The Weather Out Side is Frightful, But Procrastination is so Delightful…

Now that December has arrived I definitely feel justified in continuing my minimalist imitation of creativity and will issue a part 2 of my suggestions for dealing with the never ending struggles of everyday living. Happy Holidays…Bells and Lights, Carols and Big Red Bows, tis the Season to be jolly, etc. Yadda, Yadda.

Hold that urge to push that ESC  button or the OFF switch, I’m not going to diss the holiday spirit thing. But, especially this year, the spirit needs a substantial tweak – not more tweets. But since my personal treatise on how to reduce one’s counter-productive stress level, Part II, complete with relaxation tips and basic meditation exercises take up so much room on the blog and so great a demand on your time and energy, I’ll save the finer points of my home-made Life-philos-marmalade all purpose stuffing for my next blog offering. A kind of post-holiday treat to soberly introduce a 2018 version of a life sentence of “Illusion, with no possibility of Disillusion”.

Please accept my invitation to peruse the following treatise on reducing stress and accompanying anger/frustration issues while at the same time finding ways to enrich your over-all appreciation of life’s positive moments. There are many challenges in trying to re-frame our personal interpretations of what life hands us, but it can be enlightening and rewarding to understand how much we contribute to our own emotional distress at times. We are not 100% victims of circumstances.

(“Permanent Stress Reduction” is a personal, unpublished strategy devised by this writer for use in mental health settings when I was an active psychotherapist. The information herein is in keeping with behavioral therapy principles but the illustrations and conclusions are strictly those of the author. Persons experiencing severe, clinical symptoms of stress, anxiety or anger, should seek professional assessment regarding possible treatment.)

 

Happy Days all come at a price. Here’s hoping you find something in Permanent Stress Reduction, and the Meditation series withing, that adds something positive to your everyday experiences.

Peace, Joy and Love,

rdh.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

 

(II)    Learning to Cope.

          How we react to Emotional  Stimuli.     

Emotional Reactions occur when a situation or remark evokes a feeling within you and prompts you to react in a way that may not be positive. These types of reactions typically occur when the situation or remark reminds you of previous, similar, events in your life or when your belief about a subject is challenged. When you experience an emotional reaction to a situation you may not be understanding it objectively. Sometimes you might say or do things you wish you hadn’t. “Shoot first, ask questions later” is not always the best response.

Have you ever experience a situation where you really could not tell if a person was laughing or crying; frightened or excited, sad or just lost in deep thought? How many different ways could we react to them and how many responses might convey a very wrong message?

What makes emotional reactions different is often only the mental labels we put on the stressors. My interpretation of a perceived threat for example or my reading of a person’s facial expression or tone of voice might not be accurate at all. If I put the wrong label on a situation I may get a completely wrong emotional response. This labeling process is referred to as self-talk or what my perception is telling me about this situation. Self-talk is the habit of interpretation I have developed over a lifetime. It is a shortcut I use to evaluate the many thoughts, persons, and events, the phenomena, that I encounter every waking moment. Self-talk messages are often automatic judgments and, as such, often ignore the facts, and lead us to inaccurate conclusions.

This lightning fast, automatic judgment process can get us into trouble if we constantly make snap, erroneous, decisions and there are many situations in which I cannot afford to say or do the wrong thing.

Is it possible to change my responses to achieve better outcomes? 

Not only is it possible, it is essential, if the responses are producing stress and disrupting your life on a regular basis. Change can be achieved by practicing the techniques in our Permanent Stress Reduction program.

Coping Skills and  the ThinkingBody;   How the whole body thinks.

Positive coping skills result from understanding the above emotional reaction process in order to minimize negative emotional consequences. The ThinkingBody concept is about taking ownership of and mastering the way your mind/body processes information in order to control your emotional reactions. When a person thinks or feels it is a whole body event.

Eliminating the idea that there is a great separation between mind and body gives us a new way of interpreting our beliefs. Obviously, the brain is connected to our hearts, stomachs, lungs, reproductive organs, etc. Our culture constantly sings to us of body and soul as if we are two different things, somehow thrown together, different from and often regarded as, superior to all other creatures in the universe.

Once we more directly connect our physical reactions to our thinking process (and vice-versa), we will have a new tool to manage perceptions and avoid becoming victims of negative emotional reactions. Being able to manage emotional reactions allows one to experience positive feelings and make better choices when confronted with stressful situations.

At this point in the program we take time to focus on some “body issues” as they relate to creating a calm, collected, “even-tempered” personal environment, necessity for bringing about a change in our emotional responses.

Please note: we realize that not all outbursts of excessive emotion are problematic or unwelcome. Everyone is different in how the display their emotions and that makes for an exciting world to live in, to say the least.

But we all know that a person under stress can often have exaggerated responses and the more intense their emotions, the more likely their behavior will result in negative consequences. For these folks and for these situations, a cool, reasonable response will be far more productive. Escalating our with negative behaviors will only increase an already stressful situation.  None of us can afford to let our reactions get out of control. Therefore, the more we understand about the process and learn to manage it evenly, over time, the better off we will be. The oft’ heard plea. “I just lost it”, makes a lousy defense, in or out of a court of law.

These topics are explored as well in Segment 4 , “Rational Response to Anger.”  

(III)  Working with the ThinkingBody.

 Techniques of Deep/Diaphragmatic Breathing

  and Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Relaxation is of great importance in our program. We offer here a brief description of methods used to practice deep breathing and bring about total body relaxation. Humans cannot be majorly agitated and relaxed at the same time. We want to reduce our stress responses, not make them worse.

Most of us breathe using what is called shallow or chest breathing. This of course is fine as it keeps us upright and alive. But we are all familiar with the advice given when we face a tense situation, “take a deep breath” or “count to 10”. Deep breathing is a key element to relaxation and since this program is aiming at a lifestyle change, we advocate mastery of the deep breathing technique.

The process is outlined here and is sufficient for getting started in induced relaxation as a counter-measure to stress, as well as in meditation.  A separate Segment (3), Mastering Relaxation, will give greater detail.

Deep Breathing

  1. Begin by sitting upright with shoulders square and lifted up.
  2. Now slowly exhale.
  3. Begin to inhale a new breath: push the stomach out, pulling down on the diaphragm muscle and fill the lungs with air while raising the shoulders to get as much air intake as possible. Do this slowly. Be concentrate on the refreshing air coming in. Count 5 or 10 seconds of inhaling, or more if possible.
  4. At the “top”, or maximum intake of the breath, hold the fresh air in your body for a few seconds, counting the same number of seconds as you have inhaled. This allows adequate exchange of incoming, positive oxygen, with outgoing, negative carbon dioxide in the lungs.
  5. Gently force all the air out of you lungs entirely and begin taking the next breath just as before.

Note: Don’t just blow the air out on the exhale. Control the process by slowly pulling the stomach back in and push up against the diaphragm muscle, trying to push as much carbon dioxide out as possible.

Then return to the stomach-extending, shoulder-raising inhale and holding of the breath.

That’s all there is to it. It may feel a little strange at first but this technique is immensely helpful in the relaxation process. You might even feel a little light-headed at in the beginning. Practice this breathing technique often, as the goal is to make it an unconscious good habit – your normal way of breathing, that will enable more control over what is going on with your emotional response at any given time. 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

A second technique for stress reduction is progressive muscle relaxation.

