Saturday, December 31, 2011

My way of thinking/ 2011 Reflections Part 3

Parts 1 & 2 covered my jump into the world of technology and social media, my horrific car accident, Jon's brush with death, and our ultimate triumph over it all. 
By September everything was coming up roses.  I had begun this blog and was having a great time writing and meeting fellow bloggers.  Our home was beautiful, our dogs were healthy and happy.  What more could any man want?  I know.  How about one more phone upgrade?  Sure.  Why not?  I bought an android phone with Motorola Blur (whatever that is).  My technological transformation was complete.  I had no idea how to use the thing but this wasn't anything new.  I just called those poor phone company reps every day til I had the darn thing under control.  When I began, I didn't know what an app was.  I had heard the term on TV commercials but I really didn't know how all that worked.  I am proud to say that I know now.

The most significant change for me in 2011 was not my new found technology however, although it was technology that allowed it to happen.  It was my reconnection and new connection with friends.  Sandy Spurlock is the perfect example of a reconnection if ever there was one.  We met at age 15 in 1970 during a church sponsored trip to an orphanage in Mexico.  While other kids were enjoying Spring Break at the beach, we were building a road.  We were kindred spirits then.  We took a 40 year break so that she could raise 5 sons and I could run off to the world of show biz.  Then we came back together as if we had never been apart.  What a wonderful friendship we have today all because of technology and facebook.

An example of a new connection is my new friend, Theresa Campbell.  We met on Facebook by luck.  Turns out that, not only did we go to High School together without crossing paths, but she lives nearby.  Not a day goes by now that we don't communicate by one means or another.  Theresa is the queen of texting.  We have also been able to get together in person.  How great is that.

There is a line from the musical "The Fantasticks" by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt that seems appropriate for the year I had in 2011.
"There is a curious paradox that no one can explain,
Who understands the secret of the reaping of the grain,
Who understands why spring is born out of winter's laboring pain,
Or why we all must die a bit before we grow again."

Appropriate and true words.  The year was one of growth for me.  I didn't have to change to grow.  I simply learned that my principles of love and positive thinking can get you through the best of times and the worst of times.  The incredible power and positive energy created by love can accomplish almost anything.

One more thing happened fairly recently that affected me on a very deep level.  My love of dogs should be well known by now.  If not, welcome new reader!  Recently Theresa lost her 18 year old pup.  Maynard was a good boy and a beloved companion.  I grieved with Theresa as she said goodbye.  Then just 10 days or so later, my blogging pal Heidi Alberti lost her 6 year old companion, Atticus after a protracted illness.  Atticus was more than a dog to Heidi and to those of us who got to know him.  He was an idea, an ideal if you will.  He was the voice of reason on Heidi's blog.  He was a living, breathing embodiment of all that is right with our world and he wasn't afraid to speak out if something seemed wrong.  We all miss him every day.

Ok.  As another blogging pal, Franziska San Pedro so wisely said, "wrap it up".  So that is what I'll do.  It has been a remarkable adventure this 2011.  Challenges and rewards.  Quite a balance I would say.  I am ready to face the unknown future with you in 2012.  Thanks so much for joining me on this journey.

                                          Peace and Love,



Friday, December 30, 2011

My way of thinking/ 2011 Reflections Part 2

Part 1 ended after I had been hit by a car and come home from the hospital.  I took two pain pills and went to sleep. 

The morning after the accident I awoke to a new world of pain.  Everything hurt, my toes, every muscle, my head, even my hair felt like it hurt.  I had been warned that I had suffered a concussion and that the effects could take awhile to manifest themselves.  I thought that was why my head felt like it was going to explode.  But no.  That wasn't it.  The effects from the concussion waited two more days to rear their ugly head.  When the concussion stuff began happening, the pain seemed bearable in comparison.  I was dizzy even flat on my back.  I threw up several dozen times.  Every time I vommited I had to move and every movement was like being hit with a sledge hammer.  It lasted a full 24 hours and then suddenly that part of my misery just stopped.  After that the pain seemed easier to take.  I just tried not to move.

Without going on about all that, I also had to begin the process of filing an insurance claim, although it was about a month before I could begin to deal with all that.  I had to get the police report, my hospital records, an estimate for damages to the chair.  Yeh, like I was in any shape to do all that.  A month after the accident I was no longer a giant bandage.  I was now a giant scab.  Every move pulled on the scabs and sometimes opened them back up.  But, somehow, with lots of help from Jon, we got all the required documents together and filed our claim. 

There was some frustration involved in dealing with the insurance people, but we began getting money right away.  It wasn't going to be a fortune (you have to be permanently disabled or disfigured for the big bucks) but it was going to be enough for us to do some serious redecorating.  First thing was a laptop and a big 42" HDTV.  Now I was beginning to truly join the current century.  I had a lot of learning to do, but being in bed most of the time, it gave me something to do.

By early July I was functioning fairly normally, though I was no longer standing or walking at all.  That would have to wait for the healing to be complete and for me to get back some kind of mental stability.  I was terrified of leaving the apartment without Jon.  Even with him I panicked if we had to cross a street.  Crosswalks no longer afforded me any sense of safety.  I had to wait until every car had come to a complete stop in both directions before venturing into the crosswalk.  We often missed lights altogether while I went through this process.  Jon demonstrated uncommon patience during this period.

By mid July things were better.  I received my full settlement and we were preparing to begin a major renovation of our apartment.  That had to be put on hold when on July 19th Jon had a major seizure and stopped breathing.  Amazing how my own physical problems were suddenly forgotten.  In between dialing 911 and propelling myself to his side I began mouth to mouth while awaiting the paramedics.  They were here in two minutes (if two people ever needed to live across the street from a hospital...).  It seemed like two hours to me.  Jon was rushed to the ER, unconscious and not breathing on his own.  I followed immediately.  Amazingly I forgot to be afraid crossing the street.  I was far more terrified than worrying about a little thing like a car.  Arriving at the ER I found Jon in a coma and on a respirator.  I went into a dull kind of shock.  I was too scared to feel anything except panic.

