Friday, April 18, 2014

Monster on the Run

I enjoy outings with my granddaughters and teaching them things. However there are times I find I learn something valuable from THEM. The girls and I went shopping for a birthday gift for their mom (we picked out a handbag) and I bought Rosannah and Briannah matching Easter dresses. In fact each outfit had corresponding clothes for their dolls. Maybe it’s a grandma thing but I like to buy things that match. The coordinating doll outfits were probably a bit much, but Jackie and Rainbow (the girl’s dolls) needed some new duds.

After our hard work of infusing a few bucks into Arizona’s retail economy we went to the indoor kiddy playground at the mall. As I sat down I spied one mom who sat silently and seemed a bit depressed. I wanted to go over and talk to her, but chose not to. I didn’t want to take a chance that any friendliness I offered would be rejected. 

Instead I picked my spot where I had a good vantage point of where I could watch my granddaughters enjoy some indoor fun. There were probably six kids in the play area and they all ran around and played nicely together – except for the occasional mid-run collision. At one point the kids decided one of the little boys was a monster and they fled from him. At first the little guy seemed satisfied with his role. He would occasionally emit a roar and the kids would disperse, screaming and flailing their arms like the IRS man was beckoning at the door. However, after a while I think he wanted to return to his identity as a harmless, little boy.

Briannah ran from the lad and asked if I could save her from the monster. 

“Use your imagination to save yourself,” I replied. 

I have never been fond of the whole damsel in distress routine. She gave me a few excuses about how her magic wand was broken, but when she realized I was not going to provide salvation she  came up with a plan. She approached the little boy.

“Here is a sandwich. If you eat it you won’t be a monster anymore.”

The little tot ate the imaginary meal and instantly changed back into a little boy. He and Briannah played on the toys and seemed to enjoy themselves. When they approached the other children (who were unaware of the monster’s transformation) they started to flee. However, Briannah emphatically told them he had eaten a magic sandwich and was no longer a monster. She had to reiterate her position a couple times, but finally the children were convinced and the little boy rejoined the group as a child and not an ogre.

As the children played I looked over and noticed the little boy’s mom was smiling. 

I think it is one thing to be able to ingratiate yourself with a group of strangers, but I think it is quite a brave and compassionate act to ensure another person is accepted as well. I recently read an excerpt from an interview with Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakai International and Alastair Thompson, co-founder, editor and publisher of Scoop Independent News in New Zealand.  Here is a passage I admire from President Ikeda.

“I believe that our most urgent challenge is to foster a social ethos that can keep people from being swept up in a collective psychologies and violent agitation. I believe that a spirit of empathy based on our sense of the universal dignity of life should be the foundation for such an ethos.”

Obviously Briannah, who is only 4 years old, did not read this article, but she followed the principle when she encouraged cooperation and not condemnation of the little monster in diapers. Her concern and compassion validated Ikeda’s statement that “It is incorrect to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature.” Briannah  used her imagination and stuck to her guns when the “herd” wanted to see a monster where a little boy stood. The children only resisted a little at first, then they allowed the child to unshackle himself from his scary role. But someone had to instigate change. I’m proud that person was my little granddaughter, but we all have the power to do something similar in our daily lives.

In the article with Pres. Ikeda the Buddhist leader and humanitarian went on to say that “…it is crucial to remind ourselves not to pursue our own happiness at the expense of the happiness of others, to prevent our own desire to be empowered and effective from threatening the lives and dignity of others.”
I believe most of us want to do the right thing and be kind, compassionate and consider the happiness of others, but sometimes we get distracted or fear rejection. This is what happened to me when I reasoned against engaging in a conversation with the monster/boy’s mother.

President Ikeda suggests three words to help remind us to foster our compassion - determination, faith and vow. The word “vow” is essential as it suggests a deeply-willed commitment, rooted in an appreciation of the dignity of life. He goes on to say “This determination is essential to resist the negative currents of society and build enduring bastions of peace and harmonious coexistence.”

My outing with my granddaughters is a small example of how small, daily acts of compassion  can contribute to making our world a happier place. By making one small decision (and sticking to it) Briannah freed a monster from his shackles, made a friend, paved the way for the tyke’s acceptance into the group, brought a smile to a mom’s face and made her grandmother very proud. Now if we can all follow Pres. Ikeda’s advice (and Briannah’s example) we can create  the perfect match for a happier and peaceful world.

If you are interested in learning how to become more optimistic, please check out my book, Erase Negativity at To read more about Pres. Ikeda and his writings visit

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Are the Best Things in Life Free?

Occasionally I mention items of local interest in my blogs. Being a thrifty soul I especially like promoting free events. Below is information about a free concert series and classic car show. Feel free to share the information with friends. If you want to relate the info to one of my past blogs on the importance of music and singing revisit one of my past posts

But for the current news here is what is coming up.

