Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I'm not sure why, but lately certain awareness seems to be coming to the forefront regarding manic-depressive illness, or as it is more commonly called now, bipolar disorder. I just got done reading Dr. Kay Jamison's book, "The Unquiet Mind". This woman is a leader in the research of manic-depressive illness and herself seriously afflicted with the disorder. A friend e-mailed me about a member of her family who struggles with the same mental health issues. I wonder about myself sometimes, being a moody person who tries to balance out extreme highs and lows of feeling and experiences. I remember as a child (fifth grade) being up all night doing a school project. Our family had moved from one state to another, and I went from a very closed Catholic school to public. Something inside triggered an intense competitive desire that seemed to go from "good student" to manic. I couldn't get enough of those highs. But then I'd shut myself in my room, unable to be around people, irritable, antisocial, needing quiet and order.

I have often wondered about my son. My father was alcoholic and I'm sure afflicted with similar drives, but how much and what types I don't know, and he's long gone, as is my mother. I'm not sure of our family's mental health history. A friend of mine who was in the healthcare field and now works with recovering addicts and alcoholics told me both my son and I should be profiled. I'm beginning to think she's right. I dread being "labeled", and yet I wonder how much mental health issues may have played into my son's behaviors, and may figure into his recovery. It's something I need to get more information on and really think about.

Right now I'm taking the time to read and research, and mostly pray about things. This is a touchy area for me because I'm a highly creative person and the thought that that may be due to illness or affected by it is more than I want to face right now. One of the most influential and telling books I've ever read was the memoirs of Hector Berlioz, who was a French composer alive in the 19th century. When I read the book it was like talking to myself. He was identified by Kay Jamison as a manic-depressive person. So I wonder how this all fits together and why the knowledge is suddenly at the forefront of my mind.

Monday, January 29, 2007

the rest of the story

Today is a bit of a continuation of yesterday. While I was eating my veg burger for lunch yesterday, I remembered the end of Sunday's sermon on the goodness of God. One thing I've learned from being in a 12 step program is that lack of trust is a killer. That's my particular form of substance abuse. We can only find God by believing, and further, by believing He won't harm us, and in fact means good for us. Just think about all of the things you couldn't do if you didn't trust in the basic goodness of people, usually total strangers. You couldn't ride any public transportation if you did not trust that the driver would take you where you wanted to go. You couldn't eat if you felt restaurant help might poison you. You could not call anyone to ask for help of any kind if you didn't trust that the person you asked would, in fact, help you.

I had a horrible come-uppance in this regard this week. I did not trust in a friend I deeply care about. Something they did, not intended at all for harm but to help me, was misread. I cannot take my words back. Worse yet, I can't take back the fact that I did not trust them. To me that fact ruins months of trust-building that I may not be able to repair. If I can it is due to the goodnes of the other person, not me. I long for their forgiveness, but I'm not sure the friendship will ever be the same, and my heart is broken to pieces over my own foolishness.

The end of Sunday's sermon was about the apostle Thomas. When Jesus reappeared to the disciples after He rose, Thomas wasn't among them. The other men told him Jesus was alive, and Jesus Himself told them all numerous times He'd fall into the hands of evil men, be killed and rise again. But Thomas said that unless he could put his fingers into the nail holes and his hand into Jesus' side, he would not believe Jesus was alive. It was the old "Izzy Furreal" situation. This is the Lord of all the universe, Someone who had walked with these men for three years, done miracles among them, trained them, ate with them, protected them, did everything He said He would. Still, Thomas refused to accept the word of his friends and the testimony of his greatest Friend, who would never lie unless he had proof. The amazing thing is, Jesus was not offended by this request at all. He reappeared to the disciples while Thomas, this time, was in the room. Jesus said basically, here's the holes in My hands and My side-come put your fingers and your hand in them-don't be disbelieving anymore, but believe. He also said, "Blessed are the ones who don't see and yet believe". To be blessed means to be happy and joyful regardless of outward circumstances (in other words, what you see...) I need to take a lesson....over and over.

along the shore

I had a dream last night. I dreamt that I was walking along the ocean, peering down into the sand, and I saw all sorts of beautiful shells, rocks and tiny treasures. I went to pick them up and realized that I could not hold everything I was finding in my hands. I was so excited I went to get a container, but could not find the place I had been again.

This dream, or one like it, is one I have every now and again on a regular basis. I used the scripture from James in my yesterday's blog-that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of problem is while I don't disagree with that truth, I also don't believe He wants to give them to me-or that few and far between seems to suit His purpose. It is always my "container", or lack thereof, not the realization that His good gifts are infinite. Another scripture address this problem, Hebrews 11:6-Those who come near to God must believe that first of all He exists, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. I do believe that He exists and I do seek Him-why can't I get that He is a REWARDER?

I did have somehow have a sense while I was dreaming, stronger than ever before, that the treasures I found were unending, and that I could do so many wonderful things with them. I was excited like being a child again, which seems to happen far too infrequently in life these days. I dreamed about making jewelry and all sorts of beautiful art. I'm trying to connect this visual picture to my life. I volunteered to help with the music at a new church we're attending, knowing I could add so much. I'm starting prison ministry this Saturday. There are openings everywhere to help with the struggling and post-addicted people. I try to think to myself, these opportunities ARE the found treasures, and my ability to serve the means to make something so much greater out of a small thing, in a way that multiplies the gifts. If I think about it that way, I stop feeling so much fear. I stop feeling limited by what I view as my own inadequacies-my small human "container" of flesh. The thing is, I have to approach life with a big container, and that container is my faith in a big, big God.

I can't be afraid of the shore. In my dream, I never am. I search diligently because I'm excited at the prospect of finding. I never want to stop going to the water's edge.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

shifting shadows

I went for a long walk this morning up to our local community college campus. It's a favorite place for me to walk on a Sunday, find a bench in the quad and pray or just have time alone. This morning was bright and somewhat cold, and hard blue and purple shadows mirrored the houses and street signs on the road. The sun was nice, but the shadows caused me to think about a particular scripture, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows". This scripture formed the foundation for my favorite hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness. The first verse goes like this, "Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with Thee, Thou changest not, Thy ompassions they fail not, As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be"...

Thou changest not...isn't that what we long for in life, and more completely, in people? We want to be able to predict what is coming and to trust in the behaviors of people we know. Nothing causes me more problems than unpredictable behavior, or someone acting badly. The reason a person does not change and has predictable character is because their heart is true. Even when there is a bad or wrong action, it's fairly certain the motive was right. How I wish I could read people's minds or hearts, but in a way the actions and the words serve as indicators over time.

I went to church this morning, and wasn't surprised to hear the scripture I first mentioned quoted with regard to the character of God's goodness, that He is unchanging and the Author of every good and perfect gift. I have to trust that the people He brings my way are His greatest gifts to me, and that if I can't always trust the person, I can trust the God who knows all things and does not change in His goodness.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

how it ends

Yesterday I was flying around trying to finish up the latest portrait I'm working on (of my son), shoot slides, frame, drop off work and think about what it all means. I'm laid off from the dental lab and so trying to take advantage of the time and really work hard with my art. A childhood friend of mine who has always loved music and performed e-mailed to say she's trying to figure out a computer program that would enable her to record and burn a cd to share. I'm so glad.

