Sunday, April 30, 2006

Mindy's Memorial Cow Design Contest

For The Princess of Everything (and Then Some), who has instigated a memorial cow design contest. I actually have two designs. I misunderstood her intentions. I thought when she said memorial, she meant posthumous memorializing so I first designed a lovely headstone for her. "My bad" as the teen-agers say.

It is with Mindy's permission (she practically begged me!) that I post my proposed tombstone design for her. Astute readers will recognize part of the epitaph comes from a tombstone I blogged about not too long ago...

Saturday, April 29, 2006


and still sporting that scared "deer caught in the headlights" look an hour later...

Nah, all in all, it was an enjoyable experience. I was very nervous this morning as I drove to the appointment. I probably would have chickened out had there been a graceful way to do so. In the end, I am glad I faced my fears head-on and went.

The whole scenario was layered in metaphor. The feeling of vulnerability as I undressed and laid on the table was papable. My mind was reeling with thoughts on issues of trust and the intimacy of touch, and for a short minute, I thought my head would explode with all the dramatic thoughts running through my head. I wondered if they received any training dedicated to handling distraught very nearly menopausal old women who were not accustomed to being so pampered!

We talked a bit more than I expected, but I think that is exactly what I needed to help me be more comfortable. Next time, I'll be content to relax and listen to the soothing music.

Then I came home and drew this "self-portrait"-- which I feel entirely comfortable posting on the internet because I am not sure who that woman is. She bears very little resemblance to me, except her hair is too long for a woman of her age, as is mine, and her chin looks vaguely familiar. Did I draw myself, or did I draw symbols of myself, that is the question.

I've always wanted to draw, always believed I could do it, if I just had someone to let me in on the secret of how to do it. The real truth of the matter is that most anyone can do it. The problem is we tend to draw symbolically from our memory rather than actually looking at and studying the lines of whatever it is we are drawing. I remember in drawing class how our battle-axe teacher was always saying we needed to spend three times as much time looking at the thing we were drawing as we spent looking at our papers. Learning to draw is a matter of learning to see.

There is a classic book on the subject of learning to draw, Drawing From the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards. I am going to work through the exercises in the book and see what happens.

(BTW, I think the "deer caught in the headlights" look comes from the fact that I was concentrating so hard at putting down on paper what I was seeing in the mirror, trying to get the lines realistic. It really is amazing what happens when you actually look at your subject, rather than drawing from memory what you think a face looks like.)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Not Just Another Day at the Office

I’m sorry, but if you have not recognized it by now, I do have a weird quirk or two. One of them is that I have always said I would never get a real massage because I would never be able to relax while a complete stranger was rubbing away on me. I have an adversity to pedicures for the same reason (that and the studies that say a lot of pedicure places do not clean their little foot tubs nearly enough).

But you know, I am getting older now, and I have to find my adventure where I can in life. And because I am getting older, and because I have been rear-ended three times in the last five years, each time jerking my short stubby little neck forward against the seat belt, the last time leaving me with a seemingly permanent “buzzy-tingly” place in-between my shoulder blades, AND because I carry every single bit of my tension in my neck and shoulder area, I have been secretly imagining myself going to get a professional massage.

This is how I work up the courage to do unfamiliar things. I think a thing to death before I ever take the first teeny-tiny step toward taking action. One might say I am cautious.

Several years ago (twenty years ago), I worked with a young college student named Joy. Joy, as it turns out, now owns her own massage parlor (that sounds so bad, massage parlor). Wednesday morning on my way to work I was actively imagining myself calling Joy up to ask her all about massages (research, always a good excuse not to do a thing) and what might be available and how much it would all cost (surely, a fortune) because the dull pain in my shoulders was beginning to exceed my fear of stripping down and letting a stranger knead and chop my neck and shoulders. In my mind, I was closer to actually calling Joy up and making an appointment…oh, sometime within the next month or so, or maybe the month after that.


Wednesday morning around 10:30 we had a fast-talking salesman come into the office (he said he was from Texas but I never met anybody from Texas who talked fast). Before we knew what had happened he had snookered the bookkeeper out of a dollar. He told her it was for something that was worth way more than a dollar and if she did not agree he would give her money back. Me, I had my back to the goings-on and I was steadily trying to sink down into my desk and disappear (fast-talkers make me nervous, and I sure don’t trust ‘em,--another of my weird quirks). Curiosity (or the urge to protect the bookkeeper) finally got the best of me when I heard him shuffling her around in her chair and telling her to tell him if he hurt her and he would stop….

