Scarlett’s Letter August 31, 2013

To be in Alaska again! Bliss!

After a long day of travel, yesterday, we decided to just have a nice, easy, relaxing day at home. Or, at least, near home. Maybe not so easy, but relaxing.

Late August is one of my favorite times of year here. Berry season. I love berries, of all types. I eat berries daily, year round. I have no problem shelling out great sums of money at Whole Foods for organic berries for daily consumption. I think if I were an animal, I really, truly, may be a bear. I love salmon, and other fish, and I love berries. Ursus Americanus, the American black bear, an omnivore, will much more likely forage for berries than hunt and kill any creature, unless you’re camping in a tent and have a Snickers bar in your sleeping bag with you. They are opportunistic hunters with a sense of smell nine times greater than a hound dog. Sure, if you put a slab of meat in front of a black bear, or the salmon are leaping from the water, the bear will certainly enjoy the meal. Berries, though, are easy pickin’s. And, pickin’ berries is an enjoyable pastime, for bears and people alike.

I have been up the hill, behind my Love’s house, a few times before. I’ve walked the “trap line” before the snows, I’ve ridden a four-wheeler along the trail, I’ve ridden a snow machine along the trail. And, yet, I really can’t see said trail. It is not a well-developed trail, intentionally. It is private and the intent is to keep it that way. As a hiker, I know, that it doesn’t take many sets of footprints to permanently mark a trail. As a certified instructor in the principles of Leave No Trace, I know for a fact, very few sets of footprints along the same course will create an indelible trail. Certainly, growth will reclaim the appearance of the trail, but the underlying scar remains, the earth is altered. When hiking in pristine wilderness where no trails exist, in other words, if you do not have “durable surfaces” to hike along, it is recommended that multiple hikers spread out across the area, each taking a unique path, so as not to create a trail where one was not before, and, really, where one is not needed in the future. With the trail behind the house, there is evidence that it exists, but it is used seldom enough by only one, and occasionally two hikers, that it is not a “durable surface”, not a recognizable trail to most. As it should be.

Without a defined trail, in an area I’ve only visited a handful of times, I am, admittedly, a bit lost without my guide. Now, if I were to traverse this path alone, without guidance, I would take measures to assure my safe navigation to my desired destination and my return from my desired destination. I didn’t need that, I had my Sweetie as a guide. It’s his trail. Reminiscent of a couple of horses I’ve owned, he led the way and I dutifully followed. Sugar always wanted to be in the lead and Ranger was always more than happy to just follow. He led, I followed. Up to the top of the ridge and then, a decision, which I was being asked to make. The lead horse usually makes the decision, but it was up to me. Should we take a longer hike down to the stream where the blueberries should be amazing and we may see some salmon berries along the way? Or take a shorter hike along the ridge to where we’ve picked berries before? I’ve never seen a salmon berry, and I’m never afraid of a longer hike, even after a long day of travel and a few nights of short sleep. I opted for the longer hike, the opportunity to see salmon berries that I’ve never seen before and to see a valley and stream I’ve never seen before! We headed to the right, up over the ridge and down, down, down a fairly long, steep hill. All the while I’m thinking, only a little concerned, what goes down is going to have to come up, again. Me, in particular.

We had a daypack with us, with the essentials; empty yogurt and cottage cheese tubs for the blueberries and some “foot squares”, also known as one-gallon Ziploc bags, for any sturdier berries we may want to pick, like low bush cranberries. Blueberries are juicy, plump, though not nearly as plump in the wild as the farm-raised, store-bought variety, which, after eating wild Alaskan blueberries seem fleshy and bland. Nonetheless, blueberries will crush one another in a “foot square” and make juice and jam in a daypack before reaching home, again. The other essentials include “flagging” tape, to mark where we drop the daypack and rifle while we wander the tundra picking, oh, and the rifle, just a .22, just in case we scare up a grouse or spruce hen, also known as dinner, potentially. It isn’t moose season yet, by a day, so higher power isn’t, yet, a necessity. I’m wondering about bears, but I don’t ask. I’m not the lead horse.

We make our way down, down, down, the hill toward the bottom of the valley. If you have never hiked on tundra before, allow me to attempt to describe it for you; it is like hiking on sponges. It is like moss, on steroids. Well, it is a moss, but deep. Very, very deep. And this time of year, it is changing colors, from green to orange, red and yellow. The berry bushes grow all over the hillside amongst the tundra, and are also changing color, from green to gold to red, depending on the variety. There are hundreds of varieties of berries in Alaska, another reason why I feel I belong here. The deep, cushy tundra covers the soil, rocks, downed logs and other obstacles, so it is uneven, but soft and spongy. I guess, if you’re unfamiliar with it, it would be much like spraying an obstacle course of logs and rocks with a foot deep layer of sponge. Walking down a steep hill covered in tundra is interesting, you place your foot down and wait a fraction of a second to see just how far its going to sink before being on firm enough terrain to allow you to lift your other foot off the ground for your next step. I figure I must look a little like a slow motion version of Shaggy from Scooby Doo, traversing downhill in sort of jerky, exaggerated steps, lifting one foot high enough to pull it out of the tundra, kick it forward enough to make progress, and place it down again, tentatively. Wait, sink, lift, step. A pretty good work out and an unforgettable experience. I heart tundra.

On our way down, we encounter a moose trail, which is a trench worn into the tundra, clear down to the soil beneath. We walk a ways along the trail, made, likely, by just one moose. At times the trail bed was over a foot beneath the top of the tundra alongside, it sometimes came to my knees, it was like walking in a ditch. Some trails are traveled by many moose and can be much deeper cut, which I can only imagine, as this was a “single moose trail,” so my “guide” said. And, considering the source, I believe. We also spotted many areas where the tundra had been disturbed, the surface was torn up and scattered; “bird sign”, meaning that grouse had been scratching in the area, meaning, we should be able to scare up an inexpensive protein source for dinner. Hence the .22. Blam!

We reach the stream at the valley floor, though it isn’t visible. I can hear the water burbling over rocks, but the stream itself is shrouded in tundra and thick brush, mostly blueberry plants. We pick and pick and pick, filling a couple of large yogurt and cottage cheese containers, and eating plenty more, too. After a bit, we decide to make our way back up the hill, traversing diagonally towards the ridge in search of more berries. The longer trek to the stream was “fruitful”, pun intentional, though we saw no salmon berries. Up on the ridge, though, we may find some low-bush cranberries. And maybe a bird. For dinner. Blam!

