A steely resole with a heaping side of porn

My friend sat at my dining room table eating one of my famous concoctions of salad while commenting she would never think to put all those things together. As she ate the blend of lettuces and radicchio riddled with non-nitrate salami, parmesan cheese, carrots, candied walnuts, dried cherries and sliced jalapeno olives, I pondered if  I had indeed come to be overly familiar with all things incongruent mixed in a caldron in what seemed like much of my life. There was definite irony in her statement and it made me laugh out loud. Possibly my salads reflected my life. 

After I said my final goodbye to the man that held the title of Love, I turned fully toward what was now going to be my life without him. I couldn't continue remaining stuck after all these years. I had been barely present going through the motions of life. Like wearing boots coated in cement, I pushed myself forward. That life without him now became someone named Chuck.

I had known Chuck's family most of my growing up years. We had our first few dates just weeks before I let loose of the man who still consumed my heart. Considerably lost I was in figuring out who I was, how to loosen my grip on the past while taking hold of what was in front of me. What a disastrous way to embark on the life that lay unopened before me - empty tank and dulled senses. Youth is partially dumb. I was that.

The loss was still there. This time I just drove it deeper inside, tried to bolt the door and turned up the music of life. I was 18 years old. Chuck was 24. He drug with him a past of trauma and addictions which were clearly seen by me. Other internal issues worked their way to the surface with time like most things do in a relationship.

Naively I believed the Jesus that had recently saved him was enough to counter what I saw. Warning signs surfaced definitely, but the contrast of what seemed like his desire to serve God glossed it over.  The view from my head and heart said, "He's a good guy, I can make this work."

There is not one molecule in me now, standing this side of age and experience, that would buy into that atherial shit. Not one. Addictions not dealt with properly just resurface in other addictions. I was lacking a full and accurate understanding of how grief and loss color our choices. and how youth makes it virtually impossible to see clear. It made mine cloudy and gray! 

Several times over the course of living have I embarked on therapy, both to remove the toxic in me and change my reactions to others toxins. Therapy helped me lighten the load, be validated, encouraged and let loose of junk. It was in one of those sessions the grandmotherly therapist asked who I was angry with the most.  ME, I said quickly and strongly. My anger at myself for my own role in the whole shit show of my life choices was always running in the backdrop. The tears I have gulped down have been at least half due to anger at me, myself and I's choices in responses to things. Far easier I am on others than myself.

One of our first dates was to a hole of despair strip club. He definitely wasn't shy about his obsession with pornography. I hated it then and abhor anything nearing that genre presently. I didn't get off on it, didn't want to participate in it, and wanted to wash that marginal cheap ass crap off me. Why I didn't speak up, I really don't know. Why didn't I run far away, I do not know either. My voice and heart hadn't fully revived themselves. I wasn't whole either so how could I demand that from him. It's what I deserved I told myself. I missed being picked for the A team so this was life on the B team I concluded. What a dumbass train of reasoning and a stepping stone to co-dependency. I boarded the train with a hint of fear that I shoved down in my hiding place. Boy was it getting crowded in there!

Is this really his thing?  I was disgusted by this consumption of the twisted. I can't have what I really want, so I guess this will do. I'll make it work. Presuming any of us can fix an addiction is preposterous. But, I presumed and moved forward with Chuck. Three months into dating he asked me to marry him. I so wanted to move ahead in life. Unsure of myself, hating college, wanting distance and a life that would take me away from the loss of my deepest love, I said yes. With a call to ministry and a large heaping side of pornography, we were married 8 months later.

I knew on my wedding day, as well as most days leading up to that day, I should not marry Chuck. I knew it like I knew I hated crowds and loud noises and knick knacks. I think my dad knew it too. It was etched across his face as we stood at the back of the church, my arm in his on the verge of walking the aisle. I felt it all, the pause in my dad, my broken heart, the voice that was telling me to run. I braced myself as it flooded through me with each step I slowly walked toward the front of the sanctuary.


The Camaraderie of Tchotchkes

I saw it again this morning while out on my daily leg tour of my neighborhood. It's been building all around the neighborhood since a week before Thanksgiving. Christmas yard paraphernalia are sprouting everywhere. 

This morning I took them in. Why I wondered, do people flock to do the work to decorate, in grand volumes sometimes, their out-of-doors space with lights, blow ups, bows, wood figures and the like. I marvelled at it again this year. My minimalistic style shudders just a bit.

It would appear, in this our current state of division, angst and intolerance, there would be no event/function/holiday that could possibly unite us as Christmas does. Despite our in-fighting, opinions, internal friction, "Christmas Vacation" still shows up in people's yards this time of year, even those whose leaves and mowers appear to be broken on continual basis. They come in all sorts of styles, in varying degrees of creativity, blinking, twinkling, sparkling things placed neatly and precisely, even many times haphazardly about.

The time and energy folks expend for these yard tchotchkes, or at the very least for peace with their wives, leaves me baffled. I do have some small appreciation for the glowing lights and doo dangles on my treks into the great outdoors during the cold, dark, early mornings of the holiday season. It's a warming, unifying, connecting-to-all=humanity feel. It sadly disappears by mid January each year. It would help me greatly if all could leave them up until the time change in the Spring!

Not everyone who decorates their yard for Christmas believes in the Savior of the season the decorations really signify. Yet, the pause and turn toward Christmas creates a larger season of goodwill, commonality, connectedness through glowing lights, trees sparkling through the window and yard blow ups. It tells me we can do it - share something together within our collective humanity. We can focus on the things we have in common instead of highlighting the differences. 

I say loudly, though I do not like outdoor junkie Christmas doo dads in yards stylistically anyway . . . tchotchke up to create goodwill that outlasts Christmas. May the world see, whether consciously or not, that it is The Christ in Christmas that causes the world to stop and celebrate what it may or may not understand is the reason for the lights and the tchotchkes.

Not my house:) Ever. 


November Came

If love had a smell, I think it would be fall. I smelled it in the air today. Blowing freely in the leaves. 

If love had a feel, it would no doubt be warm. Like a fireplace on a sometimes chilly day.

November came. The gray clouds slung low against the sky. Though you never came or ever left, it was yet again another fall. 

The fields before me tell the story. Broken earth, blackened soil. November comes every year. It comes every year. The contrast of November - one of thanksgiving with just a hint of sorrow. 

November came again. The gray clouds slung low against the sky. Though you never came or ever left. it was yet again another fall.

If love had a season, it would most certainly be fall.  A sometimes quiet goodbye. A silent slumber. 

November will say goodbye again only to return one day. I though simply cannot ever seem to bid it fully away.


Grounding Piles

I grew up on a farm. Behind the barn was a cow pasture. The pasture lay between the backside of the barn and the field that led to the woods. There were several routes one could take to the woods that lay behind the barn and through the field. Why I fancied the cow pasture route I'm not sure, but one day I climbed the fence to the cow pasture to traverse to the woods. I stood just over the fence facing the handful of cows milling aimlessly around the pasture. In front of me, like landmines in war, stood mountainous piles of cow shit haphazardly strewn between me and the other side of the pasture. 

Slowly I took off my shoes, and with a bit of fear of the cows and my Pippi Longstocking-ness strange tomboy ways, I took off running. I hit one of those cow shit piles full boar. It was still relatively fresh and warm as it gushed between my toes. Oddly, it felt strangely good. I ran through the next one and a handful more until I reached the other side of the pasture. 

