Monday, March 31, 2008

Skidboot the World's Smartest Dog

A friend sent me this sweet and touching video today that really shows the impact that animals can have on our quality of life. You owe it to yourself to watch this short video about an incredibly special dog, and his amazing relationship to his owner. Their relationship is sweet and has touched, inspired and entertained countless people!

Enjoy Skidboot the Dog!!!

Click on this link to watch the Skidboot video:

For more information about Skidboot and his life, visit the website:

Friday, March 28, 2008

Drip, Drip, Drip

A trickle of water can carve an immense canyon. No pressure, no struggle, just the gentle consistency of running water will hollow out the hardest stone.

Tomorrow I will declare victory over the popper weeds in my yard. I have 30 - 60 minutes of weeding left, and I will have achieved my goal.

When I began this endeavor a couple weeks ago, it seemed overwhelming and somewhat hopeless. I wasn't at all sure that I would be able to get the poppers out before the seed pods started exploding. There were days when my fingers were numb and burned from the cold. I wanted to quit. But I didn't. There were days I didn't feel well and didn't want to go 'do my time' in the yard. But I did it anyway. There were days when I questioned my commitment to gardening organically, and not using herbicides or pre-emergents to deal with the evil poppers. Some of these poppers are so small they are difficult to grab and pull out. It would be so much easier to spray them, or to just spread pre-emergents so their payloads wouldn't germinate. But I stayed true to my commitment to organic gardening.

Many 'thoughts' came against me to try to defeat me in my quest. Yet, each day I went out and spent an hour working on the project. Pull a popper. And another. And another. Like a slow drip or trickle of water carving out a canyon, I pursued my goal.

I got bursts of energy when I would survey the progress I'd made. It's amazing how the hours of effort pile up in a very short time!

Tomorrow, I will attain the immense satisfaction of a seemingly impossible task being completed!

Whatever it is that you are facing or need to tackle, it can be done one step at a time. Just take the first step and keep on moving!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Solving Puzzles

I am obsessed with jigsaw puzzles. They are one of the few things that give me pure pleasure in life. I just love them. There is something satisfying about clicking in a piece that I've hunted down over a long stretch of time. It is also a great feeling when I pick up a piece and plug it in with seemingly magical divine intervention.

I have definite strategies when I start a puzzle. There is a method to my madness. First, I turn over all the pieces, right side up, on a surface separate from the puzzle construction surface. As I do this process, I search for border pieces and place them in the puzzle construction zone. Once all the pieces are upright and all the border pieces are collected, I put together the border.

I am pretty diligent about making sure I completely construct the border, but I'm not compulsive about it. If I can't find a piece or two after a concerted effort, I move on to the next phase.

I generally start with distinct, easily identifiable color areas. I'll decide on an area, and I'll collect all the pieces that go with that particular area, and put it together.

Chunking down the larger 'problem' into small, manageable pieces makes the task of constructing the puzzle less overwhelming.

I don't like to clutter the puzzle construction area with too many pieces. I like to focus on one part of the puzzle at a time.

Sometimes I'll take a break on one area when I hit a wall, and work on something else for a while.

The bottom line is that I break the problem down into manageable pieces, collect all the necessary parts to work on a particular section and get down to business.

I am methodical, but I allow for inspiration. I mix up my approaches. Sometimes I work on an area, as described above, and other times I will search for a particular piece that I feel motivated to find. Filling 'holes,' where a particular piece is missing from a section, is particularly satisfying.

The actual design of the puzzle can dictate the complexity and difficulty of putting it together. The image on the puzzle, the size and shape of the pieces are all factors that influence the level of challenge. I like to do really easy puzzles, and I like to do more challenging puzzles. I like a lot of variety. It keeps it fresh and exciting.

Doing puzzles has taught me a lot about my personality and my approach to life and solving it's problems.

I approach puzzles in much the same way that I approach life. When faced with a seemingly overwhelming project or problem, I start by organizing all the components so I know where everything is and everything is accessible to me.

Then I create a framework to hold the project. In much the same way as putting together the border of the puzzle creates a container, I like to spec out the project and understand the boundaries and parameters of the endeavor.

Then, I move to work on the parts that make the most sense to do first. I like to get some momentum going and get some success under my belt. Also, the more pieces I get put into place, the less 'confusion' there is in what remains to be done. The more pieces I get put into place, the faster the progress seems to go.

I used to feel that working on puzzles was kind of wasting time. Now, I actually view it as 'training' for how to approach life's problems, challenges and projects. I truly enjoy the fact that I have a leisure activity that teaches me how to be more effective in life.

Life really is like a puzzle. We have all sorts of situations in which we need to figure out how to put the pieces together to make something worthwhile. The problems are always solvable, just like a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes pieces look like they will fit, and they don't. We keep looking for the 'click.' Sometimes we go at life with the pace of a tortoise. Other times, living is easy and the pieces click in quickly and easily. It's all part of the puzzle of life.

I invite you to adopt my metaphor. You don't even have to enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles to enjoy the metaphor!

The pieces lying on the floor look like nothing. When we use our intelligence, our will and our energy to put them together properly, we achieve a meaningful and pleasing end result!

Put a few pieces into place today!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Resurrection - The Time of New Life Begins

This past Sunday Christians celebrated Easter which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a time of great hope and great inspiration, with the primary message being that anything can be overcome, with God, even death itself.

I spent the day reflecting on the way that life reassures us that there is always a chance for a new beginning. As spring is upon us, we see new life all around us. The trees and shrubs are budding out with their promise of summer's bold foliage. Daffodils, tulips and heathers are in bloom. The birds are beginning to make their nests in preparation of the new life they will bring into our midst. Everywhere you look there is something beginning.

The story of the resurrection reminds us that in order to be resurrected something must first die. The old must pass away before the new can spring forth. The lesson we are taught in Christ's crucifiction and ressurection is that in order to have the new experience that we seek, we must die to the old ways, the old habits, the old ways of thinking, the old ways of behaving. We must let go of the addictions, the self destructive habits, the unhealthy relationships, the limiting self talk and beliefs and any other 'old' construct that keeps us from being the people we are born to be and prevent us from living the lives that we were born to live.

We are shown that when we release something we *think* is all important, we can actually begin to have what IS actually important. So often we cling to things that hurt and destroy us. We must learn to lay down what is no longer healthy for us or useful to us, in order to reach for the new experience that we are being called into.

I believe that the story of Jesus' death and resurrection reminds us that ultimately, we cannot hold on to that which we are being called to release. Sometimes we think we are going to crumble if we let go of 'that thing' but his story reminds us that we not only can let go of things we feel are precious to us, but in some cases, it is required to ascend to our next level of consciousness and our next level of spirtual maturity and expression.

