Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sound Recorded Skits

Back in 1973 Robert Redford and Paul Newman made a movie called, The Sting.

The music was from Scot Joplin. The theme song was The Entertainer.

I used to own a copy of the soundtrack.

One day, Stephen came over with his tape recorder. Stephen and I often made impromptu skits and recorded them. I don't have any of the recordings, nor do I know if they even exist anymore. But this day even Stephen's muses were on vacation. So we were on our own.

I happened to be playing The Sting soundtrack. Suddenly, Stephen was inspired. He restarted the song and began talking in his typical MC voice.

Welcome to the Musical Exercise Program for Fatties. (Neither of us were fat then.)

Today, we will begin with something simple. Take your right leg - and wrap it around your neck.

Now stretch your arms and hop up and down.

That's it! That's it!


Now, as quickly as you can, I want you to jump as high as you can, and touch the ceiling with your toe - AND DON'T LET GO!

We did many of these tapes. I recall when we were at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Stephen organized the one and only party at his house and invited myself and three girls from his art class. I'm not sure why I was invited. I was the only non-artist on the roster. But I was Stephen's friend.

I'm certain his aim was to get to know one of the girls better, but I'm still not clear about which one he fancied. The evening never got that far.

For one thing, I was the only one to arrive on time. After twenty minutes Stephen got depressed and determined no one else was showing up. So, out came the tape recorder. Only this time we didn't do skits. Stephen just began recording random and/or bizarre sounds. He recorded water running, the toilet flushing, the dog barking, doorbells, and a bunch of other sounds I don't recall. Then, when a car pulled up in the driveway, he put the tape recorder in the closet and set it to play.

Two of the three girls came in. He had given wrong directions and they were lucky to have found him at all. The four of us sat around the dining room table with drinks. (Stephen and his other guests had beer. I had Pepsi.) We didn't talk. I didn't know them at all and didn't know what to say, so I said nothing. Stephen, knowing the tape recorder was soon to get to the louder sound effects was waiting with visible anxiety. When the sounds began, the girls began to get nervous. They exchanged glances. When the dog began barking and Stephen bellied over with laughter - they left.

Now he was really depressed. I didn't dare laugh at him. Neither did I dare tell him, "I told you so." For one thing, I hadn't told him so, although I could have. About fifteen minutes later the other girl arrived. Right behind her were the two from earlier.

Stephen was very apologetic and assured them they had been at no risk. They stayed, and we had a good party, although I don't remember it. (That's how I know it went well.) But it didn't go as well as Stephen would have liked. No relationship developed.

We were considering using the new computer technology to create new skits when Stephen had his accident and left this world. It's probably just as well. We would have used video. I'm not sure the world will ever be ready for that.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Surgery Over

This is just an update on my mother, who had surgery this morning for cancer.

The surgeon said all went very well. Better than she expected. Now it is just a matter of Mother getting rest and healing up. That is the current risk. Mother is 82, diabetic, and she has leukemia. These things put her at especial risk for about 72 hours.

Thank you for any thoughts and prayers your gave, and have time to give over the next few days.


God bless.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It Mattered Enough to Capture

Last Sunday, Spouse and I visited my Mother at her apartment. She wanted to give me keys to the place so I could check her mail while she is in the hospital. She also wanted to show me insurance papers and a list of people to contact in the event the surgery does not go well. It is a real possibility. The surgeon calls her a "high risk" patient, despite the fact she looks about twenty or thirty years younger than her actual age.

Anyway, my surviving aunt was there. Mother's younger sister. We had a nice chat and talked about all kinds of things for nearly two hours. Then Spouse and I had to get home. Before we left, a thought occured to me and I asked my aunt if she had any pictures of The Old House. I didn't figure she had, but when Aunt Cile died, (Mother's older sister), Laurie inherited Cile's entire collection of pictures. This would have been a considerable inheritance as Cile loved to travel and loved to take pictures. Cile was bound to have had lots of pictures of The Old House.

To my dismay, Laurie not only said she didn't have any, but that she had thrown away most of Cile's pictures. She didn't recognize the people and just tossed them.

I didn't react. I'm low on the family's totem pole of importance, so I just smiled and said, "Oh."

Why is it that the people who don't give a d*mn are the ones to inherit the most precious things? Take the d*mn hutch cabinet. I don't care if it's worth $100,000. You can have it. I won't fight. But if you don't want something, why did you take it? And, having taken it, why throw it away instead of asking if someone else might want it?

The same thing happened when Daddy died. Mother knew Alfred and Daddy had been close, so she told Mickey she was giving Alfred the boat, camper, and all that kind of stuff. Mickey agreed. So what happened? Alfred gives the stuff to his sons, and they immediately sell it off.

I think our culture s*cks, and it's infecting everyone. All anyone seems to care about anymore is money. If a thing cannot help you improve your career, finances, or anything like that, it's useless. Throw it away.

We do that with people, too. I know, because a lot of those people threw me away when I became one of society's disinfranchised. I suppose the few who remain will dump me when they learn Spouse and I have lost the house. To be perfectly honest, I don't care about that anymore.

What I do care about is history. Especially history from people who are gone. People who still mean a lot to me. Cile was my favorite aunt. I was her favorite of all the nieces and nephews. We still use these cheap, plastic, pastel-colored, picnic plates for our evening meals. You know the kind? They have four compartments to keep things like jello from sliding into the mashed potatoes. They used to belong to Cile. They're mine now. I like them better than stoneware. The rest of the family was going to throw them away. I snatched them up.

Maybe there's something wrong with me. Maybe I'm the one who's mixed up. I don't care about the furniture, which is what seems to occupy everyone else's thoughts. I care about stupid things, like cheap picnic plates which probably cost 50-cents brand new and still can be purchased at most dollar stores. I care about a favorite pen. I care about the movies and music which used to be important to those I love. I have a good many of Lynahr's videos. The only other thing I got of Lynahr's was the Rainbow Bible Spouse and I gave her for Christmas just two years before she died.

But pictures are so important. That's history! It's real. Those people existed. And they were important enough to have their picture taken.

I never inherit pictures. Do you know who gets them? People who throw them away.

When Grandma Amy died, she had boxes of photographs. They went to Aunt Laurie. Gone now. Laurie didn't know who they were, so they couldn't be important. Cile's pictures went to Laurie. Lynahr's pictures disappeared. I don't know who got them.

Most people are always looking to their future. I look the other way. What happened is more important to me than what is to come. I suppose that's wrong, and why I am what I am, and why family and friends would rather not have me about anymore.

Laurie is a wonderful person. She has done far more to help my mother than I have. I just wish she was a bit more sentimental. Practicality has its place. But not in pictures.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Good Ol' Blogger

FairyHedgeHog posted this. I looked at my Follower list and I'm still listed as "public". However, if you used to see me as a Follower and now don't, please let me know.

Thanks to Jennifer, through Sarah, for this explanation of why we're all apparently losing followers.

If you use Blogger as your platform, I'm sure you've noticed that your follower count is down. Apparently Blogger has changed everybody's followers to "anonymous" and anonymous followers don't show. If everyone can do these simple steps, we can all get our followers back:Go to dashboard, you'll see "Blogs I'm Following"Scroll down to the bottom of that list and click on manage.Then you'll see that all the drop down menus have been changed to anonymous. You just need to change them back to public.Hopefully we can get the word out, so everyone can take these steps. I hope this doesn't happen again!

Bevie's A Goodie Two-Shoes

No. Not really. In fact, the only one of my siblings who got slapped more than me was my sister, Judayl.

Lynahr never got slapped. Not that Lynahr didn't behave poorly at times. It's just that Lynahr crumbled at the mere suggestion she would be punished. She had her fingernails shortened more than once. Lynahr was a scratcher.

But the things I got slapped for were never serious. They kind of fell into one of two categories: It was an accident (children were slapped for accidents back then - I was anyway); I forgot.

Accidents happen, and there is no way to truly prevent them forever. (That's why they call them accidents.) In our house, if you turned around and knocked something over, better hope it didn't break. Even if it didn't you might get slapped. Just because. Spill something. Break something. Whatever. Don't let Mother find out about it.

