Sunday, April 30, 2006

Rocky Raccoon - Revisited

Back in August of 2005, I wrote a post entitled Rocky Raccoon in which I told a story about an unfortunate raccoon who had been trapped by some of the folks that I worked with, and how I reacted to the way they were treating the animal, and, to what they were planning on doing to it...

I am happy to say that the experience apparently had an effect on them. Here's what happened;

On Thursday, The Nose called me in to his office and told me that he had trapped a raccoon at his house, and asked if I would go pick it up and release it back into the wild. He went on to say that he had left strict instructions that nobody but me was to be allowed anywhere near the animal.

He said that he knew that I was 'good at this sort of thing' because I could 'talk to them and all'.

I agreed to release the raccoon and was told to pick whoever I needed to go along with me. I took Fat Cat along, and we went and picked up the trap, loaded it into the vehicle, and drove over to the exact spot where we released the first raccoon. This animal had not been hurt, tormented, or otherwise bothered. It was reaching its little hands through the cage towards me, so I reached my hand out towards it and grasped my index finger with its cold little hand and held on to it. I knelt there for a while, holding hands with a raccoon, and then I simply reached over, opened the door to the trap, and the raccoon walked on out and strolled into the woods, periodically looking back at us.

When we got back to work, I could hear a group of the guys in the back room asking Fat Cat if I could really talk to animals (I cannot, as a matter of fact...). He told them that I in fact did talk to this one, and that it seemed to take a shine to me. They kept asking whether I was speaking in human language or in 'raccoon' (I know how ludicrous this sounds... but, this is what they were asking him...). ((As a matter of fact, I was speaking in the little bit of Lakota {Sioux} that I speak, and in the wee bit of Gaeilge that I speak.. animals seem to like that better than english.. I don't know why... maybe the sounds..)) Fat Cat's response was along the lines of.. "How the FUCK do I know what the hell he was speaking?! It wasn't english, and the raccoon seemed to understand him... so I guess it was raccoon.. Are you done asking me stupid questions!??!", which made me snort and giggle to myself.

I don't care whether I have to put up with a couple of weeks of 'Dr. Doolittle. jokes.. I am happy! They learned something from me, it would seem... they learned to have compassion towards a creature that is unable to speak for itself, and they demonstrated this compassion. The contrast between this instance and last time are absolutely remarkable!!

I feel as though I have set an example of sorts that has gotten through and managed to make a small difference... and that makes me happy!

To see a group of people who were torturing and tormenting a captive, and thus defenseless animal go to a group of people who actively took steps to ensure a similar creature's safety, comfort and welfare is, to me, a magical transformation of sorts!

It is exactly this sort of small triumph, my friends, that a kind, loving, and reverant life is built upon.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Happy Birthday Nana... I Miss You...

101 Years ago today, in Kingston, Jamaica, which, at the time, was known as the 'British West Indies', something took place that was a very important event in my life.. so much so that if it had not taken place, I would not now be here to share my thoughts with you.. The reader must know this if he or she is to take anything of use away with them after having read this post...

On April 28th, 1905 in the house that was located at number 10 King Street, in the City of Kingston, a little girl was born. She wasn't the daughter of royalty, nor did she grow to be a world leader or a Nobel Prize winner.. while her existence may have gone almost unnoticed by the vast majority of folks on this earth, she was (and remains) one of the pivotal persons in my life; She was my grandmother.

My first memories of her were of her intervening to shield me from the abusive temper of my mother. This post isn't intended to be a 'mom-bashing'.. I want to make this much clear; I love my mom. Over the years, we have managed to talk a great deal and to mend a lot of fences. We get along very well. But this wasn't always so. I guess the easiest explanation would be to simply say that I was not a completely welcome child. I don't honestly know if I am right, but I have always assumed that it was because of this fact that I tended to be the one to bear the brunt of her anger, which, at times, was quite abusive.

My grandmother, on the other hand, has never laid an angry hand on me in my life, to my recollection. She raised me through most of my childhood, (she and my grandfather), and they were kind, understanding, loving, wonderful people.

They weren't perfect, and I didn't expect them to be. But they were my 'Nana' and my 'Pop', and I loved them both dearly, and always will.

This is when I was about 8 years old. This is the day I went back to live with my grandmother. I was suffering terrible beatings at home, and my grandmother arranged to take me to live with her. It was a very, very happy day for me.

My grandmother grew up in Jamaica, of Scottish, Irish, Welsh and Rroma (Gypsy) descent. She was the youngest child and was raised in a loving household. When she was in her late 20s, she left the island where she was raised and emigrated to America where she worked as a dancer, chorus girl, as a double for Hedy Lamarr, and as a dance instructor.

