Current Events: What is Going on Here?

So I finally got around to calling my mother (my parents live in Corpus Christi) to let her know what has been going on with me and the beloved.  After the conversation, I realized that we’ve actually been doing quite a lot, especially for two people who are having health issues that prevent them from working or going out much.  So I figured I’d update anyone who was paying attention to this blog.

(I am sharing medical information because it’s good to know that it can take time to work out what works for you, and to get names of meds perhaps you haven’t tried.  If you have fibro, keep trying out everything that might work to find what does work for you!)

We saw the specialist and got an “all clear” for my blood work.  No rheumatoid arthritis, all other blood levels were within norms.  Always good to hear.  She suggested increasing the Lyrica (fibro med) and finding a pain specialist or accupuncturist to deal with the ongoing levels of pain.  We went to our primary care physician two days later.  We talked with him and I made it clear that the specialist is fine for consultation, but I want all of my healthcare to be focused in his office and he and I will chart my course for health.  It gives me a central place to call for my prescriptions (so I don’t have to call all over the place getting refills) and since it IS central, if there’s bad interactions, the doctor will be able to see that within my records.  It makes a more holistic, overall health care plan of action which I want.  So he and I have mapped out a combination of Lyrica, added back the Cymbalta (which handles pain of fibro more than fibro and melds with the Lyrica beautifully).  I’ve dropped the Tramadol (the worst for side effects of my pain meds) which will now be my “go to” med when I need some extra pain relief.  I’m still taking the Celebrex as a maintenance (twice a day) pain pill, and Vicodin is still my friend, but usually 2 a day instead of 4.  That relieves my doctor…

He also takes care of my husband, and we both go to each other’s appointments so the doctor is used to seeing us together.  I like this as well; I believe you always need an extra set of ears to hear the conversation.  Paul is also very observant of me, so he can tell the doctor more of the external signs of my health/behavior.  And since the doctor knows what is going on with BOTH of us, he also handed me a prescription for Xanax, to relieve the stress we are both living under.  Amazing how fast the tightness in my chest (which I thought was a recurrence of my asthma) went away with that little yellow pill.  It’s not a long term med, but for right now, it’s a necessary and important part of getting me healthy again.

And according to Paul, I am doing so well that it’s disorienting.  I am, to quote him, back to being a smartass.  YAY!   I have actually taken my kitchen from piles of dishes hoping for some kindly friend to wash them up to getting them washed and put away.  And I am keeping up with them as we eat and make more dirty ones.  I have rearranged my kitchen into a more cook-able arrangement.  The appliances that I use regularly are lined up like a display in Bed Bath and Beyond….the Cuisinart food processor, the rice cooker, the toaster, the convection oven.  The counter that they had all been huddled on is now clear except for my cutting board and the crock that holds all the kitchen utensils.  In other words, a clean area to prep food and conveniently next to the stove.  (Which by the way has my induction plate on it–if you haven’t cooked on induction (by magnetism, basically)…well, you should.  Faster, hotter, shorter cook times makes it easier and CHEAPER to use than a regular gas or electric stove.  Just saying.)

And with all of that in order, I am (drum roll) COOKING again!  It’s something I do very well and enjoy doing…but haven’t had the energy or focus until recently.  Of course it means more dirty dishes…sigh.

So what other excitement have we had?  Both kids came to have dinner with us to celebrate my son’s birthday.  We went to Black Bear (his first time, but not the last time he wants to go there!) and Paul got to see their interaction for the first time.  We’ve had them both visit, but never together like this.  My sweet Froggy looked at us and SMILED…he remembered us!!  Which was awesome.  We also got to spend time with him and his parents over two days, which was wonderful.  Another one of those simple days, nothing special, just family hanging out–we ordered pizza for dinner–and yet was a truly wonderful day.

We also have a young friend whose mother recently died, so we’ve been a quiet place for her to come and sit, talk to us and just hide from her own life for a little.  We both minister, it’s what we do…helping others is a vital part of our own lives and it’s been missing, lost in the crush of poor health and the realities of the insurance companies who dictate whether or not you are approved for your claim.  Or as my friends have said before, all the lost puppies find my house.  Nice to be helping others again, especially having been on the receiving end of other’s helping us.

I made country-fried steak for dinner last night, compete with white gravy, Texas style.  I think of it as library paste with sausage, but it’s the traditional topping for the steak…no seriously, it does taste good, but it is NOT a demiglace or anything that fancy.  Real country cooking.  Fried rice of some sort for dinner tonight, I think.  And it’s nice to be able to plan and then prepare actual meals.

So life is definitely going a lot better.  I still tire easily (loss of muscle tone, of course) and I am still trying to go slowly while ignoring the feeling of malingering.  We’ve decided that we need to create a real schedule instead of “eat, sleep, computer” at any hour without regard to the normal cycle of time.  Can’t go food shopping at 2 am when the store closed at 11 pm.  I think we also need to get back into a routine of doing specific things at specific times to create a sense of order that will help us on the path to good health.

For the rest of you with fibro, I hope this helps you find a way out of your flare ups, offers some idea for meds to try and lets you know that once you can get the pharmaceuticals right, which will treat the issues of fibro appropriately, there is a nice, normal life waiting for you as well.  Excuse me while I go load the dishwasher.

Namaste!

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The Danger of Treatment for Fibromyalgia

So I went and saw the doctor last week and we’ve adjusted my meds.  Never mind just what I’m taking, all I have to say is that I am feeling better than I have in…forever, it seems.  I feel more mentally awake and focused, the pain levels are receding to very bearable levels.  I want to do things!  And therein lies the danger.  I have not been active (enough) for the past few months to spring into the levels of activity I want.  But I do foresee changes in the house.  I can finally begin to clean up, straighten out, empty out, rearrange and generally get my house to move from storage shed to liveable.  I just have to remember to do it in small steps and rest frequently to avoid overdoing and cancelling out the medication’s effects.

I suspect that I will still tire very easily, since this new feeling of ability is probably much thinner than I think it is.  Got to do some training to get the muscles back into any semblance of strength.  And I don’t really mean “go to the gym and work out” kind of training.  I mean just the normal motions of housekeeping and daily living.  I am also feeling more mentally able, so there may be a spate of inspired writing.  Look out!

So for those of you who are still fighting to figure out how to deal with fibro, hang in there.  Work with your doctor(s).  Change your meds until you find the one/ones that work.  And it may take a variety of them, working together, to get you to a point where you can function like a real human being again.  Don’t give up, don’t despair.  There is an answer for you.  This may not be my final answer, but it is something that is working for me for now and that’s all I can ask.  It’s a whole lot better than what I’ve been doing.

So excuse me while I go do a few dishes and prepare to have my son, his wife and my beloved Froggy grandson come over and spend time with me today.  I feel more like me than I have in ages and I’m going to take advantage of it while I can.

Namaste!

Some Thoughts About Fred OR My Kids Call Him Grandpa Cookie

So my daughter AND my son called me within 24 hours of each other a couple of days ago to tell me that their grandfather was having (major) health problems.  He had collapsed while visiting his son in Buffalo and was now in the hospital.  After surgery to remove a blood clot from (or near) his spine, he contracted pneumonia–an unfortunately all too common event with the elderly when they are put on bed rest.  The initial reports were that he could not use his legs, but once he had pneumonia…well, it rapidly went to “he’s on life support and all the family is gathering in Buffalo”.

All the family.  Let me explain.  Fred has 8 children: 6 boys and 2 girls, with a little help from his wife Pat.  And from that, there are 16 grandchildren.  And 2 great-grandchildren.  There are spouses as well.  (That’s how you get grandchildren, of course).  And then there is me.  I’m an EX-spouse (one of 4), who used to be married to one of Fred’s sons (true of the other 3 “Exes”, since his daughters married and stayed married, although one is now a widow).  I was married to Fred’s son for 17 years, 9 of which were spent in Rochester NY living near Fred and Pat.  So even though the only connection I have to this man is that he is my children’s grandfather, we have, as they say, a history.

And I am sad at his current state of (un)health and the inevitability of his death within the very near future.  The logical side of me points out that he is nearly 90 years old.  That being bound to a wheelchair would have presented great difficulties for both him and for Pat, such that he would probably have had to live in a nursing home and not in his own home, the house that he had been born in.  (That’s a level of continuity I cannot fathom, having moved more than 50 times in my 50 years.)  That the slow but inevitable dementia that had begun to manifest won’t get any worse.  (The explanation for that is based on the fact that Fred’s mother lived to be 92.  Unfortunately, her mind began to wander at about age 75-80 and then eventually left totally for its own vacation in the tropics, leaving behind a body that was physically strong and kept living long after the intellect and any sense of self was gone.  Pat and Fred cared for her for almost 10 years before having to finally place her in a nursing home because she needed more care than any untrained and solitary caregiver can manage.  I did not want Pat to have to repeat that with her husband.)  I worked for 5 years as a nurse’s aide and I know that there are worse things than death.

