Sunday, September 21, 2014

Time Flies when You are Busy

There comes a time in everyone's life when things don't go exactly the way we thought they would. I haven't been able to get to my blog, which bothers me more than any of you will ever know. Writing is the foundation of who I am. I never thought I would really become an author one day. I always thought it was one of those things that happen to other people. Yet, here I am in the throes of wondering if "Torn Wings" is ready, or is it not? Is there something more, or is there too much? In the end, it is what it is.

Last month, I moved back to Fargo. I didn't think that would happen either, but sometimes we don't necessarily have a choice in where life will take us. I will always remember (God willing) the time I spent in Wahpeton. I did a lot of soul-searching while I was there, and found things I wished I hadn't and some that I am glad I did. All-in-all though, like all good things, this too had to come to an end. There's a lot coming down the road for me in the future, and living in Wahpeton is not going to be conducive to my needs, or the needs of my family.

Saturday of last week, I started having the sniffles. By Sunday, the sniffles had turned into an annoying cough. When Monday morning rolled around I had been cast into the depths of a full-blown head cold. As the sun went down on Wednesday, the cold worsened, and Thursday all hope was lost of finishing "Torn Wings" this week. I ended up staying home and trying to sleep through most of it. I rallied on Friday and was able to survive the day. Saturday morning, a full week later, I mustered it up for another event in Fargo. Today [Sunday,] I feel better, but probably ought not to come in direct contact with anyone if I can help it - still coughing.

Oh, exciting, last Sunday, a friend gave birth to a baby girl. Yes, I confess, I was texting in church, but only during the last song. There is nothing like new life to end a weekend on a good note.

I'll be working on "Torn Wings" this week, and then off to the U.S. Copyright Office. I am not going to say when exactly it will come out to the masses, but I assure you, the first announcement will be right here on the Butterfly Phoenix blog.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Pom Poms, Sneakers, and Bleachers

You wouldn't have guessed it, but I was a cheerleader in high school. It didn't happen by accident. From the time my sister and I were about eight or nine years old, we had our own gymnastics studio in the basement of our house. Mind you, it was a concrete basement, including the floor. We would pile empty cardboard boxes one by one until one of us crashed into them as we made the headlong leap over them. Obviously, we had created a cushioned landing area. We would make our own balance beam, and hope we didn't fall. We never did. We couldn't afford gymnastic lessons, even if they had been available. So, we would watch gymnastics on TV every chance we could, and try to mimic what the real gymnasts were doing.  We taught ourselves to do flips and backbends, and all unnatural means of bodily contortions. I believe it was the simple fact I could do a backbend that earned me a spot on the cheer squad.

That was almost thirty years ago. I remember then I had always wished I could be a player on the court. However, my history and knowledge was not in playing the game, but in dance and gymnastics. That's the general rule for life and career. You get what you prepare yourself for.
Today, I wear sneakers of a different kind. I'm a doer. My history has prepared me through education - formal and informal, - and through experience. In high school, I studied hard and graduated at the top of my class. In college, I studied hard and graduated with honors the first time. The second time I was more interested in the learning than the GPA. I still graduated with a 3.0+.

Life has prepared me for a transformation I never expected. Although I was intelligent, strong-willed, and independent, I was lost to the purpose and function of my life. That said, I made some categorically tragic errors in judgment. Again, you get what you prepare yourself for - choose wisely.  I should note that I have never been and am not an alcoholic or drug addict. My categorical tragic errors in judgment stemmed from a need to be liked, and gaining the approval of others to validate my own worth - for better or worse.

Through trial and error, I learned that if you want to play with the big kids you have to put your sneakers on and get out on the court. You have to do this with the full knowledge you will make mistakes - just like everyone else. If you drop the ball and fall on your face, you have to get up and keep playing.

The trick is to make sure you are on the right team. Characteristics of the right team include: group effort, everyone has everyone else's back, there are no star players, and trust is an integral part of the team. If you find you are on the wrong team, then you have to find a team that is right for you. You get what you have prepared yourself for, are you prepared to compromise, support the successes of others, while assisting the bad plays by teammates?

I'm at the end of the third quarter of the game, and preparing myself to sit on the bleachers to watch the next team take over the court. I didn't expect this. Sitting on the bleachers is a lot tougher than I thought it would be. Anyone over the age of forty understands what I am talking about. We want to be in the game. We want our ideas and voices to be heard, and at the same time long for the rest the bleachers offer.

I didn't know what my purpose in life was until about a year ago. The whole of my life has 
prepared me for my purpose that didn't really arrive until the third quarter of the game arrived. I didn't see it at first. My focus was on the game. I was in the thick of the battle of winning and losing. Exhaustion and burn-out overtook my normal enthusiasm. The thrill of the game was no longer enough to satisfy my tired mind. I would look with envy at those who were already firmly seated on the bleachers.

In the midst of all of this, inspiration took over to write the Chrysalis series. I had already taken the plunge once in publishing, so it wasn't a real stretch for me. More often than not, my mind would be in the middle of the story plot than the game.

