Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Hovering Monroe

"Pick up that mandolin! You don't need to clean, or prepare for class, or write someone a nice, polite, useless card. Pick up that mandolin!" And, I do. Since I wrote on Sunday evening, I've made an amazing discovery. I can turn to a song in my bluegrass songbook, and I can pick out the tune in about three minutes. And, I can remember it. Am I receiving my mandolin abilities from a long lost Monroe boy? Is there an old man in overalls hovering over my shoulder and upon my fingertips? It sure feels like it as I'm feeling a bit overexuberant about this entire mandola-musical affair. I've been dreaming at night about entering into Westside Auto parts and being able to play and keep up with dad and Gerald while on a new instrument. However, I'm wasting time even as I type (perhaps the internet connection should be unpaid), I should be picking! Merci le Dieu pour le mandolin!

Sunday, September 26, 2004


Their names were Russell and Billy, guitar and bass respectively. Billy's bass was larger than him, and they were both shaped the same.
Jean, Russell, and I shared the guitar playing which has motivated me to pick up the mandolin again. Since we returned from the farm, I've been practicing the mandolin. I can see a picking pattern now. If I try to pick a song out a day from the bluegrass lyrics book, I'm sure I can see more patterns and experiment too. Perhaps next time, I'll be the lone mandolin player.
Russell says that we need to start a band. But, I live too far away.
We all played together on the back patio to the Woods' who came from far and near for the reunion. I love being a woman in the band, because I can watch the other women scurry around with food and social duties. I love singing and playing instead. When my mother said, "Okay, stop playing so that we can start serving and eating," I agreed with my dad who said that he would rather play than eat.
Singing harmony is one of my favorite activities. Even the cold that I have had to take a back seat. We stood outside within the crickets and the laughing family sounds. I could see my son running around up to mischief. The bonfire blazed outside the yard. We were wrapped in musical history as well as connections to people who shared ancestry. My husband was able to attend, and he snapped photos like a business manager. I'm not so mad at him since he was able to go and participate too. We're both making the adjustment from what's rural to what's somewhat stressful on the cul-de-sac. Yet, I can still hear the music, and my fingers buzz from reminiscing on the mandolin. Maybe I will go to a monthly city bluegrass jam afterall.
A funny quote from the weekend:
Dad: Did you see that dark, Indian man? I'm just as much Indian as he, but the Indian blood just outcropped in him. It outcropped in Karen [his sister] too. She looks just like a squaw. And, you have dark complexion to be a fair Indian maiden yourself. [Outcrop! where does he come up with things like this? He always has a funny comment here and there which he tells with high interest.]

Friday, September 24, 2004


I'm struggling on how to talk about this week.
First, there was the adjustment back from the musical, rural weekend. I was a bit emotional. My husband said he would learn the fiddle if it would make me happier (a concession from a nice man). No, that's not it, to change to make things momentarily right. I just wanted to respond to a longing to return, not to change who he is. I appreciated that, though, and am amazed at the man who loves me enough to be want to be something more.
Then, the rest of the week, there was both a wrestling for space and relationship. I skipped a meeting in order to be alone. And, perhaps that space helped me have some good relational times that came a bit later. But, in those spaces, I let myself long a bit. Yet, I wasn't swept away, a good sign, a progression, a difference.
This week, I had an excellent e-dialogue with a microbiologist scientist who is a woman in one of my studies. We discussed faith and evolution. The blend of these two oft-contrary things just fascinates me. I love how they are snug fits. I don't see oppositional evidence like some. It's amazing, though, how minds can be closed in the name of 1) science 2) religion 3) bias of any sort ~~ we probably will never learn as quickly as we can because of these arbitrary obstacles we throw up. Fear-based? I doubt God minds our inquisitive ways.
I learned about Shannon's theory of information and even understood the author's application of it to the emergence of diverse forms (during the Cambrian period) which necessitates an information-giver-originator. Very interesting! These types of discussions are faith-sustaining to me.

