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My One Direction Experience

One thing is sure; One Direction is much more than a boy band.

Last spring I was looking for music on YouTube for a project and came across a band whose name I was only vaguely familiar with. I watched a clip of One Direction performing on the XFactor, and though I was a grown woman who wasn’t into pop music, I found myself going through their XFactor journey and watching the whole thing from beginning to end. I totally fell in love with them. Their enthusiasm, their personalities, their hope, their cohesiveness, set them apart from other bands; I used “One Thing” for my project.

Then I saw the Video Diaries, and my heart was transfixed by two of the boys who seemed to have a special chemistry. One thing led to another, and I found multiple videos that introduced me to Larry Stylinson…Louis and Harry…and the idea that they had something more than friendship for each other. I was amazed that it had been five years and people were still having discussions and debates about this on social media.

I can’t tell you how moved and intrigued I was, and the following week I spent going back and forth on how I felt about it. One Direction converged on my life, and never had my heart been pulled in so many directions in so short a time. At one point I had decided that the whole shipping thing was wrong…but ultimately things I had seen, things my heart told me, and that space deep in my heart and gut that speaks to me won over; media narratives just became white noise.

When the song “Home” was leaked and the released last October, I couldn’t stop listening to it because there was only one way it made sense to me and was beautifully written…the music, the lyrics…everything about it.  This song deserves so much more recognition than it received, and ProjectHome is an amazing effort put for by fans to get the song some well-deserved promo and air time…especially in the face of a lot of up and downs the fandom experienced.  The way people came together to make this happen is very special.

One thing was sure; One Direction had made a real impact on their fans. This wasn’t just another “boy band” that played nice, catchy music. 1D is a force that is paving the way for many fans, and Rainbow Direction is a testament to that. They started as boys, and have grown into young men, and their journey has been music but much more than music.

One Direction has the power to move, to shake the status quo, to inspire, and though sometimes the different factions in the fandom have been at odds, it is a testimony of the power One Direction has for change. There have been some heated discussions between these factions, especially recently, but I chose to think of it as evidence of the impact this band has made. For myself, they have truly changed the way I think and how I view the world around me.

Whether what my heart tells me about Larry is true or not, my soul has been cleansed deep down from every last drop of left-over bigotry, and my support for the LGBTQ+ community goes down to the core of me.  My peace of mind doesn’t depend on being “right” about Larry; I would never put that pressure on the boys. I just want them to know that no matter what, their existence was put together by a higher force than anyone or anything on this earth. Fate destined for them to come together, and the people responsible were merely tools of a higher power to make it happen.

Thank you One Direction. Though you have no doubt been through a lot in the past six years, I believe you will come back stronger than ever. Know that you are loved and appreciated for your music and so much more.

 

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THE JEWEL a parable

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There once appeared a unique and beautiful jewel.

The jewel had such a pure, bright light that it could shine through walls…and everybody near and far saw it and wondered at its rays.

Some simply chose to bask and delight in its brilliance; others wanted to understand the jewel, and diligently sought to dissect and label it.  Still others were blinded because the light was too bright for them, and tried only to douse it.

Then there were those so attracted to the light that they were compelled to throw themselves and add upon it, ultimately only selfishly serving to distort it.

The beautiful jewel sadly began to retract its rays one by one…until the circle of its path grew very small…and the light dimmed.

Those dissecting and labelling closed their books.

Those who had been blinded removed their dark glasses.

Those who added upon it continued with reckless abandon.

And many of those who had simply delighted in its light wondered where it had gone.

Perhaps those closest to the jewel didn’t realize how precious it was.

The jewel still exists; I believe the light of its energy still simmers.

PERHAPS some day the jewel will shine once more in its full brilliance, and we will all take joy in it.

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Films, Movies

Let’s Not Become “Old Miseries” – from the 1971 film gem “Melody,” a personal review

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A scene from “Melody,” with Jack Wild, Mark Lester, and Tracy Hyde

“Most old people I know are old miseries.”

So says young Daniel, played by Mark Lester, to his new-found sweetheart Melody, played by Tracy Hyde, in this golden coming of age story.  He coins the phrase “old miseries” to describe most of the adults in his life.  Indeed.

At the beginning of this tale, Ornshaw, played by Jack Wild, befriends Daniel and they strike up a close friendship.  If Jack had been given the proper praise and acclaim that he should have for this role, I would have heard about the film long ago while still a young girl; I would have had eyes only for Jack as he breezed across the screen.

Instead, I only happened to come across it on YouTube last year; a lucky find that upon my initial viewing stirred a sentimental soup pot of emotion and smile for the boys from “Oliver!”  Then I watched it again.  I discovered, with growing wonderment, that there was much more to Ornshaw than the cheeky, adorable kid, (although that is reason enough to like the film!)  I found in Ornshaw’s character a deep well of subtle, multi-faceted vulnerable loveliness, and Jack’s performance an exquisite treasure.  What a shame that it wasn’t in every theater across America.

There is also more to Daniel than just falling into puppy love with Melody, (although THAT is reason enough to like the film.) You have to cheer Daniel on in his sincere, young quest to discover his own path – even though his journey ultimately leaves Ornshaw with some heartache; heartache that the viewer acutely shares.

Coming of age can be beautiful but confusing “in the morning*” of your life, “where no one understands,*” where the innocence of looking at life and love for what it is meets the adult world of how things “should” be – before you grow up and everything is sorted out in your box of neatly bound packages of conformity – before you become an “old misery.”

