Holiday Wishes

I wanted to get a holiday blog out here, as I usually do.  I felt bad asking my friends for their new year's wishes,  because so many of them are having tough times.  As we get older,  health and loss are issues  more often and for more people that we love. 


So, this holiday,  I have several wishes that friends wrote out and then I will  give you mine for those that are taking care of their parents,  their spouses,  their kids,  etc. and are too busy to focus on this. I also want to give my new email address,  because I haven't been able to get into auntyel for 2 years. It is : And Happy Anniversary Raeann Upton! 31 years is a blessing. 

Wishes :

First,  Lis Perry from Myeoworld,  says: As we end this year and begin a new year,  we must look ahead and keep our spirits and determination unshaken,  on our road for a wondrous journey toward Peace and Enlightenment.  

My friend Melody,  who recently lost someone dear to her,  says: Her wish is to stay healthy,  happy and sane  in 2019, and that we be grateful,  always,  for our friends.

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My friend Julie,  from Denver,  has been caring for her husband who has cancer.  She wishes that Doctors be smarter about what their patients are going through.  Her husband having cancer has been difficult and overwhelming for them both.  They need compassion and empathy! 

I would like to wish happy holidays to everyone around the world.  Although there are always going to be difficult times, I hope each person can have some sort of a celebration of life this Year. 

Happy Hannukah,  Merry Christmas,  Feliz Navidad,  Buon Natale,  Mele Kalikimaka , Wesolych Swiat,  Malagayan Pasco,  Joyeaux Noel & Kung Hai Fat Choi. I mean no slight if I missed your language,  have a happy,  healthy new year.  Feel free to add your wish in the comment box. 



I love getting my news on tv and on the radio.  They make information I can't get while living outside of NYC and Washington DC available.  Technology,  when used responsibly,  can really add to my life.  It is what allows me to read this website. 

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Sometimes it is a matter of what we,  as individuals,  do with the information we get.   It can be a tightrope walking experience!   I was introduced recently to a series on the internet that is called The truth about Cancer,  or TTAC, Global quest.  It informs us about the evils of chemotherapy and big pharmaceuticals and tells us to eat natural foods.  Later in the broadcast it tells us that some of our favorite vegetables,  corn and beets are genetically modified,  or GMO d.  What to do?  One option is to buy organic,  but I know that over 10 years ago,  the US relaxed the organic standards. Are my vegetables really vegetables?  Now that our cities approved chemical cloudseeding,  is organic really valid? 

From what I understand ,  Canada and most of the EU  do not allow genetically modifying fruits and vegetables.  It is illegal there. But not here in the US.   I learned awhile ago that in order to patent a living being  you have to change its nature.  Am I to think that we are so greedy here that we need to Own corn or sugar beets?  What about all the ethnic groups here that eat them as a staple of their diet?  


My mom always said,  Knowledge is power,  but what do you do with this knowledge? I have several friends that themselves or someone they love have cancer.  What do they do when their Doctor has to recommend chemotherapy or get ostracized?   I guess it is an individual tightrope.  

One thing I can think of is get out and vote.  Get people in who represent us!  I don't want to be genetically modified,  and therefore patented and,  thetefore,  owned. If I have some bad cells,  I want to make my own decision whether to have chemotherapy or not!  And if the way to stay cancer free is to eat natural foods,  I don't want my foods GMOd.  



Living in the desert you sometimes need to be creative, especially when it’s 100 degrees or more outside. In the summer anywhere, when kids are out of school and teachers are off, you need to find ways to keep busy while you spend more time indoors.  I thought I’d mention some of the things I and my family and friends do, in case you need some inspiration. 
My mom used to call me an artist.  As it turns out I am not, but I am artistic. I like blending colors, taking an average Harry and David moose munch-box and decorating it with Swarovski crystals.  I love trees, so I take pine cones and decorate them with Swarovski crystals, calling them my “Faberge pine cones”. 
I catch up on series I haven't seen on DVD,   and I read books.  I paint my own cards with watercolors and send them to friends.  I hadn't embroidered for decades, so I embroidered a pillowcase with my favorite butterflies. I even invented pretty pink ones!
One of my sisters makes jewelry from scratch, with Swarovski crystals. She also assembles jigsaw puzzles.  My other sister is consistently working on improving her home. She is more creative in the kitchen, too.  I have a friend who gets in bed early every night with her cats and reads books.  I have another friend who spends time on her computer trading stocks.  I also have a friend who is an author and she spends her time researching and writing. 
We each have others we interact with at home or at work and outdoor activities we do.  But I think doing creative things when we spend more time indoors helps to expand our minds. I even have a set of Crayola crayons and color while I watch TV. 
Have a creative summer!


