THE GREEN MONSTER

ENVY? NAH.

Jealousy or envy, the big green monster. Unless you live in Boston, in which case it’s a big, green, left-field wall. Just saying.

I’m not much given to envy. With the following exceptions:

  1. People who live near ancient ruins. I want to dig!
  2. People who grew up with horses. I want your childhood.
  3. Anyone who has a house with no stairs. I’ll swap you.

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So, I’m pretty much good to go. I’ve got problems, but so does everyone else. Life hasn’t been easy, but it has also been incredibly interesting. Rich with experiences. I’ve got a great marriage, a few terrific friends, dogs, a home, a good little car, lots of books, and a huge, high-definition television. And we live reasonably near Fenway Park.

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If someone would like to round out my life by donating a largish sum of cash, I’d give you a big hug and a thank you. Beats out what you’ll get from donating the same amount to a some politician’s PAC, doesn’t it?

Otherwise, I’m good. So is life.

LOVING LIFE

ONE LOVE?

The universe is telling me to focus on love. What is it saying to you?


Just one?

I cannot fit my love into one image. There is too much I love. People, activities, art, beauty, nature.

And then, there’s life. Which is love.

BABY YOU’RE THE BEST

When I married Garry, it was my third marriage, his first. It wasn’t because he hadn’t had relationships. More than enough of them. Just never married any of them.

43, on our honeymoon. At Loch Gill, Isle of Innisfree.

43, on our honeymoon. At Loch Gill, Isle of Innisfree.

So, there we were. Me at 43 and he at 48 years old. Really getting married. Wow. We had a not-so-small advantage in that we had been friends and lovers for more than 25 years, but married? I never thought he would marry anyone.

Scene: Epiphany Lutheran Church, Garry’s home church in Hempstead, New York. His brother was singing as were two of my friends. A bagpiper was there to pipe the guests in, open the ceremonies, and pipe us on our way.

Garry In Cong

Twenty-five — almost 26 — years later. We old dogs have learned a whole lot of new tricks. Garry — the fussy bachelor — has turned into a great husband and a pal. He shops, launders, and lots more. All the things I can’t manage, he takes care of.

But more than any tasks or work he may do, he has become my rock. As my health declined … I’d have thought I’d bottomed out, but apparently not … he was, is there. Always.

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How do you say thanks for that?

You’re my better half, so much better than I ever dared hope. Baby, you’re the best.

GATHERING PEARLS – EPISODE 1

NO DRAWN BLANKS, NOT TODAY

I’ve been finding pearls of wisdom all over the place. A few from television and movies, others from fellow bloggers. Today’s gems (and I’m not kidding, I mean gems — no sarcasm) come from Cardinal Guzman.

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Let me start with the Cardinal. His “life game” guidelines resonated with me:

  • Take care of your loved one and loved ones.
  • Have fun, but don’t get addicted to it.
  • Their shit stinks too, so it doesn’t matter what they think.
  • Improvise.

Taking care. I take care of my loved ones — friends and family — to the extent that they allow me, and I am able. I no longer believe I can fix everyone’s problems — or mine. Within the limits of money, time, health, and distance, I do what I can. It’s pretty good. If I won the lottery … but that doesn’t look likely, especially considering I haven’t bought any tickets. (Maybe I should buy tickets.)

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Have fun. I do. It’s different fun than I had years ago, but it makes me smile and laugh. I get some good pictures too.

Their shit stinks too. Not only does other people shit stink, but some of those other people have bigger problems than me. None of us never knows how difficult someone else’s path is. If they are nice to me, the will have my support — even if I don’t have much beyond moral support to offer.

Improvise. He or she who cannot roll with the punches, change with the seasons of life, adapt to the stuff that is constantly assailing us from every direction, are doomed. If you don’t change, you ossify and die in place.

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Living means changing. Many people declare “they can’t change because they are what they are.” That’s never true. They are convinced not changing will save them from getting hurt or having to learn new and uncomfortable skills. Instead, ceasing to move in life becomes a recipe for death before burial. Only the dead are frozen in time.

Improvising also means reinventing oneself. Often. As we age, we don’t so much give up things, as we adapt to the limitations we encounter. If I can’t ride horses, I can take pictures of them. I can enjoy being around them.

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I can’t hike long distances, but I can walk shorter ones. I can take pictures, write, read, and talk. I can laugh. And I’d better do it now, because tomorrow has no guarantee. As far as I can know, this is tomorrow.

Grab a handful of life and get on with it.

