Late March Haiku/Such a Long Week!

This week was a long, LONG week! On Friday, Nancy and I drove to her parents home outside of Philly and had dinner. On Saturday, Nancy and I went to our 15th consecutive Philadelphia Flower Show to celebrate our First Date Anniversary.

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Me and a Flower Show cow

On Sunday, I drove to Stafford, VA to conduct a three-hour rehearsal for the choir of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. On Monday, I went to the First Dress Rehearsal for Hunchback. On Tuesday, I had unsuccessful blood work done, taught lessons, and went to the Final Dress Rehearsal of Hunchback. (Hunchback opened successfully on Weds at the Riverside Center for the Performing Arts in Fredericksburg and I’m very proud of all the choir’s hard work and our involvement in the production, but I wasn’t in attendance.) On Weds., I had successful blood work done, a doctor’s appointment, taught piano, and conducted two handbell rehearsals. On Thursday, I taught voice and took our cat, Duke, for enema surgery to remove the impacted feces from his swollen colon. On Friday, Nancy and I went to Black Panther. On Saturday, I received the lab results from the blood draw, which were fine, but a stressful wait, and then I drove to the West Virginia border to perform in a murder mystery with Murder Mysteries Will Travel. Sunday morning, my Adult Choir performed two pieces and then Nancy and I drove to Baltimore to have dinner with my in-laws and collect my wayward, vacationing son.We drove home Sunday night and I pretty much collapsed.

It’s Monday and I’m exhausted. But if I could do all that, surely you can do anything.

Enjoy the haiku and hopefully I’ll essay again soon.

Namaste,

Jason

4720
No life is perfect.
Handling the imperfections
Defines character.

4721
You have the power.
You can make a difference.
You can change the world.

4722
Wake up each morning
Determined to make the world
A little better.

4723
Being a success
Starts with a good attitude.
This is no secret.

4724
Make a difference.
I can’t tell you what or how.
That’s yours to decide.

4725
How can you deny
The interconnectedness
Of all existence?

4727
Time’s always fleeting.
So many untraveled roads.
Make quick, wise choices.

4728
Live in gratitude.
Whatever you possess you
Could always have less.

4729
In every way
Take responsibility
For your life and health.

4730
Just hold your head high,
Forgive them their trespasses,
And keep on smiling.

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Rows of spring flowers – my favorites – at the Flower Show

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Empowerment Haiku

I find myself wanting to share some more haiku this week…just because. It has been a very good – exceptional – week, and though I am tired on Monday (nothing new) I’m happy. John Adams was back this week after an extended visit with his grandparents. I announced two new career opportunities on social media: I have been hired by International Baccalaureate as an Examiner in Theatre, and also I have been hired as the Artistic Director/Conductor of the Stafford Regional Choral Society. Both wonderful opportunities and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Nancy paid down some debt and made progress on her dissertation. My UU Choir performed magnificently in our church Variety Show. The Christmas tree finally came down. And perhaps most importantly, John Adams had his four-year-old checkup and he is completely healthy. It’s been a long week and even the house feels fatigued, we got through it. So here’s some (mostly) empowering haiku to remind you that whatever you want or are struggling with, you can beat it, you can bear it, or you can weather it, you can do it!

Blessings to you all, and here’s wishing you peace, joy, and the resolve to make your dreams come true. Talk soon.

Namaste,

Jason

4695
Within you is the
Strength, drive, and ability
To do anything.

4696
Never celebrate
Even the worst person’s death.
They were someone’s child.

4702
Sins of the parents
Should not be held against the
Next generations.

4712
You’re The Decider
Of what you can and can’t do.
It’s your right by birth.

4713
Are you strong or weak?
Pessimism is easy,
Optimism’s hard.

4714
You can work through this.
You have the ability
To do anything.

4716
You must do your best
To surmount the obstacles
Life puts in your way.

4717
Ev’ryone has pain,
Mostly hidden from the world.
Knowing this, be kind.

4718
Breathe. Center yourself.
Acknowledge the world’s problems,
But don’t own each one.

4719
Hope can pull you through,
Even in the worst of times.
Never give it up.

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Out of the Shadows – Haiku!

I have not written a blog post since before Thanksgiving, and even then it was haiku and not prose commentary. I have been busy. I have been tired. The country is upside down and so many struggle daily to not believe we are in a post-optimistic world I fall prey to this just as much as the next compassionate soul and frantically cling to my belief that we as a world can weather anything and that good can come from bad. If only it would come sooner than later. Until I choose to write again (which I also hope will be sooner than later) here are some haiku from the vault – from 2016 – to post and to keep me, and hopefully you, going. To hanging in there!