In this our current society that is a form of grounding. Grounding is simply being barefoot and connecting to the earth.  It is said that it has energy and health benefits. This was long before that was a trendy thing. It was just a tomboy kid thing, a tomboy  experience that was oddly enough, kind of exhilarating. Tough and gross were not daunting for me. 

The cow pasture/cow shit landmine route became my path of choice. Usually, I saved it for my route FROM the woods back to the house so I could wash my feet immediately after. There was simply a wildness to running that fast from the cows through a maze of warm, soft cow piles that made me feel alive. The risk of bacteria was nowhere on my radar back then.

Shit isn't always totally 100% unpleasant. There can be found in it something palatable, maybe even a skill honed from it.


It was a dark and summer night . . .

 TMI. Too much information is what a dear soul of mine said in response to reading the words that cast a ray of light into the cracks of my life. I wondered if the response came from their vantage point of threads in my tapestry, or if there was just no way they could ever open up their own humanity in such a way. Though I greatly valued their binocular view and support, I knew my calling was different than theirs. 

Though I have morphed since childhood to a person mostly of order and neatness, I can with relative ease, be at home in well-lived and slightly askew too. Maybe that bi-polar mixture came and stayed as a direct result of living a duality of life for the vast majority of my existence in this human shell. It is the substrate of enduring grief - living methodically and even very disciplined outwardly but inwardly held precariously together with old bread twist-ies and frayed shoe strings. That was a most accurate word-picture to describe me.

Before you get the wrong impression of my survival and grit, or that I somehow maneuvered through the years of hardship when others waned or even careened off at a fraction of the stuff, it was nothing I did. There are only two things that saved me from ultimate self-annihilation and complete inward self destruction - God, and a personality I had no control in having.  I am gritty, tenacious, unrelenting. It's a great blessing in certain life-saving and accomplishing sorts of ways, but a damned curse in others.  It made me persevere, live with grand loss while continuing to not live the life I longed for and knew I was meant to live. It also made me unable to let loose of it as well.

I went off to college. It was yet again one of the many things I did going through the motions of living life. College was the next thing in a life of things I would do without him. The desire to experience that fundamental western world phase was lost on me. One of the only things that fueled or assaged me was nature - all things nature. Biking, wandering the woods, running, exploring the quiet outdoors alone was my zen. It was there, and still is, the place I can more readily find center, see and feel God without boundaries - both mine and the worlds.

He married another the summer before I was readying to leave for college. Late one hot summer night I went out for a run in the moonlight. It was somebody in my family's birthday celebration that evening. After the crowd cleared, with the summer night sounds playing their music, I headed down our country road soaking up the symphony and the moonlit road.  My mind paced its normal loop of thoughts as my legs quietly cut through the heat and darkness. In front of me, headed toward me I saw something. As my mind was frantically trying to figure out what was it was, a voice called out, "Nancy!"

It was a voice I knew without hesitation. With it came a flood of held in thoughts and love. His bike came to halt in front of me on that country road in the darkness of a summer night. Words came out like no time had passed between us. I wondered why he was biking in the darkness by my parents house - though I didn't ask, I knew. Leaving him that night on the same road he had left me on several years before was once again crushing.

It opened my never ending scab. A few weeks later, on another bike ride, we collided again. This time I could palpably feel his desire to grab and hug me and not let go. He was fighting it. I wondered what in his marriage was not so great that he tried to put himself near where he thought he might get to see me. Part of me felt bad for him. The shit decision he had made was now coming to light. Part of me felt angry. Angry of the time it had taken him to realize he had always loved me and to act on it. I didn't want to be his second choice, not then and not now, 

Summer faded to fall and I went off to college. One day someone yelled down the dorm hall, "Nancy, there's call for you!" There were no cell phones in 1984. A landline phone hung on the wall of the dorm hallway. As I walked to the phone I had no idea that HE was on the phone. 

I said "Hello". Then I heard a familiar voice that blew open my heart once again., "Nancy?" He asked if he could see me. My thoughts felt both buoyed and endless, "Of course!" I said. We settled on where and when to meet. In the days leading up to that meeting I thought about what I knew he probably wanted and whether I would give myself to the person I had loved for all these years.

SInce my brain works best with written words, I penned a novel to him. I planned to get to the designated place first and ask the cashier to give my letter to him. My soul didn't know if I saw him if I could let him go and walk away. He was early and I still held the letter in my hand. I wanted to touch him, to let it all loose. To unleash my deep love for him., I wanted to be with him.

. . . He told me his wife was pregnant with their first child and he realized he had made a mistake in marrying her. It was all the things I had known, wanted to hear and felt broken over. I handed him the letter. WIth all the resolve I had in me, I told him he could not leave his wife and unborn child. That again I would be second. That starting a life from hurt would not be good.

As we parted, I knew that would probably be the last time I saw his face. I told him that no matter where I went, or who I went with, it was him I would always love. I asked him to know that with each event that life would bring I was there in his heart. I told him I needed to try to be present in living life, but that my love for him would never leave. I had started dating a few weeks earlier, and maybe this could end up being something. I didn't have much of a choice other than try to make a life without him.

As we said goodbye, I once again stood and watched him slowly walk to his car. There was something about his walk, the slow gait, his shoulders down that I knew this time I had broke his heart. I had hoped that in breaking it he would be present for his wife and child. They deserved that. I watched for the second time in my life as he drove away from me. 

It was probably my deep love for him that didn't want him to experience the trauma of leaving his wife and child. It was gut wrenching to once again not be with him. I just could not be his it seemed. It is also why the movie "Yentl" is my favorite movie. And, why the mini-series "The Thornbirds" rips my insides out.

Love is a moniker and a thing. He was both to me.


Salty and Sweet

Who doesn't love a salt and a sweet together! It is incongruent that their pairing would bibe well on anyone's taste buds. I've often wondered the science behind that taste home run.  If you've ever eaten too many sweets, to return to a sort of body equilibrium, something saltly must be eaten. Might I suggest two of the most unlikely foods to combo - watermelon and bacon.  Very symbiotic. Very.

There are many things in life that somehow defy reason and do best in combination with something else. Better yet, they need the opposite to create their best self. Rainbows are like that. What has to occur to create a rainbow is the complete polar opposite of the beauty that is a rainbow. Those combos are life in general. Opposites co-exist, and many times, they are dependent upon the other.

That was me. Pain drives us deeper. My great loss of love, my grief, my inability to file it away pulled me deeper in to God. Without conscious thought I knew there was healing, a balm, a spring, a way to be sustained in the midst of heartbreak by speaking and acknowledging God's presence around and in me. My humanity, even at its worst, sought the God who made me. 

Maybe because there was this matzo ball of unreconciled loss that I couldn't make sense of, it was easier to not have to have God all figured out. I was ok that I didn't understand all His mystery. I only just knew that God was with me in it. That somehow my opposite from God life and God Himself could pair together. He was the watermelon to my bacon. I never sensed condemnation from the Almighty about my current choices or my inability to seemingly move out of the grief pit. I only sensed great love and closeness, much like when we care for one of our own sick children. Simply put, God was just in the swampie, shards of glass I was mired in.

As he drove away, down the road away from me, something quite simply died inside. I watched his car through the window of the garage as it slowly drove away from me. I stood transfixed, screaming silently, willing him to turn around until his car stopped being visible. I collapsed on the garage floor in sobbing, snotty heaves. I was broke.