  1. Start by focusing on either your head and neck area or your feet and ankles.
  2. Consciously put your awareness on a muscle group in the selected area.
  3. Mentally see the muscles and flex them, squeezing them tight, holding that tension for 4 or 5 seconds, then letting them relax completely. Enjoy the relaxed feeling.
  4. Repeat the tensing, holding and relaxing sequence over again, moving to the shoulders, chest, arms, stomach area, pelvic area, quads, ankles/feet.

Immediately reverse the order and go back through all the muscle groups. Repeat as needed until a euphoric relaxation is felt or the sense of tightness has left the body and neutralized your stressful reaction.Practice both techniques regularly so they become second nature to you.

A calm, cool and collected person will be in control of any stress situation

Incorporating Meditation into the process.

 A way to sustain calm, cool and collected, clear perceptions over a lifetime of dealing with stress is to practice frequent or daily meditation. We use meditation in this presentation as a fundamental aide to reducing stress effects in our lives.

Using the body relaxation techniques above, this would be a good time to try a change of behavior exercise using  a meditation to give us some new ideas about how we can approach stress differently. Take a few minutes to relax, study and practice this Introductory Meditation information and examples below.

Read each line slowly. During the Meditation Points, pause often to think about what is being said. Take all the time you need. These probably are not your everyday thoughts.

(1) “What is Meditation” Click the link below, enlarge to screen if needed, then arrow through the presentation at your own pace. If slides do not appear, copy the link below and paste it into you browser,

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1acdszsFnPyQlgcNWf-ZvdjtyIXN_golbKfhZ_PhHzss/embed?start=false&loop=false&delayms=3000#slide=id.g25663e988_00

 

 

 

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Revising One’s Viewpoint: or What Have I learned Lately While Walking My Crooked Path

No, I did not lose my way nor fall among robbers or evil-doers who seem to be jumping out from behind every tree or rock lately, threatening my emotional stability at every turn.

No, its more simple than overt assault. After 32 years of life and its many changes in the sunny State of Florida, we agreed that it was time to shake off the dust of old age before it turned to mold and get back to our New England roots, at least until we start to see moss creeping up between our toes.

We migrated to Florida with two daughters, ages 10 and 8, in hopes of forging a better life. One that offered snow and ice only in movie theaters or malfunctioning home appliances. That much was a success. For the rest we have few complaints, except that lately the heat of summer seems to be forcing itself ever closer to January on the front end and running through November on the back end. I welcome a good sauna as much as the next guy but enough is enough. We had options.

I’ll save the wild and wacky details of how we divested ourselves of 99.8 % of our belongings and encumbered history, sold a 7 year old condo after many an hour of uncertainty, stuffed the rest of our worldly belongings into 2 vehicles, said many sad good-byes amid pledges of keeping in touch and never forgetting, and set out, a caravan of 2, on a 1500+ mile drive to Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Our plan was direct and uncluttered. We would find a small apartment to rent for at least a year, while we acclimated to northern climate once again. We threw ourselves into pacing our lives to better match our families’ ways, many of whom had never lived anywhere but here, “up North”. But even at that, we began planing another venture in the not too distant future, perhaps to Ireland and then to the EU countries, God willing and nuclear suicide does not befall us all.

Obviously there are many tales to tell of our journey and current status and future plans but it will be six months on November 22 that we set foot here and longer than that since I’ve posted anything on my blog. I cannot explain my drought of creativity and lack of energy to publish on WordPress. But doing only comes from doing so I will simply unearth some previously posted items and pray that by doing so my willingness to share further personal thoughts will spring loose.

Back when I worked for a living in the broad field of mental health,  a great deal of my time was spent teaching people find ways to deal with those nasty things that creep into our awareness from time to time, such as moods of depression, anxiety and anger, that can be temporary nuisances or complete disruptions of our ordinary functional states of mind.

I put together what I thought would be a workable presentation of basic ideas that pertained to relieving the effects and, hopefully, some of the causal factors that produce anxious, depressed and angry reactions in daily living.The presentation outlines the progression of some emotional states within us and offers ways in which we can counteract and interrupt that progression. By doing so, we can reduce or eliminate the emotional consequences that follow our interpretations of the life events that we perceive to be disruptive or fear producing happenings.
The program includes concrete steps that anyone can take to personally control the emotional results that we feel when we become angry, depressed or overly anxious about situations that we face almost daily.
There are suggestions regarding methods of re-formulating our interpretations of life-events as well as specific relaxation techniques and meditative practices for those who never leaned to meditate.
The theory is that in order to change how we respond to stimuli that contribute to anger, anxiety or depression, we need to develop personally rewarding habits that will build new and better ways to be positive, fulfilled individuals. Meditative practice helps to build those habits and make them into automatic responses that bring us confidence in challenging situations and with that, peace of mind with lasting effects on our emotional life.
Sometimes a change in viewpoint brings a change in Understanding.
The following is the first portion of the program and is devoted to dealing with stress and anxiety. I hope you find it helpful. I will continue to add the other segments of the program over the next month or two.
It seems that the burdens of stress, anger and depression are not going to get any easier in the days ahead. Better to have some methods of release and descalating than to wait for time and circumstances to vastly improve.

The entire program is available on this blog site under the category of “Harding Family Literary Works; Richard D.;”Permanent Stress Reduction” that is found on the main menu.
Bon Voyage.
rdh


Chambered Nautilus Training Group:

Permanent Stress Reduction Program

 

Managing Emotional Reactions Rationally

Contents

 

Managing Emotional Response                                          pp. 1-2

What are Emotions                                                              pp. 3-4

Practicing of Coping Skills                                                   pp. 5-6

A Brief Meditation                                                                 pp. 6-7

End of Part 1 Re-release – 11/2017

Personal Challenge #1                                                         pp. 7-10

Personal Challenge #2                                                         pp. 11-15

Personal Challenge #3                                                         pp. 16-19

Personal Challenge #4                                                           pp. 20-25

Personal Challenge #5                                                           pp. 26-33

Conclusion                                                                               p.  34

 

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Attributed to Socrates)

     

    Permanent Stress Reduction.

The Chambered Nautilus was chosen as our logo because learning Permanent Stress Reduction requires a personal growth process symbolized by the segmented development stages of a chambered nautilus. The chambered nautilus grows through a distinctive process of letting go of previous stages of growth in order to build a new way of interacting with the world. In doing so it becomes increasingly more buoyant and able to move to  more beneficial environments on ocean waves. Sailors called it a “ship of pearl”. 

We begin the presentation by addressing techniques that can be used to deal with  different types of stress. We will explain why dealing with stress is so important, explain how to cope with threatening circumstances which are unavoidable, and teach you how to control your own reactions to stress in your daily life.

We then show you distinct steps you can take toward managing your personal emotional responses. These steps are available in individual Segments of this personal growth program and can be experienced in any order to achieve one’s goals.

MEDITATION is a key component of successful permanent stress reduction and is an essential element that allows you to maintain the results of all segments* over time. Our stress reduction method is designed to provide you with materials explaining how the system works as well as presenting personal challenges to help you achieve a satisfactory level of permanent stress reduction.

