Tribute to an Acquaintance

Motorcycle Details

I met Terese on Thursday, November 8, 2012, at a Music On Maxwell event at sundance gallery in Greenwood, SC.  I was there to sell calendars for our local humane society, where I am the director.

I had gotten to the studio early to set up my table and was feeling kind of anxious.  I’m okay going to certain events by myself, but my preference is to have a companion or cohort.   Having someone I know — no matter how little or how well — helps me feel secure.   I scanned the faces of the  people as they filed in to the venue and was surprised that I recognized so few.  Sure, I saw a few notable local citizens, but I didn’t know them well enough to cling to them for company.

I silently sat at my table and smiled as people passed by.  Shortly before the first band was to start playing, a tall, older woman wearing a fashionable hippie-ish outfit walked to the tables and saddled up behind the one next to mine.  Once she was settled she introduced herself and asked what I was there to promote.  I told her I was peddling calendars to benefit the humane society.  She informed me that she came to all of the Music On Maxwell events to sell merchandise on behalf of the bands that are performing.  She enjoyed the music and being around fellow music lovers.

As with most people I meet I told her that she looked familiar, and we tried to connect the dots rattling off names of different family members, friends, and co-workers’ in a futile exercise of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”  At game’s end there was only a couple of people that we both knew.  Still, there was a familiarity about her.  Her smile was disarming and the cadence of her Southern accent melodic.  (Did I mention that I had already drank two beers?)  I felt instantly comfortable around Terese, this new acquaintance, and no longer like I was there by myself.

Months went by, it was early summer.  I noticed that my neighbor was rarely leaving the house and, because we had shared a rocky relationship for four-plus years due to my barking dogs, I was hesitant to visit his house, even if to check on his well-being.  I had noticed, however, a blue car parked in the driveway from time to time, so I felt relief that someone was making sure he was okay.

I was mowing the grass one afternoon and noticed the blue car pull up next door.  I spied a look to find out who the mysterious visitor with the blue car would be.  It was Terese!  I hadn’t seen her since that night in November and, although we didn’t form any kind of close friendship, I thought, “Oh wow!  It’s that cool lady!”

I stopped the lawn mower and ran to catch up with her as she walked toward my neighbor’s front door.  I sped across the yard and thought, “Good lord, she’s fast!”  I finally caught up just as she was going inside the house.  I heard her announce her arrival to my neighbor in a loud voice, “ROCK AND ROLL!”  (She’s so cool!)

She walked into the house and I followed behind stopping in the doorway, afraid of startling them both, and sheepishly said, “Hello?  Hellooo?”  She turned around with a surprised look. I explained that I was a neighbor and wanted to make sure he was okay.  We talked for a while and then I reminded her that we had met the previous year at one of the music events and, well … she didn’t remember me.

I thanked her for her time and jettisoned back to my yard.

The next and last time I saw Terese was a month later.  She came to visit my neighbor and brought along “Rory,” her Scottish Terrier,   I actually had never seen a Scotty in person and was surprised by how big he was.  We talked a while about him and other Scotties she had once had.  She seemed to have a hard time keeping her balance while Rory was tugging on his leash wanting to visit with my dogs.  She told me she had just had a medical procedure and it was difficult for her to get around.  I thought how wonderful she still managed to check in on my neighbor, her friend.  (She just gets cooler every time we meet.)

Last week I learned that Terese had died. — and in true rock n’ roll fashion doing what she loved.  She was at sundance gallery getting ready for another Music On Maxwell event and collapsed.  There wasn’t anything that could be done and she passed away quietly at the hospital.

Those who knew her better than I did can share stories of much greater interest about her life.   But I wanted to share about her spirit.  How she — a person whose energy was fun, contagious, and so alive — had a long-lasting and unforgettable effect on me.  Just being true to who she was, and exuding complete authenticity, spoke to me like as loud as any church sermon.

I cried when I learned of her death.  I found out her friends had decided that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations should be made to the humane society where I work.  I cried even more.

I didn’t know Terese well, but I knew her well enough that I will never forget her.  She was just so damn cool.

Our Animal Heroes

Animal Hero“Love of animals is a universal impulse, a common ground on which all of us may meet. By loving and understanding animals, perhaps we humans shall come to understand each other.”
— Louis J. Camuti

My cat, Teresa, was put to sleep yesterday.  I posted her photograph and brief story on Facebook.  I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have posted comments offering sympathetic words of comfort for me and to offer tribute to Teresa.  Over 100 people, in fact, have responded so far.  I’ve posted notices of other pets I’ve lost, but none have garnered the reaction that she has.  Why is that?