Then, yesterday, the embodied-faith took over at one of my small group meetings. How can I explain it to make sense? The text-to-life connection soared over the study, and we unloaded burdens, passed Kleenexes, and held hands in a tight circle of prayer afterwards. I felt used, my words flowed unrehearsed, the Christ of the day, ours and past, substituted within our attempts to transcend. It amazed me and made me dreamy. Wow. Tangibility of being met and comforted. Women are important enough. Women carry burdens of many. Be strong and focused.
After the meeting, I had a fun talk with a (musical) friend over a two hour lunch. Another tangibility of divinity in her shining, glowing face. In a desire of servanthood, obedience, acknowledgment of imperfection.
The week has been about glimpses: glimpses at my own waywardness, glimpses of an arranged universe, glimpses of feminine transcendence through a soft confirmation, glimpses of a giggling survivor who treads on.
I live in a contained world compared to those who suffer in Haiti from the hurricane after-effects. Yet, allow what I experience here, to be a longing that reaches those who cry in pain and suffering. Prepare me for my own pain and suffering. Prepare me to remember them and know that meaning lies within and beyond each of our circumstantial places. Help them know your strength and comfort. Amen.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Blackberry blossom

I knew my guitar would make me feel more at ease despite my skirt and heels.
I unloaded it from the van and went towards the door that had the words Valvoline, Bumper to Bumper on it. The building was low and green; it peered at the old run-down Wal-Mart building across the road. My dad's truck was already there from my cousin's wedding we had just attended.
The customer bell jangled when I opened the door, and Kelsey stood behind the counter grinning at me. "Well, now the real talent has showed up," he said.
Dad was in the middle of a song; his banjo rang out. A man with glasses and cigarettes played an Alvarez beside him. I noticed immediately that he was good and employed many runs in excellent timing.
I took my Alvarez out and sat on a stool at the counter, glad that I had challenged myself to enter the man's domain at Westside Auto Parts. However, I wasn't glad that I had a skirt on.
Nonetheless, the men made me feel at home. Kelsey offered me a different chair (which I declined) and coffee; Gerald gave me a compliment on my playing because we kept good rhythm together. And, when Dad and I sang, Gerald said that we sounded good and that he loved to hear purty singing like that. Dad kept smiling up at me, with his bright eyes and dimples, because he could play all day and all night. He's a bluegrass fanatic.
Harley showed up after awhile. He was an older man who wore overalls. He played the guitar like it was a steel guitar. He had strange picking meandering fits, and when I looked over at him, he would grin at me, proud of his accomplishments. Gerald and I couldn't keep time with him, though.
Gerald wanted to play "Blackberry Blossom" and "Fire on the Mountain" constantly. I learned a new Em run from him, and he noticed, and we smiled at each other and chatted like fellow musicians. Nothing like it to break the ice with a stranger.
Harley brought out a harmonica for a gospel number. We followed him and then he abruptly stopped and walked back to his chair.
Meanwhile, greasy smelling men would appear tentatively at the door. I was the first person they saw at the counter with a skirt and heels on. But, they needed a part, and, after procuring it from Kelsey, they would stand by me to pay. I could smell them, and it brought back memories of being a blue-collar man's daughter. Nice memories, one might say.
Gerald cajoled my dad to play "Blackberry Blossom" one more time, and then he put his guitar in the case. He held out his hand to shake mine; it was a cupped, greasy, hard handshake.
"It's been nice playin' with you today."
He shook out his long legs and exited, jangling through the door. I watched him climb into an old pickup truck, and then he zoomed away, down Business 60, towards Sonic.
Kelsey sidled down the counter to me and said, "That used to be my son-in-law."
"That's his Ex," said Dad with a grin.
"Yeah, I kinda wish he wasn't, though, cuz he's a good guy in his way," said Kelsey.
Dad and I packed up our instruments to go play some more at home. I smelled like smoke and grease. But, I was incredibly happy.
Now, I'm back in my own town, away from the farm and the music. I'm a bit sad about it and know there will be an adjustment period. Maybe I will just go get my guitar and play some "Blackberry Blossom" and use that new run I learned in the auto parts store.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Two pieces of cake

