Reason #2: Why I Love This City – My Own Little Testament.

Mormon Pioneer Cemetary
I excitedly walked among my ancestors today. Not necessarily ‘mine’ but those who made coming to this city a possibility. I’ve heard stories about their lives, their families, their trials, ever since I can remember. I took pictures of their headstones. Pictures of those who lead me, taught me, fought for me, and sacrificed everything for me.

I’m sure they didn’t know they were fighting for me. They probably thought they were fighting for themselves, for their own freedom.   Silly people. But it is because of their efforts that I am here visiting their tombs, feeling free to be me, not hiding, not diminishing anything about me, just whole-heartedly me.

As I stand among them, I can’t help but wonder about those whose spirit resides far above but bones rest below. Do they take an occasional glance down to look upon all those that were affected by their decisions?   Do they look at us as one large group and find themselves amazed, inspired at the repercussions of their own quiet leaps of faith or do they look at us one by one?

If they do look at us one by one, do they notice the small, white haired woman quietly sitting in front of her television? While next to her naps her white-haired husband, with a book resting on his chest? A woman, like them, that had no intention of taking on the world, but simply wanted to live her life in a manner that let her live it truthfully, with purpose and fulfillment?

Do those looking down know that because of what they did, giving up their comfortable lives, giving up everything to travel across a continent in order to create this place, do they know how it changed this woman and this woman’s children and her children’s children?

Telling you about the multitude of lives affected by each heroic, forgotten individual is an impossible task. So let me just start with that small, white-haired lady.   Except I think I’ll start when she was much younger. When she was a mom barely 23 with two children under the age of 5 and more on their way. Although her fight was different from those who sold all they had and risked their lives and family for a life outside the norm–quieter-I imagine. For her, it was just as exhausting and difficult – because it was one long, continuous, relentless, lonely fight.

She, alone, dragged and battled her reluctant children week after week, year after year, to this church created by those ancestors. She taught her children the importance of its teachings and never relented. Had she not done that, she wouldn’t have helped them find direction within the confusion of the world. The world that tells you to go this way, than that way, over here and then cris-cross to back over there. A world that says destructive means of coping are fun and anything fun is worth doing, but leaves out the ugly consequences. She wouldn’t have known how to give them the ability to look beyond this world, find truth and thus, save them from themselves. And had she not done that, one less person would be occupying this place. Which may not mean anything to the multitudes, but it means everything to that one person and that one person’s descendents and to that white-haired lady.

She wasn’t firm about most things. Except, of course, about what had she had been taught by two 19 year-old boys. Those ideas, those teachings, were wholeheartedly accepted and were a constant presence in her home.   She made sure her children knew those teachings as well.

Some of the children went on to find out for themselves if what she heard was true. Some blindly followed. Some believed, but liked the chaos of the world better. Some just didn’t care whether it was true or not.

One child in particular found the world an exceptionally confusing place. So many choices, so many different directions to go for a girl who didn’t know what she wanted or where she wanted to go. What does a girl like that do when she is surrounded by so much and no one to show her the way? I suppose she begins by taking the closest, easiest path, the loudest path that seems to be the quickest way to fill her empty holes of wanting more out of life, more success, more love, more peace, more self-worth but not knowing how to get there.

The paths that were the easiest were actually only distractions. And distractions never get you anywhere except to a dead end. And although she was warned about distractions, she wasn’t sure about her intended path and so often couldn’t differentiate between the two.

So she aimlessly set out, following this distraction and that–staying out all night, experimenting with unhealthy habits, unhealthy relationships, surely there was something/someone out there who could fill her holes?

Nope, just another dead-end.

And then after too many dead ends, too many uncertainties too many wondering if she were finally on her way and then discovering it was only another distraction, she recognized she wasn’t any further than she had been when she set out so long ago.   Except that the holes, now, were larger and had reached beyond her borders and had become other’s holes as well. She wanted more. Knew more was out there but still didn’t know how to get it, didn’t know where to find it. Life was just as confusing to a woman who doesn’t know herself as it is to a girl who doesn’t know herself.

The day she opened her eyes was the day she decided she was tired of the chase. Tired of going in circles. Tired of the holes that seemed impossible to fill. How was life so easy for others and yet so confusing for her?   With no hope for anything better she ended it with a distraction.

She had seen how the world worked and how she reacted to it. She was sure the above scenario is how it would have been had she not listened to her mother’s words. But she did. She trusted. And because she trusted, she occasionally felt a presence–something so close that she was sure it was within her. A presence that gave her peace when she was distraught, direction when she was overwhelmed, clarity when she was confused. The presence faintly told her, “You matter.”   And for those moments, her holes were filled.

She liked that presence. She had more peace, confidence; she felt more acceptance, unconditional love when it was around. She wanted more of it. She wanted to know more about it. She welcomed the presence but wasn’t willing to blindly obey. Where is the independence, the intelligence in blind obedience? No one was going to tell her how to think. So she continued to be skeptical, she questioned, she tested, she watched.   And although the presence was welcomed, it was kept at a distance.

At first, it was hard to put into practice what the teachers who knew the presence better than she, taught.   Too many fun distractions. Too many sacrifices. Too many cannots and shouldn’ts and shoulds and too much insistence for additional effort.   It was exhausting, physically as well as mentally.

But she wanted that presence with her. She had tried many other ways to keep it near but in order to stay it demanded trust.   It demanded action. It demanded growth. It demanded that she welcome it not at a distance but whole-heartedly. It demanded she actively try those things the teachers spoke about. And so she did try those things. Sometimes, to her amazement, her additional action, her trust, created better things and her holes weren’t so large. Sometimes she wasn’t sure it worked at all. But even when she felt nothing, saw no immediate reward, upon looking back, to her amazement, it seemed to have all come together after all.

As time when on, the shouldnts and shoulds weren’t so hard anymore, because obeying the shoulds and shouldnts made the presence happy. She felt it. And so it made her happy and thus the shoulds and shouldnts became a part of her. And with that, the presence became more of a companion, a friend, a trusted advisor and was with her continuously instead of occasionally. Its once faint voice that whispered, ‘You matter’, became a strong voice that insisted, ‘You are powerful and strong. Your worth is immeasurable. I am always here with you and you are loved beyond the stars.”

