Thursday, June 30, 2005

Losing my touch

      Well, I tried for a couple of hours to fix a problem on a friend's blog. No go. I guess I'm losing my tech touch. Soon I will be just like all the other befuddled mortals.
      My friend took my defeat well, adopting a "I can live with it" attitude. I don't have that attitude. I want things fixed, even little things. For me, the beauty is in the details.
      I see that detail obsession in my writing. Sometimes I overwrite, trying to make sure all the plot holes are closed. Some of those holes are obvious, some are obscure, but all bother me. I don't think I really ever finish editing a piece of writing. I just keep fiddling with it until it's published. That somehow releases me.
      I draw comfort from something Jean Kerr once said. She said that criticizing a play for being over-written is like criticizing a airplane for being too well-built. Of course, she disagreeing with some critics who attacked some of Lillian Hellman's work, but I like the thought behind it. That need to produce as good a book, poem, flower bed, photograph, painting, cake, chair, etc., as humanly possible. I think art is built on that drive for perfection. And the tension in art comes from our inability to achieve it even as we constantly strive to do so.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Still here

      Still here, but have more things going on that I can keep track of. I haven't forgot you and hope to blog aplenty this weekend. My sister-in-law's father had a scope today, but I haven't heard the results yet. I hope the news is good or at least that the doctors know what to do. It seems we've been surrounded by sickness this year. I'm ready for everyone -- including me -- to be well.
      This weekend I should print the patron packages. That will be a relief. After that, I'll just have the labels to finish. Then we should be able to prepare them at our July meeting and mail them the next day. And then I can work on something else.
      I've got to get out of debt! I'm looking around for a part-time job that would work with my full-time job. I received another medical bill today. I keep thinking eventually they will send them all to me and I will finally be able to plan for them.
      A friend of mine who is a good Catholic told me the following joke, so I will blame it on her!
      This man starts to walk into a bar when he is stopped by a nun.
      The nun says, "You evil man! To be going in there and drinking that terrible vile liquor! You should be ashamed! Even though a drop of liquor has never crossed my lips, I know how foul its taste is!"
      And the man says, "Wait a minute! You've never tasted a drop? Then how do you know that it tastes bad?"
      The nun says, "I just know. You can't convince me otherwise. You should come to church with me."
      The man says, "What if I bought you a drink? Would you try it? And if you still think it tastes bad, I'll come to church with you."
      The nun says, "Oh, no, that would never do for anyone to see me drinking! But ... I suppose if you could bring it out in a teacup, no one would know. And it would be for a good cause."
      And the man says, "You're on!" So he goes into the bar and orders a drink and then asks the bartender to put another drink in a teacup.
      The bartender groans and asks, "Is that nun outside again?"

      And on that note, good night!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Prayer request

      I just got an email from my sister-in-law. You may recall that her father was gravely ill. Here's the email:
      Dad couldn’t keep anything down over the weekend, and they ran a bunch of tests. What they are saying now is that the surgery they did two weeks ago to drain the cyst on the pancreas into the stomach is not draining. So the cyst is bigger than it was before the surgery. They do not know why, and the team of doctors is meeting to determine what they need to do. One of the doctors on the team said that cancer was not one of the top concerns, but it is always somewhat of a concern. I would appreciate your prayers for him.
      Please remember him in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you.

Monday, June 27, 2005

I've been busier

      I spent all evening working on the patron drive for the local theater group. It's going okay, right on schedule, but I'm having to wait on people, and that's annoying. Fortunately I figured I would have to so I planned for it. I have several things that I can do while they make their decisions, but we are under a deadline. I hope that everything will be set by this Wednesday.
      Tomorrow night I will work on the mailing list. My plan is to send out patron packages to at least 250 people, a large increase from the past few years. Finding the right names for the list is the problem. I'm having to call people and ask for their suggestions as well as encourage them to be patrons. I'd like to increase the number of patrons by at least a third this season. That will be a nice increase as well as giving us more to build on for the next year.
      Well, enough about that. I know I'm interested in it because I'm involved, but I doubt it's keeping you breathless.
      I hope your day is going well. I hope your tomorrow goes even better. Night!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