Spring concerts and classic car shows return Friday evenings 6 to 8 p.m. April 4, 11, 25 and May 2 and 9 for the free Music at the Village and Classic Car Show at the Village at Arrowhead Shopping Center, 20050 N. 67th Ave. in Glendale, AZ. 

    The free outdoor event will kick off with The Roadrunners 50s/60s band  April 4, followed by the Gene Iannette Jazz Quartet April 11, One More Time Band on April 25, Still Cruisin Band on May 2 and back to the Roadrunners 50s/60s band on May 9. All music will be performed on the patio of AJ’s Fine Foods.  The weekly classic car show will be held in the shopping center parking lot. Seating is limited and attendees are encouraged to arrive early and bring a yard chair.
     “Nothing says spring time like music and cars,” said Mary Walker, president of Power Promotions and event coordinator for The Village at Arrowhead. “This event has become one of the West Valley’s most popular events. Whether you want to gaze at the latest in fashions, cruise down memory lane checking out classic cars or simply enjoy live music in a beautiful and relaxing atmosphere, this event has something for everyone.”

     The Village at Arrowhead offers specialty shops that provide the ultimate shopping experience with distinctive fashion, home furnishings, restaurants and personal services in one of the most architecturally unique and aesthetically pleasing shopping centers around.
                For more information contact Marks Public Relations at 480-664-3004.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Trees and Me

I love trees. When I was a young girl I liked to climb in any tree that would hold my skinny, little body. My favorite was a mulberry tree in our backyard. Sometimes I would take my dolls up with me. I was a bit of an anomaly, a tomboy who liked dolls. I guess I thought my vinyl children would appreciate the view. 

One time my young niece, Michele was missing. My mom thought I had climbed up the tree with her new grandchild. I didn’t. Not because I wouldn’t. I just didn’t think about it. They found baby Michele had rolled off the bed and had fallen asleep between the bed and the wall. The sleeping tyke was unscathed and I was off the hook (that time anyway.) However, in my mind’s eye I can still see my mother clad in her apron, hair in pin curlers, flailing her arms and warning me that if I had the baby up there I had to bring her down right this instant! 

Sometimes my brother, Terry, would climb the tree with me, but mostly this was a solitary expedition. Terry needed a reason to climb – to dislodge an errant ball or drop bombs on an enemy when we played war. I just liked to climb up the tree and contemplate life. I remember thinking I was closer to Jesus when I was in the tree. At the time our family attended a Nazarene church. I would later convert to two other religions in my life – first Judaism and then Buddhism, but I think I may have had an insight about trees and spirituality. When we are in nature, we are closer to our spiritual essence. 

I admit it, I’m sentimental about my leafy-limbed friends.  The first PAID freelance story I wrote was about an unwanted Christmas tree. Ironically the $30 (and priceless excitement) I earned from that story is more than I earn from writing this blog. But sometimes you just have to do what makes you feel good – in spite of compensation.

Trees were an integral part of my first job after I graduated from college. As the newly hired public relations coordinator for Mesa Parks, Recreation and Cultural Division I became the spokesperson for our Arbor Day program. I remember listening with pride as our mayor and members of the Parks and Recreation board spoke the words I wrote about the importance of trees. Our city even won an award for their environmental efforts.  Another one of my duties was heading the tree donation program. I encouraged people to buy live Christmas trees and donate them to the parks, donate trees to honor births, anniversaries and deaths, as well as choosing trees (as opposed to other gifts) to celebrate years of government service.  I am proud to say that under my direction the program become so successful that it was disbanded. True story. We didn’t have enough room in the parks for the number of trees that people wanted to donate. 

Eventually my job was trimmed from the budget as well, but my love of trees has continued to grow. That is why I was excited to accompany my spouse, CB, to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. I love to amble among the trees, shrubs and plants, listen to the chirping of birds and watch the butterflies. There is such an awesome diversity of plant life at this arboretum. When I walk the dusty roads I can imagine an Australian billabong,

an English herb garden or how the Native Americans used plant life for building materials and medicinal use. 

On this excursion we learned about the importance of bees. I have new respect for the little buzzers and the vital role they play in our environment. We have lots of bees in our yard. We don’t spray pesticides or herbicides, we have colorful plants and we have a little pond, so our house is a little Mecca for the  rugby-clad insects. I admit, I’ve been stung a time or two in my life, so bees, wasps, hornets and other stinging bugs make me nervous. But I know if I leave them alone we will both be fine. I feel the same way about people who don’t share my political beliefs. But that is another story.

However, when it comes to trees and other things in nature, I do believe we should do our best to speak out and protect them. I don’t want to go into a diatribe, but I must say that I believe that we need to live in harmony with our environment if we are to survive as a species. This is a physical and spiritual reality.

