Tuesday, July 28, 2009

the path out

I love stories about one person making a difference.  I believe one person can make a difference!  It's hard to believe sometimes and I believe it's even harder to actually live it.  That's why we are touched by such stories.  They are far and few between or maybe they just aren't told enough.
Visit npr.org and hear this one - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101091931
A schizophrenic street musician is given new life by a caring man and those he convinces to join in bringing the gift of music back.
How many people walked passed this man for years, and missed this opportunity?  How many people would have met and overcome the many challenges faced?
Music is the universal language and can help us all overcome so very much.  It reaches our soul.  
I've kept a guitar nearby for more than 40 years.  When I was stationed in Greenland, my first mission was to purchase a Jumbo Yamaha and had it shipped to me there.  Carried that guitar across many miles and several continents.  Sold it to buy an Oscar Schmit.  Do wish I had kept every guitar I ever had.  Even the Kay electric that thrilled me that Christmas way back when.  But I have never believed much in having more than I would actually use at any given time.  I'm not so big a musician that I need more than one guitar at a time.  And I remember how excited the young men were who got the Yamaha and the Oscar Schmit.  Instruments are meant to be played and enjoyed.  Why have an instrument you do not actually play?  That makes no sense at all to me.  

And so I am pleased by a story of a talented musician being given a chance - given an instrument worthy of what they can play.

Today I do not have the Yamaha or the Oscar Schmit and await the return of my Martin.  Kind friends have ensured I have a guitar to play.  And so, Meanwhile, I will play what I have as Mr. Ayers did.  I will play because it is my soul.  I am not so gifted, but it is my heart and the gift I give to myself.  

Monday, July 27, 2009

What would you do?

There's a show on ABC called "What would you do?"  I've caught a few episodes and find it interesting how people react to situations of bigotry, thieving, verbal abuse, etc.  Actors set up specific situations just to see how by-standers will respond.
What would you do?  We all like to believe we would do the right thing when confronted with an injustice but very often we waiver.  It's understandable in some ways.  How many times have you been told to mind your own business?  And how many times has someone wrongly interfered in your business?
How do we draw those lines?  Would you walk past a dog or baby left in a hot car with the windows up?  Would you speak up if you saw a cashier giving a blind person the wrong change?
If you witness someone being mistreated, what do you do?
How do we decide when to intercede and when not to intercede?  
It really depends on your tolerance for injustice.  It goes back to what our parents and grand parents warning us about spending time with the bad crowd.  You grow a tolerance for bullshit.  You begin to overlook and accept things that you should not.  And if it continues, you could wind up doing things that you should not.
My tolerance meter changes a lot by whom I choose to surround me.  Hopefully, I will continue to be extremely picky.  And, as a result, what I will do in given situations will be very clear.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I cannot help but believe in the best in people.  Call me naive.  Call me Pollyanna.  Call me an optimist.  I just can't stop believing.  I can look at a criminal and see the pain they must have endured that drove them to make outrageous decisions.  
I'm over 50 years old - a woman - a lesbian - and I have been kicked in the teeth as much, if not more than anyone - and I still believe.  I refuse to be jaded.  I refuse to be convinced that anyone is completely beyond hope.  I just believe that deep beneath the surface, sometimes deeper than imagined, there is always good.  I refuse to believe that anyone or anything is inherently evil.  Everyone has the potential for good.  Everything has the potential for good.  Every terrible thing can be converted somehow.
I do not want to change that belief.  It is the core of my hope for the world around me.  And I do not want to abandon hope.
But a huge part of that hope is to insist on the best.  It is a difficult path.  And I have to start with myself, then my closest circle, then my next closest....  First I have to believe it is possible - possible for me - possible for my closest circle - possible for my next....

Monday, July 20, 2009

We Invest

We all invest in the world around us.  We do it by the choices we make - the products we buy - the businesses we frequent - the organizations we support.  Your choice to buy a carpet from the local independent guy instead of the huge department store may seem small to you, but it's a lifeline for the local independent guy.
Take a moment to think about the local, home grown businesses that are gone now.  I'm sad that the local hardware store is gone where I could buy nuts and bolts by the pound.  I was sad when the meat market on Liberty Street closed and perhaps that influenced my decision to stick to a more vegetarian diet.
Maybe I didn't support those businesses enough.  Maybe I didn't invest enough in their day to day livelihood.  And I have lost something as a result.
What do you want to see continue in your neighborhood?  Are you investing in that future?  
There are day to day stuggles - real challenges facing small businesses every day.  Are you investing?  And like every investment you make, are you ensuring that you are as informed as you can be?  
Once upon a time, a guy told me "choosing to do nothing is a choice".  I will take that further - invest nothing and you will get nothing in return.  And maybe you will get less than nothing - you will loose a possibility for the future.  
It's tough to watch our neighbor's struggle.  It's tough to know how far to invest with our local business people and when to speak up when we see challenges.  Speak up.  Be informed.  Invest.  It matters.  If you are approaching it all with a sincere goal of lifting everyone up, you are on the right track.  It is your business - your neighborhood - your community.  Invest!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