Old miseries; indeed, the adults in the movie move and breathe in a world of boxes:

  • where a student asks a thoughtful question and is met with humiliating admonishment rather than encouragement
  • where a father would rather hide behind his newspaper and make disparaging remarks about the neighbors than have a real conversation with his son
  • where a mother gets all uptight about her son’s choice of artwork rather than encouraging him in his desire to expand his talent in an obvious choice for creativity, not a desire to look at girlie magazines
  • where adults get all up in arms because of an innocent childhood wedding officiated by another kid.

Our young heroes in “Melody” work things out themselves in this moving coming of age tale; sometimes with their own form of rebellion, but mostly with true friendships that endure confusion and defy class separation, potential grudges that die before they take root, and most of all…love, in so many wonderful outside-the-box ways.  The movie is a timeless classic that brings a lot of relevance to today’s table, one that is easily, and should be, revisited often.

One question it begs me to ask is how did ours become a world in which some teenagers would prefer to end their precious life rather than be open and secure in the knowledge that they are beautiful just as they are?  We ought to go back to the age of our innocence, to see the beauty outside the box, to create a world where life is embraced.

Just had to share my thoughts on a film that I think is quite the masterpiece.

*From one of the many Bee Gee’s songs in the film, “Morning of My Life”

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1971 Film “Melody” Review: The Story of Ornshaw and Daniel

The track meet scene

Ornshaw and Daniel at the track meet in “Melody”

If you’ve never seen the 1971 movie “Melody,” I highly recommend doing what you have to in order to get a copy of this five-star gem.

The movie is often described as being “a movie about puppy love,” referring to the charming story line about Daniel Latimer and Melody Perkins. I believe the movie, which came out 44 years ago, is more about the close friendship between Ornshaw and Daniel, played exquisitely by the late Jack Wild and Mark Lester; it is simply a story about love.

Melody, played by Tracy Hyde, plays a pivotal role in affecting that friendship.  The movie is aptly named “Melody” because she is the centerpiece that the boys trip over-the catalyst that stirs and causes emotions to rise and tumble forth in all their beauty, pain, and angst, as love often does to challenge its bearers.

There are many types of love, you may point out. Love isn’t always so simple; what type of love am I talking about?

I am talking about this type of love:

The type of love that frees one to let down his guard and drop his defense because his soul feels safe with another;

The type of love that enables one to see through the confusion of pride and misunderstanding and emerge strong and victorious;

The type of love that prompts one to do whatever he can to meet a need of the other, even when trusted resources fail to help him meet that need;

The type of love that drives one to rise up to the defense of the person who disappointed him, even if it means standing up to his peers;

The type of love that calls one to step outside his comfort zone to do a favor for a friend, especially when doing so goes against his own self-interest;

The type of love that cannot hold a grudge, even though there have been all types of pain inflicted. Not only are grudges lifted, but this love will inspire one injured party to stand up with the other in support of the other’s happiness.

Against such love there can be no law.

All of this is in the movie “Melody?” This is what I have experienced, all spread out before me like a banquet for the soul; this and Bee Gees hit music to take you there.  If “Melody” fans have missed any of it, I encourage you to go back and watch again.  I think this is what the movie “Melody” is all about; and it doesn’t sound like puppy love to me.

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SLED DOG DREAM ~ Mushing With White Wilderness Sled Dog Adventures

Shinook and Misfit lead my team with White Wilderness Sled Dog Adventures

My incredible first day on the trail with “White Wilderness Sled Dog Adventures” was turning out to be everything I hoped it would be.

Wind and blowing snowflakes whipped my face as I breezed down a long, steep hill. The dogs pulling my sled were engaged in a fast, joyous run, fresh-fallen snow flying up behind their feet, tails high, heads bobbing.  I was riding the back runners behind the sled driving my own team of dogs.  One foot balanced on a runner, while the other put pressure on a rubber traction flap between the runners known as the break pad; this kept the sled’s speed in check enough to prevent it from colliding with the dogs.   At the bottom of the hill the trail disappeared going into a wide turn.

“Remember, you can’t ride the break pad around the turn,”  one of the guides called over her shoulder with a friendly reminder, as that would have messed with the dogs’ ability to navigate.

I gingerly moved my foot from the brake pad to the other runner, gripped the sled’s handles a bit tighter, and  leaned in for the turn; on my face, I’m sure, was a smile was so wide the Cheshire cat would have been impressed.    After making it around the corner intact, I felt like I had just made it down Mt. Crumpit.

 

With White Wilderness Dog Sled Adventures.

With White Wilderness Sled Dog Adventures

 

After a short plateau, we came to a rather steep hill that needed climbing. The dogs dug into their harnesses with brave abandon, but at some point, one by one, they glanced back over their shoulders as if to say,

“Hey, a little help would be appreciated!”

The foot that had been on the brake pad now found its way to the snow along the sled, digging in and helping the canine engine make it to the top.  Whoo-wee! This was definitely a team sport, one in which all parties participate and experience feelings of good-rush accomplishment.  At the top we could see another upcoming down-hill slope.

All the while we reveled in the beauty around us, where fresh-fallen snow clung to every branch in a brilliant, winter-wonderland display.

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What I hadn’t wanted was a passive ride in a sled driven by someone else; I wanted my own experience, and White Wilderness delivered.  I was on an excursion, and the best part was, I had two full days ahead of me!

Yours truly waiting while some of the dogs got rearranged; an example of the guides’ dedication to the dogs and clients

On the trail

We covered many miles that first day on the trail

A total of eighteen dogs made for quite a convoy

A total of eighteen dogs made for quite a convoy, with Risa in the background checking on them

 

The weekend, though, was about much more than just being on the sled; the whole experience called to me. I was looking forward to open campfires, the woods, harnessing the dogs, spending three unadulterated days away from the rat race and all its stressors; away from my electronics, the clock, Facebook, phone, work, and any other symbol of the crazy bustle of civilization.  How can you go wrong in the Ely, MN wilderness?  I was far from disappointed.