This gave her peace, self-worth and gratitude. Thus, she was able to let go of those inner things that kept her afraid and stagnate and empty. The presence gave her strength, which allowed her to ignore the distractions. Thus, she found her place, her success and she was able to fill her own holes.

She thought that as her life came together, with the help of the presence, it was much like a puzzle.   She thought, like most people, that her puzzle looked fairly easy and estimated it should be put together in one afternoon. They never do. They won’t be rushed. They are always completed one piece at a time.

By putting her puzzle together, she learned that sometimes, it’s just a waste of time to search and search for that one right piece. Instead, she should just let go, change sections, and when the puzzle was ready for that one piece, it would show itself. She discovered that all pieces are eventually found, if not on the table, then on the floor, or underneath a chair.

Sometimes a passerby picks up that stupid piece and effortlessly puts it in the correct place, then casually walks away, oblivious of the quiet but magnificent act.   Although she was usually glad the search was over, she found it quite frustrating at how difficult and time consuming the search had been. Frustrated that it seemed so easy for the passerby, yet so difficult for her.   Frustrated that she could no longer claim full ownership of doing the puzzle by herself.

Upon completion, she let it sit upon the table and shamelessly admired it. She knew it really wasn’t the beauty of the puzzle she was admiring, rather, the effort she had put into each piece–remembering how each came together, the particularly tough areas. It was hard work and she wasn’t going to just throw it back in the box.   It had challenged her, stumped her, frustrated her, exhausted her patience and left her, at times, despairing if she would ever see its completion.

That was the puzzle. Parts of her life–her quiet, unassuming life. Did it matter to many? Out of millions, that lone life could have been considered insignificant. Not even noticeable, but only if you are looking at that number as a whole. The presence isn’t looking at the whole, he is looking at each one. So to him, did that one white haired- ladies actions matter? That can be nothing but a resounding yes. Because each life is unique and each life matters to that presence as if his own happiness lies with each. “For who does not leave the 99 and go after the one?”

And so standing in front of the statues of those long passed, for me had much meaning, filled me with gratitude. They were heroes. Quiet, unassuming, courageous, amazing people who, one by one, gave that white-haired lady her life and thus, mine.

And so I send that white-haired lady the pictures of each tombstone, with the heading, “Before they were just stories, but now that I have walked among them, I hope like me, you see solid evidence of heroic lives lived.”

I have a saying, “My mother gave me life and then saved my life”. But she could not have done it without those going before her”


Salt Lake Cemetary


In Response to Poetry

Kings English 2

The King’s English Bookstore

The first time I entered the quaint bookstore was with the intent to meet up with a newly discovered writing group.  I sat next to two women I had decided were going to be my new best friends.  That is until they pulled out their poetry.  Ugh!  My eyes rolled.

After the meeting, the small talk began.  My two distant acquaintances approached me and welcomed me to the group.  As we chatted, one of them made an off-hand comment,  “One of these days we’ll have you writing poetry.”  I politely smiled, but in my head….Yeah, that’ll NEVER happen.

I had no interest in poetry, thought it was pretentious, obscure and took way too much effort to try to make sense of. Just say it! Why hide the meaning(s)? Tell me a story; a clear, to the point, understandable story!

But after being inundated with poetry – once a week for 4 years, I found my self becoming curiouser and curiouser and the closed mind began to creak open. Sometimes, I even allowed the thought, that I could be making poetry harder than it needs to be, rumble around instead of  swatting it away.

I sat silently, week after week, my face a blank, as my writing compatriots read their poems about the intricacies of a leaf swirling down a drain, the sensuality of preparing risotto and historical recollections of an abusive father narrated in admiration.  I came to realize that I too had stories to tell, things I wanted to say, ideas to convey.  But these things, if written in a large story, would dissolve.  No one would even know they were there.  How could I convey my ideas and make them be heard and understood?

Many, many evenings later, while we, the writing group, recited our stories around a dull light, something happened which caused me  to want to push my prejudice aside, stop standing on the side-line and join in.  This tiny moment of ten very different people, coming together, sharing the same space and lifting one another needed to be recorded.  I would do that in a poem.

I would like to suggest that the reason I went against my belief of poetry being a loathsome thing is because… I was put under a spell.  It’s true.  You see it was one of those inspiring nights when the imagination and creativity were flowing through all of us as we sat bunched together, in the small living room of one of our member’s homes.  The lights were dim with only a fireplace to read by as we snacked on cheese and nuts and tea, (don’t ever forget the tea in this group.)  By the end of the night, my defenses were down.  I could no longer resist.  And so at midnight, I drove home with this, my first poem swirling in my head.



 The Writing Group

I sit with mind alterers, bamboozlers, mesmerizers

They tell stories, wax poetic

The narration begins

the ghost of a dolphin swims into the room

it jumps, then dives

the story concludes

the dolphin exits

its eternal smile

rests upon us all

Then parents

long deceased appear

Staring lovingly upon their child

taking his turn at an ode to his past

7 colors of a sunset blaze in the desert sky

our source of light

while joined

in a dim room

A bejeweled lifeless beetle

swirls amidst water and leaves

until it disappears down its bygone drain

A man named JC

Trampled flowers

Coffee drinking bears

Porcelain talking dolls

46 Crayons

Beginners color

Trying to find the lines

Experience paints

crossing in, out and around the lines

Each reader creating their picture

Their original work of art

Strangers revealing their most intimate parts

Articulate beings

Dogged by a whispering, unsettling voice that demands

Express this!

Create that!

For you are unfulfilled unless!

After my first piece, I repented heavily of my stubborn ways.    I discovered that writing  poetry actually helped me define my writing into a more compact form.  It’s amazing!  I’ve discovered it actually tells a story in half the time of any other type of narration.  Uses much more depth, more meaning, more visuals and can do it as if it were a song.

When my poem was on paper, and when I could do no more, I read it to the writing group.

While reading, my voice didn’t shake, nor did my hands, I just couldn’t breathe.  Literally, I could not catch my breath. And then, because my nervousness was so obvious, it made me even more self-conscious/nervous.

I don’t know why I was so nervous.  Well, actually, I do. In regards to poetry, a  couple of women in this writing group are frikking amazing.  Actually, they’re all really good with poetry but one woman in particular.  Her writing is so amazing that she received a grant for a poetry study with someone,  I think he was a Poet Laureate,  don’t ask me for details.  It’s poetry.  I wasn’t following it at the time.  I just know it was something/someone big because when she announced her prize, the room filled with gasps and aww’s. I went with it.

