The Good Artist

The clay is always the same. Brown, cold and in some kind of geometric shape. It’s manufactured by the ton, or in tons, as I am not up on just exactly how clay is made or mined or if it drops down from the sky. And you can’t say that no two pieces of clay are alike because they most definitely exactly are alike.

It’s what you do with your clay that counts.

At first embrace, clay is hard. It has angles and planes that are rigid and exude no life. It has no beauty. A mere shape with any clue to its inner value well hidden. It’s the artist’s eye that sees the worth of clay. And clay is cold. In its most elemental form, it does not produce its own heat. It’s only when a skilled artist begins to gently work the clay does it finally warm. Untouched clay is dormant and waiting for the gentle hand of the artist to bring it to life.

Some clay is fortunate and is molded by the gentle and loving artist. This clay becomes beautiful; its beauty enduring long after both artist and work of art are gone. It is spoken of in hushed, reverent tones and all can agree that while the artist created a beautiful work of art, the work of art made a beautiful artist. They play off each other like shadow and light and the world is a better place because artist met clay.

The unfortunate hunk of clay falls into the hands of a selfish and vindictive artist who molds a work of ugliness and darkness that is the perfect reflection of himself. He is harsh with his clay, pointing out its imperfections and flaws. With cold and rough hands, the artist abuses the clay, never allowing its inner beauty to be revealed. In the end, the clay is cold and dry and without life. The artist blames the clay for the failure and both artist and work are quickly forgotten.

The good artist recognizes the beauty long before the clay reveals it while the bad artist never sees the beauty that is right before his eyes.

Be the good artist in all things.

Love and peace.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Of all the qualities an individual can have, I believe respect to be one of the biggies. Compassion and a sense of right outweigh respect, but I think that without a healthy dose of respect, you can’t care for one another nor can you be expected to do the right thing. Respect for another person and respect for one’s self seem, to me at least, essential to being a happy person.

So where do you start? Respect others or resect yourself? I think having respect for yourself has to be first and foremost in any plan. I think that you need to understand your uniqueness and your irrefutable importance are what helps make the world go around. If it were not for you, or me, or your arch enemy, life just wouldn’t be the same.

And respect isn’t doled out in material items. You can’t get respect by driving a luxury sedan or having a 90 inch flat screen on your wall. In fact, I think that the more you show your good fortune, the less respect you probably have for yourself. Well, let me back up here a tick…have the Lexus and the giant TV, but respect yourself for working hard to get those things.

But I digress. Respect doesn’t depend on wealth. To have respect for yourself you need to understand that you are working towards being the best you can be. That you are not a failure even though you may have fallen down a few (dozen) times. It’s the getting back up part that counts after all.

And once you honestly learn that you are worth something, respect for your fellow man will follow. Once you understand that you have worth, you’ll see the worth in others. Neighbors who you thought were nosey are really just trying to get to know you…and okay a little nosey. Once you feel good about yourself, it’s easy to understand that we are all just trying to be happy in a place that often times can be very, very unhappy.

I think the final part in this whole respect thing would be that your own self-respect becomes contagious and soon people will be treating you with respect. They see a person who can hold their head high, relatively secure in the fact that they are a worthwhile piece of carbon doing the best they can. It’s kinda like “if it looks like a duck” theory…if it looks like something valuable, we will treat it accordingly.

You might be wondering if I practice what I preach and if I do in fact respect myself. The short answer is no. Elaborating, I’d have to say not yet, but it’s in my long term plan. I work on respect every day. And until then I’m just gonna fake it till I make it!

You’re a valuable person, own it!

When Losers are Winners

I don’t always feel like a strong person. Hell, 99.9% of the time I am scared out of my mind. I’m trying out so many new things in my life that it honest to God freaks me out to the point where I sometimes just don’t know whether I’m coming or going. Oh, I wouldn’t change a single thing; I’ve just gotten somewhat used to the terror.

And that’s okay.

Being afraid puts you in that flight or fight mode the majority of the time. I’m usually ready to fight, but I have been known to retreat to live to fight another day. Cliché, I know but entirely true. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve thrown up the white flag. I learn a lot with each defeat; perhaps more than any victory has taught me.

But no one wants to hear about battles lost now do they? We all want to cheer for the hero who would not exist were it not for the loser. No conqueror would enter the city triumphant without a conquered. No victor without a vanquished. We need our losers. They define what a winner is.

And while I don’t like to think of myself as a loser, I do like to think that I have some the qualities of a loser. Losers are important. They teach us a lot.

But what do they teach us?

Losers teach us that everyone believes in something. Right or wrong, every person has beliefs. Even those who end up on the losing end believed in their cause. They’ve given their all for what was most precious to them. That’s admirable. Beliefs are what keep us going and, win or lose; it’s what keeps us fighting on.

