A Birthday to Remember

santa monica

While I believe in astrology, I’ve never really claimed Mercury in Retrograde to be my source of bad luck or unfortunate situations. It is here I would like to note that as of late peculiar events surround many of my outings.

I have a delightful story about a couple of elderly women who were thrown out of a nice restaurant in Marina del Rey recently. They were accused of calling a husband and his expectant wife’s young toddler who was dining with them ‘ugly’. That’s right. According to the manager, who I spoke with for very different reasons, stated they called the couple’s baby ugly and refused to apologize. When discussed with these women as we waited for my car at the valet, the young mother appeared at the front of the restaurant. She promptly gave us the middle finger salute and called my mother a racist piece of, well, shit. It was beyond bazaar. Oh yes, and the young offended couple got their entire meal paid for by the management of said restaurant.

I have a story that followed not long after while I was at a winery in Ojai with friends. This happened in the ladies lounge of their tasting room. A young attractive woman was by the wash basins when I entered. She insisted on showing me a mark on her lower neck. She proudly announced she had gotten it when shoved by another woman who barged into the unlocked stall she had been in. The woman apparently slammed open the stall door as she entered and proclaimed to the young woman that there was some law requiring the door to be locked. The young and allegedly now injured female was outraged and had called the local authorities. She was claiming to have been assaulted. Again, bazaar. The Sheriff’s did come. I can’t tell you how that panned out, I did not stick around.

Before that there had been other incidents at local restaurants. But I think the icing on the cake was my birthday just past. The day was spent with my Mom and Dad and Libby. All people and a pooch that I love the most! I would say Libby is my dog, except she has morphed into our dog, but really my Dad’s dog (they have a love affair going). So we packed the car to the brim and headed down the road so the four of us could spend three nights and nearly four days, in Orange County at a home basically on the water in Balboa Island, CA.

Balboa Island is a place fondly familiar to us as a family. We had been spending time there during many summers for years during my early teens. We were headed to a place we had specifically stayed before. A lovely home on the Grand Canal. The best part is it has an elevator that brings guests to and from the ground level to the upstairs where we were to have our run of the place.  Perfect for an aging dog and her aging family.

With the aches and pains that a 65th birthday may be inclined to manifest on any given day, it was still the Labradoodle that sent us in to a panic mode. It seemed the elevator for some unknown reason appeared to be off limits since the new management company had taken over. Our fourteen year old furry-family-four-legger was simply not going to endure climbing steps to the second floor every time a pee or pooh was required. Even our own anticipated walks for Balboa Bars (famous hand-dipped ice cream bars exclusive to the area) and the parade around town to self-judge the winners of the best decorated homes for Halloween would be all we could expect the good nature in all of us to endure. After all, this was to be a celebratory long weekend, not bootcamp!

Please be reminded that my Mom had been planning my birthday celebration for some time. I honestly think the first roll of my eyes came at least six or seven  months earlier when she asked if we should get a limo and invite a few friends to Ruth Chris’ in Pasadena for a fabulous meal in their private room to celebrate my birthday.

“Mom!” I remember saying at the time …”It’s not until October!” Followed by “But hey, who doesn’t like tacos? Maybe we should just invite some friends over and party in your backyard? We can hire a taco bar for on the patio. It will be fun.” The initial sense I got was it could work.

Thoughts of taco trucks went by the wayside as I began formulating a new plan to host an event at one of our favorite little Italian spots in the Valley. How about if we did it on a night they had their big band playing? I could feel Mom’s doubt seeping in like a thick fog followed by the most dramatic of replies; “Well…if that’s what you re-e-e-e-ally want…I guess…” voice fading as Dad looked relieved to hear at least it wouldn’t be at their house. But if that’s what I re-e-e-e-ally wanted, I was sure he’d be on board with that too.

Mom came up with a brilliant idea a couple of months later to rent the home we had stayed in a couple of years earlier.  The dog enjoyed it, Dad enjoyed it. Mom tolerated it. I enjoyed all of it. So off we went to Balboa Island and our beautiful home for our celebration. Our first evening was planned with my favorite meal being made fresh once we arrived (after cocktails of course).