The "forget" ones were more a result of poor discipline, I admit. I would be next door playing. The rule in our house was, "be home before dark". Well, like most kids, I would push that envelope as close to the end as I could. Then I would head for home. But once it starts to get dark it seems to happen quickly. Not only that, but it's scary after dark. I have no idea how many times I stood next to the barn which contained the neighbor's cabinet shop, looking at the dark path which followed the space between the cabinet shop barn and the pile of wood which had once been a horse barn. (Mickey and the neighbor boy took it apart. Just left the wood in large piles to rot.) That was a scary path at night. The grass was waist high. The Old House was a scary place to be in the day time. I would gather my courage and run, as fast as I could to clear the path. Then I would try and sneak into the house. Every so often I would make it. I would hear Mother downstairs ranting about how I was going to get it when I got home. Then Helvie would run downstairs and tell Mother I was upstairs. I would be free, but Mother would find someone else to vent her now active anger upon. Generally, I got slapped.

So how did I become known as Goodie Two-Shoes? Basically, it was because I am a coward. Always have been. Always will be, I expect. Not proud of it. At the same time, I'm not so afraid as I used to be. There was a time I wouldn't admit I was afraid. Now I have no problem with it.

You see, if the other kids in the neighborhood got caught doing something, they were told not to do it again. They would, and then they were told not to do it again. This was a wonderful cycle they went through. Do something wrong. Be told not to do it again. Then do it again and repeat the cycle. Who could complain about that?

That wasn't my cycle. If I did something wrong and got caught, I got slapped. The worse the offense, the worse the slapping. I didn't need to deal with that, so I avoided certain places and certain people and certain activities. The immediate result? I usually played alone.

There was a secondary result to this as well. I suppose it was inevitable. All of the kids in the neighborhood were constantly trying to get me to go along with them to wherever. Not because they liked me. Most of them didn't. Not even because they wanted to get me into trouble. Most of them didn't care about that one way or another. No. The reason my presence at these events was so coveted was because, if Bevie was going to be someplace, then the parents assumed it had to be all right.

I remember the Oaktree kids coming to me and asking me to lie and say I was going to be at some campfire thing. I wasn't going to be because of the rough crowd who were. They pressured and pressured the entire way while they walked me to their front door. Their mother was sitting on the steps. When we arrived the kids asked their mother if they could go to the campfire. Bobby looked each of her kids in the eyes and then turned to me. "Are you going?" All of her kids looked at me with high expectations. "No. I'm not." Bobby smiled and said no. Her kids gave me looks of death.

You see, I don't lie. Not on purpose. Not if I can help it. However, I can recall more than one time when I have avoided the truth out of fear. Scare me enough and I'll lie. But you have to be careful about that. I'm afraid of a lot of things. So if I'm more afraid of lying than the consequences of the truth, I won't lie. It gets complicated. In any case, I try not to lie. The problem is, sometimes what I believe to be true turns out to be wrong. That's a different kind of lie, but I don't like speaking those either.

I don't know what the big deal was with Bobby's kids, though. Two of them went anyway. Got hammered on beer and came home sick. No slaps. I suppose it was the younger ones, who actually listened to their mother and stayed home who were most upset.

It was annoying to be known as the gauge by which parents decided their children's fates. But they knew I couldn't bring myself to tell them a bald face lie. You see, most of the neighborhood kids did lie. Often. Usually for no reason at all, from my perspective. The result of this was that there wasn't an adult within three miles who believed a word they said. Even when they told the truth. Usually, when they were telling the truth (rare and momentous occassions), they would try to get me involved so I could confirm their word. We actually had parents call our house in order for me to be cross-examined. Got more than one kid out of trouble that way.

There were many places I wanted to go. But didn't. There were many things I wanted to do. But didn't. But my reason for avoiding these places and things was not because of any innate "goodness". My word, no!

No. I was simply a coward. Others saw me as "good". I knew better. So did Mother.

NOTE: Being a coward helped me avoid drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. So it wasn't a total loss, I guess. I recently got a feedback from Helvie on a good number of these neighborhood kids. Helvie hung out with them then, and after. Most ran into alcohol and drug-related problems. I guess that's the price of being brave. Don't know. Never been brave.

Monday, February 23, 2009


My on-line status has been placed in jeopardy. If you're curious as to why, here's my post from The Great Sea.

Hopefully, I will be around a while.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

It Seems to Say the Same Thing

Ek het jou lief
Ana Behibak (to a male)
Ana Behibek (to a female)
Ngo oi ney
Wo ie ni (Manderin, Cantonese)
Jeg elsker dig
Ik hou van jou
Je t'aime
Ta gra agam ort
Ich liebe Dich
aNEE oHEIVET oTKHA (female to male)
aNEE oHEIV otAKH (male to female)
Ani ohev at (man to woman)
Ani ohevet atah (woman to man)
taim i' ngra leat
Kimi o ai shiteru
Ayor anosh'ni
Muje se mu habbat hai
I love you

Those are just a few of the many ways to say "I love you". Each way is from a different language. Some I knew (very few), and some I don't know that I can even pronounce accurately. But they all say the same thing.

What's my point?

I started reading an English translation of the Quran this morning. I got it from this website. The translator is one Dr. Rashad Khalifa, who is supposed to have done an excellent job. (But then what would they advertise, right?) I don't know. I am willing to trust he is until told otherwise.

For those of you familiar with the Quran, please forgive a fool's efforts to speak.

I didn't read far before I recognized that the messages in 1- The Key (Al-Fatiha) and 2- The Heifer (Al-Baqarah follow the same teaching as in my Bible. The Quran just says it differently.

I confess I only read to 2:39, but I found myself comforted by the familiarity of the messages. The Key acknowledges God and his greatness, majesty, and holiness.

1:1] In the name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
[1:2] Praise be to GOD, Lord of the universe.
[1:3] Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
[1:4] Master of the Day of Judgment.
[1:5] You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help.
[1:6] Guide us in the right path:
[1:7] the path of those whom You blessed; not of those who have deserved wrath, nor of the strayers.

Does this not provide the same (or at least similar) message as Psalm 8?

O LORD, our Lord. How excellent is Your name in all the earth. Who have set Your glory above the heavens! Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength. because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? Psalm 8:1-4

Early in The Heifer we find the message of faith.

2:1] A.L.M.
[2:2] This scripture is infallible; a beacon for the righteous;
[2:3] who believe in the unseen, observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), and from our provisions to them, they give to charity.
[2:4] And they believe in what was revealed to you, and in what was revealed before you, and with regard to the Hereafter, they are absolutely certain.
[2:5] These are guided by their Lord; these are the winners.
[2:6] As for those who disbelieve, it is the same for them; whether you warn them, or not warn them, they cannot believe.
[2:7] GOD seals their minds and their hearing, and their eyes are veiled. They have incurred severe retribution.

During our family Bible time this morning we read the same message in 1 Corinthians.

For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of hte man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but th Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been frely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but with the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:11-14

The Quran is for the Muslim faith. The Psalms come from the Jewish faith. Corinthians comes from the Christian faith.

It is comforting to me to read from each of these faiths and discover the message is the same. We are siblings. Even if we don't always get along. But isn't that just like siblings?

Praise be to God. To Yahweh. To Allah.

If I have offended by trespassing where I ought not to have gone, please forgive me. But let me know, too. My intent is simply to show we belong together as a healthy family which supports all members, and not as warring factions out to kill each other.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Signs of Aging

It seems to me I recall someone saying a long time ago that one of the signs of aging was that so many family and friends just aren't around any more. That is certainly part of it, so if no one said it before I will say it now.

Today I spoke with my younger sister for the first time in more than a year. The truth is, I don't recall the last time we spoke. It may have been at Mother's 80th birthday party. That would put it at about 30 months. That's a long time for siblings who aren't even fighting to not speak with each other.

Helvie and I are just eleven months apart in age. We used to look a lot alike, before I gained so much weight. Helvie took better care of herself in that regard. On the other hand, she damaged herself with alcohol and things like that. Whatever.

I called her today. You see, I heard yesterday that Helvie's best friend in the entire world died yesterday afternoon. I figured Helvie would be upset, despite that fact that her friend was on a nearly year-long death bed from cancer. She didn't answer the phone when I called so I left a message. Then I fell asleep and didn't answer the phone when she called back. Spouse checked voice mail and told me it was Helvie. So I called again and had to leave another message. Helvie called back and we talked for about two hours or more.

