Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Some of My Best Friends are Labs

"I Never Met a Lab I didn't Like."

-Spencer Ives,Family Dog Extraordinaire

My Name is Spencer

I am a Vizsla.

But some of my best friends are Labs

(Labrador Retrievers, that is.)

They're a different breed than I am.

Just look at us--

You'll see.

But we're more alike than different--

On that we both agree.

We both adore to wrestle

We love to fetch a stick!

We love to love our families.

We love to learn new tricks!

Each Lab's an individual.

Each Lab's a unique dude.

Each has a special love to give

Just like Vizslas,

And like YOU!

Some Labradors are shiny black

And some are sunshine yellow-

They even come in chocolate- brown

Some are frisky,

Some are mellow.

In fact, I never met a Labrador I didn't like.

I look for them each time I hike.

When I get home,

I look no more--

Since Chloe and Charlie live right next door.

And Yellow Labradors are such fun,

They run and run, and run, and run.

Charlie digs out from his fence

And comes to visit me.

He looks both ways when crossing

He's as careful as can be.

And then we're off to having fun

I'm teaching him to be

A dog who likes to point and chase

All of the birds He sees.

I wag goodbye to Charlie

When I go "Down the shore."

That's where I've got

My good friend Jake.

We swim and run some more.

Now Jakie looks like chocolate

And He smells just as sweet.

I tell you this a nicer Lab

You'll never, ever meet.

Jakie's got experience, so

He's teaching ME to be

A Vizsla to be proud of--

I hope that's clear to see.

And when it snows, I go to Vermont

Out there it's really cold

So Mom puts on my special coat-

It's red and green and gold.

We visit the Farm at Cobble Hill.

Aunt Peggy welcomes us there.

That's where her good Friend Theo

Introduced me to a mare!

In the barn and on the fields

He taught me to behave

I'm sad when it comes time to go

I wish that I could stay.

But then I'd never get to see

The other Labs I know.

I'd miss our Sunday visits

To the dog park where we go.

The black ones

Yellow ones

And the brown ones

All would miss me so.

And during the week I'd really miss

My trots along the trail,

Where Mom and I

We like to hike

Up over hill and dale.

And at the end

There is a place

Where Labradors convene,

To chase a ball and

And dive spread-eagle

Right into the stream.

Now I can't swim as well as them,

But when I'm done

I'm beat.

Mom towels me off,

And I jump straight

Into the car's front seat.

When we get home

I know that soon

My family will show--

By bus and car

I can't stand still,

They know I love them so.

Then they arrive!

I wag and wag!

A "Vizsla Dance" I do!

I love to play with Labradors

But I love people too.

They throw me balls

They give me rubs

They feed and water me.

They help me to meet Labradors

I'm Grateful as can be.

And when at times they're feeling blue

I make sure that I'm near

I'll nuzzle close

And snuggle in

And lick away each tear.

This makes them feel much better.

It makes me feel good too.

It makes their hearts all warm inside

And that's the doggone truth!

We're blessed to have each other.

And we acknowledge this.

There's not a day that passes

Without a Vizsla Kiss!

And when the dog day's ended,

I'll curl up by some feet,

And dream about

The Labs I'll meet

When I walk down the street.

Dedicated to Spencer, Who really knew how to "Spread the Love Around", and of course to all of the Labs He knew……….

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I love driving through unfamiliar territory.
There are always lots of interesting things to see, and on the radio, to hear. Recently I heard a particularly thought-provoking comentary.
The DJ was recounting the joys her garden was producing;
crisp and stalk-y broccoli,
an abundant crop, of strangely beautiful, asymmetrical steak-y tomatoes,
a plethora of peas enveloped in pods, bearing curling tendrils reminiscent of Jack's Beanstalk. And she was taking great care in sharing the bounty with her "people" and especially the youngest of her "people",
teaching them how to harvest,
their arms overflowing cornucopias.

Together then, they reverently place them in baskets and bags,
marveling at what delicious, and varied fruits and vegetables God can create,
as she put it,
from Dirt, alone.

