Monday, December 25

Laugh or Cry

Christmas at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, CA
Against All Odds

Time for Pigs to Fly

Don't Let The Bastards Get You Down

Well, I'm going to just say it...HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!! I'm a Christmas kind of woman, but when the wretched refuse starts yammering about bringing back the christmas to a not-great America, the clouds part, I hear voices of angels projecting common sense to us starvlings. "Don't believe the hype," they proclaim in 4-part harmony. You people are some of the luckiest beings in the universe and the almighty has given all of you nirvana - so turn that bullshit frown upside down in 2018! Throw the bums out and revel in all goodness from on high, within you, without you, yadda yadda, yadda. As the great 20th Century philosopher, Frank Costanza, once bellowed, "Serenity Now!"

Wednesday, November 22

Saturday, October 21

Birthday Love and Rainbows

Songbird in the Sun

Apple Blossom Bounty

Love and Rainbows

A Birthday

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;

My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;

My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;

My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;

Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;

Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;

Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

Birthday Presents are Welcomed!

Battle for Birthday Mountain from MEL Films on Vimeo.

Friday, October 20

The 99th Birthday

What happens when a party-girl turns 99 years old? The human shell is there, charming those of us within her sphere, intriguing us with imaginings of our own mortal end, living with great difficulty but alive all the same.

She has spent a lifetime being beautiful, witty, talented and slightly off. For someone like me who is barely average most of the time, this persona is magnetic. I’ve tried to penetrate her magical and shiny surface to drill down to a core protected by myth and fantasy. Only in recent years have I unearthed fragments of real life recalled from the 1920s through the 2010s. She has buried so much history beneath layers of “expect a miracle” Pollyanna beliefs and practices that her remembrances are devoid of reality. She has little or no memory of the hard times of post WWI, 1920s Depression, WWII, 50s, 60s, and 70s. I met her in the late 1970s as she was in the prime of her central coast California realtor days. By this time, she had created her wealthy-celebrity persona recounting the highlights of her greatest achievement: singing in big bands on the west coast of pre-WWII America. In this early phase of our relationship, she never revealed her origins in Biola, California, and barely spoke about her marriage to her first husband, a lieutenant colonel in the US Marine Corps and an itinerant golf pro who was not into celebrity, society, and being wealthy – a mismatched pair if ever I saw one who produced three amazing and accomplished sons that any mother would be proud to list as her #1 accomplishment.

In those early days of our relationship, she was focused on the cocktail party life with her second husband, a former water quality engineer and current realtor. Both in their sixties, closely connected to country club friends, they specialized in selling multi-level marketing “opportunities”, golfing, entertaining, and networking. For an average person like myself, these preoccupations were foreign and slightly alarming. She and her husband impressed me as somewhat superficial people living above their means. This impression was reinforced the longer I knew them. The California central coast eventually lost its luster and she and husband #2 moved to Scottsdale for a couple of years. It was during this time that she began to talk about her past.

She was born and raised in the Fresno area of California. Her parents were Okies that managed to evade the Dust Bowl and land in the Fruit Bowl of the west. Her father was an entrepreneur and her mother a descendant of Native Americans and an excellent seamstress. When speaking about her childhood she recalls working in the family fruit packing house, loading produce onto the nearby train, playing with the Armenians and Mexicans who worked the fields and surrounding towns, wearing beautiful clothes made by her mother, and being her father’s favorite beautiful girl. One of her shiniest memories is when she was elected the Queen of the May in her town of Biola. She often tells people about her father’s pride in accompanying her to the local department store for a new dress. Only recently does she mention her five other siblings and has proudly boasted that “she’s not a family person” when asked to report on details about her parents, sisters, brothers, children, grandchildren. This often repeated quote relieves her of the tedium of having to be concerned or curious about family members she’s lost contact with.

In her late teens, she was recruited by big band leader, Jan Garber, to sing briefly in the Jan Garber Orchestra for engagements in Northern California. Sometime later, the band was travelling through Los Angeles, and Garber found a lounge gig for her there and moved on. It’s unclear how long she lived in Los Angeles, or anywhere else. These days and several years after, are filled with fantastic recollections of being a Rosie the Riveter in Burbank; meeting Hollywood semi celebrities, singing with other groups in Seattle, Portland, Florida – wild times filled with excitement and fun. It is only recently that she tells of the struggles of paying rent, booking places for her bands to play, being abandoned by companions in difficult places. I detect glimmers of the real grit needed to polish her celebrity shine, but no one will ever really know how she managed to survive as a singer in Depression era and WWII era America.

