Category: Best Neighbor Page 1 of 2

Best Witches

Boundaries blurred

Whispers heard

Be mindful of your spoken word

Let not intention be recanted

From seeds once planted

Requests be granted

Equals only be enticed

Review the guest list once or twice

Then light the candles

And fire up the blender

‘Tis no better night for wishes rendered!

Mission Articulation

His name was Duke.  I remembered the name so suddenly that it surprised me.  I wasn’t counting on coming up with a name while recalling a scenario that occurred over 25 years ago.  But there it was, right out of the blue, having no significance whatsoever to the memory of what had actually transpired.


We were sitting around a picnic table placed on a small grassy island in the middle of a vast concrete parking lot.  Someone decided that this was the ideal spot to hold a staff meeting.  It was a warm summer afternoon just two short weeks before we were scheduled to open.  Most of us were seasoned in nightclub operation and development, so the recent construction delays and increased work hours were expected.  What we had not anticipated was the unusual amount of resistance from a neighboring homeowner’s association.  There’s only so many community meetings you can facilitate while you have five thousand other items of business to attend to.  With our public relations skills to the test and stress levels in overdrive, our general manager thought it prudent to invite a motivational speaker to meet with us.  And so here we were.

Had the acronym written on the board before us been the least bit impressive, I suppose I would have remembered it.  I only remember that the letter “E” represented the word “elan.”  This seemed to be the word that Duke was having an issue with.  He kept interrupting the presentation to ask for clarification on the word.

The rest of us might have had a sense of bewilderment with this word, also, but we were too preoccupied with our own agendas to admit it, much less care.  I remember thinking that I had shit to do, and that this stupid gathering was just a waste of precious time.

I watched with mild amusement as Duke persisted in returning to the subject of “elan.”  Sporting a Flock of Seagulls hairstyle, our guest speaker grew noticeably flustered, pushing up his carefully turned shirt sleeves and adjusting the end of his belt to hang just-so over the front pocket of his pleated linen pants.  He shuffled his sock-less, leather slip-on clad feet back and forth while attempting to articulate his thoughts.  It became rapidly clear that he actually had none.

The pirate had outwitted Miami Vice.

In 1985, spandex frequently passed for business attire, particularly if you worked in the nightclub industry.  While women resembled Madonna’s Material Girl and guys wanted to be in The Breakfast Club, Duke kept his long hair in a ponytail, wore an untrimmed beard, and rode his motorcycle to work.  With his boot heels perched on a overturned milk crate, he rested his folded arms comfortably over the ancient jean jacket covering his flannel shirt.  This man would never follow a trend.  Amidst a sea of desperate wannabes, Duke was a rogue.  He was Jack Sparrow decades before we had the name.

Some twenty-five years later, I suddenly appreciate the manner in which Mr. Miami Vice’s well-planned motivational presentation had been derailed.  Back when words like “proactive” were used by everyone for subjects other than an acne solution, I realize now that I had the rare pleasure of witnessing a display of genuine individualism.  Spirited self-assurance is a state of being.

When I think back upon that one summer afternoon, it occurs to me now that Duke was already living his personal elan.  He was either fascinated with the notion that someone thought it could be defined by one word, or more likely, he simply knew that it could never be communicated with language, so he simply found it entertaining to watch someone try.  In any case, the memory will certainly remain entertaining for me.

Thanks, Duke….wherever you are.

Wash Away My Sins

I don’t like to drink water.  It’s so… blah.

Durwood routinely stands at our kitchen sink to draw a large glass of filtered water for himself.  He ceremoniously ingests the contents of his glass with such pomp and circumstance, you would think he were partaking in the nectar of the gods.  I just don’t see the appeal.

Apparently, we are supposed to drink LOTS of water for optimum health.  Everyone says so.

I used those flavor-enhancing packets for awhile.  I bought into the marketing campaign that offers a convenient and tasty way to satisfy my proper daily water requirements.  Those little packets are really cute, and there is an entire aisle-full of flavors to choose from.

In the end, it’s still just water.  I would really rather have a diet Mountain Dew.  I can suck on the ice cubes from the glass.  I also consume several servings of coffee throughout the day, and there’s some water in that, right?

When I woke up this morning, it was immediately clear to me that this would be our last day of the 2010 calendar year to visit.  We made it through this interesting and strange-as-shit year, my friend!