She was very upset at first, but by the time we had finished speaking she seemed to be all right. Sue wasn't Helvie's only recent loss. Sue's husband was found dead in his driveway just four or five months ago. Her younger sister died in January. Her father's health is such that he will probably not live the year.

Helvie asked me if I would be attending the funeral. I could hear the hope in her voice. Were it not for that I would not go. I have not been in contact with people from our childhood in a good many years. Sue used to be my friend, too, but that was more than thirty years ago. It's been even longer for some of the other names Helvie brought up who she continues to see regularly.

Helvie has not been in much contact with her biological family over the past few years. In fact, Mother is upset because Helvie has not contacted her since learning Mother has cancer and requires surgery. I think it's just too much for her. She confessed to me that she adopted Sue's family as her own, and even calls Sue's father, Dad. She has lived with and watched that family die off, one by one. As many deaths as I have had to face in the past eight years, Helvie has had to face more. For the only death I have had to face which Helvie has not was Stephen's. And Helvie knew Stephen, too. Kind of like I knew Sue.

Helvie is grateful that Sue no longer has to suffer, but she confesses that life will be lonely now. I told her I understand, and explained how it was with Stephen and me. She had the same kind of relationship with Sue. Some time over this past year they actually went to far to tell each other, "I love you." They aren't gay. Helvie said in the forty-plus years they've known each other they only hugged once. Just a few months ago.

Sometimes I get to feeling sorry for myself. I've made mistakes and I'm paying for them longer than I think I should. People I care about are gone. Others have rejected me. But no matter how sorry I get to feeling about me, I never have to go far to find someone who envies me my trouble. Today, I only have to go so far as my sister.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Way Sports Are Meant to be Played

I'm supposed to write about books, movies, or music today, but since I hardly ever stick to the schedule anyway why should today be different?

I came across something which I would like to share. Perhaps you are already aware of it. It is a news story out of Milwaukee, WI. It is about something that took place during a high school basketball game. Here is the link to the story I read.

For those of you who can't read the link here is what happened.

The Dekalb, IL, boys basketball team went to Milwaukee, WI., to play a basketball game. The game was held up an hour by reason that the mother of one of the Milwaukee players had died that day of cervical cancer. The coach was going to cancel the game, but the boy said he wanted his teammates to play. So the game went on.

In the second quarter the boy who's mother had died came to cheer his teammates on. The game was delayed while many hugs and well-wishes were expressed. Then the coach offered to let the boy sit on the bench and watch. He asked if he could play. This created a problem. According to the rules, that would be a technical foul, and Dekalb would be granted two free throws. The coach didn't care. He put the boy in.

But Dekalb didn't want the free throws. Not for this. So their coach argued with the referees. The referees were in a bad spot. Making exception for rules is not in the rule book. The foul had to be assessed and the free throws taken.

This is what happened according to the news link:

Something else was on Dave Rohlman's (coach of Dekalb) mind when he asked for a volunteer to shoot two free throws awarded his team on a technical foul in the second quarter. His senior captain raised his hand, ready to go to the line as he had many times before.
Only this time it was different.

"You realize you're going to miss them, don't you?" Rohlman said.

Darius McNeal nodded his head. He understood what had to be done.

He went alone to the free throw line, dribbled the ball a couple of times, and looked at the rim. His first attempt went about two feet, bouncing a couple of times as it rolled toward the end line. The second barely left his hand.

It didn't take long for the Milwaukee players to figure out what was going on. They stood and turned toward the DeKalb bench and started applauding the gesture of sportsmanship. Soon, so did everybody in the stands.

This is the way I remember sports being played when I was young. You played to win. Always. You did your best. Except when making statements such as this. At times like this, your best was actually to fail.

For some, perhaps, the gesture was meaningless. If it is for you, then I expect you don't really understand what took place.

In our culture now, and in most cultures where sports heroes reign as gods (such as our own), winning is everything. It doesn't matter how it is done. Take steroids. Ignore the rules. Maim and hurt. Do anything you can to win. Nothing else matters any more in sports. If you are a sports god, you can break civil laws left and right - until your godly powers fade. Then you are tossed away.

This is what is taught at every level of sport in our country. But not everwhere.

What the Dekalb team was saying with their gesture of missed free throws was that this hateful attitude of sports was not part of their game. They understand. A teenage boy and his mother are more important than winning. And that brings tears to my eyes, just knowing that that spirit is still alive at least someplace in this country.

I understand neither team will finish the season with a winning record. And for the winning-conscious, that is all the proof they need that good sportsmanship is a waste of time. If it doesn't help you win, then why do it?

But these boys did win. All of them. On both teams. Coaches, too. And the referees, scorekeeper, and the people who sat in the bleachers watching. They all won.

"They may not remember our record 20 years from now, but they'll remember what happened in that gym that night." Dave Rohlman, head coach of the opposing DeKalb team on what his players will take away from this experience.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Today is animal day. Oh, good, you're thinking. Another quaint story from Bevie's past. Yeah, I'm afraid so.

Today's topic is Charlie, a stray dog who came onto our place one year and decided to stay. From the first most of us knew there was something wrong with Charlie. Our evidence was quite clear to us. You see, Charlie was the first - and only - animal to take a liking to our mother.

I realize that isn't nice to say (or write), but it is true. Animals just weren't that keen on Mother. Probably because she always seemed to be yelling about something. Animals generally aren't keen on loudness. Makes them scared and/or angry. I remember the feeling well.

Even Daddy thought there was something odd about Charlie. Charlie was probably the only dog which didn't prefer Daddy to just everybody else. Even my Nikki struggled with that for a time - before deciding Daddy was best. Daddy was dominant. Dogs are supposed to bow to dominance. Charlie wasn't like that any more than Mother.

Charlie was very much in appearance like a border collie. He was black and white. But he was bigger, and his hair didn't have that same kind of curl.

He was a nice enough dog - most of the time. He would run and play, although I don't remember that he played fetch. He did a much better job of protecting the place than my Nikki, who was just a pup at the time. He was also much better at something else: killing birds. And the birds he liked to kill were - chickens. Our chickens.

Mother refused to accept that Charlie would ever hurt her chickens. No. Charlie was innocent. It was that g*dd*mned Nikki who was killing them. And if it didn't stop, Nikki would have to go. (In my family's venacular, that meant be shot - with real bullets.)

But I knew for certain it wasn't Nikki. I can still see the picture in my mind as I stood at the kitchen sink getting a drink of water. Nikki was laying down in the back yard. He was cowering, actually. A chicken was standing on his head and pecking on his nose. I swear this is true. It was very humiliating for me to see my dog so. I rushed outside and shooshed the chicken away. At that moment in time I wished Nikki had been the chicken killer.

What was interesting was Charlie's behavior with the chickens whenever one of us was outside to watch. He ignored them. They could walk quite close to him. (I noted none ever tried to jump on his head and peck him on the snout, though.) There was no direct evidence, but we kids knew it had to be him. But until he was caught in the act, Mother would not acknowledge it.

He was clever in how he got the chickens, although it doesn't take too much cleverness to outwit a chicken. At that time we had a small fence which squared off an narrow area before the front door. I can't remember why Mother thought that was a good idea. It truly added to the image of the place. The old house with wood fenceposts and chicken wire across the front. It could be she had kept the chickens there when they were too small to jump out. I don't remember.

What I do remember is that Charlie liked to lay right at the entrance to this man-made canyon. Helvie and I watched him one day. The chickens were coming by. We wanted to see him go after them. To our disappointment, he didn't. Didn't even pay them a look as they walked about. Then, just as we were about to give up, three chickens decided to investigate the canyon. Charlie didn't go after them, but we saw his head move with interest. So we stayed. He let the chickens work their way deep in. Then he got to his feet, turned on them, and made his move. Since we were watching we were able to intervene and save the chickens - that time. But when we told Mother she in effect called us liars. Charlie didn't do that.

I once saw Charlie take a wild bird. It was a pigeon, but I thought it was still impressive. I had come outside to see him crawling on his belly. At first I couldn't determine why. Then I saw the pigeon, eating whatever off the ground. Charlie would move just a little at a time. His back haunches were constantly tense. I knew he would never get close. But I didn't realize Charlie had a plan. The bird flew right about when I thought it would. Charlie jumped. Not at the bird, but high into the air - where the bird was going. He reached his zenith just as the bird passed through. He caught it and pulled it down. Quite amazing, I thought.

