So you think you have a problem…

February 2, 2014

In the Summer of 1959.  At the feather River Inn near the town of Blairsden in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Northern California.  A resort environment.  And I, just out of college, have a job that combines the night desk clerk in the lodge and helping out with the horse-wrangling at the stables.  The owner/manager is Italian-Swiss, with European notions about conditions of employment.  HE and I do not get along.  I think he’s a fascist who wants peasant employees who know their place, and he thinks I’m a good example of how democracy can be carried too far.  I’m twenty-two and pretty free with my opinions, and he’s fifty-two and has a few opinions of his own.

One week the employees have been served the same thing for lunch every single day.  Two wieners, a mound of sauerkraut, and stale rolls.  To compound insult with injury, the cost of meals was deducted from our check.  I was outraged.

On Friday night of that awful week, I was at my desk job around 11:00PM and the night auditor had just come on duty.  I went into the kitchen to gt a bite to eat and saw notes to the chef to the effect that wieners and sauerkraut are on the employee menu for two more days.

That tears it.  I quit!  For lack of any better audience, I unloaded on the night auditor, Sigmund Wollman. .  I declare that I have had it up to here;  that I am going to get a plate of wieners and sauerkraut and go and wake up the owner and throw it on him.   I am sick and tired of this crap and insulted and nobody is going to make me eat wieners and sauerkraut for a whole week and make me pay for it and wo does he think he is anyhow and how can life be sustained on wieners and sauerkraut and this is un-American and I don’t like wieners and sauerkraut enough to eat it one day for crying out loud and the who hotel stinks anyhow and the horses are all nags and the guests are all idiots and I’m packing my bags and heading for Montana where they never ever heard of wieners and sauerkraut and wouldn’t feed that stuff to pigs.  Something like that.  I’m still mad about it.

I raved on in this way for twenty minutes, and needn’t repeat it all here.  You get the drift.  My monologue was delivered at the top of my lungs, punctuated by blows on the front desk with a fly-swatter, the kicking of chairs and much profanity.  A call to arms, freedom, unions, uprisings, and the breaking of chains for the working masses.

As I pitched my fit, Sigmund Wollman, the night auditor, sat quietly on his stool, smoking a cigarette, watching me with sorrowful eyes.  Put a bloodhound in a suit and tie and you have Sigmund Wollman.  He’s got good reason to look sorrowful.  Survivor of Auschwitz.  Three years.  German Jew.  Thin.  Coughed a lot.  He liked being alone at the night job- gave him intellectual space, gave him peace and quiet, and even more, he could go into the kitchen and have a snack whenever he wanted to- all the wieners and sauerkraut he wanted.  To him, a feast.  More than that, there’s nobody around at night to tell him what to do.  In Auschwitz he dreamed of such a time.  The only person he sees at work is me, the nightly disturber of his dream.  our shifts overlap for an hour.  And here I am again.  A one-man war party at full cry.

   “Fulchum, are you finished?”

No.  Why?
       “Lissen, FUlchum, Lissen me, lissen me.  You know what’s wrong with you?  It’s not wieners and kraut and it’s not the boss and it’s not the chef and it’s not this job.”

  “So what’s wrong with me?”

    “Fulchum, you think you know everything.  But you don’t know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem.”

“If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire- then you have a problem.  Everything else is inconvenience, Life IS inconvenient.  Life IS lumpy.”

   “Learn to separate the inconveniences from the real problems .  You will live longer.  And will not annoy people like me so much.   Good night.”

In a gesture combining dismissal and blessing, he waved me off to bed.

Seldom in my life have I been hit between the eyes with truth so hard.  Years later I heard a Japanese Zen Buddhist priest describe what the moment of enlightenment was like and I knew exactly what he meant.  There in that late-night darkness of the Feather River Inn, Sigmund Wollman simultaneously kicked my butt and opened a window in my mind.

For thirty years now, in times of stress and strain, when something has me backed against the wall and I’m ready to do something really stupid with my anger, a sorrowful face appears in my mind and asks: “Fulchum.  Problem or inconvenience?”

I think of this as the Wollman Test of Reality.  Life is lumpy.  And a lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat, and a lump in the breast are not the same lump.  One should learn the difference.  Good night, Sig.

Taken liberally   from  Robert Fulghum’s  book ”Uh-Oh”  :-)

I posted this in 2010 so you may have seen it before.

