Sunday, February 28, 2010

Memories like Butterflies and Gnats

My memories come in two forms. Some are like butterflies - colorful, bright, and fluttering happily and busily through my mind. Then, of course there are the bothersome gnats - those recollections that cloud my vision, follow the scent of my past relentlessly, and have me dodging them erratically and willy-nilly as I walk down my path of memories. I love remembering the butterflies, but the brushes of their wings are not always able to wipe off the gnats from the sticky skin of my soul's memory.

I received the butterfly memory shown here from a young cousin. The photo is one she found while sorting through a box in her closet, and is one her father had taken of our eldest son, Josh at about 2-1/2 years of age. Fuzzily pictured in the background is his Daddy, watching with that "Abba" kind of love that speaks of pride and joy. Josh is looking into the camera's eye, standing there in his pajama-blanket, a bit sleepy-eyed, his head crowned with taffy-like, curly blond hair. He's not exactly smiling, but certainly not frowning. He has the look of a boy with grown-up answers muddled with child-like questions. Josh, now 33, is our dreamer. He has always been thoughtful with his questions and answers, and filled with a multitude of observations of the world that surrounds him. I am constantly mystified by what he notices, but also by what he doesn't. He seemed then, and still, to see things and understand what others do not, while often missing the obvious. But then again, what is obvious to each person is different. And Josh was always and is still wonderfully different, and he daily brings me butterflies.

We are a family of singers. When our boys were young, we sang children's songs, or simple choruses, and sometimes a spiritual. We all loved music and enjoyed listening to and singing, again and again, our favorites in order to pass the time spent on long drives to visit family.  One of the songs we sang frequently was "Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me...look away beyond the blue." When Josh was about the same age as in the picture above, I was driving our boys over the southern part of Vermont from a small town in up-state New York where we lived at the time. We were on our way to New Hampshire to visit for a while with my parents. Matt was still a baby, and slept through most of the journey, snugly fastened into his car seat. There are several spectacular views of the Green Mountains of Vermont as you take the route we were on, and at certain points you can see out over the range of mountains, towering over the valley below. It was a crystal-clear, cloudless day, and Josh and I were enjoying the scenery and adding our own musical soundtrack . As we rounded a curve, we saw before us a glorious scene, and our voices were immediately hushed. I pulled the car over and we stopped to gaze at the sunlit mountain vista, spread out like a gift just for us. Suddenly the quiet was interrupted as Josh gasped and then shouted, "Oh, LOOK Mommy! 'Way beyond the blue!'" To this day I can hear that sweet voice, and I remember with tears that holy moment.  I was intensely aware of Josh's profound understanding of what he was witnessing. What had been to us a song to pass the time had now become something very real to him. He had been imagining the scene, as we sang it countless times, and suddenly there it was in front of him, and he could not contain his awe and joy.

Gnats have their season as well. They crop up in swarms sometimes, and while I work to swat them out of my mind, the efforts generally fail, and for me that is probably best. Contrast has served me well, and continues to make the butterflies brighter and more vivid. I do not know when I became aware of how different I am from my mother in this respect, but as I grew it became increasingly apparent that she had the remarkable ability to forget the gnats. She kept no memory of anything "bad" in her life. Even when she recalled the death of her father, it had become a butterfly long before it was relegated to her memory bank. While Mom was still in her 20's, and shortly before my eldest brother was born, her father had a heart attack and collapsed before her eyes. She began to do whatever she could to keep him alive. While hastily doing some measure of CPR, she heard a voice clearly say, "Pearl, let him go... let him go." And so she did. At the same instant that she lost her beloved earthly father, she received the blessed assurance of the intimate presence of her heavenly Father, and was at peace. As long as she was able to remember anything, she remembered that moment with joy. The last ten years of her own life, however, saw almost all of her memories erased by Alzheimer's Disease. It is difficult for me to describe that time as anything but a slowly unfolding nightmare - a nightmare that took more than ten years to end, and one that still haunts me in its own fashion.

Alzheimer's takes its toll in stages, and is not content to exact that price from just one person, but also from all who love and care for those suffering from this cruel disease. The essential person is gone while the shell of a body remains to constantly remind you of who s/he was and is no longer. I am often plagued with great swarms of gnats from this time, yet there is also an exquisite butterfly that is able to scatter them. My mother was among the most joyful, joy-filled people I have ever known; she truly lived out her faith in the Savior she had loved since childhood.  She always seemed to have a smile on her face, or laughter in her eyes.  She was tender-hearted, concerned, active, and confidently prayerful for all in need. She personified joy.  I was of a decidedly different temperament, and when I was young, this quality of hers irritated me to no end. On maturing, I came to know how blessed I was to have her in my life. Butterflies always hovered near her, and all who knew and loved my Mom were graced with their beauty.

As the Alzheimer's advanced, caring for her and keeping her safe became more than we could handle on our own, and she entered a nursing home. One particular day I went into her room and found her crying, a sight that shocked me deeply. I had seen her cry only once before in my life with her. When my eldest brother telephoned her shortly before he shipped off to the war zone in Viet Nam, she softly wept as their bittersweet conversation ended, and she said good-bye. It did not take long for her tears to dry. She prayerfully yielded her sorrow to God, and soon exhibited her confidence that everything would be okay. When I saw her crying that afternoon at the nursing home, she looked up at me with fear in her eyes, something I had never seen in her, and said, "Paula, is everything going to be alright?" My own tears began to flow as I hugged her and said, "Of course it will, Mamma - everything is going to be fine." Her next question cut even deeper into my heart: "How do you know?" There came to me only one answer, and through my tears I blurted it out, "Because you told me so."

Always with patience and love, my mother - throughout my difficult and painful adolescence - helped me to accept life as it happened, to learn from it, and to grow. Mom told me - through all the trials, hurts, and sadness - "Paula, let it go...everything will turn out just fine. Be patient, put your trust in God, and release your anger, pain and fears - let God have it all. God will take care of you. Everything will be OK."  Remembering well the lessons she taught, her plaintive question, "How do you know?" broke my heart. Besides having robbed her of the wonderful memories - the dazzling butterflies - of her life, it seemed Alzheimer's robbed her of the “blessed assurance” she had for so long possessed.  At the time, that is all I could understand of what was happening to her mind and body.

On one of the last days I saw her, and the last time she spoke to me, I was sitting with her in the common room of the nursing home. She had that terrible, blank and empty look that is so typical of Alzheimer's - the look that says, "Nobody's home.” I was babbling on, telling her about what I was doing, how my husband and our boys were doing, and what was going on with our extended family. She was paying no attention to anything I was saying, indeed she had no attention to pay. So I ceased talking at her, and just sat with her, holding her hand. Completely unexpectedly, an expression – a sign of thought and total comprehension - came across her face and was apparent in her eyes. I sat forward and said in wonderment, "Mamma, what are you thinking about?" As though she did not hear me, she turned her head away, and so I repeated the question:  "Mamma, what are you thinking about?"  Very deliberately then, she turned her face toward me, looked directly into my eyes and said,

"Love one another."

