Tuesday, March 29, 2005
MY NAME IS ANNIE AND I KNOW WHAT I GOT, I GOT A BAT THAT’S HOTTER THAN HOT.
They would take turns, with each girl shouting out her name at the appropriate time in the cheer. Fortunately for my daughter, she always got to play on teams that encouraged everyone, from the girls with the hot bats down to the girls who never went any further than first base. She was never the worst player, but she was never the best, either.
After Easter dinner yesterday, we looked through old photos and I scanned a few in to play around with in Photoshop. I came home and started fiddling with this picture of my brother. Doesn’t he look so cute? Oh, I know, he looks like a little geek, with his hands on his hips like that and his dark socks, and one higher than the other, no less. But it was 1967. What else would you expect? The photo is a tiny Polaroid so the face detail is not real clear. You can’t see that he has the cutest little grin on his face.
My brother is a lot like my grandfather. Both these guys were simple, straightforward people. They never met a stranger. They never hid behind a mask. In computer terms, they were WYSIWYG people, what you see is what you get. No putting on airs with these two.
Both of them had lots of friends. I ran into an old friend of my brother’s and he talked fondly of what a good friend my brother had been. My brother has been dead ten years. My uncle said that he still runs into people who tell him what a good man my grandfather was. My grandfather has been dead twenty years. There are lots of stories that could be told on both these men.
As usual, I have gotten off my track. The thing I wanted to write about is that, in playing around with these photos, I put a “filter” on them that makes them look a little less like a photo and a little more like a watercolor painting. I don’t yet know enough about Photoshop to do a really fine job of enhancing the photos, but what I did was just enough to bring my “drawing eyes” out for a moment or two. In looking at the photos, I could see the lines and angles and curves that would make a drawing if I wanted to take a chance and pick up a pencil.
I am not particularly good at drawing, but I had to take an illustration class for school. While I was taking the class, I learned that we all can draw, or at least we could when we were young, before anyone told us we couldn’t. Part of what it takes is to really scrutinize the object we are sketching, and not to draw from our memory. Given a little practice and some courage, most anybody can improve their drawing skills.
My hardest work in illustration class was to relax and do my drawing without comparing myself to the other students. I had to lose my inhibitions about my own work. It can be intimidating to draw next to someone who has drawn eyes that are in proportion to the nose, which actually looks like a nose.
I especially enjoyed doing pastel chalk drawings on brown craft paper. It probably helped that we did these drawings outside on a perfect spring day. But doing those drawings was the closest thing to meditation that I have experienced. My mind seemed to empty of all the chatter that usually is in there, and I just felt at one with my paper and chalk. Making mayhaw jelly does that for me too, come to think of it. That’s a post for another day.
I don’t have a bat that’s “hotter than hot”. I’ll never be as easy with people as my grandfather and my brother were. My pencil will never draw as well as M. C. Escher’s. (Check out his posters, especially the "drawing hands" one.) But wouldn't it be a shame not to try new things, simply because of fearing that we might not be the best at doing it?
It all sort of reminds me of the story of the Jewish rabbi who said that when he went to his reward, he would not be asked “why were you not Moses?” He expected to be asked “why were you not you?”
(Another part of what I wanted to write is that when I am open as I was in the post "Chasing the Rabbits of Easter", sometimes it scares me, and I want to disengage, to run and hide. And so the real issue is not being brave enough to play softball, or to be as easy around people as my grandfather and brother were, or to draw.
The real issue is to be brave enough to let others see my pains, to take off my masks, to let that skeleton out of my closet, the one that shows I am imperfectly human, just like everybody else. Imagine that. I am human, and full of fears and flaws, as well. I am.)
Saturday, March 26, 2005
But then again, I have this habit of missing the main point entirely and zeroing in on a few lines that are not an integral part of what is being written, but practically shout to be lifted out of a piece and scrutinized more closely…Okay, so I have a skewed view and I waste a lot of time chasing rabbits.
Here is the rabbit I need to chase,
“I went to Easter service two years ago and cried, I was so scared. It's hard to be scared on Easter; it doesn't make sense. Still, I was in bad shape. I would get worse. I am better now.”
