Friday, December 21

The Plan

Not only is it the end of the year, but in 2012, today is the end of times .  It's 10 a.m., and the sun is still shining, the earth spinning, and everything seems quite pleasant and normal.  Life is good and that's saying a lot.

For years, the time before and after Christmas has been devoted to "getting through the holidays" with very little reflection on accomplishments and set-backs throughout the year.  There is always at least one person who will ask what "my plan" is for the new year, and I'm always thinking that I need to lose weight, exercise more, make more money, do more with family, yadda yadda, yadda.  The operative word in all of this is "thinking."

These are mindless and repetitive new year's resolutions that seem to set the stage for disappointment.  So, this year, my "plan" is to Be Here Now.  As I argue with myself over what to eat, when to exercise, who to visit and when, I'm losing the opportunity to step outside my door and explore my world.  If exploring and adventure are beyond me, I can step inside myself and do some interior work.  Or, enjoy the moments given to me and make some moments to give to others.

The "live in the moment" idea is not new for me.  It has taken maturity to put value on this simple and profound concept.  Rather than strive for happiness, I realize that it will come to me if I let it in.  Despite all of the sadness and chaos in the world, sentient beings are meant to do what they do and accept life on its own terms, no matter if the terms are comfortable or tortuous.  Just being alive enough to accept what comes our way, whether we created it or not, is a gift and a blessing.

What prompted all of this reflection?  A beautiful poem by Octavio Paz....

Between Going and Coming

Between going and staying
the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can’t be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause. 

May all beings know love and peace moment by moment.

Tuesday, December 18

I'm Gonna Say It Again....

“I wish to God [Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hoschsprung] had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out…and takes [the gunman] out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.” -Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

I know teachers. My father was a teacher. They have very hard jobs and while their job is publicly lauded, the reality is that what happens in today's classrooms is not understood or appreciated by people like Gohmert.

Teachers have a desire and responsibility to develop reading, writing, math, science and social skills in children. They are academic professionals who have spent years learning their profession and who continually evaluate and update their knowledge and skills. Here is just one video on what a teacher does:

She is a teacher who spends her own money on supplies and does not get paid for many hours and days of classroom preparation. Her mission and her job is to help children learn in a pleasant, structured and caring environment. If she wanted to blow the head off of criminals, she would have become a soldier or a policewoman. She chose a different path and should not be burdened with the task of killing people.

The Gun Owners of America only see one solution to school shootings "arm" the teachers. They cannot comprehend that it takes a lot of effort to desensitize oneself to taking a human life, even when your own life is at stake. Maybe they are so desensitized that it would be simple for them to just pull the trigger and kill a maniac, so why can't someone else. Let the teachers do the bloody work. Oh, and btw, they will most likely have to provide their own firearm, bullets, training, permits, etc., to be able to do something that Gohmert only talks about.

One more time, America...Are We Crazy?


The Vice President of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, supported by like-mindless citizens, came up with a solution to one of America's most tragic social problems, shooting sprees - LINK - and answers my question above.  Maybe his name should be the first one on his proposed database of the mentally ill.  

Sunday, December 16

A Gift That Keeps on Giving

"Christmas, my child, is love in action.
Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas. "

Monday, November 19

Monday's Gratefulness-In-Advance Show

"I try to hold fast to the truth that a full and thankful heart cannot entertain great conceits. When brimming with gratitude, one's heartbeat must surely result in outgoing love, the finest emotion that we can ever know."  - Bill W

Wednesday, October 17

Buzz Killers

Some Things Are Private

Too Much Information

How Bad Can It Be?

"..Countering someone's negativity with your positivity doesn't work because it's argumentative. People don't like to be emotionally contradicted and if you try to convince them that they shouldn't feel something, they'll only feel it more stubbornly. And if you're a leader trying to be positive, it comes off even worse because you'll appear out of touch and aloof to the reality that people are experiencing.." - Peter Bregmann, "How to Respond to Negativity" - Harvard Review, Sept. 2012

A couple of days ago, I went to Famous Footwear to look around and find a great deal on a pair of shoes. While I was looking through the mark downs, a well dressed, petite woman in her sixties picked up a shoe I had just put back and started complaining about the prices. "We're all broke these days, so why can't stores give us a deal?" she said. "No one's got money so how are we supposed to buy things."

I noted her expensive boots, her tasteful hair style, her turquoise rings and fresh manicure, wondering why this person was complaining? When I walked in the store, I felt happy and adventurous, on the trail of the elusive "deal." She was an obstacle to my happiness. She was negative, and for no reason, as far as I could tell. She killed my buzz, but not for long.

