Friday, January 29, 2010

The Gold-Threaded Robe

The years was 1975, and I had just graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Psychology.  I headed off to Indianapolis with a couple of friends and landed a job as a secretary at Curtis Publishing Company.  I figured I would stay there until I found something more in my field.  I don't like to think about regrets but I still have a teensy one about leaving that job to work as a Marion County Juvenile Probation Officer.  I had my sights set on saving the world and making a difference and I think I did for a few of the young people I worked with at the court.  But that job at Curtis Publishing Company was something special - not so much the job I had (I was doing filing and writing letters for the CFO), but being around the whole publishing industry.  Every day, there were creative types planning for upcoming issues of The Saturday Evening Post and The Country Gentleman.  Downstairs, there were boxes of magazines ready to be distributed, and I was occasionally sent there to retrieve mail or check on an order.  I was told I could take magazines from the reject pile, so I occasionally went  home with a freshly printed magazine.  I was even called into the editor's office because I had scored really well on their entrance IQ exam.  Who knows what she might have seen in me.

When I left Curtis to go to the juvenile court in Indianapolis, I was given a lovely note by one of my coworkers.  She typed it on an actual typewriter (yes, that is what people used back then) and she included the following poem:


 Covet not a gold-threaded robe,
Cherish only your young days.
If a bud open, gather it -
Lest you but wait for an empty bough. 

I still have the typed note and look at it from time to time.  I'm pretty sure I took her advice and gathered many a budding flower in my youth.  I'd like to think I am still doing a bit of gathering and hope to continue for a long time.  As for Curtis Publishing Company, I'm thinking of sending them a note and thanking them for the opportunity they gave me a very long time ago. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Part IV: The Music of the Soul

Here's the conclusion to The Music of the Soul.  Thank you for participating in my 'serial story blog'  Please click (read more) for the conclusion of the story.


Henry gets the box out from under the bed and places it in the middle of his bedspread.  He says, “I’ve been thinking guys.  You know that old man at the booth told us to not overdo this.  How will we know when we’ve had enough?”

Michael says, “We’ll just keep the box in sight and the first one who feels like it’s too much will close it.  It’s pretty simple, right?”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Part III: The Music of the Soul

 Here is the third section of The Music of the Soul.  Please click (read more) for the full article.  This is also technically Chapter Two of the story. 

Grandma Shaw is in the kitchen cooking up a storm.  She has pasta boiling in a pot and her secret spaghetti sauce simmering in another.  The aroma of garlic bread wafts from the oven.  Fresh green beans from the farmer’s market are cooking with bits of ham mixed in for flavor.  Grandma whisks everyone out of the kitchen and tells them to wash up for dinner.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Part II: The Music of the Soul

 Here is the second section of The Music of the Soul.  Click (read more) for full article...

The boys flash quick, confused looks at each other and then John takes charge.  “Come on guys, there’s nothing here for us.”  He starts to walk away assuming his brothers will follow.  Henry stays focused on the old man and says, “What do you think we need?”

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Music of the Soul

Over the next few days, I am going to run parts of a story I have written.  If you are a faithful reader, you will be rewarded with the conclusion on Thursday.  I actually told this story to my boys when they were quite young.  The details have changed a bit, but the basic gist of the story is the same.  Family means everything.
Click (read more) for full article....

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Create the Opening you Need

 "When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us."  Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922)

I was taking a walk today and the first part of this quote popped into my head.  Once I returned home, I decided to look up the origin of the words.  I was surprised to learn they were first uttered by Alexander Graham Bell who earned a U.S. patent for the telephone in 1876.  I also read that when he died in 1922, every phone on the continent of North America was silenced in honor of the man who had given to mankind the means for direct communication at a distance.  Interestingly, while he was still alive, Bell considered his most famous invention to be an intrusion on his real work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study.  The reason for his quote is unclear, but while reading his biography it was obvious he suffered much loss in his life - two brothers to tuberculosis, the death of two infant sons, plus he witnessed his mother slowly lose her hearing when he was a child.

