Personal Anecdotes


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Writing.  It is strange that I can both love and hate something so intensely at the same time.  I love to think about writing.  I love to concoct storylines and essay ideas in my head.  I even love to relate said ideas to others.  But when the time comes to actually write, and I am faced with the blank page, a crisis takes place.  I fumble, I fume, I fuss; I come quite near to pulling my hair out, as I watch the marvelous work of literary genius that has been safely pent up in my head collapse upon the paper like a house of cards in a hurricane.

And yet sometimes it is not this way at all.  Indeed, at times it seems as though I am almost a passive observer watching the story write itself.  Words, sentences, and paragraphs flow suddenly and swiftly as though some mental sluice gate has been lifted.  Everything comes out right, exactly how I intend it to, and I smile to myself – the sweet smile of satisfaction – as I see my story materialize on the paper before me.

These occasions are rare, unfortunately, and I have been surprised many times – my smile of satisfaction turning to a grimace – as I realize that what I had written so effortlessly has turned out to be complete tripe.  It’s so easy to write tripe.  I have also been surprised on several occasions to find that some of the works that have proved to be the most difficult have turned out to be some of my most favorite.  Thus writing and I continue this love/hate relationship.

The ancient Greeks knew something of this.  Their poets would never think of conducting a work without first beseeching the Muses for assistance and inspiration.  Indeed, the Greeks held the poet in as high esteem as the prophet: both were sparked by divine inspiration.       

Yet the Muses were known to be fickle.  At once lavishing a poet with literary inspiration, and then leaving him to languish in stunted creativity. 

I had a wonderful idea for a post today.  Thoroughly imagined and structured in my mind.  I sat down at my desk this evening brimming with excitement.  I wrote two sentences and the Muses decided go on vacation.  I started three other posts – all of which are conveniently open on my computer as I write – yet the Muses staunchly refused to assist me.  I sweated, I gritted my teeth, I listened to classical music; I even got up from my desk and walked around, took a shower, and unloaded all my writing sorrows onto my confused but patient wife.  Yet the Muses had abandoned me and I was lost.

I came back to my desk and brainstormed furiously.  Retrieving a notebook of essay ideas, I willed myself to write.  Yet every point of punctuation pierced my confidence like a dagger.

Why, oh why dear Muses have you abandoned me?  I want to post on this blog and you have left me to flounder in the wilting wasteland of writer’s block.  What’s that you say?  Oh, yes, this will do nicely.  Thank you.

Have you ever met one of those people who are great out of the gate but exiting the second turn seem to just fizzle?   Someone who is full of ideas, good ideas even, but sputters to a halt once the actual work begins?  One who can find 10,000 excuses for starting tomorrow instead of today?  No? “In that case, Hi, I’m Larry.”   (Not really but I thought it was a great line from the movie Sky High.)

I could do an entire posting on my life just using lines from movies and songs, that is sad really because I only know a few lines from books I could use.  I would have to say that I am a product of the 70’s and 80’s.  I am first generation MTV.  I remember when “Video Killed the Radio Star” was regularly played on MTV, Martha Quinn was our VJ and Dire Straits was singing “I Want My MTV.”  I remember when Madonna was just a Boy Toy Material Girl (wait nothing’s changed there) Pat Benetar, Blondie, ZZ Top, Aerosmith, Robert Palmer and a host of others whose videos told stories and captured our attention, at the distraction of things more necessary.  Leisure Suits, disco, and the Iranian Hostage debacle were some of the benchmarks of my teenage years, quite the contrast with my redneck, white socks and cowboy hat.  I’ve always been a bit of a square peg in a round hole world.  Living at the speed of MTV and never looking beyond the moment.