Jon was moved to Intensive Care that night and remained in a coma for eight horror filled days.  He began breathing on his own on the seventh day but he was far from out of the woods.  All of this had been caused by a bleeding ulcer that ended up requiring two emergency surgeries and eight units of blood.  It was touch and go for three long weeks during which time I had to get over my own fears and take care of evrything on my own.  The dogs couldn't feed or walk themselves.  I relied on my strong belief in the power that comes with remaining both calm inside and positive.  I also relied on the remarkable support of my dear friends.  Facebook became a constant source of encouragement.  How had I lived without it?

Love is the greatest power the Universe has supplied for us to take advantage of whenever we need it"s strength.  Miraculously, after three very challenging weeks, I brought Jon home.  He healed faster than anyone anticipated.  By the end of August we were ready to go shopping for new furniture and paint etc.  We hired a painter and arranged to take the dogs to a motel for a couple of days while our home was transformed.  I know that I was over the moon happy.  Not only was my partner, my best friend, ok, but our lives were being transformed in a significant way materially and spiritually.

I will leave it there for today.  I promise I will wrap up this eventful year tomorrow as we end the year for real.

                                                                 Peace and Love,




Thursday, December 29, 2011

Austin's Thoughts: my way of thinking/2011 Reflections Part 1

 At this time of year it is certainly appropriate to reflect on all the events, both the good and the bad, that have come my way during the past year.  This may take more than one post as it has been one hell of a year.

2011 started off like many of the past few years.  Everything was pretty much status quo.  No major changes were anticipated.  I was still recovering from a fractured hip, but that was coming along nicely.  The one big change had been my power wheelchair.  After a very long time of being virtually home bound, I was suddenly able to go out into the world on my own.  What a relief for both Jon and me, and the dogs as well.  I could take them on walks again and they got used to the chair right away.  They were so happy to have their daddy back.  Yes, 2011 looked promising.

The first change of the year was getting a cell phone.  I didn't need one while being home all the time but , now that I was out and about, I felt I needed one for safety only.  I started with the most minimal of calling plans and bought a phone with minimal features.  That didn't last long.  I didn't have an email address and needed one so I traded the phone in on a model with Internet capabilities, upgraded my service plan and I was back in the real world.  Or so I thought.  Then I thought I'd try out this thing called Facebook.  Well, little did I know, my life suddenly changed forever.

Right away I began reconnecting with friends I hadn't seen or heard from in 40 years.  They happily guided me through the new world of social media.  With many of my old chums it was as if it had only been a matter of weeks since we last spoke, certainly not 40 years.  As I went along I began to cultivate new friendships as well.  Some of those new friendships have been amazing in their immediate intensity.  Very quickly I was experiencing an abundance of new found love.  Not that I didn't have love in my life, but I admit to being a love hog.  There's always room for more.

Over the first few months of the year, I kept enjoying my new found freedoms, both physical and social, and began physical therapy to relearn how to walk.  Over my year plus of inactivity my muscles had atrophied to the point where I could no longer stand, much less walk.  It didn't take long though before I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I was at least able to walk with the aid of a walker, even if it was limited to very short distances (like from a chair to the bathroom) but I was pleased with the progress.

On April 16th I had to go across the street to the hospital pharmacy to pick up a prescription.  Of course I had to use the power chair for that.  I took the long way so I didn't have to cross the busy street we live on without a crosswalk.  It is a few blocks out of the way, but better safe than sorry.  The crosswalk I chose to use was one of those where you press the button and a flashing yellow light warns traffic that someone is about to cross the street.  I waited until cars had stopped going the opposite direction and headed on into the crosswalk.  I saw a car coming my way but it was quite a ways up the street.  After all, the light was flashing so I assumed the car would see it and me.  Well, not this time.  The driver had been distracted and he didn't see me or the light.  For a moment I thought I could outrun him when it became apparent that he wasn't going to stop.  Wrong.  I had enough time to think "oh shit" and then I went flying.  No life flashing before my eyes.  No nothing.  The next thing I knew I was on the ground, my glasses broken, my cell phone in front of me (it must have been in my hand) and the driver of the car was hysterically asking if I was all right.  I saw that my chair was still upright, although now facing in the opposite direction to the way I was going.  My first thought was that I needed to get back into my chair.  The driver helped me do that and I proceeded the rest of the way across the street.  That fete accomplished, it dawned on me that my broken glasses and my phone were still in the street.  The driver ran back and fetched them for me.  I was just outside the hospital emergency room.  What luck.  My next job was to call my partner, Jon.  I calmly told him what had happened as two nurses from the hospital ran up to assist.  I knew I was on my way to emergency although, at that point, I was dazed and confused and wasn't quite sure why they were insisting that I go.

It wasn't until I climbed onto a gurney inside the ER that I saw the blood.  I still didn't feel any pain.  I remember thinking what a pretty color of red my blood was.  As if my blood was somehow different from everyone else's.  After xrays, CT scans, and who knows what, it was determined that I hadn't broken any bones so they patched me up.  I was one giant bandage as I saw it.  After only 3 hours they let me go home.  Jon had come and gone by then so I got back in my chair (barely damaged) and drove myself home.

Once safely home and in bed I cried for a moment.  I realized how close to death I had just come and for that moment I felt more vulnerable than I had ever felt before.  But the moment was brief.  I took some pain pills that I already had and went to sleep.  Thankfully, I had no idea what was to come next.

I will let that be part one of my years reflections.  I still have a couple of days to bring things up to the present.

                                      Peace and Love,



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My way of thinking/ Charlie and his sweater

Charlie, his blue sweater, and his ball.  I would never have imagined writing such a post, but this strikes me as funny!  When Charlie entered our lives more than five years ago, he was an angry little boy.  He pretty much hated people, except for us, and he hated dogs, except for Roxy.  What to do?