The check-in instructions had arrived earlier in the week and we again wondered at the no elevator language that was included. But alas, this crack management team (sarcasm isn’t even the word) assured us they were on it and indeed the elevator would be available. A-ha! Are you sensing where this is going?

The point I’d like to make here is this; everyone made special efforts to accommodate one another for the purposes of insuring we all had the best time imaginable. My boss had reluctantly agreed to my time off. I was leaving my elderly friend earlier in the week than normal. My parents had juggled their schedules and already had spent thousands (it’s true) of dollars and time on securing our vacation. There were other incidentals as well too numerous to list but nonetheless appreciated. Plants were watered, newspapers and mail stopped, neighbors on notice, the car washed and gassed, we headed down the road. Traffic was heavy but we still managed in about two hours.

Here’s one of my favorite thoughts ironically speaking. Not wanting to be rude and checking in before the instructed time of 4:00 PM, we went to a nearby restaurant and had drinks and a couple of appetizers in the bar at about 3:00 PM. And no, drinks did not take the sting out of discovering the elevator was locked up tight and no key in sight. Still hopeful. No problem. We climb up the narrow and steep front stairway to cozy up for our call in to the aforementioned management company. Thank God they answer and it doesn’t go to voicemail. Always a gamble. But first, Doodle-bug has to pee. Off we go down the alley way, bag in hand for the larger jobs.

Back to the stairway where I hoist our Furry-Fig what I believe to be 20 or so stairs. No easy task even without a 60 pound lump of love and fur in your face. Neither one of us is amused.

Back to the task at hand. The call is placed. Maintenance is alerted. Discoveries are made. The elevator key has been known to be unavailable for a few days. “Oh-I’m sorry, I don’t know why in the hell your management company didn’t reveal that to us before we made the two plus hour drive to get there this day. Perhaps they didn’t understand when we repeatedly told them the elevator was ESSENTIAL to our stay. We are told a locksmith may be the only option. Yeah, like these folks can pull that off while we wait? I don’t think so. Okay then, they have a comparable property which might suffice. We look at said property on the screen of my iPhone. I think we all were hoping for some magical way to rectify our situation, so we agree to relocate and hoist Libby back down the stairs. We all get back in the car and head to our new but nearby relocation destination.

“I’m not getting out of the car and either is Libby” came the notification from the back seat when we arrived.  “You and your Mother can go in” came the follow up instructions.

Neighboring doors began to open and stare as we pulled in to a parking spot on the street. It was now over six hours since any of us had really eaten. As my Mom and I walked into the front room of this new place and glanced around, we both knew we would not enjoy walking up there. It took no time for us to be joining my Dad in the car and were back on the phone with management.

Our options at this point were not looking too good. In management’s infinite wisdom their policy is anyone who can do anything much more than take a reservation over the phone or computer goes home at 6:00 PM. The explanation was everyone should be checked in by 4:00 PM and would have had the next 2 hours to bring up any issues.  God forbid something major should happen to a property beyond that time.  I’m not buying it.  Yet well past that hour we were told little could be resolved.  The rep could only assure us that maintenance had noted activity on the elevator matter if we wanted to keep the faith and hang in there until further notice. Believe me when I tell you that there was no one that thought there was even a prayer of that happening.

“What about a hotel that takes dogs?” the young man on the phone then suggested.

Apparently he had the authority to arrange that. Thanks but no thanks. With a car full of our stuff and food and 3 of us and a dog to unload into a hotel room?  Even then with only the hope of being able to pack back up again and get into the original house the next day to unpack yet again to enjoy the remaining two days? Ummm…ye…uh…NO!

What did we do you ask? We came home. As the 710 freeway came to a complete halt at 8:30 PM that same night, we sat and marveled at the birthday spent on the highways and byways of Southern California.

Part way home we stopped for the dog’s comfort and in that process an opened bottle of red wine to be used for sauce came crashing out of the back of my SUV. I caught it as most of the red wine splashed from the bottle onto my slacks. It got the attention of a nearby homeless man just outside the 7-Eleven. My Mom asked me what I intended to do with the rest of the wine. I think the homeless man wondered the same thing. The smell was starting to surround us. With three swallows I drank it as I walked the now empty bottle to the trash can.