Last Easter, I (and my family) was in bad shape. My teen-age son was in a drug rehab facility, and we spent the day visiting with him. He was still a bit moody about being in rehab, but we all made the best of things and had a good visit in spite of the circumstances.
Following Chuck’s pattern, I (and my family) have gotten worse. But, to be fair, it isn’t just Chuck’s pattern. It is the pattern of life, really. Only, up until the last few years, I lived in such an idealized fairy-tale world that I could never have imagined the ongoing heartbreak that would come into my life in the last few years, never could have imagined myself in bad shape, and getting worse.
But, to get back on track, this Easter, I (and my family) have gotten worse. Right now my son is struggling in a relapse. It feels like we are back at square one, and the upward climb looks rough, to say the least. I have hard and complicated decisions facing me. And I come to Easter, the most glorious and hopeful of all seasons, scared to death, and with very little hope. It doesn’t make sense.
Though it does not look like it, the truth is I do have a hope, a hope that is not rooted in the outcome of my son’s struggles with substance abuse, a hope that is of more substance than fairy tale endings, and the absence of conflict in one’s life. I am reminded of the verse in Hebrews (11:1, I believe), “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”
There will be lot of Christians who will celebrate Easter in relative comfort and peace. I will only speak of myself here, but for so many years, that is how I celebrated Easter, with no real heartbreak in my life. With everything going my way, what was there not to celebrate about Easter?
This past Thanksgiving, when my son was in a program designed to help him turn his life around, and it looked like he was finally getting it, and having hope for himself, I was so grateful to God for new beginnings. Yet, in the back of my mind, the nagging question was, if it all caves in tomorrow, will I still be grateful? In church, we sang How Great Thou Art, and I was crying, thinking how easy it is to sing that song when our children are excelling at school, when we have the money to provide for their healthcare, when we know they are prepared to face the world in a healthy manner. Those things are no longer true in my life. Can I still sing How Great Thou Art? Can I still be grateful? Can I still rest in a “peace that passes all understanding”? Yes, yes I can, most days, that is.
But the added benefit, the real sparkle to my own gem of disappointment is a new appreciation, and compassion, for the many people around me who quietly suffer their own disappointments, the ones who may just feel that the church has no place for them. I feel so badly about all the years that I lived in my own sanctimonious little Christian world, the one where good Christians did not have problems with their children, the one where good Christians were rewarded for their goodness and their faith, the one where good Christians never, ever, strayed, or had doubts, or messy lives. There are a lot of hurting people out there, people who fly “under the radar” and go unnoticed in their loneliness and their pain. I knew about those hurting people once, even when I myself was not hurting, when I was younger, but I grew up, and got comfortable in my own happy little world.
I don’t know for sure all that I am trying to say here. I am probably trying to say too many things at once. If I were speaking out loud, I would probably drawl it out in my slow Southern way and use bad grammar for emphasis: I think I’m fixin’ to enter a whole new ball game where my Christianity is concerned. The only thing I know for sure is, I don’t need no game face for this game.
Part of what I am saying is that if you are hurting this Easter, dare to take your game face off, and let someone see your pain. I know have a real problem acting like I believe this, but I really do think it is true that God did not intend for us to suck it up and bear our burdens all alone (the verse “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” comes to mind). If you are in a church where they just don’t recognize your brand of pain, shop around and find a church that does acknowledge your pain. It is hard work, church shopping, and it may take some time, but I do believe there are churches out there that are doing it right in terms of reaching out to hurting people, and I am confident that God will lead you to one of them.
The other part of what I am saying is that if you are one of those who, for whatever reason, at this moment, are “too blessed to be stressed”, well, good for you, but take your damn game face off. You know good and well that you have had your moments of messiness and doubt too. Quit trying to look like nothing ever goes wrong for you in your Christian walk.
And if you are really deep in delusion and you think that you will never have any problems because you are just too devoted to God and His ways, ask God to open your eyes to the suffering of those around you, if you dare.
Whew. In a few minutes, I will worry that I have offended someone or that I should have not been so open in my writing today but I am better now.
At least for the moment.
