Sunday, December 26, 2010

Eschew Obfuscation

Only Captain Domesticado would use words that would inspire me to write. I have been absent from the World Wide Web, to my most earnest chagrin, for fifty-four days. This, one might say, is not an acceptable state of affairs for the next Great American Author. While that may be said, the certainty is that if there is nothing being written, then there must be a level of acceptance within this scribe which sanctions such indolence.

Be that as it may, I am, in my own defense, having an inordinate measure of difficulty from the wretched collection of ones and zeroes which resides on my desk. It is somewhere between five and six years old which is nine hundred and sixty eight in computer years, and sorely wishes retirement from the daunting task of servicing this wannabe next Great American Author. I neglected to put the desire for a new writing instrument on my letter to Santa this year, opting instead for the latest tome from Ken Follett. This was not an all-together faulty choice given the impoverished state of my personal economic circumstances, and my love of the written word...especially this certain author’s methods of writing words. Additionally, there is also the fact that my personal Santa’s elf (My Sweet Deifiúr) would not know what to buy me, or find the money to purchase said instrument of enlightenment.

But I digress…well, all right…obfuscate.

I embarked this past weekend on my annual pilgrimage to the homestead of my Sweet Deifiúr and Captain Domesticado for the delightful purpose of welcoming the Lord Savior into our lives once more by celebrating the anniversary of His birth. Long trips in a motor vehicle have become somewhat of a chore for me due to my many infirmities. This year it is my hip, which is in need of surgical replacement. I have to stop several times to rest and remonstrate along the way, which makes for a long journey. Upon arrival, I am greeted by a bumper sticker on Captain Domesticado’s Volkswagen Rabbit stating the phrase which is the title of this piece. I chuckle as I read it and know that I am once more in the warm embrace of the kind, loving, intelligent bosom of my family.

The inspiration for writing came from that part of me which is illiterate. I suffer from a malady where it comes to reading that I believe all writers encounter in some form or another. There are just too many words in the English language to know or remember. I stared at the bumper sticker, thought about it, and realized that my understanding was not secure in what the message truly was. I know that I have used both the words “eschew,” and “obfuscation” in my writings. Actuality I believe I might have used those same words as a title for another piece my faithful readers have trudged through while attempting to make sense of the obfuscation that is much of my writing. Unfortunately, the decrepitude of this reluctant senior citizen has made my memory suspect more times than I am disposed to admit.

I successfully resisted the urge to get the notebook computer out of the back of my truck and correct the situation. I told my folks that there would be something written provoked by the bumper sticker. Then I shut up because I was too embarrassed to admit that I did not know what it meant. This is not an entirely comfortable state of mind for a former middle and high school English teacher.

Having the luxury of time and distance from that disturbing incident, I am prepared to move out of the ignorance and into the light. Where that light is and what color the bulb is escapes me. I am ill prepared to grasp the depth of my deceit. I know that I should stop the melodious meanderings through the thesaurus and speak plainly. I realize that there is a level of boredom in my writing, and I resist the change. I am, at heart, a writer of fiction and publish these mental meanderings as a tool to keep my mind and fingers sharp. I appreciate the love and respect that my readers, those few brave souls, offer me. I appreciate that while I did not readily know the meaning of the bumper sticker, it was not so much a problem as a solution. How do I arrive at this simple solution? Get off my lazy ass and write.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Participation and Duty

It is a dark and gloomy day with precipitation randomly interrupting the gloom and doom that is November 2, 2010. I am at home from work due to my infirmities, which are legion. I am truly of a desire to go back to bed and wake up tomorrow. I have not written for the sake of anything in forty-one days. I have been engaged in a number of activities that I have utilized as pretext for my lack of inspiration and sloth. I have no true reason for not writing other then the aforementioned indolence and a healthy dose of self-pity or, for lack of a better nomenclature, apathy. This must change and today is a good day to realize that change. John F. Kennedy spoke of being the change you wish to see and I most assuredly fancy the sight of some transformation.

Charging ones creative battery is the task and the topic, which I believe will accomplish, or motivate said achievement, is the election being held this day of murky motivation and sinister indifference. We are about to embark on either the continuance of the aspirations set forth this day in 2008, or the further obliteration of life as we know it. I take umbrage with those who have spent the past two years disparaging the current regime, and I equally find difficulty totally disagreeing with those selfsame naysayers. We, as a country, are a mess.

The entire election process has become a feat of finance as opposed to an exercise in governance. I remember a time when I believed that the ideals of our founding fathers meant something to me on a deep level. When I entered the United States Army, it was perfectly acceptable for me to lose my life in defense of those ideals, but could not exercise the rights of US citizens to practicing the civil liberties I was defending by voting for the candidate of my choice. That was in the early 1970’s and the law changed while I was a soldier. I have voted in every election since. I will vote today, even though my health is poor today. It only happens once a year and I will just have to submit to a bit more discomfort and drive a few blocks to the polling place. It is not a right to me anymore…it is a duty.

Having established my patriotism, I believe it might be appropriate to express my disenchantment. Much has changed in the last two years and not all of it for the better. We are still at war and it is my opinion that we will encounter the same reality that the Russians did in Afghanistan. The same resolution awaits us that did when I was a soldier. We are probably not going to win this war. In Vietnam, we engaged an enemy that had been fighting for over twenty years on their own terrain. The Afghans have been is some kind of dispute for somewhere around four thousand years…on their own terrain.

The history of this country has always had someone trying to gain control or fight off enemies who were trying to open trade routes from the east to the west. There it sat, right in the way of progress. The society is medieval with warlords, tribes, and many rocks. There is no real commercial value to the region, other than the poppy trade and I would not tout the largest supply of heroin in the world as a negotiating point in any diplomatic conversation. Yet still we find ourselves engaged in a war where American soldiers are dying. Ideals are definitely not, what they used to be. They cannot even figure out who should be in command for God’s sake. Is it the brilliant professional soldiers, or arm chair hugging politicians who get there information from Rolling Stone magazine.

We have a health care law for the first time in history and still people are being denied coverage for necessary care, and while they are being denied coverage, the Republicans are trying to find a way to repeal that law. So much for groundbreaking legislation.

Economic woes are lessening, but there are still jobs being lost and much opposition from the right about investing in job producing infrastructure projects unless it will get them re-elected. We still have a system that will elect a congressional representative, and maintain a system where that elected official, as soon as they take office, must INCREASE the amount of time spent in raising money for re-election and REDUCE the time they spend governing.

We still have a vast amount of our population living in fear of discrimination due to age, race, or sexual orientation. We demonize illegal immigrants and pass laws that will eradicate due process for those who are not card-carrying members of the John Birch Society (‘member them?), the NRA, or the ever loving Republican Party.
The democrats are not much different even if they are whom I am voting for today. With the control they now enjoy, why haven’t we found Osama Bin Laden? Why do we still depend on foreign oil when it has been conclusively proven that there are enough fossil fuels inside the boundaries of the United States to sustain us for as long, if not longer, then Middle Eastern crude?

So why vote? Because it is my duty. I live in a country that guarantees me the right to voice my opinion and for that right, I have responsibilities. I have the duty to vote, and the further obligation to let those I vote for know when I am dissatisfied. Peace.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cerebral Bulimia

“Freedom is not having to do what you want to do. Spiritual and true freedom is wanting to do what you have to do.” This tidbit of information greeted me in my e-mail this morning from the Fr. Richard Rohr, a gentle man whose words are currently the chief path to spiritual inspiration for this oft-dimwitted scribe. Therein lays the rub. I have encountered a situation that is giving me pause on a philosophical as well as personal level where it comes to what I want and what I have to do. I am about to embark on a course of instruction the topic of which is the theory of self-actualization as hypothesized by Abraham Maslow. This is most certainly a Brobdingnagian feat of staggering hypocrisy.

I am currently teaching a section of Psychology to the young men in my educational care and have happened upon the time in the course when the topic of personal needs must be addressed. Well, anyone who has been to any kind of post secondary school will tell you that the guru, no, sage of defining the needs of human beings is Abraham Maslow. Maslow was one of the driving forces in the development of “humanistic psychology” which Wikipedia defines as a holistic approach to human existence through investigations of meaning, values, freedom, tragedy, personal responsibility, human potential, spirituality, and…wait for it… self-actualization.
I take umbrage with my soon-to-be act of duplicitous insincerity. Two-facedness does not sit easy on my brow. I like not the direction my professional life has taken here of late, and I must report this to the world. In simple terms, I must tell on myself.

In earlier times, I had the great privilege to receive an education from two state operated institutions of higher learning. I reentered the academic universe on the back end of a bridge that I had found it necessary to call my residence. While under that bridge I came to a realization that my career opportunities were limited (hence the bridge) and that it would be impractical, at best, to pursue gainful employment in any city that had been more than happy to let me sleep under a bridge rather than allow me an extension for my unemployment benefits which I had exhausted. Life, at that point in my life, was everyone else’s fault.

My ruminations included an inventory of my marketable skills. These skills amounted to one profession where I had any reasonable amount of expertise. Truck Driving had afforded me a living for a major of my adult life and it was also the main cause (in my most ill educated mind) the cause of my dire straits. I experienced an epiphany under that bridge. I asked the God that I did not understand at that time, to guide me to some revelation on the meaning of life. (It is amazing what cheap beer and wine will do to a mind) The answer I received came in the form of a desire to learn a new trade. This meant dragging my rather rotund posterior end out from under that viaduct and go back to school. Therein lays the beginning of this rant.

