A Call To the Living – The Garage of Blessings in Oak Harbor, Washington

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recent photo of Mike Rowe and Kristiina

The Garage of Blessings

Quote by Algernon D. Black, former senior leader, New York Society for Ethical Culture:

This is a call to the living,

To those who refuse to make peace with evil,

With the suffering and waste of the world,

This is a call to the human, not the perfect,

To those who know their own prejudices,

Who have no intention of becoming prisoners of their own limitations.

This is a call to those who remember the dreams of their youth,

Who know what it means to share food and shelter,

The care of children and those who are troubled,

To reach beyond barriers of the past,

Bringing people to communion.

This is a call to the never ending spirit

Of the common man, his essential decency and integrity,

His unending capacity to suffer and endure,

To face death and destruction and to rise again,

And build from the ruins of life.

This is the greatest call of all,

The call to a faith in people.”

My sister Vicki Hand who lives near Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island in Washington has been telling me about the Nonprofit Organization THE GARAGE OF BLESSINGS for months and months. She is one of the volunteers at this place of giving and providing, to those who are less fortunate, the very basics of life – not just warm clothing but soap and toothpaste, blankets and food and most of all love and recognition. I was there myself on a recent trip to visit my sis and I was overwhelmed with the organization and the efficient cooperation of its volunteers. But there is an ambiance that surrounds all of the hustle and bustle as people are assisted in finding what they need to survive – and let there be no mistake I do mean survive. The only words that begin to give you a feeling for the rarified air of this place are simply the words Love and Respect, for all those folks who come in the door and are greeted without judgement and an eagerness to be of help.

Founded in her own garage by an extraordinary woman named Kristiina who has a heart as big as the planet and goals to match, the Garage of Blessings had a visitor yesterday, bringing a camera crew and bundles of great joy. Mike Rowe of the TV show “Returning the Favor” paid her a visit, listened to her story, met everyone and managed to enlarge and enhance her warehouse space in ways that she might have needed years to accomplish on her own. Kristiina dreams BIG and so does Mike Rowe so they are a match made in heaven.

If you are fortunate to be moving to Oak Harbor, Washington, (lucky you) or you already live in the area and you would like to volunteer your services or donate goods just get yourself over to the  Garage of Blessings – everyone knows where it is.

Go to http://www.garageofblessings.com for more information.

Look for Mike Rowe’s TV Show – “Returning the Favor”




Volunteers ready and eager to be of help and take your donations!


The Creative Epiphany – It’s 15 Below Zero in Colorado Tonight…don’t be like the bull

th[3] photo courtesy of nation.time.com/2013/12/4/snowy-day-expected

This Colorado weather and its record low temperatures takes some practice and I have not gotten the hang of it yet after moving back here from living in northern California for the past six or seven years. My internal California thermostat re-set itself at a higher comfort level while I was out there. I was happiest at 70 degrees. I had forgotten that in Colorado most people wear layers all winter long and setting one’s indoor household thermostat at 67 for daytime and 65 for night is common. Coloradans are a hardy bunch, and energy conscious too. So now my first authentically cold winter in years has arrived with a blast –  and the first day or so of it I am so stunned and intimidated that if at all possible I decide not to go outside for even one little minute. Then there is another night of bitter cold at 15 below followed by today that brings a high of 7 above and I begin to realize that life must go on. I cannot shrink like a spring violet under the winter cold – it is only December and there is a long way to go. So I gathered my best version of how I used to be when I was a Colorado girl and I ventured out. I was out doing errands, sort of, within a small perimeter of my house. That is progress. Everybody else was out there too. Looking just fine I might add. I was dressed and layered as if I were on that Antarctic expedition with Prince Harry.

I dare not walk for my usual daily mile and a half because I can’t manage to get a deep breath of air in this deep freeze, so I went to the neighborhood gym. That requires practice as well, since I dislike exercising within a swarm of sweating specimens, all riding or propelling humming machines yet going nowhere. I prefer to actually go somewhere when I make the motions of walking.

My friend called yesterday and said she had slept with her PJ bottoms tucked into the tops of big wool socks so that the legs would not ride up during the night. Don’t you hate that? You turn over just once and your legs are bare up past the knee. The bed is damn cold in the parts that are not under you, and so it is a shock to reposition a leg or an arm if they are not totally shrouded in pajamas. This is what they call a 3-dog night because you need 3 huge dogs in bed with you to keep you warm. No wonder the people in the middle ages slept in the same room as all their livestock, but talk about sweating, smelly specimens – yuk.