Because I was so new to the experience of poetry, and those in the room were so advanced,  I worried how my poem would be received.  It was so simple in comparison to theirs.  Would they call me out?  Laugh at my lame attempt?  Give me a condescending pat on the head?

At the end and to my relief, they didn’t call my bluff.  They didn’t laugh, and in fact, they were very kind and gifted me with high praise.  I’m not sure if the praise was given because the poem was about them, or they feared my, ‘just short of having a panic attack’, nervousness would turn into a full on ambulance ride, or, if they just liked it.  I decided not to over analyze and go with the latter.

So to make a short story very long,  I wrote in the previous blog about how some writings speak to me as if requesting a response.  Below is my response to those writers/bloggers of poetry, artists of the written word  whose works speak to me.

A Writing Review On A Poet Laureate By…A Person With No Writing Authority Whatsoever.

Thank you Billy Collins

Billy Collins

I picked up your book at the library.

The one with the black bear on the cover.

A friend from my writing group suggested it.

He is a writing genius so I could not doubt.


I’ve never really liked poetry. Too flowery,

too clouded in obscure words,

meanings so deftly hidden that one cannot understand them

without a book of translations.


Often too dark, too hopeless,

she doesn’t love me, the world is a cruel place,

I shall kill myself ‘



As I said, I picked up your book and began reading.

My excitement bounded from heart to head

from lips to eyes as I perused through.

Your writings are simple!


I don’t mean kindergarten simple, rather concise, clear, understandably simple.

I found myself smiling, often.

Sometimes, the smile was from the joy of reading your poem,

other times, simply from the joy of being able to actually follow a poem.


Your stories; so intimate, personal, revealing so much about you, your day.

It made me think I knew you, that I too would enjoy sitting out in my garden,

the sun pleasantly shining down upon me

while enjoying a book of poetry from long ago.


I shut your book, lost in your pleasant scene.

But the Bumblebees caught my eye as they buzzed around the Black-Eyed Susans;

the hummingbird distracted me as well, as it zipped past my head

on the way to a delicious meal of Zinnia nectar.


Then the vision was lost. I looked around, back in my world,

no blue hydrangeas here. And no one who would actually enjoy

a thick book of poetry about stone walls with no windows.

Ah, I had been mesmerized.


But wait, I said to myself.

I often misinterpret poetry, reading along thinking

it’s a story about a wonderful mountain scene when actually

it’s a story about the death of a new bride

or something completely dark and opposing.


Was I misinterpreting your writings as well?

Was the dry humor actually condescending observations

made by a man who thinks too highly of his ability to put words to paper?

I’m sure you’ve heard of men becoming that after a time of too much fame, too much praise.


The last thought could only be fleeting though as I reread

and as I rediscovered that indeed,

your writings were simply what they were.


With my expression of why now explained,

I end with the intent of this writing in the first place

which is to thank you.

Thank you for giving me the gift of the joy of reading poetry.

The Alone

Sometimes a story, a poem just hits you, smack dab across the head. It reaches into your temporal lobe and says, “Hey, listen to this. It’s as if you wrote it. But it’s using someone else’s language!”
Sometimes that story, that poem, talks to you and stirs within you a desire to talk back. This is one I want to talk back to. I want to tell the author, as if we were old friends and as if she understood the nuances of my life, how this poem fired off a reminder of how much I love writing and how I have a sudden need to start doing it again.

Ann WJ White

I work in my garden, alone,
But for bees that communicate 
Satisfaction with my efforts. 

The neighbors whisper and watch, 
Looking for an error, a stagger, 
Never once caring for more than gossip. 

I live alone in a house of people, 
Never noticed, never seen, 
The dust is my intimate friend. 

I watch the sunset from my window, 
Its golden light illuminating my 
Loneliness, I wish and dream. 

I had a friend once, 
He as golden as the sun. 
He left like all the others, without a storm. 

He was beautiful, rich, 
Filled with ideas to make the world better. 
As my world collapsed in tears, he left. 

Gold sunshine will return at sunset, 
Not always there, but returning 
To give me a kiss of hope. 

The neighbors will talk, and 
I will freeze Like a rabbit before the fox. 
Let them talk, I am deaf to them now.

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My Favorite Hikes

Golden Mountains


I love to hike.  When I say, ‘love’, I mean, it is my joy, my peace, my meditation, my renewal.  Well, not so much the hiking itself, rather the struggle to get to the top and then finally, arriving at the destination.  The beautiful, wonderous destination full of magical scents of pine and earth and water that when breathed in deeply ease the care of all things worldly.

It’s my dad’s fault really.  Growing up, my mom at his suggestion, would announce we were going fishing.  What she really meant was that we, all seven of us, along with a big fur-ball dog, were going to cram into a hot, faded blue, vinyle-upholstered station wagon and drive and drive until my dad, sensing that ‘this was the place’ would pull over and finally release us from the un-air conditioned pressure cooker.  

And although it sounds unpleasant, it wasn’t.  Once we got there, it was exciting.  There was always so much to explore.  Along with the random weekend excursions: once a year, a quick two weeks during the summer, after my dad bought the Prowler, (a third wheel camper), we would join up with his best friend and family members, and live off the grid, hiking, swimming and fishing.  My dad was so proud of that camper. I think it made him feel like he was living the high life in a land of  perfect solitude.

I can’t remember which trip it was that I first felt that release, that point when all the cares of my small world would fly out the window while speeding down the highway at 55 miles per hour. I just remember always feeling like there was no better place to be than in the mountains.

It’s a feeling that’s never left. I try to enjoy the ocean, the desert, but the joy isn’t there like it is in the mountains. And now I find myself living in a new place with much more grand and inspiring mountains then even before: this wonderful place, this land of purple mountains majesty accessible only 15 minutes away with two main canyons (and many more smaller ones) leading to three different ski resorts… but no Prowler.  So I do what I can to revel in it: I hike.

Sunset just outside my office.

Sunset just outside my office.

My favorite hike is Lower Bell Canyon.  Bell Canyon is located in Little Cottonwood Canyon, which will take you up to the Alta ski resort and Snowbird ski resort.  The trip up the canyon is jaw droppingly beautiful with many trails to hike along the way.  In fact, you don’t even need to know where any trails are, just drive up the canyon and when you see a car or two parked along the road, your bound to find either great rock climbing opportunities or a beautiful hiking trail.

