Thursday, July 28, 2005

If You're Lactose Intolerant, Read No Further

No self-respecting director would allow a scriptwriter to get by with such a moment had it happened on stage or screen. But it didn't.

Six of us were driving home to Houston after three whirlwind days of travel, family, food, and enduring one another's idiosyncrisies and just plain old irritating habits. Conversation had stopped hours earlier and the sounds of James Taylor were entertaining us as the miles seemed to slowly click by.

"When you're down and troubled . . ." we began to sing along.

"You just call out my name . . . " we started adding hand motions as our volume swelled.

"You've got a friend . . . " and tears entered the scene.

My tears flowed from want, weariness, and joy. "S" was my co-pilot as I maneuvered through the Texas twists and turns of Highway 59. He had also been the source of pure pleasure for me a day earlier as he offered up a joke fest for my twin and his two teenaged daughters. Pure, belly-shaking, tear-wiping laughter was a frequent "guest" at my family gatherings in our early adult years but its sound had waned when my older brother, the silliest man I ever knew until "S" came along, died. He didn't take the laughter with him, but it was slightly subdued. Yet on this day, with one after another of the best/worst "a __________ walked into a bar" stories you can imagine, Bart was somehow present once again. Having never truly connected with my twin the way I sometimes wanted, those "hehehe's" were treasures to me. We laughed, we cried, it became a part of us.

As the road and James prompted reflection, I knew it was cheesey but I felt the gratitude swelling and let the tears come.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

You Do the Math

720 miles one way
6 adults all past 40 years of age
1 mini van
2 bench seats (for "seats" much grander than the size of a bench)
13-14 hour trip
2 "homes" in Tennessee (mom and sis)
80-year-old stepfather who is ailing
75-year-old mom who is ecstatic to have company
50 guests for the birthday bash for said mom
1 Red Velvet cake in the shape of a heart
1 banana pudding large enough to satisfy 50 guests
6 other desserts (maybe more)
10 pounds of barbecue pork (this IS Tennessee after all)
720 miles home
5 stops (Graceland, The Purple Cow, the Clinton library, one foot in Texas/one in Ark, picnicking on pork in Marshall)
0 bloodshed

After two days rest, and a thoughtful tally, I'd call it a successful weekend jaunt!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Would You Want to Be Part of This?

We discussed what the missional church is yesterday. Many words and catch phrases were tossed about. Eventually, I came to this word pairing . . .

who you serve
who you are
so that
what you say and do
changes the world

First time I've been creative at work in a while and it felt good.

Much Research Merits This . . .

We had entered and exited more than ten minivans and SUVs in our search for the perfect rental for a 14 hour trip one way to Tennessee.

As we left the lot, I said, "At least we now know more than we did."

He said, "Yep. We now know just enough to be thoroughly disappointed if we don't get what we want."

Hmmmmmm . . . .

My Mom Is 75

Energy expressed in a sly grin
Eyes twinkling
A giggle waiting to burst forth
She knows
She remembers
How to engage.
Even in her less than taut
She entices
And elderly not-so-gentlemen
Still smile and wonder
At her possibilities.
She's seen much,
denied much,
hurt much,
and given much.
A husband and a son
on the top of that list
she finally allowed herself
to question much.
But faith demands
she carry on.
And she does.
Famous at First Baptist,
she serves not so silently
but consistently
and walls could crumble
if she happened to miss the doors opening
for more than three Vols games in a row.
Wall space is at a premium
as her Depression era memories
demand she collect
and display.
in her acts of love and
she employs guilt with the finesse
of a fine artist.
Turnip greens and cornbread,
Sweet pickles one degree removed
from glucose
and tea to match
Pecan pies and
a taste for sweetness
she discovered late in life.
All giving with only
unspoken expectations of
praise or an equivalent bounty.
all this and so
much more.

"Life for me ain't been no crystal stair,"
my favorite poet once declared.
My mother agreed
and quotes him often.
But she smiles when she says it
Daring you to question
or believe.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

44 Years Ago Today . . .

My brother and I emerged in 1961
I began as an old soul
And have been getting younger ever since
I pray that in the years to come
Play, adventure, curiosity, acceptance,
and learning are constant companions
Here's to all the folks who make my journey
so very amusing,
so very amazing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I actually wrote this . . .