What comes to mind for me at that moment, as I drive serenely along, with that Norman Rockwell-like image in mind, is the first day of the Lenten Season, Ash Wednesday; When the priest makes the sign of the cross on foreheads, dipping his thumb into the ashes of once smoldering palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebration, and proclaiming, as he marks you, "Remember, O man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.''
I am thinking that

We, too, begin as the lowly dirt,
and we too, have the potential to produce many and varied fruits,
from seeds left along the way;
Some intentionally placed, some left by the wondrous hand of nature herself,
some unexpectedly offered by trees and plants that could hold their aging fruits no longer,
releasing them gently to the ground
allowing them to do what nature allows;
a period of dormancy
a time for fertlization
and then rebirth.

Fruits, that began as We;
un-fertilized seeds,
yet when given the right conditions;
the warmth,
and the nutrients,
to sustain our yet fragile forms,
slowly, we sprout,
hinting at the impending flower,
which foretells the color and essence of the fruit yet to be.

Like an enormous orange flower
that has the potential to become an enormous seed-laden pumpkin,
ready, when the time is right
to become the Jack O'Lantern that it has the potential yet to be--
To house the light which will illuminate,
both its inner and outer form,
lighting both itself and the path
for young hopefuls unsure of what's in store.

Over a season,
in the time in takes to transform an immense and fortelling blossom,
to a meaty, seed-bearing fruit,
We grow and change,
gaining what we need, to continue a measured process of growth,
and just as young fruits only slightly resemble the ripened product,
we need time to grow and to develop,
into what we were meant to become.
And as we ripen, we become, more ready,
to give what our fully developed form is intended to give:
both the fruit, and the seeds,
for although we may harvest and distribute both the fruit and the seed,
we are dually recipients of the fruits and seeds of more mature fruits,
which ferment within us in a perfect and self perpetuating harvest,
which is both annual and perennial,
in its own unique way.

And as we develop,
our potential to provide develops,
and when We are ready
we provide,
and then return for more nourishment
remembering that we were nourished ourselves.
And in order to receive
we must nourish,
and in order to nourish,
we must receive.

And there will always be resources enough,
for in our own search for sustenance,
we inevitably grow,
and the more fruit we bear the more seeds we can provide,
reseeding along our way,
often in unfamiliar territory,
in the dust that came before us
the dust we shall return to.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Jar of Coins, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou

One Year for Christmas, My Brother Chris and and his wife Julie gave each of us siblings a very thoughtful gift. Inspired by the Book The Christmas Jar, By Jason F. Wright, they gave each sibling's family an empty quart size Mason Jar. A slot was cut in the plastic lid, and inside were a number of stickers and ribbons to decorate the jar with.

In the Book The Christmas Jar, Hope Jensen, in a moment of great grief and monetary loss, is anonymously gifted a small jar of Money. Moved, Humbled, and transformed by this gift, her own faith in humanity is resurrected, as she searches for and ultimately finds the donors.

When we opened the package from my brother, inside, along with the jar and a copy of the book, was a note which read:
" In honor of the spirit of giving we were taught by Mama Rose and Papa Gene (The names our children call our parents), please decorate this jar, and over the course of this upcoming year, collect your spare change and donate it to the cause of your choice, in their name."

My parents have indeed, always been generous people. Their list of charities they support has grown as our families have grown, but what I remember more were the times when, moved by the suffering and loss in our own back yard, they gave without hesitation. I have a vivid memory of a time, when My parents went to visit one of our former Parish priests in his new Parish in the inner city. During the mass, a man entered the back of the church, mumbling, and disoriented, unclean and clearly intoxicated. He wore no shirt, but a suit jacket-- worn backwards; the sleeves serving as pant legs. Apparently, it wasn't an uncommon occurrence, but to my folks it was. They left the Church, bought him some clothing, and got him a meal. I will never forget that. On another occasion, I remember my mother gathering blankets and coats as we watched the apartment House at the top of our street burn. I don't remember them telling us to be generous, necessarily, but I do remember them being it themselves. Actions always speak louder than words.

Clearly, the act of giving, in and of itself , has a cathartic quality. It just does. I know, that with every handful of change I dropped into that jar over the first year of this project, I felt good.I made it a point, In fact I made it my intention, to place any change that came my way, into the jar. Change from the coffee I bought, change found in coat pockets and pants pockets, change left on the dresser or in my car's cup holder; Change I found in the Washer or the dryer. It all went into the jar. Two Sticky quarters I spied on the floor between our seats at the Bruce Springsteen Concert.: into the jar.