 

We camped next to this lake for two nights.

We camped next to this lake for two nights

 

I chose this particular trip because of the two nights we would be spending in what is called a yurt; a mobile structure made of a wooden frame and thick insulated canvas, containing snug, warm winter sleeping bags on cots. A propane stove with a chimney exiting the skylight ceiling heated the dwelling, which also had a kitchen area for cooking. This was luxury camping that still gave the experience of being in the wilderness. Yes, the propane stove can stay.

The yurt kitchen with one of its talented cooks, Risa, and Misfit with Cookie in the foreground

Skylight; pretty fancy camping.

Skylight made for pretty fancy camping

The yurt was our home for two nights

The only other client on this trip besides me was a lovely lady from Chicago named Annette, who was experiencing dog sledding for the first time.  Along with our experienced, compassionate guides Heather and Risa, this made for a small, personable group; eighteen dogs and four humans.

Our guides Heather and Risa were absolutely wonderful; they knew how to make us feel at home and had all the proper equipment to keep us warm.  Every step of the way they made sure we had what we needed on the trail and at camp.  They were friendly, experienced, and most impressively committed to the care of the dogs; so committed they slept outside with them.

My fellow adventurer Annette on the left, with our wonderful guides, Risa and Heather

Campsite fror our guides; within eyesite of the dogs.

Campsite for our guides; within eyesight of the dogs

 

 

 

 

 

All the food on this trip was included; the meals were home cooked, delicious, and filling.  Nothing like eating lunch over an open fire while on the trail, which included a thermos of steaming, mouth-watering homemade soup previously prepared by owner Peter McClelland himself.

Campfire dining, one of my favorites.

Campfire dining, one of my favorites.

Lunch break on the lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last leg of that first day included a magnificent ride across the peaceful, frozen lake that brought us to our camp – a perfect way to end the day.  After we unharnessed and fed the dogs, we gathered around the table to a wonderful meal prepared by Heather and Risa.  There was something about dining after a full day of outdoor activity that was especially satisfying, and our cooks did not skimp on dessert!  After clean up and a chat over hot tea, I looked to the cot with the comfy sleeping bag; I must say, it looked pretty good.

We went to bed at 8:00pm, lights out. Those who know me are thinking, “no way” – I am a confirmed night owl – but our guides informed us that with no TV, computer, or other electronics to mess with our circadian rhythms, our sleep patterns would return to a natural schedule.  I was amazed how quickly I fell asleep and stunned at how much energy I felt when I awoke around, say, 6:00 am.  I am such a creature of habit that this really impressed me. There was no rubbing of the eyes or yawning; I could have even gotten by without coffee…if I had to.

I do remember lying awake for a few moments to chat with Annette and listen for wolf howls before going to sleep; we never did hear any, but the dogs sang for us.  They started slow, then began a chorus of howling that was hauntingly beautiful in its similarity to their wild cousins.

“That was their nightly ‘after-dinner’ howl fest,” Heather explained the next morning as she got the coffee on. “They usually start that shortly after eating.”

Dogs maybe have more of their wild ancestry in them than we think.

For me the high point of any experience is always the dogs. Naturally, I made it a point to visit each one of the eighteen dogs that accompanied us and give them milk bone treats. The dogs that pulled my sled got special attention, of course, and one of them named Misfit was actually a pet who came in and out of the yurt during the evening.

Misfit gets a massage

Misfit gets a massage

I took advantage, and she enjoyed a mini training session and massage as tips for her efforts.  She and the lead dog of my team, Shinook, found a special place in my heart. They were all pretty wonderful though, including the hearty rear runners on my team, Steve and Cetus.  How often do you go camping in the Ely wilderness with eighteen dogs? My answer would be not often enough!

A dog nap during lunch hour

My dog team; Steve and Cetus the black rear runners, and Misfit and Shinook my lead dogs.

My dog team; Steve and Cetus the black rear runners, and Misfit and Shinook my lead dogs

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With my enthusiastic lead dogs, Misfit and Shinook

There is just not enough space in a blog post to describe everything, but a few other highlights would be the other trails we experienced on days two and three. They were just so exciting, and though some were challenging due to low snow cover in spots, I loved every minute of it. One trail in particular had me feeling as though I was in a sled dog video game, and I was winning every point.   This is one bucket-list item I will be repeating; one could become addicted to this!

 

Shinook, holding the line taught while the other dogs are hooked up.

Shinook, holding the line taught while the other dogs are hooked up

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JACK WILD The Adored…and MARK LESTER’S Role in His Claim to Fame

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Jack Wild and Mark Lester in the 1968 hit musical “Oliver!” This picture and all pictures shown here are courtesy of google images; no infringement intended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just as Jack Wild WAS the irresistible Artful Dodger,  Mark Lester simply WAS the pure-hearted Oliver Twist.  Was there ever a better recipe in all Hollywood?

One could go mad having a crush on the late Jack Wild.  What was it about the charming British child actor from the late 60s that was and is so bloody compelling?  Countless young girls (and I dare say a fair share of adults) swooned over Jack, who stole their hearts as the Artful Dodger in the 1968 hit musical “Oliver!”  Even Hollywood’s Oscar fell in love; his role as the Dodger won him a nomination for best-supporting actor.

With such a spotlight on his fast-growing popularity, Sid and Marty Kroft soon handed him the role of the loveable Jimmy in the 1969 hit TV series “H.R. Pufnstuf;” every Saturday morning we gleefully welcomed him into our homes.