With the aid of my Dear Sainted Mother who gave me shelter and food (of course – see my posts on “It’s Mommy’s Fault), and a few pairs of clean clothes I found a scholarship to return to school. It was a Job Training Partnership Act) JTPA scholarship for which I must thank (much to my radical left wing regret) Ronald Reagan’s Republican Government. Once there I figured that, given the poor quality of my academic skills in high school, I would not last very long. The person who signed the papers authorizing my attendance told me that I had a guaranteed three months worth of room and board. This, to a recently homeless person, sounded like Heaven. I made it past the three months and many more in the pursuit of college degrees

Not wishing to experience any more night under the stars, I enrolled in a course of study that the school counselor reported would pay me more than any other program, at the time, for a newly graduated student. Greed aside, I pitched in, studied hard, and came upon the Sage of Humanistic Psychology in my first college class. I also found him in my second class, and seventy-three of the one hundred and thirteen junior college and university classes that I have attended since. Somewhere around the fortieth of fiftieth class, I turned it off and refused to listen any more. I vowed that if I was ever to leave school (count the classes and divide by three…I was a freaking professional student!) Abraham Maslow would never again infringe on my life…forever. There were much more colorful words used at the time, and they too, as ‘Ol Abraham has, stayed out of my vocabulary (well, at least in the order I used them that time) until about six weeks ago when I realized that his teachings were required fair for a high school psychology class.

I thought I might escape it when I woke up this morning and had to take a sick day due to one of my many infirmities. I was talking to my substitute on the phone and it became evident that she was not game for taking my place if she had to talk about Mr. Maslow. We agreed that a film and a written essay would suffice. I will have to commit this egregious act of hypocrisy when I return to work. Something tells me that Karma is trying to invade my life. Or rather, perform a particularly uncomfortable sexual act on me.

I will take my task seriously when I return, and do so with diligence. I will remember the lesson I learned which, realistically, I should have learned many years ago. Never let your mouth overload any part of your body, which is not designed for the load. Peace.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Splendorous Sibling

“THE PACK OF BASTARD’S!!!” This statement greeted me one day when I answered the phone. My Sweet Deifiúr was informing me that someone had elicited her wrath. The dimwitted fool raising her ire proved to be someone who I had complained about the day before on this blog. It is an old saying my Dear Sainted Mother would use when anyone said or did something wrong or about to one of her kids. This little bit of my mother is something that we have kept and use to soften each other when we are upset. Softening me in my battle with reality is something my Deifiúr does extremely well. It is part of the reason for this post. The chief purpose of my putting finger to key is as follows:

It is once more that time of year when I am obliged to engage in a ritual that has always been rather banal and uninteresting to me. My Sweet Deifiúr is celebrating her entrance into this world. The ritual I refer to is one where I go to the store, most probably my mercantile of choice owned and operated by the family of the Sage from Bentonville. I peruse the greeting card aisle and choose something that seems to say what I feel about this wonderful woman. I then go and attempt to locate a stamp and usually encounter someone who wishes to sell me thirty or forty stamps, even though all I require is one. I only send one piece of mail a year that requires postage. All other correspondence and business I perform on-line or in person The US Postal Service has been in financial trouble of late, and there is no way to tell if the stamps I buy today will be sufficient next year when I am in need of another. That is not to say that the price of the stamp, or the card for that matter, is the major concern. The interruption of my walkabout through this great and grand existence we call life is neither irritating nor infuriating. It is her birthday and I wholeheartedly wish to celebrate the massive gift the God of my understanding gave the world on September 3, 1948.

The true issue is the effort to deliver eight or ten words on a card that may or may not get to its destination on time, is horribly insufficient. It seems trite and, well, almost insulting for me to express the love and affection I have for my sister in so few words or actions. I am talking about a monumentally exceptional person and giant of a woman who goes about the business of being a true superhero in the quietest way, with dignity, compassion, and love. How are you going to say that in a two or three dollar card? I have always believed that I am not and have never been the brother she deserved. I have always been a true and regular pain in the ass. Unfortunately, it does not seem that I am liable to change that anytime soon.

Talking on the phone yesterday, I was assailing the healthcare system and the efficiency of the doctors I currently employ to see to my health. I am an old fart and it is no secret that I have a definite faculty to be a grouchy old fart. This does not seem to bother her. I told her that I was going to stop fussing at her because she did not do anything to deserve it. Her reply was simple… “I love you, you’re my brother.”

On those seldom times that I go visit her and Captain Domesticado, she turns her entire life over to me, and whatever schedule I wish. While there, we eat what I want, and if she does not get to bake me the apple pie I dearly love, she apologizes and makes sure there is something just as good for dessert.

My infirmities have gotten the best of me recently and I asked her to find a motel for me to stay in because the extra bed she has is not comfortable for me. She did not find a motel…she made herself and her other half sleep on the extra bed so that I could be comfortable. In her own house!

Growing up she took care of me as if I were her child and not her pain in the ass brother. She is responsible for naming me.

She is the foremost and certainly the #1 fan of T. Lloyd Reilly. She called me in a frenzy to tell me how wonderful it was that she had been able to go to a bookstore and buy a book that included a story I had contributed. She makes a point of telling all who will sit still and listen that her brother is a published author. If I had even a few fans that are just half as passionate about my search to be a full time writer, I would have publishing contracts galore. The first book with my work in it she made me sign…just as if I was some famous big shot writer. While signing it I heard her say, “This will be worth money someday.”

She is the only person in the world who does not freak out when I cry. I resist the need to shed tears in public, but not with her. She understands my hurt. She understands my frustration, and has no problem watching her brother cry. I am sure she thinks it is her job to comfort me when I am in distress. With the possible exception of my Dear Sainted Mother, she is better at it than anyone I have ever known.

I could not buy another predictable and mundane birthday card this year. I am struggling with life right now and the only one who really understands it is my sister. She has accepted the often times tedious chore of being a big sister with grace and kindness.

She reads every word I write and I hope she reads this and it gives her cause to smile. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAULA. I LOVE YOU.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Unadulterated Astuteness

Meandering through my morning ritual of coffee, flatulence, and email, I happened upon an interesting ideal. The heart is actually the principal appendage by which we direct our lives. I found this in a spiritual newsletter I receive from a Franciscan priest of some note. Fr. Rohr wrote that he once encountered a surgeon that informed him of the following:

“There are 30,000 neurons surrounding the heart, and the electrical field of the head brain is only one tenth the size of the heart’s electric field. This makes the heart area the biggest “oscillator” and the biggest oscillator in any system always excites and determines the energy of all the other oscillations in the body.”

I have just finished a unit on the central nervous system in class and wondered about this claim. I did the proper research and found myself lost in the worlds of Wiki Answers, and academia. failed me terribly. None of the locations visited could offer any comprehensible evidence as to the veracity of the above-mentioned statement. I am but a part time scientist and not truly cultivated of all within the environs of the discipline. I know that much of science seems to be diametrically opposed to the more commonplace answers to questions of a spiritual nature. I know that most spirituality revels in the very art of sublime uncertainty, and the negation of scientific principles.

I speak of the heart quite often when I write. I am Irish and, as such, find myself driven by my emotions. This should come as no revelation to those who follow this blog on a regular basis. I thought about the statement and chose to believe it rather than giving credence to the conflicting reports of the easily confused and perpetually confounded members of the scientific community who have been studying the mind/body conundrum for decades. I like the idea of letting my heart drive my behavior.

I also like that the smile of a small child makes my heart warm. I like that I have found myself, at the tender age of fifty-seven, once more in love. (No, I will not tell anyone who it is until I tell her) I like that my heart has changed my taste in films and that same discernment has softened from gangster movies to chick flicks. I like that my heart still likes the idea that Sylvester Stallone can make a #1 hit movie. (Hurray for the old guys) I like that I can read and glean wisdom from a simple message given by a simple priest.

I like that it is my heart that hurts for my students who have graduated and are currently residing in the Mid-East and carrying firearms in order to receive remuneration for their services. I like that my heart is what makes me enraged at the evil and cruelty in the world. I like that it is my heart that makes me rejoice in the diversity of a world where it is acceptable to be alive regardless of age, race, creed, religion, or sexual identity. Well, the jury is still out on the sexual identity, but hope springs eternal…

I hear many times in my personal life that the longest journey one must take is the eighteen inches from the head to the heart. A standard axiom in twelve step programs, this tells me that I am in conflict unless I take action. The idea of neurons around the heart and the strength those oscillators exert on my being takes that conflict and makes it a moot point.

I have had a brawl going on in my head over the state of affairs in the world as it relates to the Moslem community. Someone wants to place a Mosque near the site of the 911 tragedy. Many of my friends are livid over this. These are people who I hold dear and love, and they are total incensed with the idea and have actually turned to suggesting violence be done to proponents of the project. American friends who proudly support the country and do not realize that the very country that we love guarantees that there can be a Mosque anywhere in the country. Adversely, what kind of simpleton would want to put themselves at risk by even thinking and giving voice to this kind of desire?

Why is it so hard to act reasonably? Why do we have to hate each other? Why can’t we take the energy that it takes the heart to fire thousands of neurons every minute in order to pump blood and apply it to a reasonable application of intelligent thought. It makes little sense to me that loving and caring people in my life wish to do harm to 1/3 of the population of the world.

Of course, there is plenty of motivation given the propensity of Islamic countries have where it comes to human rights. There are beautiful parts of the Islamic religion and we never here of them. What we hear is how religious police beat women for showing their ankles. We hear about honor killings and Jihad, and everything ugly, but none of the beauty.

Why? The heart and the brain are connected. Why the only thing the brain can think, are things that must the break the heart?

The religion that gave me comfort growing up has a long history of genocide, torture, and horrific immorality. Why do we not teach that to children in school the same way we tell them about Islamic atrocities?

