Cat Thoughts

I get into a lot of trouble with cat people when I say this, but here goes. I try to allow my pets as natural an environment as possible. I have a cat door, so they can come and go as they please. I’m gone a lot because of my work, and my landlord checks on them every day, changing the litter box and putting out fresh food.

My cats have a rich, active life. Yes, they bring in moles, voles, mice and the occasional bird (not many, though. Apparently mice are more plentiful.) In the spring and summer, they keep my little home mouse and mole free. They have also extended their work to my landlord’s garden. We refer to it as “paying the rent.”

They are both neutered so there is little fighting with neighborhood cats other than the occasional territorial yowling. Max is an outdoor cat. Big and strong, he loves to spend his days outside, but comes in to check on me periodically when I’m home. Annie is perfectly content to stay inside. She does go outside, just not nearly as much as Max.

I get a lot of terrible feedback about how many birds my cats kill every year and I have to stress that birds are probably killed by strays more often than house pets. I think it’s more important that we work toward eliminating the number of strays. My cats are familiar with their home, inside and out. When they are outside they know what, and who, to watch out for. Cats that are never let outside are vulnerable when they accidentally get outside. Believe me, they will get out- it’s a matter of when, not if. I know too many people who have terrible stories about the cat that got out.

Mine are happy and have no weight problems. Max is big and loves to go outside, regardless of weather. The boy is all muscle! Annie is more petite but is active enough that she’s well within her weight ratio. And they are both very healthy.

I recommend allowing your cats lots and lots of activity as well as watching their weight. We have to increase our exercise routine when we want to lose weight; they are no different. If you live in an area where it really is dangerous (busy thoroughfare, for example) I understand your reluctance to allow them out. I used to have a cat tree when I lived in the city. Make room for it. They LOVE it and they can busy themselves all day.

These are Nature’s creatures. They need activity and healthy food just like everything else. They’re not pretty things to plop on the sofa. And they aren’t just there to make us feel better-we owe them an environment that allows an active, healthy life even when we’re not around.



New photos of previously published art. Eli Warren, photographer and graphic artist, has been photographing my work for years. When I took my own pictures because of time constraints or money issues, I always regretted it. Good photography is so important. Now we’re back on track and I have these new shots to illustrate my work. Thank you, Eli! Go to his website for more beautiful art.



loyalty and love

I just watched the movie “Hatchi.” I cried, felt both touched and anguished. The movie is a remake of the Japanese film “Hachikō Monogatari.” (literally “The Tale of Hachiko”) In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor at the University of Tokyo, took in Hachikō, a golden brown Akita, as a pet. During their time together, Hachikō greeted the professor at the end of each day at Shibuya Station. This was their daily routine until May 1925, when Professor Ueno did not return. The professor had suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage during a lecture. He never returned to the train station where Hachikō was waiting. Each day for the next nine years Hachikō awaited Ueno’s return, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station. (

In the remake with Richard Gere, he is a music professor in the US. The story is the same, however, and that’s the point. This man’s dog loved him so much he never gave up waiting for him. He could not even be persuaded to stay in another home, though the home was warm, the owners loving and patient. Hatch’s heart stayed with his master. He waited for the rest of his life.

The stories I have read about this incredible dog, and many more, have made me wonder about the use of the word “loyalty” that appears over and over in the telling of these wrenching stories. These animals (and they aren’t always dogs) stayed true to the memories and bonds of the people they loved. Some were Beloved pets, thought lost forever, who made their way home, often over unbelievable distances. Silverton Bobby, or Bobby the Wonder Dog, is one of the most famous. He traveled 2,551 miles after being lost on vacation. The family searched desperately but finally had to give up. It took him 6 months, but he made it. There are also several books and movies about Bobby and his journey.

Again, I read the word “loyal” over and over. Loyal, yes, but more than that. These animals had the most profound love for their humans. Love we must not be able to understand because we can’t even name it. Do we realize their love is something far deeper, fiercer than what we experience with other humans? Maybe that’s why we give it another name, a word all of us understands as a measure of character.
The actual definition: Loyal: faithful to one’s sovereign, government, or state: a loyal subject.
2. Faithful to one’s oath, commitments, or obligations: to be loyal to a vow.
3. Faithful to any leader, party, or cause, or to any person or thing conceived as deserving fidelity: a loyal friend.
4. Characterized by or showing faithfulness to commitments, vows, allegiance, obligations, etc.: loyal conduct.

