to ground ourselves.

We can go further by imagining that we have roots growing out of the bottoms of our feet, connecting us to the earth. The roots flow with us so we can we always move, but at the same time they keep us grounded. We receive powerful energy from the earth just as we do from the forms of energy we associate with the sky, and our body is a tool that brings these two energies together in a sacred union. When we are grounded, we essentially become a strong container in which our spirits can safely and productively dwell. This is why grounding ourselves every day, especially at the beginning of the day, is such a beneficial practice. Fortunately, it’s as simple as bringing our conscious awareness to our bodies and the earth on which we walk.

This is a message I posted on one of my hometown’s websites, WILLKIE’S PRIDE.

This morning, my sixteen year old son came into my study before leaving for school and said he was really frustrated with something in marching band. The percussion section leader yells all the time at the end of rehearsal when the other members are not moving instruments and equipment along, especially when there’s a lull in the activity. I asked if she provided the section with a schedule/list, outlining the order of items to be moved on to the trailer, as well as an assignment list to move the equipment.

No. There was not.

“What can you do to help this situation?” I asked.

“There’s nothing I can do.”

With that, he knew he had said the wrong thing as I smiled, peering over my reading glasses.

My son nodded his head. “I can suggest to her that we come up with a schedule or list of what needs to be done and who needs to do it.”

I then asked, “Are you and other percussion members standing around, complaining?”

He nodded.

My son got the message. One of the rules in our home is: “Don’t complain, get in there and help fix it.”

As I read various websites of both published and guest entries the election, I read a ton of complaining, side-line-recliner coaching, but what I am not reading, or hearing is, “How can I help fix this?”

We all know that we will be fixing something, one way or another, just by voting this November.

But is that enough?

What more, as a citizen of the United States of American, can I do to help improve what needs to be improved?

The last election of 2004, I took my sons to see both vice- presidential candidates when they appeared in the Dayton area. We also attended several rallies, and information sessions for each candidate (and we do this for local elections, as well). As a parent, I lead my family in discussion of these issues, reminding
them that the votes cast this November can, and will affect their children and grandchildren.

“How is that possible?” one son asked.

I explained: in 1860 the country elected Lincoln, and today, we still thrive as one union. In 1904, when Theodore Roosevelt was elected in his own right (he succeeded the assassinated William McKinley in
1901) he promoted conservation of various natural landmarks that eventually led to the National Parks’ system. A number of FDR’s programs are still with us, as are programs from the administrations
of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. When social security began, my great-grandparents, and maybe my grandparents had voted in an election that brought FDR to the White House. And my fourth great-grandfather fought in the Union cavalry to hold the country together.

The actions, and even inactions of my parents, grandparents (and so on) during election seasons have resulted – both directly, and indirectly to the country in which I live.
 
As a young boy of ten, I campaigned heavily for Congressman Hillis, and even Senator Lugar. There was even a photograph in the Elwood Call-Leader of Congressman Hillis standing with my family.

At that rally, I believe in the building which now houses the chamber of commerce, something Congressman Hillis said in 1974, has remained with me for thirty-four years.

Paraphrased: “You are all here because you believe in making a difference. You are out here working to better your community, your county, your district, your state and your country.”

During the question & answer portion of his campaign, Congressman Hillis was asked about the recent horrors of Watergate, and what he thought of President Ford’s pardon for President Nixon (who was a
Republican).

Congressman Hillis then stressed how important it was for us as Americans (United States’ citizens) to move ahead, and beyond the past, and if we all worked together with a positive attitude we could accomplish do much more.

One gentlemen referred to Nixon as “a thief.” Congressman Hillis smiled, and politely suggested that we not resort to name calling. He then encouraged us to be more positive in our thoughts, comments, and
actions and to continue to work together no matter to what political party we belong.

That advice has been one of my mantras when leading bands, choirs, productions, classrooms, and volunteers organizations. One of the rules for the classroom or rehearsals – “Leave the drama and negative
attitudes outside.”

Last week, a fellow classmate of mine posted something from a national newspaper that pounced on President Bush. Immediately, there were follow-up comments of “Bush Bashing” and ridicule for the author
and newspaper as though a hideous felony was committed.

As the DNC Convention began, the negative mudslinging came out in full force, especially comments about Senator Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick incident. And naturally, from recent years, recalls of Monica Lewinsky.

When the GOP Convention airs, will we also be reminded that President Harding (R) had numerous affairs, fathered a child or two, and died as his administration was ready to erupt in scandal?

Will we remember the alleged affair General Eisenhower (R) had with his military driver?

Will we recall the horrors of witnessing one of our nation’s most severe testing throughout the Watergate scandal which brought down a Republican President?

Will we be reminded that President Reagan (R), one of the most beloved presidents in recent years, did, or did not know about the Iran-Contra trades?

Will people target First Lady Laura Bush with reminders that she too killed someone in an automobile accident by running a stop sign? (And, yes, I know this is miles apart from the controversy surrounding Ted Kennedy’s scandal at the Edgartown Bridge.)

As I was skimming through some of this morning’s posts on Willkies Pride, I caught sight of one member reminding us there are bigger fish to fry than picking apart the opposition, or any candidate for that matter.

And how I applaud that poster!

Echoing Congressman Hillis… what can each of us do to work towards a better community, a better county, a better state, a better country?

I occasionally read the one website dedicated purely to Elwood, and if all the complaints are true (which some are clearly skeptical) there appears to be plenty to do in the community of Elwood. Instead, on that particular site, a majority of the posters are there to complain. I brought forth numerous suggestions of taking the lead and making things happen by working together, because that’s what I remember most about Elwood when I was growing up. I remember neighbors helping one another; I remember the streets packed with people during parades (and I marched in enough of them to know); I remember citizens flocking to events…

But what is more, I remember fine people of a fine community who practiced a strong sense of community, a strong sense of commitment, a strong sense of pride, and a strong sense of working together to make a difference.

At church, one day, a lady who is a little older than my parents, commented on an upcoming “church cleaning day.”

“That’s for the young folks. I am going to sit back and enjoy life. I did my share.” And then she began berating all that was not right with the church, and some of the people.

I did not say anything, but my down cast eyes alerted her to the fact I disagreed. Finally, she said, “OK, Darin. I know you are thinking something.”

With that invitation, I cheerfully thanked her for her many contributions to the church. I then reminded her how her former positive attitude had been one of the elements in getting others involved in years now past. Then I asked if her work was truly completed? She thought for a minute. Finally, she looked up, smiled,
and said, “Heavens no! I am still alive.”

Sure enough, she was one who joined us for the spring cleaning day. And better yet, she convinced at least a dozen others to participate because they were a part of the church as well, and that it was up to each of them to participate, to help… to be.

This also applies to each of us with our schools, our communities, our state and our country. We each know someone of advanced years who died at their post – whether it was at work, or volunteering for a cause. This is what I desire – I don’t want to retire, sit at my computer desk (which I currently do as a playwright), and run down the beliefs or comments of others. Rather than complain about the items needing improvements, I hope and pray that I am healthy enough to be offering assistance, or volunteering… somehow, still making a
difference.

I hate to echo a Democrat, but there was once this brilliant phrase that resounded throughout the country in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

We have, somehow, evolved into a society of “wanters” with less emphasis on being “doers” or “givers.” We have become complacent.

Think of our parents and grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and WWII… I was so blessed to know many from this generation, and there are still many from this era that are in their 70’s and 80’s and are still vital contributors to their schools, communities, churches and state. We are fortunate to have a
presidential candidate, and now a vice-presidential candidate from this generation!

In our home, we have an expectation of ten (10) volunteer hours each month. My contribution is to teach pre-adoption courses at the agency through which I adopted my sons, or to lead the parent support group,
or represent the agency at local adoption affairs. I am also a band booster, a choir booster, and active with other community/school related activities. My youngest son volunteers by raking leaves, shoveling snow (all without pay), or assisting with the children’s program at the adoption agency.