I waited both for him to call and for me to stop waiting on something I knew would not happen. Waiting is agony. Period. Always. No matter what the wait is for. Waiting caused me to have a constant dialogue in motion; Did he feel a loss at all? Would he come to his senses? Did he love me? Why did he think doing what others wanted was his best choice? Had I interpreted our relationship wrong? He seemed to want me to talk him out of marrying her? Why didn't I? I felt most like me when I was with him, like he made the best parts of me bigger, did I do that for him? I cannot imagine ever feeling this again with anyone else. He will call, right? Something this big and cosmic just can't end. 

I'm pretty sure my parents sensed something was not ok with me. I went on dates, but never a lasting relationship. I didn't want one. My dad thought I needed help in the date arena and jokingly asked a table of single guys at our local pizza place if any of them would take me out. I was standing right there. If the floor had a trap door I would have opened it and disappeared. I didn't want those guys. What I wanted I couldn't have. I hung my head and laughed as my dad spoke so as not to give away my pain.

I'm sure my dad thought a good man might make things better. As a parent myself I understand where that came from in him. I felt loved deeply by his somewhat misguided gesture of care. One of those young men did call and ask me out. I declined whole heartedly and to the tenth power. I didn't want anything less than my loss I told myself. But the years of shielding myself with that loss were getting long.


Rain clouds go away, come again another day

Sometimes certain things can't be filed away neatly and concisely. Sometimes, they just cannot even be filed at all. Their bigness leaves no where to put them. It becomes an open, never-ending pending file. Navigating that at any age is a learned skill, but impossible when we're young. All I knew is I wanted my loss back. Desperately. There was just no where to put it.

I willed myself to function. To move about in life.  Despite my outward motion, inside I was deadly still. Stuck is not accurate for where I found myself. I was paralyzed and in the darkest mire of  massive depression. That is THE trademark of grief and loss.  I was lost in the loss which makes it nearly impossible to find your way out. 

Edna St. Vincent Millay describes it best with her words;

Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”

Holes are curious things. Why are there holes to begin with? They are curious too in their effect on us. We are not meant to live permanently with a hole. I know that very well. I tried filling my hole, drowning myself without care or even consciousness to the end result. My choices were leaving my life looking like a scene from the movie "Holes"  I was succeeding only at creating more divets around my original hole.

But then, grief is a hole with no bottom and slippery sides. I wondered if it would ever stop its relentless barrage. I wondered too how I would live if it didn't.

Wounds cause us to try to stop the trauma. And, I tried sopping up the gaping hole in my heart and soul with most anyone else. I didn't care one bit. Just wanted to deaden the pain,. To be validated by anyone. Sometimes it was with people that were close to him just to be as close to him as I could. I didn't care. Sex was a hollow diversion, but it never closed the gap I lived with. I didn't see much of that clearly or remotely emotionally intelligently at the time. Self preservation at its highest form can cross the line to very unhealthy. It's where I was.

It's odd to write about things that are not putting me in a great light. All of us, balls or not, have shit we just carry and don't speak of. I'm not unique at all. Human experience is extremely universal though very individual. Power is removed when we move it to the light. Empathy is grows when we speak our own raw and usually ugly self truth - when we expose our humanity at its base camp. It is always hard to peel back my cloak. I hold my cards tight and only a few know much of me. There is a mixture of fear of rejection, shame, and regret that gets buffeted against letting myself off the hook. I seek to encourage other souls with the fact that heartbreak is part of THE human experience. There is a work it does if we speak to it.

I had a lot of humanity. Lots. Humans can be oh so messy. 



A kaleidoscope is an optical instrument with two or more reflecting surfaces tilted to each other at an angle, so that one or more objects on one end of the mirrors are seen as a regular symmetrical pattern when viewed from the other end, due to repeated reflection.    [Wikipedia]

I had one as a child - who didn't. I was mesmerized by the colors, interactions and merges that bled from one view to another. It is said that a kaleidoscope produces actually 4 different color patterns based off the convergence of two mirrors. That's as far as my science-y lesson goes. 

Some patterns were most definitely more profoundly complex and vivid. Others seemed clear and simple. Both types were beautiful in different ways. My child brain knew enough to see that the next pattern actually needed the previous pattern to morph into itself. I just didn't quite know how much that paralleled real life . . . yet.

There is a lot of shit in life. Heaviness, pain, destruction, loss, conflicts, violence, apathy. It's all around us from annoying pestering to massive intrusive and devastating life-altering shit. There is also a lot of beauty in varying intensities interdependent on shit and independent of it. I have experienced both.

I see big inside my head and feel everything that beats around me - people and things. To be honest, it's taken me to my middle age to understand that not everyone is like that.  We all can only know what we know. We draw conclusions on our knows without consciously thinking through them many times. - like breathing happens automatically.

It's a good thing I didn't understand that fully as a kid or I might have felt stranger inside about myself than I did. Quite possibly maybe there's a psychological syndrome with a name for that. If so, I probably have it. Its unnamed diagnosis aside, it is just simply hardwired in me.

Seeing big is awesome. It's high def brain and emotion living. The wash of both of those things can be exhilarating and fuel a sort of relentlessness. It's a sponge way of life - absorbing all things around you, visually, emotionally, spiritually, atmospherically. 

Emotions are just that, emotions. They are not necessarily always truth and mostly transient to the next one. I remind myself of that a lot. It's another thing I wish we all could grasp in clearer windows when we are younger. Stupid youth is wasted on the young. It takes diminishing cells to be re-focused to understand what was always there just below the surface in our youth. Blessings of age. And, it's a great one! Enlightenment doesn't typically come without shit decisions and/or life experience. Age creates a collective pool of both.

When painting the exterior of my house recently, my neighbor commented, "All of us neighbors have never seen anyone like you. You are crazy and relentlessly driven." I laughed and assured her crazy comes in all different forms and we all have a bit of it in us. What she didn't really know is that because I absorb what is around me, I need to make beautiful anything that is presently in an un-beautiful state. My life has been a lot of houses and lots of people. I have always wanted to leave both more beautiful than I found them. Want is the key word.

I hate gray days. From my kaleidoscope they are not the most beautiful pattern. They drain my spirit and put a ceiling on everything. I hate being a sponge sometimes. I use music on those days to combat the gray I absorb. Music is liquid that can saturate. In fact its power is a sensory touch for most of us.

Some things are not always possible to make beautiful. That too took me more than 25 years to figure out. "Hope is a thing with feathers,"  the poet Emily Dickinson says. Two hands up and exuberantly waving, I believe that too. It is an inner mantra of mine - that good and beauty can be found/created/fostered in anything or anyone. Hope is the mechanism that keeps me in the game to seeing beauty come to life around me.

God writes through King Solomon, "there is a time and season for everything under heaven." I hold that belief as well. Its bigger umbrella is we are not necessarily always in direct control of everything. We like to think we are. That's actually a burdening belief to hold that all things are held in our control. We are containers, us humans are - finite thoughts, lives and see-it-think-it ways. God is outside of that. Thank God!

I have personally made some shit decisions in my years of living. Ones that had lasting effects. Some that changed the course of my life. They have though, been part of what has made up my life. Inside those shits were none-the-less some vivid colors of beauty. Isn't it strange how that happens. I'm quite confident that God is involved in the beautiful things whittled out of shit. Quite.