I cannot blame the culture I grew up in for my lack of discipline and my Doctorate in Procrastinology, that is all on me, I am a self-made man in that regard.  Instead of reading a classic book… I popped a tape in my “add on” cassette player and cranked up Waylon Jennings, Molly Hatchet, and ELO.  Instead of exercising and pursuing my love of baseball… I ended-up living out Jackson Browne’s classic, Smokin’ in the Boys Room.  Instead of disciplining myself to schoolwork and get good grades… I floated through, just getting by, living for the Heat of the Moment.  Never looking to tomorrow but was more concerned with, “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all and I want it now!”  “Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!” I cried from the front seat of my friends Trans Am as we did our best Smokey and the Bandit imitation.  My life was just like that scene where the bridge was out, and being young, dumb and foolish I was going to make the attempt to jump it anyway, only to stop short not having the nerve to totally commit to full throttle breakaway.  My illusion of life being captured on Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell album was just that, an illusion.  Tighter and tighter the spirals of life swirled and I did not see that mine was out of control and I was on the Eve of Destruction.

Sounds very exciting doesn’t it?  Kind of a redneck, James Bond, Joe Walsh: Life of Illusion fantasy that I wanted to live out.  Reality never came close to the grand fantasy I was living inside myself.  I was never able to live up to the person I dreamt myself to be.  “But then again, Who Does?” (had to give props to Blade Runner there, this being what, its 25th anniversary)  So, things didn’t turn out the way I planned, hmmmm actually that was the problem… I never had a plan.  Peg the volume, Fry, Walsh, and Henley are living Life in the Fast Lane at the Hotel California.  And the illusion continued.

In ’77 my world came undone when dad died.  Mom’s world crashed in on her and in a way I lost both parents that Good Friday morning.  Clarence Carter singing, Patches is a poignant memory I have of that spring.  That summer consisted of Star Wars and a massive crush on Carrie Fisher, yep that year my fantasy was to be Luke Skywalker, battling the evil Empire and flying off among the stars with the girl.  (Lucas messed up a great adolescent fantasy by making Leia, Luke’s sister… at least for all those other nerds who aren’t from West Virginia or Arkansas, kissin’ cousins don’t ya’ knowJ)  So by the time High School was over I had it in my mind that I should make my mark on the world at least by the time I turned eighteen.  Eighteen came and went so I figured fame and fortune and everything that goes with it was just around the corner by twenty.  Twenty was a bittersweet year, still had not made my fortune and the girl I figured I would one day marry started dating my best friend.  (They have been happily married for I guess as long as my wife and I have, going on twenty-one years now, and I still count them as some of my best friends.)  Later that same year I met my wife-to-be, I just didn’t know it…yet.   While she claims that after that first date and that first kiss she went home and told her momma that she had met the man she was gonna marry.  I think that was just to stroke my ego… musta’ worked cause we’ve been together for twenty-four years.(married for 21)

So, what was my point here?  I wanted to say something important about finishing what you start and having the discipline to see things to the…  

Top Ten Posts for January, 2008

Here are the Top Ten most visited posts on Quadrivium for January, 2008:

  1. Monty Python’s Parody of Knighthood (Part 1): How Monty Python and the Holy Grail humorously skewers the ideals of Arthurian chivalry.
  2. Observation: A funny essay on the art of people watching.
  3. What is Christian Art?: Is there such a thing as “Christian” art and how does one recognize it?
  4. Is Fantasy Escapism?: Is fantasy literature (LOTR, Narnia, etc.) an attempt to escape reality, or does it communicate reality better than any other genre?
  5. Stephen Pinker and the Morality of a Meat Machine: Admiring Stephen Pinker’s awesome ‘do, and examining his not-so-awesome materialistic foundation for ethics.
  6. The Economics of Art: A rejoinder to post 3 that takes a different approach to the idea of “Christian” art and the concept of ‘art’ altogether.
  7. Pinball Brain: A post that ponders the perpetually preoccupied mind and what to do about it.
  8. America the Dim-Witted: A collection of stupid warning labels…need I say more?
  9. The Conflict of Christianity and Culture: A post that examines the underlying causes of modern Christianity’s estrangement from culture.
  10. April 22: Pregnancy and childbirth…from the dad’s perspective.