Then, as quickly as the certainty had come into her eyes, it was gone again. But I at last knew and understood that it was still there inside of her. God had spoken to me through my mother as surely as God had spoken to her on the day her father died. That butterfly came and has hovered near me ever since. Buried, deep inside of her by an awful disease, God lived in her heart, and my Mom knew it. She understood it, and was holding fast to it, in the deepest recesses of her soul. Those words of Scripture, spoken by so many in passing, and which are often just words on paper or recited by rote, she had truly grasped, ever since she came to know Jesus Christ. Just as Joshua understood the beauty around him, so too did my mother understand the Word that lived within her still.

"Love one another... love one another... love one another... love..."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Art of Reading

I've decided that reading is an art. Just as painting and music have many disciplines, and multitudes of forms of expression, so too does reading. I'm not referring to writing here, although that too is an art of many forms, I mean reading. How one approaches a novel, a poem, a biography, non-fiction, textbooks, or even a technical manual - any and all forms of reading done every day - requires a type of artistry.

The artistry comes, not in how fast or how slowly we read, nor does it refer merely to comprehension, although both of those have an importance of their own. I believe that the art comes into play when by reading we begin to learn, infer, compare, share, and finally to take it in to become a part of who we are. I began to arrive at this concept when I went back to college as an adult, pursuing a different degree. The college I attended had requirements of all its students, regardless of what courses they had taken elsewhere, or how similar they were. I found that understandable, because a degree with a college's name on it should represent the school as well as the graduate. Therefore, one of the courses I took was called a "Senior Seminar," each of which covered a topic of the Professor's choice. My particular course covered modern American history, beginning with the lead-in to World War II, and forward through the McCarthy Era, and then "The Great Society" and so on. We were told at the beginning of the semester by our Professor that we would be given a number of quizzes along with the usual mid-term and final exams. The quizzes would mostly be comprised of questions about our regular, daily and/or weekly reading assignments, and also that none of the quizzes or exams would contain "trick" questions, and that all tests would have only straight-forward questions and answers. He also said that should an alternate answer to a question be discovered, the person who gave that answer would receive full credit for it, even if he or she had not given the answer he had been looking for, but could reasonably be construed as a correct answer, given the student's interpretation of what had been read. This interpretation had, however, to be backed up with a thorough explanation and justification.

I have never been a fan of textbooks, unless they are very well-written and engaging enough to hold my attention, and thus my ability, to a degree, to absorb what I read. My so-called "art" allows me to read and comprehend even those books that I do not particularly care for. But my reading artistry absolutely does not cover all types of books. I can read one page over and over and over again, and if I am not interested, I remember nothing, and am totally unable to form any sort of cogent summary of what I have read. This embarrasses me tremendously, most especially because I consider myself a reader, and therefore an artist. That's why I have created categories of the "reader's art" - to give me an excuse for not being able to read and comprehend certain types of written material.

One of the very first books we were assigned to read was a rather small volume (perhaps 150 pages) covering pre-war Japan and the American political relationship with that nation. This time, my inability to read had nothing to do with lack of interest in the subject; it simply was written in a form that was beyond my apparently limited comprehension. I didn't read this book once. I guess you could say I never really "read" it, but I certainly pronounced every word of that slim volume in my head at least five times. Anticipating a quiz soon on the contents, I started to panic, as my usual art had somehow disappeared. What was discussed and explained in the book was not particularly difficult to understand, but for me, it was impossible to retain! Even though I knew that there would be no trick questions, I nevertheless was able to come up with at least three or four of what I felt were plausible answers to each question, this being accomplished by over-analyzing each and every question way beyond the question's intent. Needless to say, I did not do well on this quiz, which further embarrassed me, especially as I attempted, openly, during class time, to justify each and every one of my incorrect answers by pointing out what I felt were obtuse questions that could be interpreted in a number of ways. The course for me went downhill from there. My embarrassment was even further compounded by the fact that the professor was a member of the church my husband was serving and of which I was also a member.

I have done my best to put this whole classroom experience behind me, and have now chalked it up to the fact that the required reading was just "not my style" of art. Oh brother! However, as well as I am able to retain other types of writing, even to the point of being able to memorize some passages with one reading, I continue to ponder the art of reading. Assuming that all the writing is of the same approximate level of expertise (a grand assumption, I admit; but just for argument's sake), why is some of it so impossible for me to take in and others so easy? Interest in the subject may sometimes be the difference, but that certainly is not the rule in my case. How likable the subject or style also does not change my ability, nor alter my art. So many books that I find reprehensible or downright boring, I am quite capable of giving you an outline of, years after I have read it. The answer to this is a mystery to me, so I therefore think about it in the same terms as visual art or music appreciation. One of my very best friends and I have an argument that has gone on for many, many years over the music of Richard Wagner. She is firmly and (to me) a rabidly dedicated lover of all his music. I on the other hand feel exactly the opposite. While I might be able to sit still through some of his earlier orchestral works out of politeness to the persons next to me, I simply cannot bear his operas. I agree wholeheartedly with Mark Twain, who said, "I'm sure his music is better than it sounds." Comments like these bring the two of us close to blows; as a matter of fact I think I recall a couple of times early on in high school when we might have come more than just close! (Probably over some comment of mine such as "Wagner: the original Nazi!")

So, gentle readers and followers of my blog (who have YET to sign in as such!), do you have an answer to my question, a way out of my quandary in reference to reading being an art? Is one's taste solely responsible for the ability to take the writing in as part of yourself, or is it something different, some ineffable quality, a "bonding of the artistry of the writer with the art of the reader?"

Monday, February 22, 2010

In Remembrance of Me

Communion and Holy Communion have been on my mind a lot lately, so I'm taking the time to share my thoughts on both - please send me your own!

Communion, community, communing, commune, common. These words all share the same root; they all have to do with a "sharing together," a "unity of mind and spirit." Then there is Holy Communion, something very much the same, but also "set apart" (which is the definition of the word "holy"). Holy Communion is a sharing in and with the Body of Christ, and a re-membering of Christ's body; the body which we have dis-membered through sin, conflict, and our lack of forgiveness of one another...the very things for which Christ died.

Communing with someone - anyone - can be and most often is, a sacred thing. It happens when true sharing happens, both of our short-comings and our triumphs. That sharing is without jealousy, recrimination, or is a "coming together," a re-membrance, and a remembering of something very special that occurs over time and circumstance. I do not believe in an "immediate communion," even if the parties are very much in sync with each other from the beginning. Communion takes a lot of time, work, and participation in one another's lives. And so it is with Holy Communion, which is the reason for the rites of Baptism (even infant Baptism requires the time and commitment of the parents and congregation to bring up the children in the way they should grow) and Confirmation - which are commitments made to God that take time to study and understand.

