May 31, 2008

Miami Airport, Part Three: Home Sweet Home

In Which I Prove Once Again That God Watches Over Fools

Link to Part One
Link to Part Two

The flight from Colombia to Miami was without incident, if you don’t count the time we had to put on our seat belts as we flew over Cuba. This was to keep us safe in case we were hijacked and forced to land in Cuba. I know I felt stupid safer, much in the way I felt protected from nuclear holocaust when we practiced Duck and Cover in elementary school; or how secure I felt years later when told to use duct tape and plastic sheeting to shield my family from chemical weapons: the federal version of security. But I digress.

While we were in the air, the attendants gave everyone a slip of paper on which we were to declare the purchases we were bringing into the U.S. I had two vases and three ruanas, a kind of poncho made of llama wool. One of the older gentlemen in our party was carrying my quart of anisette, since I was underage in Florida. (Well, I was in Colombia too; but since I wore makeup and shaved, they assumed I was 21. Worked for me.)

We claimed our luggage and lined up at customs. It was a huge room, with what appeared to be grocery lanes in reverse spread across the width. There must have been at least twenty lanes, every single one of them attended by a female agent. Huh.

I ended up in line behind a tiny, white-haired, 200-year-old Colombian priest. When he approached the customs agent, he handed her his claim slip. It was blank. She did not speak Spanish and he did not speak English. So of course she spoke very SLOWLY AND LOUDLY so that he would understand. She asked him if he had anything to declare. He frowned and then smiled, motioning that he did not comprehend.

In this era of travel, there were no mechanical detectors of any kind. Customs was conducted with various means of poking: luggage, clothing, orifices, whatever. The agent opened the priest’s small suitcase, poked through the clothes and asked him again about claims. He blinked and smiled, casting his eyes about looking for help.

I decided I could use my new but admittedly weak Spanish skills to assist. I asked the priest if he had any gifts for family or friends in his luggage. He said no. I iterated the conversation to the customs agent and she closed his suitcase and sent him on his way. She gushed her thanks to me as I set my suitcase on the counter.

The agent was so grateful that she didn’t even open my bag. I handed her my sheet; she glanced at it, handed it back, and motioned me on with a sweep of her arms. I proffered the coat I was carrying in my arms.

“Noooooo, nonono! You just go right on ahead!”

“You sure?"

“Go on!” she smiled. “You’re done!”

I met John in the terminal. He watched my bags while I went into a phone booth and extricated the baggie from my bra. He offered his cheerful thanks and went on his way to a different flight. The rest of the gang was gathering, but one of the ladies was missing. The principal oboist for the symphony orchestra, she had been in line with one of our classmates. What was the holdup?

Apparently she had failed to claim a pair of gold earrings on her duty sheet. The agent found a receipt for them in her luggage and asked her where they were. They were in her money belt under her dress. She was escorted to a small room where they conducted a strip search. Yikes.

That was when it sank in what I had risked, for something that wasn’t even mine. What an idiot I was. There but for the grace of God…

It reminds me of when I and a couple of friends were abandoned in Daytona Beach in the dead of night, sixty miles from our hotel. But that’s another story.

May 29, 2008

Miami Airport, Part Two: Inbound

In Which I Become a Smuggler

Link to Part One

I had an amazing life-changing experience in Colombia, living in Medellin for six weeks and taking a Spanish course full-time in the day. I grew in so many ways. But not enough, apparently.

I was one of eight people taking this course. I was sixteen, John was seventeen, and almost everyone else was in their sixties. Each of us was housed in Medellin with a local family. We took the bus downtown to the class for eight hours a day.

During our stay, our host and teacher invited us to visit his coffee farm in a tiny town near Bogota. We all flew to Bogota for a day and spent two nights at the farm. While we were in Bogota, we visited the jewel district.

Bogota is called the Emerald Capital of the World. John, my fellow teen, had done his homework; he wanted to buy some unmounted emeralds for his mother while he was there. The merchants sold the emeralds from the sidewalk, holding out their open hands with cut stones shimmering on a square of black velvet. John bought three emeralds.

I thought nothing more about it until it was time for all of us to return to the United States. We gathered at our appointed spot at the airport to wait for departure. (I was dressed for the flight in—of course—a dress and pantyhose. My underwear was safely ensconsed underneath. I was no fool.)

John took me aside and pulled a folded and taped baggie from his pocket.