I have one friend who is 83, and she volunteers at an elementary school as an aide in various areas. She has also encouraged many of her “widow friends” to do the same, or volunteer in other areas.

Once our children leave home, do we cease being their parent? No. Obviously, the roles change, but we never cease being their parent. And, although I am 43 years old, I am still the son of Diana Haas, and David Haas (and a genetic link to my birth father).

As citizens of a wonderful community, as citizens of a wonderful state, as citizens of a wonderful country, how can each of us make a difference?

How can each of us continue to work towards bettering our city, state and country, not just for our own lives, but for our children and grandchildren, as well?

Do we better ourselves, or improve our conditions with name calling, or dirt digging, or chastising another for their beliefs?

Did Michael Phelps win eight gold medals with a negative attitude? How many times did he say, “Neh, I’m not hitting the pool today; I just don’t feel like it.”?

Did our own recent grand champion of the swimming pool stop working towards her own goal to be in the Olympics?

If you cannot think of a reason to involve your self in some way to make a difference, think of someone like Mary Beth Dunnichay. How can we make each of our own children, or children in Elwood reach out
actively for their goals and dreams? How can we work with the schools or community and church organizations to instill in youth the self- esteem and confidence to be gold medal winners in their own lives,
and future careers?

Shouldn’t this be our initial inheritance to our children and grandchildren?

What better inheritance, or legacy can we leave future generations?

How can we teach them not to simply reach for the stars, but to be one?

We do not need to reach the national and international stages as Wendell L. Willkie, or Mary Beth Dunnichay in order to make a difference. There is so much each of us can do alone, or TOGETHER, to make a difference.

Flying your flag each day can make a difference.

For those of us who can do so, parking further away in a parking lot can make the difference for those who truly need to park closer to stores (handicap, senior citizens and mommies with children).

Leaving your quarter in the cart contraption at Aldis for someone else who truly needs it can make a difference. (And I have seen too many seniors who count down to the last penny!) And you can also buy
extra Aldis bags for five cents and tell the cashier to give them to someone who needs them.

Even complimenting a young child who demonstrates courtesy or good manners can make a difference (and don’t forget to thank their  parents for teaching them the difference!).

When I die, I do not wish to have a grave stone, a monument to a life lived. I hope, and pray that the work I do, and that the lives I touch will be my monument, and my legacy to my children, nephews, and their children. Each of us can provide living monuments – let’s do it.

After 9/11 we began flying our flags daily, and then it dwindled.

Why not fly our flags every day, rather than when our nation is in crises?

Can we celebrate our pride, our unity, our faith in our nation by flying our flags each day?

We united immediately after 9/11, and still continue to do so for memorial services each year.

Can we do this each day?

Make a difference in whatever way you can, but in a positive manner. That can also be a legacy to leave your children, and grandchildren.

And I close with words from one of Elwood’s own…

“In no direction that we turn do we find ease or comfort. If we are honest and if we have the will to win we find only danger, hard work and iron resolution.”

“It is from weakness that people reach for dictators and concentrated government power. Only the strong can be free. And only the productive can be strong.”

May God bless the United States of America.


Feeling Stuck

When we feel stuck in our lives it’s important to take stock of what is going on and find out if there is something we are doing or not doing that is keeping us stuck. Sometimes the situation is out of our control, and we need to look within to find the patience required to wait with equanimity until things move forward again. Many times, though, we can find the source of our stagnation in our own hearts and minds. Sometimes we are clinging to old ideas about reality and we need to make adjustments that will bring us back in tune with life, so we can flow again. Sometimes we find that fear of change is what’s keeping us stuck, and we can resolve to find ways of facing that fear.

If introspection does not provide the answers we need, it can sometimes be helpful to ask those around you if they notice anything obvious that you might not be able to see. Remember to ask someone whom you can trust to be kind and sensitive as well as honest. Try to let go of your resistance because whenever there is something we can’t see ourselves, it’s because we don’t want to see it. Try to listen with an open mind, and remember that you are always the final judge of what you need. Anything offered to us from an outside source will need to be processed within before its wisdom can take hold.

In all this, be kind to yourself and remember that we all get stuck sometimes. Think of it as a part of your process, a necessary step on your journey, rather than as a problem that shouldn’t be happening. This can help to keep your frustration at bay and give you the space you need to take a deep breath and really figure out what’s going on.

7:35am, Jose walked out the door to begin his fifth year in Kettering Public Schools. Today he starts his sophomore year.

Jose is always normally up by 6:50am, but this morning I realized he was still in bed at 7:10am. By 7:25am he was bouncing into my room, following his shower, and showing off what he thought would be a new hair style for the start of the year; however, he returned it to the usual before heading out the door.

Today, only the freshmen and sophomore students attend, to be joined by the true upper-classmen tomorrow.

For me, the new teaching schedule began yesterday, and all ran smoothly. Mondays I will teach from 2:00pm until 8:30pm, my longest day. Tuesdays are slim – at the moment, with Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays filled.

Today, I will write from 9:00am-Noon, but I may get started early as there is nothing pressing for the day which requires my immediate attention. After eating, napping, and walking, I will write some more until Jose returns home to chatter happily about his first day. It is hard telling how many of his friends the door will belch out. Tonight also begins the weekly band rehearsals on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

The cool temperatures feel more like late October, but how welcome they are after that heat wave of last week.


Things We Don’t Want To Do

Most of us have had the experience of tackling some dreaded task only to come out the other side feeling invigorated, filled with a new sense of confidence and strength. The funny thing is, most of the time when we do them, we come out on the other side changed and often wondering what we were so worried about or why it took us so long. We may even begin to look for other tasks we’ve been avoiding so that we can feel that same heady mix of excitement and completion.

Whether we avoid something because it scares us or bores us, or because we think it will force a change we’re not ready for, putting it off only creates obstacles for us. On the other hand, facing the task at hand, no matter how onerous, creates flow in our lives and allows us to grow. The relief is palpable when we stand on the other side knowing that we did something even though it was hard or we didn’t want to do it. On the other hand, when we cling to our comfort zone, never addressing the things we don’t want to face, we cut ourselves off from flow and growth.

We all have at least one thing in our life that never seems to get done. Bringing that task to the top of the list and promising ourselves that we will do it as soon as possible is an act that could liberate a tremendous amount of energy in our lives. Whatever it is, we can allow ourselves to be fueled by the promise of the feelings of exhilaration and confidence that will be the natural result of doing it.

My mother’s younger brother, Ronald Dean Barmes, would have turned 56 years this past May. Sadly, he took his own life in June 1987.

Uncle Ron had married, and had two daughters, Alicia and Amanda. Both girls are married and had daughters of their own. Alicia just gave birth to her third daughter this past Tuesday, August 19th (which happens to be National Aviation day in honor of Orville Wright’s birthday).

Alicia is about 31 years old, and I believe Amanda is approximately 26. Alicia and her family still reside in Virginia Beach, and Amanda, once a military brat and now a military wife, lives in Texas with her two daughters.

On the Barmes side, all my first cousins are a good deal younger than me. My uncle, Tom, has two sons who are the age of mine – teenagers. Of course, all my first cousins’ daughters are the ages of my nephews. This is what happens when you and your mother are the eldest by several years.

Here are some photos of the newest first cousin…

Ron’s eldest daughter, Alicia.

Aunt Betty and Jordan.

Alicia’s eldest daughter, Jamie, and Jordan.

Alicia’s second daughter, Jennifer.

And the new baby, Jordan Deann.

Friday night was a home football game – the first of the season against Fairmont’s biggest rival, Alter High School. I skipped it. The heat and humidity were unbearable, and although I was not feeling great pain with my finger, I decided to not attend the game.

Jose returned home with a friend from the percussion pit, Matt. Matt just moved here from Vandalia Butler High School, and is also a sophomore. Matt has spent some time with us, and seems to enjoy our zany humor. The three of us went to Wal-Mart (yes, at 11:30pm) to look at computers. Windows crashed on mine, and there was little to do to salvage it. So, I took the time on Thursday, and Friday night to price computers.