We are told by Jesus Christ to "take and eat, and to drink... all of us... in remembrance of me." So many people see this only as a "recalling to mind" the things which Christ has done, and is doing for us. I see it as so much more, because as we partake in the elements that represent the broken body and shed blood of our Lord, we are, as Christ's body, re-membering that Body, bringing it all together again as we gather around the table, and in so doing rededicating our lives to the "wholeness" of Christ's Body and the fullness of Christ's sacrifice and gift of eternal life through God's gift of God's only Son. This remembrance, and re-membrance cannot be done often enough. My husband and I have served several churches where "Communion Sunday" is the least attended service of the month. (It is traditional in the United Methodist Church [UMC] to celebrate Communion only once a month, or even only once a quarter, usually the first Sunday of each month, and occasionally on other special days of the Church year.) I grew up, not in Methodism, but in The Disciples of Christ, which offers Communion every Sunday. I miss that so much. My family's membership in the UMC began when we moved from the South to the Northeast and there were no Disciples of Christ churches anywhere nearby, and as my father grew up attending Methodist churches, that is where we placed our membership and our participation. (My father's brother is a now-retired UMC pastor.)

There are many things I indeed love about the UMC, not the least of which are its foundation in the Wesleyan movement and the original enthusiasm attendant with all those who were and are a part of it. There are not many things better than hearing a UMC congregation - large or small - join joyfully in singing the great hymns of the church - hymns both old and new! And so, I am happily a member of the UMC; but I still miss weekly Holy Communion - indeed the founders of Methodism, John and his brother Charles Wesley, celebrated this "rejoining" daily.

My husband, Ashley, and I simply could not (and still do not) understand the attitude that "if you partake in Communion too often, it loses its meaning!" Dear me - despite Ashley's earnest teaching on the background, reasons, and yes, NEED OF ALL (as often as possible) for Communion, most who heard were not persuaded. We both remember a time in our lives when "Communion Sunday" was the most-attended service of the month! Times have indeed changed. There are, as well, church members who attend worship every Sunday but do not partake in Communion because they feel "they are not worthy." The shortest answer to that is "of course you're not...none of us are!" The gift of partaking in the Body of Christ is not dependent on our worthiness, but on our efforts to repent of our sin. In fact God gave us this gift of the Son in order to reconcile us to a more perfect union with God, and at our end on this earth, a perfect rejoining of and in that Holy Life, which was given - no strings attached - for our salvation from all those things which make ALL of us "unworthy" of that most precious Gift.

Take time to be holy - separate yourself from those things which separate you from a fuller relationship with God. Spend time in prayer both asking and listening for the voice and leading of God to be more evident in your life. Prayer, and God's answers most often take time and patience. (Once I heard someone say, "Never pray for patience, because if you do, God will put you into situations that require you to exercise it!" - funny, but true!) Most of all, consider Holy Communion as a truly Holy Time, a gift undeserved, but freely given for all who would partake. It is, of all God's gifts, the most precious. I hope to see and feel you there next time, partaking with me and all others who come, in this most joyful celebration of remembrance, re-membrance, and God's great love.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gold, Silver, Bronze: They All Glitter

Watching the Winter Olympics this time around has been a rather nice experience, except it still falls short of the wonderful, enlightening, and interesting time I had watching the 1984 Games that took place in Sarajevo (remember Katarina Witt?). The reason that those particular games meant so much more to me is very specific. At that time, we were living in St. Albans, Vermont, way up in the Northwest corner of the state, near the Canadian border. Consequently, our TV reception included the CBC - the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Their particular brand of sports coverage had (and hopefully still has) such an "equal opportunity" approach to the events they covered, as well as the nations that were participating. There simply was no hint of a sense of overwhelming national bias or over-the-top Canadian elegies to their own participants and/or teams.

While I am just as proud of our American athletes as anyone else, I also swell with a sense of joy and, yes, pride when any athletes, from whatever nation, compete well, do the best of which they are capable, and sometimes exceed their own or their home-land's expectations, and all this, whether they win a medal or not! It seems that NBC (and, formerly, ABC) shows us only what they believe are the teams or individuals that are most likely to win - and especially so if they are Americans. The spirit of the Olympic games, as I feel it, has always been the sense of World Community, mutual respect, and the joy and universal (and borderless) spirit of sport, while all participants seek to deliver the best performance of which they are capable. That's why the "Post Olympic" stories always interest me the most these days...those are the human interest tales that tell of athletes overcoming great odds in order to be able to participate, and work impossibly long and difficult hours to be able to afford the training and travel expenses (before the individual's country will sometimes pick up the tab.) For the great majority of athletes attending and participating in the Olympics, just being there is the medal. Most will never have the honor or glory attendant upon having an Olympic medal placed around your neck, or to stand on a podium while proudly gazing at your country's flag as it is raised, and hearing your national anthem played because of your accomplishment. Being given the opportunity to try their best on the world stage, and being able to share experiences with and among the great and the greatest is extraordinary, and more than enough reward for the efforts it took to arrive at the Games.

CBC covers them ALL. I had never really watched curling before 1984. I think I probably knew what it was before then, but I had never been given the chance to really watch it and see what excites those that play it. I will admit that, having watched it, it has not held my interest or fascination. But I'm glad that I had the option to watch and find out for myself, instead of the TV network deciding what I would or would not see. And I did develop a taste for watching the biathlon and the Nordic combined, which was seldom televised in the US until we started competing on a high-enough level in those sports to warrant our "national interest." CBC has it all over American TV in broadcasting the Olympics...they make it feel truly international, and I miss it!

So, I enjoy watching people strive to win...always have. I enjoy it as much (or almost) as I would if I were the winner or participant myself. I guess you could call me a true "armchair Olympian." Finishing with a medal or not, the efforts are so amazing to watch. Of course I was thrilled by Evan Lysacek's win in men's figure skating, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the new talents of others that are maturing in their skills; disappointed in the scoring for Johnny Weir (who should have placed much higher in my own estimation), and a bit miffed at Yevgeny Plushenko's attitude at not winning the gold. He had always been a wonderful skater to watch, and a great jumper, but I never saw evidence of the same level of work put into the artistry and expression in his skating programs, aspects which also carry a great deal of weight in scoring. I'm less impressed with him now, however. His sour grapes over not winning what he thought belonged to him have eclipsed much of the respect I had for him before the games began.