“I was hoping you’d do me a favor.”


“I don’t want to pay duty on these emeralds. They’re valued in the U.S. at five times what I paid for them here. The taxes would amount to almost what I paid for them. Would you stuff this in your bra and sneak them through customs?”

Wait a minute. This was illegal. This was cheating our government of money that was rightfully due them. It could be dangerous.


“Are you sure?”

“Why not? Give them to me.”

John was a planner. “Here’s a safety pin to pin it inside your bra. You can use the bathroom.”

I pinned the baggie just under my strap in the front of my bra. It was inconspicuous and easy to do. Now it was time to enjoy the flight home.

Next: Miami Airport, Part Three: Home Sweet Home

May 26, 2008

Miami Airport, Part One: Outbound

In Which I Have Just One of the Many Hugely Embarrassing Moments of My Life

I was sixteen that summer in 1970. I had one more year of high school. I was very unhappy at home, and the best teacher I’d ever had convinced my parents to send me on a trip to Colombia, South America, where I’d take a six-week course in Spanish. The trip changed my life. But this post isn’t about the trip. It’s about my first time through the Miami airport.

My flight from Sarasota was uneventful but exciting to this first-time flyer. Back then, flying was an occasion to dress nicely. And back then, dresses were short. Really short. Don’t-bend-over-if-you-drop-something short. That will be very important later in the story.

To complete my dressy look, I wore pantyhose. This was a big deal. Pantyhose had recently been invented, and this was the first pair I’d ever worn. Up until now, it was an excruciating ordeal to put on hose: messing with those garters, getting the things to stay right. No wonder pantyhose caught on. But what was the proper way to wear them?

You see, pantyhose come with a cotton panel in the crotch. Was I supposed to wear underwear with these things? Nothing on the instructions said anything about it. But don’t you ALWAYS wear underwear? (Remember, I was sixteen.) Well, I couldn’t ask my mother; what did she know? She was what, almost fifty? And I couldn’t ask my friends; they might laugh at me for not knowing. So I had to decide on my own. And I decided yes.

Now the question was: do you wear them inside or outside? Stay with me here; I really thought about this. I decided that, since the pantyhose had that cotton crotch thingy, I should wear my underwear outside the hose. Quit laughing. I’m not done yet.

I wore nylon hiphugger bikinis. They were slippery things, but whatever. I was doing fine until I got off the plane in Miami. Apparently sitting on the plane loosened up my bikinis. As I deplaned, I realized that my underwear was sliding down the slick surface of my pantyhose. Since the hem of my dress came only just below my hips, my underwear did not have far to go to be seen. And every step I took sent those bikinis a little further south.

I locked my thighs and knees together as I walked from the gate, desperately looking for a restroom. I pressed my one free hand tightly to my hip to prevent my underwear from sliding to my feet. I was taking itty-bitty steps, clicking along in my pumps as fast as I could in my panic to find the damn bathroom. There it is! Thank you, God.

I slipped into a stall, let my underwear drop, and stepped out of them. I felt naked. So I took off my pantyhose, put my underwear on, and put the pantyhose back on. I’m sure you can appreciate the gymnastics involved in doing this in an airport toilet stall. No cracks about tapping feet, please.

More or less correctly attired, I made my exit and found the gate for the flight that would take me to Colombia. Whew.

Next: Miami Airport, Part Two: Inbound.

May 24, 2008

Playlist: Wyoming Skies

Two summers ago I had the experience of a lifetime: I joined my sister for a portion of her 4800-mile drive home from Hartford, Connecticut to Haines, Alaska. I was able to accompany her from Indianapolis to Edmonton, Alberta: 2700 miles. What a ride. I’ll tell you about it in another post someday, but here’s the instrumental compilation I put together after falling in love with the American West.

It’s interesting to note that most of the tracks come from five different movie soundtracks; I suppose that is the most accessible “western-sounding” music. Those who are astute—read: as anal-retentive as I am —may notice that several tracks repeat from the previous playlist, including Metheny’s “Spiritual.” That piece is one of my favorites of all time. I think its soothing sensuality makes a wonderful waltz for two. Envision wine; low lights; wrapped in your hunnybun’s arms, swaying only on the downbeat. He pulls you close and nuzzles your neck…mmm…

…where was I? Oh yes.