Momma called the doctor and the Doctor said…

“No, OZ never did give nothin’ to the Tin Man, that didn’t, didn’t already have.”Dr. Bombay

Much like the Tin Man they found today that I do actually have a heart.  It’s right where it is supposed to be and is doing all the things it is supposed to do.  So I’m wondering if maybe I’m actually the Scarecrow, “If I only had a brain?”  Cause the thoughts that I’d be thinkin’ while-a drivin’ in ma’ Lincoln if I only had a brain… or the winning Power Ball lottery ticket from this week.

They “STILL” don’t know why my legs look like Charlie Brown’s Macy’s Day Parade balloon legs.  At this point I would consider taking a stick pin to them but what happens if they take off like a balloon.  I can see me bouncing off the walls, ceiling, taking a few laps around the ceiling fan and sputtering to a halt on the piano.  I can hear my daughter Elizabeth now, “Do it again Daddy, do it again!” 

              Technology is wonderful, I got to watch my heart in action today, amazing.  Well, I mean, I didn’t actually see my heart (that would have been messy) but I saw an image of my heart.  You know, a sonogram, just like they do with babies.  And yes, I did have her check, and no, I am not pregnant (it just looks like I am) thank you very much.  I tried to get her to make me an audio recording of that rhythm, it sounded just like conga line music… bum bum   bum bum   bum   ba!  bum bum   bum bum   bum   ba!  Wait, scratch that, I can’t dance, I’m Baptist. (And possibly a little too nerdy) So why did you email me?  What do you want?  Come on chop, chop I haven’t got all morning.  Hummm?  What’s that?  Oh!  Yea, I’m emailing you aren’t I?       

Ok, one more thing and I’ll be done. (yep, I’m Baptist alright)

When they were taking all my information they have one of those talking scales and all it said was “Uncle! Uncle!”  But they said my weight was normal… for someone 7’ 1” tall. 

Then came the questions: 

 “Do you smoke?”

            “No”

“Do you drink?”

“Is this a trick question?

“I mean do you drink alcoholic beverages?”

“No”

“Do you take drugs, illegal drugs?

“No”

“Do you exercise?”

“No, I kicked the habit years ago.”

“And it shows.”

“Thank you for noticing.”

“Hard not to, twins?

“Why yes, a boy and a girl.”

“How far along?

“Fourteen years.”

“That long?  I wouldn’t have guessed more than the second trimester.”

“Oh you mean that!”

“Yea! that!”

“I’m rather attached to that, it may not be fly but it is phat!” 

(I think I impressed her with my knowledge of pop culture terms and Ebonics.  But then again I also left an impression on the chair in which I was sitting.”uncle! uncle!”)

Say Goodnight Gracie,

“Goodnight Mrs. Calabash where ever you are!”

Things have been going by so fast that this review was posted in 2007 before it was written… the universe has finally caught up to my time in reality, and here is last year in review.

2007

 

Wow, another year has past. I thought this year we would do one of those Christmas letters.

My problem is remembering what was significant… or even what actually happened this year.

 

This was our first full year since mom’s home going. It has been an emotional rollercoaster, from out of nowhere would come a flood of memories, or an huge dose of reality would steamroll us. The hardest part is going over to the house and trying to clean up. So many memories. But mom left us with the greatest gift of all, a testimony of her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I would not call mom back to this world of pain and suffering, that she knew all too well, even if I could. Her joy is complete in Jesus Christ now. She cannot return to us but she showed the way she went and invited others to believe on Jesus Christ so that we could see her again some day. I am looking forward to that reunion.

This summer we took our vacation in Atlanta Georgia. The main event was a Braves game. Before passing Mom had made me promise to get the kids to a Braves game as soon as we could. She had wanted to go herself but her health was just too bad. So we went to a game the day before the first anniversary of her passing. I remember thinking about how that would play in a Master Card commercial: Trip to Atlanta $$, Tickets to a Braves game $$, Hot dogs and a drink $$$$$$, The memories of a promise kept… priceless.