We hike and hike and hike. I follow the lead horse, who is deliberate and methodical in his ascent. I can appreciate that. I am offered the opportunity to lead, at one point, because I am “tailgating”. Oops. My bad. So I lead for a while. I only know to go up the hill, there is no trail, we deviated from the trail when we decided to go down into the valley. I just head up the hill. As you may know, I’m a bit of a cardio nut. If I have nothing better to do and I haven’t done anything strenuous, yet, in a day, I can usually be found at the gym just sweating my brains out on the cardio equipment. I have four machines I favor, and of those favored four, my favorite, and the reason for joining the gym I joined, is the Stairmaster, the actual stairs on an inclined treadmill, not the little step paddles that move a few inches, but full on stairs, mechanized stairs. I do about 72 flights of stairs in fifteen minutes. Hills don’t bother me. Even hills covered in a foot of spongy tundra. I’m just launching myself uphill, thinking, “Wow! Now this is a Stairmaster!” Tackling the steep climb with this mindset may have been a worse offense than tailgating.  As I’m striding up the hill, I notice large indentations in the tundra, I think they must be our footsteps from our descent. I point them out and, no, I am informed that they are the footsteps of a good-sized bear. I have visions of us swinging the butt of the .22 at the bear’s head, repeatedly, in an attempt, likely a hapless attempt, to escape with our lives. I march on, a little faster and with a bit more enthusiasm, like skipping steps on the Stairmaster, and a much worse offense than tailgating. So, we take a rest, plunk right down on the tundra, which is like sitting on a pillow. A soggy, damp pillow. Luckily, we packed another essential in our daypack; the remainder of the bottle of wine we were enjoying the night before, a 2011 V. Sattui, Crow Ridge Vineyard, Old Vine Zinfandel. Of all the wine I schlepped to Alaska, this was our favorite. By far. We kill the rest of the bottle and I relinquish the lead back to he who knows the way and hikes at a more reasonable pace. I follow dutifully behind, a mindful distance.

At a few points along our ascent to the ridge and, hopefully, back to the trail home, we stop, my man looks up, looks right, looks left, and walks on, occasionally altering direction by a fraction, a degree. He knows the curve of the hills, the pattern of the trees that differ from the pattern of the trees in another area, some spruce, some birch and hardwood, each lending a different color and texture to the hillside. The direction of the sun also provides guidance, and, though I am lost, and there is not trail other than the meandering footprints of a “good-sized” bear and a single moose trail leading somewhere, but not home, he knows the way. We find along our route, the remains of a baby moose, just some clean, nearly white bones and one small hoof, perfectly intact from the knee down. And we walk on. Still, I am lost, and, if left on my own, would likely wander for quite some time, maybe never finding my way back to our starting point. Again, had I started on my own, I’d have navigated myself, deliberately and would be able to navigate back without much trouble. I am slightly lost only because the area is unfamiliar to me and I started on the premise that I need not navigate, deliberately. When I see the first “trap”, I know we are back on the trail. Not really a trap, the trap itself has been removed, and is only in place for a very short duration during winter. But, there are many trap sites along this trail, for marten and fox, mostly, and they are familiar to me, now.

At the top of the ridge, we turn and head down the trail towards home. Though I cannot see a trail in the tundra, through the brush, in the layer of birch leaves that are already scattered on the forest floor, for fall is here, already, in Alaska, I know there is a trail and that we are following it. Familiarity. Lost no more. A short time later, the form of the house becomes apparent further down the hill, hiding behind the trees. Home, in time for dinner. Chicken. From the freezer. Blam. Only the sound of the freezer door shutting.

 

Dinner. Chicken from the freezer, cranberries from our hike, corn, squash, lettuce and tomatoes from the garden and greenhouse and a 2009 Ceja Carneros Merlot from the box I schlepped from home, to the airport, on the plane, to Alaska.
Dinner. Chicken from the freezer, cranberries from our hike, corn, squash, lettuce and tomatoes from the garden and greenhouse and a 2009 Ceja Carneros Merlot from the box I schlepped from home, to the airport, on the plane, to Alaska.

 

You Have to Play to Win

My cousin visited a couple of weeks ago and she, my mom and I went out to lunch. On the way to the restaurant, we somehow got onto the subject of winning the lottery. What would you do if you won a large jackpot? Some people say they would save the money, invest it wisely and live off the interest, others say they would spend it all fast and furiously. My cousin was of the latter mindset, she said she has it all planned out and that she would pretty much just enjoy it while it lasted. Which is what most big jackpot winners do, spend it all and then return to their previous lives with nothing but great memories and some awesome stories to tell.  Fair enough. I’d buy shoes. And maybe a castle to keep them in. But you have to play to win.

I used to play the Lotto religiously. I’d purchase twenty draws in advance, the same numbers, and then, I’d never check the numbers to see if I won. I probably won the big jackpot, maybe even several of them, and never knew it. I stopped playing. You have to play to win.

I played in Indiana and New York. I may have won. I don't know. I never checked. So, I don't play this game anymore. I'll focus my efforts elsewhere.
I played in Indiana and New York. I may have won. I don’t know. I never checked. So, I don’t play this game anymore. I’ll focus my efforts elsewhere.

During my cousin’s visit, we also had a discussion about buying things you don’t necessarily need. On impulse. My aunt, my cousin’s mom, had these two large, beautiful rooster figurines. When she passed, I somehow came into possession of these roosters. At that point in time, I lived in a small suburb of Sacramento, Fair Oaks, in “the Village”, where chickens roamed the streets and most residents had chickens as “pets”. We had chickens as pets. And my house was decorated inside and out with chickens, including these two roosters. That was over fifteen years ago and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve moved since then. No more chickens, real or decorative. But, these two roosters have made move after move. Now, I really don’t have room for them, and, quite frankly, I’m sick to death of dusting them. So, my cousin, the garage sale genius that she is, came by to pick up some of our discards to sell at her next sale. Chickens included. My mom asked my cousin if she knew where my aunt had purchased the roosters. Of course, my cousin didn’t know, it was decades after she’d grown, left home and raised her own family, and decorated her own home. My mom has a way of asking (a lot) of questions that no one could possibly know the answers to. Often in rapid fire succession. Sometimes almost inquisition style. It’s her gift. We all agreed, knowing my aunt, that the roosters were probably an impulse purchase and we all had a good idea how my uncle probably reacted. On impulse purchases, my cousin mentioned that in her travels, she’d seen a doormat she wanted to buy for her mom that said “Ed, please leave the check under the mat.” She didn’t buy it, thinking she’d stop back by and do so, but never did. My aunt never got the doormat, so Ed didn’t leave her the winning check. I’m not sure my aunt even entered the Publishers Clearing House drawing, I’ll bet she did. You have to play to win.

