holidays

Holiday Gifts

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I am so very fortunate to be dancing thru life on earth in 2016. It is no all easy by any stretch of the imagination. It is mostly an affront to my ego. But this is how it is supposed to be. My ego needs to be drop kicked as often as possible.

While the daily ego bashing continues, so do many amazing  opportunities to savor some very beautiful aspects of life on earth. Vivid color. Celebrations. Gastronomic innovations. Simple good food. Heart-opening artworks. Flowers and fauna. Kinship and kindness. Recovery and new beginnings.

These are the true gifts of the season and of life. Here are some memories of this year’s holiday celebrations I shared. Parties have an entirely new meaning from a sober point of view.

Merry Christmas to all of us. May we each have a chance to take in the gifts and the lights of the holidays.

2013 gave me a big hug

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with gratitude to ddmag.tumblr.com
“One evening Milarepa returned to his cave after gathering firewood, only to find it filled with demons. They were cooking his food, reading his books, sleeping in his bed. They had taken over the joint. He knew about nonduality of self and other, but he still didn’t quite know how to get these guys out of his cave. Even though he had the sense that they were just a projection of his own mind—all the unwanted parts of himself—he didn’t know how to get rid of them. So first he taught them the dharma. He sat on this seat that was higher than they were and said things to them about how we are all one. He talked about compassion and shunyata and how poison is medicine. Nothing happened. The demons were still there. Then he lost his patience and got angry and ran at them. They just laughed at him. Finally, he gave up and just sat down on the floor, saying, “I’m not going away and it looks like you’re not either, so let’s just live here together.” At that point, all of them left except one. Milarepa said, “Oh, this one is particularly vicious.” (We all know that one. Sometimes we have lots of them like that. Sometimes we feel that’s all we’ve got.) He didn’t know what to do, so he surrendered himself even further. He walked over and put himself right into the mouth of the demon and said, “Just eat me up if you want to.” Then that demon left too.” 
the last weekend of 2013 felt like a fog lifted from around my brain. i encountered so many of the people close to me in my life and i was afforded the chance to feel love. as i think back to the beginning of the year, one seed i had planted was to make room for love in my life- and bang zoom (ralph cramdon) there it was- more love in my life. 
as my life continues to unfold, i am gobsmacked by the power of simplicity. this year- for the holiday-i gave of myself in some quietly amazing ways. i helped throw a fete for a women and family services program and coordinated a santa, a photograph of kids on santa’s lap, kid’s decorating home-made ornaments for their family, several volunteers, and gifts from toys for tots as well as a generous donation from a local engineering firm. all of this required detail and attention, but left me with a holiday feeling that will last for some time. the cliche about the holidays being about the kids was forged in truth for me again and again on that day.
beyond this, i came home to find that my cousin and her family dropped by my house and constructed a kitchen cart i had here-to-fore been unable to put together. when i came through the door, i felt just as surprised and elated as the shoemaker must have felt after the elves had slid down that moonbeam to create those oodles of shoes. this was humbly followed by several friends treating me to dinner the weekend between the holidays. i have honestly felt in possession of a bounty.
“Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn’t enough. You have to act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be. It may mean the loss of many nights’ sleep, great interference with your pleasures, interruptions to your business. It may mean sharing your money and your home, counseling frantic wives and relatives, innumerable trips to police courts, sanitariums, hospitals, jails and asylums. Your telephone may jangle at any time of the day or night.”AA, 2001, p. 97

holiday musing and darkside -live in paris

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Charles Dickens

i simply want to wish any and all of my readers a festive holiday season. i continue to receive the benefits of making change in my life through my moods and my experience. my self-respect grows, and my ability to care for others increases with the practice i put into it. 

end of the world

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“The magnificence of such objects hardly pertains to the human. They live only in a world of icons and there they participate in rituals which transmute life itself to a series of grand gestures, as moving as they are absurd.” 