Why can there not be equity between the heart and the brain? Answer that, and I can stop the journey and start the healing that my heart and mind desperately need. The same healing everyone else in the world seems to need…also desperately. Peace.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Spiritual Warfare

Sitting around the house on a Saturday morning and wondering what I have to do for the day, I realized that I am a lucky man. I get to decide what I can do on a day off, or any day for that matter. I have a predicament before me. I am back at school for the year and it has been a mixed blessing. As to be expected, I found that my freedom being off during the summer extremely constructive. I wrote and wrote and wrote to my heart’s content. Thousands upon thousands of words appeared in several pieces currently in the process of transformation from quirky imaginings of a questionably sensible mind into consummate examples of phantasmagorical prose. I read, and watched old movies with gusto. I went to the movie theater and watched a guy climb into a suit of armor and blast evildoers with futuristic weaponry. I re-watched “Marley and Me” only to discover that I am a slobbering, weeping mess where it comes to chick movies. I discovered the Shangri La of my lifelong dreams.

Unfortunately, the lovely interlude that I reveled in proved to be somewhat less of a productive exercise then desired. Yes, I lived and loved the life of a financially secure writer of note. I did not even think about the real world until it came time to work a summer school session. Now, to tell you the truth the time off proved more of a reductive activity then constructive. It degraded my delight for teaching and put me further in love with sitting at the silicon-based life form on my desk whilst I engender the next Great American Novel.

The crux of the situation is that teaching pays the bills. Writing prose feeds my soul. It does not buy the medicine my senior citizen ass needs. It does not make my truck payment. It does not provide for the necessities of the real world. Yet.

I can happily detail that the some of the joy of teaching has returned with the presence of my pupils. I love the kids and will always. Especially the special kids I get to teach. I found myself at odds with the educational system at the end of the last school year, and thought that it was time for a change. For a time going to work became more of a chore then I would like to engage in. My misspent youth was chock-full of times when I walked into the bosses office and informed that the employer du jour that they were, in fact, shorthanded. I yearned to do this at my current place of employment, and do it with gusto.

Until, that is a kid, one who I had clashed with before coming to love, stalked into my classroom with fear in his eyes and announced that he was going home that day. My kids are all participants in the Child Protective System. They come and go in no particularly sensible manner, lie in the middle (well, near the end of) of a school year. The idea of returning home is not necessarily a desired activity. He stood before me shaking and looking as if he was lost. With a tear in his eye, he asked me how he was going to graduate without me.

I am not the greatest schoolteacher in the world. I have a lot to learn. I have friends that are great educators. There is a man that works at my schools who, when he worked at another school was informed the he could no longer work there, watched as his students walked out, and refused to go back to class. Another friend, the real Mr. Science, has been teacher of the year. I encounter people all the time who, upon discovering where I work will tell me; “That’s where Coach Smith works, he’s the best! I would have never graduated if it were not for him. Tell him I said hello!” My principal, well, the sweet woman that I call my principal, had kids come into her office all the time just to give her a picture and get a hug while telling her about this good grade or that frustration.

These people are exceptional educators. I am just someone trying to get to the end of the day and not distribute any ignorance. The kid in front of me telling me that I was necessary for him to graduate broke my heart given my craving to tell my boss to kiss my ass. All I could do was give him a hug and tell him to remember the things I taught him and to call the school if he needed to. The other kids had the chance to see me cry that day. It was not that bad. They just got quiet and did their work. Kindness comes in many forms.

I do not know how long I am going to be a teacher, but I had to write this today to remind me that there are kids that think they need me. The truth is that I need them much more then they could ever need me. I pray that I can be what they need.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The reason for it all

It is summer school and I sit here with no real curriculum. I have fifteen kids and it is only a half-day. I enjoy it because it gives me time to write in the afternoon when I get home. I attempt to mix things by giving them something to do that will keep them busy. I tell them to read a book. This is activity I have hold sacred and have for all my life. Starting with the comic books my cousin Johnny used to let me use when I was but a wee lad and escalating as I grew to the point that, today, the longer the book, the more enjoyable.

I charge through books as easily as I inhale Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. Sojourns to my mercantile of choice (the realm of the sage from Bentonville) are never complete until I peruse the book aisle. Show me a bargain bin and I will show you true contentment. I will purchase books far beyond the constraints of my financial situation. I will go without, of all things given my girth, food, and drink in order to read.

Perhaps that is why I post this blog and strongly desire to be a full time writer. I have received so much contentment, delight, elation, and downright ecstasy from the written word that it must be…most assuredly…a calling for me to give back some of what I have been given. I have the ability to turn a phrase, and the muse within me to please.

When I encounter difficult times, it is often the action of writing that gets me through it, or allows me to heal from whatever difficulty currently assailing me. In those rare times when I am able to convince myself that the use of some mind-altering mood-hanging substance would be acceptable, I take pen to paper and remain clean and sober. When I suffered the loss of my Dear Sainted Mother, the only action that would bring the tears under control were the words I put on paper about Herself. There is power in the pen.

When the hobgoblins surface and my thoughts become chaotic with varying and opposing forces, putting words on a page allows me to get those adversaries out of my head. By removing the dastardly evildoers from my mind, I create space for new and, hopefully, benign attitudes to enter and become positive forces for good.

Like the superheroes of my youth, words gathered in the right structure protect me from the big bad world and allocate values and principles to my confusion and turmoil. Anarchy has no room when I read the likes of Mark Twain, Ken Follet, Stephen King, Jidda Krishnamurti, or, if all else fails…T. Lloyd Reilly.

Arrogant vanity aside, I revel in the ability to read and the gift of intellectual capacity. Celebrate the complexities of the message is what the person that told me to write taught me. He was an English teacher of my Sweet Deifiúr’s. Fred Schneider was his name. He told me that when I was probably ten or eleven years old. I had no idea what he was talking about. He saw me looking at books in his classroom one night when I had to go with my mother and sister to the school for some sort of teacher/student thing. He came up to me and told me this stuff and I am still trying to decipher his meaning some forty-five or six years later.

Socrates told us that we must look at ourselves if we are to find worth. I find worth in the written word. I find meaning, and joy, and irritation, and, well, reality. Reality tells me that I have to go further along this road to enlightenment that will bring me to the point of being a self-supporting scribe. In that light I am going to begin a new blog on another site. This new endeavor will focus on the subject of the business of writing. I have started to enjoy some success at the commercial side of the literary cosmos, and need to expand my horizon.

I will still be posting on this page for those who enjoy those most peculiar meanderings of my psyche. The new site will offer a change from the inane and mundane to the marketing and promotion of those words I write in hopes of remuneration. Any of my readers on this site who wish to be privy to that address can leave a comment on this page or email me their thoughts. I am also in need of an appropriate name for the new blog, so any assistance that comes my way is more then welcome.

So what is the point of today’s ramblings? Probably just more of the same as it applies to what I write here. I am not necessarily in conflict as to my purpose for any of what I write. I found it today, you see. I needed to find the first name of one of the authors mentioned earlier. I will leave you with his words today.

“You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing and dance, and write poems and suffer and understand, for all that is life.” Jidda Krishnamurti


Monday, July 5, 2010


“Where are you staying tonight man?”

Sitting there watching my friend pacing back and forth I wondered how it had come to this. He stalked the room in front of me in a fury. He held a blank envelope and made notes as we spoke. He had just stood from sitting next to me and asking me about life. He wore the same clothes he had been wearing the last two weeks. I could smell his body in a way that told me he probably hadn’t bathed in just as long as he had been wearing the clothes on his back. His entire body shook and his hands trembled. I could not tell if it due to him coming in from outside where it was raining, or from fear.

The conversation mirrored most of the exchanges that had gone on between us. He had come to me several months later in need of a advice about how he could cease being homeless. His choosing me was more from a need to relate to someone then the actual logistics of maintaining a residence. I had shared several times of the experience being homeless. For me, it had much more to do with pride then with a lack of funds or employment. I find it difficult to write about this, and only share it due to the feeling I had leaving the room that night. I remember the conflict within me that came from first, desperation of not knowing how to ask for any real help, and then the shame of having failed at life so miserably. I looked in my friends eyes and saw myself, and it frightened me near to death.

I am about as far from that last bridge I lived under as any one could be. I make a pretty fair living as a teacher, and I have learned to embrace that most human of attributes that is humility. I have no fear in that I have taken on the responsibility to take care of myself, with all that entails. One of the items on the list of measures necessary for me to maintain a residence is that I must pass on the knowledge I have gained in seeking and attaining my address. I relate to homeless people on a level that others in the helping professions can only guess at.

I learned how to live inside from an old friend of mine who found me the first time I slept on the streets, after must cajoling and threatening, moved me into the attic room at his parent’s house. Another time (homelessness was a repeat offense for me) another friend of mine literally tried to run me over with her car and threatened to finish the job if I did not get in. She too put me up at her parent’s house (this time in the basement). The last time I came off the streets occurred as a result of asking God what to do. His answer proved quite simple. No one had to force me in any car through persuasive methods such as, sweet-talk, bribery, or menacing words. I woke up and somehow intrinsically knew that I had to call my Dear Sainted Mother, and go back to school.

Twenty four years later, I am still fearful of being without a home. It is not the physical fear of living out in the elements. It is not the reality of having to duck and dodge the police who have little patience with people scrounging in dumpsters, or standing on a corner harassing people with cardboard signs to give the “Food for work.” It is not the fear of being cold, or hot, or getting sick or beaten by others trying to steal what meager possessions you might accrue. It is the look in my eyes that I see when I look in the bus station mirror. It is the feeling that all I am, and all I will ever be, is nothing. It is the fear that I am insane and always be insane. It is the fear that there will be no one to come and rescue me. Finally, it is the fear that that I will disappear into that…thing I will become when I am homeless.

Looking at my friend, I see that thing, you know, the one that wages war with society. The same being that has no regard for common sense, or central air and heat. The same creature give’s various landlord’s seizures, when they discover you in their empty house or apartment, and cannot get the police there in time to arrest you.

I once more attempt to reason with my friend and see if I cannot persuade him to come and sleep on my floor tonight to get out of the rain. Little good are the friends and colleagues I have developed relationships with who provide services for the homeless. He has worked his way through all the available places that would allow him off the street, and does not trust that I can get him into a place simply by calling. He has that battle to instigate where he attacks the rest of the world. The same battle which would not occur if he would just take his medicine.

