Remembering My Father

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[Nyerges is the author of “Til Death Do Us Part?”, a series of stories describing how he and his wife attempted to deal with death in an uplifting manner. The book is available on Kindle, or from School of Self-reliance,  Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041 or www.ChristopherNyerges.com.]
When my father’s 80th birthday coincided with Father’s Day some years ago, I wrote a pictorial booklet for my father which outlined key aspects of our life together. It was my way of thanking my father. My wife Dolores and I went to his home after the wild cacophonous family gathering had ended. We didn’t want an audience in an atmosphere of laugher, sarcasm, and possibly ridicule. I only wanted to share the thank you story with my father in a somewhat serious atmosphere.
Dolores and I brought some special foods, put on some music, and I began my short presentation beginning with my earliest significant memories. I shared with him my memories of how he told me I would be an artist when I grew up. He always told me to put my bike and toys away, so “the boogeyman” wouldn’t steal them. As I grew older, I learned that the world was indeed full of very real “boogeymen” and my father attempted to provide me with ways to protect myself against these unsavory elements of life.
I recalled to my father, while my mother and Dolores listened on, the birthday party adventures, getting hair cuts in the garage, and how my father tolerated my interest in mycology and wild edibles.
Everyone found the recounting amusing, even funny, but there were also tears mixed with the laughter. As with most memories, some things my father recalled quite differently from me, and some he didn’t recall at all. Some things that I saw as life-and-death serious, he saw as humorous, and vice versa.
But above it all, I felt I’d finally “connected” with him at age 80 in a way that I’d never managed to do before. My “fathers day card” wasn’t pre-made by a card company, but consisted of my own private and secret memories that I shared with him. I managed to thank him for doing all the things that I took for granted – a roof over my head, meals, an education, a relatively stable home.
Of course, all our family members – “insiders” – knew that my father was no saint. But I was at least acknowledging the good, and sincerely thanking him for it.
My mother died two years later, and we all knew my father would be lost without her. They’d been married over 50 years. His health and activities declined and he finally passed away on the Ides of March a few years later.
Though his death did not come as a surprise – I was nevertheless left feeling his absence. That early Saturday morning when I learned of his death, I even felt parent-less. My view of the world changed and I was forced to acknowledge the limits of life and the futility of pursuing solely a material existence.
After I learned of his death via a phone call, I walked out into the morning rain, in shock, crying, thinking, remembering. I was not feeling cold or wet, and somehow I was protected by that unique state of mind that enshrouded me.
During the next three days, I did as I had done with my mother when she died. I spent the next three days reviewing my life with my father.
At first I allowed the random memories and pain to wash over me. I talked to Frank constantly during those three days, inviting and allowing him to be with me as we did the life review together. I felt his pain, his frustration, his emptiness and loneliness in his last few years of life. I did nothing to stop the pain of this – I allowed myself to feel it all.
I spoke to Frank as I’d speak to anyone living. I felt his presence and even his responses. I did this for myself as much as for Frank and his on-going journey.
I began to see him as a young man, who met, fell in love, and married my mother. Somehow, this was a major revelation to me. I had never seen my own father in that light before. He had simply been “my father.” Suddenly, he was a unique individual, with his own dreams, aspirations, and goals. Amazingly, I’d never viewed him in this way during our life together.
And then, after perhaps 12 hours of this, and miles of walking, I began a more chronological review of my life with my father, point by point by significant point. I saw his weaknesses and strengths, as well as my own. As I did this review, I looked for all the things that I’d done right with my father, all the things I’d done wrong, and all the things that I could have done better. I wrote these down, and the “wrong” list was shockingly long. The “right” list only contained a few items!
I asked my father to forgive me, and I resolved to do certain things differently in order to change and improve my character. I know I would not have imposed such a rigor upon myself had it not been for the death of my father.
A week later, when there was the funeral at the church, I felt that I’d come to know my father more than I ever was able to do in life. I briefly shared to the congregation my three days of “being with” my father, and learning what it was like to be Frank, in his shoes, and how we forgave one another.
More importantly, I shared to family and friends gathered that day the importance of constantly finding the time to tell your living loved ones that you indeed love them, not waiting until they die to say the things that you should be saying all along.
I remember Frank now on Father’s Day, and continue to express my heart-felt thanks for all that he – and my mother – gave to me.

Poem: Forgiving Our parents

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FORGIVING OUR PARENTS

Christopher Nyerges

[I haven’t shared a poem in a while — I hope you like it]
 
We seldom think that who we are
Is product from backseat car
Or lusty night from smokey bar
And not the son of distant star
We are the product of mom and dad
Their mingled traits both good and bad
We want to think we’re so unique
And so we are, but let us speak
How our child minds did set the stage
For adult us who learned to rage
With pain within we could not gauge
And fears and deficiencies
From hidden fears from early age
We found we could not turn the page
To cure, we had to find a sage
Who maybe helped us, maybe not
Our solution, had to be sought
By choice within, or happened not
And even then, inside we fought
Our inner demons, night and day
Until we got to bright new day
Until we find that we could say
I accept my father who he was
I accept my mother who she was
They lived their life, they did their buzz
They were who they were, just because
I did what I did, I always does
Above my parents did I rise?
Or were their limits born in me
Should I blame them for my own lies
They were my parents, not 2 gods
They made no pretense, they weren’t frauds
I must forgive them, on my own
And for their soul, let cease that moan
They did their best, I am quite sure
No pain intend, from him or her
They lived their life, they tried their best
During Depression, dad came west
Challenge had in time of war
Enough to make their bodies sore
I was not center of their life
Though tried their best in time of strife
The center I’d have liked to been
That I wasn’t, was not sin
Child rarely in parents’ shoes
Sees from parents eyes what they dos
Day in and out, sun rise to set
Bills to pay and job to get
Responsibility, oh boy
My parents sometimes had no joy
I forgive them now in my heart
Though both gone now, I have to start
To have new life, must do my part
To see anew, and wipe eyes clean
Parents forgive, no more mean
Within my mind, internal clean
Release I do bad pictures seen
It’s finally time to let it go
And see instead divine rainbow
Challenges many we all have
Some we fail and some we meet
Time it is for spiritual salve
To lighten mind and stop the heat
To finally learn from our past
Forgive our parents at long last
And with optimistic heart and mind
Seek the truth that is there to find
Not dark webs that would keep us bind
But bright truth light most rad’ant kind
And on that path our answers find
That kingdom within, in our mind
A place real, where we’re no more last
Truly, we can be free at last
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My Pal Otis (the pot-bellied pig)

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MY PAL OTIS

[Nyerges is the author of several books, including “Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City,” which includes a chapter on Otis. He’s also authored “Til Death Do Us Part?,” a Kindle book about dealing with the death of family members, as well as pets. Both available on Amazon, or www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.]

