The clarity of light

Last year, in a response to a post my friend Billy Coffey wrote entitled The luckiest boy in the world, I wrote a post about my own personal experience with the aftermath of divorced parents. My parents’ divorce was extremely painful for everyone involved, but I still maintain that I’m a better for experience, even though I would never wish it on anyone:

“Not all children of divorce live their lives as victims. Some of us are stronger for it, because we had a parent who didn’t allow their circumstances to dictate whether or not they did the right thing. They did right thing despite their circumstances.”

When we’re going through the dark places, it’s so difficult to see the clarity of light they may someday bring to us.

A few months ago, my daughter told me that the parents of one of her best friends were getting a divorce. While I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised given the divorce rate in this country, I was. I know them to be a close family who love their three children very much. When my daughter told me of the divorce, she told me she didn’t know why her parents were getting a divorce and that she didn’t feel right asking. I told her that was okay, that if her friend wanted to talk about it she would. But her most important role as a friend right now is just to be there, to show her friend that even if her immediate future may be filled with inconsistencies and unknowns, her friendship remains a constant.

There have been many times over the past few months when her friend will call and ask to come over, and each time we pick her up. Sometimes for a sleepover, sometimes just for a few hours. I don’t think she’s escaping anything more dubious than the sadness that comes from knowing the house she’s grown up in will soon belong to another family. I think she just wants to be free of the big, heavy, grown-up worries that 10 year old girls shouldn’t have to carry. Even if it’s just  for a little while. Without fail, when we drop her back off at home we tell her she is always welcome at our house.

The greatest gift of my own personal experience with divorce is the ability to pass on my empathy and compassion to my daughter without her having to go through that particular dark place herself.

And I would never know the beautiful clarity of that particular light had I not gone through my own darkness.

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Anthropomorphizing your pet

If this dog could talk, it would be saying, "I hate you."

I think I’ve mentioned how much I like the book Watership Down. So much so, that I’m rereading the Richard Adams classic. For those of you who don’t know, Watership Down is a tale of a group of rabbits who leave their warren at the pleading of a little rabbit named Fiver. Fiver has a vision that their home will be destroyed. The book follows their many adventures on their journey to find a new home.

Obviously, Adams anthropomorphizes the rabbits–that is–he gives them certain human characteristics like the ability to talk, otherwise it would be a pretty lame book. But I knew going in that rabbits can’t actually talk because I’m smart like that. Besides, it’s a story of very real human struggles told effectively through the eyes of rabbits. It works.

But here’s what doesn’t work for me.

People who think their pets are their children and the advertisers and pet industry executives who take advantage of their stupidity.

I’ll skip the not-so-subtle message of this commercial which says your cat’s well being takes precedent over your significant other’s. But since when do cats give a crap about breakfast? Are you telling me that the creature who just laid a bloody lizard on your chest while you were napping on the couch has a preference for eggs in the morning? Breakfast food for cats? Seriously?

And then there’s this:

Let’s ignore the fact that the woman is laughing while that big, filthy dog is shaking flour all over her kitchen and then chases him around the island in slow motion and get to the heart of the matter: Dog cookies. I don’t know about your dog, but mine has been known to eat cat feces right out of the litter box, and I never once recall him asking me to chop it up and bake it into a cookie before doing so.

I’m not a pet hater. I’ve had pets my entire life. I know they provide unconditional love (well, dogs anyway) and companionship. Our cat Rudy and our dog Buddy Love are both a part of the family. But they’re animals, not people.

Paul McCartney is quoted as saying, “You can judge a man’s true character by the way he treats his fellow animals.”

And I would agree with that to a certain extent, but when you begin to give the lives of animals precedent over the lives of fellow human beings, the world’s been turned upside down.

Just stop it, please.

What you didn’t say

image courtesy of photobucket.com

“Believe deep down in your heart that you’re destined to do great things.”

“Besides pride, loyalty, discipline, heart, and mind, confidence is the key to all the locks.”

“It’s the name on the front of the jersey that matters most, not the one on the back.”

“Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy.”

“Publicity is like poison; it doesn’t hurt unless you swallow it.”

“The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.”

“When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality.”

“You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That’s the mark of a true professional.”

“You need to play with supreme confidence, or else you’ll lose again, and then losing becomes a habit.”

“Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.”

“The minute you think you’ve got it made, disaster is just around the corner.”

The above quotes are attributed to one person: Coach Joe Paterno.