At home the boys settled into the basement with snacks and games.

Saturday morning I woke at 7:00am, started my day. The boys had Donation Day with the band at 9:00am, so I hurried off to Wal-Mart to buy the computer – a HP with a 20″ wide monitor. I did not need the monitor, but now, seeing how much bigger it is than my old one – I love it. I spent the rest of the afternoon setting up the computer, and then started in on rearranging/organizing my work space.

By 11:00pm, it was spotless and organized, and looking much like an area where neat stuff happens!

I turned in around midnight with THE WEST WING, season four set… ahhh… what a wonderful series. I miss it. I miss the characters. I also miss the false sense of security thinking someone like Josiah Bartlett (played by Martin Sheen) is running our country!

Sunday morning I woke rather late – 8:00am! Ugh! My day was wasting away. After nibbling on some fruit and yogurt, watering the flowers and veggies, I settled down to call Mother. No answer. Several more tries… no answer. Strange for Mother to be gone on a Sunday morning.

Jeff Carter called and we had a great chat for an hour or so.

I went out on the deck to check on squirrels… they are getting smarter! They now run when I walk on to the deck. Perhaps I should make a scarecrow with my face.


Pure Thoughts

If we make no effort at all, our thoughts usually scatter in a vast array of directions. They start and stop and move in surprising ways from one second to the next. If we try to follow our thoughts without controlling them, we will be amazed at how truly inconsistent they are. Yet, if we apply our minds to a specific task, especially one that interests us, they gather together and allow us to focus our attention, creating great power and energy. This is what is known as pure thought, because it is undistracted.

The law of attraction—like attracts like—influences all energy, including our thoughts, and this is what makes pure thought so potent. Our undistracted thoughts create a powerful magnet that draws similar energy into our vibrational field. As a result, the longer we are able to hold positive thoughts in our minds, the more powerful the positive energy around us becomes. We don’t need to focus on action and controlling so much when we are surrounded by energy that draws what we want toward us. We can simply respond to the opportunities that naturally come our way. When this is the essence of our experience, we can go with the flow, knowing that we will be okay.

If pure thought is a body, it is our emotions that supply the heart that can really bring it to life. Our thoughts and feelings exist in relation to one another, and they form a feedback loop through which they communicate and empower each other. When we hold a thought in our mind without being distracted, we have achieved pure thought. When we have a positive emotional response to that thought, we enable it to dance and move and breathe itself into existence.

THURSDAY
Squirrels. The ones in our yard are really aggravating me!
They have been going after the tomatoes, as well as the neighbor’s. During the dry times, they suck the juice out of the tomatoes.
They also break into the walnuts right over my deck, and side kitchen walk. The shells cut into our bare feet when we walk on the deck, land in my coffee as I write, hit my laptop… there are tons of places to chomp away, but they prefer to eat right over my deck. I looked up one morning as shells fell into my coffee and the damned thing was on the limb right above me. Naturally, Flyer and Logan must not have been out with me or else the little varmint would never have ventured so close to the deck.
Thursday afternoon, I went to Wal-Mart and bought a BB gun. I checked some trap/cages at Harbor Freight, but decided it would be too much a hassle. I can at least shoot near them and hopefully scare them away.
 
I was on the deck filling the BB rifle with BB’s when Jose returned from work. He asked why I bought a BB gun. I explained.
 
Again, the typical tight lipped grin, followed by the “Ah, I see!” head nod (it is better than rolling his eyes, so I allow it). With that he said, “Just be careful and wear protective eye gear, and don’t shot towards the house. That pisses off Uncle Destin.”
 
And he turned to leave the deck via my study. He returned, picked up the cat, Logan, who was resting on the rail, and said, “Just in case…” and went inside with her.
Bill Murray in CADDYSHACK. Sent to me by a student who
must think she is hilarious!
 
FRIDAY
Friday I was doing yard work – trimming shrubs. For some reason my right wrist gave out… the electric shears sliced into the end of my left middle finger to the bone, cutting the finger nail.
 
I ran it under cold water for a while, and the bleeding finally subsided. I dipped it in turpentine – yes, you read it correctly – turpentine, cleaned it off, put some antibiotic ointment and bandages on it. And then some Ibuprofen.
Turpentine – Medicinal elixir

Turpentine and petroleum distillates such as coal oil and kerosene have been used medicinally since ancient times, as topical and sometimes internal home remedies. Topically it has been used for abrasions and wounds, as a treatment for lice, and when mixed with animal fat it has been used as a chest rub, or inhaler for nasal and throat ailments. Many modern chest rubs, such as the Vicks variety, still contain turpentine in their formulations.

My junior year, the evening before state solo and ensemble contest, I was washing dishes and dropped a glass in the sink. The tops of my fingers were sliced right across the tips – where I need them for piano and saxophone. Mother grabbed a towel and held my fingers as I hit the kitchen floor (my own blood knocks me out cold). I woke up, looking at Mother hovering over me. She grabbed the turpentine from the cabinet, poured it into a small cup and dipped my fingers into it.

The next day, I was playing piano and saxophone in seven different events – as though nothing had happened the evening before.

Yes – turpentine! And for all my college friends who laughed at me when I explained that cows lying down in the field meant rain was coming… just try the turpentine! It works!

Our neighbors across the street (in Elwood, Indiana), Luther and Ida Myrick, were from the hills, hollers, dales, and woods of Kentucky. Luther had been a caller for the Jellico Square Dance in Jellico, Tennessee. Ida’s grandmother had grown up with Abraham Lincoln near Hodgenville, KY, and he sent her a signed card d’visit when he was president.

And how many of you thought you would not get a history lesson out of this one???

They had a ton of mountain remedies which we swore by, and still do! The only thing I never tried was Luther’s homemade whiskey for a chest cold. Ida swore by it!

So turpentine…. as Ida always told us, “Always put it on a fresh cut. It won’t hurt. But if you put it on an old cut you’ll be screaming and pissing like a race horse bit by a storm fly.”

PS. And for the family? I am sure you understand why Grandpa Virgil was mentioned in the subject line!


Making Life Work For You

Sometimes we have so many varying responsibilities in our lives, ranging from work obligations to caring for children to running a household, we feel we cannot possibly make it all work. We may feel overwhelmed in the face of it all, ending each day feeling hopelessly behind schedule. However, regardless of how frustrating this can be, these are the parameters that make up our lives, and we owe it to ourselves to find a way to make it work. Rather than buckling under the pressure of an impossible to-do list, we might take a moment to view the larger perspective.

Like the president of a large organization, we must first realize that we cannot do every job ourselves. The first step to sanity is learning how to delegate some of the responsibility to other people, whether by paying someone to clean our house or trading childcare duties with another parent. In addition, we might find places where we can shift our expectations in ways that make our lives easier. For example, expecting ourselves to create a healthy home-cooked meal every night after a full day of work, errands, or caring for an infant or toddler may be a bit excessive. We might allow ourselves to order in food once in a while without any guilt. Accepting the adjustments needed to make our lives work is an essential ingredient to being at peace with our situation.

At the end of the day, we must come to terms with changing what we can and accepting what we cannot change. Sometimes the laundry piles up, a sick child demands more of our attention than usual, and we temporarily get behind with our schedule. Accepting this momentary state of affairs and trusting in our ability to get back on track when the time is right, we gracefully accept our life as it is, letting go of perfectionism and embracing life as it stands.


Getting What We Want

The best way to get what we want from life is to first know what we want. If we haven’t taken the time to really understand and identify what would truly make us happy, we won’t be able to ask for it from those around us or from the universe. We may not even be able to recognize it once it arrives. Once we are clear about what we want, we can communicate it to those around us. When we can be honest about who we are and what we want, there is no need to demand, be rude or aggressive, or manipulate others that are involved in helping us get what we want. Instead, we know that we are transmitting a signal on the right frequency to bring all that we desire into our experience.