In doing my research on the loyalty of animals I realized that secretly I had hoped for a loyal husband and partner on so many occasions. What I believed was a loss of love for me was also a lack of loyalty.

My cat, Max, waited 7 months for me to return from my Appalachian adventure. I had tried to get him to stay with friends while I was gone but he hid when I tried to find him. I had the friend with me, and Max had no use for anyone else. My landlord kept an eye out for him, hoping to feed him and be able to send me reports when I checked in. He reported only one possible “Max sighting” while I was gone. I carried a heavy burden of guilt along with my backpack. The day after I returned home Max appeared at the door, during a rainstorm, crying to be let in. It was a tearful reunion and I will never be able to explain the relief, amazement and wonder I felt, still feel, when I realize Max had waited for me all that time. I have tried to imagine what his life was like through that fall, winter and spring. I have never felt so loved in my life. Ever. No one has ever made me feel that I was that important to them.

And it’s because of Max that I get up every day, that I have continued to struggle to make my own life. I can’t let him down.

Say what you want. He’s just a cat. Hatchi was just a dog. They are just animals. But they are creatures capable of love and loyalty almost beyond our comprehension, capable of stunning depths of emotion.

I saw this movie right after one of my Mercy For Animals newsletters. NatGeo has aired a documentary about the desperate levels of cruelty in the corporate farming industry. I watch these videos just often enough to remind me why I am vegan.They sicken me, and I am ashamed to be part of the human race after I see them. I don’t support the industry, I donate what I can, when I can, and I tell people about what I’ve seen when I can.

I read about animals’ love and loyalty, how they are capable of infinite forgiveness and compassion toward us and each other. Then I think about the levels of cruelty we often subject them to, saying “they’re just animals.” I wish we were able to learn from them. I wish we were able to love with their purity. I feel little hope for the human race but I believe animals will be here long after we are gone. At least, I hope they will be here after we’re gone. They deserve this wonderful, beautiful place. I’m not sure we, as a species, really do.

Car Trouble

One thing I am beginning to understand less as I age is this need to be in pain, in subjugation to someone else. I watched an Australian series “Top of The Lake” that featured Holly Hunter as a strange “teacher” to a group of women in various stages of denial, despair and recovery. Hunter was by no means the main character but her character was pivotal in that the teacher finally announced that these women were “crazy bitches” who never learned.

I understand. I’m almost 60 and I’ve been saying I have learned from my mistakes for almost a decade. Have I learned? What I’ve done is cut myself off from almost everyone. It seems the only way to keep myself safe. I’m poor-I do mean poor, the kind of poor that has to choose between visiting the dental clinic for a yearly cleaning and making sure I have the rent. I haven’t had my teeth cleaned in 3 years. I’m careful, I floss, but the tarter builds up. I think things like this are important. I see other women who have never had their teeth cleaned and are holding their children in their lap when I go to the clinic and I wonder, who cares for these children? What are they learning? What do they eat? Crap from a box because their mother thinks it’s cheaper than real food? Because she never learned what real food is? How long can we function successfully as a society when the bottom tier, the tier where I live, cannot get real medical attention, doesn’t understand the basics of nutrition or birth control and will never make more than minimum wage?

While I may rant about those who have managed to work the system by obtaining disability and free medical care, there are millions more who are struggling to survive. Like me, they work-hard-and so cannot get help because they “earn too much” and so we fall through the cracks. It’s a shitty observation about this country. No one should be denied medical care. Period. Who the fuck are you to decide whether I can get my teeth cleaned? Who the fuck are you to decide whether I can get contraception or a PAP smear or false teeth when I’m 70? How can it be OK for people with addictions, who have been given options in recovery programs and work programs, who end up on the street because they don’t work the programs, to end up in group homes with medical care, 3 meals a day, a room of their own and any kind of help they ask for to get all that..And I can’t get my teeth cleaned? I’m the most liberal person you’ll ever meet. I believe in everyone getting the medical, psychological help they need.

But I also believe in people working for what they get. I don’t believe in handouts. To anyone. My past history with therapy taught me that, as well as my shitty childhood. You pay for what you get, you earn what you get. No one hands you anything. And why should they? Why should anyone think they should be handed anything just because they showed up?