On Thursday, July 12, former FBI Director Louis Freehr released the findings of an intensive 8 month long investigation of Penn State University precipitated by the grand jury conviction of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. In a prepared statement, Mr. Freehr said in part:

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”

he went on to say:

“The stated reasons by Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley for not taking action to identify the victim and for not reporting Sandusky to the police or Child Welfare are:

(1) Through counsel, Messrs. Curley and Schultz have stated that the “humane” thing to do in 2001 was to carefully and responsibly assess the best way to handle vague but troubling allegations.

(2) Mr. Paterno said that “I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was. So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more
expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.”

(3) Mr. Spanier told the Special Investigative Counsel that he was never told by anyone that the February 2001 incident in the shower involved the sexual abuse of a child but only “horsing around.” He further stated that he never asked what “horsing around” by Sandusky entailed.

Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University – Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley – repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large. Although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky’s victims.” (my emphasis)

The bitterest irony in all this sordid mess is that men of tremendous power and influence allowed the rape of a child by a pedophile to go unreported (which allowed future rapes by the same pedophile) in order to protect the pristine reputation of Penn State University, and in doing so, have most likely tarnished said reputation beyond redemption. At least for the foreseeable future.

Do I think that the Board of Trustees, who hired Louis Freehr’s law firm, threw Joe Paterno under the bus? Yeah, probably. But I also think Paterno and company could have stopped that bus over a decade ago and prevented the future destruction that it caused.

How very sad that of all the inspirational and motivational quotes credited to Coach Joe Paterno, to many–including me–only one will live in infamy:

“I should have done more.”

Trying not to like Penn Jillette

I should really dislike Penn Jillette on principle.

He’s a committed atheist who says reading the Bible is the best way to become a committed atheist.

He’s a magician. Call it a personal shortcoming on my part, but I find magicians annoying, even though I appreciate illusion.

He has a propensity towards being quite the angry potty mouth.

Penn Jillette and I disagree on many things. I should dislike him on principle.

And I’ve tried. But I can’t.

Because he respects my right to believe that he has it all wrong, and he encourages me to do a better job of being a Christian:

And he’s proven to me that a person can be godless and still be moral and attempt to live right:

In short, Penn Jillette is a better person than me. And if everyone was, as he believes, basically good, then we would have no need for God or Jesus.

But that’s a HUGE if, because I believe that people are not basically good.

And I only need turn on the news to confirm this. Or better yet, simply look into my own heart.

Still, I cannot and will not dismiss him simply because he doesn’t believe as I do. While I may not appreciate his views, I greatly appreciate how well he articulates them.

I can’t help it. I like the guy…

Good books

image courtesy of photobucket.com

“There are those who say that life is like a book, with chapters for each event in your life and a limited number of pages on which you can spend your time.

But I prefer to think that a book is like a life, particularly a good one, which is well worth staying up all night to finish.”

~ Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

I couldn’t agree more.

Books I’ve been reading which I would place within this category are The Wind Through the Keyhole (a Dark Tower book) by Stephen King,

Watership Down by Richard Adams, which I’ve read before but is the kind of book which needs to be revisited again,

Note: I wouldn't bother with the movie adaptation. I thought it completely missed the mark.

and a story of secrets, regrets, courage and redemption. But I can’t tell you about that one, as it hasn’t been published yet. You’ll just have to be patient.

What are you reading?

The griddle of our discontent

The above griddle resides in my house. When I took this picture, it had been on the counter for three days. It made its latest first appearance last Saturday when my husband used it to make pancakes. Had I indulged in pancakes made on this griddle, I would have happily and gratefully cleaned the griddle and returned it to its home under the kitchen island. But I don’t eat pancakes. Ever. So why should I clean up after a meal I didn’t cook or eat? So I didn’t clean it. And neither did anyone else. It was moved from the top of the island to a spot next to the sink then back to the island again, but never cleaned.

The griddle was used again on Monday, when my son decided he wanted to make a grilled cheese sandwich. He wiped it down before he used it, but that doesn’t really count as cleaning, does it? Furthermore, after he made his grilled cheese sandwich, he left the griddle messier than when he found it, and he left it right where it’s mostly been since Saturday–in the center of the island in the middle of the kitchen.

Did I clean it and put it away?

No. Not right away.

Did I ask my son to clean it and put it back where it belonged?

No. I shouldn’t have to.

Nor should I had to have asked my husband to clean it on Saturday morning after making pancakes that I didn’t eat.

Because I’m not a maid.

And they all should know better than to leave that griddle out assuming I’m going to clean it.

So instead of cleaning the thing and putting it away,

it served as a reminder every time I passed the kitchen how often what I do is taken for granted.

But it only served as a reminder for me,

because no one else cares that there’s a big, dirty griddle sitting on the counter.

Just as no one else but me knows how much it bothers me.