She was a fantastically colorful character of a person, eccentric as they come, with an enthusiastic, energetic nature and love of life that very few people can rival.

With her dark, dusky skin, raven black hair, and flashing green eyes, she turned men's heads well into her 70s and 80s! She was beautiful, she was powerful, and she was magical..

Today my mind has been playing and replaying the pictures that my heart took of her, and the memories have been flooding my brain continuously.. alternately making me laugh, making me cry, and warming my heart.

This was taken during the period when my grandmother owned her dance studio. She put on a show during the 1964-1965 World's Fair, and I believe that this photo was taken in connection with that event.

We shared adventures together, went exploring together, laughed uproariously together, and loved one another fiercely. She was always the rock and the anchor in my life. I knew that no matter where I went, no matter what I did, and no matter what I was... that Nana would always love me... unconditionally. I felt the same way about her. She sacrificed a great deal for me, and much of what is good in me I learned from her..

I spent countless hours raptly listening to her as she told me stories about her childhood in Jamaica and Panama (Her father was an engineer and was involved in the Panama Canal project. Consequently, they lived there for a number of years before returning to Jamaica...), her life as a showgirl, and all of the the other stories that she wove with her voice, and hands, and eyes. She told me folktales that originated in the countryside of Ireland, the Highlands of Scotland, the mountains of Wales, the Cornish Coast, the 'Long Road' of the Rroma, the sunshine of Jamaica, and the west coast of Africa.. she taught me kindness, tolerance, loyalty, forebearance, generosity, and how to see the best, and to make the best, of any situation. She taught me that people come first, and that loyalty, honor, and justice were real. She taught me that the only two possessions that I really, truly, own are my integrity, and my love... and that they were the only things that could not be forcibly taken from me; I had to give them away freely... or sell them.

She taught me to see the beauty in the world around me, to revere life, and to honor the earth and all of creation.

She taught me to live.. and to take joy out of every moment.

Nana and my youngest brother.

Everywhere I ever went with her, I heard voices raised in friendly greeting. She was known, and welcomed, it seemed, everywhere that we went. My grandmother was just a woman, but she had a quality that drew people to her like moths to a flame. Being around her was like being at a party. Her life was constantly filled with color, and beauty, and spice, and music.. she was glamorous, vivacious, and one of the funniest people I have ever known.

This was taken, (obviously, I suppose), in the 'disco days' of the 70s. Yes, dammit! That's me in the pic. What a complete dweeb! The upside is that my grandmother was a fantastic dance teacher, and I was able to more than hold my own on the dance floor. Even with the stupid clothes, I actually was able to find dance partners, believe it or not!

My grandmother had a talent for making things grow and thrive... plants, pets, or people... it made no difference. She loved us all and took care of us all. She could take a single leaf, or what seemed like a dead twig and nurture it into a lush, beautiful, healthy plant! Almost any reason was reason enough to have a get-together where everyone could eat, drink, talk, laugh, sing, and dance. She had a way of turning the smallest events into something special. I can remember a candlelight picnic on the kitchen floor during a blackout, many other occasions where she responded to a bump in the road or a glitch in the plans by turning it into a special event. When somebody met her, or talked with her, she always managed to find the thing about them that was special.. and she never failed to let somebody know that they were unique, and beautiful, and that she valued them for who and what they were.

This is Nana and 'Tiny'. This dog loved her, as did every animal that I have ever witnessed in contact with her, fiercely, and with every ounce of his little heart. I take comfort in the thought that they may be together in the Otherworld now...

On a night out to celebrate a clean bill of health from her doctor, Nana took a spill down a flight of stairs. It was her last curtain call. On Memorial Day weekend of 1990, while painting my aparment, I received a telephone call from a New York City Police Officer who had found my telephone number in my grandmother's address book. He asked me what my relationship to her was, and I told him. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that she had taken a fall. When I asked how she was doing, he began to backpedal.. explaining that he wasn't a doctor. I talked to him for a few moments, and he finally said "It doesn't look good..." Something icy and small began to flutter at the base of my spine. I called over to the hospital emergency room where she had been taken, and the doctor who I spoke with initially began to distance himself from the situation. I could tell by his accent that he was a Filipino, and I told him that I had spent some time there, and that I had many Filipino friends.. I told him that I knew that family was extremely important to Filipinos, and that I was sure that he understood how important this was to me as well.. He entered the trauma room where she was being coded and quietly explained to me what was taking place.

