Thursday, December 31, 2009


This Yuletide I received a number of books as gifts. But the best present of all was Aporia that I received by Royal Mail from my English friend and exciting author, Sarah Turton, aka Selchie.

My taste in books ranges all over the map: from the contemporary to the historical; fiction to non-fiction; political to farce; tearjerker to humorous and comical and especially the spiritual that stir the imagination and creativity. I love to be invited to see the world, "purple shaggy cows and all"through a different pair of eyes. Aporia is all of these, it's a feast and I'm only half way through.

Thank you Sarah


Monday, December 28, 2009

Wings Of Life

Found this poem in my archives the other day and decided to dust it off. Certainly I'm the product of all my yesterdays and the early years, one through twenty eight, were the "fill dirt" necessary in preparation for the foundation of building my new way of life. It clearly was the "what it was like" however I found myself writing a poem that represents the "what happened and what I'm like now."

By late twenties,
my life in tatters,
ego wings shorn bare
by the constant hacking of
addiction's cold blade...
a slithering caterpillar
I became,
heaving and scuffling across
life's stony ground....then..

in early thirties,
crawled into bondage,
a humbled hostage,
mired in a casing
crafted from the soiled fabric
of my past.

Time did pass and
in late thirties
released from murky darkness
tasting freedom's light,
by God's good grace
was gifted wings
set free

at long last took flight.

In my forties and fifties
letting complacency slip in
the light flickered and dimmed.
No longer did I see clearly.
Caterpillar, cocoon and butterfly
all but disappeared..but lo and behold
in their stead across my sight
two intimidating birds
took flight.

A hawk, dauntless and bold
circled high in the sunlit sky
keenest of eye, deadliest beak,
flight swift and sure.
Then in the blink of an eye
I saw yet another bird.
An owl, crafty old hunter,
head horned, eyes fierce,
moonlight drenched, so wise,
so focused and cunning.
So now twice feathered
flexing sharp talons and
hunting wings
my mind darted this and that
stalking my fortune.

Then in my sixties and beyond
when I pause I hear
the voice within my soul declare.
Yes, at times you've been
caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly,
hawk, owl and ..more.
aglow in life's twilight
on wings tempered
by all these
I see a peaceful old bird
soaring in the wind.
james frederick m


Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Leftovers

Merry Second Day of Christmas.
I started this post yesterday early in the am before family arrived. But as all well laid plans of mice and men I didn't get to complete and post until now, Saturday evening. Since I stated this yesterday I won't start over from scratch. Hope you're not sick of holiday leftovers because you're getting some now.


Merry Christmas and Blessings to all of you on this and all your days.
I've been busy the last couple of days enjoying friends and family. Although not Episcopalians we went to Episcopal Services last night; our closest friends were there. All and all ti was an hour and a half of wondrous music, song and celebration. Add in the candles lining the main aisle and surrounding the altar, the Poinsettias, priest , choir , nativity scene and friends it took me back to the magnificent Catholic Midnight-Mass of my youth .

I grew up in a little town just south of Chicago. The town was primarily a French-Catholic community. Our parish like the Italian, Polish, Jewish, Greek and Irish parishes the church and schools were the center of each parish. The sermons as well everyday communication within the various families was in the mother-tongue. The teachers in our schools for all the grades were French Nuns from Quebec.

Having given you a little background, if you may, join me for the frosting on those midnight Christmas cakes; the crisp winter air on the two block walk with family to Mass. Snow piled high on each side of the walk, the mystery and enchantment of the deep dark winter night, the Latin mass, God as baby and the Virgin birth. The thrill of not having any answers nor having any need for the answers to what the evening contained.

It was the awe and the mystery that was the cherry on top of the icing for this little boy. As a boy my imagination was like the freshly fallen snow untouched for that enchanting time before the thaw and dirt covered slush of age.

Today by walking the walk with you hand-in-hand through the years on my over four and a half decade spiritual journey I have been given the grace of reconnecting with the awe and mystery of this, the God of my understanding. Just like the little boy of my youth I don't have the answers and the beauty of it I don't have to have any answers.

