Catching the “Brigadoon” Strain of Spring Fever

It’s that time of year. The songbirds are in full chorus every morning when I take the dog for his first walk of the day. I can see flashes of red move from tree to tree as the male cardinal makes his way around the neighborhood. As I listen to the Carolina wren chatter by the house, I realize how long and quiet the winter was, with all its snow and ice. This is the time of year that the world begins anew. I, too, am ready for a fresh start.

I look at the spring flowers popping out of the ground and marvel at how they have spread across the earth in the past year, multiplying as they form a colorful carpet. I look for the unexpected, the flowers I didn’t plant, and I wonder what birds dropped the seeds, perhaps as a gesture of thanks for the bird seed in the feeder. Life goes on throughout the year, but spring? Spring is the harbinger of journeys yet taken, adventures awaiting me just over the rise. Even as I shake off the cold damp that kept me inside for so many months, even as I shed the layers of fleece, wool, and water-repellent raincoat, I can feel spring seductively beckon to me.

What is it about spring that makes me want to break out in song, to skip down the trail singing “Waitin’ for My Dearie” like Fiona in “Brigadoon”? The truth is I believe every bit as much as she did.

I believe in good things, in happy times, in sunshine and pups that wag their tails. I believe that for every time I read about cyber bullying and mean people and idiots that feel the need to shoot up schools and take hostages because they’re disgruntled at the way their lives turned out, we still are human and we have the tools to overcome these problems, if we just apply ourselves to the head and the heart.

Fiona isn’t just looking for any man. She wants the right man, one who is capable of appreciating the wonders of Brigadoon and of her. She’s willing to be a spinster rather than settle. Miracles? She believes in the power of the heart, but she uses her head. Real love is all about choosing wisely, for the ages, and testing the strength of that love, to be sure it endures through eternity. This is not a contemporary girl working her way through men like they’re tissues. Fiona wants the real deal, a man who is willing to rise above ordinary, a man who is able to be inspired. Not every woman and man invites hope and promise to reside in the heart, to grow into actions and deeds. For some, it’s too much like work. They expect love to fall into the lap as they sit on the sidelines. Those of us who are true believers know better. Love that transforms takes effort. That is real alchemy.

Every year I forgo that Spring Fever vaccine, that dose of reality that the world can be a cold and lonely place. I want to feel the heat of the sun on my cheek again. I want to feel that bounce in my step. I want to feel like I can tap dance, that I can almost fly through the air, even if my knees now wobble a bit. When I am in motion, I am in the moment, living life out loud. I am free. That’s what spring fever does to me. It refreshes my memory. It reminds me that I am here right now and I should savor this magnificent beauty.

Why should I be inoculated from something that makes me feel so wonderful? Why should I close my eyes to the blossoms on the weeping cherry tree or fail to see the baby bunny scooting under a bush? Why should I prevent myself from remembering that even as we cycle through the stages of life, we should look forward to new beginnings, fresh starts? How can we hear opportunity knocking if we are so caught up inside ourselves?

Spring fever is contagious. It is that hopeful part of the soul that wants to catch fire, that wants to burn new paths in the landscape. What can I do next? What can I find? What’s out there? And with whom can I share it? Is there anything more amazing than a person who hums with that vibrant energy? Don’t you just want to bask in that warm glow of sunlight?

I don’t ever want to be too old to catch a really bad case of spring fever. I always want to look forward to life, to love, to happiness and beyond. I want to believe that we can still make a positive difference, that we can reach the spirits of those who have closed themselves off from the rest of the world through bitterness, hatred, and despair.

When hope comes pouring through the fields and meadows in April, when it flows over each of us like a Scottish mist on the Highlands, it’s up to us to embrace it, to accept its potent powers. When that little tingle begins in the heart and circulates through the body, we should use it to energize ourselves, to rise above the mundane, the ordinary, the obstacles that hold us down. The winter of the soul is over. It is time to awaken once again and nurture the human heart.

Tommy allowed himself to be swayed by the “should do”, the “have to do”, the “must do” of the ordinary crowd. He abandoned the joy and promise of Brigadoon for the version of an ordinary life. After Jeff managed to convince his buddy that Brigadoon was just an illusion, a fantasy, Tommy got all the way back to New York before he realized that his love for Fiona was true. Returned to the mundane, he had no choice but to reject it. Once you feel that enveloping energy in your soul of what may be, what can be with a little effort on your part, once you taste its honey sweetness on your tongue and you sniff that lovely fragrance, how can you ever settle for anything less? How can you not wait for your dearie? How can you not seek your Brigadoon?

Yes, there is magic in the April air, but it is up to us to make the miracles manifest. What good is spring fever if we fend it off, if we steel ourselves to remain unchanged by it? Brigadoon was tucked away from the ordinary world in order to preserve it, but those doors opened up from time to time, in search of believers who could appreciate its bewitching qualities. Heaven knows we all need to visit a mythical Shangri La — a place where life is good and people sing and dance their way through the day. All that music, all that movement — it makes us feel vibrantly alive. It reminds us in every cell of our bodies that we need more, we should be more, we can have more. Fiona was not willing to settle for just an ordinary man. She wanted a man who knew his own heart and was committed to it, who was willing to return to an extraordinary place in search of his dearie or be destined to wander ever more.

Life is only as much as you allow it to be. You can live it safely, tucked away and disconnected, or you can embrace it, believe in it, and use it to achieve those miracles we all desperately need. They allow us to remember who we are as human beings and what matters most to us.

When I was a twenty-something, my motto was live life, love life, and love. Now as I head into sixty, the only change I would make to that is this. Do it bodaciously!

Why the Attack on Boston Was So Senseless and Cruel

The news today was so stunning, so mind-numbingly wasteful. I’ve watched the footage of the two explosions and I still don’t understand how and why anyone decided this was a good thing to do.

Let me just say that I have the misfortune of having a birthday that has been used several times by disgruntled terrorists and murderers to launch their version of mayhem on the American public. I can still remember where I was when the fire broke out at Waco during that debacle. In an ice cream shop, celebrating my birthday with an ice cream cone. Oklahoma City? Happy birthday to me. All those poor people were destroyed in the blink of an eye. For what? Columbine came just after my birthday. Close enough. The image of those students, hands in the air as the SWAT teams moved in, guns drawn, haunted me for years, I just didn’t want to think about what some idiot might do in the name of whatever twisted ideals he grasped on a day when the world should be right long enough for me to celebrate. It’s been so long since the last horror show (Virginia Tech), I had almost come to expect a pleasant week. And now? Boston is forever changed.