However…even as I can say that with great certainty, knowing in our heads that there ARE thing worse than death does not make it any easier to  let go of someone who is going beyond our mortal plane.  (Or not, depending on your beliefs.  Whether there is an afterlife or not is not the discussion here.  Suffice it to say that once someone dies, WE don’t see them any more, no matter where they *might* be.)  And it’s the stuff that I am having to let go of as Fred moves on that I really wanted to share with you.  Let me point out that the things I’m about to tell you are just facts (at least from my point of view, factual as I can know that they are) and there is no lingering negativity about them.  I make no judgements, pass no sentence.  I am just going to ramble on about this man, the father of the father of my children, Fred.

I met Fred’s son in the US Air Force and we were stationed in CA together–so I first met Fred in 1981 when we were in MD, visitng MY family prior to the wedding date.  It was a very brief meeting, without the chance for much conversation to learn about each other.  The next meeting was in May of 1982, but that was when his son and I were getting married.  I had other things on my mind than forming a relationship with my new groom’s dad.  We lived in other places from ’82 until ’92, when we settled in Rochester and that’s when I began to spend more time with the in-laws, all “more than a hundred” of them, if you only counted first cousins and didn’t include kissing cousins or old family friends with honorific relationship titles.

Right from the start, I knew that Fred was a great one to hang out with, to party with.  He was charming and pleasant…and made great homemade wine.  His tastes and mine didn’t line up, so I lucked out some years and got a decent supply of wine that he didn’t want.  He was always very active: hunting and fishing, spending most of his free time and then in later years, most of his time (period) at the family cottage on Seneca Lake.  He chopped wood for the wood stove, both at the cottage and at the house in Rochester.  He rode his bike everywhere in East Rochester (where they actually lived; it’s a suburb of Rochester but more like the village it’s called in atmosphere and feeling).  He took walks–and when at the cottage, had 54 stairs to contend with to get from car to cottage door.  So he was healthy and active right up until very recently.

Fred worked at Burroughs as a lithographer.  (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithography if you want to know more about that)  He was also a Veteran of the Foreign Wars and served at least in China, where he contracted the germ for TB but not the disease–and spent the next oh 60 years of his life explaining the “false” positive on his TB titre.  He earned the moniker “Grandpa Cookie” from his habit of giving all kinds of sweets, but particularly cookies, to his grandchildren.  He discovered the joy of children with those grandchildren–I make no judgement about why he didn’t seem to have it with his own children, but perhaps he was too caught up in the raising and being truly and totally responsible for them.  This is something I can certainly understand now, as I have been blessed with my own grandchildren.  Whatever the reason, he revelled in and fully participated in the wonder of childhood with his kids’ offspring.

He may not have had the greatest levels of patience with the little ones, but he was always willing to be with them.  He would baby sit if asked and he certainly didn’t mind them following him around at the cottage.  He taught them to respect fire by including them in the process of trash removal at the cottage which did not require hauling it up those 54 stairs–burning it served the purpose while at the same time giving them something to toast marshmallows over.  As they got older, he shared more of his knowledge by taking them fishing, baiting the hook for them until they were able to do it themselves.  And when they were old enough, he also taught them how to shoot a gun–and all of the safety lessons necessary to be around firearms.  I have always told people that when you have 8 children and 6 of them boys, you hunt to put meat on the table.  That is one thing Fred passed on to his boys, all of whom know how to hunt and most of whom have hunted with him on the hills at the cottage.

I can’t make any assessment on how good a husband Fred was–that’s for Pat to say.  But I do know that he loved her, cared for and about her when I was around them.  But I do want to share a story that shows their distinct personalities and maybe describes their interaction as husband and wife accurately.  Now when I tell you that Fred liked to fish, I mean all year round.  There is an unholy sport referred to as “ice fishing” which is just a socially acceptable way of saying, “sitting around with a bunch of (other) men, swearing and drinking all day”…  We’re not talking high tech ice fishing, which involves heated huts carried out onto the ice, but the primitive, back to earth reality of augering out a hole in the ice over a lake (did I mention that it gets freaking COLD in Rochester?  Lakes freeze over.  Sufficiently that one can, if one is so inclined, to snowmobile across them.  I did that.  Once.  And the noises, like the Earth groaning, I was told was MORE ice forming.  Still sounded like the lake was going to open up and swallow us into the frigid depths…) but I digress…oh, yeah.  Make a hole in the ice and drop a baited line into it.  Some poor bastard fish, barely awake from the semicomatose condition of trying to avoid winter, will see that bait in the same way you look into the fridge late at night and find the last pork chop.  He’ll take a bite and before he knows it, WHAMMO, he’s out on the ice.  Where he does his little “ohmigodsiamdyingofthecold” dance and…dies.  Ice fishing.  A good excuse to carry a flask of schnapps and wear your itchy wool Union suit.

So back to the original story, now that you know Fred liked to ice fish.  One Christmas, we’re all over at Pat and Fred’s.  Full house as usual, with 6 or 7 of the kids actually in attendance (the oldest lives in AK and can’t get to the Lower 48 all that often) as well as their spouses, children and those honorific titled family members like Aunt Em or Eric’s friend John, “their 9th child”.  FULL house.  We’re opening presents (“Thank you, it’s just what I wanted”) and Fred handed Pat her present from him.  He had a strange (one might even say wicked) glint in his eyes as he watched her unwrap it.  And she pulled out…wait for it…an ice auger.  Yes, a giant corkscrew for putting a hole into ice you shouldn’t even be walking on.  The room went silent as we all looked and then realized just what it was that Fred had done…ummmm had given Pat.  The look she gave him…would have melted titanium.  He grinned, that charming and disarming grin most of the boys have inherited…and said, “So I can borrow this, right?”  (Yes, I know he’s on thin ice, but remember, he likes to ice fish.  One assumes that he is both familiar and comfortable with thin ice.)  And Pat, without missing a beat, with a perfectly straight and pleasant face, looked at her beloved husband in the eyes and said, “NO.”  Epic.  We talked about it for years.  (And just to let you know, as far as I am aware, she NEVER let him use that ice auger. Ever.)

There are lots more of “Fred” stories, but I think you get the idea.  He has lived a long and full life.  He has lived long enough to see not only the next immediate generation that fulfills his immortality, but the following one as well.  He leaves a legacy of children and grandchildren who learned a great deal from him, and a community of family, friend and neighbors who were blessed to have known him.  He has had a worthy life and so letting go of it, to reach out to the next mystery, is not a dreadful thing.  Not for him.  Those of us left behind will find him within our own memories, mirrored in the faces of his own children and as a genetically inherited expression, a certain tilt of the head or slanting glance in his grandchildren.  Each time a story of him is told, he will live again in the words and the shared feelings the story evokes.

I happened to find this poem just today, which I think expresses it better and the words about the stars, the birds and the wind certainly apply to Fred, who loved the outdoors and spent much of his time there.  It’s a comfort for anyone who has lost someone to death (and unless you’re very young, who hasn’t?) so I share it with you:

“Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there… I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow…
I am the diamond glints on snow…
I am the sunlight on ripened grain…
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you waken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of gentle birds in circling flight…
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry—
I am not there… I did not die…”

As long as there is one person who remembers us after we die, we are not truly dead.  And the memories of Fred, our Grandpa Cookie…will go on for a very long, long time.

Namaste!

Just Letting You Know

I have finally added a bunch of the Pages I had been wanting to…these are older essays that I wrote some time back but still wanted to share with others.  They represent my point of view at the time.  I don’t promise that I STILL hold them to be completely accurate for me, as I have walked a path from Wicca to Tibetan Zen Buddhist, but I believe that they are a good starting point for lively discussions.

I have also added the first 31 chapters of my murder mystery that I am writing.  Please enjoy it thus far…and when I actually finish it, I’ll let you know where you can buy it to find out “who dunnit”.  LOL

Once I can get my hands on my external hard drive that has the files I want, I will be adding some more Pages of various writings and stuff I want to share.  So come back and check it out!  And of course, there will be some more postings…

And thank you for reading ANYTHING I write.  It’s nice to be able to share my thoughts with you and I welcome your comments.  I do view this as a dialogue, not just a Kitty Karnival of Kookiness and K-noweldge.

Looking forward to our conversations, and Namaste!

A Friendly Discussion: The Scientific Atheist and the Tibetan Zen Buddhist on Prayer, Truth and the Meaning of Life

This is not a “typical” blog, but a reproduction of a conversation I had on Facebook that seemed important enough, interesting enough, to be shared with you.  The names have been changed to protect the inquisitive, but the ideas put forth are worthy of more thought and introsepction.  I’m still mulling them over in my head.  So here it is, a friendly discussion between a scientific Atheist and me, a Tibetan Zen Buddhist….