Shit decision number one was probably getting out of the car when the man I loved chose to marry another. I didn't articulate the bigness of what I felt for him, rather just opened the door and walked away. I didn't fight, pursue, argue he was making a mistake. With still to this day, the deepest seated tears streaming down my face, with no other response, I just exited the car. No one wants to expose their love further or beg to be loved to someone that obviously didn't have that same love or was probably too scared to do what he really deep down wanted to do. He made his own shit decision that day, I'm fairly confident anyway.

That shit decision led to pure internal agony for many years. What I didn't fully get back then was that it was grief I was drowning in. Grief is powerfully unrelenting until it isn't. It's agonizing to be left with love that big with no where to rest it. Ever. It directly led to my next big shit decision as well. They usually do until we get some understanding of how shit colors our thoughts and narrates our rationales, and then drives our decisions. Deadly combo. Deadly,

Damn it my kaleidoscope was in angry swirling patterns. The gray day came and stayed for a long, long time.


The Process of Sprouts

I swear, when I went to bed last night, the huge patch of dirt I had planted with grass seed five days ago was still barren. Completely barren! The seeds were defiantly still visibly laying lightly mixed in with dirt, completely void of new tender grass shoots. I had watered the shit out of it twice a day for five days, and nothing. There was not even a hint of a green hue. Nothing even remotely worth getting down with a magnifying glass to investigate. I was feeling desperate, on the brink of throwing in the towel. My belief that almost anything is possible was running the risk of laughing in my face.

Planting grass in August, when temps have been 90 degrees, is far from ideal. But in my mind, leaving it to just plain dirt until late September was an option I wanted even less. Weeds in barren dirt would then become another step I'd have to deal with before seeding it to grass. I opted for the gamble of nursing grass seed along in the brutal heat. 

I vacillated between two methods of watering; sprinkling from a sprinkler for long periods, and standing motionless by the stubborn seeds while lightly misting the earth back and forth with the sprayer end of my hose. I kept it up. Both entailed not only water, but my internal mantra to the grass to grow as I painstakingly urged it with water from my hose. 

Now I knew that well and/or city water just doesn't hold the all encompassing qualities that rain water does. I continued my mental rain dance as I manually watered knowing one good rain could sprout those blasted seeds faster than all my watering combined, Technically rain activates more uptake of nitrogen/nitrates to the roots of living things. And, it would save me time watering twice a day! I was quickly becoming weary of the being the safe keeper of those seeds!

As I walked outside this morning to do a little running, with more walking involved than running, I turned to glance at my big area of dirt planted with grass seed. There it was - a slight hue of brilliant green covered the dirt! It had sprouted overnight with one good rain. I wondered, "If I had sat in a chair all night with a light on it, could I have visibly seen the fragile shoots break the seeds?" Wispy and fragile, they shouted their fortitude to sprout and grow! I felt their roar.

All my watering had garnered really nothing visible. It had though, at least made me feel I was contributing to its growth, or somehow controlling whether it sprouted or scorched in the brutal August sun. Ultimately though, it was something not in my control that produced its grassy growth.  Rain was nothing I could create, orchestrate or even schedule to show up. It was part of the process of growth that I could trust to do what it was intended to do - sprout and flourish all living things. I knew that, but was taken by surprise that the process worked yet again.

I felt like that patch of dirt - ready for the process of change to work its process to produce good things. I merely needed to do my part and trust the process.


My Speed Limit Trip Around The Sun!

Another year around the sun for me has come and gone. I banked the close of my birthday yesterday at midnight.  My dad lovingly said I was now the speed limit - 55.  At 80, he declared he wished he were 55 again.  It was his admonishment to foster a grateful heart for where you are before it's gone, to quite possibly something worse!

How did I get to be 55!?  Where had all the time gone? Much like a day on vacation, what did I tangibly have to show for it besides some doo-dads? I definitely showed some outward markings, much like rings on the inside of a tree. Lines, furrows, blonde hair mixed with lots of white, a general look of being both my age AND being a woman my age were now pillars in my physical world. Though I wanted to escape what I saw, age plodded away daily and silently. It  seemed to collectively collide with greater force then I recalled a few years back. 

What could I show for 55 years of life in my mind, soul and spirit? Within those limitless wells were the only  rudders I could now affect control over. Age had brought a more realistic and spiritual view to the understanding and acceptance of the word control. I fought less against the control of things that were futile - things I would not ever be able to nor was I designed to wrap my hand around. I grew in the understanding that life is both big and hard, and yet simplistic all at the same time. I was not in control of anything except how I responded to what entered my life - either by my own or other's choices or merely by the normal continuum of life. The know became more deeply rooted in an elementary principle; only love matters - both towards others, to myself and, ultimately to God. That was it. Period.

Though master plans may exist, they mostly consist of today strung to tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. Misnomers of greatness leave out the daily-ness of life and all the choices that lie in just a day. I was more able to let myself off the hook for the unrealistic and limiting view of what success looked like in our culture. Instead, my frame had changed which made the picture seem exceedingly enough and even more beautiful.

 I sat at my parent's dining room table several nights ago in celebration of my 55th birthday surrounded by my dad and mom, both sisters and their mates, and my husband. As my dad prayed over the meal, as is custom in our family, he also prayed over me. What had not changed in all these years is that I cried. That too is a custom at nearly all family gatherings, I usually cry. As my dad concluded his prayer with an amen, before eyes were even fully open, I heard my mom say, "Don't cry Nan!"  It was too late. The tears starting flowing at the privilege of hearing my dad's voice and sitting with those I love so dearly.  

My hope is on this, my next new trip around the sun, I can be more reticent to the pulls of our cultural fascination with staying visually young. I am alive, which is a gift each day. And, for me and my tenuous health, a miracle daily! The master plan past today only requires love, which is the root of all. Everything else, whatever that may be, comes in behind that.  

Me and my Kizzy-granddaughter @ Silver Beach.



As I lazed on the beach with my daughter while watching my 5 year old granddaughter play in the sand and cover her every pore with sand, I soaked it in. It was a strikingly beautiful Lake Michigan day; 70 degrees, clear blue sky, no humidity and a breeze. My zen everything was before and around me.

I took it all in, like having been underground too long had made it seem new and magical all over again. It was such a happy place for my soul with so many memories. The sights, sounds and smells overloaded me, but in a way that captured what was not really able to be articulated in words. Having moved away for a couple years, this was my first beach trip to the familiar shores of Lake Michigan. My very core had missed this place and its people whom I love deeply.

My thoughts were interrupted by my granddaughter, "Is this is the biggest lake in the world?" She has the most curious mind ever and I love that about her! Google responded back with the answer - it's the 5th largest fresh water lake in the world. But all of the four Great Lakes in the Midwest rank in the top 11 of the largest lakes in the world. That's probably lost on people from both coasts.  Definitely the Eastern Shore inhabitants, where I had just returned home from living, had no concept of the size of these lakes.

I read a quote recently that resonated - a poem called Redefining Success by Morgan Harper Nichols. . .

We often measure the success of our lives by what we accomplish,

but what if success was defined by what we had simply been present to?

For me, I have been present to a midday showing of big clouds

floating slowly across a blue sky.

I have been present to infinite raindrops falling from that same sky to the ground.

I have been present to the soil possessing the miraculous ability 

to produce plants that provide nourishment to the body.