I've been busy

      It's been a busy weekend. I've done a lot of housework, laundry, filing, errands, shopping, and writing. And I was even able to work in a couple of naps.
      I'm slowly getting my energy back. A few more good days, and I think I will be hitting on all cylinders. I'm ready. I've got things to do.
      For one thing, I need to make more money. And the only avenue that seems open to me is to sell some of my writing. But I can't sell it if I don't write it and send it out. So I need my energy back.
      The patron drive for my local theater will kick off fairly soon, but I'm on top of that so far. I need to produce the patron letter this week as well as finish up the mailing list. Then we (the board) will stuff and stamp the letters at our July meeting. The patron package looks good, but we'll see how effective it will be. I'm hoping that we increase the number of patrons or at least not lose any.
      Oh, before I forget, some months back, I reviewed The Art and Craft of Poetry by Michael J. Bugeja. ER and Crystal, who also were his students, commented on the review. A few days ago, I received a comment on the review:
      "Well, what a lovely surprise to see that some of my students remember me. I'm the head of the J School at Iowa State now. Too much happening in the world for me to write poetry; I'm doing investigative work for a number of publications, and have a new book out from Oxford University Press. I'd love to know who you are, and you can email me at"
      Those who know him might want to email him. It's nice to catch up.
      Now, it's time for bed. I hope your weekends went well. I hope our week goes well. Night!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

I've been bad

      I've been bad this weekend. Very bad. At least in terms of Weight Watchers. Friday night, a friend and I went to an Italian restaurant, and I ate like a maiale. I had mushrooms stuffed with crab, a dinner salad with a red wine dressing, baked lasagne, and more fresh baked bread than I care to tell.
      And then tonight for supper, I had steamed squash, several slices of tomato, a couple of helpings of black-eyed peas favored with pork hocks, a baked potato with a spoonful of butter, a huge steak, and ice cream topped with blue berries for dessert.
      I am stuffed. Not miserable, but if I had one more bite, I'd be sick.
      Why the food frenzy? No particular reason other than it's been a stressful past few weeks, and so I decided to indulge me. Not the best reason to eat, I know, but I will go back on the wagon tomorrow.
      To change the subject, does the SciFi Channel deliberately attempt to make bad movies? They're too constantly bad for it not to be planned. It's very curious. They have enough money to have decent special effects, and the acting usually doesn't make you want to throw up, but the scripts are terrible. They give me hope, though. I think, hey, if that crap can get on TV and be paid for ...

Thursday, June 23, 2005


      I'm not sure if anyone will understand this, but it happens to me every spring. While some people's thoughts turn to love, mine turn to fruit and vegetables. Yes, I'm a produce freak. Lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, grapes, blueberries, squash, spinach, broccoli, avocados, cantaloupe, watermelon, green onions ... Doesn't it just make your mouth water? It does mine. I shop in the produce like some people shop at the chocolate counter.
      My body craves produce after the long months of winter. Of course, there's hothouse produce throughout the winter now, but a lot of it tastes bland. When spring arrives and the crops start arriving, everything just perks up with flavor.
      While I enjoy steak and other meats immensely, I come closest to being a vegetarian right now.
      I like to slice yellow squash thin and layer it on a dish, sprinkling each layer with seasoning salt. Then I put a couple pats of butters on the top layer. Then microwave or bake until the butter melts and the squash reduces some. Delicious!
      You can make a great fruit dip by mixing a package of softened cream cheese and two tablespoons of orange juice until smooth. Dip chunks of watermelon and cantaloupe in it. Excellent.
      Ever had an avocado and tomato sandwich? Toast two slices of wheat bread, butter both sides, layer on slices of tomato and avocado and enjoy.
      Green onions are best when you scramble them with eggs. I remember as a kid picking baskets of them, and my mother would make a huge skillet of them for our breakfast. Incredibly good.
      Strawberries and blueberries are good by the handful, but I like to slice the strawberries thin and then put them on top of my Cheerios. Add a handful of blueberries. Tastes good, and good for you, too.
      And then of course, salads with just about every veggie you can think of. My current favorite dressing (courtesy of Weight Watchers) is simply a spray of lemon juice and then a dusting of sea salt. Low calorie, but sometimes I want more. Then I go with a low-cal raspberry dressing. And if that doesn't hit the spot, Seven Seas Viva Italian will.
      So if you're looking for me at this time of year, check out the produce aisle. I'll be the one drooling.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