Five or six years later, she met and married her first husband, a good looking man, college educated, athletic, a lover of music, from Hanford, California, another farming community south of Fresno. They had mutual friends and decided to marry. The marriage coincided with his assignment to a training base camp in Cherry Point, North Carolina. He was afflicted with severe asthma and a war related back injury that kept him out of combat, so his mission was to train marines to fly aircraft stateside. His most distasteful mission was to train women to tow decoy planes that gunners would practice blowing out of the sky. The stories she tells about this marriage portray her as a tender miss, courageously weathering the intrigues of the military class system, following her cold and preoccupied husband from base to base, winding up in San Diego, giving birth and then following her wounded, alcoholic husband from golf range to golf range, finally calling it quits after meeting her second husband in Scottsdale, Arizona. She never felt much love or respect from him and stuck with this marriage through the 40s, 50s and into the mid-60s, raising three sons in very trying circumstances. Her life with him was restricting, often humbling especially since they both worked on rural golf courses in the Southwest among people with money while they teetered on the edge of poverty. When praised for raising her children so well despite her stories of deprivation and hard work, she refuses to take credit saying that they raised themselves. This is not an idle comment. The two surviving sons do not remember long stretches of their childhood, especially their day to day supervision and care. They both blank out about the whereabouts of their youngest brother when required to recall who lived with whom after the family broke up in the middle of their teens. Despite the turmoil, #1 and #2 sons made good lives for themselves. The youngest brother, an acknowledged basketball star at USC, died at age 46 of peritonitis complicated by alcoholism.

Neither she nor her children recall much about the family during the 60s and 70s. Thanks to the efforts of their father, all three sons received college scholarships and memories are skimpy about anything else involving their mother, father and step-father. I saw her a couple times a year in the 80s, enough time to establish a mystifying yet enduring bond with this beautiful, impractical, self-absorbed woman of to-do lists and get-rich-quick projects.

In 1989, she moved to Scottsdale from Arroyo Grande, CA, where she started selling zirconium jewelry and her husband sold water filtering systems without much success. Other multi-level marketing schemes were bought into resulting in non-stop sales pitches which killed my interest in furthering any relationship with them beyond being a daughter in law. I was not surprised that after a couple of years, they had run out of money.

In 1991, #1 son and I had just finished building a two-story duplex in Sedona, AZ, thanks to the remarkable project management of my father, an accomplished musician, educator, builder, developer and parent of six. Both of my parents had built their own homes and rentals over the years so they were able to work with us in building the new house. They were givers of material gifts and even more importantly they gave us respect and loving guidance as friends. We bought the lot in Sedona from them a few years before which was right down the lane from their own home, and we used my husband’s inheritance money from his late father’s estate. In the early 90s, Phoenix was experiencing one of its construction down-cycles making labor and materials cheaper than normal. My dad encouraged us to build and use the property as a rental/investment and ultimate retirement home. We had equity in our California property and were able to finance a line of credit creating our Sedona oasis without drowning in debt.

Recognizing that my husband’s parents were truly struggling, we offered to rent them the 3-bedroom, two bath upstairs at $800 per month including basic utilities. We rented the downstairs to my brother and his friend for $500 and calculated how far this money would go to pay off our loans and realized that we’d experience a loss on the property until we could charge higher rents in the future.  

My mother in law was 74 and her husband was 79 when they moved into the Sedona house, financially tapped out after years of living above their means and bad investments. We mistakenly believed that they would get back on their feet and find their own house eventually. They moved in and struggled with the rent claiming that they had to go to the food bank for groceries from time to time, so we eventually cut their rent in half. After two years, and to accommodate his hip replacement and open heart surgeries, we moved them to the downstairs 1 bedroom, 1 bath with large den, rent-free with utilities included for the next 20+ years. We managed to escape most of their financial tribulations and manipulations by living and working in California through most of the 90s, and 00s. Throughout these years we transitioned from being unimportant relatives to landlords and possible “investors.” We endured relentless requests for get-rich-quick investment money. In 2003, her second husband died and we expected that the schemes would diminish. We thought he was the instigator of these financial disasters. We were wrong on so many levels.