* Any of the 5 Segments may be undertaken individually or with a group. Several people generally reinforce one another in any positive learning environment. Either way, each section should be read slowly, with deliberation and by all means, accompanied by a notebook or some device to record important ideas. Remember, you are essentially building a new way to understand yourself.

1.     Learning Managed Emotional Rational Response:

          Avoiding unwanted Emotional Consequences.

Key strategies of managing emotional response consist of Five Basic Steps and Personal Challenges which lead to emotional control and lessening of stress.These basic steps teach us how to restructure habitual thinking and behaviors. In turn, each step consists of:

1). Educating ourselves about the emotional response process in our body and tips on increasing awareness of thinking habits, body mechanics and maximizing experiences of our 5 senses.

 2). A section called Life-Work for each Personal Challenge, enabling you to in-corp-orate the principles discovered in these sections into your daily routines. Life-Work also includes specific meditations in each unit to support the learner’s efforts at expanding their personal and sensual awareness.

  Before beginning the 5 Personal Challenges process, consider who we are as emotional beings and try to develop an awareness of what might be to some folks a new or even different understanding of how we react to daily life experiences.. 

We will learn a thorough method of experiencing managed emotional responses to a wide variety of challenging situations. We will also suggest a number of changes you can make in life style choices to grow in personal wholeness. These changes may appear to be distant to your problems at first but they are essential changes you can make if this program is to bring about a different way of “being yourself”. 

Reading and listening are not difficult; doing and changing are very difficult and success depends entirely on your willingness to examine your beliefs and challenge your habitual thinking.      

Reducing Stress Permanently by Managing Emotional Responses Rationally.

Key Elements of the Emotional Response Process.

I.  Understanding emotional reactions;how we minimize  negative consequences by using positive coping skills

II.  The “ThinkingBody” as a way of processing information;

III.  Performing Deep breathing and Progressive Muscle Relaxation to immediately counter-act stress and anger;

IV. Using meditation to open your thoughts to new possibilities of awareness and response.

 (I)  What are Emotional Reactions?

Emotions are a result of distinct mind/body process. The process is a combination of:

a) Phenomena; that means people, places, things, and ideas that are images presented to my brain and which then become my conscious thoughts. We will refer to these thought complexes presented to us simply as phenomena and we have little or no control over their comings and goings through our mental landscape. If we pick one out or attend to it, we immediately, unconsciously, assign a value to it, good, bad, ugly, pretty, moral, immoral, etc. That value is often shaped by our habitual beliefs.

Thus we begin to accept or reject thought phenomena without detailed reflection or investigation. We are prejudiced by what we already believe to be true or false, good or bad.

Our lack of control over what Phenomena enter our consciousness can only be compensated for by our becoming experts in identifying any harmful habits of Belief, then examining and correcting them, making an effort to live in what becomes our rationally sound, balanced  “Perceived Reality.”

 (b)   Beliefs;

Beliefs are your opinions or convictions about what these phenomena represent, for example; pleasure, pain, threat, retreat, desire etc. There can be a huge difference between what a thing represents, all by itself, (if that is even possible,) and how your Belief is interpreting it to create your conscious perceptions. It is a fact that a number of people witnessing an event (a crime, an accident, for example,) will not see the same event in exactly the same way, often contradicting one another. So much for the value of eyewitness testimony!

It is critical to master the art of questioning your beliefs to avoid jumping to conclusions that may be far from the actual truth.

Beliefs are generally taken for granted and go unchallenged. Once w accept them and they remain with us for a long time, we assume they have value. The problem is that they don’t always carry a lot of truth or accuracy and if we tend to be impulsive in our judgment and reactions,they can get us into uncomfortable situations. They are the usually the source of our strongest prejudices.

Perception. Because of their powerful value in our thought process, these Beliefs actually shape our real life situations, giving us our “Perceived Reality”. Your personal perceptions are the consequences of your beliefs and your interpretations of phenomena. These perceptions, questioned or not, instantly become the basis of your emotional reaction and form what you perceive to be reality. Obviously, not everyone agrees with what you consider to “real”.

Your Perceived Reality determines your habitual behavior within the world of experiences, whether negative or positive, that make-up your daily life and how you react and live emotionally within that perceived, personal reality.

Being able to recognize and grasp this process of P,(phenomena), B,(beliefs)and PR (perceived reality), is the key to dealing with those less than helpful emotional reactions in our lives.

(II)    Learning to Cope …. This next portion of the program will be posted soon. There are many ideas to be mulled over before moving on too soon. Feel free to correspond with me with any questions you may have. If time moves faster than I, I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving feast day.

Peace,

rdh

 

 

A “real” Post about “fake”events that I’m saying “actually” happened and that makes it true because I’m using “air quotes” that can no longer be seen. Anywhere. By Anyone. Trust me.

I, once again, have been off my pace, and now I know why.

I think.

I mean that guy and his fake story about Alice and her whacked-out adventures was lucky he lived when he did. People knew when he was saying one thing and actually meaning another and he did not need dozens of people to appear in town squares, coming to tell folks what the words were really all about.  True Life in those times was so recognizable that people, when confronted with strange times and stranger leaders, had a more immediate grasp of reality. They knew the Emperor was butt-naked and had a good laugh at his Royal Ignorance (even though some commented that he looked more “regal” than ever in his birthday suit, favoring him with the euphemistic nick-name, Lance Alot, except when he had passed by and they were “treated” to an out-sized posterior that took far too long a time to fade into the gaping crowd.)

So far, I’ve succumbed to the accepted practice of using ” ” marks to let you know that the chosen word or phrase might be open to challenge regarding its accuracy or appropriateness, et cetera. But I must tell you that I’m still recuperating from my latest slip-and-fall episode and consequently it is extremely difficult for me to constantly halt my train of thought and hunt for the right keys to execute an explanatory  ” ”  that any intelligent fellow-citizen of mine should be able to fill-in with a sufficient and accurate meaning for themselves. And don’t try that old fake news thing on me either. I know when I’m writing the truth. Trust me. People love me.

Yes, I said slip-and-fall episode, as there was, at the time, sufficient evidence around me to indicate negligence by person or persons unknown that occasioned my mishap. In true patriotic, responsible action, I immediately reached for my phone, not to dial 911 but to take a series of selfies and actual video of the entire, clearly preventable mishap scene. Unfortunately, my phone, along with all the  genuinely litigious photographic proof that could easily have subsidized my meager retirement benefits, disappeared forever.  I fought the loss of consciousness and rubbed away the fogginess of what was surly an incipient stage of “comatose-ness”; {I know, I know, I just liked the imagery and used Quotes}, and symptoms of skull fracture and blinked hard into the burning sun to read the gigantic, gold-plated sign with red neon letters, that stood a hundred and ninety-two feet in the air, proclaiming to all beings for miles around – WELCOME TO ABSURDIA 

Whaaaatt? To myself. I had heard of this place. Have a good friend, Jake, (you may recall a post of mine some time ago about Jake, see:(https://rharding0728.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/jake-jones-designer-drones-and-no-fly-zones/) who had moved here a long time ago seeking the Absurdian Dream but have not heard from him lately and definitely had no desire to visit him.