I watched "Little Miss Sunshine" the other night and what a life-affirming message it contained, though I didn't agree with everything presented (the background soundtrack was DeVotchKa-if you haven't heard them, pick up the cd "How It Ends"-mine is already practically dead I listen so much). But the gist of the movie was, be yourself and go for it, no matter where the road does end. Simultaneously with all of my busyness, I picked up the mail out of the box and got an Artist's Magazine. And there, in the magazine, was featured a young woman I know-she was listed among the up and coming artists under 40. I was tempted to think, "Why am I even trying?" It seems like this woman has had every advantage. She is married to a high profile artist, already in the big-name gallery where her husband shows, and she isn't even 30 yet. I had just come from droppping off artwork at our local college, and took time to view a student show that was up. I expressed interest in buying the work of one painter who in my opinion SHOULD have been on that "under 40" list. Such confident painting! Amazing for a student!

And back to my childhood friend. She was one that I always felt would "make it". She had a natural stage presence, an un-selfconscious air that was refreshing and reflected a genuine love of life-it seemed all there. And now I get this message that she finally feels that is all coming back. What happened in her life's road to bump her off that track? And finally, nearing 50 years old (a very young 50), she's feeling what she felt at 7 or 8 years old. I heard it said, it isn't how you begin, it's how you the question to all of us at any place in life is I guess, how does it end for us? I think that is something we can change any day, in any way.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Brandon and the elephant, part two

I promised a continuation of yesterday's letter, so here it is! A week or so ago my husband found a metal playground elephant in our cellar coal bin while checking out a leaking pipe. Both of us figured Brandon had to be involved somehow, and it was a hilarious reminder of his presence in our house. Well, here's the story straight from the horse's (er, elephant's) mouth:

He starts out his letter: 'ello, Mumsy, Just received your most recent letter much to my amusement. I completely forgot about that elephant. Surprisingly (or not), it wasn't a plan of my hatching. It was more a "shake-n-bake" situation. As in "it's Shake-n-Bake, and I helped." I'll explain later.

And here it is: "Now onto lighter things, namely the elephant. In short, Ed and Dena (his sister and her boyfriend) found it, then asked me to help pinch it (that's officially the end of the short version). She originally asked to borrow my Jeep. 1. No one borrows my Jeep, and 2. I had a flat, so I asked what's up. Her answer was to the effect of "I need help lifting something". I couldn't resist. The three of us went down to Quality Hill (a local playground) in the Mitsubishi (Ed's car) where we went to the elephant's hiding place and carried it up a wet, slippery hill back to the car. Ed and I tried to cram it into the "trunk", kicking at it and slamming the hatch down on it in vain. Now, we're parked on the side of perhaps the least travelled road in all of Nanticoke and just as Ed and I start to struggle, cars start coming. Imagine, if you will, driving past us, who are pushing and kicking this big, lumpy object into the back of an import compact like a couple of Japanese mobsters transporting a body with Dena whisper/screaming "hurry up!" Obviously, we weren't caught (the denizens of Apollo Circle-the Nanticoke projects-left it very well alone) and the thing's been in the coal bin since June '05.

He doesn't even HAVE to be home to cause excitement and chaos! That's my boy.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

a special white letter day

It seems like the letters from my son are fewer and further between these days, but one came yesterday that made the wait very worthwhile. He doesn't owe me any explanations, but when I receive his love and understanding, this journey is so much easier to bear. Here's Brandon:

"There's no need to feel that stopping by less often needs any justification. There were times when you'd visit I could plainly see how worn out and exasperated it made you. Not the visit itself, but the circumstances of it. The anxiety of the night before, driving to the end of the state to come HERE of all places, then back home again. There are times I'd like to just have a video conference so I could see you guys in a natural setting. All the hectic stuff going on, trying to have a sit-down dinner, randon people running through the house at odd intervals. Say "hi" via satellite to someone who just woke up, rooting around for cold cereal in a bathrobe. On the other hand, I could show you my crappy little cell. I've gotten rather comfortable with it, actually."

He goes on describing how he felt in county lock-up, awaiting sentencing, "In county I counted up day by awful day with the stereotype four lines and slash method. I woke up nearly every morning mentally screaming "SON OF A BITCH!!!!!" (he has the word "bitch" underlined) knowing yet barely grasping the shit-storm I stirred up. Sure, there were days you could hang out on the top tier "porch" of LCCF's 5-A with the guys and yuck it up. We'd start trouble, have fun, then someone would say "I almost forgot I was here". We'd all sigh "yeah, 'here'."

He concludes the more serious reflection with ,"Once you leave here you have to deal with the life you made for yourself and truly come to understand the damage you caused. Everything comes back to you like you left yesterday. Hell, I could go on forever, but you already understand. I don't intend to start pissing and moaning about how bad I messed up. I shoud be too busy creating normalcy for myself. Though now that I look at it, just getting to where I can begin this process seems like a long, long road."

Well, tomorrow I'll include a hilarious explanation of the elephant in the coal bin-yes, it was Brandon. But I thank God for his self-realization and the maturity that is happening. The trick for me is to just let it happen.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

back in the saddle

When I learn how to post photos on this thing, I will post a new piece of work I just completed. I'm very proud of it, a conceptual hybrid called "Women's Lib". I used the bust of Sappho with a fedora thrown over the top of her and a tie thrown around her neck. Somehow it seemed appropriate to do this piece as the start of a series defining what I'm about artistically. I used colored pencil on colored paper, which most artists eschew, white being the most traditional choice. Colored pencil is a good deal like watercolor in its pigment transparency, and I've seen so many pieces done to great effect, almost like oil paintings in their depth and richness of color. But I depend greatly on the color of the paper as a local color and a means of harmonizing the piece. I also go from severely 3-D areas to flat shapes to effect contrast and "read".

I have to get used to breathing creativity. It has to be a way of life to find success as an artist. I actually officially started my journey in 1992. I really never expected to be successful, but an aunt of mine suggested I try colored pencil, so I did. I joined a drawing class to explore the medium and was told I was crazy not to continue in a classroom situation. I put a skirt on and tried to look somewhat put together as I went to our local community college to apply. I had babies at the time and it all seemed so insane, but something inside drove me on. A series of events unfolded after that that were so amazing I feel I have no excuse not to continue. But it's true-where we step out and risks, there are great rewards and great dangers.

As I look back, trying to put the present into focus, I think of the people I met in school. Who would have thunk that in a tiny Pennsylvania coal town with one traffic light I'd find some of the most accomplished artists in the country teaching traditional methods at a community college. All of the art instructors were working artists. I learned to copy Old Masters-shoot, I learned to oil paint! I never thought I'd do that. The students I went to class with were some of the most exceptionally talented people I know I'll ever meet in life. It was a rare time, and I've hopefully come to appreciate how much. I went to school at exactly the same time the man who became my studio instructor was there. He is brilliant and one of those rare people who found success in the art world immediately. He now shows work on the West coast. The creative bar was raised higher and higher as I graduated from the college and went on to work in his studio.