"Oh, look at these cute shoes?" I murmured, hoping she would not notice them too. I tried them on. They fit. They sparkled (in a tasteful way). They were only $15!  "Hey! These are only $15. Can't get much cheaper than that, and they're Skechers!" I proudly announced. Forgetting the lady and her negativity, I moved on.

Later, I thought about the "can't do" attitude many people have these days. It's not uncommon for me to assist a customer with their purchase and hear them moan about how little money they have. Yet, they choose to spend what little money they have in my upscale store? Walmart is only a twenty minute drive away, so go there, I feel like saying. Instead, I listen to this toxic talk and wonder how I'm supposed to respond without becoming negative.

I recognize why people are negative. More and more people use negativity to connect with each other. It's the common ground of public discourse. It's what sells ads on radio talk shows, TV, and newspapers. Pundits become popular by putting down (fill in blank). Politicians create drama and interest in themselves by challenging the good in even obvious accomplishments.   As a result of the economic crisis of 2008, Americans have become drama queens of doom. We love our pain. We encourage our public servants to become clown-like, hurling snappy sound bites - words that wound especially. "Stand Your Ground" is the accepted mantra instead of "Find Common Ground."

This difference is where we are now, and the result is a grumbling, complaining, ungrateful populous. So, when I hear the, "we're all broke", whine from a person with enough money to buy stuff, I feel like shaking them, just like the manager in the article above. I feel like pulling back their curtain of doom and showing them that the Wizard of Oz is nothing but a blowhard with a bad attitude, and I know that that approach will not work.

The three-step approach advocated by Bregman might work but probably not for the whiners. It is a way to protect me from negative people in a graceful way. However, one of these days, I know I'm going to point out that people who are really suffering from poverty, deprivation, neglect don't have the energy to complain to someone like me in a shoe store. So "suck it up" whiner. Don't kill my buzz with your thoughtless, trite, comments about your financial struggles. Some things are private.  Keep it to yourself and think about how you can help real people in crisis. I've found that the quickest way to feel good about yourself is to help others and when you feel good about yourself the words that come out of your mouth will reflect that good feeling.  Now, that's what I'm talkin about!

Monday, September 10

Monday Morning Wild Flower Alert

Here's an interesting video featuring Arizona Highways photographer, Jeff Kida, about taking photos of wildflowers, plus, plus....


Tuesday, July 31

Empty Vessels

The Mastodon Bellows - La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles, California
From the Mouths of Dogs - Getty Museum, Malibu, California

Thinking Before Speaking  -  Bookstore on 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, California

"I'm not familiar precisely with what I said, but I'll stand by what I said, whatever it was." —Mitt Romney (May 17, 2012)

I have been trying to ignore and avoid two people this past couple of weeks:  Mitt Romney and the Colorado mass murderer.  I don't want to see their faces nor do I want to hear what they have to say.  Neither person makes any sense.

I have been pretty successful in shunning the mass murderer, turning off anything that shows his face or talks about his sorry life.  I do not want any kind of recognition to go his way.  For the health of our collective souls, he needs to be shunned and ignored and shut away.  Unlike the Idaho wignuts who erected a billboard comparing a mass murderer to our president, I don't want to participate in sensationalizing tragedy.

With Romney, it's impossible to ignore the constant barrage of non news about him.  (I'm about ready to pull the plug on Yahoo which takes pride in making sure his name is in their "news" every hour of the day.  Seriously, Yahoo.  You're a conservative, corporate suck up - and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one bailing on your sorry site.)

It's tragic that Romney is the best the Republicans can do.  It's ridiculous that this stupendously wealthy man must travel overseas to fill his campaign coffers.  His painful gaffs multiply each time he steps outside his conservative bubble.  He is so out of touch with humanity that he can't comprehend when he's insulting, reckless and just plain clueless.  I've really tried to stop up my ears when I see him on TV or the internet, so I can maintain some sanity.  As soon as I let his vacillating, careless, unfeeling chatter penetrate beyond my barriers, I have to make sense of him; and, since that is impossible, I wind up chasing my tail.

So enough already....  back to the Olympics.  Go USA!