You’re probably thinking that my biggest complaint is that my birthday has been forever tainted with the blood of innocents. But it’s so much more than anything as trivial as a birthday celebration. It’s more that we have lost something so precious and it happens to coincide with a time of hope and joy for me. I love spring. I love all the promise of the Easter season and what it represents.

But Boston? Maybe it’s that New York City has borne the brunt of terror attacks for so many years. I have a relative who had the good fortune of arriving in the city late on that fateful day, who still can remember, even though he probably would prefer to forget, the taste, the smell, the sights and sounds of the city on 9/11. I remember someone mentioned about a year ago how imporant it was to see the memorial park. Maybe if you didn’t have that personal, up close, first-hand view. We almost expect terrorists to attack New York or Washington, DC. But Boston?

I’ve walked those streets. I spent my hours at the Boston Public Library doing research. I shopped in Copley Place, where Au Bon Pain was a handy place to grab a bite. I bought soda at the little convenience store around the corner from Boylston. I crossed Boston Public Garden in snow, when the trees were bare, and in summer, when the lush green canopy provided shade from the hot sun. I used to watch the kids skateboard on that wide open plaza that is Copley Square, listening to the rattle of their wheels on the stone surface. When I saw that flash of molten fire against the building, when I watched that runner fall to the pavement just seconds after some powerful wave seemed to strike him down, I wondered if it was near that store that used to have this wonderful hologram design that illuminated the sidewalk in front of the door. I’ve walked to the Esplanade for concerts, stood by the shell and let the sweet sounds of the string section float over me as I drank in every note. I could have imagined a terror attack in so many other cities, but Boston? That’s too familiar. That’s too close for comfort. It’s just so ordinary a place to imagine that some group would choose it as the scene of a terror attack.

And when I think about the victims of today’s bombings, I admit I am baffled. It wasn’t aimed at the rich and famous or the powerful. It didn’t go off as the most elite runners came into the finish line. It was the mothers and fathers, whose children watched in the stands as their parents struggled to make those exhausted legs keep moving to the end. It was the ordinary people who weren’t there for any political rally or cause. They were there for the challenge of running all those miles.

What kind of terrorist group selects such a target population? What kinds of minds prefer those ordinary people as their victims? Maybe that’s what makes the least amount of sense to me. As a terror attack, it feels so unreal. If it were tied to the symbolism of Boston’s heritage in the American Revolution, surely it would not have been so violent. After all, the Boston Tea Party was all about dumping tea in Boston Harbor, not blowing people up. The violence of the Patriots’ war came later, when the protests failed.

As heinous as the Oklahoma City bombing was, at least Timothy McVeigh chose a federal building as representative of his wrath for the government. He was sending a message, one that was abundantly clear given the devastation.

So why did the terrorists choose those victims? Because they were so ordinary? Because they were not the elite? That’s really a big “why” for me. What made them so attractive? Why detonate the bombs at that time, rather than when all the VIPs and the mucky-mucks were ready to greet the world champion runners at the finish line?

Any time I look at a terrorist event, I try to understand why those particular targets were chosen, why those people ended up as victims. Whether it’s a school site and a bunch of twisted young minds who have lost touch with reality, or a group of angry people with a political agenda and a purposeful plan of action, the victims are the ones who often represent something to the perpetrators. In the case of the Boston bombing, that isn’t clear. These weren’t capitalists working in the financial district. They weren’t law enforcement or politically-connected leaders. They were ordinary people there to watch ordinary people cross the finish line. Waiting for a marathon’s stragglers to show up is like watching paint dry. You have to have a personal reason for standing there so long. You’re there for someone else, someone who’s trying to finish a race that would exhaust the average citizen.

Timing is everything, isn’t it? Even during a terror act. I can speculate that the motive for selecting those locations for the explosive devices were the many flags flying as the shrapnel spread its deadly power through the human flesh and the handy news photographers on the scene. But surely they were also present earlier, when the “important” people were around. What was it about these particular victims?

I don’t have an answer, but I have a suspicion. I don’t think it was an accident that these people were targeted. Somehow, some way, somewhere, it all makes sense to the person or persons who planned this horrible act. Maybe we will find that at least one life was forever changed by some senseless bombing elsewhere. Was it an IED in some Middle Eastern country? Did a bomb take out targets in a cafe on a Baghdad street or an explosion rip apart people gathered for a festival in Afghanistan or a drone take out a family in Pakistan? Ordinary people doing ordinary things. One moment life is good and the next, it is forever changed. An eye for an eye. Someone involved in the planning of this incident, this life-changing incident, had a specific reason for picking these people as victims. It would have been just as easy to strike earlier, but the terrorists chose not to do that. They were sending us a message, that no one is ever really safe. It could happen anywhere, to anyone. That’s pretty personal. It’s like when a killer shoots his victim in the face, at point blank range. Lots of rage. Not a lot of emotional detachment. It’s all about the satisfaction of striking where it will hurt the most.

For a brief moment, I even wondered if it was some out-of-control kid wanting to make a name for himself as the new replacement for the wacky school shooters, but I don’t think so. School shooters still have a personal connection to their targets. There’s something that irks them about the victims and something that satisfies them when the killing’s done. And so often, those incidents seem to end in a blaze of self-martyrdom suicide, over the top and blatant, like some Hollywood finale. But this terror attack didn’t seem to have such a side show. In this attack, it seems that the killers got away. Does that mean they plan to fight another day?

But what I don’t understand, given the success at harming so many innocent people, was that the bombers didn’t seem to target the first responders. As I watched all those brave souls rush to help the injured, I thought they were so vulnerable. Surely it was a fear vibrating hard and loud in the back of every mind as the men and women pulled away those barriers in search of survivors. That’s what made it a less sophisticated terror attack than what we’ve seen in other cases.

And again, makes it feel all the more personal. Innocent lives were what the terrorists sought to take. That was all that would satisfy their hunger. They didn’t want to do battle with law enforcement. They wanted to do battle with little children, who had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. They wanted to take out husbands and fathers and uncles and brothers. They wanted to destroy wives and mothers and aunts and sisters. They wanted to rip apart lovers, girlfriends and boyfriends, those whose star-crossed lives would be forever changed by this nightmare. Somehow I expect that when the ash settles, when the shrapnel is collected and examined, we will find that the killers were not some well-trained jihadists with impressive credentials, but some motley crew of people drawn together by their personal anger over some event that profoundly touched their lives, who pulled the cloak of terrorists around their warped shoulders and made their excuses as they packed those bombs with the twisted pieces of metal that would destroy beautiful lives. Such a senseless loss of humanity. How could it possibly serve any purpose? How could it be justified by any measure or semblance of sanity? This was about a group of people with a grudge, who decided that they were going to make sure everyone felt their power by taking out ordinary people, who will never again be ordinary. Senseless violence from the dark side.