― Angela CarterBurning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories

mid-december and the year end approaches. this year has been a whirlwind. i barely remember welcoming it and here is sit contemplating waving good-bye. i have grown immensely these last 350 or so. there were a few standouts. i have managed to help mend some family relationships that had been dysfunctional for some time. i have 2 cousins that are brother and sister, each 6 months apart from my age. we were close when we were young. we spent holiday time together each year and a few weeks each summer we spent at our grandmothers house. there are gads of pics of the 3 of us- mostly giggling and causing mayhem. i followed them to colorado when i was trying to run away from my dependence problems. 
anyway we really have not been speaking very much- and socializing even less. holidays have slipped by without phone calls, maybe a card with just a name signed at the bottom. as i now look i realize how drenched in my own ego i have been. but i have also been working on understanding and having boundaries in my life. and i continue to learn just how families can test boundaries like no others. i have been meeting with each of them periodically this year- usually coffee or with lunch. we don’t giggle so much, and we are still causing mayhem albeit in our individual lives. but the soothing quality of someone knowing my history is palpable. and i am thrilled that a new chapter has begun.
i said goodbye to my sponsor of 7 years. he was consumed by cancer and spent 1/2 the year trying to distill the blow of recurrence and i spent that same time trying to be awake. in retrospect, i see that i had kept myself overly busy, mostly to avoid feeling anything i assume. i was scared to have him see me afraid and i am still learning how to be “in the moment”. i am speechless when i think of how my life might have been if paul had not ushered me into recovery. and i can only wish that i will ever achieve the tenderness and grace he was able to transmit my way.
i learned that my emotions still rule my world at times. i became so frustrated with my efforts and the my perceived lack of response that i changed positions at my workplace, dropped a volunteer position, asked to drop another, all within a very short period of time. the transitions were seemingly smooth, but from my perspective, it seems i started shooting and asked questions later. honestly, i hope to do some work in this area. my instinct tells me that these “abandonings” are related to my heartache and loss somehow. it might be a pattern that is as old as i am. yet here i sit reviewing my actions and accepting them- a sign of significant personal growth for me.
i helped start a meth treatment program in a low-income suburb known for drug and alcohol problems. We have interacted with 5 persons thus far. j don’t expect we will change the world, but i do sincerely hope we will have an affect on more than a few people. the message of hope and recovery is very faint in this burb. my mission is to project that voice. i have met a homeless young man who hasn’t yet realized how lost he seems. he gets glimpses, but keeps blurring the picture so as not to really have to look. damn- can i relate to those tactics. 
i began working as a methadone counselor as one of my quick change transitions. it has opened my heart like a chocolate covered cherry. there are loads of gooey sweet stuff oozing out of me daily. i am learning about change, human nature, pain, coping skills, borderlines, denial in infinite ways.
i’ll take a moment to consider the great loss of those young lives in connecticut today. all the peace and serenity i might have found in my life will have no effect on those families who have certainly lost touch with hope in their hearts. the helplessness is encroaching infinitely. 
That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and 
snakes, an aeroplane and Lenny Bruce is not afraid. 
Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn – world 
serves its own needs, dummy serve your own needs. Feed 
it off an aux speak, grunt, no, strength, the Ladder 
start to clatter with fear fight down height. Wire 
in a fire, representing seven games, and a government 
for hire at a combat site. Left of west and coming in 
a hurry with the furys breathing down your neck. Team 
by team reporters baffled, trumped, tethered cropped. 
Look at that low playing. Fine, then. Uh oh, 
overflow, population, common food, but it’ll do to Save 
yourself, serve yourself. World serves its own needs, 
listen to your heart bleed dummy with the rapture and 
the revered and the right, right. You vitriolic, 
patriotic, slam, fight, bright light, feeling pretty 
psyched…..rem

joy

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image credit.. criminallyinnocent 



I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. 
I acted and behold, service was joy.…..Rabindranath Tagore


Joy is an essential spiritual practice growing out of faith, grace, gratitude, hope, and love. It is the pure and simple delight in being alive. Joy is our elated response to feelings of happiness, experiences of pleasure, and awareness of abundance. It is also the deep satisfaction we know when we are able to serve others and be glad for their good fortune.
Invite joy into your life by staging celebrations. Host festivities to mark transitions and changes in your life. Toast moments of happiness you notice as you go through your day. Dance — jump for joy — as often as possible. Life is not meant to be endured; it is to be enjoyed….excerpted from spiritualityandpractice.com

today i humbly present tracey thorn’s new vid and song. i
i do believe that this holiday season will be the best i have had in several years. although i am busy, i have tapped into peace of mind that i have not been able to access in the previous sober years. whatever this is or whatever this means, i am thrilled that there seems to be no major crisis going on in my life. i am not in conflict with anyone of real significance. my relationships with friends and with co-workers are smooth and without much strife. my family and i are simpatico and i am feelin’ good.

as time goes by

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Ebenezer: Bob, I haven’t taken leave of my senses. I’ve come to them. 

ebenezer scrooge woke up on christmas morning after having been visited by 3 spirits that had rocked his world and his world view. as i imagine, he was stunned for a few moments wondering if there would be more visitors or if this “awake” were real. he runs to his window to confirm that he is in his house, in his time, and “in” his mind. he calls down to a young man passing asking “what day is this?”. upon realizing that his bleak future that was forecast by one of the nighttime visitors had not become real, he felt a sense of relief and hope that he probably had not felt in years.