Wednesday, June 6

Jewel of the Sky

"The last transit of Venus was June 8, 2004. But don’t be fooled by that proximity in time. Transits of Venus are very rare, plus transits tend to occur in pairs. They occur in a pattern that repeats every 243 years, with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of up to 121.5 years. Before 2004, the last pair of transits were in December 1874 and December 1882." - from article titled, "Everything You Need To Know:  Venus Transit on June 5-6" from the website, EarthSky

I almost didn't go.  My friend called me around 4:30pm yesterday and asked me to come over for dinner and view the transit.  The day was warm and clear and I didn't really feel like socializing, but I was curious.  How would we view Venus against the sun?  So... I went and was glad I did.

He has a great telescope able to track the progress of Venus.  I looked through the eye piece and saw a clear yellow ball with tiny black sunspots and in the lower left area, a larger dot, perfectly round and moving.  His family and our friends were there, curious and awestruck.  We felt that this rare celestial event was important on many scientific levels but also sensed something more in this rarity.  Maybe the transit would create a vibrational change or release gamma rays or change the weather.  We all wondered about the unknown impact of this event.

 I found this article, "Meaning of the Moment', written by astrologer, Shelley Ackerman, which presents some interesting ideas about the results of the Venus Transits:

"What does this week's "occultation" (a transit where one planet gets in between the Earth and another planet) mean and where will it lead us in the years ahead?

Venus rules art, beauty, love, grace, and desire. But the planet, whose very name evokes images of valentines and Botticelli's Titian-haired goddess emerging from the sea, is much more influential than that. She is central in directing the course of our cultural evolution here on Earth."

It seems bizarre yet appropriate that 91 year old, Ray Bradbury made his transit on this special day.  He said he was not really a sci-fi writer but a writer of fantasy fiction.  He wrote about Venus in the short story "All Summer in a Day", and his fantasy depicted a sunless, rainy planet occupied by people both cruel and kind, very like people on Earth.  His vision and talent are rare gifts in the form of wonderful books, all central idea-generators in the cultural evolution of our world.

The transit is over. I look forward to art, beauty, grace, and desire coming our way.

Tuesday, June 5

She Works Even Harder For The Money

Reflections on the Glass Ceiling
Lipstick on a Skull
Shiny Objects
"Hey GOP women! Your party said today that you are officially and legally worth 23% LESS than a man. How do you like working 1.2 days a week for free?"  comments by sixchair on Huffington Post article, GOP:  Women's Issues Debate Is A Distraction

It's been decades since I've heard anything so misogynistic as comments made by Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

The health, personal freedom, and paycheck equality of over half of the US population is an economic issue. To call these issues "shiny objects" designed by the Obama administration to distract featherbrained voters from the "real" issues put forth by Republicans (e.g., birther claims, Obama preferences for Muslims, voter fraud) belittles and harms women. These backward concepts show Americans just the tip of an iceberg of repression coming our way if Romney is elected.

He and his supporters will not heal or even help the economy according to world renowned economic experts. I don't need to read the latest book written by Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz to understand that the republican fixation with Reagonomics is guaranteed failure, particularly the trickle down effect of tax cuts for "job creators." The republicans have no new ideas. Instead, they believe that making the same economic mistakes will yield success. For them, success is measured by increasing the wealth for the wealthy while milking the rest of us dry. Even their basic survival instincts of lying about their contempt for the poor, disadvantaged, women, children, people of color, non-Christians, gays, .... is pre-empted by arrogance and disdain. Romney's spokesman is not speaking to the 99 percent of Americans. He is speaking to and for the one percent of the rich corporate drones.

So, who has a real voice in this democracy?  Money talks and Citizens United has guaranteed that money has the loudest voice. It is a fact that both parties benefit from wealthy contributors, but the republican party is the clear winner in this area and uses its money to relentlessly pound "battleground" voters with any message that supports its candidates.  Whether the message makes sense or tells lies is inconsequential because the "end justifies the means" as far as republican media strategists are concerned.  The goal is to convince middle class and lower income voters who have the voting numbers- still - that the rich care about them enough to throw them some jobs, cut their taxes, wage a couple of wars, and miraculously eliminate the federal deficit, too.  Simple logic says that such claims are false and republican budget proposals inadvertently tell this truth. Simple logic and experience tells me that equal pay issues should be non partisan.  But, republicans are more concerned with the "burdens" on employers than on non-discrimination and fairness.

According to the tea party-ites and republican right wingers, women are paid less than men because they leave their jobs more often to take care of their families and/or jobs are not as important to them.  These are bogus and demeaning claims.  These are the shiny objects of distraction that corporate public servants put forth.  The truth is that employers discriminate against women in the workforce and the latest democratic party effort to right this wrong has been defeated by republicans.  So women work harder and longer for their paychecks and must work harder and longer to elect public servants who represent the 99 percent of Americans.

