Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Note to Jennifer

If you are planning on restarting your blog with a new name and address, you can email the location to me at: beviejames@gmail.com.

The Legion of On-Line Heroes is Organizing

So, I've done some more thinking about the Legion of On-Line Super Heroes. Posted some ideas (as well as some character creations) over on The Great Sea.

Basically, I created a new blog especially for Legion stories. My thinking (right now) is that those of you who want to contribute stories can create a character, post it on your blog, let me know, and I'll issue an INVITE to you which will allow you to post directly to the blog. If you would prefer, we can have it set up where you submit your stories as comments, and I post them one at a time. However you want to proceed.

I thought it would be nice to keep the stories in one place. This would make it easier for readers to read all submissions.

Of course, there is the matter of advertising your own blog. So there is no reason you can't post the story on your own blog. Also, Invitees will have links to their blogs on the sidebar.

With multiple authors, the pressure to produce should be minimized. In fact, the more authors we have the less often any single author needs to post. Just having this lack of pressure is great for some authors, who will then become prolific in their creativity. Others need a more structured approach, and they can certain impose that on themselves. Perhaps they write once a month. If we have more than one who likes this approach perhaps they could coordinate their schedules so that every week there is a new story.

I like the idea of posting on Saturdays. It reminds me of being young and watching the Saturday morning cartoons. However, there is no reason we can't post Sunday through Friday. What I do NOT want to do is stifle creativity. Too many "rules" and people lose interest. So I want to keep the "Parameter Box" as large as possible in order to accomodate as many authors as possible.

The new blog is called Legion of On-Line Super Heroes. I gave it the Adult Content warning because some writers like to get carried away. Perhaps I am being premature and should remove the warning until such time that we get a story containing explicit dialogue or behavior. Let me know.

Also, right now only Registered Users are allowed to comment. Do we wish to change that?

I very much would like any/all input you may have on this. I want to include everyone who would like to participate. So, if you would care to give it a go, even just once every few months, do let me know. Not every hero need be active every week. Some only take a mission once or twice a year. They're specialists. Maybe that's the kind of hero you wish to write about. Others are into everything, and there is a new story almost weekly. Whatever suits your fancy.

You will need a Hero Character to begin. Right now, I know of two (2) sites which will help in that regard: : The Hero Factory (comic book appearance); Hero Machine (let's you choose your name). If you know of another, or if you are artistic and can draw your own, by all means do so. You just need to have an image to present to the readership.

So, give me feedback. What are your thoughts and feelings on how to procede from here? I know Lisa and Fairy have expressed interest. If you like the idea of posting to the blog yourself let me know and I'll issue invites.

Let me know.

NOTE: Got a bit carried away with the color emphasis, didn't I?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Delayed Medical Attention

My day is slipping away from me. It's nearly lunch time and I still haven't posted but once, over on SOF-The People. It's an episode from Tavaar's background. In honor of 100 posts. Sometimes I think I love Tavaar more than Khirsha. She certainly comes closer to representing my own life.

But I got up late - on purpose. Woke at midnight, two, and three, but forced myself to stay in bed and return to sleep. Got up at six-thirty. This delayed my daily blog visits, and then Spouse and Son got up which interrupted me. Spouse has been around most of the morning, and that means more interruptions. Never should have put the computer in the family room and let Son overrun the study with his toys. Now the room is being used for storing boxes of things we want to keep. The Archives are in there. I can see them through the glass doors. The study has really cool doors. Two of them. Each has a huge cutout filled with glass. (Well, acrylic.) Gonna miss that.

So I've finished my blog rounds late. Another of my blogging friends has gone silent. This time with a clear message that personal issues have put an end to all blogging. Sounds like a permanent condition, which is too bad. This was a new friend.

Anyway, this post. Been dragging my feet at getting to the point.

Got a doctor appointment set up for this Friday. Going to get tested for diabetes. I know I have it. Well, I guess I can't say I know, but the only reason to believe I don't is because no doctor has said I do. I expect that will change after he/she reviews the results of whatever tests they make on me Friday.

The last time I was tested for diabetes was six years ago. Came out negative, but I didn't think I had it then either. Everyone else did. You see, I've let myself get fat. Quite fat, actually. People would take one look at me and think: diabetes, sleep apnea, slob. One out of three wasn't bad, I guess. Now they've got two. It's still a no go on sleep apnea, but try to tell my heart doctor that. He gets VERY upset with me because I won't have myself retested for it. About ten years ago I was tested for it. I was borderline, so they insisted I wear this horrible contraption while I slept.

Now I am a bit claustrophobic, and wearing this head harness was more than a little disconcerting. I don't sleep well anyway - never have (just ask my parents) - but wearing this contraption I wouldn't sleep until I was too exhausted to stay away. So I said "To h*ll with this!" and sent it back. My heart doctor says I didn't give it enough time. I gave it 60 days! The final straw was waking up in the middle of the night and finding myself sitting up in bed clawing at the d*mn thing.

On top of that, it's not exactly easy to be romantic while wearing something like that. One tends to look like some sci-fi alien creature and sound like Darth Vader. Nobody wants to have sex with Darth Vader. Well, probably there are some who do. Unfortunately, Spouse wasn't one of them. (Spouse is going to be so p*ssed that I talked about sex on my blog.)

Since my last diabetes test I have lost more and more feeling in my feet. It's too the point I can hardly feel a thing in places. Ugly purple blotches and stuff, too. And last Thursday night, sleeping in a hotel bed in Duluth, my hands went numb. You know, like they do sometimes during the night? Only they didn't come back right off. It took a full day to get the feeling back in the fingers of my left hand, and two days for my right. This happened once before, but only with one hand. It took three days that time.

Been meaning to set up an appointment and get tested, but I always put it off. I mean, what's the point? I can't afford the test strips, much less the medications. I know people who have diabetes. It's expensive. Why is it the only time I get something expensive, it's cr*p? Like Ron Weasley (Harry Potter Series), everything I own seems to be rubbish. Including my body. Oh, well.

So, I'm going to get tested. The tests will say, Bevie has diabetes. The doctor will write out a prescription. I won't have the money to fill it. The doctor will yell at me and tell me I'm going to die. (Adding his/her voice to my heart doctor's.) I'll get the, "You'll have your arms and legs amputated," speech. "Really?" I'll say. "And who's going to pay for that?" Then, like my heart doctor said last fall, "You'll die." As if that somehow supercedes all other considerations. My response now will be the same it was then. "I know. But I don't have the money."

It isn't so much the finding out that I've got this. It used to be, but I'm past that. The evidence is so conclusive now I can't pretend. It's finding out and knowing that nothing changes, except that now I will know for certain instead of just believing. The knowledge will gain me neither money nor insurance. Especially now. Our beloved governor has spent his entire time in office making it harder and harder for poor people to get insurance, and he's making it even harder this year. At the same time, he wants the state legislature to pass a law making it a crime to NOT have insurance. Beware, people. This man is planning on running for president in 2012. He's an idiot. He's also a Yes Man to the people who pulled GW's strings.

You know what I worry about most? It isn't dying, although I'm not keen on doing that right now. It isn't even being sick, or alone, or miserable because of this. After all, it isn't like I got blindsided for no reason. I did it to myself. It's called cause and effect, sowing and reaping. Paying the consequences for previous actions, decisions, and general behavior.

No. What I fear most is that some jack*ss is going to force me into a hospital, have all kinds of work done, and then leave me with a f*cking medical bill I will NEVER get paid off. And they'll be so happy with themselves because they did this big favor to me. And I will struggle to not hate them for the rest of my life, making me the creep because I should be so grateful for the eternal poverty they put me in. That's my fear.

Well, it seems pointless, but I'm scheduled to go. Friday morning. Something else not to look forward to.