Yesterday, I responded to a friend's email regarding his introduction to justice issues in a particular geographical area . . . in a crowded van with no air conditioning. I can't believe I'm actually blogging how I replied but, hey, isn't this what blogging is all about?

You know the only problem I've ever had with justice issues . . ? It's not a clean thing. So much of the "ministry" I do is clean -- keyboards, phone calls, regular/ongoing/invasive Air Conditioning. And so much of justice issues calls for sweat. You have to go where the issues call out to you. You have to inhale in places where you don't want to experience what's on the end of the exhale. It took a long, long time for me to get to the place at the AIDS hospice where the reality of ministry caught up with the physical setbacks and a balance (maybe even a bounty on my part) was struck.

I would love to address justice issues if it didn't require me to look at injustice in the face.

Monday, July 18, 2005

I actually said this today . . .

"i know that i know more than a lot of men i know but i also know that very few men i know know that . . . "

Friday, July 15, 2005

Made Me Go "Ahhhhhh"

Sometimes I'm word weary when it comes to spirituality and sometimes words sent my way refresh and exhilirate me, calming me like a deep muscle massage, and sparking a sensual response in much the same way as a sip of good, crisp intriguing wine. That's what happened yesterday when a new, emerging friend shared the following in an email:

One of my most favorite annual experiences is to go to a monastery in Conyers, Ga. (just outside Atlanta). They have a guest house there and invite people to come for mostly personal silent retreats. I only go for a few days at a time, but it has been the most amazing experience for me. What the monks have taught me:
-that silence is an essential part of the spiritual experience with God
-to see everyone as a potential visitor from God, and to treat them as a special guest
-a mystical side of God--one where God is never figured out. The striving for Him is like a hunger, and learning new truths about Him is pure joy
-that even if I don't believe everything they believe, yes, I can learn much from other faiths.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Mark this Day

I wish for all I love to experience a day like I've had today. In fact, it's been so very good, I even wish it for those I'm not too thrilled with!! (maybe it will improve their outlook!)

Today was a day of affirmations, not of the Hallmark variety -- packaged and mass produced to asuage guilt generated from economics more than emtion -- but rather simple, spontaneous expressions of gratitude for who I've always hoped others see when they encounter me but of which I'm never sure.

I want to chronicle this because in the days when I wonder if anyone is listening, if anyone really sees beyond the animation and laughter, if anyone cares, I can be assured, "You're damn right they do!"

One message from heaven via London . . . wow, to be assured that my vision of me and what some others see actually agree and to delight in the seeing . . . so wonderful. . . one limerick that teases and yet also releases me to continue the dance . . . one message that in an instant secured my "non-boring" status (a secret fear I sometimes harbor about my effect on others) and finally (at least nearest closing time) a continuation of an ongoing conversation with a peer's gratitude for releasing her to be just as free as I try to be . . .

My apologies, dear reader, if you don't comprehend the allusions to which I refer . . . the magic here is not in the details but simply in the mystery of allowing one's self to be and then to be embraced in that being.



Backpacking magazine may not be calling me anytime soon for a cover shoot but this was not a smile for the camera . . . this was the end of the trail.

Yes, it took me a while to get the photos developed but in a way, I get to prolong the experience by having waited.

My buddy on the left side of the photo is the one who turned the big 40 and wanted to do the trip. I still believe the greatest gift given that week was not to him but to all of us who were blessed by joining him on his adventure.

Please note several things in this lovely photographic representation of my experience:
  • the hiking pole in the far right corner . . . if ever you get invited to hike in the mountatins with a 40 pound pack on your back and someone offers to let you borrow their poles, DO NOT say NO. I didn't get these wonderfully back-saving devices until the third day but I relished them ever step thereafter.
  • the sunglasses atop my head . . . these wound up being for fashion purposes only. Redwood forests don't let a lot of light in, you know? I didn't know so I kept these right where you see them.
  • the bandana(s) . . . one's on my head and you REALLY don't want to know what was underneath (did I mention I didn't shower for five days?) and the other is placed strategically beneath the pack strap. Why? you ask. To wipe the sweat, the seemingly endless sweat that poured down my face and into my eyes.
  • the eggcrate contraption on the top of my pack . . . lightweight (yea!) and a luxury to have beneath your sleeping bag so that even if you're on bumpy terrain, you can't quite tell.
  • the skinny 40-year-old on my right . . . 'L' lost more than 30 pounds this past year and I'm so proud of his new healthy look and outlook . . . hoping he's inspiration for me to do the same!!
  • the sand behind us . . . that's a California beach, people, and I hiked 42 miles to get there!!!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

All in a Day's Work

One story in process on the desktop . . .
An interview's notes on the laptop . . .
Three IM conversations on screen . . .
A returned phone call . . .
Wheels on my desk chair so I can speed from one screen to the other . . .