Thursday, May 17

She Works Hard for the Money

My friends and I were just listening to singer-songwriter,  Donna Summer, loving her powerful and expressive voice.  She was beautiful, classy and fun.  Her songs not only made me want to dance, but sent a message that no matter how hard a woman works for the money, or how lonely and sad she may be, life is good.  When I think of her, I see a dazzling smile, an open and positive force, moving with grace and power, and filling the air with song. 

I am so sad that at 63 years of age, she has been silenced by lung cancer. Another reason to hate this terrible disease.

May all beings know love, peace, and Donna Summer's music.

Postscript:  Today, (Sunday, May 20, 2012) Robin Gibb, one of the lead singers of the BeeGees died of colorectal cancer at the age of 62.

Thursday, May 10

Arizona Liberty

Arizona Liberty

They Come and They Go
When There Are Only White Faces

"You know, here's the situation, it's not about books. It's about ethnicity. It's about the power in Phoenix-- what I call the Arpaiocracy."  - Luis Alberto Urrea, writer 

"I want you to meet my friends.  When Fritz was in the hospital in Scottsdale and I had to drive down from Sedona to see him, they gave me a key to their house and I was able to stay with them for weeks while he recovered.  They are angels."  My mother-in-law was recounting her ordeal in dealing with her husband's terrible illness during the last few years of his life.  During that time Henry and Alicia were a lifeline.  They asked nothing in return and simply stated that friends help friends - no big deal.  Wonderful people and loyal friends.

I looked forward to having lunch with them and learning more about them.  They both are in their late 70s or early 80s, in pretty good shape, self sufficient, reasonably well-off, white, anglo saxons who migrated to the Arizona desert from the East Coast.  They talked about their travels to Italy, Spain, the Caribbean and other parts of North and South America, impressed with the friendly people and great sights.  Golden days.  They talked about their family, in particular a daughter that is married to a successful Mexican business professional and lives in Mexico City.  They were sad because their son-in-law has two job offerings, one in Atlanta and another in Tucson and he has chosen to live in Atlanta.

"I don't understand why they want to live so far away.  It's terrible to never see the grandkids and now they have the chance to live close to us and they decide to live in Atlanta of all places."  Alicia was visibly upset and Henry changed the subject to local restaurants.  We blathered a while about tennis, weight loss programs, health issues and just when my eyes were crossing from boredom, the subject of the Mexican son-in-law came up again.

"Alicia, why are the kids so selfish about moving?" asked my mother-in-law, never one to tread lightly on a person's emotional minefield.

"I honestly don't know and it is selfish,"  she replied.

"Well, Hector says something about Arizona's politics, erm ...illegal immigrant stuff, Alicia, and he just doesn't want to worry about it," says Henry.

"That's just bullshyte and they both are using Sheriff Joe as an excuse.  There's no problems with Mexicans here."  Alicia was upset again.

As I picked my jaw up off the table and really looked at them, I realized that they truly did not see the racism and persecution in Arizona's handling of Mexicans.  They were supportive of SB1070 and applauded Sheriff Joe's harsh methods of law enforcement, especially toward "illegal" Mexicans.  When I asked why they thought these measures were necessary, they talked about Mexican crime lords who might get tired of slaughtering their own people and head north to slaughter Arizonans.  They believed voting for Arpaio and supporting his harsh law enforcement methods would keep Phoenix safe.  I asked if they were aware of the recent scandals in the Phoenix police department that had made front page news nationwide, and they were rather dismissive of the shake up in the police department.  I mentioned that maybe Sheriff Joe was probably the reason why they did not see their Mexican relatives. They continued to support Arpaio's controversial approach, even when I mentioned that according to several sources  Phoenix has one of the highest crime rates for its size in America.  All this despite Sheriff Joe.  I realized then that neither of them had ever experienced the Phoenix justice system.  They were from the "Greatest Generation" of the forties and were able to be young and make mistakes without harsh anti drug, anti gang, anti immigrant, "stand your ground" laws.

"You may not know this, but I was in a rock band in my teens and twenties," I said, throwing them off balance for a moment.  

"Our band played all over Phoenix and it was pretty common to be pulled over by the cops on our way home, late at night.  We looked suspicious because my husband had long hair.  We appeared to be "dope smoking hippies" and if we ran into a hippie-hating, red neck, cop, we would have to step out of the car, suffer being frisked, wait patiently while he poked around, and on several occasions, completely unload all of our equipment from the trunk and explain where we got the equipment from.  Once we had to give the name of the club owner and wait until the cop contacted him to verify that we played at the club." I told them.  It was harassment.  It was persecution.  It was routine.