And another thing. Can you imagine sitting down on a toilet seat in the night in this weather? Of course it is inside the house, but it is like an ice cube even so. We are supposed to open all the cabinet doors under all the sinks so that the pipes have full access to the heat within our homes and theoretically they will not freeze. Have you ever had frozen pipes? Ever heard the creaks and groans that plumbing makes at night when it’s this cold? That keeps you on alert. Ever heard a pipe pop open and spew water like a hydrant as it warms up and thaws? When we lived in the mountains of Evergreen, CO. as the kids were growing up, frozen pipes were almost a yearly thing. And when the electricity went off during storms, our well water was inaccessible. We had a wood stove for back-up and used it several times  to cook a sort of dinner. Wood had to be chopped for the fireplace as well as the stove. We chose to live in the country with all the fun and inconveniences of that lovely lifestyle…oh the kids could tell you some wild stories.

Mr. D. our neighbor in Evergreen had cattle who were lucky enough to pasture at 8300 feet amid Aspens and pines, grazing on fresh grass in bucolic meadows surrounded by mountains. One late fall a freakish blizzard blew in and it snowed big hunky flakes that accumulated at an inch every hour and by morning of the next day we had over two feet. Mr. D’s cattle had not made it back to the barn and had been huddled against the wind and the snowfall all night in the leaf-less  Aspen grove, just about a hundred yards from the road. The next morning as we drove by in the car we saw quite a spectacle for the eyes of my two young children. Mr. D. and his ranch hands were cutting up the bull of the herd and sliding out  huge chunks of blood-red meat on tarps across the snow. The crimson splattered snow was unmistakably  the scene of a killing. But why?

Did the coyotes kill the bull? Or a bear? I called Mr. D. and got the full story from him so that we’d all rest easier knowing the truth. When a bull’s testicles freeze, he must be shot or he will die a slow agonizing death from gangrene. A bull’s testicles hang pretty low, and in two or more feet of snow it becomes impossible for him to escape his fate. Right then and there he was shot and cut into edible pieces to be frozen and eaten later in many a meal. The scraps were left under the trees for the coyotes and we could hear them howling all night with their good fortune.

The local news here has coverage of the livestock and how the farmers care for their animals. People are foolish enough to leave dogs and cats outside…what are they thinking? It is cruel and inhuman.

This story and others come to mind as I experience a grand weather event such as this. If you follow this blog you remember that last fall we had a five-hundred year flood event here, all along the front range of the Rocky Mountains. We were underwater! They said that if it had been snow instead of rain we’d be digging out for days. Now the snowy weather has begun and  unusually cold temps are here. I think it’s going to be a doozy of a winter! And I am pretty excited about it.

PS – I know the picture above is not a BULL but it is the best I could do.

The Creative Epiphany – Weathering Life

7- Midday Migration Mixed Media Collage titled “Midday Migration” by Jo Ann Brown-Scott

We are expecting high winds in the Denver area today – 40-60 miles per hour with gusts as high as 90 in the foothills of the Rockies. When the wind is angry like that, building up a furious intensity in the high mountains, blowing and spitting snow as it barrels down through the deep canyons just 15 minutes away from where I live, you can be sure it will race across the flatlands of Denver and its bedroom communities like the breath from a science fiction monster. Until recently I used to say how much I love weather drama, then the storms began – Katrina, the Tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan, Hurricane Sandy, epic Colorado flooding and the monumental typhoon in the Philippines. The big boy storms moved in and  began their 100 year visits, skirting the globe, scouting for random selections. Things have changed in the world of weather.

How is your internal weather? Fair to partly cloudy? Sunny and warm?

Are there storms that rage inside? What is your emotional forecast? All that is happening with-out cannot help but be reflected with-in. Weather disasters, political lies and scandals, crime, personal loss and misfortune, unhealthy personal relationships – all of that and more – cause emotional mayhem, creating internal havoc and unease. Feeling powerless in the face of large scale situations is painfully frustrating and destructive. We receive a steady does of bad news every day, built upon the results of yesterday’s surprises, then we get “updates” on the lingering miseries of months ago and it goes on like a bad soap opera. Of course there are human interest stories of courage and hope….crumbs…. evidencing the generosity, kindness and resilience of human beings. Show me some good news and I will try to remember it as the rotten news piles up and fills the streets of my mind.