Yet our society dos that all the time. Beautiful people get stuff just for showing up. I’ve seen so many people who grew up getting all the best toys because they were the pretty ones. In the real world, the pretty ones still get the best toys-but there are lots more of them. Some of those spoiled, pretty people can adjust but many can’t. So they marry for security, or use drugs, or adjust to the realization that they aren’t so special and try to figure out how to win with something other than a dazzling smile.

Back to learning as I age. My hormones don’t rule my life anymore. Yeah, I feel a terrible sadness when I think of all I’m never going to have. No one is ever going to love me the way I once loved. Well, I cry about that sometimes. But I’ll live. There are children in this world who will never know a single day they don’t feel hunger as a constant, like humidity. Or women who will never figure out there are no true reasons to endure beatings. There are young beautiful women who use that as currency to get out of horrible countries, whose beauty and youth are robbed from them as surely as a tourist’s pocket is picked. My life hasn’t been charmed, but what I’ve learned is that it’s mine and I can stop this journey anytime I get really tired of it.

I wonder if any of those people ever understand that. They don’t have to wait until they are so drained, so steeped in despair and pain before they can board the train for Outta Here. I won’t. Life isn’t so fabulous that I really care what’s happening in the future. Life is a series of experiences, nothing more. Gracious, when the experiences become nothing more than one long series of painful struggles, what’s the point? Really.

All this tossed around in my head while I waited to find out what was wrong with my car. Getting to my job-254 miles away- is a pain but now it seems the car will be OK tomorrow. The car has to make it until my retirement in 2 ½ years. I can’t afford a new one. I’m not going to make the last couple of years in my life miserable over something like a car. For what? Trying to do things like clean my teeth, drive a car…seriously, these things are worth continuing my life for? No, they’re not.

So, while I’m waiting to find out about my car I’m pondering whether all this is worth the stress. Ultimately, of course, it’s not. My cat Annie is making it worthwhile today. Max will be back inside soon and he’ll reinforce the feeling. As long as I have them, I’ll keep struggling. I’ll keep fighting. They are cats, animals. They don’t CARE whether there’s some deep reason. Life simply is. As much as they love me-and they do-if I’m gone they will find a way to keep feeding, living.

With us humans, it’s a little less clear cut. I have to pay rent or I live under a bridge. I have nowhere to go, no one to take care of me. I don’t want to live under a bridge, or even in a tent. Humans can’t scavenge food and shelter without eventually ending up in jail. I’m not going to jail because I can’t pay rent. So I can’t be like my feline friends. They depend on me now and I respect the commitment I made to them when I rescued them. They never asked for anything but I promised it nonetheless. Until they are gone I have to make a living. For them, I work and budget and try to find the “give a shit” to get up each day. So far, their affection and attention has worked. Max and Annie make me feel that whatever else is wrong with me, I have the love and affection of two of Nature’s creatures. They chose me, in fact, not the other way around. Max waited 7 months for me to get my Appalachian Trail obsession under control. He had no real home, no one guaranteeing his daily meals or even a safe shelter at night.

Yet, when I came back with Annie 7 months after I officially moved out of my little house he came home. It’s too much to tell now, and I still get short of breath when I think about it. No one, animal or human, ever cared for me that much. I’m still learning to live in my life. A series of experiences, as I’ve said. Right now, there are too many and they are too rich to turn my back on just yet.

Father’s Day

Father’s Day has come and gone. For those of you with strong paternal relationships I hope the holiday was rewarding on all sides. For those with strained relationships, I hope the day passed without incident. If the day provoked sadness, anger, or confusion I hope the events of the holiday gave you something to think about, something you can use to grow.

Often, that is the best we can hope for in our father-child relationships. Unlike mothers, who get all the best press, fathers are a complicated breed. The best devote themselves to their families, work hard to provide a safe environment. They listen to their children and their children’s mother. They are proud of their children’s achievements, no matter how small. They are understanding, patient, and compassionate. They are strong, decent men.

So far, I haven’t described a single father I know. Most of the men I know with children are human beings with the same faults as everyone else. They are often impatient, tired after work and need more quiet time than most families allow. They argue and about money, school, work, food, friends, TV and computer time-you name it, families argue about it. Sound familiar? So forget the movie Dad I described. Look at the human being your father really is. If you’re lucky, he’s just that, a regular human being. A guy with kids who did the best he could.