As one of those young girls whose heart he stole, I can give you MY reasons for falling for him:  His cheeky, maddening smile; his friendly, Cockney accent that on Jack was so irresistible; his warm, liquid eyes that could melt the coldest heart.

Jack Wild

The flame was rekindled for me late last year when I first discovered the 1971 British film “Melody,” which came out when I was ten years old.  How could I have missed this perfect gem of a movie so full of young teen angst and Bee Gees music?  I can only conclude  that it mysteriously went highly underrated in the United States.

Jack played the teen-age Ornshaw, who had a surface cheeky bravado similar to the Dodger, but his portrayal was in no way a typecast.  Beneath Ornshaw’s outer layers bubbled a multi-faceted, complex, vulnerable character that Jack exquisitely unfolded so well I am inclined to say it was his best role, rivaling even his exquisite work in “Oliver!”

Mark Lester, who had the starring role next to Jack in “Oliver!,” melted hearts as the endearingly sincere Daniel; he became Ornshaw’s friend and confidant.

Mark Lester as Danny and Jack Wild as Ornshaw

Mark Lester as Danny and Jack Wild as Ornshaw

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The scene at the track meet in “Melody”

 

 

 

 

As I watched “Melody” a second time, gaining new appreciation for every nuance of Ornshaw’s heart, I wholeheartedly tipped my hat to the talented Jack.  The Dodger and Ornshaw were very different characters.  The fact that Mark Lester costarred next to him in both films  occurred to me with growing curiosity; they certainly had the ability to light up a screen together.

Ornshaw and Danny in West London

Ornshaw and Danny in West London

This movie was full of young teen angst relevant to today's youth.

This movie was full of young teen angst relevant to today’s youth.

Ornshaw (Jack Wild), Daniel (Mark Lester), and Melody (Tracey Hyde) in “Melody.” Ornshaw watches his best friend walk away with the girl.

During the 1970s Jack starred in other movies and British TV shows, including the moving 1973 film “The 14” as Reg. While I applaud each and every one, in my heart the Dodger and Ornshaw remain on the top shelf as my favorite Jack characters. They strike a deeper chord with me than his other roles, and it seems to me Jack shines just a little brighter in them.  Did Mark Lester lend inspiration to Jack’s performances?  After a bit of sleuthing, I strongly believe that to be the case.

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Having a “we’re being goofy kids” day

Jack and Mark obviously spent time together making two movies, but they were good friends as well as costars.  Not only are there many pictures available to the public that depict this, but  on the show “Where Are They Now Australia 2007,”  when asked via live satellite video if he and Jack were “mates,” Mark answered,

“Absolutely; we were mates on set, we were mates off set, we were friends our whole lives until sadly, Jack died.”

In an audio interview during a British newscast in March of 2006 soon after Jack’s death, Mark had this to say about his relationship with Jack:

“Jack was like a brother to me during the making of the film (“Oliver!”) and was always very protective; I gained a lot. The chemistry between us was just something very, very special and lasted throughout our lives.”

Mark Lester, Jack Wild

Mark Lester, Jack Wild

These statements resonate in me with deep conviction, and leave me smiling in warm appreciation.  This chemistry was always very palpable to me in “Oliver!” and shines through in their performances in “Melody” as well.

Some sources reportedly say that after “Melody” they were no longer friends, and completely went their separate ways. Granted their lives took them in different directions, but obviously theirs was a friendship that lasted beyond the relationships of everyday life; the type of friendship that lasts through time and distance.

Jack had a natural charismatic charm and acting talent unrivaled thus far by any other child actor or Dodger ‘wanna be’. He had something ELSE, though, that will help ensure he goes down as the best Artful Dodger ever; he had Mark Lester for his Oliver. This would turn out to be the role of Jack’s life, and he couldn’t have had a better costar.

Jack Wild and Mark Lester, the Dodger-Oliver combination that broke the mold in “Oliver!”

Mark Lester, “Oliver!”

While in many YouTube circles Mark’s contribution to “Oliver!” is erroneously underrated, Mark was a necessary ingredient in what could well be the most ingenious bit of casting in all cinema. The director Carol Reed could have searched every kid on the planet and not found a better Oliver to complement Jack’s Dodger.

Mark Lester, who has his own following of fans, WAS the angelic, vulnerable waif, and he reflected the cheeky, streetwise Jack with brilliant light. Their energies and talents mingled and fit together like a perfect recipe in a science laboratory, and this recipe created incredible magic on the screen; a recipe that is not likely to be repeated any time soon…if ever.

Jack Wild and Mark Lester in "Oliver!"

Jack Wild and Mark Lester in “Oliver!”

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Listen To The Captain

Galveston, TX

 

One of the other boats in Galveston Island Bay. Sorry the dolphins can’t be seen here!

“You COULD get wet”

The captian on our little cruise boat made this statement a few times as we circled around Galveston Island Bay.  I was just thrilled to be riding the waves, breathing in and thrilling in the salty air and climate of the tropical breeze, watching the wild dolphins jumping in pairs everywhere we looked. I was in the bow, my favorite spot, just relaxing and enjoying the moment.

 

Filling my lungs with warm, moist air.
Slight breeze blowing through my now kinky hair
Makeup is melting but I really couldn’t care
Relaxed with trusted loved ones
Is the best kind of fare

 

My brother,  sister-in-law and I were in Galveston for the day, and had unexpectedly found this little “Dolphin-Watch” tour boat, $10 for 45 minutes. I love being on the water, so this opportunity was a great treat.  While we waited in line to board, the coastal air was hot and humid but this Minnesota girl didn’t mind, and there was a thin overcast haze, so the sun was not directly on us.

As we stepped onto the little boat via a narrow gate, the friendly, grey-haired captain greeted us, and I was “lucky” enough to get the last outside seat right on the bow.  I smiled apologetically to my brother and his wife.

