The Human Spirit (Monks. What are ya gonna do…)

Certainly the mind gets in the way of the heart and vice versa. We are always looking to rationalize and fight and defend. But sometimes we get away from the simplest of philosophies.

I suppose that most people rely on the fact that there is a “god” or a “universe” and I don’t really care what you want to call it; I just want us to realize that regardless of that belief behind our existence, it is the HUMAN SPIRIT that drives the world for better or worse.

And those who wait for their ‘god’ or the ‘universe’ to make something happen are doing nothing but wasting precious seconds of their lives and others’ when they could be out participating and helping in moving us to a better place.

I actually think lowly of the monks who do nothing but pray in isolation. They are breaking the human spirit chain. They are not facing the triumphs and tragedies with other humans. And they have bailed on us. They aren’t holding that little girl’s hand after her father was gunned down in the street; they don’t comfort that woman who can’t bear the thought of going on without a man she loved for forty years, day in and day out as soul mates after a plane crash; they aren’t trying to explain to the little boy why his mother had to die of something called ‘cancer’; they aren’t counseling the children that were saved from a sex slave ring, used and abused like dolls. No, the monks, these dudes, they don’t deal with any of that. They don’t bring a dollar to the guy who served two wars and lost his mind but lives on the street in a box. He just wants a coffee or a drink. Or a hit of acid. And who cares what he wants—whatever it is that will make him happy— the isolationist monk has decided not to do anything for him anyway. He won’t be participating in the energy transfer that is so desperately needed to sustain this run.

Ok, we aren’t isolationist monks, but we sure can act like them in our busy lives. Gym, work, lunch, happy hour, game, dinner, TV shows, sleep and do it again the next day. Just because you are surrounded by people all day, doesn’t mean you aren’t lonely. Trust me. And Just because you are busy and active in the world, doesn’t mean you have participated in making it a better place.

So, go ahead and use your religion as the propeller for you to do good. Or maybe its politics. Or guilt from your parents. Some people are building their resume. But just remember it all comes from the same place. Us. The HUMAN spirit. And it isn’t about keeping score. If you find yourself doing so, then you have completely missed it; you have lost the point. Because it isn’t about how much you give, but that you do.

“[…] every once in a while, if only individually, a man must suddenly set an example, and draw the soul from its isolation an act of brotherly communion.” The Brothers Karamazov Dostoevsky

Love, Give, Learn, part 2. A summary of 2014

Some years are more special than others. Some years are ones you can’t wait to forget. On my deathbed, which I now can feel better about not happening anytime soon (fingers crossed), I will remember 2014.

2014 was the year of the horse on the Chinese calendar. And quite frankly, I rode this year like a horse. In fact, I feel like I won the triple crown. Twice.

Life opens doors every day for each of us. Whether we see them is one thing. Taking the step and walking through them is another matter entirely. But how magical it is when the eyes open and lock onto a life of “how I want it to be,” rather than “how I wish it could be.”

If I were to name three things that can destroy some good years, it would be excuses/rationalizations, worrying about other people’s problems, and jail time, because all three kill your chance of living the life you really want. It is probably a good idea to stay away from them. You can sabotage others as well, especially as parents and teachers. Careful how we tread.

2015 should be a year of priorities. The right ones. I will not let myself sound “overly-bitchy” or “whiny” as I lay dying on the street after being hit by a school bus full of kids, quietly telling each of them that I did it wrong. That I lived incorrectly. That…

“…I had it backwards and upside down kids. Listen to me. Lucy! Look at me! I know my leg is over there on the curb and my stomach is in my hand, but please listen. Getting your 401K as high as possible is a good idea. But that is all. Please don’t make it a priority.”

Priorities in your life should be what you want them to be. If it is family or some god, great. As long as you aren’t hurting other people, go for it. If it is caring for the elderly or the poor, good on you. If it is traveling the world or following dreams, there you go. But please. Don’t tell me vacuuming or washing your car once a week is a priority. You may become part of the soap mix once you die and rot into the earth, but I guarantee you will wish that you had loved more or learned more or gave more when it is too late. And this: Damn it. Maybe I shouldn’t have told my friends or family “no” so often, mostly because I had to keep my 1967 convertible clean and my manager happy by being there on weekends. Yea. Maybe that order is backwards.