As I remember, it was not a very nice place. Not far from Bezerkistan as I recall.  The capital city is Ambigua, and the entire population is dependent on the old, corpulent, filthy rich white guys who control the economy and keep a solid lid on who gets paid how much, and who is given housing, and who is allowed to move around in and out of Absurdia. The other 99.9999% of Absurdians are, as they are wont to say, S.O.L. but, they shrug expectantly, ‘We at least have our Absurdian Dream‘.

They used to have a two-party ruling body of Shpin-Barphers … their word meaning — politicians, often shortened in slang to ‘barphies.  Absurdians are free to attempt a run for public office and be elected Shpin-Barphers if:

(1) they have a net worth of 250 million absurdianniaritos ( i.e. approximately 3.5 billion US 2017 dollars); money here is revered as being in direct  proportion to intelligence, honesty, impeccable altruistic behavior, and a singular, outstanding knack for closing a slick deal that benefits Absurdia-First. Period.  Currently, ‘barphies are separated into “A” barphies and “B” barphies, two distinct factions who always agree on every piece of legislation but only after months of paid political advertising and artful deal negotiating and fund-raising rallies. They don’t need much international diplomatic experiennce, since any Deal Adversaries who stubbornly try to get the better of an Absurd Proposition, are routinely cut off from all meaningful commerce and often just have the shit bombed out of them, thus saving both time and valuable Absurdian armed forces, who, currently outnumber the total population of India and The Vatican City State combined, probably because the Nuns, important Clerics, and the Pope  are not counted in the Vatican census;

and: (2) they must have mastered the difficult art (if they were not congenitally so gifted), of being able to speak out of both sides of their mouths at the same time while imparting contradictory information, in multiple languages if so gifted, a practice that often leads to extremely and chronically over-puffed cheeks (facial, that is), that gives the entire professional Shpin-Barpher class a look that has been called by some who would glorify the appearance as, “The Honorable Dizzy Gillespie Facade”, even though not one in a thousand can even play a trumpet, but still the have the added benefit of being able to mesmerize citizens who are so busy waiting for any one Barfiso to faint from lack of oxygen or emit any kind of pleasant sound of escaping air at all, ultimately have no idea what the topic of discussion was and simply agree to their messages out of boredom and frustration that what has been proposed is at least good for Absurdia First, thus making it good for all devout Absurdians  in a sort of trickle-down saliva-sprayed inspiring kind of way.

Honestly, they love the whole tribal experience, especially since they learned to nod agreement in unison and bring their own towels to political meetings.

My recently impaired brain, now throbbing with bad Jake memories and probably experiencing grey-matter hematoma which promised a long, expensive medical treatment should I somehow find my way home, discouraged as I was by my lack of adequate insurance and unjustly deprived of clinical selfie proof by Absurdian fate, began to focus on dozens of what must have been local residents who had materialized around me. Since they all dressed alike, unified in style, substance, and color with no inkling of creativity or individual tastes to be spotted anywhere, I assumed they must be Absurds.

I thought the best approach to be the casual, full throttle Yankee style of greeting, all smiles and no BS grin to spook them… “Hey, dudes, thanks for showing up to give me a hand. I love your country and your total Absurdness. We’ve got nothing like this back home.”

I was totally put-off. Talk about a tough crowd, no one even blinked. A wary voice shot out from somewhere in the solid mass of the ranks before me – “Who the hell are you and why are you here? Followed by a surly murmuring among them, rumbling all together: Silly freakin’ twit, must be lost; Looks like Jimmy Carter grinnin’ at a peanut crop; Lets just bust his tookus for a while and see if he goes away, etc, etc, etc.

Suddenly, I was stunned as a familiar voice rang out; “Yo, rd, that you??”

Good grief.  Now I knew where I was. “Hi, Jake, that you?”

“Yeah, dude. How did you get here”.

“No idea, Jake. Last I knew we were having a presidential election and I was going into a voting booth, sporting a Dems Forever button. I think I slipped and fell and lost consciousness. What am I doing in Absurdia?”

“Wow, man, that was about five months ago. But don’t worry. You will fit right in here if you want to stay”.

“Not in my plans, Jake. I really want to go back to my normal home in the US Democratic Republic of North America, where any boy or girl, regardless of personal wealth or mafia level connections, can be President. Besides, I think I have a dandy lawsuit to slap on the County.”

“…Well, dude, things have changed back there for sure. Your back-home Dems are out in left field and the home-boy Republicans are really in charge, as long as they keep their noses where the money chute is and keep the voting mushrooms in the dark.”

“Nothing new there, Jake. Your guys do the same thing don’t they?”

“Kind of, rd, but life here is a lot less stressful. Our mushrooms know they survive in up-to-their-ears do-do, so they don’t rock any boats, keep their heads in the clouds and hope the Absurdian Dream of trickle-down prosperity eventually comes true.”

“Good luck with that Jake, but I’ll take my chances back home, where the deer and the antelope play. After all, we are the land of the free and the home of the brave, remember? We’re not done yet with bringing freedom and justice for all those folks we have liberated regardless of race or religion. With Market Share like that, I don’t think our dreams can fail.”

“OK, rd. I don’t want to disillusion your American Dream, but remember, I’m here if you ever need me or want to come live in Absurdia, I will gladly sponsor you for citizenship. Actually, I think you might be closer to living our dream than you realize.”

“Just then my head felt like it was spinning, slowly at first, then with increasing speed, to the point where I could feel my whole body dissolving as it were. like the wicked witch in Oz, and woke up in a cold sweat in my neighborhood ER.

“Well…welcome back to the real world friend”, said the guy in green scrubs. “Glad to see your eyes open. How are you feeling?”

“A little dizzy but otherwise, fine. Is this Absurdia?”

 “Hmmm…. Can’t rightly say sir. You apparently stumbled and hit your head going into your local poling place. They brought you in with a mild concussion. Don’t quite know where Absurdia is, but this right here will have to do for now.”

   “Hmmmm,” to myself…

   “We’ll have your discharge papers and your bill ready as soon as possible.”

St. Paddy’s Day. Tis All Fake News, Don’cha know.

Like the clock work of local Catholic parish churches everywhere, another St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone – with alarming rise of sales of alka-seltzer and innumerable call-in-sick days everywhere. What gives??

Forget Wikipedia, forget Fox-y and not-so-Briet-bart fake news sources. I’m here to tell you the real scoop.

First off, so as not to anger any sons and daughters of holy mother church and that fine Irishman, Francis, (who to his eternal shame has admitted to liking tequila and the Tango, currently sitting on St.Peters throne in Rome), our Patrick – (please refrain from using the familiar term “Paddy”, unless you can prove direct family decent from that fellow) was in fact an historical figure although he emigrated (get it?)from the European continent to Ireland to convert the lusty Celts to Christianity. Some sources claim that he was a Frenchman but that makes no sense to me, given the Frankish propensity for celebrating their own lusty orientations without regard for race, creed or color. Language barriers never existed for these folk as they historically relied heavily on the old universal technique of body language for scientific as well as more intimate communications, well-recognized and received the world over.