I decided to try love therapy.  That means that I didn't try to teach him commands.  Instead I gave him all the love I had to give.  He got pets, kisses, and learned to accept belly rubs.  He slowly was introduced to other people.  Then to other dogs.  Now Charlie has never met a person or another dog he doesn't like. He learned to love by being loved.  Imazing how that works.

Ok. Now Charlie has fallen in love with his blue sweater.  He has toys but prefers his tennis ball.  He admires himself in the store windows on his walks.  Don't try to remove his sweater if you value your hand.  I made him loving but he has developed his own sense of vanity.  His love wakes me in the morning.  He knows that sunrise is important so he feels responsible for getting me up, even if he thinks sunrise is at 3am.  He lives a life of joy and love.  I will take some credit.  Much credit to Jon and Roxy.  Most credit to the power of love!

Just wanted to remind my friends of the power of love.  What we give is what we tend to receive.  Just don't forget that if you give someone a ball and a blue sweater, don't expect to get it back!

                                          Peace and Love,


Sunday, December 18, 2011

My way of thinking/ Atticus part 2

I always like to add a picture because one of the most accomplished bloggers I am privileged to know, Sherryl Perry says to grab 'em in the first 3 seconds.  If this photo didn't grab you, well I question your taste.  Just being funny.  Don't think I was really questioning your taste!

What I am actually writing about today is the book, "To Kill a Mockingbird".  I just reread it in honor of my friend, Heidi and her beloved companion, Atticus.

The book is seen through the eyes of a child, a little girl named Scout.  Her father is an attorney named Atticus Finch.  While playing and being a child, she sees her daddy fight for social justice.  It is a beautiful story that is far too complex for my little blog.  If you haven't read it, rent the movie.  As Atticus, Gregory Peck gives a lesson in acting.

Why am I telling you all this?  Glad you asked.  The virtues of Atticus Finch remanifested themselves in the voice of a puppy dog with the same name.  He too believed in social justice.  He too loved his family.  He too was willing to fight for what he knew to be right.  Some would say that the voice of Atticus was silenced when he transitioned to a broader plane.  I would say that he just expanded the realm of his being!

Atti didn't seem to mind playing dress up for his mama, Heidi.  My boy, Charlie was the last I thought would enjoy fashion.  Since Atticus moved on, I dare you to try removing Charlie's blue sweater.  It is an amazing world, huh?  Although I have grieved this past week in a way that has truly surprised me,  I have experienced love.  Lots and lots of love from remarkable people.

                                    Peace and Love,


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My way of thinking/ Atticus

I don't have a picture to share of my pup friend Atticus.  I do have many of my own kids, Roxy and Charlie, so I will use this picture to demonstrate the love that dogs share with us and one another.

Atticus left this physical plane last night in his mama's arms.  Heidi loved him with all her heart and let that be known through her wonderful blog, "Atticus Uncensored".  She dressed him up in crazy outfits and gave us all smiles.  But, far more importantly, she used the voice of Atticus to remind us of issues like social justice, unconditional love, war and peace.  Only a dog can truly convey these important topics.  We humans are not that smart.

I will love Atti, as I like to call him, as long as I live.  During his illness I sent him my loving energy every day.  Now he is repaying me with his own loving energy.  Anyone who thinks that it's "just a dog" can hang up the phone.  A soul is a soul.  Period.  Exclamation point!

My love for dogs is well known.  My friend, Theresa, lost her beloved dog, Maynard, very recently.  I cried for Maynard.  I cry for Atticus, his mom, his brother, Wilbur, and his kitty sister, Bella.

Atticus leaves a legacy of pure unaduterated love.  Heidi Alberti shared this love with all of us.  We are all the richer for it.  Let us honor that love by sharing it!

                                            Peace and Love,


Monday, December 5, 2011

I love elephants because I see them as being BOLD.  That's how I see myself as well.  I have never made choices that anyone would consider average, or normal.  I march to my own different drummer.  Some people love me for that trait.  Some people can't stand it.  If everyone had their way, we could all be exactly the same.  I am being silly.  Of course, we are not the same.  Our differences are what make us interesting.  Well, RIGHT?  No two elephants are alike.

I have begun a new adventure.  I have started my own blogging group called, "Austin's Bloggers".  Why have I done this?  So glad you asked.  I wanted a bunch of people to join me in writing for the fun of it.  The group that I belonged to before was fantastic!  I made some wonderful friends there.  But five or six friends didn't seem like enough.  I hope that I can encourage more people to tap on their keyboards and share what is on their minds.  I have made a few people angry by making this choice.  I am truly sorry that I made anyone angry.  If you have read any one of my blogs you know that anger isn't on my to do list.  If it's on your list, go right ahead and vent on "Austin's Bloggers".  We can take it!

I have been privileged to meet some wonderful writers on this journey of mine.  Trish Hughes Kreis, Jerry Castaldo, Robert Levithan, Paul Boynton, have all written books I highly recommend.  I am leaving a few out, I know.  I will share them later.  Right now I am just introducing  new place to speak your mind.  Feel free to advertise whatever you want.  Feel free period!  Oh, check out Judy Stone Goldman and her facebook page, "The Reflective Writer".  There still are more great writers.  Atticus Uncensored is a favorite blog.  Now you can tell me who you want ME to know.  That's how I want this to work.  I really do love you all!!!!

                                                            Peace and Love,


Thursday, December 1, 2011

My way of thinking/ Maynard: pet adoption

The picture is of Maynard.  He lived 18 wonderful years in a good home, once he was rescued by my friend,
Theresa.  I never met Maynard but I heard a lot about him.  From all accounts he was a good boy and a blessing to everyone who knew him.  That's my kind of dog.  That's my kind of human too! 