It began with a link on my friend, SB’s Facebook page:

Anonymous Comment:
I think prayer works because it focuses the prayer’s attention on doing something about the situation.  Christians are the voices and hands of Jesus.  The New Testament is about living the life that follows Jesus.  The Old Testament does speak of natural disasters that punish evil doers.  I believe that it rains on the just and the unjust.  Pat Robertson seems to me to be preaching only from his interpretation of the Old Testament.  Prayer should be a call to action.
Kitty adds her two cents’ worth:
Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer. ~Author Unknown
Anonymous Comment:
That is true.  Prayer should lead to focus and actions.
(SB’s husband) JB:
‎”It may be that ministers really think that their prayers do good, and it may be that frogs imagine that their croaking brings spring.” — Robert G. Ingersoll, Which Way? (1884)
“What is the purpose of prayer?  What can a finite being on Earth possibly tell an omnipotent, omniscient, Universe-creating deity that he/she/it doesn’t know already?  If prayer actually worked, the Pope would live forever.”  Infidel Guy
Anonymous Comment:
I think that Infidel Guy and Robert G. Ingersoll lack ample experience to comment on this subject.
SB:
The whole point of this is that Pat Robertson is a nut job and has accused everyone of causing God’s wrath unless you’re just like him….yikes. I think that even devout Christians make fun of him. He’s just so wrong.
Kitty:
Yes, SB…and (in response to Anonymous), prayer is a mighty and powerful thing, but so many people tend to use it either as a way to get God to give them all the things they want or as the Pharisee did in Jesus’ parable: “look at me God, see what a great person I am”.  And sadly for too many Christians, “I’ll pray for you” is a rote and meaningless response to disaster, need and a request for help.  It’s a way to sound like you’re doing something when you’re asked to pitch in.  Jesus DID things throughout the Gospels and only PRAYED near the end of his human life.  I have always liked Mother Teresa’s praying–done as she was helping others, active physical praying with hands that were working, eyes open to see the sacredness in the people she was caring for.  Her entire life was a prayer.  THAT is the kind of praying that will make a change, not the mouthing of words that mean nothing to the one saying them and certainly not when the pronouns being uttered are I, me, mine.  And thus endeth the lesson for today.  Blessings to you all!
Anonymous Comment:
I was trying to say that.  Thanks.
JB:
To Anonymous:  FYI:  Ingersoll’s father was a Presbyterian minister who should have had some familiarity with prayer and passed it on to his son but he rejected it. Scientific studies in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006 as well as others have established beyond any reasonable doubt that prayer has no effect on anything.  In fact in certain instances it actually has a negative effect on sick persons who realize they are so bad off people are praying for them and they get worse instead of better!  My experiences with it, when I went to church in my younger years and actually believed it might help, were uniformly and completely negative and accomplished nothing when attempting to help grievously ill loved ones: they all died.  Like the Infidel Guy says: if prayer actually worked, the Pope would live forever as millions of Catholics worldwide pray for him every time he gets sick.  If it worked, we also would always get what we want, have millions of dollars and would never be sick.  This obviously doesn’t happen however so it’s obvious any results, either positive or negative from prayer, are sheer coincidence and belief in its efficacy is pure superstition.  You of course are at liberty to believe what you want.
Kitty:
Our conversation inspired me: https://knottykittehsavestheworld.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/i-pray-these-words-that-thou-may-hearest-me/