Lucky enough for old Patrick, tradition has it that he likely prepared for his mission in a monastery, where he learned a form of international sign language so he could communicate with any pagan folk, lusty or not, and never wore anything but a head to toe, one piece robe of raw wool which not only made him a poor student in Harp classes but also led to confusion while using his own inadequate, celibate body language which, unfortunately, due to his constant scratching often led to very mixed messages among his viewers.

None the less, he is a factual saint. As he had been such a huge success as a salesman for God and the Church, the Church awarded him his own “saints day” which is celebrated in Irish Catholic churches the world over, especially in New York, Boston, Chicago, and, although with considerably less fanfare, in Saudi Arabia, where green beer and green rivers are simply not tolerated.

Which brings me to a very important, if not culturally sensitive topic. We all are victims of stereotyping in one form or another and the loyal spiritual offspring of Patrick have been victimized more than their share. The celebration of his achievements is universally greeted with excesses of brewed and distilled liquids. Not that that’s a bad thing in itself, mind you, – where would the world be without Messrs. Guinness and Jameson and the likes, – but it borders on sacrilege that so many well-meaning folk, in their desire to honor the great man have mixed up the idea of being imbued with the fine “Irish Spirit” with the practice of being over-imbibed with fine Irish spirits and dash about festooned with cheap green derbies, god-awful green neckties, sweaters, socks. galluses, even shoes, and God forgive them, green-shamrock-ed underwear. Catholic bishops everywhere deplore such wanton, pagan abandonment and urge the true son’s and daughters of Patrick to counter such nonsense by wearing full-length, Kelly green, raw wool robes for eight days before and after March 17th, to support the cause of abstinence and penitential scratching. While this practice was initially greeted with, dare I say a lusty response among Irish celibates everywhere, many Irish lay folk, and the much larger group of “Once a Year Happy Irish Wannabees” and assorted Publicans – Catholic, Protestant, Muslim(only 6 identified themselves) Jews and Bahai’s – all around the world, began toasting Patrick with what was soon to be translated into 214 languages, the wish, “May the road rise up to meet you and lead you unerringly to your nearest pub. One good wooly scratch deserves to another”.

As a newly re-constituted Irish citizen (thanks to granddad Denis and great-granddad Philip, and great-great —-well you get it – I hereby resolve and pledge to celebrate the true spirit of Patrick by toasting a tall glass of Kerry milk along with Galway bangers and mashed, and a slice of Sligo mutton, next March 17th, in the very heart of the auld sod, somewhere in county Cork. And should I find myself in a warm, smiling, singing and dancing sort of Irish pub, I will introduce them to my latest cocktail concoction,               The Wooly Scratch.

And that my friends is the honest truth.  Some things can never be lied about.

Slan….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every Path Leads Somewhere But Some Paths Have No End

I have definitely been off my stride for a while now. Being retired does not mean having time to do all those things you said you would accomplish once you no longer had to report to the shop, or desk, or wherever that fiscal harness awaited. I have discovered that concept is a myth. On the other hand, don’t ask me to give a rational accounting of my actual time expenditures. You would not be convinced that I wasn’t goofing off and I would be embarrassed to own up to Richard’s Version of Reality.

Admittedly, I have been put off for the better part of 14 months by having to mentally deal with the incredible, apparent disintegration of the expression of what I had taken to be civility and relative forthrightness of our political process evidenced in our presidential campaign/election. I’ll not go into detail here, as the constant disruption of any semblance of due process and personal integrity by our elected and appointed officials is detail enough and can do without my feeble two-cents worth. (I will add some observations and commentary at the end of this post.)

Once the inauguration was over and this voyage of the USS Absurdia was launched, I was caught flat-footed as it were and spent hours trying to figure out what happened and why and more importantly, how was I going to order my own life going forward. I think I have worked out a plan of sorts.

Meanwhile…

Much time of 2016 was spent tracing family history, verifying family documents of birth, marriage and death so I could file for what is called Foreign Birth Registration in the Republic of Ireland. (Thanks to my grandfather having been born in Cork city and his son Raymond, my father having successfully generated 4 offspring, among whom I am the youngest, our generation was still eligible under Irish law, to apply for citizenship, no strings attached.) This was no easy feat, considering that, in true Irish-American Catholic tradition, we had very limited factual information who our forebears were, or where they married or died. There were many things adults didn’t share with children in those days. But that’s a whole other tale.

All documents were sent to Dublin for review and approval on June 6, 2016. With nothing important left to do; (mind you, “important” is used in the retiree’s privileged, relative vocabulary and not to be dismissed as “without essence and impact on one’s life and daily duties) we set off for another u-drive-it, 1300+ mile trip to Massachusetts and New Hampshire to visit family. We dillied and dallied and ate foods we hardly ever ate in Florida. Nothing extravagant or extraordinary – just not our usual fare as we like to eat as Romans eat and not upset their sense of healthy consumables. Diets can always come later.

Time dribbled on and eventually we landed back in Florida, picked up our accumulated bundle of mail but alas, Dublin had not been heard from. “Rats!” said I, the system was grinding slowly and surly the fine lads in Dublin’s Foreign Office were doing all they could to honor my request. Privately I was plagued with questions – What did I leave out? Were the documents all authentic, long form, stamped and sealed,??? etc.

Finally, early October, I got a very large envelope in the mail with my citizenship document and all the originals I had sent in nearly four months before. Honestly, I was slightly amazed as I thought that the FBR (Foreign Birth Registration) office might be overloaded, thanks in not small part to Yanks like myself who were answering the Government’s invitation to all who might qualify to submit requests, and the recent Brexit phenom in England.

Too bad, you other folks. I’m in, if not on my way!

Along with the official citizenship document was a very welcome application for a passport, which was already my next question and quest. Off again, along with a few more Euros, went an application to Dublin with the expected turn around time of about 6 weeks.

I should point out that once we were home from New England and the citizenship docs were in hand, we had more pressing and really important business to tend to. Vacation!! Pity the restless retirees. Back in the boring home surroundings we figured out we could still visit Denise’s niece in Texas and get our hands on the cute-as-buttons ten-month old twin boys before they lost their incredible cuteness and antics. Then if we could manage the itinerary carefully, we could still make use of nearly 2 weeks of time-share stuff we had mostly paid for already, so we went up to Myrtle Beach, So Car, and Destin Beach, in the Florida panhandle. We were able to get home with 2 days to spare before we had to fly – yes, had to – to Minneapolis to see 6 1/2 y/o granddaughter Hannah, with her first year’s introduction to ballet solidly behind her, perform in The Nutcracker, appearing once as a snowflake and once as an Angel. That alone was worth the trip but we were treated to one of the coldest days of the year, a brisk -24 degrees and 8-9 inches of snow. Oh, Destin, where are you now???

Then for the first time in almost 20 years we had Christmas day together with daughters Amy and Laura as well as grand kids Hannah and Ethan. Wonderful trip. Our presence at that particular time happened to coincide with Amy’s leaving MN for 5 days in the where?? the Florida Keys ?? go figure. Her partner, Wade, had vacation time and hotel lodgings already paid for on Key Largo and we were there, in St.Paul, to look after their 2 terrific dogs. Grand kids and grand puppies, all in one visit.The stars were certainly aligned. Except Daughter was in the Keys, Puppies were well cared for, fed and played with, but Mom and Dad we still in freezer shock and hoping it would not snow.

