Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bonus Features

"Well, Penny, like anything worth writing, it came inexplicably and without method." ~~ Karen to Penny in, "Stranger than Fiction"
Watching the bonus features on the DVD for the movie "Stranger than Fiction" rekindled something which has been flickering in my mind for years.

I've always loathed Will Ferrell. The characters he has played have, to me, been vulgar and stupid. The few interviews I've seen with him were silly, nausea provoking, and quick, gimme the remote - turn this OFF! idiocy.

"Stranger Than Fiction" was recommended to me by people I trust, so I kept an open mind when I learned Ferrell was the lead. To my pleasant surprise he was excellent in this mostly serious role. Just brilliant. Huh? Will Ferrell?

For some reason I found the incidental interviews on the DVD's bonus features somewhat perturbing. The cast and crew described the lead actor in words incongruous with my perception of "Will Ferrell." Humble? In the moment? Intelligent? Interviews with Ferrell himself astonished me. He behaved like a normal, mature adult. "Remember," I told myself, "he's a performer, playing a part. Stupid is the act, not the whole man. There is more."

Just as there is to each one of us. Rumination began.

Let's face it, not unlike a celebrity with his professional and private persona, most of us have our public and private personas, the public image being remarkably different from our private genuine selves. In order to fit in, or be invisible, to hide, or to impress, a facade is created and projected to the world: this is me!

Masked, lest we be found out, we walk our paths. Society is a cruel mistress, rejection is hard and fast, crippling even. Posing prevents our true faces from being seen and thus judged, and yet to be false, to bury ourselves in fakery induces a sort of madness. We search. We stumble. We excuse and we rationalize. In our conditioned states we sense something is terribly wrong, but what? Out of touch with our integrity, our honesty crusted and scabbed over, we play the roles which protect us, roles we've created from trial and error all our lives. Ridiculously complicated roles.

To stop the sham. To just stop. To quit piling on the crusty muddy costume of pretense so that what is normal and true can be revealed would be incredible relief. Right? To cease the posing!

But to be seen! To be known! Vulnerability terrifies! I know some of the evil that lurks in my heart, and I am not certain of what is good about me. Do I have the courage to look deeper, further, to come to realize the full extent of both? And to reveal them outwardly? To make use of my good gifts, I must discover them. To eradicate my evil, I must face it, admitting it exists. Vulnerability is required.

How I long to sort of unzip my costume from head to toe, kicking the rumpled heap aside, in order to step away from it in courage and confidence that the truth of who I am is enough to accomplish my purpose from God. I don't have to fake. I don't have to hide. I don't have to perform.

Besides hiding me and shielding me from unsettling aspects about myself, does this costume protect others from me?

More ruminating is required. And prayer.

I still don't like Will Ferrell's typical work, but I do have a tad more respect for the man. How weird that bonus features on a DVD would stir me to contemplate personal authenticity.

Mysterious Ways!

Postscript: I'm back to brooding again, yes, 'tis true. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I just need some sun. Sigh.......


You think you know a person.

Jack Bauer doesn't know who to trust.

His brother, Graem, used to be a heartless, rude ER doctor, until he got his arm cut off by a helicopter rotor up on the roof and later was smashed by another flaming copter, but that was after he did unspeakable things as an x-file.

Jack's dad used to be good ol' Farmer Hogget. What happened?!?!?! No more, "That'll do, Pig"?

His sister-in-law, all innocence but we can tell she has a secret, was previously Mrs. Ned (Lois) Quartermaine, for goodness sake, a free-spirited Brooklyn girl, before she was crippled by her flying hero husband in a car crash and landed in a wheel chair.

Tom Lennox used to be good at Numb3rs before his Space Shuttle training, and long after he bugged Ally McBeal. Reed used to be married to a Million Dollar Baby, and he was John Denver, and before that he was dying of AIDS as Bekka's one true love, Jesse.

And that evil digit-less guy who was after Mighty Joe Young, well, he's after the USA now!!

Poor Jack Bauer.

Hope he's in good hands, with David Palmer!

The writing of this post took place between the hours of 12:00 A.M and 1:00 A.M.