My aunt had to buy buy this rooster statue! Now it's mine, but it's time for it to go bye bye, for someone else to buy buy!
My aunt had to buy buy this rooster statue! Now it’s mine, but it’s time for it to go bye bye, for someone else to buy buy!
My aunt had to buy buy this rooster statue! Now it's mine, but it's time for it to go bye bye, for someone else to buy buy!
My aunt had to buy buy this rooster statue! Now it’s mine, but it’s time for it to go bye bye, for someone else to buy buy!

Speaking of Ed and the Publishers Clearing House Drawing prize checks, Mom and I were having breakfast this morning when her phone rang. Her phone rings all the time. Actually, I swear there are twelve phones in the house, all with the ringer turned up as loud as possible. When someone calls, I swear the windows are going to shatter. I have my own “land line”, for work. The number is unlisted and the ringer is turned off. I don’t even know what my phone sounds like, but I’m sure I’d hate it. I haven’t given my “land line” number to anyone, ever, at all, so I know without a doubt that no one I would ever want to speak with will ever call me on that line. When my cell phone rings, and it is on silent all the time, too, so I’d have to actually see the incoming call, I look at the number and decide if a) its someone I want to speak with and b) if I want to speak with them right now, or if I might prefer calling them back at a more convenient time, for me. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message and I can decide if and when I’ll return the call. Mom answers almost every call. Except for the one that occurs every morning, like clock work, at breakfast time. When she has answered it in the past, it has been some recorded message trying to sell her new windows, siding, roofing, solar panels, and appliances, all financed by the utility company. Even if she understood the whole thing, she really isn’t in the market for any of that stuff. She has asked, on numerous occasions, to be removed from their call list, but to no avail. I’ve registered her number on the “do not call” registry, but we all know that’s only as good as the ability to enforce it. Which is zero. So, this morning, like every morning, the call comes. Mom picked up the phone, glanced at the incoming number, hit the answer button followed immediately by the end button. Then she remarked, jokingly, “that was probably Ed with my winnings for the Publishers Clearing House drawing.” I asked, a little sarcastically, “Did you enter?” No. Well, you have to play to win.

I’m not proposing you should play the lottery or enter drawings and contests, I’m saying that you have to play to win. That applies to whatever you want to happen in your life. If you want to be fit, you’ll have to play to win; work out hard, regularly, eat right, commit to a fit, clean lifestyle. Forever. No pill, no shake, no two-week celebrity diet, no celebrity doctor endorsed super food suggestion is ever going to make you thin, fit or healthy. It is a lifestyle. You can’t wish yourself fit just like you can’t expect the next visitor at the door to be Ed with a big fat check if you didn’t enter the drawing. You absolutely have to play to win.

If you want to find love and companionship, you can’t sit home and wish for it to happen. Fabio isn’t going to crawl off the cover of your Harlequin Romance novel and pull you into his arms. You’ll have to play to win. You need to go out, participate in your community, be visible and active and mingle. You need to increase your exposure to a lot of people to find the one. The Powerball jackpot won’t ever be yours unless you’ve bought a ticket or two. You’ll probably have to go out into the world and meet a few folks before you find your soul mate. Must play to win.

You have to play to win at love.
You have to play to win at love.

Perhaps you’re hankering for increased success financially. Unless you take active measures to increase your income and decrease your spending, it probably won’t happen. Unless you DO play the Lotto and you DO win, but, my friend, in case no one else has told you, the odds aren’t good. No one is going to just give you gobs of money for no reason. Chances are you don’t have a long, lost, rich uncle who died and left you his fortune. You have to play to win. You need to carefully plan, budget and commit to both if you want to begin to accumulate money.

Your next raise is likely to not quite match the rate of inflation unless you’ve played to win in your career, too. But you can’t rest on your career marketability laurels and hope to be offered more rewarding opportunities. You have to play to win. I am hard-pressed to think of a single career field that hasn’t changed dramatically as a result of computers and advances in technology. We, too, must evolve, change, adapt in order to remain relevant, let alone advance. We need to meet or match the same pace of technological advances in order to remain relevant in our careers. It is an ongoing and almost frenzied activity to keep abreast of technological advances, but you must, in order to be marketable. My (former) husband was, for a long time, in software sales, support and customization. He had his own business and did well for a number of years. During that time, Microsoft Windows came out, and for a very, very long time, he resisted. He stuck with DOS and recommended his clients do so as well. Until it was no longer viable, supported or an option. Once he finally migrated to Windows, kicking and screaming, he stuck with the oldest version supported and upgraded only when absolutely necessary. This was not a very sound practice for someone in the software industry. Better to move forward, embrace the new, and make well-informed and educated recommendations to clients than to stubbornly cling to the old, comfortable version of the software, missing out on the enhancements and the benefits and opportunities for efficiency and effectiveness in the new version. There is a popular ad campaign for teeth whitening products, “if you aren’t whitening, you’re yellowing”. I think this can be perfectly applied to doing what needs to be done to remain marketable in your career field. If you aren’t advancing with your field and with the technology within your field, you’re becoming irrelevant and unmarketable. You have to be in the game to score. You have to play to win.

No matter what it is in life you are making an effort to evolve in, you have to make the effort to obtain the result, without exception. You have to be invested. And, the more invested you are, the better your odds for success. I advise “all in” for everything in life you’d like to win, except the Lotto and other games of chance, of course, here, a dollar will do. But you do have to play to win.

I’m Special

Have you ever felt taken for granted by loved ones in your life? Have you ever had one of those days where you just don’t feel very special? Where people you know love, cherish and adore you are indifferent, distant or distracted? Feels terrible, doesn’t it?

So you’re not being treated like you’re special from someone you think should be treating you like you’re special. Do you let it get to you? Like it’s all about you and it’s up to them to make you feel special? That’s the problem, there, not whether you are special or deserving, but that you are relying on someone else to make you feel that way. That is hard work, impossible work, and is unfair to ask of anyone.