_______________________________________

It’s been a while since I posted on my Heart to Heart blog, wanted to let you know if you are a subscriber, I do still write. This blog has probably run it’s course but if you’d like to stay in touch,  Stop over and say “hi” .  Love to hear from you. DM

Here is a link to that blog:

http://ialsoliveonafarm.wordpress.com/

Emotional Affairs

December 13, 2013

Emotional Affairs are a Dangerous Game in Marriage

by Ben Wilson on Monday, April 15, 2013

The first time I saw her I was taken with her beauty.

A month later she and I and one other person were working Christmas Day. We laughed, worked little, and listened to a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas tape about 15 times. I sensed we both wished the third person wasn’t there.

Soon, we went to lunch together. She mentioned the poor state of her marriage. I remember thinking, “I’d be a husband that would take care of you.” This should have been a huge red flag — one of those giant ones flapping in the breeze outside a restaurant or car lot, saying Stop, Stop, Stop, Ben. Run away. Tell your wife, tell your friends, and have them tie you down while you go through this.

We had more lunches. I enjoyed going from one world to the other — from the drunken party boy to the straight and narrow guy with the high and tight military haircut. Do you hear the irony? See the facade? I was Mr. Straight and Narrow, except for a little emotional adultery. I traded one means of filling my empty soul — alcohol — for another: emotional suctioning.

It certainly wasn’t true intimacy. But I felt respected by her. At home, I wasn’t sure I ever did anything right.

We had more lunches. I was finding life in her. In my delusion she became more important than God. I literally remember praying and having an image in my mind of allowing God to deal with everything in me — except her. I had thoughts of wanting to be married to her instead of my wife, Ann. I had traded the wife of my youth for an idol. I was convinced the idol was life. In reality, she was just a woman.

I lived in so much rationalization and denial.

Later, in counseling, I realized that if not for the woman I had become emotionally involved with, we would have had sex. We never kissed, but I broached the topic of sex with her.

“Ben, you don’t want to do it,” she said. “It tears you apart.”

I later experienced the many levels of truth in her words when my wife — the wife of my youth, as Proverbs says — had an affair.

Until counseling I had rationalized away any consequence of my emotional relationship, since we didn’t have sex. In many ways, however, my emotional affair with this woman was every bit as damaging to my marriage as Ann’s affair, which included an emotional connection and sex. My heart was every bit as deceptive as Ann’s. I had given it to another and denied any damage to Ann and to my own soul.

A Hidden Danger

Emotional affairs are common today. Frequent starting points include a transition, such as a new job or promotion, a new neighborhood, a new church, or a new team or activity for a child. With the advent of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the opportunity is ubiquitous. One doesn’t even have to leave home to become entangled with another.

But how do they start, and what are they about? Emotional affairs contain some or all of the following elements:

  • Spend plenty of time (in person or online) with a person of the opposite sex who is not your spouse.
  • Tell your life story to one another.
  • Share deeply from your heart, especially where your spouse misses your heart.
  • Share meaningful experiences together, such as achievements at work or in ministry.
  • Let yourself relax and enjoy the presence of each other.
  • And — for good Christian measure — pray with the other person. Heartfelt prayer, in an effort to deny or deflect your attraction to each other, can give the illusion that you are doing the “right” thing.

Boom. There you are — not in love, but emotionally entangled. Pseudo-intimacy. Addicted. You have a human drug to ease your anxiety and discomfort in a fallen world. There’s no need to do conflict with your spouse — that’s too hard — go talk to your human drug who listens and understands and makes you feel better.

Why is it easier? Because there is nothing at stake. There is no real risk with this other person. With your spouse there is tremendous risk.

This is your marriage. Your marriage is valuable. Sometimes that pressure makes it tougher to share and talk about life.

Emotional affairs are a means to sidestep that pressure. They are about satisfaction now. But God didn’t intend for us to seek satisfaction in every moment. How do we develop a hunger and a thirst for Him and His righteousness if we live in perpetual satiation? We can’t.

All who are married live in a fallen world married to an imperfect woman or an imperfect man. In the best of circumstances, in the best of relationships, we all have a place inside that longs for “more.” That “more” points us to God and His Kingdom. When we seek to satisfy the “more” in the now we miss the mark, causing pain to our own soul and those who love us.