As the world evolves, humanity is learning to work from the heart. We may have been taught that the way to get what we want is to follow certain rules, play particular games, or even engage in acts that use less than our highest integrity. The only rules we need to apply are those of intention and connection. In terms of energy, we can see that it takes a lot of energy to keep up a false front or act in a way that is counter to our true nature, but much less energy is expended when we can just be and enjoy connections that energize us in return. Then our energy can be directed toward living the life we want right now.

Society has certain expectations of behavior and the roles each of us should play, but as spiritual beings we are not bound by these superficial structures unless we choose to accept them. Instead, we can listen to our hearts and follow what we know to be true and meaningful for us. In doing so, we will find others who have chosen the same path. It can be easy to get caught up in following goals that appear to be what we want, but when we pursue the underlying value, we are certain to stay on our right path and continue to feed our soul.

Rethinking Complaining

We all know someone who has elevated the process of complaining to a high art. Sometimes funny, sometimes exhausting, these people have the ability to find a problem just about anywhere. In its more evolved form, complaining is simply the ability to see what’s not working, in one’s own life or in the external world, and it can be quite useful if followed to its natural conclusion—finding a solution and applying it. However, many of us don’t get that far, and we find that complaining has become an end in itself. In small doses, this is not a big problem, but if complaining has become a huge part of our identities, it may be time to take a good look at how we are spending our energy.

Complaining is a person’s way of acknowledging that they are not happy with the way things are. In a metaphorical way, when we complain or criticize, we are tearing down an undesirable structure in order to make room for something new. But if all we do is tear down, never bothering to summon the creative energy required to create something new, we are not fulfilling the process. In fact, we are at risk for becoming a stagnant and destructive force in our own lives and in the lives of the people we love. Another issue with complaining is that we sometimes tend to focus on other people, whom we can’t change, as a way of deflecting attention from the one person we can change—ourselves. So transforming complaining into something useful is a twofold process that begins with turning our critical eye to look at things we can actually do something about, and then taking positive action.

When we find ourselves complaining, the last thing we need to do is get down on ourselves. Instead, we can begin by noticing that we are in the mode of wanting to make some changes. But rather than lashing out at somebody or an organization, we can look for an appropriate place to channel this energy—not our neighbor’s house, but possibly parts of our own. Finally, we can ask ourselves the positive question of what we would like to create in the place of whatever it is we want to tear down. When we do this, we channel a negative habit into a creative process, thus using our energy to change the world around us in a positive way.

In 1908, Wilbur Wright, demonstrating the Wright flying machine for the French government, captured the attention, and imagination of the entire world. Wilbur, along with his brother, Orville, who was preparing for the United States’ demonstration at Fort Myer in Virginia (outsideWashington, DC), had released man’s bonds with earth five years before. Taunted by skepticism, as well as fear of rivals seizing their design, the brothers stopped flying for three years.

Now, in 1908, it was time to prove to the world that man could fly. And in doing so, the brothers, along with their sister, Katharine, became the Twentieth Century’s first international celebrities.

One hundred years later, in Beijing, China, the United States has another international celebrity – Michael Phelps.

I have watched, with great interest, enthusiasm, and awe how this young man has broken records, and ties, to become an international icon.

To me, Wilbur, Orville, and Michael are so much more than heroes and legends – they are examples re-claiming, even shouting, the age old mantra that each of us is capable of great things. We do not need Kitty Hawk or Beijingto fulfill our dreams. What we do need is faith, determination, passion, desire, guts, vision, and perseverance.

“Lord, give me the ingredients to fly as high as the Wrights, and as fast as Phelps. Amen.”


Making Big Change Easier

When we decide that it’s time for big changes in our lives, it is wise to ease into them by starting small. Small changes allow us to grow into a new habit and make it a permanent part of our lives, whereas sudden changes may cause a sense of failure that makes it difficult to go on, and we are more likely to revert to our old ways. Even if we have gone that route and find ourselves contemplating the choice to start over again, we can decide to take it slowly this time, and move forward.

Sometimes the goals we set for ourselves are merely indicators of the need for change and are useful in getting us moving in the right direction. But it is possible that once we try out what seemed so ideal, we may find that it doesn’t actually suit us, or make us feel the way we had hoped. By embarking on the path slowly, we have the chance to look around and consider other options as we learn and grow. We have time to examine the underlying values of the desire for change and find ways to manifest those feelings, whether it looks exactly like our initial goal or not. Taking small steps forward gives us time to adjust and find secure footing on our new path.

Life doesn’t always give us the opportunity to anticipate or prepare for a big change, and we may find ourselves overwhelmed by what is in front of us. By choosing one thing to work on at a time, we focus our attention on something manageable, and eventually we will look up to see that we have accomplished quite a bit. Forcing change is, in essence, a sign that we do not trust the universe’s wisdom. Instead, we can listen to our inner guidance and make changes at a pace that is right for us, ensuring that we do so in alignment with the rhythm of the universe.

When I was a teenager in high school, and throughout college, I did listen to rock music, but preferred the music of the late 1960’s and early to mid-1970’s. There was some incredible music written during that era. I was never one to listen to a good deal of the current hits, but in the mid 1980’s I did occasionally listen to Journey, Air Supply, Chicago and a number of individual solo artists.

This past week, I spent one of the most enjoyable weeks working with the Beavercreek High School Friend’s Show Choir. Awesome! Sharon Busch is an incredible director, and she runs a brilliant program. The students were warm, welcoming and a delightful bunch of teenagers. I could work with them forever.

While working with the camp I became exposed to Nate James’ “The Message” and two hits from a medley of Bon Jovi, “It’s My Life” and “Living On A Prayer.”

Friday night was the parents’ show of what the show choir had accomplished. Sharon Busch grabbed a piano, and man, can she jam! I was conducting the show choir instrumentalists, nearly dancing while conducting, and Sharon was even more energetic than me. Bon Jovi’s music can really grab you!

The lyrics to “It’s My Life” have fastened themselves to my brain:

This ain’t a song for the broken-hearted
A silent prayer for faith-departed
I ain’t gonna be just a face in the crowd
You’re gonna hear my voice when I shout it out aloud

It’s my life
If it’s now or never
And I ain’t gonna live forever
I just want to live while I’m alive
(It’s my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said, “I did it my way.”
I just wanna live while I’m alive
It’s my life

This is for the ones who stood their ground
For Tommy and Gina who never backed down
Tomorrow’s getting harder make no mistake
Luck ain’t even lucky got to make your own breaks

It’s my life
And it’s now or never
I ain’t gonna live forever
I just want to live while I’m alive
(It’s my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just want to live while I’m alive
‘Cause it’s my life

Better stand tall when they’re calling you out
Don’t bend, don’t break, baby, don’t back down

It’s my life
And it’s now or never
‘Cause I ain’t gonna live forever
I just want to live while I’m alive
(It’s my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just want to live while I’m alive

This afternoon, Jose returned from a six hour marching band rehearsal, and while getting ready to go to his job at One Lincoln Park, I asked if he could help me figure out how to download several songs onto my MP3 player. He happily agreed, enjoying the moment to assist his semi-technologically-challenged father.

Jose moved the cursor onto one of the songs and jumped back, laughing. “What the hell is this?”

I looked up at Jose. “It’s Bon Jovi. He was really big in the 1980’s and…”

“I know who Bon Jovi is. Why are you listening to him?” Jose asked as though he was a father catching his twelve year old son listening to Gangsta Rap.

“Well… I like it. Bon Jovi is just a little older than me.”

“You like this kind of music?”

“YES I DO.”

“That’s just out there.”

“When I was young, ‘far out’ was a popular little quip.”

“No, Dad, this is just funny to know you listen to rock music.”

“You’ve heard me listen to rock music before.”

“Yeh, but WICKED and hits from THE WEDDING SINGER [Broadway version] don’t count.”

“Jose, I listen to rock music, too.”

“But this is a little heavier rock than some of the shit I’ve heard you listen to.”