Why the Demise of Sharing the Family TV Has Led to Disharmony in Washington, DC

We’ve lost the art of real negotiation. There was a time, growing up in America, when you actually had to have some skill to get what you wanted, what you believed you needed. Remember the days when you didn’t dare leave the sofa, in case a sibling took over your “spot”? Recall the times when you had to beg, plead, cajole, and insist that your show was the one to watch? We’ve lost that forced “have to get along” thing. Nowadays, it’s a crap shoot as to whether anyone will get anything. The bullies have taken over. The weak sit on the sidelines and go without. All because we are no longer in a position where we actually have to make successful deals on significant issues.

Think about it, baby boomer. Back when we were kids, we actually had to share. We didn’t have a choice. We had to get along or we couldn’t play. If the other kids got on your nerves, you took your ball and went home, until they were ready to play nicely. You had some leverage to get yourself into the game, and once there, you had a chance to influence how things went. Now? Nobody’s interested in playing nicely. We’d rather go our separate ways.

That’s what struck me yesterday when the group of gathered politicians and family members of victims lost to mass shootings gathered for a photo op. Accompanying the image of some very disappointed people was an article about how furious the politicians were, how sad the relatives were. That’s when I realized how far off track we are as a nation.

We’re not going about our negotiations as a shared process. That’s why it’s not working. You want gun control. The other guy wants mental health issues addressed. Your conclusion when you don’t get what you want is that the other guy is a creep for not conceding. The other guy’s conclusion? You’re a bully for insisting that there will be no negotiation on the issue. Back when we were kids, this was considered a stalemate. Nobody won. Nobody got to play “Capture the Flag”. Nobody got to play anything because the two teams couldn’t even agree to play.

What could have happened in Washington, if real negotiations, if real dialogue took place? Maybe we could have agreed to really take a hard look at what’s going on with these mass killings. You have disgruntled killers bent on massive destruction and loss of life, who want to bring attention to themselves for no other reason than they cannot connect to their fellow human beings. “I am the King of the Universe, and you minions are all under my power!” That kind of twisted acting out isn’t stopped by a gun permit. Neither are our children protected in school by armed guards. We’re going to waste time, energy, and resources playing “ketchup”, when we really should be stopping this behavior in its earliest stages — in childhood. We need to teach children that they are a part of life, not the giver and taker of life. They do not have super powers. They are not entitled to do whatever the hell they want to do. They need to work with people, not against them. But how do you teach that when you have so many adults who feel entitled to do whatever they want, regardless of the greater good and actual need? As long as Washington’s politicians see the need to chastise, instead of conducting real negotiations, it’s all a sham.

Washington has so fractured the structure of democracy, there is no equivalent of the family TV and family sofa. We have no reason to get along because we’re not all in the same room at the same time. Fairness, shmairness.

Ever know single people who live their lives without having to concede anything? They’re often the people bitching the loudest about how they can’t find a decent relationship. No romance seems to work out for them. It’s that elusive desire that always slips away. I can tell you why. You live with other people, you damn well better be able to negotiate and concede ground if you plan on getting half of what you need. How many single people never have to bother sharing a meal? Eat whatever you want whenever you want. But if there are two or more people? At some point in time, you’re going to have to eat something that’s not your favorite, and you’re also going to have to speak up when you want to have the chance to engage in your own preferences. That’s what happens when two or more people occupy the same space, by choice or by necessity.

Remember sharing a room with a sibling? Those days are now gone, as parents opt for the big houses with separate bedrooms and bathrooms. No more pounding on the door when a brother or sister takes too long in front of the mirror.

It’s sad really, that we have lost sight of the fact that other people have needs that differ from our own. We have become so enamoured of our own selves that we ignore the reality that our way is not always the only way, the best way, or the necessary way. We’re too far apart to spend real time together and to get what needs doing done, because we’re not interested in playing together and sharing our toys.

Is it a mistake not to engage with “the other team”? Are we missing valuable opportunities to work together, to play together, to develop real respect through dialogue and negotiation? Of course we are. As individuals, we are a bunch of folks with divergent ideas, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. We’re going our separate ways constantly, disconnected from the greater spirit of this nation. This is supposed to be a democracy, a country of people who can agree on the Constitution’s principles as a means of focusing on what the greater good can and should be, while at the same time respecting the rights of the individual. We have bent over backwards so many times in the effort to appease the disgruntled. Maybe now it’s time to accept the fact that we aren’t going to agree to everything our fellow citizens want and let that be okay, just as we aren’t going to get everything we want. We should still be trying to work that out, rather than sulking because we failed to gain our ground.

When we were kids, it was normal to accept defeat on a routine basis because there were other victories. The losses balanced out, especially when you were motivated to find common ground. And when you found common ground, they turned into wins, because you and “the other guys” could agree on something, anything.

Every time a politician grabs a group of people to stand behind him, every time he or she hammers home a political agenda, we lose what matters most to us as human beings — the chance to genuinely come together as a nation. We get caught up in liberal and conservative causes. We cling to agendas, concepts, and ideas without ever having any intention of ceding turf. How can we ever find common ground if we are too sequestered on our mountain tops, looking down on the little people with disappointment because they have not followed our game plan?

Want an example of real common ground? It’s the sight of those brave people at the Boston Marathon who ran to give assistance and comfort to the victims, who didn’t stop to ask “Why me, Lord?”, but who sought to soothe, to stem the flow of blood, to save lives, regardless of political beliefs, religious beliefs, ethnicity, skin color, or anything else. In that horrible aftermath, it didn’t matter to them. They only cared about what was right in front of them. Human beings in need.

I don’t know about you, but I am humbled by that courage, that desire of ordinary people to be extraordinary. That’s real common ground. No squabbling. No turning away from people. No shunning this one or that one. Everyone shared the risk, the heartbreak, the sorrow. They were focused on the crisis. They came together to make a difference.

The next time a politician claims that the other side is the bad guy for not conceding he’s the “correct thinker”, I want you to remember what real negotiations are. It’s putting the people’s needs ahead of the politics. It’s sucking it up so we can all be in the same room at the same time, sharing that sofa as we watch TV. All those divisive voices from the left and the right have one thing in common. They still don’t understand that we need to meet in the middle if we’re going to work this all out and coexist in peace.

Guinea Pig Report: Dioptics Solar Shield Sunglasses

When I was offered the chance to participate in some product testing, through Vibrant Nation, I was at once skeptical and curious. What would I find? As a guinea pig, would this be a positive experience?