Happy Easter to us all! May we lay down that which no longer serves us, and step into a higher state of consciousness and fulfillment of our potential!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Have I Done All I Can?

As a person who doesn't really enjoy watching sports, many people who know me are amused that I love sports movies. I have a large collection of DVDs that are based on the life of sports figures or teams. They are all inspiring and filled with life wisdom and inspiration.

This weekend I watched "Rudy." This movie tells the truth life story of Rudy Ruettiger who dreamed his entire childhood of playing football for Notre Dam. Rudy came from a working class family. The children didn't go to college. The expectation for the boys was to go to work in the mill where all their relatives were employed. Although not addressed directly, my guess is that girls were expected to get married. No other possibilities existed for these kids.

Rudy's family was not supportive of his dream. He was ridiculed and teased. As a young man of small stature, he was not destined to be a great football player. He struggled in school and did not have the grades to get into Notre Dam or any other college.

Rudy was determined, committed and persistent. He had to go against the wishes of his father, leave behind his family and long time girlfriend and leap into the unknown. He went to South Bend to pursue his dream. He was virtually broke and didn't have any idea how he would make his dream come true.

Rudy worked at Notre Dame in the maintenance department while he attended classes at a local community college. His goal each quarter was to transfer to Notre Dame and gain the opportunity to try out for Notre Dame's "prep" practice football team.

I'm touched by all aspects of this story, but two moments stand out to me as the most powerful.

Semester after semester, Rudy applies to Notre Dame and time after time he is rejected. Yet, he continues to struggle, work, study and pray. He gets discouraged but he never gives up. The moment comes when Rudy is applying to Notre Dame for the last time. If this attempt is unsuccessful, his dream will be ended. In a conversation with a priest, he asks a powerful question, "Have I done everything I can?"

Rudy worked as hard as is humanly possible to attain his goal. That's all any of us can do. He did more than most people would ever consider doing in the pursuit of his dream. At some point, however, he had to let go. There was nothing else he could do. He worked as hard as he possibly could, in the face of overwhelming odds and left no stone unturned.

He finally gets the news that he is admitted to Notre Dame. My second favorite scene in the movie is when Rudy goes to the mill to show his father his letter of acceptance to Notre Dame. His father, who did all he could to discourage Rudy, completely beamed with pride. As he folds the letter very carefully and puts it back into the envelope, you can feel the restricted and shackled thinking starting to break apart. The world will never be the same. Not for Rudy, not for his family, not for his little brothers and sisters, not for the kids in his high school and not for all the people in that mill town. Rudy broke the barriers of limited thinking!

Rudy goes on to play on the prep team and in the end is allowed to dress for one game as an official Notre Dame player. He is played at the very end of the game and sacks the opposing team's quarter back.

Rudy's heart, soul and dedication inspired the entire Notre Dame football team. All the players admired and respected Rudy for what he accomplished. At the end of the game in which Rudy played, he was carried off the field by his teammates. NO other player has been carried off the field at Notre Dame since that day.

Rudy shows us all the immense value of persistence and dedication. If we all had a little more 'Rudy' in us... our worlds would look very different!

What's your dream? No matter how big or how small, ask yourself, "Have I done everything I can?" If the answer is no... you still have stones to turn over... and there is hope!

Watching movies like Rudy and reading books about the lives of ordinary people who've accomplished amazing things helps keep us motivated and moving forward with our dreams and goals. Fortify yourself with these wonderful examples and get to it!

"Getting what you want is only a problem if you have nowhere to go next. Dreaming is a lifetime occupation." - Rudy Ruettiger

Friday, March 21, 2008

Milad an-Nabi/Birthday of Prophet Muhammad (Islam), Good Friday (Christianity), Purim (Judaism)

Yesterday (Thursday, March 20th) and today (Friday, March 21st) mark special days in the calendars of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. I personally love it when important days of these three religions clump together. I think there is a message, of some sort, in that occurrence.

Thursday, March 20, 2007 marked Milad an-Nabi: the Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad for Muslims. To mark this day is not to be taken as a sign of 'worshipping' Muhammad or setting him out as God himself. Muhammad was very clear in his instructions that he was not to be worshipped in any way. That would be confusing the messenger with the message and it's sender. Milad an-Nabi is merely a commemoration of the birth of someone who brought forth Allah's great wisdom.

From the About Islam website:

In the Islamic calendar, the 12th day of Rabi-al-Awwal marks the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

There is a difference of opinion about whether the Milad Un-Nabi should be a time of celebration. There is evidence that the Prophet, his Companions, and the early followers after them did not celebrate or otherwise observe his birthday. On the contrary, Muhammad was careful to warn his people not to imitate other faiths, whose followers elevated their prophets and added to the religion what was not in the original teachings.

Those who disagree claim that although not practiced in the early years of Islam, the remembrance of the Prophet's birthday is a "good innovation." They see it as a time to read the Qur'an, and remember the life, teachings, and example of the Prophet Muhammad.

See the entire article on Milad an-Nabi at

For Western Christians, March 21, 2008 is Good Friday, or Holy Friday (the Friday before Easter), the most solemn day of the liturgical year. It commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

From Wikipedia:

The Dutch name Goede Vrijdag translates as "Good Friday". Other languages refer to this day in different ways (most often as Holy Friday).

In the Holy Land, Good Friday is known as "Great Friday." In German it is "Karfreitag", an Old German word meaning "Friday of lamentation", although this meaning is not obvious to speakers of modern German. In Armenia it is called "High Friday (Ավագ Ուրբաթ)". In Russia it is called "Passion Friday" (Страстной Пяток / Страстная Пятница). In Ethiopia it is called Friday of the Crucifixion (arib siqilat)

Great Friday: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece (Μεγάλη Παρασκευή / Megáli Paraskeví), Hungary, Macedonia, Malta (Il-Ġimgħa l-Kbira), Poland (Wielki Piątek), Lithuania, Romania, Serbia, [[Slovakia]Velky Piatok], Slovenia, and in the Eastern Orthodox Church generally; Sri Lanka (Maha Sikurada); Indonesia (Jumat Agung)

Holy Friday: Latin America, Spain (Viernes Santo), France (Vendredi Saint), Italy (venerdì santo), Portugal, Brazil (Sexta-Feira Santa), Philippines (Mahal na Araw or Biyernes Santo), Vietnam (Thứ sáu Tuần Thánh), Japan (聖金曜日)

Long Friday: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Faroe Islands, Iceland

Day of Christ's Suffering: Chinese-speaking areas (基督受難日)

Sad Friday: Arabic-speaking locals

Good Friday (English language) but Aoine Chéasta Passion Friday (Irish Language): Ireland

Read the entire article on Good Friday at

Today in Judaism, is part of the celebration of Purim. In Purim Jews recall the story of Esther, who saved her people in Persia from annihilation. Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar. Children often dress up in costumes for the occasion.