Viewer Discretion Advised - it will make NO SENSE if you have not watched as much TV as I.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


"In relationships, whether it is man-woman, parent-child, or among friends, we are there to set the other free, and not impose upon them any more chains than they are already wearing. This is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it's one of the hardest." ~~~~Tom Crum

"This is the true joy in life. The being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy." ~~~ George Bernard Shaw


When Cassie was a tiny tot we planted a Blue Spruce tree in the front yard and named it Hope. "Hope for the future! We shall watch it grow and be constantly reminded that life goes on, that things grow and become mighty! There's always Hope!"

Hope has grown tall and strong, taller than each one of us, even Joe who measures over six feet. A pretty tree! Christmas lights on it in December, light green, supple new growth in the spring, sprinklers wetting it in the summer. Such fragrance!

Today we cut Hope down. New plans for the yard demanded it. Tears were shed. Mouths turned down. Shoulders sagged.

Joe said, "I've been telling you guys for years, in this world there is no Hope. Believe me now?"

We have another little evergreen tree in a pot that Tom saved from somewhere years ago. It's about four feet tall. We're going to plant it...

and name it...


Just in case.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Let me say it right upfront, I am a native born Californian - Boo Hiss! - I know, I know. I'm hardened to the contempt from you Oregon Natives. You can't hurt me anymore. Birth through twelve I lived in sunny California swimming, biking, roller skating, climbing trees, and going to school. It was fun. Then, to Oregon we moved and I've been here ever since.

I LOVE OREGON!! It's gorgeous. West of the Cascades it's green and lush, eastern Oregon is high desert glory. With discovery and fantastic vistas around each corner, I am constantly inspired by this great location, my home.

Yesterday we drove up to Willamette Pass high in the snowy Cascade Mountain Range. Breathtaking scenery lined the highway as we drove along its bends and slopes. Hinting at its upcoming arrival, Spring has somehow begun the glowing of the woods. Thick, luminous green moss-coated rigid tree branches and trunks created a surreal enchanted forest. Tiny, plump, bud nubs silhoutted against the pale gray skies spoke of life and leaves to come. White capped, clear, cold waters bubbled over rocks and boulders as if singing joyfully that nature was about to burst forth with newness and growth.

Our mission was simple: snow tubing at Willamette Pass, on Presidents' Day. A friendly amount of folks had the same idea. The girls hooked onto the tow rope and up they rode!

Looking like sugared doughnuts, these tubes sat ready for action.

"Smile, Honey!" Snap! Relaxing to the rhythm of one last wintery hurrah before Spring.

With one final Winter Fix under our belts, we stand ready to embrace-----Spring!

Friday, February 16, 2007


Tom showed me an ad he ran across this week in a newspaper.

It said something like:

Do you find your mind wandering from tasks or conversations that are uninteresting or difficult?

In conversations do you start to answer questions before the questions have been fully asked?

Do you say things without thinking and later regret having said them?

Even when sitting quietly are you usually moving your hands or feet?

Do you have a quick temper, a short fuse?

You may have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder!

Then it went on to ask the ADHD reader to join a clinical trial where experimental medicines will be tested. I have every confidence that these good people have the best of intentions.

Tom has all those behaviors. He's had them all his life. Ben has them, too.

And do you know what, I've never thought they needed medication. I can't imagine them any other way. They are fascinating, enjoyable people to know. When I am seeing life from the ground, they let me know what it looks like from the sky. When I'm above the water, they give me the underwater view. It's absolutely terrific! I feel like an absolute bore sometimes when I'm allowed into their amazing energy. Neither one of them feels they are suffering in any way, they enjoy life. We enjoy them.

However, in the course of his life, Tom has withstood too much criticism and condescension because of his fidgetiness. He has been made to feel inferior because his behavior is misunderstood as wrong, or bad.

I wonder, is there some sort of pinch in society that programs us to channel everyone into the same pigeon-hole? And then, when they don't fit, to fuss around, squish, prod, and medicate them until they do? Devalue and dismiss them if they won't?

What makes us think that way? To label people, categorize them, and then, worst of all, to rank them?