I was deeply moved when Maynard passed away last week.  I have two beautiful rescue dogs myself and I work with shelter dogs on a weekly basis.  It always gets to me when a beloved "pet" (I dislike that word), member of the family leaves behind that empty space for the family who loved him/her.  You see, rescue dogs are special.  People bring them into their lives usually because they are truly wanted, whereas pet shop puppies are often impulse buys, purchased by people who are seduced by the cuteness of a little puppy.  They have no real idea what they're getting into.

My friends who work with me at the local shelter always tell me I am the worst salesman ever!  I guess I am.  I tell people the reality of having a new member of the family.  Dogs will have accidents on your newly cleaned floor.  Whether housebroken or not, their potty schedule doesn't always work with yours.  Dogs throw up unexpectedly.  They will try to let you know, but that isn't always feasible.  They will wake you up in the middle of the night.  They may eat a few of your favorite shoes before they learn that is unacceptable.  They have personalities that are individual just like human beings.  They will have to learn and grow by mimicking their owners characteristics.  Just like a child, it takes time, patience, and love.  Most of all love.  I tell people, if they don't have tons of love to give, I recommend a goldfish.  Even then, I might worry about the goldfish!

Let's say you meet all my criteria.  Yay!  You can have a new member of the family.  BUT, there is one more thing to be aware of.  That new love of your life will grow old.  You will probably outlive them so, are you prepared for the inevitability of their senior years? The vet bills?  The added stress you will go through when you face their decline?  These are things I ask people to think about seriously.  I am not interested in finding temporary homes.  I am only interested in permanent ones.

Okay. Okay.  I KNOW I can get on a soapbox about this subject.  Believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pet (that word again) adoption.  I believe with all my heart that every living creature is connected to every other living thing.  It is our duty to protect each other according to our natures and our abilities.  I just saw a video of a bird feeding it's dog friend noodles from a pot on the stove that the dog couldn't reach.  Tell me we're not ALL connected.  Love is NOT exclusive to the human race.

Well, maybe this was a bit of a ramble but I hope it makes my point.  We are all responsible for the choices we make, whether it is adopting an animal, or watching out for the people around us, even the people we might not want to see.

                                              Peace and Love,



Monday, November 28, 2011

My way of thinking/ reflections on a holiday

A four day weekend!  What an opportunity to make some memories, and boy, did we ever!

We began with Thanksgiving Day by serving food in the park for the needy.  This has become a tradition for us over the years.  It can be heartbreaking at times because you have to look at things that most people choose to ignore.  Families who have lost their way are plentiful.  People who have been crushed by an unforgiving economy, or who have given up for a variety of reasons come to feel "normal" for an hour or two and share a tradition with others who hopefully understand and show them compassion.  They come looking to be seen as fellow human beings.  A little compassion goes a long way.  Jon and I have that to give so that's what we do.

Our reward came on Sunday 11/27.  We threw an after-Thanksgiving party for friends and neighbors.  I got to see some old friends, some new friends, and some neighbors who didn't have the luxury of family to share the holiday with.  The picture above shows some of the people who stopped by to share in a great traditional Thanksgiving meal and a genuine lovefest.  My dear friend, Sandy came with 3 of her 5 sons and daughter-in-law.  Justin and Katie, Eric, and Matthew.  Our neighbors, Carl, Eyron, and Charlotte (Charlie) came to share with us the joy of being blessed by the abundance the Universe has rewarded us with.  We created a sense of family with little effort at all.  An open heart, combined with an open mind, leads to revelations and new perspectives.

One of the most special things for me was the appearance of our neighbor, Eyron.  I have invited him for several years but he always politely refused.  Eyron is an older man who suffers from schizophrenia.  He takes his medication and is under control but he doesn't speak.  Instead he writes notes.  I think he is afraid to speak out loud because he is frightened of not being able to control what he says.  This year he decided to join us for whatever reason.  Maybe it was because I created a lot of vegetarian faire.  Maybe it was because he has finally come to trust our friendship.  Whatever the reason, it was a blessing to all of us to have his grateful, silent presence with us.  I believe this was a first for him and Jon and I hope to keep up the momentum.  He wrote three different thank you notes.  That, my friends, is what Thanksgiving means to me.

I write about love, gratitude, connectivity, and giving all the time.  I sometimes feel that I am being redundant (boring even) but, if my little blog inspires even one person to slow down long enough to see the opportunities that the Universe drops right in our laps every single blessed day, then I will have achieved my goal.  We all get wrapped up in our own stuff.  Nothing wrong in that, I suppose.  But every so often, take time to open your eyes and look around you.  A very small effort can create a tidal wave of change in the world that surrounds you.  Don't let that go unnoticed.

                                        Peace and Love,



Sunday, November 20, 2011

My way of thinking/ For the love of Walt Disney

It will come as no surprise to my faithful readers that I dearly LOVE Disney drawn animation.  I enjoy the computer generated stuff as well, but for pure artistry, I prefer the hand drawn stuff.  There is magic in the idea that real people used pen and paper (simplifying the process but you get what I mean) to bring hundreds of thousands of drawings to life.  The sheer magnitude of such an operation is astounding to me.

Besides the artistry of the drawings is the art of telling a story.  All the truly great animated films have one thing in common.  They are the stories that tell us that love conquers all and that good will always prevail over evil.  Simple concepts though they may be, they are ideals that have a ring of truth even in our adult cynicism.  This is the way things SHOULD be.  If life isn't quite that simple, we have to ask ourselves why not.  The follow-up question becomes, what can we do to make our lives follow the outline of a fairy tale complete with the happily ever after ending?

"Bambi" begins with a beautiful tour of a densely wooded forest.  While viewing nature's masterpiece we listen to a song that tells us, "Love is a Song That Never Ends".  The tone is perfectly set for the story of love between mother and child, then the love that comes with friendship, the love between father and son, and finally the love between mates.  We also learn how destructive and careless man can be when he causes a fire in the forest (not to mention killing Bambi's mother).  These are wonderful lessons at any age.