I've just eaten two pieces of white cake to add to the excesses of my day. Now, I really feel contrite.
In an earlier blog entry, I related how I made two promises to women inside the Blue Note's darkened room due to the warmth of wine and friendship. One promise involved touching base each Friday regarding the exercise we did for the week. That happened. The other promise involved shopping in a nearby town with my husband's boss' wife. It happened today, and, therefore, I'm feeling a bit sick. She was nice and all, but I was the problem.
You see, I found some great prices on baking/pottery pieces that match my collection (something my mom-in-law started ~~ country looking Polish blue and white pottery). Typically, they are expensive. The ones I found today matched and were inexpensive (although inauthentic). The store also had great prices on other items: a black courdoroy jacket (I like jackets), a couple of bras (much cheaper than the $25 usual price!), a new pie plate (do I need another one??), and a basket for my daughter. At the checkout aisle, the total was quite high, and I feel horrible still. I'm supposed to care for third world people, and I'm being the typical American woman. Yes, I boiled corn and all and am fairly frugal in other ways, but sometimes, it hits me, and I spend uselessly. Ugh.
What I spend is a choice between me, in some ways, and between making a difference in someone else's life. I know that this sounds corny, but isn't it true? I still hear Momma Teresa saying that if America wasn't so materialistic that we could be a deciding factor against the forces of poverty, sickness, crime, etc. And, I'm part of that matrix. I hate it too because it goes against my identity, how I was brought up on the farm, how I learned to swallow pride and focus on inner strength instead of the masks of the outer.
Alright, I know that this sounds midwestern-hyperpuritannical, yet, honestly, it is a question of how to be. Constant self-gratification, as a principle, is not right because it leads to focus on the insubstantial which can't satisfy. Jesus teaches this a lot too.
Okay, okay, remember these aftereffects of glow and wine and lack of discipline for the future.
Help me to sacrifice, and to be okay with the inside. I am going to challenge myself not to purchase anything for myself for the next two weeks. I will report back to track the progress. Perhaps then I can go another week. Even though I sound frantic with guilt, my buyer's remorse will not kill me ... it's just an awareness of something I don't like and want to change.
Bon soir!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Eyeball revenge

George W. arrived gracefully in our mailbox; he had a presidential, determined gaze appropriate to calm the masses who glanced at the cover of Time magazine. Rushed to work? = one glance at a newstand's copy could reduce your anxiety. Diagnosed with cancer? = a waiting room's copy could dissipate your dread.
My son welcomed this calming force into our home with love. With love that became almost an unhealthy attachment. Therefore, when his sister, a known staunch Democrat, outlined George W.'s face with black marker and gave him horns, hell dwelt within an otherwise peaceful place.
We didn't know until later when a blood curdling scream issued forth from the teenage sister's red room.
"Moooooooooooommmmmmmm!!!! Look what Cody did!!!!! I hate him! I hate him!!!!!"
I walked in, adjusting my eyes again to the sexy, thin boy images plastered on her walls where she pointed.
"Just look!!! Just look!!! Ooooohh! I hate him!!!! Why did he do this?!" Her anguished face reminded me of the murderous periods in history ... the bourgeouise attacking Marie Antoinette for economic injustices and snobbery ... the Belgium in the Congo demanding rubber quota from the Africans ... Stalin being dismantled piece by piece.
Raw passion. Threatening overrule.
I looked up and saw Orlando Bloom with blackened circles for eyeballs. On his shirt, in fourth grade print, were the words, "I'm a bad boy."
In my daughter's hands were photographs of her blackened-eyeballed, cheerleader friend, Hannah, and a horned picture of herself that she liked and had set beside her bed. On the shade of her bedside touch light, were the words "I'm dumb" to remind her of her perpetual mental condition.
That's how we found out that Cody was protecting the honor of the calm demeanor-gone-black of George W. Bush. He admitted it and accepted his sentence of no Playstation for the night.
Political turmoil abounds during election year pitting family member against family member. The morning of November 5th will unleash the demons of hell again in our home. All wars are not connected to religion! Orlando Bloom, Chad Michael Murray, and Colin Ferrell, run and take cover! The black marker may cometh again!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Tao te Ching pie

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don't compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.