      I just finished watching Spiderman 2 again. I had forgotten exactly how good a movie it is. And then I watched Return of the King again. Once again an excellent movie about heroes. Both are pretty basic stories of good versus evil. In both the heroes are stretched to the breaking point. And in both, the good wins.
      I needed to be reminded of that. The good guys win. Oh, it might not happen for a while. There will be losses. Sometimes terrible losses. Sometimes your heart gets broken, but in the end, the good guys win.
      Yes, I know both movies aren't real. But it's the idea of heroes that resonates so strongly within us. As long as we can imagine heroes, they exist.
      I've talked in this blog about choosing to be a good guy. It's something I struggle with daily. This is not a kind world in which we live our day to day. It does not reward goodness. I have a favorite saying: No good deed goes unpunished. I have found it to be true many times. But if I focus on the struggle, then I have a tendency to think the struggle is all there is. I sometimes forget the point of the struggle, the reason it's worthwhile.
      Yes, I'm babbling. Probably more to myself to anyone else. I just want to keep reminding me that it's all worth it, that life is not random, that there is a pattern, and that if I remain true to my conscience -- however annoying and limiting that may feel at times -- it will become clear.
      I think I've posted the poem below previously on this blog, but it suits my mood today.

Waking up on Another Planet

I woke up on another planet today
and found myself believing strange new things:
Broken hearts can heal stronger than before,
We don't have to purchase wisdom with pain,
An open hand holds more than a closed fist,
We all bleed red whatever our color,
Only fools think violence will cause peace,
And we can learn to love ourselves at last.
Perhaps you think I do not understand
the gravity of our situation.
I know the list of disasters stretches
longer than Orion's arm. Nonetheless,
I woke on another planet today
and planted a bright flag and called it hope.

Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 20, 2005


      Sometimes to go forward, you have to step sideways. That's a bit of wisdom that has served me well throughout the years. Over the past few days, I've been trying to figure out how to apply to my life right now. How to deflect the current problems so that I can attack them from a different direction. To use a cliche, to think outside the box. So far I've not really come up with anything, but I think a solution is lurking out there. I can almost feel it, catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of my mind.
      I'm trying to not force the solution out of hiding. My experience has been that the more I push, the more something will stubbornly elude me. It's better, for me, to approach a problem almost like play or a game. To turn it around in my mind, see all the angles, and then attempt to find one more. Most times it works. I hope it does this time.
      How do you approach problem solving? Do you take a straight ahead path or do you wander around a bit but finally arrive at where you were going? Let me know how you do it. I'm always willing to learn something new.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day 2002

      It's late, Daddy. The house is quiet; the lights are off. Only the computer screen and my desk lamp glow in the darkness. I've been thinking of you, trying to get the words out, but I still don't know what to say.
      In a way, that's funny. Me, the guy who has written books, plays, poems and hundreds of newspaper articles, but I don't have any words. What words are even possible that can express this emptiness inside, this gaping void that hovers near me, waiting to swallow me whole?
      Don't worry; I'm fine.
      That's what I say when people ask how I'm doing. I smile at them and lie, "Fine." How's the family? "Fine." How's life treating you? "Fine." Or maybe it's not so much a lie as it is a hope. A promise. We will be fine. We won't ever be the same, but we will be fine someday.
      People tell me you are in Heaven, and I know that to be true. They say that to comfort me, but I am not comforted. I know you are happy and healthy now. I know you are with my precious mother and my little brother whom you loved dearly, but at night when things get quiet and I toss and turn in my bed, this knowledge does not help. I miss you.
      I've made my share of mistakes in my life. (You once said that you knew I was creative because I made different mistakes than any of your other children.) But I learned from them. One thing I did right was to record your words, your stories, your life. I learned from Mama's death, from when she was gone and I realized how much of her life was lost. Your stories exist on tape, and I’m putting them on compact disk so they'll survive to be heard by your grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on. They'll know your voice and hear your words and know a little bit about the great man who came before them.
      I enjoyed hearing your stories. I told you that many times, but you always acted surprised that I did. Your stories connected me with the past. You gave me a real sense of your father and mother and how they raised you and how you lived your life. From you, I heard stories of my great-grandparents. Thank you for that. Thank you for putting up with my nagging for more stories. They are dear to me.
      To share your life, I published your stories in our family newsletter. It was the main reason I put it out. It gave me a monthly deadline, a reason to make sure that I didn't put off talking to you.
      Not that we needed a reason to talk. We made the phone company much richer because of the hours we spent on the phone. We talked two or three times a week and always talked at nine on Sunday morning. No matter if we had talked the night before, that time was set aside for us. Even now, every Sunday, I find myself looking at the phone, expecting your call.
      Several people told me that I should write down what I'm feeling, that there would be a release in putting my feelings on paper. They were wrong, but I knew that. I remembered when Mama went to Heaven; words were no comfort then. This is the place where words fail. Only the passing of time will help.
      One of the worst things about it is knowing that it won't kill me. I'll have to live through this. There will be weeks and months of feeling bad, and then there will be hours of not feeling bad, and then days of not feeling bad, and then it will be okay. But it won't be the same. The days will be shorter and the nights longer, the joys less and the sorrows deeper.
      You wouldn't like what I'm writing now. You would rather I be funny. Sorry. I don't feel funny. I will again, I promise. You liked my humor. I made you laugh. You always enjoyed a good joke, and when you traveled selling furniture, you'd come home and usually share a new one with us. Always clean. Not always politically correct, but never bad. I got my love of laughter and my sense of timing from you.
      Two weeks before you passed on, I came home. You were sick from the chemo and terribly thin. I sat on the couch beside you and held your hand for hours. And I talked. Inside I was wailing, but outside I was at my most funny. Everyone else laughed, and you smiled. Laughing hurt you, but you smiled. I cherished those smiles even though I didn't know they'd be the last of yours that I’d see down here.
      I've only written about death once in my various humor columns. It's not a subject that lends itself easily to humor, but I wrote about it for a college newspaper (Mama told me it was my most meaningful column, and who am I to argue with her?) and then reprinted the piece in the family newsletter. In that column, I quoted what Henry Scott Holland wrote about death:
      "I am standing on the seashore. A ship spreads her white sails on the morning breeze and starts for the ocean. I stand watching her until she fades on the horizon; and someone at my side says, 'She is gone.'
      "Gone where? The loss of sight is in me, not in her. Just at the moment when someone says, 'She is gone,' there are others who are watching her coming. Other voices take up the glad shout, 'Here she comes,' and that is dying."
      Daddy, it's two in the morning on Father's Day, and I'm on the dock, eyes straining toward the horizon, standing as straight as I can, waving goodbye.
      I'm waving goodbye.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