Feeling special, just like everything else, is up to you. When you think you’re pretty special, the world will fall in line. Feeling special is an expression of confidence and self-worth, both of which come from within. True, people can acknowledge your specialness, in some way, but that in itself does not make you special. Neither does someone’s temporary lapse of acknowledgement of your specialness make you any less special. Confidence, self-worth, feeling special; it’s an energy, and like all energy, it attracts a corresponding energy. Feeling special is just like being likable; if you don’t like yourself much, it’s pretty silly to expect others to like you, too.

If you want to feel special, you need to develop that feeling about yourself, first. You need to decide what it is that you think is special about you. Make a list. I’m not kidding, sit down and make a list of all the special things about you. Pretty hard, isn’t it? If you’ve never taken time to document your special qualities, if you aren’t aware of your special qualities, then who the hell are you to think someone else is duty bound to make that list and remind you of the contents of that list, regularly, to your satisfaction?

Think about it. What makes you special, contemplate, deliberate, consider and then, write it down. Once you have a list, leave it in a handy place, you’re likely to think of more reasons why you are special, and those reasons should be added to your list, too. Keep a running list for however long it takes for you to figure out all your special qualities. Once your list is fairly complete, keep it close at hand, read it over, often. Daily, even. If you journal or repeat affirmations each day, add your special list to your daily practice, lest we ever forget what makes us so special. This practice, more than any other, will instill in you the confidence and the self-worth you need to feel special, all by yourself, without external reinforcement.

Are there special qualities you lack? When you made your list, are there some items you think should be on the list that aren’t? Here is a magic trick; add them to your list, too. Affirm them, acknowledge the desired qualities in your life as though they were true, and you will embody them, they will become true. By the power of suggestion, through persistent belief and affirmation, you can adopt the qualities you lack, the qualities you desire. Magic.

The wonderful thing about self-sufficient, self-sustained “specialness” is you never have to rely on anyone to supply you with it, to fill that void. Your belief in yourself, your own special qualities, can never be taken from you. You are the keeper, your special qualities are yours, you’ve discovered them, you’ve recognized them, they are yours, all yours. Cherish them. Foster them. Believe them. Become them. The confidence and self-worth that springs from this will carry you through life with more happiness and bliss than you’ve ever known. Trust me.

There is another little trick with feeling special, the golden rule applies. Exponentially. Congratulations, first of all, on finally figuring out that you’re special in so many ways. Have you noticed the people in your life? Aren’t they special, too? Oh. My. Are you taking them for granted? Or are you just indifferent, distant or distracted? True, it is up to them to fill their own specialness void, but there is certainly no harm in being attentive, caring or heedful. Truly, one of the special qualities you develop should be attentiveness, caring, heedfulness, and these traits will foster good relationships with the people in your life. To feel extra special, treat the people in your life special and they will likely reciprocate.

Strive to be attentive to everyone in your life; friends, family, lovers, co-workers, superiors at work, those you oversee at work, acquaintances, strangers on the street. Being attentive requires no special skill, just a general awareness and thoughtfulness. In a world where random acts of kindness are notable, and sadly, are treated like extraordinary acts, seek to adopt random kindness as one of your qualities. The Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts, two completely separate, autonomous organizations, share a slogan; “do a good turn daily”. Have you done a good turn today? And, is there a rule by which you can only do ONE good turn daily? Be attentive, make yourself special by becoming attentive to everyone you encounter.

Being attentive to your lover is particularly important. Make them feel as special today as you did when your love was new. Everyday. It is so easy to slip into a complacent pattern where you know you love each other, but the time has passed where you feel the need to “prove” your love, to have to remind the other of your love. Once the love is assumed without much expression, lovers begin to feel under-appreciated, taken for granted. Lovers begin to feel that the spark is dwindling, or, worse, gone. If there is love, the spark is there, no matter how long it has been, even if doubt and bitterness have crept in, there is still a spark that can usually be reignited. You’re special, remember? And there must be something you find special about your lover, or you wouldn’t have fallen in love in the first place. Remember. And become attentive to those special qualities. Acknowledge them, praise them. Be thoughtful, caring and heedful and what you have between you will become more special, again.

Life is special. If you’re alive, you possess life. Simply being in possession of life puts you in possession of something special. Foster your special qualities and your life will become more and more special. With the confidence and self-worth you uncover, your life will blossom into something greater, people in your life will regard you in a new manner, and you will make the world a better place by sharing your special qualities, by being attentive, thoughtful, careful and heedful. It is a cycle. The more special you believe you are, the more special your life becomes. You become special by believing you are special. Believe. I’m special. So are you.

 

 

Be My Guest

Remember Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”? Remember the song “Be Our Guest?” How hospitable the candelabra and the teapot all were? Wouldn’t it be grand if people in our everyday encounters were as welcoming? When was the last time you set foot in a hotel or restaurant and the entire staff broke out into song and dance? Right? Me either.

Every day, we do business with any number of people, with any number of companies, and, if you think about it, they are all competing for our business, for our attention and for our money. How do you decide where to take your business? Yelp? OpenTable? Foursquare? UrbanSpoon? Food Spotting? Amazon? Or just word of mouth? There are almost as many forums for providing feedback on businesses as there are businesses. All that feedback matters. A lot.

My daughter and I used to frequent an awesome cupcake bakery in Folsom, California. They had normal size cupcakes and miniature cupcakes and ice cream from a local ice cream maker. The décor was awesome, as was the service, and the cupcakes were even better. I followed them on Facebook and on Foursquare and Yelp. Imagine my surprise when I was asked by the owner, on Facebook, to provide a good review on Yelp to counter a bad review they’d received. I did, I provided a glowing review, as did others, but in a matter of a month, they were out of business. Feedback matters a great deal, bad more than good, apparently.

I was in San Francisco earlier this week. I finished work just before 5:00 in the afternoon and was headed home thereafter. In an effort to avoid heavy commute traffic, and to have dinner at a decent hour, I decided to eat in The City before crossing the Bay Bridge and heading home. I’d walked past an attractively appointed Japanese restaurant a few times during my stay, and though I always walked past before the busier dinner hours, I never saw a patron in the restaurant. I’d been lugging my backpack several blocks, burdened with my course materials and my laptop, and my ridiculously large purse. Weary, when I reached the Japanese restaurant, I decided to take a rest and grab some sushi and a beer and then make my way back to the hotel to retrieve my car and my luggage and head home.