(If you haven’t read this blog o’mine, you might want to, because then JB’s response will make more sense.  Just saying.)
JB:
It would be nice if these things worked but I haven’t changed my mind.  I studied and tried the visualization technique(s) over the years too:  nothing.  Maybe I was doing it wrong or maybe they’re all just wishful thinking.  There’s no science to back them up I’m pretty sure.  I just definitely know it’s not for me.  I ‘m open minded and  really wish they did work believe me!  We could certainly use them!  Unfortunately I remain steadfastly unconvinced.  Got any proof?
Kitty:
My husband.  Took me 48 years to figure out how to ask for him, but I did get him.  And between you and me and the fencepost, I also believe that we create our reality, so if you think it, it will be.  Have you ever seen “What the Bleep do We Know?”….it will bend your mind and expand it and pull it around like taffy.  Too much to go into in a simple comment space, but we may have to all meet up some day and talk about it.  Chaos theory and infinite possibilities–and infinite probabilities, all existing simultaneously until we look at one and lock it into reality.  And after we have discussed all of it, maybe even watched the movie together, we’ll have to have a Three Stooges marathon to help us settle back into this world.
SB:
Kitty, I would love to see a conversation between you and JB in person….two of the most intelligent people I know…would be so interesting! I also enjoyed the article about prayer…
Kitty
I blush in modesty….thank you for enjoying my little effort to get some of the craziness in me head straightened out on paper.  HUGS
Anonymous Comment:
I’d like to listen also.  Maybe they should write the book.
JB:
I can’t write a book now.  My son and I are struggling through researching all the Confederate casualties at Gettysburg now.  Over 20,000 names!  What a pain!
(Reply to Kitty): I did see “What the Bleep” but can’t say I share your enthusiasm that we create our own reality.  Believe me, I wish we could!  I and the people I know would be much, much, much better off than we are now!  The premise of the film was that quantum mechanics proves that a conscious observer is necessary to create reality.  Not true.  Would the universe not exist at all if no one were here to observe it?  Of course it would.  Did dinosaurs consciously create their environment (including the asteroid that destroyed them)? The assertions of the movie are very similar to the Advaita and other Hindu teachings I’ve read over the years but I now know this is false by simple observation.  We’ve all seen unconscious things in our daily lives but know full well the universe continues to exist without their consciousness.  The universe might end for them but certainly not for us and it’ll still be here when we’re gone as well.  I’ve never heard of anything in science which supports a theory that consciousness creates everything.  Certainly not the theory of quantum mechanics which, as I understand it, explains what MIGHT be going on at the quantum level but the observer assumption is not part of the theory because it cannot be tested in such a way that if it were false it would fail any test.  You would have to see what would happen without a conscious observer monitoring the experiment and that’s impossible and thus unscientific.  Even if the assumption were true, assuming we create our own reality is going quite a bit too far.  Even David Albert, the professor from the Columbia University physics department who was featured in the film, is quoted in Salon.com as saying:  “I was edited in such a way as to completely suppress my actual views about the matters the movie discusses. I am, indeed, profoundly unsympathetic to attempts at linking quantum mechanics with consciousness. Moreover, I explained all that, at great length, on camera, to the producers of the film … Had I known that I would have been so radically misrepresented in the movie, I would certainly not have agreed to be filmed.”  That should give you some indication as to how many scientists view the movie.  I’m sure you can find many others as well.  Physicist Richard Feynman said:  “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum   mechanics”.  I think I’ll take his word over the producers of the film.  The examples provided in the film are silly also.  The claim that natives couldn’t see Columbus’ ships because they didn’t know what they were is ridiculous.  There were many problems with the 1993 transcendental meditation experiment in Washington, D.C. too (the murder rate actually went UP during the period of the experiment not down).  The people who reviewed the results were also followers of the Maharishi, there was biased data selection in the Emoto experiment portrayed in the film, etc., etc.  Many of the people involved in the production were affiliated with new-age institutions such as the Institute of Noetic Sciences and the Maharishi University of Management and many, like the movie’s producers and directors, were devotees of Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old warrior channeled through a woman named TZ Knight.  I really don’t think this even approaches scientific inquiry.  To get an alternative viewpoint to your way of thinking, you may want to read the following, among many others sites:  http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2005/04/what_the_bleep_.htmlhttp://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=83 In the end, the idea that the universe is all and only about us, and that everything in our lives are products of our minds is to me erroneous and self-serving. Try selling that idea to tsunami survivors in Southeast Asia or all those dying of cancer or heart disease every day.  I don’t think they would agree.  Oh, well!  To each his/her own!  Sorry to ramble on so!!
Kitty:
No apologies necessary.  You told me some new things that I did not know, and I’d like to address some of them.  I had suspected that the film had been biased, because of the inclusion of “Ramtha” –and the fact that (his) words were given as much credence as the scientists’ comments.  And I consider the film to be PART of how things might work.  If no one were here, would the universe still exist?  Of course.  Because of the infinite possibilities, because each and every possibility exists, no matter who sees it or not.  Schroedinger’s cat, you know.  Doesn’t matter whether the experiment is observed or not, it does exist.  Just because we cannot observe it does not make it nonexistent.  We are limited by our collective “What we know” and the agreement that “THIS” is the world. MY concept of us creating our reality works like this: We have at least two realities.  One is the common world reality, where we agree that “this* is a chair, and that *that* is a tree.  We also have our own personal reality, which may or may not mesh completely with that world view.  Mentally ill people certainly do not mesh with the common world view–but I don’t think that their (other) world view is necessarily false.  They may actually be seeing something different than we are that is just as valid, just as real–just not what the rest of us have agreed upon in order to interact with a common starting point. I believe that we create our reality with the choices we make.  And I mean every single choice, not just the obvious major choices like which college you’re going to attend, or taking this job over that.  I mean, quite literally, EVERY choice.  Which means that every action is essentially a choice, this over that.  And each time it happens, there is a branching from the path–but every other choice also branches off, infinitely.  I believe in infinite universes; we don’t see them because we are focused on our common world view.  (It is possiible, occasionally, to make choices that bring us back and connect us to an alternate branching made somewhere in the past.)  I also suspect that some of the paranormal activity we do acknowledge (some more than others, haha) is actually “bleed over” from other universes.  The dinosaurs exist in other realities where the asteroid did not wipe them out. Our secondary reality is our own, personal reality.  Again, it may mesh completely with the common world reality.  But think of how many times you thought things were going swmimingly, only to discover that the other person/people in your life were unhappy with the situation?  Your view of the shared reality was different from theirs, causing conflict because you didn’t hold a common view.  Thus your shock when the lover suddenly (to your mind) ends the love affair, or the dismay to discover that while you thought you were doing a great job, your boss did not…and you’re no longer employed. What is reality?  What is real?  “Real” is like “Truth”.  Very dynamic, very fluid–and mostly based on your point of view.  (Thank you Obi Wan Kenobi, for pointing that out.)  The reality of our world today is vastly different from the reality of the world 20 years ago, 40 years ago, 300 years ago.  Choices changed it.  But again, I believe that somewhere, where we no long focus, there is our world, in a different reality–but just as “REAL” and just as valid as the one we are living in today.  And get ready to have your mind blown: if we could look at those worlds, we could see ourselves–the alternate self who made another choice.  Who is to say that *we* are really the person whose name is Kate or John?  Maybe WE are the “alternate selves”.  The wonder of this concept of mine is that it doesn’t matter.  Whether we are the dreamer or the one in the dream, our perception of ourselves and of our world is “real” and valid.  It is the truth.  Well, it is OUR truth. And like Pontius Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?  Is truth unchanging laws?  We both have truths, are mine the same as yours?”  Even scientists are working within this paradox of infinite choices, infinite universes.  They observe their experiments and get AN answer in THIS common world reality.  I believe that there are other results in other realities.  So our scientific knowledge is also limited by the agreed upon, common world reality.  Doesn’t mean we should stop trying to find things out… And as for your being “Dumber than dirt”…that inquisitiveness you talk about is what I refer to as “questing intelligence” and I prize it over any super IQ level a person can show.  You can be very smart and not have that drive, that “want to know why”–and frankly, I consider smart with out wanting to know why as very boring.  You, sir, are NOT boring!  This thread is precisely the kind of discussion I enjoy the most.  So now the ball is back in your court…looking forward to your next volley of thought! Namaste!
SB:
I think JB and Kitty, that you both, with your inquisitive and intelligent brains, should write a book…a back and forth of ideas and realities. It would be really really interesting. At least an article of these comments would be fantastic and we could both use the money! My son and I will sell it for you! Loved reading all the comments. JB…you have met your match with Miss Kitty.
JB:
SB: I think you’re loco! Kitty is smart but any scientist with any knowledge at all would probably laugh at me! I’m just a curious novice, that’s all. Thanks for the mention though!  This isn’t a “match”.  Just a friendly discussion that’s all!
Hi, Kitty: Each of us perceives the universe from our own perspective depending on all that has happened to us during our lifetimes.  Agreement of our personal realities create our perception of the universe as we know it (a chair is a chair, a star is a star, etc.).  In that context, mentally ill people do mesh with the world view in that the world view agrees something is wrong with these folks (like myself for example!).  The choices we make most definitely do create our reality but I’ve read that we actually don’t make these choices consciously.  Rather, our brains compute all our decisions on a second-by-second basis based on environmental factors, other people’s ideas, and past experiences without us even being aware of what’s going on.  I believe more than one experiment has proved this.  We think we, as individuals, are making these decisions but it’s actually just our brain computing what to do next without our knowledge.  Because of this, I, and many others, don’t believe we humans really have free will.  We just instantaneously react to our environment based on what we’ve learned in life.  Depressing, I know!  As you say: anything anywhere in the universe does affect all other things in the Universe to one degree or the other no matter how slight that effect may be.  The effects are so insignificant in the overwhelming majority of instances, however, that they really have no effect at all and aren’t even considered in our daily lives.  My movements for example do affect the planet Jupiter to an infinitesimal degree but this doesn’t make any difference in the overall pattern of things.  In other words:  there are some very weird truths in the Universe but they don’t matter if they don’t affect us.  I think this may apply to consciousness and the Universe and am fairly convinced that our consciousness does not in any way affect the Universe.  Just my opinion of course.
The concept of multiverses is an accepted one in astrophysics and cosmology although I don’t pretend to know all the particulars of this mathematical concept.  It’s of course possible dinosaurs still exist in another universe but there is no way to prove it.  I don’t believe in the paranormal although there may be some biased evidence pointing to it.  As someone named James Huber once said:  “I’m a strong atheist.  I believe that gods are by definition supernatural beings, that the supernatural by definition violates natural law, violating natural law is by definition impossible, and impossible things by definition can’t exist.”  Narrow-minded?  Maybe:  but it makes sense to me.  Truth is subjective.  What some believe to be true is obviously not true for others. Choices DO change everything but you lost me when you said, “somewhere, where we no longer focus, there is our world, in a different reality–but just as “REAL” and just as valid as the one we are living in today.”  “Where” would this other world be?  In a multiverse of some sort?  OK.  But how can we prove this and isn’t proof and evidence the basis of all science?  Without proof there is only faith and that can’t be used for much of anything.  Imagine us using faith to get to the Moon for example.  Yes.  We could indeed be in another multiverse but, while this concept is fascinating and certainly possible, how does that help us in our own multiverse here and now?  In the realm of our universe truth in my opinion is what can be demonstrably proven through experiment and hard facts and this would be accomplished through the laws of physics.  Sure they’re not perfect by any means and we obviously don’t understand them completely (apparently they cease to operate in a black hole for example) but they explain much of the observable universe as we know it and are very useful in our daily lives and the progress of society.  They would be my “truth” against which to measure things, but that’s just me.   I don’t believe the Jesus story (there are nothing but the gospels to substantiate his existence and these are suspect) but I do agree the universe or universes is (are) infinite as are all possibilities.  However, all we know is THIS reality here and now and we are unquestionably limited by that fact.  While we can speculate about other realities, unfortunately at the present time all we can know and use is the reality we’re in.  I agree completely that we MUST continue to pursue knowledge wherever we can in all disciplines as this will result in the progress of mankind and maybe in the eventual survival of our species (the Sun will fry and envelope us in a couple of billion years if we don’t find another place to live). I’m a very curious person and that’s what drives me to investigate things as much as I can in my limited little universe.  Thank goodness for inquisitive people such as yourself or we’d still be living in caves!  In my opinion, it’s the “why?” in life that drives society and our species to be better and better.  When the search for knowledge is throttled, civilization deteriorates and that’s what I’m afraid is occurring in the U.S. with the results of the 2010 elections and the advent of the Tea Party and its disciples.  I think the entire country is “dumbing down”, and this scares me to death!  Ignorance is NOT bliss in any context!  Thank goodness for open minded folks such as yourself and your quest for knowledge! Without it we’d be in deep, deep trouble!  I’m used to dealing with people on Facebook who are satisfied with what is or was and are easily offended by things I say.  My conversation with you is a very fresh and enlightening experience for me!  At least you listen.  I really enjoy these little exchanges also.  You can’t learn unless you listen to the other person.  It’s been nice listening to you! Oh, well!  Back to Travis’ and my Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg research project. We’re WAY behind schedule and our book is due to the publisher this summer.  It’s interesting but VERY tedious!