 

Heading out on gentle waves
between the docks of the bay
Face into the salty breeze
enjoying the slight rolling sway
Hoping to see dolphins
But it’s already worth the price
The sky isn’t a clear blue
But this sure is damn nice

 

The captain was also our tour guild, and he pointed out all the docks and the big grey and blue ships in the harbor and gave his dissertation on what  their different functions were.  As he rattled on, I found myself more intrigued with the pelicans and terns who were dive-bombing for fish.

I’ve seen pelicans and terns in my travels, but they usually played the role of scavenger behind boats and ships; these were quite amazing. Rising in the air as they flew across the water, they would reach a pinnacle in height, their head tilted and eyes zeroed in on their prey. Then suddenly they shifted, and beak first with their wings tightly pressed against their bodies they would dive into the water, making a splash and coming up with lunch in their bills.

 

I spotted the dolphins leaping in pairs or in groups
As the pelicans and terns dive bombed like troupes
So glad I was sitting at the top of the bow
As if I swam among them
Not just watching the show

 

“Ok” the captain raised his voice above the noise of motor boats in the bay. “We are going to cross some bigger waves, and you COULD get wet!”

I wasn’t worried. I looked forward to getting a little wet. As we bounced across the waves, my face was merely treated to a fine sea mist, which was just fine with me. His warning seemed to me to be given out of legal necessity in case someone complained about a few drops of water.

We circled wide around the dolphins and pelicans and the captain gave his innocuous warning again…did I miss the glint in his eye? I wasn’t too concerned, though this time I did move my purse to the inside of the cabin. As we came across the waves, I held my face over the bow expectantly, anticipating the fine, refreshing mist of the tropical-like waters…

The shock of the force and completeness of Mother Nature’s joke was on me as I was, instead, treated to the drenching of a salt-water bath.  As the  boat dipped and careened, I literally had to hold on to the rail to keep from going overboard, my toes curled to keep from losing my flip-flops.  Someone had just dumped several barrels of water over me, I was sure of it.  My brother, who was safely seated inside, later told me that “The wave came in over your head” …yes, he said it with a laugh.

 

 

A blue-eyed captain and a salt water breeze
I’ll take them over the northern deep freeze
But he’s not kidding
When he says “look out”
If you choose not to listen
You have no cause to pout.

 

I was completely soaked; the wettest person on the whole deck. Even my purse, which was just inside the cabin, and its contents were wet.  Apparently I had been in the perfect spot to take the brunt of the wave. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself, along with everyone else, and the captain just smiled and continued to steer his boat. When we departed, I slogged around in a wet, hot, humid mess. The temp was in the high 90s; I wasn’t cold.

And as I changed out of my wet, sticky clothes in a local gift shop bathroom, where there was just enough room for me to turn around, I smiled at what a good time I had had for a mere ten dollars.

 

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Friendship With “Wild” Horses

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This is “Bud”and I.

“The horses are wild now, particularly the chestnut,” somebody said.

I understood they hadn’t been ridden in years, but had had the run of the pasture and would no longer tolerate being halter tied. The day after we returned from a late afternoon church service, however, I decided to walk the pasture before jumping in my brother’s swim pool in hopes of coming across them. I was visiting Texas from Minnesota and it was hot, but I just couldn’t help myself.

The wide-open grassy pasture wasn’t flat like you might think. The Grove, TX had low, rolling hills and the pasture was scattered with Live Oak, the shorter kind that never lost their almond-shaped leaves. There was a wooden fence to the left,  and a convenient path made by a four-wheeler or truck ran parallel to it for a half mile ending at a neighboring farm. To the right the pasture spread out and on that side the fence couldn’t be seen.

The sun rested low in the sky and there were no clouds to reflect its rays, but the center was an explosion of yellow light that radiated over the whole pasture, the intensity gradually dissipating as it reached both ends of the horizon. As I stood looking into it from under my visor, its warmth felt like a hug from an intimate friend, its golden hue crowning everything in its path; the scattered Live Oak, the seeded tips of the pasture grass, and my toes as they wiggled in the freedom of my flip-flops and I started walking.

The heat was enough to make a glass of cold lemonade sound very inviting, but the freedom of a filmy sundress and a light breeze made it much more than bearable. A cherry cool pop, which melted faster in its plastic casing than I could eat it, helped keep me cool as I side-stepped around the prickly weeds with long stems called Bull Nettles. Large red ants transporting something that looked like larvae reminded me I should have worn close-toed shoes, but it didn’t even bother me that dozens of katydids continually popped up all around me, sometimes bouncing off my arms but somehow, thankfully, never up my dress.

And there were the horses, grazing in the distance, completely free of halters and encumbrances. One was the chestnut gelding, Bud, the shyer of the two, the other a golden mare called Goldie.

The “wild ” horses had their heads down eating grass fairly close to the path, and as I drew near they didn’t run away or pay me much notice. I started singing “Oh Give me A Home” the way my mother would have sung it, and at that moment truly meant it with all my heart.

The only other sounds were some kind of beetle that buzzed its tune from the trees along with the raucous calls of blue jays, the bubbly song of warblers, and the occasional distant lowing of cows. And as I breathed in the wonderful evening around me, I swore I could smell the sun; something like fresh hay still in the ground before harvest.

As I passed the horses I made no move towards them, but to my delight Goldie started following me. Watching her over my shoulder I kept walking, but slowed down until we met and she reached out to nuzzle my hand. She let me pet her cheek, her neck, and then I started scratching her back and haunches, using my fingers as a curry comb and the flat of my palm as a brush. She seemed to enjoy it, standing swishing her tail at flies while I groomed her and tipping her head to me as I continued singing.