 
For nearly 20 years, a very quirk, cute individual with long black hair lived right here amongst us right here in the backyard of Eagle Rock.  His name was Otis, a tubby little Vietnamese pot-bellied pig.
It was the spring of 1993 when Otis came into our family.  Dolores and I had talked about getting a pig, and the pot belly “craze” was fading out.  We saw an ad in the paper from a woman who was moving and had to get a new home for her nine-month old pot-bellied pig.  We fell in love with Otis right away.
We learned a lot about the nature of “pig-ness” during Otis’ life.  In fact, this was partly why we got Otis in the first place – we were going to learn about the nature of pig-ness, which is also an aspect of human-ness. 
We learned that he certainly had a good memory, especially as it related to food.  He once discovered a bag of carob pods that I had in the living room, and he nearly ate half the bag before I caught him.  After that, any time he got into the house, he always went right to that spot where the carob had been.
Though we’ve heard that pigs are very smart, you can’t really compare them to dogs, for example.  Dogs might not have pigs’ great memory, but they seem smarter due to their loyalty to their masters. I’m sure that Otis always recognized me from other people, but loyalty?  I don’t think so.  Pigs don’t seem to want or need close affinity to people in the way that dogs do.  Nevertheless, later in his life when Otis was mostly alone, we did develop a “closeness.”
Yes, Otis was a pig, and yet he was such an individual!  I learned to know what his sounds and grunts meant, so I knew when he was happy, when he felt threatened, when he was worried, and when he liked (or disliked) someone.  His range of vocal sounds was broad and fascinating.
For his last few years, our cat Popoki would sleep with him, often lying on Otis’ big belly, which was always very warm.  The two of them seemed to not just tolerate one another, but appeared to be good pals.
Since a pot-bellied pig’s expected life is about 7 to 9 yeas, we estimate that he was about 200 years old (by human standards) when he died on Hanukkah of 2011 at the ripe old age of 19+.
He’d gotten much slower in the last two years, and in the last six months, he was slow and unsteady on his feet, and he began to eat less and less.
According to my neighbor, Otis was up every day to eat when I was gone to Guatemala for two weeks in early December of 2011.  But when I got home, Otis was lying on his bed and just grunted when I greeted him.  I hugged him and I hand-fed him, and I felt that he experienced a certain ease that I was back.  But I could also tell that he was on his way out.  I kept him covered, and comfortable, and felt sad that my friend was departing.
I felt a great empathy for Otis. He was a big guy, for sure, but his personality was such that he always seemed like a little boy.  I told him that everything was OK and that I was happy we had a good life together.  I thanked him.  I told Otis that it was OK to go on, if it was his time, if his body had become a burden.  I whispered in  his ear that it was OK, and that I loved him. He just grunted his friendly “oink” in return.  Otis never got up, and he died a week later.
I wrapped him and buried him in the “family graveyard.”  After we buried Otis, we put some flowers on his grave, and I placed his “Otis, Kansas” license plate (which I always kept on his gate) nearby.  My dear friend Helen then played a song as we sat thinking about Otis for a bit.  I was sad, but I knew that Otis had a good life and a long life, for a pig!
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And though I was sad, I felt a certain inner joy that he lived a long life with me, and that Helen was there to help me bury him and give him a special ceremony.  I thought that I would go through a period of great sadness, but I didn’t.  We had a good life together, and I was able to be there with him in the end of his very long life.
Postscript:  A few days after I buried Otis, when I parked my car near his pen, I heard his distinctive oink.  A trick of the mind?  I like to believe Otis was saying goodbye to papa.

A Natural way to Deal with Cough and Sore Throat

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HOW TO DEAL WITH A SORE THROAT AND COUGHING
USING NATURE’S MEDICINE CHEST

Nyerges is the author of Guide to Wild Foods , How to Survive Anywhere , and other books. For more information about Nyerges’ books, or the classes he teaches, contact him at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.
Photos: Top picture is Mallow. Bottom is Christopher looking at Mormon tea (by Rick Adams)
It seems that sore throats and coughs have afflicted people forever, whether resulting from the proximate causes of pollen, dust, woodsmoke, or from talking too much, or yelling, or even from  “catching” something from another person. 
Fortunately, there are quite a few natural remedies which help relieve the pain and discomfort of coughs and sore throats, and many of these have been used for at least centuries. 
Each of the plants described are commonly available in the wild, and typically can be purchased in the dried form in herb shops. 
MALLOW
The various mallows have been used to soothe a sore throat for centuries.  In fact, even the ancient Egyptians used one of the mallows for this purpose.
In the United States, the common mallow (Malva parviflora) is a widespread “weed” of vacant lots and fields.  It is sometimes referred to as poverty weed or cheeseweed.  In fact, the tender leaves of mallow are tasty in salads, added to soup, and can be cooked with other vegetables or like spinach.  They are high in vitamin C.
In Mexico, mallow leaves (known as malva) have long been chewed so that the slightly mucilaginous quality can soothe a sore throat.  Herbalists consider the mallow leaves an emollient and a demulcent.  Whether the leaves are eaten, or made into a tea, this plant helps to relieve inflammation, especially to the throat.
A related mallow, the marsh mallow (Althea officinalis), is also used for coughs and sore throats.  This plant has a long tap root that is boiled, and the resulting liquid is like egg whites. This is then whipped, and honey is added, and it is eaten as a very pleasant and very effective cough medicine.  Of course, marshmallows today are pure junk food, and no marshmallow manufacturers any more use extract of the marsh mallow plant.  Gelatin is today used in the manufacture of those fluffy white non-food objects.
HOREHOUND
The horehound (Marrubium vulgare) is a bitter mint, native to Europe, which has now naturalized throughout the entire United States. It is called marrubio in Mexico, where it also grows in the wild.  When you see it in the wild, it is an obvious mint, yet it lacks any strong aroma so typical of most mints.  However, you’ll see the square stem, the opposite leaves, and the wrinkled leaves on horehound which makes it easy to recognize.
Do any of you remember horehound candy?  This was a popular “old-fashioned” cough drop, made by boiling the horehound leaves, straining out the leaves, and adding sugar or honey to the liquid.  It is then cooked until it is thick enough to harden.  (Recipes for horehound candy can be found in most candy-making books).
Unfortunately, if you go to the store and buy horehound drops, it is very unlikely that they will contain any horehound extract at all.  With very few exceptions, all the horehound I have found in stores are nothing more than sugar with artificial flavors added.
Horehound is made into a tea, which is very bitter and unpleasant.  No one would ever drink it if it weren’t so effective.  Besides soothing a sore throat and a cough, horehound is an expectorant, which means it can help clear your throat when it is congested. 
To make horehound tea, I collect the young leaves in the spring.  They can be used fresh or dried.  I place about one teaspoon of the herb into my cup, pour boiling water over it, cover it, and let it sit until it is cool enough to drink.  The flavor?  Terrible!  Its bitterness must be experienced to understand.  So add honey and lemon juice to your horehound tea to make it more palatable.  The honey and lemon are also good for your sore throat. 
MULLEIN
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is another European native that has now naturalized throughout the entire United States.  It is particularly common in dry waste areas throughout the Southwest.  I can recall driving to the Grand Canyon once, and the dominant roadside plant was mullein.
Mullein leaves feel like flannel or chamois cloth.  The plant produces large basal leaves the first year, and then in the second year it sends up a seed spike that can reach up to four and five feet.  
To make a tea, use the first year leaves of mullein, and infuse them.  There is not much flavor, so I typically add mint to mullein tea.  Mullein acts like a mild sedative on the lungs, and it helps to relieve the roughness in the throat common with coughs and some fevers. 
Interestingly, mullein leaves have also been smoked to help relieve coughing and even mild asthma attacks.  I have tried this on a few occasions, and I felt quick relief. 
MORMON TEA
Throughout the Southwestern United States is found a stick-like plant called Mormon Tea (Ephedra sp.).  It is common in the California high deserts, in the Great Basin area, throughout Southern Colorado, and down into Texas.  It is often available at herb stores. 
The plant appears as a low shrub, with branched needle-like segments, with scales at the nodes. 
In China, a related member of the Ephedra genus is the source of the drug ephedrine, which is used as a decongestant and a bronchial dilator.  Though the wild U.S. species contain much less ephedrine, they are nevertheless useful in home remedies where there are breathing problems associated with coughs and colds.  Typically, the stems are brewed into a tea at low temperatures in a covered pot.  There is a mild but distinctive flavor and aroma that I like. 
I have made an evening tea from Mormon Tea while camping in the desert where there were no other beverage plants readily available. It has a pleasant flavor, and it is improved with just a touch of honey.
No doubt there are many, many other remedies for coughs and sore throats.  Included here were just a few of the common wild plants which are safe and easy to use. 
[Note:  None of the above should be construed to take the place of competent medical advise in a face-to-face setting.  Chronic coughing or chronic sore throat may be an indication of a more serious disorder.  Use your common sense, and consult a medical authority if you are experiencing any sort of chronic disorder.]