The story of Purim is told in the Biblical book of Esther. The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to become part of his harem. King Ahasuerus loved Esther more than his other women and made Esther queen, but the king did not know that Esther was a Jew, because Mordecai told her not to reveal her identity.

The story of Purim is every interesting and entertaining. I encourage you to read the whole story of Purim on

One Step at a Time

You are apt to read a lot about my garden in the coming months. I learn a lot about myself and about life from my garden.

The past few days I have 'worked between the raindrops' to pull weeds. Obviously, my choice is to have a beautiful, bright sunny day to inspire me to get out in the garden and work. Life in the Pacific Northwest rarely provides such an opportunity.

When it's cold, damp and looks like it could rain at any second... it is so easy to say, "I'll do it some other time!" Yet, with our weather in this region, if I waited for the perfect day it could be months before I'm willing to get out and do the work that needs to be done.

I'm practicing the art of 'making hay while the sunshines' and 'striking while the iron is hot.' Today for example, I started my hour of weeding and the raindrops started to fall. I instantly felt both frustrated and relieved. Frustrated because I was 'resigned' to 'doing my time' and relieved to think I was being 'let off the hook' for today. I started to head for my garage, but then decided to just give it a few minutes and see if the rain continued and got worse, or if it just passed. WIthin just a few minutes the sprinkles stopped. The sun even came out!

I ended up putting in an hour and a half! A bonus half hour! I made great progress on my project even though the skies were mostly gray, and I did get 'spit' on a bit.

I could have used the few sprinkles that fell as an excuse to give up for the day. If I had, I'd be an hour and a half further from my goal.

I felt such a sense of accomplishment when I finished my 1.5 hours of weeding today. As I surveyed the progress I made, I was grateful for my willingness to stick with it, even though conditions weren't ideal.

Again, this is very true of life itself. We are often required to step into things at less than perfect moments. We don't always get to wait until we feel inspired (by weather or anything else) to take action. Sometimes we have to decide to take action, and squeeze it in around everything else.

When we can do that we will achieve far more than we believed possible. My garden gets weeded one hour at a time. I squeeze those hours into busy days. I wedge those hourse in between rain showers, dentist appointments, stock trades, writing and providing counseling services. That is how life happens. If we wait for unrestricted time, perfect weather and optimal conditions... we will spend our lives spining our wheels going no where.

I vote that we MOVE... even if only one hour, or one weed at a time!! :)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Art of Using Something Well

My mom is about to embark on a little home improvement project. The night shades on a few of her windows (including the ones in my room) are literally disintegrating. They are falling apart to the touch!

When I was visiting her last month, I wanted to pull the shade down to block out the street light that was shining through the window. As I walked up to the shade, I realized that it brittle and broken. Each time I tried to hold on to it to pull it down, pieces would break off in my hand! I was amazed. The thing has probably been there since I was in high school... many moons ago!

Likewise, my mom replaced her kitchen curtains last year. They too had... shall we say, seen better days. They were falling apart.

I was teasing her a bit about this today. Using things into the ground... until there isn't an ounce of 'use' left in them.

Even as I was teasing her, I was also admiring that attitude towards life. My mom isn't into replacing things just to have something new. That's not to say that she doesn't appreciate nice things. She certainly does. The attitude expressed here, however is in not indulging in buying new things just for the sake of having something new. It is an attitude of respecting that something has a function or job, and giving it the opportunity to do that job until it is no longer able!

In our disposable world, this attitude is fading fast. I get so upset that so many things are disposable and we collectively think nothing of throwing things 'away.' I was very affected the first time I read this statement:

There is no such place as 'away.'

When we 'throw things away' they end up in a landfill. Depending on how long they take to biodegrade they are with us for the long haul. If they give off toxins as they break down, they affect the entire balance of life. Yet, we often throw things away with a casual and unconscious attitude. As long as we don't look at it anymore, it's gone. That isn't really true, of course. The item we've discarded is, of course, somewhere.

I like my mom's attitude about using things well and thoroughly. I feel better about letting go of something when I know I've really enjoyed it and used it to the fullest. Whether its a car, an article of clothing or a computer. I always try to find a good home for things that still have use left in them. Now, thanks to the reminder by my mother, I'm going to be looking to hold on to things a little longer and use them a little better!

We can infuse the way we use our time with the same attitude. Each moment is an opportunity to invest a little of our life force and energy. When we fritter away our time we are not using it well. If we use our time involved in addictions and unhealthy habits, we miss an opportunity to invest our most valuable resource in what is most important to us.

Give a little thought to how you use all your resources in your life! Is there something you can use a little more thoughtfully? Carefully? Consciously? Completely?

There is a deep satisfaction that comes with using something well. Give it a try!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Exploding Popper Weeds

Do you know what a popper weed is? I'm not sure of the technical name, but I sure have a lot of experience with them!

Popper weeds are little plants that produce numerous seed pods that explode when they reach full maturity and/or are influenced by an outside element. That outside element could be the wind blowing them around, or someone or something brushing up against them. They also explode if you try to pull them when they are past a certain critical point in their maturing process!

I have these little weeds ALL over my yard. Some seasons I am able to stay on top of them and get them pulled before they set their seeds pods and become little dangerous ticking time bombs. Other years they have gotten ahead of me and cast their seeds far and wide. When that happens, obviously, the problem grows and magnifies.

These little weeds have taught me a valuable lesson. A LITTLE effort early on, before the weeds set their seed pods, saves a LOT of effort later on. A little extra effort before the problem is severe saves me a nightmare of playing catch up for the entire summer. Each one of the seeds creates another plant. Each plant has a LOT of seeds. Plucking one of those weeds before it has time to propogate itself is a wise move. Yet, sometimes the 'effort' seems like too much... even when I KNOW that I'm saving myself 10 times the effort and energy later on.

All it takes is a couple of seasons of doing almost CONSTANT battle with these little suckers to convince me that the poppers must be dealt with as early as possible.

Right now, I have a healthy crop of them flourishing in my garden. It's still cold outside and being out there pulling weeds is about the last thing I want to be doing! However, I'm setting aside a chunk of time every day to do just that. My 'suffering' now with cold fingers and a little dampness, will save me endless hours later on.

It's a great reminder that sometimes, in life, we have to pay the price up front to have the prize in the end. We don't always have the luxury of 'waiting until we feel like it' to do something we know we need to do. Often the 'payoff' for doing the right thing isn't obvious up front. A lot of times we have to learn the hard way that when we procrastinate and don't tend to things in a timely fashion, we will get slammed with an unpleasant consequence.

