Monday, December 14, 2009

I have been doing so much professional writing, I haven't had time to blab on my blog.

"Whew," you say.

Or probably you don't.

Because if you have THAT attitude, why even bother stopping by??


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yay Yay for InTheFray!

Now, you have to realize that I earn only about $7 when I sell an entire book of poetry. And, if you understand the poetry market at all, you know getting paid to write poetry is a challenge.

And, if you know the poetry market, you also know there are some pretty bad magazines out there.

InTheFray Magazine is not one of them.



Dear Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt,

I have accepted your three poems for publication in the December issue of InTheFray Magazine. I will include a link to more of your poems at on the same page as the poems.

There is a $25 honorarium but I must ask you to fill out the contributor's form in order for the invoice to be completed and payment to be made.

You will need to be registered at the site and logged in to fill the form out.

I am very pleased to publish your work and to welcome you as a contributor to ITF. My favorite piece was For Alexis, but all three poems will, I feel, resonate with our readers and wonderfully explore the featured theme.

The lead line will be Alexis, stone walls and butterflies and the dek will be Three poems that begin with endings.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

All best,
Annette Marie Hyder
Literature Editor
InTheFray Magazine

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Christmas Carol

Because spirits gifted winter on our doorsteps,
because the way the rain metamorphosed
into pieces of Advent and Christmas and New Year,
we celebrated by turning on the fire.

I have often wished for "real fire," the kind
that starts with wood, not gas and switches.
But on a day when trees lean to introduce
themselves, it matters not--and besides,
I can greet the pines without guilt. Good fire
is good fire, after all, and heat as essential as skin.

Our children cut cardstock into Christmas greetings,
shapes transformed to acts of love, the scent
of plenty and light, the sound of pages turning,
and I wondered how the other half lives.

But then again, I know.

There are no fires in the tents of the homeless,
no paper or scissors or glue sticks,
no green bows or hot, spiced tea or computer
keys tapping out poems. There are bellies

and fright of the poor, icicles threatening
canvass and bone, sneakers in lieu of boots,
sterno a luxury sometimes shared.

We light a candle for them--real fire, real wax,
real affluence, these dry matches and wicks. We
recite Biblical stories, angels declaring salvation,
manger protecting an awaited king, animal breath
heating hay. And at this moment, with snow
blocking our way to action,

the best we can do is hope.

Draft 1

Friday, December 04, 2009

A Catholic Flunky

I flunked Catholicism at an early age, in spite of my best intentions. The hours I spent considering becoming a cloistered nun were all for naught when my parents joined the Charismatic Renewal.

I knew I had flunked out when we attended a healing service and everyone in my family "slept in the spirit" except me.

Let me explain how people in this church slept in the spirit.

A leader, often a priest or deacon, placed his palms over the palms of the parishioner, like they were going to play "slaps." Someone stood behind the parishioner, ready to catch him or her--just in case. The priest would pray, and those who weren't bad Catholics like me would fall back into the arms of the catchers and be gently lowered to the floor where they would sleep for a few minutes.

The lengthiest sleep I ever saw was an hour or so, lasting long after the service had ended. I felt embarrassed for that lady when she finally came to and didn't know where she was.

But I wasn't as embarrassed for that lady as I felt when this short, stalky woman with sandy-gray waves in her cropped hair walked up to me and said, "Even though you didn't sleep in the spirit..."

I can't remember what else she said. I was a kid, but I got the gist of it. I was receiving a consolation prize.

So from that day on, I was determined to exhibit a "gift" (which was what the church considered sleeping in the spirit).

We went to prayer meetings where people spoke in tongues. Speaking in tongues is presumably a gift for praising God in a language that only God can understand.

This was something I could do. Gibberish came natural to me. And I really did want to praise God. Besides, I didn't want to viewed as a gift-less Catholic.

So I joined in with the rest of the gifted ones, some of whom actually sang their gallimaufry of syllables.

It was easy to fit in. All I had to do was move my lips or mutter. And after awhile, I couldn't tell if I really had the gift, if I was making the words up or if it even really mattered.

The gift of tears was also something I found easy to demonstrate. A depressed child, I could cry at the hint of a sad thought, and everyone would think I was being overwhelmed by the glory of the Lord.

But I knew the charade was over the day I played an April Fools joke on my dad.

Dad played bass guitar in the church music group. The service had ended, and Dad left the guitar on the alter-side where the group had been standing.

Dad was in the back of the sanctuary, receiving spiritual guidance from the Father.