But emotional affairs aren’t just about our flesh demanding satisfaction. Our longings that drive emotional affairs are God-created, good longings. Michael Cusick is the author of Surfing for God. On the surface, Surfing for God is for men who struggle with pornography. Inside, it is a great study into the depths of the masculine soul, much of which applies to the feminine soul.

In the book, Cusick details seven core desires of the human soul:

  • Attention — I long to be seen. I long to be valued. I long to matter.
  • Affection — I long to be enjoyed. I long to be delighted in. I long for you to take pleasure in who I am.
  • Affirmation — I long to know I have what it takes. I long for your blessing.
  • Acceptance — I long to belong. I long to be desired.
  • Satisfaction — I long for fullness. I long for well-being.
  • Significance — I long for impact. I long for meaning. I long to be powerful.
  • Security — I long to know I will be OK.

Cusick offers this about our thirsts:

“All of these core thirsts are God-given appetites and longings. When they are suppressed, cut off, or shut down, we resemble an Indy car running on four cylinders. Because of this, we fail to live from our hearts. To run on eight cylinders, we need to acknowledge that we are thirsty and identify what our thirsts are. Why? Because only when we identify them will we begin moving toward those desires according to God’s design.”

At the time, I was unaware of my longing for respect and admiration. Combine that with a human brain wired to seek the most efficient, convenient path, and I was significantly vulnerable to an emotional affair. None of that excuses my emotional affair, but helps me to understand it.

So how about you? Which of the seven core longings caught your attention? How is your marriage in those areas? Does anyone come to mind when the topic of emotional entanglement comes up? Would you not want your spouse to hear or read some of your conversations with this person?

If someone came to mind I encourage you to take a step back from the relationship. Talk it through with someone who values your marriage and your family.

I wish I had a lot sooner.

____________________

I  got permission to re-post this from Ben this morning.  I think it is one of those cautions all of us need to keep in mind as we interact with others on line or in person.

He and his wife  Ann have an outreach to couples  who are trying to pick up the pieces and  heal from the pain of  infidelity. Here is a link to their website.

DM

I Am Not a Sex-Fueled Robot

July 22, 2013

robot

They say that men give love to get sex, and women give sex to get love.

If this is true, then marriage is nothing but a market exchange where we trade emotion for flesh in a desperate attempt to satisfy our own cravings. If this is true, I am simply a customer settling a invoice with flowers and kisses, my wife is a deluxe call girl with a long-term contract, and love is a filthy currency.

As a newlywed man, with stockpiled marriage advice ringing in my ears, the sex/love economy hung heavy over my head. I worried about whether I was paying the fair market price of love for the sex I was getting. I worried that my wife wasn’t really interested in sex at all, but she just went along with it because it was in the small print on our marriage contract. No matter how many times she assured me otherswise, I couldn’t shake the feeling that sex was only a means to an end for her. I couldn’t shake the fear that she would think my love for her was only a way to get into her pants.

Rather than rejecting the sex/love economy, Christian relationship advice just operates within it. Apparently talking about the profound differences between men and women is a good way to sell books and fill up marriage conferences. Women are painted as mysterious creatures that must be decrypted before they can be understood, and then the secret to understanding your spouse is promised between the covers of whatever book is popular this year. And it’s all fun and games until you’re a confused newlywed trying to figure out all the secrets to loving your wife with fear of failure hanging low and heavy above your head.

I’ve given up on all that now.

The sex/love trading post has been shut down in this house. I enjoy sex. Sometimes I crave it. (In that way, sex is a lot like a bacon cheeseburger.) But it doesn’t control me, and it doesn’t define me. I am not a robot shuffling mechanically through life seeking out the next sexual power-up to keep me going.

I recently read a FamilyLife article about “Why Sex is So Important to Your Husband” that reminded me of all this all over again. I didn’t recognize myself in the picture they painted. Instead I saw a robot who trades love for sex and sees relationship as an afterthought.

It’s time to terminate that robot and become human again.

My primary motivation is not sex.

“A woman’s picture of romance tends to revolve around her emotional needs and her thirst for a relationship with her husband…. A man’s view of romance is much more focused on a single experience: sexual affirmation. In that regard, God wired men and women very differently.”

No. Men and women are not wired by God at all. We are flesh and blood and breath and electricity all bound up together in skin. We are whole human beings fully alive. Wires are for robots.

