Affirmative Prayer for Today’s World

Thank you, God, for my own team of angels—hidden in the wings (no pun intended), ready to appear swiftly, 24-7-365, and help me with my obscure digital devices.


My angels are the tech-savvy men and women who answer technical help phone lines whenever I need assistance (quite often). I could not function in this high-tech world without these cherished angels. I can hear their voices, sweet and clear and strong, though I cannot see them. But I know these beings are angels because of the other-worldly vibration in the background of the phone line, as like the beating of wings, and occasional soft harp music when I’m on hold.  

My first angel appeared in days of olde, when I got high-speed internet. AT&T sent me a mysterious router thingy to set up myself. Were they kidding? After hours of lonely, futile struggle to connect it, I gave up and called the technical help line. I no longer had to walk alone! An angel disguised in the soothing voice of a young man came on the line to be my unfailing guide for three solid hours. He led me as I looked on the tops and backs of modems and hard drives and other things for specs in unreadable microscopic type, and crawled around on the floor with a flashlight testing phone jacks. Praise God, at midnight we finally found a good connection. To this day my router is located in the kitchen next to the toaster. 

My first sweet Verizon angel led me through updating my iPhone software using the USB port on my PC. I didn’t have Wi-Fi. With the patience of Job, my angel led me through infinite, complex, anti-intuitive steps. She left me only during the hours-long download and with great comfort I sensed her hovering near me all the while, just a phone call away.

When I purchased a new PC from Best Buy I added a year of Geek Squad technical support to my angel team. They’re always nearby, closer than breathing, nearer than hands and feet. I renew every year, and plan to do so for eternity.

Through my tech angels God gives me all the guidance I could possibly need, and to spare. At times I have a deep longing to see my angels, but I know deep in my heart I must wait. Here on earth I can see only the telephone through which I make contact with them. But I know with certainty it will happen, when we finally lay down our earthly garments and float up to the iCloud. We’ll all have a meetup, and then we shall see face to face. 

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Blogging is good for your health.

Maybe you think the above title is a mistake, that I meant to say jogging. Nope. I mean blogging. You’re getting healthier if you laugh while you blog. 

Everyone knows jogging is good for your health. It strengthens muscles, improves cardiovascular fitness, helps maintain weight…yadda yadda yadda. As long as you don’t ruin your knees.

But how in the world can blogging be good for your health? The answer is endorphins. When you laugh you increase the number of these “feel-good” hormones in your system. The trick is you need to write humor. I write a lot of it. At least my friends tell me my stuff is funny. My blog posts make me laugh, which is the important part. Writing humor increases your health only if you laugh at your own jokes like I do.

Two young bloggers ramp up their endorphin counts.

When I’m at my PC blogging, sometimes I laugh so much that my husband thinks someone is in my office with me. It’s very therapeutic for me because I’ve suffered from depression nearly all of my life. I won’t go into the details, which I’ve been boring my friends with for years, but some very dark things lurk in my family background: suicide, heroin addiction, crime, hellacious accidents, alcoholism, permanent estrangement…the list goes on, but as a public service I’ll stop here.

So when I write about campaigning for a tooth fairy who comes to seniors, or becoming a Victoria’s Secret reject because my bra band size is larger than their max 38 inches,  or trying to meditate at home with Judge Judy’s obnoxious voice blaring from the TV, I’m manufacturing endorphins. These happy brain chemicals also relieve pain.

In a scientific test conducted at Oxford, participants’ arms were wrapped tightly in a blood-pressure cuff and tightness was increased gradually. Some participants watched 15 minutes of comedy, and they were able to withstand 10 percent more pain than participants who didn’t watch comedy. There’s also a bonding effect in an endorphin rush that is important in our social lives, believed to be like grooming for certain highly social animals such as monkeys. Endorphins also reduce stress and create a positive feeling in the body.

So next time someone tells you laughter is good for your health, don’t laugh. It’s true. And it doesn’t ruin your knees.

The Power of Laughter

aI was a very tiny toddler, with a great big belly laugh that surprised people. But early on I learned how to push it down, keep it under wraps. It was muted for decades.

When I was three my family—together in those days—went for a day at the beach. Mom stayed up by the boardwalk while my father and older brother and I went down to the water, a long walk away. It was a cold windy day and the waves were huge. For years afterwards Mom would recount how she could barely see us but she could hear my laugh booming over the roaring breakers.