There I was with what I thought would be the funnies April Fools joke ever.

I busted into the session and panted, "Dad! Your bass fell over!"

He leaped from the chair. "What?? How did that happen?"

As he was poised to bolt back to the alter, I giggled and shouted, "April Fools!"

The words echoed in the empty, high-ceiling church, bouncing against the marble walls of the priest's chamber.

The look I got from Father Jerry, a lovely, aged Jesuit, was enough to tell me I was headed for hell.

The fury of my father whose spiritual session had been interrupted by a fibbing eight-year-old foretold my demise.

From then on, in church, I remained as quiet as I could, and I avoided Father Jerry as if I were trying to run from the Grim Reaper.

I hoped my singing in the girls' choir would redeem me, until one day, I hiccuped into the microphone.

Maybe none of this would have happened had I become that cloistered nun at age seven.

But then again, I might not be blogging today.

Do cloistered nuns blog?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Press Release from Senator Mikulski (11/17/09):


“Rosa’s Law” honors young girl whose brother said, “… what you call people is how you treat them.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski today introduced “Rosa’s Law,” a bill that will eliminate the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from the federal law books. U.S. Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is the Republican sponsor of the bill.

Under Rosa’s Law, those terms would be replaced with “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in federal education, health and labor law. The bill does not expand or diminish services, rights or educational opportunities. It simply makes the federal law language consistent with that used by the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the President of the United States, through his Committee on Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities.

Rosa’s Law replicates a law recently adopted in Maryland. Senator Mikulski first heard about the state law from Rosa’s mother during a roundtable discussion about special education held in Edgewater, Maryland. Due to requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), each student who receives special education services at public schools has an individualized education program (IEP) that describes the student’s disability and the special education and services that child will receive. Rosa has an intellectual disability – Downs Syndrome – and so was designated as a student with “mental retardation” in her IEP, giving way to people at the school referring to Rosa as retarded. Senator Mikulski promised Rosa’s mother that if the bill became law in Maryland, she would take it to the floor of the United States Senate.

“This bill is driven by a passion for social justice and compassion for the human condition,” said Senator Mikulski, a senior member of the HELP Committee. “We’ve done a lot to come out of the dark ages of institutionalization and exclusion when it comes to people with intellectual disabilities. I urge my colleagues to join me to take a step further. The disability community deserves it. Rosa deserves it.”

“Mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” are terms commonly used in federal laws, including the Individual With Disabilities Education Act, the Higher Education Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

“We know now that words have meaning, sometimes far beyond what we intend,” added Senator Enzi. “Therefore, we must be very careful about the way we describe the people we see every day, including those with disabilities, or those who are undergoing treatment for a variety of health issues. Unfortunately, the federal government has not dropped this term from our laws and it still appears in the regulations and statutes that come before our legislative bodies and our courts. I am pleased to have this opportunity to join my colleague from Maryland, Senator Mikulski, in introducing Rosa’s law. I would like to thank her for her leadership and her commitment on this issue. Simply put, this legislation will make an important change in the words we use to refer to those with intellectual disabilities. It is a much needed change in the law that is fully deserving of our support.”

When Rosa’s Law was being considered by the Maryland General Assembly, Rosa’s 13-year-old brother, Nick, successfully testified on her behalf for a substitution of mentally retarded with intellectual disability. He explained, “Some people say they are just words, and it’s not going to make a difference if we just change the words. Some say we shouldn’t worry about the words, just the way we treat people. But when you think about it, what you call people is how you treat them! If we change the words, maybe it’ll be the start of a new attitude towards people with intellectual disabilities. They deserve it.”

“Senator Mikulski’s bill is a most welcome and necessary step in ending the pervasive discrimination against the 7 million people living with intellectual disabilities in this country,” stated Peter V. Berns, the Chief Executive Officer of The Arc of the U.S. “With federal adoption of the term ‘intellectual disability’ perhaps our society and others will begin to understand the legitimacy of the condition and treat those living with it in a more respectful fashion.”