I’d like to add that the entire experience of living would be greatly improved by people being kind to one another. By not walking around so fearful of getting hurt that they hurt everyone else. Self-protection is overrated.

Be nice, be kind. Help where you can. It’s free. It’s easy. It makes you a better person and the world a better place.

MULTIPLE CHOICE

I do not know how many times WordPress has run this prompt. This is an edited answer I wrote the first time it came up, in 2013. 


If you’re into science fiction or quantum physics, life’s road is full of forks — and each fork creates its own reality. Our real choices are not between less or more traveled roads, but between realistic choices. Rarely do we have a genuine option to veer off the main road into uncharted territory. It’s more about figuring out where we want to go, then how to get there.

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We make our choices under a lot of pressure when we’re too young to know what we want. Such is life. Before we’re of drinking or voting age, we make the most important decisions of our lives.

My first big choice was what to choose as my college major. Music? Something useful? Can I just screw around until I figure out what I want? How about all three?

I went with “all three.” Technically, I was a music major. Unofficially, I was a comparative religion major (now there’s a practical choice). Mostly, though, I majored in hanging out at the college radio station. It turned out music was fun, but I lacked sufficient talent to make it my life’s work. Religion? Fascinating, but it’s not a profession for me.

The radio station, for which I got no credit and where I had a blast with all the other misfits who found each other in the dank, tiny studios in the basement of the Little Theater, moved me along the path to life as a professional writer.

That’s what I was going to do, no matter what else I chose. It was me.

The point is, we make choices. During the summer between my junior and senior year, I got a three-way choice.

1) My old boyfriend with whom I could not have a civil conversation, but with whom I had exceptional sex had sent me tickets to join him at his summer stock theater in Cape May. A summer by the sea with all the hot sex I could imagine. Hmm. I was 18. Not an unattractive offer.

2) The guy I’d been dating at the radio station —  who ran it and worked for the university and got paid and everything (he was 8 years older than me) — asked me to marry him. I really liked Jeff. Smart, funny, probably the best conversationalist I’ve ever known. Witty, word-wise and good-looking in a blond waspy way. If I stayed, I’d be married before summer was over.

3) I got accepted into the Communications program at Boston University. Great program. In the 1960s, Boston was ultra-cool. Joan Baez sang in Harvard Square. Comedy clubs featured the future kings of late night. Unlike uncool Hempstead. Hofstra didn’t have a communications program. Yet. The radio station was the closest Hofstra offered to a program and you didn’t get a diploma by working there.

I had to do a lot of deciding. I married Jeff.

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Of the three choices, the real choice was what was right. For me.

I made a good choice. I was where I belonged. It set the course of my life for the next 15 years, after which the dials on that Big Machine sent me in another direction.

In my theoretical science fiction universe, the 3-way choice created three realities: one I chose and two I didn’t. These realities exist on separate planes somewhere in the time-space continuum.

Somewhere, there’s a Marilyn who went to Boston, and another who went to Cape May. If I meet them I’ll ask them how it went.

I bet all of us are here, married to Garry. Some things must happen. Destiny. Karma. Or maybe they are the same thing.

As for the road less traveled, less traveled roads are often dead ends. That’s why they’re less traveled. If you are going to go down such roads, make sure you’re very good at making u-turns in tight spaces. Oh, and watch out for the quicksand.

My Karma Ran Over My Dogma

Somehow, despite all the weird and awful things that happen along the way, we end up where we belong. Destiny always takes us to the right road, even as we mourn for what could have been. This was too beautiful not to share.

lifelessons - a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

My Karma Ran Over My Dogma

IMG_0472 This picture was taken two sunsets ago from the porch of the beach house I’ve rented in La Manzanilla, Mexico. Not a bit of color editing has been done.

She felt the small disk glance off the steering wheel and land on her lap as they jolted over the rutted dirt road. She picked it off her leg before it was jostled off and onto the gray carpet covered with dirt, gravel and slips of paper containing quickly-scribbled lines of inspiration for future poems.  Quickly, she glanced at the words printed on its front. “My karma ran over my dogma.” What did it mean, this button she now stabbed back into the sun flap over the steering wheel of her dusty van?

She had thought it hilarious when she saw it pinned to the poetry sweater of the stranger at the reading at the L.A. coffee shop almost twenty years…

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ON THE GO STRESS CONTROL: PART 1 – ELLIN CURLEY

I was a Yoga teacher for eight years.

