My Morning Sign Ministry

May 13, 2017 by

My Morning Sign Ministry

This week I began something new about 2 a.m. Sunday. I typed up a message for my neighbors and then taped it to folded over manilla file folder and taped that to the metal table outside my apartment door.

There are eight units on my end of the apartment building. To get to the parking lot, one must pass by my front door.

Each day this week I put out a new message of encouragement.

Friday morning, I left three boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts.

Friday morning I surprised my neighbors with Krispy Kreme donuts.

I took a break this morning, Saturday, but have big plans for the moms in the building for later tonight.

My church is considering a program called neighboring. I figured I might do some things ahead of time to get to know my own neighbors, not so I can then say “come to church with me,” but so we can all be closer.

One woman on our end of the building is having a hip replacement Monday. She’s going to be disabled and in as much pain as I have been. She needs prayers of support.

We have new neighbors. One this morning was at the laundry mat. Others are youngsters trying to figure out life. There’s a family above me. She’s a nurse. He comes and goes in scrubs. They have a daughter at Mesquite High School. There’s a woman with two grown children across and up the way. Behind me a family. He works in car parts, she’s some sort of nurse and they have a son at MHS, too. Another couple live downstairs and got first place in the Christmas porch decorating contest. I got second. But other than that, it strikes me I don’t know much about them. That’s what I’m trying to change with the morning interactions, though admittedly, from my messed up sleep cycle we’re not engaging in the morning hours. Yet.

One of my neighbors left this note taped to the door Friday morning.

These unique people all live in spaces attached to my own. It just makes sense to reach out and show a little kindness. To be neighborly.

Of course my situation the past 12 months has been a little limiting. It was a year ago yesterday, on Friday the 13th, that a chiropractor in Mesquite screwed up the nerves in my back and legs seemingly for good. After multiple surgeries and procedures, walking is still a chore as is getting about.

But I’m glad to say I’m a month now off the opioids. I’ve not had caffeine in two weeks. I’m beginning to feel a little like my old self.

After the donuts yesterday morning, I awoke to find a thank you sign taped to the front door.

On the table this morning was a card from the neighbors above.

Doors are opening. New friends are being made, and I am loving my neighbors as well as myself.

This morning’s thank you card from my neighbors.

Now, what to do next week?

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A Mile Into The Woods

Apr 27, 2017 by

A Mile Into The Woods

I walked a mile into the woods today to be further away from you and closer to me.
Perhaps I succeeded.
But it was time for another view.

I walked a mile into the woods today.

I hear planes in the distance.
The wind rushing over my ears.
The rustle of the leaves.
Feet padding along the trail.
Cars way off in the distance.
Birds.
Cracks and smacks of branches and sticks.

The whisper of the wind across my ear drums.
The pulse of God’s breath moving across my arms.
The bursts of sunlight breaking through the crown of the trees above.
The dancing shadows across the ground.
The to and fro of branches wafting in the wind.
The colors, greens, darker; brown, black, bright green and gray.

I hold out my hand and the sun catches it, throwing a shadow across the ground.
But it’s not crisp, it weaves in and out of light.
There, it’s solid.
No, now it’s not.
There are patterns from shoes that have been here before me.
V-shapes, circles, squares.
At deeper depths.
Tire tracks, from bikes.

A broken branch lies a few feet away.
The light above illuminates the top, worn from who knows what.
The rest of the bark is intact.

A tiny yellow flower, no bigger than a diamond clings to nature’s floor, protected by fronds of green petals.

A yellow star of a flower.

It’s a miniature star, yellow, with a darker yellow center.
And it was waiting for me to come along and sit here today, for me alone to capture.
Or maybe, just maybe it’s my metaphorical reflection, a quantum physics of sorts I do not yet comprehend.
But I’m trying.
My eyes are open.
Again.

A bird chirps overhead. Now it’s gone.

