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Posts Tagged ‘God’

Harry Edenfield, a Christian author, offers a thought-provoking daily devotional for this season of Lent.

Today’s verse is from Genesis 19:16: “But Lot lingered. So the angels seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.”

Edenfield reflects, “Lord God, your servant Lot lingered in Sodom. Sometimes I love my chosen place too much. You urge me to leave my sin spot.

I linger.

I linger even if it may be injurious to my loved ones. Remember me: I, too, need an escort from the magnet of sin.

As we leave together, Holy Spirit, urge me to have no regret about the exit from sin. Urge me not to look back.”

Amen.

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Scènes de ma course du matin:

Morning fog creeping over low pastures and seeping into the road

Fungal sunrise

Preparing horses for polo season next month

Farmer made hay this week

Dragonfly mating season

Unflappable turkey buzzards

Thank You, God, for the joie de vivre of running, of freedom, of health, of vibrant life. Merci pour my quiet mornings with You.

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I love a good window to the world, whether it’s a window of opportunity, a window to the future or a window of wood, as below:

Peek-a-boo pier

Sunset on Mobile Bay

Columbia River Gorge

Thanks, God, for the glimpses of heaven You give us through the windows of Your creation here on earth. Let nothing separate us from You…may the windows be flung open, that we might climb through and know and live the beauty we see on the other side.

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Silhouette

Someone else’s creativity by day brought great contemplative joy by sundown…

Thanks, God, for cycles of inspiration that all lead back to You,

and for the dear friends You bring here to share the beach.

May you, my friend, be also inspired!

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Laughing gulls…I can’t help but wonder what they’re laughing about. They never seem to lose their sense of humor.

On the waterfront trail early in the morning, I took advantage of the rising sun, lapping waves and the aroma of blooming roses. On the far side of the path when not directly on the water, I was propelled by the Foo Fighters, U2 and Kings of Leon. I had to turn it off waterside; no need for musical motivation when the seagulls and waves demand your attention.

Not to mention the damned goose that I neglected to see as I focused on the surreal, relaxing beauty of it all. He came right at me, disturbed at my steady clip running. His perfectly white feathers contrasted with his pylon-orange bill, which nipped me square in the crotch. I was sexually assaulted by a goose, yes. This amused the elderly couple leisurely walking several paces ahead facing me. I jumped back in surprise, and put a spring in my step. Nothing like a head-on collision with a determined animal to make you run faster. I suppose they don’t call it “goosing” for nothing.

Dear friend, I wish you could have been with me…kudzu up the cliffs making everything green, friendly smiles and greetings of other early morning beach-walkers, the crackle of shells underfoot while stretching out at the water’s edge, reflections of quickly moving, morning poofy clouds, the gently bobbing sailboats in the marina, and the soothing brackish air with every inhalation. And, of course, the fountain..

A brisk 3 miles later, I was reluctant to leave, so I savored the little vacation by taking the scenic route home, which follows the water. This is the playground of shamed politicians, movie-makers wishing to remain in cognito, and other assorted and sundry Famous American People who have reason to throw off the paparazzi for their whereabouts.

Little bungalows dot the road bordering the water with clever names like “Journey’s End,” “Thanks, Doc!” and “Pettaway’s Getaway.” Or this take on “The Cabin:”

Look closely at the Joneses sign behind; they are still hung over with Mardi Gras beads.

These neighbors have fashioned a whimsical gate leading to their waterfront abode:

On the way home, I stopped by the nursery (finally!) and corrected the pathetic situation on the front porch with fresh, hanging plants in a warm, gentle breeze:

The rest of the afternoon was spent sipping Brontë & Chardonnay on the front porch swing, but gulping the smell of freshly mowed grass.

Sunday found me braving the experience of herding our 4 children into our local Waffle Establishment for a rare meal “out,” (eating out at our house usually means out on the back deck or the front porch). In the afternoon I did an interview for a national magazine (professional/trade – don’t look for me in the next Maxim, k?) and wrapping up laundry for the week.  Oh, and another trip to the park for more sandy fun. Jes’ can’t stay away, dontchaknow?