“Only you can prevent forest fires.” “Me?” I used to reply as a ten year old, looking around for older and surely more responsible people who could do that. “I was just watching cartoons, trying to eat my Sugar Crisp. But if you say so.”


But twist it just a bit, and you get a great motto for life. Only you can prevent the life you want. 

You are your only daily steward of happiness. Expecting others to make you happy sounds ridiculous. Go ahead. Re-read the line out loud and tell me it doesn’t make you embarrassed. You keep waiting for happiness or the ‘big break’ like you did a 4% raise you prayed for before every dinner and bedtime. Me? I am going to go get it myself. And for the record, you can be a steward to others’ happiness. (They just shouldn’t rely on it from you and others).

I lived this way in 2014. And it was one of the best.

2014 was so important for me, in fact, that I am sharing it here with you. That should say something. I stepped through the doors. I dropped shame and embarrassment and insecurity as reasons for not living my way, and I told myself I was less of a human being for thinking it. So, I won’t let myself get there again. I rose from the almost dead in 2014 to a new place of reaching back out to old friends I should never have lost touch with and took chances with new friends. That seems simple, but I was pretty good at removing myself from others’ worlds.

So, well, I guess what I am trying to say is: Hey 2015. Fuck you. Yea you. I’m looking right at ya. You keep the time. That is all. I will fill the time. You don’t tell me what to do. I tell you when and where. I tell you how it is going to be. And if you win some days, fine, so be it. But I am coming back tomorrow. And the next day. And I will make the most of it. And if I happen to lose the ultimate battle in this coming year, so be it, I still lived everyday the right way and to the fullest. I didn’t feel bad for not being with my kids more or helping others more or telling people what they mean to me NOW.

I will do it again by maintaining my priorities. They get reordered so easily. Mine are simple:

1. Love-  Make me, and everyone around me within reach, as happy as possible. Drop the judgements. Find the best in everyone.

2.Give- I will not make excuses of why I cannot do service to others. I don’t care if I am in my bed and feeling sick, I consider it an honor to help. Giving and worrying about others instead of myself is a good anti-depressant. We know it, yet we hold back. It doesn’t take religion. It takes human beings to do good things. Religion can be a facilitator of it, but we all have it in us to complete the human chain.

3. Learn – there is so much out there. Don’t tell me what you already know, tell me what you want to know. I am so interested in thatKeep learning. Keep reading. Keep wondering. ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Speaking of wondering… I am sure you are dying to know that 2015 is the year of the sheep (or goat). So hopefully, this time next year, I will be saying, “Yep. Shaved that sheep. Great year.”

But of course, that will be up to me.

Here sheepy, sheepy.  


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plains writers series

Travels with Charley

This guy Steinbeck. In 1960, he takes his dog, a Standard Poodle named Charley, loads up the specially crafted camper he calls Rocinante and heads out to “Discover the America he has made his living writing about.”

“I need to do that!” I said to myself. Truthfully, I have been wanting to do it since the crash of late 2011.charleyContinue reading “Travels with Charley”

What was the Score?

Casey Nayse Mainelli

I watched as my daughter stopped and stood in front of the audience at the Holland Center so they could announce her full given name and she could receive her high school diploma. And here is what I thought to myself as I did: Life. You son of a bitch. 

Maybe we as parents give ourselves more credit than we deserve. All the fights, the knockdown, drag out screaming matches, the I hate yous, the mistakes. Oh, the mistakes. Thousands of them. Sure, she made some too, but that is expected out of people new to the universe. We got here though. We made it this far. I think in the end, the only thing that really mattered was that we loved each other fiercely.