I have been up close to an innumerable amount of Divine living things.

I have been fully alive and present while birds were singing.

And that bird I heard that day? 

Another bird swung by sometime after and landed on that same branch.

And then another one came along.

And then, another one.

A beautiful succession.

A continuum for all of time.

Life goes on and on and on in a billion different directions.

And somehow, I have been allowed to be a witness.

I have been right here in this life, all along.

I have been present.

Here's to finding peace in the act of redefining success.

Here's to finding true fulfilling joy in simply being present

to what is good and beautiful in this life.

Present is such a filling space.  If you can arrive and stay until it's gone, there is room for nothing else that really matters.  


Lessons From A Goose

I watched the full grown goose in my yard. He had come ashore before. How you might wonder, did I know it was that exact same goose? He stood out in the handful of geese who pecked at the ground for food near the water's edge balancing awkwardly with his entire right webbed foot bent completely backward. His walk was not a walk, but rather a flagrant severe limp. It looked painful, at least from my vantage point. 

I wondered what had happened to his right foot to cause such an extreme deformity - injury or just born that way? Did he feel constant pain? Did he struggle to live his goose life with something that slowed him down? Somehow though, he continued to be a goose, doing goosey things with the goose posy he hung with.

Recently a friend of ours suggested a Netflix documentary to watch called, "My Octopus Teacher". I highly recommend this documentary [Nancy's 5 star review!]. It's about a filmmaker who documents a year spent following and forging a relationship of sorts with an octopus in the waters of a South African kelp forest.  During that year he documents its life cycle, recovery from a devastating horrific injury, reproductive life and well, the circle of life eventually. It was fascinating and opens the viewers to the delicate balance of the ocean world and their connection to us as humans. Riveting.

I was watching a sort of "My Goose Teacher" right in front of me. I thought about that goose continuing to live, though greatly altered and struggling to do the things he used to do with ease. My empathetic heart came from seeing my own life mirrored in the animal world right in front of me. I too felt a bit slower than my peers, the world around me and generally all of life most days. Ebbing was the word.

Transfixed, I watched that goose. He stood still more than the other geese. I assumed that was due to how hard he had to work to walk any distance. He held his right backward facing webbed foot just barely off the ground. The left leg and foot bore the majority of his weight as he stood pecking at the ground or cleaning his feathers.  I wanted to pet it, to go toward it to see if it would let me near.  I felt at a loss to know how to ease its struggle or pain - it was hard to watch.

He kept living though. His injury not severe enough to take his immediate life, just change his existence on a daily basis. I vacillated between feeling sorrow for his plight in life and awe at his obvious resilience. Why did I not seem to possess even a fraction of that gooses' spirit. I couldn't seem to find a lot of acceptance some days for my recent more limiting life. 

I might not never be back to the faster Nancy I once was. I summoned my inner goose and would just kept moving, even if it was slower. I was alive and that is a very good thing.


Where more and less lies

I needed to know stuff.  Lots of stuff.

That desire had been there since my earliest memories as a kid.  Really it was far more than a need, it was a force that pushed, at times even tormented me.  I needed to know if all the anythings one could think of could be done, how to do them and the why behind them all. I needed to know why I thought the way I did and if others thought that way too.  I wanted to know if there was a better way of being, thinking or living.  My entire life quest to know had exploded into finding how to better connect my head and heart, how to find my core, how to create minimalism in my belief system and have more by having less.  Why did I want deeper inside so fiercely?  I felt as though there was more and better within me and outside of me.

Often I think I should have been in the CIA or a forensic scientist. I love to find the hidden things and invisible in the visible, garner information by observation or questions without anyone knowing they are giving up the obscure. It's the story that is camouflaged in us all I want to find - giving a voice to silent, unspeakable things. Discovery and acknowledgement of those things in all of us disarms them, takes away the isolation, shame, guilt, or pride that can keep us from being totally immersed in being loved by God, others and fully loving ourselves. 

Beliefs drive thoughts and thoughts drive emotions.  The world of psychology, the camp of religion and faith and the growing emerging large movement of mystic gurus concur on that statement. All camps teachings focus on that core though they use different terminology and methods.That's where I was headed, to unravel that statement.

She said it over and over again, "Type A people seem to show more signs of the effects of stress in their bodies than other personalty types."  It barreled through the phone directly to my brain. I fell quite clearly into that category.  My mind could still see Mrs. Holloway, my kindergarten teacher, and her beautiful handwriting on my report card - She is bossy.  My dear Aunt used to tell me I was assertive not bossy.  I didn't see bossy, but fast thoughtedness - if that was a real word. I’ve come to know others interpret my Enneagram 8 way different than I exert it!

Either way, I didn't want to approach my quest to unpack beliefs drive thoughts and thoughts drive emotions with my Type A personality.  Pretty sure I was that's how I ended up here to begin with. I didn't want to categorize it, concise it up, totally define it.  I wanted to unveil the spiritual connect to the hard wire in our brains and hearts.  What was I missing, lacking, craving to both know and experience.

The podcasts on my devices clearly showed the force that was moving in me.  The books that filled the basket by my favorite chair held an audience of thoughts from Neuroscience from a Christian perspective to some pretty mystic authors.  How was this mind and heart that was created by God to be used, or maybe emptied?

Years ago someone said to me, after being in my home, "You are a minimalist.  Clear, clean open spaces."  That rattled around in my head as I evaluated why that style especially resonated with me.  I really wanted my insides to reflect that as well.  Control and drive had served me for many years, a necessity in a former life I lived.  But I needed to let loose of it, of tasks, of pushing and pulling, doing and defining - to connect my head and heart. Even as I wrote, the idea of re-mantling myself seemed big and elusive. 

I listened to podcasts and read books by experts in their fields on neuroscience, retraining your brain, how to connect your head and heart, getting to a higher spiritual level of being, being fully present, centering yourself, a few highly strange ones included. There was a theme inside of all their jargon, their dialects of mantra delivery.  Call it a light within, a bigger presence than yourself, universe love, whatever they wanted to call it, was really God Himself. They had used the basic tenets of Christianity and the Bible without using it directly. I found both humor and comfort in that.  

The Apostle Paul in the Bible confronted the mystics of his day when they went to Ephesus and explained to them all the unnamed gods they worshiped really only had one name, GOD.  In seeking all those gods, they were trying to reach a greater purpose outside of themselves.  That is the universal quest we all embark on.  The things they were worshiping, wanting greater purpose outside of themselves, were really all able to be met in God. 

I was fascinated by Neuroscience. Neuroscience is the study of how the nervous system develops, its structure, what it does, the brain and its impact on behavior and cognitive functions. It is a burgeoning field in our current culture. How did our brains really work and how did they really work in design by God?  More importantly, how can they be opened up to see, experience and feel God more? How does that connect to me being more free to connect to my Creator, God's love, power and miracles? I wanted to know, learn, unlearn, and disorder things to be more of the spiritual being I was created to be.  I wanted to see and unleash the true connection of the design of my brain and heart to access more of God.  If God created this heart and brain - making us both a physical/present being and a spiritual being, what majesty of spirit and power was I not utilizing?

The chewy center of the Tootsie pop was what I was after.  Not crunching my way to it, but rather slowly licking away the layers of the hard shell. I didn't want to orchestrate it or control it, or even just gain knowledge.  I was choosing to experience it differently this time.  I didn't need to name it; the great awakening, the highest chakra level, a vibrational tenor level achieved. That's what I didn't want, a definitive that could be held in my hand.