I went from housewife with a crazy dream to artist showing work in New York....quickly. Maybe too quickly. Somewhere the wheels fell off of my trike. I was working with several male 20-somethings and I couldn't keep up. I didn't have the energy or the freedom to draw until three in the morning, but I tried. Slowly my life was cracking into pieces. My nerves became so bad I started taking prescription drugs. I was torn between diapers and paint brushes and did not know how to reconcile the two. Studio life became everything to me in every way and I resented my "ordinary" existence. I couldn't think well on my own and felt everything I did had to be a masterpiece or I didn't have the right to create. One of my classmates committed suicide. Another had a nervous breakdown. Still another slid into a drug-addicted existence. The dangers were very real.

Fast forward ten years. I left the studio and found sporadic success doing local shows and commissions. Something inside told me my path was different than my studio mates, and it would take time to land on my own turf. But I think I have, and this time, I know where the quicksand lurks. I'm in a 12-step program and have a sponsor. I have a close knot of positive, encouraging friends I can share this journey with. I spoke with one of my studio mates over Christmas who struggled with drugs, and is now back on the path, applying to grad school-how wonderful to see his success and realize I want it, but I know sacrifices need to be made on both sides-my home life is equally important, so I embrace whatever level of success that affords. I have a valid say in the artworld, and I will speak. I will not be put off by naysayers, mostly the demons in my own head. When something doesn't work, I analyze why and don't make the same mistake twice. This Friday I take work to the faculty show at the college where I graduated. I chose pieces that say, "This is Sue", and I take Sappho with me. Whatever becomes of it, my work is my own.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

yesterday, cont.

Seems like within yesterday's epiphany is this tangent-the people I really love and care about are the ones Ishould feel free to get the maddest at. My problem is being ok with expressing it. The desire to keep everyone happy and not offend is at odds with the fury I feel sometimes, rightly so or not-my own emotions, that is. The one thing I couldn't do with my dad, and can't seem to do with my son, is express the rage I felt and sometimes feel over the things they did. I trust that my love is steady and unconditional, but that does not mean I won't react to wrongs leveled again my family, and further, myself. The only meaningful protest I could lodge against my father, and we had a great relationship later in life, was to not attend his funeral. I stuck my tongue out at duty and decorum. Of course he wasn't there to see it. But I was satisfied.

My son is equally hard for me. I would think that if I were normal there would have been a moment when I was so hurt and so angry over everything that happened I should have screamed in his face or sobbed in his presence. Childhood training being what it is, I could do neither. I just went on, smoothing over everything, until it was hard to function. With my son, the only way to let him know how I'm truly feeling is to cut down visitation. I do love him, but not at my own expense, and yes, it is a way to say I'm angry and I'm hurt, and things aren't the same anymore because they aren't. Perhaps if I can come to say the words to him, or demonstrate this in a more open and direct way, I will and I'll feel like visiting more. As it is, I am where I am.

I recently had to do this to someone, and in this particular case, I did very directly and honestly state my case because I was furious. Even though the offending action was unintentional, I still do not want it to happen again, and in the end, my feelings were what they were. To just say "ok" and let it go would have dishonored the relationship, I believe. If things don't work out, I'm still good with what I did. I think that is the issue-it's being afraid of loss. But if a relationship can't bear honesty and misunderstanding, then there really isn't much there to lose.

Monday, January 22, 2007

what does your heart say?

I am beginning to have an epiphany that keeps recurring in my life. Maybe I'm not using the word correctly, as I think that is a momentary realization-in my life the moments keep repeating themselves and the realization keeps happening each time. I did not understand how entrenched certain childhood teachings and miscontrued religious notions are until recently. I treat certain beliefs as the 11th Commandment, or maybe it is this one thing: self-sacrifice in any or at all times is god. Growing up with five siblings, and one with a severe handicap, it seemed the air I breathed to be willing to give up anything for the larger good. This is, in and of itself, an important lesson in maturity for a child and I'm not at all downplaying it. I'm glad for the things I learned as a child. It has made adulthood so much easier. BUT, here's the thing-self-sacrifice is not god. In fact, it can be the most destructive path chosen.

Now I am a Christian and take the teachings in Scripture at face value. This is right. But Jesus' heart and soul was for the people. The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath. You tithe cummin and mint and neglect the justice and mercy. Feed my sheep. Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone. He who is forgiven little loves little. There has to be a marriage of law-abiding and joyful living. There were no good words in scripture for those who denied themselves to become more holy. Jesus was classed as a drunk and a glutton by some. We do not achieve holiness by wanton self-denial. It is through obedience.

Lately as I've spent time reading scripture and been in prayer, the still small Voice inside seems to keep asking me, "What is your heart telling you?" I say to Him I'm willing to do whatever He wants, and the question is pushed back across the table, "What do YOU want?" I'm not even sure how to respond sometimes. It's never about what I want I think, but the Lord seems to be telling me that it is-life is about choices. I have wanted to take a vacation out West to visit a friend and my older sister. The old practical voice says too expensive, too time-consuming, think of a way to make it more efficient, you can't leave your family...but it keeps coming back to me, "What does your heart say?" My heart says more than anything I want to visit my friend and my sister. I'll figure out the cost, I'll do what I have to do. Yes, yes I want this. I keep thinking to myself, had I been more selfish about my son's time and company-had I been more aggressive in seeking him out, maybe things might have been different. But I never felt like I should cramp his style, and why would he want to spend time with his mother? Why indeed.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

to know (and still love) thyself and others

Yesterday was a day of odd juxtapositioning of emotions, people, activities and my own heartbeat. In view of it all, and my yesterday's blogging as well, I realized that my responsibility is to myself as much as it is to anyone or anything else. If I do not love and care for myself like I want someone else to, I cannot receive that kind of love from another person. The second greatest commandment says, "Love your neighbor as yourself". An unfortunate series of events has transpired under the wire of my daily radar screen in a very important friendship which again reminds me it is a tricky business befriending members of the opposite sex, and the truth of what I was feeling and how much became apparent to me in a way that was personally embarrassing, very public and completely unintended by the other person. And I blasted away at them, not knowing what to think or what motivations were in play. So much for respond instead of react. Yet the reaction was completely truthful, honest and right from the heart, so if this individual has any doubt how much I care, it was completely dispelled by my spontaneous outburst. In this I do not censure myself or apologize. I go on in truth, trying to find the right type of care and the right way to love someone who has helped me on this treacherous journey of life in the prison trenches.

I don't know why I seem to need to white-knuckle everything in my life. I tend to choke the breathe out of things that could be so lovely and so edifying. But I have this appalling need to be completely sure of everything and everyone around me, and in so doing I oftentimes watch the color and beauty leech away from that which needs my trust to survive. Does it follow that I do not trust myself? Does this imply that I bleach everything in my life in the safe and digestable laundry and leave absolutely nothing to chance? Can I trust in my brokenness like God does-He's nuts, if you ask me, to leave human beings in charge and think they could ever be as loving as He is.