Therein lays the rub. It is his considered opinion that he does not suffer from a mental illness that requires him to take medicine. Those times when I have had the opportunity to have a conversation with him when he is taking his prescribed medicine, it has always been an amazing experience. He is articulate, caring, intelligent, and amusing. He has common sense in things that I have never been able to deal with. He is a good friend, and valued part of my life.

He is still a valued part of my life when he is not taking his medicine, and always will. Unfortunately, at these times he spoke of things that only he migh find important. He believes that the world is out to get him, and he refuses to trust me, or anyone else. That night we spoke, his focus appeared to be fixated on the people who were outside the back door to the building. There were people there earlier, but had long left when we started talking. He neurotically took notes on each and every word I said, and refused to accept one single idea. Everything I said elicited a comment of mistrust, while telling me that he believed every word spoken.

I drove off that night greatly disturbed. Actually I drove off in tears. From that point I went (surprise, surprise) straight to anger. While it is directly a result of his refusal to take the medicine necessary to function, it is not entirely his fault. We have compartmentalized my friend and others like him into a neat societal class which carries with it a stigma. I believe this is a tragedy of historic significance. At some point in the future, historians will look back on our society, and shake their heads. Like the empires of the past, Rome, Macedonia, China, British, and many others, the historians will assign cause and effect to the decline and destruction of our society. I feel that the manner in which we treat each other is a harbinger of the destruction of the greatest social order the world has ever know. Forget about the physical realities of global warming, wars, pestilence, it is the way we treat other human beings that will destroy us.

We, as human beings, have an amazing machine which is our bodies. The unfortunate part of existing within this wondrous machine is that it can be injured or broken. If one falls and lands in a certain way, bones can be shattered, and the wonders of modern medicine can either repair or replace said injured appendage. If the flu or some other internal disease makes its way to my door, I can take panaceas developed that will wage battle with the germs or bacteria within until I regain health. If I get burned and disfigured, plastic and reconstructive surgery can, possibly, restore me to my former handsomeness.

If my brain is injured or broken, I get called crazy, given medicine that restricts my ability for lucid thought, and I am shunned from the rest of society.

Cancer victims have people who raise funds, run races, and man (or woman) telephones on telethons. Homeless people get forcefully removed from areas of cities when their presence would create a negative sound byte during the Olympics or elections. Funny, I’ve never seen any politicians crawling under a bridge to solicit votes from those living in cardboard boxes. Currently the 66% of homeless people in America suffer from mental illness or substance abuse which, as I can personally attest to from personal experience, is yet another malady of the brain.

Medicine for the flu is given out everywhere, mostly for free. No one has a problem with that reality. What of the medicine that treats mental illness? If you take Prozac, there is usually some comment or look made when this is revealed unless, of course, you are rich or famous. Then it is acceptable. Let a homeless person try to get medicine without an address and see what happens.

Where are the spiritual principles envisaged by the Golden Rule? Every major form of spirituality in the world has some form of the Golden Rule as a part of its dogma. Why does it not get practiced where it comes to the mentally ill? Why do crazy people have to suffer from discrimination on a societal level? What would Jesus do?

We come from a predominantly Christian country, yet no one seems to remember that Jesus Christ was homeless. What if he was out there now? The radical words he chose to preach, got him murdered horribly for being what today would be considered mentally ill. Think about that. Then help me figure out how to help my friend without looking down on him. Peace.

Friday, July 2, 2010

And Yet Again…It’s Mommy’s Fault

I sit at the keyboard with a yearning to speak of the things that cause issue in my life, and I find that there are distressingly few items of true concern. Not to say, that is, that impediments to serenity no longer exist. I take umbrage at a number of things, and rightfully so. This week it is in the realm of rotundity. The last post on this page spoke of rituals and fixated nature that is my, or could be if I allow it, Armageddon. Corpulence is my reality and my curse. The solution to that curse is not readily available. At least not in the timely manner I desire.

I take exception to the bureaucratic requirements of my health insurance and the propensity I have towards unreasonableness and irritation. Having said that, it has come to my attention that, I projected the moral value that many people of lesser girth indeed suffer from the stigma of illegitimacy, or of possessing female parentage of questionable deportment. Well, with the exception of those near and dear to me, I believe my characterizations have not been made in err. The anger I encounter is an old and warm friend that I have had much difficulty putting in the grave where it belongs. I also suffer from a diminished capacity to express regret for that which I write that offends.

The point I make today is that I have found a method of blaming my Dear Sainted Mother, once more, for the more negative parts of my personality. Loving and greatly missed, she is probably waiting for me to show up in the Great Beyond so that she can wallop me with the old broken wooden spoon she possessed in my childhood. The same spoon that gives me fits when I am in the Land of Nod.

This particular gripe comes straight out of my inability to control that aspect of my life where it comes to eating. After the episode with my insurance company, I became (wow isn’t this a stretch) upset. I ranted and raved both on the web, as my readers can attest, but also to my dear companions on the journey that is recovery. Said grievances held little relief in that I enjoy being irritated, and that selfsame irritation accomplished nothing towards the resolution of the underlying problem of my weight. I thought about this and made a decision. A resolve to action the likes of which my friends have told me is monumental and earth shaking.

I quit drinking milk.

Now this is not in and of itself such a momentous feat to the normal person on the street, but in my life it is paramount to the mountain actually and physically going to Mohamed. I imbibe milk in the same manner that I formerly obsessively and compulsively used mind altering, mood changing substances. Additionally I have also taken ice cream and sweets away. This is comparable to taking a fish out of water, or a soldier being relieved of his weapon in the middle of a battle. I drink, on average, a gallon of milk a day. A half gallon carton of ice cream is a two serving portion. Sweets are a necessity prior to retiring for the night. Cool Whip is a staple food in my household.

And I have abandoned all of these old friends.

I would like to say that it is in the noble quest for a reduction in my girth. I would like to say that it is for the greater good. I would like to say many things that would sound good and noble, and make you think that I have finally taken charge of my life in a positive manner. Unfortunately, the certainty is that I have done this to spite those who suffer from the stigma of illegitimacy, or of possessing female parentage of questionable deportment.

When I was earlier in recovery, I had an argument with a person in my life whose only method of winning the disagreement included a statement that my point did not really matter in that I was destined to die as a result of using some drug or drink. He accused me of insincerity in the pursuit of recovery, and told me that I was a loser.

This is much the same thinking that many have where it comes to obesity. We are losers.

I shall not detail those areas of my life that would prove or disprove any image of me, either positive or negative. I will not engage in a battle of wits with unarmed opponents. I will continue to avoid the dairy section of my Mercantile of Choice. I will eat more vegetables and I will do so because I think it is the right thing to do.

That is not to say that this plan is going to work. I realized after I made this decision that I had remaining in my refrigerator a slice of apple pie and some sugar free cool whip. It has got to be some kind of cosmic mortal sin not to drink milk with apple pie. Some things are just incontrovertible. I could not throw this ambrosia away. There are children in China starving.

I come from that generation that grew up with the now famous Red Scare. In that time, the propaganda was that the communists in China were withholding food and nourishment from everyone that disagreed with their ideology. Including children. When I was given something by Herself that I did not want, she would remind me of the famished children living along the Yangtze River, or in Outer Mongolia. There was no argument with the Dear Sainted One where it came to food. You ate what was there, and you ate it all.

It has just occurred to me that when I was a child there were about six hundred million Chinese and today that number is more then doubled. Where are all these hungry rug rats? Not struggling to move or get around like I am. Did Herself lie to me? I think not. I think I heard what she said and complied because I knew that if I did, then I would get apple pie and Cool Whip. (With sugar in it)
The injustice of my decision to remove certain things from my diet came in the propaganda of the past, and my irritation at my situation. I believe that I will continue to ruminate on the issue of my weight until I do, in fact, come to a healthy paradigm. But not today.

What did I do about the pie? I bought a quart of milk instead of a gallon, and I ate the damn pie. I am committed, not perfect. Why did I fall short of my goal? Perhaps there were no scrawny persons of questionable parentage I was particularly irritated at that day. Or maybe it was Mommy’s fault. Peace

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Creature of Habit

I really want to exist on that plane where the big picture exists. Unfortunately the mundane is where I reside today. The absolute bleakness that is my medical condition has driven me to the point of banana-splithood. Coming out of the arthritis doctor and calling about having a weight loss surgery made me alternately angry and fearful. Many would say that one begets the other, but I am much more comfortable with separating the two states of being in that I have reactions to both that manifest both separately and in concert. Having the disease of addiction has let me know, through the gift of recovery, the path I will usually take in a given situation. Chief amongst the blemish’s exhibited though and by my psyche is obsession followed closely by compulsion. Each a bothersome symptom of a greater malady while at the same time being, in and of themselves, devastating. Medicine can not give respite, and the patient direction I might seek from others on the road to recovery proves at its best irksome, and at its worst a major pain in the ass.

Going back to the desire to think great thoughts, I realized the events of the day made me strongly yearn for relief in the most unhealthy of manners. The first visit with the doctor treating my arthritis elicited a decision to go under the knife and receive bariatric assistance for the ever expanding universe that is my girth, and corpulence. I phoned my health care insurer who informed me that I would have to perform like a circus seal if I wish to have this drastic procedure. Weight loss programs, treatment from a psychologist, and several correspondences for various purveyors of the Hippocratic arts were among the actions that I must accomplish before they would pay the eighty percent payment which I have contractually engaged them to provide. The last smidgen of information they would require is an affidavit that I have ceased the annoying habit of increasing in size. I am perplexed with this last requirement. The entire purpose of having surgery of this sort is to cease the annoying habit of increasing my size. When am I supposed to be able to provide such enlightenment? Before or after my morbid obesity puts me in front of St Peter at the Pearly Gates?