The Day Lulu Died [excerpt from “Til Death Do Us Part?”]

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[an excerpt from “Til Death Do Us Part?”, a Kindle book, also available as a pdf from www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.]
I was startled awake by the loud crackling of thunder at 2:30 a.m.  I could see the bright flashes of light outside.  The storm was overhead.  I went outside into the darkness, and the sky would light up with the bright flash, and the thunder shook the house. It began to rain.  Mid-August and it’s raining.  To me, Lulu was saying goodbye, leaving us as she moved along in the spirit world.
Lulu died at 5 p.m. yesterday, August 14.  I saw her about five minutes after she died in Dolores’ arms.  Lulu, a purebred pitbull, was Dolores’ dog who lived with us for all of her ten years. Lulu was a gift from Dolores’ daughter, Barbara, and Dolores LOVED Lulu!
The day she arrived, the little feisty dog took charge of the other two pitbulls, even though she was tiny enough to fit in one hand.  Her tail had this zig-zag coloration like a lightning bolt, a good indication of her character.
Dogs are just like children. Their characters are silly, playful, jealous.  No two are alike.  Lulu loved attention and loved to be with us.  When she came into our home, Cassius and Ramona were with us, and all three would sleep together, and stare out the window in unison, all lined up in the same posture. It was quite a sight.
Something unusual began to occur with Lulu in the early part of 2005.  Though Lulu had a large bucket of water outside which was readily available for her to drink, she would wait until Dolores let her inside and then she would drink and drink and drink from the bowl of water kept inside for Baby.  Dolores thought that Lulu was trying to tell her something.  If Lulu was so thirsty, why not drink her available outside water?  There was nothing wrong with that water.  If Lulu was trying to communicate something to Dolores, what could that be?
At this time, when we were all out for a run with the dogs, Dolores noticed that Lulu seemed tired, unable to run as swiftly as usual.  Something was wrong.
At the animal doctor, Dolores learned that Lulu had both diabetes and cancer.  Thus began a new era with Lulu, which lasted about five months, where she was given special foods and some pills designed to strengthen her. 
She grew thinner and thinner, yet she loved being with us and going places.  She seemed aware that something was wrong with her body, but she attempted to continue as before. 
Gradually, in the last month, she stumbled when she walked.  We had to help her in and out of the house to use her bathroom.  In spite of her increasing inability, Lulu seemed happy, not in pain, and always determined to go out side to use the bathroom.  What a girl!
We took her to the farmer’s market and she loved being there with Dolores, seeing familiar friends, getting to walk in the open park. 
One day at the Glendale Farmers Market, someone saw how thin she was and assumed we mistreated her. They called an animal inspector out who interrogated me with great suspicion. When it was clear that we were giving Lulu exceptional care, the animal inspector tactfully suggested that it was not Lulu we were concerned about, but our own desire to be with her. The animal inspector suggested we put Lulu to sleep.  In fact, she intimated that she had the authority to remove Lulu from us and “relieve her pain” if she felt we were not handling thing properly.  Ugh! Both Dolores and I were shocked and angered that this is the quality of person (and thinking) that our tax dollars support.   We had no desire to kill off Lulu.  We could feel that Lulu wanted to be with us, that she felt great joy and comfort.  So we took her home in a hurry.
Lulu’s walk became more difficult, and she lost most of her sight in the last two weeks.  We could feel the cancerous growths on her stomach and underside.  We could feel that Lulu was often sad, but she would sleep all day now, though she would eat and drink and go to the bathroom once or twice.  She wagged her tail when I came in.
When I last saw her alive Saturday night, I hugged her and touched her, and told her as I always told her, that she needed to get some meat on her body.  I always encouraged her to get better, hoping, dreaming for a miracle that she would.
On Sunday, I called Dolores on my cell phone when I was out shopping.  Dolores had me talk to Lulu over the phone, and say hello to her.  Dolores said that Lulu made an effort to wag her tail when she heard my voice.
When I came back, I could see the sadness in Dolores’ face. Yes, you can go see Lulu, she told me. Lulu was covered in a towell.  Dolores explained how Lulu really perked up in the morning when Dolores sat with Lulu and began mentally reviewing pictures of their good times together.  Dolores said that she did it again after we talked on the phone, and Lulu died in her lap.
Suddenly, the life was gone from her. It was a dramatic change,” said Dolores
We sat there on Sunday with Lulu, still talking to her, feeling the emptiness of a good friend now gone. It was like the end of the world.  We wished Lulu would be with us longer, another day, another week. We petted her, hugged her, the poor little girl who was now skin and bones. 
There is an emptiness now where there once was Lulu.  It cannot be drowned away with drink or drugs or distractions.  It can only be acknowledged. 
The solution to the sadness and the emptiness was to honor her life, and then to  love the living even more, and to smile.