       Is it possible to bleed to death from biting your tongue? Please let me know as soon as possible as my life may be in peril if so.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Justice Weague

       We might be letting little Mikey watch too many cartoons. Last night his bedtime prayer went like this:
      Heavenly Father, bless Mommie, bless Daddy, bless OU Mema, send the Justice Weague to protect Papa Eric and Steben from the bad Hawk people, amen!
      But hey, I've got the Justice League protecting me today! Pretty cool.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Visit to a naughty planet

      If an alien landed on this planet -- its first mistake -- and started studying us, it would have to think that sex was a pretty silly way to reproduce and that we spent too much time attempting to have sex even when we're not trying to reproduce. All in all, he'd conclude, humans are simply crazy. Then it would attempt to get off this planet ASAAP (As Soon As Alienly Possible), but too late! The Air Force shoots down its spacecraft, and it must flee from the Men in Black (not rappers, the government). It will be aided only by a beautiful newscaster with whom it will eventually mate and create a new race of alien hybrids who will naturally want to conquer the world as they don't enjoy Checkers and there's nothing on TV.
      The poor alien wouldn't understand that we have a whole society based on sex. Our books, movies, music, art, our lives revolve around it. You can't turn on a TV without seeing some ad that says if you use their product, you'll be surrounded by willing males, females and accountants all wanting to enjoy your hot monkey love.
      The Net is partly to blame. Never in the course of human history have so many pictures of unattractive naked people been available to so many people. Truthfully, clothes are a blessing, and more people should remember that they do not resemble Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie.
      Magazines abound and abounce with pictures of barely clad women. Sports Illustrated clads models in nothing more than drops of water these days, and is making millions selling videos of "The Making of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue," The Making of the Making of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue," and "Revealed: The Secrets of the Making of the Making of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue."
      But let's not forget TV. I mean, it would be nice if we could, but we can't. In the broadcasters' rush to give us what we want, they have pushed the envelope so far that they're climbed right out of it and are stealing the stamp as they go. It's bad enough to even make the Democrats blush -- and they would if they could except their cheeks are simply exhausted after the Clinton years and haven't recovered.
      And there's no rest for the elderly, either. As soon as Bob Dole appeared in that ad for a "male potency enhancer," I realized that the Apocalypse was upon us and not a moment too soon. Unfortunately the Four Horseman are trapped on an island with a bunch of people from a plane wreck.
      I'm frankly tired of this over-emphasis on sex. Isn't it just possible that a person could live a happy, productive life without doing the naughty? Of course not. I'm surprised you'd even think that I'd think that. All conventional wisdom says that we have to have it or we will die. Well, not die, but be seriously unhappy and become Republicans.
      I see no signs of this frenzy abating any time soon. Our only hope is that the hybrids will take over the world soon. I'm just afraid that after they do, they'll give it back.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Mormons are a cult