A blister on my foot from forgetting my “good” running shoes at work, is my price for this weekend, along with a blister on my hand for forgoing the leaf blower to burn a few calories by sweeping the deck by hand. These are my badges of honor for the weekend, and in all irony, the blisters testify to the refreshment I received in the process of voluntary toil.

I hope your weekend was relaxing and replenishing, too, dear reader.

Thanks, God, for hard runs and soft waves, for sharp shells and gentle winds, for blisters and brackish breaths, and for creative neighbors and goosey geese. Okay, well, scratch that last one. Thanks for an awesome weekend.

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If I were a stranger coming to visit me for the first time, I’m not quite sure what I’d think of myself. I would probably be so distracted by all the crap that I’d probably forget to ring the doorbell. I might even run. Or I’d wait to see what kind of creature emerged, out of sheer morbid curiosity, given the exterior clues.

I might say the person living here leads a bit of a busy, chaotic life (true).

This person could stand to be a little more organized (false – I am a hapless victim of sharing space with those with less superior organizational skills than myself, and I have learned it is best to keep the peace by resisting my impulses to impose order on a hoarder.).

This person seriously needs more space. Or less stuff (true).

This person should get to work (false, in my imagination).

This person has a mess-o-fun (more true than should be legal).

This person’s porch is a train wreck of information (you be the judge).

If you had blinders on, you would go directly to the door and either ring the doorbell or knock on this:

Grab him by the tail!

While you’re waiting and eavesdropping on the inevitable, audible mayhem indoors, you would glance over at this:

Welcome: We collect shells & friends. And Mardi Gras beads.

That is one of our children’s painted, glittered sand dollars behind the sign; I can’t recall which kid did it when. The only way to find out is to remove it and wait for the little artist to inquire where his masterpiece went. And at the bottom of the green beads, that is a very sun-faded alligator. It was an awesome parade catch last year and was on boastful display on the porch all year. Nobody told us the alligator would turn yellow. Oh, well. We kind of like him hanging around, regardless.

Whimsical junk so far, yes…when I grow up, I will have a more formalized, mature front porch – you know, gas lamps, properly propped cushions on perfectly painted wicker, sculptures, fountain, fireplace.  For now, though, this suits the kids, along with the garish Mardi Gras wreath opposite this scene.

You might trip over this on your way up to the door:

Interesting driftwood rescued from nearby bayou

Hopefully, this will catch your eye on the ground, so that you will not look up and behold this mess:

This Charlie Brown geranium has a date with a dumpster in the near future.

Pathetic. Why do we keep these sorry excuses of fauna? Because in the back of our heads we keep thinking “someday” I will magically emerge from a phone booth as a botanical superhero and nurse it back to a full, brilliant life. And besides, the local nurseries haven’t started carrying the good stuff yet that will take us through spring & summer. I’m holding out. If this bothers you, congratulations – it bothers me too.

(Side note to those born after 1990: Phone booths, kiddies, were cubically rectangular, see-through contraptions, not unlike a vertical version of the cryogenic capsule you’ll find yourself purchasing in the next decade or so. In a phone booth, you deposited a nickel – no, a dime – wait, last time was a quarter – into an old-fashioned telephone, complete with something like an umbilical cord which connected a black box with a rotary dial or buttons, and the receiver. You got to call somebody, and phone numbers began with a word followed by five numbers. In some cases you had to talk to a real person, an “operator,” to input your data verbally. These things were on most city corners. Because they did not have Angry Birds or other apps to occupy them back then, they used to have contests to see how many people could squish into one phone booth at a time. It was also where a dude named Clark Kent transformed into Superman and saved the day.)