Now before the naysayers begin, I will speak plainly to those who read this. I am not feeling sorry for myself. Any one who has followed this blog for a while has read the other posts where I have reported on the difficulties of my size. Some reading this will probably stop reading and not open this page any more when notified. The hindrances of my immensity come in more then one area. First, there are the physical realities of not being able to perform functions the more svelte of the population can execute with ease. Then there is the attitude of many of those selfsame svelte sons of bitches who will not want to listen to the whining of a fat man.

This is my problem; I am not the jolly old fat man, nor am I a shrinking violet where it comes to being told that I lack self control. I have a condition that can be treated, except the treatment is mired in bureaucracy and fiscal posturing on the part of a company that is denying me services that I pay them to provide. I am tired of living in a world where the color of my skin is protected by the constitution that I served to protect when I was a soldier, and the size of my body is not. It is not politically correct to allow fat people protection under the law. Not when the First Lady of the country has demonized being obese, and the rest of the drones who are fascinated by her follow suit.

Do not get me wrong. I am extremely impressed by the First lady for her intelligence and caring manner. I openly voiced my support for her husband and continue to, even when he screws up like he did when he fired the commanding general in Afghanistan for exercising his supposed right to free speech. (Although, I do recognize that a serving soldier gives up his constitutional right to speak his opinion freely when he takes his entrance oath)

What I really take exception to, is my own reaction to the events of this day. I discovered the difficulty with having this weight reducing procedure, and instantly went in search of the biggest banana split I could find. Not the healthiest thing to do would be the first protest coming from the sylphlike inhabitants of the world who believe that the fat man should shut up and go on a diet. Then again, I do not give a good rat’s ass what the skinny bastards think. I got hit with obsession right in the face, and I had to take action before the action turned into a compulsion. Thank God for my phone and my home group. (Those who don’t know what a home group is, can Google it) I did not get the banana split and I did not overeat at all as a result of my anger and frustration. I got mad. Yet another issue in my life that can do as much harm as the fifty pound banana split I desired can.

What is the answer? It was suggested to me that I write about my feelings. There is power in the pen (Keyboard?) my brothers and sisters in recovery tell me. A friend told me that I might find the answer. Did I? Well for the love of Jesus, Mary, and holy St. Joseph, I do not know. If that piece of information was readily handy, then I wouldn’t be sitting at my keyboard at midnight cussing people out. Protesting the inequity I face as a person of girth (That sounds pretty sexy…Person of Girth…hmmm…perhaps I will start another blog) is what the muse in me has produced today. As much as I am a recovering person, I am, and shall always be, a writer. That is the purpose of this blog. To let the universe, and any other interested parties know that I am a wordsmith. I would like to do nothing else and regardless of whether I find fame and fortune as a scribe, or even make a living at it. I am a writer and this is what I wrote today. Peace

Friday, June 18, 2010


Looking for something to write today, I came upon a juicy topic. Well, I don’t know as it is juicy as much as it just pisses me off. As many of you know, I am easily irked. Most of the time, I would rather be angry then happy. I find voice and muse in fury, and have made little excuse for it. Well, perhaps I am somewhat remorseful when my irritation leads to discomfiture or I succeed in acting like the south end of a northbound equine method of transportation.

Regardless, fuming is the call of the day, and I will lead the charge with fervor and attention to all that is just. The focus of this days annoyance is the government of the State of Arizona, and the horrible example of governance it displayed by passing the immigration debacle they call a bill.

The governor is incensed over the fact that the two top officials in the federal government have made statements against a law that is both prejudicial and most likely unconstitutional. Scheduled to take effect sometime this August, it has been the focal point of many news items and comments from a myriad of people for whom this law will never affect their personal life. (Unless it means that their groundskeeper or maid will get deported) The commentary, both fore and against this issue is at its best speculation, and that speculation has an ugly tilt to it. There seems to be those who feel that illegal immigration has become the very definition of evil in this country, and should be eradicated. The other side of the coin speaks to the discrimination and injustice that they believe will occur as a result of the enforcement of same decree. What makes me livid is the idea that with all the things we have to fret over, this issue has been demonized and blown way out of proportion.

We have real problems that deserve more of our attention. We are currently fighting TWO wars with no end in sight. I just experienced one of my former students being deployed to Iraq, and have seen pictures of another, in full combat gear, smiling as he gets ready to go out on patrol in Afghanistan. They have no issue with illegal immigration. They both know that we are a nation of immigrants and they are happy to serve the cause of ensuring that we remain a country of immigrants.

There is an oil spill that can be seen from space which is threatening the wildlife and livelihood of states that have already experienced massive catastrophes that they are still not recovered from. Who is going to clean it up? Well, a friend of mine went to the corner on the north side of my town to pick up a crew of Hispanic illegal aliens last week. Why you ask? Why to go and clean up the mess for an average of fifty dollars a day and room and board. I know people, good card carrying Americans, who are looking to make a bundle overcharging for their services just like they did when Katrina and Rita hit the same area. They are embarking on this grand adventure in their brand new pickups that they paid for in cash made from previous disasters.

We have children who are attempting to enroll in college who can not read. I have friend who is a professor at the largest community college in America who tells me that he has to write his course syllabuses on a sixth grade level so that everyone can understand the requirements of his class. I remember a professor of mine when I was a graduate student showing me a paper written by a fellow graduate student that wouldn’t pass in my eighth grade English class, and it was turned in for a senior level college course. He wanted me to work with the guy so that he could pass the class. That same student is now a PhD level administrator at a community college. I had a conversation with that administrator recently and listened while he complained about the immigration problem and how it will create a class of second class students in our educational system.

We live in a world where tens of thousands of children die every day from diseases we cured fifty years ago, and who can’t get treatment because it is not cost effective for pharmaceutical to give the medicine necessary out at an affordable rate. We live in a country that kills a half a million people every year with cigarettes, yet won’t allow terminal patients to legally end their lives in a dignified, merciful manner.

We refuse to accept a person’s right to live and love who they choose because it is a biblical abomination. At the same time we seem totally okay with ignoring the words of the chief biblical character who teaches that we should love each other, and that compassion is more important then governance.

We are screaming at the entire world to stay out of our country, while the rest of the world is desperately seeking to come to this country. Why? Is it because it is a land where a person can advance their station in life with hard work and determination, or is it because they think we are cool because we can bitch at the top of our lungs over how we can stop the influx of people into the country and not get arrested, beaten, or shot?

Arizona wants to stop, or seriously curtail people from coming to a country that used to belong to their ancestors that had been stolen by our ancestors. They want to use the same tactics that were used by countries we went to war with because they used those selfsame tactics. Went to war and lost American lives for the specific reason to stop the same type of behavior that Arizona wants to exhibit.
I say we put the people that wrote and passed this law into the same jail cells that they would send their enemies. Or better yet, deport them to the land of their ancestry.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Misconstrued Approximation

What is counting but looking for the end? Searching for a topic for today’s ponderings discernment is the whim that has struck my fancy at this moment in time. It is a curious word. The thesaurus in Microsoft Word which is the short form, for me, of looking up a word says that it is judgment, acumen, discrimination, perspicacity, taste, shrewdness, and sensitivity. Curious in the range of words used as synonyms, and the thought that one must engage in order to glean the manner in which each of these words fit the description of the word. Certainly judgment is not a stretch in that it implies a choice, or decision as to quality.

Real dictionary has discernment as – “The act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment.” Insight is a talent and natural in its application, regardless of any thought to the contrary. Insight is not a learned behavior, but a capacity for comprehension. It is an aptitude or ability to envisage that which others seek and search, and occurs naturally in those who possess it. But to what end? Do I want to be able to see the future? I am not capable of prestidigitation where it comes to my feelings, and a measure of ability to willfully separate the truth from fiction is something I have been alternately blessed or cursed with. I have had time when the obvious result of a situation appears disastrous and is, in fact thus. Other times I find myself quite merry over the discovery that my discernment of a situation is erroneous.

Acumen elicits an entire page in itself given the cacophony of seemingly differing synonyms that pop up when I hit Shift F7. For my purposes it means expertise. Again a conflict in that insight, the main symptom of discernment, is not a quantifiable quality. It just is. Acumen might also elicit thoughts of ability, and therein offers justification for the synonymonic response. Synonymonic being a word I just made up that I will be submitting for inclusion to Webster’s…as soon as I figure out what it means as opposed to how cool it sounded in that sentence.
On a side note, I have submitted a number of items for publication this last week that have yet to come to fruition and I am in need of said publishing if just to ease my trepidation as to my future as the next Great American Author. Ego is not necessarily synonymous conceit, in this case it covers a variety of sins; low self esteem, depression, or delusionary psychosis
I am writing this piece as a part of the daily writing I engage in and it’s original purpose, or title sentence is a function of what I seek in my daily writing which is seven hundred and fifty words. The style sheet for my daily writing taught that one should start every day by writing three pages in order to get the creative juices flowing. There were no instructions as to what that writing should be as long as it is written. Well, my handwriting is, as my father once declared (accurately I might add), “chicken scratch.” When I do hand write anything more then two or three lines I myself can not read the lexis of my efforts. As a teacher I know that a handwritten page, if properly spaced, contains approximately two hundred and fifty words.

Hence, when I sit at the keyboard and type that translates into one single spaced typewritten page. Each typewritten page contains forty lines. When I have no true inspiration I have a tendency to type random words until I reach a topic. Sometimes that works and other time it is an exercise in futility. When I do find myself in that horrid dwelling that holds no reasonable thought, I count lines. I spent the better part of an afternoon researching this quantity and discovering how that might be displayed on the screen before me. This is another example of the uselessness that is counting. Here I sit, or did sit trying to see something that would allow me to count lines and it was already a default setting on the software readily visible to me if I had but looked, with discernment, at the screen before me and not put my self into the trap that counting will place one in the literary arts. What cause can there be to count the words and lines of a truly inspired work of prose? Today, it was to the make it the end of the page. Hmmm…seven hundred and seventy two words. The end.