Dioptics is a company that has made sunglasses for medical patients for over thirty years. Their line of “fits over” and “clip-on” sunglasses for those of us who wear prescription glasses are available at many retailers across the country — Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and many retailers, in addition to being available online at www.solarshield.com

I have three pairs of prescription glasses — reading, mid-distance, and trifocals. I spend my days switching between them. I use the trifocals for driving, so they stay in my purse. I haven’t really ever completely adjusted to using them all the time. I’m an author and an artist, so I do a lot of close-up work, which requires a wider lens range. That means wearing reading glasses when I work. And when I watch TV or paint on a large canvas, I use my mid-range glasses. All three pairs of glasses are different sizes and shapes. The chance to try “fits over” sunglasses seemed the logical choice for me, because I didn’t have to worry about the shape of the lenses on each pair.

To be honest, I’ve needed sunglasses for quite a while. I tried using off-the-rack choices, but I couldn’t stand the distortion of the lens. Does that sound strange? When you have astigmatism in one eye, any little imperfection is enough to drive you batty, because that curved lens will just exacerbate it.

The box from Dioptics arrived in the mail. It was small and weighed about as much as ten butterflies. I opened the package and found myself somewhat disappointed. Why? The sunglasses looked very ordinary. What was I expecting? Maybe a shiny finish. But looks and first impressions can be wrong. These glasses are really awesome.

For the first time in a couple of years, I can walk around outside and see clearly. No more frowning. No more sun in my eyes.

As for that matte finish, it turns out to be enormously helpful in keeping the prescription glasses in place. In fact, the fit is fantastic, because once the sunglasses are on your nose, they stay put. I didn’t worry about scratching the prescription glasses.

And that lightweight feature I wasn’t sure about? It turns out that when I wear both prescription and sunglasses together, I’m still very much comfortable.

Is there a difference between just grabbing a pair of conventional sunglasses and the Dioptics version? Yes, yes, and yes. The Dioptics version accommodates the prescription glasses, and the edging not only keeps the sun out between both pairs, it holds the prescription glasses in place — it’s the fit that really makes a difference. I tested the classic choice, with tiny side windows that still allow light in and peripheral vision is not cut off.

Would I recommend them to you readers? Absolutely. My experience was definitely a positive, and a pleasant surprise to boot. My only caution? You will need a roomy case to store them in — despite their lack of weight, they are still larger than most glasses when folded.

Please Note: I received a free sample of Dioptics Solar Shield sunglasses via Vibrant Nation’s Vibrant Influencer Network

Vampires, Psychics, Magical Beings, and the Vietnam War — Why Is Fantasy So Dangerous?

It’s all the rage — vampires springing to life from the dark shadows, only to attack, psychics predicting earth-shattering events that are suddenly headed off by divine design, and any number of fairies, leprechauns, and fairy tale characters come to life. This is what sells today because it is the Age of Imagination and Virtual Reality. We think, therefore we create.

I loved fantasy as a child. The Borrowers? They were a wonderful little family, weren’t they? And what child wasn’t moved by Charlotte and Wilbur? How many spiders lived because we thought they could talk to us?

Later on, as a children’s librarian, I had enormous fun reading fantasy stories to kids. Let’s face it — there are some absolutely hilarious kiddie books out there. Some feature magical storylines that take us away from the ordinariness of our lives and transport us to a new, unfamiliar land, where anything is possible. Whether it’s a trip to Howl’s Moving Castle or a visit to Babe’s farm, there are wonderful characters and terrific adventures to be found in the world of books.

But as an adult, I draw the line at fantasy for one very big reason. I had a first-hand, up-close, too-personal look at the world of phony psychics.

When I started out, I was an educator and I worked with hospitalized kids. It was on the heels of the Vietnam War, the controversial era in American politics. At the time, I was rubbing elbows with a number of experts in the field of medicine, and some of them had some pretty specific beliefs when it came to US involvement in Southeast Asia. They wanted to abolish the military once and for all.

The first rule of medicine is “do no harm”, but very often that is a judgment call, and in the case of psychological warfare, a case can be made according to the decider. Among those I met most determined to use psychological deterrence to convince Americans to turn against the war were a child psychiatrist, a couple of nurses, several social workers, a psychologist with a specialty in dissociative disorders, and a prominent cancer surgeon. They were backed by some pretty powerful and wealthy benefactors, ready to put their money into the pot.

In order to understand the complexity of psychological warfare, it’s important to understand this was still a volatile time in America. We had lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, lost a president, and had finally emerged from an unpopular war. We were on the edge of engagement in Central America and the antiwar movement was desperate to turn American support against the possibility of embroiling the nation once again in combat.

One of the first things I learned from these very determined antiwarriors was that they had significant financial resources. They set themselves up as non-profit organizations. Money poured in to cover the houses, cars, boats, travel, in addition to the psychic fairs, classes, and gatherings. Many of their supporters were willing to fund all of their activities, which meant they could concentrate on finding what worked to turn people away from war and towards their cause. And what worked required some back-up operations.

So many people believe in psychic phenomena without questioning how or why certain thoughts occur to us. As was my training in education and psychology, my understanding how how the brain perceives information and processes it was critical in being able to remain on my feet in the face of enormous psychological pressure. When you become a target for psychological warfare, especially by people determined to use you to manipulate others, there are certain markers you will usually find.

Psychological warfare is a process that requires supportive measures. Normal adults might be fooled for a time, but then the doubts start to creep in when the illusions and the messengers are absent or fall away. In order to successfully convince a target that psychic phenomena is real, it is imperative to isolate the target from the normal support circle. You don’t want your victim to compare notes with others. Why? Because that’s when it all falls apart. So, what is required to maintain the illusion? Smoke and mirrors. Mind manipulations. These people were determined to dissuade people from going into another war, and they were willing to do whatever it took to make that happen.

Oddly enough, they were a small, yet influential group, and they tended to work in concert with one another. The professor who specialized in dissociative behavior had scads of college students rushing to take his classes, because he was a well-known expert in the field of near-death experiences. What was it like to come back from the brink of death? How did those who almost died then transform their lives?

What happens when the professor promotes people with histories of mental illnesses and attempted suicides as having returned from death, without ever having to prove they actually did? What happens when these Near-Death experiencers claim they met cosmic beings on their journey and now channel wisdom to save the planet? That’s an experience that is anecdotal in nature, and if it’s never really verified, you’re asking people to assume it’s true and act on that basis.