If you aren’t lucky, like me, then you got one of those fathers who should have been stripped of his title before you reached the age of cognizance. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that kind of society. People are allowed to have children if they have the physical ability to reproduce. So if you were unlucky enough to have lived through a childhood filled with fear and abuse, know that you are not alone. But your life as an adult does not have to center itself on reliving the traumas of your childhood. In the past few years, as I’ve lost everything, I’ve also lost the need to understand every single thing about my parents.

For a long time, I believed if I could figure out why they behaved as they did, I could modify my own behaviors and lose the painful baggage of my memories and fears. I spent a lot of time with my mother before she died and realized she was simply a frightened little girl. Scared of my father and life in general. She wasn’t prepared for anything that happened to her and like a child, tried to hide. She hid behind us and her religion. I forgave her everything before she died, and we parted friends. I loved so much about her, and even more once I realized she couldn’t have done anything differently because she didn’t have the tools.

My father was a complex person, riddled and driven by demons. I’ve been trying to identify those demons for some time. There are so many-addiction, rage, narcissism, fear, multiple anxieties-that I will never untangle them all. He was a raging beast one day and bringing us presents the next. I have never seen anyone so capable of casual cruelty (he shot my best friend’s dog while he made me watch) and such tenderness (he brought home lost kittens or puppies for us.)

I was afraid of him and I hated him. The three most intense, important relationships in my life show the men to be almost mirror images of him. Each time I realized that (to my repeated horror) I ended the relationships. I would not live my mother’s life.

So, every Father’s Day I think of the complicated man that I hated. I can’t say I ever loved him, though surely as a child I must have. We love to survive. I never silently hoped for his approval or attention. Good grief, in my house the less attention Daddy paid to you the better off you were. When I saw my best friend going off fishing with her father I shuddered. Why would she do that? I wondered.
As an adult, I’ve watched other women doing things with their fathers and wondered what it must be like to want to spend time with him. I’ve heard women talking about their dads and wondered what that must be like. Then again, I’ve always wondered what it must be like to be in a relationship with someone you love, who loves you back. I’ve felt it briefly, before it devolved into the truth. And I know, now, that I will likely never be involved with someone that I trust, like, admire, or really love. I didn’t get that as a child and I don’t think I have the DNA now. I don’t know how to do it. Thanks, Dad.

No, I’m not bitter, not really. I’m pragmatic. It is what it is. I never learned the love skill, not for intimate relationships. I can be a great friend, aunt, coworker-but not lover or parent. I’m never going to be tall either, so there it is.

So I hope Father’s day reminded you of your profound luck if he was strong and taught you positive life skills. If it was another reminder of what you didn’t get, let it go. You can do that, you can let it go. If you do that, you will be in control, not him. He’s never going to be the father you should have had. OK. Let it go. Like I said, I’m never going to be tall so I keep a stool in the kitchen. It is what it is. Go with it.

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day…

To all of you who have birthed and raised a child whether alone or with a partner, to those of you with stretch marks and bellies that will never be as firm no matter what exercises you do, whose sleep patterns and priorities are forever changed; thank you.

Every year, I think of my mother, who had no true memory of her own mother. She told me once that she tried all her young life to remember her. Robocop, the movie, has a scene when the cop-made-Robocop- returns to his former family’s home. He says “I don’t remember them, but I feel them.” When I told my mother about that scene she waited a moment, her eyes filling with tears and she said, “Yes, it was like that.”

In my fifties I began to know her as a person. She wasn’t a good mother. Not by today’s standards, not by anyone’s standards. She did nothing (I thought) to protect us from my father, the kind of predator we read about every day but knew nothing about 50 years ago. She didn’t encourage us to go to college; she clung tenaciously and foolishly to religion as the answer to all life’s problems.

As an adult, I realized life threw more at us than we could usually process at once. Think about it. Most of us figure things out after the fact. Some of us are lucky, and can use what we learn to make progress in our lives. Some of us aren’t so lucky and we learn far too late to avoid the pain.