Funny, but when we finally got back home that night, no one was hungry. I don’t think any of us, including the dog, were happier to be home. The best birthday present ever? Home!

We unpacked. The chocolate birthday cake went back in the fridge. I went home and unpacked. We all woke up in our own wonderful beds and not needing an elevator. Disappointing? Sure! But fortunately it doesn’t end there. We spent the weekend making up for it. I had my planned birthday dinner the next night. The sparkling wine, a gift from work, began the culinary evening. The food and company were delightful! The next day the weather was beautiful and we ate lobster on the pier in Santa Monica. The day after that?  Oh my God, we all went out for a wonderful evening and dinner together. My Mom even included my dearest friend. After we came home and finally did some damage to that chocolate cake!  Where do you think we went for dinner? Ruth Chris’ in Pasadena! Just like Mom suggested those many months ago.

Thank you to my wonderful parents for their love and support and the gifts and their ability to make lemonade out of lemons. It is with much love and thanks to them I write this at the ripe old age of 65. It’s going to be a heck of a year, I can tell.

Love, Always,
Deb aka “Decidedly Debra


Sides and Angles

Are there two sides to every coin? Of course.

Is there a different angle to every seat at the table of life? You bet.

Perhaps it’s the Yin and Yang of it all. Certainly if I’m sitting at the table nearest the dessert display then I may have a bit sweeter disposition on the topic at hand.

Similarly, if I’m seated nearest the roast beef carving station, perhaps I may have a meatier approach.

As I find myself getting older, I observe those that are nearest and dearest to me doing the same. After all, time stops for no one. The life experiences of my 82 year old Mom (yes, that would be this post’s namesake) are beyond compare to mine at my new medicare-ripe age of 65.

Her expectancy for me to understand and appreciate her views at 80 are often frustrating. I have not been there…yet. Why can’t she recall and include the experiences of her 65 year self to more reasonably prepare others (okay me) for aging without the process becoming framed in hostility? Yet others listen to her sage advice with wide-eyed awe. To them she is nearly a prophet.

I stay with a 92 year old and have been doing so most weekdays for 2 ½ years now. I spend the better part of my work week joining her for dinner and conversation before leaving in the morning for my job. She is indeed sitting at the other end of the buffet table. She has been waited on in a luxurious lifestyle and it has afforded her and those closest to her more options in life than most I would guess. It is none of my affair except to note the different angle from which she approaches life. Saving the world is a thought that is easily replaced to a more simple love of her dogs and “Everybody Loves Raymond” reruns.

She is angry with her partner of over 60 years for leaving her flying solo on this earthly plane. While he did everything for her, the realization is she can do little for herself it would seem. That is her side of the coin these days.

As I watch her daughter and granddaughter visit and interact with this 92 year old, I reflect on my reactions to my own Mom. It is a different side of the caring coin when it is your Mom and the Mother/Daughter history shared is your own. Personal frustration comes to lead the dance when it is your maternal relationship. Compassion dictates the pace of the song when you are accepting the unrelated invitation to assist. The silly comments and clouded memories are noticed playfully until the relationship’s history gets called into play. Why then does hostility waft in like unwanted cigarette smoke while we try to discount the seeming decline in ability? The angles are cloudy now.

Just today my Mom was commenting on the angst that surrounded the latest years of her own relationship with her Mom. Is that characteristic meant to help us let go? I wonder?  The angles are very different but the love is undeniable just the same.

I actually think it’s two-fold. As we age and sense the loss in our ability to be independent we resent it. After all, that’s what most of us thus far have worked so hard for all of our lives. As we approach advancing age we realize it is all happening so quickly and maybe we need to make a more valiant effort at it. Then, those two conditions I call sides and angles collide in a whirlpool of emotion that makes us even more painfully aware that we are fast approaching the aging topic at very different angles.  Decisions we know to be necessary and have planned for now seem invasive and unwelcome.

There is definitely truth in an old boss of mine’s statement, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end, the quicker it goes”.