Your internal climate is important to your health and wellbeing. We all know that.

When you get knotted up like a ball of string, what do you do to cope? How do you get up in the morning willing to face another day? Tell me what keeps you standing upright when there is so much that tries to knock you down. Tell me how you sleep at night, in the warmth of your bed, when there are babies dying for lack of food. How do we go on? What gives us the strength to continue, knowing that we have so little power to facilitate change?

I will tell you that for me, for insignificant me, the deep belief that change can one day be achieved is based upon faith that every positive personal thought, every positive casual comment, every smile, every tear that you blot for someone else, every word of encouragement, every shoulder offered to lean on, every dollar spent wisely, every single hopeful contribution to every other person or situation that you encounter counts. I do absolutely believe, especially now in this golden age of communication, that what every person says and does and feels and thinks makes ripples around the globe. How could it not? I do not care what social status you enjoy or do not have, what you might have amassed in the way of wealth, what your home looks like, what wine you like to drink, what kind of designer shoes you might be wearing – I want to know if you care about your fellow man/woman enough to worry about how we are going to feed the children.  We are all connected – we are all related – are we not all thinking about the same things? We all want our children to be fed, sheltered, clothed and educated. We all want peace, freedom and  the opportunity to prosper. And by the way, all the children are yours and my children too.

The epiphany comes when you realize that if you, you who do not wear designer shoes, are only able to affect positive change within your relatively small circle, that is, in the eyes of the universe, still a worthy cause. Buddha would tell you that if he was standing right there in your living room. Gaining peace of mind amid worldly chaos is possible in the performance of even the tiniest, kindest gestures. In my recent travels I saw acts of kindness, randomly given, received with great thankfulness and astonishment. Doing nothing is not an option. There is no excuse for failing to contribute to the common good. Make yourself an ambassador. You do what you alone can do in the moment of opportunity, you become the example to be followed, you teach through positive action, you strive to understand how something turned wrong so that you might know how to make it right again….and yes perhaps then you become a human interest story on the news after all. Coping is often the same as contributing – they go hand in hand. Coping with worldly dysfunction can be as simple as being a small but mighty force in your own small world for the cause of reason and peace – a force that is strong enough in intensity to become a ripple that widens and travels outside your world. You will want to get up in the morning if you feel that your personal mission is to do good. Because you matter. Every person, prominent or not, who has accomplished positive change, had to realize in a grand moment of epiphany that they mattered. 

             hawaii 008

The Creative Epiphany – Albania’s Newfound Self-Esteem

th[9] photo courtesy of travelerphotographs

 photo courtesy of Pinterest

 photo courtesy of gadlin.com

 photo courtesy of Flikr

Here in the USA it is Sunday morning and several of the news programs aired segments about some tenement buildings in the capital of Albania – broken-windowed buildings torn by war, neglected, abused and abandoned, that have been transformed and revitalized by the bold and joyous colors of new paint. The EU apparently objected to this radical change – for reasons we are not sure. The Prime Minister of Albania objected to that proclamation, persisted, resisted and basically said, “We are going to go for it,” in a gutsy move.

He went on to say, in one of my favorite quotes of all time, “Beauty is more intimidating than brutality.”

What an epiphany we have here!

To think that pride, creativity, thinking outside the box and positive initiative manifested in the addition of simple, stunning COLOR in some coats of paint could bring about such a paradigm shift in public thinking and collective self-esteem. Drab, often mafia infested neighborhoods, wasted, forgotten and forlorn, accepted and rejoiced in the jolt of some paint and ….what resulted….was optimism, pride and hope. That absolutely can only be seen as great. Sometimes it is the simplest things that make the most monumental changes for the collective good.