Turning Over the Money-Changers’ Tables

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An Easter Week Commentary
[Nyerges is the author of 10 books, a member of the think-tank WTI, and the director of the School of Self-Reliance. He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.ChristopherNyerges.com.]
Growing up in a Catholic family, I have always had a special reverence for Passion Week, perhaps the holiest of all the Christian holy days.  The climax of this tradition begins on Palm Sunday with Jesus’ entry into the city of Jerusalem on a mule while palm leaves and garments are laid in his path by his followers. He is widely acknowledged as a healer, though some are upset that his actions are drawing so much attention. 
Then, later that day, or the next day, he becomes enraged by the “money changers” and ubiquitous vendors along the way to the temple, and knocks over many of these booths.
Of course, it is no different today.  Every holy site on earth is packed with vendors and their booths of trinkets that they hawk to every tourist who passes by.  These booths of vendors are found around the Vatican, the Church of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Chichen Itza, the Egypt pyramids, etc., ad nauseum.
Jesus knocked over the merchants’ tables because he felt their very presence in the temple desecrated a holy site.  This didn’t garner him many friends, especially not the merchants who felt justified in their commerce.  This act set the stage for the various accusations, arrest, trials, and crucifixion.
Today, commerce seems to run and rule every aspect of our lives.  Everything has a price and scant few protest the gross invasion of commercialism, on billboards, on our e-mail, on the bus-stop, in the bus, on the bus, at every sporting venue, on the clothing of bicyclists and car racers, etc.  Yet, we somewhat draw the line at our religious locations.  Somewhat.  
Jesus recoiled that the work of the Temple seemed to be just the work of commerce.  Let it be done elsewhere, he argued.  Of course, his actions were radical, and noteworthy, and look how he was “rewarded” for trying to separate commerce from “the house of God.”
I once experienced what I felt was very similar to what Jesus felt that day.
I was in Guatemala on a Mayan study and tour, we drove to the town of Chichicastenango.  It was said to be a sacred city where the oldest version of the Popul Vuh exists.  We were going to visit one of the holiest Mayan sites, which was once a pyramid in the town, upon which a Catholic cathedral had been built a few hundred years ago.
To get to this site, we had to walk through several blocks of narrow passageways, densely populated with booth after booth selling jewelry, artworks, fabric, clothing, food, herbs, and all manner of trinkets.  There was no escaping the throngs of vendors, to whom any eye contact meant maybe you wanted to buy what they had.  The narrow passageways were so thick that you literally had to bump shoulders with everyone else, and the hired tour guide yelled out to all of us to carry our daypacks in front of our bodies to thwart pickpockets. 
I began to feel that I had descended into a hell of sorts.  I had not been feeling well, and I had just learned two days earlier that my brother had died.  I was in the mindset of entering into a Holy of Holies, but to get there you had to pass through the gauntlet of the most overt commercialism imaginable.  I withdrew deeply into my self, something next to impossible to do in such a public place.
Eventually, our group all arrived at the base of what was left of the whitewashed pyramid.   At the top was the cathedral, where the church today allows the Mayans to practice their traditional religion.  We would eventually enter the church and hear about its history, and see a Mayan priestess performing a ritual in the middle row of the church. 
But outside, with the din of voices and screaming all around, the merchants booths were set up right to the edge of the pyramid.  People sat on the pyramid, and near the base, copal was continually burned and black smoke poured heavenward.  The narrow passageways of all the corridors of booths led to this pyramid, and a constant throng of passersby moved constantly this way and that.
I felt awestruck by that unique spiritual “something” that was an inherent part of this special place.  But why had the commerce been allowed to invade and over run this site. At least no vendors were allowed into the church yard or church!
But outside, at the base of the pyramid, I had a clear mental picture of the wrath of Jesus back at the Temple of Jerusalem, knocking the vendors tables over.  I could see the Rightness in what he did.  I felt such a strong desire myself – to be rid of the hawkers of ware in that holy place. 
There was no way I would kick over a table of jewelry or other goods. For one, I was not feeling well and didn’t have the strength for such an act. For another, I was well aware that I’d be spending time in some out of the way Guatemalan jail cell, and that notion was very unappealing.  I simply took in the moment, tried to feel the reality of the commerce that  has  overtaken us, and looked forward to my departure.
Yes, Easter is about the death and ressurection, a theme that is found in numerous religious traditions world-wide. It is a worthy theme to study and to plumb its mysteries.  It is all about each of us allowing our ignorant ways to die, and to allow our spiritual divinities to be resurrected from the ashes of our pointless lives.  But don’t forget that Jesus desired to kick out the love of money from the spiritual temple.  That too is something that each of us should do in our own private lives. 
And if and when we get the courage to actually do this, do not expect your friends and family to smile in approval.  You would be wise to look at story of Jesus to see what you should expect, and to plan accordingly. 

On Multi-Tasking

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[Nyerges is the author of “Extreme Simplicity,” “Self-Sufficient Home,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” and other books. He can be reached at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.comor Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041.
My friend and I were checking out at a small grocery store. The clerk was on her cell phone, an obviously personal call, and yet she managed to check each item with mechanical efficiency.  She smiled towards us, without actually looking at u s. She spoke the price, I handed her some bills, and she returned the correct change.  The groceries were bagged and we walked away.
I was a bit nonplussed, even though this scene has become way too normal.  To speak on a cell phone to someone else while handling a paying customer is the antithesis of service.  My friend told me I was making a big deal out of nothing.
“Besides, I do that all the time at my office and home,” she smiled.  “Multi-tasking.”
“Really?” I responded.  “So that’s your fancy word for doing two things at the same time and doing them both poorly?”
“But that clerk didn’t do her job poorly, “ my friend protested.  “You got the correct change, right?”
“Yes, I got the correct change but that’s not the point. Let’s just say that if she were my employee, she’d get one warning and then I’d fire her.”
“But that was a small store,” my friend said. “How do you know that she wasn’t  the boss?”
“I don’t know that,” I said, trying to explain why I felt that we’d just had less than an ideal interaction.  Perhaps it was because the clerk’s mind was elsewhere, and that I believe you really cannot do two things simultaneously, and do them each well, which is why it is illegal to talk on a cell phone and drive.  I asked my friend to explain what sort of “multi-tasking” she does at work.
“You know, the usual,” she responded.  She described a variety of tasks such as paperwork, letters, taking phone calls, reading e-mails.  “If you don’t give a task your full attention, do you think the task suffers?” I asked.
She thought about it.  “Not really,” she said.  “As long as I do an adequate job, there’s no problem.” 
“But what if you are talking face-to-face to someone and you’re still typing or shuffling papers.  Don’t you feel that the person will feel slighted?” I asked.
“Well, I suppose it depends on the person,” she responded.
I dropped the subject for fear that if I pushed my point further, a friend would soon be a former friend.
I’m not a big fan of so-called “multi-tasking.”  I think it’s a somewhat fraudulent, self-deceptive concept where you believe you’re doing more than you actually can do.  It’s a belief that by moving a lot of stuff around, that your quantity is more important than quality.  This is probably one of the reasons why the quality of goods and services has declined.
In a similar vein, today there are many multi-purpose tools now on the market, such as a tool which promises to be a hammer, a screwdriver, a saw, a shovel, a can opener and pliers. Such tools do about 40 tasks poorly and none well. 
I do believe that Swiss Army knives pack a lot of quality into a little package, though they cannot handle big jobs.  The Leatherman tool is also generally a good combination tool because it is well made. 
But as a rule of thumb, the more tasks a tool claims, the more poorly it performs.  And, generally, as the price lowers, so does the performance and longevity of the tool. 
In my world view, it is better to have just a few quality tools that a tool box full of cheap tools that mostly result in frustration. 
My friend reminded me that the benefit of her “multi-tasking” is that she gets more done at a lower cost, more quickly.  I had to think about what that means.
Yes, true quality – in a service or in a product – takes more time and costs more.  And because most of us want it now and want it cheap, we’ve created a frustrating world of low quality service and goods. Change will only come slowly, when enough of us realize that fast and cheap is just a quick thrill with no lasting satisfaction.