In concert with the other tracks, this mix brings back to me the majesty and poignant desolation of the high prairie, canyons, and rugged mountains. Breathtaking in its quiet power, the landscape overwhelms. The order of the tracks is important to the flow of the mix. (With thanks and a tip of the cowboy hat to Mike.) Enjoy. 1.2 hours.

Wyoming Skies

1. End Title / Thomas Newman / Shawshank Redemption Soundtrack
2. A Map Of The World 1 / Pat Metheny / A Map Of The World Soundtrack
3. Chichina / Gustavo Santaolalla / The Motorcyle Diaries Soundtrack
4. Robert’s Theme / David Arkenstone / Frontier
5. Brokeback Mountain Score 1 (The Mountain) / Gustavo Santaolalla/ Brokeback Mountain Soundtrack
6. Little Martha / Jerry Douglas / Lookout For Hope
7. Then They Were Gone / Joe Euro / Eyes On The Horizon
8. High Desert / Bruce Kaphan / Slider: Ambient Excursions For Pedal Steel Guitar
9. Snow / Gustavo Santaolalla / Brokeback Mountain Soundtrack
10. Angels In The Snow / David Arkenstone / The Very Best Of Celtic Christmas
11. Kiss / Gustavo Santaolalla / Brokeback Mountain Complete Score
12. Michael Hedges Goes To Heaven / Michael Gulezian / Language Of The Flame
13. John Grady’s Angel / Marty Stuart / All The Pretty Horses Soundtrack
14. Riding Horses / Gustavo Santaolalla / Brokeback Mountain Soundtrack
15. Retrograde / Leo Kottke / One Guitar, No Vocals
16. The Precious Jewel / Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny / Beyond The Missouri Sky
17. You Are Late / Gustavo Santaolalla / Brokeback Mountain Complete Score
18. Cowboy’s Dream / Marty Stuart / All The Pretty Horses Soundtrack
19. Brokeback Mountain Score 3 (Dozy Embrace) / Gustavo Santaolalla / Brokeback Mountain Soundtrack
20. Midnight Watch / Joe Euro / The High Road
21. The Wings / Gustavo Santaolalla / Brokeback Mountain Soundtrack
22. Spiritual / Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny / Beyond The Missouri Sky

May 22, 2008

Feel the Love

I went to a fine arts festival the other day. The sun was out and the crowd was diverse. Two young college-aged women passed by.

Girl 1: What kind of art do you like?

Girl 2: I don’t have a certain kind; I’ve just got to feel the love.

May 20, 2008

Let's Get Small

I got a chance to visit the night sky again when I went home to Florida recently. It’s been a long time since I looked up in quiet appreciation. At this time of year the earth looks outward to the edge of the Milky Way and beyond. That means there are very few features to see except stars unless you have a powerful telescope.

In Florida at 23° latitude, the Big Dipper and Orion are visible in the same sky. That does not happen easily in Indiana skies at 40° latitude. There is a feature in Orion that can take your breath away when you understand what you’re seeing. More on that in a minute.

When you look up at the stars, all you see are a bunch of dots. When you look through a telescope at the stars, though, you can see…well, a bunch of dots. Stars are so distant that magnification is almost meaningless; they don’t get bigger. But if you have a large enough lens, you can see more stars and more color. In astronomy, size matters.

If you look through a medium-sized (8” wide) telescope at something besides a star, don’t get your hopes up. It will look nothing like any picture you’ve been privileged to see in the past fifty years. The human eye is not capable of gathering light and building an image the way a camera can. The bright bands and storms of Jupiter are barely-visible pastel features. It seems a little anticlimactic to see the Great Pink Spot. You can see Saturn’s rings occasionally in focus and, on a good night, the shadow they cast on the planet. Mars remains a larger dot (which magnifies only because it is close to our planet). Nebulae are barely-visible clouds of gray vapor.

But you’re looking at the real thing in real time; and when you think about that and your place in the universe, suddenly you get the true picture at just how small and insignificant we are in the scheme of things. This is sobering and exhilarating at the same time. The more I learn about the nature of our universe, the closer I feel to God. He is revealed to me in the complex and intricate interactions of forces and matter that make up what we know about the nature of reality; and we know so little. It is a joy to learn new ways to understand the physical plane because it reveals the spiritual plane as well. Art is a window to the artist’s soul.