Sorry for walking the riverbottom. Call me a carp, I guess. But remember, starving people consider carp a delicassy. (I think I spelled that wrong, but I'm too lazy to look it up.)

Some people get very angry with me for talking like this. They yell at me, or get up and walk away. Usually, the walking away follows the exchange where they yell at me and tell me to keep on trying. I asked try what? And when they don't have an answer they get mad at me because I don't either. I've tried a lot of things, people. I really have. Nobody believes that because we've been taught (and believe) that if you try, you will win. That's a lie! And it's the worst lie ever. It makes the innocent guilty.

I hope no one bails on me because I wrote a downer post. You don't need to be sorry, or anything like that either. Like I said, I did this. No one else. I'm just venting late because I had a cr*p of a weekend. I hate losing weekends. Even without a job I like weekends. Well, I like Saturdays. For me, the weekend begins about five o'clock on Friday evening and continues until about dawn Sunday morning. I hate Sundays. It's the last day before going back to work/school, and even though those are no longer considerations, the feeling is kind of etched into my soul.

So do not worry. I be back to my usual self tomorrow. Besides, I have about a dozen SuperVillain characters to create today. I'm hoping to post about the Legion of Super On-Line Heroes tomorrow on The Great Sea. I do hope you find the idea interesting and will join. If enough do, then we're talking only one short story every two months or so.

I hope it's fun. You have a great day!


Sunday, March 29, 2009

We Should Have Stayed Home

So, I'm back. For what it's worth. The trip certainly wasn't worth the money spent, and that's saying something, because we spent less than $500. I think we did, anyway. Hope so. That's about 15% of all the money we have left. I'd hate for it to have been more.

We did not have a good time. We did not find a place to live (that we would want to live at). We did not get along that well. (Three people cooped up in a car, a hotel room, and a car for three days.) The portions of time we had reserved to just relax and enjoy ourselves didn't go over well, with the exception of swimming in the hotel pool and splurging at Red Lobster on Thursday evening.

The good news is that we're pretty sure we don't want to move to Duluth. Not that there's anything wrong with Duluth. It's a great place - to visit. There are wonderful things to see and do. But nothing about it said "home" to us. Son got sick riding up and down the streets which, he jokingly referred as, ninety degrees up and down. It isn't quite that bad, but there was a time when we were driving along this narrow alley. The road turned to head down the hill (mountain). I stopped the car. It almost looked like a straight down drop. That was the place where we saw the two white-tail deer. Duluth is close enough to the forest many wild animals show up in town, including bear and fox.

Anyway, we went down slowly. What a pity I don't know automotives. I bet all of the brake shops in Duluth are busy. Unfortunately, if I were to work on brakes, the last place one would wish to drive would be Duluth. One would easily wind up in the lake.

Son probably came out the best. He got to go swimming and buy an action figure at a store. That's pretty much all he wanted to do. Oh, and have the complimentary breakfasts. Only he didn't care for the food. It didn't set well with me either. Food was probably one of the few areas which were kind to Spouse. Oh, and the film.

We argued about which film to watch at the Omnimax Theatre. These are short, forty-five minute films done in IMAX. What's cool about the Duluth Omnimax is that the roof is domed and the film shown there. So your kind of surrounded by the film. Very nice, if you can get past the vertigo in the seating.

Son and I wanted to watch the Alps. Spouse wanted to watch the Great Lakes. So, we decided to splurge. We would watch both. The Great Lakes was first, and then came the Alps. Son didn't really want to go anymore, but he agreed. We get to the theatre and buy double tickets. We watch Spouse's movie. It's okay. But the filming was poorly done and Son has motion sickness again. Spouse claims to be sick, too. So they leave to use the restroom between films. I wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, the second film is starting. Son comes back in. Turns out he and Spouse have turned their tickets back in and have no intention of watching the second film. But I can stay and watch - by myself. Oh, fun! We left. Spouse wanted me to refund my ticket, but I took masochistic satisfaction in refusing to do that. So I paid for a ticket I didn't use.

We get back to the hotel and order pizza from the same place we always do when we visit Duluth. I don't know why, but this time, for some reason, they chose to cook our pizza on a piece of thick cardboard. They weren't even able to cut it with their pizza cutters. We had to tear it apart to eat it. We wound up eating the toppings and piling the crust pieces together. We considered bringing them home to repair the leaks in the roof.

Meals did not work well for me this trip. I wanted to leave Friday night, but Spouse didn't want to. So we stayed, but were up and gone before six-thirty in the morning. The plan was to stop at Barnum and eat at a nice little restaurant with a gift shop. Spouse likes to buy a deck of playing cards every time we take a trip. Well, the gift shop wasn't open. In fact, it had gone out of business. No big deal. Spouse and Son ordered French Bread with sausage links, and I ordered a Country Steak. The waitress returns to tell me they can't make my meal for another fifteen minutes. By then Spouse and Son will be done eating. Suddenly, I'm not hungry anymore and cancel my order. I sit with my hot chocolate and eat the sausage links Spouse and Son won't eat.

What a crummy trip!

I've lost track of the number of times we have gone to Duluth. Only one other trip was this miserable, and that was the time Spouse and I were accosted by two drunken Chippewas looking for a fight. Fortunately, because they were drunk, we were able to get away from them without incurring or inflicting bodily harm. Nothing else went right on that trip, either. I put this trip down with that other. What a waste of time and money.

So, no sooner do we get home than we get another email about Easter. With no energy left I email back: No guarantees. Weather will be a factor. But expect us to be there otherwise.

Not exactly the spring I would have chosen for myself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sometimes Freedom is Just a Word I Think

This may be the last post I make here until Sunday or Monday. Going to be away from the computer a few days. If I get up early enough I'll post tomorrow, but no promises.

It's become so I'm not that keen on major holidays anymore. Well, at least not holidays associated with family. You know the ones: Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Why? Because I really do not wish to visit relatives. Not any more. Not for several years. Not since I found out how important I really am to them.

When the bottom fell out from under us back in '02, I didn't expect anyone to come running to our aid. People have their own struggles and we probably could have avoided all of this had we but exercised better courage and intelligence. In a nutshell, it was our own fault for not preparing. Well and good.

What I did NOT expect, or appreciate, was the treatment we got after we began falling. Those who did not outright ignore us (me in particular, as Spouse is a favorite on both sides) were downright rude. There have been a couple of individuals who have done more than help. Believing we would recover, Judayl actually borrowed money - twice! - to help us. She spent over $10,000 to keep us in this house. But the jobs I found to replace the one I lost didn't last. My body gave out on the one, and the company eliminated the other. Every time I think about what Judayl did I cry. You see, Judayl is also at cliff's edge financially. To help us, she put herself closer to financial ruin. Talk about feeling like scum. If she loses everything I am going to find it difficult not to blame myself. Only I have no money to give her. And if I had all the money in the world it could not pay for what she has done.

Perhaps it is my guilt over succumbing to Judayl's pressure to accept her gifts which spawns my desire to keep away from other relatives. (Not that they'd make similar offers. No way!) But I confess that Judayl did not need use a lot of persuasion to convince me. Every year I thought would be better than the one which preceded it. Every year I was wrong. Were I person of real character I would have refused the money. It turned out to be a lost cause anyway. (Kind of like A.I.G., if you ask me.)

So, imagine my reaction when, a few years ago, Spouse's siblings set up a reunion birthday party for their mother down in Arizona. We couldn't afford to go, so Spouse sent the appropriate apologies. The response was that the siblings would pay Spouse's airfare to Arizona. I told Spouse that was very considerate, but Spouse responded with the message: Thank you, for your offer, but if you truly want to help us, why not use the money to help us with the house payment? I wasn't too keen on this, but I wasn't going to get in the middle of the siblings. Unfortunately, I would be pulled in whether I liked it or not.