Where you find peace, you find your purpose. For me, the culmination of my purpose will be met on the bleachers. When the time comes, I will still shake my pom poms for the team, but my sneakers will be retired and replaced by a nice cushioned seat on the bleachers. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Chrysalis: Torn Wings...Coming Soon!

The na hÉireann men of science, forced to work with the Daoine Réalta, must discover the secrets of The Butterfly Fields before all of Johnsport is lost; and indeed the world. At the edge of the canyons, the armies of the world prepare for a battle of which they have no knowledge how to fight; or win.

Standing at the edge of The Butterfly Fields, fierceness fills the breast - fear is the true enemy. Or, so they believe. Coming face to face with the Emperor, who now rules the heart and mind of The Butterfly Fields, shall truly tell the tale of what is fear, and what is terror.

In the skies above Johnsport shines a star that seems to grow in size and brilliance with each passing day. Is it a sign from He Who Created All Things, or an omen of the days foretold in the Great Book of All Things? The seasons are out of season, famine has swept the land, and a plague of fear has engulfed the Lowlands.

The only hope for the world is the power held between the two McCormick sisters. A power they have kept hidden in the elusive fields of butterflies. The na hÉireann men of science must find the source of this power, and the Daoine Réalta an explanation. The answer to the question must be found - Does He Who Created All Things exist or does He not?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Jesus Man

“If you ask me, how I’m doing, I’d lie and say I’m doing just fine…” ~ Gavin Degraw

Note to Readers:  The Jesus Man post began to formulate after a conversation I had last year [2013] regarding how people don’t listen when others talk, and then came home to a deeply saddened FB status by an old high school friend. His friend, and fellow U. S. Soldier, had committed suicide. The ironic thing about the status was how my friend implored everyone to listen to what is being said. There’s a lesson in this for all of us. If you don’t get it, it’s probably because this post is directed to a much younger audience.

In the 1990s, a young man rose to fame and fortune through his music. That young man was Kurt Cobain. At some point, Kurt Cobain was dubbed The Jesus Man, either through his own volition or his fans’, but it stuck.

On April 8, 1994, at 27 years old, Kurt Cobain took his own life, leaving behind his wife and young daughter. Later, the suicide note he had left behind was published. It was filled with all the reasons why. Summed up, it said No one was listening; not even his fans. They were not hearing what he was trying to convey in his music, which led to unfathomable frustration.

Outside of his fan base, most people didn’t even know who Kurt Cobain was until he had grasped the brass ring of stardom. By that time, most people only saw what was on the exterior of this extraordinary, deep-thinking soul lost in a world of chaos of which he could not make sense. And worse yet, in his mind, could not get his fans to understand him as a person and all the things he really represented.

He was seen by the older generations as a drug-addicted malcontent who was a bad influence on the children. The fans consumed his misery and unsettled soul like blood sucking vampires. His public image was distorted; not at all what he wanted his fans to feed on. He wanted to make a difference. He wanted to say all the things his soul was feeling, but he could not get the monochromatic world to listen. He was frustrated.

The songs he chose to perform, whether his own or those of others, all had a deep significant meaning to him. They all had something in common. They were all the double-edged sword of spiritual confliction. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

Come as You Are, as you were, as I want you to be. The lyrics of this song sound familiar outside of the music world, don’t they? We hear the words that it’s ok to be who you are, it’s safe, don’t worry; and then all the worries about falling short come to mind and things go haywire from there.

Lake of Fire (Originally, recorded by the Meat Puppets as a swipe against what they perceived as the hypocritical Christian faith.)where do all the bad people go when they die? They don’t go to heaven where the angels fly. They go to a lake of fire, don’t see them again ‘til the 4th of July.  Kurt Cobain was a huge fan of the Meat Puppets and performed this song often. In his suicide note, Kurt Cobain expressed several times his feelings of guilt. He didn’t feel guilty for what you might think. He felt guilty for being perceived as something he wasn’t, and his inability to live up to it. He wasn’t a drug-addicted malcontent whose soul was destined to be consumed by the vampirical fans of misery. You’ll have to think on this one for a while.

The Man Who Sold the WorldWe passed upon on the stairs...He said I was his friend…Kurt Cobain struggled immensely with his own self-identity. He also struggled with what he believed to be true. In his note, Kurt Cobain spoke about love, empathy, and humanity. This song was about meeting Jesus on the stairway to Heaven. He was surprised by the encounter. (Figuratively speaking) He had come face to face with the man who, in his mind, had sold the world. He says in the lyrics, I thought you died alone a long, long time ago. He felt abandon by Jesus long ago in his tormented life. In the second reference to the man on the stairs, he is referring to himself as the man who sold the world - the man who died alone a long, long time ago.

Kurt Cobain was indeed an extraordinary man in his own right. The world will never have the opportunity to know the true depth of his spirit, and what he desperately wanted - needed - the world to hear; because no one was listening.

When a person reaches the point of spiritual bankruptcy there are only two ways left to go - up or out. Unfortunately, many people choose out because they feel they are not being heard. I will always believe that Kurt Cobain was a good soul, lost to the millions of deaf ears his words were falling on.