It's true that some symptomatic folks have a rougher time of it than Tom and Ben, and maybe they would like to calm their brains down a bit for an easier time of it. My heart and support go out to them. They need to do what they need to do without being stigmatized.

But for those expressive, energetic ones who feel fine until society tells them that fine means Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional, as quoted in the "Italian Job," I say, "Hey, you ARE normal!"

After I read the article Tom showed me, we hopped into the car to go buy milk. I caught a glimpse of my face in the mirror on the visor flap as we motored down the street, and noticed my expression of sober thoughtfulness. "Tom, how come we don't see people with so-called ADHD as within a normal range with everyone else? Why don't we just adjust to the differences? Why homogenize people with medicine? It seems ridiculously small-minded to me, to expect everyone to behave the same, and when they don't, well, drug 'em!"

This issue is quite interesting to Tom, since his behavior fits the bill.

In an enthusiastic voice, left index finger stabbing the air above the steering wheel, he blurted, "Hey! Look! They're putting a new roof on that house!"


We simultaneously burst out laughing! He agreed with me. And now we have milk.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Church Lady

"I'm telling you that the church has really crippled women when it tells them that their beauty is vain and they are at their feminine best when they are 'serving others.' A woman is at her best when she is being a woman."

"My friend, Jan, says that a woman who is living out her true design will be 'valiant, vulnerable, and [daring].' That's a far cry from the 'church ladies' we hold up as models of Christian femininity, those busy and tired and rigid women who have reduced their hearts to a few mild desires and pretend everything is going just great."

~~~ ~~~ from "Wild at Heart", by John Eldredge
There she was, sloppy, slouching, sighing......and 'serving.' Half-heartedly. Same as last week, and the week before, and the month, year, and decade before that. The perfect epitome of the church lady. Not Dana Carvey's "Now isn't that special" Church Lady. No, this was the real deal. Looking into her corpse-like eyes chilled me to a shiver. "Look at her, Tom. Look. She's been that way for twenty years. Still walking behind her husband, going where he points, picking up his things, silently." Resigned, sincerely believing she's serving God, she has given up the best parts of her, willingly trading them for a fool's notion of a 'godly woman.'

This is the woman who is living out what the Christian subculture tells her is the noble woman, the one who works, who serves, who in 'submission' throws herself down and out with the bath water in order to promote her husband. Her young daughters look up to her as their example, practicing the killing of their desires thinking them sinful. "Women are to remain under the complete leadership of men." Yep. Don't misunderstand, here lead doesn't mean lead, it means dominate. For Eve isn't to be trusted. She ate the forbidden fruit first. Women must be tamed for they are baaaaaad.

The problem isn't the fact that the husband is the ultimate decision maker. When an irreconcilable difference of opinion presents itself, then the man is to make his best informed choice, which settles the matter. This is what leadership means. A wise woman kindly places her trust in her husband, for he is the one God holds responsible for the results of the marriage. This isn't the problem. It's a woman's joy to use her life and gifts to help her husband with his goal of a healthy, godly marriage. It's her goal, too. It's why she married him. They represent a team, two thriving human beings who will each stand alone before God, working in this life together to come to understand spiritual realities.

Men who have both oars in the water are in awe of their women. They don't fear them. They don't resent them. They love, respect, and know them. Constantly surprised by decades of unexpected feminine delights, these enlightened men live with tiny satisfied smiles playing around their mouths. "Smother this girl and you'll miss it," they wisely advise. "Keep your senses alert, boys, tip of the iceburg. There's more where that came from." "Forget about her age, man, look into her eyes. Life! Fire! Wisdom!" Men desire to be invited into a full on experience with a lusty intelligent woman. Their women eagerly invite them. Complete satisfaction.

Unless she's constrained by the foolishness of some hypnotized misguided schlump a woman will delightfully dance in natural step with the rhythms of life. It is in this capacity that she offers help to her man, help that flows as naturally as water from a spring. To share her many dimensions thrills her as much as it pleases her mate. Magical synergy.