“The Winds Erase Your Footprints”

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A book by Shiyowin Miller

[“The Wind Erases Your Footprints” is available at Amazon, and from the Store at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.]
 
One of the books that came out of my family was “The Winds Erase Your Footprints,” written by my wife Dolores’ mother, Shiyowin Miller.  Shiyowin, who was part Osage, was immersed in Native American culture. I remember visiting her home in Temple City, which seemed like an Indian museum with a full library, drums, pots, and artifacts from all over the country.  Shiyowin had been a music and dance teacher, and was a professional dancer. She knew Iron Eyes Cody, and worked with Luther Standing Bear, a Lakota Sioux who was once the Chief.  He wrote “My People the Sioux” and other books. Luther Standing Bear adopted Shiyowin, and let Shiyowin act as his agent for his various books and other legal matters. It brought the past alive to me when I was able to see and feel the pipes, sandals, robe, and other materials that Standing Bear had given to Shiyowin.

Shiyowin also had many friends from the Navajo lands. In the 1930’s, Shiyowin’s best friend, Juanita, fell in love with a Navajo man, Luciano, who’d been working as an extra in Hollywood.  Juanita and Luciano got married, and moved back to Luciano’s Navajo lands in New Mexico.

Shiyowin kept in touch with Juanita, and wrote about the experiences that Luciano and Juanita underwent on the reservation, during the Depression when there was so little work.

Shiyowin edited and revised and rewrote her book many times over the next 30 years, and she died in 1983 before it was ever published.  I married Shiyowin’s daughter Dolores in 1986, and when I saw the box with hundreds of pages of manuscript, I asked Dolores if I could read it.  In fact, Shiyowin had hired Dolores to type many of the revisions over the years, and so Dolores was familiar with the content.

Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. It was amazed at the quality and depth of the story, and could barely believe that it had never been published. Shiyowin had actually received an advance from a publisher some 20 years earlier, but since she kept rewriting and revising, it never got published.  

I was amazed at the quality and depth of the story, and could barely believe it had not been published. To me, it was like reading a Tony Hillerman novel, except it was true!

Everyone said that the book accurately depicted life on the Rez during that time, mixed in with some accounts of Navajo witchcraft.  With some editing, Dolores and I got the book published in 2002 by Naturegraph Press, which features many Native American titles.  If you do an internet search with the book’s title, you’ll see some of the reviews that have been published about this book. 

The story was descriptive, compelling, and you feel as if you are re-experiencing the harsh winds, the life in the Hogan making coffee, the search for work, and all the ceremonies and gatherings that were a part of the Navajo way of life.  The books, which was 335 pages when published, also contained hints and clues in the backdrop about Navajo witchcraft, and the ma-itso, the wolf clan which was feared by most.
The freak death of Luciano was generally attributed to the work of the ma-itso, and Shiyowin gives the clues in bits and pieces, in the way that Tony Hillerman so masterfully slowly revealed his mysteries.
The following excerpts from THE WINDS ERASE YOUR FOOTPRINTS are Copyright  and may not be re-printed without permission of the publisher.
from chapter 3: Pentz’s Trading Post
Juanita stood, head forward, her hair long and black in the sunlight; she shook it, the drops of water flying. She ran her fingers through it, the pale, yellow shreds of fiber falling lightly to the ground. Luciano was washing his head now, in water that his mother had prepared. Juanita began to comb her hair carefully, the comb snagging and tangling in the still-wet strands. She stopped and disentangled the combings, rolling them into a little ball. The wind caught it and tumbled it over and over across the ground.
“Ah-yeeee!” Shimah exclaimed and went running after the ball of combings. She brought it back and placed it carefully in the fire, watching as the flames consumed it, talking rapidly to her son. I am guilty of some small breach of custom, Juanita thought, and then was surprised at the gravity of her husbands’ face. He sat back on his heels, his hair dripping unheeded.
“You must always burn your combings,” he told her seriously.
“My mother says never to let any of your hair escape like that.”
“I’m sorry, Lu,” she began. “It was a bit untidy. But out here in the open I thought the wind would carry it away.”
“That’s it: the wind might . . .” He stopped abruptly.
Juanita was puzzled. It was such a little thing for him to get upset about, and she had said she was
sorry. “Is there some tabu connected with hair-combings?” she asked gently, trying to smooth the
troubled look from his face. “If I knew it I’d observe it–you know I would.” Shimah stood by gauging the conversation by their voice tones. Luciano was still disturbed. “It isn’t exactly a tabu, but just don’t be careless.” It wasn’t like her husband to speak so. He’d always been patient about explaining even small things. She turned away to hide the hurt.
Shimah plucked at her sleeve, speaking gently, soothingly, as though to erase the hurt, the alarm.
“Tell my daughter-in-law to give me her jewelry so that I can put it into the soaproot suds. That will be good for the silver and the turquoise.”
Juanita resolved not to mention the incident of the hair-combing again. Lu was moody, preoccupied with looking for a job. It wasn’t anything important, only puzzling, and it wasn’t worth a misunderstanding if she never found out. There was so much she didn’t know, it would take forever to explain in detail everything she asked.       
from Chapter 5: Wild Duck Dinner
Wounded Head greeted them with warm words, but his face remained impassive–cold. His son
extended his hand for a limp handclasp. Juanita and Luciano were given a comfortable place to sit at the back of the hoghan, but Juanita wasn’t comfortable. She was conscious of her hair being disheveled from the race up the canyon; she tried to smooth it, putting one hand to her head unobtrusively. She wished that she had worn a skirt instead of Levis. Somehow she could feel Wounded Head’s disapproval without seeing his face.
Luciano was talking to the two men. No, he hadn’t as yet gone to work in Albuquerque.
Wounded Head placed his fingertips together with elaborate care. Was it true that in that Western
place, where Luciano had been, there was great opportunity for ambitious young Navajo men?
Luciano misunderstood. Was his son planning to go there?
A thin ghost-like smile passed over Wounded Head’s face and was gone. He shook his head.
The stew was ladled into bowls and passed to them. Juanita cooled one of the pieces of meat on her spoon. That didn’t look like mutton. She bit into it. Beef! Wounded Head and his family did eat well. Her husband had placed his hat on the bedroll behind him, and now his dark head was bent over the bowl of stew attentively. He looked up long enough to direct a sidelong glance at her when their host got up, took a can of peaches from the cupboard, and opened it with his knife.
The meal finished, they sat back looking into the fire, the men talking leisurely of unimportant things. Wounded Head’s wife asked a few questions of Juanita, through Luciano: did she like it here . . . did she miss her own people?
It was a foolish thing, her imagination was overactive, Juanita told herself, but she wanted to get away. The fire was bright, warming; Wounded Head’s wife was pleasant; Wounded Head himself seemed almost friendly as he drew Lu into conversation; but it was a strong feeling that Juanita had–as strong as a cold wind–as dark as a dark shadow. She was relieved when Luciano finally arose to go. He thanked them for the good meal and then the blanket over the doorway dropped behind them. She was first in the saddle and started toward the edge of the mesa.
“Not that way,” Luciano called. “There’s no trail–only rocks.”
Juanita turned and followed Luciano as he picked his way down the other side of the mesa. Halfway down the narrow trail, Luciano took off his hat. Holding it at arm’s length from him, he shook it carefully. Puffs of yellow dust scattered on the wind.
WATCH FOR MORE SECTIONS….