My training taught me a lot about the interrelationship between the mind and the body, on a physiological, scientifically explainable level. Using that knowledge, I compiled some quick and easy stress control techniques for my students I call “On The Go Stress Control”. These are small things you can do during your day to reduce stress and alleviate its negative consequences.

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STRESS AND YOUR BODY

Stress is a condition which causes psychological and physical damage. The most insidious and dangerous form of stress is the everyday kind. Traffic, being late, dealing with difficult situations, and other people. This kind of stuff bombards you constantly. The damage it causes is consistent and cumulative. Ironically, while there are no “quick fixes” for most things in life, there are quick fixes for stress-related symptoms. Called Relaxation Techniques, you can do them for a few minutes, any time, even during your most hectic days. These are easy to learn, pleasant to do, and are amazingly effective at curbing your body’s harmful reactions to stress.


There’s a saying, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” These techniques can allow you to surf in the often turbulent seas of life.

In this first piece, I’d like to concentrate on breathing, which is the simplest and most powerful of the relaxation techniques.

Breathing is important in two different ways. Breathing involves two different systems in your body – respiratory and the nervous systems. I’ll only talk about the latter here because most people already have a rudimentary understanding of the respiratory system.

Breathing forms a bridge between your body and mind. It’s the key to preventing or minimizing stress reactions. It acts as the messenger service by which the mind communicates with the body – and visa versa. Your breathing is the only thing you can consciously control which lets you turn off the stress response.

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When your mind perceives or even imagines a threat or impending stress — big or small — your breathing changes. It triggers what’s called the “Fight or Flight Response” which automatically releases over 1500 chemicals into your system to prepare you to fight for your life — or run like hell.

Heart and breathing rates increase dramatically, as does blood pressure, muscle tension, and the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream, along with many other toxic reactions.

Constant stress slowly poisons you and over time, this wear and tear can injure almost every system in your body.

The problem is that this system evolved to protect early humans from infrequently real threats to life and limb. It doesn’t differentiate the more subtle stresses of modern life. The fight or flight response is on or off. There’s no dimmer switch to deal with the stressful but non life threatening situations which make up most of our lives.

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Rapid, shallow breathing triggers the alarm and initiates the survival mechanism of your body. Slow, deep breathing — called abdominal breathing — is the “all clear” signal. It turns off your body’s red alert and reverses the fight or flight sequence. It stops the release of stress hormones that initiate physical stress reactions.

When you learn to control your breathing, you also control your stress response.

Relaxation works on tension the way aspirin works on headaches. You can do breathing exercises (or other relaxation techniques) anywhere, anytime. You can do it while you’re stuck in traffic, waiting in line, sorting laundry, sitting in a dentist’s chair, or at your desk. The more practice, the more effective they are and the more relaxed you will be. You can use them to deal with a specific stressful situation more calmly and rationally — without being thrown into a panic state.

ABDOMINAL BREATHING

Breathe through your nose (unless I tell you otherwise).
Put one hand on your belly, one on your chest. Start by taking a take a slow, deep breath. Feel your belly rise, then as you breathe deeper, feel your chest rise.

Feel the breath going into your throat.

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As you exhale, reverse the process. Feel your chest falling, then your belly as you tighten your abdominal muscles and squeeze out that last bit of breath before you inhale again. It may take a while before this feels natural. This is the way you should be breathing all the time, to keep your system in equilibrium. Most people don’t, hence high stress levels.

COUNTING

After you’ve mastered abdominal breathing, you can go to the next level and add counting. You foster relaxation when your exhale is longer than your inhale. You energize yourself when your inhale is longer than your exhale. If you want to relax or stay calm, inhale to a slow count of 3, then exhale to a slow count of 6. Next, inhale to a slow count of 4, then exhale to a slow count of 8.Two to one is the best ratio for breathing.

Experiment until you find the count which works best for you. Continue doing it as long as you can — at least a few minutes.

If you find yourself getting sluggish during the day and need a pick-me-up, instead of grabbing an energy drink or another cup of coffee, get a shot of natural energy. Inhale to a slow count of 4, 6 or 8. Then expel your breath rapidly through your mouth, making a whooshing sound — or saying “Haaaa”. If you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, just do a quiet exhale to the count of 2, 3 or 4 while keeping the 2 to 1 ratio (if possible).

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Abdominal breathing is not only a stress relieving exercise. You can combine it with all the other forms of relaxation. It allows other techniques to work and can help you fall asleep, even if you have insomnia.

In subsequent pieces I’ll teach you other techniques, like Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Visualization, and Mindful Walking.