As I walked through the arboretum I marveled at butterflies, watched in amazement to see a scarlet-red cardinal fly by and took in the fragrant smell of flowers and blossoms. Amongst the trees and plants I felt like a kid again.

I recently bought a new phone and took several pictures during my little stroll. I have probably taken 30 pictures in my life. Ten of them were taken at the arboretum.

There is something about being amongst the trees that makes me want to share. I guess that’s how it was when I was climbing the mulberry tree with my dolls. The view from a tree top is like no other.

In conclusion I just want to encourage everyone who has ever loved a tree, to love them all.  One of my favorite quotes is from John Muir (who shares my birthday – same day – different year.) On behalf of all my woody friends, here it is.

“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”

So my thoughtful and intelligent readers, here is one last bit of advice. This is something I channeled from my dear, deceased mother. Admire a tree, save a tree, but don’t climb it with a baby in your arms or else!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Metal Man Loves Tungsten Ring

My son-in-law Greg, offered this post. I hope you enjoy it.
I love metal. As a welder and blacksmith I bend, pound and shape metal to make all sorts of useful and artistic items.  Ironically (okay a little iron pun there) heavy metal is my music of choice. Pantera, Volbeat and Testament are a few of my favorite bands.

That is why when I needed a replacement for my wedding ring I chose Tungsten. More specifically I selected a polished Tungsten ring with carbon fiber inlay (itemTD066-8) at If you go to you will see some other great choices as well.

I use my hands a lot for work and I wanted something that looked cool, but held up better than softer metals like silver, gold and platinum. Titanium is strong too, but something about that metal irritates my skin. I know a few other people whose skin reacts to titanium too, so if you are considering that metal, make sure you don’t have a problem with it before you commit to a ring you are going to wear all the time.

My Tungsten band has a sleek, aerodynamic appearance and the carbon fiber looks awesome. The inlay is smooth and doesn’t have any indentations. Another ring I owned had indentations and the ring caught on my pants every time I put my hands in my pockets. But best of all, this ring is tough. No scratches, dents or dings, in spite of the abuse I put it through every day. 

My mother-in-law, Sally, noticed a guy who works at the recreation center was wearing an interesting-looking ring.  She asked him if it was made of Tungsten.  The guy was proud to demonstrate what his jewelry was made of it. Apparently he took his ring off, rubbed it against the brick wall and showed her how it survived unscathed. This was not news to me, but my mother-in-law was impressed. When Sally told her friend, Joan about the guy’s ring, he did a repeat performance for her. Apparently Joan’s husband lost his wedding ring. Who knows, maybe a Tungsten ring might be in this guy’s future? I’m sure it would be a fraction of the cost of his original wedding band.

I think Tungsten is a great choice for jewelry in general, but wedding rings in particular. If you’re making a lifetime vow to someone you need something that can last.  If you’re a guy like me and you work with your hands, tinker on cars, and fix things around the house, it helps if you can wear something that won’t scratch, bend or dent. Some of the more expensive metals like gold, platinum and silver don’t hold up well.  You either have to baby the ring and take it off (and pray you don’t lose it) or your wedding band winds up looking like a used crankshaft.

But I’m not apologizing for my ring. Even though my wedding band didn’t cost anywhere near one that is constructed of a precious metal, it is still awesome.  The carbon fiber inlay reminds me of the hood I saw on a tricked-out racecar. In fact, NASCAR and other racecars are using more carbon fiber – and not just for lightweight-strength. It’s because it looks amazing. 

Women can talk about the sparkle of gold and diamonds, but I like a metal that is tough. And Tungsten is all that. Welders, mechanics and others who work with metal and machinery know that Tungsten is 10 times harder than gold, five times harder than tool steel and four times harder than titanium. And it holds its shape and shine. No wonder you are seeing more Tungsten in the aerospace industry, civil engineering, motorsports and military equipment. 

In my ring the carbon fiber is used as an accent against the gun-metal color. But it’s more than just a fancy design.  Carbon fiber is a workhouse of a composite. It’s a perfect complement for Tungsten’s durability. Carbon fiber is being used more and more for sports equipment like tennis racquets, golf clubs, softball bats and hockey sticks.  Having sports equipment that is super sturdy AND lightweight gives an athlete an advantage. 

Political correctness aside, this is an awesome ring for a man. That said, now my wife said she wants one too.  I can’t blame her. She welds, she works hard and buying a Tungsten ring is something a working man can afford. I think it would make a great Valentine’s Day gift.  Most of the women’s rings are only around $109. Here are a two examples: 

Most of the men’s rings are in the $100 to $199 range, but if you want something with diamonds you will pay anywhere from $500 to $1,000. It’s worth checking out 

It all boils down to different strokes for different folks. Some like silver, some like gold. But like I said, I like metal. And I think my Tungsten ring with the carbon fiber inlay is a handsome choice that reflects my trade, my hobbies and my knowledge of metal.