Getting out of your Routine

Regardless of how much money we have,  how busy we are , etc, one thing is universal : a desire to get out of our routine.  Sometimes even  a day or a few hours can do it,  sometimes it takes longer.  We are prone to travel in my family,  and I always thought it was to learn about different cultures,  even in our own country,  but now i see that it helped my mom and dad get out of their routine,  or rut.  

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We are "expected" to stay at what we do,  where we live,  for as long as possible, for stability.  Some situations allow  for growth and some less.  I have  needed more facets to my life than some,  more travel, more time with family and friends, which usually required travel.  I have less resources to go away right now,  so I look for other ways to do something different. In Colorado,  where I was raised, I  could go up to the mountains for the day,  hike and be back that evening.  Talk about a mind shift!  When  I lived in San Diego and worked in La Jolla, every Friday I would take the scenic route along the ocean, back to home. 

Life is routine,  but even in small ways, I try to shake it up.  I ride the bus to work with a guy I talk to every time I see him.  We talk about life,  and he is from New Orleans , so we have that in common.  We talked about getting together for dinner,  or going to the strip for a change of routine for both of us.  Then we started talking about the importance of it,  so it led to this blog. 

Walk a different route to the store,  binge watch your favorite show,  etc.  Do something to make yourself happy, so returning to the same old routine, isn't such a bad things after all!

Grief & Loss

Different cultures have different beliefs on death and dying. When my mom died in 1999, my friend told me to read The Tibetan book on living and dying.  I was In such a state of loss and grief that it took over a decade for me to have a more detached view of losing a loved one. 

Several of my best friends had lost their mom’s before I did, and it has been decades since they have been gone.  They were as close to theirs as I was to mine.  You take a little time off and then go back to work.  But you live the loss inside.  I have one friend who wasn't even close to her mom, didn't even like her. Since she passed away about 6 months ago,  my friend has really felt the loss more than she would have thought.  She spent 2 weeks in bed.  Loss is tough. 


Very recently my sister lost her cat, who was 22 years old.  She died of old age.  My sister woke up one morning and she was dead.  I liked to sleep on my sister’s couch so her cat could sleep in my hair and purr all night long.  I believe it kept her alive for a little bit longer. Chrissy had given her food and shelter for 11 years.  Even though we knew she was on her last leg, it is hard to feel the loss. 

My sister has to put her second cat down this week. I love them as an aunt does and I will miss them terribly.  The other night my sister gave a shower for a girl she knows who is pregnant and the next morning her cat died.  My other sister was pregnant with her son when our mom died.  It's hard to understand sometimes when you are a very emotional person. I was thinking of a song we knew as kids…To everything, turn, turn, turn; There is a season, and a time for every purpose,  under heavenOnce we get through the grief and loss, we can remember that. 


An early Happy New Year !

Happy holidays and Happy New Year


I gave my friends a chance to send a New Year’s message to the readers of this blog. They are as follows :

Melody from Seattle and her husband wish for World peace.

Dee Dee from Hawaii wishes to make it through the next year with appreciation and gratitude.  

Julie from Denver and her family send: May music never die in the world, and forever let her spirit sing. 

My friend of 30+ years, Cindi wishes she would exercise more. 

For my wish, I was going to update the statistics in my last New Year’s blog, but I have since realized that no-one wants that heaviness so…

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I wish health and success to all those I love! 


Happy New Year! 


Your Uniqueness

When was the last time you celebrated your uniqueness? There is so much pressure to live the American dream, to have more than the next person, etc. But we are each different and we achieve things in our lives differently. I was taken advantage of recently, and what I came out of it with was "thank God I still have faith that someone may have honestly done something good for me."  I am not as jaded as the person who tried to take advantage of me. There was no harm done in the end, but it made me appreciate myself.


I have friends that have good careers, some more boring careers, etc. But we have each earned our lives honestly. Not one of us had to disingenuously take advantage of others to make a living. Maybe we are the fortunate ones, even though none of us are rich!  I can still paint, draw, bake, bead, hike, write and take walks outside. I have friends that walk on their beaches, that walk their dogs, garden, visit with their parents, are active with their clubs and these are all a part of the American dream, as well.

I was at a library last year and there were posters of Hollywood stars saying 'read'. Learning is free. I was so proud of them. Part of making this country great is educating yourself! If you are not the greatest reader there are programs to help. With all the pressure to compare ourselves to others or to own more or to  join groups in which we have to subvert our basic selves, why don’t we appreciate how excellent and unique we each are? 

