Friday, July 28, 2006

Unearthing the past

I just looked out the front window and was amazed to see the whole street ablaze with the wattage from my front porch light. And I'm lighting up my neighbor's house across the street like we're about to film some late night reality TV. Nobody on the block really needs a front porch light if mine is on. I think I need to pay a little more attention to the bulbs I'm buying. I tend to be a one-bulb-fits-all person. I'm surprised no one on my block has complained about insomnia recently, and I'm just wondering what this Hollywood glow is gonna do to the electric bill. If needed, I could spot a burglar three houses down from between the slats of my blinds at 2 am thanks to the light projecting from just outside my front door. The coverage is that good.

But that's not the reason I was writing. I'm writing because I've been going through some sort of super funky minimalist phase lately and the need to clear ugly and superfluous junk from my surroundings has been after me to the point of distraction. I keep finding myself at the cusp of every great idea pointed first backwards to deal with the rather un-fun, underlying stuff in order to get things ready for change. So in an attempt to head in new directions and make an area like my kitchen more wonderful, it became obvious I had to clean out the cabinets first. I thought a day would do it. That thought wasn't on target with reality.

Aside from unearthing many items I could sell, toss or give away, I began to discover a lot of memories crammed in with the kitchen junk. I’ve kept old calendars and a few old address books from back in the early 90's, and while they take up space and make a mess, I just can’t throw them away. Once in a while I go back and see what I was doing on a nondescript day "back when" and see who I was in touch with. I rarely look at them except on the very off chance I'm cleaning out the kitchen once a decade or so. I had barely begun looking through one of the address books when I found all sorts of enticing little scraps of paper of various size, color and shape. Long forgotten names and numbers from what now seems a different culture altogether were slipping from between the pages. It's almost like I dreamed those days and those people. I conjured up the old faces as best I could from their names and then found other names I had actually been trying to remember just last week. I was reminded of how many lives it seems we lead over the course of our time and how many people come and go only to be a part of our world for a relatively short time, though it seemed like forever at the time. Funny what I remember of some of the people. What do they remember of me? Do they have odd little pictures and quaint memories of specific things I said, like I do of them? Do they remember much more than I remember of those days or nothing at all because they didn’t keep their calendars and address books scrunched up in kitchen drawers?

Then I began to read the notations on the pages of the calendars. It was like sneaking a look into a past that belongs to someone else. The things I was doing seem odd and out of place now, yet were all a part of my very life and who I am today. So much daily stuff that I can now clearly see was creating a way for me to get to here. I would have very little recollection of so many of the details if it wasn't scrawled out there in my scrappy handwriting. I saw month after month of notations indicating things that had to be done because of painful circumstance when the world was upside down. Weekly events and consistent friendships were right there spelled out with ink. And I saw the evidence of time with friends and family. In those everyday events and in the names of constant friends who were our life, many of whom still are, I saw evidence of how God was taking us through to who we were to become. Pivotal days and events that would appear at the time to be just another thing to do or a reminder of where to be and when, was really much more. Each stroke of the pen signifies the moments of my life ticking by... my one and only life, the markings there are really anything but insignificant calendar notations. They tell me in part why I made it through and when I should have done more or less, where my focus was on target and where I slipped up. Looking back at our lives like that is like finding something hidden and new despite the fact that it's old and done. It's like unearthing our own history from an outsider's viewpoint, because we are outsiders to that time and place now. It’s all somewhat odd in light of today. And it’s treasure. Those were moments just like this one. It's a hard lesson to remember because even now I tend to forget that the moments today are forging who I’ll be tomorrow and who I’ll be another 20-some years down the road. What did I do today that would make an interesting archeological dig during some other kitchen cleaning in the future? I wonder. What patterns will I find in looking back one day? If the calendars of the past are any indication of what it was that defined me, then I’d better include the people of my day, the moments we shared and not just the cleaning I did. That said, it would be important to add that Casey assisted my efforts today by going online to look up the value of items I found buried there in the deep. She would try to give me an idea of whether we had anything valuable on our hands. Cally and I spent some time together shopping for college items later in the afternoon, and then we met up with some new friends who passed on a mini fridge for her to take to school. Just being together, which so rarely happens lately, we were moving one step closer to the next moment, making choices together and seeing God provide. Cally and I stopped for a smoothie, because we were within range of Tropical Smoothie. I’m starting to understand the pattern now. I guess we are required to stop there if we come within a half a mile. It was good to share a smoothie. It was good too, to drive to Paul and Lynette’s and have Paul hand over the keys to his red convertible so we could have a second car for the next two weeks. I mean it was good that they would allow God to use them yet again to meet a need of ours. As far as Cally being behind the wheel of a red convertible for the next two weeks, hmmm... well then, that could be another story altogether...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Who Rules