When the treating doctor called her death, I could hear him over the telephone. I thanked my Filipino friend, hung up the phone, and cried till I was sick. She was gone. For the first time in my life, I was truly, completely, brutally alone. I was heartbroken.

When I visited the funeral home, (the funeral director had been a personal friend of hers), I was allowed to go into the viewing room alone to pay my respects. As I walked up to her casket, I kept my eyes on the wall above her. I didn't want to believe that she was really laying there. Finally, I looked down and saw my Nana's body in the casket. The next thing that I remember, I was lying on the floor looking up at the ceiling. Needless to say, her passing was extremely difficult for me... quite possibly the most difficult and painful event in my entire life.

She always wore armfuls of silver bangles on her wrists... to this day, when I hear the tinkling of silver bangles, my nana is there with me..

Sometimes I dream of her. In my dreams, I tell her that I had been told that she was dead, and I am so happy to see her again. She laughs and tells me that that is nonsense.. those dreams are bittersweet.. I am always so very happy to see her again.. even if it is just a dream... they are also very sad, because I miss her like hell and feel her absence even more strongly for days afterwards. Sometimes, I can still smell her perfume, even after I wake...

I know that she lived a full, happy life, and that she took every bit of enjoyment out of every moment. I know that she went out just the way she would have chosen.. dramatically!

I know that I still can't believe that she is gone...

I also know that she will live on in my heart. I carry her with me each day.

This post is for my Nana. This post is also for you... I want to introduce her to you... tell you about her... let you know that she was alive, and she was real, and she was special. She had music and color in her heart, and she had a voice, and a song.

I once asked her where she learned to dance. She replied, "Learn to dance?! I never had to learn how to dance! I'm a gypsy!!"

Then, in illustration, she got up and began dancing.

That is how I remember my Nana the most... in my heart, she will dance for all eternity...

During her days as a showgirl. She was stunningly beautiful.. on both the outside and the inside..

Happy Birthday, Nana... I miss you terribly... I love you with all my heart.. I pray that your soul is content and happy.. and not a day goes by that I don't think of you.. Walk in Beauty wherever you are...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Coin has Two Sides!

In some earlier posts, I had commented on how some people tend to seek me out in order to discuss some of the more difficult facets of their lives with me.

While I am happy to be able to be there, to help, to advise, to commiserate, or to simply listen, I must also admit that much of what these people tell me is often sad, or, in some cases, downright disturbing.

I had begun to wonder if anyone, anywhere, had anything uplifting to ever talk to me about... but not with much hope, judging by what I have been hearing over the past months and, come to think of it... years.

Lately though, it seems that a new trend has begun to show its face, and this makes me happy!

Perhaps its the optimism that the turning of the seasons from the dark, introspective months of winter to the bright, cheerful months of spring brings.. with its new life, regeneration, and high hopes for the season to come!

(Speaking of which... Happy Easter to my Christian readers... today is Easter Sunday. I received a telephone call on Friday from an in-law who called to wish me a happy "Whatever it is that you celebrate...." [SNORT!! HA!])

Back to my main point --> Lately, folks have been coming to me to sort of check back in with me about topics that we had previously talked about, and to deliver good news about their lives that have come to pass as a result... to me, this is fantastic stuff! Some samples;

"I quit drinking! Its been three months!"

"Something you said made me think. I guess I've been treating my wife kinda crappy. I bought her some flowers, and we sat down and talked... it was like when we first got together. I agreed to go to counselling with her. I think things are gonna work out for us... thanks for talkin' to me about it... it was a big help!"

"You were right about me being angry at myself and taking it out on other people.. you said that you forgave me for whatever it was that I was angry about... I thought that was stupid when you said it... and you told me that I should forgive myself, and if I couldn't, that I should make amends for whatever I did... well, I've been doing that. One of the people was my dad, but he's dead. I went and cleaned up around his grave. I sat and talked with him. I think he forgives me... Everyone else really seemed willing to forgive me, too... You're a pretty smart guy, man... you should, like, do this... ya know?"

"What you said about learning and knowledge... I talked with my folks about it.. and guess what?! They're gonna help me with paying for school. I'm gonna start next semester!"

"I learned something from you... when I first met you, I thought you were a pussy. I, like, had no respect, you know?? Then, that time when I tried to hit you.. you surprised me... you don't look like you got it in you! After that day, I started to pay attention to what you were saying. I still think you're an asshole, but, I think you got the right idea about a lot of things..."