It’s clean and put away where it belongs now.

I finally broke down and did it myself.

I suppose I could tell my family how having to clean a griddle I never use makes me feel taken for granted.

But I know hearing those words spoken aloud would sound incredibly petty and ridiculous.

Almost as petty and ridiculous as being mad about a griddle for three days.

What’s your giant fork and spoon?

Happy Independence Day!

Thanks to my neighbor Louie for taking this picture.

Happy Birthday, America! I may rant incessantly from time to time, but I feel so fortunate that I live in a country where I can do so freely. I also feel fortunate that I live outside city limits, so today we’re gathering with a few friends to burn some meat, then we’ll blow some stuff up.

I know I’ve posted this before, but one can never be too cautious when dealing with fireworks and other things that go boom. Consider it my small contribution to the safety of my fellow Americans.

You’re welcome.

Let’s be careful out there, shall we?

The Creative Process: A step by step guide (repost)

(Subtitled: Why my laundry still isn’t finished.)

  1. With the full understanding that leaving the house today is on the agenda, you decide to wear something a bit more formal than the fuzzy polka dot pajama pants and the bright green “Whose Your Daddy?” t-shirt.

  2. Attempts to find a pair of clean jeans prove futile. Instead, you hastily decide on a pair of red cotton capris circa 2001 and a peasant type t-shirt the same color as Oscar the Grouch. A gigantic claw hair clip and black flip flops complete the ensemble. Make a mental note that the laundry fairy has ignored numerous requests. Drastic measures must be taken.
  3. After “errands”, i.e. – getting your kids out of the house before they drive you to drink, you reluctantly return home and begin tackling the huge piles of laundry.
  4. Lots of random things happen, you manage to wash and dry 2 loads of whites and 2 loads of jeans. Hang up jeans and begin sorting underwear and socks.
  5. End up with an inordinately high number of mismatched socks. Suspect the dog has found a “special place” for their sock mates.

  6. Decide to put the socks in a basket on top of the dryer. Hate this idea because how are you supposed to remember which socks are in there? You may throw their sockmate right in the same basket, and that ain’t right.
  7. Begin to feel bad for the socks. Serenade the socks with the 3 Dog Night Hit, “One”. “One…..is the loneliest number that you’ll ever know. Two can be as bad as one, it’s the loneliest number since the number one, Ahhhh Ewwww!”

  8. Frustrated that you have no fabulous ideas about how to store the socks until reunited with their drawer mates, your mind begins to wander…
  9. You notice a metal sign that you bought at Ross on the clearance aisle a couple of months ago. It says “Children are the anchors that hold a mother’s heart.” Which you hate, because it reminds you of that children’s book “The Giving Tree”, which makes you want to leg drop that selfish little kid/man in that book. But, it was 2 bucks, and there’s no law saying you have to keep that dumb saying on there once you own it free and clear, now is there?
  10. Get the Goo-Off and scraper from your handy dandy tool bag and get to gettin’ on that quote. Oh, yeah. At this point, the wheels are turning in that little ADD mind of yours. You have begun the actual labor portion of the creative process.

  11. While the Goo-Off soaks in a bit, you manage to get the SWSO’s (socks with significant others) and the miscellaneous unmentionables (underwear) safely to their assigned drawers. (HA! Underwear humor.)
  12. Over the next 2 days, hem and haw over what kind of lettering you want to use on your “sock sign”. Waste an incredible amount of time and energy on this.
  13. Finally decide on the size and type of lettering. Print out new quote, and put on sign using a stylus and transfer paper. Fill in letters with paint pen. Clear coat.
  14. Hot glue clothespins to sign.
  15. Hang sign above dryer, hang sock singles on clothespins.
  16. Stand back and admire your work. You are pleased, but something is missing.

  17. More random things happen — New Year’s Eve party, etc.
  18. Friends come over for dinner. You show them your work. Since they are weird like you, they like the sign very much.
  19. Moments later, one of your friends gives you an idea that will be the “piece de la resistance” to your sock sign.
  20. After your friends leave, you immediately begin working on the final piece of your sign. It takes only a few minutes, but you are well pleased.

    As a matter of fact, you’d go so far as to say that it was…

SOCKTACULAR!

(Oh, come on. You knew that was coming!)

Baseball: a game of jubilance

I went to an Astros game Saturday. They haven’t had the best of seasons, but I rarely turn down an opportunity to go to a game. I used to be more of a sports fan. As a child, I cheered on the Houston Oilers. But then Bud Adams packed up his team under cover of night and set up shop in Nashville.

Bud Adams: a class act

That pretty much ruined me for professional football. All I have left is hating the Cowboys, and that’s not even much fun anymore.