She was the get-rich-quick queen, it turns out. The worst was the credit card project investigated by several state attorney generals. She tried hard to sell us on this sterling investment, unsuccessfully, all the while complaining about being broke. The advantage of “being broke” was that she and her husband never paid a dime for hoses, rakes, flowers, broken appliances or fixtures. Despite living in a nice place for decades, they never painted a wall, hung a curtain, or paid for any of their maintenance. So she lived rent, utilities and maintenance free from the time she was 74 years old without any qualms or offers of help. At the time, I felt a bit baffled that such fun-loving, seemingly prosperous people who regularly dined out and bought only organic, non-toxic and expensive foods, supplements, and beverages could not afford a hose or find the cash to fix a toilet or faucet. They'd keep a tally of all the house/rental maintenance expenses for reimbursement when we'd visit.

They were masters of networking and became popular and well liked in small town Sedona. Her devoted friends truly love her. One of these friends asked me if I was jealous of my mother-in-law. I said yes, I am jealous and after she chuckled and commiserated about how it must be tough to be overlooked when my accomplished and lovely mother in law is in the room, I explained that I’m jealous because when I’m 74, it’d be nice if I could count on my child to pay my rent, utilities, and bail me out when I get overextended. This person was shocked that I’d even think about burdening my child with these expenses and proceeded to counsel me on retirement financial planning. I listened vowing to avoid any meaningful contact with her in future. She had taught me a hard lesson: people can accept almost any behavior from a person with looks and a good story.

Mom was the supposed “property manager” responsible for renting the upstairs house. To this day, her favorite story is how I rented the upstairs to a drug dealer – a serious problem that she caused with her inadequate screening and a problem I solved by returning all the security and upfront money, plus! I had assumed that as a realtor, she had a basic understanding of the character and financial capabilities of people. She had rented to others successfully, so we trusted her, never thinking she’d snoop around upstairs this time discovering a hooka and stash. She had the habit of going into the upstairs unit, unannounced and without the tenant’s permission, shutting off the coolers, fans, heating units, closing the blinds, and more. These invasive practices almost cost us a lawsuit or two. She was a disaster as a property manager often promoting the interests of the tenant instead of our interests as outlined in the rental agreement. When we told a tenant that the rental agreement said no pets, they said my mother in law had changed it, charged a pet security fee and authorized it. We never saw any of the pet security fee or any other extra fees she may have charged. It became so bad that we stopped renting the upstairs for the 18 months before we moved over, costing us $18,000. Renters were not charmed by her admonishments that she could hear everything going on upstairs or her little joke that she made spot checks to make sure the plumbing, heating and cooling worked. She expected the tenants to be roommates and many potential renters had no interest in befriending an inquisitive senior who was into selling multi-level marketing programs and snooping around.

It’s now 2009-2010, and we have stopped renting hoping that she'd be less agitated, at least. Instead of complaining about upstairs noise, she complained about being lonely. She missed the people-noise she explained. Shortly thereafter she began predicting that she’d be dead soon and we began insisting that she live with us in California until we retired and moved to Sedona. She refused, so I wound up driving to Arizona from Los Angeles, 7 hours each way, missing work and losing jobs, to help her with her hospitalizations, surgeries, and household disasters. One event still enrages me. I received a call from one of her friends saying that Mom had asked this friend to accompany her to a surgery. This friend could not make it and she relayed that Mom said she’d drive herself and take her chances. Alarmed, I called Mom and asked if she needed help with her surgery. She said sure. It turned out that her appointment was late in the afternoon of the next day and after I called around, no one could help, so I drove from LA to Sedona that day, arriving around 8:30 at night tired, hungry and worried. As I walked into her living room, I saw her with two other people, eating and drinking wine, watching “Dancing with the Stars.” Before I could say hello and put my bags down, the man in the group yelled that I was an inconsiderate daughter for not calling and letting Mom know exactly when I’d be there. Apparently she had complained that she was worried sick. No one offered me food or drink. I glanced at a frowning, seemingly angry mother in law and proceeded to haul my tired ass and baggage into another room where I would be spending the night. About an hour later, I checked in and she had been crying about how worried she was. Her friends were gone and I tried to find out about the surgery. She was not going to have surgery. She had to go to an eye appointment to discuss surgery and she feared she might have to have her eyes dilated. She assured me that she didn’t need anyone to go with her, but if I wanted to, she’d be fine with it. I felt emotionally manipulated by her friends and by her. I left the next morning hoping I could still cover some of the job I turned down, but the company had hired someone else and I had burned that bridge. This was a common scenario over the years impacting my marriage and career.