That’s one side. My angle is to do the best possible with each moment/hour/day, week, etc. After all, I’ve learned that we have the power to flip the coin to a different side at any age.  If you don’t like your view, try approaching it from a different angle!

Happy Birthday to Me!
Yours Truly,

Decidedly Debra

Now I Lay Me Down . . . on Pillows

Yes Pillows. Soft, heaven scented, downy pillows. Pillows covered in fresh cool cotton linens. They cradle and comfort the weary mind and the tense neck as the body follows, relaxing into its place.
I unlock my door and enter my home after a long day’s work. I’m greeted by a room with colorfully printed accent-pillows arranged on otherwise lush but boring cocoa colored leather furnishings. They offer a spot to rest the head for a moment of recharge and respite before the evening meal.
Down the hall, a peek into a neatly arranged room for guests. The first room is invitingly adorned with a sense of whimsy and pillows. These pillows offer a sense of familiar in an unfamiliar place of possible adventure for those welcomed there.
The other room is where I most often place myself when the end of the day and rest beckons. Large pillows soften a corner designed for spiritual practice. It is easy to quiet the mind and feel grounded with these pillows. They help prepare the body to release the seen and focus on the unseen and the message that may lie therein.
Even the bath has its own pillow. An airy puff to engage the body in its desire to linger in a good soak. Relax. Hear the unspoken ahhhh.
Is it any wonder why I am so attached to my pillows? It is an intimate relationship you see. Much like the escort who is so giving of themselves, yet may choose to reserve the kiss. I too find sleeping accommodations easily giving of their comforts, but the pillow is reserved and off limits to most except me. Sharing is limited to a select few, unlike the shirt off my back or the comfort of a night’s rest.
Travel with me my friends. Embracers of my night dreams! Yes, my favorite pillows often go with me.
As I drove to work this morning I idled in the usual snarls of traffic. The drive there borders an undeveloped but fenced parcel. In the winter it is an atmosphere of rain water and green growth as an occasional Metro train gurgles past at set intervals. White clouds are their pillow-y canopy. In the summer it is a brown scar on an otherwise barren or cement path and the train seems more like a mirage in the background.
I often fantasize about jumping the curb and 4-wheeling the rest of the way to the office. That is a lot of risk for a five minute gain in ETA. A fence surrounds the parcel and is locked at the driveway entrance 90% of the time, thankfully. This morning, it was a spring scene set against a field of wild mustard. Their tiny yellow flowers dotting the landscape.
Against that same fence that corrals that land was a king size pillow. It was propped against the newer still shiny chain-link fencing along the sidewalk. It was placed as if it was on the cover of a fancy catalogue advertising the latest in swanky bed clothes. Proudly propped, plumped and smoothed, its black case looked somewhat inviting at first glance. But wait, was it black from wear? It looked intentionally propped up there as if by desire. Had that been someone’s less than private sleep spot? I’m wondering if that pillow felt as good to them as mine does to me at day’s-end. As I felt my uneasiness grow I reminded myself of my blessings, my own pillows. I found myself hoping that this pillow, while perhaps now disturbing to me, might be someone else’s blessing. Odd but true.
So thank you to the universe for the reminder that my pillow may look different than yours. Lord knows I do not spend fortunes on mine only to be slobbered on by four-leggers or tossed into the SUV for the next adventure. No matter what you are resting on when you lay YOU down – I hope they are pillows of the same comfort and restfulness supporting you.
With love, Decidedly Debra

That Which You Fear You Create

Lately I have been very intentional about releasing my fears. Admittedly that hasn’t been easy. Seems like we want to hold on to our fears like an old teddy bear we once dearly loved. It’s now missing an eye and has been stitched back together over the years to be held onto even though it doesn’t make sense or serve us anymore. Sounds just like much of the fear I am currently releasing.

It’s time to set my soul free and know that love and goodness propels it forward to the next right action. No longer am I expecting the worst but rather the best. That is what I aim to create!!!!

Healing of past hurts have been forgiven. The haunting thoughts and “what if’s” have now gone and it is a much cleaner space. There is a lot of redecorating going on – both figuratively and literally. It feels good!