I entered the restaurant and there was one guy in the preparation area, visible through a pass-through in the wall. Another man sat on a stool behind the counter waiting, I guess, for unsuspecting patrons such as myself to wander in. Sort of like the spider for the fly caught in his web. He stood up and grunted for a greeting. I wasn’t provided with any type of menu or offered a seat. On the counter were plastic examples of their combo plates, so, feeling somewhat awkward and pressured, I quickly made a selection; a round, decorative tray with several pieces of mixed nigiri that almost looked appetizing. I ordered an Asahi to accompany my dinner choice, paid without thanks and had to request a receipt. I took a seat. There were many tables and booths to choose from, and I was the only customer, so there was no competition for seating. I took a big, roomy booth. About two seconds later, the man who took my VISA card from me, because they didn’t accept my preferred method of payment, American Express, unceremoniously plopped a plain white plate before me on the discomfortingly sticky surface of the table. On the plate were six very anemic looking pieces of nigiri; it was pretty hard to tell exactly what type of fish topped the not very well formed blobs of rice. My beer had not yet arrived, but before I could mention it the brusque man was back behind the counter and on the phone, in a raised tone of voice, with someone. Hopefully not a customer. I had to wait until he was finished stalking through the dining area, yelling at whoever was on the other end of the call, to try to attract his attention, and then ask, again, for my Asahi. Once I accomplished that, he brought me a Kirin. Whatever. I’d already finished all six, microscopic and not very tasty pieces of sushi. I quaffed the beer, quickly, as I took a closer look at my surroundings. Only after being treated like a nuisance rather than a customer did I notice the dirt on the edges of the table, the portions of the bench seat that were infrequently sat upon, on the shelves, the paper lanterns that hung over the tables, on the bottles used for decoration. Only after being treated like a nuisance rather than a valued customer did I notice the floor was covered with those no-slip area rugs you can buy at Costco to prevent people from slipping on wet floors, or to cover up something you didn’t want to be seen, I suppose, since there were about three dozen of them strewn around the restaurant in, I’m sure, a strategic manner. I didn’t really want to think about what they were covering up. After being treated like a bother rather than a valued customer, I left, thirty dollars poorer, still hungry, unhappy with my experience and feeling foolish for having made such a poor choice. I was, indeed, still hungry and would have spent more money for more food had I been treated hospitably. I ended up going to an Indian restaurant across the street from my hotel for a real meal. Though no cleaner, and certainly no better decorated, the service was stellar and the food even better. I go to San Francisco for work a few times a year, at least, and I will go out of my way to frequent the Indian restaurant again. And I will go out of my way to avoid the Japanese restaurant, at all costs, assuming they are still in business next time I return.

Have you ever noticed the number of company vehicles on the roads, emblazoned with logos and advertisements, phone numbers, websites and even “how am I driving” advisory information? How many of those vehicles are being operated by rude and careless drivers? After my trip to San Francisco, I had to head for Reno, Nevada for another couple of days of work. On my way through the Sacramento area, I was being relentlessly tailgated by a large, commercial van. The van was completely engulfed in company information as the driver barreled down on the rear bumper of my tiny, dwarfed Civic. The driver of this van, apparently, had no awareness of the fact that I make keen notes on rude drivers and the companies they work for, with the assistance of Siri. Not only will I refuse to do business with them, I will usually call the “how am I driving” advisory and report them. Additionally, I often call or email the company directly, request to speak with the owner or manager, and tell them that I will likely never do business with their company because of the behavior of one of their drivers. I do this for company cars that park askew, impeding access to an adjacent parking spot, or to my already parked car. People. Pay attention. You are representing the company whose vehicle you are driving and, yes, it does make quite an impression when you behave a) good or b) bad.

How hospitable are you? As a person, as a representative of the company you work for, whether your own, or someone else’s? Do you honestly think it doesn’t matter how you conduct yourself? I work for a company, and my performance, on a daily basis, is ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, by every person I come in contact with. If my average score is less than 4.90 for any quarter, it impacts my pay negatively, by thousands of dollars. If my average score is less than 4.50, ever, for any period of time, that is grounds for dismissal. I believed in good customer service before being so incentivized. Now I’ll practically walk a tightrope while juggling swords and flaming spheres, to make sure my customers are completely happy with their experience. I am accountable for how I represent the company I work for, and I don’t even have a “how am I doing?” advisory number on my rear end!

For the past few years, before my dad passed away, my family frequented a Thai restaurant on Pearl Street in Napa, Mini Mango Thai Bistro. The food is outstanding, the service is even better. There is a man there, always there, who is extremely hospitable. I don’t know if he is an owner, or just an amazing waiter, but he is so gracious. He doesn’t quite break into song and dance when we arrive, but he recognizes us and always greets us warmly and inquires about other family members he has served with us in the past; children, cousins, friends. Shortly after my father passed away, my mother and I went for lunch, just the two of us. The kind man asked about my father. I told him he’d just passed away and I honestly thought he was going to cry. He apologized with such sincerity, I was so deeply touched. Our favorite dish is the Cha Cha Chicken, the spice is perfect, the chicken is tender, and the vegetables are as fresh as can be. My mom and I still go there, quite regularly. When we walk up, we are always greeted with a genuinely warm smile and a greeting “two Cha Cha Chickens?” We always insist on looking at the menu, and then place our usual order. When we pay and get up to leave, he will say, “see you next week”, though, sometimes we miss a week, or even two, his hospitality and stellar service, in addition to the outstanding food, bring us back on a regular basis. If we look in the fridge and see a less than exciting selection of food, you will find us at Mini Mango within the hour, thoroughly enjoying our Cha Cha Chicken, a Tsingtao and gracious hospitality.

In the world of business, every penny counts. Every business is clawing for the same dollars, for the same favorable recognition. As a businessperson, if you aren’t breaking your neck to provide excellent customer service, excellent hospitality, someone else will end up with your share of the dollars and the recognition. As individuals, really, it is no different. People in our lives are like patrons to a business, they can come, they can go, and how welcome we make them feel will make all the difference in the world. Think about it.

In friendships, I’m sure, you have some friends you are always eager to spend time with because they are fun, upbeat and outgoing, genuine, sincere and full of kind words for those they speak of. I’m sure, admit it, you have other friends that you spend time with, more out of duty. We all have those friends who are unhappy and spend most of the visit talking poorly of other people or complaining about their lives in any number of ways. We listen, sympathetically, because we are good friends, but, often, we leave our visit with them sort of downtrodden and exhausted. Friendship is a choice; I hate to say it’s like the popularity contests we so loathed in high school, but hello? They are. If two friends called you for a lunch date on the same day, and you had no flexibility, which are you more likely to spend your lunch with, the hospitable friend or the less than hospitable friend? Truth.