Watching her walk across the stage and grab that diploma–it was in there, I checked—I realized that I had witnessed a young woman come of age. My daughter has come to a remarkable place in her life. I was filled with joy for her, knowing that she can deal with whatever comes at her. She is smart and well-rounded, will look you in the eye and talk to you with passion, is painfully funny, and is dead-honest. What the hell happened? Life. Life happened. And really, they have to get there by living through it. We all did. But maybe. Just maybe. All those brilliant life philosophies that you as a parent had been teaching them from the top of the mountain (or your dining room table) and that you didn’t think they were hearing, well, maybe they were. They just filed them in the back for later use.

Accomplishments are important. Goals in life are important. Ambition is of great importance. Get off the couch. But I would rather not judge my kids’ life by what they accomplish or base it on our societal definitions of success. You know the ones: income tax bracket, size of house, type of and number of cars, shoes, purses, number of places visited around the world, how many wives, how many therapists, etc. Of course I will celebrate when they do accomplish something they have worked hard for, because that is the point isn’t it? To celebrate all their grit and sacrifice to reach the end of a journey? I have always been proud of that and always will be of those moments.

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But what I hope they know, and I have been pressing this into their stubborn little bonces since they were adorable little elves, is that if we are going to keep score, then let it be of how much they give, how much they love, and how much they learn.

Give. Love. Learn.

If you wake up each day intent on actively living out these three, I can’t think of a more fulfilling life. If you don’t believe it so, just consider the opposite of each one. With these three ideas will come some pain and eye-opening, there will be suffering and stress, but it will be well short of the return in reward. You can define them in your own terms and make them exactly what you wan them to be. For instance, creating something and sharing it is giving. A passion for teaching is loving. Trying new things is learning.

Then at the end of the day when you decide to put a close on the one you are on and prepare for the next one, go ahead and ask yourself, What was my score today? Hopefully it was at least 3.



Say “Yes”

First; the good news. I have not been sick since the week of the Super Bowl, also known as the first week of February (someone grab a cross, an ace of spades, a Kippah, a lock of Lindsay Lohan’s hair, and some wood to knock on). Quick confession: except the couple times I drank too much and drove my head into the state it had been in for two and a half years. Why would someone who has been in such a severe stasis for so long do such a thing you might ask? Good question. My doctor said it was to feel normal again. I tend to think my brain has suffered so much traumatic stress that I make poor decisions. Anyway, the meds are doing the job now. I am on seven different pills. The Walgreens gal doesn’t even ask for my name anymore. But you know what? So be it. Or as Vonnegut said, “And so it goes.” Millions have to take heart meds or blood pressure meds or diabetic meds to stay alive. I can do this.Continue reading “Say “Yes””

Space and Time

The above quote is from David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Commencement Speech now famously referred to as This is Water. The video clip is from ‘I ❤ Huckabees.’ Fantastic scene.

 Who the hell knows really, when or what is going on as what we term ‘time’ or ‘space’ seem to move or change during this energy flow we call our lives. My daughter just turned 18. I thought I was still 18. You know- a rebel, an outlaw. Still had a chance for pro ball of some kind. (42 is about it for baseball and that concludes professional sports unless I can get the golf game really going) At 18 I was lying to my parents about a camping trip and driving to Mexico. Bailing out one friend, hitchhiking across Nebraska with another. Possibly coming close to losing my life somewhere between four to five times due to ridiculously inane decisions and choices, like taking off at 3 am in the morning after a night of revelry and a day early for a wedding in Iowa, only to be stranded on a country road somewhere in the middle of the fifth circle of hell, and to then find ourselves being crushed by an old Lincoln come flying over the hill at about eighty miles an hour. My friend and I standing on each side of the truck diving out of the way, the force of the hit, sending our little truck into the side ditch maybe twenty feet from where it had been stalled. Me standing up thinking my friend had been killed.*

Me drinking. Smoking. Sexual activities. Heart going to explode any minute… These are the thoughts that kept me awake the night before my daughter’s birthday. Oh my god. My daughter is going to be 18.