The Arc is the world’s largest community based organization of and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It provides an array of services and support for families and individuals and includes over 140,000 members affiliated through more than 780 state and local chapters across the nation. The Arc is devoted to promoting and improving supports and services for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Rosa’s Law has garnered support from six additional cosponsors from both sides of the aisle, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Senator Lamar Alexander (R- Tenn.), Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), as well as more than 30 national organizations to date:

A copy of the Dear Colleague letter circulated by Senators Mikulski and Enzi is available here:

Senator Mikulski’s full floor statement is here:

From the Disability Policy Collaboration (11/17/09):

The Disability Policy Collaboration Applauds the U.S. Senate’s Introduction of Legislation to Use the Term “Intellectual Disability

Washington, D.C. – The Disability Policy Collaboration (DPC), a partnership of The Arc of the United States (The Arc) and United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) to advance federal disability public policy, applauds today’s introduction of “Rosa’s Law,” a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Michael Enzi (R-WY). Modeled after a recently enacted law in the state of Maryland, this legislation would substitute the outdated, stigmatizing terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” with the terms “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in federal health, education and labor policy statutes.

The term “intellectual disability” covers the same population of individuals who were previously diagnosed with the term “mental retardation,” and “mentally retarded.” Therefore, the change in terminology would in no way alter the eligibility requirements for services and supports.

“This bill is very important for people with intellectual disabilities who understand that language plays a crucial role in how they are perceived and treated in society and are actively advocating for terminology changes in federal and state laws. ‘Retard,’ ‘retarded’ and ‘retardation,’ once accepted medical terms, are now often used to demean and insult people,” stated Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc. “The Arc believes that changing how we talk about people with disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting their basic civil and human rights.”

According to Stephen Bennett, President and CEO, UCP, “By using the term ‘intellectual disability,’ we expect citizens of the U.S. and the world to understand and treat people experiencing this condition – whether it is a result of genetics, injury, illness or unknown causes – with dignity and respect. The descriptions of people are very important and imply how we value people, and the Senate’s introduction of ‘Rosa’s Law’ is aligned with the aim of UCP and its nationwide network of affiliates to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities in every facet of society.”

Senator Mikulski’s statement to the U.S. Senate upon introduction of the bill is available at:

While the DPC supports the U.S. Senate’s introduction of Rosa’s Law, it is only the first step in a lengthy process towards enactment. The Arc and UCP will continue to work together to ensure the bill’s introduction in the U.S. House of Representatives and its progression through the entire legislative process.

A Call to Worship: All that is Worthy of Praise

Something I got to read at a church service our Writers' Group facilitated...

All that is worthy of praise,

direct your voices to we

who hardly

acknowledge the day.

Show us your perfect, pearly feline claw,

your dark dog lashes,

your figure in the fun-house mirror

telling us always to laugh.

Remind us of gardening hands,

the way waves eat a shoreline,

how a pair of pants fresh from the drier

feels on a winter’s day.

Tell us when we spend more time searching

for the crack in the cup than we do making

the tea, when we revel in our own ruin, feasting

our minds on famished souls, rendering

ourselves only empty.

All that is worthy of praise,

when the rain pools on the pavement,

when lightening sears the sky,

and when thunder knocks at our very hearts,

give us wisdom to listen:

“I am here! Come now. Worship.”

Monday, November 30, 2009

Step away...nothing to see here.

I don't feel like writing.

Nope. Still don't feel like writing.

Sorry....still don't.

Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

And the word of the day is....

Whenever I consider rusticating, my husband reminds me how long his commute is already and how expensive land is.

Friday, November 27, 2009

TMI: Post-Thanksgiving Period

Warning: If discussions on periods and female hormones bother you, then don't read this post. It is chock filled with chick stuff.

So yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I was so thankful for everything. This post will not nullify that thankfulness for the day spent with family, wonderful food and later, Christmas decor (earlier this year than ever before, I believe).

But...I hate my period. My period is a major reason I want to come back as a lilac in my next life.

When I was a gay black man in the Victorian age, I never had to worry about periods. And I never had to worry about women with periods. I just had to worry about the historical period and having to hide in the basement with my lover.

Here's the pattern of my period:

1. Prior to the period, about a week before, I get alternately cranky and depressed. I want sweets. I feel humungous. I get bloated.
2. A day or two before my period, I get fatigued. I get fuzzy-headed and probably look like I'm on another planet (because I feel like I am).
3. Once I get my period, I become energized and more productive. During this time, I can become artistically driven. I work on my scrapbooks and/or card making more. I write more poetry. I used to paint and do hope to get back to it.
3. I become obsessed with cleaning the house because I am more energized, but probably also because when I was depressed and fatigued, I didn't clean as much. This could also be evidence of a "nesting" drive.
4. I cook more because I have more energy and ambition to do so. (Part of nesting as well?)
5. I get more anxiety. This is not the time to consume caffeine.
6. I have bad dreams.
7. The next three or four days after my period ends, the anxiety persists.
8. Finally, I stabilize until I hit the next cycle.