At the time, I was reading The Power of Intention, by Wayne Dyer, the premise of which is that YOU CREATE YOUR OWN REALITY, based on making it your intention to do so. It couldn't hurt to set an intention. I set my Intention: I intend to find lots of change; Mostly quarters.

The Jar was strategically placed on the counter juxtaposed between the back door and the laundry room. I begin to notice a direct correlation between the money I find, and the thoughts I am thinking. Often, there are only pennies. At times there are quarters and dimes. At the end of the first year, I was eager to see how much money I had saved, and took my kids to the local bank with the change counting machine, to await the news. We had saved $75.70. We were quite pleased, because, although, there were coins of all denominations in the jar, there was also a small amount of space still left. We decided, that, rather than waiting until the jar was filled, We would cash the money in before Christmas, to donate as our family Holiday Gift. Earlier in the Week, I had seen an advertisement for our Local Food Bank, Philabundance. It read: " 25 cents can provide one meal for a person in need."

That was all it took. I felt that 75$ could go a long way. So we Got a cashier's check in exchange for our collected change and we sent it off to Philabundance. We immediately began refilling the jar, and during the next year, our change began to multiply like a yeast expands bread dough. This time, the jar was so full, it could scarcely hold even a few more coins, and this time, the jar held $175.00. I am eager to see what this third year will bring, and although we are only 4 months in, it is growing nicely, as are the hopeful feelings I am gifted with whether I place a handful of coins or a few rogue pennies into the mix.

My parents tendency toward generosity begets our own. Once you've been the recipient of another's giving, or even just the bystander who observed it happen, you've been affected, not unlike the yeast which transforms the flour and water into a loaf of bread. And very much, like Hope Jensen, in the Story The Christmas Jar , we are moved, humbled and transformed from flour, water and yeast, into the Very Staff of Life.

"Imagine this! Kindness extended, received, or observed beneficially impacts the physical health and feelings of everyone involved!”
Wayne Dyer in The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-Create Your World Your Way

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lessons Learned from Glory Days. Spontaneity, and Brewer's Yeast

My Sister Karen took me to my first Bruce Springsteen Concert. Thunder Road was the First song of the evening. Well it wasn’t the opening song. We missed that one. You see, this integral  Bruce Springsteen Odyssey began at Kent, State University, Karen’s Home Court at the time. I was invited down for a Little Sibs weekend, but  Karen happened upon two Bruce Tickets, and our plans changed.As Karen always says"I thrive on spontaneity." We weren’t gonna go Ice skating at the Hockey Rink any more, and hang out with her Hockey player boyfriend and his little sib.

 We were going to Bruce.

 I was beside myself, as you can imagine any 14 year old Bruce initiate would be. There was only one problem. We had no car. But, With great enthusiasm, Karen implored her roommate, who was clearly distracted at the time sprinkling brewers yeast on her popcorn, to have pity on us and lend us her 1962 car of unknown origin and/or gasoline status, and or color. 

 For some reason, Karen hadn’t gotten her license till she was 18, so she didn’t have a lot of experience with map reading or navigation, or actual driving for that matter.It was a Leap of Faith. But No matter,We Had Reason to Believe we’d get there. We were Workin on a Dream.We did eventually get there, after taking some unexpected Backstreets, and ending up in some Badlands.Not a State Trooper or Highway Patrolman  in sight. It was a wonder we didn’t end up in a Wreck on the Highway or in Nebraska. It took some some creative parking, But we had arrived; The Promised Land. Arrived just in time for Thunder Road.