I juxtapose that outburst and subsequent realization that my friend meant no harm with a trip I took for prison volunteer training yesterday. Only two days before I received a phone call from the local prison chaplain, Tom, telling me there was another volunteer, a female pastor from my town, who has been in recovery for 30 years and wants to help with the 12 step program I'm interesting in starting. We had to have two volunteers to do it, at least. So I called Phyllis, a total stranger, and received her generous offer to ride along to the training, an hour away. Well, there we were on Saturday, driving in the snow, sharing like two old friends about totally personal events and things in our lives, and suddenly Phyllis was terribly important. In a 48 hour period someone I had never even met became my friend and lifeline where I needed someone so desperately. My fear at facing this training among total strangers and the idea of going back behind bars voluntarily was vanquished within the first hello.

I pondered this, trying to work out the other situation, forgive myself, realize I was within my rights to get upset because I love and care so much, and understand the truest friendships are the ones that bear our strongest emotions and bring us back to caring for ourselves. I pray to God I haven't damaged this one beyond repair, but if it is what I think it is, two people will come out loving and caring for themselves and each other even more. If not, I don't apologise for feeling pain and moving to protect myself, and Saturday's journey showed me I'm ready to accept the responsibility of self-care and open my heart to others both.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I'm trying to let go the washed-out feelings of last night, watching Bridget Jones' Diary alone on the couch. I guess it's something that's been steadily building, or at least seems my experience because the movie industry sure picks up on it-there's something about being needed desperately for who you are. And it goes without saying, by a member of the opposite sex. I wish sex were enough for me. I can do that. What I can't do is force a man to need me or appreciate what I have to offer, and the older I get, the more resentful I get of the fact.

I try to tell myself my faith makes me whole, my career is exciting and enough for me, family life completes me, I have so much more than so many other people....all true, but I can never get this pesky heart to stop wanting someone (a male someone), even in a friendship, to put forth some strident effort to choose my company, to prize what I'm about. Good Lord, a Colin Firth seems absolutely out of the question-someone who would ditch a huge career change to be with me, and who kisses like that... Or even wants to. Don't we get enough of the half-crocked grope out of the depths from a snoring, farting sleep partner? If that's romantic, I think I want to be a Martian.

Or this...the constant reminder that most men prefer the tightest body parts. Can't blame them, I guess. Hey guys, what about someone who is smart, articulate, who knows about music, art, life, love, is generous, well-groomed, funny, has good teeth and a vocabulary above the forth grade and who only uses the word "like" to describe comparisons of things? Sigh...ok, I know the world will never change and I should appreciate what I have in turn. Just sometimes seems like settling. I tell myself, give what you want to get, focus on the whole of life. I do. But, man, some days I want the good stuff, too. Is that too selfish?

Friday, January 19, 2007

how is it?

I've had some confusing days lately, and when that happens, I know there is one thing I need to ask, as one song I like puts it, "How is it between us, Lord?" And I have to tell myself that I have lost sight of the most precious thing in my life, the one true thing, the one sure thing. I have lost sight of my Lord and His love for me. Other things have become more important to me, and that never works in the end. No human affection can replace Him, no earthly pursuit compare. Without Him in my life my life loses it's meaning. He treasures the brokenness in me and reaches to me over and over to create and recreate this poor little piece of His creation. One question that Jesus asked of His own disciples was, "How is it that you do not know the Father after all this time? If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father". No grace extends further. I want to quote an article written by a British Dominican priest, Gerald Vann, some 40 years ago regarding faith and modern culture. It spoke to my heart so deeply within my confusion.

"The power which knowledge brings must be put to healing and redemptive purposes: to the humanizing of the material creation, of the earth which is man's home and setting, but also and even more of man himself. "Don't preach to the starving; give them bread" can be given a new application: "Don't preach divinity to the subhumanized; first give them back their humanity." And it is in the light of this that the importance of Christian cultural renewal can be gauged. We cannot save others from subhumanity if we are subhuman ourselves.

We easily recognize the subhuman in contemporary society, and even more easily criticize its deficiencies and errors, its foolishness and emptiness, but when we confront the challenge to contribute something positive and constructive to the progress of culture, we find certain obstacles to progress which are largely of our own making...

One such obstacle is thinking about morality in terms of negativisim and fear. Goodness, in this view, tends to be equated with (negative) sinlessness, and therefore the main motive for doing this or not doing that is fear: fear of blotting this spotless tabula rasa, fear of breaking "the plaster saint." The concomitant slogan is "Safety first". One might suppose that our Lord had said had come not that we might have life but that we might have safety. And therefore prudence has come to mean, quite simply, caution, the caution necessary to avoid all danger and ensure complete safety. To such an extent has the greatest of the cardinal virtues come down in the world! Prudence, phronesis, does not mean caution; it means practical wisdom, the ability to make wise judgment about practical matters. And sometimes wisdom will require us to be cautious, but sometimes it will require us to take risks.

The tragic effect of an attitude lacking practical wisdom is that the role of prudence in relation to art is seen simply as an attempt to prevent artists from doing anything that might be thought dangerous to morals, and, if they cannot be prevented, to ban them. Moreover the danger will be seen as lying exclusively in the content of a book or film or painting (e.g. it may be thought erotically stimulating, or may seem to argue in favor of the morality of suicide or divorce) and not at all in its aesthetic quality...

Again and again a great book or film or painting will be denounced as immoral while the mawkish, the moronic, the aesthetically meretricious will be extrolled because its message is regarded as edifying or at least SAFE. In the end those who are docile to this sort of guidance acquire an affinity not with what is good and real but what is bad and false, not with genuineness and integrity but with the debased and ignoble. And the element of falsity in particular needs to be stressed: a novel, a play, or film which communicates a profound insight into the nature of the church will be denounced because it contains a "disedifying" portrayal of a priest; another book or film on a similar theme will be praised because it makes everything in the ecclesiastical garden lovely, even though this is a falsehood and the sentimentalized picture of religion in general is a distortion and falsification of the very stuff of religion. Grace builds on and in nature; it is no service to religion, and no part of prudence, to turn potentially mature human beings into morons, and we cannot claim to serve and worship truth if we acquiesce in or encourage falsification of truth..."