I turn my eye to Orion—remember Orion?—and look at the three almost horizontal stars that make the belt. Below the belt are three or more vertical stars that comprise the sword. On a dark winter or spring night where there are few lights, you can make out a greenish-gray cloud around the central stars of the sword. In 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars—aperture is everything!—you can see textured clouds of dust illuminated by the light of newborn stars: a cosmic nursery. 1200 light years away, a star is born.

Have you lost your childlike Wow Factor? Looking at deep space objects through just a pair of regular binoculars should bring it back. Find a basic star map to know where to aim, and look up. Wow.

May 16, 2008

Light in the Darkness

I really don’t have the emotional strength to detail what’s gone on with my son Ben in the past two weeks. He is now at a wilderness camp for defiant teens. He did not want to go. But this is how he closed his first letter that came to us today:
My sweet boy is emerging again. I cannot tell you what this means to Abe and me. My tears now are of thanks and joy. He is not lost to us. He is not lost to himself.

There will be trials when he returns home next month, of that I have no doubt. But Abe and I are taking a class too, designed to help us communicate the love we have for Ben in a way that he hears it. We have a lot of work to do.

Our friends and colleagues have really rallied around us to provide emotional support. You have been gracious in your support, too. By not trying to hide what’s been happening, we have received tremendous help which led to finding this treatment camp. The volunteers who work with me at my church have stepped up to take some of my responsibilities as my focus changed to dealing with Ben. A benefactor who wants to remain anonymous has offered to help a little with the huge debt we have undertaken.

I am overwhelmed with the kindness of the people in my sphere. We have received help even when we didn’t ask. It is such a testament of the potential for goodness in people when we are inundated with negative examples daily in the media. God has blessed us in ways we never anticipated.

Ben was and continues to be a gift to us, and we’ve told him so. May he gain some answers in the quest he is on now.

Next: Open Hearts, Open Plains

Barber's Adagio For Strings

I have two substandard recordings of Barber’s Adagio For Strings, one of the most poignant pieces of music ever written. One is a nuanced performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic led by Leonard Bernstein, but the recording is flawed by poor placement of the microphones. The piece is overwhelmed by brass and winds and barely audible in strings at pianissimo. It is on the Deutsche Grammophone label, one I mistakenly believed was for audiophiles. The other recording, a gift from someone online, is unaccredited; it is a better recording of a poorer performance that lacks emotion, the hallmark of the piece.

So I ask: does anyone know of a very good recording of a very good performance of Adagio For Strings?

Postscript: I am not asking about DJ Tiesto’s remix. I want the original orchestral rendition.

May 14, 2008


Today was the day for which I have prepared for over a year. I sat down with our senior pastor and told him I want our church to be intentionally welcoming to the gay community. I wasn’t nervous—I had a mission—but I had no idea what the outcome would be.

In a church of this size (over 4,000 members), we have a large staff. It is a rare occasion for me, a Sunday School director, to cross paths with the senior pastor without an appointment. I am part-time, so I am not privy to the large staff meetings. Therefore, I had no idea how he felt about the whole subject. It was time to find out.

Briefly, I told him that I believed there were many in our church who believe as I do: that we need to open our arms to the gay community, to be a counterpoint to the ugliness being spouted in the name of Christianity against people who are gay. While I have never had a problem with the subject of homosexuality, I have been guilty of not wanting to make a fuss. But I know there are people in our congregation—as yet undiscovered—who would be willing to follow the lead of someone who would guide them toward a grace-filled welcome. I am willing to be one of those leaders. It’s long overdue.

“Pastor” described our congregation kindly as “traditional.” In his former church, he said, it was much easier to broach the subject and engender acceptance in those willing to be led. We both acknowledged that there are those who will not be swayed.

I believe it is a three-pronged decision for a Christian: Sin or no sin? Grace or no grace? Me or not me? Even if we cannot agree on sin—forever flinging Bible verses back and forth at each other—we can come together on grace. This is the central issue. And agreeing as we must on grace for all, without limits, the final choice is to decide whether we are capable of that grace. It is the role of the church to show them how. Differences fade at the foot of the cross.

Pastor told me in no uncertain terms, “Everyone is welcome in my church. Everyone.” He wants to explore with some of the other pastors (yeah, we have a lot) the strategy to approach this in a way that leads to success. Coincidentally?—I think not—he has a meeting tomorrow with four members of our pastoral staff to discuss offering for the first time a support group for families with children who are gay. Well!