   I’m not sure how many other great Boss anthems we missed before our arrival, but arriving in the midst of the yearning cry of that blessed  harmonica’s opening,I was ready to Prove it All Night–ready to incorporate every bit of the Boss that was left in that first formative Boss concert of my adolescent years. Standing behind the railing among Springsteen fans of varying degree, Bruce was then and there cemented into my being, and  I was officially  Growing up

Gloria’s Eyes were filled, from then on, with the knowledge that, in this Land of Hope and Dreams, as long as we aren’t Blinded by the Light of fear’s Brilliant Disguise; Your own Worst Enemy, we are entitled to All that Heaven will Allow. At that moment,  Karen and I were connected;  Parallel, not unlike Bruce Springsteen’s gracing the Covers of Newsweek and Time on the very same day . I Don’t expect that memory to Fade Away. For times like these are The Ties that Bind, and in the inimitable words of Karen herself, when we work our way beyond our own nosebleed seats, down to the stage level, It’s Every man for himself. No retreat baby,No Surrender. And My Beautiful Reward? Dancing full on in my Levi’s and Frye Harness Boots with the all of other Gate Stormers enjoying Life Itself, because Tommorow Never Knows.

As We Floated out of the Cleveland Coliseum that night recounting every moment of the concert we did see, we were oblivious to what door we were exiting, or what side of the parking lot we'd end up on or where in fact we had actually parked the car some 3 glorious hours earlier. Wandering aimlessly for another hour,we needed to surrender, despite our vow not to.

 We did need to get back to Kent State to enjoy what was left of the Little Sibs Weekend Festivities.  So we enlisted Security, and when asked what sort of car we were looking for, we looked at each other, unsure of whether we had driven an Oldsmobile or a Ford or a Chevy. It could have  been an Astin Martin for all we knew. When asked, at least, what color it was, we responded in unison. Karen: "Green"; Gloria: "Brown".

Rest assured, we did find it, our odds increasing as more and more of the responsible drivers left, visions of Bruce Springsteen jamming in their heads.

IT was two or three in the morning when we returned, and we were starving. Luckily, there was plenty of Brewers Yeast Popcorn left.

"Glory Days, Yeah they'll pass you by, Glory Days, In the wink of a young Girl's Eye. Glory Days. Glory Days..."

Friday, February 27, 2009

She Hasn't Met Bruce Springsteen. Yet.

When I was in college, I had lots of odd jobs. I was a survey taker in a mall, a traffic flagger for a tree surgeon, a "flyer" at Sax Fifth Avenue, and "assistant to the Loss Prevention Auditor." I was a server for Katrina's Traveling Bistro, my sister Karen's short lived catering business. But some of my fondest memories were of my waitressing and bar-tending days. My sister and I had jobs at the Harley Hotel in Willoughby,Ohio--known for housing the performers who came to the Front Row Theatre, a nearby theatre "in the round," with a revolving stage, where "every seat is a good seat."

There was always a great Buzz around the hotel when the performers were staying there, and a great Hush hush surrounding the whole thing, yet many of the performers would come into the cocktail lounge after their shows, and just recline, often unbeknownst to the other guests who were there. This was great fun, and my sister was very adept at getting in on the star power--so much so, that she, and eventually I got weekend jobs parking cars at the "Front Row" Theatre, which afforded us the perk of seeing all of the shows. She'd meet the stage crew, and get back stage passes and offer up assistance above and beyond what her job required. Once she went into the restaurant's kitchen at 2am to concoct a nice soothing consomme' for one of the Everly Brothers. They were in town for a couple evenings and were good spirited and fun- loving. They asked us, "Where's a good place to go out dancing?"

My sister Karen, who's nickname was "Keg" in college, was on board with a location. And what goes down in history, is that, we did indeed take the Everly brothers out dancing. Now mind you, I was only about 19 at the time, and my sister about 24, and the Everly Brothers were, well, at least in their late 50's. But dancing--dancing is ageless. We had a Ball. They cut a rug. And they paid for the beverages.

Yet, one of Her best 15 minutes of fame, was getting to know "the lights guy" who worked for Peter, Paul and Mary. Not only was she able to get us tickets to see the show, she was also, after a concerted effort able to get us back stage, and what's more important, is that her intention was really to gift this as a surprise to My parents. We weaseled in too. But, it was My parents who had every Peter Paul and Mary Album imaginable, who introduced us all to "Lemon Tree" and "500 Miles" and "The Marvelous Toy" --such wonderfully poetic stories of joy and heartbreak--and Songs that could bring you to tears. My mother cried. I cried.
But I don't think I ever saw a Broader smile on My mother's face.
Ipso Facto.
And Karen?
She Hasn't Met Bruce Springsteen. Yet.