My brother was the one making me laugh. Mike had found a piece of kelp about five feet long and was cracking it like a whip at the waves, yelling “Get back! Get back!” when they started to recede. It was hilarious to me to watch the waves as they seemed to obey my brother’s commands. I laugh even now, thinking of it.

Life hummed along for a few years. I was a happy child, a fierce tomboy, indomitable. Even though I was the shortest girl in my school, I ran like the wind and outraced boys, climbed trees, hit homers in street softball, caught every fly ball in the field, always won at tetherball. 

The magic wore off. Mike got into drugs in his early teens and shot himself up with heroin for decades. One day he was high on  smack and working with heavy machinery, and he lost his right arm. My father was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and heavily depressed for 20 years. I formed a belief—I realize this now—that laughter was insensitive and uncaring, with poor Daddy so sick and hopeless. I imagined how it made him feel worse and felt guilty, even though he didn’t live with us anymore. So I suppressed it. But he committed suicide anyway, when he was fifty.  

I started drinking in my mid-twenties. I stopped when my daughter was three and I was forty-one. I damaged relationships and not all of them were restored. Life got a lot better when I sobered up. I kept jobs, I was a safe and responsible parent to my daughter, I was just an overall better person. But I sustained painful losses. At seventy, I’m still working to heal the damaged relationship with my daughter.

I’ve had years of therapy and commitment to a spiritual program. Feelings of running like the wind, whipping the tetherball around the pole, scrambling up trees like a monkey are starting to come back to me: feelings of being exquisitely alive. I’m bouncing back, and so is my belly laugh. It’s a little rusty but still there.

Mike became clean and sober at forty. For ten years he had a good life, helping other addicts, then died of lung cancer. I don’t have him anymore to tame waves with his kelp whip and make me laugh out loud. But I have Melissa McCarthy impersonating Sean Spicer. That’s close enough.  

Truth in Blogging, a hot issue

Relax.


I worked as a newspaper reporter some years ago, and I always told the truth. It wasn’t until I started blogging that I had to start lying. I had no choice. Honest.

At heart I’m a very truthful person. As a reporter I was committed wholeheartedly to Truth in Journalism. I support Truth in Advertising. But I haven’t been able to keep it honest when it comes to Truth in Blogging. 

It’s not my fault. I run into dilemmas. The problem is I’m writing blog posts about myself and my family and friends, and people who know us are reading them, and I have to be careful. I literally have to walk on eggs. Embattled Female Drivers (posted Feb. 18) is a perfect example. I identified my protagonist as a former boyfriend named Bob. In my post “Bob” freaked out in the car and bullied and climbed the seats and shouted and panicked at everything that the female driver, who was me, did.

The truth is that “Bob” is really my husband, Frank. When I wrote it I was afraid Frank would get angry if someone who knew us told him he was featured in an unflattering light in my blog. That’s the only way he’d find out because he never reads my blog. The post got a lot of laughs at “Bob’s” expense and Frank might not have found it funny if I’d used his name.

I tell the truth now because no one is interested in anything about the post anymore. It’s in the past. But while I was writing it I became concerned about upsetting him, especially when I remembered that Phyllis Diller’s ex-husband Sherwood, who she called Fang, sued her for $250,000 for denigration. Of course Frank would never sue me. Not in a million-zillion years. But why take the chance?

This is just one of many examples of the fine line I have to walk as a blogger, even more so with humor involved. The post, though, was very funny. See for yourself. You can click on my blog archives and read it. Just don’t tell Bob about it. I mean Frank. I’m calling Frank “Bob” all the time now. Frank’s beginning to suspect I’m having an affair. What a silly idea. I don’t have time, I’m too busy blogging.

Photos should be truthful too. The photo of me on the About page of my blog is pretty recent, taken a mere five years ago. That’s not so old. I worked for a public relations firm once and the photo the CEO put in newsletters and press releases was 20 years out of date. He was barely recognizable. Shame on him! All of us in the publications department felt dishonest every time we sent one out. But I basically look the same today as I do in my blog photo, taken ten years ago. I mean five years ago (oops). I’m a little chubbier is all. I’ve put on some weight in the last ten years, I mean five years. Also, since I started blogging my nose has grown a little longer.