      Mormons are a cult. That's what all the major Protestant denominations say. Same goes for the Catholics and their Man in the Beehive Hat. No one likes the Mormons. Not in our neighborhood, people said when the Mormons wanted to build a temple in Oklahoma City. The Mormons did though, and so far the riots haven't happened. Maybe soon.
      Mormons are a cult. Say the word with me. Cult. Conjures up images of dark rituals and bloody knives, mass suicides and vicious murders. You just know that Tabernacle choir is up to something as they give those sinister concerts.
      Mormons are a cult. But they're a peculiar cult. They support having a strong families fanatically. They preach the Ten Commandments. They care for their members and keep them off of welfare. They practice a conservative approach to finances and tell their members to keep a year's supply of food and water in case of emergency.
      Mormons are a cult. My fellow Baptists say so. You'd think the Mormons would preach against all the other faiths considering what the other faiths say about them. And the Mormons -- like all other faiths -- believe they have a lock on heaven, but they're very vocal in supporting the rights of people to worship in any faith. The Mormons have been attacked so much that they have a live and let live attitude.
      Mormons are a cult. A rich cult, some say. The church is very conservative in its spending. It invests its tithes in various corporations and then takes those earnings and invests them back in their programs. It also helps that they don't pay salaries to their leaders. That's right. It doesn't pay its preachers or those missionaries who you see on bikes or going door to door.
      Mormons are a cult. Knowledgeable people say so because the Mormons accept other books as being inspired by God, not just the Bible. The main one is the Book of Mormon, which is the account of Jesus ministering to the people of the Americas, supposedly interpreted by Joseph Smith from plates of gold.
      Mormons are a cult. Actually they prefer to be called Latter-Day Saints now. The whole title of their church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It's easier just to say LDS, but they would prefer to be called Christians.
      Mormons are a cult. They used to have multiple wives, but they did away with that in 1890. Oh, there are still some who practice it and call themselves Mormons just as there are people who bury their neighbors in the backyard and call themselves Baptists.
      Mormons are a cult. But they're a large cult. They have 5.4 million members according to the 2004 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, making them the fifth largest church in America. Their growth rate was reported at 1.88 percent in 2003 and shows no signs of abating. (Naturally you're going to find some jerks in a church that size. Maybe even some evil people. Don't send me your stories about Mormons attacking you, although I will accept stories about Rotarians.)
      Mormons are a cult. They pay taxes, raise families (not always large despite the stereotype), help their neighbors, pray a lot, work a lot, laugh a lot, and generally behave like decent people should.
      Mormans are a cult, aren't they?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Far away ...

      That's where I'd like to be: far away. Maybe on a beach or visiting Nightrider in Australia. Have you visited her blog Sweet Sweat and seen her photos? Sitting there and watching the sun set as you sip something cold with a few friends sounds like a good way to end the day.
      Of course, I'm only thinking of escape because I'm living in a pressure cooker here. But I'm taking some positive steps to get out of it. Hopefully over the next few weeks, my actions will bring me some relief.
      I was going to apologize for not blogging, but my blogging circle hasn't been blogging much, either. Summer is like that. We all want to get out in the sun while we can. I've noticed that blogging picks up in the winter, those cold, dark days when we huddle near the flickering light of our monitors and type out messages to the world.
      I'm behind on a lot of projects. What would possess me to agree to do any more? It's madness, but I agreed to chair the patron drive for our local theater group. I know, I know. I'm not very smart.
      Our friend Crystal will be moving back to Oklahoma in a few weeks. I'm excited about that. Wish I could convince her to move to my town so that I could put her to work in the theater group. It'd be a great ... ah ... learning experience. That's how I look at it for myself. "I'm learning something," I think as I grit my teeth.
      This should really get an entry of its own, but I've been reading Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover. It's an excellent book. Go here to purchase it. It's excellent, straightforward advice on how to get out of debt and live a life of financial peace. And listen, you might be offended by some of it. He shoots straight, backs up his words with Bible verses and other wisdoms, and isn't afraid to tell you that the only way to have money is to spend less than you make. In fact, that's the main message of his book. Worth reading and applying, particularly the Debt Snowball debt reduction plan. I did the math, and it's actually works.
      More later.