Namaste,

Jason

4679
If you’re reacting
Rather than acting on life,
You’re not in control.

4680
If you’re struggling
Look for ways to change your life,
Not someone to blame.

4681
Curb your addictions.
They are pathways to disease
And unhappiness.

4685
May the winds of change
Blow in support of freedom
And enlightenment.

4687
Do the best you can,
Knowing that probably you’ll
Crash and burn most times.

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Across from Independence Hall at a magnificent wedding reception

4688
Light hides in darkness.
Also, the reverse is true.
Darkness hides in light.

4689
Know that each person
Is living the best they can
By rules they’ve been taught.

4691
A sin in private,
That nobody knows but you
Still affects your soul.

 

 

4693
Cultivate wonder.
There’s so much to see, do, know,
How could you be bored?

4694
Alone with my thoughts,
I contemplate life, death, love,
Peace for all mankind.

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John Adams and Shadow posing along Lee Drive

Pre-turkey Haiku

It’s been several months since I did a purely ‘haiku’ post. I’ve been taking a bit of a hiatus from poetry writing since June, but, hopefully, now that’s done. There are so many things to be thankful for in the Michael household as we head into Thanksgiving – a well-stocked fridge, good health for our son, a loving, giving, spiritual community where we all work – ordinary, significant blessings all. Perhaps a gratitude post is forthcoming , but today I’ll just focus on the poetry, intentionally empowering, since so many people struggle at this time of year. I hope something in the next ten haiku brings you up, gives you strength, makes you laugh, let’s you know that you can do it, and you’re not alone. Hang in there and good living.

Namaste,

Jason

4666
My optimism
Is what wakes me up each day;
Expecting better.

4667
Which road will you take?
Run the race or eat the cake?
It’s your choice to make.

4669
Lead by example.
Clarify with your words, but
Lead with your actions.

4670
Inspire to greatness
Those who can’t find that power
Within their own hearts.

4671
Walk into a room
And raise the consciousness of
Ev’ryone present.

4673
We all know some friends
Who prefer the dark clouds to
The silver linings.

4674
Dog butts are funny.
Walking wagging heiny cheeks.
How can you not smile?

4675
You must make choices.
They’re a part of living, but
Try to make good ones.

4676
Failure or success.
Your life’s your choices, actions,
And recoveries.

4678
Don’t quit on your dreams.
Their achievement takes longer
Than you think it should.

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My corny son!

Some Solstice Haiku

Hi Everyone,

We’re at the midpoint of the year today and I’m alone at home, while my wife is in London at a symposium and my son is visiting his grandparents. It’s been an interesting year so far to say the least, and that has me thinking about what I may or may not have accomplished, and also waxing somewhat poetic on this long day of light. While I think up what to say about my own life and progress in a subsequent post, here’s some haiku to chew on, meditate on, or just plain read, digest, and pass along. I hope your year is bringing you the Light of Truth, Love, and Abundance that you both need and deserve.

Namaste,

Jason

4644
You are a hero.
Your life’s a great adventure.
You’re up to the task.

4645
When God is ready
That which He has planned for you
Will be made quite clear.

4646
I believe that God
Is both the source of all things,
And lives within us.

4652
This student’s ready.
Pray, let the master appear.
Guidance is needed.

4653
May all souls in need
Find most what they seek tonight –
Food, Rest, Peace, Joy, Love.

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Bink and I contemplating the future.

 

4654
Keep your goals in mind.
When daily problems arise
Know why you’re fighting.

4655
Do not be afraid.
The Source of All is with you,
Offering you strength.

4656
Find your still, small, place.
Search both within and outside.
Visit it often.

4663
The world’s faith in you
Means absolutely nothing
If you don’t share it.

4665
Be compassionate
Towards those less fortunate.
You could be them soon.

Stonehenge1

Happy Solstice, Everyone!!!

Haiku in Bloom

A busy week, a trip to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D. C., and the first day of spring made for good memories and the necessity of sharing some more haiku this month. Whatever your needs are, I hope they are being met. Whatever ails you – mental, physical, spiritual – I hope it is being managed. Know that you are not alone. Know that you are loved. Know that whatever your present state, it can be bettered.

Peace, Love, Spring, and Cherry Blossoms to You,

Jason

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The Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin in D.C.

4627
Your authentic voice
Is what people want to hear.
Let them hear your heart

4628
Your priorities
Must be kept in order if
You wish to succeed.

4629
When others succeed,
That doesn’t mean you have failed.
Stop comparing lives.

4630
It is your duty
To give your life to the world,
Serving its best needs.

4635
Focus heavenward.
The sun is beaming brightly
Above the storm clouds

At the Cherry Blossom Festival

Me and My Gal in the Blossoms

4637
How should you respond
To the hatred in the world?
Why, with love, of course.

4639
Give up all judgment.
Be a Citizen of Peace,
Enemy to none.

4640
You are on the verge
Of an explosion of Art,
Thought, and Abundance.

4641
Believe in yourself
And your ability to
Make a difference.

4642
Be the example
You want your children to love,
Follow, and become.

photo

Our own backyard.