"Hey.. just so you know... I went back and found them Mexicans...(I know you don't like when we call'em 'Mexicans' or whatever, but, whatever the fuck they are.. 'Spanish guys' or whatever...) Anyway.. I, um, went ahead and paid 'em what I owed 'em. You shoulda seen the look on their faces!! At first, I thought they were gonna jump me! When I said I was sorry for fuckin 'em over and handed them the money, they were like smilin' and slappin' each other on the back! It was pretty fuckin' cool! I felt really good, just like you said I would. You're fucked up, man... you're like, creepy about shit like that!! Where do you learn this stuff?? In the Army? I gotta tell ya, I was really pissed at you when you told me off.. you embarassed me. At first, I was gonna like meet up with you when you came out after work.. Dave told me I would get my ass kicked. I still don't think so, but, now that I did it the other way, I think it was the right thing to do. I generally don't like people telling me what I should be doin'.. But, you walk the walk, and I gotta respect that. What's right is what's right...right? Anyway.. I just wanted you to know that I made, things are okay between you and me, right?"

"When I told my wife what you said, she busted out laughing! She was really surprised that you could tell what was eatin' at her, without being told! She was really surprised, and I just about shit! How do you know this stuff? What're you, one'a them psychotics (sic) or somethin'? She asked me to ask you if you were a woman in your past life... seriously, though... I never would have even thought of that... I was being a dick, and I didn't even realize it..."

This is great stuff... (well.. psychotic?! Erk!) and I have to admit that I like to receive a little validation now and again... for a while, it seemed that everyone's life was shit, and there wasn't a damned thing that I could do to help, other than to simply stand beside them while they cried.

For a change, I am seeing some returns that make me as though maybe I am accomplishing something...

Most of these people are not my friends.. they are acquaintances, customers, co-workers, or local folks that I only know by face, but who I see on an almost daily basis. Being me, I chat with people, (I talk with everybody) and sooner or later, they spill something that is bothering them... I feel that they wouldn't be doing this if they felt that they were able to fix these problems on their own, although I feel that they absolutely are capable of doing so.. I don't think that they know or believe that they can.. and that can be a problem. So.. if they open themselves up to me, and ask for help, either explicitly or implicitly, I feel a responsibility to do my best and offer what I can.. I can only draw on my own strengths, and I let them know this.. I'm not a trained counsellor, but I have walked in many of their shoes at some point in my life.. so, I suppose experience is as good of a teacher as schooling is in some instances. At any rate, much of my mind's energy is just about always turned towards topics of a spritual bent... I guess I am a shithouse philosopher of sorts... but, it would seem that it has its uses.

I wasn't sure if I was doing the right thing by trying to help, but, in a few cases, it seems that I have. I get one gold star to hang up on the refrigerator!

So long as I'm not causing more harm by offering my thoughts and suggestions, I suppose I'm doing the right thing.

Yesterday was a fantastic day! we worked out in the garden, with warm sunshine on our skin and the smell of plants and dirt in our noses!

We planted five boxwood shrubs, naming them 'Huey, Dewey, Louie, Stewey, and Gooey'!
They're fine bragh wee shrubbies, and they look wonderful in their new spot! I hope they will grow tall and strong and healthy!

We also cut away a circle of grass from around our Redbud treeling.. fed it some plant food, and put down a circle of mulch to keep it warm and happy!

Elysia planted two new Azaleas in the garden, and named them both, collectively, 'Howard' (don't ask..)

Everything is waking up, and growing, and blossoming, and letting us know that this place loves us as much as we love it!!

We started our day yesterday with a trip to the gym, where we busted our butts, and worked up a good sweat. The rest of the day I enjoyed that yummy feeling of slight but nice muscle soreness... it lets me know that my body is getting stronger by the day!

Today, we are listening to music... earlier, we listened to a brand new CD that we bought; 'Türkülü Yürekler 5' this is a group of three musicians.. fantastic, talented musicians, named Metin Karataş, Emre Saltuk and Lafer Gündoğdu. All three play bouzoukis and sing. The songs are all in the Turkish language, but, honestly folks.. you do not have to be Turkish or speak Turkish to appreciate these guys. They are amazing! I know that most people do not share my taste in music, or, for that matter, in many other things... I'm an odd duck.. or, at least, that is what I am always being told. But, I think it would be worth a try to listen to this at least once. Music is a bridge.. it comes from someplace deep down inside that trancends language, nationality, ethnicity, or any of the other false boundaries that separate us from one another... the ancient Celts believed that people who were inspired to compose music, write poetry, create works of art, or show other talents that most people did not share, had these talents as a result of having passed through multiple lifetimes.. not necessarily human lifetimes.. but many, many lives in this world and in the otherworld. They believed that the soul, or whatever one conceives of the eternal self as being, retained the wisdom that it gained from having lived each iteration of a life, even though it may not have retained memories of that life. One result of that wisdom was the muse or inspiration that musicians, poets, and artists appeared to draw from.. The Welsh believe that sometimes the soul does retain memories of things from past lives.. the Cymreag (Welsh) word for this is 'Hiraeth' or 'Soul Longing'. If you have ever had an affinity, a connection, or a longing for something, someone, or someplace that you have never known in this life, it is believed that your soul remembers some contact from a previous life.. this is what is meant by a 'Hiraeth'. Anyway, if you want your ears to be happy, listen to these guys do what they do.. you won't regret it, I promise!