Smoking in the house be damned.  After the last few weeks of what any self-respecting, thin-blooded Floridian would consider “wicked freezing”…it is thankfully warm enough to throw open the outside doors, grab my smokes and a beverage, and sit down to chat with you.

(Don’t snicker, my fine frozen comrades of the North.  I was “one” of you long enough to appreciate your seasonal experience.   Weather conditions are subject to one’s relative perception.  I’m just grateful to be relieved of the annual windshield-scraping chore.  I can say that I barely minded the last 23 sweltering summers I endured to reach this pleasant state of mind.  Want to complain about the cold up north?  I will relay similar horror stories about the heat.  As in hell.)

We need water.

This past year, we have relied on the element of fire to dispose of our unwanted baggage. We used everything from our ashtrays to our backyard bale fires to relegate our undesirable experiences to the past.  From ashes to ashes, we transformed our old energy levels to reflect more of who we are, and who we want to be.  We have used fire to successfully carve a wide-open avenue for us to expand our creative potential.

For 2011, I am switching to water.  Now that we have successfully navigated through some of the most wretched funk periods of 2010, it is time to relax in the current of the massive tide of abundant blessings that each of us have created for ourselves.

(I know how much you hate hearing this overused adage, Elle, but water will allow us to finally “go with the flow.”)

The moon is in its final days of waning.  It is the last day of the year.  A bee just flew through the door and landed on my computer screen.  The bee provides additional confirmation that the time to move in the direction of our dreams is here.

How much water can I drink?  If that is my only concern, then I know life is good.  There’s always the ice in my glass of Mountain Dew.

I will work on my water intake.  While I am honing my drinking skills, I will mark all subsequent new moon phases with deliberate focus on other practical external cleansing methods.  The availability of water is abundant.

Our septic field may be currently overtaxed,  but this recent development has not infringed upon my bathing habits.  I love to shower.  I get some of my best ideas while I’m in there.  When the moon is waning, I will take the opportunity to consciously send all my residual funk right down the drain.

Lest we forget how much we love a cool body of water, as well!  From the swimming pool to the ocean, one can get an amazingly clear perspective while immersed in, floating on, or traveling through any-sized body of water.

We have the next few days of this holiday weekend to finalize our current disposal list of 2010.  Whatever it is you feel remains, now is the time to slough it off for good.  If you miss anything this weekend, the next new moon is only 28 days away.

Drink the water.  Shower in it, play in it, and rinse any remaining aspects-of-old down the drain as often as you choose throughout this new year.

Separately, alone, and together, we have created an infinite realm of potential experiences in our near future.  Like a symphony of endless choice, our desired journeys lie before us on this magnificent day.  I appreciate the chance to continue my visits with you, my dear friend, and I look forward to another fruitful year of true magic.

Be true to yourself, always:)  Love, Jillian

Heathen Spirit

It can be difficult to engage in a religious discussion without offending someone.  When I started this site, I deemed it possible to focus on the spiritual aspects of our personal human experience, while leaving the topic of religious affiliation out of the equation.  Assuming that we all started ‘somewhere’ in our spiritual training, what does it matter, really, if we prefer to bestow any particular label upon ourselves regarding our religion?

Then I started recording my thoughts here, and it occurred to me that I had quite a bit to share toward the subject of Catholicism.  Apparently, there is truth in that you write what you know.

Now that the topic of mainstream religions has been breached, I have decided to permit myself to expound upon my own experience with other ‘church’ related musings, and maybe take the heat off my Catholic colleagues for a spell:)

With a new decree to venture forth into relevant religious domains, one might be surprised to know that I regard many so-called “born-again” Christians I have met as some of my favorite people.  As a group in general, any friendly neighborhood witch may shudder at the prospect of having someone attempt to “save” thee, but a good witch honors the chosen path of all of her fellow human beings.

Entering relations among our beloved Jeezus People with an open mind facilitates the spirit of respectfulness toward our fellow planetary dwellers.  Besides, once you get to know a self-proclaimed bible-thumper personally, they are among the least judgmental and most forgiving individuals I know.

One of my first official counseling positions included facilitating a support group that was sponsored by a Baptist church.  This place was huge. The organization itself was so mammoth in membership, services, and bible-based programs that most people (affiliated with the church or not) commonly refer to this well-known conglomeration as “Baptist World.”

I was fresh and eager to please.  The pay rate was really generous, too.  These circumstances afforded me LOTS of wiggle room to embrace the obvious Word-of-God agenda without having to compromise most of my own spiritual principles.  My immediate supervisor was a dream, and the staff was genuinely friendly.  Every single person that I worked with was a kind-hearted soul who maintained an admirable quality of remaining completely unshaken when listening to the sordid tales of another.