The return message was, to put it in the vernacular, there was no way in h*ll they would help us in keeping the house, but they would pay $1,800 for Spouse to fly to Arizona and back. But Spouse didn't want to leave Son. So the offer was amended: They would purchase two tickets: one for Spouse and one for Son. Spouse asked me my opinion. I said, "Do what you want to do. If you want to go, go. If not, stay home. It's your decision." (For some reason, Spouse hates it when I say these things.)

I think Spouse would have gone, except that Son didn't want to go without me. He didn't think it was fair that I be left home alone. But that was where the siblings' generosity ended. No ticket for me. Which was fine with me. So, because of Son not wishing to leave me alone, Spouse declined the offer.

I got letters. I got telephone calls. (So did Spouse.) All accusing me of not letting Spouse go. I felt like Pharaoh, with them all coming to me like Moses, "Let your Spouse and Son go!" They flat out called both Spouse and me liars for saying it was Spouse's decision. And none of them have been particularly kind to me since. Except for one niece, who always treats me like I'm important. I told Spouse to remember that when I die. M lives her faith, and accepts people for who they are.

Why bring up all of this cr*p? Well, one of Spouse's sisters called last night. During their conversation the topic of another reunion in Arizona came up. If we couldn't afford it then, we certainly can't now. At least then I had a job. But apparently the sister wants no part in organizing this time. Spouse told me afterward that she apologized for how things went the last time, and that she (and the other two organizers) hadn't intended to be insulting or cruel.

I know why Spouse brought this up. Not to go to Arizona. That's a non-issue. Rather, it was about Easter. Several of Spouse's sibling are getting together for Easter, and I know Spouse would very much like all of us to go. I don't want to.

It isn't about forgiveness. (I don't think it is, anyway. Hope not.) I don't care about the details of what happened a few years ago (which is why I remember them, right?). What matters is that they continually make it clear they don't particularly like me and, to my surprise, never have. I find no pleasure in the thought of being someplace in which I am "odd man out". I would rather be home alone. At least I have Firestar to keep me company.

At this point in time I have no idea how this will play out. I just know I wish Easter was over. Then whatever I wind up doing would be over, too. If I don't go, they'll hate me because I didn't go. If I do go, they'll hate me because I did. I'm not that keen on going to family functions on my side, either. I just want to stay home. That's easy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

So, I've Got This Idea

Well, I get to brag myself up a bit. No, I mean it! I won something. Came in second place in a writing contest, and it means cookies for my belly. (If I can get to the mail before Son and Spouse do.)

Kiersten had a contest honoring her one year anniversary of blogging. The task was either to write why I visited her blog, or the first paragraph of her biography. I chose the latter and posted it on The Great Sea.

The contest reminded me of stories I used to write, beginning when I was in junior high and continuing to the 1990s. I also posted about that. See A New Hero Has Arisen.

What I'm thinking of doing is to create a weekly exercise - for myself and for any writers interested in participating. The idea is to create a SuperHero persona for ourselves (in my post, I suggested those with Avatar names like FairyHedgeHog and LaughingWolf already have these), and then write scenes in which our SuperHero is in action.

What I'm curious about is reader interest? How much is there? I've been writing these kinds of things off and on for more than thirty years and I get kick out of them. What do you think?

Oh, here is the site to get your SuperHero picture.

NOTE: Since everyone has assumed I am female, I decided to go with a female superhero. Here is mine:

Monday, March 23, 2009

The House of My Youth

Part 10 - Sharing a Bed

So we've come to it. The post which I've hinted at a few times before. The post which reveals why no less than FOUR of my parents' children (I only found out about Helvie and Lynahr recently) were terrified of The Old House.


The Old House was creepy. We knew that from the first day we entered it. But lots of old houses are creepy. Hey, I've been in some newer houses that creeped me out. We heard lots of noises for which we could not place a source. We saw things which shouldn't have been there. Things would appear in the house - clothing which didn't fit anybody we knew. Things would be moved, and no one could remember how. The dogs would get scared for no reason at all and desperately try to leave the house. Friends and relations didn't like to visit or spend the night. Creepy, creepy, creepy.


No big deal.


Not compared to this last manifestation. This was the topper. You see, noises are scary. But they are also a warning. You have time to get the h*ll out of there, which we often did. Seeing things is scary, but again, you have the chance to get away. Clothing showing up is odd. Things being moved is kind of creepy. The dogs wanting out was frightening. Friends and relations were just scardycats. All of those things generated fear, but not to the extent of proximity. When the ghost climbs into bed with you - now you know fear.


For years I believed this only happened to Judayl and myself. Now, after meeting with Helvie a couple of weeks ago, I learned it had happened to her and Lynahr, too. Lynhar had it happen multiple times. Having gone through it once myself I'm amazed she was able to sleep at all ever.


Judayl was the first. It happened in B3, which was her room for most of the years she was there. That was also the room, I found out, where Helvie had her experience.


Lynahr's visits were in B4, which was the only room she ever had in The Old House. It was also the scariest room in the house. It was my room when the house finally burned. All of the rooms upstairs were mine at one time or another, but when I found myself sharing the bed I was in B2.


My experience was virtually the same as my sisters'. It was the middle of the night. I was awakened for some reason. I felt scared. Then someone sat on the foot of my bed. I felt it sink under their weight. I pulled my feet away. They moved. I pulled my feet even further up toward my butt. They moved again. Now I was terrified. By moving my feet I was bringing them to me. But to not move my feet meant risking them being touched. You would have thought I would have screamed or something. I was too terrified. I huddled and whimpered for a good long while. Then, they got up and left. Only they didn't open the door to do it.


It would be years before I dared tell anyone. It was easier to expect them to believe I had seen a ghost than that one got into bed with me. But it turns out I wouldn't have had such a difficult time convincing at least three of my sisters after all.


I believe all manifestations ended when the house burned down. A significant turn of events, I think.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Different Letter

Going to shift gears a bit. Instead of posting something personal, or about someone close to me, I'm going to post an old short story I wrote back in the late 1980s (or early 90s). I think it may have been written shortly after getting my fateful letter. Maybe there was inspiration there. I don't know. This story was taken from a picture provided. It was a writing assignment for a correspondence course. This verison is NOT the original. That may be lost. The copy this is from has a host of red marks on it, despite encouraging words.

The story is a break from my normal fantasy subjects. Basically, it is a story about how hard (and emotional) it is to be a teenager. Everything is either best or worst. It's love or hate. There is no room for anything else.

Letter of Conscience
by Bevie James

Trenton’s brow wrinkled as he studied the letter Chenea had just given him. All of this rambling about how he had treated her when she first came to school. What was she leading up to? Was she aware of the rude things he had been saying about her?

And then he froze. Surely she didn’t mean it. It was a joke. It wasn’t true.

Slowly, sheepishly, he turned his head to look at her.

Chenea met his gaze with her own. Her face was sad and hopeful. Almost pleading. No, it was true all right. Trenton had never felt like such a heel before.

“I do like you. A lot,” she said.

Trenton opened his mouth but found no words. He broke his gaze with her and tried to focus on the letter.

“I suppose you’re surprised,” she said. “I don’t blame you if you are. I know all the kids think I’m stuck up.”

He looked at her and she smiled painfully. “I’ve heard them talk. And some aren’t afraid to tell me to my face. But I really don’t think I’m better than them. I don’t think I’m better than anybody. I know I’m not.

“Anyway, it’s all right that they don’t like me. I think it’s best people don’t get too close to each other. Otherwise it hurts too bad when you leave. Don’t you think?”

Trenton bit his lip, and he could feel his eyes watering. He didn’t dare look at her. He took a deep breath and looked up into the sky, using the sun as an excuse to wipe his eyes.