My mother was a gentle soul. She was not prepared for my father, or the twenty years of pregnancies. She was timid, and she feared my father and society in general. She feared being laughed at, being ostracized, being left out. She grew up a tenant farmer’s daughter who never had the stability and security most of us take for granted. She lost her siblings and her mother before she was old enough to understand what she was losing. In school, she was bright, but it wasn’t enough. Being smart is never enough for truly poor people. Maybe you get lucky and some rich person takes you on as their project, but it didn’t happen for my mother. It didn’t happen for me or my siblings.

We grew up with a mother who loved us, but when my father’s figure darkened the doorway, she was reduced to a fearful child herself. We did the best we could and some of us grew into pretty responsible adults. Some didn’t. Most didn’t, actually.

For me, my mother became a human being to me in the last few years of her life. I forgave her all the failings she had accumulated in my list of “what I didn’t get.” In the end, she also forgave me for the snotty way I treated her on so many occasions. I loved her more, before she died, than I ever did growing up. I was in my fifties then and had learned none of us makes all the right decisions. None of us is the perfect mother, wife, partner, employee, or person. I’m still trying to forgive myself.

Every year, on Mother’s Day, I think about my mother’s soft voice, about the hundreds of things she did right, about all the wonderful gifts she gave me. Instead of all the ways she failed me-and there are many-I remind myself that she did the best she could with the few, and limited, tools she had. I remind myself that no one does it all right. She gave me a few gifts-my love of reading, writing, gardening, animals and life in general-that make my life joyful and rich.

Her smile warmed us when we bounced in from school. She laughed at our silly childhood jokes, hugged us at night and I never once felt my mother didn’t love me. Even when my father was making my life miserable, he was making hers miserable, too. I saw her as trapped when I should have seen her as a savior, yes, but never did I see her as loveless.

I wish, with all my heart, I could have helped her before she died. I wish, with all my heart, I could have made her understand that I loved her, that we all loved her, no matter what. I think she carried the guilt of our childhood with her right up to the minute she died, in pain, from a perforated intestine.

I know my mother is dead. I don’t think she’s “up there” watching down on us…or any of that stuff. I think she’s dead, so there will never be a chance for me to thank her for anything, ever again. There won’t be a chance for me to say anything to her, ever again.

What I can do is what people always do on holidays like this. Tell people who do have mothers to appreciate them, whatever their faults. Oh yes, whatever their faults. This is a huge thing I’m saying here. It took me most of my life to appreciate my mother. She allowed my father to abuse his children. And he abused us in every possible situation. You’ve heard of it, he did it.

And I hated her for years. Yes, I did. My quiet, timid mother. And she knew it. She took my sarcastic remarks, my snotty comments, like the beatings she once took from my father. I was in my fifties-did I mention that?-before I even began to understand her life.

So if you’re having a tough time with your Mom, acknowledge it. Own it. Then get over it. Look at your responsibility for yourself. She didn’t love you enough? Maybe she didn’t. So love yourself enough. She made you pull tricks for her boyfriends? OK, then don’t keep her in your life. Get counseling. Stay away from men-for as long as it takes to build your own self respect. Thank your mother for giving you life, for a chance to live, but don’t expect her to become someone she isn’t. She won’t. Breathe in the air around you, experience life and keep moving forward.

Every year on Mother’s Day I think about Mama, and the hard, mostly sad life she led. I think of her trying to find joy in the birth of her children in spite of the fact that she wasn’t sure how she would feed them. I remember her showing me how to make biscuits and meat loaf and tea. I remember her making me let the turtle go, “He lives in the woods, Kathy, he won’t be happy in a box.” I remember her words, profound even now, that taught me empathy: “How would you like it if someone did that to you?”

After everything is totaled up, she gave me more than she deprived me of, and I am grateful. If she were here now, I would drive the five hours to the shitty little town where I grew up and I’d hug her and tell her I love her. I’d sit with her and we’d talk about whatever she wanted to talk about. Or not. I’d see her graying, thinning, hair and the lines beginning to deepen along her face. I’d look at the skin on her hands and remember how they stroked my face when I was sick and smacked my butt when I sassed her.
None of us is perfect, mothers included. We’re human and we need to remember that, while we can. Forgive while you can, love while you can.

Happy Mother’s Day.

You know what they let you know.