This was thirty or more years ago, and the Phoenix policing mentality has not gotten any better, but a lot worse.  Mexicans, blacks and hippies have always been on the Phoenix hit list, but now the Arizona legislature has codified and legalized that persecution.  Now vigilante, white supremacists patrol the borders and promote their anti government, racist defiance, while influencing politics in the Grand Canyon State.

I am opposed to anyone illegally entering the U.S.  Current rules for legal entry are pretty stringent but not unreasonable and the Obama administration has not been shy about enforcing these laws despite criticism on all sides of the political spectrum.  Enforcement is what makes laws work, not additional laws.   Immigration policies in the US  have been encouraged or discouraged depending on economic needs which fluctuate and change and these changes have created a confusing and inconsistent maze of requirements and restrictions without a clear goal for enhancing American life.  We need a flexible immigration system based on fairness, resolve, and America's economic needs - a tall order and one that is getting more critical each year.

For Mexican migrant workers, systems for legal entry into the US have been difficult and inconsistent.  The one consistent reality has been that growers need farm workers willing to work hard, long and cheaply, and, until recently, the growers and other employers have been successful in influencing governments to be lax about enforcing immigration and deportation laws.  When the economy tanked, enforcement and reform became the favorite buzz words for politicians.  For the growers and the laborers, it's all about the work... the paycheck.  The reason why Mexicans come to America is for the work.  I've argued with those that believe that Mexicans come here for the health care, or welfare, or to go to school, or because Americans are wonderful.  Just not true.

They come here because for decades, growers wanted them here to work.  They send their paychecks back to Mexico, and if possible, they go back to their Mexican homes.  There is nothing complicated about it.  Haters want a scape goat to hang a poor economy on and it is not Mexicans.  Now that America is experiencing "reverse Mexican migration" we are not seeing more people going back to work - picking lettuce and strawberries.  We are not seeing more people going back to work - cleaning hotel rooms, washing dishes, etc. We are seeing the beginning of jobs going unfilled.

It is unfortunate for us that Arizona, in particular, and other "immigration obsessed" Americans focus their fear and loathing on Mexico, our closest neighbor.  Instead of fearing our neighbor, we should take note that she is the second largest buyer of US products in the world.  She is developing a savvy and strong middle class, despite worldwide economic turmoil.  She brings rich cultural treasures to our country in the form of music, food, art, literature, craftsmanship and is aligned with proclaimed US "family values" and patriotism.

"I didn't realize that police in Arizona persecute people.  I've just never experienced it." said Alicia.  She and Henry may be sceptical about my claims and my insights into why her family does not want to deal with harassment and discrimination, but her mind is open a little bit wider because she's met someone with a different experience.  I've found that most of my opinions and preferences, while informed by fact, are made by experiences.

If Henry and Alicia want closer ties with their Mexican relatives, they need to look at Arizona from the perspective of a visitor and outsider.  Are visitors and outsiders welcome?  Is there a good balance of benefits for business and benefits for workers?  Do the proposals and actions of elected officials reflect well on Arizona or do they reflect the partisan ideology of special interests.  Recent U.S. Census figures indicate fewer people are moving to Arizona and that 38% of Arizonans are native born (up 3% from 2010).  An aging, static population is problematic for innovation, growth and necessary labor intensive industries.  Finding ways to encourage visitors and new citizens begins and ends with tolerance.  Right or wrong, Arizona continues to send a message of intolerance.  Arizonans really need to look down the road a few years and realize that a more moderate approach to economic and social issues is what Arizona needs to grow and thrive.

Monday, March 5

Little People - Big World

Blue Agave - Sedona, AZ
Devil's Kitchen Sinkhole - Sedona, AZ
Devil's Kitchen Sinkhole - Silhouettes
"In a poll of 143 creativity researchers, there was wide agreement about the number one ingredient in creative achievement.  And, it was exactly the kind of perseverance and resilience produced by the growth mindset."  Carol Dweck, PH.D, author of Mindset.

I just received the book, Mindset, and have started reading it.  The comment above summarizes the concepts, as I understand them, in chapter one.  I wish I could say that I have either a Fixed Mindset or a Growth Mindset, based on the quickie self analysis tests in this chapter.