Got any popper weeds hanging out in your life? Get to pulling them before they explode and create more problems in your future.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

5 Years After Iraq's 'Liberation,' There are Worms in the Water

Here we are five years after the US invasion of Iraq. It is hard to know what to believe about the 'progress' of the US 'goals' in Iraq. Bush and his crew say we're 'succeeding.' I hold a different view, based more on the perspectives of people I know in that part of the world who understand the grim reality of what the Iraqi people endure on a daily basis. Their world looks very different than it did 5 years ago. True, Saddam Hussein is gone. Quality of life, however, has not necessarily improved, and in many cases has diminished. I felt this article did a nice job of painting the picture about ordinary people's lives in Iraq.

5 Years After Iraq's 'Liberation,' There are Worms in the WaterBy Hannah Allam, McClatchy Newspapers
Sun Mar 16, 6:00 AM ET

BAGHDAD — Iraq's most prominent clerics have ruled that using a water pump on one's own pipes is akin to stealing resources from a neighbor, so what does a person do when it takes half an hour to fill a cooking pot with water from the tap?

Iraqis pray for forgiveness, then pump away.

To them, the real crime is that five years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq , they still swelter in the summer and freeze in the winter because of a lack of electricity. Government rations are inevitably late, incomplete or expired. Garbage piles up for days, sometimes weeks, emanating toxic fumes.

The list goes on: black-market fuel, phone bills for land lines that haven't worked in years, education and health-care systems degraded by the flight of thousands of Iraq's best teachers and doctors.

When the Iraqi government announced that 2008 would be "the year of services," workaday Iraqis had their doubts.

"Under Saddam's regime, we had limited salaries but we had security and decent services. Now, we have decent incomes but we lose it all to water, propane, groceries, fuel. We save nothing," said Balqis Kareem , 46, a Sunni Muslim housewife who lives in the predominantly Shiite Muslim district of Karrada. "This government gives with the right hand and takes away with the left."

At Kareem's modest, single-story home, a wall in the living room sprouts a tangle of electrical wires, a reflection of the three power sources she juggles throughout the day: the government's supply, her own small generator and the neighborhood's larger generator. Even so, for five years she hasn't been able to keep milk or meat in the refrigerator for more than a few hours because it spoils so quickly in the daily blackouts.

A kitchen cupboard holds a barely touched box of rationed tea, which Kareem described as "so bitter no amount of sugar can sweeten it." She said that she'd once used a magnet to clean metallic flakes from a bag of government-supplied rice. She barred her four children from drinking tap water after she found worms floating in a glass she'd poured.

The family's home phone rarely works, though earlier this month a worker from the phone company showed up demanding payment for calls that they both knew she hadn't made. Like so many employees of government utilities, he wanted a bribe.

"I just got to the point and told him, 'Don't waste my time. How much do you want?' " Kareem said. "He told me, I paid him and then went on with my day. I'm practical."

As another scorching summer approaches, everyone has to improvise to find electricity. Those who can't afford generators have to grease the meter men to look the other way as they splice wires and steal more than their permitted amount of power. At most, they'll be able to run a TV set, a couple of fluorescent bulbs and maybe the water pump. Of course, that's only when the electricity is on— never more than five hours a day and typically closer to two.

A popular joke here goes that a distraught boy approached his mother and sobbed that his father had touched a live wire and was electrocuted, to which the mother replied, "Thank God! There's electricity!"

When a reporter asked the official spokesman Ali Dabbagh how the Iraqi government could restore faith in its leaders' promises of services, he hung up the phone, offended at the question.

"Anyone who says that solving the services issue will take two or three years is exaggerating. Iraqi cities need years of work and billions of dollars," said Sadiq al Rikabi , a political adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki . "The destruction that we inherited, which was increased by terrorism, makes the suffering of Iraqis very difficult. Ending this needs time and effort, but the prime minister is determined to start the work and, God willing, Iraqis will feel the improvement in the coming few months."

Adil Hameed , a senior adviser to the minister of electricity, defended his embattled employer, listing a number of setbacks to power production that range from the devastating looting of a main control center in the early days of the U.S.-led invasion to the shortages in Baghdad caused by populous southern provinces using far more than their allotted share of electricity.

This year's electrical infrastructure-improvement budget of $1.4 billion is half of what it would take to make a dent in the problem, Hameed said. Yet there have been modest gains: a month-old operations room that reports directly to the prime minister, the deployment of U.S. forces to protect electricity facilities and a stepped-up search for international companies to build power plants.

"We're now producing at about 50 percent, but the people get only about 25 percent of their needs because we use nearly half the production to supply Iraqi infrastructure such as hospitals and government departments," Hameed said, adding that he expected outages to increase as usual during the summer.

Increasingly, Iraqis are relying on militias and other armed groups to fill the services void. Stories abound of neighborhood militiamen commandeering power plants and forcing terrified engineers to flip the switches even during government blackouts, turning militants into heroes and further undermining the unpopular Maliki administration.

In some poor areas of Baghdad , militias or Iranian-backed charities have become the main source of propane tanks, food staples, garbage collection and other services that the government should provide.

"They always talk, but nothing is tangible so far," Karam Hussein , 60, a Shiite retiree, said of the government. He lives in Baghdad's Shaab neighborhood, which is mostly under the control of the Mahdi Army militia. "On the contrary, when they talk, things always get worse. It's better if they just stop talking."

In the hardscrabble, mostly Shiite neighborhood of Shohada, 67-year-old Hani Abdel Hussein is desperately trying to sell the family home in hopes of moving to an area with better services. Damage from a stray mortar shell that plunged through the roof isn't the only deterrent for buyers, however.

Trash collection is so sporadic that residents tie up their garbage in plastic bags and fling them onto a reeking pile at the end of the street. Electricity is mainly from a private generator, and water shortages have forced Abdel Hussein to shower at a public bathhouse in another neighborhood.

His land line has been dead for the past three years, though he recently received a bill for about $70 .

"If the phone actually worked, I'd be happy to pay today," the soft-spoken father of three said. "I don't believe it's that hard for the government to bring back services. But they had 50 sessions of parliament just to remove the stars from the flag. I guess they're too busy."

( McClatchy special correspondents Laith Hammoudi and Jinan Hussein contributed to this article from Baghdad .)

Links to article:
5 years after Iraq's 'liberation,' there are worms in the water

Monday, March 17, 2008

Address the Mess!

Today I did something that seemed relatively minor, took no time at all, and yet it radically transformed my closet!

I have a fairly large, walk in closet. In the middle of the closet is an island table with shoe shelves underneath it.

I have not seen the top of that table in over a year. It is always stacked high with laundry that has not been put away or hung up. Every time I enter my closet I have a feeling of overwhelm and chaos!

Yet, interestingly enough, it's never been high on my priority list to clean it up. I've just 'lived with it' and thought I'd get around to straightening it out some other time.