This is the thing for them, you see.  This is their chosen vocation.  Sanctioned guidelines for those who are in the business of Saving Others are followed with impeccable resolve.  A genuine Baptist lovingly encourages others to reveal their truths, their sins, and their unfortunate experiences.  Nothing shocks them.  They are exceptional listeners who reserve all judgment, thus allowing the recipient to often feel as if some “weight” has been lifted from their shoulders.  The unconditional invitation to unload the distasteful details of one’s past affairs has a healthy and liberating quality for the lost soul.

This level of emotional release seemed more pleasant than I could ever remember when confessing my sins to a Catholic priest.  The Sacrament of Confession is a pivotal moment in every young Catholic girl’s career, when a fledgling witch can develop a certain respect for the significance of a sacred ritual.  I was not always clear on what my infractions should include when revealing sins to a robed priest, but I appreciated the reverent manner in which it transpired.

When the Catholic Church began to phase out the enclosed cubicle procedure, I was resistant.  Peering at the priest through a small rectangular metal grate was still available, but the institution of a kinder, gentler version of the Sacrament of Confession was gaining favor.  This new and improved method included a face-to-face option.  Directly confessing my sordid affairs to the same priest who would be invited to join us for dinner in our family home that afternoon had suddenly lost its appeal for me.

The seemingly casual “Come to Jesus” plan offered by a devout Baptist extended the common sinner with what felt like a more down-to-earth approach.  As an addictions counselor, I found this initial phase to be quite effective for many clients who were seeking a path to change.

Once a potential candidate for salvation is permitted to release their burdens within a comfortable atmosphere, a genuine Born-Again-in-Christ-Believer will welcome this opportunity to share their faith.  Hence begins Phase II, when most of us (whose origins do not lie within the Bible-Belt) will switch to ‘full-alert’ status.

This is the moment when a good witch resists the temptation to hold fast to her principles, and vows to just relax and listen.  It is the least one can do, really.  Detach your mind, remain open, and regard this portion of the program as an even exchange.  After all, this kind-hearted soul just stood willingly in front of you while smiling warmly and listening to all your shit.  It is only fitting that you would listen to theirs.

A true Baptist will really step up to the plate by providing an eerily fitting and highly illustrative bible verse to emulate your current situation.  During this segment of the program, one might be amazed at the rapidity in which an astute bible reader can accurately reference your recent disclosure to reflect some pertinent bible story.

The really Super Advanced Baptists can not only illuminate an admissible teaching from a bible verse for you, they are well-equipped to offer a highly personal testimonial right there on the spot, as well.  It is almost as if they were standing on the pulpit itself.   Exceedingly driven, they will present their deeply rooted understanding of their own experience in “seeing the light.”

A good Christian takes this Witnessing Phase very seriously.  I have found it best to simply admire the actual zeal in which they open their heart to a presumably vulnerable audience.

As such, it is with great respect that I appreciate the exchange up to this point.  When this person is someone that I know, trust, work with (and signs my paycheck), I am able to admire the honesty in their own personal convictions.  As a plus, there is an undeniable elevation in my own vibrational frequency when I allow myself to acknowledge this level of spiritual commitment.  If anything, a good witch can garner a mutual respect for the Baptist’s finely crafted art form.

Anything after that involves sustaining a comparable form of unwavering politeness.  The genuine Baptists that I have had the pleasure of knowing are so fabulous at their job, that it seemed a waste of time for me to remain offended.  Any self-respecting witch can glean the value in a program that serves to remind our fellow man of the message woven throughout the story of Jesus.


As a notable resident of planet earth, this Son of God offered mankind the Universal Truth that we are all Sons of the Light.  For what do the historical records indicate, really, if not that this man was a shining example of our own potential mastery in choosing the human experience?

Recognizing that Jesus was the Ultimate Witch does not bode well when spoken out loud to a practicing Christian.  One must be mindful to refrain from making this observation in the company of a colleague whose mission in life is to “save” another.

Mentioning that “I am the Son of God, also,” and how much “I appreciate the reminder that I am capable of delivering myself from evil” are proclamations that are better left unsaid.  Unless, of course, a witch may find herself in a mischievous mood, and is merely seeking some minor form of entertainment to pass the time…but such behavior is generally frowned upon when working in the spirit of Conscious-Self recognition.