Friday, June 10, 2005

It's the money, honey

      The whole issue of gay marriage is like walking through a minefield: It doesn't matter where you step, you're probably going to get blown up. Naturally I don't expect my words to change anyone's opinion one way or another. I just wanted to point out a hypocrisy.
      Now, mind you, I'm a straightforward guy. You tell me what you believe, and I'm going to go from there. I might like your stance, dislike it, whatever, but I recognize it's your stance and that you have a right to it. One of my chief dislikes is a liar, those people who say one thing but do another or even believe another.
      I work in the financial world, an industry that includes banking, insurance and other money-oriented occupations. You will find that most, if not all, of these oppose gay marriage and make quiet contributions to organizations fighting gay marriage.
      They're not doing it to defend marriage. They're not doing it because they dislike homosexuals. They're not even doing it to win friends. (You'll notice you don't see ads from large corporations saying that they're against gay marriage.) No, the only reason they're doing it is money. They don't want to extend benefits to same-sex partners. They save millions by not doing so, and they want to continue to save that money. It's simple math.
      Benefits are already under siege in the corporate world. As healthcare costs have soared, benefits have been cut back. A surprising number of companies are offering more money and less benefits. That seems odd, but studies show that benefits cost companies as much or more than salaries.
      Insurance companies in particular oppose gay marriage. It's obvious why. They don't want to pay for the medical bills of anyone that they don't have to. This is not limited to same-sex partners. They don't want to pay for your live-in girlfriend or your common law husband, either, and they're not all that crazy about paying for you.
      This is not a rant against corporations and their drive to make money. They run a business. They want to stay in business. I can understand it. What I can't abide is the coating it's given.
      Recently I got to hear a manager go on and on about a company's opposition to gay marriage. He brought up how the company believed in defending marriage and morality and making America a better place until the flag was waving and the choir was singing. But, as he later told me, it was a lie. His company had studied the issue and concluded that gay marriage would cost them money. They got questioned on their stance by an employee and thus the spin. Their position was decided by their study, not because of their morality.
      This offends me on a couple of levels. First, the dishonesty. If your company opposed gay marriage because of the cost, fine. Say so. Take your lumps. Be realistic about it. Yes, I know you're probably going to get some bad press, but it will at least be honest bad press. Have a backbone.
      Second, by using religion and America to support a position that you really don't believe, you're just cheapening both of them. We'd be a much better nation if we'd stop treating religion, democracy, freedom, America and patriotism as spin words and started respecting the things we say we do.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Should have, could have, didn't, so there

      I should have blogged earlier, but the stinking turmoil has continued, and I've been occupied with putting out fires as well as trying to make sure I don't get burned or make an ash of myself. Is that vague enough? Can I in some way obscure anything else?
      Yeah, I'm grumpy tonight. Actually I've passed grumpy, gripey, angry, vengeful, spiteful and mean, and am looking at murderous. Yes, it's the Seven Evil Dwarves. They're living with me now. We're a happy crew, especially since Snowed Whine has joined us.
      Anyway, not much is going on. I'm in a mood to take a few swings at the president or maybe some other Republican, but I just can't work up the energy, especially since Dean is busy making himself a shoe-in candidate for Jerk of the Year. If you find that funny, something is wrong with you.
      Let's see: There's got to be some good news. Well, we didn't get hit by a meteor today. That's good. And no one decided to blow himself and innocent people up in my town for some ridiculous religious reason. That's very good. And I have plenty of food on my table. Not so good for my diet, but at least I'm not worried about starving, which a lot of people in this world have to worry about.
      Fine. I'll count my stinking blessings. Nothing is worse when you're having a good sulk than to be reminded of how many good things are in your life. Sort of takes all the fun out of it.
      I did try to write some today. I took 30 minutes at lunch and wrote some dialogue. I don't what work would use the dialogue, but some of the lines were keepers.
      Oh, I want to mention that I added some News links to my sidebar. And over the next few days, I'll be adding a lot more writing links as well as a few surprises.
      What's coming up in this blog? Well, I've been working on a piece called "Me and the Mormons," which looks at the Mormons in my life and addresses my thoughts on their faith and how I as a Baptist view them. After that, we'll take a look at gay marriage and big business, and then what I'd like to see in a presidential candidate. We'll also be having a couple of humorous (I hope) looks at sex and dating. There, that's a plan for us.
      Before I sign off, Crystal of the late and lamented blog PairADice is fine. I talked to her on the phone today. She closed her blog for personal reasons, but may someday return. I've received several emails about her so I thought I should set your minds at ease.
      And now, having written myself out of a bad mood, I will wish you all a good night! (But especially Trixe, whom I forgive for flirting with ER for comments. See her blog for details.)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