“I also like Meatloaf. The rock artist and not the…”

“I know who Meatloaf is…”

“Why is it so crazy that your father would like heavier rock?”

“You play Beethoven, Bach and Broadway. You don’t play Bon Jovi.”

“But I am at least still versatile in my musical tastes.”

A look of concern spread across his furrowed brow. “Are you attempting to be cool?”

“Cool? Excuse me???” I sat back in my chair on the deck and folded my arms. “Why can a 16 year old Mexican son be cool but a 42 year old Caucasian dad cannot?”

“You’re 43…”

“I know how old I am and I am cool, too!”

Jose gave me a tight-lipped grin, and nodded his head.

“Dad, it’s like this… it’s just messed up. My generation is into the coll rock music and guys your age want to listen to our music.”

“This is not YOUR music. Your grandmother listened to Rock-N-Roll when she was younger, and I can remember Mother listening to rock music when I was a teenager. She knew Air Supply and some of the other top bands. And another thing, when I went to pick up Molly Crouch for her lesson Thursday, I was telling Mrs. Crouch about Beavercreek’s show and when I said we were doing a Bon Jovi medley she said, ‘I bet one is LIVING ON A PRAYER.’ Mrs. Crouch is about four to five years older than me. Mrs. Branson even knew the songs and she use to like some of the heavier rock bands in the 1970’s. You make it sound like it is a sin for my generation to appreciate quality rock music.”

The tight-lipped grin appeared, accompanied by the chin extending from the neck in the familiar nod. Jose turned on his heal and went inside.

My MP3 player was loaded.

Around 6:00pm, I decided to go to Kroger to get some cucumbers to make some cucumber salad like my sister-in-law, Stacia, made the previous weekend (of course, the recipe from the internet was nothing like hers…). I plugged my MP3 player into the stereo, and as I backed out on to Shroyer Road, “Living On A Prayer” started. I nudged the volume a bit.

The song was still too soft.

The volume was pumped a little more.

At the stoplight at Lincoln Blvd a car pulled up beside me.

I was not paying attention. The music was a little loud.

Oh… I realized someone was shouting to me from the neighboring car.

“Mr. Haas!” screamed a former student. “When the hell did you start listening to Bon Jovi?”

“I’ve always liked rock music – and why is everyone saying ‘hell’ today?”

He laughed and abruptly left my side as the light changed to green.

I turned into the Kroger parking lot at Eichleberger Plaza, and as I slowly turned into a parking space, there was a gentleman approximately my age – his head began bouncing. I thought it was a seizure but then realized his head was pulsating to the music from my car.

“Wow! This is COOL. Someone my age is getting into this music.”

I remembered a few years back when rock legend Donna Summer was performing at the Fraze Pavilion near us. We walked over, the boys groaning with each step as the music got louder. We ran into Cathy & John Moore, parents of two wonderful sons who were former students (Jeremy and Dan). When “Last Dance” started, the area on the street outside the Fraze went nuts. Cathy was up dancing with others. How neat that was to see my generation, several decades removed from puberty, up dancing to a legend from our youth!

I smiled at that memory as I parked and got out of the car.

“That’s one helluva song!”

I turned to see the guy bouncing as he put his groceries in the back of his SUV.

“I saw him in concert,” the gentleman grinned.

“Bon Jovi?” I asked.

“Yeh. (Uncertain…) He was the one who recorded it. Sounds like you have the 2000 or 2007 version of his latest album.”

“Yip. That’s what I have all right.”

I turned quickly to head into Kroger, fearing he might as me more particulars. I had no idea what version I had. It was on Amazon.Com and I bought it for $.89, along with several other songs from the show choir medley.

As I traipsed through the aisles of the grocery store, I had a little more bounce to my step. Someone from my generation seemed to accept the fact that at my age I am allowed to listen to rock music.

“It’s my life…”


Numbers

Glancing at the clock may cause us to look again sometimes, especially when we notice that we’ve caught it at the same time over and over again. Maybe we see the same number pattern echoed everywhere we look—whether on license plates or appliances—over a period of hours or even days. When we accept that there are no coincidences, we know there is a message in the numbers for us, and we know to pay attention to the repeating patterns and search for their true meaning.

Numerology has its basis in the ancient world and tells us that each number carries its own vibration and symbolic significance. It can mark the stages of our soul’s evolution as we move from one frequency to the next. Repeating number patterns in our lives may call us to focus on certain aspects of our lives and rise to approach them from the best within us. Once we’ve recognized that there is something we must look more deeply into, we also must trust that we will be guided to the people and places that hold the right answers for us.

Numbers, as symbols, can carry personal meanings as well. We may have our own lucky number that has served us well throughout our lives and another that reminds us of certain events of significance. If these are the numbers that are appearing, it may be the right time to delve into the past for clues about how to handle a present situation. Many people are seeing 11:11 right now, which can be interpreted as an energetic gateway that has opened for you and is ready to manifest your thoughts into reality. Whatever explanations you receive about the numbers that are appearing everywhere you look, the important thing is to trust your own guidance as to what they are telling you. Each culture attaches different meaning to the numbers, so a Chinese interpretation may be different than an interpretation from Kabalah. It is up to us to use our intuition to see which is the best fit for us. If someone has an explanation that doesn’t feel right, then this is not the answer for you but! may be just a clue to keep you moving on the path. By paying attention to the numbers around us, we use them as tools to improve our connection to the universe and our awareness of our choices in life.


Looking At What We Don’t Want To See

It is one of life’s great paradoxes that the things we don’t want to look at in ourselves are the very things we need to look at in order to know ourselves better and to become more fully who we are. The feelings that make us want to run away are buried treasure full of energy and inspiration if we are willing to look. These feelings come in many forms, from strange images or snippets of information to recurring dreams and feelings that rise up seemingly without a reason. Whatever shape they come in, and no matter how scary they seem, these messengers bring the information we need in order to grow.

When we are tired of pushing something down, or trying to run away from it, a good first step is to write down what we think we are avoiding. Often this turns out to be only the surface of the issue or a symbol of something else. Expressing ourselves fully on paper is a safe way to begin exploring the murky territory of the unconscious. The coolness of the intellect can give us the distance we need to read what we have written and feel less afraid of it. It helps if we remember that no matter how dark or negative our thoughts or feelings may be, these are energies shared by all humanity. We are not alone in the dark, and all the gurus and teachers we admire had to go through their own unprocessed emotional territory in order to come out the other side brighter and wiser. This can give us the courage we need to open the treasure chest of what we have been avoiding.

Within the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to look at, there are emotions that need to be felt. Unfelt emotions are stuck energy, and when we leave emotions unprocessed, we deprive ourselves of access to that energy. When we feel strong enough, we can begin the process of feeling those emotions, on our own or with guidance from a spiritual counselor. It is through this work that the buried treasure of energy and inspiration will pour forth from our hearts, giving us the courage to look at all the parts of ourselves with insight and compassion.


Being Gentle With Ourselves

During those times when our lives are filled with what seems to be constant change and growth, it is important to remember that we need to be gentle with ourselves. Since it can be easy to use our energy to keep up with the momentum of our lives, we may not be aware of the fact that we are much more likely to run ourselves down. When things seem to be moving quickly, it is especially essential that we make a point to slow down and be gentle with ourselves.

It might be difficult to notice what is happening to us for we may be so caught up in the whirlwind of our lives that we lose sight of the direction in which things are heading. Being gentle with ourselves doesn’t mean that we don’t accomplish things. Instead it means that we honor ourselves on an ongoing basis and take care of the needs of our bodies.

This means different things to different people. For instance, it could mean having a session with a healer; taking a remedy, herbs, or vitamins; or getting extra sleep. Putting our energy into ourselves in this way helps create space for a more positive, loving, and accepting view of our lives. By setting the intention to do so, we will be more cognizant of our energy levels on a daily basis and more able to replenish them as needed.