As I search for the perfect balance in restoring the now empty space, I wonder. What is it I hope to accomplish in this place I’m intending to create for…for….for myself, for my retirement career as an audio book narrator and as a creative space for spare time projects. A place where I can dare to be me, unfiltered and unafraid.

In this place, much like my mind, as I call it my own and lay my exclusive claim to it, I know this is where only I get to edit the creative process that takes place there. It is not the egotistical “I” but rather the universal “I” that will take in all that the universe has to offer, seen and unseen, and then perceive my plan. It will be without fear. This will be a place of careful evaluation. I will assess there but not judge. The final outcome will be my own expression and it will be pure and voluntary and intentional.

I’m excited to share the fearlessness I create there!

With love,
Decidedly Debra

Spiritual Promotions

I can’t remember where I first heard this term but I liked it. Death is a final and sad word to me. For me it acts like a speed bump which slows my eternal thinking. Replacing the word death with Spiritual Promotion has made me realize exactly the opposite. I am so grateful.

My Spiritual Promotion, which I am in no hurry for any of us to claim by the way, insures my thoughtful living with good intention. Even as I approach official retirement from my job I know I can go forward and evolve in a positive way. I have many hobbies I can’t wait to pursue. My flourishing career as a voice actor and audio book narrator after retirement as an executive secretary is the plan. Until recently it seemed to me that most adventures beyond retirement were merely distractions meant to pace the time until…until…until time to leave this earthly body.

When I renewed my spiritual path a few years ago it was truly a God-send. My life had boiled down into a slowly evaporating pot of whatever was left in the bottom of my fired up saucepan.

I had;
– shown my boyfriend the door after 10 years (I had just become aware of his wandering eye),
-let my beloved older dog go to live with my parents (it was best for her), and
-let the commute to work become a struggle and drive me slowly crazy (a short trip at only 12 miles one way).

Although I later found these things to be a blessing I found myself feeling completely alone. I have amazing friends and family and yet it seemed to me like I was waiting for everyone and everything I cared about to die. I would pass my alone time imagining the life I should be having, but for how long? What was the point?

My free time was spent attempting to enjoy myself thru travel and a gym membership. It simply reminded me of my need to embrace a more serious approach to my personal financial responsibilities as well as my physical self. It was a time of “tension relieving rather than goal achieving”. (I could write volumes on the the man in my life who coined that phrase!)

A year later I was reintroduced to God and the goodness and abundance that is our inheritance. Gone from my religious experience was the guilt, punishment and suffering. To hear the Universe has already said yes to all that I can dream of is invigorating. To know that I am human form uniquely expressing God-like qualities is amazing. The best part is to appreciate the evolution and eternality of all Creation!

It is with a full heart I’ve learned that those near and dear to me have always and will always be with me. Like a baby in its mother’s womb, it cannot fathom the wonderful life and relationships that are about to reveal themselves to itself. It is the same for us. We cannot imagine our world after transitioning from our human forms. I’m sure it will be glorious nonetheless.

So to those creations who have already been blessed with their Spiritual Promotions I send my love and ask you to save me a good spot from which to enjoy it all. To those who, like me, have yet to realize that phase of their journey I encourage you to stay the course and prepare well. With positive and loving intention your Spiritual Promotion will be well received. Replace fear with faith. You deserve to enjoy the abundant rewards of your evolving journey.

I look forward to seeing you all on the unseen side once I have earned my own Spiritual Promotion.

Until then, love and light!
Decidedly Debra

The Dough Starter

The Dough Starter. What is it?   Like sourdough bread, where did the original “starter” come from? It takes a little of the starter to add to the rest of your recipe in order to complete the process. The result is a reward of warm, out of the oven bread. Butter melts into the divots and the options for layering on top of that are endless.

Funny, I thought. That’s the same idea behind that one drawer in everyone’s kitchen or hall (maybe both) that collects stuff. Oh sure, you clean it out every now and then. Typically that time comes when the drawer requires longer than one minute in a series of mashing and rearranging moves that do not offer (drawer) closure. So it’s cleaned out, but aha, you have been left with another version of “Dough Starter”. That pile of what-nots and necessary thingies that don’t really have a spot all their own. They lie in a small pile assembled in the now cleaned drawer in solidarity. These perfectly good things, not ready for the trash, all have one notion in common.  No home to call their own.  Perhaps alone they are not significant enough to be housed in a home of their own. Yet without the item, that one piece of information that has the ability to morph into an item of great importance the task may be impossible to complete.