Consider hospitality in love relationships. When we are in love, in a relationship with someone and all is bliss and butterflies, we can’t imagine anything ever going wrong. Once we become more comfortable with each other and the shininess of the new relationship fades a little, our true colors begin to develop, like an image on film. Often, once the newness wears off, we begin to notice faults and behaviors that grate on us, and, eventually, the relationship falters and dies. It’s a pattern, sadly, and in some relationships it takes days, some it takes weeks, some months, others, years. How can a loving relationship ever endure the odds? I will never say this is simple, there is a lot of chemistry involved, but more than that, there is hospitality.

One of the best books I have ever, ever read in my whole entire life is “The Soulmate Experience” by Mali Apple and Joe Dunn. In this must read edition, they very logically explain that there is nothing, nothing, nothing we can do to make someone love us, even for a moment, and most certainly not for any longer. Not for a day, not for a week, not for a month, not for a year, and most certainly, not forever. There are never guarantees in love. The best we can do, is be grateful for every moment the other person loves us and to treat them like a guest in our life. What a concept! My lover is simply a guest in my life, and if I make him feel welcome, loved, appreciated and show true, genuine hospitality, the odds are greater that he will want to stick around a little longer. It all boils down to that.

Woe be to the party to love that ensnares a suitor only to turn into a slovenly, controlling, jealous, bickering cellmate. Love, I guess, is not much difference than business, in that we are always in competition with other parties who may have a more attractive deal! Yikes! And I’m pretty certain there is not a “how am I loving” advisory number your lover can call and provide constructive feedback to. If you aren’t being a hospitable mate, you are at risk of losing that business to someone else.

I’m staying at the Atlantis Casino in Reno, Nevada, because it is proximate to where I am conducting training for my clients, otherwise, I’d not choose a casino hotel. Last night, just before midnight, the door to the room next door slammed. For the next hour and a half a screechy woman yelled, and screamed, ridiculed and belittled some poor soul named Eric, who tried to get a word in, in his own defense, between the high-pitched outbursts. I was more than just a little irritated, as this went on until well after 1:00 AM and my alarm was set for 6:00 AM, for work. I wasn’t sure what to do, call the front desk, pound on the locked door adjoining our rooms, slip a note under their door, call their room directly. I ended up turning up the white noise app on my iPhone to a volume level marked “deafening” and try to sleep, which, finally, I did. What I really, really wanted to do was to yell, as loud as I could, “Eric! Run for your life! Whatever you did or did not do, you deserve better treatment than that!”

I am a party to many failed relationships, so you may not totally trust me, here, but, in my more recent experiences, since applying my business ethics of quality customer service and dynamic hospitality, of thoughtful friendship, genuine companionship and an attitude of gratitude for the love I receive in return, I have to say, I am, at the very least, far more peaceful in my relationships. I am grateful for every moment, I am thankful for every minute my guest, whether my friend, my family member or my lover, wants to spend with me. These people are simply guests in my life, and if they choose to spend a short time with me, each and every moment will be thoughtful and real. If they decide to spend more time with me, I will not fail them by becoming complacent as their hostess with the simple passage of time. Every time a beloved friend, family member or my lover enters my door, or I enter theirs, I shall break into song, and dance, perhaps only figuratively, but I will make it clear that I am happy to have them as a guest in my life! I will be hospitable.

In business, in friendship, in love, won’t you … Be my guest?! Be my guest! Put my service to the test …

Two Plus Three

This simple equation is the formula for peace and prosperity. Perhaps not on a global scale, but definitely in “our world”, the realm of our family, friends, home and even, perhaps, our workplace. This simple equation can erase the ugliest of insults, blame and hurt if it is used as quickly as possible and with genuine sincerity.

I have known, and used this equation many, many times before and have restored peace and goodwill almost without exception. My reluctance to use it quickly today derailed every hope, plan and ambition I had for the day. My day was nearly lost, as a result of my stubborn reluctance to employ this equation.

On not utilizing this equation at the earliest opportunity, I found myself on the wrong side of much of the advice I give. I stayed in my sweat pants for most of the day; I neglected to eat my healthful morning snack and my lunch. I brooded and moped. I did, somehow, manage to get some projects for work finished up, but not without distraction and a dismal attitude. I didn’t make it to the gym, as I had intended.

As the day wore on, I was more and more consumed with ill feelings, I actually wondered if, perhaps, I were coming down with something. I caught myself thinking less than uplifting thoughts, my “self speak” was quite negative. I wasn’t able to compose a thought for an article or for another personal project I’ve been looking forward to working on. I felt unqualified to broach any subject of self-motivation, evolution, or, well, anything. I considered, even, going back to bed. All because I didn’t put two and three together earlier.

I wasn’t being stubborn, actually, I was acting out of regret, shame and remorse. Small words can do great harm, especially when two little numbers aren’t quickly added up to remedy the situation. I know, in my heart, that words, once spoken, can never be erased. Be very careful in what you say to anyone, but especially to those you honor and cherish.

Out of momentary anger and frustration I think I believed the hurtful words I said, when I said them. But with my pitiful day of reflection, I decided I really didn’t. I was wrong. Humans are wrong, often. Best to own up to it, perform a simple equation, and put it all behind us. Two plus three is greater than it’s sum times itself, exponentially.

The success of the simple equation, two plus three, does rely on the addition of another three. Without the other three, the original equation is zero; nothing. Both two plus three, and then the addition of three, while simple arithmetic, can be very, very difficult for some. Impossible even. I’ve known many people in my life who were completely and totally incapable of three, even after I gave them my most heartfelt two plus three.

The two? Not math, but English. Two little words. “I’m sorry.”

The three? Again, words, “I love you.”

The corresponding three to be given in reply? “I forgive you.”

There. The formula for world peace.

Like a Boss

What is a boss? I always think of a boss as a leader, right? Or a manager. Someone in charge, someone making decisions and directing the actions of others. Someone who knows what the goals are and has a plan for achieving them. Someone qualified. With authority. Someone we respect. Someone we are supposed to obey.