Tao te Ching, Stephen Mitchell translation

Meei Fenq, my Taiwanese friend, just left my house where we talked as we drank our customary tea and made apple and blueberry pie. I meant to ask her the Taiwanese views of Taoism, but I forgot. I just enjoy being with her very much. Our submissive, soft mannerisms are similar which she received from her culture, and I received from my mother. (Her husband says I'm different than other American women which was a compliment? Although, for myself, I know I need to be more assertive at times!) Meei Fenq and I talk about our life's purpose with career and family. We exchange cultural information, and we eat a lot of seaweed. She just left some Korean, seasoned, flaky seaweed for me. Yum! I brought a huge container to my class last year during our unit on China, and only six students liked it. The rest of them made a show of gagging and spitting it into the trash can. I told the six that somehow we were the same type of people. Strangely, most of those six were my favorite students!
There's been an Asian theme in the air recently. We rented "The Last Samarai" this weekend, and the noble calling, the return to equilibrium in nature, and the emphasis on looking within for strength were the highlights. It caused me to want to find my Tao Te Ching book and read some of the inspiring verses (such as the above). What is it about eastern spiritualism that I like?
I think that it's because it resonates with the cycles of nature, it uses beautiful imagery, and it makes good, helpful living sense.
Some of my Christian friends would probably find this to be counterproductive and, in some ways, dangerous. However, I am not a disciple of anything that doesn't have the Personal (the Thou as Martin Buber says) within it. I am entirely devoted to the Christ story because it speaks both to my head and heart in an irreplaceable way. A valid relational way that I never, ever want to end again. I am, though, impressed by the spiritual focus and benefits that other belief systems, such as Taoism offers, because I believe that they tap into the same root that grounds me. Native American spiritualism does this as well. The root of Creator. The root of Other than myself. The root of love. Materialism pales in comparison to any of these honest attempts at finding truth. Many of my Christian friends are partnered more with materialism than with Taoism. It's a focus, not a label. It's an interest, not a belief system.
Anyway, I too believe that as humans upon this earth that we must look/investigate/mine/understand other belief systems in order to understand our own choices better. I want to know how we all experience the spiritual strains that are part of this earth. I want to sift and know which ones correspond more with my views (in this case, Taoism, Buddhism) and the ones that I see more as politically manipulative and oppressive (Hinduism, Muslim-Islam). I must be informed instead of arrogant and narrow, and this information helps me discern and know what pathway is for me. And, choosing a spiritual pathway is an important part of human existence. And, it helps me know what others experience in their choice. I feel obligated to know, like it's an expectation of some sort.

So, therefore, I can look at the Tao te Ching, and appreciate and respect some of its wisdom. Yet, even while looking at it, it appears partial to me because my experience seems fuller somehow, embodies more, and I can minister towards that.
Recently, I read an excellent book called "A New Kind of Christian" which speaks to the subsequent question of heaven/hell and who goes? It suggests that it is no one's business at all who goes to heaven and hell, and the focus should be on the here and now. The question should be nothing except the head/heart knowledge which you know that can be explained if asked. Nothing more. Too much has been shoved. Too much has been lost at the expense of self-importance, oppression. I liked that book and its postmodern views very well.
That's all for now on this theme....I must clean the sublime pastry crumbs which splatter my counter. Au revoir!

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Versus in the air

A volleyball tournament changed my sister's plans. So, just the three of us went to the stadium. We sat on the hill because it's best for hyperactive sons. He and I snuggled, cheered, he yelled MIZ to me, and I yelled ZOU back. I defied dress and wore an old t-shirt. He put his head on my lap and looked up and smiled. He loves me very much. I love him too. Guaranteed, I would've pushed a bigger kid down the hill who stepped on him. My husband studied the program to know all the facts. We stayed until the half, and then I walked barefoot back to the faraway parking garage. Blisters.

What is it about roaring crowds that transcend this life? One time at a Chiefs game, I sank back into my seat to listen and absorb the motion and movement of a life's vehement fling. We're red! We're victorious! We're off to kill! It announced the curtain again, that veil that thinly hides other similar moods and events and the significance of the thing. Surely behind the yelling, cursing, drinking, flinging there lies what matters: that blood throbs, and we find ourselves at odds with something in the air, the Seahawks, the dictator, the famine. Roar. Why?
I find myself sitting and thinking about these things more than roaring. I care about who wins, for sure, yet I care as an observer of the tumult, and it makes me thoughtful, and then I don't pay much attention to the mechanics. I still don't understand the person who gets overwhelmed by the stats as if the stats themselves are wholly viable. Pieces splattering ~~ I'm not running to collect them. That's just me ... I say the big picture matters. The season is insignificant.

Something speaks, though, within it all. It often conveys something sensory and ill-conceived which is why it's often ignored. But, please, I pray that I can hear the words clearer as I live longer. I want to know the undercurrents, that spiritual static, the Truth that is, a significance to the game. The Tao says it arrives. The Bible says to knock. I wait on a hill. The crowd roars the team to victory.