And what is time? Time being that ticking bomb, that countdown to death. That terrible invention of constantly living to not be late. Meetings and deadlines and classes and curfews just to name a few of the spawn. Sure dali clockit keeps us socially active, but I think we could figure it out. “Meet me by the Horse barn for a coffee when the cows come in.” or “Hey, when you reach this tall, let’s go to dinner sometime.”

Maybe the most universal complaint among us is “time goes too fast.” And that is right when I think we know we have transcended time. In a flash, your kids went from one to five and walking out the door with their Spider-man backpacks on for Kindergarten. Then to fourth grade and a few detentions and Junior high and training bras. Oh my god she is a freshman. “Where is she going to college?” someone asked. Shut your mouth! She will live with me forever!

Stop and think about it.  If you have reached this point or when you do get here -with or without kids- you will be thinking about what you were worried over during this entire ride so far and what mattered and what didn’t. Broken windows. Sneaking out. Smoking. Grades. College entrance exams. Crimes committed. Drinking. Sports teams. Girl Scouts. Teachers who didn’t understand your kid’s needs as a student. Divorce. The so-called friends who were tweeting about your daughter’s boyfriend. Job changes. ADHD. College costs. Your daughter wearing sweatpants every single day. Your JOB. The laundry. Dinner. Thong underwear at fifteen?! Your ex-boyfriend’s crooked penis. The dog’s bad hip. Your friend’s divorce. Your marriage. Losing ten pounds. Your softball team. The inability to follow two simple directions by your son or you. Your happiness. I could go on all day. Some of it mattered. Some of it really didn’t.

And that, is how time is transcended. Too little of the clock. Too much to do. If all you had to worry about was milking the cow. No family. No hobby. Just wake up, walk out, and milk the cow. Then go home, shower, and go to bed. Life would move pretty slow. And life would really be a terrible transcendence of time and space.

Take your list. Cross off those things you HAVE to worry about. Now think about what really is going to matter in a year, two years, five years down the road. Is that C in Calculus really going to be the end of your son? Or is that your problem? Get rid of all that fluff that is wasting some of your time or taking up too much of your space. Bottom line -it should be spent on your family, friends, passions. Time is short, you are right. Better get it straight quick.

And what is space? It is many things. That around us which we surround ourselves with. Houses. Materials. Cars. Everything we can get our hands on.  It also encompasses img_keyholeloneliness. There are two kinds of loneliness. The first is where people go out and get away. Maybe to under their bed. Maybe to Chile. Out for a walk or a long drive. But it is one they can return from. A solitude that one needs to often ‘finds oneself’ or meditate. The other is like a cancer, a fog. It enters someone and goes wherever they go. It doesn’t matter how many people surround them, often they even have family. But they can’t help feeling desperately alone, impenetrable to understanding. This is a space so many live in quietly. And this is where transcending space can occur as well.

This is where our children can fall often. Especially in their pre-teen and teen years. They cannot believe there is any way possible that we can understand what they are going through. No way. And it is our responsibility to transcend through that space and time, and show them we can. We fill our lives with too much stuff. We do this to our children too. We make them do things every night. No room to talk and do nothing.

Physically, we fill our lives up with toys and cars and tools and furniture and clothes and whatever we can put our spending cash to good use to. Just to walk out in a small field is a breath of fresh air, and that is sad. And maybe that is the problem these days. Our space is completely assaulted with little room to actually think about anything, thus usually taking what we are told as truth instead. This ‘time and space’ jar is filled to the rim. No room for meditation whatsoever.

Every time I see a young, homeless woman, maybe nineteen or twenty, hard up, maybe holding a sign for help, I think of her as my daughter. She very easily could be. What has been her space and time? I wonder. What will be her space and time, and how will she transcend it? She is everyone’s daughter. I don’t know her story. It may be horrible. It may be simple too. And if her end comes soon, just think of her transcendence and how small her footprint on this human existence will have been. Shame.