Bud grazed a few yards away. As I rested my arms along Goldie’s back enjoying the sun and watching him, Bud started edging closer to us one footstep at a time. Finally he raised his head and eyed us…then did a remarkable thing. He circled around Goldie and, stopping in front of me, reached his muzzle towards me and let out a long, low-rumbling nicker that went straight to my heart. He wanted some attention too. The back scratching looked pretty good to him, and I willingly obliged. Nothing else of any importance was happening in the world; the only moment that mattered was the one I was experiencing.

Eventually I had to get back, and as I turned to walk away, Goldie stepped in right beside me with her head at my shoulder as if I held her with a halter. It was a joyous, comfortable moment, this other living creature and I with no ulterior motives …just enjoying each other’s company on a fine summer evening.

Finally we parted, and as I continued on my way she stood staring after me for several moments before returning to her grazing. I must admit I didn’t want my evening to end, and decided I could be very happy doing this for the rest of my life.

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ROLLER COASTER SHIFT ~ a change in perspective

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I was beginning to entertain serious doubts about embarking on the Cork Screw roller coaster at Valley Fair. Just like it sounds, it has several winding loops that send you upside down and all around. As my friend and I stepped into the chairs and were locked in by the attendant, my fears began to mount; we were at the point of no return.

Slowly the cars clickety-clacked their way to the top, and with each passing moment I became more paralyzed by fear. My eyes shut tight and I held to the side of the car white knuckled saying, fruitlessly, “Oh God, I don’t want to do this”! I’m sure the air turned a very distinct shade of blue. We began the first breathtaking, throat-choking decent into empty nothingness, and my screams and curses could probably be heard far and wide.

My friend next to me was enjoying herself. She said to me with a smile in her voice, “Shari, open your eyes…just open your eyes and look around, it’s fun!”

As I bravely harkened to her wisdom, an incredible thing happened; watching the scenery as it changed, I suddenly I didn’t feel “upside down” anymore. The trees and people on the ground were the ones moving up and down and all around in my vision, and my fear melted away in an instant. Before I knew it I was having a blast, and my new-found thrill was over way too quick. Just like that, the bars were unlocked and we departed, making room for the next “victims”. I looked at my friend and breathlessly proclaimed, “That was amazing!”

This was many years ago. I didn’t think much about it then– all I knew is that the “Cork Screw” became my favorite ride– but recently this memory has come back to me, and what strikes me is this: Nothing about my circumstance had changed. While sitting in the same locked seat, on the same scary roller coaster, I went from real terror to real joy; and the ONLY thing that changed was that I opened my eyes to see what was really there. What possibilities this thought inspires!

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THE PAINFUL CHAIN OF UNHEALTHY BOUNDARIES

kittiesDo you ever wonder how far unhealthy boundaries–letting another person define your sense of self-worth–can take you? I am reminded of a moment in my life that illustrates just how powerful unhealthy boundaries can be.

I was a very young adult, and hanging around a guy who I had known for several years. We had a connection, or so I thought; we seemed to be sympatico in most ways, and had an understanding of each other. In retrospect, deep down, I knew I believed I was a worthy person because, hey, if he wanted to be with me, I must be worth something. Ouch.

He sensed this, I think, and one day decided to test me, though he may not have realized it. I was at his place, and he was showing me all the projects he was working on. His roommate had a couple of young kittens, maybe 8-9 weeks old, which I adored; everyone who knew me knew I adored ALL animals, and shared an affinity with them.

At one point his demeanor became a bit curious, and I wasn’t sure what was going on with him. One of the kittens walked by nonchalantly, tail high in the air, and my friend looked at me pointedly.

“You know, sometimes I get off on stuff like this…”

Before I knew it, he had picked that kitten up by one of its hind legs, swung it in the air above his head, and tossed it across the room. The poor little thing landed with a thud, but amazingly was essentially unhurt.

What did Shari, the great animal lover and defender, do? Did I express my indignation at such a cruel deed? Did I ask him, “What the hell did you do THAT for?” I certainly should have.

Anyone who knows me knows the revulsion that welled up inside me at that point; but there was something even stronger than my love for animals; something even stronger than my sense of justice, and that was the unhealthy boundary that chained my sense of self-worth to another person. If I crossed him, he might not like me anymore, and where would that leave me?

I swallowed my disgust, forced a smile to stay on my lips, and continued my happy little visit with him. Those who know me may be experiencing major jaw-drop. I still can’t believe it myself.

I get sick to my stomach just thinking about this painful memory. Perhaps most unhealthy boundaries are not illustrated as dramatically as this, but they can be just as damaging to both parties.

Those of us who have struggled with this in the past may think we have it beat; we may think, “I would never do that again”; but speaking from experience, they can spring up any time during our lives unbidden unless we practice a daily dose of self-love and self nurturing. When we realize that we may be in a relationship like this, whatever form, the extrication process can be very painful; necessary, but painful.

Be honest. Be kind to yourself. Know that you yourself are worthy of love. Never let your relationship with someone else overshadow what you know to be true about YOU.

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THE COURAGE IN BEING VULNERABLE

016Typically, I would rather be blinded by hot pokers and eat broken glass than reveal my “neediness” to people—because I have seen that needy people seem to be weak and despised; they are talked about and disrespected. In light of this, instead of being “lucky”, don’t you think “People Who Need People” are more aptly described as suckers?

I remember an incident when I was a teenager. My best friend was dating this incredible guy whose mother was young, vivacious, and just plain cool. We were very close with his family and friends, and visiting them was like a second home to us. One of the neighbor girls, who also hung around, was very “clingy”; we weren’t particularly close to her, and for some reason–yes, she was needy–shied away from her.