I am the winner of that prank because my heart and soul are still alive!

A Fountain of Youth?

A Fountain of Youth?  Life brings us our own set of issues.  I am not married nor did I have children, but it seems I always had to relocate for a salaried job withbenefits.  At one point, I was in a hotel  4 out of 5 nights, for three years.  For another job, I lived in Manhattan for four years and traveled an average of about once a month, for personal  and business.          

My challenges were unique from those that stayed home, had a husband and children, or who worked and had a family. They had security and stability that I didn't have. My parents kept the same house for 40 years.  That is stability! No two persons lives or challenges are the same. Whatever the lifestyle, we are usually caught up in our own affairs.  It is hard, sometimes, when we get more ingrained in our own routine, to not feel like we are our routine, instead of ourselves.    

So when the last Vegas desert summer  began,  this  year,  on June 1st  I made a reservation to go visit my friends from college, in Seattle. I knew that by August I would have to get out of the heat! I went for a week-end . It did more for me than getting out of the heat! I have a friend that I have seen a lot more than the others. It's different visiting there their city. 

It was a vacation for us all.  My friends usually don't go to Pike Place market or take a harbor cruise, etc.  The city has grown so much.  We visited our Alma mater, talked and remembered who we were so many years ago in college.  My friend Julie visited her college friends last year and I know it was good for her soul; it certainly was for mine.  It may not be the fountain of youth, but it was good for my mind, body and spirit. 



In the desert, when it is 110 degrees+ in the Summer, I sometimes find it hard to write or feel inspirational.  But I walked into the drug store the other day, this guy said, 'You haven't written a blog in months', so I thought I'd try.   I asked him for a suggestion, and he said politics.  I have stayed pretty far away from things controversial in this blog, because it is supposed to be inspirational, so:

In these times when everyone has a cell phone with a camera, and there is technology everywhere, so that we each are always on camera, what do us people who hate to have our picture taken do?  I thought I'd share a story from when I was young that I think may help some peopletoday, especially those with children.  

When my sister and I were very young we were very shy.  The famous acting school with Lee Strasbourg from NYC came to town, and my mom, being from NYC and knowing the name, decided to sign us up for an acting class. She hoped it would help us to overcome our shyness.  We did some very fun exercises in that class that really help the imagination, like walking through peanut butter, etc. It's not only fun, but it makes you get your mind out of it's normal 'routine thinking'. But the most important lesson that I would pass on was this:  The acting instructor said that anytime you are on stage, in whatever form, you should picture your audience naked.  It sounds funny, but try it sometime. That takes the pressure off of YOU and puts it on your audience. And it also makes you laugh. A sense of humor can get you through the toughest of situations.

Since then I have given speeches, been in plays, been in dance recitals, given business reports, etc. and the more nervous I was, I just looked out at everyone and thought of them in their underwear or naked, and it usually worked!  Later, when I was in my thirties, I also took an improvisation class to help me think on my feet. It was comedic, and it also helped me to come out of my shell. An acting class might be a great Summer activity for your kids:>)

Stay cool!


I worry about the loss of focus in this new generation.  I'm afraid that a whole generation may have been sacrificed for the sale of technology and the profits from it.  I have mostly done business to business marketing in my past, but now the focus is on marketing to kids. I don't play video games, but the ones I have seen are all about continual chase scenes. What happens to an entire generation when they never reach the end?  When there is no sating of the chase? Are they ever sated in anything? The movies I have seen in the past ten years, ie. Mission Impossible, Superman, Spiderrman, etc., are all about continual chase scenes. I worry about this, because an entire generation is being raised on the latest technology and it is never enough.

In technology today, you have to upgrade whatever you have in six months to keep up with the Jones'.  It used to be that the parents had to keep up with appliances, cars, houses, etc.  But now your kids have more expensive equipment than your house does.  What happens if they don't have the latest?  One of my bosses from New York, before she had her first baby, was worried about it, and this was before anyone ( and everyone) had a cellphone.  We were talking about not letting them have everything they want, but she said 'What happens when all of their cousins, friends, etc. have the latest?'  Now that everyone has a cellphone, video game, etc., I don't know how parents do it!  It's much worse now than when we talked in 1991 (?).

I was raised on books, toys, playing outside, etc. Books have a beginning, a middle and an end.  Even if a book has several stories, as in Tanglewood Tales, each story has a beginning, middle and an end. At the end of each story, the reader is sated. I am told that Aristotle is the author of this type of story. I think that this has completely changed with the overuse of technology.