The problem comes from that foolish misguided hypnotized schlump. When he has his way, he dutifully trusses his woman's passion, spirit, and self-expression then shoves her into that fusty, restricting box marked "Submissive Christian Woman." It doesn't take long before she's as passionless, insecure, narrow-minded, and misguided as he is, which seems to be the goal of the Christian subculture.

It's easy to spot that 'perfect Christian couple'. The Stepford wife has lost herself, stopped dreaming, and the man strangely resembles a spoiled sophomoric teen. Obeying what he's been taught, he orders. She serves. Serves, not helps. Serves, not delights. Serves, not inspires. Serves, not leaves him breathless, howling at the moon, exhausted from encountering a vital, mysterious force of nature who truly desires him: his wife. He's a conditioned tyrant. She's an efficient, depressed, swirly-eyed minion. A sticky straight-jacketed union which looks like something from hell, not heaven.

I remember when you were his dog.
I remember you under his thumb.
Yeah baby, when he would call
Every time, you had to come.

Hey, baby, you're a free girl now.
Hey, baby, you're a free girl now!

~~ "Free Girl Now", by Tom Petty

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Our Old House

For years Tom and I have toyed with the idea of remodeling our house. It's about 70 years old, a bungalow. Very cute. Lots of character. Home, sweet home!

It's small. 1100 square feet. In the 1940's a medium sized family would live in a home like ours. Medium sized, you know, two parents, two or three kids, and a dog. The doorways are arched, there are many large, lovely, leaky windows made of wood and glass, the layout is simple and sensible, the doorknobs are glass. The front door is solid and heavy and sticks when it rains so that you have to bump it a few times to get it open. The grated floor furnace ticks soothingly at night as it pumps heat into our rooms. The antique window screens are easy to unlatch and wash, and they keep the bugs out just fine.

We've updated, added some personal touches, made it more comfortable, a little more fuel efficient.

This little house has played a major role in creating a very close-knit family. It has character, humility, charm, and comfort. Its cozy size has forced us to master social skills such as sharing, consideration, and generosity. When you get mad there is nowhere to run. You slam a door and the whole house shakes. You holler and the neighbors know your business. It keeps you honest. You care about a distraught person when you can hear them crying in the next room. You go to them. You can't ignore the many moods whether happy, excited, frustrated, sad, or cranky. You learn to control yourself, and you learn to communicate. The living space, being common to all, creates a healthy knowing.

Tom and I agree, we could live anywhere and be a loving family, but it's easier here where the air is fresh, and the character is genuine.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Brooding? Me?

Yes, yes, I picked a new template.

The black was beginning to depress me - but I loved the way it framed my photos, making them vibrant. That's why I picked it in the first place, and held onto to it for so long. This new one is - eh - different. It's lighter, not so gloomy. We'll see if it grows on me.

Upon hearing that I was going to change my template, and observing while I sampled several, Cassie kept chuckling at my heaving sighs of, "Oh THAT won't work."

She said matter-of-factly, "Yeah, you're right, They're not right for your brooding posts."

Brooding posts?!? My posts are brooding? Huh? Me?

Okay, okay, okay yeah, I admit it, sometimes I dig so deeply into my inner sanctum that the light cannot follow. Not that I am deep. No, not suggesting that. My mother says, "You think too much." I guess that's it. My brain is constantly swirling with thoughts which I try to follow, because I really do want to get to know myself and the world around me in order to change, and become less......


In high school I used to wake up every morning with a grouch on that repelled family members just fine, thank you very much. (Tom is going to smirk here because I awakened that way for several of our early married years, too - okay - okay - okay - I STILL do it sometimes.................. OKAAAYY! My 'grouch' follows me around a LOT! Sheesh. Give me a break. I'm SHARING here.)

ANYWAY, I have to repeat that the reason I started this blog was strictly for me, a place where I could chronicle some of my conceptual struggles, encouraging discoveries, life experiences, and peeves, for evaluation and memory purposes. For those reasons I keep it up.

And guess what, oh skeptics who think blogs are useless, this little exercise in bloggishness has actually begun to change my behavior for the better! In repeated perusal of said blog, for I am its biggest fan, I find that the notions imparted are sticking, and coming upfront when I need them.