In all honesty, the geranium opposite this one on the other side of the porch is doing marvelously, with multiple bright blooms. Really. And when I go to trash the one above, I will have a quandary as to what to do with the good geranium, since people like their porches symmetrical, and it would be porch-heresy to put non-matching hanging plants opposite each other. One year I did that because I wanted to. It drove the neighbors bananas, and I got more questions as to why. Everybody kind of got edgy about it. Geez Louise!

Speaking of symmetry on porches, we here in the South can always tell when a Yankee moves in (or an ingenuine Southerner). They will place two rocking chairs on either side of the front door, typically yards apart. This is front porch-fakery at its best. This is no way to enjoy a tall, frosty glass of sweet tea with another person – it renders you rudely hollering across the porch at each other. Nosireebob, a real Southern porch clusters furniture, even if it’s asymmetrical. It’s all about settin’ a spell and being neighborly.

Now, on our porch, we have two white rockers and this baby, all on one side:

The quintessential front porch amenity

Why is there an orange heart on the swing? Because I had extra paint leftover after I painted our mailbox with a sea scape. And orange is my favorite color. Besides, it went well with the cushion. Yes, symmetry fans, there is another orange heart on the other side, too. Rest well tonight.

It is from here that I sip a glass of this or that and watch my children grow up. From here I train the younger ones to come to me when they are called, the first time. It is where I rest after swinging on the big swing roped to the old oak tree. It is where I read and write and pray. It is where I cool off under the outdoor ceiling fan after a good, hard run. It is where I file away memories, where I unwind, and where I cultivate my marriage and parenthood. Oh, and to watch to see what the neighbors are up to and smile and wave as they go by.

Unfortunately, this is the view from the swing, in the opposite direction:

Holy Clutter, Batman!

That Buzz Lightyear keeps showing up where I least expect him. You’d think we had two in the house. Wait, we do. You have the toy cars, the disassembled hummingbird feeder, ever-open tackle box, useful string not in use, bike helmet, fishing poles, boogie boards, spare worms in blue container like a crown on the heap. Somewhere under that mess is a Radio Flyer wagon. Inner tube off to the side. And beneath the pew is a collection of dried, sandy, water shoes in several sizes and colors, along with some canoe paddles. Don’t forget the cat food and water dishes on the other side of the pew. The cat came with the house; they just kind of threw her into the deal, interest-free. Ditto for the pew. Long story behind the pew and our faith…suffice it to say, it was an original, hand-made pew which first served worshipers in a local church decades ago.

Scattered in front of the porch and beneath the azalea bushes and pineapple plants are scores of shells. We really do collect ’em.

Thanks, God, for front porches, for a sweet place to enjoy life, and for the things that make a house a home, and a home part of a community.

And thanks, dear friend, for joining me on the porch today. Now tell me, what does your front porch, or your front door area, say about YOU? What’s the most unusual, favorite or annoying thing lurking around your entryway?

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In a land far away from our minds stands a lone angel tree today, seen by few, known by fewer. This tree is different from the rest.

You know of the others. Right now in stores across the United States stand hundreds of “angel trees,” decorated with carefully disguised identities of needy children in the community. These are children who through no fault of their own are in situations which render them financially less fortunate than other children on Christmas day. These children may live with their families or perhaps are foster children, but they still have the freedom to live with a family, attend school, and, although challenged, have a fairly typical daily routine in the daily world.

Allow me to introduce you to a similar, but rarely-seen angel tree.

This tree also has the names of carefully disguised identities of needy children, but these children are apart from the community. These children are the emotionally less fortunate who, through no fault of their own, have been subjected to and somehow survived unconscionable circumstances which have scarred their souls so badly, that they are unable to function in society as we know it. These children cannot live in a home, neither with family of origin nor foster home. These children cannot attend school due to their disintegrated hearts.

These children are locked away in an institution, both for their safety and for the safety of the community, or because they are the most emotionally fragile of children. They simply cannot handle life as we know it. They are there to mend their hearts and souls, and remain there until they are fit for society. This may take days or weeks for those in acute care; months, or even years in the long-term residential facilities…all of which are eternities, in a child’s eyes.