Right now, we are listening to our regularly scheduled Sunday morning programming; 'Sunday Baroque' on NPR.

The weather outside is sunny and beautiful, with cool breezes rustling the curtains.. I can hear the wind chimes singing, along with the birds!

I think I'll head out there, breathe some fresh air, and feel the grass under my feet for a bit.

Take Care!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Baroque Music, Chocolate Coffee, and Honey Wine

As I am writing this, I am listening to 'Sunday Baroque' on National Public Radio, and sipping a nice, hot, heavenly cup of choclatey coffee... Outside, it looks as though the sun is doing its very best to poke its face through the clouds and lift our spirits a bit..

This morning, I am writing letters, posting to this blog, and working on some writing assignments for my coursework.. in a bit, I will go outside and wander about in my garden and see what's been happening through the week that I may have missed. Right now, we have snowdrops, daffodills, forsythia and crocuses blooming.. the irises and hyacinths aren't that far behind... and within a month or two, this place will be a profusion of flowers, butterflies, dragonflies, birds, and bees! There is noplace like Thistlebright Cottage in the spring and early summer, and its a time that I look forward to all winter long... through the winter, our thoughts have turned inward, and we have dreamed, and planned, and schemed... now, after the spring equinox, all of these dreams naturally turn outward, and we begin to put our plans into action and give them substance... it's the most hopeful time of the year, with everything new, and clean, and young! It seems as though anything is possible, and, at least for now, it is!! I can feel myself waking up, stretching, and climbing out of the long winter hibernation... Where I have just wanted to curl up under a warm blanket with a book, I am now feeling the urge to get out, breathe some fresh air, and move around! I want to feel the pleasant ache in my muscles after a day of working out in the garden... I long to smell the fecund soil, dig my fingers into it... and watch the world come alive all around me!

Later on today, we plan on 'racking' the two batches of mead that we have going right now.. We have ten gallons of mead fermenting away... the wee yeasties have been working their little yeasty asses off turning honey into mead for us... this creates a sediment as the cloudy mixture settles out... racking is the process of siphoning off the clear part, emptying the sediment (which we pour onto our plants! It is extremely rich in vitamins and nutrients, and the plants love it!! They send us thank you cards in the mail... okay, that last part was a small exageration, but they do love it, and they show it by thriving and growing tall and lush and lovely!!), and transferring the clear golden mead back into the carboys (five gallon glass bottles - they're called carboys. For my fellow geeks, here is the etymology: Persian qarAba, from Arabic qarrAbah demijohn
: a large container for liquids - I know.. I'm pathetic... I can't help it, I need to know everything.. I have no explanation.. Its how I was put together..).

ANYway.. after about seven more months, and perhaps another racking, depending upon the clarity of the mead, we will then bottle the stuff. It is wonderful, delicious, and we made it with the help of gazzilions of flowers, scads of bees, tetrabazzillions of wee yeastie-beasties, and Brogan! Brogan is a human. We are clanfolk (that is the Scottish/Irish Clan - meaning 'Children' - not the hateful kind that begins with K - ick!) and we make mead together... its a family thing.

We drink it for fun, we use it as a sacrament, and I can't say enough good things about it. Ingredients? Honey. Water. Yeast. (You can add other stuff if you like.. for different results, and we do.. but this is the recipe for basic mead.)

Mead, by the way, is the root word for 'Medicine' (SVN/PRN - are you listening?!). This was most likely the very first alcoholic beverage known to man, and probably one of the first medicines.

Most likely, herbs and other stuff was steeped in it and it was used to heal the poor sick proto-humans.

In Bear's mind, here's how it went down; Once upon a time, there was a tree.

This was a very special tree, because it had a hollow bit inside. The bees particularly liked this tree, because it was extremely well suited as a place to build a hive, raise a huge family, and produce honey!