There are good bosses and bad bosses, and I’m sure we’ve all had both in our work experience. What makes a boss a good boss? They lead with certainty but with patience. They are firm, but not harsh. They are clear, concise and reasonable. They clearly define expectations, boundaries, rewards and consequences. They are respected. They lead by example, they provide guidance, resources and encouragement.

Who is the boss? The boss of you? It should be you. You are “in charge” of everything you do or don’t do. So, what kind of boss are you? Are you a good boss? Do you know the goals? Do you have a plan for achieving them? Do you lead yourself with certainty and reasonableness? Do you have clearly defined expectations, boundaries, rewards and consequences for yourself? Do you seek out examples to lead yourself by? Do you have a resource for guidance and encouragement in your leadership role of yourself? This may, at first, sound a little absurd, but it is all quite necessary if we are to lead ourselves into evolving into the person we hope to become.

Whether we work or not, whether we are self employed or work for a company, large or small, someone is in charge of what we do, how we spend our time, and what we produce. There are all types of “bosses” in this world, in and out of the workplace.

Think of parenthood. Parents are “bosses” of their children, and boy oh boy, some are good, some are not, and the result is usually pretty evident.

My daughter was telling me a story about a poor parenting example she witnessed. She saw a toddler, probably about two years old, the child was whiny and fussy and eventually escalated into a full blown screaming tantrum. The mother was paying the child no attention whatsoever until the shrieking was well under way, then she sent the older sibling to the vending machine for a 20 ounce bottle of Dr. Pepper for the toddler. This pacified the child. This is horrifying on a couple of levels; one, no one should be drinking soda, in my opinion, it is merely type 2 diabetes in a can. Certainly, a two year old should not even know what a soda is, let alone “require” one for pacification. Secondly, the mother did not even attempt to communicate with the fussy toddler, to lead, direct or guide the child, she simply gave the child what it wanted without even a discussion.

I know, all children get fussy and whiny and will have screaming tantrums. Mine did, though rarely. I spent a great deal of time talking to my children, even well before they could speak. I always spoke to them with respect and treated them with dignity. I didn’t use baby talk, I didn’t “mince words”, I used the same calm, compassionate but firm tone, inflection and vocabulary I did with the people in the accounting department I managed. My children knew the expectations, the rewards and the consequences for their behaviors, and they always excelled at vocabulary in school!

I have had many bosses over the course of my career, many good, a few bad. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to perform satisfactorily for a “bad” boss, I’m sure you can agree. When expectations are incomplete, unstated or unclear, much time is wasted and there is a high degree of frustration on both sides of the equation. A boss with a volatile temperament makes for a very stressful work life. A boss who is apathetic and allows his entire department to underperform is, perhaps, even worse.

So, if you are your own boss, how are you doing?

Are you an apathetic boss? You want to lose weight, get fit, be happier, achieve certain personal, professional or educational goals. Do you have a plan you expect to follow? And do you hold yourself accountable for making progress towards those goals, according to the plan? Do you let yourself underperform, to the detriment of your goals, your desires, your dreams, your life?

Are you a volatile boss? Do you get mad at yourself for falling down on your goals? Self loathing is a terrible thing. Have you ever caught yourself saying “I hate myself?”

Are you a disorganized boss? Do you provide yourself with the goals, the plan, the guidance, the resources and the patience and counseling necessary to grow and achieve in the manner you hope for? Or do you just kind of plug along through life without direction?

Truthfully, not many of us are very good bosses of ourselves, or we’d all be trim, fit, happy and rich, right? Not many people really consider the necessity of being their own boss in just the matters of day to day life, but this is probably the one, single most important form of leadership we need as individuals. Without our own leadership, it is very difficult to grow and perform to the degree that other leaders in our lives expect.

Take note of people you may know that are successful at work or successful in other aspects of life; sports, hobbies, charitable ventures. They tend to have certain qualities that those who aren’t as successful lack. Self control, high self esteem, self direction, self discipline, confidence, organizational skills, time management skills, self-motivation. How many of these qualities include the word “self”? That means, quite simply, they are relying on their “self” to be the boss, to lead.

To be “like a boss” then, we need to develop those traits, characteristics and habits that allow us to become more in control of ourselves, to have a higher self-esteem, to be more self-directed, to have more confidence, better organizational skills and time management skills, to be more self-motivated.

Most of these traits, characteristics and habits begin with setting clearly expressed, measurable goals and an outline of a plan to move towards them. Most of theses traits and characteristics rely on replacing poor habits we may have with good habits we desire, and on being firm, clear and accountable for our own actions.

I have spent the last several years delving into my own “self-management style”, I have seen very satisfying change and growth and evolution. I often catch myself asking myself “how are you going to feel if you let yourself down?”. I’m not unreasonable, but I do truly feel bad about myself if I disappoint myself by doing or not doing something I expect of myself in order to accomplish my goals. But I don’t let a temporary setback completely derail me. If I disappoint myself by not working out one day, I don’t just stop working out, I pick up where I left off the next day. If I indulge in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on Tuesday, I don’t wait until the following Monday to “start my diet” all over again. The moment I set that spoon down, we’re back to eating healthy, wholesome and reasonably. I may give myself a pep talk, but I don’t beat myself up. I manage myself with compassion, but with firmness.

I don’t hate myself, ever, for disappointing setbacks. I love myself, always. I love myself enough to know that I deserve to be managed well. And, by loving myself, I am able to love those in my life genuinely and authentically. Self love is critical.

Many tend to think of loving oneself as vanity or conceit. Far from true. If you do not love yourself, you are setting a very bad example for those around you. If you do not love yourself, why should anyone else love you? Seems harsh when put to words, but think about it. You expect others to love you, but you don’t even afford yourself that respect. If you are self loathing, it is impossible for others to fill that void within you. You trudge through life with that void and it is perceptible to those around you. They may not be able to identify that you are self-loathing, just that you are not lovable. To be loved, you must be lovable. To be lovable, you must be loving, to yourself, firstly, else you don’t really know how to love others, to love at all.

Additionally, when you love yourself, you take care of yourself, you manage yourself. You don’t rely on others to do those jobs. This is a sign of respect and love for those around you. When you love yourself, you are naturally happier, again, to the pleasure of those near to you.

Where to begin? Start with a few goals and a whole bunch of self reflection on what changes you have to make to achieve those goals. Then begin to hold yourself accountable for progress. This isn’t something you do on January 1st then forget about, this should be something you discuss with yourself on a daily basis. That’s what a good boss does, makes the goals part of the daily agenda and part of the company culture, then provides loving guidance, direction and resources necessary to achieve those goals.