Similarly, the Follow-up Folder is on my desk now. It is currently void of things to do. All that remains is the “Dough Starter”. There you will find unrelated pages.  They relate to obscure notes, phone numbers and instructions that no longer have a current need. I’m thinking hey, it might be vital again, one day.   They are then joined with the clipped pages that relate to some task that has been reported complete, but is it? Once confirmed, the paper trail can be filed. But what remains is the “Dough Starter”. Like all “Dough Starters” each bit of the starter is required. The recipe is not complete without all of the vital bits. What is otherwise produced might lack that one thing that should have remained in the “Dough Starter” but was thought to be inconsequential to it.

Never underestimate the “Dough Starter”. It can make your progress or it can break your progress.   For example, a one-time Gate Repair man’s phone number was not worthy of a file card of its own. Where would I file the card? Would I remember the Company’s name or the Contractor’s name? Of course I wouldn’t. There it went, into the “Dough Starter”. Years later, when asked…the “Dough Starter” did not disappoint. There, in the plastic security blanket of a page protector was the slip with the information needed once more. That once in a blue-moon place, safely housed in the “Dough Starter”, offered another delicious bite of success without fuss.

Do not misunderstand me. Keeping the “Dough Starter” pure and viable is important. That drawer you are not able to shut, the folder too full to see the identifying tab at the top of, or even that stack of old purses that mysteriously manages to shove a favorite purse under the bottom of the pile is calling. (Closet purses are in cahoots with Dryer socks after all).  Maybe some of your favorite old handbags are enjoying the top of the heap but like the de-cluttering lady says, if it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it. That being said, I do have an old macramé purse in the “Dough Starter” pile of my closet. It has come out to save me a time or two on Halloween or that themed dress day at the office.

Do you have an emotional “Dough Starter”? Is there that quiet place inside you can go to? Clean out that sacred space of the things that no longer serve you. Keep the important and unresolved issues there until you can find the right place to safely store them. You will be left with that same little pile of odd feelings and emotions that you aren’t quite sure what to do with. Leave them right there. That is for your very most treasured “Dough Starter”. Do not force it. Let it age and it will come to you with just the right purpose to complete your progress at just the right time.  It is the key ingredient in the recipe called YOU.

This is Decidedly Debra. I hope you have enjoyedcropped-Debra-145.jpg this little slice made with love and a bit of my very own “Dough Starter”.


Chasing the Dream or Embracing the Dream

The abundance of blessings in my own story is evidence of true miracles.  When you finally learn how to make the fine distinction between Chasing a Dream vs. Embracing a Dream, the shift can bring dramatic results. 

For so much of my youth I imagined in glowing detail what I wanted in life.  Yes, that was very different then as compared to now.  Age has a funny way of changing a person’s perception on things I guess.  Suffice it to say, I am enjoying the confidence that comes with advancing years.  Life experiences brought me new dreams with a few of the old dreams still tagging along for the ride.


I am not certain at just what point I began to embrace my dreams rather than chase them, but oh, what a difference that shift made.  We learn along our journey that life means to give us all that we dream it can.  What a joy it is to allow that to come to us freely, lovingly and joyfully!

So many years were spent painstakingly working and striving to reach goals that all too often seemed just beyond reach.  Saving money was difficult as it seemed to always be needed to patch some hole in my symbolic leaky boat of life.  Bad decisions were lamented over for far too long, keeping the path of abundance blurred and hidden from view.  It was there the whole time, yet I literally couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  Too busy running, chasing something I had convinced myself was elusive.  Too busy being fearful that my dreams could never be reached.  Occasionally it even seemed such dreams might be undeserved.  How much time did I spend comparing my dreams to those of others rather than just living my own?