The Creative Epiphany – Report from Colorado – A LuLu of a Storm

          photos courtesy of www.dailymail.co.uk

Phew. I feel dryer today and more relaxed too. The weather is  now  sunny and warm with scattered showers expected tomorrow but a general forecast of better days on the way for the next week. When the storm was raging last week, they started out by calling it a 100 year flood; by about the third day of incessant hard driving rain and many damage reports coming in it was re-accessed as a 500 year flood of Biblical proportions, but this morning Al Roker of the NBC TODAY show pronounced it a 1000 year flood. I am just calling it a LuLu of a storm the likes of which I hope to never see again. Of course the water did not come gently, but  raced down the many creeks and rivers audibly snarling through the canyons of the Rocky Mountains and then widening out along creeks and rivers in an amazing path of destruction below – the South Platte is now 10 times as wide as it normally is and still spreading in a lot of places. Our gorgeous parks have suffered, huge chunks of asphalt have been ripped from dozens of highways, nearly 18,000 homes are destroyed and hundreds of people still missing. Babies were born during this flood as other folks were washed away in their cars and unaccounted for. The U. of Colorado is conducting classes again, but hundreds of businesses in Boulder, Estes Park, Evergreen and other quaint mountain communities are devastated. Sink holes are beginning to happen – OMG! those things. Rivers and streams have cut new erratic paths that were never there before and I can already imagine people saying, “Well I remember when the river ran in that direction until that damn flood of 2013.”

One quite elderly man was swept away, stripped of all his clothes by the angry water and left shivering and clinging to a limb high in a tree. They found his wife, who had also been swept away but survived with a broken leg, and asked her if she knew the naked man they had just rescued from a tree far away….”Well yes,” she gasped, “that is my husband.”

The local early news report is doing a story on Mail Delivery and stranded animals right now – regarding mail, thousands of people who have had to evacuate their homes are expecting medical prescriptions, SS checks, payments of all kinds and even deliveries of the animal variety that come to farmers on the plains east of Denver . Baby chicks, turkeys and even many insects used for pest control are delivered to farmers by US Mail. All those live things are being held at small town post offices, including accompanying responsibilities for keeping things alive as they have sleep-overs there while waiting to be delivered, belong now to the USPS.

There are countless images on TV of stranded animals – the lucky ones who have found some small patch of higher ground to rest on until help arrives. Many were not so fortunate. Helicopters are rescuing and evacuating as fast as they can, both animals and human beings alike. One lone horse stirred the compassion of all viewers, standing by himself in hip deep water and cold temperatures, tied to a small portion of a wooden fence within eyesight of the barn but unable to go there. No food, no clean water, for 3 days he stood there. Finally yesterday he got some help. The cows in the next corral finally made it through the water to a huge soggy mound of hay and burrowed inside to eat the edible innards of the mess. Some of them ate enough to practically walk inside it, nearly disappearing from view. They had not eaten for about 3 days. These are just a couple examples that we have seen – think of all the other unfortunate creatures who are struggling to survive.

I have survivor guilt – I don’t know how I have been so fortunate. I feel like I have dodged a bullet. Just 3 months ago I was in Denver prior to my move from northern California, looking for a nice place to live. I seriously considered a couple of the areas hardest hit. I chose this area instead, because I love being on hills or in the mountains. I thrive on constantly changing vistas, and this community of Palomino Park is on a rise overlooking the magnificent view of our Rocky mountain range to the west. I will now feel more at home here than I would have before, dry and safe as I am….but I feel the pain of the others who could not escape the wrath of the water. The power of the water is beyond our imagination. I have never witnessed such weather drama.

Mother Nature has been in a bitchy mood this week.

You can go to this website to help, as well as the Red Cross, but be sure to specify on your check or in your instructions that the money must be used to help Colorado, otherwise it will go into the general fund….


Go to BING.com and search Colorado Flood Images for more visual info.

The Creative Epiphany – Colorado’s Current Biblical Flood

                       Evergreen Lake

Big Thompson Flood July 31, 1976

I have lived here in Colorado nearly all of my adult life, starting with my college years at CU in Boulder, and with the exception of  a few blocks of time when I had to be somewhere else. As most of you know, I just returned here, finally and permanently, after 6 years in California. Just 2 months ago I found a lovely place to live and re-settled back in.