In 2011, we retired and moved into our upstairs dream home complete with spectacular views, fabulous hiking, good friends, and a 93 year old, mother-in-law, in need of care and attention. I expected that my relationship with her would go back to being a caring relative instead of a landlord. I was disappointed. It became her frequent practice to label me as some sort of paid servant, often “her little caregiver” or “limo driver” or “shopper” – until one day when I went to pick her up from her hairdresser, she exclaimed, “Here’s my wonderful caregiver” and while I waited for her to gather her stuff, another lady took me aside and asked how much I charged for care giving because her mother needed someone. When I explained that I was her daughter-in-law, unpaid, and not a caregiver, she looked puzzled and apologized for the misunderstanding explaining that that’s what she called me as she praised my work for her. From then on, every label she gave me, I corrected her, publicly if possible, and told her to call me her daughter-in-law. It only took five years and her moving into an assisted living facility to stop the belittling labeling. She has finally stopped giving her son a to-do list of things to fix or bring her every time he visits the facility, something she started with our first visit with her in the late 70s.

In January 2016, Mom moved into a small, comfortable, assisted living home. I call it a home rather than a facility because the people that own and operate it are like family. They love Mom’s quirky, fun-loving, diva-ish personality and marvel that at almost 99 years old she’s still on her feet, ever ready to party despite her dependence on a walker or wheel chair. They are patient with her complaints and criticism and try to comfort her when she’s sad. This year and especially the past six months or so, she is showing her extreme age. Her circulatory system is shot. Blood/oxygen cannot get to her extremities, including her head, arms, hand, legs and feet. Her body is reduced to its core. She can’t recall things. She can’t feel her legs. She’s losing teeth. Her eyesight is failing. She chokes on her food. The list is long and painful. She complains and cries and struggles until she gets some one-on-one attention which helps keep her going. Her friends visit and she feels good again. Her family visits and she knows she's missed and loved. Encouraging spiritual advisors, medical professionals, activities coordinators, caregivers, cooks, cleaners all see her frequently every day and keep her going. She often remarks that her caregivers love to dress her up and she loves having her nails polished every Wednesday, keeping her looking good which has always been important to her.

It could be worse she realizes and deep down she is genuinely grateful that her sons have the will and the means to pay for the comfort and attention she needs now. She sees other residents who do not have children or devoted friends who visit them regularly and she’s grateful for her people connections. Her birthday is coming up and these good friends that she’s cultivated and nurtured for over 25 years want to celebrate her life with an evening of laughter, food, drink and fun, just like last year. Sadly, she’s not in any shape to inhabit the spotlight. She is still beautiful, witty, crafty, stubborn, and charming – a born party girl, but recent near death experiences have eroded her courage to step out of her comfort zone and brave the unknown, an unknown that is now minute to minute because of a failing memory and weak, unstable body.

I am ambivalent about any celebration right now and urge her friends to visit her instead. Both my husband and I are exhausted, tired of altering our lives to accommodate her needs and now the needs of her friends. These friends are willing to do all the work in putting together a celebration and I recognize that they are wonderful, caring people. But, deep down, I know Mom will not remember or even be pleased with whatever we do. She’s struggling hard to get up in the morning and no longer cares about being the life of the party, although she’ll go through the motions letting muscle memory guide her through the pain and confusion. I love her and at this point in her long life, she needs us to put the brakes on, to reassure her when she panics about not remembering, to praise her for still being on her feet and moving forward. We need to give her space, "dullsville" she calls it, to absorb the impact of age. She is a good teacher and through her exaple we are learning the importance of aging with dignity, comfort and safety. She does it by living only in the moment marveling at the novelty of a world that is always new and challenging.

Sunday, August 20

The Nature Remedy

Arizona Bird of Paradise

Arizona Pincushion Cactus
Arizona Mountain Bee Plant 

Arizona Cinchweed

"The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be." – Anne Frank

This profound thought and may others come from the diary of a thirteen-years-old, Jewish girl, Anne Frank, who lived in hiding from German Nazis from 1942 to 1944 in Amsterdam with her family and others. Eventually, Anne and those hiding with her were found out, sent to concentration camps, and died in captivity, except for her father. They were considered criminals because of their Jewish ethnicity and targeted for eradication.

The quote above is all the more powerful considering that she was trapped inside a secret annex of her father's office building for almost two years before her arrest, deportation, and death. Her remedy for unhappiness resonates today just as much as it did eighty years ago. The sight of a delicate flower growing from a crack in a granite mountain top is a lesson in resilience and endurance. The orderly swirl of seeds within the heart of the sunflower, the iridescent shine of a butterfly wing, the cool damp of a grassy meadow, fresh wind, warm sun, creek water, clouds - miracles of beauty and purpose - nature's reminder of the spirit that binds us all to life.