Friday, March 25, 2005
An innocent man, beaten,
offers no resistance.
They lead him through the streets,
taunting and snapping whips,
he is their beast to be tamed,
a self-proclaimed servant.
It is a painful and slow way to die,
crucified on a Roman cross.
I want to close my ears
to the agony of those words,
Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,
my God, my God, why
have you forsaken me?
How alone he must have felt,
And yet one who will listen hears,
Father forgive them,
they know not what they do.
I come to Easter, satisfied to celebrate
the victory of resurrection,
and dare to turn my head
from the ugliness of the cross, wanting
only to see the empty tomb,
to hear the shouts,
He has risen. He has risen.
Yet there is a disturbing image:
My Saviour, the risen Lord, hangs
bruised and bleeding, rejected.
Alone, the sinless one bears my sin.
Facing the cross, I wonder,
How could they nail Him to that tree?
I see the hammer in my hand.
Monday, March 21, 2005
Too many places where I went wrong, too much time spent making the list of wrongs, too much wrong to be fixed...
I am a little discouraged, to say the least.
Haven't taken any photographs lately, haven't done any collages, still acting like I am looking for a job, regret dropping school, worried about my son, got an unhappy thirteen year old and an angry husband.
Wrote two convoluted entries, one about loving metaphors, one about how long it takes me to let go and accept change.
When I started this blog, things looked like they were turning around and getting better. I thought I had come through a major personal growth spurt, but it turns out, I have fallen, and I can't get up, and furthermore, to use my husband's crude expression, I have ripped myself a new one on the way down....ha ha ha, I amuse myself.
And I did not want to come here and complain and moan and groan. Just wanted to let you know, I am an unhappy camper at the moment...and I refuse to blame it on hormones....
Because, that's just life. Everybody's got troubles. In the words of a wise Southern woman I talked with this week, "if somebody tells me they ain't got troubles, I'd be worried about that person."
Lagniappe (a little something extra)...
I was trying to find a royalty free image of boiled crawfish for the end of this post, but could not find one. While looking, I saw a picture of a single crawfish and it reminded me of three crawfish I once knew, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. My daughter wanted a crawfish to keep, not to eat, and her ever obliging grandmother (who we were visiting in Louisiana) brought her down to the local seafood shop to purchase a single crawhish, for a pet. The guy knew us, and so he gave my daughter, not one, but three little crawfish, which we dutifully transported back to our two story house in Houston.
I was not prepared to house the three little fellows, and so they stayed in the extra bathtub a day or two, well, it may have been a few days, er weeks, longer than that, I don't remember. What I do remember is the plaintive moan that came drifting down the stairs one morning. Louie had gone amiss. Huey and Dewey were still there, but Louie was gone. And he stayed gone for a couple of days, until the morning near-sighted Mama stumbled into the shower butt naked and looked down to see she was not alone in there. Louie was staring at her with his beady little eyes. Mama let loose with more than a plaintive little moan and Louie was ever so glad to get back upstairs with Dewey and Louie. I never did figure out how he got down the stairs in the first place.
I also saw a picture of a dog and a crawfish staring each other down that brought back memories. The house we lived in while I was growing up was built on land that was once a rice field. We always had a few "crawfish holes" in the backyard, and occasionally, we'd see a crawfish coming out of the ground. The dogs never quite knew what to make of the beady-eyed creatures.
Well see, I have cheered myself right up, talking about crawfish, of all things.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
It never ceases to amaze me, the things people choose to document on the web.
Check this out. This woman has built a church using 75,000 Lego™ blocks and approximately five months of her life. It is complete with a baptistry and filled with little Lego™ worshippers. There are even restrooms and a water fountain located on the walls leading up to the balcony! I looked at all the photos, and I found her construction log notes to be most intriguing, so much humor in her writing.
The web is a weird and wacky place. I feel right at home.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Okay, chil'ren, here is a little bedtime reading, guaranteed to bore you right to sleep. It is one of those things that go around the web, and I got tagged by martha . (Thanks Martha, for the challenge, and the food for thought.) Though it was fun to answer I don't know if I will pass the thing on or not. I hope it's not like a chain letter that will bring me seven years of terrible bad luck if I break it.