Lower Bell Canyon

Lower Bell Canyon

But my favorite hike, Lower Bell Canyon, isn’t up the canyon.  It’s actually at the entrance or mouth of the canyon. It’s my favorite because it’s a 25 minute hike and much of it is in shade, so it’s pleasant even in the heat of afternoon.  Although it is only a 25 minute hike, it is still challenging, with beautiful vistas all the way to the other side of the valley.  From the top of the hike, you can get a clear view of Kennecott on the horizon.

I spotted an Elk casually grazing while walking up to the lake once,  and upon my arrival,  was verbally accosted by a chipmunk who was not shy about insulting me for not providing him sustenance.

On the way up to Bell Canyon

On the way up to Bell Canyon.

Hiking in Salt Lake is something everyone does.  So where ever you go, there are always, and I do mean always, others who are hiking the same trail.  Because of that, you might expect the trails to look worn, littered and unkept.  Surprisingly, it is a rarity that you will find anything of the sort. Thanks to everyones’ mindfullness, the trails look pristine and the destinations always feel as though you have just discovered a hidden wonder.  Below is just one example.  Evening end of hikeSidenote: Pets are not allowed on this hike and most others along either canyon.  Neither is swimming or fishing, (catch and release only) as most of these waters are what feed into our drinking water.

I joined a hiking group once I arrived here.  Plenty of singles of all ages who like to keep active. Plenty of singles who have their own favorite trail and will eagerly lead the group once a week.

Speaking of pristine, to the point of magical, where thoughts of woodland fairies and nymphs might reside, below is another favorite hike.  It too is short, only a mile and a half, but it is unrelentingly steep and the birch never open up to other sites until you come to this:Short but steep hike up Big Cottonwood Canyon

and this:Moose at Big Cottonwood Canyon

The white spots to the left in the picture are some of those singles who thought it would be cool to see how close they could get to the moose.  I should title this picture, “Who’s calling Lifeflight?”

The picture below is just above the ski resort, Alta.  A bit higher altitude then where we’ve been before. But because of the cooler temperatures and increased rainfall, the wildflowers of Indian Paint Brush, Balsamroot, clover-longstock, Lupine and Larkspur and many more are abundant here and carpet the area in beautiful mutli-hues of blooms.

Many photographers make this their ‘go to’ destination for a day of bliss.  And many newly engaged couples find this a perfect spot for their wedding announcement picture.  In fact, most evenings, should you be hiking along this trail, you may spot a couple in full wedding garment, posing.

There are many  hikes around this area.  They are pleasant, but challenging and with the highter altitude, more options are available for spotting deer, elk, moose and bear.  Also, with the highter altitude, the weather is cooler, in fact, can be quite cold: down to the 50’s once the sun goes down.

. Hiking at Alpine

My final favorite hike is a beautiful hike discovered on a right turn into a quiet neighborhood just before entering MillCreek canyon off of Wasatch Boulevard.  Neff Canyon.  Home of the deepest cave in the U.S.  Although gated and locked due to it being so hard to get to by rescuers, as well as its narrowness, which makes the very act of rescuing even more difficult.  Too many occurances, too many deaths, so they locked it up.  You can, however, explore it with special permission from the forest service, so I’m told…  Entrance to Neff Canyon

Fall colors at Neff Canyon

Fall colors at Neff Canyon

This is one of those hikes you can choose it’s length.  But it is a bit confusing at the beginning because there are so many trails going this way and that.  You’re never sure if you’re on the right one.  Actually most all of the trails wind, but lead you to the same place which is here:

Swinging at Neff Canyon

Swinging at Neff Canyon

It is a open area underneath a canopy of trees.  A common area, where the neighbors hike to, for a quick evening stroll and then head home.  But that’s the neighbors, not serious hikers.  For the hikers, the trail continues on to the left.  There is another trail that appears more solid, more like an actual hike.  It’s to the right.  It goes up and up, becoming steeper and steeper and then quite suddenly stops.  Its a ruse. Don’t be fooled.

The real trail, as I mentioned earlier, goes on to the left.  But again, there are two trails that go on to the left (facing the swing) and there is a stream that divides them. The stream is just behind the person taking the picture above.   If you follow the trail on the far side of the stream, the picture below is what you will eventually come to. Although the hike is pleasant,  shaded, cool but mostly level and so not really too challenging, this is where it ends.

Bouldering at Neff CanyonNeff Canyon - Bouldering

So stay to the right of the stream and you will find yourself coming up out of the wonderful, soothing shade and into the hot, melting sun, where the trail runs on forever and ever, or so it seems, as the hike to the beautiful meadow is 5.5 miles.  During this trip, my  friend and I had only prepared ourselves for a leisurely, afternoon sunday hike so didn’t make it more than 100 yards out into that unrelenting sun before turning around, declaring that there was no shame in being a ‘neighbor hiker’.

Creating Is Spiritual

Watercolor panMy mom paints. She has a picture of a cat she painted hanging in her family room. It’s not just a picture of a cat though. The viewer is standing outside watching the cat through the latticed window as it peers out towards him or her. The outside wall in which the window is framed into is stone with varying tones of colors and shapes. This picture fills up the entire 11 X 14 paper.

I look at that painting and marvel at how perfectly the individual chosen colors come together, at how the individual brush strokes create the curves, the lines and detail until a picture of a cat peering out into the day is formed.

I marvel that human beings, so like other animals, so base, so stymied by their earthly condition can find within themselves the ability to think so far beyond and above their basic needs that they pick up a piece of wood, add some fibers to it, refine it, then dip it in colored additives created by things they found within and upon the earth, then brush those colors around on a canvas in such a specific way that it creates jaw dropping, awe inspiring works of art.

What drives us to do that? Because it is a drive: a drive so unrelenting that we feel incomplete, unfulfilled unless we obey it. Where does that silent, demanding drive, which seems so beyond the human capacity, come from?

I look at Apes, chimpanzees, etc. To me, that is as far as an animal can and should be able to go when relying on its own self. We, as natural man, should be as simple as the Ape.   Yet we are not and I don’t believe it has anything to do with us. Because our species like any other species is solid, pre-formed and organized into a very specific manner. That thing which lifts us beyond our limited intelligence has to be something outside of ourselves.