When you are comfortable with Who You Are, it is not always necessary to inflict your understanding on other unsuspecting souls who are exactly where they want to be.  Preaching may be acceptable on their plane, but I have found it is not relevant to the agenda of a true witch.

Besides, when I consider the bigger picture, I will readily attest to the tremendous success rate maintained within the structured bible-based program that I was involved with.  Putting assumptions and judgment aside, any program that successfully targets a majority of the recovery-seeking population, and in the very least, provides a human being with the comfort of personal validation, is a testament to the Good Will of Mankind.  Just because I cannot envision myself on a pulpit does not prevent me from appreciating those who do.

As far as I am concerned, saving the occasional lost soul became a respectable profession the day they quit burning the rest of us at the stake.

Backyard Treasure

There is buried treasure right within your grasp.  I’m not kidding.  It is growing in abundance at this very moment, and the source from which it continues to accumulate is infinite.  The only thing that might be missing from this bounty is you.

What are these plentiful ‘riches’ that you have acquired?  And when will you allow yourselves to acknowledge the endless fortune that is yours?

Are you aware of this treasure?  And if you are, would you know how to claim it?!

The answer to these questions are woven in an old story that we have heard a million times, and perhaps in at least as many ways.  As a grown woman who has spent the majority of my life walking an appropriate line between what I thought was expected of me, and what I desired for myself, I can offer you a version of this tale that now rings true in maturity.  For those of you who may be reevaluating your past experience with selfishness, this is a story for you.

From the minute that we arrive on the planet, most of us are lovingly spoon-fed a belief in the Divine.  We are taught the Universal Truths of Goodness, and The Almighty Power of Eternal Love.  The acceptance that there is something ‘bigger’ at work in our human experience begins for most of us in childhood.  Whether we agree or reject the method of spiritual practice we were offered in our youth, there are many of us who acknowledge that a Higher Life Force exists.

Some of us pursue a deeper connection with the Almighty, while others may simply acknowledge that “there is a God.”   In any case, once we are aware of the separation between our particular religious instruction and the fundamental principle that Higher Power exists, we are able to maintain a certain level of respect and appreciation for this fundamental introduction.

We believe in Almighty Goodness and readily acknowledge this power through acts of kindness toward our fellow man.

Ah, so the story goes that there are unlimited ‘rewards’ that accumulate for us as we offer good wishes toward others.  Abiding by the Universal teaching that we should “love thy neighbor,” we pray for our loved ones, we offer good wishes for their health, and we act upon a desire to provide comfort and good intentions for the welfare of our fellow man.  We understand that our good ‘deeds’ fulfill a noble cause to build the coffers of our neighbor, so that their life may be blessed with the abundance of All-That-Is Good.

Meanwhile, the bounty that is available for us remains in some sacred vault that we are not awarded until some fabulous afterlife.

…As if it is acceptable to pray for and encourage the unlimited blessings of the Almighty for everyone else on earth but ourselves.  To impart this supernatural favor for ourselves is unthinkable.  And when we do think of it, it sounds embarrassingly suspicious and self-serving.


It seems that it is always so much easier to love thy neighbor.  Why would the natural instinct to love thyself be reserved for some ‘later date’ when we have completed our good deeds and wishes for others?

If you believe that The Almighty’s bounty of Unlimited Goodness is present right here on earth for your fellow man, what could be preventing you from claiming it for yourself?  Perhaps we have not yet learned to release the notion that it must be “earned.”

Suppose you enter the afterlife to discover this lovely ‘gift box’ with your name on it.  Won’t you feel silly when you realize that it was yours to enjoy the entire time you were living on earth?

“Ask and ye shall receive.”  No one deserves it more than you.  And if you don’t ask for yourself, you are not getting all that you are supposed to have.

I won’t tell anyone if you won’t:)

Keeping Up With Mrs. Jones

Nothing can take down a renewed sense of sovereignty faster than the opinion of your neighbor.  The long and winding highway of opinions carries heavy traffic both ways.  It seems that life becomes a hell of a lot easier when you get off the road completely.

What other people think of me is none of my business.  I had to say that to myself repeatedly for at least ten years before I actually believed it.  Until the day that I decided to change my thought patterns, I had made “what other people think of me” not only my business, but a career.  Considering, evaluating, and incorporating the opinion of others was pretty much my life’s work!