Then there are the Disney heroines.  In the early films, the heroines were victims who were rescued from their plights by the handsome Prince Charming.  In today's films the heroines are stronger females who are just as likely to save the prince from HIS plight.  I like it either way because the message is always that love conquers any and all obstacles.  If you believe enough and try hard enough, a happy ending will be the end result.

Believe me, I understand that life is far more complex than a Disney film.  But my point is that these stories can be templates for the way we approach our lives.  If we believe in the power of love, and if we believe that good will win out in the end, we have set up our own happy ending.  If we constantly look at the struggle, and not at the goal, we have set ourselves up for devastating failure.  We have the choice to NOT allow the challenges that life so casually tosses our way to throw us.  We can choose to face these challenges with the idea that positive trumps negative.  Destiny and fate are only words to describe that future which is unknowable.  No one can ever convince me of the concept of predestination.  If that were so, why in the world would anyone bother getting out of bed?

I recently wrote about the power of dreaming.  Dreams are hopes and wishes.  Without them we are adrift in the chaos that surrounds us.  I am not saying that we can, or should, disconnect from reality, but with a little Disney imagination, we can alter our own reality to reflect the world (our part of it) as it CAN be.  The possibilities are endless.

                                              Peace and Love,



Thursday, November 17, 2011

My way of thinking/ Things for which I am thankful

Why does Austin have a picture of a man being loved by his lion on his blog?  Thanks for asking.  It's because I am thankful that I can share this beautiful moment with you.  Can there be too many pictures showing the connectivity of all living things?  Can we have too many examples of unconditional love between humans and the creatures that surround us?  But I digress.  This post is part of a challenge from my pals at The Circulation Desk (my blogging group) to write 5 - 10 things for which we are thankful.  I am thankful every day but I will use this holiday time of year to express my gratitude once again.

#1.  This year I almost lost my partner Jon.  He became ill very suddenly and spent 8 days in a coma with a ventilator doing his breathing for him.  I am so unbelievably grateful that he pulled through and stayed with us.  The power and energy that I received from my friends was palpable.  I felt a protective energy field around me all the time.  Out of an extremely negative situation, I was given the most positive reinforcement of my belief in the power of love imaginable.

#2.  I have a lot of friends.  Each one brings something very special to my abundant table.  My friends are like pieces of a giant puzzle that, put together, make such a beautiful picture.  My life is blessed every minute of every day by the knowledge that you love me.  I love you more.

#3.  My love for animals is well known to my readers.  Our dogs, Roxy and Charlie have been well documented in my posts.  They teach me about love and connectivity every day.  By following their example I am a better man.  I thank them by emulating their kind, generous and loyal, happy and loving, examples.

#4.  I consider the fact that I have had the opportunity to travel all over the world to be an enormous gift.  There can be no better education than the ability to see firsthand the wonders and the scope of the world that surrounds us.  The chance to glimpse into other cultures and experience different customs is priceless.  The understanding that we are all different and that that is a good thing is a lesson that is gained though open minded travel.

#5.  I was blessed with a wonderful family growing up.  Though they are almost all gone now, I cherish the memories and the lessons they have left behind.  Love was first and foremost.  Loyalty and commitment were required. Honesty was a given.  I am well aware that I honor my family when I do what I know to be right.

#6.  How could I leave out something that is so important to me, it is the equivalent of breathing? That would be music.  Music has been the soundtrack of my life.  I remember thoughts and conversations by what song was playing in the background.  Sometimes no song was actually playing anywhere but in my head.  My ability to express myself through music saved my sanity on many occasions.  Ask my New York friends.

I could go on and on.  I am grateful for the sunrise every morning.  I am grateful for the songs of the birds in the trees.  The majesty of the mountains that surround our valley.  I try to remember to be thankful for these things every day.  But it has been nice to put it in writing one more time.

                                        Peace and Love,



Friday, November 4, 2011

My way of thinking/ Dreams

" Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue. And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true."

"A dream is a wish your heart makes."

"When you wish upon a star your dreams  come true."  Familiar lyrics to familiar songs.  We grew up with the idea that dreams really do come true.  And we were brought up right!  "And because these daft and dewy-eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes, impossible things are happ'ning every day."

I was thinking today about the hopes and dreams we all have.  I think that as we get a little older, we start to lose the faith to believe in our dreams.  What a mistake that is!  Of course not every dream comes true.  Life teaches us that in a hurry.  But when we stop daring to dream, we limit ourselves in a multitude of ways.  We leave the childlike wonder behind and focus on the unrelenting realities that barrage our daily lives.  What fun is there in that?  If we no longer dare to dream, what chance is there for miracles?

I love to dream about what I would do if I won one of those giant lottery jackpots.  Since I very rarely spend the buck it takes to play, my dream is obviously unrealistic.  But I dream about it anyway because it makes me happy.  It makes me happy to think that I could really make a difference in a financial way to the causes that are near and dear to my heart.  I am old enough, and wise enough, not to dream of mansions and cars.  I like to dream about ways that I can leave a legacy behind.  Writing this blog is part of that dream.  But if i don't write it, my dream can't come true any more than winning the lottery can happen if I don't buy a ticket.

I guess that what I'm trying to say is: Dreams can be very helpful.  I am grateful for the ability to dream of things to strive for.  Whether the dream becomes reality or not is really irrelevant.  The magic is in the wish, the hope, the desire to live a better life.  And we can dream for others who are unwilling, or unable, to dream for themselves.

                                            Peace and Love,



Saturday, October 29, 2011

My way of thinking/ Ordinary Miracles

It is a rare thing indeed to find a photo with the four of us in it. We always plan to have friends take a few pics of us when they come to visit but we get to talking and I completely forget. This picture is from about three years ago, during our blond period. It was taken at Koffi, our favorite coffee place. We love to take our dogs, and the dogs we foster, there. They have a huge grassy area in back where the pups can meet other pups. It is particularly good for the dogs we have in our home 4 days a week. We get two a day so they can be out of their cages and see what a loving home is all about. We often get adoptions right there at Koffi.