May all beings know love and peace.

Friday, August 4


Gibran's beautiful words resonate now just as they did in high school. The Prophet, Gibran's wildly popular book of poetic essays, featured a cover displaying the mysterious portrait of a dark featured man. At first glance this portrait could have been the face of Christ distorted by the Shroud of Turin or maybe Frank Zappa's grandfather. The entire creation was and continues to be astonishing, exotic, and the essence of romantic love. Only the most discerning and sincere boyfriends were exposed to the lush beauty of Gibran's writings. My friends and I entered another world of desert tribes, harems, wise ones, a place of poetry where people actually listened to each other....

Then said Almitra, "Speak to us of Love."
And he raised his head and looked upon the people,
And there fell a stillness upon them.
And with a great voice he said:
"When love beckons to you follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep."

Along with poetic revelations in book form, I discovered that the "youth music" my parents tolerated but dismissed as light weight, was full of amazing writers and poets that expanded pop tunes into heart rending and intriguing stories. I connected with. Bernie Taupin and Elton John. They could romp and tease and wring real tears from jaded teenage eyes. My all-time favorite is Come Down In Time a look into the hopeful soul of the lover, unsure and ultimately disappointed by the beloved.

"Come Down In Time"
- Bernie Taupin and Elton John

In the quiet silent seconds I turned off the light switch
And I came down to meet you in the half light the moon left.
While a cluster of night jars sang some songs out of tune
A mantle of bright light shone down from a room.

Come down in time I still hear her say
So clear in my ear like it was today.
Come down in time was the message she gave.
Come down in time and I'll meet you half way.

Well I don't know if I should have heard her as yet
But a true love like hers is a hard love to get
And I've walked most all the way and I ain't heard her call
And I'm getting to thinking if she's coming at all.

Come down in time I still hear her say
So clear in my ear like it was today.
Come down in time was the message she gave.
Come down in time and I'll meet you half way.

There are women and women and some hold you tight
While some leave you counting the stars in the night.

*Sigh* Great stuff to revisit and allow myself to really feel, strongly feel. Let my heart bleed emotion and feel my lip quiver. Let my mind, heart, and body revel in the skillful rendering of words that create beauty and mystery. Recognize that words, music, art have power. Let the stories and songs move me. Let go and be young at heart again.

May all beings know love, peace, and rapture.

Sunday, July 9

Am I a Bad Person

 Why So Many Mean People?
Thinning The Herd?

 Good Riddance - Good or Bad?
Good Riddance - Good or Bad?

 Knocking Opportunity
Knocking Opportunity

 Republicans to Low Income and Poor: Eat Shit
If You're Poor, You're SOL

 There is a Difference
The Compassion Divide

"Clareece 'Precious' Jones: [narrating] Sometimes l wish l was dead. l'll be okay, I guess, 'cause l'm looking up. l'm looking up for a piano to fall. Or a desk, couch, TV... Momma, maybe. Always something in my way." - from the movie "Precious" (2009)

A person I love and respect despises poor people. She volunteered for several years as a driver for an urban food bank. She not only drove food from collection sites to the distribution sites, she successfully solicited donations from grocers and farmers and other manufacturers of daily living products. She was out to destroy hunger in her community and definitely made a dent, but the problem itself persists. The battle for survival for the persistent poor is endlessly dirty, petty, mean, and hard. Hard living makes hard people who are willing to push to the front of the line, never say thank you, and scheme to rip you off. This was her experience and she shares a similar viewpoint with others who live and work among the poor.

Chris Hedges opens his book "Losing Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments in America" with a sad and exhausted commentary about his two years as a minister in Boston's Roxbury ghetto.

When my friend and I talked about poverty, we both recalled times when we had no money, or were stranded, or desperate. I remember missing meals, hoarding pennies from the gutter, fearing violence, These memories stand out because they are not common to us. They are brief nightmares in an otherwise good life, a life of opportunity, a life of choices, a life peopled with resources and benevolence. The polar opposite of lives described in the movie "Precious" or in Hedges "Losing Moses on the Freeway."  The poverty in these chronicles is generational.

 After the stock market crash and the world wide depression of 2007-2008, many Americans were forced further down the economic ladder. The "middle class" was hollowed out by debt, unemployment, health hazards, and hopelessness. The poor continue to be hammered with loss. The lessons of the Great Depression were ignored by libertarian and tea party rage. So, at a time when America needed the help of the government to feed their families and find work, "blame the poor" social darwinists were elected and began a systematic roll back of desperately needed jobs and assistance programs. America got meaner.