Do you ever have those moments when you marvel that you are able to accomplish something you really believe, as a simple being, you shouldn’t be able to do, yet here you are doing it?

Creating is rising higher, …No…. Creating is ‘being’ lifted higher. Creating is a gift. It is not something we are able to give ourselves. It is a gift of unspoken knowledge that there is a higher plane of fulfillment, completion…spiritual.   There is just no other way to explain it. Creating is spiritual.

Turning on the light

A Sister

It began when she let me sit on her bed and read her Betty and Veronica comic books.

Later it moved to watching her crochet. “What are you doing?” How do you do that? That looks hard. Is that hard? How did you do that twisting thing?

Soon she handed the hook and yarn over to me and had me do a few stitches, then my own hook and yarn showed up and we sat together crocheting, she, watching me occasionally out of the corner of her eye.

Then it was on to sewing, guiding me through the foreign language of pattern reading, following her to fabric stores. It took me to taking a sewing class in junior high. I made a blouse. The teacher insisted those stitches look even and hidden. I unpicked that frikking blouse so many times I lost count.   But when it was done, I was so proud.   I wonder whatever happened to that blouse.

Next I was in the living room, sitting on that orange crushed-velvet rocking chair.   ‘Needlepoint”. The repetitive, detailed tediousness, I would have like to have poked the inventor in the eye with that needlepoint. But after a month I finished my project she helped me pick out; a cat face peering out of a flowery bush. When it was done, she took it and made it into a pillow.   That kitten is almost 40 years old now and still displays itself in her house.

She was the only one who stepped away from the unspoken expectation of simply marrying and starting ‘your own family’. Left for college and became a nurse. Man, she worked hard. Never gave up. We wouldn’t have blamed her if she did.

Her curiosity gave my curiosity permission to come out of hiding. I was never berated for exploring off-limit places like the unmarked door in a store, the room in the back when she was around. In fact, she was right behind me. Our curiosity took us and my children on wonderful road trips along the Oregon coast, through Yellowstone National park and multiple cross-country skiing day trips.

Subtle, unintentional molding is what she did. Helping to grow and explore areas of interests, parts of me I never knew were there.

Baby picture

Everything is happening! Only 3 days in and mural is already %10 funded – keep it coming, we can do this :) #jumpforjoy

Jump For Joy! What a Great , positive experience!

JUMP FOR JOY! Photo Project

Fundraising for the 18,000 sq ft VANCOUVER JUMP FOR JOY PHOTO MURAL is on now!

Today is day 3 of 30 and the project is already %10 funded!

Please join me in crating this massive, joy-filled community art project in the DTES of Vancouver. The mural will be located on the West wall of The Arco Hotel which is run by Atira Womens Resource Society at 81 West Pender Street.

Thank you for your kind support and generous contributions to help make this beautiful project possible. You are very much appreciated!!!

Enjoy the fun video, share with your friends and contribute what you can.. it all helps spread the JOY!

Have a wonderful day!

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Difference Between Kind, Nice and a Doormat: Giving up the cake

Howdy doormat

Can I tell you that when I hear someone say, “she/he is so nice” it instinctively makes me groan in disgust. Of course, if I’m talking with someone I have just met and they make the comment about someone we both know, a loud groan of disgust would be socially inappropriate. Instead, I smile widely and try to say something nice back, such as: “ Yes, isn’t she/he.” Why do I do that? Because it’s the only way I can distract my mind from going to that sarcastic place in my head that has no filter and will betray me with a rude, off-putting eye roll.

Have you noticed that when one is calling someone, ‘nice’, their voice usually goes up at least one octave.   As if they themselves become that sweet, nice person just by saying it.

I don’t like the word, nice, for the reason that it is ‘the’ word thrown around, yet no one seems to know what its real definition is.

For example, I was talking with a friend on the phone the other day. Her married son, daughter-in-law and two small children moved into her 5th wheel stored next to her house. Why did they move into her 5th wheel?   Because she already had her five children living with her in her four bedroom house.

After a few weeks of this, she approached her son with the request to help with the grocery bills.   The son became irate and told his mother that he couldn’t and how dare she ask him such a thing. Didn’t Mom understand he was trying to save for a new house?

Mom didn’t respond.   Instead she turned from the trailer and left. But while telling me about the experience she concluded that, “Well at least he knows how I feel. And then with a burst of pride she adds, “I’m just too nice.”

Too nice?

Yes, she did ask nicely, I have no doubt of that. But is that really what nice looks like or was she just trying to justify an inability to stand up against an angry outburst?

To me, her initial request sounded like a well-founded need of, “Hey, I’m drowning here and could use some help.” For Mom to back down from that request because she came up against resistance is not my definition of ‘nice’.

Let’s define “nice”.   1) Giving pleasure or joy. 2) Good and enjoyable 3) Attractive or of good quality. 4) Kind, polite and friendly 5) Amiably pleasant 6) A city in France. (I know it’s just the spelling not the pronunciation)

I have another friend. He was born with a birth defect that affects his mobility, not his mentality, although many people throughout his life have gotten the two confused. He has never been able to run as fast as anyone, was always the last to be picked for the team, if at all. He was that kid that was pushed down on the black top and then laughed at, pushed into his locker, tripped on his way to class, looked at with scorn by other girls, etc, etc.

He doesn’t really talk about it. In fact, he always has a smile. But because of his past he is much more mindful of the importance of a kind gesture or word and thus he uses them consistently. He is the epitome of kindness. He ALWAYS has a kind, supportive word. Is it annoying? As in all things there is a balance. My friend takes his emotional support beyond the normal boundaries. He gives it even when it’s not asked for or needed. And so sometimes… it can be annoying because everything that is said he turns it into “Oh you poor thing, I need to help you feel better. It would be so much more enjoyable to have a conversation/relationship with him if he stopped relating to everyone within his own perspective that the world is a hurtful place, we are helpless within it and I will do my best to help you stay afloat.

Is kindness and nice the same? Although both are appreciated and admired traits, their connotations are different as their definitions are separate and individual. Kindness is defined as: 1) Of a friendly, generous or warm-hearted nature. 2) Showing sympathy or understanding, charitable. 3) Humane, considerate 4) forbearing, tolerant 5) agreeable, beneficial. 6) Having or showing a tender, considerate and helping nature.

