Tuesday, December 31, 2013

HAPPY NEW YEAR to the Friends I Have, the Friends I Have Lost, and the Friends I Know Not

It it with great anticipation for change in my life and in this nation that I bid adieu to 2013. 

I have lost many whom I thought were real friends simply for the fact that I stand for civility and fairness, for critical thinking and collaboration -- for fact-based principled negotiation. Even those who are very close to me have stopped sharing and liking for fear of being judged negatively simply by association. To the many friends I have lost I wish for you strength, security and peace of mind. I believe people can separate with love and not hate. I am grateful for the parts of my life our relationships have afforded to my being as a whole. For me personally, I remind myself I am a child of God -- no better or worse than every other child of God. My "playing small does not serve the world." To quote Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

This year has been a dark year in that we as a nation are distracted, deceived and divided. Divide and Conquer: A way of keeping a position of power by making the people disagree with each other so that they are unable to join together and remove you from your position. A small minority have continued to govern by a policy of divide and conquer and it continues on today. This strategy is how a small fringe group of criminal elitists and oligarchs (who control everything we read, see, or hear) continue to maintain power and control over this slave population. We will continue to be a slave population because of our purely emotional rather than logical reactions that create division, incivility, fear, and ultimately hate. This age old technique works and is being played out like a game of chess and we are the pawns. It's the "how" and the "why" we are not coming together and uniting against this small group of criminals and their minions who carry out their game of political and religious ideological BS. We must rid this nation of such division and learn tolerance of and appreciation for -- not fear of -- that which is different.

In everything you see and hear, believe or act upon 1) check the facts, 2) trust your own intuition, 3) use your own reason, 4) make your own decision and 5) give merit to another's stand -- even if it differs from yours.

Fisher and Ury describe distribute/competitive as “positional” negotiation and integrative/collaborative as “principled” negotiation. Consider the focus of negotiation, associated behaviors, and effects on dis/agreements.

We have most unfortunately taken our cues from Congress -- the worst Congress in this nation's history. We need less Distributive Negotiation (Positional; Zero-sum) because parties perceive their goals as mutually exclusive or in competition with those of their counterparts.
Parties are Adversaries
Victory is the Goal
Parties Demand Concessions as a Condition of the Relationship
Parties are Hard on People
Distrust Abounds
Entrenchment, Threats, and Deception are Key Tactics
Argument and Debate
Extreme Demands
Grudging Concessions
Unwillingness to Listen
Positional Statements
Contentious Tactics
Produces Unwise Agreements
Endangers Ongoing Relationships

This country needs healing. We as a nation of families, friends, neighbors, brothers and sisters known and unknown need more Integrative Negotiation (Principled; Win-win) where goals are viewed as compatible. Problem solving is seen as a way to achieve win/win solutions. Also known as Collaborative, Win/Win, or Principled Negotiation, this practice focuses on interests; participants are problem solvers; the goals is a wise outcome and solid relationship. In Principled (or Win-win bargaining)
Separate the People from the Problem
Focus on Interests, Not Positions
Invent Options for Mutual Gain
Insist on Using Objective Criteria
Open Sharing of Information
Willingness to Trust Others
Tradeoffs of Valued Positions
Interest-Based Discussion
Mutual Goals
Problem Solving
Relationship Building
Parties are Hard on the Problem -- not the people

I see beauty in this world. I see good in all, even in the bad, as there is always a lesson to be learned. All too often we know "entertainment" in this life but do we know true "joy." I will risk saying that most in this world do not know true joy. Joy comes with the delight in every breath, in every smile, in every glance, in every silent moment of reflection -- on the good and the bad. True joy is a gift.

JOY joi/ noun
A feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Example, "tears of joy"
synonyms: delight, great pleasure, joyfulness, jubilation, triumph, exultation, rejoicing, happiness, gladness, glee, exhilaration, exuberance, elation, euphoria, bliss, ecstasy, rapture; enjoyment, felicity, joie de vivre, "whoops of joy" pleasure, source of pleasure, delight, treat, thrill "it was a joy to be with her"

We all experience pain in our lives -- no doubt. Remember, however, pain is not a choice but suffering is. Let's make a choice to be happy, be mindful, be joy-filled, be kind, be loving, be open to that which is different, be smart, be compassionate, be patient (one I have to work on for many moons to come), be understanding, be accountable, be responsible, be fun, be happy, be compassionate, be blessed, be Godly, and at the end of the day -- just BE. It doesn't matter what you do -- it matters who you are. God created us as human BEINGS not human doings.

HAPPY NEW YEAR to the friends I have, the friends I have lost, and the friends I know not. May we all make 2014 meaningful and memorable.

Goodbye 2013. Hello 2014!