      A friend noticed that I haven't been talking about writing a lot lately. That's because I haven't been writing much lately. What with one crisis or another, I've been unable to focus.
      Some writers thrive on chaos. They can write in a coffee shop with heavy traffic outside. Not me. I need peace and quiet to focus. Oh, I can put down words, but most of those words end up being deleted. I require a certain amount of order to write.
      I think, for me, writing is really about order. My plots tend to be structured and complicated, but they make sense when they're unraveled. I want the reader to have the sensation of "Oh, of course! It's clear now!" rather than "Huh. Where did that come from?"
      The world is an unordered place. Planes crash, trains derail, cars wreck. Much of our lives seem unplanned, with no plot or a plot thought up by a deranged person. The complexity of our interactions with other people and our surroundings overwhelm attempts at analysis. And even if an analysis is correct right now, the situation changes from minute to minute.
      Fiction is order for the most part. We're attracted to stories because we can understand them. Actions have consequences, people make meaningful decisions, and events make sense. Order is, I think, what distinguishes mainstream fiction from literary fiction.
      In mainstream fiction, things get wrapped up, the villains get captured or killed, the boy gets the girl, and so on. No loose ends dangle out there in the wind, unless the novelist is setting up a sequel.
      In literary fiction, things aren't so neat. Questions remain unanswered, conflicts unresolved, the villain turns out to be just another muddled person, and so on. Literary fiction more closely mirrors the apparent chaos of our world. It's not so much a story as it is a fictional history.
      Naturally, this distinction between the two is fuzzy. Some mainstream books don't answer all the dramatic questions, and some literary novels have more plot than is apparent. (I think all literary novels actually have a plot, although I know several literary novelists who would argue that plot is too strong a word, that the actions depicted are more organic and uncontrolled. Whatever. I think the decline of literature started when academics decided that plot was unnecessary.)
      My point –- and I'm finally getting to it –- is that my writing is my attempt to impose order on the world. My books and plays are logical. Even my poetry holds order. Creative tension rises from that conflict between the story attempting to sprawl all over the place and the structure holding it in place. Writing done well is like a suspension bridge or a soaring cathedral: Beauty made visible.
      I hope that the chaotic parts of my life will settle down over the next month or so, and I can again devote more of my time and attention to crafting order in my fiction. But one way or another, even if it means learning to write at Burger King, I will write.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

A hard post

      I'm having to deal with a person who was sexually abused as a teenager, and I'm reaching the end of my patience. This person uses the abuse as a justification for endless mistakes, including the inability to keep a job, to be truthful and to do any things expected of a decent human being.
      Here's some news: Abuse is not an excuse. ABUSE IS NOT AN EXCUSE. Does that seem hard? Does that seem unjustified? Does it seem cruel?
      Oh, I understand what abuse does to a person. I understand how it steals your self-worth, I understand how it steals your faith in God and yourself, and I understand how it stays with you forever. I understand these things too well.
      I understand them because I was sexually abused when I was a child.
      It's not a pretty story, and it's one that I no longer have to tell. Does this mean that I'm healed? Yes. Does this mean I'm scarred? Yes. Does it mean that I think the world owes me anything? No.
      Maybe once I did, but in college, I volunteered at an abused children's shelter. (My therapist, a wise man, suggested and arranged it.) And in that shelter, I met children who made my abuse look like a walk in the park. I met brave, strong children who keep on going, who had their world shattered and their lives and their bones broken, and they played and laughed and my God you should have seen them. And I met older people, people who had stories worse than mine, and they were going on, making their way in the world, who decided to not let the bastards steal their joy and found the strength to make a happy life.
      Don't think that I discount their pain or mine. I'd give anything if it hadn't happened to me, but it did. Don't think that I haven't raged against God and my parents and all the people who didn't rescue me. I have. But I can't go back and undo the past. I can only go on.
      I tried to share this with that person. I tried to explain that you can't give up because then the bastards win, that faith is still a real thing, that happiness is still possible, that sorrow is not the only path. I got nowhere and got there fast. The excuse is too good and has been too good for years. Nothing is ever this person's fault. I suggested therapy. Got told no, never, no. This person has decided to wallow in it.
      So tonight I posting this to ask you to pray for this nameless person. Pray that God will kick this person's door in. Pray that somehow the realization will dawn that this life is all we've got down here and this is our time to be happy and to be more than our past.
      See, here's the rub. I love this person. I want this person to be happy. It's breaking my heart. Because life is moving on, leaving this person behind. Life is like that. And eventually, soon I think, I will move on, too. I cannot live on a diet of sorrow. I won't. I deserve better. I owe it to all those other survivors, all those kids, all those adults who are bravely making their way through the world. I won't let them down. I won't let me down.
      This was a hard post. I wrote it, deleted it, rewrote it, changed it, let it sit on my computer for two days. Read while you can. Tomorrow I may feel different about posting it. Life is a strange, hard thing, but I believe -- more than that, I know -- there is yet light and joy and happiness in this world. And all the people say amen.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A few items of interest