So what will your space and time transcendence be? When we leave our journey will we have left something important, a big footprint? Not name recognition. Not celebrity. But something meaningful, that can help others learn from our own successes and failures, all the way to our last transcendence to wherever that may be? Most importantly, will we have shown how not to waste that precious time and space on meaningless trophies and recognition, or tasks and duties, out of fear of what has been defined by society as neat or correct? Not waste, but how to live the life we want to, where we want to, with who we want to. You only have so much time and space in your life. Make sure you fill it up with the good stuff.

I have always been known to say, “I don’t have time for this.”
Maybe I need to tweak it just a little to, “I don’t have time or space for this.”


* He wasn’t. *

In case this didn’t come up – this was quote at beginning…








Let’s talk privately a minute about Mental Health

I am going to open up here and talk about my battle with the mental and psychosomatic side of this illness. Why? I’ve been bothered for many years by the culture we have created around mental health and the defined deviance we’ve labeled it through our behaviors as people and community. And now I can talk from the place of experiencing it.

Continue reading “Let’s talk privately a minute about Mental Health”

Music for the soul

Being sick and getting woozy, or feeling like I can faint from too much activity, keeps me from “jamming” much these days. But last night, a couple of friends came by with their musical talents and abilities, and the Wind Cried Mary. Or someone was crying- maybe it was the neighbors because it was so awful. But I don’t care.

Continue reading “Music for the soul”

Where have all the real pop stars gone?

What’s going on? Where are all the pop stars?

I’m not talking about the ones you think I am.

“POP” quiz
1. Who is your favorite contemporary scientist?
2. Who is your favorite contemporary literary writer?
3. Who is your favorite contemporary painter?
4. Who is your favorite contemporary sculptor?
6. Who is your favorite contemporary photographer?

Continue reading “Where have all the real pop stars gone?”

A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE – The Middle Child

Thursday 12/19/13: I have been sick face down in a pillow all week making email emoticon and pop tart sacrifices to Atepomarus, the Greek God of healing, but as usual, I receive no help from him. What an ass, really. What does he need? Virgins. White stallions, chocolate pudding? Help a guy out, you stupid jerk!

Saturday 12/21/13: What happened? Just woke up from another three-day face down brain buster. Felt like I almost died.

 But I don’t want to be overly dramatic about my week as you’ll see why. My brother Tony has decided to jump the shark and enter the fray as guest blawger for this dying hamster.


 Tony is straightforward with cutting dark humor. He is not embarrassed of who he is even though we are sometimes embarrassed of him. No, that’s not true. OK, only when he wears dress shoes with sweat pants. Tony is who is he is and that is why we love him for who he is… a total asshole.

 But seriously – he is jerk- -kind of like Atepomarus. But so are his brothers, i.e. including me. And what you are about to read is how we talk to each other. If we didn’t, then we would be doing each other a disservice in life. But Tony – Tony is special. His true calling is to make sure someone doesn’t get too cocky or big-headed. He will make sure you don’t get too self-centered or bring too much attention to yourself. You want him on your side though. People who don’t know him always assume they are going to outsmart him no matter the context for some reason- I have to believe it’s because of the fact he never wears his prescribed glasses thus he often wears a ‘squinty look’ on his face. He has this wonderful, subtle way of asking a single question that shows them they are no match intellectually and the game changes. It’s fun to watch; angering when it happens to me, but blissful when it occurs to others. You better be able to back it up.

He is the Will Hunting of this town in so many ways it’s startling; “How ya like them apples?”

 So when you read this article, take note that we are laughing – and so should you. And this is his rebuttal to what has been said on this blawg so far. And it is damn funny. Except the parts about me- they are shallow and sort of lame. But the parts about our brother Matt are hilarious.

 Just make sure you read all the way through before deciding what level of asshole he is… he surprises all of us sometimes. Even his mother.

A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE  by Tony Mainelli

It’s tough to be the rock. The steady ground. The one oft forgotten but leaned on when it matters. Put off on a window sill for decoration, and then the minute you can’t find a hammer….  The rock is a hard place. At times rewarding….at times uncomfortable….at times inconvenient….at times all I know. Such is the life of the middle-Mainelli. Hi….nice to meet you…you may not have known I was here.


Continue reading “A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE – The Middle Child”

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