As usual, people were shocked and surprised when 20-year-old Dylan Quick attempted a killing spree at the Cy-Fair campus of Lone Star College in Texas. A neighbor says Quick was always outside doing something with his Dad. They’re “good people.”

We assume because we see people doing normal things that they are normal people, or non-threatening, anyway. Why? Why do we keep assuming what we see is all there is to see? Don’t we ALL keep certain things private? Even secret? Maybe we don’t all harbor plans to stab people at random, but haven’t we all fantasized, even once, about killing a co-worker, a relative, a neighbor? Maybe only once, for a few minutes, we visualize ending a relationship we can’t avoid by ending the person. Then, of course, we feel a little guilty about having such unhealthy thoughts and of course we NEVER admit to anyone we really, really wanted to shoot our boss for humiliating us in front of everyone, or our husband/wife for cheating, or our neighbor for letting his dogs bark incessantly…

We all know those thoughts, as intense as they might be, are simply temporary rushes of adrenalin turned to mental movies.

What about the other things we hope no one ever finds out? What about actual activities, behaviors, feelings, we hide from everyone? We all have them, and we all hide them. Why do we find it so shocking when we realize someone ELSE is hiding dark behaviors?

People let us see what they want us to see, for the most part. Please don’t think you KNOW someone because you see them working in the yard or the next cubicle. People can live together for years, decades, and never know everything about the other person. Let’s be reasonable about how well we know each other and stop saying silly things like “He was always so nice.”

Venture Outside Your Comfort Zone

My job involves working with people who are Developmentally Disabled. Their IQ is lower than average, they often have physical differences and speech problems. Sometimes they cannot enunciate as clearly as someone who is not developmentally disabled. There are levels of DD and I work with people who are able to do most things for themselves-bathing, dressing, and simple household tasks. They go to school at a community college and several have outside jobs. They are responsible for maintaining their rooms, laundry and helping prepare meals. They do these things every day, and most of the time need only prompts from those of us who supervise the home we all share.

Something has been tugging at my conscious for a few weeks. I want to say something to the world at large. Venture outside your comfort zone! Do something with people who don’t look like you, don’t have the same lifestyle, don’t live in the same neighborhood or go to the same school or work in the same building. Turn off the TV, the computer, your Notebook and interact in a way that takes some effort.

People with developmental disabilities aren’t as pretty, sometimes have trouble enunciating, move differently and often with difficulty. Get past that (and it doesn’t take long) and you’ll get to know the individuals. You’ll see how radiantly they respond to music, to each other, to having fun, to living. My group is in a bowling league every Monday night. The bowling alley is filled with other DD groups and the laughter, shouts of joy (you’d be amazed how many strikes happen on those Mondays) and bright shining faces. Everyone has his own style. After I watched and clapped the first night, I could hardly wait for the next Monday. They have a banquet in a couple of weeks to celebrate the end of the league, and there will be awards for everyone. We are looking for the next activity and I’m as excited about opportunities as everyone else. I wasn’t bowling, but I was watching, clapping and shouting encouragement. I felt joy. Actual joy. I’m not happy because they did something for me, I’m happy because they were having such fun, because they were happy. It is indeed an infectious emotion. We need more of it.

I’ve read lots of articles about how rewarding it can be to work with people who are disabled. It’s true. I’m glad I’m working with them. It’s an interaction. We help each other.

Get out of your comfort zone. Get involved with people who welcome your presence, regardless of your age, your looks, and your belief system. Experience this very real connection between human beings.


I listened to a song “The Climb” recently and it started me thinking. (After I stopped laughing about the singer, someone so young and privileged I doubt they have a clue about a real climb. Anyway.

I thought longer and harder about “the climb.” What does it really mean? Is life a climb? A process? Is that why so many people are so miserable when they don’t get what they want immediately (including me?)

“Maybe it depends on what it is you’re seeking,” says Tonya, one therapist I spoke with. “When you have unrealistic expectations, you set yourself up for disappointment.”

“So what are realistic expectations?” I asked, searching for definitive answers.

“If you don’t have a degree in Business Administration, and no actual working management experience, it isn’t realistic to apply for a CEO position in a Fortune 500 corporation,” Tonya explained, “But if you’ve made an effort to educate yourself beyond just acquiring a degree, pursued a specific career goal, then you can use that to show your unique initiative when you apply for a management position. You have to make decisions about what you ultimately want-not just more money, and all right now.”