In retrospect, it would seem that this business of “what other people think” has always been a prevalent issue throughout my life.  Since I started writing this blog, I have visited the topic of influential thorns throughout two related posts titled, Don’t Tell Me What You Think and Still Not My Business.  My niece would remind me not to dwell on the past if I prefer not to repeat it.


On the other hand, it has been my experience that identifying the origin of a habitual thought pattern broadens understanding.  Knowing why you process things the way that you do is enlightening.  It becomes easier to forgive yourself, appreciate the experience that it gave you,  and move on.

Many features of Catholicism were pivotal in shaping my current approach to life.  Labeling these aspects in terms of their beneficial or detrimental effect on my life is pretty much old news.  However, it should at least be noted that after spending half of my life practicing Catholicism, I know the contents of a standard issue ‘Handbook on Judgment’ from cover-to-cover.

The uncanny ability to automatically judge others is the benchmark of Catholic proficiency.  As if on command, we can formulate an immediate opinion toward another human being.  Whether this opinion reflects the way that other people dress, eat, raise their kids, talk, behave, or how they practice their religion, almost every Catholic I know can make an instant judgment call upon any given observation.  Until we remember that we have a choice, it’s just what we do.

Universal wisdom reminds us that “What ye sends out comes back to thee.”  Is it any wonder that sitting in judgment toward our fellow human beings subjects us to the perceptual arena of constantly being judged upon?

I figure that I do enough judging within myself.

Having to consider the perceived opinions of others just adds to the traffic that I already have racing around in my head.  A good witch need only compare herself to herself, and would be wise to stay off of the Judgment Highway altogether.

No Play Makes Jill A Dull Girl

Seemingly random events appear within my line of vision that will always snap my perspective on this life right back to its purposeful place.

Deadlines are looming, time feels crunched, and too many people in my life are pulling my attention toward their discontent.  I am sitting in my car while parked in the lot of the grocery store.  It is nine-thousand degrees outside, there is ice cream in the freezer bag that cannot possibly survive another minute in the trunk, and I am recovering from an unexpected crying spell that struck me in the check-out line when I noticed all the Father’s Day merchandise everywhere and realized that my dad is not here any more.

I dismiss the temptation to gauge my current circumstances against a broader spectrum of possibilities.  Comparison to the experience of others, or the popular tendency to invite scenarios that “could be worse” has only proved to lead me down a distracting path of judgment in the past.  I cannot live in my moments, or take full responsibility for the directional flow of my own experiences, if I am too busy weighing an opinion of myself with others.

I lift my head from its resting place on top of my hands upon the steering wheel, put the car in reverse, and look out the back window to leave.  While scanning the vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the parking lot, I see a man to my right as he is exiting the store.  I estimate his age to be somewhere in the vicinity of “retired.”

Pushing his shopping cart full of loaded grocery bags, he looks both ways before crossing the main thruway that runs in front of the large shopping center.  Grasping the shopping cart’s handle with both hands, he uses one swift and fluid motion to nudge the cart forward, take an elongated step as it begins to move, and lift one foot after the other to stand atop the cart’s back rail.  He is smiling broadly at no one in particular as he rides his cart downhill toward the parking lot.

Because life should always be this damn good, I am now smiling with him:)

Classic Rock Sunset

Normally, I love this time of the evening.  It is my highly anticipated relaxation time on the front porch after a long and busy day.  I make a tall glass of iced tea, light a cigarette, and take in the scenery.  The air begins to cool ever so slightly, and rays from the setting sun slice through the pine trees in the front yard.   All is well, and would be oh-so-perfect with the world right now, if only my next door neighbor was not so in love with his damn outdoor speakers.

I enjoy listening to the classic rock station just as much as the next guy.  I advocate an individual right to listen to whatever style of music moves a person, and whatever brings an individual the most pleasure in the moment.  I’d just prefer not to be subjected to it (this loudly) while I’m sitting on my own front porch.  C’mon.

I would not begrudge my good neighbor the desire to enjoy his new sound system.  He is a family man who works in the field of law enforcement.  Along with a few of our other neighbors, I hold a great respect for the service that he and his comrades provide.

They are out in the world, every day, keeping us safe from the bad guys.  Durwood and I are always eager to express our appreciation to all of them, and we feel fortunate to live in a neighborhood where so many of our county deputies make their home.  Living in a sparsely populated area that is far removed from any nearby town has been most relaxing for us.  We enjoy a peaceful sense of comfort, knowing that practically every other one of our neighbors is well equipped with highly trained eyes and ears.  This could only be a downfall if I should ever decide to cultivate some marijuana seeds in my herb garden.