One day, Charlie disappeared. Mother sent Helvie and me all over to look for him. Perhaps he had been hit by a car. We searched the ditches and walked the tracks (train tracks) but found no sign. It appeared Charlie had left as quietly as he had arrived.

Then, what seemed like an incredibly long time, he was back. He was guant and ravenous. And one of his feet was damaged. It turned out he had been in a trap. One of our neighbors ran a trap line. For what, I don't know. We were rural, but not that rural. But not only was our neighbor an idiot, he was a cruel idiot. He only checked his trap lines like once ever week - if even that. Charlie had been held in that trap for several days.

He was never the same after that. From that moment on the look in his eyes was scary. But if one should dare mention it to Mother she would get angry. When Charlie began to turn on us, she said she didn't blame him after all the nasty things we said about him. But then one day Charlie's insanity drove him to attack Mother. Now she had to believe. But I think it was more than that. I think Mother felt betrayed. Anyway, Charlie did not get shot. Mother drove him to a kennel which dealt with such things. For years after she would talk about Charlie with great affection, as though he had been the best dog we had ever owned. I suppose, from her perspective, he was. I remember she treated Nikki badly for a long time, as though it had somehow been his fault.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Women Being Hurt

Here is a story to vent about. Read this. If it upsets you, I hope you are upset for the right reasons and not for the wrong. What are the wrong reasons? Well, to put it simply, if you are thinking that the fact Muzzammil Hassan, the man accused of the crime, is associated with the Muslim faith then you are thinking wrongly.

One of the sweetest, nicest, prettiest, most intelligent, girls in my graduating class was murdered by her husband. He beat her to death with a baseball bat. He was associated with the Christian faith.

A relative of mine, from northern Minnesota, was murdered by her husband. They were Chippewa Indians.

When I worked at a small town newspaper, a woman in one of the towns we covered called police and said her ex-husband threatened to come to her house and kill her. She was told the police could not do anything because the accusation was "hearsay evidence". Her ex-husband would first have to commit a crime. He did. He showed up at the woman's house and shot her, her sister and their children.

These are not isolated incidents. And they have nothing to do with being a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Native American, Buddist, or what have you. What is more, these crimes are not restricted to "other nations". All of the crimes I related - except the linked one which started this post - took place in Minnesota.

This is not a new phenomena. Here are a couple of excerpts from a book my grandmother gave to me a few years ago. It is titled, Coffee Made Her Insane. It is a compilation of newspaper clippings from 100 years of Minnesota newspapers, beginning in 1840, by Peg Meier.

Fred Robertson, a resident of Blackduck, was brought down to the county jail this morning and will live at that institution for forty days athe enforced guest of Sheriff Bailey. Robertson has, according to the proof advanced in justice court at Blackduck, been absorbed of late in the misguided pastime of beating his wife, which his better half finally resented and made complaint to the authorities, with the result that Robertson was sentenced to serve forty days in the county jail for his exhibition of physical prowess. Bemidji Pioneer. June 27, 1907

I had meant to include two exerpts, but I can't find the one. That's the trouble with looking for a four-, or five-sentence article in a book of hundreds of articles.

I do not claim to know the answer to this problem. It's a massive problem, and it's world-wide. That it is world-wide is a major concern. My only solution is to start in my own home. Spouse and I have a son. One of our efforts throughout his life, and which will continue, is to teach him non-violent ways to deal with things. Spouse and I do not hit each other. Never have. We get angry enough - we cry. Both of us. Embarassing? Maybe. But it doesn't hurt anyone. Another tact is to simply leave the room. The other will wait perhaps fifteen minutes and then seek out the departee. Subsequent dialogue is generally calm.

We do not hit Son either. But then, we have been especially blessed. Son is quite mannerly and non-combative. He's now reaching the age of teenager, so that may change a bit. We've warned him about emotional changes on the way due to physical and social changes, and encourage him to simply remember his manners when getting angry.

This will not stop men like Muzzammil Hassan, but it may stop one boy from becoming another one like him. Perhaps if we can teach and show our sons of today how to deal with frustration, disappointment, betrayal, and other things which historically spur violence, maybe they can have the character to overcome any desire to do violence. Another thing we show Son are various ways to express emotion physically in order to expel it. That's important. Supppressing emotion will not work. It must be expressed. Crying is one way, but some people have too much pride for that. So run. Get on a treadmill if the weather is bad. Go to a batting cage and express your feelings on an inanimate object. Hit a tennis ball, or a golf ball. Play strong music. Sing loudly. Scream, if you have to. There are a lot of ways to express emotion without becoming violent. We need to teach our boys this truth. No matter our faith.

There is another terrible consequence to this particular incident. It is the (I suppose inevitable) consequence that decent and innocent Muslims now feel compelled to defend themselves and their faith from false accusations that this is what the Quran teaches. Annonymous voices use this incident simply as an excuse to launch verbal, written, and sometimes physical assaults on others. All of us who have faith have had to undergo this at one time or another. Priests, Pastors, and other clergy found guilty of child molestation bring shame to Christianity, which happens to be my faith. The Bible no more teaches child molestation than the Quran teaches wife beating and murder. To say otherwise is to simply confirm that you are predisposed to find fault.

Stop finding fault! Help find a solution. We need to take care of each other. That's what Jesus wanted. I believe that's what Mohammed wanted. That's what Moses wanted. It's what God wants, people. Let's do that, and quit hurting each other.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Don't Know What to Say

I decided to post again today. Don't normally do that, but I just finished a movie which was recommended by a friend of mine. It is called, The Visitor.

It's an excellent movie, and if you can get a copy to watch I strongly encourage you to do so. But I don't know that I can say much about it without spoiling the entire movie for those who have yet to see it. Jennifer did an excellent job, I think. Here is a link to her Review.

Jennifer makes the statement, "The New York Times says, "The curious thing about “The Visitor” is that even as it goes more or less where you think it will, it still manages to surprise you along the way." That's just it. Is the ending predictable? Basically. And yet we were riveted until the very end. "

It's a true statement. I was rivited, too. I was also troubled. For years I've wondered how so many people can be in this country "illegally". Especially when it seems they must have come via airplane. This movie does a fair job explaining at least some of them. Maybe a good many. If I understood correctly, the "illegal" people didn't come illegally. They got here via legal means. Only later were they declared illegal. Many don't understand why. I'm not sure I do either. But if this is so it explains a lot.

I felt bad because I found myself wondering if the movie would have been so riveting had there not been a stereotypical American in the lead role. It's a question I cannot answer, despite the fact that I found myself identifying with all four main characters to some extent.

I think the movie does an excellent job of showing how a nation's fear can result in actions otherwise unthinkable by its people. Consider the treatment of U.S.-Japanese citizens in the 1940s. We kind of have it now with Arab and/or Muslim young men. We are told nearly all of the terrorists in the world trying to destroy us are Arabs and/or Muslims. So we fear them all and treat them accordingly.

That's kind of what Hitler did in the 1930s to Jews, Gypsies, and other "non-desirables". The fear then was mostly economic, but not entirely. They are taking our money. They are taking our jobs. They are teaching "foreign ideas". This fear imposed on the German People made it easier for them to accept what was happening in their country. Otherwise decent people turned their backs on things they would never have condoned just a few years earlier.

Hitler used "work camps", I believe they were called. People were hauled away without reason and locked up without trials. A few years later we did the same thing to our citizens because they had Japanese - or suspected Japanese - ancestry. Then we tried to hide it. I was never taught about American concentration camps when I was in school. I found out after I left college. By accident.

At least this time we couldn't hide what we did to so many young men, although we went so far as to call them "detention centers". True, some of them were/are guilty of crimes against our nation. But it was never proven. That's the problem. And what frightened me most during the eight years of the Bush Administration (the time during with The Visitor takes place) was that even when told by our own judicial system that it was illegal it didn't stop. The only thing which ultimately stopped it was a term limit on a presidential administration.

President Obama frequently invokes President Lincoln's legacy. The message he appears to be trying to send is that he intends to operate similarly. That's good. But we should remember that it was President Lincoln who suspended the rights of certain citizens in order to protect the country. Hopefully, President Obama will not find himself in a similar quandry.