1. You're stuck inside Farenheit 451. Which book do you want to be? I would probably want to be the Bible. Well, wait a minute, yes, like martha, martha says, that is a trick question, stuck in there to drive us quiet and wary types (the ones who have to have the real, right answer, we know who we are) to distraction…now let’s see, what was the name of that totally bland and neutral book, the one that would not change anybody, the most useless book in the world…that would guarantee my survival. Maybe I would be the Lower Podunkville phone book or the Fungus of the Month picture calendar.
2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? All the time, all the time. That is a silly question to ask someone with an imagination as active as mine, and embarrassing for me to answer. Ummm, Indiana Jones…and his father. I have not had many crushes on fictional characters lately. My fantasy thinking time has recently been more devoted to cataloging characteristics of various real men into the ultimate fictional character to have a crush on.
3. The last book you bought was...? Making Journals by Hand, which I was a little disappointed with and Out of the Question: Into the Mystery, by Leonard Sweet, which I am still reading, and not disappointed with.
4. The last book you read was...? Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. I will confess right here that the internet has somewhat spoiled my reading habits. I tend to read bits and pieces of books on the web, and then move on to another book, another subject, like a delicate little hummingbird. That, and the fact that I am on a budget and in arrears with the library at the moment, has slowed down my formerly voracious reading habits. I was holding my (seriously) overdue books until Thanksgiving, when they usually have a food drive, where you could bring canned goods and they would forgive your overdue book fines. They not only did not have the “forgive your fine” week, they also RAISED the fine from a totally insignificant amount to an exhorbitant Mafia style amount, designed to hurt procrastinators like me into taking our due dates more seriously. One library lady told me she would work with me on my fines, since I DID return all the books, but I am too ashamed to go back and find her. I keep hoping they will, like, give up on me, and clear my record, or that the statute of limitations will take effect, or something.
If I ever do get back in the good graces of my local library, I will probably check out the book Fahrenheit 451. I read a little of Ray Bradbury way back in high school, but I do not remember what I read. And I will read more fiction. I hate to spend money on fiction. And I will check out some of May Sarton's poems and journals.
5. What are you currently reading? The Leonard Sweet book I just bought, silly.
6. Five books you would take to a desert island...Wait a minute, WHY am I going to this island, how long will I be there, am I going to be all by myself, will there be other people around, and what kind of people will they be (readers, intellectuals, philosophers, or just people who will complain about the lack of televisions), and most importantly, what am I going to eat?
When all that gets settled, I would most definitely bring my Bible, either my current Ryrie study Bible (NIV) or possibly, my Living Bible from my high school days. Assuming I am stuck on the island, I would probably bring a few books I have intended to read, and have not gotten around to, like one of Anais Nin’s journals (which one?), Bonhoeffer’s Letters From Prison (or another one of his books), something by Merton….whoa, that is four already. I have a problem, because I would want to bring one of Leon Hale’s books along (I might just have to bind several of them into one book). His writing is mostly essays about life and people, sometimes humorous, sometimes deep, and sometimes sad. The thing I love about his sad writing is that he does not do it often and it always comes up from behind and surprises me. His writing would provide variety and entertainment. Oh yeah, he also writes about the great state of Texas. Then I would also want a book of poetry. One book that comes to mind, because I have not read it yet, is one of Charles Bukowski’s. Right now, I can’t think of the name of it and I don’t see it on the link I have provided. I have had my eye on it at our Books a Million. Of couse, the smarter thing to do might be to bring an anthology of some type, again, to provide variety.
But on the other hand, what about books I have already read, and would like to refer back to? Like Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, or Let Your Life Speak, by J. Parker Palmer….can’t they just install a library on this island, just for me? Because, they both have new books out that I know I want to read.
And what about all my personal correspondence that I might want to read again?
I can tell you one thing right now, I don’t think I am going on this here island trip. And how can it be a desert island? Isn’t that an oxymoron? I mean, an island is surrounded by water, a desert has no water. What gives?
I guess I would need a book on how to survive on a desert island too. Does THAT have to count as one of my books?