Thank God for I'm still in awe of the mystery of how an alcoholic who is incapable of giving or receiving love can become lovable and loving.


Monday, December 21, 2009

The Gate Of The Year

Yesterday my wife and I finished off the last of our Christmas and year end/start greeting cards. Inserted in each card is a short letter bringing our friends and relatives up to date of the blessings we have received during the year.

The following is a short version of the letter.

Our blessings have been many but the most significant ones in our lives are:

Our special friends in AA and other groups of old friends who have seen each other through the bitter and better in our lives. To realize how loving their help and support has been we have been in recovery 47 years.

We have a belief in a Higher Power and the means to grow spiritually through AA, Alanon, Recovering Couples Anonymous, spiritual growth group and weekly contemplative prayer groups.

We are in good health. Both of us are active in sports, tennis and other. Even so our Medicare cards show signs of age related wear and tare.

We have been together for 56 years; fantastic since there were times when we didn't think it would last 5 or 6 more days (hours/minutes).

I have found writing, poetry and blogging with coaching and support from Cyn (she is an ex professional writer and teacher).

We try to give back what we have received (never catch up): me, in volunteer board participation, chemical dependency treatment and writer guild; Cyn by continuing to see clients in office each week and we in our recovery groups.

Family is the icing on our cake, they are what makes it all worthwhile. In our lives we have children, grand-children, great-grandchildren. All except our oldest in San Diego are within a an two hour drive from us.

I have shared in this post with all of you our blessings because there was a time in our lives when we were lost and wouldn't have given you two cents for it. It was only through your help, a compassionate Higher Power and in spite of ourselves that the promises have come true.

We ended the letter with this quote by Louise Haskins from King George's 1939 address to his people.

The Gate of the Year
"I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, "Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown. And he replied," Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be better than light and safer than the known way."

Merry Christmas from Tennessee, 2009, we wish everyone a peaceful, blessed and healthy new year.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Newcomer

My thought for today. Hey I had one! So I thought I better write it down.

My friend and I look forward to each day because we share common blessings. We agree that most days we're like kids on Christmas morning. Okay everyday is not Christmas but we still get gifts and we act like kids tearing the everyday wrappings off.

Now and then we receive a special gift. They most often bear no resemblance to a gift. The gifts we're talking about and cherish the most are usually the one's clothed in shame or/and guilt, loneliness or/and fear, that try to hide their nakedness and denial with a tattered ego. These gifts are the newcomer.. and especially the newcomer within us. We call the newcomers, gifts, for that is what they are to us. Gifts.

We agree that it's our Higher Power's way of presenting to us the very person or the shadow of ourselves' we need in order to learn something new; The timing is always right and it's always valuable. He nails it every time. We never need to exchange it. It's always a perfect fit or just what we need.

We also agree that the best of them all: are the gifts that are attending their first meetings:that call on us late at night; when we would rather not be bothered; we think they would be better off if some one else carried the message to them or they are most troublesome, demanding a lot of our energy and time . This last category of gifts are really special......they usually are the gifts that truly keep-on-giving.

Keep them coming God, I mean the newcomer, both in the flesh and in the shadow. It's the way we can become the person You created us to be.


Friday, December 18, 2009

God, You pick em up.....

Where I live it's all hills so from the moment I leave my front door I have to begin the first of a number of climbs. Of the five miles, half the run is uphill. Over the years the strain on body has gotten more difficult, so as my legs have lost their youthful spring I have come to focus more and more on the mantra.
God , You pick em up, I'll lay them down

It's my favorite mantra next to, Not my will but Yours be done and the Serenity Prayer. The three prayers are the core of my life; they are the "truth" of my daily existence. On a daily basis I pray all three: in traffic; in relationships; for coping with any number of global and personal happenings; for doing the things I don't want to do. The things in my life can be big , small, aggravating, pleasurable or even mundane.

For the most part the Serenity Prayer and Turning My Will Over serve me well. However it's the times when everything looks uphill and I've just about run out of steam that I find myself also praying to God to pick them up. The times I speak of are when I am at the end of my rope and have allowed HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired) into my life.