Divergent travelers surround me.
Another over-crowded airliner moans eastward overhead.
I hear a truck far off, backing up, backing up, backing up.
Both are in a race.
While I sit here.
Still.
Forgetting to breathe.
Or think about anything but the moment.

The sky above is blue.
The leaves above reflect the white light of the sun—not greenness at all.
While others are shades far darker in the shade.
And then there are the branches where from many feet below I can see the chloroplastered canals of leaf after leaf after leaf.
Like a playground bully, the wind pushes the leaves.
Like me in my inner frights of seeing too many parental fights, they never push back.
So many forces working against them and they continue a dance in the wind as if none of their opposition matters.
These are Spring leaves.
Deep inside I must resemble a crumbling one in Fall.

I see bees buzzing past me.
Clumps of white spores float along in the air.
A blue butterfly.
Then a Monarch.
A bird is somewhere off in the distance.
This snack he’s missing.
I’m glad.
There go two more now, chasing each other into the leaves like lovers in a Hollywood musical.

A water fall of sorts is no more than forty yards from where I sit.
The water rushes.
Like the mass of human drama beyond, it doesn’t relent.
A constant wash of white noise blending in with all the other orchestral parts employed around me.

The wind is blowing the branches above my head making the leaves look like a million pinwheels as they sway two and fro.
A kaleidoscope of light and shadow and mystery.

I want to lie down on the path in front of me.
On my back and flatten against the earth, staring up into the azure blue, and then just close my eyes and take it all in all the more.
But my inner parent voice says that’s not allowed.
Or maybe it’s an echo of an actual parent voice.
Maybe tomorrow.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll bring a blanket or a towel.
Or maybe I should just try it.
Who will know?
Those damned inner parent voices.
What do they really know?

Now a dog behind me somewhere has joined his bit part in the symphony of outdoor sounds I am awash in.
At home, if it were my dog, this would bug me, but in the distance, the sound is different.
Not annoying.
Not troublesome.
Now it’s stopped.
No, it hasn’t.

To my distant right I see one lone purple flower at the seam where the grass is no longer edged and bushes, Mother Nature, takes over.

The pink/purple flower. I took a picture anyway.

Just a lone purple and pinkish dot on the horizon.
And it, too, dances in and out of the bright light overhead.
Maybe I should go take a picture.
Maybe I should let the one in my mind’s eye be enough.
Click.

There goes a wasp.
Keep going.
Arms dropping.
Pincers ready.
I’ve been stung by you and life too many times already.
Keep going.

Maybe it’s time to load up the pack and head back.
Or maybe I should close the computer and open my mind more.
There went a shadow of a plane from overhead, racing on its way.
Why do I want to follow in pursuit?
A yellow butterfly just swooshed off to my left.
It doesn’t need clearance to fly.
No flight plan required.
Without a set destination.
Gate to gate time is of no concern.
Pushback.
Just the will to be.
It’s gone now.
I’ll go now, too.
There is so much more to see.

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I’m in La La Land–Why the Movie Appeals to Creatives

Apr 25, 2017 by

I’m in La La Land–Why the Movie Appeals to Creatives

Friends and family think I am in La La Land. Perhaps I am.

Today, April 25, 2017,is La La Land Day in Los Angeles in coordination with the DVD release of the movie. When released on iTunes two weeks ago I was skeptical as I started the opening number, Another Day of Sun. But that ended fast. 

I enjoy this film though it tears me up inside to watch.

As a creative who is something like Sebastian, “shanghaied” in the past, “letting life do a classic rope a dope,” I understand the emotions Mia and Seb personify in this film.

Here’s to the ones who dream. Foolish, as they may seem, here’s to the hearts that ache, here’s to the mess we make.

Boy, do I understand those words. How many times have friends and family suggested a “real job,” in lieu of pursuing the gift God put in me?

I’ve lost count. My life isn’t about the material riches many seek. I once enjoyed the lure of a fancy job title, the fancy car, the big house, and though the money doesn’t go as far these days, I don’t need it to either. Could life be better? Certainly, but my writing is important to me.