Scripture: Thou shall not lie, unless you must to prevent troubles that could arise from your blog post. ~Exodus 20.2-17 (9th Commandment)

Chocolate: Happiness is an unexpected piece of chocolate. ~Anonymous

 

Meditation in Real Life

I’m pretty new at meditation, with only about a year under my belt. But already I find that the more often and the more consistently I do it, the better my life goes. When I tune in to my newly discovered inner spiritual center, I find peace, wholeness, and connection with God. It benefits my emotional, mental and physical health. It heals, soothes, and restores. It keeps me from wigging out when my anxiety disorder flares.

My church holds great meditation sessions twice a week but that’s not enough, so I meditate at home. I use an itty-bitty room in our tiny house. The room is right next to the living room where the TV is. We use this room for so many different things we call it the Infinite-Purpose Room (IPR). The term multi-purpose just doesn’t come close. The IPR is our office, our storage room, guest room, exercise room, spiritual-reading room, and my blogging room. It’s the bad-kitty room, where we put one of our two male cats–Jack and Joe–to separate them when they’re fighting.

I had a typical meditation session this morning. I entered the IPR, and carefully stepped around Christmas decorations covering the floor to get to the small couch. I had to remove a couple of angels and a Styrofoam snowman from the couch to make room to sit. I know, I know. Here it is more than a month after Christmas and I haven’t put the decorations up in the loft yet. In my decorations rule book it’s okay as long as you get the Christmas stuff put away before Easter.

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I’d love to meditate in the vast, silent woods.

I sat on the cleared space on the couch, turned out the light and turned off my phone. I put in earplugs to drown out the sound of Judge Judy from the living room on the other side of the wall, where my husband Frank was watching TV. Judy was shouting rudely at an annoying, logic-impaired litigant. Her cynical raspy Bronx voice does not contribute to a peaceful ambience. Fortunately it got pretty faint when I closed the flimsy sliding accordion door to the hallway, and then the door of the IPR behind me. The words grew unintelligible, reduced to a faint sound like a fingernail scraping on a blackboard. I sat for a while in stillness, or as close as I’m ever going to get to stillness in our house, and thought of God. When I felt centered and ready, I turned on my CD player and put in some soothing music. I settled in while the calm of the cosmos gradually enveloped me.

I lost my centeredness temporarily when Judy raised her voice to tell a sweet, frail elderly woman that she was too despicable to even deserve to live. Then she lowered her voice, and I relaxed a bit more and let my thoughts float. I am at peace, I am peaceful, I am filled with peace, I am peace. I am hungry. I serenely let the stomach growls drift through my consciousness. The noise I make bothers me much less at home than when I’m meditating with others at the church. It’s always embarrassing to share body noises. Alone, I can just let everything rip and continue to drift in the vastness of my inner eternity. I am serene. There is nothing to be afraid of in God’s world. And nothing to be embarrassed about.

The growls stopped. In the silence I went deeper and deeper…deeper still…until I was tuned in to the heartbeat of the Universe. I entered into a profound and powerful state of relaxation, transported, transformed. I floated up-up-up to a higher state of consciousness, from which I was rudely torn away by the refrain of Lara’s Song from Dr. Zhivago. Frank programmed it on the doorbell. I remained calm, knowing it would go away and I would return to my altered state. Instead it played over and over. I paused the music to answer the damn door. I tripped over the wreath on the floor and bumped into our life-size plastic Rudolph.

“Quiet in there!” Frank called out.

It was the mail carrier at the door, with a registered letter that I needed to sign for. I was scared. I couldn’t think of anything Frank or I have done to anyone that would call for a registered letter. I took the envelope and studied it. Ah. It was for a person at the same number as our address, but on the next street over. Right address, wrong street. I was relieved. And annoyed. The mail service isn’t what it used to be. We get our neighbors’ mail all the time—retirement accounts and taxes and all kinds of private stuff, and they get ours. Being good neighbors, we always walk misdelivered mail over to the proper house and ring the doorbell, and put it in the mailbox if no one answers. Our neighbors do the same for us.

Once on my birthday I didn’t get the card from a dear friend that has come on time without fail for years. I was upset. I couldn’t believe she forgot about me! I sulked and spent a couple of weeks using up a lot of energy not forgiving her. Then the card arrived. It had been delivered to our neighbors while they were on a three-week cruise, and they brought it over when they got back. So I forgave my friend, and then I had to start all over, not forgiving the Post Office.