March Into Haiku

It has been awhile since I’ve done a purely haiku post. But spring is around the corner, and I’m feeling like I need a real dose of inspiration to get me through the last of the winter woes.Whatever you may be struggling with, I hope you find some measure of assistance, uplift, guidance, or what have you in the next 10 poems. Hang in there, keep the faith, assist, resist, persist, and God bless.

Namaste,

Jason

4610
Whatever happens
You must never surrender
To hatred and fear.

4612
While you sit around
Complaining about the job,
Someone’s doing it.

4613
Rise with the dawn and
Offer sincere gratitude
For the day ahead.

4614
You cannot give thanks,
Too sincerely or too much,
But be one who tries.

4615
Put yourself out there.
Without risk there is no life,
Only stagnation.

4617
When you’ve been knocked down,
Look for anything to grab
That will help you up.

4618
You want my advice?
Whatever you want from life
Go out and get it!

4619
If you have a dream,
You can acquire the skill set
To make it happen.

4625
How can you improve
The lives of those around you
Just by showing up?

4626
Look for ways in which
You can make someone happy.
Seek joy for others.

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Two Contemplative Cats

Children’s Book Announcement – Mommy Made a Beastie (But I Love Her Anyway)

Today, our new children’s book, Mommy Made a Beastie (But I Love Her Anyway), is available on Amazon. Two years ago, after the success of our first children’s book, Daddy Doesn’t Purr (But I Love Him Anyway), I set about working on the sequel. After several months of brainstorming with Kisaki – the elder cat authoress of the book that became Beastie – we hit upon the idea of telling the story of John Adams’s birth from her point of view. ‘Saki was the first person to know that Nancy was pregnant. She climbed upon Nancy’s belly while she slept (something she never normally would do) and scowled disapprovingly at her mommy with this look of, “What the hell have you done to us?” That sentiment lingered long after John Adams was born.

beastie-cover

Cover art by Michelle McNally, cover design by Maryann Brown

The events of the book are all true. Kisaki loathed her baby brother at first and went out of her way to muscle him off Nancy’s lap, take focus from him and put it back on herself where she felt it belonged. When John Adams moved and then talked, hers was one of the first faces he saw (due to her constant proximity to Nancy), and he instantly fell in love with her. She did not return the sentiment. He would see her and light up, giggle, smile, wriggle, and all manner of verbal and non-verbal gestures to get her approval. She was not amused.

When nothing that ‘Saki tried gained her exclusive access to Nancy, she became visibly irritable and despondent for a time. Like so many children, she just didn’t want to share her favored parent’s affections with any other child. Finally, in either desperation or conciliation, Kisaki sidled up to her brother, plopped her butt against him and claimed him for her own. It seemed that if she couldn’t have exclusive access to Mommy, the next best thing was to make peace with the Beastie who had her attention. From that point forward, grudging acceptance turned to icy affection, and with a little help from her overly zealous brother, that affection turned into love. Until the end of her life, the two became inseparable.

Yes, I did drop that bomb here: Kisaki has since passed away. She died two years ago due to complications of mouth cancer. Despite his age (he was only fifteen months old when she passed), John Adams has not forgotten about her. It would seem he imbued a little stuffed black and white cat that rests on his bed with his best memories of his sister. The cat was given to him by a friend of ours, “so that he would always remember his sister”, and it seems to have worked. He refers to the stuffed animal as ‘Saki, and we often talk about her joy-riding in Daddy’s White Car, my car that broke down a few months ago. Daddy’s White Car has become the “Farm Upstate” metaphor of the Michael Family. It includes ‘Saki, Snaky, Annie and Dorothy (two goldfish), and a particularly favored and contentious piece of orange cake Nancy threw out. But I digress.

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‘Saki in her ‘Cover pose.’

Mommy Made a Beastie is now the second book in a planned three book ‘Love Anyway’ series. In Daddy Doesn’t Purr, Duke is shown to love me despite our differences. In Beastie, ‘Saki learns to love and accept John Adams despite her jealousy. In the planned third and final (?) book, The Nix, our Manx cat born genetically without a tail, learns to love herself despite being born different from the norm. In all three, embracing love as your primary motivational guide is the key to a happier existence. Love anyway, despite differences, emotional insecurities, and unexpected life changes; despite self-doubt and outward ridicule from others. Out of this notion the happy accident of the ‘Love Anyway’ series was born.