Oh my dear Savior, who lived and died and rose in this world of fallen and wrecked things-the one true Beauty who spared not His own for those He loved, may it be said of me in everything I do, create, attempt, love, that I would not spare myself or take the easy way of safety. Let me be a real seeker after the truth.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

things happen

I'm sitting here not knowing what to do. I wonder sometimes why things happen, I guess we're human and they do. Like the famous saying, sh*t also happens as well. Somewhere I have a point in all this. I feel terrible. I haven't slept well in days. Something's going on that I can do nothing about at this moment-I may have overreacted to a situation, but more likely I saw the truth about myself in it, and it hurt. To love, to need, to offer your heart and friendship is always a risk. One is never sure what the other end of the rope holds just exactly. May be something to pull you through, may be something to tie you down, may be something to hang you. I thought this one was a good one, one to pull me through. Maybe it still is, but for now there's nothing I can do and I'm still not knowing what that would be anyway.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Just really trying to decide at this moment if there is a man out there who can help me get over the feeling that you are all narcissistic a-holes, or just wear your genitalia for brains most of the time. Nothing at just going on here, just a huge serving of humble pie, wounded pride and once again feeling from a woman's point of view, being faithful and true means squat to a man. We talked today in my small group about responding, not reacting. Oh, I wish I hadn't been there because I surely want to react right now. I want to yell, and scream, and use words that would burn a hole right through someone's gaping mouth. I want to write things that would set paper on fire. Ah, to react the way I want to...but here I am trying to do the adult thing and respond, which will make me very glad in the morning not to find someone's fingers burned or that they are wearing another hole in their head because of my acid tongue. Maybe a good cry, maybe try to understand it was a misunderstanding, maybe realize we're all human. I'm such a good person (NOTTTTT!!!!)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

up from the depths

It took a trip to JC Penneys to make me realize I've been slowly dying, and I couldn't see it. Like a person falling under water, disoriented and unable to swim up to the light as it grows dimmer and dimmer, I stopped fighting and began to breathe in liquid, growing less and less conscious of how it feels to be alive. The descent happened over a long period. Our home had been chaotic for years, and somehow the chaos began to seem normal, and no peace the way things are supposed to be. Our home was stampeded by police, twice, and my son led off in chains-first to juvie, then prison. He was living a double life, and that life encroached upon ours until it was impossible not to be affected by it, even though we were all along and I accepted it. I've heard that kidnap victims who are captive for long periods begin to adapt to their lives. At first it really is for survival's sake, but then, it becomes the norm, and the most inhuman ways of living and being treated seem right. Or victims of sexual sadists-the first thing that happens is the perpetrator begins to push the boundaries of accepted and normal just past what they ought to be until the victim accepts deviant behavior as normal. The mind is a funny thing and will protect itself until the self-protection mechanism is no longer needed and is either cast off or clung to unnecessarily.

It was the sudden realization that I need clothes that led me to Penneys. I drove there after my Friday meeting, just wanting to look. I began to feel I needed some nice clothes for church and in general. I actually wanted a pair of pin-striped pants. Now I know this sounds like a silly thing to be an epiphany, the most normal impulse for a woman in the world. But then I got inside and looked at the racks and racks of beautiful, new clothes. Dance music began to play over the intercom into the store, and I felt a tremor go up my back and my fingers begin to tingle. It felt like I hadn't been out to a store to look for clothes just for me in years. I didn't even know where to start. Earlier in the day I had a similar impulse to get my hair done. Again, it's the most normal thing in the world for a woman to want, but this time I wanted something new and different. It mattered to me, not just "the same, only shorter". I began to look hard at how I've been living, and I haven't. It feels like someone's hands are reaching frantically into the water to drag me out, and muffled voices are becoming more clear the nearer I come to the surface again. The following day I grabbed my plastic and headed out again, this time for a whole new wardrobe, not just one pair of pants.

I haven't wanted to breathe the air for a long time, and I'm still coughing out water. But somehow, feeling the sun again, seeing the brilliant colors around me and all the activity-I want to be a part of it again. I want to live. I've passed too many days not wanting to at all. At the very worst moments, little things would happen, that like oxygen would put the color back into my cheeks and bring me closer. The days I wanted to stay in bed, letters would come. The days I couldn't stand the thought of another thing, the phone would ring. Pretty soon this was happening more and more, and the better I felt the more I reached for those things, the normal things, being with people, going out, planning fun things, until now I'm breathing and wanting more and more to run. Whatever happens from now on, I don't want to die until it's my time.

I did start drawing today. As I looked around my studio I realized that what I thought was such a long run is only a short jump. I can see what I could not before, the similar threads joining my work, the uniqueness of what I do. I guess the clothes and hair were another way of saying the same thing-find out who you are and live that out with a vengeance-let nothing stop you. I will now decide to sail the waters that would have taken me down.

Monday, January 15, 2007


I'm starting in today to begin creating a body of artwork that defines at this moment who I am as an artist. The paradox of this is that an artist, a creative being, stops being that when the action of creation ends. They are the people who process the seen world and transform and synthesize it into a reflection of their own mind mirror, continually readjusting and reaching through the accepted into something new and different. Here in this place is where trust is critical, where vision is everything, where the intangible must somehow be reckoned with a tangible expression. I have to trust my eyes, my heart, my mind and my gifting that pouring out the inner vision into tangible and seen expression is worth it, that it means something.

I have struggled for years to find the junction of the creative spirit, the technical craft and the truth in a work. Not every piece of work contains this elements in equal measure. The overall journey contains varying amounts and the work is constantly evolving. Still, the fact remains that there has to be a stopping place, or at least a place inhabited for a period of time that becomes recognizeable. I have to study my work and the work of others and ask myself, "What rings true to me?" "What are the characteristics of my own personal expression?" "How do I balance the pure act of creativity with the necessary act of sales and survival?" So far it's been a fairly simple thing-I'm a portrait artist and my picture had better look like the person. Well, I know I transcend the material and somehow imbue the images with something beyond surface likeness-still, how to I take this further still? For a portrait artist the trick is vastly more difficult that with other artistic disciplines. And how do I further still push beyond the limitations of photography and the image bits people tend to be satisfied with in this generation, viewing tv and computer screens. I fear art these days misses the richness and depth of the past, of that which takes years to develop and is not content to merely make a nice picture.

The figurative artists I admire from the past were not all people one would encourage or even admire as human beings. Henri Tolouse-Lautrec was one of those. His primary focus of artistic inspiration were french prostitutes and the characters who inhabited cabarets and dance halls. I somehow doubt his paintings and drawings would find their way into the winner's circle of certain organized exhibits I'm dying to be a part of. How far have we come in the art world? We seem so easily satisfied. I remember seeing a painting done by Vincent Van Gogh at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was merely undulating tones of grey. The picture was done from his asylum room looking out onto wheatfields in the rain. To a casual passerby it would seem nothing, but to me, visiting the museum on a rainy day struggling with inner demons and pain, it became the expression of my heart and a kernel of deep truth from another time and another life that linked me to the artist. I knew exactly what that painting was about. This is what I'm trying so hard to allow for and what is so costly to an artist who longs for integrity-to express the deepest and innermost parts of the heart with all the skill we possess, whether the world understand and accepts it or not. Can I do expose myself that way as a way of life? It seems to me the gift requires nothing less than that.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

where there is no vision...

Human beings can live without many things, but they cannot survive without hope. I was reminded of that this morning, hearing the scripture from Proverbs, "Where there is no vision, the people perish". Merely staying alive is not living. There has to be something in our lives that we are reaching for to live well. I have found myself sitting smugly in my 12 step recovery meetings amidst the stories of users trying to find a way out or get through another day, until I realize the slow death lack of trust and co-dependency causes in a life (my life). I strangle hope by not trusting that anything good can happen again, by not accepting risk in my life, by not opening my heart to the new and untried, by trying to control every circumstance and person in my life.