These blanket statements drive a wedge of fear between us, as if we are more different than the same. As if my wife’s “emotional needs” are some mysterious force beyond my simple sex-driven understanding.

This seems to imply that my thirst for sex drives me more than my thirst for relationship. As if relationship is the domain of a woman, and an afterthought for men. As if I trade love for sex.

This is every sort of false. Sex is a part of romance and relationship for both of us, in pretty equal measure. We were friends before we were lovers. I can live without sex, but I deeply need my relationship with my wife.

My sexual urges do not control me.

“A wife must understand that temptation can get a foothold when her husband’s sexual needs (including the need to feel desired by his wife) remain unmet. There are many voices in a man’s world tempting him to fulfill his needs through illicit and perverted recreational outlets.”

No. Because I am a man instead of a robot, I have the ability to say no to temptation. I am in control of my actions and responsible for my choices. And while I appreciate being sexually satisfied, it is not a prerequisite for my “good behavior”. Notice the difference between “Why Sex is So Important to Your Husband” and “Why Sex Is So Important to Your Wife”:

“When a man shows little or no sexual interest in his wife, she will expe­rience several emotions. First, she’s going to feel she is undesirable as a wife and a woman. She will wonder if she’s still attractive, or if something is wrong with her, or if he still loves her.”

Do you see? When a man doesn’t get enough sex, he’ll be tempted to indulge in illicit perversion. When a woman doesn’t get enough sex she’ll start experiencing emotions – doubt, insecurity, loneliness. As if she’s an indecipherable mass of unpredictable emotions, while I’m just a machine just looking for an electrical socket to plug into.

Incidentally, this is the same line of thinking that says a woman’s clothing determines my thoughts and actions. It suggests that my sexual urges are so powerful that I’d sacrifice my relationship to satisfy them. While it is true that temptation can approach me from any direction, this isn’t unique to men or to our sexuality.

I don’t believe the “tempting voices” are really about sex at all. I think they’re about emotions, about desire. When we can see ourselves and each other as creatures of desires that run far deeper than sexual urges, we’ll better understand how to fulfill each other in healthy, loving ways.

My identity is not dependent upon sex.

“Your husband will never be the man God created him to be if you don’t validate his maleness and understand and satisfy his need for sexual intimacy. You are God’s primary instrument of love and affirmation if he is to became God’s man. You have the power to make him or break him.”

No. I am a man. I like sex. These two statements are both true, but they are not dependent upon one another. Liking sex is not a uniquely male condition, nor is the accrual of sex necessary for my ongoing masculinity. If I am looking to my wife to validate my maleness or be the primary conduit of God’s love to me, I am being completely unfair to her. It would be a smothering expectation.

Certainly, my wife and I both affirm and support and love one another and help each other grow and mature into healthy, whole humans. But this is not a uniquely gendered or uniquely sexual arrangement. While my desire for sexual intimacy is part of me, it doesn’t prop up my entire identity.

I am not a sex-fueled robot. 

Eliminating the exchange of the sex/love economy has been one of the healthiest developments in our young marriage. It frees us to see each other as equally human, both with sexual and emotional needs. So I still cringe when I see these ideas about men and sex spread in Christian circles, whether we’re talking about purity or dating or modesty or marriage.

It doesn’t have to be this way but when these systems are reinforced and repeated from the time we’re teens, we tend to assume that it’s just the way it is. Men just give love to get sex, and women just put up with sex to get love.

Then fear and suspicion become the common factor in all our interactions, and we go along with it. Men just give up and allow themselves to become the slaves of their sexual urges, which women are then forced to accommodate and avoid and control. We eventually realize we that we have emotional and sexual desires that don’t fit neatly into categories, but we keep quiet because we know our roles and we play the game.

Let’s be human again.

We can learn to see ourselves and each other as human beings, with complex emotional and sexual needs to be explored. We can toss out the formulas and the easy answers and take the time to learn about each other as real people instead of stereotypes.

Let’s be done with the sex/love economy. Let’s not give love to get sex. Let’s love because it’s what we were created to do.

This is part of  the #ModestyRules Synchroblog.

_________________________________

I (DM) want to thank Micah J Murray for giving  me permission to re-post his excellent article on a most practical topic. 

You can read more of his thoughts here.

[ image: aCherryBlossomGirl ]

The Gnawing in my soul

July 5, 2013

Had it  bad  yesterday.