7. What three people are you passing this stick on to and why? I don’t yet know who I will pass this on to.
Note to Miss Martha: Anything else you want to know?...And you thought you were charmingly neurotic! Well…okay...maybe my neurosis just defies description!
Saturday, March 12, 2005
I am intimately acquainted with the road in this photograph. The view, as seen from this angle, leads back to the outside world. Back behind the vantage point of the camera, the road leads up to my grandparent's house. Because I grew up “in town”, my grandparent’s house really was a different world to me, complete with its own dialect and native expressions, which is a whole ‘nother story.
In my childhood, there was always an old dog or two stretched out on the porch of their old house. My grandfather and his sons used to take some of these dogs fox hunting* at night. They would build a fire, put on a pot of coffee, and pop a chew of Red Man tobacco in their mouth*, and then they would sit and listen till the wee morning hours to the dogs running the fox all around them. They could tell where the dogs were by the sound of the barking, and many times, they would drive to another location to be closer to the action. It all seems rather silly to me.
The reason I tell the story is that the dogs that were the successful fox hunting dogs were the ones who were able to stick their noses up in the air, sniff the wind for changes in the movement of the fox, and then adapt their route and their pace to find the fox. They were, as Darwin puts it, the ones who were most responsive to change.
The dogs that failed to respond to the changes in the wind were left at home on the porch the next time the men went out. This is probably the origin of the redneck expression, "that dog won't hunt". In true redneck language, that sentence would be written and spoken like this: 'atair dawg 'on’t hunt.
All I’m saying is, Darwin is not telling me anything I don’t already know about life. Even my grandfather’s dogs (most of them) knew this was true. Of course, responding to any change requires movement. Thus, I would add my own caveat to Darwin's words, if you want to hunt, you got to get up off the porch, which has probably already been said somewhere by some redneck smarter than I.
*no foxes were killed during these hunts, unless they died from strokes brought on by extremely high blood pressure, brought on by being chased all night by a pack of dogs. Best I can understand is that the fox eventually ended up cornered by the dogs, and the game was over and everybody went home and went to bed. I, being a female child, could never go out on these soirées, my mother would never allow that. My goodness, these gentlemen sat around the fire and passed gas during the quiet moments of the hunt. In the world I was raised in, women did not pass gas unless they were in the bathroom. We were not allowed to say the word f-a-r-t, either. We had to say "toot" instead. That's probably more than you wanted to know.
*None of my kinfolk chew tobacco anymore, they may be backwoods people, but they have heard the news that chewing is harmful.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
My daughter's complaints brought to my mind something I witnessed week before last at the bank. The young lady who helped me was quite capable and self-assured, very professional. We were trying to figure out why I could not access our account online. It turned out the problem was that the bank had my name twice with two different addresses and the computer, apparently, was confused. The totally competent bank lady ended up having to call someone higher up the chain (maybe a computer expert?) to get the matter corrected, and that is where the most astounding transformation occurred, right before my very eyes.
When she got the other person on the phone, her voice changed and she started using a whiny little girl voice as if she would not get help any other way. Even her physical demeanor changed. She became a coy little girl. I could not believe what I was seeing. As soon as she hung up the phone, and turned back to me, her customer, the little girl voice was gone and the professional bank lady was back. Had I been able to fully process what I had seen at that time, I might have pointed the difference out to her and asked if she was aware of the quick-change act she had just performed. I guess we have all been guilty of such behavior. I just have never seen it so clearly demonstrated before.
I wonder how many times I myself "posture" before others. I don't think I do it often, but it may be that I am not playing the "helpless little girl" card. I tend to play the "invincible woman" card. Think about it, what kind of quick-change artist are you?
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Sunday, March 06, 2005
Several weeks ago, Fred First over at FragmentsFromFloyd wrote about a poem called "Where I'm From", written by George Ella Lyons. He put up his own version of the poem and issued a challenge (and a template, see below) to write our own poem about where we are from. He included an update this weekend on his blog which reminded me that I had not yet written my poem. My poetic muse has all but disappeared on me and writing something with a pattern is an easy and fun way to write a poem without too much pressure. Here's my version. I may have taken some liberties with some of the subject suggestions, but that's okay. I may even work on this one some more at a later date.