Monday, May 31, 2010

It’s Mommy’s Fault – The Popeye Encumbrance – Pt. 2

I wrote this piece the other day and thought that I should leave it on my hard drive. It has much to do with my recovery from the horrors of addiction, and I thought it might be an impediment to my pursuit of gainful employment in the writing field. As a part of my daily routine I write a page of just unrestricted prose. An exercise I have mentioned before and a great aid to the flow of my writing. I have recently begun this exercise again and have increased my daily word count dramatically. The last time I used this kind of task, I wrote two books for a total of 170,000 words in about eight months.

I added the piece to the page you are reading so that there can be some substance to what I write. I left it on that page and then did another today. Today’s piece had been performing double duty as it was intended to be posted. If you do not get bored and read the piece I post after this, you will find the reason I have offered this one.


Does anyone else see the futility of trying to be in the moment when the moment only lasts a moment? The moment is a valued commodity to me in that my participation in a Twelve Step Program teaches me the purpose of it. Unfortunately it does little to address the impatience that is a part of everyone who seeks aid and comfort through the ideals discovered by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob. It is and always will be a stumbling block in the treatment of a disease that in reality denies description when thought of in the same circumstance as more popular maladies.
It is certainly not definable as the common cold is, and the treatment cannot be readily found in over the counter remedies. It is most assuredly as deadly as cancer, yet chemotherapy will avail one naught. There is little by way of description on treatment that may be considered universal. I find relief in the Twelve Steps where others find alternative methods to their panacea. I will admit to engaging in an arrogance of sorts in the therapy used to combat my disease, and that is only due to the fact in my life that the process I use employ has shown such positive results in my life. I discover answers to difficulties that range far outside of the scope of the symptoms that are the foremost indications that one has the disease of addiction.

Where it comes to obsessive and compulsive behavior there has no pill the physician can prescribe. As a matter of fact, a pill would probably just be another way to exhibit the very actions that brought one to seek treatment in the first place. There is no physical therapy for the fanatical need to destroy ones self, which can and does occur in the course of the disorder. Unfortunately, even with the most rigorous of effort in any treatment there are certain aspects that contribute to continued need for the healing strategies a person uses.

Impatience and the desire to look to the future for relief for today’s pain is an easy method of resisting that which is key to recovery. I find myself making plans for times in the future when I am fully aware of the fact that the future does not exist but as an abstraction in my mind. Tomorrow is not going to happen unless I live this moment, and then live this moment, and then live this moment…until it is tomorrow. I speak on this page many times of the desire, need, or dream of making a living as a writer of words. My desire is due to a poverty in me where it come to expressing myself. I can find the words on a page where in verbal pursuits they elude me. It is, I am aware, an annoyance to read this blog due to the prodigious use of large words, alliteration, rhymes, and abstract thinking. It is equally difficult for me to write in that my need to make a living at this trade has come as a result of poor decisions in earlier times. I am approaching the age of retirement and have not prepared myself in a manner where I can expect to live an adequate lifestyle. For whatever reason, I need to earn more and that is irritating in that I have to live this moment, and another moment, and another moment until that comes to pass. I have seen the way others have lived in retirement and it has frightened me.

I am and have tried to avoid following in my fathers footsteps in many ways. I didn’t know my father very well, and have some regret in that. He was a hard man to know and died when he was but a year older then I am now. I have almost all of the maladies he suffered when he died, and it brings fear to me when I think of the future.

There again, I resist the safety of the known for the angst of the future. My dream is anchored solely in the past. I remember that young boy who read his cousin’s comic books and was enraptured by the words and not the pictures. I cannot recall a time when I did not think in terms of the story, and how I could tell it.

This does not bode well for me in my pursuit of recovery, or, perhaps it does. One of the things I have found the most comfort in, as I attend meetings, and perform the tasks that are associated with a twelve step program, are the unique necessity of learning the same lessons over and over again. Some find it irritating, while I find comfort in it. It tells me that I am still alive. It tells me that the ability to remain teachable is a valued commodity. Those who are reading that are my brothers and sisters in recovery will recognize this well. Those who are not versed in the program might find it irksome to have to read this guy whine about his life.

The only answer I have for those who find fault with today’s tome is to retreat to earlier in this page and that is my arrogance. They do not charge me for this blog so I get to write what I want. You opened the e-mail notifying you that I had spewed words on the page again, so I get to write what I want. I recognized my need to work on my recovery first thing this morning and get double duty from my words, so I get to write what I want. I have gotten to live a few more moments on the way to that place that does not exist…the future, so I get to write what I want. And lastly, I get to share this with people I love, and some who I would like to love, so I get to write what I want. Peace.

It’s Mommy’s Fault – The Popeye Encumbrance

Surfing the web the other day, I stopped by this page to see if some person of import had deemed it germane to leave a comment on my most recent declarations. I found one which irritatingly enough was listed as anonymous, and caused some feeling in me demanding a reply. Given that it is an anonymous comment, reply comments do not create an automatic reply emails as a result of my riposte. It has given me some deeper thought in the ensuing days, hours, and minutes. It irked me and I feel need to expound on that irking.

The comment suggested that my recent post’s in this “It’s Mommy’s Fault” genre had been motivated by an article on a website where a woman enlightened the cyberverse on the affliction she called “Shopping Addiction.” I was of the belief that this malady had a twelve step program associated with it that deals with obsessive shopping. I returned to the cyberverse for insight as to this particular program. Wikipedia did not list it but did have thirty two others and six “programs partially patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous.” did not have it, but suggested that there were over 50 distinct programs using the twelve steps. Another site claimed that there are thousands. I did find a “Shopaholics Anonymous” run by a lawyer with a whole slew of letters behind his name and the promise of relief, but no reference to any kind of steps. I retreated from this website because I got the feeling that at some point in the investigation I would have gotten to a page that would want me to enter a credit card number. So much for the investigation into the unrestrained and hysterical compulsion to spend money…it is a week before payday, and I think I need a meeting.

I put a stop to this pursuit as I found myself obsessing over the search and truly did not wish to bother my sponsor with this banal pursuit while he was in the middle of providing sustenance for his family. I did find the humor in it, however. One enlightening entry by way of a question on – “How do I get over my addiction to chocolate chip cookie dough and strawberry cheesecake Ice Cream?” Really now. What kind of a sick son-of-a-b*tch would want to give up any kind of ice cream? (And so enters my Dear Sainted Mother)

The one piece of information that returned me to reality and the underlying principle for this page came, once more, from The question; “How many 12 Step group are there?” The answer; “Just 12 to many.”

Now let us get to the crux of the situation. The person commenting on my page implied that my inspiration came from, or was in reply to, some external stimulation garnered from some kind of nonsense analogous to that which you are currently reading. It made me think that my ramblings are not being taken seriously, or that I have little by way of imagination. The idea of such a shallow point of view on my prose could funnel into that most wondrous of places a fellow such as myself might find himself. That lonesome station along the train tracks of intelligent thought where one gets to be, wait, listen for it, IRATE .

Well, incensed, infuriated, or just plain mad will not do for the stream I am writing having to do with my Mother Dear. I liken many of my experiences to something that had creation in the lessons learned at that great woman’s skirt because it is what I am made of. I was sculpted by my experience and much of that I alternately blame, or regale you with originated from the groundwork laid by my Dear Sainted Mother in the chiseling of the persona that is T. Lloyd Reilly. Therein lays the rub. I do not try to be more or less then the way I happen to be at the moment. I could write for decades on the memories of my mother, but only do so as a means to and end. It is up to the reader to discover whatever that might be. “I am what I am and that’s all that I am” is my motto. I have played many roles in my life, and hope to have the opportunity to star as many more. Each day is a new discovery on this journey and a true thinking man does not have to plagiarize ideas.

When I speak of an addiction to shopping, I mean shopping at those fickle sisters that reside in my home town, Wal-Mart South, Wal-Mart Southeast, and Wal-Mart West. Ruminations on the world of the Sage from Bentonville exist for the purpose of giving location for the greater experience of circumnavigating the complex world we find ourselves in. I do not go to the mall because of the prices they charge. I do not buy groceries at other food chains because the same prices can be had at my Mercantile-Of-Choice, and I get to see more people and, thereby, find revelation and insight. I once met a Leprechaun in Wal-Mart, and I do not care if you believe me. I once met the woman of my dreams at a Wal-Mart, and it turned into a nightmare. I once met Jesus Christ in a Wal-Mart, and he told me to smile at all the children I meet in the world. I once met Popeye in the mirror in the restroom, and, given that I was taught how to properly shop, it was all Mommy’s fault.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It’s Mommy’s Fault…I Want Lobster!

Conversing with my Sweet Deifiúr this afternoon I found muse in me to, once more, regale the masses with words of wit and wisdom. This being the middle of the week, I am not accustomed to the luxury of losing myself to my thoughts and the page before you. I work most of the time, and it is good work, but it tends to dampen the mood for words. Once I arrive at that most sacred of places, the six or seven hundred square foot piece of the universe that I claim ownership over (well…okay…rent) it is about all I can do to just negotiate food and the evenings entertainment found within the electronic contrivance controlling the mysterious world of phantasmagoria made by Panasonic Corporation. To be inspired to write is a distinct gift this twentieth day of May.

I was speaking to my homegirl about something having to do with my financial condition, and how it might improve in the near future when she spouted “I want Lobster!” This term, being a standard gag between us, made me realize the absurdity of what was said. First illogicality, that I would soon be rich due to some reason I’ll remember as I write, and because she does not like to eat lobster.