Fast forward to now. I have never in my life seen unrelenting, violent, biting rain like this, and I have lived in some rainy, swampy places. A good year of precipitation in the Denver, Colorado area is around 12 inches of rain – we are considered the western “high plains” where tall grass naturally grows and herds of antelope used to roam by the thousands. Peaceful rivers run through us and Indian camps were plentiful along their banks just 100 years ago. In the high mountains, situated just right there in your face to the west, we almost routinely accumulate snow in the hundreds of inches, and we love that. But in this past 4 days, we along the “front range” of the Rockies, (an area which parallels and hugs the first steep hills that hint at the larger mountains to our west) have become a flooded area that stretches over 150 miles long from approximately Ft. Collins to our north down south through Boulder and Denver and its suburbs to Colorado Springs.  It also extends to our east, into those flat farming plains. I experienced 7 inches of rain two nights ago! 7 INCHES! And we were told to expect additional staggering amounts in the following 3 nights, and the weather guys and gals were correct. Since then, I have been drying out and waiting to see when the second shoe drops. I am in sunshine right now, at this nano-moment, here in south Denver, but the rains continue to the north and east of me. They are calling this a flood of Biblical proportions.

The charming mountain community of Evergreen, just 45 minutes west of Denver, where we raised our kids, has a dam at one end of Main Street that holds back the friendly, peace-loving, agreeably contained Evergreen Lake where fishing and ice skating are a few of it’s seasonal pleasures. The lake is  Evergreen’s water supply. Bear Creek flows into that lake from farther west and its water continues over the dam and down in a normally civilized and quite picturesque creek-form, along whose banks you can dine at outdoor cafes and sample wines at funky little wine bars. Farther into the village of Evergreen you can have a bawdy old time at the Little Bear Saloon where Willie Nelson used to drop in and play a set for free back in the day. If you are having an especially great time there, and you wear a bra, you might be invited at some point in the evening to remove your bra (either modestly pulled out from under your t-shirt or taken off proudly in full view) and sling it up over the rafters where it will live for the remainder of its bra life. You can shop for unique clothing, including a new bra, that you’d never find anywhere else, visit art galleries and eat ice cream at the Baskin Robbins where my son worked after school. Evergreen still has Fourth of July parades down Main Street where the street lamps are festooned with flower pots and America flags. Bikers show up and line their Harleys up against the wooden rail outside the Little Bear exactly where stagecoaches used to tie their horses. The history of Evergreen is fascinating and available in many nicely done coffee table books. We loved it there.

About 20 years ago – maybe longer – the dam was repaired, in spite of skeptical minds, to be capable of withstanding a 100 year flood. This week we are there……as some one said in the news today, “This could be the one that brings us to our knees.”

I just heard this minute that the Evergreen dam is holding and safe, but uncharacteristically angry Bear Creek has taken out half of a parking lot located along its roaring and raging  banks, directly across from the Little Bear Saloon. When the water leaves Evergreen it has to race down through Bear Creek Canyon – one of many canyons that pierce the mountains and enabled early settlers to travel west. These canyons are steep-walled and deep. If you would like to read about just one of them, Google the Big Thompson Flood which occurred back on July 31st, 1976, the first year we lived in Evergreen. As the mountain rain water accumulated in a surreal, film visual effects- type event and then picked up speed while careening down from higher elevations, it raced thunderously down the Big T canyon like a liquid freight train monster, widening out in some places and narrowing again at the tight canyon curves where, since it could not be wide, the water had to deepen up, scouring the steep rocky canyon walls of their higher mountain residences along with trees and rocks and mud. This all happened in a flash – thus the term flash flood. Resulting in total devastation.

Last night I experienced one of those reverse phone call warnings coming across on my CELL PHONE! A screeching alarm telling me to head for higher ground. Thank God I am in a community that is perched on a lovely green hill – but the intersection just a mile away from me became an instant lake and the exit ramps from the highway to the street in front of my home were taken out by fast-rising water. They are gone.

Who would have thought this could happen in a city renowned for being 5280′ above sea level? It would seem that no water could accumulate here! In truth, all of our water drains into the South Platte River which runs directly to the Mississippi River and then to sea, where all good water needs to go. But the mud – that is an entirely different story. Like chocolate pudding with debris, it lingers and clogs and traps cars. It sucks things under. We are told to expect a brief respite from the water starting now, until late tomorrow night when it will return, we are told, with several more inches. But one thing of which I am sure – this has not brought us to our knees. Local news pictures are of course all about humans saving humans and people being generous. Animals being rescued and hot meals being cooked. Like others you see all over the world facing adversity, we’ll be fine eventually. The difference is – this is HERE. First time I have ever seen this up close and personal. And now  I have new appreciation for all those other people and what they endure. I thought I knew – I thought I could imagine – but I was not even close. Being wet and cold and homeless and thirsty for clean water, and hungry. Worried to the point of being sick about friends and relatives and kids and elderlies and animals. With no answers for days and days. OK I get it now like I never got it before.  I am living it now. That’s actually how an epiphany happens.