There they spend their days and nights, eating and sleeping, playing and fighting, wondering how they got there, and contemplating what they need to do to get out. There they try their hardest to get through each day with the shadows of their past following and haunting them, trying to do what schoolwork they can, trying to get along with others, with varying levels of success.

Some try their hardest because they have hope. Others do not try because they have given up hope, and need encouragement from one moment to the next. Still others try their hardest to show others their very worst, because if they can be disliked or violent enough, they can reject others before others have yet another chance to reject them…at least it is one thing in life they can control.

Their angel tree sits quietly in the corner of the small, empty lobby, the only unlocked room in the building. Other than the receptionist, it is only seen by the few still connected to these children who are able to visit: the state worker who must ask the child to choose between a voucher for clothing or a voucher for toys and who will be home with their family on Christmas; the ashamed, distant relative who is reluctant to be involved but wants to make a good show, the occasional lost driver who took the wrong turn down the end of the long road; the tireless staff and nurses doctors. Oh, and the UPS guy and mail carrier, neither of whom bring things addressed to specific children living there, except on rare occasions.

The requests for needs for these children seem somewhat unusual. The angels on this tree bear wishes for things like socks, because their roommate flushed their last good pair down the toilet during another one of his nightly rages, with enough bone-rattling shrieking to create a new nightmare for another child down the hall on the unit, unable to sleep…and not a shred of memory of the crisis, come sunup.

Like playing cards, since many of the games on the market, electronic or otherwise, further cause them to be unable to distinguish reality from fantasy, and may trigger violent flashbacks. Or reinforce their tendency to want to solve problems with disconnected sarcasm and indifferent violence.

Like soft, stuffed animals or dolls, since anything battery-operated requires batteries – and anyone who’s been behind those locked doors long enough knows that if you slam a battery in the door near the hinges just right, it will expose a very sharp object that can be found in the core of the battery, which can then be used as a weapon to hurt someone. Or, for the self-harmers, to cut on themselves and draw blood, and wind up wearing scrubs and on 24/7 observation for days as a result. It is unfathomable to think how a young child might learn such behavior, but there it is.

Hygiene products are also popular, since the hospital-issued products are not exactly kid-friendly, and it is much more fun by far to brush your teeth with sparkly bubble gum toothpaste, like most other children enjoy on a daily basis. A pretty ribbon for her hair. An emery board, since nail clippers are not allowed on the premises, and long nails can be used to gauge eyes in a sneak attack from behind. A SpongeBob blanket for a bed instead of the typical ho-hum hospital sheets. Warm Cinderella footie jammies. Or a visit from a volunteer big brother/big sister or mentor, an objective other who will play a game with them and listen to their story…a story most can’t bear to hear, a story which defies common sense and human rationality.

Food item requests are never found on this angel tree; some children are on strict diets due to side effects of medications. And besides, the child who roamed the streets for his next meal has been known to wheel deals with other children: “I’ll give you the coupon I earned for extra game room time, if you give me your snack.” Snacks are then discovered hoarded under mattresses, up in ceiling tiles or in the paper towel dispenser in the bathroom which the adults all assumed were locked and childproof.

Some children ask for earmuffs to block out the incessant noise, which may come from either side of their skull at any given moment.

How did they get there, anyway? It may be because their parents sold them for sex in exchange for drugs. Or left them for long periods of time to fend for themselves. Or perhaps they locked them in closets or entertainment cabinets for their convenience. Or molested them repeatedly over the course of years.

These are the children who don’t know where their parents are, and the parents are either dead from their misdeeds or are happily homeless, preferring drugs and alcohol over their child….or simply abandoned the child and left the state, never to be heard from again. Some children may know where their parents are, but their parents voluntarily turn them over to the state because they don’t want them anymore. These children may have been in 15 foster homes, with no stability or sense of permanency. These children may have been along for the ride and witnessed a drug deal gone bad, resulting in murder. Or witnessed murder in their very own living room. Or tried to murder their family during a psychotic episode.