Now that's multi-tasking!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Asked and Answered

This weekend, in a very thought-provoking conversation that covered a variety of topics, I was asked how I managed to keep my relationships . . . so defined. In other words, how did thoughts of physical intimacy not invade the emotional intimacy I have with so many men who are most definitely in the unattainable list, i.e. gay or married.

I kinda liked my off the cuff answer. I'm sure lots of folks have great ethical explanations, but I really believe that this is what drives me:

I value the Creator, the creative process and all created things. A relationship between a husband and wife is a creation of sorts. Just as I would never take a brush to a piece of exhibited art, add a line to someone else's poem or a quote to a story, or push my fingers into a sculpture in clay fashioned by some other artist, I would never inject myself into someone's marriage or someone's lifestyle.

There's that . . . plus I already fear rejection enough. Why knowingly do something that is just asking for it? (And obviously that's more directed at the gay side of the equation, given that there's been a married man or two who might have embraced the idea, me and anything else offered up but who wants anyone that . . . well slimey. Let's just say I have better taste in married friends).

Monday, July 11, 2005

Actively Dying?

The first time I heard the phrase “actively dying” I thought oxymoronic was an apt description. Actively stopping? Extending energy in order to cease to exist? I couldn’t see it.

Not until I witnessed the event, did the wording make sense. And Saturday, I watched two more individuals as they were indeed “actively dying.”

“Mr. B” is on oxygen and has been since he came to the hospice. When I initially encountered this elderly black gentleman a few weeks ago, he had just asked a volunteer for watermelon. While the beautiful, body-building native of Haiti could scrub a shower, maneuver a wheelchair and chat up the residents with ease, he was slightly out of touch with Southerners’ love of the red melon. When he came to Mr. B’s door with a small bowl of carefully scooped melon balls similar to what you might find as a side dish in a fine restaurant that the chef added to the plate mainly for color, Mr. B peered over his oxygen tube with the eyes of a professor assessing his student’s work. And I laughed to myself. Mr. B’s voice was terribly soft and even a simple sentence took a while to construct given the confines of his limited lung capacity, but finally he said, “What’s this?”

The volunteer quickly responded, “The watermelon you asked for.”

Mr. B replied simply, “Do you think there might be a bit more back there somewhere?”

When the volunteer exited to try again, Mr. B looked at me and once again expressed with his eyes what he could not muster the energy to say with words. If you can imagine the face of a person “tsk, tsking,” you’ve got the picture.

"S" was a relatively new arrival on that day weeks ago. She had me confused for a moment because she really didn’t look sick, and I thought she might be visiting someone. Not everyone who comes to the hospice has “the look” of a person in the last stages of AIDS but these days many do. S was a shapely blondish-brown-haired woman who shuffled slightly when she walked but otherwise seemed to be the social butterfly of the house, flitting from one conversation on the for-smokers-patio to another in the den/dining area gathering space.

Her lack of visible symptoms fed my surprise when she asked for help with a shower. But I’m not there to argue so I agreed. I gathered up the towels and washcloths while she collected her toiletries and then we entered the 4 x 5 ft shower off the main hallway. (Note to self: in the future, check to make sure the fan is on before enclosing yourself with another person in a steamy walk-in shower in Houston in June.) During the disrobing I discovered many things about S. She was way more unstable than I thought – physically and probably mentally as well. She was also the “beneficiary” of what she called a bad boob job. I didn’t study the situation in detail so I’m just trusting her story that one breast was not in proportion to the other. I was too busy with the washing of her back, feet and hair and shaving her legs to bother with any inspection of that sort! Since I was fully clothed, sweat began to pour off my face while I practically stood on my head to get the shaving done. And if you’ve never tried to shave another person, you will be amazed at how much guesswork is involved. I never imagined that the object being shaved is informing the process quite as much as I now know it is. With my light touch, I’m not really sure any hair came off those legs. Throughout the process, S sat in the shower chair, thanked me several times, talked of a sister’s upcoming visit and family squabbles her brother and sister were into.