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When we had a landline phone at home, if someone called and I was outside playing, they had to wait untiI I was finished to talk to me.  What happens to an entire generation who learns to talk to you now instead of  waiting until you are done with what you are doing?  What happens to focus?  How many kids had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in 1970, before technology itself was the focus instead of how it could help your life? When I call my friends now, on a cellphone, I always ask them, 'What are you in the middle of?'  How many kids today would think of that?

In marketing, I always had more than one project going on at a time.  But on each project, one section of it was finished before I moved on to another project, ie. I was waiting on someone to edit a newsletter, or I was waiting on a department to edit my writing about their work, etc.  But it is still doing ONE thing at a time while you are waiting on the other project.  Now that the word multitasking has been taken to an extreme, and technology can do many things at once, everyone believes this is the best thing in every scenario.  What happens to focus?

I don't have kids, and I don't know what I would do if I did today.  But I am a marketer, and I do not stand behind irresponsible marketing.  I have long believed that it started happening when the shareholder became more important than the worker in this country.  The company has too many people to please, and that never works for too long.  If the shareholders' pockets keep being the most important thing, and 'new and improved' continues to be taken to an extreme, who steps up and worries about the focus of the next generation to run this country's?  And, if a CEO's ego is insatiable at a generation's expense, how will the new generation ever be sated?

My New Year's Wish

For the New Year, I wanted to give my friends a voice through this blog.  I decided to ask a few of them what they would wish/say to the world for the new year.  Some of them responded, some of them couldn't think of anything off-hand, and some of them wanted to keep it to themselves. The following responded:

 My friend Diana Leinani from Hawaii, that I've known since we were freshmen in college, has two wishes:  1) she wishes that people would live by the Golden Rule, which is Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  And 2) she also thinks that people should get actively involved with issues they are passionate about.

 My friend Melody from Seattle, who I have known since we were Sophomores in college, sends the following:  "Never give up on anybody.  Miracles happen every day!"

 My friend Kay from Phoenix, who I have known since early high school, says: "May this coming Jubilee Year of Mercy inspire/empower all to share their talents, gifts and time with those in need.  Random spiritual and corporal Acts of Kindness will benefit not only those that receive, but those that give as well"!

 My friend Christy from Kennewick and her family wish everyone a "Happy New Year!"

 There are several groups of people who wish Peace on Earth.

 Someone who is dear to my heart wishes that everyone would have faith in Jesus Christ.

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 And the background for my prayer for the world in 2016:

I have worked in the corporate world enough to know that things sometimes work better with a certain amount of structure.  Fortunately I worked in marketing so I was allowed some creativity to change things.  I also understand the need the need for structure, in a larger sense, in the world.  I am very grateful every day for what I have, but there are some things that I don't understand, and my New Year’s wish involves the resolution of these issues.

 I don't understand why:

 - Over 60 million people were displaced in the world in 2015

- There are over 50,000 homeless in the Los Angeles area    alone

- There are still people in refugee camps in Africa in 2015

- One of the richest men in America bought our energy company and immediately tried   to raise the rates

- Companies like Dow, ADM, etc. feel they need to make synthetic food to 'feed the world' when we could help the world to grow real food

- We insure farmers in America instead of subsidizing them

- The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2014-2016

 My New Years wish involves the resolution of these issues in 2016.

 Happy New Year!





Human Companionship

I was wondering what to write about this week, and I think Human Companionship is a good subject.  I recently joined Ourtime, a dating service for people over 50 - ouch!  I finally have to admit I'm getting older.  I hate the thought of it, but it is reality.  And I joined it because I want some companionship.  I have my longtime friends, but we're mostly in different cities.  Thank God for phones.   I have some family here, but not all, and they have their own lives. I even have a roommate, but we have our separate lives.  She is from Sri Lanka, and is very close to her community here.

I have noticed in my own life that when I spend too much time alone, I have different emotions, attitudes, etc.  and it's not too healthy for me, probably not for anyone.  I have seen and known people, especially older people, that have gone way down hill because of being alone and lonely.  It's harder to get jobs when you're older, especially in 2015, then you spend more time alone and it can really get anti-social with some people.  But I'm not going to get into the larger, societal issues here.

I have always been a very independent person.  When growing up, I always had friends. I went to a Catholic school, where I always had friends, but my best friend, on the same block, went to the public school.  So I always had a friend outside of the social group.  I also have five siblings, so there was usually company at home. We had a disciplined childhood, but, even though I had time to think, read and write poetry, I was used to a life around people.