The man proceeded to massage her neck and shoulders. He rubbed and kneaded and chopped for about a minute. In the meantime, my boss tells the guy “do her too”, meaning me. Oh brother. I compliantly turned around and leaned forward in my chair. I was thinking about how badly my neck and shoulders had been bothering me, about how I really needed to do something. I had watched the bookkeeper and she had survived. Surely I would too.


I have no words to tell how absolutely blissful I felt after just one minute of kneading and rubbing and chopping. I could not believe the difference in how my shoulders felt. I felt like a weight that I had not been fully aware of had been lifted off of me. It was like someone had run a troublesome bully off who had been bothering me for years. I felt relieved. I was amazed. I grinned all afternoon, I felt so good.

We all laughed and joked about it today. I said we were going to order something from him next week, whether we needed it or not, just so I could get him back in there to massage my shoulders.

I told the bookkeeper sometime during the day that I was embarrassed to admit it, but seriously, there was something almost emotional about the experience, about the feeling I had when he was finished and I realized that I no longer felt that tightness across my shoulders. It was almost like I wanted to cry. It was such a relief.


I’m no dummy. It was a sign when that man came in.

Here’s the deal: I have an appointment for Saturday morning to get my very first massage on my neck and shoulders. I am a little nervous but at least I get to keep my pants on! Don’t hold me back because I am busting loose!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Where Once There Were Trees

Now there is light.

(A little bit of background: The first two photos are of my parents' front yard. The tree that stood in front of the green trellis was a large oak. We posed the kids in front of it for Christmas photos. The dark shadow on the ground is from the only tree left standing in the front yard, an old cedar tree. The tree that stood where the clay pot sticks up out of the ground in the second photo was some sort of beech.

The last two photos are from my yard. Two cedars were removed, one from behind the fence, the other from directly behind where I am standing to take the photo. The shadow of the cedar tree blocked the view of the shadows on the fence.)

After the storm.

Now there is a green lattice wall with rose bushes waiting to bloom.

The clay pot sticking up out of the ground marks the spot where the beech tree stood. Now there is the play of sunshine and shadow on a mismatched fence.

Now the photographer knows there are things that can never be reclaimed after a storm. Sometimes one has to salvage what is left and walk on.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Evidence of Things Unseen

(everybody knows you can click on the picture to make it bigger, right?)

04/22/06 ADDENDUM:

Maybe a picture is not worth a thousand words. I really wanted the picture and the few words to speak for themselves. Maybe I need to explain my convoluted thought process...

This house was dropped on the side of the highway by the winds of Rita. I am not sure where it was originally located, not sure how far it was carried. If you look, you can see where the house is splitting, from having been unceremoniously dumped on unlevel ground, I suppose.

The words are part of poem I wrote, which never really got finished to my satisfaction. Several years ago, a preacher said something in a sermon about how the wind, though unseen, has never had to prove its existence.

Back when I was still in middle school, we were visiting an aunt and uncle who had a beach house on Dauphin Island. While we out there walking the beach a storm came up and the rain was one of those hard pelting rains. I don't think I will ever forget how the weather turned so dark so quickly and how menacing the waves of the Gulf looked as we all ran for cover. It almost felt traumatic to me at that time, hence the vivid imagery in the poem of panthers and gun shots and being held captive.

Disparate thoughts, but still, how come the existence of the unseen wind is widely known and accepted and yet the existence of the creator of the wind is so widely doubted?

Caught In The Storm, I Stand

Waves crouch behind me and spring,
a panther closing in and threatening.

Raindrops hit and burn, bullets falling
from a gun shot into a New Year’s sky.

The sand holds my feet, captive
of rain and wind and fire. I breathe fear.

I am a sister of Elijah, seeking the face
of Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord who is with me.

In the unseen breeze, I hear Him whisper
my name. He calls me His beloved.

The wind moves as it wishes,
has never had to prove its existence.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Who Among Us?

I have posted below selected excerpts from an article sent to me by a friend of mine.

Niger, ranked as the second-poorest nation on Earth, is experiencing its worst famine in more than 20 years, as a brutal drought last year was followed by a plague of crop-destroying locusts. An estimated 3.5 million of Niger's 12 million people are currently at risk of starvation.

"That's why it was so important for this mission to happen right now," said Clarkson. "So many people here are suffering. Disease, starvation, and lack of shelter are day-to-day realities in Niger. But once they hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Lord and Savior—once they really take Him into their hearts—then they will see what poor comforts are the things of this world."

Though "spiritually gratified" by their work, many of the missionaries spoke about the difficulties of working in an impoverished country."It can be so hard being away from the comfort of our homes and our loving families," Clarkson confided. "I will admit, there have been times when I prayed, 'Lord, just help me get through this mission and get me back to Texas!' But when we rolled into town and people started running after the truck with those big smiles on their faces, I couldn't help but smile back."