And within those two definitions, although Doormat can be easily perceived as intermingling amongst them, it actually has its own definition. In fact, I found the definition of Doormat from a Cambridge dictionary. “A person who accepts being treated badly and does not complain.” But it’s more than that isn’t it? Other definitions add to and clarify: “a person who allows others to dominate them.” And finally, the best and most thorough definition: “They don’t always fall in line with the expected quiet or shy person, they can be outgoing.   A person who desperately wants to be called a best friend and believes being nice and kind is the best way to achieve that. They try to be there for anyone who needs them no matter what the personal costs and expects nothing in return. They to some extent enjoy being used because it makes them feel important or needed, if only for that moment.”

Now see, Doormat, Nice and Kind are all separate ideas, definitions, etc. To me, my friend should have used kind to confuse with Doormat instead of nice. Why? Because reading through each definition of ‘kind’ seems to be more of an action or gesture than a personality trait. As well, the lines seem to have the ability to be more easily blurred. For example, my friend could have told herself, “I understand my son’s goal and should be more agreeable, considerate. By doing so, I am showing kindness.”

Did you see how I so easily blurred kind and doormat?

I blurred it because had I been my friend, I made the comment with no thought of my own needs, my own self, my own dignity. I allowed my son to push me beyond what I was comfortable and/or capable of giving and what I needed.

Nice or kind is the manner in which you accomplish a task, not how you prioritize a task. In other words, you don’t forgo the ‘No’. The ‘no’ is necessary. It’s when you need to say, no, you do it in a nice/kind manner.

To those who see themselves blurring these lines often, they may see the balance between the three trivial, but I don’t believe it is. Firstly, it affects how you interact or don’t interact with others. As a matter of fact, it defines your success in all relationships: romantic, friendships, even your professional relations. None of that is trivial. That’s your life!

For example, did I mention how I keep my first friend at a distance? Although she is fun to be with, hanging around her for too long gets to be too emotionally draining as I listen to her complain about how others take mistreat her, yet she refuses to simply say a firm No. I wonder how many other people avoid her for the same reason.

And my friend with the birth defect, his main desire in life is to have a spouse as well as deep, fulfilling friendships. Yet his perspective makes him try so hard to please others that he sacrifices his own self in doing so. And because of that he is perceived as someone who doesn’t know himself well.   He is perceived as unreliable and unable to take care of himself. Thus women don’t see him as strong, a leader, a caretaker, rather someone who needs to be lead and taken care of. Women are his friend but that’s about as far as it goes. At work, when leadership opportunities become available, he sits back waiting to be asked, because assertive isn’t ‘nice’, thus, losing out on promotions, etc.

This habit, this learned response, has to be recognized and eradicated. No one can live the life they fully want to live until they let go of that inner voice that tells them who they are and what they have to offer is less than what everyone else has to offer.

The balance for being kind, being nice, doing for others is doing it without completely losing yourself.   I had a friend who was a therapist tell me once, if you can give without expecting anything back and without resentment, than you are giving. If you are giving because you are expecting something back, a favor, the kindness returned, their good will, etc. and if you know if you don’t get something back that you will be resentful, then you need to listen to that and know its okay and even important to have the courage to say “No, I will not do that.

Example, there is one piece of chocolate cake left, you grab it. This cake isn’t just any random cake, this is your cake. You bought the ingredients, you made it and now you would like to enjoy it. You sit down to begin eating when another person decides they want it too. They whine and complain, degrade you, tell you your selfish because you won’t give them the last piece of cake. Do you give in? Let’s go back to what my friend suggested. If you can do it without resentment now or later, then okay letting the other person have the cake is up to you. However, I don’t imagine you would have began eating the cake if you didn’t want it.

But then you begin to doubt yourself. You put more priority on their words then your own. Are their words true? Are you selfish because you aren’t giving up what you wanted, when they have no more claim to it than you do? No, probably not, but then that voice says, “but I’m nice and that ‘s what nice people do, so if I’m not giving in then I must not be nice. So you give up the cake.

Whoa. Again with the doormat/nice definitions blurring. Not sharing your last slice does not make you selfish, it doesn’t make you a bad person. You know this yet you defer to their opinion. Why? Why do their words have more meaning to you than your own? Why do you automatically take their words for truth and deny your own truth? Why are you giving more value to someone else then yourself? And why is it so important that you define yourself and predicate your worth with only one word, ‘nice’? There are more things you can define yourself as, such as: funny, organized, prompt, assertive, confident, athletic, talented, creative, intelligent…you could go on and on. Yet you stay and limit yourself to, ‘nice’. Why?

I was flipping through the channels one evening. It landed on an interview with one of the General Authorities. The journalist re-read a quote the General Authority had said many years ago. It was not a politically correct statement. The General Authority at first laughed nervously, “Did I say that?”

The journalist didn’t respond. Then the General Authority pulled himself up, cleared his throat and firmly replied, “Well, if that’s what I said, then that’s what I said. I stand by it.”


Not because he said something others didn’t like and refused to apologize. Well, sort of.

I mean it wasn’t because he said something others didn’t like, it was because he stood by what he said, and not out of arrogance, stubbornness or pride. It was because he believed what he said was right and wasn’t going to doubt himself just because others didn’t like it and pushed against him. He trusted and believed in himself.

Had he been a doormat of course he would have apologized /back pedaled immediately. Because, as a doormat he would have understood that pleasing others was more important than staying true to himself. Why does a doormat do that?   I believe someone significant and with great authority in his life, through actions as well as words told him time after time that his opinions/ideas/decisions/feelings weren’t valid. In order to get along, to have approved love and acceptance, he should be agreeable despite his own convictions. And when he did those things, gave up himself, he was rewarded with approval.

I’m not saying we should NEVER apologize or compromise. We should always be humble enough to apologize, see our part in a misunderstanding.   Because of course there are going to be times when we are wrong or have thrown out a thoughtless word or comment.   We all put our foot in it at times.   I’m simply saying that if every fiber of your being believes in what you are saying, doing and if it is kindly said, then trust yourself, be loyal to yourself, value yourself, and stand up for you as well as behind you.

I think of this General Authority outside of church, at work, for instance. Accomplishing his tasks in such a way that he is being true to himself, thereby unswayed by others potentially negative attitudes, desires etc. What must his superiors think? Believing in yourself and following through in those beliefs is a leadership quality. Who do you think is going to get that promotion?