Despite the continual beat-down and denigration of struggling low income workers and families, the economy is recovering. The cost is loss of confidence in government and American unity. Voters watch as elections are won by Supreme Court rulings or Russian hacking, and endure the whining of the republican/tea party winners that people don't love them enough or are too stupid to understand that slashing food stamps, meals on wheels, school lunch, after school programs and more are good for us. Why? Because these cruel legislators cannot "find" proof that they are worth the cost and the money is needed to build walls or wage more war or reconstruct other countries.

Now... wait a minute. There is proof that these programs are worth taxpayer dollars. These programs benefit taxpayers, all of us with elderly parents, unemployed sisters and brothers, children! They are concrete proof that America has confidence in its citizens. These programs recognize that people can do better with compassionate assistance. These programs give hope to millions. They are practical solutions to problems identified by citizens over the years. But, in 2017, facts and the will of the people are not enough anymore.

The Trump administration is busy discrediting the media, government research orgs, human services government agencies, the judiciary, and even itself, to support its lies and misdirections. Proof, truth, providing facts and information to the masses has become a tedious waste of time for our beloved leader and his minions. Their actions and rhetoric demonstrate that they despise the poor, not because they've talked with or even met people like "Precious" or the ghetto dwellers in Hedges book. They hate them because of their potential.

In their golden utopia fever dream, the poors are a drain. They are kill joys with their protests and riots. They are unsolvable problems. But, the real kicker is that they can vote. A poor man's vote is as valuable as a billionaire's vote. If every Precious voted for the other guys, there goes the utopia for the golden people. Fear of a black or blackened planet is real. The lower orders have the potential to make America gritty, ugly with their sweat, crude, unrefined, and unpredictable. Some of them might strike it rich and then there goes the enclave.

This level playing field must seem unfair to the oligarchy. Trump's proposal to form a cyber security unit with Russia, while his 2016 election campaign is under investigation for colluding with Russia to win the presidency is a billionaire war cry. The billionaire's club aka the RNC is currently in hot water for data mining and exposing 198 million voter records on "the cloud" supposedly for the purpose of advertising placement, the traditional channel used to favor candidates. One person-one vote may be the law of the land, but good data on how, when and where that one person votes is what can un-level the playing field. We're only steps away from blatant gerrymandering, literacy tests, poll taxes, and elaborate registration systems designed to discourage people from voting. While these barriers are heinous, the real crime is that the RNC's privacy breach may make American's fear their vote. We fear that our information will be cherry picked by con men and thugs (again!).

The golden people hate the thought of upward mobility. Downward mobility is the natural trajectory of the undeserving poor. The cult of selfishness which is the hallmark of the republican congress dismisses "the common good" as unreasonable and an obstruction to their goal of making sure each worthy individual has the potential to make money. The golden people revere the money makers and make the way straight for them, tossing the money-less to the curb to live brutal and short lives. That's their solution to the poverty problem. Make it worse not only for the low income and poor, but for anyone who gets in the way of the moneymakers. There are Americans at all socio economic levels who resist the current republican/tea party breaking of a compassionate nation. They work to reduce or eliminate the shameful fact that approximately 15% of our population lives and dies below the poverty line.  They are sharing their time, money, goods to create a healthier more peaceful nation. They recognize that poverty is the cause of crime and revolution. They also recognize that some things never change and a stable program to assist those in need is not a luxury but a necessity for our protection and security.

"Am I a bad person for how I feel about the panhandlers and junkies I used to try to help at the food bank?" asked my friend.

There is no question that she is not a bad person. She is an angel here on earth in more ways than I can count. She took action and provided help for her community. Bonding with the food bank clients was not part of the deal. For some reason, we often feel guilty or confused about expressing our true feelings and preferences, especially if they are negative. Writer and psychotherapist, Lori Gottlieb, offers some really good insights about feeling the feelings:

"You can have compassion without forgiving. There are many ways to move on without forgiving, but pretending to feel a certain way is not one of them. Forced forgiveness is false forgiveness for somebody else’s benefit. As therapists, the last thing we want to do is to talk people out of how they really feel." Lori Gottlieb from the article "I'm Not Sad My Grandmother's Going To Die"

Am I a bad person for despising the billionaires who are destroying American stability with their blatant cronyism and destructive war on the poor? Like Gottlieb explains, I don't have to forgive them for giving our nation to Russia or the highest bidder. Maybe compassion and open communication will go a long way toward understanding and reconciliation. I continue to hope that the 38% who support Trump, despite every reason not to, will wake up before we all have to learn Russian and Chinese to get along in the world. They need to stop believing the worst about Americans and start facing the reality that they have given our country to con men and deluded ideologues. The rest of us will never forgive them, but we will compassionately feel their pain along with our own.