The end result is a child who is unable to make sense out of the world, who relates to others as they have been related to, and who does not and may never know childhood, as it is supposed to be known.

These are the children we forget about because they are quietly locked away from the rest of us while they pick up the pieces of their bewildered, shattered lives. You will not see them in schools or on sports teams. You may spot them briefly at the store, at McDonald’s or on a playground closely monitored by staff, if they are deemed well enough to go out into public at the time and their medication and behavior are stable. If that is the case, you will likely not know it is them you are seeing, and it likely will not register in the moment you see them, just where it is they lay their head at night – a place where they must be to work out their raw feelings of depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis…their fear, their disappointment, their confusion, their rage

The angels on their tree represent a completely different type of need – a need that is real but often goes unknown and unheard by most.

Still needing and wanting to believe in something despite their inability to trust mankind, the younger ones hold fast to their belief in Santa. No, there is no chimney in this place, but they are assured that Santa has keys to the joint, nonetheless. Their lives may have taken an unthinkable course, but their anticipation and hope in being loved and cared for like any other human is entitled to, is no different from yours or mine.

I urge readers (and writers) to locate the nearest children’s psychiatric hospital in your area (and they are there, somewhere…I cannot point you in the direction of the children I know due to privacy and confidentiality issues). Please consider dropping off a small gift  for one of these children who will wake up Christmas morning behind locked doors…on the inside looking out, never sure when they will be ready, if ever, to be the one on the outside looking in.

This gift needn’t be material…write them an anonymous letter and tell them how brave they are, how proud you are of them for enduring all they have. Tell these children that they can do it, that they are loved, admired and respected. That they are believed, that their feelings are real and important. Tell them that they matter. Color them a rainbow with your words, that they might be assured that their world will hopefully not flood like that again.

Such a small gesture has incredibly meaningful ramifications.

For what is small to us, is huge to them, bigger than we might ever guess…whether or not we remember about their angel tree now and in years to come. Like a standout, cherished childhood memory, they will remember, and it may just be the one memory of hope and love that will help heal them on their horrific journey. It may be the one thing they have, hold, hang on to and refer back to as the biggest spark of light that brought them through their darkness.

God, help us all help the sequestered and forgotten children of the world, the ones least seen in our communities – the ones who most need miracles and a reason to believe again.

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Carl Jung, the father of analytic psychology, thunk up the notions of introversion and extraversion, among other things. Most people commonly associate the terms with the contrast between being shy versus being a social butterfly. However, the terms actually refer to how people recharge and get their energy, in my understanding. Extroverts draw energy from being around and interacting with others, while introverts feel and do best when alone.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (a personality test, of sorts), concocted by an astute mother-daughter team and based on Jung’s work, helps the test-taker determine what sort of person they are using four personality polarities, one of which is the introversion/extraversion scale. A psychological horoscope, if you will. Like most of psychology, it is a way to find fancy titles for characteristics about yourself that you already kinda sorta knew anyway, just like a juicy-sounding diagnosis brings pseudo-relief to the afflicted simply by validating their internal experience with a formal external label. “Oh, is THAT what it is?!”

The emperor has new clothes!

I have long teetered between being an introvert and an extrovert. I fluctuate and fluidly morph between the two. This has confounded me to no end. I want to know which I am, and I don’t seem to be able to nail myself down. And yet most of the time, I can tell which I am. I have somewhat of a bimodal cycle: over the long term, I can see eras of my life in which I was more introverted or more extroverted. And within those cycles, I can identify days in which I was one or the other, within the context of the overall trend.