Gold, Silver, or Bronze...they all shine. Oh! But just being there and participating with others in something you love. Now that is a shining moment that will last long after the medal has tarnished.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Privacy, the Public, Apologies and Tiger Woods

This morning I witnessed one of the most heart-wrenching apologies I have ever seen or heard. The saddest part of all, to me, is that it had to be made in public, rather than among the only people truly involved. Tiger Woods, following the very public exposition of his infidelity by a sensation-mongering "news" media, was pressed into making this very heart-felt, moving confession and apology to what I am sure was a very large audience. There was much consternation among those so-called "professional" reporters that they were not allowed to grill Mr. Woods, ask even more personal questions, and generally make a bigger circus out of the situation than it already is.

I for one am among what is seemingly a very few people who feel that Tiger Woods' private life (or anyone else's for that matter) is just that: private. How distressing to watch someone have to make a public confession about very private matters. He, of course, is not the only one to have been put into such a position; many other so-called public figures, who are considered public property only by virtue of how they choose to earn their living, have been put in the same position as Mr. Woods. One thing that is somewhat different in this case, is that while there was, according to him, much deception occurring in his marriage, he never lied to the public about the situation of which he spoke today by very purposely not speaking publicly at all. Apparently, his decision to speak out was not soon enough for some people, but I still regret that he had to do it at all in an open forum.

There have been many who say that he exploited his "squeaky-clean" image to his financial advantage, and in order to appear to be a superior and virtuous figure on the world stage. From what I have seen and heard of his public life, he was not the one exploiting such an image - it was the news and entertainment media (which these days are becoming more and more the same). As a matter of fact, it appeared to me that he went out of his way and to great pains to shield both his family from public view and to protect the privacy of himself and his parents, wife, and children. Of course, none of this excuses his adulterous, selfish behavior and flippant attitude he confesses to have done and felt. His transgressions, in his own words today, were shameful, hurtful, and ultimately damaging to those he cares about the most. He acknowledged that the clean-cut image that was inferred by many, through his sincere efforts to work with and encourage children and young people through sport also has suffered and will continue to suffer until, as his wife told him, he is able to prove himself through true repentance and living a new life. He has chosen Buddhism (in which he was raised) to help him to understand his place in the world, his responsibilities to his family, friends, and all humanity, and to assist him in keeping the promises he has made and/or renewed to all of them.

When did this phenomenon happen, this insatiable desire on the part of much of the public to feel entitled to know all the private business of other people's lives...especially those in the public eye simply because they have chosen (or been chosen) to live a life that puts them in the spotlight? To these people I say simply this: "IT IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!" Why do you feel you have the right to such information, and to huff and puff about other people's sins while at the same time covering up and attempting to hide your own. None of us are immune to grievous error or sin; indeed "all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God."

It is way past time to give Mr. Woods and his family the room and opportunity to work out their private matters privately. I applaud his decision to seek continued intense counseling, and to continue the work he has begun in order to redeem his life, and begin to live up to what he now expects of himself. Both he and his family have been chased and hounded enough; and as he expressed, why should they ever have to suffer at the hands of strangers something for which he alone is responsible?

I wish you well, Mr. Woods. And, as a dedicated fan and admirer of your extraordinary talents on the golf course, I look forward to soon being able to watch you again, playing with the unique determination and skill for which you are deservedly famous. I also pray that you might be reconciled with your family in whatever way is best for all concerned, and that your struggles as you seek to reset the path of your private life will be respected as just that: Private.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Life, Death, Joy, Regrets, and Relationship

Today's post is a little different. It was written as a reply to a message from my niece, Abby. She calls me "A.P." Attached to her message was a link to an article that had brought her to tears. She wanted to share it with someone, and happily, she chose me. It is a beautiful article from "Esquire" Magazine about Roger Ebert and the challenges he is facing with extraordinary courage, equanimity, and wit. Please read it first. Find it at:

Dear Abby:

It's hard for me to type right now, having just finished reading the article because my tears are blurring my vision as I look at the keyboard. Since I associate Ebert so much with Siskel, I was starting to wonder when they were going to mention Gene Siskel - someone whose opinions I also treasured, enjoyed, or differed with completely, just like Roger Ebert's! It was so good to read of their deep, abiding friendship, as well as their different approaches to impending death. I always read their reviews, mainly because they gave you more insight on the makers of the movies than just the actors. The "creators" (see my blog :-) ) are more important than anyone in the film process, in my opinion, and I have learned so much about that aspect of film from both Gene and Roger.

Ebert's illness is ineffably sad, but ultimately joyful - in his own way he has been able to acknowledge the beauty of living, the wistfulness of its impending loss, and a certainty of continuity in some form or other. I do regret his ambivalence or agnosticism concerning God, but mainly because I believe that "sure and certain hope" would bring a measure of comfort to both him and Chaz (what a fantastic woman), and it seems, at least I infer that from the article writer - there go those hermeneutics again - that something is missing in his own resignation to death. This is not to say he is afraid. He most certainly is not, and I do agree with him (to a degree, because who wants to see him die?) that it is time to let go of the whole medical process, and cling instead to the acts of getting his love of life down on paper, or in his manufactured voice, and expressing his love of and to family, friends, and his many fans. He seems to be both a proud and a humble man, in the appropriate quantities of each, with enough wit to temper both.

I remember many years ago having the opportunity - indeed, the blessing - of hearing the Chief of one of the Native American Nations in New England speak at a conference. He was a wonderful, highly spiritual man and spoke with great humility. One of the things he said that still remains in my memory was, "We as humans, of all creation are most blessed, because we know that we are going to die." That knowledge offers us opportunity each day to live as though there is no tomorrow here on earth. Why does it seem so often that we have to come so near to death to acknowledge the beauty and the regrets of life? I have always envied those who are able to discuss their life without regret for the mistakes and blunders they have made, and the hurts and pain they have caused to others and to Creation as a whole. I hope that at my end I will be able to come near to expressing as beautifully as Roger Ebert the preciousness of my life, my friends, and most of all,(for me), my Savior. Why is it so hard to forgive yourself, even knowing, at least intellectually, if not in your heart, that God loves and treasures you just as you are, no strings attached? My prayer is that at my end I will be able to voice to God my undying love for the gift of life and eternity, and the fact that I have forgiven myself all my trespasses, even as God has forgiven me.

I know my comments about this article and Roger Ebert are maudlin and most likely overstated (as always, I tend to speak [or write] first and think later), and I want you to know how much I appreciate you sharing this wonderful article and tribute to an extraordinary and interesting man.