“OK, I see how that applies to job seekers, but what about happiness?”

“Happiness isn’t a destination, its part of the journey, like sadness, frustration, hunger, joy, anxiety…the journey of life is a process.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that you can’t have everything you want right this minute, and that’s not a bad thing.” Tonya smiled as she explained.

Savor the process, another person told me. He’s an artist and is working on something all the time.
“I don’t worry about how long it takes me to finish a painting,” he says, “I like the feel of the brush on the canvas. I like mixing paints. I like stretching canvas. I love the process. If you don’t love process, you’re going to be frustrated with most things in life, I think.”

“Think about process in everything,” a new mother told me, “I get up in the middle of the night to a crying baby, a terrible odor. I never get a ‘thanks for my bottle, Mom,’ when I stumble into my baby’s bedroom at 2am. I listen to his wails and I’ve learned to identify the difference between ‘I’m hungry, I’m wet, I’m lonesome and what’s going on out there?’ And I love it all because I accept the process. My other child, my 5 year old daughter, helps me prepare dinner, change the baby, plant vegetables, feed the cats… and no, it isn’t as fast as I could do it myself, but she’s learning to be a person, not just a creature that needs entertainment! She drops things in the kitchen. and we clean it up together. I don’t have to have everything perfectly aligned, or just so. My children depend on me to teach them how to be independent, responsible human beings. Nothing significant happens in an instant. I make myself stop occasionally, even when I’m changing a diaper, and consciously acknowledge what I’m doing. That’s how I figured out what process means.”

So now, I am actively catching myself “in process.” I don’t try to hurry up and get dinner on the table. I cut the vegetables and boil water for tea and think about what foods taste good with what other foods. I experiment. That also means I miss a lot of TV. On purpose. Life is not TV. I’m watching and listening, I’m paying attention. Process means paying attention. It’s interesting, this idea of process. It makes almost every activity more interesting, more meaningful. It also reduces stress because I’m not panicking.

I even manage work better- I’m paying attention to what I’m doing, not thinking about what I have to do next. At first, I’m slower because it’s a new behavior, but I eventually become faster because I’m focused. And I enjoy everything a lot more. At the end of the day, I feel a sense of accomplishment rather than feeling that I hadn’t done enough. Process means there will always be more to do.

This week, make a conscious effort to stop what you’re doing-whatever you’re doing-at least once a day and really pay attention. Listen to your wife, husband, children. Really listen, don’t try to formulate answers while they’re talking. Look at the color of their hair, the way their mouth shapes the words. At least once this week stop and experience the process of life, of living. It’s over much too quickly.


Where did we learn our childhood games? Hide and Seek, A Tisket, a Tasket, a green and yellow basket…Red Light…Follow The Leader.

Some of them maybe we learned form teachers at school, but I don’t remember any teachers at recess-not teaching games. They were sitting in the sun with the other teachers, talking or reading, watching us to make sure no one misbehaved. But I don’t remember a lesson that explained the meaning of the words, “You’re It!”

We played dodge ball in the dirt road between our house and my best friend’s house. We lived in the country, and our little neighborhood boasted a lot of children. My brother was older, and a Boy Scout. He taught us how to build a fire and the right way to roast marshmallows. He told us skin prickling ghost stories. He sometimes told us of his adventures on Boy Scout Camporees, but not often. I don’t remember him explaining the intricacies of dodge ball. I do remember he showed up a time or two when someone threatened to break the rules, or when someone small was getting bashed too often. My brother didn’t suffer bullies.

But I still don’t remember an actual lesson in childhood games, yet I see them being played all around me. The same shouts, the same rules, the same unbridled glee at slapping someone’s arm and shouting “You’re It!” Watching children at recess in a nearby schoolyard recently brought so many bright, tender memories to mind that I hated to leave.

I have often despaired of children missing out on the benefits of playing outdoor games, real playing. So many children never go outside in their own neighborhoods except to get to the car. And I despise the practice of small children being hypnotized by computer games that keep them locked in a solitary fantasy world. But then I watched these children in a local schoolyard and I felt some of that sadness lift. Maybe there are still games passed through some kind of primal childhood osmosis so strong, so important, and so much FUN that they will always be with children lucky enough to have recess.