When others are speaking, are you listening? Really?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Rain Dance

Living on the prairie my whole life, there is nothing as ominous as the black clouds that begin to billow on the horizon. In the far off distance, thunder echoes in the sky, as though a voice to announce the coming of something powerful. Lightning streaks from cloud to cloud, as though it is clearing the way for this powerful force of nature. The air becomes dense, permeated with moisture before the first drops of rain ever fall. The once gentle breeze is pushed across the plains, gaining force and speed. The sun seems to no longer shine, hidden behind the immense shadow of impending - change. The only thing we are left with is the sound of the beating of our own hearts.

Often change has been compared to the impending thunderstorm. We don't know what change holds, we only know that we don't know. In that storm there could be the unpredictable tornado that will wreak havoc on our lives; or perhaps there will be baseball-sized hail that will punch holes in our best built plans. We hold our breath until the only thing we can hear is the sound of the beating of our own hearts.

In the silence of those moments before the storm, something begins to take shape and form within ourselves. Electricity streaks from synapses to synapses. Blood begins to rush, coursing through veins and arteries. And, somewhere in the midst of the defense line that forms, the heart becomes the drum by whose beat we dance.

As the rain is unleashed from the skies above, our feet begin to pound in unison with the beat of our drum. Water splashes, as our faces are illuminated by the lightning in the sky above. We turn around and around, spreading our arms wide to greet the coming change. The beat begins to increase with pace and intensity, and our mouths stretch open to taste the droplets as they bounce on our tongue. Hair glistens, drenched in the water as it washes over us.

The thunder roars, melding with our voices as the ancestral cry surges into the atmosphere. The wind howls, in submission to the breath of ascendancy. The beads of change intermingle with tears of joy sliding down our cheeks, creating the interwoven mandala of spirit and creation. We have become the masters of our own storm.

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass; it is about learning to dance in the rain." ~ Vivian Greene

"The mandala is one of the most powerful American Indian items, being a descendant of the plains Indian dance shield and medicine wheel. Prayers for survival, spiritual blessings, powerful visions, physical protection, and long life go into the making of the traditional mandala as it represents the interwoven threads of creation, and the wonder of diversity in Mother Earth."

Triquetra Celtic Symbol Mandala: 

"The Latin meaning for triquetra is "three-cornered." It's also the symbol for the holy trinity. Being a holy sign, this Celtic symbol is perfect for mandala meditation. It stills the chattering as our focus is funneled to the center of the triquetra. Once centered, we are able to feel the connection with the spiritual trinity, and thus become one with the source of power."

We are not so different after all.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Love Does Not Always Need Words

When I was five, I wasn't sure what was going to become of me. I wasn't sure where my life would lead me, or if I would have a life at all. I didn't think about death or dying all that much, although I knew it was a very real possibility. I didn't know what would come after - I was only five.

By the hushed tones of the countless conversations that included the occasional glance in my direction, I knew that death couldn't be a good thing. If it was a good thing, then why was everyone whispering? I knew that death had to be one of those big things that mothers and fathers would always say to their children, "We'll talk about it later when you're old enough to understand." I wasn't sure we were going to have the chance to talk about it. I wasn't sure there was going to be a later.

I remember walking into those sterile rooms where needles waited to poke me, scalpels waited to cut me, and the nurses and doctors would whisper with my mother. Sometimes, there were pictures on the walls of teddy bears, or beautiful landscapes, or mothers with their children. They didn't make me feel any less scared. They just gave me something to focus on while I was poked, prodded, sliced into, or I heard the whispered words between the medical staff and my mother.

I don't recall the times I would slip away from my mother, my grandparents, and a few times my Kindergarten teacher at school. I only remember, waking up to faces of strength that masked grave concern. Inside I was a jumbled mess of not knowing - not understanding; not being old enough to understand.

When I was nearly six, I waved goodbye to my best and only friend, my sister, out the back window of my grandparents Grand Marquis. We began the trip to St. Paul, from which I was not certain I would return. My mother sat next to me, staring straight ahead as my grandfather drove. It was a six hundred mile trip in silence. My grandmother read her book. My mother stared ahead or out the window. I often wonder what it was she thought about that day. When I grew tired, I laid my head in her lap and slept. I was safe in the moment and that was all that mattered.

I remember being awakened in the early morning hours of the following day by my mother. She hugged me that morning in the privacy of our room in the home of my grandfather's relatives. That hug lasted a bit longer than most, and I heard her exhale. I will never forget that exhale. It was the kind of exhale that comes before the moment of truth.

The last thing I remembered as I was wheeled down the hall to the operating room was my mother's face. Her eyes glistened, like mine did when I cried. I never saw my mother cry before. The last thing I heard was my mother's whispered voice saying, "I love you."

Hours later, my eyes fluttered opened to the sight of my mother sitting next to my bed. She was still weeping softly as she waited; waited for the answer of life or death. Would I, or would I not awaken? As I murmured in my waking, I saw a smile instill itself on my mother's face. A single tear slid down her cheek while she slipped her fingers into mine and squeezed. She needn't have said a single word. All she had to say was already enclosed between our hands.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom - 40 years later.