The common denominator for me is the assurance that like breathing, God's breath enters my lungs, my part is to exhale.

The picture is Roger Bannister, he broke the four minute mile, the quote or prayer is sometimes attributed to him


Friday, December 11, 2009

Put A Cork In It.

This has been some kind of a week. Lot of unexpected but necessary changes to my daily schedule. Talked to a friend of mine and his wife. We all agreed it's a bit of a bitch playing the back nine of our lives. Yet we are all very grateful. We're all still very active, with tennis, the Y, family, friends, writing and living each day to its fullest in spite of being interrupted by visits to doctors and hospitals.

Yes we're all healthy in mind body and spirit. No doubt about it, we are. However the various body parts if not failing are showing wear and tear. No complaints (okay. hardly any), it's a given something has got to hurt if you've come this far around the course. It's not the amount of doctor's appointments nor how they probe and prescribe. No, the glitch is the time spent filling out the forms and subjected to the blasting TV in the waiting room.

Sounds like we're complaining. Not really. We feel so damn grateful that we can access such good health care. That we have Medicare and that we can afford the secondary coverage so that we don't have to go without food and other essentials or sell the house to pay the bills.

Now that I've got that off my chest it reminds me of the story of the guy on the airplane.

From the moment he sat in his seat he complained about: the line through security; then the wait for the flight seating; the wait of fifteen minutes on the tarmac for take-off and now he was bitching about the lousy few minutes he had to wait for Internet connection so he could make his call to his business partner 3000 miles away.

As the volume of his irritation increased he became unbearably loud and obnoxious. The man sitting next to him had had enough so he turned to him saying.

Put a cork in it.... Here you are sitting in a chair 30,000 feet in the air, traveling over 500miles an hour, and you're bitching about the few minutes you have to wait to call and talk to your partner 3000miles away?

I need (no, cross that out) I choose to daily "put a cork in it", and be grateful to God that I have the best "coverage" ,( that no one can take away from me), except me, for the disease that can destroy and/or kill me.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Something to Learn Everyday

Woke up to a beautiful morning. Should say special. Everything is laced in over an inch of fresh fluffy snow. Actually I can savor the beauty ( it's in the thirties now) knowing it all will be melted by mid morning with the temperature in the fifties.

Having lived in most of the Midwestern states until the late seventies I moved here to the south to escape the over-my-head snow drifts, the cold and the dirty, slushy thaws.

A couple of years after moving here the area received a 12 inch plus snowfall with the temperature below freezing for several days afterwords. With all traffic at a standstill (no plows down here) and most industries, all schools closed there was nothing else to do but sit back and enjoy it.

Ha, except for all the neighborhood kids. They were out with makeshift cardboard and plastic bag sleds as we have plenty of hills here in southeast Tennessee. Seeing this I put on my "mothballed northern thermal underwear, gloves, etc" and pulled the three man toboggan down from the garage attic.

From my driveway there is a quarter of a mile downhill straightaway with no traffic.... perfect! The moment the kids saw the toboggan I was their hero. They knew immediately that it was a sled of sorts even though they had never seen a toboggan before. They inspected it like the invention of the century and asked me what it was. I said, "toboggan."

They all laughed; thought I was kidding. "Nah, what is it really called mister?" I repeated, "toboggan," then I caught on. Here in southeast Tennessee they call a winter cap a toboggan.
Having cleared that up they proceeded to wear me out pulling the toboggan back up that hill all day with only a short break for lunch.

I learned something that day from those kids. One man's (kid's) cap may be another man's sled, but that's OK. No matter what you call it, we can agree to put aside our differences, learn from each other and have a ball doing it.

Sorry, but I guess great memories never grow old.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hallowed Place

Hi all
In life's madness it's great to have your own special place,
safe with peace and joy knowing you're special
to your Higher Power.
Here's mine.

Canyon Run

It all started with an easy stretch,
my first steps slow,
legs and torso not quite awake.
Then as if on queue I quickened the pace
from straightaway to climb
as muscles and joints did what they do.