I was thinking last night about all the little miracles that we tend to take for granted. What sparked this thought was looking to my right and seeing our boy Charlie sleeping in his own bed. He has avoided his bed since the day we bought it, but Roxy has always slept in her bed. I guess he finally got the idea that it looked pretty comfy. It was one of those sweet moments that deserve to be savoured.

Things like the bus running right on time, or being in a long line that moves quickly; these are the kinds of things we sometimes forget to be grateful for. The beauty of the mountains, the majesty of the ocean, the trees that move and sigh with the breeze; these are things we see all the time so we can stop being in awe of these ordinary miracles. We shouldn't allow ourselves to ignore all the things that make life so wonderful. Just taking a second to recognize those little things that make life worthwhile can make such a difference in the way we approach each day. If we are grateful for the small things that happen, think how grateful we can be when something big comes along. Our mind is already set up to experience the joy of something wondrous!

I begin each day by meditating. I use the sunrise as a focal point. I am not a closed eyed, cross legged, mantra chanting type of meditator. Rather I use the power of the sunrise as a focus to calm me, allow my mind to be quiet and still, and allow the power of the dawning light to fill me with energy. It is always my first miracle of the day.

I just thought I would send out a gentle reminder of how important it is to remain grateful for the ordinary miracles that happen every day. By recognizing the good, we are better able to combat the bad. We can choose what we want to see and what we don't. It just takes practice. And maybe a slight nudge every once in awhile.

                                           Peace and Love,



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

my way of thinking: Phil part 3

Parts 1 and 2 told the story of my brother Phil's difficulties with drugs and alcohol. We have gone from his birth in 1956 to 1986.

In February of 1986 I was living with a partner, Paul, and was doing a show in Santa Barbara. I was so busy during that month that I had very little time for anyone. But I still spoke with Phil every day. He was having financial problems (what else is new?) so I did my best to give advice over the phone. I hadn't seen Phil for a couple of months. He didn't say anything about his health other than to say he had been to a doctor for a "slight" infection.

On February 26th I was finished with my show so I invited Phil over for dinner. Paul and Phil got along great so we were both excited to see Phil after several months. We were in for a shock. When Phil walked in the door my heart dropped into my stomach. Phil, who was 6'7 3/4", looked like a refugee from a concentration camp. I had never seen him so thin and haggard looking. He was weak and could barely walk. I freaked out. Phil had been in the hospital many times during his adult life. He seemed to get pneumonia about once a year. So I thought that he was going through that again and told him so. He agreed and promised to see his doctor the next day.

Being Phil, he didn't go to the doctor the next day or the day after that. We continued our phone conversations but they changed tone. I was the nagging big brother and Phil sounded weaker and more tired every day. I asked our Aunt Ruth Lee to drop by Phil's apartment and check on him. That was on March 6th.

The next call I received was from our aunt. She was calling from the hospital (less than a mile from where I was living) to tell me that Phil had been admitted and was in the ICU. I wasn't terribly surprised. My main thought was "here we go again" as I got in my car to go to the hospital. I had done this before so I stopped by admissions before going up to see Phil. I was a little taken aback when they started asking me questions about next of kin and d.n.r. (do not resuscitate) orders. I had never been asked things like that before but I figured they were just being cautious.

When I got to Phil's bedside I was shocked at how bad he looked. He had been sick before but this time it was different. There were tubes everywhere and his skin was gray. I was convinced that this was another bout with pneumonia but Phil had let it go too far. He had gone through it so many times that I convinced myself that he would get over it and I would give him another lecture about drugs ruining his health etc.

By the next day Phil had been moved out of ICU and into a private room. Our Grandmother was being brought to the hospital to visit (Phil was her favorite person in the world) and I began to feel uneasy. When I got to Phil's room I was confronted with a quarantine sign. That's when it dawned on me that this was something more than pneumonia. My aunt was in the room, looking pale herself. She had alerted the rest of the family (aunts, uncles, cousins) and I had this horrible sinking feeling. This was serious but I still thought that Phil would pull out of it. After all he always had before.

I don't want to dwell on the days leading up to March 10. It was a parade of relatives and an absolute blur to me. My aunt and grandmother were there day and night. I came by several times a day but continued to work. On March 10, I was at the hospital at dinner time to try to get Phil to eat something. He was too weak to lift a spoon so I fed him. The only thing he was willing to eat was a small cup of vanilla ice cream. I told Phil I loved him and he told me he loved me. Then I went home to make dinner for Paul and myself.

At 10:00pm the phone rang. It was Phil's doctor. He told me that Phil had slipped into a coma right after I left and had died at 7:30pm. I couldn't register those words at first. Then I was furious that I hadn't been called immediately. Then the reality of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks. I became hysterical. When my parents died I was grief stricken but this was different. Paul did his best to comfort me but I could not be consoled. I had to make those horrible phone calls to relatives. The worst was telling my aunt and my grandmother. I'll spare my readers the details. I needed a drink and beer wouldn't cut it. Paul went out and bought me a bottle of scotch and I drank all night.

The next few days happened with me in a fog. Memorial service, burial arrangements (Phil was cremated but buried with our mother), these arrangements were made somehow but I barely remember all the things I had to do. I just kept drinking and my aunt did the driving. Then suddenly it was all over. According to the death certificate Phil died due to complications caused by HIV. AIDS. What a dreadful, horrible word.

During the year that followed I continued to drink far too much. Paul couldn't take it and left me by sneaking out. I didn't even know he had gone til he called me from our apartment in New York to tell me he had gone. Then I looked around the house and finally noticed that all his stuff was gone. I hadn't known there was any problem.