As I read through the comments I noticed a common thread developing as people were responding to her story and applauding her sacrifice and selflessness.  Some even called her a “rescuer.”  People who weren’t event “cat people” seemed moved by her passing.

You see, Teresa was brought to the local animal shelter in 2004 with her litter of five kittens.  Shortly thereafter another litter of five were brought in, but without their mother.  Too young to be on their own, and shelter staff wanting to save their lives, the five were put in with Teresa and her litter to see if she could nurse all ten — a daunting responsibility.

Teresa — who actually came to the shelter nameless and was later named after Mother Teresa — would literally cry out in pain while nursing the kittens who fed throughout the day and night in shifts.  She persevered through the discomfort offering the same unconditional love for all ten.

Perhaps that’s what has touched people — the illustration of unconditional love and a wanting to know that we’re protected from the storms of life, like Teresa protected those kittens.  In this day and age when the media reports every bad thing that can be found, it’s a sighing relief to read about a cat that had enough love in her heart to help kittens that weren’t her own.  Reports about terrorism, government shutdowns, child molesters and worse have ruled the headlines for too long.  Let’s talk about what’s right in the world, even it means starting with a heartwarming tale about a cat.

Maybe our animal friends can remind us humans about what’s important — that we’re all connected.  We need to play more, laugh more, and love more.  We shouldn’t be competing against one another, we should be helping each other.  Teresa knew that instinctively and deep down inside, so do we.


This Story Was Inspired By True Events


This was Saturday’s Abraham-Hicks’ Daily Quote:

“If you believe that you must work hard in order to deserve the money that comes to you, then money cannot come to you unless you do work hard. Financial success, or any other kind of success, does not require hard work. It does require alignment of thought. You simply cannot offer negative thought about things that you desire and then make up for it with action or hard work. When you learn to direct your own thoughts, you will discover the true leverage of Energy alignment.”

I’ve been studying the Law of Attraction and the teachings of Abraham-Hicks since 2008, shortly after I had been introduced to Rhonda Byrne’s wildly popular book, The Secret.  After 20 years of studying Jesus’ teachings from the Bible, learning the Law of Attraction explained to me in intellectual terms what faith and believing were and how to make them work.  “Ask and you shall receive” (Luke 11:10) came alive for me.

Immediately upon reading the Abraham-Hicks’ quote I was reminded of a snippet from the movie of “The Secret” that has always stuck in my mind.   The man’s voice is funny to me and he comes across sort of comical, but what he said about “receiving checks in the mail” played loud and clear in my head after reading the above quote.

So I said to myself, “Okay.  I’m going to receive a check in the mail today!”  Now I had no idea how that was going to happen, why it would happen, or from whom it would come, but according to all the teachings those are questions I don’t need to answer.  I just have to believe that I have received.

I went about my day and even saw the postal carrier pull up, but I had already forgotten my claim that he would be the bearer of much moolah.

Later in the afternoon I remembered that “I was going to receive a check in the mail” and said out loud (to the cats), “Oh yeah!  I need to go get my check outta the mailbox.”   And, true to my modus operandi, I got distracted and forgot.

About 6:00p I took some items to my car, remembered my claim, and said to myself, “I’ve got to get my check!”  I bound up the stairs of my front porch, stuck my hand in the mailbox, and felt one envelope.  I pulled it out and … it was a check.  I kid you not.  I said for the whole world to hear — okay, my neighbors — “No ***ing way!!”

Way.  Inside the envelope was a check for an insurance claim I forgot I had filed.  (We’ll save that little accident story for another time.)  I was stunned from shock and joy and the realization that, “Ask and you shall receive,” is real.  Really real, folks.  I sported a wide ass grin the rest of the day and night … and am even grinning now.

So I’m openly declaring that I always get checks in the mail!  Laugh at me if you will, but I will be the one laughing last and grinning widely.

Alone But Not Lonely


“I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” – Henry David Thoreau

Me too, Henry.  Or can I call you “Hank?”