What I've discovered over the past few weeks, however, is that I am generally happy to learn almost anything, and I'm pretty realistic about screw ups and "failures" which makes me a candidate for the growth mindset.  But.... if I have preconceived or fixed notions about my abilities, for example cashiering or making pottery, and I run into set backs and challenges, I find it easy to slip into a Fixed Mindset, and disparage, dismiss, and deny the challenge rather than accept that some things are harder to accomplish than I thought.

It's a big world, filled with possibilities and sometimes I feel so small and insignificant, but that's not a bad thing, really.  Like this book points out, having perspective and being realistic are basic to growth.

To be continued....

Sunday, February 19

Confessions of a Fixed Mindset Addict

Change Is...

Growth Is...

Effort Is...

"The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives."
- Carol Dweck author of Mindset

Things have not been going well at work.  When I started this part-time job five months ago, I thought it would be easy.  Within days, I realized that nothing in my past had prepared me for being a cashier in a busy, organic grocery store.

My most recent experience was as a "sales associate" in an upscale thrift store, which included cashiering.  On a good day, the entire store might produce $2,000 to $3,000 in sales.  Much of the time, I worked "in the back" sorting, pricing and displaying merchandise because handling sales at the cash register was sporadic and easily handled by elderly volunteers with limited physical abilities.  In other words, it was a slow, casual and rather undemanding job.

My current job is the polar opposite.  It requires memorizing over five hundred, 4-digit codes; learning numerous policies and procedures for deli, bulk, meat, produce, gift card, food stamp, etc., purchases; re-learning how to calculate and count back correct change while being constantly distracted; learning how to use different equipment (e.g., check readers, card readers, cash registers, conveyor belts, scales); and last but not least, learning how to deal with customers, many of whom are eccentric locals and confused tourists.  I've had lots of help from co-workers who have patiently guided me over the past five months, and I still have a lot to learn.  But, the "newbie" honeymoon is over.

I have figured out that management expects front end employees to be friendly, accurate, fast, and consistent.  

Last Thursday, my register rang up over $7,000 in the space of five and a half hours.  There is a way to find out the number of customers and the average order amount, but I was too tired to figure it out.  My bottom line is whether or not my drawer is over or under, and it was over twenty-four cents.  I would consider this a pretty good day at the cash register, except for a mistake I made in good customer relations which was pointed out to me by the Manager on Duty while I was getting ready to close my register.  In other words, my error was made public, while customers were trying to ignore my red face and defensive excuses.  I thought I was pretty good at customer relations and rather than take responsibility for making mistakes, I focused on how the MOD brought them to my attention.  

I also thought I was getting the hang of the accurate part of the job.  The "acceptable" over/under is $1 per thousand but there is an unwritten mandate that cashiers have "0" balances.  Balances are displayed on "scorecards" posted where cashiers get their drawers each shift, so everyone gets to compare their results with each other.  I am at the bottom of the "accuracy" list - no gold stars this month, so far, and a humiliating short of -$19.90 at the beginning of February.  To make matters worse, the person who counted this drawer is the one who routinely gives me the worst drawer counts and rather than take responsibility for mistakes, I began to wonder if this person was skimming and blaming me.

Today is a "Front End" store meeting where the stellar cashiers/clerks will be recognized.  I fear that in comparison to them, I'll be embarrassed and humiliated because of the recent criticism about customer relations and because I'm on the bottom of the accuracy list.  So, rather than view this meeting as an opportunity to find ways to improve my accuracy and customer relations, I fear it.  Not good.

Somehow, I have allowed myself to be trapped in a mental hell - a paranoid downward spiral.  I recognize this space and while it is stuffy and uncomfortable, it's familiar to me.  It's the mental space I occupy where I tell myself that I'm just not good at (fill in the blank) math, not good at (fill in the blank) cashiering, not good at (fill in the blank) public relations....  not good enough, not comfortable enough, so I should quit.

Unless I have to "stay the course" because my life or the life of people I love depended on it, I usually bail.  This means that while I've done a lot in my life, I often wonder if there is anything that I've done really well.  This morning, I found (or was guided toward - !!) Dumb Little Man, and an article titled Is Your Mindset Secretly Making You Miserable.  This brief article references the book, Mindset, written by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck.  The book explores the concept of traditional negative and positive thinking in a way that I think I can grasp:  fixed mindset and growth mindset.