I’m an image junkie - I don’t deny this. With years of conviction behind me and a spiritual sticking point that usually fends off most of the blatant blows, it still happens that sneaky voices and enticing images slither in and make themselves at home. It usually happens unnoticed and I’d say they most often come in disguise, brought to me by the talent and cunning of the image weavers. There have been magic moments too, the kind where a window into something incredible is played out in a way that seems meant just for me. I know... we think we are self-directed, thoughtful people, independent and astute, but we’re not. I hate to be the one to break the news, but we are weak-willed and gullible in the hands of the creative. Storytellers rule the culture.

Something happened last night while we watched the imperceptible blending of images or as we bathed in the words and rhythms. We were drawn into a story, as we often are, sitting in the dark, holding hands with the remote, mesmerized by the lives of the characters we cozy up to. Their behavior “became” us, maybe repulsed us, maybe intrigued or attacked us. Maybe it humored or even inspired us. Their language spoke to a place in there that always seems to be crying out to be spoken to. What was said echoes in our heads still today. Which place did it speak to this time? Did we hear what we needed, or was it simply like a salty snack and a can of coke, something that hit the spot of the moment?

We turn it off, we turn it on, it’s neither here nor there really. It’s just a show, just a movie, just advertisement, just diversion of course. But it isn’t just a show or a movie or an advertisement... of course. Someone tweaked and planned, spent fantastic sums of money, consulted and rehearsed to create flatscreen images that would be reborn 3-D in our lives, whether with one well-placed line, or episode by episode solidifying a premise, and sometimes culminating years down the road, a testament to patient, painstaking effort. Someone’s on the other side hoping their voice will be remade inside of us tomorrow. And it WAS remade the minute we ourselves, our hands-on selves, began repeating the lines, the moment we did or maybe even didn’t realize that we were conveying a tone of voice invoked by the spin of “the creative”, or when we retold that joke or adopted a mannerism or a way of thinking, or when we allowed what we've spectated to become a personal reality that we now play out with our own voices, what we now consider to be our “personal” thoughts. It all became 3-D after all, at our own hands.

Seems some of the fantasy stays behind. Some of it’s been staying behind since the first time we lay on a Saturday morning floor as close to the box as we could get to watch Looney Tunes. That’s a lot of time, a lot of influence. The sway of the music and tones of voice, classic lines and attitudes about the world and our place in it - what to accept, what to reject, who to love and hate; it has “become” us, in essence made us, formed us, and it shows up even imperceptibly and unnoticed. And we are the ones who give it permission. Someone we don’t even know has decided more than we’d care to give them credit for. Someone has colored many of our thoughts in shades we’d probably rather not have allowed onto our color palate had we really given it any thought. Often even carelessly, and with a strong desire to be entertained, we meld and transform under the guiding hand - of whom? Who are these “guides” we’ve given our hearts permission to follow?