One of the dark, dirty secrets I learned early on was that these people really did compare notes and plan their antiwar campaign. They went after rich benefactors and the sons and daughters of the wealthy, looking for vulnerabilities they could exploit. A number of people succumbed, including a woman whose family owned one of the largest tobacco companies in history. Guilt is a very big baton to wield on a daughter who feels the weight of having wealth because people smoked. Her mission became one of supporting the dying, through hospice. Personal tragedy took its toll early on. Married to a psychiatrist from another prominent family, she was the victim of a brutal attempted murder by a disgruntled patient. Her husband did not survive the assault. All these years later, one must wonder if that murder had anything to do with the psychological warfare techniques being developed, either for the CIA or for opponents of the CIA. Had the psychiatrist pushed too hard? Had the tactics backfired?

One thing this group of antiwarriors had in common was their determination to manipulate Vietnam War veterans to speak out. And yes, they did actually have connections to antiwar groups long before it was hip or cool. They were opposed to nuclear warfare, taking root in the early “Ban the Bomb” movement.

Personally, I have no problem with people opposing war, provided they use democratic avenues to voice their dissent and engage in lawful activities to change public opinion. But is it okay for them to manipulate a vulnerable population without disclosure? Absolutely not. It’s a violation of civil rights. It’s unconscionable to anyone with a modicum of decency. And yet it happened, under the nose of the American people. The method was simple. Fool the people into believing magical powers are real and then convince them that certain individuals can actually commune with the cosmos. Next thing you know, you’ve got a generation of believers. Believers you can manipulate. Believers who become the front for your agenda. A modern version of Willi Munzenberg’s “Innocents’ Club”.

It’s important to understand that these were a group of health care providers, used to working with people in need of psychological help. They knew how to not only create psychological programs, but also how to work the system when things went bad. Emotional coercion was a very big component of what they did. They relied on people being naive. They relied on the creative mind.

Does that mean that every person practicing Reiki is part of the network of antiwarriors determined to manipulate your mind? No. It means the bad guys promoted such practices to sway their targets. By promoting Reiki as an ancient healing art (it’s actually an amalgamation of a number of mystical practices repackaged to appear to be a healing art), the bad guys crafted the illusion that the practice was proven over centuries to be effective in mystical healing

In and of itself, Reiki is not a bad thing, provided that each individual has the opportunity to maintain his or her own self-reliance and self-identity. When you turn over control of your spirit, your chakras, or anything else to someone who insists that he or she has invisible powers to heal, powers that need no true validation, you are surrendering your soul to a manipulator. That is cult behavior. In reality, real healing is measurable, and when it comes to Reiki, there is no reason why the experiencer should need an outsider to direct the healing energy into the body. Every human being should be able to direct this so-called energy for herself or himself. A master? I cannot tell you how many “masters” I have met over the years who have so completely lost themselves in the illusion of mystical powers that they stopped functioning in the here-and-now.

When you live inside your creative mind, when you abandon the concrete mind because the potential for what might be is greater than the power of what is, you are not living in this world, in this moment. You are living in a fantasy world. And that fantasy world makes you vulnerable to suggestion from others. When you spend your days believing that you have the power to make clouds disappear and you think you can will people to give you what you want if you just wish it, you are not acting on real opportunities to make a difference in this world. You are fantasizing. You are moving away from what is real and embracing what is not real. And when this occurs because you have some value as a target for antiwarriors, most, if not all, those illusions will be phony.

Real “mind over matter” is a complex balance of taking a belief and giving it arms and legs. The human spirit and the human brain are wonderful tools for changing the world, but they require action in the real world. This small group of health care providers counted on being able to manipulate their influential targets in order to achieve a political outcome, and in doing so, deceived many. They needed the American people to embrace the illusion that psychic powers are real, because by doing so, they gained the upper hand. They were able, for so long, to hide in plain sight, and with the support of millions, created credibility for psychic phenomena that never needed to be proven. “I believe, therefore it must be true.” (When you look at the current political mess on both sides of the aisle, remember this phrase.)

The phony psychics had a handle on the business of hypnosis and self-hypnosis because so many of them were mental health experts by training. It’s really nothing more than convincing a target that A is B, backing this up with other helpers, who then repeat the message to the target until it is accepted. If the target rejects the idea that A is B, insisting that A is A and B is B, the group has to decide — cut the subject loose and take a loss, or continue to coerce the target. As practiced by this group of health care professionals, that often included a series of incidents designed to force compliance. Think of it as their “re-education” program, modeled along the lines of the Vietnamese government after the war. Those Vietnamese citizens who sided with America were subjected to some very brutal tactics, especially if they resisted. Many of those promoting phony psychic experiences had been students of these techniques, especially those psychiatrists who had followed studies of North Korean, Chinese, and Soviet psychological warfare efforts, and they had no problem applying them to non-believers. Once the target finally agreed that A was B, they could continue to work their political message into the game plan, moving forward. The goal? Propaganda campaigns. Win the war by turning people against the government. That is what psychological warfare is really all about, and in this case, it was about turning the American people against the duly elected government.

Much of guided imagery is a self-soothing technique, a stress reducer that is all about self-hypnosis techniques. In the right hands, that can be a wonderful healing tool. PTSD victims often use this technique when they rehearse what they would do differently. It’s empowering to recall a traumatic event and figure out what you can do differently if you’re ever in the same situation. But it goes beyond that. People who meditate often are far more determined and mindful in their lives when it comes to achieving goals. When you imagine something wonderful in your creative mind and you set yourself to take on the task of making it manifest in real life, it requires you to take an idea and bring it to fruition. You work it and rework it, honing it until it happens. Used that way, the mind is an amazing producer of good things, and many long-time meditation practicers have benefited from their efforts in real, concrete ways.

But when you turn over control to an entity that seeks to use you for political purposes and refuses to share the secret of that end game with you, you have been rendered less than human. You are cannon fodder. You are a means to an end. You are a political dupe. No longer do you make your own decisions, free and clear. The wizard behind the curtain is maneuvering you into position, so you select the button he wants you to push, and you fool yourself into believing it’s your decision. You do that by surrendering responsibility to gather and contemplate real information. You outsource your data collection and take the briefing provided to you as bias-free. Those experiments by Nazi physicians and psychiatrists were all about forcing mother to turn on child. How much pressure was enough to get a mother to subject her innocent child to an electric shock in order to avoid it herself? What was a mother’s breaking point, when she would stop sacrificing for her child, when she would give up? This was psychological warfare developed during WW II, and many governments trolled the files, looking for insights they, too, could employ in the Cold War. The antiwarriors were no different in utilizing the information.