I recognize daily my time left diminishes each day. The past year of pain and surgeries caused by an ass-hat then-unlicensed chiropractor in Mesquite, Texas reminds me of such.

And then there’s the love story between Mia (Emma Stone) and Seb (Ryan Gosling). I’ve been fortunate to know the up and downs of true love. Seeing these two go through that process in song, dance, acting and inference provided me an emotional rollercoaster when I’m reeling from the most special person in my life walking out when I could barely walk at all.

Somehow I started playing Ringo Starr singing Photograph yesterday and after four months and six days, I found the nerves in my heart still as raw as the ones damaged in my legs by the medical profession.

God moves people in and out of our lives, I get that. But the God I believe in doesn’t call on us to do to others as has been done to me. Another dishonest shanghai if you ask me.

Everything You’ve Got

I’ve taped copies of “Everything You’ve Got” around where I am reminded that pursuing my dream as a writer is my greatest goal.

I understand, however, the path that Seb and Mia take in the movie. Each has a dream they’re pursuing with everything they’ve got. Around my apartment–on my computer keyboards, mirror, fridge, light fixtures, etc.–are little notes to myself from Seb–“When you get this, you’re going to give it ‘everything you’ve got.’

So while the ending of the movie rips my emotions to new levels of pain, there is poignancy and elegance woven into the fabric of this movie that’s hard to personify in the English language–so in this case, it’s best that it’s done in film and music.

My mom and eldest daughter don’t like the movie at all. My twin daughters will buy their own DVD of it today.

It’s probably not a movie for everyone. After all, there’s a reason why Hollywood doesn’t make musicals targeted for adults these days. But it’s just that dreamy magic and hope–God don’t we all need a little of that to ease our daily pains–that makes La La Land all that more special.

I’m revising my second of three drafted novels. My goal is to submit it to the SMU Writer’s Path program in August. They’re taking up to 13 of us in the program to NYC in November to meet with agents and publishers representing the Big Five. Whether I am selected or not, I’m giving this everything I’ve got. This is my dream and without one, well, what’s the point of living like that?

Mia and Seb don’t think so either.

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Subjunctive Text–The English Answer to a Lack of Emotion

Apr 25, 2017 by

Subjunctive Text–The English Answer to a Lack of Emotion

Saturday in Montgomery, Alabama, famed novelist Rita Mae Brown spoke during a workshop at the Alabama Book Festival about the hole in the English language caused by our vocabulary lacking the adequate words to “articulate emotion.” She says Subjunctive Text is English’s answer to our language problem.

Rita Mae Brown at the Alabama Book Festival April 22, 2017.

I had expected a lecture on how to get published as a writer and got 50 minutes of mind-bending perspective on the tools we writers have–think of a mechanic with a red Craftsman box.

We have a “warriors’ language,” she said. It’s not equipped to describe emotions. At least not like Spanish or French.

Thankfully, Ms. Brown says we have an answer to this problem–the subjunctive text–what is imagined, wished or possible.

Her challenge to all writers: “Can you put the truth on the page?”

Hmmm.

The Close Your Eyes In A Restaurant Test

Ms. Brown offered writers a great tool about observation. “Go to a restaurant, close your eyes, and then listen to the falsity in what you hear,” she said. “You’ll hear people change their voice, derogatorily, to talk to children. You’ll hear the fake laugh of conversation. You’ll be amazed at the anxiety of social situations,” that you can hear by sitting there with your eyes closed.

She said men drop their voices a half octave to talk to women they’re interested in wooing. “It’s natural, like the male pigeon fanning his feathers, he can’t help it.” Women, she said, raise their voice, look upward, and raise their hands to gesture.

“Listen to the pauses and how people breathe when they talk. See how many of them talk from their diaphragm and mean what they’re saying.”