One more thing, as my last word, and about last words: a little more than a month before my Daddy died, before hospice, when he was still at the hospital in Keene, as I left him in order to drive back to Tennessee, I said, "Please Daddy, don't go away. Please be here when I come back." He just smiled. When I came back, it was my job to get him transferred to hospice care, as Mom, in the early stages of AD, was not able to make a decision, and seemed not to understand the imminence of his death. When he got to hospice (he was only there for about 10 days), I sat beside him, esp. on the two Sundays I believe he was there, and sang hymns that I knew were his favorites. That first time I leaned over him just before I left for the day, and said, "Daddy, you know that God loves you." The last word he spoke to me, with a very slight nod of his head, was a whispered "Yes." He smiled and closed his eyes. Shortly after that he was semi- or fully comatose and we did not speak together, but I sure spoke to him a lot - mostly about the fact that he didn't seem to want to fight as much as I wanted him to. He was probably right in his decision, and I ended up being the one to allow the Drs. to cease giving him anything but morphine, and to stop any life-lengthening measures. Mom was not able, again, to make the decision.

Mom's last words to me were something I will treasure for as long as I live: She had been virtually incommunicable for some time, and had that awful empty, blank look on her face that is so typical of AD, and says that "nobody's home." I was sitting with her in the common room of the nursing home. I was holding her hand, having just finished giving her a manicure, because I couldn't think of anything else to do. All of a sudden something came into her eyes and showed up on her face - expression that had been missing for a long time. "I said, Mamma, what are you thinking about?" She turned her head away for a moment, and I repeated my question. She then turned her face toward me, looked straight into my eyes, and said "Love one another." I started crying, and the empty look returned to her face. But God had been speaking through her as surely and real as anything I have ever witnessed first-hand. Those were her last words to me, and are burned into my memory. I probably wrote this in my blog - I don't remember - it leaves my mind as soon as it gets on the computer, and I generally don't re-read what I write except to make corrections or edits (and few of those edits!). Both God and my Mom had given me a gift, a beautiful gift, and one of the greatest I have ever received.

Oh! One more thing - :-D - on one of Johny Carson's last broadcasts, Bette Midler was a guest, and she sang a song that still makes me laugh. It was entitled "I Regret Everything!" I wish I could remember the words, and have not been able to bring up the video on YouTube or anywhere else, to date, but she mostly just enumerates in a very funny and endearing fashion, all the things she regrets about her life. It SO reminded me, and still does, of myself. But, in reality, there are many things I do not regret, and among those are our special relationship (even if only largely by e-mail or FB). Take care, darlin'. Keep keeping me in your loop, keep knitting, and thinking, and learning. Keep on keeping on. Love, AP

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We are Mirrors That Brightly Reflect

Seems funny to title a post like this one on a blog called "Reflections From a Cloudy Mirror." But today is Ash Wednesday, a time for pondering who we are, and who we could be, and where we are going; but primarily it is a time for reflection. Is the evidence of our faith reflecting brightly? Perhaps we think the unhappy answer is no. Perhaps what we think we are reflecting is our lack of faith or conviction by the ways we treat others and the ways we treat ourselves; sometimes that does not make a very bright reflection in our own eyes - sometimes we think we are invisible, but someone is making note of what you are reflecting - either family or friends, or people who will catch sight of you when you are unaware of it. Regardless of what we might think or feel: We are mirrors that brightly reflect who we are.

One of the lessons I attempted to teach the various children's choirs I had the privilege to direct was that no matter how many of them were standing in front of the congregation or audience, there was always at least one person who was watching only them (and that did not include their family members!). It was always important, especially when singing music in church or a spiritual setting to show on their faces what they believed, whether they felt like it or not. (As I've said before: feelings change, God does not.) Singing about joy does not sound nearly as good if done with a blank or sullen face (or occasional scratching or nose-picking!). Reflect what you know to be true. Shine, Jesus, shine! And I humbly pray that it may be through each of us in all we do, say, or sing.

The following is a quotation taken from Nelson Mandela's Inaugural Address in 1994. Outside of scripture, it expresses better than any other our responsibility and purpose as human beings:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear it that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

So on this Ash Wednesday, as Christians we are asked to prepare for the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. How does one prepare for Easter? There are many ways to get there, but one of the best ways is to spend time in personal, private reflection on how we show our faith and conviction to those around us - in public, as well as private. Is there enough bright, shining evidence in our lives that reflects our earnest discipleship? Or are we reflecting something else? Because we are all mirrors that brightly reflect who and Whose we are. So this "Cloudy Mirror" is going to attempt a little polishing this blessed Lenten season. Join me!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Depression, Drugs, and TV

I've seen a couple of ads on TV recently that are attempting to sell people on asking their doctors for or even demanding a particular anti-depressant medication. Generally, I have a hard time watching commercial pitches for any drug, particularly prescription meds. It seems to feed the craving for the cure-all for any and all problems. We have become hungry for more and more easy cures to every ill, and not willing to take the time to search and seek out the answers that can really be of help. It may be a medication, or it may not. I remember a very dear physician of mine, who helped me through an extraordinary array of physical problems that set up just the right conditions for clinical depression. I expressed my deep disappointment that while some things had gotten better, others had gotten much worse. What was wrong? Wasn't there some sort of blanket diagnosis that could bring me the cure to all that ailed me? She said "There is no such thing as a medical 'magic bullet.'" In my case there may be some questions among various professionals about whether the various illnesses I fought and the depression following, might relate to the "chicken or the egg" theory - which really came first; which generated the other? While I am certain that I had suffered through various episodes of clinical depression as a young teenager, (being the target of severe peer-abuse), I never sought a therapist's help nor did I take any medication from any sort of physician. I basically worked my way through it, and growing and maturing helped ease things on their own, and developing a higher self-esteem (the most challenging aspect) certainly made my life better. As I have often told young people who are struggling, my life has only gotten better as I have gotten older. Let's face it: being a teenager SUCKS! Nevertheless, along with some physicians I tend to feel that the problems I tackled were more intertwined than not, regardless of which came first. Chronic severe pain is like a pebble in a quiet pond...the ripple affect seems to go on forever. Now, on to the TV commercial:

This particular ad has a narrator speaking about what depression feels like. I have to tell you that I have never seen nor heard it more accurately portrayed than in that commercial. The two different ads I have seen (for the same product) show a person disappearing into their surroundings. In one of them, a man standing in front of a shelf of groceries in a store simply begins to blend into the shelf, until all that shows are a dim pair of eyes and his shoes. The narrator talks about the sensation of just not being a part of your surroundings. This is so right on target, at least for me. Even though I would participate in certain activities, when I could force myself to go through the motions, I truly did not feel like I was there; nor like I mattered (most of all to myself); nor even like I existed. And the really puzzling part of this type of depression is that many people never pick up on it. They might think, "wow, she's grumpy," or" if she smiled she would be happy," or "snap out of it," - totally unhelpful nonsense. This feeling was/is something I could and cannot deal with on my own. Not to say that my prayers and those of others were not beneficial; I'm quite sure they led me in the right directions when I started seeking professional help. After two or three psychiatric hospitalizations, a couple of "near" suicide attempts, and a shocking variety and amount of psychotropic medications, things slowly began to turn around. Part of this happened when the issue of pain was, finally, addressed (my or my husband's ideas about this never seemed to matter). The FDA and other so-called authorities on narcotics and other pain medications have frequently hog-tied physicians, threatening their licenses and their ability to practice, should they be labeled as "over-prescribers." This was particularly true 25 or more years ago. Slowly but surely, the regulations on the use of narcotics both in short-term and long-term situations have started to ease up, but there are still some out there who simply do not believe in treating pain with narcotics, unless you are terminally ill (and sometimes not even then). Happily, now, new pain-control techniques involving a combination of therapies including nerve blocks, topical analgesics, exercise, bio-feedback, and exercise have greatly contributed to the arsenal now available to physicians and their patients. I should know...all have been tried, with varying success, to deal with both the pain and depression. (One of my brothers once suggested I stop using the possessive when referring to illness - to not lay claim to it, as in "my depression," or "my illness," or "my pain." He was right. Best to objectify it as much as possible, and try to observe it, rather than own it, or identify myself with it. I have since done my best to follow this advice, and it does help in a way to not speak of sickness as something that belongs to you, but as something outside of the essential human that you really are.)

There really is no point to this entry in my blog...just some things I've been thinking of lately...I am currently recovering from a particularly difficult episode of depression. A different medication seems to be working very well, in combination with hypno-therapy, and prayer (as always). Depression is a very difficult disease, in all its many forms. (The particular brand I deal with is Bi-Polar II, which is a form of manic-depression that, rather than cycling constantly between mania and depression, tends to be primarily either one or the other most of the time, with only very occasional detours in the other direction.) If there is ever any question in your own mind, or those of others around you that you may be dealing with it, please seek competent help. Don't be afraid to shop for the right physician and/or psychiatrist or psychopharmacologist, or an experienced psychologist - all or any of whom can hopefully lead you down the road to a cure, control, or a remission of the problem. Find someone you can honestly relate to, keep yourself as much as possible surrounded by people who understand; people who can learn when to intervene on your behalf, or to leave you alone for a while. And never underestimate the power of prayer - your own, and the overwhelming power of the intercessory prayers of others. Don't give up hope, never give out of trying, don't let yourself give in without a fight. Remember, "this too shall pass." The good times and the bad times, the healthy times and the sick times, they all come and go in their season. Feelings are never always the same...feelings change. God's undying and never-ending love for us does not. Even if you lose sight of it, it's still there. Blessed assurance.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Weather Reports

If I ever had a negative comment to make about the weather, my mother would chime in with this little ditty, that even years after her death, is still burned into my mind, and brought to my own lips whenever I or anyone near me starts to complain about the weather: "T'aint no use to fret or complain; it's just as easy to rejoice! For when God sorts out the weather and sends rain, well, rain's my choice!" As much as I used to hate to hear it, the verse is correct insofar as complaining about the weather does absolutely nothing to change it; it only affects how you feel about something over which you have no control. So you might as well feel good about it, accept whatever comes, even rejoice. "Rejoice in the Lord, always!" (Uh-huh.)

BUT: (We all knew a big but had to be coming) I reserve the right to complain about any and all newspaper, radio, or televised weather reports! Even the Farmer's Almanac can get me riled up. Why? Isn't that also something over which I have no control? Absolutely not! I can refuse to listen, watch, or read any of them; or if I do hear or see them, I can choose to ignore them. I've found over the years that every prediction has about a 50/50 chance of being correct, with maybe a little gray area thrown in to unbalance the even scales of weather justice. When it comes to weather, I have learned to never expect anything, but to perhaps be prepared for everything...even though most often I just take my chances. If I don't bring along a raincoat or umbrella, or a winter coat or sweater and gloves, then I just get wet or cold if the conditions warrant a need for the things I didn't bring along. No matter. What is worse to me is carting all that extra stuff along or wearing it and getting too hot, and those things you are just as likely not to need, having been taken off, are then lost or forgotten along the way. This of course brings to mind something else my Mom used to say. If she had a choice between being too hot or too cold, she preferred being too cold. After all, when you are cold you can always put more clothes or blankets on; when you're hot, there is only so much you can take off.

When my mother would offer advice when I was younger on what to wear or take with me regarding the weather (based on her own observations...never various other weather reports), I came to realize the true definition of a sweater, jacket, coat, or hat: Those are things a child puts on when the mother is cold.

From experience I have learned to mistrust weather maps, especially the high-tech variety that predict oncoming storms or clear skies in living color, colors varying according to the sort of precipitation we are told is coming, and not only what is to come, but exactly when it is to arrive! Bah! Humbug! Al Roker, I love you man, but stick to humorous commentary, or reporting fluff pieces, or inspiring weight loss, but really - let's get serious now - forget about predicting the weather - and that goes for all meteorologists. My favorite weather reports are the ones that tell you, when it is pouring rain outside, that there is a 30 to 40% chance of rain that day. So this Winter, the same has gone for snow. Can't begin to tell you how many dire predictions have been made, or Winter Storm Warnings posted causing countless grocery store shelves of milk and water and other staples to be wiped out by nervous people who are sure the reports are most likely correct, and that "Snowmageddon," or "Noah's flood" is on the way. But at least half of the time, we have completely, or almost completely, dodged the bullet. I still say the best way to judge the weather is stick your head or hand out in it. If it comes back in wet or cold, you know what to wear or how to prepare, or if it's safe to just go back to bed and pull up the blankets.

So, turn off the radio and TV weather reports, close your farmer's almanac, and line the garbage can with the newspaper weather maps. Take a look outside, thank God for what you see, and remember: "t'aint no reason to fret or really is just as easy to rejoice..."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Haven't We Always Been in Love?

I like to write songs - both music and lyrics; as a matter of fact, it is very difficult for me to write a melody for someone else's lyrics; and although the reverse is not as difficult for me, it still is not something that I enjoy as much as marrying my own lyrics with an original melody. I have had varying degrees of success in my endeavors. What I have found of late is that the songs I wrote 20 or 30 years ago are really quite dated in sound and style; although with a tweak or two of the arrangements, they could be updated somewhat. What interests me about this is how some music or lyrics, some novels or poetry...really: how any artistic form can be called timeless. I am not disputing the idea that some art is timeless. God knows I have sung, heard, read, seen, or witnessed it, and never fail to marvel at it. But what is the quality that makes a piece of art does something earn that moniker? It is a true conundrum for me. I have a real revulsion on hearing things labeled as "instant classics," or a "new novel (or whatever) for the ages." It's not that the particular work might not turn out to be just that, but isn't there some sort of unbiased standard by which something can be called ageless or timeless? I mean, really, shouldn't something hang around in the universal artistic consciousness for more than a couple of "ages" before it can be called ageless, or certainly be known for its unique or exquisite qualities for more than a micro-second or two (in history's eyes anyway) to be called "timeless?" (Let's face it: "standing the test of time" beats "instant classic" any day!)