Looking back, I understand that many, such as the lady who inherited all that tobacco money, were driven to do what they did for what they believed were noble reasons. It’s surely painful to think that your family was responsible for encouraging generations to smoke. But in her zeal to change the world, she trampled on my civil rights. She empowered people who manipulated minds in ways that caused far greater harm. She may have been a psychiatric nurse, she may have been married to a murdered psychiatrist, but she clearly did not understand the human spirit, mind, or body. In the end, she and her like-minded antiwarriors stole democracy right out from under us, and she used her wealth to do it. What she most hoped to avoid, she caused. She was not alone in what she did. Other prominent families used their fortunes the same way, managed by the same group of mind manipulators. They joined together and formed a coalition of activists who opposed the elected government, who went around the rules by going underground, especially during the Vietnam War.

In this day and age of virtual reality, fantasy abounds, and we are starting to see numbers of people abandon the concrete mind for the illusion of magical powers and mystic experiences, as in the case of several of the mass murderers. We are human beings, borne of flesh and blood as long as we exist in these mortal bodies. We must not abandon that truth for something that prevents us from experiencing real life. We must never come to believe that fantasy is better than real life. Dream, yes, but then make those dreams come true. Don’t live only for the promise of Heaven in the distant future. Make it happen here and now. Bring Heaven to Earth. If, when I die, there is something even better than I can imagine, I will be delighted, but let me be a creator now of a better life, of a better world, and let that start by connecting to my fellow human beings.

We have become a nation of people so focused on feel-good, we mistake that for do-good. No health care professional should ever encourage any patient to abandon the self. The goal should always be to encourage self-growth and self-development through education and healthy practices.

To those folks I knew all those years ago, who believed they had the power to change minds by manipulation, I say this. You” Emperors” have no clothes. You are naked. Your secret was revealed long ago. You just never thought anyone was really watching.

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Dog Abuse — Is It Time to Boycott Victoria’s Secret?

I say it’s time to hoist the sexy lingerie provider up the flag pole. And no, it’s not because I have an issue with baby doll pajamas and push-up bras. Frankly, I’ve always had a thing for colorful underwear. I’m not exactly the flannel nightie type. Give me satin and silk — I’m a happy camper. I never met a hot pink bra I didn’t covet.

It’s not as if I’ve been banned from entering the store because I’m too damned old. Ageism has nothing to do with why I’m so upset with Victoria’s Secret. A lot of older women still shop there. We may be over fifty, but we’re not dead, are we? Frankly, Heavenly is one of my favorite scents (along with Ralph Lauren’s Romance). No, my beef with the store has nothing to do with being bodacious or a baby boomer.

And it’s not the fact that I’m past the age where I can prance around with that much skin showing. I’m not jealous of the younger generation of women. I’m happy I can still touch my toes without going snap, crackle, and pop.

I only found out about a terrible issue involving Victoria’s Secret by fluke. Some joker decided it would be hilarious to sign me up for the catalogue. Misspelled my name. Wasn’t even close on my middle initial. An attempt to impersonate me as an identity thief? Possibly, but it helps to get the personal details correct, doesn’t it? (Is there anything sadder than an incompetent identity thief?) But that’s not what has me up in arms.

It’s the animal abuse the company promotes. Yup, that’s right. Puppies were harmed to sell more bras. On the cover of the current catalogue, promoting the Fabulous Collection, there is the requisite giggly blonde in an adorable pink lace-encrusted bra, clutching an adorable little puppy. No, she’s not squeezing the pooch too tight or French-kissing the little bugger.

Look just above the dog’s right eye. What do you see? I see multiple piercings. Eye rings. Jewelry for Jack Russells. That’s right. Body piercing for puppies. I don’t know about you, but where I come from, that’s a recipe for disaster. As a dog lover, I know that when dogs get together, they frolick. And sometimes even attack each other (my dog was killed at doggie daycare in a horrible incident that was never fully explained). Why would it be a good idea to invite trouble by turning a puppy into a pull toy by adding a “handle” above the eye?

But even if a dog has no contact with other dogs, body piercing is dangerous. Dogs rub up against things all the time. Imagine the itch from a body piercing on a dog. Imagine if that ring gets caught in something. So close to the eye? Think of the tear that could result.

And what if one of the rings picks up feces or some other nasty substance that dogs come across on their daily walks? What if the piercing hole gets infected? What if it gets into the bloodstream? Should we ask this adorable little puppy to sacrifice its eye, and maybe even its life, for a fad, for the new Fabulous Collection?

What is wrong with the people at Victoria’s Secret that they put “cool” and “cruel” together, encouraging this dangerous trend? Do they hate animals? Do they justify this type of promotion by assuming that in order to sell more bras it’s necessary to violate a puppy?

Every day, more and more dogs are sent to shelters by irresponsible dog owners who thought it would be fun to get a dog, only to find out that dogs have real needs. Victoria’s Secret is in the business of selling fantasy, but that fantasy should not include abusing animals. Shame on this company for not having the guts to say no to the idiots who designed this cover. Shame on this company for encouraging this very dangerous practice. And most of all, shame on this company for exploiting an abused pooch to sell sex.

What’s next, some war orphan with visible battle scars being cuddled by some Victoria’s Secret model on a humanitarian mission? Where do we draw the line? I draw mine where my conscience stands. Victoria’s Secret’s new line is not Fabulous. It’s horrible.

The Winter When Little Green Men from Outer Space Invaded America

If you’re a believer in UFOs and psychic phenomena, maybe it’s time for a little rewind to the Sixties. Let’s go back five decades and see what you missed the first time around.

Unless you’ve been off the grid for the last forty or so years, you’ve probably heard about the studies undertaken for the CIA involving LSD and other drugs, in programs like MKULTRA, and even the Church Committee’s subsequent investigations (April 26, 1976; “Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operation with Respect to Intelligence Activities”) into the use and misuse of techniques designed to enhance interrogations and to harass, disable, or discredit targets. The government acknowledged that CIA researchers used drugs on unwitting test subjects, many of whom had negative reactions. For every tiny glimpse we get into the American intelligence community, there is so much we don’t get to see.

Ever hear of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, better known as NICAP? Those were the folks who tracked UFO sightings back in the Sixties. They kept very official research records every time an unidentified flying object was reported to have been seen in the US. Many of its members were military personnel, journalists, medical doctors, and scientists — people with credentials in their respective fields.

But what didn’t Americans see, even as little bits and pieces of these sometimes disastrous programs were exposed? What the other side was doing. And therein lies the rub. We forget that we were fighting a real war and that there were real enemies and real victims. The best spy games are the ones that successfully get the other side to do something first. It’s a giant game of “Chicken”, with very high stakes. If you can get the other side to look criminal, dumb, evil, or incompetent, that’s a win. Agents provocateurs often poke, prompt, and provoke their targets into believing an illusion, in order to catch them in the act, to expose their bad behavior, or to manipulate them. It’s all about control.