Today was the day! I just started putting things away and before I knew it I was looking at a spanking clean table top! I found articles of clothing I forgot I had! I also located some items that had been misplaced since last summer. It felt so good to find those things and get them put where they were supposed to be!

It is actually a little disorienting to walk in there now. It looks like a completely different place!

I find it interesting that for as long and as much as this has 'bothered' me, I never felt super motivated or driven to take care of it. I just got comfortable with the chaos and the disorganization. It felt normal to me, even though I didn't like it.

I think this is a fairly common experience in life. We get comfortable in 'the mess' and establish a new normal. We 'tolerate' the discomfort and often allow it to grow and magnify. This is how little problems turn into big problems. In a way, we stop seeing a problem and that allows it to grow unchecked.

The closet experience reminded me of this phenomenon. I intend to do some life scouring now and look for other 'messes' that I have become 'comfortable' with. It is pretty incredible that a closet can be such a teacher.

I keep walking in there, turning on the light, and smiling to myself. It feels good to address the mess!

Got any 'messes' that need attention in your life? It might take less energy than you think to whip it into shape and clean it up!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Taking the Waters

I just returned from a trip to San Francisco and Calistoga California. Calistoga is a quaint little town that has a claim to fame: boiling hot mineral water from geyers. The mineral water is bottled and sold. You can also go to a number of resorts and 'take the waters.'

I stayed at one such resort for a few days with a friend. We spent a lot of hours floating in the mineral water filled pool - allowing the nurturing minerals to sooth and heal us. It was quite an experience.

I also had my first mud bath. ANother activity meant to detoxify the system and infuse it with healing waters. I've never been coated in super hot mud before. It felt wonderful, and you could just feel the mud drawing out all sorts of toxins during the 15 minute episode. After the mud bath and washing away the muddy coating, a 15 minute soak in a tub of mineral water infuses the skin with nourishment. A steam bath of vapors from the nautral geyser is the last heat related part of the treatment. Then one rests on a comfortable bed wrapped in soft sheets for the 'cool down.'

I was fortunate enough to have two of these mud bath treatments and to soak in the olympic sized swimming pool filled with mineral water for many hours.

I came home with a dedication to the process of the purification of my system on an ongoing basis. We don't need to travel to Calistoga to detox and purify our bodies, minds and spirits. A bathtub will do. A shower can also be very effective. It all boils down to intention.

As I soaked in the mud, mineral water and steam, I visualized myself releasing all toxins: physical, mental and emotional. With each bead of persperation, I felt myself letting go of all that I no longer needed - at every level of my being.

Intention is a powerful force. We can make use of it anywhere and anytime to radically alter our life experiences.

There is no reason why each bath or shower we take cannot be an opportunity to release toxins and soak in the nourishment that water has to offer.

Give some thought to this the next time you shower or take a bath. It just might turn an ordinary experience into an extraordinary one!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Without Chlorine Gazans Must Boil Water

This is another re post. As we in this country enjoy our daily conveniences of free flowing water and electricity, let's remember that there are others in this world of ours who don't share those same benefits.

There are so many people in the world who do not have access to clean, safe drinking water or predictable fuel sources or electricity. Those in Gaza, Iraq and many other places around the world live with hardships we will probably never know. In some ways, we contribute to those hardships, and we should be aware of the ways in which we do. We might be oblivious to it, but others in the world are not. It is one of the reasons why America is so unpopular throughout the world at this point in time.

This is a heartbreaking story about the water problems in Gaza:

Without Chlorine Gazans Must Boil Water
By IBRAHIM BARZAK, Associated Press Writer
Wed Feb 27, 12:51 PM ET

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - The Gaza Strip has run short of chlorine because of an Israeli blockade and its 1.5 million people should start boiling their drinking water to purify it, the territory's water utility said Wednesday.

The Coastal Municipality Water Utility made the announcement in radio and newspaper advertisements, telling residents that the blockade has left Gaza without enough equipment and supplies needed to maintain the water system. Officials said there have been no deliveries of chlorine, needed to purify the water, since Jan. 21. More than one-third of Gaza's water supply is now untreated, said Maher Najjar, deputy director of the utility.

Najjar said 52 of 140 wells used to supply water to Gaza residents were out of chlorine. "I expect by the week's end all the wells will run dry of chlorine," he said.

The authority said there is a "major concern over a health disaster due to possible contamination of the drinking water" and appealed to the international community for help.

The Israeli military said the Palestinians did not make a request for chlorine until Wednesday, and it was urgently trying to arrange a new shipment into Gaza.

Most residents already don't have regular water supplies because of a shortage of fuel used to pump water. Many people already use filters or bottled water because the quality of tap water is generally poor.

Israel imposed sanctions on Gaza after the Islamic militant Hamas seized power last June. Israel has tightened its blockade in recent weeks in response to repeated rocket attacks on southern Israel by Gaza militants.

On Wednesday, an Israeli student was killed in a rocket barrage on a college just outside Gaza, after seven Palestinians, including five Hamas militants, were killed in Israeli airstrikes.

Under the sanctions, Israel, the main gateway for Gaza's imports and exports, has allowed little more than basic humanitarian goods to enter the territory. It also has reduced fuel and electricity supplies to Gaza.

Most Gaza residents who can afford to do so filter Gaza's salty, brackish tap water before drinking it. However, that does not kill the bacteria, Najjar said.

He said the real danger were children drinking untreated water.

"I can't stop people drinking the water," Najjar said.

In an area used to shortages and hardship, residents did not seem especially panicked.

"For 16 years I've been boiling the water," said Mohammed Masoud, a restaurant owner. "I'm not worried about the poison in the water — everything here is already poisonous," Masoud said.

A Palestinian boy drinks from a water tap as others wait to fill up water containers in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008. The Gaza Strip's water provider on Wednesday urged the area's 1.5 million people to boil their drinking water, citing a dire shortage of chlorine as a result of an Israeli economic blockade. The chlorine shortage is another addition to Gaza's water woes. Most residents don't have regular water supplies because of a shortage of diesel, used to pump water.
(AP Photo/ Eyad Baba)

Monday, March 10, 2008

An Israeli and a Gazan Blog for Peace

I felt that this was a worthy repost, given all the dreadful news coming out of Israel and Palestine. This is a bright spot in a dark field.

I applaud these brave men. Check out their blog at:

May the world see more and more like them... among us all.

All things are possible....

An Israeli and a Gazan Blog for Peace
By Josh Mitnick
Thu Mar 6, 3:00 AM ET

Sderot, Israel - It's a friendship that spans the poles of the Israeli-Palestinian war zone – this southern Israeli border town and a Gaza refugee camp about 10 miles away.

The two men have not seen each other in about a year. But they are now reunited in the blogosphere, writing a joint diary to stave off their own despair and prove that a dialogue is still possible across the divide.