One day, when the neighbor girl wasn’t there, our friends’ mother who I will call “Gerty”, complained about her, and how she was at their house almost every day. Apparently she would stay through the supper hour uninvited and never leave. I’m sure Gerty wasn’t trying to be cruel, but perhaps exasperated and didn’t know what to do.

I listened, however, with a growing fear in my chest—an awful fear that she may feel the same way about me; after all, I was over there all the time too. I figured this may have been her way of dropping subtle “hints”. I decided there was no way I was going to risk “exasperating” the friends I had become so close to. Instead of communicating my fears, my visits became less and less frequent, and in my heart, distanced myself from them.

The following summer, the family announced they were moving across the country. This news was met with much heaviness and depression on the part of my best friend and I; our world as we knew it was ending. I had a lot of mixed feelings, guilt for some reason being one of them.

On the day they moved, as the last of their belongings were loaded in the moving van, “Gerty” pulled me aside. She said,

“Shari, I just wanted you to know how much we’ve missed you lately. You stopped coming around, and I’ve often wondered if we had done anything to somehow offend you. I hope that’s not the case; I just want you to know we are going to miss you sweety.”

She was sincere and just a wee bit hurt. I gave her a big tear-filled hug, but didn’t have the courage to tell her why I had been distant. The day was an incredibly sad one.

Besides being a lesson to me about the ills of talking negatively about other people, and how you never know how it may hurt someone who is listening, my experience should have also illustrated to me that openly loving someone is always worth the risk of being despised; you never know who is waiting to love you. Unfortunately, the lesson “Never be a pest” was more strongly enforced.

I still hate admitting when I “need” something, but as I look back, I see countless missed opportunities. I also see that people who admit their need for others are the ones who eventually find love, and are most definitely lucky. Making myself vulnerable is not about being “clingy” or “desperate”, but about bravely sharing my true self with people despite the risk of rejection; and knowing, regardless of outcomes, that love will somehow be there.

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GRANDPA AND THE “BAD” WORD

cabinpicMy grandpa gave me some incredible words of wisdom one day.   Billy Joel says that “honesty is such a lonely word”;  I think Grandpa said it best.

We were down at the little cabin on White Lake, sitting outside on the deck’s orange-vinyl couch on a hot summer’s day. I had just gotten out of the water and was shivering with the beach towel wrapped around me, my hair still dripping. I was pretty young; my feet weren’t able to touch the deck, and I swung them back and forth in a lazy, summer sort of way.

Grandpa had on his jeans, though it was mid-July, and his proverbial flannel shirt with the rolled up sleeves.  He held a can of beer between his legs, which is how I usually remembered him in the summer.  Just when I stopped shivering, I felt him nudge me lightly with his elbow.

“You know, Shari…” he began, clearing his throat.

I looked up at him in anticipation, squinting in the sun, as he tipped back the can for a drink.

“You KNOW Shari…..” he repeated, looking off onto the lake, “It’s all just BULL SHIT….BULLshit.”

He dragged the “bull” out nice and long. I knew he had said a “bad word”, but I said nothing in return, not knowing what he meant, but “feeling” what he said. We continued to sit in the warming sun with our own separate quiet thoughts.

For some reason I always remembered  that interaction–the way he spoke, the emotions behind the words– and the older I get, the more I understand exactly what he meant.

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When Pavement Turns to Gravel

Ever wonder if you’ve taken the wrong road?

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My Rav in the South Dakota wilderness

 

Never have I experienced this feeling in real life like  I did on my solo road trip through the Badlands of South Dakota.  I had just finished an amazing few days in the area; I had stayed at Cedar Pass, explored the Badlands loop complete with tourist way stations and rattle-snake warnings, and driven down to visit the historic Wounded Knee site.  As  wonderful as it was to be able to live these natural wonders and cross them off my bucket list, I still craved the “out-of-the-way” places.

On my way back from Wounded Knee, when I came to the main drag crossroads, I stopped.  My original thought was to take the highway back to Wall, SD.

Shifting into park and cracking open a diet Coke to wash away the dust, I studied my map and calculated the mileage.  (Yeah, no one to honk at me for parking at a stop sign). Wouldn’t it be more fun and adventurous to take the back roads all the way to Wall?  They led through a different part of the Badlands, and how cool would that be?  I had enough gas; I could still make it to Wall before dark.  That was the new plan anyway.  Though technically it was part of the “park”, it wasn’t part of the tourist’s loop; that’s exactly why I wanted to see it; the wildness of the road less travelled.

In my element, windows down, I delighted in the hot, dry, clear blue skies and sunshine as it caressed me, and the wide open wild land, far away from the turbulence and craziness of what constituted my life in those days.  I stopped and got out of  my Toyota Rav more than once, just to experience these gifts as they reached up and surrounded me with whisperings of secrets and history gone by.    What stories could the craggy mountain canyons and rocks in the distance tell me?

Everything was going according to plan…until the road changed from pavement to gravel; NOT dirt, but loose gravel.   Well, crap!  The map hadn’t clued me in on this, and I hadn’t calculated on it.  Looking at the clock as I slowed from 55 mph to 30, I said to myself,

“I may be out here in the dark after all…no big deal; it can’t be that much farther.”

When you are driving over coarse gravel at 30 mph, with lots of twists and turns, it can seem like a LONG time.  The early evening shadows and clouding horizon cast warnings.  I studied my gas gauge, looked at my cell phone with NO bars, and the “what ifs” started haunting me:

“What IF” I had taken a wrong turn and I wasn’t on my way to Wall, but on some back road that led to…nowhere, and I had to spend all night out here?