Christmas Cheer

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Memories of Christmas Season 2008

Nyerges is the author of several books. This article is an extract from his book, “Til Death Do Us Part?: Lessons that Death Taught Us,” available from Kindle or as a pdf from the Store at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.  The book details many of the specific Lessons that Dolores and I received through our association with WTI.  I highly encourage you to obtain a copy!
In the days after my wife Dolores died, I still spent my evenings with Nami and Fikret and Nellie (the little dog that Dolores boarded), cooking dinner, sharing dinner, talking over television.  Both Nami and Fikret were living in rooms in the front part of the duplex.  Nami was from Tokyo, working at a Japanese firm in downtown Los Angeles while she earned her CPA license.  Fikret was a student from Germany who’d be going home in a few days. 
That December was dark, pressing, my mind a constricted box of sorrow and loss. 
A close friend had earlier suggested to Dolores that she take Nami and Fikret to see the annual Griffith Park festival of lights, and Dolores had mentioned it to Fikret.  I brought it up to Fikret and he wanted to go.  I think he was more concerned about me getting out and “getting normal” than he was about seeing some electric light display.  Anyway, he arranged with Nami to go one evening after Nami got home from work, and I drove.
I had never seen the light show either, and though I was in no mood for “joy,” I wanted Nami and Fikret to feel happiness, and the joy of the American Christmas season that the youth can best appreciate. 
My mental state was very constrictive, narrow, even subdued horror.  It was as if I’d been  hit in the face with a 2×4, and I could not see beyond my shocked pain.  But I tried, with great effort, to “enjoy” an evening out with Nami and Fikret as best I could.  It was the weekend after Dolores died.  Nami got home early from work, and it was already dark.  Fikret made a very light meal – more of a snack – for everyone before we drove off to Griffith Park in my Jeep.  I was preoccupied with now living a life turned upside-down, with no perception of light at the end of my tunnel.
Fikret and Nami were noticeably happy, upbeat, and they seemed to be happy to be doing something with me. Fikret had come on a few field trips with, but I’d only gone out rarely with Nami. I know they were both fully cognizant of my pain and I think they were being happy because they wanted me to be happy.  To me, the lights of Griffith Park were a very minor attraction.
As we drove, we spoke about their day, and other light matters.  I always enjoyed talking with Nami over dinner about what sort of day she had at work, and what new English words she learned.  We drove into the large expansive parking lot east of the Los Angeles Zoo, and drove around until we saw where to park for the festival of lights.  People parked their cars, and then boarded buses which set sail every 15 minutes or so, or until the buses were full.  The three of us were the first to enter a bus, so we got the seats we wanted.  A few adults filed in, and then a whole group of school children came in and filled the bus.  The driver turned off the lights, and we were off down the two miles or so of the electric light display. 
The children spontaneously sang Christmas carols at the tops of their voices. Nami and Fikret tried to follow along:  Jingle Bells, Rudolph, Silent Night, all the classics.  Mostly, the children sang enthusiastically and loud with lots of laughter for the first verse until the song faded as the children didn’t know the words. After loud laughter, another song would begin.
I could tell they were all having great fun, though I was barely there. I had to shut off most of my painful feelings and emotions and turn on only that part of me that was needed for ordinary interactions with others. I was glad that there was so much happiness in the world.
I was in a darkness of my own, alone, as if I was severely and suddenly cut off from all that was important to me.  Which was, in fact, what happened.  After the light show, we returned to the Jeep, and I drove on in a stupor.  I asked Nami and Fikret if they wanted to see more Christmas lights, and they said yes.  Christmas Tree Lane was impressive, but monotonous to me.  Nami and Fikret just said “Oohh,” and “Ahhh,” and “Look at those, wow!”  I tried to explain the history of Christmas Tree Lane, how I grew up just around the corner, and I drove by our family home on North Los Robles. 
I didn’t want to go home quite yet.  “Going home” would mean that I would go back home alone, would sit there for awhile listening to music or watching TV, feeling the full grief of losing Dolores, by myself.  It meant I would go to sleep with my grief, unable to find solace in music or TV.  I would turn off the TV and music, and in the darkness I would fall into my abyss of sorrow until I awoke the next day. No, I didn’t want to go home yet.
I told Nami and Fikret that I knew of another Christmas light display and we drove across town looking for it.  We never found it, but they got a tour of East Pasadena and Sierra Madre before we stopped for some snacks and finally went home. 
We then went into the front kitchen when we got home, and enjoyed some cookies and coffee.  We all laughed together and we watched a little bit of a Christmas movie on TV.  It was a good evening overall, but it would be a long time before I could feel joy again.
That was eight years ago this December. Life goes on. I learned to love again, and I realized that one does not want to “forget,” as we often hear. For me, it was a truly unique and special time to assist one in her final days. It made me feel the value of each day, of each breath, of each moment. And somehow, that death became a permanent way in which I commemorate the onset of the  Christmas Season, which is all about a New Life.