Back in the ancient days of my secondary education there was this lassie who granted me the honor of her company at my Senior Prom. I do not remember her name, vaguely remember her face, and probably never will. The event was less then joyous for me, and I probably could have lived the rest of my life without recalling that infamous night, but for the hilarity of the situation. We went to the ball and did everything we were supposed to do; tangoed, fox-trotted, waltzed and rumbaed. We drank the spiked punch, smoked the appropriate amount of weed out back of the building, and went to a fancy restaurant afterwards. At the time, I had what had to of been the worst toothache and cold in history. I could not hold down the spiked punch, or the Pagan Pink Ripple Wine my buddy had in his back pocket. Had it not been for the cost incurred for the tuxedo and the wrist flower, I would have told the girl to stay home. I did not, and had a terrible time.

At the restaurant, an overpriced culinary mill with a South Sea motif my companion for the evening, not being the most cosmopolitan of ladies I had (or have) ever met, upon perusing the menu, asked me how much money I had brought with me. Thinking to impress her in the hopes of engaging in some rather physical extracurricular activity later in the evening, I proclaimed for all to know that I had “One Hundred Dollars!” Her swift reply came out as if from a bullhorn, “I WANT LOBSTER!!!

Now, the retelling of this incident at the family table that Sunday, elicited a cacophony of laughter, and a howling from my family pet that, quite honestly, I have never lived down. I long since have surrendered to the fact that it gives my Sweet Deifiúr joy to repeat this phrase, and that is more important then the irritation I feel when recollection of this event comes my way. I love my sibling with all my heart and soul, and I am more then happy to offer her some delight at the expense of letting me know that at the tender age of seventeen, I once made a poor choice in picking a dinner companion on what should have been a night to fondly remember.

The other point I make this evening is the “One Hundred Dollar!” thing. To the best of my aged and feeble mind, that Ben Franklin constituted my entire savings account, and delayed the purchase of a car which I desperately wanted more then the extracurricular activity I never got from that winsome lass with the mercenary appetite. As a matter of fact, it was several years later before I was able to purchase a vehicle that would allow me the Kerouacian delight of the open road. The idea of a hundred dollars has always been a pivotal amount of cash for me. An acquaintance of my once lamented the fact that we (himself and I) could not keep a “f___ng damn hundred dollars in our pocket. This turned out to be a universal truth in my life. I am, and do make many hundreds of dollars in the course of my business in the academic and literary discipline, but I spend most of my time without any more then twenty dollars to my name. “It’s Mommy’s fault.”

I have written of my acumen at shopping as learned at the skirt of my Dear Sainted Mother, and my affinity (addiction?) to the Bentonville, Arkansas based retail Goliath. I must go and spend money there. It is almost as if something calls to me in my sleep. I received payment for a piece of writing today, a massive sum of money…$38.53. My truck drove to Wal-Mart as if drawn by some cosmic magnet, and I proceeded to spend thirty three dollars of that money for items I already possessed but would have need eventually anyway. There were the toiletries that I needed, but had not run out of. There was a new book; well okay that is a necessity. And the gooey chocolate cake by that famous Food Channel chef with the big smile and the deep sexy southern accent who works with her two sons. (I have a cooking fork with her name on it that my sister probably paid too much for…spend more time in Wal-Mart, sweetheart, they cost half what they do in the mall, Mía) I did buy some groceries that I needed, but the gooey cake wasn’t one of them. Along the way, I noticed some comic books. They were/are EIGHT DOLLARS AND NINETY FIVE CENTS!!!!!!! On what strange planet did I land? When did superheroes start charging for their services?!?!?!? And here I sat with only five dollars left to my name!

I was left with only the true shopper’s mantra; I do not have a problem with shopping. I can stop anytime I want, I do not have a problem with shopping, I can stop anytime I want, I do not have a problem with shopping, I can stop anytime I want, I do not have a problem with shopping, I can stop anytime I want! It is not a problem in my life, It is not a problem in my life, It is not a problem in my life, It is not a problem in my life, It is not a problem in my life! So, now you know, and if you disagree, just remember…It’s Mommy’s Fault!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

It’s Mommy’s fault!

“I enter the perambulator of maroon tint that serves as my current chariot and search for egress from the mystical empire of the Sage from Bentonville. As I embark on the next segment in my journey to enlightenment, I flip open my communicator to converse with the orbiting starship in search of transport out of an uncertain reality. The voice eliciting from the ethereal queries me as to what the difficulty might be.”

Okay, perhaps a bit haughty, or the beginning of a science fiction tale, this first paragraph has quenched my thirst for the copious use of a thesaurus that I normally engage in. Here is the real skinny. I am leaving Wal-Mart and decide to call my sweet Deifiúr to complain about the events of the previous hour. I have given up the proverbial ghost and finally surrendered to the inevitable. I bought a day of the week pill dispenser. Final proof and absolute solidification of my senior citizenship, this episode produced a need to complain, once more, about my encroaching senility. The flip open communicator was my cell phone and the orbiting starship is the reality my Deifiúr and I live in…My Dear Sainted Mother.

I have this idea of composing a series of commentaries on the massive influence this woman has in my life. Perhaps a feminine version of the wildly popular Facebook phenomenon “Sh*t my Dad says.” Without, of course, any use of the “F” word. Not a totally original idea I realize, but my fingers aren’t doing anything else that is constructive at the moment. The memory of the conversation makes me smile, and, laugh out loud.

I dial the number (that ought to tell you how freaking old I am) and receive on the second ring the greeting my Deifiúr give all who call her place of business. I immediately inform her that I have finally and officially entered the realm of “senior-decrepitude-useless-senile-son-of-a-bitching-citizenship. She takes this in stride, as she has been listening to me complain on this issue for some time now, and replies, “What did you do…join AARP?” I inform her that my AARP membership occurred last month, and told her of the pill distributor for which she takes exception to my complaint in the face of her own use of said dispensing assistance.

In the course of the ensuing conversation we “speak of many things…”, as the Walrus says, and the subject of my romantic endeavors is broached. In the calendar year of 2009 I dated 15 different women. All of which I met at Wal-Mart. Being the champion of all things “T. Lloyd Reilly” she felt that this was a good thing. I remarked that it was not a good thing, and that it was, at best, a dismal failure. We spoke of several reasons why this might be before I informed her that it was my Dear Sainted Mother’s fault.

Growing up, my magnificent máthair had a talent that not many have. She consistently saw to our needs without the necessary financial backing. We lived good lives and did not want for anything we really needed. We were broke…not poor is what she taught us. Anyone who has seen the length and breadth of my girth can tell you that I never went to bed hungry. She was a master at the use of a grocery store. She could shop like no one I have ever met, and she taught this skill to her “Timmy.” Consequently, I also have conquered the mercantile realm and continue to live and eat well. Being of the advanced age that I am, and given the frugality of my upbringing, I search for deals on victuals. I use Wal-Mart because of its policy of matching any other advertised prices. I spend much time at said establishment. My Deifiúr spoke to me of her “quarterly” trip to said establishment and it makes me laugh. If I go three days without a trip to my MOC (“merchant of choice”) they feel a disturbance in the Force up in Bentonville. After four days I receive, by overnight I truly believe, a sale paper from a business that has no need of advertisement. Everyone knows that there are no better prices then Wal-Mart, so why advertise?

Well, in the course of my commerce, I have gotten into the habit of perusing the female patrons of my preferred commercial entity. I might be old, but I am not dead. The female form still has appeal, and the company of said forms is still of considerable interest to me. The shopping thing has been the avenue of admission into a number of interesting experiences outside of the business-related environs for this scribe. I lament the days of my misspent youth where there seemed a more noble method of charming the fairer sex. Who doesn’t miss the days of going to a bar to pick up a girl? It is in this chauvinistic mindset that my memory vengefully returns. I do not necessarily remember the romantic trysts as well as I retain information on the incalculable amount of times when I prayed at the porcelain God that if he helped me feel better…I would be a good boy for him. I never met Princess Grace in a bar, or if I did, she never went home with me. Why would I think that, almost forty years after my first attempt to elicit affection at the end of a Budweiser bottle, I would have any luck finding a lasting and meaningful relationship in the produce section of a behemoth grocery store I find myself assuredly as addicted to as any mind altering-mood changing substance? Do I need an intervention? Is there a twelve step group for people with my malady? Sex and Wal-Mart Lovers Anonymous?

I am already a staunch and passionate member of one twelve step fellowship and, as such, feel comfortable in this boorish humor. If I have offended any members of any twelve groups with this writing…call your freaking sponsor. I have a problem here and can only find relief in humor. Whose fault is this malady? Well, it is certainly not Wal-Mart’s. It would not do me any good to complain about the level of service I receive from the dating pool in their store. Not, that is, unless someone in Bentonville reads this and decides that a contract with would increase the bottom line, and starts placing dating kiosks in between the produce and the bakery.

Is it the women I meet? Well, I can’t lay any claim to being the catch of the century with my electric-cart-riding- senior citizen-acting, feeble attempts at being the Don Juan of the geriatric set. The best I can do is admitting to the obvious truth. I am an old Irish guy who is as full of shit as a Christmas turkey. That’s what my Dear Sainted Mother would and did say to me many times in my life. Being reasonably well read and having some acumen with the written word, I could attempt to cover it all up by claiming it is just a Bit O’ Blarney. Again, the honest truth is that I can not hide behind words, and my magnificent máthair wouldn’t want me to.

So where does that lead us at this juncture? I guess it is back to the place where I blame it all on my mother. If I were a normal bachelor, I could go to the grocery store and stock up on Banquet frozen dinners, microwaveable hot dogs, Oscar Meyer Lunchables, and Top Ramen noodles, , and of course, the occasional (look at the prices…even at Wal-Mart) t-bone or sirloin strip. While I eat all those foods, I do cook most of the time. If I cook, I must find deals because it is what my mother taught me. Any ancillary actions that occur as a result of this requirement to properly shop must be included in any blame I allocate to my dereliction and disillusionment. Assigning culpability for ones defects of character is central in the denial of personal responsibility.