Tuesday, June 13

White on White

Inspired by Mary Oliver's "Poem of the One World"

On White
- K A Mackey

White, a mound of tiny desert asters.
White, a snowflake drifting in the frozen air.
White, a single noontime cloud floating in blue sky.
White, a heron skimming and dipping above sapphire waters.
White, a piece of paper, crisp, bound and unbound by words and lines.
White, a wedding dress embellished with pearls and translucent crystals.
White, a space within a silent meditation filled with the softness of breath.

Wednesday, May 24

The World Under One Roof

Musical Instrument Museum Lobby - Scottsdale, AZ

Jazz Exhibit

One of Many African Instrument Exhibits

History of the Phoenix Music Scene
Time to visit the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale, AZ and explore the way cultures around the world make music.  Last year, we spent half a day wandering through the first and second floors, learning about each country's instruments and how they evolved over time. The common theme is rhythm, song, dance, all expressions of each cultures history and future. Although many instruments which do the same thing, such as drums and flutes, look different from country to country, it is amazing that cultures all use them for the same things - the beat, the melody, the message of tribe and community.

Tomorrow, we will enjoy the singing of Lisa Fischer in the MIM Concert hall, an acoustical jewel that is just the right size so that everyone in the hall sees, hears and feels the music. Should be fun.

Tuesday, May 23

Thoughts and Prayers

 Thoughts and Prayers
Thoughts and Prayers

"Let There Be Love"   

Who kicked a hole in the sky so the heavens would cry over me?
Who stole the soul from the sun in a world come undone at the seams?
Let there be love - Let there be love

I hope the weather is calm as you sail up your heavenly stream
Suspended clear in the sky are the words that we sing in our dreams
Let there be love - Let there be love - Let there be love - Let there be love

Come on baby blue
Shake up your tired eyes
The world is waiting for you
May all your dreaming fill the empty sky
But if it makes you happy
Keep on clapping
Just remember I'll be by your side
And if you don't let go, it's gonna pass you by.
Who kicked a hole in the sky so the heavens would cry over me?

Who stole the soul from the sun in a world come undone at the seams?
Let there be love - Let there be love
Let there be love - Let there be love
Let there be love - Let there be love
Let there be love - Let there be love
Let there be love - Let there be love
Let there be love - Let there be love

May all beings know love and peace.

Wednesday, April 26

Dreams of the Black Dog

What's It All About?

Mana in the Void

The Glamour and the Despair

I walk by myself in a muted world. I know this because the dream perspective is through my own eyes and even though I cannot see my body, I see the world jitter slightly as I put one foot in front of the other. It now looks like each step vibrates my sight, but does not affect the road I’m on.

All around me is a flat expanse, soundless, empty of people; filled with blurred rock, bush, mountain, and one or two bare trees. As I gaze straight ahead, I realize that I am stopped. I cannot look behind or even side to side. Other than my forward view, I realize the blur is because much of the wide world is in my peripheral eye sight. As I wonder and worry about this realization, I begin to walk and all around me are telephone poles strung with many levels of wires. Bus benches, blowing paper, gutters, street grates, a water fountain and concrete sidewalks. As I walk, I experience a visual doppler effect where blurry items become sharp as I approach and dim as I pass them. I seem to be in a membrane which obscures my vision until I approach the outer edges. Within this membrane is silence. I want to hear noise. I search for the sounds of birds, cars, bicycles, skateboards, people and worry that this profound silence means that I am deaf.

I feel myself moving forward, not stepping now, but gliding soundlessly through this soundless world onto a long, straight blacktop highway with a double yellow stripe down the middle. Such roads only exist in the desert, I’m thinking, and in my peripheral sight, there are spiny cactus, sand and rock. The colors have gone from white washed pale, to concrete grey, to dry brownness. The black asphalt points like an arrow to the horizon and that is where my gaze is focused.

Without me noticing a change the membrane dissolves and the black road becomes a brown gravel road littered with rock, weeds and the possibility of crawling creatures. It seems to be swallowed up by the mountain at the horizon and I wonder if a train is coming. As I wonder, I see a black figure far away shimmering in the false mirage of the road. It is still and so am I. Nothing moves. The road and desert surroundings have become flat, motionless paintings, two dimensional and cartoonish. It is at this point I am able to look behind me. I see a mirror image of the road in front, cartoonish and shimmering in the distance. The backward view however, has no mountain, just flat earth and pale sky with the broad stripe of road. As I twist to the side to see the extent of road and horizon, in my peripheral vision, I see the black figure approaching.