Searching for the Real Meaning of Christmas

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[Nyerges  is the author of several books, including “Whose Child Is This” (about the meaning of the symbols of Christmas).  He can be reached at www.ChristopherNyerges.com or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041.]
In 1976, I was asked to conduct a Christmas event for the non-profit I’d been a part of.  My job: “Find the real meaning of Christmas.”  Even after I agreed to do this, I wondered:  How can I do that?  How can I be sure that I’ve really got the “real” meaning?  How will I know whether or not I’m right? 
I was told by Ms. Hall, the then-president of the non-profit WTI, to make a plan, and that I should write out the overall reasons and purposes for the event.  I was to start collecting all the facts I’d need for my study into the meaning of Christmas. Sounded good, so far. I needed to discover what all the symbols of Christmas meant, symbolically, to each of us.
“So you need to focus your thinking on all the important details that pertain to Christmas.  Your job is to find, and then to convey, that real meaning to the others at the event,” I was told.  OK.   I felt even more overwhelmed.  I was not sure I could actually do this and get meaningful results.  So, I did the best that I was able to. 
Finally, the Christmas Eve event took place.  It was half the day of music, movies, and delicious food.  Once it was underway, everyone seemed to fill their role rather professionally.  And then there was my presentation on the meaning of Christmas.  I had toiled over my research notes, and done considerable “thinking-into” the subject.  Still, even as I stood there in front of 20 or so people, I had my doubts about whether or not I knew what I was talking about.
I explained how I grew up in a Catholic family, and was taught that Jesus was born on December 25, which is obviously why we celebrate his birthday on that date. But by age 14, I began reading literature from non-Catholic, and non-Christian sources, that pointed out that most of the Christian Holy Days – including Christmas – were pre-Christian, as hard as that was to believe.  Those first revelations had the effect of making me even more depressed at Christmastime, since not only did I perceive it as time when the merchants induced us all to buy, it now appeared that Christmas had so-called “pagan” roots. 
I had a few encyclopedias with me, and read passages from them as appropriate.  I also hadThe Golden Bough, and Manly Hall’s Secret Teachings of All Ages.  I told the small group that was gathered there that day that I was amazed to discover that Jesus was not the only god or savior of world history who birth was commemorated on December 25, or a few days earlier on the solstice.   Mithra, for example, was born of a virgin mother in a cave. His birthday was commemorated on December 25.  Mithraism was the dominant religion of the Roman Empire during the time of Jesus.  Nimrod from Babylon was also said to be born on December 25, as was Osiris, Quetzalcoatl, and others. 
“I was very influenced in my early teens by certain religious groups who taught that we should not observe Christmas because it is pagan,” I told the small group.  I explained that it was not until the 4th Century when Constantine was attempting to unite his empire that he made Christianity the official religion, and he “Christianized” all the so-called pagan commemorations.  As a result, the birth of the Sun that was already commemorated by the Mithra-followers was now going to commemorate the Birth of the Son. 
It turned out that nearly all of the Christmas symbols pre-dated Christianity, and were called “pagan” by some. 
“But what is a pagan?” I asked the group.  “It turned out that the pagani originally referred to anyone who lived in the countryside.  Only later did the term take on the somewhat derogatory “non-Christian” meaning, since it was harder to convert the people who did not live close to the cities of the day.”
During the next 45 minutes, I discussed the meanings of the wreath, evergreens, lights and candles, the giving of gifts, the virgin birth, and birth in a stable.  I pointed out that the winter solstice, that darkest day when the day’s light increases, has been used ceremonial to commemorate the birth of saviors for four or five millennia.  We know Jesus wasn’t born then, but we today use that day to commemorate the possibility of a new beginning.
Timothy,  who was a guest that night, described the importance of the winter solstice to ancient people.  “That’s why there are so many stone structures and shadows and drawings that tell people when it’s the day of least light.  Not only did the farmers want to know when the days would get longer, but it was also highly symbolic.  There in the deep of winter, when the days were darkest, suddenly the days started to get longer. That’s where the birth of the sun idea came from.  It’s highly symbolic, as you’ve been saying, and just about everyone throughout time has taken note of it.”
When it was over, I felt that I – and the guests – had come just a bit closer to finding this real, inner meaning to this special day.  But I knew this was not a matter of just collecting facts, like some college research project.
Can I even say that today I know the “real meaning”? 
I’ve concluded that, despite all the outward signs and parties and food, the “real meaning” of Christmas is that we should take the time to allow a “new birth” to occur within our own mind and soul.  Yes, that’s not easy, and it’s hard work, though very rewarding. This real, inner meaning of this time of the year, is something that anyone of any culture can choose to experience.

The Death Seminars

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[an excerpt from “Til Death Do Us Part?” which is available from Kindle, or from the Store at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.]
Dolores and I were active students of metaphysics, mostly through our association with WTI’s Spiritual Studies classes.  We spent a lot of time studying Harold Percival’s “Thinking and Destiny,” and other books such as Fromme’s “Art of Loving” and Hayakawa’s “Language in Thought and Action.” 
By the early 1990s, we began to conduct weekly study sessions and classes in our home, mostly readings from “Thinking and Destiny” on Sunday afternoons. 
One night, we offered a class called “What Happens After Death.”  About 10 people showed up for this one, which was a large gathering for our small meeting room. 
We began by telling everyone that this was not some sort of religious exercise, nor was anyone required to “agree with” or “believe” anything we were telling them. Rather, we simply asked that they consider the scenario that we’d be sharing as a possibility, and that we would not consider “arguments” or “debates” about it.  In other words, something does “happen” to us after our body dies.  This “something” can range from “nothing” to reincarnation to “going to hell” and many other possibilities. 
We were students of Harold Percival’s “Thinking and Destiny” book, and we explained that for this class, we’d be sharing his version of what happens after we die.  Obviously, Dolores and I considered this version to be not only acceptable, but possible and plausible. 
A brief explanation about Percival is required.  He claimed in the preface to his monumental “Thinking and Destiny” book that he “came to” the information that he shares by means of what he calls “Real Thinking
Upon body death, according to Percival, we “automatically” go through a series of steps, which he initially describes as a brief overview on pages 240 to 253.  He describes a specific order of 12 events, which includes a life-review, a judgement, a heaven-state, etc.  
After our brief explanation, we asked each participant to lie on our floor. 
“Now you have just died,” we announced, and we covered each person with a sheet to further simulate the death experience.  We then read through the after-death stages, one by one, slowly, in the darkened room, asked each participant to work hard to fully feel the experience.
Talking through this process took about 45 minutes.
Then, we got through the entire cycle, and explained that these steps could actually take several hundred years of earth time.  Then it would be time for being reborn into a suitable and appropriate family, in the place on earth that we’ve earned for ourselves.
We turned on the lights, and removed the sheets, and let everyone take a few minutes to get their eyes adjusted to the light.  Slowly, each person opened their eyes and slowly got up, and sat down in a chair.
We began to share significant experiences that each person had.  A few folks were very quiet and would not talk at all, but others were very talkative.  Some were even in tears.
We closed the class by telling everyone that they had not died tonight, and that everyone now has a “new opportunity” to still “do the right things” since they were still alive in a body.
We shared some freshly-made coffee-elixir and healthful cookies, and we discussed a few of the upcoming classes and poetry readings that we’d be having in the coming weeks.  But no one seemed interested in our announcements.  Most everyone was strongly affected by the experience, and they wanted to ask more questions, which we tried to answer.  As usual, we didn’t feel like the most perfect examples in the world, but we knew that “the future” is all the result of each and every choice that we make, second by second, and the consequences of those choices.  To make the wisest possible choices every second of one’s entire life required a unique sort of sobriety and focus which itself required a unique lifestyle regimen to maintain – and, of course, those details were the subjects of our on-going classes.

The Ghost of Mrs. Killman

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This is part of a chapter of the book “Til Death Do Us Part?”, available on Kindle [on sale right now for a week for a mere 99 cents!], or from www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.  Each chapter is full of real experiences and practical applications for everyone. (By the way, story also appears in the “Squatter in Los Angeles” book, also available on Kindle.]