For fine news coverage of this Biblical flood, go to www.9news.com or search for KUSA  Denver

The Creative Epiphany – Seems Kinda Fishy


Mixed Media Collage titled Traffic by Jo Ann Brown-Scott

Is it just me or does everything in the news sound fishy? We did not just fall off the turnip truck, did we? We were not born yesterday. It used to be that what you heard in the news was straightforward. Now it seems that everyone has an angle. Nothing is as it seems anymore. I don’t want to sound paranoid, but it’s almost like we are being fed a steady ration of crap, starting with the less important stories and going right up the ladder to the big ones too.

Snowden seeking refuge in Ecuador sounds a little bit fishy to me…what’s he going to do there? Kind of makes you want to follow that guy around, and I am sure someone will. Why did it take so long to discover he was fishy? Why doesn’t someone explain to us why he chose Ecuador?

Putin keeping the Super Bowl ring sounds very fishy to me…does he just think he can rip off anybody’s stuff whenever he wants to? I think he needs to earn that ring by playing a quarter or two against the Raiders or the Steelers…and then an entire game with the NY Giants. That’ll do just fine for him. We’ll see if he can keep that ring or not. Why did the owner of the ring allow him to keep it? Hhhmm. Makes you wonder what the trade was.

Are we really supposed to believe that Paula Deen made those racial remarks because she is in her sixties and she was raised in the deep south? The rest of the country has learned some things from the civil rights movement, how come she never got on board? Sounds like a flimsy set of excuses to me – something is definitely fishy about that – if she walks like a duck, talks like a duck, well then…I am not going to watch her food show anymore.

Don’t you think it seems kinda fishy that just about the  time as almost any action hero movie is about to hit the theaters we hear about some kind of crazy accident or near-death experience that the star had while on set? Wow. That is so weird. Like they think we will really want to rush out and see that film to make sure the guy lived through it. Cause we’re not sure…what’s real and what isn’t. It’s all fishy.

And that is precisely the entire problem with everything! What is real and what is not? Is life all illusion? The reality shows on TV seem so scripted and the conversations we have in real life sometimes sound so outrageous it’s like someone outside our bodies made them up. They say truth is stranger than fiction and so does that mean the concept of fiction is now fictitious? Is there a new, bendable truth that allows for fishiness so that we are not ever certain of the degree of the truth we are hearing?

They say that if you can imagine it, it can happen some day. Fishiness in the news stories allows a lot of room for your imagination to run wild, perhaps imagining worse alternatives than the actual truth. That makes you hesitant to be imaginative. If you have to censor your own imagination so that you don’t imagine anything unbearably uncomfortable then you can’t be a free thinker. Imagination could get truly crippled by that. But fishiness invites that possibility for misinterpretation. It allows you to kind of make up your own endings to things.

So – at the end of the day, reality becomes less important than individual interpretation. As my 4 year old niece would say, “That’s not fair.”

This entry was written for the Daily Prompt – Island of Misfit Posts


The Creative Epiphany – Pulling a Cochran!

th[7] John Cochran – photo courtesy of www.contactmusic/news/john-c

I would like to invent a new phrase – as a result of last night’s victory by John Cochran. As many of you might know, I am an all-in, 100% fan of the longest running (13 years) reality show on CBS TV – SURVIVOR. I relish the very things it stands for: Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.  People of all varieties and ages are chosen to play the game, taken to a remote and challenging location somewhere on the planet (it is different every time), provided with rice and/or beans and little else, and asked to compete in not only surviving the outrageously brutal conditions of the locale but many competitive games to see who wins a million dollars. People can be voted off by their peers at Tribal Councils if they are unpopular, cannot manage to contribute to the greater good of the team they are on, or merely for being a weakling….because it is of course a show about survival of the fittest.