 As I turn to get a straight forward view, the figure becomes a black dog. It looks like an all-black, Australian sheep dog, furry around the face with pointed ears and flashing black eyes. I feel a relief and gather myself to greet him, but the black dog snarls and barks, shattering the pervasive silence. He bunches his muscles and runs toward me showing sharp white teeth.

I am shocked, maddened, and as he gets closer, I am infuriated. The betrayal and rage pulse through my now visible body. I stand my ground beating my fists against my thighs readying myself to lunge forward and grab the dog by the neck. The black dog pauses for one final leap onto me and I shout. In my dream mind, I am screaming, “Get out of here.”

“Kathy, Kathy, wake up! You’re roaring. Stop!” my husband’s dark silhouette has risen above the covers. He is lightly tapping my arm. My throat is raw and my chest is heaving as I gasp for breath. I am sorry for waking him and for him waking me. As we settle back into the blankets I know I’ll see the black dog again until I tame him.

(btw... sorry about the commercial up front - you can skip through it. Enjoy 🐶)

Friday, March 3


Little Guy - the Dreamer

Kapono - The Thinker

Caesar & Cornelia - The Muscle

Thank god it's dog Friday! After years of the obsessive/compulsive scrutiny of all things Trump, it's good to focus attention on the truly deserving in this world: dogs.

How can humans claim to be the most highly evolved creatures on the planet when dogs are clearly the tops. Pound for pound, they are superior to humans in strength and endurance. They know what's important in life and relish the pursuit of food, romping, unrestrained peeing & pooping, smelling, tasting, and fitting in. They add to the enjoyment of ordinary life with their tail wagging, growling, frisking and chasing. Humans try to emulate this healthiness, this exuberance for doing things and being with people, but often fail miserably. At least we have the good example of our dog friends to guide us toward a joyous life lived in the moment. 

There is a dog in my neighborhood that is neglected. He is left outside alone, night and day, without a dog house or comforting enclosure. He barks from very early morning to mid-day and I sometimes hear him howling with the wild coyotes that roam our hills - trying in vain to belong or maybe he's crying out for help from his cousin pack animals. No amount of complaining or reasoning convinces his owners to keep their dog inside with them when its dark, rainy, cold, lonely outside. They think dogs like being outside in the snow, sleet and rain. Dogs love thunder and lightning, and want to be breathing lawn furniture ignored 80% of the time. Someone that these neighbors trust will have to help them understand that having a dog is a gift and privilege not an act of charity or a smart move to prevent break-ins.

Fortunately, there is only one family among twenty or thirty that treat their dogs like, erm...dogs. All of the other neighbors treat their dogs like cherished family members complete with quirky personalities and invisible angel wings. 

Monday, January 16

In the Desert of Words and Sand

What's That You Say?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote with friends using author, Natalie Goldberg's Rules of Writing. One of the group gave this prompt: "If you praise a word, it becomes a poem." We had five minutes to do something and my recent trip to Chloride, AZ, a desert-rat community outside of Las Vegas came to mind. 

by me

Earth to Dust
Only dryness allows this.

Dust to Earth
Only moisture makes this.

Mud to Clay
Only water and sun creates this.

Life Well Lived
Only earth, water, sun, and love does this trick.

Very often, I find that Goldberg's rule to "just write" whether it's crap or not is wise. It reminds me of panning for gold, something I did as a small child in Wickenburg, AZ. Lots of shiney and useless stuff and once in while a piece of "fools gold" or a pretty bit of quartz. Rarely did I shake out real gold, but the time or two that I did find it, kept me going.

Sunday, January 15

The Pursuit of Ugliness

It Can't Help Itself

The Destructive Boll Weevil - Killer of Cotton
The weevil is a persistent mindless digger. It is a traveler looking for a soft resting place before it bores into its young host. It feeds. It probes the tender unformed flower bud with its huge snout, gouging scars where other weevils are born. The young plant so healthy, so longing for life, beginning to bloom, and becoming a fully formed beauty is stunted at best. The flower is consumed and killed most often. It becomes fodder for the weevil world. Where once this living being colored the landscape with vivid green, it has become a sickly grey shadow in this overused wasteland, seething with voracious weevil children. The weevil lives to consume and destroy. It can't help itself.