I call it “the “gnaws”

If you’re alive, you’ve  experienced it , even if you won’t admit it on the internet…. ;-)

My heart leaks like a sieve.  I’ve attempted to keep it quenched and satisfied  by many of the same things you do to keep your soul satisfied.

I written about it   here so I’m not going to repeat myself.  That post continues to be the most “hit” post on my blog.

I’m not looking for sympathy, many of you reading this have way more on your plate than I do.   Here’s  a note  I wrote to a friend last time this happened :

  Dear ____________,
I’m  home puttering around.  I have a moderate case of the “gnaws.” 

In my gut, and heart, a  feeling  of empty and restless.  It feels  like a rat is gnawing on my
soul.  I thought about blogging about it, but not sure what to say.  I “know”
the right answers:  Get busy.

       It’s overcast outside which is contributing  to it.  I’m out of my routine.   I’m all caught up on my bookkeeping.  I  don’t want to be   “clingy” w/ people..whether on line or w/ wife  :-)   so I’m trying to
stay occupied.  I have this almost obsessive compulsiveness to keep  checking my e-mail to see
if anyone has written.  Ever do that?   Anyway, that’s where I”m at
today…
When I do internal inventory,  (using the acronym HALT)  Hungry, Angry Lonely,  Tired, there is a  moderate level of loneliness .

Nothing compared to when I was single.    Just goes to show, being in a healthy deeply committed relationship is not the cure all for this inner angst.   I know it will pass  but dang,  when I’m in the midst of it,  it sucks.  It  feels like am covered with a heavy, wet blanket of shame.

Anyway, thanks for listening. DM

HALT-MAIN

ps.  One of the more intriguing  chunks of ancient wisdom literature for me was written by a man who  also knew first hand what it felt like to have a case of  “the gnaws.”  His name was Solomon and unlike you and I, he had the resources to pursue every human craving   to the nth degree (which he did).  He kept a journal  which  you can read  here.   

If you’ve never read it, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.  As always, thanks for taking the time to stop by. DM

pss.  The angst is gone.    The sun is  shining.   Life is good.  I need to head outside and get ready for a  concert.  Wanted to post this while I could still access some of the darker emotions.  Sincerely, DM

peace and quiet

June 30, 2013

aspire to live quietly

Chris and I were doing our normal random conversation gig @ coffee break last week.   I told him @ this point in my life “peace and quiet” are a high priority for me.  I proceeded to quote something I’d  written on an index card, which I have stuck on the dash of my truck..

Aspire to live quietly…to mind your own affairs… 

He jumped in and finished it, “to work with your hands, so that you may command the respect of outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

Wow, I said..I’m impressed! 

Turns out, when he took my truck to town earlier that morning, he read (and liked) that  verse as well, and had already started putting it to memory.

If it were possible for you to crawl into my head and  listen to the self talk that goes on behind the scene, you would discover  I actively, (even ruthlessly?)  guard and pursue some very basic and simple things in my heart and mind….

peace and quiet

Contentment

It has not always been this way, and I would be the first to tell you, I have not yet arrived.

BUT

I am miles down the road from that season in my life where I thought it was my job to stay  continually  busy…especially in the arena of “christian” outreach and  service.   Youth group, men’s group,  couple’s group,  Sunday school, worship service, body life service, weekly Saturday work days.  Yep,  what I just described to you was a typical week in my life from 1985-1988…oh, and I forgot to mention, one day a week attending counseling classes @ CCEF, coming home at midnight to a wife and  2 small children, only to get up and go to work @ 6 AM the next day.

Someone compared my life to a gushing fire hose.

I still meet people on occasion who remind me of my younger self.  People pleasing, adrenaline junkies, who confuse business and a packed calendar with a productive fruitful life.

Burning the candle on both ends in the name of “ministry”  or  career advancement is not a virtue.   Might  be a way to drown out the inner poverty, but definitely not  a way to live life that  I  aspire to  (anymore.)

Feel free to disagree and do otherwise.  ;-)

side note- (Ever seen an apple tree grunt to produce fruit?…. – No, me neither)

At one point, Chris  said  , -”As the outer, so the inner.”

“What does that mean,” I asked?

I think it means, the ideal is for our inner life and our outer life  to match.  Not just look peaceful on the outside, but practically speaking experience peace on the inside.  