Back home in Fl 3 days after Christmas with a cold and sinus infection that would last 10-12 days. Bad enough to be ill but was also trying to brace myself for the installation of President #45 in a few days. Yet…I was truly elated. Jan 19, the day before the inauguration, my beautiful Irish passport arrived by FedEx. That made my day, my week, my month. I never dreamed I would have dual citizenship anywhere, with passport to travel, and the possible cure to any future malignant case of Trumpitis I might develop. The rest of this story waits to be played out. I’ll let you know.

Now, the other story. A couple of years ago, when I decided I needed something to bring a lot of family literature together, mostly written by my father and my oldest brother Ray, both of whom have departed us years ago but left an amazing amount of poetry and short stories and half a dozen novels behind, which, like the family information I had to dig up, were scattered among several family members, in boxes and closets from NE to MN. Besides taking up the challenge of constructing a blog of my own, I now saw a vehicle to bring all those writings out into the open. My father’s vast collection of hand written poems dated all the way back to 1962/63. Thankfully, my mother had typed them all on a small portable typewriter. Most of what  brother Ray had written was typed but in dire need of review and editing. My wife Denise did a great job of typing several thousand of his pages into digital format, along with Dad’s poems. Ray (Jr.) died in 1997.

They needed to be given a voice.

So my plan for the blog was a modest one and my contribution was to be low-key, daily or weekly happenings that caught my interest and whose virtue or significance was to be left to any readers who stumbled up my”Path”. I was not interested in earth-shaking prose or political or religious debate. I wanted to find a mode of interacting with the times that meshed with my belief that being honestly human did not demand super human strength but only an attentiveness to the world around us, human and non human, all matter, all the universe and our desire to honor life wherever we find it.

As I pointed out in my opening remarks today, I have been put-off by the current political events and have spent many hours trying to get a better grip on where to stand today. I have concluded that it is more important to find a functional, personally satisfying response for my future, than to contribute, endlessly to the cries and lies that make up too much of our awareness today. The unleashed forces will work their purposes and the best I can hope for in my remaining years is to live a life of active love and compassion for every person I have contact with. A kind of embrace of life itself that will perhaps bring a sense of “being OK” in a world going berserk.

I am posting a recent article from the blog of my good family friend and incredibly perceptive author, Tony Equale and hope you make time to read more of what he has to say throughout his postings.

For my original blog posting (re-posted last summer) please click the link below.   (https://rharding0728.wordpress.com/2016/07/07/about-off-the-beaten-path/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true)

For Tony Equale’s blog post and comments see:

https://tonyequale.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/an-imperial-people/#comment-4597

Unwittingly, I have been mirroring his conclusions and expectation for the future:

     “If we are to have a future as a species it will have to be characterized by international cooperation, negotiation, and collaboration derived from mutual respect and a sincere esteem for all people as people.  We are never going to stop 63 million people from doing what they think is the best thing for them.  Our only hope going forward … and in the long term … is to help them to understand what the best thing for them really is.  They must begin to think of their well being in terms of humankind itself.  That is the enduring task, there is no alternative.”    Tony Equale, An Imperial People.

How a Rucky Encounter With the U of F Women’s Rugby Team Rescued My Fading “Irish Celebration”

It certainly was a time for celebrating – Friday, 11/18/16 and I received notice in today’s mail that my application for Foreign Birth Registration has been approved and I am now an Irish Citizen. (As of 11/3/16, to be exact).

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Big deal, you say?

Why, yes.Yes it is!

Several years ago I set out to document my personal twig on the Harding family tree. Much of the “planting” and pruning had already been done by my daughter, Laura, but the  finer details of my immediate ancestors have always been a challenge in our limb of the tree. I set out to fill in as many details as I could, not having the foggiest notion of where to begin. I did not realize until a good while later that the Irish government was still offering citizenship to children and grand-children of Irish immigrants, with proper documentation. I’ll spare you all the details of a process that took months and a year or two to assemble that information. The notice of successful culmination was indeed cause for some kind of celebration. As to what kind, I had no idea and was not much engaged in thinking about it.

The Proposition.

That evening, out of nowhere, my wife announced, “I have a proposition for you”.

My ears perked right up.

“A proposition?”

“Or a suggestion”, she continued cautiously, seeming to sense I might be expecting something other that what she intended. ” An idea, proposal, what ever you want to call it. Something to celebrate you new citizenship”

“Such as,???”… says I…

“Tomorrow’s Saturday, we have nothing special to do, how would you like to have lunch at an Irish pub?”

“O.K., but I’m not up to speed on Irish pubs around here.” (No, really, I’m not), and my wife’s expertise in on-line scouting often leaves much to be desired.

“That’s OK. I found one, sounds good, only 6 or 8 miles from here.” She told me the name but it did not register with me. Rather than stare into a gift horse’s mouth before closing the deal, I said fine. Let’s do it. Probably have TV’s all over the place and we can keep an eye on the college football games.

The fantasy.

Against my own familiar cautions of not expecting so much that disappointment ensues, I imagined walking into a welcoming place of happy Irish folk and wanna-be’s, and me casually sitting myself at the bar, engaging the publican himself in friendly chit-chat and tossing out the reason for my being there today. I would proudly wear my souvenir Cork City rugby shirt, even though it’s a bit warm for Florida, but heck, I need to wear it more than just St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe he would be from the same Cork City or county as my grand-father. What a coincidence. Perhaps warrant an extra, free pint or a little heavier pour of the good stuff, don’t ya know. Let the good times roll; Guinness and some lively craic; [pronounced crack,(“Craic is a Gaelic word, with no exact English translation. The closest you get is “fun.” There’s the expression “ceoil agus craic,” meaning “music and fun,” .www.ireland-fun-facts.com/craic.html”]  with a round or two of “Danny Boy”, or “The Wild Colonial Boy”. I had to mentally stop short of picturing them carrying me out to the car, sober of course, singing “It’s a long way to Tipperary.”

“So,”, wife burst my bubble, “what time to you want to leave?”

Fearing a verbal land-mine and relying on years of navigating “time and best routes to take” questions, I suggested, “whatever you think is best – I don’t know exactly where this pub is so we should time it for a little before one o’clock and avoid the early rush lunch crowd and the later after-noon football gawkers.”

“Exactly what I was thinking,” she said. “Sounds good”. (picture here a kind of mental high-five for me.)

The Step Into Reality

I’ve been to enough eating/drinking places to have developed a sense of what lies ahead, and it is usually accurate. Said Pub was easier to find than anticipated and proved to be less than encouraging than my phantasmal pub-encounter. Hmmm, said I to me…quite a large place, even has out-door setting, able to handle large crowds. With only 3 cars in the parking lot, I secretly hoped scores upon scores of lads and lassies were on their way to celebrate with us.

Upon opening the door, still imagining a cavern of fun and rollicking songs, a woman’s voice called out from fifty feet away – “Sit wherever you like. I’ll be right with you.” The shout did not disturb the other 3 folks in the room, one at each length of the u-shaped bar; one glued to a TV, a young woman glued to her I-phone, and a tatted up young fellow who seemed to be glued to the edge of boredom and oblivion. Not a fiddle or a tin whistle to be heard anywhere.