That was my rock bottom time in my life. I owe Paul a thank you for bringing me back to reality. I stopped drinking and started reading lots of books with metaphysical subject matter. I decided then and there that I wanted to rejoin the human race. I wanted to share all these wonderful ideas I had been reading about. I wanted to apply the concepts to my own life and that's when the real work began. I evolved over time. I became calm and peaceful as meditation became a daily ritual. I reached out to friends I had been ignoring. I counted on Phil's beautiful spirit to be with me and I believe he is with me to this day. Not a day goes by that I don't think of my little brother. He was only 29 when he moved on but I see him as still with me. So he has aged right along with me in my mind. Nothing and no one dies as long a they are remembered.

This was a hard story to tell. Believe me it is only a thumbnail sketch but it is a window to my soul. All the challenges that I have faced in my life made me who I am today. They made me strong. They gave me understanding and empathy for others. They helped me to love more deeply and to share my love more freely and fully. Something good can always come from something that seems so bad. It's all in how you choose to look at things.

                                            Peace and Love,



Monday, October 24, 2011

my way of thinking: Phil part 2

Part one was about my brother Phil's life as a child. I left off with him beginning High School as a very troubled teen, constantly in trouble and doing drugs.

Half way through High School our Mother passed away after her very long battle after having an artificial valve placed in her heart. Her body finally rejected the artificial valve and there was nothing back then (1972) that doctors could do. Mom's death changed our family forever.

While I went immediately back into rehearsals to reprise the role of El Gallo in "The Fantsticks"( I had played the part in repertory the summer before) , Phil continued his downward spiral. I was in turmoil but worked through it by getting back to work with even more determination. Phil reacted by getting into more trouble, smoking cigarettes and pot, taking pills, and lots of alcohol.

When our father remarried just 5 months after our mom's passing, Phil and I both reacted with horror. I moved out but Phil was stuck. Dad sold our home in Arcadia and moved to Fullerton, California. Phil had to change schools. That could have been a fresh start but Phil only became even worse. My father couldn't deal with him and called me to say that he was going to put Phil in foster care. Today I'm not sure if that was an idle threat or a foregone conclusion. Either way, I couldn't allow that to happen. I moved out to Anaheim and took Phil in as my roommate. It was the only decision I could make.

Phil was graduated at the end of his junior year (an interesting way for the school to get rid of a trouble maker). Once away from school he seemed to straighten up and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was in college and working as a directory assistance operator so I didn't have a lot of time to supervise my kid brother. It was every man for himself time. My relief was short lived.

On my 20th birthday, I was taken to see a musical at The Schubert Theatre in Century City. Nothing could have made me happier. When I arrived back to our Orange County home, I found Phil completely out of it with two empty bottles of over the counter sleeping pills on his nightstand. It was only 5 days before his 18th birthday and we had been looking forward to getting Phil a place of his own so I could move closer to U.C.L.A. Instead I took Phil to the hospital where he was admitted to their psychatric unit. No matter how much love I gave Phil, no matter how much help I offered, I couldn't heal the hurt he felt inside. I had to get out. I secured him a chance to live with our Aunt Ruth Lee and proceeded to pack up and move back to Arcadia.

After Phil's release from the hospital, he moved in with our Aunt, stopped drinking and doing drugs, and got a Realestate license. As always, I was hopeful. As always, I was disappointed. I forgot to mention that our father passed away shortly after Phil moved in with me. Another factor that had very different effects on the two of us.

When Phil began slipping into his old patterns, my Aunt decided that they would move to Hawaii. They left. I went on a 3 month tour of "My Fair Lady" and then I moved to NYC. After a year, Phil parted company with our aunt and followed me to New York. He stayed with me for a month or so and found himself a place to live. He was surviving by being a prostitute. A call boy not a street hustler. By this time I simply stuck my head in the sand and kept out of Phil's business. There is so much more to that part of the story but....

Phil spent a year in NYC and moved back to California after a failed attempt at a relationship. When I finished my last show in New York, I moved back to California too. Phil bounced from one car rental agency to another. He got bored so easily. I don't think he ever kept a job for more than 6 months. Somehow he always kept a roof over his head. We remained close and spoke by phone every day. Phil continued to have an on again/off again relationship with reality. He never did use that realestate license. He also never gave up the drugs.

By 1985 I had been with a partner, Paul, and Phil had been in a major car accident that wasn't his fault. He received a $113,000.00 settlement and proceeded to blow it all within a year. Oh Phil. You wouldn't let me help you with all that money. Things went from bad to worse in 1986. Phil was shooting up cocaine and his health was failing. My crying and begging him to stop fell on deaf ears.

Well, there is going to have to be a part 3 to this story. Give me a few days and I will bring this to a conclusion.

                                            Peace and Love,



Saturday, October 22, 2011

my way of thinking: Phil

In case there was any doubt, the handsome young men in the photo are my younger brother, Phil and myself. We were 4 and 2 on the left and 3 and 1 on the right. This is the only picture of my brother I have left. In 1997 Hurricane Georges hit Key West and Jon and I lost a lot of stuff. But we had each other. We survived and came back to California. I'll take an earthquake over a Hurricane any day. I grew up with earthquakes so they don't frighten me much.

I want to tell you about my brother. Phil was a miracle baby. In 1956 when I was just 16 months old, my pregnant mother, my father, and I were in a terrible car accident. My mom was thrown from the car and fractured several vertebrae. My father fractured his back as well. And I was thrown into the back seat with only a bump on the head. No infant car seats in those days. The doctors didn't see how the fetus could survive such trauma but the docs didn't know my mom. They didn't know Phil either.

Phil was a delightful child. While I was always focused and intense, Phil was happy-go-lucky and mischievous. If he could take something apart, that's what he was compelled to do. Trouble was, he hadn't figured out how to put things back together. He was always in trouble. I used to feel so sorry for him but I was more than happy to have the spotlight on him rather than me. No matter what, Phil was loved by every person with whom he came in contact. He was my polar opposite.