SB:
(to Kitty) I’m proud of son’s book (he took JB’s original research at the national archives and worked four years on researching each man there plus other information) and he found a great publisher and it was published last year. Now they have a contract for the companion book to be finished this summer but is a harder book to research because of lack of records in the south.
Kitty
Hey there, JB! Read your comments, and now I have some of my own to share: “Each of us perceives the universe from our own perspective” – absolutely.  Couldn’t be any other way.  And yes, we do then agree on the “norm” of the shared pers…pective of our current living situation.  But I would argue that “the world view agrees that something is wrong with (the mentally ill)” does not mean that they are wrong—only that we perceive them to be wrong because they don’t agree with us–on the common perspective.  But that may find its roots in my belief in reincarnation (For a full explanation of this, see my essay on this subject on www.cotcg.com, in the Library under Essays, called “Choosing to Live Again”).  When you live life after life, experiencing all that there is, perhaps being “tuned in” to alternate universes (as part of your life experience) may be a symptom of mental illness for those within what is your “common universe view”.  More simply, those who agree with the common view would of course view those who did not as wrong, “not all there”, or mentally ill. I would agree with you that many, if not most, of those choices are made on a very subconscious, even UN-conscious level.  Most people are simply not aware of themselves and their surroundings on a conscious, thinking level at all.  But choices must be made, and the brain WILL compute it, with or without input from the “self”, or ego, whatever you want to call the person of the person.  And most certainly our past experiences and our environment (nature and nurture) will strongly influence even those unconscious choices. Free will is an interesting concept.  It requires a precise definition before you can really apply the term.  If you say that free will is the opportunity to choose whatever you want without a specific limiter of what the choice is about, it does exist in a sort of symbolic, non-attainable way. (At least, not without a high cost, I think—the self awareness necessary for it is not something that is encouraged in our world, no matter what your nationality.)  Yes, we do rather tend to react as you say, instantaneously to our environment based on what we’ve learned in life.  So many people go through their lives in a sort of fog, just drifting like smoke through the air, going where the winds take them.  If free will means that we can choose our destiny—the path of our life—then it most assuredly does exist, but again most people just prefer to have someone else do their thinking for them and make their decisions based on external stimuli and past actions.  As far as making a difference in the universe, I must humbly but staunchly assert that you sir, are incorrect.  We DO make a difference.  Most people do not make perhaps a difference that we can see or measure…but we all make SOME difference.  The very fact life exists makes a difference to this universe, which would otherwise be nothing but interesting rocks and stars and gas giants, etc…Carbon-based life was a choice, rather than silicon or helium based life forms.  But as individual humans, our differences measured against the infinite scope of the universe would be so small as to appear non-existent.  You can’t prove that we make a difference, but you can’t prove that we don’t.  So I shall stand on this side of the argument and hold your hand from where you stand on the other. And Truth is most assuredly subjective.  We are in complete agreement on that one.  As for un-provable concepts (other realities, for examples)…I guess it’s word-chopping, but I prefer to consider them as “un-provable but viable” rather than “faith”.  To quote that great scientist, Tommy Lee Jones (Men In Black): “Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat. And fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.” (Substitute the words “it was accepted as scientific fact” for “everybody/you knew”.) Just because we cannot prove it today does not make it UN-provable.  Our scientific methods and learning are as fluid as Truth.  So YOUR “truth” (against which to measure things”” is also a dynamic, changing truth and open to new knowledge, new proofs.  But that’s just me! Thank you for your kind words.  It is the “why” that drives me and the force in other’s intelligence that I seek out.  You are right when you say that so many people (and not just on Facebook, sadly enough) are “satisfied with what is or was and are easily offended by things [being said]”.  I don’t watch a lot of TV, but when I do…it’s things like Sci, History, DIY, Discovery and those type of channels.  I adore “How It’s Made” and “Modern Marvels”.  Fortunately, so does my husband—although he probably wouldn’t BE my husband if he did not also share the need to know why.  And the discussion we are having (I was only using the tennis allegory, I do NOT consider this a match for how could we tell who had won? LOL) is the kind of talk I adore—and I’m glad we’re having it.  Would you mind if I use the marvelous cut’n’paste to put it all together into a blog?  I agree with SB that it should be put “out there” for others who might want to join in.  Let me know… And I am impressed that you are a published author…my publishing is all softcopy, nothing in hardback yet!  I appreciate that you take the time from your research to have this little chat with me.  We can talk about Jesus some other time, because I have some interesting ideas about him too.  <Grin> Namaste!
JB:
Right and wrong are subjective concepts established by the society we live in.  Nothing in essence is really “right” or “wrong”.  We just use these terms to define things in that way based on our subjective interpretation of things as the m…ajority of society interprets them.  Everyone is “right” in their subjective opinions but others think them “wrong” based on theirs.  What we consider “crazy” people are by their own standards perfectly normal (people think I’m “crazy” but I know I’m not; ha, ha).  But what does that really all mean when you get right down to it?  We have different subjective perspectives but so what? Scientists are now relatively sure that the universe came from absolutely nothing.  No divine entity, no god, simply not anything.  As physicist Stephen Hawking said, “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing.  Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.  It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”  Physicist Robert A.J. Matthews of Aston University in England says the same:  “It is now becoming clear that everything can — and probably did — come from nothing.”  And the astronomy department at Cornell University the same:  “Space and time both started at the Big Bang and therefore there was nothing before it.”  If this is true (and based on science I believe it is) the remainder of your assumptions are unfortunately null and void.  There is no “divine” to return to after many reincarnations because there was none to begin with.  I unfortunately do NOT believe in the concept of reincarnation itself.  Believe me….I wish I did!  It would give me some comfort in my old age!  My first question to believers in this concept would be what actually reincarnates?  Science has found nothing in the human anatomy, physiology or neurology, which could possibly do this.   Human thought, memories, consciousness and everything else we associate with being “ourselves” comes from the brain.  All of these things can be influenced by alcohol, drugs, a rap on the head, and most importantly death.  They all die when our brains die.  What can possibly survive to be reincarnated?  A “spark”?  What exactly would that be?  As I’ve explained before, I also don’t believe in “free will” or that we really make our own choices.  Our brains do that.  As you say, our choices DO affect our lives (including the choice not to choose) but I don’t feel we really have any choice in any of these decisions.  We simply react to what’s going on now based on our unique past experiences and what they’ve taught us.  I’ve never heard any scientific description of “spiritual planes” or “mentor/guides”.   These are all in an invisible spiritual realm of some sort and as John Stuart Mill said, “The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.”  I therefore don’t rely on invisible support to get by.  As one very cogent individual once said, “If we were made in his (god’s) image, then why aren’t humans invisible too?” To me our “sense of purpose” is what we learn as we develop in life.  To learn to do “good” rather than “bad”; to help life rather than hurting it; to find the truth in myth and superstition; in short, to the best of our abilities be a useful person helping civilization progress and become better and more knowledgeable as it goes.  In essence, be “Another Godless Atheist for Peace and World Harmony” as someone once said.  Acceptance of this concept doesn’t require reincarnation but simply a willingness in each of us to help improve the world in some manner or the other no matter how little our contributions may be during our lifetimes.  Everyone pulling together would create miracles.  Maybe it’ll happen one day!  We can only work toward this goal and hope. Remaining in the Zen “now” moment, while useful during our lifetimes, unfortunately stops when this moment reaches the death or malfunction of our brains.  After that there unfortunately is no “now” for any of us.  I wish there was!  Is there any proof the now continues? Of course we make at least SOME difference in our daily lives but only to those in our immediate vicinity as we encounter and interact with them during the day.  We can also influence others by what we say or do or otherwise communicate.  Others make a lot of difference to a lot of people (Obama for example and other world leaders), BUT physically, compared to the enormity of the Universe, the solar system or even our Earth, we make no difference at all.  If we did the Earth would react to each of the 9,000 or more human deaths which occur each and every day (over 11 million this year alone).  Some 103 billion people have died on the Earth, yet it keeps humming along without them.  Our body mass, compared with that of Jupiter, the Sun or the Universe, is totally insignificant in all respects.  It’s like we don’t exist at all.  That’s what I was trying to say. Life undoubtedly exists in infinite variety in any numbers of localities in the universe but that life has absolutely ZERO effect on us here on Earth.  Our civilization also has zero affect on those civilizations (unless they picked up some of our TV transmissions at some point:  ha, ha).  I, and many scientists, think carbon-based life was simply a chemical accident.  As Dr. James Watson (co-discoverer of the structure of DNA) has said, “I don’t think we’re here for anything, we’re just products of evolution.  You can say ‘Gee, your life must be pretty bleak if you don’t think there’s a purpose’, but I’m anticipating a good lunch.” Silicon or helium based life forms, as well as any number of other combinations; probably exist in one form or the other throughout the universe.  We just don’t know it.
According to physics, we DO make a difference but only in our immediate small areas of habitation.  Our mass is infinitely too small to affect much of anything and its effect decreases with distance so, as I previously pointed out, we as in…dividuals DO affect Jupiter but the effect is practically nonexistent since we’re too small and far away.  Jupiter affects us also but again in a minor way as gigantic as it is, it’s so far away.  You’d best not hold my hand:  SB might get jealous!  Ha, ha! As I said:  literally ANYTHING is possible and potentially viable but unfortunately not provable.  I stand on the side of provable rather than that of speculation, myth, fantasy or faith.  In my book, faith is good for nothing but imagined false comfort during hard times. I remember Jones’ little discourse alright.  Of course we don’t know everything at the moment, and humanity may never accomplish this, but science through learning, study and experimentation has got us to where we are today and I would much, much, much rather accept this “proof” and approach than depend on myth, superstition and faith.  You’re right:  scientific “truth” at this moment in time is of course not the final truth, but science becomes more and more refined, precise and evolved on a daily basis and I’m confident will one day be able to explain our current mysteries as it has done in the past.  I hope we continue on the path of knowledge rather than descend again into the myths and superstitions of the past.  Think where we would be if not for the Dark Ages when the myth and superstition of the church ruled the roost!  If we continue the path of science, imagine where we’ll be in another 100 years! I’m strongly of the opinion that religion of any sort, belief in the supernatural, and belief in the efficacy of spells, rituals, etc. is simply wishful thinking on our part.  We humans feel small and helpless (and we are:  I’ve read that the only reason humanity survived is because the carnivores of the time didn’t like the way we tasted!) and sincerely want to have some sort of control over our lives.  Believing an invisible entity is watching over us, that we survive death, or that we can somehow influence our surroundings to our benefit is purely and simply a way to help us get through the day and make us feel better.  It’s nice to wish these things were true but there is no evidence they exist.  Oh, well!  We can always hope!   I watch the same channels you do and LOVE “How It’s Made” and similar presentations.  I find them fascinating!  It’s wonderful and marvelous what the inquisitive, every striving mind of man has accomplished over the centuries.  Hopefully we’ll keep it up (we must to one day survive the bulging Sun)!  The neo-conservatives and Tea Party have me REALLY worried however!  They’re “dumbing us down”! I’m really not the brightest bulb when it comes to this kind of stuff:  I’m just curious.  I’ll probably be embarrassed and put to shame if a true scientist joins the conversation!  Still and all:  I might learn something so it’s up to you if you want to “blog” what we have said.  I’m sure others will think me stupid (as well I might be)!  I also must devote more time to my son’s and my work on the Gettysburg Confederate casualties so may not be able to participate for much longer (if that matters).      My publications are all strictly reference material for Gettysburg aficionados (number of soldiers in individual units, number of casualties, a long list of the Federal dead and other casualties, burials in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, etc., etc.) and the rest of the country could care less (hence my very small royalties twice a year or so).  Your article was very well written and knowledgeable.  I just don’t agree with its basic precepts which of course means ZERO to everyone else in the world, ha, ha!  Like I said:  I enjoy trading ideas with folks, but most of those I’ve encountered on Facebook are rather strongly tied to their ideologies and don’t much countenance by observations.  Oh, well!  “Different strokes for different folks”, I guess!  Exchanging ideas with you has been fun though!  Thanks! I’d like to hear what you have to say about JC because I, with scholars such as D.M. Murdock (Acharya S.), Earl Doherty, Ken Humphreys, Jim Walker and others really don’t believe he ever existed at all.  Interesting huh?!  All the best, and have a good one!  (The End:  I’ll bet you’re happy!).
Anonymous Comment:
OMG………………..
JB:
OMG what?  Just a friendly discussion.