The more we are able to treat our bodies with gentleness, the more tenderness and compassion we will call forth into our lives. Learning to understand and pay attention to what our self needs will in turn allow us to fill our lives with unlimited loving and healing energy and to truly take care of the things that mean the most to us.


Technology As Distraction

We are often lured by the promise of new technologies to make our lives easier and help connect us to others. While they do so in many ways, they also present each of us with opportunities to make new choices about how we spend our time and invest our energy. Most gadgets are generally meant to improve the quality of our lives, but it is when we spend too much time with them that they actually do the opposite. By always using our portable emailers, cell phones, video games, and surfing the Internet, we actually become less connected and more distracted. By becoming aware of these tendencies, we harness the power to overcome them and make better choices for ourselves and our families.

Once we decide to consciously put our gadgets to work for us, we become masters of our time. We can give our full attention to whatever we are doing and not let phone conversations and other distractions take the place of human contact. Each of us has the ability to consciously choose to be more present in our lives. We can decide at any time to leave our gadgets behind and become aware of the sights and sounds around us in order to expand our awareness and be fully present in our bodies and our surroundings.

When we use our discernment about how we invest our personal energy, we can be sure that we choose only the best for ourselves and those we love. Our gadgets can be useful tools for our journey in the material world, but we must not forget that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and that means interacting with people on a personal level. Choices that enliven us and help us feel connected to our world and our loved ones always deserve our full attention and presence of mind, body, and spirit.

Last week was busy.

Jose had marching band rehearsals, and also began his work at One Lincoln Park just around the corner from where we live.

Thursday morning Jose, Flyer and I left at 8:00am for Fowler, Indiana, arriving shortly after 11:00am. Jose and I joined Destin and the high school’s band director, Pete Frasso, for lunch at a little place called Dan Patch. Neat place with lots of character.

Pete and I talked for a good hour after Destin left for a meeting.

We drove on over to the house and chatted with Stacia and Norma for a while. Parker woke up from his nap and was thrilled to see Jose. Fred was smiles, as usual.

We ate on the deck, and then went in to town to water Norma’s flowers (she just had foot surgery). Afterwards we went to the Fudge Shop for ice cream.

FRIDAY

Stacia took Parker to the doctor, so Jose and I watched Fred.  I went in to town to get some things I had forgotten to pack, and when I returned I took some sinus medication which knocked me out.

Mother arrived around 4:00pm, and we ate dinner on the deck, again. Later, Mother, Destin, Jose and I drove to Kentland to get some ice cream, and then drove back through a darkened Fowler which was experiencing an electrical outage.

SATURDAY

We ate breakfast, showered, and then spent time talking. I really do not remember what we did after lunch. I know I took a short nap on the sofa. Mother left around 3:00pm, and Destin, Jose and I headed to the school to make sure each teacher had a sign on their door for Monday.

We went home to pick up Stacia and the boys, and went to the park. Afterward, we went to The Hundred Cafe for supper. Always a delicious meal there.

Destin, Jose and I ran some errands, and drove around Fowler, enjoying the remainder of the evening. We watched a little of the Olympics and then I headed to bed.

SUNDAY

Church at 9:00am; lunch at The Hundred with the family and Norma. Returned to the farm and changed clothes, packed the car, and was on the road by 12:40pm. We arrived in Kettering at 3:50pm, unpacked the car, watered flowers, got Chinese, and then I taught a lesson from 7:00pm-8:00pm. Ran to Kroger for some lunch items, and returned home to get my week ready.

THIS WEEK

Jose has band rehearsal and work… his Monday will start with band at 9:00am-3:00pm, and work from 3:45pm-8:00pm.

I will leave for Beavercreek High School at 7:45am to direct their show choir band for the week. Sharon Busch called me Wednesday with an urgent request – their band director is ill and cannot return for camp. So I will direct from 9:00am-3:00pm, rush home and teach. Tuesday and Wednesday are the same, Thursday a half day at BHS, and all day on Friday.

Saturday, Jose is in rehearsal all day from 9am-3pm. So, hopefully, I will get some writing time in.

School begins August 26th, and then Destin, Stacia, Parker and Fred, and hopefully, Mother, will be here for the weekend. I am really looking forward to that weekend.

 

 

GETTYSBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) — Standing just 150 feet from the platform on which President Lincoln delivered his most famous speech, one of the few remaining “witness trees” to the Battle of Gettysburg has been severely damaged by a storm, National Park Service officials said.

A park historian knows of only three other witness trees that stand in the heart of the battlefield.

A park historian knows of only three other witness trees that stand in the heart of the battlefield.

The huge honey locust tree on Cemetery Hill fell Thursday evening.

“The top of it is totally broken off, and [the storm] severely damaged 70 to 80 percent of the tree,” Gettysburg National Military Park spokeswoman Jo Sanders said. “That means there’s not a whole lot left of it. But it didn’t kill the tree.”

The tree, which stood on the right side of the Union lines, “was there as a silent witness — to the battle, to the aftermath, to the burials, to the dedication of the cemetery,” park historian John Heiser said.

“I have no doubt that Union soldiers sat under it for all three days of the battle,” he said.

Park maintenance officials will decide what to do with the remains of the tree.

“When it’s something this bad, it’s highly doubtful that a tree like that can survive,” Heiser said.

Heiser said he knows of only three other witness trees that still stand in the heart of the battlefield.

“It’s a shame when you lose the last living entities on this battlefield,” he said. “Nothing lives forever, unfortunately.”

Take Action

There is a popular misconception that we might be able to just wish our dreams into being. Maybe on some other level of consciousness this is the case, but here on earth what we need to do is take action in our lives. Vision is an important companion to our efforts, but it can’t accomplish anything all by itself. When we focus on what we want and ask for what we want, we are initiating a conversation with the universe. Our desires, passionately defined and expressed, bring about valuable and relevant opportunities, which we then respond to by either taking or leaving them.

Many of us are afraid to step out into the world and make things happen, and so we hang back, dreaming and waiting and watching. There are times in life when this is the right thing to do, but this phase of inaction must eventually give way to its opposite if we are to build our dreams into a reality. This can be really scary, and we may fail and struggle, but that’s okay because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Waiting for everything to be perfect before we act, or waiting for what we want to be handed to us, leaves us waiting forever. No one expects us to be perfect, so the best thing we can do for ourselves is to get out there and take action on our dreams.

One of the hardest parts about having a vision is that when we test it in the laboratory of life, it often comes out looking completely different than what we had in mind or, worse, it doesn’t come out at all. If you read the life stories of people who have brought their dreams into reality, you will hear many stories about this experience. But you will also hear about hard work, taking action, perseverance, and, finally, the successful birthing of a dream.


Disarming The Know-It-All

Most of us have encountered a person in our lives who can accurately be referred to as a know-it-all. This person seems to know everything about anything that gets brought up and tends to dominate the conversation. They don’t take well to being questioned, and they have a hard time ever admitting that they were wrong.

Being around a know-it-all is inevitably tiring because there is no shared energy between the two of you. Rather, you become an audience member to this person’s need to be the center of attention. Attention and respect are probably the two things this person most longs for, and at some point in their lives, they learned that knowing it all was the way to get those needs met. Over time, they have become stuck in this pattern, regardless of the fact that it is no longer working. They may feel afraid of the experience of listening, being receptive, or learning something new, because it’s so unfamiliar.

On the one hand, when we see the childlike need underneath the know-it-all’s mask of confidence, we feel compassion for the person, and we may tolerate their one-sided approach to conversation out of a desire not to hurt their feelings. On the other hand, we may be feeling drained and tempted to avoid this person altogether. In the middle of these two possible ways of feeling, we may actually like this person and wish for a closer relationship. If we come from a place of kindness, we might attempt to bridge the gap that this person’s habitual way of relating creates. Simply expressing a desire to be closer may open their heart, and give you a chance to ask for what you need in the relationship—a chance to contribute.