Less is always more I feel.  Less furnishings highlight space and design.  Less makeup lets you see natural real beauty.  Less food in a restaurant usually means it's a bit higher quality.  Less belongings give us a simpler life.  Less stress leaves us more relaxed and refreshed.  Somewhere in all of this I wanted to believe that even in this world of psycho mumbo jumbo, less is where the treasure might be.

I reflected on the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.  Over and over again He taught peace, contentment, stillness, faith, hope, grace.  They each seemed very big and, very small at the same time. I reckoned them to be a funnel of sorts - a passage to something that can't be held in just the word.

I was uncovering that my broken human vessel was holding a greater treasure than I could fathom.



Undone. That word evokes many different thoughts.  Noun, verb, adjective.

My mother was usually a tad undone when I was a kid. With three daughters 18 months apart, a full-time job, a huge garden, canning and freezing all summer at all hours of the night, and responsibilities at church, she ran full boar virtually all the time! Usually that meant she was driving while taking curlers out of her hair, slathering cream on her legs and possibly curling her eyelashes. Being a bit undone was the direct result of that amount of voluminous perpetual motion! She is still THE best mom ever - able to do more stuff and activities than any other human I know. She commonly says to me regarding her undone-ishness, “I washed my hair but that's all the further I got with it!" Usually she looks tinged with just a bit of undone ness. I can relate! it’s a hell of a lot of work to NOT be undone looking! Some days I join her:)

Then there is the word undone in relation to buttons and zippers. It means it was not completed. I have been "undone" in that way by accident many times. I've also witnessed it in others. Those undone moments always cause me to giggle a bit. Who among us hasn't realized their pants were unzipped the better part of a day while at work, school, church, or at some function in public. There's no easy or discreet way to correct the undone under the watching eyes of others. Likewise, to tell the undone person of their clothing error is always a conundrum. 

Something can be undone - it can be unraveled to the point of it not being held together. A knot, a sewing stitch, a fixable mistake of some kind - a reverse so to speak. 

Undone is where a good remodel project must begin - an undoing of the old to make room for the new. That context of the word is my favorite as it hints to healing, restoration, letting go, creating a new path. There is hope in that state of undone. It's lined with whispers of change, making room to create.

We are all in a suspended state of undone as humans. We are not born full of the knowing that comes as a result of journeying life in a constant state of change. In all reality we are not completed until we stand in the presence of God our Creator - the finish cycle. Our undone is done at that moment.

I don't always particularly like things in an undone state. I've driven hard and intensely over the years to crush anything undone. You might not like undone either depending on your personality. Some of us are quite comfortable with undone visibly all around us, it's our happy place. Others, might struggle to quell the insatiable drive to always obliterate undone all around us. 

The thought has parked in me as of late - I will die with things undone. Quite possibly the dishwasher full and not unloaded, a bill needing to be paid, a messy closet, a blog half-written, a life goal not fully materialized, crumbs on the seat of my car, my leaves unraked will remain undone. It's ok I've told myself recently, being undone is part of our humanity. I'm actually finding joy in it, a space to cultivate creativeness, and an avenue to continue to let go of control.

When my moment of death comes, I ask my two sisters to take my menagerie of half-used lipstick tubes, slather on their favorite color in honor of me and salute that my undone is now done. 


So You Think I Look Like Toni Collete, part 1

Remember the TV show, "Kids Say The Darndest Things", hosted by now fallen from disgrace Bill Cosby in the late 1990's? Which, by the way, was a re-worked modern version from a short from Art Linkletter's radio and television shows from the mid 1940's through the late 1960's. The premise was a question about life posed to a kid and the child's spontaneous response - blatant honest hilarity with no filters! Comedic ironic tragedy spewed from their limited knowledge, myopic scope of experience, and unabashed without-thought-for-etiquette speech.

Some kids grow into an adult version of that, just bigger bodies but with the same filterless-ness. Much of the time I really love those people. A predestined other group of kids transmorph to adulthood being the type of soul that unwittingly and continuously grants those boundary-less-filter-free folk a full backstage pass to approach. Welcome mat out or not, there is an aura that must say "will leave the light on" interpreted by the filter free folks as, "PLEASE DOCK AND UNLOAD".  

I am in the latter group. The first group seems to be sonically tethered to me like a torpedo to its target! I cannot seem to swim free of them most of the time, even though I try to hide my Rudolph nose!

None of us have control over the creation of the core tenants to our personality. At best we only hold the capacity for slight modifications and improvements and occasionally, degradations of its bestness. As well, we are not fully aware of the ethereal way it exudes itself in the cosmos around us. Call it your silent vibe.

Once, after singing for a funeral, someone in the mourning crowd rushed up to me afterward to speak not of grief, nope. They, a perfect stranger to me with only a shared connection to the deceased, just had to tell me they were so distracted when I sang by how much I looked like Shelley Long, the actress from "Cheers". I saw no resemblance when I looked in the mirror. I also wondered how much grief they had if thoughts of Shelley Long flooded their mind DURING a funeral.

Someone else once emphatically told me I looked so much like Kim Novak it was startling. Realizing we do not see ourselves through the same lens as others do, I wondered inwardly if they were blind to my chestly deficits that KEPT me from EVER looking like Kim Novak. I did though desperately hope they meant the young wildly attractive Kim Novak, not the post plastic surgery gone wrong Kim Novak. 

Yet another time, while checking out groceries in Rockford, Illinois with my husband, I felt the bore-a-hole, don't-look-away, continuous watching eyes of a man. It was beyond the blatant way that some men look at a woman thinking they are being discreet. Most men need to take a class on glancing at women without them knowing you are looking! My husband even noticed it. As the man exited his check-out lane he made a straight line to me . . . "Ma'am! You could be the double for Susan Anton!" Now, I am far from a Miss California beauty contest winner [I was never Maple Syrup Queen, Homecoming Queen or even 4-H Queen Court growing up!], or a C-rated actress (think Love Boat episode kind of stuff) who dated Dudley Moore. She is or at least was, gorgeous and 5' 11"! I stand soaking wet 5' 5".  Proportionally, I just don't got the gams! 

Somewhere else at some other strange and inappropriate time, after being watched uncomfortably for a too long extended period of time, a strange man walked up to me in a store. This time I was Toni Collete. My response to him was, "People always say I look like someone." Now, to be honest I had no clue who she was or why he thought I looked like her. When I did look her up I realized she had been in a several movies I loved [The Way, Way Back - Little Miss Sunshine - Knives Out].  She has a bit of an endlessly morphing look - either contemplative simple natural beauty or nearly none at all.  I wondered which version of her he thought I looked like.

My son-in-law used to say I looked like Toni Collete as well. I hope he thinks I resemble the contemplative simple natural beauty Toni Collete and not the other version. I think that mostly because he married my daughter who resembles me and he thinks my daughter is just beautiful. Age though gets us all:(

People say the darndest things to me. Especially those filter-less folk.

Who Said What Normal Is!

My granddaughter asked over FaceTime if I would read her a book, specifically the book, Odd Velvet.  The hardback, slick-covered, former old library book I had long ago picked up at a garage sale is likewise a favorite of mine too!

The main character's name is Velvet. The illustrations, colorful and whimsical, are over exaggerated in proportionality to match the bigness of Velvet's character. Velvet, a new student at school, seems odd to all. 