For example, we watched the Grammy Awards last night and found that Tom Petty's excellent album 'Highway Companion' did not garner a trophy. This morning the girls and I were brushing our straight lovely teeth, carefully spitting into the oval sinks, when I whined, "It's too bad Tommy didn't win. Stupid Grammy people. I wonder if he's upset." Before I could even get enough foamy spit brushed up to aim and fire I realized that I myself have been blogging on about holding our contentment in our own hands, rather than expecting it to come from others. Another shining light-bulb above the head moment - here is an opportunity to practice what I've learned.

My inner voices whispered excitedly, "You know what? Tommy knows he made an outstanding album. He doesn't need to win another award for personal validation." Then, I smiled, "Wow! My own words have come to my rescue, wisdom from within." I was kind of amazed, and sort of got some foamy dribble in Cassie's hair. (I don't think she knew because I used a warm Mommy hug to close in and sneakily wipe it off.) She sweetly smiled and said, "Good for you, Mama." The desire to complain about the Grammys vanished and serenity took it's place, not because I got the spit out of Cassie's hair, but because I was able to change a negative reaction about Tommy's non-Grammy into a thoughtful, wise response which is that we don't measure our value with externals.

This episode is evidence to me that change is occurring, and that thrills me, because there are miles and miles and miles between goodness and where I now stand.

I'll still brood. I'll still grouch. I'll still blog. And every now and again, wisdom will softly alight, infusing her gentle whispers into my grateful, thirsting heart.


He won two more Grammies last night.

It's not for awards that life is lived. He knows who he is. His accomplishments and capabilities are known to him with or without acclaim from the fickle folks who pick and choose who gets a nod and who doesn't.

Still, they were given, and I'm pointing it out, just because.

Bobby Dylan. Still creating. Still playing. Still vital.

For what it's worth, Bobby, we listen, we watch, we enjoy! It's all good.

Bob Dylan's words of acceptance after receiving his Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991: "Yeah, my daddy, he didn't leave me too much, you know, he was a very simple man, and he didn't leave me a lot, but what he told me was this, he said, "Son,"........He said so many things, you know..........He said, "You know, it's possible to become so defiled in this world that your own mother and father would abandon you, and if that happens God will always believe in your own ability to mend your own ways. Thank you."'

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Barnacles Begone!

"I tell my kids: 'You know yourself when you've done a good job and you know when you have let yourself down. We all know all these things inherently so look to yourself and don't blame other people or let them give you a sense of your value, that is a lie. It is false."'

~~ Sorry, I don't remember who said this, but it must be someone I respect, because I copied it into my little book of quotes a few years ago.

* * *
This is good advice for anyone, not just for kids. To understand that you alone are responsible for your actions and sense of value and that to live life accordingly frees you from the blaming on one hand, and the desperate need for approval and attention on the other. It's a middle way, without extremes, and without dependency on others for excuses or happiness.

I like it.

Wish someone had imparted this wisdom to me long ago. There would be less self-inflicted barnacles of warped perspective attached to my hull today, barnacles I spend precious time tediously scraping away.

But scrape, I do. "You know yourself when you've done a good job and you know when you have let yourself down." Yes. Yes, I do. And it is enough information for choices.

It's easy to get caught up in believing what others may think of us. Good or bad. We lose sight of ourselves when we believe flattery, undue criticism, or manipulation. Best to have a correct sense of ourselves, take personal responsibility, carry our integrity and happiness in our own hearts and minds. We become brighter, truer beacons for those in our path when we are true to ourselves.

"Set down your chains, until only faith remains,
Set down your chains
And lend your voices only to sounds of freedom.
No longer lend your strength to that
Which you wish to be free from.
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead a life uncommon."

~~ Jewel

Saturday, February 03, 2007


I read something a singer/songwriter wrote about staying true to herself by writing the songs that expressed her heart rather than just writing songs she knew would be hits.

A contemporary rumination for me, the idea of selling out, or not, along with all the ways selling out manifests itself.