Titled, "Life must go on in Gaza and Sderot," the pair rants in (uneven) English about the seeming futility about the Hamas-Israeli hostilities, the daily stress of surviving the violence, and the loneliness of optimists.

"Peace man," an unemployed bachelor who resides in Gaza's Sajaiya refugee camp, blogs between Gaza's power outages and complains of insomnia from the constant overflights of Israeli attack helicopters.

"Hope man," a software programmer whose Sderot house has been buffeted on all sides by Qassam rockets, worries about being away from his kids – who are at school – when the next rockets fall.

"We decided we wanted to come out to the world, and to show that there other types of relationships between Palestinians in Gaza and Israelis in Sderot, not only rockets and violence," says the Sderot blogger. "Even though things are really awful, it's to show there can be a true connection."

On Wednesday, under pressure from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced he would resume talks with Israel after a suspension earlier this week in protest over the killing of more than 100 Palestinians in Gaza.

On the eve of Ms. Rice's visit, Hope Man said he had low expectations that her talks would yield a permanent halt to the cross-border violence. "I don't think anyone has a clue about how to get out of this bind."

Started in January, the Israeli-Palestinian blog team posts about every other day and they try to steer clear of political debate. The entries include first-person accounts of dodging Qassam rockets, shopping for scarce goods in Gaza's markets, the frustrating search for like-minded Israelis and Palestinians, and a mantra-like appeal for a stop to the violence.

Afraid their public conversation may be seen as disloyal by their countrymen, they assiduously guard their true identities. The Gaza blogger says in a phone interview that some of his friends who know about the blog have expressed concern for his well-being.

The fighting of the past week, some of the worst in years, has made it almost impossible for Gazans to openly speak of peaceful relations with Israelis, even if it's only in cyberspace. "They say it's dangerous and that some groups don't like this," says Peace Man. "In Gaza, nothing is clear."

In Israel, too, where the firing of hundreds of Qassam rockets resulted in one fatality last week, there is hostility toward those who openly talk to Palestinians. "Who's that traitor that's writing that damned blog," Liron Amir, an Israeli sitting at a pizza restaurant in Sderot, replies when asked about the blog. "He should go live with them. We don't want any connection with them."

The bloggers met about two years ago through an Israeli-Arab dialogue group sponsored by the Center for Emerging Future in Boise, Idaho, which obtained Israeli army permits for Peace Man to cross into Israel to attend dialogue meetings in Jerusalem and Sderot.

Danny Gal, the Israeli coordinator for the center, said the group encourages Israelis and Palestinians to set up joint peace ventures.

They originally hoped to establish a joint summer camp for kids from Sderot and Gaza, but since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, Israeli border permits have become very difficult to obtain unless it's for medical care. Though they continued to speak on the phone frequently, the frustrated pair decided to take their conversation online.

In the same way that blogs have experienced popularity as an alternative to mainstream news reports, a desire to "correct" the portrayal of the conflict in both Israeli and Palestinian media is another purpose of the blog, says the Sderot blogger.

"If you turn on Channel 1 in Israel, you will not see a balanced picture. That's understandable. I'm not blaming anyone. We're just trying to represent our reality," says Hope Man.

"There's a tendency of the media – especially when there's an escalation – not to say things that are against the mainstream or the policy of the government. They try to show solidarity with policy."

Talking by cellphone from his Gaza home, over the background thump of Israeli helicopters, Peace Man says that hope for peace among Gazans has nose-dived ever since Middle East leaders gathered in Annapolis, Md., to announce the resumption of peace negotiations.

Desperate for a respite from the violence, the blogging pair recently started calling for a one-month truce in the fighting, which they say will give a chance for the anger to ease on each side and for leaders to think creatively about searching for a solution.

"We just need a breather," says Hope Man. "We may be a little naive, but its better than sitting around and waiting for everything to destruct around us."

Link to article: An Israeli and a Gazan blog for peace

Friday, March 07, 2008

Violence Begets Violence

I'm sad today. So many horrible things are happening in the middle east. I've been watching the developments in the Gaza strip for quite some time. The people there are suffering... dying... silently. What has been happening there is despicable, criminal behavior on the part of the Israeli government.

Now, an Arab gunmen entered a Jewish rabbinical seminary yesterday in Jerusalem and shot and killed 8 people, injuring many more. This is also a despicable act. The seminary is heavily associated with the settlement movement in the westbank. (Meaning the process of 'settling' Jews in Palestinian territory for the purpose of expanding the territory claimed by Israel for it's state.) This is not important to the dead or the grieving, but it is important to understanding why it was selected as a target. Not a justification by any means.

The bottom line is that violence begets violence. It will never beget peace. Violence is never 'justified.' No matter who is doing it. No matter why they are doing it. No exceptions.

Acts of violence, whether by a Palestinian gunman shooting Jewish students in a library or bombs being dropped by the Israeli military on innocent Palestinian children in Gaza are equally barbaric.

The people celebrating the attack against the Jewish seminary in the streets of Gaza are people who have themselves been the victims of great violence at the hands of the Israeli military. They are acting from a distorted perspective - warped by oppression and violence.

The seminary students chanting 'death to Arabs' in the wake of the attack, suffer from the same delusion. They capitulate to their fear and anger and lash out at the perceived 'cause' of their suffering.

Both of these behaviors are sick and both contribute to perpetuating the very situations from which they seek to escape. Both reactions are primitive and primal.

Both reactions are 'understandable' from a 'human nature' level of reasoning, but both reactions are not going to resolve the underlying problem that exists: Fear, aggression, craving for power, a sense of entitlement, desperation, helplessness, hopelessness, anger, paranoia and fear of annihilation.

In reaction the shooting, Israel's Foreign Ministry said, "Israel expects the nations of the world to support it in its war against those who murder students, women and children, by any means and with respect for neither place nor target."

One person committed this crime and Israel's Foreign Minister wants the world to join it in a 'war' against the group to which this person belongs, with 'respect for neither place nor target.' This frightens and upsets me more than any of the other events. What human being could suggest that they have the right to act in a way with 'respect for neither place nor target?' It's is horrifying to me and it gets worse.

Condoleeza Rice said, "This barbarous act has no place among civilized peoples and shocks the conscience of all peace loving nations. There is no cause that could ever justify this action."

I agree with the statement that there is 'no cause that could ever justify this action' as it relates to the shooting. But, where Ms. Rice and I part company is that I feel the exact same way about the blockade of the Gaza strip that has caused near starvation and excruciating hardship for over a million people.

I also feel that way about the assault waged by Israel on the people of Gaza in the last week that has killed 120 people, at least half of them civilians. There is no cause that could ever justify this action.

They are equally abhorrent acts.

Until ALL forms of violence are viewed as equally abhorrent, we are trapped in a cycle of endless pain.