The CIA needed a way to pull those strings on its targets. So did the Soviets, the Cubans, the East Germans, the Chinese, the North Koreans, and all the other anti-American governments. For every psychological warfare program run by the American government, there was a program in a hostile country. Remember that scary movie, “The Manchurian Candidate”? The idea of “brainwashing”, through drugs, behavior modification, and education, was something that intelligence services actually embraced at that time. Governments around the globe launched programs to study techniques that had potential to manipulate mankind.

As the American intelligence community pushed for new ways to disable its targets, through the use of drugs such as LSD, those opposed to American intervention pushed for new ways to stop the efforts. Best way to do that? Shadow the CIA psych warfare research programs at universities across the country. The same universities that provided the CIA with its cadre of officers also helped to develop the technology, human and otherwise, to win the Cold War. Penetrate the programs, use the techniques developed by researchers, and turn Americans against their own government.

Truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction. I know that firsthand. In January of 1965, I “saw” a UFO at the same time as several other local residents. There were reports in newspapers across the country of adults and children having these experiences. My sighting was recorded by a representative of the local chapter of NICAP.

From the moment I “saw” that UFO, my life changed in very unpredictable ways. That supposed flying saucer turned out to bear a striking resemblance to the A-12 Oxcart spy plane used by the CIA at the time. That’s hardly surprising. In Connecticut, Pratt and Whitney manufactured the J-75 engines that powered the spy planes. (Did it matter that I had a relative with connections to the nuclear-powered Minute Man missile program?)

Oddly enough, it was a prominent psychology professor who gave me the biggest shove into the world of UFOs, cosmic consciousness, and phony psychic phenomena. After that, I was nudged  along by a circle of local psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, nurses, and social workers. This particular group had a long history of supporting an antiwar/anti-nuke agenda and each other. It was like one big happy family and they seemed to perceive me as the naughty child who refused to accept their version of the world.

Sometimes I wonder how my life would have gone if I had just given in and embraced the wacky world of UFO experiences and the subsequent psychic phenomena they were peddling, instead of kicking and screaming all the way. They needed true believers and I was a doubter, always questioning their claims. What took root in the Sixties as a way to turn Americans against the war and nuclear energy began to grow more powerful as people stopped questioning and began to accept the fantasy that space aliens were reaching out from the cosmos to save the planet.

Maybe the reason I never really embraced the concept was because I never found the idea of going into cold, desolate space to be all that appealing. Why would the little green men choose to zip around the sky in a funky little spaceship when they could be walking on a beautiful beach or climbing a majestic mountain? That never made any sense to me. I’d much rather live on Earth and work out my differences with real human beings than twiddle my thumbs waiting for mythical little green men to arrive in their silver saucer. What if it turns out they don’t know diddly about world peace? I’ll have wasted my life waiting for a truth that never existed, instead of living in the real world.

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my-next-car-is-going-to-be-bodacious

Those Top Gear “blokes” have ruined me! Ruined me utterly and completely! Beguiling bastards!

It all started when I was channel-surfing, looking for something light-hearted to watch while working. I landed on the BBC America channel and Top Gear was on. I don’t know the first thing about cars, other than I love driving one that’s responsive. I know I’m supposed to get the engine checked when the oil light goes on, flat tires are a problem, and funny noises need attention, but beyond that, I can’t really tell you much about how a car works or why it works. Oh, I get that pistons go up and down and gears go round and round, but the truth is I have so many other things to think about in my daily life, I don’t want to become a car expert. I just want to enjoy driving, whether it’s a quick trip to the supermarket or an extended road trip. I want to zip through the hills and dale and hug the curves on the road to the shore. I don’t just want to putter around in something that does the trick. I want that wide open road experience to make me feel alive.

Curses! Those Top Gear bastards totally wrecked my mindset about motor vehicles! And they were fiendish in how they did it. Lush settings, like the time one of them cleverly traversed the Scottish Highlands in a luxury SUV, only to get his carcass and that lovely vehicle stuck near the top. He couldn’t just drive the damn thing on the road. Oh, no. It had to be a freaking adventure! Talk about bodacious! I love the races from Point A to Point B in cars and trucks any sensible person would refuse to drive, not to mention the way the boys are always trying to chump each other. It’s really the epitome of bodacious baby boomer behavior.

Over time, the pull to drive a hot car got worse for me. They had Joanna Lumley in the “reasonably priced car” back in 2004. Holy cow! Here’s the New Avengers girl of the Seventies, the Patsy of Ab Fab fame, toodling around the racetrack, helmeted and pushing the pedal to the floor like nobody’s business. That was cruel. When I saw that episode, I started to imagine myself behind the wheel of a really good sports car. Or rather a “reasonably priced car” that looked sporty. I was hooked!

The episode that changed my thinking, that made me start to think about my next car? It was the Subaru Impreza STi versus the Mazda Evo X (Series 11, Episode 2).By the time those seducers worked their magic, I was already deciding that the Impreza was probably more up my alley than the Evo X.  Jeremy Clarkson really is one slick son of a….

Mind you, I’ve owned a Mitsubishi Gallant and I confess that I actually enjoyed driving the little bugger. It wasn’t anything like my Ford Escort or my Chevy Caprice. Not at all like my mother’s Chrysler Cirrus, which actually was a nice car, or my father’s many Chryslers, from the Concord (awesome luxury till they changed the design) to the compacted Sebring (who thought that giant blind spot was a good idea?) I’ve enjoyed driving different makes and models throughout the years, but now? Now I want a fun car.

You’d think I was entering my second childhood the way I am already planning for my next car. In some ways, it’s probably true. I coveted that MG in my teens. And a friend drove the classic Simon Templar Volvo from The Saint, so maybe my desire for a fun car is a throwback to those early days of driving. Who’s to say?

What surprises me most is that when I think of my next car, I’m not even considering what a guy is driving. Back in my twenties, when I was working my buns off and struggling to pay bills, I was actually content to let the guy I was dating have the hot car. Classic Mercedes convertible? The guy was sweet, but not for me. Jaguar? Nice, but the guy was a consummate jerk and a con artist to boot. Mustang? Loved the car, but I couldn’t have tamed that stallion if I broke the hell out of him. Beamer? The guy actually stuck me with the check on our first and only date. Corvette? Well, you know what they say about that. It seemed to be true in his case.

What’s ironic is I have absolutely no interest in a practical car this time around, even though I’m a very practical person. I’m not looking to be the little old lady with the mint condition car in the garage. I don’t really give a rat’s patootie about what Consumer Reports says about reliability or repair records. I don’t want an SUV because it’s the thing to get. I don’t need all that space, let alone the gas guzzling component of the beast. I thought about something luxurious, motoring “eye candy”, but that’s not what I’m looking to find. I don’t care if I attract attention for the car I drive. No heads have to turn as I zip by. Oh, no. I’m not out to impress anyone but me. Truth is I don’t even care what other people think of it. Go figure.