Many people are married and have families, which is the life my parents had, but mine has been different.  As I've gotten older and have had to move to other cities for good jobs, I spend a lot more time alone.  It started when I worked for Samsonite, I spent four nights out of five in a hotel room for three years. It is a big change when you are used to being around friends or family.  And, when most of my friends were meeting someone and getting married, I was working.  Then I moved to NYC and worked there for four years. After that I worked in the tech industry in California. It is difficult to meet people when you are outside the community that you are living in.  I didn't always choose the move, but I did follow my 'career'. Luckily for me, my family and friends have always come to visit me wherever I lived; I always say my jobs gave them places to visit ;>) I have always needed some down time from people to think, write, etc., but it has to be balanced with human companionship. 

This is only my second week doing the dating site, but I've met some good guys: some in person, some out of state that I chat with, some that I joke with, some that I know I'll never meet.  But it is human companionship; better than not having it.  Like I said, I even have some family and a roommate here, so I have more than some, but I still want more!  Even for someone as independent as I, human companionship is necessary and healthy. It can be hard to meet someone you have something in common with, especially if you've had a hard life, but I am willing to try. That's all I can do.  

I wish everyone human companionship and warmth this Holiday Season.



At Rocky Mountain National Park about 15 years ago with my sister Jacque and nephew Steven Jr.

At Rocky Mountain National Park about 15 years ago with my sister Jacque and nephew Steven Jr.




My favorite Art class in grade school was in third grade, when our teacher taught us how to draw buildings with geometric angles.  She called the method 'perspectives'.  I loved it; who knows, maybe I should have been an architect.  But instead, I chose marketing, where perspectives, in a different meaning, is equally important.  Marketing is a lot more than just advertising.  It is analyzing a niche and figuring out how to best get information or a product to that niche.

One of my college room mates and I used to laugh: When we had a 3 page paper to write one time, she could NOT keep it down to 3 pages, and after trying several times, I could NOT get it up to 3 pages.  I analyze and summarize, and she likes to explain everything.  Another college roomate told me one time, 'Ellen, you are so simple minded'.  She may be right, I may be simple minded, but I think perspective is everything.  For example, I have never been considered 'cool' by the cool, trendy crowd, but I have always been considered too adventurous by the straight, goody-goody crowd.

When I hear comments about me, I always try to keep it in perspective and remind myself that I am who I am, and I'm not trying to be anyone else.  I couldn't have been a researcher for medicine, and I never wanted to, but they wouldn't understand me either.  When I look at a beautiful scene in nature, I think: after all the study and research, aren't all eyes the color of the earth: blue, green and brown?


I've had this habit for awhile: I take a book that I like and close my eyes and pick a page randomly by what feels right. I do this because sometimes it has a personal message for me that I need in my life at that point.  Sometimes it  tells me I'm on the right path (for me, of course), sometimes it lets me know I need to change direction, and it is always fun for me, especially when the message is relevant. It lets me know that I am in touch with my higher self. I believe, through all we've created to get through this life, ie. jobs, meals, shopping, sports, etc., that our main goal as humans is to be each in touch with our higher self. I think this is the most we can do, and that everything else is distraction and diversion.  I love the things I love in this life, friends, work, sweets, coffee, dancing, music  etc. but if I am not in touch with me, none of it 'works'. 

Everyone has their own way of getting in touch with their higher self; some feel
that religion brings them to their higher self, some actually feel that having more material wealth brings them in touch with their higher self because it gives them power, some feel most themselves when getting physical exercise, etc.  I have a combination of these things that make me feel 'myself', and when it is reflected in my 'habit of random picks', I feel really good.  It just tells me that I'm on my own, private right path, which I believe is between me and the Higher Power.

I started doing this over twenty years ago with Richard Bock's 'Illusions'.  His metaphysical messages were so good that, after having read the whole book once, opening to one page later was enough for me.  In the last ten years, I do it with the family Bible, I do it with the Dictionary when I'm at the Library, and I use the Atlas also.  I learn from whatever I choose as well as relate it to my life.  If I've chosen a place or a word that I don't know, I figure I must have a need to learn it, or there is some use in it for me.  It sounds silly, but it is one of the outward signs that I use to know I'm on the right path for me.

Today my 'random pick' was the word  'direction'.  I think it's perfect timing for a Haiku. I wrote this earlier, which is still valid for me today.

                                                        Reflections of Trees
                                              Branching in New Directions
                                                      I am to Follow?

I have a new routine that I'll be starting next week that will keep me busy.  I really hope that it 'fits' with me and lasts a long time.