Both books retail for under $12 on Amazon and can be bought both there and on CreateSpace where we receive a better share of the royalties. As added incentive, roughly 1/3 of the sales price of each book is donated to either animal charities in Virginia, or to another as of yet un-chosen animal charity in the U.S. If you’re looking for a Christmas or Holiday present that also benefits animals in a small way, please consider checking out our books. If you’ve read Daddy Doesn’t Purr and you enjoyed it, please consider leaving us a review on Amazon. These books have been labors of love for me, Francie and Michelle McNally, Nancy, Maryann Brown, and, of course, Duke and ‘Saki. Please check them out if you have a moment. And remember: when all else fails…

Love Anyway,

Jason

Here’s the Amazon link to the book: Mommy Made a Beastie

Here’s a link to my Amazon Author page: Jason on Amazon

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‘Saki and John Adams – BFFs

Healing Haiku

I haven’t done a haiku post in more than a month. These were written earlier this year, just after midsummer. Most in this batch are like mantras/little reminders to remain calm and centered as the world swirls around you. A lot is going on in the Michael household, and there’s no question that I need them just as much as anyone else. May these poems bring you peace, centeredness, joy, or at least a way back towards the good. Until next time…

Namaste,

Jason

4598
I am perfect health.
I am ever increasing
Abundance and joy.

4599
Stand on the sidelines
And you have no one to blame
For your apathy.

4600
Don’t expect others
To make your hopes, dreams, and needs
Their priorities.

4601
Be an oasis
Of peace, love, and non-judgment.
Welcome the world in.

4602
Is life war or peace?
Is the universe hostile
Or friendly to you?

4603
There’s no assurance
That one life can change the world,
Though many succeed.

4605
There’s poop on the floor.
And there’s cat poop by the door.
No more poop, no more.

4607
The secret of life?
Find a passion for something;
Commit to its care.

4608
There will be down days,
But they don’t need to rule you
If you manage them.

4609
All good things take time:
Babies, novels, omelets,
And well-designed lives.

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First Fall at the Michael Ranch, Circa 2010

Onward and Upward (My 100th Blog Post)

I can’t believe this milestone has arrived. 100 posts! Back in April of 2015, I decided to revitalize my blog with the announcement “I’m Still Here.” I had been inactive for months, what with the care and maintenance of John Adams plus life, and I hadn’t done much writing. But after months of inactivity, I decided to jump back in the saddle and try to kick start my blog. There have been fits and starts of creativity and exhaustion, but after months of sticking it out, here it is: 100.

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“What’s that you said? 100 Blog posts! You have got to be kidding me!!!”

Over the last year I’ve renewed my passion for writing, for poetry, for blogging, and for reaching out. I love to write things that make people think , that informs them of the good in the world, that shares something of my life in a way that might illuminate something in someone else’s. To that end, I’m re-branding my blog as of today. No longer “An introspective journal for spiritual growth,” but rather “A Journal of Joy, the Arts, Wellness, Parenting, and Personal Growth.” I want to inspire people, raise them up, and give them hope. I want to be a light in the dark, not the latest rant on Facebook. I want to make people laugh, cry, and think. I want to help people lead better lives, not remind them of the problems we all face. We already know.

Going forward I will continue to write about my personal experiences, my son John Adams, and my family. It’s what I know. I will include poetry, especially haiku of course, and I want to start including recipes, guest blogs, and other pieces of wisdom that promote better living. No extensive change here, just expansion. I want to stress that this will be the same Reflections from Shangri-La that you have read. I just want to expand the scope, hopefully net wider readership, and in turn, help more people any way that I can.

This last year has been one of some wonderful successes and milestones for my life and my family. My wife did a one-month teacher training fellowship in Kalamazoo on Beowulf through the National Endowment of the Humanities. My son has just turned three. I was a guest blogger for the first time on www.businessinrhyme.com . I just learned that one of my favorite poems, “My Greatest Treasure,” will be included in the Fall issue of Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review (more on this as it develops). I’m participating in the First Annual Fredericksburg Independent Book Festival this weekend, and reading both Daddy Doesn’t Purr (But I Love Him Anyway)and our forthcoming book Mommy Made a Beastie (But I Love Her Anyway) in their Kid’s Corner. And my arrangement, “God Rest Ye Jazzy Gentlemen” is being premiered by the area choral ensemble The Spotsylvanians. Much to be proud of, much to blog about, and much to inspire with, and bring hope to others. My life is far from perfect, with many struggles and woes, but there is also much to be thankful for. And that it what I wish to focus on here and share with you. This year alone, Reflections has had over 1,000 views from some 750 people. Two posts—“The Boy Who Lived” and “Still Wild About Hank”—have had over 100 views each. If you are still reading this, you are among those numbers and I can’t thank you enough for supporting my efforts, reading my thoughts, liking my posts, and being a part of my online life.

So here’s looking ahead to 2017, to post 200, and to all of the good things we can share and accomplish together.

Thank you again and see you next post.

Namaste,

Jason

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My son, father-in-law, and I celebrating 100 Blog posts…Not!