I returned to the IPR, relieved that the registered letter wasn’t from Frank suing for divorce, or some lawyer with clients in the neighborhood complaining that Jack and Joe were using their yard as a bathroom. In the silence I began to know with a total certainty, a sublime reassurance, that I am a partner with the Infinite and I do not walk alone through this world. Meows at the patio door affirmed this Truth. My feline companions were meowing for food and wouldn’t stop until someone brought it. I knew this, and I knew that I knew it. Jack and Joe will meow for eternity. They’ve done it before. The someone who feeds them, naturally, is usually me. Frank was glued to the TV, now tuned to Judge Milian, who is always yelling just like Judy but whose voice is more pleasant. At least there’s some humor in it. I paused the music, brought the boys their kibble, and returned to the IPR. Instead of Judge Milian, faint sounds of Hepburn and Bogart in the African Queen now wafted through the wall. I focused on my music, sounding like a river with its eternal flow, while on their river Kate and Bogey struggled in the background with leeches and hostile Germans.

I heard a click. The TV was off. Then Frank snoring. It was a soft, soothing sound and I fell asleep, which is an unpardonable offense when you’re meditating but it happens. I had a wonderful dream involving Hugh Jackman. It was not spiritual. Suddenly I was roused by shouts of “Fumble?! No!! You idiot!!” and other un-meditation-like exclamations from the TV room as the Pats socked it to the Steelers. I pushed my earplugs in tighter and the noise receded. I closed my eyes hoping Hugh was still there but he was gone. I was alone in my elevated state. I had no thoughts. It was all silence, stillness, eternity, infinity, all-life, all-God, all-love. Then all-football again, culminating in a deafening roar when New England ran out the clock to win 36-17 and secure their ninth trip to the Super Bowl in 32 years.

The roar died down and I heard another click followed by silence. Then Frank snoring. In the stillness broken only by Frank’s softly wuffling snores, there in my claustrophobic IPR, I was transported to a higher plane, a state of divine consciousness, a sense of endless love and good and wisdom and power that surrounded me in an atmosphere of total tranquility. I was also aware that I had until six o’clock when the news would come blaring through the adjoining wall, and I would have to leave my cluttered sanctuary to fix dinner. I threw my arm around the 4-foot Santa next to me, settled back comfortably, and enjoyed the tranquility while it lasted.

Another day, another meditation session in the IPR. 


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Scripture: On the glorious splendor of your majesty and on your wonderful works, I will meditate, though Super Bowl ads egregiously assault mine ears. 

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The Power of Chocolate: Don’t wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty. ~Lora Brody

 

Want to make a cat laugh?

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Tell it your plans. I have two feral cats, which tells you right away that I’m a little crazy. But wait, it’s not my fault. I didn’t choose them, they chose me. Joe, the orange one, started coming through my backyard three years ago and, foolishly, I fed him. Soon he began to leave right after he ate and would come back with a small black cat following him, now named Jack. They would sit very still, with Jack behind Joe, and watch me intently.

I didn’t want to feed Jack—one feral cat seemed like more than enough—but they wouldn’t leave until I did. Joe was obviously taking care of Jack, seeing that he got food. It was hard not to fall in love with this bonded, loyal, black and orange duo. Eventually I trapped them and brought them to the clinic to be neutered and immunized. The veterinarian said they were about a year old.

Now, three years later, Jack and Joe live together in my patio. They still love each other. They always will. These wild cats travel together, groom each other, romp and play, sometimes fight but never very hard, sleep close together, and wrap themselves up in each other when it’s cold. They’re almost always together. Their souls are connected. The veterinarian believes they are brothers. She has no doubt that like nearly all feral cats they were separated after leaving the litter, located somewhere in our neighborhood, but somehow in the face of overwhelming odds they hooked back up.

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Jack & Joe

I think the main reason I “adopted” them and made a home for them in my patio is so they would have a stable place where each would always know where to find his brother. Living wild, it would be easy to get separated, possibly for good at some point. Now they have a home base. They know where to find each other. They sleep in their comfy beds in the patio, and wander around their old haunts in the neighborhood the rest of the time, periodically dropping in to their patio home for rest and food.