“I guess that’s why I’m not all that excited about going back to live with my parents,” she said. “By summertime they’ll split up again and I’ll go live with another relative until they get back together. But it’s not their fault. That’s just the way people are.”

Trenton looked at her. He wished his aunt’s bus would get in so he’d have an excuse to leave.

“It’s like when I came here two months ago,” she said. “No one really wanted to be my friend. But I understood. They’ve got their own lives. I didn’t expect anyone to be nice to me. But you were.”

Trenton hung his head. Yes, at first he had tried to be nice. Seeing how the other kids ignored or picked on her, he had tried to be nice. And, to be honest, he was attracted to her.

But she never said anything besides a quiet “thank you.” And after a while he got tired of putting up with the jokes about Chenea and him. That’s when he stopped helping her and began badmouthing her.

“I remember you stood up to those boys,” she said. “That was very nice of you. You didn’t have to do that.

“That was the biggest thing you did. But you did other things. You showed me how to find my way around school. And when I lost my money in the pop machine you bought one for me. You were just nice. And you didn’t have to be. I guess that’s why I like you.”

Chenea’s father called from the bus where he stood talking with the driver. It was time for them to go.

Chenae looked at her father and then quickly back to Trenton.

“I know you can’t really like me,” she said. “You were being nice before because that’s how you are. But I wanted to tell you before I left. That’s why I wrote the letter. I was going to give it to you in school yesterday. But I was afraid. But seeing you here today I just had to.”

She started fumbling with her two oversized bags, no longer looking at him. How pretty she was, Trenton thought. And frail. Despite the things he had said about her, he was still attracted to her.

He reached down and took both of her bags and brought them to the bus where her father and the driver loaded them. Chenae turned and gave Trenton one last look.

“I – I,” she faltered. “I think I love you, Trenton.”

And then she ran onto the bus.

Trenton watched her make her way to a seat. It was a window seat on his side. But she wasn’t looking at him.

The driver started the bus and closed the door. On an impulse, Trenton ran over to below where Chenea sat and began knocking on the window. As she opened it, her father and other passengers turned to see what was happening.

“Chenea, you’re wrong about yourself,” Trenton said. “You’re very special and very pretty. And you’re better than most of the kids I know.”

She stared at him and the bus began to move. As it pulled away she stuck her head out the window to keep looking at him.

“Chenea! Chenea, I love you!” he shouted.

The last thing he saw of her was her smiling face, and he found himself cruelly hoping her parents would split up again. Then maybe, just maybe she would come back.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Remembering My Sister

So, I took a day off in order to let everyone catch up. I'll try to keep myself in check and avoid multiple post days in the future. Can't promise anything. Sometimes I just get carried away.

It's Saturday, which means I'm scheduled to writer either about Daddy or Stephen. But I found something I want to post instead. It's something I wrote shortly after Lynahr passed away. My siblings asked me to write something about her to be read at the service. I had thought to read it myself, but instead we had the pastor read it. That worked out best. He wasn't crying.


My first recollections of my sister begin when I was around five and she thirteen. Being younger I missed a lot of her life.

Helvie and I were the youngest, and often we were looked after by our older siblings, Mickey, Lynahr, and Judayl. Each did a fine job in their own right.

But there was one thing in particular about Lynahr’s approach which I have never forgotten: it was her instinctive knowledge of how to talk and deal with toddler age children. I saw this again when she lived with Spouse, Son, and me for several months when Son was two. Lynahr knows how to make toddlers feel happy again when things go wrong.

When I was a young toddler, I fell at least as often as anyone. Some say more. None say less. I don’t recall. Too many landings on my head, I guess.

But when I fell and was hurt and came looking for comfort and care, Lynahr was quick to help. And she had a special way of doing it. Lynahr had the “magic button.”

Actually, I wore the “magic button” on my little polo shirt. But I remember crying, and then watching in wondrous awe as Lynahr informed me that the “magic button” would make me feel better.

“And there it is!” she cried. “On your shirt!”

She reached out with her finger and rubbed the button on my shirt. And as I watched, she very carefully touched the elbow, or knee, or whatever had been bumped, and gently rubbed the magic in to make it feel better.

And amazing as it may sound, it worked! Nearly every time.

She told me the magic was with me always in that button. But I knew better. I knew it was the combination of Lynahr and that button which brought healing. No one else could do it. I remember trying it. I remember others trying it. But only when Lynahr was there could it work.

I have another recollection of Lynahr. This time the years have passed and I am now the thirteen-year-old. Lynahr is twenty-one and going through some tough times of her own. Tough times seemed to hunt Lynahr. But they can’t get her now. She’s safe.

But this was the summer when our house burned down. We lost virtually everything. The Red Cross helped us (added later: No, they didn’t. They gave us two boxes of chips and some water. I didn't realize this at the time and only found out at the funeral service when my family jumped all over my case for complimenting them for doing nothing. My family has never had good luck with "offiicial" organizations. It was the neighbors who gave us all the food and things.) And local residents made a collection and gave us some money to help buy clothing and things. And dad’s work made a collection of over a thousand dollars. I remember he was so proud of that.

Well, we went shopping. All of us. Even dad. We got new clothes. We got blankets and sheets for the bed. We got other things. We even got a few groceries to make supper. Then we went to the house which our builder rented to us while we rebuilt.

We were just settling in when a knock came at the door. I was coming up from the basement and saw it was Lynahr. She was carrying a box of groceries. She said she had more in the car. You see, Lynahr had the gift of helps. It was a treasure God gave her and she used it to bless the rest of us.

As Helvie went out and I took the box from Lynahr, Daddy reached into the box and pulled out some toilet paper and cried out, “Lynahr! Lynahr! Lynahr! You are a lifesaver. We completely forgot to buy toilet paper.”

I have no doubt we would have thought about that in time, but Lynahr took care of the need before it was too late.

These are things which I shall never forget about Lynahr. I think they speak volumes about who she is, and why when we think of her we think of a wonderful and caring woman.

But Lynahr wants us to remember her for her faith. I know this because she and I talked several times about what kind of “legacy” we would wish to leave. Lynahr’s was, and is, Christ. And I think that those of us who knew her even slightly would agree that her faith is very much something we think of when we think of Lynahr – before, and now, and later.

At the hospital, after she had left, we stood about her bed with a hospital chaplain. He asked if Lynahr had a favorite passage and we really weren’t sure what it would be. But there was a passage I wanted read for her, and I gave him this:

“For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8

I know it isn't always nice to push my faith on this blog - especially now that I created one expressly to do just that. (Faith in Forgiveness, if you're interested.) But it was part of what I wrote back in 2001, and it was what Lynahr wanted most to be rememberd for. Even people who had no regard for God remarked with appreciation how she held her faith to the last. I'll try to be better about this, too.

Lynahr died on September 11, 2001, from complications of a necrotized pancreas, two hours after the first tower fell in New York City. I comforted myself by saying all of those people needed a "Magic Button", and only Lynahr could make it work. She suffered for nine months before going home at last.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Inspired to Flight

Sorry if this is boring you, but the walk down memory lane is just so refreshing (to me). I just came across a letter I wrote which confirms most of the earliest Swords of Fire work no longer exist.

This post ideally belongs on SOF - The People, and I actually started it there, but it ties closely to my earlier post on this blog, I Saved the Knife. The letter appears to be a dedication. I'm going to transcribe part of it. (If you think I'm dramatic now, wait until you read this.) NOTE: The Endos are an obsolete idea.