I didn’t catch all the details then. Too many product, towels, and steps and stages of the process to keep up with prevented it. Later I learned that S had once been married, had three kids, and then fell in love with a guy who pimped her out – first as a dancer and then for sex.

I met both Mr. B and S a few weeks ago, and both are now actively dying.

Those are the words used in the report given by the nurse when volunteers first arrive. Many times that means they are comatose or in my seasoned medical vernacular “out of it.” But Mr. B and S are both mentally still with us. S is hallucinating but those visions come and go. Mr. B can’t muster the energy to talk but he recognizes what’s happening. You can see it in those expressive eyes.

Yesterday I spent most of my shift watching them go. The “active” part of the equation was startling. S is fretful, anxious. Her dreams awaken her and she’s trying desperately to make things right in the stories of her mind. The greatest gift I thought I could give her was presence, pats, and assurances that she wasn’t alone.

Mr. B is focused on doing what he knows must be done but each breath is a labor. You can almost see him considering, “What if I stop? What if I just don’t try anymore?” But he keeps at it. I went to sit with him for a while, too, but another volunteer was in there singing hymns and praying. I went back to S.

When I left, she was sitting upright and a visitor was holding her hand. I’m not sure if this was a sister or a friend but I got the sense it was family. S wanted to “go out and play” she said. The nurse didn’t hear her at first and then mistook the request as a real one. I pointed out S’s mischievous smile, and was glad that would be my last memory of her.

Later that day, I sat by a pool with fellow volunteers frolicking within. (There's nothing quite so chuckle-producing as grown men using rubber ducks as squirt guns.) And it was a great reminder that while those actively dying deserve attention, space and grace. The actively living are too be celebrated too.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Heard on the Morning News

"It'll be cooler today at 94 degrees."

Get out the parkas!

Thursday, July 07, 2005


My first thought today when I heard about the London bombing was of my friend who lives in the city and the fact that I thought she wasn't actually in the city this morning and that I hoped I was right. (And I was.)

My second thought was about my other friends who plan on going to Ethiopia on Saturday and whether or not they were traveling through London and whether they would be delayed. (And they're not.)

My third thought was of the people who actually did the bombing and that was only a vague thought regarding the idea that I probably should pray for them. (And I haven't yet.)

Finally, I thought of the people who were actually affected by the bomb -- the injured and dead and their families.

Dear God, for those I love and those they love, for those I fear, and for those whose fears have been realized, I pray. I don't know what to ask, but I am asking.

And I Have

I would like to challenge the Norm
and the Cliff and the Sam
And any other cheery soul who thinks
by simply knowing my name
they know who I am

Who thinks that by recognizing
My face and freckles
Squatty-body stature and
Current color of my hair
They can somehow see into my soul
and know what's happening there.

They may have the facts
what's right before their eyes
but looks are deceiving
and mine are filled with lies:

Middle-aged, conservatively dressed,
confident enough
Are my lingering myths.

In fact,
I'm a gypsy
an earth-mother in love
with adventure and chaos
and passion and play
with words and wonders and
what people say when
they are on the edge of the usual
crossing the line
into unexplored possibilities
and risk-ridden times.

I'm confused
and doubt
is a constant companion
yet faith is a friend
I frequently champion

I long to surprise,
to scintilate
and arouse
My toys have matured
but are still very much around

I'll engage for the moment
Or linger at length
if I deem your story
one to make me think

Bike rides in neighborhoods
where safety could be in question
Mountain climbs that take my breath
and exericise injecting
energy into a life
of far fewer fears.

Exploring the exotic
banquets and wines,
Avoiding the neurotic,
Always open to the next good time.

That's me and yet
there's so much more,
so much more.

I would like to challenge the Norm.
And I have.

Lines, Lines, Everywhere Lines

Oooooooh . . . there's that line again -- the one that pops up and makes you wonder if you should cross or not, the one that keeps some folks from ever seeing life from another perspective, and the one that insures others will leap without thinking and live to regret it -- you know . . . that line.