Odd is a by-product of believing there is a set code to normal. She didn't operate in the same way as others - clothes, food, what she spoke about, how she and her family lived. 

The story follows a fairly predictable, though nuanced new way, of re-telling a principle of importance. NORMAL IS MADE UP! Velvet pays no mind to even noticing that others think she is odd. She is obliviously, confidently content in her skin and thrives in her Velvet world.

I think we all have odd, crazy, peculiar blips in us. I most definitely do and always have!! That alone makes us all odd normal. The key is to be a Velvet - deeply real and undeniably authentic in who we are, what we want, and how we seek to live ourselves out loud. Internal discord in me comes when I violate those three things over and over and then build on the suppression of those things with decisions in creating a life. From my real life experience, it always leads to not fully realizing my whole pukka self and living with underlying regrets.

It is the one big regret I have - to not have been able to be truly authentic from an emerging age, that I didn't fight more for who I knew I was and what I wanted. I do not though, look at my life and discount even my not fully authenticate spaces on my timeline. I love the me I am!   . . . forged now in part from the inauthentic path and choices I made for some years.  

Eventually everyone comes to see Odd Velvet as yes, still odd, but that odd is good and normal should be cast to a pit of no return. Who says what normal is, what typical, average or predictable needs to be?? Conforming to arbitrary normal is not where we greatly flourish.


Existential Funk, is that a good book title?

I've been ponderously loitering about a book title. A title with some humorous ah-ha irony, a hook teaser, a well written tag purposely intended to sidebar a peruser into stopping to meander inside the cover. 

I can spend hours and hours in a bookstore. There are so many books published that I cannot even begin to sort through them. A good title and artwork on the cover will draw me in immediately. Many a good book probably has been overlooked by me for lack of both.

There are copious notes everywhere  -  in my phone, whirling in my brain, stuffed in a file folder - all with phrases for book titles. I've yet to hit THE one that might embody the mass of shit that has taken up residence on paper and that likewise, rattles in my soul and brain.

Very similar is this willy-nilly intuitive way of seeking a book title to the way I decorate, remodel, read/connect to people, and cook. I feel my way to the know. It might be different than your ways. It is my BEST way to do my BEST of most anything. Since it's not a scientific planned methodical practice, getting to the destination takes some simmer time. 

Some people might write the entire book and then grapple with a title. I have volumes and volumes written in finished form, extraneous thoughts written in blurbs, etc, but my rapid always firing mind needs to bracket my thoughts with a title. It's quite possibly ass backwards technically. This leaves me no doubt why math came hard for me - no interpretation or intuition necessary. I'm not internally corded in that fashion. Just ask Mr. Walters, my high school algebra teacher. 

I recently found a note in my phone that is long enough to be 3 chapters in a book. It would appear I was enlightened out on my runs and walks.  It most definitely needs a title, a rein to order it all.

My title buffet runs the gamment depending on the day and thoughts I find myself stuck in. I have had some very deep and rough periods in my life. But, I have also had some hysterical encounters, situations and observations of things. And I believe there is irony and humor even in tragedy. It's what has kept me sustained! My titles showcase both.

In no particular order, book titles I have accumulated . . . 

My Book of Random Overthinking 

Oprah Laughs Like My Aunt Lois

The Diary of An Overthinker

Playing On The Big Screen, But Without An Audience

The Millimeter Between Chaos and Order

The Undoing

Where's My Renaissance - I'm Not Wearing Chemise Either!

God Lives In A Field

[My] Existential Funk 

The Magnificent Me Monster

The Unraveling

Perfect Never Comes, So Don't Wait

My Last Revival

A Bull Fight With Joy

I Don't Want To Take A Deli Number

The Day I Stopped Contemplating

That Is Quite A Statement

Lower Your Standard

Grief Demands An Answer

Of Jugs and Trunks, an apology on aging

Broken Twigs

You Need An Invite To My Island

The Rantings Of A Menapausal Woman

Everything You Need To Know About Aging But Can't Hear If You're Under 45

When There's No Room For Laughter

Exhaling Under A Blanket

The Chronicles Of Crazy

Letting My Crazy Out

Who Needs The Cinema - an anthology of real life characters

I'm Gonna Die With The Dishwasher Full

My Dingy Has A Hole In It

Who Decides What Normal Is...the same people who say we can't wear white after Labor Day!

How To Make A Shit Sandwich

We Are All Othello

LeaderSHIT [this one my eldest sister and I have been wanting to write for 25+ years]

So You Think I Look Like Toni Collette

Don't Get Out Of The Car

I Hate Socks

I keep thinking, what title would I pick up to read?


The Characters In My Play

Bordering my property on one side is the second home to a construction company owner. Jim and Hazel are not there often, though caretakers come and go sometimes. It makes for serene quietness on that side. On my other property border is well . . . Dale. My sister christened him with the moniker Dale-Bob in a tandem hyphenated name combination of a previous neighbor of mine named Bob. Dale definitely shares some similar characteristics of Bob. Thus the name was created. Dale-Bob is always here. And, by here I mean coming over or making noise from over there. He drives reckless out of this private 10 mph street with a loud shit truck that wakes up people like a stack of dominoes falling as he roars past. He seems to do what he can to keep them all annoyed.

On the other side of Dale is Tom, a retired pharmacist and his retired nurse wife, Stevie (Stephanie). Tom hates Dale-Bob. Which, sounds like a sentence out of a  Dick and Jane book. My first introduction to Tom was spent listening to Tom regale me with stories of Dale-Bob. His disdain for our shared neighbor practically frothed out of his mouth. Pharmacist or not, a great first impression it was not.

Last week, when Dale-Bob shoved the county's cease and desist letter he had received into my hands for a read, I wondered which of these neighbors had turned him in. It feels a bit like Dallas or Falcon Crest in my neck of the woods [you younger folks may have to google those shows] - minus the sexy behaviors. Scandalous romping mischief might be present too, but I haven't been eye-witness to or been filled with those stories - at least for now anyway! Neighborhood drama is not my thing. There are characters and players, opinions and stories about a handful who live back in this edge-of-the-water place. It's pretty entertaining at times - a fictional novel hiding here I think.

I live in a very odd geographic location. Odder still is the cocktail of socio economic, education, and lifestyles right in my hood. Living on the water draws both the couture and the uncultured. There is nothing fair about both affluence and poverty. Both though share a space in humanity.

On the corner of this dead-end private road lives another Tom, a retired butcher turned waterman who commercially crabs and oysters. He displays all the crap necessary, and possibly unnecessary, related to baiting, crabbing and oystering strewn across his property. It is culminated in crab season by nightly bating of line sessions under a canopy in his muchly missing of gravel driveway of mud. Tom, who is also missing a few front teeth and cannot hear shit, talks  smack about Dale-Bob. His introduction to me was something like, "So, you bought next to Dale? Didn't check the neighborhood out well, huh!"

Carole, a retired elementary school teacher, lives alone across the street from me. She, and her husband-now deceased, owned a metal fabricating company, built there 30 years ago. She is about 5 feet tall, sweeter than honey, and still dyes her hair an unnatural shade of brown for a 73 year old. If need be, I could dead lift her with one hand behind my back. She brings me flowers, invites me for coffee [I don't go inside her house due to COVID, but she keeps asking.] and generally always tells me how great our property looks now that she can see it through the brush and crap we removed. She never rakes her leaves, has a driveway mostly consisting of rotting leaves and mud. She though never speaks ill of Dale-Bob.  Every so often, without being asked, Dale-Bob pays for a small load of gravel to fill the growing mud hole at the end of her driveway.  