Durwood has mentioned the excessive volume level to our neighbor during a few recent man-to-man, over-the-fence, how-goes-it-buddy conversations.  It would seem, however, that our dear neighbor has once again forgotten his apologetic assurance that he would consider his fellow residents in regards to the length and volume of his outdoor entertainment habits.  Mutual respect would seem to have fallen by the wayside.  Surely he cannot possibly even HEAR the music any longer himself, now that he is at least 600 yards away at the end of his driveway, while operating a gas-powered weed eater?!?

Durwood walks out of the front door with a coffee cup in his hand.  He would have to be deaf to NOT hear the loud music blasting directly toward our front porch.  He turns in my direction, and with a furrowed brow, he shuts his eyes tightly.

“Can’t you do something about that?” he asks.

“Like what?” I want to know.  (I know exactly what he means, but I’m going to make him say it.)

“You know,” he continues. “Like a spell or something?”

“A spell to do what, exactly?” I reply.  (Now I’m just being difficult.)

“I’m thinking a pair of broken speakers would be sufficient,” Durwood is quick to reply.

“I don’t do that kind of work,” I remind him.

“I’ve actually considered sneaking over there one night to break them myself.”  He ignores me,  and mentions this idea to no one in particular.

“Sure,” I think to myself.  Mr. Classic Rock is a S.W.A.T. member and his wife is a detective with the Sheriff’s Department.  They have a healthy arsenal of weaponry just inside their mudroom.  Durwood built the cabinetry that stores their occupational equipment himself.   Creeping around outside their home in the middle of the night sounds like an insidiously brilliant plan.

“You could just talk to him again,” I suggest.

“Or you could just stop being such a good witch,” Durwood counters.  “Maybe send one of your bird friends over there to build a nest in the stereo wiring or something.”

This assumption provides me with an opportunity to repeat the wisdom found within the words of the Wiccan Rede:

“Ever mind the rule of three.  What ye send out comes back to thee.”

Just to emphasize the notion of reciprocal actions, I always told my kids that karma would define the number as being equivalent to more than ten times, instead of three.  (I picked up this exaggeration habit from my mother.  It always seemed to instill a critical air of importance to lessons that I wanted my children to remember.)

A similar warning to Durwood might have been in order, had I not realized that he was already on his way down the driveway and headed toward the fence, to have what I hope is another friendly chat with our neighborhood S.W.A.T. team captain.

Unnecessary witchcraft will not be entertained this lovely and fair evening.  Unless, of course, one of my bird friends has been eavesdropping…:)

Grab Your Pointy Hat

DSC07409Attractive as the striped stockings and trendy ankle boots may be, the most appealing aspect of practicing your own witchcraft is the ever-expanding connection to Source energy.  Exploring the depths of your heart in order to reconnect with the Divine power that exists within each of us is a unique and individual journey of choice.  Whether you approach this endeavor with the company of others, in solitary, or not at all, is a conscious decision.  Regardless of how you define your level of connection to Divine energy, we are all magical beings.  The pointy hat is always optional.

Life is magic.  The essence of magic is simply the natural state of energy movement that creates change in your life.   By opening your heart and descending into the Source of your own energy, the memory of your true purpose unfolds and you rediscover who you are.  You remember that you are the deliberate creator of your own life experience.

It is the heart of our being that follows the pull of magic, and directs the movement of energy to bring that which you desire into your experience.  Defining the properties of manifestation cannot be explained, as there are no adequate words available in the realm of the heart.  It just happens.  That’s why we call it magic:)

Once you experience the creation of your own magic, the awareness of its essence, even in ordinary things, provides a sense of wonder and satisfaction in life.  You begin seeing connections between what you think, how you feel, and what is happening around you.  It seems as if you open your eyes to what you are creating for yourself, and your natural connection to Source expands.

The unmistakable aura that beams forth from one who has rediscovered the nature of their true essence is a lovely sight to behold.  I still smile when I recall an exchange that I had with one of the moms that I had the pleasure of knowing during my PTA years.  Sylvia was a gentle and kind soul, who preferred to avoid the cutthroat business of fund-raising and planning that seemed to define the bitchy character of many of the PTA board members of the time.  I admired her.