A recent interview I heard with Chris Martin reminded me of this…he was talking about how he balances fame and self-awareness; he said he stands on the outside trying to get in by flaunting his fame, “Look at me, I’m famous, let me in!” Then he gets in, and about ten minutes into his flaunting and attention-seeking, he says something he realizes makes him look and feel like an idiot, and, shamed and humbled, he slinks back to his rightfully humble place in his mind.

This struck a chord with my teetering (which I suppose we all do – it is how we balance ourselves between any two extremes). I will sink my teeth into a goal like a dog with a bone, and I savor each and every moment, living it to the fullest. I do not quit. I am out there for the world to see, and proud of it. Determined. Driven. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. Then after some time, something will happen to slow me in my tracks. I am going so fast, so focused forward, that it often takes me a bit to perceive the interruption, a bit more to acknowledge it, even more of a bit to comprehend it. I may even slow down and turn around temporarily, humoring it long enough to shut it up so I can proceed ahead again. I love the brink, after all. Adrenaline’s curse. But eventually it sinks in, and I, like Mr. Martin, am forced to assess my direction and slink back to my rightful place in ho-hum moderation.

Don’t get me wrong; ho-hum moderation is a good place to be. I just have to work harder to convince myself that I can stifle my penchant for the higher levels of stimulation I crave. And force myself to remain buckled in with my seatback in the upright position and the tray secured. It is really hard, really really hard, to discipline myself as such, when I believe in my heart that it is far more interesting to roam about the cabin and experience every bump of turbulence while simultaneously in perpetual motion. You get more effect that way. And perspective. You get to see out of many windows instead of just a couple. Taming the tiger in an adventure-seeker is no small task.

Then again…perpetual motion prevents us from seeing the slow-and-steady, which purports to win the race.

Balancing the opposing extremes is a delicate process, after all – and certainly not for the faint at heart. No, those who squarely know which side of the fence they’re on, rarely teeter. They find safety in their identity as clearly one or the other. They are either this or that in their personality, wont to change over. Sweet or salty. Indoors or outdoors. Hot or cold. Overly controlled or lack of control. Pre-dishwasher rinsers or throw-em-in-filthy. Ginger or Mary Ann. Spender or saver. Tastes great or less filling.

Once upon a time I took to the stage to express myself. Like my stagemates, most of us worked best solo. With each season and each composition, it was almost like a classic group therapy experience:

Stage 1: Getting acquainted: Everyone was thrilled to be working with each other. Everyone said nice things about everyone. Everyone’s ideas were great. It was going to be the best show ever.

Stage 2: Transition: After the niceties and rolling up of sleeves, then came the clash of ideas. Everyone wanted their vision of the final production to be realized, and began to get edgy and snippy when having to accommodate others’ ideas. Too many introverts who like to show off and remain private, thrown into a closed room for too many hours. Battles ensued. Tears flowed. Tempers flared. Assorted footwear angrily removed and violently hurled across the stage. It was bad luck of somebody didn’t go stomping off stage in a dramatic display of defiance. Hours were spent, but not wasted. It was necessary gnashing of teeth. It almost had to happen, to be gotten out of the way to give way to productivity.

Stage 3: Work phase: Everyone had seen each other at their worst and each had been nonverbally assigned a role in the family (e.g. mover/shaker, scapegoat, placator, intellectualizer, devils advocate, wet blanket, natural leader, etc.). Finally the work could begin, take place and get done. Then it was refined, and refined some more. Bonding happened. Give and take, gave and took. Everyone began to get pumped by seeing the possibilities and realizing them. Things came together. The energy gelled. The ugly turned beautiful, beyond everyone’s wildest imaginations, surprising even the most optimistic.

Stage 4: Wrapping it up: The performances. The joy of doing well, and all sharing in how good it was. The joy of making a mistake, knowing the audience missed it, and being able to laugh about it together. The pinnacle high of a job well done. The curtain call and applause making it all real.