Check out Fred's update and see what you can come up with on your own self. It's fun, it's fast, it's fabulous, it's free! You too can be a poet before you know it!
Where I'm From
I am from young love that has endured,
from fresh milk and sandy red dirt.
I am from hands held at church.
I am from the scent of honeysuckle
through an open window on a July night.
I am from blessings said and strength,
from Isum and Loyal, who I knew
and from Katie and Bolen, who I did not.
I am from quiet ones, from crazy ones.
From paddle your own canoe
and love one another as you love yourself.
I am from the Christian faith, real and alive,
the glue that bound us all together.
I am not from Orange, though there I was born.
I am from the fruit of the earth, from watermelon
to peas shelled on my grandparent’s porch.
From J, with a tough outer shell, and shaky innards
from C, who always seeks the good in others.
I am from Six Mile Creek, from Sugartown,
from dairy barns and corn fields.
The WHERE I'M FROM Template
I am from _______ (specific ordinary item), from _______ (product name) and _______. I am from the _______ (home description... adjective, adjective, sensory detail). I am from the _______ (plant, flower, natural item), the _______ (plant, flower, natural detail) I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait), from _______ (name of family member) and _______ (another family name) and _______ (family name). I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and _______ (another one). From _______ (something you were told as a child) and _______ (another). I am from (representation of religion, or lack of it). Further description. I'm from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______ (two food items representing your family). From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______ (another detail about another family member). I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).
Thursday, March 03, 2005
I tried to think of a wise and witty post to go along with another quote card I'd put together in Photoshop, but I seem to be a bit blocked on it, so I am going with this collage instead. I was cleaning up a bit in the room where I do my journaling and collaging, trying to organize the various stacks of paper and I found the check stub from my last unemployment check. I was saving it to glue into my journal.
I noticed the note I'd written about the word dystopia. At the time I had written the note, I thought sure that dystopia was a made-up word. However, I have just looked it up on Dictionary.com and it is a real word all right. I feel like I have somehow been booked a trip to the island of dystopia, where everything is bad, and it is not a fun place to be.
I also found a rejection letter concerning a job application I had sent in. I am partially grateful for that letter, and wanted to memorialize it in a collage because it is the only one I have received explaining that "one applicant's qualifications more closely met our present needs than the rest, and we have decided to offer that person the job". It is really a pain to be a little on the poor self-esteem side and not receive any response at all to the job applications you send out. Careful observers will note that it looks like I applied for the position of being a part-time ass. Well, there you go, no wonder I am not qualified. I am such a sweet thing.
I don't know for sure how I am going to get off this island of dystopia, don't know whether I will consider calling in professional help or if I will hit the pause button and get ready for lightening to strike. One thing is for sure, I am not in control.
While I was checking out the word dystopia, I thought of another "dys" word I'd heard, dysthymia. I like the way both those words roll off my tongue. Too bad they carry such negative weight. Check out the sentence in that second definition. I am quite sure my husband did not give them permission to quote him talking about me like that. At least I have an excuse for my bad mood, and I'd say it has only lasted about eleven years, not thirty. And I am not that irritable.
Pronunciation: dis-'thI-mE-& Function: noun: a mood disorder characterized by chronic mildly depressed or irritable mood often accompanied by other symptoms (as eating and sleeping disturbances, fatigue, and poor self-esteem) called also dysthymic disorder
Source: Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary, © 2002 Merriam-Webster, Inc.
n : mild chronic depression; "I thought she had just been in a bad mood for thirty years, but the doctor called it dysthymia" [syn: dysthymic depression]
Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Now I am thinking...hmmm...since I posted the header on the blog, would it work if I cut and paste the html from the post itself and insert the photo into the header that way? Seems like it would, but I am not in too big a hurry to start experimenting again. That last experience was kind of scary for my latent perfectionist side.
Aha! In theory, it does work! There's the picture, right there. Okay, I am going to think about it some more before I try again to change things around.
(But I think it will work!)