Losers teach also teach us to fight even when the odds are against us. We’ve all seen the 300. We know the odds were stacked heavily against them. But we cheered the Spartans on anyway. Losers oftentimes know they can’t win. They see that the battle is nearly lost before it’s begun but they take a stand anyway. And they usually stand with others who are just as equally committed to the fight. It’s inspiring to watch.

Being a loser myself, I’ve learned humility. I’ve learned that when I lose, I find myself. I’m a little more sensitive to the plight of others. I learn that I’m not the center of the universe and that others will often come before me. And through that humility, I become more human. I like being human. I like connecting with the human plight. To know and to be one with those who are considered lowly means to join in a mass swell of humanity who have nothing to lose. Most winners were once losers who had run out of options. That gives me hope.

After having lost — sometimes several times — losers learn to try harder. They are more determined and more focused on what needs to be accomplished. It doesn’t always happen the second, third or even fourth time, but by God, eventually losers will win. Crawling over past mistakes and defeat, bloody knees and nails broken to the quick to reach a little further each time, the loser will emerge victorious. This builds my strength.

And sometimes I, as a loser, just have to learn to accept what I can’t change. There are battles out there I’m never going to win. And being able to adjust and adapt will make me a winner in the long run. After all, isn’t it the unyielding who are ultimately toppled? The supple and willowy will shift and sway to accommodate what is thrown at it. The things I cannot change, I will learn to live with. I will not allow it to ruin my life but will make it an acceptable part of it.  And it’s those things that excite me.

Losing makes me smarter. I hone and sharpen my wits to better my odds of winning. I learn from my mistakes and I store that knowledge for the next challenge. Winners don’t have the advantage of learning from mistakes. Losers have the opportunity to try again with gained perspective and intelligence that only losing could have brought them. Being a lover of knowledge, I look forward to the occasional set back if by doing so I gain a wealth of it.

Losers learn pretty damn quick who to trust and who not to. It’s not hard really to figure out when you’re on your knees. The guys with the swords are the ones you don’t trust. Those who are extending a hand to help you up are the good guys. The world becomes pretty black and white pretty fast: enemy and ally; really no one in between. And maybe the most important person a loser needs to trust is themselves. To rely on oneself is maybe the most valuable lesson learned. To look in the mirror and think “I’ve got this” and you know it’s just you and you alone is empowering. It’s what turns losers into winners.

So losers are just winners who haven’t won yet. But they will. And oh how sweet that victory will be. I want to leave you with a quote. I can’t remember where I saw it or even who to attribute it to. It could be a proverb or I’ve could have seen it on a fortune cookie but it’s sums up a loser in a simple sentence.

Fall down seven times; get up eight.

Peace and joy; learn from losing. Namaste babies.

If Only I Were Queen…

I probably always knew, but as the apparent top of the evolutionary ladder, I didn’t want to admit it. I let my ego, my supposed superior intelligence and that little matter of opposable thumbs delude me into thinking I was on top. Well, I’m not and today that point was driven home to me in so many levels that even a dumbass like me can’t help but acknowledge and accept the sad truth: animals rule.

Let me lay it out for you.

Here it is Saturday and I’m awake. I’ve been awake. And why is that you may wonder? Why would I be awake at 6:00 a.m. when I didn’t go to sleep until 2:00 a.m.? I don’t work on Saturdays. I don’t have any great event I must run off to. Yet here I am, dressed, teeth brushed and tea drunk (yes, it sadly was tea) hammering away at my keyboard. Why?

Simple…I’m a slave to the animals.

Lab One and Lab Two have decided that 6:00 a.m. is an absolutely wonderful time to go outside to eat grass. Nope, no need to poop or pee. They simply want to get the grass while it’s good and wet so it slips down their gullets with ease. From the sounds of it a few hours later, the return journey and onto the living room carpet isn’t so slick. Sounds like they’re hacking up a cat. Not a terrible idea if they pick the right cat. In that case, I’ll season the freakin’ thing and serve it to them on a platter.

If Lab One and Lab Two weren’t enough, the free ranging cats always make the morning memorable. These creatures, who have not been fully domesticated by a long shot, run wild through my tiny house. At a high rate of speed. And I am the speed bump. So while the Labs are pacing and prancing, eager for their grassy breakfast, the cats are ripping and tearing and using me like a NASCAR driver uses a banked corner. I need to keep band aids by the bed. Or a cattle prod. To use on myself.

By 6:12, I’m up. Bleary-eyed and not wanting to be, but up all the same. I lie to myself and say that this is a good thing. I’m a responsible adult; I should be awake at this hour and tend to all my responsibilities. I should make the most out of this glorious morning and do something freaking constructive. I should run for office for all the bullshit I just slung. Truth is, I don’t give a damn about being productive or responsible at 6:00 a.m. I care about being asleep.