Right now, it's blurry for me. I'm having real trouble with the idea of self. Once upon a time, in my pro-propositional period*, I accepted as fact that the key to happiness was in the denial of said self, that to scale the mount of life on a higher plane one HAD to sacrifice all passions, desires, and dreams and take on the burden of others, of super-natural entities.

Now . . . well . . .

I wonder if I actually have to let go of all I've embraced that defines and delights me. Isn't it possible that perspective plays a role here? That balancing self and others is key? That "sacrifice" isn't so much a matter of release and a limitation but rather a inclusive act? Can't I open my arms wider and still hold on . . . without feeling "less than" in the process?

See? Very blurry!

(I was about to type "At least I know this . . . " but frankly, I don't know anything! So with a little editing . . . ) Here's where I think I am now: I have a purpose. I have some clues as to what that purpose is and that it includes good things for both me and others. Living out that purpose is not a burden, but a joy and a pleasure.

If that reeks of self-ness, so be it.

*PPP -- Eerily similar to a pre-menstrual period with symptoms such as anger deriving from an unidentifiable source, emotional outbursts for no apparent reason, and the absolute conviction that I'm totally in control of my life when all signs indicate otherwise.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Lapses in any true inspirational/insightful thought, creative expression or mind-boggling adventure tend to make me wonder about this whole blog thing. While the guy blogging about new daddy-dom with his click-counter icon announcing his running total of diaper changes or the other guy describing his morning bowl of cereal may be absolutely astounding to some . . . I've tended to shy away from such scintillating fare . . . at least I hope so . . .

And yet . . . here lately, I've been so focused on the living of life, I've taken very little time for reflecting on it. I have this horrible habit of writing letters in my mind to dear friends far away and never actually putting pen to paper. I've been wondering lately if I'm now falling into that trait with the blog . . . You should read some of the entries I thought about writing! Trust me, won't you? They were terribly witty and quite amazing.

(And now, all together . . . "Yeah, right.")

Seems several of my friends have the half-habit. They start a project. The project looks good, grabs lots of attention, is -- for the most part -- complete, and then is never properly finished. Paint still needs to be removed. Plants are waiting for repotting. Cars need the last bit of body work. Ideas for articles are generated but never pursued. . . . Whatever. I just don't seem to be around a crew of Completers.

"Hi, I'm KC, and I'm a non-completer."

(And now, all together . . . "Hi, KC.")

Well, having now gone on and on about relatively nothing, I'll at least finish this.

The end.

(Unless, of course, you subscribe to the belief that no story really has an ending but only an ending for now. Then I'll never be finished and once again my point/non point will have been made!)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Stats (Maybe the last you'll hear on this)

Location: Skyline to the Sea Trail, Castle Rock State Park to Waddell Beach

Start Date: 6/22/05
End Date: 6/26/05

Total Distance: 40.58 miles on GPS plus 2 miles from lost signal from
satellites equals 42.58 miles

Total Ascent: 7359 ft.
Total Descent: 9519 ft.
Starting Elevation: 3032 ft.
End Elevation: 25 ft.
Maximum Elevation: 3032 ft.

Moving Time: 16 hr. 37 min.
Stopped Time: 9 hr. 37 min.

Speed Overall Average: 1.5 mph.
Moving Average: 2.4 mph.

Before laughing at the seemingly slow speed, please remember the 40 lb. packs on our backs and refer once again to the ASCENT listed above!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Crisis Doesn't Take a Vacation, Does It?

My mom tells me she's fine but she's seen three doctors and no one knows exactly why she's throwing up and has gallstone type pain without having a gall bladder. My stepfather is helping as much as he can given that he's just been diagnosed with a case of vertigo and is sleeping off the medication. My dear friend just lost her job and is facing limited prospects until she does some redefining of her directions. Divorce is looming for some friends. Apathy is apparent in a couple of other relationships which intersect my life and include people who are important to me.

All this in the few days I've been back from my backpacking adventure. I'm not so self-absorbed as to suggest that I released the physical burden only to take on some emotional ones. I'm not that emotionally unhealthy either! But I do feel the press of wanting to do more than I can.