There is something about vision that requires an unfettered heart, capable of belief. In order to reach for something, to try, there first must be the belief that it is possible. Before anything finds it's way into reality, it must dreamed of. Dreams generate reality. The scriptures also boldly proclaim that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith isn't a tangible thing, but its release creates tangible reality. When all seems lost and what is seen and felt smothers our vision, it is time to look beyond the seen, to let go, to walk into the dark.

We are creatures meant to live only one moment at a time. The Our Father says "give us this day our daily bread", not weekly, not monthly. What is required for the moment will be given if we step forward. It is time to step forward. I keep thinking of the scene in one Indiana Jones movie, where to get from point A to point B a bridge was required, yet there was no bridge. It looked like a step forward would mean a plunge into a deep chasm and certain death. But there was no recourse. As it turned out the step forward into the emptiness created the bridge. The vision of what was on the other side of the bridge made the risk of stepping out worth it. To not move would be to perish.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

elephant in the coal bin

My husband discovered a leak in our cellar. He thought our water heater was dying, and then realized the leak was coming from an old coal bin in the front of the house. We live in Northeastern Pennsylvania, so a coal bin is not unusual in older homes. When homes were heated with coal furnaces, the trucks would come around and fill the bin, which is more like a small room in the front of the house. So there is enough room in the coal bin to store things and to use it as a private kids' clubhouse or hide things. Well, while we were cleared out the back half of the cellar to empty whatever may have been in the bin, my husband found something covered with a lap blanket that had gone missing for the last year. Under the blanket was a metal playground elephant on a spring.

I guess it needs to be noted that my children have all gone through a kleptomaniac phase. My older daughter I think was the most creative. It finally came to the point where when I heard on the radio news that a mannequin went missing from someone's front lawn, I had my suspicions. Oh well, who has a mannequin on their front lawn? But I asked my daughter, and sure enough, she and her boyfriend somehow found this an irresistable prize. They had planned to return separate body parts with a ransom note, but I threw cold water on this idea being that if she were caught, she could be arrested.

So, to find a metal playground elephant in our coal bin was at least within the realm of possibility, though still a rather surprising discovery. We questioned our younger daughter and at least found out it was a combined sibling effort. Somehow after this week and my decision to stop monthly visitation in favor of more stretched out visits to the prison, it seemed a funny reminder of Brandon's presence in our home.


Testing again-I lost an entry...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

on screen and off

I find the experience of watching network television programs strange as I contemplate it back through the years. As I age, I identify with the people, women in particular, who are my age acting out their lives on screen. When I was younger I identified with the younger people, and now that I'm middle age, there are the middle age actresses, impossibly beautiful and having the same questions, thoughts and struggles that I am, only I'm not an actress and life isn't a tv show. Sometimes it's even worse seeing women who are so completely everything we think we ought to be having the same problems. I see middle age women being bested by their younger daughters, cheated on, unappreciated, clinging to the fraying threads of their youth and beauty, struggling massively to find significance in a job, a marriage, a new relationship, something, anything that tells them they still matter, they are still desireable, the fight to try to stay young is still worth it, or not.

And I thought to myself, here I am. I do have significance in my life. My 16 year old is watching this program with me and tells me she is on purpose spending time with mom. I don't feel she is my competition. I believe she is the best of me in a brand-new package, so lovely and so alive. I ditched a Bible study where there are other women, accepting and faithful, ready to be there for me if I need them, or not, so I felt comfortable ditching it. They would understand. I took a nap because I'm old and I was tired after a day of working. I had some extra pizza, but not the whole box. That's good. My hair is still dark and I still look like the funny person I always have, just a little funnier. Really, I know what I like and what I want, I'm good with wearing the clothes and size I need for my size. It's ridiculous to pretend any more. I make good choices and I take care of myself.

I'm married but I still dream about men, and they still find me intelligent and attractive. I think I've stopped playing the what if game and find the mild flirtations exhausting anymore. I want men friends. I like them. They are exciting and they keep me young. Oddly enough it seems the less I try the more they come around. But I realized something because of one, one that seemed if I were single and were younger, this might be something truly already is because it led me to see my true muse is art. Every beauty, every attraction, all the things I want, everything inside of me is made to create. Life changes, people come and go, the wrinkles never stop, the dark turns to grey, and I long more and more to put it down on paper. I was given a gift, a wonderful and unique gift, and the more I cherish it, the greater I know it is. I used to dream of fame, of the tv life. I could live without that, but not without the hunger to record life in gesture and line-suddenly it's right to love beauty, but the kind that my charcoal creates. It is my world.

hidden treasure

Have you even been in a Salvation Army store or a flea market, walking around aimlessly, looking for nothing in particular, visually glutted with life's castaways when suddenly, a glint of something, a gleam on a table and you see it. There is that piece of Depression glass you've been scouring antique shops and shows to find, mint condition, sitting casually as you please among dirty plastic dolls and broken toys. You tremble as you reach for it, trying to look calm and unmoved as the 50 cent sticker tells you the seller has no clue of the value of this object. Who doesn't love the stories of priceless paintings tucked away in an attic or basement. I'm still looking for the missing Caravaggio in the Wilkes-Barre Sally's!

Life has so afforded me these moments of unparalleled serendipity lately, amidst the moldy cellar junk of circumstances, the endless scratching to find a bit of hope lying on the ground like a crumpled dollar bill. Sometimes it takes a moment, the time to pick up what promises to be a half-buried treasure, brushing off the dirt, running it under water, examining it more carefully. I used to live in Southern California, and remember so well loving to walk the beach after a storm. All sorts of shells and drift wood lay on the grey shore, washed up from the churning of the wind and waves. One day I spied a perfect urchin, like a mermaid's hair ornament. I picked it up and the perfection of symmetry and beauty of design took my breath away. I waded in the shallows and put my hand in the water. Tiny starfish climbed aboard with their little suction cup arms and I had a living, starry ring on my hand of the most delicate red and pink.

I'm finding certain things in my life now, as I brush away the dirt of my own fears and mistrust to see the beauty of someone else's regard and love for me shining brightly. I'm afraid to hold too tightly or try to cash in my treasure. That I may learn to simply love the moment and value beauty for it's own sake is all such a thing requires.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

a decision

I had to make a decision yesterday. First of all I had to realize there was a decision to be made. My husband called from work and asked me what day would be good to make our monthly trip out to the prison to see our son. Sometimes we would go on Saturday because of our work schedule, and sometimes Friday because weekends at the prison are crazy and you usually get chucked out after a few hours. Sometimes we'd go Friday and stay overnight. It takes four hours to get to the location, and four back. If we go Friday, we have six hours to visit if we leave at 4:30 am. No matter how you cut it, the trip is positively exhausting for many reasons. It takes me usually a full month to recover emotionally from going. Well, yesterday after we talked I was getting weepy. I cried off and on all day, and realized it is due to thinking about and trying to prepare for that trip. I spoke to our youngest, who is in high school, to see if she wanted to go, too. We decided on Friday, and she said plainly she could not miss any more school. It began to occur to me that monthly trips aren't written in stone. Hence my decision to forego that schedule. I'm staying home this month, and plan to go every other month unless something in the family is going on that prevents it.