I know how moving images can be. At any given moment you can find me nearly obsessed and completely absorbed in them, ignoring food, people and the the common sense of the hour hand. I know from the “other side” how images incite deep heart change because I am an image weaver myself. Can’t fool me about it; I’m in on the whole thing. Words and pictures carefully placed to sway to the sounds and the mood will mesmerize us into a deliberate thought or feeling, even move us to action - sometimes nurturing, sometimes suffocating both our character and our future - and always challenging who we would become. In the moment, aroused by feeling, incited by image, we will move. One way or another, chances are we won’t sit still. Which way we move depends on which voice and which image we grant an ear and an eye to. Which way today?

“Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them...

...Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.” Deuteronomy 11:16-21

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

My video experiment

I have finished the armoire painting. Well, almost. I still have to paint the feet, but I'm not counting that. In my mind, it's finished because the doors are back on and the new knobs are in place.

I discovered that I can upload video now via photobucket, so I am going to give it a try here on this post. If it works, you will be able to see what I have accomplished so far in the room. You have to have Flash 8 or higher, I think, to play it. So make sure you have it.

Meanwhile, forget about the fact that I have yet to paint the room, find a new covering for the closet that is currently being hidden by the old curtain fabric which no longer matches. I also need to get my new dresser and to tackle some sort of floor covering, move the chest out and decide whether or not to paint the mirror. The curtains need some touches of the other colors that are in the accent pillow, but I have yet to figure out exactly what those touches will be. There's nothing on the walls either. How the heck did I feel at all accomplished about any of it? Oh yeah, because I finally painted the armoire. And I did remove the headboard (even though it is still sitting in the living room). For now, here is what I've done: Please ignore the sad video and editing quality as this was a hurried little test project.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Oh Thank Heaven for 7/11/06

What could end my blogging silence after all these months? Just one incredible event. A national holiday which much of the country seems unaware of, and one which brings good taste and good cheer to any willing to accept a little something for free. That’s right, today was 7/11. Yes indeedy. Free slurpees in honor of 7-11’s 79th year. It doesn’t take much to make my day does it?

Cally tested the waters early this morning, venturing out for this once a year summer holiday deal, but she came up short. Seeing no sign of little cups sitting around and not wanting to ask, she missed out. What was she thinking! I was at work and could be of little help when her slurpee 911 call came in. But it left me a bit distressed. What if they had ended the free-for-all on 7/11? After all we’d been waiting for this day all year. I was pumped, counting down the days. It’s on our calendar for goodness sakes... So after work, Casey and I buckled up and headed a few blocks over (unfortunately Cally was at work by this time) and with fingers crossed, went hoping like crazy that the tradition continued. As Casey went in, I was a bit nervous; I watched three individuals exit the building with regular slurpees of various sizes, fearing they too had come for a delicious deal only to be disappointed into buying one. But within moments I could see Casey sipping her way through the store with a mini-cup in each hand, sauntering out without stopping at the register. Yes! That’s what I was talking about! And beyond that, check out these little cups! Aren’t they too much?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Clearly, the cup made the event even better than last year.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Just 7.11 oz in size, they were the perfect amount of free frozen goodness. (Cups shown appear larger than actual size). Just enough to drink without it melting on the way home. Until next 7/11 rolls around, we will continue our time-honored tradition of buying full-priced slurpees every time one of the kids do the lawn (at this point, that usually means Casey). As you can imagine, with the afternoon showers hitting during the summer, the grass is growing like crazy and the slurpee budget is out of control. Perhaps you understand now my overblown thrill over a free cup of the ice-cold brain-freezing slush. Gotta love it. And when the heck are they gonna bring back the orange slurpees? That was 7-11’s finest hour creating that flavor. It brought back the memory of how as little kids we used to sneak Johnson and Johnson orange baby aspirin from the medicine cabinet in Mom and Dad's bathroom. 7-11’s orange slurpee had a taste probably born of some other orange asprin-eating kid's fond childhood memory.

And no, my parents weren't totally neglectful...we were just sneaky.

Don't worry. We survived.

All I can say is...Oh thank heaven!