Rest assured, I have never written anything that could ever be called timeless, and regardless of how true that is in my case, I'm pretty certain that most artists feel the same way. Upon completion of any project, I've never known any creator or artist who has looked at his or her finished work and said, "Now that's perfect!" or "That's timeless!" or "This is one for the ages." or "I can die happy now, knowing that my legacy to the art world is secure for perpetuity." Something, I believe, is in the heart and soul of great artists that resists satisfaction. It's something that says, "No, that isn't enough...I can do better, I can do more, this just isn't it." I wonder: is that attitude a requirement for greatness? Well let me tell you right here and now - if that's the only requirement, then I am the greatest artist who has ever lived! It's not that I don't appreciate any of my work, or do not see in it the seeds of competence, or even fail to be somewhat proud of what I have accomplished. It is, however, a complete lack of any sense of that ageless or timeless quality, and that is something I long to produce. Now, some may argue that the artist is not in a position to make that judgment regarding his or her own work. I disagree somewhat. I believe that the maker, the creator is sometimes the ONLY one who knows whether that quality exists or not, because the artist knows what concept was in her or his mind, heart and soul - what was the intention of the creator. I also (paradoxically) believe that true objectivity, if that is possible, can be an artist's best friend, but objectivity is often not within one's own power insofar as rating one's own work. The artist can know and feel what is good even if not judged by others to be so, and is often found by succeeding generations that s/he was right. Making the "timeless" or "ageless" judgment throughout time, however, is out of the artist's hands, and sometimes those judgments change back and forth over the course of history.  (Now THAT was a convoluted argument...wonder if anyone understands what I am trying to say?  Do I?)

It's probably a good time to capitalize that "c" on creator, and move on to a discussion of the "Creator," the only true Artist, because God created something, rather all things, out of nothing, and could then gaze upon it and call it "Good." (My smart-aleck response to that is "yeah, sure but what did God have to compare it to?") That includes humanity. As created, we are good...not that we don't often go out of our way to negate that, but nevertheless, being a creation of The Creator, God was moved to call us "good." So: while I am certainly not in a position to contradict God, (although I have always considered myself sort of an advisor to the Almighty), it is very difficult for me to call myself, or any of my "product" good. I don't believe that my ability or inability to assess my work as good is a matter of conceit or something missing in my nature. Oh, no! It's all my parents' fault! OK, here's the "reasoning" that brought me to this conclusion about my own sense of inferiority. When I was a child, my parents thought I was wonderful, and that anything I did or produced (with a few minor exceptions) was perfect! They would tell me, before a test or competition, or some similar circumstance, that all I had to do was the best I could, and that would be perfect. Here's the kicker: as I grew into my teen years and beyond, it gradually occurred to me that so much of what I did was obviously not perfect (by my own or anyone's standards; so it must be because I did not do my best. So from that point on, nothing I do is good enough. Isn't it interesting how I lay the responsibility of this conclusion on my parents (may they rest in peace!)? They did nothing but encourage me in the best way they knew how; always tried to steer me in the right direction while at the same time allowing me some time at the wheel of my life. Basically, they did as well as could ever be expected of any parents, and certainly better than most. It dawned on me, fairly recently, that the feelings of inadequacy as an artist are entirely my own creation (probably one of the only things I feel I'm really good at!), and serve as a rather sad excuse for mediocrity. Becoming a parent started me thinking in the personal responsibility direction; dealing with my own children and their own feelings of self-worth. While I can encourage, praise, set a good example, and gently correct or guide, it is not in my power to completely form their self-esteem. While the ground can be tilled by others, self-esteem can only be reaped by the self. So, in terms of my own sense of self-worth, it's time to let my parents off the hook, where I have frequently left them dangling. It is time to say it as unselfconsciously as it is in my power to do, that some of the songs I write are OK. Some of them are actually good. So you're wondering why I have spent the last million words talking about self-worth and auto-judgment when the title of this piece is "Haven't We Always Been in Love?"

Today is Valentine's Day, not a particularly favorite day of mine, but it is a nice opportunity to tell the ones you love how much they mean to you (although every day is an opportunity for that). Shortly, or within two or three years after my husband and I married, I was inspired to write a song dedicated to him, but sung as a duet - we first became friends by singing together; we've done it ever since. The song bears this article's title, and while it begins by speaking of our mutual life and love together, it transforms to a statement that includes our Creator - "Haven't we always been in love with You... lived our lives for You... haven't You always had a dream for us to share; haven't we always lifted our hearts as one to You in prayer?" We were supposed to sing that together today at a Marriage Covenant Renewal Service at our church. We still love singing together, and we both looked forward to the opportunity to sing of our love for one another and for God in the company of some of our church family - 80 couples in all, plus some members of their families. It would make for a wonderful, joyful and reflective time. The flu had different ideas for my husband, and he was out for the count. We made the decision for me to sing, and renew our vows (!) as a solo act. I had written another wedding/marriage song called "Wedding Doxology" (not a duet) for friends some years ago (actually, I've written three wedding songs). So I sang that. I was complimented, and I graciously gave my thanks for the comments. No, I can't say it was perfect, but I did my best at the moment, under the circumstances, and that is good enough.

Oh, and through the marvels of modern technology, during the repetition of vows, I called Ashley on my cell phone. He repeated them to me, and I to him, the words we first said over 34 years ago. As our pastor spoke an individual blessing over each couple at the altar, he took the phone from me and spoke into it, while laying his other hand on me: "What God has created in your marriage, let no one tear apart." Certainly the flu can't. So I close this epic blog with these words: "It's good; well, good enough, and I am still in love. Haven't I always been in love?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hermeneutics, Thought, Opinion, and Perspective

I learned what I consider a magic word a long time ago, and along with "serendipity," (a topic for later consideration), it has been at the center of my thinking on most subjects these days. Perhaps that's redundant, in a way. Because thinking is always hermeneutical. A thing no human can avoid. I (we) cannot read, observe, listen, or infer without making a judgment or coming to an understanding from our own unique perspective. I remember having an argument, well, let's say an intense conversation, with a man who shall remain nameless, (mainly because I do not desire to have the same conversation with this person should he come upon these words someday). We were discussing matters of faith, and he moved the topic along to the Bible, and the Word of God. He said that he was learning to read Hebrew and Greek, because he learned it was a sin to add or take away from the Word of God. "Interpreting" was his idea of "adding" or "subtracting;" therefore the reading of scripture in English or any language besides the original is a sin. He used, as I recall, the following passage from the book of The Revelation 22:18-19 to justify his position. In the New International Version, it goes like this: "18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." Strong words, indeed.