during a conversation i was having with a friend today, i realized that this very feeling that i imagine scrooge felt was intimate. the ideas that “there’s still time left” and “i can change” have become ideals for me (hopefully all year round). as i have adopted and infused, and distilled them, my life has transformed. well, not simply my life, but my heart, my mind, and my intention has shifted and softened. 
while i was chatting with my amiga on the phone, i teared up ever so and realized that i know these feelings and i know them well. the dark dog days have left for now and the winds of relief fill my sails and take me towards another adventure. and there is wonder and gratitude in my heart. 
as the holiday season reveals the wonders of advent, i hope i continue to carry these ideals. hope, gratitude,  and wonder are like honey in a cup of tea- they are the sweetener and brighten the experience. 
i want to wish my readers a very happy holiday season. 

reflecting the lights

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To dispel darkness and usher in new day,
To light up the path leading towards glow;
There is celebration marked along the way
Of perfumed oils, lamps and delicacy stow.
The Festival of Lights brightens the East,
To reflect in jocund spirit Occident love;
It symbolizes time for triumph and feast,
Day by night that is blessed from above.
Call it what you may or celebrate whenever,
Give it form of will or meaning filled a-new,
It epitomizes the victory of peace over sever,
And regenerates space for all that is ever true.
Spelling the onset of winter, frost and cold,
Bringing on the warmth of glow and light,
All festivities center on creating fresh mold,
Awaiting with discrimination, end of night.
Harkening the forces of prosperity and joy,
Calling upon the auspiciousness of deed,
Festivities strengthen deep faith to destroy,
Forces of evil and hate, to harmony cede.
Designed around the need to retrace intent,
To question and analyze with mental rites,
May the universe unfold in genuine assent,
To spread felicity during the Festival of Lights.

after the tryptophan of the few days off in november wanes, the swing of the winter axis takes place. it is the celebration of lights that is my north american holiday. it coincides with the winter solstice which is the shortest day of the year and accordingly the longest night. the lights that symbolize this may very well be an attempt to light that darkest part of our year with the sunlight of spirit.

“…and the time came
when the risk it took to remain
in a tightly closed bud
became infinitely more painful
than the risk it took to blossom.” (Anais Nin)

it occurred to me today in a meeting that the emotions that stir in me around the holidays are very much paralleled  to the decorations that i unpack each year to adorn my mantle, windows, and doors.  my memories are nudged from slumber as i dust off mementos from previous winters and i connect to a deeper part of self. the very fact that i have my own symbols of light and sparkle speak volumes to the idea that the energy that swirls at this time of year is very close to my center. and my culture has taught me to collect sparkle during the longest dark to remind me that there is light in the world.

“Shall we liken Christmas to the web in a loom? There are many weavers, who work into the pattern the experience of their lives. When one generation goes, another comes to take up the weft where it has been dropped. The pattern changes as the mind changes, yet never begins quite anew. At first, we are not sure that we discern the pattern, but at last we see that, unknown to the weavers themselves, something has taken shape before our eyes, and that they have made something
very beautiful, something which compels our understanding.”
– Earl W. Count, 4,000 Years of Christmas





holiday potpourri

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went to see “black swan” yesterday. didn’t see the girl on girl soft porn scene comin’. but i did love the way the actual storyline of the ballet came to life in the film. it was dark. it was not expected, but it was thoughtful.  it’s good to still be surprised though.

am working a lot this coming week. may not post as often as i have been. had a friend over for dinner and a movie last night. fell asleep 3 or 4 times during the film russel crowe and ben affleck in “state of play” shhh…. i had seen it before.

working a party today in parker. hope it doesn’t run terribly long. as i am going along this holiday season, i am posting drag queen photographs on my fb profile and 90’s pop songs both here and on fb. i have using a couple of “best” lists including the once delicious face magazine. today’s pick is a paul weller cut from 1992. he’s seen in this clip performing live in milan..

holiday welcome

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We also often add to our pain and suffering by being overly sensitive, over-reacting to minor things, and sometimes taking things too personally…..Tenzin Gyatso

this is the my second year working at the hospital, but the first year on the main campus. i work 1/2 time each at 2 clinics in 2 separate buildings, with 2 distinct teams. each has its specialty and both work with an extremely large number of persons without insurance, low health literacy, multiple illnesses and conditions, many of whom are homeless. needless to remark that sometimes the work can seem endless.

in one of the clinics, i realized that there was no recognition of the holiday-i.e a potluck or party scheduled. i made a few inquiries, then spent a few hours gathering consensus and planned a get-together for this coming week. i had included as many departments as i could, came upon some compromises, disseminated the info to all teams for collaboration, emailed the team leaders for okay, then sent out an invitation. i felt pretty good about how easily it had gone.