I began to realize that I often do things out of a knee-jerk reaction to a sense of duty that is sometimes misplaced. I love my son. I want to see him. But what I cannot do is sacrifice everything to that desire. I began to think, why should I? I have a life. My husband has a life. My girls have a life. I haven't ever been out to see my daughter in college, which is a shorter trip-not for a "fun" visit. Somehow I think my priorities are a bit skewed. I don't know why it takes me sometimes almost falling over the edge mentally to come to that realization, especially with my kids. Guilt? Perhaps. Growing up family loyalty reigned supreme, at times past what was healthy or normal. Maybe I err too much on the side of self-sacrifice because I was always required to. There has to be a balance. I have to tell myself the truth. My life cannot revolve around my son, and it isn't selfish to realize even monthly visits are too much. It is simply the truth.

I owe a debt of gratitude to certain people in my life who aren't afraid to ask tough questions of me and even enjoyable ones, like what was the most romantic night of your life like? Chuckle. They remind me that I too easily forget that life is full of good things, but I have to decide to embrace them, not trudge dutifully through without "smelling the roses". Also, if I'm to accomplish things I believe God has set me to, like taking my art to the gallery level, I have to have the drive and the energy, and I never will if I do not consider them priorities. One other truth I've come to see-judge people by what they do finally. My son did wrong, and it should cost him. Period. So many others in my life do right, and deserve to be treated in kind, myself included in this. Thanks to my understanding husband, my sweet girls, my many friends in CR, the Thursday girls, crazy sisters and all of the phone calls, one special all deserve more. I'm so glad you're in my life.

on being blind

My study on the Gospel of John over the past few days included the story of a man born blind. Jesus healed him on the Sabbath-he's the guy that got the spit mask on his eyes. I have read this story over and over again, and still find certain remarkable elements of human nature contained in it that never seem to change. Being that it was a "man" who was healed, he lived his whole life physically not seeing the world, his family, anything around him. This was a miracle without question, and yet here's the crazy part-first of all, the religious leaders in the town refused to recognize that fact. This man had been a begger for years, known by all. But to them the primary issue was, Jesus broke the Sabbath by working. To them He sinned by healing someone, and that was all they saw. They repeatedly questioned the man, "Who did this?" "How did He do it?" I can just imagine the man standing there, blinking in the sun, seeing the wonder of the world for the first time in his life, and being assaulted by this crowd of men he had never seen and probably at that moment could have cared less about-he was no doubt looking over their turbans into the cerulean skies, the sheer brilliance of sun-bleached clouds and marveling. Their words must have sounded like so much fly-buzzing, but they persisted. They who left this man in his misery for years now cared-why?

More incredulously, the leaders questioned this man's parents, "Is this your son?" And again, though a miracle of front-page Judean news happened right before the sighted, his parents answered, "We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but how he came to see we don't know-ask him". And the text simply states, they said this because they were afraid of the temple leaders and of being ex-communicated for supporting Jesus' claims about Himself. There was nothing there to recommend Christ to these parents, not even a son who could now truly see the people who gave him life and raised him. What a moment this could have been! What a joyful reunion! "We don't know-ask him". My heart rips in half as a parent to read this.

But thankfully the story doesn't end here. The man was turned out of the temple for asking the leaders if they wanted to believe in Jesus, too, and he wandered away. Where would you go, seeing for the first time-how disorienting the world would suddenly be! Just then this man heard a voice asking him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "Point Him out to me, sir, so that I may believe in Him". The voice answered, "You are looking at Him. Don't you recognize the sound of My voice?" At that the scriptures say the man proclaimed his belief and worshipped Jesus. "Don't you recognize the sound of My voice?" Those words pierced me.

I began to think about Brandon, and the one thing that is so clear to me, is once my poor son was blind and now he sees. If I cannot rejoice, if I cannot recognize the sound of the Lord's voice in this, I'm the blind one. He should be dead. He raised a loaded gun to his head, but most certainly did that in so many ways throughout his life, and the gun was stopped from firing. There is no logical explanation except, we have a God who breaks His own physical laws to display His total nature, which is love. It is that which causes the eyes of the heart to be open in some, and remain firmly closed in others who will not accept the truth, who will accept that He is love.

Monday, January 08, 2007

white carbon paper letter day

It may be my imagination, but the letters from Brandon seem to be getting shorter and less frequent. However, this may be due to more motivation kicking in to work his situation as best he can, as he explains, so I will type his most recent letter in full:

Hello family,

I thought I'd start this in the afternoon today. I can't go out to yard because of commissary, so I'll use my rather unimportant free time. That's an interesting phrase for a place like this; "free time".

You'll be happy to know I finally requested a teeth-cleaning appointment. I also inquired to the counselor about a job in CI Laundry and took care of a few other things I've been procrastinating. The response to my job-seeking from the counselor seemed promising. I was re-routed rather than simply shot down. My cellie, Shane (a maintenance guy), told me the hiring process is based on "staying power". That being an inmate who has a significant amount of time and is statistically less likely to make 1st parole or CCC due to a problematic offense. Simply put, whoever has the potential to stay employed longest (as well as previously experienced inmates) gets the job. I'm hoping this all goes well.

We've been having some sort of freak heat wave up here, it's freakin' crazy! As you may already know, winter's reputation precedes it in the Highlands. It's 50-60 degrees outside and there hasn't been a flake of snow since late October. Sure, it's not a bad thing, I just hope this isn't the overture to some Mojave Desert-style summer. Can't be much worse than this past summer. Sitting up on the hill, dying, watching heat waves ripple up the from the black top of the track. All the grass is dead. You can't wear state boots. The sun cooks 'em so badly you can get minor burns. A few times I walked down to the water fountain for a drink and came back more dehydrated than when I left. You could imagine, like in some cartoon, a bird flies out from the shade of a tree and explodes into a ball of fire, landing roasted on a platter in front of you. Yeah, it gets that hot. I'm a winter person, I'm getting gypped.

Alright, that's another letter down, more to come when the opportunity presents itself. Tell everyone I said "hi". See ya!

Your loving son,

Back to mom-he did mention the advantages of having maintenance guy for a cellie when we last visited, such as a toilet that flushes like Niagara Falls, showers as hot as you want, special modifications to all sorts of things. Well, even in prison it's who you know. The cartoon bird is an especially Brandon touch to the letter-I think I miss his sense of humor most of all.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

on familiar terms

Well, we trekked to a new church this morning, though the people were not all new to me as they were to my husband. This is the church that hosts the Celebrate Recovery meetings on Friday nights that I attend, so I did not feel like a total stranger coming in. There were familiar faces. Familiar people make me feel secure and accepted. The sermon this morning was on why churches exist. The all-encompassing reason that they do is that they are an expression and fulfillment of the two greatest commandments, to love God with all you got, and your neighbor as yourself. It is a group of people getting together to worship and to serve God and people, in a nutshell.