Governments and Passive Voice

Ms. Brown talked about the use of active and passive voice, saying men use active voice a lot, and governments use passive voice to cover their tracks. “Bombs went off earlier today,” she said. “That doesn’t tell you anything about who made that order, who set them off, who got bombed, or even the time it happened. Government makes use of passive voice to cover its tracks. Never forget that “language can be used to conceal as well as reveal.” 

Dramatic Epiphanies 

A real epiphany in life she says is something dramatic, though some are indeed quiet. “But they almost all paralyze us for a few moments when they happen.” Her point was that we, as writers, should pay attention to this in our characters. These events are like “faces falling off Mount Rushmore.”

There are times when epiphanies are “quiet and you suddenly realize you’ve changed and have either been deepened by pain or enlarged by success,” but they happen and when they happen in writing, we should give them the space they are due. “But then you must start again with a subtle pause in the action.”

Ms. Brown says people read because they need a break from the miseries of the day. So that we can learn how to survive the situations that life throws at us. “People look for curious characters,” she said.

Animals

During her first workshop and a later presentation, she spent considerable time talking about animals. “All higher vertebrates have their own language,” and she encouraged the study. “The fox is a vermin,” she said. “It’s hardly been studied at all, but don’t you think it’d be wise for us to spend some time trying to figure out how in January the fox seems to know what the food supply is going to be like in May?”

Another curious observation–“Animals, like your dog and unlike humans, don’t lie.”

Writers We Should Read

Ms. Brown said there are certain examples in the English language that we should all strive to emulate, but most likely will never achieve. Virginia Wolf was the top of the list. She loves Faulkner and then said Toni Morrison’s Beloved is crucial reading for its literary elegance and use of the English language.

I really enjoyed what she had to say. She bordered on controversial political jabs here and there, but no one seemed to mind, even in a Southern town like Mungumry.

She said some good things to know as a writer.

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Opioids–The Exit Strategy

Apr 12, 2017 by

Opioids–The Exit Strategy

During the past 10 months I’ve been on all kinds of pain meds. After the installation of a Abbott Pain Stimulator, I’m doing everything I can to get off the opioids. At present, I’m down to 1/2 a 10/325 pill in the morning and 1/2 of one at night. I am doing everything I can to get OFF these meds. The problem, most people are not like me. 

PAIN is a HUGE problem in America. When I first called a Pain Management doctor’s office in June of last year, the scheduler told me that doctor in North Dallas receives 50 new referrals a day. FIFTY new patient opportunities a day. FIFTY. That’s 250 a week. That’s 1,000 per month. Now I doubt the numbers are 1,000 new patients a month, but I can believe the numbers are that staggering.

From the picture, these are all meds I’ve been on during the duration. Most of them did nothing to stop my pain. Having a pain stimulator surgically implanted in early March 2017 has helped.

I was on Fentanyl patches and three Percocet a day from December 2016 to February 2017.  I still felt my pain, but my GiveADamn about it was broken. I was in true pain. That’s when these meds are most needed and they do help. But they are highly addictive and what didn’t come with any of them was an exit strategy.

WEANING

I’ve been cutting my consumption myself. That’s probably not a wise thing to do, but it’s what I’ve had to do because my doctors have not given me a written plan on how to get off the meds.

THE AMERICAN OPIOID CRISIS

Having been a consumer of opioids for more than 10 of the last 12 months, I can see how easily this can become a problem.

This post is just the beginning in a series. It is my intention to raise awareness about the dangers of using opioids. If you have a family member, friend, or you yourself have had issues with these meds, getting off of them, I mean, I’d like to hear from you. You can email me at DC at GrammaticArtist dot com.

It’s time to take action about these meds. Let me be clear. I am for their use when a person is in pain. But there needs to be better understanding among doctors about getting off of them, as well as just getting a script written and off you go to the pharmacy for more.

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Amazon Needs A “Do Not Use USPS Button”

Mar 28, 2017 by

I have been largely homebound the past 10 months. I’m an Amazon Prime member. That means I pay an additional amount yearly for them to rush things to me. Over the past two years, that mostly has meant things arrived at my door via FedEx or UPS.