All I wanted was his blessing and funding to attend a seminar in August that teaches a nonconfrontational way to introduce the matter into a church. I’ve got the go-ahead. Then I asked permission to bring along some like-minded members who are friends of mine. (One happens to be my husband.) Pastor wants to discuss this with staff further before turning it into a task force, but hey. That’s fine with me.

I am heartened and eager to get to that seminar. I’ve got a lot of reading to do, and that’s not even the texts I’m supposed to be reading for school. Yikes. I’d better get more organized.

I’ve got a ton of online sources bookmarked: Soulforce, Welcoming Churches, HRC, GayChristian, Whosoever Magazine, Convenant Network, Family Equality Council, MyOutSpirit, Shepherd Initiative, Turbulent Cleric, and dozens more. I have found most of these sources from referrals, so I will ask you: What source do you think is important for me to see? What books are important for me to read? I may have seen it already, but I want to know what I might have missed. Give me more homework. And let’s do this together.

Graphic courtesy of

May 13, 2008

Playlist: Convertible Night

I managed to snag an inexpensive convertible to rent for my recent visit home to Sarasota. Somewhere Joe was gracious enough to come up to see me, and we enjoyed an evening of dinner, drum circle, and driving the beach roads on the islands. This is the mix I burned for night drives in the convertible. Picture it: a quiet night, cruising in the warm breezes under the palms with a new friend. Lovely.

This is an instrumental mix of jazz, ambient, and electric or acoustic guitar designed for conversation or quiet times. One hour.

1. Wild Theme / Mark Knopfler / Local Hero Soundtrack
2. Sonho Dourado / Daniel Lanois / Wouldn’t It Be Beautiful?
3. Silver Morning / Brian Eno / Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks
4. The Precious Jewel / Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny / Beyond The Missouri Sky
5. Planxty Don Gallagher / Gayla Paul / Waiting For The Spark
6. Order Of Magnitude / Doug Smith / Order Of Magnitude
7. Weightless / Brian Eno / Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks
8. Your Hand In Mine / Explosions In The Sky / Friday Night Lights Soundtrack
9. Then They Were Gone / Joe Euro / Eyes On The Horizon
10. Wild Mountain Thyme / Mark Knopfler / A Shot At Glory Soundtrack
11. The Moon Song / Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny / Beyond The Missouri Sky
12. Love (edit from “Horse Love”) / Gustavo Santaolalla / Brokeback Mountain Complete Score
13. Spiritual / Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny / Beyond The Missouri Sky
14. Sleep / The Dandy Warhols / Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia
15. Deep Blue Day / Brian Eno / Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks

May 12, 2008

Action! Action! Action!

My daughter is a junior in college. The university is proactive and realistic about safer sex, and they have bowls of condoms available wherever the students congregate. Apparently they receive the condoms in bulk from China. I say this because she found these instructions in one of the bowls and sent me a picture:
Her comment to #2: “Now where did I put that? I know it’s around here somewhere.”

May 11, 2008

When Business is a Pleasure

Father Tony has been blogging about his experience in the working world and has offered some seriously good advice on how to move ahead.

In between my stints in the ivory towers of education and religious institution, I had a Corporate Period in which I reached my goal of corporate sales trainer. Having that managerial experience was helpful when I returned to the working world after staying home for nine years with my children.

I currently manage volunteers, which is a whole different ball of wax, let me tell you. But I have had the privilege of working for the best boss ever at my church, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on that.

There are two schools of thought on managerial style: Top/down and bottom/up. (Do not go there. This is business I’m talking about.) “Top/down” is the style you’re all used to. The boss at the top issues edicts and each layer of employees below struggles to meet the demands. It is punitive, powered by fear and can be effective for the short run. But I find it fosters distrust and stealth.

“Bottom/up” management turns the working pyramid model upside down. The owner/CEO is at the bottom point of the pyramid, doing everything in her power to support those people who report to her. She removes all obstacles that prevent them from doing the job they were hired to do. Those in turn do the same for the next organizational layer. This makes the “front line” staff the most powerful people in the organization, and they face the public or produce the product. They have been given the freedom to do what they were hired to do in the best possible manner.

Can you tell which model I prefer? I have worked in both arenas, and I can tell you hands down that the inverted pyramid model works. I used it in my brief tenure as corporate trainer. (I discovered I was pregnant two weeks after getting promoted. It was a great nine months.) In that period, turnover dropped 73% in the five stores where I trained sales staff. The one store whose training came from a manufacturer didn’t change their turnover rate (which, frankly, was unacceptably high).