Healthy Competition

It seems like I hear about another merger or hostile takeover every week, and the companies involved are not small to begin with.  I am not an economics major, but I believe that competition is better for the consumer.  If a company has to compete, it has to give you better customer service.

This past week I heard about several situations that are going in the opposite direction, companies planning to leave a big monopoly.  I was excited and surprised.  If a monopoly does not have any competition in an industry, it can charge whatever it wants.  This week, I read about two different situations that may be good for many people, at least for those that it will directly affect.

1.  I read that some very large companies here in Las Vegas are trying to leave the main power company (Which is owned by a billionaire) and go with a smaller energy company that includes solar in its mix.  It's not only good for them, it's a step in the direction of competition.  Isn't it wise to utilize your greatest natural resources?  We are in the desert; we have a lot of sun!  I am so proud of these companies for planning to leave the monopoly.

2. I have also been reading, for about six months, about Asia wanting to create a 'bank' that will compete with the World Bank and IMF.  I read a few days ago that Asia, along with many U.S. allies ARE formulating such an entity.  In yet another industry, it looks like competition is coming back.  I can't say that their goals aren't for profit or that their motives are pure, obviously, but I think the countries that have felt owned by the World Bank may appreciate the competition.

Despite what happened in my life, or the country's life, I think the world is heading in the right direction.

What do you think?

Tolerance and Empathy

Today our capital city is practically shut down because of weather.  The whole East coast and some of the South is 'slammed' as they put it on the news.  I was outside walking this morning with a beautiful, blue sky to look at and pink and white blossoms everywhere.  I call Las Vegas, my Colorado in the desert.  We have palm trees and evergreens, and we see mountains any way we look.  My sister and I have even climbed Mt. Charleston a few times; it's 18 miles to the top and back.

Isn't it amazing how our weather and habitat affect us? Because I am from a place where "they have more sunny days per year than any other place in the nation", I once read about Denver, I love the outdoors, and I have a perky personality.  I went to college in Seattle, WA, where the Seattle rain festival lasts from September to May".  It was a great place to study because you have to be inside, but the weather really affected me.  It's different when the sky is right down over your head, and you have to stay inside.  I remember writing home and saying "It's gray and raining again".  In that kind of weather, you have to make your own vim and vigor, because it didn't come naturally to me.  In school there, I had a professor from England who read to us from a book, "It was a cold, dark, damp, dreary day" in a way that I knew he had lived it.

When I meet people now, I try to guess where they're from.  I've been lucky enough to travel to at least 40 different states and 14 countries. Every place is an opportunity to learn from the people you meet.  It's interesting to me because our different habitats affect who we are.  If I know where someone is from, it gives me a basis from which to start to get to know them.  It may have seemed funny to some people, we grew up always travelling to Mexico. We didn't have any beaches in Colorado.  My friends from Hawaii were born on an island, and they came to see me to go skiing in our mountains (that we took for granted).  It's just one example, but I think if we have some awareness of where each other is from, then we can build more tolerance, sympathy and empathy for each other.  It works for me because I love to travel.


Think For Yourself

George Orwell wrote about 'groupthink' in a book long ago.  I am afraid it is no longer just fiction.  I think it has always been practiced, ie. clicky behavior in grade-school, college, and even at places of work.  I never liked the 'popular' group in grade-school, because when they were together they were mean.  My family is creative, eclectic, sometimes avant garde - but we are not mean people.  I have found that, when people play down to each other to be part of a group, they are not living up to their creative and intellectual potential.  They say (more and more the past decade) that there is safety in numbers, there are better discounts from monopolies, if you're not with us you're against us, etc.  In some MODERATE version of what they say this is all true. But there seems to be less moderation and more extremism in everything these days.  With all the technology, it is a lot easier to gossip, copy and paste, be the same as everyone else, etc. and try to be part of a group.  What they call social networks I find so ironic because it keeps people at home on a computer or a phone instead of being out in the workplace, which is social in itself.  I find it to be actually antisocial.  Before everyone had their face in a phone or computer 24 hours a day, did any kids shoot other kids in a grade-school?  I don't know if there is a direct correlation, but I remember playing with other kids on the block or neighborhood almost every day, which is a social behavior.  I think too much groupthink, whether it is promulgated by technology or not, limits creativity in individuals and in a society (and country) at large.  