One day, a sky god happened to be floating by, got stung by a bee, which pissed him or her off immensely, and which cause him or her to summon up a huge lightning storm, striking the tree with a big fat bolt of lightning, and fixing the wee verminous bees little asses for buzzing about and stinging gods for no good reason! (Who do they think they are, anyway?!)

The tree slit neatly in half, fell down, and rain poured into the open basin formed by the top of the tree falling over. (All of the bees who managed to survive the initial cataclysm packed up their shit, and headed for the hills... leaving the ruins of their happy home behind. Poor, sad, fresh little bees!)

The fresh rainwater hung out in the tree, mixed with the honey that was left behind, and basically, got fairly well acquainted.

When the storm passed, and the sun came out, it dried stuff out just well enough for yeast spores to float about in the air. One little spore (who was to grow into a little yeast named 'Roger') landed smack in the mixture of honey and water... along with perhaps ten million of his brothers, sisters, and cousins... and they all settled down to a nice yeast-feast of sugar.

Being yeasties, they produced a waste product called 'ethanol' . This process took place over the course of months, and the water and honey was transformed into the very first batch of mead!

Not long afterwards, a Cro-Magnon, not inappropriately named 'Grog' came tramping by looking for something to kill, and, seeing the open tree basin, decided to get a drink. He drank the water, which was a tad strange, but quite tasty, and decided to drink a bit more!

THIS water made him very happy!

Being a generous, happy, sharing type of lad, he went and got the rest of his tribe, and they all drank the yummy water, tied on the first drunk in the history of mankind, and everybody got laid!

Grog, being pretty quick on the uptake decided that getting smashed and then laid, was almost as good as killing something with a spear or crunching its skull in with a boulder. He saw the remnants of honeycomb floating around in the water, and figured that the honey had something to do with it. So. Grog, and perhaps nine hundred generations of his ancestors pooled their brainpower together over a couple thousand years, and managed to figure out how to replicate this process, and the art of brewing was born!!

I, myself am a descendant of good old Grog, and we brew mead unto this very day!! As a matter of fact, I myself have lofty plans of drinking mead and getting laid in the not too distant future. Because this, my friends, is a much better plan than killing something with a spear, no matter which way you look at it!!

Got Mead?

Sláinte Mhaith! (Good Health!)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Back on Track

Some time ago, I wrote a post in which I more or less snivelled and whined over how I was feeling bogged down, or out of touch with all of the important things in my life..

Specifically, I was disgusted with myself for letting myself get out of shape physically, for getting out of touch spiritually, creatively, and in other facets of my life. I had let the demands of job and chores and errands, and all of the other minutiae of life take over beyond their assigned areas of influence, and it was pushing me farther and farther into a corner of my own design that I had painted myself into.

Well, I am happy to say that I took the proverbial bull by the horns, and have managed to wrestle things back into their proper order ... well, it was more of a relaxed flow than a wrestling match... I'm not big on contention and scrapping, though I will do it when I have no other conceivable choice.. in this case, I simply leaned in the right direction and let the flow of events take me where I needed to be... it was more of a case of opening myself up to the right opportunities, and taking advantage of them, as opposed to a bull-headed, hard-charging lifestyle with blinders on.. as it turns out, this way is better.

Spiritually, I am very much back on track. A great deal of my time has been reclaimed and redirected towards this pursuit. This is much better for me, and, honestly, probably better for everyone else as well.

Physically, I am very much back on track! I am dropping the poundage, getting strong, seeing results, and feeling a thousand times better. I am finally getting over the initial acclimatization portion of our show, and I have stopped snapping folk's heads off.. which, on a 'good-bad' scale is decidedly good! (People need their heads, after all!)

I recognize that this will be a long haul, but, I am prepared to see it through! (Looking forward to it, actually! Rather than viewing my lifestyle as a chore, I have actually begun to see it as a much needed opportunity! This is great, as far as I am concerned. It bolsters my confidence, and keeps me motivated and enthusiastic. To me, this spells success, and reminds me that I have a very important goal that I must keep striving towards.. which is precisely what I need to be doing.)

I actually feel rewarded when I do what I know is right, rather than feeling rewarded when I stuff my fat ass full of food.

I am eating less in a day than I was eating for a single meal, and I wasn't eating much more than just about everyone else that I know!

At least in this country, what we consider to be a 'portion' has become obscene. I am finding, much to my surprise, that I can get along... thrive, actually, on much, much less than I had ever imagined possible... I have gotten by on less in certain circumstances in the past... Ranger School, for instance.. but I viewed it almost as a punishment, or as some monolithic challenge that had to be overcome... instead, I see it as a normal course of events that is much better for me in the long run, and, honestly, much better for the environment, since I am leaving much smaller footprints in my wake.