(Now isn’t that a novel thought, I  thought to myself)

I’ll close  with a quote from the book The Anxiety Cure by Archibald Hart which also continues to shape the direction of my life :

You can’t escape the realities of our high-stress world.  You certainly can’t turn back the clock to simpler times – although, I must confess, this is a wonderful fantasy that I occasionally indulge as a form of escape.  I frequently reflect on the many happy childhood times I had with my grandparents.  They lived a simple, country life.  They were totally self-sufficient, tilling a small piece of land and raising their own food. ….With only a shortwave radio to connect them to the rest of the world, life seemed siple yet luxurious to me as a child.  There was a sense of unhurriedness and simple pleasures.  All the money in the world couldn’t buy such luxury in today’s world.  It is not for sale; you have to create it.”

I’ll close with some random pictures  from our  home, which we’ve created since that painful fateful season in my life when  I stopped confusing business with fruitfulness:

August night2012

to the east

IMG_6817

crates in the cooler2011

sq ft gardening4

Generations

June 16, 2013

Generations

Opa is German for Grandpa.

My Opa’s name was John,  one of 13 children, 8 boys and 5 girls.  He grew up farming with horses.

His influence on my life still casts a shadow.

In his prime, he stood  6 foot 2, weighed  240 pounds.  One of the gentlest,  soft heart-ed  men you would ever meet.  I heard it said more than once, there was not a person Grandpa didn’t get along with.  That’s probably where I get some of my disposition.  There were a couple of times however  he didn’t get along with everyone.

(Keep in mind he was a farm boy in his early twenties.) He and several of his brothers loved to wrestle in their haymow.   One Saturday afternoon   he stopped by  Heyen’s general store to collect a donation from Bill the  store owner.  Five  young men  were hanging around outside the store waiting for a  dance to begin.    Opa  said “hi”   but they ignored him.  Grandpa told me later, some of the locals didn’t like the  Germans.  As he walked out of the door a few minutes later, that’s when things got “interesting”

”As I came out the door of the store someone hit me from behind, the next thing I knew I had 4 or 5 guys piling on top of me.  After the initial surprise I got  up swinging. By the time I was done the last boy had run to his car and was crying like a baby.”

Life lesson from the farm  : Mess with the bull, you may get the horns.

Sara Groves sings a song  titled Generations.  One of the verses go like this: “Remind me of this with every decisions  Generations will reap what I sow  I can pass on a curse or a blessing     To those I will never know “

Powerful words.

Got time for a second short story?

When my dad (Opa’s oldest  son) began  attending  country school, (age 5)   he was teased mercilessly by one of  the other kids about his last name.  His name was Munk.   “monkey, monkey monkey”   It got to the point where dad didn’t want to go  to school.  Either the teacher didn’t know what was happening or refused to deal with it.

Opa said to me, “I made an appointment with the teacher and told him,  ” My son does not want to come to school. His name is Munk, not monkey.   Either you deal with it here at school or I will go to the father (of the bully) and beat the @%$# out of him.”   End of discussion. 

That’s all it took.    The teasing stopped.   I always wondered about that threat. Why was he going to beat up the dad?

Personality wise, I am a lot like my Opa.    I hate conflict.   Sometimes, because of the  world in which we live, we don’t have to go looking for trouble,  sometimes trouble comes looking for us.  At that moment, I  have a choice…get the tar beat out of me or stand  my ground.

If you have time, check out this clip by Sara Groves.  It puts a lump in my throat every time I watch it.

(You’ve been warned) ;-)

PS I posted this blog post on my other blog as well this morning.  My apologies to those of you that read both.  I try  not to do that too often  but this one seemed like the perfect post to celebrate Fathers Day and the end of  writers’ block.  I have posted this one in the past so you may have seen it before.

PSS

Thank you MJ and Writewild  for weighing in on the previous post on writers block.   I am feeling  better ;-)   Much better. DM

Writer’s block

June 15, 2013

Dear Linda,

(or whomever else feels inclined to weigh in on this conversation)
 I had a writing question for you, that you may (or may not) be able to answer.
 
I am finding myself with a large case of “writers block”
It feels like I’m  mentally constipated.
 
There is a lot of ” stuff” (material for blog posts)  starting to pile up, but I am finding it increasingly more difficult to get it out.
 
As I alluded to in one of my recent blog posts, we have a writer staying with us (has been now for about 2 months)  We’ve had some fun conversations about writing in general as well as me watching her wrestle with putting together some writing projects of her own.
 