The pastor went on to tell about the love Jesus had for people, His acceptance of them where they were and His desire to reveal to them all they truly are. He was scolded and reviled again and again by the religious leaders of the day for hanging out with sinners. Somehow this made sense to those guys. But I have to say, until I got exposed to the prison system, I held similar prejudices. Jesus touched lepers, put Himself between an adulterous woman and the stones meant to kill her, called short, cheating tax collectors out of trees to have dinner with them, spat on blind eyes and opened them, listened to the pleas of an old woman being bled to death by doctors and a condition that kept her from ever touching another the list goes on and never ceases to amaze me that these simple stories crackle with life and could happen even this minute. We don't have many lepers any more, but we do have people with HIV, politicians never change, internet porn is rampant, people never stop needing help, never stop being lonely, never stop being exposed in the most shameful ways for doing the most shameful things. But it was Christ's concern for people that drew even the most deformed of us, inside and out, from the darkness of anonymity into the light of His love.

I have to keep remembering as His representatives today, that's my job, too. And my job starts with me, so I've decided to do as I promised-my Mom's Art link has my contact information. I added a profile, because the "joannie" was an alias. I figured, to know people, you have to let yourself be known, too. My real name is Sue (how do you do?-thanks, Johnny C.)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

contact information

I'm adding one more post today simply because I'm very bad at checking to see if anyone responds to what I write. More often than not, no one does. I'm at a disadvantage not knowing who reads this blog if anyone, but I did get an anonymous response to my "Blue Christmas" entry, and I wanted to say to that person-thanks and be encouraged. This blog is mostly for the purpose of helping me cope and mark time until my son is out of prison. I hadn't intended to make it anything other than that, and wanted anonymity myself. However, I have decided to include contact information and will put in a link to that effect. I am a Christian, but I have contact with many types of people, some that do not share my beliefs. Once again, this is the record of my own personal journey, but I'm always anxious to hear from other people who have found solace and help in their own ways. It is not an easy road, and everyone who must travel it will do so better with people who are going the same direction. I'd be glad to personally write anyone who contacts me, though I only intend to share my snail mail address. I'd rather not share my e-mail publicly.

not in Kansas anymore

It is an unusual 70 degrees for this part of the US of A, the Northeast region of the country. Our doors are open, the cherry blossoms along the river are blooming and our two cats have taken up residence on the front porch. They can if the sun is shining, even in bad weather, but today warm breezes are blowing through the screens. It feels like anything can happen. (Or we could all die due to global warming). Since we are anyway (going to die, that is), I say bring on the warmth.

Strange things are happening. My daughter decided to come in over her Christmas break for a second time to see us. I'm always glad to see her, but this time she seemed to really want to be with us and not a galaxy of friends. I took both my girls to a small restaurant near our place of business, a favorite of the youngest, and we went for "splunch" at around 3 pm, meeting my husband who was not too far away working. This is a New York style diner, and usually the tables are set with placemats, no fancy stuff. Well, when we went in there were fabric napkins and table cloths on the formica. We were the only people in the place, so the waitress asked if she might turn the lights down. The effect made me feel once again that I do not know where I am. The food was the same and the address of the diner was the same, but we had cloth napkins and low lights?

Life has been alot like that lately. Could I have guessed at this time last year that I'd meet almost all the closest friends I now have within the year? I just started attending regular recovery meetings in the summer and getting to know the folks there, started writing to Shaun in July, and these people are the ones that are helping me find my way through the maze of the prison experience. Let's see, there's an ex-alcoholic woman with MS, a British ex-stockbroker from Arizona, a female ex-drug addict whose been everywhere and done everything a body can imagine to get high, a woman who was labelled terminal with 6 months to live and that was four years ago. How do these things happen in life? How in the heck can a middle-aged mother of three in a small town have ever met such people except that life is strange and God is merciful...and strange winds are blowing.

test again

Well, we've had our fun with browsers, so I'm testing this blog again!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

posting and hitting

Well, being that I only mostly do word processing, e-mailing and blogging on the computer, and that only when I need to, one of my greatest frustrations is not being able to do one of those activities because I'm computer illiterate in a large part. My inability to blog was due to an automatic upgrade to the browser that changed security setting, blah. If my husband dies I'm in big trouble because he changed the settings (but he admitted he didn't know what he was doing).

I write snail mail letters to Shaun Attwood, the prisoner who keeps jonsjailjournal. He recently wrote and told me I could use his name to generate hits (so I'm doing that now), but when he wrote it, I thought he meant music hits. Ok, before you fall on the ground laughing and peeing your undies, consider that I was born before the MTV generation, so I pled old age and stupidity when he patiently explained what he meant. (I also figured it out as soon the said letter left my fingers and fell into the mailbox). I had to let it go or serve time myself for tampering with the US Postal Service box.

So I'm back again, hopefully a little wiser and hit-worthy!


This is a test to see if my entry will post.


Testing the blog-my most recent blog did not post.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


I think the hardest part about bearing our crosses in life is that some of the heaviest loads are invisible ones. Or are easily forgotten by other people. It's ok. What is true for me is true for others as well. Still it is a comfort to know the Lord sees everything as it truly is. Yet sometimes I want to find a way to make the invisible visible.

One thing I've done to cope with my son's imprisonment and absence is to get a tattoo. I don't know why psychologically subjecting oneself to controlled pain makes the interior pain easier to bear. It just seems to. There are so many ancient cultures that used this type and other types of body enhancement in rituals that mark puberty, marriage, the passages of life we all go through. There is something about leaving a permanent mark to call attention to these passages that is important. I have had one done and plan to add to that until I will probably have a half-sleeve on my left arm. I designed the first myself. It is an Alpha/Omega symbol that represents Christ having ownership of my life. I was in a recovery meeting once where a pastor made mention of the danger of wearing or advertising our faith, how much that would speak against us if we did not live up to the advertisement. Personally, I like the idea.

Anyway, the design I planned this time wraps around the first. It is a rose with thorns, sort of simple and elegant. I don't care for cheesy, like blood drops and cut skin patterns. I think this one speaks for itself, and symbolizes the beauty and pain of life. It also reminds me of my mom who passed years ago. I look forward to having this one done. I was afraid with the first, afraid to commit. It doesn't matter now, because I'm committed to this life and these crosses whether I decide to be or not. An outward symbol is a continual reminder of the fact. I need that.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

Well, it's the New Year, 2007, and I can't recall having spent a more lame Eve. My first resolution is, PARRTTAAYYYY!! Alot more! This is ridiculous. I'm not 100 years old. In fact, I'm sure most centegarians had a better time than I did! Resolution number two...learn how not to look like the broadside of a barn door. Makeup is not rocket science, and I'm too old to pride myself on not being vain. Resolution three...if a man a few years younger than myself tells me I'm attractive, just thank God and deal with my pride and vanity later (chuckle). Resolution is short-see lovely things in life as lovely, myself included.

I think that's enough to keep me busy all year and alot more.