Since I take hormones, I can pretty much predict when this cycle will begin and end, which is good because I can prepare myself for my iminant, monthly decline. I can recognize my tension and try more not to take it out on my family. But I do tend to rant a little more, online and otherwise.

Thus, I do not have much fun for about a week or so out of the month. But it is better than what used to happen prior to the hormone treatment: my periods would last up to three weeks, and I would bleed to death.

Here's the irony. The hormones I take? There's a class action suit against the company that produces them.

There's no justice in this world, is there?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Grateful List

I still use my list to remind myself everything I have to be thankful for. As Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I thought I would redirect this post to The Grateful List.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dining Alone, Sir?

"He had ordered 'wheat-bread and chicken fixings,' in preference to 'corn-bread and common doings'."
Mostly, he did it because his doctor had been on his case about his diet.
“Do you know how high your cholesterol is?”
Okay, he thought. He would handle high fiber and white meat, even though white meat was not part of his lifestyle. In fact, it had been so long since he had tried chicken or turkey, he wondered if his unique digestive system would even be able to handle it.
The chicken fixings ended up being boiled potatoes, carrots and onions. Terrific. While onions might give others bad breath, they did things to him that he would prefer not to think about at meal time. Would he now always have to be consumed with thoughts of what he would consume?
The doctor, of course, a regular martinet, couldn’t understand his patient’s particular dilemma. What was a mere inconvenience for some could be dangerous to him.
He looked down at the too-tight plaid pants disguising his form. Noting the males in the restaurant—none of whom wore plaid or tight fitting clothing on their lower torsos—he decided it was time for a fashion change. If he was to fit in, he needed to fit in his pants.
Sighing, he thought he should consider it a benison he could tolerate any of this food. But he had not yet learned to be grateful.
He recalled his first attempt at eating chicken. It was tasteless enough (he had managed to overcome that particular obsession people had with tasting things), but images of feathers and beaks kept torturing him no matter how hard he tried to concentrate on other things like the strange stringiness. How could meat be stringy? Chickens didn’t look stringy, even after they were plucked. Was the chicken put through a shredder before it was cooked? After?
Subsequently, he turned to steak which, if not mutilated into globs of gook that hamburger was, at least resembled something of a former animal that had not been tortured. Pretending to enjoy the most expensive cuts, he consumed and digested it rather easily. But this chicken….
The idea of raising thousands of chickens on large tracts of pecked-at land offended him.
He had seen a farm once. Pathetic beasts, gnawed at by mites, tackled one another, vying for pans of milk, brown lettuce and rotting corn. The sound overwhelmed his senses, so that he had to turn it off. One chicken nipped so hard at another that that the second poor pullet bled. Feces cluttered the landscape, and he wondered how fowl knew to eat the food and not one another's plethora of poop.
Stop, he mumbled to himself. Don’t think of the white stuff as chicken. It’s not. It’s….it’s….foo foo.
Memories of foo foo exploded through his neurons, casting pleasant sensations through his head, arms and legs.
He smiled, unzipped the top of his oval, bald head, and dumped the plate of food into his eating-orifice.

Photos etc.

I'm taking kind of a me day. That means, while I still have to get some work done, I am going to do it at a pace that suits me. And I am going to make Christmas cards in between.

And I am going to put stickers and journal notes all over my scrapbook which has become Volume I of 2009. Looks like 2009 will require a two volume set. That's how many photos I took this year.

Have I mentioned I have made something like 18 scrapbooks? That doesn't include the couple of bound picture books I have made or the online Picassa collections or the blog postings or the Facebook postings. It doesn't include the photos I take on the job or those I upload on the newspaper website.

I keep backup CD's of my photos in fireproof bags.

Is this an illness?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner at Home: A Soldier’s Dream Then and Now

Still relevant, no matter what we think of the war or the politics of the original Thanksgiving story....

Posted to NIFL Diversity listserv, November 23, 2009

Tom Sticht
International Consultant in Adult Education

Thanksgiving Dinner at Home: A Soldier’s Dream Then and Now

Our War
November 1944
Private Pete’s Thanksgiving in Camp

During World War II, over a quarter million young men learned to read in Special Training Units in the Army. One of the resources used to teach reading was a newspaper, Our War, which was published monthly from June 1942 through September 1945. Each issue of Our War included a cartoon strip about a fictional Private Pete and his buddy, Daffy who are both in the Army's literacy schools. The November, 1944 issue discussed Thanksgiving Day. It has a message pertinent to today’s times and circumstances. Following is a synopsis of the strip.