      I received an email from Veronica Shoffstall today. She was pleased and honored by the comments on her poem. The commenters on my blog are just a good bunch, and I appreciate all of you.
      As for my health, I'm doing okay. I'm not quite 100 percent yet, but I'm at least in the 90s. As long as I'm careful, I do very well.
      Jamie has been blogging books that she reads. I thought I'd do that also with one that I really enjoyed.
      Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
      It's no secret that I've always been fascinated by blimps. This book was written for me. In Airborn, Oppel writes of an alternate world where giant luxury airships rule the skies. Our young hero Matt Cruse works aboard the passenger airship Aurora. Matt, who has never felt any fear of heights, rescues an injured man that the Aurora encounters in a stranded hot air balloon. The elderly man dies of mysterious injuries, but not before telling Matt of strange and beautiful creatures that he saw flying through the air. A year later, the man's granddaughter Kate arrives on board with a journal giving more details about the airborn animals. Kate is determined to prove her grandfather discovered a hitherto unknown species, despite the skepticism of the scientific community.
      Pirates (in a black airship) attack the Aurora and steal the wealthy passengers' belongings. The pirates ruthlessly kill a crew member and then depart, but a freak wind causes a collusion between the Aurora and the pirate ship. The Aurora crash-lands on an uncharted island, an island described in the journal. Beautiful, bold Kate draws Matt into a search for the flying creatures, but other dangers soon have them fighting for their lives.
      Airborn has a distinctive Victorian feel to it, reminding me a lot of Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs. The book is marketed for juveniles, but think of the audience that Harry Potter found. It's a good read and a lot of fun. I hope there's a sequel and soon. For more info, including news of a possible movie, visit the Airborn site.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


      Today I had to speak to someone who is untrustworthy. It was an interesting experience to watch him attempt to be clever. He quickly made me tired. I doubted every answer he gave. I caught him on several lies, and as I sat there, I thought, Hey, at least lie to me better! Put some effort out. Show me that you respect me enough to lie well. But of course, he didn't.
      It's difficult to trust people again after they have broken their word. I don't really know how trust is regained. I know there are people in my life that I trusted, they let me down, but I trust them again. And there are others who have done the same, and I don't think I will ever give my trust to them again.
      It might have to do with their reasons. If they break their word for some purpose other than their own selfish gain, maybe I'm more inclined to give them a second chance. I don't know.
      Trust doesn't come easily or naturally to me. Even as a child I was always cautious. Then it was instinct; now it's experience. Perhaps I'm simply cynical. Or maybe smart. I don't know.
      I have a curious quirk: I rarely make promises. I don't because if I do, then I have to keep that promise. No matter what. That quirk has cost me dearly at times so I'm cautious about putting myself in that situation. I'll say that I'll try or that I'll do my best, but I won't toss off promises as if the words are easy. That might seem honest, but sometimes I wonder if it's simply an excuse to fail, i.e. I won't promise because then I have to follow through and I won't want to pay the price. Or I want the option of not paying it.
      Yes, I know this is meandering and not going anyway. I'm tired. The past several weeks have weighed on me heavily. All my righteous anger has deserted me, leaving me feeling old and tired. The world is too much with me lately, to paraphrase a much better poet. At this point, I usually say something like tomorrow is another day, I'm the bump-n-go boy, blah, blah, blah. I know the drill. You know the drill. Let's just pretend we did it and go to bed. Night.
      Oh ... well, tomorrow is another day. And I am the original bump-n-go boy. And someday we will rise to greet a new wondrous world. Good night.