Children are such a blessing!

I have always thought it was amazing that I have had children who were born in different years (obviously), different decades (1990‘s, 2000‘s), different centuries (1900, 2000), and different millenniums(2nd and 3rd AD) and had twins to boot! 

Can you believe that the twins had the in-class portion of Driver’s education this year??? They are freshmen in high school this year. That can’t be right… but alas ‘me babes’ are suddenly ‘me teens‘. She played both JV and Varsity Volleyball this year. He has been on Varsity Baseball since 7th grade and he made JV Basketball again this year. (He played soccer last year as a fill in, but sat out this year. The soccer team all wanted him to play again this year. Maybe he will play again next year.)

Our little one started pre-school this year. I just turn around and it is another milestone in one of their lives. She is attending pre-school at RHRBC. That is the church I grew up in. Talk about a flood of memories!! The old building is gone but just being there evokes some strong memories of Mom and Dad; good memories.

This year marked two decades my wife has put up with me. She is either incredibly brave and loyal or dain bramaged. She is an incredible woman and a wonderful mother. Right now she is in the hospital recovering from surgery. Everything went very well, the operation was a success, and she is doing very well and may get to come home soon. She can recuperate here at home over the Christmas and New Years holidays.

I guess that leaves me to talk about. How can one describe such legendary grandeur in the mere fifteen lines left on this page? You can’t. It is impossible! Think of the Grand Canyon, the vast Atlantic Ocean, and then think of them being filled… with me, and you can begin to imagine my …. What my pants must daily endure.

You know, they say there are four stages of a man’s life:

1> You believe in Santa Clause.

2> You stop believing in Santa Clause.

3> You play Santa Clause.

4> You look like Santa Clause.

I have reached stage four; beard, belly and all. Ho, Ho, Ho!

So, there you have it, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (maybe I’ll get a copy of that for Christmas) from Us to you.

Seriously, we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas (while we are still allowed to say Christmas) and a Happy New Year.

D,T,K,D & E

It was a mild September Sunday. I was languidly perusing the pages of a book when I was startled by a cry from my wife on the opposite end of the house. As I hurried to the location of the sound, she met me in the kitchen waving a small, plastic wand. “It’s positive!” she declared as she danced about the dining table. I stood there blinking as my world rolled off of its axis. There are some things for which we can never prepare ourselves; the announcement of a child is one of them.

The arrival of a pregnancy to hopeful parents brings with it a kaleidoscope of feelings. Emotion washes over you as intense and irresistible as a tidal wave.  Surges of joy and trepidation accompany moments of pride and apprehension as you begin to grapple with a new identity. Parenthood looms over you – promising, threatening, and wonderful.
As time passed I watched my wife transform into a swollen version of that person who danced around me in the kitchen (the dancing had stopped by the fifth month). Morning sickness and mood swings dominated our household as the tiny life within her asserted his presence. Books and videos on parenthood became our primary source of information and many hours were spent in breathless silence as we awaited another kick.

Six months into the pregnancy, a routine doctor’s appointment revealed that Stephanie had developed preeclampsia. This meant critically high blood pressure that was a serious danger to both Stephanie and the baby. She was placed on strict bed rest until delivery, and we were warned that the baby would probably be coming earlier than either of us expected.

And that is precisely what happened. On April 21, 2003 (just six weeks later) Stephanie was admitted into the hospital for an induced labor delivery. That night the doctor informed us that he had scheduled the delivery for the next morning and that we should try to get some sleep. My wife followed his orders; I did not.