In President Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address he talks about "the government of the people, by the people, and for the people". After eight years of the Bush Administration, I find myself worrying that that just isn't true anymore.

The Visitor is an excellent movie. It troubles me because it makes me realize things about myself and my country which are not pleasant to acknowledge. Yet if the opportunity arises, I think I shall buy it so I can watch it often.

I realize I have really told you nothing valuable about the movie. The trouble is, I don't know what to say.

A Hodge Podge of Photos

I'm supposed to be posting about writing assignments, but I thought I would post some old pictures I found with the one from yesterday's post. I don't have many pictures from my youth. Most were burned with The Old House. Even Mother doesn't have many. Aunt Cile had a ton of pictures, but nobody seems to know what happened to them. Grandma Amy's either. I assume my Aunt Laurie has them, but getting copies may be difficult. People get funny about pictures.

Anyway, this first one is Daddy. We lost that piano when we sold the house, I believe. I remember we didn't have one for a long time. Then Grandma Amy let us bring home the big upright from her house. That was the one Daddy used to make his recordings. Those are lost, too.
The house is the "Pink and White House". That's what Helvie and I used to call it. We gave it that name because its colors were - pink and white. We only lived there a year, I think. Maybe two. When I was four and five. That house almost burned, too. I remember Daddy coming into the bedroom and carrying me to his Aunt Julia's house, which was right next door. We kids sat by the windows and watched the firemen. Not a lot of damage, but I remember we lost the electricity for several days. It was cold. Of course.

Pictured to the right is my great-great-Grandfather Ziegler's brother Fred. I don't know that I ever met him, but this is such a cool picture I had to include it. These are the kind of people I am descended from. [smiles]
Below is a picture of Grandma Amy - my mother's mother.
I always think of her as a portly little old lady standing about 5'2" with a wonderful sense of humor and the most darling laugh. From looking at this photograph, taking some time in the very early 1900s, I'm guessing she was a bit of a tease. According to my mother and my siblings, that was exactly the case. Grandma liked the boys. Mother didn't like it that she did. Not even after Grandpa died. Mother doesn't believe in remarriage. I think Mother is wrong about that. At the least it is plain Grandma like to laugh.

Here are two more pictures of Daddy. The one is Daddy (Daddy is wearing the hat) and his Uncle Gordon, who was either a year older or a year younger than Daddy.
The one on with the dog was taken at the house shown above. I believe that is Saber. Right beyind those cars is Aunt Julia's house.
This picture doesn't really fit with the others, but I included it because it is such a good picture of Helvie when she was perhaps four or five. She is picking at herself, as usual. That's how she got the name Pixie.
What a shame so many good pictures were lost - or never taken. That's true for everybody. Most of history is not recorded on photographic paper or in a computer. It's lost, if no one remembers it.
There is a theory that when we die, God is going to replay every moment of our life back to us. This will be part of our judgement, to show us why we need forgiveness and to confirm that we have accepted it.
I don't know if that's true or not. I do know there are scientists who believe all of our memories are still held chemically some place in or brains.
Scenes like these make me wish those theories are true. But I can think of other scenes in which I hope it's not.
I'm going to try and hunt down some more pictures.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The House of My Youth

Part 8 - What We Saw

It can be fun talking about The Old House. Sometimes I find I miss it. Most of the pictures of it are gone now. Lost in the fire. I have two. One of the house burning. That's from the front page of a local newspaper. The reporter happened to be driving nearby and saw the smoke. The other is this one, given to me by my mother a good many years ago. Mother's note indicates this was taken in the winter of 1964-65. Pictured from left to right are: Helvie, Bevie, Judayl, Lynahr. Don't know why Gayanne wasn't in the picture. Maybe she took it. I don't remember.
There's a hint of one of the big pine trees to the left. There is also a ladder propped against the house. Not sure what that was about.
Looks like my memory was off regarding window placement. I had them further apart. But seeing this picture I now remember. Oh, well. That isn't a door to the right. It's another window. There is a door in the corner, but it's been sealed up. In 1964-65 we didn't use that door. One of the two "scarey" rooms is above on the near corner. The other scarey room was opposite. That was Lynahr's room when this picture was taken. My room may have been the other scary room. Don't quite remember.
While at the clinic with Mother last week I mentioned I had written about The Old House on one of my blogs. She became quite animated about that. Mother just loves to talk about The Old House being haunted. What she does not like is me telling her I may have found scientific answers to explain everything that happened there. Mother wants to believe in ghosts. The truth is, I can't prove her wrong any more than she can prove herself right. But while we talked she brought up one of the more disconcerting things that happened. Creepy, actually. I had forgotten about them.
Actually, it was not a one-time occurrence, and it didn't happen to just one person. There were at least four instances in which this occurred, and it happened to at least four different people. I was one of them. Twice.
What I'm talking about is that four people actually saw our ghost. I saw him twice. What I had forgotten was that Helvie had been with me once, and saw exactly what I saw. I also forgot about Mother seeing him, and Cousin June, who was Alfred's wife.
Helvie and I were the first to see him. We saw him outside, actually. He was a tall man. Taller than either Daddy or Mickey. He was walking by the cars, which would be about where the picture taker from above would have been standing. Just walking easy as though out for a morning stroll. Then he turned white, like a new sheet of typing paper, and dissolved. That was probably the only time Helvie and I ran inside when we were afraid.
Of course, no one believed us. We were just kids, and no one believes anything kids say.
Some time after that Mother had her turn. She was between jobs and had come home from the unemployment office. She had sat in the dining room (to the right in the picture, can't see the windows) and was drinking a cup of coffee when she heard someone walking around upstairs. Knowing Judayl and Lynahr had a penchant for skipping school, she got angry and stormed upstairs to confront them. She searched every room and every closet. Nobody there. So she started back down the steps. About halfway down she remembers having the feeling someone was watching her from behind. She turned. There, standing with his hands on his hips, laughing at her, was a very large man. I think she decided now was a good time to leave and get groceries.
After that, it was June's turn. Alfred was out of work. The mines up north would shut down most of their operations in the winter, thus laying off large portions of their workforce, to which Alfred belonged. So they had come down to stay with us while Alfred looked for part-time work. The morning they were to leave June said she had to go upstairs to the big room (in the picture, upstairs and left) and finish packing. A couple of minutes later she came running down the stairs. As she passed Alfred she just said, "Come on! We're leaving." It would be several weeks before she told my mother why she had been in such a hurry to leave. Just as she had finished the packing and was closing the suitcase, she turned to see a man standing there with hands on hips looking at her. It was the same man Mother had seen.
The last of the four sightings I recall right now was made by me. I was alone. I was in the scary room upstairs in the near corner. I woke in the middle of the night (something I still do to this day). Movement caught my attention and I looked to the door. There, practically filling the entire space, was a heavy set man with hands on hips. He was staring at me. I would have screamed had I not believed that would have brought him into the room. So I did the next best thing: I ducked under the covers. I made one peek. He was still there. I was sure he thought I was funny. I didn't think he was funny. The rest of the evening was agonizing. When I heard others up and about I dared to come out of my cocoon. He was gone.
I'm thinking others saw him, but I can't remember for sure. I would have to ask, and some of those I would need ask aren't even around to be asked. It doesn't matter anyway.
Seeing him was quite terrifying, for all of us, despite the fact that he appeared to be quite harmless. Happy, in fact. Laughing. Amused. The problem was, he wasn't supposed to be there. That he was, was terrifying because our brains didn't want to accept what our eyes were telling us.
According to what I have learned over the past year, our brains were probably quite right to doubt the message. But that's a different story. If it was real, I have a couple of thoughts on that, too, which, if true, would make the whole thing quite comical. Which means I kind of wish the whole thing was real and not just scientific phenomenon.
A different story yet is how terrifying it is when he actually climbed in bed with me. He did that with Judayl, too. I thought I was going to throw up.
What is significant is that all of the visual and audio manifestations ceased when The Old House burned. That more than anything, I think, supports the scientific explainations over the supernatural. But we will never know for certain. And it doesn't matter anymore. Still, it makes for some awfully creepy memories.
You have a good day. Hope you didn't read this at night. [smiles] [standing with hands on hips, laughing]

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Different Ways of Saying Things

This started out as a simple post about forgiveness. Then it became a full sermon. Then I dumped the entire thing.