But I digress...The real reason I was thinking about the quote was that I was thinking in darker terms about the possibility that no door opens when one closes.  I know that seems rather pessimistic, but the reality is that open doors aren't always available.  So, what does a person do in such a situation?  That led me to thinking about Alice in Wonderland and the image of her going through the looking glass to an alternate world on the other side.  Secret openings to other worlds or other spaces have always been intriguing as plot devices in literature.  I like the idea of stepping through a mirror, finding a secret passageway behind a bookcase or possibly opening a trap door and falling into a magical kingdom (the falling part seems a little scary, though).  If none of these are available, a piece of chalk might suffice.  Just draw an opening on the floor or wall and envision what opportunities might lay on the other side.  Rather than an actual door, it's more of a conceptual freeing of the mind to head in another direction.  So, the next time a door closes just get out your chalk, find an open surface and create the opening you need. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Homeward Bound

I have been listening to a Simon and Garfunkel album from 1969.  It's called Live 1969 and it is, not surprisingly, a collection of songs performed live on their tour.  They went on the road prior to the release of their album, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, and it's clear their fans had never heard that classic song before.  Many of the songs they sang on tour were unfamiliar to their legion of fans, but instantly became classics.  That tour ended up being their last for 13 years.
There is such sweet poignancy in their lyrics, and their harmonies are hauntingly perfect.  That kind of harmony is rare - two voice blending into seamless accord.  I wrote down a few of their lyrics today and thought I would stream them together with one song blending into another.

I'm just a poor boy, my story's seldom told.
I'm sitting in a railway station, got a ticket for my destination,
I wish I was homeward bound.
Every stranger's face I see reminds me that I long to be,
homeward bound.
It's a winter's day in a deep and dark December,
I am alone, gazing from my window to the street below.
Hello, darkness my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again,
because the vision softly creeping,
left its seeds while I was sleeping,
and the vision that was planted in my brain,
 still remains,
within the sound of silence.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
What a dream I had,
dressed in organdy,
softer than the rain.
I wandered empty streets,
cathedral bells tripping down the alleyways.
Slow down you're movin' too fast,
you've got to make the morning last,
just trippin' down the cobblestones,
lookin' for love
and feelin' groovy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Reward is Always There

I edit a newsletter for a local hospital volunteer department. I composed the following poem for the current edition. There are over 1000 individuals who volunteer their time at the hospital.

We may never know
the impact of
the smile we give,
the pat on the back,
the listening nod,
or the silent tear
we shed.

For those who suffer,
who hurt,
who weep,
may not
thank you so much,
or you've been very kind.

They know we are there;
their hearts feel the gift
of our time,
of our smile,
of our presence.

And that is all the thanks
we need
for the gifts we share;
the reward is always there.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


What exactly is kismet?  Is it the perfect alignment of the stars or possibly that rare kiss of fate where everything seems to have been predetermined?

If our fate is predetermined,
then what role does chance play in our lives?
Does the kiss of fate mean a date with doom,
or merely a reminder to take note
of what might be
if we just pay attention?
 Do we take the kiss
and smile with delight
at the chance we have been given
to see the perfect alignment
of the stars?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King Day

He spoke about truths in words that rang true,
He spoke about color without choosing black or white,
he spoke about freedom and helping the oppressed,
he spoke of a mountaintop
where the view
was so perfect,
and the sun so bright,
our eyes could not turn away,
would not turn away,
until the same sight could be seen
by all men
for all time.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

You Knew it was True

The word prejudice was in my head today for no apparent reason and I started thinking about the word and its true meaning.  It simply means to prejudge without knowledge, thought or reason.

Prejudge and the moment might pass
to meet someone,
learn something,
go somewhere,
But you knew that was true
since you were two,
when you walked hand in hand
to some faraway land,
imaginary friends
you knew would be true
to you.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Veracity of Truth

Sometimes the truth is
right there,
but then it slips away,
or maybe you just don't want to see it,
and let it slip away,
out of sight,
out of view,
out of mind.
It's said that the truth will set you free
or maybe it will change your mind
about the veracity of a truth you thought you knew
for sure.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

May we be Peaceful and at Ease

Yoga has become an important part of my life.  I have found a cozy respite in the quiet studio and strength and renewed agility through the practice of the poses.  At the end of class, some of the instructors offer a closing thought.  I learned today that one of my favorite instructors will be leaving - she is an excellent yoga teacher and has a beautiful message she delivers at the end of each class.  Here it is for your consideration:

"May we be filled with loving kindness,
May we be well,
May we be peaceful and at ease,
And may we find happiness in this life just as it is."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cats Are Good People

One of the elderly ladies who is on my library delivery route owns two cats, Violet and Danny.  We were chatting today and Violet crawled onto her lap and managed to push several papers on the floor.  Helen laughed and commented that the two of them are quite a mess.  Violet hangs out with her during the day and Danny claims the bed at night.  He sleeps right next to her and insists on having his body touching hers at all times.  Helen saved Violet many years ago from an abusive family and doesn't remember when she got Danny.  It has been a long time. As we talked, she slowly petted Violet's head and then said with a little smile, "Cats are good people."  I was absolutely charmed by her remark and charmed by the simple joy she gets from her two pets.  At age 95, Helen has lost most of the people she is close to, but she still has these loyal cats who bring her comfort and companionship.  So, if she says they're good people, I believe her.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Thoughtfully, I reflect,
not on the day,
or the hour,
but the entirety
of moments,
they be magical,
regretful, saddening,
or joyous,
I reflect.