We had planned a school carnival, and I thought that it would be refreshing to offer some local fare, in addition to the routine hot dog, snow cone, and popcorn stands.  Since Sylvia’s sister Rosa lived two doors down from us at the time, I knew that Sylvia’s mom made tamales for their family on occasion.  I asked Sylvia if she would be willing to make tamales to sell at the school carnival.  Sylvia was hesitant, but thought that perhaps with the help of her sister Rosa, the three Alvarez women could prepare a sufficient amount to serve.

It had been quite the undertaking.  Sylvia reported that her mother had never prepared such a large amount of tamales at one time, and she and Rosa had not participated in the actual preparation of ingredients before.  The day before the carnival, Sylvia had become overwhelmed with the responsibility of providing tamales for public consumption.  Her mom and Rosa were ready to bow out completely.  Sylvia had to take over.

I was so busy myself on the morning of carnival day, I barely noticed when Sylvia had arrived with her large warming trays packed full of tamales.  What I did notice later, were the hoards of people gathered around her tamale stand.  There were carnival-goers eagerly waiting in line, smiling people carrying stacks of tamale filled containers away, and others standing off to the side eating tamales right off the plate that they were holding.  The tamales were the highlight of the carnival.  Sylvia was beaming.

When I finally had a chance to talk with her later, Sylvia relayed her experience.  In the midst of the anxiety she was feeling the day before, she stepped outside, sat on the front step for a moment, and took several deep breaths.

With a knowing smile, she said, “I closed my eyes, and shifted my intention.”

When she went back inside, she completed the preparation of all the ingredients.  Then she proceeded to fill, wrap, and stack hundreds of tamales.  Throughout the entire process, she said that she thought of nothing else but the love that she was putting in to each and every one that she made.

What an exquisite expression of energy movement from the heart.  And she didn’t even wear a pointy hat.

Small Town-opoly

DSC07332Helga recently reminded me of the day when I officially removed my token from the Community Gossip board game.  One of our monthly PTA leadership meetings had just adjourned, and the two of us were exiting the conference room to head toward the front office.  We needed to log in our volunteer hours.  Helga and I walked side-by-side as we snaked our way around multiple single-file rivers of children.  Parading streams of students were being led through the school’s main corridor by a teacher holding a clip board.  It was lunch hour, and the shuffle of classes moving to and from the cafeteria was in full swing.  A sporadic symphony of small voices sprang forth from the tributaries of children that were flowing past us.

“Good morning, Mrs. Bean.  Good morning, Mrs. Dodge.”

Southern-bred offspring are well versed in their traditional greeting etiquette.  Most of these kids knew us in our homes as “Miss Jill” and “Miss Helga,” but it appeared that there was an amendment to this constitution that required children to use a formal address of “Mrs. Last Name” when aforementioned adult is met within an official educational environment.

As a former Yankee who had spent the majority of my life in and around a large metropolitan area, most of these traditional regulations were baffling to me.  One aspect of this new environment was familiar.  The procedure by which these rules were presented was much like the method used by the family dynasty in which I was raised.  Unspoken and expected to be understood, it is commonly known as the This-Is-The-Way-We-Do-Things Policy.  It reads something like this:

“If you want to be a part of our group, then you have to do things our way.  If you refuse to comply, or if you are a slow-learner, there will be no forgiveness, and your membership will be revoked.  In this event, you will be required to relinquish any welcoming gifts that we may have initially bestowed upon you, as we do not tolerate any instances in which you may be mistakenly identified as one of us.  In addition, we reserve the right to talk about you, and whisper criticisms amongst ourselves in your presence, once you have been deemed unworthy to join our group.”  I knew the drill.

In the few years since Durwood and I had become active participants in our interrelated PTA and Little League communities, I was getting the hang of most of the expected Southern Manners and Hospitality rules.  It was regarding the Small Town Personal Information Disclosure and Privilege Game in which I appeared to be in the slow-learner category.

Who knew what about who, that was not supposed to know what they knew about another, are supposed to tell you what they think about it, but only if you did not hear it from them, so that you will keep that in mind if you talk to another, or someone who already knows about it, but is not supposed to know.  It was mind-boggling.

I was the newly elected PTA vice-president, serving on a board full of life-long residents whose families have resided here for over a hundred years.  They had been playing a sanctioned game that I did not understand.  I was thirty-some years old, but I felt like the new kid in their high school.

Thankfully, I do not remember the specific details involved with the infraction I had committed during this particular PTA meeting.  Whatever I had said, not said, did, or did not do, had ruffled enough feathers to effectively rescind my invitation to become a member of this exclusive club.