The organizing and compiling of the records of Madatar and the Endo family began in the year 1974. Ten years later they were still nothing more than fragmented thoughts within my mind, having no way to escape their prison and so find themselves in print in one form or another. Several times I tried to begin the tedious work of putting the many differnt thoughts down on paper, but always I would give up and cease the work, destroying the efforts which I had labored over. I lacked the necessary motivation to finish a work with the required energy and drive. I doubted the interest of others in the records of Madatar and the Endos.

Then, nearly ten years after their beginnings, the records were subjected to yet another effort of will to be written once for all. An interesting twist came about this time, however, and I found myself with a reader who eagerly sought to learn more about the Endos and how their lives became intertwined with that of Madatar's. The records themselves could not be altered, but [I was given*] considerable aide in helping me to present the records in readable form. Thus, from simple outlines of rough copy, [I was*] helped (me) to share with any who held interest the fascinating world of The Great Sea. [The*] eagerness to hear me tell a tale of history was the needed motivation to put me on the road to finishing the work and completing and fulfilling a lifelong dream: to be a writer.

* = replacement text added today

My first reaction to this letter is that it is horribly written. My second reaction is that I owe a lot to the one who became the catalyst for so much of what I have written and aspired to write. Before this, the only work I can remember finishing was The Monsters, which I wrote a bit about on The Great Sea, What Came Before May Be What Comes Next. This work became one of the many destroyed pieces of my creativity.

When the friendship died, so (apparently) had my creativity. I talk about working for thirty years on Swords of Fire, but the truth is after 1988 I let it sit unattended for a good many years. I made myself content to live a dull life doing a dull job until such time that I just quietly died myself.

And then Stephen found me again.

Within a year of his return I was writing. I picked up Swords of Fire and tried correcting the flaws I found. It was hard. I had never done this work alone before, but all attempts at enlisting past help were met with excuses - or silence. Yet I had Stephen, and while he was no help whatsoever in helping me improve my story, he was still inspirational. I was happy to have him back in my life. I think I spent the first six months of our reunion apologizing for letting so many years pass. Finally, he told me to knock it off. He got the message.

When he died, once again my creativity went to sleep. But Stephen had left me with something to keep me going. Stephen made the rounds with all of his friends in the last month before his death, leaving each with their own private admonition. The last words he spoke to me went thus:

"Bevie, I want you to remember your friends. Never forget your friends. And keep writing, Bevie. Don't ever quit writing. Ever."

Stephen died by accident on April 4, 2000. Lynahr died on September 11, 2001. It would take until 2003 before I would again take up the keyboard. Stephen is not around to inspire, but his words remain. There is a phrase I said about myself back in the early 90s. I said it then as sarcasm. Now I think it is true.

I Am an Eagle. It's Time I Learned to Fly!

Grandma's Legacy

Yes, I know. My poetry belongs on The Great Sea. But my grandmother wrote this piece, and this blog is as much about my family and friends as it is about me. So this poem could be posted on either blog. I chose here because the other blog is catching up on posts. (I've been inundating those readers even more with Archive reflections than here.)

My grandmother had a cute sense of humor. Childlike. She was able to retain her childlike qualities to the end of her life. On her death bed she teased the attending nurse, talking about her sex life with her third (and last) husband, who had died a few years earlier. Grandma outlived three husbands. But she remarked that, even at ninety years of age, Eddie still had a "wiggle to his waggle". She would say things like that and then laugh with a Barney Rubble laugh. Hee, hee, hee.

I recall her telling me of some shirt-tail cousins I had. Two brothers: John and Adam. They each got married and had sons about the same age, named the same: Peter. The boys were identified by using their father's name - to avoid confusion. Well, John's son came down with some illness which kept him in bed for a good number of weeks. Back in those days even "minor" illnesses could be fatal. One day after church, my grandma walked up to a woman who was a neighbor to John and his family. After talking social nothings, my grandma inquired, "By the way, how is John's Peter?" The woman looked very concerned and replied, "Why, I didn't know he had hurt it." I was only about ten or twelve when she told me this, and I don't know if I laughed more at the story or her "hee, hee, hee".

Grandma was just a tiny woman. Portly, but short. Perhaps 5'2". Incredible when one considers the shortest of her progeny is about 5'6", and many top 6'.

Aside from being published in a variety of newspapers and magazines, some of her writings were enlisted in published books by "Older Minnesotans". She also self-published a book of poems. In reading it just now I came across this poem. I think it's cute. It certainly expresses Grandma's Humor.

Age Five at a Funeral
by Amy Holmes

There were flowers,
And people in the front seats cried.
I asked my mother, "Why?"
She said, "Sh . . . someone they loved has died."
I said, "How come?"
Mom said, "Give me that bubble gum."

Then I scrunched down low,
And looked along under that long row
Where legs with feet
Maybe a hundred or more
Hung from the seats and touched the floor.

A fly flew past my head,
It lit on a man's leg -
He swatted it dead.
I cried -
Mom whispered, "She's gone to heaven, son
Don't cry."
I was glad. God had room in heaven
For a fly.

Way to go, Grandma.

Food From the "Olden Days"

I was going to post about a birthday invitation I made up for Son back in '99. He was turning three. I had several pictures of him (at two) and I used them to kind of tell the story of the invitation. It's quite darling (to me). I opted not to. Paranoia 1 Cute 0.

So instead I will post about a restaurant which no longer exists. Talk about shifting gears, huh?

The place was called The Ediner, and it was a cafe and malt shop of the 1950s variety. The restaurant itself looked like the inside of a trolley car. A co-worker and I found it while searching for good places to eat near work and we frequented it for a couple of years. Then, we saw the announcment the restaurant was closing. People just didn't want to sit down and be waited on anymore. They wanted to get in, get out, and eat quickly. What a waste. That's what ruined pizza, too. There are hardly any cafes around anymore. Not real ones. It's all fast food and national or regional chains.

I remember feeling very bad when I saw the restaurant was closing. This was in the 1990s, when so much that was important to me was going away. I asked the waitress if I could keep a menu. She shrugged and said, "Why not? We won't need it anymore." So I took one.

Found it in The Archives yesterday.

It's a nice menu, in a plastic binder to keep the paper clean and free from tears. Looking at the prices I am left to wonder what the charges would be today. My favorite menu item was the Hot Beef Sandwich for $5.95. Tender slices of beef piled high served Ediner style with homemade mashed potatoes and scratch gravey. Not sure what "homemade mashed potatoes" meant. I very much doubt they were made "at home". Of course, I should have ordered Salad. Only I so love a good hot roast beef sandwich, and The Ediner had one of the best. I often had a Strawberry Malt to go with my meal. And an Old Fashioned Root Beer. This was IBC brand, which is all right. Beverages was where The Ediner let me down. They served Coke products. I much prefer Pepsi. (Although I will say I prefer Powerade to Gatorade.)

I used The Ediner Menu as a template for creating one for the restaurant Spouse and I considered opening. But with the departure from sit down restaurants to fast food we decided it wasn't worth it. My brother kept telling us we could make a lot of money in fast food. He didn't understand. Few people do, it seems. It's not about the money. It's never about the money. I want to enjoy what I'm doing. Fast food s*cks.

Still think about owning a restaurant - but in the "olden days", when a restaurant really was a restaurant, as opposed to a place where they cooked food. Cripes! You can get that at the deli department at most grocery stores. We sometimes buy rotisserie chicken in a box, kept hot under heat lamps. I miss the "olden days". I guess that makes me old.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Saved the Knife

Once upon a time my mother handed me a stamp album and a bag of stamps she had purchased at some local post office or stamp book store. I diligently went through the bag of stamps and affixed them to their proper page in my Traveler Stamp Album.

Stamp collecting is kind of fun, but eventually the album was packed away. In time, it became part of The Archives. Today, I brought up the last of The Archive boxes. At the very bottom was my stamp album, hidden away. It was the last thing I unpacked. Interesting that it should be the final item to retrieve, considering the secret it held for me.