With jog giving birth to sprint,
I settled into a rhythmic stride
through prickly forest, with coyotes,
snakes, ass and deer
haunting my heels.
Exposed, alone, my meager guile
and swiftness put to the test
I felt a humbled guest with
no more than flimsy threads
hiding my nakedness.

The path wound back and forth
over and across the winding creek.
Under foot earth and scrub
all crackling dry,
stones at times sharp,
at times slick and round
the only water flowing,
rivulets from my brow.

Upward, upward with shortened stride
each breath straining
to grasp the thinner air.
My soul at one with rock and sand
carried my body the final way.
Muscles straining through the pain,
at last just steps around the bend
the summit and a sight.

Lying in the waking light
a vista so beautiful
all breath escaped when stunned
by nature's feral show,
for far out beyond my limited scope
spread a royal multi-hued banquet.
An experience beyond belief
as though God had created
a glorious feast just for me.

He did....
for heart, body and soul overflowed.
So downward I flew,
at times playful, brimming with joy
knowing I carried
a treasure secure in my heart.

How many times
as my hair has turned
from brown to gray
have I with savoring gait
run through that canyon
to that mystical height
to set heart, body and soul right.

Sabino Canyon Run
Tucson Az.
Sunrise 1979


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wind Beneath Our Wings

Hi all

Here I sit, it's 4:45am, the room is dark except for the vigilant nightlights and the hum of the air exchanger. I'm sitting upright on a cot that the considerate nursing staff set up for me. My wife is sleeping with only her head exposed but I can follow the tubes from under the sheets to the IV stand and all the other flickering life sustaining and monitoring machines. The red LED numbers and messages calm or increase our concern.

A couple of posts ago I painted a scene, true to life, of our family thanksgiving. I was eager to share our (thanks to each and every one of you)health, happiness and the fruits of 12 step life. Life goes on. Things, people and everything changes, no exceptions, that's Life. Change is inescapable and inevitable.

My wife had surgery yesterday morning, CT's and all indicated possibly cancer. I'm happy, relieved, grateful, thankful (un-express-able) to announce all is well, no cancer, she should be back playing tennis in about five weeks. Knowing her, she'll be back before then.

Change is do-able now as you all help us to get our (me especially) exaggerated egos out of the way. That you support and get us safely through our fears, out arrogance and our need to control. iThis support and sharing over the last several hours through the phone calls, cards, prayers been so essential and have humbled us the most.

I've said all that to share this. Early this am I went down to the hospital cafeteria to have breakfast. I sat with a man I recognised from the surgical waiting room the day before. He like me had stayed round the clock at our wives bedside. He looked beat with his head bowed as though he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

After sharing the status of our wives, He immediately spewed out the details of his wife's surgery and most importantly his anguish of not hearing from nor having visits from his church friends, nor his minister. To add to his anxiety he was an out-of-towner from a small tight knit community.

As we talked I said a silent prayer of thanks to my HP for how different the last 24 had been for us: for the gift over the years of so many friends and that we are not ever alone. You truly are "the wind beneath our wings".

Willingness To Take Action

I read the prayer for the day (24HAD book) a few days ago. "I pray that I may have eyes to see..." After my meditation it was a fitting prayer. I had meditated on a reading from the book, Shadow Dance. The passage urged us to " face our fears and to acknowledge and expose the shadow,(shortcomings and defects) within ourselves.

I'm happy that this insight is only parceled out to me as my HP deems me ready. I could not handle in one big gulp the full truth. Thankful that it is a process, granted to me one day at a time, throughout a life time. Sometimes it comes in big doses and at others in tiny spoonfuls.

In order to bring about this "face off" I have to reach in to the Serenity Prayer and pray for "...the courage to change the things I can." This courage,(faith in my Higher Power), to look into soul and receive in-sight. Insight into my true self, the person God intended,(created) me to be.
I need to put the words into action. Get off the bench and into the practice.

It's reassuring that I don't have to depend simply on my own weakness. That my HP is my strength is available, all I have to do is reach out and claim it. Bottom line my part entails reaching out to my HP and then to follow up with my friend Alan's tag to the Serenity Prayer; "and the willingness to take action."