The strip opens with a panel showing a reading classroom in which the fictional reading instructor is calling role and the soldiers are answering in sequence, “Adams”, “Here!“ “Jones”, “Here! “Smith”…, “Here!…”

Then the instructor says, “Today is Thanksgiving Day. I want to show you some movies about the first Thanksgiving Day.”

Five panels then tell and illustrate the familiar story of how the Pilgrims came to America in 1620 so they could be free, how they befriended the Indians, learned to fish and grow crops in the new land, and how they had the first Thanksgiving Day to give thanks for their good fortune in harvesting ample food. They celebrated with a feast and wild turkeys that they shot.

Then the following two panel shows the instructor saying, “All this happened more than 300 years ago. The turkey dinner came to be a mark of Thanksgiving. The mess sergeant told me this morning that we would have a turkey dinner today. The chaplain asked me to remind you of the special Thanksgiving service in the chapel tonight. And now we must get on with our reading lesson.”

Later, the cartoon panels show Pete and Daffy in the mess hall eating dinner and Daffy says, “This turkey is great---and so are the potatoes and peas!”

Pete says, “Be sure to save room for your ice cream.”

After dinner Daffy says, “That was some dinner, Pete. We really have much to be thankful for.”

Pete says, “And we will have much more to be thankful for when the war is over and then we can have Thanksgiving dinner at home.”

That evening, in the chapel, with an American flag alongside the podium, the Chaplain tells the assembled troops, “People all over the world who love freedom are thankful this year. Millions of people are free once again. And the enemies of freedom are being driven back on all fronts. Thanksgiving Day this year has more meaning than it has had for some time. We are still in a great war. But we know we shall remain free. For this reason, American soldiers all over the world give thanks.”

This year, Thanksgiving Day 2009, the words of the fictional chaplain of Thanksgiving Day 1944, some 65 years ago, ring just as true. Hundreds of thousands of American service members are in camps in distant lands struggling against the terrorism that struck New York City in 2001 and threatens free peoples around the globe today. Like millions of the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen of World War II, troops today will be observing Thanksgiving Day far from home and loved ones.

These military personnel of 2009 are, as a group, much better educated than those of World War II, and none are in need of comic strips to teach them to read. But we can be sure that many of today’s troops serving in distant lands will echo what the fictional literacy student and soldier Private Pete said in 1944, “…we will have much more to be thankful for when the war is over and then we can have Thanksgiving dinner at home.”

Home for Thanksgiving! Truly something to be thankful for.

Tom Sticht

Asparagus and....cookies?

I am in that "I don't feel like doing a damn thing mode."

I could use the gray weather as an excuse. Or I could use the upcoming holiday as a reason. Or I could blame it on PMS. Any of these would be valid today, but no, I believe I have another reason.

My tummy hurts. And it has been hurting for days now.

Why does my tummy hurt?

Well, I thought maybe I was eating too much. But after reviewing amounts and looking at liquid intake, I saw I really hadn't missed the mark that much. Sure, I overdid it on squash a bit the other day. (It's kind of hard to measure a cup of cooked squash from a restaurant.) And I did have salty onion soup last night. (No bread, and I added just a little cheese.) And I have had some sugary items that aren't so good for me, but I haven't had them in harmful amounts. No, it was two other items that have been doing me in.

The first was asparagus.

Now, you would think vegetables of any sort would be okay with the lap band. But alas, they are not. Some vegetables--especially stringy ones--irritate the band area. I knew going into the surgery, for example, that I would have to give up celery.

Somewhere along the line,, though, I had forgotten a nutritionist said if you're going to eat asparagus, you can only eat the tops.


Asparagus stalks are stringy.

Well. I forgot.

I am not sure what it is about the strings, but I am guessing they get tied up and clumped around in the tube area where the band constricts the stomach. This site says, "Hint: avoid stringy vegetables, like asparagus, which can clog up the opening between your gastric pouch and your intestines." Whatever the issue is, it sure has become one for me.

Second lesson learned the hard way: read the ingredients of protein bars more carefully.

I probably should not have been eating protein bars anyway, but I have reasons for wanting to do so. I sometimes forget to eat and then need a protein drink while I am in the car. Well, the drinks get kind of gross if they are warm or I forget to bring one with me, and let's face it, they aren't my favorite things in the world. So a bar stashed in my purse would be a nice convenience that I wouldn't dread consuming.