Monday, December 16, 2013

My Happiness

“Happiness is a vine that takes root and grows within the heart, never outside it.”  ― Kahlil Gibran

To Me, Happiness is...
1.     Falling in love -- every morning when I wake up with Mike.
2.     Laughing so hard my cheeks burn -- or I wet my pants
3.     A hot bubble bath with scented candles and classical music...
4.     ...and often a good book.
5.     A special glance and a wink to follow over the breakfast table.
6.     Getting mail -- real mail -- from anyone, really.
7.     Hiking in Hawaii.
8.     Hearing my favorite 80s songs on the radio.
9.     Lying in bed listening to the rain outside.
10. Hot towels fresh out of the dryer.
11. Cold sheets after a hot bath.
12. A washed car.
13. Giggling with James -- especially if he made me laugh.
14. A good, deep conversation with James -- from which I usually learn something new.
15. The beach with Mike and James -- and a football.
16. Finding money in my pocket.
17. Laughing at myself -- which I do frequently.
18. Eye contact -- and then a deeper understanding.
19. Two o'clock AM reading with Mike.
20. Running through sprinklers in Central Park with Mike.
21. Laughing for absolutely no reason at all -- or having one and not being able to share it.
22. Having people in my life I can honestly tell, "You are a beautiful human." 
23. Overhearing someone say something nice about my son. 
24. Morning kisses -- after we brush.
25. Making new friends -- or spending quality time with old ones.
26. Playing with Mamie Lou.
27. Having someone rub my scalp.
28. Sweet dreams that seem so real -- and I can remember them.
29. Hot chocolate, hot buttered rum, hot coffee with Kaluha.
30. Road trips.
31. Swinging on swings -- until I break it like I did to our back porch swing in Southdowns.
32. Baking bread, cakes, cookies, brownies, and pies.
33. Holding hands with Mike -- or James when he allows.
34. Running into an old friend and realizing things never change.
35. Watching the expression on James' face as he opens a present from Mike and me.
36. Watching the sunset on Waikiki Beach.
37. Getting out of bed every morning, embracing a new beautiful day -- know yesterday is gone and tomorrow doesn't exist.
38. Knowing that somebody misses me -- this is especially so considering we live so far away. Really, this means a lot.
39. A soft smile and a warm hug.
40. Knowing I've done the right thing, no matter what other people think.

Lovingkindness at Christmas -- and Always

“Best of all, Christmas means a spirit of love. – A time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness; a time when our thoughts and deeds, and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God.”
-- George F. McDougall

Mike and I sent my mom a huge box of Omaha steaks, chicken, burgers, desserts, sides and such. She called me in tears thanking me -- saying it beats meals-on-wheels. It is with a heavy and sad heart that I listened as she went on about how much she appreciated the gift and hoped to enjoy it with family.

When we spoke last, she asked of what remains, what do I want when she passes. I looked at her and said I wanted nothing but the memories of the tremendous blessings she and my dad bestowed upon us (and not without help from the big guy). She took offense to my declining any of her worldly things. I suppose she is not in the same place spiritually as I, and I understand now to her that may have been an insult -- although I never intended it as such. I assure her that my brothers may want some of her things and what remains after, I will share with her grandchildren. Her grandchildren do not know her but perhaps a token might at least bring them closer, even if it's too late, in a sense. I looked at her and smiled a small forced smile, and I fought the tears, as I was reminded of how her life has unfolded.

This is a woman who once lived in a convent only to grow up and marry to live in what could be called, "a mansion" with my dad, three brothers and me, a swimming pool, a fishing pond, a dirt bike trail, an airstrip and a Quarter Horse ranch in the "backyard." She now lives alone in a tiny apartment in a gated complex with little eyesight and lots of memories. She sits amidst unpacked boxes as she has since she moved in years and years ago, shortly after my dad's death.

Growing up, each Christmas we would host a huge Christmas party for hundreds of people: all the staff at my dad's hospital and tons of friends from Plaquemine, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans. As his health and career took him in different directions, we no longer hosted such festivities but we did still have at least twenty people over each Christmas for a sumptuous and seemingly never-ending spread of food, wine, champagne and after dinner drinks.

We always had two Christmas trees -- one in the formal living room which was beautifully flocked and decorated in a theme by Dupont's Florist (as was the entirety of the downstairs of our home) and the other which was in the den, always a fresh, green tree the kids would decorate with ornaments -- homemade and special in other ways -- ornaments with meaning.

Santa (who may or may not have been white) brought gifts for everyone including those who were not family but were unable to visit their family for the holiday. I played Santa's helper each year and no one went home empty handed -- we always had a gift for each guest. No one went home without a full belly -- there was so much food and drink. No one went home without a full head -- my dad was such a wise man and a grand storyteller. No one went home without a full heart -- we shared lots lovingkindness. My father was central to those days and these memories.

I know my mother misses him -- quite terribly. She claims to be strong but I know the holidays are hard for her. She finally admitted to getting lonely. I knew all along she was going to be lonely but felt helpless, as we departed for Hawaii four years ago, just as they took her car away (she had lost her sight). Through a series of unforeseen circumstances beyond her control, she has found herself "enjoying" Picadilly for Christmas and Thanksgiving for many recent years. I hope and pray that this year, she might delight in the overindulgence of great food, good fun, and what is left of her family. This is a woman who has two sons still living nearby, one son who has passed, and me -- half a world away. My dad's birthday is December 28. Some may forget; my mother will never forget.

Dad, if you're in Heaven -- and on Facebook (ha ha) -- know that we miss you and love you beyond measure. We are grateful for having been blessed by such a compassionate and brilliant man whom we could call our own. I hope we told you -- and showed you -- how much we love and appreciate you while you were among us but in the event we did not, I believe you know now. Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to you.

Friends, everyone has a story. For those who think you know my mother's story, I am betting you do not. I think of my mother -- and her story -- and know that she who talks a lot, laughs a lot, may in fact be the same she who cries herself to sleep at night.

This Christmas when you gather together with your friends and family, show them lovingkindness and listen to them and their story. God bless, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to all.