At home, do you think his kids are going to push him, test him? Probably once or twice or until they learn he stands behind what he says, then that will be that. Will they look to him as an admirable, strong father figure? Duh. Will it be a peaceful organized home? Yep. Will his spouse look to him as a strong father figure, trust him, proud to be with a man she can always rely on? Of Course…unless she’s a total mess.

I pondered for some time as to how this man reacted to an uncomfortable situation with confidence and conviction. It made me wonder how I would have reacted. Actually, I knew how I would have reacted. So I decided to use it t to make a much needed change within me.

Now when I say things to others which don’t seem to go over well, instead of questioning myself, and analyzing myself until I’m twisted into knots and end up apologizing even though I shouldn’t, I say to myself, “If that’s what I said then I stand by it, because I know I wouldn’t have said it unless I believed it. And I wouldn’t have believed it unless I had studied it and it had been proven time and time again. I believe in my own intelligence, I believe in my own wisdom and experience. If that’s what I said then I stand by it and I’m going to leave it alone. And you know the interesting thing is that since there is no more self-doubting, there is more confidence. As well, I find I no longer have such a high tolerance for being treated less than I deserve. And since I don’t tolerate it, my self-esteem has greatly improved. Apologizing for every little thing is not treating myself as I deserve. I do, however, for kindness sake, always try to choose my words carefully, as I want the person to know that what I am saying is mindful of them.

I’d like to tell you about a third friend, she has a genuine concern for others. She always thinks the best of others. She never says negative things about anyone. Yet she has very clear boundaries. If you cross those boundaries, she will discuss it, gently explain that you have crossed her boundaries. She will call you out every time. Because of that, she’s a little intimidating. People call her tough. Yet I have discovered her to be the very epitome of kindness, niceness. She is the balance. And she is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

So, do be kind and even nice to others but don’t lose yourself in the word by forgetting to be kind and nice to yourself as well.

I am nobody's doormat


Singing In The Toilet Stall

man peeking over toilet stall

Do you remember singing in the bathroom as a small child? I’m not sure I do. I probably did.

I don’t know if boys do, my younger brother never did, and I don’t follow small boys into the men’s room to find out.

But little girls do. When the world is right, mom is near by and they are pretty darn sure the world is there’s to command, happy little girls sing in the toilet stall. And it’s sweet, innocent, wholly free and wonderful.

I was at church the other day when an under 6 year old came in with her mother and sisters. She began singing, completely oblivious that there may be anyone else on the other side of her stall to overhear her.

Her carefree attitude, I must admit, was a little contagious. I found myself wanting to sing too.

Did I? No, of course not. A grown woman singing in the toilet stall is just weird. Pretty sure everyone would have ran out of there and some over zealous mother would have called security.  “Ma’am,” the security officer would demand as he rapped on my stall door. “There’s been a report that there is drug activity in here. We’d like you to step out of the stall without flushing.”

So although I didn’t join in, I did let that little girl’s enthusiasm and joy spread onto me. In my head, I began singing my own song. I let go of the worries, the disappointments, the looming bills, and just sang a little song in my head. Then I skipped out and down the hall to class just like that little girl.

No, of course I didn’t. But in my head I did. Do you know how much fun skipping is? Have you ever tried to skip without it making you smile?

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the growth and independence becoming a mature being affords me, however I often miss the things we let go of in order to become that mature adult.

For starters, I miss that lack of self-consciousness, the lack of concern of how one appears skipping down the hallway. Yet, transitioning into adulthood we have to give that up, to some extent, because our larger world outside of our safe little home we stepped away from, requires that we learn to work with others, to compromise, to be mindful of other’s feelings and concerns. Skipping down the hallway, at my age, singing in a public bathroom stall are pretty iffy.

By the way, I applaud all moms who have little girls who sing in the toilet stall. I applaud them because in my mind, little girls like that are happy, content little girls. Their world is a reliable, safe place. Good job mom!


Choosing Kindness


My children, in an out of state college, left me with a lot of empty time on my hands. Time to do those things I had always wanted to do, time to contemplate, time to look back as well as forward.

I decided I would greet this new place by doing those things I’ve always wanted to do.  Among other things, I would find that enigmatic thing called “kindness.”

“What?” you may be saying.  “Of all things you could choose to do, why are you choosing such a quiet, uneventful thing?  It’s not exciting, it’s not physical, and you won’t come home after a month of being out on the road of kindness with pictures and fantastic memories or stories. ”  So why did I choose it?

I chose it because I finally had the energy, desire, time, wisdom and ability (maturity) to contemplate my own growth.  I was not going to waste it.  So that’s all true but there’s more.

Did I mention how many relationships I have pushed away because of my unkindness?  My first experience, I recall, was in kindergarten.  I remember being bossy and pushy, telling everybody what to do.  Pretty soon I found myself standing alone.  No one would play with me.  It continued on in that manner.  Words would come out of my mouth and suddenly, I’m standing alone.

I never understood why either.  I knew I always meant well.  I knew I had a kind heart and sincerely cared about others.  So why were my words always being misunderstood as harsh?  Why was my honesty and bluntness unkind?  Didn’t they know I was only saying those things to help them?  Mentally, did you just say, “Ohhhh, I see” ?

So now, do you understand why its so important?  I was tired of being that person no one ever accused of being, ‘kind’.   It was time for a change.  This was my opportunity to finally own what I was doing to myself and others and then figure out how to change it.  After all, as my friend Mary says, “All life is about relationships.”

It’s true.  I know this small word is so powerful that it affects and reflects upon every aspect of our relationships, be it a simple passerby to a more deeply held relationship such as family and other loved ones.  Try to name one thing you have accomplished without interacting with anyone else, without relying on someone else, even if only slightly.

As well,  what experiences stand out to you the most?  I’ll bet you’ll say, when those  you interacted with were exceptionally kind or when they were exceptionally unkind.

I have to admit, the thought of making a drastic change within myself was kind of scary.  Although maybe not as big as jumping from a plane would be….maybe.  I mean I was letting go of a part of me.  Would I get lost?

I think the hardest part was simply figuring out how to start.  Because how does one grasp onto that kindness within themselves, magnify it and then radiate it outwards?  How is it that some people are more prone to be described as kind then others.  What is it specifically that makes a person kind? I think everyone has their own definitions.  I came up with mine after intently observing my co-workers.