I Pray These Words, That Thou May Hearest Me

What is prayer?  Prayer, as found at dictionary.com is:
1. a devout petition to God or an object of worship.
2. a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.
3. the act or practice of praying to God or an object of worship.
4. a formula or sequence of words used in or appointed for praying: the Lord’s Prayer.
5. prayers, a religious observance, either public or private, consisting wholly or mainly of prayer.

I would add one more definition: Prayer is the VISUALISATION for the manifestation of the ACTUALIZATION you desire.  In other words, you just think the things you want or the change in the real world that you are hoping for.

Let’s start with the Christian concepts of prayer.  There’s The Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the prayer that the pastor does to lead sinners to Jesus.  There’s prayer in church, at meals and over the sick or dying.  There’s the blessing prayers at a baptism, child dedication or a wedding.  And for many, there is the daily prayers of their lives, an ongoing communication with their God.  As a Christian, there are so many ways of prayer, so many types of prayers, that it can lose its meaning in the hum of the automatic repetition of words that have no thought behind them, no visualisation for the type of result that is desired.

Prayer is a mighty and powerful thing, but so many people tend to use it either as a way to get God to give them all the things they want or as the Pharisee did in Jesus’ parable: “Look at me God, see what a great person I am”.  And sadly for too many Christians, the pat comment of “I’ll pray for you” is a rote and meaningless response to disaster, need and a request for help.  It’s a way to sound like you’re doing something when you’re asked to pitch in.  Jesus DID things throughout the Gospels and only PRAYED near the end of his human life.  I have always liked Mother Teresa’s praying–done as she was helping others, active physical praying with hands that were working, eyes open to see the sacredness in the people she was caring for.  Her entire life was a prayer.  THAT is the kind of praying that will make a change, not the mouthing of words that mean nothing to the one saying them and certainly not when the pronouns being uttered are I, me, mine.

I want to specifically address memorized or “group” prayers, such as the Our Father (The Lord’s Prayer) or the Hail Mary.  I’m going to start with a dissection of the Our Father, to start you thinking about what it is you are really praying when you repeat the words you’ve said so many times.  I will warn you that I am not a Christian, but do believe in a Supreme Deity.  Whatever words you use to speak to YOUR concept of Divinity, YOUR god or God, this prayer is still a good one for you because of what the words mean — to you.  I am only offerring my ideas of what they might mean, so you are free to agree or disagree, but as long as it makes you think, my job here is finished, my friend.  Where was I?  Oh yes…

“Our Father, who are in Heaven” — naming the Divine (such a futile practice, but it’s like saying “Hi Mike” when you call your friend.  Lets the person on the other end know that you are talking to them) and opening a dialogue with that Being.  This, by the way, is completely for YOUR benefit.  It actually opens your awareness, alerts your mind and soul, that you reaching out to the Sacred One (Or Ones, or God, or any god.  Once you realize that this bulky and awkward method of naming the Divine/Deity/gods/God/Allah/Jehovah means ummm ANY Sacred Being to which you turn for help, we can stop using it and get on with our discussion of prayer.  I’ll just use the shorthand of “G/god(dess) to cover it, ok?  Just saying.).

“Hallowed be The Name” — acknowledging the Sacred and the fact that even while the naming of the Divine limits it to that concept, any name used for it is a Sacred Name.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s Jesus, God, Allah, Jehovah, Ishtar, Horus, Odin, Brigit, Quetzacoatl, or Harvey.  Whatever (name placeholder) you use to describe/name/address your G/god(dess)…you acknowledge and state the sacredness of that name.

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven” — Things would just be so much better if everybody honored the sacred and lived their lives according to the knowledge that ALL is sacred.  Compassion and respectful conduct towards not only other humans, but animals, the environment and the planet becomes second nature when your attitude is one of honoring the sacred within all.  Earth could become Heaven if we all behaved that way.

“Give us this day our daily bread” — Not a demand for things we want.  Let me say it again, so that it really sinks it.  This phrase does NOT mean I can demand that G/god(dess) give me all the things I want or think I “need”.  This is an acknowledgement that we are provided for, on a very basic level, if we ask for it–and in fact, we are blessed with an (over)abudance if we will adopt the posture of grateful begging.  Look to the Buddhist monks for this.  They do not always fix their own meals.  They have what are called “begging bowls” which they take out into their community and each person gives them some food.  In this way, the people who are giving receive the blessing of sharing what they have–and they never share more than they can afford to give.  They are not pauperized, giving up their “taxes” to the monks.  It’s not a demanded thing.  They either have food to share or not.  The monks are blessed with food for their body and the honor of receiving those donations.

Small side note here: As Americans and as Christians, we have it drilled into us that it is “more blessed to give than to receive”.  I call bullshit.  Giving can be a wonderul blessing–as long as it’s not an ego stroke, doesn’t inflate the person’s concept of self because they are oh so generous.  Receiving can also be a great blessing.  You are allowing someone else the blessing of the giving and you learn how to accept with a full and happy heart, grateful without being embarrassed or ashamed of the need, without resentment at having to ask in the first place.  It is no small thing to know how to receive honestly, openly, in perfect harmony with the giver.  It is a blessing for both sides of that equation.  Now back to what we were talking about.

One more comment of the concept of “grateful begging”.  For a long time, I have used this analogy when talking to people about having things and abundance: how do you hold the most amount of sand?  If you grasp it, it will slip through your hands and be gone.  BUT…if you hold your hands out, cupped together, the sand will fill them and overflow.  This is the abundance that G/god(dess) wants to give to you.  If you grasp at things, you will never have as much as if you stand with your hands held out, in this attitude of grateful begging, ready to receive the amazing and overwhelming abundance that will come from the Sacred Being you are connected to.