When Japan surrendered in WWII, the U.S. sent W. Edwards Deming there to resurrect their broken business structure. He taught them the inverted pyramid style of management, and they took it and ran. Japan had to start from less than nothing and became an economic/industrial world power in less than forty years. This management style works. It fosters loyalty, effort, and community.

My boss at church not only used this model, he added two components that made him the best boss I’ve ever had. He communicated so well in our weekly meetings that nothing was ever a surprise (unless it came from an outside source). Our annual reviews were practically parties, because all of it was old news. We were kept apprised every week where we were and where we were going.

He was also flexible. He learned how to keep me happy. Everyone should be able to look forward to going to work as I did. I couldn’t wait to get there and do what was asked of me. What an incredible example of servant leadership he was (and is at the new church where he is now head pastor).

You can insert this model wherever you work, even where it isn’t practiced, as I did. Your department can prosper in this working model. Doing well can send you up the ladder (and down the inverted pyramid) where you can train others to do the same. It makes your workplace somewhere people want to stay and produce.

May 8, 2008

Ur Song

The great composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein dedicated his final years to searching for what he called the “Ur Song” (pronounced "er" or "oor"). There is a theory, to which he subscribed, that there exists in each of us a song that we are born knowing without having been taught. This song is universal to all races and cultures and is instantly recognizable without lyrics (although some may be ascribed to the tune at any time in history). It’s in our DNA.

Named for the region from which Abraham came—the convergence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, called the “Cradle of Civilization”—the Ur Song would have survived the milennia, instinctively imbedded in music throughout history. Bernstein studied music from all over the world, historical and modern, trying to find that collection of notes that crossed time and geography. He died never having found the Ur Song.

He was looking in the wrong places.

I know the Ur Song. You know it too. It has six notes. Its meaning is transmitted instantly upon hearing it for the very first time, with words or without. It brings an emotional response every time. Your child knows it, and you never taught him. Bernstein could have found the song on any playground in the world. Since I can’t sing it for you, I’ll write the lyrics that have been attached to this tune in modern times: “Nanny nanny boo boo.”

Am I right or what? Everyone knows this song. Not one parent ever taught this song to a child, but we all know and hate it—with lyrics or without—because we recognize the taunting in its tune. It’s in our DNA.

I think someone should look for the Ur Dance.

May 6, 2008

Forgiveness, Mercy and Love

Of forgiveness, mercy and love—those elements of grace which each of us needs—I believe that forgiveness is the most difficult. To offer forgiveness, one must be willing to forego justice, thereby imparting mercy as well. There lies within each of us a scale of justice, measuring the weight of each act, seeking balance. Forgiveness removes the weights and negates the scale.

It is easier by far to forgive another than it is to truly forgive oneself. We know all the transgressions, the omissions, the desires, the truth of who we are. I was able to attain a state of peace even amidst life’s turmoil when I fully acknowledged God’s forgiving love and understood His acceptance for who I am. It took a long time. Knowing God’s forgiveness gave me the ability to forgive myself for that ever-growing list of sinful behaviors. I am free, not so much to sin—although I do—but to share that grace.

Therein lies the secret of God’s love: it is not intended to be a weapon with which we wage war on one another or within; it is a powerful magnet that pulls in not only the weak and broken but the strong and vibrant too. For within its grip we are all intimately connected, equal and whole.

May 5, 2008


Two years ago:

Ben and I are in the living room; I'm on my laptop, he's engrossed in his Nintendo DS. Abe is rattling dishes around in the kitchen.

Some sort of music starts, a high-pitched music-box tinkle of a melody that just screams Barbie. Really annoying stuff. Abe groans, "Ben," and answers his cell phone.

I look at Ben with a raised eyebrow. "You do that?"

Half a grin and a nod. "And his banner says 'Feed Ben now.'"


"Thank you."

Ben and I return to our tasks as muttering joins the clatter of dishes from the kitchen.

May 3, 2008

A Recommendation

Every so often you find a jewel imbedded deep in the Web. It may get hidden by time, lost to those who might marvel at its facets and clarity. When I find one of those, I want to share.