In fact, I love to be alone.  Listening to music, watching TV, surfing the internet, working in the yard, playing with my dogs, laughing at my cats, photographing bugs on flowers, reading a book … these are all pleasures that help me stay centered and relaxed.  I don’t have to worry that I’ve said something offensive to anyone or disappointed someone because I didn’t behave in a manner that was expected.  I like being alone because I don’t have to be “on.”  I like being me and that’s easiest to do with … me.

I’m not a complete hermit.  I do like to be around people but I’m more of a social sprinter.  I like my time with others to be in short spurts then I can scurry off to be alone and recharge.  I envy those people who effortlessly float through social events exchanging witty repartee and genuinely enjoying themselves.  How do they do that?  I drink as much as they do.  I struggle to make it through many conversations and as I listen to myself in the struggle I think, “What the hell are you saying?”  And judging by the expression on the faces of my listeners it appears that they have the same question.

Writing is my preferred method of communication.  I don’t know what kind of synapse misfire goes on in my brain when I’m speaking but too many of my sentences just don’t make any damn sense.  I’m notorious for attempting to use a metaphor to make a point and start with the right beginning, then forget the part of the metaphor that makes the point, like forgetting the punchline of a joke.  (Remember, I hate jokes.)

“Well you know … ‘Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day.  Teach a man to fish and … (awkward silence as my mind searches my cerebral files for the words) … he’ll need to get some … bait?'”

Another phobic cause for my avoidance of all things social is that I tend to attract that one person whose idea of a conversation is a non-stop monologue.  What in the world is the psychiatric diagnosis for that condition?   “Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah … blah-blah-blah … blaaaaah.”  Oh my God!  I feel like my feet are stuck in quicksand and no matter how much I try to end their conversation and make my escape, I’m actually wriggling myself deeper in the muck and mire of their verbal diarrhea.  “SHUT THE **** UP!!!” is usually the loop playing inside my head as I feign interest in and attention to what the person is saying.  When they finally stop — usually because I fake the onset of a medical emergency — it’s like the clouds part, the angels sing, and I realize that I am free at last.

So I’m sitting here in my living room, listening to Pandora play the songs I like, smiling at the cat lying across my leg, and I’m completely content.  What shall I do next?  Maybe I’ll read some Henry David Thoreau.  He’s a hoot.

This one time … in band camp

Humor — nectar of the gods.  How boring would life be without regular guffaws, snickers, and tee-hees?  It would be a horrible wasteland of the blase and I dare say I would not want to be a part of it.  (Dare say!)  Humor can heal, break the ice, and certainly make you a hit at parties.

I grew up on the TV comedy stylings of Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Tom Hanks in “Bosom Buddies,” and Robin Williams in “Mork and Mindy.”  The stand-up comedians I listened to over and over were Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Cheech & Chong.  (Yes, I grew up in the 1970s, the decade sandwiched between the hippies and yuppies.  We were a confused generation as we were not labeled with a cute word ending in “ppies.”)  I didn’t learn to appreciate the genius of their comedy until I was older.  I just knew that, as a kid, they made me laugh out loud.  (Ooh!  Remind me to touch on “LOL” later.)

NOTE:  Why is it that as a kid you could watch the same movie or TV show like a hundred times and still think it’s was as funny or as great as the first time you saw it?  We wore out our Betamax copy of “Caddyshack.”

Dry and ironic humors are my faves, but I can also enjoy occasional slapstick now and again.  (I’m a HUGE fan of British humor.)  I especially love, love, love comedy that’s so smart it takes a second or two to “get it.”  Then I’m like, “DOH!  Score one for you, dude!”  What I particularly don’t like is cornball humor.  Puns can be cornball, but if delivered with the correct air of dryness can also be funny.

I don’t do jokes.  I can’t tell them.  I don’t want to hear them.  They’re usually corny.  I am just not a joke person.  I know that stand-up comedians deliver “jokes,” but they’re told as if the comedian is making them up right there on stage.  (It’s called “magic.”)  I don’t like jokes because there’s so much pressure!  What if I don’t get it?  What if it’s told wrong and then I have to feel sorry for the teller?  What if it’s just a stupid joke and I have to feign laughter?  There’s just too much damn emotional commitment with a joke.  I’m breaking into a sweat just thinking about it.

I do like storytelling humor, like Kathy Griffin’s.  She definitely pushes the limit … and I like that.  Amy Schumer is totally on the fringes of decency and has a killer delivery.  One of my favorite storyteller comedians, or comediennes, is Kathleen Madigan.  Her humor is so dry it’s arid.  You’ll need to rehydrate after watching one of her shows.  If you get Neflix, you need to stream her new stand-up special.  If you’re a joke-telling humorist, move on.