but then 3 days later, a co-worker came up to me and asked why we were having the party in the location decided. i retorted that a consensus had been reached. she responded with the notion that they were always in a different location and would be much better there. she then asked if i had started a sign-up sheet. i replied with a no- that people could just bring what they wanted. again, she offered that this strategy would never work and that people needed a sign up sheet. i guess i got a little miffed, but her tone was direct and felt intrusive. i asked her if she would like to take the thing over. she said she would.

i found myself angry, not because i wasn’t in charge, but because i felt ignored really. i didn’t (and still don’t) have any real jones to take charge here. i just wanted people to get-together and have a few smiles during what will no doubt be a very tough week for us. but here i found myself, feeling slighted because someone disagreed with me. so i went to work the following day, after i found my head and heart spinning in the shower about the whole situation, complete with the intention of making an amends to her.

that morning at the other clinic, my supervisor shared with me that she would be taking time off work during this clinic’s holiday pot-luck and was putting me in charge of organizing this one. of course, she asked if i would mind. but really, how else am i supposed to respond besides- of course.

so imagine my humility when i go to the afternoon clinic to make my amends, i have been validated by my morning supervisor and given a voice, and now i was set to eat some humble pie. and i felt good about it. so i asked my afternoon co-worker if we could talk. we stepped away and i asked her to understand that i regretted getting upset about her criticism. i didn’t have an emotional investment about the party, i had just felt that i had covered my bases and then she burst that bubble.

she kindly informed me that she had been fired from the committee that morning. our supervisor had informed her that she overstepped her role as assistant and took it over. she then said that she has a habit of doing this in her life. this was just another example. she liked me and she said she didn’t want any animosity between us. she also laughingly said that when she told her sister she was fired from the committee and that it was a 1st for her, her sister replied that my co-worker had been kicked out of bars and out of family members homes before, so this was completely in line.

her grace and humility and welcoming reception of our conversation punctuated my week. i am very thankful that i feel accepted here. i realize once again that a first glance, a first look a first encounter is not indicative of the whole enchilada. a relationship, a painting, a any work of  art worth its salt, is comprised of many, many such instants, glances, and brushstrokes in order to get the final product. i am reminded that not over-reacting is my first order of business- always.

Season’s Greetings

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Wrap Yourself In All The Holidays Have To Offer This Year. Here is the image on this year’s cards and the letter included.              Defnitely SWAK!!!!

I continue to work with private chefs at small dinner functions throughout the year as well. This pays well, and gives me a peek into a world that is both fantastic and ordinary. I am allowed to be around great food and some amazing ambiance, and find that much of this seems to come quite naturally.


After all these years living in Denver, this summer I started taking road trips around Colorado this year. Places like Salida, Buena Vista, Estes Park, Grand Lake, Trinidad, even Taos and Santa Fe, and the family-famous Idaho Springs have provided the backdrop for an incredibly beautiful summer in what so many refer to as God’s country. I hope to continue this trend in the coming years. Feel free to plan a trip with me in the spring, summer, or fall.


I  visited Chicago once again this autumn. Blue and I had dinner with Laura at a fantastic tapas restaurant in the newly remodeled Blackstone Hotel. Good call, Laura. She reports getting a delicious promotion at her workplace and seems more content and at peace with each year. I still love that city and get a warm and fuzzy feeling when there. I was able to catch up with about 15 or so cronies and definitely had a hoot. The new wing at Art Institute is amazing and is recommended for your next visit there.


I was introduced to a book this year written by a Canadian physician named Gabor Mate called ” In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.” Since I work in the field of addiction, both this read and his philosophy have had a profound impact on my approach. I am reminded that our behaviors do not define us as human. Our souls do. People always have a reason for doing what they do- we just don’t always agree or like the reason. But that’s why we need to walk a mile in their shoes so to speak. This change of perspective is a work in progress for me. Every day I practice letting go of my judgments. Some days work better than others.


Many of the LGBT issues in the news this year have stirred some echoes in my heart and mind and I would ask you to indulge some thoughts I have around some of those. When I think of DADT, Gay marriage, Teen suicide, and Bullying, I feel very close to these issues. Growing up and feeling different can be extremely challenging, especially for young people. I don’t remember hearing so much that my “behaviors” were unacceptable, but more that I was less than acceptable. And growing up feeling that way causes a lot of invisible destruction. I find that I am still working through this internalized self- judgment started so many years ago, even after 6 years of being substance free.


Mind you, I am not complaining. 25 years of living with HIV, I know I am lucky to be here. 2010 was never part of my plan. 52 was never an age I expected to walk around. Yet here I find myself undeniably happy, inspired, and full of life. I write this in hopes that you will feast on just as much from your life’s banquet this holiday season. May joy be abundant and keep you warm. It’s the giving , not the getting that matters.

Happy Holidays….