And Justice for All

One of the greatest things about living in a small town is the low crime rate.  There are very few murders or serious violent crimes in comparison to larger communities.  Random acts of violence are extremely rare.  Our greatest risk of a stray bullet comes during hunting season when most of us know to stay out of the woods.
Our worst neighborhoods in Venango County are no more threatening than an average neighborhood in many cities.  This is a safe place to live.  Our police departments generally do a very good job of targeting dangerous drug activity, burglary, traffic problems and obvious criminal activity.  You can pretty much count on them to respond when you see something suspicious.  
About 5 years ago, I was dropping off a U-haul trailer in Franklin in the wee hours of the morning.  Within minutes, a Police cruiser pulled in to see what I was doing.  They were very polite but it's a good thing I had documentation to support my story that I was dropping the trailer off and not stealing it.  I respect that and feel safer in my home knowing they are watching.
But it has come to my attention, Venango County is vulnerable to one category of crime - white collar crime and fraud.  Often, these crimes require forensic accounting which is a specialty field all it's own.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forensic_accounting.
According to sources in the DA's office, there are few resources available in Venango County to dedicate to this type of crime and if you follow the court cases in recent years, that rings true.  Only a few cases of fraud or related white collar crime have appeared in our court system.  Does that mean we don't have white collar crime or that we are ill equipped to handle it?  I believe it is the latter.
A ten year old report from the Department of Justice shows that white collar crime is on the rise nationwide.  Is Venango County prepared to deal with this issue? (http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/whitecollarforweb.pdf)
When fraud and related white collar crime is brought to the attention of law enforcement and the justice system in Venango County, how is it handled?  How do the police determine when and if they will actually investigate?  Is it based on who is filing the complaint?  Is it based on the dollar amount involved?  Is it based on whether or not the person is willing or able to file a civil suit?  Is it based on gender, relationship to the defendent or some other criteria?  Is it based on resources available to investigate?  There must be a criteria - official or unofficial.
The law is the law.  What is often in question is enforcement of the law.  It's an important question to pose for Venango County.  If we want to remain a safe place to live, we need also to be a safe place to do business - as a consumer and as a business or service provider.
It is an important side of our legal system that has to be addressed.
Meanwhile, the best option is prevention.  Pennsylvania offers a great resource to check the court related history of people within PA.  http://ujsportal.pacourts.us/docketsheets/mdj.aspx
You can check by participant name and county.  Information is limited but with a docket number, you can then go to the local court house and obtain more public information.  
Another valuable link is http://www.co.venango.pa.us/Home/Index.htm
When it comes to fraud, don't get caught up in the legal system.  Don't make big decisions without a lot of research.  The wheels of Justice turn very slowly and may not be readily available in some cases.   Especially if you don't have great determination and strength.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

How do you stop a liar?

Someone asked me tonight, "How do you stop a liar?"  So, I googled the question.  Isn't the internet fun?
I found these comments interesting.  There is a difference between Pathological and Chronic liars.  I landed on the pathological in regards to this question as well as the quote just below.

"Liars lie because they can lie. Over time they become experts in lying. Their success today depend on their ability to lie. 
They have become dependent on this habit. Lying gives them a feeling of control in a situation they cannot control. Notice the word "feel". In other words, they assume they cannot control the situation if they don't lie." www.searchwarp.com/swa53901.htm

"Pathological Liar

A pathological liar is usually defined as someone who lies incessantly to get their way and does so with little concern for others. Pathological lying is often viewed as coping mechanism developed in early childhood and it is often associated with some other type of mental health disorder. A pathological liar is often goal-oriented (i.e., lying is focused - it is done to get one's way). Pathological liars have little regard or respect for the rights and feelings of others. A pathological liar often comes across as being manipulative, cunning and self-centered."  http://tiny.cc/ZyYJ8

So, the question was "How do you stop a liar?"  I found two answers.   1)  Call them on the lie.  But you know they will just seek a new audience.
2)  Stop listening to them.  And that one seems the best.  Notice in both quotes above that the goal is to obtain an outcome - control a situation.  There is a focus and a desire to achieve a specific thing - a need to control a specific situation.  Refusing to even listen to the lie gives the liar no power - no control.

A friend sent me a book recently, "The Truth about Lying".  It covers the full spectrum from white lies to how we may make it difficult for others to tell us the truth to those who make lying a way of life.

We all mislead people sometimes.  Telling someone we like their new haircut when we really don't or that they look thinner than we really think or that we like their outfit when we really don't.  Or we don't tell them about our own shortcomings in a job interview.