Israel needs to stop humiliating and controlling the Palestinian people. The Palestinian militants must realize that violence only makes it easier for the Israelis to hide their deplorable actions. Celebrating in the streets makes it easier for Israel to justify their aggression against the population as a whole. It doesn't help the cause of freeing the Palestinian people. It prolongs their agony.

Israelis and Palestinians should unite in denouncing ALL the violence that is occurring: the blockade of Gaza, the rocket fire into Israel from Gaza, the continued settlement activities by Israel (taking Palestinian land), attacks like the shooting in the seminary, preventing Palestinians from working and reaching medical aid, etc. ALL of it is equally deplorable.

All of these acts destroy the fabric of humanity.

Justice and peace will only come when all forms of violence are treated equally. Dropping a bomb on people is just as horrible as a suicide bomber blowing up a bus. There is no difference. Not in the eyes of God... and not in the eyes of civilized humanity.

Until we look at it this way, we are doomed to an endless cycle of pain and killing.

May we all wake up.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Gaza in Severe Crisis

There are many horrible things happening to the people of the Gaza strip. The world is unaware of most what is happening there, but even when there is awareness, unfortunately, nothing is being done to stop the cruel oppression and mistreatment of these people. It is heart breaking.

Here is an article I feel is worth passing on to you. When the defenseless are being hurt and have no voice, we must be their voice. It is not OK for these people to be treated this way. It's simply not acceptable.

Israel is prone to drawing the timeline that justifies their actions to begin with an 'act' on the part of Palestinians as the starting point of problems. Isreal is always merely retaliating' or defending themselves. They never recognize or admit their part of creating the conditions for violence. This way of denying their responsibility (mainly the blockade of Gaza that is literally killing people there) will never bring peace. It may feel or even appear self righteous, but it will never bring peace.

I do not condone the firing of rockets into Israel from the Gaza strip. I do not condone the blockade of Gaza by the Israeli government, and I certainly do not condone the repeated Israeli attacks that have killed 120 people in Gaza over the past week.

Violence begets violence. There are many ways to be violent. Weapons are only one of those ways. Denying people medical care, electricity, food, water, freedom of movement and the ability to make a living are also acts of violence. Until they are viewed as such, there can be no peace.

I oppose all acts of violence, whatever their form.

Gaza in Severe Crisis
by ARON HELLER, Associated Press Writer
Wed Mar 5, 8:41 PM ET

Palestinian children look out from a window of their damaged house
after it was attacked late on Tuesday by Israeli forces, in the
central Gaza Strip March 5, 2008.

JERUSALEM - A human rights coalition charged Thursday that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has reached its worst point since Israel captured the territory in 1967.

In a scathing report, eight British-based rights organizations said that more than 1.1 million people, about 80 percent of Gaza's residents, are now dependent on food aid, as opposed to 63 percent in 2006. It said that overall unemployment is close to 40 percent.

It also said that hospitals are suffering from power cuts of up to 12 hours a day, and the water and sewage systems were close to collapse.

The report follows strident international condemnation of Israel after it struck hard against Palestinian militants in Gaza, killing more than 120 in the past week, including many civilians, after Palestinians militants escalated their daily rocket fire at Israel.

The Palestinian rockets have killed 13 people, wounded dozens more, traumatized thousands and caused millions of dollars in damage.

Israel's Defense Ministry rejected the report, blaming the militant Hamas rulers of Gaza for the hardships.

"The main responsibility for events in Gaza — since the withdrawal of Israel from the territory and the uprooting of the settlements there — is the Hamas organization, to which all complaints should be addressed," read a statement by spokesman, Maj. Peter Lerner.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said Israel must protect its citizens, "but as the occupying power in Gaza it also has a legal duty to ensure that Gazans have access to food, clean water, electricity and medical care."

Israel removed all 21 settlements and withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005. Israel maintains that ended its occupation, but rights groups say that since Israel still controls Gaza's land, sea and air access, it is still the occupier.

After Hamas militants seized control of Gaza in June, Israel closed its crossings, allowing only shipments of vital goods into Gaza.

The 16-page report — sponsored by Amnesty, along with CARE International UK, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Medecins du Monde UK, Oxfam, Save the Children UK and Trocaire — calls on the British government to exert greater pressure on Israel and to reverse its policy on not negotiating with Gaza's Hamas rulers.

Israel and the West shun Hamas and label it a terrorist organization. Hamas does not accept the presence of a Jewish state.

Replying to the report, Israel's Defense Ministry said it was misdirected.

The Israeli Defense Ministry also said medicines and medical equipment are shipped into Gaza with no limitation. On Wednesday, a typical day, the military said it allowed 69 truckloads of supplies into Gaza, including basic food and baby formula.

This week NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based watchdog, called on human rights groups to end what it called their political use of international law. It cited an Amnesty International press release that it said made unsubstantiated accusations that Israeli responses "are being carried out with reckless disregard for civilian life".


Link to article: Gaza in severe Crisis

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

In Memory of Jack Boland

March 4th, 1992 was the transition date for one of the primary spiritual teachers in my life, Jack Boland.

I met Jack Boland in 1987 when I moved to Detroit Michigan to work as a systems engineer. It was a huge move for me to leave my beloved Pacific Northwest for the Midwest and bid my friends and family farewell. I was alone in Southfield Michigan, except for one friend from college who had gone to work for the same company.

I often say that my move to Michigan was for two primary reasons: to meet and learn from Jack Boland, and to be united with my kitty soul mate, McKenzie.

Jack Boland was the founder and senior minister of the Church of Today in Warren Michigan. Church of Today (now known as Renaissance Unity) is a Unity Church. When I went to the church for the first time, I felt as though I was listening to my teacher and mentor Dr. Charles Bruni. I knew I had found another spiritual teacher in Jack Boland. He has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on my life.

Jack had an enthusiasm and a clarity about life that I've never experienced in another person. Nothing every swayed him from his understanding of Spiritual Principle and Universal Truth. He was a master teacher.

Jack could have been a stand up comedian! He had such a great sense of humor and was extremely skilled at getting people to look at themselves and their challenges with compassion and humor.

I've never known anyone with such a gentle and loving disposition. Although I didn't know him personally, you could feel his authentic and genuine warmth when you listened to him speak.

I had to drive an hour each way to attend Jack's church. I did that every Sunday (and sometimes on Wednesday nights) for the entire year that I lived in Southfield.

For many years after I moved away from Michigan, I subscribed to the tape ministry program of the Church of Today and received the Sunday Lessons on cassette tape. (I know... I know.... old school!)

When Jack passed away in 1992, I contacted the church and purchased several years of back sermons by Jack. I have an awful lot of his recorded services in my library. I still listen to them regularly and am inspired and motivated to reach higher because of Jack's teaching.