“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” — frankly, if your life is dedicated to honoring the sacred, if your goal each day is to mark and show respect to all that is sacred as you encounter it in your daily routine, temptation and evil are not going to be problems for you.  Well, not as much.  Temptation, being tempted…happens to everyone, but needs to be acknowledged for what it is: the desire to have something that is not yours.  Whether it’s an actual item or an intangible like a lifestyle or position, it’s still not yours.  And by desiring more, you are in effect denying all that you have been given….turning your nose up at the G/god(dess)’s gifts.  Stop it.  (And I say that to me, as well.)  Delivery from evil…I believe in evil.  It does exist.  It occurs any time and anywhere that the sacred is NOT honored, not respected.  Evil is the opposite of the sacred and frankly, I don’t think that it’s scaled.  There’s no such thing as “just a little evil” or one act being a “lesser” evil.  Deny the sacred and that’s evil.

“For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory for ever, Amen” — A reaffirmation of the Sacred and all that comes from the G/god(dess), forever and ever.  Amen.  So Mote it Be. Namaste.

Having “deconstructed” the Our Father…let’s turn our attention to the Hail Mary (and all other memorized, repetitive prayers).  I would offer the suggestion that rote prayer (any prayer that is a set, memorized bunch of words) serves the same function as a mantra–and indeed, IS a mantra.  What is a mantra?  Let’s go back to dictionary.com and see what it says:
Mantra:
1. Hinduism . a word or formula, as from the Veda, chanted or sung as an incantation or prayer.
2. an often repeated word, formula, or phrase, often a truism: If I hear the “less is more” mantra one more time, I’ll scream.

So it’s a word or formula (string of words) chanted or sung as…a prayer.

The object of a mantra is to focus your mind on the task at hand.  The Little Engine That Could (“I think I can, I think I can”) and Dory’s “Just keep swimming” are both mantras for our daily lives, a formula for getting through or succeeding where we need the extra focus to achieve.  But when you repeat a mantra specifically within the precepts of sacred space (in English: saying Hail Mary in church), you are focusing your mind, your consciousness, on the sacred, on G/god(dess) and your connection to Him/Her/It.

I recently saw this and thought it very pointedly correct: Prayer is when you talk to God.  Meditation is when you listen to God.  So I prefer meditation as a regular activity over prayer simply because I need to listen to what G/god(dess) is trying to tell me.  If prayer (or meditation) is a conversation with G/god(dess), it should be a two way street, not a monologue of “I want this” and “I need that” and “Give me all the good stuff”.  Have you ever started talking to someone, with the point of asking them to do something…given a long list of why they should do it, pleadings about doing it quickly…only to have them look at you and say, “But it’s already done, if you had given me a chance at the beginning of your speech to tell you…I could have saved you the breath and effort you just made.”?  I suspect that’s how it goes with G/god(dess).  As Infidel Guy says, “What is the purpose of prayer?  What can a finite being on Earth possibly tell an omnipotent, omniscient, Universe-creating deity that he/she/it doesn’t know already?  If prayer actually worked, the Pope would live forever.”

The only argument I would offer him is that prayer does actually work.  All that we ask for, all that we seek is given to us, beyond our wildest imagination.  We just need to remember that sometimes, the answer is “NO!”.  And sometimes, the answer is “Yes, but you’re going to be sorry.  Learn this lesson well, My child.”  As I said up there in the opening paragraphs, prayer is a mighty and powerful thing.  Be careful what you pray for, because you may get it.  And think your prayers through very carefully.  Mark Twain wrote a story called “The War Prayer” —   (http://www.ntua.gr/lurk/making/warprayer.html for the entire story, totally worth the read, please do!)  — which clearly demonstrates what happens when you pray for things without thought for the consequences.  Your prayer for wealth might cause poverty for someone else.  Your prayer for health might lead to a physically able life filled with spiritual dis-ease.  (Yes, “DIS – ease”…lack of ease)  Your admittedly benevolent prayer for someone else might actually create hardship because you interfered with the sacred progression of their life as it was to be.

Prayer is a lot more than just some words strung together and flung out into the Universe, with the faint hope that *someone* out there will hear and answer us.  Prayer is the creating of the image in our minds (VISUALIZATION) of the events we hope to see come true (ACTUALIZATION).  Remember?  That’s where we started this conversation.  And here is where I am going to get controversial: Prayer most often seems to be about these three pronouns: I, me, mine.  Even when it’s ostensibly for someone else, it’s still “Hey G/god(dess), *I* want you to heal Joe/help Kerry/guide Sam to You.”  I think it’s a really good idea if You listen to me and do what I think is best.  Arrogant, just a little?  I am not saying that all prayer is like this, just that enough of it is we ought to really reconsider even praying at all.  Leave G/god(dess) alone, He/She/It has enough to do without listening to our pathetic whining.

If you must pray, do it in motion.  Do it with the attitude that you seek what is your life’s path, the life that the G/god(dess) gave to you, to find the sacred in all.  Pray by planting a garden of vegetables that will feed your family…or feed hungry people in your community.  Pray by preparing a meal for family and friends.  Pray by tending to the sick, fighting for the downtrodden, holding the hand of the dying, greeting the baby that has just been born.  Pray by walking as you are able to cut down on the use of fossil fuels.  Pray by recycling to reduce the strain on this planet we call home.  Pray by giving time and money to those who need, within your neighborhood or city…or across the world.

Pray by being honest in your business transactions.  Pray by doing your job faithfully and diligently, striving to achieve by being the best *you* and by your effort.  Pray by listening to your child and really paying attention to him/her.  Pray by knowing where your child is and what they are doing–and by being a consistent and fair disciplinarian.  (If you discipline, punishment is generally NOT necessary.)  Pray by honoring your parents and all of those who were there to help guide you in your life–whether through just your actions or by taking care of them, in turn, in their old age.  Pray by showing your true and living devotion/faith to G/god(dess) to those who do not believe as you do–without denigrating their beliefs and with the understanding that there are many paths with just one destination. You can pray with your entire being, by seeking the sacred with any action or thought you have, with every moment in your day.  If you do that, you will pray by living a holy life.  You will be praying by honoring the sacred wherever you find it and therefore honoring with every act and every word, the connection between all of us.

And at the end of the day, meditate….to hear what G/god(ess) will say to you.

And I close this with the Sanskrit word, Namaste.  It means this:
“I honor the place in you where Spirit lives.
I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Truth, of Light, of Peace,
When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me,
Then we are One.”

Namaste, indeed.

The Chef, the Bistro and Amazing Food

This is the story of how I fell in love with Black Bear Bistro.  (www.blackbearbistro.com)

Black Bear is located in Old Town Warrenton, right on Main Street, across from Iron Bridge and next door to Molly’s Pub, down near the courthouse.  The first time I went there was after I had met my beloved and he took me.  We had Lobster Mac’n’Cheese, French toast made from Great Harvest bread (Great Harvest is just down the road from Black Bear), and other things I can’t remember now, only that they were awesome.

Living in Manassas meant that we didn’t go out there very often.  One time when we went, Paul asked Todd (Eisenhauer, the chef) what bribe it would take to get his curry recipe.  Todd just grinned and said, “Let me get a pencil and some paper” and proceeded to give it to us.  He actually SHARES his recipes!  Most chefs do not, and in fact would be horrified if you asked for it.  And just so you know, it’s amazing curry.  He actually does several different kinds–and this was his yellow curry, served on a bed of rice with a choice of meat.  And what meat!  Paul got it with beef–pieces of beautifully grilled flesh, laid on top.  I took a bite of this meat that hadn’t gotten any sauce on it yet and couldn’t believe the taste.  When Paul tasted it, he said, “It’s fruity” and that’s when Todd (who was walking past) told us that it was grass-fed beef.

I blame him for the fact that the only kind of beef we buy now is grass fed.  It’s sweet, it’s tasty–and even though it costs more, it is worth every penny.  For one thing, you don’t have to eat as much.  And for another, it’s healthier for you, since there’s no corn in it.  It’s always better to eat something that has fed on its natural foods instead of being given something that will kill it.  (And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the documentary, “King Corn”.  It will make you sick and make you switch to organic, grass-fed, pasture-fed…in other words, back to what your meat was eating before he corn industry came along.

Paul and I had no problem agreeing on going out to Black Bear after our wedding, for the celebratory feast.  When we wanted to order champagne–and explained to Chef Todd why, he told us that the splits he had weren’t that good, so he’d open a bottle of the good stuff and sell it to us by the glass.  He brought the bottle to the table and sabered it open–cut the top off the bottle with a knife (well, okay, so it wasn’t actually a sabre) which was impressive.  And by the time dinner was done, he told us that he was paying for the bottle.  Not only a good chef, but a very nice man.