Clarkson added: "And when we opened up the back of the truck and they saw that it was full of Bibles... Grown men and women wept in front of their children. That's how moved they were by the Holy Spirit. That's how I know it's all been worth it." Clarkson said her mission will succeed in bringing the people of Niger "the spiritual sustenance they've been deprived of," despite such obstacles as the nation's 18 percent literacy rate. "You say you're suffering. I say, let the good Lord do the suffering for you," she said. "You say you're exhibiting the deleterious effects of severe dehydration and chronic malnutrition. And I say that no matter what ails you, the Holy Bible is the best medicine there is."

As I read this article, I started getting upset and annoyed that my intelligent friend had been duped into believing there were actually people like this in the world. I was on my way to to check the story out when I remembered—the Onion, where this article was published—is a satirical zine. Satire.

According to, satire is “Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity”. Irony, sarcasm, caustic wit—it’s all there, and I love it all. And I am not above laughing at myself, not at all. I am more than a little familiar with the kind of people who are being mocked in this article.

Then there is the second part of the definition of sarcasm: a method used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity. That’s where I began to feel downright insulted. But, you know, to each his own. And yes, if you have an ability to laugh at yourself, the article is humorous. So I laughed. But when I stopped laughing, I started thinking, because there is always a grain (or more) of truth in satire.

And I wondered:

Who among us would deny a father who has lost his young son the humanity of being angry by dismissing that anger with “you just have to trust the Lord”?

Who among us would send a woman who has been broken by her husband’s inability to learn how to manage his anger to a Bible study called “You Can Be The Wife of a Happy Husband”?

Who among us would make feeding the homeless a “once every summer” project for our youth, allowing them to deliver the gospel with peanut butter sandwiches for a week, and then return home with a renewed sense of “how very blessed we are”?

Who among us would tell an addict who has fallen for the umpteenth time, “you’ll never amount to anything”?

Who among us has not resorted to tossing quick and pithy phrases out as wisdom, uttering sound bites like these? –

“Just do it.”—good advice for a person weighed down with depression?

“Get a job.”—the cure for poverty?

“Keep your legs closed.”—helpful for the teenage girl who only wants someone to cherish her?

“Just say no.”—why can’t those darn addicts get the message?

Like I said, I got to thinking.

And I wondered, how many times have I given a stone for bread?

"Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own"--Johathan Swift

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Grace and My Skewed View of Life

In some strange way, I find this both humorous and encouraging. I wrote it, trying to encourage a friend. It's very hard for me to be enouraging, because I tend to want to tell people "things will get better" and inside my head, I am thinking "eventually." But it doesn't always work that way.

Sometimes, the wayward child does not make a turn for many years. Sometimes, the tumor is cancerous. Sometimes, a man-child comes home from the war in a coffin. Sometimes, a Fema trailor catches fire due to a leak in the propane tank and two people barely escape with their lives. Sometimes what is lost can not be replaced.

What do we tell these people who live with ongoing suffering?

We all have "stuff" we have to live with. That's a given. I want to be an encourager, I want people to know that God's grace is sufficient (and it is). But I also want to make darn sure they understand that God's grace is not some magic insecticide that will get rid of all their "ants".

I suspect some of those "ants" are around specifically to remind us of our continuing need for God's grace.

Happy Easter

He is alive...

still calling...

still very relevant...

Friday, April 14, 2006

The House?? What House??

(It's not quite ready for company. But progress was made.)

I intentionally stopped myself from trying to compose blog posts while I was away. I needed to concentrate on where I was in my real life. Consequently, now I have no brilliant post to mark my re-entry into blogland. Several things happened while I was away that I might have written about, had I been writing….

March 24th marked the six-month anniversary of Rita’s passing. There are still reminders all around. The sun makes interesting shadows through the holes in our fence.

The cedar tree in the back yard was finally completely cut down and hauled away. Only the stump remains.
They finished putting our new roof on yesterday. Goodbye blue tarp!

The church I have been visiting moved back into their sanctuary a couple of weeks ago. The stained glass windows that were carried over from the original building built back in the 60s did not survive the storm. Last Sunday I noticed the lack of sunlight streaming through the east and west corners of the ceiling, saw the solid wall, and grieved the absence of those windows. Alas, loss is a part of life. We count the loss, we grieve, and, hopefully, we move on, because there is always something left to inspire our gratitude.

The buttercups are blooming! I love buttercups. They remind me of my childhood.
More later.

Enjoy Easter.