So, it’s time to get down to business. Like a boss.

Show Me a Man

Show me a man who knows balance in life; a man who works very hard, but knows the value of a enjoying the stillness of morning. A man who can perform any task offered him, however daunting, however physical, however long. A man who cherishes a few moments swinging in the hammock on the porch in the early evening just as the ravens pass overhead on their ritual path. Show me a man skilled in many trades and who can grow a garden where many struggle. Show me a man that knows he could earn far more by working longer hours, days, weeks, months, years, but knows that money won’t buy back the time he spent in toil, and so chooses a simpler, less extravagant lifestyle.

Show me a man with integrity; a man who will quickly admit his mistakes, even if it means less money in his pocket at the end of the day. A man who is honest about his feelings at any moment in time. A man accountable for every thought, action and deed. Show me a man that will do today what he says he will. Show me a man known for his good word because he has always lived up to his word. Show me a man that makes no excuses. Show me a man who looks for the best deal, but only if it is fair and honest.

Show me a man with wealth beyond measure; not a man with a big paycheck, solid portfolio, an important title, pricey real estate, a luxury automobile, for these are not true measures of wealth. The fickle economy, changes in technology, the volatility of the markets, can bring a man with tangible wealth to his knees in a moment. Show me a man with true wealth; a man without debt, a home that is paid for, a man who lives within his means, a man that knows the value of a dollar earned and a dollar saved, a man with a practical outlook on the future, a man that values what he owns, a man that has long standing relationships and a good name in his community, a man that is able to do any job, work hard, and be proud of his work at the end of the day.

Show me a man with compassion; a man who will open his home to those in need. A man who will teach someone disadvantaged the value of earning their keep, of saving a portion of their pay, of developing themselves so that they may become independent. Show me a man who will represent his friend in front of someone who seeks to take advantage of them. Show me a man that will listen to the stories of the old, the ambitions of the young, the concerns of a friend, the tears of a lover.

Show me a man with respect; a man who can live off the land but doesn’t gloat for his conquests. A man who understands the balance of nature and when the balance is being tipped, realizes it is better to have less this year to hopefully have more in the next. Show me a man who maintains a friendship with his high school English teacher. Show me a man who will take an elderly man fishing so his wife won’t worry.

Show me a man who is handsome; a man who doesn’t look like he walked off the cover of a magazine, but a man with a genuine smile. A man who cares for himself, his hair, his skin, his teeth, but not out of vanity. Show me a man with kind, smiling eyes and a playful grin. Show me a man that takes pride in his appearance and even more pride in his character.

Show me a man who is strong; not a man who works out at the gym to create muscles that will rarely, if ever, be used, other than to impress others. Show me a man who is strong enough to work incredibly hard, physically, all day, every day. Show me a man who can swing an ax, who can build a shelter single-handedly, who can fix anything and fix it right, a man who can climb a steep hillside, a man who can hunt for his own food and manage what he has claimed.

Show me a man with patience; a man who develops lasting friendships, a man who meets a woman at the wrong time and waits until it’s the right time. Show me a man who will work, save, then buy. Show me a man who will do with less to enjoy life more. Show me a man who will do without rather than compromise his savings.

Show me a man that knows how to communicate; a man who will be honest about his past, his present and his plans for the future. Show me a man who will patiently tell his lover what he likes, what he doesn’t. Show me a man who will listen before he speaks, and speaks that which is worth listening to. Show me a man who likes a lively debate, but not for the sake of triumph. Show me a man who can express himself without the constant use of explicatives. Show me a man that knows his turn in conversation. Show me a man with a kind, even tone, a man that speaks softly that he will be listened to, not a man that yells to be heard.

Show me a man that is intelligent; not a man with an accumulation of diplomas and degrees hung upon the wall that demonstrate only the completion of some curriculum. Not an intelligence measured by an institution, but an intelligence demonstrated in how he conducts his life. Show me a man that understands life, understands people, understands the world, from paying careful attention, remembering valuable lessons, applying practical wisdom, knowledge and discernment. Show me a man that learns a lesson, remembers it and applies it. Show me a man that can educate himself in anything to accomplish what must be done. Show me a man that knows himself.

Show me a man unlike any other; a man who can, by himself, throw a dinner party for eight, a man who can bake not just bread, but brioche, a man who has a tidy home. Show me a man who puts thought into every task, a man who builds his home so that his bedroom window has a unique view, that he may someday share that view with someone he adores. Show me a man who is able to think of the creation and also build it. Show me a man that doesn’t expect more of people, but inspires them to expect more of themselves.

Show me this man, the rarest of rare, an unexpected treasure, the man of my dreams. My dream come true.

Scarlett, on Love

I have fallen in love several times. I have fallen out of love nearly as many, usually in response to the ignorant mistreatment and neglect of said former loved ones. I long for an enduring love, a soulmate, and hope the lessons I have learned in my previous attempts will guide me in my quest.

My thoughts on “true love”, however misguided or naive are as follow:

Passion should be met with passion – not physical gratification

Affection should be met with affection – not tolerance

Touch should be met by touch – not distance

Desire should be met with desire – not duty

Friendship should be met with friendship – not indifference

Romance should be met with romance – not complacency

Love should be met with love – not fondness

Excitement should be met with excitement – not routine

Enthusiasm should be met with enthusiasm – not boredom

Courage should be met with courage – not trepidation

Honesty should be met with honesty – not silence in lieu of the truth

Tenderness should be met with tenderness – not criticism

A sense of adventure should be met with a sense of adventure – not fear

Anxiety or fear should be met not with impatience or pacification, but with sincerity and honesty

Love should be comforting

Don’t tell me what my heart wants to hear just to quiet me. Tell me what your heart is saying so I have the freedom to choose.

If someone gives you their heart, don’t place it in a box upon a shelf while you try to figure out what to do with it. Don’t just take it down off the shelf on occasion to look at and decide it is good and you may still want it. Don’t leave it on the shelf for periods of time, untouched, locked away out of sight, if only to prove to yourself that you can live without it.

If you have someone’s heart, treat it as you would a garden; tend to it, nurture it, enjoy it and in return you will be rewarded with many things both lovely and nourishing. Neglect it and it will wilt, wither, die, dry up and blow away with the dust o the wind.

“True Love” means you treat the heart you’ve been entrusted with in the manner you’d want your own heart to be treated.