“What IF” I ran out of gas?  My vehicle was relatively new and in good shape, but the roads were so coarse…

“What IF” I got a flat tire out here in the middle of nowhere?

I had been driving for over an hour and a half without seeing one other car;  no houses, no buildings, no wires, no evidence AT ALL of civilization.  This is what I wanted to experience, of course, but the butterflies were churning in my stomach as fear reached its icy little finger towards me.  Every corner I turned I hoped to see some evidence that I was on the right track.  Once or twice there was another road that crossed mine, but there were no signs, not one clue to calm me.   What had I gotten myself into?

Turning around one of these corners, I marveled in spite of myself at another rolling expanse of wild, open land; no  trees, no corn, no farms.  Then I spotted something….what the heck WAS that?  It looked as if mother nature had strung raisins across the prairie by the roadside up ahead.

As I got closer, and realized what was stretched out before me, I almost wept with the beauty of it.

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Took this picture while my heart cheered these free-roaming Buffalo

 

There, a rough 10 yards from the side of the road, was a herd of approximately 50 or so buffalo, including calves.  I pulled over, rolled down my windows, and basked in what was for me  a miraculous gift.  Considering the enormity of the possible places this herd could be feeding right now, I was consumed with thankfulness that they were here, and even more thankful that I was, INDEED on the RIGHT road.  This wasn’t a tourist loop in Custer Park.  They weren’t feeding on hay or anything else that may have been left by humans; they were simply making their way across the prairie.080

I hunted down my Native American music, popped in the CD, got out and sat on the car for 15-20 minutes in what could be called a meditative state.  In those moments, whether or not I got to Wall didn’t matter.  There was nobody else in the whole world but the buffalo, the prairie, and me.  If I had had to spend the night in the back of my Rav and wait for daylight to find help, I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.

Finally, as the sun started to set on the clouding horizon, I reluctantly got inside and pulled away.  I was either close to Wall or terribly lost, but all the “what ifs” had faded into tiny bits and blown away on the breeze.  They didn’t matter at all .082

As I drove toward the next hill, another car actually passed me!  I took that as a good sign.  Looking in my rear-view mirror, I watched as this vehicle stopped on the side of the road as I had.  Then, cresting the hill, I looked ahead, and there was another crossroads; it had a sign with an arrow that read “To Wall”.  Standing under that sign was a huge bison with dangerous-looking horns.  Wow.  I very carefully made my way around him, knowing he could totally decimate me if he had the urge, and with a happy sigh, continued on my way to Wall, thanking him for his clemency.  I made it to Wall with in the next hour.

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My view as I said goodby

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“YOU’RE IN THE DOG HOUSE” and Other Sayings

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This is not Prince and me–this is my niece–a timeless tale, is it not?.

I should be so lucky.

Why is it that we use this phrase to instill fear and convey to the recipient that he/she is in deep trouble for some misdeed?  Personally, I find dog houses to be happy, friendly places….ok, hairy, but happy.

I made one of my very first friends in a dog house.  Prince, the white Lab who lived next door, shared his space with me quite willingly; your typical wooden house with shingle roof.  As a toddler I would wander over and visit him regularly, and he was always the perfect host.  Yes, I would crawl in with him and we had the loveliest times together.

The conversation between my parents probably sounded something like:

“Where has Shari gone to this time?  I only turned my head for a second…”

“Did you check Prince’s dog house?”

Another saying I don’t get is “up the creek without a paddle”.  This only conjures up fear if you WOULDN’T016 like to float along on a lovely stream and just let the current take you and your canoe or kayak wherever it wants to.  That would actually be an interesting experiment, would it not; a “leave-your-paddles-at-home” day?

As a nurse, if you REALLY want to scare me, just tell me as I come on duty that “We have no  nurse’s aide tonight”, or “We are working one (or two) nurse/s short .“   These are the words that will leave you weak in the knees.

I’ll end with “gone to the dogs”, used to describe someone who has supposedly failed at something.  Dogs DO get a bad rap, don’t they?  Dogs are actually very wonderful creatures, and “going to them” always seems like a good idea to me.005

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Where Is Your Uncommon Sense?

Why is common sense considered so valuable? I dare say it wasn’t common sense that guided the Wright brothers.

Many are the well-intentioned offerings of advice cloaked in questions such as “Where is your common sense?” and “Don’t you have any common sense?” as if common sense was the beginning and end all of what we should aspire to. It seems to me we would all benefit more to find some uncommon sense.

Unfortunately, this isn’t something that is generally cultivated among us. Most of us were taught to conform to cultural norms, be it via classrooms, religions, peer pressure, the work place, and even families. One might ask, “What about the need for organization and cooperation?” Do we think, then, that following our own “uncommon” sense would lead to some sort of anarchy? Actually, I think the opposite is true.

We have all been imparted with various talents and abilities that are meant to be shared; aren’t we also all born with a unique way of thinking, of viewing every situation, of responding to those situations? Included with these gifts is the unique “sense” we have about things. This sense is, I believe, what breathes life into our souls; it is the creative part of ourselves that interprets life differently than anyone else and guilds us to develop our natural leanings and talents. Too often it is squelched, buried, and hidden under the wretched, over-rated goal of conformity.

Certainly we have had the pleasurable experience of meeting those of “like minds” who we connect with on a deeper level. Even this experience is made better, or should I say possible, by allowing the different facets of our thought processes to shine through. How can we appreciate what we have in common with someone, if we can’t appreciate the differences?

When the uniqueness of uncommon sense is celebrated and nourished in another, instead of pressed and molded into what is common, what a treasure box is opened to us; the treasure of the discovery of what we ourselves were meant to contribute to the world. Imagine the possibilities and accomplishments we would be able to achieve if such were always so!

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