If you have read much of my blogs at all you already realize I am hardly a perfect person. I am beset by a lot of neurotic problems which some say make me an embarassment to my faith.


That's the way it should be, I think. Given all that God has given me, if I weren't neurotic I would probably not pay God any heed at all. So my blessing is that I happen to be a bit nuts. Okay?

And now the message for today. It may not be for everyone. It may not be for you today. But since you are here reading this, I would like you to know this.

Whatever your faith, denomination, sect, religion, or whatever you choose to call yourself, God loves you. God forgives you. Paste these words on your heart, so that when you have days when you don't think you believe it, you can turn to God again.

God loves you. God forgives you.
God is truth.

That is the Gospel of God. It includes everyone.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Our Ability to Annoy and Offend

Stephen and I only shared four years of school together, and in all that time we only shared two classes. One was Freshman Algebra. It was in that class Stephen decided to be my friend. We shared no other classes until our Senior year when we took Independent Study. I remember nothing of the class except for the big assignment in which Stephen and I presented a tape of our routines.

For two years we had made cassette recordings of various skits. These were all made at Stephen's house. I would visit and we would shoot some pool until Stephen got bored with winning and then go to his room and make a tape. All of these recordings were tongue-in-cheek, and we were usually making fun of someone or something. For our big independent project, the teacher let us do a tape. Probably a mistake.

Since our project was the last to be presented we were granted the advantage of witnessing our classmates' projects. What we wound up with was typical for us: we made fun of every member in the class - including the teacher. Except for Lacey. We forgot about Lacey. In the end, Lacey was the only one who liked what we did.

The recording is lost to me. Stephen had it, but I don't know if he kept it or not. No matter. I don't have access to it apart from memory, which has faded. I do recall making fun of Tim, who actually was a good friend of mine. But Tim struggled with a lot of things in our senior year and had become very serious. His project was a series of poems he had written. A couple were all right, but mostly they s*cked. I raised his ire during his presentation by pointing out my observations (it was part of the class to grade each other). Tim didn't take criticism well. I think it was his response to that which resulted in my making fun of him in our project.

Tim had written his own version of "Yes, We Have No Bananas". He altered the poem to talk about the state of the country (we were in the midst of Watergate), and serious things like that.

Yes, we have no bananas. Or grapefruit, or apples, or truth. Or honesty, or courage, or strength. lada lada lada

My response to it was it was kind of dumb. Hey, I was a senior in high school. Everything was either the best or the worst. And good manners was something old people had.

What Stephen and I did was take on roles. We took turns being everyone in class. When it was my turn to be Tim, I did another version of "Yes, We Have No Bananas". Not only that, but I actually sang it.

Yes, we have no bananas. Or grapefruit, or apples, or peas. Or oranges, or pineapple, or pumpkins, or even prunes and fries.

It isn't funny to read, I know. But at the time, knowing everyone involved, it was hysterical. Stephen loved it, anyway. Lacey did, too. Everyone else got very indignant on Tim's behalf. We didn't care. We were having fun.

My favorite spoof was the one in which we got Tim, Larry, and the teacher all at the same time. Everyone except the teacher thought this was funny. Even Tim, who wound up being the butt.

You see, Larry was one of our class "dopeheads". Not that he was stupid, although he wasn't exactly the brightest bulb. No. Larry used a variety of drugs, and as a result no one was quite sure where his brain had taken him at any given moment. Our teacher was a very serious woman who fervently believed she could coax Larry into actually accomplishing something. She would get mad at the rest of the class for laughing at her efforts. Larry didn't care. He was off in La La Land. I wonder what happened to Larry. I hope he got himself straight.

Anyway, all of Stephen and my tapes were recorded "live". What I mean by that is we never used a script. Everything was ad-lib. This meant we sometimes surprised each other, like our hemoroid commercial. You see, Stephen didn't know what a suppository was.

Stephen began with a ridiculous old man voice.

I'm sorry, Chally, but I can't go - bowling with you on Sa - tur - day - night.

I responded with my own old voice.

What's the maaaaa - terrrrr.

It's these - hemoroids. They're so embarassing.

Hemorroids? Is that all? Why don't you try Doc - tor Scholls, Hem - roid - al, suppositories.

Oh, they're all the same.

Not Dr. Scholls! They're made with a special blend.

But they taste horrible.

End of commercial. I was laughing too hard to continue.

Anyway, back to the skit. Stephen played Miss Lady-of-Decency. I got to play Larry. Stephen maintained a patronizing attitude, and I used my best "froggy" voice I could muster. When Stephen began by asking a yes/no question, I saw my opening and only answered "yeah" to every question.

Now Larry. Here it is spring and you haven't even opened your book yet.


You want to pass, don't you?


Now I want you to open your book right now. Can you do that?


Now Larry, I know this will be hard, but I want you to read the first word. Will you do that?


(Stephen started to lose it here.) Do it, Larry. Read the first word out loud for me.


(He did lose it here, but recovered.) Why Larry, that's wonderful! See, you can read. You can do it. You can be like the other students. You can be like - Tim! First be like Tim. Then you can catch up to the rest of the class.

The teacher didn't think it was funny at all, but I remember Tim exploding in laughter. It's always fun when people understand you weren't trying to be mean.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Group Critiqued

Haven't belonged to a writer's group since 1980 or 81, when Lori P. left town. I liked Lori. I remember how thrilled I was when she invited me to the group. There were about six of us who met at her apartment once a week after work. Spouse would be there and just read while we met. There was no specific genre involved. No two of us were writing the same kind of work. And the group never got so far to review anything I wrote. After I attended just two or three meetings Lori announced that she was leaving the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. I forget if it was she or her husband who got the great job out of state, but they were jumping at the chance and leaving. The group disbanded.

Since that time I have not belonged to a writers' group. Not until last July. But I didn't actually attend a meeting until January of this year. (How's that for a New Year's Resolution?) At the end of the meeting I was invited to submit something of my own, should I have anything. By chance I did have something new. Apprentice. It was a short story I wrote just before Christmas.

As mentioned in my previous post, last night I was at my second meeting. This was the meeting when I would receive a critique of Apprentice. Another member had submitted the first chapter of his new book and I also did my first critique (since 1980 or 81). This was my first critique of a fantasy story, though. (I also added a few comments on one or two Evil Editor submissions, but those hardly count, I think. Haven't done so in at least a month. Maybe two. No confidence.)

There were only four in attendance, which was both bad and good. Having lots of people means getting lots of ideas and lots of help. So not having lots of people was bad. But having lots of people means getting lots of ideas which have to be sorted out, which is hard. So not having lots of people was good.

We did the other work first, which meant I got to demonstrate my critiqueing skills early. I don't think I did poorly. Not too poorly anyway. A good number of my points were shared by the other two, which I think gave them credibility. (When three out of three people who read what you wrote have the same reaction, the reaction is probably valid.) Each of us had something to say which the other two did not, so the author is going to have to sort that out. (That's what I mean about sorting out lots of idea.) When a person stands alone with their point they may be right, but they may just as easily be wrong. The author has to decide. Sometimes, fixing a work for one person only ruins it for everyone else. It's a risk.

My work came last. I confess to hoping there would not be much correction. I had already submitted it to a single person who had provided several important help suggestions. So I was thinking the story was fairly solid.

I got more comments than I expected. Several about word choice. A couple of Point of View miscues I missed. Some discomfort with some of my word choices. A section where I let the dialogue slip and it became confusing to keep up with who was speaking. And a couple of continuity issues. (The most humorous being when I put the characters in a room without windows and fail to explain where all the light is coming from.)

Probably, the most severe comment came last. What was the point? While all three liked the story, and the one member went so far to say that the prose was the story's strongest point, there was no real conflict. Basically, it is a story of two young women who fall in love. Okay. Good. Why is that important? It's a valid comment.

I knew the story had this shortcoming from the first. It is just a story of two young women who fall in love. That's all it ever was intended to be. But there is no obvious "conflict" which has to be dealt with. The conflict which exists is subtle. It is within the Main Character, and how she grows from who she was when the story begins, to who she is when the story ends. How - and if - she changes is the quiet tension the story brings. Not exactly your usual fantasy fare. And perhaps it doesn't really work in any genre.