DEALING WITH THE GHOST OF MRS. KILLMAN
Shortly after Edward and I moved in as squatters, we became aware the “something or someone” was still around in this old house. We presumed it was the recently-deceased owner, a Mrs. Killman who I later learned had been bed-ridden, overweight, and heavily medicated.
“She probably didn’t even know that she died,” my friend and associate at the non-profit, Ellen, told me.
One night while Edward and I were in our rooms – I had my door open and could see right through the kitchen – the kitchen door began to shake violently. I could both see and hear the door shaking. We both rushed into the kitchen to check it out. It was clear that there was no earthquake, and inexplicably, the kitchen became very cold. We looked around outside. There was no one in the inner yard, and we would have heard it if someone opened the creaky gate to enter, or exit.
This happened another time, and Edward and I talked about it for a long time, assuming it was some sort of psychic presence, but not really knowing one way or the other.  Then there were at least two occasions when we heard dogs barking in the kitchen.  There were no dogs in the yard, no dogs next door, no dogs in the yard. The barking was emanating from within the kitchen.   The dog barking could not have been an  “echo.”            
It turned out that Mrs. Killman did have two large dogs.  We determined that Mrs. Killman must have been a paranoid woman, for she had written multiple wills and various trust deeds pertaining to her property.  All this was unresolved when she died.  And maybe she was forgetful.
I was unsettled by these events, and at the earliest convenience, I shared these details with both the head of the non-profit, REW, and Ellen who resided in the non-profit’s facility. 
Shortly thereafter – within a week or two – REW asked me if I could come over at 3 p.m. the following day to view a show with him.  I said “yes.”  He added that this particular program was extremely important, and that I should find a way to view it even if I couldn’t return to his place.  He said that the show would help me to deal with the “ghost” that had been “visiting” at my home.
Of course, I returned the following day at 3 p.m., and seated myself comfortably in his cold “learning chamber.”  The show was about to begin, which was “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.”  During the commercial just before the show, REW told me to watch very carefully for the clues telling me what I should do about the “ghost” in my house.             
I had already told REW and Ellen all about it – barking dogs though there were no dogs, and no possibility of echoes, or underground passages, or a dog walking by.  We knew that there absolutely was no dog in the house, or near the house.  However, the old woman did have dogs that stayed in the house with her.  Also, the house’s glass doors rattled furiously on two occasions when there was no one around.
Since I had carefully inspected the many papers left in the house when I moved in, I was likely the only person aware that the old woman may have been the victim of foul play.  Also, since the old woman took massive amounts of medication, and Ellen  told me in her insightful way that Mrs. Killman was probably was very confused in her initial after-death states, and possibly didn’t even realize that her body had died.  These circumstances were the classic ones which coincide with the presence of ghosts, or spirits of the recently deceased.
“The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” illustrated a couple who moved into an old house, and eventually began to have “appearances.”  REW told me to be particularly alert during those scenes depicting the way in which the woman and man interacted with the ghost.
I watched the movie carefully, generally wondering what I was doing there, since I didn’t see anything that pertained to my situation.  It was an interesting movie, but seemed to be something other than what I needed.  When the movie was over, REW restated the practical lesson within the movie.             
“They depicted the proper two-step process for dealing with ghosts,” he told me.  “What was the first way in which the people tried to interact with the ghost?”  Really?  I shrugged.  I tried to remember, but could remember nothing useful.  Ellen then spoke up, saying, “She asked the ghost, ‘Who are you?  What is your name?’”  
“That’s important?” I asked.  REW responded in the affirmative, as I began to recall that particular scene.  The first step was the name-challenge, and involved asking the entity its name.  Then the woman in the movie asked the ghost why it was there in the house. 
“That’s right,” said REW. “The woman queried the ghost as to its purpose.  And when such entities are queried using this formula, they are compelled to respond,” he told me.  I found this fascinating.
“So this is the way you should interact with the ghost of the old woman,” Ellen  told me.  “First make certain you know who, or what, is present, and then find out what she wants of you.”
I wondered aloud how I would do that.  Ellen then began to explain a method which would make it easy for the ghost in my house to interact with me.  She pointed out that you don’t always get vocal words from ghosts, nor do you often get writing on paper.  However, Ellen suggested that I lay papers on the floor for all the letters of the alphabet, and of numbers 0 through 9, as well as all of the key documents that I found which might be of some value.  Ellen suggested that I could talk to the ghost when I felt  “her” presence, and then ask her to communicate by moving the papers on the floor to spell out words, or numbers, or move key papers.
“You need to decide for yourself if you can help her in any way,” Ellen told me, “and what you’re willing to do.  She’s contacting you because you’re there in her house, and you are the most likely person to provide help.  But you’ll have to use some creativity to get answers if you really desire to help.  She may not be able to just speak like you and I speak.”
I wasn’t really certain about all this, and it sounded vaguely like some sort of séance session, and I wasn’t sure what I was willing to do. But Ellen was right, I was in her  house, and I would rather that the ghost of Mrs. Killman move on to somewhere else and not haunt my kitchen.
Lastly, according to both Ellen and REW, once I performed this task, or resolved the issue that was keeping the ghost of Mrs. Killman close to the earth plane, I was to tell her that she has passed away, and that she should now go on, that her work is somewhere else.
I listened quite intently to all of this, having a curious mix of excitement, anticipation, and even fear.  I recorded all the details into my notebook.
That evening, I prepared myself to interact with the presence of the old woman’s ghost. 
Onto the floor of my room, I placed the key papers which had to do with the deceased woman.  I also placed squares of paper on the floor, one for each letter of the alphabet, thinking that perhaps “she” would rattle papers, and might even spell out some message by sequentially rattling letters of the alphabet.
By 1 a.m., I had everything set up, since the usual time of the “appearance” was about 2 a.m.  I wanted to be ready.  I sat there reviewing the papers, wondering how I would react if anything actually visually appeared.
At around 1:40, the room became very cold with an oppressive presence. The cold was very penetrating, and I felt some fear.  I knew that “she” was there.  I attempted to vocalize the words “What is your name?” but was unable to do so.  I literally could not speak.  This was a unique sort of fear. I tried hard to speak aloud, but could not!  I mentally stated the question, and I intently watched the papers on the floor.  I remained in a kneeling position which I’d originally adopted so I wouldn’t fall asleep.  But I was now keenly alert, intently aware that something else was there in the room with me, and painfully aware that I could not utter a word.  My intense fear was not a rational thing, for I was aware that “she” could not hurt me.  Yet, I was actually sweating there in that ice-box cold room. 
None of the letters moved.  I  recalled the Biblical quote about “there is no fear in love, for fear has to do with punishment…” and so I worked to calm my fear-emotions, and made the strong effort to emanate  a Feeling of Real Love.  At first, I was simply attempting to allow that Feeling of Love to be there, within me, and to “send” it outward.  Once I was able to do that, I specifically attempted to send that Feeling of Love to the old woman, while letting her know that I could be of some assistance.  I mentally asked her to tell me what I could do, as I tried to squeak out the vocal words.  Then one of the old legal papers in the middle of the room rustled.  There was no chance of a breeze moving the paper, since all the surrounding papers right there on the floor didn’t move at all.  A second paper moved.  I took note of which two papers rustled.
I sat there stiffly for another 15 minutes in the cold room, with its cinder-block walls.  The night outside was quite, and dark, and cold.  After a while, it was clear that the presence was gone and I knew it was over for that night. 

Excerpt from “Til Death Do Us Part?”

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Today, October 2, would have been Dolores’ birthday. After she died in 2008, I wrote a book, “Til Death Do Us Part?” which talked about our lessons and practices regarding death, as well as detailing how we dealt with her death.  She stipulated in her will that her body be left alone for 3 days after death, and we honored that request. You can read some of those details in Memoriam at www.ChristopherNyerges.com. This excerpt is what happened after the 3 days, when we were required by law to call 911 and report the death.  You can get the full book at Kindle, or from the Store at www.ChristopherNyerges.com.