We explored the tantalizing possibilities; to left of the bar was a small seating area and beyond that the huge out-door, not-yet-serving patio section. Neither was enticing and I had fleeting visions of having to leap over from my meal and catch the tattooed-one from falling off his stool.

To the right was a very large room with dozens of long tables, room for a hundred or more but not a customer in sight.

We gazed around in a 360 degree option scan. Let’s sit here. OK.                                              Bar tender/now  waitress appeared. Can we get the Gator’s or Nole’s game on this TV? Hmmm, she said – nope, not on this side. On the other side of the wall you can. OK says we, its a start.

Now we are right back to where we came in, just inside the doorway with nothing between us and the TV game except the entry way, but by now I’m figuring that that will not be an obstruction. If there are no warm welcoming crowds of Irish persons here to greet us, at least we can enjoy a good football game – maybe even the Irish of Notre Dame!

The Soup Gets Stirred

We gave the bartender/waitress our orders and since it was my day to celebrate I asked for a shot of Jameson’s with a little ice. I commented later to my wife that I think I was served a fifth of Jameson’s, as in one fifth whiskey and four fifths water, in a one ounce glass.

Now its about half past one o’clock and another, like us, elderly couple arrived and stood there, gazing from side to side. Knowing the situation and being of good cheer, we both offered that there was only one person on duty, who was waitress and bartender and she must be absent on very important hospitality missions. Please sit anywhere, she’ll be right with you, we said cheerily, feeling like publicans ourselves. They looked a little stunned but walked into the room with the not-so tune-able TV and waited…appearing to be skeptical of the soundness of our advice.

We now have our food and drink and are enjoying portions of the game. Time for celebrating is waning and its getting closer to two o’clock. My huge party crowd seems to have peaked at 7, or eight if you throw in the Serving Staff. As my gaze wandered ever so casually toward the front door, I could see bunches of people milling around, waiting to come in. My little Irish heart shouted, come in, join my fun, …..please.

Sure enough four or five young women in t-shirts and shorts  came in and did the “where the heck is everybody” stare. Denise and I are by now very familiar with the format and instructed them, “Sit anywhere, there’s only a waitress/bartender and she will be right with you” thing. “Try that big room right there… TV’s lousy but there are plenty  of tables. No, we’re not the owners but go ahead anyway. Enjoy!!

Now the crowd at the door is moving inside and I can see beyond the open door more and more groups of 6 or 7, athletic looking and fittingly dressed, young women are pressing into the pub. I can no longer count the number of celebration attendees. I should have sold tickets. What a day!

By now our waitress is bounding around, grabbing menu’s trying to keep up with all the people whom we have recommended be seated in the other room as well as a growing crowd, standing right near our table discussing what is to be done next. It seems the besought waitress has warned them that Saturday’s kitchen staff only comes in at 3 pm and all she can guarantee for the next 50 minutes will be sandwiches.

Correcting The Seasoning

By this time, beside immensely enjoying myself that so many people have come to join my celebration, and nursing my celebratory Guinness since the busy one arm paper hanger posing as Pub staff may never be able to fill a second one, an unknown gentleman has struck up a conversation with me and explained that these are women from the University of Florida Rugby team and he either has something to do with the team or his daughter was in the crowd of thirty or forty who seemed to be reaching critical mass of hunger about now and making plans to go somewhere else before returning here by three pm. I never did figure out who he was. Continue reading How a Rucky Encounter With the U of F Women’s Rugby Team Rescued My Fading “Irish Celebration”

Same Path. Different Perspectives

Same path, different perspectives.

 

In keeping with an earnest desire to find meaning in an otherwise lackluster universe, I  set out this week to walk my local path, (as I reported on last week), only tweaking it slightly by starting out in a different direction, adding about 10 minutes to my over-all journey.

I should point out that I live in a condominium complex (what else?) in Florida, one that is not high-rise and does not number thousands of “Units”(the places within a Complex where humans actually dwell). The entire Subdivision is separated into two distinct areas, I presume for marketing purposes, so one section could be sold while the second was under construction. The buildings are essentially the same size and style in each area, with no unit above two stories in either.

I’ll call the first area section A. While the buildings are essentially the same in both areas, those in section A, along with two story “duplex” and “?four-plexes”(my word), also includes single story “Villas”(a Florida favorite) not available in section B, and section A has a more spacious allotment of grass-to-concrete ratios plus a very limited boat launch and floating dock access to a 5 acre lake that section B shares but only indirectly. i.e after a walk of at least six minutes.

I live in section B but prefer to spend more of my walking time in section A, sort of where “the other half” live. Not that that amounts to anything. While A people may brag about landscaping and genuine Lake Front property,(see last week’s post re: FL lake front property; Paths and Turns Without Compass Envy, we B people gloat that we excel in humanoid density and vehicular parking space that assures that no matter how many residents, party animals, week-end visitors, etc. may be “on-site” at any given time, no one will have to walk more than 2.77 minutes to their abode. And should you be wondering about personal safety/security, each Section has an iron gate with individual unit code clicker for one’s auto that deters unwelcome stragglers with their potentially evil intentions from simply walking in and disturbing us. I must admit, however, that teen-age children easily by-pass such security with relative ease using the walk around or up and over method on foot, and vehicles that have no electronic access can still tail-gate an owner if they time it correctly and drive on in, and have, on more than one occasion, by-passed the tail-gating maneuver by carefully aligning the front end of their vehicle with the gate and steadily pushing on the gate. (Just flat-out ramming it also works, if the driver so chooses).

Now you have more information than you probably need, but I’m a firm believer in placing information in its proper context.                                                                                                      “Info, sans context, is confusing and useless”, rdh, 3/30/1976.

As I was saying, my ten minutes walk introduction was almost over when I came across a neighbor, Mister X (for our purposes here). [adding background for context, get it?]…We have lived here for four yrs, eight mos., more or less, and Mr. X lives in the next building over. We see each other occasionally, driving by, putting out trash containers, rare neighborhood get-togethers, etc.  My first thought was – “Oh no, he’s going to go on endlessly, usually complaining about living conditions in our complex Complex life here.” But then, in a kind of Zen, Be here, Be now moment, I decided to engage in a word exchange.

“Hi, ******”, I said. I remembered his name and the fact that his little dog that he was walking was quite tame and mild-mannered. Mr. X, not recognizing me, assured me that the dog doesn’t bite – but I already knew that.

Mr. X wondered did I live here. “Yep, right here behind us, second floor.” Not adding that his building was about 30 feet to the left of ours. “Been here almost five years.”

“Oh”, said he. “I’ve been here seven or eight. Hate it here. Don’t like being told what I can or cannot do on my own property. People always moving in or out. Four or five in the last few months. They all say ‘We’ll stay in touch’, and they never do. I own two other places, one a few miles east of here and another in the next town north of here. The only reason I stay here is my wife wants to be closer to the grand-kids.”