But the very fact of reading these or any words in whatever language is in fact an interpretation, an addition or subtraction we may make in our own minds, according to our own level of comprehension, and impossible to avoid! We all understand what we read, see, or hear on a different level, not only from others who read, see, or hear the same things at the same time, but also we often differ radically from our own initial interpretation upon reading, seeing, or hearing those things at a different time or in different circumstances. Of course, all this to me is part of the wonderful "mystery of the Gospel." We are given understanding as it is needed at the time of reading or hearing. I am reminded of the countless times I have read scripture (or any writing for that matter), and though I have read it many, many times previously, it seems as though I have never read, seen, or heard it before. To me, this is a gift. It makes everything new each time we approach it from a different perspective, need, or circumstance. Besides, is not Jesus Christ quoted earlier in the very same book, Revelation 21:5(a) "Behold, I make all things new!"?

The tense conversation was never resolved. We didn't even agree to disagree. Basically, I just walked away from the subject and the person altogether. It seemed the better part of valor at the time. Still does. Sometimes continued conversation yields nothing but consternation, and the place and time of this discussion was not a place or time for such feelings.

This conversation has stayed with me, though, over the last several years since it occurred. My mind drifts back to it every time I hear two or more people speak on the same subject and come to two very different understandings and/or interpretations. And the reality of it is that while I may think that one or the other is right or wrong, even totally off base from my point of view - it is a truth (now there's another word worthy of discussion) that no human understanding is truly right or wrong, it simply is what it is. And this is true because a person's understandings change over time or in different situations. I have been known on various occasions to say, when asked for, and giving an opinion on a subject, to add, "Ask me again later, you'll probably get a different answer." I actually hope that is true, because I like to think of myself as growing and morphing and becoming new as each day goes by. The more I learn and come to comprehend my circumstances, the more I change my understanding of the world around me, and the God Whom I have always loved, and in Whom I believe.

As of this writing, I do not believe that this world will really exist in peace until each human being understands the "hermeneutical perspective." If we could all grasp that there will always be differences in how we view the world, faith, spirituality, or God - that we cannot, in fact, be any other way - the more we will be able to stand shoulder to shoulder in peace. This does not preclude proselytizing. I believe we all reserve the right to try and "change someone's mind or heart," (non-violently, of course), and sometimes we might even be successful; but I don't believe it is a requirement for someone to capitulate to my way of thinking, regardless of whether I believe they would be happier that way or not. We all should have the right to share our views, or faith, our very lives. We all, however, reserve the right to ignore or reject that sharing. That is the essence of free will, as God ordained it. Interpretation, "hermeneutics," is God's gift to all. At least that's my opinion, but ask me again later - I might change my mind.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Another day as a couch potato

Lately, I've been getting up in the morning (often hours after I awake), usually about 7 a.m., and going straight to my laptop (although most days I take Princess out for her walk, first, unless I've convinced my husband to do it for me). Of course, any overnight e-mail gets read through and/or dumped, then it's on to Facebook. I'm starting to feel a little ashamed, especially considering how much time I spend with FB. It's NOT that I am addicted...really! (Yeah) It's just that the chain of posts and replies starts to mount, particularly because I play, (here is my confession) Mafia Wars. (My son Matt made me do it) Yes, I am Mamma Calhoun, and have progressed through the levels and plied my trade in New York, Cuba, Moscow, and now Bangkok. I understand that Las Vegas is much more time will be swallowed up in doing "business," "fighting," and "gifting?" Because of a depression episode late last year (I am Bi-Polar II...more on that at a later date), I withdrew for a few weeks. I managed to survive without almost any computer-related activities, (or any other kind), but mainly because I had become almost completely uncommunicative anyway, and didn't miss it.

All this to say that as the hours just sitting on the couch with my computer are mounting up, the embarrassment aspect about it is too. When I'm asked "What did you do today?" how do I answer? Do I say I parked myself on the couch, and except for bathroom breaks, and occasionally paying attention to the dog and her needs, and eating a piece of fruit or two (while sitting at the computer), I just sat with my laptop and basically participated in a lot of idle communication and nonsense? And should I add that the TV is on while I'm doing it, so that adds a bit of "culture" to my life, or that I sometimes listen to music instead of watching/listening to TV? Where does all that fit in with what did you DO today? Perhaps I should just say "nothing," and walk away red-faced. (That's one way to get some exercise.)

Some mind-power is involved, though (this is my rather weak rationalization): I do the NYT crossword every morning, plus the Acrostic or second Sunday puzzle on Sunday mornings. Does that count as a legitimate activity? Since my mother died as a result of Alzheimer's Disease, I hold on to the data that says keeping your mind sharp and active is possibly a preventative. This "holding on" doesn't always work for me, though, because my Mom was about as mentally sharp and active as anyone I've ever known. Go figure...

So in the final (for now) analysis I must resolve to actually DO something, hopefully of a physical nature, that I can hold up to others as a valid contribution to "paying my own way" through this life. Oh, and I should feel like that is somehow valuable - to myself and others, though judging by my current activities that is not the prime focus of what I do. Maybe I should read more - generally my bedtime activity - or walk more, or spend more time writing (so now you're saying, "God forbid!"). Perhaps I should clean house, as I struggle to make a place for myself on the couch, or look for a clean fork with which my husband can eat his frozen dinner meal. (He says he likes them and doesn't mind...poor dear.) But doing all that would not fit into my mantra: "A clean house is a sign of a misspent life." So maybe my mantra should change - something like this: "An overstuffed e-mail in-box is a sign of a sad, pitiful, couch-potato life." Hmmm...doesn't just roll off the tongue like the other. What's a couch potato to do? Think I'll Google it and find out.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


It seems impossible to me that I would be starting something that would be based on my own reflections, especially since I rarely look in the mirror. I seldom care what I look like, physically, but I have always cared, perhaps too much, about what people thought about me, about who and what I represent. My mother used to ask me: "Paula, if you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" My answer then, and my answer now is, "Depends on the day." Each day, however, I try, even guided by my often dim thoughts, (my "cloudy mirror") to reflect the person I want to be, the person I am, and the individual I was created to be, the three of which frequently diverge radically. The impossibility I refer to is that anyone, other than myself, would be interested! Sometimes even my own interest wanes, and I disappear into the thoughts of other clearer reflective beings. I am a reader and a quoter, as you will discover as the blog unfolds. So, welcome! If you got here by accident, there is always the "X" on the corner of your screen. If you dropped by on purpose, perhaps my reflections will prompt your own, and lead to an interaction. I look forward to it! Look, perceive, pause, reflect, share.