All three questioned whether this was a stand-alone story or part of a larger work. This supports the "what's the point" observation. It was suggested that I expand the story, which is not an offensive prospect to me. I very much like the characters. (We only actually meet three.) And already I can see the larger story in which this "sub-plot", as it were, could exist. Whether or not I actually do that, I don't know. It's tempting. And maybe that's what Swords of Fire needs: me to take a long sabbatical. For now, though, I shall incorporate the observations made by my three colleagues last night and leave the story be. I have no idea of how, or where, I would submit it anyway. Which is a pity. I think it's an endearing story which belongs where the public can read it. Whatever.

I didn't get lost coming home. [grin]

This time I looked for the signs right off. Sure enough. In order to go west, one must first go east. How intuitive! The same goes for going east. Except it is reversed. So, in January, my moving to the west side of the freeway because I wanted to drive west was complete stupidity. I should have moved to the east side. Then I could have driven west. Ah, me. When will I learn how modern transportation design works?

Son and Spouse were both asleep when I got home. Son would have been disappointed anyway. About the last thing he said to me before I left was, "If you do go to Duluth again, bring back a souvineer." Alas. No souvineers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Writers' Group - The Critique

Tonight I am scheduled to go to my second meeting of the local Writers' Group. My story, Apprentice, is up for critique. Not only that, but I learned on Sunday there is another piece up for critique which I need to get to. I didn't do it Sunday night because I was busy with the family. Then Monday came and I found my day taken up with being at the clinic with my mother. I had thought to work on it all day on Tuesday.

Then Mother had to be back at the clinic this morning. No big deal, I thought. I'll work on it this afternoon. Then the clinic ran like an hour or more late. Mother finally sent me on my way because I had to get back to town to pick up Son at school. So that shot a good portion of my afternoon.

So, here I am. It's going on four and I have to leave at six. I'm not that good at critiques anyway. I know what I like, but not always why. Same with what I don't like. Sometimes it's just a feeling. Not very helpful to someone looking to polish a story.

So, I'm off to read - and critique. Hopefully, I can contribute something meaningful.

Wish me luck. (With the author who's work I'm critiquing luck, too.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

The House of My Youth

Part 7 - Wallpaper

We moved into The Old House in January 1963. Aside from it being very different from the "poor house" we had been living in for four months, and from its being "haunted", The Old House had another feature we couldn't help but notice right off: its color scheme.

All of the rooms in the original portion were painted with strange pastel colors. There was no brightness. All of the colors looked like chalk, and not flourescent, either. The primary choice appeared to be this odd green color - which really wasn't too bad.

The room which was difficult to bear was the living room (L). The walls were a very odd dark magenta. The entire room. Twenty-eight feet by sixteen feet of very odd magenta. Mother decided very early that this would not do. This room had to be repainted first.

The problem was, back in 1963, primer paint wasn't all that great. This would prove to be especially important when we began undoing the second odd feature in the room: someone had wallpapered the ceiling.

We didn't notice it at first. I mean, how often does one look at the ceiling anyway? Especially when it's twelve to fifteen feet in the air. But it was wallpapered. We could see the cracks, which meant the papering had been done a good many years earlier. Well, that was easily taken care of. Mother got a ladder and had Mickey begin scraping the ceiling with a spatula. But after he had cleared an area perhaps two feet round she had him stop. The ceiling behind the wallpaper had been painted maroon. I am not joking. Someone, at some point in time, thought it would look just wonderful to paint a large room so it had a maroon ceiling and odd dark magenta walls.

What was troubling Mother was the primer. Would it cover maroon? Well, we now had an exposed face to test it on. So we tested it. Ten times. Same result every time. No. The primer we had would not mask the maroon. The ceiling wallpaper would remain. Fortunately, the spot Mickey had exposed was in the "dark" area of the room, back by the exit door.

We had another problem with the primer. It wasn't all that keen on covering odd dark magenta either. So, we had a new solution to painting: wallpaper. But this presented its own set of problems. Wallpaper was generally quite a bit more expensive than paint. We had just come from an embarassing structure which had demonstrated very adeptly that our family didn't have a lot of money. The only reason we got into The Old House was that nobody else would. But it was off to the paint and wallpaper store in Anoka to see what we could get.

There were many wonderful prints to choose from. We didn't get to choose from those. One look at the price and Mother complained that she couldn't afford to wallpaper a single wall. The clerk gave us a look and brought us to the next lower priced merchandise. Still too pricey. Next. Nope. This continued (I don't remember how long - I was still shy of being seven) until finally, the clerk brought us to a back corner where several large cardboard boxes waited for the garbage man to arrive. Here were several rolls of very cheap and very old wallpaper. We could have as much as we wanted for an incredibly low price. The problem? Finding enough of any pattern to cover a room twenty-eight feet by sixteen feet with a twelve-to-fifteen-foot ceiling.

Now some of the prints weren't half bad. (They were three-quarters bad.) But none of these would even come close to covering the living room. We did keep coming across one particular print: giant leaves tinted in gold on a yellowish-brownish background. I remember Mickey, Lynahr and Judayl laughing at ths pattern. They would only laugh a little while, though. You see, it was the only pattern with enough paper to cover the room. Yes. That is what we got. We took all they had. For all I know they paid us to take it. I know they were laughing at us as we left.

You ever do wallpapering yourself? The old way? I haven't done it since then, so I am only assuming the process is much better refined now. Back then we had to mix the paste ourselves. Then use it up before it dried. Since Helvie and I were so young, we got to squish out the lumps in the paste. Lynahr's job was to measure and cut the paper to size. Gayanne and Judayl applied the past to the paper (fighting the entire time, because Gayanne and Judayl did not like each other much at all), and Mickey and Mother would put it on the walls. Mickey did the high spots, and Mother did the low. Daddy and Ranlen didn't help. Daddy was driving and Ranlen was up north.

We had quite a system, and it worked - in a way. Between the fighting, the spills, the paper which didn't have enough paste falling back down, paper which cracked because it was so old, paper which didn't quite match the rest, the lumps which Helvie and I missed having to be squished after the paper was on the wall, paper put on upside down, and I don't remember what else, we got the job done. In a day. And when we were done, the room actually looked like - crap. But at least it was bright. Sort of.

For some odd reason we felt proud of our achievement. But then, I expect whoever had painted the room way back when had felt proud, too. We didn't know any better. We thought we had done a good job. Eventually, we got all of the paper to stay up. (There were a few repastes.) Heck, the paper helped hold the walls together.

You see, the walls of houses built in the late 1800s did not have sheetrock. I don't know when sheetrock became the norm, but it wasn't when The Old House was constructed. No. The walls of The Old House were made of slats and some kind of plaster. Probably horse hair. Also, the insulation inside was not these neat, pre-measured for width, rolls of pink foam or whatever. I'm not sure what all was used. When the walls began to crack, and pieces began falling away, we found newspapers from the early 1900s, and some kind of itchy, metalic-like shavings. We could hear the shavings fall from upstairs every time someone hit a wall, or jumped on the floor. It sounded like those rainforest canes you can buy in specialty shops. Eventually, it would all pack at the bottom of a wall on the ground floor and bow out the wall until the plaster cracked - spilling the contents out. We would sweep and vacuum it up. No way to replace it. The Old House got colder and colder as time went on. There were places where you see outside when you weren't supposed to. I remember a garden snake using one of those openings to visit. Judayl and Lynahr weren't keen on that at all.

But the paper was an excellent stalwart against the plaster falling away. Despite it being brittle itself, it often lasted well into a wall's bowing. There was the one place, between the two windows on the south side (same wall as the exit door) in which the plaster was bowed out about four to six inches. No lie! It looked like it was pregnant. Except it was near the floor. That may have been the place where Mickey double papered. He had put up a couple of pieces which didn't quite match, and rather than take them down he just covered them up. Mother may have been out of the room at the time. Saved the wall. It lasted until the house burned in '71.

I think The Ghost liked what we did. He was very active in that room anyway. Hmm. Maybe he hated it and was trying to undo it. Maybe, he was the one who painted the room in the first place. We'll never know. When the house went, so did he.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Things Go Away

Over on The Great Sea I just made my 100th post. It is a photo shoot of some of the places I knew growing up.