So I’m second guessing anything I would want to post.   Sentence structure, improper punctuation, you name it.  I struggled with grammar back in 9th grade.  The rules  of writing (to me) feel like trying to grasp a foreign language.  It is like trying to understand a bunch of squiggly lines on a page.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.
 
An additional problem it seems is I am not motivated (enough) to master those same rules
Hence = writers block.
 
I did begin the habit of keeping a personal writing journal in the morning.  I get up, start writing, and some pretty neat stuff has come tumbling out of my brain.  Still in it’s raw unedited form but good stuff never the less.
 
So there is a part of me that thinks, I do have some level of writing ability.  Not going to quit my day job, but it is an activity I do enjoy.
 
So, any help, suggestions, direction, affirmations would be greatly appreciated.
 
Signed,
 
I’m stuck
 
ps,  I would love to hear from any of you that are already subscribers to this blog.  What was it initially that drew you  enough to my blog that you wanted to subscribe?  I’m curious because the answer to that may help me to identify who I really am as a writer.  I loath pretense and work really hard to “keep it real” when I communicate.  What is it in my blog posts that you enjoy (or appreciate)  Danka.  DM
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Buffalo Tavern

May 4, 2013

April 17th  a young singer/ songwriter/ poet moved into our B and B suite for  3 months. .  It has been so enjoyable to have her in the mix.  Last week she wanted to  watch “The Voice” on NBC.   That sounds like a simple enough  request, but since watching TV is not a priority around here, I had my doubts that the rabbit eared contraption would be able to deliver.  Both the wife and I would much rather read a good book, or spend time in deep conversation.

If you ever come to visit, bring a favorite book and read me a chapter ;-)

Below is one of my favorite stories from one of my favorite authors, Robert Fulghum:

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One Portion Of A Minister’s Lot concerns the dying and the dead.  The hospital room, the mortuary, the funeral service, the cemetery.  What I know of such things shapes my life elsewhere in particular ways.  What I know of such things explains why I don’t waste much life time mowing grass or washing cars or raking leaves or making beds or shining shoes or washing dishes.  It explains why I don’t honk at people who are slow to move at green lights.  And why I don’t kill spiders.  There isn’t time or need for all this.  What I know of cemeteries and such also explains why I sometimes visit the Buffalo Tavern.

     The Buffalo Tavern is, in essence, mongrel America.  Boiled down and stuffed into the Buffalo on a  Saturday night, the fundamental elements achieve a critcal mass around eleven.  The catalyst is the favorite house band, the Dynamic Volcanic Logs.  Eight freaks frozen in the amber vibes of the sixties.  Playing stomp-hell rockabilly with enough fervor to heal the lame and halt.  Mongrel America comes to the Buffalo to drink beer, shoot pool, and dance.  Above all, to dance.  To shake their tails and stomp frogs and get rowdy and holler and sweat and dance.  When it’s Saturday night and the Logs are rocking and the crowd is rolling, there’s no such thing as death.

     One such night the Buffalo was invaded by a motorcycle club, trying hard to look like the Hell’s Angels and doing pretty good at it too.  I don’t think these people were in costume for a movie.  And neither they nor their ladies smelled like soap-and-water was an important part of their lives on anything like a daily basis.  Following along behind them was an Indian-an older man, with braids, beaded vest, army surplus pants, and tennis shoes.  He was really ugly.  Now I’m fairly resourceful with words, and would give you a flashy description of this man’s face if it would help, but there is no way around it-he looked, in a word, ugly.  He sat working on his Budweiser for a long time.  When the Dynamic Logs ripped into a scream-out version of “Jailhouse Rock” he moved.  Shuffled over to one of the motorcycle mommas and invited her to dance.  Most ladies would have refused, but she was amused enough to shrug and get up.

     Well, I’ll not waste words.  This ugly, shuffling Indian ruin could dance.  I mean, he had the moves.  Nothing wild, just effortless action, subtle rhythm, the cool of the master.  He turned his partner every way but loose and made her look good at it.  The floor slowly cleared for them.  The band wound down and out, but the drummer held the beat.  The motorcycle club group rose up and shouted for the band to keep playing.  The band kept playing.  The Indian kept dancing.  the motorcycle momma finally blew a gasket and collapsed in someone’s lap.  The Indian danced alone.  The crowd clapped up the beat.  The Indian danced with a chair.  The crowd went crazy.  The band faded.  the crowd cheered.  The Indian held up his hands for silence as if to make a speech.  Looking at the band and then the crowd, the Indian said, “Well, what’re you waiting for? Let’s DANCE.”