The reason I am writing about this today is that I am hearing groupthink in some way in every news broadcast I listen to.  I heard it this morning when some diplomat was talking about a country as if they were far below ours, and as if I didn't have his same opinion that I was less of a person.  After about fifteen seconds of listening, I felt that my intelligence was being insulted so much I had to turn it off.  It's not just that I don't like being told how to think at the age of 55, but it does a country no good to encourage its citizens NOT to think for themselves.  How will we say we are the greatest country in the world when there is one group of people thinking for everyone and telling everyone they SHOULD think like them?  Are we still a democracy?  Are we the best country in the world or do we just like to say it to other countries?  George Orwell, my mom, I and others  have all seen it coming for a long time.  The best advice my mom ever gave me was in early grade-school, when the 'click' was mean and said that I couldn't join them.  She said not to pay any attention to them and not to  listen to them because they are not important to me.  One of my best friends was the most popular person in the group and class.  She never took sides, but I think they were jealous of my friendship with her.  I took my mom's advice and it has turned out to be the best thing she ever told me.  There will always be people who don't like us, as an individual, country, organization of countries, etc.  but if we turn life into a popularity contest what are we really?  I'm not talking about manners, because, as the Brits say, manners count.  But if we truly adopt groupthink instead of individuals adding to the creativity of the whole, I believe we're lost as individuals and a country.  Although even thinking can be taken to extremes

Shakespeare said 'To thine own self be true'.

Please Stay (10/10)

I saw something this morning on CBS Sunday Morning that made me want to write this blog. They did a special on the Dalai Lama and showed him with other important people in many different situations.  They mentioned how his country was taken from him in 1959 and he had to flee.  After such an important life and having inspired so many people, I was sad to hear what they said at the end of the show.  According to the reporter, the Dalai Lama said that with all the politics, maybe there doesn't need to be a next Dalai Lama.

 I believe that people need to be able to worship  whatever God in whatever way their culture or religion teaches them or in the way they discover on their own later in life. Worship is private and brings us a certain comfort level.  No matter what your faith is, there is most likely a leader of that faith.   For example, for the Catholics, the Pope is such an important figure as head of their religion that  people look to him in areas other than religion.  Most religions or beliefs have a head figure, and the people who practice that religion are INSPIRED by the leader to practice their faith.  I was raised a Catholic by a Father who was a strict Catholic (he went to Mass every day) and a Mother who was Catholic until later in life when she decided to learn about other religions ie. Unitarian, Buddhism, etc. I went to Catholic grade school and high school and a Jesuit College.  Since I have been out of the Catholic social network, I have discovered other ways of worship that bring me peace.  I have chanted SGI 'Nam Myoho Renge Kyo', the Tibetan 'Om Mani Peme Hum' and the Sanskrit 'Om Namaya Shivaya'.  I don't follow any of them religiously; I chant for my spirituality and my peace, and it does help me in stressful times.  I have a friend who I've spoken to recently (who I knew in college) and she now has a Buddhist room set up in her home and it brings her peace.

 I still have friends who are Catholic (one has even read the Vatican Papers) and last time I was in Denver I saw the 'Cat'lic Girls'.  I attended Christmas Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral when I lived in NYC.  But my personal, private practices of spirituality these days seem to be more Buddhist.  I chant for peace.  I chant that those who are in charge of our world make good, intelligent decisions.  I chant for my material well-being to return.  And when I need inspiration, I look at people like the Dalai Lama who is really a leader for Buddhists and others seeking spiritual inspiration.  We need our leaders; they are more important than heads of countries and heads of companies, who each have their own agenda.  I cried when Nelson Mandela died, not only for me but for the millions of people to whom he was a leader.  Leaders are universal, above companies and countries.  They are important because they can influence our behavior, and not only spiritually.  There is a picture of the Dalai Lama on the refrigerator and every time I look at it I smile. In turn, think of how many people I can have a positive influence on if I smile let alone the influence on my day.  Knowing how much he has been through, and that he still has a shining smile influences me every time I look at that picture. 

 Yes, Dalai Lama, we need you and we need your successor.  If you asked the Catholics, they would say the same about the Pope. Please stay for the benefit of all Beings!

    14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso with HH Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

    14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso with HH Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

I consider myself to be just one among 7 billion human beings. If I were to think of myself as different from others, or as something special, it would create a barrier between us. What makes us the same is that we all want to lead happy lives and gather friends around us. And friendship is based on trust, honesty and openness.

                                              HH Dalai Lama today on Facebook              

Can Men Learn to Negotiate?

When I was watching the news this past week, and hearing about the wars all over the world: Ukraine, Middle East, Thailand, etc., I found myself screaming at the top of my lungs, "When will men learn to negotiate?"  Then later in the week, I was talking to a gentleman who I know casually, and I started to tell him about the 'trip of a lifetime' as my sister and I call it.  I decided to write about it and I think you will understand why.  I will not mention any names because I have not spoken to most of the people with whom we travelled, and do not have their permission.