Last night for the first time I can remember in Survivor history, a sort of symbolic “97 lb. weakling” type of guy won the million dollar prize. His victory was based upon a consistently stunning display of daily cleverness in his personal relationships with his peers plus his ability to win 3 key challenges in games that required endurance and strategy and that granted him immunity from being voted off.

Cochran, John that is, who had played the game once before and been voted off, was invited to return to play again as an alum. He began by getting a horrendous, plum purple and hot strawberry pink throbbing sunburn on the tops of his feet, and when Jeff Probst the host asked him how he got such a bad burn he replied, “instantly.”

Cochran is a brand new Harvard Law School graduate. He is an anorexic looking,  slight and rather stoop-shouldered guy, wearing mostly Ivy League button-downs in a t-shirt kind of situation, but brandishing a wicked sense of humor that allowed him to slide under the radar a bit. He seemed rather unthreatening for nearly half the game, lacking in confidence and unspectacular. Everyone else, all the brave, muscular, beautiful specimens of human fitness, thought they could beat him. Then against all odds he began to win challenges – 3 of them – that afforded him immunity from being voted off at critical junctures.

He began to emerge as a player – an authentic competitor – who had watched the show for half his life and had even written his Harvard thesis and other papers about it. He knew exactly what his strategy was, and he played without theatrics and drama and any kind of fanfare – tactics often used by the other  “easy on the eye” players.

“I kind of want to get a Segway, as lame as that is,” he told The Hollywood Reporter of how he’d spend his $1 million check. “I don’t know how often I’d use it, but I’d like to just ride around on one. Even if it’s just doing circles in my living room.” He also mentioned sinking some money into a new apartment and “a lot of wireless gizmos and stuff.”

During the season’s high-drama season, Cochran was also able to survive the entire run of the game without having a single vote cast against him during Tribal Council, an impressive accomplishment that only one other Survivor winner can claim (J.T. of Survivor: Tocantins).

I am thrilled with this victory – don’t tell me to “get a life” because I have a nice full life, thank you very much, and one thing I absolutely love is seeing a winner who has really performed and who deserves it. Someone who was the underdog and the least likely person to succeed. I think I would like to invent a new word  – a word that describes the underdog, the long-shot, the person who never gives up and to whom his/her obvious short-comings are irrelevant. I would call that person a COCHRAN!  Hurrah for John Cochran!  I am a forever fan! You are a winner! You pulled it off!

th[6] photo courtesy of www.fanpop.com/clubs/survivor

The Creative Epiphany – Knowing Eachother


As a writer it is difficult to remain silent about the news in times such as these. So much is being said, much is being spewed in anger, and of all that is expressed so little makes any sense. By adding my voice to the fray I run the risk of being as irrelevant as many of the others but I am willing to take that risk because I absolutely cannot stifle myself. I will be brief.

In the USA we have so much freedom – so much that we often hang ourselves because of it. Everyone can go about their business, whatever that might be, unnoticed and unaccounted for. People want to come here for the freedoms we offer, and then they sometimes put it to use in ways it was never meant to be tested. Our legislators can’t figure out how to work together in the common cause of regulating weapons and the voices of our citizens apparently no longer count. Don’t you think that many of our so-called representatives in Washington are, in the privacy of their minds, heaving a sigh of relief that the Boston massacre was not accomplished with guns? It is more fuel for their way of rationalizing all violence to place this particular violence  in a category which is nearly impossible to legislate or prevent. Who would imagine a pressure cooker would be put to this use? Only the most brutal of minds.

Who are these angry people? How does a mind get from normal to mass murderer?

The seeds for radical violence can be planted at any time of life – a child can be sweet and respectful for many years and then seem to “turn bad” in a matter of months, with disastrous results, based upon some ideology that was recently adapted. When that happens, and that young person’s apartment is found to be a bomb factory, or a weapon factory, or a gun warehouse, or headquarters for a grand plan of mayhem thus revealing  a second, secret, sinister life, I have to wonder where the family was during this development? Sometimes these children actually live at home but their parents have given them the privilege of eminent domain when it comes to their own bedrooms….even though everyone is under the same roof! In the case of the Boston brothers, I imagine that the aunt or the father and mother, as astonished and in denial as they seem to be, had not visited the boys in their own environments for a long time. There would have been clues there.