This particular box had not been opened since 1988. How do I know? Because of the secret it was hiding. I found the knife which cut my guts out in 1988.

If you're interested in something, go to The Great Sea and look at the post titled, "The Archives Have Been Opened". Examine the list of story ideas and see if you recognize any similarity in the stories. Then return here. If you're not interested, continue reading.


waiting some more

and just a little more

The common thread is that ALL of the stories predate 1989. That's how I know the last time this book was opened. This is where I put the knife. I had forgotten I had kept it.

The knife is not a physical knife, as I am sure you have already surmised. It is a letter, handwritten on both sides of a sheet of spiral bound paper. It still has the ragged edges from where it was tore from its binder. It is the official notice of the end of a most important friendship. It was the friendship which had successfully replaced the one I lost when Stephen and I had parted ways (for what I believed to be forever). It was the friendship which spawned such a wealth of creative ideas I felt overwhelmed. I couldn't keep up with the things that were coming to my mind. Just from the list I've posted, there were 11 story ideas in 1987 alone. But I found another list I haven't posted which contains no less than forty story ideas. I found myself reciting them instead of writing them. That's why they're not finished. They were never written. They're oral legends. My friend was a voracious reader, but willing to hear a story first hand from the author, and I exhausted myself coming up with new stories. Now the friendship was over.

It did not come as a surprise. I had been expecting it for several months. Sometimes, I seem to know when certain things are going to change. The details are always fuzzy, but the generality is there. I don't think it's so much "magic" as it is part of my brain seems to subconsciously process clues which others ignore. I say this because, after the fact, it is so easy to go back and see the clues. I had predicted this letter in the spring. It arrived at the end of summer. August.

When Stephen found me just seven years later I thought happiness had returned. Then he died. And so did so many others.

I've read this letter a couple of times now today. While it gives no joy, it does not wholly dampen my newfound feelings of optimism. After all, I have lived with this letter for more than twenty years now. The message has remained in my heart. It still hurts, but I have learned to live with this pain. I had forgotten about the knife, though.

The knife has been returned to its hiding place, to be found again on some other day. Why do I keep it? I'm not sure. Something tells me it's important to do so. It is not my intention to read it again until after I've forgotten where it is. Just like now.

My life had already been sliding when this letter arrived, so the letter does not represent the beginning of my time in the Swamp of Despair and Sadness. Remember, I had already lost Stephen. What it represents is the time when I lost sight of stable land. It was the end of Joy and Happiness.

It just strikes me as interesting that not only should I find this letter, but that I should find it now, during the year when my heart tells me I am turning an important corner in my life and am about to shake hands with Joy and Happiness again such as I have not known - perhaps ever. It is also interesting that I should find it while traversing nearly forty years of my history, because I so often live in the past. Most interesting of all is that, this was the last thing I found.

I think maybe I have come to another ending. Only this time, instead of representing the end of Joy and Happiness, the knife is representing the end of a dismal time in a dark and noisesome swamp of unbearable scent. I am more convinced than ever that things will get better this year. Maybe it is time to try again and repair a friendship which has been dead for so long.

I don't think so. I have new friends now. And I like them (you) very much.

I don't need to search for my happiness. I already have it.

Thank you, my friends.

The Insanity of a Dream - Why the H*ll Not

Came across something else in The Archives I find interesting. It's a copy of a PERSONAL APPRAISAL test I took back in 2000. Basically, it's a test which indicates the kind of work a person should be doing in order to fulfill themselves.

I find these tests interesting because I've taken six or more of them over the years, and the kinds of work which show up in positions two and beyond always change based on what's going on in my life at any given moment. Position one, however, has not changed since I was sixteen years old and took the first of these. According to all of these tests, what I really want to do with my life is: be in entertainment. This particular test lists five areas of entertainment for me:

Rhythmics: dancing, ballet; precision of movement (What? Are they out of their minds?)

Amusment/Entertainment: physical, gymnastics, sports (Not with this body.)

Musical, Creative: compose, arrange, improvise (If only I could.)

Creative Writing: author; imagination, vocabulary (Now we're talking.)

Instructive, Fine Arts: drama, art, music (Yes, yes, yes.)

I really think I missed my calling in life. I should have cast fear aside and set out to establish a career in entertainment when I was young and had no financial (or physical) needs. Now, it's going to be much harder. But it's what I'm going to shoot for. There isn't much I have left to lose by trying. Right? As long as Spouse and Son stay with me I'll be fine. And I need to keep my Archives. Got to keep The Archives.

As I indicated above, the current state of my body makes some of those artistic possibilities impossible. It's a bit late to be learning about music, but I have my bass. And I plan to buy another harp one day (when I can afford it). I never should have sold the one I had. Found my harp music, too! I kept it! Good going, Bevie. I did look into what I have to do to become an "extra" in commercials and films. Did that last year. The big block is that I have to pay dues. Monthly dues. Based on the rate of pay for being an extra I would only have to work on four or five commercials/films in a year to pay the dues, but the likelihood of getting that many jobs in a year is incredibly slim. (They were honest and admitted that flat out up front. Especially since I'm not exactly beautiful anymore. It could be as much as six months between jobs until such time - if ever - that one was "discovered" and used with greater and greater frequency.) In all honesty, if I could afford the monthly dues I'd do it anyway. But we can't afford that kind of dreaming.

Which leaves me with my writing. Which is just fine with me. I like to write stories. (Just go look at the list of books and plays I listed from The Archives on The Great Sea over the past two days. And I've found another list even longer today! At one time I had over 100 books, short stories, and plays on tap to write. Then I put them in The Archives and they were mostly forgotten. Until now. That was the beginning of The Sad Days, which lasted for years, until this year, when things have begun to turn around wonderfully. I have friends again! Did you know that? Of course you do. That's who you are. Sorry. I'm babbling.)

I'm going to try and earn some money selling things I write. In the meantime, I have to find something else some company (and my body) will allow me to do for money. Duluth has several small theatre companies. I'm going to contact some of those and see if they are hiring for anything. Anything. To be near a theatre - and be paid for it - would be wonderful. In time, I might even find myself auditioning for a play or two. Who knows? Might even see one I wrote show up on stage. Probably not Broadway, but maybe Duluth? (Actually, Minneapolis is a bit of a hotbed for theatre, too. We have The Guthrie, and Chanhassen Dinner Theatre - I can cook, and The Orpheum. A long drive to get to work, but it would be worth it. Up to now I've been afraid to even try. But now that I've nothing to lose, what the h*ll? Right? I can only hear them laugh while I'm there.)

Who knows? Crazy thoughts? Perhaps. But remember: I'm old and poor now. It's all right for me to be a little crazy. Right?

It's Time to Be Laughing

Supposed to vent today, and maybe I will later, if I have time. But I'm still finding "diamonds in the rough" scattered through my Archives. Here are a few more of the humor items. There are a couple of other things I would like to post about, but I'm due for a busy morning and I may run out of time. We'll see. Meanwhile -

I copied a cartoon from some place. No indication of where. The picture itself won't scan nicely, so I'll describe it. And grumpy executive (glasses and big frown) sits behind a large desk. Before him is a wimpy man holding a sheet of paper. This is the caption:

Our biggest problem around here is lack of information. Of course, I have nothing to base that on.

Back in 1994 a co-worker and I had a contest to see how long we could keep coming up with new movie titles for the famed "Pet Rock". Here a just a few of our submissions (we had over 100). I'm sure you can come up with a host of your own.