I became intimately familiar with the ceiling of my wife’s hospital room that night as I gazed up at it, listening to the seconds tick by on my wristwatch. I was overwhelmed with a feeling strangely akin to the Christmas Eve’s of my childhood. In a matter of hours I would be a father. The thought exhilarated me and terrified me at the same time.
Sunrise came and flooded the room with light. April 22 had arrived and so had the nurses to escort my wife to the delivery room. Pain, fear, and wonder ensued and at 10:00 that morning I was handed a bundle of blankets that had a tiny face inside staring up at me. And this is the point in this narrative when words can no longer fulfill their function in conveying true meaning. At that moment I experienced such emotion that to try to describe it would only risk sentimentality.

Perhaps the only way to explain it is to say that at that moment I felt as though I were holding an extension of myself transformed into a new person.  A life that was indivisibly linked to me in its origin, yet completely individual in its actuality and potential. I was astonished by how fiercely I could love a face that I had only seen for a few moments. I wanted to tell him all of this. I wanted him to let him know how incredibly special he was; how much he had changed me. But I could not find the words and he would not have understood if I had.

Wonder

Forty dollars is far too much to pay to look at fish.  But I bought tickets anyway to the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies for me and my wife.  I consoled myself, however, with the fact that my seven month old son would get in free.  Indeed the primary reason for this outing was to impart to him an early interest in nature by exposing him to the wonders of the sea. 

I glanced down at Luke’s stroller as we left the ticket booth and meandered our way through the crowd to the main entrance.  He had just completed a cavernous yawn and was blinking his eyes heavily.  “Make sure he doesn’t go to sleep,” I quipped to my wife, “I don’t want him to miss a moment of this.”

At last we entered the great glass doors of the aquarium and were instantly greeted by the smell of salt water and air conditioning.  A giant, cylindrical fish tank stood like a pillar of crystal just in front of us.  Inside, a kaleidoscope of fish darted about in all directions.  I pulled out my camera so that I would be able to capture Luke’s first expression of surprise.        

It was here that my disappointment began.  Rather than the vibrant curiosity I expected, my camera lens was greeted by yet another yawn as Luke eased back into his stroller with a settled air of indifference.   I began to point vigorously at the tank with cries of “look!” and “fishy!”, but in spite of my gesticulations, my son remained unmoved.  “He must be overwhelmed with it all,” I remarked to my wife. 

“He just looks bored to me,” she replied as we began to stroll down the walkway to the various exhibits.

In spite of my initial disappointment, I was determined that my son be thrilled and enlightened by this experience.  As we proceeded through the aquarium I made every effort to stoke his interest.  I positioned his stroller in front of every tank so that he would have an excellent view of its contents.  I read every placard to him and we watched every video that accompanied the exhibits.  I even broke the rules at the horseshoe crab-petting station by picking up one of the writhing creatures so that he could touch it.  This only drew a shriek of terror from my son which, in turn, caused me to drop the crab and drench my shirt in the process.

At last we neared the end of the tour.  We had seen everything from sharks to salamanders, yet nothing had sparked Luke’s interest.  It seemed that there was nothing in this multi-million dollar facility that would excite my son.  As we rounded the final corner I despaired of ever seeing his curiosity aroused.    That is, until we came upon the giant spider crab exhibit. 

Strategically positioned at the end of the aquarium tour, the giant spider crab is certain to dissolve the most stalwart apathy.  Imagine a common daddy longlegs on steroids complete with spiky armor and three foot long legs and you will get some idea of the spider crab’s appearance as it sat perched on a large rock in its murky, cylindrical tank.  This, I was certain, would grab Luke’s attention.

I wheeled his stroller next to the tank and knelt down beside him to await his response.  At first nothing happened.  Then Luke carefully stretched his hands out before him as a look of absolute wonder enveloped his face.  A sense of satisfaction steadily grew within me until I noticed that there was something strange about the way his eyes were set, as though his focus was upon something much nearer than the brooding creature in the tank before him.  I watched in amazement as Luke slowly flexed his tiny fingers up and down with a look of utter concentration on his brow.  My son had discovered his hands.

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