But as much as the Labs and the pride of cats want to dominate, they are no match for the undisputed Queen of the Household. She’s little and seemingly weak, but she’s the craftiness bitch on the block: the Shit-zuh.

She doesn’t get up with the Labs or the crazy cats. She lies in bed under the covers with her head on the pillow and waits. Waits until I’ve taken Lab One and Lab Two out. Waits until I’ve fed the pride and put food in her bowl. Waits until that so very fragile sense of our particular normalcy has returned to the house.

And then the Queen arises.

And just like a Queen, she needs her lady in waiting. Me. A few barks out of her royal mouth and I know it’s time to lift her special ass off the bed and put her on the floor. Gently. Made the mistake of miscalculating her pudgy center of gravity once and she did a nose dive onto the hardwood. Made that mistake all of one time. Slept with one eye open the rest of that week. And then Her Royal Highness has to be coaxed to approach her most reverend bowl and eat her most reverend kibble. I can almost hear God Save the Queen playing in the background. With much fanfare and propriety, the little dictator — err Queen — delicately eats a part of her breakfast. She’ll save the rest for later unless the cats go near it at which time she’ll demand fresh. And then it’s time for her morning constitutional.

And here is where I almost feel sad for the happy Monarch. Queen Shit-zuh now faces a dilemma that probably no other dog, royal or not, has ever faced. Grass. She hates grass. And what’s worse than grass? Wet grass. But her urge to take a royal piss trumps the nasty feel of the damn outside on her delicate paws. So does her need to nose through the neighborhood spying on her subjects. Probably all happily sleeping, unaware that their Queen is holding court. This is the time where I look into my tea cup wishing it to be filled with amber whiskey instead of green tea.

But it’s not over yet.

Once the Queen has reviewed her kingdom, she’s ready to return to her castle and here is where I had the eye-opening realization that I am by no means in charge. As the Queen stood at the end of the driveway she faced a dilemma. To get to the castle door, she needed to cross a vast expanse of icky grass. Her loyal subject, me, stood at the door watching. Wondering how long I could get away with telling people it really was tea in my cup.

Queen looks at the garage door and looks at me.

I take a sip of tea willing it to be American Honey.

Queen looks at the garage door and looks at me.

I ponder how long I should stand here before the neighbors start to talk.

Garage door and then me.

She’d make a good outside dog.

Garage door. Me.

Or a small area rug.

GARAGE DOOR. ME.

ALRIGHT. DAMMIT!!!

So at 6:30 a.m. in my bare feet and barely enough clothes on to be legally outside, I put down the last cup of real tea I’m ever going to drink (I’m switching to alcohol) and walk to the garage. I smash the damn garage door button and open the bay door which slowly reveals the victorious Queen standing outside waiting for the royal road to open. She waits for the door to rise entirely and lowers her majestic head just slightly and struts through the garage, past me and onto the sidewalk to the back door. With a look of utter defeat I follow my liege to the door, pick her up and bring her inside the house. All the while, I fight the urge to tip her on her royal nose on the kitchen floor. Completely unaware of my treasonous thoughts, the Queen is off to her water bowl once her little paws lightly touch the floor. And now she is once again snuggled in bed under the covers with her royal pain in the ass head resting on a pillow.

And I’m just sitting her waiting for the next royal decree!

Tell me when this hurts

“This sounds like more discomfort than they would want in carrying out an execution”

That’s a direct quote from Richard Dieter, executive direct of the Death Penalty Information Center, an organization that opposes the death penalty and he’s making reference to the recent execution of an Ohio man who raped and stabbed to death a pregnant woman.

Wonder if she died having more discomfort than she would have wanted? I’m going to hazard a big, fat yes.

I’m nearly certain that while she was begging and pleading for her unborn child’s life and her own life, probably in that order as most mothers would do, she was also experiencing a certain amount of suffering. You know, during the rape and eventual stabbing death. It tends to hurt…the raping and the stabbing.

Deiter also noted that although the execution wasn’t a “complete disaster”, the state or the courts would not want “anything that even has the appearance of someone suffering or a delay in death being carried out.”

You’re shitting me, Deiter. Tell me you’re shitting me.

Hey, maybe I’m not up on all the new ways to die. Maybe I don’t understand that murderers have more rights than their victims. And maybe I’m just getting my period and overly sensitive. However silly I just may be, I am having a hard time feeling any kind of sympathy this man. None. In fact, its stories like these make me long for the day of public hangings. I’d pop a bag of popcorn and go see this deviate die.