This is just good no matter which way I look at it.

The surprising part, is that by taking less and using less in one area (food), I have begun to take a serious look at my consumption in every other area, and have taken steps to minimize my impact in those areas.

I am only one person, and I don't know how much of a difference I can realistically make to the world, but, whatever small difference it is... it is a difference!

Think about this; If everyone picked up one piece of litter each day, how much of a difference would that make in the long run, I wonder? In ten years, if I do this by myself, I would have picked up almost 400 pieces of crap that would otherwise still be lying there! If 999 other people, in all of the world, did the same thing that I was doing, we would have collectively picked up 3650000 articles of unsightly garbage that would have been offending everybody over the course of ten years. Can I make anybody do this? No. But I can do it myself, and that is what I am doing, and will be doing, for as long as I am able to. When I see somebody empty their trash out of the car window onto the roadway, or toss a piece of garbage onto the ground, I wonder if they would empty the kitchen trash onto their mother's head with so little thought? Just a rant, sorry.. but, no earth, no water, no air,... no life. We only have one world. Herendeth the sermon. My apologies.

Ahem... (mental shift.. back to the original topic)

To get back to the weight control issue, (I was off on a tangent there.. I'm letting my brain fly today, please try to bear with me...{Bear!! Ha!!}) in the past, I was seeing results for a while, but then bogging down and getting stuck in a rut when the results would inevitably taper off, and I couldn't figure out why this was happening (you have to decrease your intake as you lose weight, folks, or you will stop losing! I would get settled into a routine, and, naturally, it would work for a while, but, as my bodyweight dropped, I needed less, but was, in fact, (relative to my body's needs) eating more, even though I hadn't changed my intake!), this is very important to know for any of you on the same path. You need less as you lighten up, so, be prepared for this, and you will see results all along! I was not prepared for this, I hadn't factored it in, and at some point, the weight loss would come to a grinding halt, or, start creeping back up.. (!!!) (there is a concept called 'portion creep' that comes into play where you unnoticeably dish out tiny amounts more until you are eating way more food than you are even aware of.. this is bad!) As you can imagine, I would get discouraged, and the whole plan would go into the bin.

The heart was there, but the knowledge was not (at least not the practical knowledge. I understood what the components were, but I had no benchmark against which to test what I knew and adjust it accordingly. I am confident that we have nailed it this time, and we are on our way!). This is extremely important, because I very much need to stay fit if for no other reason to be able to stay healthy and keep up with a very busy, stressful, and hectic schedule.

More importantly, though.. I am not getting any younger, and I am starting to reach an age where I need to either get fit and stay fit, or I may not be able to get fit at all. So, I am doing it, and I'm happy about it!

Just to throw out one small overconfident boast; I have lost just about 20 pounds so far! This will fluctuate, I'm sure, and the real number is probably closer to 15 or 16 pounds, but, I'll take it! It's a damned good start. Our plan is well-tuned, finally, and we are drivin' on!!

At work, the fly has kept his hands and comments to himself since, in his words, (or, more accurately, to paraphrase) I 'Stopped his heart'. He has taken to threaten other people with me. This is strange, but, since it is in essence insubstantial, and everybody knows it, I'll take it.

Basically, he gets into jibe contests with others, and at some point asks them if they have 'the corns' (his term, not mine.. he means 'balls') to try whatever they are threatening him with, on me.

Or he will challenge them to try whatever they are telling him they will do to him (this is all joking and semi-playful antagonizing.. none of it is serious.. just to clear that up. He isn't picking real fights.. the guys are constantly threatening to kick each other's asses. Its a guy thing... or something..) in front of me.. as though he is confident that I will jump right in and go to his aid to the detriment of anybody else. I'm not sure what that is about, but, as long as I'm not getting yanked into anything physical, I don't really care what he does. The bottom line? Things are much better at work. I go to work, I do my job, I go home, I get paid, I'm happy. Done deal.

In the continuing education department, the courses that I had planned on studying anyway happen to match just about exactly with the curriculum of the course that I am taking as a member of my religious order. The course is writing-intensive, and they don't really accept any B.S., so I have to do a great deal of work to get my ducks in order before I turn in an assignment. Also, I am somewhat time-pressured, as I would be in any college course, because the assigments have to be turned in by a certain date. They are graded by others, and all in all, this is fantastic. I am learning a great deal, and, the hard work notwithstanding, I love it. (I don't love it so very much when I have a day to get a paper done, and I have work, and gym, and a bunch of other stuff going on, and I need sleep... but, I do still love it, even then!)