Around the other bend is a retired professor from Georgetown. His name sounds like someone who has lived a department chaired and tenured life - Bernard. His property is granola nutty, artsy, interpretative, and whimsical. He also has a small cottage on his property that he will let anyone who wants to have a place to "write" come and get their creative on. It's his second home as well.

Toward the opposite end of the street is another professor, this one from George Washington University. He and his dog walk each other like a time piece keeps time twice a day no matter the weather. Doug's intellect is high in a category that my own intellect needs direct tutoring to even understand. It's something to do with experiments, water life, buoys, and travelling the globe for such efforts - I think anyway. I am a genius on things that can't always be fully quantified. He, on the other hand, is Mensa smart. Whatever his smarts does probably improves things related to energy and water. Mine, well . . . a mystery to even myself most days.

Back to Dale-Bob, the tree man and neighbor to my left. As Dale-Bob finished cleaning up from grinding out some old tree stumps of mine, he told me his own version of stories I've heard about him from the neighbors, he laughed at his version like a life of the party sort of a person does.  He began . . .  His 30 arrests, including some time in jail, started after he turned 30 and have spanned the past 24 years. He turned 54 last week and said he's kept his anger in control for the past 2 1/2 years. When I asked  if drugs or alcohol played a role in those arrests he said, "No ma'am. I see red and act on it." He calls me sweetheart in nearly every conversation though we were born the same year, can't hear well, owns a bit bull mix named Flash who constantly sneaks up behind me and generally unkeeps his property in a very very unwellish style.

I thought about all the characters in my living play in this strange place I find myself. It's not been my favorite place or period of time for a myriad of reasons. I thought about the fact that wherever I am that's where I am - with these people for some reason. I have always found people interesting, and as my mom said this week, "You always seem to find yourself with the most interesting people having the most interesting conversations."

"Dale," I said countering to his life story synopsis he had just finished, "You know God wants to be a part of your life, even when you see red. He wants to be in it all with you daily."  I looked at him, took it all in - his middle aged belly, his loud smoker's voice, the stuff the neighbors had said about him, the wearable life of manual labor, and a slew of bad choices under his belt. It made him human.

I was drawn to humanness, to imperfection. It always showed me there is room for change, a re-do, a refurbishment of sorts that was available though presently hidden. Human is the skin God made us to live in. I assured Dale there was nothing that God couldn't use, make whole or redeem in our humanity. I said it to myself as well.


The Hyperbole of Cultural Rhetoric


I am sick to death of social media ads (social media too!), companies and influencers touting a cream, procedure, product, new eating plan - an app that will get me to my goal, a recipe collection, a subscription service, a life altering health breakthrough, a supplement, all deduced to a marketing blip intended to pull my emotions, vanity, and ultimately, my money. So very weary am I of algorithms that study what I click to "deliver" ads to me. 

We are plugged in very precariously [like the outlet the leg lamp is plugged into in the movie "A Christmas Story"] to way too many outlets - social media platforms, news outlets, streaming services, gaming sites. We are following so many things -news, movements, people, sites, posts, podcasts. And, we are apped to the max.

So intrusive. That intrusiveness has become the price we pay for the constant availability of all things. I am rethinking the benefits vs the detriments of that level of online-ness in my own life. I do so like and value my privacy and anonymity. 

Humanity [me included] can easily warp good things. Without conscious effort, we just keep eating the barrage of information, ads, marketing, constant claims of new/better/best/can't do life without, opinions, negative social media comments. It leaves me eventually feeling overly full, like a Thanksgiving meal! Moderation of most things leaves space to think rationally and slower, to respond appropriately, to be kinder, and to be still enough to be comfortable with the quietness of just self without all the ricocheting noise. That constant, never-ending sub woofer beat could be why we cannot differentiate truth any more, why kindness is absent, why being right is more important than love, why others come behind ourselves, and why our collection of stuff, like at the dump of Whoville, keeps growing.

Human nature wants a solution, an answer. I too want solutions to unlock things in my own life, correct my flaws and look younger, turn back the clock on aging, be more organized, solve my chronic health issues .  .  .  Those are not, in and of themselves, bad quests. 

Ads play upon human desire, our almost unhealthy belief that everything can be fixed, that there is an answer, a way to alleviate the problem - that somehow this is it. I want a destination not the journey. I want a short cut. I want a way to be rescued. I want it now! I want to declare my political beliefs are better than yours. It's the I- me-mine monster fanned into flame.

Marketing, and news for that matter as well, utilizes the paths that the human brain deciphers information to conjugate its nearly flawless approach to hooking us without us thinking we are being hooked. Capitalist revenue is generated by the sale of things (apps, books, food, supplements, exercise plans, news, diets, cars, clothes...) based on marketing smoke and mirrors and a great deal of human psychology and neuroscience. It's a feeding frenzy that never ceases. Never. We should feel tricked because in all reality, we are!.

The cure to my lifetime of chronic illnesses has not been found by all the books I've read, products I've purchased, plans I've tried, doctors and shamans I have seen. I want to believe that THE magic thing is out there and I just haven't discovered it, yet. I want to believe that with the right party in power the solution to many things can be had. We are wired for it. Hope sustains us in its healthiest form.

Marketing is targeted to play on desperation, the quest to get more, be better or create status. It wants to make us believe that thing holds the answer we have not found in other things until this particular thing. Concisely, most marketing is presented through emotion/feeling with truth/fact telling coming in second place with a spin. Without slowing down when skating through the barrage of information our emotions can drive our purchases, decisions, even our replies on social media posts or beliefs in news articles.

We are culturally, and humanly, wired to conquer and push boundaries. Feistiness, passion and drive have been the vehicle for great innovations and positive social changes. In the healthiest sense, they are to be celebrated, applauded loudly. May I suggest though, we may have pushed past the good for all mankind-the noble, to a space of negative outcomes in a great many things. Maybe we may have been better off without the invention of a few things; nuclear weapons, engineered foods, convenience packaging, food preservatives, easy debt, our dependence on resources at the expense of the care of the planet, non-stop news and social media out-of-controlness. At the very least, society would have benefited from some balance. 

Most things are connected and cascade to other things.  Is it truly positive growth if it contributes to the degradation of our culture? I am not responsible for others. I can barely handle my own humanity on any given day! I, we, are responsible to be aware and choose differently. And I, we, are to do so in spite of culture, trends, technology and others . 

The excessive rhetoric is exhausting.

The older I get the more I come to know that there is NOTHING that is going to keep us from gravity's effects, death, gaining a bit of weight as we age. Life is not a perfect Instagram post. No true contentment or personal bestness is found in the militant march of marketing, social media, or bombarding the air waves with harsh rhetoric. There is nothing out there that can change us, and ultimately sustain us in a world with each other, except moderation in most things, making a choice to be better than the negative around us, getting our focus off of ourselves and seeking relationship with Jesus.

If we know, in order to quell the excessive power of any addiction or negative choice, we need to acknowledge its powerful grip, then I am acknowledging I do not want to be ruled by cultural marketing, social media, the news and the ionic deadly rhetoric around me. It's simply not a space to flourish, for any of us.