Why? Is the conquering the thing? I can accept what is discovered. Let me see more to understand what's beyond the field, above a hill, within a smile, outside the score. I desire this very much. Merci, merci. And, also, help those who mourn in Russia. Comfort beyond the grief. Amen.

Ella by the curtain

The Tigers will undoubtedly slaughter Arkansas State tomorrow.
My pretty, tall sister is going with me to the game. I'm imagining the looks that she'll get tomorrow. We look nothing alike. I'm shorter, stockier, and she's built like a model. She forgets to eat. I love sweets. She's had some face work; my face is good as is. She's a cowgirl, and I'm academic. She has a sharp, quick, silly wit, and I'm usually the listener-laugher. She's an independent single mother of two teen girls. I make meals and pies. I've always sought life's meaning. She's always sought survival in the moment.
We share a few similarities. We're both forgetful. We both were athletic. We both are prone to loneliness. We both know how to play "Soldier's Joy" on the mandolin. We both played the secondhand (thirdhand) trumpet in band. We went to state in the two mile relay together. We both drove the half-painted VW bug in high school. It will be fun to be with her. She likes excitement like a stadium full of screaming people.
I'm listening to Ella Fitzgerald as I type. She sounds positively brimming, bubbling ... the piano moves lightly .... I'm falling in love, with you. You flew too high but now you've got a feeling you're falling, yes, falling in love with, nobody else but you, bu da da da da dadada da!
This world is so bizarre, n'est ce pas? I mean in Russia right now, there are mothers and fathers doubled over with pain for their senselessly murdered child. An innocent day gone explosive. Bodies stacked in the hallways. Bloody images of young faces. And, here in the contained world, sings Ella. Sigh, yet, it makes sense that someone sings while someone cries. Otherwise, wouldn't life be altogether unbearable? It's a bizarre juxtaposition, though, which is difficult to get used to.
Do you do this as well? I'm always splicing my life with others and wondering about the thin curtain that separates. I'm off for fun and victory when on the other side of the world ...
Well, I'm just sorry that it happened. I can at least tuck them into my consciousness and send regret out into the air. Not much when all is said and done. Yes, it must suck to be God at times. Things are messed up in many ways.
Okay, tomorrow will be enjoyable for me. I should sleep on all things that swirl in my head.
Good night to all in the world who need it.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Is Audrey Hepburn in the house?

The black wig is off, my pointy heels discarded, my fashionable black pants flung, and now I'm happily in flannel boxers and big t-shirt smiling at some of the images of the evening.
Kathy was in the huge, regal ugly pink dress that I picked up at the Richmond's Salvation Army. She had a pointy hat which increased her six foot stature. She looked gigantic. At one point, she turned around and looked up at Clinton and me, Stacy, who were in persona for our spoof of "What Not to Wear", and made some comment. I gave her a Stacyesque "Shut Up!" and the crowd roared. She looked so funny and forlorn in her big Queen outfit.
Bill was in the lacy dress he agreed to don. When Clinton asked him to shake it like a Polaroid, he gave his coy refusal.
Pretty Lisa was all decked out in coveralls with a cap and a toy tractor. She made the farmer look one of high fashion.
Sally was loving the flamingo nightgown, flouncing around without any encouragement whatsoever. Susan looked gorgeous in the size 22 swimwear. And, Cathy looked super in her gypsy outfit and rubbed the ball when I asked her to.
It was all so fun. Can I sleep tonight?!
Eighty-six women showed up for this women's ministry group meeting. Excellent. I was nervous but went on a meditative walk again this morning, and it was exceptional. It lifted me from feeling like inadequate dirt to having purpose in the light, being a light, opening to it.
Right now, I just had a huge shiver thinking about that touch which prepared me for this evening and my various roles. Amazing aliveness ... caring Father. I'm so happy.
What will the semester bring? I have 17 women in my class. Lots of meditative walks will be necessary. Tomorrow brings a new class probably of 17 women too. What will happen in those 34 lives from now until December? Peace, hopefully. Many of them seem like the typical seekers which come into our church. I was the seeker skeptic too. I still can understand the questions and the pain behind them : Where were you God? How do I know that you are real? How can I stay away from ignorant narrow thinking? What do you want of me? What do I do with all of my stuff?
Hmmm... questions of faith. That's what our class is about. May the answers flow in abundance and may truth of the setting-free sort land aloft in our circles. C'est possiblement.......