These were some of my originals:

One Flew Over the Pet Rock
A Fistful of Pet Rocks
The Six Million Dollar Pet Rock
Darby O'Gill and the Pet Rock
All the President's Pet Rocks
James Bond: Never Say Pet Rock Again

And these were Howard's:

I Was a Teenage Pet Rock
Journey to the Center of Pet Rock
An Officer and a Pet Rock
Pet Rock Does Dallas (must be over 18)
Godzilla vs. Pet Rock
Interview With a Pet Rock

And finally, here is a short list of poorly written church announcements from a church in Waterville, KS. Supposedly, all of these were actually in a church bulletin.

This afternoon there will be a meeting in the south and north end of the church. Children will be baptized at both ends.

Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. there will be an ice cream social. All the ladies giving milk, please come early.

The service will close with 'Little Drops of Water.' One of the men will start quietly and the rest of the congregation will join in.

On Sunday a special collection will be taken to defray the expense of the new carpet. All those wishing to do something on the carpet will please come forward and get a piece of paper.

The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind, and they can be seen in the church basement on Friday afternoon.

This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Brown to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.

And, my favorite.

Thursday at 5:00 p.m. there will be a meeting of the Little Mother's Club. All wishing to become little mothers will please meet with the minister in the study.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Things We Hide Away

For those of you wondering what I've been doing for a good portion of the day, I'm going to tell you. For those of you who couldn't care less, I'm going to tell you, too.

After doing my morning email and visiting my daily blogs, I did the dishes. Well, some of them. The dishwasher went full on me. Then I brought up the first box of Archives. There was some pretty cool stuff in there! I posted three times on The Great Sea about it, and I didn't even post it all. I'm going to post some of it here.

What I have for here are some of the posters I made and humorous pieces I saved. I'll start with the humorous pieces. These are all from a publication called "News & Notes", from the summer of 1995, when I worked writing software for an insurance company. (Not a good job.) The section containing the humorous stuff was called, Words of Wisdom.

Try a little kindness. As little as possible.

It takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown, and fewer still to ignore someone completely.

Don't walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me, either. Just leave me alone.

It's rediculous humor, but it makes me laugh. Especially the last one. Unfortunately, the posters I made aren't as funny, and two of them aren't even my idea. But I can't remember who's idea they were. I had these displayed promptly at my desk when I worked at Christian outreach company (until the manager told me to take them down).
= = = = =


is not a sickness.
It's an Art.


= = = = =



If you want it:
...we don't have it.
If you're looking for it:
...we don't know where it is.
If you need information:
...we don't know it.
If you want it done:
...we don't have the time.


= = = = =


The art of saying "nice doggy" until you can find a rock!

= = = = =

I like these. Every government office should post them as part of their standard rules of operation.

Going to keep on searching the Archives, now that they're open. Only about a dozen boxes of varying sizes left to peruse.

NOTE: I hate it that this editor thinks leading spaces should be deleted.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Clearly I Chose the Wrong Line of "Work"

Spouse and I have been talking about what we would like to do with out lives, as opposed to what others believe we should do with our lives, now that we have this opportunity to start over.

Siblings and friends, intent on being helpful, keep pointing us at jobs we hate. Their attitude is: Take what you can get. It's better than nothing.

I used to believe that. That's why I've never had a job in my life that was truly fulfilling. Oh, I made good money when I programmed software. But it wasn't me. I hated it. I only cried a few minutes when I was told to "get the h*ll out". By the time I was halfway home I felt free. Then I took another cr*p job and felt like I was some kind of repeat offender, put back in prison. Then health freed me from that job and put me into another office job. Talk about being in prison. It was a relief to have the position killed. I guess I owe this Depression some thanks.

Spouse is the same. Spouse also worked in an office. And hated it.

We never left our jobs on purpose because we had each other to consider, and then Son came along and we had him to consider. So doing what we wanted to do became out of the question.

So what happens?

The economy goes into the toilet and I lose all of the cr*p jobs I didn't really want anyway. Spouse's company leaves town and we don't go with it. Not that interested in living along the east coast. We begin losing things in the house. We have one garage sale. Then another. We did that until we ran out of furniture to sell. Without furniture, people just don't flock to a sale.

More and more we have "lost" things, or been forced to give them up. And do you know what? Off the top of my head, the only thing I can think of that we don't have any more that I wish we did is the gas grill. I love eating meat cooked over an open flame like that. Even hamburger and hot dogs. There was a time I used to get porterhouse steaks. That seems like such a long time ago. We also did a lot of chicken. Chicken cooked on the grill is wonderful. You stab a corner with your fork, cut it off with a steak knife, dip it in hot sauce, and eat. Fantastic. Tastes like shrimp. (Not really. Just couldn't resist the joke.)

Losing so much, little by little, has helped with losing so much at one time now. The simple truth is, we don't really give a d*mn anymore. This has turned into an opportunity for us to do what we want to do. The only problem we really have is that we've ignored what we wanted to do for so long, we're not quite sure what it is we do want to do. We have some ideas. Most seem quite stupid. We're going to look into doing those. Hey, we're old. Old and poor. People expect us to be stupid now. To h*ll with all of that "get any job you can lay your hands on" cr*p. We're going to have fun. If we can.

What's sad, I suppose, (especially if you're a rich Wall Street, Banking, or Insurance executive), is that Spouse and I aren't all that dishonest. If we were, we could have gone into Wall Street, Banking, or Insurance. We could have stole and mishandled billions of dollars. Then, when the entire world collapsed at the same time, we could get paid millions more, which we would pocket for ourselves. Oh, why the h*ll do we have consciences? People with money don't. At least, some times that's the way it seems.

Anyway, some time today our house was sold at sheriff's auction. Spouse walked by me this morning and pointed out the auction would take place in about an hour. I asked if we should go and make a bid. Spouse thought that was funny. That's new. When we were young and hopeful, Spouse laughed at all my jokes (whether they were funny or not). Then it got so nothing I said was funny. (Actually, nothing I ever said was funny. Spouse just quit laughing.) Now that we're starting over again, I'm funny again. Well, Spouse is laughing again.

Another bennie! It's kind of a partial return to youth. I just don't get the body I had, which is a shame. Well, maybe not. Thirty years ago Spouse was quite jealous about my body. No need for that now.

Meanwhile, if the government would only treat us foolish people who have real dreams with the same regard as it does wealthy thieves who only see what they can take. They gave billions away to people who WILL NOT USE IT TO HELP ANYONE BUT THEMSELVES. H*ll, we can do that. And for only a small fraction of the cost. All we need is a little more than quarter million dollars. Then we don't have to worry about anything. The house would be ours.

Why is it that politicians can't think like this: Instead of giving money to businesses in which executives skim off large chunks, give the money to the people of the United States. They will pay off their credit cards, mortgages, and car loans. The banks will be solvent. People will feel good and the economy can roll again. For some reason politicians and economists are convinced giving the money to the people who caused this disaster is going to solve the problem.

Anyway, we get to start over. That is a gift from God. I hope we use it well.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Defining Me, If It is at All Within My Power to Do

Who am I? What have I been and where have I been? Where am I now and where am I going? Am I who I want to be? What changes must I make to achieve my goal of being "a right person before God"?

These are questions I think we all (or at least most of us) ask ourselves in various ways at various times in our lives. I happen to be at an interesting intersection of life in which so many questions about myself have raised themselves and insist upon an answer. Some answer require some serious thought. They all require serious honesty, and not flippant answers of correctness.

We are told by God that he will "shake the heavens and the earth" (Hebrews 12:26-27). I believe this will ultimately be fulfilled literally at some future date, but I also believe it speaks about other things. Us, for one. Who are we, and what do we really believe? You see, I have found in my past that it is easy to say I believe a great many things when there is no pressure to believe, only to find out my behavior changes dramatically when I found myself "put to it".