I have quoted Jack an extraordinary amount over the years! I would not be the same person if it weren't for Jack Boland. In fact, he's one of two people that I credit with the fact that I'm still on the planet. His messages have helped me grow personally and spiritually each and every year since I met him.

For 20 years, I have used the journaling and goal setting process that Jack created. I purchase the Mastermind Goal Achiever's Journal every year from the Church of Today. It is an awesome tool for setting your goals and intentions and tracking the progress of your spiritual growth.

Jack passed away after a long experience with cancer. It was the third time in his life that he had this disease. I, and many others, witnessed his moving through that illness with dignity and grace. He passed away on a day that carried the message that he himself demonstrated throughout his entire life: March Forth!

Here is a link to a tribute that I have to Jack on my website:
Jack Boland Tribute

Here is a link to the Renaissance Unity bookstore and Jack's recorded programs:
The Best of Jack Boland at Renaissance Unity

If you ever have the opportunity to listen to any of his programs or to read his book you will benefit immensely.

Thanks Jack! Your contribution greatly enriched and impacted my life. I appreciate and remember you every day that I'm alive!

.... And that's the way it really is!

In Loving Memory of McKenzie

Today is a very important day for me. March 4th marks the transition date for two very special beings in my life. They were both important spiritual teachers for me.

Interestingly enough, I met both of them in 1987, during the year that I lived near Detroit Michigan. Although today is the official transition date, I will write about McKenzie today, and I will write about Jack Boland tomorrow.

McKenzie was my little kitty companion and spiritual teacher for 17 years. She made her transition on March 4, 2004. I still miss her... every single day.

McKenzie as a kitten in 1987

McKenzie as an adult

I adopted her from the Michigan Humane Society in the town of Troy, Michigan. She was the cutest thing I've ever seen. It was love at first sight for both of us. McKenzie was a little fireball of energy and intelligence. She had a very sweet disposition, but had no patience for anyone imposing their will on her!! She was an independent spirit. She and I were alike in many ways. Even though each of us was immensely independent we bonded immediately and very deeply. She was without a doubt, one of my soul mates for this lifetime. There isn't a doubt in my mind!

McKenzie had a Q-tip fetish. She was obsessed with them. When she was young and I used to travel a lot for business, she would locate the Q-tip container in my bathroom (even though it was always hidden in some new and creative location) and empty the contents onto the floor. She would then proceed to pitch the Q-tips in the air and carry them all over my apartment. It was a ritual of ours for her to sit on the bathroom counter next to me when I was getting ready in the morning, or preparing for bed. She would wait patiently until I would give her a Q-tip to bat around and play with. When she was finished playing with it, she would usually carry it to her food bowl and leave it there, as though it were the fruit of some great hunt. To her last breath, she loved Q-tips and was always intrigued and amused when I would give her one to play with. I kept one of her last Q-tips in a little box of mementos of her life. :)

McKenzie also loved to drink water from a glass. This habit was started by a housemate who caught her drinking water from a glass on his desk one day. From then on he always made sure she had a full glass of fresh water waiting on his desk. I continued the ritual. In addition to her 'official' water bowl, there was always a glass of fresh water on my coffee table full enough for her to drink without getting her face stuck down inside the glass.

McKenzie also really loved to drink water from the sink. She liked for me to trickle lukewarm water from the tap and she would stick her head in the sink to drink it either from the tap, or from the side of the sink where it drizzled down. Cats aren't supposed to like water, but McKenzie loved to walk into the shower after I was done and walk around on the wet tile. It intrigued her somehow!!

McKenzie was special in so many ways. She was always waiting for me to come home and was always happy to see me. She always knew when I was coming home from a trip. Her behavior would change markedly the day I was to come home from a long trip.

She loved to sit on my lap and cuddle, but only on her own initiation. She never liked to be picked up. She liked to feel free to come and go as she pleased.

She had a very cute habit of lying on my hands when I would try to type on the computer. I honestly believe she was trying to get me to relax more and work less.

In her younger years she was a true escape artist. She would try to get out of my apartments at every opportunity. She was an indoor kitty, and yet she was fearless! She wanted to experience everything in life and had no fear of anything! She had many adventures in the great outdoors. I was terrified, she was exhilarated!

McKenzie taught me a lot about love. She taught me a lot about courage. She really taught me about the art of relaxation. She modeled so many healthy ways of embracing life... and rest for me.

She went through most of my major life transitions with me. She was a witness to many of my happiest moments and for a lot of tears and trauma.

I'm grateful for every day that I had with her. She was a gift from Spirit. We were perfectly matched in every possible way. I could never have asked for a better companion. She is deeply loved and deeply missed.

Here is a link to a page on my website that contains a tribute I wrote to her. There are a bunch of very cute pictures of her there as well:

Tribute to McKenzie & Photos

Monday, March 03, 2008

Memorial Suggestions

Tomorrow, March 4th is a very important day in my life. March 4th is the date of transition/death for my beloved kitty, McKenzie (in 2004) and one of my two primary spiritual teachers, Jack Boland (in 1992). I will be writing special posts for each of them to remember them and the impact they each had on my life.

Today, I wanted to offer an idea that I love for remembering those that have passed from our physical lives.

Each year, for example, on March 4th I burn special candles for each of my loved ones, McKenzie and Jack during the evening. They are special memorial candles that I only burn that one day of the year, in their memory.

In Jewish tradition, they have a special candle for this occasion and every year on the death anniversary of their friend or family member, they light a 24 hour burning candle in remembrance. It's a beautiful tradition.

That is essentially what I do for people (and my kitty) who are dear to my heart. I've had candles made by Zena Moon Candles, with custom labels and quotes that personalize the candle for the loved one being remembered. I have special candles for all of the beings in my life who have left this physical plane.

Another tradition I have set, is to make a donation, on their death anniversary, to a charity that has relevance to the being that has passed. For example, for Jack Boland, I contribute to the church he founded, Church of Today, in Warren Michigan. It is now called Renaissance Unity. I do this because it was Jack's hope and dream that this church would always be available for hurting people to find help, comfort and guidance to improve their lives.

For McKenzie, my kitty companion for 17 years, I donate to the Michigan Humane Society, because I adopted her from that organization when I lived in the Detroit area many years ago. I feel like I'm giving something back to an organization who gave me more in that little fuzzy package than any person could EVER hope for. :)

In this way I feel I am honoring my loved one in a way that would please them. The gifts aren't necessarily large, but they are filled with love and appreciation. It turns what could be a sad day, into one of celebration and appreciation!

Give it some thought and consider adopting the candle ritual and/or the donation ritual to commemorate the passing of those who have enriched your life. Over the course of a lifetime of giving, in this way, one can make a huge impact on the organizations that somehow represent something special about those we love.