Helga may have been a life-long resident in the community, but she was also my friend.  When the two of us finally arrived at the entrance to the school’s office, she placed her hand upon my shoulder to prevent me from continuing through the door.  With a most sincere expression, Helga confirmed my assessment of the current situation.

“I’m really sorry,” she said.  She lowered her voice, leaned her head toward mine, and spoke to me through her eyebrows. “It would appear that some of us believe that we are still in high school.”

“Or kindergarten,” I thought to myself.

As is typical of my approach to most things, I lack the patience and concern for preparatory instructions.  I have always preferred the ‘jumping in’ tactic over the ‘look-before-you-leap’ philosophy.  Any time that the Bean family has acquired a new board or card game, I limit my procedural review to the fundamentals of “getting started.”  My interest lies only in initial directives.  These may include how many cards to distribute, how to set up the game board and pieces, choosing a token, where to place it, or how to determine who rolls the dice first.  I will then hand the directions to someone else (usually Natalie), and start playing until I need to ask, “Now what?” (in which case, Natalie will have read the pertinent information by then).

Durwood, on the other hand, will insist on reading all of the directions before any participating family member is allowed to touch tokens, cards, or any other accompanying provisions that are included in a newly acquired game.  Once the appropriate set-up has been completed (according to the instructions that Durwood has read first to himself, and then out loud for the rest of us at least a dozen times), he will not validate any attempts at score-keeping until we have played at least one or two practice rounds.   Official play will be allowed to commence after we have exhibited some level of competence and understanding of the game that we are playing.

Had I followed Durwood’s procedure before officially placing my token on the Small Town PTA board game, I may have avoided many of the uncomfortable and confusing situations that I found myself to be in during those first few years of attempting to become an active member in our new community.

Helga, who remains a genuine friend of mine to this day, recalls this one particular PTA meeting as the dawning of her acute awareness of the ongoing game being played among the life-long members of our small town.  Her position on the game board has fluctuated over the years, as she has managed to control the nature of her contributed moves.  She is still looking for a way to get off the board completely, but short of moving out of town, this option remains unavailable to her.DSC07340

Unlike Helga, I have had the option to remove my token from the Small Town Gossip game board and still remain a productive resident of my community.  My experience has provided me with a comprehensive and insightful education on how to enjoy my environment, enhance the lives of my children (who technically, are considered life-long residents!), and remain active WITHOUT having to participate in any silly games.

This particular region of the United States has experienced incredible growth since Durwood and I first moved here over twenty years ago.  Although we have moved in and out of several residences throughout those twenty years, we have remained in and around the Small Town that we call home.  Resistance to change and ‘newcomers’ appears to have relaxed considerably, but some traditional Small Town behavior remains intact.

“Looking out for your neighbor” is a valuable asset to living in any community.  Life-long residents of Small Town practice this time-honored tradition through various forms of communication.   When someone asks you “how things are going?” it is always advisable to consider the nature of the inquirer.  After twenty years of trial and error, it becomes easier to ascertain the difference between one who has genuine interest in your situation, or one who requires useful information to hold in trust (should the occasion arise when they will need to re-establish their ranking among the social network by disclosing your information to someone else).

DSC07333When information extraction techniques are unavailable through direct communication, there is the time-honored practice of driving through town until you ‘see’ useful information to gather.  Since Durwood and I have lived in what is considered the ‘outskirts’ of town for the past 4 years, I witness the execution of this particular method on a daily basis.  Every time that I end up traveling behind a camouflage adorned pick-up truck being driven by a baseball-capped driver, I can expect to drive at least five to ten miles under the speed limit.  This seems to be the appropriate speed necessary in order to give the driver enough time to turn their head and assess the current status of every residential property that we pass.  In the event that some poorly placed trees, bushes, or front gates might obstruct the comprehensive inventory of said property, I can expect to slow down another ten miles or so (if not come to a complete stop) in order for the driver in front of me to obtain a clearer view.  It is a tedious job, but thank the gods that someone is still doing it.

I love where I live.  I love our house and I love our property.  The schools are outstanding and the opportunities are plentiful.  There are good people here ( like Helga!) and our children enjoy a bounty of friends and experiences.  Now that my little sister Evie lives here with her family, life in Small Town is even more rewarding and fun.  Since Helga reminded me of the way things were when Durwood and I first arrived here, I realize that there are many things that will never change.  What a comfort to know that we can.

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