I should point out that both the areas that he mentioned are probably no more than five or ten miles from where we were standing, causing me to wonder just how close the Mrs. needed to be to the grand-kids. I know her to be both ambulatory and capable of driving her own car. But then, its only a fact, not a subject for my personal evaluation,(I’m trying to stay only in the here and now.)

I was not tempted to ask too many questions about Mr. X’s past or present and figured we both had our fill of self-disclosure for today. I remarked that I should be off, as I needed to complete my 30 minute walk somewhat on schedule.

“So add five minutes of conversation time to your schedule and you’ll be fine”, he helpfully observed.

“Exactly,” I said. I extended my hand and said, “Good seeing you, ******.” He shook my hand and said, “you even know my name” I refrained from a rude “Duhh” (no Zen in that) but I had seen him enough to wave to and  call out Hi ****, how are you. In reply I simply said I had a knack for faces and names, and would see him around.

During this departure exercise, ****** was busy winding little dog’s leash of some 20 0r 30 feet by my estimate, around his palm and elbow, such as one would coil up a length of garden hose or bow line of a boat. This is very interesting, as our HOA by-laws stipulate that ALL dogs must be on no more than an 8 ft leash and owners are to pick up all solid residue that their pets leave on common grounds. Most owners are compliant and in five years I’ve seen wandering dogs maybe once or twice and rarely have to avoid doggie doo-doo residue. But in keeping with ******’s dislike for unreasonable regulations, his 8 foot leash now consists of 2 or 3 eight ft lengths clipped together and always connected to the dog but usually not to the owner. My wife has cogently observed that he walks his dog on a leash – one that is trailed along behind the dog and the owner is somewhat compliant – and who could argue? The dog is on a leash.

“Later”, I said, and wandered off, mulling over the challenges of neighbor-acceptance and the  wisdom of “live and let live”.

I continued my usual path through section A, over to the boat launch – all was as it should be – the only boat I’ve ever seen launched was not a boat but a sizeable sea-doo or PWC, personal water craft, coming back from a test ride with a young couple aboard, who were visiting relatives, they said. (Personal observation- this was a craft that belongs on the Gulf of Mexico, not on this quaint little lake.) But then, least you think I’m too old and retired to appreciate things modern, I never complained openly about the fact that two-hundred yards from where I stood, someone used to commute from his real lake-front home with a sea-plane.  Ommmm.

Back up to my sidewalk stroll, where again, I almost walked into the Crane family, all four, feasting again on unseen live things under the dirt, only six or eight feet from where they were two days ago. Chow-on my friends.

Sure enough I soon came across the Barbados fellows power washing driveways with care and concentration. Father and son this time. I inquired of the father, who obviously was enjoying his role of supervisor while son buffed away on the concrete, were they indeed from Barbados or was that just a touristy license plate on the front of their truck.

“Yes. Been here since 1982. Going back for Christmas this year, first time in over twenty years.”

“Wonderful,” I observed. “Great time to be in Barbados”

Then,seizing upon the opportunity to clarify a sticky pronunciation problem I’ve had, ever since I heard someone of English extraction pronounce the island name as BARbados, I discreetly inquired if that was the proper pronunciation, or was it truly, BarBAdos.

I suspect he too suppressed a “duhh” urge and said,

“BarBAdos. Its BarBAdos.”

“Of course,” I said, and quickly put the blame squarely on the Brit that should have know better.

“Have a  great day, and thanks. Safe trip to BarBAdos.” And off I went, thinking I was having a very informed kind of zen experience today. Little did I know what awaited me!

A few minutes later I realized that I had used up most of my allotted time and most of my mileage. As I rounded the corner of the last building I would pass within section A and progressed  beyond some shrubs, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the missing Calico Kitty walking near a water-retention area. “Hello, Calico Kitty,” I said quietly, trying to not frighten her away. Then I saw a second cat, a black and white Tuxedo cat near to building, and there, big as life but not so tall, behind the screen door was the little old owner lady from the other day.

I waved to her and she apparently recognized me and beckoned me to come over.

-Aha, to my self.- A chance to explain my dilemma about what to do if I should spy her missing calico, apologize for my lack of clarity and to seize upon another Zen moment. What a day I was having.

Yes, she said, the kitty had come back and joined her Tuxedo friend and a third family member who, being perpetually shy, was in the bedroom, under the bed and not likely to show up. A happy three cat family.  Come in and sit she said. I was a little reluctant at first, being by history somewhat of the “under the bed” kind of animal, but my subconscious Zen thing kicked in, arguing, Why not, the poor lady is probably starving for a little human conversation.

“Thank you. I will sit for a minute”. She pointed to a chair and stepped into her home for a minute. She returned quickly and I stood and shook hands. “I’m Richard,” I said. She introduced herself as ****. (I thought about using her name here but in the interest of safety I choose not to, as it may become possible for some disgruntled NSA laid-off hacker to track down her location and presume upon her to part with some of the diamond accessories that weighed down her hand.)

We proceeded to have a lengthy chat – I was correct to assume she would love to chat with someone who said more than Meow and purred and slept a lot. I hardly ever meow.

In short order I learned the Calico often wandered about; the Tuxedo was rescued shortly after being born and abandoned and (I’ll call her Lill, (as in Diamond Lill I guess) was taken by kayak by my hostess to a vet and nurtured to a full life.

Infering in good investigative style that she must have an interesting past, I said,”By Kayak, you said…where was that,” I questioned.”

“I was living in the Keys then.” she ventured. Before that, my (now deceased)husband and I lived in North Carolina. Then we moved to Florida, (the next county north of here) and several other places in this county.

I was realizing that I could be in for a long haul as they say. Besides moving around a lot, we have many things is common – my wife’s French-Canadian lineage – Lill is from the Provence de Quebec; my younger daughter once owned a Tuxedo cat, and we had rescued a cat from a pound in NH, which cat, oh happy day, promptly delivered several darling kitties when we got her home. Lill has an adult daughter living nearby, sans children, and a son living in California, sans spouse. Endless opportunities were presenting themselves for further discussion, but I felt my Zen impulse waning and my “let’s have lunch” urge twisting at my stomach.

I moved the discussion to an apt close by saying how happy I was that her feline family was still in tact, but warned her that my wife had reported seeing a calico cat on her building’s roof, which she could hardly believe and immediately proclaimed with just, motherly contempt, it wasn’t her cat, and advised her that Missy Calico had better keep her distance from the woodsy area out back and not offer snacking occasions for ‘gators.

At the mention of alligators on the premises Lill’s eye’s opened wide in disbelief. I wondered to myself how someone so acquainted with Florida life could be in denial of gator reality in her back yard.

“Oh yes,” I assured her,” but they usually stay in the local ponds, but its best not to temp their appetites.”

She was grateful for the information and thanked me for stopping and chatting. “You must bring your wife sometime” she graciously offered.

I took my hungry feet back to the sidewalk, waved good-bye to a charming lady with lots of history and a chronic, residual back pain from having experienced a case of shingles, and headed for the little footbridge to take me back to section B.

Had I looked back, I imagine I might have seen at least one “kitty” staring after me with something of an evil eye.

Chill, kitty, I may have impaired your freedom to roam but could have,  inadvertently,saved at least one of  your nine lives.

Just another day with perhaps a small dose of Zen awareness.

Peace.

rdh