Adding four-lettered language to jokes doesn’t always make them funny.  The gratuitous F-bomb can fall flat, so be aware.  The properly placed “word enhancers,” what SpongeBob and Patrick call cuss words, can enhance a joke’s effect if delivered correctly.  Just don’t overuse them because then … you just sound like a sailor.

Limericks are fun.

Okay.  “LOL.”  I think too many people are using it incorrectly.  Isn’t it supposed to be a response to something someone else wrote to let them know you’re laughing out loud?  But what I see instead are people using it in their own writings implying they think what they wrote is funny.  It’s like saying, “Aren’t I funny as hell?  (This is your cue to laugh.)”  But that’s all wrong.  It’s kind of presumptuous, if you ask me, and a BIG comedy mistake.  Key to good comedy is not laughing at your own humor.  Straight-faced and unaffected is the best way to go.  It takes practice, but you can do it.

I will end with a form of comedy used by my family and most of my friends … sarcasm.  I’m not referring to sarcasm as a means of hurting people or bringing down nations.  I’m talking about the kind of wit that is delivered dry and followed with an implied wink.  It’s also known as ironic humor, such as:  “I know that there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!.” (Tom Lehrer)  Did that hurt your feelings?  If so, then you don’t understand sarcastic wit.  And that’s okay.  You probably don’t get “Far Side” either.  That’s not okay.  [implied *wink* inserted here].  LOL.


There’s Not Enough Time In Life To Be Perfect


Being a perfectionist ain’t fun.  It’s stressful, alienating, and basically a big ol’ buzzkill.  And more than likely one of the reasons I drink wine.

Check out Wikipedia’s definition about the whimsy that is perfectionism:  “Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.”  Now don’t everyone run out and befriend a perfectionist all at once!

Some people were born with personalities bent toward perfectionism and some developed the need because as children they were told they weren’t “good enough” or for whatever reason believed that.  So those folks live with a sense of being perpetual failures and believe that being perfect will fix that.

The thing is … it’s impossible to be perfect.  It just is.  So why would anyone lock in on the notion that perfectionism is a solution?  Well, we probably didn’t consciously.  It just happens, like any addiction that develops slowly and then – you’re hooked.  (C’mon … give it a try.  Just one time.)  Most people don’t consciously think, “I must do anything and everything I can to be perfect and step on those who are in my way of me being perfect and give up enjoying my life to be perfect.  Yay, me.”   What really happens is that there’s an internal mantra that plays over and over and over inside of us that drives everything we think, do, and say down the road futilely racing toward perfection.  Guess what.  The road never ends.

Needing to be perfect has many times messed up my ability to make decisions or step out to try new things because “if I can’t do it perfectly, I’d rather not do it at all!  Dammit.”  Don’t get me wrong, I make quick decisions most of the time.  Just ask my optometrist.  No one is quicker than me at picking “which one looks better:  One or two?  Three or four?”  But launching new projects is not a strength of mine because there are unknowns, which can lead to … that’s right, mistakes.  Oh my God, noooooo!!!

Am I cursed to live with this disease for the rest of my life?  Will I forever be looking at things with an auditor’s eye?  No.  I have taken the first step, which is admitting I have a problem.  I have acknowledged and accepted that perfectionism isn’t a good thing.  (I used to think it was.  It made me feel superior.)  It’s certainly a positive trait to want to do things well, but it’s equally important to end striving for perfection and, thus, end the misery and exhaustion.  Perfectionists can take forever to finish anything because we’re always seeing ways to improve.  It’s never ending, unless we make the conscious choice to end it.

Dr. Brene Brown is one of my new favorite self-help authors who I first discovered on TED Talks.  (video below)  I’ve been reading her book The Gifts of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed To Be and Embrace Who You Are.  In it she offers great insights to why people are perfectionists and how to break the cycle so that we can live free and happy lives.  Imagine learning to embrace mistakes and choosing to learn from them instead of being shamed by them.  Mistakes are the best teachers.

Also imagine how your choice to live free of perfectionism will affect those around you.  The proverbial eggshells will be swept away and, as you allow yourself to be you, they will feel freer to be them.  Just be you – warts and all.   To quote a lyric from singer/songwriter Jessie J, “It’s okay not to be okay.”  Okay?

Love, Josie