The funniest part? I’m not even fussy about what color the vehicle is, provided it’s not Screaming Banana Yellow, Flaming Tangerine Orange, Geico Lizard Green, or Fire Engine Red. A nice neutral that doesn’t clash with my hot pink and turquoise outfits. I don’t even care what color the interior is, as long as it’s leather. Black, gray, tan, brown…bring it on, baby!

One must? The doggie car seat has to function on the front passenger seat. I plan on taking the little guy on the road with me. I already discovered that my “bud” loves the wind in his hair and that he enjoys looking out the window, in between naps. He also enjoys being a lap dog when there’s a car full of people. He’s very social and loves to travel. All the more reason to get the right car.

No, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to ‘fess up and own up. This time around, it’s all about me. It’s my dream. It’s my treat. It’s my car. I don’t plan to go tearing down the highway at ninety miles an hour. I’m not going to get a boob job and start wearing minis any time soon. No, I just want to get behind the wheel and enjoy the ride. But then, that’s my philosophy of life now, borne of the years of struggle and hardship. I’ve earned the right to have a blast. That’s why my next car is going to be a bodacious ball of fun to drive. Yee-haw!

Do You Remember “The Little Red Hen”?

If you’re in my generation, you may remember the story of “The Little Red Hen”. My mother, who was a dedicated reader, often read me fairy tales as a youngster. One of my favorites was about the Little Red Hen, who went out and grew the wheat to bake her bread all by her lonesome. No one wanted to help the old girl get it done. And when it came time to harvest it and she was looking at doing all that work alone, she again asked for help, but no one took her up on it.

We’re talking about a very industrious chicken who busts her tail feathers to make bread for her little chicks. She’s willing to share with anyone who will help her. She’s not asking for a hand out. She’s asking for a hand. She’s willing to do the work. She’s self-motivated, self-disciplined, and determined to succeed. Isn’t that a good thing?

Think about the offer she makes to the other barnyard animals. She will help them if they help her. Quid pro quo. Something for something. In exchange. That’s a balanced work relationship. How can that be a negative thing? And yet, no one wants to help her. Why? Too hard. Too much effort without an immediate reward. Delayed gratification. It takes time to plant a garden, to see the seeds turn into wheat, and then to take that wheat and mill it into flour. Still more time to turn that flour into bread dough and then bake it.

What she’s really asking the other animals on the farm to do is invest in the shared future. She’s taking risks by doing all that hard work and she has faith that when that bread comes out of the oven, it will nourish not only her family, but those around her who wish to partake of the opportunity.

And yet, she finds no one to share her burden. She toils alone. She struggles through the long hours, the bad weather, the hard work. When the bread at last comes out of the oven, there’s a crowd suddenly willing to help her eat it. Mind you, they weren’t there for the bad times. No, she endured those alone. But suddenly, after the timer dings and the pan is removed from the oven, the hands come out and those mouths are open for business.

As a child, I was always saddened by the fact that no one was willing to help the poor Little Red Hen. I always saw her plight as difficult. She has wings, no fingers. It’s not like using a shovel was all that easy, let alone a rake. And mixing that dough must have been a real bitch — how do you get sticky dough out of feathers?

But what must have hurt the most was the constant rejection when she asked for help. She was willing to share the work with other like-minded animals, and there wasn’t a single taker. Everyone wanted something for nothing. No one wanted to invest in The Little Red Hen Baking Company, so she had to go it alone. She didn’t let them dissuade her from building her dream. She did it her way. She didn’t quit and join them. She toiled on. She had a vision and that vision sustained her. She lived the dream from seed to success.

I believe in giving credit where credit is due. Any chicken who can bake decent bread from scratch has my admiration and respect. And if she wants to hold onto that bread for herself and her family, I say it’s her right. She did the work, she took the risks, she made the sacrifices, and even more importantly, she offered work to other people who could have reaped the rewards along with her. She is not a figure to be reviled or rejected. She’s not selfish when she refuses to give up her bread to the animals who chose not to participate in the hard labor of making bread from scratch. Coulda, shoulda, woulda does not success make and hindsight is always 20/20.

Next time you have a chance to put your dough into an enterprise like the Little Red Hen Baking Company, consider the fact that it’s a sound investment that will produce results through hard work and dedication. You know that chick is only going to hire the best — a team of employees that are committed to making the best bread possible. (Is there anything worse than a half-baked business plan? Who kneads that?)

We need more Little Red Hens in this world, not fewer. We need viable companies to generate revenues and provide jobs for people willing to do what it takes to make it happen. They say that you should never put all your eggs in one basket, but I would for that Little Red Hen. I’m confident that when those eggs hatch in that basket, those little chicks are going to grow up to follow her lead and make a difference in this world.

It’s All About the View

For the last several weeks, I’ve had a canvas sitting on my easel. I look at it every day while I’m working on my writing. It’s a gift for a relative’s birthday, a scene reminiscent of my childhood. I couldn’t figure out why I was in no rush to finish it. I should have signed it, framed it, and presented it by now, and yet there it sits.

Then one day last week it struck me. That’s where I spent some of the happiest days of my life. It’s the channel to the marina where we used to keep our ancient Chris-Craft. We used to get orange Fantas at the soda machine, waiting for my dad to finish doing what he had to do. There were blue crabs to scoop up in the net. There were sunny days and the boys got to “fix the flag” when they had to relieve themselves.

I never did learn to water ski. There was always one joker who would wait until I was in the water by myself, holding the tow rope, and yell, “Shark! Shark! Behind you, shark!” But I did learn to fish. In fact, I even managed to not only keep up with the other anglers, but on occasion surpass them (I’m good as long as I don’t have to bait my own hook. Who wants “worm fingers”? Ick!) I can still remember my first sea robin. It looked like some kind of weird prehistoric creature.

It was a time of magical islands that only appeared at low tide, where we could scamper for a few hours, running, jumping, yelling at the top of our lungs — a bunch of banshees. (Even back then I was bodacious.)

I think I will finish the canvas this weekend. I’m glad I had a chance to remember the osprey nests, the gentle wind on my face, and even our black lab, Bob, who used to sit in the boat, happy to be onboard. I’ll varnish it, thinking of all the hours my dad spent keeping his pride and joy in tiptop shape. And when I’ve placed the last screw on the frame, I’ll say goodbye to it. It will be time to find the next lovely spot to enjoy. That’s the wonderful thing about painting. I always have a nice view.