But over the past 10 months, Amazon shippers have gotten cheap. They’re relying more and more on the USPS and there is no other way to say it, their service is sub par.

There needs to be a button at check out that denies an Amazon shipper to be able to send you something via the USPS. It’s that simple.

Today I received notice of a package USPS delivered yesterday. The “Your Orders” function says it’s in my mailbox. I live in an apartment complex. I went to the central boxes. Guess what. It’s not there. It’s in the office. I then had to drive further down to the apartment complex offices and they’re out until noon. So now I’m going to have to make another trip down to the office. 

Did I mention I’m having back issues. I’ve had four major surgeries since August. Getting around is not easy. And THIS IS NOT THE FIRST ISSUE I’VE had.

I’ve ordered dog food for my Great Pyrenees since I’m not supposed to be carrying 50 lb bags of dog food. It took an extra week for USPS to get it delivered. I’ve stopped ordering it this way at all. Screw you Amazon. You’re going to lose business.

Then there are repeated issues with delivery that have been noted on Twitter.

Using Amazon saves money. Particularly on books. But they suck when they let shippers send stuff via the USPS. It gets screwed up most every time. And there needs to be a button on Amazon that lets a purchaser say don’t waste my time with the USPS.

Now to their credit, USPS on Twitter has been most responsive. Their local office has not. But this has gone on for months now and I’m really just about ready to cancel buying on Amazon. It’s no longer convenient and has become a huge pain in the butt.

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Friday’s Muse on Pain and Psalm 38

Mar 24, 2017 by

I’ve been on quite a journey these past 10 months. Ten months of leg and back pain. I can’t believe it’s come to this. I slipped on an over-turned door mat in Boyd Hall at Auburn University May 6, 2016. A week later, Friday the 13th, I went to a chiropractor who fixed soreness in my upper back, but has done significant damage to my lower back and legs.
 
So much has changed in my world in this difficult time. My “best friend,” has abandoned me. Others have come into my life–church family–to replace others who have wandered away. I can’t say that’s all bad, either. If your best friend can’t stick with you in hard times, then who needs them, right?
 
My parents have helped me weather the storm. My eldest daughter has been a daily support. Church friends like Gerry, Jamie, Gordon, Gary, Harold, Cindy, Kelli, Lisa, Matt, Eric and Laura, and Kim and Ken, they have pulled me closer to God’s love in a way I’ve not ever known. 
 
Yesterday, I was walking my dog, Maycee. A man saw her, smiled and said, “Life sure can be hard. But you look at a creature like that and the love they have toward you, and well, you just know that somehow it’s all going to work out.” 
 
My dog is important, but so is my God. 
 
I’m studying what the Bible says about pain. The past 10 months I’ve encountered a lot of pain, and now I feel called to talk about it. 
 
It’s easy to forget about those who are in pain. In our crazy world, who wants to talk to someone day in and day out who is in pain, right? God does.
Aren’t we all in pain? It may be financial, physical, emotional, mental–it doesn’t matter–it all hurts. And it all affects us in many ways. I feel sorry for my friends who have walked away during this trial. In their pride, they are of the mind that they are stronger than God in healing their own pains.  
 
I pray daily for their relief. I ask you to pray for my own. I shall pray for yours, too. Because you can’t tell me you don’t know what pain is. It may not be the same kind I endure every minute of the day in my legs or back, but I know you’re hurting. We’re human. 
How are you dealing with pain? I found this passage in Psalm 38 recently. Hits the nail on the head–from more than 2,000 years ago. Wow.
Let me share with you Psalm 38:
My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body.8 I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. 9 All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away.12 Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception. 13 I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth;14 I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply.15 I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God.16 For I said, “Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips.” 17 For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me.18 I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.19 Many are those who are my vigorous enemies; those who hate me without reason are numerous.20 Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good. 21 O LORD, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God.22 Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.
God bless you. May it be a good weekend.
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