No dice on the bars. For whatever reason, my doc's office just hasn't had them in, and from what I can gather, even if their bars were in stock, I might not be able to afford them.

So along comes eBay.

Now, eBay is one of those places I love because you can get the strangest things according to any whimsical specification you feed into the search field. Lo and behold, I find a fabulous seller of protein bars that cost--even with shipping added in--less than $1 per bar. And the bars have 21 grams of protein. Amazing.

Except I couldn't figure out why I want to puke after I eat one.

I thought it was coincidence. Maybe it was just my ears acting up (the tinnitus makes me nauseated a lot, especially in the morning).

But this morning, I looked past the first four lines of ingredients, the remaining lines which I had previously skimmed because they seemed to just list the vitamins.

Cookie crumbs.

And tapioca solids.


Now, if these crumbs and solids were not hidden in the depths of a protein bar and instead were, say, in a pie crust or in a dessert cup, I would know not to touch them with a ten foot fork. Breads, cookies, rice and cakes are OUT. I mean, they are completely out. They clog the tube and make you sick. Some people eat stuff like that after the surgery, but I wouldn't even dare try it. And yet I did unwittingly.

If I feel this bad having consumed probably about tablespoon of cookie crumbs, I can only imagine what eating a whole cookie would feel like.

Actually, I don't want to imagine it.


My tummy hurts.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What happened at school today?

Something must have happened at school today. I don't know what it was. Because my daughter came home and cleaned out her backpack.

But then she moved on to the big basket of crapola in the kitchen--stuff I can't identify that belongs to the kids--and proceeded to clean that out, too.

"Junk," she said, tossing out a plastic-thingy with string. "Junk," she said, tossing a broken necklace. "Junk," she said, tossing a bald stuffed animal.

And so it went on...until she moved to a corner of the hutch where CD's, tape, glue and knitting needles cluttered the back wall, virtually pushing out the cat who considers the hutch her buffet.

"Junk...junk...this goes here..."

And next....the junk drawer. (Yes, we have that thing we call a junk drawer.)

"Mom, what ARE these? These tin things? We never use them."

"They are to hold crab cakes. Toss 'em." (Like, have I ever baked a crab cake?)

The more she organized, the more energized I got.

Sweep that floor, clean that counter, cook dinner, make some pudding for Zen.

Remind me to thank her teacher.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What difference does it make?

Have you ever wondered if what you do makes a difference? I mean, do you reach the end of the day and say, "What did I really accomplish today? Did I make the world a better place?"

That sounds like the beginning to a stupid infomercial. "Well, wonder no longer, because the new ego-stroker will make you feel good about your worthless lives no matter how pathetic you are."

Okay, so this isn't meant to be a depressing post. It's just a reflection.

Theoretically, we are supposed to acknowledge that every smile and random act of kindness we bestow on the world will make some kind of positive difference. Now, I believe this. I really do. But sometimes, when I look at that huge world around me and think of the billions of people that inhabit the planet, I think, wow. What I do is so much a drop in the bucket, it's practically not even wet.

Please don't get me wrong. It's not an ego stroke I am seeking. I am not one of those who needs a pat on the back because I let the guy behind me go first in line. What I am trying to say is, did that act on my part make a difference in the long run?

Maybe it did to him. Maybe he was in a rush to get home to his infant daughter and sick wife. Maybe he needed to get to work which is, let's face it, a bit of a commodity these days. Maybe he was just more tired than I was and really appreciated saving that extra minute.

Or maybe it wouldn't have mattered one way or another.

We never know what our actions will mean to someone else, and I think that's really what kind of annoys me. I like to think I am doing positive things, and generally I like to think what I am doing is making people happy. But how can we be sure? I mean, what if we are actually doing more harm than good and we don't know it? Hel-lo! A little road map here would be greatly appreciated.

But okay, so maybe all this makes me some schmucko people-pleaser. Well, so be it. I won't be a jerk to please people, and I won't go against my own value system, and I won't neglect the more important things just so I can make someone else happy. I'm not a kiss-but. So in my mind, that's fine. But I will go out of my way to a certain extent because I like people to be happy. When people around me are happy, I am happy. So you see, it's a kind of selfishness on my part, really.

I also like people to be good, however, and I realize you can't make someone good by making them happy.

Which is a good thing.

Because I have a hard enough time making myself good.