It really does take a village of people to be aware and cognizant enough to notice when neighbors, friends and “nice kids” are purchasing bomb making equipment, guns, knives and other tools of war. Many trips to the hardware store for instance, purchasing items that do not seem congruous with a college student’s life, might be a big clue. Smiling faces and friendliness do not insure anything anymore – people often quite good at living double lives. Our daily business is now everyone’s business. Privacy is no longer an excuse. Freedom does not extend to a license to kill and injure. Families must monitor their family members – money sent generously to young adult children for tuition and support may be money that is funding terrorism. People need to step forward and report what they see as suspicious even if the person in question is a relative. If you take the time to truly engage a person in conversation you might notice a shift in belief or attitude that indicates a deeper problem. If no one has bothered to check in on a relative or friend in a long time, that is negligent and irresponsible. People need to keep in better touch and know eachother. It all begins at home in the neighborhoods where we live. The FBI cannot be everywhere all the time, and our best eyes and ears belong to eachother.


The Creative Epiphany – Loose Cannons & Wing-nuts


Part of the reason the internet is such a magnet for our attention is that it can deliver us juicey news items well before the TV and radio broadcasts are able to do so, and of course we Americans are news junkies of the highest order. We have the attention span of gnats and we like our news fast and furious. Each breaking news item must be more intriguing than the previous one and if it is not we become impatient. We tremble with withdrawal and shake with news hunger. We need lots of info, arriving 24/7! Even with a globe the size of earth, on any given day, there might not be quite enough stuff happening to satisfy our appetite for rapid-fire news excitement. So therefore we have assembled our own entourage of loose cannons and wing-nut freaks that we can fall back on to supply us with ongoing sad sagas, shocking quotes, substance abuse spectacles and train wreck disasters. They are our side-shows, positioned adjacent to the main event three ring circus world that is already crazy enough for Pete’s sake. They parade themselves in front of our eyes performing one outrageous, twisted act after another and we eat it up like M&M’s.

You know who they are – the spoiled substance abuser “Lindsey Lohan” poor little beautiful but brainless types and the Justin Bieber “baby brat” types who want so desperately to drop their pants and reveal their bottoms to the world. The “loud-mouth” types like pouty lipped Donald Trump and his counter-part angry as hell Rosy O’Donnell. Then you have the political blow-hards who announce that authentic rape is not really an act that can result in actual pregnancy and the wanna-be-dictator-son-of-the-big-daddy-dictator who threatens to send his nukes our way if Dennis Rodman does not have the leader of the free world call him “maybe” on the phone, as the pop song lyric goes. There are many varieties of these dysfunctional news dominators, and most of them are having babies and making more just like them.

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? How come they get so much PRESS when other far more uplifting and informative stories go unnoticed? The fruit loops of the world get the attention because we love watching insanity play itself out up on the big screen, day by day so we can see every sweaty pore up close and personal, as we wait for the final meltdown. We love us some meltdowns, now don’t we? We are fascinated to see that bad behavior really does get rewarded by getting most of the attention. The squeaky wheels DO get the grease, don’t they? If you asked each of the people mentioned above what their contribution has been to the world – what non-material “good” they have accomplished – I doubt if they could offer any convincing answer. They are the examples not to be followed and what a distinction that is.

I really like the new Pope, although I am not Catholic. He seems like a nice man who knows what a powerful message his pure humility delivers to the world. He seems to be walking the walk that he talks and I would like to hear more about him. You do not have to be a Mother Teresa or a Pope, however, to deliver a life message of simple gratitude and love that says you are indeed truly, joyfully alive and feel profoundly blessed to be living here on the beautiful big blue marble we call earth. There is plenty of room on the humankind yardstick between the Lindsey Lohans on the far left and his divine Holiness, the Pope at the far far right. The rest of us can all just jump in there somewhere, hopefully far to the right of center, and begin to do the right things with our lives, making breaking news for all the best reasons even though it might not ever be reported. I can never understand how someone can squander their life – waste a precious life – spending valuable time on negativity, violence and self-destructive behavior. There are no excuses for that, whatever our circumstances. All we have to do is to gather our courage, rise above our circumstances, and live our lives the best, most positive ways we can, touching other people’s lives in such a way that we leave a positive and memorable mark where we passed.