Call Her If You Want To Talk

When I'm out running errands I try to always ask the store employees or cashiers how their day is going.  It's just something I've gotten in the habit of doing and sometimes I get in lengthy discussions - like today.  The female cashier at a local grocery said it was time to make a change and I asked if she was looking for a new job.  She said that she is currently looking and has put her resume on several online job search sites but has run into computer snags that are driving her crazy.  She keeps getting critical error messages that she can't seem to resolve.  She told me she had spent almost $300 getting the right software to conduct her search but is currently not having any success at all.  My only advice was for her to try to reach a real person on the phone rather than trying to get answers via e-mail.  She said she's ready to unplug the computer permanently, do her banking in person and tell people they'll just have to call her if they want to talk.
There wasn't any resolution or particular help that I gave during the course of our discussion but at least I was able to listen for a few minutes to her concerns.  I wanted to do more (it's in my nature to step into my problem-solving mode), but with a stranger it seemed I had done the best I could and in truth she just wanted someone to listen for awhile.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Domain

I'm into definitions and learned today that the word domain has many definitions.  I began my search after creating a domain name tied to this blog.  I now have my very own web address at: One of the definitions of domain is: a realm or range of personal knowledge, responsibility, etc., so I guess the things I share here fall within my personal realm or range and I am also responsible for the particular message I put forth.  I hereby accept that responsibility.
After coming up with many different names for my blog and having many of them rejected because others had already selected them, I was feeling a bit dejected and inconsequential in the world of blogging and domaining (is that a word?).  Then I hit upon the lovely alliteration of Embracing Epiphanies which I chose because it has the dual meaning of embracing the epiphanies discovered and that the epiphanies themselves can embrace the reader or observer.  Pretty cool, huh?  Also, alliterations are just fun and allow for alphabetic accord and acceleration of ideas that accurately attempt to appease our appetite for alliterations. :-)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Coffee Shops

What is it about coffee shops?  One of my favorites is Caribou Coffee because it has this really cool vibe and I can always accomplish a bit of creative writing while I'm sipping a latte and sitting at one of their two person tables.  So, here are the  essential ingredients for a great coffee shop:  free wireless that doesn't require a password, soft background music that inspires free thought, comfy chairs, lots of people sitting around doing their own thing, the smell of coffee, the taste of coffee, the warmth of coffee.  I'm sitting here today on January 8th feeling thankful for this place as I look out the window at 6 inches of snow.
In the background, I hear the barista talking to a customer about how Caribou differs from Starbucks in their sizing descriptions.  Caribou is straight up small, medium, large without any pretense.  Starbucks is tall, grande and venti - really trying too hard to impress, but knowing that we love the sound of those choices.  Having choices is so American - coffee shops provide the opportunity to have a bit of control in our lives each day and that is why we love them so much.  My choice: a medium, skim, decaf latte - how empowering!

A 94 Year Old Woman Discusses Death

I deliver books to the housebound as a volunteer with the Outreach Program of our local library.  I had a new lady on my route last week and I spent some time visiting with her.  She lives with her son and daughter-in-law and has a small section of the house to herself.  We talked about books, her family and death.  She asked me if it was a sin to pray to die soon.  I'm guessing she felt safe asking me this question because I was a new and anonymous person in her life.  In the short time we were together I surmised that she is loved by her family and that she loves them as well.  She told me a story about her granddaughter who had given her the complete set of Ann of Green Gables to read.  She told me about her son bringing her the newspaper each morning and she told me about a home health worker who helps her shower and sometimes watches a movie with her.  Her favorite is The Secret Garden.  So, I chose my words carefully and told her that I understood why she would think about dying and that I was sure it was not a sin to speak to God about something that important, but then I told her that I was sure her family would miss her and that she is surely a blessing in their lives.  I told her that she is a lovely, articulate and caring woman who I enjoy talking with.  She is someone I will look forward to seeing each week.  She still has wisdom to share and a purpose to her life even if it is merely to allow others to give more fully of themselves.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

When I listen intently I often hear something unexpected.  Today I learned that a person's lack of empathy can cause great hardship and pain.  Forgiving that lack of empathy can be quite difficult but necessary for emotional health.