I called my daughter during our wedding dinner to tell her that we had gotten married (the ceremony was Paul, the minister and me.  VERY small wedding).  While I was talking to her, I happened to look up and see Todd walking by.  I said to my daughter, “The chef has just gone by in a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey….with the number 75 on it.  Do you know whose that was?”  Well, she’s a little young to know about Mean Joe Green, so I told her.  And then I told her, “And the jersey is SIGNED.  And the chef is wearing it like a regular shirt!”  She asked me to knock him down (gently) and take it–since she’s a Steeler’s fan.

When we moved out to Bealeton, Black Bear was on our way home from work in Manassas.  Oh, the torture…having to stop in Warrenton for dinner.  We started going  regularly enough that most of the staff knew us by name—and we knew theirs as well.  The menu changes each quarter, for as Chef Todd so eloquently says, “It’s local.  If it’s not local, it’s from Virginia.  If it’s not from Virginia, it’s from the East Coast.  If it’s not from the East Coast, it’s from the US.  If it’s not from the US, it’s not in my kitchen.”  He also has a very, very vegan/vegetarian friendly menu, so even though I gush about the organic grass fed beef, he does have more than one choice for those who eschew their meat instead of chew it.

We enjoy taking our friends and family to Black Bear.  Each time, we are rewarded with yet another meal that proves our enthusiasm and verifies our opinion.  The ribs…oh dear gods, the ribs….either on a sandwich or as a (half) rack for dinner.  Let’s put it this way, they run out of ribs on a regular basis.  Get there early if you want ribs.  Chef Todd apparently has one of the fire gods on his side, because the ribs defy human explanation.  Smoky, sweet, still juicy, like the ribs you’ve dreamt about…but in real life.  Not too heavily sauced, perfectly fall off the bone done…something to be experienced because the words do not manage to describe them adequately.

Of course that’s true about pretty much all of the menu at Black Bear.  Smoked crab and cheese dip…lobster mac’n’cheese (which the chef took off the menu for a while because he was “so tired of making it all the time”—popular just a little?).  Probably the only thing on the menu that neither Paul nor I like is the Andrew’s Bacon Habenera Sauce.  But neither of us likes habeneras, so you’re on your own for that one.  Chef has a sausage supplier that is fabulous…and because they are handmade, there can be a little difference between them from one visit to the next.  And he’ll give you that supplier’s business card so that you can go buy a boxful of your own.  Even the honey he serves is local (from an apiary just outside of Culpeper, about 35 miles away) and it’s name is Wicked Bottom–and it’s RAW honey.  Almost time to buy some and begin eating a tablespoon of it every day to help with the allergies.  Oh and they also sell the Wicked Bottom lotion bar–it’s a solid lotion, beeswax, shea butter and I don’t know what all else, but Chef swears by it and I am finding out that he’s right.  Anyone who is washing their hands as often as a chef…and still has nice hands, no cracked skin…must be using something good.

Chef does the cooking, but doesn’t do the baking (he can bake, says he…he just doesn’t want to).  So the desserts are made locally, also organic and farm fresh.  Amazing desserts…flourless chocolate cake; white chocolate cinnamon mousse; pies of all sorts.  One time, Paul got the sweet potato pie for his dessert.  Now Paul is a Super Taster.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supertaster) So when he describes food, he uses some of the same terms you might when tasting wines.  And this sweet potato pie, while earthy and sweet and the crust was nice…was hitting all of his taste buds except for one part of his palate.  We had a lively discussion with our waitress about what could be added to the pie to hit that spot.

Oddly enough, his parents were taking us out to lunch the following day…at Black Bear.  So I got up that next morning and went shopping.  Buying local or organic, I got the ingredients for the results of the discussion we had had the night before.  I made a ginger-lemon caramel sauce, adding finely chopped organic Granny Smith Apples and pecans just after the caramel formed so that the apples would not be soft.  Paul tasted it and agreed that it was just right but for one thing: black pepper.  Yep, it needed just a dash of pepper.  I added it and he declared it “just right”!

When we got to Black Bear, I asked our waiter if the the Chef was in–and when I found out that he was, asked to have him come see me with a piece of the sweet potato pie in hand.  Chef Todd found us at our just desserts…and so he tasted the pie naked, and agreed that it needed “something”.  I put some of my apple chutney (can’t think of a better descriptive name) on it…and the chef ate it.  Then went back for seconds.  Success!  I held out the container with the rest of the chutney and he (accurate word here) GRABBED it from me…and ran off to the kitchen, clutching it and saying as he left that anyone who ordered the pie that night would get this on it.  (And a few weeks later, we were in and mentioned it to our server who told us that the staff in the kitchen were wondering where that came from and that it did, indeed, go out on the pie!  I am very proud that I made something that he considered good enough to serve to his customers).

And one last story: we finally got to take Liz, my daughter to Black Bear just last week.  We stuffed her full of good, good food (and a grapefruit mimosa!  Better than orange mimosas, from fresh squeezed and organic grapefruit…omgnommy!)…and when Chef Todd came by, we introduced her to him–and told him that she had said I should take his Steelers jersey.  He laughed and said that yeah, he wore it.  What was he supposed to do, hang it on the wall?

Breakin’ Up Is Hard To Do…or Not.

It’s true.  You’ve heard the rumors, so let me just put this straight out there.  We broke up.  We’re no longer together.  I’m not sure why it happened, I mean…we hadn’t been fighting, there wasn’t any apparent unhappiness. And out of the blue, I get a phone call.  “It’s time we terminate the employee relationship.”  Six years of my (work) life, gone in a 45 second phone call.  I guess they wanted to work with someone else.

Real classy way to let someone know that they no longer have a job…although I guess there’s a lower chance of the employee going postal and killing people if you say it long distance and not to their face.  And after the initial shock, not that great a blow.  It’s a relief, actually.  Not having to worry about pushing myself to get back into the saddle again, so to speak.  No pressure to return to the 9-to-5 until I am completely healthy.  And they are within their legal rights, as they were very careful to say that the termination is because of my medical condition and that when I am ready and able to return to work, I am “immediately rehire-able”.  Don’t hold your breath.

I started in December of 2002, took a hiatus for 15 months over 2004-2005 and had worked there since.  So six straight years of loyal employment.  Six years of showing up, doing my job and not just doing it, but doing it well.  Two years of taking reservations and setting up calls, then four years of postcall services.  Excelling in each position, overachieving and generally being considered a SME (Subject Matter Expert) for both departments.  Wrote MOST of the Standard Operating Procedures for 3 out of 5 departments (with help from several other SMEs).  Began the Disaster Recovery policy and procedures documentation for the entire workplace.  Was consistently told how “awesome” I was, that I was a “rockstar”…but was never promoted.  Was never hired for the training department even though I taught the reservations class twice.  Never even made it to Team Lead, let alone supervisor.  Completely ignored the 3 times I applied for IT positions, even though I had the qualifications.  Consistently passed over for other positions that I applied for, with the pat on the back and being told “you were one of the best applicants”–but apparently not hireable.  (But younger, attractive women were…go figure.)  Told to apply for those positions when others were promoted to higher paying jobs without requiring the quoted (to me) policy of “posting every new position for applications and interview process”.

Rehire?  I don’t think so.  I was the one who covered the shit shift for the better part of 4 years, the one who couldn’t take off a day without pushback about “covering your shift” while everyone else got days off whenever they asked.  And when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I had to fight, tooth and nail, to get any accommodation beyond ergonomic keyboard and chair.  My doctor specifically wanted me on a day shift and all I heard was “needs of the business” and no one else “wanted to cover the shift”.  Hate to rain on your parade, but a doctor’s orders take precedence over someone else’s “wants”.  Needs of the business applies to the entire department, not just one person.  Yet somehow the shift was covered when I went out on short term disability the first time.  And when I went back to work, I was given the day shift (because the doctor, bless him, had made that mandated for my ability to return at all)…and the end of the world did not come and the evenings were all covered.  Gee….

And now here I am, second time out for short term disability.  (Probably should NOT have pushed and gone back to work the first time, since going to work lasted only 6 weeks before I was too ill to work again.)  FMLA expired, losing me the protection of my actual job–and within something like 2 weeks, I was “terminated for medical reasons”.  Even though all along, everyone at work had been assuring me that they would work with me, that my job was secure, that I just needed to focus on getting well.  So our breakup phone call was a shock, to say the least.  I suspect it was done so that they can justify the new hire request for my job.  Even though one of my coworkers was out for months for medical; they hired in-house temporary to cover the slot while he was getting better.  Apparently there is not equal treatment for all employees.  Re-hire?  Not if you offered me the CEO position.

I’m going to find me a new love, a better job, where my efforts will lead to promotions, and my worth will be both recognized and rewarded by my bosses.  To quote Eliza Doolittle from “My Fair Lady”, “I can do…without you.”