They always eat outside except for breakfast, which is served in my house at 5 am, 7 days a week. This follows the perfect plan I devised for them. The key is that I have conditioned them to like wet food, and I only serve it in the house, in the morning. That makes it possible for me to catch them and give them their flea/ear mite/heartworm medication every 30 days, and remove foxtails, and all that kind of maintenance stuff, and also to crate and bring them for treatment if they have injuries or other problems, or when their shots are due, and so forth. Outside, I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of catching them. Inside, I can. My brilliant plan allows me to give them some protection, from rabies, feline leukemia, ear problems, heartworm and other things.  

They’re quite addicted to wet food, which is how I planned it. For three years they’ve come in practically every morning for their can of Friskies. But now…horrors…SOMEONE ELSE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD  IS FEEDING THEM!! I’m sure of it. They’re not at the patio door in the early morning, like clockwork, like they used to be, leaning against each other, staring in at me. They’re no longer there to scramble in eagerly when I open the sliding door, practically falling over each other as if they hadn’t eaten for days, and gulp down an entire can of food between the two of them in two minutes. Now, often just one of them is there and will come in, take a few nibbles while the other waits outside, and then they’re gone, leaping over the fence into the still-dark morning. Or neither one is there. Only occasionally do they both come in, and then they eat just a tiny bit and leave.

It’s not a set schedule anymore. My plan has blown out of the water. Obviously they’re two-timing me. They have another food source, someone who must be feeding them something they like better than Friskies. They’re opportunists. Their only loyalty, besides to each other, is to the best food. I have to go to Plan B: Fancy Feast! I’ll even escalate further if I have to. Whatever it takes. Purina Gourmet Gold au poulet. I’ll even consider Tiki Gourmet Carnivore, but OMG, I hope it doesn’t come to that, it costs $22.45 for a case of eight 6-oz cans. But I have to get those cats back in here. They’re overdue for their monthly medication. Mosquito season is coming, they could get heartworm which can be fatal. I’m going to win those cats back, whatever the cost. I just hope I don’t have to go to Plan C, the surveillance drone scanning the neighborhood in the wee hours to see where they go to eat.

Oh Lord. Sometimes I think I made a mistake taking these guys in. I use the term “in” loosely since they live outside. But then I look out in the patio and see them playing, and then cuddling up together and grooming each other, and then sleeping in each other’s arms (I use that term loosely too), and I know I did the right thing. Jack and Joe belong together.

With Starbucks all things are possible.

I should have taken the sign that said “This lane must exit” more seriously. I was driving to a friend’s house and there was a horrific accident that caused a huge traffic jam. Not a car was moving as far as the eye could see and I decided to turn around and go home. I squeezed into the far right lane of the next exit then changed my mind. My friend needed help with a problem and I decided to do the right thing, which is where I went wrong. Checking my side mirror carefully, ignoring the sign, I slowly pulled back onto the freeway and immediately heard the dreaded, eerie meep

Uh-oh.

Uh-oh.

It was the meep of a Highway Patrol motorcycle horn. Though it was my first ticket in 15 years, the old familiar awful feeling came right back like it was yesterday. My stomach churned, my hands trembled, my breathing was shallow.

The cop, of course, took the must-exit sign seriously. He wrote my ticket and drove away, and I continued my slow crawl on the freeway, worrying about how much my little adventure was going to cost me. My jaw started aching. Lately my jaw had been really sore and popped when I opened it. TMJ, I figured. Stress related.

I started to call my friend  and tell her I’d be there late, and realized I left my phone at home. iPhone-less! OMG. I felt vulnerable, incomplete, disconnected from the world. It was the last straw. I was on the brink of losing it. I was just about to let out a naked, blood-curdling primal scream when I saw that I was at my friend’s exit. Right off of which was a blessed Starbucks. A miracle. Where isn’t there a Starbucks? Can you think of a place where there isn’t a Starbucks? So I decided on a caramel mocha latte instead of screaming.

A second miracle awaited me inside. The bathroom was vacant! That’s a rarity at Starbucks (of all places, with all that coffee) with their one-unisex-room accommodations. PTL! It was just what I needed. 

If the vacant restroom wasn’t miracle enough, when I ordered my drink I discovered another miracle. I had earned the holy number of Stars. Lo, all things come together for good. My drink was free! I was healed, instantly. It was like all those bad things in my morning never happened. It’s such a blessing to know that Starbucks is always there for us, everywhere, with its 22,000 points of light around the earth.

It makes me feel a lot better about the thousand dollars a year, at least, that I spend there on my daily fix.