My favorite part was being able to be an introvert in an extroverted role. Very much on display, yet encapsulated in my own world, shielded from the eyes of others by the glare of the stage lights. For all I knew, all that darkness in the theatre with only the exit light glowing in the way-back, was the same darkness I’d rehearsed to so many times before, whether with my stagemates, or alone, like going into a church to pray alone at an odd time, and having the whole place to yourself. Thanks to the blinding lights and deafening sound, the filled house was no different from the countless times I couldn’t sleep and went to rehearse alone in the silent dead of night. Thank the Lord for some forms of sensory deprivation. I might have been embarrassed and self-conscious if I had been fully aware of the audience.

Later, in broadcasting briefly, I enjoyed the same dichotomy of on-display anonymity. And now, ditto for blogging. You subscribers give me the willies. In a good way 🙂 I cannot see you, I will not know you, and vice versa, except through the safety and security of what I choose to share. You remain out there in the dark balcony seating, but I can do what I do best in the comfort and privacy of my inner being. The introverted extrovert who, no matter who acknowledged what I had done “privately” in the public, had the privilege of keeping a piece of my introverted heart to myself. Carefully letting others know me as I wished for them to know me, yet guarding my inner reality. No one could ever know that, no matter how bright the lights.

No one can ever penetrate the deepest of depths. Not even ourselves, really.

Perhaps I’ve answered my own question…I sound like an introvert. But stay tuned…this is prone to change. I am told that according to careers and personality types, I am supposed to be an outgoing extrovert, hands-down, no questions asked. I scoff at that notion. Rather, I find myself having a greater understanding for those I help: the bipolar who struggles for balance. The schizophrenic trying to reconcile one reality with another. The traumatized who is driven to trust but cannot. And any of them who find themselves at the tip of a double-edged sword who are haunted by one extreme, yet cannot do some of their most remarkable work without being at that extreme.

There is genius in walking the non-normative ledge. Innovations always come from risk. And innovative people and those on the fringes of the bell-shaped curve are never fully understood or respected by the masses inside the safety of the “normal” curve. Am I such a nut for the exhilaration I experience, running long and hard in diagonally-pelting rain, when my best ideas are generated in those moments, and life’s problems seem entirely solvable? Perhaps one must be a bit unstable themselves to help the unstable. There is value in understanding and appreciating the need – nay, the drive – to scribble outside the lines of life.

One day when I have all the time and money in the world, I hope to submit myself to advanced training (which basically amounts to selling your soul, investing what will be your last dime 30 years from now and  sequestering oneself for several years, cut off from income and subjected to selective human contact – otherwise known as pursuing a doctorate). (You have to be cut off from the norm to think on the edge, eh?). Then I hope to be qualified to masterfully and expertly analyze what is and what is not…the conscious and the unconscious, the real and the surreal. And, like all good psychology students, figure themselves out and put an end to the question of whether I am truly and introvert or an extrovert. This will determine whether I become a well-adjusted, smiling, actively aging person like in an ad for assisted living, or whether I become a well-adjusted, scowling, opinionated curmudgeon. I see the value and worth in both, and I can see myself perfectly happy in either role, justifying either based on the positive and negative experiences I have had throughout life. Aging is, after all, finding a healthy balance between change and stability, risk and security.

There is risk in investing in the mirage of security, and safety in taking calculated risks.

Well, how about both? Who says I can’t be a well-adjusted, opinionated, smiling, active curmudgeon? Maybe God made me that way on purpose. Perhaps there’s merit in straddling the line between extremes. Teetering means constant change, and change keeps us young at heart. Somebody’s got to make it look fun and exciting to be introverted, to the extroverted crowd. And just maybe I can better understand how and why God made people very much on purpose, precisely the way He made them…inside or outside the curve, or squarely in one camp or the other…or flitting between the two.

Vive la difference!

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“So Adios to California…Nothing to do but turn around…” ~~John Hiatt, from Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns

How many times have we envisioned something, fed our beliefs with ideals and convinced ourselves that something surreal-ly out of reach could become ours? That we could somehow insert ourselves into a new reality that had all appearances of being superior to our current circumstances?