What I saw was that  kind people don’t go spewing their negative, gossipy, uninvited opinions all over.  In fact, I noticed that rarely did they say anything negative about anything.  So I kind of knew that all along, yet, in the past was never willing to admit it because frankly, that was going to take an awful lot of self-discipline.    But now, I was sure the work would be worth it.

ok, so the goal would be to not say unkind things about others.  you know, follow “The Golden Rule” – if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  No gossiping and the super hard one, to see and express things with a positive perspective.

Was it easy?  NO! I mean how do you just stop being this person you’ve always been and suddenly become a different/better version?  How do you suddenly rid yourself of that snarky running monologue in your head that’s been there as long as you can remember?  How do you stop perceiving things around you as only you do?

There were so many times, especially at the beginning, when the pull to say something negative about a co-worker or a customer who was exceptionally obnoxious, arrogant, even smelly was so powerful, I was sure I would literally explode.  At other times, I had to actually run away from groups of friendly co-workers in the  middle of dissecting another co-worker behind their back.

It didn’t take long to realize even though I wasn’t verbalizing the snarkiness, I was still thinking it.  So there really wasn’t much change because, ‘we act upon what we think.’  Meaning, my negative thoughts caused me to perceive the situation in a negative way, which in turn showed through my face, my body language and projected outwards.  It wasn’t too hard to interpret by the person looking back at me what I was thinking.

I realized the trick to this change was not just merely holding my judgmental, critical comments in, rather I had to actually change my thoughts.  To do that, the golden rule needed to be tweeked.  I was going to have to add the word, “think” to the phrase, i.e. :  if you can’t say or think anything nice, don’t say or think anything at all.

I had two different methods to do this, depending upon the situation.  The first, was to distract myself whenever a negative thought popped in.  A phrase I remember from a movie I had seen kept coming back to me.  The movie was, Point Of No Return.point of no return

Bridgett Fonda is an angry, murderous criminal because she reacts to upsetting situations with her fists.  Anne Bancroft, who like a brilliant diamond, is perfectly polished, although just as hard.  She is Bridgett’s …etiquette coach.  Anne is trying to teach Bridgett to respond to an upsetting situations with poised control.  She demonstrates by forming a fake smile and saying, “I never did mind about the little things.”  (You have to say that with your head tilted and your hand lifted gently and twirling ever so casually.)

When the temptation to be my old self reared up, when I had found fault in a co-worker, a customer etc., I would say that to myself.  And yes, in my head my hand was casually twirling around.  For example, if one of my co-workers had come in with an extremely ugly tie, the thought would light upon me, “That is the ugliest tie I have ever seen.”  If I didn’t squelch that thought quickly, I stress ‘quickly’ because the longer I let it stay, the harder it was to get rid of and the more it built upon itself.  For example: “What was he thinking? Man, that guy has the worst taste.  Seriously, what was his wife thinking by letting him go out with that tie?  Well, she let him, she must have just as bad taste as he does…”  and so on.  Next I would go find a friendly co-worker, “Hey did you see so and so’s tie? What is with that ugly tie?”  And then we would laugh about it for a minute or two.

The problem is what’s coming next; the co-worker from around the corner.  He hears it and now guess who  is the schmuck, has created an awkward situation, offended and, once again, cooled off a potential great friendship?

So instead of going through all that, in my head, I would put on that menacing forced smile and say, “I never did mind about the little things.”  It instantly put things into perspective, meaning:  his ugly tie wasn’t really that big of a deal and certainly didn’t affect me in anyway.  So why was I so concerted about it?

At first, I had to say that ‘a lot”.  In fact, at times repetitively.  Sometimes I could move on from there.  But if I couldn’t let it go, then I would go into my second chosen method – to focus on something else.  I think this second step is important because you can’t just stop thinking of something, you have to replace the thought with something else.  Try it.  Have you ever tried to just stop thinking about something without first replacing the thought?  It’s tough.

I took care of this by choosing to think of something positive about the guy with the ugly tie.  I chose to focus on my co-worker’s positive attributes, such as how kind, funny or successful he was with customers, or how great his sense of self must be to have the confidence to wear an ugly tie and not care what others thought.  Thinking of those things made the ugly tie insignificant and again, because we act upon our thoughts, it caused me to appreciate the co-worker even more.

In this scenario, had my co-worker stepped out from around the corner while my friend and I were talking, he would have heard me talking about what a great person he was instead of his ugly tie.  So much better, don’t you think?  I mean, who doesn’t like to be around people that appreciate you?

I don’t remember how long it took to make the change a habit.  Because I was always mindful of the goal, I didn’t really recognize it had become a part of me until many, many months later.  Even now, I remember that moment.  I remember standing by myself at work, waiting for a customer when the thought suddenly came to me that I felt different.  ( Side note: it didn’t matter that it was almost a year because this was a ‘rest of your life’ change not a ‘losing 10 pounds’ or ‘until the change occurs,’ change. )

I realized my head was calmer.  I was calmer.  I wasn’t expending all that energy thinking about what everyone else was doing,  if they were doing things right, etc.  Instead, I felt free, light…happy.  I had energy to focus on me and my own goals and accomplishments.  I was smiling more and laughing more, which in turn, made those around me smile more and laugh more.

My fears of losing a part of me, I discovered , were all in vain.  That snarky running monologue was gone, but I didn’t disappear into oblivion.  In fact, I didn’t lose myself at all.  I just…tweeked myself.  I really liked it.  I liked me.

Although my desire was seemingly small and insignificant: huge were the consequences.  For example, I had permanently altered how I looked at things around me.  I realized when I made the habit of finding what was good about people, I began to do the same to myself.  When I stopped judging and critiquing others, I stopped judging and critiquing me.  I began to feel more confident in myself.  I began caring less and less about what others thought of me.  Instead, I began focusing on what I could do, instead of what I couldn’t do.  What I had to offer instead of what I lacked.

It was a while after that on a very slow day at work, that a very good friend off-handedly said to me, “I probably shouldn’t say this because I know you don’t talk  about other people, but…”.  OK, did you just hear my squeal of excitement?  It was a casual, simple comment, but it meant the world to me.  In my head, I cheered.   After all, I had worked hard to hear that!