 My grandmother, mother, sister and brother were down in the Caribbean at one point, and travelling around the area.  I was in a tough place because I had just broken up with a boyfriend that I was so in love with and wanted to be with forever.  Anyway, with nothing happening in the area I was living, I decided to join them and our long-time Mayan family friends down in Cozumel.  I had no idea what to expect when I got down there, but I called our family friend and he told me Mom and family were there, but not on the island at that point. I took the risk and went down there, hoping I'd find them. (Remember, these were long before the days where everyone had a cell phone.)

 When I got down there, my Mom and sister met me at the airport (a miracle).  Our friend had run into them at the airport and told them I'd be coming. My grandmother and brother had returned to the U.S. by then.  So we three made a decision to head across to the mainland, travel a bit and hopefully end up in Tikal, Guatemala.  We had every trust in our Mom, who was very well read and knew her way around. She and her Mom had done a lot of travelling, and at that point, we had done a lot of travelling with her.  So we started our trip...

 We had a travel book, probably Frommer's, so we could be somewhat loose in our plans.  At the beginning (when we were still on the ferry) we met up with a med student from Sweden and a girl from Montreal.  We talked, as travelers do, in whatever language we could communicate in. 'Where are you going?'  We think we are going to Tikal; let's see where our trip takes us. They joined us and so did a British couple who had been listening to us on the ferry.  We started down the coast, and by the time we got to Belize, we had a guy from Chicago, a guy from Boston, a guy from Wales and another Canadian gentleman.  When each person joined our 'group', he or she asked about our travels, asked where we were headed, and decided to be flexible in order to travel with our group.  In my experience, travelers are usually interesting people. We made our plans on the spot, within the limits of where we were; we were on the east coast of Mexico and we wanted to go to Tikal and Guatemala City, so we had some choices.  We all got along and did what we needed to do to communicate and enjoy our trip.  Each person was interesting and we learned about each other's culture. At that point, even Boston seemed like another culture, and 'Garlic' was from Chicago, itself foreign to me. Not one person had to be the controller of the trip.  We had to be flexible in order to even reach the next point in our travels.  We used mostly busses, but we also flew in a small plane and took a long train ride to Mexico City.  Climbing the pyramids of Tikal and walking through the jungle was one of the most beautiful things I've ever done. The sound of Howler and Spider monkeys was deafening when we were at the top of the pyramids. We even had a Guatemalan take us to a tree where a Howler was right above us in a tree; it was incredible!  We stayed a few nights at the park, but we were told by a German traveller not to go to Guatemala City (it was not safe for Americans), and that we should leave Guatemala immediately.  That is when you learn who you are travelling with.  We took a boat up a river to leave the country the back way, and had to stay overnight on a small island with no hotel.  A Guatemalan brother and sister caught us an animal for dinner,  cooked it on the fire, then let us stay in some palapas they had, for that night.  We were so deep in the heart of the jungle, that when I looked down, the ground was a half inch thick with moving bugs. But one of our group had a guitar, and he played and we sang to get our minds off of it. The natives, a young brother and sister, were two of the kindest people we met on out trip. We were able to communicate with them in our limited Spanish, and they did whatever they could to help us. The next day we were pulled over off the river once, but we made it out safely!  We made it as a group that negotiated our way out of a country that was not at peace right then.

 We travelled together to some of the states within Mexico, hiked Palenque and Montealban.  As we went, of course some of the members dropped off along the way. We wished each other well, and talked about how much fun it was.  We exchanged addresses with every one of them.  My mom, sister and I ended up taking a 36 hour train ride to Mexico City, on which I had a swollen tooth and gum that was so painful I could barely talk. But we met people on the train and talked, sang and danced with them the whole way. I will never forget this one woman who had everyone clapping their hands and singing as a group.  It was fun, and once again we communicated in whatever way we could, negotiating our way to make the most of the train ride.

 The whole trip was so fun and adventurous, I have never again had one like it.  We met interesting people from all over the world and travelled together, not having a pre-set plan in mind, i.e. where should we go tomorrow, where should we stay, where should we eat, etc.  We negotiated our way through three countries, some of it scary, and made it out without any fights, arguments, disagreements, etc. Think about how flexible we all had to be to make it happen and make it fun!   I listen to the news now because I like to be informed, but every time I do I think, "Will men ever learn to negotiate?"  I have lived it and negotiation works.