The good old days

In the late 80s and early 90s, I was a huge Rockets fan. I watched Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon lead his team to their first franchise championship. I even named my cat after their head coach, Rudy Tomjanovich. (The cat’s registered name is Rudy T. Rocket.) A few years later, the soft spoken and humble hero of Rockets Basketball was summarily traded to the Toronto Raptors. The man who brought in countless fans and millions of dollars to the city should have retired in Houston, but there is little loyalty in professional sports. Add to this disappointment of my beloved team, basketball players began to look and act more like street thugs than professional athletes, and their antics on and off the court left a foul taste in my mouth. (Pun intended.)

Being a fan of Houston professional sports teams has proved a painful experience. You may recall the Houston Astros, in what is quite possibly the most bone-headed PR disaster in modern sports history, the Astros chose not to renew pitching legend Nolan Ryan’s contract and allowed him to go to the Texas Rangers.

Ryan still maintains god-like status to Houston Astros fans

But despite my distaste for the former Astros owner (I have high hopes for the new one) for me, the only professional sport still worth supporting is major league baseball.

A thinking man’s game, but also a boy’s game. According to the Associated Press, the average salary for a MLB player in 2012 is $3,440,000. Granted, they’re factoring in the enormous salaries of superstars like Albert Pujols who will make 12 million this season or Alex Rodriguez who will pull in a cool 30 million, but even the minimum salary of $480,000 is nothing to sneeze at. Just shy of half a million dollars a year for what must be one of the greatest jobs on earth: playing baseball.

Oh, sure. It’s not all sunshine and roses–time away from family, concerns about being traded or your latest hitting or pitching slump–but all things considered, it’s a pretty sweet deal. And what’s more, what you will most likely realize if you ever happen to get to a game early enough to watch the guys warming up, is that the vast majority of the players know just how lucky they are. They seem, in a word, jubilant.

Minute Maid Field is a beautiful place to watch baseball.

We weren’t there early enough to see the Astros warm up, but we watched the Indian players from the balcony for several minutes.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Other times, not so much. You can blame the photographer (me) for this. Because while I did manage to capture these three players waiting around to field a ball,

what I failed to capture was what they did once the balls began flying in their direction. From left to right, we’ll call them Player 1, Player 2 and Player 3. It didn’t take long for me to determine that Players 1 and 3 were veterans. Player 2? Most likely a rookie.

For most of the time I observed them, the rookie stood several feet in front of the other two players. He chased after every ball and caught the vast majority of them while Player 1 and Player 3 carried on a conversation. It wasn’t until the rookie had chased after and caught a ball that was coming straight at the other two players that Player 3 decided to the rookie needed to be taken down a couple of notches.

The next ball was hit high, its downward trajectory within three feet of the rookie. He stretched out his glove and waited for the ball to fall in. But it didn’t. Because Player 3 ran out in front of him at the last minute and stole the catch. School was in session.

I spent the next twenty minutes watching Player 3 do everything within his power to keep the rookie from catching another ball, including a couple of times where he removed his glove and threw it at the incoming baseball just so Rookie wouldn’t make the play.

Professional baseball may be big business, but it’s also a game played by grown up boys. And watching ball players serves as a reminder not to take life too seriously.

***

This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Jubilant, hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. For more jubilant posts, please visit him at PeterPollock.com.

Beauty unretouched

I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline the other day when I came across this picture:

original photo posted on deviantart.com

My first thought was, “What a cool picture.”

But then I read the caption. Something about a reverse albino condition which explains why the lion was black.

Pfft!!! Um, if black lions exist in nature why am I just now hearing about them on Facebook?

The picture is photo-shopped. If you click on the image it will take you to the website where it was originally posted. The creator of the photo says that it has been manipulated. But I suppose someone figured a real black lion is a much better story than one created by photo editing software–the truth be damned– and so a Facebook legend begins. There were a few comments which suggested that the picture was digitally altered, but the vast majority simply commented about how beautiful the black lion was. Maybe I’ve become a cynic in my old age, but it bothers me that not only do we easily believe the unbelievable, but choose to pass it on as truth without thinking twice about it.

When I went to snopes.com to confirm my suspicions, I was struck by how beautiful the original, un-retouched white lion was:

photo from snopes.com

And that bothers me even more; that we overlook authentic beauty in favor of its deceptive counterpart, that it’s not enough to say, “This is what a black lion would look like”, but instead choose to say “This is what a black lion looks like.”

Fiction intentionally disguised as truth is manipulation born of a deceitful heart.

Truth disguised as fiction is an art form born of a courageous one.

I prefer the latter.

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