There have been times (more than I am comfortable admitting to) that I boasted of my bravery in standing fast and true for a friend, or cause. Then, when I found myself personally threatened by such bravery, I abandoned my friend or cause in order to save my own skin. Strangely enough, I have also found the opposite to be true. I have assured friends NOT to count on me should such and such occur, and then find myself at the forefront of disaster in order to help. This kind of behavior puts both my bravery and cowardice in question. I'm not sure what I am.

What I can say is being older helps. Having survived various calamities in my past, I can face current calamities with a different perspective. Some see this new attitude of mine as foolish, lazy, stupid, and childish. Others see it as a form of wisdom, strength, courage, or faith. I don't know what it is. I just know that what we believe will one day be tested for its truth.

Probably the most frightening thing to have tested is faith. The three women who wrote The Faith Club, Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner, found this to be true, although they did not go through it at the same time. It was like each had her turn, and the other two became the support for the one in challenge.

I have had my own testing of faith. That is part of what I have been going through for these past seven years. Actually, it is what has been going on all of my life, but these past seven years seem to have put special focus on what I believe about God. Particularly with regard to his love for me, and whether he does, in fact, make "all things work together for good".

It is frightening to wonder about one's faith. I mean really wonder, not just wonder. It's kind of like what Peter said to Jesus when more and more disciples deserted him.

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." John 6:66-67 New King James Version

If we do not believe in God, then what is there to believe in that matters?

I read another portion of the Quran this morning, and while what I read does not explicitly address this, it does point to a part of my character I find disturbing. Hypocrisy. I wrote about it on Faith in Forgiveness. But this is what I read this morning.

2- The Heifer (Al-Baqarah)

[2:99] We have sent down to you such clear revelations, and only the wicked will reject them.

[2:100] Is it not a fact that when they make a covenant and pledge to keep it, some of them always disregard it? In fact, most of them do not believe.

I do not wish to be a hyprocrite, but it sometimes seems so hard not to be. I preach a level of love, forgiveness, and acceptance which I do not always live up to. Particularly when it comes to family.


My mother is recovering from cancer surgery. She lives alone in an apartment building reserved for the elderly. She has many physical restrictions upon her. She called me earlier this week to request that I come and do some driving errands, as well as do her laundry. I didn't do it. My excuse? A forty mile drive to get there, and a forty mile drive to get home. It would be cheaper, and make more sense, for her neighbors (who are falling over themselves to help her) to do these errands. Which is what happened. But the truth is, I did not want to do these things for my mother. A family history (which I will not go into now) has conditioned me to instinctively keep my distance. (Hence, I live forty miles away.) Not exactly loving, am I?

Spouse's father died on Thursday. The funeral services were today in Milwaukee. We didn't go. It was Spouse's decision, but that decision was based partly on me. You see, while I was perfectly content to drive to Milwaukee, spend the night in a hotel, and drive home the following day; or even drive to Milwaukee, attend the funeral, and then drive home the same day, there was something I was not willing to do. Spend the night in the home of an in-law. Not that I don't like them. In fact, I think some of them are the most wonderful people I know. But they don't particularly like me. Never have. And during the past seven years they have made that quite clear. In fact, I would not have been spending the night in my in-law's house. Spouse and Son would have. My in-law's plan was that I spend the night in a hotel. I got angry and made a scene. (This was done at home, without in-law knowledge.) After I apologized to Spouse, Spouse decided not to go. Wanted to avoid the inevitable confrontation between siblings and me (when it became clear none of us would be spending the night in her home). Not exactly forgiving and accepting, am I?

Why do I confess these things?

Because one of my big fears is that I am nothing more than a hypocrite. I have watched more than one preacher rail against this sin or that, and then be exposed for it himself/herself. It's disgusting. I don't want to be disgusting. But I kind of think I am sometimes.

So what about faith in general and my faith in particular? This is what I believe.

Faith is like an ocean. Rivers of fear pour into it. We are creatures of water who can abide in either fresh water or salt water. But brakken is difficult. Where faith meets fear is the estuary of brakken. We must choose to go one way or the other. We always choose the side which is strongest. When fear is stronger, we flee to the Rivers of Fear. When faith is stronger, we dive into the Ocean of Faith. Both faith and fear are tested in the Waters of Brakken. It's an awful place to be, but necessary if we are to grow.

Having been there regarding my faith in God I can say I chose the ocean. The base tenents of my faith are what I believe. God loves us. God forgives us. God paid the price for our sins (I believe through Jesus's death on the cross, but I accept others believe God used a different means) to do this. God loves and forgives everyone, so we should, too. That's easy for me to say. But then I have the issues with my mother and my in-laws.

It turns out I do not preach from above, but rather from below.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lessons From a Friend

Haven't written much about Stephen of late. I've referenced him, but not told anything specific. I was wondering what to write and recalled this incident which he related to me when we were at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. This is second-hand information, so bear with me. Also, it is possible I have already told this story. (That's the problem with getting older. We tend to repeat ourselves. That's what older people do. Repeat themselves. We keep saying the same thing over and over again. We're just repetitive.)

Anyway. Steven.

Steven was an artist. He was good at it, too. I expect God has got him doing something artistic now that Steven is with him in heaven. But I remember when Steven was offered a partial scholarship to go to some college in Texas. For ceramics. He was so offended he tore up the invitation. He wound up at the local community college.

Up to this point, all of Steven's work with art took place at the high school or in his house. He made his bedroom into an art studio. He had an easel for his painting, and he also did plaster and clay sculptures. In time he would incorporate other elements besides just paint into his canvass work. Texture became important. But that was after college.

I frequently left college early, taking the afternoon off. This was convenient when you realize I often arrived late. It made for a very nice day of school. I would attend perhaps two, three, or four hours of class and call it a day. Then I would go hit a tennis ball against a building, or practice my serve, until Steven was done. Then I would drive to his house to prepare for the evening, which might include tennis, a movie, Keno's Pizza, or J's Pizza. Whatever he felt like doing.

This one day I arrived to find him sitting hunched up on his bed all depressed like. I sat at his desk and talked as though nothing were wrong. With Steve, there just might be nothing wrong. He could get like this for no reason at all. (Must have been contagious, because I'm that way now.) But this day there really was something bothering him. It had happened in art class. I paid attention. If Steve was upset about art, then it must have been tramatic.

Steve had already established himself as one of the instructor's favorites, just as in high school. Those who understand art understood Steven had talent. Lots of it. What I don't think the instructor did understand was that Steven also had issues. The most severe one had to do with what happened in art class. This is as I recall Steven explaining it.

It was a regular class. We got our easels and canvass out and set up our oils. Then the instructor came in and asked if we were ready. And then it happened. A girl came in and sat on a stool in the middle of us. She was naked. She just sat there reading a book like it was no big deal.

What did you do? I asked.

Well, I didn't know what to do at first. But everyone else was acting like it was just normal or something. So I started to paint.

Which part of her body did you start with? I asked, knowing Steven was obsessed with breasts.

Well, actually, I didn't paint the girl. I painted the bowl of fruit.


Yeah. That's kind of what the instructor said when he came by to examine our work.

What did he say?

He said he thought I might need counseling.

I laughed at him. I'm sorry, but I did. But it was all right. He was laughing, too. We could tell each other stuff like that and laugh. Steven would eventually get past his inhibitions and such and paint the model as she sat before him. In fact, he would go through a phase in which it seemed all of his art was devoted to naked women. That lasted for several years. I think he was over it by the time he married.

I often wish Steven were still around. What would he tell me about my losing my house? He would find some way to relate it to art. Whatever it would be, I know he would be using humor. But he wouldn't tell me he was sorry and he wouldn't tell me it was my own fault. He would simply be my friend.

That's what friends do, isn't it? We talk to each other without judgment. I try to do that with everyone now. Steven taught me so much.