Food Allergies

In this day and age we know so much more about our relationship to food than our predecessors, and the way we eat and think about food has become almost unrecognizable to our grandparents’ generation. One example of this is our awareness of food allergies, a condition that has recently entered the collective consciousness. Most of us know someone who is allergic to such commonplace foods as wheat and dairy, and we may even be prone to such an allergy. Understanding how our bodies react to food, and making the necessary adjustments in our diet, can have a profound effect on our whole energy system, and can be the key to shifting our mind into a state of greater clarity.

When we are continuously exposed to a food that gives us an allergic reaction, we feel lethargic, foggy-headed, or as if we always have a low-grade sinus infection. Other symptoms can include nausea, digestive difficulties, skin problems, and difficulty breathing. Many of us have been fighting these symptoms our whole lives without realizing that getting relief could be as simple as cutting a particular food out of our diet. When we do, we feel as if we are waking up out of a fog, and our whole system, cleared of substances that work against it, benefits. Many people see skin improvements, they sleep better, have more energy, and feel able to think more clearly. When we feel less than well, testing ourselves, or getting tested by someone else, for food allergies may be a good place to start.

If you know how to do kinesiology, or if you work with a pendulum or have access to clear signals from an inner guide, you can test yourself. If these modes of gaining information are unfamiliar or uncomfortable, you can get tested through a doctor of your choice. However we go about it, exploring our relationship to the foods we eat can be the first step to a more optimal state of health, well-being, and clarity of mind.


Together On Earth

Seeing an image of the planet Earth taken from space inspires awe in many of us, since we can clearly see the connectedness of all of us who live upon this planet. We have created imaginary boundaries, sectioning ourselves into countries and states, forgetting that in reality we are all living together, breathing the same air, drinking from the same water, eating food grown from the same earth. We share everything on this planet, whether we are conscious of it or not, with other people, and those people are our brothers and sisters. Keeping a photograph or painting of the planet Earth in a prominent place in our homes can be a positive way to remember our interconnectedness.

Meditating on the fact that any sense of separation we have from one another is truly an illusion, we will naturally begin to make more conscious choices in our daily lives. The simple act of preparing food, or determining how to dispose of our refuse, can be done with the consciousness that whatever we do will affect all our brothers and sisters, no matter how far away they live, as well as the planet herself. When we foster this kind of awareness in ourselves out of a feeling of awe, it becomes easier to be conscious than to fall back into old habits of thinking of ourselves as separate.

When we contemplate the earth in her wholeness, we attune ourselves to the truth of the bigger picture, which is the Earth, and all of us, every one of us, living on her body. We are connected to one another in the most intimate way, because we literally share our living space. As more people become aware of the reality of our interdependency, things will shift in a positive direction, and much of the discord that we see now will give way to a more cooperative, loving conscious. This is happening already, so as our consciousness grows, we can join with the many other minds working to live in the spirit of togetherness.

When I’m feeling down, I like to whistle. It makes the neighbor’s dog run to the end of his chain and gag himself.

A penny saved is obviously the result of a government oversight.

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat have gotten to be really good friends.

The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a new replacement for it.

He who hesitates is probably doing the right thing.

Did you ever notice: The Roman Numerals for forty (40) are ‘ XL.’

If you think there is some good in everybody, you obviously haven’t met ‘everybody’.

If you can smile when things go wrong, you must have someone else in mind to blame.

The sole purpose of a child’s middle name is so that he can tell when he’s ‘really’ in trouble.

There’s always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for it. For example, I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt.

Did you ever notice: When you put the 2 words ‘The’ and ‘IRS’ together it spells ‘Theirs.’

Aging: Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.

The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.

Some people try to turn back their life’s odometers. Not me, I want people to know ‘why’ I look this way. I’ve traveled a long, long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.

When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra.

You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.

One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it is such a nice change from being young.

Ah, being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable.

First you forget names, then you forget faces. Then you forget to pull up your zipper. It’s even worse when you forget to pull it down.

Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today, it’s called golf.

 

My brother, Destin, had to come to Elwood for some business, and he told Mother he was bringing Parker, 3. However, he surprised her with Fred and Stacia. Here are some photos of Parker and Fred.

Parker, age 3

Fred, age 8 months (my godson)

Grandma Diana with her two youngest grandsons


Creating A Nightly Ritual

At the end of the day, as the sweet, dark stillness of night beckons us to lay down our bones and rest, we find ourselves at a clear transition point: Behind us lies the previous day and all that has come before; ahead of us, dawn heralds the unfolding of all that is yet to be. While many of us have morning rituals that connect us with our center and help us to set intentions, we may want to explore the magic and power of nighttime ritual as well. It holds for us a beautiful chance for self-appreciation and blessing. Before you go to bed each night, you can send gratitude, compassion, and healing to the being you have been up until this moment. And you can send lightness and love into the future for the one you are in the process of becoming.

Though simple, this action honors the journey you have taken thus far, while opening you to the wonderful possibilities still ahead. When you consciously engage with your own evolution this way, you may find that your sleep gets sweeter, filling your night with a deeper sense of trust and relaxation. As you rest, you can surrender to these peaceful hours, knowing that the road behind you has been seen and acknowledged with respect and kindness, while the path ahead now holds your own benevolence and well wishes.

This bedtime ritual empowers you as the only one who can determine the meaning of your own past and the hopefulness of your future. By setting this special time aside each night, you can begin to orient yourself on your path of growing. It allows you to let the past have its place, to trust that the future is taken care of, and to simply rest yourself in the graceful arms of the present moment.

“For united we stand, divided we fall
And if our backs should ever be against the wall
We’ll be together; together, you and I.”

I remember the words to this song when I was quite young. It seemed to resonate hope, and encouragement at a time when our country was mired down, and torn apart by the Viet Nam war/conflict. There was great unrest in the country, and today it seems there is even more.

We have a tough, demanding election approaching this November. Right now, we as United States’ citizens are faced with many incredible issues that are ripping the country in several possible directions. There appears to be an air of uncertainty, fear, mistrust, and this can easily cause even the most level headed individuals to think, speak or act irrationally. We have been blessed with many fine politicians who have stepped to the front lines in our country’s government to take on these massive issues. These individuals are working hard to serve our country, just as the brave individuals in Iraq, and abroad, serve us on another front.

United we stand…

Here in Dayton, we have a true gem!

The National Museum of The United States Air Force. In the Presidential Hangar rests one of the most recognizable airplanes – the original Air Force One. Yes, there is FDR’s “Sacred Cow,” Truman’s “Independence,” and Eisenhower’s “Columbine” standing right along side it – but the silver plane with a blue and white background proudly proclaims “The United States of America.”

However, I just love seeing those words float across the plane: THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA…

I prefer not to be called an “American.”

America is the continent on which I live. I am, however, a citizen of The United States of America. We seldom refer to the French simply as “Europeans”, or call Egyptians “Africans.”  I also fly, in front of my house, the flag of The United States of America – not just the American flag. To my knowledge, I have never seen a flag that represents North America, or one for South America.

A number of years ago, I was conducting a joint concert with the Centerville Community Band, and a guest band from Waterloo, Canada. I planned a very regal ceremony for the presentation of the flags, using Dragoon’s beautiful arrangement, “America, The Beautiful,” followed by “The Star Spangled Banner” and “O, Canada.”

At first, my band members were a little perturbed that the Canadian flag would enter to “America, The Beautiful” which my band members claimed was “our patriotic song.”

I began chuckling on the podium, and then asked the members where in the lyrics did it ever refer to just the United States of America.

Suddenly, they all burst out laughing, realizing we were all going to be Americans on that stage! There were those who could not grasp that concept, but eventually, they saw my point.

I am a sucker for the stirring melodies of “God Bless America” and “America, The Beautiful” but as others have tried, I would not wish for either of these to hold the rank of national anthem. I think we selected “The Star Spangled Banner” appropriately. Though a dreadful song to sing (the notes are too high or too low forcing a singer with an average range to struggle, crack and jump back and forth in octaves), the lyrics resonate the very spirit, and heart of our nation.