I had driven nearly forty miles one way to take the pictures, expecting to get a host of shots of various things. I was mistaken. Not only had trees grown where once there had been no trees, and other trees cut down, and new roads, but entire houses were missing. Businesses were missing. The entire building. Very little remained of what I knew, and that which did remain bore little resemblance to what had once been.

I suppose that's good. It's the way God wants it, I guess. We aren't to cling too tightly to the past. Something of which I am quite guilty of.

It's just that I hate to let things go forever. It's bad enough that people leave, and we have to wait until it is our turn before we can see them again. But the things which grounded us in who we are go, too. And those things do not go to heaven. They're lost forever. What a pity.

Of course, considering some of what took place when I was young, having those things destroyed forever might seem like a good idea. The problem is, whether I like it or not, those places, people, and events came together to help create who I am today. (They have a lot to answer for. [grin])

Probably what makes the past so comforting is that is just that - the past. It can't change anymore. Whatever ills took place, they are over now. They won't get any worse. Meanwhile, the present is shaky at best, and the future is completely uncertain. We don't even know if we will be there to see it. Our individual times could end very quickly. Don't like to think about that much.

I do like to think about the old place. But right now there are only two buildings remaining from the original set: the root cellar and the cow barn. Neither struture appears to be in use today, and both are deteriorating fast. Even the pictures of my house on the other blog are not of the House of My Youth. That burned two years before we left.

It was reality - when I was six years old through seventeen. Now, the only place it has any substance left is in my memories. What a pity.

I guess I make a poor Child of God. I look to the past far more than the present or future. Kind of stuck there, it seems.

Oh, well. Cest la vie.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


This is another one of those posts which changed from the original. I kept getting interrupted and I wasn't happy with what I wound up posting. So I copied to the hard drive and dumped it.

So, I'll write something else. Not sure what.

Gonna save this now to dump the original post. Then I'll revise.

It's a Daddy/Stephen day. I should draw upon something for one of them. Stephen.

When I was a senior in high school, I had my driver's license. I was also given an old Chevrolet Biscayne to drive. It had been Grandma Amy's, but she got herself a new car and gave the old one to Mother. Mother didn't need it, so it was parked. When I got my license, I was allowed to drive it to school, and to visit Stephen.

Stephen, meanwhile, also had a car. It was an old Ford Falcon which had belonged to my sister, Judayl. It had been parked on our yard for about a year. Reason? Well, I can still remember the noise as the car came down the road. We looked out the window and saw the Falcon struggling to make it to the yard. It barely did. Judayl got it about twenty feet onto the yard and it died. Daddy came outside, lifted the hood, and closed it, pronouncing the car dead. Judayl had to get a different car.

Stephen's dad worked at a Ford dealership in the parts department. Stephen had just got his license and he wanted a car. He purchased the Falcon for $25. He and his dad came and towed it back to his house, about five miles away. Then his dad would bring home parts and they rebuilt it. My understanding was that not all of the parts were paid for.

Anyway, neither car was worth much. The Biscayne got about ten miles per gallon and topped out at 57-miles-per-hour. The Falcon got nine miles per gallon, but topped out at 59-miles-per-hour. I know this because Stephen and I had a drag race. It lasted a little more than a mile. The Biscayne took off faster, but the Falcon passed it at the half-mile post - doing about forty. We didn't top out until a mile.

Anyway, Stephen wanted to take me to a movie, but he didn't want to drive to my house. That was out of the way. So I drove to his house. Once there, we decided I might as well drive to the movie. We got about half mile from his house and ran out of gas. (Oh. Only a few dials worked on the Biscayne. Fuel level was not one of them.) So we walked back to Stephen's house and got into the Falcon. We made it a mile before we ran out of gas that time. So we walked back to his house and asked his mother if we could borrow her car. After a shouting match (that was the perferred means of communication in Stephen's house), we were given the keys and told to put gas in it. So we left. We made it about a quarter of a mile and - yes - ran out of gas. So we called Mother.

Mother never yelled at me in front of Stephen. She liked Stephen. She came, delivered us to the gas station where we filled a five-gallon pail. Brought us back to Stephen's mother's car where we put some in that tank. Then to the Biscayne and then to the Falcon. After all the jockeying around, we finally got the cars to the gas station. But it was too late for the movie. So it was off to J's Pizza.

It's a cute story to me because I'm not aware of anyone else who can boast of not only running out of gas three times in the same day, but with three different vehicles. Stephen and I made quite a team.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Do I Feel Real

Sorry for the break. Been sick. Still am, actually.

Got to thinking about feelings today. Not sure why. Made a post along this same thought on The Great Sea. I don't trust feelings, but like so many I am strongly directed by them. Sometimes I wish that weren't so. Feelings lie. Sometimes.

Specifically, I was remembering growing up in a household in which Mother believed feelings were more real than anything. Thus, whatever she happened to be feeling at the time was true. Sometimes this was okay. Sometimes it wasn't.

How many times did I hear her tell me how she absolutely hated me? She would scream it at the top of her lungs while hitting me with whatever was handy. She believed it. It was what she felt. Thirty or forty minutes later she felt otherwise. Then it was how much she loved me. It was the same for all of us kids.

Daddy never said things like that. He got angry. Very angry sometimes. But he never said he hated me. Or any of his children. He never said he wished we had never been born. Mother did. He never called us names. Mother did. In my whole life, Daddy only hit me five times that I remember. I couldn't begin to count the times Mother hit me. Daddy didn't yell. Mother did.

At the same time, Daddy was not there to bring us to school events. Mother was. And she did. She also failed to bring Gayanne and me home after a school event one night. The last janitor of the night finally drove us home at midnight. We got slapped for coming home late.

But Mother brought us to wherever we needed to go. She made sure the food was in the house. She made sure we got to the doctor. She b*tched and moaned about it the entire time, but she did it. As Mickey used to say: "Mother will give you the shirt off her back. And then remind you of it for the rest of your life."

Perhaps you're thinking I don't care much for Mother. That I even dislike her. There have been more than a few times I have felt that way. But the truth is I no more hate my mother than my mother hates me. Mother was given her own set of problems long before I was born. It was just my fortune (and that of my siblings) to have to experience the side-effects of those problems.

However, while I acknowledge my love, Mother and I have hardly been close. Visits have been few. She has asked more than once to babysit/look after my son so Spouse and I could have time to ourselves. I have never given him to her custody for even a minute. I will not put him at that risk. Even as she aged she continued in the behavior with her grandchildren. I wanted this grandchild to love her. And he does. He has never had to suffer the consequences of Mother's problems. But we are not close.

Mother has cancer.

She called me last Friday and told me. First she called Judayl. Then she called me. There was no one else to call. Lynahr is gone. Ranlan is up north. Gayanne is in Iowa (found that out this weekend). Mickey is in New Mexico. Helvie is somewhere not too far from me, but she doesn't answer the telephone. Certainly not when Mother calls.

Mother is scared. Wouldn't you be? I was shook when she told me. So was Judayl. We contacted Mickey. He's the strong one. He was shook. Mother eventually got in touch with Gayanne. She's the one who left the family. She was shook. Haven't heard about Helvie.

They seem to have caught the cancer early, but there are other tests to be done. Judayl, Spouse and I went to the doctor with Mother last Tuesday. Didn't learn much except she has a careful doctor who doesn't rush into things. He wants to be sure. He want to be thorough. He wants to be safe. There is another meeting on Monday with the surgeon, I believe. Judayl can't go to that, so she asked me to. If I am well, I will. Still requiring a close proximity to a bathroom.

For all Mother has said and done to us children, we are still shook at the prospect of her leaving. This after learning back in '76 she had leukemia. It's been in remission, but the past two years she's been taking chemotherapy for it. Now this. I think what Mother's children are feeling now is more real than the feelings we had during beatings and beratings. That's history. It's over. It no longer has any meaning. This is real. This isn't about feelings. Whether we feel like it or not, the cancer is there.

You know what I find most puzzling? All those times Mother made me so angry, I can't recall ever telling her I hated her, or anything like that. I just cried. Maybe I did but just don't remember. I don't know. Daddy hardly ever got mad at me. Yet the last time he did, he tried to apologize. Said he loved me. I lied to him and said I didn't believe that. He believed me. I never told him I was sorry. I never told him I loved him. Less than a year later he was gone.

I have not made the same mistake with Mother.