And how many times did we arrive at the sign that officially designates the precise spot where the Greener Pasture actually exists (“Pinch me!!”), only to discover it wasn’t quite what we had in mind? Fell short of our expectations, somehow…didn’t quite measure up. This may have come in the form of an actual place, a person or people, a job/career, a vacation, a material object, whatever. You know, peel back the sheets at the 5-Star Grand Poo-Bah Resort, only to find a nice specimen-strand of someone else’s DNA awaiting your plunge into the pillows.

I remember the first time I finally arrived at what I thought was the destination of my dreams. I had seen pictures, gorgeous pictures of this place, and was finally in a position to be there (not here, dear reader). It seemed like the perfect area, perfect climate, perfect people, perfect opportunities. It had everything. The last 50 miles or so of the drive drove me bananas with anticipation.

Upon arrival, however, the reality of the place did not hesitate to show me its true colors. It was Cold. Damp. Blustery. Gray. Rocky. Unwelcoming. Unforgiving of my folly of idealizing it in my head for too long.

Dismay is an extreme understatement to my initial reaction.

Nothing to do but turn around.

Dream-chasing has distinct advantages, though. It is what propels us forward and keeps us from stagnating. It is what gives us hope and motivation. It provides us with purpose and direction. It breathes life into us.

If we did not strive for that which we idealize, life would be terribly dreary. We would get stuck in the mud. And wither. And die.

I was never a fan of dream-catchers even though I understand their cultural purpose; there was always something so interruptive, arresting about them. I always liked to think about dreams as a fluidly beautiful, ongoing process, full of possibility and meaning. It’s a hell of a double life, for what it’s worth, imagining ourselves in another dimension as we go about life in this one. So what if they never materialize?

The joy is in savoring the trip, even if only in privacy and comfort of our own mind. And if we find ourselves on an actual journey to a destination that falls short, well, hey – we have still broadened our horizons. There is value in the salt of our tears and the stretching of our parameters. It’s a win-win. We have taken a chance and pursued passion.

Besides, sometimes dreams DO come true.

Thanks, God, for giving us that passion.

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Salute

…to all the people who served our country, that I could have the freedom to blog here and now, with a clear conscience and with no fear…

…to the talented man on the Kitty Hawk whose service is reflected on my mantle in the form of a properly folded flag…

…to those who’d hoped to serve but didn’t, or couldn’t…but are just as patriotic….

…to all the men like Buddy (10/22/11 post), who returned from the Delta alive, who were greeted with ignorant piss instead of with grateful reverence and respect…

…to those who stood by those who served…

…to the very young men under my roof who have unwaveringly expressed a desire to serve…sons of sons of sailors…

…to those who protested those who served, who now, in their older wisdom, realize their foolishness, and are ashamed to admit it…

…to those who proudly put themselves in the very face of danger on foreign soils to protect not only our country, but the essence of freedom…

…to those who still live who served and fought for righteousness for my father through WWI and my mother through WWII…

…to the men and women who believe in our country despite its shortcomings, and still enlist…

…to A.K., who is from another continent, but has proudly become a citizen and leaves me on schedule for drill in preparation to serve….

…to the brave men and women in uniform who will show our children around the C-5 Galaxy, Apache, C-130, Iroquois, F-18 et al. this afternoon at Homecoming and will – in word and deed – help us instill in them the character trait of patriotism…

…to the veterans with whom we will share a rolling tear today, hand over heart during the Star Spangled Banner,  as we salute our flag and their valued service…

…to the dear friend who brought out his Navy uniform, even though it no longer fits, to reflect and reminisce, that we could all be reminded of the threads of courage, pride, willingness, duty and belief in freedom – all tightly woven to hold our country together…

God, please bless our veterans with love, appreciation and peace…may they know how much the rest of us do not take their service and our freedom for granted, how much we love them, and how proud we are of them. Every single day of the year.

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