Fortunately, I have surpassed that most particular of shortcomings. I blame my mother not for my inability to maintain a healthy relationship. I blame my mother for teaching me the kindness, respect, and loving manner that seems to attract women in grocery stores. Not a talent I really have anywhere else. I suppose it is better then going to the bar. I guess that it is better to then going to church to find a wife (OH MY GOD!!! DID I SAY WIFE!!!). One should seek God in holy places. I guess that the word blame is a misnomer of the worst kind. I really want to express the gratitude to my magnificent máthair for the gift of being able to be kind and loving. The blame lays with me for how little I seem to display those traits. Realistically I should look for girlfriends where everyone else seems to be finding them nowadays…

I love you Mommy. Peace

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Little Something

Up and at ‘em on a Sunday morning. It is Mother’s day, and I have a melancholy about me. My Dear Sainted Mother is with Jesus, and I have nothing to do today. I dashed about town yesterday attempting to finish my bi-monthly business only to find myself in the gigantic domain of the Sage from Bentonville. My bank rents space there and, being Saturday, was packed to the rafters with legions in search of those infamous Rollback prices on those items both necessary or unnecessary for the both the prolonging and nourishment of life. Riding my electric steed towards the pharmacy, I run into the gentleman who provides me with the chariots I use to do battle with life. He is holding a bouquet of roses and perusing a shelf with vases. We greet and I realized, in my single minded pursuit of goods and items that today was the day we celebrate the wondrous women who have given us vivacity and verve.

I woke to this reality this morn, and felt the need to honor my magnificent máthair. This usually gives muse to those words I regale the world with on this blog. I sat and put finger to key only to find little to write. I spoke to a friend last night who told me about having breakfast with his mother yesterday, and it brought sadness to my soul. I, being the Irish Catholic that I am, wanted to retreat into the guilt and shame we are so famous for. That does not accurately reflect my feelings this morning. I miss her, and I want to hold her and tell her I love her, but that is just the natural desire for someone who has lost a person from there life. I think what I really want to do is tell everyone about her. I did this once before and believe a reprinting is in order. There are those of you that have not heard of Helen Pearsall and anyone who knew her would tell you that your life is incomplete. That is the power of my mother. The world is not complete without her. So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you my mother:

All she ever wanted to be was somebody’s mother. Born in 1921 and raised during the Great Depression, she always just wanted to grow up and have kids. She waited while the world went insane and tried to destroy itself during WWII. She watched as her brothers and cousins and friends went off to fight and come home terribly damaged from the experience. She worked in a cigarette factory that supplied cigarettes to the troops and lost lose her job because they caught her throwing double handfuls of non-filter smokes to the hobos hanging around the railroad tracks outside the window where she worked. She married and had children, and married again and had some more children when the first marriage failed. She gave birth to two girls and two boys. Two died and two lived. The two that lived, were five years apart, and when her second husband left, the three of them grew up as a family. She taught the girl to care for her younger brother, and went to work at a hospital on the 11 to 7 shift so that she would be home when the kids came home from school. She met and formed a lifelong friendship with two small Italian women who embraced the Irish Catholic girl and her two fatherless children. All three women had a boy and a girl each, and the children thought of each other as brothers and sisters. When her two friends died, she fell easily into the mother position for the children of her friends.

She had two brothers and each had fought bravely and returned damaged from the war. She had two sisters-in-law that filled the role of sister for each other. When her oldest brother divorced, she kept his ex-wife in her heart as if the divorce had never happened. All three had been "Rosie the Riveters” in WWII, and all three worked hard to raised there children with love and understanding. That was probably the thing about this woman that anyone would remember the most…the love and understanding. Nobody came to her house and spent the night that they were not fed to the point of bursting, and received a hug and a kiss before they went to bed.

She never met a stranger. The family joke had always been that if she found herself stranded on a desert island, the monkeys would talk to her. She made friends just by walking in the door. Very few people ever responded to her by pulling away, and if someone did, that was usually a sign that that person probably was not anyone you wanted to know. She believed in her heart and soul that people were just people and everyone deserved to be loved. She taught her children this, much more by example than through instruction

She went to church on a regular basis and her third husband became a Knight of Columbus. She stayed active in church and adhered to the tenets of the religion. Dogma aside, she really just tried to live as her God taught. She was an Irish Roman Catholic from the day she was born, and never stopped. She said a rosary every day, and taught her children the same. Her daughter grew up to be just like her, and her son had a kindness to him that could only have come from her.

She had a knack for making friends. She would talk to people wherever she went and, make a friend. She always wanted to know about their family, and what they did for a living. She cared little for the external realities of life. You were a person to her. Long before it became politically correct to be open-minded and willing to accept people for who they were, she had friends that would never fit into society’s idea of social acceptability. The gay Janitor at the hospital she worked at in the 1950’s and 60’s became a fast friend. The nun who left the order to marry a neurotic ex-monk and have kids became life-long extended family members. Single mothers raising mentally challenged children always had a special place in her heart. The ex-wife of her second husbands adopted cousin, Joan, became her best friend when her friend Nancy died. The daughter of Nancy’s sister, Rae, became as a daughter to her, and her five children grandchildren.

She married a third time to a man that her children did not like, and stayed married to him for the rest of his life. He was not an easy man to live with, but everyone should have someone to love him or her. He was an extremely fortunate man in the person who loved him. He accepted her children as his, and the result was two decent, caring people.

She worked many different jobs in her life. Her two friends and she would assemble mechanical pencils at home. There were bags of parts and wooden boards to stack them in for the assembly all over the house. She and all the children of her and her friends were put to work helping. When school was not in session, there was always the trip to the pencil factory to deliver their weekly work. It became a field trip of sorts. On the return trip they would always stop at MacDonald’s for lunch. One time, sitting in the front seat, Aunt Nancy poured a soda on her lap when asked what time it was. She just looked at her watch and did not realize that the soda cup was in her hand, drenching herself in Coca Cola. They laughed the rest of the day. To this day, it is still a favorite story in the family.

If there was a single thing that held the family together it had to be the stories. How they would go out and get Chinese food when the men went to North Carolina every year on business. Aunt Nancy’s husband did not allow Chinese food or pizza in the house. They would have to hide the garbage when he got back. When her son came home one day and told them that he had asked the nun at the catholic school he attended if his name was an Irish name, they all laughed uproariously. He had spent so much time staying at, and eating at, Aunt Nancy and Rae’s house, that he thought he was Italian in spite of the fact that his regular name was the most common Irish surname in the world. That story stayed with them forever. He was asked that question every birthday for the rest of his life.

There was a soft-serve ice cream chain indigenous to where they lived that served the best ice cream around. Whenever they got near one, she would always tap her chest with her fist and proclaim, “got a little heartburn” before pulling into the parking lot. She would drive whoever walked in to get the treats, especially her second husband, crazy by asking them “find out what the special flavor is.”

Cooking and eating was her gig. She always related any situation to eating. She had been raised during the Great Depression, and would not allow her refrigerator, freezer, or pantry to get too low on food. Holiday meals were grand events. Thanksgiving always meant huge turkey’s with her dressing and so many vegetables that it was near impossible to move around the table for fear of spilling something. Not that anything went to waste. If something fell on the floor all you had to do was “Kiss it up to God” and pop it in your mouth before the germs took a hold. Lot’s of potatoes and cabbage to honor the fact that she, and her brood, were Irish. Italian pasta was served a couple of nights a week to give homage to her dear friends of Italian lineage. At every big meal with guests every one would be admonished for not having eaten enough in spite of being full to the point of bursting. In all situations, food was the answer. Comfort food had an entirely different meaning in her house. It meant eating to the point of discomfort. “Thank God for that little bite, that many a man would call a meal” was the mantra after every repast. It was a favorite memory of one of her Aunt’s.

She worked in the maternity ward of a Catholic hospital. She met and became fast friends with everyone. She would baptize the babies she cared for regardless of their nationality or family religion. “Their goes another good Catholic” she would say. It was not that she thought other religions were wrong, it was just her way of keeping the children safe and loved. God knew what he wanted from people, and she felt that it was her duty to help him. She made friends with the doctors and nurses and they became part of the family. She introduced one girl to Aunt Nancy’s son, and they married and stayed that way raising four kids and becoming grandparents. They brought the first grandchild to visit her, and she sat holding the baby singing the same songs she sang to her son and daughter when they were babies.

She faced adversity of some sort all her life. She kept it in its pace. She loved to move, and in some other life would have been a great explorer. She would have been perfect company for Marco Polo, or Lief Erickson, or Lewis and Clark. In truth, she probably would have made things a much easier for them in their journeys. The first thing she would do is make friends with the frightening natives they discovered, and put together a feast that would leave everyone too stuffed with food to argue or fight. In reality, if she were on those noble expeditions into the unknown, history would ultimately record them as Helen’s Expedition, and the principle players would take a back seat to the force of nature who always asked everyone she met if she could give them “a little something.”

When faced with life, good or bad, she beat it back with an apron, a stovetop full of pots, and an oven full of massive hunks of meat.

When she could not pay the bills because she made less than it cost her and the kids to live, she fed and clothed her kids before paying the rent, and somehow things got taken care of. When her daughter came to her to tell her she was getting a divorce the same month the wedding bill had finally been paid off, her reply was “don’t worry about it dear, it was a good party.” When she rode in the car with her son and someone raced passed them, her comment was, “go ahead, you son of a bitch, hell ain’t half full.”

She is everywhere in my life, in the grocery store buying Ragu spaghetti sauce, in a woman sitting in the park singing to her infant child, in the eyes of a woman at work that sits at lunch and says a rosary and in the Corning ware I use to cook meatloaf. I looked in my refrigerator the other day, and remembered the recipe for “Ann Mack Casserole.” All I need is some cheese and I can make it tonight. It will not be hers, but it can live on. I get this vision of her placing it on a table and answering the front door. Standing there is Jesus and His Mother. She gives them a big hug and says, “Come, have a little something.”