A couple of months ago I had the flu and consequently plenty of time to wander the Web. Through a prompt from another blog, I found Somewhere Joe's Hooky Beach. He's a photojournalist who lives in southwest Florida. I began to work my way back through his posts. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. (My credo: teach me, move me, surprise me. Do all three and I'm yours.) I found what I think is his sole entry in the world of fiction. It took me back to my hometown of Sarasota on that bleak day; and it drew me into a life I didn't know. I offer this to anyone who enjoys a good story:

Once Upon a Time in the Sand

I've since had the good fortune to meet Joe and spend some quality time with him. I'm a very lucky person to have him for a friend. Check out his site.

The Weekend From Hell

I visited Tornwordo over at Sticky Crows this morning, and the poor guy’s got food poisoning. Man, I’ve been there; and I can’t recommend it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sick. It was one of six elements of a time I’ve come to call the Weekend From Hell.

It started off nicely enough. The family and I were returning home from vacation in Florida. The return drive had been uneventful and the weather was sunny. I was driving through nowhere, Kentucky when the engine just quit running. (1) I managed to pull off the highway and we reconnoitered up the grassy hill near the fence to wait for a tow truck. I had to entertain two young elementary-aged children with nothing but my imagination.

A little more than an hour later, the truck towed us into Bowling Green. It was late evening on a Friday, and none of the dealerships were open. Some tiny gas station was just about to close, and we were taken there. The mechanic looked at the car and told us we needed a new fuel pump. We were wondering how much we could trust this guy when the assistant told us the mechanic could work on it Saturday but not Sunday because he was a preacher. Well, maybe we could trust him, but the car had to stay where it was.

The preacher knew a guy who rented cars and called him to meet us at his business. He drove the four of us over and we rented a huge Lincoln. By now it was about 11:00 at night. We loaded up the car with all of our stuff and hit the highway. About ten miles down the road, the “Service Engine Soon” light came on. (2) No way was I taking my children down the highway at night in that car. We turned around and drove back to Bowling Green. The rental guy was very apologetic, traded us up into a brand new minivan, and we got a hotel for the night.

We drove home to Indianapolis the next day. While Abe went shopping for groceries, I took the minivan to pick up my computer. I’d left it for repairs for three weeks. When I arrived at the shop, they confessed they hadn’t even ordered the part. (3) I took back my computer and drove to the other big electronics chain store. I got out of the van and realized I had just locked inside the only key to that van in the state. With the computer. (4)

Three locksmiths and three hours later, I was finally able to get into the van. I drove home feeling very sorry for myself. I had missed dinner, so I helped myself to a piece of crème cake Abe had bought from the grocery store.

Apparently this cake was swimming with salmonella. (5) About midnight, I woke up nauseous and cramping. I made it to the bathroom almost on time. My body was spewing matter from both ends as vehemently as possible. It wanted this stuff out of there. This continued for almost three hours before abating. I was aching in muscles I didn’t know I had. After cleaning up, I dropped into an exhausted sleep.

The next morning I was sore all over, even in my fingers. I lay on the sofa, what I was certain was my death bed. After a few hours, I figured I needed to look at the mail that had accumulated over the weeks we were gone. I sorted out the bills and began opening them.

The bill for my cell phone certainly was thick. What’s going on? I opened it to find six pages of phone calls I didn’t make. My cell phone had been cloned. (6) Welcome home, Birdie.

May 1, 2008

Three Little Words

There is a phrase of just three words that makes almost any man’s heart race. Upon hearing these words his breathing gets shallow and a sheen of sweat glistens on his brow. Sometimes men withdraw in fear; sometimes they cannot resist; but all are captured by these three little words:

“I dare you.”

Have you ever taken a dare? Did it turn out well?


For most of my life, I have been fascinated reading about things. But in this second wind of life that I have been given, I find myself wanting to read about people. I have been wandering online blogs for almost two years now, pollinating here and there with comments, and it has been a wonderfully enlightening experience. I am reading posts that are at times angry, sexy, fun, heartbreaking, hopeful, droll, startling, revealing, and always informative. Such richness fills the heart and mind.

My verbosity of late has been practically hijacking the comments sections of my favorite blogs, and I have been encouraged to start one of my own. I have been pulled for a while now to do this, fearful of being sucked in, never to be seen again by those whom I love in Real Life. This will be an experiment in communication and time management.

So with the understanding that posts will be uneven in quantity and quality—like anywhere, I guess—I begin.