Do you have a sense of how satisfying a dream can be?  As I dream of a world without suffering, a drive to work without traffic, or more money in my bank account then I realize these dreams are entirely possible.  Remind yourself of that whenever it may seem unlikely.  Know this, they are NOT impossible.  The sooner you begin to embrace the dreams you do realize, the more you will dare to embrace all your dreams rather then simply chase after them.  More and more, you will undoubtedly find the path to realizing your dreams may be even more possible than you first dreamed.

In closing, This is Decidedly Debra and I say…Dare to Dream and embrace it!

Continue reading “Chasing the Dream or Embracing the Dream”


I thank Francine whom thanks her friend Bobbie for the following…

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I love this, I hope you do too,

– Decidedly Debra

From My Burbank Home

I was driving to work from my Burbank home last week and it occurs to me that at the ripe old age of 63 I can still be “the procrastinator”. It did not leave me feeling very highly evolved, which of course we all know I am (insert eye-roll here.)

On my routine drive into the office, from my Burbank home, I have become familiar with the scenery I pass. I look for the neat and tidy yellow apartment building on the right, just after the apartment building which is missing its tree. After that I know the old Circuit City building will be approaching on my left. That means it will not be long until I reach Ranchito Street. There is where I find the apartment building I want my house painted the same color as.

It is the missing tree that is the visual for my point today ladies and gents. The enlightened path we are on has taught me that what matters is right here, right now. This present moment. So last winter I was on my journey to work, from my Burbank home. I approached a lovely but rather plain apartment building along the way to my right. Suddenly I was struck by the beauty of this young birch tree draping its fragile limbs. They almost seemed to be reaching for something unseen. It was one of those atmospheric days and it was about to rain. The sky was dark and cloudy, covered with large clouds. The clouds had arranged themselves in a symphony of whites and light to darker grays. Alone they looked like a beautiful watercolor. This tree, dancing in the breezes against the lack-luster blue gray building for its backdrop was also dramatic. The scene was so remarkable to me that I thought about pulling over to take a photo of it. But no, I might then be late to work.

I passed this tree for the next several days. Each day I thought I should capture the loveliness of that small birch in a photo. Day four. I approached the small tree and to my shock and dismay it had been sawed off to just a foot or two above the ground. It broke my heart. There its small white and black dappled stump stood all alone against the backdrop of that building. It looked abandoned. No movement, no feeling, no photo. Why hadn’t I stopped to take that photo.

Had this young tree fought mightily against the harshness of the day’s elements and snapped, only to have some do-gooder trim its stump to an even disgrace? Perhaps the neighborhood hooligans also noticed the speck of beauty in their otherwise grim hood and were offended by it’s suggestion of goodness and had retaliated? I might never know.

Each day on my way from my Burbank home, I look for that tree stump still there. It reminds me of what was once there.

I honor its creation in my mind.

It reminds me of how fragile life can be with its “here today, gone the next” tendencies.

I give thanks for mine and thanks for those I love.

Most importantly, it reminds me to live in the here and now without hesitation or regret.

I know I will now take photo opportunities without procrastination.

Yes folks, all this while driving to work – from my Burbank home.

With love and wishes for a joyous New Year,

Decidedly Debra

Lessons Learned At School

I was glancing through my FB posts recently. We all know the variety of opinions that we can find there.  Some, in my opinion, are intelligently expressed and some are downright rude. I usually decline to respond fearing a lengthy on-going litany of unappreciated remarks that typically fail to enlighten anyone. Often the only outcome is a ranting contest geared to blame and blow off steam.

A post I read yesterday expressed dismay from a dog owner who, with the so-called permission of teachers, had been exercising their dog daily on nearby school grounds. The breed of the dog is medium to large and does have a reputation that many find alarming, particularly off-leash. The post went on to explain someone must have contacted local authorities and complained. The police then responded to the location and advised the dog owner that the activity was not acceptable and they could be cited for an off-leash animal in public. They were not cited. That is an expensive ticket to receive and requires a court appearance I believe. But the dog owner was not pleased.

Here is where I admit I have also enjoyed watching my dog frolic freely on the expansive yet fenced safety of a large grassy area at my local school’s playground. While my particular dog’s breed usually incites giggles and awes as well uninvited outstretched hands, she is 64 pounds and nonetheless capable of biting when feeling threatened.