I am familiar with the concept and have used it to help me overcome some tough personal hurdles in life.  Through self help programs, especially the 12 Step program and Course of Miracles, I have learned to consider my harshest critics and/or most uncomfortable criticisms as "teachers" rather than adversaries.  I recall friends and coworkers who assumed that I could see the "errors" and mistakes I was making, and lifted me out of my victimhood.  They weren't shocked that I wasn't perfect, nor where they shocked or disappointed in the denial process I went through.  Some things can't be denied for long, like an angry customer, or a drawer that doesn't balance.  Today's article is a reminder that denial and resistance is futile.  It wastes time and causes needless anxiety.  Learning, growth, effort is not easy and comfortable.  It's not supposed to be, and comparing oneself to others is a good guideline, but misses the point in life.  I need to put forth my best effort.  That effort includes learning through mistakes.

So....  I've ordered the book.  I now recognize the downward spiral for what it is: a learning opportunity not to be missed.  I am grateful for this opportunity and no matter how painful, embarrassing, negative, these lessons may appear on the surface, in reality, I can be good at whatever I choose in life, if I am willing and committed to work at it.

Thursday, February 2


$30 Hearts - Jerome, Arizona

Kaleidoscopes - Jerome, AZ

Sister Cities (?!) - Jerome, AZ

 Meditating Cat - Jerome, AZ
No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.
Ansel Adams

What does a Church do when no one attends services?  This was the question my Mother-in-law and I discussed yesterday morning.  We both determined that the concept of "church" is subjective, but that there are elements in every religion that are universal and embedded in human consciousness. 

Prayer and human interaction are essential components in most spiritual endeavors. The right balance of these ingredients is critical and creates an expected outcome.  For some, the expected outcome is clarity.  For some, the expected outcome is repentance and forgiveness.  For some, the expected outcome is inspiration and transcendence.  Everyone who attends church or any spiritual gathering perceives that doing so will improve their lives by its structure and ritual, and its common purpose for good.

The feeling of a large group of people, focused on a positive thought is powerful.  To me, the essence of "church" is this focus, this unity.  It feels like the calm center in the middle of a storm:  I know I'll have to step outside the center, but I gain strength within it to endure and find my way back.  This feeling is real and, for most people, a necessary part of life.  It fuels the creative spirit that allows our imaginations to conceive of a higher power for good.

Religions, churches, teachings, provide the opportunities to be exposed to the abstract idea of god, spirit, higher power, and are necessary and beneficial to society.  However, I believe that each individual develops their own perceptions of god.  Each of us decides how to focus on good in our lives and how to pursue goodness, even while participating in organized religion.  Religions and any spirit centered gathering is challenged to attract and retain people in large enough groups to produce a common good while being self sustaining.  Where religions go wrong is in their attempts to market god and godliness instead of having a clear purpose for that good which is inherently attractive.

The church we were talking about has an unclear and confusing purpose.  It has more human interaction in the form of entertainment than it has prayer.  The minister and her spiritual messages seem to support the music instead of having the music support the message. For me, five minutes of meditation, especially with others, is a more effective way to focus on a clear spiritual message and gain inner peace and strength.  Someone else may need singing and dancing to focus.  The tricky part is to find the balance that allows each of us to focus on our spiritual and creative needs and the needs of others within an effective structure.  We are so lucky to have so many choices for good.

May all beings know love and peace and unity.

Wednesday, January 25

State of the Union

"Every Day Is Exactly The Same"
- Nine Inch Nails

I believe I can see the future
Cause I repeat the same routine
I think I used to have a purpose
But then again
That might have been a dream
I think I used to have a voice
Now I never make a sound
I just do what I've been told
I really don't want them to come around
Oh, no


Every day is exactly the same
Every day is exactly the same
There is no love here and there is no pain
Every day is exactly the same

I can feel their eyes are watching
In case I lose myself again
Sometimes I think I'm happy here
Sometimes, yet I still pretend
I can't remember how this got started
But I can tell you exactly how it will end


I'm writing on a little piece of paper
I'm hoping someday you might find
Well I'll hide it behind something
They won't look behind
I'm still inside here
A little bit comes bleeding through
I wish this could have been any other way
But I just don't know, I don't know what else I can do

Several people have asked if I watched President Obama's State of the Union speech the other night, and I did not.  I couldn't image that he would welcome standing before Congress and talking about accomplishments and goals.  I almost reached for the remote, anyway, but then I recalled the shock of that Southern cracker, Joe Wilson, calling the President a liar, and I turned off the TV.  I have worked hard to erase his feverish face and the frozen, ghoulish faces of his Republican confederates from my brain.  Each of them are only a few centuries away from the "thumbs up and thumbs down" mentality of  that Roman legend, Emperor Nero.  