Divided we fall…

Abraham Lincoln once wrote that if we were to be destroyed as a nation it would not be from some trans-Atlantic giant, but by our own hand.

When I look at numerous programs or groups that fold, I see a good deal of inner turmoil was the result of the discontinuation. Churches seem to have their fair share of turmoil. Booster or support groups run a close second.

Most of the issues seem to fester from an individual, or group wanting to assume control. I have watched this happen with several area arts programs. The programs are running strong for several years, and suddenly, someone wants to change the course or flow, disrupting what was already running smoothly.

However, there are also splitting fractions due to words. Sometimes, people are just down right incapable of saying things which offend or hurt others. I always try to choose my words carefully in the classroom, or private lessons, or whenever I am chatting with friends. Do I screw up and sometimes say something in a way that can be misinterpreted? Yes – we all do. However, I try my best not to do so. And when I do, if I recognize my error, I apologize.

And sometimes, people say things to me that I might misinterpret. It happens.

There are times when I agree with another person’s opinions, and there are times I do not. However, I try to always remain respectful, open-minded, and capable of not taking the comment as a direct, personal hit.

I belong to several on-line groups, two of which are from my hometown. There are times when the posts are invigorating, educational, and enlightening. We even have a state representative who often weighs in, and I love having first hand working knowledge of our government. Plus, when I was young, this state representative was one of my favorites along with Congressman Elwood Hillis and Senator Richard Lugar.

However, more often than not, there tends to be numerous posts which are incredibly petty, and sophomoric. I am appalled at the nature of some of the debates offered on those sites, and then the drama-filled bickering that ensues.

Currently, on one site there is great debate over the number of flags Obama has on the side of his plane. I truly do not understand why this is an issue.

How does the number of flags make a difference about the candidate’s ability to govern a country?

Why does ethnic origin matter?

So what if there is a flag with an “O” on Obama’s plane?

So what if there is no United States’ flag on McCain’s RV?

Why does the fact that McCain is older than Reagan and General Harrison matter?

Our country has men and women fighting a war in Iraq; we are plagued by an unstable economy; we are battling high gas prices; we have factories closing and leaving thousands without jobs (especially here in the Miami Valley); people are losing their homes; unemployment has increased…

AND WE ARE WORRIED ABOUT THE NUMBER OF FLAGS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES HAVE ON THEIR PLANES OR VEHICLES!

Had there been an Internet in 1860, I am sure there would have been postings bellowing over the fact that Lincoln and Hamlin’s names were sewn across a United States’ flag.

Is this really important? Is the constant knit-picking valuable, or even appropriate. The candidates themselves do this effectively. We should not be hopping on to their band wagons of childish behavior.

If we lower ourselves to the level of campaign smears and oft-appearing childish tactics of name calling, who amongst us will be adult enough to vote?

I somehow feel we as citizens of this country are worrying about, even creating many mundane issues that seem to aggravate, and divert us away from the serious issues at the heart of this vital election in November.

The thing that saddens me most is reading posts from various contributors that are juvenile in their attacks on one another, and even more so in their reception of criticism from others. If you are going to toss an attack out for the masses to read on the site, then for crying out loud, be prepared for a rebuttal attack!

Some posters simply cannot handle this.

In 1968, while still holding office, President Johnson (Dem) seemed to retreat in some ways. The 1969 election had been scarred with assassination, the Viet Nam War, and the hideous unrest in our nation. It seemed as though there was no one to provide focus. We did place our trust in Senator Richard Nixon (Rep), calling him to lead our nation. Despite the Watergate controversy, I personally believe President Nixon was a brilliant politician, and outstanding leader. I have read a number of his books, and am grateful he moved beyond the tragic choices that ended his term in office to become one of the strongest elder statesmen in our country’s history.

Regardless contemporary studies, and theories, I still believe President Nixon provided our country focus at a time when we greatly needed direction.

When my students begin complaining about the hardships, I always direct their attention to a plaque on the wall of my study: “It matters not how many storms you weathered on this journey… what does matter does matter – ‘Did you bring in the ship?’”

Nixon brought in that ship (eventually).

Who will bring in this particular ship?

Will we continue to float aimlessly, bitterly fighting amongst our selves?

Will we finally agree to stand united as citizens of The United States of America?

And does it really matter whether or not there are two flags or a flag with an “O” on that ship? If it does, then we have missed this boat!

For the past several months, or so, I have been experiencing a feeling – as John Adams called it in the musical 1776 – “discontentment.” As I was writing a good friend earlier this afternoon, I feel like all these major musical theatre characters singing about the excitement festering within.

Here are some examples:

Tony in WEST SIDE STORY:

Could be!
Who knows?
There’s something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there’s a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something’s coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

With a click, with a shock,
Phone’ll jingle, door’ll knock,
Open the latch!
Something’s coming, don’t know when, but it’s soon;
Catch the moon,
One-handed catch!

Around the corner,
Or whistling down the river,
Come on, deliver
To me!
Will it be? Yes, it will.
Maybe just by holding still,
It’ll be there!

Come on, something, come on in, don’t be shy,
Meet a guy,
Pull up a chair!
The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Maybe tonight . . .

Jekyll in JEKYLL & HYDE:

This is the moment!
This is the day,
When I send all my doubts and demons
On their way!

Every endeavor,
I have made – ever –
Is coming into play,
Is here and now – today!

This is the moment,
This is the time,
When the momentum and the moment
Are in rhyme!

Give me this moment –
This precious chance –
I’ll gather up my past
And make some sense at last!

This is the moment,
When all I’ve done –
All the dreaming,
Scheming and screaming,
Become one!

This is the day –
See it sparkle and shine,
When all I’ve lived for
Becomes mine!

For all these years,
I’ve faced the world alone,
And now the time has come
To prove to them
I’ve made it on my own!

This is the moment –
My final test –
Destiny beckoned,
I never reckoned,
Second Best!

I won’t look down,
I must not fall!
This is the moment,
The sweetest moment of them all!

This is the moment!
Damn all the odds!
This day, or never,
I’ll sit forever
With the gods!

When I look back,
I will always recall,
Moment for moment,
This was the moment,
The greatest moment
Of them all!

Something is festering inside – a burning desire to be doing something else. The past month I have had some strange “reminders” about the Mary Todd Lincoln musical… why? Who knows…

I am so ready for this next great adventure – whatever it is. The signs continue to herald that the time is near. Perhaps it is already here and I am not recognizing it… maybe there is nothing to recognize. Maybe I am supposed to just dig in and work…


Permission To Be Real

Most of us are familiar with the idea of keeping it real and have an intuitive sense about what that means. People who keep it real don’t hide behind a mask to keep themselves safe from their fear of how they might be perceived. They don’t present a false self in order to appear more perfect, more powerful, or more independent. People who keep it real present themselves as they truly are, the good parts and the parts most of us would rather hide, sharing their full selves with the people who are lucky enough to know them.

Being real in this way is not an easy thing to do as we live in a culture that often shows us images of physical and material perfection. As a result, we all want to look younger, thinner, wealthier, and more successful. We are rewarded externally when we succeed at this masquerade, but people who are real remind us that, internally, we suffer. Whenever we feel that who we are is not enough and that we need to be bigger, better, or more exciting, we send a message to ourselves that we are not enough. Meanwhile, people who are not trying to be something more than they are walk into a room and bring a feeling of ease, humor, and warmth with them. They acknowledge their wrinkles and laugh at their personal eccentricities without putting themselves down.

People like this inspire us to let go of our own defenses and relax for a moment in the truth of who we really are. In their presence, we feel safe enough to take off our masks and experience the freedom of not hiding behind a barrier. Those of us who were lucky enough to have a parent who was able to keep it real may find it easier to be that way ourselves. The rest of us may have to work a little harder to let go of our pretenses and share the beauty and humor of our real selves. Our reward for taking such a risk is that as we do, we will attract and inspire others, giving them the permission to be real too.

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