I am only in the very basic portion of the curriculum at this point. Once I complete this initial introductory course, I will continue on into the curriculum proper, which consists of a number of different 'colleges', each of which are broken down into three phases. Each phase is successively more difficult, and asks more of the student, in demonstrated knowledge, in ability, and in course-load. I infer that the knowledge and ability that is gained from each successive level will prepare me sufficiently to be able to handle the added workload that is expected in the following level in a satisfactory manner... at least, theoretically. This learning process will take years, so I have a great deal of work ahead of me, but the good news is that I also have a great deal of learning ahead of me.

In addition to all of this, I am still studying Gaeilge, and have not been keeping up with the coursework to my satisfaction (or to anyone else's..for that matter), and have buckled down quite a bit so that I can catch up. The language studies are also a part of the main coursework, so, I am helping myself in the long run by staying with the program and keeping my work up to par. Its the very least I can do, as the teachers at the Gaeilge School volunteer their time to do this... from a purely courteous standpoint, the least that could be expected of me is to come to class prepared to move on.. They are doing their part, and I had better damned well do mine.. its only fair! so, this is my main focus, as far as my studies are concerned.

All of the stuff that I outlined above is having a beneficial effect on every other part of my life, and this is good!

So. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

That's all for now. I have schoolwork to do, so I'm off like a dirty girl's underpants! SeeYaBye!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Gettin' Down to It...

Adjusting to less food and asking more of my body is what is needed right now... and what I have been doing. I believe I have zeroed in on what was causing the slump in weight loss, and am fairly confident that I have nailed it this time, and can now get on with the program (I had no idea whatsoever what comprised a 'serving' and was therefore overeating when I thought I was cutting back on my intake... what a dweeb!). I also learned about something called "Portion Size Creep", which sounds like a bad date but which is actually the syndrome whereby one slowly increases the size of the portions rather than decreasing them as you lose bodyweight... eventually, the weight loss stops, and, in many cases, due, I expect, to disillusionment, actually increases!

So.. I am eating less... MUCH less, and doing more.. MUCH more. So is my wife. We are seeing some results, which is good... in addition to the gym and the decreased intake, I am sleeping less than I would like... which is decidedly NOT good, because my body really needs the rest right now... between studying, writing assignments, research and all of the stuff that goes with it, plus the normal work that has to be done around the house, I am pretty much wiped out of late...

It is apparently making me a bit irritable, which is way out of character for me... and I have surprised a few people, including my wife, by snapping their heads off. This is very uncool.

The irritability thing is supposed to pass once you acclimate. I am going to do my best to help it along by getting a little bit more sleep. To top things off, the time change came right in the middle of this, so I've been thrown way off my keel.

What's weird is, that I feel fine, for the most part, until somebody fires a shot across my bow, or I perceive that they have somehow stepped over a line with me, and I instantly I get my back up and tear their lungs out through their nostrils with little or no warning... which is also very much not like me. I can pretty much be relied on to go through a couple of phases with people who are trying to piss me off; first, I generally try to blow off whatever it is that they are doing... If It isn't working, I try to let them know, very gently, that I don't like the situation as it is... if that fails, I growl, raise my hackles, and otherwise communicate that whatever it is that they are doing is a foul, and suggest ways that they might try that are less likely to result in being flamed hairless on the spot. Very, very rarely, very rarely, it goes beyond this, and I have to take some other tack... whatever that happens to mean at the time. These past few days, I have been going directly to the growling, hackle -raising, saber-rattling, and then with almost no pause, to the 'flaming-you-hairless' part... It sort of sucks.

Many eyebrows have been raised, I think...

I have been told that the nasty, curmudgeonous, pugilistic, cantankerous orneryness will pass. I hope this is true before I find myself living alone in a cave with bones strewn about on the ground in front of it...

Today a customer decided to try to wind me up. This lasted about ten seconds, until I kicked a mud puddle up his ass and stomped it dry, and sent him on his way. He was all apologies, and most likely thinks that I was on a work-release program from an institute for the criminally insane. I expect I'll be hearing more about this one...


I need sleep.

(Growls and threatening gestures)

Why does something that is supposed to be so great for you make you act like such a dick, I wonder? It isn't just me, either. I have heard a number of stories about just this type of behavior in the past few days. Once I started removing limbs, of course, the stories tended to peter out... [SNORT!!]