One human killed another. He didn’t ask her if she was in discomfort. I’m sure he made damn sure that she was. And yet we are going to debate whether or not we killed him humanely? This shit makes my head explode.

We’re going to worry and fret and have congressional hearings over whether we’ve violated a convicted killer’s civil rights by not killing him in a quick and painless manner. And all the while a family has been morning the loss of a mother and child. I can’t speak for this family, I don’t know them. But even what little suffering or discomfort this killer felt in no way, shape or form gave them any solace. Not even beheading or draw and quarter or (my personal favorite) the bloody eagle would even begin to help them heal.

And I know he was someone’s father. I get that. His family has suffered because of his actions as well. They’ve had to come to terms with his crime and live in society and feel the harsh rebuke of neighbors and strangers alike while he sat in jail. I could not imagine the pain of having a murderer in the family. But he was a rapist and a murderer.

He was a human too. I don’t wish humans to die. I have a hard time wishing a house fly to die. My feelings on the death penalty are not black and white. I see both sides of the issue, leaning more towards being in favor. Yet that doesn’t make me a cold-blooded killer.

But he was.

’nuff said. Die fucker die…glad it took 13 minutes.

Passing it On

I few weeks ago I was looking through my computer files and I found a document that I didn’t remember creating. So I opened it. I was astounded. It was my daughter’s document and in it she was writing. It was the tiny budding of a manuscript and at that moment there was not a more proud mother than me. My daughter was writing! I was thrilled. Something that I am so passionate about, love doing so much, miss it when I can’t do, think about it all the time — and my daughter seemed to be following in my own footsteps.

There is no greater form of flattery than to see something that means so much to you being cultivated in someone that you love so much. It’s a lot like when she was born. She was miraculous and wondrous and I couldn’t believe that I made her. And to see that she’s also imaginative and funny and so sadly sincere all at the same time is just as miraculous and wondrous and I’m so damn lucky to call her my own.

Having a child share your passion is more than any parent can hope for. To have one more tangible string to connect with them on is precious. Think of the father and son tossing out a fishing line or playing catch in the back yard. It’s a time of bonding. It’s one shared memory that you’ll cherish as long as you can. It’s better than having a fat bank account or a house in the right neighborhood. It’s your kid and they like what you like.

And having them like what we like is kinda like a validation on our own life. As if because they are beginning to love something that we love, it’s a good thing to love. She seems to like writing; ergo, writing must be something good to love.

More precious than her grandmother’s jewelry, more valuable than her college fund and more important than being one of the cool kids, my daughter has begun a life-long journey. Her feelings and emotions and dreams and wild imagination will be splashed on page after page. Her loves and hates and indifferences will be secretly written down and hidden in journals and password protected files. Maybe she’ll blog and write and even if she is never published – although she has been published as she likes to remind me – she’ll have this magnificent outlet to put her thoughts onto page and make them her own.

She could be a rocket scientist if she wanted. She could teach or heal or do magic in a side show. But if she is never anything more than I writer, I would die a happy mom.

So here’s to the next great American Novelist! Keep on writing Bug!

I Love You Just the Way You Are…Said No One Ever

Let’s face it. No one is totally accepting of another person. Oh sure, we might say that we love them warts and all but the ugly truth is that there is one or two — dozen — things that we’d change about that person we say we love unconditionally. That it’s our spouse, our best friend, our children doesn’t matter. The simple fact of the matter is that we don’t love unconditionally.

It’s the glaring truth people. We may as well own it.

In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say we don’t even love ourselves unconditionally and that is a damn shame. And even more in fact (if, in fact, that’s grammatically correct — something I’m hard on myself about), I would hazard a guess that we’re more harsh when trying to love ourselves than we are others. We can see through other’s flaws and love them more than we can our own. We shouldn’t be doing that.

I propose that for a week, just a freakin’ week, we love ourselves. We do nice things for ourselves. We don’t talk badly about ourselves. No starting a sentence out with “I’m probably wrong” or “I’m so dumb” or “If I looked like”. No disparaging ourselves. No making excuses for our perceived faults. For one solid week, we love ourselves and we talk kindly of ourselves. We give ourselves a week free of self-loathing.

I think if we do that, if we can start being kinder and more loving to ourselves, we’ll be able to finally love someone else a little more unconditionally. If we begin to see the good that’s inside us, the good in others will be more readily visible. If we learn to love ourselves, loving someone else won’t come with all those fucking strings attached.

It might be a little late in the game for New Year’s Resolution so maybe I’ll make this a New Life Resolution: I’m going to love myself. I’m going to appreciate myself for what I am and what’s I’ve become; what I’ve accomplished and what I’m still working on; and what I’ve endured and what made me that much stronger.

I’m going to love me so I can love you better.