So what is the cutoff point with lying or "misleading"?  And when do you determine that a person is just simply a liar and should no longer be given an audience?

Perhaps it is in the fallout of the lie.  Who is going to be hurt?  Who is going to benefit?  How great is that benefit?  How large is the fallout?   And finally, how often is what this person says a LIE?  

Friday, July 10, 2009

How many secrets do you keep? Underground

How many secrets do you have?  That may seem like an odd question to those who maintain a simple life.  In disfunctional worlds, there are lots of secrets.  
Gay people keeping "beards" and pretending to be straight.  Black people "passing" as white.  Married people passing as faithful.  Business people passing as honest.  How many secrets???
As we look at all the dramas of the world, it usually comes down to this.  How many secrets?
Are you leading person A to believe something different than person B and working to keep person A and B from talking directly?  Are you trying to hid information from everyone?
How about just being transparent?  If you are ever in a position to try to determine truth, don't go to person C to find out what A and B meant or did.  Go to A and B.
In a disfunctional world, there will always be strange triangles of information.  That disfunctional person will go to great lengths to keep you from going straight to the source.  Go to the source folks!!  And if someone acts like it's a big secret or emotional drama, be suspicious.   

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Under the Surface

There is so much that goes on beneath the surface of our lives.  It can be shocking sometimes as we get to know one another, muddle through the struggles of our own lives, and strive for better relationships with long term family and friends.  We surprise one another, disappoint one another, fail one another and champion one another.  We make assumptions along the way - sometimes correct and sometimes quite flawed.
I've been reminded a lot lately that it's what is below the surface that lies closer to the truth.  If the water is too muddy to see below, don't trust what you see in the water's reflection.  You are only seeing what someone wants you to see or what you want to see.  
I was surprised three times this week with truth below the surface.  People with whom I have a long history and believed to be one thing actually demonstrated an amazing inner strength I didn't know they possessed - attitudes and values I thought were quite the opposite.  I didn't expect them to be ones standing beside me but they were without my even knowing.  Those represent two of the three surprises.
The third was perhaps not as much a surprise as a realization that there are people who seem to have stopped trying to sort right from wrong and have simply entered an intellectual zone of winning and losing.  They have numbed their spirit to a point that feelings, conscience, and empathy are gone.  Oddly they seem most motivated by drama and crisis but actually they operate in their heads with a single goal of overpowering.  These are the religious fanatics, the pathological liars, the criminals and the addiction ridden people of our lives.  They are absolutely certain that they are right - the world is wrong - and we need to leave them alone to dominate the situations we may share.  Contradict them and you are THE problem.
Look under the water's surface.  What you find there is much closer to the truth than what meets the eye in the water's reflection.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Dreams can be funny

I'm very curious about dreams.  I find it most curious that we could be surprised by something in our own dream.  If our own minds are creating them, how could we not know what is going to happen next?  Where do dreams come from?
Last night I had a pretty funny one.  A really big blackbear kept following us everywhere.  I can't tell you specifically who "us" was but I know it was a small group of people.  The bear wasn't particularly frightening, except to on-lookers who were disturbed to see a bear so out of place.  And we were getting a bit annoyed with him.
Finally, I decided he was just lonely and needed something to do.  So, I dressed him up in a bear outfit and set him up to lecture about what bears like to do.  Suddenly he was a talking bear and everyone loved him.  It was a big hit and he was too busy to bother us any more.
During my dream the entire situation was very serious and plausible.  But when I woke up, I thought it was one of the funniest dreams I've ever had.
Reading about the symbolism of bears in dreams didn't really shed any light on my dream bear.
Maybe it's the beginning of a good kids story.  

Thursday, July 2, 2009


A few weeks ago an old college friend went kayaking with me and later emailed asking, "Are you always so quiet when you go kayaking?"  Not so long ago my brother came for dinner and soon remarked "It's too quiet here".   My Molly Mutt sits on the front porch with me and a neighbor commented, "she hardly ever barks."
I really do enjoy quiet a lot.  It can be wonderful to just be still and take in what is happening around you.  Our time on the front porch is a special time for Molly Mutt.  Her ears are perked up.  She sits at the top of the steps and just watches everything.  She sees the birds, the cars driving by, the people and their dogs and she just watches.  Now and again she'll do a subtle little buff - usually at a person without a dog, as if to ask where their friend has gone.  Or A little "hey - look at me".  
But we both can get our fill of quiet.  Neighbors tell me she sometimes howls the saddest crying sound when I am gone.  I have my own ways of howling when I've had enough of being alone.  But I can make phone calls and drive.  Molly Mutt hasn't mastered either of those yet.
It's all about balance, I think.  I'm suspicious of anyone who cannot stand silence and being alone.  But I'm equally suspicious of anyone who only wants silence and being alone.
We need to be somewhat self contained and somewhat social.  Keeping a good balance is important.