Defining the word sellout would be something like abandoning your authentic self expression for a false behavior in exchange for a commodity from others, such as kudos, adulation, fame, money, whatever.

Bob Dylan was accused of selling out when he wore a leather jacket. He just liked it, that's all. Disenchanted fans labeled it his 'sellout jacket.' This is the man who repeatedly 'went electric' to the boos and jeers of audiences everywhere, staying true to his creative desires despite harsh criticism and the rude behavior of others.

He's not a sellout.

But a lot of us are.

It's easy to leave our original intention whatever form it may take (writing, music, speaking, etc.) crossing over into pleasing the masses to attain personal praise in its many forms. The loss of authentic self expression is a tragedy, most especially when it's replaced with something common.

What is it about praise from others that is so tantalizing? Why is it that we will alter ourselves, our intentions, behavior, lives for praise? Is it because we need validation? Is it because we deathly fear praise's opposite, rejection, which can be so demoralizing? I wonder.

We start out with a sort of gift or talent, we try our hand at it, we get a little feedback that maybe we are okay at this, and then we have a little success,. Before we know it, we find ourselves compromising. Changing our attitude - maybe puffing up - changing our behavior to please more people, for more praise, and why? Again, why? Why do we lay our validation in the hands of others, when in actuality, our validation comes from God, comes from within ourselves. Each of us is a complete entity, the one and only, truly known by our choices not by what others have to say about us.

I had an sobering experience a few years ago, and I'm so glad I did because it was a revelation. I was speaking before a large group of people. I was on a roll, had the crowd roaring with laughter, then nodding in thoughtfulness. It was all off the cuff, spontaneous, one of those right place, right time sort of occurrences. After wrapping it up, I exited the room with applause ringing loudly from all around the auditorium. Wow! Elation. Later, in the lobby, I was surrounded by a mass of strangers wanting my e-mail address, wanting to shake my hand and hug me, telling me how I'd helped/touched/inspired them, pushing to be near me, praising me. I heard people talking to one another about ME, and wasn't I funny and wasn't I great, and "Oh look! There she is!" It was surreal.

"They love me! They accept me. I could get used to this!" Sweet validation.

But when I got home I quickly assessed the situation. I could pursue this avenue, but it felt too heady. It wasn't an aspiration of mine, but the rush was fantastic. No, this was going to be a one time thing. I actually recognized the line between my own self and that false self that I could so easily become - for the attention. The 'fame' had been thrust upon me too quickly and I had a bad reaction to it! Thank God for the eyes to see what was going on, and fast.

It soon dawned on me that to sell myself out for the attention of others would be the rejection of my true self. Self-rejection! What emptiness! Better to remain anonymous and authentic than to sellout for something I can give myself anytime, anyplace.

And I'm not talking about a leather jacket.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Skiing, Kids, and Priests

Tom Crum is, among other things, a ski instructor in Aspen, Colorado. Here is an excerpt from his book, "Journey to Center."

"I was teaching a group of five-year-olds one day. 'Teaching' means jump-the-bumps with different animal sounds on the way down and belting out 'Little Bunny Foo-Foo' on the chair-lift riding back up. On one particular 'Big Bear' jump, a little pigtailed munchkin came flying off the lip making perfect redeep frog sounds. The next thing I knew, two skis complete with boots attached were racing toward me in perfect parallel, but there was no skier! Just a ghost downhiller whizzing past me and disappearing into the trees below. I looked back uphill and there was the little girl, on her back with her stockinged feet raised to the heavens, focusing happily on catching snowflakes with her tongue. Are we having fun or what?"

I LOVE that story! What a picture of pure freedom, living in the moment!

Crum again:

"When philosopher-priest Thomas Merton was a young man, he found himself eating scrambled eggs with his friends after another one of his many all-night parties of drinking, smoking, and idle talk. The gnawing desire to do something more to create value from the clutter and debris of his life suddenly broke through. An idea came to him with great clarity, and he stated, amidst the eggs, coffee, and smoke, 'You know, I think I ought to enter a monastery and become a priest.' Many of us have made similar statements under the influence of guilt or spirit. The incredible thing is that Thomas Merton put out his cigarette and did it."

"Change does not take time, it takes commitment."