Phil and I had things in common but, where I was passionate he was mostly just trying to keep up. He was too interested in playing with his matchbox car collection than to do things like take piano lessons etc. I loved dogs and horses. Phil liked them because I did. He was always a step behind and that began to manifest itself into an inferiority complex when he began Jr. High.

Phil had lots of friends. Like I said, everyone loved him. But at age 12, Phil began to separate from his nice friends and started hanging out with the bad boy crowd. He began running away from home and his grades went from straight A's to C's and D's. Phil was a genius you see and school couldn't keep up with him. At this same time he began experimenting with drugs. Our family was constantly in turmoil over Phil. My mother was ill. My dad travelled a lot on business. And then there was me. Barely a teenager myself, but I had a very well developed sense of responsibility and loyalty. By God, I was going to make everything alright for everyone. I could get good grades. I could still be in singing groups after school. I could cook dinner and do laundry. I could be superboy and, to an extent, I was. But I couldn't change Phil. I loved him, but for the first time in my young life, love just wasn't enough.

By High School, Phil's life had completely unraveled. He was constantly being suspended. He considered that vacation time. He could not be controlled by anyone. My parents were talking military school. I was incredibly busy with music and theatre. I had to try to stay out of it as much as possible. Staying out of it would become impossible very soon.

I just realized that I am going to have to make this a two parter. In order to do justice to Phil's story, I want to be complete. There will be a point that goes along with my general theme. I promise.

                                         Peace and Love,



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My way of thinking/25 Random Things About Me

One of my new blogger pals, Franziska San Pedro, came up with this wonderful idea for each of us to write 25 random things about ourselves. We being a group of bloggers who share on The Circulation Desk on Facebook. What a great way to get to know each other better and maybe to learn a little something about ourselves. Here's some Austin's Random thoughts.

1. My favorite color is red. It reminds me of strength. Don't ask me why. If you start asking questions this won't be a very fun exercise.

2. Almost all of my friends and family from before 1973 call me Bill. Many of my new friends call me Bill because my connection to them is through my old chums. Truth is, I have been Austin for 38 years. But I am happy with either name.

3. I have always loved horses. To me they are giant dogs that you can ride.

4. After being hit by a car last April, I had an epiphany. Realizing more than ever how short life is, I redoubled my efforts to make a difference in the world around me.

5. My mother died when I was 17, my father when I was 19, and my brother when I was 31. I am an orphan.

6. I am one of the happiest people I know.

7. I saw my first Broadway show in 1959. It was "Flower Drum Song" by Rodgers and Hammerstein. I was 5. From that moment on I never wanted to do anything but theatre. So that's what I did with unwavering dedication.

8. I am happy to be my age. Glad that I learned a thing or two along the road to 57 years.

9. I have very strong political views but I don't discuss them often. Divisiveness is not my thing.

10. I was brought up by a very religious mother. She was a Christian singer from the age of 6 until she became ill in the early 1960's. Boy can I quote The Bible. I am a nightmare to people who try to "convert" me.

11. Jon and I met through a mutual friend. The friend thought that he was taking Jon out on a date but invited me to join them for a beer. Needless to say, we no longer have that mutual friend.Oops!

12. I love London. After New York City, it is my favorite city in the world.

13. I talk way too much. Jon says so. He also says that I tell everyone everything. Is that really a fault?

14. I believe that I loved music in the womb. Without music I would not know who I am.

15. Stephen Sondheim is my favorite composer/lyricist. I quote him a lot, sometimes breaking into song while quoting him.

16. I am a Disney fanatic. I love animated film, particularly from 1937-1967. You know. When they actually drew it.

17. I am a natural teacher. I am a good learner as well.

18. I dislike actors who are walking, talking job applicants 24/7. That used to be me so forgive me if I don't recite my theatrical history.

19. I said nothing about TV. I was the Pearl Drops Tooth Polish guy in 1973. Ha Ha!

20. I am a very good swimmer even though I am still working on being able to walk again.

21. I believe that meditation is key to inner peace and tranquility.

22. Laughter truly is healing. I know because I make Jon laugh a lot. After almost dying, he is now in top form. We watch a lot of comedy.

23. I sleep very little. Too many interesting things to do. Not enough hours in a day to waste them in sleep.

24. I read quite a bit but only on the go. This is the longest I have sat still in days.

25. I can't quit smoking. Don't bother yelling at me.

Well that's 25 pretty random thoughts. I just let things pop into my head. That's pretty much my writing style anyway. Now. Let's hear more random thoughts from the rest of you fabulous bloggers.

                                                                 Peace and Love,




Monday, October 17, 2011

My way of thinking/ friendship

Is there such a thing as having TOO many friends? This is a question I have been asking myself ever since I took the plunge and put myself on facebook. My original plan was to find a few old chums (30 at most) and keep in touch the easy way. You know, without too much personal contact. Yeh. And how's that working out Austin? 312 friends and growing, that's how.

It is wonderful that I have been blessed to know so many people in my life. Those are just the friends who are on Facebook. Then there are the ones who aren't. My emails are something I both love and dread at the same time. There are days when it looks like a full time job. Trying to answer everyone individually is impossible, so I end up sending out group emails. Then I feel guilty for being so impersonal. Someone is bound to feel a bit ignored and then I find myself dealing with someone's hurt feelings. What's a guy supposed to do?

I have come up with a solution that works for me. I have categorized my friends into groups. I shuffled up the group lists and left them in that order. No one list takes precedence over another. There are 5 separate lists and each week I pick 5 names from each list. I try to pick those people I haven't contacted in awhile. The friends I talk to all the time don't count. I couldn't stop them if I tried. The 25 people from the lists get my full attention, usually at 2a.m. after Jon and the pups are sound asleep.

I love people so much. I never want to slight anyone. But reality is reality. Love is truly a commitment of epic proportion. You do the best you can and trust that everyone will understand.

To answer my own question. No you can't have too many friends. Just as you can't love too many people. You just have to organize a little.

                                           Peace and Love,