Over a year ago I stopped letting my dog off-leash in my local neighborhood school grounds after receiving a rather stern talking to by the school’s custodian. It was after hours. I was not intent on mingling with the daily throngs of those whose designated purpose was to be there. I was reminded that the next time I was seen there, even after hours and while the gates were unlocked, I would be locked in and left to figure out how to hoist mself and a 60 plus pound animal over the tall locked gates. Additionally I  would probably need to contact local authorities for assistance and the result would be a citation or two for my continued behavior.

Meanwhile, let me get back with the follow up FB comments to the original post. Most were wondering why “Joe Public” had nothing better to do than make it their business to complain to authorities. Many suspected the breed in question had prompted the call. Still others believed the police should have something better to do like focusing on more significant criminal activity. After all it was the dog owner’s belief they had teachers’ permission to be there in the first place.

I admit to being astounded at the outcry of responses laying blame on the person who reported the owner and their dog on school property, the nasty and unreasonable police as well as the misunderstood breed. Only one of the 20 replying to the post, besides me, suggested that the pet owner take their pet to the appropriate “Dog Park” for the desired off-leash exercise. It seems many are willing to attack those who see this behavior as  inappropriate. It saddens me that we are so quick to name call the authority we expect to protect and serve us. When will we, as I since have, take a hard look at ourselves and wonder why we are selfishly choosing behavior that is clearly only convenient for us, party of one?

While my dog is well behaved I never let her out of my sight. I remember the days at my own school when a student would come to class unknowingly tracking in a shoe-bottom full of grassy stuck on excrement. It took a moment for the odor to waft about the room causing the groans and gags of students expecting to accomplish the day’s lesson(s). Usually not until or after traipsing the offensive attached bundle around the classroom is it noticed and a finger then pointed at the innocent offender who is mocked mercilessly.

The same teacher that spends valuable time trying to calm a classroom rather than teaching our children now has to summon custodial services to help with the poo-trail. I am guessing that teacher, who may have found it easier to offer permission to the after school activity of a friend and their dog, is now faced with a smelly classroom. Why? Because it is easier to offer unauthorized permission rather than trying to explain to a friend or fellow pet owner that a school yard is not the place to exercise a dog, or ten, or twenty, no matter what the breed. Especially when you consider the many who do not even have the desire or readiness to clean up after their pets.

I would invite each of us to stop the name calling and take a good look at ourselves. I have had to ask myself what my motivation is for the many things I choose to do each day. Is it for the benefit of many or just myself? Would I love to have a fenced in acre or two to let my pet run free? Of course. Would it be practical? No. I would be asking for snake bites, poisoness plant encounters and other uncontrollable situations, but in a perfect world it would be lovely. That does not make it right. That does not make someone trying to stop me wrong. It just is what it is. Our fantasy. Usually I find that it means we are looking for the easy solution to our wants and desires, with little or no regards for much else in reality.

I remember working at a large equestrian facility’s many years ago. It was huge and full of wonderful amenities. When potential boarders came to inquire about the possibility of housing their fine steeds there it seemed like heaven on earth at first blush. I was quick to remind them that they were going to be sharing that facility with 600+ others, all who believed their needs to be the most important. Perhaps that backyard horse facility for one was better suited to their liking? It was a notion I reminded them of often yet it was exasperating for them to hear, particularly considering the price they paid for their place in a facility that, albeit beautiful and well appointed, was often restricted in their enjoyment of it. It would have been easier for me to simply paint a rosey picture, but that was not the reality we would all be dealing with.

School is now out for today but let us remind ourselves of the lesson I believe we can all benefit from. There is a place and a time for everything. We should be careful what we wish for – not only for ourselves but for each other. It is our responsibility to regard our actions with our own integrity and bring personal accountability to our conduct. Do not assume that others have our worst interests at heart. Try to see the bigger picture and align personal agendas with those we know others would wish for as well.

Pit Bulls and Labradoodles aren’t really that different.  Neither are you or I.

Class Dismissed.