     The band and the crowd went off like a bomb.  People were dancing all through the tables to the back of the room and behind the bar.  People were dancing in the restrooms and around the pool tables.  Dancing for themselves, for the Indian, for God and Mammon.  Dancing in the face of hospital rooms, mortuaries, funeral services, and cemeteries.  And for a while, nobody died.

    “Well,” said the Indian, “what’re you waiting for?  Let’s dance.”

Excerpt taken from the book All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergartenby Robert Fughum

The length of our days is seventy years- or eighty, if we have the strength;  yet the span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass….so teach us to number  our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:10.12

Thursday and Friday night of this week  we stood in a funeral home receiving line to acknowledge the passing of two more people.   Combine that with my cousin Michelle’s unexpected passing and that makes for a busy month.   So, fellow bloggers and Internet surfers, make sure you are not just sitting on the side lines and watching life pass you by.  The Indian said it best.   “Let’s Dance! “

A little something to let you know I’m still alive and well. DM

May 3, 2013

This first clip is just three minutes long.  It will make your day. ;-)

This next one is on

the topic of vulnerability.  Let me know what you think. DM

The Poetry of Anne Maren-Hogan

March 27, 2013

“I can feel the grit of dust and crunch of downed cornstalks in these poems.  They are not nostalgic ditties, but instead are strong songs, often in a haunting minor key, that remove me to a time when many footsteps, from many families, from many homes, sounded on the Midwestern farm scape.”

Timothy Fay  (taken from  the back cover of Anne’s book of poetry)

Anne Maren-Hogan

Anne and Sam  with the Mrs and I  March 23 2013

I was introduced to Anne Maren-Hogan’s book of poetry this past November by her nephew Chris.

I would be the first to admit I am not a big reader of poetry….which makes what happened to me all the more powerful.

I can still remember sitting in Ms Burns 7th grade class reading “Jonathan Livingston Seagull. “

I got the impression something deep and profound was  going on in that story, but it was  beyond me.

(The same thing happened in Mr Newland’s slide rule class…..I felt  over my head and could not swim)

NEVER  wanting  to find  myself in that sort of discussion setting again.

Flash forward 40 year .

Chris  hands me a little book of poetry @ coffee break written by his aunt Anne. (Chris works with me)

In my mind, I’m thinking...oh/ no/  if I take it, he’s going to ask me later what I think…?

I will be exposed for the uncultured farm boy that I am. ;-)

I took the book.

I inhaled the book.

I discovered a writer that drew me in.

She wrote about growing up in a large farm family , not too many miles from me.

Here’ another quote from the back of the book:

“With narrative grace and keen insight, Anne Maren-Hogan celebrates the strength and perseverance of women.  Spanning two decades, the poems in The Farmers Wake offer a thoughtful meditation on family, place and culture.   The poems move beyond a chronicle of farm lief in the Midwest to remind us all of the very human connections we share with each other and this earth.  The landscape in these poems may be harsh and isolated, but the writing is rich and rewarding: stitching it all together with this certainty/ of leaving and returning as  Maren-Hogan writes in “Lifting My Eyes”  Pat Riviere-Seel

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Anne and her husband Sam were back in the area this past week visiting family.

I’d built a multipurpose addition to our shop this Fall and had been wanting to do a “German Building dedication”

Last Saturday night, was the dedication.

Anne and Sam, joined us for a night of poetry/ music and mirth.

I asked Anne,  if she cared if I included one of her poem on this post.  So I did get her blessing.

I intended to include my favorite poem titled The Farmer’s Wake”

(It is about her dad’s wake)

I’ve had a change of heart.

I’m going to hold off  because  I feel like she  has shared something with us very precious and sacred.

A  glimpse into her heart.

I will instead give you a link to her book of poetry, so you could have your own copy.

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In case you stumble across this post later Anne, I just want to say  thank you again for  sharing your heart, both in your poems and for actually coming and reading them aloud .

I am a wealthy man.  DM

German building dedication

German building dedication

Lead carpenter (me) nailing the evergreen branch to the gable. 


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