Fast forward to modern times, and some things never change.  These super rich or wannabe super rich Republicans focus their icy stares on Obama, and every glare broadcasts their purpose.  We get it.  Republicans don't like half-black populist upstarts with Harvard degrees in charge of their country.  They cannot tolerate any interaction with plebeian sympathizers, let alone with plebeians.  So...  the American citizenry must witness and wait while the Repubs in the Congress pound the President with blatant disrespect, illogical and ill timed obstacles, tantrums, and criminal stupidity.

They would throw a baby out with its bathwater if they thought it would stop Obama from moving his agenda (...hell, even their own agendas) forward, and since the Tea Party has taken over the leadership of the Republican party, more babies are having to survive without the basics of bathwater, food, and shelter.  The latest US Census shows 1 in 2 people are poor or low-income, so it's not just babies that are suffering.  Whole families are suffering the effects of  foreclosures, layoffs, chronic unemployment, no medical care...poverty.   Gingrich, Rector, and other infamous blowhards dispute these facts, pointing out that some of the low income/poor have cars, own homes, have TVs and micro waves - they should be taxed or required to do community service instead of offered tax payer assistance - the old, "I'm not my brother's keeper" -  Oliver Twist solution, popular at the turn of the century.

The Republican majority in the House blames this increase in poverty on the failed policies of .... wait for it... Obama!  And, what are these failed policies:
1) "His" bank bailout - H.R. 1424 signed into law by old GWB; I guess we can blame Obama for enforcing the law.
2) The Recovery Act appropriating 787 billion dollars to individuals and businesses funding tax breaks, federal loans, contracts and entitlements.  I guess a failure to a Republican is putting over 400,000 people to work during a depression and keeping the doors open for thousands of businesses.
3) He "failed" to reduce the deficit in the midst of two wars and during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression;  Erm....  no one wants America to owe China as much money as it does right now - no one, including the Obama administration.  When the GWB administration asked the Congress to appropriate billions to the Afghan and Iraq wars, everybody knew we'd suffer down the road.  Dems and Repubs approved the debt for eight years.  Now, the Repubs focus on this issue and have the balls to blame the Obama administration.  It is not cool to back-stab a hemorrhaging victim, guys.  Wait until only 1 in 3 Americans are poor before you get out the sharp knives and shred safety nets.
4) He "failed" to eliminate the EPA and most other regulatory agencies so that corporate job creators can once again have free reign to kill Lake Erie, create another Love Canal toxic dump, destroy the Gulf of Mexico with another massive oil spill from BP or Exon (take your pick).  Keep the government out of corporate business but by gawd, the government must regulate everyone's sex and reproductive lives.
5) He succeeded in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - after many concessions to corporations that now bother Republicans?!  Many of this Act's benefits are in progress and the bottom line financial impact is advantageous to business and to America's bottom line.  Liberals will continue to push for a single payer program, so I'm not thrilled with this one either, but I'm mystified at the reaction of conservatives for two reasons.  Their boy, GWB, did a fair bit of reforming the prescription benefits of Medicare and the mandate that all workers and businesses must have insurance is a boon to the insurance industry - erm, benefits business, right?  Mystified that this issue is such a huge deal breaker - even more so than gay marriage and abortion?  Wow!

The Republicans want to shrink government down to toll booths and military bases - any other service or program is anti-business, anti-free market, anti-Christian, anti-patriotic - in that order.  Why they want us to go back to the turn of the century now is anybody's guess.  My best guess is that the policies of the robber barons are the opposite of Obama's and for that reason alone, Republicans support them. Otherwise, why would anyone promote such an unhealthy and unsustainable vision of this nation.  If one out of two Americans are low income to poor - does it make sense to increase these numbers by cutting lifelines and opportunities.  The person next door sending out resumes, working two or three part time jobs, leaving the kids at home unsupervised while they work, is my neighbor and I'm no luckier or smarter.  I'm a paycheck and one disaster from the street.  The truism that there are no atheists in foxholes can also apply to political ideology.  Even Ron Paul would be grateful to get a low interest federal loan after losing his house to a hurricane.  I'd be willing to contribute my taxes to help him get back on his feet and contribute to society again.  My assumption is that whomever I help through government programs is valuable and important whether he's rich or poor.  A government or civil servant that believes otherwise and devises programs based on the assumption that those who need assistance are greedy, lazy, unproductive ciphers needs to find a cave in the backwoods, away from human contact.

So....  I watched the SOTU address on YouTube - it was a good speech.

May all beings know love, peace and prosperity.